Bangor in Autumn
A travelogue by Mark Leeper
Copyright 2001 Mark R. Leeper

09/30/01 New Jersey to Portsmouth, New Hampshire
10/01/01 Bangor, Maine
10/02/01 Bangor Area
10/03/01 More Bangor Area
10/04/01 Bangor to Salem, New Hampshire
10/05/01 Two Salems
10/06/01 Braintree to New Jersey

09/30/01 New Jersey to Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Marlon Brando is getting on in years. His film THE WILD ONE was one of the great symbols of youth in rebellion in the US. A lot of time has passed. Most of those rebellious youth got desk jobs or labor jobs or trailer park life styles. Some are still in black leather and are on the road on choppers. We pass a couple of motorcycles with gray bearded rebels wearing helmets that look like German soldiers' helmets. I figure they must be in their fifties.

So why are we visiting Maine? Evelyn lived there from about age three to age eight. She hasn't been back since. There just was never time. Now that we are retired (very young) we have time for a lot of things that we never did before.

At least to start the road north is very familiar. We have to drive right by Framingham, Massachusetts where we annually go for the Boskone science fiction convention. I guess that because Evelyn and I previously lived in Massachusetts the countryside we passed is exceptionally dull. It is just trees and a little bit of New England architecture. The trees are starting to change color. Still it is mostly green I am seeing but there is the occasional flash of bright red.

I am not a big foliage watcher. Leaves are the opposite of people. When people are near death they put on conservative colors. The death throes of leaves bring out their gaudiest colors. The bright yellows and reds are signs that the leaf is dying and with it the warmth that nurtured it. It is a sign that snows are coming in tones of white and gray. Part of nature is dying.

Coming home from Boskone we sometimes stop at exit 65, Vernon Connecticut, for barbecue chicken. Last February the place was closed for remodeling. Today it still has the closed for remodeling sign up and the parking lot looks like it needs maintenance. I think our restaurant died in its sleep. We go to an Italian restaurant for lunch instead.

As we walk in a neighboring business has a marquee sign up saying "God bless America." It was patriotism following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. In the movie BRAZIL there has been a terrorist bombing. They show some crusty expert being interviewed on television and being asked what is behind the bombings. He sagely responds "bad sportsmanship." It sounded funny at the time.

What is behind our terrorism? What is behind Muslim rage? To try to explain it in a few paragraphs is a fool's errand. This is assuming even I understand it, which I do not claim to do fully. But let me take a crack at my belief.

There was a time when Islam was by any objective standards the leading civilization on the planet. For about a millennium it had constantly grown and outgrew all other civilization. With a good deal of justification they saw themselves as the center of truth and enlightenment. Infidels and barbarians surrounded them and it was their duty to bring them the enlightenment that they had and that Allah wanted for all. In southwestern Europe their territory went as far north as parts of France.

Even then they saw as their chief challenging power Christian Europe who also had a creed that they wanted to conquer the world. It was inevitable that these two civilizations would clash and when it happened it would be violent. It was.

Flash forward to the present. European civilization, now also including the United States now has far great a power. Islam still holds many countries, but not a whole lot of power. Throughout the Middle East people wear Levis, drink Coca-Cola, and watch American movies and TV. Islam has lost a large piece of its territory. Even in the countries that it holds Islam has lost political control of its destiny. More and more its decisions have to be tempered with consideration of what the West thinks. And even in their own homes Western ideas are creeping in. The Koran tells them that women should have very little control of their destinies and must remain dominated by males. This is very important in the Koran. Islam sanctions polygamy and concubines. American television which is so popular tells their children that women are the equal and frequently even smarter than men. This is a powerful and dangerous contrast.

The great corrupting force, in the eyes of their clerics, is the US. The US is the Great Satan. It is not because they have such different values. Europe has nudity on commercial television and a much freer view of acceptable morals. The United States is by comparison staid and conservative. The proportions of atheists and agnostics are much lower than in Europe. But the United States has economic power. If the message is more conservative than Europe's would be, the medium is a lot more powerful. Americans have the power to complain about human rights in Islamic countries and even to interfere in their politics. America supports Israel, a country of infidels, right here in the midst of Moslem countries. A hole in the Moslem world like a hole opening in the ozone layer. When America fought in the Middle East they showed on the world television positive images of independent women in military clothing doing the fighting. Israel embraces Western values and Western culture including Women's Liberation and it is economically successful. The more the neighbors see people prospering in spite of not following Koran teaching, the more they struggle to remove it from their sight. They want to see Israel fail and if natural forces are not doing the job they will give them a push.

All of this makes Moslems feel powerless. They are in a competition and losing the game. Americans by in large do not buy their products, watch their programs, and Americans have much more leverage about what happens in Moslem countries than Moslem countries have in the US. So what do they want to do? They want to slap America in the face. The face of America is the Manhattan skyline. It has little to do with the real conflict. It is venting a rage. They are playing the game and are losing the game. That frustrates them. So what do they do? They go beyond the usually accepted rules and hit their opponent. So the crusty expert in BRAZIL had some truth. There really is something in the terrorism that is akin to bad sportsmanship.

We crossed the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border and stopped at an information station for folders. It looks like lodging is going to be expensive in Portsmouth. The looks are very, very New England. Small buildings with high pitched roofs so the snow will fall off. They are girded up preparing for the onslaught of the snow. Places have names like Poquodonocwonk. [Don't look for it on a map. I made the name up.]

