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east and west
My first visit to Berlin was encouraged and arranged by a former RAF Bomber Command pilot, Pathfinder and Master Bomber who flew more than 100 operational missions over Germany in World War II. Group Captain Peter Cribb, CBE, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar was Commanding Officer of RAF Gutersloh in the B Zone of West Germany when we met, in Italy, and he invited us to visit the air base. Gutersloh, a RAF fighter and photo reconnaissance base near Hanover, was the nearest air base to the “wire” between West and East Germany…
Hillsborough, NC Could Have Been Talladega. It makes for a good story. Back in the early 1950s men in Hillsborough, North Carolina, could see stockcar races for free. Why buy a ticket when you had a free seat in the air. All they had to do was shimmy up a tree edging a fence at the second turn and they had a grand view of the .9-mile dirt oval. That plan carried a bit of risk but all was fine as long as the drivers didn’t spin out. Then the inevitable happened.
reminder of racist present
While it’s good news that South Carolina has finally taken down the single Confederate Battle Flag that has flown on the state capitol grounds since 2000 (and over the state capitol itself for thirty-nine years before that), it would be better news if the flag of the Confederacy itself were removed from the Georgia state flag.
Beginning in 1879, when a state senator and former Confederate officer introduced legislation that included the design of the first official state flag, Georgia has had seven different state flags, each one bearing one or more graphic reminders of Confederate national banners.
face the music
Joyce has the most luminous blue eyes imaginable. Betty smiles and is quiet. Annie cannot break eye contact. And Don excuses himself to go to the bathroom and never returns. They are all part of my friend Ed’s drum-therapy group that meets weekly for an hour in the lobby of their retirement and assisted living center. Ed, who is a professor emeritus of Graduate Psychology, learned to lead the drum circle from his younger sister…
It was a visit I did not want to make but knew I had to do it. For two years I had found excuses to not visit the nursing home where my older friend Gus lived. Rhinebeck, New York is a long way from my home so I telephoned regularly and inquired after him. As I was not on the list of people authorized to be told anything about Gus the nursing staff could only confirm that he was alive. I accepted their response and selfishly moved on with my life, satisfied that my older friend Gus was being cared for by people I didn’t know…
secret to great sax
I lost my self-confidence in singing and playing a musical instrument early in life. I can still hear Mrs Greeley in fifth grade telling my pal Byron and me that we would not be singing in the Christmas pageant that year, since neither of us could carry a tune worth a damn. A few years later I dropped out of High School Band because I continued to carry the Greeley curse and didn’t think I was worth a damn. It was a bleak beginning for anyone who fancied music.
Many years later, though, my friend John coaxed me to join the New Horizons Band at James Madison University. I am forever indebted to Will, our band director, for welcoming me aboard in his enthusiastic and warm manner…
Only one hundred and fifty years after Appomattox, southern states are beginning to give up public displays of Confederate battle flags and other emblems of what my two grandfathers called the War for Southern Independence or the War of Northern Aggression.
But what about private displays? And what about memories of private displays?
male pattern blindness
“In this intimate body of work, she uses mixed media, collage and painting to explore the demands of motherhood, preservation of memory, and repetitious patterns of thought and behavior.”
I recently received this invitation and quickly decided it was probably something I don’t want to even be seen near, let alone attend.
read the warning label
There’s a pill for everything, you know. Not that that puts pharmaceuticals in any special category. There’s an anything for everything—just a click away. Still, all those meds you see advertised on TV, targeted particularly to people who look to be about my age, people who are “having trouble” breathing or peeing or digesting or remembering. It’s become a cliché: all old people do is take pills.Well, that ain’t me. I have no prescriptions and take no medications. At least that’s what I say every time I fill out medical history forms. In fact, I’m just about a perfect human specimen, according to such documents, and I’m generally able to hold on to the notion that when I fill out these forms I’m conveying the spirit of the truth if not all the boring minutiae.
all tangled up
There have been hundreds of thousands of words written and spoken about the unspeakable tragedy of the nine people gunned down at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. In time, there will be many more; books will be written and countless analysis will be presented seeking to find some meaning in what happened. In time, the events of the tragedy will become a permanent part of the history of Charleston and our people, indeed the whole state and nation.
seem a fetish
There is a store in the North Georgia Mountains called “Drug and Gun.” I’ve been meaning to revisit the shop to ask the cashier if customers buy their anti-psychotic drugs before or after they buy a gun. But when I walk in and see the word “prescriptions” behind the gun counter, I ask the clerk jokingly, “Do I need a prescription to buy a gun?” A man behind me says, “actually that would be a good idea. “ And I agree: if Americans need a prescription for Prozac, why not for pistols?
But there is one problem: changing the mind of people entrenched in a culture of guns.
Number of people killed by gun violence in South Carolina from 2001 to 2010 alone: 5,991
Percent by which that exceeds all U.S. combat deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined: 15
Rank of South Carolina among all states for aggravated assaults with a firearm: 2
For the rate of women murdered by guns: 4
Not only that, but that this move to bring the Confederate flag into the discussion would be one that reverberates all across our country, making that symbol of the Old South a new rallying cry for all sorts of people of this country? Who would have thought?
