Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

Thoughts From Above

I was hoping to be asleep already, since I have an early morning date with Massachusetts drivers during rush hour. But I'm not quite there yet, so I'll leave you with a few random observations from today's traveling:
• In Houston, an elderly African-American woman in a wheelchair was pushed down the jetway in front of me and then left to wait there for a bit while the rest of the passengers boarded. The airplane's crew went out of its way to be kind to her during and after the flight. But I still thought of New Orleans. On the way out of the plane I heard her talking to two flight attendants about being evacuated to Houston. Yes, she was one of the 500,000 people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. At least she had relatives who could take her in up in Boston.
• Those bends in the Mississippi that get cut off from the river's flow during floods or earthquakes look strange from above, like the pieces of a snake that is in the process of being dissected. I wonder how they stay so full of water -- many of them look like lakes -- without regular inflow and outflow. I wonder how the small towns that line them survive. It's worse than being bypassed by the interstate.
• The view of Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania from the airplane had me thinking about that famous Pare Lorentz documentary from the 1930s called The River, which artfully combines images shot by people like Paul Strand with propaganda on behalf of the Tennessee Valley Authority's project to control flooding through aggressive dam building. Because I grew up in the 1970s, when environmentalists were advocating the preservation and restoration of wilderness areas, I've always had a particular aversion for dams and the artificial lakes they make. After the experience of Hurricane Katrina, though, it was hard not to regard the "taming" of the Tennessee and other river valleys as necessary. The tributaries of tributaries to the Ohio and Mississippi are often in canyons so narrow that it's a miracle anyone thought to inhabit them at all.
• I did not enjoy pending three and a half hours next to a person whose size took away what miniscule personal space my coach seat would normally have allotted me.
• Flying over the eastern portion of Long Island after spending four hours reading The Great Gatsby is pretty awesome.
• Inexplicably circling over Rhode Island like a vulture spiraling down towards roadkill can make you dizzy.
• I really need to visit Cape Cod again in order to remind myself of my family connection to the place.
• While Cape Cod is too far away to reach by car, given how long I'll be in the Boston area, Cape Ann is not. If I could only find the time, I sure would like to see some ocean.
• Staying in a defrocked Sheraton Four Points is a little disturbing, but free wireless, pool, and exercise area in a hotel where my room runs only $62 per night makes up for any anxiety I might feel in that regard.
• I found it intriguing that the two closest restaurants to my hotel, both within easy walking distance, had large signs announcing a haddock special even though it was only Thursday.
• Sitting next to a giant television in a pub where the patrons area all watching the New England Patriots' first regular-season game gives an illusion of panoptic surveillance to go along with making you deaf. Everyone was looking in my direction, even if none of them actually saw me.
That's today's report. I'll try to write something tomorrow evening, after a day at the English Institute.

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