Chrissy and I drove to Keene, NH today. Keene reminded Chrissy and me of Bedford Falls, the place where the old Jimmy Stewart movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” was set. Like so many places around here, it is really cute. The area around is features ski trails and white water rafting. It seems like a fun place to live, although probably not exciting for those uninterested in either outdoor activities or looking at historical buildings or antiques.
The yellow building in the picture is a museum for furniture and antiques from the houses of the local elite from the nineteenth century. Keene was a mill town. Factories were set up to make textiles. They took advantage of the waterpower of the Connecticut River. Chrissy was looking forward to going to the museum, but it was closed for some kind of meeting. It shows the mindset of these little towns. They close things when they feel like it. This is like another movie, “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.” He comes from a little town called Mandrake Falls, NH and brings these small town values to New York. This was a good movie with Gary Cooper as Mr. Deeds. Recently the movie was remade with Adam Sandler playing Mr. Deeds. Naturally, Sandler brought all his nasty, dumb humor to the role and ruined all the subtlety and charm. I hate Adam Sandler movies.
On the way back we passed Franklin Pierce’s. He is the president that I usually forget when I am trying to think of the list of presidents. He didn’t do much memorable, but he is remembered locally because he is the only president born in the state of New Hampshire. New Hampshire is tiny state and the Piece’s hometown is a tiny place called Hillsboro. They don’t have many famous people around here. The house is better than most of the houses I have seen from the period. The rooms are large and they look comfortable. Franklin’s father built the house in 1804. He built it originally as a tavern. That is probably why the house was so nice. They needed the rooms for dinning rooms and guest apartments. The house was closed, but as we walked around outside a woman pulled up who was a curator. She let us in and gave us the tour. I guess if you live in Hillsboro, you don’t want potential visitors to miss your town’s attraction.
The drive is beautiful. New Hampshire is generally very beautiful. We are becoming accustomed to pretty scenes and don’t notice them too often. This part of New Hampshire is called Currier and Ives Country after the scenes that appeared on the 19th Century prints.
Our time in New Hampshire is almost through. Yesterday we sold our house in Londonderry. I feel sad about moving, but we never really bonded with the place. I guess we will have to hit the road again searching for the home we never found. Now we are back in the Towne Place Inn in Manchester. There is symmetry. This is the same place we started and I will drive the same road to take the boys to school, only now I won’t continue on to Tufts. We are off to Virginia on June 19, stopping along the way in West Point. The Fletcher School experience is quickly receding into mythological memory. My computer crashed the last day of classes. It is courteous of the old machine that it waited until I didn’t really need it, but I lost most of my records. It goes to show that you should back up. I don’t think I lost anything I can’t replace. I remember most of the “big ideas” and they may even improve by being rethought.
I spent most of yesterday watching the Reagan funeral. What a big affair. He was my hero, a great man. Ronald Reagan’s clarion call to fight communism is one reason I went into the Foreign Service. We shall not soon see his like again. I think the outpouring of respect caught the establishment by surprise. Many of our intellectual elite liked to think of him as an amiable dunce. I always believed that history would be kinder to him than were contemporary pundits, but I am surprised how fast history is catching up with the old man. The thing I find surprising is how some memories are also changed. Dozens of pundits talked about the end of the Cold War. The ones on the right gave Reagan his proper share of credit for ending it on our terms. Those on the left said things like, “the Soviet Union was falling by itself, as we all knew.” I started the Foreign Service in 1984. I can’t recall even one mainstream pundit who thought that the Soviet Empire would disappear anytime soon. On the contrary, many thought the democracies would have to make serious accommodations to communism. World communism seemed on the ascent back then. Reagan was one of the only ones who saw the weakness in communism and for that he was derided as an “amiable dunce” or “reactionary fool” by the chattering classes, the same ones who now see the collapse of that benighted system as obviously known and forgone. I don’t really believe they have forgotten, since many have left written records, but they are covering, trusting in the notoriously short public memory to put them retroactively on the right side of history. I admit to some fault. I voted for Jimmy Carter in my first election (1976). It was a youthful indiscretion, but I am proud to say that I came to my senses and voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980. Mine was probably one of the few votes for him at the Webster Street polling place deep inside the “peoples republic” of Madison, Wisconsin. I am convinced if Jimmy Carter had been reelected in 1980, followed by Walter Mondale in 1984, we would still face the Soviet Union today, or worse it would have gone down in a bloody mess and taken us along. Defeatists and pessimists don’t make good leaders, no matter how intelligent, honest or admirable, and I do admire Jimmy Carter. He was much smarter in the academic sense. He had success at Camp David and started deregulation. It is just that overall he is a much better ex-president than he was a president. Maybe he should have just jumped to that step. Enough on politics.
