|The Dragon and the Ice Castle
Rediscovery of Sacred Space in the Finger Lakes
Part One: Chapter Nineteen
The Hole Truth
Friday, February 19, 1988
My 10am press conference was a bust. A lone reporter from the Post Standard showed. She was sincerely concerned, but her paper had carried no notice of my activities February 5. I thanked her for her one meaningful article. I explained Pyramid was ignoring me, so I was going to Marley's Sunday to dig a hole. She said she'd try to be there, but she might be with her family.
That done, I pounded the pavement downtown delivering press releases. First stop was the The Syracuse New Times editor Walt Sheppard. I handed him a copy of The Hole Truth. After reading it, he asked what time I'd be at Marley's.
"After church," I answered. "I'm going pray first, then head for Marley's. I'll be there by 1 o'clock."
"We'll be there. I'll see if our photographer can come."
"The transformers are in the north corner. I'll meet you under the Hiawatha Street bridge. I'm not looking forward to this. I might be arrested for trespass. I have to dig a hole six feet deep, and if PCBs have leaked, I'll be digging contaminated soil. I'm a 38 year old bachelor but I still hope to get married and have kids. The idea of being contaminated with PCBs scares me, but this is my only way to force an investigation." Walt smiled as he jotted down notes. We talked a few moments more, then I left.
It was snowing—the sidewalks were wet, sloppy and slippery.
My first three stops were all on Clinton Square: Herald Journal on the north (feature writer Dick Case and reporter Henry Davis), The Clinton Exchange on the west (Bruce Kenan), WSYR Radio on the south (reporter Greg Lowe).
At Pyramid, I approached the receptionist and announced, "David Yarrow to see Bruce Kenan." She rang upstairs on the intercom, then reported Mr. Kenan was out of town.
"I'd like to leave him something," I said. "Will you see he gets these?" I left The Hole Truth and a copy of Dowsing: History and Techniques, a booklet I'd written in 1984.
I crossed Water Street to Syracuse Mall and took an escalator to WSYR Radio where I waited quietly for Greg Lowe. After a few minutes, he emerged to show warmth and concern for my situation. He promised to call Bruce Kenan himself to ask what Pyramid intended to do about the transformers. I thanked him, and promised to tell him the results of my dig.
I trudged and slid to City Hall where I handed The Hole Truth to a white-haired policeman who guarded the Mayor's Office door. I left him engrossed in my writing.
Upstairs in the Common Council Office I left The Hole Truth in Councilors mailboxes. Suddenly Joan Christensen emerged from a meeting room. She was on her way to a luncheon and agreed to my company out of the building.
"So, how goes your struggle with Pyramid?" she asked.
"Not well. I call a couple times a week. Bruce is out or in a meeting, so I leave messages, he doesn't answer. I guess he'll ignore me forever. He probably thinks I'm nuts or a hatchetman for Eagan Real Estate."
"Oh, I don't think so," she said kindly. "I think Bruce was impressed by the way you presented yourself two weeks ago. Besides, even if you're a nut, he should take the possibility of toxic chemicals at Marley's seriously."
"Where are you headed now?" I asked.
"I have to talk on recycling to a neighborhood luncheon," she said wearily. "Solid waste is a hot community concern."
"I said long ago waste is America's only growing resource," I chuckled. "Now we're drowning in it. The county spent years trying to find ways to dispose of waste and is no closer to a cure. Funny—Marley's was once a city dump. Now it's to become a shopping mall, which generates tremendous waste."
Next stop was Merchants Bank on Warren Street—Syracuse's Wall Street—I rode the elevator to the Shearson-Lehman-American Express office. I asked to see Mark Stanczyk, a County Legislator who'd just stepped down as Minority Leader.
I met Mark years before when he was Director of Northeast Hawley Development Association (NEHDA), a neighborhood organization in an old section near downtown. The Syracuse New Times published an article I wrote about a house NEHDA rehabbed into a passive solar dwelling. Shortly after, Mark ran for the Legislature and won. He distinguished himself, and rose to Minority Leader.
My relations with Mark didn't end then. In 1982, I presented a resolution to the County Legislature to create a Food and Agriculture Council. At the end of Governor Carey's administration, I quit lobbying in Albany for state food policy, and began talking to local officials about the food system. I quickly realized neither City nor County had an office, agency or person with significant responsibility for agriculture and food supply, nor did any other county in New York. So I set out to create one.
