|The Dragon and the Ice Castle
Rediscovery of Sacred Space in the Finger Lakes
Part One: Chapter Twenty Nine
Pyramid Plays Pharoah
Tuesday, March 15, 1988
"God bless her!" I said in a choked voice as tears filled my eyes. I had just read a letter from a woman I saw every week at meetings of the Onondaga County Citizens League. It was addressed to Dick Case and Bill Ferguson at the Syracuse Herald Journal,
I generally don't comment about items other than issues regarding feminism, especially reproductive rights, but your articles about David Yarrow and "Oil City" at the time of the Alexander, et al incident compel me to relate an anecdote.
In my youth, I did commercial interior design work for two office equipment suppliers. Between 1967-69, while working for one of the companies, I was to try to get business from Carrier. At that time, Marley's Office Equipment had all of Carrier's business. I finally made contact with a middle management individual who told me to stop wasting my time at Carrier. The bottom line was Carrier was paying Marley as much as they could to remove their waste, but considering how bad the "stuff" was, he had the office contract exclusively to make more money for doing dirty work. (Marley's also did your building.)
So please encourage your paper to keep the spotlight on "Oil City" until we really know what is there. My guess is that what was dirty in '67-69 is lethal today.
I gave the letter to Barbara, who was looking at me quizzically, wondering what prompted my emotion. Barbara had come for a visit and talk, and to give me a ride downtown. After she read the letter, she asked me what it meant.
"It means there may be more dirty industrial secrets than PCBs buried at Marley's. Thank God someone in this town has the concern and courage to speak up." We talked a few more minutes about Marley's and our personal problems, and then dressed to head for the heart of the city.
Minutes before noon, Barbara parked at the corner of Clinton and Genesee Streets beside the rear door to Pyramid's offices. The massive brown stones of the Old Federal Courthouse rose impassive and impressive from the sidewalk. After a few minutes, a thin middle aged man in a brown suit with gray streaks in his hair and beard emerged from Pyramid's backdoor. He had the aura of a professional. I knew instantly this was Ed Harrington, architect for the Carousel Center mall.
He stepped off the curb a few feet in front of our car to cross the street. His thin, angular face highlighted the pointed line of his bearded chin. As he passed in front of us I stared at him. Turning his head, his eyes met mine. I perceived a tiny start of emotion in his face and wondered if he recognized me. My face had been boldly displayed in the paper four days earlier. He'd undoubtedly read the article and seen my picture. Without a second glance he crossed the street and into the restaurant.
Minutes later, I saw Silas Gordon walk around the comer and disappear into the restaurant. Gathering my sign and papers, I kissed Barbara good-bye and headed to the meeting place.
Inside the lunch crowd was beginning to fill the seats around narrow tables jammed into narrower aisles. It was noisy and smoky and sure to get more so as more workers crowded in for the midday meal. I spotted Silas and Ed sitting in a booth on the left side of the room, which was divided by a low wall crowned by a lattice partition.
Silas was an old friend. In 1979, he was welding coolant units for nuclear reactors at Carrier when he walked into my class on "Macrobiotics and Acupressure." He didn't like welding reactor components, but after watching the poor work of his co-workers, he decided to tackle the task himself with meticulous care.
The weekend before the last of my classes, Three Mile Island went wild near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. That same April Fool's Day weekend I was hosting my first statewide conference on regional agriculture and food supply. Silas was there. Silas had a close family member who worked at Three Mile Island. An engineer at GE Hydroponics was also at my conference who had a brother who worked at Three Mile Island. Saturday we all knew that the reactor was melting down out of control, and Sunday morning we knew a hydrogen bubble in the reactor vessels was in danger of exploding. Silas was beside himself. In June his contract ended, and he quit his job to travel the US visiting solar and wind energy research projects.
Now, nine years later, Silas was a contractor dreaming about building solar houses. Two weeks earlier Ed Harrington had called him to discuss a project. In the course of their talk, Ed asked about me, knowing Silas knew me. Silas spoke well of me, and offered to arrange a meeting. Ed declined, but not before picking Silas's brain about me.
