“Is that a road, or a trail?”
“Ah, we’ll see,” says the Jeep driver, Moe. He shifts the gear into four-wheel drive and sets off down a trench. The car is sideways now. The brush from the trees is rubbing both sides of the car. I quickly move my face from the window before getting accosted by bristles. The music blasts for no one but us and nature. It is unclear exactly where we are; it’s somewhere in the Rocky Mountains about two hours from Colorado Springs. The GPS stopped working an hour ago. Moe consults the compass instead that is pinned to his gear module.
The JEEP seems to be handling this off-road challenge just fine. I know to worry if Moe furrows his brow for longer than ten seconds. The furrowed brow means he is figuring it out; longer than that, and we might be in some trouble.
The reason we are driving through the brush at this current moment is because we are looking for a spectacular view. The only way to find one of the many in these mountains is to one, hike; or two, get off the main roads and find it for yourself. The clouds are beginning to condense, making the cheery green mountains turn to black darkness signaling that nightfall is drastically approaching. Still, the mission is set, and the JEEP crawls on. All along the way now are pull-offs for camping. They are clear by the little patch of dirt and rock rings signaling a campfire was once here. All these spots are densely covered beneath the trees, and they may be nice for some; but as I said previously, our mission is a site with a view.
The sun drops fast in the mountains, and the dirt road seems to condense before my eyes. The trees press in closer still. After an unidentifiable amount of time, some light shines through the darkness. Moe jerks the car violently towards it. This road trundles on to… what? A dead-end or a victorious view? Are we going to be able to turn around? These are the questions crashing through my brain as the car rocks back and forth, carrying us forward to...an opening. The trees disperse to reveal a drop-off and a view right in front of Pike’s Peak. Front and center, surrounded by breathtaking peaks and ridges. A small toy car amidst giants.
“Yup, this is the spot,” Moe says decisively. He rolls the car into an opportune location to see the 360-degree amazing view.
Out there, exposed, and precariously balanced atop our peak, we stand and take it all in. But there is no time for a reprieve. The sun is a ticking clock, and it is quickly setting. We set out to collect firewood. It had clearly rained here earlier because all the wood we find is soaking wet. “Finally,” I think to myself, “something I can contribute to the trip.”
I have experience lighting fires with wet wood and the only advice I can give anyone in this predicament is PATIENCE.
There is always a false start, you get the fire going, it’s burning all chipper...and then, it nearly goes out. This is because your first burn becomes your coals. It is important to not let it go out. The next surprising fact about making a fire for beginners is it needs a lot of air to keep going. This is why it usually goes out, people assume it needs more fuel to burn. No, it needs to breathe. You must tire yourself out fanning those flames into existence. You must not quit or you will have to start all over again. No matter how many times I make a fire, it never fails to surprise and frustrate me. With our combined effort, however, we got it started with the soaked wood. Sitting there, drained but rather pleased with ourselves, we smoked and watched the flames dance in the night. This is RAMPART RANGE.
It’s easy to naturally rise with the sun when you are camping. So, at a time way earlier than I would dream possible for my lazy soul, I woke up with the sun peaking over the ridge-line of the mountains. The Bialetti hissed out the morning coffee, then we set out for Devil’s Point. According to Alltrails.com, it was originally used as a lookout tower for forest fires. It is a hike that takes you into the sky, you can see 100 miles in every direction. Why it is called Devil’s Point is beyond me. It made me want to go even more because of the dichotomy of the ominous title paired with a place of beauty. The hike up felt like a journey, challenging at points and scenic in others. It winds and wraps and you wonder if you are ever going to get to your destination. There were strong winds during our climb and the ominous promise of rain that I was beginning to expect every afternoon in a Colorado summer. Finally, the winded breathing of two heavy smokers settled, we reached the top of a steep staircase that leads to a lookout cottage in the sky. Chipmunks darted along the rocks as we breathed in the high altitude and looked out at the world and its vastness. Mountain, rolling hills and clouds floating lower than we stood in the sky surrounded us. I imagined what it must feel like to be a fire patrol, alone in this massive expanse. It felt both overwhelming and beautiful beyond belief. After a few harsh raindrops hit my cheek, I knew it was time to descend. Cold mountain rain with no coverage on a rocky peak? No thanks. We started back down the trails, telling people along the way not to quit, that the view was worth it at the top. Hoping secretly that they would get there before a thunderstorm.
Moe and I were back in the JEEP and his phone was out, surveying the maps of the tiny roads we were foraging through in these colossal mountains. This time, as Moe shifted gears and we sped off, I don’t think he had a destination in mind. He was simply driving, hoping something would inspire him to jerk the wheel onto another weaving terrain. The trails snaked through the gashes that created their existence. Being in the mountains, you start to forget that there is anything else in the world that exists outside of them. They are so formidable and you can go on driving for days and days without a break in the ridge-line. The rest of the world feels like a myth; the mountains, your calling. I’m sure it got irritating, me gasping every once in a while because of a beautiful cliff-side, or rock defying gravity touching the clouds, but every new mile there was a new visually breathtaking wonder. Without a goal as to where to camp but no desire to return to reality, Moe stopped into a small lodge-like diner. These places you are happy to find, and you wonder how they got there, they are so far removed from civilization. But you are happy to have found them and very happy that they are there. We had some burritos and bought a pack of beer for the next campsite that we did not know yet. Taking a random turn after the third attempt to follow a trail on Google maps and it turned out to be a private or gated off road in reality. I could see Moe’s irritation. So when he turned off to look at a Park Map I knew we would need to find something promising, or else turn back. And we NEVER turned back, that was the rule.
