Author Archives: bbj1969per@aol.com

The Summer of ’96 – Birth of conspiracy theories?

One of many conspiracy theories… This one from the “Summer of ’96,” on TWA Flight 800

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I’m working on a new E-book. It’s another novel about Florida State University football. (This one is on its current fall from grace.) It includes a chapter on the 1996 college football season. (You know, the one ending with a heart-breaking FSU loss in the national championship game? To their hated arch-rival, the Florida Gators ?)

In the process of doing research for the new book, I came across a scene from an earlier book (a novel) that I did on FSU football. It talked about that “Summer of 1996” noted above, and it may explain where and how our current raft of conspiracy theories all started.

Here’s what I wrote about that summer of 1996, as remembered in January 1997:

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My first wife Karen* and I had our grandkids visiting, along with some other child-relatives as well. (Seven or eight altogether.) At the time I owned a 28-foot Coachmen Class C Motorhome, and so for a week we took them “camping” at an RV park in Indian Rocks Beach, on Florida’s Gulf Coast. (At least Karen did. I visited from time to time, but “had” to stay home at night, so I could go to work in the morning.)

Naturally – as the week progressed – the dweeby pre-teen male cousins tried to scare the wits out of their female cousins. And they did a pretty good job of it, mostly with tales of omnivorous aliens and treacherous UFOs. Until finally, our granddaughter Heather came up to me at the campground pool. She asked, very serious, very worried, “How can God protect us from UFOs if He doesn’t know where they come from?

At first I thought it was a pretty naïve question. Then I started wondering: “What does the world look like to my grandkids?” For one thing – and judging only by the relative coverage on TV [at the time, 1996] – it would be only logical for them to think that aliens and UFOs are more powerful than God.

They certainly get more media coverage.

Then it struck me. Like Heather, most people today are slaves to some fear. They live in fear, and because they live in fear they never really live…

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At this point I said the novel I was then working on might teach a message from God. Like in the form of a parable? (Maybe a parable of a college football team and its fans; maybe even one “moonbeam” fan?) I included a cite to Matthew 13:34, then continued:

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If there is a common emotion today, it’s fear. Everyone is afraid of something, and much of it comes from TV shows like X-FilesSliders, and Millennium. The common premise is an impending takeover by aliens, or a massive government cover-up, or that someone besides God has power over your soul. (No wonder kids today are so messed up.)

On the other hand, these are scary times. We “of a certain age*” survived the Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam and the Cold War, but we still have the Oklahoma City bombing, the Atlanta Olympic Park bombing, and TWA Flight 800. So if there’s a need today, it’s to be freed from slavery to fear.

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And now a note from the future: All that was even before “9/11” – the September 11 World Trade Center attacks – and all the other disasters that we’ve come through since 1996. (For a full list of those trials and tribulations see 21st century – Wikipedia.)

But getting back to the Summer of 1996…

As noted, one popular show back then was the X-Files. It featured such slogans as ‘The Truth Is Out There,’ ‘Trust No One,’ and ‘I Want to Believe:’

Seen as a defining series of its era, The X-Files tapped into public mistrust of governments and large institutions, and embraced conspiracy theories … as it centered on efforts to uncover the existence of extraterrestrial life.

And now it seems that those conspiracy theories – and that public distrust of government – have both grown exponentially. As to why – and maybe as to where it all began – consider Your Guide to the TWA 800 Conspiracy and Its New Truther Documentary.

As noted, the mysterious crash of TWO Flight 800 happened way back in 1996. But then in June of 2013 came an update, a “new Truther documentary,” which started with this:

Remember the ’90s? Snap bracelets? ‘N Sync? Friends? Accusing the Navy of taking down a U.S. passenger plane with a missile? That’s right – our favorite ’90s conspiracy theory is back, thanks to a new documentary purporting to show “new evidence” that TWA Flight 800 crashed because it was hit by a missile.

The Truther Documentary review noted that TWA Flight 800 has been the focus of numerous “rumors, alternative explanations, and conspiracy theories.” And that “’90s nostalgia is big right now,” mostly because of the internet. And finally that, “Like most conspiracy theories, TWA 800 is search-engine optimization gold.” Which is another way of saying that those conspiracy theories and that public distrust of government “have both grown exponentially.”

That is, those rumors and conspiracy theories were fueled by “speculation among conspiracy nuts, especially on message boards on the newly popular internet.”

Which leads to the subject of “Truthers.” For one definition of such people, see Truther | Definition of Truther by Merriam-Webster: “one who believes that the truth about an important subject or event is being concealed from the public by a powerful conspiracy.”

That definition included a warning that – to most people – it was “not flattering” to be called a truther. And further that the term originated, “as far as anyone can tell, to characterize people who embraced alternative explanations for the Sept. 11 attacks.” (See also Urban Dictionary: Truther, or Google the term.) But then there’s the definition from truther – Wiktionary. Aside from the definitions noted above, it includes this one: “Someone who tells the truth.”

Imagine that…

The Wiktionary site included some “see alsos,” on what seems to be the more generally accepted definition. “See alsos” include anti-vaxxerbirtherdenier and flat-earther. An anti-vaxxer “opposes vaccination, as for its purported dangerous effects.” A birther is someone who believes “the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States (2009–2017), was not born in that country.” A “denier” – aside from being an old French coin – is someone who “denies.” (Things like the the existence of AIDS, Global Warming, or the Holocaust.)  And “flat-earther” has two definitions.

One is of a person “who believes or advocates the theory that the planet Earth is flat.” The other is of a person “who believes or advocates an outlandishdiscredited theory; a person who refuses to acknowledge the truth despite overwhelming evidence.

All of which seems to be part of the ongoing problem. For myself, I believe that people who deny reality end up having it bite them in the ass. (An idiom which means being punished “for one’s poor judgment.”)  See also Denialism – Wikipedia, referring to the choice “to deny reality as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth.” Motivations and causes for such denial include a defence mechanism “meant to protect the psyche of the denialist against mentally disturbing facts and ideas.”

All of which translates to: The truth is indeed still out there, but more and more these days it seems that finding such Truth is like searching for “diamonds in a dung-heap.”

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The upper image is courtesy of Twa Flight 800 Conspiracy Theory – Image Results. It comes with the article, Your Guide to the TWA 800 Conspiracy and Its New Truther Documentary, dated June, 2013. 

The first link in the caption is to List of conspiracy theories – Wikipedia. That article includes a link to Wikipedia’s List of political conspiracies.  

The first image in the main text is from the Wikipedia article on FSU, captioned: “Florida State and Miami first met in 1951 and have played each year since 1966.”

Re: “My first wife Karen.” She died in 2006. 

Here’s the full quote of what I wrote, about a possible message from God: “Maybe that was one message God wanted to teach. If that’s true, what better message than by way of a parable? (Maybe a parable featuring one college football team and its fans, and maybe even one “moonbeam” fan.)  “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.  So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: I will open my mouth in parables…” (Matthew 13:34 NIV, emphasis added, and Mark 4:34, citing Psalm 78:2.)

“…shows like X-FilesSliders, and Millennium.”  See the Wikipedia articles, including this:

The X-Files “originally aired from September 10, 1993 (1993-09-10) to May 19, 2002 (2002-05-19). The show was a hit … and its characters and slogans, such as ‘The Truth Is Out There,’ ‘Trust No One,’ and ‘I Want to Believe,’ became popular culture touchstones in the 1990s.  Seen as a defining series of its era, The X-Files tapped into public mistrust of governments and large institutions, and embraced conspiracy theories and spirituality as it centered on efforts to uncover the existence of extraterrestrial life.

Sliders was a science fiction series that ran from 1995 to 2000. It followed “a group of travelers as they use a wormhole to ‘slide’ between different parallel universes.” Millenium was an American TV series “created by Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files,” and ran from 1996 to 1999.  The series followed the investigations of ex-FBI agent Frank Black, a consultant “with the ability to see inside the mind of criminals, working for a mysterious organization known as the Millennium Group.”  While the first season dealt mainly “various serial killers and other murderers,” the second season featured “more overtly supernatural occurrences … with Frank often coming into conflict with forces that appeared to be apocalyptic or even demonic in nature.”

Re: “Of a certain age.” See Idioms by The Free Dictionary. Strictly speaking, my generation didn’t survive the Great Depression or World War II, but we heard about those events from our parents, and grew up watching movies and such about them.

Re: Oklahoma City bombing, the Atlanta Olympic Park bombing, and TWA Flight 800.  See the  Wikipedia articles, starting with saying the Oklahoma City bombing was an attack in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995; “It would remain the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil until the September 11, 2001 attacks.” The blast claimed 168 lives, including 19 children, and injured some 680 people. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings in a 16-block radius, destroyed or burned 86 cars, and shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings. There was an estimated $652 million worth of damage.  Within 90 minutes, Timothy McVeigh was stopped for driving without a license plate and arrested.

The Olympic Park bombing occurred on July 27, 1996 in Atlanta, during the Summer Olympics. Two people died, and 111 were injured. Trans-World Airlines Flight 800 exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off New York on July 17, 1996, 12 minutes after takeoff, killing all 230 people on board. Although a terrorist act was at first suspected, “the government” found no evidence of such a criminal act, after a 16-month investigation.  (See the X-Files note above, re: “public mistrust of governments” and/or “conspiracy theories.”)

Re: “Diamonds in a dung heap.” See Thomas Jefferson’s observation that – to him – “Certain teachings in the Bible are as diamonds in a dung-heap.” Or see Diamonds From the Dung Heap : The Life and Morals of Jesus. The latter refers to a book by Jefferson – often referred to as the Jefferson Bible – but which was apparently originally given the title “Diamonds from the dung heap,” but later simplified. “This edition is named after the first reference President Thomas Jefferson gave to this compilation, that later became referred to as the Jefferson Bible.” 

