Monday, December 24, 2012

Dubs and the Mayan End of the World

I've been asked to combine all four parts of the Dubs and the Mayan End of the World saga into a single post.  Here it is as a Christmas gift to all my readers:

Dubs and the Mayan End of the World

My best friend, Dubs McClusky was at the house the other day.  Dubs is really more than a friend: he's a confidant, someone I can trust with my darkest secrets (he thinks a dark secret is one you tell at night); he's someone who will keep refilling his glass with my most expensive single malt whiskey without feeling the need to ask for permission about something so trifling.  I've known Dubs for more than twenty years, and if nothing else he's consistent (especially with my single malt).  Not being a photographer himself, he always tries to say something nice about my work, despite the fact that there's not an artistic bone in his body.

"I love your pictures, but they would look so much better in color.  You know, color pictures are just so much more colorful."

Worshiping the Maximon by Tom Bell.  Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved.  The Maximon embodies Mayan mysticism.  By the way, this one's in color for Dubs.

"It's a matter of preference, Dubs.  Some people really love black and white images."

"I know, but they stopped making movies in black and white because people like 'em in color more."  He poured another glass and looked silently pass me for far too long.

"Something wrong, Dubs?"

"I'm worried, Tom," he lamented.  "They're saying the end of the world's only a month away."  He took a big gulp and stared deeply into his glass. "You know about that Mayan end-of-the-world stuff, don't you?  I mean your wife is from Guatemala and speaks Spanish and stuff."

"Right, Dubs.  I also have some friends who are archaeologists.  They say there's nothing to worry about."

I saw a glimmer of hope in Dubs' eyes.  "You know I saw a Three Stooges where the guys were archaeologists.  They found Rootin' Tootin's mummy."  He smiled deeply as his thoughts went back to the movie short of long ago.

"That was in black and white, by the way," I noted.

Magic by Tom Bell.  Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved. 

He nodded, as if I had revealed something important, then he was lost again. "The world can't end before Christmas.  What about the presents!  This Mayan stuff is serious business!  By the way, there's just a little left in the bottle; you don't want any do you?"

I picked up the bottle and poured the rest into his glass.

"You should keep this 15 year old Scotch all the time," he noted.  "Its really good."

"I bet."

"But what if it really is the end of the world?  What then!"

"Well, Dubs, I'm really looking forward to it.  If it's really the end of the world, it's the best event a photographer could hope for."

"What do you mean?"  The confusion on his face intensified.

"Can you imagine having something like that to photograph?," I asked.  "Every photographer in the world will be looking for the best angle, that fine art shot that defines the moment!  It's going to be something great!"


"Mine will be in black and white!"

"But you said those archaeologists say there's nothing to it."  Dubs was almost in tears.

"What do they know?" I said.

"Really?  But.... you said...."

"I know what I said.  But this is it, Dubs.  My wife told me not to tell you.  But this is it..."

His eyes were huge. "Noooo.  You're just playin' with me aren't you."

"Sorry, Dubs."

Silence.  Dropped jaw. Owl eyes.

"Listen, Dubs, if I were you, I'd enjoy it since there's nothing we can do. Why don't you buy a case of this single malt. Make it a couple of cases and you'll get a discount.  Since you won't have to pay it back, use your credit card and buy a  couple of cases of the 18 year old stock.  I can store it and we can drink to the end of the world anytime you want.  We'll show those archaeologists!"

His mouth was still agape.

I wasn't sure if I should slap him slightly, but I decided to speak instead.  "It's okay, Dubs.  I promise that the last photograph I take as the world ends will be of you."

"Okay," he said after a while. He hesitated, "...but would it be okay if you did it in color?"


After about a week, I was still waiting on the cases of 18 year-old stock I thought Dubs might deliver.
I shouldn't have played with his  mind like I did.  But,  I saw it as a way that he might partially reimburse me for some of the many bottles of 15 year-old single malt he's more than helped finish while sitting with me at the table over the years.

Dubs was at my house again.  "Hey, let's have a drink," he said.  "I want to ask you some more questions about that Mayan prophesy stuff."

"Okay," I said softly.  "Let's talk.  But I'm out of whiskey.  I just haven't had time to stop by the liquor store."

He stared at me and squinted for a while. "You know, Tom. I don't recall ever stopping by when you didn't have whiskey.  But, right now, I'd drink about anything."  His look was almost deathly.

"Something wrong, Dubs?"

"No, not really. I know your wife knows about this Mayan end-of-world stuff and all.  She has a real pretty voice when she speaks that Spanish.  But maybe she's wrong about it being the end of the world."

"She's never been wrong before, Dubs."

He looked at me seriously.

"Never," I intoned. 

He hesitated.  "Yeah, I know."