“I don’t like going back or turning around. We only go forward,” Moe said.
A sound principle I like to live by in life, so why not in adventuring tactics too? As I stood in front of the map, an old limping man in a park ranger hat approached me. “I have some maps inside too if you need them,” he spoke.
“Sure that would be nice,” I said.
“Where ya’all heading?” he asked.
“Just trying to find a good place to camp for the night.”
The park ranger gave us some verbal descriptions of nearby roads to take up into the park to find campsites. It is always obscure, these types of directions, but luckily, there were not many roads to choose from. So when the Park Ranger says, make a left at the blue mailbox, and there is only one blue mailbox for the next 20 miles, you are pretty safe in making the right turn off.
Tiredly, we pulled off into a campsite that overlooked forest of black charred trees and expansive valleys.
“Be careful, there is a moose and her baby around. There have also been some bear sightings.”
Torn between wanting to see these amazing animals and wanting to give them their space, I prepared the Bialetti, and we had ourselves an afternoon coffee before pressing on. This was not the spot, there were more sites up the road.
As we drove a lightning bolt hit the mountains in front of us. It was sharp, clear and uncomfortably close. We were in the valley, surrounded by the mountains. We were sitting ducks, and the lighting was all around us. Moe parked the JEEP by a Park Sign and we waited, hoping for the storm to pass and not strike the car. The rain was torrential, there was no way to see a thing except for the lightning when it appeared to take over the skies. We waited for what felt like a long time. Eventually, the weather began to let up. Moe turned on the ignition and drove the JEEP through the mud up to the high point on the range. When he parked and got out of the JEEP there was the clearest, most vibrant rainbow I have ever seen. And there were two of them besides one another. They touched down, stretching to the Earth right before us. My childhood training asked, “Where’s the pot of gold?” It was a joke, but the answer could not have been more obvious: it was the moment of beauty that was surrounding us. The eeriness of a dull gray sky after a storm, the bright colors of a rainbow, and a desert sparkling from the wetness. Wet wood, time to start a fire. We were pros at this point, and we got it started easily despite the wet woods and high winds. We sat around that blazing fire and drank those beers, revealing in our unexpected day.
This is PIKES PEAK NATIONAL FOREST.
The last day of our off-roading journey was a case of not wanting to leave. Moe said there were some old train tunnels through the mountains we could go and find. This entire trip I was enjoying not being in the driver’s seat. So I said, “Let’s go!” and away we roared. We came upon a tunnel that only fit one car at a time and had very limited visibility. Quickly, Moe drove his JEEP into the tunnel and jumped out. This is GOLD CAMP RD.
“Quick, take my picture!” He threw me his phone and jumped onto the hood of the car. What a maniac. But these things are commonplace when there is never anyone around. It’s a test of fate because usually without fail that is the one time someone comes bumbling along. But we were lucky, the photo-shoot was rushed yet successful. On we go, without a break in stride. Now we are farther into the mountain, and the paths no longer match what is being shown on the map. They have grown in, the forest has taken the land back, our roads do not exist. We keep on going, with the intention of seeing where it will come out. But the worry now is, will we run out of gas?
This road was supposed to come out on the other side of the mountain. Meaning there would be a town we could refuel in. Now, however, there was nothing but mountains before us, and no sign there would be a town...anywhere. We continued on trepidatiously, Moe getting very quiet, on a quarter tank of gas. I knew better than to speak at this point. I could feel the tension in the car. What was the right decision? Keep on and run out of gas, or turn around while we still had the chance? I could see Moe grappling with this choice as we inched forward on the slick muddy roads.
Then we hit a fork in the road. Glancing at the map, we recognized none of the numbers on the signs. Truly and definitely lost. I thought that there would be more contemplating but abruptly, Moe turned us back the way we came without ceremony. You have to know when you are beat. Moe took the defeat with humility. It didn’t seem to phase him. Instead, he was intent on getting to the closest gas station. Out of the mountains and crashing back onto a colorless highway filled with cars I felt like I had literally just crash-landed from outer space. The majesty was gone like a spell being lifted. And the JEEP, a crucial character to this plot, seamlessly immersed itself into the traffic. Speeding us to a Chevron like a hungry lion. The trip was over, and we were back to rushing to the hostel where we worked.
Where no doubt some drama was playing out, where something needed to be cleaned, the car would need to be unpacked, there was always something new to do. But the serenity of nature and those awe-inspiring mountains remained in my mind like a slow melodious hummmm that made all the noise and chatter of the real world dialed down. I was thinking of the humm of the motor and it climbing into the peaks and ridges that I could now look upon like a distant dream. They were visible from every spot in Colorado Springs, and now I knew what it meant to be in them. Lost and vulnerable in them. They were transporting when near and from afar. A constant reminder of the wild as we drove down the highway tired and in need of sleep. We were both already talking about how we needed a shower and a home-cooked meal. When we pulled in, our co-workers asked us how it was. We didn’t say much, “Amazing, incredible, breathtaking;” the usual adjectives that describe beauty but fail to capture it. I think when they saw how covered in mud and dirt the car, our belongings and we ourselves were, they understood that we had just returned from a place of the wild.
“That was fun,” I said lamely to Moe.
“Yeah,” he agreed. “We should go again sometime.”
August 31st, 2019
It’s Labor Day in Colorado Springs. That means if you look up into the air at any point during the weekend, you may spot Colorful Hot Air Balloons speckling the otherwise light blue sky.
