Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Blowing Town

Photo courtesy Flickr

Yesterday’s post reminded me of a recurring, some might say relentless, theme in the way I keep house: staying mobile. In the early Fifties, one of the television networks broadcast a documentary series about World War Two. Watching this series with one parent who was a veteran and another who had been a newspaper reporter on Washington’s coastal front lines was a formative experience.

An early segment of the series covered the Blitzkrieg, Germany’s innovative approach to mechanized warfare. I’m hardly capable of commenting about the art of war, but I retain the narrator’s and my parents’ respect and appreciation for the effectiveness of a nimble, assertive, and fast-moving army. I suppose that the blitz approach is a force multiplier, a technique that amplifies the effects of a given number of persons and weapons. 9/11 was a brilliant example of force multiplication.

Earlier this year, I attended an academic conference that discussed the reciprocal relationship between society and technology. I talked my way to the table by pointing out to the organizer that a huge percentage of personal income goes to funding life support, and therefore home economy must be a respectable topic. It also didn’t hurt to point out that the school sponsoring the conference produced the major historian of American domestic life, Susan Strasser. That comment invariably evokes surprise and a visible recalibration of assumptions.

The fellow leading the conference runs training sessions for a famous think tank. He teaches high-level military personnel. During the second session of the conference, the term “resilience” began to appear in discussions of civilian lifestyle, along with the term force multiplier. Years ago, at the same school, I learned field skills with a group of climbers and began to organize my life around the “ten essentials” that are recommended for surviving outside a domestic environment.

The Mountaineers or the Great Big Hiking Co-op will have state of the art advice about the ten essentials, but here’s my general collection of categories: a tool, a fire starter, pure water, food, clothing, shelter, medical, navigation, communication, and transportation. Cruise Deft Home’s index for comments about organizing a household to be light weight, portable, and fleet.

Andy, yesterday’s informant, who is an elder of his tribe (the equivalent of having a doctorate), has a brother who was practicing medicine in New York City when the twin towers were attacked. When the news reports went out, Andy’s brother called a house sitter, made a plane reservation to Switzerland, and left with no notice. His reasoning was that the destruction of the towers had spread toxins and pathogens that no one could resist, and it was best to flee.

I don’t know if I would have made the same decision, but medical people do not think like thee and me. The twenty-three year old daughter of friends stayed on for two months to help with the aftermath of the attack. I absolutely admire the wit and quick thought behind the brother's choice, though.


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