Musings on genre writing, waterfall wandering, and peak bagging in the South’s wilderness areas.
Musings on genre writing, waterfall wandering, and peak bagging in the South’s wilderness areas.
Maybe it’s because of the $5.00 admission charge and the fact that the property is in private hands and no part of our public lands. I can’t recall why I have passed it by to visit other places in the area, but I have.
Today Carole and I visited the Pearsons Botanical Preserve and paid the $5.00 admission fee and it was certainly money well spent. Pearsons Glen is the location of the waterfall and the Garden Club that owns and administers to acreage has done a more than admirable job of providing access and infrastructure for visitors to see the land and the waterfall that is its centerpiece.
The trail that leads to the falls is excellent work worthy of the best of the CCC trails that are in our National Parks and National Forests. It follows the stream which cascades down the rocks and boulders and offers an unending music to those who visit.
And what a great waterfall! Pearson’s Falls is said to be 90-feet high and it does seem to be that tall. It is an especially striking a photogenic waterfall. Carole and I hope to go back in the spring with the various wildflowers will be showing their color. I highly recommend a visit!
|A picnic pavilion near the parking areas.|
|Standing near the base of the falls. No trespassing beyond the chains! (Seriously. Don’t. The owners will prosecute.)|
|Decaying log at the bottom of the falls, alive with moss and new growth.|
|Carole along the way.|
|A bridge across the creek.|
|One of the picnic spots on the way to the falls.|
|A new blossom on March 17.|
|Carole and I get a kick out of Saluda. It’s a nice and popular village.|
My favorite of his work is probably PAN’S LABYRINTH which was sparked by the experiences of his politically leftist family during the Spanish Civil War. CRONOS is also another of his movies that I admire. It didn’t hurt that in addition to his obvious intelligence, he also just projected a very likable, childlike persona when interviewed. I found myself looking forward to news of any upcoming projects from him.
However, with the second HELLBOY feature film he directed I lost much of my admiration for his style and his efforts. It was the first time that one of his movies lost the blush of imagination for me. That film was all effects and noise and offered pretty much nothing else. That was okay, I figured, assuming that it was a glitch in the program and that he’d get right back to work as usual. (It did, however, completely derail the HELLBOY movie franchise.)
Then came the execrable THE STRAIN television series that he created and produced (but, apparently did not direct). Perhaps one of the single worst genre shows I have ever seen on television. Even comic book physics have to contain some kind of logic; and weird movies about things such as vampiric worms should contain realistic characterizations and decent acting, none of which were evident in this piece of shit. His TV effort lacked anything whatsoever of value and I quickly lost interest in it. His name on a project was beginning to repel rather than attract me.
After that came PACIFIC RIM (about giant robots fighting giant monsters) which managed to make Idris Elba look like a first class ham; and CRIMSON PEAK (supposedly a kind of ghost-imbued romance) with a forgettable cast. Both of these failed to inspire me at any level whatsoever, with the former actually making me rather sick. He’d gone over to trying to impress his audience with CGI and, frankly…that got old some time back.
What the hell was going on with the guy?
So. I kept hearing about his homage to THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and that it was headed for the big screen. I had not yet lost all hope for del Toro’s work, so I was going to see this movie and give him one more chance. The film appeared, apparently to tepid fan response, and I kept missing opportunities to see it. Truthfully, after a number of crappy efforts, I wasn’t in a hurry to view his latest movie.
Finally, though, it won the Academy Award for Best Picture so my wife actually found herself wanting to see it. As I’d heard, it was a kind of romance so I figured she might enjoy it. We drove to a nearby theater two days after the stupid Academy Awards ceremony and bought our tickets and had our seats in a mostly empty theater.
For her part, my wife adored the movie. She loathes genre films, but this one she loved. As the end credits were rolling she was actually crying at the sweetness of it all. I didn’t say anything to break the moment for her.
As for me–that was it. No more Guillermo del Toro films for me. I was pretty much sickened by the spectacle. It was slick–I’ll give him that. The monster was cool. Weird enough looking to be a creature from another environment, but not so disgusting that some people couldn’t imagine that fucking it would be a hideous rape-y kind of experience.
Yeah, del Toro did his ‘Beauty and the Beast’ schtick without making any liberals feel creepy about it. In this case the heroine was with the monster by choice and not through force.
And therein lay my disgust with the movie: del Toro went out of his way, pulled out all of the stops, and rigged up every bit of neo-liberal gibberish that he could cram into a movie. How could the Academy not give him the Oscar for it? Well, apparently they couldn’t resist. He played them like a fine instrument and won the popularity contest among his little clique of special people.
Here’s what he did:
The heroine of the yarn was a woman. Points for that. And what they call, these days, a strong woman. Kudos. She was also not completely normal, not pretty, and had struggled to overcome not just adversity, but a major handicap. Touchdown!
