Author Archives: bbj1969per@aol.com

After the election 2022 – kind of…

Nell Gwyn – “Protestant Whore” – has little to do with this post, but see “voter suppression…”

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite. That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden. Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.” (For his work on the Israelite.)

That’s now my goal as well. To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

My last post – Before the election – 2022 – hearkened back to 2010. In that election Republicans won control of both houses of Congress, which most pundits said would happen again in 2022. But after the 2010 elections – when Republicans won both houses of Congress – they proceeded to ignore the economy, threatened to default on the national debt, “and did shut down the government.” The negative reaction was such that in 2012 Democrats regained control of the Senate and President Obama was re-elected to a second term.

But first a word about the painting of Nell Gwyn. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what lead image to use for this post. I searched images for “predicting the future,” “prophecy,” looks of “surprise” and even images for “You could have knocked me over with a feather.” (The phrase that came to mind about how I felt the morning after the election.) Finally I searched past posts, and found one from last January, on the issue of voter suppression. There’s more detail in the notes, on the topic of what I feared might impact the outcome of the election. But fortunately that didn’t seem to be an issue, at least this time. Besides, Nell does present an attractive image, which may be why she was the favorite mistress of King Charles II of England.

Getting back to Before the election, I predicted that if “2010” happened again, that might lead to a Blue Wave in 2024. (With Joe Biden getting a second term.) The problem? In 2022 Democrats retained control of the Senate, though the results aren’t yet all in. A Georgia run-off between Warnock and Walker is set for December 6. (“Oh boy! More negative political ads!”) But the 2022 results clearly disappointed Republicans. (See 2022 Election results: Some Republicans blame Donald Trump, and Graham, Cruz admit election results ‘not a Republican wave.’)

The flip side is that Republicans did get control of the House of Representatives. That means they can still: 1) ignore the economy and inflation, 2) threaten to default the national debt, and 3) shut down government. On the other hand, if they impeach Biden – as threatened – the result will likely be a no-vote whitewash, courtesy of a Democratic Senate. (Not unlike the one Trump got from the Republican Senate.) That could result in Joe Biden ending up more popular, like what happened to Bill Clinton. (Poll: Clinton’s approval rating up in wake of impeachment.)

The bottom line is that after many long months of hearing predictions of a Red Wave, I woke up the morning of November 8 with a sense of gloom. Not that I oppose principled conservatives. The problem comes when one of two necessary parties becomes a cult of personality.

I could just see Donald Trump – in the days after November 8 – basking in the glory of “his” candidates taking over Congress and paving the way for his re-election. (Which would become more of a bloodbath of retribution rather than responsible government.) Which brings up the phrase “You could have knocked me over with a feather.” According to The Free Dictionary, it’s an  expression of “great or utter surprise, bewilderment, or astonishment.”

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In the meantime, I learned something new just after the election. That was prompted by members of the House Freedom Caucus saying Kevin McCarthy wouldn’t have the 218 votes needed to become Speaker of the House. (When Congress re-convenes next January. The link is to Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Worst Nightmare Could Be Coming True, dated November 15, 2022, which assumed – and as happened – that Republicans would win back the House.)

Based on such threats – “McCarthy doesn’t have the votes” – I did some research. I learned that to become Speaker a candidate needs 218 votes from any and all House members. I assumed it required only a majority vote of the new party in power. So for example if a few Republicans voted “present,” that would lessen their majority and could – theoretically – lead to a Democrat elected Speaker. (And vice versa.) Go figure. 71 years old and still learning new stuff. (Thus the “old dogs” image.)

And speaking of ‘Strange Bedfellows,’ just after the election Marjorie Taylor Greene broke with conservative allies and pledged to support McCarthy. That lead Matt Gaetz – the Congressman Under Federal Investigation For Sex Trafficking – to turn on Greene Over McCarthy.

“Whatever Kevin [McCarthy] has promised Marjorie Taylor Greene, I guarantee you this at the first opportunity, he will zap her faster than you can say Jewish space laser,” he said … referring to a conspiracy theory the congresswoman has promoted and been criticized for.

The bottom line? We’re in for an interesting few months. (And beyond?) For one thing, we’ll see if Democrats have a 50-50 Senate majority, or more solid 51-49. We’ll see if House Republicans ignore the economy, default on the national debt, or shut down the government.” And we’ll see if Kevin McCarthy really zaps Marjorie Taylor Greene with a Jewish Space Laser.

Stay tuned!

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Red real laser beam on black backgroundRed real laser beam on black background
For more on “Jewish Space Lasers,” see the notes…

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The upper image is courtesy Nell Gwynne – Image Results. I borrowed the image from the January 27, 2022 post, An update on Nell Gwynn – “Protestant Whore.” Among other things It addressed the issue of voter suppression, as that suppression might impact the 2022 elections. As it turned out, that was not necessarily an issue in this last election. The issue focused on the different number of black people in Iowa, compared to that number in Georgia where I now live.

According to Iowa Population demographics 2020, 2019, African-Americans make up two percent of Iowa’s population. (Which is 91% white, with “Hispanic or Latino” as the second-largest racial group.) Compare that with Georgia – where I’ve lived for 10 years now – which has a black population of 32.6 percent. (While “Non-Hispanic Whites” make up only 50.1 percent of the population – a bare majority – compared to Iowa’s 91 percent white population.)

The problem was that the “nice lady” who asked about voter suppression came from Iowa, meaning I had to frame the issue in a way that made sense with someone from a “lily white” state like Iowa. Eventually I dropped the topic, but did enjoy revisiting Nell Gwyn. (See also a post featuring her from March 2015, “When adultery was proof of ‘loyalty.”)

On suppression, see Republican Voter Suppression Could Win the Midterms. From October 29, 2022:

THANKS TO REPUBLICANS, it will be harder for certain people to vote this year, courtesy of an array of new voting restrictions passed in the wake of the 2020 election: 56 new voting restrictions passed by Republican-led legislatures in 20 states.

Again, that didn’t seem to happen, at least as much as feared this time around. See also Voter suppression in the United States – Wikipedia, all of which may merit a new post on the subject.

Re: “Red Wave.” See also Conservative Pollster Who Predicted ‘Red Wave’ Says GOP Can’t “Strategize.”

Re: Freedom Caucus. According to Wikipedia it’s considered “the most conservative and farthest-right bloc” within the House, and “formed in January 2015 by a group of conservatives and Tea Party movement members, with the aim of pushing the Republican leadership to the right.

On the election of a Speaker of the House see How the House Elects Its Speaker – Congressional Institute, and Election of the Speaker Overview – US Constitution – LAWS.com.

The “Old Dog” image is courtesy of Old Dogs New Tricks – Image Results.

Re: ‘Strange Bedfellows’: Phrase Meaning & History.

The lower image is courtesy of The Building of the Jewish Space Laser | JewishBoston. Subtitle: “The Jewish space laser as a Talmudic parody.” An interesting read, but “Are you serious?” Sample quote:

On the Kosher Use of the Space Laser. The construction must be overseen by a rabbi. Each component … must be blessed individually. If any components of the space laser are found to be with blemish, the project is to be declared treif and must be started over.

For a more serious view see A ‘Jewish space laser’ sounds funny. But Marjorie Taylor Green’s Anti-Semitism is no laughing matter. More sample quotes. “Jewish Twitter had a field day — because, of course! Making jokes out of virulent anti-Semitism has been our shtick for time immemorial.” “Basically Greene is a callous bigot who hounds mass-shooting survivors, and I haven’t even made it to the part where she helped incite the deadly riots at the Capitol on Jan. 6.” And this:

The fact is, anti-Semitism is on the rise in this country, and a much of it is fueled by baseless theories like the ones espoused by Greene. It’s a jarring dissonance that a state that elected its first Black and first Jewish senators, both Democrats in a typically red state, also gave us this, a reflection of the most dangerous forces in our country.

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 69-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

Anyway, in North Carolina Harry wrote and published the “israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

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Before the election – 2022

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It’s November 8, 2022, Election Day. The pre-election polls have been all over the place, but the general consensus is that Republicans will take over Congress. (House and Senate.*) The consensus is also that voters want Republicans to fix the economy and lower inflation. But here’s a prediction, one I’ll check some time after the election. Those Republicans will ignore the time-honored “it’s the economy, stupid” and spend their time and political capital on other things.

Like threatening to shut down the Government, threatening to default on the national debt, pressuring Biden to abandon Ukraine, spending time and money investigating Hunter Biden, and wasting even more time and money impeaching Biden. (With scant chance of success, requiring 67 votes, and which might lead to the first directed verdict in impeachment history.) And if Republicans do impeach Biden, he might end up more popular because of the impeachment. (Like what happened when the Republicans impeached Bill Clinton back in the 1990s.)

For another example, back in 2010 the Republicans also got control of both houses of Congress. But they then ignored the economy, and threatened to default the national debt, and did shut down the government. Result? In the 2012 U.S. elections, the Democrats regained control of the Senate – and gained seats – while President Obama was re-elected to a second term.

Then there was the election surprise of 1948. It happened two years after Republicans took over Congress for the first time in 14 years, and started creating headaches the Harry Truman, the Democratic president. Nobody gave Truman a snowball’s chance in hell of being re-elected, but he came through, largely by attacking the “Do Nothing” Republican Congress. (“Truman ran more against the 80th ‘Do Nothing’ Congress than he did against Dewey.”)

All of which could end up being good news for Biden.

So much for predicting the future. How have I done making such predictions in past posts?

