Category Archives: Book reviews

On John Paul Jones’ CLOSEST call

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

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Speaking of “impudent sly sluts…”  (See the last post, “There he goes again.”  It cited Robert Louis Stevenson for the allusion, from his book Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes )

John Paul Jones by Charles Wilson Peale, c1781.jpgI recently got another book, John Paul Jones:  Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy, by Evan Thomas.  Near the end it included a slice of American history that I’d never heard before.  It told of John Paul Jones – seen at left – and what I’ve come to term “his closest call.”

But first a word of explanation.

I published my last post on May 30, on a proposed kayak trip into the Okefenokee Swamp.  Since then I’ve actually done the overnight platform-camping trip to the  Canal Run shelter.  (A trip that included much planning and preparation, not to mention a full day’s drive down to Valdosta GA, the closest major city to the put-in at Foster State Park.)

I also just got back from a weekend trip to North Carolina.  That was for the June 11 high-school graduation of my “favorite grandson named Austin.”  (See On “latitude, attitude,” and other life changes,” in my companion blog.  That trip also involved a lot of planning and preparation.)

But now I’m back home and ready to go.  So, about those “impudent sly sluts…”

Most people know John Paul Jones as the naval hero of the Revolutionary War.

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

Not to mention his having said, “I have not yet begun to fight.”  (When asked by the commander of the Serapis if Jones was ready “strike the colours,” that is, to surrender.)  Incidentally, Evan Thomas wrote that Jones probably didn’t say that.

On that note, Jones apparently did say – later in the battle – “I may sink, but I’ll be damned if I strike!”  And in his official report, Jones merely said that he answered “in the most determined negative.”  (An answer that is definitely not as colorful.)  But we digress…

What most people don’t know is that in 1787, Jones joined the Russian Navy.

This was after the War, and after futile attempts to collect prize money for the ships he’d captured.  (And also in response to his general disgruntlement with the American Congress.)  That is, he entered the service of the Empress Catherine II of Russia, who commissioned him a rear admiral.  Thus he was known in the Russian Navy as “Kontradmirál Pavel Dzhones.”

That’s when the trouble started.  Much as he had been in the American Navy, in 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 in history.) 

Those Russian enemies included Prince Charles of Nassau-Siegen.  (Seen at left.)  He  in turn “turned the Russian commander Prince Grigory Potëmkin against Jones.”  (And it didn’t help that – like many fighting men – Jones was inapt at “Imperial politics.”  That is, political intrigue.)

To cut to the chase, “In April 1789 Jones was arrested and accused of raping a [10]-year-old girl named Katerina Goltzwart.”

Or as Evan Thomas put it, “In early April, St. Petersburg society was shocked, which is to say delighted, by a police report detailing a sordid episode:”

A ten-year-old German girl claimed that she had been raped by Jones.  As the little girl described the incident, she had been selling butter in the Admiralty District when she was summoned to an apartment to see a man wearing a white uniform with gold braid and a red ribbon.  The man punched her in the jaw, bloodying her mouth.  He locked the door, threw off his uniform, and while holding the girl with one hand, threw a mattress on the floor.  He pinned her down and penetrated her.  Unable to call for help with a handkerchief across her mouth, the girl fainted, woke up, and ran crying into the street.

Moreover, the police had witnesses.  One witness was Jones’ manservant, who described “peering through the keyhole to Jones’ bedroom,” and who later found blood on the floor.  A midwife gave her expert opinion that the girl had been raped, while a doctor testified that her “child bearing parts were swollen,” and that her lip was cut and her jaw bruised.

Which is why I call this episode “John Paul Jones’ closest call.”

That is, such an accusation of “child rape” would have been 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.”

Jones himself was not afraid of death, and indeed it was his courage under fire that made him such a great commander.  But had he been convicted as charged, he would have gone down in history as a mere child molester, to be punished as he deserved.

He tried to hire a Russian lawyer, “only to have the lawyer quit his case.”  (The Russian government had ordered the lawyer “not to ‘meddle.'”)   One of his few friends – the French Count de Segur – visited, only to find him in a suicidal state, his service pistols on a table in front of him.  As Jones said, “I would have faced death a thousand times … but today I desire it.”

But slowly, the truth came out.  (With a little help from de Segur, “Jones’ last friend in the capital.”) 

For one thing, it turned out the girl was 12, not 10.  (A minor point, to be sure.)  It also turned out both that she’d been “‘selling butter’ for quite a while,” and that “selling butter” was a euphemism for what she had been actually selling.

Then too her customers included that same manservant who’d given damning evidence against Jones.  And finally, the girl’s mother 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 enough damage had been done.  Jones didn’t have to go through the ordeal of a trial – as illustrated at left – but he was ostracized by Russian society.  That included the Empress Catherine, who was “finished with him.”  (Notwithstanding the intensity and originality of “her own sexual appetites.”)

And aside from all that, Catherine had hired a number of former British officers, all of whom “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 that we build up.  (See e.g. Why Do We Build-Up & Then Tear-Down Our Heroes?)

In the case of John Paul Jones, it took more than a century after he died – not until July 1905 – that his body was finally returned to his adopted homeland – the one that he’d fought so hard for – and given a decent burial.  (In Annapolis, site of the Naval Academy.)

And then only because “Teddy Roosevelt needed a hero…”

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The upper image is courtesy of John Paul Jones – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The caption for the upper image:  “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…”)

The Wikipedia article also included the image at left, with the caption:  “John Paul Jones and John Barry, honored on U.S. Postage, Navy Issue of 1937.”  Note that Barry is one of at least three men – including Jones – in the running for the title of “Father of the American Navy.”  See for example Commodore John Barry, Father of the American Navy, and also Joshua Humphreys, “Father of the American Navy.”

Re: “Impudent, sly sluts.”  See also Donkey travel – and sluts, in my companion blog.

See also Definition of slut by The Free Dictionary.  Although the term – today – has come to mean almost exclusively either a prostitute or a woman “considered to be sexually promiscuous,” that wasn’t always the case.  For example, in Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes, Stevenson applied the term to two young girls who were simply being mischievous and/or “pains.”  For another take, see Slut-shaming – Wikipedia, on the form of behavior modification in which a social stigma is “applied to people, especially women and girls, who are perceived to violate traditional expectations for sexual behaviors.”

Re Evan Thomas.  See also Wikipedia.  The quoted portions from Thomas’ Jones: Sailor, Hero (etc.) are from the 2004 Simon and Schuster paperback version, at pages 297-99.)

The oil portrait of Jones is also courtesy of the Wikipedia article on Jones.  The caption:  “A 1781 painting of John Paul Jones by Charles Willson Peale.”

Re: “general disgruntlement with the American Congress.”  Go figure!

Re: Jones’ political enemies in the Russian Navy.  See Wikipedia:

As a rear admiral[, Jones] … took part in the naval campaign in the Dnieper-Bug Liman … against the Turks, in concert with the Dnieper Flotilla commanded by Prince Charles of Nassau-Siegen.  Jones (and Nassau-Siegen) repulsed the Ottoman forces … but the jealous intrigues of Nassau-Siegen (and perhaps Jones’s own inaptitude for Imperial politics) turned the Russian commander Prince Grigory Potëmkin against Jones and he was recalled to St. Petersburg for the pretended purpose of being transferred to a command in the North Sea.

Re: political intrigue.  See also Byzantinism – Wikipedia.

The galley-slave image is courtesy of Ben-Hur (1959) – IMDb.  See also Galley slave – Wikipedia.

Re: Jones’ defense against the rape charge. As Wikipedia noted:

… the Count de Segur, the French representative at the Russian court (and also Jones’ last friend in the capital), conducted his own personal investigation into the matter and was able to convince Potëmkin that the girl had not been raped and that Jones had been accused by Prince de Nassau-Siegen for his own purposes;  Jones, however, admitted to prosecutors that he had “often frolicked” with the girl “for a small cash payment,” only denying that he had deprived her of her virginity.

Note that St. Petersburg [was] the capital of Russia between 1712 and 1918.

The lower image is courtesy of, “United States Naval Academy:  reviews, photos.”

In John Paul JonesEvan Thomas described the return of Jones’ body from France at pages 3 and 4 of his Introduction.  “Jones had died, alone and forgotten, in Paris in 1792.”  His body had lain “in a graveyard so obscure that it had been paved over.”  It had taken months for the American ambassador to find the burial site, “beneath a laundry on the outskirts of the city.”  

On page 3, Thomas described the honor guard, in Paris, of 500 American sailors, all picked for their height – over six feet – and “manly good looks.”  In response to the American honor guard marching down the Champs Elysees – wrote Thomas – “‘Quels beaux garcons!’  whispered the French ladies in the vast, cheering crowd.”  (The French translates roughly to “Who are those fine-looking studs?”)  

As to “Teddy Roosevelt need[ing] a hero,” Jones wrote that Roosevelt wanted to make the United States a great naval power, and so wanted to “celebrate Jones’ legacy with appropriate pomp.”  He therefore decreed that every “officer in our navy should know by heart the deeds of John Paul Jones,” and that all Naval Academy cadets must memorize jones’ “pronouncements on the correct training and proper manners of an officer and a gentleman.”  Then there was the tomb itself:

Jones was laid to his final rest in a marble sarcophagus modeled after Napoleon’s own crypt.  “He gave our Navy,” reads the inscription on the tomb, “its earliest traditions of heroism and victory…”  How Jones would have loved it.

And finally, as to Jones having a “penchant for the ladies:”  At page 298 Thomas wrote of Jones’ response – in part – to the charge of rape, “I love women, I confess, and the pleasures that one only obtains from that sex; but to get such things by force is horrible to me.”

Introduction to “Ashley Wilkes”

GWTW – Good for local business and a “tourist boon for Atlanta…”  

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I just published a collection of posts from this blog.  The title comes from the one I did on September 1, The mysterious death of Ashley Wilkes.  The sub-title:  “And other tales from the ‘Georgia Wasp.'”  Which is another way of saying that I’m a firm believer in kismet.

In one sense it means your lot in life.  (Or the alternative, your fate.)

But in another sense it means a situation “when you encounter something by chance that seems like it was meant to be.”  (Sometimes called a sign from God.  On which see Isaiah 7:11.)

That explains why – in my new book of posts – the Mid-summer Travelogs are out of order.  (Part II comes before Part I.)  There’s more on that later, but first an explanation.

I’m an artist as well as a blogger, and there’s a big art show coming up in December.  But aside from showing off my works of art – mostly oil paintings – the show also presents a chance for me to get the word out on my two blogs, including this one.

The thing is, I live in the ATL – also known as “God’s Country” – and that’s the birthplace of Gone with the Wind.  In turn, “GWTW” has been both good for local business and a “tourist boon for Atlanta.”  (See for example GWTW trail: the top 10 sights in Atlanta.)

Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind trailer cropped.jpgSo after I posted Ashley Wilkes – seen at right, as played by Leslie Howard – I sensed a definite marketing opportunity.

