The Three-Eyed Turkey From Mars

Reprinted from the Journal of Unbelievable Results, Nov. 2017. Vol. 1, No. 1.

About ten or fifteen years ago, the New York Post ran a bold, full-page headline which read: Life On Mars!

(or something like that).  It seems that one of the NASA Mars rover vehicles turned over a small rock and analyzed the sand beneath.  Some sort of Amino acids or complex molecules were discovered that indicated that Mars could, indeed, support life.  Well, thirty-five years of teaching science has taught me one thing at least: Don’t believe everything you read in the New York Post.

I’ll put it out there as kindly as I can.  There is no verifiable evidence that life exists anywhere except here on Earth.

I firmly believed that until this Thanksgiving past.  My soon-to-be-five-year-old grandson, Elias, was given the opportunity to construct a turkey in his pre-K art class.

What he constructed is the first example of an alien fowl.  He told me that it had to be an alien because it had three eyes.

I submit the enclosed photo as proof of this amazing discovery.  I leave it up to my faithful readers to decide for themselves the validity of this evidence that clearly disproves the long-held theory that Mars is a lifeless planet.

It remains to be seen, however, if, given the current state of politics, whether or not there is intelligent life here on Earth.

[Actual photograph of the alien three eyed turkey as constructed by Elias.  Photo is mine.]

 

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Kids Bottles: Another Moral Dilemma

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As I grow older, it seems to me, I am faced with some kind of moral choice nearly every day.  Then, I suppose that it’s something that’s true for every thinking person.

  • Should I watch Game of Thrones or search for the Vatican Channel on my Roku?
  • Should I continue to espouse the obvious truths of Creationism or trouble myself with science and facts by following the Theory of Evolution?
  • Should I be supporting Brad or Angelina?
  • Should I worry about the obviously faked data supporting Global Warming or continue to push for the Pipeline that will help a few zillionaires keep their children in elite private schools and screw up the environment for our children’s children?
  • Should I make an effort to feed a hungry family or contribute to a child’s dream of owning a bicycle?

Wait a minute!  That last bullet point sounds different…it sounds serious.  What’s going on here?

Several years ago, when I lived in New York City, I was faced with moral choices on every block.  We would be leaving a Chinese restaurant, discussing the dumplings, and then be confronted by a homeless man or woman.  I would dig in my pocket for a dollar or I would give them the left-overs I was carrying home.  With the number of street people growing constantly, there had to be a limit to my generosity.

Choices.

But, here in the North Country, one isn’t confronted by these daily dilemmas.  Unless you stopped to look around and see the trees in the forest.  Twelve miles from $6,000,000 vacation homes in and around Lake Placid there are people who live so far below the poverty line they are nearly out of sight.

My moral dilemma of late is the discovery of a sign along the Rainbow Lake Road, a mile from our home.  It is hand-painted and reads KIDS BOTTLES.  Back in Gabriels, by the main road, Route 86, are two small brown sheds.  A few years ago, these sheds were run by the local Girl Scout Troop.  People could drop off returnable bottles and cans…the money going to the Scouts.  The sheds would overflow.  Now, the money goes to the local food pantry.  The sheds still are usually filled.

I drink a fair amount of tonic water because I read that the quinine additive would help me with my painful leg cramps.  It seems to help…in a way…but it leaves me with several issues to resolve…

  • I could stand and feed the liter bottles into the big gray machine at Price Chopper in Lake Placid.  When the large plastic bag was empty, I would find Mariam and give her the ticket for $ .95.  Hardly helping our grocery bill (which would contain ten more bottles of tonic water and $2.50 for a copy of the New York Times).
  • I could take the easy way out and throw the bottles into our recycle bin (not really an option…it’s my nickel and I don’t want a nickel of mine in some account in Albany of deposits paid but not redeemed).
  • I could drop the bottles at the brown sheds in Gabriels, helping in a small way, to feed a local hungry family.
  • Or, I could stop at the hand-painted sign on Rainbow Lake Road and donate the few nickels to a family who were in the process of helping their child save for a new bicycle.

To many of you, my faithful readers, the choice may be clear in your mind already.  But, for me, it isn’t so clear.  Nothing in life is black or white…there are so many gray areas.  Of course, food is essential, but all the local grocery markets have food pantry boxes already.

The dilemma lies in the gray area of life.  Death by starvation is not something the North Country has experienced, at least as far as I know.

