Friday, August 22, 2014

A pictorial tour of two days in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

            Ugh!  The summer doldrums have hit.  After a busy and prosperous couple of months, work has dwindled from a raging torrent to a pathetic dribble.  It has been nice to steal some hours here and there for personal relaxation and rest, but I fear when the revenue doesn’t roll in, I may be starving.  To put it in perspective, I had nine regular clients with empty invoices.  I hope for all our sakes, the work starts back now that the schools have reopened and summer vacation-time has officially ended.
            A couple of weeks ago, just as the first sign of the slowdown manifested, my friend Sandra and I took off one afternoon and drove through the Pigeon River Gap into Tennessee.  She wanted me to see Cades Cove in the park from the Gatlinburg side.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable day of leisured driving and wildlife watching. From the moment you approach the park, you know you are entering a special place, full of history and wondrous sites. 
            The wildlife was everywhere.  In a churchyard a doe and
fawn came out for a picture shoot.  Unfortunately someone stepped in front of me before I could get a clear picture of the fawn.  My dog, Sebastian,

who was as delighted as we were at the day-trip, spotted the deer, and almost ripped my arm from the shoulder in his insistence that he should be allowed to go play with these denizens of the forest.  Within a scant few minutes of leaving the historic church, we pulled up on a doe grazing on the roadside.  Now a deer was less than a foot from his nose, and Sebastian turned a
disinterested look in my direction wondering why we weren’t moving.
            We did catch a glimpse of several black bears,

mostly either running at full pace or too deep in the shadows of the woods for to get a good photograph, but one guy did come out just in front of our car, and allowed us to watch as he snacked on the wild berries of a low hanging tree.
            Yesterday, in return for Sandra’s treat of taking me in from the Tennessee side, we packed the
car with Subway sandwiches and plenty of cold water for both of us as well as Sebastian and started into the park from the Waynesville side towards the scenic and historic Cataloochee Valley.  I knew we were going too early to catch our now famous reestablished herd of Appalachian elk, the road through the pass into the valley is treacherous at best, and in the evenings there can be as many as five hundred cars negotiating the one lane road that is the only way in or out. 
            We drove out through the valley spotting very little other than the majestic landscapes and

historic remnants of the days of pioneers.  I did capture a long
distance photo of a small rafter of wild turkeys, but in all we were disappointed at the lack of visible animal life.  We had made the entire loop and were headed back up through the valley when I suggested we pull over near a hewed log foot-bridge and eat our lunches.
Sandra jokily remarked that perhaps sitting still and eating, maybe something would come out of the woods into the adjoining field.  Sure enough by the time I finished my sandwich, out from the
shadows of the dense forest stepped two elk does, one yearling fawn, and a velvety spiked buck.  What was truly remarkable was that although the elk were at least 100 yards away, Sebastian
immediately spotted them and sat mesmerized the entire time they grazed.
            I have mixed emotions about the nation’s most visited national park.  The confiscation of the land certainly preserved some of the most beautiful
scenery on the North American continent, but by creating the park, the government evicted and displaced scores of rugged pioneer families and many Cherokee Indians who discovered, settled, hunted, fished and farmed the region. 
            Tonight Sandra and I are going to the Strand Theater in Waynesville to watch a wonderful (I’ve seen it before) documentary on the families displaced from the Cataloochee Valley.  I think it would be a wonderful way to end our forays into the park with the insights and memories of those who were there before the rest of us. 
            Please click on this link for a brief trailer on Katherine Bartel’s Cataloochee.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Good news: the school buses are back, spring is on the way!

