Archive for July, 2010
The History Channel got my attention this week, running almost constant stories about ancient alien astronauts…a lot of it centered on the Mayan culture. How could I NOT be attracted to aliens, ancient space travel, and the Maya? In earlier days, I spent a lot of time hiking through ruins and hacking through jungles while dodging snakes…and monkeys. Actually, monkeys are worse than snakes in a way. If you make one of them mad, they ALL gather above and urinate on you. NOBODY messes with monkeys.
I even visited Palenque, an impressive and beautifully restored Mayan site situated at the base of a small mountain with temples peeking through foliage almost all the way to the top…except for one spot. About halfway up, one of them was truncated, only a flat platform. When I asked my guide, an archaeology student from Mexico City, why he thought they had left it that way, he answered very softly, almost whispering, “That’s where they landed.”
When I asked him what the hell he meant, he told me about a man who was exploring the ruins at the time. He usually met with the guides at night and told them stories about ancient astronauts, aliens visiting the area in space craft. Now…this was the first time I had ever heard such stories, and Palenque is way out in the middle of jungle and nowhere, a perfect spot for nuts and screwballs to accumulate.
A little wild, the settlement is tiny, mostly populated by indians and occasional TV crews and archaeologists. The two-room hotel’s phone number was three, and when I asked my guide who were one and two, he said the mayor was two but the one guy had died. In a place like that I wasn’t about to get dragged into a conversation with somebody who saw aliens visiting that isolated spot, so I told him it was complete nonsense and he should stop listening to that guy, whoever he was.
He took that kind of badly and was clearly upset when we went to see Pacal’s tomb in the base of the Temple of the Inscriptions. Actually, it was just below ground level, but to get to it you had to climb all the way up the damned thing then back down on a dark, dank, slippery stairway…with a flashlight. When we got to the tomb, he instructed me to shine my light with his on the tomb cover…and there it was, a carving of an ancient astronaut.
There’s no other way to describe it. Seated in a capsule with all sorts of knobs and instruments around him, a typical Mayan figure was moving something with his hand, one foot on some sort of pedal. There were even flames coming out of the back of the vehicle…completely different from all the other Mayan carvings I had ever seen, completely strange and very unsettling.
Two other events at Palenque are lodged in my memory. One was personal, but it’s one of my favorite stories. After we had hiked around for a couple of hours, much of it up the mountainside, I was beginning to suffer from the heat and oppressive humidity. The guide took me to a large, raised bowl-like pool at the base of the mountain and told me it was the queen’s bath, cooled by a waterfall and wonderfully clear and pure…most likely snowmelt from peaks in the distance.
When he told me I should have a swim, I told him I hadn’t brought a swimsuit, but he assured me the only people likely to be around were Mayan indians and they ran around nearly naked most of the time anyway. They wouldn’t mind…so I stripped and climbed in. He told me I should join him at the main camp when I had cooled off…and the pool was wonderful, about twenty feet across, a good five feet deep at the center, and overflowing with refreshingly cool water raining in above.
I was having a spectacular time when I heard a voice from the jungle. “Excuse me, young man, do you speak English?” I had been discovered by five ladies from the Southern Baptist Convention…viewing ruins after visiting missionaries. Somehow, they’d been separated from their guide and were quite lost. “Hang on, Ladies, I can help you, but you gotta go back in the jungle a little way for a minute or two.”
I could hear their conversation while I dressed. “Emma, he was NAKED!” “I know, Bess, but he’s all we have. We’re LOST! Just stick close together.” I took them to the main camp and found their lost guide while the church ladies shuffled in a tight, pastel little circle far behind…constantly keeping their eyes on me. At camp they were given water and some food, which they relished…but they stayed as far away from me as possible. The whole episode amused my guide no end.
He kept giggling when I joined him for further exploration of those magnificent ruins, and toward evening, a man up on a temple platform waved to us. “That’s him!” he said, “the guy I was telling you about. I told him what you said and he wants to meet you.” By that time, I wasn’t interested in further adventure. I was tired and the church ladies already thought I was crazy. Talking to that nut would only prove it, so I said no.
