Posts Tagged ‘construction’

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 Tower of Signals

August 17, 2019

Thousands of years ago, we built a legendary tower, the shadow of which has seemed to darken our human history even unto today.

According to a certain well-known historical source, the Bible . . . the tower of Babel was erected in some location east of the Euphrates River. The region therein has been known since that ancient time by various names:  Chaldea, Shinar, Babylon, and a few other identities, such as the current one, Iraq.

So an ancient tale about the tower of Babel, especially its fall, has been passed down to us through the ages.   The biblical account says that The Tower of Babel’s undoing happened because the people were unable to communicate. So they were not able to get the thing built.

In our modern reflection upon that archaic project, I think what Will Rogers or Mark Twain or Yogi Berra, or some such sage  said, applies:

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

It’s an old story, but true.

Nevertheless, I’m here to tell ya that in spite of ourselves we people of the earth have managed to erect some pretty impressive towers here and there throughout the ages.

For instance, notice this  classic religious tower in San Francisco, which happens to be a double.

Spires2Chrch

This structure represents that spirit of religion that dominated our Western culture for a couple of thousand years.

Here’s a Spanish project representing a more contemporary creative impulse toward the divine.

Sagrada

Very impressive. But the era of God-inspired basilica-building has been overtaken by more humanistic projects. Since the so-called Enlightenment in the 18th-century, people have aspired to ideals even loftier than mere religion. This modern emphasis has wrought even higher and higher feats of skyscraping.

BuildSkysc

The long epoch of God-inspired tower-building has been overtaken by a New Age of Man.

CityPhild

And yet, our rising human spirit has morphed itself beyond mere commercial, citified projections. Check out an Olympic objet d’art that the Barcelonans fashioned for the 1992 Olympics:

BarcOlymp

This fluidic rising structure embodies a humanic zeitgeist; it aspires to inspire ascension to world peace—a peace wrought through zealous sports competition instead of bloody wars fought with destructive weapons on muddy battlefields.

Pretty damned impresseve, huh?!

Higher and higher we strive; higher and higher we arrive.

Now in 21st-century AI, We find ourselves in the upper regions of human accomplishment.

Physical upbuilding has now taken a back seat to the loftiness of our ideals.

So we’ve built a stupendous net of ideas, an electronic network that ceaselessly transmits gigabytes of presciently important data around the world. It is a web as ethereal as the sun itself . . . as surreal as a Dali . . .  as real as a Warhol.

And towards this end, we’ve built towers of a different—a new and different—kind:

The Tower

Towers such as this one–structures of ascending human perfectibility– are slavishly repeating signals all day and all night for the benefit of all mankind!

For the benefit of Mr. Kite, ever and ever onward to greater heights!

We hold these spires to be self-evident—that our updated tower-driven secretions will project a worldwide web of human achievement to rise higher than  the Tower of Babel ever did!

Good luck with that.

Glass Chimera

Bridge across Time

July 9, 2019

Setting old stones with new methods lays a solid foundation for future pathways of our life together.

Here’s a Blue Ridge Parkway bridge, near my home, built when I was a kid long ago, in the 1960’s.

BRPHollowa

It’s a well-built public-works project.

Incredible strength was laid into the bridge’s inner structure when concrete was poured around a steel rebar framework. Unseen in the finished structure, the silent steel still contributes to ongoing structural integrity and function. Internal strength assured the bridge’s longevity, allowing the structure to bear up under the heavy demands of continuous motored traffic for many and many a year.

This solid piece of work has been sustaining motored traffic for most of my 68 years.

Use of reinforcing steel roads, tied together with wire like cages, then buried forever with gravel aggregate in solid ‘crete mud, is a relatively new architectural practice in construction history. The internal rebar method was devised by constructors over time, to assure deep integrity and resilience in vast concrete structures.

Such built-in reinforcement has enabled folks to progressively build bigger buildings, longer roads and bridges, as civilization marches on.

BluRiOvPas

This strong, continuous, time-tested concrete underbelly enables motorists to drive without stopping, on a road that crosses o’er a  road that passes beneath it. In this photo, you can see the structure’s rock-hard underbelly, which bears the surface imprints of wooden planks that were used in forming the main arch  when the concrete was cast, back in the mid-1960’s.

Certainly our attention is drawn to the large veneer stones on the outside face of the construction. These chiseled rocks, having been skillfully cut with calculated angles, lend a classic appearance to the roadway, which would have otherwise been a dull utilitarian construct.

Thus did the bridge become something far more than an elevated roadway; it stands as an artistic statement of architectural continuity, in agreement with its older, 1930’s-era bridge “ancestors.”

The stone masons who erected similar Blue Ridge bridges back in the earlier days were ancestors–whether by profession or by blood– of the rock masons who set these stones three decades later.

Such chisel-sculpted work  becomes a masonary tip-of-the-trowel to time-honored traditions of stone masons who lived and worked on this same 469-mile parkway back in the day, and then eventually crossed that great celestial bridge to eternity.

