The fox is a clever beast, famously outsmarting human and animal rivals in ancient fables, recent movies and a current Top 10 song. Humanity's relationship with the fox has long been balanced between bemused tolerance and "let's shoot them for fun and raise them in cages, for fur." But there are abundant signs that the foxes have had quite enough of people, and are making coordinated global moves to take over civilization.
If the grim news about our slow-cooking world has got you down, you might be an environmentalist. Recycling bins, hiking boots, and that reusable grocery bag you got at the farmer's market are other signs that you may have ecological beliefs and concerns. To the industrial propagandists, even your awareness of the hotter temperatures and horrific storms is proof that your green behavior is actually a religion. So what would happen if 10 million or 50 million religious environmentalists suddenly appeared on the national scene?
People are strangers out here on the oil patch, and public conversation is terse and muted. You never know when an oil company manager or safety inspector or corporate spy is sniffing around. I learned after the first day in Williston, N.D., that my usual work uniform of an old sports coat and tie made me suspect. Leaving the tie at the motel helped, but not much.
Oil wells and sheet-metal buildings are hideous things, but America the Beautiful resumes as soon as you get past the last grim RV park and last signs of our shoddy civilization. The easiest way to refresh the soul is to look on the map for a big chunk of green: a national park or preserve or forest, or in the case of the Bakken, the Little Missouri National Grassland.
Boomtowns don't have to be ugly. San Francisco was built during the Gold Rush, as was Sacramento and dozens of still pretty towns in the Sierra Nevada. Virginia City, home to the Comstock Lode, quickly built up neighborhoods of ornate mansions and a main street that offered everything from Oscar Wilde lectures in the opera house to exotic prostitutes from Australia and China. But since the 1960s, when America lost its ability to see or create beauty, our endless boom and bust cycle produces nothing but garbage: garbage housing, garbage retail, garbage jobs and garbage products.
We are a religious nation, even though that religious belief is rapidly fading and notoriously shallow. What we hunger for is real communion with the sacred, the unexpected voice of a mysterious god that occasionally speaks directly to our consciousness, as the old gods spoke to Moses and Mohammad or Achilles and Odysseus. This is why 200,000 people followed Horse_ebooks on Twitter. Horse_ebooks was our inscrutable god speaking in riddles.
An empty bar is best. You just pick a seat where there's light enough to read, and the bartender comes right over. Then there are the busy nights, when people crush around the bar three deep and getting a drink seems impossible. What kind of supernatural skills are necessary for getting a cocktail on a Saturday night?
Every town has its weird history, and even the newest housing tract of wet stucco and green 2x4s has some kind of buried backstory. The island city where I live today is loaded with Gold Rush tales and Victorian mansions, but the fact that Jim Morrison spent his formative years around the block is not something you can learn about at the local historical society.
Up in the High Sierra of Yosemite National Park today, a monstrous wildfire is racing through 200 square miles of dense piney forest. The "Rim Fire" is only one of about fifty major wildfires across the American West today, but everyone has at least heard of the majestic Yosemite Valley with its glacier-carved Half Dome and summer traffic jams of vacationers seeking waterfalls and hamburgers, so this is our official Natural Disaster of the week.
It was going to be the greatest outdoor sports spectacle in history: weird giant sailboats racing against each other in the grand natural amphitheater of the San Francisco Bay all summer long, with hundreds of thousands of happy spectators watching from the Bay's 400 miles of shoreline. At least that was the idea when billionaire and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, after winning the right to choose this year's location for the America's Cup sailing competition along with his victory in 2010's race, chose the bay instead of the more customary open ocean. Instead, it's a giant flop with "races" that usually consist of a single awkward catamaran bouncing around by itself in the fog.
With record numbers of Americans keeping dogs and cats as pets, we are plagued by many unwelcome consequences. House cats are inflicting brain damage on their human hosts with a feline disease spread through the animals' fecal matter, which people store in their homes—usually in the kitchen. When the cats are sent outdoors to defecate, they kill staggering numbers of wild birds, leaving many of our cities without any avian life beyond the feral pigeons roosting safely upon the ledges of tall buildings. Then there are the dogs, which use the entire city as one great, unflushable toilet. There are valid arguments against the existence of all dogs, but even animal lovers can agree we need to do something drastic about the "toy breeds."