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New England Postcard

Spring 1999

Herman Melville's studio at Arrowhead, where he wrote Moby Dick

The trip back east started in Philadelphia, my dear late mother's birthplace. I was there to do a seminar for a Jungian psychology group. The city has a much more intact old section than most. There are the historical buildings -- and a profusion of narrow streets with block after block of brick row houses from the middle of the last century. It is a fine place for time-travel.

I got to visit the Edgar Allan Poe house. As a descendant of Poe, I've always loved his bleak writings. Anyway, Poe lived in Philadelphia when he wrote The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Tell-Tale Heart. It was here that he invented the detective mystery in The Gold Bug, and Murders in the Rue Morgue.

Jonathan Young at Poe's House

The house is small and old -- with one outstanding detail. In a couple of Poe's stories, there is a horror moment where someone is bricked in, while still alive. In the basement of the Philadelphia house, there is a faux fireplace. This is actually the foundation for the hearth above. It is a partially bricked up space just large enough to enclose a person. With one look, you can see that this was the inspiration for the grisly scenes.

Exploring the riverfront port area, I was surprised to discover that the enormous S.S. United States is mothballed there. In 1955, the family took that grand liner across the North Atlantic for a long visit to Europe. It was new and had just won the Blue Ribbon as the fastest ship on the route. As fate would have it, air travel eclipsed passenger ships only a few years later, and the United States retired after a very short career. It was strange to see the imposing vessel all rusted and forgotten.

Jonathan Young at the S.S. United States

Drove up to East Orange, New Jersey, next -- to tour Thomas Edison's laboratory. All his tools, equipment, and supplies are just as he left them. His big office and library has signed photos from everyone of any importance at the time. The facility is a great shrine to the imagination. He was a difficult man they say, but sure could make things happen. The park service is about to close the whole thing down for several years for restoration.

Then headed along the Connecticut coast with all the port towns and clapboard houses. The goal was to track down Eugene O'Neill's childhood home in New London. It was the setting for Long Day's Journey into Night; one of my all-time favorite dark plays. It is a fine old New England house right on the water. The lovely architecture belies the morose family drama that O'Neill recounted.

Finally got up to Boston to lecture at Harvard -- on Star Wars The Phantom Menace -- and mythic patterns in movies. The lecture room was in Emerson Hall, the building that William James taught in. He was the founder of American Psychology. In that same building, the discipline of Sociology was launched. Lots of fine ghostly mentors around in that place. An article based on my notes is in process and should appear in your email box in a day or two.

Jonathan Young lecturing at Harvard on Mythic Patterns in Movies, 1999

Before too much Ivy could take root on the brain, I drove westward -- and stopped in western Massachusetts to check out Arrowhead, the house where Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick. Started getting some radiant spring weather - with an abundance of flowers blooming and such.

Kept on going without mishap across the length of Pennsylvania. Got to visit the ex. Nanci now works for the University of Akron running a program that helps disadvantaged kids get the skills they'll need to succeed in college. Took her father to dinner at a lively restaurant that has reclaimed one of the city's many old tire factory buildings. As a young guy, he worked at that very factory when it was part of B.F.Goodrich. That was probably in the late thirties. The tire factories that built Akron have long since gone elsewhere in search of cheaper labor.

On to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to do an all-day Saturday seminar for the C.G. Jung Society on Hansel and Gretel. I did part of my Army training in Indiana and have always had warm feelings for the state.

Drove on to Toledo to be with another Jungian group. The Toledo paper did a nice interview. Driving into one small town in Ohio, I had to slow down to pass a horse-drawn Amish wagon with an old couple in the distinctive simple clothes. Still lots of Amish communities in those parts.

Heading eastward again, got to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. It is lavish and thoroughly engaging. There are treasures from every great rhythm and blues or rock act. Several favorite but now obscure acts from the early sixties had displays. I always liked Bobby Bland, Jackie Wilson, and Dion. It was a fine bath of nostalgia.

Jonathan Young's Cat

My real discovery of the power of music was about age twelve. Those songs may be trite now, but still carry a little of their original breathtaking intensity for me. A special installation at the museum on the King was cause to have a big sign outside that read Elvis is In the building.

Cruised back across Pennsylvania and over to Camden, New Jersey to visit the Walt Whitman House. This was where the lover of the open road spent his final decades. Driving north, I stopped in Burlington to see James Fenimore Cooper's house -- no sign of any Mohicans.

Lots of driving, good weather, happy to track down some things that I've been wanting to see. The cats missed me. Like Dorothy said, there's no place like home.

Your faithful narrator,

Jonathan