Instead of obituary
With your permission I will do a kind of abstract for the people who are in a hurry. It says that I left my son’s home of Silicon Valley, the brain farm for computer scientists and sleeping quarters (rent at ridiculously high price) of the Indian and the Israeli Foreign Legion, which is the strike force of the of a dozen fo HiTech giants looming around. My intention was to cross California from west to east and head towards the Kings Canyon and the Sequoia National Monument Park. It sounds reasonable but it only sounds… Against all the odds I came alive, handling often in the last moment the unexpected and irreplaceable exits of the highway, hurling a desperate one, that being me, from one net of roads to another etc. I am proud to tell that I mastered the ferocious driving web where nobody is expected neither to stop nor to communicate, except with God or with the Police, hit the Grant’s Grove and went to pay my respects to the General Ulysses Grant’s tree. I always had for him, for the general, a fervent admiration and a soft understanding as only a sinner for another sinner may have. He was a mighty one. However, between these two glorious achievements I run out of the trail for a long hour or two in a backwater spot called Reedley fact that could change the trajectory of my life even at my actual age. What happened to me trying to get out of Reedley and what occurred to me in four days of canyon and national park roaming will be succinctly and honestly and even quite truly, told underneath.
The morning, before leaving Silicon Valley I realized that I didn’t succeed for the second time to sell my stocks portfolio; the damned platform traded only 100 stocks out of five thousand. So at the end of the day instead of hitting the road with much more money in the pocket, I was loosing some holy cash and I was in danger to lose my mood.I succeed to be only mildly annoyed. The reason of not being progressively at all bothered came to me later. It may sound like this: as long as you don’t lay crushed on the macadam lane as dense as a medusa spread on the shore, pay respects to fate and smile! My apprehension to drive across the country faded quickly when I realized that after initial incoherencies I begun to follow and to understand the road and the system (more or less). It was too early to shout victory. It is always too early, better not to shout, especially if you are doing well. If not you can whine and cry as much as you want, nobody cares!
Leaving the town of Reedley a nondescript city that grew like a wart on the surrounding huge orchard farming territory face, some fifty miles from the canyon entrance, I became closest to death than any time during the 45 years of licensed car driving. It was my son with his alert mathematician eye who remarked that the manner of my driving on the roads of the world shifted, I may say, slowly but surely, from wild to quite temperate. Now the feeling of imminent death is quite a sophisticated one. It may shrink your consciousness to a single point or expand it to the size of the universe. The big bang so to say, back or forth, there is not back and forth here, at least for a regular dude, it is either one! I think nevertheless that I experienced both states simultaneously. Let’s check. So, I am on a straight avenue flat like a snooker table while heading towards California 180 S when a red car stopped suddenly and then began to turn across the road to the left. He wanted to go into a side road cutting the main road at a right angle and basically he was on his way to hell. He was also unconsciously toiling for companionship. I hated his guts immediately. I was arriving at full speed. I felt that I will never succeed to slow down and avoid crushing into the felon conductor side, smash him for sure…Better that than otherwise around. However instead of any elevate thought about soul and immortality I was already worrying about all the money I spent for this Sequoia
fantasia. And any hope to sleep under the crown of millenary trees ( I had a tent) and spare some bucks were going down the drain too! In despair I draw a large arch at the left myself. A truck was coming from the opposite direction and I felt hopeless to avoid both of them. Still not thinking about eternity…I do not know how, but I landed unharmed and firmly holding the wheel on the left shoulder of the road. Finally I was the one who crossed the road from east to west. The driver of the red car, may Allah have him torn to pieces by 700 mad virgin maenads, succeeded to stop partially his criminal manoeuvre and return slightly to his place. The truck was still some few safe meters away, everything occurred in less than a second. It was so quick that I even failed to have the sharp and odd visions people experience in similar occurrences such as a Cesar’s cars compression, their own funeral monument or better, a sensual nurse!
I left immediately, I do not discuss, neither make faces nor villain gestures, for a change on a road confrontation. It is too much honour to share your anger or dismay with nulls. Either you shot them ( I was in the West!) or move further. I moved further, I had not gun! The peaches I bought after at the corner of the CA. 180 S road with the Reedley drive where I landed as I said before by mistake, let’s face it, and made a booking for tomorrow and after tomorrow at an Indian shop (say motel, all motels in US are controlled by Indians), had the tank refilled, — well, those peaches were the best I had in my life.
