Friday, October 30, 2015

The Crucible, Indeed

Today, I watched a class of teenagers who, I believe, showed signs of having been bullied. Oh, not by each other or by students outside of the class, but by the society in which they live -- a society that forcibly silences those who speak about things that are controversial or that might transgress "proper" thought.

We are studying Arthur Miller's The Crucible. (As many of my regular readers know, for me, the high water mark in all writing is shared by Arthur Miller and John Steinbeck.) In one of the last scenes, when the "court" of the Salem witch trials has decided to try to get John Proctor to confess to witchcraft in exchange for his freedom, Proctor speaks with is wife, Elizabeth. She, during the conversation, tries to take some of the blame on herself herself for his previous infidelity; she says,

John, I counted myself so plain, so poorly made, no honest love could come to me! Suspicion kissed you when I did; I never knew how I should say my love. It were a cold house I kept... Forgive me, forgive me, John - I never knew such goodness in the world!

This is very, very complex. It is no simple shift of blame onto a frigid housewife; it is no chauvinistic pen that Miller wielded. The forgiveness that Elizabeth asks for is the opposite weight on the scale; the one that balances out Proctor's repeated requests for forgiveness from her for his transgression; forgiveness she thought was not hers to give. Knowing that she seeks forgiveness -- a forgiveness he has emphatically denies she should even have to ask, as he takes all of the blame for his infidelity -- means that they have finally reached a level of true "marriage." Knowing this, Proctor turns to the magistrate and says: "I want my life." 

Back to my students. When I asked them to discuss this, I saw reluctance in their eyes, so I pushed a little: "Is Elizabeth right? Does she need forgiveness?" Nothing. "Could it possibly be that a woman who is cheated on might be, in part, at least, responsible for her husband straying?" Now, I saw fear in their eyes. I had purposefully put them onto dangerous ground -- a technique I have used before; for it is a dangerous ground I intend to lead them safely away from. But for things to work, they have to come with me; they have to talk. They would not. 

I could see the invisible hands of the Internet masses clapping down on their mouths. I could see them thinking of all of the people who have spoken unpopular thoughts and gotten drowned by the current of popular philosophy. I could see them thinking of the online petitions made to have TV personalities dismissed for saying the wrong thing. They were afraid to speak. 

All things considered, that's what you call "irony." 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Weight of a Real Book

A little while ago, I found a really nice quality copy of the complete collection of James Fenimore Cooper's "Leatherstocking" novels. (Most only know Last of the Mohicans from that series.) I recently bought it in a small antiques and second-hand book shop in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, a quaint former coal town in none other than Carbon County. The book cost me ten dollars.

Here it is (forgive me for the less-than-mediocre photos): 

I am currently reading The Deerstalker, the first adventure (chronologically, in terms of his fictional experiences, not by publication dates) of Natty Bumppo. It is always good to step back into a literary history into an earlier era of novels (in this case, the 1820s) when men exchanged long monologues at gunpoint or in the middle of frenzied melees; when realism came second to philosophy. It does require some inner reprogramming and patience, though. And one must always keep in mind that the sights that are described at sometimes laborious length by Cooper would have been fresh and astounding to a reader who had never ventured out of his own neighborhood, let alone into the deep American woods. It must have been jaw-dropping for a nineteenth century person to read about these things that you and I have seen in movies (or in person) our whole modern lives, easily traveled...

But what really occurred to me while reading this, is the history of the physical book, itself. It is no secret that I am an e-reader avoider. I don't begrudge anyone the benefit of the e-reader and I judge them not. For me, though, reading a book on an e-reader is completely unattractive. This, of course, comes down to mere preference. Carry on as you will. 

One thing, however, that one will never "feel" with an e-reader is the physical history of the book. This copy of the Leatherstocking novels is sixty-one years old, having been printed in Tennessee in 1954. I have no idea how it ended up on a bookshelf in Jim Thorpe, Pa. in 2015, but I can feel the energy of the book's travels as I turn the pages, in my house in southern New Jersey. Were the chances of this book having made it into my house inevitable or were they improbable? Depends how one feels about fate. (All I know is that if my wife had called me to see a cool antique bottle in the back of the shop at precisely the right time, that book would still be on the shelf and might have remained there for decades.)

Either way, the book is considerably older than I am. It has been in the hands of other people. It has deafly heard the conversations of thousands who didn't know it was listening. It has been ventured into by other minds and other imaginations that have sculpted its characters into their own personal visions. It has been touched, enjoyed, hated, or tossed aside in disinterest by God knows how many people...

