Sunday, January 22, 2012

Brass Monkey nabbed by Drone

Phil Burpee wants you
to stay warm
Phil Burpee, Columnist, Pincher Creek Voice

     The Montana branch of the Department of Homeland Security has announced the apprehension of an illegal entrant into the United States. At approximately 3:25AM last Tuesday morning, a U.S. Border Patrol Predator drone aircraft spotted a single, stooped figure making a run for cover just east of the Sweetgrass border crossing, moving in a southerly direction. He was quickly apprehended by a squad of agents with dogs and metal detectors. The fugitive surrendered without incident, and was subsequently transferred to federal offices in Billings. When queried as to his reason for affecting an illegal entry into the Great Republic, the suspect, a brass monkey clutching his groin, is reported to have replied in a falsetto voice, and with some anguish - "I'm gettin' the hell out! You wanna know exactly how cold it is up in Alberta!? Well, check this out!" When he removed his hands, the officers in attendance apparently nodded grimly, and whistled quietly through their teeth. "Yep," remarked one weathered veteran of the frontier. "They're gone alright."

     It's been chilly - by anybody's books. A person has to wonder sometimes if it can get any colder than just flat-out cold. But, of course, it can. It can get very cold - and then it can get very, bloody cold - and then it can get very, bloody, goldarn, jehosephat, jumpin' cold. And then, just briefly, you wonder if this might be the time when somebody forgets to throw the switch back over, and this is how it's gonna be from here on in - hard, lifeless, frozen, and frost creeping in around the edges like wicked little fingers of bone-chilling ice-demons. You can't think - your brain gets shrivelled - your eyelids stick together - boogers turn into little icebergs in your nose - you're more or less shoving whole trees into the wood stove, starting at the skinny end and just pushing, pushing till the butt flames out before you start the next one - the cat, having sniffed briefly at the door, skulks across the floor at about warp speed and disappears into the rafters in the mechanical room - and even the coyotes sound like they've got some puckering problems of their own as they yodel weakly off in the lifeless, interstellar void that fills these mid-January nights of 2012. And didn't you want to smack that blabbering fool coming out of the Post Office the other day? - "Cold enough for ya?" Grrrr...die, you idiot, die.

     But this whole business of humans staying warm is a pretty big deal these days. Consider the fair city of Calgary, for instance. Here's an urban agglomeration that occupies the same area as New York City, but has 1/10th of the population. Yes, NYC manages to accommodate 10 million people in a space that Calgary uses to shack up a mere 1 million. So, here are these vast suburban wastelands with their endless beige, grey and taupe beaver-puke 'family homes' stretching off into neverland with mind-numbing abandon. And each one of these little palaces of the Alberta Advantage is plugged in to an umbilical supplying it with natural gas to keep the inhabitants' wigglies warm and toasty. And all those umbilicals run back, eventually, to holes in the ground from whence comes the monumental flatulence of ancient, rotting ferns in the form of methane gas (CH4). Yes, the City of Calgary is warming itself on a massive, protracted, herbaceous fart, courtesy of the fecundity of the late Jurassic. Now, any self-respecting representative of that odd and alien tribe known as the 'male human teenager' will have first-hand and intimate knowledge of the power of methane - for such a person will, without doubt, have at one time set a match to some back-trumpeting blast and beheld the awesome burst of ignition that ensued. Would that school science could be so memorable. ''Flaming flatulence, Batman! Jeepers!" Methane gas is, of course, also notable as being the source of swamp-gas, or will-o'-the-wisp - that most ethereal of natural phenomena which, by its very definition, connotes the tenuous and evanescent. Hmm…..

     I have this recurring vision of humanity as a rampant swarm of micro-organisms, clustering in warm, moist hollows, squirming around on top of one another, eating, excreting, reproducing, building stuff, shopping, texting, and finally emitting our own little puffs of volatile vapours. If you fly up real high in an airplane and look down, you can see our busy business tucked into river valleys and mushed together in towns and cities. It looks for all the world like a petrie dish - remember Grade 9 science? Bacteria growing on a sugar medium - although in this case it's bugs on a petroleum medium. Our entire, exponentially-expanding 21st century civilization is based upon the decomposition of 100 million-year-old jungles - how weird is that? There's nothing so new as old news, I guess. Those solar BTUs coming out of your furnace might have been captured in a big, green frond that shaded some squinty-eyed T-rex from the heat of the day, as it contemplated the dismemberment of some lumbering neighbour. Kinda makes a person go all giddy - ah, the great interconnectedness of things. The energy investments of one fine sunny day in approximately the year 78,367,914 BC are now wafting lazily up around the nether-reaches underneath some executive assistant’s bath robe as she stands over the heat vent sipping her morning mocha latte and checking out the ski reports on her iPhone, deep within the amorphous sameness of 'La Dee Dah Dee Doo Condo Estates', just a couple hundred metres off the Deerfoot. ....fresh powder at Lake Louise.... "Sweet," she says.

     Gosh. Cosmic oneness, or what? Goes around sure does come around.

     But will-o'-the-wisp is perhaps a timely symbol for this brief little puff of ignition that constitutes our current evolutionary chapter. I have seen will-o'-the-wisp. It is very alluring - a sinuous, dancing earth-spirit like as not to be gone the moment you try to fix it in your gaze. It glows with an eerie green light, twisting and oh so gently throbbing to some ancient pulse. You cannot grasp it - you cannot contain it - for the very fact of its being defines its impermanence. Such, perhaps, is our little, flickering candle, set before the steady winds of Time.

     And as for the brass monkey, well, he has been summarily repatriated. Canadian Immigration Services is reported to have secured him a position as a greeter in a suburban Wal-mart in the south-east of Calgary. There is some quibbling as to who will pay for appropriate prostheses for the simian, Alberta Health claiming it is not responsible for what it rather coyly refers to as 'acts of God'. As to the monkey's continued employment prospects - well, they seem a bit shaky. The price of melted-down brass is way up on the stock exchange, and every time somebody walks in the door a shrill, high-pitched voice can be heard shrieking above the elevator music: -

"Hey! Close the freakin' door! Were ya born in a barn?! Oo oo oo ee ee ee!!"

Phil Burpee
January 21, 2012

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