Going Back to MARTA

IMG_5081“Don’t ride the MARTA,” I was warned.  MARTA is a form of public transportation that runs under the muddy waters and hard pan clay of Atlanta, Georgia.  It is a beast of its own.
In the depth of a subway, such at Gotham, one may be overwhelmed with the alien and horrific conditions of travel.  Hot tubes, noise, the many bodies crushing and mushing about, especially during the peak travel hours to and from work in the day.
The system in Gotham is old.  Boston claims that the reason the trains are rusty and the conditions terrible are that it is the oldest system in the nation, as if nothing was updated or could be updated since the Olden Dayes.  And, perhaps they are right. The system is old and I am sure that in some tunnel down down to the bottom dwells the Deep Ones, CHUD, or Mole People.  Nevertheless, the Gotham system moves over a million bodies a day (perhaps more), Boston, Chicago, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and a number of other cities.  This has not been without historic or current issues.  Many in the political system are certain that mass transportation will turn us into Communists, while others deep in the pocket of the auto industry eschew all alternatives to private car ownership and 16 lanes of dead stop traffic that make a 8 mile commute into a 2 hour ordeal.
IMG_5083While we complain about our current state of movement in some cities, it has gotten better for the most part.  Gotham won back the subways from a frightful period in the City’s history when everything smelled of piss and there was but crime and fear.  Those dank dark deadly days were pushed back by some effort by the Mass Transit System.  While some bemoan the loss of “street art,” anyone who has owned something that has been “tagged” thinks otherwise of this unwelcome decoration, no matter how bubbly the letters spelling out “KUDA97” were.
IMG_5084Mass transportation is something that the United States of America has had an unwilling and uncomfortable relationship with.  At least in the northern areas of the Union mass transportation, often called “Public Transportation” is common and has been part of the fabric of the urban experience since way back.  Cities have had subways, trams, and buses, and even those that degraded their subway systems with budget cuts, removed trams in favour of buses, still offer their population some manner of movement without the need to own a car or use it on a daily basis.
Then there is Atlanta.
By day the MARTA is described by many as an open air insane asylum.  In dusk and dark it is a dangerous haven of rapists and thieves.  I was warned by the hotel staff.  I was warned by friends.  I was warned by random and anonymous Trip Advisory or Travelpedia writers who had their own horror stories of MARTA.
Years ago there was a video of a young girl assaulting an elderly lady.  I am told these videos of fights and mayhem are common.
The MARTA is indeed a sight.  I was positioned by the Five Points Station.  I am told that the lines make little sense and go but in two directions; north and south, east and west.  They lead not quite outside the city and connect to buses that then lumber at a low speed out into the suburbs and wastelands of Atlanta.
IMG_5082The Mayor had all the public housing* torn down, a local resident told me over lunch (*These are known as “The Projects” or called “PJ’s” in many areas, and in British English would be “Council Housing”).  It appears the mayor by removing the public housing sent people out into the countryside to cash in vouchers also called Section 8.  This in many ways did not solve the issue of poverty, or the social issues that American Poor people have, but pushed these people out into the hinterlands even farther away from potential jobs or the needed services that an elderly or unstable population require.  It also makes these people more reliant on the public transportation, and by reputation and actual danger, the only people who use the system.  “The only people who use the MARTA are those who don’t own cars or have too many DWI’s to drive,” he exclaimed. “Unlike New York [City] where all types of people, rich, poor, middle class all ride together, here it is concentrated poverty.”  This was clear from the look of the Five Points station, and the sound and smells, seemed to indicate this.
The building of the Five Points is constructed entirely to produce the most immaculately intense sensation of being in some prison camp.  I can see no other interpretation to this neo-brutalist structure.  Entirely poured from concrete, the many levels and decks of the structure that extend out appear at first to be large if ugly public spaces, however, they are locked off by gates and tall fences.  An angry building, it could have only been built by people who hated those who may one day use that system and access this building.  Several large X blocks appear as tank traps.  These may be also seen outside of old Nazi pill boxes or anywhere mechanized armies clash.  Here, they only complete the Fuckyouatude of the building.
Around the station are the hallmarks of poverty.  The chicken eateries, the beer places, the faceless features made to house nobody and to which an army of amputees, losers, and drug addicts seem to cluster.  This is not a center of transportation as much as it is a place of stagnation.
When we hear of the war on poverty, it is perhaps not so much a war to end poverty, if the MARTA is anything to go by, it is a declared war on poor people.  Should I return to Atlanta, I will avoid this system… and, if the locals need be listed to… so should you. That is sad because our greatest cities, and those of the civilized world, need a strong and integrated system of transportation, public or not.

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Editor’s Note: For a great song about Atlanta click HERE.  Apparently this blogger missed the water tasting like cherry wine.

