Monday, January 1, 2007

Break On Through To The Other Side

Yet another meeting was being assembled in the large conference room at park headquarters. This gathering was convened to go over the compliance codes required for the Resource Management division as it related to implementation of HITP (Hands Inside the Pocket, see chapter 4). Superintendent Stan Nobright's HITP Impact Assessment period for all of Zenith Park’s various divisions had ended and this would to be the first of seven meetings which would culminate in a HITP retreat, at the park’s mountain chalet, where the preliminary strategic plans would be formulated for submission to WASO.

Beau Tom Barrel, Facilities Manager, had been placed in charge of the entire campaign and would act as chief facilitator in the plan-generating phase as well as act as a liaison to the regional HITP Coordinator in Denver.

As a show of solidarity and cohesion the superintendent had insisted that members of all seven divisions attend each other’s Impact Assessment meetings. Bart Crivelleni was present as the sacrificial lamb for the Resource Management meeting representing Interpretation. He had told Bob Priestly that he didn’t want to go but was soundly rebuked.

“You need to start showing more support for management directives and service-wide program implementation. These meetings can only enhance your career as an agency professional Bart. It will also look good on your SF-171 and will boost your KSA's. Believe me now because you’ll thank me later.”

Bill Lord, Assistant Chief of Resource Management, surveyed around the meeting table checking to see who was present and from what division and GS level they represented. He sighed while disgustedly noticing that only five divisions were represented and no one was higher than a GS/11. “We get little respect and even smaller recognition from these people as it is. Now with HITP looming we’re going to get raked good” he gritted to himself.

Standing to bring the meeting to order Bill was about to formally begin the presentation when Chief Botanical Officer Helva Kurse hastily cut in ahead of him. “We are so glad at least some of our professional brethren could make it. I presume we can close the door now” she disdainfully sneered.

Bill sat down and motioned for the doors to be closed. “I’m very pleased to hand the floor over to our dedicated and creative boss, J. Everboar the current Chief of Resource Management, who will bring us up to date on the current state of HITP as it relates to our mission statement and the preservation of park resources.”

Bart imagined that the steel lid of a large coffin was about to be permanently sealed upon the entire room. When the door closed the air immediately formed an unhealthy texture and density that he was intimately familiar with. The more he breathed it in the less able he was to focus his consciousness on anything concrete or stable. The effect was similar to the anesthesia he got at the dentist. He did have the presence of mind to sit where he could at least stare out the large picture window towards the ragged cliffs of the Western Altar. Bart immediately noticed a pair of large turkey vultures slowly circling above the rocky terrain on a thermal.

J. Everboar started to speak in his slow droning monotone “Thank you Bill. I’m glad to see so many people from other divisions here today. Well folks, first the good news: the proposals generated from HITP's initial draft documents, now widely becoming known as the Butte Agenda, outline the beginnings of a dramatic new process. This could however become a double-edged sword, coming at a time of growing concern for fiscal priorities.”

Bart’s focus on the circling raptors along with Everboar’s trance inducing voice led him into a semi-comatose state of consciousness. His eyes remained transfixed upon the two raptors gently floating above the sage and juniper covered flats of Zenith Canyon.

Helva Kurse followed Everboar with a prepared issue paper about the perceived threats that HITP posed to her holy war on exotic plants and animals.

Bart’s view of the birds gradually started to take on a wholly new perspective. He imagined himself lying prostrate upon the ground, paralyzed and motionless, looking upward at the pair of vultures who were now making a slow circling descent towards him. He was not fearful only cognizant of his total impotence to do anything to affect movement.

Vaguely in the near distance he heard the echoing locutions of Everboar mixed in with the dulcet tones of Kurse which floated through his ears in a singsong fashion like Gregorian chants chirped by mockingbirds. Bart imagined a pagan high priest delivering a lilting liturgy during a ritual offering to a large and hungry avian scavenger god. As the birds got nearer he could begin to make out faces on the heads of the two vultures. One appeared to look like Helluva Kurse while the other looked like a dark haired Hispanic male in his forties that Bart didn't recognize. “Probably that veteran I got around having to hire from the new seasonal register last week” he buzzed to himself. "Name was Perez I think. Been on parole awhile and driving a school bus. It turned out that because he served his sentence in a military prison he gets a five-point veterans preference for time served. Human Resources told me I shouldn't be 'so judgmental when it comes down from way higher than any of us can even begin to question'. Who gives a damn? Luckily he won't be released in time for seasonal training and that was the real problem in getting him hired."

By their sly cunning smiles Bart knew that the descending raptors meant to do him harm and this suddenly filled him with a stark cold terror. With all his might he attempted to emit a cry or shriek but to no avail. His vocal cords had been silenced for all time. He could now hear the Helva bird starting to cackle and caw while the Hispanic male headed bird slowed for a final landing on the ground near Bart’s lifeless form. He awaited his fate like a fox in a leg trap.

Helva testily asked “Is it true Bart, that your division has already submitted a proposal to link HITP to your workforce diversity improvement plan while simultaneously ignoring the plight of plants in an increasingly oppressive world of Caucasian….er, I mean Eurasian exotics which now invade daily?”

She felt confident that this overhand serve at Bart's head had won match point and looked around the room for approval.

Bart continued to stare vacantly in the direction of the imposing heights of the Western Altar.

Helva screeched “Have you heard a single word I’ve said Mr. Crivellini?”

Bart turned towards her slowly and said “Did someone suck all of the oxygen out of this room?”

Assistant Superintendent Rudd Conner began to guffaw loudly at this comment and interjected good naturedly “Maybe we do need to take a short break, huh Bart?”

“Okay by me.”

