Odysseys: Part Two



Odysseys: Secrets of a small Universe
or Travel the Galaxy on a few Pennies a Day:
The Evolution of a personal mythology

A piece of glass, rounded, shaped, finely formed -- a crystal ball -- the Hubbell telescope, pointed at the stars opening a doorway to other dimensions. James felt that one day he might actually see his home planet. It was there, hidden in the starfields and cosmic dust. If he only knew the coordinates.

Robots will do no harm to their owners, Isaac Asimov says so. That is, until they learn to write their own programs -- Then all bets are off. Watch for them here for they are coming soon to a toystore in your neighborhood.

As a child James was searching for his planet of origin or God, or at least beings of a higher order, but if he couldn't find that then an ice cream sundae would do for the time being.

Later, past mid-life he thought,  -- all humans, animals, vegetables, came from the same slime-mold, part of Yggdrasil, the tree of life. But, was Yggdrasil connected by strings to the rest of the universe. Indeed, am I really made of the same "stuff" as other Earthlings?

During his first half dozen years of life James discovered that he was an alien, abandoned on a water planet, a planet of incredibly dangerous and sinister beasts. His early attempts to communicate with the dominant species of the planet met with failure and so he began a lifetime of studying the peculiar beings of this world. His attempts to blend in, to appear normal, and to find others like himself continued to meet with failure. So at the tender age of nine, in frustration and desperation, he decided it was all too painful and so he contemplated ending his life.

On a Saturday morning he stood by the sea, looking down into the angry waters of the New Haven harbor. Those waters fascinated him for they were the only creatures of this planet who seemed to understand him. Each morning he walked the beaches, and found driftwood, and unknown objects which the waves brought directly to him.

If the sea was not his mother then it was a close relative and certainly it was his friend. It was only natural that he give himself to the deep. As James stood watching the waves pound against the headwall, he found himself drifting from his body and moving into the sky in such a way that he could look down on himself and see how small he was in relation to the earth.

He realized that all the boy down there needed to do was take a single step forward, over the edge of the cement wall and he would make the transition to someplace else. That thought itself was fascinating and suddenly he knew that he had a life beyond his body. The feeling gave him freedom and the thought that followed was: "If you did step off the wall into the sea, then you would be gone and so would your pain and sorrow. Well then, anything that happened after that would be a new life -- a new beginning. So, if you imagine that you stepped off then . . . "

Exhilarated by the feeling of escape, now that he was dead, he turned and found that he had returned to his body and that he was smiling. But more than that. Now there were two of him. The watcher from outside and the boy inside.

As time went by he sometimes forgot that relationship, especially during those times when his attempts at communications with the bipeds met with one failure after another. They seemed never to believe in him as one of themselves and his sense of alienation from the creatures continued. Yet, he persisted in studying them, and their ways, just as they ignored him. Meanwhile he began to construct a civilization, within his mind, where he could find acceptance on his own terms.
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He read voraciously and lived each Saturday at the matinee where he could shapechange and transmogrify into the forms of Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Claude Rains and others. He became Frankenstein, then Dracula, and the dark flyer of H.G. Wells, in "Things to Come." As Robert Jordan he died, machine gun in hand defending the bridge so his friends could escape. The after effects of such transformations usually lasted for several days and by midweek were wearing off. But there was the anticipation of the weekend yet to come and a new transfusion. Meanwhile he could escape within a hardcover book or a comic.

But Sister Maria Albert had X-ray eyes and he had to be wary lest she swoop down and grab his comic from him. She punished him with a ruler across his knuckles, but worse, she took his comics and stuffed them within the folds of her undulating fabric. It appeared as if she was absorbing the paper into her body for he never saw a single comic she ingested again. He hated that giant raven.

His imaginary world took on a population with creatures that came from the books he read, mythological beings, trolls and elves, giants and strange beasts even as he rejected the implausible beings who walked on water from that blue book the"ravens" made him read. It was called The Baltimore Catechism and he was supposed to memorize it and spout the words like he was a parrot. Never mind questioning the meaning of those words.

Then a single incident shattered his life. "We're moving," said his mother, one day. The family packed up and moved to the suburbs where his father, a railroad engineer, found them a new home, many miles from the sea, and far from movie theatres. The ten year old shuddered at the loss of those old "friends," especially "the Sea."