Hotlanta Blues

photo 4(4)My hotel was in a particularly shitty area. For those Gothamists, imagine the Fulton Mall, yeah that piece of shit, but without the charm. For others, think of sadness made into an area.
I propose that the American city at a certain point in history far outpaced those of Europe and I would brag at one point we won Civilization.  That’s why my ancestors escaped [fucktardistan] and came here. Even if their struggles in life continued, they no longer had to fear the [Tzars, police men and special branch men, or peasants with rakes and torches or whatever].
photo 3(6) While our nation has been beset by the low machinations of the Human Condition/sin and entrapped by the failings of the human spirit, greed and corruption and bigotry like elsewhere, however for a time we rose above the lowly breeding grounds of London, Bombay, and Rome of old to produce some of the greatest cities I believe the world has seen. Wonders of the world with tramways, electrified street lamps, and flush toilets. We raped marble hills, Virgin forests, and rent the earth in search of copper roofs, lead welds, iron gates, and slate steples and turned the earth into temples to commerce and civil society.
And then we torn it down.
photo 3(4)All of it.
Again and again.
The cities of the South were burned and torn down long a go. When Sherman left he bragged that from a military perspective, Atlanta ceased to exist.
photo 2(2)Then, after a few decades, they were rebuilt. Atlanta went from 11,000 souls/bodies to 22,000 in just a few short years. In a hot clammy land brutalized by war and drained of much of its middle class (slave owners yes but those who could read and had capital), this was rapid change. And Atlanta grew still. On and on. There were ups and downs but the city grew. Like other American cities, it had a transportation system. It had a growing industry, grown ever larger by air conditioning and a release from the oppressive Hotlanta summer heat. It had libraries and opera houses.
photo 3(5)Then… The city turned on itself, as did all the American cities. After a century of perfecting he city, those remaining City Fathers turned on it. Some in science turn to the natural Kingdom for proof of this or that human condition. Monogamy, promiscuity, friendship, homosexuality.  But there also exists rape, canniblism, and infanticide. And after so many decades of building, it was the time to again burn the city.  And in a few years, Atlanta was smoldering.  Tracks torn up, buildings left to fade in the sun, and entire neighborhoods vanished in as much time as it took for reconstruction to kick in.
Then.
Suddenly.
photo 1(4)Cement was poured. And civic projects came. Then CNN. Then the Olympics(tm).
Two lines of public transportation were installed (more on that in an additional post) each going to no where. Public housing was demolished and poverty pushed out to the far reached of the bus lines.
Cement and corporate towers were built. Corporate (public) art was brought in by artists like I Take Money From Rich Whores, I Have No Talent But Daddie Was on The Board, and Peter Max.
Communism and Capitalism share the trait of sucking in people’s dreams and aspersions and shitting out cement edifices the elegant shape of alienation and self abuse.
photo 1(3)I wandered the broad and hot streets. Sidewalks were decor, not utility. I smeltered in the hot hot of the summer day. Time to time a baking zombie would ambulated by. The forgotten. Those tossed aside progress and the new age. Remnants of the old city were punctuated by parking lots of various styles. The new building sprouted up from the soil and they didn’t seem to have entry nor egress, perhaps only accessed from above blue luminaries beings and Blessed Elect hovering from above, or delivered by Uber on angelic wings and prepaid trips. Or both.
I was a slippery melty creature wandering about a space station here on earth.  In the distance, I was reminded by a huge sign that This Is CNN.
photo 5(1)Large art and homeless men confronted me on occasion.  Outside of that, I was alone. Completely isolated. In the center of the city.
The city is a breeding ground for our species. It is a holy space to achieve the best of our Spirit, a place to worship G/_/od/s/es/ses as we see H/I/er/m/t. A City Upon the Hill (Matthew 5:14). It is a collection of buildings, a certain density and tax allocation. It is a historic downtown surrounded by suburbs. It is an artifact. It is storage for minorities. It is a center of art. It is a snarl in our highway commute. It is the once and future kingdom of Heaven.
photo 1(2)Atlanta is that war zone, still active for all these years but not for the reasons anyone, right not left, can any longer explain.
I wandered down the street and a homeless man, sores on his naked feet, exclaimed to me… I like your [clothing]. Thanks.  I said back, expecting him to beg money or otherwise engaged unwanted. But, he kept moving. He, like Atlanta, had an agenda I am still trying to understand.

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American (Dead Horse Bay) Pickers

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There are many strange places in this rich and blessed world but perhaps none so ample with souvenirs as the former horse and fish boiling region of Gotham now become an exploded dump cum state park called Dead Horse Bay (DHB).  Situated in the middle of nowhere, somewhere where only buses with unknown numbers run, it is a long road taken in order to visit the bay should you venture there without the bike that was stolen last Saturday night after you visited Sally’s going away party or because your roommate totally bailed on you because he needed to use the car to move someone.  While remote by all public means of transportation, this site has become increasingly popular in the years since the internet and more pilgrimage out there with tour groups called, Hidden New York, Missing New York, Dumps and Dead Water or such. Indeed while there are many tracts written about this spot from the historical tracking of the land from pristine waters to polluted wasteland, anecdotes by bloggers (this writer I assume included), and high speed photo essays.  None of this can in this case substitute for the real experience.  Of standing there and listening to the waves as the tinkle the glass, an endless massage of the ejected effluvia and discarded objects as one breaths in the fumes of low tide and contemplates the arch of human history and any and all personal errors you have made in love, career, and diet.  

photo 2Much of these bottles are broken.  Some patches are just the necks while in collections and indentations there may be a collection of intact bottles looking strangely new, as if these things were just placed out here the day before.  If you like beach glass, those bubbles of glass well worn and appearing more as transparent stones, don’t come here.  The glass has not been rubbing on the sand long enough for this to happen nor are the waves as violent as may be needed.  There are several picks our there in the muck.

photo 3(1)Our party of pickers swept along the coastline.  One member of the group at the outer edge by the water (low tide), one in the middle area (where the most erosion has revealed the majority of the bottles, and one on the dry sand.  The question of the day was “how about this one?”  It is hard to say.  One looks much like the other after several minutes of picking and it is hard to know what separates one find from another outside of narrowing down the search to only fully intact bottles… unless there is any writing on the bottle identifying the brand, bottle make, or former contents.  

