DIRT AND BUGS

Everywhere I’ve ever lived has been dirty and full of bugs. Most buildings are full of insects which, because people and insects are a relationship non-starter, we try to ignore and when that fails to work, we spray, poison, swat, and squash.

Dirt is ubiquitous too. New York was dirty. Air, streets, sidewalks. Its suburbs are full of pollen and leaves and the city was plain filthy. Jerusalem had almost no air pollution — no factories worth mentioning — but it was full of sand with the grit of the Negev everywhere. Boston is normally as dirty as any other major American city, but during the Big Dig, it took on exciting new levels of grime, building dirt and all the crud which comes with demolishing roads, old bridges, decrepit buildings, roads, and sidewalks. Although bucolic Uxbridge has (mostly) trees. trees are their own dirt on a stick. Pollen. Leaves. Dead leaves. Acorns, pods. Seeds. And don’t forget the bugs.

Our bug guy says we don’t even want to know what’s out there. There are things we are best off not knowing. I get the creeps not thinking about it.

Life is messy. Everything is one more item doomed to add grime to your world. Cooking, pets, shoes, clothing. Furniture. All the small adorable things on shelves and the pictures on the walls. They are all items waiting to be encrusted with filth. The paws of your dogs go places you probably would rather not imagine. Sometimes, they drag things in from the outside that might have legs and start to move. Ew.

So what has this to do with trance?

Becoming entranced is the only way to not notice the accumulating mess. No matter how much you clean, somewhere you have yet to notice, it is building. Waiting for you. You could clean all the time, 24/7 and there would be more dirt you missed. Trance — self-induced — is our only hope of survival. We all have things we clean so we feel if the shower is clean and the windows shine, everything else must also be clean.

It’s a trick. Nothing is really clean and never will be.

I am in favor of deeper trances. Trances so total they obliterate reality and if you consider the state of the world, that doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. If I’m going to have to live in a grimy world full of things that crawl, slither, and scurry, I don’t want to know. If my own self-entrancing is insufficient, I might need help getting it right.

Help?

ENTRANCEMENT – THE FINAL FRONTIER

CLOSE TO HOME

Day Trip, by Rich Paschall


While most people would like to go away for vacation, it is not always possible to pack up and catch a flight to England or Ireland, Germany or France, Mexico or Colombia.  In fact, it may not even be possible to take a trip for a few days to another domestic locale by train, bus or automobile.  If your time off of work is mostly given up to obligations around town, you may wish to consider a day trip.  This could be one overnight, or just somewhere close enough to visit during the day, and return home by nightfall.

A lot of stairs to the top

When my “old friend” and occasional travel companion came to visit for a week, we each had a list of things to do together, and some with others.  He had dates and I had social and medical obligations to attend.  When he arrived we went for deep dish pizza, of course.  We found a few hours here and there for socializing together.  We went to a baseball game, his first trip to the south side park.  And we went off on a “day trip.”

About two hours southwest of Chicago, along the Illinois River, is Starved Rock State Park.  The canyons and sandstone bluffs mark an area that is not typical of the state. Outside the Chicago area, Illinois is known more for corn and soybean fields than anything else.  When I took a trip through Illinois to St. Louis with another friend, he remarked that there was nothing remarkable about Illinois.  In fact, it was the flattest land he had ever seen.  Obviously, we had not gone to Starved Rock.

Interstate highways will take you most of the way, before narrow scenic roads take you the rest of your journey.  After stopping at the visitor’s center for refreshment, we headed out to find the trail map to decide on our route.  Since one of the sites my companion wished to see was a long walk and we were right at the Starved Rock, we decided to go for the long climb to the top.

Prior to human habitation, the floods of melting glaciers had carved out these canyons and created the beauty that stands today.  By the late 1600’s the French had established a fort atop the large sandstone “Rock” that overlooks the river.  Eventually they left.

Legend has it that in 1769 the Illiniwek Indians or Illini, pursued by two other ethnic groups, took refuge atop this same sandstone butte.  They were under siege by the tribes below and eventually starved to death, hence the name Starved Rock.  The University of Illinois teams are known as the Fighting Illini, although it seems the actual Illini chose not to fight.  The school mascot is Chief Illiniwek, but that is clearly another story for another time.

Path to the top

As we made our long climb to the top of the rock, we found an elderly couple seated on a bench a short way up the path.  They doubted they would make it all the way.  Much of the area was built over with a steep wooden stairway.  This is not the sort of climb I would normally do either, but my friend was content to move at my pace, so I persisted.

The view at the top was worth the climb.  High above the Illinois river, you can see up and down the waterway, a major tributary of the Mississippi.  You can also see that there is no retreat.  If the rock is surrounded, there is nowhere to go.  You are too far from the river and too high up to even consider jumping.