The lower image is courtesy of X-files – Image Results. The image is for an 11×14″ poster available from Etsy – Shop for handmade, vintage, custom, and unique gifts, but with a note, “Sorry, this item and shop are currently unavailable.”

“I used to be quiet and shy, all moderate and nicey-nicey…”

“Quiet, shy, moderate, nicey-nicey?” That doesn’t work in the face of armed insurrection

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I started this post back before the January 6 Capitol riot. That pre-riot post started, “Now that the Trump Era is almost over.” Which apparently isn’t quite true. Given the events of January 6 and after, we may be hearing a lot more – from or about – “the Donald.” (And maybe for a good long time to come.) But the quotation-and-link actually referred back to a post I did even before then. That is, on December 7, 2020. And early in that 12/20 post I added this:

Or at least now that his first run-through as president is almost over… (But see Trump’s Possible 2024 Bid Leaves Other GOP Candidates in a Bind.) So to repeat, “Now that at least the first incarnation of a Trump Era is almost over,” it’s time to start looking back. 

The post went on to talk of “Year-End Reviews” and how helpful they can be. For one thing It’s that time of year to both look back and look forward. To look back at the Trump era – and especially at this past year – and to look forward to a new beginning.”

Donald TrumpAs to going back, I noted a post from November 8, 2016, ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian. (With the image at right.) I’ll get back to that one, but there was another from November 13, 2017, This time last year – 11/8 and 11/13/16. And believe it or not, the latter started out: “It’s mid-November [2017], and so time to start taking stock of the year just past. (And what a year it’s been!)”

Which was pretty much what I planned to say when the year 2020 finally came to an end. (And in hindsight, 2020 was more “a crazy-ass year” than 2017.) But getting back to 2016, here’s what I wondered, back in that long-ago November, right before Election Day 2016:

I wondered if Trump might “evolve into something neither his ardent supporters nor his rabid opponents expect.” I also wondered if “Showman Donald Trump” had actually played his “far-right conservative” supporters “like a piano.” And finally, I wondered if – given “Donald Trump’s chameleon-like shifting political positions” – he would “eventually be seen as an ‘effective elected official,’ or a funhouse showman?”

I supposed that the jury was still out on those questions. But four years later, “to be honest – I’m one of those people suffering from Trump fatigue.”  (And that was even before the January 6 Capitol riot.) I was – some months ago – “ready for it to be over.” And now it is over – more or less – so I’ll focus on some good thoughts, from some past posts…

Which means getting back to Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian.

To finish that thought: It’s been a long haul, but over the last four years I’ve evolved, from being a “moderate” (all “nicey-nicey”), to a Contrarian, and from there to an Independent. (Used in a sentence, “Why would anyone not want to be an Independent, like Moses and Jesus and me. (Oh my!)”)

By the way: I never would have said anything like that four years ago. Which is another way of saying that over the last four years I’ve grown more outspoken. Which was part of the process of struggling with how to deal with Trump supporters. Especially since one of them was “Mi Dulce,” now an ex-BGFE with whom I am now still in regular contact. (And using the term “girl” loosely.) As I often ended up saying to her – trying to get a word in edgewise – “I used to be all quiet and shy, all moderate and nicey-nicey. But not no more!*

I.e., I had to learn to speak up and speak out with her, if only to get a word in edge-wise.

Which is one big benefit of Trump’s four years as president. (Along with making George W. Bush look like a frikkin’ genius, and making Obamacare popular again. As opposed to the arch-conservative plan, “let ’em die!”) Not mention proving how strong we are as a nation. (Like, we can elect someone totally unqualified as president, and not only survive but prosper… Well, aside from all the mass-shooting deaths,* not to mention a fumbled COVID response.)

But we’re digressing. Back to my personal development, based on four years of Trump. The point is, “No more ‘quiet and shy, all moderate and nicey-nicey.'” At the beginning of that journey, I found out that calling myself a moderate ended up sounding too wishy-washy. (As in “average in amount, intensity, quality, or degree.”) So I tried calling myself a Contrarian, in the mold of Ralph Waldo Emerson. (“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”)

Emanuel Leutze (American, Schwäbisch Gmünd 1816–1868 Washington, D.C.) - Washington Crossing the Delaware - Google Art Project.jpgOr this: As someone who “takes up a contrary position, especially a position that is opposed to that of the majority, regardless of how unpopular it may be.” But that didn’t sound quite right either. I wasn’t always opposed to popular opinion. (For example, look at the “popular opinion” of 81 million American voters in the last election.) So eventually – over the last four years – I ended up changing from being a Contrarian to an Independent, “just like Moses and Jesus.” (See July 2019’s A reminder: “I’m an INDEPENDENT (Voter),” featuring the image above right. And which included a note that – to me – the word “Contrarian” translates to something like “pissed-off moderate.”)

Meanwhile, back to where it all started, with Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump making me an Independent. That post from November 2016 started, “It’s the eve of Election Day, 2016, and thus a time for reflection.” I said that no matter who won the election, the “’war for the soul of America‘ will go on. It will continue largely unabated.” As we have discovered.

I added some words of explanation: For one thing the Internet says Mi Dulce is Spanish for “My Sweet,” and that’s what I called “the lady I’ve been ‘dating’ some time now.” (As well as after we parted ways for good, at least “that way.” Example: As of November 2016 she had “broken up with me at least 10 times,” in part because of her “ardent conservativism.” (A more polite term than “Trumpie,” “Trump-humper,” Trumpanzee,” or “right wing wacko.” RWW for short.)

Getting back to Mi Dulce: When we first met, I was “moderate and nicey-nicey.”  (Like Aristotle.) I used to say – or at least think – things like, “Let’s not rush to judgment!”  Or, “Let’s wait until we get all the facts before we say anything that might be taken the wrong way!” However:

The problem is that in my neck of the woods – especially with … Mi Dulce – that moderate, reasoned, common-sense approach will get you nothing but bowled over. [As in] hearing something so “whacked” that you are rendered temporarily speechless with disbelief.  

And I learned one more thing about RWWs. They tend to use the 8-track mode of public discourse. If you’re under 65, you probably don’t remember this “magnetic tape sound recording technology,” popular in the U.S. from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s. (That’s when “the Compact Cassette format took over.”)

The thing about 8-track tape-recordings was that they never stopped. You never got to the end. They used a “continuous loop” system. That’s why they didn’t have a rewind option. As long as you played the tape, you got the same thing over and over again. The same “data,” the same songs played in the same order over and over again. Which I thought was “pretty much like trying to have a meaningful conversation with a right-wing wacko…”

Which I thought at the time should make it easy to figure out how to best an RWW in an argument. (In the good sense, as in a “form of expression consisting of a coherent set of reasons presenting or supporting a point of view.” Note the operative word, “coherent.”)

But I was wrong. Those RWW’s never cease to amaze me. Like if I get stuck watching some FOX News – ordering my morning iced coffee at a local McDonald’s – I find myself thinking, “Do you guys ever get tired of lying?” The answer? Apparently not. See for example, Donald Trump Has Told A Truly Disturbing Number Of Lies Since Taking Office, and since the 2020 election as well. And his attorneys have taken up the “creative lie” method as well. See Trump’s Impeachment Defense: One Long String of Lies (Broken Up by Madonna Clips.) With one note, “In fairness, their client is guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, so they didn’t have much to work with.”   

Which means the rest of us have to adapt or perish. The good news? We – the “rest of us” – already know how to adapt. As Darwin said, it’s not the strongest or smartest people who survive. It’s those who can best adapt or adjust to a changing environment. Which spells bad news for Trumpies, Trump-humpers or Trumpanzees. They are the people least able to adapt or adjust to changing circumstance. (For example, refusing to wear masks at mass rallies.)

All of which could be great news for the rest of us! 

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The upper image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article on the January 6 Capitol riot

Another note from “the eve of Election Day, 2016… Whatever the outcome tomorrow, we’re in for more turmoil.  The “war for the soul of America” will go on. It will continue largely unabated… [W]hoever becomes the next president, he or she will face rabid hostility from close to half the American population.  Which means in turn that he or she will face the prospect of impeachment, or at least a realistic threat of impeachment.” Emphases in original.

The “lions and tigers” image is courtesy of Lions And Tigers And Bears Wizard Of Oz – Image Results.

Re:  “I used to be all quiet and shy, all moderate and nicey-nicey. But not no more!” I used the vernacular improper English for emphasis.

RE: “W” as a genius. See Bush says Trump ‘makes me look pretty good’ by comparison.’

Re: Mass shooting deaths. See An update on “Trump’s” mass shootings, from May 2019, with numbers updated on August 20, 2019. (“BC,” or “Before Covid.”) The post noted a total of 652 mass shootings in Trump’s first two years, “four times greater than Obama’s eight years, in one-fourth the time.” (Four times as many mass shootings in Trump’s two years than in Obama’s eight years.) Which brings up another benefit: Thanks to Covid the number of mass shootings went way down in 2020.  

Re: War for the soul of America. I noted that Googling “war for the soul” got me 13,400,000 results.

Re: “Adapt or perish.” The link is to Adapt to Change or Perish. Because those are your only options. The full Charles Darwin quote is below, but the article added the saying by H. G. Wells“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” The full Darwin quote:

“It is not the most intellectual or the strongest species that survives, but the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to or adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

It’s a pretty good article on the constancy of change, something “we” need to be reminded of. (Especially those of us turning “the Big Seven-Oh” next July.) With added thoughts like: “Progress keeps picking up speed…the complexity of our world keeps on increasing…and the rate of change keeps on accelerating.” And “Let’s just accept the fact that our careers will be lived out in a state of constant transition.” And that we should therefore “prepare for a work environment that is fluid, fuzzy, and fast.” And finally that we will “forever be surrounded by uncertainty and instability.”

Which is why I love blogging. “It’s so frikkin’ educational!”

