What About Leading A [Large Company] Robotics Team?
ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US!
I was recently asked on a dating site, what I think about a fantastic job opportunity that has just come my way. Since I’ve probably just killed all of the romance in that nascent relationship, and freaked the poor woman out by oversharing, I might as well get a blog post out of the deal. 🙂 In truth, I know that some of my readers might enjoy hearing this pinball bounce around in my head, since they’re mostly family and friends anyhow. By the way, it is wonderful to have all of you around, rooting for me to succeed. So, I gift you with this:
A view into what it is like to be considering a transition from 8 years of not-so-profitable but completely free entrepreneurship, to a top position on a cutting edge robotics team…
A brief setup… I’ve just been through the whole interview process to join a robotics team at a large, well-known company. Herein they shall remain nameless, simply [Large Company], so I don’t unwittingly lose my yet-to-be-offered job, as I spill all in this scintillating raw story of just how I feel about it beforehand. As for the interviews, I think I did well, and I’ll find out in less than a week whether I’ll be given an offer. By the way, if I am not offered the job, it is totally OK. Feel free to send money, but you need not express your sympathy. I’ve got interesting work to proceed with at my own company, and will find other income soon enough. If I am offered the job, my life is about to be turned upside-down.
Ok, its 2pm, and I’m awake and refreshed. PS. Contrary to what many people assume, I’m not a slacker, even for sleeping so late. Lately I have been working swing-shift (2pm-12pm) because it allows me the most quiet/focused time to work, lets me skip traffic and enjoy some quality time in my “mornings.” If you’re imagining me sitting half naked in a chair, ratcheting my way to the top of Coffee Mountain sip by sip, you’ve pretty much got the picture. I have full control over my schedule right now so I’m just taking advantage of it! If I start working for [Large Company], by contrast, I’d be on a pretty rigid, roughly 9:30 – 7:30 workday. I might even (get to/have to) overlap and interact a bit more with the default world. Boo! Yay! Whee! I’m honestly not sure what to say about that.
So, how do I feel about the [Large Company] gig? That is a pretty complex answer. I’ll try to touch all of the levels. I hope I don’t bore you… this could get long! If you were sitting in front of me, I’d notice if your eyes glazed over and you started to nod off, but here in text I’m trying to balance giving you a real heartfelt, honest and thorough response that does justice to the multi-level reaction I’m having to this, without overdoing it and boring the hell out of you! I’m sorry if you wanted more of the “I’m excited” short and sweet answer. Inside, I don’t feel like that. That would be like calling my beautiful triple sparkley rainbow, mere “Light.” While I do love light, I also love color, shadow and depth, so I’m about to break you off a piece of that!
On the face of it, personally, I would be really excited to dive into the world of robotics. Having it on my resumé would “Future proof” my career for a decade, at a time when I’m starting to experience age-ism in hiring. After years of working on results that exist purely inside the computer, or on a screen (film studio R&D), I strongly want to work on something that has a real-world result that I can point at, share and see physically. Pure computing, with no audience, is a lonely affair. Robots fit the bill, as does lighting (my artistic passion/current business/future hobby). I’ve never worked with robots, apart from a few experiments with motorized elements with an eye towards using them in my artwork. It’d be fun to try! I am a trained and experienced engineer, know I can figure it out quickly and hope I’ve convinced [Large Company] of that. Much of the work is software anyhow, which I know well. Conveniently for me, they’re just starting up their Austin team. I’d be their first lead engineer, with only two of an eventual 8 people on the team. That would be great timing. I’d love to be able to help shape a great team as it grows, and not have to jump in and try to win everyone’s loyalty and support as a latecomer. Personally speaking, it is a great opportunity.
Socially, I’ve been working alone in my design studio for almost 8 years. I miss working with people. I think I’d enjoy working with a team of people, toward larger, more collaborative goals. Truthfully, I wish it was more diverse than a bunch of nerdy tech guys, but, it is what it is. Perhaps I can influence that. My potential boss’ boss, is a fellow Burning Man type, so I know the potential for adventurous creativity and expression exists there. And when I infiltrate that corporate world, I will infect it with more of the same… spreading joy and potential like weeds… Mwah ha ha ha ha… Good luck [Large Company] your culture will never be the same again! 🙂
Entrepreneurially, I’d be trading complete freedom of time and direction, and lots of financial uncertainty, for the exact opposite… solid pay, and fixed, potentially long hours. [Large Company] employee surveys show an average of 10 hour days and a consistent sentiment that they aren’t being paid well for the amount of work they do. Oh, how awesome that must be! It’d be a huge change for me, with my currently amazing but sometime total asshole boss (me) and self-direction. It is probably the one change I’m most nervous about in the immediate term. That said, I can currently never “Turn off” my entrepreneurship, and often work very long days now (ha 10 sounds easy!) (asshole boss!). When I’ve worked full time, I can very easily feel “Done” at the end of the day, which allows me to really fully enjoy my time off. Besides, even working at [Large Company] for a year would set me up quite well for another colorful, entrepreneurial chapter. I feel like a swan-dive into the depths of [Large Company] would be well worth the try! If I bellyflop, I’ll go back on my hands and knees, and beg my old boss for my old “Job” back, and he’ll have to give it to me. Total power play!
I have some -strongly- mixed feelings about robotics at a societal level, however. Purely speaking, when a machine can do the work of a human, I think it is a good thing, especially for dangerous, or monotonous, work. Thanks washing machines! In theory, that should allow one less person on the planet to work so hard, and instead focus on things they love. Societally, however, that is, at least currently, -very- far from the truth. Currently, it benefits the owner of the robot, the receiver of the robots inexpensive, consistent, quality work (to the extent that the owner passes it on to the customer, like in lower prices), but it does not at all benefit the worker it replaces. That person is displaced and has to train up for some other kind of work. Combine that with the progress in Artificial Intelligence, which is allowing robots to move into ever more skilled areas, displacing ever more people and we in society have a very scary situation coming on.
