Beyond the Pines
Dispensing with chronological order, I'd like to devote
this installment to my recent stay in Brunswick, my first visit to the
campus in more than forty years, and at a time of national crisis for
The two-week tour of New England with my Czech-born partner,
Zdenka, started on September 4. We arrived from London Heathrow at Logan
Airport, exactly a week before the tragedy of September 11; "A New
Day of Infamy" as the Boston Globe put it.
Offered flight vouchers by United Airlines to the sum of
800 dollars each if we gave up our seats on the direct flight we had booked,
we flew to Boston via Washington, D.C. Even without terrorist activity,
this turned out to be an adventurous detour.
Arriving at Dulles Airport in late afternoon, we were told
that, due to heavy thunderstorms in the Boston area, our connecting flight
had been cancelled.
But from then on luck, at least as far as the weather was
concerned, seemed to be with us. New England, even before the leaves had
turned, couldn't have looked lovelier. The hot and sunny weather held
up until our very last day on the Cape, with 'all of America' behind us
(as Henry David Thoreau once said), as well as a stay which turned out
to be memorable in more ways than one.
In Williamstown, home of a college just a year older than
Bowdoin, we saw an exhibition of Impressionist paintings mounted by the
Clark Institute, an internationally renowned art museum in a place where
one would least expect it.
Our next stop was a ski lodge on the edge of the White Mountain
National Park in New Hampshire. Amazingly enough, we had it all to ourselves.
Among tattered paperbacks on a shelf in the living room with huge fireplace,
I found Erich Fromm's The Art of Loving, an international best-seller
which was first published in 1956, the year I returned for my second year
at Bowdoin. It was a title I remember from my off-campus roommate Ed Podvoll,
who was into that sort of thing, always talking about it a great deal.
Exploring the National Park, we stopped off at Bretton Woods,
a prominent name in post-war financial history. Sitting on the porch of
the luxurious and wonderfully old-fashioned Hotel Mt. Washington, which
was built at the beginning of the century, I was reminded of similar ones,
in which, as an undergraduate, I had stayed with my sponsor, Mrs. Applegate,
of Christmas Cove, Maine.
Naturally, I had promised Zdenka a peek at Nellie's former
summer place, a bungalow almost at the tip of the point with stunning
view, sold by her in 1969, the year I left the States for England.
On Tuesday, September 11, after a weekend spent on Mt. Desert
Island, we headed down Route One towards Brunswick. While at Bowdoin I'd
never been north of Rockland, I laughingly told Zdenka. And I was in Rockland
only once to buy a fur-lined anorak at the local Army & Navy Store.
Turning off at Damariscotta, we headed for South Bristol,
and Christmas Cove, so named by Captain John Smith after discovering the
pretty little place on Christmas Day 1624.
It seemed quite long ago since Big Brother Bill Beckett
had first taken me down to the Cove to meet his adopted mother.
Confused by a new road layout, I finally stopped to ask someone for directions.
Almost immediately, they asked if I had heard the news.
Like everyone else I couldn't believe it. That is until actually seeing
the images one will not easily forget, on TV in Nellie's old place, having
been kindly asked in by the new owners, Mr. & Mrs. Tremaine. They
turned out to be the very people who, all those years ago, had bought
the place from Nellie, furniture and all. I actually recognized some of
the antique pieces.
Our final destination on that gloriously sunny, yet terrible,
day was 20 McKeen Street, home of Bob and Nesta Morrison, our kind hosts
for three memorable days in Brunswick. Ten minutes later, thinking we'd
only just arrived in the States, and concerned for our welfare, Belinda
Lovett of the Orient turned up, asking if I would like to meet some of
the Orient staff?
Belinda and Nick took me to lunch and invited me to join
them that evening at their weekly lay-out session on Cleaveland Street.
It made me feel just like an undergraduate member of the 'O-Team' again.
Did I find the campus much changed? Not really. Except for
new buildings which were discreetly beneath the same old pines. And the
flag, which flew at half-mast.
Familiar old fixtures like Massachusetts and Hubbard Halls
seemed to have preserved and their somewhat staid look. In the old library,
I was glad to see a portrait of 'Herby' Brown, my revered English teacher,
occupying a place of honor among other portraits of famous alumni and
former college presidents. The biggest and most delightful change, however,
was seeing girls on campus.
The door to the Chapel being ajar I had a quick look inside.
It too seemed apparently unchanged. Even the lectern up front, I thought,
might have been the very same one behind which I'd stood one day in the
spring of '55, to give a talk on Franco-German Reconciliation, reprinted
in full in the Orient.