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CLEAR UNDERSTANDING

Map Of America

Short Sci-Fi Stories

     I’d always loved maps. In fact the walls of my office at home were covered with them. Almost every part of the globe was represented there with some areas even being duplicated as I acquired an occasional historical map.
     Behind this apparent obsession there was however a practical use. And this was to track the progress in the promotion of a C.D that my band had recorded. Since its release I’d been sending copies of the product far and wide in an effort to gain exposure for us.
     With thoughts of world domination aside, the primary reason for the maps remained geographical. Since I was a child, this view of the world from above had always fascinated me. It felt as though I were truly suspended aloft and able to swoop down and visit any place that caught my eye.    
      Immediately above my desk was a large map of North America. The nature of my endeavours in this office meant that much of the time was spent in search of inspiration. When the inexact science of promotion is further hindered by having no budget, the amount of time required to target a successful hit rises dramatically.
      And so it was that during these brainstorming sessions that my eye would fall upon the map of America. Inevitably the place names I saw would stimulate memories and conjure up images of how life might be in those towns. Sometimes for places unknown to me I’d rely solely on the name and topography of an area to supply an image.
      A third of the way down the eastern seaboard of the Unites States was a large inlet called Chesapeake Bay. Within that bay was a place named Tangier Island. Some years ago a TV documentary had revealed that the inhabitants of this rather unique place were of English descent.
      To be of English descent was of course not unusual for Americans. What made these people unusual was that they all came from one specific area of the U.K. Moreover, their isolated island existence had frozen their accents and culture in time.
      Their ancestors it seems were all of Cornish stock. Lying at the southwestern tip of The British Isle, Cornwall feels more like an independent country than a mere county. The accent of the people there and their odd "All knowing" gaze sets them a world apart from the rest of their countrymen.
      When the T.V program moved on to interviews with the Tangier islanders I nearly fell off my chair. Having travelled extensively in Cornwall I was more than a little familiar with the sounds and feel of the place. To hear modern day Americans sounding like the pirates of Penzance was nothing short of uncanny.
      Still on the eastern seaboard, I’d noticed an abundance of town names that had British counterparts. In Delaware alone such places as Salisbury, Lincoln and Seaford were examples. Further down in South Carolina other names appeared like Windsor, Swansea and Lancaster.
      To travel west with the eye was to travel forward in time with later generations of settlers. Here the place names sought not to mimic the old world but to describe the new. Wonderful results emerged such as Buffalo, Pine City and Dawson Springs.
      Further still to the west and south saw the appearance of Spanish contributions to America. Closer to my preferred cultural ideal, the towns of Santa Fe, Las Palomas and El Paso were fine examples of this.
      Nestling down in Texas was San Antonio. I knew nothing at all of the history of this town but had read a book by an author who’d grown up there. His name was Whitley Strieber and the books he’d written included both fiction and non-fiction titles.
      The book that introduced me to San Antonio and to this writer was called "The Secret School". Essentially about his own life as a young boy, it was an actual account of the reconstruction of real events that had been lost to his conscious memory.
      The book reveals that a gradual surfacing of forgotten memories begins to construct a most peculiar tale. It appears that he and a number of other children were drawn to enrol themselves at a class that assembled outside of town. Furthermore those attending the school seemed to do so in an altered state of mind.
      The objectives of those perpetrating such an education remained unclear. Yet whilst the curriculum did contain some sinister aspects, the children also felt enlightened; almost chosen.
      The book as a whole is just a part of the author’s passion to understand his and others experiences. It’s more than just an account of alien abduction. This is a real attempt to delineate and quantify the unfathomable depths of reality itself.
      As a backdrop to this account the reader is familiarised with The San Antonio of the nineteen fifties and sixties. At this point in time the town still retained traces of its frontier roots. Indeed many of its occupants were children at the turn of the century and therefore had parents who were amongst the first settlers.
     To compare the modern city of San Antonio today with that as described in "The Secret School" is to compare two completely different worlds. Yet the space in time between then and now is roughly the same as the time between then and when the town began.
