1.10.2022 – lost along the way

lost along the way
had a talk with history
can help? Then do it
!

What do you do in January if you live in a beach community and the weather, wind and waves conspire together to take the beach out of your afternoon options?

If new to the Low Country, like we are, exploring the area is next on the list.

Was about to write, “The Low Country is famous for …” when it came to me that the while the Low Country is a lot of things, famous is not one of them.

Still, things happened here.

Things happened here that did not happen other places.

And some things happened here for the first time.

One of the things that happened here during the United States Civil War is that the armed forces of the United States had some of its earliest success stories here.

The Battle of Bull Run is fought in July of 1861 and as Stonewall Jackson got one of the great nicknames in military history the Union Army got chased out of Virginia.

In November of 1861, combined Union Army and Navy forces took over the Low Country when they attacked Port Royal Sound and the South Carolina Sea Islands of St. Helena and Hilton Head.

This led to what the South Carolina history books called the “Big Skedaddle” as all the white South Carolinians got out of the Low Country and went to Charleston or Savannah.

Leaving all their former slaves behind for the most part.

This early the war, Abraham Lincoln was not ready to declare and end to slavery and the Union Government really didn’t know what to do with former slaves until one Union General, a real off the wall political General but able lawyer, Ben Butler, said that the slaves were former property and as ‘abandoned property’ could now be considered ‘contraband of war’ that could be seized by the forces of the Federal Government and as such, free.

Okay, so then what?

Then what became known as the Port Royal Experiment.

According to Wikipedia, “The Port Royal Experiment was a program begun during the American Civil War in which former slaves successfully worked on the land abandoned by planters. In 1861 the Union captured the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina and their main harbor, Port Royal. The white residents fled, leaving behind 10,000 black slaves. Several private Northern charity organizations stepped in to help the former slaves become self-sufficient. The result was a model of what Reconstruction could have been.”

A special education commission was established which led to the establishment of the Penn Center on St. Helena island, just over a half hour drive away from where we live.

The Penn Center, Founded in 1862 by Quaker and Unitarian missionaries from Pennsylvania, it was the first school founded in the Southern United States specifically for the education of African-Americans.

It provided critical educational facilities to Gullah slaves freed after plantation owners fled the island, and continues to fulfill an educational mission.

The campus was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1974 and you can tour the grounds and buildings to this day.

St. Helena Island is one of those places where you can say take THE ROAD, turn left at THE STOP LIGHT and go past THE GAS STATION because out on St. Helena there is pretty much one road (2 if you count the north-south road and the east-west road) one, stop light and one gas station.

Before the Civil War there were 50 Plantations out here.

The road is lined with flat (what else) fields being prepared for (in January!) strawberry planting.

Tunnels through the live oaks and Spanish moss with dust from the strawberry fields cloud the sun.

And we drove up to St. Helena to explore and one of our stops was the Penn Center.

Be we kinda, even with just two roads, got lost along the way and got there late.

We drove and parked by a building with a sign that said Welcome Center.

There was a small OPEN sign on the door.

But when we went in the room was dark.

Dark and empty of other people.

There were displays and such but no people.

Behind us the door opens and a voice calls out, “I am so sorry, but we are closed.”

We turned around and there was this lady with this smile who took the open sign down and turned it around to closed.

So they were closed but the lady with a smile took some time to talk with us for a minute about the Penn Center.

The minute turned into 10 minutes or more as we learned that the lady we were talking too had graduated from the Penn Center back in 1952.

She had moved away but when retirement came, she moved back to St. Helena and started to volunteer where she could.

She was amazing to listen.

It was like to TO history.

There was history in her voice and a graciousness to her style I could not describe with the words that I have.

We apologized for making her stay over long and told her we would be back and that we would bring out grand children.

As we left, I asked her name.

“Gardenia,” she said with her smile on her face.

And she locked the door behind us.

When I got a chance, I punched ‘Gardenia’ and ‘Penn Center Volunteer’ in the Google and found out who we had been talking to.

She was Ms. Gardenia Simmons-White.

Gardenia Simmons-White was born on St. Helena Island, SC in 1934.

She was one of the last living graduates of the Penn Center.

NO

Now 87 years old, this wonderful lady was a wonder to listen too.

She said that volunteering as a docent at the Penn Center, “[is her] way of giving back to Penn for helping to shape my life and never forgetting the education I received which enabled me to reach higher heights. 

I admit I have been a little off on everything with the covid and the economy and the news lately.

Kinda lost along the way.

To have talked with Ms. Simmons-White and heard her stories, heard just her voice, was a long drink of cool water.

Her story is one of those stories that makes you hope that maybe things can and will turn out okay.

You can click here to read an article written about her BACK in 2013. (She seems to be just as active today.)

I was struck by something she said in that article.

Ms. Simmons-White said, ““If anyone asks, if I can help, I will.”

I like that.

I like that a lot.