And, now, it waits for me, on a table, next to my reading chair, on a rainy day in October. Tonight, I will pick it up, feel its weight and turn the thick pages. For me, that is important. Sure, I am personifying a book. But if you reduce it to the simplest level, a book has weight, texture, scent and presence. An e-book is just a coagulation of light. For me and for many others, a book isn't just its ideas; it's a physical presence in my life; it's a thing with an experience and a journey that doesn't end with me. It will live on after I am gone, but part of me will remain in its pages. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Humpty Scandal, Uncovered

I cannot be silent about this anymore. The cover-up has been allowed to happen for too many years. It's just another example of governments doing whatever the hell they damn well please and ignoring those who really need help in order to attend to glutting their already overflowing coffers. We all know what happened, but since it hasn't been in the news for awhile, let me refresh your memory. The facts are as follows; at least, they have been presented this way:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

So he just died. He lay there, on the cobblestones, in a pool of his own yolk, baking sunny-side up in the oppressive heat of the afternoon sun. (I have it on good authority it was at least 97 degrees Fahrenheit that day. Do you have any idea how hot cobblestones can get in that kind of heat, in direct sunlight?)

And -- who is this girl --
some cutesy little assassin? The plot thickens. 
So what does the government do? Oh, sure. The king sends "help." He  (reportedly) sends "all" of his men. But what men? Did any of them have the expertise with eggs that they needed to have to save that poor, suffering puddle of shell and albumen?

I'm sure the royal breakfast was served that day. And there, I am doubly sure, the king sat, consuming the very folk most in need of his help: the egg community. Poor Humpty's soul was running into the cracks of the street while the stuffed shirt of a king was smiling and wrapping the royal lips around one of the cracked creature's terrified, hard-boiled cousins...

But that is neither here nor there. The real question is: Who does the king send? Okay, his "men." I vigorously question whether it was, indeed, all of them, but I have no proof. It just seems unlikely. And God forbid the royal feet should inconvenience themselves by actually waddling over to he scene of the "accident..." (See picture at right.)

We'll pretend that we think that a single bloke among these "men" knew anything whatsoever about egg anatomy. But who else does he send? THE HORSES!? They don't even have fingers. How in the world are they supposed to contribute, even infinitesimally, to putting Humpty back together again?

It's a farce, and we have been silent long enough. We have been force-fed the image of a benevolent king since our cradle days when this anti-eggist agenda has been flourishing.

Does the king care? Is he the least bit invested in the aid he sends to his poor, suffering citizens? Well, not when it comes to the egg community, I can tell you that. I'm sure the Lord of the Realm had a nice chortle in the sun-lit feasting hall that morning, jesting with his poncy little lords about those pathetic, well-meaning horses frantically trying to piece together the broken body of Humpty without the benefit of opposable thumbs, or, for that matter, without phalanges of any kind.

Rest in pieces, Humpty, because that is all this cold world and its chill-hearted tyrants would allow you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

1983: A Journey Journey

I have never been a nostalgic person; I certainly have never professed to have missed the eighties, the decade in which I grew up. The music, for the most part, was awful, for one thing. With very few exceptions, the electronic music revolution was full of stilted, cold, overblown but childish attempts at songwriting. (The bleeps and blips may have been enough for many, but not for me.) The era itself was colored cold; everything was candy-hued, from the leg-warmers to the Hawaiian shirts to the jewelry to the lip-gloss. None of it could have been farther from my younger (and current) preferences for an atmosphere of trees and woods and warm images and warm instrumental timbres. I was a wood-over-plastic guy in a plastic world.

I retreated from a lot of it. I listened to classical music (mostly impressionistic) and some jazz while my friends listened to The Pet Shop Boys and to Madonna's impossibly annoying hootings and watched her sexually pedestrian rollings-around-on-the-floor.

Still craving, as one must, the music of the young, though, I found the progressive and "art" rock of the era (or some from a decade before) of Rush, Genesis and Yes. In short, I created, as I tend to do, my own world into which to retreat. It's not that I didn't like some popular music -- it's just that the music had to be played by people and not be MIDI programmed and it had to have some level of compositional quality and some level of real musicianship. I liked Journey, for instance. (More about them in a minute.)

Looking back, though, I see some things through a different lens.