But strangely, in this new world, he found kids in this pastoral neighborhood who were eager to teach this strange boy the ways of baseball, football, and basketball. Before long he found himself in a scout uniform building wood trestles across streams and he began to speak words to communicate some of his thoughts. Though by now he had learned to keep the true nature of his alien being to himself.

Then, for a long time, he blended with the creatures of his adopted planet, even found that some of them could become allies. His hands though kept him in touch with the other world, through his drawings and clay figures. But these artifacts too grew fewer as his social involvement with the culture of the water planet increased.

But when he failed in high school and was threatened with demotion, being put in with leering flesheaters younger than him, he bailed out, jumped to another school where he realized that the key to acceptance was protective camoflage. With suit jacket and tie he merged with the new school and was accepted as a "norm" albeit a "strange-norm."

One person stood out from the rest, his art techer, Jordan Abeshouse, who had been a student of Albers at Yale, and beore that a founding member of the old Bauhaus movement. James found in Jordan, a kinship of sorts wherein he could express his ideas and thoughts without fear of censure. The man showed him that there were other aliens with names and identities, real people, leading possible-lives. Though the books that Jordan loaned him, James explored the realm of art from surrealism and Bauhaus to magic realism.

Life opened up and James found that his body obeyed the laws of this planet. It grew and changed while he studied art and built more towers, painted abstract pictures, went on dates, played basketball, during gym periods only. He found that he could control his body on the parallel bars and in the swimming pool and learned how to be proficient at both and taught himself the art of gymnastics . . .  (to be continued)


A Dream Pool by the Sea

By RJ LeBlanc dit White

Time Shifts within The Dream Pool
 

In the awakening there are flashes of  the dreamlife, small particles left over from the full performance.

James knew quite well that he, and everyone and everything else, for that matter, was travelling through Space at 17,000 miles per hour, yet it seemed as if he was standing still. Each specific moment appeared as “Now” but “Time” too was travelling at the same speed. A truck zoomed by his pickup and he perceived that it was travelling away from him  at 30 miles an hour as he sat watching.

With a downward glance he saw hands, his own, that had wrinkled in the time it took the Earth to rotate 50 times around the sun. The hands were no longer that of a 10 year old to whom Time had a much different sense. That boy of yesterday's summer went on forever while the 60 year old James felt many summers pass as swiftly as afternoon zephyrs.

He looked across the studio to the latest sculpture, a tribute to wood and rust, machinery and the corruption and eventual disintegration of metal. And flesh too, he thought. Nodding his head the man seemed to gain insight from the metal and wood construction, as if the sculpture was talking to him, which indeed it did, in its own mysterious way. Time and movement equaled change, whether the movement was in space or merely involved the air molecules around a body the result was change.

The new sculpture, with gauges that read empty, and gears and pinions that no longer worked was the end state of a life, either human or mechanical, a silent tribute to Motion, now frozen in a state of rigidity. Yet, the process of change continued, the rust was movement with a slower cadence, not recognizable as a useful function by the mind of humans. Few people that he knew could appreciate the kinetics of rust, that a sculpture was "alive" and in motion through the corrosion of minute particles.

Yet all of it, the decay of human flesh, the rusting of metal, all were part of the entropic process of Time and Movement.

Often, as he drove the Berlin Turnpike towards Hartford, James wished he were able to love Neon and Glass. For if he could love those elements he might find the “Commercial Strip” along that route to be tolerable instead of ugly and crassly commercial. There must be something wrong with me, he thought, that I don’t find anything here in this “wasteland” for me. Indeed, that I even call it a wasteland. . .

But how could there be so many people in love with the garish miniature golf course with the phony fiberglass polar bears and creaky windmills? Used car lots dotted the landscape, punctuated by gasoline stations and shopping malls, insurance companies, and dozens of businesses selling stuff he wasn’t interested in. He couldn’t even remember the names of most of the establishments along the route.

If he could learn to love the glass storefronts and the neon signs that adorned them then he could be happy in this world. If he could find adventure within the corridors of the malls then it was possible to coexist with the American culture.

So far he was a failure in this endeavor.  Then, in a dream one evening he found himself driving down a stripmall that had no end. When he stopped at the gasoline stations the pumps had no hoses and the cashier only laughed at him when he tried to pump gas from the gaping hole in the pump where there should be a hose.

There was no way to get the gas into his car so he gave up. Next he came to a restaurant that had windows but no doors. Yet there were people inside, people laughing and joking, eating and talking and having a great time from the looks of the merriment on their faces.