Despite my feelings about ancient astronauts, my guide and I parted friends. I never saw him again, but I DID see that other guy one day…actually, not the guy himself but a life-size cardboard cutout. I was walking past a bookstore on Canal Street in New Orleans and there he was, Erich Von Daniken, the author Chariots of the Gods. I had actually SNUBBED the famous writer…and he wasn’t a nut. He was crazy like a fox…and very successful.
Of course, I bought his book; I kind of had to, but it took me a long time to change my way of thinking. These days I find I agree with much more than I did that day in the ruins when I first heard his ideas. Maybe that WAS a landing platform and aliens HAD visited Palenque in the ancient past. Maybe they even swam in that wonderful pool. I’m writing my own books now…and keeping an open mind; I have to. Too much has happened to me since then…and there’s still that tomb cover I can’t explain away.
I watched the evening news tonight: drenching rains, failing dams, floods, scorching heat advisories in umpteen states, a fizzled tropical storm with another one in the wings, and the hottest June and July in history. Almost the entire country has had some sort of disturbing problem lately…amazing stuff…and all weather-related.
You think something’s going on? I do. When you live in the crosshairs like we do, you tend to be more sensitive to changing weather patterns, and we’ve been diligent, checking out our supply of batteries, disaster food–both human and canine, drinking water containers, storm lamps, battery-powered fans, and dynamo-capable radios. Everything’s ready.
We’re used to it, but yesterday when I went to the supermarket to buy a turkey breast, I ran into a woman puffing behind a cart piled about a foot over the brim. “There’s a hurricane coming,” she declared breathlessly. A newbie! I didn’t have the heart to tell her Bonnie had died an unlamented death…and anyway, the stuff she was hauling around would be completely useless when her power went. Almost all of it would spoil.
I bet she doesn’t even have a generator…or a camp stove, probably doesn’t even know what they are. Camp stoves are neat little gadgets you use when nothing in your kitchen works. Our house has a gas stove; usually we can heat things up after a storm, but she looked like the all-electric-kitchen type to me. I bet she hasn’t even had her trees trimmed. Anyway, hysteria seems like more fun than preparing…at least to her.
Another newbie down the street had all his trees cut down, not trimmed, CUT DOWN…every last one! He had a lovely home on a beautifully shaded lot, but now it looks kind of sad…and very naked. He’s going to doubt his wisdom on those scorching August days when you can fry an egg on the sidewalk and his air conditioning is running full blast 24-7. I can just see the little pointers on his electric meter spinning.
They’ll learn pretty quickly, because we’re going to have a lot more storms and hot weather…and it’s going to get worse. Global temperature has risen eight-tenths of one degree and already things are changing dramatically. I understand a rise of two degrees would result in world-wide disaster, with horrific, sea-spawned weather roaring inland and rising water reclaming costal land…but some people are in for a HUGE surprise.
A lot of people who don’t consider themselves costal really are…like New York City. It pumps millions of gallons of seeping water out of its subways every day, and few there realize how easily the system could be overwhelmed. I hope they’ve bought their own camp stoves and a lot of dehydrated meals because they’re gonna need ‘em! EVERYTHING’S underground up there, sewer systems, fresh water, electricity, communication, transportation…you name it.
Lafayette’s high. When most of south Louisiana flooded in 1927, we were a refugee center, and I think we’d make a creditable seaside town. Cajuns are cagey opportunists…we’ve had to be, and I can see sand trucked in, beach cabanas dotting the shoreline, and little huts selling boudin, dirty rice, and crawfish etouffee in the shadow of spiffy new resort hotels.
By my GPS estimate, our house should be pretty close to the beach, and I’ll be able to take my dog for a walk in the surf. I know Angel. She’ll be zooming around, romping, barking, and snapping at incoming waves, but I’ll have to teach her to avoid the messy oil globs. It will be wonderful…but only for a while. Dogs don’t live very long compared to humans; Angel probably won’t be here, but I can see a day when even my lady and I have to pack up and head north.