They advertise a local brand of beer from Smuttynose Brewing. I guess it must be a micro-brew though perhaps it was not so intended.

We got into Portsmouth about 3pm. It used to be a Navy port. We drove around their streets. Quaint is the word for Portsmouth. Quaint brings in the tourists, so they keep it quaint. Above the whole town stands the tower of a bridge. The bridge actually has two towers that are part of a mechanism to lift the center section so tall ships can go under. Portsmouth was the home of private and US Navy shipyards. They formed the basis of the town economy. They also gave the place atmosphere and made it quaint.

After a few minutes visiting a bookstore where I got a collection of Steinbeck's short novels we headed out to take a look at the town. We stopped near the Strawbery Banke Museum (this area was called Strawbery Banke because of the large number on strawberry plants on the banks of the water (and because spelling might not have been a science to these people)). There seemed to be some live singing going on. It turned out to be part of the Portsmouth Maritime Folk Festival. There was a stage set up in the museum yard and had chairs set up.

There was a quartet called the Portsmouth Shantymen singing sea shanties and giving explanations of ship lore. They talked about the effort to turn the capstan in order to weigh anchor. The capstan was like a wagon wheel that was used to coil the anchor rope. Several men would come and stick wooden struts into the hub of the wagon-wheel-like capstan and coil up the anchor rope. As they labored they sang as a sort of human metronome.

It would start out easy as they basically pulled the ship to being right over the anchor. Without moving the anchor the line to the anchor is at its shortest when the ship is right over the anchor. Then suddenly it would get hard as the anchor had embedded itself in the sand and rocks and underwater vegetation. By shortening the rope then you are basically pulling the ship down into the water and letting the ship's buoyancy exert force on the anchor. Finally the anchor would free itself of the sea floor and the turning of the capstan would get easier.

They gave us a chance to try hauling some ropes. They had something like a cinder block sledge and had someone sit on it. Then they had a bunch of us pull the sledge with a rope on a pulley. I volunteered and was the puller on the end of the line. I was the anchor man. What can I say? We did it.

I copied down the words of one shanty.

This dirty town has been my home since last Time I was sailing
But I'll not stay another day, I'd sooner be out whaling
Oh Lord above, send down a dove,
With beak as sharp as razors
To cut the throat of them there blokes
Who sells bad beer to sailors

Paid off me score and them ashore, me money soon was flying
With Judy Lee upon my knee in my ear a lying
Oh Lord above, send down a dove,
With beak as sharp as razors
To cut the throat of them there blokes
Who sells bad beer to sailors

With my newfound friends, my money spent just as fast as winking
But when I make to clean the slate, the landlord says, "Keep Drinking"
Oh Lord above, send down a dove,
With beak as sharp as razors
To cut the throat of them there blokes
Who sells bad beer to sailors

With me money gone and clothes in pawn and Judy set for leaving
Six months of pay gone in three days, but Judy isn't grieving
Oh Lord above, send down a dove,
With beak as sharp as razors
To cut the throat of them there blokes
Who sells bad beer to sailors

When the crimp comes round, I'll take his pound and his hand I'll be shaking
Tomorrow morn sail for the Horn just as dawn is breaking
Oh Lord above, send down a dove,
With beak as sharp as razors
To cut the throat of them there blokes
Who sells bad beer to sailors

So for one last trip from port I'll ship but next time back I'm swearing
I'll settle down in my hometown and go no more seafaring
Oh Lord above, send down a dove,
With beak as sharp as razors
To cut the throat of them there blokes
Who sells bad beer to sailors

They had a number of other singers come up. One sang a song about the World Trade Center. Evelyn thought it was in bad taste and walked out. I kept my seat, not seeing it as so wrong. Evelyn seemed to be the only one objecting. I met up with Evelyn after the performance. We took a short walk by the water then drove to Seabrook to get a room and dinner. Rooms are cheaper in Portsmouth, which is not so quaint.

We went to a place called Captain K's for dinner and had ribs

Then it was back to the room to catch up on logs.

10/01/01 Bangor, Maine

We got up and held off going to breakfast. The Seabrook Science and Nature center opens at 10. Breakfast is included so we went about 8:30. Nothing warm, just things like coffee cake. And not even a place to sit down. We talked to other tourists about Maine.

The room was less than we had thought. It was about $58. That was with a AAA discount. I frankly expected there would be places set up where we could stay without charge and they would feed us. Be warned, do not be fooled come to New Hampshire with the same expectation. The whole state is built on false advertising and you have to pay as you go just like anywhere else. They even have it on their license plates. "Live free or die," it says. What a load of hooey!

We had a little trouble getting to Seabrook Science and Nature center. The main road was closed. There was another road in but it looked more like Checkpoint Charlie. Concrete barrier blocks prevent you from entering without following a serpentine path. A gentleman came over to our car to see what we wanted. Is the science and nature center open? "Closed. You better turn around and leave." No smile but a nice big handgun hung from his hip. We turned around revealing a license plate. He turned around revealing a large gun strapped to his back. He was a very convincing speaker. I got the feeling we were not welcome. Might as well head for Bangor.

