Darts at Dawn: Canned Heat on the Columbia River

Words: Langdon Cook

McGrue. Beedle has a way with language; his is a cross between the scientific and the Seussian. He claims that every word in his vocabulary has a dictionary definition, but I’m not so sure. This time around, I’ve remembered to carry a little notebook and pen so I can get the correct spellings and check for myself. It doesn’t take long before the pad comes out. We pass a group of sign-holders on the roadside, adherents to some sort of political philosophy that Beedle finds morally repugnant. “Look at all of them,” he laughs. “Like spalled-off pieces of exfoliated scree.” He glances over at me, at the pad. “That’s spalled—s-p-a-double-l-e-d. There you go. Spalled off. Fragments of old rock. That’s a geologic term. I wouldn’t expect you to know it. Dinosaurs, that’s what they are, living in the past.”

The past and the present are forever at odds in Beedle’s world. If only he could take the best from each and mash them together. Like cars, for instance. He loves the freedom of the open road but hates what cars are doing to the environment, and he detests other drivers even more. One of the many inventions Beedle threatens to patent is a video monitor for the back of a car that would be operated from the dashboard—a way to communicate with other drivers without honking horns and raising middle digits. For safety’s sake, certain common messages would be kept in memory, like radio stations, so you could push a single key and the message would scroll across the back: “Nice turn signal, lady!” Or “Back off, butthook!”

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