They say if you put a frog into hot water, it’ll jump out quickly, but if you put it into cool water and slowly raise the temperature, it’ll stay there until it boils to death. Human beings are a lot like that. We respond almost instantly to sudden crises but let slowly developing ones slide right past us. Our instinctive response to sudden threat is chemical, adrenaline-based, but we have only our brains to protect us from creeping danger.
It’s hot as hell out there. Everybody I know is calling it the hottest July in history, and you can just bet August and September are going to top the charts, too. People on TV keep saying el nino kicked the jet stream north, but that tells us what’s going on, not why. They bend over backwards saying it’s not a big deal, but I think they know.
Either something new is happening or it’s not. I like binary decision trees, and I gotta tell you…on this one I’m on the something new side. A couple of years ago, I stacked a cord for the fireplace, but it rotted away unused. Now, I buy four or five logs at a time. That’s plenty, because the next day it’s usually too hot. Once I even went water skiing on Christmas afternoon, great fun, but the sun was merciless. Still, the water was nice and cool.
I’m sorry. I know it’s unpopular, but I’m going to risk it. A lot of people don’t even think it exists, but I chalk all this up to global warming. I used it in my novel, Dawn on Earth, the effect of rising world temperatures on our lives. Days were consistently in the mid ninties, but that wasn’t what made my characters miserable. It never really cooled off, even at night…sounds a lot like what’s been going on around here.
Of course, I had to write in a little conflict. Some people, the ELITE, were comfortably air-conditioned and avoided going outside as a life’s mantra, but you know me. I was all wrapped up in what was happening to the non-elite…the rest of us, and it was devastating to take my reasoning out that far.
With the entire planet challenged by something nobody could really control, I thought we’d probably unite as a single government, and in my novel it worked, providing everyone water and some sort of food, though it was usually only grain. I know, I know…maybe I was overly optomistic, considering how pitifully governments respond these days, but that’s the way I wrote it. It’s FICTION, for God’s sake!
The fun part of letting my imagination roam was describing topographic changes in my hot new world. Of course, sea levels rose tremendously, forcing people to migrate ever farther inland, but rising waters also restored the ancient, shallow sea over what is now the great plains, greatly reducing our food larder. It wasn’t hard to imagine; I was describing the world of the dinosaurs…almost exactly.
Global warming is peculiar territory. Costal storms become more severe, weather inland ferociously erratic, and some places actually get cold, but in the end relentless heat wins…a little like what happened on Venus. It began a lot like Earth, but a runaway greenhouse effect took it all the way to a surface temperature of eight hundred degrees. Water has boiled away completely, and the carbon dioxide atmosphere is heavy enough to crush a human being like a slug.
The arrow points only one way. Polar caps melt, reflecting less heat, fresh water dilutes the sea, killing well-established dynamic currents, and from that point on, everything accellerates. You know, we could be on the first step of a long slide. Nobody has said the words RUNAWAY GREENHOUSE EFFECT yet, but it happened on Venus. Why not here?
Look up at the evening star. It’s beautiful in the growing night, that disaster between us and the sun, but the view from a distance is notoriously deceptive. Some call her our pitiful “Sister Planet,” but I sure hope it doesn’t run in the family, that head-long dash to self-destruction.
Even if it were hell-bent on sharing the fate of its evil twin, our Earth would probably stay beautiful in space for a long time before slowly morphing to a brown and gray thing. Eventually, bright clouds would no longer fill our skies, aggregating instead into a hideous, dirty helmet, but it would still rain…not water, but corrosive acid. Don’t fret; we’d all be dead by then.
Stuff on this subject usually ends saying, “There’s still time,” but I didn’t…too trite and not really my style. I had the naive idea that by showing what could happen, I might change the way people look at things. Truth is, it has…for some, but there’s one significant diffenence they should remember. Venus’ destruction was natural, but what’s happening to us is self-inflicted…kind of a planetary suicide.
In my darker moments, I picture alien archaeologists shuffling around in cooled environmental suits, finding a torn copy of my book that hasn’t burst into flame, and reading it for their report. I can hear one of them saying, “He was right, that poor, dead son-of-a-bitch.” I guess I’ll have to live with that image. I can’t seem to get it out of my mind this summer.