Like most people my age – 64 – I sat through the full 220 minutes of the film some time in the 1960s.  (At a periodic re-release in theaters.  That’s almost four hours of running time.)   And I saw it all the way through another time or two, with my parents, at home, on TV.  (Complete with what seemed to be more hours of commercials.)

Since then I’ve seen parts of GWTW dozens of times, in the process of channel surfing.  (A side note: Eugene Polley, who invented the first wireless remote control, died in 2012 at age 96.)

And finally – just last summer – I once again watched the entire movie, all the way through.  (My brother and I were traveling back from Astoria on “unfinished canoe-trip business.”)

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-363-2258-11, Flugzeug Junkers Ju 88.jpgBut it was also only then – after getting home from Astoria – that I learned about Leslie Howard dying so mysteriously.

It happened during the early years of World War II, over the Bay of Biscay off the French coast.  In June 1942, a commercial airliner carried Howard and 16 other passengers and crew from Lisbon to London.  It got shot down by eight Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88C6 fighter aircraft, like the one above left.

You can see the full story at Mysterious death, the first chapter of this new book.  On that note, some called the shoot down an accident of war.  But others said top Nazis ordered the attack deliberately.  According to this theory, the Germans considered Howard as either a British spy, or as “Britain’s most dangerous propagandist,” or both.

Personally I found this new information fascinating, and wondered why I’d never heard it before.  (Including the part about Conchita Montenegro, seen at right.)  In turn I figured the people of Atlanta would be equally fascinated.  So, I decided to do something about it.

Thus was born The mysterious death of Ashley Wilkes (and other tales from the “Georgia Wasp”), now available in E-book and paperback.

Which brings us back to kismet

To get the book ready to publish, I had to copy-and-paste the first chapter – Mysterious Death – onto a flash drive.  But for some reason, the resulting copy-and-paste resulted in a bunch of posts being transferred.  Some 14 posts in all – including drafts – all the way down to Canoeing 12 miles offshore.  (I posted that on May 23, while I posted Ashley Wilkes on September 1st.)

But rather than get upset, I figured it was kismet.  (Either that or a sign from God)

Which means that a happy accident shaped at least the first draft of the book.  Later I did some tweaking, adding some posts, editing others and deleting some.  But basically the order of chapter-posts in the book came from that initial C&P bit of “kismet.”

There’s more on the other chapters later, but first I wanted to do another bit of homage to Harry Golden.  He’s the guy who inspired me to start this second blog.

Some years ago I bought a second-hand paperback copy of Harry’s book, Only in America.  (Not to be confused with the 2001 Brooks and Dunn song of the same name, or the 2011 “reality television series” featuring Larry the Cable Guy.)

I admired the way he wrote about topics that interested him, yet still managed to find an audience for his ramblings.  I also admired the way he wove stories that became “a wonderful look into a different time.”  And I admired the way he overcame the obstacles in his life, like serving five years in prison for mail fraud.  (See “Wasp.”)

Only in AmericaBut despite it all, Harry still liked to “accentuate the positive.”  And that alone made him both unique and well worth emulating.

I’m pretty sure he too would be fascinated by the mysterious death of Ashley Wilkes.  And I’d like to think he’d enjoy the rest of the book as well.

For example, the second chapter is “Johnny YUMA was a rebel…”  It’s about The Rebel (TV series), that ran from 1959 to 1961.  (And Harry himself was a bit of rebel.  Facing down intolerance, distrust and greed, and standing up “for the weak and downtrodden.”)  But once again there was a death under mysterious circumstances.  The series’ star – Nick Adams – died at age 36, in 1968.  (A mere seven years after the show ended.)

The third chapter is “When adultery was proof of loyalty.”  That post was inspired directly by Harry Golden, who wrote a column of the same name.  I did it as a “book review plus:”

Unfortunately, in Harry’s delightfully retro format – an old-timey newspaper or newsletter – he couldn’t use the full-color pictures, flashy graphics and built-in links that we can use in today’s blogs.  So, this bit of a book review will be more than a bit of an update. (E.A.)

Then there’s American History, “patched and piebald.”  It’s about John Adams and his more-realistic view of writing history:  “I’ll not be in the history books.  Only Franklin.  Franklin did this, and Franklin did that, and Franklin did some other damn thing.  Franklin smote the ground, and out sprang General Washington, fully grown and on his horse.”

Then come the Mid-summer travelogsPart II and Part I.  (Including the view of lower Manhattan, at right.)

Not only are Parts II and I out of order, but they’re also fashioned after John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.  (With some key differences, like asking what Steinbeck would have to say about things like cruise control or Sirius satellite Radio.)

The next post-chapters are fairly self-explanatory:  On RABBIT – and “60 is the new 30” and “Great politicians sell hope,” which provides a much-needed bit of fresh air.

(The former is a review of John Updike’s “Rabbit” Series, along with a nice picture of Christie Brinkley illustrating “the new 60.”  The latter is a look at those dwindling-few politicians who might still believe that it’s “better to light a single candle than curse the darkness.”)

On Oscar Wilde and “gross indecencies” talks about the rise and fall of both Oscar Wilde and “computer scientist Alan Turing.”  (As told in the 2014 film, The Imitation Game.)  The lesson?  It pays to remember our past history.  Which is something Harry would believe in.

On leaving a legacy talks about something that should be near and dear to all of us aging Baby Boomers:  Putting your stamp on the future, giving some meaning to your existence, or both.  Which in a sense leads naturally to the last chapter, Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”  That comes under the category Not your Daddy’s Bible.

In a sense, that last post is what life is all about.  (Mostly trying to get good stuff from God!)  But another lesson I learned from doing that post is that sports fans aren’t totally whacked:

Sports fans, for all the ribbing they take, do have some decidedly positive mental health advantages over non-fans.  Evidence cited by [Kent State University’s Shana] Wilson and her co-workers supports the idea that fans who strongly identify with a team, particularly a local one, are less lonely, feel happier, and feel better about themselves.

And speaking of positive mental health advantages…  That’s one of many things that I got – and get – from reading and re-reading Harry Golden’s old books full of columns, observations and essays.  (Books like Only in America and For 2 Cents Plain.)

One reviewer noted above said that Harry’s essays were “at once insightful, thought provoking and in some instances just plain funny.”  Another noted his special brand “of wit and whimsy, and a love of people and learning.”  A third said that Harry’s Carolina Israelite was “the most quoted newspaper of personal journalism of them all.”

In closing, someone once observed that “a man is known by his dreams.”  Assuming that is so, it is my sincere hope – and dream – that I can carry on the good work done by Harry Golden.

In the meantime:  To get an e-book, go to 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.”)

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The upper image is courtesy of Gone With Wind – Image Results.  

Re: positive outlook on life and/or “accentuating the positive.”  Referring to “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” the 1944 song written by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Johnny Mercer.

See also curveball, defined in part as a “particularly difficult issue, obstacle, or problem.”  The point being that life seems to have a habit of “throwing us curveballs.”  See also the alternate definition of dinosaur, assomeone who resists change or is old-fashioned.”

Re: “The ATL.”  The link in the text goes to the Wikipedia article on the Atlanta metropolitan areaBut “ATL” or “the ATL” is a common acronym or abbrevation for the same area, if not Atlanta proper.  (Possibly or partly based on the airport code for Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport – Wikipedia.  See ATL – Acronyms and Abbreviations – The Free Dictionary.)

The “tourist boon for Atlanta” quote is from “A Tough Little Patch of History:”  Atlanta’s Marketplace for Gone With The Wind Memory.  That was the 2007 history dissertation by Jennifer Word Dickey, presently an Assistant Professor of History at Kennesaw State University:

She has a master’s degree in heritage preservation and a Ph.D. in public history from Georgia State University.  Her research focuses on the cultural impact of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, a subject upon which Dr. Dickey has delivered public programs in the United States and in Vietnam.

Re: “periodic re-release in theaters.”  See for example ‘Jaws’ Re-Release:  Film to Hit Theaters for 40th Anniversary:  “On June 21, [2015,] nearly 500 theaters nationwide will show the thriller for its anniversary, presented by Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies and Universal Pictures.”

899931_80902243Re: “happy accident.”  Also known as Serendipity, originally a term coined by Horace Walpole in 1754 and meaning a “fortunate happenstance” or a “pleasant surprise.”  See Wikipedia, and also Embracing Creative Failure (II): Cultivating Happy Accidents.  The latter web-article discusses happy accidents in the process of creating works of art – as seen at left – and added this:

Where would we be without serendipity…  Without the “X Factor” that unexpected results bring, who knows how long it would have taken scientists to discover oxygen, electric current, photography or the vulcanization of rubber.  And who knows if such vital medical breakthroughs as the discovery of penicillin [or], the development of chemotherapy as a cancer treatment … would have happened at all.

The view of lower Manhattan is courtesy of

Re: “a man is known by his dreams.”  That thought was attributed to Plato, in the third paragraph down of the web article, The Dreams and their Interpretation.

The lower image was featured in Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”  In turn it was courtesy of Rephidim – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “Moses holding up his arms during the Battle of Rephidim, assisted by Hur and Aaron, in John Everett Millais Victory O Lord! (1871).”

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In addition to Gone With The Wind Trail: top 10 sights in Atlanta – vis-a-vis the film being good for local business and tourism – see also Gone with The Wind| Atlanta History CenterVisit the Margaret Mitchell House | AtlantaHistory Center, and/or Gone With The Wind- Roadside Georgia.

And finally, the cover images for the e-book and paperback versions are courtesy of, and/or, respectively.  See also


A Mid-summer Travelog – Part III

Atlantic City, seen at dusk from the balcony of the Wyndham Skyline Tower


This post continues Mid-summer Travelog (Part I), and Travelog – Part II.  Of course now that it’s October 2 – a full 10 weeks after that road trip ended – this third-of-four installments will be more of a remembrance.  And among other things, I’ve taken another trip since then.

In August I took a trip out west, to Utah, and from there to “the Columbia River, near Astoria, on unfinished canoe-trip business.”  (See Ashley Wilkes.)  That trip took nearly three weeks, from August 10 to the 27.  In the meantime football season is once again upon us.  Which means it’s been a busy time for me.

And it’s also a good time for reflection.

But before we continue the travelog itself, I should remember that these shouldn’t be just the boring ramblings of an aging Geezer.  That’s because:

The journey motif, where a story’s protagonist must complete a quest … is one of the oldest in storytelling.  Usually, there is a prize or reward promised, but often the true reward is different and more valuable, as the protagonist both proves and humbles himself.

See What is a journey motif?  (Emphasis added.)  So I’ll try to keep that in mind…

Anyway, in Part II I noted Steinbeck’s comment: “when I used to work in the woods it was said of lumber men that they did their logging in the whorehouse and their sex in the woods.”   Then I added my own twist:  “Which is another way of saying that it’s only now that my trip is over that I can look back and relish the memories just lived through.”  That was back on July 22, which means this Part III will be doubly reflective.

We resume this installment in Atlantic City.  And as shown in the upper image, from the top floor of the Wyndham Skyline Tower.   That was one of the most pleasant surprises of the trip.  (I’d thought my brother’s  saying “we rented a condo” would mean a quaint little three- or four-bedroom house, somewhere near the beach.)  Being able to look out on “AC” from a 32d-floor balcony – at dawn and dusk – was refreshing indeed.