      For many of us having memories ourselves of the fifties and sixties, the era doesn’t feel that ancient. To know therefore that simply doubling that period takes us back to the days of the cowboy, is to appreciate just how rapidly times are changing.
      Moving north and west from Texas was another town that often caught my eye. Appearing to comprise of several Spanish words, the exact translation of its name remains a mystery to me. Less mysterious though equally challenging was a recent T.V series called "The Osbourne’s" which had supplied my only source of insight into the workings of this town.
      Albuquerque, according to the contours and shading of my map at least, lay smack in the middle of the deserts of New Mexico. The Osborne’s, for those uninitiated, was a series that explored the daily lives of the Osbourne family as sired by rock and rolls most famous son, Ozzy Osbourne.
      Starring alongside Ozzy is his wife and manager Sharon. As is the case with many talented individuals, the public, without Sharon’s assistance and indeed insistence, may have been deprived of their essential Ozzy fix.
      Mr Osbourne is a wild heavy metal animal. And his unique mix of power, passion, hatred and sensitivity, are a must for philosophers and philanderers alike. For many, and I include myself here, he is truly the second coming of Christ.
      The particular episode of The Osborne’s relating to Albuquerque, dealt with Ozzy’s reluctance to perform there. His reservations were not connected to any shortcomings of the town or its facilities, but were to do with where the fixture stood in relation to the tour itinery as a whole.
      Logistical considerations inevitably meant that bands on tour would have to cope with the occasional bunching up of gigs. Anticipating the pressures of a particularly arduous part of his tour, Ozzy was adamant in his refusal to play Albuquerque on the night specified.
      His wife having worked hard to finalise the tour was having to suffer a continuous barrage of abuse from her husband. Another target for Ozzy’s less than righteous tongue was his tour manager who along with Sharon, seemed to accept this letting off of steam as part of the job.
      As a viewer, I wasn’t alone in feeling that perhaps Ozzy was being more than a little inflexible with his attitude. All the travel arrangements had been made and with the P.A and lighting systems booked, what on earth was going to happen.
      At this point in the programme the inevitable commercial break appeared. Living rooms everywhere were trying to come to grips with both loving Ozzy and hating him at the same time.
      After a number of eternal minutes the show, in the most literal sense of the word, was resumed. Moving forward in time to the disputed date, the producer had magically captured Ozzy in the exact place and time he’d so repeatedly objected to. "Hello Albuquerque", he growled as the band and the crowd exploded around him; it was awesome.
      Whenever visiting Albuquerque in this manner, my eyes always felt drawn to its near neighbour Los Alamos. Although in smaller print than my primary target, its impact on world events seemed to magnify the size of the text somehow. Los Alamos of course was the birthplace of the Atomic bomb.
      The most alarming aspect of those early tests for me was the uncertainty of their outcome. I suspect this may have been "Post-event" press hype, but there were those who allegedly felt that the chain reaction central to the success of the bomb, just might spread to the atmosphere and consume the entire planet. 
      Clearly as we’re still here, such fears were unfounded. And history shows that this ultimate deterrent to war can be almost unanimously accepted as having benefited the human race.
      That awful day though for the Japanese when Enola Gay came to town. Yet how much more acceptable was the projected figure of six hundred thousand dead to close the war using conventional means. The tragedy was that whilst neither one of these scenarios was acceptable, one of them at least must be applied.
      The whole area around Los Alamos and Albuquerque became prone to rumour generating incidents. Starting with the secrecy surrounding the development of the atomic bomb, New Mexico then became something of a hotspot in the "Top-Secret/Government cover-up" stakes.
      Following the bomb was the world famous crashed U.F.O incident at Roswell. Other famous encounters with aliens came from police officer Lonnie Zamora at Socorro and the family of Faustino Padilla at their nearby ranch.
      Unfortunately many opportunities to broaden public interest in this vital area were trashed by the "Dumbing-Up Brigade" or by the hereditarily sceptical "Junk Media", as they’re more commonly known. Their case was essentially fuelled by the close proximity of the Whitsands missile testing facility which clearly explained everything?