Just a little way down the road we get to Maine and stop at a Maine official visitor center. Near as I can figure from the brochures there are the following activities in a Maine adventure. You can:

1) Eat fish

2) Go out in the wilderness and have fun with snow

3) Bundle up warm

4) Try to pronounce Indian names (unfortunately there are no Indians left who remember the old ways and can help with this)

5) Play bingo

6) Go out in the wilderness and have fun without snow.

Maine is the state where the big celebrities came to let go and have fun. I mean fun-loving guys like Franklin Roosevelt, George Bush Sr. and Cotton Mather.

We got a copy of the official fun guide to Maine entitled "Maine Invites You." I immediately look at the article "Bangor: Gateway to Maine Adventure." The article is six paragraphs, one devoted to the airport. Another site recommended is the Bangor Mall.

Nearby is Seboomook Wilderness. Seboomook is Penobscot Indian for "We don't go there any more because there is nothing much to do."

We are following a couple of closed trucks. They are unmarked so I am not sure what they are carrying but there are aromatic clues that it is livestock.

About 1:15 we got to Bangor. Bangor is predominantly known for the timber and paper products industry. It also is the biggest trading city in northeast Maine. In the center of town is a 31 foot 3000 pound statue of what someone thinks Paul Bunyan would look like if there were such a person. Much of the populace is from Dow Air Force Base.

We stopped at Asian Palace, a Chinese restaurant, for lunch. We discovered they very cleverly found a way to turn to their financial advantage the fact that Bangor is a long way from New York and even Boston so not to many locals know what Chinese food is supposed to taste like. Luckily we had had the real stuff and knew that Chinese food does not taste this bad and is not this sodden mess. I think that we better stick to burgers and Cokes in town. I think the locals know what they should taste like.

We checked into the Comfort Inn and went out to see Bangor. We saw the school that Evelyn attended as a little girl. She was in Bangor from age three to age nine. The school has become the Brown and White Paper Company. The building itself is a surprisingly small brown brick building. We saw the house that she lived in, and with a little search we found her public library. This we went into, and spent about a half-hour or more looking at the shelves. It is entirely different inside but clearly is a very old collection of books with many old specimens.

We visited a bookstore and Evelyn got two books. I found nothing. We drove back to the motel stopping to get ice cream cones and to shop for DVDs at a local Best Buy. (I got three DVDs of double features of horror films that are so bad I prefer not to tell their titles. I guess I am a completist on 1960s horror films or else why would I expose myself to films this bad?)

Back at the room I wrote in my log.

10/02/01 Bangor Area

I woke up about 5 AM, more the pity. Breakfast was provided by the motel. Unfortunately we got there just as a group of tourists did. With the little breakfast bar they had it was tough to fight our way to breakfast. Evelyn and I discussed politics and what is the best way to deal with terrorists. We stopped short of actually throwing food at each other but at least people stayed away from our table and didn't appear to listen in.  (OK, we did keep it friendly, but the log needed some excitement.)

Afterward we drove to the nearby town of Bucksport. They have an exhibit of the history of cinema in Maine. It was not open yet so we went to a local bookstore. In the science fiction section everything we saw was part of a series or a spin-off of a movie or something of the sort. If you look at the mainstream section there are almost no series. The common wisdom of science fiction fans is that this sorry state is the fault of publishers who only want to publish safe bet novels. If that is the case why is the same problem not happening with mainstream fiction? I think what is happening is the result of a literary movement in science fiction. Starting about 1970 or so science fiction got a lot more into literary style. Suddenly it was quite possible for a teenage fan to buy a science fiction novel and to just not be able to understand what it was all about. To a small number of fans this was good news. They wanted books to be more challenging to read. Unfortunately this sort of reader was in a small minority. A large proportion of the readers want to buy novels that they know that they will enjoy. The publishers took a look at McDonalds and the money they were making by turning out a dependable product time after time after time. Every time you buy a McDonalds hamburger it will be an enjoyable experience a lot like the last time you bought a McDonalds hamburger. If you buy a Star Trek novel you know you will understand the universe the story happens in. You know the writing will be in plain prose. Publishers have found that if they want to sell books they have to guarantee that the reader will understand what is going on the book. They have to link into previous happy science fiction experiences. Literary writers do not link to previous experiences most fans have had.

Down the road is the Alamo Movie Theater. They have a display on the history of cinema in New England. It is listed as a museum, but there really is not enough to count as a museum. The Alamo opened in 1916 and as such is probably the oldest theater in New England. The standup panels talk about racism in films, censorship, wartime films, multiplexes, and a lot of other things.

Across the Penobscot River from Bucksport you see an impressive looking fort. Well, perhaps not so impressive as forts go, but not bad as far as the Penobscot River goes. This is Fort Knox. We had to search a little to find the road to it.

They have a new visitor center that explains some of the history. As the display says, "At the time of the [American] Revolution the British had great interest in the lands along the Penobscot River." The fort was built to cool their interest. My understanding is they had a great interest in much the same way the US has a great interest in Iowa. There were a number of border disputes between the US and Canada. This part of Maine was apparently disputed. Fort Knox was built so that locals could express their wish to be part of the United States to any British navy boats that happened down the Penobscot River. However, no bullet was ever fired in anger from the fort. Unless it was anger at a commanding officer or something.