I took some pictures of the area around our now former NH home. They are about a month old, so they are springtime pictures, but still applicable.
We drove through mostly pine forest. I am continually surprised how much forest covers this state and most of New England. Portsmouth, NH was about a half hour drive down Hwy 101. It is a pleasant little city. The highlight is a place called Strawberry Banke. This is the original downtown. At one time an arm of the ocean reached up here and it was a seaport. Over the years it silted in until the city filled in what remained. It became a working class neighborhood and after that a non-working class neighborhood. I think the politically correct term for a neighborhood of welfare recipients in this case is leisure class neighborhood. In addition, in this land of forest and streams, I think we can call the homeless “outdoorsmen”.
No matter the terms, by the 1960s, the neighborhood was blighted and the Federal Government wanted to tear it down and build low-income housing. Local residents didn’t want this to happen, so they got together to buy and restore the buildings. They did a good job and now the area around looks solidly prosperous and well painted. We did talk to one outdoorsman. He told me that some sort of food stamp coupons were worth $100,000.00. He once offered to trade one of these coupons for a Canadian $2.00 bill, but the fool wouldn’t take the trade. He seemed more prosperous than outdoorsmen in Washington, since he had his possessions strapped to the back of a bike, instead of in an old shopping cart. Still, I don’t know whether to believe this guy. When we met him, he was fishing change out of a fountain. I figure he should get a job at Strawberry Banke playing a street person from the blighted neighborhood of the 1960s.
Strawberry Banke is not like Williamsburg, where all the history centers on one era. The buildings here are restored to various times in the life of the neighborhood. One house, for example, half is from the late 17th Century, while the other half is a working class house from the 1950s. They have a Jewish immigrant house from 1919, complete with a Jewish housewife (Mrs. Shapiro) who tells the story of her family and how they came to America from Ukraine. Living history also included the wife of a governor at the governor’s house and a woman at the grocery store. They all did a very good job of assuming the roles.
We visited the home turf of Thoreau and Emerson in Concord, MA. Actually, we spent a lot more time with Louisa May Alcott, who wrote “Little Women”. They all lived near each other and interacted on a regular basis.
“Little Women” was Chrissy’s favorite book when she was a girl. I suppose there are men who have read it voluntarily, but we were not the target audience. I did enjoy touring the house, however. Louisa’s father was named Bronson. He was an interesting guy who came from extreme poverty. His father was probably illiterate, but Bronson taught himself. I never knew anything about him, but evidently he influenced many people besides his famous daughter. Emerson’s essay on the American scholar is supposed to have been based on him. In his house was educated a local artist who went on to sculpt the statue of Lincoln in the Lincoln memorial. Thoreau was a frequent guest. All that said, the man was obviously weird and probably hard to live with. He didn’t support his family well, and they were always poor until Louisa May made big money from “Little Women” and her subsequent writings.
Louisa May never married. According to the guide, her mother and father had different personalities. I think that is docent code for family conflict. That, and her father’s remarkable inability to earn a decent living for his family, may have soured her on the opposite sex. If a movie were made about Louisa May Alcott as an adult, Glen Close would certainly play her. I am not fond of Glen Close, but you have to give Louisa May Alcott credit. She supported her whole family, on to the third generation, with the money she earned and never seems to have complained about anything. She traced and paid all her father’s debts, which were many, sent her high-strung little sister to art school in Europe and paid for the family house, which we visited.
