I woke up about a quarter after 7 Sunday morning, September 2nd. Michael was in the bar, and commented, “Nice balloon.” I looked up and, son of a gun, there was a hot air balloon silently cruising overhead. I still could not find my glasses. I systematically took everything out of my tent, and after an hour my glasses finally turned up in my bag of clean clothes, of all places. I felt such relief.

Michael was up early serving drinks. There were a pair of German guys in the bar that apparently didn’t speak a word of English. They still had a great time. A girl from the Netherlands arrived looking for coffee. Michael left to brew her a cup. She was part of a drumming circle at the Man Saturday night, and saw a guy’s pants catch on fire from a misfired rocket—possibly the same one that went right over my head. Shadow showed up to help bartend. For some reason, we had two kegs of beer behind the bar. “Push the beer,” Michael told me.
 

A dusty guy came in from apparently taking a dirt nap somewhere. He was drunk and half naked, but proud of his Holga camera: “Best pictures I ever took!” During his ramblings, I said something that made Shadow laugh so hard she had to put her head down. A lady playing bagpipes marched by. 

Somebody made some delicious tacos; the sauce had a surprising afterburn. I plugged my smartphone in to an outlet on stage to recharge. I pulled my sole inserts out of my boots and put them back in my shoes. I decided to wear shoes for my last shift on Monday. At noon, the Captain left for his afternoon shift. There was an open Gatorade bottle on the bar, and when Dusty Face took a swig straight out of the bottle, Shadow exclaimed, “Oh, not cool!” Dusty Face left immediately. According to some folks I was talking to, my voice sounded like I was from Seattle, Washington. Really? I've never been to Seattle. So far. 

A ukulele band called B-Bones got on stage to perform. Mark said, “I thought Snail Trail was going to be the last band on stage.” Someone hooked up their Ipod to play music: lots of Billy Joel songs and the soundtrack from “Saturday Night Fever.” I was surprised so many people in the bar knew all the words. Did they sing those songs on “Glee” or something? Lots of people dropped their excess food and booze to the bar—mostly because that meant they didn’t have to lug it all home. 

At 1, I walked over to HQ for the Ranger pin ceremony. I saw Tulsa, and spoke to Judas, who said the problem with Monday shifts was incidents of theft as people packed to leave. They would leave stuff out, unattended, and somebody passing by would get a five-finger discount. The ice cream social was a lot of fun, and the ice cream was heavenly. Duney Dan had a package of Green Dot patches, and when I asked for one, he said, “Welcome to the club.” I finally got my Green Dot patch!
Afterwards, I rode over to the pirate ship and went inside. It looked just like a wooden galleon, except everything was at an angle, which was fascinating and a little disorienting. I hung around camp the rest of the day. I met a couple called Silver and Sage. About mid-afternoon, we started taking the bar apart. We were still serving drinks. At one point, patrons were lined up on barstools in front of an empty space where the bar used to be. Shadow was a lot of help, and said she wanted to camp with us next year.
 
I spoke with someone who believed he had been abducted by aliens. There were hours he couldn't account for, and after giving it some thought he decided aliens had abducted him and experimented on him. He sincerely believed it happened, so I didn't question him... but I have my doubts.   

See, here's my question: Why do the aliens keep conducting the same experiments? Alien abduction stories all seem to say the same thing. They abduct somebody, experiment on him, do some probing, and then put him back where he was. Believers say aliens have been abducting people for hundreds of years, all through history.   

But why do they keep experimenting? The laws of statistical analysis say that you only really need ten random samples to form a concensus opinion. That means the aliens would only have had to abduct ten people to get a good idea about humans. To be safe, they might double the sample pool, just to be sure it was a random sampling. Still, that's only twenty abductions. What about all the other people that say they were abducted? Egyptologists are able to figure out all sorts of stuff just from one artifact. Are aliens unable to do that?  Heck, anthropologists and archaeologists are able to form all sorts of opinions from just one fossil, why can't aliens? After all those abductions, all that time, all those samples, why can't they get it right?  

Don't aliens share their information with each other? The first thing a scientist does is go through all the previous research.  It seems to me the first alien that probed a human would have shared his information with all the other aliens-- so that they wouldn't have to probe humans. Why would they need to keep conducting the same experiments? Why re-invent the wheel? They're supposed to be smart. Why bother? Humans have science journals, seminars --the Internet, for crying out loud-- to share information with each other. Don't aliens publish their data? After all this time, all those probings, have they learned nothing about humans?   

