Monday, November 28, 2011

Cole's Hill


Standing on the hill overlooking the top of the portico that houses Plymouth Rock, out past Plymouth Bay to the Atlantic Ocean, the body of water that brought to this land so much disease and destruction. In my mind I take a wide brush and wash it out: how wrong it seems, this little spot where all the tourists gather looking at a small rock that has "1620" engraved upon it and a cement patch holding it together. 

We're here in Plymouth the day after Thanksgiving, or I should say the day after the National Day of Mourning. The day of mourning began when local Wampanoag leader Frank James was silenced by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who deemed his speech about Native peoples too controversial. Since then, Thanksgiving day has been commemorated (according to the article I linked, and because we didn't see it so I don't know for sure) by mostly non-natives to remind us of the real story of the Pilgrims. This plaque on top of Cole's Hill explains...

 Massasoit standing on Cole's Hill 
looking out at a bewildering sight.

I have nothing against Thanksgiving; I look forward to it every year, but I can sympathize with this alternative sentiment; Native peoples sole purpose, it seems, was to lend a hand to those who came ashore; Pilgrims stepped on this hallowed ground and wiped the slate clean—tribes totally obliterated—and gave us their definitive version of history, a version most tourists visiting Plymouth still believe. 

Okay, now that that's aside, let me say we had a good time in Plymouth.

Tom and Maya standing at the Rock

Maya and Katrina taking in the sights

The next day in Providence, we walked out onto the old Gano Street Bridge, over the Providence River, a hangout for RISD and Brown students (and French professors). I was feeling full of thanksgiving for having my husband and kids and their friends around, being all together on this sunny day. The water and sky were an amazing shade of blue. The bridge, stuck in the permanent "up" position, was eerie in the way I remember old mechanical structures of my childhood; monuments to an earlier, more optimistic time (this bridge was part of a huge building project that included an underground tunnel that cut 5000 ft underground, built in 1908 for 2 million dollars). The tunnel is closed, but recently, college students pried the barriers open to find a skeleton of an old police car from an earlier riot and lots of vintage beer bottles. 

Here's some pix from our last day in Providence: (if you click on a pic it will display as a slide show).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Saturday, November 5, 2011

On Subject

I often wonder if I could keep to one subject would my blog be better or better attended? It seems blogs that focus on one subject build an audience of interested followers, while amorphous blogs like mine pick up and drop off readers like a daladala—a Tanzanian form of public transportation—never stopping for passengers in the same place twice.

Not being able to stay on subject makes my husband weary. "Keep to one subject," he pleads. I promise I'll try, knowing it drives him crazy, but I secretly worry I won't be able to do it.

I thought of this the other day when I woke up. I looked out the window and saw a brilliant red alder tree in the morning light. 

I got so excited I began to photograph everything in sight that was red, thinking I could do this—I could do red.

Then I remembered Louise's bright red sunglasses and how they appeared as she stood on the Ernie Maxwell trail last weekend in Idyllwild.  
We'd gone up to Idyllwild for an overnight to check out the hiking trails, of which there are many. We had great hikes, good food, saw a lot of red-headed (red-bellied?) woodpeckers and came back to L.A. refreshed. I was going to write about it, but then I began to wonder, why had I never written about my road trip with my brother David? 

David had come out from St. Louis in September, the first time we'd seen each other in two years. We traveled up to wine country for a few days, tasted wine off Highway 46W, had a picnic and an ocean hike, but we also had some childish quarrels and a depressing talk about exiting this mortal plane like our father.

Last week, I'd been thinking of David when I came across an old photo album lying open in my office. There were pictures of our father, looking ridiculously young, stationed at Ashford General Hospital in West Virginia during the second war.

My father as a young Quartermaster 
(check out the sign)

After completing training, our father was sent to India, as punishment, according to him, for complaining about a superior officer. While there, he contracted malaria and spent most of his time recovering in an Indian hospital. He hated everything about India— the poverty, the filth, the poor beggars asking for handouts. He was bitter of his time in service; it didn't help that his younger brother rose to minor fame, as a Lieutenant leading a troop of Africa-Americans across North Africa.

I sat down in my office and looked at the photos he'd brought back from overseas.... and my god! What treasures. Did he take these? If so he was some kind of photographic genius. More likely, they were a set he'd picked up somewhere in a tourist shop. Alas, it's too late to ask; here are a few:


The caption reads: 
"While Sid was stationed in India he took in some of the sights."

My brother is a photographer, my son and husband are photographers and I've studied photography. Could my father have been one too? And could the malaria he contracted in India have been responsible for his erratic behavior during his life and the cause of his downward spiral at the end? All questions to ponder about his life and death....

But, boy, have I gotten off subject! 

At least I tried.

My brother David