Are you in the Boston area?
You’re invited to an interactive photo intervention next Saturday, June 10th.
The show comprises 83 11 x 14 B&W images of boarding school life in the mid-70s.
It is interactive as all participants are encouraged to leave comments on post-its next to the images: an entirely analog version of social media commenting. No doxxing possible!
The art intervention is only up through the reunion weekend: until Sunday noon.
The Gelb Gallery is located in George Washington Hall, off Chapel Avenue.
Zeno’s mission in life (2005-2022) was to bring comfort, a smile, and joy to the lives of all he met. The reason he survived so long – as most Labradors live only 10-12 years – was, I suspect, to give encouragement to the crazy human race during the greatly mishandled crisis of the past two years.
Here are some images from his heroic last roadtrips in the U.S., when he was on both bug & border patrol.
His spirits never lagged – until the last weeks of his body’s rapid decline – and even rallied for a 4,000 mile roadtrip only a month and a half prior to his death. Dogs, like all of us, need purpose in life, and he loved being put to work while on the road.
His last major adventure took us out west, to visit the same New Mexican ranch where his first U.S. roadtrip took us 11 years prior, to smell the dry grasses and sense the wide open space once more before dying.
When we patrolled the border between El Paso and Del Rio, Texas, I picked up a bug. During the two following days with fever, Zeno saw me through long drives without mishap.
He always did his job well and gladly. [please hover over images for captions]
For over 16 years he traveled to many ends of the New World. A quick calculation of his longer roadtrips totals 96,000 miles, or nearly 4x around the Earth’s circumference.
This first post provides some highlights of his early roadtrips in the U.S., which began when he was 5 years old. Before then we lived directly in Tiradentes, Brazil. [please hover over images for captions]
It is not due to the bug, but rather the purposes to which the bug was used.
Long drives into the unknown clearly evidence two Americas: one we all know and love, and another characterized by unrecognizable states of fear, coercion, and repression.
Feminist and life-long Democrat Naomi Wolf has noticed the same in travels through the western U.S. The coastal states have become fear-based and authoritarian, where parents no longer have jurisdiction over their children (when it comes to shots, masks, schooling), and dictatorial emergency powers are forever. Crossing into Western red states, she immediately feels the old freedom – in places she until recently thought of as the enemy camp. Wolf, who supported the Biden takeover, now recognizes her massive mistake.
Here my fearless Border Patrol dog, Zeno, and I ascend into the cooling reaches of the Blue Ridge Mountains, long our favorite retreat, and continue north well inland (along the upper Appalachian spine) to avoid the terrorized coastal Northeast for a bit longer. [Please hover over images for captions]
Zeno, the fearless border patrol dog, has been on a mission of encouragement and support to all those we encounter for a year and a half. Meeting many traumatized humans – especially in the tragically mismanaged Northeast – he always brings a smile despite his own infirmities. (Zeno is fast approaching 16 years old, ancient for a Labrador.)
Has Zeno completed his mission in life? He’s currently battling a malignant tumor on his chin, diagnosed the week after our return. His spirits remain high and he doesn’t miss our twice daily long walks – always spreading joy on the way. [please hover over images for captions]
The further north I drove, the darker the journey became, into a northeast traumatized by the virus and disastrous state decisions. Electronic highway signs threatened “14 day quarantine” and admonished me to call state hotlines. Despite my Florida plates, I was not stopped at any state line or crossing into New York City – as was reported weeks prior. Why would you want to enter these mismanaged and dangerous cities anyway, where the rule of law has given away to mob rule?
I had family and friends to visit. Since the pandemic start, my mission has been to give support and encouragement to any and all. While friends were more than welcoming, family in Massachusetts were less so.
Among the viral devastation – in lives, livelihoods, dreams, and educational advancement – appeared a particularly sad one for the frequent road tripper: so many old diners, cafes, and restaurants had closed permanently, with messages such as “Thank you for the opportunity to serve you for 57 years!” next to For Lease signs.
The country was attacked by a foreign invader. What a tragedy that instead of rallying us together in the face of such a threat, one major party decided to politicize it.
But the American spirit is strong, and I have faith that the American people will eventually shake off state command and control. Come see some glimmers of such hope.
Listen to the true heart and soul of America, with a rendition of Tom Paxton’s Ramblin’ Boy here at the Blue Ridge Music Center, NC
Here is a peak at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, which opened in 2006 in Quantico, VA, just south of Washington, D.C. and immediately off I-95. It has understandably become one of Virginia’s top tourist draws.
I was able to visit on my recent roadtrip 2,000 miles up the East Coast, recently posted as Border & Bug Patrol 1. Sempre Fi! – a great motto for a nation struggling to maintain the rule of law. [please hover over images for captions]
Since March, Zeno the fearless border patrol doggie, has been on a mission of encouragement and support to all those we meet. The roadrip that was slated for mid-March, to patrol the entire East Coast with dog happiness, finally took place at the end of September. Zeno turned 15 in July, so this could be his last major assignment.
Join us on this 2,000 mile meander north, from Florida to New England, with stops at many famous roadside attractions en route. The journey, sadly, got darker the further north we got, into a region deeply traumatized by the pandemic. [please hover over images for captions]
Here the journey continues through the foreign country of California, which still looms large in our dreams.
