December 17, 2003

That River’s got me Hypnotized

Despite strident attempts to convince myself otherwise, I’m getting ill. The sore throat snuck up during night in strange dreams of hanging out with the Nerd Herd, and the weezy hacking summoned itself while dining at Quizno’s. I’ve put myself on a strict diet of water and vitamin C pills, strict as in "That which still allows gentle abuse of Double Stuf Oreos and winter ales." Despite extreme sacrifices to prevent myself from slipping further into the world of weeping relatives and death beds (such as postponing this season’s fourteenth day of snowboarding until tomorrow), my tummy feels rumbly and my tongue is riddled with tell-tale canker sores.

I don’t do well with getting sick because I rarely get sick. For some people illness is as common as mail delivery, but for me it comes around as often as comets, white rappers and clean public restrooms. All seen together. In this I rarely fare well when the angel of grippe finally does pay me a visit, as I haven’t developed any emotional or spiritual strategies for dealing with such things. The lack of cohesion coupled with short-term memory loss ensures that each bout with a bug becomes its own independent battle, complete with improvised rules of engagement.

My faculties for logic and reason are the first casualties, and at my weakest, degenerated state you could convince me that anything will make my body heal faster. A stiff glass of unleaded? Goat hearts strug on an elastic candy necklace? The left-hand suzuki method? Bring ’em on!

The last few days I’ve made it a habit to trek on over to the public library every evening, if only in an effort to infect as many fellow intellectuals as possible. My living conditions in Bend are supercalifragiloovy in that the Deschutes Public Library is huge and beautiful and two blocks from Lava House. A few days ago we had a little snowstorm in Bend that left three inches of accumulation, and it’s still hanging around because it hasn’t been above freezing since then.

In the world I’m familiar with this wouldn’t be a problem because we so salt the hell out of everything that flesh itself melts at 17 below, but in Oregon they use (what I have described before) what they call "cinder". And since cinder is useless for anything beyond breaking windshields and turning roadside slush into bloody hunks of meat, the walk to the library can be slippery and treacherous and wrought with unspeakable dangers.

I have been lucky enough to complete this excursion successfully three days in a row, and each trip has rewarded me with unadulterated access to secular periodicals that I consume ravenously. I have thus far spent an evening with Skeptic Magazine, Smithsonian and Scientific American. Scientific American has always been one of my favorites, even when I was ten years old and really had no idea what in the hell it was talking about. Most ten-year-olds are satisfied when handed an issue of Popular Science, but even then I believe I had an inkling that Pop Sci was a bit thick on the Pop and light on the Sci.

Really, Popular Science should be renamed “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Scientific American.” Most of Pop Sci’s articles are wrought with junky elation over stealth battleships, overpriced satellites and American cars. Not to mention that every futuristic, speculative article is filled with artist conceptions of technology, which are useful in that they show you exactly what the future won’t look like. More than anything, it’s the fight between engineers and natural law that determines the shape of the future, not artists.

Artists are consulted only at the very end, when they get to mold glass into huge salmon murals to hang in libraries. At this the artists do a very good job, as well as at the traffic circle on Colorado where a dozen metal salmon statues swim on little poles. They also do well with the traffic circles in the Old Mill District, where we have huge gears fashioned out of weathered metal. This also leads you to wonder, though, what huge gears in the Old Mill District have to do with salmon. Did the salmon once run so thick that one could cross the river by walking on their shimmering backs, and the mills were powered more by their seasonal migration than by the water? Were the mills where turn-of-the-century workers, after a large salmon harvest was floated down the Deschutes, ground salmon into gourmet cat food, cosmetics and housing materials?

These are the things that command your ponderance whist you descend ever deeper into the yawning void of unhealth.

Popular Science was once something besides 100 pages of what’s new/paid infomercials. I remember an article in the early 50s describing how you could make and use things like your own SCUBA rig.
We’ve come a long way from then.