Re: Trump supporters not wearing masks. See Trump supporters say masks are harmful, would wear if Trump said so. Or ‘Magically protected’: Why hardcore Trump supporters won’t wear masks at rally: “‘It’s not going to touch you at the rally,’ author Jeff Sharlet says of hardcore Trump supporters’ belief in the divinity and ‘spiritual protection’ of a Trump rally against coronavirus, ‘You’ll be sort of magically protected.’” Some people have said that’s “God’s Way of Thinning the Herd,” but I would never say anything so inappropriate. See also Urban Dictionary: Thin the herd

As for that “great news for the rest of us” comment. It was a joke. See 11 times Trump’s offensive comments were ‘just a joke.’ Including “Trump floats injecting disinfectent as coronavirus cure,” “I am the Chosen One,” and “Obama is the ‘founder of ISIS.'”

The lower image is courtesy of Trump Fatigue Syndrome | National Review:

A large part of the country suffers from Trump Fatigue Syndrome. This is related but not identical to Trump Derangement Syndrome. The sufferers of Trump Fatigue aren’t driven mad by the president. They are just tired of having to wake up every morning to another of his sudden attacks, reversals, exaggerations, and boasts. They want the show to end.

As to that fatigue, the link in the main text is to Trump fatigue is setting in hard at the worst moment for his campaign, posted two weeks before the 2020 election. But see also the thoughtful piece from November 8, Democrats counted too heavily on ‘Trump fatigue,’ to explain why and how “former Vice President Joe Biden’s expected landslide turned into a grim, nail-biting election.”

John Paul Jones – Admiral of the Russian Navy?

September 23, 1779 – Battle between Bonhomme Richard and Serapis, off Flamborough Head

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Here’s a break in the action from way too many political posts…

This past Saturday morning I ran across my paperback copy of John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy, by Evan Thomas. (I bought it second-hand four or five years ago.) That reminded me of a post I did back in June 2016, On John Paul Jones’ CLOSEST call. The “CLOSEST call” part had to do with Jones being accused of raping a 12-year-old girl.

But the really strange part came in finding out that – at the time – Jones was serving in the Russian navy. And here we’ve been told all along that he was the Father of the American Navy. So first a word about this better-known aspect of John Paul Jones.

That is, most people know John Paul Jones as the American naval hero of the Revolution.

That included his signal victory over the British man-of-war HMS Serapis, in the Battle of Flamborough Head, seen at right. Jones commanded the Bonhomme Richard, “originally an East Indiaman.” That is, it was a merchant ship that had been jury rigged into an ad hoc Navy vessel.

As a result of that hours-long battle, the Bonhomme Richard sank, and Jones had to make the captured Serapis his new flagship. But in the latter part of the battle he is supposed to have said, “I have not yet begun to fight.” That was said to happen when the commander of the Serapis called out, asking Jones if he was ready to  “strike the colours;” i.e., to surrender. Evan Thomas indicated Jones probably didn’t say that.

What Jones apparently did say – late in the battle – was: “I may sink, but I’ll be damned if I strike!” And in his official report, Jones merely said he had answered “in the most determined negative.” Which is definitely not as colorful, but we digress…

Back to why Jones joined the Russian navy.

The Revolutionary War ended in 1783, but as late as 1787 – four years later – Jones was still trying to get the prize money due him from the war. (He was growing increasingly disgruntled with the American Congress. “Go figure!”) Accordingly, he decided to leave the country and enter the service of the Empress Catherine II of Russia. She commissioned him a rear admiral, and so he was known in the Russian Navy as “Kontradmirál Pavel Dzhones.”

For more on why he ended up an admiral in the Russian navy, see John Paul Jones – Russiapedia Foreigners in Russia. For one thing, in 1785 the U.S. banned privateering. That was the practice of a non-naval ship – and captain – “engag[ing] in maritime warfare” under a a letter of marque. (By which Jones should have collected prize money.) Further, Congress refused to promote Jones to the rank of admiral.

At the same time, war was brewing between Russia and Turkey. SoCatherine the Great, Empress of Russia (at left), decided to recruit Jones. In doing so she “broke her own rules,” including the usual practice of reducing foreign officers in rank:

The Russian ambassador received an urgent order to recruit Jones to the Russian Navy. ‘This man,” she said “will enter Constantinople…” However, Jones’ extraordinary reputation and ability forced Catherine II to break her own rules, instead promoting him to the rank of Rear-Admiral and giving him command of the flagship Vladimir.

Jones did have some initial success. However, “being a foreigner, he was constantly surrounded by suspicion, jealousy, and intrigues in which he refused to participate.” As such he found himself quickly out of favor with his commanding officer, Grigory Potemkin. Potemkin – said to be Catherine the Great’s lover – lobbied for Jones’ “removal behind the scenes.”

Which included what turned out to be a false accusation of rape and/or child molesting.

Read the full story in the first CLOSEST call, which clocked in at 2,122 words. (With extensive notes, as on Catherine’s “open relationships,” with Potempkin and others.) But here are the highlights:

[I]n the Russian navy Jones was also surrounded by people of far lesser ability and courage. And who were extremely jealous of his ability and courage. (Which happens a lot…) Those Russian enemies included Prince Charles of Nassau-Siegen… He  in turn “turned the Russian commander Prince Grigory Potëmkin against Jones…” To cut to the chase, “In April 1789 Jones was arrested and accused of raping a [10]-year-old girl named Katerina Goltzwart.”

Such an accusation of “child rape” was bad enough under American law. But under Russian law, anyone convicted of such rape was “to have his head cut off or be sent to the galleys for the rest of his days.” (For all the gory details of the sordid accusation see the June 2016 post.)

But then the truth started to come out…

The 10-year-old girl – who was actually 12 – said the incident occurred while she was “selling butter.” It turned out that “selling butter” was a euphemism for what she was actually selling. And that she’d been “’selling butter’ for quite a while.” Further, one of her best “butter buying” customers included the very same manservant who’d given such damaging testimony against Jones. And finally, the girl’s mother eventually admitted that she’d been “given money by a ‘man with decorations’ in return for telling a damaging story about Jones.”

In other words, it was a setup, a “situation in which someone is deliberately put in a bad position or made to look guilty.” But the damage had been done. Jones was increasingly ostracized by “polite” Russian society. Beyond that, there were problems with a number of British naval officers who the Empress Catherine had also recruited. Those officers “refused to serve under the Pirate Jones.” So in the end, in the “late summer of 1789, Jones left Russia, still resplendent in his beribboned white uniform, but shunned and disgraced.”

From which we can glean at least two key object lessons. One is that many of our hardest-fighting heroes – like John Paul Jones – also have a “penchant for the ladies.” (Which can ofttimes be their undoing in civilian life.) Yet another is that – as a nation – we tend to tear down the very heroes we build up. (Which was one reason Jones left the American navy.)

In the case of John Paul Jones, that meant he died in Paris, in obscurity. He was also buried in obscurity, and it took more than a century to find out where. Not until July 1905 – more than 100 years after he died – was his body finally returned to the United States.

That is, three years after leaving Russia (in 1792), Jones died in Paris. He was buried at the Saint Louis Cemetery, which belonged to the French royal family. But four years later, the French Revolutionary government sold the property and the cemetery was forgotten.

Then, beginning in 1899, General Horace Porter – then U.S. Ambassador to France – started searching for Jones’ body. (Having only “faulty copies of Jones’s burial record” to go on.) On April 7, 1905, Jones’ body was found and unearthed. In due course it was returned to the U.S. and – on January 26, 1913 – “the Captain’s remains were finally re-interred in a magnificent bronze and marble sarcophagus at the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis.”

Apparently just another case of We Build-Up and Then Tear-Down Our Heroes

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To Britons “the pirate Paul Jones,” but to us he’s” Father of the American Navy…”

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The upper image is courtesy of John Paul Jones Painting Serapis Bonhomme Richard Anton O. Fisher – Image Results. Captioned: “‘USS Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis’ by Anton Otto Fischer.” Some text on the battle was gleaned from Battle of Flamborough Head in the American Revolution

Re: Letter of marque. A “government license in the Age of Sail that authorized a private person, known as a privateer or corsair, to attack and capture vessels of a nation at war with the issuer.”

Re: “War was brewing between Russia and Turkey.” There were actually 12 such wars, extending over 355 years, according to History of the Russo-Turkish wars – Wikipedia. The first one began in 1568, and the last one ended in 1923. “It was one of the longest series of military conflicts in European history,” and generally the wars “ended disastrously for the stagnating Ottoman Empire; conversely they showcased the ascendancy of Russia as a European power.” 

Re: “Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia (at left).” The image, courtesy of Wikipedia, is captioned: “Marble statue of Catherine II in the guise of Minerva (1789–1790), by Fedot Shubin.”

Re: “extensive notes, as on Catherine’s “open relationships.” The image is courtesy of Catherine The Great Lovers – Image Results, and more specifically, Catherine The Great Movie Russian – Image Results. I clicked on the “view page” that accompanied the “Russian” image, trying to get some detail on which “Catherine” move it portrayed. Instead I got two messages, one about “hot sexy girls” and a second on how to obtain a Russian bride. It was tough to track down, but apparently the image is from a “movie poster” for some Russian TV series. Beyond that I don’t really care. All I wanted was a good image to accompany the text, and the titles in Russian seemed to best fit the bill.

Re: Jones’ problems in both the American and Russian navies. It didn’t help that – like many fighting men – Jones was inapt at “Imperial politics.” That is, political intrigue.

Re: Grigory Potemkin. See Biography, Villages, & Facts | Britannica, which noted that he “remained friendly” with Catherine, “and his influence was unshaken despite Catherine’s taking subsequent lovers.” See also Who Was Grigory Potemkin, Catherine the Great’s Lover? Some tidbits therefrom: “After she overthrew her husband to take the throne, Catherine never married again – but she found something of a soulmate in Potemkin, who helped her rule for decades.” Then too, “In 1776, they developed an arrangement for an open relationship,” after which “they took other lovers, but retained a strong partnership – both politically and emotionally.”

