The Battle Hymn of the Confederacy

photo 2The American Civil War (1860-1864) has been in the news of late in a number of ways both in the third dimension and that fifth dimension that exists within the internets.  The fight over flags and license plates, rebel cars, and statues at campuses, the lack of safe spaces and the number of digital pages and angry Bookofface comments counter arguments, personal attacks, and defriending.  The Civil War of history is lived out in so many spaces today real and imagined and often pits Facebook cis/brother/sister against Facebook cis/brother/sister, an anonymous commenter on a news site against another anonymous troll on a message board, and everyone against one another. People have ignited the arguments and moved to cover up or deface memorials, remove or deface statues, and attempt to erase history or/and promote a new narrative on the landscape that is cleaned of any trace of a now unpopular regime.

photo 3(1)I remember being taught about the Civil War.  That this was a war to free the slaves.  I also remember reading translated history books written by Germans…  actually it was Nazi propaganda that said that the battle of Northern Aggression was industrialists fighting agrarians and that President Lincoln did not attempt to make slavery a cause until he was sure it would bring in the support of the most radical wing of the Republican party… which as a child was strange to read.  Even stranger that this Nazi narrative is/was promoted in college (at least when I attended).  Apparently not by Nazis… however, we harvested their scientists so perhaps we took a few historians in the deal too and they got mixed in or otherwise propagated out among the liberal elite’s memescape.

photo 1(1)Bethatasitmay, the war’s cause and impression on the culture of the United States may be of some consideration, contest, and ultimately in a post-fact environment lost to the fog of history.  There is something that cannot be denied, and that is every major city below Alexandria Virginia was laid waste to by Union troops and was rebuilt from these ruins to a restoration, only to be again ruined by our new Geography of Nowhere.  The cities of the South and certainly attest to the only area of the United States (to date) that has experienced war and resistance since the American Revolution/Battle of Colonial Aggression and even if they fall short in culture, art, or influence makes them more European than those hoity-toity scions of the North.

photo 4Columbia, South Carolina was the location where the rebels drafted and ratified the Articles of the Confederacy.  In order to escape typhoid or cholera or the mumps, the signers of this document met in a church in what is now downtown Columbia.  That church, and all others, were burned down as was various buildings and houses.  The historical markers, some of them today vandalized, attest to the destruction and implied rape of the Union troops, as well as the rebuilding effort.  I walked the cemeteries of the city and looked at the fallen sons, the daughters dead young, the children lost and thought about one thing that I was taught in Sociology 101, and certainly exposed by the more activist professors and that is resistance.
I thought of the many monuments by the Daughters of the Confederacy, and they were no longer in m mind a collection of spinsters and racists, but women raised without fathers and brothers who may have had some unfortunate experiences at the hands of the “liberating” army.  I saw the churches rebuilt.  I saw streets carrying the names of generals, battles, or one lane was named Confederacy Street.  I thought of resistance of so many more war-torn areas of the world, albeit more popular causes than that central cause espoused by the powerful of the Old South and to which either was the sole cause of the war if you believe dusty old US History books from your high school, or if you believe the Nazis, served as a useful element in the power struggle of the Union and reemerging Federal Government to galvanize radical elements of the Republican party.
I thought of not only the war dead entombed in the many cemeteries; I thought of their survivors.

photo 3Those many stones showed the passing of elders who died in the 1950s born at the time of the War of Northern Aggression/Civil War. The youngest markers recorded the passing of two elderly people I assume were male and female based on the names engraved on the rock (perhaps were husband and wife – or perhaps that is my cultural assumption and gender bias ) who died in the 1980s but must have grown up with veterans of that most recent unpleasantness.  These were people born but a decade or so after the humiliation and destruction of the community, the burning and raping of the city, the occupation, and confusion of the land.  I thought of the Stars and Bars and the many monuments not as “redneck” aggression, for which they can be so employed, but as resistance, just as I was taught to look at other resistance movements that chided under the yoke of whatever oppressor we were taught to hate.  This doesn’t mean I have to agree with The Cause.

