I recently took a regular Amtrak line, the Cardinal, to the great city of Philadelphia. A visit with my daughter and granddaughter proved to be all the joy I anticipated. The train traveled about twenty-six hours across the southern border of Ohio, into West Virginia, and on to the eastern megalopolis. As expected, the Smoky Mountains are a vision this time of year. Nature throws a blanket of vegetation over the rolling terrain in what must surely rival any great rain forest of the tropics. Our country has many beautiful vistas.
As American cities go, Philadelphia is one of the elder statesmen. Established in 1682, Philadelphia played a pivotal role in the formation of a nation that revolutionized government in the modern world. In this place, the finest minds of an age met in conference and debate to plan for our future. For as much verbiage given to the considerations of the “common” man, this was no ordinary gathering. Among the participants to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were future presidents, ministers, ambassadors, and cabinet administrators. This was the best and brightest the colonies had to offer. We should do as well for representation in contemporary times.
I discovered Philadelphia is also one of the great “Food Towns” on the continent. Oh man! The classic cheese-steak sandwich and hoagies of doom; a fine colony of Italian restaurants; seafood befitting a culture in close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean; and home-made beer seems to be a “thing.” To my pleasant surprise, the Amish know a good meal, and their pastries are to die for…trust me.
I also saw stark contrasts in the culture of America. Coming from the urban sprawl of Chicago, the physical “rust” of Appalachia was very evident. Not crumbling, as some alarmists would have us believe, but more like aging and un-renewed. Along rail sidings appear miles of coal tenders and bunkers of ore waiting to be loaded. A glow of pastel orange emerges from the darkness and then a processing plant would come in to view. Enormous spherical tanks and pipes in a tangle of unknown purpose covering acres of land. In the distance were cracking towers venting licks of blue flame. It occurs to me that this is capital investment in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The human component is only part of the equation.
The motif of Mamet’s “The Water Engine” takes form in reality. Should science discover the grail of inexpensive, renewable, non-polluting energy tomorrow, there will be an inestimable physical, economic, and cultural impact. Can we abandon entire segments of the existing labor pool, let alone this infrastructure? In the name of progress, can we deny anyone a chance at survival in the modern world? Finding the “science” is only the tip of an iceberg we must surely face. Once more, we need the best and brightest minds to formulate a future in our best interests.
Indeed, the train was a welcomed break from the superhighway of regulated concrete. It was a time for reflection, extrapolation, and a quiet scotch as the sun went down. Highly recommended.
July marks a return to publishing on the first of every month. This is far more considerate to the wonderful writers and artists that contribute to this blog, as well as you, the readers. On this sultry summer morning we offer two essays from mid-June that were not given their requisite fanfare.
Steve Buschbacher offers a double-dip of commentary with “Innocents Abroad?” and “Mascot-eers“…which conveniently segues to this month’s sports features. Baseball savant, Tom DeMichael, talks about the legendary Jimmy Piersall in “There Was No One Like Jimmy” and my cousin Nick Goehrke and I commence a running bucket of opinions on the state of the Chicago Blackhawks in “Hockey, Hockey, Hockey,” this is only the beginning (yes, that’s a threat). Hey, nepotism works!
Welcome, my friends, to the July issue of Central Standard Time. Grab your coffee.