The Alcott house was built first in the 1600s and later extended and improved. It is a pleasant place, but the ceilings are very low and the floors badly warped. In fact, the place is crumbling. Powder beetles, which have a diet a lot like termites, have eaten most of the supporting pillars. Besides that, Bronson put some of the house on the dirt – no foundation. Direct contact with wet earth is not good for wooden structures. I guess the house lasted long enough for his purposes. The place is being restored by some society created specifically to do that, probably consisting mostly of earnest old ladies with a lot of money. I have no doubt they will succeed.
I enjoy such houses because of the personal insight you get into the people’s lives. In the Alcott case, I was impressed on how contemporary the family seemed. Sure, they did a lot of things we no longer do, but they had similar problems, hopes and dreams. As I wrote, Bronson was weird. He imposed tasks on his family and made them all vegetarians. From all indications, however, they didn’t really listen to him. It sounds a lot like a modern sitcom, maybe Frazier with five kids. Bronson also dreamed big. He built “The Concord School of Philosophy” next to his house. It is sort of a fancy barn with a big lecture hall. It is unheated, so classes were held only in summer. His faculty consisted of himself, but he printed up programs and managed to get most of the famous people who passed through Boston to come out and give lectures. A freelance university – you just couldn’t do anything like that today, but it is easier to start a dot com.
The picture below is one of the fine New England stone walls behind the Alcott place.
Walden After the Alcott place, we visited Walden Pond, where HD Thoreau wrote the famous journal about his life in the wilderness. It is not wilderness now, and it was even less wilderness then, when the area was heavily farmed. You can walk from Concord to Walden in about a half hour and there were always people around even in Thoreau’s time. Thoreau was kind of going out to live in the local park. I am sure he was a local curiosity – strange old Henry living next to the lake. It is as if I found a guy along one of my running trails who thought he was living in the wilderness because there were a few big trees and a couple of fierce chipmunks prowling nearby. If Thoreau was really looking for wilderness, he could have easily found it in 19th century America. The truth is that Thoreau didn’t like wilderness, at least how we would use the term today. The one recorded time he came in contact with the real thing was during a visit to the State of Maine, when he complained that it was too lonely up there. His quest for the simple life was obviously a hobby. But like Bronson Alcott, he dreamed big and left a lasting mark.
Walden pond is bigger than I thought it would be, even if not so big. I bet I could swim across it. Chrissy doubts my bold claim. In fact, some people were swimming, although they were wearing wet suits. Didn’t look that hard. Where we saw the lake, there was a beach with sand brought in from somewhere else. These little mud-bottomed lakes don’t naturally have sandy beaches. It reminded me a lot of Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. Bunches of teenagers were loitering around. I bet the place gets even more popular with them when the sun goes down.
Thoreau’s Wilderness I listened to a lecture by a forester from the University of Massachusetts called “Thoreau’s Country”. He pointed out the Massachusetts looked much less like wilderness in Thoreau’s time than it does today. In those days, farming was inefficient (although organic) and a lot more acreage had to be under the plow or in pasture. It leads to an interesting dilemma for preservationists. What do we preserve? If we leave the land alone, it will quickly be covered with forest, but heavy forest is not the landscape that Thoreau, Emerson or Alcott would recognize. Of course, farming with the old methods is not economical and the upscale local communities would object to the pungent presence of pigs, horses and cows needed to keep the fields from becoming forests. (Maybe horses would be okay. Upscale people like horses. Grazing horses are picturesque; running horses are graceful, but cows are a stretch, especially on the graceful running, and pigs have none of these redeeming characteristics.) He guy also said that modern people don’t really understand where their resources come from. In Thoreau’s day, people knew some of the local trees were for fuel or furniture and today’s pig was tomorrow’s pork. When food and fuel comes from far away, people can delude themselves about nature being a big park full of benign creatures that are to be seen but not touched.
