Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Once a year The Wizard of Oz would come on television and just about every kid in the neighborhood tuned in. They’d seen it many times before, but they’d want to watch their younger brothers and sisters see it for the first time. That was back when there were only three broadcast networks - also when most families had more than one or two kids. That was during the fifties and sixties and it was somewhat true for my children growing up in the seventies and eighties. I enjoyed watching my children watch Dorothy, the Wicked Witch, and the Emerald City.
That world is mostly gone now. People have more choices on TV - too many, some claim, and  they have few, if any, children. They tend not to watch the same thing at the same time so we have fewer simultaneously-shared cultural experiences. There are episodic dramas that many watch, like “Breaking Bad” and “Downton Abbey,” and they can be discussed at dinner parties and extended-family get-togethers. When someone mentioned “Breaking Bad” and I didn’t know what he was talking about, I realized I was out of the loop - culturally illiterate. I’ve since watched about twenty-five episodes, but my wife isn’t into it so I don’t know if I’ll finish. It depresses me because it’s plausible and the characters are realistic. It’s a vision of what part of America is becoming. I see it around me and don’t need to watch it dramatized as well.
My grandchildren are back at our Lovell house until probably late spring sometime. Been a hard winter for their father, Andrew, to be building a house in Sweden, Maine but my son-in-law has been plugging away with help from family and good friends. Meanwhile, my daughter, Annie, found a VHS copy of Wizard Of Oz and put it on to play for my granddaughters, Claire - now four, and Lila - now three. It was fun to watch as still another generation got caught up in that classic movie.
Three-year-old Lila - always feisty and outspoken - told us she was scared by the Wicked Witch and the flying monkeys, so she went into the toy box for a helmet and sword. She planned to defend herself in case the witch came out of the TV. I like that about Lila; she’s ready to do battle if she has to. She’s not the run-away type, preferring to stand and fight. I had to beg her not to slash my flat-screen.
Lila and the Wicked Witch

It’s charming to have my beautiful grandchildren around, but it’s hard to write. My wife took a break from it all to cruise the Lesser Antilles with a group of women. She got back last week - tanned, rested, and ready. While she was away I spent several days alone in the South Portland house and realized how rare it is for me to be alone anywhere. I’ve gotten to know the neighbors, but they’re busy and keep to themselves, which I like. I enjoyed the solitude. I’d write for a few hours, then go for a run at Bug Light Park. I went to the Irish Heritage Center for a program on the 150th anniversary of the wreck of the “Bohemian” which drowned dozens of Irish immigrants off what is now Two Lights State Park in Cape Elizabeth. I visit each time I’m down there to watch and listen as waves break on the rocks. Also, I watched my six-year-old grandson Alex play for his basketball team in Portland and took in a Red Claws game with him and another grandson, Riley, age thirteen. It was a guys night out.
Alex talking to teammate

Going back and forth over the Casco Bay Bridge so much, I’ve watched the progress of the 24-7 dredging operation in the Fore River. The Portland Press Herald ran an interesting article about it: Every minute or so a huge bucket of sediment is lifted off the bottom and dumped into a barge. A tug pulls it out to sea seven miles where it drops the sediment deep. Can’t help but wonder what else might be in that material. Casco Bay and its many islands show evidence of early American activity going back millennia. The paleo era - just after the most recent glaciers retreated 10-12 thousand years ago - interests me most. I’ve only found one artifact in the area so far, but it’s not nearly that old. Back then, the ocean was sixty feet lower than it is now and that old shoreline is down deep today, deeper even than the dredge is working. It’s job is to restore a channel thirty-five feet deep at low tide.
Dredging Fore River 2014

The older I get, the more I tend to see everything in an historical context. Can’t help it.


Anonymous said...

No surprise that Tom wanted to leave that last column behind and forget the beating he was taking as quick as possible. He coulodn't defend himself, so what's left but run away?

Tom McLaughlin said...

You leftists are just too smart for me. I can't possibly compete with your brilliance.

Anonymous said...

You are staing the obvious Tom, but thanks for admitting it.

Learning a lesson about writing lies and distortions that can't be defended, are you?

Texas Transplamt said...

Oh, come now gentlemen - play nicely.

Anonymous said...

WARNING Tom: I have come to understand that a FORMER TAX COLLECTOR from Bartlett is planning to CROSS STATE LINES, and take roost in Lovell!
As their family won't be living "on the lake", It's probably safe to take a nice Bundt cake or something, a la The Welcome Wagon (remember THOSE?)
Keep an eye out for new home construction.