I believe self-driving technology is going to be the straw that finally breaks our camel’s back. It will displace hundreds of thousands of workers in trucking, and automobile manufacturing as people opt to subscribe to transportation services, rather than own their own cars. There is NO WAY, especially under current “Leadership” (cough), that our society is ready for this, or our government informed enough to lead us gracefully through this massive problem headed our way. Business has no incentive to, at best, and an opposite, profit-motive incentive not to, in reality. A good PR opportunity with lots of lip-service toward the issue, is about the best I’ve seen from the business world, including [Large Company]. In our best case scenario, our society would provide a guaranteed universal income safety net, and free job training to those displaced workers, so they too could participate in the benefit from that automation, and get to refocus in a positive way.
Unfortunately America’s brand of Capitalism, especially, is not set up, culturally, or politically for that to happen. In fact it is tilted in exactly the opposite short-sighted, selfish direction, making the rich, richer, and screw those poor lazy bastards who won’t work for a living. The worst case scenario is bad… riots, violence, hunger, abject poverty, mass unemployment, chaos, as large swaths of our neighbors and countrymen can no longer feed themselves. Do you think America is angry and fractitious now??? Just wait. We’re in for some major upheaval, very soon. It has already started at low levels, but self-driving tech will be solid in a few years so it is going to ramp up fast. This will kick off, in a way that can’t be ignored, by my prediction, within 4-8 years. Believe me when I say, I’d be SO happy to be wrong about this.
Our income distribution problem, which will be massively exacerbated by robotics and AI -absolutely- needs to, and will eventually be solved, either peacefully or violently. People simply need to eat, and get crazy when they can’t.
Unfortunately, me taking a personal stand against advancing robotics, won’t do anything to help the impending societal issue. Robotics are coming, with or without me. We as a society can’t keep our heads in the sand, or they may be sliced off at the neck by a hungry family.
Are you still with me? Are you asleep? 🙂
That pretty much covers it. There is a lot going on in my mind as I consider this possibility that would massively change my life and career.
I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on what I’ve written, if you’re so inspired, so if we’re taking turns… now its yours! 🙂
How do you spend your time? What do you love about it? Are there things you’d change? How does it affect the society around you?
These can be big questions, and I always appreciate a thoughful comment. I’m moderating the comments by the way, so there are no trolls here.
PS. They day after I wrote this, this article came out, confirming both that the societal transition is already well underway, that self-driving technology is likely to be a major impactor and providing actual numbers… good further reading, if you’re interested in the societal/social justice impact: https://www.fastcompany.com/3069269/robots-are-going-to-kill-jobs-because-they-already-have
PPS. Aaaand another one from the day after: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/mar/31/the-robot-debate-is-over-the-jobs-are-gone-and-they-arent-coming-back
Response to “Raise Your Hand If You’ve Graduated From Burning Man…”
This post is a response to Caveat Magister’s excellent post “Raise Your Hand If You’ve Graduated From Burning Man” at the following URL:
You’ll have to read the above post first, to understand this here post. In fact, I strongly recommend it, especially if you’ve been to the event a few times, or if you’d like a delicious alternative to all of the tedious, mainstream-media, (and quite frankly even jaded-Burner), takes on “What’s Broken With Burning Man?”
NOTE: Unlike my other, more “General-audience,” posts here, I’d really only expect this one to resonate if you ‘give a whit’ one way or another about Burning Man. I happen to care a lot about its values, and my experience of them. Mr. or Mrs. Magister addresses for the first time that I’ve read, a feeling that’s been growing on me. Except, that in his/her post I felt something was missing… so, I joined the conversation.
Regarding My Ongoing “Graduation” From Burning Man
Thanks for your blog post, acknowledging those of us who are finding the same radical growth that Burning Man once provided, on new personal frontiers.
Yet, I disagree with a fundamental quality of what you’re saying. I don’t see this as such a clear, “First this, then that” experience — at least taken as a whole. You’re on to something good here, and I want to help grow its scope.
Here’s the case where I feel the analogy needs expansion: I am an “AfterBurner” by your definition, in some areas, and still “Newbie” in others… and, I am still excitedly pursuing growth on each level.
This makes sense to me, and feels natural. I’m like a jet plane with both burners (main engines), and afterburners (massively awesome super boost!). A skilled pilot draws on the strengths of each of them, at appropriate times.
I feel like that pilot. I agree that learning to be the Burner, has enabled me to engage the AfterBurner (and I think that was your main point), your analogy captures that order, but I still want both, when I want them.
Here is a perhaps more inclusive, less black and white alternate view of the transformation you write about.
Burning Man is a conference — a meeting of our collective global tribe whose values are not yet embraced, let alone even understood, by the Default World. It is exciting, and inspiring, to be among our people! Just like any conference in the Default World, the more energy you put into it, the more energy you get out. BMorg gets this, and suggests it as valuable learning with the value of “No Spectators.” Not everyone gets this, but it is an entry level, or at least early, class.
Learning happened for me when I saw this playing out on large scale around me, when my jaw dropped upon living in Burning Man’s Black Rock City for the first time. Speaking personally, it rocked my world. In that blast of inspiration, it expanded me from “Engineer” to “Engineer+Light Sculptor” (PM me and I’ll send you a link if you’d like to see the results), an abrupt path change that continues to this day, decades later, with the added (Default-World-learned) “+Entrepreneur”. Charged with that blast of initial inspiration, and Burning Man’s welcoming (once you’re in) conference to practice my flexing of that muscle, I learned to “Put more in.” Having learned that, like you, and many of the people you call AfterBurners, the natural arc of my own personal evolution, still wants to continue to more advanced learning on the topic — beyond what Burning Man can support. As you aptly suggest to be a commonality — I am now continuing to learn to “Put more in,” year-round. 17 Burns later, with the frontier of my evolution now off-playa, by your definition I’m an “AfterBurner.” I’ve accomplished something amazing (at least to me), and I am honestly flattered by your (admittedly external) validation.