The installment will end – perhaps metaphorically – at (or near) “Old Swedes” Episcopal cemetery in Swedesboro, New Jersey.  That’s where where we surviving three brothers – along with a niece and matriarchal aunt – laid our father’s ashes to rest.

(As noted in Part I, that memorial lent “a certain gravitas to the whole ‘joint venture.'”)

1962 first edition coverAlso in Part I, I told of trying to fashion my road trip in the manner of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.  Which meant – first of all -noting some key differences between highway travel in 1960 and 2015.  (Differences including but not limited to cruise control.)

I noted another difference, on camping not being a cheaper way to travel.  That is, before leaving I decided not to camp as Steinbeck did.  That was because even for tent camping, the price you pay is almost as much as a Motel 6.  But since then I’ve learned that’s not entirely correct.

It is true that camping at a state park these days – even with online reservations – can cost almost as much a night at a Motel 6.  But after the trip I found a website, (See also  I haven’t actually tried one of these yet, but it does bode well for the future.  (And I suppose there’s some kind of object lesson in all this…)

That brings up another key difference between Steinbeck’s time and ours.

On page 167 of the Penguin Edition TWC, Steinbeck wrote of driving across the “upraised thumb of Idaho and through real mountains that climbed straight up.”  There he had a problem: “my radio went dead and I thought it was broken, but it was only that the high ridges cut off the radio waves.”  The point?  Steinbeck had only a car radio to entertain him.

I on the other hand had radio, and a CD player that could – and did – provide an education via lectures on CD.   (Like American History, “patched and piebald,” as seen below left.)

Or I could listen to plain old CDs with music.  (I had around 50 such CDs.)  Or I could listen to pre-programmed music on my iPod Shuffle.  (Which had some eight hours of music.)

And last but not least, I had a six-month trial of SiriusXM (satellite) Radio. That trial came with the new Ford Escape I’d bought the previous May.  It alone had over 175 channels, with comedy, sports, news and information, “commercial-free music,” and traffic and weather.

Which I suppose is as good a metaphor as any for the Information Explosion that now envelopes us today.  (And which “can lead to information overload;” that is, a difficulty in making decisions and understanding issues, caused by too much information.)

But before writing more about Atlantic City, I wanted to note another similarity.

On pages 136-37 of the Penguin Books TWC, Steinbeck wrote about rarely making notes along the way.  But (he added), “I made some notes on a sheet of yellow paper on the nature and quality of being alone.”  Such notes – he said – would normally have gotten lost, “as notes are always lost, but these particular notes turned up long afterward wrapped around a bottle of ketchup and secured by a rubber band.”

He found three notes altogether – all on being alone – with one lying “obscurely under a streak of ketchup.“  He took over a full page of TWC on the third note, “Reversion to pleasure-pain basis.”  He then concluded, “so much for the three notes below the red stain on the ketchup bottle.”  Public Chicago Hotel - Chicago, IL, United StatesAll of which had to do with the fact that  “After the comfort and the company of Chicago I had had to learn to be alone again.”  (His wife flew out to meet him in Chicago, and for a few days they stayed at the “Ambassador East.”  The lobby is seen at right.)

Along the same lines, I recently found a note I’d written during my road trip.  It was from Sunday, June 28, written on an odd scrap of paper in the Walmart parking lot on Virginia Beach Boulevard.

Road trip – Sometimes you’re amazed at how well things turn out like you “planned.”  (Appearance of Walmart this morning.)  And sometimes you have to adapt – Saturday driving up I-95 through rain and traffic.

That all had to do with how “fouled up” the driving had been on Saturday, the 27th.  Not only was the traffic on Interstate 95 even worse than usual…  Aside from that, a strong and long line of thunderstorms took it’s sweet time, taking all day Saturday to pass through the area.

(And knocking out the power for five hours in Williamsburg.  See Part II.)

But then on Sunday morning the sun was out, and driving was fun again.  The only problem was that I needed cash for the toll onto the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge.  I pondered the question while driving east toward Virginia Beach.  I wanted to visit the beach itself, and also looked for First Landing State Park, when all of a sudden – “as if by magic” – a Walmart appeared to my left.  (That’s my normal routine when needing cash.  Rather than pay an ATM fee, I generally go to a Walmart, get some inexpensive necessity and get cash that way.)

All of which could be just another way of saying, “Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you.”  Or as Steinbeck said, “we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”  (TWC-2, 4)

And by the way, I’m pretty sure they didn’t have ATMs in 1960.

Then too, that “magical moment in travel” was pretty much what happened when – later in the week – the three parts of the family got together for the memorial in Swedesboro.  We all came together “as if by magic.”

In the meantime I just checked the word counter.  It said the last paragraph put me at 1,344 words.  That means it’s time to start wrapping this up.

So here’s a condensed version of journal entries for this trip-part.  For readers more interested – or more masochistic– there’s a longer version at the end of the notes.

On Monday evening, June 29, I treated my hosts to dinner at the Hard Rock Café down on the Boardwalk.  (“I made believe I lost my credit card.  Hah!  Fooled everyone.”)  Then at another restaurant a day or so later, I walked off and left my cell phone.  I got it back, but it reminded me of something a fellow old-person once said:  “I’m not senile, I’m processing!”

Which probably qualifies as the travel writer “humbling himself.”

I don’t recall Steinbeck writing of such problems in his journey.  But see also A “Travels With Charley” Timeline, which noted “screaming signs of fictionalization,” Steinbeck’s being “fuzzy about time and place,” not to mention vague and confusing:

The book also includes scenes of several lonely overnight campouts under the stars that didn’t happen and it omits many things Steinbeck did with his wife Elaine when she joined him for a month on the West Coast.

But hey, nobody’s perfect.  (See also “young pup – definition … from the Oxford dictionary.”)

One definite highlight of the stay in Atlantic City was a visit to the Tuckerton Seaport & Baymen’s Museum (seen at right):

“Only six bucks and a great bargain at that, even though many of the exhibits were still closed, due to Superstorm Sandy.”  And among other things, I learned about the Battle of Chestnut Neck, which I’d never heard of.  (In the Revolutionary War.)

See also Travel broadens the mind, with 50 inspiring quotes, including one from Steinbeck: “A journey is like marriage.  The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”

On that note, we also did a lot of walking along the Boardwalk over several days in AC, marked by “stopping and starting, shopping, and watching the ‘passing panoply.'”

But getting back to that Journey Motif, “leading to an epiphany, or some sort of self-realization.”

We left Atlantic city on Thursday, July 2, heading for the Swedesboro cemetery.  I followed my even-more-delightfully-retro brother, who refuses to use anything like a GPS.  West on U.S. 322, not wanting to pay a toll or go through the traffic on the Atlantic City Expressway.  There were a number of stops and starts, not to mention turnarounds and dead ends, and we were supposed to meet up with the rest of the family at noon.

I was starting to have my doubts, but we ended up getting “to the cemetery right at 12:04, just behind the Prius;” i.e., the one  carrying the oldest brother, his wife and matriarchal aunt, “just getting out of the car.”  It reminded me of Steinbeck’s finding a friend’s house on Deer Isle:

I climbed a hill and turned right into pine woods and on a smaller road, and turned right on a very narrow road and turned right again on wheel tracks on pine needles.  It is so easy once you have done it.

Picture(TWC-2, 46)  As I wrote in my journal, “We laid Dad’s ashes to rest where the nice guy had dug a huge hole.  Each of us said a little something, then we had a nice lunch at a ‘Fireside’ restaurant in Swedesboro.”  (Rode’s Fireside Restaurant, at left.)

Then we drove across the Delaware Memorial Bridge to our aunt’s house in Wilmington.

Which brings up the matter of my crossing the Delaware River in my kayak the next morning.  It seems that crossing the Delaware is why there are two “Old Swedes” on each side of the river:

The journey across the Delaware by canoe and sailboat was hazardous and often impossible.  In 1706, the first priest serving St. George’s, The Reverend Lars Tollstadius was drowned while crossing the Delaware.

See the notes below, St. Georges Episcopal Church Pennsville, and also The Delaware Finns:  “on the 29th of May 1706, Tollstadius was drowned in crossing the Delaware in a canoe.  Before his death, the congregation had found objections against him, for his irregular mode of living.”  But see also Trinity Episcopal Church, Swedesboro, which had it this way:

After Tollstadius’ apparent suicide in 1706 (he was under indictment by the Burlington Court), he was succeeded by Jonas Auren, one of the three pastors to arrive in 1697. (E.A.)

Be that as it may…  (I don’t want to get into either “irregular modes of living” or being under indictment.)  Be that as it may, I myself paddled across the Delaware in a little 8-foot kayak, early the next morning and notwithstanding the danger!  (As noted in Parts I and II.)  It took almost exactly an hour, from Battery Park in New Castle, across the river to Riverview Beach Park in Pennsville.  But aside from a couple of humongous freighters on the river – and the wakes they generated – the crossing was pretty uneventful.

So much for learning from history


“Old Swede’s Church [Trinity Church] in Swedesboro, New Jersey…”


The upper image is courtesy of Wyndham Skyline Tower – 64 Photos, and/or “Giovanni A.

The “football” image is courtesy of College football – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Rutgers College football team in 1882.”

A note:  Quotes from “Travels with Charlie” are generally from the 1980 Penguin Books edition.  Quotes from “TWC-2” are from the 1962 “Viking Press” edition.

Re: Old Swedes, New Jersey.  That’s not to be confused with Old Swedes – Wilmington, across the river, known as Holy Trinity.  Old Swedes New Jersey was built because of the difficulty in crossing the Delaware River, as noted elsewhere:  “To attend church, the Swedish settlers in Raccoon had to cross the river to Wilmington or Philadelphia.  The difficulty of this crossing led to the decision to build a new church on the banks of Raccoon Creek.”

Another note: The “laying to rest” of my father’s ashes actually occurred at Lake Park Cemetery in Woolwich, some six-tenths of a mile south of the Jersey Old Swedes.  Thus the phrase “at (or near) “Old Swedes.”

Re “Ambassador East.”  See The Pump Room, Chicago – Wikipedia:  “The Pump Room … is a restaurant located in the Public Chicago Hotel, formerly The Ambassador East, in Chicago‘s Gold Coast area.”  The lobby image is courtesy of Public Chicago Hotel – 136 Photos.

Re:  “Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you.”  A variation of the phrase popularized in 1998’s The Big Lebowski.  (See Wikipedia.)  See also Urban Dictionary: sometimes you eat the bear, and/or What does this quote from The Big Lebowski mean?

The lower image is courtesy of Swedesboro, New Jersey – Wikipedia.

*   *   *   *

Other highlights of this portion of the road trip included a visit to the Absecon Lighthousedinner at the LandShark Bar & Grill Restaurant in Atlantic City (on the Boardwalk), a visit to Longwood Gardens (north of Wilmington in Pennsylvania, “one of the premier botanical gardens in the United States”), and another dinner at Gallucio’s Italian Restaurantt in Wilmington.

