April 9th, 2014 (Right Then)

by Steven Townshend

The Old World
The Old World


The cold had decided to linger, which is no surprise for this part of the world, though after such a winter as this—the coldest on record in Chicago—it feels as though this is the normal state of things, and that there will never be anything but winter for all time to come. Even so, the spring birds are back, singing in the morning, and the grass began to slowly turn from brown to desert yellow to a faint army green. Rains returned here and there, and the outside isn’t quite so intolerable. On Saturday, after breakfast at my local cafe, I hung around and talked to the locals for a few hours. I’ve been by myself too long this winter.


Last year I had all my old film negatives scanned by a company called ScanCafe, and after a number of issues with color and contrast, the order is complete and I have my photos—scanned at high resolution in jpg format. So many of these had been buried in old photo albums for years—to see them again, and be able to share them digitally—is beyond wonderful. The bittersweet sensation of seeing people and places again as they were a long time ago.


At long last my freelance work begins again, and I am nearly prepared to start. The painting project that’s occupied the past two months is on the verge of completion, and should be finished by the weekend. After that, it’s writing, writing, writing for me until summer.


I finished reading A World Undone, by G.J. Meyer. It’s one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read, and one that’s working on me in ways I can’t fully express. The Great War never needed to happen. Virtually everyone involved actively tried to prevent it from happening, but due to poor communication, bad decisions, paranoia, and fear, one small thing led to another until Europe became involved in the greatest bloodbath it had ever known. It continued for four years because no one had achieved anything of note, and no one could declare a peace without some sort of justification for the staggering loss of life and the lies and propaganda that each nation had told its public. For no good reason whatsoever, millions died, the most powerful empires in the world fell, and the results of the war changed the world in such a way as to set the ground for a second bloodbath. All for nothing, really. The most frightening thing about it is that I think it could easily happen all over again. All it would take is more bad communication, the posturing of nations, the delusion of invincible might, and the fervent belief in the righteousness of one’s own country above all reasonable and rational thought.


Two of my favorite baristas have left my local cafe within the past year. I ran into one on Saturday, and got to finally wish him well, which turned into a long conversation in which we found we had lots in common and became friends outside the cafe. The other went to pursue a new job, which turns out to be where Elizabeth works. It’s a small world after all.