Rudd dismissed the group for a ten minute break which sent a simmering, smoldering rage through many on the Resource Management work team who felt that a critical juncture had been reached and this interruption could only stagger the momentum. Bart looked at his watch and could not believe that the meeting had already gone on for three hours. Making his way back to his own office he fished through his desk for change to buy a soda.

“I don’t think I can stay awake much longer” he panicked while looking at the limited choices remaining in the soda machine. “Why do they send me to any of these meetings?”

Rudd Conner came up to Bart in the breakroom and smiled. “I know how you feel Bart. Ain’t this some crap?”

“You’ve put it mildly Rudd.”

“Well we’ve got to play the game, you know how it is. We’ll probably have some new bullcrap acronym foisted on us next year. Seen ‘em come and go for a long time now. You play golf?”

“Uh, no. I don’t.”

“Too bad, I need a partner for a foursome tomorrow” Rudd said as he put his hand on Bart’s shoulder. “Now let’s both try and stay awake for the rest of this meeting. Okay Bart?” he said winking.

Resuming his former seat Bart once again looked back out upon the ramparts and crags of the Western Altar. He sincerely hoped that Helva Kurse had forgotten her former tirade against him and that he could proceed unmolested for the rest of the meeting. The others returned to their places and the door was again securely sealed.

Bart’s wish was granted, because Honey Maris, Chief of Animal Life Processes, opened the second half of the meeting.

“We have a long list of creatures here in Zenith that deserve the same degree of protection and understanding that many targeted human populations have recently received. We need to now look carefully at HITP and see what it does for frogs, squirrels and minnows. No, we need to demand it! I say crickets need the same respect as Kosovar Albanians!!!”

To Bart Honey was not nearly as self-righteously cloying as Helva or as sleep inducing as J. Everboar so he was content to listen passively while drawing a doodle on his outline sheet that showed two vultures eating the bloody flesh off a newly dead ranger carcass. “Can’t have the wildlife eating exotics” he chuckled while quietly shading in the background.

Looking up he stared outside again, longing for the stimulation of a wider more oxygen rich world when he suddenly became very excited by a bird which was perched in a hedge of rabbit brush. What he saw barely seemed believable.

“It’s a Vermilion flycatcher!” he blurted out pointing towards the window. “That’s a very rare bird in these parts!”

The meeting room froze for a second and then absently scanned the window in a cursory fashion. Honey Maris folded her arms and stared with a pained expression. “Are we finished yet Bart?” she asked sarcastically.

“No I’m not. This beautiful and rare bird is just not something you see everyday. Michelle and I have been looking for quite some time.”

Helva jumped in “and what pray tell does this have to do with the role of resource management for a new millennium Mr. Crivellini? Does this in some way dove tail with our HITP strategic goals or bring us some degree of closure on the issue of base funding requirements; much less the deeper meanings of full GPRA compliance for this current fiscal year?”

Bart stood up all at once. His legs, which had fallen asleep, tingled painfully as he attempted to move them in the direction of the door. “The sight of this bird is a lot more important and meaningful than any of the things you’ve just mentioned Helva! If you’ll excuse me I’m going to attempt to get a closer look and take some field notes. Oh and by the way, a Vermilion flycatcher sounds slightly phoebe-like. It goes p-p-pit-zeee or pit-a-zee” he chirped loudly and forcefully. “You got that? It’s p-p-pit-zee or pit-a-zee!” he whistled again unsteadily making his way towards the door.

The whole room looked back at him in mild shock.

Not waiting for a reply he pushed open the coffin lid and escaped into the hallway. He half expected the whole meeting room to come after him waving flaming torches, like some cheap vampire movie where he would eventually end up cornered in his own castle with the early morning sun rising up into his bleary eyeballs.

Rudd Conner spoke apologetically “Bart’s been under some strain lately, which is why he’s not as focused on the resource issues facing this working group as he probably should be.”

Sylvia Nowerz, meeting secretary, looked down at the drawing Bart had left behind with mild amusement.

Helva lamented loudly “Rudd, these naturalists need to get more focused on what needs to be done for park resources. We can’t keep being the only ones left who care.”

Outside the darkly silhouetted turkey vultures maintained their circling pattern to the roar of Harley Davidson choppers pumping out waves of reverberating sound through the still canyon air. The main park road was busy and loud as the late afternoon sun sent heat waves up from the baked red pavement.

Bart could see the bird clearly through his high powered binoculars. A large wriggling bee in its beak made a violent struggle as the elegant phoebe gulped it down effortlessly. Bart’s slowly adjusting irises squinted at a now perfectly still Vermilion flycatcher. After a few moments of repose, it flew hurriedly away and Bart watched it disappear behind a motor home.

“Wonder what kind of crap Bob is going to dish to me over this little escapade?” he wondered while walking back to his office.

“I hope it means NO MORE meetings with the living dead. Oh yeah that’s close. Who else is there? It's only a paycheck. It's only a paycheck. It's only a paycheck." This mantra caused a small glimmer of happiness to grow across his face. His formerly leaden legs were now producing a lively gait across the freshly chip-sealed tarmac. Passing the door of the large conference room he noted that the mausoleum was still sealed shut. He made no attempt to try the door.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beamis! Another brilliant and insightful installment. Did you see I've got you linked from Park Remark?

See below. You've captured the same sentiment I once heard from a very frustrated Yellowstone Ranger. "They care more about microbes than they do human beings."

Love it, love it, love it.

“We have a long list of creatures here in Zenith that deserve the same degree of protection and understanding that many targeted human populations have recently received. We need to now look carefully at HITP and see what it does for frogs, squirrels and minnows. No, we need to demand it! I say crickets need the same respect as Kosovar Albanians!!!”