Non-local View,

One problem with running a Childcare is that, when school teachers take vacations,  parents need childcare even more,  and therefore school vacations are no vacation for a “Childcare Professional.”  You go from working hard to working harder. You work and work until you can’t take any more. You need escape.

Smarter Childcares just close down for “Quarterly Maintenance,” which is a way of hiding the fact they are all cooling their heels and getting some well-earned time off. But closing puts the parents in a bind, because they still have to work, and have no place for their kids. I can’t stand to see full grown adults grovel, so our Childcare basically never closes. Eventually, when either I or my wife are on the verge of a nervous breakdown, we do the irresponsible thing, which is to play hooky. Fortunately we have an excellent staff, and they cover for us, when we run off screaming and waving our hands in the air.

I didn’t see the latest episode coming. My wife said, “I sure could use a break,” and I was busy at the computer and just murmured, “Me too.”  I didn’t realized that counted as authorization. The next thing I knew she asked me to carry the bags out to the car.

It is odd to wake up in a different town, utterly outside of my ordinary routine, but for me it feels strangely familiar. I’m back on the road again. It is like thirty years ago, when I was a hobo, but back then I never had a beautiful woman with me.  But where was I? Oh yes, when I wake up it is with a strange sense time is altered. Not only am I unsure of where I am; I’m unsure what the year is.

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I’m in Newburyport, which is where clipper ships once were built, and left for China.  Those days are long gone, but it does not take much for me to activate the superpowers of my imagination, and the ghosts of ships are sailing in though the glitter along side the draggers of today.

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It is but a twinkling of time to ruffle the pages of history.  The booms go bust.  Whaling is a way to get rich, then a way to break even, and then all the gathered wisdom of the Whaling Masters is an obsolete art, fading away, and scorned by a young and prissy Save-the-whales activist who may have soccer-legs, but whose spindly arms could never hurl a harpoon hard enough to prick a whale, yet who thinks he is courageous to carry a sign.  “What fools”, the skinny twerp sneers, looking back at the men who lit all the lamps of New England, but simply ruffle the pages of time a little, and the twerp is the one being laughed at from the future, and all his Computer Mastery is just more obsolete knowledge, here today and gone tomorrow, like dust in the wind or spangles on the waves.

Standing in historic places always make me wonder what it would be like to have the super-vision of a prophet like Isaiah, and to be able to see the ages spread out like the frames of a comic strip, with past, present and future all visible at once.  Isaiah could see the Jews arriving with Moses from Egypt, inheriting and building a prosperous land, but getting too fat and decadent, and then being led off to captivity in Babylonia, but then returning and…

I’m not a prophet, but I have had three cups of coffee, which is almost the same thing, and when I look about the harbor I can’t help but notice nearly all the boats are pleasure boats. Nearly all the modern boat building must be pleasure boat building. People work hard, but the industry is the tourist industry. What a change this harbor has seen!  It  has shifted from the puritan work-ethic to the modern leisure-ethic.

Well, I too am a tourist. The house I’m in is not my own;  it is a bed and breakfast. I’m just passing through, a free and homeless hobo. I’m not like a perriwinkle, who house is a home he can never leave, nor like the chambered nautilus in Oliver Wendell Holmes’ poem, expanding his home into “greater mansions”,  but rather I’m like the hermit crab, who knows his home will grow too small, and seeks a larger shell, yet must pass through a time, shifting from a small shell to a larger one, when he has no shell at all, and is butt naked.

In a sense to be a tourist is to willingly and willfully become homeless.  It is to be a hobo. True, people attempt to do it in style, and the RV’s that come lurching into campgrounds are about as far from true camping as one can get, and are tantamount to lugging around a home as you are homeless, but somewhere under all that claptrap is an ideal, and the ideal is Freedom.

It amazes me how, no sooner do people have any free time, they fill it with chains. They deny it of course, but into my mind’s eye comes the image of a man who wants to simplify his life to a bathing suit and a towel, and yet winds up laboring to get six coolers, five beach umbrellas, beach balls, Frisbees, horseshoes, a stereo system, and eleven folding chairs across hot sand to the edge of the water. Where is the freedom in that?

When I get grumpy I think we are the opposite of Pilgrims. They arrived with no food and no shelter and no insurance and no welfare checks. All they had were some tools and a whole lot of freedom.  Now we have tons of stuff, but are in danger of losing the freedom.

It is too much to think about, when I am suppose to be resting, but  I can’t help it, when wandering the mouth of the Merrimac, with the dazzle filling my eyes. Across the dazzle is the Coast Guard station, to save the vacationers when they are in trouble…

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…but I think we may need a greater Guard than that.

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