The fort saw military activity during the Civil War and the Spanish American War. Neither the Southern States nor Spain ever attacked Maine, but the fort was ready if they wanted to. The fort was named for Major General Henry Knox, the first Secretary of War. There is supposed to be another Fort Knox in Kentucky someplace also named for Henry Knox. However nobody I know has ever gotten in to verify it really is there.

The fort itself is a stretched pentagon of granite. It is 252 feet by 146 feet. Around it are four batteries of cannons where they command the river. The view of the town across the river is beautiful especially in the fall.

We stopped at a thrift shop in Bucksport. There is not a lot of interest there. The books were pretty well picked over. There just was nothing of any great interest in spite of a large number of books. I did buy a videotape of a film that really considered an event as a kid. The film was DINOSAURUS!. I think what sold it to me was that the illustration on the box was the same as was on the box, a great scene of an outsized tyrannosaurus and brontosaurus attacking a construction crew. Wow! Well, it was only 4.50.

From there we drove into Elsworth for lunch. We went to a seafood house and the food was really good. That's it. No more Chinese food. From now on only local specialties. Nothing exotic like Asian cuisine.

On the way back we stopped at The Big Chicken Barn Books and Antiques, the largest used bookstore in New England. It has a lot of books but very little interesting.

Next stop was the Galen Cole Family Land Transportation Museum. This seems to be one family's private collection of land vehicles. As we entered a docent took us aside and told us about some of what they had to do restoring some of these machines. Apparently they were in pretty bad condition and they were fixed up to look new. They have over two hundred vehicles under one roof. To show the variety of vehicles they have horse drawn fire engine, a snow roller found in woods so entangled with nature they had to cut down the trees to get the roller, snow plows with huge blades, fire engines, ladder trucks, a diesel-electric locomotive, a freight car and caboose, a Stanley Steamer, farm gear, soap box derby cars, hearses, a prairie schooner, and trucks. There also is a collection of military uniforms. I guess the point of the museum is these are all vehicles that helped to make Maine what it is. Somehow the most impressive were the snowplows which are much bigger than I had expected. They had blades something like seven feet high and maybe twelve feet wide. No other place I have lived had snowplows so big or needed them. There was even a local folk song of the style of Casey Jones about the guy who made a hero of himself with the snowplow run in the particularly bad winter of '31. This is a museum to appeal in to the kid in all of us who likes looking at big machines. It is a basic awe akin to the love of dinosaurs.

It took better than an hour to get through the museum. Then it was back to the room. About 7 PM we went for dinner. I was not really hungry Evelyn wanted to go to a steak house. I probably ate too much. The name of the place was something like Bugaboo Creek Steak House." I got a decent piece of meat but made the mistake of ordering the smashed potatoes [sic]. They were whipped potatoes, perhaps even from powder, mixed with whole pieces of potato to simulate what you would get if you really mashed the potato and didn't quite finish the job. It was a rather poor simulation.

On TV was the season premier of Buffy. I am not a fan. I have seen maybe five episodes and actually dislike what I have seen. But two friends want to give it another chance. I did and thought it was just awful. Demons are reduced to the level of Hell's Angels bikers (no pun intended) with funny masks. One good karate kick and a demon is down. The message to viewers is "Your parents were scared by the supernatural in old films, but if you know martial arts you can kick ass with the supernatural." It completely de-mystifies the concept of the supernatural for a feel-good hero. It is a burlesque of what are really much better works of fiction.

Following that was special about Flight 93, the hijacked plane that the passengers took back and crashed. It answered the question of how did the passengers know what was intended for the plane. It showed at least pictures of every passenger including Ed Felt, a personal friend.

I ended the day reading Bernard Lewis's article on the roots of Muslim rage.

10/03/01 More Bangor Area

Breakfast was at the motel.

The first stop of the day is at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport. Basically it is a maritime museum spread over several old- houses and public buildings. Each building has friendly interpreters to tell you a little about what you are seeing.

The First Congregational Church of Searsport is a standard New England Church with stain glass windows and organ pipes behind the pulpit. The ceilings are high making it very difficult to change lightbulbs according to the interpreter. They have to walk a very narrow catwalk. The walls are tin, a New England style.

Captain Merithew House has a display of local nature and ecology. It has tools of shipcraft. I spent some time looking at a rope-making machine. There are implements used in the ice trade. Ice cutters kept their ice cool all summer with insulation of sawdust. They had markets as far away as Brazil. They have ship models, Schooner models, and Barkentine replicas. One interesting touch are the signs that are stitched like samplers. Somebody contributed several dozen such sign that must have taken a lot of work. But the main attraction is a collection of maritime art, especially war at sea. The art was all done by people in the Buttersworth family, James and one or two named Thomas. There are a lot just showing ships. One room is devoted to ships at war. One shows the USS President and the HMS Endymion at the Battle of Valpariso.

The Vestry has a little bit of sea exhibits to show. They have some ships' tools including a quadrant for navigation. They show some local ads including a recipe for macaroni and sardine bake (yug!). But most interesting is their films on videotape. They had someone's pictures of his voyage, Rounding Cape Horn. This is a 37-min film of home movies about life on board the ship Peking in 1921. At this time there was no concession made for crew safety and sailing was extremely dangerous. This voyage only two of the crew were killed, but they went through a terrible storm when rounding the horn. Some of the pictures are incredible. There are just overpowering waves. The Peking had huge sails, and the men had to climb into the rigging some 200 feet or more or about 17 stories.