Among the glass there are some metal objects.  Some are larger, safes, machine parts, a great deal of pieces of plumbing and heating systems, electrical work, and a good amount of spark plugs.  The salt in the ocean makes short work of these items and many are rusted lumps of unknown form and former utility.  Here and there some items of stainless steel are to be found.  Mostly forks and the odd pot top.  I was actually surprised that there was a representation of metal in this midden pile since it was even then valuable.  I can only imagine that those items today assembled on the shoreline in one large rust farm were small odd bits not worth hauling to the scrapyard for a few cents.  

photo 4(1)There is a certain amount of plastic on the beach too.  There is the native plastic of today that washes up and mingles with the older items.  Plastic water bottles, crisp wrappers, Powergatoraidrinkbull containers tossed aside by amped up boaters and hyperglucosed children munching on needless snacks by large and dank storm drains.  But then there is the plastic of yesteryear.  Back when plastic was the future.  While the dump was closed in the 1940s our species was still well underway to reform complex carbon chains into viscus material capable of assuming any and every shape.  Shoe soles are in greatest number of this material, but there are other products represented.  Chunks of flooring.  Nobs and other bits.  Back in Those Days many buildings had trash chutes that fed incinerators.  When I was young I still remember the incinerators coming to life and a fowl cloud being ejected from certain featureless buildings.  A good number of plastics may have been fed to these furnaces and then dumped as ash here on what is today a beach.  Those bits not burned, have been assembled here.  Unfortunately, no one is interested in this material as it is bottles, and bottles alone, that draw the visitors.

photo 1A woman approached us and identified herself as Liz.  In her hand she had a Pepsi bottle that retained some of the label.  “It’s not my style” Liz said.  She was picking up a certain type of bottle, she did not expand on this, in order to make shadow boxes she would then sell on Etsy.  One of our party, enquired as to the name of the shop.  “I haven’t set it up yet.  I am just out here getting materials,” Liz replied.  We each secretly hoped that Liz would go through with this project and not just wind up with a box of dirty glass shards in her closet or perhaps one of the many mini storage units where Gothamites store their crap.  We took the Pepsi bottle and thanked her.  Pepsi bottles are indistinct without the label.  You have to be a real bottleopologist to identify one.  Coke, however, is a different story.  A distinct bottle came at a cost and the deposit remained long after many lesser brands broke free of the confines of reusing materials.  This and the sought after nature by pickers ensure that the few bottles carousing in the surf are but broken and shattered parts of the whole.

photo 5When planning your visit to DHB do check the tide chart.  You can use the one for Coney Island weather station.  You want to visit somewhere close to low tide.  That is of course when the majority of the beach is exposed and the pickings are in greater volume.  Wear closed toe shoes, certainly ones with strong soles and you will be walking on jagged rusted pooped on metal and broken chards of glass, pottery, melamine, porcelain, and crystal.  And always wear sunscreen.  The path from the bus stop (there is also a parking lot should your roommate’s friend have a car) is wild on both sides but mowed clean down the center.  Don’t touch any of the plants on the sides of the path, the majority are poison ivy.  When you come to an intersection of three branches to the path, take the one on the right.  This will lead you to dunes and you will see the marina.  The majority of the bottles are collected on this side of the bay since it is less exposed.  If you approach by boat, don’t swim to shore.  There really should be a sign out there saying such, if there already isn’t one.

photo 2(1)As interesting as the bottles are at this approach, it is also interesting to see who is out there.  It is a good place to break down that New Yorker fear of talking to strangers and just engage.  It is interesting to see what people take, what they are looking for, and what interest brought them to so far a shore of Kings County.  Most are just visitors who read about it in Gothamist.  Some are there for specific collecting.  The jars are the least collected it seems.  They cluster in groups.  I am not enough of a scholar of bottleriey to know if this is because they were discarded by the same consumer, or if following some rule of Ancient Greek Science, they have an affinity for one another and settle thusly.  

photo 4(2)On any given day there are several pickers.  Some are serious and others, such as our party, amateur collectors.  Most sought after and therefore the rarest are colored glass.  This would be blue Vicks jars, umber medicine bottles, and any carnival or depression glass (sort of a rainbow sheen on the glass however this effect can be imposed on regular glass by being in a hot fire).  There is a vast multitude of bottles intact.  It is rather surprising considering these things were tossed into the actual literal dust bin of history, interred in a dark sandy mountain, covered with layers of cement, washed into the ocean, and then tossed up onto the beach by various storms.  Log Cabin maple syrup seem to be represented in great number either because Gotham was going through a syrup craze or because few collectors want these bottles.  Ketchup bottles of course – of the Heins variety – and a surprising number of salt/pepper shakers.  Does this speak of a rising culture of diners and roadside America?  The little bottles are intriguing.  Most are medicines of some sort while others are perfume. Their small size protects them from the elements and breakage.  The perfume bottles are highly prized by the more eagle-eyed pickers.  Clorox bottles are the unicorn.  So many are there in various configurations of broken and useless.  That day we found a competitor of Clorox, Rose-Ex, and while in the exact configuration as the famous Clorox bottle, it is even as trash, still second place to its more famous relation (all chlorine bleach on the market is exactly the same in chemical construction from the .99 no name brand to the $2.99 Original Formula Clorox(tm)).  It was sitting on the beach, left by a previous picker set up for the taking.  There is indeed honor among these pickers.