In effect, it was the human heart speaking to our country, recognizing the sufferings of the people of Charleston, and in particular, the suffering of black people. We remember how our country has itself suffered from those who won’t give up a lost cause….one that brings division, not union, to our nation.
breakfast over hard
“Ol’ Obama knocked it outta the park yestiddy didn’t he?”
“Sumbitch always does. He always does.”
“Big O was fuckin’ magnificent in Charleston. I can’t believe he actually sang ‘Amazing Grace.’ I think he knew Clementha Pinckney…”
The conversation was on-going at a table across from where I’m taking refuge from ominous weather. As near as I can tell, their names are Stan, Roy and Tommy. All three are African-American. They are gray-beards, firmly ensconced in the demographic labeled ‘active seniors…
marriage equality. life.
Thomas Wolfe was wrong: We can go home again!
As two Suthunahs living in exile in New Joisey — one from Georgia, the other from Alabama — we share a photo essay of our 41-year marriage which today the Supreme Court made legal in every state of the union.
Samuel A. Ward was organist and choirmaster of our parish in Newark, NJ, when he wrote “America the Beautiful.” “Thy fruited plane” indeed. “Thy liberty in law,” Amen.
I recognize some Americans still feel threatened by gay marriage. I don’t understand that fear, but I respect it. I also respectfully suggest if you believe gay marriage is about what happens in the bedroom, you really don’t understand marriage at all.
I’m 55. I don’t remember my age when I first realized I had gay friends in high school. It’s certainly not something anyone was open about at the time. It wasn’t something we talked about.
But, I remember the moment I knew it was wrong to deny two loving, committed people the same respect we give married couples solely because they are the same gender.
My wife and I attended An Evening of Prayer Tuesday at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Pawleys Island. The special event was an ecumenical vigil for the victims of the Charleston massacre on June 17 at Emanuel AME Church at the hands of a moral idiot.
For some reason, the vigil brought to mind the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, one of the most famous openings in all of literature: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” …
This spring, my wife and I recently spent a lovely weekend in Dahlonega, Georgia. For the uninformed, Dahlonega is a small town just over an hour north of Atlanta in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Dahlonega is best known for the gold rush that started there in 1828, when rich veins of the stuff were discovered in the area. It was the second significant gold find in the young United States, and within three years, Dahlonega’s population soared to some 10,000, almost all of whom were seeking their fortunes in the rocks and caves and streams of the region.
are we there yet?
I clicked on this topic, interested to expand my ingenuity to distract children on a long drive or transatlantic flight. We played games to keep five boys from fidgeting and fighting during road trips when my (now middle aged) sons were small, growing up in England. We visited distant grandparents, camped in France and Spain in a Hiace van because we couldn’t afford air fares for seven…
grief and fear
The Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote many years ago in The Second Coming that,
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
First, yeah this is long, but just maybe, it’s time for long, cuz it’s been a long time comin’.
I suppose it all started with Michael Jackson and his desire for a “white” nose, which didn’t turn out so well. Why a really handsome, very talented guy would willingly fuck up his face is truly beyond me. Michael was said to have lightened his skin, while Rachel Dolezal is said to have darkened hers.
As I headed to bed Wednesday night, a white gunman shot and killed nine people in an historic black church in the center of town just four blocks from where I used to live. Unaware of the evil, sleep came quickly. But in the wee hours, the ping of a text from an Australian colleague woke me. I didn’t want to read it and tried to go back to sleep. But after tossing and turning, I read the text, only to learn the heart-wrenching news about what was going on a few miles away. I was dazed.
southern life circa 1944
While I, Louie Crew Clay, narrate the story as if fiction, it actually is nonfiction and I have changed only the names. I wrote it to expose to myself as to any readers the arrogance racism taught me. Childhood is not all that “innocent” when the privileged teach our young to devalue and disrespect others. I hope that by my preserving the privileged little boy’s insensitivity, we will see what he saw but with our thinking caps on and our eyes wide open.
I did not personally know the beautiful souls who were massacred while gathered in prayer with a stranger at Mother Emanuel on June 17, 2015, but I can’t stop weeping. In part, my tears are the product of troubled introspection. I am a proud southerner with deep roots. My father has always been puzzled by my “ancestor worship.” My husband and children mock my addiction to ancestry.com with quips like, “did you know Mom is 99.9% Anglo-Saxon and cousin of the Queen?” But I can’t help but feel pride when I find another link on my family tree confirming my forefathers’ presence south of the Mason-Dixon line before secession.
“We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are between stories.” — Father Thomas Berry
I’m not Catholic. Nevertheless, fond of this pope, I’ve eagerly awaited the release of Laudato Si’, Francis’ encyclical on ecology and climate. Immediately after its June 18 release, I paged wildly through it and was blown away. Laudato Si’ is absolutely stunning in sweep, depth, and wisdom. It is exactly the right document, at the right moment, by the right person.
mystery of joy
As the ruffian used force to carry her out of the convent because her family needed her for an arranged marriage that would increase their fortune, this thirteenth-century nun and member of (St.) Clare’s Order of Poor Ladies of San Damiano saved herself and preserved her vows by suddenly and miraculously growing heavier and heavier. In the end, her assailant had to put her down and abandon the abduction. As he said, it was as though she had been eating stones.
environmental paul revere
“You just can’t burn in one night, a million years of buried sunlight, and think you got it all for free.” — from lyrics of Long Has the Earth by Doug Hendren
Worthy of Comment
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