I hesitate with my bag of bottles.  Do I contribute to alleviating a large-scale problem of hunger or aid in the happiness of a child, who will someday own a bike?

I don’t have the answers…I only raise the questions that keep me awake at night.  How do I play out my role in the Social Contract?

Yesterday, I dropped my half-dozen bottles behind the chipboard hand-painted sign.  Remembering my own childhood and the pure innocent act of riding a bicycle.  I wanted to help the kid own a bike.  In a few weeks, I’ll probably drop my bag of returnables at the brown sheds.

Either way, someone loses and someone gains.  All I can do is alternate my actions with my conflicted conscious.

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Evening Reflections On The Fountain Of Youth

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[Ponce de Leon seeks the Fountain]

Tomorrow, October 31st , I’m going to post my Halloween blog.  I’ve been saying it’s going to be scary.  I hope it is.  It is a description, mostly fiction, of my fear of graveyards and the hours after midnight when dreams go dark as ink and visions are bleak and fearful.

It’s a verbal collage of nightmares I’ve had and ones I hope I will never experience.  I hope you will see it as my Halloween treat to you, my faithful readers.  My sensible readers, who know when its the proper time to go to bed and mumble a prayer.

“Now I lay me down to sleep…”

However, after missing out on a day in St. Augustine, I began to reflect on the idea of the Fountain of Youth.  I did a web search and found some interesting but very confusing facts.  When you’re dealing with a myth, reality and legend get mixed into a ‘stew’ that tastes good, but is hard to separate into individual factoids.  Tales of sacred waters that can heal and give you back past glories are cross-cultural and date back thousands of years.

In a memoir by Hernando d’Escalante Fontaneda, he writes about Ponce de Leon and his search for the legendary waters of restoration in Florida.  There is even a Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in St. Augustine.  It was excavated by the Smithsonian Institute several decades ago.  They found very old burial sites and evidence that pretty much confirms the fact that St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited city (by Europeans) in North America.

But, I’m more interested in mythology than science when it comes to topics as ancient and humanistic as this.  It’s the Romantic soul of an Irishman, I believe.

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[The Fountain of Regeneration.  Lucas Cranach, artist]

Searching for the Fountain of Youth is a motif that is as timeless as the Greek Myths, the Celtic Legends and the Quest for the Holy Grail.  It’s the Heroes Journey.  ALL good and proper literature contains the elements of a search for something–an object, an idea or a God.  J. K. Rowling understood this very well.  Harry Potter is the embodiment of everyone who wishes to attain a truth by overcoming obstacles.

Me?  I doubt anyone could have convinced me to don heavy armor and plunge into a rainforest–only to die of thirst, heat stroke or some insidious disease that comes with a bite of an insect so small, you don’t even see it on your wrist.  Perhaps it will come as a bite from a magnificently colored reptile whose quick bite will render you paralyzed and raving mad before it stops your heartbeat for eternity.  It may even come from a snake as thick as the leg of an obese man and longer than a city bus, that will slowly coil around you and slowly constrict itself until you can not even suck a cubic centimeter of Oxygen into your lungs.  They say its a slow and extraordinary death.

I don’t need these kinds of bodily abuses to seek out the Fountain of Youth.  I have sought it out by keeping my eyes open–and I have found it!  Does that come as a surprise?  Does it impress you to know that I can find that Fountain nearly every day.  And, I can take you there as well.

The Foundation of Youth, the Well of Regeneration, the Source of Life is just around the corner from your house.  I find it every time I see a young couple walking hand in hand.  In their eyes, you can observe both love and desire.  In their youth, you can sense their vitality.  The water of the Fountain is a tear, a drop of sweat from passion, a raindrop on a seed, the alluring gaze of a young woman or the glint of male lust in a male eye.

They are the Fountain of Youth, because from their shared love, a new life will emerge.

Stand for moment at a playground.  Look at the children.  They have no idea where they came from, yet.  They have no concept of the part they are playing in the continuation of life.

That’s the real Fountain of Youth.

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[Spring by Pierre Auguste Cot]

 

The Man in the Steel Armor: A Monologue

Some would think that it would be a boring existence to stand for decades in a plexiglass box wearing a suit of steel armor.

Let me assure you that it is far from the truth.  I find it fascinating to watch the gawkers, the curious, the historians, the lovers and the caretakers as they stroll past me.  Some stop and begin to read the plaque on the wall beside me until they get bored with the dates, names of those individuals who have owned me over the centuries.

