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Country: Europe, DE, Germany
When this book started, I thought it would be about a woman who was ill and how she would deal with her illness. It was so much more! Jess Walter is a fine writer, weaving so many different types of characters into this story, and blending them until each became a story unto itself. I so enjoyed the Hollywood story as well as that of the Italian village on the cliff. I also couldn't read fast enough so that i would find out how these varied time period stories would come together to form a unified whole. I highly recommend this book, and would read any other Jess Walter's books in the future. Sit back and let yourself enjoy Beautiful Ruins.
In the late 60's I was dishonorably discharged. I strangled one of my own comrades to death using the Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable. They spit me back into the western world and left me to my own devices.
No one considers 26 to be of old age, but when I turned 26 in September of 1968 I felt too old to start a new life, but simultaneously too young to retrieve my old one. I had been away at war for too long; when I came back nothing was the same as I remembered it being; it became difficult to cope with the America of 1968. In other words, it was a horrible time and place to turn 26. I became something of a rogue drifter, wandering around the Nevada plains taking odd jobs, most of which I never kept for more than a few weeks at most. While working a repugnant, underpaying job in the dreaded Death Valley Tuscan Milk Mine I began to lapse into a state of perpetual mental illness. On a good day my world only looked bleak and disparaging, but on those bad days? Nothing could turn you around. Usually I found myself deep in those milk pits, armed to the tooth with my irrigation supplies, ready to blow myself up with the dynamite in my hand or put an iron spike through my brain. To this day I am not sure what stopped me, because for awhile I was all the way gone. The scenes I saw from Vietnam began flooding my mind; almost every waking moment was filled with those terrors of circumstance. When I began to hear the voice of the man I strangled I knew my time on this Earth would be short-lived if I didn't choose to do something about it. The first thing I would have to do is get out of Nevada, and leave that decrepit job behind me.
On October 22nd I packed my few belongings - my favorite wolf shirt, the $25.00 Bed, Bath & Beyond Gift certificate that I had been saving, and package of saltines and honey-dried Vaseline - for the journey to the great beyond and unknown: California, 1968. Why there? Didn't know. Had no ambitions for anything, but just felt I needed to go as far Westward as I could get without landing myself in the ocean.
While hitchhiking on the Nevada interstate with my satchel crossed over my back I started to feel physically sick. That hot Nevada deathstar of a sun was beating down on me, tearing me apart and slowly destroying me from the inside, out, and all over. I'd spent hours on that desolate stretch of road and not seen more than a single car pass me by. For all I knew and all I saw the rest of the world could have been dead, annihilated like a trillion Hiroshimas laying side-by-side. Nothing existed except me, that road, that sun, and the vultures circling my baking body. The guardian angels that were ignoring me for most of my life kept up with their routine. I was going to give those vultures much of a struggle; I was going to die here, right where I stood. I was tired, sick, and had two knees in the bottom of the grave. All I needed to do now was go to sleep and hope those birds didn't start picking away at me until they were sure that I was well-done and all sides were finely cooked. If I was going to die, it mind as well be here. I had no intentions of going back to Nevada to work myself to death in those milk mines. I laid my head to pavement and let the vultures wait it out.
When I awoke sometime later I thought I entered into some strange limbo. I was in a small cramped room draped in ugly puke-colored tapestries. Horrible demons surrounded me. Their fingernails matched their teeth: long, crooked, yellow and browning. Their bloodshot eyes bugged out of their foreheads and the smell they emitted was amongst the worst I ever encountered; it was like someone took 72 pounds of raw meat, marinated it in milk and pig turds and left it in a burning dumpster next to a skunk dying of a stomach virus to cook on the interstate. Strangely enough I saw that their driver was a very well-dressed man: expensive white suit.
One of them, a pudgy balding guy with sideburns wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a straw hat noticed me tumbling around. "I think he's waking up, Tim."
I don't know how Timothy Leary and I became such close friends but that was pretty much the genesis of our relationship. We existed on completely different personality planes. I hated new ageists and I hated hippies even more -- though Leary always denied being called either. But our dissonance from modern society made for strange bedfellows I suppose. In the months that I traveled with Leary we ingested many mind-altering substances together, many I had already taken during Vietnam. I knew about acid, I knew about DMT, I knew about ketamine and salvia. But the one drug - the one wonderdrug - that he exposed me to during this time period was one I will never forget for as long as I live. "The fruit and necessity of life," he called it. I just called it by its real name: Uranium ore.
