The Valley of Ashes

Sometimes writing is all about frustration, about the inability to take the pretty picture in your head and bring them out so they’ll play nice, because either the words or the elements are conspiring against you to make things go straight to hell.

That was me for a certain segment of the evening.  I’m writing along haltingly, which is something I always do when I’m starting a new chapter and/or scene, and in the middle of doing some research to cover one thing Kerry thinks, my computer starts spazzing out on me.  Lockups, slowdowns, just not wanting to run:  that kept up for just about an hour, and then took about another twenty minutes to set itself right.  I only managed five hundred and forty words, and about three hundred and fifty of that came in a twenty minute sprint leading up to eleven PM.

But I did start–

As you can see right here.

As you can see right here.

–and got the party started, so to speak.

And it starts with Kerry emerging from out of the trees.

 

(All excerpts from The Foundation Chronicles, Book Two: B For Bewitching, copyright 2015 by Cassidy Frazee)

Kerry stepped away from the small grove of trees and on to Avenue of Commerce. He didn’t bother to look to see if anyone was watching him: they’d scouted the park from the air, and a combination of the weather and holidays ensured there were a minimum of people walking about.

He unzipped about a third of his flight jacket and felt the cool air brush against his neck and undergarment. After flying for a little over two hours straight he enjoyed the cool breeze playing gently over his face, rather than forcing his way through a wind chill of minus five Celsius for the better part of three hundred and seventy-five kilometer. He stretched his arms before slightly arching his back to loosen up the muscles there.

He rolled his shoulders, getting the backpack reset on his back over his heavy leather jacket. He wore his for no other reason that to have a place to store his accessories once the chance to take a break presented itself. At the moment his tablet, along with his helmet, gloves, and goggles, were stored there, while his broom was safely in Hammerspace, and he didn’t plan on getting them out again for another twenty or thirty minutes.

He turned back to the small grove, noticing his partner in this expedition continuing to putter around with something. “Hey, are you coming?”

“Just a minute.” A few seconds later, Emma came bounding out on to the near empty lane. “Sorry, I was having some trouble getting my broom squared away.”

“You still having problems with the spell?” Vicky asked Kerry to help Emma with her Hammerspace spell, because there were moments when she’d secure her broom there only to have it clatter out on the ground a minute or two later. He’s spent the last two classes working with her to get it right, and while it seems like she’d finally perfected the crafting, it seemed as if she was still having issues.

She shook her head as she stopped next to Kerry’s right side. “Naw, it was nothing. It just feels funny at time—”

“Like there’s something barely poking you in the lower back?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s how it’s suppose to feel. That’s to let you know you got it in there right.” He took a deep breath and exhaled slow and loud. “Ummmm, love that smell.”

She twisted her face into a frown as a jet flew nearly overhead. “It smells like outside the school walls.”

“You mean like the ocean.”

“Yeah. Except it’s a lot smellier.”

“Well, yeah.” He chuckled. “You know you’re standing in the Valley of Ashes, don’t you?”

Emma raised her eyebrows. “No. What do you mean?”

“This—” Kerry speak his hand and turned half way to his right to face his wingmate. “This used to be the Corona Ash Dump, where they used to bring all the ash from the city’s furnaces. It was called ‘a valley of ashes’ in The Great Gatsby.” He dropped his arms. “Then they cleaned it up for the ‘39 World’s Fair.”

She looked about. “I thought the fair was here in 1964?”

“It was, but the 1939 fair was here first.” He nodded off to his left. “Come on; let’s go.”

 

In case anyone continues to wonder, the title of the chapter From Queens to Dreams refers, in part, to the fact that Emma and Kerry are standing in Queens, New York City, New York, and in particular, the Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which was the site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fair.  But what does Kerry mean by the Valley of Ashes?  At one time this area was, as he said, the Cornoa Ash Dump, which is where New York City dumped all the ashes from their furnaces, ’cause back then you didn’t give a shit where you dumped your trash.

The place was a tremendous eyesore, so much so that again, as Kerry points out, F. Scott Fitzgerald set part of a chapter there in his novel The Great Gatsby, and even used the expression, “The valley of ashes.”

So, when it came time to put in a world’s fair–a big one, the second biggest ever, even until today–the ash dump was picked and cleaned up.  So the place went from this:

B For Bewitching Corona Ash Dump

Gotta love that old time nastiness.

To this:

This is how it must have looked like in that Twilight Zone episode.

This is how it must have looked like in that Twilight Zone episode.

And, eventually, to this:

Welcome to the, um, future?

Welcome to the, um, future?

The dump sat in pretty much the area surrounded by the Van Wyck Expressway to the east (the top of the picture above), the Grand Central Parkway to the west, the Whitestone Expressway to the north, and the Long Island Expressway to the south.  Along with the fair location, you have the Billy Jean King National Tennis Center and Citi Field, all sitting upon what used to be an enormous ash pit.

But . . . what are Emma and Kerry doing here?  They’re doing a class project, believe it or not.  And they’re not even close to being finished–

I know, 'cause I have a map.

I know, ’cause I have a map.

Tomorrow, assuming my computer doesn’t freak out on me again, you’ll discover more.