photo 2(1)It does give me an object lesson I may reflect upon, and a challenge to understand that history does not just stop at a certain date but lives on through the lives of so many.  Maybe by visiting these haunted cemeteries and rebuilt churches I see a little better. I can look to rest those old battle flags respectfully in the museum rather than tearing them off the statehouse and burning them since while the resistance continued for so many generations, it is time to finally make those plowshares we have been speaking about for so long.

photo 5While we don’t paint any sentimental picture of the South or slavery, perhaps, were we in another more enlightened age rather than this one of dislikes, angry bird comments, and clusterfuckism activism, we would approach the meaning of these old monuments and flags with more understanding.  Perhaps even sympathy – following the older root of the word.  And while some of these more blatant symbols of flags and aggressive supremacism need to be retired to collections and museums, they need to be so in a way that understands their role in the generations of resistance. No sympathy for the Devil, however.  I see in the coming decades that the churches will again be burned.  The monuments toppled or defaced if not jackhammered into bits since, as all ages since we apes took up sticks and poked one another to death; history is written by the victor.  Columbia has torn down one-half of the city already for parking lots, sports statism, and Kentacohuts.  Maybe the activists will finally take down the other half.  If you can, see the old city as it stands upon the hill. And come to some understanding of what war once looked like in these United States least we again bring it to our land by our own hands.

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On Paris


I have for some years now avoided politics and rants of any kind on all topics and managed to blandly blog about cheese and whatever local city I was destined to travel to/from.  With events in Europe so unfolding, it seems somewhat out of touch to then post yet another blahblahblah about some quaint, or not, American City, and my brief and sophomoric contact with that space.
So to Europe, I turn my attention, not as an expert, or journalist, but as a citizen of the world and to allow myself to think on paper.  I share these thoughts with the Internets, perhaps to touch some like minded individuals, Ukranian clickbots, or foreign and nationally aligned trolls.

To put the current situation in Europe in context, I consider its history.  When all the rest of the world was a tapestry of advanced civilizations, the muddy and cold corner that we now know as Europe was but barbarians and tribes, members of primitive tributes.  The whole shitshow was of such enormous complexity that current archeologists are still trying to untangle the Celtic knots and make sense of the seemingly chaotic world before history was recorded using foreign Roman letters.
As records were better kept (by the invaders), we learn of the many migrants that came to stake a hold in that land.  The Romans came, the Huns came, the Roma came, the Cossacks came, the plagues of India and so many other perilous conditions that at any time may have vanished the peoples of Europe beneath the soil.  Though battles, more wars, murder, compromises with God, compromises with the Visigoths, and luck, all of these migrating/invading armies and dire circumstances fell aside or were vanquished and their survivors assimilated and over the course of so many hundreds of years, perhaps thousands, and despite itself, Europe took shape.
For no practical reason, Europe rallied about the cross and sent their legions to then Palestine and the long hundreds of years of activity collectively known as the Crusades (an activity lionized or vilified depending on the whim of the intellectuals of Western Culture at any given point in time). This, it has been argued, prevented and harassed Islamic expansion into Europe for a time in the East.  At the fall of the final Crusade, Islam (there were then no Arabs back then this identity was, many say, created by the British during WWI), repulsed the European… uh… as the Crusaders saw it they were migrants…  as the old timers saw it invaders from its lands and established what would become in time, and after many iterations, the Ottoman Empire.  Some others have argued it was European intrusion that finally united the Sultanates and recovered the might of the East, that the European migrants/invaders had fashioned so many bickering forces into a unfired entity.  Recovered, and now unified, yet another invader came to Europe after some rest.

