I wondered where it came from, and I still do. It’s a massive structure, revisited, my second time here, and it’s breathtaking. The edifice reaches the clouds, maybe two kilometers in the sky, maybe even higher, there’s no way to measure, and birds must fly around it, great flocks trying to gauge if it would be better to skirt around the man-made mountain or go over. It’s when the birds are close is when the scale becomes apparent. Tiny flying insects they become, against the soaring walls. Higher and higher the flock flies, up and up, until I cannot see them anymore.
Why red brick? There’s a reason it’s built out of red brick, and I feel I should know why but no. I stand closer now and have that feeling a person gets when they first visit New York City, and walk among the skyscrapers. But a good portion of New York could fit inside this building, and as far as I can tell, there’s no reason for it to exist, except it does.
Engineering would deny this thing in reality. From space, it would look like an old fashioned water well, simple and round, the walls only thick enough for a small truck to drive upon the open rim, a three meters wide, at most. I’ve been up there once before. I think I fell.
There’s a tiny café to the left of the entrance and people time their visits to avoid the guy mowing the grass here. He pushes a loud, smokey, clunky mower, just like you would find in suburbia in the mid 1900’s and honestly, I have no idea if one person could actually mow the inside area and not have a permanent job. But the men and women working to repair the wall also have a full time job. There are hundreds of them, scaffolding clings to the bricks in various places, and stray bricks fall at random times. But overall, there are vast, immense areas where unbroken fields of bricks stretch into the skies.
But why red brick? The question comes to me, even as I walk in the freshly mowed grass, I can smell it, and I know it’s a dream, but the red brick stage setting intrigues me. Something tiny to give The Well a larger sense of proportion? I have no idea. Then I see her, the woman I was looking for last time, sitting alone, waiting for me. The dream is repeating, the dreamscape and characters are back, and even though I know it is a dream, the smile is involuntary. I’ll ask her why the bricks, why everything, over a drink, and a cigarette, but I wake up instead.
While writing a fiction piece about the end of the world, I was interviewing women to learn how they thought they would be treated by men in a nascent civilization. Mostly, women were very pessimistic, with some flatly rejecting the idea of starting over in a site where they were outnumbered by men. Some thought being in a camp with men would be favorable to being outside a camp with no protection from men. It was clear that men would be the biggest problem women felt they would face, even if there were monsters who invaded earth that ate people.
I asked a woman who I didn’t know well at all what she thought would happen. She said once men did all the upper body strength/ he man stuff like putting up fences and farming, it could dawn on them they were in control of everything inside those fences, and women would suffer for this.
“Just like that? I asked.
“That’s the way things work now,” she replied.
She went on to explain she agreed to talk to me about the project, but only in a place where she could see other people, and be seen, because she didn’t know me. A friend referred her to me, knew she would want to speak about the subject, and we were in a downtown coffee shop.
“Have you ever taken a woman out on a first date to a really nice restaurant?” she asked me. “Not just a first date, but the first time the two of you went anywhere together alone?”
I stalled out. Surely, in my life I had, but I couldn’t remember.
“Most women will guide men away from expensive first date venues,” she told me. “That way, the man isn’t as likely to demand sex on the first date.”
I told her I didn’t think dating was like that, and she asked me if I had ever dated a man. My education, it seemed, was just beginning.
The biggest problem, she told me, is that in order to get sex from a man to whom she was attracted, she had to make sure he wasn’t going to assault her first. Which meant she had to establish some level of trust on the first date, allow a rapport to develop, and keep him at arm’s length should he turn into an octopus.
Moreover, she wasn’t on the Pill. When she went out with a guy for the first time, she had no intentions of having sex with him no matter how well things went, or how strong an attraction she developed for him. Women have created bail out calls, where if a woman is on a date and wants out, she can text a friend to come get her out. This woman went a step further by letting a gay friend come over and play video games on her widescreen. She would text him and tell him to stay or go, depending on how a date went.
So, I asked, does this mean you never had sex on a first date?
She went out with a guy she really liked, they went to a cozy little bar, then went to his place and smoked pot. She was higher than she needed to be, and knew it, and the next thing she knows, he’s pushed her over on the sofa, kissing her, and she has to make a decision fast. She can try to throw the brakes on, try to get him off of her, hope it doesn’t piss him off, and hope for the best. She was interested, just not this interested yet, but why not just go along with it? What she knows to be true, is that there is zero chance this man is ever going to be charged with raping her, unless he beats her bloody and she has war wounds to show for it, and even then, going through the process of going to the hospital for a rape kit, going through the trauma of filing a report, and waiting for a trial that might take months, assures her only that the man she is trying to put in prison knows where she lives.