Thoreau’s Tool Shed Back to our trip. We saw a reproduction of Thoreau’s cabin. The real thing has long since become compost. That is Chrissy with Thoreau’s ghost in the picture in front of his cabin. He really craved Coca-Cola, but water was all we had. Thoreau’s place was much like a shed for the lawnmower.
We finally got to the place where the American Revolution began. Lexington and Concord are now Boston suburbs (they were Boston suburbs back then too, but it took longer to get around) and some of the most pleasant towns I have seen and especially so on this pleasant day in May. There are many very big trees, flowering bushes and beautiful homes. Concord and Lexington are connected by bike and hiking trails, a nice place to live, although I am sure the local conservation committees are stricter than even the most confrontational condo boards.
Fairly busy streets now surround Lexington green. I am sure it was very different in April 1775 when British soldiers encountered Captain Jonas Parker and 75 armed Minutemen. The soldiers came to disarm the colonists. In sort of a proto NRA action, the colonists would give up their guns only when pried from their cold dead hands. The British obliged, killing 8 Minutemen and injuring 10 others. We think of it as a war between Americans and the British, but there were no Americans at that time. British colonist militia faced British troops. When Paul Revere rode out, he didn’t say, “the British are coming.” That would have made no sense to the colonists who still thought of themselves as British, albeit disgruntled progeny of Albion. He just told everyone that the regular troops were on the way. I am sure the colonists were surprised when some of them got shot by their own king’s men. The price of protest had risen sky high. (By the way, the best book to read about this is a novel by Howard Fast called “April Morning”.)
Chrissy and I followed the same route as the British troops from Lexington to Concord and stood on North Bridge, where the Concord battle took place. By the time the British regulars got to Concord, the colonists were ready. This time armed militia had gathered from the villages and farms and this time they inflicted casualties on the British regulars. The colonists might not have been soldiers, but life on a frontier had made them extremely warlike – and able marksmen. As the British regulars retreated toward Boston, everybody came out of his house to shoot at them. It was a hard road to travel. Now the area around it is tree covered. In those days it was mostly open fields and farms, which would have been almost bare in April. There was nothing to conceal marching troops in easy to see red uniforms. On the other hand, the roads and fields were lined with stone walls providing cover for the snipers, who would shoot and run off. They knew all the shortcuts. The fighting on that April day is shrouded in a historical mist. Nice old ladies at historical societies smile when they describe the British retreat with the colonists in hot pursuit. It seems like a game from our distance, at worst hard-hitting game between the Yankees and Red Sox, but it was deadly nasty business all around, a civil war beginning and a world turning upside down.
A lot has changed since last year when I wrote from Warsaw. We moved from Poland to New Hampshire via a trip across the U.S. I documented the trip on other parts of this webpage. This is what we are doing now.
We have been living in Londonderry, New Hampshire since September. Londonderry is an exurb, i.e. it has the population density of a rural area, but the demographic characteristics of a suburb. It is a good mix for us. I like the forests and fields, but we are fundamentally a city people. Our house overlooks a pond surrounded by a mixed white pine – maple forest. The water is dark because of geology and soils similar to northern Wisconsin’s. In the middle of the day the sun reflecting off the ripples turns the water into liquid sunshine and near the end of the day it reflects the trees like a mirror. It reflected the green leaves of summer and the crimson fall. Now all except the pine trees are bare and the pond is covered with snow. We got more than two feet of snow on December 7. It melted, but it snowed a couple of feet the next week. Now that has melted. I bought cross-country skis on December 6. I had to break my own trail, but it was good to get into the winter woods between melts.
These are some pictures from our back door showing the pond in some of its aspects.
