A brief note

From Midnight Poutine’s San Francisco office. The place is a mess. Not our mess mind you. The mess of a genius google employee who plays with lasers in her spare time. She’s moving, we’re sleeping on the floor, the futon, wherever aren’t boxes and books and other junk that spurts and foams from every conceivable place when you’re moving. Not sure where it all comes from, but there it is.

Buying things for the Burn. Only the Burn. What the hell is the point? Its strange to follow the path set down in what seems like a previous life. My intentions and values today aren’t exactly what I had in mind when I created this freight train, but with the momentum of a whole camp of people its impossible to sop, even if that’s what I wanted – and it isn’t really. Its just that I probably would never have conceived of something like this in my current incarnation, my new life, meNOW. Midnight Poutine is resource intensive, large scale, certainly not the poster of small simplicity that I’m striving for now. In that sense its a living relic, but what a relic.

I’m excited. This is going to be epic, but parts of it are hard to resolve with who I’ve become. I mean no matter what we do its going to be expensive and there’s going to be waste. Arrrrrrrgh! I need to accept that this is how these things roll. You have to break eggs to make cookies (omlettes don’t suit my palette). Still, I find myself asking what justifies it all sometimes. Beh. It doesn’t matter really. “Because its cool.” is the mantra of the Burn and that’s good enough for this year. I’m just making sure I’m aware that it might not be in the future.

Burning Man. I actually cringe a bit when I hear the word. I notice that I don’t use it much. I talk about “going to the desert” and being “on the playa” a lot more than I say “I’m going to Burning Man.” The very utterance of the words just conjures up the fabric of branding for me, of elitism, the cult. The goddamn desert cult. You go to Burning Man? That’s great. Nobody cares. You are not a special and unique snowflake just because you go and choke on prehistoric fish feces – I’m sorry.

This is not to say that I don’t like Burners or Burning Man. It is the more magical community I have ever found. I love it, but…

I suppose we are most critical of those people and things that we love the most. We see their potential and expect them to be that at all times when really, that’s impossible. So it is with Burning Man and all that goes with it. I am becoming a Cynical Old Burner – a COB. Well fine. That’s okay.

No, cynical isn’t right, perhaps a realist. I still love it and expect the best from it, but I’m not surprised or offended when it doesn’t deliver, and I’m willing to look at the parts that aren’t ideal. I think the main thing is simply this; Burning Man isn’t special. You aren’t special for going there. The art there isn’t special because its there. Its just a week in the desert, no more, no less. The magic that you may or may not experience there also exists in countless other corners of the globe at all times of the year. That is if you take the principles and ideas you find there with you. Hell, we all know people we’d call Burners who have never even been to the event. What more proof do you need that it really isn’t that special?

I would like to see the magic in more times and places. Gifting water at Burning Man – not so extraordinary. Gifting water in Parc Lafontaine on a hot summer day – kind of extraordinary. That’s what excites me these days. Burning Man is a model, a testing ground, a training centre, but its not in an of itself a terribly important place, what’s important about it is what happens when the world of the Burn intersects with the real world. If the energy that went into the Burn were instead directed outwards from the desert into other communities, cities and towns. That’s when the real, tangible, lasting magic starts to take place.

Its easy to create magic in a place where magic is acknowledged to exist. Its a much greater feat to create magic in a place that has forgotten or even suppressed what magic is. This then is the greater triumph and the greater quest.

So go the Burning Man. Dress like rabbits. Ride on rocket ships. Shoot flamethrowers. Do crazy drugs and have crazy sex. Just remember that its only a dress rehersal. The true spirit of it. The spirit not of Burning Man, not even of art, but the spirit of Life. That has to exist 52 weeks a year.

Bubble Bubble, Click Clack & Tumble Dry

The innaugural trip to the laundromat/scriptwriting session was an unabashed success. I got a bunch of my clothes cleaned and added two or three pages to my Real Santa script. Win/win. Doing laundry at home is so passe. There is shit all to do at the laundromat except to watch clothes spin (ever notice how washing machines at laundromats always have clear windows to look through – that’s why), unless of course you bring something with you. My laptop sans Internet is actually a productive machine instead of a distraction machine. The lack of distractions is a magic incantation that allows me to actually get myself into “The Zone” and just let the characters and scenarios flow out of me like soap at the end of the wash cycle.

I also took a trip to the Salvation Army this morning to pick up some last minute supplies for the burn and as happens left with more than I planned. I bought my roommate a super 8 previewer to encourage her to shoot more small gauge film. She just got her first reels back yesterday and was tickled pink to watch them on my previewer.