The monster–also a hero–was strong and silent, sensitive and understanding, and loving. All things that, apparently, real heterosexual men are not.
And that’s where we get to the true meat of the tale. What were the men like? You know…the men who are human beings and not fishmen from the depths.
They were almost all villains. First of all we had Strickland–played by the very talented character actor Michael Shannon. Boy, did del Toro deliver the liberal goods on this guy. He is everything that the groupthink informs us is horrible about males. First of all, he’s white. Ding! Then he’s aggressive. Dong! He’s also a racist. (Aren’t all non-liberals?!) He’s self-centered, sadistic, cruel. Check. Check. Check. And then…so as not to leave any doubt regarding his villainy, he’s a sexual harasser! Boing!!
At least in movies like PAN’S LABYRINTH the bad guy was courageous and dedicated. No admirable traits with this one. SuchLiberal fun!
All of the other guys in the movie (but one) are also evil. Next we have THE RUSSIANS! (Oooo! The scary Russians!) As you all know, every Russian is evil! Every Russian deserves to be killed. We need to go to war with Russia according to the liberals and boy do the liberals get to have their hate-on with Russia with this one! Guillermo del Toro gives them this, in spades! Woo HOO! Warmongering liberal wet dream! All the Russians must, die! And they do!
Hell…del Toro even makes the one black man in the entire movie into a villainous, cowardly douchebag. Heavens to Alice Walker! SCORE! Right through the uprights!
In fact, the only decent human male in the movie is Giles, the heroine’s next-door-neighbor who is a closeted gay. Yeah, you have to be a gay man to be worthy in this movie. All of the heterosexual males are pernicious. Jackpot, del Toro! You win the lottery! Enjoy yer dildo-shaped statues!
So, I found that this was easily far and away the most calculated bit of propaganda that I have seen in a major motion picture in decades. And it’s not as if I can’t enjoy a propaganda piece (such as PATTON), but this one was just so obvious in its pungent prostitution that the whole experience sickened me.
And then–that ending. The final scene of glorious transition. Give. Me. A. Break. Ya lost me, Guillermo. The trans bandwagon?! Lost probably forever. I’m pretty sure I’ve sworn off Guillermo del Toro as a filmmaker. Definitely as an honest creator, at any rate. He can whore off his mind for other people. I think I’m done with him.
|Bestiality is fun!|
This was back in the early 1970s when the Park still had chain link across the fronts of the trail shelters to protect overnight backpackers from bears. Because in those days most such folk did not practice safe bear-country habits and bears were attracted to the shelters because of the smell of food and actual food items left out where the bears could take them. Back then it was nice to be able to close and secure that chain link door and go to sleep knowing that a bear couldn’t get in.
A couple of nights after that we were staying at another shelter called Peck’s Corner. It got kind of crowded as this shelter was at the Appalachian Trail and lots of hikers use it. Fortunately, as things turned out, it also had the chain link barrier. Why ‘fortunately’? Because one of the backpackers had brought along a can of tuna fish. For lunch he opened the can, walked out in front of the shelter, and drained all of that oil and fish juice on a large flat boulder a few feet from the chain link door. Then he came back in and prepared his meal.
In a few minutes a mother bear and three tiny cubs showed up. I suspect they smelled the tuna fish. But before the mama bear could get to the shelter she pointed her nose to the sky and seemed to be sensing something the rest of us could not. Then she rushed back to the tree where she’d stashed her tiny babies, called them down, and retreated to the deep forest.
Why? We found out.
In short order a very large, very scarred male bear appeared. A few people who’d been outside the shelter rushed in and the chain link door was closed and secured just in time, for he then came right up to it and peered in at all of us humans ‘safely’ inside.
Then he went to the big boulder where the idiot had drained his can of tuna fish. This boulder had about the same surface size on top as a big dining room table. Let’s say four by six feet. But it was also about two feet thick. We’re talking a mass amount of stone. Immovable, you might say. Here’s what happened.
That big, scarred up bear began to lick the oil from the boulder. He licked it all off the top where the idiot had drained it, and then followed the streamlets of oil down the side of the boulder. Some of the oil had followed the contour of the rock and were now under the weight of it. So the bear stood to the side, hooked his claws under the lip, and lifted that mass so that he could lick the tuna fish oil from underneath the boulder. He hefted it up like it was nothing. They way you might move a dining room chair out of your way.
I kid you, not. (Keep in mind he did this with one arm while standing three-legged to do it.)
When he had gotten all of that smelly, delicious, yummy fish oil he released the boulder and it fell back into place with a thump that I felt through the soles of my boots.
