He strapped on his twiddle hat - a silo-striped multicolored propeller beanie - just to announce that he knew how nuts he looked. Of course the effect was just simply to look nuts and everyone thought surely he was (gracefully, there weren't so very manybodies, and the way had already been paved by old, so Howie called him, Stoney Lonesome, like the wicked witch toting Toto, but a really old skinny guy and with wavy white hair under his bulking Styrofoam helmet). But it was actually a helmet and fit the arrangement: a cheap electric bike purchased from Northern Supply. The cheapest windmill purchased from West Marine. Ditto a rollup solar array.
Down the massive hill of Stoney Lonesome his road, his life, windmill blades folded and rolled inside the flexible array out the back almost precisely like a witch's broomstick. Twiddle head spinning. One of three spare batteries switched to braking and regeneration, just because the physics of getting back up the hill didn't quite work, and it's a really really really big hill.
The Finger Lakes of New York are compsed of puddles between the cats clawings of not-so-ancient glacial advance and retreat, and riding east and west is simply impossible. But Howie's house was on the spine of a smaller lake, the one from which Genny Beer used to advertise its pure origins. Hemlock killed the great teacher, and the carpet guy who apparently went in while fishing early in the AM. You weren't allowed to swim in Hemlock lake back then.
So, bizarrely, the arrangement worked! The windmill gets stuck on its stick and staked almost anywhere, and always by morning all systems and batteries GO! Sunny lunches out did the same with the array. And following an UP, there was usually a down to take the batteries back up one by one, although there was always plenty of pedaling -- and the bike was not light -- on the way back home to the hilltop. Physics never quite allowing a full return on investment. But there were still plenty of cars around willing to let him lasso the magnetic tether (necessary for rapid release in the case of shitbird longneck-drinking redneck hillbillies), apologies to Stephenson. Howie's tether included a sliding polarity quick release deadman's strap.
Most people drove electric in those days, fueled simply, by an array of windmills and small hydro plants cooperatively mini-gridded and water reservoir storage celled, so almost everyone could regenerate by morning. Howie was off the grid, and didn't want to exchange chits with anyone. Howie's feelings had been hurt, simply again, by too much mockery and suspicion of someone who thinks and makes connections and tries stuff out.
There were the birds again. There are the birds, resolving themselves into some impossible media player stoned-again swirling ooze, though only, apparently, black and white. Howie wondered - fantasized actually - about the twiddleheaded cockatoo colored one mixed in, some kind of hybrid from freak migration sex who still could flow with the flock but worked your brain like some out of touch pixel or single-photon sensitive rod or cone out of whack.
Kinsey devoted his entire life to futile attempts to prevent the imposition of artificial boundaries on the stuff of nature. Most everyone assumed he was sex obsessed, as Howie assumed, wrongly, of himself. So I'm pretty sure, as Howie was not, that he was the only one actually to see - to perceive - this boundary crossing freak of nature.
There was this single fleck of color most of the time moving along, and some of the time flinging free and out and away. Howie wondered about the necessary bipolor diagnosis and dujour medication to keep the twiddlehead tethered, as it were, and flying with the flock, wherever the hell they were, well actually weren't, headed.
Howie wondered incessantly, which of course depleted his batteries and left him pooped and down the hill and sleepy and not quite ever lonely, but not either ever quite really, well, happy. The pills could help. Would have helped.
The birds grew fat and numerous on yet another kind of gypsy moth infestation. Midsummer looked autumnal, apologies Kunstler, with denuded trees, and swarms of random moths resolving themselves, energy transformed, into bird formations, not random, but not, as indicated, headed, or headed anywhere other than to eat the masses of gypsy moths.
Howie's onetime girlfriend had played skinnily on the african drums thickly among them, and then their cloudlike swarms would resolve themselves - the moths - into maddening shifts of the entire atmosphere, crazily up, down, over and out, and Howie couldn't get past the ipod cliche logic of his, well onetime, girlfriend, almost technicolor and clearly beyond attractive to every single fucking guy who could pound a drum, which decidedly did NOT include Howie. His feelings were hurt, as moth to flame, he could not but possess, entirely, the object of his passion, and was never quite up to the competition. Arms loose and flailing leaving breasts perky levitating over ohmygod tight and as they say gyrating ass. Ouch.
