Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Walmart Detention Camp

I attended some sort of graduation ceremony. There were about two dozen people wearing dark blue graduation robes, but no caps. We were all picked up by the police or military on the way home. Lots of Hummers and automatic weapons. We were sent to a detention camp... like detention camps Asian Americans were sent to during World War II. We were told that we were a threat to national security. Some of us giggled at that concept. Giggles were not well received in this brave new world.

The camp was in the foothills of the Sierras. Pine forests and snow capped mountains. A little town in a valley, junky and run down. It looked like most places in America look these days... strip malls from hell, fast food joints, a Walmart... a place where everything looks like everywhere else. Other than the mountains and pine trees, it could be anywhere in America.

Our camp was in the Walmart parking lot. Barbed wire, gates and guards, surrounding a dumpy, rambling old white clapboard house that had been converted into our quarters. One large bedroom had been converted into a dormitory with about a dozen beds. There were bunk beds and single beds. Everyone rambled in, did their best to be comfortable, and claimed a space. I chose a top bunk next to a wall.

There was one other large room I remember... a kitchen and living space. All the walls were paneled in cheap brown plywood... like this house had once been nice, but had suffered a bad renovation in the 1970s. Cheap paneling and those crappy drop ceiling panels that look awful after a few years. Junky furniture that no one had cleaned in a long, long time.

The bathroom was filthy. I wanted to take a shower, so I spent an hour or so cleaning it (I could write for hours about scrubbing the tub and tiles with Comet cleanser, scrubbing the tile grout with an old red toothbrush, and all sorts of things no one wants to know about Clorox bleach).

I remember thinking that the last people sent here obviously hadn't cleaned the place or made any attempt to fix it up or make it comfortable. After my shower, I started to put my graduation robe back on... but I noticed that everyone else had switched to regular street clothes. I folded the graduation robe and put it on a rusty chrome towel rack that I found on the wall near my bed. I can't remember what I was wearing, but it seems to have been tan and tweed - or maybe a beige and black herringbone.

There were large dusty windows looking out across the parking lot. I looked through the windows and suddenly there were lots of people - including Jaylo and Ben (huh?) - and a busload of Australian tourists. There were cops in black uniforms with white riot helmets directing traffic and moving the crowd around.

Two cars pulled up... a taxi yellow 1956 Pontiac and another 1950s car, maybe a '57 Plymouth (I remember good tail fins). Somebody opened the Pontiac's hood. Taped inside was a photo of Mars.

It turns out that the busload of tourists and classic cars were part of some traveling exhibition. NASA had held some sort of contest or publicity event where people lent time to do research about something related to Mars. The winners were sent on a cross country promotional tour.

It was all very confusing to me. The grand prize photo was the one taped to the inside of the Pontiac hood. There was a caption below the photo, listing the winner... "The Randi Rhodes Dating Service."

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Whew. I woke up, wondering what this was all about. Later, I fell asleep and dreamed an interesting new dream about walking with strangers in a golden summer field.