Day of the Dead

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November 2, 2017, Prescott-

Hispanic families, in Mexico and elsewhere, observe this day as a way to honour their departed ancestors and strengthen the ties between this world and the hereafter.

As I looked out the window, this morning, I swear I could see Penny’s image, and that of her father, looking back at me, in a tree across the way.

Some have gone on, this past year, who had roles, large and small, in my life.

Uncle George Boivin, one of my last surviving father figures, gave me a paving stone from Boston’s old Scollay Square, which was transformed into Government Center, when I was about 12.  He was ever available, when I was in Colorado, to set me straight, in the difficult  2 1/2 years, immediately following Penny’s passing.  His mind was sharp, until the end, and those doll houses live on.

Al Tercero served our American Legion, at the post and district level, for over 30 years.  Now he is in what we call Post Everlasting.  The Honour Guard he helped establish is still the finest in Arizona.

George Marchessault, also a Past Commander and Honour Guard stalwart, stayed true to the Legion code and was ever present at our gatherings, on almost a weekly basis, until his last illness confined him to rest.

Bea Cronin, a grand-aunt’s sister-in-law, was always outside watching the Saugus High football team, from her back yard. There was an open door and welcome to the kids who knew her sons, and to us, her far extended family, when we were in the neighbourhood.

Ivaloo Mac Vicar was always in the hall, when I was passing to classes in seventh grade, admonishing us boys to WALK down the stairs, ONE step at a time.  She made it to the Century Mark, and a bit beyond, as did-

Evelyn Porter Anderson, who gave my mother a shot at success as a hairdresser and cosmetologist, in the uncertain days after World War II.  She never stopped doting on the five of us, until blindness and infirmity kept her confined to her last home.

Bernis Hanlon taught me, in fifth grade, to rely on my own wits and to start building  layers on my thin skin.  It took twenty more years for that lesson to really stick, yet less time for her next life lesson, appreciation of fine drama, to be absorbed, six years later, when she was the  High School Theater Advisor, who didn’t mind my being on the periphery of that club’s efforts.

Firuz Kazemzadeh was a high-level scholar of the Baha’i Faith, and one of our most accomplished mentors, serving in so many capacities, legal and educational.  His was always a bright and friendly face, at national and international gatherings, as well as at “our own” Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference, held annually in Phoenix.

So many others have come and gone- and some day a person or two will write of my time on this Earth.  There is much to do, as yet, so let it not be too soon.

 

Sixty-Six for Sixty Six, Part XXIV: The “First Home” Coast

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April 17, 2017, Prescott-   Last, but never least, on my recap of what has mattered most to me, in jaunts around the contiguous United States, are the special places that are on, or within a few hours of, the Atlantic Coast.

I’m a native of Massachusetts, so the places and people of Boston and the North Shore have had the most direct influence on the me that you see.  My special places in Saugus are still the Ironworks (now Saugus Ironworks National Historic Site), Breakheart Reservation, the Marsh (near where my middle brother lives) and anywhere along the old rail path, now a Rails to Trails hiking and biking route.  Kowloon and Prince Spaghetti House are still around; Hilltop Steak House and Augustine’s Italian Restaurant are not.

Lynn and Nahant still mean The Beach, and as a teen, I went to Fireplace 10, as that was where Saugus kids hung together.  The evening before I was to ship out for VietNam, I was with two of my mates at The Beach.  A rent-a-cop wanted to haul me in, for “being bombed”. I had had two sips of a 12-0z. can of Budweiser.  His sergeant heard my story of being about to head for the war zone, and let us go, with the comment, “Next time I see YOU here, is a year from now, right?”  “Yes, sir.”

There are almost as many beaches, along the Coast, as there are rent-a-cops.  Crane’s Beach was the site of one of my part-time jobs, after the Army.  Yep, I was a rent-a-cop.  I tried to arrest an Ipswich Selectman (town councilman) for being drunk and disorderly.  Guess how that worked out.  My favourite beach is still Hampton, NH- it had the biggest waves, when I was a kid.  Salem, Marblehead, Newburyport  and all of Cape Ann (Gloucester area) are my favourite seaport towns.  Gloucester House and Woodman’s (Essex) are fave seafood places, with Kelly’s, in Saugus, good as well, especially for take-out.

