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Travelogue F24

August 27, 2015

My hours-long fall down the mountainside was abetted greatly by the discovery of two spruce sticks, barked and polished, found off the trail a ways and behind a tree, as if left by some thoughtful wood fae. In combination with sticks, I also made liberal use of trunks lining the way, which provided ample handholds to slow still further my descent. Upon pausing for a breather, I examined the trunk and bark and found that the miniscule ridges of hands like mine had over time polished to the bough to such a sheen that I fancied that I might find my face reflected therein.

Our night post-Katahdin was spent at a strange hotel bearing its name. To one side of its cavernous lobby stands a pool. Given the scale, I could only guess at its previous function, perhaps an outer courtyard at a later date walled and roofed so that balconies and French doors now opened into the humid interior rather than the Maine chill. I took something not unlike pleasure in considering the ceiling decaying three stories overhead, in which one can follow the progress of decay by measuring the distance of white ceiling tiles from the pool and hot tub, in reality more lukewarm than boiling.

Over breakfast, my companion took to that morning’s subject with relish, be it in response to my incomprehension of the finer plot points of Gilligan’s Island or an elaboration, on his own undertaking, of the family conditions into which he had been born. Of the first, he sketched the characters and their respective roles yet saw little reason why I should be so perturbed by the professor, by this man who could bring something from the nothing but was otherwise unable to devise a way to leave the place. As to the latter, he went to great lengths to illustrate instances, from the first memories of his childhood, of his mother’s attempts to destroy him, of his older sister’s determination to break him for life, and of how these efforts were ongoing, having never truly ended, such that they still sought to that day to turn his every action about on itself and, in general, make him other than he was. Never before had I heard a living human so nearly approximate a Thomas Bernhard narrator.

One of the structural oddities that I came across, from the passenger seat, with some regularity in Northern New England was a large house, perhaps Edwardian era, typically several stories in height and seated on square foundations, with jutting bay windows at the corners. From the center of the house’s lower levels, in the fashion of a plinth from a wider base, a short, one-story tower rises, windowed on all sides and thus, as best I could guess, giving a commanding view of the surrounding lands, but to what end I could only conjecture. Was this a room for the melancholic to expel their black bile, as it were, to pace and stare and fixate on passing life? Or for the lord of the manor? What is one to make of this colonial, domestic panopticon looking not in but out?

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