BUT… as clear, and flattering as your definition is, I want to expand its strength.
I view yours as the best answer I’ve heard to the leading edge question of “What’s Next?” Lots of us experienced Burners are asking this question of ourselves naturally, but some of us have to ask unnaturally, because we didn’t get tickets. To lots of us, it is an important, quite likely even defining, question. The BMorg’s (Burning Man Organization’s) answer is to spread the culture of Burning Man worldwide — a great answer for an organization, but it doesn’t easily translate into personal terms. It leaves us to fill in our own blanks. It leads me to think deeply about blog posts like yours, and what wisdom might found therein that I can use personally. I see wisdom there, but I want to add to it, to help it advance this transformation in myself, and others.
There are so many “Classes” to take in the “School of Life”. The untold unique offerings that the Burn, and the Regionals offer, are literally incomparable, truly ranging from entry-level (Say Hello To An Obviously Friendly Stranger) to advanced (Execute a Large Scale, Remote Team Art Project and Leave No Trace), not excluding the often more vital, internal, and relationship lessons, literally custom-made for each of us. But the richness of Burning Man’s potentials doesn’t stop, or start, life, or growth everywhere else. There are countless Non-Burning-Man, opportunities for growth. It is not at all unnatural for our personal frontiers of growth to move back and forth between the Home and Default worlds, or between any other modalities in life. In fact it is unnatural for those frontiers NOT to follow us around where we go.
So, I offer up this enhanced definition of ‘AfterBurner, ‘ building on your wonderful philosophical work here.
It is the massively empowering super-boost that the values, learning and experience of Burning Man CAN gift you with. It includes an advanced course in preparation, among so much other useful knowledge, that can be applied as you quest towards your own evolving off- OR ON-Playa frontiers. It is inclusive, not exclusive, of your past Burning experiences. It wishes you well as you set off, and is rooting for you, but ALSO welcomes you Home again someday, for the loving comfort of that delicious, but ephemeral, home-cooked meal of dust and art, lights and sound, motion and magic, humanity and happenstance.
I wouldn’t call you, or anyone else, an AfterBurner for focusing your efforts outside of the festival. If anything, you demonstrate the mastery of your AfterBurner abilities — and celebrate the attainment of that skill in others — by transcending the incessant “What’s Wrong With BM” conversation, with the positive message hidden therein. You acknowledge the role of even that often-challenging, and divisive conversation as a natural part of the festival’s ability to help us evolve, and offer a beautiful, promising acknowledgement of the positives that can come out of the LIMITATIONS of Burning Man. If I could pick for anyone a sign that you’ve truly enabled your AfterBurner, it would have to include that.
My years of Burning experience is uplifted by it. I feel honored to contribute to the conversation.
While it is not the only one, the Playa is one of my favorite places learn…
I take that wisdom everywhere, but I keep returning…
And I keep learning…
And I keep Burning.
First Impressions Of Austin “Weird”
Ok. It’s official, y’all. I have now actually seen Austin downright proper-like. Indeed, I went for a long-ish walk tonight, to check out my new home town. Now, I can begin to answer some of the questions that you’ve been asking.
Am I going to blog every time I go for a walk? Hell no!
Someone asked if I was a “Blogger” after the last post. Ha!!! I think I’m averaging about a post every year lately, so two in such quick succession is downright WEIRD! (Here’s the first one if you missed it: Holy Crap, I Live in Texas Now!) Then again, this is Austin, where they want to…
.. so, I’ll just do my part — double-bloggin’ like a fool! Just don’t hold your breath for number 3. I don’t want to out-weird this fine city, even if it is in Texas.
Oh wait, I guess there’s a way to go before that happens…
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen only a small slice of this place, so the impressions of tonight are going to be slanted towards just what I’ve seen on my first walk. That said, I thought it’d be nice to capture some of what stood out to me, while those feelings are fresh and untainted by actual reality — the gut feelings of a newcomer before the ‘a-ha’ moment. Later, I think it will be fun to look back on these first impressions, and see how they’ve shifted.
First off, is my overwhelming impression that this here is a ‘car town.‘
Maybe it was the route I took (main streets), or the time I traveled ( 6:30pm – 10:30pm ), but there were literally almost NO pedestrians! In fact, there were often even no sidewalks. It was as if it’d be a crazy waste of lawn space to accomodate someone on foot! Well, OK, that’s a little harsh. And, I AM talking mainly about South Austin, a specific area, where my walk began, that must once have actually been ‘the country’ a whole three miles outside of downtown — far enough away that it must have seemed that it’d never be connected! Ha ha.
I actually find ‘no sidewalks’ kind of charming. It really does feel like you’re off the grid, somewhere much farther out from the big city than you are. (Note to the reader: where I grew up, and most of the places I’ve lived, there are full-sized, uniform, flat sidewalks on both sides of the street until you’re WAY OUT of town… aka ‘the country.’)
And, I lied.
There are SOME sidewalks, and when they pop up they are awesome! It is as if ‘The Sidewalk’ is a special ‘opt-in’ option for homeowners in these parts, to do with as they please. The sidewalks here are meandering, completely non-uniform and highly creative. People here seem to express themselves in concrete when they ‘opt-in’ to building a sidewalk.
If it isn’t a 2 foot stone single-track with stairs and benches, its an 8 foot wide sloping and curving wander, or a pole, to keep things interesting — and then, abruptly, sooner than not — a sudden dead end. Here, the sidewalk was just too much trouble for the homeowner, so its back into traffic with you! The creative sidewalkery shamelessly proclaims “Forget the invalids and the blind! If they can’t enjoy my front yard’s decorative arboreum tour, they deserve to fall into the mud!” Navigating all this is a downright entertaining obstacle course, especially at night. Dad-burnit! I’ll be horn-swoggled if it ain’t a new sport! Pedestrian Free Riding — a test of balance and skill on the roadside! Penalty for failure? Death by car! Do you dare accept the challenge of Austin’s finest sidewalk architects???
