Blog Archives

Summer Solstice, Summer Sights

it’s become a source of irritation to me that it seems increasingly difficult to get back in the blogging routine. Over the past year and a half I have published TWO posts. And yet, I’m still online constantly, going about my daily digital routines.

But what if I actually sat down and wrote something? On this blog that I continue to pay for? Imagine that.

So, this morning’s heavy rain on Martha’s Vineyard and concurrent status as the first official day of summer seems to be a good time to actually come back to the blog.

But what to write about? In my present full-time islander iteration, I seem to have mastered the art of short off-island trips. Last weekend was the last opportunity for awhile, and this time my sights turned to northern New England, as in New Hampshire and Vermont.

There was something familiar and pleasant about seeing the signs for roads I grew up with while making that same drive with family. The journey to our usual destination in Vermont, in particular, is so familiar that I could create a checklist of where to stop and when. But for this occasion I decided to change it up and go “the other way” all the way north along I-93 through Franconia Notch, ultimately to the road’s terminus in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, where i would be spending the night just north of my intended destination.

There was also something familiar and pleasant about simply having an OFF-ISLAND DRIVING EXPERIENCE where one could go higher than 45 MPH and not have the thought of a ticket go into one’s mind. The lack of geographic limitation – if I had more time I may well have driven on to Canada, just 50 more miles north – also factored into the appeal.

The I-93 route has always had a feeling of being more mysterious and dynamic than the blander I-89 route across New Hampshire. The sensation reaches its apex in the Franconia Notch Parkway, which “required Congress to pass a special amendment to the standards applied across the rest of the U.S. interstate system” as briefly described here, and was originally not even signed as part of I-93. The mystical feel is also evident in a different way at night, when you can’t even see the mountain tops, and I recall feeling that way on my previous evening trip through the notch, near the end of 2015.

This particular pass through also made me notice how the parkway is a rare (for New England) evocation of Southwest and West Coast driving experiences, with the Virgin River Gorge in Arizona being perhaps a particularly close equivalent, which I’ve now seen for myself but had no idea of on childhood trips through.

And then the road widens out again and its onward north into Vermont. The Green Mountain State has always felt welcoming to me, though it had been slightly over a year and half since i was last in the area. As with any state lines, there is a noticeable change in “feel” from the start, and makes me recall the opposite “back to real life” feel of re-entering Massachusetts, which I experienced again on this weekend’s trip.

Once in St. Johnsbury, I wrote on Facebook later to close out the day:

Back in St. Johnsbury Vermont for one night only, celebrating 30 years of coming to the Northeast Kingdom, recalling two separate instances of considering moving here.

I didn’t realize until today that this Father’s Day weekend trip also honors the memory of a short trip here in 1990 with my dad, possibly also on Father’s Day weekend, when we caught the then-new release DICK TRACY at this very cinema, and friends back at Karme Choling were very interested to hear how the movie was.

And the mix of nostalgia and acknowledgment of the present seems a good way to wrap up this reflection exercise and notation for today.

 

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Film Flashback: Insurrection

Continuing my series of posts focusing on the Star Trek: The Next Generation adventures on the big screen, the 16th anniversary of the crew’s third cinematic foray, Insurrection, is coming up next Thursday.

Once again I was excited to see my favorite space crew on the big screen, and proceeded to see their latest voyage three times during its original cinematic release. First up was an opening day screening at the then – new Showcase Cinemas Lowell, which was just coming up to its first anniversary of opening. I remember it was a winter concert night at my high school (which I was performing in) a few towns away from Lowell, so my dad picked me up and we rushed to the cinema and then hurried right back so I could make it to the evening event. Unfortunately, that rushed state led to me leaving my first point and shoot camera there in the movie theatre, and I was unable to recover it, which disappointed me and my parents as it contained a few photos that could not be replicated. (why did I even take it into the theatre? probably to take a picture of the poster… interesting how those things stand out in the memory…)

A week later, my dad and I caught the film a second time on Opening Night of the new and long – awaited Loews Theatres Liberty Tree Mall. I remember feeling disappointed that Insurrection was shoehorned into one of the complex’s smallest screening rooms, even though it was just in its second week of release. We would get to know the rest of the complex very well over the next several years.

This film serves as half of the answer to a regional trivia question in that it was one of the two final films to screen at the Loews Liberty Tree Mall twin cinema, which closed down after screenings on December 17, 1998, to make way for the new 20-plex.

Finally, I saw the film a third time in St. Johnsbury, VT, near the end of that month, with my mom and several other friends. I highly doubt that St. J’s Star Theater has changed much since that screening!

Insurrection DVDIt’s been awhile since I’ve actually watched Insurrection, and I’m aware that it has a bit of a “meh” reputation among fans. The film’s location photography in the Mammoth Lakes region of California stood out to me on those early viewings, with lush greenery and icy blues serving as fitting evocations of an alien planet. Veteran composer Jerry Goldsmith again delivered an expert tapestry of musical images to drum the story along and serve as a backdrop for the crew’s continuing mission. But I agree with a sentiment that I once saw somewhere indicating that this film shows the Next Generation crew at their most natural. They don’t have to ramp up the violence to show they can kick some ass and bring in box office, they don’t have to compare themselves to other Star Trek crews, and they don’t have to do a victory lap on their way out of the spotlight, they can simply be present in the story, and relate to each other with humanity and consideration. (The last point is something that the actors continue to do well in real life, as seen in writeups of their convention appearances over the last several years, and I saw for myself when I met Marina Sirtis here in Michigan a year and a half ago.)

I likely did not realize on first viewing that the “guest stars” for this installment drew heavily from the theatre world, where most of the regular cast members also have roots. It would be interesting to see some alternate universe mashup where Donna Murphy and F. Murray Abraham suddenly launched into dramatic monologue faceoffs with Patrick Stewart, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner and the rest of the cast.