I’m always on the lookout for a story that lends itself to a good cartoon, and I thought I had one this week. Niel Locke proposed making Nevada City the “companion” city to the Burning Man festival at Black Rock City in Nevada. (Would that be like a domestic partnership? Do you get visiting rights?) There was to be a formal presentation and resolution on Wednesday night’s agenda, but Niel pulled it this afternoon.

I was heartbroken. These are the moments a cartoonist lives for, swooping down on the news like an avenging vulture and trying to read the entrails of a real story! The news had gone viral, with inquiries coming from coast to coast. KOVR 13 sent a camera crew to the meeting, but they left after a brief interview with Locke. But why this change of heart?

I have no doubt the naysayers were burning up the net with visions of doom, but how many were there really? Niel said it was his decision alone to douse the flame, and that he never intended it to be anything more than a symbolic gesture in the first place. And who knows? If the story showed up in The New York Times and The Daily Show you could end up with thousands of people looking for a place to sleep. The innkeepers might be delighted, but it could put a strain on the handful of police officers still patroling, even if they do have a new three-wheel scooter to patrol on.

It might be more culture than Nevada City can absorb all at once. As evolved as we are, there are some who believe that “shop local” means only locals should shop here, and the heck with the rest of the world.

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20 Responses to BURNED!

  1. rl crabb says:

    Looks like Nevada City isn’t the only place that can’t take the heat.

    • Michael Anderson says:

      Pershing County has less than 7,000 residents. They should be absorbed by Washoe or Humboldt counties. That would save a lot of money.

      Pershing County will be crushed in this lawsuit, which is a good thing. I have plenty of experience with the Neanderthal officials in this county, they need to be brought from the 19th century into the 21st. They have been providing FEW SERVICES at HIGH PRICES for the Burning Man event since 1997.

      I would love to have the Tea Party examine the finances of Pershing County. I’ll bet they would find a whole lot of gov’t infrastructure, at great cost, doing not-a-whole-lot for only 7,000 people. Time for a re-org, and a drastic down-sizing.

  2. Michael Anderson says:

    Great cartoon, Bob. It’ll be a big hit out on the playa this year, I assure you.

    I think The Union should send you out there on a junket. There are plenty of tickets available now, at face price, and I’m sure we could get you a seat on a round-trip flight out-and-back from KGOO any days next week you choose. Seriously.

    I applaud Neil for pulling the resolution. If it had failed, which was highly likely once the nattering nabobs of negativism crawled out from under their rocks, then this excellent idea would have been dead in the water. But now we have another shot at it, and believe me the next time around the campaign will be entirely different.

    The annual budget for the Burning Man festival was reported today as being $17 million dollars, but last year the expenditures were actually over $20 million dollars (that’s the number on their website: http://afterburn.burningman.com/11/financial_chart.html), and Burning Man is well in the black. This is some serious money, and as everyone who has a pulse has noticed during the past few years, the Burning Man community likes to pass through Nevada County both on the way out and the way back to add to their vacation experience.

    Sure, back in the 20th century Burning Man was full of dirty hippies, guns, drugs, and a fair share of people on parole. In the 21st century it’s a family event for some folks, just like Disneyland! http://www.burningman.com/preparation/event_survival/kids_at_bm.html#.UDWsYyIatGg

    Burning Man is the largest avant-garde art festival in the world. It is in our backyard. No other city has yet claimed sister-city status and Nevada City is a natural fit. And BTW, the Burning Man organizers are aware of this initiative and are supportive. We need to git’r dun.

    • rl crabb says:

      I believe the timing was the biggest hurdle. We all know how NC likes to deliberate over the tiniest of details, and with Burning Man only five days away there wasn’t even time to form a committee or schedule a town hall meeting. If Niel had brought this up a month ago, there might have been a different outcome. Maybe.

      • Tom Odachi says:


        … and,
        For all the economic reasons that have been mentioned, it would be a huge win for businesses here. On the other hand, as you stated, “It might be more culture than Nevada City can absorb all at once.” I might add that not only Nevada City — but Grass Valley and Penn Valley might have one more reason to avoid town on those days.