After filling a backpack, we decided that the hour had come to return home where we would clean and sort our finds, divide up the spoils of a lost civilization of consumers.  We were doing our part to clean up the beach in our own way, part of the endless cycle of consumption, discarding, and picking up out of the water we are all part of.  Anyway, if we didn’t want these bottles in the end, we could toss them into the recycling bin.

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The Climb

photo 5 (2)If there is one thing about rich people that has not changed throughout the ages, it is that like like to go and play at being poor people.  Or at least country people.  Living in the country.  With huge houses.  At one time the island of Bar Harbor was just one of 3000-4000 other such islands.  Then, in the 18somethings or is that the somethingth century, people of means started visiting there for the summer until there upon that formerly deserted rock an exuberance of the connected and Mayflower born wealthy built cabins and cottages that were larger than most Restoration era villages.

photo 2 (4)But in time there came changes in taste, and fire, and more fire, until the entire rock burned to the living stone and perhaps in some places, even farther into the Eldredge aspects of the earth.  This left the mountains as the predominant feature and the locals, that is some rather connected individuals, ensured that the place regrew in a better way than it was before to offer trails and parks and sitting spots and signs and all manner of polite adventure betwixt nature.  The mountains became more silent for a time, since the Jet Age was in bloom, and The Visitors died down to such a trickle most of the grand hotels vanished.  Then, with the advent of hiking magazines and a renewed interest in the out-of-doors, The Visitors came for the mountains again.

photo 1 (2)Of the mountains the most well known within the confines of this jurisdiction is Cadillac mountain. If you can, avoid this mountain of madness as there are several others within the park, each with a view, but none so crawling with the the ants of humanity as that one.  It is always amazing when I travel to see what spot becomes “The” place to be, to snap, to selfie, to check off the bucket list and to see clusters and clatches of peoples tied in a human knot just to be “There.”  In general the island is popular again which is good, but it is crowded.  The way to Dessert Island is blocked as on weekends, clogged with cars and SUVs and such and especially those days falling within range of holidays, the traffic jamb starts but miles away and lasts for as long as you want to suffer it.
The park has miles of roadway some for cars and others for cart traffic pulled by horses or such back from a long ago attempt to Fire Island the place and ban motor car traffic (was that the Ford family or one of the Getty’s that ironically pushed for that?).  These scenic car roadways allow one to experience views and vistas all from the comfort of bumper to bumper traffic. There are ways to escape, however, and that is to set out on a noname brand trail on some bullshit mountain no one wants to selfie from. We selected Dorr mountain, a slightly shorter chunk of stone than it’s famous brother but offering a number of trails, one of which consists of 1005 stone steps and two ladders to reach the top.
photo 3 (4)Unlike much of the National Park system where nature was allowed to reclaim some industrial environmental catastrophe, Arcadia was founded by the rusticators and saved right in the nick of time from overdevelopment and ruin.  Discovered by several Hudson Valley School painters, and the retreat of the wealthy WASP set, the park is a strange mixture of wild areas that have been secretly, or not so quietly, landscaped to perfection. Nature made that much more better and as Central Park in Gotham just as wonderfully fake.  It looks wild and why not tweak and twerk Nature to fit Our image.  The trail up Dorr started with stone steps. These led to more steps and then ladders and then more stone steps.  There is a great deal of stonework in the park.  Everywhere you look.  Large stone bridges connect the horse trails, granite wrapped lookouts, stone cairns marking each high trail and before that fire of 1947, several castle-cottages.
photo 4 (3)From the parking lot we started our hike. Up the stone steps fitted with precision into the mountain. It amazes me that our ancestors had worked hard to fit together such a structure to lead to nowhere. After many Lord of he Rings Hobbits going to Mordor the back way jokes, we reached the top and switched to a gentler trail that sent us to the summit. From there we could see the ocean, far and distant mountains, and the strange and frightening research facility where they are breaking apart mice to see what dark matter oozes from their stem cells and mapping the human genome I can only assume to embed consumerism and a love of The Googles into our cosmic and sacred structure. At the time I did not know what I was looking at so I joked with some hikers that it was the Clinton Memorial Prison for White Collar Crime & Bayside Country Club.  Indeed I found it funnier than my situational companions.
photo 1 (3)From the summit one can count the ants on Cadillac mountain for a hole and then descend in so many ways. We selected the southerly route for no other reason that it seemed from the guide book a less challenging slope than the back way to Mordor we had just taken.  And it was.  Pleasant,  not at all like what I have come to believe is hiking, which for most of the trails meant tracking through mud and doing a level of torture of some degree not unfamiliar to prisoners and convicts of certain fascist or totalitarian regimes.
We returned to the parking lot having a relaxing stint in nature and got to the car to recharge our iDevices and make our way about the park for more traffic.  More sitting.  And just off the island in time for dinner.

photo 2 (5)Editor’s Note: This will be the final installment of anything Maine at least for this year.