Down down down to the river resolved from onetime gasoline cars first to strings of linked streamlined standard height conefront conerear omnimobile trains, and now once again actually to trains, powered up the hill in a virtual sense by the drag down the hill of the leading cars, but in actual fact by arrays of huge huge windmills gathered near the hills, and largely underground-for-evaporation reservoirs of plentiful plentiful water, for drinking, water, clean, pure, made from the driven snow, ahhh! Regenerative downhills in any case, and it really didn't take very much, so long as the home to train commute didn't much exceed the golfcart variety.
There were those alcohol or diesel-heads who liked the roar (although electric gave a better kick), and whose retro-bumpers Howie liked to latch onto distantly and stealth-like because they really might shoot him, just because they always made it up the hills. But mostly everything had resolved itself and worked just fine without undo effort, and his fellow commuters were used to him now, so long as he discreetly removed the offending helmet on the way in the door, after depositing the bike where bikes always go, up front under the conehead.
Howie gathered universal chits because he knew how to fix stuff, and people were happy to part with their chits as long as he wasn't, and he wasn't, any threat to their daughters or most especially their fool quotient, because whatever he charged was a fair good deal less than anyone else wanted or needed to charge. Enough for travel to the big city on a blue Monday (cheaper) or so.
The big city in this case meant Buffalo, way repopulated in refutation of Pareto because Pareto requires absolute lubrication which was forever now lacking and so the big cities became big beyond measure - perhaps 10 million actually measured, but beyond in the sense that they were immoderate, and now instead of one Big Apple, there were perhaps 25 of them strategically located, or if there were a head, allocated back in the right places where wind and water and low friction communication would have them even without any head. What they used to call a no-brainer. Largely squandering God's gift of oil.
Howie fairly jumped, off the train to be first to retrieve his one among only two bicycles, the other, he thought, having been there for perhaps weeks and would eventually be retrieved by the soon-to-be lucky pensioner one of perhaps 5 still on the government, well he called it still anyhow, dole. Sent to the recycler, almost worthless because this one was sportif for muscles only, the absence of which Howie's potbelly betrayed. Sex dispossessed and homebrew euphoric. Had the rider died of a heart clench?
So there was still excitement in the Big City, this one of Howie's youth. And there he was, and there I was, and I must say I still get a thrill seeing him, remembering as I do his ill spent youth, and just how hard his, well, muscles actually were. That was before he went off the pills and well before I just couldn't take it any more. That was well before things calmed down and life became good again, and the kids grew up, and they are so so so successful and a pride to a mother's heart. Swelling again now. Swell.
Hello Howie. Hello and hello and hello and oh how I wish I could love you my love.
Can you tell how angry I am? Can I tell you how angry I am???
There are silly and, well, crazy notions afoot about parallel universes, time travel (same thing) and in general the idea that in some other – I’m telling you it’s fictional – place there is a chance for propositional reality. But in fact, I mean in actual fact as the definition goes, there is only ever one reality, and if you don’t live it as if it were fictional, then you waste it.
We wasted the gift of oil, largely because it came at the same time as the still as yet unresolved struggles we will now never finish to come to terms with the Jesus literality, and its corollary which became the inevitability of scientifically technological advance. Like Time’s Arrow, we supposed, there was only ever one way toward advance, and the other way toward the cave of the Hemlock drinker’s apologist.
That led to a kind of confusion among technology as comfort, technology as health, technology as improvements toward insight as through a glass to find things not available apart from it. Through but not in. Through but not by means of. Through but not finished, ever.
So, this, naturally becomes Chapter 1 of a story which could go any number of different ways, but which happened to go this way. This particular way and no possible other.
Lubricious as the oil was, it at least and inevitably led to a kind of clarity upon awakening from the hangover. That there had in actual fact been other ways to use the gift. That we could have first set up the sustainable camp, with latrine far from water draw, acceptable over infinite time, before we took to the water slide and screaming fun. But, in plain fact the greed of the easy fuck took over from the slow and sidling making out from blush to actual love even if the far side was still a disappointment almost every time.