Captain’s Log – Star Date April 2, 2380
The festival turned out to be a small little number, held in a show hall called Taverim, in the city of Charnath – the only city on the planet. SV2380 crushed it. The place was full, and something was in the air. Gibby was on another planet. Shawna was playing her guitar like her life depended on it. Brash never stopped moving, and drove the bass to the fullest. And Negronimus beat his drums so hard, shipping blocks and chains couldn’t keep him in place. His chased his kit all over the stage. Did I mention Gibby was on another planet? I don’t know where he was when he played his horn, but it was somewhere else. Folks were so impressed that they owned, and knew how to play actual old world instruments. And they played hard, and with so much love. Rocket fuel of the spiritual kind.
This little detour turned out to be a good one multiple levels actually. After the show I scouted around the city to find the trade routes. It turned out to be a pretty good network. I managed to track down not only some Special Vices footage, but I also uncovered some new Visualist Moon work as well. It’s some of the craziest art of the period that I have ever seen. He somehow was able to capture visuals of the embryonic nether regions of space before humans had the technology to reach those spaces. From what I understand he used crystals in his technique, which baffles me even more. So ahead of his time. Just look at this piece! It only cost me a battered up set of thermo shift rods. Those things were junk, and taking up space in the cargo hold. To each their own, and all that.
I am tired, but feel good. The ship is more than stocked now, and the crew is in good spirits. I was able to trade for a bit of a profit, and it’s always nice to be able to stretch the legs out on real ground. We are back on course to Sirona. Should be fairly clear going from here on out unless we hear something else from Ellegua. Gibby has been quieter than usual. Given what he put out during the show I’m not surprised.
I’m going to turn in. It’s been a long week, and I want to take advantage of the down time. I’m not a sleeper, but I know it comes in handy to store up when you can. As soon as we hit ground there’s no saying how long till mission end. I think I’ll go out this way tonight. Plus a chunk of The Collector. Perfection.
THE COLLECTOR, Pt. 5
My first outing was to the lost town of Allensworth, no more than a five-hour drive from where I live in Northern California. On a bright Wednesday morning in the early spring I drove down through the Central Valley past the towns of Turlock and Chowchilla, then took the state highway out of Selma to the Allensworth site. This valley is dotted with small towns scattered amidst vast fields of grape and cotton, acres of citrus, peaches, melons and other produce, and with everything in bloom on a fresh spring day one could have the sensation of passing through a lush and bounteous country where the good things in nature come generously. At that time of year the air was brisk, and although one were not in the environs of mountains that naturally draw the gaze up to the sky, there was the sense of a mystic presence overhanging the land all the way to the misty horizon.
Even as the secondary highway beyond Selma took me past the isolated Corcoran state prison where Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, and other notorious ‘criminals’ are held, the sorrow and defeat ordinarily associated with such a place dissipated at the sight of hundreds of yellow tractors and other farming machines standing in neat civilized rows behind the tall metal fence topped with razor sharp wires. From the highway the prison had the aspect of a giant and prosperous farming enterprise, which in some ways is what it is, and I was soon back to being charmed by sun and sky and pastoral open spaces.
I had a copy of the state report which characterized Allensworth as “the town that refused to die” – an interesting caption, given that the report was an addendum to state legislation mandating recovery and preservation of the town as a state historic monument. Carried in the report in fact was a discussion of the reasons why the town, founded by a small community of nineteenth-century African Americans who set out to “create their own version of the American Dream,” had drifted into being a ghost town before it was rescued by the state.
In its earliest days Allensworth showed promise. According to the report townspeople built handsome homes, a school, a library, an hotel, a church, and livery establishment. They farmed, worshipped, raised families, and strived to be independent yeomen without subsidy from either state or county. But eventually water theft at the hands of a competitive and hostile neighboring community, and a railroad company’s empty promises were standouts among a range of problems that were together more than the small community of settlers could shoulder. Little by little the settlement lost its people. The farms and gardens dried up, the number of families went down to less than a handful, and most of the buildings were abandoned to vermin and transients who needed shelter, a place to crash on their sojourns among the great farms of the valley.
However, in the 1970s a delegation of former residents and well-wishers came forward, and with a near heroic effort won the state government’s support for the preservation of the site as exemplary of African American initiative and vision in a time when, and place where black people were regarded as America’s most unredeemably vulgar and primitive.
In 1974, during the lead-up to the national bi-centennial celebration when American citizens were encouraged to renew their pride in the nation and mark the occasion with good deeds, Allensworth was designated an historic site to be preserved and protected by the state.
I looked forward to seeing what there was to see of what the early handful of black pioneers had accomplished.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Some distance after I turned off the state highway onto the county road leading to Allensworth, the fresh green fields steadily gave way to a ragged brown expanse in which nothing but low weeds covered the ground between the dried stalks of earlier crops long harvested. I crossed the tracks of the great Southern Pacific line, and quickly came upon the sign that marked the entrance to the state historic park of Allensworth.
The aspect was, at first sight, forlorn. We had left town far behind. Around two spiny stands of trees still awaiting their new leaves the park rose out of the desert-like emptiness, some few acres of ground cleared and partially landscaped around a small huddle of low buildings. Cottages, cabins, and out buildings were spaced so as to suggest the builders were intent on being neighborly. The sky glared, the sun seemed harsher here. Beyond the few trees and buildings a sucking emptiness threatened, appeared capable of being over-powering.
The park grounds seemed well-kept, with a network of narrow paths cleared from one building to the other. But a decaying wagon on rusted wheels parked in the little shade cast by the clustered /check/ . . . [?poplars], and a nearby dairy barn, its weathered stalls starkly empty, all with a haunting stubborness said people were once here. And whatever happened, the place outdid them. One could imagine a band of tired, over-worked settlers with their children getting rid of what few stock they had, and leaving with their personal belongings bundled, their backs to this harsh and unforgiving place. No water.