05 February 2011


COOLEST SMALL TOWNS. The choices for nominees in any such contest are, of course, highly subjective. Still, of the 20 nominees presented at Vote for America's Coolest Small Towns, I found some surprisingly interesting (and new to my awareness) entries. You can click on the link and cast your own vote, if you wish. My own choice (admittedly blind, since I've only visited a few) is Astoria, Oregon. Located at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River where it floods into the Pacific Ocean, Astoria is a deepwater port and fishing village dating from Victorian times. Today it is also host to an arts community, and to tourism.

For a week in 1998 Astoria was berth to the USS Missouri (see image above), during that mighty battleship's transfer from Bremerton, Washington, to its permanent home at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, next to the memorial for its sister battleship USS Arizona -- the beginning and the end of U.S. involvement in WWII, side by side. As a boy, one of my favorite handmade models was the Missouri. As an adult, in Astoria I was privileged to board and tour the ship aboard which the Japanese officially surrendered, ending hostilities during World War II. The town of Astoria has its own rugged Northwestern charms, and is well worth a visit.

LSD IN THE 50s. This YouTube video is interesting for several reasons -- it chronicles what were then legal and legitimate experiments with LSD on volunteers. The somewhat stuffy manner of the presentation is a small window into the times (pre-hippies, pre-counterculture). And, speaking as one who has enjoyed the altered perceptions in question, it is amusing to watch a very straight woman from half a century ago try to describe to the interviewing clinician the revelations she's experiencing. It's like trying to explain the color green to a blind person. You had to be there. I'm reminded of a saying from back in the day -- "LSD consumes 47 percent of its weight in excess reality."

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