Wednesday, April 20, 2011

51 - 4/20/11 - Chasing Mr. Ridley

Initial Impressions
Christopher Setterlund

51 – 4/20/11
Chasing Mr. Ridley

            I love adventures, especially ones that seem to be impossible to complete.  Living on Cape Cod there are very few of these such adventures to be found, but there was one.  In the dense woods of North Truro sits a grave, not a cemetery, a grave, a single grave.  The stone is barely more than one foot by one foot in size and sits in the middle of an area of roughly six square miles.  Luckily there is a little bit of help from the fact that Montano’s Restaurant can be used as a jumping off point in the quest.  My adventure will hopefully show that finding a literal ‘needle in a haystack’ can be done, though it might take you a while as I found out.
            The grave I was in search of was that of Thomas Ridley who died of smallpox all the way back in 1776.  Ridley was a fisherman who ended up having ten children with his wife Elizabeth.  After he died of smallpox and was buried far from the village his wife lived to be 74 and ironically was buried in a regular cemetery, Provincetown Cemetery Number 1.  There was not much else I could find about Mr. Ridley, but the biggest fact, how he died and how that impacted where he was buried, is definitely known. 
            Finding that grave was something different all together.  I began by watching a video made by the CapeCast folks in which they found the grave but did not really share how they found it.  The main thing I got out of it was that if you made it to a very large sand pit you had a fighting chance of finding the lonely grave of Mr. Ridley.  Being that it was such a daunting task to find something so remote I knew I needed a partner in crime to help me, and possibly go for help if we got lost.
            The only person I knew who would dare to come with me was my friend Emily.  She loves the same sort of adventures as I do which meant I did not have to worry about trudging deep into the woods and having her abandon me.  Now, for this trip we took a right off of the parking lot at Montano’s in search of the sand pit.  No map, no gps, only our instinct.  What did it get us?  Lost.
            That’s not to say that we did not have fun.  The things that we found out in those woods were odd and creepy.  At the bottom of one of the kettle holes were pieces of broken beds and chairs really far out which made us wonder who would carry these things out there to dump?  Oddest of all was the dirty white dress hanging from a tree branch, really, some person decided to leave their clothes out there.  Okay.  So after a few hours of going in and out of kettle holes with no luck Emily and I called it a day.  However this only made me more determined to find Mr. Ridley’s grave no matter what.
            I returned a week and a half later on a sunny day off, ready to find the grave and film it when I did.  I studied the map and found that Emily and I had been so close to where the sand pit was, we had need to take a left at a fork in the path.  So that was exactly what I did this time.
            Finding and filming the elusive sand pit was quite easy and thus I believed that the grave would soon be in my sights.  Once at the top of the sand pit I decided to go right and keep my eyes peeled.  What started out as a highly positive adventure disintegrated into a fruitless search.  Those woods can disorient you quickly, especially when looking for something so small.  I thought the grave looked like it was in a slightly open area so that was all I had to go with.  Any open area I went over to, until I had no idea where I was headed.
            I descended into madness really quick and it only got worse when a big owl swooped out of a tree nearby.  I then found myself yelling out loud to Mr. Ridley that he was not going to get rid of me that easily.  The madness got worse when I started finding different colored tapes wrapped around various trees.  I thought maybe it was a trail of bread crumbs leading you to the grave, or just tape to mess with me.  My video shooting ended with a tress stand for hunting as I started believing that I was never going to find Mr. Ridley’s grave and maybe never find my way out.  That second trip ended being close to four hours of walking and ending up out on the highway walking with shame back to Montano’s.  I went home humbled, but still believing I’d find that lonely grave.
            I returned for a third and final time complete with a rough set of directions, drink, food, my gps, and a raw foggy day.  Once again I found the sand pit with ease and knew from the directions that the grave should be just to right of the sand pit maybe 700-800 feet back.  I had to find a kettle hole and go around it, in between two of them, with the grave supposedly right in front of you as you walk.  Easier said than done.  I tried to use the gps to keep me going in the right direction but it got no signal.  It looked like I was going to be lost again as I kept thinking I was close only to keep wandering further from where I should have been.
            I decided to find my way back to the sand pit and start over again with the directions.  I wandered through the broken trees and brush with no clue where I was going.  Then suddenly up ahead I saw it.  I literally stumbled upon the grave of Thomas Ridley as I was going back to the starting point.  I nearly fell over and screamed like Rocky at the top of the mountain in Rocky IV.
            The first thing I did was take out my phone and send a photo of the elusive grave stone to Emily.  She was there at the start and deserved to see it before anybody else.  After that I shot a video and many photos including a touching one of me hugging it like a kid on Christmas.  It was both cute and creepy.  I finished off my protein bar and Powerade while sitting next to Mr. Ridley’s grave.  It was weird, I am not a cemetery guy but this was different.  So few people know this place exists, and fewer have seen it.  Now I can always say I am one of them.  The last real adventure on Cape Cod is over.  Ironically after walking only a few hundred feet I had no idea how to get back to the stone.  It’s okay though, I only needed to see it once, that was enough.  It was nice to meet you Mr. Ridley, bet you don’t get too many visitors.  Cheers! 

