Burner Handle(s): everyman
Defaultia Region of Origin: Cleveland, Ohio
Years Burning/home burn: I’ve been burning for 18 years, starting with Burning Man in 2000 (That Thing in the Desert, aka the Gerlach Regional.) As soon as I returned from the playa, I wanted everyone I knew to experience at least a small piece of it, and started hosting small burner parties in my house several times a year (called Recycled Rainbow.) Those eventually grew too large for my home, and after attending the very first Scorched Nuts, me and my wife were inspired to turn Recycled Rainbow into a small outdoor 4 day event in Northern Ohio, helping to facilitate what would become a sizable burner community. Eventually that burn outgrew the land, my mom died, and we took a year off. We regrouped with a new spontaneous team of burners who ultimately created the Mosaic Experiment which I have been a part of ever since, all of which have been held at the same Reclaim site as SN. Other than Scorched Nuts and Mosaic, I've been a frequent flier to Lakes of Fire, been to Alchemy once, spent a half day at Transformus, and attended the Gerlach regional 6 times. I stopped attending the Gerlach regional after attending my first Ohio events. I've learned over time that the local community of artists was more important to me than the size of the event. I do not regret my multiple trips to the Black Rock Desert, but prefer the challenge of building one with a community of friends over experiencing one with a community of strangers. Both have value. I may go back some day.
Years of Servitude, ahem, volunteering: 18 years building burns of various sizes, and 11 years as an official Burning Man Regional Contact, and 4 years on the Burning Man Meta Regional Committee. .Also, when I stopped going to the Gerlach Regional, I attended several Burning Man Global Leadership Conferences in the Bay Area, which I attended only so I could learn to better serve my local regional community. I was one of the very few voices representing small regional burns with a comparatively small community.
Role: LLC co-lead
Why: 1) Inertia and experience, having been there from the beginning when the bank account, insurance, and business entity were first created. 2) It's how I keep myself burning 24/7/365. Burning is fun! Making burns is fun. Making anything is fun! 3) This team is truly a pleasure to work with, and every single one of them are needed to create these events. Huge bonus that we all play nice together.
Why does your dept matter?
The LLC is the corporate entity that signs the insurance for the burn. We take on the liabilty risk of the event. We build business relationships with the property owner, the insurance companies, our attorney as needed, local authorities as necessary, and work with the bean counter to keep our ledger in order, making sure we have enough money to run the event AND give out art grants.
Why does volunteering improve your burn/make you happy/work for you?
I hate it when the burn ends, and volunteering is how I keep the flame lit all year. Once you experience an event full of burners putting paint all over the canvas to create beautiful, experimental, and unusual works of art, the desire to facilitate their blank canvas becomes irresistible. Most importantly, the work really isn't hard when everyone is pulling their weight, and I mean everyone who attends the burn, not just everyone who helps organize the event. When every burner pitches in a little volunteer time, no one has to work a lot. It is a joy and a privilege to work with this very enthusiastic community.
Why should someone consider volunteering for you?
Because you love the event and want more of them!
Because you're all burners and volunteering IS burning.
Volunteering is all over the ten principles as "Communal Effort" and "Civic Responsibility" and "Participation" and "Leave No Trace" and "Radical Self-Reliance."
I try to put people in positions where they feel the most comfortable, where they feel they can personally do the most good. All the team lead roles are important. Some of the jobs may seem easy but if we drop the ball, the community and the event suffers. If we leave enough trace, believe me, we won't be invited back to use that land. If you don't have a good Fire and safety team, you can risk scarring the land, setting your camp on fire, or setting the woods on fire. If you don't have good rangers, the "conscience" of the event is gone. Rangers are burners looking out for other burners. You don't have a parking lot or department structures built without a DPW, and you don't get to park cars without a parking team, and you don't get people checked in without a gate, and you don't acculturate new burners without greeters, you don't patch up wounds without medics, you don't stop the neighbors from complaining without a sound lead, you don't file your taxes without bean counters, you don't know who needs volunteers without a volunteer coordinator, and if you don't have meeting agendas or notes without a scribe, and you don't have a production calendar without a project manager, and you don't learn our event exists without a promo team, and you don't get art grants without an art grant lead. Sounds like a lot but none of it is all that hard when people are fulfilling the necessary roles.
They are all linked together and if the community doesn't keep those links strong, the chain breaks, and the event suffers. When the chain is strong, the event gets better, grows, and evolves along with the community.
What's your favorite volunteer story?
I love the stories about the virgin burners who show up unprepared, don't have the right clothing, enough food, or familiarity with their own tents but the community uses that as a teaching opportunity, the pull together and help that person get through the weekend unscathed, and a few years later that same person is running a theme camp like a lifetime veteran, volunteering as a greeter telling newbies "Don't be like I was!" and eventually becoming a passionate team lead, because they grew from their mistakes but the community didn't punish them for their ignorance....they guided and acculturated them, recognizing their past selves in this new burner. It happens often and it's deeply moving to witness. Some of today's best volunteers were yesterday's least prepared newbies. Those are some of the best teachers to learn from and they have some of the most valuable input to a burner organization.