It’s dawn, the sun is slowly creeping over the horizon and the balloon I’m going up on is called ‘First Light.’ Right now it is stretched out on the ground getting ready to be inflated. A gigantic fan is positioned by the basket. A tough little lady, the co-pilot named Neda is standing on the basket. She yells out, “Okay, roll me over!” The crew and volunteers jump to at her command. They start the fan, and the balloon begins to rise into a billowing mass of fabric that are the same colors as the sunrise. Feeling the material I am reminded of the parachutes we used to play with in elementary school gym class. I am not reassured by the thought that this fabric filled with air and flame is going to hold us up.
Neal Smith, our pilot, is also an engineer and an Air Force Man, so I am at least re-assured by his understanding of physics, knowing it will keep us afloat.
“This is the oldest form of flying,” he explains. It was created by the French in 1783, and explains how the balloon is called an envelope. (they owned a paper company) A paper company with dreams of flight. There is a ceremony at the end of each passengers first flight that reeks of French. But I’ll get to that later, right now I am climbing into a basket, getting ready to float over the Earth.
As we rise, its slow and there is a silence from the ground as the people watch in awe, our gradual ascent. They begin to wave, and I wave back, feeling the dreamy quality of the Wizard of Oz has become my life.
We rise higher and the sunrise lightens against the dark mountains. THe world has become colors and lines. I briefly glance down over the basket. It feels absurd to be standing this high up. Gliding the breeze without wings. I can’t help but laugh.
“See that dog down there?” Pilot Neal yells. We look down and spot a dog freaking out, barking from a quilt patch square of a backyard.
“Animals freak because they can hear the sonic pressure.”
I ask him the most beautiful view he has ever seen in a hot air balloon. He tells me a horse pasture in New Mexico as far as the eye could see, and a herd of elk/antelope running across it.
Obviously, reminiscing about his past flights, Neal adds, “You do see the occasional naked person, but never the ones you want to see.”
For a little while, after we all chuckle, there is just the noise of the liquified propane spewing into the balloon to keep us afloat.
Everything else around us is stillness and silence. A little while later, Neal begins searching for a place to land. We heard the flight conditions before we took off so all three of us are on the lookout for a landing patch.
Neal tells us the most dangerous things to look out for are power lines and fences. We scour the Earth and slowly descend. Over the highway, the cars are slowing down to wave and watch. What else do you do but wave back as you float away smiling? But Neal is slightly concerned with the thermal air, so he is still solely focused on the landing.
“Take off is optional, landing is mandatory,” he tells us.
We float over a small construction site clear across town, then a hilly field. We are skimming the Earth and I realize then how fast we are truly going because if we hit the grass this fast, we are gonna crash.
Confirming my theory, Neal yells, “Alright now, hold on!”
“Hold on where?” I ask slightly panicked this is actually happening.
“Those ropes there,” he points to blue loops tied to the basket.
I cling on gratefully, bracing myself with a slight bend in my knees.
We hit the ground and the basket tips forward, but we still have too much speed so the balloon continues to lift and drag us down the slope. The Captain of our floating aircraft expertly lays off the propane enough to slow us down. As we bounce along we knock into small bushes and trees until we come to a house where a bunch of people are taking pictures of us as we approach.
“Can we land here?” Neal yells to the balcony.
“Yes,” the woman says.
It’s all happening fast now. Neal directs Moe to jump out of the basket and guide the balloon as it falls. Moe runs, grabs the rope; the air is leaving the balloon making it wave and slowly fade. Now Neal instructs me to, “Roll her over,” we are gonna dump out of the basket. Then he directs me to secure the ropes to help the balloon lose air more quickly.
I run for the ropes and Neal runs over to help Moe. Once the balloon is flat on the ground, the homeowners approach.
“You’all lost?” the lady asked.
“We got blown off course because of the powerful winds,” Neal explains.
He picks up his phone and calls Neda to bring the crew. He fills the wait time enjoyably chatting with the homeowners. There is an old dog and a man smoking a joint watching us; the spectacle.
Can you imagine if you were watching a hot air balloon up in the sky and then it crashes into your yard? The hilarity.
“I’m so glad I was here for this,” the lady homeowner says, “I’m off work today.”
Then a truck appears over the hill and up the driveway of the house. There are flags waving in the wind and then the entire crew emerges. Co-pilot Neda walks briskly over to Neal, directing the volunteers as she goes.
She jokes, “A little off course.”
Neal agrees, “I’m glad we landed when we did.”
Briskly, everyone snaps to getting all the equipment put away. It is as efficient and coordinated as a military platoon. They mark time by counting to three, and the strength of everyone working together so harmoniously is proof that this is not a passive ride but an actual sport.
I walk over to assist Neda. I ask her some questions as we clear out the truck so it’s ready to transport the balloon equipment.
“I do it for the community aspect, not the competition,” she tells me. She has been flying forever, it was something she always wanted to do.
“When I was a kid, I tried to fly off the roof with an open umbrella,” she says.
“She’ll forget more than I’ll ever learn,” Neal says about Neda’s extensive experience. She has all the youth of that little girl who flew with an umbrella at now nearly eighty years of age. She complains that it takes longer, but to my eyes, she moves better than some lazy teenagers i’ve seen.
Finally, we get everything put away and tied down in the back of the truck.
And now comes the tradition. Neal sits Moe and I down on our knees before an altar of mimosa’s and tells us the origin story of balloon flight.
Neal is a character who loves to tell stories, so he tells us the way the French hit trial and error to arrive at this simplistic flying machine.
“And so now that you have flown without wings, you must drink without hands.”
I am horrified, I cannot chug alcohol, shots are not my thing. But it really isn’t optional; and since I did just defy the rules of man and fly without wings...down the hatch!
