|The Dragon and the Ice Castle
Rediscovery of Sacred Space in the Finger Lakes
Part One: Chapter Seven
The Right Actions
Monday, February 1, 1988
The next morning, I awoke after restless sleep to find myself still in the grip of the intense mood which had settled on me in my visit to Marley's. It was the first of many days under the dark mood of Marley's. To shake off this somberness I began to make phone calls to announce my Thursday press conference. But it would be many weeks before that gloomy cloud lifted from my mind. Having never held a press conference before, I wasn't sure who to call or what to say. So I simply opened the yellow pages and began working down the lists of TV, radio and newspapers. With each call I explained its purpose was to announce environmental conditions at Pyramid's mall site.
I combed my list once, then began drafting my press release. I had many decisions to make, but most important was to be clear what to make the focus of my statement. I needed to be precise about what concerns to present and what to omit. My agreement with Irving meant I couldn't discuss the Onondaga village. Besides, to do so would bring up the subject of dowsing and that I needed to avoid. No reporter would accept dowsing to locate an archaeological site.
I couldn't decide whether to reveal the transformers. They were the real focus of my concerns, but to mention them would open up many difficult, uncomfortable questions, such as: "Who told you they were there? How did you locate them?" Issues I wasn't prepared to answer at this time.
I decided to concentrate on environmental and engineering problems created by the underground water pond. How to build a massive mall on many feet of soft, porous fill saturated with water a few feet below the surface wasn't analyzed in Pyramid's DEIS. I could point out the toxic chemicals in that water table. But here too, I couldn't reveal one real source of my information since no one would understand dowsing.
Nor could I mention the suppressed groundwater engineer's report, since this was unconfirmed rumor. Misrepresented data in a report required by NY regulations violated both professional standards and state law with criminal implications. So I had to rely on reference to Pyramid's own DEIS to demonstrate the presence of toxics. This prompted me to call Bob Arrow to see if he had learned any more from the engineer.
"I found the transformers," I said after exchanging greetings. "Oh really? Tell me."
"I went to Marley's yesterday and found a site in the north corner where five are buried. It's obvious several large objects were buried there years ago."
Startled at this information he asked, "How can you be sure?"
"I've no easy way to know they're really transformers or if they have PCBs. But whoever buried them wanted to be sure they never came to the surface again because they're buried as deep as could be"
"So Marley's may prove to be a hazardous site after all."
"Perhaps. But I have to ask again. Are you sure your friend is telling a true story? Can I talk to him to confirm his story?"
"I haven't spoken to him lately, but I trust him. I don't think he made this up. Marley's definitely bought transformers for copper and then disposed of the empty shells on site."
"What about the groundwater engineer? Have you spoken to him since?" I asked nervously.
"No luck. I called his agency but no one will say anything. I was told his firm will issue their own report soon. They've clammed up until their own statement is public."
"Too bad. There's no way for you to get any more information about the groundwater study?" I pried. "I'm afraid not. We'll have to wait for their report." Bob said. "I've called a press conference to discuss the environmental conditions at Marley's. I'll hold it this Thursday."
"Where?" Bob asked. "I'd like to be there."
"I haven't found a place yet. My best choice is the Syracuse Center for Self Healing on Lancaster. I started the place years ago, although I'm not active there now. But it's an appropriate context to talk about the environmental hazards."
"Who will speak at the press conference?" he asked. "So far just me," I answered. "The other dowsers have jobs and family and can't expose themselves. I've no job or family, so I'm free to stick my neck out."
"I suggest you get other people there who have credentials. Someone from Sierra Club. Or a geologist or toxicologist."
"Great idea but I don't know anyone to invite," I apologized. "I've been there to speak from firsthand knowledge."
"What will you say? Will you tell about the transformers?"
"Haven't decided yet. I thought about that ever since I got back from Marley's but I don't know. I wanted to confirm your information. I'll talk about the water table and toxic residues trapped in that water. What else I will say, I'm not sure yet."
"The press will ask lots of questions. They won't be impressed by dowsing," Bob repeated. "Can you get anyone to join you?"