     It has been a month since we passed the Summer Solstice and this morning was the first time I cognitively noticed the shortened days.  I took a pill last night, and slept well and late.  In the darkness of the early morning, my phone chimed to signify a conversation window had been opened (probably that PITA of Denmark, +Adrianna Joleigh).  What surprised me was, that it was after 6 a.m. and the sun had not yet brightened the August sky.  Yes, the days have begun to shorten and that can only mean one thing: the school buses will be back.
     I seem to remember summer vacation from school lasting until September, but not anymore, today is the first day of school in the adjoining county of Buncombe (so named because in 1845 a politician offered a speech of such arcane "bunkum" that his district was forever designated in his honor).  I have no desire to research the start date for Haywood County (birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, really, look it up); it will happen soon enough.  Before you ask, no, I do not have any school-aged children, nor do I live near an academic institution of governmental acculturation, so you might wonder why I care. 
     As you know, I live high on a mountain and must drive down a sizable grade to retrieve my mail on a daily basis.  The ride has become the embodiment of pleasure in my dog’s life. The mail arrives at the box between 2:15 and 3:00 p.m. each afternoon.  Sebastian (my dog) has decided that 3:00 p.m. is the best time to fetch “Daddy” and herd him into the truck for “the ride.”  Now many days, if not most, there will be one or more checks in the mail that require our short downhill trip to extend up the four-lane and into town.  It isn’t all that far, but by the time we negotiate the varied streets and roads necessary to drop a deposit off at the credit union, and if need be, stop by a grocer for any needed provisions, the roundtrip journey takes roughly 30 - 45 minutes.  And as Shakespeare said, therein lies the rub.
     Somewhere around 3:30, a trio of age delineated school buses turns back the country road that leads to the rural lane that leads to the mountain trail and the only ingress to my secluded home.  Improperly timed, the offloading school buses can add as much as a half hour to my daily jaunt.  I don’t begrudge the riders or the drivers, and I always offer both a friendly smile and wave in my impatience to get back to the house where nothing of importance is awaiting.  Why is it that humans are always in a hurry to get nowhere and never in a hurry to leave?
     School buses portend a change in the season: soon we will be enjoying late summer vegetables, early fall apples and peaches, and those first brisk evenings spent in front of a roaring fire.  We are all anticipating the climatic shift with varied degrees of joy and sorrow.  For me, the summer has been quite cool here on the mountain, so unlike some who might be anxiously awaiting some respite from the heat and humidity, I’d much rather enjoy an extended summer of hummingbirds, fireflies, and the orchestral night sounds of insects.  But I shouldn't forget my friends in Australia and South Africa, who like flies on the ceiling are gripping the ground trying not to fall off the bottom of the globe, their seasons, like everything else on their side of the world, are upside down.  They are trending away from the cold and into the heat.  As my fall approaches, my topsy-turvy friends are anticipating their spring.  Good news +Nariman Parker, +Rea de Miranda, +Francine Hirst and all my other friends struggling to maintain their grip on the bottom, the school buses are back, spring is on the way!  Be careful, no happy dances, you might fall off.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Lady Luck and a Walk in the Park

     Luck is a fickle lady; sometimes she kisses deep with heartfelt passion, and sometimes she turns the cold shoulder of indifference upon her would be courters.  For me, I would be wise to be vigilant for indications of her mood, but I'm not.
     Yesterday I caught hell for my Facebook and Google+ posts about being stood up by someone I was anticipating spending the weekend with.  The post was not about her, it was a jovial look at the fun-filled day I spent with my dog, and our curious adventures.  I lamented within those posts that I had neglected to take my camera to record the canine version of a Walk in the Park.
     This morning I ignored the moody signs of having but only two numbers on each of three lottery tickets with nary a chance to win back my investment, and then further ignored the sad news from one of my clients (the details of which are best left to those more closely affected) that canceled a large job I was expecting.  Lady Luck was dropping clues, but I wasn't paying attention.
     This afternoon, I abandoned the little work I had, packed the camera and a plastic bowl of "Bubba" water, and set off to replicate the great day we had at the Pepsi Dog Park in the Waynesville Recreation Center.

Oh, no! No doggies.