To make it more challenging, water is splashed on us, making me sputter and nearly drop the cup being held between my teeth. Once we are both finished we rise at the end of the ceremony and give hugs, handshakes and words of thanks to all. It really is an event and every player partakes differently in order to make the whole operation work. There are chips and salsa and pleasant conversation with happy souls all sharing their experiences flying.
I’m still in shock. I reflect on this entire community of people who do this leisurely or competitively. I think about watching from the ground these balloons in the sky. To be in the basket in the sky is another thing entirely. It feels like time has stopped and you can exist in one present moment, floating over the world. You are relaxed and exhilarated at once. After many more endearments of gratitude for a perfectly thrilling Friday morning, we all pile into the cars and drive back to our starting point at Memorial Park.
The entire reason I was able to have this experience to begin with is to create more awareness about the Labor Day Liftoff Event, as well as Hot Air Ballooning in general. This community of soaring people we are excited to see from a distance, touchdown and tell their stores to create an experience of beauty for all. Go see them, go fly. Just seeing the splendor is enough to take your breath away.
LABOR DAY LIFTOFF
August 31st-Sept 2nd
There was a house in the middle of the country. A house of outcasts and miscreants. They did dirty deeds outside of the law to reflect the ugliness of the world. Nothing was particularly immoral, that was why it was considered counterculture. What they did all was in an attempt to be real and they lived during a time that encouraged being a sellout. Make that money, watch it honey, ain’t we got fun. Have fun, die young and whatever you do don’t get to know yourself or know who you are before it is thru. Fortunately the counterculture say the tide is turning, and they were members of this elite group.
None of them particularly got along, but they co-existed better than most that live in a house with a miniscule kitchen and one bathroom usually can manage. They all were very anti-authority, so spats and misinterpretations that reminded them of the opposition of their past relationships flared up every now and then. On a whole however, these individuals were all very respectful roommates.
The one inhabitant was a drug lord, nothing hard, purely grass and he was travelling to LA for the dankest bud available to bring to the east coast market. His journey was delayed for the night and his couple travelling companions were sleeping on the hardwood floor of the family/smoking room. The blow up bed would be set up with fluffy sheets and bouncy pillows. The wiener dog would waddle by every now and then and give each a lick on the face before he peed with pleasure all over their fluffy sheets.
The other male roommate was a musician trapped in a beggars body. He wanted so much to be free from the constraints of this reality, and sometimes he would get close. He would almost take others with him to this magical place where the rules don't apply. Of course when the companion on the reality skip experience reawoke they were pissed at him, so it always circled back and bit him in the ass. He was very bitter about it but he didn’t know why. He had just returned from a trip to Denver. He had successful buddies there that it seems treated him like shit. Making a buddy pay at your place and then demanding they shave in the small bathroom versus that spacious one, sounds like an entitled dickhead to me. But he said the vibes were good in the west and he felt freed from his daily constructs to the point where he could be happy again. Life puts on those pressures to the point where you feel you will explode. It is your own mind reliving its fears over and over because life is boring day to day and most of us are trying to pass the time. It’s when you stop doing that to yourself that life gets interesting again, You have to know those things and then release them and then go back to living somewhat normally. Coming out the other end is the part that feels touch and go at times. Maybe we never do. Maybe life is the tunnel.
The third inhabitant would be considered anti-social to the extreme but in reality she did her best to avoid all definition. She wanted variation and diversion and was abhorrently bored when it didn’t come her way. She spent her days drawing and had just begun doing massive installations of graffiti. She was a silent flight risk and everyday I wondered when she would fly the cuckoo's nest. But she never did...at least not yet. She threatened to go off on her bicycle across this vast country, to the desert. The desert was calling her home. All women must visit the desert to understand their true nature. So calm, beautiful and serene seeming, with so much growth and activity happened just out of sight. There is more than meets the eye with both desert and woman. She would bike there one day with all her belongings strapped to her back.
The fourth was a thirty year old trapped in an old woman's body. She fried bacon in the Vegan kitchen and poured scoops of sugar into her coffee. Coke was a staple and she would walk around with one in her hand and her other hand pressed on the small of her back, grunting in pain as she shuffled across the floorboards. She had charm but mostly because of her age it was considered overbearing. A thirty year old can do that, but an old woman “know your place!” Still in her old age she was coming back to life because of the counterculture influence she didn’t quite understand but enjoyed being around no matter how much she huffed about this and that. No one took care of the weiner better than her, and the cat was nearing fifty pounds because of her over attentiveness. The dog thrived under the coddling, the cat just slept, ate, shit and purred with contentment. Every once in a while he would demand a rub with some incessant purring in your direction, but really he just wanted a cozy place to curl up and sleep.
“With all that recycled air someone’s sure to give out.” Yelled the drug lord guy as he told us he missed his flight by 3 minutes because his fat friends had to get water and a pretzel before boarding. Airplane travel is the pits. Without thinking what could be said and finding nothing worthwhile on topic, the anti-social girl spoke up.
“Did you see that huge dead spider over there by the sink? Yeah it huge. I won’t even pick it up dead. It’s just too big.”
“Everything's dead it's winter,” said the musician ferociously. He got up from his chair and headed toward the cat’s litter box. It was his turn to clean it.
“The stench from the cat litter is diabolical. He must have eaten something already dead. God!” He Stormed up the stairs with his godzilla steps.
“You know what’s funny?” The old lady said to no one in particular. “If all of this had been said in French it would have sounded chic instead of angry. I want to make a film that has people saying random French things throughout that have absolutely no reference to the action taking place on screen. What could be more French?” she laughed to herself. No one responded or took any notice.
