I was asked this question in real life:

Anybody have access to a strain gauge / tensiomenter interested in some playa, pseudo-scientific stake testing?

If I had been holding what seemed to be the perennial can of ice cold tecate with a lime smashed down its mouth, I would have swallowed hard and belched an affirmative. But the can was missing. The two we have left will likely sit there, next to the 8mm black and white film I purchased from Adolph Gasser in 1990, in the refrigerator until I die. Sometimes I imagine Z slam dunking them into the trash with a sob of relief.

Is that what it’s like to be dead.

We sat on a couch, about 80 feet long and possessing a very slight arc, and ate chicken that had been sauteed in a two dollar fry pan after being warmed on a three dollar grill. Since the grill had no top (cost savings), it was very bad for cooking chicken. It was a great blackening device, however.

The wind came up, swirling alkali into the chicken that would have very likely killed us if we could have seen in the impenetrable darkness how uncooked it was. Absent our clinical judgement, we just ate and let our digestive systems decide if it was unsuitable. I stuck to the corn cob, almost literally. Ashamed at how his inaugural meal was turning out, the cook banished the grill to the edge of our camp, filling it over the next few days with bacon grease and grey water, which congealed and evaporated, respectively, and actually re-ignited of its own accord.

We noticed, but didn’t make much of it lest we create additional anxieties for the ashamed cook.

Toward the end of the time, the cook filled the grill, now an offensive and immutable reminder of one bad meal among dozens of good ones, with kerosene and gasoline and lit it on fire. It was splendid. We put the blackened carcass (for it would not die, ever) on the corner of our site and went to Reno crammed into something called an Extended Cab, which wasn’t.

When we got back, 24 hours later, big winds had come and ripped one of our tents in half, skewed another, made hash of The Entertainer Shade Houses and sent our neighbors into their car with a bottle of vodka. It was their first Man.

The grill was still standing: one leg, one thigh poised on the slats.

We documented one of the blackened pieces a couple of times that week, then put it gingerly into the Chime fire. Cleaning up the burn scar on the playa, I wanted to find the bone to give to the cook.

No luck. Just ash and some buttons from a shirt someone threw in the blaze for their own personal reasons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *