A Memoir of a Bygone World
Authored by Eridanus, and published on the global internet by N. G. Zhang. Made available to the public at:
http://yonderarts.yolasite.com/; also available in print format…
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A Memoir of a Bygone World
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There was a time when we were all young, that the world was a safer place to be living in and to raise a family in, at
least from our parents' points of view. That type of thinking is what makes all generations the same - as well as what
makes all generations different. Ours was a world where no terrorism existed. Ours is a world where people die
everyday in bombings around the globe. Ours was a world where governments had some control over society, and people
behaved rationally (or so we thought). Ours is a world where irrational exuberance added with two pints of militaristic
bilgewater and mixed and shaken and then put in a bowl with confidence playing scumbuckets and amoral investment
brokers, blended on high and with the cap off, has led to a crisis of confidence and a civilization about to go down the
drain of the jon... if only we could stop that somehow. This memoir, however, is not about any of that financial
bloodshed. Rather, it is about the simpler times we lived in, our generation, my generation, as kids on the brink of
adolescence, spending the summer at Camp Nissicone, sitting by Lake Nissicone, and pondering the meaning of life while
commanding sailboats on not-so-sunny-days and daydreaming about former glories, great empires of mankind, and
looking out across the yonder waters of destiny to meet with a clairvoyant vision of our common fate. This is the story of a
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Ryan walked onto the beach from the back of the dorm house wearing no shirt, only a pair of water shoes and swimming
shorts, his hair all wet and his body gleaming from the rays of the sun reflecting off his scrawny body covered in beads of
sweat and water. He was a Caucasian youth, blonde hair, equally stupid, sucralose abuser, hyperactive, and smelled of
equal parts body odor and creek kelp. Here was your quintessential troublemaking Michigander.
I sat on the beach, looking at the sky and trying to make sense of the weather. I put my finger into my mouth, just
like a baby sucks his thumb, and then licked all around the sandy index digit. I pulled my finger out, and shoved it into
the heavens a mere two or three feet (more like two and a half) above my head. The wind was blowing in a southwesterly
direction. That was a good sign, as today was not going to rain. God would not use us as his target practice when he
would have to relieve himself as I usually did to the soaps in the urinals when I was in school (now as an adult I still do
this; most college boys, even those on the brink of graduation like moi, tend to make sophomoric cracks about trying to
and/or succeeding at drilling oil holes and striking pink yellow colored black gold in the soaps...). In the very least, we'd
have a clear day. Suddenly tasting the acrid gustinence of crystalized silicone in my mouth, I decided to extract the
dehydrated dirt as soon as possible, and forcefully spat out the sand from the orifice built into my noggin. I would be
spitting sand some twelve minutes later, when Ray, the counselor, caught up to me, and told me that spitting was
unsightly. His words, of course, I have neutered in the interests of professionalism and to avoid defecting and corrupting
today's youth when they read my memoir.
Ray walked up to Ryan, and slapped the boyish punk on the left shoulder, his palm connecting with the layer of
skin and muscle above the shoulder blade. Ryan let out a soft 'ooh!" and promptly looked up. "Go put on a shirt, boy,"
was all that Ray said to him. I had one on already, thus I didn't solicit receipt of such treatment.
We walked to the cafeteria and lined up for lunch. It was called 'dinner' here, since lunch is originally American
slang for what British and more cultured peoples (or so they believe) tend to call 'dinner' and what we call dinner is
actually 'supper'. The reason for this disparity in language is that some Europeans still have soups as part of their dinner
meal, which makes it 'supper' (due to the presence of soup), and traditionally, dining without soup makes the meal be
known just as 'dinner'. No knowledge of why in Sam's Hill breakfast is known by that name, mind you. I still don't
know. For all its reliability and distrustability by the academic elites, I have not found the answer (or a satisfiable one) to
our common question on why breakfast is so named on Wikipedia, oh reader, my dear friend.
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Ryan arrived at lunch two minutes too late, but he didn't really give much of a hoot about that, since all he needed
as a sucralose addict was petrochemical sugar alternatives, and today he decided that instead of shoving it into his
depakote pills as he normally would do, with Ray and the Bosnian (or what it Romanian? I cannot remember clearly...)
counselor looking elsewhere, heads a-turned towards the female counselors they may have been dating for all a bunch of
ten year old boys could care, Ryan decided today he'd snort the petrosugar in full view of the counselors. He got a funny
feeling in his nasal passages, and got a bit woozy, but was alright as far as any of us could tell.