All highly recommended by this “travel writer…”



On rectal thermometers and “you’re entitle'”

“Voyageur canoe shooting the rapids,” not unlike what yours truly will do in the next few weeks… 


I’m leaving town on Monday, August 10, and won’t be back until August 27.  (A matter of some unfinished business, canoe-trip-wise.)   So here’s a post that I hope will tide you over.

I recently ran across one of Harry Golden‘s later books.  It’s called You’re entitle’ , and it was published in 1962.  (By the World Publishing Company of Cleveland.)  As noted in Harry Golden, My Father & ‘Entitlements’ – Zest of Orange, that was the “expression of a free man:”

You’re Entitle’ … was not nearly as successful as its predecessors[, including] Only in America (1958), For 2¢ Plain (1958)…  Golden dedicated the book to his father[:]  “All his life he spoke a halting English, though he certainly made his ideas clear enough,” wrote Golden. “He was enamored of the phrase, ‘You’re entitle’.’  In his youth, Golden would correct him, saying, “It ends with a d, Poppa.”  His father would nod understandingly “but the next time it still came out, ‘You’re entitle’.”

As noted below, this later book contains a number of gems that could be reflected on.  Things like “the good life,” the ongoing Conservative Tide, and rectal thermometers as a sign of gradual integration.  (Not that there’s any connection…)

Product DetailsThe first nugget of wisdom came on page 25, “A note in passing:”

I am a reporter and, I hope, no sermonizer.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t know something about this process of living.  I shall soon see my sixtieth year and along with hundreds of thousands of other middle-aged men, I believe the good life, as the Greeks called it, is within reach.  We only have to be careful about two things.  First, don’t get in trouble with the Internal Revenue people; and second, don’t get mixed up with a woman.

Those last two are still good advice.  But I was struck by the combination of his referring to almost-60 as “middle aged,” and the connotation with it, that he was “older and wiser.”  Of course we all tend to get wiser as we grow older, but Harry’s idea of “60 as the new 30” seems way ahead of his time.  See On RABBIT – and “60 is the new 30″ – (Part II), which noted John Updike’s “overall image of 65-year-olds in 1969 is of people who really are over the hill. ”

So once again, Harry Golden was ahead of his time.

Which brings up his meditation (also on page 25), “Memo to Senator Goldwater.”

One of the things which the country could stand right now [1962] is a movement spearheaded by Senator Goldwater [seen below right] and Mr. William Buckley, of the National Review, to change the designation of the “liberal arts college” to the “conservative arts college.”  We might as well have this thing out in then open.

Barry Goldwater photo1962.jpgThere’s some debate whether the “Conservative Tide” in America is waxing or waning. See Conservative tide continues to ebb, particularly on social issues, posted in 2014.  But see also Conservative tide that swept Reagan in may be subsiding, which said basically the same thing in 1985.  The fact remains, however, that Harry had a fine sense of irony.

Which brings up again the title of Harry’s 1962 book, as meditated on by the Zest of Orange blogger:

That word, wrote Golden, “was the expression of a free man.  No one was entitled in Eastern Europe.  You served in the army for 10 years and it entitled you to nothing.  Your taxes entitled you to no franchise.  But in America men were free and entitled…”  Golden wrote those words in 1962.  My, how times have changed.

Times have indeed changed, but so far America remains free…

Which is due in large part to both our national despising of phonies and our sense of American ingenuity.  Harry gave an example on page 108, “You had to have baggage.”  This essay had to do with the Raines law.  Passed in 1896 by the New York legislature, the law “prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sunday except in hotels.”  As Harry noted, the law was also designed to improve the morals of hotel-keepers (and guests), and to cut down on prostitution.

But as Wikipedia noted, the result was “dozens or Raines law hotels,” usually right over saloons. The result was an actual increase in prostitution, “as the rooms in many ‘Raines law hotels’ were used mostly by prostitutes and unmarried couples.”  There were also the “saloon keepers who mocked the law by setting out ‘brick sandwiches,’ two pieces of bread with a brick in between, thus fulfilling the legal requirement of serving food.”

But Harry noted yet another example of the law of unintended consequences:

When the Raines law was passed … it was designed to improve morals, especially the morals of hotel-keepers and their guests.  One of the provisions of the law was that you could not rent a room to a couple unless they had baggage.  A day after the law went into effect, a dozen luggage stores opened up along Sixth Avenue with big signs, “Baggage rented.”  A fellow with a girl walked into one of these stores and for a two-dollar deposit and a fifty-cents-an-hour rate got a bag filled with newspapers, and they went off together happily to the hotel. When they were through  they returned the bag and got the deposit back.

Which brings up what Calvin – of Calvin and Hobbes – had to say on the matter:

Calvin on Obeying the Law - debate Photo

See also On “expressio unius,” which discussed the concept of gaming the system, otherwise known as “manipulating the system for a desired outcome.”  (At which Americans seem adept.)

And finally, getting back to Harry Golden’s “fine sense of irony.”

On page 218 of You’re entitle’, Harry noted a telling anomaly.  (Again, in 1962):

In the emergency room of the Alachua General Hospital at Gainesville, Florida, there are three thermometers.  They stand in a row on a small shelf with nothing else.  The first is in an open container labeled:  “WHITE – ORAL,” the third is in an identical container labeled, “COLORED – ORAL,” and the middle one, which protrudes through a cork, in its otherwise sameness, is labeled “RECTAL.”

This is what I call gradual integration.

Sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or cry…


The upper image is courtesy of Canoe – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Re: World Publishing.  See Encyclopedia of Cleveland History: WORLD PUBLISHING CO., which noted that “World” was a “major publisher of Bibles, dictionaries, and children’s and trade books.”

The Goldwater image is courtesy of Barry Goldwater – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

 The Calvin cartoon is courtesy of Calvin on Obeying the Law – Debate Photo (1160519) – Fanpop.

The lower image is courtesy of States.  The caption:  “An African-American man goes into the ‘colored’ entrance of a movie theater in Belzoni, Mississippi, 1939.

On American History, “patched and piebald” of Independence:  John Adams – “patched and piebald” – stands at center, hand on hip…


Here’s a break in the action from my multi-volume Mid-summer Travelog.

I recently got some  much-needed cheering up on the political front.  I got cheered up by listening to two lectures on CD.  The one I just started is Brotherhood of the Revolution: How America’s Founders Forged a New Nation.  I started listening just a few days ago.

The other CD – actually an audiobook – was Chris Matthew’s Life’s a Campaign.   I talked about it on June 12, in “Great politicians sell hope.”  I noted the book gave me the sense that the most of the U.S. presidents of the past have been – overall, generally, and even the ones I didn’t like – “decent, honorable and capable.”  What’s more, the book gave me a sense that the same applies – in general – “to politicians today.  (Gasp!)”

I’ll write more on Campaign later, but for now I’ll focus on Brotherhood of the Revolution.

I got as far as Lecture 3 – Disc 2, Track 6 – where I felt moved to note the disconnect between history as it’s written – and taught – and as it actually happens. (How it’s actually lived through.)  John Adams – for one – preferred the more-accurate history as actually lived through, as opposed to the popular rose-colored glasses.  See Adams and American Mythology:

In elementary school, they told us that the Founding Fathers were Great Men.  They sat down in Philadelphia in 1776 with a mandate from God, and calmly and certainly wrote the Declaration of Independence.  Then they fought the British, and then they founded the first democracy ever, and then independence and democracy spread to the rest of the world.  They knew what they were doing.  They were carried by a sure and steady tide.

The American Mythology site said this mythos “became popular while Adams was still alive,” but it was a view of history he loathed.  That was followed by a statement of “nothing certain in what those ‘great men’ did in Philadelphia.”  Our American History – as lived through – was “improvised, patched together, made up from one moment to the next, with every outcome uncertain until it was safely past.”

1776 film poster.jpgThe site noted the musical 1776 – and film, shown at left – which had John Adams saying these words.  (Words that mirrored “almost exactly” what he wrote in a letter to Benjamin Rush in 1790):

I’ll not be in the history books.  Only Franklin.  Franklin did this, and Franklin did that, and Franklin did some other damn thing.  Franklin smote the ground, and out sprang General Washington, fully grown and on his horse.  Then Franklin electrified him with that miraculous lightning-rod of his, and the three of them – Franklin, Washington, and the horse – conducted the entire War for Independence all by themselves.

The article noted another book by Ellis, his 2002 Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation.  See also Wikipedia, which described the “fractious disputes and hysterical rhetoric of these contentious nation-builders.” (Emphasis added.)

Wikipedia said these disputes might come across today as “hyperbolic pettiness.”  (Hyperbole is the use of “exaggeration as a rhetorical device.”)  But the article added that Founding Brothers showed the real issues, the “driving assumptions and riveting fears that animated Americans’ first encounter with the organized ideologies and interests we call parties.”  (And apparently that “hysterical rhetoric” isn’t limited to our times.)  Then came Adams:

As Adams remembered it… ‘all the great critical questions about men and measure from 1774 to 1778’ were desperately contested and highly problematic…   Nothing was clear, inevitable, or even comprehensible to the soldiers in the field at Saratoga or the statesmen in the corridors at Philadelphia:  ‘It was patched and piebald policy then, as it is now, ever was, and ever will be, world without end.’  The real drama of the American Revolution … was its inherent messiness.

(Emphasis added.)  Note that term, “inherent messiness.”

And incidentally, the term “piebald” usually refers to the spotting on a certain type of horse.  (As shown at right.)  But in a metaphoric sense it means “composed of incongruous parts.”  See for example piebald – Wikipedia, and Piebald … Merriam-Webster.

See also American Creation – Book Review, noting Ellis on Adams’ theory that – in the history of the Revolution as people lived it – “contingency played a large role in shaping the decisions of leaders who were often making it up as they went along, teetering on the edge of the abyss.”

Note that term too, “teetering on the edge of the abyss,” which also seems to apply today.

Which brings us back to Brotherhood of the Revolution.  As noted, I’ve gotten as far as Lecture Three.  Ellis said that in the process of studying Adams – living through the Revolution as he did – it was most fascinating to read his letters and diaries.  Those papers give “a sense of how confused and how incoherent and inchoate events seemed at the time.”  And this was especially true of the letters of Adams to his wife Abigail in the critical years 1775-1776.

Ellis noted the turmoil of those two years, engulfing the Colonies.  But during that key time in American History, John and Abigail wrote mostly about their children, and about the smallpox epidemic raging through America at the time.  See Siege of Boston – Wikipedia.  Their biggest fear was of losing their children.  (And so it likely is of all history “as it’s lived through.”)

Which Ellis said brought up the point that when we study history, we normally divide it into “segments.”  But history as it’s lived through – as it happens – “happens in a variety of different ways, all at the same time.”  Which brings up that key difference, between how Adams saw such developing history, and how a guy named Thomas Jefferson saw it.