I also got a hair dryer despite the fact that I have NO hair. Its for FrostBurn, the Philly winter regional burn. I’m going to get a campsite with electricity, a long extension cord and a holster. Anyone who looks like they need a hot air infusion just has to open their coat. Yes, I keep the ladies warm at night. There were three suitable dryers, but this one has a transparent plastic casing so it actually glows when you use it. Sexy.

The one item I didn’t get that I’m feeling a bit of remorse for was a beautiful lamp, gold coloured with four flower petal shaped sockets. The glass from the petals was half gone but would be really easy to replace with… keyboard circuit boards. It’d be pretty sexy. I’m in a major rush though, I have to pack, I have to sort out the propane situation. But… Maybe I should go get it. IF I can haggle the dumbass manager down from his ridiculous $35 price tag.

No, I let it go. No need to waste time going back. Priorities. Burning Man. That’s all that’s left on my platter now. Departure in 4 hours…

Today’s Walk – Aug 20

Found an interesting spot for a photoshoot. A paint/detailing garage that was like a big white light box. A fun place to shoot a model on a car maybe, perhaps body paint making it look like the model and the car were merging.

Also found a cute little playground that had a waterpark that was activated by pressing the top of a pylon sticking out of the ground.

A few interesting vantage points.

I’ve got things to do but I also have things to process. A lot of things.

Its a shame chaos has such a negative connotation in our society today, because really what isn’t chaos? Chaos is change and change can be good or bad. Often we get confused as to which is which.

Today I think is the first day that it really hit me. I was paddling down the canal with ‘Lil Lady and she asked me what I was going to do, and there were two answers really. There were all the things that bubbled up that I’ve been thinking about doing, super 8 tourism videos for Montreal, busker festivals, wedding and kitesurfing videos in the Carribean. But there was another set of… more intangible answers than that. More of a feeling. A sense that everything was going to change. Really. Everything.

From over a decade of working for other people to just doing it myself. Not only that but the unparalleled freedom to just pick up and go anywhere.

I spent an hour tumbling these thoughts this afternoon. As exciting as it is to have so much change rolling all around me sometimes I feel like I’d rather just spend my days curled up with someone special, soaking up filtered rays from the sun. I really feel like David vs. Goliath sometimes.

Like Midnight Poutine camp. Did I ever expect it to be something this big and complicated? Did I ever really want that? As with the question about working there are two answers, yes I did expect it and want it, but in truth I had no idea what I was getting into. So it goes with these big moments in life I suppose, where you jump into a new career, a new school, a whole new kettle of fish. I just haven’t had this much change… it feels like I’ve never faced this much change.

It feels good though. To have such a clear outlook on the kind of life I want to lead, even if the details are completely unknown. I could end up anywhere, doing anything, but I know what my values will be, what kind of life I want to lead and what kind of example I want to give. I want to give in the unique way that only I can. Countless people can check someone onto a flight at the airport and it will be much the same for each. My goal is to have more personal, substantial effects on the world around me. “Window or aisle.” will no longer be the extent of the choices I’m empowered to give.

I have other things to say, about my 5-List and how its helping me not only to get things done, but to put my priorities in perspective. How for a long time I tricked myself into thinking I was enlightened on the subject of not fretting over the future when really I’d just masked it. Being much more conscious of me, my beliefs, my thoughts, and my emotions. Even more, always, every day.

We can call it a spiritual growth-spurt perhaps. That’s what it feels like. Some of it is easy and exciting. Other things are difficult and scary. But going back to the old ways is not an option.

Work as Play

That was the title of a blog entry on Zen Habits recently and I’m realising that I’m starting to live it, I’m also starting to live another principle from an article on that site and others which is to reduce, reduce, reduce until you can focus on just a few things.

As I decide what I want to do with my time I’m starting to find that I’m much more interested in doing things like scriptwriting or editing videos and photos than I am in going out for beers or watching a movie. I want to work. I want to produce. Its no longer a chore. Going out for beers with people is becoming more of a chore than work. Yeah I still like going out for beers, but not as much, there’s work to be done. Fun work! Even Burning Man is becoming dull and a distraction compared to other things I could be doing with my time.

Maybe school crushed me, maybe it was the corporate world, whatever it was I’m breaking free, strand by strand.

“Some people have real jobs.”

Stuck in the T-dot

Quite the litany of feelings on this trip, from excitement to extreme boredom to loneliness to a profound sense of belonging, wonder, frustration, creative impulses and total lethargy – and its only half done.

Being away from home erases so many of the daily demands and drives, sometimes its hard to know which way is up.