As we pulled into the parking lot, I was disheartened that the dog park was totally abandoned.  Undeterred, I put Sebastian's leash on and started to walk towards that Doggy Paradise of unrestrained running.
      Soon, I began to realize that no only was the dog park empty, but there were no baseball games being played, our championship Disc Golf course was unused,
no one was on the soccer fields, the tennis courts, running track and picnic areas were all unoccupied. There were a dozen or so baggy-panted long-haired skaters in the skate board arena, but they were eyeing me and my camera like I was

part of the local narcotics squad.  I decided that snapping some pictures of the only people in the rec center was not worth making them (or me) uncomfortable.   

      Later, we did catch a glimpse of some volleyball being played out near the entrance.
      We decided to make the best of the warm humid afternoon and took a stroll along Richland Creek that runs through the park before

heading back down the four-lane to our mountain abode.  
     I got the idea from a farm field across the creek, that some fried chicken and fresh corn might be a good supper to end our day.  With a salivating mouth, I gave thought to KFC, but then remembered that Bojangles was only a little further up the
road, and I love their Cajun fried-chicken.  Bypassing the Colonel's place, we headed out to Maggie Valley to Bo's only to learn that they were out of their Cajun variety and would have none cooked for at least a half hour.  I settled for their regular version and began my journey home by way of a produce stand that conveniently was similarly sold out of corn.  Oh, for the taste of some rare good luck for a change.
     Lady luck was certainly against us today, but I'm not giving up.  I figure she can't stay mad at me forever, after all, I never married her.  Can you imagine that alimony?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Eve, A Literary Fable

The Rainy Day
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

            The rain has been incessant today, and as James Joyce would say, “falling generally all across” the Pacific Northwest.  This dark and dreary weather gives me pause to reconsider the relevance of Longfellow’s line, “Behind the clouds is the sun still shining.”

            This story begins when I had just completed my degree in journalism from U. C. Sacramento and was still filled with the zealous ambition to tell the truth as I saw it, and with that truth, change the world.  Needing a place to ply my supposed life’s purpose, I took a job at a relatively young news magazine, The Gate, in San Francisco as a “staff reporter.”  A staff reporter meant I was the low man on the totem pole: no By Lines, no Pulitzers, no fame, only a lowly writer of content fill.  I was told that I needed to “cut my teeth” in the real world of journalism, and that meant surviving at least a full year of local political races, inconsequential city council and school board meetings, and the requisite “pet-saves-the-day” feel good fluff.  I was seriously considering a professional change when I was finally offered what was proposed as a primo assignment.  It would be, as it turned out, my last assignment as a journalist, but the story would challenge me in ways I still do not fully understand, and stick with me through all the frustrating years and rejections of my career as a starving writer.
            It would be those unending, disquieting thoughts that led me to the research of the probabilities of impossibility, Faith as it were.  As to my conclusions and suppositions, I guess you could call me agnostic.  I don’t know what I believe.  I am writing this because it is the logical thing to do.  I know there will be some who will use this as some sort of dissertation on a definitive truth, and others who will laugh at my ludicrous premise and unscholarly connection of seemingly incongruous events.  

