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06 July 2003

I just spoke with Lucia. She and Jim were driving the wheelchair-lift van over to the property to meet the builder when the van stalled then caught fire. Jim had to carry Lucia out away from the inferno, and the van and wheelchair were LOST in the conflagration. Lucia said the flames got bigger and bigger. Apparently 2 cops passed while they were stalled/ pre-fire, but they didn't stop -- 2 separate cops. One wooda thunk... but no. A stranger came with an extinguisher, but it had no effect. Then it was put out by the F.D. and towed away. Lucia asked me if she'd told me about her slipper catching fire on... was that Friday... anyway, they had some firecrackers and sparklers, and a sparkler ember rolled into L's slipper and burned her foot. L had seen the ember, but hadn't thought it would amount to anything. It's awfully hard to tell, when one "has*" ms, whether trouble is inside or outside one's own body.

It reminded me, because of the "flames got bigger and bigger" part, about a kind of recitation my cousin Christine (think it was Christine) gave once. It was about 1965, and she told a story that started out with a building on fire. "And the flames grew 'igher an' 'igher. When all of a sudden they saw an 'orrible yooooman fice, frimed ina winder. They got out their little bit of tarpaulin. 'JUMP,' they cried, 'JUMP.' But woodee jump? No. And the flimes grew 'igher an' 'igher. repeat several times, then: But woodee jump? Yes, and broke 'is bloomin' neck."

I don't mean she was performing it in front of an audience -- she was just reciting for us kids.

That might've been when she was visiting with a friend of hers whose name I remember as "Christina." Christina had over-the-knees leather boots that were entirely unlike anything I'd ever seen in little backwards Pennsylvania. And C or C had a belt of copper -- not links, but just a long, circular piece of copper. My mother had a groovy coppery fish-scalelike belt that was totally eclipsed by the hipness of this particular accoutrement. I believe her name WAS Christina, however, I'm somewhat suspicious as Alison, who is someone who as near as anyone could've grew up with us, had a friend I remember as being named Alice. I have a photograph of Alice in a middy blouse at Roselawn Farm -- so was 1963, I think. Alison now lives on Norfolk Island, and I have had a brief email exchange with her father, Ken, about my pater. They were great friends from school in the Dark Ages. I think "school" means Leeds Technical, as Ken was an aeronautical engineer, too. They both left England in order to have jobs in Canada, then left Canada after the Avro Arrow thing happened and the Canadian aeronautics industry was destroyed (more or less). They both worked for Boeing-Vertol in Chester, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia. Vertol started out as Piasecki, which is very interesting (to me, anyway). My father was in charge of flight test for the Chinook, and various things, I'd reckon (I don't really know anything I'm just making it up), including the heavy-lift helicopter - the HLH - which had a specially built hangar so enormous it had weather. I was in the hangar, but I never saw the HLH except in photos. It got de-funded, then my pater became the liaison with the army. I remember going to Fort Belvoir with him in the 60s, and seeing an army truck barreling along with a lot of weird stuff dragging and falling out the back -- and the truck was labeled "Explosives." I went to the Pentagon, too, which was not particularly interesting to me, as I wasn't able to go in the dicey bits, I suppose. My pater said he was speaking with a one-star general and said, "It must be rather nice to be a general," and the general replied, "Around here, if you only have one star they give you a BROOM."

*I think perhaps ms "has" me

The Avro Arrow was a strange chapter in aeronautics history. The project was a response to the Soviet threat, and in its engineering the Arrow was ahead of its time. Someone apparently thought the defense niche could be filled instead by a (cheaper) missile. When the misguided government cancelled the project, the planes, finished and unfinished, where cut up and destroyed. Plans were destroyed. It's a mystery who ordered it, and why, but the day of the cancellation was called Black Friday, and thousands upon thousands lost their jobs. They were fired and made to leave on the day of cancellation. And the planes were cut up and totally destroyed. Is it just me, or is that just a tad strange?


posted by - 3:14 PM


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