As for any kind of company out tonight on two feet…
Well, I’d have felt downright lonely if there weren’t 4 lanes of traffic rushing by most of the time. Given how pleasant the walk was, something must give. Is there something I’m missing here? Why does no one walk??? The side streets are beautiful, empty, wide and lined with low flat trees, with the odd giant elm stretching high above. Idyllic, really. I already look forward to their shade; to strolling along them under the stars on a hot summer’s eve.
I’m just guessing here. Is the the heat of summer is so scarring that it has eradicated any sane local’s notion of walking? Why expose yourself to that when there’s the cool blast of air conditioning in the car? And then, maybe, this innate need for safety and comfort simply carries on throughout the whole year — a pattern ingrained? For all I know, this particularly nice walking weather is but a short-lived cool spell in a searing hot land.
Americans aren’t lazy, are they???
Oh yeah… Comfort. It is a concept with a dedicated device — the air conditioner. I’ve heard of those… I even had one once, I think. Its that cold thing that happens to be broken in my car. I never needed it in Oregon, preferring the wind in my hair. Here, I have a sneaking suspicion that I might want to get that fixed. Soon.
Further downtown, the walk remained pleasant. Downtown is smallish, by Portland standards, and I think I walked the bulk of the length of it. For comparison’s sake, it felt about 1/3 the size of downtown Portland — compact and walkable. The architecture is newer, for sure… not modern per se, except for a few beautiful standout examples (the Federal Courthouse in particular — wow!), but also not old and historic feeling, like parts of Portland.
Per what seems to be the norm, downtown, four lanes of traffic continued to rush by me (at least on the two main thoroughfares 5th & 6th streets where I walked.) Strangely, there were also quiet, tree-lined, residential side streets of houses and trees — right downtown! Cool. One can almost feel this city still being born and growing up.
So, to try and sum up this ‘walkable yet driving’ duality about Austin, I’m going to pull a hybrid comparison out of thin air — Austin is the walkability of Portland meets the big-ass, pedestrian-unfriendly-road, driving mentality of Los Angeles.
But, alas, that comparison is simplistic and blunt. It doesn’t capture something truly splendid about Austin… its highly distinctive style! This place is beautiful, relaxed and uniquely itself. If I were to pick tonights standout, signature expression of Austin’s style, I’d pick NEON — exemplified especially on South Congress, but omnipresent as a theme throughout.
Hot diggety damn is there some fine neon here!
The signage around town is beautiful! It’s like the waving cowboy of the old Las Vegas strip done up and ambled on over to the rustic, nostalgic yesteryear of old Route 66, and brought the whole shebang over to Austin. The giant, glowing electric neon kitch most often beckons you in to music and some serious down home cookin’! It is wonderful, especially for a lighting-design nerd like me. My favorite of the evening — Magnolia Cafe’s “Sorry, we’re OPEN.” Ha ha.
Tied for first: Lucy’s sexy animating legs, oh, and her fried chicken. Perhaps that’s what the Vegas cowboy was lookin’ fer?
Another favorite slogan (so suited to the out-in-the-country-ness of South Austin): “So close, and yet so FAR OUT!” on the Austin Hotel sign, looking unabashedly like a giant cock.
Awesome stuff! At the moment I’m inspired to add another project to my plate: a photography tour of the finest neon in Austin. Will I do it? Nope. Has someone else already done it? Yes!!! (See here for more stunning: Austin In Neon) Something I am inspired to seriously consider as a design challenge, especially since lighting is something I love, is to capture the old nostalgic look in modern lighting fixtures (think LEDS instead of NEON). Or, maybe I should take that trip back to yesteryear and learn me some glass-blowing?
There is more to the scenery, of course, than sidewalks, roads and neon signs. One thing that is immediately apparent is that Austin does its outdoor chilling-out spaces downright PROPER! Wow, I can not tell you how many gorgeous, welcoming outdoor dining and drinking patios I walked by tonight. From all they way out in the country of South Austin, to right downtown, are hundreds of shady patios, and funky little nooks full of happy people — many of them with a band keeping things lively.
I. Love. This.
I’m going to have to watch that I don’t get me a beer-belly from all of the outdoor chilling I’m planning to do here! Even now, in the ‘winter,’ the warm glow of firepits and fairy lights in the trees seems to effectively neutralize the ‘frigid’ 55 degree arctic blasts of Austin (ha ha Wisconsin!), keeping the outdoors a comfy option, year-round. In the summer, I can only guess that the firepits are extinquished, and supplanted by shady trees and ice cold margaritas. Mmmm… Nummy! Austin, it is on.
So, as my first impression draws to a close, what is my conclusion? I’ve got a good feeling about Austin. Its got enough hustle and bustle to feel ‘big,’ and yet enough empty space to feel small and homey. It is charming and stylish at the same time. Although it is the fastest growing city in America, it seems to me to have plenty of space to grow yet, hopefully without losing its essential nature.
I’d say, “Get your asses out here folks, and join me on a wonderful patio, with a cold drink, under a glowing, kitchy neon sign!!!”
All the best,
PS. I haven’t mentioned the people, since I haven’t met any just yet. I’m adding the following graphic because apparently I’m on some sort of hipster tour in the cities I’ve chosen to live in. In truth, hipsters don’t bother me — kids are always trying to be cool, and frankly, I don’t need to keep up with ’em. In any case, I wore running shoes and pants tonight, making me forever uncool! Try it sometime… its an all-natural, organic, vegan, Hipster repellant, strong enough to repel even a selfie on a fixie! Wait. Is that why I haven’t met anyone yet???
