July Road Notes, Day 21: What Matters Most

4

July 25, 2021, Fairmont, MN- The passing driver fairly screamed at me, through a closed car window, as I stood on the grassy median of the quiet secondary road, waiting for the traffic light to turn in my favour, as I brought breakfast back to my motel room. I could see his scrunched up face, long after his car had passed by. An old veteran, sitting outside the motel, witnessed the whole thing and muttered something about some people not having enough to do with themselves. Such was the morning in Hudson, Wisconsin, where “morning people” seemed to consist of the energetic truck stop counterman, the cheerful motel owners, said old veteran and yours truly. Everyone else I met was either strung out about something, or just not ready to wake up fully.

Once I got on the road again, it was with a plan to visit the Minnesota State Capitol, in St. Paul, then go to George Floyd Square, in Minneapolis, and connect with a second cousin who lives in the area. I drove to the Capitol area, finding Minnesota has kept pace with its eastern neighbour, in terms of the majesty of its seat of government.

The Minnesota State Capitol, St. Paul
The Quadriga, or Progress of the State

https://www.mnhs.org/capitol/learn/art/8857

The above link describes the gilded copper figures shown above, and called The Quadriga. The four-horse chariot is driven by the male figure, who represents the State. The female figures represent Minnesota’s agriculture and industry. The four horses represent earth, fire, water and wind.

“Winter” garden, east side of Minnesota State Capitol
Minnesota State Capitol, viewed from State Veteran’s Memorial
Cathedral of St. Paul

It was upon driving to the majestic Cathedral of St. Paul, some six blocks southeast of the Capitol, that I got a call from my cousin. She and family live on the St. Paul side of the Twin Cities, so my visit with them was moved up. What a delightful group! They met me at an area coffee house and spent about thirty-five minutes, before we all had to move on with our days. I’m ever grateful to be able to connect with far-flung family. D and her mate have each done well in life. Their daughters will follow suit, from all I noted this morning. Teenagers often go through periods of self-doubt (as do the rest of us), and their feelings deserve to be taken seriously, yet I see a very solid drive in both girls. This little unit is going to be just fine.

Gathering at a Caribou Coffee Shop (above and below)

From family reunion of sorts to honouring sacrifice, I drove to George Floyd Square, on Minneapolis’ south side. Parking well away from the square, I spent about an hour in prayer, listening and carefully contemplating the faces and descriptions of each shooting victim whose death is commemorated there. There was only concern and compassion being shown, by both those visiting and those who are tending the site.

The late John Lewis called for “Good trouble”.
Amanda Gorman had it nailed.

George Floyd Square, Minneapolis

Call it untidy, messy, or even inconvenient, if you will. I would say the events that led to this site’s establishment were very untidy, extremely messy and most inconvenient-for the people who have suffered, and, ultimately, for those who brought about their suffering.

Say Their Names Memorial Cemetery, 37th Street, south of Chicago Avenue, Minneapolis

A dedicated crew of volunteers was busy, at this collective memorial for African-American people of colour killed, under questionable or objectionable circumstances, over the past sixty-six years. One of the earliest such victims, Emmett Till, would have turned eighty years of age today. When he was killed, I was four years old, and he was fourteen. I barely remember, the very next day, one of my cousins mentioned that a “coloured boy”, not much older than he, had been killed by “some crazy people” in a place called Mississippi. I didn’t know who coloured people were, nor where Mississippi even was, but I knew it was wrong for one person to kill another. It was also strange to me that a child should have died. Death was for old people, like my paternal grandfather, who had recently passed away-and he was not all that old.

It is still strange, and I still regard such atrocities as crazy. It would be the same, were any group of people to be subjected to such treatment-regardless of age, or of “race”.

