Our borderlands contain many natural ones. Some are wildlife refuges that soften the borders between man and animal. I grew up in one, called the Great Meadows in eastern Massachusetts where my grandfather, Dick Borden, a wildlife filmmaker and conservationist, maintained an entire ecosystem of wildlife, including pet otters, geese, coyotes, and grandchildren.
Recently I visited, with permission, the private grounds for the first time since my grandfather’s interment there nearly two decades ago. The ponds and former meadows are rich with history, including numerous visits by Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 19th century. Here are a few stanzas by Emerson about them:
In the long sunny afternoon,
The plain was full of ghosts;
I wandered up, I wandered down,
Beset by pensive hosts.
The winding Concord gleamed below,
Pouring as wide a flood
As when my brothers, long ago
Came with me to the wood.
– Peter’s Field (1904)
The mystique of trains plays a large role in borderland culture. Here, a museum lovingly rose from Roanoke’s former Norfolk & Western passenger terminal, with an amazing photography collection that captures the dying years of America’s last steam railway.
O. Winston Link, a commercial photographer from New York, had a passion: steam trains. He self-financed his documentary project, from 1955-1960, during 21 trips to Roanoke, which blossomed into a city a century ago at the intersection of two rail lines. Capturing many images at night, he brought his studio outdoors with hundreds of yards of cables for lighting. This is my kind of man!
His collection was ignored for nearly 20 years, until the 1980’s brought international exhibitions and two published works. In 2000, Link began negotiations with Roanoke, personally choosing the museum’s siting at the defunct passenger terminal.
Not only a beautiful homage to the past age of steam trains, his 2,000 images represent the most important photographic series taken of the region.
The MFA, Boston’s premier art museum, received a glorious new wing for the Art of the Americas a handful of years ago. What a borderland pleasure it is! The old MFA, like much of Boston, was proper and stodgy. The modern wing, and the newly enclosed courtyard attaching the buildings, enlivens the entire museum; how appropriate that the vibrant Art of the Americas was chosen to do so.
My dear Bostonian parents introduced me one afternoon, after lunch in the courtyard. For this visit, I focused on American art. [please hover over images for captions]
One of the most compelling artistic adventures in Miami is IlluminArts, a relatively new Vocal Arts organization founded by (Artistic Director) mezzo-soprano star Amanda Crider, which recently received a coveted Knight Foundation grant. Their latest endeavor is a performance at Miami’s Pérez Art Museum of a haunting piece, titled “the little match girl passion,” inspired by Doris Salcedo’s exhibition currently on show and composed by David Lang. Here the all-star cast are at an open rehearsal in preparation for the final performance a few days hence, on the evening of June 2nd. [please hover over images for captions]
Sunday’s reading of Borderlands USA in Santa Monica was delightful. A dozen friends came by the intimate and relaxed Primo Passo coffee shop for a book excerpt, Q & A, and to take home a signed copy. Some old friends I haven’t seen in 7 to 25 years! This was my first event west of the Rockies and I look forward to more readings and such opportunities.
All interior shots, save one, were taken by my old friend and Hollywood director Bruce MacWilliams. [please hover over images for captions]
This is the author’s first reading west of the Rockies and he is pleased to return to the borderlands of So. California, which feature prominently in the book and were a challenge to protect by car.
See this earlier blog for a video of Ben reading the same in Santa Fe, NM.
While surveying the nation’s defenses along the coast, one still needs fuel. Here I stopped, during a foray in September, in Madison, Conn. at Lenny & Joe’s, a truly fine seafood eatery whose humble roots were a roadside fried clam stand from 1979.
The book reading in NYC’s Roger Smith Hotel on Sunday, May 17th was quite emotional for me: to see so many old & dear friends, both from while living in the city and from three levels of schooling (only grade school friends were out napping somewhere). Several dear friends from São Paulo were even up for the event! (OK, not only for the event…) The lovely photos are by a querida, newish friend, Rachel Muszkat, with several taken by her cousin Eduardo. So here are a few shots from the city where it all started… [please hover over images for captions]
You are cordially invited to a reading & signing by Ben Batchelder of his recently launched American adventure, Borderlands USA: Or, How to Protect the Country by Car, hosted by the Roger Smith Hotel and Earthdog Press.
Refreshments will be served in the ground floor Lily’s Room, where a stunning exhibition by Ben’s friend Roxa Smith currently hangs. After the reading, for those interested, the party will move to the hotel’s rooftop bar (16th floor) before its 8pm closing.
Come travel with Ben on a journey which, circumnavigating the Lower 48 by silver-plated Beetle, begins in New York City and ends there with a profound sense of gratitude.
The Pacific Northwest boasts the most scenic coasts of the States. US 101, outside of busy California, hugs the coast here, and strings together an endless series of state parks: on a good tourist map their names crowd the entire border line. Along with the Gulf Coast, this is among the least touristed of watery borders, a delight for those who enjoy rain and drama. (Shots supplement, without repeating, those of the Borderlands USA color ebook.) [please hover over images for captions]
In the continuing adventures of Zeno, the border patrol dog par excellence, here we are in the massive South of the Border tourist trap just south of the South-North Carolina state line. Called “America’s favorite highway oasis,” it is referred to by aficionados as Camp Pedro and Pedroland, due to its Mexican cartoon mascot figure, and, a bit too abbreviated, as SOB. Puns rule the roost, such as “I never sausage a place!” on billboards. Among the six eateries, I checked out the Sombrero Restaurant for the first time, quality Mexican!
Zeno, the fearless border patrol dog, and yours truly recently scanned the East Coast from North Carolina through Georgia, much of it along the long barrier islands of the Outer Banks. I can report back to you, dear reader, that the coast was clear. [please hover over images for captions]
Before Borderlands USA’s launch, it seemed appropriate to visit where my original journey around the country’s borders began, at the World Centers site in lower Manhattan. The site has been transformed, of course, with the new One World Center reaching 1,776 feet into the heavens (now the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere), the 9/11 Memorial with waterfalls over the Twin Tower’s footprints, and the recently opened 9/11 Museum occupying an immense underground space below. It was moving, beautifully done outside and in. Come join me for this journey within a journey, starting outside and then descending into the vast underground darkness, like Dante descending the circles of Hell, before returning to the light. [please hover over images for captions]
In this post, the tones darken and the faces become drawn as we descend into the memory of the event that not only changed what it means to be American, but immediately defined the struggle of the new century. [please hover over images for captions]