Finding Community in Second Life: Bray’s Place Blues Club and Social Community

In a virtual world where you can do anything (or be anything) you want, it can be surprisingly difficult to find a place to call home. Community can sometimes be elusive in Second Life, which is why sims such as Bray’s Place are deserving of note.

Bray’s Place describes itself as:

Bray’s Place is a “location” in the virtual world of Second Life. We are a club located within a community to listen to Blues music with live and interactive DJs in a friendly atmosphere dedicated to great music. Our visitors are located around the world and visit as avatars in Second Life.

Most importantly, however, we are built by community for community, established in February 2018 in response to a need for like-minded people to have a place they can call their own, in a safe, classy and decent oasis.

Bray Preston-Rising (Braytania Resident), the owner and operator of the Bray’s Place sim (Second Life destination guide; SLURL; website), works in Second Life as a full-time minister and counselor, from her home in Costa Rica. She and her tireless team of volunteers have slowly built up a remarkably friendly, blues-centered community, where I have been fortunate to receive one of the warmest welcomes I have ever experienced in 14 years of Second Life (and let me tell you, I have visited a lot of places in that time!).

This is not one of those SL blues joints which is packed to the rafters; there is usually a small but appreciative crowd of avatars present most times when I pay a visit (furries, newbies, and LGBTQ folk are welcomed). Upon arrival, you will be greeted by the host and DJ, and offered a branded mug of coffee as a free gift.

The attention is not effusive or intrusive; if you wish to be a wall-flower and observe the scene, you are more than welcome. But if you are looking for a place to hang out and chat, you will certainly find some good conversation here. There is zero pressure to join the Braysville Blues group, which advertises the sim’s upcoming events (they also have a subscriber list if you are running short of group space). You can stay for just one set, or hang out all day if you wish. Bray herself is a frequent DJ, and a absolute fountain of esoteric and arcane blues knowledge; I joking call Bray’s Place my “blues school” because I learn so much!

I have noticed that many of the strongest and healthiest communities which I have been fortunate enough to be a part of, over the almost 57 years of my existence on this planet, have tended to develop some form of community standards, which make it clear what the community is about, and what behaviour is (and is not) acceptable. For example, here are the community standards for the Discord (and yes, I regularly bring out the banhammer for people who break the rules).

Bray’s Place has such a statement, which I quite like, and I share it here in full (source):

Brayniac Community Vision

We are a supportive and welcoming community founded to promote quality Blues, genuine social connections within a safe, kind, friendly, comfortable yet fun and classy oasis on the SL grid – We are a diverse, politically neutral community accepting of avatar creativity, ethnic origins, individuality, sexual orientation, gender identity, race and religion.

To achieve this vision, Brayniacs & all guests choose to bring their best to the community and adhere to core, decency standards of speech, conduct, and dress.

We are an upscale, cozy, Blues club founded by the community with professional & amazing DJs on a full sim that includes:

  • Blues Club Building where only Blues is played
  • Waterfront home rentals
  • Beach – All Saturday sets are on the Beach with Blues and Mixed genre sets
  • Ballroom venue Hours: Wed 6 AM to Midnight – Dress: Fancy to Formal (Note: the ballroom has recently been changed to a country and western barn dance day.)
  • The Meadow, where we do mixed genre music sets, Thursdays, 6:00 a.m. to midnight
  • Games Building with voice 24/7 – Greedy, Skippo and other fun games
  • Free Photo Studio
  • Camping Grounds for overnight guests
  • Free Courtesy Landing Area with set to home and rez rights (ask for a tag)
  • Chill Out Loft in the club complete with cuddles & an intimate dance area.
  • Frequent fun special events

We also have the largest selection of new couples and singles dances on the grid for your dancing enjoyment!

We would love to have you be part of the community and the fun here so, there is a group join on the wall to the left of the front door & a subscriber there also if you are short of group space!

I am pleased to welcome you and if I can do anything to make you feel more cozy and welcomed, please feel free to contact me. (Braytania resident).

Please do find your cozy spot and make yourself at home!

With a very warm welcome,
Bray Preston-Rising and The Brayniac Team

The main blues club house, where you land most days when you arrive at Bray’s Place, has a regular schedule of blues deejays, who usually work a two-hour set. You can join the line dancers by clicking a round spot on the floor, or select one of the high-quality, Bento male and female dance animations from MOVE! from the dance stands located by the stage, or choose one of the available (non-bot) dance partners if you feel like a couples dance (everything from salsa to ballroom dancing). Or you can wander upstairs to the quiet lounge, grab a comfortable seat and have a listen. Something for everybody!

Bray’s Blues Clubhouse

On Thursdays, the music venue shifts to a nearby meadow, with a mix of many different kinds of music:

The Meadow at Bray’s

Every Sunday, Bray hosts a non-denominational, evangelical Christian worship service in her meadow. Despite my being a queer atheist who hasn’t set foot in a real-life church in years, I still pop in sometimes for some uplifting gospel music and Bray’s sermon.

