Wednesday, December 1 2004
It rained hard last night and well into the morning, but soon after the clouds parted and the sun came out, I headed with the dogs back to Onteora Lake, this time armed with a handy wheelchair. I thought the rain would have kept the hunters away and it seemed I was right. But moments after I parked and set off with my wheelchair to the site of the choice stick of bluestone, I saw another guy park in the Onteora lot and commence to give his dog a walk (or, as they say in Spanish, dar un paseo).
I figured I must have looked incredibly odd, an obviously able-bodied person pushing a wheelchair into the woods. The whole point of coming here soon after the rain was so I could pull off this rock heist without being seen and without having to explain to anybody what I was doing. Now I'm sure this guy thought I was up to no good one way or the other. At the minimum he probably thought I'd shot a deer in the woods and was, like a some sort of sicko, using my granny's wheelchair to recover the carcass. At worst he might have thought I was off to better conceal a human murder victim I'd hastily dumped near the lake. And indeed his behavior telegraphed suspicion; he hung back from me a couple hundred feet and didn't come my way up the trail until I'd disappeared from sight. Of course, when I disappeared I was only trying to get him to hurry down the path so I could load and wheel away my rock in peace. To tell you the truth, I don't know what the rules are regarding the taking of rocks from Onteora Lake. It's part of Catskill State Park, so maybe it's considered theft. Hunting and fishing is allowed in the park but the felling of trees is prohibited.
I'd left the wheelchair down on the trail, right next to the rock I intended to take, and had climbed up the steep bank and disappeared into the woods beyond, briefly looking at a cluster of bluestone mines while I waited for that guy to pass. When I saw that he'd disappeared further up the trail, I came down out of the woods, quickly loaded the stone onto the wheelchair, and rolled it back to the truck. It was extremely easy to move with the wheelchair and the only difficulty came when I had to ford large puddles. I had no choice but to just walk through the water and accept the fact that my shoes and socks would be soaked with December rainwater. As I neared my truck, I could see that guy and his dog were coming back already, clearly interested in seeing what I was up to. I loaded up the rock, the wheelchair, and the dogs and drove away before he got close enough to take a note of my license plate. The last thing I need is for a body to turn up at Onteora with my license plate number being the only clue on file.
On the way home, I took the dogs for another walk in West Hurley Park. This time we wandered back behind the adjacent landfill, to a series of piles that the Town of Hurley either draws from or contributes to in the course of normal township maintenance. The first such pile was the size of a large house and consisted entirely of leaves, presumably collected just this autumn. They filled the air with the delightful fragrance of freshly-brewed tea. Beyond that there was a barricade and then a tempting collection of bluestone slabs, the sort used in traditional (pre-concrete) sidewalks. I looked these pieces over carefully to see if there were any fragments having the correct shape for my heatshield shelf, but none of them did. As I looked at these organized piles of cut bluestone, as well as the many odd fragments lying around in sometimes massive piles, I wondered if I would every be able to shake my new interest in long pieces of natural stone. It's definitely an odd interest. Now that I know how rare they are, I can definitely imagine myself collecting every remarkably long piece of stone I come upon from now on.
Back at the house, I put a lot of effort into cutting my new stone into a shape suitable for its intended purpose. I needed it to have the shape of 56 inch piece of 4 by 6 lumber, though it had come to me shaped more like a massively heavy heavy metal electric guitar. So I mapped out some cut lines on its surface and started cutting. At first I tried a masonry blade in one of my power handsaws, the one with a failing main bearing. But the rock was brutal to the blade, rapidly turning it into a cloud of acrid smoke and hot bits of carbide. The blade did score the rock nicely, but I couldn't take the smoke (I was working in the garage). So then I tried drilling a series of holes with the drill press (which didn't work too well) and then a hand drill (which was almost as bad). Eventually I had to give up for the night.
This afternoon as I lay in the bathtub looking up at the ceiling I spied one of the several resident long-legged spiders doing something very elaborate with his legs. She was moving them about with studied precision, obviously manipulating unseen strands of gossamer according to some sort of plan. I wondered what program she was following and whether there was even a trace of learned skill in her craft or whether it was all coming straight off a sequence of DNA. For such a tiny brain, there sure was a lot of complicated movement being controlled, and (mind you) the webs this sort of spider weaves don't appear to have any structure at all. They're cobwebs. This got me to comparing and contrasting what this spider does with her legs to what my intestine does with its various muscles whenever I call upon my digestive system to obtain nutrients from my food. My intestine surely undertakes all sorts of elaborate movements and secretes numerous mysterious substances, but all of the choreography happens completely automatically, the instructions for food processing presumably read verbatim off one of my sequences of DNA. From what I understand, this behavior doesn't even require the input of my brain. (For example, Christopher Reeves never had much trouble with digestion.)
In Salon today I read an interesting interview of Jonathan Margolis, who just wrote a book called O: An Intimate History of the Orgasm about orgasm and the history of humankind's subjugation thereto. The interview touched on why it is that Christians have historically been so, you know, bothered by sex. According to the Margolis, the early Christians thought of themselves as wild-eyed futurists out to banish the last traces of animalness from human behavior and society. The result of that mindset is, well, America's puritanical obsession with sex. This got me to wondering, as I often do, about the fundamentalist Christian view of orgasm, particularly the useless-for-procreation variant, female orgasm. The result was a Google search, and ultimately, stuff from jackinworld.com, family.org and religioustolerance.org.
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