Family Notes Mariza is doing well at Mary Washington College. She got all As this year, except for one B. The teacher told her that he does not believe in grade inflation. I thought that was a good principle. I went over to McDonald’s and told them that I did not believe in inflation, but they still would not give me a hamburger for 15 cents. The class she got a B in was sociology, ironically the subject that invented grade inflation. I am proud that she is taking the hard classes. She got 93% in her calculus course. The school is very small and homogeneous. That is what we thought would be the good part, but the college and Fredericksburg are a little too small, so she is now considering moving to a bigger place. UVA is the leading option.
Alex is doing well at his new school in Londonderry. He evidently feels confident enough to argue academically with his history teacher, who seems to be a bit of an uninformed leftist. Alex is less enthusiastic about geometry and Spanish, but he is doing well in chemistry. A couple years back, at the American School in Warsaw, he had a tough science class. A lot of what he learned then is serving him now. He has been lifting weights regularly and is getting very beefy. I want him to start running, to get the other part of conditioning.
Espen is getting As and Bs. He seems to have the easiest time learning Spanish and the saxophone. I think the music and language skills are related and he is doing very well in both. The sweet music of the sax filters up from the basement. Often I can actually identify a melody in the cacophony and he is becoming noticeably better each day. The sax is actually a fairly complicated instrument, with lots of valves and holes. As a completely talent free individual, I am impressed by anyone who can make music in any way beyond whistling.
Chrissy has been working on the house and it is getting much better. She has been patching, fixing, painting and even some plumbing and electrical work. She is getting very good at these things. We still are not sure whether we will sell the house or try to rent it out. Either way, it is better to have a well-maintained house. One of Chrissy’s favorite TV show is “Trading Spaces” where neighbors change houses and renovate each other’s rooms. Professional designers, who generally inflict appalling designs on the unsuspecting homeowners, advise them. I worry sometimes that CJ likes some of them, but she has shown exemplary taste so far in our house. Below are house repairs. We put in a new tile floor. It was a lot of work tearing it up.
My assignment at Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts is great. I often wonder why the USG is paying me to do this. I have access to courses at Tufts, Harvard and MIT but don’t have to take the tests. I am learning a lot, some of which will be useful to the State Department but most of it is just – well – general education. In the last couple of days, for example, I attended a presentation on weapons of mass destruction, more or less related to my job, but I also attended a talk by a psychologist on how machines (and pets) can be programmed to mimic human emotion and spent a couple of hours at one of the Harvard museums learning about Rubens and his contemporaries. I will earn some of my salary spring semester, when I will teach a course on the U.S. image abroad. I have been reading and talking to people about the subject. I am recruiting a mix of students from various places in the world to make the discussion provocative. That picture of me is from the Fletcher webpage. They took a picturesque group, I think.
You can get a good education just living in the Boston area because of the free lectures and historical sites. I have been recruiting for the State Department. It is not too hard. We have many more applicants than places. I was a little surprised at the extent of the interest even at places like Harvard and Yale, where students have excellent job prospects. Students want to serve their country and they seem to like the fact that they have to pass a difficult test to get in the FS. (The only problem for the Department is that not enough “diversity candidates” pass the FS test.) Don’t believe the negative stories about today’s youth. Compared to my generation, they are smarter, harder working, healthier, and more tolerant. The drug and booze culture of my college days is considered old fashioned.
One of the most interesting things about living in NH is the primary election. All the candidates come up here and I have been going to see them. I am volunteering for the Edward’s campaign. I don’t think he will win the nomination and I intend to vote Republican, but there is no Republican race. Edwards is the best of the Democrats and it is good experience to participate in a campaign. Howard Dean will probably win. I really don’t like Howard Dean. We went to see him in Manchester. He is one of the few people who I like less after I got to see him in person. He is an angry little man. Literally a little man – he is about Espen’s size and build. People sitting next to me gave me dirty looks when I didn’t cheer for some of the stupid platitudes he repeated. When you get beyond his anger against George Bush, there is not much left. I don’t think it will be a good thing if he is nominated. The country needs both parties to be strong. Bush will beat Dean like Nixon beat McGovern. Such lopsided victories lead to arrogance. Edwards could appeal to a wider constituency, but it is not his year.