You remember the Zen story with the falling man, the tiger, .the crocodile, the mice and the strawberry I hope, I am not going to tell it now. So the peaches were the best first because I came out unscathed from what should be a mortal accident and second because they were the best God ever created and third they were at a discount price.. By the way I realized that I was in the epicentre of one the greatest fruit producing empire built by man and greed in the entire history of the mankind. Nevertheless, the poor dopes, read farmers, cry that they did not have enough water for the last four years. It is that my business? These are God affairs…And I didn’t felt that from the size and the texture and let’s face it, savour, of the peaches. They were delicious! People are moaning like puppies. Then I jumped on the road leading to the Kings Canyon and the only thing that I may say about it is that it was pure mayhem. This avenue, to call it cynically, it is a narrow, windy lane with disgustingly sharp continuous curves; eternally climbing, bordered by a scaring abyss at which I avoided to look. I managed to arrive alive at the target. It is a special day. Now the physical and mental wreck that reached the Kings Canyon had astonishingly enough strength to go into the tourist play. I have seen a couple of does, what I can say? only animals and certain women have grace, males if they are real ones, lack it appallingly.
After six hours or seven of driving into alien territory, the American highway, to go on a trail it is insane. But I am not going to heal now or to miss the occasion! So, as I said above, I went to see the general Grant’ tree and the Grant’s Grove. A two hour’s foot run which I begun with swollen legs and ended with ankles that should drive Mistinguett crazy would she be still alive. Mystery, it seems that I should keep moving if I fancy thin ankles. Anyway, after that I contemplate with rapture the magnificence of the sequoia trees, the most astonishing expression of life together with the cachalot whale, I forgave for a while the Lord of having created, so to speak, the poor anthropoid. The “bomboïd” I may nickname him: bomb producer, bomb consumer, bomb thrower, bomb minded, bombastic, boisterous and boastful by any means. Anthropocentric, we call this delirium among professionals. Now, I prefer not to go into details upon the sequoia trees in spite of the fact that I feel able to depict them should I get a sip of whiskey. So let’s have one, Knob Creek Kentucky straight bourbon here and now, a solid gulp and we will go to the trees later.. The way back down the slope towards Dinuba, the nondescript city where I had my new motel (Indian owned also, what I can do? I like industrious families) , which was close to Reedley and quite identical, was another piece of nightmare. The road not the motel. During some fifty miles there is not place for over passing so if you have a bloke or many on your heels, so to say for being polite, well, you have to live with that and with the horrid plunge that threatens you continuously like the open jaws of an extremely nervous sea crocodile. It was the same way I took to go in – climbing, but when I had to go down, my light little car developed a flying drive if you know what I mean. It was like growing wings….And also to call a city like that Dinuba when I came from the real Danubian cultural expanse was to add insult to the injury. I cursed their lack of imagination. Backwater was a perfect name and a perfect distinctive for any city in the area.And then suddenly I realized what enormous chance I had within the interval of a few hours, forget avoiding untimely cremation. In less than 150 km and some two thousand meters of altitude difference I was confronted with two, most opposite and most impressive aspects of vegetal life. I went through the most exemplary dialectical confrontation of contraries. Truth should surge out of this (maybe). By the way I was told that because the crisis Greek immigrants, among which the God Pan and the Hesperides nymphs, arrived in the area.
The Sequoia Forest is the greatest cellulose symphony that exists on earth. Even the Yakushima septentrional rain forest, through which I gloriously crawled (it was a horrible slippery of sorts) with its multiple millenary older trees, cannot compare with the imperial Sequoia. The Yakushima is too wet, soaked by continuous dampness, the grow is there hysterical and emanates of it some of the Japanese ambiguity, you know, sadistic and sensitive, traitress and fidelity etc. Forget it; let’s go back to our terms of comparison, the natural and the artificial (cultural) domains of the American boys. The Sequoia forest was created by nature trough the agency of its CEO (God) and bespeaks of majesty and enormous beauty. It seems eternal and if not at, least of a very long duration.
The fruit empire, that flourishes so to speak, some two thousand meters lower, was created by man, is totally functional, square, annoying, useful and very young. Army fruit trees cannot go old. After a term of service they are uprooted and others are planted instead. They live for sacrifice. Gentle cannon fodder! So, I touched, felt, eventually apprehended in the same day two poles of experience: the one that talks to the heart and the mind, of beauty and strength and the other that enchants the palate and delights the stomach, testimony of savour and freshness, light digestion eventually, vitamins, etc.
