Monthly Archives: October 2016

On Halloween – and “Fool’s Fire”

Japanese view of a Will-o’-the-wisp  –  That might “lead you to your doom” on Halloween night…

*   *   *   *

Jack-o'-Lantern 2003-10-31.jpgSunday, October 30 – If you’ve been living under a rock – or sticking your head in the sand to get away from negative political campaigning – you might not know that Halloween is tomorrow night.

And speaking of jack-o’-lanterns – like the one at right – they are widely known as one of the prime symbols of Halloween.  And in some traditions they are said to represent the “souls of the dead.”

Another theory is that some old-time people set those carved-out pumpkins on their windowsills, to keep out “harmful spirits.”  (Keep them from invading their home.)   And in yet another tradition,  jack-o’-lanterns “represented Christian souls in purgatory.”

(See also “corpse candles,” in the notes below…)

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Day of the Dead (1859).jpgWhich brings us back to Halloween.  But what many people don’t know is that Halloween is actually a religious holiday.  Or that there are actually Three Days of Halloween.  (Called the Halloween Triduum.)  The third day of the three-day holiday – November 2d – is called All Souls’ Day.  The original idea was to remember the souls of “the dear departed,” illustrated by the painting at left.

The second of the three days – November 1st – was known as All Saints’ Day.  But back in Merry Olde England, the word for “saint” was halig, which eventually became “hallow.”  (It may have been easier to pronounce…)  So originally – back in England – November 1st was called “All Hallows Day.”  That meant that – literally – the night of October 31 was the evening – or e’en – before “Hallows Day.”  (Or “All Hallows Day.”)

That then got shortened to “All Hallows E’en” – “Eve” or “Evening” – which in turn got shortened further to what we now know as “Hallowe’en,” or just plain Halloween.

Two things about the night of October 31.  One:  By tradition it started the winter “season of darkness.”  (Old-timers – seeing the days get shorter and shorter – started thinking the days would eventually get so short there would be no light at all.)  The other thing old-timers believed was that on the Eve of All Hallows, “the veil between the material world and the afterlife thinned.”  Put another way, the veil between the living and the dead was most permeable.

(Spirits could more easily “pass through” the veil separating the dead from the living.) 

 So what was the deal with wearing masks and disguises? 

To review, people originally thought that on the night of October 31, the barrier between the living and the dead was pretty much all the way down.  And those old-time people were – perhaps naturally – “scared of those ghosts.”

So those old-time people originally started putting on masks and/or costumes to fool the ghosts and spirits.  (In other words, to disguise their identities.)  The idea was to keep the afterlife “hallows” – ghosts or spirits – from recognizing the people in this, the “material world.”

Another thing they did was to build “bone fires:”

“The fires were thought to bring comfort to the souls in purgatory and people prayed for them as they held burning straw up high.”  The idea came from pagan times, when evil spirits had to be driven away with noise and fire.  (Note also that “bonfire” is short for bone-fire.  See Bonfire – Wikipedia, noting the term “is derived from the fact that bonfires were originally fires in which bones were burned.”)

And there was another old-time custom.  If you had to travel on All Hallows E’en – like from 11:00 p.m. until midnight – your candle could tell your future.  If your candle kept burning, that was a good omen.  (The person holding the candle would be safe in the upcoming “season of darkness.”)  But if your candle went out , “the omen was bad indeed.”

The thought was that the candle had been blown out by witches.

Which brings us back to “fool’s fire,” will-o’-the-wisps, and/or jack-o’-lanterns.  A note:  Such jack-o’-lanterns are now made from pumpkins, but were originally carved from large turnips.

And both the jack-o’-lantern and Will-o’-the-wisp are tied in with the strange ghostly light known as ignis fatuus.  (From the Medieval Latin for “foolish fire.”)  That refers to the “atmospheric ghost light seen by travelers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes.  It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if approached:”

Tradition had it that this ghostly light – seen by travelers at night and especially over bogs, swamps or marshes – resembled a flickering lamp.  The flickering lamp then receded if you approached it, and so it “drew travelers from their safe paths,” to their doom…

Put another way, the phenomenon of fool’s fire was “linked with the leading astray of weary travelers into mires.”  The guy leading people astray was said to be a “mischievous spirit,” carrying a lantern or torch and was said to play tricks on people.