“Yes, California is a natural, if well-ordered, paradise. The benign foresight of its people, through individual initiative and their elected representatives, has led to a remarkable preservation of so much natural bounty. Just one look at a road atlas confirms how packed the Californian coast is with one state park after another – so close together that the green typeface hardly fits – guarding its riches in perpetuity. I could understand the state’s penchant for regulation and government control, for its citizens are constantly reminded of the munificence of enlightened policies, the benefits from a richly ordered preservation.” [p.163]
Yet, California has so over-spent itself into debt, will it need to privatize all those state parks some day? [please hover over images for captions]
“My last stop in California, appropriately, was at the Official Center of the World Pyramid in Felicity. Although the population of hardy residents is stipulated at four, there wasn’t a soul in sight in late October, the gift shop and little pyramid closed as tightly as Egyptian tombs. The long, breathless summer discourages outdoor activity, as the Official Center of the World only opens for tours in late November. Remarkably, the diminutive pyramid deems itself “Official” as both France and China (not to mention Imperial County, CA) have agreed to cede any rival claim to little Felicity’s, perhaps the first and last issue on which these three would-be powers agree. As the desert sun melted the top of my head, I watched a lone train pulling through the middle distance, before the foothills of the resolute Chocolate Mountains.” [p.174]
They say that if California were a separate country it would boast the world’s fifth largest economy, more out-of-work actors per capita than any other, and the highest insurance rates on earth, but as far as I can tell it already is another country. [Borderlands USA, p. 141]
So begins the first of two chapters of Borderlands USA on the Golden State. As Charlie and I fearlessly descend the Left Coast, enigmas multiply. This post digs deeper into Northern Cali, which almost seceded to join a new state called Jefferson with parts of Oregon – until WWII put the kibosh on that.
California is a carefully run but somewhat aggressive place. I have never seen such a forest of warning signs upon crossing any country’s border, screaming “Safety belt law strictly enforced,” “$1000 fine for littering,” and “Speed checked by radar,” plus a few others I’m sure I missed, such as “Unlawful to not read signs, heavy fines.” [ibid.]
Not to mention natural and man-made disasters… Enter with caution! [please hover over images for captions]
The third largest national park in the continental U.S., the Everglades get little respect. In the 17 years I have been visiting, most tourists are foreign. True, it is flat. There are bugs. But it is the largest tropical wilderness in the U.S. and endlessly fascinating.
There are three land entrances to the park, east, north, and west, which do not connect inside the boundaries. I was lucky to stay overnight in Flamingo, the park’s remote Jurassic Park town at the Floridian peninsula’s southern tip, before Hurricane Wilma destroyed the cabins, lodge, and restaurant in 2005.
Everglades City and Chokoloskee, gateways on the west coast, are wonderfully evocative – straight out of Humphrey Bogart’s “Key Largo,” in the right weather. Homestead, to the east, has so fully recovered from Hurricane Andrew in 1992 that you can’t tell the town was ever flattened. This is at the park’s main entrance, with access to Flamingo along a 50-mile two-laner, the most remote road in the Eastern U.S. outside of Maine.
I take my most adventurous visitors to Flamingo, for the several hour boat tour of the park’s southern lakes and canals. A paragraph from Borderlands USA approximates the experience:
We motored past many graceful white ibis, with long spindly legs and a long downward sloping beak, both orange. Brown pelicans, cormorants, and great white herons congregated closer to seawater. We saw no gentle, lumbering manatees, but entered a number of manatee zones where we slowed to a glide, so that the slow-motion, water-bound sloth could avoid our bow and propellers. Suddenly a breeze off the Caribbean Sea ruffled the Pelican’s canvas covering. This, at the southernmost tip of the continental U.S., is what road-sloths, such as myself, call bliss. [p.230]
Last November, the Museum of the Bible opened (the books). In April, I spent a weekend in Washington D.C., the city by chance crawling with 2nd Amendment protesters, including innocent tweens with tees emblazoned with “F— the NRA.” How fortunate to have a much more edifying option!
For a nation founded by Puritans, it is long overdue to have a national museum dedicated to understanding the bible’s history and its foundational impact on Western Civilization. The Reformation’s liberation, combined with technology such as the Gutenberg printing press, offered the Word of God at last in vernacular languages to every willing man, no longer under penalty of death for possessing such.
As, in practice, the only religious book currently banned in public school rooms, our societal ignorance of the magnum opus that also made America is astounding. For much of our colonial history and after, along the frontier and elsewhere, this was the one-room schoolhouse’s main textbook, bursting with historical, poetic, theatrical, and didactic books, in Shakespearean English at its apex of clarity and beauty.
Such neglect makes this museum at the geographic and spiritual borderland of the country. Turning our backs to the bible means turning our backs to our history. [please hover over images for captions]
Here is a brief video of what Jordan Peterson learned by visiting the “very cool” Museum of the Bible:
Holy Land USA, easily seen if you lift your eyes off of I-84E in Waterbury, CT, I have wanted to visit for years. It is not easy to access. Built in the early 1950’s by lawyer and evangelist John Greco, the 17-acre Biblical theme park closed several years before Greco’s death in 1986. It has deteriorated since, picked clean of most artifacts and sculptures. It is off-limits, with threatening signs, perhaps since July 2010, when a deranged local youth killed his girlfriend and dumped her body here. I only entered as far as the former parking lot.
It was once a vacation destination, receiving as many 44,000 visitors a year. Now it is a monument to post-Christian America, screaming neglect.
Elsewhere, as the secular iconoclasts – who differ from the ISIS ones by largely being non-violent – stalk the land, stripping public spaces of our Christian heritage, we lose part of our history and selves.
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.