Saturday, May 18, 2019

Moby D, the Crucible and a Road Trip: Back to the East Village, by way of Brooklyn, New Bedford, Salem, and Back

My first day back from Romania,
the teenager and I wander out into the East Village.
Taking in some Thai food.
Wandering through Trash and Vaudville.
Punk rock and platform shoes, in all their glory.
Talking with the homeless folks, 
Snapshots of graffiti.
Corny to say it, but no matter where I go, 
The streets of NYC, around the Gowanus, back to the East Village,
Feel delicious.
These streets give and give and give.
And the city takes and takes and takes.
Sometimes, I can’t stand it.
Or I miss the water and people,
The culture and colors left behind.
But the memories of the road linger.
And they lull us back.
“I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote.
I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts,”
wrote Melville in Moby Dick

“Go out and travel,” Anthony Bourdaine advised. Live  as  others live.
"As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life - and travel - leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks - on your body or on your heart - are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt."

You are going to experience a  lot on the road.
Some locales surprise.
Some do not. 
If you are traveling in the US, you’d better be ready for some schlock,
To leave and receive some plastic.
That’s what we’ve become.
Gas stations with Starbucks.
Truck stops with amenities.
Lots of plastic cups.
There are other elements of travel here.
But the schlock can shock even the most seasoned of US road trippers.
We thought we were ready.

The next morning, we packed for a  mini road trip.
In  past  years, we’ve gone  to London or Colorado.
But Spring break  schedules no longer  coincide.
A rainy afternoon, we set out to pick up the little one from South Brooklyn, and make our way to New Bedford and then up to the Plymouth and Salem.

The clouds pour.
We’re  surrounded by
Bad news on the radio,
Cars, American trash and Taco Bell.
Seven hours to go.
Cars everywhere.

“I cannot sleep for dreaming; I cannot dream but I wake and walk about the house as though I'd find you comin' through the door,” declared the actors on recording of
Arthur Miller’s  The Crucible.

The recording was almost too earie.
The voices of hysteria and panic from  yesterday’s panics.
Cars and climate disaster.
America amnesia and xenophobia,
Tituba lulling the kids to dance outside.
And the kids willingly selling her  out,
Anyone out, without much thought.

Can we play something else?
This is too much for now.

Lets try Moby Dick, ok?

It was the reason we were going to the whaling museum,
New Bedford where the journey began.

Melville brought Ishmael here,
Ready to travel himself.   

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.”
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

We listened  for  a while.
But the voices put us to sleep.

I never get past New Bedford,
Confessed Caroline.
But  those are some of  the best parts.
Except squeeze the  hand.

The final hour into the darkness, music.
The rain slowed and U2 got us to New Bedford.
Where we enjoyed chowder, beer and a good night’s sleep.
“It’s a rough town,” notes the bartender.

Only a few hours later,
Breakfast and a stroll through out demons, 
post the Seaman’s Bethel,
Site of the sermon on Jonah.
"But WHAT is this lesson that the book of Jonah teaches?”
Father Mapple reminds.
Whose to obey who?
And why?
Through the museum,
Consumed by the whale,
Or the whale us?
The history of waling.
Artifacts of a life long past.
A wale penis.

A grotesque industry passed.
You can’t defeat nature.
Even if colonial ambitions burn. 
You can’t beat nature.

Lets  get out of here.
Plymouth or  bust.
I keep thinking of  Malcolm.
Reminding us we all  come here  in  our own ways.

Feeling good on  the way our of town.

We can get lunch there.
Feeling light.
“I know not all that may be coming,
but be it what it will, I'll go to it laughing”
Melville with us driving.

To  the shores  of Plymouth,
Site of the  landing. 
Or a landing?
Why revere this landing?
Its really just a rock,  I thought looking.
Anyone have any questions,
Asks the park ranger.
No one does.

Past Dorchester and Beverly Mass, we make our way.
Should we  stop in Dorchester?
I ask.
Dorchester England was a huge hit a few years past.
Where the family lineage takes  us again and again.

Not this time.
Not this time.
Next time, another trip in a lifetime of quirky spots to visit.

Dad lived  with Mom in  Beverly MA when they first got married.
Ironic name, noted  Dad years later.
His second wife was Bev.
He only outlived her by a few months.

The stories  on this road.
Melville and Miller.
From  here to there.
Tracing what this place means,
Why we came and what compels us to stay.
What meaning we find making our ways through our days here.

“Each of us is a book waiting to be written,”
― Thomas M. Cirignano, reminds in The Constant Outsider
“…and that book, if written, results in a person explained.” 

Off to Salem.
To witness the witches, 
Casualties  of the panic long passed.
19 accused, 19 dead in 1692.
One was found not guilty but the mob was so outraged they tried  her again.
This time, she threw in the cards.
Its never easy when someone calls you  a witch or a communist or crazy.
Labels  are hard to shake.
Hysteria reverberates
and never quite goes away.

“Sex, sin, and the Devil were early linked,”
Miller reminds throughout The Crucible
Popular sex ideology is a noxious brew of xenophobia  and puritan thinking
That never quite disappears.
Control women.
Dish out those Scarlett Letters.
Outlaw abortion.
The war  on sex goes on  and on.

Through the Witch Museum,
Like  a wax museum.
As if a  45-record playing,
Lights  shine in the devil’s eyes.
This is too scary, I tell the little one, 
Watching the trial.
Through the old cemetery.
Past Hawthorne Street.
A Scarlett Letter and a lingering legacy,
From the great-great grandson of the Salem Witch Trials judge John Hathorne.

And we make our way back home.
Engaged with some  of my favorite  lines:
“Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunk Christian.”
Herman MelvilleMoby-Dick, or, the Whale.

There are other stories for us.

Spring breaks always linger.
Back to holy Brooklyn. 

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