The narrator talked about the ship dog who did not want to be petted and would bite the trainees. They were going the so-called "wrong way" around the horn, east to west. On board the boat the only motor is the human muscle so huge tasks like the raising and lowering of sails have to be done by the strain of men's backs. In a storm the work load becomes a lot greater and at the same time more urgent. And supposedly this boat went through an incredibly bad storm. Experts said they never saw so much water wash across the deck of a ship in a storm without the boat sinking. The person filming his trip was nearly washed off the chart house into the sea at one point. There is no hope to be dry on the boat, but there are ways to keep warm. The only way to get your clothes a little drier is to sleep in your wet clothes and let your body heat dry them a little. Such was life at sea in 1921.

Douglas and Margaret Carver Memorial Art Gallery actually has little art. What they do have is a display about a popular book THE LOG OF THE SKIPPERS WIFE. It is a witty account of the life of a captain's wife, Dorothea Moulton Bala. The display shows it to be a semi-fraud. The original diary was terse, cryptic, and not very eloquent. The author's son re-wrote the log nearly but not entirely ignoring the content of the original. The main room was a display of canoes. The interpreter talked to the people who came in. We heard him welcome a woman from Nantucket. He told her "I know a young woman, I think from Nantucket." On the way out I told him I heard him say that. It sounded like the first line of a poem. If it turned out to be a poem I was going to leave before he found a rhyme for Nantucket.

The exhibit in the Old Town Hall starts with figureheads and billetheads. The exhibit is about Maine maritime business including the design and building of boats. It tells how the area got involved building boats. Also they tell about the people who sailed on those boats. One boat they tell about is the Polly. During the War of 1812 the Polly was captured by Brits. The captain was clapped in irons. The Brits were pleased to find the Polly was a rum runner and had a full cargo.

They indulged in their confiscated cargo, rum, just a little too much. The captain somehow escaped the irons. He was amazed to find the Brits were drunk to the point of unconsciousness. Realizing that they were hard workers one and all and being a considerate man, he slipped out with his ship without waking the Brits.

We learned about boats called "Rule Cheaters" or "Kettle Bottoms." It seems boats were taxed not by their volume but by their deck size. That was much easier to judge. The reaction was to make big and bulbous hulls under small decks. They were lousy boats. They require something like 30,000 tons of rock ballast. But they worked and cheated the tax collector. More popular were Down-Easter and Clipper. Down Easters were good freight ships. Clippers were smaller yet required bigger crews and were less stable. The one advantage was they were faster. Things small and expensive went by Yankee Clipper.

There was material about life on shipboard. Books were popular for spare time. When ships would meet they would trade books.  I can identify with that.

They also had displays on travels to Hong Kong and Yokohama with items from China and Japan.

The last building is a sea captain's home. A view of a previous age.

Lunch was next on the agenda and we stopped at a restaurant just up the street. Service was slow and the food OK but not great.

Next stop was the Hudson Museum of Anthropology on the campus of the University of Maine at Orono, Maine. This is a small free museum showing native art and artifacts of several cultures. The first culture are Northwest Pacific coast Indian and Inuit. The exhibit shows how animal figures reduced to abstraction. I won't go through the whole museum. They do have pre-Columbian MesoAmerican terra cotta figures, which are always fun. I'm serious. They are really wonderful caricatures, very funny, very human. It isn't a big exhibit. There are parts on three different floors.

Next we headed to Old Town just to see it. It did have a used bookstore owned by Dave, who is quite a character.  He didn't give a last name.

Back to room to write. I tried to put on a little music. I am really disappointed in FM radio, particularly in backwoods places like Bangor. The closest Bangor comes to classical music is an oldies station. Back when I was a kid FM radio was a good place to look for pleasant music. Now I go up and down the dial looking for a station to award the prize in the Music Sound-alike Contest. I keep coming up "No Award."

Then out to eat about 6:30 PM we went to dinner at Atlantic Seafood. Lobster is healthy.

At the room an evening of writing my log. In the background we had the PBS documentary on electric money. Just for the fun of it Evelyn and I will stay up for the late movie on AMC, THE WOLF MAN.

10/04/01 Bangor to Salem, New Hampshire

Our usual breakfast then we checked out. We took the scenic route of Highway #1 South. I don't have a lot to say about the trip because it was my turn to drive. Frequently when I don't have much to say about a drive it is because I don't have a good way to make notes. I remember seeing a restaurant saying they had Boston Baked Beans. It occurred to me that here that means they are beans from down south of here. Most everything American is from down south of here.

The drive is very scenic this time of year. Some trees are already bright red. Some are yellow. I cannot claim I am really into autumn New England, but if I was this would be the real thing with rivers with boats and foliage in all apple colors with white church steeples sticking up. It looks like a picture for a jigsaw puzzle.

About 11:30 we got to Brunswick and the Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain House. Who was Chamberlain? In the most important battle in American history he is generally identified as the most important person. Chamberlain defended Little Round Top at the battle of Gettysburg. For those who have seen the film GETTYSBURG, and our guide assumed that that was the reason most people were interested in Chamberlain, he was played by Jeff Daniels. That film elevated Chamberlain in the public's mind to honored hero from "one of those names associated with the Civil War."

