Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Urban or Urbane Explorers

Decades ago, as part of a radio series we were working on for some holiday programming (my evil twin, Skippy, wants to say “Arbor Day”; I want to tell him to shut up), a colleague and I trooped and traveled amongst and betwixt Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Berchtesgaden and (Lake) Chiemsee (“see” auf deutsch means lake) back when the US forces occupying West Germany constituted a 51st state (and with our own shopping centers, libraries and license plates, we were in many respects larger than Texas and Alaska combined).

One of the places that we went while at Berchtesgaden was the General Walker Hotel, a former barracks/headquarters for Hitler’s bodyguard detachment of the SS during the Third Reich. You could see many reminders and references to past glories throughout the hotel used as an economy stop by US Forces on leave in Southern Bavaria (spectacular views of the Alps from just about every window for (maybe) as I recall ten bucks a night in the early 80’s).

But getting to go into the basement and into the sub-basements of the place, where all manner of dark and dastardly deeds may have been carried out by the previous tenants was the high point, at least for me as the dust and disuse the corridors and endless series of connected rooms well below the earth had fallen into just added to the intrigue and the allure. I don’t consider myself a spelunker, but long before urban explorers helped remind us of what we had buried of our own pasts, the AFRC guides did a good job of making sure some of us remembered.

I hadn’t thought about any of that in decades until a moment ago while at one of my favorite stops on the entire (to me, so far) internet, I fell across this incredible imagery. Nearly all of it scares me so much, I can't watch; but it's so amazing I also don't dare to look away.

We cannot know everything there is to know in the world, but what a terrific goal, isn’t it? If each of us learned one new thing every day, and told/taught that new thing to one other person, how much smarter would or even could we all be by the end of the day? The week? Our lives?

Smart enough to remember our history? Perhaps wise enough to respect it?

-bill kenny

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