With the main objective being to get additional footage for Tool’s “Rosetta Stoned” stage projections, I, along with the band’s lighting director, Mark (Junior) Jacobson, and a few others, recently made the grueling trek to the perimeter of the world’s most famous top-secret military installation. This, of course, is “Homey Airfield” - better known to black budget aircraft buffs, UFO hunters, Larry King, X-Files fans, environmental activists, and conspiracy theorists by its designation on certain government maps as AREA 51.
Having left scorching Las Vegas around 3:30 in the afternoon (stopping briefly at a Sinclair gas station in sleepy Alamo, Nevada to add a magnificent specimen of a vine-ripened tomato to our ample supplies), our timing couldn’t have been better, arriving as we did at the grated dirt road leading to the restricted facility to see a large cloud of plutonium-laden dust trailing from the decidedly ominous-looking bus that was presumably transporting a few base flunkies. Pointing our full HD handycam at its blacked-out windows, only when it was out of camera range did we continue a few miles down the well-maintained Highway 375 to the turn off of my favorite camping spot. For nearly 20 years I had been pitching my tent at this particular location, chosen not only because it offered a high-angle panoramic view of the Groom and Papoose Lake airspace, but also because features in the terrain create a natural windbreak. It is also far enough from the Dreamland buffer zone, with its security patrols that have been known on occasion to subject happy campers to various types of psychological warfare tactics.
With sage burning from our vehicles’ hot mufflers, we parked on the overgrown dirt track and climbed out to look for any evidence of Dave and his van. No Birkenstock tracks in sight, but talk about “Alien Beef Jerky!” Perhaps it was time that I found another favorite camping spot. Right where I normally placed the silver Coleman were the scattered bones of a cow (?) inside an odd circular depression. Examining them, it appeared as if the animal had exploded. Strange also, was a singed bale of hay near the sun-bleached remains. Had it been blasted by some kind of death ray, Junior wondered? And, if a futuristic particle beam weapon was involved, was it some kind of a warning? Probably not, I replied, but where’s an ammonia detector inside a mysterious chrome globe when you need one? It was one thing to risk gamma radiation exposure just to scrounge up some more “Rosetta” footage, but to have one’s molecular structure rearranged was above and beyond the call of duty. And people make a big stink out of the lack of pre-sales (something that is beyond my control, anyway). Pre-sales! The last time I came out here to help with the original “Rosetta Stoned” imagery, Groom Lake Road literally collapsed on Camella and I as we were being chased by a cammo bockhockid doing 65. Pre-sales! What if the death ray didn’t come from a next-generation Predator UAV being flown by some fourteen-year-old kid in his bedroom in Indian Springs, but came from those boron-thieving EBEs, themselves? Okay, such things are probably only social constructs, but something (with or without a hankering for strawberry ice cream) tipped over this thing… with extreme prejudice. Pre-sales!!!
With an hour or so of sunlight left, before setting up camp, we decided to drive a further 20 miles to the “Little Ale’ Inn” – a saucer nut’s paradise among the huddle of dilapidated trailers and radiation monitoring equipment known as Rachel, Nevada. There are “things” in that town that we’ll be sure to want to capture with the Sony, not the least of which being the employees of the ‘Inn’ - those whom any MIB with olives in their Coke, or who ask for a handful of salt to take their pill will surely realize to be shape-shifting ‘walk-ins’ from the Orion Delta. However, before bellying up to the bar for a $4.50 ice-cold can of Budweiser that the bartender has trouble opening, I warned the ‘Sturgeons’ (three members of the band, “Sturgeon” came along on the adventure) to watch out for any cows (or Jim Morrison, for that matter) standing right smack in the middle of the “Extraterrestrial Highway.” Unless you’re an alien biologist, these are serious hazards. Evidently, the broiling asphalt is the most enticing aspect of the open range, and because of this, I’ve nearly totaled out many a shiny rental car. Pre-Sales!