In later years, Jefferson recalled the Revolution as “clear moral conflict between right and wrong.”  But Adams saw the Revolution as a chaotic event, a “concatenation, a tumbling, overlapping experience of turmoil.”  And that chaos – illustrated at left – swept up all Americans living at the time.  Adams rejected Jefferson’s view of American history.  He thought his patched and piebald memory of the war was more accurate:

“We didn’t know what we were doing.  We were improvising … always on the edge of catastrophe.”

Which brings us to today’s political gridlock.

Before I listened to Brotherhood, I felt that we too are living in a time of chaos.  See Gridlock in Congress?  It’s probably even worse than you think (Washington Post), Political gridlock: Unprecedentedly dysfunctional, (The Economist),  and Political Gridlock – Huffington Post.  (A list of articles on the current gridlock.)

But after listening to the CD, I came to think maybe today’s gridlock is more of a “Situation Normal.”  (Or as Adams would say, politics “as it is now, ever was, and ever will be, world without end.”)  Remember those terms, “improvised, patched together, made up from one moment to the next?”  “Hysterical rhetoric?”  “Teetering on the edge of the abyss?

As Churchill said, “No one pretends democracy is perfect or all wise.  Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried…

So cheer up.  At least we haven’t come to this!   (Not yet anyway…)


Congressman Brooks makes a point of order with Senator Sumner…

The upper image is courtesy of  The caption:  “50 men, most of them seated, are in a large meeting room. Most are focused on the five men standing in the center of the room.  The tallest of the five is laying a document on a table.”

See also The Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull, and John Adams – Wikipedia, with the caption: “Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence depicts committee presenting draft Declaration of Independence to Congress.   Adams at center has hand on hip.”  Thus Trumbull showed “only” the presentation of the first draft of the Declaration, not the signing itself.

Re:  The views of Ellis – and Adams – on history as people actually live through it:  “What in retrospect has the look of a foreordained unfolding of God’s will was in reality an improvisational affair in which sheer chance” – not to mention pure luck – “determined the outcome.”  See also Trust and Caution – The New York Times, which noted:  “How to live in a tragic milieu and yet strive toward triumph … was a consuming concern for the founders.”  As it is even to this day

Re: 1775-1776.  The full cite in the text is American Revolution: Conflict and Revolution 1775-1776.

Re: Smallpox during the siege of Boston.  See The Siege of Boston & Smallpox – 1775 – 1776, and Colonial Germ Warfare : The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.  The latter especially noted the circumstantial evidence that the British engaged in a form of germ warfare against Americans during the siege.  The article noted most British troops had either been inoculated or had smallpox, and thus were immune.  Further, smallpox was endemic in Europe at the time – “almost always present” – so that nearly everyone had been exposed, and “most of the adult population had antibodies that protected it.”  On the other hand, most American soldiers were susceptible; at the time of the siege most Americans had never come in contact with the virus, and thus had no immunity.

As Ellis also noted in Brotherhood of the Revolution,  John Adams was a paradox, a “conservative revolutionary,” as shown by his defending the British soldiers after the “Boston Massacre.”  See The Boston Massacre Trials | John Adams Historical Society, and also Boston Massacre – Wikipedia:

The trial of the eight soldiers opened on November 27, 1770.  Adams told the jury to look beyond the fact the soldiers were British.  He argued that if the soldiers were endangered by the mob, which he called “a motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes, and molattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish jack tarrs [i.e. sailors],” they had the legal right to fight back, and so were innocent.  If they were provoked but not endangered, he argued, they were at most guilty of manslaughter.

Which raises the question:  Are there any such conservative revolutionaries today?

The chaos image is courtesy of Chaos theory – WikipediaThe caption:

Turbulence in the tip vortex from an airplane wing.  Studies of the critical point beyond which a system creates turbulence were important for chaos theory[, including] that fluid turbulence could develop through a strange attractor, a main concept of chaos theory.

The Churchill quote is from Winston Churchill’s Quote on Democracy : Papers – Free Essays.

The lower image is courtesy of Caning of Charles Sumner – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaThe caption:  “Lithograph of Preston Brooks‘ 1856 attack on Sumner; the artist depicts the faceless assailant bludgeoning the learned martyr.”  See also 1851: Caning of Senator Charles Sumner – May 22, 1856 (Senate Archives), and Preston Brooks – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Note that Sumner recovered from the attack and returned to the Senate in 1859.  He served throughout the Civil War and beyond, until 1872, where he served much of the time as “powerful chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.”

Brooks on the other hand died less than a year later, “unexpectedly from croup in January 1857…   The official telegram announcing his death stated ‘He died a horrid death, and suffered intensely.'”




A mid-summer travelog – Part II

There in the quiet, [I] could finally come to think about what I had seen and try to arrange some pattern…  Maybe understanding is only possible after.  Years ago when I used to work in the woods it was said of lumber men that they did their logging in the whorehouse and their sex in the woods.

                                                                                                                                            –  “Travels with Charley”

And so it seems to have been with my recent road trip.

As noted in Part I, I love John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.  So I decided to model my recent two-week road trip after his.  (To make my travelog a microcosm of his.)  And I’m not alone:  See A “Travels With Charley” Timeline, which noted among other things that “’TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY’ MAKES A LOUSY MAP.”  (That criticism notwithstanding, it’s a pretty interesting read...)

One thing I remember is his saying lumberjacks did their whoring in the woods and their logging in the city – i.e., the bar and/or whorehouse.  Which is another way of saying that it’s only now that my trip is over that I can look back and relish the memories just lived through. kayaking across the Delaware River just below Wilmington (at left), or seeing Atlantic City from the 32d-floor penthouse of a swanky hotel, or hiking 17 miles in a day and a half on New york City’s hard concrete sidewalks.But more about that later.

To bring you up to speed, I started off by leaving the Atlanta area shortly after noon on Friday, June 26.  (Actually, after lunching with Mi Dulce at the Olive Garden near Conyers GA.)

A note:  When I first formulated my plan, I assumed I’d need to get around the Atlanta Beltway – always a challenge – before the traffic got really bad.  Then I further assumed I could get to Columbia SC by the end of the day.  That original plan also envisioned me camping on the way up, but that was when the spring weather was nice and cool.

It was also before I started reading the fine print about camping these days.

Steinbeck’s method of camping may have been feasible in 1960, but not today.

Motor homes and recreational vehicles swarm the highways, and most localities now have stringent regulations about such vehicles camping overnight, as Steinbeck did.  (On the other hand, some high-volume businesses welcome such RVs in their parking lots overnight, figuring the occupants will spend some money there.)  But the key difference is the cost of staying overnight in a campground, even if it’s a state park.

I figured to save some money on the way up to  Atlantic City – where I was to meet my brother and sister-in-law on Sunday night, June 28 – by taking along a tent.  But again – as I found out – the days of camping a la Steinbeck are no more.

Then there was the weather to consider.  (Steinbeck took his road trip after Labor Day.  I took mine in mid-summer, when the hordes of touristy-types were in full force.)  Meaning by the end of June the weather was a little too hot.  All of which meant that for just a tee-toncey bit more than the price of sweating out a summer’s eve in South Carolina or Virginia, I could sleep in a nice air-conditioned motel room.

Be that as it may, that first night I made Florence – farther than Columbia – and stayed at a Thunderbird Inn.  On Saturday June 27 I made my first sight-seeing stop, the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville NC, home of Fort Bragg.  (Not to be confused with Fort Bragg, California.)

That ASO Museum brought back memories of my younger days, like  when I too jumped out of perfectly good airplanes…  And it was well worth the price of admission.  I could say the same thing about downtown Fayetteville.  It’s a charming little downtown area, and not at all what I’d been led to expect.

But the drive up I-95 from there turned out to be trouble.  For one thing, I had to battle a long line of rain and thunderstorms all afternoon.  For another thing, the interstate was packed with tourist-traffic, so I had to keep getting off, taking back roads and eventually coming back to I-95.

I’d planned to take the back road to the Jamestown Ferry to Williamsburg, but eventually it got too late in the day for me to take that scenic interlude.  I ended up not getting to the Motel 6 in Williamsburg – where I’d made an online reservation – until 8:00.  Driving in through town I noticed the businesses in the area had no lights.  My thought was, “What?  Do they roll up the sidewalks at 7:00 around here?”  Then I spotted the motel and pulled in.  A whole bunch of people started cheering like mad, and I thought, “Geez, they’re really friendly here!

As it turned out, they’d had no power since 5:00, when the passing storms knocked it out.  So the power – and the lights – had just come back on as I pulled in.

The next morning – Sunday – I woke up early, at 5:30.  I got a McDonald’s senior coffee and walked through the touristy areas of Williamsburg while it was still quiet.  (I used to like Williamsburg a lot more.  Now it’s too much like Disney World, where you buy a too-expensive all-inclusive ticket, then try to figure out how to maximize your cost-benefits.  I guess a part of me is as grumpy as Steinbeck was, sometimes…)

From there I drove across the bridge from Hampton Roads to Norfolk, then down to Virginia Beach and up to where I supposed the First Landing State Park was.  (Noted below.)  I now know that I passed very close by it, but never did actually see it.  (The phone-map-app isn’t infallible after all, especially when you’re trying to drive while viewing it.)

Eventually I took the Chesapeake Bay Bridge – seen at right – and up to the Cape May Ferry.   In this way I planned an “end run” around the twin monsters of traffic around Baltimore and Washington D.C., not to mention the endless tolls on I-95.  That plan mirrored Steinbeck’s own end run through  Ontario, thus “bypassing not only Erie [PA] but Cleveland and Toledo.*”

His trick play ended in harassment and humiliation by U.S. Customs Officials.  Because of that he stayed that night in the most expensive auto court he could find, “a pleasure dome of ivory and apes and peacocks.”  There he ordered room service with all the trimmings:

I overtipped mercilessly.  Before I went to sleep I went over all the things I wished I had said to that immigration man, and some of them were incredibly clever and cutting.

My end run was marred only by my missing the 4:15 ferry by a hair.  Because of that I had to order a beer and sit around the Lewes, Delaware terminal, waiting for the 5:15 boat.

The point is I guess in some ways I am very much like Steinbeck.  (Notwithstanding my devotion to aerobic exercise on the road, as noted in Part I.)  I may take interstates to make good time, when necessary.  I despise “5:00 traffic,” and especially when it lasts from 7:00 to 10:00 in the morning and 3:00 to 7:00 in the evening, as it tends to do these days.

So anyway, my goal that fine Sunday was to reach Atlantic City and it’s famous Boardwalk.

To be continued…


The upper photo is courtesy of Walden – Wikipedia, on the “reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings” made famous by transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau. The caption:  “Walden Pond discussed extensively in chapter, The Ponds.”

Re: Steinbeck’s book.  The quote about lumberjacks and whores is on page 109 of my 1980 Penguin Books edition.  The part about his proposed “end run” into Ontario runs from page 84 to 88.  And for a site with a number of TWC quotes see Travels With Charley – Route 99.