Out At Crotch Island

photo 3 (3)If you have visited a city in old New England or The Empire State chances are you have seen several mountains of stone harvested from the coast of Maine reshaped into buildings of various designs.  Back when lobsters were considered prison food and blueberries were harvested to feed pigs, the living rock was cleft from islands, loaded into stone sloops, and hauled away to build cities and pave walkways of edifices great and small.
Before reinforced concrete, granite was the chosen material for impervious monuments to industry and capital. While called mines, these were really pits, often at the core of the chosen island. Sharing a similarity to the limestone pits of the Hudson Valley or the bluestone quarries of the Catskills, the Maine mines benefited from their access to the ocean and the carrying capacity of ships to hoist large blocks to be dressed later. For a time this was big money and many villages that people mistake for quaint fishing villages were once rough and boisterous boom towns where men went out to sea only if they fell into the water drunk or made dead beforehand.
In Them Olden Days (TOD) the blocks were cut by dark magic, the same as how Stonehenge and the pyramids of Central America were constructed. That or perhaps monotonous hammering at spikes, occasional blasting (I may have made that up) and sweat of the brow.  Also, braided cable was a thing then as was a common understanding of fulcrum and the formula V = ( (L)(B)(H) ).
photo 4 (2)Of all the islands, perhaps the most important is Crotch Island, off the coast of The Great Deer Island.  This island is important in history, at least my journey through time, because it may be the last remaining quarry, and because I went there, having never intending to and after regretting what became a perilous adventure.
As anyone with access to The Googles Maps knows, the Coast of Maine is dotted with islands and winds out and in as dictated by ice ages, the Gulf Stream and shifting tectonic plates the behavior of which we yet are to fully understand. There are pleasant islands to visit and should you rent a kayak or canoe from [redacted] they will assure you a safety flotation device, an appropriate paddle, and a map, or what boaters call a chart.
A chart is like a map except rather than elevation it has little crosses and and other doodad markings that don’t really mean shit to me. But the blobs marked “island” that I can understand.  Matching up the shape of the blob you can find your way and I guess sailors call this navigation. One such blob I was excited to visit was marked “the old quarry swimming hole.”
photoThere’s a swimming hole in the middle of the island, the youth I had yet to learn was a bonafide sea captain, told me when he gave me the canoe.  It’s full of rain water [and crystal clear, so much so you can see the bottom and it’s like swimming on a glass table], he said.  I knew I totally needed a picture of that for one of my albums on The Book of Face.  Hell to the yeah I wanted to see the old quarry.  In my mind this worn trail led to some epic views of a pit where crystal clear water shown the bottom, ancient hauling machines sitting in the depths seemed just right in front of your hand…  Maybe I would find an old workhouse, in there maybe a dial or handle to a steam engine overlooked yet in perfect condition.
photo 2 (3)I set out to sea with my companion…  who also has no experience with charts.  We had a canoe.  As we were on vacation, we merrily paddled our canoe into the wind and against the current pushing hard. It was slow going but I was assured the return would have both wind and current at our very backs.  The author of this Web Log has had double digit experience with canoes.  I have paddled them at all hours and up and down rivers.  I have sunk them several times and dragged them through mud and trackless swamps.  However, this has been in a single canoe owned over these many decades and in all manner of speaking I am self-taught, a Folk Canoest, and have no experience with a canoe on the ocean.  Nevertheless, I have some modicum of adventure and confidence and we made good time going from island to island.  I then spotted the abandoned quarry, mine, pit thingy, there in the distance.  I could see the white carved block walls of the pit and an old rusted derrick.  We looked at the map… I mean chart.  Neither of us know what we are looking at and that island looked like the “swimming hole here quarry Island” so we set out… across the shipping channel that lead to the now quaint and no longer saloon fighting drunken murderous Stonington.  Just in time for the fishing boats to be coming in.  Coming up to a couple kayaking, an older man and woman, we exchanged pleasantries.  How does it go, weather, nice day, weekend can you believe it, enjoy have a great time have friends and be with others live long and prosper, to which the female in the kayak replied something that sounded like “that’s great” or “that’s brave” depending on which one of us you may have interviewed at the time.

We were indeed brave, or great, whichever.  The the crossing was hard. It seemed that the wind was picking up a little.  Not the hardest crossing I have ever made, since the mighty Hudson River is prone to storms, currents, tides, wind, and traversed by speed boats and oceanic tankers, but I have a slightly greater fear or falling into the ocean and the temperature of which would not be a refreshing plunge but a if-you-don’t-get-fished-out-in-20 -minutes-you’ll-have-hypothermia-cold that being tossed into the river.  Shit, when I go, I want to be torn apart by wolves not have a sudden drop in body temperature politely kill me…

photo 5 (1)We made it to what appeared to be the first island.  I tried to make the chart tell me I was right, but it was hard and it took a lot of skill to tweak the islands to match.  We set into the space between the islands to stop on the closest island.  It turned out to be a cove and we were but on one section of a much larger island that included the quarry I had seen.

The water was quiet and of a blue of a deep and almost tropical quality.  The lagoon of sorts had a simple quietude and the waves and disturbance of the shipping, the winds, and current died down at once and our little craft pulled in at a glide to the shore.  We were both fatigued and this may be that island of paradise, however, the surroundings were far from tropical.  It was like the ruins of civilization itself.  Blocks stacked and tossed into piles.  The shoreline caught with refuse and bits of life.  We pulled out little craft to the salty bog of a shore and found a rock to catch our collective breath and have a snack.  I took to explore the surroundings.  The way was scattered rocks punctuated by some angry large rusting cables and the remains of a structure that had past all willingness to be explored and just lay on the ground as a sigh of metal and ancient wood.  It was if I discovered a new world.  Yes, how could I discover a new world if people were already there and had turned that world into shit?  This is true.  I did not discover it, I merely brought it to the attention of myself and the camera of my iThingy.

