Thursday, December 21, 2006

"The more things change..."

When John Smith sailed for America in 1606, it took him six weeks to lose sight of England. Ill winds. Some passages took six months. Three thousand miles, in half a year. That works out to, um, like 2 miles a day, right? Passengers would eat at night so they wouldn't have to see the worms in their food. They had to scrape off the lice -- too thick to pick. Everyone was Job.

In America, there was no mail system that could be called reliable. Copies of previous letters were included, of necessity, with new letters. Why? No roads. None, until well after the Revolution. Foot-wide Indian trails pretty much covered it. The Natchez Trace was just that -- five hundred miles to Nashville, of bunny tracks. Jefferson had to hire guides to lead him to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Until the final years of the 18th century, there were only four real roads: the Boston Post Road, the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike, the Wilderness Road, and the Great Road. Roads, by the way, were allowed to have knee-high tree stumps in them. Coaches, by the way, did not have springs until well into the 1800s.

Things got better, of course. Railroads. Barreling along at 20 miles an hour. Fantastic. If you didn't mind cinders in your eyes, and eating prairie dog, and getting jolted mightily when connected cars rammed into each other -- coupled by chains, you see. But from nothing in 1830, to 30,000 miles of track in 1860, and 200,000 in 1890 -- well, that’s pretty good, by cracky.

In the cities, horses. In Rochester, NY, the horse-pollution for 1900 would have covered over 500 acres in over four inches of, um, fertilizer. Fifteen thousand horses dropped dead in the streets annually in New York City. Often they were left to rot for days and weeks. Cable cars were known to run amok, mowing down horses and baby carriages and fruit carts and men carrying large plates of glass. Not all downside, of course. Streetcars invented suburbs -- got people out of the stench and filth and flies and smoke and noise and horror. The population of the Bronx more than doubled within a relatively few years immediately after lines reached it.

Then cars. Then planes.

Welcome to today. Today is no longer about moving things. Been there, done that. It’s about information.

Strange, isn’t it, how there are still ill winds. The MSM blows as it listeth, filled with movement, sounding like progress -- yet it brings to our ears so much of bad tidings. Mail is not lost, anymore ... I have one email address, in fact, that gets hundreds of messages every day. This must be a good thing, right? -- if I ever discover a need to make my penis larger, I'll know where to turn. The information highway connects every home to every library, virtually if not in reality, yet it is reality programs that occupy so many minds. Well, the web is exploited for one peculiar sort of thing. If I ever discover a need to make my penis harder, I'll know where to turn.

(Yes, I know. I shouldn't have said that.)

What it amounts to is this: a nation, and a world, covered about ankle high with, um, fertilizer. Now the lice are just in our eyes and ears. This is progress.



Anonymous said...

You probably shouldn't have said that. Made me cringe... and yet, I have to say...brilliant post.

Jack H said...

I can resist anything but temptation.

But I'd be even worse, if I didn't have a sense of humor.


Anonymous said...

I am itching all over now...
Great post and it makes me want to pack up and head for them thar hills!

Jack H said...

Lice of you to say so.