At that point he turned his attention back to the shelter. He walked up to the chain link that was protecting us and he peered inside with those beady, dark, black-bear eyes. There was no humor in those eyes. There was no pity hiding in the depths. He was trying to figure out how to get to the food that he knew was in there with us. His nose was going snuff-snuff.
It was at that moment that he stood up on his back legs. I’d already realized that he was an enormous bruiser, but when you see one stand up like that you realize how big they are. The bear placed his paws on the chain link and he began to push. Yeah. He was trying to use his sheer bulk, and the power of the same muscles that had hefted that massive boulder to shove that damned chain link fence right the heck in. With every push he would give out with this little grunt.
Push! Oof! Push! Unh! Push! Grar!
After a few such efforts he seemed to realize that the steel was stronger than he was and he settled back where he sat and stared at us for a little while, those dark, black eyes smoldering with the frustration of a missed opportunity. If only he’d arrived a second or two sooner, before the door had closed in his face.
A few minutes later he was gone. Poof. Vanished back into the forest. Everyone came out of the shelter. He did not return.
I was reminded of this memory because I heard the story of a guy who backpacked into a remote part of Yellowstone National Park a couple of years ago. On the second day of his journey into the wilderness, thick with Grizzly bears who are far larger and far more aggressive than black bears, this shit-for-brains opened up his backpack to discover that the tuna fish he had brought along with him had leaked out and the liquid inside had permeated his pack and his clothing and everything in it and on it with the pungent scent of tuna fish.
To make a longer story very short, nothing happened to this idiot. No grizzly bear appeared to eat the now tuna-flavored moron. But I was reminded of the incident with the black bear. And it was all part of the lesson that I learned that day at Peck’s Corner. And that lesson was never to bring any food item that is so pungent that even humans can smell it from a distance. Especially something like a can or packet of tuna fish that can leak out and turn you into a predator’s target.
I mean…don’t. Just don’t.
One guy I never met–but whose poetry I would sometimes read in the personally inscribed volume of his poems that he gave to my father–was Don West. West was the author of the mentioned volume, CLODS OF SOUTHERN EARTH, which had sold something like 200,000 copies in its day. I don’t think he made much–if any–money from it, but I suppose it brought cash to his publisher.
West was, like my dad, a leftist in the days of the Great Depression. He continued his leftist ways long after such movements had been quashed and destroyed. I recall that my dad mentioned once that West sought shelter at one of my parents’ homes when he was running from both the KKK and the FBI. For good reason, I suppose, because some time later the KKK burned down West’s house in Atlanta. Even the publisher of the Atlanta Constitution publicly called for West to be cast out of the city.
One reason my dad moved us to Gilmer County in Georgia (where he had purchased 120 acres where he built us a house) was that West was born and raised there. So my dad assumed that there would be other people like Don West around those mountains, hills, and hollows. Alas, we soon discovered that Gilmer County and Ellijay were inhabited by people even worse than those to which we were accustomed–racism, hatred, and ignorance the likes of which it is almost impossible to believe.
Unlike West, who spent his life in a struggle against racism, the rest of the county’s residents were basically monsters, or nearly so. It’s no wonder that James Dickey’s visits to Gilmer County resulted in his creation of the novel DELIVERANCE which illustrated the area as it was then with complete and utter perfection.
As my dad was coming to the realization that he was not going to find the “good mountain men” he thought were present, he discovered that West had relocated to West Virginia where he was trying to operate a school teaching the history and common skills of the people of Appalachia. My dad planned to ride up to make a surprise visit, but for whatever reason he never did.
(A bit of information here–Don West’s daughter, Hedy West, wrote the universally famous folk song “500 Miles”.)
Another dude that I recall visiting my dad’s store, and even our home, was Bud Foote, a professor at Georgia Tech. I vividly recall him stopping by the shop relatively often to converse with my father. I remember that he was funny in a very cynical way and that I enjoyed listening to him. And he would stop by our home on Mead Road in Decatur, sometimes in the company of other professors from Tech. It was on one such visit where I first heard of plate tectonics and continental drift which was, at that time, considered heresy and lunacy. I don’t recall if it was Foote or one of the other professors, but the guy showed me a Mercator map of the Earth that my dad had on a shelf and indicated how each continent “fit” together.
On a trip to see Foote at his own place closer to downtown Atlanta, he showed me a science-fiction magazine in which he had a story. I don’t recall which of them it was, but I remember being impressed, because even as a kid of only nine years of age I knew that I wanted to be a published author some day. After we moved away from Atlanta my dad lost touch with Foote, as the common ground between the Princeton-educated professor and my working class dad had been my father’s bookstore, and nothing else.
At any rate, I think of some of these characters from time to time and wonder about what happened to them and when they died. Foote seems to have led the good life of an Ivy League graduate who collected many friends and admirers over the years. West, although a graduate of Vanderbilt, led the much harder life of a man who actually acted to fight injustice rather than sitting at his desk and penning mild accusations against the system.
