Travel is perhaps the universal enjoyment of the Baby Boomer. After the hard work of adulthood and career, travel is the reward for us.
As I happen to be among the youngest of the so-called Baby Boomers on our journey, it often falls to me to help some of the other voyagers with their things. It’s not like they brought much, we’re all too seasoned for that. But folks like the Paglias, who are in their 80s and still plugging along, they could use some extra help. And, as I spent my formative years lugging a lot of family baggage (and I mean that un-metaphorically, just hauling luggage), I’ve stayed pretty strong so it’s okay.
I remember a cruise on the Black Sea, once, on one of those University-sponsored tours complete with faculty lecturers, and it was the same kind of people. All white heads and canes and cameras. We’d land and take three buses inland into Turkey. Got to where I and the wife started secretly calling the buses “Q-Tip One”, “Q-Tip Two” and “Q-Tip Three”. That had us chuckling. Oh, those were the days. And such restaurant fare! It was a small ship, and the food! Extraordinary.
My stomach makes a buzzing noise when I think of it.
I love travel. Even now, at my advanced young age.
And now we’re on a real adventure. Ocean around us. The Pacific Ocean. The Ocean of Calm. The Quiet Ocean. It’s quiet, all right. Now. Quiet, echoey, like. Like an ocean on Titan, or something.
You can’t see it right now, but I’m pretty sure that wrapped in that foggy blanket a few miles to starboard used to be Canada. It’s starting to get cold. Really cold.
Saw two more drones go by to the southwest before sunset. Hate those things, whoever sent ’em.
We’re out of Seattle on an immense container ship, whose name I am not permitted to know, headed to Alaska. Seward’s Folly. Bought from Russia. Some talk of nickel mines, or something. Whew! Nickel makes me break out in rashes! I had some mixed in with my glasses frames, once. I wonder what being immersed in a freezing nickel-water solution for weeks at a time will be like! And drinking it!
I curl into my bedroll and look up at the emerging stars, some of which are moving. Satellites, of course. So much more obvious now that the government feels it can freely show the iron fist. Advertising our imprisonment. Turns out they’re everywhere. Drones, too. And they were everywhere much longer than most of us suspected. Looking for Enemy missiles and, now that you mention it, just practicing focusing the lenses and stuff back over friendly areas where we pretty know the measurements… down to the micrometer and we’re all about accurizing! For the future. For the children! Read a license plate at 200 miles! Land an ICBM payload inside a baseball diamond. Sorry, we mean “soccer field.”
What a bill of goods. “Peaceful” Space Exploration! Just a way of getting it all up and on-line and they did it right in front of us! Collecting just as much on us as our Red Enemy. Remember all that footage out of Iraq and Afghanistan? Big-screen entertainment, eh? The targeting grids and whirling numbers as the designated target’s Time-Of-Living zeroes out at just the moment the projectile is zeroed in. Astounding.
That was practice! 12 years of blowing up a million-or-so sort-of brownish people half the world away was a scrimmage! They’ve been ramping up, re-entering society as part of a growing security apparatus! They up-armed big-time with pre-owned but lovingly maintained armored fighting vehicles, crew-served weapons, crowd management technologies and a fully up-to-date field manual for counter-insurgency warfare. And here we are.
They were getting ready for the real opponent! Us! They were so confident they even let us peek at their awesome powers. That’s battlefield prep! Shock and Awe! The taste of true executive power! And we watched, awed, variously enthusiastic or horrified, and learned to fear and accept the uniforms in our midst. And to celebrate them, harder and ever-harder. So hard.
In one generation, Americans have become the world’s top uniformed genital fondlers. Accomplices for not merely abiding but employing this rainbow-shirted new army of standardized orifice-inspectors! Sometimes, they even open new ones!
“Hardly better than the Serbs,” thinks the citizen chosen for special review at the security gate, “So recently denounced for their own Bosnian rape camps, thinks the returning-from-abroad citizen, prepped for a digital.
A sadomasochist digital sex game, I think, feigning sleep.
Uniforms do nothing for the individual.
Did we not realize, in our somnolent living rooms, that the garage about to be reduced to its component bricks in Fallujah or, that the Abbottabad manse breached by commando squads at 2am were warm-up games for, say, a split-level in Malibu or a VFW in Aurora, Pennsylvania, or a religious school in Queens? Why not? Crosshairs are indifferent to living conditions.
Could we not sense the tightening, sweaty, increasingly noisome clench of big business and big government in the mediated perfusion of cop dramas, prison mini-series, real-life cop shows and dye-job biddies in black robes pronouncing video justice?
Don’t you think we could have recognized this annex of entertainment and jurisprudence for the threat it really was? Weren’t the intentions announced quite clearly, in retrospect?
During Solzhenitsyn’s time in the gulag, he oft-tormented himself with the question, “Why didn’t we fight back? Why didn’t we place the element of doubt inside the blue-caps’ minds by meeting them with axes, batons, knives… so that they would awaken each morning wondering whether they would return safely at night to their own homes.”
And now I am thinking about Solzhenitsyn thinking about not fighting back because I didn’t, either, and I am freezing my ass off out here on deck. On the way back to what used to be Russia. I’ll bet Solzhenitsyn wanted Alaska back. Time to sleep. Time for all 5,000 of us to sleep.
At least I have my glasses. Just look at all those satellites!