Up a lazy river
By Lisa Fabrizio
"What's up with Lieberman?" That question was on the lips of nearly all those I encountered on the first few days of a trip I took last week aboard the Delta Queen, a gracious and glorious paddlewheel steamboat that cruises America's great rivers.
As is customary when meeting new traveling companions, the topic of hometowns is usually a good opening conversational gambit. Although they had boarded the boat in order to leave the pedestrian world behind, my fellow passengers were more than curious when they found out I was from Connecticut.
Mostly older and from the South and Midwest, they were naturally conservative and so, naturally befuddled by the events leading up to Ned Lamont's primary victory over the incumbent junior senator, Joe Lieberman. With no TV and no internet connections available, passengers and crew alike awaited the election news via my trusty cell phone.
The majority of those concerned with Lieberman's chances seemed puzzled by the thought that Democratic voters would so callously dismiss one of their own; a liberal in most ways except for his support of our military endeavors to combat terrorists and their enablers. Weren't 72 Connecticut commuters murdered on 9/11? Isn't there a relatively large and politically active Jewish population there?
My companion and I did our best to try to assuage their concerns by explaining that while we thought Lieberman might lose the primary, he would probably win the general election easily. So shortly after the news of his defeat, most of us on the boat forgot about affairs of state and lost ourselves in the timeless undulations of the Cumberland and Ohio Rivers and their surrounding towns.
Since our cruise had a Civil War theme, our first stop after departing Nashville was the town of Dover, Tennessee; site of the Fort Donelson National Battlefield where Union forces won a crucial early fight for the waterways into the South. As always, the National Park Service rangers and our own tour guides made the excursion an informative and entertaining one.
Insufferable temperatures the next day in the historic river town of Paducah, Kentucky forced most of the passengers back to the Queen to enjoy her air-conditioned splendor, the conviviality of her crew and some first-class Dixieland Jazz. Some brave souls, including your citified correspondent, left the interior comfort of the boat to soak up the miles of lush greenery on both banks of the river as well as the expansive horizons, the likes of which are seldom seen up North.
At stops like Madison, Indiana--where the 1958 film, Some Came Running was filmed--small-town charm oozes from every crack in its well-worn sidewalks. A line on a marker honoring hometown heroine Irene Dunne reads, "continued on other side." These and other surprises delighted us jaded city folks and we were captivated by life on the river.
Steamboatin', as it is called, is different from sea cruising in that the incredibly idyllic scenery is very much a part of the total experience. And although there are pre-planned activities--like old-time sing-alongs, calliope concerts, trivia contests and lectures--the most popular activity on the Delta Queen remains sitting in a rocking chair on her century-old decks, entranced by the gorgeous vistas before you, and waving back at the spectators on shore who regularly turn out to watch her glide majestically on by.
Our reverie was interrupted however as news of events from London trickled in. Word spread throughout the boat that a nefarious plot to kill more Americans using liquid explosives on airplanes was foiled by British authorities. There was much dismay and cause for concern as most of us were due to fly home at the end of the week, and as soon as the Department of Homeland Security released its travel guidelines, our Captain passed them on to us. Yet there remained an air of apprehension that at least temporarily intruded on the quietude of the trip.
But it was hard to concentrate on even such important matters as a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party by left-wingers, or further proof that our world is at risk from blood-thirsty, pseudo-religious savages. Even these weighty matters fade from the mind when confronted by scenes of an America still remaining for the most part as so beautifully planned and executed by her maker.
Those in this country who question or doubt the importance of defending her against enemies both internal and external, should climb aboard a vessel like the Delta Queen for a while to remember why she's worth fighting for.
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!