Friday, July 12, 2019

From Enlightenment to Onlinenment

Well gollee y’all, we have collectively moved from the Age of Enlightenment to the Age of Onlinenment.
Liberty! Equality! Universal Brotherhood!

Revolutions (1)

Two or three centuries ago, us civilized Euro-heritage types began figuring out that we no longer needed  the ole Roman church to tell us how to be good and not be bad. We used our enlightened minds to think our way past their ancient religiosity and priestly hoodoo shenanigans; we began to view life in a more Romantic way. We began to  understand that each one of us—each individual—could determine his/her own destiny. We determined that we didn’t need those old priestly neutered fuddy-duds any more to tell us what was right or wrong.
After a while we took our rejection of ancient institutions to the next level. By the time the 20th century rolled in, we had figured out we really didn’t need them uppity kings and queens no more; we ran most of them out of town; we even chopped a few of their royal heads. We were having a grand time making mincemeat of millenia-old royal houses, kings, queens, dukes, duchesses, earls and heiresses. Who needs counts and countesses, marquises and marquesses?

Ferdshot

By mid-20th-century, we had honed in in on the regular politicos and company men, identifying them as superfluous self-serving dead weight dragging the system down. Useless people, the whole lot of ‘em. Throw the bums out, somebody said. Who needs fat cat prime ministers, prejudicial presidents, robber barons, pompous politicians,  corrupt corporate lackeys, or fatcat hackeys? Kick ‘em in the ass on the way out the door. By the 21st-century, each one of us had so much control over our personal domains and our very own sope box social media we didn’t even need the old networks any more to tell us what’s important or not important, what’s real cool and what’s the latest hot fake news, who to vote for, who do idolize, imitate or ingratiate or be infatuated with. Not even needed any more was the advice columnist with personal hoodoo howto and who to mock of fock or hook up wit or who to lock up for fibbing to an inquisitional committee.
Our way-cool Enlightenment about the power and wonder of each one of us to be his/her/its own self through the power of the Faceblook ’n the big Tweet and instahoohoogramaton bet-ya-cant-ketchme electrons had brightened the formerly dull dark of obsequious obesity and ancient animosity, rendering it now unto us a wide wide world wild web of such unprecedented intensity that it was lighting up the whole frickin wide web with digital splendor and electronic genius unparalleled and therefore netting such beautiful neutered people heretofore not known in the anals of time!
And so our three-century long trek out of medieval darkness, having morphed us through the illuminati grandiosity of Enlightenment, past obese obsequiosity, into the very ebullient Age of Romanticism, far beyond classical Hour of the Angels Come, so that now we found ourselves busting forth into this new age of electronic awareness necessity and beyond that being hooked up by hook or by crook, turned on, tuned out, dropped out of proprietary propriety and into absolutely cool quasi-obligatory new world neutering Onlinenment.
The Age of Onlinement!
Aren’t you glad you made it here!
I bet you feel smarter already!
Dingding! See Cashier for receipt. Hook up with one of ojr 64oz shugger shug shug while you're in.

GasGirl


Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Bridge across Time

Setting old stones with new methods lays a solid foundation for future pathways of our life together.
Here’s a Blue Ridge Parkway bridge, near my home, built when I was a kid long ago, in the 1960’s.

BRPHollowa

It’s a well-built public-works project.
Incredible strength was laid into the bridge’s inner structure when concrete was poured around a steel rebar framework. Unseen in the finished structure, the silent steel still contributes to ongoing structural integrity and function. Internal strength assured the bridge’s longevity, allowing the structure to bear up under the heavy demands of continuous motored traffic for many and many a year.
This solid piece of work has been sustaining motored traffic for most of my 68 years.
Use of reinforcing steel roads, tied together with wire like cages, then buried forever with gravel aggregate in solid 'crete mud, is a relatively new architectural practice in construction history. The internal rebar method was devised by constructors over time, to assure deep integrity and resilience in vast concrete structures.
Such built-in reinforcement has enabled folks to progressively build bigger buildings, longer roads and bridges, as civilization marches on.

BluRiOvPas

This strong, continuous, time-tested concrete underbelly enables motorists to drive without stopping, on a road that crosses o'er a  road that passes beneath it. In this photo, you can see the structure’s rock-hard underbelly, which bears the surface imprints of wooden planks that were used in forming the main arch  when the concrete was cast, back in the mid-1960’s.
Certainly our attention is drawn to the large veneer stones on the outside face of the construction. These chiseled rocks, having been skillfully cut with calculated angles, lend a classic appearance to the roadway, which would have otherwise been a dull utilitarian construct.
Thus did the bridge become something far more than an elevated roadway; it stands as an artistic statement of architectural continuity, in agreement with its older, 1930’s-era bridge “ancestors.”
The stone masons who erected similar Blue Ridge bridges back in the earlier days were ancestors--whether by profession or by blood-- of the rock masons who set these stones three decades later.
Such chisel-sculpted work  becomes a masonary tip-of-the-trowel to time-honored traditions of stone masons who lived and worked on this same 469-mile parkway back in the day, and then eventually crossed that great celestial bridge to eternity. 
Having stood the tests of time and traffic, this good work stands as a long-lasting homage to both structural integrity and graceful design.

