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Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Look in Her Eyes

My wife is not a great lover of the “Planet of the Apes” movies.  Yet when I suggested that we take a weekend to explore Malibu Creek State Park and visit Point Dume, she immediately embraced the idea.  Her eyes glowed at the thought.  The weekend thus had a surreal quality, as if I were merely imagining our journey together.  It seemed too good to be true.

In the 1968 film “Planet of the Apes,” the first time Taylor sees Nova, we can see a connection spark between them.  Taylor, the ultimate loner, initially objects to sharing a cell with her.  Yet by the time the Apes take them to the outdoor exercise cage, he’s accepted her company, and the way she remains by his side. 

In concrete matters, Nova is more wise that Taylor.  When he, the cynical idealist, insists on speaking the truth as he sees it, she looks on with concern.  When Taylor writes his message in the sand for Zera, she knows that Dr. Zaius, the orangutan Chief Scientist and Defender of the Faith, must not perceive Taylor as an intelligent being.  So she wipes away the message he has drawn.  Taylor doesn’t recognize her protectiveness though, and knocks her away.  Back in their cell, when he still insists on speaking to her, she places a finger gently upon his lips.

Taylor may not understand why he cares about this mute, primitive woman, but he demands that Zera and Cornelius bring Nova along when they risk their careers to help him escape.  As for the chimpanzee scientists, Cornelius wants nothing to do with Taylor when Zera first brings the human to him.  He warns her that in protecting Taylor, she is risking everything they desire: respected positions in their society, and a long and happy marriage.  Nonetheless, he supports her arguments in regards to Taylor, even though he knows that defying Dr. Zaius and the community leadership will cost them their dreams. 

On the way to Point Dume, we saw rows of chairs set up along the beach.  On the way back, people waited there.  A string quartet played.  Young men and women stood at the edge of the sand, dressed in nice clothes but barefoot, watching the cafĂ© opposite.  When the father escorted the bride across the road, he paused upon reaching the beach, as if rethinking his decision to give her away.  The guests laughed appreciatively.  He then escorted his daughter down the aisle, and presented her to the young man who waited before the priest.  The bride smiled, and her eyes glowed as she gazed up at the groom.  

Long after she should have grown tired of my numerous faults, my wife still looks at me that way.  It reminds me of how Nova looked at Taylor, and the way Cornelius looked at Zera.  I hope that the bride and groom will look that way at each other for the rest of their lives.

Dragon Dave

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Completeness of Vision

I’m not an accomplished hiker like Kevin J. Anderson, who writes his novels while trekking up and down mountains (some of them taller than 14,000 ft. high).  Most days, I don’t even take a walk, and if I do, it’s usually less than two miles long.  So when we parked at Zuma Beach, I looked at Point Dume in the distance and guessed it would take us ten minutes or so to walk there.  My wife suggested we take the picnic lunch we had prepared.  As it was not yet eleven, I thought it an unnecessary burden.  After all, we just had a short walk there and back, along with a few minutes for photographs.  But we grabbed our lunch and beach things, and set off on our walk.

By the time we reached Point Dume, forty-five minutes had passed.  We were both tired, and even though we didn’t feel particularly hungry, we figured food and drink would rejuvenate us.  So we sat down in the shade of a rock, and ate our picnic lunch.

I realized how wise my wife had been to suggest we bring the food and beach items, for we had come here to enjoy this place, not merely to snap a few photographs.  It’s difficult to put into words exactly what I felt, sitting where Taylor stares up at the half-buried Statue of Liberty.  I knew the people around me, who were just there to enjoy their day, weren’t seeing the beach or the cliff the same way I was.  Certainly the sea gull that awaited any scrap of food we might offer saw nothing more than what was actually there.  But I felt as though I existed in three realms simultaneously: the present reality, the past film location, and the fictional beach with Taylor and Nova. 

It seemed as though I wasn’t the only one who viewed the situation from varying viewpoints.  Just for fun, my wife turned on our GPS device, and it told us that we were six feet below sea level, even though we sat up on the beach, above the ocean.  Then it changed its mind: we were nine feet below sea level.  The reading bounced around, going down as low as twenty-one feet, before moving up again, but never stabilizing and giving us a reading congruent with what we observed.  Perhaps the disturbed sand beneath us confused it.  After all, the Statue of Liberty had once been buried here. 

A part of me wished that I had been old enough to visit the beach back when the film was made, so that I could see the portion of the statue that the crew built.  But even if I had been, I doubt the experience would have resonated with me back then.  It was the short-lived “Planet of the Apes” TV series that caught my interest.  After that, I read the novel, and learned about (and later saw) the movies.  In all these, I found stories that drew me back for repeated readings and viewings.  Like all great stories, they grew in the telling.  They became a part of me, and I of them. 