"You know, I've got a bottle of 12 year old rum," I offered. "It's one of the most most popular in Guatemala, and it's the Baktun edition."

"Back-toon," he said in an accent that made him sound southern. "Is that something like the rerun of a cartoon?"

"Well, sort of," I offered. "In this case, a Baktun is a Mayan period of time.  We're on the last one.  It ends on December 21.  That's the last day."

"A period of  time?"

"Yeah, it's about 400 years long."

I opened the bottle of rum and poured each of  us  a snifter.

"Hey, this is good," he said.  "A toast to the Back-toon!"

I lifted my glass.  "Yeah, drinking to it only ensures that it's gonna happen.  That's cosmic law."


"Yeah, the end of the world.  It's okay. We've lived a long time.  It's time for creatures from some other universe to occupy our space!"

"What!"  He downed every drop in his snifter, and I quickly poured him another one.

"Sorry, Dubs," I apologized, "but it's time on this Earth for creatures that will appreciate 18 year-old Scotch, those that are more spiritually developed."

"What... I appreciate 18 year-old spirits.  I appreciate them a lot!"

"I know, Dubs, but I suggested you bring over a couple of cases, especially since it's the end of the world and you won't have to pay the credit card bill.  You  haven't done a thing!"

His eyebrows shot up.  "Why?  So we can toast to the end of the world again and again?"

"Yeah, but you can also toast against the end of the  world."


"That's right.  That's what the Crystal Skull told my wife."

"The Crystal Skull?..."

I photographed this Crystal Skull in the  Popol Vuh Museum in Guatemala City.  My wife knew one of the curators who gave us special access, so this is one of the only photographs in existence of this particular crystal skull.  The red on the eyes, nose and mouth, is Cinnabar, a mercury compound used by the ancients for mystical purposes.  Since there's no backlight, I'm not sure why it glows.
"Yeah, there's a very special Crystal Skull at the museum in Guatemala City.  It might be hundreds of millions of years old, maybe billions, or even trillions.  No one is sure.  It told my wife that if enough people toast against the end of the world with very good whiskey, it might not happen.  It's eyes glowed red, and it told her. It told her in Spanish."

"Are you sure!" Dub was aghast.

"I photographed it as it was telling her how to prevent the end of the world."  I went to my files and pulled out a print of the Crystal Skull and handed it to him.

"It's real, he said, looking intently at the photo, "it's real. That means we can do something about the end  of the world!"

"That's right," I said.

"Okay!," he was almost yelling.  "I'm going out to buy a case right now. Call all our friends.  We're going to do some  toasting!"

"That's great," I smiled.  "I'll call some of  my buddies, you call some of yours. We'll meet here for a toast in an hour."

"That's great," he vocalized almost at the top of  his lungs. "Maybe the world's not goin' to end."  Then he paused with a puzzled look on this face

"What is it, Dubs?"

"You know, I don't want to sound like a kill-joy, but if the world doesn't end, I'm going to have to pay the credit card bill for all that whiskey, aren't I?"

I looked down in sympathy.  "You're right, Dubs.  The skull said it might be a problem.  Maybe it's better that the world just ends to make way for the more advanced beings."  I almost sniffled.

Dubs' again looked like a deer caught in headlights.  "Wait a minute," he said.  "Make those calls.  I'm off to the liquor store."

"Good call, Dubs," I said.  "The skull knows how to throw a party."

"Wow," he exclaimed as he went  out the door, "maybe you won't have to take that picture of me as the world ends, after all.  Maybe you can take a picture of me drinking against the end of the world!"

"Sounds good to me," I said.  "Just go out and get those cases of 18 year-old single malt before it's to late!"

My whiskey-drinking friend Dubs McClusky was back.  He sat in my home office with a glass of Scotch in his hand.

I was impressed because he brought the bottle this time. Yes, it was only 12 years old, but for Dubs, I knew I'd never get better from him.  I poured a glass for myself as he looked at me suspiciously.

Mayan Magic on the steps of the Chichicastenango Cathedral.

"Hey, Tom, I notice you've got one of those new calendars for 2013 on your desk, one with all the funny cartoons."

"Right, Dubs, it was an early Christmas gift from one of my coworkers.  Do you want to see it?"

"I prefer the type with cartoons that don't have words at the bottom," he said a bit fearfully, as if he might have to look at one of the panels and decide whether to laugh or not after reading the caption.  Then he took another sip of whiskey and asked, "So, you didn't buy it yourself?"

"No, it was a gift."

"So, you think you're still going to be needing it, I mean, with the end of the world coming up."  His eyes were big and expectant and he waited for my answer.

"Well, Dubs, we got some friends together and drank against the end of the world, even if it wasn't with the best Scotch.  "Just let me put it this way, I've already gone through the whole calendar and read all 365 cartoons, just in case."