We live on a wet rock orbiting an aging, yellow star way out on a thin, wispy arm of our galaxy, and even though our planet is positively BULGING with life, we tend to feel lonely when we look at the night sky. Scientists are working tirelessly to find out if we’re really alone, but don’t let that fool you. We’re not; all you have to do is look around.
But I understand what those guys are talking about. The Drake equation assures us there are gobs of planets like ours…well, maybe not EXACTLY like ours…some form of world capable of producing life, but we can’t talk to ooze or slime, or bacteria, or weird other-worldly plants. We need BEINGS, intelligent life forms with feelings and ideas we can share, maybe even discuss.
Some people say we’ve already met them…in a way. Funny-looking things streak through our skies. I know…I’ve seen them, but I haven’t the foggiest what they really are…nobody does. It’s fun to watch stuff on the History Channel, or the Science Channel, or even the SyFy Channel, but they don’t have a clue either.
Let’s see. Some of them think they’re beings from other worlds, but Einstein tells us that’s not likely. Others say they might be us…from the future. Really? Time travel? Hawking seems to think that’s impossible, too. The stolid, clear-thinking group tell us it’s all hallucination…or fanciful witnesses.
Hold it right there, Guys! When I saw whatever they were, I wasn’t under the influence of any mind-altering drug…and I sure as hell didn’t WANT to see them. They scared the crap out of me. At the time, I’d have been far happier if I’d never seen anything like that, but now it’s sort of useful. There’s nothing like incorporating something mysterious, unknown, and completely unexplainable into things you’re writing.
I don’t know what I saw really was, but to tell you the truth, it’s not all that important. Like I said, look around…at things crawling beneath your feet, foraging in forests, soaring through the air, things we take for granted…absolute WONDERS. We have the NOW…and we should make the best of it. The later is for other people.
If we’re wise, we’ll cherish all life. It seems to be pretty rare by cosmologists’ calculations, so welcome dawn when our tired old star comes up, thrill when flights glide below clouds in mid-day air, relish crickets and rain frogs singing in the dark. They’re joyful, noisy, and prolific kinsmen on our ancient, soggy rock…and in our lives.
We live on the thin edge of a cosmic knife, something the dinosaurs leaned the hard way. Out there where we can’t see, gigantic lumps of rock and dirty ice are circling, and eventually, one of them is going to find us. It’s going to be unadulterated hell, but some of us will probably survive…even if most of us don’t. That’s the price of living in an evolving star system, but we’re stuck here. There’s nothing else.
When you look at our big, bright moon, think about it for a second. That’s part of OUR WORLD way up there, so far out it took us thousands of years to visit, the aftermath of a gigantic collision with a rogue planet. That beautiful thing in the night sky is evidence of the most terrifyingly destructive event anyone could possibly imagine.
Then look at what surrounds us down here, trees, flowers, insects, earthworms, fish, cows, snakes, billions of other people…LIFE…everywhere! Birds flock, animals herd, but people think. Don’t let all that thinking get in the way. Even though we live on the sharp edge of a knife, it’s a beautiful edge, a wondrous edge, an edge to savor.
We can’t do anything about whatever the cosmos has planned for us, but we can and should appreciate what we have right here, right now. It waits for us…patiently…until we come to our senses. Do you really think there’s something more wonderful around the bend, something better? How could it possibly top what we already have…and ignore most of the time?
You know, I find that thought immensely comforting, so I think I’m going to take Angel for a walk. We have such a good time sharing the fading brightness, the emerging stars, the birds coming in…the glory of it all. Tail high, running, exploring in the dimming light, sniffing everywhere, coming back to me happy as all getout, she knows the secret. It’s obvious, and we could learn from her. She doesn’t worry about things she can’t control. She just LOVES being alive.
I play disc golf…OKAY? It’s fun and really good exercise…but for God’s sake, don’t call it FRISBEE GOLF! That’s not cool, and it identifies you as the most hopelessly misinformed person ever. A frisbee is TOY designed to float and be easily…and safely caught. If you try to catch one of our discs, you could lose a finger…maybe two. They have sharp edges and fly like hell at amazing speeds.
