The Morningsider (Issue 3 – Act 4)

Where Do We Go From Here?

interior –
Ellie’s apartment
kitchen area
day

Broome, Dishy and Barry sit around Ellie’s table. The Morningsider stands leaning against the kitchen sink counter. Ellie stands leaning against the refrigerator. A taser, a folded camp shovel, and a set of keys sit in the middle of the table. A small-format tape recorder sits on top of the refrigerator behind Ellie.

Ellie
Wait. What?
Morningsider
Civilization is killing the Earth, and it is going to crash.
Ellie
You’re crazy. Seriously. You have something wrong with you.
Morningsider
I know it sounds crazy.
Barry
I’ll say.
Morningsider
But I’m not completely alone in thinking this.
Ellie
(with sarcastic disbelief)
Really?
Morningsider
Really. Look, it comes down to the physical laws of the universe. You can’t create something from nothing. All our energy — including the food we eat — is a limited resource. We’re out-growing and out-stripping the things that keep the world as we know it running. When all that’s gone, there won’t be any more.
Ellie
Then how come this is the first anyone has ever heard of it?
Morningsider
It’s not. Surely you’ve heard concepts like “sustainability” and “renewable resource” before. It’s all part of the same equation.
Ellie
And we’re becoming sustainable, aren’t we? I mean we’ve got hybrid cars, and even Wal-Mart is putting limits on how its vendors can farm shrimp and stuff like that.
Morningsider
But the population keeps growing. The world’s oil fields will peak soon, if they haven’t already, and there’s no other energy source out there that can come close to the kind of returns we have gotten from oil.
Ellie
Okay. Say we do run out of oil. We didn’t used to rely on it so much, right? Civilization existed before oil came into the picture. Couldn’t we go back to using steam to power our industry?
Morningsider
Steam runs on coal or wood — both of which already passed their peak before we switched to oil and before we had this huge of a global population.
Dishy
What about solar and wind power and hydroelectrics? And the electric car?
Morningsider
Those things can work on a small scale, but there’s no way they can sustain civilization’s current energy needs, much less allow civilization to keep growing. Sure they have built electric cars, but can they build electric semis to transport the food you eat? Or electric farming equipment to harvest the food?
Ellie
But turning back into cavemen will help us how?
Morningsider
Get those stereotypes out of your head. People that lived in caves were still people, as human as you and I. But they had a sustainable way of life. The didn’t over-tax their bioregion, they worked within its limits. They followed the basic rules of life that every other species on this planet seems to live by — barring civilized intrusion — and they thrived under those limits.
Ellie
Okay. Say someone believes you. So what? Why should anyone care?
Morningsider
We’re not alone on this planet, Miss Paige. We don’t own it. It wasn’t built for us to come in and destroy. And we didn’t start destroying it until ten thousand years ago when we discovered agriculture. We started farming which gave us a surplus of food while destroying the land. The Fertile Crescent turned into a desert the same way that the Great Plains turned into the Dust Bowl. While we grew in numbers as a species, we killed the land and everything else that needed the land to survive and anything we considered competition. We destroy on average 200 species a day, species that support the complex biodiversity in ways that we can never understand until they are gone.

Everyone sits in silence for a moment. Riordan sighs, rubbing his temple.

Ellie
So we should all buy energy efficient light bulbs and ride bikes? I get it. I saw the movie. Shrink your carbon footprint, etc. Why can’t we just cut back our consumption until we reach a sustainable level?
Morningsider
If everyone reduced their carbon footprint, it would only delay the inevitable. This way of life can not keep on indefinitely. There’s just no way around it. Civilization has to keep growing in order to not die, so it will always keep consuming.
Ellie
Everything consumes, doesn’t it? I mean, surely we were consumers before we became civilized, right?
Morningsider
The only way of life that has proven itself as sustainable for human beings was the stone age. And it has more to do with the fact that uncivilized people knew how to give back even while they took. For the majority of our history as humans, that’s how things worked. That’s how all the non-human inhabitants of the Earth work too, by the way. Civilization is a microcosmic flash at the end of our human history. A deadly flash, but a minuscule one, nonetheless. For the vast majority of our history, we lived as indigenous tribes that had an understanding of how life worked — how important it was to give back more than you took.
Ellie
And that’s what you’re after?
Morningsider
Yes. I want to try to reclaim as much of that knowledge as I can before all this…
(gestures out the window at the buildings across the park in Harlem)
…comes crashing down. Because I want to survive that crash.
Ellie
And how does living in Morningside Park fit into all that?
Barry
Yeah, why the homeless route, Riordan? You could come work for me part time, have an apartment, and go play in the park on the weekends.
Morningsider
Of course I could. But that would have separated me from the things I was trying to learn, and I felt a little too — desperate — for that. I wanted to get closer to the dirt that I was trying to reconnect with.

Dishy looks out the window over the kitchen sink behind Riordan to the tops of the trees in the park.

Dishy
I think I get it. It’s pretty radical.
Broome
(scoffs)
He ain’t doing nothin’ new. Homeless folks have been around for a long time.
Morningsider
Exactly. And they already had a lot of the things I was looking to reclaim — like a sense of community and support. Broome here may not have know about eating cattail shoots, but he taught me a lot about living without a house and respecting my fellow park dwellers. It’s not just knowledge about eating weeds and making tools that we have lost. We have forgotten how to live in a community.
Dishy
Okay. So it’s radical to me, I guess. And interesting, I have to admit.
Ellie
(Eyebrow raised. You can tell from the look on her face that she still feels hurt by Dishy’s betrayal)
Would you give up your silk shirts to go live in a cave with your friend?