Not that there’s any connection to the election coming up next week or anything…

*   *   *   *

 [Feux Follets Near Paris]Another view of some  ghostly “Fool’s Fire…”

 *   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Will-o’-the-wisp – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “A Japanese rendition of a Russian will-o’-the-wisp.”  (It should also be noted that any resemblance between that “upper image” and any of the political candidates running for office is purely coincidental…) 

Much of the text and “imagery” for this post was gleaned from my companion blog, to wit:  “All Hallows E’en” – 2015, and – in 2014 – On “All Hallows E’en,” Parts I and Part II

 The lower image is courtesy of Will-o’-the-Wisp – Lantern Man, Feu Follet, Ignis Fatuus.  The caption:  “Artist unknown. Source: ‘Flammarion, L’atmosphère: météorologie populaire’ (1888, p.749):”

The Will-o’-the-wisp has been recorded as flickering over marshy ground since at least the middle ages…  The lights have also been incorporated into modern literature, e.g. Dracula, and have even had a children’s television show named after them.  The most commonly cited explanation for them is that they’re the product of ignited marsh gas:  most likely slowly leaking methane whose ignition is triggered by phosphene…  Some of their synonyms reveal what cultures thought about them[, such as:]  “corpse candles” suggest[ing] that they’re the souls of the departed…  The phenomenon is also inextricably linked with the leading astray of weary travellers into mires.  The light was taken to be a lantern or a torch carried by a mischeivous [sic] spirit … said to play tricks on people.

On football, Moses and Rephidim…

Moses at the Battle of Rephidim:  “If I let my arms down, the other team will win!

*   *   *   *

It’s time to lighten up a bit.  Which is being interpreted:  “It’s time to take a break from the election coming up.”  That is, it’s time to talk about something really important:

Like football!!!

Which is another way of saying we’re halfway through October – Week 9 of the college season and Week 7 for the NFL – and have yet to talk about those 2016 seasons.

And to talk about practices that affect those seasons, like sport superstitions.

For an example of a former player’s superstition:  Michael Jordan – who graduated from North Carolina – used to wear his blue North Carolina “shorts” under his Chicago Bulls uniform, for good luck.  Always.

I wrote about such superstitions in last year’s Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”  But that post focused on those superstitions which were practiced by sport-team fans.

And this one will too…

That is, if you’re a true sports fan, you’ve probably gotten some weird looks.  That is, you’ve gotten some weird looks when you try to explain how one of your actions – or “non-actions,” usually during the game at issue – impacted the outcome of that game.

And you may even have been asked the direct question:  “Do you really think that what you did” – or didn’t do – ” affected the outcome of that game?”  But now – after reading this post – you have a ready answer:  “Hey!  I’m just doing what Moses did, in the Bible!”  (Or you can say, “I’m just following in the footsteps of Moses,” as illustrated in the painting at the top of the page.)

Here’s what happened.  (As told in Exodus 17, some 3,500 years ago.)

The ancient Children of Israel had just Crossed the Red Sea, during the Exodus.  They emerged at Rephidim, near Mount Sinai.  (Where the Water From the Rock happened.)

That’s when the dreaded Amalekites – who would become Israel’s archenemy – launched a sneak attack.  (Not unlike Pearl Harbor, shown at left.)  Verses 8 to 16 – in Exodus 17 – then tell the story of Israel pulling off  an “upset of the season.”  You might say they beat a hated arch-rival, thanks to Moses and his “superstition:”

Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.  Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Am′alek prevailed.  But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat upon it, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side;  so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

Which – it has been noted – sounds a lot like a modern-day football fan.  (Who – watching his team on TV – may move around the room, or change the way he stands, or sits.  Or – and I’ve done this myself – he may mute the sound on the TV, if that “brings the team good luck.”)

But always – always – the goal is to “help your team win.”  (In the case of Moses, his “team” started winning when he held his arms up, but started losing if he let his arms down.)

Again, I wrote about this at length in last year’s Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”   (Which included the photo of Notre Dame’s Touchdown Jesus, at right.)

