Odd Moment in Hungry Hill
I was an embryo in Maine. That was where my father was stationed when I was conceived, at a base in Presque Isle Maine.
However I was actually born at home, in my parents bedroom in Robinson's Gardens, one of the toughest public housing projects in Springfield Massachusetts. I was delivered by my father, having emerged from the womb so quickly that there was no time to get to the hospital. Maybe if I'd been aware of some of the coming attractions I wouldn't have been in such a rush to make the scene. Then again, I've always been glad to be here.
When I was small, and before my parents moved us back to Pine Point, which was the neighborhood where they had grown up, we lived for some years in a grey house my Uncle Steve owned on Littleton Street in the so-called Hungry Hill neighborhood. That was the name given it because of all the poverty stricken Irish who lived there - the hill where everyone was hungry! I remember that the house on Littleton Street had a big stained glass window in the upstairs hallway that sprayed color in the living room when the sun shone through it. I also remember it had a big multi-car garage in back where my Uncle used to keep the vehicles he was always collecting, or selling or something. Behind the garage there was a lot of rhubarb plants, and some of my earliest memories involve playing back there. I remember once the girl next door pulled down her pants for me behind that garage, because I asked her to.
One day I was standing on the front porch with my sister. It was summer and the dust from where the lawn should have been was swirling lazily in a light breeze. We had dust instead of a lawn because between our friends and our cousins and the neighborhood kids the whole of the ground surrounding the outside of our house was pounded into dust by everyone's sneakers.
But on this day it was only me and my sister. We were on the porch. It was dusk, and the sun was just setting behind the Walsh's house. It was very still. That was when we first heard it, a sound that was soft and seemed far off, and yet was still very distinct. It was a human voice, sort of moaning in a slow, flowing way that had an otherworldly character to it. It was just a sound, not a word or a phrase, and it was impossible to say what emotion lay behind it.
Such a wee and almost imperceptibly low vibration, but a human made noise none the less, calming and mysterious. It was something from another place. Somewhere beyond. We listened in silence for the several seconds it could be heard, until it slowly faded away. I have remembered that moment and that haunting cry for all the rest of my life - an odd and inscrutable snatch of sonic poetry which I have never heard repeated.
Yet somehow I believe that I will hear it again on the day when I die.
Anyone with any sense of economics could have predicted that the government's so-called "cash for clunkers" would do nothing to help the economy, since the increase in demand it created for autos was completely artificial and due solely to the use of borrowed government money. Now that the program has ended the final results are in, and as expected the final verdict is that the program was a complete flop. The Washington Post explains:
The government's wildly popular "Cash for Clunkers" program drove consumer spending to its highest level in eight years in August. But after it ended, so did the growth in auto sales.
General Motors' sales plunged 36 percent in September compared with August. Ford plummeted 37 percent. Chrysler dove 33 percent.
Cash for Clunkers "was a one-time boost of sales followed by a crater," said Ben Herzon, an economist at Macroeconomic Advisers. The firm forecast that the program was likely to have no effect as a stimulant for national economic output.
Matthews in Spfld
Popular talkshow host Chris Matthews was in Springfield the other night to give a speech. Here's a picture of him with State Representative Angelo Puppolo (center) and Springfield Mayor Dom Sarno.
At the National Democrat Convention in Boston in 2004 I spotted Matthews smoking a cigar and talking on the phone while trying to hide his identity under a too small baseball cap.
Obviously the disguise did not work, as not just me but several others recognized him.
Improbable sounds in downtown Northampton.