In fact, I found a documentary on YouTube, the other day, that I used to watch over and over: Frontiers and Beyond. I purposefully didn't call it a "rockumentary" because this early documentary about a rock band did and could not follow the since-established formula. It was a true documentary about a band on the road but, more precisely, about a road crew and a band on the road. The band was Journey, but, in truth, the film was more focused on the crew.

People mistakenly group Journey in with the other bands of the era that stank of eighties pop-rockishness the same way they mistakenly call every long hairstyle on a guy from the eighties a "mullet." There is only one mullet: short on the top and sides and long in the back; likewise, there is a world of difference between Journey and, say, Loverboy or REO Speedwagon (even if Speedwagon was the closest competitor to Journey -- kind of like the little brother who simply could not get as many hits as his older brother in high school baseball). Journey were a band full of fine musicians, including two on the virtuoso level, in Steve Smith (drums) and Neil Schon (guitars). And Steve Perry, the singer, is a vocal phenomenon whose pipes are nothing short of miraculous. Compositionally, there are moments of brilliance, owing, in great part, to the keyboardist, Jonathan Cain. (The other guy just played bass. Okay, that was mean, but I can live with it.)

But that is all not the point of this. In watching Frontiers and Beyond, I found myself, maybe for the first time, ever, becoming nostalgic for the eighties. It had a lot to do with the girls in the audiences in the video. Maybe they reminded me a little of my first real girlfriend or of my innumerable crushes between fifth and eight grade. Maybe I was struck by a certain innocence in the puffy hair and the candy-colored lipstick. The whole crowd, however, girls and boys alike seemed lovable to me. There they were, young and hopeful -- hopeful for the world; hopeful for their future places in it. There they were, in the city of my birth, Philadelphia, at JFK stadium. Some of my high school friends certainly stood in that crowd, in the summer heat, and they were all in a similar place to the fifteen-year-old me, both developmentally and in the sense that, every day, they had to try to have fun growing up in a world chilled by the spectre of the Cold War and under the fear that someone, whether in America or Russia, would "push the button" and end the world in a nuclear holocaust.

There was also the voice or John Facenda, the familiar narrator of NFL Films, a company based near my New Jersey home; a voice I recognized from (and that was inextricably attached to) their dramatic, orchestra-backed movies about the Philadelphia Eagles and the rest of the NFL...

Of course, it had a lot to do with Journey's music. And though I am not the guy who listens to the "oldies" station in order to recapture my youth, that music that had lived in my head, back then, does conjure memories, both fond and not-so-fond. Journey's music was a sometime soundtrack to my dreams of musical fame, with its sweeping, lyrical, sometimes Romantic accessible rock power.

I suppose all decades had things that were special about them, no matter whether we noticed at the time or not. The eighties had their charm. In watching the movies or the era with my boys, I realize that there was a certain warmth to both the good and the bad films; that their un-hipness was a pretty sweet thing. Back then, we still "dated" and we still held on to some human traditions that have since gone dead.

And, really -- if you don't think "Faithfully" is a beautiful song; if Neil Schon's ending solo doesn't give you chills, I don't wanna know ya. This video's footage is take from the documentary I mentioned. [Neil Schon and Steve Perry at around 3:48 -- soul-wrenching]:

Monday, October 19, 2015

Morals and Transcendence

In discussion with a very intelligent friend last weekend, it occurred to me that all the talk about transcendence is great, but that no one talks about what it will be like when one eventually learns to transcend. To transcend is to be weird. Right? It is an ability to see things in a way that others don't; to remove one's self from the daily concepts to which everyone else is enslaved. Very few people learn to transcend -- to be in and not of the world...

So, not only do the transcendent become "weird," but they also become subject to all kinds of moral judgement. How, for instance, does one transcend and still fulfill his moral obligations to the rest of the people on the planet? If I decide to pick up my marbles and go home because I think the world is insane, am I not turning my back on my fellow humans?

But, in what sense am I doing that? "Global thinking," for the average person (not the average world leader) is an exercise in arrogance, as I see it.

When one says, "What can I do about the world's problems?" he is often met with some kind of saccharine platitude like, "The smallest person can make a difference." I believe that it can be true, but not in all cases, and certainly not in the sense of the problems of the globe... If I were a president, king or prime minister, then, maybe. But as a regular guy? Nah.

Am I a better person for shaking my head in sadness that girls have been abducted in Africa or does it make me better to the "Bring Back Our Girls" slogan? Which is the right move. (A lot of good that did, right? I probably just reminded you about something you had forgotten...)