About six miles up the road from the bridge pictured above, there's an S-curved structure that I tied steel on, back in the early 1980's-- the Linn Cove Viaduct on Grandfather Mountain. It's a very special construct, being the final missing-link in the middle of a 469-mile, 50-year Blue Ridge Parkway project. But this one was special--not for the classic stonework--but for the cutting-edge technology of building the thing from the top down, instead of the bottom up! 

BRPLinConst2

Here’s solid evidence that in this life it’s a good idea to do things right. Build it to last, whatever it is you’re working on in your time here.  Our children’s children will notice the quality and be inspired to do great works in their own time.


Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Parkway Cometh

In 1937, the following scene probably happened somewhere near where we live in the Blue Ridge, North Carolina:
“What does it say?”
Jake handed the letter to his father. “There’s a lot of gobble-dy-gook there, Pa, but it says the land stopped bein’ ours when they posted it down at the courthouse.”
“Posted what?”
“The map of all the land they need to take.”
Jeremiah turned around slightly. Casting an eye on his nearby rocker, he carefully took aim and seated himself. Looking up again at his boy, “Well they ain’t paid us for it yit.”
“That needs to be decided yet, Pa.” Jake shook his head slowly. “It’s lookin’ like this is gonna drag on fer awhile.”
“We told that inspector fella we’d take forty.”
“It ain’t that simple, Pa. Them lawyers down in Raleigh gonna pay us whatever they say it’s worth.”
“Damn, son! What is this? Damn communists!”
Jake set the letter down on the side-cabinet. He had managed to glance through it and get the gist. “Shit, pa, it ain’t that bad. They’re just tryin’ to build that road real nice and scenic so’s people’ll come drivin’ up here and spend their money.”
“Well I guess that’s all well ‘n good, son. But I ain’t been down to the courthouse to see what they posted. Don’t seem right that we ain’t got payment, and we don’t even know how much we’re gonna git!”
“It’ll all work out, Pa. At least they’re only takin’ one side of our land. Watsons and Purlears got their places split up. And from what I’ve heard from Miller up in Ashe, them that got their land split up won’t be able to even drive from one side t’other. So be thankful for what you got. Ain’t  that what the Book says?” Jake looked his father in the eye. “Be thankful we’ll still be able to drive the tractor from one side all the way across the field to the other side.”
 “Yeah, what’s left of it,” Jeremiah mumbled as he commenced to rocking. He looked out the window, through the porch at the front yard. “Hell, I don’t know what this world’s coming to.
Jake was reading another letter, silently. His attention riveted there, he said nothing, just nodded his head, looking down at the script on a letter from his aunt Polly in Foscoe.
“New Deal, I guess,” his father continued while Jake folded Polly’s letter and picked up another piece of mail.
“Yeah, Pa, I reckon it’s the New Deal. Did Sally say what time they’d be back?
“’bout four, I think she said.”
Pa had been pondering. “Son, did you know they posted that map at the courthouse?
Jake sighed. “Yeah, Pa, I knew about it. I went and looked at it on Friday when I was in town. Roby Watson told me about it while I was in Goodnight’s pickin’ up feed.”
“I guess you didn’t wanna tell me, huh?”
“Nah, pa, I just forgot about it.” Jake sat down in his easy chair. Now he was reading something else.
“You forgot about it.”
“Yeah, Pa.” Jake nodded his head slowly, preoccupied with his bank statement.
Jeremiah was rocking steadily now, as if he were relaxed and maybe resigning himself to whatever it was that was about to happen that would change the shape of the 67 acres he had inherited from his father back in 1910. “Seems a little strange to me, boy, you could forget about something as important as losing a quarter of our land.” No judgement in his voice. Just sayin’. Pa had calmed down from his earlier rant.
“I mean,” Jake looked up at his father again, smiling slightly. “I mean, I didn’t forget about it; I just forgot to tell you about it.”
“Uh huh.”
Jake’s expression morphed slowly  from concentration in his letter-reading, to a mild amusement. “Shootfire, Pa, there’s somethin’ else I forgot to tell you.
“Oh yeah?” His father allowed a mild chuckle. Mr. Roosevelt gonna bring us a hog or two as a consolation prize?
“Actually, it is kinda like that . . . maybe a peace offering. Uncle Skip told Roby he’d give me a job running one of them road graders.”
“On the new road?” Jeremiah’s voice acquired an even more amused tone.
“Yep.”
Jake’s father laughed. “Well, ain’t that a cat’s whisker! I seen it all now. The Parkway giveth and the Parkway taketh away,” he declared, playing upon some ancient proverb. Now he set the rocker into a steady pace. “And when’s that gonna start?”
“Coupla weeks, or something like that,” Jake replied. “They gotta finish that little bit of blasting over there near the highway. Then, Skip says, they’ll pretty much be ready to grade from Deep Gap all the way to Aho.”
“Well, I guess that’s good news for Uncle Sam, but it’ll blast the hell out of our peace and quiet around here with all that machinery and whatnot takin’ over this country.”
“Not takin’ over, Pa, just makin’ it easy for folks to come up here and spend money, after they lay the asphalt to it.”
“I reckon it will be easier for them rich folks down the mountain to come up here and ride around in their Cadillacs, like over in Blowin’ Rock.”
BlueRdgView

