Tuesday afternoon, I was just beginning to feel settled in. I had my manservant, Higgenbotham, crack open a cold one for me, while I tried to get a wifi signal to check the daily performance of my portfolio. Everything was proceeding according to schedule (silent 'c' please) when I was interrupted by a young Canadian neighbor, Chris, who seemed incredibly high and visibly distressed.
He claimed to have been missing a campmate, Fractal, since late the previous night, and was concerned because he had apparently just seen said campmate being driven away, "strapped to the top" of what was probably the last water truck of the day. Chris also noted that the water truck was being "escorted" by two Washoe County Sheriff's SUVs. The absurdity of Chris's tale (which included the coda that Fractal had seemed dazed but, in a strangely happy way, had shouted out "they're taking me to the PO-lice barbeque" while being driven away) was matched by the intensity of his distress. Thinking this was some kind of bizarre put-on (what kind of Canadian uses the pronunciation "PO-lice"?), I agreed to mount up on our bicycles to follow the water truck's snail trail of caked playa dust.
As we left the outer streets of the city, the trail stopped but it was clearly headed in the direction of a small compound of trailers and vehicles that I figured was an organizational point for the team of water trucks. I told Chris he could feel free to inquire within, but for me, the adventure was at its terminus. As I left, Chris was vacillating, unsure of what to do next.
Heading back to my camp, I noticed an area on one of the more remote outer streets that I hadn't noticed before when we'd first ridden past it -- it was still considerably more wet than the rest of the street, which was now mostly dry. It was as if the water truck had stopped there while its water continued to pour for several extra seconds. Examining the site, I saw a remote theme camp called Bighouse BBQ that seemed to be modeled after a small town jail. A cartoon on the sign displayed a rather convoluted, multilayered image of a happy pig dressed in a cop's uniform with a cooking apron strapped on over it. The pig was guarding a jail cell in which sat a merry hobo-raver ready to eat, bib tucked into collar and knife and fork at the ready astride a waiting plate. Curiously, the fire pit was behind the hobo inside the cell. The whole jailhouse was designed to be somewhat ramshackle in appearance, yet upon closer examination looked as though it was of solid and secure construction, with a sturdy frame made of cedar 4 x 6s, 4 x 4s and 2 x 12s. The bars were certainly real enough. A pleasant aroma emanated from it, carried on an afternoon desert zephyr. But it seemed to be closed.
I stepped onto the porch. "Anyone home?" I called out. I heard some muffled activity inside for a moment -- then a radio was switched on, playing some egregious buttrock. A stout woman emerged from around the side -- her very aura spelled cop. At first she appeared to be quite put off by my presence, but her demeanor quickly lightened when I flashed my disarming smile, complimented her on the structure, and asked about the barbeque. She told me they were going to be serving "real pit barbeque" so it was going to be the better part of two days before it would be ready. She advised me to come back on Thursday. I gifted her a share of stock in one of my publicly-held companies and bid her good afternoon. Casually glancing back over my shoulder at the end of the block, I could see she was still watching me depart. Whether suspicious of me or genuinely lovestruck, I am honestly unsure.
Back at camp several hours later, I was into the absinthe pretty heavily and laughing at nothing in particular when I noticed my Canadian neighbor Chris returning, looking quite a bit more haggard and exhausted than before. I offered him a drink but he said he was going to turn in early -- still no sign of his missing friend. He seemed especially alarmed at my enthusiastic description of the jaunty little BBQ jailhouse. He demanded to know where it was. Somewhere on one of the outer streets was as specific a location as I could muster at that point. I began to tire of his anxious behavior, and his increasing insistence that his countrymen were being singled out for harassment by the sheriffs. "Have you considered the possibility that you might have been hallucinating the whole water truck episode?" I tried to ask gently. In spite of my attempt at softening the incisiveness of the query, Chris was clearly quite aggravated and refused my offer of a drink, returning to his camp in a huff. I could hear him and the other Canadians talking and quarreling intensely for some time into the night before ultimately resolving to get some rest and resume their efforts in the morning. They retreated to their tents, crashing for the evening in the wee hours.
My own ability to weave together a coherent tapestry from the multitudes of disparate sensory threads was fast dissolving at this point; I closed my RV airlock and drifted off to sleep. That night I had what I would describe as near-nightmares... I dreamt of loud machines crushing things, sinister chefs, yelling Canadians, snapping tent stakes, and the everpresent "beep-beep" of the water trucks' horns. At noon, when I had finally gathered the will to face the harsh light of day, I saw that my Canadian campmates had packed up some time in the night and left. Perhaps I'd genuinely offended Chris, or perhaps it was simply an effort to find a less dusty section of the city. I was disappointed to see that they had left behind quite a bit of moop -- broken bits of plastic and scraps of nylon fabric, even an entire bike frame that was severely mangled. It also seemed that a huge amount of water had been spilled all over the area -- all these bits of moop were encrusted in a hardened playa, and deep tire tracks had been gouged into the surface and hardened. I had Higgenbotham clear up the mess while I dined on a late brunch, languidly flipping through the WWW guide to make a note -- try to find BBQ Thursday.