a bridge behind me


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Captain got me a room at the Haddie Pierce House while I waited on my hero to pick me up on Saturday afternoon. He collected me from the Beach Rose Cafe, where I spent several hours - over three days - ensconced online.

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Carleigh is great: "We'll miss you at that table! You're like furniture now!" (Hey - follow that dream - get on a boat and go!) Swell Andyman is also awesome, from plugging the food, "Chef Mike doesn't mess around," to keeping the place spotless. Both of them impressed me the most interacting with a local man who doesn't get around so good. Carleigh leapt up from eating lunch on her well-deserved break when Bob entered, got him settled at the table he wanted with his beverage of choice. Andyman kept up a running banter with Bob while tending to his diverse duties. I ate three excellent meals: Jamie's Favorite Salad, Habanero Chili Chicken Wings, and perfectly-prepared, barely-battered Fried Bay Sea Scallops (sans roll).

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Speaking of food, Daria, the Innkeeper at the Haddie Pierce House, provides a mighty fine spread!

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After fresh fruit (watermelon, strawberries, and canteloupe), cranberry coffee cake, coffee, tea, apple juice and water, Daria served up a delectable peach french toast with peach sauce for the main course, along with precisely crisp bacon. One doesn't need to eat for a long time after such a feast! The company was neat, too. I wasn't sure, at first, if there was going to be space for me in the conversation but eventually I found a way in. :-) Rose began with a story about touring mansions the previous day. While they were in the entry waiting for one tour to begin, one of the jets practicing for the upcoming airshow boomed overhead. Someone either looked puzzled or concerned (or might have said something), and Rose announced, "The sound of freedom! Isn't it wonderful?"

All four at the table were retired military, reservists, mostly, and one is out but still doing work as a contractor. I learned a lot in a short while! For instance, I know a fair amount about how gays and lesbians are treated, but I'd not considered that heterosexuals also have to date within restrictive rules or be punished. I also hadn't thought deeply about what it's like for reservists who establish careers, get called up, and then return to careers that need to be rebuilt. Apparently, reservists weren't really called up for active duty before 1990 (Desert Storm), but if you were in during the late Eighties and paying attention you could see the signs of preparation. And the ambivalence of not wanting to fight/kill/die but also wanting to be called up if others are, instead of being left behind. Because Gayle, Mike and Judy, and Rose had so much in common, I gleaned more insight into some personal elements of a military career than I've previously had opportunity.

Who knew, for instance, that "the silly stuff matters most" in care packages sent to soldiers? (Of course it makes sense, but you have to think about it.) They can get most everything these days, it seems, except good coffee and current magazines. Popular Mechanics is a favorite.

"Most military people, if you talk with them," Gayle explained at one point, "don't really want to go to war." "You lose too many people," someone (Rose?) said. "But you have to be ready," Mike offered (if I remember correctly). I wanted to know if they thought it could ever be different, if the system could be changed. Being in communication, I explained how the theories show over and over that if you prepare for something, it's almost as if you invite it, so "if we're 'ready for war,' then others 'get ready for war' and if everyone's getting ready then eventually there will be a war!"

I wish I could say they offered some concrete hope, but - although they acknowledged the point (Gayle, especially) . . . Mike said its about power. I agree that's how it has been, but haven't enough people now achieved a certain level of middle-class comfort we could figure out how to do power differently? This was the most interesting part of the conversation for me. I suggested that most people around the world want the same things we have. "What if they don't?" Mike challenged. Judy wasn't sure if they really do (want the same things). "Culturally it might look different," I said, "but at base, people want to eat good food, like we are; live in solid houses, like this one; be able to travel safely; educate their kids; have decent healthcare....how they go about achieving these things might not be the same way we do, they may not look the same in the end, but at base these are roughly the same things."

We did not exactly arrive at an impasse, but we couldn't seem to push that topic much further. There was some talk of development in Dubai, the incredibly-disparate wealth of the royal family and hiring of immigrant labor while the vast populace of the country remains in poverty. I wondered if - knowing that they were basically doing similar things to what our ancestors had done (I had the trailer from Traces of the Trade: A Story From the Deep North in mind, a long with all the Indian names along the course of our voyage: Napatree Point, Weekapaug Point, Misquamicut Beach, and Connecticut itself) - instead of perpetuating those habits, those systems.... or looking the other way . . . or taking advantage . . . when Rose labeled the jet engine's roar as the sound of freedom, I remembered the jet that buzzed us the previous day in Brewer's Harbor, so low and close to us that the volume was literally painful. I had wondered, then, about the psychological element of warfare, the intention to cause "Shock and Awe." Do they design those engines on purpose to be so loud? Or just choose not to do the mechanical things that could make them more quiet? Further, what would it be like to anticipate after this sound, another - if one survived the explosion long enough to even hear it? Ultimately, why do we (humans in general, Americans - "my people" - in particular) feel so justified in subjecting other human beings to that experience?

We ended up talking about camels. :-) Recommending that we watch Weeping Camel, Gayle mused that if she "ever stayed overnight with a camel" it would probably break her of the sentiment that "there's nothing about a camel I don't like." I, for one, want a full report!



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