(cross-posted on my blog, included here for the photos!)
Greetings! Okay, that was a longer posting hiatus than I’d intended. But I think I’ve taken my last major out of town trip for the year, so, time for a catch-up.
Bouchercon was awesome! What can I say? All the cliches about how writers spend all this time alone in front of computers, talking to themselves in character, then getting let out and getting together en masse, and there are parties, and a bar?
I had a wonderful time. I have to say, hanging out with the Soho Criminals is something I would love to do more than once a year. What a great bunch of folks all around! I’m only sorry that I missed the bowling tournament. Next time, I swear…
Also, I really enjoyed St. Louis. Let it be known that for all the travel I’ve done in China, I have barely been anywhere in huge swathes of the United States, the midwest in particular. I was pleasantly surprised by a lot of what I saw — the downtown still shows a lot of signs of economic distress, but they are trying. So many lovely old buildings being repurposed and so many more waiting to be revamped and enjoyed. There are good restaurants and bars—
(this is The Bridge Tap House)
—the amazing Old Post Office—
Everybody told me I needed to see the Arch, and that moreover, I should watch the documentary they show there on the making of it called MONUMENT TO THE DREAM (here’s a trailer).
“Everybody,” in this case, was right. The Arch impressed me on many levels. I loved the simple, elegant design. Loved the weird, diver-capsule-like elevators that haul you to the top. And the view is wonderful.
The documentary, too, was fascinating, focusing on the tremendous design and engineering challenges the Arch posed, and the impressive work of the builders and crew in meeting those challenges.
Watching it was unexpectedly poignant. It reinforced some things I’d been thinking about, a lot. We no longer seem to build great things in this country, not like that. We don’t build factories, universities, high speed rail, infrastructure—we can’t even maintain what we have.
We sure don’t build grand and beautiful monuments.
In my passing through Saint Louis, especially when I took the train to the airport, I saw so many shuttered factories…beautiful red brick buildings. Empty. Stripped of their useful machinery, the remains of it rusting.
Plenty of people have warned about the dangers of basing too much of an economy on FIRE: “Finance, Insurance & Real Estate,” and I’d add to that, “Empire.” Our economic crash and prolonged recession/depression would seem to be proof enough, though in truth, if you look at the growth of income disparity over the last thirty years, it’s a crisis that’s been years in the making. But with the crash, we can’t hide from the truth any more, that we’re living in an empire in decline.
It’s a good thing, to be out of denial, and as hard as the forces of reaction and repression continue to push their “divide, conquer and privatize” agenda, the public dialog has changed, and they know it. We can thank Wisconsin and Occupy Wall Street for that, for giving voice to what so many people have experienced and discussed in private, or even publicly, but without a rallying point to give our voices traction. It’s no longer possible for pundits to sputter unopposed about “the left and class warfare” when it’s now abundantly clear who has been waging war on whom.
Anyway, I have more catching up to do, but I think this is enough for one post…