That’s why I like blogging so much. It’s so educational…

The lower image is courtesy of John Paul Jones – Wikipedia, which included the caption:  “Paul Jones the Pirate,’ British caricature.”  

Note that a caricature is a “rendered image showing the features of its subject in a simplified or exaggerated way…  In literature, a caricature is a description of a person using exaggeration of some characteristics and oversimplification of others…  Caricatures can be insulting or complimentary and can serve a political purpose…”

“You DO understand that Trump is temporary…”

A post based on a draft from a year ago – February 5, 2020. (And yes, “pretty much ‘avoidable.'”)

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January 9, 2021 – I last edited the rough draft that became this new post  on February 5, 2020.

You know, a year ago when Donald Trump was riding high, and looked a shoe-in for re-election? But here’s the punchline, based on events this past week (illustrated at the top of the page):

And now he’s even more so!!! 

The Great Democracies, 1958 (A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Book 4) by [Winston S. Churchill]More temporary that is… Which brings us back to nearly a year ago, February 5, 2020. I wrote back then that I often had trouble staying asleep. (Worrying a lot about the future of this country.) I wrote that lately, “at night – when I can’t get back to sleep around 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. – I’ve taken to reading Winston Churchill‘s The Great Democracies. (Volume 4 of his History of the English-Speaking Peoples.) And it’s given me great comfort, helping me focus on the long view of our present political divisiveness.” (See Take the long view – Idioms.)

Which I tried to do last Wednesday, after hearing of rioting at the U.S. Capitol. (Otherwise known as the “‘Banana Republic Crap’ Capitol Riots,” according to one Republican member of Congress.) And I largely succeeded – in taking the long view – mostly because I don’t have cable TV. And then, lo and behold, on Thursday and Friday things started looking up. Former Trump allies were saying “enough is enough,” 52 rioters had been arrested, and even some staunch Republican Senators were open to impeachment or use of the Twenty-fifth Amendment.

Which brings up another point. Right now I wouldn’t want to be in Donald Trump’s shoes.

Why? Because the metaphoric “noose” is tightening around his neck ever so slowly, but surely, in an agonizing foretaste of what’s in store once he leaves the protection of his office. (See “The rope has to tighten SLOWlY,” vis-a-vis what “Deep Throat” told reporter Bob Woodward about the 1974 conspiracy investigation against then-president Richard Nixon – and his minions – as told in the book, later a movie, All the President’s Men.) But we digress…

Getting back to the long view (and being able to sleep better at night): Back in the February 2020 rough draft, I also noted reading “One nation after Trump,” then reviewing it. (That is, I reviewed the book back in August 2019.) That post talked about the prediction in 2016 – by Professor Allan Lichtman – that Trump would be “impeached within two years.” (Note: It actually took three years, but the issue is now being raised again. Does that count?)

One 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.” I also noted that the number-crunching on the 2016 election showed “how fragile Trump’s hold on the public is.” To which I added, “I’ve been saying the best weapon against Trump is his own big mouth.” Not to mention his hubris. (“What? You mean I can’t tell supporters to storm the Capitol, and not be held responsible?”)

Third, I noted something I’d written in a previous post, Belated 4th of July meditation:

Whether by vote in 2020 or operation of law in 2024, Trump will end up leaving the White House. What happens then? Aside from the cheering, the dancing in  the streets, the fireworks and parades, a new nightmare will begin – for Donald Trump.

“And when it might be said – yet again – ‘Our long national nightmare is over.'”

And finally – getting back to that year-ago rough draft – I wrote that Trump wants – more than anything else – to be seen as a winner. Yet that when he leaves office there will almost certainly be an uproar of cheering, celebration, fireworks, and dancing in the streets, both in America and throughout the world. (And based on the past week, that seems even more likely, with the celebrations to come on January 20 even more raucous and heart-felt.)

Moreover – I wrote – that virtual certainty will gall Trump no end, in both the near future and to the end of his days. So in a sense Trump was doomed to be viewed as a “loser.” Unless! 

Unless – if he was elected to a second term, and so freed from a need to pander to his wacko base – Trump were to develop a conscience and start thinking seriously about his legacy.

[W]ho knows?  If:  1) Trump did get re-elected in 2020, and 2) no longer had to worry about throwing raw meat at his wacko base, and 3) started seriously thinking about his legacy (or developed a conscience, or started appreciating that he’s “closer to the end than to the beginning”), he might actually evolve – as [P.T.] Barnum did – into a “humane, effective and ethical politician.”

It now looks like that last thought turned out to be a pipe dream. (See GOP Rep. Mace: Trump’s legacy ‘wiped out’ by Capitol riot.) A pipe dream is an unrealistic hope or fantasy. Moreover, “The phrase ‘pipe dream’ is an allusion to the dreams experienced by smokers of opium pipes.” Or in the alternative, a “plandesire, or idea that will not likely work; a near impossibility.” Which is kind of like the thought that an impeachment, conviction and removal from office can all happen within the space of 10 days. But not to worry. January 20th is coming…

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Pipe dream

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The upper image is courtesy of Trump News – Image Results. With an article, Aides shaken by Trump’s behavior during riots – One News Page.

On the subject of today’s political divisiveness. See Why Has America Become So Divided? | Psychology Today. See also my post from August 2, 2019, On “why it might be better…” (Gasp!) That is, why it might be better if Trump did get re-elected. On that note see also Make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear – Idioms. (To “fashion something beautiful or valuable out of poor materials.”)

Re: Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It deals with presidential succession and disability, and says the vice president becomes president if the president dies, resigns, or is “removed from office.” It also allows a “temporary transfer of the president’s duties to the vice president, either by the president alone or by the vice president together with a majority of the president’s cabinet. In either case, the vice president becomes acting president.”

For more interesting reading – somehow tied in with the February 2019 rough draft – see Trump Is A Liberal – Arc Digital, a fascinating discussion of why he’s both “liberal” and dangerous:

As a public figure, Trump … seems constitutionally incapable of metaphysical commitment; he might even be constitutionally incapable of thinking about the good of other people. He is, in other words, a typical product of American society. He is, like nearly all of us, a liberal.

The writer’s point was that “liberalism, which both the Republican and Democratic parties endorse, has slowly eroded the foundation of our society until communal stories, bonds, and shared goals have been washed away, leaving our society fragmented and uncertain of itself.” 

Joel Looper – who wrote the piece – is according to his articles, “Editor and Founder of thecommonpolitic.com. Senior fellow in theology at tdbi.org. Bonhoeffer’s America (forthcoming from Baylor University Press.)” Beyond that there’s not much about him and his views, although he does seem to specialize in the plague on both your houses school of thought. Thus his conclusion that Trump is a liberal: “And that is what makes him dangerous.”

Further, by its own admission “The Common Politic exists in order to build trust and fruitful political dialogue among people of faith. While we hold many different political commitments, we aim to foster in this community a common politic, a way of interacting with others that Christians might call ecclesial or perhaps Spirit-empowered life.” Still More: “Joel Looper has a PhD from the University of Aberdeen. His first book, ‘A Protestantism without Reformation: What Dietrich Bonhoeffer Saw in America’, is forthcoming from Baylor University Press.” Other articles by him include Sex Was Never Safe. Why consent is not enough in the post-Weinstein eraThe logical, and theological, problem with Red Letter Christians, and To Change The Church. Ross Douthat’s war with Catholic Liberalism. I thus conclude that he is at the very least thought-provoking, and so I may be reading more of his essays…

The lower image is courtesy of Pipe Dream – Image Results.

2020 – A Christmas like no other?

“Seattle police wearing masks in December 1918.”  Is this a case of deja vu all over again?

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It’s the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, 2020. Which leads to a question: “Was this past Christmas Day in the crazy, pandemic-plagued year of 2020 truly one ‘like no other?’”

The answer? “Actually, no.” There was for example Christmas in 1918…

Which led me to this article, Was Christmas celebrated during the 1918 Spanish Flu?

A largely unheeded warning from 1918…

For some background, the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic started in February that year and lasted until April, 1920. (So, roughly two years and two months?) And in another “deja vu all over again,” the culprit was the H1N1 flu virus. (It also caused the 2009 swine flu pandemic.)

But back to 1918, when there was a little thing called World War I going on. The first recorded such “flu” case in the U.S. was said to come on March 4, 1918, as America geared up to send “our boys” overseas. It was Albert Gitchell, an army cook at Camp Funston in Kansas. (Although there were likely unreported cases before him.) First observed in Haskell County, Kansas, a local doctor –  Loring Miner – warned the US Public Health Service, but to no avail. Within days, 522 men at Camp Funston had reported sick. By March 11, 1918, the virus reached Queens, New York. And in a sign of things to be repeated:

Failure to take preventive measures in March/April was later criticized.

But wait, there’s more! Because the war was raging, censors minimized early reports. That is, they did so in the major countries involved in the war, but not in neutral Spain. There, reports of the disease weren’t censored, which is why the epidemic got the name “Spanish flu.”

From Camp Funston the disease spread through the American Expeditionary Forces, who brought it to Europe and the Western Front by mid-April, 1918. It then spread from France to Great Britain, Italy, Spain and beyond. After the March Treaty of Brest-Litovsk – between Germany and Russia – “Germany started releasing Russian prisoners of war, who then brought the disease to their country.” From there it spread to the rest of the world in four “waves,” with a much-deadlier second wave in late 1918. (With a third wave in 1919 and a fourth in 1920.)

Later that year – on November 11, 1918 – the war ended, and people were so happy they “couldn’t be stopped from gathering to celebrate.” Then too the number of Spanish Flu cases went down toward the end of 1918, so restrictions were eased and many churches “swelled with the joyous music of the [Christmas] season once again.” But as one site noted, “History suggests that celebrating holidays during a pandemic by gathering in large groups, as one might during normal times, could have harmful and long-lasting effects.”

