Pine Ridge Indian Reservation -
If you've ever been in this cabin, you undoubtedly noticed the 'old-school' balsa wood airplane suspended from the ceiling, climbing and diving in the draft of the blades of the perpetual motion ceiling fan. Back forty, fifty years ago, you could get one of those planes for free inside a box of Crackerjacks.
Some assembly required. Took about twenty, thirty seconds. No instructions in three languages, and no child-proof packaging that required your mom and scissors to open. Larry and Rachelle, from Indiana, sent it in here, along with the complimentary 2 lb. can of coffee for 'the boys', and a batch of Rachelle's giant meal-in-themselves cookies.
The plane was set in place with a thread and a thumbtack, and after two or three minor adjustments to the delicate balance of the wings by remote engineers in mission control, she's flying straight and true, just like the shuttle. No foam is going to bring her down. No burnup upon re-entry.
The plane is one of the few things that will stay on here after my departure. The plane, and of course, the pond. The fish are going, the pond pump's going, the carpet's going, the kitchen table is going, and...what the hell...in the words of the furniture warehouse salesman, 'Everything must go.'
"What about the fridge?" asked Bo.
"Yep. It's going."
Chili lights? You bet. They're coming down.
Buffalo robe? Don't even ask.
The Chilis, sent in here by Susan down in Arizona, where they have LOTS of chilis, and Mexicans, but not as many as Mexico, are, I've concluded, one of the primary causes and attractions of people to these crossroads. Amost everyone, upon their first visit will comment, "Hey. It's like Christmas in here." Nearly everyone says that.
I've run tiny lights year-round since I've been here ('Cabin With Tiny Lights' 4/12/01), installing them around the framing of the deck, as well as encircling the kitchen, and later covered them with the plastic chili covers they find so appealing down in Arizona and New Mexico, where EVERYBODY runs chili lights, and where I first saw and envied them.
There's no question about it. They brighten up the atmosphere of an otherwise dismal, despairing, depressing, dysfunctional, alcoholic, suicidal, homocidal, diabetes-stricken, methamphetamine-mindbog, 'commod-bod' (commodity food wide-body, jumbo jet XXXL), poverty-stricken environment known as Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Some people call it a concentration camp, because everything here is concentrated. The food, the disease, the life-span, everything.
Here at the table last week, someone said the life-expectancy was 47 years-old. "Hey. We'd better get the hell outta here," Tom said. "We're a decade over!"
So, if it's that bad, then why do all these people keep coming around? I had to ask myself that, and the only thing I could come up with, was, 'to marvel.'
I think, right behind Yellowstone, The Rocky Mountain National Park, and Disneyworld, we're right up there at the top as one of the most twisted places in the USA. Oops. Did I say, 'twisted'? I meant to say vis...well...never mind. It can stand.
Among foreigners, we're right behind the south of France, and among Germans, we're the top tourist destination. There's about six or seven hundr...hell, I don't know how many, really...Germans on the rez right now, the height of Sun Dance, pow-wow, and tourist season.
Gudrun, on her fourth annual visit, down over the hill working in the garden, says they've got whole societies over in Germany composed of sympathetic wannabes who 'costume up' for regular pow-wows and all kinds of other celebratory reasons to dress up in skins like an American Indian of the 1800s. Feathers, fans, beaded moccasins, and the whole nine yards.
Besides Germany, there were three Austrians who were here in the kitchen just the other day, a woman from Brazil day before yesterday, a guy from California, and another first-timer guy from New York who just arrived last night. Next week, we expect people from Tennessee and Connecticut. Yeah. Tony. Tony from Connecticut.
Tony's the guy who brought the five brothers in here from Ghana, 'The African Show Boyz,' who made a sensation with their drums and impromptu performance over at Pine Ridge High School, and took in ceremony with us, one of them saying about the glowing rocks in the sweat lodge, "Dat's da firs time I have been dat close to God, and I couldn't touch Him."
