As is occasionally my wont when making the daily grocery store trip, I decided today to ‘cruise’ the neighborhood before returning to the castle. I like to keep abreast of developments, you know.
Driving slowly behind another car on my patrol of the ‘hood’, I looked ahead as we both approached a stop sign. There, in the middle of the quiet suburban lane, stood a baby. Well dressed, neat in appearance, unafraid, and utterly alone.
The situation was so unusual that I was momentarily non-plussed.
The occupants of the car ahead of me were equally mystified, apparently, as they remained at the stop sign for nearly 30 seconds. After a moment’s reflection, I recognized their dilemma. Unlike a stray dog, or a haughty cat, the social contract does not allow for a close pass and a toot of the horn for unattended babies.
Eventually a door opened, and a grandmotherly personage emerged to approach and pick up the lost angel. That was my cue to pull alongside and ask the stunningly stupid question: “Is the child lost?”
“Well, it’s not ours…we’ll knock on a few doors and see if we can find the parents.”
Being the good citizen that I am, I slowly pulled around their vehicle, took a good look at the lost soul, and proceeded on my patrol.
At the next block, looking both ways before moving forward, I spied a young girl, of the early teenage variety, walking while carrying a smaller baby and a cell phone. Even from 50 yards away, her gait signalled a certain tension. Undeterred by this new information, I turned the other way to complete the loop around the neighborhood.
Within 1 minute I had circled back to the spot where I had seen the girl. There, in the street, stood the girl, still carrying a baby, and two other young teenage girls holding onto various young children. Up ahead, a few hundred yards away, I could see the stopped car, with a growing crowd of concerned citizens.
I stopped, rolled down my window, and asked the girls if they were missing a baby. The looks on their faces told the story…….flashes of fear, shame, and embarrassment flew across their visages. After all, who was I, how did I know, and lastly, WHERE IS THE BABY?
I pointed to the crowd in the distance, said the missing baby was with them, and told the baby sitter to walk to the scene; I would drive down and alert the good citizens that the mystery had been solved ….before anyone came to harm.
Imagine: a house full of not-quite-grown-up kids, baby-sitting for the neighbors. A few phone calls with some boys, or some other girls, a period of inattentive socializing, followed by the horrifying awareness that a child is missing.
Sounds like me and my brother, nearly 44 years ago.
Looking at the behemoth, poised in its techno-mechanical superiority as it waits to slip the surly bonds, ready to cheat death one more time (we Hope), Agricola cannot help but think of the FIRST Pad 39.
Located behind a house on Murray Boulevard, a group of young teenagers were ‘given’ a small structure in the back yard. It wasn’t very much, maybe 20 feet on a side, with a bar and electricity. But it was ours, and we made it better. Based on the address of the ‘big house’, our place became Pad 39.
Hidden from the inquiring views of parents, and with a lenient landlord, himself a man of the time who fancied good whiskey, cigarettes, and the company of pretty ladies, we were free to act as young or as old as we desired. Our gang would pile into Pad 39, and recline on the single sofa, and drag a mattress from the big house to our house, turn on the fans to keep the lowcountry summer at bay, and drink cold PBRs, and Schlitz, and smoke red marlboros or Kools. For fourteen year olds, we were very cool. A few parties, but everyone in those days was pretty well behaved. There were relationships, but mostly it was a pack of boys dancing with a pack of girls. IBack then, the girls had to be home by 11 or so, and frankly we were not as sexually driven as teens seem to be these days,
I got my first kiss at Pad 39, a full blown right on the lips kiss. It was like sticking my finger in an electric socket. It was as powerful as unexpected, and left me in a daze for a day or so. She wasn’t then, and would never be, a girlfriend, and so the wisdom of time explains that she wanted to kiss somebody, I wanted to kiss somebody, and our needs meet in the patio for about 5 seconds. We were both fifteen.
So every time I see Pad 39 at Cape Canaveral, I think about our pad 39. We were getting ready to blast off into life, and had our share of phallic images, and it was a great time of life. We had our tragedies along the way, but most of us made it, just like the astronauts will.
But I don’t think being strapped into the wayback of the shuttle, tied to explosive rocket fuel, while the whole world watches can compare to that first gentle kiss, in the dark of a hot summer night, at Pad 39 in Charleston, SC.
When you take a snap shot of the world today, you can throw conventional wisdom about Navies out the window. Who would have ever thought that the Russian Navy can deploy an aircraft carrier task force without having to return to port with problems, but the Royal Navy cannot. I love how the British people blame the wars, as if a war that involves what amounts to around a single full division of British land power explains why their military is in rapid decline of capability. If a nation with a major world economy can’t conduct war with only a single division without breaking core capabilities of its entire military, then that nation can’t blame the war for its problems.
The Brits, founders of one of the great empires in history, are fond of reminding we ‘colonials’ that running the world is a lot more nuanced than we seem to understand. They have apparently forgotten the ‘muscular’ attitude that enabled their rise to prominence; defeating the Spanish Armada, the dominance of trade routes in the 16th and 17th centuries, the conquest of India, and the Pax Britannica that made the 19th century a time of unparalleled economic growth for England and her dominion.
They have also forgotten that the Royal Navy was the engine of their success.
From the blog:
Running the Numbers
An American Self-Portrait
This series looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 410,000 paper cups used every fifteen minutes. This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. The underlying desire is to emphasize the role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.
My only caveat about this series is that the prints must be seen in person to be experienced the way they are intended. As with any large artwork, their scale carries a vital part of their substance which is lost in these little web images. Hopefully the JPEGs displayed here might be enough to arouse your curiosity to attend an exhibition, or to arrange one if you are in a position to do so. The series is a work in progress, and new images will be posted as they are completed, so please stay tuned.
~chris jordan, Seattle, 2007
There are some amazing pictures.