...Are the aliens stupid? Is that it? Despite superior technology and mastering interstellar travel, do they keep misplacing their data? Don't they keep notes? Is that why they keep experimenting on humans, because they can't find their notes on the last experiment? "Gee, it was around here a second ago..." Maybe they keep screwing up their tests. After all these years, all those abductions, are they still unable to conduct the first test correctly? Is that why the keep doing the same thing? Because they're stupid?   
  
I'm not trying to be insensitive. I'm not trying to insult anybody. I believe abductees believe something they can't explain happened to them. But aliens? I'm not ready to make that leap of logic. It just doesn't add up for me. The only thing I can think of is that the aliens are all from rival universities, and they're holding off publishing their data until they can secure their next government grant. That's the only explanation I can come up with. That's why they keep abducting and probing humans. Either that, or they're just plain stupid.   

Earth has been invaded by stupid aliens. 

Rhino came by, and when it got dark the two of us rode out onto the inner playa for the Temple burn. Rhino’s knee was bothering him, so we walked our bikes most of the way. In the distance, I could see other people making their way to the Temple, like ghosts in the mist. The air got cooler when the Sun went down. We parked our bikes with a couple hundred other bikes encircling the outer perimeter. The Temple burn was going to be tricky, since it had an outer wall around the Temple itself. Rangers were worried people would try to jump over the burning wall to get to the Temple.
There were tons of people out there, rows of bicycles, many art cars, and not much… respect. There seemed to be way too much of a "party atmosphere" for the occasion. Too many lights, too many people talking, too much racket. Things settled down a little when a group started singing a hymn. When the Temple was lit, idiots with no concept of what was going on started shouting “Burn it!” An art car started playing “Freebird” on its loudspeakers. How much of a jerk do you have to be to presume you know how to capture a moment for thousands of people? The music died down, but not until the art car was shouted down by the audience. I decided some people just didn’t “get it.” Rhino said a little prayer for the Midwest Burners we’d lost over the previous year: Cowboy, Jar Jar, Aaron, Wicked Wench. I said a little prayer for my friends, and I’m not ashamed to admit there were tears shed.
 
 
I’m sorry, Cathy. I should have been a better friend.

The burn was amazing. The fire whipped up and consumed the Temple, then spread out to the surrounding wall. Over a hundred yards away, I could still feel the heat. The Temple fell, and Rhino and I turned to head back towards the Esplanade. His knee was bothering him again, so when we got to the Rampart medical tent we stopped to relax in the chairs outside. That's where a lady arrived in a 30-foot RV. Her boyfriend was in the med tent, recovering from a terrible asthma attack, and she was asking for help dismantling their camp so that she could take him off-playa. So, long story short, I volunteered to help. We went inside and talked to her boyfriend, who was on a cot with an oxygen mask. “Give him whatever he asks for,” he told her.
 
We got in her RV and drove back to her camp, way back on K Street. The RV headlights were the only lights we had, except for a borrowed headlamp. They had an elaborate pipe frame shade structure that had to be dismantled, screw by screw. While I did that she packed up their stuff, just throwing everything in the back of the RV. The shade structure down, I used a hammer to whack on the sides of their rebar until I could pull them out of the ground—scraping the heck out of my hand. Tarps had to be folded up. I asked how long the two of them had been together. “I just met him yesterday,” she said. We were doing all this for a guy she’d only known for a day? We got everything loaded in the RV and we took off, her circling around the big open space (me silently hoping I found all the rebar). Back at Rampart, she offered me beer in return for my help. Coors Light? Please. I accepted a complimentary bag of chips.
 
Rhino had made some new friends outside Rampart while I was gone, telling stories and swapping jokes. I had to get a bandage for my scraped-up hand; I was hoping I’d get through the burn without visiting medical, but no such luck. Back at Rhino’s camp, he cooked us up some steaks: bacon-wrapped filet mignons, and they were terrific. Midnight steaks could get to be a habit. Rhino was brave, honest, and trustworthy, and the biggest compliment a person could get was his friendship. I got back to camp about 1 AM and went straight to bed.

 
 
 
Prologue  Aug. 22  Aug. 23  Aug. 24  Aug. 25 
Sunday  Monday  Tuesday  Wednesday  Thursday  Friday  Saturday  Sunday  Monday 
Sept. 4  Sept. 5  Sept. 6  Sept. 7 & Epilogue
Original material (c)opyright 2012 by Tim Frayser
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Last updated: September, 2012
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