In August 2019 I posted “Why it might be better…” (Gasp!) As in, why it might have been better if Trump had won the 2020 election. One big reason: He wouldn’t be eligible to run again in 2024. On the other hand, if he lost, in the intervening four years – with a Democrat as president – “he might just wreak more havoc to American democracy than he could as president.” (And some would say that prediction came true.) Another reason? Why not get it over with? If he did get re-elected in 2020, he would immediately become a lame duck. “The official is often seen as having less influence with other politicians due to their limited time left in office.”

Then too, if he had won in 2020, he would now be facing the challenges that are giving Biden such fits, and it would be the Democrats threatening to sweep Congress in the mid-terms. (Come to think of it, that might have been a whole lot better all around.)

But getting back to Election Day. As always, the best course – for either party, in any election, and for life in general – is Hope For The Best, Prepare For The Worst. And for this scenario, let’s make two assumptions. First that the Republicans will take over Congress, and second that that would be “the worst.” (Purely to illustrate and explain the idiom, you understand.)

For one thing, we may see a rise in Christian nationalism. Which could present a problem: “nationalist governments tend to become authoritarian and oppressive in practice. (What Is Christian Nationalism? | Christianity Today.) See also Christian nationalism isn’t Christianity. It’s spewing hate in ‘the name of Jesus’ “Christianity is grounded in Christian scriptures where Jesus teaches love, peace, unity and truth. Christian nationalism preaches hatred, violence, separation, and disinformation.” Which – again – could present a problem.

I’ve written that there’s now more than ever a very good reason for more Americans to read and study the Bible: Political self-defense. Today’s Christian Nationalists get a lot of political power from the fact that their pointy-headed Liberal opponents just don’t know the Bible. They can’t tell when those on the Far Right misquote, misuse or abuse the Bible.

So in preparing for the worst, I plan to do a lot more Bible-citing – on Facebook, my blogs and elsewhere – in an effort to keep Christian Nationalists and the like on the straight and narrow. Citations like Matthew 5:43-44, “What part of ‘love your enemies’ don’t you understand?” Or 1st John 4:20, “if we say we love God and don’t love each other, we are liars. We cannot see God. So how can we love God, if we don’t love the people we can see?” To simplify it even further:

Play the Jesus Card. It’ll drive “those people” crazy!

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The upper image is courtesy of Predict Future Images – Image Results. See also The best way to predict your future is to create it, including “If you want to predict your future, then start dreaming. You can invent your own future if you can live your dream. Start dreaming and make it your reality. Remember one thing your dream can be a reality in the future if you start working for your dreams.” But see also, FACT CHECK: Did Abraham Lincoln Say, ‘The Best Way To Predict, etc. The verdict? False: “The first known instance of the saying appeared roughly a century after Lincoln’s death.” Which is a reminder: Check your sources!

Re: “Republicans will take over Congress.” As of Thursday, November 10, they may still do so, but the results for Republicans have been underwhelming. See What Happened to the Red Wave in the Midterm Elections? And What Happened to That Red Wave? The Midterms Will All Make Sense – In Hindsight. The short and sweet post-mortem? I woke up Wednesday to a pleasant surprise, to be discussed further in my next post.

Citations used in the main text: Republicans are making no secret of their plans to shut down, Bullish on a House takeover, GOP’s investigative plans on Hunter Biden and others pick up steam, Opinion | Republicans will impeach Biden in 2023, and Republican gains in Congress would pressure Biden on Ukraine and Iran. For a more optimistic view, see When Republicans took over Congress, they promised to govern, from 2015.

Also on a Biden impeachment, see What would a Republican Congress look like? A lot of investigations and maybe impeachment (Detroit Free Press, 11/7/22): “Such a move would garner high media attention and could backfire if voters disapprove. Several [Republicans] were in office during the 1990s, when the GOP impeachment of Bill Clinton led to the loss of some GOP congressional seats and boosted the president’s popularity.” Also, “Even if Biden were impeached, the Senate would hold a trial that would require a two-thirds majority to convict Biden, a near-impossible task.”

And more about that waking up Wednesday morning to a pleasant surprise. I had all kinds of smarmy remarks to share in the next two years, such as “Looks like the voter suppression worked!” And “I guess that gives the lie to the vast conspiracy that ‘stole’ the 2020 election. If it was so powerful, why didn’t it help in this election?” But after further thought, I’m glad I don’t have to use them. Also, I considered saying something about Democrats storming the Capitol to overturn the 2022 results. Which brings up point of clarification about January 6, 2021. Various sites including Fact checking claims January 6 say the events that day were not – technically – an insurrection, as some Democrats claimed, but was rather a riot. “The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘insurrection’ as: ‘an organized attempt by a group of people to defeat their government and take control of their country, usually by violence.'” (Can you say hypertechnical?) Instead the rioters – most agree on that term – were more like a dog chasing a car. (No idea what to do if they caught up to it.) See also How Many Died as a Result of Capitol Riot? – FactCheck.org. Answer: One source said at least seven people “lost their lives in connection with the Jan. 6 attack.” The seven included Rosanne Boyland, who died “in a crush of fellow rioters during their attempt to fight through a police line, according to videos reviewed by The Times.” (Boyland — “an avid Trump supporter who subscribed to Q Anon conspiracy theories —  had collapsed while standing off to the side in the Capitol rotunda.”) USCP Officer Brian Sicknick “suffered two strokes nearly eight hours after being sprayed with a chemical irritant during the riot.” Four other police officers committed suicide in the days and months after the riot.

The full “isn’t Christianity” cite: Ahrens: Christian nationalism isn’t Christianity. It’s spewing hate in ‘the name of Jesus.’

The 1st John 4:20 quotation is from the Contemporary English Version. See also the GNT: “If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen.” Traditional translations use the word “brother,” which could enable Christian Nationalists to try and wriggle out of Jesus’ command. The word “brothers” clearly includes “enemies.”

The lower image is courtesy of The Election of 1948 | Harry S. Truman (Truman Library).

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Here are some other notes I considered using but didn’t put in the main text. A post from January 10, 2021 – right after January 6 – “You DO understand that Trump is temporary.” (Or maybe not?) Which featured one ostensibly positive note: That the reaction to Trump’s presidency “can provide the foundation for an era of democratic renewal and vindicate our long experiment in self-rule.” (See GOP Rep. Mace: Trump’s legacy ‘wiped out’ by Capitol riot.) 

Later, in November 2021, I posted Donald Trump – the newest “Undead Revenant?”

So, assuming a Republican sweep in this election, a lot of Trump supporters will be asking why others don’t like him. I’ve struggled with how to answer that question, beginning with the fact that he thinks he is above the law. But in dealing with those supporters, you have to keep it simple, like they do. (Put another way, you need to dumb it down.) The answer I finally came up with, as to why I don’t support Trump: “He doesn’t follow Jesus!” From there you can cite the words and actions of Jesus, then compare and contrast them with Donald Trump.

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St. Francis, his birds and my Bucket List…

 St Francis – of The Way of St. Francis fame – “preaching to the birds…”. 

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In the last post, “Some highlights,” I noted what was to me the highlight of my recent 140-mile hike on the Way of St Francis. (From Assisi down to Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica.)

It came on the first day’s hike out of Assisi, on September 1, 2022. That first morning we reached Eremo delle Carceri. That was after getting through the city and hiking 3.2 miles for an hour and a half, just in time to see the day’s foreboding weather forecast come true. That forecast was for thunderstorms and a lot of really heavy rain. But before I get into the highlight of the 15-day hike – a highlight involving lots of cute jungen Frau – here’s some background.

Eremo delle Carceri is a hermitage complex on Monte Subasio, in Umbria, central Italy. The name “Carceri” comes from the Latin carceres, meaning “isolated places” or “prisons.” Which is basically what religious hermits like Francis wanted, a place to shut themselves away from all the crap going on in the outside world. Which I can understand, at this time just before the election of November 2022, with all those hateful, negative political ads. (Although in Francis’ case he gave a reason that sounded better,* to wit: A place to pray and contemplate.)

Around 2015 – 10 years after he first went there – the Order of St. Benedict gave him the site and its few buildings. Francis then “dedicated himself to a life of preaching and missions, but throughout his life he would frequently withdraw to the Carceri to pray.” And near the site of the hermitage is a stone bridge and an ancient oak. That’s where – according to legend – “Saint Francis preached to the birds as they perched in the oak’s branches.”

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Anyway, we three hikers had toured the site and visited the “facilities,” then gone to the concession stand near the entrance of this isolated hermitage. It was still early, but as it turns out, the Way of St. Francis features very few places to stop for lunch or mid-day break of any kind. So we took advantage of the situation and settled down with our sandwiches and drinks under one of the few umbrella-covered tables, in peaceful isolation. That’s when the heavy rains hit.

In a “New York minute” the heavy rain had overwhelmed the umbrellas, so we scooted over to the limited overhang of the concession building itself. And were soon joined by a horde of other visitors, all jostling and crowding in, with one tall gent positioning himself perfectly in front of me so the rain that fell on him came cascading down on me. (Okay, it wasn’t really “cascading,” but it was annoying.) I scootched around to a better position, cursing my luck, when all of a sudden we were joined by a flock of young high school ladies, apparently out on a field trip.

In other words, we three hikers thought ahead and found a good spot, sheltering beneath the two-foot-wide eaves, but then all the other pushing-and-jockeying-for-position visitors included a host of young ladies, all speaking German and all part of some field-trip group.

[T]hose pushing-and-jockeying-for-position visitors included a host of young ladies, all speaking German and all part of some field-trip group. The rain kept up for quite a while, but somehow the presence of all those jungen Frau – together with the challenging linguistic exercise of trying to figure out what they were talking about – made the situation enjoyable.

To which I can only add, “I’m just old, I’m not dead!”

