Friday, September 21, 2012

Amongst the Gorillas

Aye, deep in the blue green fastness of the Congo live the gorillas, stalking the primordial forests, looming over all as they happily gobble a couple of dozen pounds of salad each day.  Imagine my shock when I developed my film and saw staring out at me the image of the lost explorer Cholmondeley Featherstonehaugh who disappeared with his able assistant Carruthers into the high forests on the shoulders of the Rift Zone volcanoes in 1901, searching for the elusize and legendary giants who were thought to exist among the brooding peaks of Central Africa. 

Ah yes, that they did, unbelieved in by western science until 1902, when Captain von Beringe found them peacefully munching wild celery on the slopes of Mount Sabyinyo in Rwanda.   The rest is as depressing a history as you'll find in the annals of human stewardship of the Earth.  

No trace of either Featherstonehaugh or Carruthers was ever found save Carruthers' cork helmet, found floating in a lake, split down the middle as if by a giant talon.  Porters were silent except to say that the explorers "should not have gone where men were not wanted." 

Now, gorillas exist in somnolent boredom in places like the San Diego Zoo, slowly trundling about behind glass walls while countless humans in baseball caps, shorts, and tennis shoes wander by and wave little rectangular things at them and each other. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Thoughts . . . .

The other day, in the weight room at the gym here at the Big U, I was waiting for a guy to finish with the drinking fountain.  He was young, perhaps 20 years of age.  He smelled mildly of either cologne or some kind of deodorant.  This smell mixed with the smell of sweat and the generally close fear and testosterone drenched atmosphere of the place.  It reminded me powerfully of my late teens and early twenties, when I was seemingly incapable of being comfortable in my own skin.  I remember running a lot during those years and now I think I was trying to run out of myself; out of the discomfort of my mind with my body as it adjusted to adulthood.  Of course, it didn't work.  It was years before I could walk the earth in a relaxed manner, not really worrying about how I felt because I felt good almost all the time.  I still do, by and large.  I also became really well conditioned and I am still thankful for that and for the habit of exercising every day.   

This olfactory memory haunted me for several minutes, and I brooded through my next few exercises that I did and on into the locker room afterward.  I recalled in particular walking into the library at Merritt College in Oakland one afternoon, intent on wasting time of course, with my shirt sticking to my armpits which felt clammy and damp and irritated by the English Leather deodorant I was wearing.  I felt like the most uncoordinated, acne-ridden nerd the world had ever known and I was scared of my own shadow.   I was unconsciously convinced that I smelled bad, looked bad, and radiated fear.  This translated into a kind of physical discomfort that only left me when I could go out and run hard for an hour or so, or when I played my bagpipes.  There were no other real outlets.  Reading helped, especially when I would fall far into a work of fantasy fiction, but it didn't give me the release that running uphill for an hour would. 

I now look at my son and hope that somehow he is spared the worst of this.  He is social on a level I was not, so perhaps he'll avoid the worst of it, that dark desperate fear of terminal aloneness brought on by my own failings and discomforts.  He's far better looking than I was (as all hapa kids are) and is happily aware of attention he gets from girls.  Of course, this brings its own set of negotiations with self and others, but I think he'll be up to that.  I'll be happy if he gets past that social paralysis that dogged me into my early twenties.  If he can swing down the street stepping lightly on most days, I'll have done my job and I'll be a happy old guy.