I got my next job lined up in Washington. I will be “Director for the Office of International Information Programs for Europe and Eurasia (IIP) – Eurasia just means the former Soviet Union. My group does speakers, digital videoconferences and Internet for the region. I also broadly oversee (in State Department jargon, I am the reviewing officer) regional information resource centers in Europe. I am hoping to get to do inspection tours – maybe Norway and Ireland in the summer and Italy, Portugal and Spain in the winter. That would be sweet. I am hoping to use some of what learned at Fletcher to improve the U.S. image.
I will get back to Washington on June 21. I will miss New Hampshire and Boston, but Northern Virginia is more like home. The kids are looking forward to seeing their old friends. Summers in Washington are hot and horrible, but spring and fall are really nice and winter is mild. We will probably move back into the townhouse in Vienna, VA.
Below are mixed photos. Top are Londonderry crossroads. CJ and Alex walking among the stone walls so common around here. Below are the kids at Christmas and Mariza taking her usual naps. Mariza has asked me to clarify. She was not merely taking a nap because she was lazy. She had her wisdom teeth pulled. Even with today’s modern dentistry, that is uncomfortable and tends to make you want to sleep off the pain.
Even though I will be working just a few miles outside Boston, I don’t think I will spend much time in the city itself. That is a shame, because it is a beautiful city. I think it would be nice to get to know it a little at a time, exploring it on foot, seeing it in its various moods and seasons. When you work in the central city, you get that opportunity. That is how I got to know Washington and Krakow and that is why I still like those cities so much. Unfortunately, I will remain a tourist in Boston. Well, we made our first visit.
We did not have time to do too much, and the kids were unenthusiastic about lingering at historical monuments. We mostly followed the “Freedom Trail” where so much of America’s history took place. Below are some photos.
The boys always like fountains. This is on top of a parking garage. According to the display inside, this was once an ugly above ground parking garage, until the locals got together to make put it underground and landscape the top. It is an excellent example of how things should be done.
The monument to the starving Irish. Much of Boston’s population came from Ireland during the great potato famine in the 1840s. Plagues around the statues tell the story. On the right are the starving Irish on the old sod. In back of CJ are the upstanding citizens they became after coming to America.
Amazing street acrobats. They play rap music and jump up and down. They are great athletes – like Jackie Chan, but they have to make it on the first take or hit the pavement.
I caught this guy in mid flight. He flipped over five people without a net. Before the big stunt, they came around for money. I gave a couple of dollars. It was worth it.
Daniel Webster, the great orator. I read “The Devil & Daniel Webster in HS. It was the shortest book on the reading list. Webster is actually a New Hampshire man. I bought my commuter car at a dealership on the highway is Nashua, NH is named for
Massachusetts state house. It stands in front of Boston Common, which is a very lively and pleasant park.
The cemetery in the center contains the graves of famous people such as Paul Revere and John Hancock. It is a small graveyard, but full of the dear departed and tourists.
I went to the big orientation, although most of it does not apply to me. My status is different. Officially, I am faculty. I have a shabby office and can park in the faculty lot. I can audit classes, but not take them for credit unless I pay the big money tuition. This is fine with me. I perceive that some of the classes would be very hard for me. My fellow students look like a high achieving bunch. The average age is 27 and I think I am the oldest person in the group. Fletcher treated us to a picnic lunch. Everything was fine, except there was no Coca-Cola.
I am looking forward to the year ahead.
This is a replica of “Jumbo”. The famous circus promoted PT Barnum was a benefactor of Tufts (who knew?) He donated money to university and donated his famous elephant, Jumbo, to the university. Actually he donated the hide and bones after an oncoming train hit the mighty beast in 1885. The keeper was leading jumbo and Tom Thumb, a dwarf elephant, across the train. According to the story, Jumbo heroically pushed Tom Thumb out of harms way. A stuffed Jumbo remained in the school’s museum until it was destroyed by fire in 1975. Only Jumbo’s tail remains. It is kept in a jar.
