Old Tramway Station. Solo Hill, Utulei

Old Tramway Station. Solo Hill, Utulei

The old tramway station was like an archaeological shrine to the idea of American-style progress on the island. From the top of a totally rusted-out and vine-covered iron tower still filled with the oxidized remains of its huge engine and giant wheels and pulleys, a single steel cable swooped upward toward a vanishing point atop Mt. Alava six thousand feet across and sixteen hundred feet above Pago Pago Bay. As a schoolboy Apelu had been told that this was the longest single cable car span in the world. He didn't know if that was true or not. On the ground beside the tower was the cable car itself, overcome by weeds, its windows shattered, its rooftop trolley carriage frozen with rust, reaching up like empty arms toward the sky. Along the road that ended at the station's parking lot--now a place of broken beer bottles and infringing weed trees--lay the miles of braided cable that had once hauled the cable car back and forth. The cable ran in and out of the weeds like some endless black and orange anaconda.

Apelu remembered the place as it had been when he was a schoolboy and his class had come here on a field trip. The place was a park then. There were gardens and paths, a fancy kiosk at a lookout point. The cable car, painted bright yellow, dangled in the air below the cables, above the trees, its rooftop wheels bright with grease. The cable car made regular breathtaking trips across the bay and up up up, above the dock, above the tuna boats lashed side by side like bomber targets below, above the cannery, then up the sheer cliff face where flying foxes and pairs of fairy terns coasted out of their inaccessible jungle with perfect impunity, owning the space that you so fearfully and artificially passed through. A round-trip was a dollar.

(Pago Pago Tango, p. 161)

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Monday, September 15, 2014 - 9:15am

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