James tried to get inside but though he walked completely around the building and came back to the front he couldn’t find an entrance anywhere. Back at the front window he looked in and the folks inside pointed at him and laughed.

Their laughter, as well as their faces, grotesque and out of proportion were hideous.  Embarassed, he went back to his car but it too no longer had openings for doors. In anger he pushed the car, rocking it from side to side, bringing forth only more laughter from the people behind the glass windows.

When he turned to find someone, anyone, to help him there was no one out of doors, only those behind the glass windows. He awoke with a start and got up, sat down at the keyboard, and tried to capture in words, the images, the pain of being on the outside, away from the garish crowd.

This being on the outside was now an obvious personal symbol of his years as a loner; but for many years he had accepted his differences and lived side by side with the neon strips with their malls of glass and chrome. Though, he thought, perhaps I’m not as secure in that adjustment as I thought.

I awaken slowly, stretching, yawning, and my dreams slide down the precipice into that junkyard of lost dreams, sinking beneath the surface of the Dream Pool.

But one part of a dream which is slower to retreat than the rest is caught and retained, a fragment of it anyway, and I can see my sister and brothers in some abstract Picassish way. It’s as if they were me, or rather that we are all ONE, but from different viewpoints, each of us a different facet of the other, parts of one entity but each different in a unique way.

For one brief moment in the dream we brothers and sister all acknowledge our commonality before pulling away, pushing each other aside, in our struggle to be our one true and only self.

I don’t get up immediately but lie there, warm and comfortable within the confines of my pickup truck. Closing my eyes I drift back through time to the familiar smell the sea, the mud and I know the tide is coming in.

In this daydream it is a warm morning as “the boy” that I was, looks out through the attic window, his  bedroom, and the men across the street are already at work and have been for some time; most of the oyster boats are gone, but the dock crews shovel oyster shells onto a conveyor belt that lugs them high up to drop onto a great white pile which grows taller each day.

Anxious to be outside, the ten year old slides quickly into pants and shirt, not wanting to lose a single moment of the day. Then he scoots down the narrow staircase, through the bedroom where uncles lie stretching, not quite awake, from the late night party for his uncle Mike who has joined the Navy.

Walking quietly past the bedroom he looks in at the uncles still sleeping and one at the single empty bed which belonged to Uncle Mike. He stops to inhale the man-smell, strong and powerful before he has to rush down the short hallway to pee in the toilet. Then he walks on, sliding down the wide wooden railing to the ground floor.

Mother is feeding her mother, old grandmother, dark-haired, feeble, who has to be hand-fed and wets her pants. She is a sad old lady, who talks seldom and  doesn’t make much sense when she does and who always has  look of panic and fear in her eyes.

Cornflakes and milk, sugar added too, and quickly eaten; then bye to mom as he slams the screen door behind him. Mom yells something but the sound waves do not catch up with his running legs. He races a hundred feet to the shell-covered beach, climbs the rocks of an old pier, slides down old cement slabs, at odd angles, to the water’s edge, where he can lie flat on the cool cement and watch the feeding kelly-fishes on the muddy bottom.

He sniffs at the sea and the muck and the odor which he loves is strong today, the smell of the sea and its creatures both living and dead, with a little human waste thrown in from the sewer plant down the other end of the street. Visitors from out of town hold their noses in disgust but to him the smell is of the sea and home.

Now he scrambles over the rocks, jumps from the last slab to the beach to find what the sea has brought him. He is disappointed by the dead horseshoe crab lying on its back and quickly searches its fleshy pockets looking for money. Once he found a quarter in one of the many pocket and now will always look for more. . . But this time there is nothing and so he hurls the dead crab back into the sea.

He needs pieces of wood, good sturdy pieces to make boats; then with a stalk of weed as a mast, some paper, which becomes a sail, a stick rudder next and the boat is ready. He goes on to another piece of wood and soon he has a small fleet which he launches in quick succession.

The wind is with him this time and the ships surge forward with only one of them turning over – all hands drowned – but the others go out to meet the enemy – U-boats waiting out beyond the breakwater. His troops are ready, at their guns, waiting for the first sign of trouble.

He closes his eyes and visualizes his ships sailing out into the ocean. Later he will walk up the Avenue to the Howard Theatre for a chapter of The Purple Monster Strikes and John Wayne in “The Fighting Seabees. . . .”

