Saturday, October 3, 2009

Blog #108: A Spine Implant, plus More Camp Memories

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Would You Believe? A Democrat with Spine?

Rep. Alan Grayson, D. Florida

Little Eddy would like to offer cheers for Representative Alan Grayson, Democrat of Florida, who stood up in the U. S. House of Representatives and turned the spotlight of Truth on the Republican Health Care plan. Complete with flash cards he exposed the Republican Health Care plan for exactly what it is, which is A.W.O.L. (Absent WithOut Leave). According to Representative Grayson, (1) “The Republican Plan, Do Not Get Sick. (2) But if you do get sick. . .(3) Die Quickly!” The Flip Cards he turned over were icing on the cake.

Hosanna! It’s about goddamn time some Democrat had the guts to expose the Republican strategy for what it is. The party of No has somehow decided that it is in their interests to serve the American people not by working in their interests but by fighting the president tooth and nail on each and every front. Representative Grayson turned those Republican charges of “death panels” right back on them, pointing out that their plan does nothing for people, hoping that they will die quickly presumably. He pointed out the Republican lack of concern in no uncertain terms. Republicans tried making a big deal of out of it by demanding an apology. But apologize for what? For telling the truth? For summing up the current Health Care situation in terms that the American people, even Republicans, can understand? Really?

Rep. Grayson went to the trouble of showing up in person for an appearance on Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room Wednesday, to back up his fighting words. He even used the alliteration dreamed up by the late William Safire for vice president Spiro Agnew back in the dark days of Vietnam, calling the Republican obstructionists, “Nattering Nabobs of Negativity.

Right on, Congressman Grayson! You may not have been terribly original with your “nabobs” quote, but you did manage to cut through many layers of Republican BS to call the situation exactly as it is. And we may or may not ultimately get a health care bill which allows a public option to defuse the for-profit insurance companies, but we came a giant step closer to it following your pointed tirade. The Democrats may yet see a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel, because Rep. Grayson opened an awful lot of eyes and ears with his presentation Tuesday evening.

Mr. Grayson left his flashcards at home, but made a highly lucid appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show on msnbc, and thanks to the Daily Beast we can bring you the excerpt below.

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Lucy on the Ground, No Diamonds

From the EntertainmentTimesOnline:

Lucy O’Donnell was four years old when her classmate at nursery drew a picture of her, surrounded it with stars and took it home to show his parents. “It’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds,” Julian Lennon told his father, inspiring one of the Beatles’ most enigmatic songs and carving his friend a slice of musical immortality.

This week it emerged that Lucy, now known by her married name Vodden, died last week after suffering for years from lupus, a disease of the immune system. She was 46.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, written in the midst of the Beatles’ flirtation with psychedelia and included on the ground-breaking Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album in 1967, had mystified pundits for years. The lyrics and especially the prominence of the letters L, S and D in the title were widely interpreted as drug references.

Mrs Vodden thought differently. “It was a long time ago and I don't remember that particular drawing,” she said in June, “but I'm told Julian went back and told his dad 'it's Lucy my friend in the sky with diamonds', and it stuck.” She added, “I can't stand the song. I don't feel I can relate to it. I just don't like it. I don't see a four-year-old kid running around with kaleidoscopic eyes. It doesn't make sense.”

One can readily understand Ms Vodden’s disdain. After all, a song about a “girl with kaleidoscope eyes” and a world where “rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies” is enough to scare the hell out of any four year old. You can read more of Ms Vodden’s story here!

But the page also has a link to it for some John Lennon interview cassettes that have been sitting around for years. Recorded by Times writer Ray Connolly, he recently uncovered them. There follows some refreshing Lennon speak never heard before. You can access the entire article here!

Mr. Connolly: Listening to the tapes, and hearing John’s singsong voice again after all these years, has led to some poignant memories. But what has stayed with me most from all the interviews is the vitality of the man, and that straight-faced, British, tongue-in-cheek delivery he had. A very generous person, he would say: "I can’t think about money. It rains in and rains out. I always wanted to be an eccentric millionaire, and now I am."

Mr. Connolly: John on his education made me laugh: "If I’d had a better education, I wouldn’t have been me. When I was at grammar school I thought I’d go to university, but I didn’t get any GCEs. Then I went to art school and thought I’d go to the Slade and become a wonder. But I never fitted in. I was always a freak, I was never lovable. I was always Lennon!"

