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Dust in the wind

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Burgess Meredith thinks he has all the time in the world to read his beloved books in this classic 1959 episode of "The Twilight Zone."
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OKLAHOMA CITY – “And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the Land of Nod, in the east of Eden.” – Genesis 4:16

That line of scripture, from the Hebrew Bible, referenced the first born to Adam and Eve – Cain – having just murdered the first human, his brother Abel.

Why did Cain murder Abel? It’s not very clear. Regardless, betrayal of a brother is clear. And when Cain ends up in this strange “Land of Nod,” a wanderer for the rest of his days, the Bible says God put a “mark” upon Cain. This, after Cain lied to God about murdering his brother. He would later have a son, named Enoch, and a city of that name would be built in this “Nod” territory, a mysterious place lost to the sands of time.

Some say Cain went on to live amongst giants, or the Nephilim. While researching this, I came upon The Urantia Book telling of Cain’s backstory and the likelihood that he intermarried with the a “Nodite” or giantess. But then, who really knows?

In the John Huston-directed 1966 film The Bible … In The Beginning, a “remarkably faithful” cinematic depiction of the first 22 chapters of Genesis – including Creation, the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel and Noah’s Ark – the mysterious thespian Michael Parks (who played the role of French-Canadian mob figure Jean Renault in Twin Peaks) plays the role of Adam, while his sons Cain and Abel are played by Richard Harris and Franco Nero, respectively.

The first recorded murder of a human - in John Huston's The Bible

I note actor Richard Harris, of course, in light of my recent Dust Devil Dreams posts about Harris and his recording of Jimmy Webb’s song “MacArthur Park,” which was blasting from radios and stereo speakers at this time, 50 years ago. Those posts offer a true sync treasure trove, at least for me.

There are lots of unanswered questions about Cain and Abel – and Adam and Eve, for that matter.

But I also mention it because while looking for something to watch the other evening on the local public television channel, the 1955 Elia Kazan film East of Eden, an adaptation of John Steinbeck’s 1952 novel of the same name was on. 

I was sort of stunned by this, because I rarely watch local television but also because the story takes place in and around Salinas, California, John Steinbeck’s hometown. And noting the Salinas newspaper, The Californian, this week, it seems as though the Monterey County Courthouse in Salinas is close to reopening after a $40 million remodel. It reminded me somewhat of the Hill Valley Courthouse and Clock Tower in Back to the Future.

The courthouse first opened on October 30, 1937. Amazingly, that same day, Italian/Sicilian singer-songwriter, playwright and composer Tony Cucchiara was born. He would go on to write the musical comedy Cain and Abel (!!!) in 1973, the same year his wife died giving birth to their second son, who survived. Cucchiara died on May 3, 2018 in Rome.

And while we are talking about the Golden State, note - via The Secret Sun - that it is on fire, enveloped in a sinister orange-red glow of flame and destruction. 

Reminds me of that day in spring 1989 in Wichita when a literal dust storm enveloped the city in a dingy, rust-red-colored grit and haze. It was very apocalyptic and I recall the local rock station playing "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas, appropriately enough. 

Anyway, while watching East of Eden, my companion (who had never seen the film nor read the novel) said that high school students should be taught East of Eden instead of Steinbeck’s earlier, Great Depression-set tragedy Of Mice and Men. I said that I agreed. East of Eden is the better story, with its biblical overtones, set in early 20th century Salinas and neighboring Monterey.

The film adaptation of Of Mice and Men starred Burgess Meredith as George, opposite Lon Chaney, Jr. who played simpleminded Lennie. It should be noted that Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men was first published in 1937, the same year his hometown's county courthouse was dedicated - on the birthday of Cain and Abel musical writer Tony Cucchiara.

It was also exactly one year after - Oct. 30, 1938 - that the Halloween radio special of the drama War of the Worlds, written by H.G. Wells and performed on the air by Orson Welles, first premiered, caused panic and chaos in its wake.