I must say my perception of time has changed drastically in the past week or two. I am very much more in the present since the only things on the horizon are so close I can almost touch them. There’s nothing on the long range, the short range is just too dense. I kind of like this. Its both liberating and provides focus. I have specific tasks, but I also have holy moments of just… nothing. Nothing to do. No apartment to clean. No car to sell. Nothing to pack for the burn. Here I am in Toronto without much of a care. Just those god-awful training classes.

This certainly is the perfect parting from corporatism I could have asked for. Nothing is so dull and terrible as sitting in an uncomfortable chair in front of a blazing computer screen and listening to banal phrases like, “Select the correct SSR code. Now press ALT-O.” There are better ways to teach and learn, its so frustrating it’d be sad if I weren’t getting ready to leave, leave it forever. I mean really, putting a GUI on top of 50 year old code doesn’t make a program “modern” or “efficient” or “user friendly” it just makes it shiny. But I digress… Any question I had as to whether or not I was ready to leave has been put to rest. I’m done. No more working for the Man. I’d rather starve thank you very much. And I work at a well respected company that treats its people well! Dear lord!

So…

THE WALK

I haven’t been walking every day. Bad. But I did today. A meditation and a walk. I’d like to describe my walks a bit. They have their own unique character and purpose that helps to keep me centred. I certainly needed it today.

First of all the walk has no set destination or duration. Of course I can’t walk all day, I have some sense of how long I’m out there and what other things I need to do AFTER the walk, but I’m not a slave to the clock. Typically I walk for twenty minutes to half an hour and then get back to my day. If I don’t have anything pressing to do I might stay out longer. Its a balancing act respecting all the other things I need to do with the need for me to just step out and BE in the world.

Not having anywhere particular to go frees me as well. Destinations are poison in this sort of thing because they transform your thinking from organic to linear. Instead of wandering wherever my interest takes me instead I become a slave to the straight line, the shortest route between two points. Its tunnel vision and the whole process of walking gets lost in anticipation of the destination. So no destination is essential.

Third is cultivating what I call “Mushroom Mind” which is exactly what it sounds like, the frame of mind you’re in when you’re on mushrooms. For me this is getting in touch with my inner child and really being able to explore and play. There is nothing wrong with stopping for ten minutes to look at flowers or getting totally detoured trying to sneak up on squirrels. Similarly there’s nothing wrong with balancing on railway tracks or going down a slide on the playground. Anything goes.

I try to avoid taking the same route twice. I don’t say NEVER because that’d be a hard and fast rule and my walks aren’t governed by rules, just suggestions. I like to see and experience new things and this principle keeps me in that. Sometimes I get a bit lost as a result, other times I find great shortcuts. In the end I have a better map of the world in my head.

Climb. Jump. Crawl. Maybe its just the parkour traceur/urban explorer/builderer in me but walking isn’t the only way our bodies are designed to move. I like to pepper my walks with alternative means of locomotion.

One thing I’m not quite sure about is photography. Sometimes I bring my camera, other times I don’t. I find that I take more playful photographs on my walks and try things that I might not otherwise try. For instance today I took pictures of flowers. I never take pictures of flowers! I also took pictures of me jumping off of an abutment and wearing some sort of pipe cap on my head that I found on the street. Taking pictures this way, in a playful carefree way feels pretty good. So far taking pictures feels good, but its certainly not an essential part of the walking experience. Sometimes its just nice to have that fleeting moment and let it pass with nothing but a memory, some neurons firing and that’s it – its gone.

Today’s walk was kind of epic. I slept in late and felt pretty unmotivated overall. Training has been a drain and while going out a couple of nights to play with circus people was good it meant a serious lack of ME-time as well as a serious lack of sleep. So I bummed around the hotel for a few hours before reading a couple of inspiring blog articles and heading out.

The walk took me through a maze of overpasses, underpasses and parking lots around the airport. Really not an environment anyone’s really expected or intended to walk through – which is perfect. I walked through flowers, waved at motorists at red lights (damn Torontonian’s didn’t wave back or even smile) then plunged myself into the concrete depths and heights of the roads. I played with debris I found on the side of the road and generally zig zagged this way and that, wondering when airport security would come and tell me I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of ANYTHING – but they never did.

Eventually I ended up at an abandoned hotel that I knew about from fellow urban explorers and decided – what the heck. Walked the perimeter, didn’t see any activity and jumped the fence. Maybe I stayed an hour – not entirely sure. I had a couple of adrenalin rushes, the sound of dripping water from all the rain making strange noises and another time when it looked as though the security guard on site might have seen me. I took plenty of photographs, saw wonderful sights, skipped through shallow water, ducked through holes and generally had a fantastic time until getting a bit too close to the aforementioned security guard.

