Tuesday, March 08, 2011

You Knew This Was Coming

The consolation is that I think this will be the last set of pictures of this type for a while. For now however we are going to once more journey to a time and among scenes in their way more distant and dead to us than certain locales of the high middle ages. Yes, it is my visit to Concord, Mass in the summer of 1997.

1. Morning Glories on the Main Road Into Town, Near the Entrance. This is the main approach to this venerable town, which remarkably, given the serenity and evocation of a less crowded and busy time that is evident in the photograph, is just 16 miles from downtown Boston.

2. Thoreau Birthplace Marker. Of the big 4 Concord writers, Thoreau was the only one who was actually born in town (For information lovers: Emerson was born in Boston, Hawthorne in Salem [Mass], and L. M. Alcott in Germantown [now part of Philadelphia], PA). I do not mean to introduce more vanity into this site than it already has, but man do I look good to myself in this picture. This was when I was exactly 27 and a half years old, which Bill James and other sports historians have shown pretty convincingly is the age when a substantial plurality, and maybe even a majority, of male athletes have their peak seasons, after which most continue to maintain a reasonably high level of performance for an additional 3-5 years and then start to fall off a cliff around age 32-33. It really is rather an oddity about life that this physical prime--and in most cases mental prime, as well--which takes at least 20, and in my case about 26, years to grow into, is so brief, and the decline so long--one can be old and irrelevant, but still existing, now for 40 or 50 years. Clearly in the state of nature the kind of society we have now, with such a large percentage of old, declining, or otherwise useless people, would be unsustainable--the proportion of adults at the height of their physical and mental and sexual powers and general usefulness would have to be much higher, and as that window is so brief, surely it is intended for us to live more intensely and tumultously, realize our potential at an age when it matters, pass on our seed in vigorous rather than antiseptic conditions, and pass quickly, a well-earned early death brought on by the exhaustion of a properly lived life, when our powers begin to wane in what is now but the beginning of an interminable middle age.

3. Memorial at Walden Pond State Park, Sense of the Woods There. This is supposed to be the vicinity of where the cabin was. Archaeologists have apparently found a lot of mangled nails and other evidence of carpentering incompetence of the part of Thoreau in their excavations on the site.

4. View of Walden Pond. I don't look quite as much like a regular person with potential here as in the other picture, but I still have a BMI that is not officially overweight at least.

There are obviously more spectacular lakes than Walden in New England but it is a pleasant afternoon outing and I found its atmosphere, with the literary and historical associations and all, to be to my liking. I am not such a fool as to imagine by going to some place that has been written about in a famous book that I am going to have any profound experience of my own or accrue any benefit from it whatsoever. I like to feel some association with smart people and higher levels of civilization even if I have no hope of ever comprehending anything which they really signify. It seems to be one of the few things in which I am able to find any happiness.

5. Another View of the Pond. All these pictures of course were taken with an old film camera. I have no knack for the photographer's art, or any art really. It would have been odd that I set myself up in my mind as some kind of artist, but there were in truth no other alternatives any more plausible that were in any way desirable. Many sober adults seem to want young people to be sensible and come to the realization that they haven't got the talent, personality, etc to do anything that might earn them either respect or income, and just resign themselves to a life of mediocrity and deference to their betters, the source and real nature and extent of whose superiority to them is usually truly a mystery until one is well into his thirties.

6. The Thoreau Family Plot at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. The four writers are conveniently buried all together.

7. Headstone of the Author. The notes and quills and other offerings by the stone were the work of other fans, though whoever these people were, we kept missing them, assuming they were making their ways around to all the sites that we were.

8. What Is This? Fine Dining? Compared to the kinds of places I go to now at least. The water glasses and cloth napkins alone are things that I had almost forgotten existed. This picture aside though, I have no memory of what this place was, what I had, why I thought it was a good idea to wear that shirt, etc.

9. After this visit I did not return to Concord for nearly 13 years! Which is really pitiful, since it's only about an hour, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes, from where I live, and it's a neat old-fashioned place with lots of things to look at and see, and I do like it there. So I went down again last May, shortly after making myself a reminder to do so I believe in these very pages. It was exciting to be back. On this occasion we eschewed the literary sites and did a little walking along the Minuteman trail or whatever it is called. Below, as any fan of 18th-century English novels will recognize, is the sign of a tavern, which while well preserved and offering numerous educational presentations and other opportunites, did not alas actually serve up any ale or other spirits. Still, if it were not for that cone and police tape intruding upon the scene, one would hardly know it was not indeed 1775 with this vision set before him.

10. Here Is a Short Movie. My non-focused, uncoordinated style of parenting is on modest display here, where as you can see the effect is that of a kind of organic, undirected immersion in experience, sort of set the children down in the historic field and see what they do. This is at the end, or near an end, of the walking trail, near the Concord visitors center. When the camera pans the field I think you can see the reconstruction of the Old North Bridge and the monument commemorating "The Shot Heard Round the World" in the background.

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