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Anyway, in getting ready to write this blog, I thought it might be nice to compare this last Camino hike with the first one, back in September 2017. Kind of an Alpha-and-Omega thing. Or a compare-and-contrast thing. I covered that first 2017 pilgrimage in three posts: From October 3, 2017, “Hola! Buen Camino!” Then from October 23, 2017, “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited. And finally, after my brother and hiking partner thought I was too negative in the first two posts, on December 6, 2017 I added “Buen Camino!” – The Good Parts:

Some people reading “Hola! Buen Camino” might think I had a lousy time in my five weeks hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain… {T]here was my comment on the first 10 days – after starting in Pamplona – being “pretty miserable. My left foot constantly throbbed, until it blistered up and got tough.” And that it took about 10 days for that to happen.

Which brings up some big differences between that 2017 hike and this last one. For one thing, I didn’t have near as many problems with my feet on subsequent hikes, especially the last two. (In 2021 and 2022.) My feet still got a bit sore at the end of each day, but not as bad as back in 2017. Routinely I would end the day back then by laying down on the hostel bed, laying my pack at the end of the bed and propping my feet up on it, then telling my brother, “You go ahead and take a shower. Take all the time you want!

For another, after leaving Pamplona in 2017 we hiked for 30 days, with only two days off: After 10 days a break in Burgos, and in another 10 days a break in Leon. That’s where we had to stop hiking and rent mountain bikes. We were running out of time, even though we’d tried to hike the 15 miles a day recommended by the Brierly Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago.

That experience led us to lighten up a bit. In the new normal we try to average 10 miles a day, depending on stopping places being available. (Sometimes we hiked six miles and sometimes 12 or 13 miles, but the average was ten miles.) And we take a day off every four days or so. (We are “getting up there,” with me at 71 YOA.) And about those mountain bikes. I thought they’d be a welcome break from hiking and sore feet, but the result was just different parts of the body getting way sore. Not to mention one time I rode off into a deep ditch, covered with brambles on both sides and the bottom. But we did end up making better time on that last third of the trip.

Other differences: The trail on the Camino in Spain was much better marked, and featured a lot more choices in places to stop for the night. One place even had a beer machine in the hall, and then there was the one place that featured pour-your-own and all-you-can-drink wine:

…at the end of the first day’s hike we stayed at the Albergue Jakue, in Puente la Reina. That was September 13, [2017,] when we made 15 miles but didn’t reach the albergue until about 8:00 p.m. The good part: “They had a $13 dinner special, which included wine. I GOT MY MONEY’S WORTH!” To explain: The wine came in a serve-your-own set of three spigots, not unlike those for draft beer. (Except for the privilege of “pouring your own.”)  

But alas, when we went through again in 2021, those pour-your-own wine spigots were gone. (Because of COVID.) That’s the trip where I hiked over the Pyrenees … finally, and that was because I wimped out in 2017. My brother hiked over those steep mountains from St. Jean Pied de Port, but I chose to avoid that and meet him in Pamplona.

In other words I eventually got to cross hiking over the Pyrenees off my Bucket List.

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The upper image is courtesy of St. Francis Of Assisi Preaching Birds Image – Image Results, with the added note, “original artwork by Henry Stacy Marks RA.”

 Re: Eremo delle Carceri. Here’s a more complete review, gleaned from the Wikipedia article. In the 13th century, Saint Francis would often come to this place there to pray and contemplate, like other hermits before him. Soon other men followed him to the mountain, finding their own isolated caves nearby. The oratory became known as Santa Maria delle Carceri after the small “prisons” occupied by friars in the area. The site was probably given by the Benedictines to St. Francis in 1215, at the same time they gave him the Porziuncola in the valley below. Francis dedicated himself to a life of preaching and missions, but throughout his life he would frequently withdraw to the Carceri to pray. Around 1400, Saint Bernardino of Siena built a small friary and extended the earlier chapel by building a small church, which was also named Santa Maria delle Carceri. In the centuries that followed, various buildings were added around St. Francis’ cave and the original oratory, forming the sizable complex that exists today. Today some Franciscan friars live there and visitors are welcome.

“Reason that sounded better.” Dale Carnegie once said there are two reasons to justify any action: The real reason and the one that sounds good.

“Hola! Buen Camino!” That’s a phrase you heard a lot from fellow pilgrims hiking the Camino de Santiago. It got on your nerves after awhile, and especially on my brother’s nerves. It got so bad he eventually took to taking long detours…

Re: Wimping out in 2017. The year before, in 2016, we had hiked the Chilkoot Trail, “meanest 33 miles in history.” See Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!,” and links therein. That experience soured the idea of mountain hiking for me, at least up to and through 2017.

The lower image is courtesy of Bucket List Image – Image Results. The link adds that it was first used by people facing imminent death, but recently just means “a list of things that I would like to do someday.” The phrase came into wider use after the December 2007 release of the self-styled movie.  

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Some highlights – Way of St. Francis 2022

A typical switchback, cut-back, whatever, of which there were plenty on “The Way…”

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As noted in the last post (One week away from a “Roman Holiday”), I flew over to Rome last August 27, a Saturday. I arrived on the morning of August 28, and on Tuesday, August 30, took a train up to Assisi and met up with my brother and his wife. On Thursday, September 1, the three of us started hiking back to Rome, via the Way of St Francis.

But not before I got a &^%#$ ticket – costing 30 Euros – for not validating my bus pass, in Assisi, down by the train station. It happened on the ride back from visiting the Basilica of San Francis, at right, on the 31st, but it wasn’t my fault. Two knuckleheads in front of me had trouble making change (or whatever). A long line started forming behind me, so the driver told us – starting with me – to “go to the back of the bus.” That’s where, supposedly, there was another machine to validate your bus ticket.

For whatever reason I didn’t validate the pass, possibly because I didn’t see any such machine. So, when we got back to the train station in Assisi – a short walk from our lodging – an officious-looking official magically appeared and announced the aforementioned fine for failure to validate. I protested long, hard and loud – “but the driver told me to go to the back of the bus!” – but to no avail. It was all, “No comprendo,” or however they say it in Italy.

Not a good start to what was supposed to be a pilgrimage to enlightenment.

But this post is supposed to be about some highlights of the trip, so I’ll move on. Which is another way of saying that now that the project is over, it’s time to start the post-mortems.

For starters, the original proposed route was 154 miles, from Assisi to Rome. Specifically back to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, in Rome. But after our night spent in Piediluco on September 7, one of our party developed a temporary (GI) health problem. Aside from that, the weather forecast for September 8 was for really heavy rains. So instead of hiking that day we had to take a bus back to Trevi, then a train to Rieti – our destination for Friday, September 9 – then take a bus back to Poggio Bustonne, our reserved lodging for September 8.

That took off the 13.5 mile hike scheduled for that day (9/8/22), which was another good reason for the bus-train-bus alternative. (Along with the really heavy rain.) The net result was to round down our total miles hiked from 154 to 140 miles. Which we did in 18 days, from September 1 to the 18th. But we took days off from hiking on September 4, September 10, and September 15. Of course we didn’t hike on September 8, but that wasn’t what you could call a day off.

That is, the bus-train-bus travel day wasn’t what you could call a day off.

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Some other observations: Much of the Way of St. Francis is like the Appalachian Trail. Except that it’s over, up, down and around the Apennine Mountains, not the Appalachians.

Like the Appalachian Trail, there were many days with very few places to stop for refreshment during the day. It wasn’t that unusual to go a whole day’s hike, of 10 or 12 miles or more, without any of those stops so prevalent on the Camino Frances (French Way)(On the other hand, in Italy you could still always look forward to a hot shower and a cold beer at the end of the day.)

I suppose there’s a chicken-and-egg question here. The Camino Frances is big business. Lots of places to stop and refresh because there are lots of pilgrims hiking. But such a cafe would have a hard time surviving on the Way of St. Francis, because of so few pilgrims. One suggestion to improve things: Construct shelters every five or ten miles, with picnic tables – or one at least – so weary pilgrims could stop and at least put our feet up and our packs down.

Also, my 8th grade math teacher taught us that the shortest distance between two points was a straight line. However, that rule doesn’t apply to the Way of St. Francis. And that led me to wonder, “Why did St. Francis follow this ‘path?‘” Back and forth, up and down, full of zig-zags, switchbacks and cut-backs. And why wouldn’t he take the smoother route along the valley that beckoned down below? (The smooth path that the train takes from Rome up to Assisi and back.)

As best I can tell, Francis never actually hiked this one path all at once. Instead “the Way” seems to be an amalgam of trips he took during his lifetime, often responding to requests from a nearby village or town, to help out in an emergency. (Including one literal “wolf at the door.”)

Another note: Earlier this summer, before leaving for Rome, I read that Europe was having a severe drought. But we seem to have brought some rain with us, at least in Italy and at least along the Apennines between Assisi and Rome. Which often turned the Trail into a deadly combination of gumbo-like muck, caking around the bottom of your shoes, and slippery-slick rocks and gravel, especially treacherous hiking down one of those many switchbacks or cutbacks.

Which raises the question, “What kind of fool would put himself through such an ordeal?” And that’s a question I found myself asking quite often on the Trail, especially during the early days of the hike. The answer I came up with? The idea on such a trek is to push beyond your limits. To ask yourself at least once a day, “What the heck am I doing here?” Or in my case, “What sane 71-year-old would spend good money just to put himself through all this?”

And then keep going…

On the St. Francis, the hiking is often rugged, rocky, sticky and/or slippery, like after a torrential rain the night before. Zig-zag, east, west, north, south, repeat, up, down, round and around. Whereas on the Camino Frances, once you get past Pamplona you’re heading straight west. It’s much harder to get lost, and there are a lot more friendly locals to help you get back on track.

Another feature of such a pilgrimage, sleeping in a different bed pretty much every night, and having to figure out a different shower set-up every late afternoon. Which made Rome such a great place to reach: Getting to sleep in the same bed four nights in a row.

