This Is No Game

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August 18, 2019-

Love is not a game.

Caring for someone is a 24/7 matter.

It is not a case of projecting one’s needs onto the beloved.

It never allows for ignoring or minimizing her/his needs,

and dreams, in favour of the all-important self.

 

Leadership is not a game.

Guiding a group, region or nation is the highest calling.

It is not a case of being in the limelight, 24/7.

It is not a matter of keeping people off track.

It is not sleight of hand, or

smoke and mirrors.

 

Faith is not a game.

It does not pick and choose

which Scripture fits one’s

own pre-conceived notions.

It does not hide from what is expected.

It does not bemoan challenges,

or misfortune.

 

Life is just not a game.

The Seesaw

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August 10, 2019-

The seesaw was built for balance.

Gradually, that balance wore away,

as the bigger kids always favoured,

the right-hand side.

Getting to the seesaw first,

they managed to decide

how high, how fast,

it went up and down.

One day, a clever one,

from among the littles,

figured out how to restore

the balance.

He made some progress,

but was beaten

and chased off,

by those from both groups,

who were used to

things as they  were.

Try as they might, though,

the big kids couldn’t

restore the imbalance.

After several tries,

a series of little kids

began to enjoy the left side

being equally balanced

with the right.

There was an equal chance

for either to be above.

The bigger kids,

and some of the littles,

began to wail,

to cry UNFAIR!

One of the biggest

then got on the seesaw,

landing on it hard.

He knocked the device

out of balance again,

so much so,

that neither most of the littles

nor many of the bigs,

were happy.

Those who were happy,

were very loud about it,

and outshouted the unhappies.

This went on for some time,

until the more thoughtful

on both sides,

took a good, hard look

at the seesaw.

In the dead of night,

they restored the balance.

No one had to be hurt or maimed,

it was just that the right thing happened.

 

DISCLAIMER:  The “left” and “right”, in this poem refer only to the sides of an actual seesaw, and not to the political right or left.

 

Back Along A Golden Road

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July 17-18, 2019-

It had been three years, since I was last in Colorado. In the words of a waitress at one of my favoured spots, Del’s Diner, in Fort Garland, “That’s just too long!”  Del’s had been a bit of a dive, but had remodeled and was doing just fine.  The food was every bit as good as I remember.

U.S. 160 is one of those roads that make me feel at home, regardless of where I am, along its passage.  The same thing is true of Old 66; Highway 1, along the Pacific Coast; U. S. 30, through the Midwest,; and MOST of U.S. 1.

So, I took the road, from Ulysses, Kansas to its western terminus, in Tuba City, AZ.  A side hop was necessary, for me to take in Sand Creek National Monument.  From La Junta, though, I zipped down to Trinidad, then back up I-25 to Walsenburg, from which I could re-visit my favourite part of 160:  Colorado’s southern tier.  Thus came dinner at Del’s and a long search for a place to stay that wouldn’t mean my budget would need a budget.  Colorado seems to be even more popular than usual, this summer.  That does my heart good.

The Spanish Peaks are a fine greeter, just east of Walsenburg.

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The San Juan Mountains, between Del Norte and Pagosa Springs, are a reminder that snow regards the Rocky Mountain State as its summer home. (I’ve been in Colorado, at some point, each month of the year, and seen it snow, each and every month.)

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I stopped briefly in South Park, just west of the formidable Wolf Creek Pass, and found a Cal King was the only bed available.  Since I’m not part of a package deal, up and over the Pass I went.  Going through the pricey resorts of Pagosa Springs and Durango, the night drive came to an end at Mesa Verde Motel, Mancos.  There, I was generously offered a room at discount.  It is a “dog room”, the owners being pet lovers, but there was no sign of dog hair anywhere in the room.  Mesa Verde’s owners are just gentle, laid back people, and I  recommend the place for anyone finding themselves tired and on the west side of heaven.

The home stretch began with a stop at Mc Elmo Creek Flume, an irrigation channel, built in 1921.

