At Burning Man, there is a tradition of being named. Your Playa name lives on Playa, and sometimes is carried back to the Default World with you. You don't name yourself; the name sort of comes up, often from circumstances around you, and declared by the people around you. Some names change; others remain the same for years and into death. Some people never come into them. But the best names are a totem, a singular word letting you know everything about a persons character, their drives, providing you with what in old White Wolf parlance may be referred to as a persons nature and demeanor. A word that says a thousand.
Two years ago, I was cuddling up against a cute fellow on a particularly chill evening, blanketed up at the fire pit of a neighboring camp. We were cozy, and just shooting the shit at the later part of a night/earlier part of someones morning, that time when it's still dark out but there's hints that the sun may be lingering, somewhere, over a horizon, somewhere. The air was crisp, mild winds carrying the cacaphony of twenty different songs and sounds from across the city and every passing art car. We were there for quite some time under the blankets, shooting the shit, warm, cozy, and slowly getting comfortably sweaty. At a certain point, my gentleman friend opened up our blanket, letting out a refreshed sigh.
"You ok? Not too cold doing that?" I asked, pulling him back into me.
"Not up against you, cutey. You're a fucking furnace," he said, rubbing my chest for emphasis.
Furnaces give off warmth; they are not singular items, but a multitude of them -- the latin root for a furnace, fornax, means oven. And just like ovens, furnaces are places of congregation, innovation, and activity. Sometimes used as a synonym for a kiln, furnaces also produce things, whether it be steam, or heat, pottery, bread or other bits and bobs affected by heat and pressure. They can be used for practical purposes as well as they creative. Furnaces are things that have kept people warm, fed, and in a way, innovating socially and culturally for ages.
In that moment, Furnace became a sort of soul-sister self to me, something that captured more than just the fact that I (a) run hot, and (b) have a hirsute upper body. Reflecting on that name, I got to self reflect, and understand better my natural self is a warm and comforting person; I have no real desire to harm or hurt others. I want people to feel loved, appreciated, worthwhile. I like engaging in those crafts, but especially where hospitality is concerned, I love being able to deliver appreciation and warmth to people through the foods I produce and the environments I put them in. I want that warmth to be infectious, to be a catalyst for other people to go of and bring their best into their own lives, whether that is on matters practical, creative, or otherwise..
It being Rosh Hashanah, and in the lead-up to the next Diaspora Kitchen pop-up on October 20, there's been a lot of introspection going on, both in a large way, and in a deeply personal way. Leaving the playa this year I wanted to understand better the ways of bringing more of Furnace back into the default world with me, and specifically how I could bring it into my professional work. I've always given good hospitality, but when it came to our efforts with Diaspora, I realized that desire for creating really awesome environments conducive to interactions, socializing, and leaving feeling warm, almost improved upon in disposition. (And hey, if it invigorates people to go out and create, all the better.). I want to live a life where my work encourages and invigorates others to do better in their own, a stimulating environment that also sustains them physically through eating. Convivia, and a touch more.
I may be miles away from the desert, but each day I try and bring a bit more back with me.
[There's also the practical matter that, in the last two years, I've gotten to play around with some furnaces as well -- mostly wood-fired ovens at various occasions. The primacy of wood-fired cooking is less so than it used to be, but something about it resonates, and not just because of the naming convention. I like the results that come out of woodfire, the way that it can engender all sorts of feelings, questions, and results. It requires a bit of planning, and foresight, and a little romance. I'd like to figure out how to use one more prominently in my work, and how it could factor into the plans for Diaspora down the line. The oven itself introduces a bunch of fascinating variables for people to engage with that food alone does not. If anyone has a lead on one in NYC, or a place to use one off hand, lemme know.]