Then there was our one 15-hour day. There was a mix-up in addresses for our rental. One note said Ferrentillo, the other said Macenano. We passed Macenano in the dark and hiked an extra three miles to Ferrentillo, by flashlight, only to find out the rental was back in Macenano. (The closest I came to crying the whole trip.) By that time it was 10:30 at night, and nobody relished hiking back the 90 minutes or so, in the dark. Fortunately, one of our party approached a group of three local ladies, and through some combination got us a ride back to Macenano, free of charge, by some friendly lady the other ladies had contacted. That could well be the biggest highlight of the ordeal, seeing how nice Italian people can be.

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Actually, there was one better highlight. It happened on the first day’s hike, when we reached Eremo delle Carceri. Google Maps says it’s an hour and a half, hiking, from the Basilica of Saint Francis where we started out. Unfortunately, the forecast for September 1, 2022, was for thunderstorms and a lot of really heavy rain. But we lucked out.

There’s a concession stand near the entrance of this “isolated hermitage,” given to St. Francis around 1215 A.D. We three had gone around the complex, then come back for a cold drink and sandwich. That’s when the rain hit. Really heavy rain. We had a good spot, underneath the two-foot-or-so-wide eaves, but then all the other visitors in the area came crowding in, seeking shelter. But those pushing-and-jockeying-for-position visitors included a host of young ladies, all speaking German and all part of some field-trip group. The rain kept up for quite a while, but somehow the presence of all those jungen Frau – together with the challenging linguistic exercise of trying to figure out what they were talking about – made the situation enjoyable.

It pretty much made me forget that  &^%#$ ticket costing 30 Euros back in Assisi! 

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Calvin and Hobbes
Yes, further bulletins on this pilgrimage. In other words, “stay tuned for more updates!”

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I took the top photo, one of many many switchbacks we saw hiking from Arrone to Piediluco, on September 7, 2022. By the way, Piediluco is a swanky resort area, by the Lago (Lake) di Piediluco. So the best fiscally responsible one-night rental option – at the Hotel Miralago, Piediluco – was one room with three beds right next to each other. They had a great breakfast buffet though!

Re: The bus-pass ticket. In hindsight I can see the logic. An unvalidated pass can be used again for a free ride. (But 30 &^%$# Euros?)

Re: “Post mortem.” The link is to Guide to Post-Mortem in Business: “a process that helps improve projects by identifying what did and didn’t work, and changing organizational processes to incorporate lessons learned. The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) refers to this activity as ‘lessons learned.’” Also, according to mors, mortis [f.] M – Latin is Simple Online Dictionary, the plural form of mortem is “mortes,” not “mortems.” (I took two years of Latin in high school.)

Re: The Way of St. Francis as an “amalgam.” See for example The Way of St. Francis: Walking 550 Kilometers Along One of the World’s Greatest Pilgrimages:

St. Francis is said to have taken literally the scripture passage, “preach the good news to all creatures.” My favorite story focuses on the historic town of Gubbio where residents were haunted by a wolf that had developed a taste for human flesh. They begged St. Francis to intervene with the fearsome creature and then were amazed when the wolf sat peacefully at his feet while the two made a bargain.

The bargain: “If the townspeople would feed him daily, the wolf would leave them alone.”

“The closest I came to crying…” Not really, though I was concerned.

There’s more information on Eremo delle Carceri below, underneath the standard closing blurb. (I may use this information in one of those future updates coming up about this adventure.)

The lower image is courtesy Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip, October 25, 1986.

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One week away from a “Roman Holiday”

I don’t think I’ll be seeing Audrey Hepburn or Gregory Peck on my “Roman Holiday…”

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Saturday, August 20, 2022 – A week from today I’ll be flying over to Rome. (The one in Italy.)

I previewed this adventure back on April 17, 2022, in Getting ready for Rome – and “the Way of St. Francis.” That post told of a new adventure, starting on September 1. It will be the fourth of three hikes on the Camino de Santiago. The three earlier ones came in Spain, Portugal and a short section in France. (For details type “camino” or “paris” in the search box above right.)

In this upcoming September adventure three of us – me, my brother Tom and his wife Carol – will hike the 154 miles from Assisi to Rome. Specifically, we’ll be hiking from Assisi to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. (In Italian it’s the Via de Francesco.) The April post noted that because of its “challenging topography, the Way of St. Francis is a challenging walk.” The first few days are – it has been said – as challenging as a “walk over the Route [de] Napoleón that crosses the Pyrenees. A daily climb of 500 to 1000 meters is not unusual.”

Which is a hike we did back in September 2021. (See Hiking over the Pyrenees, in 2021 – finally!)

The April post noted that in preparing for the hike, I first had to find an affordable flight to Rome, then figure the best way to get to Assisi from Rome. At the time I thought the best way to Assisi was by bus, leaving Rome at 8:30 in the morning. But since then I found the Trenitalia website, and got a later train – leaving Rome at noon – to Assisi. And the place we’ll be staying in Assisi is a short walk from the station. (Whereas it’s a two-mile hike from the Assisi bus station.) And I got an affordable flight to Rome and back, mostly because I could pay for it in installments. (Thanks to my American Express – Delta – Sky Miles credit card.)

Meanwhile I’ve been making plans for my first day or two in Rome. Once settled in my B&B by Roma Termini station, I hope to visit a place called “LET IT BEER,” about two miles northeast. (I just like the name.) Later, or maybe the next day (Monday, August 29) I figure on hiking down to the Isola Tiberina. (Tiber Island.) That’s an island in the middle of the Tiber River, kind of like the Île de la Cité in Paris. (Which we visited last September. We got our required COVID shots at a tent set-up by the Pont Neuf. We had to get them to take a train down to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.)

Also, based on a recent video I saw on Rome, I may try a fried artichoke in the Jewish Ghetto. (Highly recommended, for the adventurous anyway.) Google Maps shows “La Taverna del Ghetto” that may have it. “La Taverna” is a mile and a half southwest of my B&B, and Tiber Island is just beyond it. The Colosseum and Palatine Hill are pretty much on the way.

We’ll see how those plans work out.

Also this past week, I got 250 Euros from my local bank. Last Tuesday I did a four hour hike – figuring six miles at 24 minutes a mile actual hiking time – at a local Nature Center. (We”Il average ten miles a day.) I carried 17.4 pounds* including a pack and camp chair for an occasional break in the woods, without getting chiggers. (Always a problem in the Southeastern woodlands.) I covered up pretty good but still got a couple bites, one on my right tricep that still itches.

Next Tuesday I hope to get in a 7-mile hike along some local golf cart paths, with a full pack but no camp chair. And I plan to take a break for lunch, at a local sports bar, with a prophylactic beer, just to get into the Camino rhythm. And by the way, I have a hard and fast rule for those Camino hikes: I never have a lunch-beer before noon. (Well, “Hardly Ever!”)

Finally – and BTW – I’ll have 48 hours in Rome before heading up to Assisi. (Between getting settled in my B&B and taking the train.) But once we finish the hike we’ll have three full days for touristy stuff in the Vatican City area. (Across the Tiber and three miles from Roma Termini.)

Stay tuned for updates!

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Isola Tiberina 2014.JPG
The Isola Tiberina in the middle of the Tiber River in Rome…

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The upper image is courtesy of Roman Holiday Film – Image Results. See also Roman Holiday – Wikipedia, on the 1953 American romantic comedy starring Audrey Hepburn “as a princess out to see Rome on her own and Gregory Peck as a reporter.” Hepburn won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. The film was shot on location around Rome during the “Hollywood on the Tiber” era. “In 1999, Roman Holiday was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.'”

Re: The much better deal on getting from Rome to Assisi. My train leaves at noon instead of the crack of dawn, and gets to Assisi by way of Foligno a couple hours later. And a confusing note: The “Trenitalia” train ticket lists the day first, then the month, as for example “22/09/22,” instead of the American way, “09/22/22.”

Re: The 17.4-pound backpack. The ideal for Camino hikers is ten percent of your body weight, which in my case would be about 150 pounds.

Re: “Hardly ever!” See H.M.S. Pinafore “What, Never? [Well,] Hardly Ever!” – eNotes.com.

The lower image is courtesy of Isola Tiberina – Wikipedia.

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My visit to The Big Apple – June 2022

The Statue of Liberty, from my kayak, during an attempt to paddle across New York Harbor

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August 6, 2022 – Back in June I visited The Big Apple, New York City. Part of the trip included my trying to kayak across New York Harbor, from a boat ramp by the Statue of Liberty over to Manhattan. It didn’t work out the way I planned, but I’ll get into that in my next post…

Meanwhile, the main reason for the trip was to see my brother and his wife perform – with some other people – at Carnegie Hall. They were part of a concert by the New England Symphonic Ensemble on Friday night, June 3. The program listed their group as among “participating choruses.” Then in the week after the concert my family and I visited other sites as well. But during that visit I didn’t have time to do any updates on this blog. Then, when I got back home, I had to get ready for another road trip, as told in Catching up from my trip to Dubuque. (For the Fourth of July weekend.) Since then I’ve been busy getting ready for my next trip, overseas, previewed in Getting ready for Rome – and “the Way of St. Francis.”

In other words, I’m just getting back to normal. And speaking of getting back to a rhythm

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I made a lot of notes on Facebook driving up, ultimately through the western part of Virginia (via I-81), and up into Pennsylvania, before heading east to New Jersey. And a bit of foreshadowing: That’s the way I’ll drive back in all future road trips to NYC. Going home the other way – south through New Jersey, into Pennsylvania and then Delaware – the traffic and tolls were murder. (Metaphorically anyway.) Even trusty old rustic US 301 – going south from Wilmington and on over the Bay Bridge into Annapolis – is now a &^%$ toll road!