I left, grabbed an iced tea from a gas station (they always seem confused when you walk in rather than drive in) and returned to the hotel.

So by the standards of my daily walks it was a bit epic. I didn’t plan to do any urban exploring, but then I never plan to do anything in particular on my walks – I just see where they go. Today it just happened to be the Regis Constellation.

So that’s walking.

So much in my mind these days, but interestingly enough it isn’t overwhelming. I feel a great sense of calm. I’m finally able to admit to myself that I can’t do everything – and that’s fine. I pick what’s most important and focus on that. Thing will work out because there’s no other way they could go. I feel so much more in control of my life now. Its amazing. I feel more conscious than I have in years. Its like waking up from a long, long dream.

More to come. Much more.

Arts Committee

Here’s an idea to help me stay accountable on my quest to become a working artist.

First off create an arts blog & calendar. Nothing too fancy, just what I’m working on, where my progress is at, what my deadlines and such are. Then I get some of you, yes YOU to subscribe to this blog and watch my progress and comment. Keep me on my toes, let me know if I’m not holding up my end of the bargain, offer suggestions and advice. I think I’d find it really useful, though what I can offer you in return I’m not sure.

I’d like to have a conversation with some of you, once a month or so to talk about my projects and what’s going on with them, and what’s up with me and my process. I suppose the most logical way to go about this is to make it a reciprocal relationship, tell me what your projects are (artistic or otherwise) and how the process is unfolding.

There’s no sense going it alone in this world, not with so many great folks out there. Folks like YOU.

Walking ahead

So last night I paid back the sleep deficit I’ve been accruing in full by sleeping for, oh, twelve plus hours. I felt a little bit of guilt about that this morning, though not too much. I would have preferred to have gotten up an hour or two earlier and gotten an earlier start on the day, but that’s alright really. What I need is a clock in here so that I can keep my context a bit better. I don’t want an LCD or LED clock though, those big bright numbers are too hot, powerful and distracting. I’m thinking a nice analog clock that takes some effort to see, especially in the dark. I find those LCD/LED clocks really distracting when I’m trying to sleep. So, maybe I’ve got a new thing to build, unless I can find something suitably cheap.

Despite feeling like I overslept I remained dutiful to my morning ritual of meditation and walk. Today’s meditation was Two questions to help you gain perspective and the walk was up into the southern fringes of the wealthy neighborhood of Westmount. I found the meditation useful, I imagined my walk as a scene in a movie and felt that it was satisfying, beautiful, relaxed and thoughtful. I thought about my lacklustre wake-up and saw it as a scene I’d like to eliminate, shorten or tweak in some way. Overall a pretty good visualization exercise for a filmmaker.

The second question (go read it) was a bit tougher, especially since so many things are in flux right now. I feel like if I continue the things that I’ve started in the past few weeks that I will go far in the next five years, but where I end up going is still something of a mystery. I’ll be debt free. I’ll be making more and more of my living off of my creative, artistic and community building pursuits, but where I’ll be and exactly what I’ll be doing is incredibly hard to say. So I think this is a question I need to revisit regularly. Both actually. They’re pretty damn good.

So the pre-Burn push feels a little bit overwhelming, but figuring out my priorities and letting the rest slide has made it much, much easier. There are things that NEED to be done and there are things that would be nice to do. Once that distinction is made a lot of the stress goes away. There is still a lot that needs to get done, but now its managable.

To add to the pile of things I’m working on, we got told two nights ago to stop fire spinning and music in Parc Lafontaine on Wednesday nights by a small army of police. Not cool. I don’t have much time for it, but I find it too important to ignore so I’m starting to look into ways we can fight back and establish an agreement between us and the city to keep this thing going. We weren’t bothered for almost two years, and now all of a sudden they’re making a stink. It feels like a truly noble battle. We need to assert our rights. Changing society for the better has always been my deepest calling, and this is a way to do that.

But today’s priority is getting all the container supplies for Burning Man organized at Jody’s since I have no ability to work on it after I leave for Toronto. So. Here we go. One move is over, another short term move to the desert begins. Madness, utter madness.

Daily Disciplines: Meditation, Walk, Thanks

Keeping myself on track requires care and attention, which is why I’ve been introducing daily disciplines into my life to help keep me focused. Introducing probably isn’t quite the right word here since I already did all of these things to some extent, but making them into daily acts, sacred acts that cannot be missed. That is new.