We have three beautiful courses in Lafayette, but I most enjoy the one in Girard Park. It’s in the middle of town, beautifully landscaped and challenging, with holes built right into the earthworks dug during the Civil War battle at Vermilionville, Lafayette’s nineteenth century incarnation. They’ve filled in a lot since the 1860′s, but that’s not the point. It’s SAFE…no poison ivy, no poison oak, and most importantly to me, no cottonmouth moccasins.
Discs go everywhere, and sometimes you’d need a herpetologist to retrieve them on the other courses. Girard Park is civilized. We like it that way, even enjoy the walkers huffing along the hiking trail, though sometimes we have to wait before throwing. They wouldn’t appreciate a disc slicing into them, and I bet they have lawyers. A lot of them look like the type.
But remember…they’re discs…not frisbees! I was getting ready to leave one day when a church pastor asked me to show his group how we throw our discs, but when I tried with their frisbees, I couldn’t get them to go anywhere…at least nowhere near the goal. I offered to go and get my REAL discs, but by then they had decided I was incompetent. Just as well.
The principle is the same as what we derisively call “ball golf”, but with some very important differences. For one thing, you use different disks for different shots, driving, approaching, and putting, and some disks tend to veer left, others right, and still others go straight ahead…if you throw them right. Of course, you vary shots in ball golf by using different clubs…but that left/right stuff is impossible.
There are a lot of advantages to disc golf, particularly compared to that other golf people play so intently…no tee times, no memberships, only grassy courses between you and that tiny little basket with its chains…and of course, trees. Our fairways aren’t open like the other golf, and trees seem to grab disks right out of the air. I could have sworn I saw a pecan tree jump to catch mine some time back.
The Professional Disc Golf Asociation…yes, there is one…constantly tells anyone who’ll listen it’s the fastest growing sport in the country, but we never meet a lot of other people playing. Maybe it’s not all that bad, those empty courses. People really should play; it’s fantastic exercise, but if it were more popular, there might actually be tee times, memberships, and all that other crap. When we stand with friends in a morning breeze, throw well, and enjoy the sky and the mossy oaks, we think it’s perfect as it is…but it could still catch on.
No problem…new people tend to think it’s childishly easy…and THAT’S our edge. It isn’t. Most of them give up when they discover just how difficult and technical it really is. The only ones who keep coming back are those willing to make complete fools of themselves, and to tell the truth, it happens to all of us from time to time. We may blame the wind or the air, but the sad fact is…this sport is so damned unpredicatable!
When I first got interested in playing, I went to a course early one morning and asked a group if they’d mind my tagging along. One guy walked up and announced that he didn’t mind at all. He was the Gulf South Champion, had been for three years running, and I watched him wind up and cut loose with what I expected to be a beautiful thing. Instead, it flew about fifteen feet, slammed into a tree dead-on, and bounced back to where he was standing. At that point, I knew…I COULD DO THIS!
There is one mystery about disc golf I’ve yet to unravel…and that’s women players. We men wind up, engage every muscle, grunt, and throw with everything we have, and it generally goes pretty far. Women kind of tiptoe to the tee, straighten their hair, take a half turn, and casually flick the disk out…and it goes a tremendous distance like a bat out of hell. I think it’s something about the way they’re built. They seem to have a lot more momentum when they wheel around, kind of a gyroscopic effect we can’t achieve. It’s humiliating.
There are tournaments and pros in our sport…and yes, women players, more and more lately. Maybe someday there’ll be people all over the course, but right now, it’s really great, standing at the tee on a quiet morning, checking the wind, maybe glancing at that thunderstorm coming in from the south before letting the disc rip. It was a lot like that today.
The good news is the thunderstorm broke up before it reached us…and I finally, FINALLY sank a thirty foot putt. I bet I could have given that champion guy who hit the tree a run for his money this morning, but some other day he might clean my clock. That’s the way it is with disc golf. It’s part of the reason we love it.