What's so special about Uranium Ore? Other than its easy accessibility (you can pick a jar that'll last you months for about 30.00 on Amazon) it is by far the most powerful drug I ever ingested, more-so than even a crushed Sudafed sprinkled into a diet pepsi can do. Its effects on the human mind and conscious are no less than paradigm-altering. You still your hands into that glowing neon goo and you'll never be the same again; and it's all for the better, my friends.
On August 8th 1969 Leary invited about a half dozen of his church parishioners and myself out to Yucca Flats. He called me on the phone that morning and told me that we were not just going to meet God, but all become one with him as well. I thought it was more of the same hippy-dippy crap I heard from him a hundred times or more, but little did I know how right he would actually be in his description.
That night under the Arizonian stars Leary gave a speech, a sort of re-imagining of the last supper. I wasn't paying much attention to what he was saying as he was going off into tagents, most of which I had little to no comprehensibility or patience for. In the corner of my eye I saw and iguana with three heads burrow itself into the sand.
When Leary finally finished his long-winded speech he reached into his Star Trek lunchbox and pulled out several canisters of uranium ore and a box of sodium crackers. We smeared that glowing paste onto the crackers and ingested it. Minutes later we left the Earth, traveled throughout space and time and broke through the Universe. We watched as it was created, destroyed, disintegrated, buried, and re-created once again. All constraints of time and space were abolished as we watched this - our entire history, histories of the future, and histories of every single nanoparticle in the universe live and die and collide with one another all at once. "Fear not, brother" a voice from the outer reaches of my mind called to me. "This is just the natural progression of consciousness." I felt the matrixes of my mind shift into one loving whole conscious plateau as I traveled through the rings of the sixth Zoltron Nebula. I met with the minds of Plato, Hippocrates, James Joyce, Walt Disney, Robert Anton Wilson, James Dean, D.W. Griffith, Louis Ferdinand Celine, and Sonny Liston. We discussed being and all there was to be. Our conversations went on for hundreds of millennia without ever becoming reduced to mindless dull banter - all of this was just a flash to the omniscient infinite universe. And then I heard the Universe speak to me again: "Someone. Call the police! Please call the police!"
And then I was in Nature's Habitat, naked and crying like a toddler, spastically rolling around on a pile of shirts that displayed fierce tigers, wolves howling at the moon, and mourning bald eagles clutching the American flag as they flew over the crumbling twin towers. All my muscles lost control. I was throwing up all over myself; my bowels were emptied on the floor and fermented with my sweat and urine. My eyes rolled back and upward. The manager, a middle-aged Korean guy, poked my flaying body with a wicker broom and screamed. "What's wrong with you! Why you do this? Someone! Please help! Please call police! Get this man out of my store! Please! He crazy!"
To this day I don't know how I found myself inside Nature' Habitat immediately after traveling the cosmos. I have no theories for this. But I do know that the trip I had while on Uranium Ore was one of a kind. My mind opened up, then my third eye, and a fourth eye, and a fifth eye and so on. Uranium Ore was the matter that created us and it'll ultimately be the same matter that will destroy us. I only tried it that one time, but that's all it would take. You don't necessarily need to repeat the process because one time is all it takes to face and converse with all the mysteries of the universe.
When I was released from my holding cell I went home, poured a glass of orange juice and turned on the television. While I was exploring and destroying the boundaries of the Universe Sharon Tate was hosting a party when she and most of her other guests were brutally murdered and dismembered by a gang of ruthless grungy-haired brain-dead savages. Some would say it signified a violent turbulent death of the peace and love generation. And so it went. I turned the television off and went to bed.
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I was very moved by this book. As a recently retired Registered Nurse, I went down there after the hurricane. I was deployed at the Houston Astrodome which sheltered the people who had sought refuge in the New Orleans Superdome. Before, during and after my stint there I followed the news reports closely in both the conventional and alternative press. Dave Eggers' story resonated with what I had experienced and what I learned. It is both heart-warming and heart-breaking to read about this disaster through the voice of a Muslim man and his family.