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The Assless Chapel Newsletter #1: Let's Get Excited for the Playa Edition

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

The Man burns in 122 days! From now until then, I will endeavor to send a weekly Assless Chapel newsletter every Wednesday. We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of love to share, a lot to give and so, so, much to look forward to. But before we get down to it, check out this gorgeous Burning Man video: https://vimeo.com/154562935.


GROUP NEWS

So, I just spoke to Kimberley and Torsten and they will be joining us this year. On that note, let me start this newsletter off with introductions:


· Gabriel, aka the Assless Chaplain (formerly General Shrimpmeat): This will be my 7th Burning Man. I am an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church, which allows me to legally marry people. I’m pretty handy with running and setting up Burning Man camps and, as a homesteader, have a lot of infrastructure by now. My snoring is also useful for concealing the noise of generators. I’ll be heading to the Playa from Healdsburg, California, but I am a native of exotic Indiana! I will be arriving in my truck, with a flatbed trailer attached, a few days before gate open and will likely sleep under the stars and covered in Playa dust.


· Tzvika: This will be Tzvika’s 3rd Burning Man and considering how difficult it is for Americans to say his name, I have no idea why he is yet to get a Playa name. Tzvika is a skilled woodworker, farmer and general handyman. He’s also a five-time Froymovich League Drinking Champion and still the darling of the bus of “Bears” that showed up to our Bums for Beer event at the Metropolis Burn. All useful skills for our camp. Tzvika will be flying in from Israel and his arrival time and transportation are up in the air.


· Yosi, aka Red: This will also be Yosi’s 3rd Burning Man. Both he and Tzvika are veterans of the Lost Cousin’s Camp and the Froymodavy Wedding Camp. Yosi was educated as a construction engineer and is a former construction site manager. Those are great skills to bring to camp and, hopefully, this time Red will spend a bit less time covered in marinara sauce, sunburn and his own blood. Yosi will be flying in from Durham, North Carolina but originally hails from Israel. Yosi will be arriving with me but will likely insist on sleeping in a tent without me.


· Ziad and Karine: These two Mediterranean beauties will be flying in from Dubai and renting an RV, though their respective homelands are Lebanon and Greece. Karine has that rarest of talents: scoring Burning Man tickets during the Main Sale! Ziad has let me know he’s a great bartender and specializes in espresso Martinis, which means you may find me, some beautiful morning, babbling incoherently as the sun comes up. Ziad and Karine became engaged on the Playa in 2019 and plan to have a Playa wedding this year (Tuesday?) They will be arriving after gate open, but I can’t remember which day (sorry!)


· Kimberley and Torsten: Our most recent additions to the camp, they’ll be getting married on the Playa Saturday evening before the Temple Burn. I’m still getting to know them better, but Kimberley has agreed to throw herself into planning and will be reaching out soon to find good meeting times for us. They’ll be flying in from Portland and arriving in a Sprinter van and will be arriving on Wednesday and leaving on Monday.


I’d like for us to have a weekly meeting time. That doesn’t mean we have a meeting every week and it certainly doesn’t mean we all meet every week. We’ll meet when needed and the meetings will include whoever needs to be a part of them. I would like to have two all-hands meeting before we head out to the Playa. I just want a standard time that we all keep in mind, since it’s so hard to coordinate a meeting between seven people, in four time zones, spread over 11 hours! Look out for an email from Kimberley to find the time during the week that works best for each of us.

I think most of you know that I applied for a camp with 11 people. So, who are the other four? I don’t know yet. As of now, I am not recruiting anyone else. We will plan for the seven of us for now. If we get tickets in excess of seven, we can recruit through various Burning Man resources and our own personal networks for people who can really contribute.


THE CHAPLAIN'S WEEKLY SCREED


The first time I heard about Burning Man was in 1997. The first time I went was in 2005. The last time I went was in 2012. And the first time I had the honor of organizing a theme camp is this year. I want you all to know that, though I’m 25 years into my Burning Man journey, I don’t consider myself to be even halfway through it.


Within the first hour of arriving at Black Rock City for the first time, I ran into two naked people on a golf cart in the middle of a brutal dust storm. If my memory serves me correctly, they were each about 173 years old. Of course, part of the reason I came to that conclusion was the color of their hair in those places you don’t see on a clothed person. It could have just been the Playa dust. I bring this up only to say that, in another 25 years, I’ll only be 64, so my math is right about not being halfway through my Burning Man journey. In short, I consider the Assless Chapel to be a long term project.


In that vein, check out this video: https://vimeo.com/54809341


BLACK ROCK CITY NEWS


Street names were announced this past week:

Kahlo

Jarry

Inception

Hypnagogia

Glimmer

Fugue

Enigma

Dali

Cocteau

Breton

Apparition

Esplanade

If you want to read more about it, click here.

Anyone still figuring out how to get to Black Rock City (Tzvika), check out the Burner Express. Burner Express Air is not booking flights out from Reno and I think San Francisco. And there’s also the shuttle.