Not to mention I got a &^%$ fifty dollar parking ticket in Jersey City, for parking on a side street. (I stopped at a McDonald’s to get some breakfast before trying the “kayak across New York Harbor.”)

But back to the happy start of the trip. I left my home just south of the ATL late on the morning on Tuesday, May 31. (Last-minute packing and such, including the kayak.) I took back roads over to I-20 at Greensboro, then through Augusta and up I-77 toward Columbia. That day I made 270 miles, to Richburg South Carolina, 56 miles above Columbia. With the air-conditioning out in my car, and a kayak nestled up and over the front passenger seat. As always, traffic around Charlotte, NC stood like a hydra-headed monster for the next day…

Sure enough, and even though I started early, traffic came to a near-standstill near Pineville. So I got off I-77 and took more backroads over to Interstate 485 – the “Outer” way – and over to US 29. That’s mostly a four-lane highway without the traffic hassle of driving through Mooresville and Statesville. And speaking of no air conditioning, Ernest Hemingway wrote that Hunger Was a Good Discipline. I suppose heat – in the form of temperatures in the high 90s – could also be considered a good discipline. (It makes that first cold beer taste ever so good.)

On Wednesday, June 1, I made it to Lexington, Virginia. That was only 278 miles for the day, but the town looked so beckoning – nice and rustic – that I decided to stop there for the day. (Which is why I decided to take four days going up.) I stopped at the local Ruby Tuesday’s for a quick beer before checking out exercise opportunities. There I experienced some local drama. The wait staff, including the barmaid, were very disgruntled with management, and I was lucky to get that first draft beer before she closed out. (Or walked out) After that drama – and to clear my mind – I took a hike around the beautiful campus of Virginia Military Institute.

Later I went to the local Applebee’s, for two more draft beers and a cup of chicken tortilla soup.

My plan for Thursday, June 2, was to stop in Harrisburg, PA. I wanted to find a place to put in my kayak on the Susquehanna River. Unfortunately, there was no such place. Google Maps showed one possible site;* a park with a stream draining into the Susquehanna. But the only place to put in was above a dam and waterfall. All the rest of the stream-banks were too weed-choked and rock-strewn. Plus I saw enough congestion and bad traffic – just getting to the %^%@$ park – that I “proceeded on” to the Hershey PA exit on I-81.

There I found a nice Motel 6 and visited Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar at 7025 Allentown Blvd. (Technically Harrisburg, but I highly recommend it anyway.) I wrote later:

Long day putting around and through Harrisburg PA. No place to kayak, traffic sucked, and a travel tip. Gas up before you get to Pennsylvania. I paid $4.56 at the Sam’s Club, and was glad to get it. $4.79 a gallon wasn’t unusual.

Little did I know that gas prices were about to go higher still, once I got into New Jersey. On a more positive note, I followed up the two beers and sweet potato fries at Arooga’s with a rousing 70-minute hike through the Oak Park Trail. (Adjacent to Dauphin Middle school; I hiked a bit through their parking lot, as they were holding some kind of graduation-night event.)

Next morning I got up early and headed east on I-81 to where it split, becoming I-78 northwest of Jonestown PA. From there it was smooth driving, through the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, until I crossed into New Jersey. Where you are actually fined if you pump your own gas. (Between $50 and $250 for a first offense, and $500 for subsequent offenses. For more, see the notes.)

On Friday, June 3 – the day of the concert – I stopped at my first Wawa convenience story in a long time. (On I-280.) That was before crossing over the Hackensack River and into the traffic in Jersey City and on into North Bergen. There my brother Tom had rented an upstairs apartment just down the street from North Bergen High School.

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The rest of Friday, June 3, was a blur. The three of us got checked in and unpacked, then got “dressed up” for Carnegie. (A note: We needn’t have bothered. The native New Yorkers at the concert were dressed just like us slobs back home; shorts, shirt untucked, whatever.) Then we hiked up the hill, to the stop by the North Bergen High School, for the first of many trips on the 154 bus over to Manhattan. We met up with the other brother and his wife – Bill and Janet – the ones who were singing at Carnegie. We had a pre-concert dinner at this place on Broadway, the Applejack Diner, shown below. As for the concert itself, we had some unexpected drama…

But I’ll save that story for a future post!

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I took the upper photo, from my kayak, near the start of my try to paddle across New York Harbor. According to Wikipedia, it’s “one of the largest natural harbors in the world, and is frequently named the best natural harbor in the world.” Also called Upper New York Bay, it’s “connected to Lower New York Bay by the Verrazano Narrows,” and other bodies of water that actually constitute a “tidal strait.Some foreshadowing, that “tidal strait” figures in the next post, on how that kayaking attempt worked out. For more on my other preparations for the trip, see Back to New York City – finally!

Re “Participating choruses.” The phrase in the program was “With participating choruses.” You can click on the near-upper-right “Calendar View” at Official Website | Carnegie Hall.) The chorus in question was The Trey Clegg Singers, Inc. My brother and his wife have sung with “Trey” for years.

Re: Getting back to rhythm. My first wife Karen (who died in 2006) used to say I wasn’t spontaneous enough, I was in too much of a rut. My response, “It’s not a rut, it’s a rhythm.” See also The Three Biggest Benefits of Good Habits – Top Three GuideWhy Habits are Important: 5 Benefits of Habits.

Re: Hunger Was a Good Discipline. See Hemingway in Paris, vis-a-vis the chapter starting on page 67 of the 2003 Scribner paperback edition of A Moveable Feast.

Re: “Google Maps showed one possible site,” to put in by the Susquehanna. It was New Cumberland Borough Park, on Yellow Beeches Creek, near the New Market suburb of Harrisburg.

Re: New Jersey’s ban on self-service gas pumping. See Why New Jersey and Oregon still don’t let you pump your own gas, and What’s the fine for pumping your own gas in N.J.? – nj.com. I knew beforehand about the ban, but didn’t know it’s long and complex history, over a century old. Initially full-service stations saw self-service as cutting into their thin profit margin. “Full-service gas stations played up safety hazards around self-service, arguing that untrained drivers would overfill their tanks and start a fire. But eventually self-service was seen to reduce costs and increase volumes of gasoline sold. One ironic note: “In New Jersey, the self-service ban, along with the state’s reputation for low gas prices, is part of its culture.” FYI: Gas prices in New Jersey were as high as in Pennsylvania, and 50 cents a gallon higher than back home in Georgia. (Another reason to call it “God’s Country.”)

For future reference (a new post) I noted some activities on Thursday, June 9, the day before we left for home. “After the walking tour of Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown – and hiking across the Manhattan Bridge and back – relaxing with a mint chip gelato, back in Little Italy. Cafe Roma.” Stay tuned…

The lower image is courtesy of the gallery in the Applejack Diner website.

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Catching up from my trip to Dubuque…

Downtown Dubuque, Iowa, as seen from a bluff high above the city…

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite. That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden. Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.” (For his work on the Israelite.)

That’s now my goal as well. To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

My last post said I was working on a new post on my early-June road trip to New York City…

However, that turned out more complicated than expected, so I posted a quickie filler-upper, “Why not 12 Supreme Court Justices.” (On the Supreme Court’s just overturning Roe v. Wade.) Since then I took another road trip, to Dubuque, Iowa. (Ten days up and back for the July 4th weekend.) And since that trip is more recent, I’ll get it out of the way first.

I went up to Iowa because I’d never been to such a lily-white Iowa/Midwest Fourth of July. (Not lately anyway, compared to the 4th in the Black mecca that is “the ATL.”) It was quite an adventure, featuring lots of visits to my companion’s family, and my eating way too much food while not getting nearly enough exercise. (I gained five pounds, and was lucky to limit it to that. One comment at a dinner on the evening of July 4: “That’s all you’re eating?”)

BTW: I wanted to rent a canoe or kayak and paddle across the Mighty Mississippi. That didn’t happen, though I did manage to paddle a rental kayak up the Galena River, detailed below.

*   *   *   *

My companion and I – let’s call her “Nina” – left home at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 30. (After some last-minute packing.) Surprisingly, we got through the Atlanta Beltway in good time, but had a bad traffic delay coming into Chattanooga. Then more bad traffic trying to get through Nashville, after “gaining” an hour crossing into Central Time. We celebrated that traffic-choked first day’s drive with a nice split meal at the Applebee’s in Clarksville.

Friday, July 1 we drove from Clarksville to Champaign, Illinois. (I took my time driving up.) On Saturday, July 2, we drove from Champaign to Dickeyville, Wisconsin. Nina wanted to be in position for church in Dubuque the next day. (A 15-minute drive.) I’d booked a place that sounded rustic but was more of a dump. It did turn out entertaining though, as noted below. Anyway, Nina’s daughter picked us up and took us for two beers and a bar pizza at the nearby Kuepers III (“Keeper’s”), in Dickeyville. They didn’t have Bud Light on tap so I got a Fat Tire draft.

I thought that was that, but back at the Inn we found a cookout-slash-Saturday-night-celebration going on, courtesy of a group of traveling contract workers. The boss was a hefty local white guy, accompanied by a host of Spanish-speaking workers. (One from Portugal, another from Spain, some from other places.) To be polite we then had to eat more food – some of it quite exotic – along with plentiful bottles of Corona beer, often laced with salt, tequila or both.

For our stay in Dubuque, Nina booked a to-be-unnamed Airbnb. But there were problems in booking, and we weren’t sure the place was really available. (Due in part to her being unable to get verification. As a back-up, she’d booked a room at the nearby Quality Inn on Hwy 20, just in case.) She had the code to get in the bnb, but couldn’t make any payment. Some babe named “Olga” had Nina’s phone before, and so the company had the reservation in Olga’s name.