"I wish but I have no idea who to ask. If you know anyone who is willing, let me know."
"Sure. What about the EPA? Have you called them?"
"I have their Hazardous Hotline number but haven't called. I suppose I'll have to call them, but I don't have a clear plan yet."
"Maybe I'll call EPA myself. I'll make more calls and see what I can come up with. If I have new information, I'll call."
"OK, fine. But you're sure about the transformers?"
"Yes, I trust my source, but I can't reveal who told me about them. Sorry, but I can't help you that way."
"I understand. I'll try other means to expose them. If I don't hear sooner, I'll see you Thursday." Saying good-bye, I went back to my press release confident of the transformers.
Near 11 am I left for a dental appointment. For two weeks, I had been unable to chew well due to reconstruction of my upper teeth. Since a teenager I suffered chronic tooth problems and my upper jaw was a disaster.
During the years I spent traveling the state organizing my tooth problems steadily worsened. Lacking time and money I endured toothaches, relying on my knowledge of healing. Pain from cavities would come and go and I used acupressure to ease the pains. Abscesses were a different problem.
The previous winter was a dental disaster. I developed an abscess in my upper left jaw which for once my treatments failed to drain. Three teeth were extracted, leaving me eight upstairs. Now, having retired from the ordeals of grassroots organizing, I promised to catch up on neglected dental work.
Today I would have permanent crowns installed on two upper teeth which set my bite. Two weeks earlier my dentist ground off.these two teeth and installed temporary crowns. I was unprepared for the pain and discomfort that followed this operation. For days after my teeth ached constantly. Hot or cold food and beverage sent my mouth into spasms of pain.
Returning home with my new crowns, I clicked my teeth together to test my bite. To my chagrin I found my bite had changed. Before I chewed on my left side. Now my right teeth made contact first, leaving a gap between my left teeth. I tried to eat. In dismay I discovered I could hardly chew. The gap between my left teeth made it impossible. My lack of good molars on my upper right made it difficult to chew on that side. But I was hungry so I kept chewing away, regretting my decision to have my teeth rebuilt. Before I could chew minimally, now I could hardly chew at all. After a few frustrated minutes I called my dentist to have my new crowns adjusted. Unfortunately, I had to wait two days.
After an unsuccessful attempt to eat I resumed making phone calls to announce my press conference. This completed, I returned to the press release. After several false starts I began to develop an idea of what to say and how to say it. Late that afternoon Bill Rosbrook called to confirm his appointment. We agreed on Wednesday afternoon.
"So, what's new?" Bill asked. "I've decided to hold a press conference on Thursday to announce Marley's has hazardous waste under it."
"Oh, that's great. Pyramid is going to love you," Bill said with a trace of caustic humor. "What makes you believe that?"
"I went there Sunday and found a site where several large transformers are buried. I think they contain PCBs."
"Oh really? How do you know that?" he said.
"I dowsed them," I said simply.
"Oh come on!" Bill said forcefully. "Who'll believe that?"
"Probably no one. Especially from me, the guy without a college degree. But I've done my best to be sure." "Well, it's your neck to stick out." Bill sounded amused.
"Will you tell Pyramid before you go to the press?"
"I don't know," I replied honestly. "My sense of fairness says to give them a chance to respond before I go to the press. I tried calling their office, but no one returned my calls."
Bill then surprised me. "Want me to set up a meeting?" he said. "My neighbor Bruce Kenan is in charge of building the mall. I can call him and get you a meeting. I think you would make a big mistake to not meet him first. What do you say?" I hesitated, "Look, I'm in over my head and not sure. I respect your advice. If you think I should meet Pyramid, I will."
"OK, I'll call Bruce. When do you want your meeting?"
"The press conference is noon so I need to talk to your neighbor Thursday morning," I said, trying to sound sure.
In minutes, Bill called back. "You're set for 10am Thursday."