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Seeking to stretch my legs a bit, before lunch, I walked around the City Park, in downtown Cortez.  A laid-back Ute gent, seeking to impress some ladies in his company, started to mock me, while I was walking up the hill. When that had no effect, he asked if i were a veteran. “Yes, I am, and you? ” “You know it, Bro….. Devil Dogs!”  He had the tattoo of a Marine, and though I recall the name being used specifically for those in the Corps, who fought at Belleau Wood, during World War I, I gave him a pass on that.  Everyone deserves a semblance of dignity and respect.

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Lunch time was here.  I sadly noted that my go-to place, Jack and Janelle’s, had gone belly up.  A walk downtown showed that there was someplace fairly new:  The Farm Bistro.  I gave it a shot, and am glad of it.  Alex and crew are spot-on, with great cuisine and set a spunky, welcoming ambiance.  Each party selects a plastic animal for its table, as a cue to the server.

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My visit to Cortez came to a close, and shortly, thereafter, I was back in Arizona.  Along the drive down the Navajo Nation, I noted that two once grocery-deprived communities, Red Mesa and Dennehotso, now have local markets.  One place that has nothing is Baby Rocks, yet this little village, east of Kayenta, could easily be the next big outdoors thing.

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This little wonderland is close enough to tourist-mecca Monument Valley, that a Dineh entrepreneur could easily remove the “Best Kept Secret” label from Baby Rocks.

Going onward, for four more hours, I brought this phase of Summer, 2019, to a peaceful conclusion.  Carson City, and my  Nevada extended family, await next week, after a few days of meetings here at Home Base.  My eyes and heart are always open, to what counts most in life:  Love of humanity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilbert’s Fantasy and World Class ‘Q’

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July 15-16, 2019, Kansas City (MO) (and Olathe, KS )-

In 1959, Wilbert Harrison, a rhythm and blues singer from Charlotte, delivered the signature rendition of the whimsical tune, “Kansas City”- imagining a visit there would bring him romance, which would change his life.

Of course, it was pure fancy and the real Mr. Harrison probably spent no more time in KC than anyone else who didn’t live there.  He did have a good idea, though.  Kansas City has long been a place through which I have driven, en route to somewhere else.  I visited the Truman Presidential Library, in nearby Independence, in 2011, but the big city eluded me-until today.

KCMO, simply put, has the most welcoming hostel in which I’ve yet stayed.  Considering that I have had great experiences in all but one of the hostels I’ve visited in the past four years, that’s saying a volume.  Honeycomb, and its owner/host, Elsa, make every guest feel like family.  This is a woman who has lived a full life, most recently having made an interesting attempt to climb Mt. Everest, which she says will NOT be her last attempt.  Then, there is Max, the house dog, who has his own skateboard, on which he can barely fit.

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Max does his skateboard trick, for a piece of cheddar cheese.

There is much to see and do in Kansas City, so this will not be my last time stopping here.  There were two immediate goals for this trip, though:  Finding signature barbecue and getting a handle on downtown.

The first goal was achieved when,courtesy of Elsa, I headed towards Q 39, a medium-sized barbecue palace, in mid-town, and in a strip mall,yet.  There are more stately-sounding barbecue restaurants, recommended by Lonely Planet and Fodor’s, but I’d come back here again, in a flash.  Burnt tips have become this steak lover’s favourite, and no one does them better than Q 39’s kitchen staff.

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Upon my return, the conversation with Elsa and three other guests, young men who are here for an extended work-visit, left me thinking that a need to slow the cross-country engine down, and actually spend 2-3 days, or more, in a place like KC, as I do in Massachusetts and Carson City-Reno.  Family is as much in the mind and heart, as it is on a tree of ancestry.  No, I’m not implying following Wilbert’s whimsical example; most women I encounter on the road are perfectly content with the men who are already in their lives.  I am seeing the wisdom in matching my intensive mode of exploration with an actual time frame that fits.

Tuesday morning I left Honeycomb around 11 a.m. and headed to Union Station, far more than a place to catch a train.

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As the skeleton implies, here is a top-notch Science City, which is offering a Stonehenge exhibit.  Having been in Carnac and to Cahokia Mounds, I passed this one up, but for the small children going in with their parents, it had to have been a blast.

The interior lobby, though, gives Grand Central a run for its money.

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The lobby has a couple of nice little food nooks, so I got a sandwich from Harvey’s, following up with a fine latte and fresh scone from Parisi.  That set me back on the road, for a forty-five minute auto tour of downtown.   Following this excursion, KC’s nice system of boulevards and parkways made wrestling with the construction zones at I-70’s on ramps completely unnecessary.  I was past Kansas City, KS within a half-hour.