After a scramble up and about, I had high hopes, but they were broken and ruined.  I returned with little news and certainly no sight of the blessed swimming hole.  I looked to the lagoon, maybe this is the swimming hole, I said, you want to swim here? was the reply.

photo 1 (1)Rested and having snacked, we returned to our canoe and out out past the safety of this lunch spot, we took again to the more open waters.  The afternoon tour boats were coming close and their wake had me concerned.  The shore of the island was despicable.  Where was the path to the swimming hole? I demanded.  The waves crashed against the cluttered and jagged discarded rock and mine car rail and rebar and chunks of iron and the plastic trash that collects today on our shorelines.  I demanded we put in at a small cove, I was told there was a cove on the island.  Indeed this protected area sheltered us from the wake of a large boat and the wind and waves were indeed picking up.  Coming in, the shore was alien.  The shallow part at the front did not meet land, but dropped off to depth since the irregular rocks had not been pounded by wave and ice into any particular order.  We can set in here.  No… wait… no we can’t.

Again we pushed off from this damned island, but again there was another cove of sorts.  I pulled in and this time determined to have a looksee, I pulled the canoe onto some rocks and went up to see if I could find a path, this cove and beach and report back.  Up the crumbling rocks to a ledge made of chips of even more rock all surrounded by brambles and shameful vegetation all angling to trip me, I pushed on in the direction of the derrick now a dark house beacon, a sinewy siren echoing out “swimming hole as shown to you at the rental center on the map I mean chart here.”

My expedition failed.  At the sight of sink holes I became all too aware of this land being foul, and altogether dangerous. I suddenly heard a mariner’s hallo, a distressful noise and returned to the ship boat canoe craft to witness it being tossed and shunt about held to the shore by able but frightened hands.  We emptied the canoe of water and made our way out to flee this barren collection of debris and decay frightening skull crap evil homeland of super villains and ghosts.

With the wind and waves and Crotch Island behind us, we made for the humble village. Even with these conditions the paddling was hard and the wakes of the boats ever more difficult to navigate.  Nevertheless, we made it back to the camp from which we rented the canoe, and just in time to not have to pay a late fee.  So, I asked the young man I did not know yet was a ship captain, we went to that island you told us about, but it was intensely ugly and hazardous.   I then described it a little more.  “That island is technically private property, you’re not supposed to be there.  That’s not on our chart… You went there?”  He then pointed out the island of our intended destination, which was much, much closer.  Oh.  That island.  We returned our gear and in fatigue and the giddy accomplishment of going farther than most in what should have been a more restful day, were somewhat gleeful we had made it to the broken shores of Crotch Island.

And we both now understood the woman of the ocean kayak, and that she had said, “That’s Brave” the way polite older people mean, that’s the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever seen.

photo (1)Editor’s Note: A film from 1975 explores the island in better detail and from a time when cool souvenirs may have still existedhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjiuCuuZQv8

