Monday, May 25, 2009

Even Gold Don't Glitter For The Wise Man

Remember that episode of the Twilight Zone where a bunch of geniuses who couldn't go straight (and one or two henchmen) robbed a railcar and made off to a cave.  Rod Serling's genius has to be the way he turns a multi dimensional story into a one room schoolhouse of a fable.  All this stuff is happening outside the cave you find yourself in with these criminals.  The criminals in the manner of all agents of exposition tell you, "So, I guess this is it.  We're all gonna sleep for a real long time now.  How we supposed ta know this ain't gonna just kill us?"  These guys are smarter than they look (the ones talking, who are henchmen, that is...)  

The mad geniuses conform to the pedigree well enough.  Their experiment will work better than the dummies think.  And will work perfectly for the devices of the story.

As was the case in another of Serling's utterly goofy masterpieces, Planet of the Apes, after a lengthy sleep, one of the nonsonambulents never gets ambulent again.  I guess it was too clever a hook to give up.

But most of the dudes make it, and they aren't really sure whether a bunch of time has passed  (outside of their partially decomposed friend.) and, of course, neither are you.

The rest of the story is as old as the hills and provides all the pleasures of an Aesop fable of greed.  All of the men have designs on all the gold, and in proper tadpole fashion begin to do away with each other in great haste.  As their numbers dwindle, each man gradually becomes more reliant on the other, and once one of them crashes a car into another, destroying the vehicle (or maybe on shoots the vehicle, I can't remember.  Does it matter?)  then the remaining two men are entirely reliant on each other, but in another sense, each is also just along for the ride: with their Gold, and according to the rather barren dictates of a desert highway.  It's not exactly choose your own adventure.

By and by one man gulps his water (someone always does) but his comfort turns to desperation as the desert finds that water, and pounds down the heat.  Eventually the foolish jerk begins to realize he ain't gonna make it, and desperately asks his "companero" to have mercy on him.  For a bar of Gold, his friend shares a little liquid of life.  They go on like this whilst walking ten or twelve miles.  

Finally, the seeming fool who must pay for every drop clocks his friend on the head with something heavy (I think it was a bar of Gold) and gets the tastiest drink I think he's ever had.  

More sun, more desperation.  Now our hero is carrying nearly all the Gold, except for what he can't carry.  Before long he's dropping bars, and not much after that, he drops to the ground himself.  Addled by sun, and burdened by the strange serendipity of a victory in a vacuum of culture in which to celebrate it, our King of the Hill, is starting to finally die.

As our hero babbles to himself on the side of the rode, a strangely fanciful, and obviously futuristic car pulls up, with a couple, clearly aping the styles of the Fifties (in the year 1999), at the wheel. How retro!   The pipe smoking mad hep gentleman gets out of his outrageous ride and strides over to our hero, spouting gibberish on the side of the road.  Our hero begins to die, just then, and says a bunch of stuff that we vaguely can imagine a having to do with the story we just saw, but the gentleman clearly is bewildered about.  "Gold," is the last word, of the hero's death gasps, and as the gentleman stands up, he grasps the bar from our hero's hand, and walks to his Millenial Camaro.  

"What is it," says his wife, in a voice that I've never heard a live person use in my life.  

"I don't know," says her master of certitude.  "It's strange, he's making no sense.  And he says this is Gold..."

"Well, Gold...," says his alluring companion, "didn't that used to be extremely valuable?"

"Yes, " smiled the hep cat, giving the bullion one last glance, and throwing it out the Millenial Camaro's window, "I suppose it was."

Then Rod Serling would say something clever and wise.  

I learned years ago that, in a similar vein, Aluminum, also had it's day with the rich and famous, until today, when, it became just another component of our trash.

From Wikipedia, to wit:

Before the Hall-Héroult process was developed, aluminium was exceedingly difficult to extract from its various ores. This made pure aluminium more valuable than gold. Bars of aluminium were exhibited alongside the French crown jewels at the Exposition Universelle of 1855, and Napoleon III was said to have reserved a set of aluminium dinner plates for his most honoured guests.

Aluminium was selected as the material to be used for the apex of the Washington Monument in 1884, a time when one ounce (30 grams) cost the daily wage of a common worker on the project;[31] aluminium was about the same value as silver.

You might consider alerting the bag ladies of your neck of the woods, of this rather Antiques Roadshowey fact.  Should you just say, "Hello, in there..." they may very well slap you in the face.  Be careful.

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