The Fletcher School is located in the middle of the Tufts campus. My office is in the building. Tufts looked a lot like Mariza’s Mary Washington. It is the one blueprint for all those types of colleges. Below are more pictures. I like the big beech tree featured below.
We went to Mount Washington today. It is the highest point in New Hampshire and boasts the most variable weather in the U.S. The highest wind speed ever recorded in the world was recorded on the peak in 1934. For us, however, it was a beautiful day, just a little chilly.
Once again, I was impressed with the beauty of New Hampshire. The northern part of the state is mountainous and almost completely forest covered. What is not covered by trees features neat towns. I could live here for a long time. It is clean and peaceful. Beyond that, there is the intellectual power here of great universities.
This is the Bretton Woods resort at the base of Mount Washington. The allies met here in July 1944 and created the monetary system that helped ensure world growth for a generation after World War II. Most important aspects were exchanged rates fixed to the dollar and the dollar fixed to gold at $35 an ounce. The dollar replaced gold as the world standard. They also created the IMF, GATT (which evolved into the WTO) and the World Bank. It was a momentous meeting. Anti Globalists should hate this place. It was the start of our modern global economy. The dollar remained the “gold standard” until 1973. I don’t remember who caused it to fall. Probably the French or Richard Nixon. The institutions created at Bretton Woods are still with us.
The kids finally got to do something they wanted. Six Flags, New England is not as nice as Busch Gardens or Universal Studios. It has a much more industrial feel to it, more the carnival, less the garden.
The most interesting aspect was the “Superman” roller coaster. It was the most exciting roller coaster I have ever experienced and the only one that I found a little scary. My previous favorite was Apollo’s Chariot in Busch Gardens. Superman has many of the same good attributes: you feel like you will leave the seat, it is very high and very smooth riding. In addition, it has a 221-foot vertical drop and it shoots down at 77 mph. Mariza and I waited an extra fifteen minutes so that we would get to sit in the front car. It was worth it for the thrill of looking straight down before going into the fall and seeing everything coming at you. The ride lasts more than two minutes, which is an unusually long time for one of these things. We had to wait for about an hour to enjoy these two minutes, but it was worth it.
Return of the forest
We drove down along the Massachusetts turnpike and then I –91. Once again I was amazed how much forest there is in this crowded area. According to what I have read, forest covers more of New England today than almost any time in the last millennium. 100 years ago, more than 2/3 of the land was pasture for horses and cows. Before that, Indians regularly set fire to the woods to encourage game species, such as white tailed deer, and to make it easier to move around in the woods. The forests were the heaviest when the Pilgrims landed in 1620. Smallpox and other European diseases had reached the Indian tribes before the Europeans themselves did. Indian populations along the East Coast had declined precipitously a generation before, and with fewer people to burn the forests, the trees had returned. The Pilgrims did not find a virgin land, as they thought, but they did find a land that had been widowed. Their accounts of the thick forests reflect this anomaly. You can tell what had happened by the types of trees they found. Northern hardwoods and hemlock would have replaced the pines, so famously a part of the landscape, if left undisturbed. The white pine forest peaks about a century after the forest regenerates. That is what the Pilgrims found, and that is what they thought was the natural landscape. The settlers set to chopping the trees for their own purposes and did a pretty effective job of destroying them. The forests reached their lowest point about 1920. Since then, the regeneration has been nothing short of remarkable, although the phenomenon is rarely remarked upon. It happens too slowly to be noticed and seems counter intuitive. As suburbs replace farms, it seems like there would be fewer trees, but think about what a farm looks like – not many trees are allowed to grown on a cornfield. A walk in the woods reveals the situation. You come across stone walls that used to divide farm fields and foundations that used to support houses. Now it looks like virgin forest. Once again nature returns.
It is taller than it looks in the picture. Notice the cars on the top about to go down.