Now, Silas was having lunch with Ed. At risk to his professional relationship with Ed, Silas invited me to be present. He planned to ask Ed again if he would like to meet me, and, if Ed agreed, I would be invited to their table. I promised Silas I would act as a gentleman and neither jeopardize his business connection with Ed nor antagonize Ed.
I sat at a small table on the right side of the room. The waitress came with a menu. I scanned it several times searching for something that wasn't meat or grease. Nothing appealed to me, and my nervous stomach left me with no appetite anyway. After a long wait, I ordered coffee and chicken noodle soup. A few diners stopped to read my sign propped against the table. Some smiled or chuckled, others shook their heads. I wondered how many Pyramid staff took their lunch here and were reading my sign.
I ate slowly, killing time waiting for a signal from Silas to join him with Ed in their booth. I fished through my black leather case for something to read and discovered a folder of photos I had taken the previous week. Among them were shots of Silas' family. The smoke, noise and crowd thickened. After waiting many long minutes I decided to give Silas the photos and leave. I finished my second cup of coffee, slipped the photos in an envelope and walked around the partition to the booth where Silas and Ed were talking.
Ed's back was to me, but Silas saw me coming. He gave me a sharp glance and his hand waved nervously at me from the tabletop, warning me away. I wondered whether to comply, but decided by now it didn't matter. Ed Harrington undoubtedly saw me in the car and wasn't going to talk to me.
Reaching the booth I handed Silas the photos. "I just found these photos of your family," I explained, "and thought I'd give them to you now. Don't let me interrupt your lunch. I'll talk to you later." Silas looked ready to jump out of his' skin. For his sake I regretted my move but I reasoned it made no difference.
I decided to try making phones calls to the press from a pay phone, but could reach no one. Finally, I left and stood on the street staring at Pyramid's backdoor, gratefully breathing cold air. It was singed with auto exhaust, but cleaner than the smoky restaurant. My stomach churned from salty soup and coffee.
I considered my next move. I decided to try Pyramid's front door one more time. I walked slowly through the cold air to Clinton Square and through the brass doors into the Clinton Exchange. I propped my sign against the receptionist's station and asked to see Bruce Kenan. The receptionist phoned upstairs, and then informed me Mr. Kenan was at lunch. I stood there wondering what to do next.
Suddenly a figure in white shirt, tie and dark pants appeared on the marble stairs. Looking up, I saw Bruce Kenan gaily descending the steps. In his left hand he clutched a thin sheaf of papers. The white pages hung down from his fingers, flapping lightly in the breeze of his passage. He looked gay and carefree, like a kid on his way to a playground.
Spotting me at the foot of the steps, he called out in a happy voice, "Hello, David. How are you?"
"Tired, Bruce. Very tired." He hardly slowed his pace as he reached the bottom step and approached me. His right hand stuck out and we shook quickly. I peered into his face, searching for a sign of emotion and found no clue to Bruce's inner feelings at this unexpected encounter. He barely paused and continued past me to open a door. I called out, "Bruce, when are we going to have our meeting?"
He paused for just an instant to say, "I'll have to call you about that," and then disappeared through the door.
I stood numbly wondering at the contrast between Bruce's happy mood and my own feeling of somber heaviness. Anger and resentment flared from my guts. I wrestled with my feelings while my mind searched for a next step. Finally I turned to the receptionist and said, "I'd like to speak to Robert Congel's secretary, please."
She phoned upstairs and after a few minutes an attractive middle aged woman in red dress and heels stepped gracefully down the marble stairway. As she reached the last step she saw my sign and read it as she approached. She stopped before me and I looked carefully into her face.
"I'm David Yarrow. Did you read the newspaper article about me in the Friday Herald?" She nodded and said nothing.
I continued, "Do you have any opinion about the situation?" Carefully she said, "I'm not at liberty to discuss my opinions." "I understand," I said evenly. "Do you have any feelings about it?"
She looked uncomfortable and replied, "My feelings aren't important in Pyramid's business dealings."
I paused to give her a penetrating look. "So much for women's lib," I thought. After brief silence I said, "Would you deliver a message to Robert Congel for me?" She seemed relieved at my even tone of voice and nodded.
'Tell Mr. Congel he is holding the City of Syracuse hostage because he refuses to do what is right and investigate the situation at Marley's. Tell him what's buried at Marley's isn't only a threat to his mall, but is a danger to the entire city."