Mr. Connolly: Then there’s John, as forthright as ever when I suggested he might like to write a musical. "No. No musicals. I loathe musicals. I never did have a plan for doing one. My cousin made me sit through some f***ing musical twice. I just hate them. They bore me stiff. I think they’re just horrible. Even Hair. And they’re always lousy music." What he would have made of Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas show Love, an interpretation of the Beatles’ records, would have been interesting to know.

Mr. Connolly: John, talking about a Hare Krishna group who’d been painting a little temple in the grounds of Tittenhurst Park near Ascot, which was briefly his home, was typical. "I had to sack them. They were very nice and gentle, but they kept going around saying ‘peace’ all the time. It was driving me mad. I couldn’t get any f***ing peace."

And finally there’s John in 1970 being ominously prophetic. "I’m not going to waste my life as I have been, which was running at 20,000 miles an hour. I have to learn not to do that, because I don’t want to die at 40."

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Yet Another Most Unmusical Rant

We’ve been hearing a lot these days about the Apple stores, and how they are redefining marketing. The video below, in a most unmusical way, pays homage to Apple’s innovative retailing experience.

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Turning the Tables on Apple

It takes a lot of guts for a tiny company to stand up against the Apple juggernaut these days. One such company is doubletwist, which sells a tool to allow you to save your iTunes music collection to any product, Apple or non Apple. And most arrogantly doubletwist made a commercial taking Apple’s most iconoclastic commercial of all time, Ridley Scott’s famous 1984 commercial introducing the Macintosh, and doing a parody of it using the face of a Steve Jobs look alike as big brother.

More Stream of Consciousness Camp Memories

Emailing a friend recently I noted that one of the main characteristic of old age is that as you age and gradually get more incapacitated you get more deeply involved in your memories. And it’s beginning to look like eventually your memories are about all you have left.

Last week I reminisced about my life in two of the three New England Children’s Camps I was fortunate enough to be able to work in. This week I would like to turn my attention onto the third camp, Blueberry Cove Camp in Tenants Harbor, Maine.

Although Vermont’s Killooleet (named for a bird call, by the way) offered the most idyllic experience in working with children, after six years it began to seem just a wee bit cut and dried, and I got a yearning for that thing Barack Obama went out of his way to sell us on during the last presidential campaign, “change”. For one thing I was really getting into sleep-over trips, and Killooleet had only two per summer. Several of my campers had attended Blueberry Cove camp before coming to K., and their faces would light up in a most serene way as they reflected back on their experiences there, and this served to tweak my curiosity even more. And so I decided to pursue the matter by writing to Henry and Bess Haskell, owners/directors of B.B.C., and it was so ordained that I would move to Blueberry Cove the following summer.

First striking difference between the two camps was their locations. As I described it last week, Vermont is a bit like finding yourself surrounded by, or engulfed in, a Kodachrome picture post card. Its beauty may be described as the height of tranquility. Sort of like the surface of the moon, but heavily foliaged and in vivid Technicolor.

Maine on the other hand, is more basic, and a lot more primitive. For one thing, being on the ocean makes for an entirely different experience, including a low tide which robs you of all of your water once a day, and when the tide is in you have the coldest water this side of a block of ice. I also found the trips from BBC a little more compelling, trips like climbing Tumbledown Mountain, or somewhat longer hiking and climbing Mt. Ketahdin, which is the northern most termination point for the Appalachian Trail. I also found it refreshing to work with slightly younger children.

Mount Katahdin, Baxter State Park, ME

Although most of my experiences were with children some of my most engaging experiences in the 12 years that followed found me interacting with the Maine environment. And one of my first vivid experiences happened one night early on during my first summer when I found myself out in the Harbor in a rowboat, watching fishermen netting thousands of tiny fish which would later be steamed and canned and sold to the country as Maine Sardines.

The drama had begun around dusk when a Norwegian pilot/fish spotter named Hugo Lehtinen, flying low in his yellow, bottomless pontoon biplane, spotted a run of herring which had wandered into Tenants Harbor. As darkness closed in a fishing boat was dispatched, it dispersed two large skiffs from which large fishnets were thrown, then gathered. A counselor named Peggy Reiman who had spent several summers in Maine as both camper and counselor, was describing to me what was taking place out in the harbor, and together we took a row boat out to watch the proceedings from a closer vantage point.