      Straying away from New Mexico, my gaze often focused upon towns in the adjoining state of Arizona. Some of the place names in the southeast that particularly caught my eye were Bisbee, Tombstone and Benson. Further south and on the Mexican border was Douglas with its Spanish counterpart, Agua Prieta, laying close by.
      My introduction to these far off lands came through an account of the famous "Battle Of The O.K Coral". Fought at Tombstone Arizona in the late eighteen hundreds, this bloody skirmish formed a landmark in the very slow taming of what was a very wild west.
      The version of the conflict that I’d read was unusual in that it was seen through the eyes of a person not actually present when hostilities erupted. In fact this telling of the tale reveals the actual battle to be somewhat of an anti-climax when compared to the nail-biting tensions of the preceding weeks and months. 
      Johnny Ringo was at the centre of the story. This rather enigmatic and romantic figure was purportedly "The Real" fastest gun that had ever lived. Bearing no allegiance to either side in the dispute, he seemed to thrive on the very inhospitable atmosphere of the middle ground.
      Nothing and nobody fazed Johnny Ringo. And as the irresistible force of the law in Tombstone approached the immovable mass of the lawless, the reader was left guessing as to which side might gain the support of this rather formidable loose cannon.
      The somewhat dubious honour of gaining such allegiance would have undoubtedly raised the stakes in favour of those who might have received it. But Johnny Ringo appeared completely oblivious to the growing tensions and seemed entirely removed from any impending Armageddon. In fact he’d been swaning around town behaving like he was at some kind of holiday camp.
      When the hour of the day of the battle finally arrived, Ringo was nowhere to be seen. With his piers then engaged in blowing each other to merry hell we’re left thinking that this was his ploy all along. As the dust settles however we learn that our absent and hitherto invincible hero was found dead having been shot in the back outside of town.
      Who ever the assailant may have been remains a mystery. And to isolate those with a motive for the attack would have meant interviewing the whole town. In a way it was a sad end to a rare soul who’d found a way to survive here. Yet it was also an end that left the face-to-face invincibility of Johnny Ringo intact.
      Staying in Arizona but moving one hundred years forward and two hundred miles north left me staring at Winslow. Whilst liking the image that the name "Winslow Arizona" gave off, it was to a less desirable picture that my mind would always turn.
      There were some lines in a song about this place that really irritated me. These particular words in no way criticised the town and therefore left the charm of Winslow itself completely unscathed. The injury inflicted by this song was not to the town or surrounding area but to the mentality of the human race.
      The words of the song said,
                                          Standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona,
                                          Such a fine sight to see,
                                          There’s a girl my lord in a flat bed Ford,
                                          Slowing down to take a look at me.
The song then continues to speculate on just how nice it might be to make love to this passing female.
     As a man of the world I’m fully conversant with spontaneous human arousal, it’s a fact of life. What had always disturbed me was this young mans conviction that he presented such an alluring figure that the girl was unable to conceal her passion.
      It was a rule of this world that men remained sexually frustrated throughout life and that women chose their suitors based on the subconscious decision of how they’d perform as bread winners to support their offspring.
      It was possible that perhaps I was being a little cynical in this outlook. It was also possible that I was in fact jealous of this mans good looks and that his perception of the encounter had been accurate. Whatever the truth of the matter, I preferred to believe that the Ford’s engine was misbehaving and that the girl was merely evaluating him a potential mechanic.
      Coming back east from Arizona it was impossible to ignore the sheer scale and majesty of the Mississippi river. Compared to the Thames in London where I lived, the thousands of navigable miles of the Mississippi seemed endless.
      Associated with its great length and one of the most interesting aspects for me, was the variation in weather conditions that existed from one end to the other. On my map, the rivers source appears as far north as the rather chilly Great Lakes. A thousand miles due south and at the other extreme, its waters can be seen to merge with the delightfully tepid currents of The Gulf Of Mexico.