Having stood the tests of time and traffic, this good work stands as a long-lasting homage to both structural integrity and graceful design.

About six miles up the road from the bridge pictured above, there’s an S-curved structure that I tied steel on, back in the early 1980’s– the Linn Cove Viaduct on Grandfather Mountain. It’s a very special construct, being the final missing-link in the middle of a 469-mile, 50-year Blue Ridge Parkway project. But this one was special–not for the classic stonework–but for the cutting-edge technology of building the thing from the top down, instead of the bottom up!

BRPLinConst2

Here’s solid evidence that in this life it’s a good idea to do things right. Build it to last, whatever it is you’re working on in your time here.  Our children’s children will notice the quality and be inspired to do great works in their own time.

Search for Blue

Corals and Us

May 21, 2019

Corals build:  secreting  calcium carbonate aragonite structural coenosteum through living coenosarc tissue situated between corallite cups, to form coral reef.

Shore

In this way, the coral grows and grows, and grows . . .

(Thank you Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coral 

We build too: We stack stones arrange rocks mix mud mix mortar concoct concrete lay block lay brick blah blah blah

ShoreBuild

We walk out from our built structures. Corals do not; they remain in their little aragonite colony that they have built.

Corals stay while we stroll.

From a distance, them corals don’t look like anything alive. They just look like rocks.

But they are colonies of living critters,

Coral

and they help other living critters to stay alive.

Including us. Corals break up the wave action so we can build our stuff on the beach. Even more than that, they can, over long periods of time, build whole islands for us to dwell upon and enjoy.

When the ocean recedes from corals, they dry up and die. It is only then when we can walk around on them and live on their vast skeleton structure islands.

So we understand that when corals die, they leave that coral colony structure as their legacy—their gift to us and to the rest of the world.

And they don’t even know it.

When we die, we also leave a legacy.

The coral ought to be part of our legacy. We ought to leave the coral for our kids. Don’t step on it; don’t poison it. Let it grow.

Think of that sign you may see while riding on the highway. Referring to the workman who build and improve our roads, it says:

Let ‘em work. Let ‘em live.

Because even though the corals don’t look like it, the corals are alive and working all the time, building habitat for their fellow ocean inhabitants— the fishes and all them other water creatures— and building reefs to protect our islands, and building a fascinating shore world for us to gaze up while strolling on the beach.

Them corals . . . you gotta love ‘em. They just keep quietly doing their thing. Not like us who get all hot ’n bothered about stuff.

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

Chicago

June 21, 2014

I say

America moved, I say, back in the day.

She just came bustin’ out from the East.

She came rolling in on wheels, gliding through ship-tossed spray.

She was blowing past some old dearth, yearning some new feast.

We heard her skimming’ o’er Erie, Michigan, and along the deep blue sky,

plucking plunder low, grabbing gusto high.

And when the dust had settled,

after Illinois mud had dried,

when ore’d been changed to metal,

while papa sweated and mama cried,

the new was born; the old had died.

Where dreamers come and workers go,

‘t’was there arose:

Chicago.

 

Born of rivers and the Lake,

she was cast in iron, forged in steel,

bolted fast as rails n’ timbers quake,

careening then on some big steely Wheel

making here a whippersnappin’ deal,

and there a factory, a pump, a field,

o’er swamp and stump and prairie

tending farm and flock and dairy

in blood and sweat and rust

through boom and blust and bust.

ChigLRust

 

They carved out block, laid brick and stone;

our groundwork for America Midwest they honed

with blade and trowel and and pick and shovel.

They swung hammers through dust as thick as trouble.

ChicDNBldg

 

They dug a canal there that changed

the whole dam world; they arranged

to have goods shipped in, and products go.

Reminds me of Sandburg, and Michelangelo.

ChiTribBldg

Many a man put meat on the table;

many a woman toiled, skillful and able.

Thousands of sites got developed, selected,

while many a factory got planned and erected.

(ChiFinkl1)

ChiFinkl1

Many a Chicagoan had a good run,

caught lots of ball games, had a whole lotta fun,

while working, playing, praying and such

with friends and families, keeping in touch.

ChiBldCh

 

In all that we do, the plans we make,

 

there’s forever more going down than we think is at stake.

 

When people wear out, they sit around and play cards.

 

When widgets wear out, we pile them in scrap yards.

ChicScrap1

 

If we’re lucky, or resourceful, or blessed,

we’ll end up with a little something at the end of our test,

a hole in the wall, or a piece of the pie,

maybe a nice little place, by n’ by.

 ChicagoIvy

While Democrats convened in Chicago in ’68,

antiwar protesters got stopped at the gate.

Mayor Daley sent his men out to poke ’em in the slammer.

‘T’was Chicago style justice: no sickle, just hammer.

DaleyPlaza

Today in downtown, Chicago Mayor Daley’s name is all over the place,

though about those radical protesters you’ll find not a trace.

So what does that tell ya about Chicago, or America, today?

We’re like the Cubs’ in the Series;  that’s all that I’ll say.

Glass half-Full