Distant Early Warning (DEW) refers to the line of radar bases in the Arctic of North America. With cooperation from the United States's Canadian neighbors, the DEW Line was constructed in the 1950s. The DEW Line was to be the first indication of air or nuclear missile attack by the Soviet Union over the North Pole. The Distant Early Warning Line stretches from the far West of the US state of Alaska to the farthest East of Greenland. South of the DEW line is the Mid-Canada line. Roughly along the United States-Canada border is the Pinetree System. All these warning systems are connected with the combined North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) headquarters at Ent Air Force Base in Colorado.

It is the Distant Early Warning Line that detects Santa Claus every Christmas eve, and relays that information to NORAD. Also, when your Army/Air Force commanding officer threatens to assign you to some God-forsaken base deep in the Alaskan tundra... this is where he wants to send you.

Distant Early Warning has become a cultural expression in all of America. It, of course, describes a warning of a grave and serious threat. So when you hear that phrase, you know it comes from the chain of radar bases in the far North.

PS- note the DEW Line references in the Rush lyrics.

Distant. Early. Warning.

I had a dream about a slot machine last night. A slot machine at a bus station. I've always felt the same vibe from both. The coming and going spirit. The tattered edges of people that just didn't quite get it living their lives in transit. The flurry of hard earned dollars spent on dreams, and distances. Distances that seem insurmountable. The distances of oceans separate the shadow people around me from their dreams. Winning a jackpot is like arriving, but the other end is just another bus station. Happiness can't be bought.

So, in this dream, I was pulling the one armed bandit arm. It was greasy with that unique paste of sweaty smoky palm film I've only even seen when people who cannot afford it lose money. I think the terror in their bellies forms a gel that makes the money burn their spidery fingers. Like sterno, blue jellied fire, turning the coins red-hot and soft. The machine was black plastic, sort of a Bakelite alarm clock crossed with a bus station television that you used to have to feed quarters. A man, a strange, happy, generous man came and sat with me. He held his palms like he had a grasshopper trapped within them and said "I can win for us." From his hand trap, he pulled a small red plastic cube, and plugged it into the slot machine. I yanked the slick lever and we won. We watched the alarm clock numbers fall in half plastic clatters until it said "1million 100thousand 1dollar and 84cents". Instantly, the bus station feeling was replaced with the creeping fear of the airport. It was still a place of transition, but now something gnawed at me. Was I who I said I was? I am supposed to win? Do I deserve this wonderful thing?

Is it mine to enjoy?

When I woke up, I was thinking of ladybugs. We've all seen ladybugs, bright red, little summertime soldiers. The ladybugs I remember most were the ones I saw in a place that they never belonged. Intruders that made me question the dream of my life. "Statistical Analysis of Data Structures". It was a white covered college book that cost me an obscene amount to buy. It was a frigid January, and I didn't take off my coat in class. Outside, the wind was cruel and the Sun was yellow and weak, so far away. A stormy morning so gray and heartbreaking, the kind that makes you just want to lay down in a pyre, to remember what warm was. The chairs in the classroom where garish earth tones, and cold. Only after nodding off did I finally wake to see the room was awash in ladybugs. They were the color of unripe tomatoes, that yellow orange shade. A swarm of them, in a bare math classroom, in a Canadian winter. How? Why? I may never know. It made no sense at all, but I remember them. Likely as confused as me, in a place that was never dreamed of by their nature, and yet, after a fashion, adapted to. Doomed, but alive with hope.

Sometimes I get the urge to just run. Not away, just off. I think of these huge Koi I saw at zoo when I was very young. A tiny wooden footbridge crested a muddy shallow creek, shaded by an extravagant weeping willow. The water was mostly slit gray and studded with rocks. The bridge seemed headswimmingly high to me. High above the bright koi, in reds and whites and mottled blacks and unnatural oranges. Fall orange. Pumpkin Orange. They swam against the modest current, dammed in by the rocks, forever questing for the bridge. Koi live a life of primal hunger. They will eat until they explode, driven, hellishly focused, only to quest for consumption. It is easy to think them greedy, but I have always held a kind of quiet admiration for them, a workman's professional acknowledgment. The roiling carpet of koi, huge, sleek, scaled sun dancing koi, clogged that stream from bank to bank. They forced their whiskered faces up from the water constantly, watching and waiting. Fins swam in air and unseen muscles churned the water. 10 feet of stream was orange with writhing organic hunger. After that, the water became serenely calm again. I stood on the bridge, watching the koi watch me, wondering how they could ignore the freedom just around the bend. I stood beside the red gumball machine full of fish food on that bridge, and slowly, I came to understand desire. Nature is desire.

Winter is coming. Look around you.

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