            I found Eve amid scores of yellowed missing persons reports in the archives of the Seattle police department.  Her first name was my only “hit” in hundreds of hours of searching.  The police report led me to a few surviving newspaper articles to supplement the scant investigative interviews.  Unfortunately, her few friends have scattered over the years, and her parents are long deceased.  So with the little I had, I began to piece together what I uncovered and compare it to the “facts” I knew, and thus this incredible story was compiled. 
Granted, my conclusions are not without flaws, and wholly dependent on a certain number of leaps-of-faith.  In the end, I still don’t know if I believe what I think, or even think what I believe, but this is my thesis of Faith.
            Eve Sternum was born March 13, 1948, in Wenatchee, Washington.  Her father was an economics professor at Central Washington University and her mother a high school science teacher.  Her Scandinavian heritage blessed her with fine blond hair and (according to reports) striking blue eyes; however, it denied her the stereotypical flawless beauty inherent of the people of that region.  She was, instead, reportedly plain by most accounts, but also known as an intellect without equal.  Eve excelled in her studies and graduated high school in her 16th year.  Due to her youth, her parents kept her home for the first two years of college, studying psychology at Wenatchee Valley College.  As her 18th birthday neared, she applied to, and was accepted at, the University of Washington in Seattle.  Emancipated and on her own, she redoubled her academic prowess, and earned her bachelor’s in less than 10 months.  At that point she switched majors and began to pursue studies in biologic pharmaceuticals for her graduate degree.  She was awarded her Masters of Science almost six months early, on March 13, 1969.  She apparently failed to recognize the significance of the date so carefully orchestrated by her parents.
            Eve was a particularly non-social person.  According to the surviving interviews of her classmates, she was not anti-social, but preferred quiet, uninterrupted study in her dorm over the din of campus life.  Abstaining from the political and social unrest of the era, and refusing to engage in debate or even the expression of opinions on Nixon and the Viet Nam War, she was considered by many to be a collegiate pariah, and shunned as such.  Her recreation was therefore, not found in the company of the co-ed males, nor was it dancing, parties, raucous rallies or partaking in the varied intoxicants prevalent in the mid to late 1960s.  She instead found her recreational pleasures in solo, exploratory hikes and backwoods kayaking in the Cascades Mountains.  It is there where her story begins and ends.
            Her 22nd birthday had passed during a particularly late cold snap.  Eve had spent the winter and early spring working in a post-graduate fellowship on a derivative of a protein found only in the furled frons a rare species of fern.  It was her belief, according to several people who assisted her, that by splitting this protein she had identified, and combining it with an inherent human amino acid, she could produce a biologic receptor that would inhibit the growth of metastatic melanoma.  Her ultimate goal was to find a bridge that would correlate this receptor with other cancers.  She carefully documented her discoveries in copious detail, bound in notebooks that were never found outside her guarded possession.
            By early April, the air had warmed and the snow had receded enough for her to pack a three-day supply of food and water, some necessary sterile vials, her carefully annotated lab notes and a jar of the refined solvent necessary for the protein extraction.  It was a Saturday when she headed into the high bush country in search of the tender spouts that promised a medical breakthrough. 
            But as I said, this is both the beginning and the end of her story.  Eve never returned from her hike.  Air and ground searches continued for three weeks without any positive results.  By the end of the summer of 1970, Eve Sternum and all of her potential, was relegated to the annals of the lost hikers of the Pacific Northwest.

            And then came the infamous “Fastiff video.”