Dishy opens his mouth to speak, but he doesn’t say anything.

Morningsider
Even if he wanted to undomesticate himself, he wouldn’t have to do it this way.

Dishy closes his mouth and looks at the Morningsider.

Dishy
Oh. That’s a relief.
Morningsider
Not only is what I’m doing not new — quite the opposite, I’m trying to regain very old skills — but it’s not unique.
Ellie
There are others like you…
(gestures out the window behind the Morningsider)
…out there?
Morningsider
There are. And in other cities too. The “Governor” of Riverside Park has a tribe of sorts, a lot older and more experienced than the crowd that Broome and I sometimes hang out with here in Morningside, I have to say. Up in Portland, a guy who calls himself the Urban Scout is trying to live outside of civilization, eating roadkill and camping in friends’ yards and learning and practicing skills with his friends. Some people in Pittsburgh who call themselves the Tribe of Anthropik have some kind of IT business, but they go out and learn and practice skills too — and write new myths and anti-civilization critiques as well.
Ellie
Well, you still sound pretty crazy. But I can tell you really feel passionate about this.
Morningsider
I do.
Ellie
You’re an interesting guy, Riordan MacClyde. I don’t buy it all.
(shrugs)
But I think I can squeeze one more story out of it.

Ellie clicks off her tape recorder.

Ellie
Although, cavemen don’t sell papers … unless they’re something to fear — or make fun of. Like those insurance commercials that got made into a prime time sitcom.
Morningsider
In all honesty, I don’t care what people think of me, Miss Paige. If you want to print my story, I’ll appreciate it, though. Any press is good press, right?
Ellie
That’s our motto.
Dishy
I have an idea.

Everybody looks at Dishy.

Dishy
The city lets the coyote and the turkey live in the park, right. Why don’t we start some kind of campaign to save the wild … human?
Morningsider
As touching and supportive as that sounds, Dishy, if the coyote had bitten someone, they wouldn’t hesitate to put it down — or at the very least, ship it out. And my vigilantism makes me look like a rabid animal. No, I need to drop out of site. Give people time to forget. I need to learn how to become invisible.
Broome
You movin’ out, Red?
Morningsider
For a while. I’ll go up to Van Cortlandt or over to Alley Pond and practice not being seen. But I’ll be back.
(smiling at Ellie)
Without a pesky reporter dogging my steps, I might do better next time.
Ellie
How can I get in touch with you?
Morningsider
I wouldn’t think you’d want to.
Ellie
I might want another interview later.
(nonchalantly scratches her head)
You know, a follow up.

(beat)

Morningsider
Broome here panhandles in the park all the time. He’ll know where to find me.
Ellie
(smiling at Broome)
For a price?
Broome
Heh. Well, put some jingle in my cup, and I’ll tell you what’s up.
Morningsider
Plus … well, I do know where you live, Miss Paige.
Ellie
Alright, enough with the “Miss Paige” business. If you’re going to threaten someone with a taser, you should be on a first name basis with them.

Ellie glares a coy smile at Riordan.

Dishy
Don’t be a stranger, Riordan.
Barry
I second that.
Morningsider
Yeah. I enjoyed working with you guys this week. Now that I’ve slept under the stars and in caves, offices feel a little stuffy. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned lately, it’s how hard it is to live on your own.
Barry
So, where do we go from here? ‘Cause I’m starting to get a killer headache.
Ellie
I’ll print my story.
Morningsider
And I’ll disappear for a while.
Ellie
And I’ll get in touch — via our friend here …
(she gestures at Broome)
… when things calm down.
Barry
And then we’ll throw a dinner party at my place. Riordan can make some fabulous dish of swamp weed and bilbo berries, and I’ll supply the wine. White or red with swamp weed, Riordan?
Morningsider
Uh… I’ll just bring some sassafras and sumac.
exterior –
Morningside Park
The high path above the lake
dusk

The Morningsider and Broome stand on the path.

Broome
Be safe, Red.
Morningsider
You too, Broome.
Broome
Where you goin’ first?
Morningsider
Van Cortlandt. The blackberries will come ripe soon. And there’s a whole sassafras forest up there. Plus the woods up there don’t get a whole lot of traffic.
Broome
Will you leave a sign for me, in case I want to come get some blackberries?
Morningsider
Just head up to the bluff that overlooks the parade ground. You know how I like to smoke a pipe while sitting on a rock overlooking the City.

They shake hands.

Broome
Come back soon.
Morningsider
I have to. I’m still a Morningsider — even after all this.
Broome
Heh. You’re the Morningsider — especially after all this.

Broome walks off down the path, headed toward 110th Street. The Morningsider walks over to the rock outcropping that looks over the lake. He takes out his pipe, stuffs it, strikes a match and lights up. As the smoke curls up from his pipe while he watches the sky get dark, our perspective lifts up from where he sits. Behind him, over his shoulder, we can see the curved white facade of the apartment building where Barry and Ellie live.

Our perspective moves toward the building, zooming in on two windows, one above the other. In the top window, we see Dishy playing a video game in Barry’s living room while Barry lies passed out on the couch, still in his Oscar Wilde costume. In the lower window, we see Ellie looking out.

We zoom in on Ellie. Then our perspective shifts to look from behind her. Over Ellie’s shoulder we see that she watches the Morningsider’s hunched, green figure sitting on a rock in the park. A thin stream of smoke curls up from where the Morningsider sits.

End Act

This concludes Issue 3 and the “Wildlife in Morningside Park” story arc.

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The Morningsider
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  1. […] Issue 3 – Act 4 Where Do We Go From Here? […]

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