Monday, November 10, 2008

Paint Drying (2), Theodore Parker (1)

You mean like this?

I had a nasty headache all day. Not the raging, skull pounding, put me in a dark hole and knock me out with vicodin kind of headache. It’s like a the dull incessant agony of road rash across my brain. It’s not incapacitating, just miserable, which in turn makes for miserable blog posts.

I was planning on starting the day of with a mental health ride out to the town of Harvard to document the roads there for the races MIT will be hosting for the ECCC – the MIT X-Pot. Keith was reportedly sick with a hangnail or something, and no one else showed up, so I got all steamed and was going to pull out the I’ll-go-it-alone approach. But we’ve been through 8 years of going-it-alone and I’m ready for a change, I decided instead to join the MIT women for TTT practice at the Mystic Lakes. I have to say, the women are looking strong already, far better than the sorry lot of so-called men we have on the team. Team Edlund had a good workout with some intervals and then returned home on the position that he would try again tomorrow.

It is hard to mention “change” or “hope” and not be instantly drawn to comment on that most inescapable bit of news, the election of Barack Obama. Hail the dawn of a new age. What wonders are in that most transformative and profound act of marking the ballot and casting the vote. Superstition. Every reporter it seems has jumped on the bandwagon of reformative proclamation. “Barack Obama is elected first African American President”. Hogwash. Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. He was not ever stumping to become “the first black President” or to bring a “new political age” to us. He was running because he believed in himself and his words, and we elected him because we believed the same. Anyone who supported him because he is black, or voted against him for the same, is a racist. You make your decisions based on race rather than substance or belief or policy. Perhaps in the end, it is our ability to say that Barack Obama is a respectable, intelligent and eloquent man that makes this so meaningful, and I think our best tribute is to stop yapping about it and move on like it was any other election.

I returned home and showered, packed a lunch and then rode into lab. On my way in I thought of the various monuments I’d see on my Saturday hammer ride to Concord. On my way out I noticed a curious sight. An old woman sat in a wheelchair, waiting in a foyer behind a glass door. Across the street I noticed a curious monuemnt in a side yard. Who Theodore Parker is I had no idea, a local hero of sorts I figured. Apparently someone notable enough to warrant a concrete cube with his name and year of birth. The absence of a record of his death I think must be intended to motivate the thought that Theodore Parker lives on with us, that his influence and message have been so intimately woven with the fabric of our culture that he is a beginning without an end. A quick Google search shows that Theodore Parker was ”a New England Transcendentalist heavyweight. A Transcendentalist, theologian, scholar, Unitarian minister, abolitionist, and social reformer.” New Englanders get a lot of crap from the rest of the country for being uptight and burdened with the weight of the pilgrim forefathers whose crotchety spirit somehow manifests itself in the fervent blare of automobile horns like a divine call to arms and to the miserable reality of the moment. I like to take the point that while the rest of the country was off looting and murdering, cattle hustling and Indian hunting, whipping negroes, turning the mountains upside down - generally devolving into brutes by the gun, the New Englanders at least were attempting to become civilized folk with a stance on moral issues. I've grown rather fond of the New England character. Tough climates make for tough people.

I rode on to Concord where I took a moment to refill some water at the central fountain by the big rock with a tribute to the local boys who gave their lives in the First World War. At the bottom is a quote by that New England literary legend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, “When duty whispers low thou must…”. I rode on with those words ringing in my ears. Strangely, passing by the Theodore Parker monument, that old lady was still sitting in the doorway, well over half an hour later. I wondered how long she had been there, days perhaps? And waiting for who, or what? “So nigh is grandeur to our dust….” Autmun does funny things to my head. With winter so perceptibly close, Autmun confronts one squarely with the choice to acknowledge the force of time, asking acknowldegement of every day, every mild breeze. Perhaps this woman in the doorway was simply apprecaiting, the Autumn days, the sights and sounds of passersby and the wandering ways of leaves. If I had half a day to do anything right now, I might very well spend it with her. Throw in a few cups of hard cider and I'd be right at home.

It was about that time that I returned from my thoughts to my desk. The rest of the day was spent in half-baked effort and waiting. Waiting for what? The best cure for a headache, the evening beer. I met my girlfriend for dinner at a nearby pub, “The Miracle of Science”. It’s a total ploy for the sophisticatedly intellectualized. Miracle of Science? Why because you have a menu that mocks the periodic table, one of the most under-appreciated developments of classical physics. Because you have polished steel tables? Okay, I get it, it’s the 3x5 portrait of Einstein unpretensiously displayed in the corner behind the stack of month old Weekly Dig’s. Maybe it’s the electric lights?

It’s going on 10pm, my headache is gone, perhaps I have dispelled it with these wretched words. Tomorrow we ride to Harvard.

Barack Obama image credit:

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You're cursed with the ability to write. You used big words, you made some identifiable editorial statements, and it had passion, though to was mainly of the dejected, bitter variety. I say, "Bravo!" It only very peripherally had anything to do with cycling, but we've got long time to talk about bikes...