      For the vastly differing worlds of Canada and The Caribbean to be connected by a single living thread, was for me the very essence of the magic of this river. To be able to travel its entire length and to witness that slow cultural evolution, would surely be a most memorable trip.
     As if the climatic and cultural diversity of the Mississippi itself were not enough, the two gigantic arms of the Missouri and Ohio rivers added to the grandeur. Pealing off to the west and east respectively, together with the Mississippi they formed an immense transport network spanning much of The United States.
     To use the words "Transport Network" is perhaps too logistical an observation. Great rivers such as these could be more accurately described as spiritual highways, and that for many travellers, mankind being only one of any number of species, this was their home.
     Back on Terra Firma my eye would frequently explore the state of California. As always, being a native of the rain drenched U.K., I tended to favour the more hospitable southern most counties whenever I found myself "California Dreaming".
     I would often begin this trip at the point where Mexico stopped and California began. At this place there was a town called Tijuana which I assumed was to do with the famed "Tijuana Brass".
     I could never remember if "Tijuana Brass" was the title of a song or the name of the band that had performed it. What I do remember though is a clear image of the songs/ bands performance on television. For me the two things that had stayed with me were firstly how smartly groomed the musicians were and also just how spine tingling the melody had been.
     There was a unique quality surrounding Mexican and Spanish music that I found quite irresistible. My first love was their way of using the acoustic guitar. In one of his films the actor Jack Nicholson summed up his affections for Mexico by praising its "Slow days and fast nights". I’ve always felt that these words along with the sounds of their guitars, captured fully the true essence and spirit of the Mexican people.
     Another permanent fixture in the fabric of Spanish music was of course the trumpet. How an instrument so diametrically opposed to the guitar could be used to compliment and even enhance this nations heritage was a mystery. There’s something in the souls of those who chose to live in such harsh and sun-baked wastelands. And there’s something in the sounds of both the trumpet and the guitar which, when in Spanish hands, seems to "Colour-in" and give life to the barren lands in which they live.
      Moving north along the coast of California I generally avoided the larger towns. Cities for me had no connection to the natural beauty of the land upon which they stood. With all the hills and valleys with their rivers and trees lost, sadly all that was left to remind us of the once open and glorious countryside was street names such as Canyon Drive and Cactus Boulevard.
      Having by-passed San Diego therefore, the next townships to be encountered by a real traveller would be those of Carlsbad and Oceanside. Possessing no information at all on either community left me entirely free to speculate upon or even invent identities for these places.
      I’ve found that travel as a means of discovery was in no way diluted by substituting the unknown with the made-up. To the professional and unhindered daydreamer such as I, the removal of the dividing line between real and virtual was perhaps the most important skill we had.
      Oceanside as a name did not sound like an industrial place. Also the image of the sound of its name implied wide ocean bays rather than a narrow trading port or fishing inlet. I thought the slightly "Cheesy" label of Oceanside leaned more towards a poorly marketed resort development rather than an expanded settlers town.
      It could be of course that its founders lacked imagination. Or perhaps the choice of naming the town using locational information was more practical to its early settlers who would have had more serious issues to contend with than town names.
      It wasn’t necessary of course for me to know the actual truth behind the naming of Oceanside. For the purposes of my trips here the absence of any solid information served only to enhance the meditative value of the excursion. To replace the boundless unknown with actual detail would defuse the spontaneity and seriously undermine the fun of the blank canvas.
      Next to Oceanside was the smaller town of Carlsbad. Both places appeared to sit right on the coast and would share wonderful views of the foaming Pacific Ocean as it crashed along the shoreline. At just thirty-three degrees north and with a delightfully warm climate, the mind of the eye of an inmate of London was an envious one.
      Right or wrong I’d always assumed Carlsbad to translate into Carl’s town. In northern Germany the frequency of the word "Bad" in town names suggested to me that it must mean "Town", although it more often appeared at the front of the name. The reversal of the order of the syllables was probably in keeping with the rules that applied to possession in most European languages.
