Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fourth Quarterly Report Self-Interview August 25, 2014

Q:  What ho, Dude!  Wait up.
A:  Hi, what?  What?
Q:  I have been trying to catch up with you.  You are a hard man to find.
A:  Huh.  Don’t know what you mean.  I’ve just been living my life.  Day to day, moving forward.
Q:  Well, let me grab you for a few minutes and get some updates.  You remember every three months you and I have talked about the previous months and how thing have been going on the trip.
A:  Ah. The trip.  That’s right.  I remember.  What is it you want to know?
The 47 States
 Q:  Well, I guess, first, it’s been over a year now since your sabbatical started.  Is the trip over?
A:  That’s rather difficult to determine.  I mean, I am in Austin.  We arrived August 6th. I am back at work at Austin Community College doing the same job I was doing before.  However, the family is living in a trailer park off a highway near the airport.  We won’t be able to return to our house for another week or two, as our renters have until the end of the month of vacate and move on themselves. 
Q:  What are you thinking about that?
A:  You know, it’s all beginning to get a little old.  I often say that I can survive anything, for a while.  People have it way worse than I do.  I mean, there are dozens of folks in this trailer park who are living here full time with no plans to leave.  But here we are in Austin, and it is hotter than the blazes.  I am back at work.  Captain has started school.  We have to get him there by 7:45 in the morning. Dr. J. begins his classes tomorrow.   So we are all coming and going in the daytime and all piled in together in the Caravan at night.  It’s crowded.  The air conditioner is struggling.  We are all hunkered down doing our duties, rather than exploring and having fun.
Q:  Doesn’t sound like fun.
A:  It’s not.  But you know, it won’t last.  Soon we will be back in the house.  We will have our routines, and it will be like nothing ever happened.  Happily ever after.  American amnesia, and all that.
Q:  You don’t really mean that, do you?
Mural in Ashland, Wisconsin
A:  Sort of yes, sort of no.  Already, when I go back and read a blog post from last October or something I will have twinges of anxiety because of things I have already forgotten.  That made me start thinking of the various blog posts that I never got around to writing.  I have been  thinking about the United Flight 93 Memorial and the Johnstown Flood Museum.  I wonder when I try to write about that day, or our visit to Harper’s Ferry and Antietam, will I remember the details clearly enough?   I worry about that.
Q:  Well to help you along a little.  Let’s do some reviewing.  We last talked when you were in Los Angeles, back on May 11.  What have you been up to?
A:  Wow, that’s a big one.  This final quarter, from May to beginning of August, has been very eventful.  The first thing I should say is that this part of the trip had a totally different feel.  It’s a world in which your feeling and conception of self is totally dominated by the landscape.  I mean if I just listed the national parks, one gets the idea:  Sequoia, Yosemite, Muir Woods, Crater Lake, Olympia, Ranier, Glacier, Yellowstone, The Badlands.  This is nature writ large.  Such a different feel from the East or South.
Q:  Is that all you did?  Visit national parks?
A Perfect Day on the North Fork
of Flathead River
A:  No.  But besides Los Angeles and San Francisco, both of which we gave about a week—like we did Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.—we stayed in or near smaller towns.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  We also visited Portland, Oregon, and Kansas City, Missouri.   But mostly, Knightmama and I discovered—or rather rediscovered—our appreciation of towns in the 20-60 thousand citizen range.  Maybe a little smaller, maybe a little bigger.  Knightsmama emphasizes on the word “scale.”  I think we have both become a little wary and weary of larger cities and all their troubles.  Some towns we really liked were Corvalis and Astoria, Oregon.  Port Angeles, Washington.  Bozeman and Missoula and Livingston, Montana.  Ashland, Wisconsin.  Put me near a river or a lake in a town that has one or two of everything, coffee shop, bookstore, natural grocer, bakery, brewery, usually a college nearby, and I think I would be happy.  Knightsmama would add mountains to the list. 
Q:  Tell me about your favorite days. 
A:  Again that is really a difficult questions.  One was riding our bikes along the beach from Hermosoa Beach to Santa Monica, watching the boys exercise on Venice Beach.  Another is a day in San Francisco in which we toured Alcatraz then walked over to China Town and caught the Beat Museum and City Lights along the way.  The visit to the Sequoias.  A home barbecue of salmon and scallops in the campground near Astoria.  Tasting whiskey in Montana.  Watching Dr. J. at a car museum in Montana.  The Buffalo in Yellowstone.  The evening program at Mount Rushmore.  Meeting up with an old friend in Wisconsin and another in Kansas City.  Playing baseball at the Field of Dreams in Iowa. 
Q:  Sounds wonderful.
A:  It is.  The Caravan of Wonder.
Q:  People sometimes wonder about expenses.  Have you had any unexpected events to rattle the pocket book.
Kansas City Jazz Museum and
Negro Baseball League Museum
A:  The happy answer is no.  I hadn’t thought about it.  But you know we did have some major problems with The Big Ass Truck back in Williams, Arizona, and with the Caravan back in Needles, California.  But for the past three months, things have been pretty steady.  On the last day of the trip, when I drove the boys down to Austin so that we could get the Captain in school the next day, somehow the closet that Knightsmama and I share really got banged up, plus several drawers busted loose.  Interstate 35 is a rough one for some reason.  But I have already repaired the closet, and this weekend I will tackle the drawers.
Q:  In looking at the blog posts, I notice a bunch of academic type writing.  Do you want to talk about that?
