Thursday, November 22, 2012

Underwater Twlight Zone Dream

Imagine if you will...a dream so vivid, so realistic, so consistent in its narrative logic, that it plays exactly like a "Twilight Zone" episode or a "weird mystery" comic book story by Jack Kirby.

Picture if you will a large nylon bubble. This bubble has clear plastic windows and is opened by a large zippered doorway. Within this bubble are three explorers, a male scientist getting up in his years but still with plenty of vigor, the inventor of this bubble; His daughter, a young and beautiful scientist who believes in her father's dream of exploring the mysteries of the ocean depths, and a third person, the operator of the bubble, who's details are obscure but unimportant. As the dreamer of this dream, you are also in this bubble, a fascinated observe of this simple yet cleverly-conceived device which will allow you and your companions to explore a phenomena that has been detected on the floor of this particular body of water upon which  you are now floating.

You pull down the plastic central zipper of the door, marveling at the simplicity of its seal, and hoping that it will keep the water out. The order is given to descend, and you see the support staff standing on the platform looking at you with concern. After a moment, you realize that the zipper is not completely closed, but the air pressure is keeping the water from leaking in the bubble. You pull the zipper closed the remaining two inches and lock it in place. The final locking of it causes it to visibly disappear into the fabric securing the air-tight seal. The descent continues, everything working perfectly, and he scientist's daughter kisses him n the cheek.

You reach the bottom of the water.  It is not too far down from the surface that you could not swim to the top if you had to, but far enough that the surface is out of sight and light has a hard time reaching you. you look out the windows and see a broad, flat plain. There is not much life under here, it is an eerie desplate landscape. But there has been some phenomena here that requires exploration.

You put on a breathing apparatus and so does the scientist. and step out of the bubble into the water. You go in one direction and he goes another. The pressures are not so great that a diving suit is needed, so you are wearing a simple breathing mask. As you go further from the bubble, a fast moving bright thing rushes past you, like a car on the highway. In your radio earpiece you hear the scientist's daughter calling frantically for him to come back. You start to look for him to no avail. The air in the breathing aparatus will last a long time, but you worry that if you don't find him you may have to surface without him, and then he may be lost forever.

The bubble reaches it underwater time limit, however, and the scientist has not been found. Once on the surface his daughter is frantic. We must go back down, she cries. He is down there and we must find him!

The time ticks by as the wheels of procedure slowly turn to enable the bubble to go back down. After an agonizing wait in which visions of the scientist's potential fate play before your eyes, you return to the bubble to drop to the same location.

Perhaps there was an air pocket underwater and the scientist was able to survive in that? Perhaps there was an underwater civilization, and a beautiful mermaid who had lured him away? He was a widower, after all, this scientist, and a constant seeker of mysteries, never able to resist one in front of his face. Was this bubble he invented not a product of his obsession with a mysterious underwater phenomenon?

You reach the bottom of the water again and you see a glowing underwater creature, on one of whom the pattern of the scales, the fins, the gills on its belly look exactly like the face of a beautiful human woman. It is this creature that the scientist had followed out of the bubble, and a school of these creatures that now swim around his lifeless body, entangling it with underwater plants. The scientists daughter bursts into teas, for she has learned that the human mind will see what it wants to see in the patterns of nature and that you should always look twice at what is found within...The Twilight Zone.

(OK, in my dream there was no narrator, but the telling of the story was just begging for it)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricane Sandy, Superman, Christos, and Return to Pennsic

"You are wearing a Superman shirt. You've gotta be strong, OK?"

That little statement by an on-site journalist made me cry.

The "biggest storm ever to hit New York" has devastated the region. Millions of people are without power in NY, NJ, and Connecticut. Over a hundred homes have burned down in Breezy Point, Queens, more elsewhere. Floodwaters have washed houses completely away. Piles of boats are resting in parking lots and front lawns. Lower Manhattan, with its residents, businesses, subways, etc, is completely shut down. Coney Island rides have been drowned. The Atlantic City Boardwalk is in pieces. Thousands and thousands of planes, trains, and busses have been cancelled and re-routed. Subway and commuter tunnels have been flooded. Scores of people have died. People are angrily crying for help in devastated neighborhoods. Lines of cars are waiting for gas like the 1970's.

