Thursday, April 22, 2010
Burkhard Bilger has a great profile of Latham Smith, pater familias of a tugboat family. He's a Shakespearean sort - lives large in a small world. If you want to tow a dredge up the Congo River where you'll find the spirit of Joseph Conrad he's your man. If you want to bring a bargeload of anything to any unlikley place call Latham Smith first - if his rival and son Dominque hasn't gotten there first to take the load.
You've gotta pay for it at The New Yorker (April 19, 2010) unless you already have a subscription. And don't all wives who live in Manhattan or who went to Barnard have one? Borrow hers. There is at least one freebie: a video of Allen Ginsberg aboard Ellsbeth - the first of the tugs Latham designed and built and named after his ex-wife the mother of his five kids.
It's a great read in the John McPhee genre - and of course Bilger does get a memorable ride on a tugboat.