Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Light Of The Moon

When the moon rises, it clings to the horizon for a few minutes, the horizontal clouds glowing with a pregnant light, giving off cold rays, blue, white, rouge, and the shape of the moon, like the yolk of a just-cracked egg, bleeds out beyond those clouds, slowly coming together as it rises, becoming more circular, and, if a day or two beyond fullness, a tiny chip off the corner may be visible, a chip which causes you to doubt its roundness, its simplicity, and replaces the childlike circle with a more complicated and real planet - a planet that exists not by itself, but in a community of planets, each receiving light, each casting shadow, light that may never reach another planet's surface, though it may travel for more years than the earth has existed, and shadow, complementing the light, which, ironically, does tend to disappear as long as the diameter of the casting object is less than the light source, for the annulus of a perfect eclipse grows with the distance from the light source until the obscuring object is subsumed in the penumbra of the light emanating source, which could be a star, a glowing gas cloud, a comet, an exploding or imploding mass, or cold light, invisible to human eyes but not to our sensitive electronic senses - shadows of all different sizes cast not only by the Earth, the Moon itself, countless rocks and ice clouds and the mountains of the moon themselves, their shadows lengthening in a month-long cycle, and so more slowly lengthening, but, as the crags reach high of the flat maria, the shadows stand distinctly defined in the airless world, blurred only by our remoteness and our atmosphere, and the craters like frozen circular waves of water, with a peak in the center, intersect each other, which we can see, so many miles distant, as patterns of rings, not nice, evenly shaped patterns, but splattered patterns such as one sees in the first few minutes of rain on a sidewalk or a birdbath, the craters, which , if measured precisely, tell of basoliths below the surface of the moon, remnants of the original meteors which struck the still liquid mass, absorbed in the crust, but not deeply, rather, they too, flowing into the crust in the way the moon itself will flow into the horizon after it completes its transit, first caressing the edge of light with its limbs, bending in the refractive air and spreading again behind the clouds of dawn, one body retiring and ceding its reign in an orderly fashion, to the other, which itself is the sole source of the inert sphere's luminosity, pale, a gray that seems blue, visible on a cold night, where you can read about the color of the moon by its very light, in a line that goes from the center of the sun, past the earth, to the moon, through the atmosphere and down to the page, where the ray makes its way to your eye, sensitive to such subtle light and deducing the similarly subtle shadow.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Variety is the spice of lunch

There was so much food there now, and , knowing much more was coming, Evan didn't know where to begin.
Fortunately, the setting of the table helped a lot., for all the flatware was arranged in such a matter as to clue him in to which item should be eaten first.
A small pincer like device - I see - that can be used for plucking the flesh of this ... claw?
And the two thin silver chopsticks - they must be for picking up those salmon eggs - or whatever roe they actually are.
A hammer and set of chisels with successively fine points?
At the top of the plate was a small pair of reading glasses, which he put on and , sure enough, he could see that some of the food was so tiny he might have missed it. It looked like tiny berries, but they may have been popped blowflies for all he knew.
Salt and pepper were not on the table - instead six bottles with differing colored powders and liquids were placed nearby, and Evan noticed that there was a different set at the next table. The bright green - was that some kind of ground pepper or was it a seaweed? The deep red - paprika? - or the brown - ox blood? In any case, each combination looked to make for an unusual flavor!
The air itself was going through courses, as the smell went from cardamom to sesame, to a hickory smoke and - yes - even tobacco.
The napkins had been laid in a series , one per course, and each in a different fabric and color. A set of tiny cups made of different metals held aromatic liquids, some to drink, some to dip food in, some just to be there to neutralize the one it was placed in back of.

With a ringing of the dinner bell, our host helped ease the proceedings with a short introduction to the meal.

"As you may well recall, I returned last month from a "round the world trip" that took me five years and three months to complete, and I crossed the globe many times and went to all continents to find the rarest and most exotic foods.
Never has a single meal had all its ingredients taken all fresh within 12 hours - from the five continents, and many other places beside."

