Winter Travels Update

January 2018

Let’s just say this is not the New Year we expect.  Certainly, every journey begins with an intention and a destination, and we started on our winter travels with both.  Loading our Ford F350 diesel truck with everything we need for the next 3 ½ months, we hang our sole Christmas ornament over the mirror and leave Newtown early Christmas Day.   We make great time—no tractor trailers and few cars on the road—and we arrive without incident late in the day in Jonesborough, TN to pick up our 12,000-pound 5th wheel trailer.

Our first destination is to visit with older relatives in St. Petersburg, and our intention is to get to Key West in time to see our son Mark’s robing ceremony as he is officially sworn in as a county judge on Jan. 5.  We are right on schedule.   It’s our plan to spend 5 days in St. Pete, two months in Key West, and a month in Austin while enjoying cozy living in our 5th wheel trailer.   (Remember the old adage, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him you have a plan?”)

Descending the Great Smokey Mountains, our truck signals engine trouble. We stop at the Ford dealer in Ashville, NC but can’t get immediate service, we stop again in Anderson, SC and learn the problem is serious – we must stop and do expensive repairs.  Richmond has written a short piece on that part of our saga (click to read it).

Delayed for 3 days, we depart Anderson in a rental car, after hiring a professional transporter to bring our rig to Key West—our trip to St. Pete postponed—and our truck still in the shop, but now consigned to Anderson Ford’s used truck lot or auction.

Our first weeks here in Key West are full of babysitting our charming 5-month old granddaughter Virginia Elouise

as her mom starts back to work part-time, getting the rig cleaned up and settling in, and enjoying the Key West ambiance.  While temperatures tumbled into the single digits in the north, we were layering our too-light tropical clothing and running our gas furnace to ward off the unexpected chill of temperatures in the 50’s.

Staged in the “ceremonial” largest courtroom, Mark’s investment ceremony is appropriately formal and impressive, with allusions to many sectors of Mark’s life, as well as his 13 years here in the Keys prosecuting criminals for both the State Attorney’s Office and the US Attorney.

(Click on image to see all of the photos)
The photos show posting of the colors by a Florida Highway Patrol squad from Miami, oath of office by the 16th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge, presentation of judge’s robe by the county bar association, accolades from a former student when Mark taught Constitutional Law at Dickenson Law School (now the attorney for the Coast Guard here in Key West) and his colleagues at the Prosecutor’s Office, presentation of the gavel by State Attorney Dennis Ward, enrobing and escort to the Bench by his partner-in-life Cristiana Spottswood, Esq.—and Mark himself speaking  with modesty, good humor and generous acknowledgement of everyone present.

In mid-January the days turn warmer (in the 80’s some days), our babysitting routine settles into a nice rhythm. We enjoy the relaxed shirt-sleeve lifestyle of the Keys. It’s movies at the Tropic Cinema, hogfish and beer at the Hogfish Grille, live theater (up to five choices on any given night). Richmond putters about restringing blinds and doing maintenance chores. He works online with the Fair Districts PA organization providing tech support to volunteers all across Pennsylvania.

I cook in our one-person kitchen, and we enjoy fresh wild-caught fish and Florida produce. I participate in phone conference calls to stay connected with Pennswood Villiage friends.

I arrange for our Air B&B stays in St. Pete and in Austin and Richmond books the storage space for the RV in Christmas, FL where it will remain until we return to Key West next winter. We’ll leave the hauling to a professional driver from Orlando. Richmond says, much as he liked driving our big rig, he won’t be unhappy to zip around in our Prius. The way opens for us, and life is good.


We Marched -AGAIN

We were in Key West last year (2017) for the Women’s March and we walked Duval Street to Mallory Square again this year. Click the photos below to see the slide show.

Keys Citizen News coverage here: (click)

Why Are all the Women’s Marches Important??

“For two years in a row, the women’s marches have turned out far more people than the Tea Party protests held between 2007 to 2010 did. In terms of numbers, the only recent events of comparable scope were the antiwar protests of February, 2003. (There were huge protest movements in the nineteen-thirties and sixties.) But those were motivated by animus toward a specific policy—… ”

(read the whole New Yorker article)

Can’t let this slide by …

The tax bill that the GOP is celebrating leaves most of America worse off than they were last year, and will be financed by borrowing more money.

Check the chart to see what your family gets. Don’t have a six-figure income? “You want more do you, Oliver? MORE you say?”

I forgot to mention, they will be borrowing the money for this from (wait for it) … China.

When you add it all up, the ultra-rich get 80% or so of the proceeds. So tell me again how a tax break that increases their cash by 5% is gonna make the rest of us prosper? Inflation was 2% this year, that means unless you make more than $500,000 a year, your tax benefit still leaves you worse off than last year. America, you are being played!

Useful Scoundrels?

