Getting the Last Word: A Year After His Death, a Burner Speaks His Mind

by Whatsblem the Pro

Paul Addis -- PHOTO: SF Weekly

Paul Addis — PHOTO: SF Weekly

It has been a year now since Paul Addis, the man who went to prison for burning the Man early in 2007, leapt to a cruel death under the steel wheels of a BART train at Embarcadero Station in San Francisco.

So much has been said about Addis and his actions; people have expressed some very wide-ranging – and very strongly-held – opinions, calling him insane, a criminal, troubled, brilliant, a genius, a pointed performance artist, a bold rebel, and much more.

Whatever you might think of Addis, the response on the part of the corporation that runs Burning Man was very telling for a lot of people. . . many of whom stopped attending in protest after Addis was convicted and sent to prison on the strength of the testimony supplied by Burning Man’s leadership.

Love him, hate him, or wonder. . . but nobody who knows even part of the story has forgotten, or ever will forget, Paul Addis’ early burn.

There’s a lot we could say about all of it, a year after his suicide. Addis was barred from working in his rather lucrative chosen profession, thanks to his felony conviction for burning the Burning Man, and reduced to whatever minimum-wage jobs he could find as an ex-con on parole. One can only imagine the sense of helplessness and despair that led him to throw his body into the path of an oncoming subway train. Love him, hate him, or wonder, but in the end he was our fellow human being and our fellow burner, and deserving of at least some minimum of our sympathy in his darkest hour.

Spokespeople for the corporation that runs Burning Man – Marian Goodell in particular – have persistently claimed in public that Addis’ conviction was out of their hands, and expressed sadness that he was convicted of a felony serious enough to carry a prison sentence with it. . . but that claim remains one of the most glaring examples of slick, dishonest, corporate-style insincerity on the part of Burning Man’s executives in the event’s history. It doesn’t matter what you think of Paul Addis, who is gone forever. . . but it does matter what you think of the people who brought the hammer down on him. It matters a lot.

In the video below, Paul Addis speaks for himself from beyond the grave about the early burn, the response from those who hold the keys to our kingdom, and the comeuppance he received. We wish his friends and family an easy first anniversary of his death, and good closure going forward.

[Update from ed: 10/31/13] Thanks to Burner Dave for providing a link to radio traffic from the night after Paul Addis lit the Man.

Burn, Don’t Get Burned: Playa Bike Consumer Report

by Whatsblem the Pro



Back in March, we gave you a rundown of options for obtaining a playa-suitable bicycle. Topping that list was Reno’s Kiwanis Bike Program; unfortunately, information has come to light that prompts us to withdraw our recommendation of that organization in favor of the other options listed in our March article.

We’re sorry to report that you should also be warned away from Rat’s Bikes, a service frequently promoted in the Jack Rabbit Speaks newsletter put out by the Burning Man Org.

We don’t have any negative reports from people using Kiwanis’ playa bike program, so you might be safe giving them your money for that (if they even have any left); we have confirmed, however, that they are not trustworthy enough to do business with on a verbal contract basis; instead of fulfilling their end of the bargain, they seem to do nearly as much back-pedaling as pedaling. Caveat emptor!

When Kiwanis recently moved to a new space and needed the old place cleaned up so they could get their deposit back, a three-way deal was struck to get their old space thoroughly cleaned in exchange for a dozen or more bicycles, to be donated to a community center for community use. Volunteers showed up and did the job, and Kiwanis got their deposit back. They made every visible sign of being happy with the work performed, to the point of gushing all over everyone concerned about it. . . but when it came time to collect the bicycles, they suddenly decided to change the deal and act as though nobody should be surprised by that. The community center that was supposed to get a dozen or more bikes got one instead. Stay classy, Kiwanis Bike Program.

Rat’s Bikes, meanwhile, a one-man operation that may be connected with the Kiwanis Bike Program, has simply vanished into thin air after collecting funds from more than a few burners. We don’t know where Rat is or what’s going on, and it’s possible that he’s in some kind of truly dire straits that makes this excusable. . . but in any case, Rat should no longer be considered a reliable resource for burners seeking bikes. We hope Rat’s OK, even though him being OK would mean that he’s some kind of thief, and that some kind of thief has been enjoying free promotion from the Burning Man Org.

As always, do your due diligence before forking over your hard-earned cash, no matter what you’re buying; this is particularly important when you’re buying tickets from someone other than the Org themselves, at any price. You don’t want to end up on the playa with no bicycle after paying for one, and you sure don’t want to show up at Gate with a ticket bearing an invalidated serial number.

Ride tough!

We have just learned that an anonymous donor has stepped forward to fill the gap left by the Kiwanis Bike Program. One dozen bicycles will be delivered to the community center tomorrow, with annual free maintenance included! The donor does not want publicity, but the bicycles themselves will be sourced from Black Rock Bicycles, who will also do the yearly maintenance.