photo(4)The armies of the East and Islam broke through the proverbial gates in 1453.  The armies of Islam pushed on to Bosphorus and Turkey, a then ancient Christian Empire, and once part of Europe.  Islam had already been in the Iberian peninsula for some 700 years and it may have seemed to many the end of the known, or at least Christian, world.
Spain Reconquista-ed their chunk of Europe after over 700 years in 1492 while Vienna, well into the Age of Enlightenment (depending on your epochs), looked down the barrel of Turkish artillery and Damascus steel and the prospect of dialing back progress and their own internal bickering amongst Christian sects that had set fire to Europe for decades, and in the 1680s shoved the Sultans to the other side of the Carpathians.   Another pitched battle for the heart, commerce, and souls of Europe, and another improbable victory.  On both fronts (and some years apart), both incursions were repulsed despite the very best the leaders of Europe could do to squabble, occlude, bicker, and otherwise fail to cooperate even when their best interests were at stake. Europe has on more than one occasion managed to repel an invasion or rise to greatness despite itself, its leaders, and the stubborn culture of the peasants.
And so it is with great wonder then that this territory, long seen as a backwater of the world, came to rule the world.  The age of invention, discovery and European expansion had for some five hundred years since the Battle of Vienna given rise to not only to Modern Europe but the Modern World.  It is a European that influenced and invented The World As We Know It (TWAWKI), whether we like it or not, or whether it is a good thing or not.  The western collar, the baseball hat, the blue jeans, and all the infrastructure needed to create and propagate the Geography of Nowhere is extant from Marrakesh to Kolkata, to Lima to Nemiscau to… I won’t re-write Das Kapital… Or Lonely Planet.
Whateveritis, today there are more people in Asia speak English than in any other part of the world. Spanish is the language of people of all colours.  We live in a world where European inventions of the 18th and 19th centuries pulled the remainder of our orbis unum out of the traditions and primitivism and into what we now call The Modern World. (For good if you have a TeeVee, iThingy, or heat in winter, bad if you a tree, monkey, snail, fish, ocean, forest, or mountain).

The Ottomans while repulsed from Vienna, managed to hold on to much of Europe until the Great War to End All Wars.  It was then, that through hundreds of years of rot, that the Sick Man Of Europe was broken up and gobbled by so many formerly oppressed peoples of what is now Greece, Malta, Bulgaria, Romania, and whatever bits Yugoslavia fell into (am I missing anywhere?).

This break apart of the Ottoman Empire in 1923 was not even a hundred years ago.  There may even be living people who remember the Ottoman Empire, a far from enlightened state and that chopped off heads for secular or religious or any reason it seems.  That Empire fell, and was divided into regions determined by the victors.  Then more wars came and reshaped those regions once again.  While some may blame the European armies for dividing the nations into artificial lines, perhaps we can also blame the Ottomans for not making a more cohesive unit or being clearer recording who hated who, but perhaps the various Sultanates were more interested in their dancing boys than managing their ethnic or religious tensions other than burying them under the cloak of oppression.
Today, it is not any surprise that Europe has once again been migrated/invaded.  All Empires must at some point fall to their tributes, that’s just how Empires work.  All people of the Empire will resist these changes; that is just how people work.  Having made the world in its image, it is no surprise that so many will come to its shores to enjoy some safety and security as others will come to bomb, kill, and murder.
It is not unsurprising that invaders come to Europe, as it is not a surprise that these invaders will be broken, assimilated and also change Europe.
These will be pitched battles, and in the coming years, perhaps decades, even more will die.  However, history is not made through peace but forges ahead in blood, as it always has since while our clothes and material comforts may change in style and level, our human condition will remain the same since the Dawn of Man/The Fall of Man.

Paris will recover.  It always has.  People will fight more than ever online and off about whether the cause was this or that, as Western Liberalism turns in on itself, and “Conservatism” dies under its weight.
Newcomers to every land will always multiply and take on some of their neighbor’s attitudes and philosophy and yet stamp out their neighbors when they are strong and plentiful enough.  That is just how numbers, and history, and apes, work. The Sick Man of Europe had not so much been given a cure, as to be put out of his misery by Europe and arisen as a spectre to haunt the many alleys and passages of the great cities of Europe, and certainly Paris.  Perhaps it is time for another change, perhaps another battle of Vienna.

