Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Scattered Across North Dakota

Do you know what’s so frustrating about growing up – about traveling through time?
     Besides that it’s well proven to be the pathway to death’s door – a path, quite paradoxically, a different length for each and every one of us.
     You can blame the old guy with the wild, white hair for that.

And, no, I don’t mean God – I’m talking about the guy on the bicycle – Albert – the man who took faith for a relative spin.

No, what I find so confounding is that we can never just stop and say to ourselves “This then is the 1960s”, or “This is exactly what 1985 is like”.
     We can’t do this because we don’t know our time until it’s well over – the epoch of an age only coming into clarity when it’s been swallowed by the wake of passing days – then regurgitated – painted with the brush of collective memory – like some canary-yellow telephone hanging in an episode of That 70’s Show.

This heady rite of turbulence leaves us only with plastic surfaces upon which to place our memory – the mad rush of life left to the stiff vulgarity of an enamel Ziggy adorning a pedestal that reads “World’s Greatest Streaker”.
     Or a photo T-shirt of you and your kitten, Muffin – the Kodachrome transfer disintegrating in a box beneath a heat-curled stack of Bay City Rollers LPs.

Wasn’t there more to life than such shallow ephemera?
     Or have we truly become the customer animal – a barrel of monkeys, shaken and stirred by the golden ribbon of our progress-mad age – Tweety Bird begetting the smiley face begetting Pac-Man – songbird to disembodied grin to devouring maw?

Take yourself at the classic age of thirteen for instance, that culminating dawn, where adolescent energy shifts into pubescent vitality – where the gene code begins to rear its prefabricated head – the face of your mother, or father, rising from the inky depths, like some silent totem – a mirror made of flesh and blood.

Thirteen was insanity – wasn’t it?
     Can you really remember your thirteenth summer?
     Wasn’t your tremulous mind abuzz with notions of adulthood, hormones raging as you threw yourself into the porch light – an “insect” in the scheme of things – dying over and over – with a reckless glee?

And aren’t we all still careening, our befuddled minds in the desperate company of our failing bodies, using memory like some parking lot DeLorean, racing back to the giddy peerage of our parents – even as they so rapidly decline before our very eyes, defining a future we scramble to avoid?

As it is with every age, and in every moment of time’s terrifying and deadly scheme.

Trying to define, to summarize these furious instances left bobbing in the foam, seems akin to a young paleontologist, who, upon discovering a new animal – some precocious prehistoric child scattered in troves of bone across North Dakota – sets about to deliberate its skeletal structure – only late in life realizing he had the ancient creature completely upside down – presenting Barney by way of Godzilla, Snuffleupagus through the wooly tropes of 10,000 BC.

Childhood was, and is, a wholly subjective state – and yet we seem so intent on framing it with undue clarity, as if in our formative years we were the wriggling nymph in its cocoon, tracking its coded escape – seemingly oblivious to the spinning bulb, the great dizzy Earth that grows and discards us with an indifferent routine – Globey conducting the Playhouse with his Disney hands.

We can be placed by decade, given our generational surnames, X meeting Y, but this market-appointed demarcation does nothing to shed light on the being that grows within the pack, the societal beast dressed by machine, fed by charity, bathed in regret – that which is but a link in the burying chain.

Wasn’t it we, so smart in our Garanimals, “Sticking Up for Breakfast”, who rose from the muck, Darwinian victors replicating, showing off our multiplying DNA – partners in a square dance that forever goes around and around – on into the biologically-sculpted heavens?

I believe it is our inherent vanity that holds us back, that keeps us from learning all there is to know – about bones unearthed, about bones inside – about being thirteen, suddenly realizing there are others stuck in the same fine mess as you – boys and girls with ruddy faces and fevered brains, pressing at your back, the weight of their focus your own – your salivating brothers and sisters – spelling the true nature of mankind.