This is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees...--- "Sailing to Byzantium"
One of the advantages of going across the border into Baja California is that we get to watch them building the Titanic, at Popotla, just a few miles to the south of here. I drive past it every day, and every day, there is something new out of the past to befuddle the mind.It is a fine time-warp. For years, Popotla was a barren, failed housing development. Before it went under, they built a dirt road from the highway to the ocean, and an ugly neo-moderne arch for an entryway. Over the years, the arch had been pulled at and beaten by vandals, turned tattered and gray.Now, out of no-where, in preparation for a $200,000,000 movie, we have dozens of new sheds, bright lights, 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week construction, and this goddamn turn-of-the-century superstructure rising up out of dry and dusty landscape, there at the very edge of the Pacific.
They built the funnels first, for some reason, and moved them about the lot, moved these forty-foot tall tan smokestacks (with the wide black strips across the tops), hither and yon. Every day I pass by, they've moved them to yet another place.
Finally, a few weeks ago, they decided to build the promenade deck, so they have planted the smoke-stacks, and underneath them, the bow, the bridge, and the upper decks.
The first-class ballroom can be seen plainly from the highway, and last night, as I passed it, the entire promenade was lit up, hundreds of naked ship's lights, lined along the superstructure. I wasn't sure, but through the portholes, I thought I could see figures, dressed in formal attire, moving back and forth to the rhythm of ghostly music.
The Titanic should be setting sail shortly, and I hope to be on board at the launching. The grand ship, filled with lights and music and glamour, setting sail to another Byzantium. The hundreds of us in our tuxedos and formal gowns, so elegant, there in the first class ballroom, holding our glasses of 1911 vintage Champagne, with the band playing "Just a Bird in a Gilded Cage" and "Casey Did Dance with the Strawberry Blonde."
How glorious it will be to sail past San Diego and Long Beach and Dana Point, all bright lights and music, forging ahead into the foggy darkness, racing along at twenty-five knots, to collide, finally and inevitably, with an errant ice-cube calved by the Santa Barbara Yacht Club Cocktail Lounge.
The silence as the great engines halt. The breathlessness of the quiet, and the darkness all about. Then begins the fatal descent, all of us on deck, in our tuxedoes and frock coats and formal dresses, so very well aware of our fate, but willing to be part of the tragic history of the sea.
Standing at the rail, abjuring the chance to be saved, elegant and noble to the last, the musicians and the captain and the 800 of us, descending now into the cold and fearsome sea, as the lights go out all about us, the great hissing of the boilers, the bursting in two, the huge body of it descending into the depths --- and we are left (still in our frock coats) with nothing but the iciness of the water, and the brilliant stars cold above us, and the wondrous folly, the tragedy of man's fate.--- From The 25th Anniversary Newsletter of
The Reginald A. Fessenden