JMW Turner
I have often questioned what some see as a moral obligation to "stay informed" about world issues. Why? I do believe in an obligation to my fellow humans, but I can only do so much. (And this is not a quitter's attitude. It's the truth.) Here are, as I see it, my personal social jobs, in order of priority:

1) Raise sane and well-adjusted kids so that I don't add to the mixed can of nuts that is the world's population.

2) Do the best I can as a teacher (insert your job here) to help mitigate the number of nuts in the can.

3) Help those that I can help, around me -- whether that be in a financial or in a personal sense.

If any of the things above begin to supersede the obligations directly above them, however, they become counter-productive. One should keep one's house neat and clean before one goes out to straighten up the neighborhood.

I have no right to transcend these obligations, morally, but I have every right not to waste my energies worrying about Syria. I have every right not to "play with the kids" who want to start wars. I have every right to claim my own bubble, so long as that bubble contains moral fortitude and a dedication to those I do have the means to help so long as helping them does not limit my ability to raise good children -- my most immediate and most important priority.

Of course, these priorities need to be adjusted person to person. A president has made his choices and has acquired his powers. He can do things that I cannot. But I must not sign up for the prevailing global arrogance. I simply am not important enough to claim an obligation to do my part in preventing global atrocities. In fact, I would submit that if people focused more on their own and on their children's moral and mental well-being, the global atrocities might be lessened.

So, I choose not to worry about the world bank and I choose not to burn off my mental energies by keeping up with word affairs because someone has guilted me into thinking I have an obligation to do so.

I am simply not that big of a deal and I never will be. I do, however, have an ability to be a big deal to my sons and to my students. On the ladder of social importance, we all should, from the sanitation worker up to the president, focus on those to whom we have the power to make a difference. A shoe salesman who packs his weeknights listening to political radio and who spends his weekend arguing with friends over those political issues is wasting his time. A prime minister who reads all of the world's papers every day is not.

As far as transcendence, I would never attend a party at which the guests are all insane. I would chose to remove myself from that situation; likewise, I choose to remove myself from the insanity of the world; especially from those insanities upon which I can have no effect. I have moral obligation to not transcend everything -- I must still do right by those who I can help. I do not have, however, a moral obligation to to not transcend anything. I will not participate in war and I will not bleed out my soul's blood on refugees half way around the world; not when I have autistic -- for example -- children in my neighborhood who need a coach for their softball team.

None of us normal folk, as individuals, can change the world, but we can introduce a positive influence into it. If we focus too far away and do nothing but read and fret and argue on Facebook, all we do add bluster to a hurricane. That seems like a stupid thing to be obligated to do.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Window of Negativity

I like young people. I work with them every day. My worst moments in school never have anything to do with them -- it's always something or someone else, most usually the adults. The kids, though, are usually the reason I have any hope for the future. They make me laugh; they really want to learn, provided the lesson is sincere and insightful.

So, why, when I look at the Internet, do I feel extreme distaste toward the behavior of young people? 

It's because the Internet is a window of negativity. We all know this. And, if we know this, why do we let it shape our picture of the outside world?

The Power Windows (Rush) album cover, by Hugh Syme. 
I don't let the Internet picture disrupt my view of young people because what I see of the real, live ones every day reminds me that "the kids are alright" -- to steal a phrase. 

But how many other things are tainted for me by the window of negativity? How many other things come to me through the invisible digital wire that are not corrected by daily, flesh and blood reminders?

It is a frightening question. The only answer, I suppose, is optimism in the face of the worst apparent (and non-stop) evidence possible. And that ain't easy. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Yep...I Wrote about Gun Control

While I'm on the subject...

It seems ludicrous for anyone to be completely against "gun control." Some sort of control is a good idea, right? We don't let 14-year-olds buy whisky; we don't allow child molesters to move silently into suburban neighborhoods; we don't hire people who have seizures every three minutes to drive public buses. We need, also -- it would seem to me -- to control who gets to have a gun. No?

Should we argue that "alcohol doesn't get people drunk, people get themselves drunk?" Of course not. We need to control alcohol based on when someone is equipped to make the right decisions, in terms of drinking. Does it always work? Of course not. Does that mean it shouldn't be controlled? -- that there shouldn't be a drinking age? -- that it should be okay for a bartender to let a drunk guy do one last shot of tequila before going out to his car?

So, if it makes little sense to just let anyone buy guns, the question then becomes: How much control is necessary? I won't dive into the argument too deeply, because, admittedly, I am not too up on firearm technology. I'm reluctant to start deciding what types of weapons the general person ought to be allowed to buy, but somewhere between a snub-nosed .38 and an Abrahms tank, there have to be things the average citizen should not be allowed to purchase, right?