For an update, see Superstitious sports fans abound, posted on October 20, 2016.  The article started with this question:  “Are you superstitious about your sports teams?”  Bill White then wrote of an incident several years ago, about “no turnovers so far:”

At one point in the NFC Championship Game, it occurred to me that there had been no fumbles or interceptions [in the game].  I nearly blundered into mentioning this to my wife while the Eagles had the ball, a terrible jinx, but I caught myself…

He caught himself because his team – the Eagles – had the ball.  So instead he waited until the other team had the ball:  “‘No turnovers yet in this game,’ I mentioned casually.”  Sure enough, on the very next play the opposing team’s quarterback threw an interception.

And who hasn’t seen that happen?

White joked at one point, “It’s a good thing I use the powers only for good, not evil.”  He added:

I suppose there are readers who think superstition is stupid, and that the players alone determine the outcome…   I thought some of you sports fans out there would  be able to relate, and the rest of you can just make fun of us. not.  Which is another way of saying that for all the grief we get – for our “idiosyncratic quirks” – we rabid sports fans do get some benefits.  See for example, Why We’re So Superstitious | Psychology Today, which concluded with this proviso, limitation or quid-pro-quo:  “The upshot of this research is that it’s important to distinguish between the controllable and uncontrollable events in your life.”  On the other hand, there are those benefits:

Sports fans, for all the ribbing they take, do have some decidedly positive mental health advantages over non-fans.  Evidence cited by [Kent State researcher 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.

On the other hand, there are those people who “think superstition is stupid.”  And there are those people who say things like such fan superstitions are “ignorant, embarrassing, and frankly [make] me a little pessimistic about humanity.  Do you really think that wearing that unwashed jersey [or undershorts] will help your team win?”  To which I will respond, hereinafter:

“Hey pal, tell that to Moses!”

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Rephidim – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  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).”

The “Touchdown Jesus” image is courtesy of Gallery … University Of Notre Dame Touchdown

Re:  Sports Superstitions.  Aside from the article in Fact Monster, you can Google the term “sports superstitions.”  I did that and got some 1,040,000 results.  And for an interesting treatment of the phenomenon, see BBC – Future – Sporting superstitions: Why do we have them?

Re:  “Provisos, limitations and quid-pro-quos.”  See Quotes from Movie Aladdin :: Finest Quotes.  The image of the Genie – with Robin Williams using the voice and mannerisms of William F. Buckley Jr. – is courtesy of Image – – Disney

The lower image is courtesy of  See also  That’s where the quote came from: “Athletes know it, fans know it, and even Bud Light knows it….”  

“No more, Mister Nice Guy…”

No More Mr. Nice Guy by Red-Szajn

This might be the “after” picture, from “that handsome Maverick” in the picture below…

*   *   *   *

It’s hard to know where to begin.  (Other than with the word “implode.”)

Not that long ago, Donald Trump was in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton.  And – just as an aside – I was perfectly willing to accept the judgment of the American people, should they choose him as president.  (Based on the Bible command of Exodus 22:28, as explored in Dissin’ the Prez.)

But since then there seems to have been a “collapse inwards in a violent manner as a result of external pressure.”  But you have to hand it to “the Donald:”  He’s not going down without a fight.  

Thus the title:  “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”  

See for example:  1)  Trump Threatens to Sue The New York Times Over Article,  2)  Donald Trump threatens to jail Hillary Clinton, and/or  3)  Trump Threatens To Sue His Female Accusers | Huffington Post.  Then too see Melania Trump [Donald’s wife] threatens to sue People Magazine.

Or you could just Google “trump threatens.”  I did that and got 4.310,00 results.

On the other hand, you may have to narrow the field.  (Under “trump threatens” you’ll see:  trump threatens violence, trump threatens Cruz, trump threatens Hillary, trump threatens Ford, trump threatens Obama, trump threatens Mexico, trump threatens riots, “etc.”)

In turn, as a metaphor for Donald Trump’s apparent fall from grace – otherwise known as his “implosion” – you might compare the picture above left and at the top of the page – of “Alice Cooper” – with the handsome, debonair Maverick shown at the bottom of this page.

Which is another way of saying that I’ve been writing about the fascinating Mr. Trump for months now.  For example, I first mentioned “The Donald” last March 10, in a post titled, That OTHER “Teflon Don.”  In that post I made this observation:

It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Donald Trump is really trying to help Hillary get elected.  In other words, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to learn that Master Showman Donald Trump is actually playing those far-right conservatives like a piano.