In 1828 Chamberlain was born into a farming family and wanted to be a minister. At Bowdoin College he studied church music. He graduated in 1852 from Bowdoin and in 1855 from Bangor Theological Seminary. That same year he began teaching at Bowdoin and married Fannie Adams, a woman with a congenital problem she knew would blind her by age 40. At Bowdoin he taught religion and rhetoric. In 1862 he was appointed a Lt. Colonel in command of the 20th Maine Volunteers. It turned out they could shoot well but were terrible at marching and would not salute. The troops were sent to Washington to march in a parade as their review before going into battle. They were so bad they ended up being asked to watch the parade from a side street. The 20th saw action at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. Chamberlain was stricken with pneumonia at Fredricksburg.

Then came Gettysburg. The second day Chamberlain, now a colonel, was charged with defending the left flank of the Union line, atop the hill Little Round Top. Lee could have easily gone around his flank but did not want to bypass a confrontation. After several charges up the hill the South had succeeded in using up the 20th's ammunition but had not taken the hill. Chamberlains men had nothing left to do. Chamberlain ordered a bayonet attack. His men were able to stop a much larger force of armed confederates. This one action made his reputation.

He was not so lucky at the Battle of Petersburg, a 10-month siege. He was shot and the bullet pierced his bladder. Chamberlain and his doctors agreed it was a fatal shot. It was not sure how long he would live. Inexplicably he did not die. The wound gave him daily agony for the rest of his life, but he survived. He recovered enough so he was back fighting at end of the war. He was at Appomattox to accept the surrender of the Confederate Infantry. He accepted it from John P Gordon. Rather than accepting Gordon's sword he told Gordon to keep it as if there had been a truce. The two became lifelong friends. Further he had his men salute the Confederates.

One story Chamberlain tells in his remembrances is that during the war his uniform was incredibly faded and at the same time dusty. One in trying to get back to his own men he accidentally rode into a confederate encampment. They could tell his rank but not the color of his uniform any more. It looked gray. The Southerners took him for a Confederate officer. When asked if there was anything they could do for him. Chamberlain said in his best Southern accent, "Just give Lee my regards, I have to ride."

He returned to Maine after the war and found his state impoverished. The Republicans ran him as Governor. He served four one-year terms, though frequently at odds with the party policies. Among things he did was support equal education for women. He also traveled to recruit immigrants to Main from Scandinavia. While most Americans did not want the harsh weather conditions of Maine, he concluded that Scandinavians are used to similar weather conditions.

After his four terms were over he served as president of Bowdoin College. Again he tried radical ideas that were not popular with the faculty. He lived to the age of 85, dying in 1914.

In the tour you mostly see how he decorated his home. It is interesting that he had rented two rooms which apparently he loved. When he got back from the war he had them sawed off of the house and move them to an adjacent lot. Later he had them lifted 11 feet and built a whole house under them.

Touring and looking at his house you don't learn much about him other than his taste. The tour guide just takes you around and tells you about the history of his house and a few stories about Chamberlain. When you arrive at the house you join the next tour. They start every half hour or so. Or you can join the current tour. The guide felt it necessary each time someone joined the tour to recap that last five minutes of what she had said. They probably would do better to just have people wait for the next tour.

Lunch was next in order, but we just ate at McDonalds.

Next was a drive to Freeport, Maine to see the factory outlet that was founded there around the L. L. Bean facilities. I was skeptical that I would find anything for me but I spent about $60 on myself and Evelyn spent about $30 on herself. Big spenders, the Leepers. We went into a total of three stores.

We stopped at Banana Republic. That used to be a really interesting store. It was both clothing and travel information like Lonely Planet books. The clothing was real durable travelers' clothing. Then they decided to kill that image and go in for fashion clothing where there are much bigger profits. That is why there are already hundreds of store chains in that market. They went for style rather than content. I am just waiting for another clothing store to beat them out with a name like Central American Hellhole.

Most of the rest of the day was spent driving and listening to the radio. About 7:15 we got to Salem, New Hampshire. We figured that this was a little closer to Boston so we tried a Chinese restaurant for dinner. This is closer to Boston. The food was decent here though the service was very slow. I generally rate the service of a restaurant on a scale from 10% to 20%. I call that the "tip." This time the service rated a 12%.

We went back to the room. I worked on my log and we watched an episode of Columbo. I used to think these were cleverly written, but in fact it is a sinister formula that I can now see. The weakness of every plot is that Columbo seems to know immediately who committed the crime in spite of every piece of evidence. He investigates a murder and takes a dislike to someone in spite of the evidence. And he just keeps at it until he hangs the culprit. Of course we see that the person he took a dislike to really was the killer. My question has become, what if he took a dislike to the wrong person? You never see that happening. Would he change his mind part of the way through? He usually finds one level of clues that point to one person and a deeper layer of clues that point to someone else. Could he end up finding evidence against an innocent person by a theory that wasn't quite right? Maybe there is a third layer of clues Columbo does not find? It just is a little scary that these things always really come down to Columbo's intuition.

10/05/01 Two Salems

Today we are going from Salem, New Hampshire to Salem, Massachusetts. Popular name Salem. It comes from the Hebrew "shalom" meaning "peace." It also means "hello" and "good-bye." Would you want to live in a town called Good-bye?