I agree that we have a right to defend our own homes with firearms. I understand the argument about defending ourselves against an oppressive government and I take it very seriously -- it does happen; it could happen again; only a fool would think otherwise. But, if we are playing the odds, is the possession of a hyper-powerful weapon more likely to end in some series headline slaughters, or is it more likely to end in victory against a new oppressive American regime? Again, I am not saying this flippantly. I do understand that the Revolutionaries were very conscious of the average citizen and the potential for him to need to defend himself against his own government, the way they had to against theirs...

...but sometimes, the philosophical idea, valid though it may be, is not an absolute open ticket. And, it occurs to me that a united revolution, even if underfunded and under equipped, can still be successful. Revolutions are not simple things, you know. The military contains about 1,500,000 people. The US population is about 320,000,000. If each person had a gun that ranged from a pistol to a shotgun...

I know. I know. Those numbers are filled with kids and the elderly and with people who will neither have a weapon nor participate in the fight. I'm just trying to illustrate the uncertainty of the whole thing; or, at least, the very real potential for revolutionary victory, if needed, in spite of being outgunned.

This is not me being partisan or even presenting a hard-line position. This is me asking questions. This is what it looks like to me afer some contemplation. Put succinctly, I think we should have the right to have guns, certainly, but that we need to be judicious in terms of who gets guns and we need to decide how much firepower "crosses the line" from self-protection into potential mass slaughter. When does the scale tip into daily danger and away from a potential preservation of personal saftey and freedom? A nut can kill ten-times as many people with a machine gun than he can with a hammer. What if the numbers in the next 200 years add up to 10,000 people mass-murdered with machine guns and not one Second American Revolution? (oh, stop it -- I am not saying we should be limited to hammers. See paragraph four.)

I welcome discussion on this. My ways are not set. I write this in part to see what I think on the subject ("How do I know what I think unless I write it down?") and in part to hear from those who disagree -- or, more accurately, to learn about the nuances of the argument that I don't see.

One purpose of argument is to win; the highest purpose is to find the truth. I'm into the latter.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Gimmie Numbers

Here's what I want done.

We are capable of mapping every dirt road and muddy footpath on the planet and of putting the information into a little plastic box that talks to us and tells us when to turn our cars, so I figure it can't be too hard to tally up the exact number of people killed by American police in the last, say, two decades, and to break them into African American and white -- or into any other racial categories.

Let's get the real numbers. Then, let's argue about the issues represented.

I'm not implying anything at all. What I want to know is, does anyone want to see the truth? I do. Then, at least, one side or the other will have to shut up about which way the numbers lean. If the cops kill 70% more African Americans people than white people, we will be faced with a number. (That number, of course, will then be interpreted; bigots will say that it is that way because African Americans are no good; supporters of the dead will say it is because white cops are racist; reasonable people will come up with reasonable theories. But, at the very least, we will have concrete numbers to start with.)

I don't think it can be too hard to do.

One thing I know is that we need to put a stop to vague and emotion-based argumentation on the topic. Everyone is not Michael Brown and Michael Brown is not everyone. I want to know if he is one of 10,000 young black men killed by cops in the last decade or one of five. I want to know if 8,000, 15 or 302 young white men were killed by cops in America in the last decade. We can use that info to help define our problems, which is the step before solving them. Otherwise, we are just flailing in the dark.

I want to know the same thing about guns. I want numbers. How many evildoers were shot by upstanding citizens? Exactly, how many -- and how many crimes were committed with legal and illegal guns, respectively? How many people actually defended themselves with guns in the last decade? I want the stories about the grandma who killed the home invader and the stories about the guy who shot a grandma while she was petting her rescued pit bull puppy that she bought to bring to visit a six-year-old cancer patient to stop.

Again, statistics are not the end of an argument and they can be skewed. (See John Oliver's brilliant piece on Miss America and its scholarship claims as an example.) You will always have the idiots who think that because 90% of the kids who don't do drugs come from families who eat dinner together that eating dinner together is the cause of a drug free life and not that families who eat dinner together have a strong foundation that comes from an overall philosophy and base of love and interaction the leads them to eat dinner together and that contributes to the constitution of a kid who makes good, self-respecting choices...

...but let us at least try to dry things up a bit. Don't put away, but put aside the hankies for a little and look at numbers. Then we can fight over what they mean. But at least our starting point will be statistics and not agenda or sympathy.