To make a long story short, Sunday morning we found the place all right, and managed to get in. (The code was pretty simple.) But the roomy two-story house was still being cleaned.* Beds unmade, laundry in the washer and dryer, etc. So Nina called the Quality Inn where she had the backup reservation. It turned out she couldn’t get her money back, so for that and other reasons we decided to stay there. It was a nice place, not as roomy but right across Hwy 20 from a Walmart. There was a great place nearby to get iced coffee in the mornings, plus they had a good continental breakfast – rare at motels these days – including a working waffle maker.

We unpacked, then went to the non-denominational Crossroads Church in Peosta. With two of Nina’s friends, Mike and Judy. Later I said on Facebook, “Penance for too much beer last night, celebrating getting to our final destination.” (A “foretaste of the heavenly banquet to come?”)

The Youth Pastor gave a great sermon, on the need to work together. (Largely ignored in later pronouncements on politics.) Late that afternoon we were treated to firework displays, from Kelly’s Bluff. (Close to the site of the picture atop the page.) Lots of history there, as described by Judy’s boss-man, who also supplied plenty of food. (We brought our own libations.) From the top of the bluff we could see a number of fireworks provided by other cities in the tri-state area.

I didn’t note anything for Monday morning, July 4, but later we had dinner back over in Peosta, at Mike and Judy’s. On Tuesday, July 5, we drove down to Galena and visited the U.S. Grant Museum in Galena. (95 degrees outside.) That’s where I saw the Thomas Nast carton at the bottom of the page, titled, “The crowning insult to him who occupies the presidential chair.” I thought it especially appropriate for the current occupant of the presidential chair.

The label on the hat says “Scapegoat.”

After the Grant museum we had lunch and a libation at Durty Gurts. Then I checked out Nuts Outdoors, on Spring Street in Galena. (Also known as the same U.S. 20 that runs right by the Quality Inn in Dubuque.) The next day – Wednesday, July 6 – I rented a kayak from Nuts and paddled upstream on the Galena River. I paddled 60 minutes upstream, then got back to the starting point in 20 minutes. Later that afternoon we shared dinner and rewarding beers at Thumser’s 19th Hole, East Dubuque, near where Nina’s daughter lives.

Thursday morning, July 7, we visited the Dubuque Museum of Art, mostly because of “Free Thursdays.” It was nice, and I enjoyed it, but I’m glad it was free. We then had lunch at BILL’S TAP, in Farley, near where Nina’s son and his brood live. “We” treated two of her cute granddaughters to lunch, and learned some new young-people slang. Like three terms for something especially good. 1) “It slaps!” 2) It “goes hard.” And 3) “It’s bustin.'” Now I have to check with my great-niece and -nephew back home and see if they’re up to date.

Friday morning, July 8, I visited the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. The Old Geezer discount cost $18.95, and well worth it. For one thing, you can go out and come back again, say, for a lunch break. Plus you can use it for two straight days, and frankly there’s too much to see in just one visit. Later that afternoon I visited the riverfront near the railroad bridge, then did some other errands and gassed up at the Sam’s Club. A pleasant surprise: Gas at a mere $4.35 a gallon. That was a welcome change. That evening we had dinner at Rhody’s, on the western edge of town, with Nina’s friend Judy. (I ordered something light.)

Next morning we left at practically the crack of dawn, and got to Evansville, Indiana. (And another Applebee’s. Google Maps helped me find one close to the motel.) We got home the next day, Sunday the 10th, eventually. Once again there was bad traffic in Nashville and Chattanooga, but we never made it to the ATL beltway. I ended up taking back roads north of Marietta, after leaving I-75 South. (Southwest on County Road 5, then southeast from where it intersects with CR 6.) The traffic tie-ups messed up the Google Map estimate of our arrival time. The initial estimate was 4:00 p.m., but it was getting dark by the time we reached Fayetteville. We found the Old Courthouse closed so we stopped at Twisted Taco, for one final road dinner-and-draft.

One point of order: For the next trip we RESOLVED that I would drive to Dubuque a few days early, and Nina would fly up and I’d meet her. Among other factors, that would allow me to bring my kayak and paddle across the Mississippi. (Dubuque has no place that I could find to rent a kayak or canoe.) And don’t forget that five pounds gained.

Next day, Monday the 11th, I went back to my regular diet and lots of healthy exercise.

BACK TO THE ROUTINE!

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“The crowning insult to him who occupies the presidential chair…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Dubuque, Iowa – Wikipedia. The city was named for Julien Dubuque (1762-1810), a Canadian from Quebec who settled near what is now the city. One of the first Europeans to settle in the area, he initially got permission from the Mesquakie Indian tribe to mine the lead in 1788. “Once he had received permission from the Meskwaki to mine lead, Dubuque remained in the area for the rest of his life. He befriended the local Meskwaki chief Peosta – for whom the nearby town of Peosta, Iowa is named.” He is believed to have married Peosta’s daughter.

The June trip was to New York City and Carnegie Hall. I previewed it in Back to New York City – finally!

Re: The trip to Dubuque. My current lady friend hails from there, and wanted to visit family, especially kids, grandkids and a new great-granddaughter.

Re: “Mighty Mississippi.” Click on the link to hear the song by the New Christy Minstrels [i]n 1963.

“The ATL” is the Atlanta Metropolitan Area that has been my new home for the past 12 years. It is one of several Black meccas, defined as cities to which “African Americans, particularly singles, professionals, and middle-class families, are drawn to live,” for reasons including greater income opportunities, greater political power and “harmonious black-white race relations.” For the record, I am much more comfortable in the Atlanta area, for reasons including that people “down south” are much friendlier. (As will be detailed more fully in my post on the trip to “Joisey,” featuring lots of cursing and horn-honking.) Plus gas prices have been lower.

Re: “Gaining an hour.” When we crossed into Central Time, 10:00 a.m. became 9:00 a.m.

Re: “Still being cleaned.” It appeared so, but no one was around.

Re: The “tri-state area.” Tri-state area – Wikipedia noted this is an “informal term in the United States which can be used for any of several populated areas associated with a particular town or metropolis that, with adjacent suburbs, lies across three states.” The article listed a number of such U.S. tri-state areas, and said the Dubuque, Iowa tri-state area “spills over into Illinois and Wisconsin.”

Re: Old Geezer discount. See the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium website and click on “Buy tickets.” The adult price for general admission is $20.95. One photo I took for Facebook showed a poster listing the 40 cents admission price in 1941 for a two hour “Showboat” stage performance.

The lower image is courtesy of Grant Made Scapegoat for Corruption | ClipArt ETC – FCIT: “President Ulysses S. Grant being made the scapegoat for continuing corruption.” (Some things never change.) Thomas Nast (1840-1902) was a “German-born American caricaturist and editorial cartoonist often considered to be the ‘Father of the American Cartoon.’ He was a critic of ‘Boss’ Tweed and the Tammany Hall Democratic party political machine. Among his works: The creation of the modern version of Santa Claus (based on traditional German figures, Sankt Nikolaus and Weihnachtsmann) and the political symbol of the elephant for the Republican Party.” He did not create the donkey symbol for Democrats, but did popularize it through his work.

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 69-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

Anyway, in North Carolina Harry wrote and published the “israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

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“Why not 12 Supreme Court Justices?”

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I’m working on a new post, about my recent road trip up to New York City and Carnegie Hall. (Although based in North Bergen NJ; we took daily trips into “the City” via the 154 bus to the Port Authority bus station.) But that project is turning out to be way more complicated than I expected, and my last post came a month ago, on May 25.

So here’s a quickie, a filler-upper, based on the Supreme Court’s just overturning Roe v. Wade. (Speaking of the “ongoing Culture war,” as noted in the last post.) I found a draft post from some time ago, titled “Why not 12 Supreme Court Justices?”

Which leads to what Alexis de Tocqueville once wrote. He said the U.S. president may slip without the state suffering, and Congress may slip without the Union perishing, because both can be replaced by the voters. But if ever the Supreme Court “came to be composed of rash or corrupt men, the confederation would be threatened by anarchy or civil war.”

To many Americans, that prophecy just came true. (Thus the “chaos” image atop the page.) 

But taking the long view, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization won’t be the end of the story. This judicial effort to “turn back the clock” will lead to a strong reaction – as it has already – if not a strong “blue wave” some time in the foreseeable future. Which leads to the question, “How can we offset a way-too-conservative Supreme Court?”

For starters, there are ways to avoid or sidestep an unpopular “dictate from above,” in the form of a High Court decision. Just think of Brown v. Board of Education. In 1954, the then-Supreme Court ruled that “U.S. state laws establishing racial segregation in public schools are unconstitutional.” The court added that states had to integrate “With All Deliberate Speed.” In response, “White citizens in the South organized a ‘Massive Resistance’ campaign against integration.” Almost 70 years later, we seem to be moving backward on that project.

Here’s another example of some Americans getting around such “orders from above:” 

Making alcohol at home was very common during Prohibition. Stores sold grape concentrate with warning labels that listed the steps that should be avoided to prevent the juice from fermenting into wine… The grape concentrate was sold with a warning: “After dissolving the brick in a gallon of water, do not place the liquid in a jug away in the cupboard for twenty days, because then it would turn into wine.”

You have to love a country where that happens. (“The popular will?”) Another thought: Dobbs just means that instead of one big battle, the combatants will now face 50 smaller battles.

Which brings us back to how to further side-step the current Court majority, of young and ardent conservatives. One answer: Court-packing. See What is Court Packing … FindLaw:

Article III of the U.S. Constitution … gives Congress broad discretion for establishing the structure of the judicial branch. The first court had six justices, before President John Adams and the Congress reduced the number of justices to five. The number of judges then fluctuated until it hit nine in 1869, where it has remained… So, it wouldn’t take a constitutional amendment to change the number of justices. Congress would simply have to pass a law, and the president would need to sign it.

