Every Labor Day tens of thousands of geeks, nerds, hippies, frat boys and all other sorts of disaffected rejects pile into vehicles and make a pilgrammage to one of the most inhospitable places known to man - the Playa of Black Rock Desert near Gerlach, Nevada. Why do they go? To create art, perform, party, get naked and otherwise cast off the everyday repressions of society. And to burn stuff.
That's right, it's less than a week until people start arriving for the annual arts festival Burning Man. Started in 1986 by Larry Harvey and Jerry James as just another bonfire - though with a more artistic bent - on Baker Beach in San Francisco, it was moved out to the desert when the SFFD shut down the immolation of their large wooden structure in 1990. Rumor has it that some libertarian gun enthusiasts from the local branch of the Cacophony Society suggested Black Rock Desert, long a popular spot for shootists looking for somewhere big and flat to fire of their weapons. So on Labor Day 1990, people packed up their trucks and headed to Nevada.
Now in it's 15th year in the desert, Burning Man has become an international symbol for disaffection from modern life. No money is allowed to change hands - the economy of Black Rock City, pop. 30k+, is entirely based on bartered goods and services. Michael Krasny of KQED-FM's Forum interviewed Larry Harvey and Brian Doherty, author of "This is Burning Man" this morning at ten. For more information, including history, tickets and tips on surviving in the desert, check out the official Burning Man website.