The rest of New England certainly has featured prominently, from childhood, on.  The White Mountains and Cape Cod were yearly fixtures of our family summers.  Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island were places where I got my toes wet, in terms of ferry trips and island adventures.  I didn’t get up to Maine much, except to Aunt Marie’s dairy farm, in Eliot, just over the New Hampshire line.  Now, I’ve been all over the Pine Tree State.  Cadillac Mountain, Kingfield, Moosehead Lake and coastal York County are all special areas.

In the Mid-Atlantic region, I used to enjoy Larrison’s Chicken Farm, near Bedminster, NJ, until it closed.  The diners of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, like the Mark Twain, on Hwy 22 (aka the Death Trap-the road, not the dining spot), and Bedford Diner, off the PA Turnpike, remain close to my heart, though my doc would prefer I leave such places in the rear view mirror.  Annapolis and Cumberland are  intensely special places, at either end of little Maryland.

I have fond memories of the great cities- Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington have all been kind, when I have either passed through, or had extended stays.  Boston Public Library is one of a kind as an edifice, and rules, as a grand place of public learning; so, too, does the Library of Congress.  I have had mixed experiences in DC- the security force, in the Bush II Era, gave us, and those near us, an unpleasant time, in July, 2007.  When I next visited the Nation’s Capital, in 2011 and 2014, all was delightful.

The Southeast is not as deeply ingrained in me, as the rest of the Atlantic Coast.  There are some special spots, though-  Martinsburg, Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Hilton Head, St. Simons,  Savannah,Okefenokee and St. Augustine are this solo traveler’s  “feels like home”.  The Atlanta and Tampa areas have family, so they are built-in magnets.

Florida, south of The Villages, remains a mystery to me.  At some point, I will solve that puzzle.  Charleston (SC), Baltimore, Delmarva and the Hampton Roads area are, likewise, places that will get special attention, sooner or later.

Well, that’s it, for now.  I’m back to work, tomorrow and will be back in eastern AZ, next weekend.  Have a great post-Easter week, one and all!

Portrait of the Poet

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February 1, 2016, Prescott-

The Winter Scavenger Hunt prompt says “artist”, not “poet”, but a poet IS an artist.

Today begins the month “officially” set aside as Black History Month.  African-Americans certainly are not limited to any given point along a year, in terms of their impact on our nation’s history.  Yet, why quibble?  We do well to reach as far back as possible, in comprehending the spirit and drive that gives each individual, regardless of ethnicity or melanin level, the capacity for great achievement.

The first published African-American poet, Phillis Wheatley, was brought to Boston at the age of 8, from either Gambia or Senegal.  She was given the name Phillis by her captor, Peter Gwinn, and sold as a slave to a tailor named John Wheatley.  The Wheatley family taught Phillis to read and write, encouraging her to study the Classics.

Phillis began to write her own poetry at the age of 14.  She drew the favourable attention of both British and American leaders of both politics and thought, having audiences with the Lord Mayor of London and George Washington.  Thomas Paine published her work in the Pennsylvania Gazette, and she drew favourable commentary from Voltaire.

Things went sour for Phillis, after her master died.  Though she was freed, under the terms of his will, and married a Free African-American grocer, John Peters, the prevailing view of society was not favourable towards African-Americans.  The Peters’ struggled financially, John was imprisoned, in 1784 and Phillis, along with their infant son, died shortly thereafter, she being only 31.

Here is a sample of her poetry, which drew on both Christian and animist influences, as well as ancient Greek and European Enlightenment thought.

“On Virtue”

O Thou bright jewel in my aim I strive
To comprehend thee. Thine own words declare
Wisdom is higher than a fool can reach.
I cease to wonder, and no more attempt
Thine height t’ explore, or fathom thy profound.
But, O my soul, sink not into despair,
Virtue is near thee, and with gentle hand
Would now embrace thee, hovers o’er thine head.
Fain would the heav’n-born soul with her converse,
Then seek, then court her for her promis’d bliss.

Auspicious queen, thine heav’nly pinions spread,
And lead celestial Chastity along;
Lo! now her sacred retinue descends,
Array’d in glory from the orbs above.
Attend me, Virtue, thro’ my youthful years!
O leave me not to the false joys of time!
But guide my steps to endless life and bliss.
Greatness, or Goodness, say what I shall call thee,
To give me an higher appellation still,
Teach me a better strain, a nobler lay,
O thou, enthron’d with Cherubs in the realms of day.[9]

Phillis had conflicting feelings about slavery, recognizing, on one level that it was the cruelest of institutions, while simultaneously expressing the view that captivity had served her well, by bringing her to Christianity.

In any event, I see Phillis Wheatley as the first great African-American woman, in public life.