Archive for the ‘bridges’ Category

Search for Blue

November 6, 2019

When we first came to Boone, the town in North Carolina where Pat and I raised our three young’uns, I had a job that lasted  a few years,  tieing steel rebar in the Linn Cove Viaduct.

It was a bridge that happened to be the final section–the Missing Link–of a 469-mile National Park road, the Blue Ridge Parkway. Why this missing link, which was located pretty much in the middle of the whole road project, took so long to get built is a long story.

That story will form part of the narrative of a new novel, which I have recently begun researching and writing. The working title is Search for Blue.

Back in the 1950’s, ’60’s and 70’s, a gaggle of disagreements had confounded any beginning of constructing that Missing Link. When they finally got the issues settled between owners of Grandfather Mountain and the National Park Service, construction of the final Blue Ridge Parkway section was begun in 1979.

And I helped. While the missing link was being built, it looked something like this:

BRPLinConst2

Recently, I, being now in what used to be called old age (but only 68!), I began to wonder what the cessation of work might have been like for a workman who had labored on that Parkway project “back in the day.”

This book will tell the tale that I uncover. Here’s an excerpt from chapter 1 of “Search for Blue.”

But in October of ’29 the whole damn thing just stalled out, real sudden like,   stone-cold dead in its tracks.

By that time, marauding manufacturing and rabid farming had stirred up a dust bowl in the wide prairies and a cloud of manifest debilitation over our formerly manifested destiny. Monetary manipulation absconded the bold thrust of old-fashioned capital-driven progress; frantic philandering pushed quaint front-porch watch-the-world-go-by domestic tranquility into a ragged soup line.

1920’s roaring jibber-jabber got lost in 1930’s Depression regression.  The country had shifted from financed euphoria to unemployed stuporia, and so in the election of ’32 we rolled Mr. Roosevelt into the White house on a Democrat wheelbase of socializing progressivism;  The new President, former governor of New York, wasted no time in arm-twisting the nation right on over into his New Deal.

As the dust of dystopia settled, some forlorn Americans pined for the good ole days. Ah, they said, those were the days. Wish we’d seen it coming!

It didn’t take them New Dealers too long to figure out that what was needed was to get  people working again, and fast.

Congress, shell-shocked by the deadening thunder of an American business-industrial dynamo self-destructing,  got themselves hellbent on a string of programs to shorten–if not eliminate–the    lengthening unemployment lines. Their legislating fervor reached way, way far–even as far as somewhere over the rainbow–and so they laid hold of the pot of gold!

But when the vessel was recovered, it turned out to be–not a pot of gold, but–a soup pot, and a damn-near empty one at that.  So they set themselves to re-filling it, although not with gold. There wasn’t, by that time, much of the precious yellow stuff around. They had to  begin filling the empty rainbow pot with . . . soup!

Out on the street, maybe while waitin’ in line for the soup, Joe Blow–or maybe it was Jane Doe–came up with a name for the collection of work and improvement programs that Congress was dishing out: “alphabet soup.” Take a gander at this list: FERA, FCA, NIRA, PWA,  FFMC, CWER, AAA, EBA, FDIC, FHA, NRA, NLRB, RA, REA, SEC, SSA, TVA, to name just a few, and we’ll certainly not fail to mention the two work outfits destined to be the most productive in our present scouting-out-the-land, search for Blue expedition: CCC  and WPA, which is the easy way of sayin’ Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration.

Since Mr. Roosevelt had proclaimed we had nothing to fear but fear itself, one of Congress’ first assaults against the dreaded enemy actually took aim at that “fear itself.”

In an inspired idea to nullify the power of the enemy attitude, our  lawmakers scrambled the word “fear.” They appropriated the letters. . . f, e, a, and r, reassigned them to a nobler cause, and came up with  the Federal Emergency Relief Act of 1933, which came to be known as: FERA!

And that was one of the early servings of the alphabet soup; it got  ladled into the bowls and hands of millions of unemployed Americans.

Most of the work was cranked up in the urban districts; city folks were much more dependent on the system than country folk. Out on the farms, people might be broke, and they might be deprived of some of the so-called necessities of modern life, but at least they had some ground out back to scratch a few seeds into the good earth and thereby harvest unto themselves some corn, beans, or potatoes to serve at dinner time. They might even still have a hog or two or a cow or at least a few chickens peckin’ around to have for some future supper time embellishment.

All that said, the farm folks did have their share of the alphabetizing bonanza that Congress was serving: AAA, FCA, FFMC etcetera etcetera. One way or another, everybody got a little help.