Holy Crap, I Live in Texas Now.
I have just landed in my new home — Austin, Texas.
A veritable spaceship brought me here. The Pod — my zippy, 16-valve ’87 VW GTI — is still tickin’ after 27 years! DAMN that car is fun. After three days of driving, I am thanking my lucky stars for its trusty and spirited mechanical soul, and especially for getting me here in one piece.
After a fun stay in Albuquerque, we finished the trip with an adrenaline-filled, 80mph, gusty, nighttime chase across the high plains of west Texas; guided and utterly confused in turn, by the robotic Australian drawl of my GPS navigator thingy. Texas, meet Australia… “Howdy Mate!”… “In 100 meters, turn right past that there tumbleweed…” “G’day Cowboy!” Yes, it is a hot new mashup from Hell — use often, and at high speeds!
While I am prone to moving around the world, most of places I’ve lived have been temporary stays; albeit some of them are long-lived, and most of them become colorful, memorable chapters in my life. ‘Home’ (with a capital ‘H’) is a special designation I don’t change much. It is the place I say that I am from, when asked; a place that I have no intention of leaving. It is the place where my guitar, and other significant stuff, lives. It is the place where I would put down roots — a constant that remains, amidst my sometimes shifting location. I have only called a few places Home, which is why my move here carries special significance to me. Obviously calling a place Home, and having it feel like Home are two different things, but this move is that process’ auspicious beginning.
I am often asked this of late — especially by myself.
After six-plus years in the Pacific Northwest, I have decided to move my notion of “Home” from Portland, Oregon, to Austin for several reasons. It is has weather more suited to me than the Pacific Northwest (to say the least). I love sun.
Also, significantly, Austin seems to have a more vibrant technology scene than Portland. That ought to help keep me busy with fun, interesting, and profitable projects, over the long term. Austin has a reputation for being a fun, funky, creative city — my kind of place! Finally, I am at a juncture in life, where I am ready for a change — to settle in somewhere fitting for the long haul. I am in a position to be able to build that change consciously, choosing a place that supports the elements I want in my life. Of course, ‘blank-slate’ beginnings like this come with their challenges, but I am looking toward the long view. Wanderer, nomad and world traveler though I may sometimes be, my goal here is to build a new, solid home base that I will be happy to return to for years to come — Home, with a capital ‘H.’
As with all fond farewells, I miss what I’ve left behind. I miss the cozy, funky vibe of Portland — the last place I called Home. I also miss the hustle and bustle of New York City, where I enjoyed living most of last year. Mostly, though, I miss spending time with the friends and family I’ve left behind. Leaving the familiar, for the unknown, is always a leap of faith. Austin seems to embody so many of the essences I am after, so I have come here to give it a try.
As one door closes, so many others open!
All the best,
PS. If you know any people I might enjoy meeting here in Austin, please do put us in touch! I would really welcome meeting some new friends in these here parts.
Getting Ready for My First NYC Blizzard.
I am getting ready for my first “blizzard” in NYC. To be honest I can’t wait! I haven’t seen a real honest snowstorm in years, and it *is* winter, so BRING IT! I wonder if it will get a brand name and logo package like that other NY storm got — “Super Storm Sandy.” Anyhow, today I was walking to the Mid-Manhattan library for another day of job searching online (PS seeking on the West Coast if you have any leads). I couldn’t help but notice that the streets were covered in freezing slush, and my shoes had NO traction. Well, I figured I’d just sort of skate along, cross-country ski style, since it’d be preferable to wobbling along all tentative-like so as not to slip. Excellent! It worked like a charm, totally fun, but a huge ball of ice was fast accumulating under one of my feet. I looked down there to scrape it off and keep skating, and found that I had a 2 inch crack in the sole of my shoes which was *scooping* all of that slush INTO the inside of the bottom of my shoe! Whoops, ha ha, bad move. Wet feet aside, my excitement still builds… I have been given a reprieve from the job hunt as the library has just announced that it is closing at 5pm due to the “Extreme weather conditions that are mounting outside.” Anyone in NYC up for some extreme sledding in Central Park? Hope you’re all well.
back to burn in a blissful Bali-built bubble…
Its official, I have just brushed American soil after so many months. I am still floating ever so slightly above the this land, still inside of a blissful Bali-built bubble.
As of now, I have rolled through a fantastic wedding of two friends, been coated with a layer of Burning Man playa-magic dust, soaked in sulpher hot springs and am now getting a crackle-wrap of pine needles, in a redwood forest near Booneville, CA. As I write this particular bit, I am here in the forest, staying with a friend, picking up stuff she was storing for me, cleaning off my playa gear and packing everything up again, to head north, next, to Portland, for a little bit. I am looking for work, or my next project. I am also recovering from all the hustle and bustle, and trying to coax and relax my body through a head cold that finally slammed me as I was driving back from the hot springs. Of course, too much dust was again inhaled on the playa. It is nice to be in the redwoods for this, with a mesmerizing view down a valley off of a rather spectacular balcony. I am already receiving facebook friend invites from people I met at Burning Man, but I do not quite feel like I have landed. Rather, I am breathing deep, and in the process of figuring out what, where and who that means for me, this time around. I wonder how long this will take.
I made my pilgrimage to Burning Man as a proxy for a number of you who couldn’t attend… Hey, OK — if I must! Twist my arm. Ha ha. As you might imagine, I also attended for my very own self — for year 14 in a row, for a gentle re-introduction to the USA, and to re-inspire my next chapter by listening directly to sweet serendipity, in a place that honors her so. It also happens to be a prime opportunity to tap into the community in which I continue to enjoy working — highly creative, motivated, skilled artists and organizers. To reconnect with my ‘tribe,’ especially as I look for a new project, a trip to Burning Man has always been much better than any conference I’ve ever found. Hmmm, let’s see… the ‘conference hall booths’ in the desert are certainly a lot more interesting, to say the least and, shit, don’t even ask me where I’d rather be dancing!