            When I was assigned to interview Charlie Fastiff, trust me, I did everything possible to weasel my way out of it.  It may have been offered as a primo assignment, but the topic was not of particular interest to me and I had no desire to indelibly tie my virginal reputation to such a fiasco.  Even in light of the remarkable story that eventually unfolded, this is still a case where I believe the mystery would have been better off left a mystery; my life certainly would have had a different outcome. 
The magazine wanted to cover the popular, quote, Bigfoot phenomenon, end quote, from every conceivable angle.  The magazine wanted interviews from every kook and every official, from witnesses and hoaxers, from biologists and cryptozoologists; my editor wanted every piece of tangible evidence, and of course, he wanted Charlie Fastiff’s video.
            I met Charlie at his house, a tiny ramshackle clapboard trailer surrounded by a yard full of discarded appliances, toilets and rusting car bodies.  He resides just off Highway #7 in British Columbia on the outskirts of Hope.  Oh, I was so tempted to make a joke about his circumstances and the nearby town’s name, but out of social etiquette, I kept quiet.  I guess I’ll leave it to each of you to devise an appropriate punchline for yourself.
            Charlie was not someone I would categorize as a typical North Woods mountain man.  He was short, rotund and had a ruddy complexion betoken of the hypertension that he likely garnered from his poor diet, abusive beer consumption, and evident lack of exercise. 
We met and shook hands at the base of the weather-worn wood steps that led into the trailer.  I asked if he knew who I was, and what I was there for.  He acknowledged the scheduled interview, but demanded his negotiated stipend before he would allow me inside.  I counted the U.S. currency as I laid it out on a rusted washing machine; he refused to help me retrieve my equipment from the car, but did graciously hold the door open as I toted my tripods, recorders and cameras into the mobile home.
Inside, his home was dingy and dark with an odiferous air of mildew, stale beer and urine, but mixed with a sweetness that knew, but failed at first to identify.  I placed a voice recorder atop a stack of moisture stained Field and Stream magazines.  I glanced around hoping to spot one of our titles, but from the age of the periodicals I saw, I doubt my esteemed employer was even being published when Charlie had bought his last subscription.  With the recorder on, I set about placing the video cameras and lights for the main part of the interview.  While I busied myself, I began the “soft stroke” questions designed to promote confidence and ease of conversation.
I learned that Charlie was collecting disability from a short military stint, and made other money trading junk metal and doing odd jobs.  He had been married once and had a child; neither his ex-wife nor his son had spoken to him in over 15 years.  His life, he claimed, was pretty much solitary since his best friend, Steve, had been recently killed in prison.  He boasted that he and Steve used to enjoy bird watching and hiking in the mountains; my cursory inspection of the miniscule hovel proved there wasn’t anything that could possibly substantiate those as active hobbies.  When I asked about the dangers of being alone in the woods, he produced a 44 caliber handgun, saying he was not stupid, no bear or mountain lion was going to get him.  He said, “This here might not kill a bear, but it sure as hell will scare ‘em off.”  I simply smiled as if I agreed.
I rearranged the room so that there were two chairs directly in front of the old Zenith 27” console TV with its RCA VCR on top.  In the corner, I noticed several plastic milk crates full of cassettes.  I commented about the number of movies to which he replied, he didn’t get television out here, it was too expensive, but those, indicating the cache of tapes, were mostly, “You know, adult stuff.  Fuck films.”  His admission made me reconsider sitting on the soiled upholstered chair, but I had made it this far, and I figured, a new pair of jeans would not kill my budget.
I placed his now infamous video into my high speed tape-to-tape duplicator so I would have the negotiated full copy to bring back to San Francisco, and while that spun, I checked the camera angles in order to have face shots of both him and me to edit together.  Plus, the two mic sources would assure the best possible audio recording.
Charlie went to the kitchen and returned with a cold can of Natty; he didn’t offer one to me.  We began the interview talking about why he went up on the mountain alone.  He again offered the same lies about bird watching and hiking; I was not there to judge, so I allowed him to prattle his overly detailed and extensive fabrications without interruption or challenge.  
With the suspect prologue recorded, I asked if we could start the video.  He offered to cue it up to the exciting stuff, but I insisted that I needed to see the entire film.  Almost from the beginning, where there was an obvious edit, I could detect two whispering voices and an occasional shadow that could not have come from Charlie, who was holding the camera. 
I allowed the farce to continue making notes based on the blue timer readout of the VCR.  At 18 minutes 52 seconds, Charlie indicated in a voice that sounded like over-emoted fear, that this is where it happened.  The progress of the “hike” slowed considerably as if Charlie, while shooting the video was either setting something up or awaiting some off-camera cue.
The view on the tape panned around a large boulder where three creatures  jumped to their feet; two very large males, and one significantly smaller and lighter colored female.  This was the image of the supposed Sasquatches I was sent to collect.
Charlie stood and stated, “I don’t want to watch this part.”  He hobbled towards the kitchen with the probable purpose of fetching another Natural Light.
The video image shuttered like the camera was being held in unstable hands.  The motion caused the auto-focus to drift in and out without capturing a clear image of the Bigfoot creatures.  The audio, as I am sure you have seen and heard numerous times, was unblemished by the Blair Witch-type cinematography.  Charlie’s voice is heard stammering, “Oh my God.  Oh, my God!  It’s okay.  It’s okay.  We won’t hurt you.  Really, it’s okay.”
There were guttural grunts and hisses from the two larger “animals,” but the smaller female remained silent, tilting her head like a curious child.  In a very human-like fashion, she took four steps toward the camera, paused, and pointed an index finger at Charlie.  He spoke again, more calmly than I would have expected, “It’s okay; I won’t hurt you.  My name is Charlie.”
The female pointed her finger at her own chest and vocalized some sounds that many proclaim sound like, “Me - Eve - Momma.”
As if by some prearranged cue, the two large males screamed in a high-pitched coyote-like howl and ran in the direction of the camera.  Charlie and his undisclosed companion also screamed, and that is where, as you know, the video ends.
“That’s where I dropped the camera and broke it.”  Charlie was standing behind me, emptying another blue and silver can.  “I went back two days later; they must’ve fucked with it, because it was a good ten yards from where I dropped it.  I’m just glad the tape was still there.”
I shook my head in disbelief.  I smiled, “You have always claimed you were up there alone.  You weren’t.  Who was with you, Charlie?”  The question seemed to catch him off guard.  “Come on, it’s obvious, man, there were two of you there.”
Charlie’s shoulders slunk, “It was Steve.  Me and him were together, but don’t write that, okay?  I ain’t be sharing no money with his damned low-life kids.  I ain’t got nothing, nothing but this tape.  So if you don’t mind, you just say it was only me up there, okay?”
It was about then that my sensory memories kicked in and I finally identified the other odor that hung in the air.  “You had a grove out there, didn’t you?”
“What the fuck do you mean?  A grove?”
“You and Steve were growing pot out there, weren’t you?   You aren’t bird watchers; you don’t take a video camera bird watching.  You aren’t hikers either; look at you, man.  And I can smell the weed, Charlie.  That’s what you were doing, right?”
Charlie looked genuinely nervous, even scared this time.
“Look, Charlie, I’m not the cops; I don’t give a damn about the marijuana.  I am only here about the video and how you came to shoot it.  The rest can stay your dirty little secret, honest.”
Charlie sat defeatedly into his chair.  He dropped his face into his hands and whispered, “Someone was fucking with our plants.  We were going to get them on film; maybe kill ‘em.  I don’t know.  It was all Steve’s idea.”
“Was the whole Bigfoot stunt staged?”
“Hell, no!  Those fucking things scared the shit out of us.”  Charlie stood up and switched the VCR off, killing the static.  “Anyone that goes out there alone is just plain fucking nuts.” 
He sat hard again into the chair.  He appeared lost in thoughts for several minutes, and finally added, “Steve went back up there to harvest the plants.  He’s the one that got the camera.  I ain’t never going back up there.  He got caught coming back down; that’s where they busted him.  The camera was in his PBs at the jail.  I guess he listed me as the emergency contact, ‘cause they gave me all his shit after he got hisself shanked and died.  I did give his watch and money to his kids, but I ain’t never told them about the camera.”