At the time the Legislature Chair was Nick Pirro, who was elected County Executive in 1987. In 1981, Nick Pirro reviewed my resolution for a Food and Agriculture Council and agreed completely with my concept and plan. He personally presented it to the Legislature's Planning Committee, chaired by Bill Sanford. Mark Stanczyk was on that committee.
The Committee reviewed my resolution, approved it unanimously, and sent it to Cooperative Extension. After a year of meetings I attended on my own, Extension returned a plan for an Onondaga County Food System Council. This was approved by the Legislature, and the Council formed in 1984.
The Council has 16 public members appointed by the Legislature and Executive, five ex officio members from county agencies and two legislators. Mark and Bill Sanford sit as legislators on the Council. Since I have no official status, work for no official body, and have no credentials, I wasn't appointed to the Council. But I attended Council meetings to watch its slow progress toward my vision.
Now, the receptionist said Mark would see me. I walked down the lobby and turned right into a narrow corridor lined with offices. Mark met me halfway and led me to his office.
"David! Great to see you!" Mark was ever gregarious. I envied his natural ability to sound excited. I felt like a dark cloud hung over my head. "What's up?" he boomed.
"Pyramid, and PCBs" I said and handed him The Hole Truth. I sat quietly while he scanned the pages.
Looking up Mark said, "Looks good. I read your other materials. It seems you know what you're doing."
"The only thing I know for sure is the transformers are there. I've taken six other friends to Marley's, and we agree there's five of them buried there. I'm in this over my head. Pyramid ignores me. I've got to prove those toxic bombs are there."
"What can I do to help?" Mark was sincere and direct.
"At the moment, all I can think is for you to call Bruce Kenan, and ask him what he intends to do about the transformers."
"No problem. Consider it done."
"Thanks for seeing me and being willing to help," I said.
Mark surprised me. "David, how are you doing through all this? You don't look well. Thin and drawn. Are you all right?"
"I'm not doing well. The pressure's great. I haven't had much good sleep in a while. My girlfriend was away in Florida, so I've faced this alone. Plus, I'm getting my teeth rebuilt, so I'm not able to chew well. My life's on hold while I get the transformers removed. I moved to a house in November I want to buy, but no bank will give me a mortgage. With all this Pyramid stuff, I've made no progress to find a way to finance a purchase." We chatted about the Food System Council, and said good-bye.
At the County Courthouse, I left The Hole Truth for Bill Sanford, now Chair of the Legislature. From there, I walked around the comer to the Civic Center. On the fourteenth floor, I left The Hole Truth for County Executive Pirro. I rode the elevator to the eighth floor to see the new County Environmental Director. I spent a few minutes talking to him.
I left him very upset. He was cordial, condescending and completely complacent. "Don't worry," he told me, "PCBs are everywhere. You can take dirt off streets and find PCBs. Before we knew they were toxic, PCBs were put in transmissions."
I elected not to argue, and ended our discussion, angry the one man in county government who should investigate would dismiss me so blithely. He'd oversee application of sewage sludge to farmland. Will he dismiss heavy metals and contaminants in sludge as glibly as he disregards PCBs? Could he be trusted to safeguard the county food supply? I felt horror at the future we face at the hands of such professional fools.
Disturbed, I slogged across Columbus Circle through wet snow to a 4pm appointment with an older man with Parkinson's disease. It was payday, so I stopped to get my check. Ripping open the envelope I saw I'd made $12.60 in the last two weeks.
"Great," I thought, "all this fuss over Pyramid's mall, and I won't to be able to pay next month's rent either. How can I can keep my life together while I get the transformers removed?"
After my lone appointment, I left downtown and drove up slippery James Street to leave The Hole Truth at TV news stations. From there I drove to Dewitt to WIXT-TV.
Tired, discouraged, overwhelmed, needing warm human company, I went to Wellspring for dinner. On my way in, I noticed two "For Sale” signs on the building—one for Pyramid, the other for Eagan. "How ironic," I thought. "The landlord's selling the Center's building, and the sales agents are on both sides of this battle over a shopping mall."