Donald TrumpThen on April 4 came On Reagan, Kennedy – and “Dick the Butcher.”  Which included the photo at right.  (And which – I’m assuming – “the Donald” wanted taken that way…)

And BTW:  Any resemblance between Donald Trump and Alice Cooper – above left – is purely coincidental.  (To keep “Alice” from suing me for slander; comparing him to Trump.)  

Also in That OTHER “Teflon Don,” I compared Trump to P.T. Barnum, and noted that “Barnum turned out to be an effective elected official.”  But we seem to be past that possibility.  (That is, it seems apparent to everyone except Trump and his camp followers.)

Which brings us to the post I did last April 27, “Is there a new ‘Maverick’ in town?”

That post was about a candidate for president who showed “a malignant understanding of how angry words, more than real ideas, can be deployed as weapons of power:”

He knows that repetition – invoking the same foul claims over and over – can transform outrageous lies into popular understandings.  He blithely changes his facts, positions and personae because he is making it up as he goes along and assumes no one will catch up with the contradictions.  Beneath the mask of conservative idealogue is an amoral pragmatist.

But as it turned out, that “angry” presidential candidate wasn’t Donald Trump!

As it turned out, the angry candidate in question was Newt Gingrich.

As in “The Real Scandal in Washington is Newt Gingrich,” an article in the November 1998 Rolling Stone magazine.  That’s what I noted in the May 9 follow-up post, Is this “deja vu all over again?”

Rolling Stone noted that Newt – in 1998 – “will  become anything and ruin anybody else in order to achieve his goals.”  Then came this:  “Sure it’s difficult to imagine the nation electing someone disliked by two-thirds of the electorate.  But it’s easy to imagine Gingrich scoring well in Republican primaries, where right-wingers can crowd out moderates.”

All of which sounded chillingly familiar.

And all of which led to the question:  “Can you say prescient?”  And that could be another way of saying the current political situation for Republicans has been a long time coming.

Then came my post on July 12, “The Coming Fury?”  The title came from first book of Bruce Catton‘s Civil War Trilogy.  Catton began that first book – on the “coming fury” – by describing the “first of two 1860 Democratic National Conventions.”  It seems that in the first Democratic convention there were certain “fire-eaters” who didn’t care if they caused a split convention.

As it turned out, there was a split convention, and one result was a revolt.  That revolt split the Democratic Party, and that split virtually guaranteed th election of the opposition candidate.

In 1860 the candidate opposing the Democrats was Abraham Lincoln.  In 2016, the candidate opposing the Republicans is Hillary Clinton.  And to be blunt, you could say Republican “fire-eaters” at the 2016 convention virtually guaranteed the election of their most hated enemy.

Which brings up today’s Bible readings from the Daily Office.  Those readings included this, from Ecclesiasticus 1:22:  “Unrighteous anger cannot be justified, for a man’s anger tips the scale to his ruin.”  The King James Version seems even more on the mark:  “A furious man cannot be justified;  for the sway of his fury shall be his destruction.

*   *   *   *

 Back on April 27 I asked, “Is there a new ‘Maverick’ in town?”   Apparently not…

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of No More Mr. Nice Guy by Red-Szajn on  (With apologies to Alice Cooper.  But see also Alice Cooper feeds off Clinton-Trump election battle for an interesting take, and perhaps a bit of karma…)

See the full Daily Office for the week of  October 9-15, 2016, at NRSV.  The full readings for Friday, October 14 are:  “AM Psalm 20, 21:1-7(8-14); PM Psalm 110:1-5(6-7), 116, 117
Ecclus. [Ecclesiasticus] 3:17-31; Acts 28:17-31; Luke 9:37-50.”

Re:  Ecclesiasticus.  Also called Wisdom of Sirach, it is not to be confused with the Book of Ecclesiastes, generally attributed to the “son of David, king in Jerusalem” (i.e., Solomon).”

The lower image was borrowed from the post, “Is there a new ‘Maverick’ in town?”  Which asked – in essence – if Donald Trump was that “new Maverick in town?” The post also compared the tactics of Newt Gingrich in 1998 to those of Donald Trump in 2016.  