Maybe if I can get my rear in gear and make the effort my tombstone can say:

“If anyone asked, if I can help, I did.”

1.7.2022 – cultural despair

cultural despair
loss, grievance anxiety when
feel dislocated

If you want to read a disturbing take on the world today, the writing of Fiona Hill is the writer for you.

You remember Ms. Hill.

She is the American lady with the brit accent who testified in one of the many hearings about important matters that mattered to important people back in the day when everyone was trying to get someone to say something that might get someone else in trouble.

Ms. Hill was an intelligence analyst under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama from 2006 to 2009. She was appointed, in the first quarter of 2017, by President Donald Trump as deputy assistant to the president and senior director for European and Russian affairs on his National Security Council staff. (Wikipedia)

Ms. Hill has a command of language and prose and wit that produces wonderful, easy to read and grasp, important books that we all should read but no one will.

In her latest book, commenting on the United States at the beginning of the century, the millennium era, Ms. Hill wrote this.

Cultural despair is the sense of loss, grievance, and anxiety that occurs when people feel dislocated from their communities and broader society as everything and everyone shifts around them.

Especially when the sense of identity that develops from working in a particular job or industry, also recedes or is abruptly removed, people lose their grasp of the familiar.

They can then easily fall prey to those who promise to put things – including jobs, people, or even entire countries – back in “their rightful place.

If what it takes is a sense of loss, grievance as everything and everyone shifts around them, it is safe to say the United States is in a state of cultural despair.

The goofy thing about the THEY in the line that starts, They can then easily fall prey … is that it can apply to either side of our great debates.

Take money.

Rich people are in despair due to a sense of loss, grievance as everything and everyone shifts around them and they fall prey to anyone who says they will return and keep the I in RICH. Back in their rightful place.

Poor people are in despair due to a sense of loss, grievance as everything and everyone shifts around them and they fall prey to anyone who says they will replace the rich people with the poor people. In their rightful place.

The right places are not the same places.

And if someone is right, why would they want to consider another point of view that has to be wrong?

Something for everyone and at the same time nothing for anyone.

Did I leave out the title of Ms. Hill’s latest book?

There is nothing for you here.

12.29.2021 – miss the pace of it

miss the pace of it
the sheer multicultural
wonder of it all

We recently made a weekend trip to see the kids and grands.

For us, this means a return to the ATL.

Atlanta.

Atlanta, Georgia.

While we were stopped in traffic on the connector in downtown, I turned to my wife and said, “You realize there are more people stuck around us then live where we live?”

My wife says she loves where we live but she misses the energy of Atlanta.

I understand what she is saying.

But for me, I don’t miss it one bit.

Recently in the Guardian, a Ms. Laura Barton wrote an article titled, “I moved to the coast for a better life – now I’m back in London where I belong.”

In this article, Ms. Barton recounts how she had left London in 2014, “ … looking for something that felt more like a community, close enough for creativity to mingle. Somewhere, perhaps, to finally feel settled.

Ms. Barton says that while she found something close to this on the Kent Coast near Dover, she ” ... thought about the city and all the things I missed – galleries and gigs and theatres, city parks, city trees, architecture, friends, restaurants, 24-hour grocery shops stocked with everything from za’atar to rambutan, the pace of it, the constant evolution, the sheer multicultural wonder of it all. More than anything I missed people who talked about things other than themselves. The possibility it offered. The quiet, beautiful anonymity.”

Her article ends, “At last, I thought, I have escaped back to the city.

First off, let me point out that Ms. Barton’s life out of London took seven years to reach the breaking point.

We have been here on the coast or the low country, country under 20 feet above sea level, for just over a year.

Maybe I will get there in a few more years but for now …

With that understood, let me take a look at what she says she missed and what we had in the ATL.

Galleries and gigs and theatres.

We were not much into the arts in ATL.

And the age of COVID didn’t help much with getting out and about to see shows.

We went to the Art Museum [sic] and we had tickets to the ATL symphony that got cancelled due to covid.

There were lots of community art fairs and shows and such that we liked but a good number of those take place here in the low country as well.

Architecture.

ATL wins this hands down.

When you live in a hurricane zone, not much thought is put into structures that might need to be rebuilt every couple of years.

Friends.

This one is a toss up right now.

ATL was so big and changed so often, friends were not something we made a lot of.

We are working at that here but, well, anyone who has moved has lived this part of the story.

If this includes family and our kids and grand kids, ATL wins easily.

On the other hand, our family loves to come to the coast.

One grand daughter got out of the car, run for hugs and then said, “Can we go to the beach now?”

Restaurants.

There are about 300 restaurants here in our immediate area but its pretty much seafood.

This might be a down side but I love how it worked out.

Still I wish there was a decent pho shop or Indian place.

When you come right down to it, Fat Matt’s may be what I miss the most about ATL.

24-hour grocery shops stocked with everything from za’atar to rambutan.

