Optimist? Pessimist? Up? Down? Well, maybe there’s something for everyone in the story of the Grorgia Guides. No? Well, relax, because the story is a doozy. Wired magazine has an item on its web site, and to be frank, I read it sort of open-mouthed, like the fella who thought he had seen everything, “and I been to Dallas, twice”. Here’s the poop. The Georgia Guides are a set of four very large granite slaps, arranged in X fashion, around a central pillar, with a capstone. The whole structure in Elberton, GA, is sited to reveal various astronomical events, such as daily noon, the equinoxes, the Polar Star. On the upright faces of the slabs are texts in eight world languages, embodying principles which could be useful in, OK, hang on, reconstituting civilization after some very, very bad thing happens. The structure was commissioned and paid for by a mysterious man, using a pseudonym, who claimed to be the representative of a secret society which had grown increasingly pessimistic about humanity’s chances of avoiding some calamity and the group wanted to ensure that at least something was left over to guide the survivors in getting things going again. Georgia was selected for the quality of its granite ( take that, Vermont!) and presumably for other reasons, such as cheap land. When the mystery dude showed up in this small Georgia town one day in 1979, it was the biggest thing to happen there since Sherman’s March. At first, people thought he was some kind of weirdo, but he began forking over the long green and the locals had to shut up and listen. Whoever said money talks had that down to the nails in his shoes. Keerect, as my dad used to say. The specifications were very exact, and help from the astronomy department at UGA was needed to make sure the observatory part worked right. Sentiment about the texts was divided. Some thought that the message was New-Agey and even sinister, and that the Guides would attract all kinds of religious and semi-religious nuts. And for a while, that sort of happened. A lot of tourism sort of happened too, as people from all over began to make their way to Elberton for a gander at the American Stonehenge. It slackened after the public went after other fads, but had a brief revival in the 1990s, thanks to Yoko Ono. There aren’t many locals left who went through the design and construction of the Guides, but it’s all pretty well documented, and it’s hard to conceal 20 ft slabs of granite. So, the occasional visitor makes the trip. At first, I thought the super-stones would have useful information, like, oh, formulas for areas of figures, the value of PI, the DNA molecule, you know. But, the texts are really kind of moralizing and exhortative, on the lines of “do good and avoid evil”. It’s kind of a let-down really, like the end of Mony Python and the Meaning of Life, where Michael Palin reads the Secret and it’s “Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in”. Some secret. I worked things out that far on my own, Mr. Homes. But, the tale of the Guides makes for a good story and I was especially taken by the continued friendship, of a rather peculiar kind, between the Mystery Dude and the banker who set up the deal, and who swore absolute silence about the MD’s true identity. It was also interesting to note how MD sent the money..from banks all over the USA, in the US mail. All communication took place by letter. I don’t think a guy could pull that off in this age of the Internet, but, maybe. We can all hope that the Guides never are needed for their intended purpose. And, maybe, if we’re driving around rural Georgia and need peach cobbler infusions or something, or have to stock up on granite, we’ll head for Elberton, and take a look.