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  Singing Oldies All Night Long on East Coast Expressways

As a coast-to-coast truck driver, I spent many long nights driving up and down the Eastern Seaboard, on Interstate 95 between North Carolina and New England. In the middle of the night, it is thrilling to sail a gleaming truck, zipping along freeways that are usually heavily congested. On the beltway around Washington D.C., through the tunnel under Baltimore harbor, across the Delaware Memorial Bridge, onto the New Jersey Turnpike, across the George Washington Bridge and the Cross Bronx Expressway and on to the service plazas of Connecticut and Massachusetts.

With my radio buttons set to all the best "golden oldie" radio stations of the east coast, I would pass the hours singing, at the top of my voice, songs from the '50s and '60s such as "Go into the chapel and we're gonna get married", "I'm the wanderer","Surfer girl", "Where did our love go?", and so on. The songs are sexist, emotional, and old-fashioned, and that is why I love them. They still carry the innocence of a bygone era, when the pace was easier, there was less confusion, less stress. They evoke timeless archetypes of love, joy, and sorrow, and provide a release for bottled-up emotions. There I was, shamelessly singing my heart out, hurtling down expressways, through sleeping cities, in the middle of the night, alone.

These songs give voice to a primal longing for love. In daily life, there are precious few ways to express love and sexual feelings toward the beautiful and intelligent women that are everywhere. The stability of human society depends on more-or-less monogamous behavior. But my feelings are not at all monogamous; they're all over the place. Singing the oldies gives me a way to express the urge to make love to the entire universe. Perhaps I am an emotional junkie that enjoys a large injection.

^top   Queen Salmon

A few years ago, a play called Queen Salmon was performed at a theatre in Arcata. It's a tale of a river valley and community in northern California that is torn by conflict between loggers and environmentalists. Taking inspiration from real life in the Mattole River valley, the play is performed by people who live there. Because similar situations and dilemmas have occurred in almost every rural town throughout the forests of the Pacific Northwest, the play was a hit throughout the region. There are characters who perform the parts of the salmon and tell their love stories. There is also the spirit of the salmon, the Queen Salmon, who tells the over-arcing spiritual and evolutionary story.

One of the songs in the play is a '50s "golden oldie"-type song, complete with "do-wop" harmonies, that tells of the love between the salmon, the ocean, the river, and the rain. One twist of the plot is that the son of a logger falls in love with a radical tree-hugger girl. She tries to persuade him to try sustainable logging methods. His dad says, "That's girl's logging!" A corporate raider is in the play, just like Maxxam/Pacific Lumber Company in real life. Among the many transformations is that the son of the logger tells his dad, "Your kind of logging sucks!"

The play touches timeless emotions: boy meets girl, love crossing boundaries of class. At the same time, it touches our own local pain, hopes, and aspirations. It's about us, the people who live here and the history we share. The play jumps right in to raging political controversies, such as the plight of communities facing social and economic upheaval, the stereotypes of loggers, government employees, and hippies, and the legacy of marijuana farming. Moral and ethical dimensions are portrayed including the generosity that we may extend to other species and future generations. Queen Salmon bears directly on a pressing regional controversy: the survival of the salmon runs. By bringing difficult economic and social issues into a serious yet humorous format, the play helps heal the painful divisions in our communities.

The salmon characters wear green colored tights that resemble fish skin. In the theater, green lights shine on them so that they appear to be underwater. Between episodes in which the salmon play out their sexual relationship dramas, the same characters portray the people involved in the logging/environmental struggle. As humans, they are involved in relationships parallel to the salmon relationships. This shows us, in an emotionally appealing way, our oneness with what is wild.

Have you noticed that it's not only humans that are so charged up with sexuality and emotion? All beings everywhere are longing for their beloved. Especially after the long dry summer, all the wild beings, from the grasses and the mice, to the trees and the mountain lions, all are waiting for the nourishing rains, "Please come soon, I miss you so much". And in the ocean and estuaries, the salmon are surging, waiting for the rivers to rise with the first rains so that they can go home, have sex, and pass on this wonder we call life. Perhaps the reason that all life on this earth has been created is just so we can experience the intense, sad, and passionate romance of life longing for itself.

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Andrew Patrick Bartson     707  483  5877
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