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Posted: June 28, 2020

A magical midnight with antiquities from times nevermore

By Dan Hicks

Op-Ed Commentary

My far future post-Anthropocene museum concept was much inspired by our contemporary pandemic times, afflicted with an insidious precarity. To the south, where Rome smoulders, a mercurial mad-emperor twitters himself into a menacing irrelevance, while to the east, a theatrical dynastic drama queen perfects his daily performance-art posturing, interspersed with devious pandemic-pivots in service of his metropolitan political constituency.

Michigan Trumpers seemed so gratingly “Trumpian” in May when they threateningly marched en masse against the coronavirus rules, but in the widespread anti-racist protesting and fiery rioting of June, these rules were disregarded even more extensively. Never one to be outdone, his imperial orangeness amassed a diminished number of his “warriors” for an anti-science and leader adoration rally in America’s heartland.

On this side of our long weakening latitudinal border, minus the rioting, parading protesters have subsumed the American black-white racial schism and likewise, in their pursuit of social justice to effect a sharply redefined “woke” Canada, have also canned the corona rules (intermittent mask-wearing notwithstanding).

Perhaps here in the East Kootenay, we should rearrange our safety-minded sunny summer 2020 plans to include wanton indulgences in some morbidly risky social assembling of our own. Prefaced always by a requisite “social justice” impetus disclaimer, we could partake in protest COVID-19 campouts, mega protest-music festivals, gala woke-weddings, and maybe even a Sam Steele Days revival – as a celebratory happening directed against the 19th Century North-West Mountie and British Empire Boer War cavalry soldier whose lacking 21st Century sensibilities is indefensible – within the sanctimonious realm of our hammy Ottawa royalty (note to preachy Justinian SNC Sam was no racist, your perverse fondness for blackface was never his style).

The coronavirus fear overtly exhibited this spring by those Cranbrookers who deftly dodged dreadfully diseased oncomers by briskly detouring from sidewalks into traffic, may in time prove to be either a comical overreaction or, a premature response to the frightful fate yet to assail us – when a contained threat (in B.C.) is revived as a virulent killer by mass political rallies. The pandemic punishment meted out to Cranbrook’s businesses was stunningly inequitable. From late March to late May, as Joseph Creek swelled with springtime waters, our streamside mall’s flagship hardware store prospered – bolstered by a reliable cadre of mellow grounded customers; but the interior of the mall suffered a sanitized incarnation of the black death; along its empty corridors only a couple of businesses remained open – the rest were all pandemically pancaked.

I passed through on occasion, silently communing with the ghostly spirits, all of us haunted by local columnist Gerry Warner’s prescient foretelling of this calamity in his February 8 pandemic prognostication (right here in e-KNOW); though certified seer he may be, perhaps henceforth our ephemeral “all-in-this-together” collective hot tub happiness demands that our looming next phase corona-future never be revealed before it actually happens (what unbelievable fate would Cassandra herself foresee for us?).

Cranbrook’s large grocery stores also fared well, but the paranoia of many patrons was painfully evident. My most indelible April memory is of a virus-vanquishing shopper saturating her groceries in a malevolent mist of deleterious disinfectant before loading them into her truck. Mesmerized, I realized that survival here in 2020 had become an onerous endeavour, ill-suited to the squeamish – truly the preserve of those distinguished by their digestive fortitude (ie iron innards). How many of us have secretly assumed a raw all-natural diet of sweet little songbirds as the only easily available urban source of secure COVID-proof protein? (How many, how many – I wonder, but I really don’t want to know). Surely high-end corona-conscious restaurants will soon be offering loving couples the more civilized option of enjoying intimate evenings of fine wine, candlelight, and delicious hors d’oeuvres garnished with specially house- blended bleach; safely separated by a plexiglass barrier (of course), the enchanted couple would be officiously served by cautious hazmat crews with invisible smiles. Instead of syrupy romantic music, the dining soundtrack will be a compilation of those ever-popular instructive governmental Justinian-styled “social distance and stay home” admonitions.

I was bemused by the children’s birthday motorcades; eerily, they revived within me an unconscious childhood memory of being bedazzled by grand Catholic wedding motorcades, in another interior British Columbia town, from an earlier era in time – when tender-hearted trilobites danced together – uninhibited under the stars.

Our ultimate coronavirus diversion would be the welcome debut of a showy close-by Mount St. Helens-styled Plinian volcano, a salutary distraction for those fearfully fixated on an invisible ever mutating virus and, for those despairing of the unholy amalgam of corrosive federal politics and viral disease besetting us, the inclusion of such a conventional geologic cataclysm would conjure a perfect apocalyptic cocktail – an angelic elixir for the endemic pandemic depravity our times; besides, our easily surviving an airy excess of volcanic ash is assured by our lavish collective stash of superfluous face masks (complimented by our insane titanic reserves of our prior must-have stash item – tons of toilet paper!).

The defunding and unplugging of our two imperious national leaders being but an unattainable dream, my sole personal coronavirus consolation is having received an encouraging response from our provincial government in an April 28 letter regarding the prospect of our local museum, the Cranbrook History Centre, being designated as an official British Columbia fossil repository this most memorable year of 2020 AD.

Some sunny day, Cranbrook will reopen to tourists hailing from distant lands, speedily borne by big road hog machines sporting exotic red-lettered single license plates, enticed by news of our museum’s advancing beyond trilobites to sea monsters; a progression assured however only by some rudimentary engagement from a rejuvenated Cranbrook – boldly awakened to our paleontological touristic potential (proactively advanced by our more savvy East Kootenay politicians). [e-Know.ca search: “official bc fossil place”; and for volcanoes – “krakatoa”.]

Our CHC is scarcely conceivable as a candidate for my imagined ultra inclusive museum of creatures nevermore, the survival of any institution into the far future being a rather daunting prospect.

One hundred million years from the present, the Rockies will have crumbled and the bedrock beneath us will have floated westward over earth’s molten mantle to what is now the mid Pacific Ocean; cozy seaside “Cranmaray” will be peaceably lulled by gracious rolling green breakers, but alas, even as our sunniest selves, we may never endure near long enough as antsy Anthropoidea to ever enjoy such littoral serenity.

Illustrations by Dan Hicks

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