Independence Day takes on special meaning this Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Yes, Richard Ford's luminous touching novel has the same name, and I read it last summer. I hope to dig in to his latest segment of that so-far two-book trilogy, The Lay of the Land. I am an unabashed admirer.
Never mind that same-named throw-away film however many years ago.
Yesterday, the Colombian government somehow managed to complete a covert, daredevil ploy to free fifteen hostages held by Marxist guerrilla forces, each for several years. One is Ingrid Betancourt, who once ran for president of Colombia, and who, in the middle of that campaign, was kidnapped. A few months later, three American "contractors" were likewise kidnapped, and likewise rescued yesterday. Read it here.
There is a connection.
Some ten years ago (approximately), when I was publisher for the sciences at Columbia University Press, I attended the summer meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in Boston. I was there, to first, promote our latest book, authored by Cornelia Dean, science editor for the New York Times. The book is: Against the Tide: the Battle for America's Beaches. I reference it often now that I am living in Sag Harbor and working real estate in the Hamptons.
At that meeting, in a session addressing possible hazards about transporting nuclear waste to Nevada's Yucca Mountain, I met Victoria Bruce. The AGU meetings are attended by some 85% men: Earth, ocean, and space scientists. Imagine boy scouts with big brains. I don't think I need to say much more.
I was used to - and liked - being one of the few women allowed into this club.
And then there was Vicky. Gorgeous, sexy, forthright, and asking tough questions of the big science boys - on the g-forces that would pull on the proposed containers intended to transport nuclear waste down under the mountain with known underlying fault zones (hey Vic - I can still dredge up the old science verbiage). I wondered to myself: Who the hell is this?
I learned later that she has an advanced degree in earth sciences, but was (and is) ever the pistol. We became fast friends. She wrote a provocative adventure-disaster book, No Apparent Danger: The True Story of Volcanic Disaster at Galeras and Nevado Del Ruiz (Harper Collins - as a former ex-boss from the pantheon of my ex-bosses wrote recently: "We're scratching our heads" about the resignation of Harper Collins' CEO Jane Friedman. I know I am. She's tremendous.) The book's true story setting is Colombia.
While there, Vicky allowed herself to be seduced by the Colombian culture. Not long after the publication of her book, she returned to the country, and started to film footage for what would become the documentary (that she co-produced with her partner, Karin Hayes), The Kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt.
That film won the audience appreciation award at Slamdance, the film festival adjacent to and in the same location and time as Sundance. Later, it won the Columbia (the university) DuPont award in 2005, and was picked up by HBO to air on cable.
A few months later, Vicky and Karin made another documentary film, Held Hostage in Colombia, this time about the three American contractors who, while conducting airborne surveillance in Colombia, crashed, and were held hostage. That film aired on Public Television.
As has been exhaustively documented by the mass media in the last day, these people were held in captivity in the Colombian jungle for years.
Now they are free.
Vicky and I exchanged holy-shit-holy-fuck email messages last night.
I've been shaking my head intermittently all day today.
The eve of the Fourth of July. Where the Town of East Hampton will not have beach fireworks - lest they disturb the natural environment of the piping plovers.
Where I've run into an ex-boyfriend (from hell), done with some three years ago. And felt nothing. Except that I didn't want to be in the same particular location, and I just left.
It's all independence.
Time, rescue, maybe without fireworks.