Dah Lobstah Pound

photo 1Lobster Pounds are apparently along the rustic highways and commercial byways, places where you can buy living lobsters by the pound (.453 kg.).  Up in Maine the primary industry is lobsters, at least according to the many billboards and signs, restaurants and eateries that cluster along Route 1 hugging the coast.  True other industries exist from blueberries to paper pulp, tourism to potatoes, and don’t forget mining.  Actually, from an economic perspective, fishing occupies a sizable but yet a very slender line item within the overall economy.   However, don’t tell that to those who live on the coast.  Or the many, many, many tourists who come calling, especially in droves over the summertides with sticks of butter in one hand, a nut cracker in the other, and bibs covering the pajamas they have taken to wearing in public fittingly decorated with Sponge Bob Square Pants motifs.
photo 2If one has the chance to view the waters about Maine, they are cluttered with buoys marking traps, also called “pots” by the locals.  They clutter up the waters and along the shore one can collect a boatload of those that have broken free, were turned lose, or otherwise are not tided down.  One can see these buoys of different designs bobbing about in the waves marking places where the pots rest below.  Each design marks a different fisherman… or lobsterman perhaps… and I am told that fishing rights are inherited and passed down in families for generations.  These traps are everywhere but seem clustering about in generally good habits for lobsters.  I am not sure what those are, but when boating there were times I had to avoid more than others.  One can also see these pots stacked in the lawns in front of so many houses, especially the more dilapidated ones.  These lawn pots are either awaiting deployment or being cleaned or whatever other reason may have brought them ashore. While there still is the harvest of lobsters, some things have changed up in these areas while other features of the landscape and population appear to have remained the same.
When I was a young child, about a hundred years ago (at least just before The War), my family was to relocate from the suburbs of Gotham’s blessed Long Island to the rugged coastline of Maine because:
1. The Bomb
2. There were only so many bridges connecting the island to the mainland [in the event of The Bomb]
C. A whim of my parent or grandparent
For wherever reasons, we pilgrimaged to Maine and there found a house, I do not know how, since this was far before the age of the Interwebs and all those tubes pushing us up-to-the-nano-second pricing information on houses.  One of the parents, grand or otherwise, found a house on the mainland, right a few miles from the bridge to lesser and greater Dear Islands.  I remember there were a lot of abandoned houses back then.  And a lot of abandoned lobster traps.  Back then the lobster traps or pots were made of wood and perhaps tied together with hempen rope or maybe oakum rope since this is before we littered the oceans with quite as much indestructible plastic as we do today.  Lobster traps were everywhere.  They also were stacked up in front of the more dilapidated houses in yards also containing a number of older cars, some farm equipment, a boat or two, and sundry appliances but none of it working.  Back then a great percentage of these houses were rambling complexes of connected shacks, stalls, and barns, the later being perhaps the greatest in size of these complexes and in the greatest amount of disrepair.  This was The Age of Plastic on The Windows, after all.  The family was in Maine to inspect one of those structures, a house on a hill, the only tree close to it an apple tree and beyond were 40 acres divided between fallow fields and spindly woods.  We had some dreams, I know today these were unrealistic, but then I yearned to be up there, free from the suburbs, to make new friends, to have adventures, and to explore the many islands about.  It was a strange and fancy dream that perhaps stuck with me in one or another perverted form well into adulthood.  I used to draw houses that looked like the house we saw as well as islands all windswept and barren that sunk deep into my creative activities and childhood story-games.
photo 3Our Family did not join this collection of The People but settled elsewhere but in a house that would have fit in with the blasted and broken ones seen on those Maine byways.  Our new home Elsewhere like so many in Maine had the previous owners and those of his ancestor’s trash about the yard from washing machines to car parts and more glass than was needed in a yard.  Meanwhile, in Maine, the area about our never-to-be-ancestral-home became gentrified in the decades since I first visited as a child.  The house my parent and grandparent looked at remains on the road, but is unrecognizable with actual landscaping, and has become the idea of a country home rather than the country house it had once been.  It is quite nice and I assume no longer will be on the market for $40,000.  The fallow fields about that I remember made it so hot that summer day are now all woodlands.  There are new homes up there too.  Polite cottages and gate to unknown special retreats.  The wealthy, those of Greater Boston and perhaps even further south of there, have come to take whatever of the mainland and islands and reorder them as compounds and estates and high-end off-the-grid experiments.  However, the Old Down Easters, the Salt of said Earth, have themselves changed in many ways.  Replacing those old Yankee farmers and fishers are a mostly motley crew.  The older have changed too their comfortable clothes, the traditional garb of the People of Walmart that allow for the body to expand indefinitely in all directions.  The younger bounce about look as many do in this rich and green nation, tattooed and pink hair, like a Yamamatti interpretation of Twisted Sister as told to them by Willy Nelson.  To this end, they are visible from some distance, but like many locals in areas today, perhaps do not approach them nor make undo contact.  The group I saw at the gas station appeared so stoned, that I am not certain one could make contact with them.
Ir/Regardless, the villages yet remain quaint and there are some industrious members that still tend to the lobster traps or pots or whatever is set out under those floating markers in order to entrap strange and alien creature so we may boil them and butter them to no end.
To this mission, we came not to any Lobster Pound, but one so recommended by Yelp I think the computer came a little when we landed on the page.  At the end of some bridge or another, there was an unassuming establishment except that unlike the many other hundred thousand we had seen, this was was packed, forgive the pun, to the gills.  Getting in line to get through the door to get in line was a struggle.  The clientele was an eclectic sort, if by variety we mean Asian and from the dialect it seemed to be a heavy many of people of decent or from the People’s Republic of China and the Democratic Republic of South Korea were lined up along with the biker gang members, elderly locals, and other clearly touristic folks, ourselves included.
photo 5I ordered a lobster.  Fresh.  Alive.  Small.  Cooked, yes sir, cooked please, and what is the number, 10? Sir, 10? To this the man with the large apron on opened a cooler and wished out a lobster from the pile, just one of hundreds of creeping crawling lobster in there save that this one had but just been placed inside before meeting his doom.  However, this one did not take it like the others.  No, unlike the last group who lay in the bowl on the scale this one turned about.  Arched up, claws raised, mouth open, he (or she) cursed me out and in the little 1.5 lbs. for $9 a lbs cooked mind he threatened me with his claws – they were tied up with bands but I knew what he meant by his stance.  Before I could back down, before I could even process this threat, he was tossed into a net bag with my number on it (10), and vanished outside with a group of others.
I pondered this action.  I felt for him.  Faced with an alien land, with aliens actually looking right at him, he stood up, raised his claw fists and yelled, NOT ONE MORE!
photo 4Twenty minutes later, perhaps ten I do not know, my number was called and guiltily I went to collect his now hot and red body and the butter I ordered on the side.
There he was.  The defiant little guy I summoned death to greet in the pot outside the doom of all his kin that day and countless days hence and prior.  I do eat meat.  I eat sea food.  I just… never have to look the creature in the eye moments before eating it.  I sat for a moment.  I wanted to honor his short life, so I took the tools I was provided and broke open his shell to extract the delicious meat inside, so tasty that I didn’t need the butter substance… if indeed that was what was in the plastic cup.
Sated and having rent open a good many sections of the body of my friend, I collected the items, his sad remains, I no longer required, a mixture of his organs, exoskeleton, napkins, that “butter” and whatever other castings and shoveled them into the bin already full of similar leavings I guess to be hauled to the closest precipice and tossed into the abyss.  Of this, I saved some part of the front claws not as a trophy, but a reminder of this lobster that cursed me out.
There are but many Lobster Pounds along the coast of Maine, and perhaps other regions too. Day in and out they toil to toss these sea spiders into the boiling pots, a charnel house of terror that ends in yummy deliciousness.

photoEditor’s Note: Lobsters were harmed in the making of this blog.  Lobster pictured is serving suggestion only and is for information purposes only and my not have been the lobster so mentioned above.

