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Two Interludes from the Heart of Fringecrest


by Rudolfo Carrillo

The staff of Things in Light, dogs, ghosts and ghosts of dogs included, are listening to the Jefferson Airplane tonight. One of the Carrillos is piping Crown of Creation through a computerized audio output device. We are just getting buried in the first side, in case you want to know, and that activity is a perfect opportunity to test out the new shiny white keyboard on the G4 in the corner. As is our custom, two random observations or incantations follow.

***

I.

The episode of Star Trek available for consumption tonight by Albuquerque residents in possession of a specific brand of satellite reception equipment is an episode called "Errand of Mercy". It's about how the Enterprise was dispatched to a faraway world to prevent further atrocities from being committed by a ruthless, militaristic empire composed of dark men with pointy eyebrows, metallic sashes and murderous methods.

Anyone who's been to an American studies conference knows that teevee shows like that were meant to serve as commentary on the conflict the USA had with a horrible bear-shaped thing called the USSR, back before anyone at all had a computer at home. This was when telephones were big, heavy affairs with cables and dials and a thing called a trunk connected the continents together.

On that faraway segment of the space-time continuum, our nation was at war, not so much with the bear but with the ideas the bear had spread to its neighbors. Instead of having to confront the bear itself, it was widely thought to be adequate to fight his far-flung followers, to make blood sacrifices of them in a country and among a culture that neither the bear nor his American adversary really understood.

Eventually the bear died from an ironic combination of neglect and greed. Meanwhile on this week's iteration of Star Trek, Kirk goes on and on about justice and the price of war and whatnot. As usual, Spock does most of the heavy lifting. Somehow, better angels prevail and war is averted. At story's end though, one of the swarthy enemies of civilization remarks that a war between two superpowers, on a planet and among a culture neither understands, would have been glorious. Pretty locochon, eh?


II.

When I was growing up in Gallup, New Mexico, there were three movie theaters. One of them was a drive-in called the Zuni. The other two were sit-down joints in the middle of town. The two film houses, El Morro and The Chief, were only a half a block apart in the generally enforced reality that bound them to the earth, but they might as well have been separated by a distance comparable to what one would experience flying to the moon on an Orion III space plane. 

I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Zuni. It was the late show and the rest of my family, except my infant sister, was asleep in the old man's Pontiac Executive. I gave her some Similac and she laughed mysteriously near the end of the film, during the Starchild part.

El Morro was dark and wooden with red velvet curtains and a clock that glowed in the dark. One Saturday I watched Soylent Green down in the front row.  I spent the next month terrified whenever I accompanied my mother on her errands. I was convinced that large government bulldozers would appear at any moment to scoop up the hapless patrons of the California supermarket.

That all sounds really bitchin' and nostalgic, but the shitty thing was the Native population of Gallup didn't really get to go to either the Zuni or El Morro. They all went to the Chief. The classism and racism that supported this example of segregation was quiet and efficient, de rigeur. The town soaked in the oil of despair. The Chief was Gallup's symbol of the dire consequences of colonialism.

The Chief was a stormy place. There were no rules under that roof, but ashen clouds over it. The fare was grindhouse (kung fu and violent horror, mostly) and in-between shows hard rock crackled through the sound system. I am pretty sure the Chief closed down the same summer we left for Albuquerque. I don't know what happened after that, but I reckon things got better when some corporation or another built a multi-screen megaplex on the north side of town.

***

Now we are just about finished listening to Crown of Creation. Everyone here at Things in Light agrees side one is where it's at. Especially the opening track, you know, "Lather." It's also been clearly reckoned that, when read aloud, both of the brief narratives included here have a sense of completion about them. Plus which, it rained this afternoon, and we want to walk around in the dark in Fringecrest, listening to the plants and trees rejoicing.



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