When I got back to San Francisco, I ran another copy of the tape to keep as a souvenir.   With that done, I gathered the interview tapes and the magazine’s equipment and headed downtown to meet with my editor.  The meeting didn’t go as well as I might have expected.  He was seriously agog over the video, ranting about it being the first definitive evidence that Sasquatches exist.  I attempted to get him to listen to the “other” facts, but he wasn’t interested in Charlie’s confessions.  I argued that the truth behind the Bigfoot encounter was nothing more than a preposterous hoax perpetrated by a couple of marijuana growers to deter people from hiking near their crops.  I beseeched him that the video could injure the magazine’s reputation if we were to propound it as anything other than just another fraud.  In the end, I was politely, yet sternly, admonished that as long as I worked for The Gate, I would have no say and offer no opinion as to what the magazine would or wouldn’t do with its content; furthermore, it was his job, not mine, to decide what was truth and what was farce. 
Truth, as it turns out, whether it is broadcast as news, printed in books and magazines, preached from a pulpit, or posted on the Internet, is nothing more than an editorial decision.  No definitive paradigm exists.  To paraphrase an old saying, one man’s truth is another man’s folly.  I sadly discovered that journalism is a sham unless you are willing to accept the truth as it is interpreted by the powers that be. 
  I did agree with him about my obligations as a magazine employee.  But I was tired, I was disheartened, and I was disappointed by the realities of my chosen profession.  I quit.
Later that evening, alone in my darkened apartment, I contemplated this new and unplanned slant on my future.  My copy of the Fastiff video lay on the counter where I had left it; I decided to watch it again.  I hoped to reassure myself as to the conclusions that ended my short and quite un-illustrious journalism career.  But as the video ended, I was left as empty as I was at the beginning.  I stared, mesmerized at the static and snow of the empty tape, wishing I could find some small solace for my actions.  Life changing events are rarely fraught with joy and confidence; this was no exception. 
Depression sat heavy on my chest, and I decided to self-medicate the pain and lubricate the “I quit” words still lodged in my throat.  Pouring a straight four fingers of Kentucky Gentleman, I started towards to the TV to quiet the white noise when at 28 minutes, 51 seconds, I heard something else.
I rewound and listened, and rewound and listened, over and over until I was certain that there was something more than just blank tape noise.
For more than a week, my mind twisted in turmoil as I considered the possible consequences of this discovery.  I vacillated between going public and the destruction of the evidence.  Truth had again morphed in my conceptual mind.  If what I had heard turns out to be “true,” it could, in fact, change the world.  Now I was the editor.
I set about recruiting help.  I would need substantive and verifiable tests done by reliable and creditable authorities.  And all of this needed to be accomplished with a bank account that held little promise of a replenishing paycheck in any foreseeable future.  I cashed in every favor I ever amassed until at last, one of my professors from the University called with a possible lead.  She had an associate who was currently engaged in audio reconstruction and analysis for the government.  Apparently he and she once had something more than a casual friendship, and she thought she could entice him to study the tape without charge. 
For security purposes, I was not allowed to enter the secretive lab, but after four days, he called late at night and asked for a meeting.  The next morning at a downtown coffee shop, he presented me with a filtered version of my tape where he had segregated the subject noises from the background interference.  His linguist had agreed to analyze the sounds and had concluded that it was, indeed, some sort of vocalized communication.  To his surprise, although the source was undoubtedly animal in origin, there were syllables that appeared to be constructed in English. 
He provided a short transcript for me to compare to the sounds on the filtered tape.

