THE SNOW GLOBE
Adam Jordan felt as if he had just received the keys to the Emerald City, the Rosetta Stone, the Triple Crown of Journalism. He had been granted the rare privilege of chronicling the life of Devril Fox, an icon of the Twentieth Century quite unlike any mortal that preceded him, and, very likely, a man whose legacy would last well into the Twenty-first Century and beyond. No scribe of any kind had ever been invited to record the minutiae of Devril Fox's life. In all of his life, Adam Jordan never imagined an opportunity such as this.
Fortune had not only smiled on Adam Jordan, it was also his destination. He was traveling to the geodesic domed community of Devril Fox's extraordinarily fertile imagination, Fortune City. Just thirty minutes northeast of Toronto, Fortune was a conspicuously magnificent testament to Devril's vision of architectural achievement, an accomplishment that would generally be classified as the grandiose fantasy of an unimaginable ego.
For the most part, Fortune City was a gift from Devril Fox to his employees and their families. It was a panacea of social, environmental, cultural, political, and architectural concepts, housed in a spectacularly beautiful setting. It was the culmination of years of planning...and tens of billions of dollars of investment. It was also an eight year construction project incorporating an unprecedented number of workers.
Adam Jordan was a celebrated journalist. His style was unobtrusive, objective, and relaxed. It was neither speculative nor opinionated, but revealed details and facts as accurately as they were themselves revealed.
Above all, Adam Jordan was an honest man, and an honest writer.
The invitation to Fortune City had come to Jordan by way of Marcus Kincaid, the administrator of Fortune, and the lifelong partner of Devril Fox. The train ride from New York City to Toronto gave Jordan ample time to formulate his thoughts, and to review his early research on Fox's life. This would be no ordinary recounting of a man's achievements, as it could be argued that no other mortal, in his lifetime, had ever aspired to and reached such splendid goals. In the sea of superlatives commonly used to describe great individuals, this man stood alone.
Adam boarded the connecting train from Toronto to Fortune City excited at the prospect of meeting Marcus. The train ride was a mere triffle in terms of distance, but luxurious in a way one would be unaccustomed to finding on a train. It was the type of comfort that would encourage one to choose a train as their preferred method of traveling over all else. The train was profoundly quiet, as though one were traveling in space in the absence of air and the resistance that accompanies it. Within mere minutes of his boarding, Adam had reached his destination.
"Welcome to Fortune City, Mr. Jordan. I hope your trip was comfortable?"
"It was very comfortable, thank you. I am thrilled beyond belief to be a guest in this remarkable setting, and please, call me Adam. Of course, I've heard about this place. Who hasn't, but never having been here, I find myself overwhelmed. I apologize for being so distracted. One hears about this place, but the stories pale in comparison to its staggering reality. It is genuinely surreal. Marcus, before we begin, would you mind terribly sharing some history of Fortune with me?"
Adam Jordan was awestruck. Indeed, he was beyond awestruck if such a state exists. There are adjectives to describe things, and then, as they say, there are adjectives that are wholly inadequate. Adam Jordan was in that wholly inadequate territory.
"I'd be happy to, Adam".
"Devril had a vision"...and so, Marcus began. Plagued by the onset of a variety of pulmonary illnesses in his thirties, Devril Fox had envisioned a man-made environment that was artificial, but not artificial at the same time, a city whose climate was completely under the control of technology, yet a natural space.
"It is a controlled environment in every sense of the term. Fortune is air-tight. Unlike controlled environments outside, filtered air is not re-circulated throughout the city. It is constantly being replenished with purified fresh air. Our medical professionals tell me we have some of the lowest incidences of colds, bacterial and viral infections, in addition to a low frequency of pulmonary ailments such as asthma. The benefits of good health are self-evident to say nothing of the productivity benefits garnered from a healthy workforce, wouldn't you agree?"
"Yes...is smoking permitted within the confines of the city?"
"Good Lord Adam, is that a rhetorical question? No. Unequivocally no," chuckled Marcus.