This event is depicted in the new occult drama Strange Angel, about the "sex and rockets" obsessions of Jack Parsons. Parsons fantasizes about a Martian machine attacking Caltech, the institution which was initially rejecting him and his vision to take humans beyond the Earth's atmosphere - to the Moon and beyond. At least before the Nazis did, something that concerned him as the war in Europe spread, along with fascism. Sound familiar?

Jack Parsons gazes at a portrait of Aleister Crowley in the Pasadena Agape Lodge on "Strange Angel."(CBS All Access)

Salinas, California has entered my consciousness of late, for some unknown reason. Well, I did write a Dust Devil Dreams post about Salinas – a city I have never visited – in late June where “fast moving objects” looking like “stars or sperm or saucers” dart around the skies over Salinas.

And then, here we are, watching East of Eden with the iconic James Dean (as Caleb Trask) and Richard Davalos (as Aron Trask), both who are “sons of Adam” (Trask) as played by Raymond Massey. Davalos, we should note, was a very handsome actor who certainly caught the eye of Smiths frontman Morrissey in the 1980’s, with the mopey rocker featured Davalos’ mug on multiple album sleeves.

Richard Davalos and James Dean in East of Eden. (Warner Bros.)

Massey’s final film role, by the way, would be in the 1973 “ABC Movie of the Week” titled The President’s Plane is Missing. Massey plays the role of Secretary of State Freeman Sharkey in the wake of tensions with China which may lead to nuclear war. Apparently, Air Force One goes down in the California desert. Of course!

Massey appears in the film with some big names of that era, including Buddy Ebsen, Dabney Coleman, Rip Torn and Peter Graves. 

Oh, and the movie is based on a 1967 novel written by Robert J. Serling, the older brother of screenwriter and The Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling!

SOY BOMBS

I mention that because while watching the 11th season of The X-Files, and the Darin Morgan-directed episode “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat,” the topic of the “Mandela Effect” is addressed in a decidedly comedic, Morgan-esque way.

In the episode, Agent Mulder (David Duchovny) is approached by a man in a parking garage who convinces Mulder that his memories about an alleged episode of The Twilight Zone called “The Lost Martian” never really existed.

But Mulder is utterly convinced that he saw “The Lost Martian” episode of The Twilight Zone when he was 8-years old. A lot like the people convinced that Nelson Mandela died in a South African prison in the 1980’s or that the Berenstain Bears book series is really the Berenstein Bears.

So, Mulder goes through his videotapes looking for a copy of that Twilight Zone episode he knows he saw as a kid. When his partner Agent Scully (Gillian Anderson) suggests he might be misremembering the episode as being from The Outer Limits, Mulder looks pained and replied: “Confuse The Twilight Zone with The Outer Limits? Do you even know me?

Mulder later makes a stunning connection between Eels frontman Mark Oliver “E” Everett (who was nearly blinded by a laser at a Who concert and whose father Hugh Everett III, is the “originator of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum theory”) wrote a 2005 song called “Whatever Happened to Soy Bomb?” That is a reference to the appearance of a dancer behind Bob Dylan at the 1998 Grammy Awards, where the dancer – avant garde artist Michael Portnoy – wriggles shirtless behind Dylan with the words “Soy Bomb” painted on his torso.

Portnoy would be nabbed by security and not paid the $200 he was owed by the Grammy folks. He and the others onstage were placed there to give Dylan a “good vibe.”

Later, Portnoy would claim that the “soy bomb” reference was about art and how art should represent a “dense, transformational, explosive life.” And more recently, after that X-Files episode aired, Portnoy told the Hollywood Reporter that even though “a lot of kids never heard of Soy Bomb,” it’s still out there. Apparently the video clip of this event is very hard to find.

Said Portnoy: “A friend told me that on The X-Files that just aried they have an Operation Soy Bomb, and it involved some kind of massive conspiracy and my picture is on their schizo board with all the connections going to it.”