Anyhow, yep, I gotz a few playa tales to tell — call it a post-burn report if you will. It is especially for those of you who couldn’t make it…
As it turns out — surprise, surprise — Burning Man this year was awesome. It always has been for me, so I have come to know that it will be, and then it is, like some kind of self-fulfilling prophesy. So, I’m stuck in a loop and apparently I can’t stop going!
The Man was so jaunty this year! He’s all walkin’ around throwin’ his hands up in the air, all tied up wit’ ropes… but man, he just don’t care!!!
In addition to the great art, and the wild, deep-space outpost feel of the alien desert moonscape, both perennial favorites of mine, this year, for me, more than any other, was about rejoining a treasured community of old friends after my time away, and meeting the awesome new friends who are expanding that community in a new and magical way. In Bali, a small and dedicated group of new friends took me in ( rock stars all of them, btw ). Well, coming back Home, as myself, and many others call the feeling of re-entering this special desert space, was a different kind of good. Here, I feel the depth of old relationships, and get to witness the passage of time in them across entire eras, as well as to have the pleasure of reconnecting with my magical art tribe. Probably my deepest lasting impression of this year’s burn will come from the many great times I had in camp, with these people I love, both new and old.
The view from my camp in Playa Heights
If you were there with me on the frontier, on the edge in East Black Rock, or in the unencumbered great wide open of Playa Heights, then this means you. You simply ROCK, and rocked my bubble-world so pleasantly, and gently back down to earth in doing so…
A special minty-fresh glow.
It was early afternoon, and I was dead asleep — by day 3 of the week, I was completely dusty, and, let’s face it, I smelled like shit. After an awesome, extensive, super-late dawn patrol with my brother the night before, I had finally gone to sleep after sun was well up. Let me tell you, there ain’t nothing like climbing, all sweaty, into a 20 degree bag, safely above its rating at 100 degrees, and drifting off to dreamland. Heat-miser, you ain’t got nothing on me! Well, sometime around mid-day I awoke to a dear sparkly soulmate from England shaking me awake. “Quick, wake up!” she says, “We’re in line for the ‘Shower Camp,’ come join us now!” Having no idea who ‘us’ was, or, for that matter, what the hell was even going on all of a sudden, I jumped up by instinct alone at the urgency in her voice. In a puff of dust, she was gone, back to where she’d spoken of.
Well, even to my groggy mind, a shower sounded durn good.
I was still mostly asleep and biked out of my camp actually still dreaming a bit — actually trying hard to resolve what was about to happen in that lingering plot before it was gone. (nope, never did understand it.) As I got down to the shower camp, Temple Of Fauxmitzvah I believe it was called, and dropped my bike, I was immediately pulled to the very front of the hour-long queue, where campmates were naked and just getting ushered into a large plexiglass shower ‘trailer’ (um, for lack of a better description). I ripped off my clothes and tossed them aside, just in time to join them.
I took a mental picture of this moment, so now it will last forever. I will probably bore the next two generations of captive children with this tale, which will undoubtedly be embellished far beyond the truth over the years. But you’re getting it first, so its still pretty darn accurate.
… back to The Moment I snapped in my minds eye… well, it looked something like this:
Yes, less that 5 minutes after waking up, I found myself in a trailer with a few other lucky guys, but otherwise full of beautiful naked women — my sparkly friend, other old friends, new friends — a trio of awesome Canadian women camped with us, and complete strangers. Suddenly a frenetic, fierce and full-blown minty soap fight with bubbly-peppermint-foam-blasting hoses broke out, then we were all rubbing each other down and rinsing each other off with normal-water showers.
Quick thoughts of baseball (boring!)… and I heard The Universe say in its distinctly profound voice
“Hello Dave! Welcome to your waking dream!”
Well, then we all danced ourselves dry naked outside the shower trailer, and, fully minty from the soapdown, got back into our playa-wear for the rest of the day’s magic. Ahhh… clean at last! Burning Man is just awesome, but especially in its potential for extremely rewarding spontanaety. Not in my wildest sleeping dreams was I expecting to wake up to a minty-soap goddess scrubdown? When, oh when, can this happen again???
And to my lovely Canadian friends, some of you whom I met for the first time in that magical shower… you are either charmed forever, with a special minty-glow that will never leave you, or there is something strikingly beautiful that is happily peppermint-burned into my retinae. ❤
The Fine Print: The above pix are from a SF Bay Guardian story (here) about a similar bubble trailer, I’m guessing it was the same one. Also here’s a (comparatively boring, but real) video of the actual bubble trailer, go to 2:10 for the actual bubble-down in the video, except other people are shown doing the spraying from above. In my waking dream, by contrast, we all sprayed each other with hoses mounted inside the trailer. Very. Good.
Fuck off joggers (all UR base belong to ME)!
Something you may not know if you haven’t been to this festival before… there is something of an ‘everyone-is-your-future-friend’ ethic working there, whereby if someone stops by your shade, and asks directions, or just stops to say hello, they are welcomed in as honored guests. You would invite them in from the sun, you’d pour a cold drink of water, or beer, offer some food, or a smoke and chat for a while. Hell, you’d give them the shirt off you back if that’s what they needed. I wonder if it is the harshness of the desert that instills this in us — the urge to save a fellow human from certain death at the hands of the sun — rather than it being just a Burner thing. It is a noble remnant of the human soul, yet to be evolved away. Indeed, the cultures of the Middle East also put a high value on being hospitable, and offer their guests nothing short of the finest in the house.
In any case, it is one of my favorite aspects at the festival, and I have met some of my favorite people in the world this way. There are moments, however, when I simply can not live up to it. An imperfect one I am, I admit it. There are times when I’m simply not going to be ‘open for business…’
As a setup for this story, observe the photo of my shade structure for this year…
Notice, no privacy… an open wall.