Does the end justify the means?  Can a scoundrel serve a good purpose? Many great dramas have been written and filmed around these great questions. Some politicians’ actions say that their personal answer to boh questions is “yes.”
Here’s an analysis of that phenomenon: The Scoundrel Theory.
Here are some more perceptive articles.
Rolling Stone Magazine: “Trump’s Republican Party has taken on the attributes of a cult” – Sean Wilentz
Time Magazine: “Unifying values, around speech and civility, freedom and fairness are shredded by rising tribal furies and passions. We have a president for whom division is not just a strategy, it’s a skill.” — Nancy Gibbs [Former Editor and Chief].
NY Times: “The Republican Party is doing harm to every cause it purports to serve.” – David Brooks.
We are in a time when our fundamental ethics and mores are being called into question.  What exactly is the “American Way” these days?

The Blacksmith Metaphor

Iron and steel can be shaped and hardened into durable implements with fire and repeated blows. Maybe the “heat” generated in our turbulent society will allow us to shape it for the better. It’s up to those who love peace to stay engaged lest others forge only weapons, chains, and shackles.

The durable metal [mettle?] of American Individualism and independence needs tempering with compassion and stewardship for the common good. It’s about having integrity as an inclusive and beloved community. Can that vision be forged from the base metal of predatory self-interest? How much heat and how many blows are necessary?

[photo: Shutterstock]

Image may contain: fire
 Thanks to George Lakey for the metaphor of heat softening the metal so that it can be worked and shaped. The song “If I had a hammer” comes to mind.

“Living in Dark Times” – New from Pendle Hill

These are indeed dark times. I read of national and world events, grind my teeth, and sometimes despair that the light of hope for my children and grandchildren is dimming, not brightening. Rex Ambler’s Pendle Hill Pamphlet “Living in Dark Times” was published last month.  The Pendel Hill website summarizes his message thus:

How can we effect positive change in our current difficult world situation? In this pamphlet based on his talk at the 2016 Friends General Conference Gathering, Rex Ambler shares his reflections and insights. Citing William Penn, he urges readers to avoid objectifying the world, focus within, and live lives that reflect the truth they discover.

Continue reading “Living in Dark Times” – New from Pendle Hill

What Rebel Memorials Represent

In the days following Charlottesville’s white supremacist march historians offered evidence that the construction of Confederate memorials represents more than a simple historical artifact of the US Civil War.

Chart showing when Confederate Memorials were Built.
Peak in 1915 coincides with rise of KKK.

The peak in 1915 was a period of extreme segregationist sentiment among white Americans.  President Woodrow Wilson ordered the segregation of black federal workers.  The first Hollywood blockbuster film, Birth of a Nation,  celebrated the KKK, debased blacks, and fueled the growth of racism and segregation in the following decade. The NAACP was founded in the same period.

While at Chautauqua (8/5 to 8/20/17) Marguerite and I attended a showing of Birth of a Movement presented by the filmmaker Bestor Kram. This Independent Lens PBS Documentary gives the historical context surrounding Birth of a Nation and offers a key to understanding why Confederate Memorials are not merely a commemoration of historic figures and events. (Click the image below to view the trailer.)

Birth of a Movement Trailer

When we understand the political and social climate surrounding the creation of these Monuments, it becomes clear that they were erected to honor the ideology of white supremacy and those who fought to preserve not just slavery, but the whole social system that dehumanized blacks.

Critics point out that in Germany when structures and artifacts of the Nazi era have been preserved, it is done in a context of national shame. Students are taught about that period as a dark time, not a proud one.

This is not generally the case with Dixie. And, the  Confederate flag has been taken by the white supremacists as a symbol of their tribe. You won’t find black Americans flying the “Stars and Bars” on the back of their pickup trucks.


Red Tape Rollback? – Latter Day Robber Barons

The mailing pictured below cost the sender at least $20 for each copy that was mailed.  This “non-profit” is soliciting serious money from wealthy Americans.  It is one of the groups that have defended the Tobacco Industry for years and is now funded by the Koch Brothers and others of like mind.
It is cleverly crafted to suck in the small business owner — maybe this is not the first time you have seen it.  It is the third appeal I have seen since #45 office. They all come from different organizations, but they all have the same basic format: a long richly personalized letter, first class mail with patriotic postage stamps, an artfully worded pitch, and a stamped self-addressed envelope with the target’s name already typed in the return address space.
Consider the source and ask yourself if they really are fighting for “We the People” as they claim.

Civic Hygiene

The Boy Scouts of America were part of my formative years and as an adult, I led two Explorer Posts. At every meeting Scouts recite the Scout oath and law:



Scout Oath or Promise         

On my honor I will do my best

To do my duty to God and my country

and to obey the Scout Law;

To help other people at all times;

To keep myself physically strong,

mentally awake, and morally straight.


Scout Law

A Scout is …

trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,

courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful,

thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.


You may see this as quaint. Perhaps you object to the reference to God, or the notion of duty to country, or the idea of being obedient. All these traditions are now widely scorned as naive.


Rotary clubs across the nation recite the Rotary Four Way Test:

The Four-Way Test of the things we think say or do.

Is it the truth?

Is it fair to all concerned?

Will it build goodwill and better friendships?

Will it be beneficial to all concerned?


Both of these traditions deserve to be part of our American Civic Hygiene: practices that protect against infection by calumny, fear, bigotry, ignorance, intolerance, and avarice. No sneering!

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