Female voice:  (unintelligible) No (unintelligible) Momma
First male voice:  (unintelligible)
Second male voice:  (unintelligible)
Female voice:  Together -- Eve (unintelligible)
Second male voice:  (unintelligible)
Female voice:  No hurt (unintelligible)
First male voice:  (loud, but unintelligible)
Female voice:  No - Please (unintelligible)
Then the female voice is then heard crying and fading away from the damaged microphone.

Could this all be part of the same hoax?  Yes, sure it could.  But then why doesn’t Charlie make everyone listen to that part of the tape too?  Like I said, I’m agnostic; I don’t know what I believe, I don’t even know what I think.  My guess is that this is where Faith has to enter the picture.
I once heard it argued that George Lucas successfully suggested the existence of God by writing the prequel to the Star Wars Trilogy twenty-five years after the original movie’s premier.  The argument goes that an omnipotent God who presents Himself in Faith, and then challenges mortals to maintain that Faith in the face of free-will and cold reason, could, and in fact, would write the known geologic, paleontologic and archeologic evidence as tests of our Faith.  And therein lies the conundrum of vindication.  It was proffered that should one man trust his Faith over reason, and Faith is never vindicated, the consequences are minimal; however, should another man choose empirical evidence over Faith, and Faith is vindicated, the consequences are beyond comprehension.  Logic defies logic.
There are many who have a faith that Bigfoot exists, but their faith is not as yet provable.  Is Faith truth?  Is truth Faith?  Or are Faith and truth irreconcilable?
No one has ever found a Sasquatch body, nor has anyone captured a live specimen.  And as many as there are, every picture of the beasts is either grainy or out of focus.  Does this lack of evidence prove they do not exist?  I really don’t know; I have no truth other than Eve.  She is not much of a truth other than my aforementioned ludicrous premise and unscholarly connection of seemingly incongruous events, but there also is the Fastiff video and the noises at the end.  I keep telling myself that only a fool would believe.  This is where unvindicated Faith and undiscovered evidence must be reconciled.  I still attempt to say I am agnostic, that I don’t believe what I think, or think what I believe, but then I did hear that voice, and I felt the Spirit.
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining…