ATL wins this one.

There are NO 24 hour grocery shops in the Low Country and I am pretty sure you could decide to go shopping for almost anything, anytime in ATL.

Published or online listed hours for places of business here in the Low Country are like , you know, suggestions?

The pace of it, the constant evolution.

Again ATL wins this hands down.

There is a pulse to the air in ATL.

There is a smell in the air here in the Low Country.

(It’s the pluff mud.)

The sheer multicultural wonder of it all.

ATL in this respect, is almost beyond belief.

I would watch the news and see video of a crowd of people and I would say it was either a UN Refuge Camp or a Gwinnett County Park on Sunday Afternoon.

The low country, especially the resort area where we live, is a lot of things, but multicultural is not one of them.

Add on that most folks are vacationers here for a week and the faces constantly change but the people don’t.

(Or is the other way ’round?)

More than anything I missed people who talked about things other than themselves.

This line bothers me a bit.

Is Ms. Barton complaining that no one wanted to hear about her?

I read somewhere once that to be interesting, be interested.

For me, I feel I AM interesting because everyone is so interested in me.

I have to tell myself to listen at least once in a while.

The possibility it offered.

ATL is all about the possibilities it offers.

If you are young and live in America today and you do not live in ATL, I feel sorry for you.

I like to joke that suppose if for a social experiment, we identified everyone with ideas, get-up-and-go, gumption and the like and took them out of the mix.

What would be left?

EUROPE!

After 20 years in the TV News Business, working with TV stations across the country, I feel I can say the same thing about the United States.

If its happening in America, it’s happening in ATL.

That leaves us with The quiet, beautiful anonymity.

Here is the head scratcher.

I know what Ms. Barton means but it seems to fly in the face of all else that she has written.

She wants the hustle and bustle … without the hustle and bustle?

In college I tried to describe days filled with an overwhelming desire to be alone coupled with the overwhelming sense of loneliness.

If there is anything I have found a lot of here in the Low Country along the Atlantic coast it is a quiet, beautiful anonymity.

In the essay, Cape Cod, Henry Thoreau writes about the coast that, “A man may stand there and put all America behind him.”

And that is the slam dunk for me.

As I said, I spent the last 20 years in online news.

The urgency of news and the immediacy of online meant that for me, when I started in the year 2000, I worked, I was on, I was wired in, 24×7 365 until I was told my services were no longer needed.

Maybe I got some form of PTSD.

Today I seek a quiet, beautiful anonymity.

I like to stand on the coast.

I like stand on the coast with my feet in the ocean.

I like to stand on the coast with my feet in the ocean with all America behind me.

12.24.2021 – sweet rolls, potatoes

sweet rolls, potatoes
stuffing, pumpkin, pecan pie
Christmas Eve cooking

I was making my list and checking it twice of the cooking I need to do today in preparation of the Christmas Day feast tomorrow and the words lined up nicely for a holiday haiku.

I enjoy cooking.

Maybe because I never HAD to do it much but was allowed to dabble in the kitchen from time to time.

Most holiday dinners being part of that time.

Back back years ago, I boarded at a frat house for a term when I started college.

To help with the board bill I took on a kitchen job.

Being last in line to choose kitchen jobs, it fell to me to be Sunday Dinner Cook.

This meant I had to prepare the Sunday After Church Noon Dinner for around 50 college age men.

I didn’t have to know much about cooking or recipes for this job.

And I didn’t learn much about cooking or recipes while on the job.

But I did learn something very important about cooking for a large group.

I learned timing.

The frat had a real weekday cook and she would get the Sunday roast out of the freezer and start it thawing before she left on Friday.

I had to make sure the roast was in the oven by 6AM.

The rest of the meal was opening giant cans of applesauce and vegetables and making a couple gallons of powdered mashed potatoes and remembering to get the rolls out of the freezer.

Pretty much everything was just warmed up on the stove or in the oven.

I had a vintage 1920’s era basement kitchen to work in.

It had a gas range with 8 burners, a 6 foot long flat frying surface, warming table, prep table all made out of cast iron and industrial freezers and fridges.

There was a butcher block stand in the center of the kitchen that, to this day, makes me look at any other butcher block stand in any store or catalog and say, “welllllllllll … not what I am used to.”

It was equipped with all the latest and greatest in kitchen gadgets and tools that were then available in 1920.

The can opener was lethal.

It was like operating a drop forge with razor sharp edges.

Another kitchen tool was a meat cleaver the size of a tennis racket that weighed about 30 lbs.

After I discovered this cleaver hanging on the wall in a back room, and after I learned how to use it, I would ask anyone in the kitchen if they might want an apple.

If they said ‘yes, sure’, I would get an apple (we had a huge bin of apples down there, too) polish it up for a second and place it on that butcher block.

Then I would pick up that cleaver with both hands and get the heft of it going in my shoulders and lift it up and in a flash, chop that apple in half.