After downing a couple of brews and still having the will power not to buy an Ale’Inn ashtray, the barkeep bids his adieu with the same oddly inflected words that he first greeted us with. Outside, there was more stuff to photograph, but first I wanted to get away from the sulphurous stench of a black Volkswagen that just materialized in the parking lot. Looks like somebody in a turtleneck sweater is going to drink his green Jell-O tonight. All the while this went unnoticed by a European film crew shooting a documentary. Apparently they were too busy checking out the silly looking flying saucer model hanging from the back of a decrepit tow-truck. As the wind kicked up plumes of dust, I was glad that we’d brought our own portable particulate sampler, thermoluminescent Dosimeter, exposure rate recorder, and, of course, a crude microbarograph. Even so, I wasn’t getting hazard pay from the band. Pre-sales!!! (Something that his beyond my control, anyway.) A little concerned by some of the readings from the mobile pressurized ion chamber, as well as the body odour of one of the members of the film crew, I thought it best to head back and set up camp. Also, soon the black cows would be coming out to replace the day’s brown colored ones…
As soon as we arrived back at what was to become the campsite, one of the ‘Sturgeons’, guitarist Kent Brisley, wanted to return to the Little Ale’Inn to get some salt for his precious tomato. Although, as previously mentioned, it was a magnificent specimen - no doubt lovingly nurtured by some Mormon (having already procured his tickets for Salt Lake City’s SUNDAY NIGHT Tool concert) back at the gas station – I didn’t think this was such a good idea. Things are different at night I tried to convince him, what with Ambassador Merlyn Merlin from Alpha Draconis, and Norio Hayakawa singing Willie Nelson (or was it Waylon Jennings?). He was better off just staying right here, where the giant moth in his cocktail is actually a DARPA gizmo controlled from the nearest ‘battle lab.’ (Note: If anyone else is interested in these homegrown tomatoes in Lincoln County, NV, they can be purchased at the Sinclair station [formerly a Chevron]. Even in a place the size of Alamo, you can’t miss it. Right off of HW 93, it is recognizable by the giant inflatable dinosaur out front [and I didn’t think these Mormons were chance-slime types]).
Lugging out the “Sheldon” Coleman, I couldn’t help but notice that Junior had a pretty decent cooler himself. Whether or not it would hold up to coyotes and proton beams I wasn’t sure, but it most certainly kept its cargo at the optimum temperature. In fact, a certain guitarist could be seen eyeing it as the temporary best place to stash his prized tomato. Once the ice chest was placed next to what was left of the zapped bovine, LaraLee and I took stock of our supplies: Farmer John all-beef franks, hamburger patties, buns, shoestring potatoes, barbecue chips, Jiffy pop, pistachio nuts, a warped Nestle crunch bar, and a plump watermelon that the bagger set on top of the barbecue chips. Lots of good stuff for watching anomalous lights over restricted airspace, but still NO Krispy Kreme doughnuts! Also, no pork & beans, as I’ve always been just as disgusted as a certain alien named “Lucky Bucky” that a mere sliver of pork would have first place (on a label) over a whole can of beans. Untruthful bastards, you can’t fool the aliens! On the other hand, the ‘Sturgeons’ had brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. What the fuck was Kent going to do with that tomato? He had no salt… no pepper … not even a couple of slices of Sunshine white bread. Before the night was over, my good friends were probably going to have their PBJs sandblasted by a modified black PaveHawk helicopter equipped with “Puff-the-Magic-Dragon”, and all some Tool fans can do is bitch and moan about pre-sales! To get a little more “Rosetta” footage, I was in all likelihood going to be rendered unconscious by the Wackenhut dudes, who would then toss a scorpion inside my sleeping bag. Pre-sales!!!
As the stars began to come out on this gorgeous moonless night, we mounted the camera and waited for any high strangeness. (Note: even with a new moon, ambient light from Vegas, over a hundred miles away, took away some of the night sky). Red dots and exotic flares (IF jammers) were usually a good sign of unusual things to come, but, unfortunately, none appeared. There were some strobing lights in the direction of the base, but just enough to confirm that the boys at Paradise Ranch (excuse me, “Homey Airport”) were still in business. Were there concerns about people in the bleachers?
Charring up some dogs, we continued to watch the glittering infinity, having for the time being to be content with satellites, meteors, and various astronomical chromatics. Soon we grew impatient of these trifles, shouting to anyone who would listen to test some unacknowledged advanced areoform. Although we were hoping for a stealthy triangular-shaped dirigible, or the Air Force’s “Brilliant Buzzard” returning from North Korea, at this point even ionized plasma radar decoys, bug-sized UAVs, the ghost of “Chief Standing Horse” or psychological warfare toys like your basic “angry-god” holographic battlefield projections would do. Hell, a stray firefly with one burned-out taillight.
