Saturday, June 09, 2007

Simple Gifts (the real version)

We spent most of last night on an airplane to Hartford, Connecticut. Frontier Airlines lets you watch the 24 least interesting television channels imaginable with a swipe of your credit card. Between instructions of emergency procedures, I discovered that Fox News had been discussing the Paris Hilton matter for the last forty eight hours in a row. It strikes me that there's a simple compromise solution. Send her home then have Michael Vick dogsit that chihauhau ofhers for the next thirty eight days. They could do this split screen thing of Paris in her living room surrounded by floral arrangements and friends maybe wearing a rhinestoned monitoring bracelet around her ankle fretting about her dog on the left side. On the right, there'd be a shot from outside the walls of the Vick compound with the sound of howling dogs coming from the other side while someone occasionally tosses unusual looking water bottles over the top of the fence.

In the meantime, only twenty nine more American soldiers have died in Iraq for the month of June. It sure makes me feel better that Congress supports the troops. I do remember that in the old days, judges used to give first offenders a choice between enlisting in the armed forces and going to jail. Mmmmmmm....

We got to Hartford at five in the morning and had the good fortune to find that our hotel was not only willing to let us check in early, but their airport shuttle was running. A nice man with a Russian accent came to pick us up and mentioned that he'd heard that there'd been problems with flights all along the eastern seaboard the night before. Since our flight had already gotten in, fifteen minutes early at that, we didn't give it much thought. That was until our daughters called us to inform us that their flight to Hartford had been cancelled at the last minute.

The only plane they could get was to Albany, New York some two hours away and would it be possible for us to pick them up there. After three hours of sleep, we picked up our rental car a couple hours earlier then planned and drove towards Albany with the assistance of a Garmin GPS with a British accent. I was hoping that we'd get one with a California surfer accent, "Yo, gnarly right turn coming up man. Whoa Dude slow down there."

Maybe because I'm Asian, they didn't give me the Asian Driver model GPS. "Okay make lane change wihtout signalling, suddenly speed up...step on brakes for no reason."

I know someday soon, they'll have GPS units that tell halfway decent jokes. Ours may have been an early model of the joke telling version. At one point, we tried to drive to the Lone Star Steakhouse only to have it send us to a Brew Pub. I suppose we were lucky that our British accented GPS didn't try to make us drive on the wrong side of the road.

The drive to Albany was actually sort of pretty and my wife got to visit three states she'd never seen before. After getting the girls, I then insisted on stopping at the Shaker Museum which somewhat incongruously sits right next to the Albany airport. Actually, the Shakers weren't technophobes at all. I learned from the very nice docent that they were also very competent at business, it's just that they didn't believe in personal greed.

Most of my fiction is set in one of America's last ethnic towns, I'd forgotten about the tradition of religious utopian settlements in the Eastern half of the United States. The Shakers may have been the most interesting of them all. They believed in gender equality and sharing all wealth. They opposed racial distinctions and endorsed the practice of free speech. At the same time, they were both into an early form of slam dancing or sufi whirling while insisting that all its members were entitled to safe-decent housing, health care, and respectful treatment.

In the 1850's the Shakers were one of the few pro-abolition groups in the north who also pointed out that wage-capitalism as practiced in northern factories with child labor, below subsistence wages, and no safety precautions was yet another form of slavery. They also viewed alcohol and other habits as manifestations of slavery.

Basically, the Shakers were like an early version of the Green Party with one minor significant detail. They also didn't believe in sex, though they did believe in marriage. Unlike many of the other utopian settlements, the Shakers were economically successful and managed to govern themselves. In order to sustain themselves, they took in orphans whom they would "let decide for themselves" when they became adults and otherwise depended on converts. It also happens to be one of the few modern-day religious movements founded by a woman, Ann Lee, an illiterate English factory worker.

The kids were nice enough to humor me during our detour to Shaker history. My wife actually was quite taken with the place, I'm hoping she wasn't too inspired by the sex thing. It did strike me though that if there were still Shaker communities somewhere, it would be the perfect place to exile Paris Hilton for a couple months.

Eventually, we made it back to our hotel after a few GPS mishaps only to discover that the computer glitch that shut down all the flights also didn't route luggage. We're not sure if our daughters' luggage is in North Carolina, Albany, New York, or Hartford. We're hoping that it's in Hartford, since that's where we are for the next twelve hours. In them meantime, we're just happy to be together, safe, and happy.

Simple Gifts (traditional Shaker hymn)
Tis the gift to be Simple
Tis the gift to be Free
Tis the gift to come down to where we ought to be.



At 6/10/2007 08:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simply being together, safe, & happy is such an enormous deal. Glad to hear it.

At 6/10/2007 11:18:00 PM, Blogger inkyhack said...

The Paris Hilton crap was playing on the television in the cafeteria during lunch Friday. In the middle of all that stupid drama, the newscasters literally said this,

"We are breaking into our coverage of Paris to tell you of a story we were just notified of. A glitch in the air traffic control system has caused virtually all airports on the East Coast to be shut down. We are told that flights across the country and around the world are being delayed by hours or canceled because of this problem. We now take you back to our coverage of Paris Hilton."

And that was the last the air traffic story was mentioned.

It made me sick.

At 6/11/2007 07:10:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Mr. Pogblog,
thanks. It was a very nice, but hectic weekend.

Wow, that is bizarre. It's more bizarre to me becuase we were affected by the computer malfunction. We wound up making four trips to the airport. Two of the bags turned up. The third one is still somewhere on the Eastern seaborad (at least we hope it is). It turned out that U.S. Air's baggage claim call in center is somewhere in South or Central America.

Just as odd, despite the fact that luggage has what looks like a bar code on the tag, it's not scanned. It's just given a number. Pretty surprising.

At 6/12/2007 02:17:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least we can now say about the putative prez, "Send him (it?) back to Albania. They can have him." The Albanian Idol is the new slur-slang for it.

The mania for junk celebrity in the USofA is post-bizarre. Too bad she wasn't named Calcutta Hilton. It might have led to some greater good.

At 6/12/2007 02:06:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I watched two episodes of The Simple Life on my way back home. Nicole Richie was actually very funny.
I never did understand the whole Paris thing.

At 6/13/2007 09:29:00 AM, Blogger None said...

To be completely fair, and I've only heard this once, our prison system is no place to care for the mentally ill. Obviously, Paris and her mental state should be dependent on actual licensed physiologists. But, the larger issue is how we care for those in prison. These places have become giant warehouses for all sorts of people, with the public largely bent on punishment. A larger scope is needed to focus on issues like mental health. With something in the neighborhood of 20% of our prisons being home to inmates diagnosed with mental illness, it just might be a good idea to address this issue.

At 6/14/2007 11:31:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Park Life,
I would agree, the prison system doesn't work terribly well by any number of measures.

We used to see things like "stocks" and scarlet A's as being primitive, but I've often wondreed if our current way of handling things works any better.

I don't think of Paris Hilton as mentally ill though. I don't really buy the whole hysteria, medication reaction, claim....but I'm not a doctor nor have I read the reports.

At 6/18/2007 11:41:00 PM, Blogger AHP said...

Good that your family had a decent time. Central and Western New York State are beautiful. You taught me something about the Shakers. Now I know the origins of the old money suburb in Cleveland called Shaker Heights.

It's a very nice place.

At 6/20/2007 09:20:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I'd never been sure if Shaker Heights was named after the same Shakers, but upstate New York is definitely beautiful. I wish we'd had a few more days.


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