The "Crazy Board" behind Agent Fox Mulder in The X-Files. (Fox)

Indeed. Mulder learns, at the end, that "The Lost Martian" episode he saw was on a sub-Twilight Zone knockoff series of that era. A simple mistake. Not mass brainwashing by "They." Who knows? I do know that in about 1985 I saw a Star Trek rerun where the crew of the Enterprise comes upon a "ghost planet" inhabited by a beautiful, female entity - whose intentions aren't entirely clear. She does kill some "red shirt" in the opening minutes of the episode, though with a "death touch." Interesting side fact, while examining the planet, Mr. Sulu reminds Capt. Kirk that a "meteor" had blown up over Siberia, flattening hundreds of square miles of taiga - the famous-yet-baffling Tunguska Incident of 1908. Nice addition, Mr. Roddenberry!

But for years, my siblings and I wanted to know if we had really seen this Star Trek episode. With the advent of the Internet, I found out 15 years after the fact that this Star Trek episode did exist - it was aired in January 1969 and titled "That Which Survives," where actress Lee Meriwether plays a holographic guardian of her planet, warding off invaders. We had not imagined it or misremembered it. We just didn't have all the information we needed to confirm what we had collectively seen.

And so this X-Files episode prompted me to rewatch a classic episode of The Twilight Zone, the episode titled “Time Enough At Last,” which aired on American television's CBS on November 20, 1959, less than a week after Kansas farmer Herb Clutter and his family were murdered by two drifters in their hometown of Holcomb. That tragic event that essentially ended the curious decade of the 1950’s, would be made internationally famous via Truman Capote’s novel In Cold Blood, one of my favorite books I read when I was a high schooler in Wichita, Kansas.

More on that in a bit.

CLUTTER FARM

Back to that Twilight Zone episode, you know, the one with Burgess Meredith who plays nebbish bank teller Henry Bemis. All the bespectacled man wants to do is read the great novels of literature. But a society (and an awful wife) that requires conformity won’t allow that. In fact, when Bemis is brought into his boss's office, he passes by a wall clock reading 1:16 p.m. This, of course, brings to mind the "1:16 a.m." of Doc Brown's digital timer in the Twin Pines Mall, as he is testing the DeLorean time machine in Back to the Future. This has been intepreted as being a hint that 911 - 116 upside down - was fast approaching

Continuing ... so, when Bemis sneaks away to read in the bank vault, a hydrogen bomb is detonated, saving Bemis, but leaving him all alone.

He at first considers suicide, since he is all alone. But he stumbles upon a library full of books to read – Bemis’s idea of heaven. He can read all he wants and not be bothered by anyone – cause they all died in the nuclear holocaust. (Synchromystically speaking, as I was preparing this post, I came across an article in The New Yorker headlined, "The Growing Dangers of the New Nuclear-Arms Race." It was written by Command and Control author Eric Schlosser, who concludes: "The abolition of nuclear weapons will require unprecedented trust between nations, a strict inspection regime, and severe punishments against any country that cheats. Until the day when those things are possible, greatly reducing the number of nuclear weapons, taking ballistic missiles off of alert, and abandoning high-risk strategies will make the world a much safer place. None of that will happen until people are willing to confront the threat.")

But back to "Time Enough at Last" and its lasting impact: And so, fate being what it is, Bemis is about to pick up his first book to read, but his glasses fall off and shatter. He is not able to read, since he is virtually blind without his glasses.

Serling does his ending narration, referencing Robert Burns and Steinbeck, it would seem, with the following: “The best laid plans of mice and men … and Henry Bemis … the small man in the glassed who wanted nothing but time. Henry Bemis, now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deede to himself. Mr. Henry Bemis … in the Twilight Zone.”

Interesting how Burgess Meredith and Lee Meriwether - who would both appear in the Batman TV series - were both portrayed as the last of their kind on their respective planets in The Twilight Zone and Star Trek episodes referenced here. 