"Noooo!," he said.

"Yeah, there are some really good ones, especialy in June and August."

"So, this is it, you think.  Just a few days left."

"Well, Dubs, I can't really say.  But it would have been a shame to miss some of those cartoons."

"Well, what does your wife say.  I mean, she's never wrong."

"She doesn't want to talk about it," I answered, "but we were in the bookstore the other day, and when I asked her if she wanted a picture calendar, she just rolled her eyes and walked away.  She also bought a book about how to manage limited time wisely.  She said something about being glad that it's a very short book."

Again, "Noooo!"  Then after a full minute, "Tom, it can't end this way.  It really can't."

"Yes it can," I insisted stoically.  "Sorry, Dubs, nothing I can do."

He frantically poured himself another glass. He didn't notice that I was almost empty.

I heard footsteps in the hallway.  They were soft and I knew it was my wife

"Oh,  hi, Dubs," she said.  She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek in the standard Spanish greeting.

"Oh, hi, Maria," he responded. Then he was silent for a whole minute as he looked at my wife as if she must be some oracle.  "Is it okay if I come over on Friday, just to say goodbye?" he asked.

"Well, of course, you're welcome any time, Dubs.  You know where Tom keeps the  whiskey if he's not in, dont you?"

"He's got to be in," Dubs insisted.  He looked hard at me.  "You have to be in, too. I  have to say goodbye."


"It's the end of the world, Maria.  You know that!"

"Well,  yes."

Dubs dropped his jaw and let it hang.

"But, it's going on be okay, Dubs," she insisted.  "The crystal skull told me not to worry.  Even with the end of the world, everything's going to be okay."

"Noooo!, he insisted.

"Sorry, Dubs," she said, and sounded like me.

"Tom, your wife is never wrong.  I guess it's really the end."  He drooped his head.

"Don't worry, Dubs,"  I insisted, "maybe there's a black hole or a time paradox or a universal reprieve in this somewhere."

"Maybe," he said.  He poured the last of the bottle into his glass. "Maybe Irish whiskey is as good as Scotch, but I don't think so."

My wife reached out and took Dub's hand.  "It's okay," she said.  "I don't think the pain will  last  over fifteen or twenty hours.  Too bad you didn't buy some really good Scotch.  All of this could have been averted. Some really good 18-year old would have made the  difference.  That's what the crystal skull told me."

"Noooo!" Dubs yelled.

Within fifteen minutes Dubs was back with four bottles of some fine 18-year old whiskey.

He popped open a bottle.  "Against the end of the world," he screamed.  He poured a big glass for me and for my wife.

Maria took a small sip and I inhaled the glass.

"Against  the end of the world," I said loudly.

"Against the end of  the world!" he toasted.

"That's great," I said.  "By the way, do you  want to see one of the June cartoons on my calendar.   It might be your last chance."

"Huh," he said.  Then after a while he insisted, "Why don't we have another toast, or two, or three!  And, Maria, please tell the skull that this is very good whiskey!"


He  was back, looking spiffier than I'd ever seen him.  He had really cleaned up.  None of his clothes had stains, and it looked as if he might have attempted to iron his shirt.  He really wanted to look good for the last day of the  world.

"Wow, Dubs," you really look good.
Smoke on the steps of the cathedral in Chichicastenango, Guatemala are part of mystical Mayan magic.
"Yeah, thanks.  Well, I just thought I should... just in case... you know.  It's the big day and we're still here, so I guess I got here in time.  And you've got your camera.  That's good."  He looked around. "Where's Maria?"

"She's out, Dubs.  She'll be back in a while."

"I hope she's not too late.  I wanted to spend my last minutes with both of you, you  know."

"She shouldn't be too long, Dubs."  The truth is that I had told her of my elaborate plan to make the end of  the world really exciting for Dubs, and she wanted to have nothing to do with it.  She told me she would be back after my cruel joke was over.

A couple of days earlier, I had talked with my buddy, Rob Coleman, the news director and well-known anchorman at one of the local television stations. We had gone to college together in the radio and tv program, and both of  us had worked together at the same station for awhile.  He agreed to help me  produce a newscast just for Dubs, which we would record immediately after the 10 p.m. news on Wednesday night and play for Dubs on the world's last day, as if were happening live.  I had written the script for Rob, and also produced some graphics for the video production.  Rob even agreed to send a news truck to my house at just the right time if it wasn't too busy of a news day.  

"Well, Dubs, it's a little early to be drinking, but this might be the end of the world, so why don't you go to the bar and get that last bottle of 18 year old Scotch,  and we can drink against the end of  the  world again."

"Okay," he said.

"And I think the local TV station is supposed to be doing coverage of  the end of the world.  I'll turn it on and see if anything is happening."