I've definitely been the least prepared burner in the room before, and suffered for it, but I learned and personally evolved from the experience.
What's your best burner skill? (What is your favorite burner principle?)
Radical self-expression is my favorite principle. It's what drew me to the burn. It's what keeps me burning. My skill? Perhaps realizing art is an experiment and it's okay if it fails. Failure teaches you how to improve your art, and in turn, improve yourself. Art forces me to think differently about things, whether it succeeds is immaterial to the experience of creating something new, doing something unusual, and forcing myself to go outside of my comfort zone. It's how I grow as a human being.
What's your choice nugget of wisdom for a virgin burner?
Remember to eat a couple times a day. No, really. It's easy to forget but your burn is so much better when you force yourself to consume nourishments and water. Don't blow it off.
Remove expectations and be certain only of uncertainty. Bring everything you need so you can do anything you want. Expect rain even when the forecast says otherwise. Read the survival guide all the way through, you'll be glad you did. I screwed up my first time at a burn and was very uncomfortable. You can at least prepare to ensure you are physically comfortable, well fed, warm, and dry. Once that is taken care of, the psychological uncertainty is much easier to handle (at least it is for me.)
Why do you love burning?
It's an opportunity to create whatever world you would like to live in. It is literally turning dreams into reality, or helping someone realize theirs, taking part in their vision and watching it manifest before your eyes. You can step outside of yourself and become another person for a week, or you can step out of that other person you usually are, and step into your true self for a week, and BE yourself. You can take your geeky obsession and turn it into a theme camp with others who share that mutual interest. That crazy impractical idea that makes no sense to anyone is often the starring attraction at a burn. The burn is a blank canvas, and nothing is more mutually inviting and intimidating than the opportunity to fill it with whatever I can dream.
I love making art, participating in making art, and being around others who do the same.
The Gerlach regional is the largest annual exhibit of creative art in the entire world.
The chance to manifest my imagination into something tangible and shareable is the greatest part of being alive. It is why I exist. There is nothing I love more, short of being in a community who feels the same way and cuz I wanna help them build the thing, cuz they help me build the thing.
Why do I love burning? Why would I STOP?
I also think is is an experiment in temporary community that is addressing some fndamental flaws in our societal norms, and is perhaps why the burns themselves keep transforming and evolving over the years, which is fascinating for me to watch.
Have burns changed your life? How?
Yes, after attending the Gerlach regional in 2000, all my friends will tell you I couldn't stop repeating "this changed my life forever" but I couldn't express "how?" Nearly two decades later, I believe the "how?" is that it empowered me by showing me how many others were empowered to do the craziest things they could dream up, and there were tens of thousands of people helping each other do it. I saw everyone being themselves. I saw everyone being someone else. I didn't even know who I was anymore. I saw a little bit of myself in everyone there, and left with a little bit of all those people inside my soul forever. It's how I got my name "everyman." I never saw so much controlled chaos on such a phenomenally large scale in my entire life, nor would I had believed it possible if I hadn't witnessed it first hand. If there was something I wanted to do, there was someone willing to help and had ideas to take it to the next level. I saw artists working with computer nerds and hackers. I saw architects working with musicians. I saw engineers working with poets. I saw carpenters working with clowns and puppeteers. Tens of thousands of people from various trades and countries with unrelated backgrounds, skillsets, and cultural ethnicities working together to build, construct, make, design, and perform, some separately, others together.
It gave me hope. And watching the event in the desert grow bigger, and the regional network expanding in size every year gives me more hope that humanity is slowly but deliberately transforming its default world into something more creative, inclusive, but sustainable,
There is some truth about the essence of humanity I've found at the burn. It's something you want to take home with you, in any manner your default world will allow.
It taught me there is no default world, unless you default.
What does consent mean to you?
We have a consent culture in our burner community. Consent is, to me, a part of your civic responsibility as a human. It is respecting someone enough to get clearly communicated permission to do something that directly affects that person. If you do not have consent to do the thing, DO NOT do the thing. Some people like the thing. Others do not. Respectfully find out.
What keeps you sane in Defaultia?
1) My wife! She keeps my feet grounded when my urge is to float into the sun's heat.
2) Volunteering with a team of burners who are organizing the next Mosaic Experiment. I highly recommend it!
3) Being able to keep in touch with burners and creatives around the world has given me daily inspiration and motivation as well.
4) Great coffee.
5) My pets. :)
What do you want to be when you grow up?
What's your drink of choice?
Aviation cocktail, The Last Word cocktail, Bloody Mary's, the Old Fashioned. red wine from Portugal, and whatever beer Mike Little has on tap.