The motel claimed they had "Continental Breakfast." Actually it was juice, coffee and a cellophane-wrapped doughnut. We decided to go to a pancake house near the motel. As I look around the room I see most people are just sitting and talking. Only one table of people are eating. The service will probably be slow.

It was. The one waitress seemed overwhelmed by the crowd. She took a long time in getting to our table to take our order. It took a long time to be served. We were eating and the waitress comes to our table and places a dish with a single sausage. Before we can tell her it is not for us she is already across the room. Ten minutes later she has not come back for it so what the heck. We eat it.

Now we are back on the road. As we pass a video store Evelyn reads "Tuesdays, two for 99 cents." "That's a really good deal for people on their deathbeds," I told her. Even a Tuesday is good if you have used up your other days.

First attraction of the day is modestly called America's Stonehenge.

Evelyn and I have been to a lot of archeological sites from the US and Britain to Turkey. Here you walk into the gift shop and immediately they have New Age music playing. Atmosphere, I guess.

Right from the beginning the explanations seemed a little weak on factual information. My feeling was that this was a real archeological site, but not a remarkable one and they desperately wanted to make it sound remarkable. It is a privately owned commercial concern. That immediately means that its first loyalty is to turning a profit, not to spreading scientifically accepted knowledge.

The hard facts in the orientation tape are mostly about how archeology is done. They throw around some estimates of when the site was built but no information as to who did the building. That is OK if it is totally unknown what peoples were here that far back, but most other places in the country they at least have an idea. They give the visitor some ideas as to who might have built it and ask the visitor to imagine who it might have been. That is very democratic, but not a great way to find the truth. It is like telling a third grade class to imagine what might have happened to Amelia Earhart.  It does not obtain useful results.

Instead of putting the site in the context of other prehistoric New England sites, they compare it to other sites in other countries. Most of what supposedly makes this site impressive are the solar and lunar alignments. The claim is that from a certain central point there are stones that represent due north, south, east, and west. It may have been set up that way, but it is questionable. First of all there is a center point from which these stones are north, south, east, and west. But there is nothing pre-existing and original that marks the center point. They have built a stand on top of the point but it looks to be built over a drainage stone. On top of which some of the stones have fallen down. Even the ones that are upright it is not obvious hat year they were placed so the earth's precession has to be accounted for.

There are a lot of rocks in the area so it is not even certain which ones were markers. Several of the buildings on the site are admitted to be reconstructions by people who did not know what structures were present. The marker stones are made to look more dramatic by cutting the woods in front of and behind them. There are supposedly also stones to mark the sunrise and set for dates like February 1, May 1, and November 1. That rules out Native American construction any time prior to the introduction of a European calendar to these lands. That is unless the presence of the stones is mere coincidence. I vote for coincidence.

The gift shop in addition to New Age Music sells New Age books like MESSAGE OF THE SPHYNX, TECHNOLOGY OF THE GODS, VOYAGE TO ATLANTIS, and several others by Graham Hancock, a writer who specializes in arcane theories. They also have a supply of scented candles.  The whole place as the aroma of a New Age scam, at least in the way it is presented.

From there we drove to Salem, Massachusetts. Salem has become very much a tourist town. There are a lot of privately owned commercial museums mostly for the tourists. Salem has taken witchcraft and horror to its heart. All sorts of horror. There are museums of witchcraft and museums of monsters. This is their big month, October. Store sells all sorts of macabre Halloween paraphernalia. Our original plan was to visit museums, but I suggested that it would be more fun just to walk around and look in windows. I won't go into any great detail because that was really about all we did. We did go into a bookstore called the Derby Square Book Store. I am amazed the owner does not get sued. It is just a tiny place and there are far more books than the owner can manage. Books--new books, not used--are just in tall stacks that tower around the visitor. If you want to take a book out of the middle of the stack you risk toppling it onto you.

We walked around town just taking in the sights. The visitor center has a nice documentary on the history of Salem. I am not sure all of it made sense however. They said that the Salem witch trials--it was about the only place in town that did not dwell on them for long--were a lesson about intolerance. They never really explained what they meant. I thought that was very strange. It certainly is a lesson about superstition and there probably are lessons about intolerance from Salem's past, but that is not a lesson of the Salem witch hunt. They hung people who were suspected of being witches. To say it was intolerance leads one to ask what group were they being intolerant of? Witches? If there were real witches, I assume it would be OK to be intolerant of them. If they weren't witches then the witch hunters were going after their own people. I can see a message about superstition, but not about intolerance there. I think they just wanted a message about intolerance and the witch trials appeared convenient because they involved hatred, ignorance, and were a big mistake.  It was more about the dangerous power of paranoid delusions

Following that we walked around town. Down by the water we looked at a three-masted boat, the Friendship, and there is another visitor center from the Parks Service with a film about Salem's past in trading on the seas.

After that we intended to go to Gloucester where we would see Cape Ann the next day. However, it was a holiday weekend and we were afraid that there may not be room at the motels. Also they seemed a tad high-priced. I suggested that we might do better going to Plymouth. I had never been there and Evelyn had been there only when she was young. So we headed in that direction stopping at a Motel Six along the way in Braintree. Dinner was at a local steak house, the Hilltop Steak House and Butcher Shop. Everything with the dinner was perfect except that the steak was not very good.