What a day of devil’s chance (sorry my dear angel, I do not know why the English use that weird expression). So eventually after this glorious experience and with a lot of collective help I found the city of Dinuba, (we are still within the first day of the journey ) it you call that a journey and if you call that a city -21000 inhabitants, 31% under the level of poverty, 0.9% of native American origin, Sioux maybe. It gave to the world two important national football league players and one of the greatest quantum physic scientist, Bryce S. (Selingman) Dewitt, of Jewish bred and brand naturally. I got into my model motel, Del Monte, fine one, Indian of course. In the morning I sold the stock bundle, took the money (virtually dear angel) and run.
Now, my dear guardian, I am going to condense, to compress, to squeeze, to concentrate the rest of my visit to the double park of the Sierra Nevada (Kings Canyon and Sequoia National) in a few sentences and go back to the principal. I went deep into the canyon by car, there is not Colcha every day, where an eponym river divided in forks turbulently flows on the bottom and peaks and crests severely lack snow, in spite the name, of any kind. I don’t know the reason, there is a beastly water shortage in California right now The road was winding as much as possible (nothing new) and great marks of a triple glorious origin: sedimentary, volcanic and erosion were visible everywhere. I hit the Cedar Grove and learned that there are three types of red threes in the park, the sequoia, the cedar and the fir; that it is easier to learn levitation than to distinguish between various conifers; that it is impossible to cross the Sierra if you are not a bald eagle (I am only bald), that the artificial lake Hume product of a murderous lumber industry is cute, and good for families with kids, that the meadows emerging here and there in the park are charming for eye and soul. I visited a splendid cave, called Crystal Cave with sensuous stalactite, stalagmite interaction and wet passages at boot and a stupendous ongoing carstic process so beautiful that it touched even a stone heart, mine. I even stopped at a viewpoint from where, it was advertised, one can see, eleven ridges. I counted eight what at dusk time and my age was encouraging. It is not about that that I want to talk. Let’s go back to the principal: the Sequoia trees but not before a little remark about company.
This is the Lake Basin at the then end of the six trekking days in King’s Canyon. I will not go there despite the gorgeous outlook of the landscape. I risk to feel too lonely on the trail or eventually meet some nervous plantigrade from the ursidae family, always looking for a meal, often stalking the garbage bins of the park but not despising completely what the Oceania cannibals were once calling “long pork”.At the end of some hours flight I can hit the Kaaba place at Mecca which will agree constitutes a formidable architectural statement by the confrontation between white and black, horizontal and vertical, hollow and solid. Unfortunately the crowd seems so dense, that I risk to feel there lonely too, and even more, for this and many other reasons. I think that even the common sense will strongly desadvise to cut into the crowd and try to make friends. So, my venerable and most estimable angel let’s go back wisely to the track recapitulate. The first day I visited the Ulysses Grant Grove, the second I moved to Reedley, it was closer to Grant Grove entrance than Dinuba, and I indulged in the Kings Canyon. At Reedley I had a chile relleno, a kind of suspicious, informal something, very hot and weirdly mottled, in a Mexican joint and bought in a strange large supermarket run by only one fat employee (Mexican people are often, please don’t quote me, fat and small with wide hips and very dark hairs, abundant on scalp and rare around the mouth) and a computer system, an amazing goat yogurt produced since 1968 by the Redwood Hill Farm. What I can say? The 1968 revolution had some successes especially when genuine goat products at high prices are the matter.
The next, third day I learned to use the turnout, a widened area on the climbing narrow road to move out of traffic and to give to quicker cars to over pass me. What a relief. In a fair amount of time when I reached the first target the General Sherman tree, divine light fell upon me. I became enlightened at once, a score of intricate matters, arcane concepts, converted suddenly into something clear and understandable. Nothing had to do with mathematical insight, religious revelation or social empathy, not, but I knew that I am there neither for canyons nor for caves, neither for lakes nor for falls. I came to meet the sequoia tree, the highest form of life, forget the distasteful anthropoid. The General Sherman who is not, the tallest of all sequoia, has the largest mass of wood from all the earth trees. Bravo! His top is broken, that occurs to many sequoia, and in spite of being quite completely hollowed out by fire each year his yearly concentric expanse is equal to the entire mass of a well grown sequoia animal. Can one accept this kind of vitality? Its bark barks its power to the stars (sorry for the lame pun). The amazing size, the faultless stance, the rapid grow and the enormous duration of the sequoia is attributed to its resistance to insects, to rot and to fire. The stubborn and ceaseless animosity of the French people towards Americans became unexpectedly understandable. They are jealous of Americans for hosting such a marvel of creation. I knew one French general ready