And in other news, a friend of mine, who had become an exceptionally good friend of my girlfriend (in a good way) passed away this morning, a victim of lung cancer.

I got lucky several ways over. I was supposed to be coming home from Springfield, Illinois when the storm hit. After several means of coming home got cancelled, the kindness and generosity of my friends got me home about the same time I would have gotten home anyway. Neither my house nor my girlfriend's house were in any danger. Any trees that fell or flooding that occurred or power outages avoided us. My job is shut down, presumably until power comes back on, but I am OK. NYC is big enough that apart from the lack of gasoline, there are very large areas almost completely untouched by the storm, and I am currently in one of them.

So I have been sitting here, walking the dog, working on my "Return to Pennsic" video project, as the nonstop coverage of the catastrophe continues to play on almost every TV channel (we don't have cable; by choice, not by the storm).

Much like 9-11 and Katrina, I have been watching the damage with a detached fascination, wondering if it shows character failing. Don't bother helping me analyze this, there are people in much greater need of help than I. I suppose I could take the bus or walk home, grab my bicycle and pedal to a devastated neighborhood and start helping fetch and cary, dig people out and give moral support. But of course I would just get in the way, hurt myself, become another victim, or simply be prevented from getting to the affected area by police roadblocks and such. And I have a paycheck theoretically sitting in my mailbox waiting to be picked up and deposited so I can pay my rent and certain bills and debts.

But then I see the clip from CBS Morning News of an on-the-scene reporter talking to a small boy with a mother holding the ready-to-eat meal.

"Are you cold?"


"Are you tired?"


(awkward silence)

"You are wearing a Superman shirt, so you've gotta be strong, OK?"

The boy, in tears, nods silently.

That hits me. As a life-long fan and student of comic books and superheroes, Superman is more than a colorful figure on a page, he is a symbol. He represents the will to do what is right and the strength to back it up. To call forth this icon is a powerful mojo to me.

Then I change the channel and see Aerosmith perfuming in Rockefeller Center on the Today Show.

I know Steve Tyler and Steve Perry were on Letterman last night promoting their new album (Letterman is looking old these days, BTW), so they might just be doing this as a publicity stunt, but somehow it means more than that. Aerosmith is a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band. They can fill a football stadium with fans, even if they only limit ticket sales to women. So being on the Today Show to perform in front of a few hundred people in Rockefeller Center, even with the national TV audience, is more than just an act of publicity for them, especially today.

Entertainments have long been used to raise morale and lift spirits after catastrophes. For a big name entertainer to perform today, in the middle of Manhattan, on national TV, is a big deal. Entertainers are not rescuers, first responders, firefighters, doctors. What they do is create and perform in order to affect people's moods and feelings. To do so now shows that they care about this city.

To see them on TV, singing and playing their hearts out, right after that touchingly tragic scene with the boy, got to me.

So now what do I do?

I am an artist, an entertainer, but I have let that work slip for a while. Last year I shot a documentary at the Pennsic War, and intended to have it done by Christmas. Technical issues, money issues, a SOB who still owes me about $1500 for work I did for him, another SOB who won't send me back my cell phone after I accidentally left it in his home after entertaining his son on his birthday, jobs that I have taken to pay bills, training and competing for the Battle of the Nations, all this have I let get in the way of finishing the project. And now there are other things I want to do that I have said I won't do until I finish this project. Yet the project is still undone.

There are people who have contributed money to the project. There are people whose time I have taken working on the project. My girlfriend helped me tremendously, both practically and financially because she believed in me and the project. "Simply the Best" G.A. West came to Pennsic, something he never throughout he would do in his life, so that he could be involved in this project.

There are people who have dedicated their lives to helping people, protecting them, serving them, saving them. They do a good job at it.

There are also people who have died whose lives we are no longer able to touch. After writing this essay I read the posts on my friend's FaceBook wall from his friends saying goodbye and have been crying my eyes out.

The best we can do to honor their duty and sacrifice and loss is to be the best people we can be and accomplish things that only humans can do, and for me that is to create things that lift people's feelings and help them grow in a positive way. I believe that this video project is one of these things.

This video project is a year overdue and I finally have the time to finish this thing, which I have been working on for so long and have promised so many people, and the best thing I think I can do is finish this and get on with my life.

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