Thursday, June 24, 2010


No one thinks that there is anything mysterious about the banana. Just about everyone likes them. They taste good, and it’s so convenient that they don’t have any seeds.

It did puzzle me though. One afternoon, over forty years ago, I asked my mother, “Where do bananas come from if there’s no banana seeds?”

She explained that you have take a cutting from one plant to make another.

I wasn’t quite satisfied. If people have to make more banana plants, where did they come from in the first place?

It went in my mental file of things to try to find out someday.

Then a few years ago, I was reading David Hatcher Childress’s Lost Cities of Ancient Lemuria & the Pacific, and he discussed the banana, and how they are found all around the world, even on islands:

“They are said to be one of the few foods that mankind can live completely on. Yet, the only other seedless fruits, such as naval oranges and seedless grapes are genetically engineered. Someone, somewhere in the remote past, cultivated bananas into the amazing plant that it is today.”

He stopped short of saying that they came from Lemuria, but I had to take note of the idea of prehistoric genetic engineering. Those who want to avoid “frankenfoods” are a few millennia too late. How many of the plants that make up a proper vegan diet can be found growing in the wild?

It takes one generation for people to consider an innovation to be part of the natural order of things. I thought that way about television, as the current generation does about the Internet. Let this go on for a few thousand -- or a few hundred thousand -- years . . .

And just who did this genetic engineering?

In Ignatius Donnelly’s Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, he also brings up the mysteries of the banana, and how they came to be found in the Americas. First he mentioned a theory by German botanist Otto Kuntze, that the banana was brought there “when the North Pole had a tropical climate.” Donnelly, saw the banana’s source elsewhere:

“Is it not more reasonable to suppose that the plantain, or banana, was cultivated by the people of Atlantis, and carried by their civilized colonies to the east and the west?”

Is Atlantis more reasonable than a forgotten civilization from an age when the poles were tropical? Why is it that the only place I’ve found this subject brought up is in books about Lemuria and Atlantis?

Archaeology keeps finding proof that civilization started earlier than we had thought. Artifacts keep pushing our earliest dates for things past the 12,000 B.C.-ish period that Plato gave Atlantis. The Neanderthals may have navigated over water. People moved around the planet in those times, and did things that turn our notion of prehistoric life upside-down.

We have forgotten, and lost so much. We have so much to recover, and learn.

Do we have any bananas around here?

Saturday, June 19, 2010


My dad recently died of a heart attack. I like to think he went like a brave bull -- charging the cape, tearing off a chunk of the matador. I owe so much to his heroism.

I was never at a loss for heroes. One lived in my house.

Back in grade school, he once picked me up on a motorcycle. He was all decked out in boots, a leather jacket, sunglasses, and still had hair. All the kids thought I was lucky to have such a cool dad.

I always saw him as the equal of any hero I saw on television or movies. He explained what was fake and what was real in war movies, flew planes, scuba dived, and it was his job to keep those big planes of the Flying Tiger Line working. I would have lived a less interesting life if it weren’t for his bold example.

He was also an intellectual, artist, writer, working-class Renaissance Man who was always educating himself. Many times I saw him decide he needed to know about a subject, gather up a stack of books, and in a short time become an expert. He got his high school diploma the same year I graduated from junior high. He believed in grabbing that knowledge first, and worrying about the documentation later.

This is where I got my we-don’t-need-no-stinking-badges attitude. It’s gotten me into trouble. It’s also taken me places most people don’t get to. Thanks, Dad.

He was pulled up the corporate ladder, kicking and screaming all the way. He always had his own ideas about what he wanted. He was what happened when a guy from East L.A. lived up to his full potential.

He was always a dreamer, a mad genius. Some were disturbed when I compared him to Captain Nemo -- but I consider Nemo to be a hero, not a villain. Dad once described Fu Manchu to me as a “good guy/bad guy.” I guess we see things differently from a lot of other people.

He was a practical, hands-on dreamer. It wasn’t enough to sit around wishing you could do something, someday. He was always rolling up his sleeves and working toward his visions. Sometimes it was like tilting with windmills, but if you can’t dream bigger than reality, you aren’t really alive. And if you don’t take some stabs at the impossible, you haven’t lived.

I cherish the memory of the two of us working on the ferro-cement boat in the backyard. While hanging those pipes, laying that mesh, and twisting those wires, I learned more from him than I did in any school. I found the crazy path my life would take, and I am eternally grateful.

So let us build our sailboats, our submarines, our monsters, our starships, and go on our voyages, our adventures. We may not become as heroic as he was, but if we don’t try, we are lost.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


We left Utah as it was in the process of being transformed from John Wayne’s Texas to Pixar’s Mars. A few days earlier, we saw a red sign pointing to BARSOOM. Myths come to these wise old rocks to transform and regenerate. Santa Claus waited on his motorcycle. Soon tall, four-armed green vatos will be stirring up trouble, and restoring the cosmic balance as datura and cryptobiotic soil grows back.