May 24, 2018
“No one had ever seen anyone like her, she wasn’t beautiful in a way that was standard, but her enigmatic charm was enough to take your breath away. She walked into the room and without intentional thought, people drifted, turned and leaned in closer. She had to be smart, no one could appeal to that quantity of people without understanding human nature itself. Each emotion seemed primed and ready to be accessed at a moment’s notice. She would get in a blinding rage toward her boyfriend with a pronouncing, showstopping slap across his cheek, followed by fits of sobbing and ecstatic happiness. No emotion spared, just a blast of heart-pounding excitement and energy. The excitement stemmed from her volatility, you never knew what you were going to get.
“No one knew anything real about her, just those peak emotions that would shine above the surface, alluding to the glaciers beneath. Maybe they were hidden because she never seemed to be alone. She never got a chance to have a private moment, moments we all need to ourselves. Her boyfriend was a constant presence. He struck me as half bodyguard, half man candy. But then, that was always her type. He smiled at others, he frowned at her.
“Me, that is to say, the best friend. I’m Patricia Wallis. Yes, Marlene Davis has been my best friend my whole life. She always had friends, but that kind that doesn’t call if you’re sick, unless it means she wouldn’t be able to come to the party. Marlene was the entertainment at parties. If you were anyone, you wanted her there. She could just create a feeling of ease for people. As if she was saying, “I’m gonna be real, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t be.” “No apologies,” she always said that to me.”
“And how did you come to find Ms. Davis’ body, Ms. Wallis?” the Chief Inspector queried, taking a sip from his coffee mug, scribbling down notes.
“Oh, well, Marlene and I always had Saturday morning coffee together. It always got interrupted, but the ceremony of the act hasn’t changed for years.”
Patricia was speaking nervously fast, she had never been in a Police Station before. It was not at all like she’d seen in the films. The reality was always a letdown, even Marlene Davis couldn’t defy the rules of this mundane world. Her life ending on the bathroom floor. Some part of Patricia thought she would stand back up, arsenic be damned, proving that people with a larger than life energy do defy death. A silly notion, if one was as enigmatic as Marlene, why would you want to stay here?
“She was on the bed?” verified the Chief.
“No, in the bathroom,” corrected Patricia.
“And did you ever wonder whether she would do something like this to herself?”
“I wondered daily if she would, Inspector, but I never thought she could.”
“What does that mean?”
“She was up and down every day, multiple times a day. It was the beauty and the madness that made her so wonderful to be around.” And destroyed her, thought Patricia to herself. No one gets to be complicated in this world and have it be accepted. Marlene got close but she always had so much inner turmoil about it. It never could be pinpointed by Patricia.
“Well, Ms. Wallis, if that’s all…”
But Patricia interjected, “I just, I will always wonder why. She was so wild, there was no way to ever know what she might do…”
“Yes, well, have a good day Ms. Wallis…” The Chief Inspector said, dismissing her from the room.
Outside on the hot cement street of the late August day, Patricia tried to take a deep breath, but the Police Station still felt to close for comfort, too meddling. She started walking up the radiating sidewalk, feeling flushed and indignant. Thank God that was over. Silly men, in silly hats, investigating things they didn’t understand. Fear of death, how trivial! As if life was so grand when people are made to suffer for no cause. When you see extreme evil plague others and injustices running amok. I mean, he was the policeman, didn’t he know the kind of system they lived in?
“An illusion of freedom with only closed doors.”
Those were the last words of Marlene Davis as she sobbed on the bathroom floor. Remembering it made Patricia walk a little faster. Maybe she was hungry and that was why she felt edgy. She had been in the Police Station for quite a while. There was a coffee shop on the corner. Marlene always said this place had the best overall vibe.
“The coffee is decent but the cushy chairs, that is the true mark of a quality coffee house. The quality is in the chairs.” She would bounce on the chair cushion and laugh like she was twelve, those were the good times.
Patricia honestly didn’t know why Marlene had more trouble than others to keep it together and have a normal life. She just always knew that the fact that Marlene never had any interest in living a normal life was one of the things she had enjoyed most about her. She liked her men and her parties and being the bell of the ball, and then just as swiftly she wouldn’t be seen for weeks on end. When Patricia would ask where she had been she would say, “sleeping.” Patricia wanted to blame the man, most people blame the partner; but they were always revolving through her life. The high and low dance was all her own, in a completely different rhythm than even Marlene could predict. She had been talking so much about escaping, yet she knew that she would never escape from herself, hence the sleeping hiatuses.
“An illusion of freedom with only closed doors.” It became her favorite analogy that last few weeks of her life. Life had become a closed circle to her. Marlene had conquered life really, she was a success and could express herself as freely as she desired, and it still wasn’t enough for her. It was as though Marlene was just passing through and she had had enough. So I gave her some coffee with arsenic and a puff or two from her last cigarette.
What else was there to do? Watch her grow old and maintain her misery? She didn’t want to feel trapped anymore, so I freed her. The cigarette dangled from her limp wrist, and a calm smile played on her still face.
By: Annie Grimaudo
July 14, 2018
He ran into the building with a hacking cough and a hand covering his mouth. His throat burned as he took long breaths to stabilize in the buildings fresh air supply.
In, one, two, three.
Out, four, five, six.
In, out, okay. He glanced down at his watch. Thirty minutes to regain his composure before reporting in. Clean air wasn’t cheap after all. The showers and detox center was busy. Today was a red zone danger day with a rating of 8 out of 10 on the pollution scale. Most people like to clean that off them before they start their day.
He scanned in at 9AM promptly and was stationed down Row 3, Column 7 of the cubicle floor, ready to receive his first report at exactly 9:08AM.