Usually the guy would scream, and jump back, then laugh and then run up into the house to find someone and say, “Hey! Go ask Mike to get you an apple!”

We all agreed that apples prepared this way tasted better than any other apples.

The Sunday Dinner crew would show up around noon and set the tables and get pitchers of powdered milk and water ready.

Then my show started.

As I remember there were 4 long tables in the dining room that would seat about 12 guys a table.

The meals were served family style so I needed two big serving bowls of whatever per table.

Whatever dish I was warming up, I need to have enough to fill 8 big serving bowls.

Dinner was served promptly at 12:30pm so that it could be eaten and everyone back upstairs in the TV room for Sunday football by 1:00pm.

(TV Room … GOSH … How old am I?)

When the kitchen crew started setting the tables, I set out all of my serving bowls and made sure I had a pile of serving spoons.

I got the roast out of the oven.

This piece of meat was huge and early on I learned to cut the thing into quarters before trying to slice it.

The roasting pan was filled with marvelous grease and I had enough training from my Mom to know how to make real gravy.

About 12:15pm the kitchen crew would troop in and ask for directions and I had them spoon out the veggie of the day, applesauce and potatoes into the serving bowls.

Baskets of rolls went out.

I started slicing the beef.

By the time the time the other food had been set out, the platters of meat were ready and set and I would yell, ‘Go get Em!’

Someone on the crew would run upstairs to the common room and press the house buzzer for three long buzzes.

This was the call to dinner.

It was a three story house with a wooden stair case.

Those guys didn’t so much walk down stairs as much as the tumbled down in one loud cloud of noise.

As the roar of their stair stomping and loud conversation increased, I filled gravy boats (that I had dug out of the back of kitchen cupboards) and had them placed on the tables.

As the guys came in, the comments started.

“It’s ALL READY AT THE SAME TIME”, they would say.

“It’s ALL HOT”, they would say.

“GRAVY!!!!!”, someone would shout.

Like I said, if I had to do it everyday.

If I just plain HAD to do it, I am sure I would have different thoughts but looking back I have an almost absurd feeling of satisfaction.

And I know how to get a meal of many dishes off the stove, out of the oven and on the table at the same time.

We spent last weekend in Atlanta with the kids and grands.

It is just me and my wife and one son for Christmas Dinner this year.

Still, it is Christmas.

The cooking will start tonight.

I will get the morning sweet rolls all set and in the fridge ready for the oven tomorrow morning.

I’ll get the sweet potatoes peeled, boiled and mashed ready for a casserole of sweet potatoes, two eggs and 1/2 cup of brown sugar – sprinkle with brown sugar and a touch of cinnamon after it comes out of the oven.

I’ll reduce a loaf of bread to cubes and set out to get nice and stale for stuffing even though I am just roasting a turkey breast tomorrow.

Then the pies.

Pumpkin for my son.

He will manage to consume at least the essence of pumpkin pie under a thick coating of whipped cream.

Then the pecan pie.

My Dad loved pecan pie.

I thought it was a bit too sweet.

A bit too sweet until my Grandma Hendrickson would show up with her famous butterscotch pie.

As a kid, I honestly thought my Grandma melted butterscotch candies and poured the bright yellow glop into a pie shell.

To this day I am not sure that isn’t the recipe.

Family history has the story about one of my Mom’s brothers asking if, on his birthday, he could have an entire butterscotch pie to himself.

The story went he never ate butterscotch pie again.

But pecan pie.

As I said, I always thought it a bit too sweet.

Then I moved to the south.

People I met down here introduced me to real pecan pie.

People I met introduced me to a pecan pie that was gooey and thick and crunchy and somehow light and not so sweet that it made your teeth hurt.

There was a secret ingredient.

Instead of corn syrup, you know, the stuff they put in soda pop, the secret ingredient is Alaga syrup.

According to the website, “In 1906, the Alabama-Georgia (ALAGA) Syrup Company was established by Louis Broughton Whitfield, Sr. along with his wife, Willie Vandiver Whitfield. Mrs. Whitfield, a native of Montgomery, Alabama, named the company to represent both her home state and that of her husband who was from LaGrange, Georgia.”

The slogan for ALAGA syrup was, “ALAGA – Good Every Drop.

Alaga Syrup is ribbon cane syrup with a little corn syrup added.

Because ribbon cane is grown by small farmers and refined on site, it is less pure than common sugar cane syrup.

The process leaves ribbon cane syrup a brown color.

Ribbon cane is also very sweet to the taste.

Being less refined, it also has a richer, almost full flavor, while sugar cane syrup is just very sweet.

It is easy to find on the shelves at your local Winn-Dixie, Publix, or Piggly Wiggly.

I feel bad for you all up north as you cannot get Alaga Syrup up there.

I feel bad for me as I can’t even get this in South Carolina.

But I got a bottle from my daughter in Atlanta for Christmas.