July Road Notes, Day 17: Long Trails Winding

2

July 21, 2021, Concord, NH- Sam sensed my solemn mood, and honoured my relative silence. It was partly due to where I had just been, and partly due to being a bit worn, by the full day I had just enjoyed. The effervescent young lady continued to make sure I was well-served, while engaging more cheerful patrons in banter and laughter. Thus went my third meal, in five days, at a Ninety-Nine Restaurant. This one was in Augusta, Maine’s capital city, where I had just visited the gravesites of a paternal aunt and uncle, along with the as yet unmarked grave of their eldest son, in Central Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery.

I left Saugus, the town of my formative years, around 8 in the morning, heading up towards Maine, via I-95. It was a smooth enough drive, near the coastal regions of New Hampshire and southern Maine. I first stopped at Stonewall Kitchen, in York, to pick up gifts for the cousins I would visit first and for friends I will see on Friday evening. Next came the drive, past Portland and its exquisite Casco Bay, to Boothbay Harbor, home to a paternal cousin and his family. I hadn’t seen Tom in nearly 35 years, but had communicated with him recently, about a matter of mutual interest.

Tom and Jamie seem to be doing well, have wonderful children and grandchildren, and a lovely home.

View of one of Boothbay Harbor’s many coves

We talked of each other’s families, for about 1 1/2 hours, over lunch and photo albums. Both of our family branches have had their share of triumphs and tragedies. Both have had wondrous people enter their lives and share all they have-and then some. Tom and Jamie are solid people, who have served children, over the years, on paths similar to those that Penny and I took.

Extended family, Boothbay Harbor, ME

I left the family to their afternoon, which included a well-crafted blanket fort, that the little boys had made, as part of their imaginative use of the living room, and headed towards Augusta, where I would pay my respects to our departed aunt, uncle and cousin. A brief stop in Boothbay Harbor’s west side was in order, for ice cream and a few photos.

Boothbay Harbor
View of Harbormaster’s House, Boothbay Harbor

The drive to Augusta was fairly short, but it took stopping at two places to get directions to the cemetery, as my GPS was pulling its “You’re offline!” tantrum. Once there, I found a well-tended expanse of lawn, with year-by-year indicators of who is laid to rest, and where. I spent about twenty minutes at the gravesites of my family members.

Central Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Augusta

Almost on cue, after twenty minutes, a cold wind whipped up and the dark clouds gathered. I got into the Ninety-Nine, just outside the cemetery gates, just before the rain started. Samantha, the server, kept watch on the skies, as well as on us patrons, and noted after fifteen minutes that the sun was coming back out. She seemed quite intently watching over us all, which I like in a public servant.

I spent about an hour after dinner, walking about downtown Augusta. The city has made great strides in celebrating the Kennebec River and its own heritage, since I was last here, in the late 1970s. Here are some of the scenes, therein.

Olde Federal Building, Augusta, ME
Kennebec Riverwalk, Augusta
Old Fort Western, Augusta

Old Fort Western tells the story of early Augusta and its environs. https://www.augustamaine.gov/old_fort_western/292_years_of_maine___new_england_history.php.

It was closed, and I needed to make further progress westward, so as to not overload myself tomorrow, so after a brief visit to the grounds of Maine’s State Capitol, where I took a few photos, under the watchful eyes of the Capitol Police, onward it was.

Maine State House, Augusta
West entrance, Maine State House, Augusta

Along US 202, I passed through the fields and cities of central and southwest Maine: Winthrop, Lewiston, Auburn, Gray and Sanford, before crossing into New Hampshire, at Rochester, then over to this fair place- New Hampshire’s capital city, which has two motels, cityside. Thus, I stopped into my first Holiday Inn, in over thirty-five years. (I am usually one for the Mom & Pop establishments, but in New Hampshire, those are limited to resort areas.)

After looking around Concord a bit, tomorrow, the itinerary is to cross western New Hampshire, southern Vermont and New York’s southern tier.

July Road Notes, Day 12: One Home after Another

2

July 16, 2021, Oley- One of the things Penny used to say was that, wherever we went, someone would “adopt” me. This has been a nice feature of travel, all along, especially since I’ve been back on my own. Most people who befriend me in that way have been sincere. Of course, there are those with a “victim” mentality, who couple their expressions of “brotherhood” with pleas for money, but that is a story best set aside, for now.

