Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Frozen In Time


Duang Hibernating On Cold Afternoon In New England

We have been in America for two weeks establishing our home in my boyhood town of Groton, Connecticut.

My wife is getting accustomed to American culture and Connecticut weather.  Everything is so new as well as different for her.  It is also very new as well as different for me.

I essentially left my home town in 1967 when I went off to college.  In 1975, I left New England for 35 years.  Although I had made some visits during those years the visits were never longer than 5 to 7 days until last May when I came alone for a month to care for my parents.  We are now becoming residents once again.

Duang is adapting and adjusting to New England climate - 15F (-11C) low temperatures, ice on the roads and sidewalks, snow on the ground, and cool temperatures in the house.  She often wears an outdoor coat, scarf, and sometimes even a knitted hat inside of the house.  She has even taken an afternoon nap wearing outdoor clothing underneath a sheet, a blanket, and two bedspreads on top of the bed.  I had tried to explain to her what -5C, or -11C was like but it was difficult for her to comprehend since she considers 68F (20C) to be "cold".  I believe that the coldest weather that she has experienced was around 55F (13C) in Vietnam.  I told her about "nam kiang" ice cubes on the ground, and in the rivers but I am not certain that the concept of temperatures below freezing was familiar to her.  No matter the case she is aware of it now.

The strange thing for me is that places and things have also been frozen in time so to speak.  Last week two of my Aunts visited.  One of my Aunts is going to be a Great-Grandmother once again - for the ninth time.   My cousins that I last saw in the late 1960's are now Grandparents.  In my mind they are still the 8, 9 and 10 year old children that I knew in the late 60's.

The same is true for my home town.  I remember places and things from the 50s and 60s.  Many of the places and things that are long gone in reality.  The former Melody Rolling Skating Rink was used by Electric Boat for so many years as office space that it has now become a roller skating rink once again.  As the French say - "The more things change the more that they stay the same".  It also may be like being lost in the wild, once you become lost you will most likely end up walking in a big circle to whence you came.  I do not believe that the "King" and Queen" of the Melody Rolling Skate Rink have returned to the venue.  I last heard that April is now in Australia and who knows where Bruce with his DA (Duck's Ass) haircut may have ended up - hopefully wherever he is, he has a different hairstyle!

I drove Duang down to Eastern Point Beach where so many of my summer days were spent swimming and playing basketball. During the summer of 1967, I spent all but one day at the beach - even playing basketball or swimming in the rain.  The beach has changed - the Kiddy Pool, a small beach on the Thames River is now walled off.  The grassy area where the "In Crowd" congregated seems so much smaller now and so much less important than it was in the early 1960s.  the beach that was free to "walk-ins" now charges admission.  Parking for non-residents is $10.  The offshore rafts which served as a right of passage are no longer there - removed upon the advice of a city

Pfizers large pharmaceutical plant down the road from my parent's home is long gone.  All the large buildings that produced antibiotics, medicines and other chemicals are been demolished and replaced by campus style research buildings.  The manufacturing jobs have been outsourced to far away places like Ireland, India, Puerto Rico, and probably China.  Last week it was announced that 1,100 of the highly paid white collar positions at the research labs were being eliminated - once again outsourced to low cost centers such as China and India.  In the global economy, very few jobs are really secure - there is always someone willing to do your work just as well for a lot less money somewhere else.  For companies and stockholders focused solely on profits, those are the places selected to do the work.

Yesterday, Duang and I went to see the film, "Doctor Zhivago", at a local theater.  I had seen it several times before since it was first released in 1965.  Duang who was 2 years old at the time has never seen the movie.  In 2006 on a date, I brought her to only the third movie that she had ever seen.  Life is different back in Isaan.  Her life experiences are so much different than mine.  I am pleased to finally be able to show her some of the places and things that have shaped a large part of my life as well as introduce her to some of the people who have affected my life.

Duang loved the movie and it was fun to watch her viewing the film.  I enjoyed the film also and saw it in a different light.  On previous occaissons I viewed it as a history lesson, an instructional in cinematography and directing, a story of class struggle, as well as a portent of what was to come if the Soviet Union prevailed in the Cold War.  All perspectives influenced by current events and personal experiences of the given times.


Yesterday I viewed it from the life experience of a man who also had left his wife to be with a younger woman who he thoroughly loved despite social conventions.  For the first time, I could emphathize and appreciate the heart as well as the soul of the film.  I could value the passion that the film so realisticly portrays.  It is passion and the value placed upon passion by other cultures that has richly enhanced my life and brought me great happiness.  Becoming unabashed regarding recognizing and accepting emotions can be liberating.  I consider myself to have reached this point with the help and encouragement of my  friends.

On an aside, after experiencing two winters in Northern Alberta, the winter scenes of the film had lost much of their impact upon me.  Once when travelling through the barren ice ladden country between Edmonton and Fort McMurray in December on a bus in -40 weather I thought of "Doctor Zhivago".  After seeing the film yesterday, I realize that my Northern Canada experience was more beautiful and memorable.

Upon returning home last night from our first date here in America, my parents asked if I saw anyone that I knew.  I said I most likely did but I did not recognize anyone.  It has been 43 years since graduating from high school and I am beginning to realize that although people are frozen in time, in reality they have moved along in the years, growing older, and changing their appearance just as I have.

By chance the movie "Mystic Pizza" was on television the other night.  I used to go there often with my friends Nicky and Nick - long before it was Mystic Pizza and famous; back when it was smaller and called "Ted's".  We had a good childhood back in those days; days when the shipyard was working to capacity to build submarines, and we used to say that we didn't need to take vitamins because the odors from Pfizer kept us healthy.  Some landmarks remain from the old days, one of them being "Angie's Pizza" on the Mystic - Stonington border on Highway 1 - gonna have to try it out once again.

As time moves on here in Groton, I am confident that memories will become updated and new memories will be created. Until then people, places and things will remain for me remain frozen - frozen in time.

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