Re: The Atlanta Beltway, better known to locals as “the Perimeter” and/or the Bypass.  It has the honor of being “one of the most heavily traveled roadways in the United States, and portions of the highway slow, sometimes to a crawl, during rush hour.”  See Interstate 285 – Wikipedia.

The “airborne” photo is courtesy of Facebook: Airborne & Special Operations Museum Foundation.

Re: Chesapeake Bay Bridge image.  The caption: “view of the Virginia Beach entrance to the bridge.”

Re: “missing the 4:15 ferry by a hair.”  I would have made it, but got behind some knucklehead at the red light at the Highway 9 turn-off to the Lewes terminal.  This particular knucklehead didn’t know the rule about right on red, so he let six or seven cars turn left into the terminal, coming from the other direction.  I missed getting loaded on to the 4:15 ferry by two cars…

The lower image is courtesy of A Look Back at Atlantic City Boardwalk [VINTAGE PHOTOS].

*   *   *   *

Re: “camping a la Steinbeck.”  The notes below are another advantage of writing that Steinbeck didn’t have.  As noted, “I figured to save some money on the way up … by taking along a tent.”

The first night out I planned to pitch a tent at the Sesquicentennial State Park southeast of Columbia.  The price would have been from $19 to $27 for a night, with water and electricity.   Then the second night I figured I could reach First Landing State Park, between Norfolk and Virginia Beach.  I’d never been there, and prices were said to range from $24 to $32, “plus tax.”  According to the camping link at Park Fees – Virginia Department of Conservation, the “standard” fee for one night is $24, while a site with water and electric cost $35.

At first that $24 didn’t seem too bad.  At least when I did my original planning, back when the weather was still cool.  (At least half the cost of a Motel 6.)  But then I started reading the fine print.  The rate for First Landing was for Virginia residents.  For non-residents the cost was $28 for “standard,” and $41 for a site with water and electric.  Which brought to mind the days of my youth – circa 1965 – when my mother took at least three of us boys around the United States – twice.  She could only do it by tent-camping, because that was far less expensive.

But those days are no more.  The explanation may well be that our politicians may still be saying, “Read my lips: no new taxes.”  They may still be saying that, but instead of “taxing,” they’re nickel-and-diming us right and left.  One result is that tent-camping is no loner a feasible way to save some money on a road trip like mine.  It now costs almost as much as a motel…


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A Mid-summer Travelog


The One World Observatory, a highlight of my recent road trip


Assiduous readers will notice that I hadn’t done a blog-post since last June 20.  The reason:  I took a two-week-long road trip, to points north including Atlantic City and New York City.  (Also known as the Big Apple.)   As always, such a pilgrimage can be both instructive and enlightening – not to mention just plain fun.  There’s more on that below, but:

In the meantime:

One of my favorite books is John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.  It’s about pilgrimages in general and driving pilgrimages especially.  (See also 12 miles offshore.)  So the theme of this post is to treat my recent road trip as a kind of Reader’s Digest condensed version – slash microcosm – of Steinbeck’s book and/or his travels.

In doing so I’ll note some drastic differences between highway travel in 1960 and 2015.

For one thing, for the price you pay to camp these days – as Steinbeck did – you can get a nice Motel 6 with AC.  (And that’s tent camping.  For what you pay for an RV or travel trailer, you can stay at a lot of Motel 6’s.)

For another thing, I didn’t pack hunting or fishing gear for my travels, as Steinbeck did. did pack – in my spandy-new 2015 Ford Escape – an 8-foot kayak, along with a stair-stepping stand and a 22-pound weight vest.  (To earn my aerobic points along the way.)  In that kayak – for one – I paddled across the Delaware River just below Wilmington.  (As seen at right, from the New Jersey side.)

I also paddled (some) up the Shenandoah River in Virginia, and through some backwater “meadows” southwest of Atlantic City.  Last but not least, I paddled for two hours on a little hideaway, Carvins Cove Reservoir.  (In Virginia, just outside Roanoke.)

A third difference:  I didn’t get lost as much or as easily as Steinbeck.  (Or as he said he did.)  Thanks mostly to my figuring out how to use the “map app” on my cell phone.

And I didn’t have to stop at a payphone. (Remember those?)  Steinbeck had to stop at a phone booth every third or fourth day, to have a three or four-minute conversation and re-establish contact with the family “back home.”  I had no need of that.  The three branches of the family meeting at the Swedesboro (NJ) cemetery on July 2 – the main reason for the get-together in the first place – could maintain constant contact via cell phone, including “instant texting.”

I did need to stop at local libraries, to use their computers. But only if I needed a secure connection, to check my bank accounts or – with the Ford being new – to make the first payment a few days into the trip.  (At the Hoboken Library.  Hoboken – across the Hudson – was the family base for visiting Manhattan, seen at left.)

And I wonder what John would have thought of cruise control?  (In either sense of the term…)

So , to set the stage:  Earlier this year my Utah brother sent an email saying he and his wife were visiting the Northeast in July, and would I like to join them?  Naturally I said yes, especially when another reason was added:  Laying our father’s ashes to rest in the family plot in Swedesboro, alongside those of his first wife – our mother – and our maternal grandmother and grandfather.  (And other of their offspring.)

The ashes had been left in the care of Dad’s second wife.  She in turn had died just last November 2014.  So in the months leading up to the road trip, discussion was had via email about the interment, along with getting headstones honoring their service in World War II.  (He was a navigator in the Army Air Corps.  She was an Army nurse in Memphis, where they met.)  And the memorial lent a certain gravitas to the whole “joint venture.”

Which makes this a good place to end the first installment.  Except to note that one place I wanted to visit – on the way home – was Reading PA, known in literary circles as “Brewer.”  This fictional Brewer is the setting of John Updike’s five books about “Rabbit” Angstrom, constituting an homage to each decade from 1960 to 2000.  See On RABBIT – and “60 is the new 30″ – (Part I).

Thus my trip emulated Steinbeck’s visit to Sauk Centre, Minnesota, “metaphoric setting of [Sinclair] Lewis’ satirical novel, Main Street.” (See On Oscar Wilde and “gross indecencies”.)

And one of Reading-Brewer’s notable landmarks is “the Pagoda,” seen below.  There’ll be more on that visit and others in the next installment.  (Like hiking 17 miles on the hard concrete sidewalks of lower Manhattan in our first day-and-a-half there.)

Panorama of the Pagoda area and nearby Reading

The Pagoda, on top of Mount Penn, with Reading PA (aka “Brewer”) in the background…


*  Not to be confused with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the comedy by William Shakespeare.  Written between 1590 and 1597, it’s one of Shakespeare’s most popular works, “widely performed across the world.” See Wikipedia, and also Travelogue | Definition … by Merriam-Webster.

The upper image is courtesy of  One World Observatory: Curbed NY.  It’s part of the article,  It’s Official: One World Observatory Will Open May 29.  On July 13, 2015, that was five articles down from Don’t Eat at One World Trade Center’s Sky-High Restaurants.  And it was true that the place was crowded, prices were high and seating was at a minimum.

Re:  Earning aerobic points along the way.  The term “aerobics” – along with the need for cardio-vascular exercise in general – didn’t enter into popular use until 1968, some eight years after Steinbeck’s road trip.  That was with the publication of Cooper’s ground-breaking AerobicsSee also Kenneth H. Cooper – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Delaware Bridge image is courtesy of, which is apparently the German-language edition.

The view-of-lower-Manhattan-and-Observatory is courtesy of

The bottom image is courtesy of Pagoda (Reading, Pennsylvania) – Wikipedia.  See also The Pagoda Reading, PA Home.

On RABBIT – and “60 is the new 30″ – (Part I)


*   *   *   *

I recently got a copy of A Sequel, “Rabbit Remembered.”

Which is another way of saying that Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom is dead.  (Heck, I didn’t even know he was sick.)   I first met Harry back in 1971, when I took a junior-college class in American literature.  One of the books was Rabbit, Run, and it made a deep impression.

Sixties Series Program thumbMore Rabbit novels followed – one at the end of each decade – and I read them all.  (One benefit was seeing how others got through the 1960s, interpreted at right.  Also the 1970s and 1980s.)  Then came  Rabbit Remembered, the novella by John Updike published in 2000.  That novella marked an end of an era – five books on Rabbit Angstrom.  (Wikipedia.)

(But see also Still Wild About Harry:  “Another decade has come and gone and here[‘s] the latest installment in the [‘Rabbit’] saga.”   The reviewer added that one hesitates to declare it the final installment, then gave a pithy synopsis of the whole series.)

The saga began in 1960 with Rabbit, Run, the only one of the five to be made a movie, as seen in the poster at the top of the page.  (It’s also very hard to find a copy.  See ‘Rabbit,’ lost.)  

As noted, a new Rabbit novel came at the end of each new decade, and so each became a time capsule, based on the density of Updike‘s writing.  (His attention to detail.)   Just to review, a time capsule is a “historic cache of goods or information, usually intended as a method of communication with future people,” and here’s what one obit said:

The detail of his writing was so rich that it inspired two schools of thought on Mr. Updike’s fiction:  those who responded to his descriptive prose as to a kind of poetry, a sensuous engagement with the world, and those who argued that it was more style than content

See John Updike, Lyrical Writer of the Middle-Class, Dies at 76.  But in this case, those “future people” include us aging Baby-boomers, as we look back and wonder how the heck we survived relatively intact.  (Considering all the garbage we went through.)

The original Rabbit Run showed “three months in the life of a 26-year-old former high school basketball player named Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom, and his attempts to escape the constraints of his life.”  (Wikipedia.)  But then escaping constraint was pretty much what the ’60s were about.  (The ’70s – at left – were a whole ‘nuther story…)

We’ll get back to that, but first consider what the same obit said of Updike (who died in 2009):

His best-known protagonist, Harry Rabbit Angstrom, first appears as a former high-school basketball star trapped in a loveless marriage and a sales job he hates.  Through the four novels whose titles bear his nickname — “Rabbit, Run,” “Rabbit Redux,” “Rabbit Is Rich” and “Rabbit at Rest” — the author traces the funny, restless and questing life of this middle-American against the background of the last half-century’s major events.

Which is another way of saying that the Rabbit novels are a great way to remember the major events of our formative years, from 1960 to 1999 – and then on to a New Millennium.

Again, in Rabbit Run Harry is a 26-year-old has-been whose life peaked in high school.  (He was a star basketball player and quintessential BMOC.)  Then one day at age 26 – trying to escape the “constraints of life” – he leaves his pregnant wife and infant son Nelson.  He first plans to drive south to Florida – where he eventually gets, in a sequel – but ends up bedding and moving in with Ruth Byers, a woman with a shady past.  (He gets her pregnant, and their daughter Annabelle ends up finally meeting her brother in Rabbit Remembered.)

