Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

the "big dig" is the name given to a huge project in boston, which started back in the nineties, and intended to make the mass pike run under the city instead of feeding into its tortured roads. i say tortured, because it was known even when i lived there, thirty six years ago or so, that boston's roads had evolved from cow-paths, twisted around and were confusing, and were occupied by the craziest drivers north of mexico city, who had no use for the civilities of such things as lanes. now i was aware, even being way out here, that the big dig took many more years and millions more dollars than they had intended, but how could i guess why? all projects like that are underestimated, overspent.

but one upshot of that project is that i was taken from the airport to the convention center, on the south side, without really seeing downtown. the convention being busy and all, the closest i even got to downtown was south station, and, on the way back, i was whisked under the city again, unable to visit the center of town, the common, beacon hill, or the historic parts. we did get a good fish dinner down on the docks, and i heard a bit of the boston accent, saw a few of the "B" caps, etc. it was good to be back; it filled me with a little of the memory of what it was like, thirty six years ago.

went out to dinner with a number of people, including a guy from tajikestan who had a lot to say when i told him my presentation was on wikipedia. he was the only guy i told about my curious relationship to boston, but when we took the T home, we met some more people, and we all ended up in a train together, when i said why i'd left boston so long ago. i'd started hitchhiking around new england: vermont, maine, quebec, the cape, new york city. then, i just did the rest of the place: alaska, guatemala, everyplace in between. i'd just got the itch, was all. the webheads, people who i'd eaten dinner with, understood perfectly; most are the same kind, whether we all live more landed lives now or not. one was from argentina; a couple were from canada, and a woman we met on the train was from minnesota, and going to the alewyfe station, which wasn't there thirty six years ago; neither was the silver line. the T was a dollar seventy five, whereas in the seventies it was maybe a quarter.

so this is what i told the tajik guy. fourteen generations ago, the guy i was named after came from boston, england, and helped settle this place, and decide on its name. he was governor of the colony in the sixteen hundreds, and his grandson ran harvard, had a feud with cotton mather, and had a dormitory named after him. he was buried in a small cemetery near the common in the center of boston, with a bunch of other old-timers, many of whom were considered the 'landed gentry' for centuries: the cabots, the lodges, etc. the puritans were actually an intolerant bunch, and had a number of feuds with a number of people, most notably the indians who had fed them and so gracefully moved over a bit, and i don't know how this particular ancestor really fell on these issues; maybe i should face the fact that he could have been as intolerant as the next guy. but, given the nature of cotton mather, i'm proud of him and his sons anyway, and one of them got remarried, which allowed our particular line to show up, though due to the remarriage, and the fact that puritans don't allow for such things, i could probably never prove my relation to him for certain. it was family lore, however, that we were descended from the governor through this second wife.

actually i didn't tell all this to my friend, i only said that my ancestor had settled this town, and was buried here, but that i'd heard that they had moved all the graves because of the big dig, and i hadn't had time to check it out. this much was true. when i had heard that, i felt a little like those people who had their ancestral burial grounds messed with and had some rights to feel put out. in some sense, i'm sure these old landed gentry had it coming to them. and in a sense, so did i, having run out on the place thirty six years ago, and not coming back until now. but he said, lots of people in our country don't even know their ancestry, and that's because of politics being the way they are, and people erasing the past and all that. so i should consider myself lucky.

then it occurred to me, you wonder why a project like that takes a little too long. you dig underneath an old city, you mess with all kinds of stuff; no matter how convenient it all is when you finish, you still have the ghosts of the people you dug up to deal with.

so there you have it; it was a pretty typical convention in every other way. i saw the ocean; i ate fish; i took the T; and i met people who were coming and going from maine, rhode island, and parts beyond. they were busy; it was an expensive place, and if you took to long to order your chow-dah they'd move on to the next table, so as not to waste their time. but they were gracious to outsiders, in their own kind of way. really, i kind of wish i'd been on the other coast, where i had a granddaughter, and if it was thirty six years ago, i'd a probably just up and hitchhiked out there. but it isn't, and i'll wait my turn for another plane ticket, go through st. louis again, and take another tour of security systems in the nation's major airports. in st. louis, there was evidence of the march madness basketball tournament setting up, but it was just a bunch of midwesterners beating each other up, michigan state, northern iowa, that kind of stuff, but in the end, i was glad to be home, rain or not, even if there was a delay, because, here, they have enough space, that if they need a new road, they don't have to go digging under anything important. that, and they're a little more willing to talk about the weather, which, after all, is everyone's concern. pictures coming.