Well, funny that, for I had just bought a tent, with plenty of privacy. But, the playa tends to ruin things, so right after buying it, I decided I was going to try to NOT set it up, so as to ‘keep it nice’ for at least anther year. So why buy it in the first place? Its not like I was suddenly ‘surprised’ at how dirty the playa is!? Good question. I believe I was simply following my fathers time-tested wisdom in this case. Father may not always know best, but he sure has some damn-near irrefutable answers to life’s quandaries. “It was a good value.” or “It was on sale.” Both are fatherly wisdom that would apply equally well in this case. In support of the former timeless argument, in reality, my old tent is darn close to biting the dust, and this one is going to last me for years, so it IS a good value! Also, in a worst case scenario, the temperatures can plummet out in the desert. So, while I might have been fumbling around in the dark, crack-shivering my ass off and trying to set that preciously clean son-of-a-bitch up, at least I would stay alive. One just can’t argue with that! So yes, I bought a new tent, and then didn’t use it once — perfectly logical! (Right Dad?)
So, too-lazy, or too-prim, for tenting, I just plopped my sleeping bag and pad right there, in the open (see above pic. look closely), smack dab in the middle of my dusty-ass floor tarp. Oh heck, its all dusty out yonder, so its no matter. Also, the view is amazing. The open side of my abode faces the open desert, where much of the art is installed, and the art cars drive around. It is also facing the main road that runs alongside it, but most days there aren’t a lot of people passing by, us being out on the outskirts of town and all. So even when I’m fully mummied-up into my sleeping bag, I can still peek out the mouth-hole and see endless open desert. Its a powerful kind of rapture, all that open space, and the space-wino in me sucks it all right up through that mouth-hole, and then passes on into dreamland. Yeah, all told, I was pretty comfortable with the setup.
So… As is normal for me, my schedule quickly shifted to ‘playa time’ within a couple of days of being there. For me, and many other folks, this means waking up around 4pm when the sun is no longer as hot (“Its practical!” score another one for Dad!). Then its time to get prepped, eat dinner, go out to play all night, watch the sun rise, and then stumble back to shade and bed around 10am, just as the sun starts really cooking again.
Anyhow, there I was, after a long, and crazy night out, so fully-tired-out that I am slumped in my camp chair unable to sleep. Instead I am chain-smoking like a fool (a habit from Bali that I have since kicked, hint for other wannabe quitters: The Yeti eSmoke – worked like a charm). I’m also drinking — an ice cold beer — and eating pop-tarts for breakfast. Yes, it is a classic tragicomic scene. But what’s this I see here? I start noticing random people in all manner of dress running by my camp on the road.
Joggers? What the hell?
Stupid bastards! It is at least 100 degrees out (thats about 38 for you robo-metrics). I’d do just about anything to avoid anyone so healthy, and crazy about it, as to be jogging in the broad daylight and sweltering heat of the harsh desert sun. But especially now. At this particular moment, I am hitting the very trough of my own health, so I’d rather carry on comfortably ignoring my own sorry state, and keep on with what I should be doing — enjoying what’s left of my evening. (Yes, technically its morning, but still the end of my night.) But, there is no cover available to me. I can not avoid the joggers. The joggers are reminding me of my current state.
The section of the Black Rock City Marathon where I ‘cheered the joggers on.’
And here they come, and keep coming… a new jogger every minute, for as long as I can watch. WTF??? I later will find out that it is the day of the Black Rock City marathon, and these are no ordinary joggers. Apparently they will run a full marathon, all 26.1 miles of it, out there in the heat. Fools! (OK I’ll admit it, I wish I could do that too.) But they are also human, these joggers, underneath their super-health. And they know all about playa hospitality. In fact, I am reminding the joggers of their current state. I swear to you, not a ONE of them jogs up the road looking happy with their decision to run. One after another they gawk at the unavoidable, openly visible ‘splendor’ of my desert hut. Really its quite meager, but relatively speaking, at least, it is a shady respite, comfortable, and with cold drinks in it. Even a nice relaxing cigarette seems to look good to some of them. Fortunately for them, I am there. Yes, I am there in my chair, looking out for them. I am silently, calmly willing them to move along! “This is not the shade you are looking for,” I say in my mind, invoking The Force. I am hidden behind only my sunglasses. “Stopping now would ruin your time in the marathon,” I continue, but eventually I crumble to sleep in the face of the onslaught, unable to continue my race-day help. Surely it was only the awkwardness of waking a sleeping stranger that kept the joggers out. Either that or they had their rest stop despite me, and ran off down the road desert-marathon-style.
Ho hum, what else can I report? A couple of firsts. This is the first year I didn’t make it to the center camp cafe. Woah, that place is awesome… I think. This is also the first year I didn’t dance on Burn night. Wow, I almost can’t believe myself!
Then again, I love firsts. Even more, I love that I’m still finding them, so many years later. How do I do it? Hmmm… well I do try to shake things up every year to keep it fresh — try something different, take on something new, change the rules, change my scene. Well, something I’m doing seems to be working. So far I haven’t gone the way of ‘the festival used to be better in the old days,’ and I’ve definitely met my fair share of those naysayers, but I just don’t see it that way. Sure, it used to be different — smaller, cozier and more random — but that’s just different, and different *isn’t* bad. Different means room to grow each year, change and evolve — to affect different people in different ways, and it comes necessarily with some ups and downs along the way. This years festival was awesome, and different, and so will next years be.
In my eyes, the vital questions each year are the following:
Who will have the vision, willpower and awesome spiritual generosity to build and gift this wonderful and mind-blowing art utopia to others?
Who will answer when serendipity calls them to come and be moved by it?