"We start as the Blue whales do, with a bowl of plankton, chilled with a light sea salt. We end as the bats do, with freshly
caught mosquitos from our own special bug zappers. And in the course of tonight's repast, we taste the outsides - hair, feathers, skins and leaves - and work our way to the bones and entrails, the eggs and sperm, the contents of a ruminants four stomachs and I even say, the four stages of a frog's metamorphosis. Liquid, solid and gaseous delights are to be presented in a gustatory poem of the senses. You may not be able to partake of all these exotica - the cryptozoans from Antarctica's Dry Valleys may prove too difficult to scrap off of the ventiformed rocks they are concealed in, and the interiors of a sea urchin's spines may not prove worthy of the effort to avoid the poison - yet I am sure that for each of you, at least one of these courses will prove a revelation and a reorientation of your idea of what is fit to eat. Feel free to pass on your untested food to a neighbor, who may better enjoy it."

"There is no better way to feel connected with the earth than to partake of it, as it is done not only by far-flung tribes of men, but by the animals they live with and the many forms of life which man takes no account of. "

While this was going on, a pressurized tank was being wheeled in, with a spouting black smoker and, surrounding this simulated hydrothermal vent, were teams of tall wormlike creatures and blind shrimp. How are we expected to eat animals that do not share our basic chemistry, that do not even use sunlight as an energy source? This is insane!

The plankton that started us off was given in whale-sized proportion. Many of the meats seemed purposely uncooked,
waiting for us to either eat it raw or to don the fireproof gloves and thrust it into the earth ovens which had been built in the center of the room. In fact, in the dim light, I could now see that some rabbits and voles were loose in the room, and I suppose we were expected to catch and kill them ourselves, explaining the tiny traps and nooses that also lay in our settings.

Over by the far wall were pens of brooding fowl, some of them only slightly smaller than an albatross. From these birds issued a stream of eggs, and also the same was provided by a simulated beach where loggerhead sea turtles had lain their eggs.
Yes, I even could make out a gravid platypus.

It was going to be a long, challenging night, but a free meal is a hard thing to pass up.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Elevator

I heard the doors move before I walked in. That's because I was still facing the hallway, where a torn photocopied sign was telling participants where the Palomar Room would be for a meeting. I stepped in, sideways, and turned to the control panel.
"There's no 'DOWN' button," I said to myself.
"Right. There IS no 'DOWN' button," I heard from the speaker of the elevator.
"Well, how do you get down, then?" I asked.
"You have to know what floor you came from, first. Then push that button twice. It's a security feature."
"How does this work again?"
"What floor did you get in on?" he asked, impatiently.
"I don't know - fifteenth?"
"So, press the fifteen twice."
I did.
The elevator ascended.
"Looks like you didn't get in on the fifteeth floor. But it's going there now, and you can get off and try again."
I was annoyed. Also, the elevator smelled like old coffee.
The bell rang and the doors opened again.
I stepped out briefly, hit the call button again, and the doors reopened.
I stepped in once more and confidently tapped the fifteen button twice.
The doors closed and the elevator descended a few floors.
It stopped, and two people got on, both talking in cell phones, in a strange disconnected dialogue.
My phone rang.
It was the elevator observer.
"Hi, it's me .. don't let those kids get off the elevator."
"You mean these two women?"
"Yes. Don't let them off. You get off instead. And don't let them know I called."
"How am I going to do that?"
"Create a diversion."
"Hmm."
"I know you'll think of something. Fifteen is where Creative has its offices."
I shut off the phone. The elevator was slowing. I threw the phone suddenly as the left woman's feet, causing a loud clang.
The door opened and I stepped out. The doors closed. The floor indicator lights over the door now showed the elevator ascending
rapidly. But from the air being sucked into the door gap, I knew that the elevator was in fact descending to the sub-sub basement.

