Monday, July 24, 2006

Got that Wheeling feeling

Back on the East Coast for awhile. Gorging on seafood like there’s no tomorrow. Putting the final touches on the cottage so we can rent it out long-term for a couple of years.

On the way here from Illinois we stopped and spent the night in Wheeling, West Virginia. It was an exquisite summer evening and our room overlooked a tranquil Ohio River. Around the corner from our hotel, we came across this lovely bridge. I had never known about it before, but came to learn it was built before the Civil War, dedicated in 1850. When it was built—to open the Louisiana Purchase to settlement via the storied National Road—it was the longest bridge in the world. That it still serves us 150 years later is a testament to ingenuity and a can-do public spirit. I couldn’t help contrast that to today’s money-wasting, over-engineered, failing-after-one-year “Big Dig.”

We walked across the bridge into a place called Wheeling Island. Everyone we met there kept assuring us, even though we never asked, that we were indeed on an island, and that it was a great place to live. I remain unconvinced about the latter because they had a wall on their city hall painted proudly with marks indicating how high the floods had been in 1946, 1958, 1963, 1975, 1977, 1982—you get the picture. I was glad to get downashore the next day.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Chicken Little in Seattle

One of the most bizarre things that has ever happened to me took place yesterday morning.

I was on my way from the Seattle Sheraton to the Convention Center a block away for the opening of the Web Design World conference. I stopped to read newspaper headlines in the newsboxes on the street, mostly to see what kind of new atrocity Bu$hco might have mounted while I was sleeping the night before.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, something fell out of the sky and bonked me on the top of the head. At first I wondered if it had been a stray bullet, but then I thought, “this is Seattle, not Philadelphia.” I put my hand on the spot and when I took it away saw I was bleeding profusely. People on the street corner edged away from me. A lady suggested I go back into the hotel lobby and seek assistance.

The pretty, young desk clerk was visbly upset when I casually said I’d been injured on the street, yet she remained composed. Hotel security officers appeared and started barking into walkie-talkies. One guy pulled on rubber gloves, brought antiseptics and ice and called 911.

Minutes passed before the ambulance pulled up in the crowded downtown street, and its wailing sirens caused quite a stir, as did the EMT guys strolling through the lobby. They took me upstairs to an empty room and checked me out. They said I had a 1/2 inch gash in my scalp, and suggested I take it easy for the rest of the day. We all speculated about what might have fallen from above, but nothing was found on the sidewalk.

After they left I went back up to my room to clean up and compose myself. It took almost an hour for the bleeding to stop. But the sense of unease and profound relief that I hadn’t been killed didn’t leave me for the rest of the day. I went to the conference, and felt queasy and light-headed. I knew I had escaped a close call, having survived an unknown object falling on my head from a tall building.

This morning I passed by the spot again with a sense of dread and relief, thinking about the thin line between life and death. All day today I was filled with a kind of existential anomie. I suspect I will feel that way for some time to come.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Bushwhacked in Mexico

Happy Independence Day. While Americans prepare for barbecues and fireworks, our illegally installed administration has once again reached out and stolen another election. Surprise, surprise. While exit polls say otherwise, the conservative corporate-backed presidential candidate, Felipe Calderón, claims to have “won.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer puts it this way: “Stirring memories of the 2000 nail-biter in Florida, electoral officials said a preliminary count had given the conservative Calderón an edge of 1 percentage point over Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico City’s leftist former mayor.” For me it also stirs up stinky memories like Ohio in 2004.

So what does this election theft have to do with Bu$hco? Greg Palast points us to an FBI memo detailing a no-bid contract given to Choice Point of Alpharetta, Georgia (the same folks hired in 2000 by the Florida Republican party to purge that state’s voting rolls of “felons”). Their work helped set up challenges of Mexican voters who might be “terrorists.” This is being done with your tax money and mine, and it’s deja-vu all over again.