Stowe, Day Three


A v. low-key day yesterday. Slept like a log. Sharon said she did, too. We went to breakfast with Deb, Tony and Lou having gone before. It was pouring, so Deb took the car from the motel at the top of the hill to the main building a couple of hundred feet away.

I had scrambled eggs, a piece of toast, and a bunch of fruit – honeydew and blueberries, plus more coffee. Gave away the sausage, which looked like some variation of Brown ‘n’ Serve. Then we drove down the hill to the little deli, where I was able to get a Times. Yipee!!! This edition has two pages of real estate in the back of the business section and I ‘m guessing there will be one or two local NYC stories in with the main news since there’s no Metro section. (Update: I was right).

Deb went to the farmers’ market, which was much reduced because of the continuing rain. She called Sharon and came to pick her up. They returned with sandwiches for the road, which Alex ate immediately. Deb brought me a spicy nut mix – yummy!

We hung around till two then went to see Inside Out, which I can’t recommend enough and will review separately.

Sharon and Alex left right afterward. Lou, Deb, Tony, and I made our way to Phoenix Table and Bar. Deb had seen a sign for oysters during our walk on Saturday. Lou and Alex visited that evening, discovering the bargain price of a dollar each from 5 to 6 p.m. Phoenix advertised itself as a mélange of Mexico and Japan, though it wasn’t obvious except in the minimalist decorations accented with bright colors. Perhaps the motorcycle on the wall speaks to the Japanese influence?

Tony had mac and cheese, while the rest of us scarfed down a plate of excellent calamari, eighteen oysters, and salads. Mine was touted as kale, but contained more shredded red and green cabbage, plus a generous application of avocado and pistachios.

From there we returned to the Crop where Lou and Tony had popcorn. We flashed back to the exchange on Friday between Alex and Deb in which he tried to explain to her how to remove a mound of powdery cheese from popcorn using a separate bowl and a napkin. He finally had to demonstrate.

Returned to the Inn for a quiet evening with the newspaper and then more of The Woman in White.

Stowe, Day Two

the path

By 7:30 a.m. Deb, Sharon, Alex, and I were on the path. We walked for twenty minutes more or less paralleling a stream, next to woods and fields with corn that looked stunted. (I heard a broadcast later confirming my observation.) The air was fresh and clean and cool. Breakfast consisted of oatmeal and toast and fruit with yogurt. There were also muffins of various sorts. Then we hied it off for Deb’s competition in the Senior Games in South Burlington, fast after we left the back roads because she was afraid we’d be late. Got there with two minutes to spare.

She participated in the disc and won a medal. Yay! We met an eighty-one-year-old woman who was competing in eight events. She started running when she was sixty, so there’s hope for me. She looked maybe seventy. The biggest mystery: how she managed to keep her hair looking perfect in the heat. Also met a woman who didn’t look like she met the minimum age requirement of fifty. She’s a triathlete and was throwing the disc for the first time. I’ve never seen an athlete giggle so much. The meet official and the rest of the competitors were coaching her. She did OK considering she had no upper body strength.

We moved to the jav area, and while we waited I ran a quick 1.5 miles around the high school and along the bike path, which was OK except for the noisy four-lane highway a few paces away. The jav competition got hustled along because players had begun arriving for a baseball game. Deb medaled again. Double Yay! Observation: These folks take maximum advantage of the playing fields. While we were waiting, I checked in with Marcia, who was thrilled at the USSC ruling. Then we waited and waited for Deb to collect her medals.

We tried to go into Burlington, but there was no parking so we returned to Stowe and had lunch at Piecasso, (as in pizza pie). I had a divine spinach/artichoke soup and a Greek salad wrap, which I finished in the evening. Forgot to mention that yesterday’s meal at the Crop was mixed greens and grilled salmon, which stayed on the grill about thirty seconds too long but was otherwise good. I should have skipped the dreadful Subway sandwich later in the evening.

Alex, Sharon, Deb, and I went for a walk after lunch, taking the opposite direction from the morning’s walk. Deb and Sharon turned back after a bit. Alex and I figured we walked at least four miles, maybe more. We would have kept going if bugs hadn’t made an  appearance. The path combines the best of  locales for hikers and bikers in spring and summer and fall along with cross-country in the winter. There were gaggles of families including lots of little kids to dodge. Our route also offered frequent views of the stream with people trying to tube in six inches of rapids, plus a couple of fisher folk.