As he walks away from his sailing ships which are on their own now, headed toward the channel buoy, he stands looking at the empty beach, waves lapping gently against the shore, each wave pushing seaweed, kelp and small pieces of seajunk, wood, paper and stuff onto the shore.

He looks at some pieces of dark wood, jutting out of the mud, ribs of an old sea wreck now almost totally submerged by the incoming tide. The wreck had once been a rumrunner, scuttled by the cops when they caught the barge carrying alcohol during Prohibition back in the 20’s.

At low tide he can walk through the muck and climb among those skeletons or what is left of the wreck after years of folks scavenging for firewood. It looks like a prehistoric monster lurking, waiting for its next meal.

He backsteps further from the sea’s edge, back onto the sand road which separates the sea from the mudflats. To the left are the rocks and his home, last house on the street, white two stories high, across the street from the oyster docks.

Going the other way, taking the sandy road which travels between the sea and the mudflats lead to a dead end, a special place, home of Pop and Jenny Jakes, who live there in a barge that is half in and half out of the bay.  Inside the houseboat is a warm place, heated by a pot-bellied stove and he is always welcome there, and loved.

On the way from the beach to the houseboat is a small rise of land, a hill where he can climb up and look down at the shore. He can stand there, leaning against the single sumac tree which offers little shade. Then he walks down the hill  toward the end and passes a turn-around loop for cars to head back toward the main road.

But the circle is a sand road made up of half sand and half oyster shells, and more weeds, higher than he can reach, a jungle really stretching for miles with a mud-flat stretch cutting across the weeds to the hill beyond and houses of the Boulevard.

He stands by the houseboat and looks across the water to Oldfield Beach, a stretch of sand protruding into the bay. There too at West Haven are big glass buildings by the sea where torpedo boats are made.

On the horizon, on a clear day, you can see Long Island which seems a hundred miles away, though he knows it isn’t that far. But today there is a light fog and you can hardly see beyond the breakwater.

An oil tanker trudges across the horizon but he can’t tell whether it is coming in or going out. They look like toy boats way out there and they never come in to the Point because the bay is so shallow and it has to be dredged once in a while.

The boy walks off, down the sandy road, toward Land’s End hopeing that Jenny will ask him in for a hot cup of coffee and the world slowly fades as the dreamer awakens. . .

I awaken from the reverie but allow  myself to drift back into a comfortable state and memory takes me back to another time. I am a middle aged man and living in the attic apartment of  Jeff Baker and his family as a tenant. I remember one rainy afternoon when I had been writing.

I stop and move my hands from the keyboard. The world of the attic comes into focus and I inhale deeply. Looking around the room, suddenly it hits me: My eyes are opened, as if they’d been closed for eons and now I see, an attic apartment filled with drawings, writings, sculptures and paintings, most of them mine.

Yet I can see, not only the artwork, but all those who had made them. It seems to be a group of people, all with my face, some young, others older, children too -- wander about talking to each other, pointing out pictures they had painted or would paint in their future. Bearded men spoke with bare-faced young men, all of them people I knew, of course, since they were me, but some of them I hardly remembered.

A ten year old touches my hand. I look down and he is smiling up at me. “Good work,” he says. I pat his auburn hair.

 “Thank you, yes it is. You did well.”

 “And you too,” he replies.

We look at each other for a while, appraising each other. It is difficult to understand how we can be the same being, yet each of us recognizes something of himself in the other. I see him as the boy by the sea, building his small boats, sending them out as pointmen for himself and his future travels in the world.  But I wonder, as he looks at me, who does he see.

I begin to speak, to ask him details of his childhood but the world begins to blur as it elongates and I find myself back in bed with tears rolling down my cheeks;  but at the same time too I feel like laughing and, as I do just that, I think I hear the echo of a ten year old and both of our laughters blend into one voice . . . .




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    CANADIAN ODYSSEY

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With a magnifying glass James could read most of the faded writing on the back of the old photograph, but some of the names were lost. How could you distingujish Louis White from Joseph Pecor or Oliver White? And, who were the LeBlanc sisters and which one was Lucy or Philomene Pecor? he turned the photo face-up and searched for clues. Three of the moustached men looked similar, but was that because of the moustaches?

