Colin Phelan is 23, a writer and teacher in Massachusetts, a recipient of a Fulbright-Nehru scholarship to India next year, and a friend of a family close to us.
Our friend raved about his website, so I volunteered to take a look and was knocked over by what he knows, what he cares about.
Back home in the States during the pandemic, Phelan has not lacked for adventures – taking his bike across country, going into Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado as fearsome sand tornadoes swirled ominously ahead, and so on.
Passing through St. Louis, he discovered a World Chess Hall of Fame – who knew? -- and perhaps because he gets hammered by his students in their early teens, he explored the museum. Of course, he did.
The exhibits fascinated Phelan with the various themes of chess sets around the world, and he also began to understand the role India played in the worldwide popularity of chess.
Phelan's blog also links warfare and chess, comparing the chess tactic of dominating the flank to one of the key moves of the Battle of Gettysburg, on July 2, 1863 -- how a professor from Bowdoin College in Maine, Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, told his troops to fix bayonets and rush downhill, into what became the gruesome but decisive Battle of Little Round Top.
(Phelan caught my interest because, in my three years of college ROTC, Gettysburg was still being used as a key lesson in battlefield tactics, now of course outmoded, but still an object lesson in planning and reacting.
I have walked the battlefield with our grandson George, who lives not far away. I recommended that Phelan read the magnificent restored first section of the novel, “O Lost,” by Thomas Wolfe, which takes place north of Gettysburg, a few days before the battle.)
Phelan has done most of the teaching in our interchange. His blog includes copious photos of chess sets from around the world – including a fruit-and-vegetable set – as he veers into an appreciation of Anthony Bourdain’s lust for life:
“As a devotee to Anthony Bourdain’s ability to discover culture and companionship through food, I’ve for long tried to discover another means through which people wedged apart by language or other barriers can not only coexist, but catch glimpses of another’s personality and being,” Phelan wrote.
I would not have expected poor Bourdain to pop up in a riff on chess, but there he is. Colin Phelan is living at a fast clip, so many interests and observations and opinions.
Phelan has already had adventures on his first visit to Kolkata and Delhi, teaching English, learning the local languages. Now he’s back in the States for a school year, having adventures. Nice to be 23.
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I have not begun to explore all the corners of this website. Please explore and enjoy:
7/15/2021 10:49:21 am
7/15/2021 01:23:00 pm
Randolph: MY condolences you (and all of us) have suffered.
7/15/2021 05:33:38 pm
7/16/2021 02:31:14 pm
Dear Altenir: I knew you, a Brazilian writing in English, a Yankee fan, whose son was baptized in Greenwich Village, would get the vast interests of our colleague...
7/15/2021 07:19:58 pm
7/15/2021 08:28:41 pm
India? Chess? Gettysburg? Bourdain? You have a gift for weaving seemingly disparate topics together. Laura did the same thing. You read to the end and ahhh.
7/16/2021 02:37:29 pm
Di, thanks for the nice words. Mostly I was following the lead of Colin, who has a lot of interests....As for Laura, yes, when she was a terrific news reporter upstate, she found the breadth of life on farms and in towns...and when she was a sports columnist, she called a certain ball player for taking the money and running....(Pay-Rod, she called him)....and when she was a political columnist in Harrisburg she called a certain mayor for endangering the civic coffers...Now she writes about real-estate madness...See you soon. G
7/16/2021 06:26:19 pm
Colin Phelan certainly is an interesting and well-traveled young man. The Indian chess set shown is a remarkable example of chess sets that double as art.
Edwin W Martin Jr aka ED
7/17/2021 12:38:15 pm
I have always taken pleasure in seeing chess players, outdoors in NYC. One special place is Washington Square Park, where a mosaic of players may be found.
7/17/2021 05:06:22 pm
Ed-I’m sure that there were other hubs for chess in NYC in addition to Washington Square Park in the Village, but two well know ones were near the entrance to Fort Tryon Park and at the Symphony movie theater at Broadway and 95th Street.
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“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.