After the 10th phone call the cough came back. He hacked so hard it felt like a fit or attack of the body against itself. It took him a minute before he could fully breathe again from the attack. He had been holding a handkerchief to his mouth which was now covered with black phlegm. He examined it - more than usual. The handkerchief bore brown stains scaring its white folds, from ample past use. His lungs ached from the upheaval. He pulled a small bottle of orange liquid from his desk drawer. Almost empty. He would have to go see the company nurse again. He chugged down the remaining elixir just as his phone rang, demanding the return to his duties.
When it was 5PM, a chime rang out, signalling the end of day. His computer automatically switched off, and the shuffling of beings rising from their chairs and transitioning toward the exit ensued.
This time, he put on his safety mask before returning to the streets for his commute. No one was on the street, his eyes watered as they hit the air. He looked up and down the vacant street - why?
Chancing a glance upward at the sky, past the shadowing skyscrapers, he saw the once iconic blue sky was it's now constantly maintained dull brown-yellow. The brown yellow sky was sadly no surprise, but what did look out of the ordinary was the small brown flecks of...what? They were flying all over the muddy backdrop. It gave him chills looking at the sporadic flecks, there was no way that was good.
Back on the street level he now fastened his safety goggles over his breathing mask. He had never used them before and had thought it was a stupid regulation they had to carry around these apparatuses with them at all times...until now.
His breathing and vision were limited, all covered but they no longer burned; and that was a nice reprieve.
Arriving at his flat, his television turned on right when he walked through the door. A broadcasters professional voice broke the silence as he removed his protective covering.
“A warning from our head of environment branch today that there have been preventative spraying of aluminum dioxide into the atmosphere all day today in an attempt to regulate the steady incline of the temperature of our planet. Unfortunately, this preventative measure adds more pollution to the very thing we are trying to correct. When poised with this question the head of the environment government branch refused to comment saying they are simply doing everything they can.”
He muted the T.V. and watched the woman reporter’s concerned expression for a minute. He felt unmoved from her concern, if he was being honest with himself, he knew she didn’t care. No one of power actually cared, how could they let it get to this point if they did?
He felt the constant throb of pain emanating from his throat, how where they expected to live like this? He couldn’t even remember the last time he had been able to enjoy being outside. An earth as inhospitable as the universe itself. Nowhere felt like home for humans anymore.
To confirm that fact, he coughed a little more black phlegm up. He hadn’t eaten all day - eating was expensive, only greenhouse food was safe anymore. Out of the pantry he pulled a small packet of rice that required ½ cup of water. He glanced at his water stores - one gallon left. With great care he measured out the required amount and put it on the stove burner to heat up.
All the simple pleasures of life were lost. His closet sized apartment had nothing but a T.V., and a bed with one corner for the kitchen and a cubby style bathroom. He didn’t know what he was living for anymore with every simple pleasure callously stripped from existence. He continued to endure out of habit. He supposed that, and an absurd optimism that stayed in his tired soul. He took a deep breath to test if he could. Pain permeated his chest. No, he could not.
The only “things” he had were plants in his apartment. But with his need to ration water, they didn’t look very strong. They were feeble and weak, like the breath that rattled from his fatigued lungs. Breath no longer could even nourish him. What could nourish anymore?
What could give him peace with his reality?
He was met with a blank question mark. Dissatisfaction, they always were saying was normal. But so was so much else he found vastly unacceptable.
Inhospitable to humans. It was unavoidable at every turn of the mind. Carry on in the cloud of dissatisfaction. It was embedded in his soul to do so. Enduring was the only option; with his foolish optimism.
The window was open just enough to let in the cool night air.
It was cramped and there was a harsh light coming from somewhere indistinguishable. When light is bright it shines as though coming from everywhere. The air was thick and there were points during the night when she thought she might not have been breathing for a few minutes. A small fan was working overtime, trying to compensate for the claustrophobic, small space.
It was hard to find a place these days where she wasn’t bothered. So the tight and confined aspects of her car didn’t affect her much. The light was a bit like what she imagined a concentration camp to feel like, but she was not noticeable, and that made the lights seem further away somehow.
A loud grating noise, followed by shouts and beeping began. She lifted her head out from the back of her car to look forward into the dash. Through the front window she saw the shipyard she had parked at, the only place open at 4am on a Thursday. The fishermen and women were moving fast, the ships were all moving. Some of the people were jumping from the shore onto the ships, yelling at one another. 4am and already starting their day. Most people hadn’t even turned off their first alarm, the woman hiding beneath a tent top sleeping in the back of her car thought.
Her whole body felt, hazy. All cognition came slowly, as it can only do when one is drastically sleep deprived. Blurrily, she set her head down and fell back into her warm stupor, as the fan blew lazily on her face…
The sound of a car echoed through the ajar window. She woke with a start. Where was she? The light of the morning was bright. Consulting her phone, it was 8am. Awkwardly, since her car was so small, she shifted her aching body from the back, trunk area where she had been sleeping, to the driver's seat. As she started the car, a quick glance beside her made her notice a black convertible parked beside her that had not been there when she was last awake. She wondered if she startled them by starting the car. They would have thought no one was in there. At least she hoped that is what they had assumed and they had not been watching her sleep or something. Creeped out by her own brain’s musings, she shifted the car into reverse and revved out of there.
The road had nothing. No people, no cars, no houses, just sand dunes and the occasional low flying seagull. The sun felt hot, she started missing that 4am sun that still lacked true heat. She looked back in her rearview mirror, a cop car peaked over the last hill. Her heart fluttered in her chest. She turned to check her speedometer. 45mph, in a 50 zone, she was in the clear. Instead of looking into her mirror she continued to glance at the speedometer, almost forgetting to look out at the road ahead. The cop car was getting closer. She knew she was going slow, but maybe the cop would pass and she would be done with it. A worry, a silly concern of the moment. Written off as ‘paranoia of the moment.’ What a laugh. Yes that would be it, just like all the other times. The car was closer still. In, she guessed 30 seconds, he would be riding her ass, desperate to pass.