The Village Inn, where I stayed last night, is a gem on Harrisonburg’s southern edge. A full breakfast buffet awaited, this morning. I brought my face mask, just in case, and there were gloves to use, but few people took the hint. The meal was hearty, and the grandmotherly attendant kept everyone well-supplied with coffee, tea, juice and cool water. I was barely out the door to my room by check-out time.

My downtown visit took in several areas on the Near South Side that had gone overlooked in the past-as my earlier focuses were Artful Dodger CafĂ© (now defunct) and James Madison University. The cafe’s site is now occupied by a similarly-themed Duke’s Restaurant and Bar. The place is every bit as welcoming as Artful was, and it is nice to have new friends as my northwest Virginia “anchor”.

Here are some scenes of this Harrisonburg stopover.

Harrisonburg City Hall, on the east entrance
Same building, on the south entrance
Even the local Parts Association has a festive mien!
Pendleton Community Bank has inherited quite a fortress.
Here is Duke’s, where Artful’s friendly people have been succeeded by new friendly people. It still feels like home.
As with any community, all has not been fun and games in Harrisonburg. The people here own up to the truth, though, and this dark incident in “H’burg’s” past will never be swept under the rug.

I left Harrisonburg, after getting a takeout lunch item, to be savoured at my next stop up the Spine of Virginia: Winchester. My first stop there was at a city park, to enjoy lunch in the shade.

Jim Barnett Park, Winchester, VA

Old Town Winchester is a marvel of a place, including a Pedestrian Mall along Loudoun Street. It has plenty of shops and historical markers, and a spacious Splash Pad for kids of all ages to enjoy.

This law office building is an example of mid-Nineteenth Century Winchester’s edifices.
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church added to its property, as the congregation grew. Thus, it is a “two-tone” parish.
The Handley Library affirms Winchester’s commitment to learning for all. The South has come a long way out of the darkness, and there will, in the long term, be no going back, in any real sense.
Winchester’s Civil War Museum places the full story in an institution of learning, where it belongs.
Winchester’s Rouss City Hall is named for Charles Broadway Rouss, an entrepreneur who donated half of the funds needed to build the edifice. https://www.winchesterva.gov/rouss-city-hall-history

After passing the delightful Splash Pad (not shown here, as there were several children at play in the spot), I headed out of Winchester and up through West Virginia’s “Pot Handle”, a small nub of central Maryland and across Pennsylvania, to yet another home: Glick’s Greenhouse, which is in the process of getting newer and better. More on that, in the next post.

Unicorns will always have a place in my heart, and I’m not concerned about the colours. Rainbows belong to everyone,

July Road Notes, Day 10: Rainy Day Fun

4

July 14, 2021, Crossville- After a sumptuous meal of R’s homemade pizza, and a restful night, the suggestion was made to visit Fall Creek Falls State Park, about 20 miles west of here. As state parks in Tennessee have free admission, and they are invariably filled with natural wonders, I was game.

C and I headed over, around 9:30, and found relatively few people on the trail to Fall Creek, one of two waterfalls in this park of short, but relatively challenging trails. Here are a few scenes of the main trail.

Fall Creek Falls, from overlook
Hard sandstone wall, Fall Creek Trail
Sandstone scramble, Fall Creek Trail
Fall Creek Falls, from the base of the trail
Falls emptying into Fall Creek pool
Millikan Overlook-In this area, Dr. Glenn Millikan, a professor at Vanderbilt University, fell to his death, in 1947.
Suspension Bridge, south of Piney Falls Trail. Of course, when I was on it by myself, I had to bounce on it, just a little.
Piney Falls, south of Fall Creek, is the more robust of the two waterfalls, at least right now.

It rained, off and on, while we were on the main trail, and it was rather slippery in spots. As we were coming back up from Fall Creek, we encountered at least two large groups of hikers coming down the trail. Fortunately, by the time they would have had to come back up, the sun was out again. The trooper of the day was a woman who went down and back up, in her flip flops-very gingerly and carefully. Two children wearing crocs get second and third place. I was shod in regular sneakers, and thus blended into the crowd.

