Chapter 51: Message from the Stars

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Chapter 51: Message from the Stars

The Catalina Island Film Festival began on schedule. I had to shotgun the first shipment of Posters and RSVP confirmations by seaplane, departing from San Pedro Harbor. It turned out to be a very cool adventure, as Myrna and I were the only passengers in a retrofitted Goose crammed with boxes of freshly printed material, the odor of ink and gasoline from the plane's engines mingling into a toxic mixture. The fatigued fuselage shook and vibrated: the noise upon takeoff and landing deafening against the stiff ocean waves. In the distance, I could see the familiar outline of the Titan crane, which dominated the skyline of Long Beach. This famous workhorse, also referred to as 'Herman the German' remained the lone survivor of at least three captured from Germany at the end of the Second World War. One of Herman's sister cranes, a prize to England, was lost in a storm while crossing the English Channel. A third vanished somewhere unknown in Russia. This Titan remains the largest crane in the world to date, a significant engineering accomplishment of a defeated nation. Nevertheless, it possessed a monstrous aspect, a brooding specter of the vanquished war machine from which it was spawned, and for which it toiled. It reminded me of an abandoned alien pod towering above the landscape at the end of H.G. Wells' novel War of the Worlds. Personally, I question if anything truly good can come from the design of evil, this being only the most modest technology harvested from the dark soul of Nazism.

Upon approach to the island, the famous Art Deco Catalina Casino, poised majestically on the narrow peninsula of Sugar Loaf Point, gleamed brightly in the late afternoon sun like a sultan's palace spilling gold into the cove of Avalon Bay. Opposite the bay stood the dignified Wrigley house built in 1921 by the late chewing gum mogul, a white sepulcher rising atop Mount Ada (named after Wrigley's wife) representing a bygone past of wealth and acquisition. This citadel retained a ghostly regal appearance, a watchful sentry with eyes of polished glass windows reflecting a commanding view of Pacific sunrises and sunsets. In many ways Catalina was like the whispering of a well-kept secret, a place frozen in time, as the empty shell of bygone dreams still awaiting fulfillment, or waking determinism. It had never occurred to me that an island of history and adventure existed within a proverbial stone's throw from southern California.

Provided lodging at a local inn, Myrna and I checked in, left our suitcases, and explored the fabled town of Avalon by the sea. According to the Welsh legend in Tennyson's poem "Idylls of the King", Avalon is where King Arthur's sword Excalibur was forged, and the place of genesis to immortal beings of wizardry such as Morgan le Fay. In many ways, Myrna remains to this day a potent femme fatal in my mind, as the mysterious Lady of the Lake, keeper of the sword of faith for future kings. Stranger still, the relationship between us had lapsed into a fond friendship only, much as familiarity between brother and sister. Not that I found her no longer desirable; rather, a greater desire to let go of a dream and face life solitarily. I see this now, only in retrospect, as a distant reminder of glimmering apparitions in life's murky and unpredictable currents.

Myrna and I found a pleasant place to eat and went early to bed. The next morning after breakfast we met-up with Ed, who looked a little hung-over from the previous night. Together we attended a banquet at the Casino hosting nearly a hundred VIP's, mostly people and their families instrumental in making this event happen. I felt honored to be part of this noble achievement involving so many professionals from such varied venues. Over the course of the weekend, I would watch only two films in the Casino's massive lower theater, "Creature from the Black Lagoon" in 3D, and "It Came from Outer Space". Though I am certain these films were far more engaging when I was a child, nevertheless, I sat through the two productions to the boring end. Myrna was wise enough not to attend any of the selected films, but spent her time wandering the streets of Avalon, where she would meet someone new.

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