Skating and America in Providence

Went skating today at the Kennedy Plaza rink in Providence. Global warming means winter sports are…limited. But, the rink (forgive me for being metaphorical) was America. Lots of people, all colors and sizes and both sexes and many ages, all being goofy in public. Some people skating fast and elegant (that was dangerous) some going backwards at times and obstructing the general counter-clockwise flow. Others just sort of sat there and watched. Little kids were getting perhaps their first taste of the ice. There were couples, families, solo acts and young hockey-type partners in crime terrifying the slow of reflex.

I even watched a young lady figure skater go into her routine, pointlessly showing off to the masses. It was…just everyone doing their own thing–yet no fist fights. I suppose in some cultures (Germany or Japan?) there would have been a regular rhythm to the skaters. There wasn’t. But that to me is America. Everyone compromising on the ice. No one quite hogging it. I didn’t get all that I wanted (I like to skate fast and hard), but I got my stretches of ice, just like all the others.

Always a bit exasperating, but the way it is–and it could be worse.

The Dancing Chicken: Metaphor for Man

Stroszek” is a great find from the venerable Ebert. An amazing movie…Three oddballs from Germany (a mentally defective musician, a prostitute, and a tiny old man) leave the oppressive pimps of Berlin for…Wisconsin and its wilds. From moment to moment, I couldn’t predict what would happen next. There is a hilarious robbery of a barber shop next to a bank (the bank was closed and the culprits believe even barbers are part of the grand financial conspiracy that is America). They then buy a…a frozen turkey. Then, the unforgettable line at the end from the police: “We’ve got a truck on fire, can’t find the switch to turn the ski lift off, and can’t stop the dancing chicken. Send an electrician.” Of course, we are all that dancing chicken.

A Kind Word from a Reader

At the risk of blowing my own trumpet–or letting someone else do it for me, I’d like to share this kindly email from a reader. “The Lost Fleet” was not as much of a commercial success as I would have liked it to be. However, that some people have found it a moving and worthwhile story is MORE important to me than that. Connecting with readers is why I write. Here’s the comment:

“I grew up just off Rodney French Blvd in New Bedford and just finished your book, ‘The Lost Fleet’…I’m not a big reader, but I could not put this book down. You did a great job on researching the subject and my whole prospective on the whaling industry has changed. I have seen NB sadly change in my 64 years and still visit it periodically for the great seafood and the memories. My last visit was several weeks ago and they were working on a streetscape projects around the docks. I will get your other books and I’m sure they were written with the same detail and quality. Thank you !”

My thanks to this reader. To any readers who have read my work and enjoyed it, by all means let me know!

Another American Tragedy

Why the Connecticut disaster? This unspeakable butchery is easily understood. A failure in our mental health system; a breakdown in family responsibility; and a breakdown in gun control. When so many people are killed, it is clear it’d far too easy for the mentally ill to get access to ammunition and bullets in abundance. This is another example of the barbarism we are collapsing into.

Hearing the statement this is the “worst shooting in an elementary school in American history” floors me. The newscasters offer this pointless statistic with a straight face. Only in America would the media categorize the massacre like this–there are so many massacres, it seems, in theaters, colleges, and the like, we have to particularize them in some way. Naturally, the next borderline psychotic deciding to shock the world may use that as a starting point for HIS massacre and his hoped-for apotheosis in the ghoul-firmament of cable news…

At times like this, I wonder if America is a darkness trying to find the bottom that isn’t there.

View from the Top

Back up Sunday for my yearly pilgrimage to the summit of Mt. Wachusett. The last stretch of most mountains is always an out body experience–the height and exhaustion and the giddiness of the top are a prelude to heaven. Nothing quite like the modest crown of Wachusett to clear the head–especially with the endorphins spreading through the body from the vicious last quarter mile of hand over hand climbing. You have fought the good fight, and run the good race, and you know it. There, up top, you realize you live in a sea of cloud-soaked air–and below and in the midst of this oxygen ocean we swim in, the machines slowly (or perhaps not so slowly) strangling us with carbon fumes.

“Prometheus” Quite the Ship

Saw “Prometheus” at last…Now I wish I had seen it on the big screen. People complained of its lack of ideas–It had many ideas, most that it merely hinted at. Language and meaning; man vs. machine; man vs. microbe; man vs. woman; woman vs. offspring–at least when inseminated by an unknowing host; time vs. stasis; and so on.

The big idea–man vs. his creator? That’s a no brainer from a cosmic viewpoint. It would really only be a matter of logic to decide man is the biggest nastiest despoiler of the planet. The next question: Is the entire planet (or universe–we breed like rabbits) worth this one invasive species? Hell–The old testament god committed genocide when there were probably not even 1 million people on the planet and the writer of that myth couldn’t have conceived of not more than a few thousand.

Naturally, just because some vastly superior humanoids made us and then decided to off us is rather meaningless. In the beginning–the one we can imagine–God made god and then some other gods and then angels in some reductive Darwin world-universe…HE…THEY…IT…made us…But, somebody made THEM–and truly the final choice in the movie (I won’t ruin the end) is what makes us different than a machine.

Some odd note in the human genetic melody sounds a “why?”–in a deeper pitch than a “how” (reptiles through mammals share that cause-effect capability) to get to a certain end. Man isn’t an ant or a microbe with 5 or so reactions to all situations. Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., and Saint Francis say more to me about human oddness and our place in the world than any other examples. More than, say, a rat with access to a button (via perversely humanly placed electrodes) who will press it and stimulate its pleasure center to the exclusion of all else until it starves to death….

If there is a takeaway from the movie–mine is that at least we asked the big “WHY?”

Berkshires Ramble

Rode around West Massachusetts last week. The Springfield Armory deserves a visit, especially from pacifists. An odd historic anachronism in a dying-to-dead city. The guide there explained only a fraction of the museum objects were available for view. Even if all were on display, the objects would include graveyards throughout America, South America, Europe, and Asia.

Visited the mouth of the Hoosac Tunnel. It sticks out as a perfect arch in a hillside in the middle of rolling hills and wet woods. The slabs of stone that form it lie so perfect and clockwork. Just inside the tunnel is the dead black air of eternity–a few moths fluttered there. You aren’t allowed in–nor would I want to venture there–although someone described in detail how they once did it. I wouldn’t have the nerve for that.

One other item of note–The Warfield House is a wonderful place with a grand view. In the mist, in the hills, I saw something modern and positive–the blades of a massive windmill. For give my poetry–but to me it’s a scythe cutting our dependence on murderous fossil fuels.