Lifestyles of the Poor and Infamous
May 27, 2011 § 1 Comment
If I offend you, I’m sorry in advance.
I had to chew on the idea of blogging for a few months.
First I had to come up with what I wanted to write about. I put on a really well rounded electronic mix and lit a cigarette. How do I word this? I want to use this blog as a platform for this message: being a social media user or political activist does not mean that your life will be boring. To those of you who already know this, hang tight. I’m the one who’s new to this, I know :)
Six months ago, I was completely apathetic to politics, and somehow, today I identify more as a young, learning political activist. I want to illustrate that yes, it’s important to be aware of the political landscapes that we live in, but we don’t have to be chained to desks or go to college or university for four or six or eight years to make a difference in the world we live in.
We hot blooded people share a desire to feel sexy, and engaged, and aware, and I feel like a lot of you know what I’m talking about. So that’s what I’m going to try to make seem interesting: my own evolution into the world of communications and political awareness.
I had to ask myself whom I would be writing to. People like me: bartenders, partygoers, artists, musicians, generally cool people. And then I needed content for the blog. I decided that my first post or two would be introducing myself and my intentions, and I’d practice posting a few times before I got into what I really want to write about.
I had started a little travel blog two years ago, and hadn’t looked at it because of the embarrassment I would feel when thinking about how long it had been since posting in it. I’d asked friends and respected acquaintances to follow it because I was confident that I’d be traveling overseas that year. My romantic idea didn’t quite reach fruition but I did manage to pull a trip to Burning Man out of the hat. That story will function as another blog post one day. A dusty, boozy, hazy one. Anyway, I’ve always enjoyed writing, and in fact, it was one of the only reasons I could stay high on school for as long as I did.
I’ve been on social media platforms from as early as 15, (I’m 24 years old now). I’d always looked at popular social media platforms as a great means for human connection: flirting, parties, festivals, etc. From early on in my online adolescence, I could see the benefit of using these online resources as tools for organizing parties, barbecues, canoe trips, getting laid, and so on, but had never really seen it as a tool for something like organizing people into action. Egypt blew my mind, especially after doing a bit of my own research into the buildup of their sit in.
I decided in high school that I was tired of everyone else’s parties. When I was 18, I moved into a house downtown, which was a two-minute walk from pizza, work, the mall, Harley’s, and the bars. I started having themed parties. Santa hat themed Christmas parties, Halloween parties, color themed parties that no one else were having, and they were smashing successes. I know that I had a “rent party” which was wildly successful.
Rent Party: When you need money for rent, and there’s no other way to make that money but to charge cover at your house and sell keg beer.
I made more than enough money to pay rent the Monday after the weekend. I made enough money for a damage deposit and rent on a new, much nicer place! Which is exactly what I did with the money, and that was because one of my younger brother’s friends let my landlord into my house the day after the party when I wasn’t at home. Yeah.
I know I digress, but this is my first blog post, and I’m going to try to squeeze a bunch of stuff into it so that I can elaborate on some stuff that you might find interesting later.
Initially, my landlord took me to small claims for something like $8,000. In an attempt to intimidate me, he delivered to my work a 26 page report on damages to his house: I don’t want to defame myself too hard, but, the hardwood was so black it pulled your shoes off, and the carpet looked like a mop head. Oh, and there was a pile of recycling on the back step that could’ve paid my friend’s monthly car payment. The report came with receipts, invoices, and pictures. One of us still has it somewhere. With the help of a friend of mine acting as counsel (he had a palm device, I think it helped us look a little more serious during the hearing), we worked it down to a more comfortable $4,000.
My point for that anecdote is this: I used social media to announce a party with a cause, and it worked. I did feel bad for my landlord, for the record.
I’d never looked at myself as a “community organizer” until recently. I was introduced to a colleague at a recent conference as just that. It fit my description in the context of the introduction, and immediately vibed with me; I always have been a community organizer. I realized that by looking back at the last 8 or so years of my life; the description fit whatever seemed to be my intention. I mean, I was into some serious partying and exploring my boundaries and experimenting with whatever, but my mission at the time was clear: my life is so wildly entertaining, and so spontaneously adventurous, that I must share it with any of my friends who want in. The best recent example I can think of is Shambhala Music Festival in 2009.
I first attended Shambhala in August of 2007, and immediately fell into a fascinated awe. It has always been a challenge to describe what happened to me there, let alone what happens all throughout the 5 days sonically, visually, and socially. I was blown away by 10,000 people existing together harmoniously, and in sync with at least a common value aligning them. In fact it was more than one value, people gathered for the love of nature, music, romance and communication. Everyone was seeking a Utopia.