Fireworks Over Innsmouth

photo 1With thousands of islands and 4,000 miles of coastline, the ocean front if Maine has many small towns and family compounds along the coast that range in size and architecture but seem to have the same character of quietude interspersed with the occasional sounds of commercial fishing. Or is that lobstering?
photo 5Once such hamlet is Innsmouth, Maine located on the seaward tip of Deer Island. Innsmouth, or Stonington as the locals refer to it when speaking to outsiders, is as quaint as these little towns get. Situated on the right bank of the Deer Island, the village is a hidden destination to the chattering classes that summer there as well as an amount of proud, if not tattooed and pierced, amount of locals.  Deer Island is located halfway up the coast or Maine to Canada. The island is just far enough for those seekers of Maine content with the bright lights and hustle-bustle of Portland or diverse and energetic metropolis of Augusta or the glamour of Kennebunkport idle their travels and find a alive of Vacationland to relax or fish or clam or lobster or whatever their summer ritual may be.  Deer Island is also apart from Maine.

photo 2It as far as the remainder of the coast, a still screening wilderness punctuated by poverty and wealthy island owning family compounds where locals have not seen anyone enter or leave since Kennedy was shot, but dark goings on and missing kayakers tell them that the family remains on that rock and drop not their lobster pots or cast nets within swimming range if those spots.
photo 3Indeed, there is much beauty to Maine but for livability and beauty, this is a thin crust of the Pale of Civilization holding back the ocean on one side and all those cabins and camps of swatting madness on the other as Maine stretches an eternal gray distance up to the Canadian boarder where health care, natural teeth, and subsidized agriculture again introduce those hallmarks of our current level of self satisfied comfort and access to digital media.
“The police had to talk to them,” the old woman on the lobster boat exclaimed. “The family on that island doesn’t like visitors and shot guns at some kayakers.” The dark island in the near distance had some alive. Strange figures cavorted on the beach holding sparkling torches (these are referred to just as “sparklers” and were known by all in the pre-ban days of this country). There was a bonfire on the brag but on occasion a large explosion should resound across the water as they sent some fiery projectile in the sky for their carnal amusement.
photo 4 (1)The old maiden on the boat launched into a soliloquies about the family compound being on that island for generations and certain navigational rights of those following a trail along the coast popular with kayaks. Another explosion resounded in the air.
We were in the port waters of Innsmouth. Far into the navigation channel yet from this vantage point and even with the sun’s light becoming pinkish and spongy, one could still see the houses clearly as if they were but toys arranged on a table. The Opera House, now a cinema, the various churches and meeting halls, the docks and businesses along the Main Street from the cafe that serves waffles Sunday morning with berries and children and people born to relax and visit lands end and move carefully from yoga to a lifetime of epic stories and vistas seen in magazines that are all photo and no article.
From out little bobbing boat, siting alone on the inky lobster-filled ocean, hemmed in by private islands and the quaint, we waited like solders to go over the top.  We wanted for the crepuscular to flow into astronomical twilight. Holding on the the blanket, it was cold. The Old Ones about us had been there for years. Each summer at the very least.  They started chattering and joking. We were the youngest on the boat.  Not including the captain fresh out of some maritime college and a group either crew or perhaps his admirers. His name was Huck. How could you not admire that?
As Huck tied up the boat and measured the anchor, weighed it is the nautical expression, the tourists of which we were apart of chatted and speculated as to where the fireworks would come or how so that this John-boat of youth didn’t have a light and wouldn’t they be ticketed or killed or both.  The youth pulled along side us and demanded beer before going onward toward the degenerate island compound if The Family and vanishing into the now astronomical twilight, if that is what it was.
Suddenly, a whooshing followed by an explosion. We all clapped. Some well mannered and perfect voice crackled over the nautical channel of the radio – oceans calm wind 2 knots from the south west, coastal ports celebrating the holiday of July 4 with displays of fireworks.
Boom!  Oooooh.  Bam! Awwwww, the young captain goaded on the passengers who respectively but not actively complied.
Each boom reverberated between the islands, the heavens, and the far and distant ocean.
The boat rocked in some little unknown wake.
Another boom. Another report from far and away.
As the show unfolded we sat mostly in silence. Rapture and cellphone clattering. Networks and sky and the oranges passed around fragments tossed into the sea, alone and tended by the scratchings on so many pots below.
After the finally, our youthful captain turned us port side and we chugged ever slow
Back to our port of call.  As we wandered between the buoys in a thickening mist with our crew shining lights to pick the way, other islands, other compounds exploded into life.  The twin planets grew in brightness in the sky reflecting in the waters.  Reports came from all directions from other compounds, other islands, generations of those dwellers and vacationers and visitors from all.

In the darkness, our party sat huddled to await the shore.  We would leave behind the madness out there in the waters.  The history, and yet another year of summer.

photo 2 (1)Editor’s Note: This is this blogger’s 365th post.