For the pie, the recipe I always use is on the Alaga website.

The recipe used to be listed as the ALABAMA STATE FAIR GOLD MEDAL PIE of 1923 Recipe but now shows up under the link, Southern Pecan Pie.

It is a simple recipe … really, it is.

Original Alaga Syrup Pecan Pie Recipe

Preheat oven to 350
1-9″ pie plate lined with pie crust
Put Pecans into pie plate lined with pie crust.
1 cup Alaga cane syrup
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 stick butter
1 Tbl vanilla extract
1 cup whole pecans

Bring syrup and sugar to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.
Add hot syrup to beaten eggs, beating constantly.
Add butter, let melt.
Add vanilla.
Pour over pecans.
Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

The trick is getting that roiling boil of sugar and syrup and then stirring in the eggs without the eggs separating.

I’ll be making this tonight.

I’ll be eating this tomorrow.

After dinner and pie I will say, “why did I eat all that?

At some point tomorrow night I’ll look at my wife and say, “Want a piece of pie?

12.16.2021 – The history we tell

The history we tell
today lays the groundwork for
the future we make

Adapted from the text in the article, Why are US rightwingers so angry? Because they know social change is coming, by Rebecca Solnit.

Ms. Solnit writes, “While their fear and dismay is often regarded as rooted in delusion, rightwingers are correct that the world is metamorphosing into something new and, to them, abhorrent.”

I can picture a not too far off future when an aging body of today’s right wing voters march on Washington to demand attention to Social Security issues and increases in funding from a US Congress that has a majority of members being people of color and or Hispanic origin.

Bills will be introduced to increase social security funding and benefits for these old right wingers.

I think there will be much satisfaction for many members of that Congress in voting no.

12.15.2021 – imagination

imagination
seeds of dreams are found in books
golly miss dolly

Since moving to the South, I can report there are indeed some things southern that southerners take seriously.

Very seriously.

Football.

Well, college football anyway.

On this devotion to college athletics, all I can say is that my old college up north has, since 2018, played in the NCAA Final Four of all FOUR major sports.

That includes, football, basketball, baseball AND hockey.

When UGa or ‘Bama add a hockey team, call me.

The love and devotion to that food item known as grits is real.

I have had some that are really good.

I have some that were like eating ice cream on the beach on windy day.

Gritty.

And there is Dolly Parton.

The patron Saint of the South.

Being from the North, I knew of Miss Dolly.

Even one of my favorite northerner authors, Jim Harrison once wrote about the crystal clarity of Miss Dolly’s voice.

She seemed sweet but no one to be taken seriously or at least not too seriously.

Miss Dolly is on my mind because the other day I was online at my local library which here in the Low Country is the Beaufort County Library.

There was an announcement on the website that the Beaufort County Library, in partnership with the LowCountry Community Church, was now a part of Miss Dolly’s Imagination Library.

Through this partnership with the Imagination Library, free books were now available to kids in the area.

I was aware of this program if vaguely so.

Some years ago, with much fanfare it seems to my memory, Dolly Parton announced that she wanted to give books to kids.

Very sweet, but not something I took very seriously.

I was sure it was pretty much a publicity stunt of some kind.

It seems like I remember reading that over one million books had been given away through this program.

But in the back of my brain were other memories about Miss Dolly,

Miss Dolly had recently donated a large amount of money to Covid Vaccine research.

Back a few years ago when fires went through the Great Smokey Mountains part of Tennessee where she was born, Miss Dolly cut an album of songs and the proceeds went to relief agencies.

Intrigued enough by the announcement and these other memories, I clicked on the link to read about this new partnership.

I went with a cynical, ‘oh really‘, ‘isn’t that sweet‘ pre-set suspect animus in my mind.

Then I read the announcement.

Then I read some more.

Then I closed my eyes and said a quick prayer to thank God for people like Miss Dolly.

I figured that this program sent some lucky kids a book.

And it does.

Once a month.

Every month.

Until the lucky kid turns five.

The program had not delivered just one million books, BUT one million books A MONTH.

I had to read that part a couple of times to make sure I read it right.

What the program needs is a local non-profit as a partner.

I immediately searched the zip codes where my grand children live to see if the program was available there.

If it was, my grand kids were going to get signed up.

Sad to say it wasn’t.

Maybe there are flaws to the program.

Maybe there are flaws that make this program hard to partner with.

Maybe, maybe maybe.

On the other hand, maybe this is one of those programs that people, for reasons mentioned, think this is a sweet little program but not one to be taken seriously.

I don’t want to think that.

I want to think this program exists to put books in the hands of kids.

I want to believe it.

I want to believe it is what it is and says what it says and does what it does.

I want to believe that Miss Dolly is as sweet as I think she is.

I want to believe that Miss Dolly is as serious as she says she is.

The Imagination Library website states:

Inspired by her father’s inability to read and write Dolly started her Imagination Library in 1995 for the children within her home county. Today, her program spans five countries and gifts over 1 million free books each month to children around the world.