Will you? I sure was.
softly in the glowing of dawn
the coming of dawn is a wonderful thing. here, and everywhere. here the clouds slowly turn from the flat grey of twilight to a mottled fluffiness, then a faint pink, and finally orange as the depths of blue sky distinguishes itself. it is a backdrop which floats the dawn, carrying it where it will go. the soundtrack is faraway rooster, and mourning doves and the chirping and exit of my house birds who’ve made a home outside my window, off into the morning to find worms, or bugs, or whatever they would substitute in their avian world for a fine french croissant, and a deep long espresso. i’ve just seen a bugcatching bevvy here, laid flat on the cool tile floor, on the edge of the garden, my sandy shoes are ‘pillow,’ if we could call it that. looking into the infinity of sky, a sea of tiny darting bats, giving way to swallows each zipping this and that way in their own distinct dance in the sky. amidst the darting and weaving, waves of large birds pass slowly, heading for the ocean, elegant and in formation, their wings translucent against the delicate light of morning, and barely moving, gliding, across the tiny slice of infinity that i can see to beyond, wherever that is for them.
time is frozen in a long long moment i won’t forget.
my piss-poor dove call, clumsy and foreign to be sure, certainly sounding an asshole in the bird world, is enough to tease more calls from the dove on the rooftop next door to me, who is puffed up and staking his claim on the she-dove there, the two of them only distinguishable from the ornamental rooferie, by their bobbing dove movements. how could you not fall for him, she-dove, with those moves — so funky, feathered, and earnest? i am reminded of a paper route i once had, and its requisite 4am sunday run, so quiet and wrongfully early, and the crow call found at a nature shop somewhere that made it so much more interesting, attracting a flock of feathered friends. i believe the complaint read ‘… was blowing a trumpet while delivering papers…’ ha. (you’ll know when i blow a trumpet. believe me, you’ll know!)
but here the quiet rolls on and the first sounds of faraway motorbikes appear and disappear. its gonna be another gorgeous one says i. soon the bed with its fairyland curtain of gauzy mosquito netting, and the breeze, and soothing whir of a wonderful, remote-controlled fan will say good night, and good morning to me. i wonder, now, what time zone am i really in? my heart in one, my body in another — timeless again, and always.
i am appreciating the smallest things, which are everything to me now. i am a mere fortnight away from the time and space travel of a flight home, to one home at least, to one where many of you are. i shall not forget these days, these mornings and nights of birdcalls, bad hotel cover bands and the magic of serendipity, which seems to rule gently over everything else here. let the sounds of doves fill your days, my friends, or trumpets, if you’re an orchestral type.
greetings from a soft sweet morning in bali,
Its that kind of night…
as far as I can tell those are mountains on Java doing that with the sun. its been happening for a couple of days now… different every night. OR perhaps it is just my extreme rock and roll shootin’ out rays. out to check out some big sound systems that popped up on the beach this evening… wish you were here!
Breakfast in Bali and the Rocking-Pig…
I am here.
In fact, I have been for a good couple weeks now. Time is warping in the tropical heat, and working its magic. It is a rubber band unloosed… once tight, now freed. Slinging, ebbing, flowing… life is coming now in lovely turns and weaves. There is a flow in being overseas, especailly newly so, that is wonderful — like wearing special glasses and seeing magic. My soul is eating it up — just hopelessly in love with the world’s variety.
Just under a month into my pleasant, new tropical chapter, the chaff of my old life is gone. It has been creatively, and decisively destroyed. With the wreckage now cleared, the slate feels clean. The sun feels warm. The birds sing to me. The cold beer tastes extra good.
For all of the hard work it took to get me here, in breaking through the norms around me that needed to be broken, prepping for this trip was a decidedly solo affair. Walking a trail that no one else around me was, I headed into the unknown with no company, just a flashlight, a knife and a dream. But here, my story is echoed en masse, one of an untold many. Every expat I meet here tells their own tale of passage — of letting go and allowing their world to shift gears and continents. After the intensely solo prep, it is so odd to suddeny arrive somewhere where ‘everyone understands,’ and in that, coming here feels like a cosmic homecoming. The people, the travelers, and adventurers, have simply been out here in the world traveling and adventuring. That lingering idea that I’ve gone off the deep end has been suddenly put to rest, as I realize, wow, theres a bumping lot of good people here, having a kick-ass pool party in the deep end. Call me crazy, but I think I’ll have a swim! ( Ha. Ironically, back here in the real world, I passed on a swim in a gorgeous nearby color-changing, beach-front pool with friends to sit here and write. )
Please don’t get me wrong. In all of my excitement and discovery, I am not trying to check out of all of the awesome family, friends, opportunities, and places that I’m temporarily physically removed from. These are the things, and you the people, I’ve chosen to bring along for the ride. So ride we shall, for a curious soul I am.
I can not stand in front of the Wizard of Oz, without wanting to peek behind the curtain. And I *want to* stand in front of the Wizard of Oz. I have scurried scared and shitless as the flying monkeys came, dug deep for the courage of a lion, the heart of a tin man and the brains of a scarecrow — haven’t we all, in our own way? Well, I, for one, damn well want to feel the heat, shit my pants and tremble in awe as The Wizard makes his demands. And then I want to pull back the curtain and meet the man who made it happen, pull the levers myself, and learn to fly that intense and awesome show. This jaunt here to Bali, is just part of my learning to fly. It is practice for the kind of life I want to live — with eyes, mind and spirit absolutely wide open.
I ate breakfast next to a rocking-pig this morning, sitting on ancient teak chair in a garden of understated splendor. It must have been built for a child sumo for it is stout and solid, tree-trunk craftsmanship, and cheeky as all getout. Upon this pig how many babes have ridden? Eyes full of wonder — not at the thought of saddling up on a wild wooden pig — but at being tossed too and fro; thrown off balance, hackles up, and just out of control, over and over again. Do it again! Do it again! Do it again! That deep yearning — set free.
How am I doing, you ask?
I am mid-ride and airbound on an ageless pig, laughing, in timeless infinty.
It is good to be building a life again, rather than taking one apart.