Saturday, September 4, 2010

System of a Down -- "Tentative" (2005)

We're going down, in a spiral to the ground
No one, no one's gonna save us now
Not even God
No one saved us, no one's gonna save us . . .
Where do you expect us to go when the bombs fall?

On day three of my vacation, I rode the middle part of the Cape Cod Rail Trail -- from milepost 6 (Seymour Pond) to milepost 14 (downtown Orleans) and back, detouring slightly to visit Rock Harbor.  (Here's a map if you want to follow along.)

Cape Cod is divided into 15 towns, most of which are named after towns (usually seaports) in England – e.g., Barnstable, Chatham, Falmouth, Harwich, Sandwich, Truro, Yarmouth. 

The Duke of Orleans
Orleans is an obvious exception.  Originally part of Eastham, Orleans was separately incorporated in 1797.  The patriotic residents did not want an English name.  So they named their town Orleans after Louis Philippe II, the Duke of Orleans, in recognition of France's support of the 13 colonies during the Revolutionary War.

Their decision to honor the Duke of Orleans seems like an odd one today because he didn't really contribute to the Revolutionary War effort.  The Duke – a notorious womanizer who had several illegitimate children – was present at the Battle of Ushant, an indecisive naval clash between the British and French that took place at the mouth of the English Channel in July 1778.  He was then removed from the navy, partly because the French queen (Marie Antoinette) hated him, and partly because he was allegedly incompetent.

The storming of the Bastille
Perhaps the Cape Codders admired the Duke's active support of the French Revolution.  Despite being the head of one of the wealthiest families in France and a cousin to King Louis XVI, the Duke – who called himself Philippe Egalite – was an outspoken anti-royalist.  In fact, the royal family believed that the Duke was behind the storming of the Bastille in 1789, and accused him of wanting the crown for himself.  Louis Philippe was so disgusted by that accusation that he decided to emigrate to the United States.  When his favorite lover refused to come with him, he changed his mind and stayed in Paris.

A guillotine
That turned out to be a bad idea.  A few years later, despite his long support of the revolutionary cause, he was arrested along with all the other remaining members of the French royal family (the House of Bourbon).  He was tried and guillotined in 1793, and a few years later, a town was named after him by his admirers on far away Cape Cod.    

Two hundred years ago, the Cape Cod economy was heavily dependent on fishing, and the salt works in Orleans was critical to that industry because salt was used to preserve fish.  During the War of 1812, a British man-of-war (HMS Newcastle, 60 guns) landed a detachment of marines who hoped to destroy those salt works and generally wreak havoc on Orleans.  But the plucky townspeople -- who were no doubt happy about the decision not to give the town an English name – repelled the attack. 

The "Battle of Orleans" took place on December 19, 1814, only a few weeks before the much more famous "Battle of New Orleans."  Here's a video showing a very authentic re-creation of the Battle of New Orleans.

Orleans was attacked by another foreign power about a hundred years later.  In July 1918, the residents of Orleans witnessed U-156, a German submarine, surface and attack an oceangoing tugboat and the four barges it was towing.  The U-boat sank all four barges and severely damaged the tug.  

The German submarine, U-156
But the 32 crew members, wives and children who were on the American vessels, did have somewhere to go when the bombs fell, and did have someone to save them -- Coast Guardsmen stationed in nearby Chatham rowed their lifeboats into the melee and rescued everyone.  

About 800 local residents witnessed the attack from a bluff that looked out over the Atlantic.  Some of U-156's errant shells struck the mainland, making this the first attack on the U.S. mainland by a foreign power since the War of 1812 (when Orleans had previously been attacked).  Planes from the Chatham Naval Air Station dropped bombs on the submarine, but they were duds, and the submarine eventually submerged and disappeared.

The site of the British landing in 1814, Rock Harbor, is not far from the Cape Cod Rail Trail, and I often make a detour to visit it.  It is now best known as the home to over a dozen sportfishing boats that seek out striped bass, bluefish, and tuna in the waters of Cape Cod Bay.

Rock Harbor also hosts CG36500, a 36-foot motor lifeboat that became famous one night in 1952, when its four-man crew left the Chatham Coast Guard station on what appeared to be a suicide mission. 

A ferocious nor'easter had generated waves in the Atlantic as high as 60 feet, which broke the tanker Pendleton in half.  Despite losing its compass when it was hammered by a big wave, the CG36500 arrived in time to rescue 32 of the tanker's 33 crewman, who were desperately clinging to the capsized stern section of the Pendleton.  Even without the compass, the Coast Guard pilot managed to find the entrance to Chatham Harbor and land the lifeboat safely.   

The CG36500 was taken out of service in 1968 and slowly deteriorated for years until the Orleans Historical Society was able to raise the funds necessary to restore it.  Here's a website with more about the CG36500, and here's a picture of it today:

The CG36500

Another Rock Harbor landmark is the Cap't Cass Rock Harbor Seafood, an old-fashioned, no-frills seafood shack overlooking the harbor.  I don't think they take credit cards, so be sure and hit an ATM before you go.

Cap't Cass Rock Harbor Seafood restaurant
Finally, Rock Harbor is home to the Community of Jesus, a Benedictine monastic community founded in the late 1960's and now consisting of about 275 people who live in the immediate area.  In a story titled "Probing the Cape's Jesus Cult" in its May 1981 issue, Boston magazine asked "Is Cape Cod's Community of Jesus a benign religious retreat?  Or an upper-class Episcopalian Jonestown?"  There was considerable outcry and a seven-year legal battle over the building of the massive Church of the Transfiguration by the Community.    The controversy over the true nature of this community continues today.

The Community's Church of the Transfiguration now has a 100-foot-tall bell tower and 10 Whitechapel bells, which are manned by 37 volunteer change-ringers.

Church of the Transfiguration's bells
As for today's song, "Tentative" does not paint a pretty picture of the future of the human race.  The bombs are falling overhead -- like the shells from the U-156 fell on the defenseless American tugboat and barges off the coast of Cape Cod in 1918 -- and where exactly do you expect us to go to get away from them?  It's going to take more than a few Coast Guard lifeboats to save us this time.  More likely than not, we're going down, in a spiral to the ground. 

Here's "Tentative" (accompanied by footage from the movie Pearl Harbor):

Here's a very interesting acoustic cover version of "Tentative":

Click this button if you'd like to buy "Tentative" from iTunes:

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