We crossed into the Navajo Nation, where it overlaps into Arizona, made a pit stop at the Mexican Water Trading Post, then found ourselves in the middle of dust storm. At first, light hazy wisps blew across the road, then it got hairy, blotting out the sun, bringing visibility down to near zero. We had planned to revisit the Painted Desert, instead it flew past us, blasting the windshield.

I’ve got to use that experience in a future story set on Mars.

It was still blowing when we hit Holbrook, but it had calmed down by the next morning.

We weren’t far from the All-American intersection of Florida Street and Navajo Boulevard. An alley hid a lost kachina mural near a giant plastic kachina of the Pow Wow Trading Post. Across the street was Young’s Corral, with its murals of bikers and the ancient car culture.

This is where we saw a Navajo girl jogging down Route 66. She was heading for the future. I wonder what she was listening to on her iPod?

She was the antithesis of the “End of the Trail” drooping Indian that we kept seeing in restaurants, and motels. Originally a statue by James Earle Fraser, you can’t avoid seeing copies in two and three dimensions all over the roads of the Wild West.

A remarkable example was in the America’s Best Value Inn, in Tropic, Utah, painted by Lester Clarke: the Indian seems to be wearing a horned helmet, wonky perspective makes him gigantic, the ribs show on his horse, and they slump before what looks like a pre-historic sea.

But our trail -- or at least our trip -- had not ended. Between Holbrook and Showlow I saw more roadside datura, as a condor flew overhead.

In Show Low, the Maverick Gas Station is an attraction in itself. Slick murals decorate the walls of the luxuriant bathroom area, and are continued into the bathrooms: a panorama of hoodoos, condors, and petroglyphs worthy of a state-of-the-art theme park.

We passed through two Apache reservations on the way back to Phoenix. There I saw more roadside datura than I did in Utah. These were the biggest, healthiest plants I’ve ever seen.

There was a big, healthy plant with a dazzling array of flowers in one of the rest areas that Governor Brewer closed recently. And no fence or National Guard to protect us from this poisonous, hallucinogenic menace. But then, datura is part of this natural environment. It enforces its own laws.

Back home, I think about dystopian trends and have a good laugh.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Shortly after “Hindenburg’s Vimana Joyride” went online in DayBreak Magazine, I was back in Moab, Utah, checking in to the Inca Inn, where I set the beginning of the story. No nefarious self-promotion plan, it just happened, I swear. I did keep an eye out for Victor Theremin, or folks in grey suits and mirrorshades.

Not as much datura on Main Street this time, but it’s been a late Spring, and cruising to Island in the Sky in Canyonlands, taking in the Grand View, where you can almost see the curvature of the Earth, and the Colorado River twisting through a vast network of carved planet, was quite a high.

That night I dozed off to Samson Versus the Vampire Women on the university station’s Sci-Fi Friday. Santo by any other name still works his magic.

The next morning ravens watched over the Inca Inn’s parking lot.

Next door, just beyond the Hacienda restaurant, Em went into ecstasy at Lin Ottinger’s Rock & Fossil Shop where steampunkish mining equipment and a neon dinosaur loomed over geo-archaeo-paleological goodies. It’s a good thing our house is way the hell down in Arizona.

They also sold “uranium artifacts” -- archaeology of the Atomic Age. Maybe I should bring a geiger counter along next time.

And the Uranium Building had office space for rent. Just down the street from the datura mural at Eddie McStiff’s.

Big chain motels are moving in. At first we were afraid the giant metal Plumber Guy was displaced, but luckily he’s in front of a place that books rafting adventures -- he now wears a sporty eyeshade and carries a paddle. Fortunately, an arty sensibility, colorful paint, and the power for the fantastic mountains maintains Moab’s utopian atmosphere. Funkily decorated businesses where I would expect Victor Theremin and his interns and/or ex-wives to be partying or raising hell abound.

And further down Main Street/Highway 191 was a giant lizard in a straw hat and Hawaiian shirt wrapped around a gaudy sign for the Gonzo Inn. A green, scaly finger indicated that inn was not far off the main drag. Was Victor hiding out there?

Moab is a town brimming over with character. Being the gateway to Canyonlands, it has to be, or fade into nonexistence. We drove through Arches National Park later that day, and even got caught in a sandstorm. Those rocks, even when flying into our faces, gave the gaudy little town serious competition.

In Moab, I finished Jetse De Vries’ Shine anthology and started Claude Lalumière’s collection Objects of Worship. The transition from new generation optimistic science fiction to phantasmagoric, delirious apocalyptic visions tossed my mind about. When you can read such things in a fantastic environment, you don’t need no stinking datura -- just perception and imagination.

As we loaded up the car, dust blew across the parking lot of the Inca Inn like an army of ghostly snakes. It made me feel optimistic and apocalyptic at the same time.