I don't know if these figures are available, but they should be. If they are, show me where. I want to see. Do you? If  you do, will you follow the path of logic or take out the machete of wishing?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Jim Thorpe Lives up to its Name

Our hotel on the right during a carriage ride.
(This guy makes $120 per hour, just for the record.)
Last weekend, my wife and I made a two-hour trip into the mountains of Pennsylvania to a little town called Jim Thorpe -- named, of course, after the great Olympic and professional athlete of the early twentieth century. (The history of this is sketchy. Thorpe was from Oklahoma and had never been to the town of Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania [as it was first called]; his third wife essentially made a financial deal to help boost the town's tourism by moving his remains there. Not exactly a cozy tale -- the fight for his remains still goes on...)

At any rate, Jim Thorpe is a fairly popular retreat from people in the Jersey/Delaware/Pennsylvania area and my wife and I had never been there. It made for a very nice and relaxing weekend. The real history of the town is a little more interesting than the artificial Jim Thorpe connection.

The hotel balcony at night. 
It was a coal and railroad town on the Lehigh River and Asa Packer, a kind of classic self-made millionaire we Americans all admire, made his fortune there. His fortune became, by all accounts, other people's fortunes, as he was quite the humanitarian, having done great things for charity. He even founded Lehigh University. The guy seems to have been a good egg -- unlike his contemporary, Frank Gowan, the central figure in the controversial Molly Maguires story, who bled his workers dry through a vicious scrip and housing system that left them destitute and that often ended with a knock on a door answered by a wife who would discover her dead husband's remains (perhaps in a bucket) and who would know that meant she had three days to get our of the house or come up with a new husband (or son) to supply to the mines for a worker. One does wonder if Gowan and Packer had dealings and, if so, what was said... (Packer would even go on to be a member of the Pennsylvania house of Representatives; he made a bid for President, as well, in 1869.)

My first impression, on a walk down Broadway, was a bit of disappointment. I pictured something more like a snow-globe town, but Jim Thorpe is a little more of an active place, in which real people live, than a museum piece with snooty rules about sign heights and paint-color limitations. In the end, this became what I liked. Jim Thorpe was real and the more one explored, the more interesting things one uncovered about it, from excellent used book and antique stores (I found a lovely 1950s edition of Cooper's Leatherstocking novels for ten dollars) to good restaurants and interesting activities. It's a great place for launching hikes and bike rides, as well. (Isn't it always true that the best things in life tend to reveal their positive aspects slowly?)

Night view from the balcony.
I suppose any town that is willing to purchase the remains of a great athlete in order to boost its tourism is not shy about attracting business in any form possible... One still hears waitresses asking each other, "Is there a train today?" And when the train comes in, as it did on Saturday and Sunday, the place is all a-bustle with shoppers and seekers of horse-drawn carriage rides.  (We watched Sunday morning go from ghost-town quiet to marketplace buzz within minutes...)

In Jim Thorpe, the bells over the court house call the time and on Sunday morning they wake the residents and visitors (especially those, like us, who are staying in the inn only a few feet away -- both charming and jarring) with hymns... It is a delightfully quirky mixture of history and unabashed marketing; a place whose history is a commodity that is a bit elusive in its shadowy issues but that doesn't seem frozen in amber. The trains -- old-fashioned ones -- run on the old rails they once did back in the coal days, only now, they take people like us on tours through the scenic river valley; at the same time, they bring in visitors from outlying towns for a day of shopping  and these visitors are greeted by a massive blob of anthracite rock that appears to have been left there, quite literally, by a long-gone giant of the Carbon County coal days. (I'd provide a picture, but it is a tad unsavory looking -- a truly Mauch Chunk...)

Brodaway, outbound view.

It was a cool weekend. A good weekend for regular people to spend in a regular town with as imperfect a history as any. It was a little like visiting a friend whose living room is always a little messy but whose welcome is always warm.

Loaded as this statement is with shades of meaning, Jim Thorpe lives up to its name, indeed.

Some more pics follow...

Hotel room view. 
Mauch Chunk station. 
Love this building -- a wine tasting room now. 
"Stone Row"-- built by Packer for his workers. Shops now. 
Statue outside the Packer mansion. 
A moment that had to be shared. A bookshop
cat that I gave perhaps too good of a scratch decided
to perch on my shoulders as I searched through the pickings...
She followed me everywhere.

The train, obviously.