Continuing notes to self:  Kansas is making a concerted effort at increasing its foliage.  I make it a point to record all such scenes as I encounter.

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NEXT:  Solemnity and Noise in Eastern Colorado

 

Bastion of Honour

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July 9, 2019, West Point, NY-

My father, before his passing, expressed a desire to visit the United States Military Academy, at this wide spot on the west bank of the Hudson, 57 miles north of New York City.  I don’t know if he ever made it there, but in case he hadn’t, I was determined to visit on both his behalf and as part of marking my own 50th anniversary of having joined the U.S. Army.

Unlike either of the still extant posts at which I served,West Point does allow visitors.  The security check involves both a written document and a personal interview, lasting 3-5 minutes.  Once those are accomplished, a visitor is given clearance to go to the Cemetery, to Trophy Point and,  parking space available, to the fortress-like dormitories.

I set aside 3 hours, this afternoon, after being cleared by security, to look over the areas mentioned above.  West Point, despite a handful of peccadilloes, over the years, remains largely a bastion of honour.

The Museum is the first place one sees, upon entering the Visitor Center parking lot. I save that great edifice for another time, preferring to get out and take in the out of doors sections of the Academy.

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From the edge of the parking lot, one may take in a serene view of the Hudson.

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On to the Visitor’s Center, with its display which depicts the quarters of a cadet, and of the cadet’s four years.

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The quarters are spartan.

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Once cleared by the dour and seemingly exhausted security officer, I drove to the Cemetery parking lot and took in a variety of mausoleums and tombs, reflecting our nation’s military heritage.  Soldiers from George Armstrong Custer to William Westmoreland are laid to rest in these grounds.

Here is a montage of the statuary and resting places of West Point National Cemetery.

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The Old Cadet Chapel, seen below, was brought here to the Cemetery Gate, from its prior location near the dormitories.

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From here, I walked to Gees Point, from which one may take in more serene views of the majestic Hudson River.

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This Helipad is primarily for the use of dignitaries, coming and going.

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This small house invokes the gentler side of the Academy.  It serves as an officer’s residence.

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This is one of two paths, from the Main Road to Eisenhower Hall, that are “Use at own risk”. I took the risk.

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Below is a view of  the Catholic Chapel.

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The Gothic dormitories could only be photographed from a distance, this evening, due to a dearth of parking.

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The legendary football/soccer stadium stands next to the dorms.

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Finally, the statue of Tadeusz Kosciusko stands watch, gazing towards the Hudson.

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So ended my first visit to my former superiors’ alma mater.

 

 

The Valley of Five Colleges

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July 8, 2019, Amherst, MA-

I learned much from my growing-up years in Saugus-certainly a lot more than some people, who knew me when, ever suspected.  Some, especially in my family, still wonder how I’ve made it this far, ever managing to get out of my own way.  Truth be known, what I learned as a child and teen determined what I retained from my college and university days, and from many experiences thereafter.  I learned to survive in Saugus and how to thrive in Amherst.

Amherst both sheltered me from the real world and engaged the stretching of my comfort zone.  I came to this place of five institutions of higher learning, at a time when the women’s movement was coming into full flower (no pun intended) and when the residue of the anti- war movement was settling into an ennui of apathy.  Watergate rekindled a sense of outrage, for a time, but with Richard Nixon gone, by the Fall of 1974, many were back to focusing on I, Me and Mine.

I returned here today, for the first time since graduating in 1976, to see what, if anything, had really changed.  Amherst College is still the centerpiece of downtown. The University of Massachusetts is the town’s largest employer.  Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and Hampshire College lie in a semi-circle to the south of Amherst,  I took a stroll around Amherst College and downtown Amherst, before heading up to the University campus.

Here a few views of Amherst College.

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The Loeb Center is a job placement hub for Amherst graduates.

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Bassett is one of two planetariums in Amherst.  Orchard Hill, on the University of Massachusetts campus, is the other.

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Henry Ward Beecher was a pioneer in the abolitionist movement, but was later the focus of scandal, showing the two sides of even the most ardent of  social reformers.  Nonetheless, he is honoured by Amherst College as one of its most prominent alumni.