Fortune became a municipality in October of 2001, shortly after 9/11. As a municipality, it had its own council, by-laws, etc., just like any other town or city. There were some peculiar differences; there were no parking enforcement officers, gas stations, cars or trucks. The kind of ambient noise one would associate with a small town or city was absent. The noise of a jackhammer or front-end-loader pounding into frozen soil was non-existent.
Fortune was a domed city, an architectural and engineering masterpiece, an epic vision of grandeur...and arrogance; a concept that humbled even the most fertile imagination, a breadth of imagination that must have emerged from the corridors of a delusional mind. But, there was nothing delusional about where Adam Jordan was standing. Fortune was not a macabre product of a deranged mind. It was not Alice in Wonderland, Disneyworld, or Wizard of Oz. It was sentient, fluid, organic. It was an environmentally, culturally, politically, and socially lucid municipal dream factory, an embraceable hallucination and fantasy that one may have conjured from their nights as a child laying in bed dreaming of fantastic concepts of future societies.
"Adam, Devril as you probably know, developed an extremely rare form of rheumatoid arthritis in his early thirties, of which, one of the symptoms was pleurisy, an inflammation of the lining separating the lungs from the ribcage. It also led to a nefariously undetected insurgence of pneumonia that further compromised his ability to breathe properly. He was always an advocate of the importance of clean air or a cleaner environment, even well before the advent of the Still's disease, but the illness really spurred him on. And, he amassed the wealth and means to do something about it, to build his childhood fantasy city.
Fortune is perfectly round, three miles across, 9.42 miles in circumference, 4,464 acres – 7 square miles. To put that in perspective, it would cover all of downtown Toronto north from the lake to St. Clair Avenue, west from Bathurst to the Don Valley Parkway in the east, or you could put six of New York's Central Park inside Fortune City, and that's just above ground. Much of the infrastructure of the city is subterranean to keep the city as pristine as possible.
The tallest support columns are 2,500 feet high. They support the spans that radiate outward in much the same way as an umbrella, of course, on a considerably grander scale. What makes them unique is that they have been incorporated, or encapsulated as it were, inside what are essentially housing or office units, but principally housing. In this way, they do not present themselves as an eyesore but, rather, as an intrinsic part of the living space of the community."
"Marcus, I have to interrupt you there," stated Adam.
"Devril's critics, and there were many, scoffed at the idea that a dome of this magnitude could be constructed. The principal argument was, I believe, that the weight of the membrane could not be supported on such a scale nor could it in fact even be engineered. How did your engineers overcome these two obstacles?"
Marcus continued enthusiastically,
"Devril Fox is not only perhaps the world's wealthiest individual, but he has the liquidity to fund immensely expensive and complex research and development without the necessity of a "profit mandate" as it were. In other words, you, or I, or a large corporation would not invest in R & D without weighing the potential profits to be realized. This was not the case with Fortune City's development. Not worrying about the profit motive does free up the imagination.
Our engineers developed a glass-acrylic polymer that is seventy-two percent stronger than conventional glass and eighty-eight percent lighter in weight. And, the polymer still manages to allow us to incorporate adaptive properties such as radiant heating to melt snow, ultra-violet protection, heat refraction, and better insulating properties. The membrane is very similar to polarized-radiant eye-ware that darkens or lightens depending on the sun or cloud cover. The similarity ends there however. There are numerous features to the glass that incorporate allowances for contraction, expansion, and cleaning.
In terms of engineering such an enormous structure, we approached the project with a "think simple" philosophy. If one looks at a complex challenge with a complex viewpoint, one will arrive at a complex solution – so, we approached the project with a simple vision. From the outset, we knew we could not string a supportive ribbing grid across a span of three miles. Even with support columns in place, Sikorsky style helicopters would have difficulty supporting the weight of the spans of ribbing required for the membrane plates. Devril, of all people, suggested approaching this as though we were building an igloo, just a bigger version. You could hear the proverbial pin drop."
Again, Adam listened intensely as Marcus continued with the complex and detailed elucidation on the genesis of the construction. Alternately shifting from side to side in his chair, thumb and forefinger raised to his chin, Adam focused on each and every one of Marcus's words with the attention of a deeply engrossed chess player.
"Adam, I can slow down if need be," suggested Marcus.
"No, no, were good. Please carry on. This is very engrossing – not at all like the writing I am used to," replied Adam.