I’d been looking at this festival with a glint on the corner of my open mouth for three years before I was finally able to go. The crew consisted of my girlfriend Tiffany, my best friend, Sean, and our friend Allen. We drove over 3,000km across Canada in two days. I was on the road without my family and just my friends for the first time, in a ’85, sheet metal grey station wagon named Jackson, and it was a purely amazing experience. I was 19 at the time, and had purchased the Kootenay Cadillac from my Dad for $1. I felt like such a boss.
The first year of Shambhala opened my eyes to something I’d never experienced. People were nice to each other, and for no apparent reason other than that they had all gathered on the ranch in search of smiles, laughter, like minded people, and amazing music and light shows. “Welcome home,” was being shouted into our windows as we squeaked through the gate at the festival. Daytime was full of the scents of patchouli and weed, and you could hear laughter at all times, everywhere.
I made friends immediately with people that I still talk to at least weekly, but only see at the ranch. I was accepted into this community of sexy, young, and cool people as soon as I opened my mouth. I had reached a small plateau of enlightenment. People where I come from are quick to judge, mean, elitist, and slightly racist. I never fit in with popular crowds in school, and until 16 was just trying my hardest not to get beat up. It wasn’t until I had made it onto the High Performance Basketball Team that people began to respect me, if at least a little.
I had evolved into a new person that I had never been able to be before. I could be myself in front of people I had never met, and what’s more was that they liked me. I was in shock. I had to ask myself, who was this person, the young man who had taken over my body and was so happy, hyper-social, charming, fun? And most of all, I was terrified of losing that person upon leaving. I even had a good cry about it on the last day, before leaving the campsite.
The lessons I learned that weekend were glossed over by the time I returned home. My relationships with Tiffany, Sean and Allen were for a moment golden and real and galvanized with trust and mutual understanding. Upon return to “real life,” my newfound optimism faded, and in a few months, I reverted to being a passive aggressive asshole. It took losing my relationship with Tiffany over the next year for me to come full circle, and to be able to look at what I had helped to manufacture: resentment, lack of communication, mistrust. I couldn’t see, at that time, that I had been conditioned into having some completely wrong ideas about healthy relationships, and that I was going to have to do a lot of work to unlearn it. Tiffany was a strong, pro-sex feminist, and she was having none of my shit. It was really good for me to be with her, but it was starting to become tiring for her to be with me, regardless that my heart beat in her chest. So, year two at Shambhala was not as floaty and calm as the first year. We had a large purple elephant in the camp.
After that second year, we moved to Vancouver together. I knew I wasn’t ready to leave my situation at home, but I, being a young fool, couldn’t fathom being without her. I moved with her anyway, and the relationship grew weaker and weaker until we finally couldn’t stand being in the same room as each other. We split after the winter holidays in 2009.
This was actually a good thing for me, because I knew no one in the city. I asked Tif to move out, because she had a strong network of university acquaintances and friends from back home, and she agreed that it was a good idea. I spent the next four months carving myself out a little nook in the city: I got myself an awesome job at a very social café on Commercial Drive, started going to obscure, hard to find parties, and made friends that would miss me were I to go home. In fact, it was at Wreck Beach that year that I met my best friend. It was at the beginning of that summer that I made friends with a group of beautiful young travelers, and we all fell in love with each other. We still call it the summer o’ love.
I had to leave Vancouver in April that year, but we kept in touch and agreed to meet at our 5-day festival in August. When we eventually met up, I’d brought my best friends from home to meet my new friends from the lower mainland. With 60 square feet of tarp, 100 feet of rope and a short tattooed and muscled friend of ours, we created the most amazing shade shelter/living room in the middle of an amazing beautiful valley. We stayed up all night making structures and bonding. Since then, Shambhala has become much more than just a party to us; it’s a family reunion. There are people I go there to see because it’s the one time of year that I know I can be with them.
My friends all fell in love with each other, and knowing that I had had a hand in facilitating this beautiful massive made me feel incredible. I reveled silently for years about that! Since then, my role in my group of friends has evolved. I can see now that my experience that year was a pivotal moment in which I realized my capabilities as a coordinator and facilitator. A social catalyst.
For now, I’ll be signing off. This has been fun. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post as much as I have, and thanks for your patience. They’ll get more interesting, I promise. I just needed to finally get one out there.