I’m glad we brought our lunch along, and took our time just being there.  Someday I’d like to return to Point Dume.  I’d like to spend more time there than our first visit allowed.  I’d like to discover it for everything it is now, not just for what occurred there in 1968, and the place holds in my imagination.  My first visit there was pretty great.  The second visit might be even greater.

Dragon Dave

Friday, September 28, 2012

Dr. Zaius’ Prophesy

Point Dume

In the 1968 film “Planet of the Apes,” Taylor (played by Charlton Heston) binds Dr. Zaius to a tree trunk that has washed ashore.  He tells Dr. Zaius that he intends to learn what happened to the humans who once ruled the planet.  The orangutan scientist, Chief Scientist and Defender of the Faith, warns Taylor, “If you do, you may wish you had not sought the truth.”

(Spoiler Alert: I am about to reveal the surprise ending of this forty-four year-old film.  So if you have not seen it, you have been warned!)

Taylor pulls Nova onto his horse, and the two ride off along the beach.  It is at Point Dume that the full impact of Dr. Zaius’ prophesy hits him.  He has traveled for two thousand years before his ship crashed on this planet.  He had believed that he was on another world, far away from Earth.  But when he sees the Statue of Liberty half-buried in the sand, he knows exactly where he is, and that his worst fears about humanity have proven true.

"Uh, guys, wait up!"

As they marched through the arid desert at the beginning of the film, Taylor told his fellow astronaut Landon that he accepted this mission because he hoped that, somewhere out there, there was “something better than man.”  Taylor was fed up by the mixture of selfishness, greed, politics, and violence that prevents man from making the Earth into a utopia.  So he travels into space, leaving everything behind, in the hope of finding a place where people truly care more about others than they do about themselves.  Sadly, his greatest fear—that man would destroy himself—has proven true. 

"If you need some help, let me know!"

Is Taylor right to be so cynical?  Is Dr. Zaius right to condemn all of humanity for its record of violence against itself?  At times, I side with them, choosing to believe that even those who perform good deeds do so for selfish reasons.  I hold up the injuries others have caused me as proof of man’s inherent callousness.  But then I have to ask myself: what am I doing to make the lives of those around me better?  How much of my time, energy, and caring can I afford to give others, without slowing or halting my progress along my desired path? 

Proof of Apocalyse, or Utopia?

Taylor and Dr. Zaius would point to all the mansions atop the cliffs as proof of man’s callousness, of how he allows his fellow humans to starve and suffer while he lives in luxury.  I watch the scuba divers venturing into the ocean, the people rock-climbing, the children and parents playing together.  Like Taylor, I pause with my life-companion before Point Dume.  I acknowledge the validity of his beliefs, and recognize that his worst fears may yet come true.  But perhaps he and Dr. Zaius may eventually be proved wrong.  Perhaps, working together, we can all make this world into a utopia. 

I’d like to be a part of that.

Dragon Dave

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Venturing Into The Forbidden Zone

The beautiful Zuma Beach

No, I haven’t traveled to Arizona, to hike near Lake Powell or the Grand Canyon, which the astronauts trek through in the 1968 movie “Planet of the Apes.”  After Taylor is condemned to experimental surgery, and the Chimpanzee scientists Cornelius and Dr. Zera are to be tried for heresy, they flee to this barren landscape, through which apes are forbidden to travel without special dispensation.  Eventually they end up on the rocky shore of an ocean, where Cornelius has been conducting archeological studies. 

In the real world, this rocky shore is called Westward Beach, located near Point Dume in Malibu, California.  We parked along Zuma Beach, where another astronaut, Captain Tony Nelson, once discovered Jeannie in the first episode of “I Dream of Jeannie.”  Then we walked south, heading toward Westward Beach. 

The Cliffs along Point Dume

Along the way, I couldn’t help but notice the expensive homes (Or should I say mansions?) perched along the undulating sandstone cliffs.  A boulder on the beach reminded me of the one in the film that breaks loose and rolls toward the astronauts, nearly squashing them during their initial trek across the desert.  This highlights the fact that the cliffs supporting these homes might collapse at any time, given sufficient water from rain, or even a broken water pipe.

Watch out for falling rocks!

Until that happens though, they’re so much more comfortable than the cage in which Taylor and Nova were imprisoned, and offer equally stunning views.  In the Iron Man movies, Tony Stark lives in one of these.  Just like the chimpanzee scientists Cornelius and Dr. Zera, and Tony Stark, it seems that real-life residents are just as interested in studying the mysteries of our planet, and our universe. 

A House with a View.

I wonder if they read my blog, and if so, what they think of my musings.  It would be interesting to meet them, and a pleasure to tour their beautiful homes.  (Provided the cliffs don’t give way during my visit).  But, just as Cornelius needs Dr. Zaius’ approval to legally enter the Forbidden Zone, unless the occupants invite me inside, I’m just as forbidden to enter their zones.

Dragon Dave