"There were three teams, two for membranes, one beginning from the north, and one beginning from the south. Team three was the columns support teams – all of course coordinated with the guidance of GPS.
The most monumental challenge, I suppose, was the scaffolding. Once again, a tremendous amount of expense and R & D went into the development and manufacturing of scaffolding that was incredibly lightweight, strong, and engineered to be assembled and disassembled with lightning speed. There was a scaffolding team whose only responsibility was the completion of this task. The ribbing spans and scaffolding are constructed out of an aluminum-magnesium-titanium alloy developed by our metallurgists. It is, as you would imagine, corrosion, resistant, remarkably light, and capable of enormous tensile strength.
As each membrane team began assembling the lower panels of the wall, temporary scaffolding towers would be constructed as supports in lieu of the concrete support towers. Once each tower was completed and ribbing spans were in place, the next phase of scaffolding and tower construction would inch closer and closer toward the center of the dome, where the two teams from each side would eventually meet at the middle of the dome.
The Fox Corporation did eventually develop its own version of the Sikorsky style helicopter that possessed the lifting power necessary to drop connective ribbing in place between the support towers. Rain is sprinkled from the top floors of the support towers. The glass membrane would not support the weight of an attached sprinkler system, particularly the water.
In deference to the cynics, Devril Fox had the will, the manpower, the resources, and the money to see this project to fruition. While there are a great many multi-national corporations that have the assets and wealth to pursue an engineering project of such magnitude, a) that kind of altruism does not exist in the corporate community, b) they do not have that kind of liquidity, and c) there is no profitability in such a venture.
Solar and wind power are Fortune's only sources of power. We have an unlimited supply, but usage by the residents is tempered with a conservation philosophy nonetheless. We will not allow accessibility to cheap and plentiful energy or anything else for that matter, to breed complacency or wasteful practices. Having two sources of power gives us flexibility and peace of mind. There are fifty windmill turbines north of the dome which provide enough power for about thirty-five thousand homes. They are quite remarkable, standing three hundred and eighty-four feet high, with blades one hundred and twenty-eight feet long. The swooping descent of the blades is quite hypnotic. Here's the best part...we are even our own power company, selling power to communities in the area...generates quite a tidy little revenue stream for us.
One last thing: As you know, the Fox Corporation is non-unionized, always has been, always will be. As the outer-membrane evolved, it allowed the remaining team project leaders to begin in earnest, the construction of all other aspects of the city under the shelter of the dome. Construction 24-7 was crucial to the expedient completion of this project, and would likely not have been possible if we used unionized labourers. Although there was a substantial union outcry initially, the reputation of Devril Fox and the lure of working and being a participant on such an ethereal feat of engineering were too alluring to resist."
"You must be very proud?" Adam iterated.
"Proud indeed." responded Marcus.
"Pride does not adequately convey our feelings. We are immensely proud of this accomplishment. We have poured...laid the foundation for numerous technological advances never before used at our own expense. We provided and have created thousands of full-time employment positions with the highest standards of corporate-employee fellowship. Perhaps most significantly, Devril Fox has created the socio-cultural phenomenon we have only imagined in our wildest collection of dreams and fantasies, one that is now an actual, not virtual reality, one that can be measured and studied with empirical results that will hopefully benefit the rest of humanity.
Forgive me Adam; you might say we wear our pride on our sleeves. I do not think the magnitude of achievement you are witnessing today can be underestimated; this is a Herculean socio-cultural-political advancement.
On a lighter note, there is no snow! Well, that's not entirely true. We've got one of those indoor skiing facilities similar to the one over in Dubai for summer skiing. I think they have one in Tokyo as well, come to think of it."
"Now that's what my readers will really want to know! Is there a poop and scoop law, that kind of thing? Does a bear shit in the woods? Do loud obnoxious tourists get past the screeners? These are the pertinent questions of the day, Marcus!" enthused Adam.
By this point, Adam Jordan was alternately hunching forward, forearms resting on his lap, his eyes percolating with enthusiasm, eagerly waiting for each and every word forthcoming from Marcus. His posture and bright eyed expression reminded one of young school children brimming