10/06/01 Braintree to New Jersey

The phone rang at about 4 AM. Apparently there was some sort of package that was delivered and addressed to our room. It was not for us.

They are announcing on the news that a man has died of anthrax. They keep saying that there is no evidence that it has anything to do with terrorism. Nobody is giving the obvious statistic. That statistic is how often does a case come up by chance. Particularly because this is near where a terrorist boarded a plane and because there have been no statements as to how likely it could have been a result of chance, it probably is a terrorist attack. The argument against it being terrorism being used is that there is only one victim. That is not at all surprising. I think more were intended, but the terrorists did not know how to do it. The cult in Japan tried several attempts at nerve gas and I think even biological and had to try several times before one worked. I think the frequency of natural occurrence is so small it would point strongly to terrorism and probably cause a panic.  [Postscript: This paragraph, which has proved prescient, is just as I wrote it on October 6.]

We checked out early and went to Plymouth. There was a diner-like restaurant on the main street and we had breakfast. It was a pretty good breakfast. I think you usually can do better at a private restaurant rather than a chain.

We went down to the water and there in a portico was Plymouth Rock. Or so people claim. It can't be much more than a meter wide. It is patched from having been moved in 1774. The pilgrims founded Plymouth on Dec. 21, 1620, (or so people claim) establishing a settlement that became the seat of Plymouth Colony in 1633 and a part of Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691. Why the disclaimers? The rock itself was first venerated in 1741. The rock that would be celebrated was pointed out by somebody who claimed his father who had been on the Mayflower had pointed out. The odds are pretty good it was not really the original rock. And then there is the date. Well that date is a Monday in the Gregorian Calendar and a Thursday in the Julian Calendar. The Pilgrims used the Julian Calendar being Protestants. So that date was a Thursday in their calendar. And they said in their logs that they landed on a Monday. That is probably the date they landed, but it is not what they called the date. More likely they said they landed on Dec. 11 Julian which was Dec. 21 Gregorian.

The Mayflower II sits in the harbor there. We walked over and took a look at it. It is surprisingly small. It also may not really be very much like the Mayflower. Incidentally there is no reference to the boat being called the Mayflower until 1623 and then only obliquely. It is sure there was a boat, but its name is not entirely certain. There are multiple boats at the time that could have been the Mayflower even if that was its name.  So they are not even sure which Mayflower it would be.

From there we went to the Pilgrim Hall Museum. This is a two-floor museum, the oldest continuously running museum in the US. Exhibits include William Bradford's Bible, Myles Standish's sword, paintings of the first Thanksgiving, a tape on the story of the Pilgrims. The lower hall looks at the first century of the Massachusetts colony. There are example of armor the Puritans wore, etc. The Sparrow-Hawk is tiny boat that brought 25 people across the ocean. It is pretty incredible considering its size. Just a skeleton is left and is on display. There is a tape telling the story of the Pilgrims.

This is not how they told it, this is my take. Puritanism had been around for a while but this was a new division of it led by some charismatic personality ministers who after thousands of years of civilization had just recently figured out what was truly God's will (or so they believed). They were anxious to get started being intolerant of those people who still saw things differently. Unfortunately England was simply littered with people who were still skeptical that the Puritans had found the One True Belief and insisted on believing in their ignorance that they themselves had found the One True Belief. The only principle they agreed on was that the people of the One True Belief really had a responsibility to force others to see things the same way.

This particular sect started in Scrooby near York and wanted to be separatists. In 1607-8 they went to Low Countries thinking that they could worship their brand of religion there free from interference when they tried make others believe the same way. Wrong. So they left again. They decided that America was unpopulated by anyone who were real people. They bought a couple of boats to travel to Virginia. One boat proved too leaky to make the journey. The sturdier of the two, which would at least eventually be called the Mayflower, made the journey. However they landed at Cape Cod and after a few attempts decided it was too dangerous to go south. A storm blew them into Plymouth. They decided to stay there, landing December 11, 1620 (Julian).

The Pilgrims were unprepared for life in Massachusetts and many died in first winter. They did get aid from the local Indians and with the Indian Massasoit they made peace agreements. They nearly starved when the English seed they had brought failed, but Indian seed they were given grew.  Now this was a problem because the non-Christian Indians behaved more "Christianly" than the Pilgrims. Autumn 1621 they invited the local Indians to a three-day feast. It was attended by 90 Indians and 52 settlers. And that's why we have Thanksgiving.  They thanked their god for what the Indians had done, which must have puzzled the Indians no end.  But at least the Indians were invited to the feast, even if it probably did not feature their cuisine of choice.  (I think I wrote about all this in school. Every November.) Plymouth has big celebrations. October is Salem's month, November belongs to Plymouth.

Also in the museum were furniture, weapons, some light coverage of the American Revolution, cloth patterns. There is a governor's chair you can actually sit in. I think it was intended to show that the chair was uncomfortable, but after all the walking around, it was fine by me.

That is about it. We made a quick visit to Cemetery Hill and then headed home.

On the way we decided to eat on Yale campus at a vegetarian restaurant called Claire's Corner Copias. What I thought was a Mexican combination patter turned out to be Nachos with multiple toppings. Evelyn's Tabouli Sandwich turned out to be less exciting than a Tabouli Sandwich sounds.

And that was it.
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