Too bad it wasn’t a Wednesday. Everyone knows that Wednesday nights were the best for tests. If you wanted to see the spectral green glow of a TR3A Black Manta, you had a better chance on a Wednesday night. ‘Coincidently’ enough, Wednesday night also used to be “Spaghetti Night” at the Little Ale’ Inn. Because it was a Monday, someone had threatened to ruin our space picnic. It was so quiet that I could hear them silently snicker.
An hour later I was bored out of my gourd (pre-sales!). Never mind top shelf black budget stuff. Where were the actual aliens? And I’m not just talking about Lebensborn-types piloting Hitler’s Nazi saucers. What ever happened to the good old days when pensions would be cut off just for saying that you rode in an interplanetary spacecraft? When the space brothers burned their fingers on the oil stove because they didn’t think it was hot? When even the pillow inside the saucer was part of the mattress, and they had emblems of the pyramids on their towels? Back then one could go for a joyride with the honest to God space-folk, even though they were pissed off because people were monkeying with their beautiful heavenly craft, even tearing them apart just for souvenirs (want to bet Michael Jackson* has one). Where was Lucky Bucky? The mooing of a cow not far away was promising… (Even though there was filet mignon back at the Sinclair station).
* This was written a few days prior to the entertainer’s death. Damn… so much for “the big thing.” And I was really looking forward to the collaboration. The music. The lights. The duets… Oh well, as I want my own epitaph to read: “These things happen.” Pre-sales!!!
As sure as a magnetized bar hung on a string was a good alien detector, I had a sure thing for attracting them. This was a certain Tomita CD. Prokofiev in “Pyramid Sound.” AREA 51 had its Old Faithful, and so did I. I stuck the disc in my boom box and pressed play. Sure enough, there soon appeared a few anomalous lights over the base. Perhaps it was time to take a drive down to the perimeter? Someone had best alert the Installation Commander. No vehicular concerns when it’s a rental and you’ve paid $50.00 for the basic coverage. How many jack-rabbits would be lucky tonight?…
Down at the perimeter of the base (with its newer, less intimidating warning signs), we were aware of being watched from the ridges and dirt spurs by the cammo bockhockids, although, much to my dismay, there was relatively little saber rattling (Monday night trainees?). Bummer. We’d driven over thirteen bone-jarring miles, nearly hitting countless jack-rabbits with pieces falling off our Budget rental, braving being brainwashed by the Aaronic Order, not to mention the authorized “USE OF DEADLY FORCE” to capture a few glowing orbs over the restricted zone (for “Rosetta”), and people will still be complaining about the lack of pre-sales (something that is beyond my control, anyway). Worse of all, these orbs were probably just a decoy, with the S-4 aliens visiting our campsite (followed by a flying black Volkswagen) to determine once and for all if Kent’s tomato is a fruit or a vegetable? Speaking of which, we needed to get back to that slow-ripening cultivar… near Junior’s cooler… with all the ice-cold Pacifico.
With nothing much happening in the skies (or so we were telepathically instructed to believe), we decided to retire, only to be rousted from our tents by category 3 winds (using the Beaufort scale) in a few hours. With our tents all but tumbling across the awakening desert, LaraLee and I couldn’t help but laugh, thinking about the hide being blown right off of that poor cow whose bones were all around us. So, that’s what happened. It wasn’t a death ray from a UAV. Just like it was probably the 123-degree heat that melted my Nestle crunch bar…
Managing to tear down camp in the powerful gusts – I’m telling you this was no Taiwan 18-inch desk fan - we loaded our vehicles until all that was left was that exquisite tomato. Disorienting electromagnetic fields had prevented Kent from slicing it. Clumps of green yarn (that which hadn’t blown away) proved this beyond any shadow of a doubt. Junior had no choice but to toss it into left field, where its fate was uncertain.
On the way back to Las Vegas, we were compelled to stop at the “Alien Research Center” in Hiko. I was hoping to enquire about Indrid Cold from Lanulous, but a fellow speaking in clipped monotone phrases told me to leave and never return. I wondered if that was his black Volkswagen with the “I… Brake… for… Dave’s… Van… And… Cars… Without… Wheels… And… Fenders…” bumper sticker? For whatever reason, I took the man’s advice (though his sticking a knife and fork in a glass of Dr. Pepper seemed rather odd), and headed towards Alamo, knowing that as long as I didn’t have cell reception, the band’s management would certainly call to tell me that the Pomona show was finally official. I wondered if there would be any pre-sales? Pre-sales!!!