She pushes back, tells him to stop, and he does, for the moment.
Now she has to extract herself from the situation without pissing him off. They are both drunk, both stoned, and she says she has to use the bathroom, which is a disaster, because she has to go through his bedroom to get there. He follows her, lays down on the bed, and she closes the bathroom door behind her, and thinks. Now what? She almost calls a friend, decides not to, thinks she might be overthinking the situation, flushes, washes her hands, and when she steps out of the bathroom, he’s on the bed, naked.
“At this point,” she tells me, “it’s fight or fuck, and after I lose the fight I’m fucked anyway.”
A few hours later, after three or four sessions of unprotected sex, his urgency and buzz wears off, and he drives her home. The next morning, she hits the pharmacy for a Morning After Pill, and is pissed at herself for getting in that situation.
“You’ve never raped a woman?” she asks, looking me in the eye.
“No, never,” I say and I’m mad she would ask.
“You’ve never taken a drunk woman back to your apartment, started trying to fuck her, and not thought for a moment that she might be afraid to say no to you?” The question is one open to interpretation, and I almost say that, but I realize it sounds like I’m trying to defend myself against an accusation.
I tell her about the time a woman came home with me from a bar, like in her case, and we smoked some pot, and we were both really stoned. We started kissing, one thing led to another, but she never said stop or slow down, or no.
“Could she have walked home from your place safely? Could she have called a cab? Was there anyone close by she could have gotten to come get her? Did you have control over her means of transportation?” she asked, and I could tell this was exactly what she had gone through.
“Did you try to call her the next day, or later, and did she more or less not want to have anything else to do with you?” she demanded. This all happened long before cell phones, back in the 80’s.
I thought back to that night. It was cold, raining hard, and we were both pretty blitzed. The woman didn’t seem reluctant, or hesitant.
“Does this mean she absolutely wasn’t looking for a one night stand?” I asked and the question seemed lame for some reason.
“No, not at all, she could have very well been looking for sex. She might have had a boyfriend and not wanted to see you again for that reason. “But you had a lot more control over the situation than she. Did you ask her if she was on birth control? Did you offer to use a condom? Did you ever wonder if she was pregnant after that night? The questions were flung out at me, but she already knew the answers.
“Hey, this was decades ago,” I protested.
“Good point. Nothing has changed since what happened to that woman happened to me, Mike,” she said. “I’m not accusing you of raping her. I’m accusing you of not realizing you had power over her. In your story, if you set up a camp to restart civilization, how are you going to prevent the men from having power over the woman, and then using that power against the women. That’s the question you are asking, even if you don’t realize it.”
“Take the most extreme example. Do you think Thomas Jefferson raped Sally Heming?” she asked.
“Yes, a woman who cannot say no cannot say yes,” I replied.
“Even if she liked him, or loved him, and even wanted him, the power he held over her made it impossible for her to make up her own mind as to what to do with her body. The guy that was waiting for me to come out of the bathroom forced me to either confront him, or go along for the ride. I was young, scared, and took the easy way out. It’s not the classic knife-at-her-throat rape scene, but I didn’t feel as if I had any choice. That’s your story right there. Who decides how much power men have over women?” she stood up, to go, and I stood up, too.
“You’re on the right track, Mike, but a lot of men are going to read it complete fiction.”
“Like a memory in motion
You were only passing through
That is all you’ve ever known of life, that’s all you’ll ever do” Caroline by Concrete Blonde
“I think she’s dead” was the entire message. I knew who my friend was talking about, even though the two of us haven’t spoken for any length of time in years. Nothing more needs to be said, and unless something changes, we’re not likely to get together and have some memorial for someone who we both loved, but a very long time ago.
The late 1980’s was the last time I would really feel carefree and young. Friends came, and they went, we drank a lot, we spent many hours walking in the woods, and talking about things that were interesting, time stood still, then one day I woke up and that time of my life was gone, like I had fallen asleep on a plane, and landed in some unwanted destination where I didn’t understand the language and didn’t like the climate.