Back in that day and time, most men could still wield a shovel or a hoe. Even if they hadn’t done much with such tools as that, they or their kin were probably close enough to the land to at least know something of how to handle an implement.

As it turned out, a lot of them programs that the New Dealers came up with did involve shovels and hoes and rakes and such. By ‘n by, some Republicans who were not so convinced about the efficacy of Mr. Roosevelt’s wheelin’ dealin’ job programs–they hit upon the shovel as a symbol of the gaggle of “do nothing” alphabetized boondoggle make-work crews who spent more time leaning on their shovels than actually wielding them for the betterment of the country.

But that’s just politics. They’ll never get all that mess straightened out.

Probably about three years from now, I’ll have the rest of it done so you can read about how it all came together over fifty years of time.

Meanwhile, find a good book to read, today! You can find one here:

careyrowland.com

The Perfect Curve

March 5, 2018

If you depart the city of Charlotte driving northward on I-77 toward Virginia, you will, about an hour later, cross over US highway 421. The traffic interchange there consists of a typical cloverleaf-type interstate-highway overpass with a looping exit ramp on which your vehicle descends from the overpassing I-77 down to the underpassing perpendicular US 421.

As I am a frequent sojourner between Charlotte and my Blue Ridge mountain home, I have performed this little maneuver many, many times over the last 39 years or so. Possibly hundreds of times.

Over the years, there is something very special I have noticed about this exit ramp, by which I steer the Subaru, veering slightly rightward and onward down the ramp, decelerating slightly and moving in a steady arc along a quasi-circular path to the destination highway below, on which I have then been redirected westward (although the sign says US 421 N) toward my domicile in the mountain town of Boone.

I say I have noticed “something very special” about this exit ramp, although this unique speciality is probably common to most every overpassing intersection that we’ve ever crossed o’er; and it is this:

As I turn the steering wheel for exiting onto the ramp, there is a point to which I can—less than halfway through the turn— adjust the wheel and cease its turning, having set the steering mechanism to a precise degree. This adjustment is sufficient to complete the onward arcing of the vehicle’s path as it egresses with no further turning of the steering wheel, until the turning maneuver is completed as I have redirected the Subaru, now on a westward vector instead of the northward one we had previously sped.

Recently on one of my trips homeward, I realized that the reason this maneuver can be performed so smoothly is this:  some engineer designed the exit ramp on what appears to be a perfectly constant curve. Cool! The perfect curve, thought I.

So now I take back everything bad I ever said about freeways and modern vehicular transportation systems.

My new theory is that there is probably no curve on earth more perfect than that one.

Except for one— the curve of my wife’s hip, which I noticed while we were dating many and many a year ago, when I  first visited her family in Charlotte.

Now that’s what ahm talkin’ about! The Perfect Curve.

Curve

King of Soul

Alabama. How ’bout you?

November 19, 2016

Alabama.

Alabama sticks in my mind, going way back.

To get from Louisiana to Georgia, you have to drive through that Sweet Home state of Alabama, the state where folks drive around with a license plate that says: Stars fell on . . .

Alabama, whatever that means.

I’ll tell you what it means. it means crucible.

It means the place where America’s deepest hopes and deepest fears about building a great nation and living out the ideal of all men and women being created equal by Creator God, the place where all those deepest hopes and deepest fears clashed in the thoroughfares of history on a highway between Selma and Montgomery,

and on the steps of the state capitol when President Kennedy sent soldiers in to compel George Wallace to do his job and allow the black folks of Sweet Home to vote and to go to school and to University.

And then later, years later, George Wallace issued a public apology for his former racist bullshit way of doing things. And I remember this video I saw online just a year or two or three ago of Wallace sitting in a wheelchair, his daughter by his side, telling the black folk and all of us, all the people of America, that he was sorry.

I mean I saw this, so to speak, with my own eyes, (online.) It all happened in my lifetime.

This George Wallace who was speaking in my hometown, back in the day, 1968, when he went to the Louisiana legislature and spoke there and he said if they’d send him to Washington he’d take all their suitcases from all them bureaucrats in Washington and throw them suitcases in the Potomac River, and when he said that all the Louisianans who filled that legislative chamber laughed.

But such hyperbole was not a rhetorical stunt unknown to the folks of the bayou state, many of whom in that room that day could still remember what Huey Long had said back in the day,  1930’s.

‘Course we all know it didn’t amount to a hill of beans. Dick Nixon went to the white house that year instead the Alabama governor. Hubert Humphrey was the one who lost big time that year because Wallace peeled off a bunch of them riled-up southerners from the Democrats.