A:  Not really.  Or not much.  Part of my proposal for my sabbatical dealt with my taking some classes so that I will be able to teach a course in the Humanities.  I used to teach that class, but about a decade ago the regional agency that certifies the college’s accreditation forced the college to change the qualifications of those who teach Humanities.  As I look to my last years of teaching, I have been thinking that I would like to teach this course again with some focus on technology and the great books.  So while on the trip I had to take a few courses, and while they distracted me and prevented me from joining the family on several adventures while I stayed in the trailer and read and wrote, they also provided an interesting background to the trip.  In the spring, I got to read Adam Smith and Max Weber, and in summer, I read Tom Paine and Lewis and Clark’s journals
Q:  Lewis and Clark?  That must have been interesting.
A:  Very much so.  In fact, Lewis and Clark provided a major organizing theme to our last six weeks.  We traveled from Astoria, Oregon, where Lewis and Clark’s expedition camped before returning east.  In Montana:  Missoula, Traveler’s Rest, Livingston.  In North Dakota: Fort Mandan, Sacagawea monuments.  And, of course, one of our early visits was St. Louis and the Museum of Western Expansion.  I had also visited Clark’s grave when I was in St. Louis. 
Q:  What else?
A Road Side Stop in Eastern Washington State
A:  I have to say, I was also very moved by the battles between the 7th Calvary and the Sioux.  The sight of the Battle of the Little Bighorn is frightening.  The museum for the Battle of Wounded Knee is sobering.  There is nothing else to say but that this is a terrible stain upon our nation’s history.  You go there, and then you end up at Mount Rushmore in the mountains once allocated to the Sioux and then taken back, and you just sit with this strange soup of mixed feelings of pride and shame. 
Q:  Sounds like you have some conflicts and, shall we say, unresolved issues. 
A:  Yes, of course.  I wonder how one cannot have these issues.  I think it is pretty clear historically that the American government, the American military, and some American citizens repeatedly lied and cheated, made and broke agreements with Native Americans throughout our history.  It is true that settlers just kept pouring over the Appalachians and later the Mississippi River.  There was no stopping them.   It is also true that the Native Americans fought back and killed settlers and soldiers.  At this point in my life I am a little hesitant to romantically divest myself of my Anglo Heritage and play Indian, as we hippie types did in the 60s.  I don’t want to appropriate a culture that I doesn’t belong to me.  On the other hand, I just can’t wave the flag and proclaim the innocence of Mom and Apple Pie.   I think where I end up, and I am somewhat uncomfortable in this position, is just sitting back and accepting that human history is violent and cruel.  There is nothing really to do but accept it and move on.  We have winners and losers.
Q:  That’s cold.
A:  I suppose it is.  I sort of feel like Henry Kissinger.   Real Politics.  Populations move around.  Huge forces are at work.  You can’t stop them; you just try to manage them.  I think of my hometown, Austin.  Personally, I don’t like the changes that are occurring here.  Too many people are moving in.  The culture is changing from Texas Sixties Laid Back to California Hipster Go Getter.  Sure, back in the eighties there were folks who wanted to make money and began urging Austin out of its slumber.  We protested and voted.  But, you know, there was no stopping it.  It is not about morality or The Good.  It’s about money, capital, security, The Good Life, The Pursuit of Happiness.
Q:  Go on.
Salem Sue
A:  One of the interesting movements in America that Knightsmama and I became aware of during the past year was the life and death and occasional rebirth of American cities.  The poster child for the death of an American city is Detroit, which is a huge and devastating tragedy.  Driving in the town really is as sad as the news reports intimate.  Beautiful buildings abandoned.  Vast open spaces where family homes once stood.  An even more dramatic example is Cairo, Illinois.  You just weep as you drive through the town.  But then, there are towns like Ashland, Wisconsin, which once was vibrant with industry, but fell upon hard times as economies shifted.  Now, however, there are a few citizens determined to remake the town.  Knightsmama met a man who is buying and restoring a beautiful old school building and the old train station.  Plus, a couple of artists have been commemorating the town’s history with a series of amazing murals all around town.  In addition, other folks have taken over old buildings down town and established a bakery, a coffee shop, a couple of natural grocery stores, a brewery, and a couple of interesting restaurants.  Houses are still affordable.   The same is true of several towns we visited, such as Astoria, Oregon; Livingston, Montana; Knoxville, Tennessee, on a slightly larger scale; and even Portsmouth, Ohio, where the son of my former office mate at Texas A&M is the force behind the revitalization. 
Q:  Anything else?
Harry Truman in Independence
A:  Water.  The western part of this nation is in a terrible drought.  We know Texas is.  But throughout the west.  Lake Powell, Lake Mead, even Crater Lake are losing water every year.  It is astounding to see the lines on the sides of these lakes marking where water once rose to.  California’s fruit basket is just drying up, like the Central Texas and the coast, where rice farming has ended.  Companies are buying up the rights to ground and underground water.  If the drought doesn’t end, water is going to be rare and expensive. 
Q:  Well, do we end on that happy note?

A:  No.  I’m sorry. But following the trip, Knightsmama and I talk about moving.  She has many reasons to, but I have one major one.  Heat and Drought.  If something pulls me away from my college and the city that I have lived in since 1971, it will be water.   But let me end with gratitude.  I am very grateful I have had the experience I have had.  I am very grateful for the people who kept up with our travels through this blog and through Facebook.  The readers were so kind and encouraging.  I end the adventure really liking the people of the United States.  I love our history, all its glory and pain.  I love the art and literature of the nation.  I love the landscape from Bar Harbor to Port Angeles to Los Angeles to Asheville.  And I love my family.  They were perfect traveling companions.  Bars, beaches, baseball, bikes, museums, monuments, cemeteries, and natural wonders.  It was quite a year!

Soundtrack.  The Doors:  "The End."

Machine Gun Kelly:  "End of the Road."  

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