In the midst of all this drama, Harry’s wife Janice accidentally drowns their new baby daughter, Rebecca.  Also, Harry puts the move on the Lucy Eccles, wife of the Episcopal priest trying to get him to “do the right thing.”  (It would have been nice to find out how the Eccles’ turned out – after all those years – and especially Lucy, whose “rump” Harry found so pleasant to pat…)

RabbitReduxbookcover.jpgIn Rabbit Redux, Harry gets a bit of comeuppance.  While he couldn’t keep his hands off Janice in the first novel, here she’s the one at her sexual peak.  It’s Harry who falls short in that department.  So Janice runs off to live with her lover, Charlie Stavros.  (Charlie later ends up as Harry’s only real friend – and fellow car-salesman at Springer Motors – in a sequel.)

Then Harry gets finagled into having a runaway named Jill – and her black lover Skeeter – move in with him and Nelson.  But all this is set against the rich back drop of the summer of 1969, and Neal Armstrong’s setting foot on the moon.

There’s more on that in Part II.  Meanwhile, in Rabbit is Rich, “Harry has reached a paunchy middle-age without relocating from Brewer, Pennsylvania, the poor, fictional city of his birth.”  (Actually, Reading, PA.)  The book was published in 1981, on the cusp of the decade that led to the end of the Berlin Wall…  And Rabbit is indeed rich, thanks to Janice.  (She inherited her dad’s Toyota dealership.)  But he’s also restless.  He covets the young wife of his golfing partner, while the wife of his former high-school teammate – Ronnie Harrison – has the hots for him.

Incidentally, Ronnie and Janice end up married in Rabbit Remembered.  Nelson is living with them too, in the old house Janice grew up in.  That’s until Ronnie calls Annabelle – visiting for Thanksgiving –  “the bastard child of a whore and a bum.”  (Referring to Ruth and Harry.  That dramatic turn of events leads to the novella’s denouement…  Also incidentally, Ronnie too knew Ruth in the Biblical sense back in the original, Rabbit Run (Which may explain his hostility.) 

For the rest of the story, see On RABBIT – and “60 is the new 30″ – (Part II).

*   *   *   *


The original post included an upper image of a movie poster, courtesy of … Rabbit_Run.html.  See also Rabbit, Run (film) – Wikipedia, and Rabbit, Run – Wikipedia.  Note also ‘Rabbit,’ lost – Reading Eagle, which said “finding a copy of Reading’s most famous feature-length film is just as hard as obtaining an interview with the novel’s elusive author.”

But for some reason this “platform for publishing” sometimes substitutes an actual image with a block stating – for example “image may contain sky, outdoor, nature,” which does me no good and is quite aggravating. When that happens I usually delete the useless “info box,” and note – as here – what used to be there. Like my addendum to the first note-graf, “(And you might want to check Symbolic Rabbit Meanings…)” And for more on the platform, see – Wikipedia

I continued with notes on the rating system for such movies – and posters:

Re: the rating system.  See Motion Picture Association of America film rating system:  “The ratings used from 1968 to 1970 were:  Rated G: General audiences, Rated M: Mature audiences – parental guidance advised, Rated R: Restricted – admission limited to persons older than 16, unless accompanied by parent or adult guardian, and Rated X: No one younger than 16 admitted.”  In 1970 the ages for “R” and “X” were raised from 16 to 17, but regardless, the system “has had a number of high-profile critics.  Film critic Roger Ebert argued that the system places too much emphasis on sex, while allowing the portrayal of massive amounts of gruesome violence.  The uneven emphasis on sex versus violence is echoed by other critics, including David Ansen, as well as many filmmakers…”

Other sources used in writing this post included John Updike Facts, information, pictures |, The 100 best novels: No 88 – Rabbit Redux by John Updike, In Reading, Pa., Memories and Monuments of Updike, and Rabbit at Rest – The New York Times.

 The 1960’s poster-image is courtesy of  See also Americans Have Changed in a Big Way Since the 1960s, for a different spin on today’s theme…

The 1970s poster-image is courtesy of

The lower (1980’s Berlin-wall) image is courtesy of 1980s – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 marked the beginning of German reunification.”

On RABBIT – and “60 is the new 30” – (Part II)

The last issue of the Saturday Evening Post, published on February 8, 1969…


Welcome back to the “Georgia Wasp…”

We were remembering the last decades of the 20 century, as memorialized by and through John Updike’s series of five “Rabbit” novels.  (Or four novels and a novella…)

I’d noted that Janice Angstrom – by now Harry’s widow – ended up married to Ronnie Harrison in Rabbit Remembered, the last of the series.  (Thelma Harrison – Ronnie’s wife – had also died, and was one of the women with whom Harry had “an affair.”)  And not to put too fine a point on it, Harry and Ronnie had known – and hated – each other since high school, when they were teammates on the basketball squad.  (They also “shared” Ruth Byers, at different times.)

So now that your up to speed – he wrote sarcastically – let’s get back to the Rabbit is Rich time frame.  In mid-winter 1979 the Angstroms jet off to Jamaica, where they end up in an initial wife swap with two other couples.  (That’s when Harry first learns that Ronnie’s wife Thelma has the hots for him.)  But then they have to go back home before the second swap, where Harry would have “known” the wife he really wanted (Cindy Murkett).   Son Nelson is causing no end of problems at the dealership, including smashing up two trade-in convertibles.

The next sequel, Rabbit at Rest, starts with Harry and Janice spending the winter of 1988-89 at their condo in Florida.  They leave Nelson in charge of the dealership, which turns out to be a mistake.  (He’s hooked on cocaine, which leads Toyota to “pull out,” Freudian slip intended.)

Other incidents include Harry having a heart attack – based on his crappy diet – and having a one-night stand with Nelson’s wife Pru while he recuperates.  (Not to mention brief appearances by Annabelle, Harry’s daughter, who’s become a nurse’s aide.)

“Janice’s anger over this betrayal prompts Harry to escape to Florida.” (Wikipedia.)  Which leads to one inescapable conclusion:  Harry was a bit of a sleazeball, albeit loveable to some.

And finally came Rabbit Remembered, set in late 1999.  (On the eve of the New Millennium noted above. )  Harry has died – of another heart attack – while living alone in the Florida condo he “ran” to at the end of Rabbit at Rest.  Nelson is still living with his mother, and her new husband Ronnie Harrison, Harry’s old nemesis ever since high school.  Nelson’s wife Pru has taken their two children Judy and Roy back to Akron Ohio.  Then Annabelle shows up at Janice’s door; her mother Ruth has just died as well.

Aside from Ronnie calling Annabelle “the bastard child of a whore and a bum” at Thanksgiving, the saga includes a tale of childhood sexual abuse, and one of Nelson’s clients committing suicide.  (After his bout with cocaine, Nelson became a certified mental-health counselor, thanks in part to a course of study at the “Hubert F. Farnsworth Community College.”  Farnsworth was the surname of the same “Skeeter” who’d lived with Harry, Nelson and Jill in the summer of 1969.  Skeeter later died in shootout with Philadelphia police.)

To cut to the chase, the final book ends with an uncharacteristic – for Updike – note of hope.

In the rush to make the Y2K celebration, Nelson drives recklessly through an intersection – the stoplights have all gone out – and faces death in the form of a “cocky brat in a baseball cap.”  The cocky brat drives an SUV and goes out of turn at a four-way stop.  Nelson – with decades of “wrongs, hurts, unjust deaths press[ing] behind his eyes” – faces death and comes out unscathed. (As Winston Churchill – seen at right – said, “There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at with no result.“)  This act of bravery magically rekindles Pru’s love; “Oh honey, that was great…”  Then too, riding in the back seat are Annabelle and Nelson’s childhood friend – and part-time nemesis – Billy Fosnacht.  In the end these lost souls start “seeing each other.”

As noted, this happy ending was uncharacteristic of Updike, but aside from that the last novella was enjoyable.  And as was characteristic of Updike’s writing, the detail is so thick that I found myself skipping much of it to get to the action.  As Charles Portis might say, Updike’s writing lulls you into a sense of woolgathering, and then he socks it to you with an unexpected twist.  The result was that I went through Rabbit Remembered the first time quickly, from a sense of impatience more than anything.   But now I’ve gone back and started re-reading it, to get the full flavor of the aforementioned Updike attention to detail.

More than that, I pulled out my worn and battered copy of Rabbit Redux, now some 40 years old itself.   (I bought the 1971 “Alfred A. Knopf” edition four or five years after it was first published.)  And re-reading Rabbit Redux brought back some points I’d forgotten.

For example, on page 9 there’s a bit of foreshadowing, one of Updike’s lesser-known fortes.

It’s the summer of 1969.  Harry and his father Earl have gotten off work “from the little printing plant at four sharp.”  They have a drink at a neighborhood bar, before taking separate buses home, in opposite directions.  Earl asks his son to visit “some evening before the weekend.”  (Mary Angstrom “has had Parkinson’s Disease for years now.”)  Harry responds:

“I don’t like to leave the kid alone in the house.  In fact I better be getting back there now just in case.”  In case it’s burned down.  In case a madman has moved in.

Which is of course just what happens later in the book.  A madman – in the form of “Skeeter,” later identified by the Brewer Vat as Hubert Farnsworth – does in fact move in with Harry.  He does so at the invitation of Jill, a runaway from Connecticut.  She in turn dies in the fire set by neighbors repelled by the “goings on” in the house, after Janice had moved in with Charlie…

But a more personal tidbit comes a bit later, when father and son are settling the bar bill.  Earl Angstrom had a Schlitz beer, and tells his son, “Here’s my forty cents.  Plus a dime for a tip.”

“Are you kidding me?”

Which is being interpreted:  “Do you mean to say there once was a time when you could go into a bar, pay 40 cents for a beer and leave a dime for the tip?  And not get thrown out or insulted?”

The answer?  Rabbit Redux reminds us that, “Yes, Virginia, there was such a time.”

But the really interesting tidbit – so far – turns on Harry’s mother turning 65.  Updike wrote of Earl Angstrom that he “looks merely old” once outside the bar, “liverish scoops below his eyes, broken veins along the sides of his nose.”  When Harry asks about their finances Earl responds, “Believe it or not there’s some advantages to living so long in this day and age.  This Sunday she’s going to be sixty-five and come under Medicare.”

On Sunday Harry goes to the house with Nelson.  (Janice is at Charlie’s.)  His mother greets him:

“I’m sixty-five,” she says, groping for phrases, so that her sentences end in the middle.  “When I was twenty.  I told my boyfriend I wanted to be shot.  When I was thirty…”  “You told Pop this?”  “Not your dad.  Another.  I didn’t meet your dad til later.  This other one, I’m glad.  He’s not here to see me now.”

St Pete Florida Vintage PostcardSo notwithstanding the fact that Mary has Parkinson’s, Updike’s overall image of 65-year-olds in 1969 is of people who really are over the hill.  (“Living so long in this day and age?”  Really?)  Or as they used to say of St. Petersburg, they were in “God’s Waiting Room” (shown at left):

St. Pete became a mecca for retired people.  They flocked to the sunshine and lived in the many residential hotels in the downtown area.  The symbol of St. Pete became old people sitting on the many green benches that dotted the sidewalks of the city.