Cautiously, I called for the elevator. It didn't respond.

Walking over to a phone booth, I dialed my phone's number. It was busy. I dialed the phone's answering machine.
There was one new message, from the elevator operator. He promised I could get a new phone soon.

As I was deleting it, another message had come in. The was from one of the women.

"I don't know who you are, but they are taking us out the Mall exit. Gotta go."

I passed through the metal detector and out into the lobby. I pushed aside the glass doors and walked over to the side of the building, about 50 feet.
A white van was parked by a gray door, idling. The two women walked out, strolling and calm. They were unaccompanied.
One of them opened the van's passenger door. The other crossed in back of the van to the driver's side.
The gray door opened again, and the two women strolled out again. This time more rapidly. Again, they split up and went to opposite doors of the van.
Yet again, the grey door opened and the same two women got out. The one on the left was holding my phone. I ran toward her and managed to grab it back.
As I did, I felt an electric tingle in my fingers. They stopped walking, but didn't look at me. Then they continued to the van.
The phone had a text message posted on it:
GO THOUGH THE DOOR.
The gray door was slightly ajar and I could just get my fingers in near the latch and I pulled the door open. I cold, faintly rubbery smelling breeze passed me.
The rear of the door had a sign:
"WARNING. THIS DOOR IS ALARMED!"
Yet I could hear no alarm. Maybe I wasn't supposed to hear the alarm.
The phone had a new message:
"NO, I MEANT THE VAN DOOR!"
I pressed on the gray door's openng bar. Instantly a loud whooping noise sounded. I jumped. I ran out of the door toward the idling van. As I did, I had the funniest feeling of déjà vu. I felt my hand on the door bar again, but this time there was no alarm.
I ran toward the van again and jumped in on the passenger side.
"Going Down?"
Somehow, I found myself back in the hall. The copied paper was still on the wall, with the same tear in it.

Although it was hard to believe, I rang for the elevator again, this time noting that I was not on the fifteenth floor, but on 12A.

In the elevator, I pushed 12A twice, and exited the building without incident.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Blankly

Widowed as a teen, then newly pregnant,
Due to a hurricane that crushed her uncle's car
and her new husband, who was underneath the fender.
Holding the jack, he'd tried to fix the tire.

And later, Minna, stunned and wrapped in blankets
the room sound blurred in the high school's gymnasium,
swore at the gods who still howled at the clapboards.

"I'll name him after Dan. He'll reincarnate."
But when the time came, she had borne a girl.
And not an easy birth by any measure.
A breech birth, with the cord wrapped round her neck.
Daniela she was called. She's a survivor.

All three of Minna's sisters had their own,
but her big brother came to town to help.

All through that autumn, winter, spring
She tried to find a life with her new baby,
who cried and kicked when Minna tried to sleep.
Breast feeding didn't work for her, and so
she needed formula, and wouldn't take it cold.
Minna spent hours loading and unloading
the diapers and the bibs. All food was ground
when she at last took solids. Cauliflower,
And cream of wheat were mostly what she ate,
and both of them were tasteless foods to Minna.

She wondered if she really was her child,
although she had to be. She sometimes doubted
if in that horrid night she had been swapped
and she was wandering somewhere by the stream,
while this ghost woman had her changeling child.

Daniela liked to pull things off the shelf.
She learned to walk by following the cat.
She didn't mind if all her toys were broken.
She grew to look for love, so hard to find
in her own mother. But she grew to love
the garden. Plants and vegetables grew
with her and she would play or watch the ants
while underneath the bean vines where the leaves
and fragrant blossoms summoned bees and flies.
And she would sleep there underneath them, tanned
and played out while her mother weeded.

When she was two, she was a ruddy girl.
She talked and asked her mother endless queries.
Once, when she had a fever, she cried out
"I see my daddy! See him?" Minna looked.
And putting down her head, near Daniela's,
A streak of light reflected in the window.