Coincidence, I submit, has likely founded more religions than ethical conviction. After all, when I moved out here in the middle of nowhere, I landed within twenty miles of a woman who had dated the same woman as I had, back then. We were close, and she lost the same woman I did, in the same manner, and took the same hit as I did. Love is the same, living love, losing love, remembering love, really, it is the same. Death is a lot like love. Neither of us are going to do anything, there won’t be a quiet evening drinking and sharing memories, no. After this much time we’ll just acknowledge a person who spent some time in our timelines is truly gone.
All this started when, no wait, it was before that, actually. But the story twists and turns upon itself, involving one person meeting another, and in that circle of friends the cross pollination was strong. We went bowling one day, six of us, and I realized all three women in the group had been in my bed, I knew two of them had dated at least two of the three guys in the group. We never got anyone infected or pregnant, as far as I knew.
It’s not as tawdry as it sounds, really. In some sense we all knew no one would wind up with anyone there forever. The woman in question passed on from me to my roommate, and I made them raise their right hands and swear that anything that happened in the future was not my fault, and they did. It was funny, hysterical in fact, and now both them are gone. He had two consecutive relationships end with his female partner leaving him for a female partner. She left him for a woman, and left her for a married man.
In the end, that was a fitting metaphor for that period of my life. Over thirty years have passed now. One by one, people disappear into the darkness of time, or they die. The songs we listened to together will never be heard as new music, even to those who have never heard it before. It is old music, even classic, perhaps, but the music is something that happened a long time ago, in another era, remembered, and poorly at that, by those who are still surviving.
Basically, Hugelkultur is a system of layering logs, limbs, compost, leaves, and that sort of stuff to create a compost system a gardener would plant on top of or create a large pile of compost.
Back last year or so, I expanded my compost pile and this year, I reaped the harvest of some really great compost. But the garden is getting bigger, and more compost is needed, and even more in the coming years.
One of the failed experiments was the Branch Office of the Compost Complex, where I piled up branches, threw leaves on them, and waited for the branches to turn into compost. It not only did not happen, but a large pile of branches was the only product.
The next plan of action was to get a wood chipper, which seems to come in two types; very large and very expensive chippers, that work well, but are loud and smelly, and very small ones, that are like oversized plastic pencil sharpeners, which work very poorly and get bad reviews.
My Facebooks friends, when they weren’t referencing Woodchippers in movies like Fargo, and listing items needed to dispose of a body, one of them came up with Hugelkultur.
Hugelkultur is composting vegetative matter while using it to grow plants. A multi-layered approach, Hugeltur promised to render the Branch Office into soil, and if I wanted, I could grow something on top of it. At this point, I need more compost.
Just as I was about to begin, the thought arrived that this might be the time to take my neighbor up on his offer of free manure from the cow pasture. Away I went, got a load in my truck, and then back to the Compost Complex and the Death of the Branch Office.
I don’t have much left over from the Branch Office. What I do have will be made into another Hugelkultur tomorrow, or the next day considering how tired I am right now. But this seems like it will work, and it has everything it needs to do so.
Stay tuned, next April or so, when I start really gearing up for the garden!
The dream stayed in my mind, like the residue of honey in a refilled cup of coffee. It’s not there, not even the memory of the dream is there, nothing but something akin to a psychic aftertaste, something floating around in the mind like a speck of red dust in the air, reflected by sunlight for a moment in time, picked up by imperceptible currents in the room, before drifting back into the shadow near your closet.
It’s still there, it still exists, you know for a fact it does, but you also know you couldn’t find it, and by looking for it, by trying to define it, you would pollute and distort it, change it so completely as to destroy the vision entirely.
How can it be both there, not there, remembered, not remembered, forgotten, not forgotten, Schrodinger’s Cat, with your conscious being the radioactive isotope, that triggers the poison. Your subconscious doesn’t know if there was a dream, or if you dreamed there was a dream, but the if you look for it, you kill the dream.
Perhaps the same part of your mind that forgets people one millisecond after you’ve been introduced is responsible for remembering your dreams. It’s a faulty device, battered by television shows, bumper sticker politics, and Prosperity Religion. If you spent more time reading, you’re remember what you had dreamt in more details, and Barbra Anderson’s name after you met her.
You can feel it, can’t you? You know it’s there. You meet someone and you’re looking at her, she’s speaking to you, and her name was said out loud, you shook hands with her, and now you’re scrolling through names in your head without a road sign or a map to help.
Feels just like when you’re trying to remember a dream, doesn’t it?