You may ask what all this has to do with writing novels…and it’s a fair question. You’d be ASTOUNDED by the stuff I dream up when I’m playing…particularly when I’m losing. If I’m working on a chapter involving somebody really despicable and I’m way behind in the game, he comes to me full-blown, practically writes himself. It’s almost magical. God, I love disc golf!
Oil has arrived in Galveston, but they said it was only tar washing off skimmer vessels. Come on, Guys, don’t play dumb; haven’t you noticed a pattern? We have. First, tar balls wash in, then a sheen, but that hasn’t been the end of it anywhere. The next thing we’ve seen from here to Florida is huge gobs of sticky orange oil, and we’ve sort of been expecting it in Texas anyway. Ten days ago a friend of mine spotted it off Cheniere Au Tigre, and that’s just a long spitting distance from Galveston.
Talking heads keep saying they’re going to clean it all up, like that’s even REMOTELY possible. Don’t they know that stuff is damned near permanent? I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. Go up to the Valdez spill site and kick over a rock. You’ll see just how easy it is to clean up. Oil floats, but it also descends below the surface, even down to the ocean floor…and it’s thrown every which way by wind and currents. I don’t have the same happy glasses they seem to be wearing. Before it’s done, I think we’re going to find oil EVERYWHERE in the gulf…in the water, on beaches, under rocks, and in costal marshes all the way to Mexico.
Gulf water will stink, and birds will no longer dot the sky looking for bugs or a bread handout from tourists. Nights on shore will be silent, and you’ll choke if you stand in the evening breeze. EXACTLY how much oil did you think the gulf could absorb before it was destoryed? But don’t worry; it’ll be back to normal in a couple of hundred thousand years. Geologically speaking, it’s not all that long, but from our three score and ten perspective, it’s forever.
And a part of me will probably be sad from now on. Galveston! My God, I’ve been going there since I was a little kid! I remember catching an angel fish from a pier one day. Everybody over there was fascinated; they had never seen one caught on a line before. Of course, we let it go…not that good to eat, dad said, but I wanted it to live for another reason. It had fought the good fight, and as a boy, I respected that. It was beautiful…and scrappy, and I loved it…just as much as I’ve always loved Galveston itself.
The water isn’t clear in Galveston, like it is off Florida’s beaches; scores of rivers and the great Mississippi see to that. It’s mostly murky but not so much that you can’t see fish trapped inside incoming waves…and dolphins folicking a few yards behind them where they gave up the chase. I was swimming in Galveston not so long ago when two dolphins rolled up out of the water right next to me. I thought one of them looked pregnant. Some idiot woman screamed SHARKS, and people started scrambling out of the water, but I stayed and savored the majesty of it all.
They seemed to be having fun, chirping and clicking as they swam around me only a few feet away in a playful circle. They knew I wasn’t a threat; they thought I was a friend…and I am. I always will be, but I wish I could click and chirp too…and warn them. They’ve got to find a way to shepherd their child away from the malevolence growing in the gulf…even farther when oil reaches the Caribbean…and it will.
Galveston brings funny memories back into my head. I remember one day my dad decided to ride the roller-coaster across Seawall Boulevard from the beach. He told us to watch carefully because he was going to wave to us from the highest point on the ride, but when he came into view, all we saw was a blanched face and bloodless hands hanging onto the coaster bar for dear life. We teased him for weeks afterward.
Galveston…what else do I think about when I hear that name? The 1900 hurricane for sure, and those nuns roped to children when they were dug out of the sand. They loved those children and proved it…with their lives…and those ropes. My lady’s mother actually grew up in that orphanage twenty-five years after the storm. She always told us how much she loved gulf seafood, but she was lying. She only liked shrimp. You could chase her all the way to Oklahoma with an oyster.
Galveston, wonderful Galveston…we’ve been there so many times, my lady and me…my dog Angel, too. We always stayed in the same apartment, just off the beach with a clear view of the surf and a constant, salty breeze. The ocean’s roar lulled us to sleep at night while the smell of the sea blew in through open windows. It was wonderful. Even Angel seemed to think so, but she’s not very picky. She’s happy when we’re happy.