In turn the lower image is courtesy of Maverick (TV series) – Wikipedia.

“No city for Grouchy Old White People”

Liberty Enlightening the World…”   (Before all the talk about “Building a Stinkin’ Wall!”)

*   *   *   *

No Country for Old Men poster.jpgThe title of this post is a take-off on the film, No Country for Old Men.

(Which was – by far – the worst movie I’ve ever had the displeasure of sitting through.  I waited – in vain and what seemed like hours – for the movie to show some glimpse of redeeming social value.”)

And incidentally, the title of that furshlugginer movie came from the opening line of William Butler Yeats‘ famous poem, “Sailing to Byzantium.”  In turn, one theme of the movie – according to Wikipedia – was that more and more, “things are out of alignment, that balance and harmony are gone from the land and from the people.”

Which certainly could describe the dynamics of today’s political scene.

But – Wikipedia added – the movie is also “a lament for the way the young neglect the wisdom of the past and, presumably, of the old.”  The wisdom of old people that is.

Of course it might help if more of “the old” weren’t so ^%#$ grouchy all the time!

Then too, what passes for wisdom – from way too many people my age – is simply a rehash of the cliche that’s been around for millenia:  That the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Which is ironic.  That’s because people my age are Baby boomers, and once upon a time we told ourselves we were going to “change the world.”  And yet, here we are – way too many of us – mouthing the same old “negative vibes, man!”

(Which is itself a negative vibe, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

But we digress…  My point is this:  “New York City is a refreshing reminder that there’s more to this country than just the right-wing wackos so prevalent back home in ‘The Bubble.’”

That’s what I wrote on my Facebook page on September 22.  That entry also included this:

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

Of course much of the time I did feel like I was surrounded by a bunch of “furriners” in the Big Apple.  (Not unlike the Willie-and-Joe cartoon at left.)  And they all seemed to be speaking every language but English.  But that brings up another – ongoing – theme of this blog:  That unless you step out of your comfort zone on a fairly regular basis, the chances are you’ll wind up as just another GROUCHY OLD PERSON!

And who wants to be just another cliché?

And by the way:  That September 22 Facebook post was also when I wrote that my next offering in this “Wasp” blog was going to be titled, “No City for Grumpy Old White People!”  (I changed it to “grouchy,” as more fitting.)

And finally – I noted back on Facebook on September 22 – it had been “a long day, but fun.  And I’ve had my usual one beer at the South Manhattan Terminal,* then another one on the Ferry itself, and I’m now finishing my third of the night, a ‘Corona Extra.’”

The point being that – while it’s healthy to step out of your comfort zone every once in a while – it’s also nice to have a routine to fall back on…

*   *   *   *

Which brings up the fact that we spent a lot of time on the subway, as well as the Ferry.  And traveling on either one can be an especially bad idea during rush hour.  That’s when it seems like everybody in New York City is on the subway (or the Ferry), and in a big rush.

And that’s not to mention being all crowded in – in to the subway especially – and hot, sweaty and disgusting.

But every once in a while you might catch a break and find one of those liminal moments.  For example, what caught my eye in the photo above right – aside from the obvious – was the separate train running parallel to ours, leading to “multiple images.”

I figured there was some kind of symbolic message there.

Then there was the Saturday night – September 17, our first night in the city – when we took a double-decker tour bus.  It was scheduled to head down Sixth Avenue toward downtown Manhattan, then over to Brooklyn.  But the bus was late, and so first one line of passengers and then a second – our line of passengers – had to wait patiently for our bus tour to start.

Sixth Avenue looking north.jpgThen we finally got on the bus, and as we rode down the  toward the  district, we heard a lot of sirens.    Then we passed a street or two that had been blocked off – as seen at left – and all kinds of murmuring crowds.Then we finally got on the bus, and as we rode down the Avenue of the Americas – seen at left – toward the Chelsea district, we heard a whole lot of sirens.  (I mean, even more sirens and louder than usual in the City.)  Then we passed a street or two that had been blocked off – as seen at left – and all kinds of murmuring crowds.