PLACEMENT / TICKET NEWS


So, the good news is that our brides and grooms have tickets. The bad news is that Yosi, Tzvika and the Chaplain do not yet have tickets. This past weekend, though, I attended the Burning Man Camp Symposium, as part of my push to create some buzz and get some tickets allocated to us (six hours!) Burning Man’s Placement Guru, a sweet guy named Level, stated that they are planning to allocate some tickets for new theme camps.


After the Symposium I drove to a happy hour at Burning Man’s headquarters in San Francisco. The place is great. A cool place to work and an inspiring place to visit. I introduced myself to Level and he recognized me! We chatted for a bit and made sure not to come on too strong. Instead, I chatted up all the other theme camp operators about what we’re doing and how meaningful it is to me – again, trying to create buzz around the camp.


At the happy hour, I was reminded of what a collection of absolute weirdos some of us Burners are. Interestingly, of the dozen or so people I met there, only one had started going to Burning Man before I did – feels a bit odd to be an old-timer now. In other good news, it does seem that we are building buzz. One theme camp operator, upon seeing me, said: “You’re the Assless Chaplain, right?” So, that’s good news. I also met a guy who runs a 150-person camp called Kostume Kult who offered to deck out our guests with great outfits.

I strongly believe we’ll get the tickets we need. Just so everyone knows, I’m requesting tickets to fill out our camp to 11 people, but I think we’re fine with 3 more tickets. My understanding is that BORG will not have many tickets at all to give to new camps. On the other hand, we’re small and we’re interesting and I’m doing everything I can to get their notice. And, to our Playa-newlyweds-to-be, I am currently working to line up backup officiants, just in case.


Upcoming Tasks

I didn’t know what to call this section of the newsletter. I’d love to make it more interesting. But it’s basically the stuff we must get done. The work of making a theme camp happen. Soon, this will be a hefty section. I learned a lot at the symposium and will spend a week or two creating a master spreadsheet to stay organized and ensure that we pull of this whole Assless Chapel idea.

As of now, however, what I would love to have everyone working on is creating buzz about our camp. Here is a pretty long list of what we can be doing:


· Word-of-mouth: To whatever extent we can, let possibly interested people know about us ahead of time, especially if they might want to get married at Burning Man!


· ePlaya: ePlaya is an online forum that we can post to regarding our camp. I’ve posted there already, but the more the merrier!


· The Hive is Burning Man’s social network and learning resource. It’s not that busy, but maybe we can help change that a little bit. It would be great if we could use it to get some notice. Level is on there. A few interesting things to check out:


· Facebook has Burning Man groups for regionals. We should each post to our regional (I can send boilerplate copy, if desired.) I have also posted to Burning Man Project, Burning Man Classifieds, the unofficial Burning Man group, Burning Man San Francisco and Burning Man 2022. It would be great if some of you all could do the same. There is also a Theme Camp Organizers Facebook Group. I’ve posted there.


· The official Burning Man newsletter is called Jackrabbit Speaks. They carry a limited number of announcements regarding opportunities to participate. I’ll see if we can get some coverage soliciting potential newlyweds.


· The WhatWhereWhen Guide is a catalog of events at Burning Man that is handed to everyone coming in. We want to be in there.


· BORG hosts monthly fireside chats for theme camps, which I attend. I’ll let you guys know about them from here on out.


· I’m also signed up for the monthly placement newsletter. Feel free to sign up or else I’ll just report back to everyone.


· I will have emailed the Camp Support Team with basic questions, mostly to help get on their radar. I’ll try to send some more, here and there.


· I have signed up for the Camp Advisory & Mentorship Program; they’re still looking for a good mentor for me.


· If you think of or come across any other opportunities to get noticed, please let the group know!


CLOSING THOUGHTS


When I first came to Burning Man, it was just a big party for me. Over time, it became more. An inspiration. A place to let go of negative emotions or feel them in productive ways. Most certainly a place to create and enjoy some of the most positive emotions and memories of my life. And a place to get married and celebrate my bond with the love of my life. I so look forward to sharing and creating my next Burning Man experience with all of you. Let’s make this year’s Burn a great one!


Please indulge me the cliché of ending with a quote. When I was about 10 years old, I really fell in love with Shakespeare’s works. Shakespeare’s first play ever was “The Two Gentleman of Verona.” In it, a character named Lucetta makes the claim that “Fire that’s closest kept burns most of all.” What she means is that a secret passion is the strongest passion. But when I hear that, I think two things. First, a passion that is closest kept means nothing. The source of its strength is its vapid and egotistical meaninglessness. And that leads me to the more relevant point: when we don’t share what we have inside, that “what” burns so bright that it only eats us up from the inside; when we share it, let it out, it lights up the world for us and those around us. Let’s do that. The Man burns in 3 months, 29 days, 23 hours and 30 minutes.

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