Saturday, August 2, 2014

A few thoughts on writing and immortality

            Drop a pebble into still water and the energy of displacement radiates out in concentric waves of increasing circumference and proportionately decreasing intensity.  That sounds so scientific, doesn’t it?  That image occurred to me while lying in bed with my dog pressed against my chest.  We live alone now, just “Bubba” and me, and although we have friends, relatives, business and social acquaintances, I began to wonder who might miss us when the inevitable time comes.  The ripples my life has generated in the continuum of space and time, as explicated by the waves in the gentle pool, are spreading wider and wider, and are decreasing in their crest and trough.  At some point their significance will likely diminish to the point of imperceptibility.  Will anyone remember?
            As a writer, I go through those same ebbs and flows of confidence that all writers suffer.  (Did I just use another water metaphor?)  I have stared at blinking cursors without knowing where to go; I have penned loquacious pages of mediocrity; and written more than few things that earned kudos, appreciation and publication, but I have yet to finish any work of significance. 
I do not write to boast that I am a writer, or to gain fame and celebrity.  I politely refuse the incessant invitations of circles and groups; I decline “author” interviews and requests for guest posts on other writers’ blogs.  I write because I believe I have something to say.  An audience is the end game for everyone who writes, without an audience, a writer ceases to exist.  But I don’t want to capture an audience for the sake of having them listen; I want the audience to come willingly and engage in the dialogue of my prose with the culture of society.
            I am a literary writer of practiced discipline.  I doubt that the complexity of my style will ever result in a huge splash of popularity.  (Sorry, I had to throw that water balloon in.)  But I do aspire to the dream that long after my ripples have faded, that a student will pick up a piece of my work and analyze its craftsmanship of the words on the paper and the words beneath.
            I have loved and lost, and I’ve been lost in love.  I have built and run successful businesses and failed at one or two.  I’ve been rich a couple of times and broke a couple of more.  I’ve taught young malleable minds and learned from them, too.  I have even pulled a drowning child from a pool as her inattentive parents busied themselves with a rung on an inconsequential corporate ladder.  With the passing of time, none of these things will be remembered for they are insignificant to society at large.
            It is reported that Herman Melville’s Moby Dick did not achieve acclaim until nearly 50 years after his death.  Many writers I know would consider that a failure; I would view that as an ultimate success.  His masterful discourse on the hypocrisy of adopting Christendom not out of Faith, but to achieve social stature, trumpeting the attributes while ignoring the tenets for personal gain, juxtaposed against the genuine reverence and adherence to belief of the pagan Queequeg is as an important a lesson today was it was in 1851.  Unfortunately, society has de-evolved to the point where reading (including the video “reads” of television and cinema) has become mere escapism instead of a tool of acculturation.  I fear that the vast majority of students studying the classics today probably view Moby Dick as a tedious story of whaling and miss the significance of its lessons.  (Yes, I know that Moby Dick is a water allusion, must be the theme of the day.)
            I doubt I will ever write that kind of masterpiece, as long as I write something significant enough to stand the test of time.  In the 1979 Soviet movie, Stalker, Anatoliy Solonitsyn plays a writer who, when the characters arrive at the mythical room that grants wishes, posits that, “Books are a writer’s immortality.”

            I don’t plan to live forever, but I would like to achieve a little immortality before my ripples fade and disappear.