"Sounds perfect. I'll see you Wednesday and give you a press release for Bruce to read before our meeting. And we can talk about this Wednesday. I appreciate your advice."
|The Dragon and the Ice Castle
Rediscovery of Sacred Space in the Finger Lakes
144 pages, 8.5 x 11 soft cover
available from Turtle EyeLand
"Sure. Sounds like fun. Anything to keep you from getting your goose cooked," Bill roared gaily.
"I'm off to a hot start. Sunday night after I decided to tackle this I got a real jolt. Someone called and a raspy, threatening voice says, 'Stay away from Oil City. Oil City don't mean nothin' but trouble for you.' I just about peed in my pants." I laughed to remember my reaction. "It turned out to be a friend with a bizarre sense of humor. It took a few minutes to figure out who was. The tip-off was when he mentioned Karen Silkwood."
Bill roared again, "Well, listen, these guys don't operate like that. Don't worry about threats." In a sinister voice he added, "They have other ways to deal with guys like you." Then he chortled. I joined him laughing, shedding some of my tension.
It was a relief to hear my adventure wouldn't turn into a Hollywood crime story. "I'm glad to hear that. Everyone else paints these guys as real bad heavies. I've been worried what to expect. I need the reassurance. Thanks."
|THE RIGHT ACTIONS
These statements summarize my understanding of how Pyramid can get its Carouse1 Center out of the swamp:
1. Call the true landlords of the property: the Onondaga Nation. Meet with them within the week to discuss their wishes for the disposition of their village. Irving Powless 666-5555
2. Call Marley's Scrap Yard: tell the manager to remove all electric transformers buried on the site and all other such vile materials within one week.
3. Call Marley's Scrap Yard: tell the manager to clean up all oil spills within 48 hours and not to permit any more.
4. Call the EIS groundwater engineer: ask for his complete report within two weeks, and be sure I get an complete, unedited, unfiltered copy.
5. Call your site engineer: tell him to begin a study of the underground water pond and how to safely drain it. Give me his report.
6. Call Syracuse Common Council President Jim Walsh: ask him to moderate a series of Developers' Roundtables to discuss orderly and harmonious economic growth for Syracuse. Attend all of them.
7. Give me rights to use a particular spot I have chosen on the site for an herb and flower garden to be known as "Peacemaker Park."
These seven must be done for Carousel Center to succeed. This eighth is a recommendation, not a requirement:
8. Establish a fund to clean up Onondaga Lake, and tithe a percentage of Carousel Center income to that fund. Encourage but don't require your tenants to do likewise. And invite Onondaga Nation to sit on the Fund Committee.
"No problem. Gotta go. See you Wednesday."
That evening several friends came for dinner. When I moved into the house I had made a commitment to cook macrobiotic dinners twice a week. Over the next several weeks, these dinners were food to nourish my burdened soul and keep me humanly grounded as I wrestled with the responsibility I had accepted. Those evening meals served more than anything else to steady my spirit and warm my heart. The companions gathered around my table to share good food kept me connected to my own humanity. Truly, if I had lacked those weekly rituals of food and fellowship, I would have failed.
This night dinner was uncomfortable. My altered bite made it laborious to grind my food, so I restricted myself to dishes of softer food. I left the table still hungry and worried about my future ability to eat.
At 10pm, everyone left and the kitchen was clean. I returned to work on my press release. It took shape both in my mind and my word processor. Satisfied I had the threads to weave together my statement, I paused to consider what to say at my meeting with Pyramid. I sat erect at my keyboard with my eyes closed meditating on what I could say. My brow wrinkled as my mind wrestled with my predicament. I tried to clear away the turbulence in my thoughts and see clearly with a calm mind what path I should take. How could I present myself to Pyramid and the press without appearing to oppose the mall?
Suddenly a bright light of insight illuminated my path. In a single second I saw clearly the statement I needed to present Pyramid. Rapidly I scribbled notes on paper to capture that . flash before it faded in memory. Some precise details of language remained unsure, but the essential statements were vividly clear in that instant.
After ten minutes I felt confident I had it. Turning back to my keyboard I translated my notes into complete, polished statements. I watched in surprise as the fragments took form. When I was finished I had seven points. Then I added a final eighth point to address a larger issue.