The website then quotes Miss Dolly herself:

When I was growing up in the hills of East Tennessee, I knew my dreams would come true.

I know there are children in your community with their own dreams.

They dream of becoming a doctor or an inventor or a minister.

Who knows, maybe there is a little girl whose dream is to be a writer and singer.

The seeds of these dreams are often found in books and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.”

I also remember that recently the state of Tennessee was planning to put up a statue of Miss Dolly.

As I remember it, Miss Dolly asked that the money go to charity instead.

Very sweet.

Very Very Sweet.

Very serious.

Why isn’t the Imagination Library available where you live?

You want to do something during covid, there isn’t anything much easier than ask this question.

Ask this question, then do something about it.

The Imagination Library is looking for the next local champion.

As Miss Dolly said, The seeds of these dreams are often found in books and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.

An Imagination Library.

Dreams that go beyond the wildest dreams.

Dolly Parton speaks at the Library of Congress. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

12.12.2021 – book shop after hours

book shop after hours
slide money under the door
good deed weary world

The Old Bay Marketplace is an arcade or covered outdoor walkway through the middle of a building that is lined with shops on either side of the walkway located on Bay Street in downtown Beaufort, South Carolina.

On the corner of the entrance to the arcade on Bay Street is a used bookstore named the McIntosh Book Shoppe.

The McIntosh Book Shoppe is situated there on the corner of the entrance into the arcade so that there is a door facing Bay Street and another back door that opens out into the covered walkway.

The space outside this back door under the covered walkway is crowded with book carts and tables that are filled with books for sale.

The back door to the McIntosh Book Shoppe

So many carts, tables and books are crowded into this space that moving all these carts, tables and books would be a lot of work to bring in at night and put back out the next day.

So the books, carts and tables are not brought in at night.

The books, carts and tables stay outside in the covered arcade.

On the arcade wall, next to the door, is a metal rack stuffed full of envelopes.

Next to the metal rack stuffed full of envelopes is a small, hand lettered sign.

The sign reads:

After hours – put money in envelope and slide under the door.

It is altogether appropriate at this point to quote Big Bill’s, “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world” (Merchant of Venice – Act V, Scene I)

But, somehow, it is better to quote Gene Wilder in the role of Willy Wonka.

So shines a good deed in a weary world.

PS: Admit it – this made you smile and feel a little bit of a warm bump inside – maybe a small kick of hope in your soul.

12.9.2021 – people are trapped

people are trapped
in impossible, yet still strangely
plausible problems

Perspective.

It’s all about perspective.

In the old TV Show, Barney Miller, NYPD Police Captain Barney Miller’s reoccurring lecture to the people who passed through the police station focused on “not losing one’s perspective.”

The theme was so familiar that it led to this exchange …

Detective Ron Harris : Barney, his wife has decided not to press charges, so I let him go after giving him that spiel you always give about “not losing one’s perspective.”
Captain Barney Miller : I’m … flattered that you chose to use it.
Detective Ron Harris : Well, I thought it oughta be in the public domain by now

I found the words for today’s Hiaku in the article, From snubbing Mick Jagger to explaining the cosmos: the secret life of MC Escher and his impossible worlds by Jonathan Jones in the Guardian today.

The article is a review of the just-released Kaleidocycles, a book that according to the review, lets you make paper cut outs of MC Escher paintings.

Mr. Jones wrote:

You are walking up a staircase that winds up to the top of a tall square tower.

It ascends one side, then the next, then the next – and then suddenly you are right back where you started.

This is the kind of problem people who are trapped in the geometrically impossible, yet still strangely plausible, worlds of MC Escher have to deal with all the time. ‘

In his mind-boggling creations, dimensions collide and normality dissolves.

Somewhere in the years at Crestview Elementary school in Grand Rapids, Michigan where I grew up, one of our text books had the MC Escher painting, Which way up?

Maybe it wasn’t in a text book but in a book from our library.

I remember looking at this picture over and over again.

I would trace the steps with my finger tips.

I would think this is so cool.

I would think this is so nutz!

In my mind I can remember standing at someone’s desk, looking down at the book along with both hands on the pages of the book to hold it as flat as possible.

What I was looking at wasn’t possible?

Was it?

I understood perspective a little.

I covered most of my school work and the margins of my textbooks with doodles of a 3D cube.

Did the cube go up and to the left or go down to the right?

Both impossible, yet still strangely plausible

Perspective.

Keep ones’ perspective.

Don’t lose your perspective.

But from where I stand … so many problems today are a problem of perspective and most of these problems are both impossible, yet still strangely plausible.

On the one hand, (saying this without judgment either way okay?) we have a feller who ran for the office of President of the United States and by all accounts this feller lost.

But this feller will not accept this and many people cannot understand his perspective.