Soon, it might only be a memory…like New Orleans, but Galveston’s tough. While it’s weathered many a storm before, I’m afraid it could lose this particular battle, and I wouldn’t want to go back only to smell oil on that wind sweeping in off the water. I prefer memories, but even they are getting dim. Since this began, I’ve had to learn to compartmentalize some of my memories…hide them down deep where they’re not likely to jump out and remind me what’s been lost, but I find myself having to bury more and more of my past every day.
It’s incredibly sad…upheaval, geologic change on this scale, the death of an ocean that has afforded me and my family so much joy. I guess that’s what monumental really means, what irretrievable loss really feels like. My father’s roller-coaster disappeared long ago, and my life seems intent on following it lately. I know he’d have some wisdom to share, find some way to make sense out of it, but he’s gone, too. Dad, I hope you can’t see this up there wherever you are. I know it would hurt you almost as much as it’s hurting me right now.
Human beings are thought, feelings, and some form of belief, all wrapped in a biodegradable container. Even athiests are believers, you know; they believe there’s nothing else…but I digress. Those three qualities have propelled our species to unimaginable and inspiring heights when used in concert, balanced against each other. Used alone, each tends to produce aberrations, often evil.
The problem is we’re so easily distracted into using none of them. With so much horror in the news, we instinctively begin to seek entertainment–because it’s taxing, all that thinking, all that pain, all those challenges to our belief systems…and it’s so easy to escape in this gee-gaw rich, electronic age. We wind up taking our secret weapons off line, and lately that’s been bothering me. I want to make what I say interesting, but I don’t want to add to all that distraction when I talk about Louisiana.
I know my state is interesting to a lot of people, what with its beauty and exotic charm, its position on the thin edge of nature’s fury, its amazing diversity, its spirited food and music, and its fuzzy sadness as part of a vanquished, would-be nation…even though it fought to preserve a monstrous evil. Hell, had I lived in those times, I would have fought for the other side, at least I HOPE so…sincerely. They were using the thought part of their internal spectrum all by itself, and like I said, aberration and evil were the result.
But Louisiana has come past all that, I’m proud to say, and I like writing about it, sharing some of the wonder of our life here. I can’t write doom and gloom all the time; it isn’t healthy, but I don’t want anybody to come away thinking it’s all magnolias, jasmine, and soft memories these days. We have a nightmare attacking us. I can understand why people are tempted to switch to other channels or read other things in their morning paper, but it’s important not to…because that stuff you’re skipping is real, and yes, reality is almost always hard to face.
That guy you saw getting killed in Afganistan on the evening news is really dead, and his family…and his sweetheart…have been devastated. That oil-soaked bird rolling in the surf really died, too, after suffering for hours, maybe days. Those tiny subsurface oil droplets dancing in the current, a pretty picture on TV, are sucking oxygen out of the gulf like demonic little monsters, killing things people on TV probably don’t even know exist.
The concept of an entire exosystem imploding is vast, almost beyond our capacity to imagine, and it’s reasonable to seek comfort, to jump away from it when we forage the electronic ether. It’s scary, the realm of the monumental, the unbelievably catastrophic, but the death of so much of our world merits more than glancing disinterest.
It’s a juggling act, but we have to do it, staying focused and differentiating reality from its charming and hypnotic oposite while balancing our internal qualities. The oil spill is a growing cancer, the world we love is choking into nothingness, and it will take eons to restore. Even today all these years later, if you kick a rock over in Prince William Sound, you find oil. It’s patient stuff, oil, sitting in the earth for millions of years and equally willing to sit that long in our wetlands and on our ocean floor.
That black gusher a mile below the waves is terrifyingly real. Anything with a laugh track is fake. Those animals are really suffering and dying. The Lion King is a cartoon. It’s not really hard to see the difference, but if you can’t, or if you hide from it, you’re just as dead to humanity as that poor guy in Afganistan.
Deep down, I know I have to keep writing about this. Talking about my novel will just have to wait a while. People whose lives have been ruined, immeasurable lost wonder and beauty, innocent victims like those pitiful creatures deserve nothing less…and I’m going to keep saying so even if you click past me at light speed.