(The photos were by Em.)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


We stayed at the America’s Best Value Inn of Tropic, Utah while exploring Bryce Canyon. I kept thinking, Tropic of Utah -- what a great title! It could be a Henry Miller tribute. An alien hides out among the tourists, amusing itself with seductions, and gets a Man In Black pregnant . . .

Oh yeah. I’m talking extraterrestrial alien . . . don’t want make a mistake, like I did back during our honeymoon in Sedona. At a restaurant, people were talking about how there’s a lot more alien activity in Arizona than in other states -- but after listening to their conversation, I learned that they had just come from a UFO conference in the Caribbean.

In Tropic I discovered that Utah is considering its own Arizona-style immigration law. Only this one would be “better” because it would give aliens a break if they rat-out others. The administration of my old high school offered the same deal to students caught with drugs, and it didn’t stop the football team from smoking dope.

They believe they have an alien problem in Utah. I’m not sure what kind of aliens they’re talking about.

Aside from a few fellow Latino tourists, the only brown faces I saw belonged to a bus boy and a handyman -- both of whom were busy taking care of businesses. But then, I wouldn’t want to accuse anybody of racial profiling. Besides, if it was ethnic cleansing they were up to, what were they going to do with all those copies of El Libro de Mormón?

Most of the aliens (beings from out of state) were tourists. A new breed of white, middle-aged, middle-class, Middle American motorcyclists tours the country in large gangs -- I mean groups. I saw lots of Europeans speaking a variety of languages, some of them worked in the motels. And then there was an Asian-looking guy with a Che Guevara T-shirt . . .

Clarke’s Restaurant seems to be designed to give tourists an “American” food experience. No heart-healthy, vegetarian fare here, just free pancakes if you’re staying at the Inn, meat & potatoes, and the Daily Special is: “Substitute fries for potato or potato salad.”

Local TV news looked like dispatches from another planet. You don’t see people so white in Arizona or California -- does melanin transfer through osmosis? And then there was a teenaged girl orgasmic over being able to perform for her prophet in a manner that I’m used to seeing reserved for the adoration of media celebrities. Could Nepal be any more exotic?

This added some sci-fi spice to my thoughts as I spotted datura growing in Escanlante along Highway 12, one of the most hallucinogenic drives on the planet. And then we went through Capitol Reef with boulders like dinosaur skulls, fossilized beach sand, remnants of ancient oceans, Get high on geology, not drugs, kids.

Then there were petroglyphs, marking the traditional migration routes. I was a space and time traveler, and an alien, as usual.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Hoodoos -- according to the Free Dictionary, “a column of weathered and unusually shaped rock” -- abound in Bryce Canyon. The imagination breathes life into them. You can’t help but see faces, what Joan Míro would have called “personnages,” the Legend People, or To-when-an-ung-wa, who, according to the Paiute, were turned to stone by Coyote because the were bad.

Even in this desert that hasn’t been an ocean for millions of years, there is an Atlantis myth. This articulated landscape reminds you that others came before you, and the world was not always the way you know it.

And it will change, again . . . soon.

Stepping around piles of fresh manure, we hiked through towers of Petra-like cities carved by the architecture of the crumbling planet. Traces of late Spring snow demonstrated the ancient process, still in action -- tiny, temporary rivers and waterfalls trickle down, carving the sandstone as blasts of rain/snow/hail sting my face, trying to sculpt me.

Am I up to another transformation? Do I have a choice?

The impression of a fabulous urban ruin was noted in the 1880 Dutton report, quoted in the Visitor Center: “The resemblances to strict architectural forms are often startling” suggesting “the work or giant hands, a race of genii once rearing temples of rock, but now chained up in a spell of enchantment, while their structures are falling in ruins through centuries of decay.”

Others have been sent into delirious fantasies like my own by these amazing chunks of rock. How many centuries has this been going on? Did sorcerers live and do magic here, among stone sentinels, beasts, guardians -- and even a giant sewing machine?

Words fail me here. I’ll have to explain in Max Ernst-type drawings that I’l have to embellish in the computer to come near to the full effect. Still it’s not the same as being there.

Would it be possible to create an artificial process to sculpt hoodoos? Could I find materials that could be molded as multi-layered witch’s brew that could be worked with fire-hose and sand-blaster?

Some of these structures have holes that look like blue eyes when the sky shows through. What did people who saw them think when they finally met people with blue eyes?

At the bottom of the canyon, down the manure-peppered trails, an outhouse. Strange, how after all this incredible beauty, a simple utilitarian structure can be gorgeous. A full bladder can trump the eyes.

Back at the edge of the canyon, we saw an old man on a bench. He had an oxygen tank and a pizza. Emily and I hoped that decades from now, we would be able sit at such vistas, with oxygen tanks, pizzas, and incredible memories.

At the Bryce Canyon Mexican Restaurant, we ate tacos while the stuffed head of the Jackalope, that magic creature of Wild West roads, with its antlers and ears erect, watched.