Ryan was you average idiot. He didn't give a hoot whether he was going to live or die; he just wanted to live life
like there was no tomorrow. The only African American kid in the group was more businesslike, he'd look at things from
the perspective of how he could gain at a profit and make others gain too, but at neither profit nor loss. At least he is not
like some big megacorps today that want the average person to lose. Since I cannot remember his name, we'll just call him
'Steve'. Steve was my nemesis of sorts, but also a person whom, now looking back, taught me to stand up for myself
because he always antagonized me. My speech was too much of Chinklish and not enough English, my writing was
describable in the same terms under the name of their favorite card game that was christened by the cardgamers of yore
with a profanity, and my manners way to weird and different for him to tolerate. Now that I can see back to then, I can
say that I may have displayed foreignness in a way he couldn't understand, which made him look at me as being
different, and thus scary to deal with. For all the cortisol he caused me to produce in my microcosm, I produced an equal
or greater amount of fear in him.
Steve scoffed at Ryan's snorting of petrosugars, and, ahead of our time back then, asked Ryan if he knew what was
in the sugar he just snorted. I think he rattled off a list of chemical ingredients, but I don't remember any. I wasn't
paying attention. By the way, my friend, I also happen to be hyperactive, though not as much as Ryan and since I am a
protocol-following, pattern-profiling, highly principled person, I tend to not to behave in ways that seem overtly ADHD.
I tend to behave and talk and socialize like any normal human being, medication or none (I follow my doctors
instructions to the letter, most of the time when I have time to do so; do remember that I am a newspaper publisher and I
chose to write this doggone memoir so you can read about my life and enjoy the pleasures of a bygone era if you were born
post September 2001...) and I write like a poet, or so I have been told. The only part of me not so human as far as
anyone else would have it, is my ability to handle abstract concepts way beyond the scope of someone my age with my
limited worldly experience and with a normal level of intelligence. My intelligence is anything but normal. I have tested
as low as 105, and as high as 136, but anywhere in that range is always going to be considered 'above average IQ'
unless human beings get a mental operating system upgrade. In that case my above-average to genius level of intelligence
range will be pretty much a normal level of intelligence, and I can continue to act as if nothing ever went amiss.
After lunch we broke up into activity groups, and I went a-sailing!
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Our sailing instructor was a guy whose name, for all his great compassion and storied Naval Commander life experience
(he purportedly commanded a frigate during the first Gulf War, though I am not certain he saw any actual combat; still,
hats off and a boy scout salute to him), is not fetch-able from my internal memory relational databases; thus we shall call
him 'Bob". Bob, as I have aforementioned, was a former US Navy officer. He probably did something else than teach
people how to sail lake boats (such as the world-famous Sunfishes which we sailed in to learn to sail) while he did his
stint in the Navy, but his job at Camp Nissicone was to teach a group of ten and eleven year olds how to command a sail
boat on a sunny day. Or, if we wanted a bit more adventure, on a rainy day. As it was, the first day had been a rainy
day. Today was only a windy day. No rain clouds in sight, save for a formation of cumulonimbus clouds-of-the-line.
Today was the day we'd have our regatta. As it was, I made the ultimately wise decision not to participate, but
being a genius, I had a wide, long, and deep metaphorical box of reasons not to participate. Others went by simpler
means of thought, and thus only two other people chose to stay the competition and pass up the chance to win an award
(because of adverse weather conditions, no one was able to win an award and the US Coast Guard had to send in a
helicopter from nearby Alpena, Michigan, to find one of the sailboats that had gotten lost and derelict with passengers on
board due to high winds and poor skippering). Everyone else chose to go.
The sailboats set out and were quickly caught up in every windstream that headed in any direction but the right
one. One sailboat grounded, one was caught in kelp off the shore of Ghost Island (the island that was about 100 meters
offshore the Camp Nissicone boathouse, named after a phantom vehicle that keeps appearing around the Alpena area
which looks like some form of Tin Lizzie; the phantom vehicle is said to drive across the lake and come to a phantom
garage on the island, though I've never seen that happen while I was at camp that summer...), one, which we'd
mentioned, was pulled by rip currents all the way off to the river which the creek or lake (what ever you want to call it)
emptied into, one capsized, and two more returned home long overdue, but before the Coast Guard were able to locate the
idiot skipper who was pulled off by rip currents.
In retrospect I made the right choice. Those who went on the water made a decision that was not just stupid, it was
in total disregard of their lives. Fortunately nobody was hurt, or Bob and a few other counselors plus some high ranking
YMCA officials have been out of work right the next day. That would have hurt our economy back then. Fortunately all
the boaters returned unharmed. Maybe some urine and feces down the pants, but otherwise unharmed.
