Took me three weeks to open the Wikipedia description of Chernobyl, which described an emergency shutdown (scram) of the reactor, to prevent core damage. An emergency shutdown (scram) of the reactor to prevent core damage was happening to me.
What was happening to me? It was as if an insertion of negative reactivity had tripped the system by inserting neutron absorbing control rods into the core. Into the core of what I will continue calling my reactor, I could no longer probe.
The back-up generator took over sixty seconds to get up to speed. Block 4 was equipped with a newer generation of turbo generators. These turned out to be prone to vibrations. The vibrations resulted in a fatigue crack of the bearing line, and that fatigue crack’s the last that I remember.
Time is troublesome in a variety of ways. For instance, the difficulties involved in measuring: The invention of watches remains superfluous to experience, the sun when I feel it on my back, warming my face, remains its true purpose. Passing behind clouds it may as well be moving below the earth, for my window watching (office-talk!) feels interminable regardless.
But time is mostly bothersome not because of its incongruities (“Just in time for a little smackeral of something!” says it best) but because of the way it tempers. The mountains fill in the valleys speck of dust by speck, an equalizing interlocked with time. And likewise that vicious squeezing of our hearts, the constant raging of individual humanity that in its climax is overwhelming, incomprehensible, undefeatable! Time calms, of course. Until one day or minute or quick second (!) you find merely a limp pulse. To a slow throb. Until still.
At present, the oil spill gerrymanders and the razor clams die, their decomposing shells overflowing with sand born of ancestors. Time passes (always!) and where are we? The greatest disasters of mankind float in a nether land far beyond my daily consciousness. Just as I will swim at the beach this year without fear of oil oozing over my legs or rising up from the holes I dig at the waters edge, so history has been kind to Chernobyl, an uninhabitable wasteland reawakened to life. Its disaster is contained in the past (blocked perhaps by methane hydrate crystals, garbage, a dome, cement, a cap or anything else clever minds can devise) as a given.
Mussels have a mechanism for generating masks of green rust (a growing market) by mooching off military discards—tanks, armored trucks piled under water, jeeps stacked reef-style which seem to also inspire the Horseshoe Crabs’ drab armor. Clams have red tide, meanwhile, the scam that launched a thousand squeamish stomachs’ screams. No wonder Steamers seem to stick their sideways tongues at us, and Oysters have that racket with the pearls to make us feel like gamblers, half-scared to tamper with them; at least until they’ve reached a certain self-satisfied girth. The oilspill gerrymanders underwater farms. Sets off alarms. But Razor Clams, sucking deep on microbes, sit still, keep sharpening their blades. They want to keep living, they want to keep from being made object, then landfill fodder. I understand—I think I understand—they’d rather be sand.
The idea was a sound one when it was first raised, certainly. The subway cars were grateful to join their brethren, sunken ships loitering lonely along the shelf (does trash desire an afterlife, perhaps a landfill is plastic’s purgatory) and the fish glad to ease the long wait at the octopi terminals (not everyone is happy! some tired arms are forced into early retirement) and the mussels to finally have a mechanism for generating mass quantities of rust (a growing market!).
Has easier ever been better? Day after day we choose the grocery store over gardening, the sweatshop rather than the loom. Hindsight is 20/20 but perhaps foresight’s blindness is its greatest advantage. Because we can’t change the mistakes we have already made — subways will rust in cities if not in the sea.
When I heard New York was stacking thousands of old subway cars in the Atlantic to build a “coral” reef—I struggled with this piece of information. Deciding what I thought, I thought: recycling: GOOD. Reefs: GOOD. I knew: wildlife, any life: GOOD. Habitats, taking action: GOOD. But asbestos in the tile-grout and car walls: BAD. Lack of data indicating the effect of said asbestos on surrounding waters: BAD. Reliance on scientific studies that forecast just decades into the wildly more expansive future: BAD. Other contaminants liable to float free of the wrecks: BAD. Littering: BAD. Underwater rust: BAD. Making the cheapest most convenient decision for the city; weighing the hassle and the time and the expense against the hassle and time and expense of cutting old Redbirds into pieces and burying the pieces; furthermore weighing anglers’ interests most heavily in the decision: troubling at best. To say nothing of the fact that there are piles of obsolete army tanks and armored personnel carriers already down there, and tons of concrete construction debris and scrap steel in heaps.
Then, there’s the sound and the sight of the thing, as a giant claw flips the hollowed husks into the water—you can find a video and watch it—it’s beyond classification, as to unsuspecting fishes: THRILLING.