Noir

Eads Bridge on a Foggy Night

I was wandering around downtown at night. Don’t ask me why. I ended up in the vast industrial expanse that is the Saint Louis riverfront south of the Arch. As I walked, I encountered a wreck. There was a small crowd there, gawking as the cops probed the scene. I moved on. I was walking alone now. Passing through a rather sketchy area of abandoned warehouses that was crisscrossed with both highway overpasses and abandoned railroad trestles. Even with company, I’ve always felt nervous passing through this area. The place seems to harbor a perpetual feeling of dread or maybe it’s just a premonition that I have.

Tonight as I walked alone, a car with two men in it pulled up alongside me and matched pace with me, even as I slowed my walk. I reached into my coat pocket for that lump of metal. Grasping for it as if my life depended on it. The men in the car never turned their heads, never looked back. Fear griped me. I felt pinned between their sedan and a crumbling red brick wall. If I chose to fight, I would be exposed, but what if I chose to flee? Through gaps in the wall, I spied a jumble of fallen masonry inside. I could run in there, but if they pursued, I doubted that I could hide. I would be at their mercy. A chill ran through me as my mind raced, searching for any way out. Why did I come down here? More than a few long seconds later, another man rounded the corner up ahead and seeing him, the car took off in a roar. It wasn’t my worst Tuesday night.

The Monkey Wrench Gang

Lake Powell

Glen Canyon Dam – Bridge View

Edward Abbey, author and Southwest naturalist wrote a number of books about his beloved desert, but certainly his most famous work, a work of fiction was The Monkey Wrench Gang. In this book an eclectic quartet of environmentalists commit acts of vandalism for the sake of preserving the natural order of things. They would certainly be dubbed terrorists now, but in the book the gang starts small. There eventual goal is the destruction of the Glen Canyon Dam, releasing the waters of Lake Powell and restoring Glen Canyon to its original condition. Part of the charm of the book is the gang’s relative ineffectiveness. They destroy some construction equipment, but none of their work is anything more than an annoyance and really doesn’t impede ‘progress’ much.

The books opening scene details the destruction of the dam’s highway bridge that spans the Colorado River, in the middle of its dedication ceremony. We only learn at the end of the book that this scene occurs after all of the book’s other events. So, it is more of a postscript than a preamble. Abbey took liberty with the facts when he wrote this scene. In the book the bridge was completed after the dam, when in reality it was the other way around. The dam is a National Monument and the park service conducts daily tours of the dam. There is even a gift shop in the dam’s interpretive center. Many of Abbey’s books were for sale in this shop, but I did not see any copies of The Monkey Wrench Gang for sale. Maybe they were just temporarily sold out of it? 

The Night Manager

The Night Manager

The Night Manager

Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston), is working as the night manager of a Cairo hotel, at the height of the Arab Spring. The girlfriend of a local gangster gives him some documents linking billionaire Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie) with illegal arms sales. Pine forwards them to an old army buddy who is working at the British embassy. She is soon found dead. Fearing for his life, Pine flees. The story resumes after four years have passed, when Roper visits the Swiss hotel where Pine has landed. Taking a chance, Pine contacts Angela Burr (Olivia Colman) of British Intelligence. He has saved her number since Cairo. What follows are five more episodes full of intrigue and danger, in this retelling of the 1993 John le Carré spy novel, The Night Manager.

I remember reading The Night Manager when it first came out. It was the first post-Cold War novel that le Carré had written. I also remember not being terribly impressed by it at the time. I remember thinking that he ought to look for a new line of work. I hadn’t thought of it since, until last Sunday night, where it snagged three Golden Globe awards. Hiddleston, Laurie and Colman all won acting awards. I remembered that the show is available on Amazon and I started binging on it the next day. The series debuted on the BBC and AMC first picked it up for those of us across the pond. There are differences between the novel and the series. Most notably the novel was set then and the series is set now. Also, the novel was set in Central America and the series jaunts around the Mediterranean. The biggest difference though is that the series feels less like a le Carré story and more like one written by Ian Fleming.