No matter the heave or tack, Europe must now deal with that Sick Man’s ghost as it looks for revenge upon its soil.  Europe seems it may be coughing just a little more than it should, perhaps finally catching that disease.  I am sure, that despite the treasonous leaders, infighting, comments on blogs, angry peasants afraid of migrants/conquers and neo haute Bourgeois looking for cheap labour and bonus points in the game of life, Europe will remain and in time assimilate the armies or drive them out, either process then taking perhaps hundreds of years, if this old world has that time left in Her.


Tale of One City

photo 5The streets of Washington DC are clean and well appointed, as long as you do not stray too far from those areas under constant surveillance that are maintained as museums or alters. You will enjoy your time in the Nation’s Capital and perhaps enjoy the stoic fatal grandeur that permeates the city as you may understand that no line on the ground, no brick in a wall, no stupid public art has been created except after bitter and long-standing partisan battles and overspending and waste.  DC is a city under an occupation of itself.  And with any occupied city, there are zones that one may enter and frontiers one can cross although these are not as obvious of Berlin Walls(tm) or with warning signs in Cyrillic or Ice Stations or Check Point Charlies.
photo 2Along with the pricey restaurants and eateries, statues and the historical collections and various branches of the “nation’s attic,” the consulates, diplomatic bureaus and missions, there are the napping and screaming  homeless clustered in dirty disarray, drug-addled, and shiftless wandering residents of a city that on the other side of the facade.  These clusters are desperate and more often than not, entirely dangerous to travel, especially by the cloak of night, or at least the neighborhoods of certain reputation are.

photo 4The nameless beggars cluster here and there, a great many by the Museum of the American Postal Service as well as a few other locations within striking distance of the White House I have yet to understand the rationale behind other than this is a Freecountry, and we are free to ignore as we are appointed to protect and serve.  Now that it is getting cold, many of them have those gray blankets agencies hand out that appear made of lint.  United Way, maybe FEMA, perhaps These lint blankets are I guess disposable in the addled minds of the wretched denizens of the inner beltway since they are frequently seen in piles with other clothes, food bits, and excreta.
photo 1Most visitors do not need to be confronted with this darker side to capitalism and the American Dream when they visit the city and certainly I was not there on a humanitarian mission, and I have been there frequently enough by now not to be shocked or alarmed by the vagabond population.  Also, I now enjoy a level of comfort heretofore unknown to me that has distanced me from my more activist personality traits should they ever have existed.
For this trip, I was positioned at a rather well-pointed hotel of some comfort and within walking distance of the White House.  I opened my window blinds in the morning and across the street was yet another edifice that could be mistaken for yet another museum or perhaps a film set, an establishment location shot for the West Wing, Scandal, House of Cards, or whatever the television, film, or Hulu industry requires.
photo 3The walk to the restaurant was pleasant, the late autumn air has yet to be chilled to the degree I remember in childhood, thanks to global warming, climate change, El Nino, or a faulty memory of how bitter cold the November rain used to be.  Each stately mansion had been long ago transformed into some bastion of power for countries I have not yet heard about and quite a few I have.  The streets had a few people on it, just a smattering of for the most part well-dressed individuals.  Nothing like the crowds of Gotham, the throngs of Boston, nor a complete Omahaian desolation where one could completely lay in the street after a given hour and not be run over.  There was a certain amount of traffic and the trees shook in the slight wind, and the din of the city did not drown out these sounds.
I checked out a few eateries.  Each one was more expensive than the other.  I settled on a seafood spot, a clam or oyster house and without reading anything about it online, went in for a simple nosh and perhaps a martini or five.  As the other establishments, the prices reflected the center of any Empire, and I settled on a simple drink and looked to an appetizer as my main course, knowing well that I would just fill up on bread anyway.  The atmosphere for a Thursday is what many may expect.  Busy, people looking forward to the weekend and it seemed that many consultant-types were having their Friday before jumping on planes and returning to where they actually lived.  Upstairs was some private party, and indeed so much of DC is a private party.  I enjoyed the table and kicked back but one rather complex drink that costs a lot more than most Americans earn in two hours, considering the wages in much of the Land of Opportunity.
I would like to enjoy Washington DC more, however, the time there was short, and I would have to make much more money to be in the sort of comfort afforded me for one night. The city is indeed cleft in two, but I guess that is nowhere different and today to be entirely expected as to be perhaps, unremarkable.