Yep. Coulda happened. . . maybe, maybe not. Long time ago . . . but we haven't  yet totally obliterated our consciousness of the past with our contemporary obsession in social media and and political side-show antics. Not yet.

Blue 

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Search for Blue

The Traveler’s main burden is a restless soul. He has carried it dutifully for a long time.
    Traveler’s roots were deep, but not necessarily set into a specific place on this earth. Having  traversed many a mile of land and sea, this sojourner had been driven westward, in search of some destination that could not yet be clearly identified. So it might be said his roots stretched deep into life itself, rather than a place.
   At least for now.
   From a continental origin he had sailed o’er channel, into stillness and storm, outside of the norm, through  unknown , and out the other side of somewhere . . .  arriving for a season upon an ancient isle. But finding very little solace there, traveler had redirected  weary legs to ascend yet another gangplank, so that he might be transported to that great land he had heard tales of, beyond the blue.
   The seaport where he disembarked was, as it happened, a frontier for foreigners not unlike himself. They had uncovered motivations to—for whatever reason—not remain where they had begun. And so, having hung their hopes upon such vague restlessness, they undertook yet another phase of the great journey to somewhere yet to be determined.
    By 'n by, the traveler eventually found himself ascending a long piedmont hill, and so it seemed when he had reached the top of it, the extended journey was now delivering him to a wide westward-looking vista. 
    Pausing to catch breath, Travis trained his eyes on a string of  faraway ridges. Obviously high, yet . . . it seemed . . . gently-sloping. . . forested they were, and having no cragginess that he could see from here. That string of mountains  stretched like great slumbering beached whales across the entirety  of his new horizon. From  north  to south . . . blue, and blue to blue on blue, and more . . . blue.

He had never seen such a thing.
BlueRidg


So  this must be the  beginning of Search for Blue . . .

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Death by War

I wrote a story about an American traveling through Europe in the spring/summer of 1937. In the novel, Smoke, which I published in 2015, young businessman Philip Morrow accepts an unusual errand, which takes him through London, halfway around the far side of France, then to Paris, and ultimately to arrive at a place called Flanders Field in Belgium.

At his specific Memorial battleground destination, Philip sees for the first time the final resting place of his father, a soldier of the American Expeditionary Force, who had died there in 1918 during the last week of World War I.  Philip had been eight years old in 1917 when he hugged his pa for the last time, then  beheld  his mother while she tearfully embraced her  husband, a mountaineer marksman named Clint. 

In chapter 27 of Smoke, Philip arrives at the Memorial cemetery accompanied by a newfound friend, Mel, an old Frenchman who expresses his appreciation for Clint's courageous sacrifice--given in his last full measure of devotion-- for freedom, to defeat tyranny.

Clint's total offering in 1918 was not the first, nor the last, to be put forth by millions of other soldiers since that time. In Washington DC, I snapped this photo of a newer Memorial--that one constructed for us to remember the dead of Vietnam.
VNMem (1)

We Americans do appreciate the families left behind.  Their sorrow and sacrifice is painfully precious; it  runs deep--deep as the blood that pumped through soldiering bodies alive with determination--blood that still streams through the beating hearts and minds of  us Americans and Allies.