At the time I was texting my on-and-off-again Dulceback home.  I was describing to her our progress through town,  when she texted back, “Explosion reported in New York..  be safe.”  Which made me one of the first on the bus to find out about the story, “New York City explosion rocks Chelsea neighborhood.”

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

From which an object lesson or two might be gleaned…

I’ll continue this travelogue in Part II.  But I’ll close out this Part I with an example of why – it seems to me – the Big Apple is “No city for Grouchy Old White People:”

*   *   *   *

Back home this would come under the heading TMI!

*   *   *   *

I took the photo at the top of the page on our first trip into NYC, via the Staten Island Ferry.  You can tell it’s Saturday (9/17) because of all the pleasure boats clogging the harbor.  For more on the Statue see Statue of Liberty – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Re:  “Change the world.”  The song – written by Graham Nash – was originally titled “Chicago.”  It referred in part to the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.  The “chorus contains the lines: ‘We can change the world./ Rearrange the World.’” (See Wikipedia.)  Which begs the question:  “If we were going to ‘change the world,’ what the hell have we been doing all these years?”

The “Willie and Joe” image is courtesy of Willie & Joe: Summary-1 – amyatishkin.  (And of course, Bill Mauldin.)  For a larger image, see Re: “So many dang furriners,” from August 1, 2016.

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

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

Re:  “Liminal moments.”  My first thought was to describe the timing of the subway photo as a “subliminal moment,” but further research led me to Liminality – Wikipedia.  One definition therein described such a moment as a “fluid, malleable situation that enables new institutions and customs to become established.”  Wikipedia added that the term has “passed into popular usage, where it is applied much more broadly, undermining its significance to some extent.”   I would define the term – used here – as when you see a photo worth taking, with lots of hidden meanings…

I took the lower-image photo at the “Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal at South Ferry,” the afternoon of Wednesday, September 21, our last day in the City.  We left earlier than usual, both to avoid the usual rush-hour hubbub, and because the hubbub that day was going to be worse than usual.  See Obama, traffic woes arrive in New York for United Nations General Assembly:

[H]ello actual gridlock.  President Barack Obama left Washington, the city where nobody gets along, and arrived Monday in New York, the city where – for the next two weeks – nobody will be able to get around midtown.  Obama is the headliner at the 68th United Nations General Assembly, an annual gathering that means world-class traffic woes in Manhattan.

“No city for Grouchy Old White People” – Part II

An 1886 view of “Liberty Enlightening the World” – before the talk about building a wall

*   *   *   *

We left Part I with an example of why – it seems – the Big Apple is “No City for Grouchy Old White People.”  But that’s just another way of saying a visit to New York City is a refreshing change of pace.  And a lot of that refreshment comes from seeing the Statue of Liberty. (Every morning and evening for four of five days on a mini-vacation…)

But not everyone agrees that “Liberty Enlightening the World” has a special meaning for real Americans.  For example, one knucklehead wrote, in 2014:

[The inscription on the Statue of Liberty] is just a poem.  It’s not one of our founding documents, nor is it a law, nor is it anything more than what it is:  a poem.  A nice poem, with stirring, emotion-driven rhetoric, yes, but a poem nonetheless.

See Words on Statue of Liberty merely a poem –  But that – it seems to me – is like saying the Bible is “just a nice set of old-time stories.”

Be that as it may, that just a poem guy was responding to a suggestion that “Congress read the inscription on the base of the Statue of Liberty in order to make a more informed decision regarding immigration.”  (Which sounded like a pretty good idea to me.)

And by the way, about 75% of the Old Testament is also “just a bunch of poems.*”

Which brings up the fact that way too many people interpret both the Bible and the Constitution in the same narrow-minded way.

“Strictly,” narrowly and fundamentally.  It also seems they’re usually the ones who already have it made – and are deathly afraid other people might take what they have.  (Like the “just a poem” guy.  But see my response to that narrow approach – On “originalism” – in a companion blog.) 

But we digress!

We were discussing the “mere poem” inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.  (The statue I passed by “eight times – twice a day for four days now,” on my recent visit.)  It spoke of a “mighty woman with a torch,” whose name is “Mother of Exiles.”  (Get that?  Mother of Exiles.)   The poet then told the “ancient lands” to keep “your storied pomp!”  Then came the famous words:

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”*

Which seems to speak volumes about the American Dream.  The Wikipedia article on that “national ethos of the United States” featured a picture of the Statue of Liberty, with these words:  “For many immigrants, the Statue of Liberty was their first view of the United States, signifying new opportunities in life.  The statue is an iconic symbol of the American Dream.”