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Later that day, we arrived at the open-air amphitheater that in yesteryear had served a double duty as an open-air
chapel to hear Ray and our Bosnian counselor give a speech about love and friendship. As opposed to in the morning,
about this time Ryan was fully clothed, wearing a style of fashion somewhat ahead of our time: cargo shorts, flip flops
and a tank top, whereas I was wearing only my swim pants, sneakers, and an unbuttoned hillbilly denim jacket (which
my mother gave me when my family lived in a hillbilly Pennsylvanian borough in Clarion County). I had no socks on at
the time, and boy, did bare feet in tennis shoes feel absolutely nasty! Of course, I was no naughty little boy; I had just
gone for a swim, and thus this time it was I who was soaked in water, and where the bare skin, coated only by a thin
layer of sweat and water beads, touched the raw air, I was shimmering like a mermaid. This was the most likely reason a
couple of younger girls giggled when they saw me. Or it may have been that I looked like some sort of hillbilly gangster
boy, sitting in the middle of an ever-enlarging puddle of wet cement and bodily hydraulics dripping onto the concrete seat
several drops a second.
After the speech, there was a community announcement, and then it was off to dinner! Ryan went back to our dorm
house (also known as a camp cabin) and shed his shirt, arriving late as usual at the camp diner in nothing but water
sandals and a pair of swim trunks. I was still wearing a swimming shorts, tennis shoes, and an unbuttoned denim jacket.
About three minutes into the lunch session, I buttoned it up, as it had started to rain outside, and the air inside the diner
became code due to the law of energy equilibrium discovered, as I later found out, by some French guy, whose name I seem
to have forgotten forever, at least until I look it up again. That, dear reader, I have no time for as of now. I must, no, I
choose to tell you my story.
Thus we continue.
After dinner, which should be called supper, in line with camp policy, we headed off to swimming class. For some
reason, possibly veiled racism, and possibly also my autism (I have PDDNOS which puts me on the autism spectrum, in
addition to my ADHD), the camp counselors decided I should relearn how to swim. From the first full day of camp hence,
I rebelled against that stratopolitical idiocy, and chose to stand up for myself by not taking any swimming lessons
whatsoever. Henceforth I was banned from touching the water except at drinking fountains, when showering, or while
taking sailing lessons. Furthermore, the counselor who passed the moronic decree became in my view a powerless and
unbelievably haughty archnemesis. In any case he was trying to teach me something, in hindsight probably other than my
inability to swim or my inferiority of race (he was freaking Asian to begin with, so racism would have meant he was
pretty psychotic) or anything having to do with my behavioral or autistic tendencies; in hindsight he might have been
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trying to teach me to fight, because as his behavior with other counselors pointed out quick enough even for a young boy
of about ten to realize, he was a fighter punk, not a disciplined, high-integrity martial artist like gua ren today, but
rather an undisciplined brawler whom looked at fighting as some form of sport and wanted to get a young Chinese kid
into trouble so that he could lend me back my decency and dignity by rescuing me when he had me in his malevolent
talons. I gave him no such opportunity. For me he was just a dumb mule, and I was the dragon. Anyone who's ever messed
with a dragon, especially when said person is a dumb mule that cannot speak, is bound to be fried and have their face
eaten (figuratively speaking of course).
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When it was time to go to the nighttime campfire, I walked along with the rest of the crew. I was barefoot and half naked
by now, having shed my denim jacket after the stint at the beach. I also had shed my tennis shoes, the soles of which were
muddy and wet. I now walked barefoot and bare-chested into the campfire circle. I looked around me, hugged myself due
to pre-heatwave Michigan temperatures, and dreamily imagined seeing a wraith-like figure standing by me, holding a
massive crescent-shaped halberd, and wearing blood-red armor in the old Manchurian style which my ancestors wore into
battle when they took over the Imperial Ming Chinese forces and created the most decadent dynasty in the history of the
Chinese race (and were rewarded by being fully inducted into the Chinese race as the fifty-fifth ethnic group [the fifty
sixth being the Tibetans]). I looked around me to confirm my sighting, but nothing appeared beside me from that moment
until a bit of time later. I drank the milk that was handed out, and promptly started to enjoy myself in the stands beside
the campfire (kids younger than eleven were not allowed to get near the fire for fear of burn liability litigations on the
part of the camp).
I sang the songs and showed my general enthusiasm for the group collective culture and then somewhere along the
way I fell into a deep stupor and lay upon the seat and started to dream of a massive ocean-going fleet (I will get into
this in tad more detail in another book. Wait eagerly for the release of Yonder Destiny and Yonder Oceans if you want
to read about my dreams of the ocean) that was headed for some unknown and non-physical treasure buried not on any
island but in the hearts of humankind somewhere in the near future. I dreamt I was the captain of one of these
oceangoing sea vessels, not the big fleet captain, but a significant captain nonetheless. I dreamed of sailing across timeless
oceans and boundless seas, sometimes in view of the coastline of a small Pacific island, and sometimes out in open waters
with sharks and orca swimming beside the boat making us feel in the company of a great society of diverse life on
The next thing I knew, I was awoken by one of the counselors. The fire had died down, the stars were out in full
force, and the group was getting ready to leave. I got up, and walked back to the line, walked down the sandy lot, walked
across a grassy knoll, half asleep, dreaming of endless prairies and cute wombats running around looking for their
burrows, of cuter bunnies hopping along with me, and of the cutest, plush, flying winged dragons you'll ever meet in a
dream, totally non-threatening, and fighting off the nightmares that would have arrived with the sighting of a wraith
warrior. In retrospect the warrior ghost may have been a positive omen of a happy night, or a negative omen of a more
dangerous world to come. As the old Chinese curse goes, "May you live in interesting times".
