Ed and Me and Rivers and Dreams
In my teens I first read Edward Abbey, a fiery naturalist who wrote many books about the American desert southwest. His most famous two books are probably “Desert Solitaire” and “The Monkey Wrench Gang”. The books made a perfect one-two punch, with the first helping to cement my love of the canyon country of southeast Utah and the second swaying me to support the removal of Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. I joined the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Sierra Club, and the Glen Canyon Institute in my twenties, all to help the cause of restoring the Colorado River to its natural state before the Glen Canyon Dam was built.
Later, I did some volunteer work for the Glen Canyon Institute, building them their first real website. In return, they arranged for me to get a free ride on a one week outfitted rafting trip down the San Juan River. And later, I was invited to the Glen Canyon Institute’s annual meeting in Salt Lake City in 2001. There, I met a folksinger/activist named Katie Lee, and an old river guide named Ken Sleight. Sleight had been close friends with Ed Abbey, and was supposedly the inspiration for the character Seldom Seen Smith in Abbey’s book “The Monkey Wrench Gang”.
So when I read in early 2019 that there was a special exhibit of Ken Sleight’s photos and souvenirs from the early rafting days, I immediately wanted to go. The exhibit was at the John Wesley Powell River History Museum in Green River, Utah.
Unfortunately, the exhibit was going to end in March, which didn’t leave much time. So I convinced my girlfriend Brooke to join me on a long Presidents’ Day weekend road trip.
But before I tell you that story, let me tell you something about me you probably don’t know.
I dream movies. That is, my dreams have characters, plot lines, dialogue (sometimes in foreign languages – only French or Spanish, the only other languages I understand well enough to make sense in a dream), and original music. The weirdest of this for me has always been the music thing. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone else whose subconscious dreams up original music in different styles for their dreams, but I have ever since I was a teen. I even tried to record one piece after a particularly long and vivid dream/movie called “Escape from Berlin” set during WWII. Anyhow, sometimes these movies I dream are serials. Basically, they’re recurring dreams. But the characters all know that we’re in a sequel and the story is often based on a previous instance of the recurring dream.
When I was in college, I had a recurring dream about finding a mathematical technique for counting the number of pipes stacked on a tractor trailer. A truck like this…
…would be driving down Broadway in Boulder, where I went to college, and as it passed I had to quickly count the pipes. I was struggling with Calculus for three semesters during this time, and I think there was some connection. My then-girlfriend Lisa, when I told her about these dreams, said that obviously they’re about sex. But I thought they were really frustration dreams about trying to learn Calculus from really bad professors.
Another recurring movie-style dream that I have had on and off since I was in my early 20s – that’s over 25 years ago now – is that there’s a secret US government base south of Moab, Utah. In my teens and early 20s, I visited the Moab area a lot, with my friend Mike (who mysteriously disappeared years later, though that’s a different story). We hiked in Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, the San Rafael Reef, etc.
Anyhow, in my dream, this secret base near Moab was for testing secret stealth aircraft. In these dreams, I’m the protagonist. And being in southeast Utah for hiking and also being interested in airplanes, I naturally want to sneak to the edge of the air field so I can watch these secret planes take off and land. I do that for a while, and then see weirder and weirder airplanes. These are airplanes so advanced that they are clearly not of human design. They must use technology stolen from aliens. Now keep in mind that I – in real life, as well as in this dream, apparently – have a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering, so I have a solid grasp of how human aircraft technology works. But one particular aircraft is this giant thing the size of an aircraft carrier, clearly way too big to be an airplane. And it moves really slowly. So it must use anti-gravity technology or some other science fiction thing to fly. That’s essentially the finale of the dream. The giant rectangular aircraft slowly flies over, making it clear that humanity has technology we stole from aliens that the general public has no idea about.
And then five years or so later, I have a similar dream again. Sometimes I’m discovering the alien tech airplanes again, and sometimes I’m checking up on the secret air base south of Moab again to see if they’re still there. But it’s always south of Moab and west of the highway that goes from Moab to Monticello. I’ve seen the secret airfield so many times in my dreams, I’ll draw a picture of where it is. I’ve never been in this area in real life, despite having hiked to the north, south, and west.
(continued in Green River, Part 2)