And the dark-haired woman with glasses; he'd seen her face in another picture. Surely she was a leblanc. he attached corners to the photo and fixed it in place on a blank sheet of the photo album. Again he went over the faces with the glass, comparing them to a second picture taken several years earlier of the LeBlanc family. He could see the similarities in facial structure, and eyes, but he wasn't quite certain which one was who.

He lifted his pencil, wrote a title: "Old Folks Caught at one-sixtieth of a second at F five point six." and began the poem. When he was finished he reread the page, liked what he had written and put it aside.
There was a breeze blowing in the window, just cool enough to ward off the summer heat. He watched the dancing leaves on the tall maples in the backyard.

"We're like those trees," he thought, "growing by the side of a river. Each year another ring is added to our lives. Over a lifetime we become awfully complicated creatures, with all those personalities, today's person and yesterday's too, and the day before...  I think, within my tree is a sailor. Perhaps he was even a ship's captain in another age. There is a child too, and he and the captain are out to explore the world. To the boy a rainstorm turns his backyard into an ocean, sandpiles are mountains, and the hole he dug in the front lawn tunnels to the caves at the interior of the Earth. The Captain has sailed upon the real ocean and he respects the great powers of mother nature. He is always testing and charting the waters ahead, searching for hidden danger.

There then, are at least three people at work within me, the man of today, and yesterday and the man I would like to be. Fortunately the three of us have a friendly agreement to stay out of each others way, most of the time, except when need arises, then we come to each others aid.

Curt smiled, "Are you sure you don't get in each other's way?"

James returned the smile, then silently moved to the bookshelf and pulled down his copy of Lord Dunsany's "At the Edge of the World." He opened to a familiar page, where the narrator of the tale stops at "A Shop on Go-By Street" on the way to "The Land of Dreams." "This is one of my favorite passages," he said:

"I must go back to Yann again and see whether "Bird of the River" still plies up and down and whether her bearded captain commands her still, or whether he sits in the gate of fair Belzoond drinking at evening the marvelous yellow wine that the mountaineer brings down from the Hian Min. And I wanted to see the sailors again who came from Durl and Duz and to hear from their lips what befell Perdondaris when his doom came up without warning from the hills and fell on that famous city. And I wanted to hear the sailors pray at night each one to his own god, and to feel the wind of the evening cooly arise when the sun went flaming away from that exotic river. For I thought never again to see the tide of Yann, . . .
 . . . and I had hopes of coming behind the East once more where Yan, like a proud white war-horse goes through the "Land of Dreams." . . .   * 2.

 The end of August 1985. It was time for vacation and the trip North. James had planned to do some orderly packing but then, at the last moment, he threw some stuff together, shoved it into the back of his red-pickup, and just took off, like that. he drove the old Route 66 East toward Voluntown. There was an old lady there, Mrs. Arnault, who he wanted to say hello to. Years ago, he'd stopped there, when she ran a roadside diner. Her clamchowder was great and the dilapidated diner that served as her restaurant was something out of another age. You walked through the door and into a world out of the 1920's. He hadn't seen the lady for years, but then he stopped by in Autumn of last year on his trip to Lowell, and she was still living there, in an incomplete house, one wall just black tarpaper.

She remembered him and invited him into her house. They talked for quite a while. He asked her if her name had once been Arsenault and she said it had. So he told her of his last two years researching the Acadians and his family history. She showed him through the house and her stash of fur coats, locked up in an old cabinet. They looked valuable and he told her she'd best not tell too many people that she had stuff like that in the house. Voluntown was known to contain a militant strain and she shouldn't put temptation in front of them. He told her he'd get back to her sometime with information on her Arsenault family. That visit had been a while back.

Now, as he pulled off the road at Voluntownb into the little parking place in front of her diner he knew he was too late with his information. There were workmen pulling down timbers and men in business suits walking around, changing the whold shape of that old world. He knew he should get out, to walk over to them and inquire, but then he didn't really want to hear what they might say. So, pulling back onto the highway he turned his head away from that doomed world and headed toward Providence.
By switching from one highway to the next he arrived rather quickly at the home of his old friend Curt, now retired and living in a suburb of Boston.

Over a cup of coffee in the kitchen, they sat and reminissed about the old times, camping at Sleeping Giant, tenting at Deer Lake, and the many friends left behind.
"Where are you headed this time?" asked Curt.

"Perhaps Lowell for a start, then Barre to visit cousin Tom White, then Montreal and if there's time, Quebec and Nova Scotia."
"Any particular reason for going to Canada?"
"Well, yeah! I'm still searching out family roots."
"Are you getting anywhere?"