I mean, Hubert got a raw deal in Chicago, but we can’t be crying in our beer forever. He was a nice guy. God bless him, Hubert. May he rest in peace; and, for that matter, may Richard Nixon rest in peace.

We all have our faults.

All of this has happened in my lifetime, y’all, which wasn’t so long ago and it’s still happening today.

We have seen serious changes during these 65 years. I’m not making this up.

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MhOZt5-Jl8

Maybe I’m just dreaming it, but if I am just dreaming it, well shut my mouth.

But as I was sayin’–I’m talking’ ’bout Alabama now–the place where all of our darkest southern closets got blasted open, oftentimes on nataional TV, to reveal them skeletons in them closets, them skeletons of racism that most Alabamans have now left in the dust of history but every now and then someone drags them old skeletons out of them closets.

Dogs sicced on freedom riders, four martyred girls in 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham.

But I’m here to tell you this blood was not shed in vain. The blood of the martyrs is the seeds of. . .

So these days, November 2016, y’all can rant in the streets all you want to, but I’m here to tell you that this new Attorney General appointee, Sen. Jeff Sessions, him about whom the Dems are so upset, while they be trying to affix the R-word to Senator Jeff’s reputation just because he be from Alabama, and yet I see on Resurgent this morning these photos of Jeff Sessions holding hands with Rep. John Lewis

   http://theresurgent.com/seriously-trump-the-pictures-of-jeff-sessions-they-dont-want-you-to-see/   

as they were commemorating the stand taken back in the day, 1965, when Dr. King, Dr. Abernathy, young John Lewis and many others who, being with them all together of one accord and holding hands, marched across the Edmund Pettus bridge while trying to walk from Selma to Montgomery but then them Alabama troopers sent out by the old Wallace, not the later-repentent Wallace, stopped them civil rights marchers on the bridge and beat the hell out ’em.

   http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/selma-montgomery-march/videos/bloody-sunday   

But I’m here to tell you this blood was not shed in vain. The blood of the martyrs is the seeds of. . .

As the poet said, and still says, the times they are a-changin’.

And so they did, and they still are.

Hence, just a year ago as I was cleaning a laundry room at work and listening on the radio to John Lewis’ account of that infamous Bloody Sunday event, as he was recalling it to Terri Gross or Diane Rehm or some other radio luminary, and I remember what Rep. Lewis said about being beat up and it was some bad shit going down but they lived to tell about it and ultimately they prevailed all the way to the steps of the Alabama state capitol and beyond, and Dr. King spoke and it really stuck with me.

So now in November 2016 I’m seeing this jpg of Sessions and Lewis holding hands on the Edmund Pettus bridge and

this has all happened in my lifetime, y’all.

Please don’t tell me it was a dream. Let me have my dream. I have the dream, all God’s children, remember, wait for it . . . don’t you have a dream?

I mean, this all happened in my lifetime y’all.

Alabama, please ya’ll don’t forget this excruciated crucible of our great American dream, where the blood of saints and sinners was shed for the liberty of us all. If you ever go there, remember you’ll be treading on holy ground, ground made holy by the shedding of the blood of the Lamb,

   http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/birmingham-church-bombing   

but that was before the stars fell on Alabama. Now people there have seen the light, or at least I hope they have. I’m willing to give them a little grace, and some space, to cross our next bridge.

How ’bout you?

Glass half-Full

Tale of Two Bridges

April 27, 2016

BridgSCar

That new bridge in the East is sleek and lowly-slung;

she shimmers ghostly against blue sky,

while Ole West, high-tense, from rock to rock is hung;

they had to sling them cables high.

Out where flat marshes meet Atlantic’s swellin’ swale

they’ve stretched a spindly span, ascending high with whitish wispy grace.

But over on California crags where Pacific currents hail

they had strung an iron span of steel-tensed strength in perilous golden space.

Here’s one bridge, laid-back and sleek, steeped in simple Southern style;

t’was formed up in 21st-century streamlined gray concrete;

the other was stretched in cabled steel–in blood-red iron by bloodied rank and file,

strung out in 1930’s grit as some gargantuan steel-nerv’d feat.

GoldGate

When America swoons in futures past and some souls live to tell the tale,

we’ll speak stories of bridges, of metallic spans that tested men’s mortal fate.

Perhaps they’ll mention Charleston’s pride–that span in whitish shade of pale,

but the king of steel-strung cabled bridgedom is that big red one at Golden Gate.

Glass half-Full