And that – I assume – includes the inscription written on the Statue of Liberty.

 that's all i have to say about that - that's all i have to say about that Forrest GumpFinally – on this topic – It also seems to me that the “just a poem” guy probably bears a passing resemblance to the man shown at the bottom of the page.  (At least metaphorically…)

So now, like Mr. Gump, “That’s all i have to say about that.”

*   *   *   *

Meaning I’m done with the soapbox part of this post.

Turning to the true travelogue part:

Five of our six various group-members met up on Friday afternoon and evening, September 16, at the home base near the north end of Staten Island.  (From which we were to commute by ferry to Manhattan, and which itself was home to a number of strange-speaking “furriners…”)

At its fullest, the ever-shifting “Gang of Six” consisted of the brother and the nephew with whom I recently hiked the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!  Along with my sister-in-law and her daughter – my niece – and her relatively-new beau.  (Of over a year now, and he arrived late Saturday night.)

On Saturday morning, September 17, the five of us took our first ride on the Staten Island Ferry, and visited the One World Trade Center.  In the evening we all – still just five of us – took an tour by double-decker bus, of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.  (Punctuated by the bomb going off in the Chelsea district shortly before we passed by, as noted in Part i.)  But other than that the tour was nice. At the end of this long day, I got three “Stellas” at the Whitehall (Manhattan) Terminal.  One for me, one for my brother and one for my nephew.  (We had beer in the car near the Staten Island terminal, but that would have taken a while to chill.  Which is why I got another beer on the ferry ride back to Staten Island.  $6.00, cash only.)  We got home about 12:39, much past my bedtime.

On Sunday, September 18 we got up late, and we elder-folk  finally met “the beau.”  (Who had arrived late the night before.)  After that we mostly relaxed and stayed on Staten Island.  I did some laundry.  The six of us took a walk on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach.

On Monday, September 19, a new set of five took the ferry to Manhattan.  (After my nephew headed back to classes at Penn State.)  We visited the Museum of Natural History – uptown – after a long, crowded ride on the subway.  And the line to get in – shown at right – was also very long and very crowded.

That night we had dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe New York (Theater District), after which we wandered around Times Square awhile.

Somehow we lucked into some $30 tickets to see “The Fantasticks” at the Jerry Orbach Theater, at 210 West 50th Street.  (“The show’s original off-Broadway production ran a total of 42 years and 17,162 performances, making it the world’s longest-running musical.”)  

Which made for another late night trip on the ferry.  (Fortified by one beer from the Whitehall Terminal, one beer on the ferry itself – I remembered to bring cash – and one back home.)

Tuesday we five headed over to the City on the noon ferry.  While we were waiting in the terminal, there was an old guy wandering around talking to himself, saying something about wanting to get married.  It looked like he was wearing something like adult diapers…

Pedestrians admiring plants along a walkway, which is surrounded by several low-rise buildingsOnce we got over to the city, we took another subway ride up to the start of the “High Line.”  That’s the mile-and-a-half “New York City linear park built in Manhattan on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad spur.”  Then we had lunch at the Artichoke Basille’s Pizza, in Chelsea.  (The same neighborhood where the bomb(s) went off Saturday night.)

Then my niece and her beau left to head back to home-and-work places in the Washington D.C. area.  That left three of us – the three “elders,” two of whom are retired – to head uptown.  We headed uptown – by another crowded subway – to a museum I had chosen, the Frick Collection (and/or Museum).  (“I picked the Frick!”)  

And through the magic of internet, you may see the galleries “through our Virtual Tour.”

We had a light supper at some swanky place uptown.  (I had a brioche au fromage sandwich – with tomato – and we sat outside and watched rushing New Yorkers passing by.)  Then we took a walk along the Hudson river-front, and still got home fairly early.  I bought a draft Bud Light at the terminal – again – and a Corona for my brother.  (He has expensive tastes in beer, at least outside Utah. Where he lives they can only buy 3.2 beer.)  