Given all that, at some time in the foreseeable future a Democratic Congress and President could pass a law making the Court consist of 12 justices rather than nine. And there is ample precedent, including Biblical: 12 Apostles, 12 tribes of Israel, and in Common Law – for the longest time 12 people served on a traditional jury in England and America. (Before conservatives in many U.S. states to reduce the number to six, for ease of conviction.)

Then there’s “Consent of the governed.” 

That’s the idea that a “government‘s legitimacy and moral right to use state power is only justified and lawful when consented to by the people or society over which that political power is exercised.” On that note, I’d say the Dobbs majority’s thinking that most Americans will meekly accede to such an activist, conservative shake-up greatly misunderstands American history – and the American national character. We are definitely in for some interesting times…

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The upper image is courtesy of Chaos Images – Image Results.

The de Tocqueville quote is courtesy of the Anchor Book/Doubleday paperback version of Battle for Justice: How the Bork Nomination Shook America (1989), by Ethan Bronner, at pages 20-21.

I borrowed the “grape juice into wine” quote from Are we trying another “Noble Experiment?” In turn the quote came from  Prohibition in the U.S. – Wikipedia, which added: “Grape juice was not restricted by Prohibition, even though if it was allowed to sit for sixty days it would ferment and turn to wine with a twelve percent alcohol content. Many people took advantage of this as grape juice output quadrupled during the Prohibition era.”

The full court-packing URL is  What is Court Packing and Why Does It Matter? – FindLaw. Also, Consent of the governed – Wikipedia. See also Trump lacks the consent of the governed – NBC News: “In securing the unalienable rights of man, Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, ‘governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.’”

The lower image is courtesy of Interesting Times Image – Image Results, and by extension, Robert F. Kennedy Quote – Lib Quotes. See also May you live in interesting times – Wikipedia, May your children live in interesting times — a Chinese curse.

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On Mystic Christians – “The real ones?”

Was Obi-Wan Kenobi the original Mystic Christian? (As in, “May the Force be with you“)

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I’ve been struggling with what to call myself in the current, ongoing Culture war.

I despise the Radical Right – as heartless – but they don’t understand it when I respond, “Liberal my ass, I’m an Independent.” I tried that label back in July 2016, with The Independent Voter, and in 2019’s A reminder: “I’m an INDEPENDENT (Voter).” I also tried “Contrarian,” back in a November 2016 post, ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian. Then there was the February 2021 post, “I used to be quiet and shy, all moderate and nicey-nicey.” That one talked of me being “one of those people suffering from Trump fatigue.” 

So what am I? “Independent?” “Contrarian?” Somewhere between Radical Left and Wacko Right?

A week or so ago I tried the “Independent” label once again with my current lady friend. (Another conservative who voted for Trump; they’re all over the dang place.) But it didn’t go over – it “didn’t compute” – possibly because the label was too complicated. (For “those people.”) So I decided to “baffle them with BS.” (From a Quote by W.C. Fields, detailed in the notes.)

Put another way, I’ve decided to take the high road, to get away from talking politics altogether. (On Facebook, or dealing personally with Right-wing Wackos.) I turn the tables and use the Bible against them, saying things like, “How does that save souls?” It drives them crazy – which is worth the price of admission alone – mostly because “those people” have been using the Bible to advance their reactionary political agenda for decades now.

(There’s more on that radical agenda below…)

Besides, using “Mystic Christian” bring up the title of my new. soon-to-be-published book. The full title is “On Mystic Christians – (You know, the real ones?)” It follows up a book I did in 2018, “No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian.” (Under my nom de plume, “James B. Ford.”) It was designed as a bit of payback, or “turnabout is fair play,” a way of evening things out, mostly in response to Rick Santorum’s saying in 2008 that there’s “no such thing as a liberal Christian.”

The point is that logic and reason are mostly wasted in addressing the Wacko Right, “those people” who generally have no sense of humor. Which brings to mind an earlier mystic – and devout Roman Catholic – Thomas Merton. Someone asked him how you could tell if a person is “enlightened.” (Having gone through an inner, spiritual transformation.) He smiled and said, “Well it is very difficult to tell but holiness is usually accompanied by a wonderful sense of humor.” And such a sense of humor is noticeably lacking in the Radical Right.

On a related note, here’s another by-the-way: If you think I was being too political back in 2018 – when I published “No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian” – check out Televangelist Pat Robertson says God told him Trump will win. (Or Google “pastor God Trump win,” for similar results.) Either way, I’d say Robertson’s message from God got “garbled in transmission.”

The point is, if I was way too militant back then, I wasn’t the only one.

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I originally planned to have this post feature early pages in the ‘Mystic Christian’ book. I included those pages in the notes, but here are some highlights. Like how conservative Christians interpret most of the Bible literally, but not – in one glaring example – “The Bible’s ‘erotic love song:” But why don’t such Literalists interpret “Song of Songs” literally? Why don’t they adhere to the “exact letter or the literal sense” for this book, like all the others in the Bible?

Some Bible Literalists become snake handlers, based on a too-literal interpretation of Mark 16:18: “They will pick up snakes with their hands.” But I would say: “Be consistent. If you’re going to interpret Mark 16:18 literally, you should do the same with Song of Solomon 7:1-3: ‘Your rounded thighs are like jewels… Your two breasts are like two fawns…’”

On a more serious note – and speaking of using the Bible to advance a political agenda – there’s a question, Did Evangelicals Make Trump Their Messiah? (From early in the ‘Mystic’ book.)

The article opined that initially many Evangelicals supported Trump because they thought he shared the same politics and values. But then it seems that some Evangelicals – and other Christians – “supported him because they thought he was a Messiah. They saw Trump as infallible and became his disciples.” Which led one pastor (Franz Gerber) to worry that many in his congregation seemed to idolize Trump more than they worshipped Jesus.

“Nothing good can come from putting any single person on a spiritual pedestal. No one is infallible, no one is free from bias, and no one is honest all of the time, no matter how hard they may strive…”

Returning to “Trump-Messiah,” it noted the seeming hypocrisy of evangelicals who insist that Trump’s “morality” was nobody’s business but God’s, “while also casting great judgment on non-believers or those who don’t believe as they do.” Then came the matter of media coverage:

“What makes a good president is the ability to survive our constant scrutiny and the scrutiny of the free press. Through this process, which is critical, we can get a better sense of whether a politician is trying their best, and whether or not they generally have Americans’ best interests in mind…”

And speaking of borrowing a page from the Trump playbook – “baffling them with BS” – try this on for size. (Demonstrating how a mystic – Christian or otherwise – sees things differently.)

By his own admission, Donald Trump is: 1) a very stable genius, 2) a master negotiator, and 3) a true American patriot. Aside from that, he’s the only American Putin will allow into Russia.* With all that in mind, Trump could accept Putin’s invitation and negotiate an end to the war in Ukraine. By doing so he could end the needless suffering of millions of Ukrainians, and bring down the price of gas in America as well. If he did all that he would probably win the Nobel Peace Prize, which would certainly get him re-elected in 2024.

I wonder if he’ll do it? (In other words, “Fish or cut bait.”) 

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The upper image is courtesy of Obi-wan Kenobi Alec Guinness – Image Results. See also Obi-Wan Kenobi – Wikipedia.

Re: “Mystic.” For more see What is a Mystic and What Traits do they Typically Possess? One definition: “an individual who is born into a very specific role. Gifted with a deeper understanding of spirituality, and possessing psychic gifts and abilities, their role is one of guidance. In essence, mystics are here to use their powers to show humanity the correct way to live.” Merriam-Webster defines mysticism as “the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (such as intuition or insight).” But see also Christian mysticism – Wikipedia, noting the “mystical practices and theory within Christianity:”

Mysticism is not so much a doctrine as a method of thought. It has often been connected to mystical theology, especially in the Catholic Church (including traditions from both the Latin Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches) and Eastern Orthodoxy… The attributes and means by which Christian mysticism is studied and practiced are varied. They range from ecstatic visions of the soul’s mystical union with God and theosis (humans gaining divine qualities) in Eastern Orthodox theology to simple prayerful contemplation of Holy Scripture (i.e. Lectio Divina).

Re: Thomas Merton (1915-1968), “arguably the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century. His autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, has sold over one million copies and has been translated into over fifteen languages. He wrote over sixty other books and hundreds of poems and articles on topics ranging from monastic spirituality to civil rights, nonviolence, and the nuclear arms race.” See also Thomas Merton – Wikipedia. His books included Zen and the Birds of Appetite, Mystics and Zen Masters, and the more conservative Praying the Psalms:

According to Merton: “To put it very plainly, the Church loves the Psalms because in them she sings of her experience of God, of her union with the Incarnate Word, of her contemplation of God in the Mystery of Christ….If we really come to know and love the Psalms, we will enter into the Church’s own experience of divine things. We will begin to know God as we ought.”

Re: The Force be with you. See Idioms … Free Dictionary, referring to the catch prase adapted from “Star Wars,” in which it is used as a blessing, “to protect or guide the other person.” See also 1st Chronicles 22:11, “The LORD be with you, and may you have success,” as well as Dominus vobiscum – Wikipedia. The latter noted that the phrase “the Lord be with you” is an “ancient salutation and blessing traditionally used by the clergy in the Catholic Mass … as well as liturgies of other Western Christian denominations, such as LutheranismAnglicanism and Methodism.” The response is Et cum spiritu tuo, meaning “And with your spirit.” 

