Tempest winds lean hard on a century

"The Sinking of the Titanic" by Douglas Brown, 2015

“The Sinking of the Titanic” by Douglas Brown, 2015

Today, April 14 or what’s left of it, is “Ruination Day.” Described fittingly by the Gillian Welch song, Ruination Day marks the date that President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated (1865), the date the Titanic struck an iceberg (1912) and the date a dust storm consumed much of the high plains amid the aptly named Dust Bowl (1935). Not coincidentally, it was also the date John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” was published (1939), which could rightly be tied to all three events by a particularly enterprising academic.

One of my sons, Douglas, who is 7, has immersed himself into a rather intense period of research and artistic recreation of two subjects this year: the sinking of the Titanic and the Civil War. These topics was his choice and, indeed, the young man has long eclipsed what a maniacal parent could “force” on a child anyway.

The other night Doug and I were talking about his Titanic drawings, which have papered the dining room table, kitchen countertops and coffee table for weeks now. Each day he scratches out another five or six, some abandoned for their errant angles, but always one or two good ones. He told me he intends to sell them.

Now, most of us remember being kids and hoping that adults would hand over money for something we could create with relatively little personal sacrifice. Actually, that hope never goes away. There are whole professional fields dedicated to that delusion. When I was a kid I remember planning a circus that would involve my sisters and I, a tent and a borrowed dog we presumed could be taught tricks. A couple shows and bam, I’d have a case of baseball cards. Unfortunately, we couldn’t loop in early investors and the dog backed out; as producer, I had to shut it down.

With this in mind, I asked Doug who his target audience was. Who are the people buying pencil drawings of this 100-year-old national tragedy for display in their home?

His blunt reply came instantly, “Everyone. This touches us all.”

He asked me to check around, so I posted the picture on social media and many friends and relatives lined up to get on the buyers list. As one person said, “There’s something about that ship!”

Indeed, the Titanic not just a ship that sank, it’s human progress and failure, potential and hubris, all in one. It’s the class system that dominated the movement of Europeans to America. And so was the Civil War. And so was the Dust Bowl.

Ruination indeed, and yet we persevere into another generation. (Watch out when Doug’s Titanic art hits the open market).

Below, “The Titanic” by the Carter Family:

Bob Dylan fans might recognize the Carters tune as the main inspiration for the much longer and more philosophical “Tempest,” the title track for the Hibbing son’s fantastic 2012 album and occasional inspiration to yours truly.

Comments

  1. John Ramos says:

    “This touches us all.”

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