Alex and Lou went for a bike ride when we returned. I showered and tried to go into the swimming pool. My toes said the water temp had not reached fifty. I eased in long enough to say I did and then fled.   Instead Tony and I went in the hot tub, which was warm but only had good jets on one side. Hung out afterward, snacking on cheese, crackers, and a bit of the wine I had brought.

Found Vermont Public Radio. It was playing “American Routes” at 10 p.m., featuring Johnnie Allan and swamp pop so I turned it off.

Of the three vacation spots – Placid, Hampton Beach, and Stowe – I like this one best. It’s closer and less commercial than Placid and less hectic than H.B. Plus, I’m not partial to shore resorts anyway, having grown up in one. I’ll definitely return to this one.

Stowe, Vermont, Day One


I’m exhausted from two weeks of agony and uplift in  Charleston. Here are three days in Stowe, Vermont.

We (Lou, Deb, Tony, Sharon, and I) started at 11 a.m. on Saturday June 27. Except for construction slow-downs we had an uneventful ride until the very end.

We made a brief stop at the Cabot outlet in Waterbury (yet another town named for the people who escaped Connecticut) for tastings of the many varieties of cheese. Most don’t appear in stores. The place also offered popcorn and a couple of types of dip with yummy crackers. Deb bought garlic and herb cheese and some crackers. I bought the Seriously Sharp and a $9 bottle of Chilean pinot noir. Thank you, low taxes! Sharon and I floated through the pewter store into the connected chocolate venue, but she didn’t find any with high enough cocoa butter percentage so we passed. Alex, driving separately, caught up with us in the parking lot and then beat us to the lodge.

Stowe is cute, as might be expected of an upscale ski place. The town evicted McD’s but allows Subway (and I discover from an online search, D&D). The main drag is experiencing serious chaos with road repair and building construction, though the more westerly section where we stayed is settled with restaurants, a hotels, a convenient deli, and lots of other places to spend money.

As we approached the Hob Knob Inn, which is built on a hill, we saw a terrified young deer struggling to run up the bank, its back legs obviously broken. I looked across the road and saw a dog in hot pursuit of another deer. Pretty sure the dog had chased the poor injured creature into the road.

Alex said the deer wasn’t there when he pulled in perhaps three minutes ahead of us, so the coward had just driven away. We let the owner know. Sharon walked down the drive and came back a few minutes later. The deer was dead and a man with a game license had received permission from the warden to remove the carcass. We agreed it was not an auspicious start to the weekend but vowed it would get better.

After checking in we went to the Crop, a restaurant/brewery where we learned 1) police had killed one of the escaped murderers who were not far across Lake Champlain; and 2) President Obama rocked the eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinkney. Later we learned that the Supreme Court had overturned bans on same-sex marriage.

We returned to the inn, where Sharon and I watched some of USA vs. China in women’s soccer, then Obama’s eulogy. It had everything – passion, love, political analysis, religion, humor, sadness, and that song! I’m checking out the text because I missed a word or two here and there and want to keep a written record.

Bedtime reading was The Woman in White. Even though I did a “What I’m Reading Now” on it, I’m still less than half way through because I only read it when I’m on the road. It’s still plugging along, almost Rashomon-like though with less violence and lots of gothic twists. It probably isn’t the best book to read before falling asleep, but I’m still enjoying it.

Who Rapes Whom?


My great-grandmother, Anna Houston James, b. ca 1844, Alabama

The Charleston shooter reportedly said, “You rape our women.” He got it backward, and history proves it.

Go to the census records for the former confederacy from 1870, 1880, and 1900. (Most of the records from 1890 burned). They’re free on Mocavo and other websites. The first census after the end of slavery occurred in 1870. There are patterns here. Households include a man (head of household) and woman in their twenties or thirties with one or more much younger people, along with one or more older people, usually women. The man, woman, and youngsters are mulatto (MU), while the older people are black (B). Households may comprise a black man and a mulatto woman along with mulatto young people.

The 1870 census didn’t include family relationships, but later ones did.

In 1880 and 1900 we can see  the man and woman in the first example are husband and wife, the youngsters are their children, and the older woman is either his mother or hers. In the second example, the couple is married, but the children are hers. The older women are either mother or mother-in-law.

So where did all these mulatto households come from? Africans arrived on these shores without much white blood. Except for Spain and Portugal, Europeans didn’t have much black blood. By the time 1870 came along there were almost no Native Americans in the Southeast, and they were listed as “I” when they lived off the reservations.