If one reads, and it seems like I have read them all, the ‘inside’ accounts of the election, no one and I MEAN NO ONE, dared tell this feller he was losing.

Throughout election night and the next days as votes were counted, no one, and I MEAN NO ONE, dared this feller he did not win.

To this day, this feller cannot admit the he did not win.

Other feelings aside, at this point, I find it hard to blame him as his reasonings, from his perspective, are strangely plausible.

I cannot say that had I been in the his place, based on the information he received, that I would feel any different.

AGAIN, and this is important, I am treating this as a laboratory case to examine the perspective of one individual and to comment on that individuals’ perspective based on the information received by that individual ASIDE from the body of work produced by this individual.

All I am saying is I can see his point, as it were.

This world’s history is filled, littered, with folks who only got the information they wanted to hear from their entourage and most likely never did accept that their information was wrong.

Often I come back to John F. Kennedy and the criticism he got for appointing his little brother Bobby, Attorney General of the Untitled States.

RFK was 35 without much experience to which JFK said, “I can’t see that it’s wrong to give him a little legal experience before he goes out to practice law.

Such was the predicted furor over the appointment that JFK said he felt like opening his door at 3AM and whispering, ‘It’s Bobby’ to the street and going back to bed.

Here is the point, when he made the appointment, JFK said something along the lines that what he needed was someone in the Cabinet that would tell him when they thought he, the President, was wrong.

JFK trusted that RFK would do that.

If you read the history of JFK’s and RFK’s discussions over the the LBJ pick for VP, I think JFK got what he wanted from RFK.

Maybe this should be made a Cabinet position.

A lifetime appointment for someone designated to tell the President when he is wrong.

Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, sure.

But again, I can understand, with the team this feller had in place, this fellers perspective.

And, by the way, who wants to be the bearer of bad news?

With that in mind, if you were this feller, how cannot you want to quote Joe Jacobs out loud and say, WE WUZ ROBBED?

Richard Nixon yelled ‘WE WUZ ROBBED’ back in 1960.

The Republican Party called for a recount of votes in Chicago and Cook County, Illinois where Mr. Nixon lost by around 8,000 votes.

If I remember it correctly, it was in the book, BOSS, about Chicago’s Mayor Daley by Mike Royko, that explained how the Cook County Board of Elections managed the recount.

Mr. Royko explained that all the ballots were thrown at the ceiling.

Any ballot that stuck was considered a Republican vote.

Guess how the report came out?

Can’t you see today’s Twitter videos of this?

Mr. Nixon didn’t like it but he accepted the report.

But I digress.

Perspective.

So much of what is presented in the news today are impossible problems.

Impossible problems that are still strangely plausible.

They are mind-boggling creations where dimensions collide and normality dissolves.

Try to maintain one’s perspetive.

Try to follow the arguements without losing one’s perspective.

You go up one side, then the next, then the next – and then suddenly you are right back where you started.

MC Escher and his paintings.

In his mind-boggling creations, dimensions collide and normality dissolves.

Normality dissolves.

And, just for fun, remember what was said in the book Godel, Escher Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. (At least I think this is where is was said.)

“All Escher paintings,” wrote Hofstadter, “are connected from the back.”

12.5.2021 – gross negligence , a

gross negligence , a
disregard, failure to act
no job, not your job

Another school.

Another school shooting.

Reading a legal analysts discussion of charges against the parents, I was struck by these sentences:

To convict the parents of involuntary manslaughter, the state will have to prove that the parents were “grossly negligent” in allowing their son access to a firearm, and that their gross negligence caused the deaths of the students.

Gross negligence means more than just carelessness. It means willfully disregarding the results to others from the failure to act.

Thursday night in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys beat the New Orleans Saints without their head coach due to Covid 19 Protocols.

Defensive Coach and one time Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn took over for the game.

Asked about the win, Coach Quinn said this.

I think it’s really an example of leadership from Mike and to say what happens when the leader is not here.”

Everybody had to chip it in and say, ‘No job is not your job right now. By any means necessary, we’ve got to get this job done.'”

Thinking back to the legal analyst and the sentence, It means willfully disregarding the results to others from the failure to act.

Thinking hard about the failure to act.

Thinking hard about the failure to act, I want to say, “No job is not your job right now. By any means necessary, we’ve got to get this job done.”

No job is not your job right now.

By any means necessary.

We’ve got to get THIS job done.

12.2.2021 – tireless pointillist

tireless pointillist
people often say show me
picture with the dots

I opened up my computer this morning and my mind went back in time.

This was weird because I went back to a time before everyone had a computer.

I had opened the Google and the google logo was all in dots.

Small points of color.

I knew it had to have something to do with Georges Seurat and when I hovered over the logo the embedded alt information for the graphic displayed the text, “Georges Seurat’s 162nd Birthday.”

If you grew up in the midwest at some time in your life you visited Chicago.

If you visited Chicago at some time in your life you had a good chance of going to the Art Institue.