The night air was still, the sky black, the harbor’s water almost devoid of movement. As we closed in although you could see or hear nothing unusual, you had a feeling of being in the midst of a lot of energy. As we rowed closer we could see the spectacle of rapidly moving fishermen, illuminated by lights on board the larger fishing vessel, which had spawned the two rowing boats, which in turn had spawned the laying and reeling in of the nets, and the depositing of their catch, consisting of thousands of tiny fish into a large tank on the deck of the Mother boat.

It was a fascinating spectacle, extremely surreal as the fishermen who were engaged in a whirlwind of activity, could not help but have been well aware of our presence, and yet they were paying absolutely no attention to us. It was as if we really weren’t there.

Some Camp Statistics

As best I remember Blueberry Cove consisted of around fifty children, twenty counselors, and maybe four or five kitchen staff. Bessie Haskell, who supervised the children’s nutrition, was a stickler for a balanced diet. Bessie saw to it that breakfast included both a hot cereal, (oatmeal, grits, Ralston, Maypo), healthy cold cereals like Cheerios, Rice Krispies, and the like, plus occasional breakfast staples like eggs, bacon, and sausages. Speaking of meals, like many camps, the large meal of the day was the one served in the middle of the day. This is really best for the digestive system, even though much modern day working requires that many of us eat our primary meal in the evening. But it is far healthier if you eat your large meal midday.

Blueberry Cove had many of the usual camp activities, like shop, art, and such, although it also utilized its unique environment with activities like blueberry picking, fishing, gardening and the like. Most camps are much larger than BBC, and the larger numbers of children require more careful planning of activity periods well in advance, and schedules are usually posted in a public place, so both counselors and campers are well informed as to where they should go and when. At Blueberry Cove, after breakfast each morning, the entire camp would come together for what we called morning Council, at which either Henry or Bessie would probe both counselors and campers alike for suggestions for the morning’s activities.

Since there were relatively few regularly scheduled activities, there were opportunities to do activities which were different, and which were unique to the Maine countryside. Activities like working in the garden and picking blueberries and other berries growing wild down the hill and in the foliage bordering camp were popular activities at certain times of the year. So was taking a trail over to the Ocean’s side of the peninsular to enjoy a natural phenomenon called the Spouting Horn. At certain times when tides and winds were just right large boulders were whipped around in a cave lying just at the water line, resulting in a spout of sea water rising twenty or so feet in the air. It was a very impressive natural phenomenon, and when conditions were right it made a great activity, especially during the parents visiting weekend.

Other activities included horseback riding, boating, fishing and the usual camp fare. But the unplanned in advance, improvisational quality of the morning Council was the biggest difference I found upon my arrival at BBC. A dependable and stable routine gave campers and counselors alike the freedom to be truly creative in their daily choice of activities.

Henry Counseled the Counselors

Henry Haskell was fifteen years younger than Bessie, but they were as much of a team as any I have seen, as John and Ellie Seeger had been at Killooleet. Henry and Bess may have been the camp directors, and Henry considered his job to be evangelist for the children, but he did most of his counseling with the counselors. This was especially true the year the Surgeon General of the United States declared that cigarettes caused cancer and were a danger to our health. At the time I was smoking little cigarette-sized cigars called Trends. (In my nicotine addled brain I had theorized that it was the paper that cigarettes were wrapped in that was the trouble, and that switching to a cigarette wrapped in a tobacco leaf would be hunky dory. Cigarette smokers will sell themselves a mile high bill of goods to keep from confronting the only real solution to their problem, which of course is completely quitting.)

Henry tried his best to reason his counselors off smoking, although it was several years down the road that I finally quit myself. However, looking back at my life I realized that it was when I began smoking at age sixteen that I first developed bronchitis, and began to fracture my lungs. But what is even more disturbing, everyone I have known who smoked has since died, most from lung cancer. I smoked for 30 years, from age 16 to age 46. Quitting smoking was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, more than once I pounded the walls of my Brooklyn apartment in frustration, but I did manage to quit. For good that is.

How to Get a Leech to Turn Loose

The only exceptions to my no cigarette lifestyle were when we were swimming in a fresh water pond or lake and one of the campers found that a leech had attached itself to an arm or leg. The campers never felt anything from the leech because the little devils give off an anesthetic which deadens the victims feelings so they never knew they have a little blood sucker attached until someone calls it to their attention. And you must not simply panic and pull the leech off, for if you do you will take a substantial chunk of the child’s flesh along with it.