Friday, March 19, 2010

came back from new mexico, last wednesday, actually this would have been about nine days ago now, and found spring popping, a grandchild born, off in washington state, and a semester totally burying me, for its last days; this went until about today. in my free time i grabbed pictures of the granddaughter, media star, and put them on facebook, thus making her plight worse. she was born a media star, gorgeous and in the limelight. i however plodded away at my grading and worried about my parents in new mexico who finally have a couch they can relax on. new mexico was gorgeous, high mountain air, cactus blooming, spanish architecture, and new cars everywhere; and, my parents had lots to read and i slept at night, well, with windows open. here i run around frantically again, containing children, getting ready for a tesol convention in boston, and trying to finish the 30-year-quilt, not to mention some other projects on the general shelf. and spring is busting out; it's quite beautiful. time to dig a garden, but there is no time.

hummingbirds hovered at my parents' feeder; we looked through old papers related to genealogy and found some historical documents that my great grandfather had collected as founder or curator of a historical society in council bluffs, iowa. one said that iowa meant 'sleepy ones' - i wanted to copy this but am still basically carrying it around. my father claimed that old dusty documents upset his allergies, so it was agreed that i would take the non-genealogy ones and in fact they were quite willing to let go of other things including a biography of john muir and another one of bill monroe. at night i'd walk way out into the desert, until roads turned into grainy sand and i could feel desert creatures peeping at me from under the cactus flowers. i got them on skype and the whole family got on there, waiting for the overdue grandchild, who was eleven days fashionably late and had a media entourage the moment she arrived. i was driving my parents around in their own car, when, one moment, i came up on a rise as an exit was about to split off in two directions. but the rise offered a stunning view of a wide basin, with huge mountains off on the horizon, and for just a split second i imagined coming up there on a horse, and seeing, suddenly, everything, for miles. i got distracted, and took the wrong exit. but that was the least of my problems. they had beautiful weather, and there was cool stuff to see, everywhere one looked.

i engaged the shuttle drivers in conversation even though i occasionally fail to tip them; i always forget, being distracted or too busy, to even put a few bills in my pocket. one said that juarez was the most dangerous city in the americas; they couldn't find anyone to be the police chief, so they had to send in the national army. i thought about airport haiku, but didn't write any, because the deadening stillness of such things as a security line were such a welcome relief, at first, that all i could do was enjoy them. airport haiku doesn't ever deal with the outdoors, or nature, but rather has four seasons: ticketing, security, gate, and baggage claim; these are like seasons in that each has a feeling to it and time marches on with deadening regularity, and extremely methodical regularity.

at home i'm way behind on the blogging; a son is home from kansas, has wisdom teeth out now, and is enjoying, with me, the traditional ncaa brackets, with kansas of course ranked as winning. you have to rank your own favorite as going one step farther than they're legitimately able to go, but you are free to both define your favorite, or how many, in my case, and, to determine for yourself how far you think they can legitimately be expected to make it. in kansas' case, they are expected to win it all anyway, by more than one person; but, murray state, uni and ohio have already posted upsets, and some more of my teams (nmsu, for example, which is in las cruces, or kansas state) may yet go a ways, we'll see. it's like a tour through the nation's universities, with some (wofford?) i've never heard of. did these guys get a basketball team before they got a pr director? or maybe the team is their pr strategy!

so, with the quilt, and kinsey's book, and the tesol presentation, and the garden, and the bicycles, i'd like to be a little more on top of it, but it hasn't happened. now's the weekend. and boston's coming. so, maybe i can at least think about some of this stuff. that, after all, is what airport security is for. that, and retirement. gives ya a chance to catch up on yer reading.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

spring is sprung, grass is riz, wonder where the flowers is, is kind of what we'd call this season, when every once in a while it appears to be getting warmer. you can see vague shades of green in the fields as you turn out by the countryside, and go outside without a jacket. mostly the whole family is sitting on nails waiting for a baby to arrive, but that could be any time, and time marches along like it doesn't mind waiting. i come home from work exhausted, some water still in my ears from the noon swim, unable to concentrate on uno or whatever the boys want me to play. if i get them to watch the television, they fight over the channel, but at least then i can check the facebook or play online boggle for a moment. actually i'm lousy at boggle too; too tired. i should quilt, but even my eyes are a little sore; maybe it's the chlorine, that got into my goggles somehow.

a couple of days away from a flight to new mexico, i wonder if the warm sunny air will dry out my soggy brain, and change the moldy directions of my thinking. i've been doing a lot of haiku lately, but airport haiku is a genre of its own- it has seasons like security, baggage claim, ticketing and gate; one can imagine the kigo and the inevitable feeling of suspension in air, time passing dully and aimlessly, security guards for whom life is a tiny space under flourescent lights. security is a kind of mass humiliation of a random group of strangers, but it's fairly common and you no longer get scenes where somebody is attached to his perfume or something he's not allowed to bring along. i myself have to remember to put my swiss-army knife aside, or i'm that guy.

so the question arises of whether to bring the quilt along, which would require scissors, a dangerous weapon, or whether to bring along a manuscript and computer, or whether to just wing it, hands free, dry out completely, spend a few days reading, if that's possible. the shuttle at el paso takes you right along the rio grande ex-river, where you can gaze across at mexico as the texas-new mexico border approaches. what happened to the river? oh there hasn't been any water in there in some time, but it's still a pretty wide shallow basin-valley that looks like, if you were to try to walk across it, you'd sink deep in the quicksand mud of ex-river.

back home we wait patiently for the baby, which may or may not be born before i leave, and this would be in washington state, not illinois or new mexico. this baby has so far resisted all the pressure coming down from the grownups in its life, and is stubbornly hanging on to what's right for her, which is actually commendable in its own way. the quilt is coming; hang in there. things are busy here, but we're watching, and we're with you all the way!