I paused and she made a move to leave. But I continued, 'Tell him that with what I know about Marley's, if there is ever a fire there, I will tell all my friends to move out of Onondaga Valley and never come back. The smoke cloud that would rise off of Marley's would contaminate everything it touches." My voice descended and tightened into a deep, resonant pitch as I shoved all my fear and frustration into it.
She looked at me in alarm and uncertainty, then turned and walked back up the stairs. Picking up my bag and sign, I bid the receptionist a good day and left.
That evening I went to Silas's house for dinner to hear about his discussion with Ed Harrington. He was angry with me for walking into his conversation rather than awaiting his signal. I apologized and explained Ed already knew I was there and it was obvious he had no intention to talk to me. So I decided to give him the photos and leave.
Silas explained Harrington became angry after I left. "He asked me, 'Was this a setup?' He acted like he was scared of you. The guy has a lot of fear. He was afraid to talk to you."
"He should be," I said laughing. "Not because I'm such a bad guy, but because I've got bad news for his pet project."
Silas continued, "I told him I invited you to the restaurant, but we didn't intend to force any situation on him. I had to exert a lot of effort and time to placate him."
Silas was still agitated about my intrusion, and I apologized again for upsetting his luncheon with Ed.
Silas continued, "So Ed said to me, 'Who does David Yarrow think he is to stand in Robert Congel's way?' He sounded real indignant, like no one should dare oppose their grand plans. Like the average guy has no place in their schemes. It stunk of incredible arrogance."
''Yes, well, so it seems they are," I replied, and explained what happened when I met Kenan in Pyramid's lobby minutes later.
Silas wasn't finished unloading his own tale. "What really shocked me was when Ed said to me, 'So what if we lose the parking lot?' He as much as admitted the parking lot would be on soft fill which would eventually settle and crack."
'That parking lot is the asphalt cap Pyramid claims will seal any contamination in the site." My voice rose in anger. "How arrogant to toss it off as a possible engineering mistake." I was outraged at the idea not even Pyramid believed their proposed solution would seal the toxic water problem under the site.
"I guess they're hypnotized in the belief they can throw money at the problem and get away with it. I couldn't believe Ed said such a thing." Silas sounded genuinely incredulous.
With a heavy voice tinged with anger I said, "Well, I guess it's up to me to force them to take the situation seriously. So I'd better get out there and take my sample."
"Well, I tried to impress Harrington what a heavy dude you are. I told him you had national connections with a network of environmental activists. I even said some of your buddies are hard core activists in third world countries." He laughed at this hyperbole about my friendship with the Onondagas.
I echoed his laughter, saying, ''Yeah, you can tell him I work for the CIA. Not the Central Intelligence Agency, but the Collective Intuitive Awareness. And some of my associates were trained by the Culinary Institute of America."
My laughter faded and, shaking my head, I said, "Even if I had those kind of connections, it's still just me who's going to go take that sample. Frankly, I'd rather avoid organizing a big action. I retired from all that running around. My hope was to persuade Pyramid they would be wise to take care of the situation themselves. It's obvious now that's out of the question. But if I have to come out of retirement to get the transformers dug up, I'm ready to go that far."
|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
"You're tackling the toughest contractor in the business," said Silas. "Other contractors tell me Pyramid squeezes every dime. Other mall builders measure floor space from the inside walls, but Pyramid writes their contracts using the outside of the walls. And they put clauses in subcontracts assessing 1% on deferred payments, and then hold up contracts to grab that extra percent. They have it down to tight science."
Later that night I called a friend in the real estate business who told me the word "on the street" was Pyramid was moving to close the deal to buy Marley's within the week, and was pressing DEC for a permit to begin construction. As I lay in my bed that night sleepless, I reviewed my plans to return to Marley's for a sample from the cavity six feet underground beside the railroad tracks.
to deepen your understanding of the power that is Life,
4 Clinton Square
Syracuse, New York 13202
What a fortunate coincidence to encounter you in Pyramid's lobby yesterday. My life of late has been full of such helpful coincidences. I was extremely disappointed you did not take time to recognize my urgent and fearful reason for being there, and to discuss it honestly and intelligently with me. Do you enjoy your game of making me wait and wearing me thin? I will not go away until we remove the danger that exists at Marley's. I cannot do it alone; sooner or later we must join hands and minds to resolve this situation. In the meantime, I will continue to talk with whoever else will listen about the threat to Syracuse's health and future that lies beneath Marley's.
