Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Dead From Golgotha

The emerald ash borer (EAB), Agrilus planipennis, is a very destructive insect pest of ash trees (Fraxinus spp.), the only known hosts of this borer in the United States. This exotic borer is a native of Asia with its natural range including China, Japan, Mongolia, Korea, the Russian Far East and Taiwan.

It was first discovered in North America in southeast Michigan in June, 2002, although it was likely introduced at least 10 years earlier. It has since been found in the U.S. states of Ohio (2003), Indiana (2004), Maryland (2006), Illinois (2006), Pennsylvania (2007), West Virginia (2007), Wisconsin (2008), Missouri (2008) and Virginia (2008). It has also been found in the Canadian provinces of Ontario (2002) and Quebec (2008). In May 2009, it was discovered in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Emerald Ash Borer
Jeffrey Hahn, Entomologist

“Are you looking for the monster?” he asked, almost yelling. “Or are you trying to see all the way back to Los Angeles?”

“Don’t yell at me!” she said. “This is very hard for me. In Los Angeles people don’t just sit and do nothing.”

“Yeah,” he said, “in Los Angeles people work away really hard at doing nothing.”

“Oh, shut up,” she said. “Are we done?”

“Yes,” he said. “I think we are.”

Tall and with a haughty baritone not unlike that of his conservative arch-enemy William F Buckley Jr, Vidal appeared cold and cynical on the surface. But he bore a melancholy regard for lost worlds, for the primacy of the written word, for "the ancient American sense that whatever is wrong with human society can be put right by human action".

Gore Vidal died Tuesday in an area of Los Angeles called ‘Hollywood Hills.’ As places to die go, that’s better than some, worse than others. I wouldn’t mind dying there. I even wrote about it in, The Loch Ness Monster Vs. Los Angeles.

But now that Gore Vidal has done it there is no way any other writer could do it without thinking of themselves as a copycat, a bad plagiarist. Although there are certainly worse people to plagiarize.

Plenty of other writers have died in Los Angeles, of course.

Throw a stick and you’ll probably hit half a dozen of their corpses, dead writers I mean, some with names, others who hadn’t registered with the Writers Guild yet before they ran out of whatever it takes to stay alive in this world.

But now I’ll always think of Los Angeles as where Gore Vidal died.


When I first moved out of my parents’ house I was very young and I wasn’t earning a lot of money, working just as a general office clerk for a company that made orthopedic shoes. I’m not very good managing money now and I was much worse way back then. One time a few days before pay day I simply ran out of money. I had put aside enough for bus fare so I would be able to get to and from work, but I had nothing left over for food. Some friends stopped by and at some point had a bit of a laugh looking around my kitchen—the cabinets were completely bare, the refrigerator was totally empty. Somehow, without the situation getting maudlin and unpleasant, someone loaned me two twenty dollar bills so I could buy some food. Later, by myself, walking to a grocery store, I walked past a bookstore and saw that the bookstore had just gotten in a new hardcover collection of Gore Vidal essays. I thought of the two twenty dollar bills in my pocket and I thought of the food the money could buy and I thought of the Gore Vidal book the money could buy.

I bought the book.

I no longer remember exactly which collection it was. But I enjoyed it and when I was finished reading it I sent Gore Vidal a letter with a little comment about his view of America as an empire. Gore Vidal sent me back a little handwritten note from Italy. I still have it. The penmanship is almost incomprehensible, but every second or third word is legible and it is a nice note, an interesting note from what I can make of it. Although a couple of years ago I donated the hardcover book to a library and those fuckers wonderful modern librarian people probably have tossed the book in the trash or sold it for a quarter to someone who hoards books without ever reading them, I have kept Gore Vidal’s letter.

I have two letters that I go back to and re-read now and then as if they were books themselves.

One is Gore Vidal’s letter which is almost unreadable but I enjoy trying to struggle through it. I believe at one point he writes, speaking of the difference between those who govern and those who are governed, between victimizers and victims, “All governors share the same ‘culture.’”

The second letter I keep is from Julian Jaynes. Jaynes’ letter is typewritten and speaks very briefly about some of what he hoped to write about in the sequel he planned for “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.” Jaynes died—not, so far as I know, in Los Angles—before that sequel was published.

Here in this part of my mind, this blog I mean, I’ve quoted Gore Vidal once and I have a second post where I was thinking of him but didn’t mention him.

My favorite Gore Vidal book is “Duluth” and I quote from the final bit of the insect takeover a couple of times here, in ‘Bankrupt Centipedes From Outer Space’ and in Insect Pathology And You: The Musical.

Gore Vidal also wrote a book called, “Live from Golgotha.” It is a very interesting book. It’s not my favorite Gore Vidal book but I enjoyed reading it. I think what I find most remarkable about it is that while the book is—of course—cynical and cutting (or undercutting) about Christianity, it is never, I don’t think, mean. It is never to use the modern word just snarky. And, in the end, or, you know, in a Golgotha sort of way, I thought it even was kind of respectful of Christianity. I was thinking of that Gore Vidal book when I posted a photograph I took, in Electric Golgotha.

As I type this, there are unbelievably loud noises outside my window. Work crews are cutting down a lot of trees around here. The trees were killed, forestry specialists say, by an invasion of little bugs called emerald ash borer beetles. I’ve seen a couple of the bugs on my car. They’re beautiful little insects, but they’ve killed thousands of trees around here. Now there’s just the noise from chainsaws and wood chippers and stump cutters.

Gore Vidal was a real writer. I wish almost more than anything that he and his world could have gone on forever.

No comments: