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I have never come extremely close to dying—let me just say that up front. I have been very sick and in very bad situations, but my body has never begun the process of actually, physically failing.

I finished trying on the umpteenth pair of vintage eyeglass frames and walked back out into the heat towards the hospital. A woman stopped me. I’d noticed her earlier mostly because she seemed lost in thought, and her yellow t-shirt said in spangly old glitter iron-on MOZART. She looked out of place at Vermont and Barnsdall simply because she looked so lucid. The rest of us seemed to drift around her like whirlpools of air on the sidewalks.

I am home, finally, after spending a little more than two weeks at a different kind of home in Seattle, where I was born and raised. My new home is a former mining village in northeast England near where my girlfriend goes to university. The name of her postgraduate program: Culture and Difference.

When I was home in Seattle, I saw a lot of old friends, including one who writes poetry. We both do. This is somewhat coincidental, since we became friends around the time we learned to read. Even now, when I see him, we almost never talk about poetry.

The gravel pit was fifty feet from the front door of my trailer house on the outskirts of a small town in rural southern New Mexico – a nowhere town with an oil refinery in the city center, making the whole place smell like methane and brimstone. I don’t know why it was a gravel pit or what it was meant for. Measuring at least ten square acres, empty and flat, it was bordered on three sides by trailer homes. The main road ran along the fourth side.

The gravel pit was my sanctuary. My friend. My wonderland. It was my holodeck – the place I went to escape into a safe world where my imagination was free.  Dead pets were buried there. Dead washers and ranges, too. I would squat in the middle, digging up pillowcases full of bones on windy days and swear I was surrounded by the lost souls of animals, all of them trying to communicate with me. I could envision anything in the gravel pit – ghosts, monsters, the old west. A life outside of that suffocating town.

My all-time favorite quote comes from Steve Martin’s character in the film Grand Canyon: “You know what your problem is. It’s that you haven’t seen enough movies. All of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.” It’s my favorite because, for better or worse, I’m convinced it’s true. When word spread that James Cameron was assembling a team to solve the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, most laughed at what they thought was a pompous disconnect between real life and the CGI bombast of Avatar. I, however, turned my television up and thought, “Why, of course!”

Something about watching live feed of the oil billowing into the gulf reminds me of watching that first black scrawl of smoke unwinding in the clear Manhattan sky on the morning of September eleventh. My ribs ache with that same bracing-for-a-punch kind of dread that the repercussions of this moment will be life-long and life-altering, that as bad as it looks it’s about to get worse. I remember in the weeks after 9/11 one official said that we’d simply suffered from “a lack of imagination” and therefore could not anticipate something like this. At the same time others were saying 9/11 was like the most terrifying Hollywood films come true. Maybe our real problem is that we have the imagination, but we just don’t take it seriously.

So if James Cameron says his work on The Abyss and The Titanic has given him ideas and introduced him to innovative deep-sea engineers and technologies and that he loves our planet as much as Pandora, why not let him give plugging the damn hole a try? At this point, until those relief wells are completed, it looks as if it’s either Cameron or that chintzy saw that snapped during the “cut and cap” procedure. I didn’t hear anyone laughing, by the way, when that relief-well plan was aped directly from this scene in There Will Be Bloodclick here.

In fact, lets just make James Cameron a little to-do list. First up, oil spill. And when he’s done with that, he can get busy thwarting any and all development towards the creation of a Skynet, beginning with that monkey that’s learned to control a robotic arm with his mind: here. I know where that leads. I’ve seen enough movies.