Nothing Halloween Can Stay

photo 2(1)It is a quintessentially American holiday.  Perhaps of Celtic origin, or Hispanic, or Latinate, or Germanic or just invented by the candy companies, it has grown in popularity and taken over other areas of the world as an expanding meme.  Perhaps this of all holidays in the United States is the one with the least amount of controversy, the least offensive to special interests, outside of course to those devoutly religious, and even they seem to turn a blind eye.
photo 5When I was young, a hundred years ago or so, Halloween was a holiday that children (and gay men) started preparing for as soon as there was a tinge of colour in the trees.  That has not changed, although the commercialization has become more intense.  Then, when the air took on that autumnal odor of plants exhaling for the last time and the yet to moulder leaves were still damp and mostly still attached to the trees, before the clocks were set back, we would start planning our costumes, the route we would take, what our sack would look like, and all details.  Then, started the nightmares.  Halloween nightmares, each one the same.
photo 2My in-my-dream child me would be in some location of fantastic proportions.  A part of town I had never seen.  How did I get here?  Why was I here, who were these people?  I needed to get home at once.  I needed my costume.  I was missing Halloween.  I fumbled with my mask, I looked at the time, and I was late, I looked at the calendar, how did I sleep until November 1st?  And then, I would wake up and look at the calendar (kids, ask a parent what a paper calendar was and how it worked), and count to make sure that I hadn’t experienced some time warp.  I find talking to people, that this is a common childhood nightmare and one never repeated for Christmastide, despite the wealth and diversity of material goods provided upon that latter and more Holy Day.
photo 4In those days people raked leafs and into piles, children jumped into those piles, then old men with hair in their ears burned the piles.  Children ran free in those days and we trick-or-treated in clusters and packs with parents often far behind or not present at all.  Then, there was the Tylenol Scare(TM), the Devilworshipingdaycarecenterdirectors, and 1800LAWYERS and before we knew it we were tethered to a parent/caregiver/guardian/warden and candy was inspected for pins, heroin, razor blades (the disposable razor was yet to really take off), pills, candy with little pin holes in the wrapper, homemade candy that contained nuts, pop rocks and soda, and all manner of danger.  Halloween became, as I exited childhood, full of curfews and was made organized and regulated as all children’s actives have become in this American life.  I was glad to have lived during what I considered the waning Golden Age of Trick-or-Treating.
photo 3It took some time for Halloween to recover, but it did.  The holiday expanded into the adult culture in a greater and greater way each year [this author presents no statistics to back up this claim].  By the time I went to College, the Halloween party had become a costume pageant and not just another beer blowout and as in childhood we planned our costumes and route and all other elements down to the minute, although I must admit I did not have the “I missed Halloween dream.”
It seems that centers of Halloween grew in the nation such as New York City, and the Halloween parade spilled out of the culture of Chelsea and The West Village and into Mainstreamamerica where other communities took on this expression albeit not matching the volume, madness, or intensity of the original. Other locations took on the parade and discouraged trick-or-treating as much as they could.  The activity of going house to house in many places has become woven into a more formal affair of a parade or “trick-or-treat the merchants” usually one of the few times people are willing to visit their historic downtown or Main Street.

photo 1(1)This guided activity that may still allow for a certain amount of mayhem, even if the police are in ample numbers and watching least citizens exceed the boundaries of an increasingly limited socially acceptable behavior. In time, this is a good thing since the eggs and toilet paper of the Teenagers was never a welcome aspect in my childhood and by the time I was a teen it was too dangerous, what with satanic child molesters the zero tolerance police, to engage in similar activities.

photo 1In the hamlet of Guitarville, a simple and storied collection of quaint structures aligned on a former stage run, the parade is situated about the Village Green.  The many police of the village cordon off the road and mingle with the crowd as children of all ages run from treat merchant to treat merchant.  As in Gotham, adults take up the costume call and since the village has a higher proportion of artists, many of these costumes are constructed with an inspired eye as they are executed with technical skill.  During this event, the streets and lanes are lined with parked cars but absent any youth begging candy from the many shuttered doors as this practice has been long abolished and soon to be but a memory lost in the shuffling iTunes of so many millennial playlists.

