Friday 4/5 Shenandoah VA – Pisgah Natl Forest, NC
Anyone who wishes to make a proper dream sequence requires a fog machine. Long robes, ominous voices, and soundtracks which heavily feature minor major seventh chords help a great deal, but without the fog machine, there’s really no point in even writing the prophetic vision sequence. Luckily for us, any morning set in Shenandoah Natl Park makes wonderful use of the froggiest of foggy bois, so, though it has never been verbally acknowledged, all members of the vanish family are comfortably aware that Friday of fifth sun of fourth moon was, in fact, a dream.
It begins in Standardsville Virginia at Duck Duck Goose Antiques Taxidermy and More. It is damp. An old red heeler lays on the floor, spooning the radiator. Her owner sits in the center of the room braiding his sideburns. Her name is Savage Beast, he says. Pictures aren’t allowed. She lays her head in our laps and, in her best college tour guide voice, asks us to direct attention to each of her prizes in turn. They line the walls. Big horns, and big tusks, and fat square teeth. Would we like a cool beverage.
We drive to Charlottesville in search of Put Put. There is energy in the historic downtown, enough to properly banish the rain. UVA’s buildings are big, its stadium is bold, its colors march up and down main street. The horns blair. The chanters chant. The Cavs have made the final four! And oh, the people, they are so beautiful. A flash dance in the street. The sweet babies kiss, laydies sing perfect four part harmonies, and those floopiest of dogs’ tongues, how they slap about on the floors. Kegs roll, bass pumps, and the sweaters are zipped their full quarter way downnnnnnnnnnn.
We ride out of town on Highway who knows.
Signs direct us to the Virginia’s Finest (and only) Drive Through Safari, 46 acres of the most exquisitely exotic specimens, arranged in perfect recreated natural habitats, free to range up to your car windows and lap up your $4 bucket of chomp. As we approach the gates we catch glimpses of humps, and lumps, and hear the most enthralling skreetchityskreetchities. But alas, $25 per adult.
Instead, we enjoy the across the street attractions, the Pink Chevrolet Diner, named for that beautiful machine parked proudly, chin up, in the lawn. The establishment is simply perfect. It’s walls are covered in Elvis vinyls, hot chocolates are equal part whipped cream, and the waitress offers to help with your crossword (to know available, damn you New York, and your Time). Ah Virginia.
And so we’re off, the North Carolina border in our GPS. A moment of grunts and grumbles, perhaps we roll over, punch the pillow. But oh no no no children, no sun’s a’rising, the night is much too long. Our RadioLab is hard cut as the breaks slam. Tires skid, necks whip, and slugger squeels her displeasure. Finally, we come to a quivering hault, and we face them. It seems they take up the whole of the horizon, shoulder to shoulder, eyes a’blaze. Here, a ten foot tall wizard, staff aloft, fingees pointing. There a bulbous blue beetley boi, giggling in his shrillest reeeeeteedeedeedee. A huge face, those thick beautifying eyelashes, that sweet, sticky, intoxicating ooh of a mouth. Those massive, spindly legs, climbing up to the skies like a ladder to Jesus. But they are still. Caught as in amber. Relics of a war frozen in time, too terrible to continue.
We open the doors in silence. We walk among the bodies. Where the highway shoulder meets the trees stand the sturdy, wooden walls of an old hill fort. The front gates hang from their hinges.
As we proceed deeper into the scene, events begin to unfold in our minds’ eyes. A war was fought here. A war for the soul of Virgina. On the one side, Yankees, all royal blue uniforms and grim beards. On the other, their ancient enemies, the dinosaurs of the Jurasic era. Huge teeth, and claws like scimataurs, and those terrible pale eyes. It is a bloodbath. Shattered eggs and torn limbs litter the forest floor. Atop a train engines, a brave blue coat howls his defiance into the open jaws of death. Several meters away a raptors claws dig into a man’s back. As I walk past the man I look into his eyes. There is no pain there, no despair. I wonder at that. Is this the metal of a man at war, the stubborn, unshakable faith in life? Or did time stopped for him in the perfect moment, the last possible instant before he’d felt those tears in his flesh? Before he’d understood his fate?
It is a blessing now, the dream, for time and space blurs, and we are taken from that dark place. I find that we are in North Carolina. The moon is shining. We set up tent beside a stream and curl up in each others warmth. The sun rises too soon.
* * Crucial side note, we just looked up the dinosaur place (Dinasour Kingdom 2), and it is indeed yankees, trying to unleash dinosaurs as weapons of mass destruction, but “old Dixie has a few things left up her sleeve.”