Saturday, December 02, 2006


Is there water on Mars?

Yes or no, I want to know.

No more of this 'let's-send-our-miniature-land-rover-and-wait-for-its-kodak-moments-to-be-beamed-back-to-us' stuff that the scientists have got going on, the results of which, as was noted a few weeks ago in the press, have been fruitful, yes, but also, suddenly, dormant. No more photos. No more contact with the little remote-controlled car that snapped pics of that alient planet's dips and valleys. NASA has lost contact with the teeny-tiny car; it's gone AWOL.

All those millions and millions of miles it's travelled through space, that dark and lonely frontier, doing its duty for God and the Queen, and now it's gone, somewhere on Mars, under the silver moon, adjacent to the golden sun, buried, perhaps, under an unending army of sand-coloured rocks.


Me, I think it's found something.

The little car, I mean.

I suspect it's stumbled upon a group of Martians kicked back around their own cosmic campfire, chilling, slugging back Coors, roasting some marshmallows, Martian-style. (What that style may actually be, I know not.)

The metallic little goofball that the space agency has invested tens of millions of dollars in has unexpectedly found its own form of friends. That's what I believe has happened, or what I would like to believe has taken place.

I mean, think about it. Hurtling through space. All that blackness. Constantly bordering on the infinite. Not easy, I would think, rubbing shoulders with the spacetime continuum. (A lot of pressure, too. Get the pics. Discover mars. Snap some shots. Show us all that planet has to offer.)

I can't blame the machine for hooking up with his newfound homies. If he has, of course. But, if he has, and if those aliens are getting pleasantly buzzed off of their homemade galactic ale, then that means that the long-held rumors, the whispers, the words of hope and awe are true, and the water is there. On Mars. Maybe just a little; maybe just a drop. But there, wet and waiting.

So send us a taste.

if NASA's little R2-D2 has hit the spot, finished its patrol, called it a career, fine. It's done all that needs to be done, and more, as far as I'm concerned. Let the boy retire gracefully under the soft amber glow of the Martian moon, singing electronic songs with his Martian comrades. Solitary no more.

But the water.

Collect it in a bottle, is what I'm asking it to do. One more task, one more flask, that's all. One last mission. Gather that liquid, and toss it back, mail it back, catapult it back to us, to Earth, to me.

I'm patient. I'll wait. I mean, shit, just e-mail me the co-ordinates, and I'll gladly hunker doown outside, in the desert, on the plains, whereever. I know it may take awhile, but that's fine. I'm only thirty-one, after all, which once seemed quite old, but now seems to have a potential and a grace that I had never suspected would come with age.

I've still got time, is what I'm saying, so I can wait. Five, ten years, whatever. I'll sleep under the stars, if need be, and watch the sky, telescope in hand, ready to spot the slow and steady descent of that magnificent silver bottle. I'll even buy a baseball glove, --new, not used. (Leathery and indulgent with that rich, evocative smell that only baseball gloves fresh from the box seem to possess.) To soften the bottle's fast and fiery descent, I will tuck that glove tight onto my right wrist, lefty-style, and hold it firm. That the silver bottle will not shatter, not after such a long and volatile journey -- this, I swear.

(For silver is how I do, indeed, picture the husk of that bottle, the one with the Martian water. Silver, with a hint of the future. Silver, with a slight smattering of dark and red Martian dust spreading across its oval back. I will rub that dust and touch it with my fingers. Of this I am sure.)

I just want to have it in my hands -- that bottle, and that water.

To know that we're not alone.

To believe that what is here can be there, and that life itself, often so fragile and tenuous down on Earth, has a validity and a presence and a sheer, tactile resilience elsewhere, away, beyond what we can precisely see and experience -- this is important to me. Perhaps even essential.

I want to catch that bottle with my glove.

I want to unscrew the lid.

I want to slowly, leisurely, tantalizingly let the taste of that Martian water surge past my teeth and drench my tongue. I will not guzzle, no, but I will gulp, if only once. Life is meant to be gulped.

I want to gulp, and swallow, and lick my lips, and drink once more.

And wait to see how long it takes before the water finally fills me up.


I'm currently reading a very entertaining, if practically incomprehensible (to me) book called The Fabric Of The Cosmos: Space, Time, And The Texture Of Reality by Brian Greene, one of those reader-friendly science tomes that uses X-Files and Simpsons and Chewbacca analogies to make the subject easier for idiots like me, but c'mon, who's kidding who.

(The only time in my life I was pulled out into the hall happened in Ernie Umbrico's Grade 12 Physics class, where I flipped out after getting about ten percent on a test I had studied days for, all to no end. Of course, 'flipped out', for me, meant throwing my test paper bled with red into the air and moaning 'what the hell?' in as loud a voice as possible. Mr.Umbrico, kind soul that he was, currently in a wheelchair but doing fine, from what I hear, took me out into the hall and asked me what was up. I told him that first period was Grade 11 Chemistry, where I didn't know what the hell was going on, every day, all semester, and right after that I walked into Grade 12 Physics, where I didn't know what the hell was going on, repeatedly, all semester. The guidance counsellor had told me it was either Physics or a class called Yearbook; me, not believing a class called Yearbook was even possible, opted for the Physics. Bad call. But I'm still here, and so is Umbrico, I think, so that must stand for something.)

What this book speculates, among other subjects, is that advances in quantum mechanics hint, if not forsee, multiple realities and parallel universes that may, in fact, already exist side-step with our own, individual views of reality.

A lot of scientists and researchers disagree on the subject, of course. I mean, hell, nobody can agree on which Rocky flick is the best, so how could they possibly decide on whether or not alternate universes are a go? (Me, I love Rocky II, always have, although, in my heart of hearts, I know that the first one is the best one. And Rocky Balboa comes out in a few weeks, so I need to reserve judgement until watching this final chapter. As should you.)

Do parellel universes exist?

I don't doubt it.

Just the other day I looked down the street, towards the sky, and it's gone -- Mount Fuji, I mean.

It's not there on certain days. Invisible. Unseen.

On particular days, when winter is fickle, when the air is cool and the clouds are thick, layers upon layers of mist will shroud this, the tallest, grandest of mountains in Japan. Rendering it, well, gone, for all intents and purposes. (Do mountains have intents? Or purposes, for that matter? Just go with me here, okay?)

It's as if David Copperfield decided that the Statue of Liberty wasn't a big enough peak to make disappear and decided, instead, to try his luck with a steeper, craggier target. (Tommy Lee Jones wasn't available, so he opted for Fuji.)

And yet, even when I can't see it, Mount Fuji is there. Hiding. Cloaked. Shrouded.

Which makes me wonder.

What else is here, around me, within me, that can't be seen but must be present?

Like that episode of Mork and Mindy, the one where Robin Williams somehow shrank into Pam Dawber's kitchen tablecloth and discovered another, smaller universe contained within the confines of the molecules of that red-and-white checkered spread of fabric, a world where Steve Martin, in a 'special guest appearance', ran rampant in fields of green and gold.

(Missed that one? You should totally check it out. Completely screwed with my head at the age of seven, and had me checking out various tablecloths on various tables and thinking: "Hmmm...")

Current science -- or what little I understand of it, anyways -- renders the infinite into a somewhat more palatable state of possibility. Fragments of alternate galaxies could be here, now, around us, like Fuji in the fog.

If we're careful, and alert, and awake to the possibility, I'm certain that one day, sometime soon, those worlds will make themselves clear, perhaps even permeable.

We will cross through them, cold and bracing, like fingers pinching snow.

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