Thursday, August 25, 2011

On Top Of The World

High atop Mt. Washington

Ten years ago today the immediate future could not have been more promising: My martial arts/fitness business of almost twenty years had just completed its best one ever, my time up Mt. Washington was a personal best on this--my tenth consecutive climb--and the cortisone shot in my left hip, administered on June 11, the day domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh was put to death by lethal injection, seemed to have turned the tide in my debilitating battle with arthritis.

Although Dr. Johnson warned me not to celebrate until after three months had passed. Thus I anxiously looked forward to September 11, hoping it would come quickly and go painlessly.

My Amherst Bulletin monthly column that last Friday in August, published a day before the Mt Washington Road Race, was a patriotic pitch for continuing to fly 29 small American flags in the downtown. As columns go it pretty much wrote itself, as words flow easily when defending true beliefs.

Amherst's Veterans Agent had purchased the commemorative flags that summer with Town Meeting approved tax monies. But, this being Amherst, the usual gang of left-wing zealots were appalled that Amherst would dare to resemble an All American small town right out of a Rockwell illustration, even if only for special occasions.

Town Manager Barry Del Castilho had reacted to the brewing controversy in typical bureaucratic fashion by placing on the Select Board agenda a public discussion for when and how long the flags could fly. After all, the five-member Select Board is in charge of "public ways" and even though the lightpoles acting as flagpoles were privately owned by Western Mass Electric, they were set in town property.

Since the Select Board did not meet around Labor Day the next available night for this routine Amherst drama to play out was September 10, the 'Eve of Destruction'.

That evening, after a spirited two hour discussion, the board decided to keep the flags down and to allow them up on only 6 annual occasions. The next morning, after watching those shimmering towers disappear in an enormous cloud of smoke and debris, a familiar throb returned to my left hip. A double dose of pain on the day I had hoped for no surprises.

UMass professor Jennie Traschen provided the best known sound bite (dubbed the "Ill-timed quote of the century" by the Wall Street Journal) from that still innocent long ago evening in Amherst Town Hall, when real world realities were already bearing down on Ivory Tower illusions: "Actually, what the flag stands for is a symbol of terrorism and death and fear and destruction and repression."

Ten years distant I would edit Ms. Traschen's incendiary words ever so slightly: "Actually, what terrorism stands for is death and fear and destruction and repression." And it requires our constant vigilance.
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(Now at age 56 with both hips and one knee fashioned from titanium--the same material as my bike frame--all working together perfectly, I've envisioned ascending Mt Washington one last time before that final fade to black, but not coming close to my 1:32 finish ten years ago. Last weekend, however, at the 39th annual Mt Washington Hill Climb, Ned Overend won the race with an almost record time of 55:03. He did it on his 57th birthday. So who knows, my personal best from a decade ago may yet fall.)

22 comments:

ed said...

Who was it that said that the red in the flag is the blood of indigenous peoples and he white supports white supremacy? Was that Jeannie too?

I will never forget that night.

LarryK4 said...

Maybe we can get Amherst Media to rebroadcast the entire meeting on the night of September 10.

Anonymous said...

Congrats! You wrote another article that is virtually incomprehensible. Except for the the part that is "look at me, me, me."

LarryK4 said...

Yeah I was just checking to see if you were still coming here. Lucky me.

Anonymous said...

"They didn't want to put up the flags on September 10. They didn't want to put up the flags on September 10....blah, blah, blah."

Rinse and repeat.

Give it a rest already.

Anonymous said...

Larry Kelley - the one note wonder!!

LarryK4 said...

One of the first habits I picked up in my digital life is to ignore the advice of Cowardly Anon Nitwits.

Anonymous said...

Ignoring advice is your greatest strength. Just like when you drove AAC off a cliff. By all means keep on going!

LarryK4 said...

Actually there Anon, like the arthritis, it was a slow, steady, painful decline.

Anonymous said...

your life is so integrally wrapped in 911.

Ponzitown parasite patrol said...

@anons attacking Larry:


I liked the article.


BTW how did you manage to read it, with those tiny little eyes:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cV9M45WuG2g

Anonymous said...

You know, Larry, I don't mind the "me, me, me" because you have actually DONE things. Keep up the good fight.

Tom Porter said...

Iron man! Congrat's on the series of impressive accomplishments with those Mt. Wash climbs, Larry.

As for the rest of it, Only in Amherst - where if you say "It's a Grand Old Flag," someone's sure to respond, "Them's fightin' words!"

Anonymous said...

Only in Amherst: I dropped my keys on the floor in the coffee shop and a stranger says, 'You need a neurological exam.' !

Anonymous said...

Only in Amherst would people head INTO a building with the fire alarm blaring and the fire truck approaching.

Anonymous said...

Only in Amherst would someone rip down the Puerto Rican flag, fearing that it was a Texas flag, completely forgetting the meaning of the term "vandalism."

ModeratePoli said...

Larry, it's always good to review history, but I've got a question--haven't the feelings faded for you? They sure have for me, even though I never stop thinking.

LarryK4 said...

No, they have not.

Anonymous said...

I understand that the feelings wouldn't fade. I guess it's not so strange then to consider the feelings of all of those people whose land we robbed, relatives we raped and killed on this land, all those people who lived here for thousands of years.

Or is it ok because we are the conquerors?

LarryK4 said...

No, it is not okay.

Old Irish saying (or maybe it was just my Irish mother): "Two wrongs don't make a right."

ModeratePoli said...

I'm sorry for people where the feelings stay raw. I'm certainly glad I'm not as anxious. The fading feels like healing. Is my sympathy misplaced? Do you wish the feelings would fade or not?

Ed said...

feelings of all of those people whose land we robbed, relatives we raped and killed on this land, all those people who lived here for thousands of years.

Hate to confuse you with the facts, you ignorant schmuck, but exactly which people are you referring to?

Take, for example, the Mohawks. They practiced genocide in a way that the white man never quite managed to -- they actually exterminated entire groups of people, entire tribes, and not just most of the tribe but every last woman & child.

Other examples abound - not to confuse you with facts, however...