The odd dress hanging from a tree from the first trip.

My first view of the grave.

Closeup of the grave, with the last name spelled wrong.

See what I was up against, almost camouflaged at 50 feet away.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

50 - 4/14/11 - In My Footsteps Trip

Initial Impressions
Christopher Setterlund

50 – 4/14/11 – In My Footsteps Trip

            Had yet another awesome trip.  This time I visited Marlborough, Natick, and Wellesley.  235 miles driven, cost $30 in gas thanks to stupid oil prices.  Averaged about $3.80/gal. where I was.
            Although it was a great trip I still was nearly killed seven times on various roads.  Some idiot in a yellow Jeep started it by staring down at his passenger seat while he swerved from side to side just before the Sagamore Bridge.  It went to nearly being hit head on a few times on some narrow winding roads in Marlborough and Natick.  Still, nobody got the job done, I am still alive, ha ha!
            The sun came out just before I hit Marlborough.  First spot I checked out was a common where the John Brown Bell sat.  The bell is the second most well known in the country behind only the Liberty Bell.  It is named after the famed abolitionist and the common where it sits is really pretty especially when the sun is out.
            I thought it was so cute that I got to see a class of little kids posing for a photo in front of Marlborough’s City Hall.  I waited for the photos to be taken and took one of my own, it was that cute.
            Cider Knoll is a little out of the way conservation area with a little creek running through it.  There are so great views from up on a hill, also there was a rusty engine and wheels maybe from an old tractor, not certain though.
            I love how there are signs at these parks to keep your dogs on leashes and then I watch some lady just go right in with the dogs running loose.  It’s even funnier when one of the dogs gets drool all over me, yeah, ha ha, ass woman!
            Natick is awesome.  It started out awesome with Cochituate State Park.  It’s sort of small and is a weird mix.  There was a pond with people fishing yet less than a hundred feet away is a busy street with the constant rush of cars.  I spent longer than expected there since it was just such a cool area.  Lots of people eating lunch, and all staring at me like I was a killer.  I wanted to say ‘I got a lot more important things to do besides killing you.’  But that might have been seen as threatening, you know?
            A cool moment was when I was waiting at the lights in Natick to go onto Rt. 9 and John Lennon’s ‘#9 Dream’ came on my Ipod.  I mean what are the odds?  Things like that seem to happen to me a lot.
            Natick’s historic downtown is incredible.  I had fallen in love with it driving through it the last trip I had in the area, but I spent a lot of time just walking around today.  It looks and feels a bit like Upstate New York to me.  Every building was cool and the weather was near perfect.  I did want to shoot a video of it to capture the feel but since I like to give a little narration I figured I might look crazy talking out loud to nobody.  So yeah the video was scrapped, but lots of great photos.
            I had forgotten about the awesome falls on the Charles River which runs behind the Bacon Free Library in South Natick.  Got some incredible shots of the falls, and blooming flowers made the shots even better.  Only when I heard the falls from the parking lot did I remember that I had wanted to check that spot out.  Good thing I have good ears!
            I now understand why Wellesley gets called ‘Swellesley’ after seeing the sheer number of mansions located in its boundaries.  Also, by this time the amount of parks and trails I had scheduled took its toll.  My left knee was hurting, swollen a bit but I manned up and kept going.  I was rewarded with an angry swan at Morses Pond that was eyeballing me like I stole his woman.  Relax swan, I don’t swing that way.  Oh and the pond road was closed so I had to hobble my way down to it, so yeah, it was great.
            There is a place called Problem Rock in Wellesley.  The only ‘problem’ was which rock it was.  I photographed three that could be it, there is some sort of historic significance to it, but all I saw was an overgrown area with a few rocks, not too inspiring.
            Even Wellesley’s town hall was rich looking.  There is a park on the grounds as well.  The best was when I stopped to shoot the Sprague Memorial Clock Tower and there was a guy with a puppy talking to a woman with a puppy.  Figured they had something in common.  Anyway, I went off and shot a few more spots and came back down the same road a half hour later and there they were still in the same spot.  Was it love at first sight?  Or did the woman want to leave but the guy wouldn’t shut up?  Who knows?
            If Wellesley is considered a rich town, what is Wellesley Hills?  That sounds even more expensive, like I should be charged for saying the name. 
            Ended the day with another waterfall area.  This one had a herring run, but no fish to be seen.  I got really close to the rushing water, almost dropped my camera.  The question is would I have dove in after it?  Hell yes I would have!
            Of course no trip is complete without tons of traffic on Rt. 1 heading toward Boston.  Took an extra 45 minutes to get home.  Also, the latest adventures with my GPS trying to kill me had to do with a detour and the GPS insisting I take a One Way street to get around it.  I mean, really, you stupid British lady.  Also, someone turned the voice down when they borrowed it so I thought I was going deaf when I couldn’t hear it, but that’s another story.
            Town Grades:  Marlborough - B-
                                   Natick - A
                                   Wellesley - B-