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leafs a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay. – Ferguson

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I can see the people, but they look like trees.

photo 3(1)Boulevard Oaks. The name says it all.  The fancy-schmancy of a French word for “street” mixed with “oaks,” the tree that takes some while to grow and tend to outlive those who planted them suggesting that folks looked ahead and believed in something greater than their naked and putrescent corpse.
photo 2In Houston, there are few areas of polite, respectable streets tree lined and appointed with houses that are grand without being vulgar and this area of the city, a historic district no less, is one of them. These houses – for the most part – have an open face to the street.  Rather the gates and walls of the Newmoney, Oldmoney guards their castles with manicured landscaping that both is inviting to the eye and tells the casual passersby that an army of machete-wielding Chemlawn employees guards the property with barrels of Roundup(tm) and miles of weed whacker cable.

photo 5And there are also the security signs. The I support the Neighborhood Watch flags. And I’m sure a phalanx of unseen trip wires, minefields, and attack squirrels all to compensate for the yards and front lawns casually encroaching the boulevard.
While the highway is never far, and it would be a shame if some historic neighborhood didn’t have a highway running through it, the din and drone of the traffic is kept at bay through a number of devices.  The lanes of traffic hum at a low elevation, walls and a buffet of vegetation so that away from those lanes directing abutting the transportation corridor, the bird song, and local traffic is the soundtrack of humanity and polite, happy motoring sucking up all that sweet, sweet crude and spewing a haze that turns the Houston sunset the proper shade of skin cancer.
photo 4The houses planted between the oaks are a mix of styles and sizes. In areas of the country still catching up with the crowded, polluted, crime-ridden northeast, there are few historic structures and the bulk of anything considered old is of 1920s-1930s vintage. This age in many ways perhaps is the high water mark of America Architecture while perhaps a regression in many ways culturally in that the Jazz age and height of KKK membership were concurrent.  As today, the then wealthy and monied interests fought a rising middle class except that in the 1930s, many argue, the middle class won. Whatever the status of monopoly and inequality, segregation or human rights, the Boulevard Oaks remained, and generations of oil men and women called these unhumble houses home.
photo 2(1)While I encountered no other pedestrians other than joggers and people walking their dogs (to those dear readers in other countries, we as Americans generally don’t walk unless we own a dog or to raise money to cure disease), I did not feel alone.  After morningtide had ended, those few about the streets were those landscapers and workers, rich neighborhoods are endless in their renovations, additions, and modifications. At night, the occupants may have come home or still been working their 20 hour days in various boardrooms in order to afford their material culture. Again the joggers and dogs and their caregivers appeared. Also the joggers of the nearby university and perhaps a few interlopers from Upper Kerby, an area of less quaint housing stock and a lower level of nonfungible assets that provides community for young strivers and alternative lifestyles.
photo 1(1)In all, there may be little to see that other mansion rows can afford better and with more ample parking. Raceclassgender aside, the hugging arms of the trees lining the quiet boulevards and streets and quiet houses afforded yet another side of the baffling and insane more often than not hellscape that is Houston, Texas and within which some oases yet remain.

