Weeks have passed since my last conscious memory. Weeks, I say! A man can lose his hat and perhaps even his pants, but to lose several weeks is inexcusable. Think what mischief might transpire over such a span of time!
I find myself crammed in the back seat of a slow moving vehicle on an unfamiliar and crowded freeway. How did I get here? I know the date by the prominent display on that infernal wireless device issued me by my employer.
Big Beefy Bill Blaire and Jim Kren the Toady occupy the front. Neither accosts me with the usual raucous humor or churlish inquiry. Perhaps they assume I still sleep peacefully back here. I silently conduct an investigation on the mobile internet.
Not a single message from Jonelis since he left. The man must still be on sabbatical—in Israel, I think. He left me in charge of this yellow rag of a journal and nobody has heard a peep from him since that day. That, sir is not good for troop morale. Men will lose their discipline under such circumstances. My last memory is a wild party at our offices behind Ludditis Shots & Beer. I recall watching that execrable Lonogan fellow crack open another bottle of vintage Scotch and pour it into a dish for his trusty bull terrier, Clamps.
Now I sit in this automobile with no memory of circumstances since that time.
Bill Blaire, the Paul Bunyan of Chicago, grips the mangled steering wheel of this automobile with his sausage-sized fingers. That man knows how to fill space. His head protrudes through a hole in the ceiling colloquially known as the sunroof. The driver’s seat jams against the back, clearly off its rails. Big Bill blocks any view to that side, but at least I feel secure in the knowledge that he is comfortable and in full control of the vehicle.
Where Are We?
Kren gesticulates wildly at an overhead sign. A glance reveals the surprising fact that we are driving away from Newark Airport toward the Holland Tunnel. I have no recollection of the flight and from his plaintive squawks, I am given to understand that he does not wish to go in that direction.
I consider the possibilities and grit my teeth.
Perhaps we are running from the law. I steel myself with the thought that whatever damning evidence comes forward at our trial, even if I gain back my personal memory of it, we can blame Jonelis for everything that has transpired.
Perhaps the magazine staff has kept me in a drug-induced coma all these weeks to accomplish some foul purpose yet to play out at an undisclosed but diabolical destination. Even now, they run rampant down the public highway, my helpless body in the back of their car, kidnapped!
I stop this line of thought because there is no profit in such dire speculation, I choose to assume we are indulging in a sightseeing excursion. I will enjoy the view. Here we are in New Jersey and it is a fine day! And such scenery, sir! If I remain very quiet, those two may let me alone to enjoy it.
Yes, scenic wonders hold a peculiar attraction for me. I will cross any wasteland on horseback, donkey, or camel and sleep in a tent to catch a glimpse of a marker of dubious historical import. Travel in this comfortable little automobile seems a luxury by comparison to other excursions I have expounded upon in my writing.
We cross a high bridge fringed by a continuous line of blowing garbage. I take that as the source of New Jersey’s fertile moniker, The Garden State. The vista features a spectacle of belching smokestacks along with the other evidence of this nation’s industrial might, stretching all the way to the horizon. I am in awe, sir! Awe, I say!
The two in front are still unaware that I have aroused from my slumber.
We exit to Staten Island and I receive my first clue to the real points of interest in the area. The sign directs us to Freshkills Park, New York.
Freshkills! Every muscle pulls taught as I consider the possible motives for a destination with such a name. But no—I quickly recover my equilibrium. We are probably bound for some historic battlefield from the Civil War. Lacking a travel guide, I turn again to my infernal device to consult Google, the fount of all modern knowledge.
My search reveals alarming locales such as Arthur Kill and Kill Van Kull. According to Wikipedia, these are bodies of water separating Staten Island from New Jersey. Also listed are Dutch Kills, English Kills, Bronx Kill.
Further investigation reveals that Kill as a corruption of the Dutch word for creek. Here I see references to the Whorekill River and the Murderkill River. Who can explain such rude use of the English language? I live in a city known far-and-wide as the murder capital of the world, but we have no such violent names associated with our waterways. I believe I can travel to foreign lands and experience less culture shock!
My interest in this excursion is piqued and I cling to the hope of keeping these revelations alive in my mind. Now that recent events have proven my memory faulty, I write everything down.
I look up English Kills and find it feeds into Newtown Creek, an estuary that separates Brooklyn and Queens. Wikipedia identifies that important waterway as the most polluted industrial site in the country, containing decades of discarded toxins, thirty million gallons of oil, raw sewage from New York City, arsenic, cesium-137, and polychlorinated biphenyls. I leave the definitions of those ominous titles to your imagination. The main point is the anthropological significance. Yes sir! It helps explain various behaviors and escapades the citizens perform in this area of the country.
But I believe we are headed for Freshkills Park. I punch that name into the infernal device.
What one can learn on the internet is staggering! I say it again—staggering! Freshkills Park is a 2,200 acre site—twice the size of Central Park. Long before ecologists corrected our opinions of such property, the area was deemed an undesirable swamp. Those were wilder days when intrepid men did not shrink from massive and daring exploits. In 1947, the city began to improve the place by filling it in.
Their ingenuity gained admiration from municipalities everywhere. This was the main destination of those daily barges of Manhattan refuse—barges that apparently did not always dump their cargos at sea, as other cities in the world do. Why, with twenty barges a day, each loaded with 650 tons of material, this landfill has become the largest man-made structure in the world! The Empire State boasted that it would one fine day become the highest point on the East Coast! Consider that colossal achievement, sir!
What better landfill material than garbage? Garbage is the single biggest commodity produced by man! It is readily available and inexpensive. People actually pay their city haul it away! Now, with merely another twenty years of planning and many billions of taxpayer dollars, this dump will become the second-largest park in New York City! I call that progress!
I address the individual sitting ahead of me in my magnificent baritone. “Mr. Kren,” I pause for effect. “Did you bring the camera?”
The Awful Truth
The man looks back at me and drops his jaw. “Yer awake!” He punches the giant. “He’s awake! Hey Blaire, Mr. Wayne’s awake!”
Just then we turn into the Staten Island University Hospital. I sense the worst. Running my hands through every pocket, I fail to turn up my pistol. There is no taser app installed on my infernal device. I am entirely at the mercy of these men and whatever foul operation they intent to perform at this institution.
Big Bill pulls to a stop at the curb. His door creaks loudly and he extricates his head from the open sunroof. Then he smiles at me, wide enough to display the gaps in his dental work, and utters in a deep, slow rumble, “Hi…Mister…Waaaayne. Hope…yer…feelin’…oh…kay.”
They wheel me into the clinic and Kren explains the circumstances to the doctor who is apparently some relative of the execrable Lonagan. I sit aghast at the account of the staff party—my last memory of home—Clamps happily lapping up good Scotch from his dog bowl and I, innocently reaching down to scratch the coarse fur behind his ear when he abruptly lifts his massive head—
Have you ever been clocked on the jaw by an 85 pound bull terrier? The dog means no harm and I understand it’s a common enough occurrence among those that own the breed but there is nothing to recommend the practice. No sir! I cannot recommend it!
Mark T. Wayne is acting managing editor of Chicago Venture Magazine.
Photo Credits – Wikipedia, MS Word, John Jonelis
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