Archive for November, 2012

… he can’t be any worse.

November 16, 2012


  The Palladian style building you see above was designed by Chicago architect William C Jones and built in Rock Island, Illinois in 1915.  Its original purpose was to serve as a Christian Science Church, but it now serves as the latest of the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museums scattered across the country.

  These museums, from Santa Barbara to Tacoma to Duluth to Buffalo to Charleston, to Jacksonville (and others – not to mention over 200 mini-museums), house an astounding array of historical drafts, letters, and documents.  The Museum brochure mentions stuff by Napoleon, Washington, Lincoln, Henry VIII, Pope Lucius III, Wagner, Martin Luther, and others and more.  Whew!

  Major restoration is underway on the building in Rock Island (though the main meeting room is closed off, it is interesting to stand in its center, beneath the dome, and imagine the presence of a congregation – especially if your notion of a place of worship is more of the cruciform sort), but the narthex holds a dozen or so fascinating pieces of history.

  There is a draft treaty between the USA and the people of Tripoli and the Barbary Coast which inspired the Marine Hymn and is sadly ironic to consider in light of what happened in Benghazi a few weeks ago.  Nearby is a model of Lord Nelson’s flagship the HMS Victory and his handwritten battle plan for the Battle of Trafalgar.  You know, the naval battle in which his outnumbered fleet defeated Napoleon’s and confirmed British Naval Supremacy.

  Ya, pretty dang eclectic.  There is though a cohesive group of material by and/or related to Mark Twain including a draft of a document describing the origin of Samuel Clemens’ pseudonym.  Perfect.  I’d been thinking about Twain during the too many torrid months of the presidential campaign.  Can you imagine what he’d have had to say?

  Pretty sure I know who he’d have voted for, but am also confident Mr Clemens would have had choice words for him too.  “I have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices.  All I care to know is that a man is a human being and that is enough for me: he can’t be any worse.”

Toward The Center Of The Maze

November 3, 2012


   The photo above shows a petroglyph that wife found in a remote quarter of the Petrified National Forest during a recent artist-in-residency.  The circular maze on the left is an early Native American representation of the nature of existence.  Enter, persist, and you will eventually make your way to the center.

  How do I know this?  Good question.  Several days previous to viewing the above, ‘friend’ of my long acquaintance and I visited San Xavier del Bac Mission Church near Tucson, Arizona.  It is one of the finest and oldest examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in North America.  Among much fascinating else, tour guide pointed out an image very similar to the one above and told of the Jesuit led blending of local and imported religious and architectural iconography.

  You’ll agree that any given existential maze is indeed far less than straightforward and that it is comprised of many many dimensions beyond the two in the icon.  And that there are infinite paths to the, uh, center and multiple dynamic forces with which one must deal along the way.  For example, in the photo below you see same friend hurling the F bomb at me for the very first time earlier this summer. 

  I’d taken her on a vertical journey and at the time of the picture we were about a thousand feet off the deck.  She was tired, thirsty, scared, and had just been informed that we had quite a ways to go and needed to hurry because an afternoon storm was fast approaching and lightning rods we did not hope to become.  Needless to say I was shocked and hurt by her fury.  Little did I know that the notion of retribution eclipsed all else in her mind.

  Naive, I thought nothing of it when recently she suggested a trip across the border to the south.  Sure, fine, let’s go.  She’s fluent and it sounded like fun.  Well, turned out to be the first time I’ve soiled myself in many years.  While eating god knows what (she wouldn’t tell me and it was $1.00 for six) I was informed that she was sideways with a gang of local vampires and that the real purpose of our trip was further investigation related thereto.

  I’m serious.

  Images of Darkness Till Dawn, long teeth, guns, knives, and blood filled my head.  I might never see my little black puppy again.  Knew that should violent vivisection not be the order of the day, roommate would be able to only scrounge ransom for one of us.  Woe was me.  Combination of food and fear made for accidental #s 1 and 2.

  Saw small silver angel candlestick holder in hand of back alley vendor and thought to summon divine intervention therewith.  You will see negotiation in progress below.  Also notice policias.  Well, you can really only make out the two at left.  Why?  Because the others wear black ski masks so as to render themselves anonymous to Santanico Pandemonium and all the rest.  Hooded one to their right is gripping a 50 caliber machine gun.

  Finally back at the border headed north ‘friend’ laughed when immigration official asked her for my papers thinking that I was not a US national (besides being visibly irresolute, I have Moor in my blood) and could tell by our demeanor who was leading the way.  ‘Friend’ was in fact carrying my passport and giggled as she fumbled for it.  “Shoot, it’s gotta be here somewhere….”    

  We obviously did make it back to our car.  Emotionally spent and dehydrated I was nearly catatonic for the whole ride home.  Couldn’t speak until cold beer(s) irrigated my parched throat and unlocked my mind to wonder what in the world the rest of my journey from here to the center of the maze might hold.