The Book of Signs
1And Dirk went to the top of a nameless hill and said to no one in particular: Behold these signs, given to me. Read them in remembrance of me.
2The Prairie Dog Reserve informational plaque/sign near Devils Tower said: Prairie dogs enter the world surrounded by fangs…from the air sudden talons.
3At one time, 25 billion prairie dogs inhabited the vast middle of the United States; now their numbers have diminished to the point that they have been designated endangered. The same powers responsible for determining that the prairie dog is endangered have decided to remedy this by granting the species their protection. The same powers granting their protection are largely responsible for the prairie dogs problems.
4Beware your enemys remedies.
5But Dirk, you ask, how shall I know my enemy?
6Search your unhappiness.
7And the billboard advertised the Humbird Walk-in Cheese Room.
8And, lo, Dirk bypassed the Humbird exit, all the while imagining a humidor for cheese, rows and rows of tubes of string cheese, laid out, eager for lips and flame.
9And Dirk saw llamas in Minnesota.
10And signs indicating that the Llama Owners of S.E. Minnesota were responsible for two miles of highway in that states Adopt-a-Highway litter clean-up program. Owners. Not ranchers, or breedersowners.
11This struck Dirk as strange.
12 Were there, then, competing Llama Owner associations in S.W. Minnesota? in N.W. Minnesota? in N.E. Minnesota? in Central Minnesota? Dirk imagined ongoing gang warfare between the rival Llama Owners, each group maneuvering their herds of llamas onto great open fields where the llamas would then proceed to spit upon their enemies. The oceans of phlegm and mucous. The cries of the wounded. The expectorant epics recited by wandering, spit-blinded bards lauding the speed, trajectory, and pungency of the saliva of legendary llamas. The overwhelming smell.
13Dirk composed a short poem while driving, or rather remembered a previously composed short poem that had lacked an effective title. Dirk now provided the missing title.
14Portion of an Adjectival Definition Arranged Mimetically
seven-15Good Food the cafe reader board declares…isnt that, or rather, shouldnt that be a given? Since a restaurant would never advertise that it served Mediocre Food, there seems to be a slight case of special pleading inherent in reassurances that an eating establishment serves food that is good to eat: Its good food…really! Ya gotta believe me!! Really, really good!
16And Dirk encountered again a sign he had seen before: the name of a hair parlor: Curl Up and Dye.
17And Dirk wondered: Aside from the obvious cleverness, is there anything to recommend this as a name for a business that is presumably trying to attract customers by appealing to their vanity, their desire to remain young forever? Does such a name invite confidence in the skill of the personnel wielding sharp instruments and chemical poisons? Is that enough to overcome our innate revulsion with our own mortality?
19Then scratched his groin absentmindedly as if watching a wasp circle a blade of grass.
20And Dirk watched a movie entitled fast, cheap, and out of control.
21And the title resonated with Dirk and he wrote it down.
22And during his travels Dirk passed by many motels and one motel reader board proclaimed: Recommended by Owner.
23And Dirk was about to belittle this sign, assigning it a position in his taxonomy next to Good Food, yes, Dirk was about to employ heavy sarcasm while conceding that there was an element of genuine tongue-in-cheek wit, but then the inescapable irony took the form of an anvil and landed on his unshod toes: What could possibly be more permeated with the Recommended by Owner ethic than this hypertext The Unknown, where every page and every link eventually circles around to the implicit and otherwise recommendation that you support those three crazy lads challenging the unknown.
25His mark is worse than his might, he said with exaggerated mystery.
26And Dirk couldnt decide if poetry was 1) always personal, 2) inevitably personal, or, 3) both or neither.
27And Dirk passed over Lmuma Creek on the way to Yakima and a disc golf course which would disappoint him greatly and cause a great gnashing of teeth, as well as assorted imagined blows about the head and shoulders of those responsible. Everyone responsible. Every last one. And then one more.
28As a warning.
30The horoscope for Capricorn, 20 July 1998, includes the following: Invention relates to your recipe.
31Colonize the world with koans. Koanize the world with colons.
32Celestial economics observes the following axiom: We never earn anything, but that doesnt mean we dont deserve everything we get.
33Or that we dont deserve more than we earn, anyway.
34So much surplus and still the insistence on the moral obligation to work. Why the conspiracy against leisure?
35From whom all blessings flow.
36And while in Oregon, Dirk pondered the mystery that the state forbids motorists to dispense gasoline. Every Oregon gas station is a full-service, and nothing but full-service, enterprise.
37Every time the station attendants cheerfully approached his car, Dirk inwardly recoiled, as if he had landed in the middle of a bad Twilight Zone episode about the Gas Station That Time Forgot.
38And what explains this continued need for station attendants in Oregon? An incredibly powerful gas station attendant union? An unusually clumsy and / or careless general populace? Creeping Socialism?
40On the way to Crater Lake, Dirk passes a financial institution that goes by the name, Valley of the Rogue Bank.
41Quibbles about redundancy aside, at least they have the guts to admit it.
42the43Also, near Oregon, but before Crater Lake, Dirk watches a water-skier glide across a desert-smooth lake, an immense nuclear plant cooling tower looming behind him. An apocalyptic pastoral.
44Everything we forget.
45And Dirk added lines of poetry from one of his friends to the Book of Signs:
and though the years of crossing46In San Francisco, Dirk strolls across the Golden Gate Bridge with the author of the above lines. Along the way are several emergency call boxes adorned with signs stating:
48Only in San Francisco, Dirks friend comments.
49Yes, Dirk thought, and how sad that only is an invitation for mockery.
50Dirk encounters the phrase methodical visionary and wants to apply it to himself but realizes that the honor should be Williams instead.
51And the motto/slogan/name for the 107th Merced County Fair in 1998 was: Poultry in Motion.
52As the entire interstate highway system had apparently deteriorated all at once, not unlike Oliver Wendell Holmes Wonderful One-Hoss Shay, Dirk was delayed by innumerable construction projects. Near one, the sign: OPEN TRENCH.
53Behold, says Lao-Tzu, the Tao is an unopened trench.
54How deep is an unopened trench? asks the Zen Master.
55My! How trenchant you are with a penchant for non sequitur.
56The better to appropriate your corporeal being, my dear.
57Colorado. Interstate 70. Some time in July. 1998.