This is my 1ooth Mapping the Edge post!

I had several ideas for making this entry special in some way. I wanted to revisit some of my favorites. Then I thought about doing a special interview with a well-known artist, or at least do a review of some controversial piece of visual art.

I started Mapping the Edge to deconstruct the creative process, and to explore the fringes of an artistic life. I wanted to examine the life in fine art, pulse-by-pulse. Instead, I find myself documenting the fine art of life.

In the end, I decided that the 100th entry should be no different from the other 99 entries. So, prepare for another pseudo-random observational post! As an engineering co-worker once said after analyzing confusing and unexpected test results from the evaluation of a complex system, “It’s exactly the same, only more so”.

This same engineer and I were once at an airport baggage claim in Cedar Rapids Iowa, staring at the conveyor belt that held his luggage but not mine. After ten minutes of staring at a moving but empty belt, and other two minutes staring at the belt after it had stopped moving, my friend said, “This is where your luggage isn’t”. I miss working with him.

Recently, Alane and I took a break from campground living and viewed a new advanced riverfront housing community in Virginia. The first thing I noticed was what was the lack of visible infrastructure. There were no exposed wires, pipes or hoses, the opposite of the above-ground campground life I described in my previous post. This community resembled a life-size motion picture set. If we were to walk inside and twisted a faucet knob, I’d be surprised if water came out.

We toured the model home with a community sales representative. He drove us around in his golf cart, and explained how everything ran from below ground. The distant hum from a water treatment plant was the only sign that the homes were real. Even the hum, we were told, would go unnoticed after a few weeks of living here.

The community had an underground power generation system, so that if the city loses electricity for any reason, the homes here would stay powered and fully functional, even if, “all hell breaks loose everywhere else”.

Garage doors were designed to appear fully integrated with the appearance of the homes, to “hide” the unsightly look of a large movable door. One resident’s antique car collection was stored in what appeared to be a smaller house, identical in appearance to the collector’s home. His multiple garage doors looked like normal doors and windows. I felt the urge to go back to the camper and camouflage our bright red poop tube with festive Christmas wrapping paper.

The model home was beautiful, and seemed to operate by remote control. The walk-out basement had a double entrance/exit, so as to never expose residents to anything as unsightly as a momentary glimpse of an air conditioning duct through an open basement door. The horror. I was surprised to find that the house did not come with a rotating base, for those days when you wanted a slightly different view of the beach but wished not to disturb neighbors with the sounds of new construction.

In the back yard of the house next door, there were two large aluminum structures, almost like tall metal coffins. Attached to each structure were several vents, large hoses, and cables that disappeared into the ground. Picture Dr. Frankenstein with access to modern tools and space-age metals.

Before we could ask about the two metal structures, the sales representative filled us in. “Inside those cages are two of the world’s best cadaver dogs,” he said. “They belong to the FBI forensics agent who lives next door.”

Alane, with a passion for animal rescue, questioned the quality of life the dogs had, spending their lives inside enclosed metal crates. The sales representative’s response was, “Those dogs are worth $100,000 apiece! They fly all over the world looking for dead bodies! They just flew back from Mexico! Trust me, they are living the good life in those heated and air-conditioned cages.”

Somehow his comments seemed only to strengthen Alane’s argument. Again, she asked why animals so valuable weren’t treated more like what they were and less like property. The sales representative’s only comeback was, “I think the agent has another dog that he allows to live in the house as a pet”. This made the disparity of life even more glaring.

Life here is just like life in the campground, only prettier. And not. Campground life comes with vital organs exposed, ugly and beautiful. Life in this advanced community encloses everything in a pretty outer shell, like a fancy brand-name outfit hiding a colostomy bag. The bag’s still there, even if only you know it. One is exactly the same as the other, only more so.

Sometimes I feel blessed and well cared for, like an indoor pet with love as fresh as my food and water. Other times, I’m more of a work dog. Because I’m good at what I do, my reward is life in an air-conditioned metal cage, but with a really nice view of a better place that lies just out of reach. (Consider this the obligatory self-indulgent philosophical paragraph! It’s in my contract… that I wrote… for myself!)

I never met the FBI forensics agent, but I’m convinced he has ice-blue translucent eyes and white hair. I’m also convinced that he knows who stole the plants and who died in the camper behind Julinda – if indeed he is really dead at all! I’m convinced the cadaver dogs know the official truth, but are not permitted to speak, even if they could. Also, I’m convinced that the house pet knows the ultimate truth, but would never betray his master.

Finally, I’m convinced that if I raised the hatch of the FBI agent’s black SUV, I’d find it. After all these years, my long-lost luggage would no longer be where it wasn’t.