My solution to the problem was to get a cigarette from one of the counselors who smoked, light it, take a couple of puffs, then touch the burning end of the cigarette to the leech. This caused the little sucker to turn loose pronto, and of its own free will, thereby saving the kid from losing a healthy chunk of his flesh. I’ve been told that pouring salt on the leech would accomplish the same result, but I never put it to a test, as there was a better chance of getting a cigarette from a counselor rather than finding salt on a trip. After the leech was removed I would always take one more last puff for old times’ sake before handing the cigarette back to the counselor. But it was never more than one puff. Once I had quit I was never tempted to backslide.

As I look back at Blueberry Cove some of the things I remember most warmly were the all-camp get togethers. The swimming, the singing, and most especially Feast Day, Lobster Feast and the 4th of July bonfire.

An 8 year old camper named Pierra gingerly holds her lobster just before dunking it into a pot of boiling water. – photo by Ed Badeaux

Two Feasts for Mind and Soul

Feast day was an entire day dedicated to the gathering and cooking of a meal. It consisted of each group gathering some food or other and preparing it for the entire camp. Some groups cleaned out the garden, others went to the shore to dig for clams, mussels, periwinkles, crabs and the like, others went fishing. The food was prepared over campfires down on the beach, and those fifty children, many of them from the city who would probably touch nothing more esoteric than a frankfurter at home, suddenly found themselves caught up in the fever of discovery, wildly trying things they never would have dreamed of eating if their parents had offered it to them. Every year Feast Day turned into a day of discovery, and in spite of occasional specks of sand, the food was delicious, the day incomparable.

Lobster feast was very much like Feast day, except the main dish was a lot more expensive. But Henry and Bess thought it necessary to give each camper a Maine experience. At Lobster Feast each group had its own campfire with a bucket of water boiling on it. Each camper was given a genuine Maine lobster, with which they could play for a time before dousing it in the pot of boiling water. Once in awhile a camper might feel squeamish about casting his new friend into the boiling water. It was then that we counselors would do our best to explain that lobsters were cold blooded creatures who did not feel pain. To any who might notice the death throes of the crustacean as it hit the boiling water would seem to give the lie to our assurances, but we chalked it up to reflexes, and most kids were far too excited to worry about it anyway. As for the objections of the squeamish, Henry and Bess felt that children are too removed from where their food, and particularly their meat, comes from. They felt the experience with their lobster would teach them an invaluable lesson about where their food comes from and what we have to do to with it to prepare it for eating.

The 4th of July Bonfire

The entire Blueberry Cove lines up on the dock on the 4th of July to watch the annual BBC bonfire. – photo by Ed Badeaux

The other red letter day at Blueberry Cove came on the 4th of July. Low Tide had to come by late afternoon for it to work, but the tides cooperated on my every year there. Anyway, the full day was devoted to scouting the peninsula for fallen trees and other downed dead wood, gathering it up, cutting it to size, and trucking it to camp. Deadwood was gathered by the truckload, brought to camp and deposited down by the shore. In the late afternoon a bonfire was erected on the beach below the high tide mark, and at dark, with the entire camp lined up on the dock, the fire was lit. (So a little gasoline was used to speed ignition, but who’s telling?) There is nothing quite as conducive to reflective meditation than gazing into a blazing fire. And the thought in every camper’s mind was pride that their hard days work scrounging around for wood had resulted in the beautiful fire that blazed before them. The sight of the entire camp lined up on that dock, and the expressions of wonder at the gigantic fire they had helped build, made for unforgettable memories. There was only one other fire in memory which topped a summer’s 4th of July bonfire, but that’s a tale I’ll save for another time.

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And so as the remains of our bonfire crackles and spews in the incoming tide, and after a time the blackened remains float out to sea, so too does another edition of the Little Eddy Blog plod along to its inevitable conclusion, and once again it is time for us to trundle off and do whatever it is we do when we’re not busy writing our blog.

We post a new blog each Saturday morning. You have our standing invitation to mosey back here any time next week, at which time we’ll do some more musing which we dearly hope you might find amusing. But for now, bye bye.

The Real Little Eddy

1 comment:

Truth Serum said...

I too remember the summer of 1968, eating periwinkle snails on feast day. I have only vague memories of Bess, but vivid memories of Henry balancing on his one plank wide dock.