Friday, December 31, 2004

About a month ago, I read Art Spiegelman's Maus II. This week, I read his In the Shadow of No Towers, which covers not only life in lower Manhattan in the past 3 years, but also touches on comics history.

I've also been enthralled (plot over writing, though) by Fire on the Beach: Recovering the Lost Story of Richard Etheridge and the Pea Island Lifesavers, by David Wright and David Zoby. As a kid, the Outer Banks seemed very remote. We often went in January to select in person a cottage for the summer, and to do some bird watching (I hated the later until I was, like, 20). Even if they got us early from school, the last bit of the drive in the winter dark, with the occasional lit mainland house made the place seem all the more deserted. In th 70s, Nags Head featured maybe 2 restaurants that operated year round, a grocery store, real estate agents, and that New complex of government buildings between the two roads. Some hulking c.1900 buildings - included lifesaving stations - remained, but I could not imagine their world.

Even now, with a reasonably advanced grip on U.S. history and this new text adding to it, that the Outer Banks was a popular place reached easily and frequently by boat seems bizarre. No, I want to say, it was isolated until the 1980s and 1990s brought hulking PoMo McMansions and a WalMart. The Currituck end of the beach, with the remains of a hunt club (refurbished for Events, now, I believe) was privately owned in the 1970s. Even when we borrowed someone's pass it seemed like no where to me. And now I am reading how big the settlement around Currituck Light and the lifesaving station was and how connected those folks were, by boat.

Boating, fishing, and shipping were very hazardous in the late 19th century, thus these lifesaving stations. After one wreck, the authors write of the station staff and Bankers burying the dozens of dead "in the dunes." What!? Those things shift and change! They are covered in houses, now! Do contractors find bones when they sinking pilings?? Perhaps the book will comment on such things. Perhaps when I can vacation again I will go down there and check out the the historic sites.

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