Which may explain the second, third and fourth “waves.” On the other hand, back then “they” had some advantages, as noted in A Look Back at Christmas During the Spanish Flu Pandemic. For one thing, Americans in 1918 were “much more familiar with epidemic disease:”

… epidemic disease was very familiar to the early 20th century public. Families, many of which had lost a child to diphtheria or watched a loved one suffer from polio, were generally willing to comply with some limitations on their activities. Most public health departments wore badges and had police powers, and this was generally uncontroversial. “They could forcibly quarantine you or put you on a quarantine station on an island.”

So much for the “advantage” being familiar with deadly epidemic diseases. But at least they were “willing to comply with some limitations on their activities.” And another point to remember is that – be all that as it may – the United States and the world survived. So much so that if it hadn’t been for this year’s COVID-19 pandemic – illustrated at right – few people today would have any reason to recall the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

Which brings up a link from my last post, December 2020 – and “Bad things to good people?” The gist of that link – Bad Things to Good People? | Psychology Today – was its “scientific” answer: That “the universe has no inherent purpose or design.”

However, the pointy-headed scientist-slash-probably-an-atheist-as-well who came up with that conclusion did offer up some good advice. (Bless his heart,” as we say in Georgia):

There is much we can do to alleviate each other’s suffering when adversity strikes. Our support and empathy toward our fellow human beings in their time of need helps them not only materially but demonstrates to them that they matter… When we act kindly, it also gives meaning to our own life, as we see that we matter to others.

Which brings up “Christmas spirit.” I Googled “what is the Christmas spirit” and got 4,180,000 results. One answer, from What is Christmas Spirit? – Scientific American Blog Network:

The code of generosity, kindness, and charity toward others is enforced by no one other than ourselves. There are places where this code is strong, and these places (or people) are said to have strong Christmas spirit… After all, we are the sum of the individuals around us who generate the collective force that governs and organizes our social structure… When we “act out” Christmas spirit, we’re making visible this collective force, and we give it power.

Then there’s Christmas Spirit – Its Real Meaning | 7th Sense, which defined that spirit in three simple actions: Giving, Appreciating, and Doing service. Which is pretty much the same advice “pointy-headed scientist-slash-probably-an-atheist-as-well” offered a few paragraphs back…

Which in turn brings up the “mystery” of why this particular plague hit us at this particular time. The short answer? Such “mysteries” – even pandemics – seem to be a part of life. But from them we can learn valuable lessons, like how to develop and grow stronger, spiritually and otherwise. Which means the “answer” to such mysteries largely depends on us. “What will we do with this unexpected calamity? Will we go forward and grow stronger, or turn back the clock and start turning on each other?” In turn, “our” Covid-19 can remind us of our “fragility as human beings,” as noted in a quote from The Plague by Camus, in Part 1, early in the book:

Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.

Which certainly seems true of this latest 2020 pestilence. It certainly came as a surprise. Which brings up a book review from the Salt Lake Tribune on “The Plague,” with this relevant point:

Being alive always was and will always remain an emergency; it is truly an inescapable “underlying condition…” This is what Camus meant when he talked about the “absurdity” of life. Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.

One possible lesson? The current pestilence might lead to a massive change in our present national life, and especially our national political life. The present Coronavirus might lead to a general and sweeping American “softening of the heart.” So with all that in mind:

Merry Christmas, 2020, and may 2021 be a WHOLE lot better!

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A “time of pestilence” can show there are more things to admire in people than to despise…

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The upper image is courtesy of Wikipedia on the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

The “influenza” image was accompanied by a caption: “Rules to reduce the spread of Spanish flu posting by the US Public Health Service. Cough or sneeze into your mouth with a handkerchief, avoid crowded places, do not spit, do not share the use of cups and napkins…. Typographic poster; Unites States, Washington, DC 1918. (Photo by Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images).”

The image “COVID-19 – illustrated at right” is captioned: “A testing team responds to a confirmed case in a nursing home in Charleston, West Virginia.”

The lower image is courtesy of The Plague – Wikipedia

The Mysterious Death of Ashley Wilkes – Revisited

“Yes, Ashley was quite the Ladies’ man – and not just with his ‘cousin’ Melanie Hamilton…” 

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Now that the Trump Era is almost over… (Referring back to my last post, from December 7.)

It’s that time of year to both look back and look forward. To look back at the Trump era – and especially of this past year – and to look forward to a new beginning, in 2021.

But first – here’s a look back at “The mysterious death of Ashley Wilkes.” I posted that back on September 1, 2015. I followed that up with Introduction to “Ashley Wilkes,” announcing that I’d just published an E-book, a collection of posts from this blog. The title came from my post earlier in 2015, and it was subtitled:  “And other tales from the ‘Georgia Wasp.’”

More recently, this past November I published a newer E-book(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age(Subtitled “Or ‘How NICE it was to travel, before COVID.’”) I published that one under a nom de plume, “James B. Ford.” However, I’d published the Wilkes book under “T.D. Scribe.”

Which still sounds strange, even as a pen name, so for reasons including consistency, I just re-published Ashley Wilkes under “James B. Ford.” (Available at Amazon Kindle Books.)

So here’s a look back at that mysterious death, “re-visited.” You can read the whole story in the original post. But since it clocked in at over 3,000 words, here are the highlights. First of all, “Wilkes” – Leslie Howard – was both a hit with the ladies of the time and a suspected British spy. At least the Germans seemed to think so, which is arguably why they shot down BOAC Flight 777, with Howard as a passenger. (From Lisbon to London, “on or about‘ June 1, 1943.”)

One theory for the shoot-down was that Howard was on a top-secret mission – on behalf of Winston Churchill – to persuade Spain’s Francisco Franco not to join the Axis powers. (Germany and Italy. Spain was officially neutral at the time.) Howard’s go-between was said to be Conchita Montenegro (at right), with whom he’d ostensibly had a torrid love affair.

Not to mention his affairs with Tallulah Bankhead and Merle Oberon, two other leading ladies. And while he was said to be something of a ladies’ man, Howard once quipped that he “didn’t chase women but … couldn’t always be bothered to run away” from them either. And by the way, “Conchita” later claimed that she “used her husband’s influence” to secure a meeting between Howard and Franco’s “caudillo while Howard was in Spain on a lecture tour to promote film in May, 1943.” (Talk about broad-minded…)

Another theory had it that the Germans were really after Winston Churchill. He was flying back to London via the same or a similar route about the same time. Churchill had just spent a month in North Africa. The North Africa Campaign was just ending, and Allied leaders were planning the invasion of Sicily and Italy. The normal stop-over for such trips from North Africa to London was Lisbon, in ostensibly-neutral Portugal. (Often via Gibraltar.)

And during the war, Lisbon was a hotbed of “trade, conspiracy, and subterfuge.” (Lisbon was the destination of refugees in the movie Casablanca.) And German spies saw two men who looked like Churchill and his bodyguard at the Lisbon airport. But by a strange coincidence, Lesley Howard was said to resemble Churchill’s lone bodyguard. At the same time, Howard’s “close friend and business manager, Alfred Chenhalls,” was said to resemble Churchill:

A long-standing hypothesis states that the Germans believed that Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was on board the flight. Churchill, in his autobiography, expressed sorrow that a mistake about his activities might have cost Howard his life.

Another note: His airliner was shot down some nine months after the release of his 1942 movie Spitfire. That came three years after Howard starred in 1939’s Gone with the Wind. (A poster for “Spitfire” is at left.) That 1942 movie was originally called The First of the Few in Britain. (The name was changed to “Spitfire” for American audiences.) Howard played “R.J. Mitchell, who designed the Supermarine Spitfire.”

The British title alluded to Winston Churchill‘s speech attributing victory in the Battle of Britain to “the few.”  (That is, the few men who piloted British fighters in the battle, and especially those who flew the Spitfire.)  As Churchill put it, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Less than nine months later after “Spitfire’s” release, Howard’s airliner was attacked by eight Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88C6 fighter aircraft. The airliner – with 16 other passengers and crew – was attacked some 500 miles west of Bordeaux. The plane – or parts of it – came down in the Bay of Biscay, 200 miles north of La Coruña, on the far northwestern tip of Spain.

As to why the Luftwaffe shot down the airliner, here’s what Wikipedia said of Howard:

He was active in anti-German propaganda and reputedly involved with British or Allied Intelligence, which may have led to his death in 1943[.  He] was shot down over the Bay of Biscay, sparking conspiracy theories regarding his death.

Meanwhile, Churchill and his plane may have been saved because of bad weather. His original plan was to change planes in Gibraltar. Instead of transferring to a more-comfortable Pan American Boeing 314 Clipper – also known as the Pan Am “Flying Boat” – he had to continue his flight to London on a bomber. That plane was the definitely uncomfortable B-24 Liberator.

So there may be a lesson there. As the old proverb goes: “Better to continue on in discomfort, rather than getting your ass shot down by eight Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88C6 fighter aircraft!”

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The upper and lower images are courtesy of Ashley Wilkes – Image Results. For other image sources see the original post(s) from 2015.

Now that the Trump Era is almost over…

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Now that the Trump Era is almost over…

Or at least now that his first run-through as president is almost over… (But see Trump’s Possible 2024 Bid Leaves Other GOP Candidates in a Bind.) So to repeat, “Now that at least the first incarnation of a Trump Era is almost over,” it’s time to start looking back. 

Which is what many of us do near year’s-end anyway. I Googled “why do we do year-end reviews” and found these two: How to Conduct a Year-End Review and Why You Need to Do it, and Why You Should Do a Year-End Review for Your Writing. Here’s a bit from the first one:

Ever since I began writing personal goals, December has been a month of reflection and planning. I tend to slow down, take a step back, and think about how I feel the previous year went. I take time to reflect on what I accomplished and what I want in the upcoming year.

