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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Entry 22: Walking the Ridge (Part III)

August 13, 2014

Dear Friends

RE:  Entry 22

Part III

Often, in his dreams, the scene splayed out before him, in a shocking vision of bursts of light, concussive uneven rhythm of the shell blasts and the screaming.  In those dreams, the light had sound, the color had feel, and the sound had fangs.  He would awake with scent of cordite in his nostrils, or at least the sense of it, his hands clenched and numb.  It was hard to explain to anyone and he rarely spoke of it.  There were times when he would come across someone who had died in the war, at least inside, and they wore the death on them like a rainbow coat, only the spectrum was varied in grays and black.  They never talked but understood.

Had you asked him before, from the tales he had heard from the old men, he would not have thought this.  War had been away so long on its journey that the sheer personal horror was either bottled up inside of 75-year old men (for most of them it had not ever nor ever was coming out), or had long since been converted and melded into the distance of their youth, or was only now just legend, as if every once in a while it had to stalk the earth for men to remember.  The cold and utter brutality of it, mercilessness surrounded by terror, the wading through the fear as it eked out the life and left behind death, even in the living.  When he was young, he would not have thought it so, as he had imagined, from books and poems and songs, of flags uncased and unfurled, and marching glory into the wind. No book spoke of the mud. And the infection.  And the engorged rats. And ever-present stench of death.  No one spoke of men reduced to the pure emotions of rage, fear, terror and relief, all rotating through on a psychotic irregular cycle, over and over and over and over.

When it was over, it was difficult to imagine and visualize, as real as it was, it was hard to believe it had actually happened.  And yet in the dreams he got to see it again, if only in glimpses. 

Why this place had reminded him was curious.  He had seen this land clear cut many years before, so that nothing stood on it higher nor thicker than a briar bush, and yet, over the years, and years since, trees had returned and tall trees, hardwood, but not the trees, red spruce, which had once covered and made this a forest. Perhaps it was because of this memory that he often came here and remembered and silently relived.  It would always take several days to recover the sense of forgotteness that had comforted him after all this time.

He picked up the shotgun and walked up and around to the top of the ridgeline; from here, he could see the Allegheny Front, about 30-40 miles to the east when the sky was clear.  Most of the wildlife was either waiting for twilight, or like the birds, oblivious to him.  Every so often he was see a hawk or a crow, sometimes a buzzard-those you could tell at distance by the gnawed looking ends of their wings. He knew them very well and could make them out before any other bird in these years since. The sun was up, high enough in the sky to be above the Front to the east, and it made the day very hot, with the baking smell of the old, dried leaves replacing the memory of the gunpowder in his mind.

I remain


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Entry 21: All The Power Lines Go East

August 5, 2014

Dear Friends

Re: Entry 21
Once upon a time, I was asked to speak at a conference on gas drilling.  Well, to put it more correctly, I was asked to fill in for someone who was asked to speak at a conference on gas drilling.  To the extent possible, I prepared, practiced and otherwise readied myself for the encounter (“the extent possible” being defined as that amount of content I could congeal from Wikipedia and Google while eating a Wal-Mart yogurt about an hour before the gathering. Of course, I jest). All went well, I spoke a bunch of words in a string that at least sounded coherent, no one seemed to be paying much attention until I asked for questions. To my utter surprise, about a dozen hands shot up, the sight of which caused me to vibrate with glee.  I selected an older women dressed in what appeared to communal-type clothing with a few buttons on her Chairman Mao blouse (“Impeach Nixon”, “Don’t Trust Anyone over 30”, “McCarthy”, and so forth).  She proceeded for the next 10 minutes to use my questioning period to lecture the crowd, me, the people on the panel, the hot dog guy in the hotel lobby and Curtis, the guy who hangs around outside, on the very evils of capitalism and gas drilling and all sorts of mean and nasty things (I actually kept thinking “this is Alice, from the Restaurant, in the song”—a very obscure reference that you should look up now!).  She was followed by several other commune types until I said, “If there are no actual questions, thank you very much”. The crowd sputtered some applause, mostly in relief, and I stumbled back to my seat.  This is where the real fun began.

I was approached by a rumpled –looking man who asked, politely, for a moment of my time (“Great” I thought, “Amway…”).  But no. He understood that I was a cog in the system, asked where I attended University (that is how he said it), and proceeded to berate me, my education, my dachshund, and so forth, on the lack of understanding on global warming.  I listened, until I had an opening—remember I had the advantage of being perceived as an idiot, not wholly implausible mind you, but an advantage nonetheless—and I said: “how did you get here today?”  He stopped and looked at me and said “what?” I repeated the question.  He said “Oh, I know what you’re getting at, that is the fallacy in the system, they cause us all to be prisoners to the corporate machine, but while you want to burn your fossil fuels and blah, blah, blah (fill in the blank, as you all have heard this self-righteous crap for 10 years now)…”. 
I leaned in and, almost at a whisper said.  “I’m a Christian.  I believe in faith brother, and I believe in the Gospel.  And what you seem to have right now is your very own gospel. And I’ve got to tell you, it’s more fundamentalist and more dogmatic—and tolerates less dissent—than the smallest backwoods country snake-handlers.  I know one thing about a gospel that if you believe it, if you preach it— Live it! (At this point, I was talking at a level that several around me stopped to hear what I was saying). Before you want to tell 3 billion people in the world that they can’t have electricity and all that it provides so that you can sit here in the United States and drive your hybrid car, and measure your carbon footprint and surf the internet and play pretend farmer—Live it!  You don’t like coal, which is 40% of our electricity in this country, go to your breaker box today—today brother!—and turn off 4 out of every 10 breakers.  Having surgery? Let’s hope you have it at Hospital (my phrase, now) where the power is renewable.  And no antibiotics, and no internet and no….toilet paper (I ran out of things at this point).  What you preach is bitter gall to the millions in poverty that you pretend to care about, this is the problem with your theology, and that is what it is, theology.  So before you go trying to proselytize me, give me the keys to your car, I’ll use it, you should walk home in the good conscience of the righteous man that I know you to be.”

He actually looked like he admired what I said, for a split second, and then he walked way, mumbling something about ignorance.  Apparently, I had given him my card at some point early in the conversation, because a week later I received a 14 page letter that was about as incoherent and ranting, but devilishly exhaustive, as a Unabomber manifesto.  I keep it still.
Now, you can choose to figure out how much of this was true and how much I embellished.  The fact is that we live in a country, in a part of that country better said, where we are as close to energy independent as anywhere in the world (and curiously, all the power lines go East).  In the mean old days, before we were led by these enlightened better-dressed hippies who believe in love not war, and peace at any cost (even the cost of your soul), energy independence meant security.  Countries once and still do go to war for energy, and yet our ruling classes, our government, weaken us by its adherence to a theology as strict, as intrusive, as intolerant as the Inquisition.  God save us all from the fools in charge.

Now don’t go all wobbly on me.

I remain