It’s a dangerous land

17 12 2002

The TV is trying to tell me…something. I’m sitting here, discount viagra order the countdown for departure to the new world has begun, buy cialis and for some reason the TV has taken it upon itself to let me know all about the dangerous territory I’m heading for. If I am to believe everything that I see on the tube—which of course I do since it is the supreme educator of educators—this is what I know.

According to the National Geographic channel, if I want to get eaten by a bear, I need to pack my rucksack for, well, Montana or some such place. Bear county. To fit in with other Americans in this instance, I must wear inadequate clothing for a hike, leave food scattered around my campsite, get way too close with my Nikon, then stupidly run like the clappers screaming and such when the lumbering beast decides I look pretty damn tasty. I can do that. I can make myself look pretty tasty.

The Discovery Channel informs me, in its own way, that if I want to roll the dice with the Richter scale I should go to LA. Yes, I should go to this City of Angels, this ‘Hollywood’ I’ve heard so much about, and rent an apartment in a building with what is known as ’soft foundations’. Then, should my number come up, I might get crushed in my sleep when the whole lot pancakes down on me in The Big One. Ah, I didn’t want to go there anyway.

Still on Discovery, it seems that if I’m the kind of person who enjoys flying through the air without purchasing an airline ticket, I might care to park my trusty trailer home in Tornado Alley. That’s about 10 states crossed off my ‘Places to live and prosper’ list. I don’t do ‘gusty’ with anything that resembles aplomb anyway.

Lahars. Now they’re a sight to see. Pyroclastic clouds are a marvel too. I get out the atlas. Find exactly where Mount St. Helens is. Hmmm, think it’s time to change the channel.

Now it seems that if I want to see crime in its natural state, I should go… anywhere in the US, basically. Huh! COPS is a silly show anyway. And that Police Wildest Car Chases. I think I’ll just turn that one off.

I switch over to Animal Planet and watch this weird thing about an attack squirrel. I can’t remember where in America this attack squirrel was, but it’s a funny thing to see on TV. They reenact the series of attacks—this was front-page news after all. One woman describes the beast as having an ‘evil’ gaze. They show the hero policeman stalking the critter in a dramatic retelling of the final ‘hit’. He brings down this terror from the trees with a single shot from an air rifle. Sure, as an animal lover, he feels bad about it, but also exceedingly proud that he has made the community safe again.

This is the kind of story for which the saying ‘only in America’ was coined.

One of the saddest things I see, apart from my own reflection in the TV as I watch Oprah, is the story about the Bristlecone Pine and this poor guy who accidentally commits a rather horrific act of scientific terrorism. The story itself doesn’t scare me, nor does it make Nevada sound like a dangerous place to live; it just makes me very, very sad. Got me right in the aortic valve with its poignant tragedy.

And just ’cause I know you’re dying to hear about it, it goes a little sumthin’ like this…

Once upon a time, a student was reading a rather lovely story in National Geographic magazine about Bristlecone Pines. About how lovely and old they are, like mouldy old, but without the mould. They’re pretty impressive gnarly looking things that look dead but are still alive. Some are over 4,000 years old!

Anyway, this article made the student go all ga-ga excited. So one day, he sets out on a little expedition with some other science types to study the Bristlecone Pines.

They head out to the wilderness, find a bunch of ‘em, and then start taking core samples to see how old they are. The coring tool breaks, so they ask for permission to cut down a tree. Surprisingly, the forest dudes in charge of such matters agree. So, they cut a tree at a convenient height and get a lovely cross section. The student guy counts the rings.

I think I can imagine what it felt like—the precise moment he knew. The moment that he just knew. That awful moment. The prickling feeling that must have flooded his forehead. The lump in the throat. That sinking, cement weight of guilt when you know, you just know you’ve done something catastrophically, horribly wrong that CAN NEVER BE REVERSED. And I’m not talking about those minor lies and misdemeanors that mean nothing in the great, grand scheme of things; I’m talking history-altering things that mark you for life.

He counts the rings. Again. Four thousand, eight hundred and forty-four rings. Hmm. It appears he’s actually just killed the oldest living thing on earth, a tree fondly known as Prometheus. Well, the oldest thing they know of anyway. Later, it turns out that Prometheus was actually 4950 years old, give or take a ring or two. Wouldn’t that just make you feel better?

The bit in the story that really gets me is where that cross section ended up. There’s this scene at the end. People in a Vegas casino, flinging nickels down the gullets of slot machines. The camera pans across, past the blinking eyesores, through the blaring noise. Then there it is.

Sitting quietly behind some plexiglass in the foyer. The final indignity. Something people barely glance at. You can’t play it. It doesn’t spit money. But they have marked some historical moments at various rings. So, I guess there’s always that.

I feel bad for the tree. I’m embarrassed for the guy. Will the geeks ever forgive him?

Speaking of Vegas, and to end this dribble, should I head straight there to triple my nest egg? Turn the seed money into something more substantial? All opinions welcome.

Toodle-Noo. Here endeth the missive.


PS: Currently reading the People’s History of the United States. Boy, now that’s a bloody read.

©Janeen McCrae 2002



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