Wednesday, September 21, was pretty much an “anti-climax day.” We visited the South Street Seaport Museum | Where New York Begins.  But then we ended up taking the 3:30 afternoon ferry back home.  That’s because we found out – after the museum visit and lunch – that Ellis and Liberty islands were at least partially closed, because of a visit by “the Prez.”  But back on Staten Island my brother and I visited the National Lighthouse Museum.

Then we started packing, to head back home the next day.

On Thursday, September 22, I kayaked across the Verrazano Narrows.  (Mostly following the Bridge of the same name.)  

Here’s a photo from about half-way back to Staten Island.  You may notice that the waters are fairly choppy.  And I can tell you that those waters got WAY choppier than when I started.  In other words, I seem to have started out – that fine Thursday morning – on pretty much of a neap tide.  It only took me 20 minutes to get from Staten Island to Brooklyn, and I like to do a full two hours of kayaking a week.  So on the way over I toyed with the idea of cruising along the Atlantic side of Brooklyn for awhile.

But I decided not to, mostly because I figured it would be better to get back on the put-in side while I was still fresh.  And it’s a good thing I did.  As I was paddling back the tide started coming in.  Which wasn’t so bad, since at worst it would have swept me in toward Hoboken.

I ended up having 13 minutes left of my two-hours-of-kayaking-a-week quota, when I finally got back to where I put in, at Roosevelt Beach.  (And got dunked “coming in for a landing.”)  But it could have been worse. The tide could have been going out.  (As in, “out to sea…”)

And that was pretty much it for my visit to New York City.  I drove home via the Cape May Ferry and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge–Tunnel, and got home Saturday, September 24.

Except to note that the visit sounds a lot shorter than it was in real-time.  That’s because in real time we did a lot of walking, through the streets of Manhattan.  And we did a lot of people-watching, of the “passing panoply.”  And we spent a lot of time on crowded subways, listening to all kinds of languages spoken by all kinds of different people.

But that’s what made the visit so refreshing…

And except to note one more thing.  The photo below is one I took at the Museum of Natural History, on September 19.  With all the talk of politics lately, I figured this would be a good one size fits all insult, for whatever political opponent you may have in mind.

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

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

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Statue of Liberty – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Unveiling of the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World’ (1886) by Edward Moran. Oil on canvas. The J. Clarence Davies Collection, Museum of the City of New York.”

Re:  Much of the Old Testament as “a bunch of poems:”  See Poetry in the Hebrew Bible:

Approximately 75% of the Hebrew Bible is poetry.  All of Psalms and Proverbs are Hebrew poetry and many other books, such as the book of Genesis, are filled with poetry.  The reason much of the Bible was written in poetry is that it was originally sung and stories that are sung are much easier to memorize that when simply spoken.  There is much more poetry in the Bible than most realize because most people do not understand it.*

See also Biblical poetry – Wikipedia. Which brings up the fact that the just a poem statement also implies that liberty is a finite commodity; that there’s only so much to go around.    

Meaning in turn that – to way too many people these days – “liberty” must be preserved for only those who “already have it.” (See Nativism – Wikipedia.) But apparently the swarms of “furriners” – surrounding me in NYC – hadn’t seen the poster at right, from Colorado… Which may be another way of saying that liberty is only a finite commodity to those who are afraid to share it.

On a related note, of the United States Constitution as “the nation’s scripture:”

During the Constitution’s 150th anniversary in 1937, President Franklin Roosevelt likened [the Constitution] to the Bible, saying it should be read over and over again.  It was an apt simile. The Constitution had always served as the nation’s scripture…*

Battle for Justice: How the Bork Nomination Shook America, by Ethan Bronner. (Anchor Books, published by Doubleday, at page 21.) On that note, scripture is alternately defined as “anything written” – from the “Classical Latin scriptura, a writing” – or any statement “regarded as authoritative.”  (In addition to the usual definition: “the sacred writings of the Jews, identical with the Old Testament of the Christians,” and/or “Christian Bible; Old and New Testaments.”)  See Scripture – definition of scripture by The Free Dictionary, and Scripture dictionary definition

Re:  Words on the Statue of Liberty. See The New Colossus- Wikipedia. Here are all the words:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”