Illinois River lock and dam

The Illinois River lock and Dam at Starved Rock is one on eight along the massive Illinois river and is located 231 miles from the Mississippi River.  The Illinois River provides a path from the Great Lakes at Lake Michigan to the Mississippi and down to the Gulf of Mexico.  For city kids from the nation’s third largest city, it is an amazing view.  It is also a historically important site to the State of Illinois where archaeological digs have taught us much about local history.  The view, the canyons, the waterfalls, the hiking trails, the campgrounds, the large state park for picnics and fun have made Starved Rock one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state.

Plum Island

From the top of the rock, you can find a view of Plum Island.  It is reported that in 1997 the bald eagle, symbol of America, began to return to this area after near extinction in this region.  The increase in the eagle population is believed to be a direct result of the banning of DDT, an argument for the EPA (yet another story for another time).  In the years that followed there was a battle over development of the land, but the Illinois Audubon Society purchased it in 2004. Today it is a sanctuary that is closed to the public but in full view of the Rock.  Plum Island is a winter home for the majestic eagle who come to fish the river.  This makes the top of Starved Rock a year round attraction.  It may be a difficult or impossible climb in foul (or fowl) weather, however.

Top of the rock

At just two hours away, and with two drivers in the car, we were able to head out in daylight and return in daylight with no problem (late June).  The small and somewhat historic towns that are near to the Park (Utica, Oglesby. Ottawa) show off quaint, small town America.  In addition, the large Matthiessen State Park is just down the road and was our second stop on this trip.  There we were able to go down into the canyons to view a waterfall, a chief interest of my travel buddy.  If you have to stay home on vacation, you do not have to stay home.

What are you looking at?

Resources: Illinois Waterway, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illinois_Waterway
Starved Rock State Park, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starved_Rock_State_Park
Illinois Starved Rock State Park, http://www.starvedrockstatepark.org/

LOVE IN THE I.C.U. – BY ELLIN CURLEY

On February 11, 1972, my 88-year-old grandfather was hit by a truck crossing a street in New York City. His left side was smashed and a broken rib punctured his lung. Within 24 hours he was in a coma. My mother, grandmother and I camped out in the waiting room of the I.C.U at Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan.

My grandfather

Another family was also spending most of its time in the same waiting room – the Palmers, father mother and younger son, who had Tourette’s Syndrome. Their older son, Jeffrey, 18, had been hit by a car. He was a Julliard student training to become a concert pianist. His pelvis was broken and his leg was fractured in several places. He was also in a coma.

Our two families got very friendly over the next few weeks. My grandfather was declared brain-dead. Jeffrey regained consciousness but was in traction and had a cast up to his thigh. I started visiting him and hanging out in his room.

It’s hard to describe what life is like when you’re living it in a hospital. Your day revolves around doctor’s visits and reports. Every little change in the patient becomes major news. And now we were monitoring two patients, Grandpa and Jeffrey. It is all-encompassing and totally consuming.

Me, my mom and my grandmother

Me, my mother and my grandmother

The good news was that Jeffrey and I hit it off. He was smart and funny and we had a great time talking. He was a bright spot for me at a horribly depressing time. My grandfather was gone but still alive. Our family was in a horrifying limbo. We tried to talk the hospital into letting us disconnect my grandfather from life support.

Jeffrey left the hospital after about four weeks. I stayed in touch with him and his family, who lived on Long Island.

The hospital finally disconnected my grandfather from all life support – and he survived on his own. Everything had healed and he was breathing on his own! The stress caused my mom to go into heart failure. She was hospitalized for a few days in a different hospital.

After six weeks (and withholding of food and water), my grandfather finally died on March 26, 1972. My mother recovered. Shortly after, Jeffrey moved into the city and went back to school, still in a huge cast and on crutches. We began dating.

I was 22 and taking time off before going to law school. When I wasn’t with Jeffrey, I spent most of my time helping my mother sort out my grandfather’s finances. He had left his estate in total chaos. It took at least a year to track down all his assets and get my grandmother settled financially.

                                                                                       Jeffrey and me

Jeffrey and I were together and very much in love for a year and a half. His family loved me and I loved them. I went on a vacation with his whole family to Bermuda. Jeffrey spent time with me and my family at our summer-house in Connecticut. It was a good and happy relationship.

I don’t remember exactly why we broke up. Jeffrey had decided to quit Julliard and was starting college at N.Y.U as a pre-med student. I was leaving soon to go to law school in Washington D.C. The age difference was an issue. But I think the breakup had more to do with Jeffrey’s new found infatuation with Scientology.

We met under strange and dark circumstances. But I have only fond memories of Jeffrey. He got me through a very tough time in my life and he was my first real love. Everyone should have such a wonderful experience with their first love. I was very lucky! And how we met makes such a great story!