to give an arm and a leg to reincarnate into one. The largest unnamed sequoia is 91 meters tall the eucalyptus can grow bigger but not more majestic! Their life span is estimated from 1700 to 3000 years, they remember King Salomon well……..There are more than two thousand sequoia trees growing on the Redwood Mountain on the west side of the Sequoia National Park. To stroll on the Big Tree Trail, to immerge yourself into Giant Sequoia Forrest , is like to be on another planet. I experienced a feeling of elation in spite of the presence of other human visitors. The mighty red giants are going straight and high up to support the sky vault with the determination and elegance of the pillars in a gothic cathedral. And then in the middle of the apprehension of all these essentials, which nevertheless were of material connotation came a second revelation like the whipped white cream with maraschino cherries and chocolate shavings topping a Black Forest cake. And this one was pretty spiritual and sounds like this : there is a kind of symbiotic linkage between the sequoia grow and fire of natural causes, lightning or bush fire. The fire had bitten and dug into the sequoia trunk a cavity, a hollow, an opening, a rift, you name it, I will come back to that, The void is often of conical shape some times lozenge like and sometimes is reaching the crown and transforming the entire columnar being in a kind of chimney.During ten years the park rangers fought the fires thoroughly and where amazed to realize that the trees were not multiplying anymore. They begun to know that after each fire the divine plant was bombarding the clean and rich surface around with cones loaded with grains that infallibly struck roots. This extraordinary combination of an erected “monumental” and a natural cavity brought me back to my visits to India’s shivaite temples. Let’s say that I was always fascinated to remark that in this universe of naturalistic and explicit Kamasutra extravaganzas – the lingam representing Shiva’ penis and the yoni, denoting Paravti’s vulva, were stylised, more often than less, on the brink of abstraction.
They were not more organs, sexual members whatever; they were ideograms combined into a unique symbol of vitality, fertility continuation. There is only one step forward to do and argue that the natural and physical combination between tree and cavity echoes and carry a message very much alike the one of the lingam and the yoni! Let’s do this step but still keep in mind that what I call message can be nothing else than a similarity… And if I am pursuing on this line of thought I may say that this most amazing erected alive monument provided with a yoni like cavity (carved by repetitive fire attacks, fiery love of sorts) reminds the yin and yang pristine symbolic combination.There is any merit to emphasize or even discuss the circumstantial formal resonance between items belonging to different categories? I have very strong suspicions and I dissociate myself of the most of the things I said before if not of all of them. The issue is a kind of quagmire, a mined ground and even seasoned writers like Tolkien (the Lord of the Rings) or Dan Simmons (Hyperion) who approached it failed to give to the Sequoia characters a convincing literary stature. I am dead sure that my beloved puritan parents will find the whole subject distasteful and the argumentation shaky. I just run into a photo of my mother expressing unlimited doubts You see? Let’s forget the whole thing!
It is time to tell ( and to warn some good people) that I decided to leave the park through its southern end, the one leading on the 198 road to the city of Three Rivers. And then the hell broke loose. The way out of the park, seemed to roll not in hairpin bends but in circles from where, even in low gear, otherwise the breaks will burst in flames, I will never go out. I was, with my invalid arm, counting the milestones finally managed to escape, to roll haggard near a huge water resort built down a hill drop on the shore of the river Kaweah, to arrive to the nondescript city of Vissalia, to take a road towards another hole called Cutler, to run into a dead end, to have the knack to find the continuation, to go to Cutler ( it is that a decent name?) to find it stuffed with Asian immigrants ( Cambodians, Laotians, you name it) and restaurants, to get an expensive Chow Mein – 18 dollars, beer and taxes included, to reach finally the road to Reedley and my Indian motel, Reedley Inn, in a state of mental disorder and beaming of happiness. It was time to get on You Tube to Patrick Sebastian’s 2014 New Year gala a fabulous performance with artists, not only enormously gifted, but also astonishingly beautiful, gloriously displaying the goods. and who put a great show in plain view.
Let’s face the fact: the new generation carries a more aesthetic mug – result of pregnancy care, sufficient nutrition and correct thinking – than the previous ones. The gala was dedicated to the sick, to the old and to the prisoners (that means the criminals, ok?)! But what about the victims? Nobody cares for the victims? Very well, I don’t care either, I want to be normal…Let’s God take care of them, after all it is his job. Here he comes!
With great respect,
PS. For the pedant buddies only;
the photos from 1 to 21, were done within and around the Grant’s Grove
the photo from 22 to 43 (the ridges), were done within and around the King’s Canyon
and the photos from 44 to 65, attention to poison, were done within and around the Giant Sequoia Forest and the Crystal Cave
GRANT’S GROVE, KING’S CANYON, CRYSTAL CAVE