Epilog to ‘T-Rex and the Crater of Doom’
The coolest book title I ever read is “T-Rex and the Crater of Doom” by a geologist named Walter Alvarez about what is known in epochal time as the K-T boundary, which gives evidence of that startling event 65 million years ago that wiped out every living thing on Earth that was larger than a chicken. The imprint of the Chicxulub crater on the Yucatan peninsula of eastern Mexico can be seen from space as well as in the geological strata. This antediluvian shadow of a meteor strike filled the planet’s atmosphere with a darkening dust lasted for centuries and reduced the Earth’s inhabitants to little more than microbes among algae.
The gap in the geological strata between the Cretaceous (dinosaurs) and Tertiary (mammals) (K-T) epochal time periods that was deduced from the paleontologists’ dig in southeast Texas reveals that all the fossils deeper than the gap that exists with no fossils at all were completely different from the fossils that formed later in time when life had somehow recovered from the disaster.
So I got to thinking, you know how dogs and birds can somehow sense when some disaster, like an earthquake, is about to strike? And I wondered what those dinosaurs who were about to disappear in one humongous, all-encompassing bang were sensing just before the big rock hit? Did they simper and whine like skittish collies in a thunderstorm? Or did they just look up with those those big Fred Flintstone eyes, and — just like us — wonder what the hell was about to happen as the big blue kachina zoomed toward their invisible posterity.
Not long ago in geological time, but very long ago in my own life, when I was a longhaired hippie cab driver on an Ivy League campus, I read a book from an elegant bookcase in a rich woman’s house titled “The End of All Men,” written by a Spanish writer named C. F. Ramuz in the late 1940s, about the sun frying the Earth and everybody slowly sweating to death before they melted completely. Of course, there was this one character, writing a story in a sweltering room about how as nobody realized that the end was nigh, life went on as usual as the great cosmic clock ticked away the last seconds of . . . someday, it is as certain as the stars which blow up and spread their dust throughout t¢he universe . . . someday, human hearts will no longer beat. And in the darkness of infinite space, no one will remember anything we ever did.
On second thought, I believe I am confusing this with a Twilight Zone (‘50s TV show) episode in which a suitably hysterical actress named Lois Nettleton portrayed a feverish citydweller dying from the lethal heat of an expanding Sun. The twist at the end was she was really having a delusional nightmare, because the Sun had gone out and everybody was freezing to death. I have never seen a better artistic rendering of these pole-shifting paroxysms known as dinosaur fever.
I believe this theme to be very much on the minds of mˇany humans these days, as various nooses, all of devious design, tighten around their necks. The stiffness of clumsy rituals prevents clarity of thought, and widows finger their rosary beads, Jews peruse their account books while fondling themselves to keep from thinking, and Muslims hit their knees five times a day to convince themselves this will not happen, that they will never be forgotten as long as Allah smiles from a friendly sky. Too bad the Jews have poisoned the skies. It makes it a lot more difficult to even see the sky, not to mention breathe it. Breathing sky has become hazardous occupation, as the shadows of our own Book of Revelation nightmares manifest in real time and space as the metaphysical excretions of our own braineating guilt over despoiling the garden we were bequeathed.
Speculating about imminent disasters has definitely become a growth industry these days, especially on the Internet. Capt. Eric May is the champ in my opinion. According to him, Paul Wolfowitz has been trying to blow up that refinery in Texas City now for, it seems, five years or longer. And we always get the news that it’s going to happen next week. The real trouble with all this fearmongering is that most of it is true, and though the happy traffic in Texas City might be as bad as ever, Capt. May’s assertions are metaphorically correct, as they are trying to blow us up on a perpetual basis. It’s simply what they do. But the final words on this tangent of thought have already been uttered, in the immortal quote of one of the founders of Rolling Stone magazine, Ralph J. Gleason, who said (something like) “ . . . you may think that you’ve gotten really paranoid about far too many things, but in reality, things are much, much worse than you could possibly imagine.” I love that line. It’s so true.
So when Dr. Tom Termotto, one of the last standing pointmen on the Gulf “oil spill”, confidentially sends around my old friend John DiNardo’s shocking speculative hypothesis, which he insists was confirmed by a renegade employee of the U.S. Geological Service, that a major landmass is about to erupt from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, causing untold shoreline damage from Cancun all the way around to the Florida Keys from a colossal tsunami — and it could happen any minute — those familiar symptoms of dinosaur fever begin to aggregate in the mostly ignored recesses of my brain, and the same rush of panic that caused me to jump in my car and drive a thousand miles back in May 2010 because I believed I was beating the tsunami to the Georgia border by a matter of minutes begins to creep back toward the center of my mindscreen. This is truly the tax bill from hell.
Here where I live on Lemon Bay, except for unusual weather patterns, things have seemed normal since my return last autumn. The tourists are comfortably glazed with relief from their normal routines. Though fewer in number, they happily splash in the apparently normal bathwater of the Gulf. Dolphins habitually softshoe past, and gather at Stump Pass where they frolic and chatter and buzz the passing boats with elegant bursts of 50-mph underwater speed. The routine retinue of birds appears to remain complete, with the sensitive little sandpipers and sanderlings and the occasional frigatebird all present and accounted for. I like the royal terns best; they remind me of Billy Idol.
Five hundred miles northwest of here in the hurricane target zone — from Apalachicola, Florida to the bayoued delta of the Mississippi River — Kindra Arnesen’s lesions from the benzene and ethane in the New Orleans air have become much like Cindy Sheehan’s laments for her son killed in a war fought for lies — both sure signs of the death of the American dream, and both largely forgotten and ignored by the majority of Americans transfixed by amusing tailgate parties at large sporting events. Forced gaeity, traditionalized. Such a comfort in routine. It’s a well known fact that when you turn up the music, you cannot hear the screams.
That is, until your head hits the pillow, and you wonder what your future, if you have one, holds.
It is the fatal mistake of humankind that, when they don’t know the answer to something, rather than to say they don’t know the answer, they make one up. This is really the syndrome that has gotten us into the pickle we’re in.
I love pondering the idea of biologist Lynn Margulies that we are descended from clams; I think it helps me relate to animals better. But then again, it could just be another symptom of dinosaur fever.