Before this series debuted London bookies were giving Hiddleston a 1-in-5 chance to be the next James Bond. Not the best of odds, but still better odds than anyone else in this competition’s rather wide field. Now the bookies are no longer accepting bets on Hiddleston. One wag even quipped that The Night Manager was just one long screen test for the role of Bond. The shadow of Britain’s most famous secret agent looms large over this creation of director Susanne Bier from the opening credits, where an RPG transforms itself into a martini glass, a tea service into the chambers of a revolver and flares launched from an AC-130 gunship into a necklace of pearls. It is this Bond-ification of the story that makes this new series so much more appealing than the novel was. The series has it all, sunlit Mediterranean villas, a tall statuesque woman and a villain who is the “most evil man alive”. I can hardly wait for the sequel. 😉

Escape From New York

It's All Good

It’s All Good

Early this morning, Dan laced up his combat boots (Really, he just slipped on his loafers.) and then put on his best Snake Plissken game face (Kurt Russell played Snake in the 1981 John Carpenter Sci-Fi flick, Escape from New York, which was filmed here in Saint Louis.) and then headed out into the gathering storm that was called Decima. Decima, the Roman fate charged with measuring a man’s lifespan. Decima with her rod would measure with thread the years a man stood on this earth, while she and her two sister fates wove that man’s fate into the tapestry that was life. Decima made a worthy adversary for Snake, I mean Dan, because Dan would spend much of this day measuring his time on this earth. Counting the seconds, minutes and even hours that he would expend from his precious life, while waiting on her.

He would wait for his scheduled departure time, then he would wait for the airplane to be repaired and then de-iced again (Cruel, Decima!). Finally, airborne not unlike a sprite, he streaks south towards Charlotte, where he barely makes his rescheduled connection. Then quickly launching himself again into the either, he lands late, in the cold and dark at the doorstep of his home town, the Loo. Decima has erected one more obstacle for our hero. Some errant ramp crewman had allowed Decima to sneak-in and freeze the sky way shut. More time passes, our hero seethes and his iPhone battery dies from all of the strain, but finally Dan is allowed into the bosom of his family. The old man navigates the icy overpasses and delivers Snake/Dan safely home.

Decima may be done with him now, but our hero is not done with her. In fact, he is only just beginning. Once he has accumulated enough energy to power up his still plugged-in iPhone, he activates that little NSA app that he bought after much dithering about whether or not to spring for its $0.99 cost. He punches in Decima’s name and is quickly rewarded with the knowledge that she is now laying-low, with her sisters, on some little Greek island, under the alias, Lachesis. The NSA app found it child’s play to find her by tracing her JoAnn Fabrics account. Such is our hero’s fury with the day’s events that he there and then decides to fork out an additional $0.99 for the special CIA upgrade.

This upgrade entitles him the one-time use of the super-duper secret government satellite called the Death Star. While, the Death Star is a technological marvel of a killing machine, the government’s lack of creativity in naming it, really grates on Dan’s artistic sensibilities. Dan decides to internalize his rage at this and focus it into ‘his’ little project here. It is another sunny day on that nameless Greek island and the fates have moved their meddling tapestry work outdoors into their atrium. With a superhuman deftness, honed by countless hours of video gaming, Dan lays the Death Star’s crosshairs over three particularly long threads. ZAP! ZAP! ZAP! The three fates evaporate and with them their capricious reign over humanity. Dan feels that he should have more to show for his effort, than just his own satisfaction. A little thankfulness from all mankind would be nice or at least $1.98.

Pouring Concrete

Pictured is Mom and a squirmy little tike that would be me. We are in front of my parent’s first house, which still stands in Monterey. Also pictured is the Bixby Bridge, made famous from umpteen million car commercials. I’ve added a photo effect to make the bridge picture seem more contemporary with the rest of this story. The bridge is located on the Cabrillo Highway, more commonly known as California Route 1, about halfway between Monterey and Big Sur. This is a gorgeous stretch of road and the Bixby Bridge makes for a fitting centerpiece. The connection between the two photographs is concrete, as in cement. The Bixby was one of a series of reinforced concrete bridges that were built in the 1930s. Our house was built in the 1950s and shortly after it was built, we had a concrete patio put in. The cement contractor that put in our patio had worked on the Bixby as a younger man. Back then Route 1 was a dirt road and in the rainy season the dirt turned to mud. Just so that you get the full picture here, you have to imagine an inland cliff on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, with a mud sandwich of a road in between. He told us a sad story of getting his cement mixer stuck in the mud once and was then forced to dump his load in order to free his truck.