The locations you find in the places you go

photo 5There is that cafe, the bakery perhaps, the restaurant where the food is typical of so many others, but something about the place – the decor or lack thereof, the staff were helpful or acted rude in a charming way, perhaps you are eating at the bar and struck up a dinner friendship with a regular, maybe you just sit eating your chicken and rice lost in your own thoughts.  Whatever ingredients were present, it made the place special.  Where you live I am sure there is a list of places.  When traveling, especially to new places, I am surprised at how quickly I become attached to some little location as strong as to those favorite places where I live.  And places I know I may not return to again but I will never forget them, even if it is just a cafe or a little eatery, or a bar with an outdoor seat and nothing on the tap but Budweiser.
photo 4I am going to sound old now.  Before, one had to use a guidebook to get around.  Or worse, just blunder about looking for something eatable.  When traveling in the Old World, this adventure would mean traipsing down streets Ze Book* in one’s hand, always searching for some “local flavor” even though you knew it was going to be either full of expats all with Ze Book or blundering into some eatery where only boiled hog was served and you were tricked out of your Petro Dollars for an espresso, “what do you mean I am charged to take a seat, how is that extra?!” In the New World (developed) this meant driving out of the way, perhaps passing by the McKenTacoHuts by the highway cloverleaf and pressing on to the wilds to find some roadhouse or diner full of redneck hunters or hicks or townies… the same type of people college students spent a lot of time and energy finding in foreign countries so they could brag to the other girls in Antro. 108: Introduction to the Ecology of The Self and Other they had “lived with a lived with Thepeople” or stayed with a Localfamily(tm).

photo 2In the Developing/Third/Step World, it was a risk to eat anywhere and usually one lunch was the same as any other.  In some places, they told you what you were eating. Sabato, la Lunche Carne d’mystery con boiled tubers and varios cosas.  Again, perhaps some of the less adventurous turned to Ze Book for recommendations and attempted to follow the directions that were never written in very clear terms.  “Just walk down Calle De Rembrandt until you get to an alley that branches off and then take the wide that doesn’t smell quite as foul.”  How many times I yelled at Ze Book for sending me in vague streets and down directions which are “non-tourist” because they are not interesting.
However, it was on these occasions and with luck that I would stumble across some place, establishment, or some other little moment that sticks with me and I will never forget that park with the ice cream vendor in Vladivostok with the stale ice cream certainly made before the Soviet Union dissolved, or the breakfast made by a stout woman as about me ran coy and children in what was clearly a familyroom cum restaurant, the plastic tables in the hot dusty sun where the specialty was soup made of hot dogs and noodles but the waitress came and sat at the table to practice her English.

photo 3It doesn’t have to be “exotic” to be one of those places that I now can “favorite” on whatever social media I may use, broadcast to my friends and strangers my approval, but there is that private moments that I think of the coffee I had in such-and-such or the steak and eggs or the park where I read a book or the little, cramped hotel room in the not quaint hotel that was still charming in its eccentric set up or the outside pool that was oddly warm on a chilly night and I want to return.  Maybe I associate these places with the wish to stop time.  To hold on to a moment.  Which is strange, since travel is all about movement and change.  Or maybe I associate these locations with the joy of travel.  I associate them with the times in my life I am (for the most part) free.
photo(1)And so, I have also found these places in Houston.  It took some time.  First to get used to the scale and organization of the city, second, to identify different areas and look past the reviews on media services, to understand the landscape, and to appreciate what different areas offered, or lacked.  I guess the process could have been faster, however, I sampled and now know the city and not just followed the trends or relied only on the Interwebs to dictate my activities and for this I discovered a lot that is kept on the silent, great little small things, as well as experienced the terrible places where the human scale no longer exists and transit impossible.  I will perhaps not return to Houston for some time.  However, if I do, it will be to reconnect with my favorite haunts – the little cafe, the hotel with the kitty, the place with the cheap beer and loud music.  Until then, I will press on to new vistas, and in time discover additional places in the locations I go and add to that list of places I wish to return.
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Up In The Air[port]