Then there’s the Review for Your Writing article. (And since I’m a writer I paid special attention to that. E.g., read about my recently-published e-book in “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age.”) Anyway, this is what the writer  said about such year-end reviews:

A year-end review is about experiencing gratitude … that we made the choice to write instead of watch television or procrastinate… It’s important to note that this isn’t just a feel-good exercise. You can’t move forward – with your writing, your life, or anything else – if you haven’t made peace with where you’ve been.

Which is what I’ll be doing a lot of in the remaining three-or-so weeks of this eventful “Year of Our Lord2020. But we were talking about “Now that the Trump Era is almost over…”

Which makes this a good time to go back and review some early posts I did on Donald Trump. And – possibly – some of the hopes I had for him. Like that he might turn out to be the “closet liberal” Ted Cruz once suspected. (See Cruz: Trump [is] a ‘rich, New York liberal,’ 2/26/16.)

One early post with an allusion to Donald Trump came in October 2016, “No city for Grouchy Old White People.” (Part I.) In it I described a summer visit to New York City, with a family-base in Staten Island. One thing I noted was that – in that summer of ’16 – the City was a “refreshing reminder that there’s more to this country than just the right-wing wackos so prevalent back home.” (Trump’s campaign was heating up.) I quoted a Facebook post from September 22:

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!

Which was either irony or sarcasm. (I often get those two confused.) Anyway I ended Part I by noting that with all its diversity and relative tolerance, “the Big Apple is ‘No city for Grouchy Old White People.’” (Who seemed to be so prevalent, “back home” and elsewhere.)

I followed that with “No city for Grouchy Old White People” – Part II. I noted that on our many rides on the subway and Staten Island Ferry, “we did a lot of people-watching, of the ‘passing panoply.’” And especially on the crowded subways, we listened “to all kinds of languages spoken by all kinds of different people.” Which was one thing making the visit so refreshing…

And just as an aside: The day we left to go our separate ways – Thursday, September 22 – I kayaked across the Verrazano Narrows. Mostly following the Bridge of the same name, and here’s a picture “down below” to prove it. I took it half-way back to Staten Island. Note that the waters are choppy, and in fact WAY choppier than when I started. It only took 20 minutes to get from Staten Island to Brooklyn, so I toyed with the idea of cruising along the Atlantic side of Brooklyn awhile. But I headed back while still fresh, as detailed in “Part II.”

Anyway, getting back on topic: I ended Part II with a zinger about the kind of people – I feared – who would end up voting for Trump as president. I took the photo below during our visit to the Museum of Natural History, on September 19. And added, “With all the talk of politics lately, I figured this would be a good one size fits all insult, for whatever political opponent you may have in mind.” (Though I knew the kind of political opponent I had in mind.) I then wrote:

“So here’s my gift to you, a souvenir from my recent [2016] visit to New York City:

Here’s a typical [- fill in the blank – ] voter!”

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The upper image is courtesy of Looking Back The Past Year – Image Results. The image accompanied an article, “Inspiring Quotes to Start Off the New Year in 2019.” (How innocent we were…) 

I took the above picture on September 19. Note that I reviewed this Summer of 2016 visit in Looking back on “the summer of ’16,” last February 2020. One final note: I’ll be doing more Trump’s-end and year-end postmortems in the remaining weeks of December 2020, and possibly beyond! 

On the old (2015) “For a book version…”

 

An editor’s note:  I originally did this post – on a book about the “mysterious death of Ashley Wilkes” – in 2015. It was a “Page” link – along with ABOUT THAT “WASP” NAME and ABOUT THE BLOG – at the top of the main page. This was shortly after I published “The Mysterious Death of Ashley Wilkes,” discussed below.  Again, that was in October 2015, which gives you an idea how long it’s been since I’ve published a book.

But then in November 2020 I published a new book, described in the post “On ‘(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age.'” Which brings up at least one note: The nom de plume I used for the 2015 Ashley Wilkes book was “T.D. Scribe.” (Short for “The DOR Scribe.”)

Since then I’ve been using a new pen name, “James B. Ford.” And for the record, I’ll be re-publishing “Mysterious Death” and some other books under that fake name under the newer “James B. Ford.” But for now you can go to Amazon.com: Kindle eBooks and type in “James B. Ford” to locate the blurb on “Adventures in Old Age.” Meanwhile here’s the original 2015 “For a book version:”]

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[From October 2015:] I just published a collection of posts from this blog.  (As noted in the Introduction to “Ashley Wilkes.”) The title of the book came from a post I did back on September 1.  (The “strange” death of Ashley Wilkes – and other tales from the Georgia Wasp.)

The cover features the poster above left, at the top of the page. The poster came from the movie Spitfire, originally titled The First of the Few in Britain. The film was released in Britain on September 12, 1942. Less than nine months later – “on or about” June 1, 1943 – Lesley Howard’s airliner was shot down by eight LuftwaffeJunkers Ju 88C6 fighters over the Bay of Biscay. It may have been an accident.  The Germans may have been really after Winston Churchill. Or Howard – “Ashley Wilkes” – may have been the dangerous British spy the Germans thought he was.

As noted, this fascinating tale and others like it are now available in book form.  As far as how to get the book – in either the Kindle or paperback version, see “Intro to Ashley:”

To get an e-book, go to Amazon.com: Kindle eBooks and type in “T. D. Scribe.”  (That’s my nom de plume.)  Or type in “Ashley Wilkes.”  To order the paperback version, go to Shop Books – Lulu and do the same.  (Where the book should be the fifth one down, if you type in “T. D. Scribe,” or right on top if you type “Ashley Wilkes.”)

And now a word about “T.D. Scribe.” That’s the nom de plume I used in my original blog, dorscribe.com. This second blog – modeled on the Carolina Israelite – is devoted to more secular subjects and an homage to Harry Golden. For example, this blog lets me explore such varied topics as Oscar Wilde and “gross indecencies,” “When adultery was proof of ‘loyalty,’” ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian, and any number of Travelogs

But back to the Wilkes book: On the paperback version, here’s the blurb from “Lulu:”

This collection of posts from the “Georgia Wasp” web log starts with “the mysterious death of Ashley Wilkes…”  It ends by asking the musical question: “Whether Moses – some 3,300 years ago – was the first guy to say, ‘It’s only weird if it doesn’t work!’”  (At the Battle of Rephidim. “Hey, you could look it up!”)

As noted in “Intro,” I now have my first book-collection of essays.  In turn, that collection may eventually be seen as a worthy reflection of Harry’s first such effort, 1958’s Only in America.  As the old saying goes:  “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

Although to Oscar Wilde – seen below – such imitation was “the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”  (Which may of course be also true…)

And just as an aside, I’ll shortly be updating the “For a book version” link at the top of the Home page with information on how to get my newest e-book, (Some of) My Adventures in Old Age(Subtitled “Or ‘How NICE it was to travel, before COVID.’”)

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Oscar Wilde Sarony.jpg

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The image immediately above is courtesy of Oscar Wilde – Wikipedia.

See also Quote by Oscar Wilde: “Imitation is the sincerest form…”  But finally, see also a separate “Goodreads” article, Quotes About Imitation (76 quotes) – Goodreads.  The latter included the following pithy observations at odds with Wilde’s “acerbic and iconoclastic wit:”

“Through others we become ourselves.”
― Lev S. Vygotsky

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.”
― T.S. EliotThe Sacred Wood

“Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery – it’s the sincerest form of learning.”
― George Bernard Shaw

and finally, this:

“There is only one thing which is generally safe from plagiarism — self-denial.”
― G.K. Chesterton.

On “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age…”

To see more images of the “meanest 33 miles in history,” go to Chilkoot Trail – Image Results

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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 him 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:

(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age: Or, “How NICE it was to travel, before COVID” by [James B. Ford]I just published a new E-book(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age. (“OrHow NICE it was to travel, before COVID.'”) It’s published under my nom de plume, “James B. Ford.” The cover photo – at right – shows me in Jerusalem in May 2019, wearing a “shemagh.” Also called a keffiyeh, I got it at Ranger Joe’s in Ft. Benning before leaving for Israel. (To “blend in.”) I’m wearing it over my black Atlanta United ball cap, thus “blending in” the best of the old and new.

In the blurb I wrote for Amazon Kindle eBooks, I said this book should be timely – “in the middle of our Covid-19 pandemic” – because right now “lots of Americans can only dream about visiting such exotic locales in the future, when the crisis passes.”

I compared it to the 1920s and ‘30s, when so many Americans were fascinated by Hemingway’s books on France and Spain. (Like “The Sun Also Rises ” and “A Moveable Feast.”)

I’m guessing part of it was that back then most Americans could only DREAM of travel to such exotic places. (Like today with Covid…) Then too it may be because Hemingway gave all those exotic street names and local pubs and restaurants. Like my finding the “BEERBAZAAR,” in Jerusalem, in May 2019. Which makes me think I should have written down way more information when I was “over there.” Then I could do more what Hemingway did, vivid description. But I have something Hemingway didn’t have. GOOGLE MAPS!

Then too – aside from my May 2019 pilgrimage to Israel – the book includes chapters on hiking the Chilkoot Trail in 2016. (“Meanest 33 miles in history,” exemplified by the top photo.) Or hiking the Camino de Santiago, twice. The first time was in 2017. I met my brother in Pamplona – home of Hemingway’s Café Iruna – and together we hiked (and biked) the 450 miles to Santiago de Compostela. (He flew into Paris and hiked over the Pyrenees, but the Chilkoot Trail had cured me of any such wishes to go hiking over mountains again so soon.)

Incidentally, the last two chapters of the book are based on my last two posts, Here’s that second post on the Portuguese Camino, and “They sell beer at the McDonald’s in Portugal!”