July Road Notes, Day 8: Reconciliation

0

July 12, 2021, Memphis- Over the years, I’ve been in places which have shaken my conscience and sense of justice: Wounded Knee, Silver Creek, Bosque Redondo, the Holocaust Museum of Jerusalem, Donjon de Jeanne d’Arc, the Concentration Camp at Berga. This morning’s visit to Greenwood District, on Tulsa’s North Side, had a very similar effect.

I began the morning in the Cathedral District, on the south side of Tulsa’s downtown. It is majestic, in a physical sense, with spires abounding-and not so much competing, as complementing one another. I present a few of these:

First United Methodist Church, Tulsa
Holy Family Cathedral, Tulsa
First Presbyterian Church, Tulsa
No spires, but still impressive: Church of Christ, Scientist, Tulsa

One must eat and drink, so I looked a bit, in the Cathedral District, and found this gem:

Foolish Things Coffee House!

Interior of Foolish Things Coffee House

After giving downtown its due, I headed to the sacred area that drew me to Tulsa, in the first place: Greenwood Historic District.

The signature mural of Greenwood District
Greenwood Cultural Center

The whole point of Greenwood’s emergence, in the early Twentieth Century, was to promote the very self-sufficiency, among Black Americans, that capitalists claimed to want. Yet, Oklahoma Governor Robertson, and his minions, including the commander of the Oklahoma National Guard, were complicit in the plan to put an end to “Black Wall Street”. All they needed was a spark. On May 31, 1921, it was reported that a black shoe shine man had brushed up against a white elevator operator, leading to allegations of attempted rape. Further, the founder of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, seeing a chance to destroy his competition, accused the Mann Brothers, who operated a highly successful grocery store, of fomenting a riot, when a group of black businessmen went to the Courthouse, to seek the shoe shine man’s release. The allegations of D.W. Gurley led to a white mob’s attack on black-owned businesses. These allegations were later shown to be false, and Gurley fled to California. Ironically, the Mann family had come to Greenwood from Sherman, Texas, which later itself endured an assault on black-owned businesses. National Guard General Charles Barrett, as well as the editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Tribune, stoked white anger from behind the scenes. It is not verified, but there is circumstantial evidence that Barrett gave the go-ahead for the use of airplanes, which did fire on blacks who were trying to flee Greenwood.

Scene of Greenwood destruction, June 1, 1921

Dozens of Greenwood residents were killed, and most of the rest were rendered homeless, by the destruction. The bottom line, though, in all this is: Greenwood is coming back. The block which earned the title Black Wall Street is small, but vibrant.

Fountain, on grounds of Greenwood Cultural Center

The Vernon African Methodist Evangelical Church was a key gathering place in Greenwood, and is so again.

Mural, on south wall of Greenwood Open Air gathering space

Wanda J’s Restaurant is also a gathering place for the Greenwood community. It was closed for renovation today, but the sign says it’ll reopen tomorrow.

Mural on berm of overpass, Greenwood District

After walking around Greenwood District, I paused to watch several children who had climbed up the overpass berm, and were now helping each other down, flip-flops and all, under their father’s watchful eyes. When the kids had descended, I noted this mural, of jazz musicians.

Tulsa, and Greenwood, are still here and the city is making amends. Reparations for the families of the victims are actually being discussed. Reconciliation Park, and Street, are set aside, to remind everyone that, when one group prospers, all may prosper.

July Road Notes, Day 4: Poolside

6

July 8, 2021, Grapevine– The birthday festivities having finished, Aram and I eased into our mornings, whilst Yunhee went to work. We did our part, later, with a Costco trip that garnered items we each needed-and a few belated birthday gifts.

I got word that another, equally important, event across the country had gone roughly at times, but ended well. So, too, did the final installment of an investment that has taken me three years of due diligence and getting past my own overthinking, to complete.