I did a Mitochondrial DNA test a few years ago. It was 100 percent West African. Before and after TJ, the enslaving white men exercised their power over the bodies of black women, women who could not object without risk to their own lives or more likely, the lives of their other children. It wasn’t called rape, but it was.

Vacation Crises


Blog went on a brief hiatus because I traveled to Stowe, Vermont, with Deb, Lou, Tony, Sharon, and Alex. Future entries will continue with what’s happening with the state of race relations in this country. In the meantime, here’s something that’s been on my mind for years. Maybe it was the time I chose to go on vacation or maybe it’s just chance, but nearly every time I take a vacation, major world events occur. These things veer from earth-shaking to mundane. This year capped them all.

  • The first I remember occurred when I took off after school. Elvis died. I was in a tiny, smoky club in Montreal listenng to Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, one of two performances I heard from this amazing duo. Buddy made the announcement by saying, “The king is dead.” Invited backstage afterward, I heard Junior call him out saying B.B. King was the real king; Buddy countered – no it was Albert King. The answer? I have no idea.
  • A few years later I was in Europe when Diana married Charles. Most of the people watching on the TV in the lobby (there were none in the rooms) came from Britain of course, though there were a number of French people. Mon dieu! Marianne would never permit such spectacle.
  • Some years later, during another summer break, Saddam invaded Kuwait. We all know how the aftermath of that turned out.
  • And of course I was away from home when Diana perished in the car crash. It was a return visit to Philadelphia. I remember watching the news on a tiny TV in a hotel with bad reception. This was long after most of this country had cable, but former mayor Frank Rizzo had stonewalled installation, except in his neighborhood.
  • The December 26, 2004, tsunami. I couldn’t wrap my head around it and had to switch off the news because it became too intense.

Those are the big ones. Here’s what happened over three days this year.

  • President Obama gave the speech of his lifetime (so far) and sang “Amazing Grace.”
  • A brave and determined woman climbed the flag pole in Columbia, S.C., and took down the battle  flag.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court gave same-sex couples the right to marry. Soooo happy for all!
  • One of the two escaped murderers was captured and killed; the other was caught.

There was a whole bunch of other stuff, too, but that’s enough for now.

Heartache and Anger


I’m still battling conflicting emotions over the assassination of nine beautiful souls. I’ve filled pages of notes to help myself understand. Here’s the beginning. Unlike the family members who addressed that sick and twisted shooter, I’m not ready to forgive. So here’s Round One.

Just so we’re clear, South Carolina seceded from the union to preserve slavery. “The Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union” says in part:

 The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves,,,

A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

Treason is violation of allegiance toward one’s sovereign country – that’s per The American Heritage. I suggest that we call it what it was. Maybe we should revive the term secesh to remind us all that South Carolina et al. broke up the country over slavery.

That flag

The first time I saw the battle flag it was flying from the back of a pickup truck. The passenger took a shot at our little group huddled on the side of the road waiting for a tire change. It happened in northern Virginia, and it’s the reason I don’t travel much below the Mason-Dixon line. In fairness, the second viewing happened many years later on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. My hostess (Jewish child of Holocaust survivors) pretended she didn’t see it flying at the condo next door. Until recently I saw it around town on a beat up old car, with a big black line drawn through it. Maybe that’s the solution. Keep it around, defaced.

I’m exhausted. This will continue.


Blog did not go up yesterday because I’m still trying to wrap my head  and heart around what happened in Charleston. I promise something of substance before the end of the week.

In the meantime, I’m happy that South Carolina and entities are beginning to expunge the battle flag. This must be a first step and not a gesture.

Tour de Force


This entry went up on December 30, 2008. It’s going up again because the book is now out in paperback. Everyone needs to buy it and read it.

Not long after I began reading Tina Brown’s powerful account in Crooked Road Straight: The Awakening of AIDS Activist Linda Jordan, I thought about my dear friend Vera Johnson, a retired funeral director from New Britain, Connecticut. She may have been the first African American woman in the state to hold a funeral director’s license. Vera was elderly, but she always looked perfectly dressed and coiffed. She wore white blouses with black skirts, sometimes a bright purple hat. And she loved the color red, red skirts, red suits.

My mind traveled to Vera as I read the story of Linda C. Jordan because Vera had stopped driving out of town when I met her about ten years ago, so I would take her on errands. Whenever we reached the highway, she would say, “May the Lord make the crooked way straight,” except she said, “Make the crooked-y way straight.” She repeated her prayer until we left the highway.