When was the last time you did remember a dream? The dreamscape, the setting of the dream, was it familiar only while you were there, or it is a real place? The people, were they characters in your life, or did they only exist in your slumber? Perhaps there was fear, some creature that meant you harm, were you lost, were you missing someone, was there abject terror of death, fire, falling, bullets, bears, or Johnny with an ax?
Maybe that’s why we don’t remember dreams, it’s a self-defense mechanism keeping us from screaming during the day while we remember what happened in our sleep. And perhaps, for mechanisms we cannot quite comprehend, it’s the same reason we forget the names of strangers.
The events of the last few days, along with hard work restoring the deck, and more than a couple of beers, sent me down the path of needing some time off. The topic of discussion on the social media of a friend led me to watch, “The Frozen Ground” a 2013 film about serial killer Robert Hansen.
As many serial killers have, Hansen preyed on prostitutes, whose illegal occupation keeps them moving around more than people with illegal and steady jobs. Drug abuse, alcoholism, and homelessness plagues these women, so they are perfect targets for serial killers, as well as sexual assault.
I read a book about the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgeway, who claimed he hated women, and that above all things drove him to murder. At the same time, Ridgeway was aided and abetted by a system that pays women less than men, gives them fewer opportunities for work, and allows sexual harassment to be difficult to prove and harder to prosecute. I’ve been desperately poor in my life, worked some very shitty jobs for low pay, but no matter where I went, and what job was offered, sex for money was never anything anyone pushed me towards. A man can always find a job, for some sort of money, but a woman will always find someone willing to take advantage of her.
People consider Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers as somewhat divine, but Jefferson’s sexual relationship with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, cannot be construed as consensual. Jefferson was intelligent enough to know the woman would not, and could not refuse him, and he knew rejection on the part of Hemings would have been inconceivable, no pun intended. This is rape, and no other word more clearly defines it.
Likewise, prostitution is not wholly consensual in a system that marginalizes women’s abilities to make a living. Making prostitution illegal guarantees that the sellers must sell lower to attract buyers who also run the risk of arrest, however slight that may be in some areas. Prostitution is a form of rape women are paid to endure, and men pay to enjoy, with many more severe consequences for the women than the men, both physically and emotionally.
Alaska, like prostitution, has a reputation for being something it isn’t, as some people look at movies like “Pretty Woman” and wonder if it’s not all like that, instead of the desperate reality of women living hand to mouth selling their bodies. Alaska, with its pristine forests and snow-covered mountaintops, also has a seedy, dirty, secret life where women are second class citizens, native women routinely go missing, and arrest for sexual assault is rare.
The scenery of “The Frozen Ground” bars no holds in its portrayal of the alcohol fueled bar scene of topless dancers and sex for money in Anchorage.
Robert Hansen confessed to murdering a young woman back in the late 70’s, and claimed she was his first. A badly decomposed body of the woman was found, and because she had no identity, she was called Eklutna Annie.
Last night, I had a disjointed, scattered and fearful dream. Dimly lit streets, dingy snow, crowds of people, and I was looking for Eklutna Annie, to tell her not to get into the car with that guy. But each turn was a new road, somewhere else, the night shifted to day, the snow was there, gone, and then back again. I never found her. I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep, Lilith wanted out, and so from about three in the morning on, I haven’t slept.
Gary Ridgway’s path of destruction included at least fifty women. Ted Bundy’s killing spree was equally horrible. But one of Ridgway’s victims, one of the few he buried, was a seventeen-year-old whose identity remained hidden for years. She turned out to be a runaway, who walked away from her home at age fourteen. Her parents, and family, never reported her missing. She was simply gone for three years. No one was looking for her, no one was expecting her to come back, no one thought that she might be selling her body for drugs on the street, and eventually, targeted for rape and murder.
When pretty and blonde, Gabby Petito, was murdered by her boyfriend, the nation recoiled in shock and horror. Petito was on a cross country road trip, videoing her journey with the man she loved, as her family awaited her return in Florida. She had the money to do this, her family had the money to push for justice, and in the end, her boyfriend knew he would be hunted down for this murder.
Yet this is not the case for street walkers, sex workers, and runaways. Without the social status money brings, forced to work on their backs in dangerous and degrading conditions, poor women will never see the outrage when one of their own is murdered.
Men with money and power create a world where women are sexual creatures, to be bought and paid for, used, and then discarded without the social justice those with wealth can afford.
Nothing has changed since Jefferson’s days. Slavery may not be legal anymore, but the system that once allowed that sort of thing will always find a way to continue it.