30 seconds. On the bumper now.
Please don’t linger there long, she thought. Just go around. Please go around. As though by her thinking it, the action would then take cue, the police car surged around her angrily. With a sign of relief, she watched the car roar into the distance. Able to think again, she glanced down at her phone to see she had 50 miles left until her destination.
About 40 minutes later, with the more intricate driving directions coming up, she decided to stop and get gas. A coffee might not be a bad idea either, she was so groggy. She pulled into a 7-Eleven, filled up her clunker car with premium level gas, and went into the store to pee and get some refreshment. After the bathroom she filled up a cup of coffee and proceeded to the counter. She hastily grabbed a protein bar and a bag of chips along the way.
When she arrived at the counter the young man didn’t even look at her. He rang up her purchases as a perfect imitation of a machine, all monotony and lack of vigor. “$8.03,” he declared in his bored tone. She fished around in her jean pocket for some change. She knew she had some pennies.
“Hey Miss. Maryland.”
The pennies she had located from her pocket fell to the floor and she froze, not daring to pick them up. The voice was haughty and playful; she knew it well though it had been a while. With a chuckle he reached over her to the counter where the robot was watching and flipped a ten dollar bill out.
“I’ll take care of this, keep the change kid.” Without waiting for an answer, the cop directed her out of the store and to the gas pumps.
Looking around she saw that there were no other cars nearby. None but hers and the cop car that had passed her 50 miles ago, when she had laughingly thought she could possibly get away and be safe.
“You’ve been gone awhile. I’m impressed. How long have you been at it?”
She didn’t speak.
“You know how this ends, we might as well be pleasant.” He coxed.
She looked into his eyes and saying nothing started drinking her coffee. He watched and didn’t say anything either. She started on her protein bar and when that was done and the cop was still watching her silently she opened the chip bag and after taking one herself offered the cop the bag. Still staring at her with a furrowed brow he accepted a chip. They kept at it, one chip for her, then one for him, until the entire bag was gone. After crinkling up the bag and sucking down the rest of her coffee he spoke again.
“What was I supposed to do about it Nancy? What could I do?” He had a nervousness in his tone, a need to appeal.
She glared into his eyes, “If you can’t riddle that one out for yourself James, I can’t help you.”
“Where are you going anyway, you didn’t honestly think you would get away with this!”
“Didn’t? Why can’t I?”
“Because I’m going to have to report you!”
“Again? I thought you already did and that was what you were appealing about two seconds ago.”
“Yeah, well. I will have to again, won’t I?”
“If you are asking me I am going to disagree with you James.”
“You would say that! Go on James, it’s not that big a deal, just break the law with me. Come on, it will be fun!”
“I don’t think even you are stupid enough to go for that appeal. I can’t pretend like it’s fun.”
“I can’t let them take you away!” He looked away furiously, then back into her piercing stare. “I can’t...I-I don’t know what I am going to do with you…” he whispered almost to himself.
Still staring straight into his eyes, Nancy approached. She put her hand on James’ shoulder and rubbed his arm affectionately.
“Don’t worry James, you never knew what to do with me when you had me, I’m not going to make that your problem anymore.”
“What does th-?”
Nancy head butted James, making him fall to the ground in a heap. Glancing around there is still no one around. Nancy starts to push James under the belly of his cop car. She gets his chest under first and then quickly adjusts the legs and arms into more comfortable positions. Straightening up, Nancy grabs James’ walkie from the ground were it fell and hurries back to her car. Driving out of the parking lot the walkie begins to whistle.
“Officer Cady do you have the suspect?”
Dead air and heavy breathing permeated the small car as Nancy veered onto the 95 South.
“Officer Cady, is Nancy Nowland currently in custody?”
“No,” Nancy rasped back. “I lost her in the traffic.” She was hoping that the walkie was so static ridden her terrible impersonation of James would go unnoticed.
“Officer Cady, are you telling us you have lost the whereabouts of the known con artist Nancy Nowland, with the full knowledge that if you failed to arrest her, she would be running off with $25 million dollars she stole from Wall Street Brokers?”
The voice did not change in pitch, it delivered the information without variation. Facts were its law.
“Yes, I am aware. And may I retort, how much do these Wall Street Brokers make a year? I bet they can afford the loss.” Nancy bellowed back ferociously.
“Excuse me Officer!?” The voice went up in shock. Very abruptly, the connection cut out. Nancy revved her car to shift to a higher gear.
There would be more officers after her now after that prank. How could they not see the humor of the situation? It’s not like anyone had any sympathy for the Brokers she frauded. Everyone agreed they were not deserving of the wealth that gave them so much obscene control over others. So why did they continue to let the evil power of money control their actions? Why couldn’t everyone just take a break from the bullshit philosophy that wealth meant anything?
Well, she would have to show them herself, how little all this money truly meant. $25 million. It was a lot but to these assholes, it was what they would have paid if they bothered with taxes. She would take it and do some good where money could turn into something real. She would make it real again by doing something that mattered. Not something as abstract and unwhole as the abomination of currency itself. All she had to do was keep driving and avoid the multiplying cops scattering the roads. Between the construction and the cop cars she could never go above 60mph. She was never going to get there. But if she did, if her nerves could hold out to get her to the pier in Savannah, Georgia; then a different path waited. A ship was waiting for her, and then, a future of...who knows. But she sincerely hoped it was different.