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When I had fully undressed, and fallen asleep in the top window-side bunk, sleeping in my khaki cargo shorts
underneath the covers of my blanket, I started to dream a dream about the meaning of life and the great oceangoing
voyage that was headed off to meet with my destiny and with infinity one day in the future.
Little did I know at that point I'd be writing this memoir here and now...
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I dreamt and dreamed and dreamed and dreamt of years gone by in my dreams. I was still a ten year old boy, but the
world, oh, was it different! The wars of old have been fought and won, victory has been gotten and the enemies of peace
and prosperity crushed by the merciful and compassionate fist of capitalism! Had this been anything but a waking
nightmare in today's society, it would have been, in rear-sight, laughable. Yet today we see a world plagued by war and
none of the above is true; rather, all of the opposite of the above is present in this world. We are fighting two wars in
foreign places far away that nobody really cares until somebody comes home in a box. Then we give a hoot. But only for a
short while. Then we go back to shopping for Yuletide presents and financing the big megacorps that fuel the wars our
troops are dying in to eek out a profit in the already-over-eeked-out world we live in. Sooner or later-most likely sooner-
we will have to pay the ultimate price for our survival as a human race. A week ago I saw on the television news a report
of a turtle making a home video that was then uploaded to Youtube, a video sharing site. If turtles are accidentally
sophisticated enough to use human technology like home video DV camcorders, then it can only mean several things, one
of which is that Gaia is already thinking of replacing the human race as the dominant race on this planet. This may be
in the works already. If we do nothing about our misconduct towards our common planetary parent, raping our Earth
Mother and all, then we shall die the very slow and painful death all people will have to die when the world as we know
it ceases to be hospitable to the germ called people. A world without people may in fact be a wonderful world, just not for
us. Shape up, folks, or ship out. And don't screw up the next world we get. It may be the last second chance, and we
might not have it for very long. Somehow I get the feeling we won't even have a second chance...
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In my dream, the oceangoing vessels were not of any origin on Earth; rather, they appeared to be of nonhuman origin.
Yet they still were manned by human beings, and they still floated, sailed, and drove like any man-made boat. They went
from one end of the Pacific to the other, then back, and back again, until the fleet admiral realized that the buried
treasure he sought after was not in the subterranean depths of any continental shoreline or island beach, rather, it was
deep inside the hearts of all mankind. That was the first part of the meaning of life. The second being the way to get to
it. The only way to attain the meaning of life was a to live a life of forceful silent meditation. The way to do this
meditation was to do all work we do in everyday life as if we were doing it for someone besides us. Even if it were to read
a book. We are to read for humanity. We are to imagine everyone, all nearly seven billion of us on Planet Earth today, as
well as the hundreds of millions who came before us, the hundred billions of hundred billions to succeed us, and the
supreme judges of the human existence, those higher beings we so feel to be watching our every move and protecting us,
sitting together with us in this room. They could be sitting on the head of a pin, or if no pins are nearby, sitting on the
waterline over our morning tea or our fair trade coffee. We are reading this book, aloud or in silent, but they are attuned
to our thoughts, and they seek to understand our deepest intentions and fears, and to help us along our way. We must be
understanding of those who have not been born, and seek to provide for their future existence. We must remember those
whom died to give us our current state of inner peace as we read this memoir. Dear reader, my friend, should you take
these words to heart, please do so by giving this book to someone dear, and letting them read it together with you in a
group. In fact, gather together a reading circle, and read this book as your first, thus you may understand how to live a
perfect life, one with meaning, and one filled with celestial grace.
The ocean admiral, upon realizing his dreamed-of prize was deep inside him, chose not to sail any further, but
instead to sail aways home, and retrieve the treasure from within and to develop it until it became a powerful beacon, like
a light house, upon which others could set their course for their life's meaning and purpose, and to meet their destiny in
the most positive means that would benefit all humankind.
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The next morning I woke up and it was raining. My happier day had ended, today I begin life anew. It is always a
miracle to wake up in the morning. Maybe we as humane beings should cherish that miracle...