O for a draught of fresh air, I said, as a genuine pioneer began his film and talk for the Smithsonian's symposia and seminars division.
And sure enough, Yule Kilcher is a sturdy muscular middle-aged man who left Switzerland 45 years ago to homestead a little farm in Alaska, out from Homer (which is out from the North Pole).
He has thriven and now owns a large farm and has built his own house without power tools, from logs he cut himself. Early on, he persuaded a charming woman to leave Europe and join him, and they have raised eight kids -- two of them folk singers -- and of course raised their own food, collected their own coal (their beach is strewn with it, luckily) and had time to study sunsets and play with infant seals.
What a paradise, Kilcher made films off and on, illustrating progress of the Swiss Family Kilcher, and the National Endowment for the Humanities has examined it -- it may eventually wind up on public television. Anyway, Kilcher appears to have all the expected virtues of a man who tamed a wilderness.
Now suppose the world goes to hell. Kilcher said, a trifle more smugly than necessary perhaps, that he was okay -- he lives simply and close to the land. Guatemala, he went on, is the sort of country that will fare better than most if Western society collapses, because they do not depend on a lot of wires and video terminals. But with us -- every time some little trifle like a subway flooding takes place, our world crumbles.
And I yield to nobody in my love for pioneers, facing wild Indians and no place to buy anchovies.
But it won't go do as a model for life. Guatemala won't do as a model for the world -- Lovely though it is in Mayan ruins and scenery and people.
What we need, alas, is what we have got: lawyers, accountants, slaves of all sorts. Without them (without us) civilization cannot stand. And I left this beautiful session with the pioneer much as you leave an evening with Mozart: How beautiful; but now it's time to get the car through inspection.
Musing on such things I of course have fitful dreams. I dream in genuine prose, and because of my humble trade I usually dream in blocks of type that purport to be news stories.
The poet Coleridge, you recall, dreamed in verse and could later write down what he dreamed and it is excellent poetry. But with me, I can't even use the sorry news stories I dream.
I submit two or three, as possibly valuable to illustrate the storms and stresses of life here, and, needless to say, the general falling off in dream quality since Coleridge:
DALLAS -- Felicity Hunt, whose family members have been major investors in certain metals, told police today she had been robbed of $473,000 worth of irreplaceable table silver. "I don't know what the world's coming to," she said. "A body has to lock all the tableware in a bank vault."
MERCI UPONMI -- Solsavatore Mio, celebrated designed of women's shoes, was swallowed whole Wednesday by a python said to be the largest in southwestern Italy. Witnesses said he screamed frightfully going down. The Clinico Puppo Doloroso said the python, regarded as a national treasure, is being treated with anticoagulants and is "fair."
WASHINGTON -- Officials of a city agency today explained they were "embarrassed" Thursday when it was revealed that an official reception for the governor of Imanoland was not, in fact, attended by any officials of Imanoland. There is no such country, and a protocol officer said he feared "misinformation" had been given planners of the reception.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Four hunters were ambushed here on Tuesday by a rabbit. Pending notification of the next of kin, the sheriff's office withheld names of the victims. "These were seasoned hunters," said Sheriff Vernon Futter, "but they didn't have a chance."
CAMP DAVID -- Well-placed sources here indicated today that importation of Persian roses (Rosa foetida) will be banned within two years.
SACRAMENTO -- A nonpartisan foundation, WHIP (What the Hell Is Parity?), has been incorporated here with a governing board of 624 leading Republicans. Its charter describes it as "purely educational" in function.
LARKY, Md. -- Ninety-four students of Larkmore College here were given golden key awards for expertise in locksmithing as demonstrated under difficult field conditions, the college has announced. The students often spend weekends exploring abandoned farm dwellings. "Mighty proud of these young folks," said Agnew Capone, college director of development.
RICHMOND -- The legislature in a whirlwind windup of spring business, today appropriated $18 million to repair headstones in St. John's churchyard where some of Virginia's colonial leaders rest. A request by Fluvanna County delegates for authority to introduce electricity to 46 rural counties failed on a point of order.
CHEYENNE -- Wyoming legislators today gave Eco Cleaners, a laundry company, exclusive rights to harness 48 geysers of Yellowstone National Park for industrial purposes. This has long been contested by the Saucy Sauna Corp., which maintained the public had a vested interest in recreational, not industrial, use of the steam.
WASHINGTON -- The LOG murder trial begins Friday with 418 witnesses subpoenaed for the defense. Six members of LOG (Ladies of Georgetown Inc.) are charged with hacking to bits three U.S. senators who batched it in an 18th-century house on O Street in quiet Georgetown. The defense is expected to rely chiefly on the undisputed fact that the senators painted their front door salmon-rose. The women have dropped their counterclaim for $72,000 against the senators' estates, for an unauthorized weathervane on the senators' garage.
WASHINGTON -- In a committee testimony today Virginia Snauflake, a city horticulturist, defended her agency against charges that each tulip in city parks cost $43.97 to produce. "Who is so gross as to set a price on God's sweet Flowers? she stated. She also testified that charges that other cities produce comparable tulips in parks for 7 cents each was a "red herring thrown out by political malcontents."
NEW YORK -- Seismologists here notified the mayor today that the "bed rock" of Manhattan between 34th and 78th streets is in fact a formerly dormant volcano which this week registered 5.3 on their sensitive instruments. The City Works Dept. said moderate drilling on 59th Street "will undoubtedly correct any little pressure that may have built up."
WASHINGTON -- Dunstable Fretley, scientist who illuminated a 5-watt light bulb by harnessing 63,000 lightning bugs in his laboratory, will address National Public Utilities here in late July.