My situation now is that the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in a city called New York, has taken over my care.  Every year they disassemble the plexiglass box and polish me.

The really interesting thing is that none of those who are allowed to touch me know that my spirit and soul–for I was the first knight to wear this suit–still exists inside this steel. I am like a god. I see all and hear all.  The problem is that what I see and hear takes place only in my line of sight.  Whatever the rest of the world is like is beyond my knowledge.

Mostly.

One power I do possess is that I can hear the spoken and even the unspoken words and thoughts of those who enter my arena.  Once I have studied their voices and look into their eyes–be careful how closely you look into my face mask–I can visualize entire lives.

The weight of so many cares can get very heavy at times.

There.  My plexiglass has been wiped clean once again and the doors of the Museum will open now.  What follows are many years of watching and hearing.  I’ll tell it to you in the time frame of a single day.

Here they come, past the statues of St. Thomas Beckett, the tooth of Mary Magdalen and the swords of countless dead soldiers and into this very room where they marvel at the mounted steeds, the jousting lances and shields.  I stand mute to them…but I am ready to hear all.

There’s a family with three children.  Only the boys seem interested in the likes of us.  They pretend that war is full of glory and the sword is a symbol of victory.  Oh, if they only knew the horror of battle and the sickening things a sword can do to another man’s flesh.

There he goes.  I’ve seen him go by me quite a few times now.  He walks on, alone.

A couple stop to read about my history.  She clings to his arm.  He comments how heavy it must have been to wear such a garment as mine.  Hey, sir, I’m still in here and still wearing it!  And, yes it’s heavy.  So heavy I want to let my knees buckle and then I could finally rest; as a pile of newly polished steel.  They walk on, talking of dinner.

There he is again.  He is holding hands with a girl named Judy.  They are laughing…not at me, or any of us, but about how happy they are.  Now.

The old man approaches.  He’s a medieval historian.  He takes notes and studies each plaque of each display.  His plan is to write a book about our lives.  If I could speak to him, I could save him months of time.

There is the young woman again.  She has a sketch pad.  She sits near my case and draws the men on the horses.  I can see that she can render the steeds very well.  She uses bright colors to give life to the banners and flags.  She’s always alone.

He’s coming in again.  This time he’s alone.  His friend Judy is absent.  She separated from him and now to study our histories, he comes here by himself.  His hair is turning gray.

Twelve school children come in.  They clutch tablets and pencils.  They draw us and then make up stories about our adventures.  The teachers’ stand against the wall and watch, wishing they were somewhere else.  The children are excited about our lives.  They don’t realize that only a few of us ever saw battle.  And the battles we saw are best forgotten.  Most of our time was spent drinking and whoring in the villages near the castles.

There’s the man again.  His hair, lacking the rich dark brown hue he had when I first saw him, is now the color of snow.  He’s has a little girl in his hand.  It’s his daughter.  He seems happy on the outside, but is sad in his heart when he gazes at his little child.

Here is the docent.  She is leading a group on a lecture tour of our hall.  I listen and smile.  She’s wrong about most of the facts.  She read many books on our lives, but she wasn’t there to see it, smell it and suffer during it.

The gray-haired man is now with a boy.  He has the boy stand in front of the mounted knights while he takes a picture.  The man seems happier now…more accepting of his life.

Here is a boy in a wheel chair.  His head is bent back at an odd angle.  His hands are deformed.  He will never be able to ride these horses like we did, he knows that.  But, in his mind he is living a full life of adventure and romance.  His imagination has taken wings.

Here is the gray-haired man again.  He’s with an older woman.  She is not the mother of his children, I can see that in her visage.  He is very happy now.  They are holding hands.  I see her wedding ring glint in the bright lights over our heads.

I close my eyes.  It’s all too much even for a spirit to take in.  I open them.

There’s a young man.  I can sense that he is the child of the gray-haired gentleman.  This young man has a little boy with him.  It’s his son.  The father points to various armor suits and the mounted knights.  He’s eager to share certain things with the boy.  They walk off, hand in hand.

I’ve been waiting for years now, but the old man with the gray hair does not come here anymore.   Someday, when my soul is freed from my steel body I would like to talk with him.

I want to tell him he was a knight in shining armor to someone.

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