Inside, the room was crowded, and I took solace in the company of my friends. Before sitting down, I gave The Hole Truth to a few friends. One at my table asked, "Aren't you afraid Pyramid might threaten you?"
I smiled, "Not at all. I'm not afraid of Pyramid. They play their game to the limit of the law, but they won't break the law. Besides, each step I've had guidance and protection. The right people have been in the right place at the right time. With so many coincidences, I'm confident I'm doing the right thing and protected from harm. I know it sounds odd, but I believe spiritual forces are directing this drama." I hoped I sounded confident. Inside, I writhed in nervous doubt and anxiety.
Finishing my meal, I headed into the kitchen to help serve dessert. I was stopped by Lucy, who took over as President after I left the Board last fall. When I opened the Center, we'd been lovers, but she broke off our relationship, claiming she wanted to "have more fun." I was crushed, since I wanted to marry her. Dedication to organizing has made my personal life difficult.
Last fall, Lucy called me three days before the annual Members Meeting to elect a Board of Directors. She. told me to get off the Board because I "had too much power." This set off an argument which I ended by asking: "Why do we compete for power instead of working together to help people in need?"
I couldn't provide counseling and care to people in crisis in an atmosphere of personal and political conflict, so I sought a home. Free of running the Center I concentrated on my own life and assisting others. Now I sensed trouble headed my way.
"David, are you going to pay for your dinner?" Here it was. "I already did." My stomach contracted in a wave of tension. "Oh, I didn't know you paid $7?" Lucy said.
"No, I paid for my dinner with the sweat and blood I put into this place, first to create it, then bring it back to life when it almost closed while I organized farmers:'
"That was then. We can't afford to give you free meals."
"I couldn't afford to give the Center all those hours and weeks of my life, either, but I did. If I hadn't this place wouldn't be here now." I was conscious we argued in a crowded dining room. I couldn't believe she was so rude to attack me now.
''You could stay to help clean up and wash dishes," She was like a hungry dog after a deer.
"I used to almost every week, until I got a lot of grief. So I said, 'Why bother if all I get for being helpful is abuse?' So I quit staying after." Sweat beaded on my palms and armpits.
"Bill offered to pay for your dinner. Should I ask him for $7?"
"If I think he should pay for my dinner, I'll ask him myself."
"David, the Center can't feed you for free. You're no different than anyone else. You have to pay for your meals."
I knew most weeks food was given or thrown away. Lucy, who never cleaned after dinners, didn't appreciate that. My gut tightened in a knot as I restrained my surging emotions.
"Look, I just got a $12.60 paycheck because I've taken responsibility for something which has consumed my time. I can't pay this month's rent, and probably can't pay next month's. I'm standing up to one of the biggest corporations in town. I need support right now, not harassment."
"That's your problem and you have to take responsibility for that, David. Right now the Center needs $7 from you."
I'd had enough. It was either end this gut wrenching confrontation, or create a scene. I moved past Lucy to my seat.
I sat down trembling. Being shy, sensitive and slow moving, I didn't enjoy arguments, nor do I survive them well. Deb, a Board member who overheard the argument, touched my arm. Grateful, I held her hand, and took deep breaths. My guts churned. My dinner wouldn't digest well.
Deb gave me dessert. I looked at it pondering my dilemma. Since finding the transformers my new lifestyle had collapsed. I had little time or emotion left for my work. It seemed my safe course was to eat dinner at home alone. Even if I had $7, Lucy was still after my scalp.
|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
I picked up a spoon to eat dessert. A man at the end of my table put down The Hole Truth. He looked at me and asked, "Would you like to do a half hour video about this?"
I looked back in total surprise. Recovering, I said, "What I know of Marley's would take more than a half hour."
"I'm program director for a TV station. Robert Congel hired us to chronicle construction of the Carousel Center mall. I'd like to include a piece on your discoveries. If you're interested."
After dinner, Tim Atlanta showed slides of his trip to Peru to see Machu Pichu, the ancient Inca capital high in the Andes Mountains, and the Nazca lines on the coastal plain below. At one point, Tim commented on dowsing an Inca ruin.
I called up from where I was lying on the floor, "Hey Tim! Did you discover where the Inca's buried their transformers?" Tim chuckled, and several people in the room laughed.