I can understand that you have little reason to understand my presence here in the path of this key to Pyramid's Oil City project. I myself am struggling to understand and fulfill my responsibility here. As you observed on February 4, I am a highly unusual person with a special interest and unique motivation. Perhaps if you understand my own perspective on the situation you will be more inclined to treat me and this situation with proper respect and end your game of ignoring the danger. .
Pyramid is dedicated to acquiring monetary power, while in my life I have pursued spiritual power. I would like to share with you my own emerging understanding of the metaphysical reality that is our Earth. Therefore, I offer you some material to read during the coming weekend. I composed the enclosed essay on "Geomancy: Spiritual Science of a Sacred Earth" last year to summarize some of my discoveries and studies about the Earth. With your training as a landscape architect, you should have many special concepts and sensitivities about the Earth not shared by other educated citizens. I offer you this essay as a third gift in the same spirit as I offered you my first gift-the Three Sisters-on February 4:
and our responsibility to that power
Regarding the circumstance we face at Marley's, I urge upon you the understanding that there are five levels to this situation. The first seems to be your exclusive concern. The second is the responsibility I have accepted. The others await us to recognize and discover their presence and meaning.
1) CONTEMPORARY HUMAN SOCIETY-Pyramid intends to build central NY's largest shopping mall on the shore of Onondaga Lake as the key in an ambitious plan to regenerate Syracuse's lakeshore environment. Nearly everyone would like this vision to happen, but few people have had time to properly assess how this project will affect their life, their neighborhood and their business.
2) ENVIRONMENTAL-The site has been used as a dump for 100 years. It is underlain three to nine feet deep underground by a trapped pond of stagnant water which is full of many toxic chemicals. This water pond has on its surface a scum of gasoline and fuel oil which has migrated out from Oil City. In the 60's and 70's Marley buried "dirty" waste on the site from many industries such as Carrier. Among other things, I have located five of fourteen large electric transformers with gallons of PCBs illegally buried there years ago.
3) HISTORICAL-Buried under 40 to 50 feet of fill at Marley's is the last village of Onondaga Indians on the shore of Onondaga Lake. This plot of land is specifically mentioned in the first two of four treaties between Onondaga Nation and the State of NY. The first treaty, the Salt Treaty, was ratified on September 12, 1788 (200 years this year) and gave the early settlers land to develop a salt industry, which gave birth to Syracuse, the Salt City. The Onondaga Nation is the capitol of the oldest surviving democracy in North America, and one of a handful of surviving autonomous nations of the Red Race.
4) LEGENDARY-One thousand years ago the Peacemaker appeared in the Finger Lakes and taught the inhabitants the Great Law of Peace. The first man to accept this teaching was Hiawatha, an Onondaga. The last man to accept the Great Peace was Tadodaho, an evil Onondaga wizard with snakes in his hair who lived beside Onondaga Lake. At Hiawatha Point, the Peacemaker gathered the five nations together and transmitted the Great Law of Peace, and founded the oldest surviving democracy in North America. The Onondaga Nation is twelve square miles of still sovereign soil in the middle of New York just south of Syracuse.
5) MYTHICAL-On Sunday, January 24, I found the last village of Onondaga Indians on Onondaga Lake. On Sunday, January 31, I found the five transformers.
Between those two dates I discovered my first dragon, which I have named the Onondaga Dragon. This realization emerged suddenly and unexpectedly as a result of five years of survey and study. For me, in 1987 dragons were a cute idea and a conceptual toy; suddenly, in 1988, dragons have become real and present forces in our life. I understand this is total mystery and metaphor to you—perhaps someday you will allow me to explain this remarkable understanding.
Please review this information carefully, and reflect on its great significance. I am available to discuss this on the phone. Any advice or assistance you can provide me is severely needed and would be deeply appreciated.
for one peaceful, green Earth,