"Yes. I think so. The Whites were LeBlancs, Acadians from Port Royal who came over from France during the early 1600s. That's on grandfather White's side. There there was my grandmother Ruby Lafayette. Her people were part of a military force called the Carrignan-Saleries Regiment that was pulled out of combat with the turks in Austria in the 1600s to fight Iroquois Indians."

"You've done a lot of work."
"Sure! 800 grandparents worth."
"And so... What's the meaning of it all?"

"I don't know. I needed to look for myself, to find out who I am or rather who I was. it was just something I had to and still have to do."
"And did you find yourself?"
"Yes... and no. Mostly yes."
"What do you mean?"

"When I started I was looking for an archetype. I felt that humanity could be reduced to a few basic types of people, as the foundation for the human race."
"You believe in Adam and Eve then, as opposed to evolution?"
"No, that's not it at all. The two aren't exclusive. Somewhere life had to start and then multiply. I believe that."
"And so we're all descended from those two archetypes, as you call them?"

"Yeah! that's how I see it. But, over the millenia the basic archetype has broadened, the variations of personality are quite large. Don't you see how people fall into types, the way they talk and act and think?"
"I suppose most of them do."
"I thought I might find my own archetype somewhere back there in time."
"And ...?"

"I don't know if I ever found myself exactly, but I did find Tom White. He and I look rather similar, and our intellects are broadly the same. I found a partial manuscript written by my grandfather and his writing is similar to my own style."
"So you think all this proves something?"
"No. It's not really proof of anything, but a feeling. And the search itself has given me clues. Recently I met a man named Hebert. That's one of the family names from years ago. Well, I saw his nametag at an exhibit and walked up to this young guy."
"Do you know that we're related?" I asked.
"Why ... yes, I mean... but! you're not my uncle, are you?"

I laughed, then explained how we had a common ancestor in the Acadian Hebert family. He was amazed that I looked so much like his uncle.
"When you walked toward me, " he said, "I was sure you were my uncle and I wondered what you were doing here."
Curt nodded. "That's very interesting."

"I wasn't surprised at my resemblance to his uncle. Its the archetype, parts of us show up in one person, another part in someone else. And once in a while it all comes together and we exist again, in another age."
"Reincarnation, perhaps?"
"You might put it that way."
"What about memory?"
"I don't think that applies. At least I can't find any intellectual basis for it."
"It's an interesting thought."

"Well, if nothing else I've gained a good perspective on history. The old folks knew more than we do. they knew their roots. I'm sure of that. Through an oral tradition they handed stories down from generation to generation. Then, with our generation, actually our parents generation, it stops: Radio, movies, TV. They've taken over as the storytellers who've destroyed local tradition. That vast interconnection of relatives and friends, people needing each other and helping one another has vanished. Now we're all strangers.

Curt shrugged: "It's a different world."

"Yes, I agree. But you know, through my studies I've travelled back through time and touched the lives of my ancestors. I've met them and learned to love them and to miss their absence. I miss not having known them... For a while I was morbidly sad at the paradox of their being in one century and I in another. I felt cut-off from the generations before me to whom I belong."

"That's odd. Why do you feel you belong to them? That doesn't sound like the hard-core individualist I know."
"That was the me of an earlier day. My perspective was limited then. Its difficult to put into words the realization that comes from knowing that I am the lastest edition of a family that goes back to the beginning of time, one continuous chain that touches the soup of creation."

 Curt smiled. "But that goes for everyone alive today."
 "Exactly! That's the point. Yet, how many are aware of that very idea, or even care?"
 "Not very many."

"It's a pity. they've missed such a wealth of knowledge. In Canada I hope to find some clues to one mystery. Searching the records I found a reference in New York State to a Pierre LeBlanc who was the godfather of a Lafayette infant. Granted that's only a clue, but I believe that the LeBlancs and the Lafayettes knew each other long before my grandparents met each other and married in Vermont. I have the feeling that both are part of anetwork of families that have known each other for many generations. Though, our generation has lost not only the connections, but also any knowledge of those connections. I want to find that line, if only to satisfy my own curiousity."

