Kamby Bolongo Mean River named one of 25 Important Books of the 2000s by HTML Giant

KBMR was named one of 25 Important Books of the decade by HTML Giant. And was a Page One selection of New & Noteworthy Books by Poets & Writers Magazine.

Monday, August 15, 2011

No news today - Guest Post - Zach Dodson

I avoid the news. In winter I only read the section where they spin research reports and lab results into press releases. The New York Times Science section. This week they had an article entitled "Reptile’s Pet-Store Looks Belie Its Triassic Appeal". The creature staring out from the page like any old lizard. But it's not a lizard, is the point of the story. I can't tell you how this makes me feel. I take my gloves off. The creature is called the tuatara and it lives in New Zealand.

They call it a 'living fossil', essentially identical to specimens unearthed from before the age of dinosaurs. The tuatara can live well over 100 years, maybe as many as 200, they don't really know. They're nocturnal, they're endangered, they're cannibalistic. The Maori tribes who named them believe they are messengers of the God of Death, that no pregnant woman should eat them. They have a prehistoric third eye on their forehead, the legendary pineal eye, a light-sensing node. It helps them know where the sun is, what season it is.

We melted over 40,000 pounds of snow today. The mound is almost gone. The men here don’t like the dark that lasts all day. I don’t mind. The shifts are over before I know it. Time seems to disappear in the dark.

Despite the popular belief that I adhered to until reading this article, most reptiles aren't really cold-blooded. When the temperature drops too low, they die. Not the tuatara. It can survive at just a few degrees above zero, a temperature at which any other reptile would freeze. Or not 'any other', because they're not reptiles. They are a different thing. A distinct creature.

I used to think I was smart. People told me I was smart as a child. I was put in the training camp called 'Gifted and Talented'. My particular gifts or talents were never enumerated. While the other kids memorized spelling lists we made creative things out of papier-mâché. I can't spell papier-mâché.

Take the Neanderthal. They weren't just another step in human evolution, they were a different branch entirely. They existed side by side with Homo Sapien Sapien. Modern humans like you, sometimes me. Neanderthal tools, Neanderthal language. We interbred with them. And then we probably killed them off. Or they died of cold. This is all speculative. And controversial. I encourage you to look it up when we get back to the station.

The crux is that a Neanderthal was fundamentally different than a human. They were another human-like creature living at the same time as humans. As I walked over with lunch just now I kept thinking: What if they hadn't died out? Imagine it: bigger, different, hairy human-creatures living right along side us. Forget conflict over religion or race or nationality. Slide science to the front page. They had bigger brains than we do. It wasn't Harry and the Hendersons. They were smarter, less violent. Your laugh is disgusting. They were like prehistoric Europeans, cultured.

You see, I wanted to say something at lunch about how I feel now: that I matter less, that it's less important who I am. Just anyone, checking my reflection in the side of this glacier, frowning at the sea. But it doesn't matter to you either… no, I know it doesn't. And it's OK. It doesn't matter to the world. It does not feel important. Does not feel important to say it to you, does not feel important to say it to myself, does not feel important to set it down for posterity. What does posterity consist of? No Neanderthal, maybe tuatara, but only for a blink, for a breath of time, back at work with 780 pounds of snow on the news truck, you calling out some stupid joke while locking up the hatch. I don’t laugh. Ever. This is death’s country and we’ve got a pet store to build.

Zach Dodson’s hybrid typo/graphic novel, boring boring boring boring boring boring boring, came out in 2008 under the nom de plume Zach Plague. He has also launched such experiments as Featherproof Books, Bleached Whale Design, and The Show N’ Tell Show. He enjoys pleasant weather.

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