Friday, March 12, 2010
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Monday, May 07, 2007
By Mike Salchert
They lived in an endless desert, a wasteland of nothing, nothing but the sand that was everywhere. The sand would get picked up in a sudden wind and swirl around in strange patterns. It was actually quite beautiful. The city itself was constructed out of the sand. What else could they build it out of? There was nothing but the sand. Some people spent all day packing the sand into molds, adding some kind of paste they made to get the grains to set up together. They made solid bricks out of the tiniest grains of the ubiquitous sand. These grains were brought to the bricklayers by others in giant loads rolled in on wheels from somewhere on the edge of the city. Here even more people were taking the coarser grains from the desert and cracking them into smaller pieces which were passed to others with special devices to hold each tiny piece so they could peer at it with a lens and break it again.
They told me that when their ancestors arrived in that spot that there had been no sand --that there had only been a giant stone. Even in that time it was known that inside this stone was the greatest possession man could ever have. It was right there, left by chance for them. All they had to do was take it. This however meant getting it out of the giant stone. First they found a giant natural crack the entire length of the stone. The crack seemed to be quite substantial but hadn’t quite made it all the way through the stone yet. Centuries of frost had started the job but would take centuries longer. They didn’t want to wait that long so they devised a plan.
One man suggested that they fill the crack with dry wood. When it rained the wood would swell exerting the force required to finish the crack. He was made rich and famous for having the genius to see the answer. They immediately cut down all of the trees, stacked the lumber in the sun and dried it for several summers. Once it was well seasoned the work to drive all of the logs into the crack began. It must have been a marvelous sight. They still don’t know how it was done. They do know that the plan worked however and that rainy season the wood swelled with the rains then dried the next summer and was packed further into the stone. This process was continued for several years and eventually the rock was chiseled in half.
Inside the stone was nothing but more stone. It was a massive disappointment. Mankind struggled to overcome the emptiness left. Then someone suggested that the treasure might be in one of the halves of the stone. This man was also elevated to the highest class in society for his original spark. The two halves were truly smaller than the original rock but still were surely large enough to contain something incredible just the same. Immediately work started on each stone simultaneously, half of the people working on one and half on the other.
And over the generations the rock was split again and again and the pieces were spread out to be examined and worked on again and broken into smaller pieces yet until what was left is this endless desert and anyone of these grains could be the one containing the precious thing, the most prized possession of all mankind. Hundreds of nations, spread across the land now searched the desert for this same treasure. They all compete to find it first. And so we must be continually searching for ways to crack sand into dust faster and more efficiently so that we will be the chosen people who finally discover the sacred object.
We now have people who, when a new technology to break smaller pieces is discovered, take the bricks from the oldest parts of town and after reducing them to the former limit of tininess, crack them to the specifications of current technology. Then the dust that is left goes to the bricklayers and becomes the newest parts of the city. Homes for the most successful individuals.
And this became my job. Forging bricks in an underground furnace out of the dust. The endless supply of dust carried in everyday by the truckload. I’m glad to do it. Each day I think about the possibility of the beautiful thing that could just be inside of any one of the billions of grains of dust as I glue them into a brick.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Aug. 5th, 2006
I arrived in Santiago Chile early this morning after a long flight from Minneapolis MN with a change of planes in Dallas TX. I landed pretty groggy as I was not able to sleep well in an aluminum cylinder packed like a sardine can and hurled at 500 miles per hour over the world’s longest mountain chain and a pretty big chunk of the Pacific Ocean. I was at first a little excited about crossing the equator because I had read that this was a big rite of passage in nautical societies and thought that maybe someone on the flight may want to celebrate this. I guess in naval ships for generations this crossing has been the cause for more debauchery than anyone wants to admit to, but in a jet everyone is too busy with their uneasy snores on strangers’ shoulders preparing for business meetings or family vacations to even give a damn. Also it would have been almost impossible to know exactly when we were crossing the line so I tried to sleep too. When we deplaned in Santiago I was again excited, this time about my first opportunities to speak with Chilean people. I had been studying Spanish for a while in school and wanted to see how well I was going to communicate. After a wait in line to be admitted into the country I approached the little glass box marked 'policia internacional' with my passport and visa paperwork in hand. The guy inside mumbled something that I couldn’t understand or even really hear through the tiny slot in the plexiglass. I asked him to repeat himself and he merely responded that the answer was “No, you don’t speak Spanish” as he stamped my passport and handed it back to me. As I walked away I felt a little disappointed in the way that conversation had gone but at the same time excited that my arrival in Chile was now official. I decided that I didn’t have anything to declare and walked around the customs line and left the airport to find my shuttle to the Hotel Portillo. As I left the secure area I was immediately surrounded by dozens of shuttle and taxi drivers trying to solicit rides to wherever one would need to go, all shouting and holding signs with various names and names of taxi companies and hotels. One guy asked me if I needed a ride and I explained to him that I already had booked a shuttle to Portillo. To my surprise he told me to follow him and he led me a little way down the way to a guy with a sign declaring my destination who then found my name and told me to wait here. Eventually we loaded up the bus and we were on our way into the Andes.
I already have a flickr account which I have been posting photographs of my travels. I feel like this creates a sort of photo log of the trip but there is still a lot of the story missing. I am going to try, with my limited knowledge of the internet, to blog some of these photos and then connect the flickr account to this blog with links from the photo descriptions. I want to try to get this process started soon. Hopefully I can get at least one of the photos linked to this blog tonight and then I can start writing the stories.