      So what was this German outpost doing in southern California? I’d seen other examples such as Berlin, Clarksburg and Petersburg but they tended to be along the eastern seaboard. I think that then as indeed now the dream of settling in California and the naming of your homestead after yourself was akin to staking your claim in utopia.
      Further along the coast was the beautifully named Santa Barbara. The regularity with which this place name was referred to in movies and the media had led me to believe it was a town of some significance.
      The reality, revealed to me by a friend who had actually visited there, was that not only was Santa Barbara a very small place but that its citizens seemed to enjoy keeping as lower a profile as possible. I wondered whether its attraction to the media was because of this desire to remain anonymous or whether it was the image behind the name and location that drew their interest.
      Out to sea and away from the coast at Santa Barbara lay a number of large islands. I couldn’t be sure how many exactly as this corner of my map contained a magnified "Blow-up" of down town Los Angeles that overlaid the area.
      I had the feeling that one of the larger islands called Santa Cruz was used as a secure detention centre but maybe I was confusing this with the famed Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. To punish hard-core criminals by sending them to "A Place In The Sun" had always struck me as an odd decision. I knew that in terms of accommodation their lot would fall well short of paradise, but a more appropriate island base I’d have thought would be somewhere off the coast of Alaska.
      Next to Santa Cruz going west were the islands of Santa Rosa and San Miguel. No towns or roads were shown on the scale of my map but all the islands were shown to have high peaks at their centres.
      To me islands at sea always feel like they’re floating on the surface and entirely unconnected to the mainland. To read the altitude numbers on the summits of such islands has always served to remind me of their obvious connection to Terra Firma below the waves. This rediscovery of islands really being only the tops of sunken hills has always been somewhat of a disappointment for me.
      Moving six inches inland from the coast, Nevada was a state that often drew my attention. Whatever criteria had been responsible for the positioning of its boundaries, had left its shape looking like a broken spade dug fast into the North Eastern corner of Arizona.
      Just ninety miles north of Las Vegas was a place made famous by the United States government. The reason why this area became so well known is that for years the official view was that it didn’t exist at all. If my memory serves me well it was not until the press obtained a photograph taken by a Russian satellite, that further denials ceased.
      At length the government conceded that it did possess a secret military installation at Groom Lake and it’s previously under cover policy had been strictly in the interests of national security.
      This eventual admission seemed to satisfy the mainstream media. The quest had been simply to flex their muscles just enough to taste the kill as the thickening sweat began to drip from the brows at the Pentagon. With the photograph and politicians now exposed, this universally prevalent and shallow style of journalism soon became bored and began to look elsewhere for its next fix.
      But the mysteries of Area 51 as it had become designated, were not at an end. The truths behind the notoriety of this facility were too bizarre to interest the "Dumbed-Up" public, so the flame as it were was left with the fringe media to carry.
      As an addict to all fringe and conspiracy theory subjects, I’m sold hook, line and sinker on the "Real Deal" behind the Groom Lake scenario. I believe as do many, that Area 51 is a world financed event whose mission is to back engineer crashed U.F.O’s. I also believe that a number of the staff engaged therein are of extra-terrestrial origin.
      The role played by achievements at the complex is merely part of the greater plan to integrate all or some of the occupants of this world into a larger inter-stellar family. For anyone with an imagination, the logistical nightmare faced by organisations involved in these "End-Days", gives reasons enough to justify their complete silence.
      Also close to Las Vegas was The Grand Canyon. Unlike inhabitants of Area 51 to the north, occupants of the lands spreading east along the Colorado were dedicated to welcoming as many tourists as was possible.
      The spectacular geography of this most famous site seemed breathtaking to me even from the maps impression. Its no wonder that for many people their visit here becomes the realisation of a life long dream taking years to finance.
      Some years ago I read an account by a person of his aspirations to visit the Grand Canyon. Since boyhood, its grandeur had captivated his imagination and later as a father his dream was to share its magic with his family. Every year he planned to afford the trip but was foiled by one disaster or another and he often dreamt of himself standing on the edge of the canyon amidst his dreams.