MEDITATION:

When I say meditation I don’t mean sitting in lotus position and Ohming out. For starters its not a strength of mine (though I’ve been amazed at how much I’ve improved at it) and secondly I like to be a bit more… intellectual, particularly as a start to the day. Sadly I’ve lost the best daily meditation/thought of the day website I used to use but there are still many ways I can draw inspiration to start my day.

Zen Habits is a recent addition to the blogs I read and it often has some good ideas for me.

Same goes for Early Retirement Extreme.

These blogs are pretty “hard” though, as in they deal with very solid tangible things. I also have a desk calendar of daily Zen quotations that is a bit more… abstract I suppose you could say along with my 365 Tao book.

After reading one of these I resolve myself to…

WALK

A daily walk used to be an automatic part of my workday since I had to walk from St-Remi to Lionel-Groulx station, but now Lionel-Groulx is on my doorstep, as a result walking has to be intentional now. I try to wander different places and I make sure that the walks have no ulterior purpose. They’re not to buy milk or take photos. They’re just to experience being outside regardless of the weather and to give myself alone time, allowing whatever I’ve been given as a meditation to rattle around and grow.

THANKS

Finally at night, before bed I give thanks for something that’s improved my life that day. I’ve been using these as my facebook status. Its important to highlight things that are going right, things that are worth living for. Its also just a great exercise to avoid taking things for granted. We live in an amazing world and we should take stock of the things that make it so.

So there are three things that I’m doing, and they make a difference. They’re also only the tip of the iceburg. There are things to do on a weeky, monthy and yearly basis as well that bring energy, ideas, inspiration and love. Gawd. I’m starting to sound new agey. Ick.

Smaller is better

So I have finally completed my move from the loft to the 80 square foot room. A pretty stupendous reduction no matter how you look at it. Getting rid of my big ticket items was thankfully pretty simple. One chair got picked up through the Free listings on craigslist, the rest of the stuff I either left on the street or gave to the punk/hippie neighbours who didn’t have anything. Gotta love cheapskates when you’re trying to get rid of stuff you no longer want or need. Playing the game and trying to get money for that stuff would have been so much more difficult. I’ve thought about that a lot recently. Its so much easier to just leave something on the curb and wait for it to disappear than it is to try and organize a sale. If you think about it when you sell someone something you automatically inject a degree of distrust and competition into the relationship. You have to protect the item until the other party has given you what you consider fair compensation be that money or trade or what have you. Giving something away is so much nicer.

I’m dealing with that whole thing right now. Some of my possessions I’ve decided to sell, because they’re worth selling. But its so much more hassle. You can’t just leave it somewhere and tell them to come and get it. No, instead you have to set a time and place and have money and tire kicking and the whole shebang. Bleh.

But let’s move on to what I really wanted to talk about, and that’s this smaller space.

When I first began moving stuff into the room I quickly became a bit concerned about everything I needed fitting. Not that I need that much, but the queen sized bed, the dresser and my desk pretty much fill it up, yet somehow I managed to get a bookshelf/organizer in here too. The desk didn’t fit the way its supposed to, as an L, at least not in the way I ultimately decided to configure the room. Instead I’ve broken it into its component parts. I even had to remove the window and reverse the legs on the desk to make the whole thing fit. Its required a great deal in ingenuity, but I actually like that. I’m being forced not only to be very creative with the limited space I’ve afforded myself, but I’m also having to be very aware of that space. Every single detail is important. Being organized and efficient is absolutely necessary when you don’t have much space. Its like of like living in a VW van.

I think I’m going to learn a lot about living simply and being organized in this space. Once I’ve finished a few room projects like getting a raised bedframe so I can store things under the bed and building a set of shelves above the computer desk I think I’m actually going to have more space than I need. Which is pretty amazing. I’ve gone from a 700+ square foot loft to a room that’s less than 100 square feet and I’m actually going to have excess storage space.

I’m also feeling very creative about my space and taking great pride in it. The paint job in here is amazing. I feel really warm and comfortable in my room. It feels classy and slightly ecclectic. I can’t wait to do my collages. $1 and $2 Time Life and National Geographic coffee table books from the used bookstore are going to provide great material for the backing of my shelves and my cork board. I’m going to put a few up on the tiles in the bathroom as well.

My roommates so far are very cool, creative and laid back. I think its going to be a fun household.

I’ll post some photos of my new room and describe some of the ways I’m maximizing the space to suit my needs. Its still full of boxes and random piles of stuff right now though. Its going to take a while for me to sort through it all, especially with out of town training and Burning Man pending soon. August is going to be a crackpot month for me.

Can’t wait to sell the car and buy a bike.