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.

The View From Up There

by Whatsblem the Pro

Old Razorback, aka Trego Peak, shot in 2008 by Jedi Master Ratti

Old Razorback, aka Trego Peak, shot in 2008 by Jedi Master Ratti

Mark Phipps, John Phipps, Dallon Phipps, Kevin Johnson, and Meghan Johnson scaled Old Razorback (aka Trego Peak) this year to capture some poignant time-lapse video of Burning Man 2013 as viewed from approximately four miles away at an elevation of 5495 feet above sea level, or 1888 feet above the playa floor.

The climb to set up the cameras (and retrieve them after the burn) is dangerous and difficult; Old Razorback’s approaches are untrailed and not terribly stable. . . but a passion for both photography and Burning Man drove the group up the mountain to bring you a view you’d probably never see otherwise.

With a calming, chill-out soundtrack by Inspired Flight and Dusty Nix, the resulting video is a bittersweet meditation on the epic potlatch impermanence that marks Burning Man as utterly unique among festivals.

In 2012, a group with many of the same members made the grueling trek up the mountain to give us a time-lapse video of that burn.

As Jesus said to Peter while hanging on the crucifix waiting to die: “Hey, I can see your tent from here!”

Here’s the 2013 video:

Embedding has been disabled for the 2012 video, but you can still head over to YouTube to watch it.