That last post was really long – “Word count 3450” – or three thousand four hundred fifty words. Mostly because I had a lot to fit in, but to balance things out I’ll make this post shorter. The upshot is that I wrote about a lot of great adventures, but still had more to write about. Plus those I did cover I didn’t do full justice to. (Which reminds me of the joke about the Southern lady talking to a Northern lady and ending a sentence with a preposition.*)

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There’s more on that later, but first a couple production notes on the E-book. First off, you’ll notice that on page 6 of the Introduction – right after the paragraph beginning “May 28, 2019, Tel Aviv” – the line spacing goes all kerflooey. From justified it goes to non-justified text, and the line spacing gets wider. It goes back to normal for the next one-line paragraph – “Then the COVID hit” – but the text stays non-justified through near the  middle of the next page. (It says page 6 again; there are apparently two “page 6’s.”) Then it goes back to justified text.

I tried correcting it, uploading a second and ostensibly-corrected Word document, but it stayed the same, kerflooey for a page or two. Another note: I had the “Observations” at the end of many chapters in italics and non-justified, as well as the notes at the end of the book. The program made all those justified type. And for the paperback version the publishing program required a minimum of 100 pages, so I had to add four pages to the original 96.

So I’ll try to upload a corrected version, with the additional four pages and with a proper note at the very end as to where to buy a paperback version. I’ll let you know how it goes…

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Meanwhile, back to the subject of the book not doing justice to all my adventures…

For one example, as to the Portuguese Camino hike: I only got “us” as far as the Casa Límia in Ponte de Lima. That’s only about a third of the way up to Santiago de Compostela. Then too I could only provide limited coverage of my pilgrimage to Israel, which I last covered in This time last year – in Jerusalem, in May 2020. And by the way, that post has a lot of those “image may contain” boxes, that used to be pictures I posted, to make the posts more interesting. And which in turn is a problem I address in the book. And that’s why I now use lead captions like “To see more images of the ‘meanest 33 miles in history,’ go to Chilkoot Trail – Image Results.” That makes it much easier to transmogrify these blog-posts into future picture-less book chapters.

And about that Jerusalem trip. I described the Leonardo Moria Hotel, a short walk from St. George’s Pilgrim Guest House, with a lounge sometimes functioning as a piano bar. (Once even having a yarmulke-topped pianist playing the Chicken Dance.) That turned out to be a favorite watering hole, not just for me but eventually many of my fellow pilgrims at St. George’s. (One night, for a birthday, “we” had 17 pilgrims there. I should have gotten a commission…)

So one point of this “limited coverage” business is that in the future I’ll have to do at least one Sequel. (Tentatively titled “(More of) My Adventures in Old Age.”) In it I hope to add more oversea-travel adventures, including a return to St. George’s. (Once we kick COVID’s ass.)

Stay tuned!!!

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The upper image is courtesy of Chilkoot Trail – Image Results. See also Explore the Chilkoot Trail – Klondike Gold RushThe lower image is courtesy of St George’s College Jerusalem – Image Results

Re: “Joke about the Southern lady.” Or it could be a “snobbish English teacher.” See Ending a sentence with a preposition. : Jokes: “A snobbish English teacher was sitting in an Atlanta airport coffee shop waiting for her flight back to Connecticut, when a friendly Southern Belle sat down next to her. ‘Where y’all goin’ to?’ asked the Southern Belle. Turning her nose in the air, the snob replied ‘I don’t answer people who end their sentences with prepositions.’ The Southern Belle thought a moment, and tried again. ‘Where y’all goin’ to, BITCH?'” The way I heard was, “So where y’all from?” And the Southern lady eventually thinking a bit, then sayin, “Okay, so where y’all from, bitch?”

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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.

“They sell beer at the McDonald’s in Portugal!”

For more images of the Portuguese Way – my last (2019) hiking adventure –  see Wikipedia

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I’m putting together a new book, and this will be the last chapter. (Chapter 14.) The book – “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age” – will end with an episode from my last overseas adventure. The last chapter will be, “They sell beer at the McDonald’s in Portugal!”

Which I thought pretty noteworthy.

That was back in September 2019.That’s when my brother, his wife and I hiked the Portuguese Camino. So this post (chapter) continues my last post on the hike: Here’s that second post on the Portuguese Camino. (Chapter 13 in the book.) And incidentally, the photo atop the page shows the “Douro river and Dom Luís Bridge,” near sunset. (Courtesy of Wikipedia.) The morning we left Porto we hiked west, right under that same Dom Luis Bridge.

We were headed off on a 150-mile (or so) hike to Santiago, partly by way of the Coastal Camino Route. That’s the “stunning and very scenic alternative route to the classic Portuguese Camino. Starting in colorful UNESCO-listed Porto this Camino trail will take you to charming seaside towns and villages in Northern Portugal, along the superb Atlantic Coast.”

But of course – being generally “contrary” – we only went part way up the Coastal Route. We left Porto Monday, September 2. We hiked the Coastal Route for two days and got to Vila do Conde the afternoon of Tuesday, September 3. From there we “shunted over to the main Portuguese Route and headed north from there,” that is, north from Barcelos.  

My last post – “Second Portuguese” – gave an overview of the trip, noting how we got up as far as Ponte de Lima. And again, that’s about a third of the way up to Santiago. For this “chapter” – blog post – I’ll quote some Facebook posts I did on the way. (At or near the event in question.)

And again, I’ll end this book with the dramatic discovery, “they sell beer at the McDonald’s in Portugal!” Which is something I didn’t learn until we got to the “McDonald’s – Ponte de Lima.” So as in “Greetings from the Portuguese Camino,” I’ll end this chapter at Ponte de Lima.

Which means I’ll have to write at least one sequel…

So, to “start at the very beginning, a very good place to start,” here’s a list of the days and dates in question, beginning with the day we left Porto:

Monday, September 2: First day, from Porto to Cabo do Mundo, we hiked nine miles, to Casa Velha. (10.8 miles according to Tom’s calculations.) Early in the morning I wrote, “Today we left Porto behind, kinda. Our first stop came 90 minutes and three and a half miles from our start at the Cathedral. [I had] OJ and a very rich, chocolatey [dessert-like] thing. I figured I earned it.”

We hiked west along the Douro, on the Porto side, then hit the Atlantic and swung north. It’s a less traveled scenic alternative to the main Camino Portuguese. “Lots of beachside resorts, bathing beauties, and of course some old pot-bellied guys in speedos.”

I took a picture of the boardwalk section, winding along the shore, then posted:

First days hike is history. West through Porto – with shady spots and sidewalk cafes – and out to the coast. Then north. Made Cabo do Mundo, 10.8 miles. Nothing too sore. Good first hike.

Tuesday, September 3: The second day we hiked 10.2 miles to Vila do Conde, and the Hotel Brazao. I took pictures of the morning and early afternoon beachside, much of it along a boardwalk. Once we reached Vila do Conde, we left the Coastal Route and started heading east and north, over towards the main Camino Portuguese. I wrote, “Near the end of the day we negotiated a closed-in foresty place, with a narrow two-lane cobblestone road with LOTS of cars whizzing by, on the way to Vila do Conde.”

The following morning, September 4, I posted:

Good morning from Vila do Conde, Portugal. Yesterday we hiked 10.2 miles, from Cabo do Mundo to Vila do Conde. The pictures show the last stretch before we got to the bridge into town. No more beachside vistas, we’re on the main Camino now, not the scenic side route. Today a mere six miles, so we’re pillaging a bit.

That “pillaging” came from the auto-correct on my tablet. The same feature that changed each “do” or “de” – common in Portuguese – to “Dr.” Every stinkin’ time! So it had me “pillaging” instead of “lollygagging,” like I wrote. I added that tomorrow we had “a 13 mile hike, then a day off Friday. My feet aren’t TOO sore, and the 15 pound pack is pretty much adjusted, strap-wise. And that’s ‘lollygagging’ a bit. No pillaging so far…”

The Hotel Brazao in Vila do Conde was the last place on the Coastal Route for us. Google Maps said it was 6.6 miles to Villa d’Arcos, but “we” figured 6.3.

Wednesday, September 4: This morning, as we got ready to head out again, I saw a van taking luggage for some other “pilgrims” ahead to their next stop. Which meant all they had to carry – hiking – was a day pack. Not the pack we carried, 10 percent of body weight. (In my case 15 pounds.) That “10%” pack held all our worldly goods, for the duration of the hike. Tom calls the light day-packs “pansy packs.” (He actually used another, more earthy epithet, but I figure this book is family oriented.) And I wrote on Facebooke about “wussie – boys who don’t want to ‘pack their own gear.’ WIMPS! What the hell kind of pilgrimage is that?”

You know, without the sore feet, the aching back and such?

Anyway, because we had some time – a mere 6.3 mile hike to Villa d’Arcos – we did some touristy stuff in the morning. We visited the Museu de Construção Naval (Shipbuilding Museum), and also parts of the Convent of Santa Clara

The Convent of Santa Clara was closed but the Cathedral next door was open. It was there Tom made a “new bestest buddy Fernando – from the cathedral,” who “bent his ear for a good long time, much of it in indecipherable Portuguese.” I took a great picture of them as they chatted, with a view from the hilltop, with the river and ocean in the background.

We ended the day at Villa d’Arcos. It’s not a city. It’s a four-star hotel at Rua da Alegria 38. “From there we hike to Barcelos tomorrow. Tom booked the Hotel Bagoeira for two nights.” Villa d’Arcos is a shade over six miles from Vila do Conde, but as noted we got a late start. I took pictures of the aqueduct in Vila do Conde, “and some narrow streets like we had to hike through today.” And the Villa d’ Arcos itself was a “nice swanky place with a mini-bar in my room, and a local-color cafe down the road to eat. (A light snack. We had a heavy meal on the road.) So tomorrow we’ll be joining up with the main Camino hereabouts.”