In any event, the thought-provoking "Time Enough at Last" episode has become the favorite Twilight Zone episode ever for fans. Mine as well, ahead of the other classic, “To Serve Man.” 

So, this brings me to the area of nuclear war. As a child of the 1980's, seeing The Day After made a distinct impact in my life. Back in 1983, when the TV movie aired, we were as close to nuclear war with the Soviets as we had been during those tense days in 1962, some 21 years earlier.

This horrifying portrayal of a nuclear attack on America - focusing on the greater Kansas City area and the Kansas/Missouri border area - brought it home for me because this was close to home. Not Los Angeles or New York or Washington. 

Back in the mid-2000's, a CBS series called Jericho was aired and based in the town of Jericho, Kansas, not too terribly far from Holcomb and Clutter Farm, I imagine. It is there that the townsfolk are able to see (not sure how, though, considering the distance) a nuclear attack on Denver, Colorado. The main character, Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich) has to learn to survive in post-apocalyptic America. 

On the other side of the state, in Lawrence, Kansas, two brothers - Sam and Dean Winchester - begin their adventures in the series Supernatural chasing ghosts, demons and other supernatural beings while driving around the countryside in a '67 Impala. Among their stops include the notorious Stull Cemetery, which I will be visiting in the next few months while researching my book The Stilwell Enigma.

NOTHING LASTS FOREVER BUT THE EARTH AND SKY

And every season of Supernatural, except the first, ends with the 1976 Kansas song "Carry on Wayward Son." Makes sense, since like Cain, the Winchester brothers are forever wandering the Earth in search of monsters to slay. 

Kansas band leader and singer-songwriter Kerry Livgren was a well-known figure in Christian rock circles in the 1980's and 90's, due to his conversion to Christianity after being deep into the beliefs of the aforementioned Urantia Book. Livgren was amongst other well-known rock stars interested in the teachings of the Urantia Book. Jimi Hendrix and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead admitted great interest in the book.

Oddly, while on a trip to Sedona, Arizona, I drove by one of those "Adopt-a-Highway" signs that said that stretch of road was maintained by the Urantia Book folks. Was it this controversial group?

Livgren, meanwhile, was interviewed by the Christian rock magazine Cornerstone in 1980, around the time of the release of Audio-Visions. Livgren admits that after "coming to Jesus" on July 29, 1979 (39 years ago yesterday), his role in the prog-pop band Kansas was murky and that he would pray about it. 

A spiritual seeker, Livgren says that he was looking high and low for spiritual answers ever since leaving the Christian church as an adolescent. 

Said Livgren: "I've always been a very religious person, although at this point I didn't know which one to believe in and I dabbled in about every Eastern religion you could think of. I sort of moved from one thing to another, from Hinduism, Baba Ram Dass, Zen; finally I ended up in a... belief centered on the Urantia Book. At that point I thought I had really found the answer.

I became convinced that the book could not have been written by men or human inspiration. So I made the mistake of attributing the supernatural to the divine, a very easy mistake to make, although I didn't realize that at the time. I sort of wholeheartedly gave myself to this thing as the end of the road as far as systems of belief go."

Needless to say, Livgren had his come-to-Jesus moment and has been walking with the Lord ever since. And Kansas - with or without Livgren - still tours and is releasing an album in 2019. 

Livgren is joined by other born againers like Paul Jones (Manfred Mann); Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad); John Lodge (The Moody Blues); Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield); Rick Wakeman (Yes); John Ford Coley (England Dan and John Ford Coley); and others. Their stories are compelling, particularly in light of the rock n' roll lifestyles they embraced in their younger years.

In a weird kind of way, this Dust Devil Dreams post came full circle: starting off with the Book of Genesis and Cain and Abel and concluding with a bit about aging rock n' rollers turning to Christianity. Not sure what it means. Just putting it out there.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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