But just like 40-cent beer you could buy in 1969 (plus a dime for the tip), those days are long gone.  See for example “60 is the new 30,” and also “Why 60 Is The New 30.”  The latter post noted that the “55-64 age group has shown the largest increase in entrepreneurial ventures, now accounting for more than 20 percent of all start-ups.”  (Thus literally “starting over when our grandparents would be strolling around golf communities in Florida.”)

I should note that there is some debate on whether 60 is the new 30, or the new 40.  See Is 60 the New 40? –  which noted that what elderly “meant to the Greatest Generation doesn’t hold for their offspring, the baby boomers.”  There’s also 60, Not 50, Is The New Middle Age – Huffington Post, and New research shows 60 is the new 40 – KING5:

Increasingly, people over 60 feel more like 40, and now they have the science to back them up…   The new research argues that since life expectancy continues to rise, age 60 should not be considered old.  It’s more “middle age,” because for many, there’s a lot of living left to do after age 60, even embarking on second or third careers.

Or as you might say of the Christie Brinkley image below:  “Now that’s turning 60! good argument for “60 is the new 30…”


The upper image is courtesy of

The Churchill image is courtesy of Winston Churchill – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Armstrong-on-the-moon photo is courtesy of 1969 – Wikipedia.

The lower image is courtesy of People magazine,,,20780764,00.html.

“Great politicians sell hope”

*   *   *   *

 “Great politicians sell hope.”

June 12, 2015 – I heard that quote a few days ago, listening to a “book on CD” by Chris Matthews.  And when I first heard it I thought, “What rock have you  been living under?

But then Chris went on to cite examples from American history, in his book, Life’s a Campaign.

He wrote that looking back, our best presidents – including JFK and Ronald Reagan – were able to “sell themselves.”  They were able to sell themselves by giving Americans a sense of hope for the future.  That led to a thought:  “Maybe that’s what this blog should be about…

But then I had another thought:  “He could be right, but what happened?

What happened to those politicos selling hope?

But let’s get back to how I happened to be listening to Chris Matthews’ book-on-CD in the first place.

It all started back in December 2014, when I attended a funeral back home in Florida.  The funeral was for my step-mother, who’d married my father back in January 1986.  (After my mother died the year before; it was the second time around for both of them.)

At the reception after the service – inside the parish hall  – I saw a table of used books for sale.  I found one that piqued my interest, The Presidents Club:  Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity.  I’ve been meaning to review it ever since I started this blog.  (In March 2015.)

But one thing I’ve learned during these busy days of retirement:  It’s a whole lot easier to listen to a book on CD – driving around town – than it is to actually read it.  And that’s why I found it far easier to review Life’s a Campaign than The Presidents Club.

Again, that book-on-CD was Chris Matthew’s Life’s a Campaign “What Politics Has Taught Me about Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success.”  (The quote on “great politicians” is from Disc 2, Track 6.)  And while by now I’ve listened to most of Life’s a Campaign, I’ve only managed to read portions of The Presidents Club.

But the really strange things is – suffice it to say – that both books have given me an inkling of a sense of hope for the future.  (For example, one thing The Presidents Club pointed out was that a funeral – and especially the funeral of former president – really puts things in perspective.)

Put another way, The Presidents Club gave me a sense that – generally speaking – the men who occupied the White House have been – overall – decent, honorable and capable.  Then too, Life’s a Campaign gave me a sense that maybe the same applies to politicians in general.  (Gasp!)

But then came a third thought:  Maybe today’s politicians seem especially nasty because many voters they’re trying to woo are just that way.  Maybe today’s politicians are simply a reflection of the nastiness that seems to have taken hold of a large part of our population.

On that note, see the Wikipedia article on dichotomy.  That article included this paragraph, about two-thirds of the way down under “Usage and examples:”

C. P. Snow believes that Western society has become an argument culture (The Two Cultures).  In The Argument Culture (1998), Deborah Tannen suggests that the dialogue of Western culture is characterized by a warlike atmosphere in which the winning side has truth (like a trophy).  Such a dialogue virtually ignores the middle alternatives.

(Emphasis added.)  In turn, if that is true, then we swing voters need to figure out what a politician really stands for, beyond those nasty things he has to say to get elected.

2015-02-09-GeorgeWallace.jpgTake George Wallace…  Please!  Though he’s widely known as one of the most race-baiting politicians in American history, his “final term as Governor (1983–1987) saw a record number of black Alabamians appointed to government positions.”  See Did George Wallace repent his racism? | Yahoo Answers, and The Redemption of George Wallace.

The gist of the Wallace story is that he changed his tune after his attempted assassination in 1972.  But there are other examples of politicians using shady tactics during an election campaign, then going on to serve honorably.  Think “George Bush the Elder” and his Willie Horton campaign in the 1988 election. (Though in hindsight Bush I comes to us now as a &^%$ genius!)

Then there’s the other side of the story.  Take Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan.  (Reviewing another Chris Matthews book.)  Or for that matter Ronald Reagan and Ted Kennedy. though the two men were politic arch-enemies, Kennedy admired the fact that Reagan “knew how to manipulate symbols for his causes yet could sup with his enemies:”

He’s absolutely professional.  When the sun goes down, the battles of the day are really gone.  He gave the Robert Kennedy Medal, which President Carter refused to do…   He’s very sure of himself, and I think that people sense that he’s comfortable with himself…   He had a philosophy and he’s fought for it.  There’s a consistency and continuity at a time when many others are flopping back and forth.  And that’s an important and instructive lesson for politicians, that people admire that.

(Bronner, 104)  Which brings us back to Harry Golden and his Carolina Israelite.  See also Great but Forgotten:  “If Golden were writing today, The Carolina Israelite would be done as a blog.”

Golden – who inspired this blog – wrote from 1942 to 1968.  Those years included McCarthyism Vietnam War protests, and the Civil Rights Movement.  Those years featured violence and political rhetoric of a harshness equal to or greater than that of today.  Yet throughout it all, Golden kept a sense of hope and a sense of humor.  (As in his satirical “Vertical Negro Plan,” which involved “removing the chairs from any to-be-integrated building, since Southern Whites didn’t mind standing with Blacks, only sitting with them.”)

Even the title of his best-selling Only in America conveyed a sense of hope and wonder:

The most outstanding ingredients of [Golden’s] personality are a built-in independent way of thinking, an infallible nose for sham and prejudice on any level (which he immediately exposes, lightly but decisively), a special Golden brand of wit and whimsy, and a love of people and learning…   “It could happen only in America,” is his most apt comment.

Carl Sandburg wrote in his introduction to the 1959 edition that “whatever is human interests Harry Golden.  Honest men, crooks, knuckleheads…”  He added that Golden was the perfect antidote for “too much of conformity and complacency, particularly among the young.” (OIA, xv-xvi.   Also on that note see Seinfeld takes on political correctness on college campuses.)

Sandurg further noted that it must have been someone like Golden who was “in the mind of the Yankee, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote:  ‘Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.'”

Golden himself said he drew “heavily on history, literature, philosophy,” in addition to “stories of the Lower East Side of New York where I was born.”  And he didn’t present a simplistic Pollyanna view of history, either his own or as it happened before his eyes.  Aside from those turbulent times he lived in, Golden went through five years in prison on an “embezzlement rap” – wire fraud.  Yet through it all he maintained a sense of hope and humor:  “As I continue to write of the passing parade, I am as happy as a mouse in a cookie jar.” (OIA, xx.)

All of which brings us back to the old saying noted in the Peanuts cartoon above, that in “bad times or hopelessness, it is more worthwhile to do some good, however small, in response than to complain about the situation.”  See also Better to light a single candle.  And that great bloggers – like great politicians – should work harder on “selling hope.”

That’s what this blog will try to do.  Harry Golden, “The torch has passed

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The “stupid darkness” cartoon is courtesy of You Stupid Darkness! | Kurtis Scaletta’s Site, which in turn links to, “one of the most amazing but little-known Internet resources.”  See also, and The 5 Greatest (newspaper) Comic Strips Of All Time.

The Matthews image is courtesy of Chris Matthews – Wikipedia.  For more on the audio version of his book, see Chris Matthews Audio & Video –, and/or Life’s a Campaign.

Re: Funerals and “perspective.”  See Reminders death provides about what’s really important in life.

Re: “argument culture.”  The full title of Deborah Tannen‘s book is The Argument Culture: Stopping America’s War of Words.  Tannen wrote an earlier book, You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation (1990).  According to Amazon, in that earlier book “Tannen showed why talking to someone of the opposite sex can be like talking to someone from another world.”

The George Wallace picture is courtesy What George Wallace Taught Me About Forgiveness | HuffPost. Written by “Trudy Bourgeois, Contributor,” the black lady standing over Wallace’s left shoulder in the picture. The gist of her article was about the need to forgive in order to move forward. As to the claim that Wallace “recanted his racist views and asked forgiveness from African-Americans,” Bourgeois said she believed he was sincere. “If you can forgive, then you will be able to avoid creating a worldview that is rooted in stereotypes.” See also The American Experience | George Wallace, a story about Wallace’s change of heart (and on “Wallace and his circle”):

In March, 1965, a violent confrontation between Alabama state troopers and peaceful civil rights marchers horrified the nation. The troops that beat and tear-gassed the demonstrators were under orders from Governor George Wallace…   Thirty years later, George Wallace would sit next to the podium at a ceremony commemorating the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march, holding the hand of the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Re:  “Take George Wallace…  Please!”  This refers to a classic Henny Youngman joke.  Youngman (1906-1998) was known for his one-liners, and his best-known was ‘Take my wife… please.’”   Henny Youngman – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  For more on the technique illustrated, see below.

Re: Willie Horton.  See Willie Horton – Top 10 Campaign Ads – TIME and The legacy of the Willie Horton ad lives on, 25 years later. As to the legacy of that ad, the latter article noted a comment by activist Al Sharpton, “The bad news for our politics has been that the tactics of our Willie Horton ad live on.”

Re:  Ted Kennedy on Ronald Reagan.  See Battle for Justice: How the [Robert] Bork Nomination Shook America, by Ethan Bronner, Anchor Book edition (1989), at page 104.  The Reagan-Kennedy image is courtesy of

Re: “the torch has passed.”  See The elements of styling a great inaugural address: , noting that in 1961, President Kennedy gave “what is considered to be one of the greatest inaugural addresses.”

The lower image is courtesy of

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Re: More on the Henny Youngman joke.  The joke relied on the principle of dislocation, used in comedy as well as magic and the martial arts. See, Shinogi –, which noted three types of dislocation: positional, temporal, and functional.  And a magician is also known as an illusionist.  See the Wikipedia article, Magic (illusion) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and also Alex Davies – Dislocation.  Finally, see The Internet Classics Archive | The Art of War by Sun Tzu, which noted the saying of Sun Tzu (q.v.), the ancient Chinese philosopher who said, “The fundamental principle of the Art of War is deception,” or in other words, dislocating your opponent.

So anyway, in the classic one-liner – told literally “a century ago” – the audience was led to expect Youngman to say “for example” when he began; as in, “Take my wife… for example.”  But instead of saying “for example,” Youngman dislocated his audience by saying, “Take my wife…  Please!

See also On praying in public.