Not much of a hike, mile-wise, but a “dearth of Camino signs. Plus lots of narrow walled-in streets, roads, lanes, alleys, whatever to negotiate. But we ended up in a Happy Place, with a beautiful sun setting in the west… And the morning and the evening were the third day,” of hiking that is. (See Genesis 1:13.) “Tomorrow 13 miles…”

Thursday, September 5: We stopped for lunch in Pedra Furada, “after a LOOONG stretch of nary a place to stop, in between here and Villa d’Arcos where we started.” We’d hiked about eight of the day’s total 13 miles before finding a place to stop for lunch. (We’d gotten up and started early.) During lunch I posted this on Facebook, with a picture I took of a fellow pilgrim:

Good 12:30 noonish from Pedra Furada, Portugal. We’re headed to Barcelos and a day off tomorrow, after a 13-mile hike today. Only one Super Bock for lunch, plus a cheese and tomato sandwich. I followed up the cerveza with a Lipton Pessego iced tea. [Thirsty.] Outside the front door a fellow Caminista spritzes his bald head with sunscreen, fixin’ to head north.

Friday, September 6: To clarify, we checked in for our first day off on Thursday, September 5. Friday, September 6 was that day off, and we enjoyed the sites of Barcelos and nearby Braga. Braga is home of the “Bom Jesus do Monte” church. (“Good Jesus of the Mount.”) It was quite a sight from the top of that mountain. Then we hit the road again Saturday, September 7.

That pretty much became the pattern. Four days hiking, increasing the number of miles hiked per day, with the fourth day ending after a long day’s hike. So we hiked 13 miles on September 5 and reached Hotel Bagoeira in Barcelos for our first day off. On September 6 we did some sightseeing, including a bus trip to Braga. A beautiful city, especially in the center square. Lots of marigolds and churches. But in the middle of that bus trip I had some business to attend to.

I originally booked a train back from Santiago – once the hike was over – to spend two nights in Lisbon before leaving for home. Then I changed my mind and figured it’d be better to spend one of those nights in Porto. So after the 45-minute bus trip to Braga, we split up and went our separate ways. I went to change my Comboios (train) ticket, back from Porto to Lisbon, and in the process had a 1:00 lunch of Portuguese lasagna. “Very cheesy, filled with hunks of ham, and VERY good.” Once I’d changed the tickets I posted this on Facebook:

Quite the “Mission Accomplished!” this morning. For various reasons I wanted to change my return trip plans to spend one more night in Porto and not two nights in Lisbon. But the 9/23 ticket was already paid for. Long story short, I had my was of Euros read to pay the 56.50, but the nice clerk said, “No no, same price, you already paid!”

That wasn’t supposed to be “was of Euros.” It was another example of my tablet’s “stupid autocorrect.” What I meant to say was “wad of Euros.”

Which brings up a good point. Both here and in Israel (back in May) I was often in the situation of not knowing the right rate of exchange, and so could have been easily cheated. But in general both store clerks and public officials were very attentive, and honest. Like the guy who exchanged my ticket and saw my “wad of Euros.” He could have said to himself, “I’ve got a dumb American sucker on my hands!” And charged me the 56.50 Euros, then pocketed it. Much like the guy I bought that “Tapazino” from on my first morning in Jerusalem. I was pleasantly surprised by all this, but of course wouldn’t want to make a habit of it…

After changing train tickets I had had some time before meeting up with the others, so I figured the “Mission Accomplished” warranted a celebratory cerveza. I stopped at a cafe around the corner from the Comboios station. I posted two pictures, one a selfie of me in a state of happy bliss, and one of the passing scene I was looking at.

Later we met up and took another bus ride, up to the top of a nearby mountain to see that “Bom Jesus do Monte.” Quite a site. I took quite a few pictures. After that we stopped at a sidewalk café in the Braga’s city center, with lots of beautiful fountains. Then took the 45 minute bus ride back to Barcelos. It felt good to be sitting instead of hiking. I ended the day posting, “Tomorrow we get back to hiking, a ‘mere’ ten miles, not the 13 that did a job on my feet.”

Saturday, September 7: This day we ended up at Casas da Quinta da Cancela. (Expedia says it’s in Barcelos, but it’s actually Balugaes.) If you check on Google Maps, you’ll see a large complex surrounded by a high stone wall. With no sign – on the N308 part of the Camino – to indicate how to get in. Carol wrote this later, once we got back, to accompany some photos:

After you walked ten plus miles for the day, then comes the fun (and most times agonizing) job of searching for the hotel. I am uncertain of how much land the villa had but it was surrounded by this rock wall in its entirety. On the opposite end of this wall (guessing three or four acres) was the Camino we came in on. There is a gate in the rock wall that went to the villa, but no sign to indicating such. We walked up and down the Camino [N308] numerous times looking for it. Finally [she and I] parked ourselves on a corner while Tom went down a couple of blocks. He ran into group of men and one offered to give him (backpack and all) a ride on his motorcycle to it. Tom declined and another man walked us to it. Many times, you rely on the kindness of strangers during your journey.

Which is true. The entrance is on the other side of the complex, away from the N308.

And as to finding the entrance to what turned out to be a lovely Quinta da Cancela, with separate small villas for rent, here’s what I wrote: “That’s where we had a hell of a time finding the entrance. It’s a big walled-in space with the entrance on the other side of the N308 that runs through – actually is – the Camino in that stretch.” I too noted “Tom had to walk down to the intersection with the N204 and ask directions. There was only one restaurant in that one intersection town (Balugaes), the Cantinho dos Sabores.”

That’s where we ate once we got checked in and “refreshed.” I added, “The food was pretty good, but as I remember the service was pretty slow. But there was beer…”

In fact the service was so slow that by the time we got back it was way after dark, and the gate by the N308 was locked. We had to climb over a chest-high stone wall. Tom climbed over first and tried to unlock the gate from the inside. No luck. So I had to “assist” Carol over the wall, then climb over myself. (“And no one to take a video!”)

Sunday, September 8: Today we reached Casa Límia in Ponte de Lima, a third of the way on our hike, but where this book will end. (I’ll be writing a sequel.) One thing I noted on Facebook:

Greetings from Ponte de Lima, Portugal. Sorry about the lapse, but the Wi-Fi yesterday evening sucked. This morning at 10:10 I was hiking along listening to my iPod Shuffle, and a very old sermon by Father Paul came on.

“Father Paul” used to be the priest at our Episcopal church. I’m not sure how his sermon got on my iPod Shuffle, but likely it was from the time I volunteered three mornings a week. I did quite a bit of work on the church Office Mac, and had an account to download music. Father Paul also persuaded me to update the parish newsletter and website, after I mentioned I had a Master’s Degree in Journalism. And working the parish website is what gave me the experience and impetus to get into blogging. Which is how I came to write this book…

So anyway, in his sermon he talked about the lousy winter weather on that long-ago Sunday, and about dreaming of days at the beach, and about one time having a casting net. From there he went to some fisherman-Apostles “dropping their nets,” then getting on with REAL life. It made sense listening to the sermon, but it’s hard to translate all that into a short blurb in this chapter. But I did note that “I got a few chuckles hiking along the dry dusty Camino.” And I thought it appropriate to hear this reprise sermon on a Sunday; I’d been routinely listening to my music on the hike and hadn’t heard it before. (“A message from God?”)

I posted on Facebook that we’d made 11 [plus] miles, “complete with an iPod Shuffle sermon from Father Paul, from a few winters ago. And had a helluva time finding this rental place. (Which seemed to happen quite a lot.)” For the second day in a row we had a tough time finding the night’s lodging; in this case, the one in Ponte de Lima. But there was a reward to come…

I added that “we busted ass today. And my sore feet can prove it!”

So about 8:00 p.m. we were on our way out to dinner at the nearby McDonald’s, “sore feet and all – and got invited to a ‘porch’ party.” There were two other couples in the three-story Casa, as I recall. They all spoke limited English, but were nice enough to share some of their libations. We accepted, then went off to the McDonald’s. It was there – at the fancy-schmancy kiosk – that I saw that they did indeed sell beer, along with Big Macs, etc. Later I posted:

We had dinner at McDonald’s, with a couple cervezas for me. Then a nightcap – or so we thought – at a bar up the street. Then ran into the party-goers from earlier, staying at the same complex. They FORCED us to have some dessert and “grava” on the way in. I suppose there’s a lesson there: Bust your ass and get rewarded – in some indirect way. BUEN CAMINO! Or, “the Camino provides!” I suppose there’s a lesson there somewhere …

In other words the party-goers we’d met on the way out were still there partying on the porch when we got back. “AND A GOOD TIME WAS HAD BY All!”

So Ponte de Lima is now known – to me anyway – as where I found out that “they sell beer at the McDonald’s in Portugal.” And where we got invited to a “porch party.” And for those who may be interested, that McDonald’s is at “Rua Salvato Feijo 17,” in Ponte de Lima.

Monday, September 9: That’s the day we headed off to Rubiães, but that and the rest of the hike’s adventures will be the subject for my upcoming Sequel…

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The upper image is courtesy of the Portuguese Way article in Wikipedia.

The lower image is courtesy of Rubiaes Camino – Image Results. It’s accompanied by an article, The Journey from Within, which included an interesting experiment that pilgrim noted, on being oblivious in everyday life. The experiment involved a “fiddler” at a major-city metro station, who played the violin while reporters observed and recorded by-passer response:

In the 45 minutes that the fiddler played, more than 1,100 people walked by, but only seven (!) stopped for at least a minute to enjoy the performance. When asked upon exiting the station, many people didn’t even recall their path crossed a musician, only a few feet away.

It turned out the man, “in jeans and t-shirt, was Joshua Bell, one of the best violinists in the world.” His normal rate of pay? “$1,000 a minute. That day at the metro, playing an incredibly difficult piece on one of the most valuable violins ever made bought Bell a total of $32.17 in donations.”

Again, a lesson there. “Stop and smell the frikkin’ roses!” And the link in the main text is to 4. From Ponte de Lima to Rubiães – Camino de Santiago.