You might remember a famous scene from Charlie Chaplin’s movie Modern Times (1937) that features Chaplin’s character, The Little Tramp, at his impossible assembly line job. Two wrenches in hand, he tightens nuts on the parts that fly by, hour after hour. Conscientious to a fault, and falling behind during a sneeze—the line stopped for no one!—he dives after the parts he’s missed and is drawn deep into the factory’s mechanism where he literally becomes just a cog in the machine. You might laugh out loud watching it like I did just now.
For almost a quarter century, I’ve divided my time between Rochester and Buffalo. This gave me the opportunity to observe the contrasts of two cities so close together yet so different culturally. If Rochester is the East Coast of the Midwest as some have joked, then Buffalo surely must be the West Coast of the East. Rochester could be transported to Rochester Minnesota and feel at home. Buffalo could move closer to New York and still feel comfortable.
The morning after the first Obama-Romney presidential debate, with the commentators having had a chance to sleep on it, we awoke to a flood of psychologizing. The president had looked tense and acted dismissive, they noted. This hopeful man who had once campaigned on the prospects of the bright future seemed worn down by the minute-to-minute demands of two wars, an economic collapse not of his own making, and a recalcitrant legislative branch.
The news that the Buffalo Bills recently released their longest-tenured player, punter Brian Moorman, came as a bit of a shock but not a surprise.
At home in the Carmel Valley, I enjoy a view of the steep ridge that holds the flood plain that the Carmel River (only truly a fast-flowing river in springtime) has cut into the rock. At points the shale is so friable you can dig into it with your bare fingers. The geologic past is not always easily readable in this valley; layers of sandstone, soft shale, sandstone, decomposed granite, and big stream rounded boulders in conglomerate residues piled helter-skelter along its valley leave a record along its 37-mile path.
The opening of NFL training camp put me in mind of an encounter in a different field. On a routine doctor visit, I was answering the usual questions. “Do you smoke?” the doctor asked. I said, “no.” “Never did?” she persisted. “Nope,” I replied. “And never will?” she asked meaningfully, leaning forward. A little weary of the interrogation I said, “well, Doc, I’ve been trying to start, but I’m having no success.” Not a smile; not even a twitch.