Yes, the road.

Yes, the road.
Eagle Nest, New Mexico. “People like to drive because driving is actually and symbolically an almost perfect mechanism for escape…there is probably no human being who does not have troubles, real or imagined, from which he at times feels the need to flee.” George R. Stewart.


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Brooklin, Maine, United States
We own a 1975 GMC Sierra Grande 15 in Maine and a 1986 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe 10 in West Texas. Also a pair of 1997 Volvo 850 wagons. Average age in the fleet is 28 years--we're recycling. I've published 3 novels: THE LAW OF DREAMS (2006), THE O'BRIENS (2012), and CARRY ME (2016). Also 2 short story collections: NIGHT DRIVING(1987) and TRAVELLING LIGHT (2013). More of my literary life is at I was a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study for 2012-13. I'm an adjunct professor at Colorado College and in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. In 2015-16 I was a Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The Autoliterate office is in Car Talk Plaza in Harvard Square, 2 floors above Dewey Cheatem & Howe. SUBSCRIBE TO THE AUTOLITERATE DAILY EMAIL by hitting the button to the right.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Shooting at Ottawa; The National War Memorial; Corporal Nathan Cirillo; Robert Bateman

I was in Ottawa last month, on jury duty--I'm one of the judges for this year's Governor-General's Literary Award.  I stayed at the Lord Elgin Hotel, just down from Confederation Square and the National War Memorial. Like most Canadians, I find that monument impressive: spooky, powerful and true. Canada was a country haunted by its losses in WWI, and our monument was intended to commemorate soldiers and sailors of "The Great War", which was supposed to be the "war to end all wars." (Aren't they all supposed to be that?) One of the sad, bitter ironies was that Canada's Memorial was unveiled in 1939, just before the Second War started (for Canada, in September 1939.) So it ended up doing duty for the tens of thousands of Canadian soldiers, sailor and airmen whom we lost in that war too. Also Korea and Afghanistan.
I wandered out of my hotel with camera that morning, drawn to the Memorial. There was a bustle of activity: the Prince of Denmark was due to lay a wreath in a couple of hours ("Hamlet's in town?" I wondered).
Soldiers, and an air force band, were rehearsing the ceremony. I started taking photos. I was also interested in grabbing images of the young Canadian men and women in uniform. They were anything but gloomy or sad. I got some photos...then happened to walk between a police car and a bus where I came across a young soldier in uniform who had ducked out of the way for a couple of minutes, to smoke a cigarette-- ("just grabbin' a smoke, eh? in Canada-speak)--out of sight of tourists, officials and, who knows, maybe his sergeant. He was a handsome young guy wearing a kilt and looked a bit guilty to be caught with cig in hand. I asked him if I could take his photo and he smiled in a sort of embarrassed, conspiratorial way and said "Maybe not, eh, wouldn't look too good for the regiment." So I didn't.
from today's Globe& Mail. That's Corporal Cirillo on the left
And then the horror story of Wednesday. A young Canadian soldier wearing a kilt standing guard at the Memorial was shot point blank by a pyscho with rifle, who then dashed up Parliament Hill and invaded the Parliamwnt buildings where he was shot and killed by the Sergeant-at-Arms. When was the last time, outside of a Bond movie,  you saw a middle-aged man in a tailcoat do something bold and essential? Yay, Canada.
Sergeant-at-Arms is supposed to be a ceremonial figure but Vickers stepped out of his ritual role to do the necessary.
We heard the news standing at the ferry wharf at Whaletown on Cortes Island, British Columbia, surrounded by the power, fog, and mystery of that Canadian land-and seascape.
It would be painful and upsetting to hear such grim news anywhere, but perhaps uniquely disconcerting in the midst of that beautiful world, waiting for the BC Ferry at Whaletown while Robert Bateman, also waiting, was generously showing us his artist's book, filled with sketches from a recent trip to Japan.

I kept going back to my morning in Ottawa in September, and that young guy in the kilt, and the strength of our Memorial, which seems to be about brotherhood much more than it is about victory, or glory, or war.

Sergeant-at-Arms received a deserved hero's welcome at the opening of Parliament this morning.

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