"Okay," he said, as he started to the bar.

As he was gone, I turned on the TV and inserted the DVD that I had recorded.  I turned the sound on the TV loud and clicked play just as Dub appeared at the doorway with two big tumblers of whiskey.

Rob Coleman was at the anchor desk, looking just like he does every weekday night at ten.  Now, though, his face seemed filled with worry.  "...and this really does seem to be the end of the world, just as the Mayas predicted," his voice echoed over my surround sound speakers.  "Cities across the world seem just to be disintegrating..."

"Noooo..." screamed Dubs. 

"Tokyo, Rome, London, now gone," intoned the newsman, somberly.  "Other places across the globe crumbling...."  He then paused for a second as if something even bigger had happened.  " I don't know if our viewers are feeling this," he said, "but here in the studio, we're  feeling a shaking, sort of like you might feel with an earthquake..."

At that moment, I quietly hit a foot pedal switch that controlled a small electric motor I had put under the sofa.  I had placed an off-center flywheel on the motor and attached it to a leg of the sofa, so vibrations would be carried to the seats.

"This is it," screamed Dubs.  "This is it!"

The news anchor continued, "We're told that a mysterious crystal skull in Guatemala, Central America, has been speaking in Spanish to news people there and said that the end of the world could have been avoided by a simple sincere toast against the end of the  world.  And we're told that the one man in the world who could have made that toast lives right here in our own hometown....  Okay,  this just in Paris, France, now gone along with Moscow, Berlin, and Geneva.

A museum curator holds the mysterious Crystal Skull.

I hit the foot pedal again, and the sofa moved again. 

"Those vibrations in  the studio getting stronger now," said Rob Coleman.  "As I way saying earlier, I seems that a local man named Doobes McCloosky may be responsible for the end of  the world.  We have a remote truck out now to interview Mr. McCloosky if we can find him in time, to get his side of the story."

"Noooo... nooooo...nooooo," Dubs was in tears.  "Against the end of the world," he yelled and took a gulp of whiskey.  "A most sincere toast," he screamed, "against the end of the world."

Just then there was a knock at my door.  I got up to answer it.

At the door stood newswoman Sandra Boskey, and a man with a TV camera on his shoulder.  The  light on top of the camera was bright in my face.  

Sandra Boskey with Action Witness News she yelled while holding out a microphone.

I moved aside and let her in.

"Are you Doobes McCloosky?" she asked.

"No, he is," I pointed.

Dubs was in a panic, just screaming, "Against the end of  the world."  He would then take another  drink, the repeat the process.

Rob Coleman continued speaking on  TV.  "Apparently the skull is saying that there's still time for the end of the world to be averted --- yes, this sounds wild --- but that one sincere toast against the end of the world by this Mr. McCloosky would create a time warp, and none of this would have ever happened...."

"Put down the camera, put down the the microphone," Dubs insisted.  "I promise, I'll give you an interview, but first we're all going to toast against the end of the world."  He quickly filled two more glasses and handed them to the news crew.  

Dubs was calm now.  "Gather 'round,"  he said, "everyone sips when I do,  Raise your glasses and repeat after me"....

"Probably not long left now," said the anchorman.

With all the glasses raised, Dubs said, "to the skull, and most sincerely against the end of the world."

Everyone took a sip as Dubs gulped down a big measure.

Apparently I had timed everything well.  The TV screen went blank with static for a moment.  Then Rob Coleman was back, looking cheerful and relaxed.  "It appears the Mayan apocalypse is just another doomsday story," said the anchorman.  We'll all be telling our children about waiting for the end of the world on a day that turned out to be like any other day...."

"Well, thanks for inviting us in for a whiskey," said Sandra Boskey, "but I can't really remember why we're here."

"Funny, me neither," said the news cameraman.  "And thanks for the drink, but we probably shouldn't be drinking while on the job."

"It worked," Dubs said in disbelief.  "I saved the world.  I saved the world with a sincere toast to the skull."

"What are you talking about, Dubs?" I asked.  "I mean you didn't really think the end  of the world was here did you.?"

"Huh?," he said, "you don't remember, either...  And Paris, and Rome and London are all still there?"

I switched off  the TV because it was reaching the end of the production.  "What do you mean, Dubs?  Why wouldn't they still be there?"

Just then my wife came back in the door.

"I saved the world, Maria.  I really did!  I really did!"   Dubs looked intently at her.

Maria looked at me and said, "You're mean!"  She then walked away.

" Why's she upset?" asked Dubs. He then smiled. "Take a picture of me Tom," he said.  "I'm the only one who will know why, but we have to document this moment."

I lifted my camera and photographed Dubs standing proudly with the glass of Scotch in hand, as if he were making a most sincere toast.

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