And speaking of “Wacko Right,” Donald Trump was among the first to use the term, back in 2000. See THE STAUNCH-RIGHT WACKO VOTE – The Fleming Foundation, noting how in an early run against Pat Buchanan, “Trump told America that Buchanan’s supporters were the ‘staunch-right wacko vote.’”

Re: “Baffle them with BS.” According to Goodreads, the line is attributed to W.C. Fields: “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” See also idioms … Free Dictionary: “In lieu of concrete facts or exceptional wit, you can convince people with artful, flowery, or misleading speech.” See also the Phrases website, which noted that the maxim has “been proven true, repeatedly, one need look no further than the American Republican party for evidence. Facts and logic have been swamped by absolutely preposterous nonsense.

Re: Putin’s invitation to Trump. See Russia bans 963 Americans from the country including Biden, Harris, Zuckerberg. But not Trump. For a different take, search “putin trump russia” for some interesting comments.

The lower image is courtesy of Fish Or Cut Bait Images – Image Results. Wikipedia explained that this is a common English language colloquial expression, dating back to the 19th-century United States, which among other things, “cautions against procrastination and/or indecisiveness.” Or in this case, saying you’re a very stable genius, a master negotiator and a true American patriot, but not doing anything with those sterling qualities. See also “Put up or shut up.”

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Here is the complete cut-and-paste from the first part of the new “Mystic Christian” book:

On the other hand there was my post, St. James … and the 7 blind men. It included the “parable of the Blind men and elephant,” and this thought:

Good Christians should be able to “argue” with each other –in the good sense.(The sense of “civil” lawyers presenting concise and reasoned bases to support their position, and not resorting to name-calling or “ad hominem” attacks.)

And a heads up for this book: I’ll haveSt. James … and the 7 blind menas a separate chapter later in the book. Before that though, it might help to review some parts of the “No Such Thing” book. (Then came the part about “rounded thighs, followed by:) – In the process of trying to find a less militant and more Christian title for this revised book, I originally came up with one that included “Evangelical” in quotation marks. I did that mainly because the word “Evangelical” these days means something way different than it used to.

To see what I’m talking about, search “trump and evangelicals today.” I did that and got 167,000,000 results. (That’s 167 million.) Those results included: 1) Trump Is Tearing Apart the Evangelical Church – The AtlanticThe Evangelicals’ Trump Obsession Has Tarnished Christianity, and Did Evangelicals Make Trump Their Messiah?

Taking them in order, Trump Is Tearing Apart said the “aggressive, disruptive, and unforgiving mindset” so much a part of our politics has “found a home in many American churches.” Put bluntly, too many Christians have embraced the worst aspects of our culture and our politics:

When the Christian faith is politicized, churches become repositories not of grace but of grievances, places where tribal identities are reinforced, where fears are nurtured, and where aggression and nastiness are sacralized. The result is not only wounding the nation; it’s having a devastating impact on the Christian faith.

Then there’s The Evangelicals’ Trump Obsession Has Tarnished Christianity. It talked about how the Trump era has affected the ability of Christians to share the good news about Jesus in a diverse and skeptical world:

If you believe … Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life,” then it makes sense to share the good news with everyone… But what happens when so many of Christ’s messengers have sacrificed their credibility and moral high ground by allying with a controversial political figure[?]

The author concluded, “Trumpism, I would argue, has damaged the Christian brand, as well as the conservative brand.”

(Then came the reference to Did Evangelicals Make Trump Their Messiah, followed by:) – Which brings us back to my struggle to find a better title for this new, updated, less hostile and more Christian re-write of the 2018 book.

That struggle started back even before I published the 2018 book. I went back and forth on what to call it, and once tried, “Not all Christians are Right-wing Wackos.” That certainly was direct and eye-catching, but way too hostile. (Again, I’m trying to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.)

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Back to New York City – finally!

 Carnegie Hall, where my brother and his wife will perform this June – with some other people…

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May 5, 2022 – A month from now I’ll visit Carnegie Hall, in New York City. That led me to wonder how long it’s been since I last visited The Big Apple. As it turns out, that was 2016, during a family visit headquartered on Staten Island. Which means it’s been six years since that last visit.

I didn’t realize it had been that long, but it’s been a busy six years. One thing that happened was the COVID pandemic, which screwed up family plans to visit back in June 2020. My brother, sister-in-law and other singers from our church* were scheduled to perform at Carnegie, but it got cancelled. (Then rescheduled for this June, 2022, which is where the “finally” comes in.) And speaking of busy, those past six years included – aside from COVID – three hikes on the Camino de Santiago – in 2017, 2019 and 2021* – and a three-week pilgrimage to Jerusalem in May 2019.

I’ll write more on the upcoming NYC trip in the future, but meanwhile it’s time to remember that last 2016 visit. As noted, my family stayed on Staten Island, which meant each day – starting on September 17 – we took the Staten Island Ferry over to Manhattan. And as you recall, that September was just before the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Which election brought out a slew of grouchy old white people. (From where most had been hiding under a rock, or so it seemed.) That seemed especially true in Georgia, where I’ve lived since 2011.

Which made the trip to New York City in 2016 so refreshing – so “get away from it all” – that I did two posts about it: “No city for Grouchy Old White People,” and “No city for Grouchy Old White People” – Part II. For example, here’s what I wrote on Facebook on September 22, safely back on Staten Island: “New York City is a refreshing reminder that there’s more to this country than just the right-wing wackos so prevalent back home.” That Facebook entry also included this:

Ever since last Saturday, September 17, we’ve been taking the Staten Island ferry into and back from Manhattan Island. So that’s eight times – twice a day for four days now – that we’ve seen the Statute of Liberty, off in the distance…  And I don’t remember ONCE seeing a sign that said, “the heck with your tired, your poor,” those “wretched refuse … yearning to breathe free.”  WE’RE GONNA BUILD A FRIKKIN WALL!

(I also noted on Facebook that night that it had been a long day, but fun. “And I’ve had my usual one beer at the South Manhattan Terminal,* then another one on the Ferry itself, and I’m now finishing my third of the night, a ‘Corona Extra.’”) Ah, the memories…

And just for some excitement – I noted a Saturday ride on a double-decker tour bus, our first night in the city. The bus was delayed, but eventually made its way down Sixth Avenue toward downtown Manhattan, then over to Brooklyn. As we approached the Chelsea district, we heard a lot of sirens. Then we passed some streets blocked off, “and all kinds of murmuring crowds.” As we rode down Avenue of the Americas closer to Chelsea, we heard a whole lot of sirens. (Even more sirens and louder than usual in the City.) Texting a friend back home about all this, she texted back, “Explosion reported in New York..  be safe.” Which made me the first on the bus to find out about “New York City explosion rocks Chelsea neighborhood.”

The thing is, when the bombing happened – apparently – we were still back in that long line to get on the tour bus. And at the time we were kind of disgruntled about the long delay. But as it turned out, the delay meant that we DIDN’T drive by right as the explosion happened.

Which I figured was some kind of object lesson

I’ll do another post later on “Grouchy Old White People” – Part II, mostly because it’s so full of juicy memories. There’s lots of stuff on the Statue of Liberty, and some knucklehead saying the inscription is “just a poem,” with a citation about the Old Testament also be “just a bunch of poetry.” (Idiot.) And the American dream, and a visit to the One World Trade Center. And getting three “Stellas” at the Whitehall (Manhattan) Terminal, for the ride back to Staten Island. (One for me, one for my brother and one for my nephew.) And a hike on NYC’s “High Line,” followed by lunch at Artichoke Basille’s Pizza, in Chelsea.  (The same neighborhood where the bomb(s) went off Saturday night.) A visit to the Museum of Natural History – uptown – and later lucking into some $30 tickets to see “The Fantasticks” at the Jerry Orbach Theater, at 210 West 50th Street.  

Meanwhile, in February 2020 I posted Looking back on “the summer of ’16.” It talked about my learning to unfollow on Facebook, mostly because way too many of my high-school classmates had turned into grumpy old Trump-humpers.* It also talked about how – once the family vacation was over – I kayaked across the Verrazano Narrows, from Staten Island to Brooklyn and back, before leaving for home. (Via the Cape May Ferry and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge–Tunnel.) And noting that I was lucky I kayaked across “the Narrows” at neap tide, so I wasn’t either “swept by the currents into New York Harbor, or swept out to sea past Sandy Hook Bay.”

Gee, I wonder what adventures await this upcoming June…

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brooklynsideVN
My view of the Brooklyn side of the “Narrows”from an 8-foot kayak…

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The upper image is courtesy of Carnegie Hall Image – Image Results. It goes with an article, How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall? No, Seriously. | NCPR News, with lots of background information.

Re: “Brother, sister-in-law and others from our church.” They will be performing in one of several groups also performing “that night.”

Re: Three hikes on the Camino. Check the search engine above right for more details.

Re:  The “South Manhattan Terminal.” As Wikipedia noted, the formal name is “Whitehall:”

The ferry departs Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal at South Ferry, at the southernmost tip of Manhattan near Battery Park. On Staten Island, the ferry arrives and departs from the St. George Ferry Terminal on Richmond Terrace, near Richmond County’s Borough Hall and Supreme Court.

Re: “Grumpy old Trump-humpers.” I had toyed with the idea of going back to our 50th class reunion, after joining the reunion site on Facebook, but way too many negative political comments followed. As to the term Trump-humper, see “I used to be quiet and shy, all moderate and nicey-nicey,” from February 2021, and an earlier post, On “why it might be better…” (Gasp!). About why it might have been better if Trump had gotten re-elected. (Thus the “Gasp!”)

A note: I also reviewed the NYC visit in a December 2020 post, Now that the Trump Era is almost over. (For a while anyway.) And I took the photo of the “Brooklyn side” of the Verrazon bridge.

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