If you went to the Art Institute of Chicago, you most likely saw La Grande Jatte or A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat.

Sometimes known as Sunday Afternoon in the Park and maybe the inspiration for the song, “Saturday in the Park” by the band, Chicago.

Sometime known as the painting with the dots.

I hear two general reactions from folks who see this painting.

One is HOW BRIGHT IT IS.

Colors just cannot be captured in any form of reproduction.

I remember walking down the main hall of the National Gallery of Art in Washington and through an open entry way, I was faced, unexpectedly, with A Girl with a Watering Can by Renoir.

The color flared out from the painting so bright that I tripped.

No, I am not kidding, fell flat out on the marble floor.

Guard looked at me and shrugged like this happened a lot.

The second thing I hear from folks is HOW BIG IT IS.

Neither, here nor there, but look at this photgraph.

I feel it could have been painted by any one the great impressionists and entitled, ‘A visit to Chicago’.

This is what took me back in time when I thought of Seurat.

For me, I cannot think of this painting without thinking of a documentary on the City of Chicago by Studs Terkel.

Mr. Terkel was the American version of Alistair Cooke.

Where Mr. Cooke wrote and later, read, a weekly column, ‘Letter from America’ for the Manchester Guardian and later the BBC, tried to explain America to Brits, Studs Terkel tried to explain America to Americans.

In my mind was a quote of Mr. Terkel from that documentary on La Grande Jatte and I plugged Studs Terkel Suerat into the Google to try and find it.

To my surprise and pleasure not only did I find the quote, I found the entire documentary and you can watch it all right here.

It is in this documentary that Mr. Terkel talks about La Grande Jatte and says, “people often say, show me the picture with the dots.

The bit about La Grande Jatte is at 30:00 into the but go to about 28:00 into the video to catch Mr. Terkel’s comments about Night Hawks as well.

Or, if you have the time, watch the whole show.

Overwhelming in nostalgia for a city and a place that no longer exists.

This is the Chicago I grew up with.

Still a city close to the city of Carl Sandburg.

Still the city of Daley.

You remember the old story.

Richard Daley and two guys are in boat that is sinking and there are only two life jackets.

Daley says they should vote on who got a life jacket and Daley won 9 to 2.

This is the Chicago I loved to visit.

One memorable visit, I had talked my Friend Doug into an overnight trip to the city.

The plan was to drive to Comiskey Park and see the Thursday night baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers.

Then drive to my sister’s apartment on the northside and stay overnight.

Spend the next day in the Chicago museums, back to the ball park for another baseball game and drive home after the game finished out the plan.

I was going through a period of being a Chicago White Sox fan when I was really following their owner, Bill Veeck.

How many people today will say they were fans of an owner?

The deal got a little sweeter when it was announced that the first game was going to be a double header due to an earlier rained out game.

Doug and I knew something was up when we drove up to Comiskey Park on 34th St., and everyone in the crowd seemed to be carrying 45rpm records or singles as they called.

We didn’t know.

Maybe that’s what you did in Chicago.

What it was was a promotion by the White Sox.

You got into the game for 99 cents if you brought a record to the game.

A DISCO record.

All the records where then going to be put into a big box and blown up between games.

This was the famous DISCO DEMOLITON PROMOTION and we had box seats.

The first game was played okay more or less.

Records starting be thrown out of the upper deck late in the game.

Both the left and right fielders were wearing batting helmets IN THE FIELD.

Between games the big box was trucked in and as planned, blown up.

Then, as wasn’t planned, all the fans ran out and took over the field.

In fairness, what else was going to happen when you get 57,000 people in a stadium designed to hold 47,000.

I mean they had to go somewhere.

So Doug and I had box seats for a riot.

In a goofy way, it was kinda cool.

Disco Demolition has gone down in baseball history as the worst thought out promotional stunt in history since the dedication fireworks of the New York City Hall set the new city hall on fire and burned it down back in 1852.

But, as the organizers say, how can it be a promotional failure if we are still talking about it?

But I digress.

In the video, Studs Terkel quotes french filmaker, René Clair as saying, “Everytime I go to America I must stop off at your city to see La Grande Jatte. It refreshes me. I need it.”

Mr. Terkel ends the little bit on with the words, “Hurrah Seurat.”

And, Happy Birthday.

Will you help him change the world?
Can you dig it? (Yes, I can)
And I’ve been waiting such a long time
For today

*The first American Letter was broadcast on 24 March 1946 (Cooke said this was at the request of Lindsey Wellington, the BBC’s New York Controller); the series was initially commissioned for only 13 instalments. The series came to an end 58 years later in March 2004, after 2,869 instalments and less than a month before Cooke’s death. (wikipedia)

**His well-known radio program, titled The Studs Terkel Program, aired on 98.7 WFMT Chicago between 1952 and 1997. The one-hour program was broadcast each weekday during those forty-five years. (wikipedia)