Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Going back in time

by Rick Blechta

The two most recent posts on Type M by Mario this weekend and Aline yesterday have put a new thought in my head for this week’s post.

Both these posts look to the future or at least the present and how it relates to the future. The post I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to finish for the past two weeks also dealt with looking into the future a bit. I’ve decided that it couldn’t be finished for a good reason, and I also don’t want to beat a dead horse since both Mario and Aline spoke eloquently on some of the points that I was going to make.

Instead, I’ll look back…sort of.

Bear Mountain Bridge north of Peekskill
I grew up in a very historic part of the US: the New York area. Back in 1961, my hometown of Mamaroneck celebrated 300 years of existence. Now that isn’t very much time if you compare Mamaroneck with Europe and other places, but in the US, 300 years is “old”.

A great deal of the early Revolutionary War was fought in and around New York and the area is positively littered with historical plaques keeping the past in constant view if you’re paying attention.

Now, my next statement is purely subjective, but to me, where I grew up feels old.

Mamaroneck is located on the Long Island Sound, but my favourite place in the area is the majestic Hudson River Valley. It just resonates with me. Its physical beauty, its history, too, just speak to me. That perhaps explains the psychological reason I decided to set the “headquarters” of my protagonists for this series in this picturesque place.

I was down there for nine days this July, and it really hit me strongly how much the history of the Hudson Valley is affecting the writing of my novel-in-progress. Certainly my main character has been shaped by it. A non-repentant Luddite, his personality is one that tends to look back rather than forward. My other protagonist is completely the opposite which is why they find each other — or I might say need each other — and why they are seeming to work so well as characters since they each jostle the other’s sensibilities.

The interesting thing is I didn’t set out to write my novel in this way. I was going to have a hardened former cop taking a young but very smart amateur under his wing in order to solve the problem to which I’d set them. It wasn’t until I began doing background research onsite in the Hudson Valley that all these historical ideas began to present themselves as background to why one of the characters behaves as he does. My recent trip down there only served to reinforce that idea.

Now I find myself drawn into doing more historical research going right back to the roots of European settlement of the area (if that isn’t too politically incorrect), and who knows, perhaps even further.

So, as usual, Blechta is going the opposite direction of everyone else.

4 comments:

Aline Templeton said...

Rick, your comment about Mamaroneck being old put me in mind of a tourist guide who said that the difference between Americans and Canadians and Europeans was that the first think that 300 years is a long time and the second think that 300 miles is a long way.

Rick Blechta said...

That's very clever and also very true. Met a family from Ireland who were really enjoying seeing Canada. "It's so beautiful and so different than our country -- especially the distance between towns!"

They'd only been in southern Ontario where adjacent towns really aren't all that far apart. I told him he should go out to the Prairie provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta) if wants to see real distances between towns.

Mario Acevedo said...

Great post. I love visiting the east because of its history and it's so green (compared to out west). I once hosted a work colleague from New Zealand and his comment was that people don't realize just how damn huge the US and Canada are.

Rick Blechta said...

We went hiking both here in Ontario and down in the NY area with my wife's sister who was visiting. She has made the same comment about the east vs the west (she lives in Santa Harmonica, so you know what kind of wilderness she's used to). With all the rain they've had this summer (us, too, in Eastern Canada), the Greater New York area is the greenest I've ever seen it. The hiking was magnificent!