Photos of the Day:
John Brown Bell in Marlborough

Historic Downtown Natick, a wideshot

Pleasant St. Bridge, S. Natick

Wellesley Town Hall

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

49 - 4/5/11 - Kurt Cobain 1967-1994

You know as I sit here on the anniversary of the death of my hero, the man who awakened the drive to be a writer, it still seems fresh in my mind.  I can’t believe it has been 17 years since I arrived home from school Sophomore year at D-Y and flipped on MTV to hear the news.  At first it had just been an ‘unidentified body’ in the room above the garage that had been found but I knew better.  My gut feelings are very often correct, still are to this day, and I knew who it was and also knew what it meant.
             For my generation it was the loss of our voice.  Much like the loss of John Lennon was for my parents, aunts and uncles in 1980.  Kurt Cobain never wanted to be a ‘superstar’ he just happened to have such an amazing gift for writing and such an ability to capture what seemed to be brewing inside all of the folks my age that it was inevitable.
            The first time I heard ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ it was as if someone turned on the light switch in my life for the first time.  I was sitting in Matt Medeiros’s bedroom and we turned on Pixy 103 for the hell of it near the end of the summer of 1991.  On the air at that moment was a sound, something I had never heard before.  It was so raw and powerful yet somehow it was melodic and deep.  The voice, the words, the shredding guitar, it was like in my mind I was saying ‘now that is what music is supposed to sound like.’ 
            Glam rock and all of that bullshit died a real quick death once Nirvana blew up.  When they knocked Michael Jackson off of the top of the Billboard 200 album charts that was when Kurt Cobain’s message and his star became the bible for me and my generation.  It was also the beginning of the end, but I never would have guessed that at the time.  Nevermind was the first CD I bought on my own, I still have it to this day 20 years later.  From beginning to end it is one of the greatest albums ever made, and now it is seen as such by so many from so many different generations and walks of life.
            When Kurt Cobain died it was as if I had to grow up fast.  Heroes don’t die, they don’t kill themselves, right?  All heroes, all celebrities are supposed to relish the spotlight, right?  They don’t recoil from it.  Well Kurt never intended to be a star, never intended to be a hero.  He and Nirvana never went mainstream, no, mainstream went to them.  Mainstream went to them because the music of that time sucked and the Grunge movement gave it a kick in the ass that it needed.
            Think about it like this.  In the years after Kurt Cobain died, 1994-96 mostly, check out the album sales of many other Grunge/Alternative artists.  The albums released by Soundgarden, Bush, Collective Soul, Live, and others are all their highest selling totals, it is a fact.  Nirvana and Pearl Jam brought Grunge and Alternative to the masses.
            Enough about the worldwide impact.  What Kurt Cobain meant to me was direction, a voice that I needed at a time when I had nobody to look up to.  Life for me in high school and during my early teens in general was tough, I had virtually no support, nobody to believe in me.  Kurt Cobain spoke of the same ills.  He was like an older brother, someone I wanted to emulate.  I was never able to play guitar the way he did but I believe that I have been able to hone my writing skills thanks to him.
            When he died it was as if my brother had died.  I’ll never forget buying a video camera with my own money shortly after his death.  The first thing I thought that would be fun to do was to create our own sort of ‘music videos.’  I remember it was myself, Barry Menard, and Rob Clark.  What was the first ‘video’ we made?  Nirvana’s ‘Lithium.’  All in all I believe we covered nearly all of the Nirvana’s songs.  During those moments I felt as if we were connected, like through us he was still alive.  In many ways he still is.
            Through my writing, mostly the poetry stuff I began with, I have tried to reach deep down and grab hold of the emotions that most people don’t want to touch because that’s what Kurt did.  He bared his soul and always said that he’d rather be hated for who he was than loved for who he was not.  I feel the same way.  If my writing, and sharing what I feel, appeals to you, great.  If not, if it makes you uncomfortable, I don’t care, there are plenty of other people who appreciate my honesty.
            Now as I sit here with Nevermind blasting through my speakers I am reminded of why it impacted me so.  I am reminded of why I wanted to write in the first place.  I am reminded why I always thought of Kurt Cobain as an older brother, someone I could look up to when I had nobody.  I am reminded of how sad and angry I still am that he is not here.  How I have trouble listening to the music that changed me so much because my thoughts inevitably go to his ending and not his legacy.
            On the anniversary I hope that all of you who have read this can feel where I am coming from.  It is just as much a story of heroes lost as it is a story of Kurt Cobain.  It can relate to anybody who has looked up to someone, not necessarily a famous musician.  I will never forget you Kurt, what you meant to me and what you still meant to me.  Thank you for your inspiration, your music, and thank you for getting through some rough times.  You’ll always be my hero and my older brother in soul and spirit.