So we had to drive all the way to downtown Charlotte to get a copy of our marriage certificate. (We can’t find our original since it’s boxed up somewhere–who knows where.) We checked with the government website first to find out where we had to go. It turned out we had to drive to a building and office complex that’s named after a child molester. No, I’m not joking. It’s named after a known child molester who was a long-time elected official in this county. We had to go to the third floor, office #20 we were informed.
Carole and I got there. At least the place had ample free parking. Going in, we went to the listed floor and to office #20 and approached the desk. The clerk there told us that this was no longer the office for that kind of thing even though the website says that it is. She gave us a newly printed card with the address of the building and office where that business is now conducted.
Previous to this I had not been that troubled, but now I was beginning to feel the urge to kick in a door or something like that, but I held it in.
We drove to the building complex indicated on the card, about a mile away from the first place that is named after the child molester. Carole and I had both been to this building before and it had its own parking. When we got to the driveway for the parking we found that it had been blocked off and the building no longer offered parking.
Another two circuits around the block revealed to us that there was a newer parking deck that charged $1.50 for the first half hour. And another sign informed us that if we lost the ticket we’d be issued upon entering that we would have to pay $15.00 to get out of the parking deck. We parked, put the ticket safely in the truck, then walked across the street to the entrance, climbing a bunch of stairs to get to the door.
At the door we realized that there was a metal scanner. And cops. Lots of cops. Did I mention that there are cops crawling all over this part of Charlotte? They’re everywhere–like a lice infestation. Carole asked me if I had my pocketknife on me. I have pretty much carried a pocketknife with me since I was eight years old. Without fail. It goes into my pocket without thinking almost every morning.
“Shit,” says I. Of course I had a pocketknife in my freaking pocket. So I turned around, descended all of those steps, crossed the street, walked to the spot where I had parked my truck, and put my fucking pocketknife with the fucking parking receipt.
A tiny bit more anger, but, well, nothing like boiling over. That anger had ample time to dissipate while I walked back out of the parking deck, across the street, and up the giant stack of granite stairs. (Thank Jove for Zoloft.)
We went in the building. I handed my wallet, my keys, and my cell phone to a cop holding a plastic basket. Then I walked through the scanner. It still went off. I then I had to stand in the middle of the goddamned hallway with my arms held out like Jesus fucking Christ on the cross at Golgotha while the cop scanned me again with a handheld device. (He didn’t stab me in the ribs with it, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had.) I un-Jesusly wanted to kick him in the balls, but I also didn’t want to get arrested and, like I said, thank Jove for Zoloft. The new scan revealed that I had nothing on me that was metal with the exception of my belt buckle.
We then went to the nearest clerk at a big desk in the massive atrium and she told us that this was not the building we needed and that it was two buildings away. (You’re laughing now, right? Right?) So we had to leave that place. The clerk told us to leave via a revolving door but when we got to it the door was barred and locked. “Not this revolving door, silly,” a female cop told us. “The other revolving door.” Which we found about fifty feet away in the atrium.
Yeah. I hate this shit. I hate everyone involved in it. The insurance company. The cops. The clerks. The child-molesting elected officials who make us jump through the fucking hoops. At this point, everyone. I’d have probably hated you if I’d seen your mug right about then.
Outside again we walked two buildings down, went in, walked to the office we’d been told was really, actually, truly, certainly, absolutely the right, correct, definite one that would give us a copy of our marriage certificate. We filled out a form. We gave it back to the nice lady clerk who had, I have to say, a cheerful smiling face and positive demeanor. Ten dollars later we had the certificate. Frankly, it looks exactly like the original and not a copy. We had applied for that certificate on May 21, 1984 and were married less than three weeks later. Carole is still married to my cranky ass. Amazing. Miraculous.
From there we left the building (no scanner), avoided the first building like it was an NRA member waving his AR-15 around, crossed the street, got into the truck, paid our $1.50 parking fee (somehow we’d done all of that in just under thirty minutes) and got the ripping Hell out of Charlotte, NC.
And now I am sitting at home writing this and dreaming of the day when I won’t have to do this kind of ridiculous shit anymore. The insurance company has their pound of my frustration and anger, so I hope they’re satisified.
People ask me why I am not happy with this country. Mainly I just stare at them when they say such a stupid, goddamned thing. So far I have not punched any of them in their smug, ignorant faces.
That may change.
|I’m surprised they didn’t name it the William S. Burroughs Building.|
Musings on genre writing, waterfall wandering, and peak bagging in the South’s wilderness areas.
The woman was mortified. How dare I say such a thing?! My wife, too, thought my request was beyond rude.
|“You’re a gott-damn genius, Private Gump!”|