Here's my offering, from chapter 27 of Smoke:
       “How could this place have been a battlefield for a world war?”
       'The old Frenchman cast his eyes on the passing landscape, and seemed to join Philip in this musing. He answered slowly, “War is a terrible thing, an ugly thing. I did not fight in the war; I had already served my military duty, long before the Archduke was assassinated in Sarajevo and the whole damn world flew apart, like shrapnel. But I had many friends who fought here, and back there, where we just came from in my France, back there at the Somme, the Marne, Amiens. Our soldiers drove the Germans back across their fortified lines, the Hindenberg line they called it. By summer of 1918 the Germans were in full retreat, although it took them a hell of a long time, and rivers of spilt blood, to admit it. And so it all ended here. Those trenches, over there in France, that had been held and occupied for two hellish years by both armies, those muddy hellholes were finally left behind, vacated, and afterward . . . filled up again with the soil of France and Flanders and Belgium, and green grass was planted where warfare had formerly blasted its way out of the dark human soul and the dark humus of lowland dirt and now we see that grass, trimmed, manicured and growing so tidily around those rows of white crosses out there, most of them with some soldier’s name carved on them, many just unknown, anonymous, and how could this have happened? You might as well ask how could. . . a grain of sand get stuck in an oyster? And how could that oyster, in retaliation against that rough, alien irritant, then generate a pearl—such a beautiful thing, lustrous and white—coming forth in response to a small, alien presence that had taken up unwelcomed residence inside the creature’s own domain? The answer, my friend, is floating in the sea, blowing in the wind, growing green and strong from soil that once ran red with men’s blood.” '
       "Now they were arriving at the battlefield. Jacques parked the car, leaned against the front fender, lit a cigarette. Mel and Philip walked through a stone arch, along a narrow, paved road lined with flowering linden trees, spring green with their large spadish leaves, sprinkled with small white blossoms. The sun was getting low behind them. Shadows of these trees had overtaken the narrow lane, turning it cooler than the surrounding fields, acres and acres neatly arranged with white crosses and gravestones, and continuous green, perfect grass between all. Having reached the end of the linden lane, the stepped slowly, reverently, along straight pathways, passing hundreds of silent graves on either side. The setting sun was still warm here, after their cool approach from beneath the trees.
       "At length, they came to the row that Philip had been looking for, the one he had read about in the army guidebook, where his father’s grave was nested precisely and perpetually in its own place in eternity ". . .

King of Soul

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

What Waves Do

Pushed and pulled by forces from sun and moon
waves rolls across entire oceans
until they strike some thing.
Some waves pound upon a sandy shore and climb
until they can climb no more
and so they recede.
In great rounded loops they fall back into the sea.
Yet somehow their rounding retreats
striate into crisscross lines in sand.
Wavenccross

Some waves slap on roots, or reefs and rocks;
swiftly they swing and swerve in uncertainty
recasting light as swirly pearls.
SurfSwirl

Some waves churn up discrepant truth by summoning stuff
into yon distant slick of dubious flotsam fluff:
Is it mirage or mire or  mystery oil or what?
OceanSpots
. . . as seen plainly from a plane ! a glut of what?


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Corals and Us

Corals build:  secreting  calcium carbonate aragonite structural coenosteum through living coenosarc tissue situated between corallite cups, to form coral reef.
Shore
In this way, the coral grows and grows, and grows . . .
(Thank you Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coral 
We build too: We stack stones arrange rocks mix mud mix mortar concoct concrete lay block lay brick blah blah blah
ShoreBuild
We walk out from our built structures. Corals do not; they remain in their little aragonite colony that they have built.
Corals stay while we stroll.
From a distance, them corals don’t look like anything alive. They just look like rocks.
But they are colonies of living critters,
Coral
and they help other living critters to stay alive.
Including us. Corals break up the wave action so we can build our stuff on the beach. Even more than that, they can, over long periods of time, build whole islands for us to dwell upon and enjoy.
When the ocean recedes from corals, they dry up and die. It is only then when we can walk around on them and live on their vast skeleton structure islands.
So we understand that when corals die, they leave that coral colony structure as their legacy—their gift to us and to the rest of the world.
And they don’t even know it.
When we die, we also leave a legacy.
The coral ought to be part of our legacy. We ought to leave the coral for our kids. Don’t step on it; don’t poison it. Let it grow.
Think of that sign you may see while riding on the highway. Referring to the workman who build and improve our roads, it says:
Let ‘em work. Let ‘em live.
Because even though the corals don’t look like it, the corals are alive and working all the time, building habitat for their fellow ocean inhabitants— the fishes and all them other water creatures— and building reefs to protect our islands, and building a fascinating shore world for us to gaze up while strolling on the beach.
Them corals . . . you gotta love ‘em. They just keep quietly doing their thing. Not like us who get all hot ’n bothered about stuff.