  3. Judith Lowry says:

    The annual burning of the Zozobra, or “Old Man Gloom”, in Santa Fe, NM, is the original burning man festival. The burning of the 50 foot man began back in the 1920’s and folks apparently still come by the thousands to witness the spectacle.
    Black Rock Burning Man seems to fulfill a similar spiritual human longing but in a way that elevates personal expression over devotion to a deity, so it can be seen very much as a ritual for our times.
    Ceremonial effigy burning has a place in many of the world’s cultures. Pyrotechnics have been enhancing spiritual events for eons. Take the Olympics, Millenium and July fourth fireworks. And when those things are broadcast, the networks make big money.
    Someone is making money off of the BM event, lots of it.

    I would like to remind everyone that the Black Rock is not as “uninhabitable” as folks may think. At least the Northern Paiute and Shoshone didn’t think so.

    I always admired the desert people, toughest of all the California tribes IMHO because they settled and thrived in some fairly stringent conditions. In comparison, the Nisenan had it relatively cushy here in the foothills with all the sparkling streams and abundant acorn and game. I knew activist Glen Wasson, one of the toughest Paiute-Shoshone men that ever lived. I am related to some Cahuilla people, wouldn’t cross ’em. One of my Chemehuevi friends is proud of the fact that her ancestors were, “good thiefs”. Life in the desert relies a great deal on opportunity.

    So I wasn’t surprised to see this as I was browsing around online this morning.
    The spirits of Wovoka and Sarah Winnemucca must be smiling, their descendants still know how to scalp.

    (Warning, this post has a “F” bombs in it)


    Seems the Paiute still have those survival skills.

    • rl crabb says:

      Brings to mind the movie, “Wicker Man”. ( The original 70’s version with Christpher Lee and Britt Eckland. ) Niel didn’t realize he would be the human sacrifice.

  4. Greg Goodknight says:

    Nirvana Silly has lost its nerve.

  5. Don Baumgart says:

    Michael’s comment, “There are plenty of tickets available” may not be accurate. This is the first year demand for tickets peaked to the point where they were sold by lottery.

    • Michael Anderson says:

      That’s true what you said about the lottery, Don. But now there is a glut, which happens every year when people’s plans change and they need to dump their tickets ASAP, since they’ll start to become worthless on Monday, Aug. 27. Check out eBay and Craig’s List, there’s lots of ’em for sale at face value or even less.

  6. Nevada City as BM’s sister city would be the cherry on the cake for our wacky, wayward, wasteful, woeful, but otherwise wonderful village. I can see it now as the pre-event staging ground for BM’s California attendees – taking care of last minute construction and repair of the their display art, filling up on vittles, topping off their likker stash, and, of course, buying some of the best maryjane in the world before heading up Hwy 20 in a grand caravan that itself would be a noteworthy event.

    And then their return trip would bless the community with another glorious rite of passing. Perhaps the whole affair could be advertized as another tourist event to bring in more flatland wallets not hearty enough for Black Rock but willing to gawk and co-celebrate the Great Going and Coming. After all San Juan Capistrano has its swallows.

  7. There are a couple of lessons to learn from this, if anybody cares to learn them:

    –People who live in small towns all or most of their lives tend to think they live in a cocoon that prevents outsiders from knowing–or caring–what’s going on. As this incident shows, that’s not the case. If you don’t want the attention of uppity outsiders, don’t do it.

    –Big city media look at hicks in the sticks as an occasional source of humor, and this story is right in their wheelhouse. They may not be back for awhile but rest assured, they’ll find something else to laugh about.

  8. PeteK says:

    Too bad the NC Film Festival doesn’t garner as much national attention. Seems like we have to beg, borrow and steal for the word to get out for truely a great cause. (Maybe if we served MJ appitizers the crowds would come)

  9. Michael Anderson says:


    This interview article came out today in Outside online. Very nice. This is exactly how it happened, this is the most accurate account I have ever read. I was there. These are all the real players, for sure. Pretty interesting. There are some good stories here. Enjoy, everyone, if you care.

    Michael A.

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