It all started in 1886, when a woman was sick of washing her husbands clothes every night before work. Those "white collars" were all that was really dirty. So, she cut off the collar and just washed that. Thus, the birth of disposable cuffs and collars was born so that men could fit the clean status that only a perfectly crisp white shirt could provide.
Decades later we see that the status that came with convenience is still a common thought notion, however those with the true wealth and status are turing to the exact opposite.
Why? Because there is no quality that remains in the conveniences.
Now the more care and time one can take to reuse and eat real food, the more status one has. Status resides where there is a deficit, and only a minority can get a product or service. Empowering oneself to take the time to care for oneself in the less convenient ways actually showcases more clout, knowledge, and status than the flip side conveniences that once were the optimum of social class.
Anyone can go to McDonalds; can anyone make a healthy fresh meal?
This was bound to happen eventually. the creation of the "death date" comapnies made sure that products would prove themselves worthless at a certain date to ensure repeat purchases. Great for business, not great for individuals or this home we call Earth.
The result of this ravenous buying has created a "growing stream of hazardous waste." Millions of tons of hazardous waste, can you imagine? Space on this Earth is limited, even though we endoctrinated to believe the myth that there is an endless frontier to pilage and plunder, it is simply not true. Earth is finite in its deimensions and now it is similar to a beautiful house, chuck full of garbage, unable to prosper if it is not cleaned out.
Americans started this disposible epidemic and it is up to us to end it. It would quite literally change the face of our world.
What you can do>>>EXAMPLE
You are at a store looking at a piece of clothing...
Ask yourself these questions...
1. Where was it made?
2. Do you know anything good or bad about the company you are considering casting your vote for with this purchase?
3. Do you need it?
4. Do you have room for it?
5. How long will it last?
6. What can you do with it once it wears out?
Thinking things thru and not buying for convenience; this is the pattern that will promote change. Not just with products, but with what companies survive in the marketplace and with the treatment of humans in our world. All this is dictated by what you buy. It all has a ripple effect. Together we can undo what we thoughtlessly allowed to have happen to us.
Stay GRIM and aware and things will change.
Today we think of a virgin as a person that is sexually inexperienced. Being labelled a virgin is a source of embarrassment and shame in today's culture.
The word virgin however did not always go by this definition. There was a time when virgin was describing a sexually independent woman. Think of the zodiac sign Virgo, symbolized by the Virgin, or Queen Elizabeth, who was called the Virgin Queen; that is the woman they are referring to. Throughout the course of history we have come to think of the Virgin Mary as synonymous with the term. But the word virgin existed before Mary and yet the term was changed with Mary. The Catholic faith wanted whoever birthed Jesus to be the most pure possible, so they claimed that she was a virgin, and that meant she never had sex before. This changed the course of how this term would thus be thought of, and put women in a tight spot, now housed within a culture that put one in the category of prude or whore. Both considered negative, female empowerment was gone with the change in the definition of one small word.
"The word VIRGIN did not originally mean a women whose vagina was untouched by any penis, but a free woman, one not betrothed, not bound to, not possessed by any man. It meant a female who is sexually, and hence socially her own person. In any version of patriarchy, there are no VIRGINS in this sense."
(Willful Virgin, by Marilyn Frye)
Our knowledge of history and about the facts that have shaped our society are what keep us all informed and in charge of how we proceed with the state of the world. Female freedom from male dominance is on the rise in the current state of the world, but it has a long way to go due to the amount of re-educating that needs to be done. Not just on others, but on how we view ourselves. A society that continuously oppresses the female sex is only able to prosper through limited channels. We are seeing that change is necessary and embracing the feminine is needed to balance the aggression and fear currently widespread.
A "wild woman," or a "willful virgin" is free and answers to no one. Do not be afraid of the word that empowers you as a woman. Do not be afraid to be all the woman you can be!
Each person lives their lives from their experiences, from the information or education that is available to them. We are raised by our parents or elders who follow what they were taught, and the pattern continues on, generation to generation. With each person’s life however, there are opportunities to learn and grow, and adventure down different paths that were not available to them before.
The saying, “question everything,” allows one to open the mind, to withhold judgement and learn for oneself. To make one's own decisions, not the thought and ideals made by others that was taken on as an assumption.
By questioning the world around us, the truth can be discovered. Living a more healthful life requires individuals to be in tune with themselves. To not follow a cookie-cutter regiment that might work for some, but only coincidentally. Each person has unique needs, only through self-exploration, can one know their body and mind requirements for living.
Only through knowing oneself can one then reach out to others. Knowledge is meant to be shared, not to enforce a specific belief, but to create questions and exploration of this great world we live in.
An example>>talking with people about why I don’t use sunblock after they ask me since they observed that I never have any on, and yet never burn. There the opportunity arises to reach out, to educate others about how the sun is actually all beneficial. (Always be smart and know your own body of course.) How most people are so starved for sunlight, and most sunblock is actually toxic for them and the air we all breathe.
I’m not telling them you must change your life, but I am giving them the opportunity to explore a different realm of information that may not have been available to them before. And then, having all sides of the information, they can then make an educated decision based on what is best for them.
So I say to the reader of this blog post, make your own decisions, not the ones you inherited. Ask tons of questions, only through questioning the world can it be more fully understood. Talk to others, reach out with your knowledge, not to lecture but to inform.
Let the life you live be yours and decide what that means for you independently.
Don’t be afraid of differing viewpoints. Being uncomfortable means you are facing something unfamiliar, and good or bad, that allows you to grow.
Grow with your fellow humans, reach out, discuss. Repeat.