      One particular year everything was set for the trip. All tickets and reservations were made leaving only a few weeks to pass before this trip of a lifetime became a reality. Unfortunately, only days before departure his car developed an expensive fault that once again placed the holiday just out of reach; he was devastated.
      The following year saw him even more determined to realise his ambitions. Having recently been promoted he took full advantage of the subsequent pay rise to secure a loan that would at last guarantee his satisfaction. All went according to plan this time and so after years of pawing through brochures and watching videos, the trip finally went ahead.
      During the latter half of their stay a most curious if not unnerving event occurred. It was shortly after they’d taken some photographs of each other overlooking the Canyon that it happened.
      They had spotted a photographic studio and wandered inside to compare their potential shots with that of a professional. Upon the wall were a number of pictures taken during last summer’s season. Seeing the pictures seemed to rekindle memories of their disappointment at not being able to afford to come here last year.
      There on the wall and as large as life was a picture containing the unmistakeable image of the father of this family. There he stood on the edge of the Canyon amidst his dreams as he so often had. What quirk of science or nature could ever have led to such an apparition?
      At first they assumed this figure to be a double but close inspection revealed an impossible collection of identical clothing traits. Even the patch on his old pair of favourite jeans was a match. And how unlikely was it that any double could ever share that unique biting of the lower lip mannerism that they all knew so well.
     This was one of the strangest stories I’d ever read. I never doubted its validity for a moment. What were they to gain from the telling of such a bizarre occurrence apart from ridicule perhaps? If mankind were to accept the reality of imagined impossibilities, he’d then be free to learn more swiftly of the greater truth.
      North of the Colorado Plateau and the Grand Canyon was Utah. Here the colour contours of my map indicated higher elevations as the terrain became more mountainous. Many of the peaks were in excess of ten thousand feet and together became part of a massive feature spanning the entire length of the North American continent.
      For those early settlers bound for the west coast, this huge natural barrier must have presented a wealth of problems. For whilst lowland passes did exist to carry them to the other side, many of course would end abruptly in dead-ends. To find and negotiate a passage through these mountains must have felt like trying to find a solution to the ultimate maze.
      Many of those who attempted to forge these early routes would fail to reach the western ocean. Some would have succumbed to the lure of the many unrivalled beauty spots along the way. Others, and I would have been among them, were simply dead on their feet and ready to set up home almost anywhere.
     But failure would later provide success as subsequent waves of travellers began to feed upon the produce of the early farms. Being little more than shacks with a plot of land at first, they rapidly grew into profitable trading posts that then attracted the support facilities that would evolve into towns and cities.
      The irony of the spawning of towns and cities from their earlier homesteads would have the pioneers turning in their graves. The whole idea after all had been to discover and settle the new lands with a view to escaping that "Cog in the machine" existence.
      The full urbanisation of mother–Earth is still underway. It is to the current mortality of human kind that this would be set to continue. For the offspring of those with ideals rarely share their parents dream and often despise them.
      Indeed, the most striking aspect of the map as a whole was the sheer density of its population centres. In just the blink of an eye, an entire continent had been transformed from a virtually empty wilderness into the bustling America we know today.
      Photographs taken in orbit from satellites at night are especially fascinating. At a glance they clearly show how the distribution of man has panned out across the U.S.A and the rest of the world. From this vantage point it is still possible, even for the untrained eye, to realise that North America was populated from east to west.
      Further scrutiny underlines the vast cultural divide that will always exist between the peoples of Central and Northern America. That this gap is not of an intellectual or financial nature is an argument thus far unconsidered by our wealth-driven media.
      Clues also exist as to the origins of modern civilisations. Interrogations of the lights at night give clear indications of the migratory patterns of various groups over millennia. But other observations that show a comparatively under-populated southern hemisphere seem hard-pressed to find a solution to this scenario.
      Coming back down to Earth frequently found my attention drawn to the city of Nashville Tennessee. As a self-promoting musician I couldn’t help but despise the "Pigs-Ear" that this towns made of country music.
