Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Orange Man, Pretty in Pollution, and the Surreal Life

As a boy growing up in the extraordinarily colorful 1970s, I didn’t give much thought to what my adult life would be like. In fact, I didn’t give it any thought. And that, I think, was a good thing. Kids should concentrate on being kids because—poof—childhood will be a memory soon enough. Youthful exuberance fades fast and time accelerates as the years multiply.

But here I am—forty years later—in the surreal life. The Orange Man is running for president and in a heaping helping of hot water courtesy of some Cro-Magnon "locker room talk" he engaged in when he was a mere lad of fifty-nine. There’s a big debate tonight between him and his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and God only knows what the Orange Man will be packing. No surprise here: The anti-social media is atwitter with the usual suspects sounding off from both sides of political divide and—in the vast majority of instances—beating a dead horse. The world was a whole lot quieter in the 1970s. Everyone had opinions, of course, but they weren’t blasted out to the wider world—unfiltered—from anywhere and everywhere with a mere tap or click.

Permit me now to change colors from orange to green. While I was walking through nearby Van Cortlandt Park recently, I visited the shores of its fabled lake. I had previously read a news story in the local paper that reported how the lake was in the alarming grip of an algae bloom. The cause: a pollution source as yet determined. I was somewhat taken aback by the visual of Van Cortlandt Lake wearin’ o’ the green. Algae had indeed turned considerable parts of the lake’s surface a bright light green with a pot of gold no doubt in the vicinity. Strangely, the scene reminded me of my youth when Ma made us pudding for dessert. Sometimes she prepared the instant kind, which was tasty enough, but not nearly as satisfying as the cooked variety. Cooked pudding required some serious stirring over a stove jet and developed a skin—a delicious skin—as it cooled in the refrigerator. Although I never consumed a green version, the lake nonetheless resembled cooked pudding to me.

Really, the lake looked most beguiling in its hues of light green—Pretty in Pollution. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some virtual genius generates a meme utilizing its present incarnation as rock-solid proof that pollution isn’t a problem worth fretting over. After all, it looks mighty cool in its Van Cortlandt Lake masquerade.

Lastly, on the eve of Columbus Day here in New York, I take some small solace that I haven’t yet spotted a “Wanted for Murder” poster on Facebook. Yada…yada…yada. Can’t we just enjoy a holiday, attend the parades, and go autumn leaf watching somewhere? The Orange Man, I believe, has sidetracked the most rabid of the rabid anti-Columbus crowd. And for that, I suppose, he is owed a debt of gratitude. Then again, I wouldn’t mind if this Monday in October was renamed Acorns Fall on Your Head Day. Who could oppose such a non-controversial and oh-so fitting day of remembrance in this life so surreal?

(Photos two and three from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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