I was up early Monday morning. My legs felt on fire. I couldn’t postpone it any longer; I had to go to the medical tent. I rode my bike up past HQ and parked outside the med tent. Inside, I spoke with a nurse, who had me follow her back to an exam room. Except for a couple of paramedics filling out some forms, it looked like I was the only other person there. I dropped my pants and let the nurses see the rash on the insides of my thighs. It’s a singularly disturbing feeling when two women look at your crotch, and then look at each other with Uh oh expressions on their faces. It seemed my rash had gotten infected. The nurse said it was because of the alkali dust chafing against me as I walked. She gave me some peroxide and some antibiotic cream and told me to use it 4 or 5 times a day. I asked if it would hurt putting it on. She said the cream would be painless. I said No, I mean the peroxide. “Okay, that’ll hurt,” she admitted.

From the med tent, I went to HQ. Originally, I’d thought about signing up for an extra shift that Monday, because I could use the hours. I told the guy at the window I couldn’t do that because I was sick. “You’re smarter than most,” he commented as he signed me “off-playa” and I turned in my radio. I considered getting a radio headset next time.

Back at my tent, I applied the medication. The camp was busy taking everything down and packing up to leave. I found out Mark had already left at 3 AM after the Temple burn. I helped take down the shade structure, the kitchen tent, and then helped break down the bar. Alex went around pouring water in the holes left by the rebar.

We found a big bag of garbage somebody just came by and left at the bar. That wasn’t the worst, though. In the shower, Brian found a towel covered in somebody’s blood. And then, while taking the shower apart, we discovered apparently someone threw up in a plastic sack, tied it off, and just left it behind the shower. People can be so disgusting sometimes.

I still had one meal ticket left after working the Temple burn, so I rode over to the Commissary. Lunch was simple but filling. Wristy waved at me as he was leaving. Two guys at another table got into a shouting match; luckily it did not escalate any further. As the two guys backed away from each other, I noticed at least three people with radios quietly call in the disturbance. I took my bike out to the outer road to see how the exodus was going. Traffic seemed to be moving at a steady pace. On the way, I passed Camp Nomadia, but there didn’t seem to be anybody up and around.

As I rode through the campsite, a whole heck of a lot of people were either gone or packing up. There were lots of empty spaces where the day before was crowded with camps. Since I was planning to stay until Tuesday morning, I figured it would be really quiet that night. Center Camp was empty. When I went past the porta potties, I found about half of them were already locked up with padlocks, awaiting transport off-playa.

I started pulling stuff out of my tent, sorting it out and getting it ready to pack up. That’s when I found the little postage stamp-sized refrigerator magnet someone left on my car, the one I thought I’d lost. Gomer, Alexander, Steph, D-Mo and I started loading up the truck. Alexander turned out to be the master packer. With all the stuff that went into putting the camp together, I never would’ve thought it would all fit inside that truck, but Alexander did it. While taking a break, Gomer and I played beer can baseball with a broken camp chair, smashing it to pieces. KathyKat let us chill in their dome and graciously gave us some delicious chili dogs.

When the tuck was finally, impossibly loaded, Steph picked up Plan B and drove off. Alex and Brian also left. The place where Hair of the Dog had been for a week was magically empty again. Gomer, D-Mo, Alexander and I sat in the shade of Sparty the truck, resting up from the heat. KathyKat was staying through to Tuesday, too, and invited us to supper over at a friend’s camp. I met More, a lovely friend of Kathy’s who had an impressive RV. We rode over to Peter & Paul’s camp on the back of a trailer. They were gracious hosts, offering cold beer and hot stew. It was an awesome supper.

We had to hurry because Rupert was going to start his annual Burned Art Tour at sunset. The plan was to ride the Joyism art car over to all the places where there used to be art, but it burned down. I thought More was going to join us, but she must have taken another route. Tone and his friend followed the art car on bikes. The whole campsite was considerably darker with all the camps gone. We rode past Center Camp, closed-up and dark, except for the perimeter lights so workers could dismantle it. It was very odd to see it so darkened like that, the benches piled up outside.
 
Gomer played his mandolin as we rode along. I met a girl called Dazzle, who had straight pale blonde hair. Her bicycle headlamp kept messing up. A girl in a white top talked with Alexander. Her name was Renee, and I thought she smoked too much. 

We rode out to where the Man used to be. There was already a small crowd of people there, standing around a bonfire of scrap lumber and combustible camp units people didn’t want to haul back out. 

I spotted Danger Ranger keeping watch over the bonfire, and nodded to him. Off in the distance, I could see Bliss aglow in various lights-- so beautiful. Somebody fired off some fireworks, and several people spun fire as the explosions boomed overhead. 

We were out there a long time. The wind turned bitterly cold. When we loaded up again, we didn't go to any more burned sites; we just went back into the city. Back at Silicon Village, I hugged Gomer before he headed out into the night, homeward bound. Inside my tent, I bundled up against the cold and quickly fell asleep… 

 
 
Prologue Aug. 26  Aug. 27 Aug. 28 Aug. 29
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday
The Long Road Home  Epilogue
Original content (c)opyright 2010 by Tim Frayser
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