Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Santa Fe Super Chief and Albuquerque Depot, Circa 1943

This is a photo of the Santa Fe line's Super Chief, that ran between Chicago and Los Angeles. It was taken in 1943, at the Albuquerque depot, by Jack Delano.
This was posted on a military forum I hang out on earlier this evening. There are quite a few history buffs, train geeks and Americana junkies there, understandably, but I was still surprised to see something so close to home getting attention. Credit for bringing it to the forum posters attention goes to A Continuous Lean, where the photo is included in a neat look at the Super Chief.

I am kind of a geek for New Mexico rail history. My great-grandfather was the head machinist at the Belen, NM yards when the roundhouse was there. I grew up with pieces of steam locomotives in my backyard. I am not a huge train nut, but there is still something about them. Trains are cool. Trains are industrial, and mechanical and engineering-in-action and magic. The history and stories surrounding the railroad industry are equally magic. If you can't see it in this photo, you're lost and will never understand.
There are so many cool things going on in this picture, I'm sort of overwhelmed by it. It is a collection of some of the most iconic American images, all together as functional elements in a piece of reality. A reality long gone, before my time.
There is, of course, that fantastic engine. Its bright red and yellow preserved in perfect Kodachrome by Mr. Delano. There are men in denim work wear, carrying lunch, pumping diesel - Working and living a hard, earned, life. Men in suits, and hats (what happened to hats?). Those fantastic automobiles when cars really looked like, and were built like, something to be valued and appreciated.
Behind all this, in Mission-Revival glory are the old Albuquerque depot and the Alvarado Hotel, both gone and replaced by a tacky facsimile. Built in 1902, the Alvarado was one of the Harvey House hotels, and among the largest and most beautiful. It was demolished in 1970 and replaced with a parking lot. The rest of the original depot burned in the late Eighties or early Nineties. The reproduction buildings were put up later, a supposed tribute to the original.

A truly great photograph. An ordinary moment, frozen on film, that has in the passage of time become an amazing moment.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Books of Love

I read aloud. Quietly, and to myself, my lips moving like the illiterate, or the penitent whispering to his god. I am not ashamed of this, and in my mind find scenarios in which I might read aloud to someone else. Not a crowd of them, not an audience, but a someone. In the quiet and darkness of evening, or the warm midday silence of fall. My lips, just louder than a whisper, make a kiss of the words of the page and my someone basks in those words.
Books are things I've always prized, for more than their material being. Before they were tools of revolution, or weapons in wars of ideas, they were secret doors to different places and long before that, they were love. Among my earliest memories as a boy are of my parents reading to me from books. One, or the other, of them would read to me before bed and would kiss me goodnight over my pleas for just one more page.
When I was of the age in school where the institutional “they” expect you to read, I did not. They claimed I had some malady, and I did, but it was of the heart. I did not read, because I did not want my parents to stop reading to me. Eventually, we settled it, and on the assurances that they would not stop, I began to read. We continued on like that for a long time. As I grew older, too old for being put to bed, we would gather at the kitchen table in the evenings. There my parents would take turns reading by the flickering of kerosene lamps. Sometimes they would press the book into my hands, and I would read. By the flutter and shadow-dance of the flame we loved, with our mouths full of words and were a family together. And when darkness had fully fallen, I would rouse from feigned sleep and beneath the covers with a flashlight. As many such love affairs, begun in darkness by sneaking light, that one consumed me.
On my own, I found in books love of ideas and wonder. The love of self as an improvable and improving creature, in the pages of each new world and idea. Essential to me as a young man, in growing and becoming, was that freedom of knowledge. I found, within and without books, love in new and dangerous ways, and from it made of myself much that carried me into adulthood. In books, the love was of growth, adventure, and the revelation of and in the self that being a young man is all about. Though I say was, that still is - I am still young, and reveling in revelations, learning and skills. But my lips have begun to move when I read. Not always, only sometimes, when I do really love the words on the page. My lips move and I whisper, penitent, ill-learned and broken, without someone to whisper to. Because books are love, words and sharing words, are great love. Some words too great to not be loved, some loves too great to go unspoken.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Arming the Bohemian Once More

After a nearly two month hiatus, I've posted something new at Armed Bohemian again: Grey Skills.
Just some rough thoughts really, but, its something. I have no idea if this will be the regular posting pattern for AB or not. I'd like for it not to be, but the natural order may say differently.
This blogging stuff takes a great deal of work - I spend anywhere between two and ten hours on every blog post longer than a couple paragraphs. Sometimes there is just not enough time in the day. Particularly when I am doing this for free, and probably will continue to do so for awhile as I build the necessary frame work and readership to make virtual crowdsurfing work. That is time I could spend blacksmithing, teaching, doing other writing, or training , just as those things are time I could spend blogging. Everything has to balance, and that's always evolving.

Don't forget about Armed Bohemian though. I havent -It's still going and will continue.