      With its roots in Celtic-Folk music, how could any industry so completely mutilate its product as to render it beyond recognition? What the hell were Hawaiian guitars doing alongside fiddles and banjos? And what’s with this sixty cigarettes a day vocals prerequisite that leaves every song to the mercy of identically performed "Croaks"?
      Folk music to me was the purest form of the art. Adding a complimentary though contradictory Celtic edge to its natural purity was to add the catalyst that would ignite a simple tune. To take this infinitely variable but basic formula to the levels of over production that Nashville had was to distort its message.
      Within the American spirit was the lust to succeed. An unfortunate offshoot of that admirable quality was an ability to combine and unite unrelated skills. To pre-package and market music as a commodity, invariably led to the desired creation of saleable product. But to achieve this aim having been appropriately devised to do so would always result in a kind of bland uniformity that bore no resemblance to the original idea.
      Just up from Nashville and into Kentucky was the wonderfully named town of Bowling Green. Pictures in the mind of how this place began need no clarification at all.
      Without knowing why I’d always assumed the sport of Bowls to be a modern innovation. And whilst I knew of Sir Francis Drake’s famous game, my conscious mind always refused to present this image to me as an old one. As a result of this anomaly, my frequent rediscovery of Bowling Green upon the map would at first suggest a modern suburbia and then an older and more likely image would evolve.
     Near to Bowling Green was an area called Mammoth Cave National Park. In common with many other ancient American sites this park was centred around a place of special archaeological interest.
     There was so much emphasis placed on the Americas being the "New World". As Europeans we frequently bathe in the comfort and pride of our greater history. That Americans share that history is a fact we rather strangely ignore. But to encounter the real history of a continent with such significance as the remains of a mammoth in Kentucky, surely pales the worth of our human contribution to the times of this planet.
     Apart from mammoths, I couldn’t help but speculate on how many previous civilisations have risen and perished since the dawn of our world. Many of the more inspired scientists believed it was possible that there was time enough for at least seven earlier races to have lived before us.
     Sceptics of course argued that the absence of artefacts of such former times proved their non-existence. But artefacts there were. In fact there was an abundance of inexplicable finds that were buried behind the shroud of secrecy maintained so fearfully by mainstream science. Why they should so conceal these revelations is a mystery, but conceal them they do.
     One such curiosity kept beyond the publics gaze was discovered in the middle of an ancient seam of coal. That it was of an industrial and manufactured nature was enough to warrant the censorship of its reality. How could this device so similar in appearance to a sparkplug, have ever found its way into the rotting trees of a swamp in the Jurassic period.
     I’ve never understood the difficulty in accepting the likelihood of earlier cultures than our own. There are many natural ways that any or most traces of their presence could be lost, not least of which was that supplied by the simple yet relentless passage of time.
     Purchasers of new property in the U.K receive a ten-year guarantee on their homes. What fragment of any unmaintained building would remain after one or two hundred thousand years I wonder. Add to the ravages of time the certainty of less subtle forces such as ice age glaciation, pole-shift, plate-tectonics and asteroid impact, and it’s a miracle to have found even a sparkplug intact.
     Alongside of those officially undisclosed remnants however, we find another most unlikely survivor. This hardy evidence is not of the inanimate kind but of the living; it is man himself. And it is from within the many legends of the many different cultures of man that the truth can be learnt.
     What were the "Vimanhas" or flying ships so openly discussed and accepted by the population of India? And what drug was the very factual Plato on when he wrote so eloquently of Atlantis. Equally astounding are detailed reports that highlight an application of the subject of genetic engineering by the pharaohs of Egypt.
      Whatever truths may eventually surface regarding the history of America or even Antarctica for that matter, I’m sure they’ll easily match or surpass those of Europe. But even if a continent is devoid of human experience, to assume as a result that it has no history therefore, is an arrogance that only man could enjoy.