While Vera prayed for a straight road, Linda Jordan created one. Tina’s engrossing narrative will leave readers at once wrung out and inspired. Linda was abused as a child, exploited as a teenager, addicted as an adult, but she pulled her life together and became an advocate for African Americans, and black women in particular, in the HIV/AIDS community at a time when most people thought the disease afflicted only white gay men.

On the surface Linda and Vera had little in common. Vera was solidly middle class and a lady to the core; Linda was “street,” raised in poverty by alcoholics. But Linda and Vera shared one trait. They were survivors, given courage and hope by their faith in God. After her husband’s death, Vera sank into a deep depression. She nevertheless managed to hang on even as her neighborhood slid into disrepair. She maintained her oasis, installing a chain link fence, which she kept locked with a padlock. For personal protection, she bought and trained two big German shepherds. She continued to attend church and kept track of friends in her community.

Linda, living in far more dire circumstances a few miles away in Hartford, not only hung on, she flourished once she came to terms with what had happened in her life. Tina, my friend and former colleague from the Hartford Courant, weaves all the threads of Linda’s story into a tour de force. At times Crooked Road Straight is painful to read because of the harrowing details of the life of this young woman who never really had a childhood, became a mother far too young, and generally lacked the support of family to help her through the pitfalls of being young, poor, and black. But Tina focuses on the uplift as well, writing with compassion how Linda overcame her addictions and developed the courage to speak out on behalf of people who were ostracized and struggling with their own addictions and illnesses.

Tina writes in the “Prologue” that she wondered why she continued to live and work in Hartford, a city that seemed to offer her little. While she wondered,Tina was giving to the city, as she wrote many award-winning articles for the Courant and opened the eyes of folks in the suburbs to the pain of the city. She also contributed through her church, her sorority, and the Links. She received the answer to her question of “Why here?” when she approached Linda about writing the book and began to dig even deeper into the coping mechanisms of people who felt they had no means of escape from their prison. Tina found and served her purpose by telling Linda Jordan’s story. Tina, too, has done the Lord’s work by making Linda continue to live within the pages of this awe-inspiring book.

In the end, both Linda and Vera survived because their faith in God offered them solace. They both made their own crooked way straight. It is a sad irony that they passed away less than a year apart, Linda at the relatively young age of 53 and Vera at a venerable 88.

This review also appears on Amazon.



What I’m Watching Now


Another in an occasional series. And another that I watched some time ago. Director Stephen Finnigan makes effective use of fascinating video and still photos for Hawking. Unlike The Theory of Everything, this  documentary lets Stephen Hawking tell his own story. The filmmakers went to considerable effort and expense to re-create 1950s and 1960s England. They excelled. And they kept the geeky science stuff to a fascinating minimum.

In this case a slanted view is understandable. Like the Hendrix doc, though, Hawking glosses over how difficult this genius was, and not just because of his illness.

What I’m Reading Now


Another in an occasional series, which is becoming more frequent. And another that I have no memory of finding. As readers of this blog know, I love language. William Alexander’s Flirting With French feeds my addiction. Linguistics mixes with the adventures of learning a foreign language, which means also learning a culture. Throw in some history, cuisine (except for the meal of pigeon, rabbit, and foie gras) along with a big dose of humor, and this short (266 pages) work captivates.

After a brief scientific introduction, Alexander launches into an outrageous critique of Rosetta Stone, which he compares to a “first-person shooter video game”: “This initial vignette is utterly creepy. Are the Rosetta Stone developers unaware that they are closely mimicking a scene from every teenage slasher movie ever made?” Just two pages later Alexander describes a book about French history, “… which runs a whopping five hundred pages, although it feels not a page over a thousand.” Ouch!

Of course Alexander’s acquisition of language lacks both effort and ability. Once in France he and his wife brave gale-force winds and downpours as they bicycle through Normandy and Brittany. Their struggle careers from hilarious to pathetic because his utter lack of perception hinders easy navigation.

His adventures remind me of a dinner at which my companion asked the waiter to bring an ascenseur to the table. The waiter’s face was a mask until I giggled, which allowed him a brief conspiratorial smile, as I explained that my companion had just asked for an elevator, not an ashtray.

So far the most fascinating section traces how the French went from Celts to Franco-Romans to French as the language developed. I did not realize that for the Romans the Celts were Gauls. It’s just another example of Roman hegemony, though “Omnia Celtia divisa est…” does sound more than a bit weird. And though I knew about langues d’oc I had forgotten that the northern residents spoke langues d’oil. The latter won. French speakers say oui, not oc.