"So! What are you trying to do with all this research? You've never been all that interested in your family before, why now?"
"That's a fair question Curt, but I'm not sure I have an adequate answer. Perhaps its because Evelyn and I didn't have a family, she died before we had time to. And now I'm looking to create one. Or is it a need to locate myself in time and space. in "portrait of the Artist" Joyce has his Stephen pinpoint himself through an address: Stephen - Clowngowes - Dublin - Ireland - Earth. I've probably misquoted him, but you get the point.

The Mormons collect names of everyone who has ever lived so that the names can be read in Eternity. In Bergman's "Seventh Seal" the knight plays chess with Death, trying to find answers to his destiny. . .. And then, of course, you have Don Quixote ..."

Curt lit up a cigarette. "Middle age identity crises I'd say. I think you're at an age when you can see the end of your life and you want some answers, and meaning."

James poured himself some coffee. That may be true. But I'm not asking a new question. I can recall sitting on the swings in back of the Montowese firehouse when I was twelve while my school chum Brad and I dissected the night sky and decided that we couldn't find God.

We agreed that he didn't exist, at least in the forms man gave him, if at all. I, the Catholic, became an agnostic, and Brad, the Baptist, became a Catholic priest."
"So you really feel that you can find answers?"
"To the major riddles of life and death... No! But, i think I can define the value of my own existence by examining my story line, and that includes my family."
"It's impossible to find what you're searching for. The answers are buried beneath too many tombstones."

"Then maybe the answer is in the search itself. In beginning this quest I opened new doors of experience. I've met people with whom I share known ancestors back 300 years or more. I've begun to understand segments of history and how they connect to each other. And I realize how far back in time we go, yet, at the same time, I can see how short a period of time civilization has existed. Can you tell me how many people can see beyond their own lives? Who knows what their great-grandparents were like, or even where they are buried?"

"So! What difference does it make where they're buried?"
"It's all part of a process, the construction of a gauge - a celestial gauge."
"For what purpose?"
"Navigation perhaps."
"Where, in the underworld?"

"No, here and now, measuring the value of life."
"Hmmm! That's rather an impossible task."
"I used to think so, but now that's not the case. Perhaps one has to accept Don Quixote and join him in his impossible dream, accepting the impossible search... A little madness may be necessary though to find the way."

Curt shrugged and nodded his head affirmatively: "That I can accept," he replied. "Well! It's good to see you anyway, and our history, yours and mine, goes back a long distance too. So, come on. There's a fine restaurant in town and the treat's on me."

Over the years I'd worried about my friend's chain-smoking which eventually caught up with him in the form of  emphysema. The roof of Curt's van was coated with a brown covering of nicotine. During one of my last trips up to Massachusetts to visit Curt his lungs were so bad that he had a difficult time walking out to the picnic table in the backyard. It took us a long time to get there and when we covered the twenty-five foot distance he was puffing, out of breath and had to sit for a while to recover from the short walk.

Several months later, with another friend, Don, who had known Curt since Don was a kid, we drove up for a visit. Curt was comatose, pain killers provided by the Hemlock Society. I sat and talked with Mica, Curt's foster son, while Don visited with Curt for a short while; then he came out of the bedroom and I went in. Curt was sitting there, his eyes closed, his chin on his chest, snoring lightly. He looked like a wax dummy and I wanted to say something. Hell, I wanted more than that. I wanted to be able to recount war stories with my friend when we got old. But Curt wasn't going to get much older or to be there then, that much was obvious. I said a few words, don't even remember what they were now and we said our goodbys to Mica and his friends, then we left.

Don and I drove back to Connecticut, and didn't talk much on the way back. When we got in back home there was a message that Curt had passed away not long after we'd left.

- end . . .



A Visit ter Old Llort's Digs dune by tha Rivah


"Carfil now! Done gits yer feets wet. Dose roks is slipry."

"Do think that's it, Llort's house, over there in the woods?" "Doesn't look very safe to me."

"Did ja bys thin thet was me home? No twarn't, buts me neighbors tha elves. Gud folks tu. So! Ya kin fine me down th' river a spell. Climp tha hill nd walk alon tha ridge till ya fine tha dooneward slope. Grabs yerself sum apfles from tha ercherd ovr' ther. Thin follower thet a bistle til ya come agin ta the brooks. Abot a lil further en ya fine me digs. Come on en and resd a spell. Halp yerself ta anything ya needs. En welcom ta ya. Yer a gest o' Ol Llort, the troll. . .
 

Thans fer comin! Ya nise folks all kom agin now, inytyme!


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