Hey, where else can I show up at church in all my 1980’s roller disco diva glory? 😉

(By the way, these wonderful retro quad roller skates are a free Hallowe’en hunt prize from Nerido at the Masoom SPOOKAY Hunt, which you can still pick up today if you hurry; they come with a really good AO, plus a HUD to change the colours of the laces and several other parts of the roller skate boot. Here’s a hint: check the coffins in the haunted house.)

If you’re interested, Bray’s Place offers waterfront home rentals for reasonable rates, which is one of the main ways the sim supports itself. Instead of supporting the sim by renting a house, I choose to tip the deejays, hosts, and the venue’s signature brain tipjar whenever I drop in, which is quite often lately, as I work away in self-isolation for my university library system during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bray’s iconic “brayn” tip jar

If you see Vanity Fair at Bray’s Place, please be sure to say hello! (I might be away from the keyboard, though; I have been known to use Bray’s Place as my online blues radio station while working away on a report, spreadsheet, or slide presentation in another window!)

For more information about Bray’s Place, please visit their website, peruse their blog, or join their Discord server. I commend Bray Preston-Rising for her work, and I give Bray’s my best and warmest recommendation as a great community in Second Life!

Editorial: In the Wee, Small Hours

As I write this, it is a cold (-9°C/16°F) 4:45 a.m. on a Sunday morning, November 1st, here in Winnipeg. I am exhausted—emotionally, mentally, and physically—and yet I am unable to find comfort in sleep. Tossing and turning, I finally give up and go to my computer.

Some people use their insomnia to read or meditate, or perhaps play a game of solitaire. Me, I do what I usually do when I can’t sleep: I turn on to the Spa stream of soothing music, load up my main Second Life avatar, Vanity Fair, and continue to weed through the very oldest items in her voluminous, 241,601-item inventory, trying on and deciding whether to keep decade-old apparel, footwear, and accessories, or throwing the items away, knowing I’ll never, ever wear them again.

I’m currently in the F’s, trying on all the 10, 11, and 12-year-old FallnAngel freebies I picked up at various hunts (and throwing almost all of them into the pixel recycling bin).
Now, on the other hand, I think I will hold on to this beautiful system-layers-and-flexiprims kimono by FallnAngel…

And aaaaah, yes, the irony does not escape me that I, infamously relaxed housekeeper that I am (“slob” is such an ugly word), that I am spending the wee hours of my morning cleaning and organizing Vanity’s virtual wardrobe, while a large pile of Ryan’s real-life unfolded and un-put-away laundry sits next to his bed, his unironed dress shirts are hanging from his exercise cycle, and several towers of dirty dishes and unwashed pots rest on his kitchen counters and in his sink, just waiting to be loaded into my dishwasher.

Why do I do this? Why do I make these choices?

Well, Second Life is one of those hobbies which occupies my time, generates a flow state, and makes me feel happy, and I need to find those happy places wherever I can find them lately, in these distressing and disorienting times. When I clean my apartment, fold my laundry or load my dishwasher, my mind tends to wander, and I tend to get stuck in a dark cloud of anxiety, despair, or depression, despite my best efforts and intentions. Achieving a flow state, or a good mood, is something that I have decided that I want to maintain as a priority, so if something makes me feel good (or at least, feel better), I tend to do that first.

This is how I am choosing to cope during the coronavirus pandemic, and I am not going to beat myself up if I happen to have a pile of dirty dishes on the kitchen counter or dust bunnies hanging out in the corner of my bathroom. I am the one and only person around, and I will simply get to it when I get to it. If, at the end of my day, I have not disappeared into the black pit of depression, then I consider that day a success, regardless of how many crumbs lie under my kitchen table or how many dirty pots sit in my sink. I am choosing to focus on my mood, and to forgive myself for any misplaced priorities.

As you might know, the circumstances of my life and my career have unfortunately forced me to put the blog on the back burner these past three months, while I attended to other projects, problems, worries, and crises, but it is now November 1st, 2020, and I am happy to say that I have successfully navigated through the huge pile of work that I have had to do, and met all the deadlines that I have had to meet.

I now have a blessed (and believe me, very much-needed) two-week vacation from my full-time paying job with my university library system. And I intend to use that time, not just to do a little housecleaning in Second Life and in real life, but also to attend to the somewhat neglected blog.

Stay tuned for further announcements as I ponder and plan my next steps for the blog. The past three years have been an unexpected but wonderful adventure, and I cannot wait to see what the next three years will bring!

Photo by Randy Tarampi on Unsplash

UPDATE 11:56 a.m. Well, after a good long sleep, I have finally loaded up my dishwasher with the first load of the day, and I am back at cleaning up my inventory.

This being the day after Hallowe’en, I leave you with yet another wonderful blast from the past from Vanity Fair’s ancient inventory that’s a definite keeper: this gothic Carmen-Miranada-esque Hallowe’en outfit from Comme Il Faut, complete with hat, hair, shoes, jewelry, and skull maracas! The only modern aspects of this avatar are my signature Catwa Kimberly head and Slink hands; everything else is system-layer clothing, prims, and flexiprims on a classic avatar. The outfit still holds up perfectly well after more than a decade.

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