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Lawrence Observatory, to which Bassett Planetarium is attached, is one of the first astronomical observatories in the United States, having been built in 1847.

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My walk around Amherst town began with lunch.  Fresh Side is a lovely Asian fusion cafe.

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St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church is one of the most prominent non-college edifices in town.

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Amherst Town Hall, though, is the signature Town Center building, across from the Town Green.

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Fast forward a bit and I found myself gazing at the High Rise Dormitory, completed just before I attended the University.

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Here is the Sciences Complex.

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This scene appealed to me, as  a fusion of two starkly different architectural styles.

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I headed south, after a brief visit to the University Commons, and gazed towards Mt. Holyoke, from a highway rest stop.  The Five Colleges were a solid unit in the 1970’s and are even more vital an educational force now.  The concept of a unified and diverse educational consortium has only gained traction, in the decades since.

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NEXT:  Danbury, The Second Clarion of the American Revolution

 

On Differing With Ella Winter

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July 3-7, 2019, Saugus, MA-

The fine North Carolina author, Thomas Wolfe, famously used, “You can’t go home again.”as the title of a novel, which he never lived to publish.  His associates took care of that, sometime after his death in 1938, and we have the title as one of the more memorable things with which he is associated.  The quote, though, originated with an Australian writer, Ella Winter, who gave Wolfe permission to use it in his writing.

I’ve been going back to Saugus, continuously, since I left here at age 18.  Service in the Army, college, a quixotic two years getting my bearings in Maine, and then Arizona, South Korea and back to Arizona, all have had a common denominator:  Hometown has never gone away.

There have been changes:  The population has grown, from 25,000 to about 38,000; traffic has increased accordingly; the once lily-white community has opened its doors to people of colour; Hilltop Steak House has given way to Restaurant 110; most of the neighbours have  died or moved away.

There are, though, things which endure:  My mother is still living, quite well; two boyhood friends still live in the neighbourhood-one  in his childhood home; Adams Avenue, the street of my youth, is still within walking distance of both Saugus Center and Cliftondale Square-as well as the West Side’s large shopping mall, Square One; traffic on U.S. Route One can still be daunting at times, though after dealing for so long with traffic in much larger cities, I know not to cringe.

We had the usual family gathering, this time at a niece’s large, beautiful new home, about 1 1/2 hours west of here and dropped in on a nephew and his family, in a town twenty minutes south of Saugus.   These visits are fleeting, but far better than not seeing these gracious, beloved people at all. There was a visit to the aforementioned 110, where I got my fix of fried clams, a boyhood staple.  There were the customary Hallmark movies and binge watching of old episodes of “Blue Bloods”, one of Mom’s favourites.  There was a surprise, when Mom decided to check out a couple of Marvel films, on SyFy.  She had enough, after “Iron Man”, but “Spider Man” was a hit.

I come from large families, on both sides.  There are many cousins, some I haven’t seen in years, and a few aunts and uncles still living.  The group will hopefully get together in late August.  Though I won’t be there, people have to start with what they have available.  I have been able to connect with a cousin in the Midwest, as you know,  and will hopefully make more connections, in future visits.  Gradually, the in-gathering progresses-with social media at least keeping the ties from fraying.

So, not to judge Ella Winter, for the circumstances of her life, but I CAN, and do, go home again. If nothing else, home remains in the heart.  We four, and our extended family, want Mom to keep on, so long as life offers her a measure of blessing.  May she keep the flame, until it’s time to pass the torch on.

NEXT:  Amherst and Its Halls of Learning

 

 

The Two Faces of Newburgh

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July 2, 2019, Newburgh , NY- 

One of the things I often find myself doing, when going back and forth across the continent, is spending at least  a few hours in a town or city that is struggling with a variety of social ills, yet still manages to keep a semblance of what made it tick.  Newburgh, in the middle Hudson Valley, is one such place.

I spent last night, and this morning, in Oley, PA, at the home of friends who operate Glick’s Greenhouse.   It’s always a pleasure to stop there, with a house full of people and one sometimes grouchy greenhouse dog. When I was about to leave, after breakfast and lunch served up by a budding eight-year-old chef, the proprietor of the Greenhouse showed me some of his nephew’s latest blossoms.