Aram and I went out to Terrawood’s relatively small, but comfortable pool area. There were about six other people in and around the pools, at the time we were there. The water is not deep- 4′ 6″, maximum. Nonetheless, I sat with my lower body in the water-taking care to not go in, as usual, because of the growth on my face being covered, both for protection and for the peace of mind of those around me.

There has been a tendency in me, all throughout adulthood, to be very watchful of children around water. It was a major area of my service to the Red Cross, when we lived in Phoenix, to help with Swim Safe events. Pool safety, in particular, is a huge concern-and not just in summer. So, here I was, being encouraging to the little ones, with their flotation devices attached, but not taking my eyes off them, for a second. A young girl, of about twelve, was equally vigilant, apparently being babysitter to at least two of the kids. As Aram did his laps and cardio, I was content to be a second pair of eyes.

It can’t be said enough: “Watch your kids around water!”

Crescendo

4

July 4, 2021- The fireworks came back tonight, with a vengeance! The program, which last year almost seemed as if the PYROTECHNICS had Covid19, was full on this evening, with the widest variety of geometric figures I’ve seen in many a year. It is a wondrous thing that fractals have been mainstream high school fare, for nearly twenty-five years, That realm has thoroughly enriched the overall graphic experience- and nowhere more so than with fireworks displays.

The venue I use, an overlook just north of the Prescott Resort, was as packed as ever. There were close to 150 people, scattered around the “overflow parking area”, in a joyous, impromptu party atmosphere-with a fair amount of physical distancing still being practiced. The display organizers, three miles away at Watson Lake, did not let us down. Where there was a truncated program last year, with a muted finale, the present offering was a full 30 minutes-with two finales. It was, very much, what so many of us needed.

The person to my right happened to be a satisfied patient of the same dermatology group which will perform the corrective surgery on me, in four weeks’ time. He showed scant signs of having been a carcinoma patient. This is a confirmation that I am in good hands.

The group sitting behind me and to my left was as entertaining as the display-with raucous commentary from some and the enthusiasm of a three-year-old, seeing her first full fireworks display. With the distance from the staging area eliminating the sound, it is conceivable that people could have brought their dogs here. Speaking of which, I am very grateful to those who spend their Fourth of July night at the local Animal Shelter, comforting the dogs and putting muffling blankets over their ears. This has become a more widespread practice in Humane Societies across the country.

The day started with a brief, but crucial, act of assistance to a friend who was having a special event. It involved helping with moving furniture around, and was much appreciated. Just before that, I had another learning experience-that it is not sufficient to pay attention to cars going every which way, in gas station parking lots. There are also pedestrians, not paying attention, who think nothing of walking up to a vehicle and banging on the window, demanding that the driver get out of THEIR way. In this morning’s instance, I simply sat where I was and let him conclude it was best to go around.

I had a full day’s worth of being the beneficiary of our nation’s work-in-progress social experiment. It feels like we will make it through, if we can be mindful and appreciative of the full range of responsible thought and civic action.

Happy Independence Day, to all who call the United States home. Let the crescendo of what it means to be free in mind and spirit ring out for all to hear.

Their Whole Selves

2

July 3, 2021- The comely young woman set down her blanket, just six feet from where I sat in my foldable studio chair, and proceeded to writhe and shift herself back and forth, finally finding a relatively comfortable position. As she was wearing a fairly short skirt, I felt it seemly to look straight ahead and not make her obvious discomfort even worse. Her two children were off and running, to other parts of the park, so she had that, too, to handle-and was constantly sitting up and looking past me, until finally spotting the kids. Poor soul was definitely stressed and barely able to relax, so after the family had watched five minutes or so of “Grease”, on the outdoor screen, and mother had wrapped herself in the blanket, they stood up and left. Hopefully, she got the rest that was so obviously in order.