      Sweeping further east into Kentucky I encountered a town called Manchester. Currently in the U.K the city of Manchester is a violent and filthy hole. Even in bygone days its claim to fame for those imprisoned there was far from evident.
      Like many post-industrial revolution towns it was seen only to the politicians as successful. But then as now, with those in power choosing to reside outside of their elected towns, it is the peace and tranquillity afforded by their professions that undermines any real understanding of the fate of their charges.
      Just down the freeway from Manchester Kentucky was London would you believe? Further along still came a town called Somerset and then Glasgow with Richmond also nearby. I had the distinct impression that the naming of these places was a reflection of one mans mission to recreate the U.K.
      With such blatant duplication I felt sure that the fathers of these towns had a plan of some kind. Letting my thoughts run free allowed me to speculate further.    
      To use the familiar place names of their homeland implied that they were reluctant to have left. It was after all a gesture of their affection that they should use such names. Yet if they were physically forced to leave, any warmth they had for the old country would surely have left them.
      I believed that these individuals left the U.K because they were fed up. It may have been the political or religious systems that they disapproved of, or perhaps it was something as simple as the weather that drove them away. Whatever the reason was, it seemed clear to me that their intention was to rebuild their old home anew, in the aptly or perhaps consequently named, New World.
      Whenever surfing my map of America I rarely ventured north of forty degrees in latitude. The two main reason for this were firstly that I didn’t like cold places and secondly, to view the top half of the map involved twisting my head up at such an angle as to risk injuring my neck.
      One place I was duty-bound to visit though was Rochester on the shores of Lake Erie in New York State. My obligations here were driven primarily by curiosity and family connections. The link to Rochester was through my niece who had relocated here after marrying an American serviceman who’d been stationed in the U.K.
      Finances would forever prevent my wife and I from visiting so far from home, but I’d now seen photographs and heard accounts of what "Real-life" in America was like. My immediate impression was just how much better off ordinary folk are over there. If my niece is an example of normality then life at home in England is medieval by comparison.
      Despite their youth and relatively recent arrival, my niece and her husband have achieved phenomenal success in the States. Not only had they become the proud owners of a large detached house in the suburbs, they had also purchased two brand new cars. And whilst it was true that easy credit was their benefactor, to adequately support both themselves and the loan was still a praiseworthy achievement I thought.
      Inside their house was as impressive as the outside. Every conceivable consumer device was on show from the Internet to air conditioning and from the Jacuzzi to the wine cellar, everything was just so.
      A feature of the design of the loft where the map and I spent time together was a spotlight on the wall. Situated on the opposite slope of the roof to the map, the intensity of the light from this fixture was generally centred on Arizona and the west coast.
      The further east one looked the dimmer became the beam as the eye travelled further away from its focal point. The net result of this effect was to give an impression similar to that of the sun upon the real America. Because I rarely altered the position of the fitting, my version of reality had the west coast continuously bathed in the midday sun with the east coast permanently at dusk.
      A particular habit I’d developed was to catch the light from the wall with the face of my wristwatch. Then by twisting my wrist I could double illuminate small areas of the map like a searchlight on the clouds.
      I later began to use this roving beam to target areas prior to my "Virtual visiting " of them. Sometimes I’d imagine that my projections were space vehicles or U.F.O’s and would throw the image wildly across the map at enormous speeds.
      It was shortly after one such game that I was given the greatest shock of my entire life. All morning I’d been buzzing the skies of Arizona. In particular I’d fix my ship above Phoenix for a minute or so and then race off towards Albuquerque and hover there for a while.
      In my mind I imagined the amazement of thousands of observers as I performed impossible turns at impossible speeds. It was a silly game to play really, but it did serve to lighten the weight of my real tasks for the day.
      In the background I nearly always had the radio tuned to the BBC World Service. If there were any formula to the usage and success of my time in this room, it would always have to contain values for both the radio and the map.
      It was from an American correspondent to The World Service that the stations headlines announced, "Thousands of onlookers in America are today claiming to have witnessed a U.F.O in the skies of both Phoenix and Albuquerque"……………

 

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