photo 5As it stands, my travel life is winding down, at least for the time being.  Now that the long hours of work are paying off, I will see fewer airports and not have to jog as much between various terminals run for connection or wino away the hours in some lost airport bar as the ebb and flow of vacationers, business/wo/men, and refugees/migrants/immigrants passing to and fro between one hub and another, one starlight city as seen from far above.
photo 1The nation looks like radiating lights from high up.  So many networks and patterns of light.  The tendrils of highways are seen from a lower altitude with their life blood, the red and white glowing platelets, and from higher still the suburbs, exurbia, and various compounds: family, corporate, cult, and all of the above.  Air travel is not comfortable (outside of First Class) but we fly with the wings of desire as angels and man sprinting up in spaceships as close to leaving earth as we majority will ever physically get before departing to eternity.  Then we push up our tray tables, “oops, sorry,” set our seats upright, for whatever reason we have to, “oh, if you don’t mind I have to get something under my seat,” and set down in another city, another time zone, perhaps weather and climate unlike that of our home, just a few hours and perhaps two connections away.
photo 4To the airport terminal, a great deal has changed.  They are today, for the most part, injected with some manner of comfort, certainly they have become shopping centers in many places, transit zones where one can buy expensive bobbles for the kids back home or listlessly browse a number of shops before being told the crap you bought counts as additional baggage and cannot be stuffed into your carry-on.  Some airports now boast fine eateries, while others revel in a number of fast food establishment where the stank of fake cheese mixes with the fumes of burning jet fuel.  The hubs are vast connectors, each State of the Union attempting to boost their standing by creating as many international airports as they can, even if this appellation and distinction is provided by serving a few flights to Mexico and/or Canada.  The people gather and vanish, the flight crews come off a plane exhausted, an army of lackeys drive trolleys and clean toilets and wipe down planes and ferry about luggage.
photo 3In my travel I have enjoyed quite a few airports and spent some time in others that I cannot say I enjoy but I find a familiar perch and sit there to await my flight. I can people watch, or Internet, or booze face, or something.  Those of Washington D.C. are average, Chicago is mercilessly complex, Philly leaves a bit to desire. There is a cheese steak here and there and lots of shops. Of course Charlotte is a fun stop over, if for nothing else the apparent miles of those moving walkways that make walking feel like jogging (covered in a previous post).  There are many more Hubs about the country that are of interest, but I have just passed through briefly.  Denver is full of Public Art.  I hate Public Art.  Houston is not as interesting as it should be, however, that could be due to my flying American Airlines (formerly US Air).  Atlanta is the pits, really one of the worst food selections I have seen in an airport, but then… Atlanta is the pits, too. Miami is a good transfer, but I always had a rushed connection and didn’t pay too much attention as I was on my may to somewhere more interesting such as Central America, Key West, or home.

photoThere are extension airports, some are better than others.  Lauderdale was rather disappointing considering I believe it too is “international.”  Des Moines is what you would expect, but Sioux City is not.  Perhaps the smallest airport I have ever been to and the ground crew and the folks who check you in to your flight appear to be the same people.  The bonus points was the gift shop and snack bar staffed by an elderly lady.  It seemed more one of those establishments they tacked on to a museum than a commercial endeavor  – I half expected to see a donation jar on the counter.  Not that I didn’t enjoy chatting with folks there and bought several of the airport teeshirts since the call sign is SUX and some local make the Fly SUX airport logo a thing.
photo 2There are depressing regional airports.  Albany.  Depressing Canadian airports.  Edmonton, Alberta.  And those airports that are new, landscaped, but seem to be run like some Soviet endeavor.  I am talking to you Seattle, Eugene, and Albuquerque.  Newark is a horrible place.  The airport makes LaGuardia seem clean and orderly and the staff are some of the rudest I have come across in many a professional environment.  To further my fear and loathing of this detestable facility, it is horribly expensive to get there and back via a taxi and an unhealthy long slog by public means of transportation.  I have forsworn to never use that airport again, unless in some emergency my regular flight is diverted due to some events outside my control, and even then I would protest.
photo(1)As it happens, my time traveling has been for the most part fun – except for my persistent fear of flying that comes and goes – as it has been exhausting and challenging, considering that I was doing this as part of a job and not for pleasure.  In the coming months, I will scale back my travel, spend a little more time at home, and think twice before I remove the weather report from my phone for some distant city I had the pleasure to drop in on, if not for a few days.  Another few rounds of air travel, and I will move on to a more regional sphere and look to other vistas of my own discovery.