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The evening brought me to the Hudson Valley, and Newburgh.  I made the choice to focus on the Inner City, thus spending the night at Imperial Motel, which has seen better days, though still home to some of the most regal people on Earth.  A wander about the downtown area showed both early 20th and contemporary 21st Century architecture.

The City Courthouse is a busy place.  Newburgh is said to be the murder capital of New York State, so it isn’t a place for the distracted or the unwary.

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There are plenty of safe havens, though.  These two churches signify the legacy, and the promise, that exists in places like Newburgh, and its upriver cousin, Poughkeepsie (more on it, in the next post).

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I spent a little time, here and there, along Newburgh’s Riverfront, with plenty of locals celebrating the majesty of the Hudson-and a few signs of decay in spots.

Here is a view of a crossing, from south of Newburgh.

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Looks like the boat might need some work.

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Nonetheless, there is an enduring charm about the great river and its banks.

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From this area of Newburgh’s waterfront, several ferries take people across the Hudson, to Beacon.

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I took a walk, from Imperial to a small “spa”, which is another term in the Northeast for a convenience store.  The dour South Asian proprietor took no crap from any of the young men who cam in and out, basically trying one scam or another.  I got my coffee, treated everyone politely, while walking with confidence and had no trouble.  Then again, it was broad daylight.  Most trouble here seems to come from domestic disputes, and in a city where too many men have lost hope, that violence comes all too easily.

Up on the bluffs heading out of town, there is a far different ambiance.  This Korean-American establishment offers one mindset that is the basis for solving many social ills:  “We are one family.”

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NEXT:  Poughkeepsie, without Popeye Doyle

 

The Turnstile Island

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June 29, 2019, Charleston, SC-

It was a still, warm day, even on the water, as the Noon ferry headed out of Charleston Harbor, towards Fort Sumter.  The hundred or so tourists and Park Service staff who were aboard were a far cry from the angry men who stormed Fort Sumter, after firing on the supposedly impregnable island fort, on April 12, 1861- the opening shots of the American Civil War.

The fort was one of those which  had been built as a response to the glaring lack of coastal defense, during the War of 1812.  Thus, it is ironic that Fort Sumter should have been the symbol of oppression, to many in South Carolina, and that it would change hands three times, during the Civil War’s progression.  Built with three stories, to convey the image of indestructible fortress, it was leveled by bombardment and was turned into an earthwork, by Confederate defenders, between 1861-63.

I have had Fort Sumter on my to-go list, since 2007, when we made a family “virtual field trip” journey, for Penny’s University studies.  We never made it to Charleston, among other places. Now, though,  the scintillating city. and Fort Sumter, were on my blog-topic itinerary..

Here are some scenes of the ferry route and of the Fort.  The park’s office and waiting area are adjacent to the South Carolina Aquarium, just north of downtown Charleston.

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Whilst waiting for the Noon ferry, I happened upon East Bay Deli, on a row of eateries, three blocks south of the Aquarium.  It is a perfect spot for a full line of made-to-order delicatessen foods.

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Below is a scene of Castle Pinckney, a small fortress from which Confederate forces harassed Union Naval vessels.

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This sand spit is used by Charlestonians as a private beach, and is not part of Fort Sumter.

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The first sight we saw, after the Ranger Talk, was of these cannon portholes.

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Here is one of the entrances to the lower breastworks.

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A full view of the cannon ports faces east.

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Sea shells were used to reinforce the mortar, during the fort’s repairs in 1862.

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The cannon portholes are sometimes shut

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and sometimes open.

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The cannon was always at the ready.

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The supports of the upper stories still remain, in several parts of the fort.

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For the person who has done everything, there is this:

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My money still needs to go elsewhere, but there it is.  This is one such cannon that has been adopted.

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Finally, here is a Howitzer, used by the Confederates, during their defense of the fort, in 1863.  The Union forces won that battle and retained control of the island, thereafter.

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Fort Sumter reinforced my view of the folly of war, when pursued as a means to safeguard ideology or narrow self-interest.  We have far more in common, as human beings, and thankfully have come a fair distance in viewing others in a positive light, since the Nineteenth Century.

NEXT:  Raleigh’s Capitol District