Then there's the film crews and documentarians from France and Japan (Yes, Japan, where, incidentally, they too, have their own Japanese-Indian thing going, like the wild wild west, or somebody's compelling imagination about who somebody used to be), and the writers and the nutritionists, and the straw-bale people, and the wind and solar people, and all those other folks who aren't here as tourists, but rather, on a mission.
Now, I'm not saying all these people, like the Governor of Kentucky (that's 'Ex-Gov', actually, but Craig, who brought him up here, always liked to keep saying, 'The Governor, The Governor, The Governor this, The Governor that'), the Beverly Hillbillies, rez dogs, hemp heads and other Don Quixotic dignitaries and luminaries come here for the chili lights. That would be illusory, wouldn't it?
Most, if not all of the people who come through here are here because of Bro Tom and his programs, or ceremony out back here, which Tom runs as well, since the Old Man's incapacitation. The dogs come through for handouts.
But despite being here on a personal misson, they've already been here on at least one prior occasion to marvel. It's only after marvelling that they return home and wonder what can be done to help alleviate the third-world conditions alluded to earlier.
Just reached an impasse, a mind-lock, so I went out and took a dip in the pond (it's 98 degrees today), twisted up a roll-yer-own and hopped in the truck, rumbling down to that magical idea spot on Slim Buttes Road I was telling you about ('Only One Time', 7/24/05), and returning.
On the way back, I ran into Sandy & Lupe, headed into Wal-Mart, and mentioned taking the German, Gudrun, into town tomorrow for the Sunday morning breakfast buffet, where one can marvel at the sheer size and girth of the buffet and those Nebraskans who eat there, because Gudrun seemed in need of company, a good meal, and getting away from the rez for awhile.
Sandy said it was the same thing with that lady from New Jersey. "They come here to help, and you end up baby-sitting and chauffeuring them around, and..."
"Well. She don't have no transportation."
"Yeah, that's another thing," said Sandy.
I asked her immediately if I could quote her on that, and she said, "Sure. Go ahead."
Well, we try to be as accomodating as possible with those who come through here, just like you do at your place, whether people come to visit, help, or just to marvel.
So, where was I? Something about crackerjacks...
No, the theme was chili lights, what to take and what to leave behind, like karma or someone fleeing a threatening wildfire. Most people snatch the family photo album and some other things if they have the time, and I wondered how many people lost their lives in the tsunami, when instead of listening to people screaming at them to flee for their lives, they tarried to get the passport or some curio recently purchased at a local shop. Or her purse.
The dead would have a tale to tell of their last seconds in this realm of physical existence, of going through a windshield, of being swept up in a 300 mph wave, of incredibly crashing into a skyscraper aboard a jetliner, of being instantly incinerated in a vaporized atomic mist...a million ways to leave Mother Earth.
So there's this guy who's trying to get into heaven...did I tell you this one? Have you heard it?
And St. Pete asks him, 'What have you done to merit entry into heaven?'
The guy says, 'Well, once I saved this poor girl from a motorcycle gang who was hassling her.'
"What did you do?" asked St. Peter.
"I went up to the biggest, baddest guy there with the most tatoos, kicked over his bike, snatched his nose ring out, and told 'em, 'If any of you want to harass this girl, you'll have to go through me first," said the man.
"When did this happen?" asked St. Peter.
"Just a few minutes ago," said the man.
Ok, then. 'Bout time to wrap it up.
Which brings me to fabrication, since one of the readers took too seriously the remarks of one of the characters, who, for purpose of providing a persona behind a real 3-D world verbal exchange and telling a complete tale, just happened to be a pure fiction, like charging two five-star hotel buffet dinners to an anonymous guest. Although we sneaked into the pool, we did indeed, pay for all our food and drink.
Except for the times when 'Rick Larsen' signed. You couldn't make out the chicken-scrawled room number. With sheer delight, we watched without directly looking up, the confusion among the Thai restaurant staff at the desk, trying to figure out whose room to charge the meal to.
So, what the hell. Did he go to Thailand, after all, or was he just sitting up there in that cabin on the reservation, junction of the crossroads, making it all up?