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A Slow Wet Start

29 June 04

Conchas Lake, NM

Morning breath in a roadside park near Clovis.

Forget the cape and tights, Ma. I need a raincoat!

I began so grandly, only days ago, with such heroic rhetoric. You probably don't even remember, because surely your eyes glazed over once I started all that stuff about Vision Quests and Reincarnation. Just as well, I guess, because here I am being held up, not by dire wolves or dragons, but mere weather.

Apparently Las Vegas and Mora, NM, through which I was to pass this afternoon, are largely under water. In fact, I haven't seen such lurid colors marching over a weather map since I left the Fire Department. Maybe since the Jarrell tornado. Waves of orange and red and green smear across NE New Mexico. Looks like a slowly moving bruise covering a quarter of the Sunshine State, and half the TV screen.

If you're in the market for suffering, there seems to be plenty a short drive north of here.

But I stopped, after less than a hundred miles, at Conchas Lake, near Tucumcari. Be careful what you wish for. It's stupid to drive on and on into really bad weather. Even carrying a kayak. There's no point in being Born Again if you're going to be infantile about it.

This is a medium sized reservoir on the Canadian River. It's not a large lake when it's full, and it hasn't been full for a while.

Cracked mud flats and fingers of water spread out below some bluffs. I drove just across the dam to Conchas Lake State Park, and found some picnic tables a long way from the water. I hope the fishing is good out there, because there's not a lot else to do. The shoreline is largely treeless but tawny with buffalo grass, at least down to where the water used to be.

Heavy clouds and varying winds kept the afternoon cool. No rain here, but the sky looks black as a banker's heart up north. I brought a bunch of books, and tried to get started on one my cousin sent me: "The Coming Generational Storm" by Kotlikoff and Burns. This is a serious tome about social security and the future economy, full of charts and graphs outlining the coming demographic terrors of the 2030s. Very earnest.

There's a graph here that shows the age distribution of the United States. In 1900 it looked like a pyramid. Right now it looks like a house with a peaked roof. The projection for 2030 looks like a barrel.

They talk a good bit about what they call the "dependency ratio". The normal working life usually runs between the ages of 20 and 65, give or take. These are the people in the middle, who support the ends. The ratio of those under 20 and over 65 to the working middle is growing every day. By 2030 it is expected to reach 35%.

These are some tough nuts to crack. I offered them to the ground squirrels, but they just ran away. I am tempted to join them. I'm not eligible for Social Security, anyway.

Why is it we tend to view the past with equanimity, as though it were safely gone, and contemplate the future with an expression like that of a rabbit caught in the glare of headlights? The past is never past. It dogs us every day. And as for the future, well, beyond a certain near horizon, it is the only thing in the world we are surely safe from. It cannot touch us.

It's the kids, of course. There's a wave coming, and they'll be there.

But I keep drifting off and staring at the sky. I have met the slacker, Pogo, and he is me. Yawn. I think I'll go inside and check out the couch.

Ahhh. Here it is, folks, fresh from the snobbishly intellectual rack at the local Stop-n-Rob: Tom Clancy's latest, "Teeth of the Tiger". Good title, but not nearly as scary as those awful charts and graphs. Something about investment bankers setting up as secret private hit squad contractors in a attempt to ease the burden on our poor overworked and undersighted CIA. Right. Arbitrageurs vs Arab (you guessed it) Terrorists. Poke'em in the butt and watch'em drop.

I kid you not. Video game to follow.

Whoda thought you could make assassination seem like a boring middle-class day job? Where does he get this stuff, the New York Times? And yet it sells.


waiting out the storm in this little rolling house out on the prairie.

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