Men, especially of my age group, were raised, mostly by the wider society, to hold the opposite sex in a sort of special status-not quite looking at girls and women we didn’t know very well, in a less than whole human perspective. I can say, truthfully, that this was also true of how we viewed ANY stranger, but was especially so in male-female interactions. It has been a hallmark of my married life, and widowhood, that coming to view every human being in a holistic manner has replaced the old “meat market ethic”. Misogyny, and its derivatives, were quite frankly the bane of my existence-and I don’t miss them at all.

My friends, women and men alike, are people I can hug (pandemic protocol permitting) or at l least fist bump, and with whom I can share just about any insights. This, to me, is the feeling of true liberation. I look forward to the day when ANYONE can feel the same about traveling alone as I do, about being where they like to be and not feeling awkward or at risk, and being seen as complete human beings-from childhood onward.

The Second Half

2

July 1, 2021- The first six months of this year have produced some rather significant changes in my world. Chief among them was Mother’s changing her residence-thankfully of her own accord-after 66 years in the same house. With all of us pitching in, the gargantuan task was broken into a hundred fairly manageable pieces. Now, Mom is happily ensconced in a small, comfortable apartment, with her basic security set.

The other changes are more internal. I have jettisoned a few personal demons that, while not interfering in my life very much, did cause a certain tension to arise, unnecessarily, between me and certain people in the wider community. I have already noticed how much more relaxed things are, when I am in my favourite places around town.

There were, as always, journeys during the period January-June. One was not planned-but going to Massachusetts in May was never in question. Going to Carson City was a year overdue- one of my best friends, and her blessed children and grandchildren are like family to me.

The second half of 2021 will be similar, with most of July being on the road-again largely making up for the lost contacts of the pandemic year. I’m not worried about a variant-the masks and hand sanitizer will be with me, and I have been fully vaccinated. Variants will be around for decades to come, as they are with Ebola-and influenza. Life cannot and should not stop. August and September will mostly find me here in Prescott, save for a memorial hike on the Navajo Nation, on August 16 and a four-day visit to southern California, September 17-21.

In mid-August, I will determine the prudence of going to Europe, for four weeks in October, and plan accordingly, Much depends on any lingering quarantines at that time. November and December will again be Southwest-centric, with my serving as host, around Thanksgiving, hopefully attending a resumed Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference, around Christmas, and making a journey to southern New Mexico for a few days thereafter.

There will also be visits, at least once a month, to the Baha’i friends living along the Colorado River, in western Arizona, and always an eye towards getting up to Navajo and Hopi, as those areas open back up. The Red Cross is also opening its programs and services to in-person situations and meetings, starting within a few weeks, and I will remain open to helping in the schools, for special substituting activities.

Thus, the second half of this year will mirror, and expand upon, the first.

The Strange Process of Growth

2

June 29, 2021- Getting back to Home base, for a short period that is centered on the anniversary of the Yarnell Hill/Granite Mountain Hot Shots disaster (June 30, 2013) and on Independence Day, I found myself scheduling the July road trip and reaching back, to the past. While thinking about my Carson City family, the image of me as a toddler came into focus-almost in a hypnotic manner. I saw the source of certain behaviours and mindsets that have dogged my path, for so many years now. I also saw that I could let those behaviours and mindsets go, fall away. It is sublimely liberating.

Many of you know that I have given some help to someone in another country, whose society has much to re-learn about co-operating with one another, to achieve a greater goal. The people involved have, thus far, rejected such talk of co-operative farming, out of hand. “That is not the way we do things here!” This, essentially, translates into “Fork over the bucks, white man!” You can readily understand what my response is to such rubbish. Fortunately, the primary recipient of my aid is a bit more enlightened than many of his countrymen, and is at least trying to do things on his own. It is heartening to see someone who is walking the path of personal growth.

My own growth has been a strange enough road- complicated by being on the autism spectrum. I was a fairly strong, supportive husband and am a fairly strong, nurturing father. I am better at being a son, and sibling, than I was in the past. Ditto, for being a community member. The pattern of widespread travel will eventually subside, but not for the next five or six years. In the interim periods between journeys, though, I am committed to making a difference in my adopted community and state.

Learning makes this a great life, and it will only get greater.