Burning Man, Then And Now

by Travis Mateer

I recorded this short clip on Sunday, September 3rd, after talking to a woman who considered herself one of the last, if not THE last burner, to make it out during a window of opportunity she sensed would only be open for a short time. She was right.

Everyone on the playa is now being tested in ways they never expected, despite this event including SELF-RELIANCE as part of its operating ethos. How did we get here? And what is ACTUALLY going on in Black Rock City as rumors of EBOLA are spreading and supplies dwindle?

The woman I spoke with saw three helicopters operating on Saturday, and two of them were first responders. I mention this because celebrities LOVE this event, but their social status right now doesn’t mean a damn thing, which is why we saw Chris Rock catching a ride with non-celebrities.

I also made note of a Verizon mobile unit being transported to the area, so I’m assuming this is being set up for first responder communication.

For a little historical perspective on Burning Man, here’s something from Wikipedia:

Burning Man is a week-long large-scale desert campout[1] focused on community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance held annually in the western United States.[2][3] The name of the event comes from its culminating ceremony: the symbolic burning of a large wooden effigy, referred to as the Man, that occurs on the penultimate night of Burning Man, which is the Saturday evening before Labor Day.[4] The event has been located since 1991 at Black Rock City in northwestern Nevada, a temporary city erected in the Black Rock Desert about 100 miles (160 km) north-northeast of Reno. According to Burning Man co-founder Larry Harvey in 2004, the event is guided by ten principles. These stated principles are radical inclusion, gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy.[5]

At Burning Man, there are no headliners or scheduled performers. Instead, the participants design and build all the art, activities, and events.[6] Artwork at Burning Man includes experimental and interactive sculptures, buildings, performances and art cars, among other media. These contributions are inspired by a theme that is chosen annually by the Burning Man Project.[7] The event has been characterized as “countercultural revelry” and has been described by its organizers as an “excuse to party in the desert”.

And here’s something a little more historically substantive about Baker Beach, an old army post called the Presidio, and Burning Man:

In June 1986, while the Presidio was still an active Army post, a new tradition started at the northern end of Baker Beach – Burning Man. Initially, the founders of Burning Man were drawn to Baker Beach because of the bevvy of driftwood found there. The northern portion is notoriously known as a “clothing optional” spot for sun bathing and one of the more isolated beaches in San Francisco. Thus it was the perfect place for a group of 20 friends to gather for a bonfire where Burning Man founder Larry Harvey set aflame the eight foot tall wooden structure he called “the Man.”

Though Larry was the first to burn a structure of a man, he wasn’t necessarily the first to start this effigy burning tradition at Baker Beach. Several years before burning a man was even a twinkle in Larry’s eye, Mary Grauberger, a friend of Larry’s girlfriend, held annual bonfires at the beach where she’d assemble driftwood statues to burn in honor of Summer Solstice.

The strange death connected to 1999’s Burning Man resulted from a minor fall. Did Jim Keith, a well-known conspiracy writer, think he had just initiated a fatal medical event? No, he thought he sprained his knee, but after checking in to the Washoe County Medical Center, he died after a blood clot supposedly dislodged from his leg and killed him. From the link:

On September 6, 1999, Keith injured his leg after stepping off a three-foot stage at the Burning Man festival. Thinking it was only a severe sprain, he went home. The next morning, he checked into the Washoe Medical center for treatment of a broken knee. Surgery was delayed due to issues with kidney function. At 8:10 PM on Tuesday, September 7, 1999, a blood clot released from his leg and entered his lung, an issue which proved fatal.[2]

In an article published three weeks after Keith’s death, friends and co-authors expressed suspicion that he was killed because he mentioned the name of a physician who declared Princess Diana was pregnant at the time of her death.

I ran across this factoid while reading an article about deaths connected to the Mothman sightings in Point Pleasant. Strange? Yes, but what ISN’T strange these days? Or maybe it’s just the fact that I was in the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office yesterday where a homeless man let me in to the building and I spoke to him and no one else. All of this is too strange for me to fully understand, and I have nearly 100 pages of trying my damnedest to figure it all out!

To show how hard I’m trying, here’s a selfie of me standing in front of some symbolic influencers in Susanville. Why am I smiling? I’m smiling because I’m thinking of a certain MISSOULA Susan who likes to influence things, and is connected to the last name ORR that popped up when I looked into the substitute judge who placed a year-long legal cloud over me because one of that Susan’s former employees didn’t like the way I broke up with her.

Yesterday’s Labor Day post features a poem I wrote, but another poem I wrote on this epic road trip about the circumstances of my departure is something that, if published, could get me arrested, so I think I’ll hold off on that one until I can find a Montana lawyer gutsy enough to defend me.

Until then, if you’d like to help me during my epic road trip, Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF) is a great way to do that, or you can use the donation button at my about page.

Thanks for reading!

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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