Tag Archives: history

From A Distance

From a distance the world looks blue and green, there is harmony, we all have enough and you look like my friend. From a distance. When you take in the big picture it’s easy to see this. A soft blur. The devil is in the details though. And looking closer often reveals something totally different, even though in many cases it shouldn’t.

The words come from a song aptly titled “From A Distance” which was written by Julie Gold and first recorded by Nancy Griffith. It has also been covered by Kathy Mattea, Donna Summer, The Byrds, Richard Clayderman, Fairport Convention, Riva Taylor, John Barrowman, and in a Norwegian language version by Ingebjorg Harman Bratland. Of course the most famous version is probably the one done by the Divine Miss M herself- Bette Midler. All of this attention speaks to the song’s broad based appeal. That is, the appeal of it’s ideals.

I was reminded of this song on a recent trip to Cuba and the simultaneous, but unrelated, reaction of Donald Trump to relations between the United States and Cuba. From the distance of Mar A Lago, Cuba looks like it is thriving. Bigly. Thriving so much that it needs to be stopped dead in its tracks as Mr. Trump suggested in his statement that the improvement of relations between Cuba and the United States begun under the Obama Administration would have the brakes slammed on it. I got in and out just in time.

My political views are not often a topic of my posts. In fact, this may be the first time I’ve revealed them, but reading between the lines of other posts may have given my kind readers a hint. There is a great deal of meanness in the world, and the anti-Cuba stance is fueled by a lot of mean people who harbor a nearly sixty year old grudge and politicians courting their vote.  Mean people suck.

I’ve been to Cuba.  And seen it up close. In detail. Donald Trump hasn’t.  From a distance it looks like a tropical paradise with beautiful colonial architecture, a grand European flair, and of course those fabulous 1950s American classic automobiles. From a distance…

Up close you will find that after fifty years of neglect, those beautiful colonial buildings are crumbling with decay. Beautiful facades, hollow inside. And the cars, up close they sometimes look like they may not make it around the corner. They sound even worse. Cubans are not legally allowed to own an American car newer than a 1959 model. Getting parts for these vehicles is pretty hard, and you will find all variety of foreign parts under the hood.

Color abounds. Bright yellows and blues, soft greens and pinks. It’s paint. On buildings and cars. And in many cases it looks like the paint is what holds the thing together.

The people can’t be painted, but they seem to be hanging together ok. Everyone I met was very nice, and curious about America. They did not speak of Castro, or Trump, but images of the Revolution and it’s heroes are everywhere.

There is great poverty, with old women begging on the streets, in the back alleys away from the tourist centers. People sitting in doorways doing nothing but watching, waiting for something.   Rotting garbage, and it’s stench, in open containers in the streets. It’s definitely a third world country, but there is great promise there.

There are people working in shops, on public works projects, in restaurants, bars, offices, farming, shipping, banks, museums, as police and every other line of work. Internet service sucks, but there are computer repair shops. The people are resilient and looking forward to improved relations.

The majority of Cubans today were not alive at the time of the Revolution. They were born into the Cuban predicament.  The didn’t create it. But they are the ones being punished. A trade embargo with Cuba hurts the people, not the government . And hurting the people is not helping anyone.  I don’t know if the President is worried that a middle aged, well educated, well off, white male like myself would rush to emigrate to Cuba, or that a person such as myself would go there and see the needs that exist and demand action.  I know he loves “stupid people” because he said so.  But the rest of us he can’t control so easily.

From a distance Cuba may look like a threat to America, but in the details, they need some help. Not American developers or capitalists to take over and make money, but humanitarian aid. The Cuban people can decide for themselves what they want the future of their country to be. This isn’t 1898, although some of the technology there suggests otherwise. Instate free trade, let the markets decide. Power to the people.  My opinion… And I’d like to see this post go viral, and for people around the world, people with a soul, to stand up and make the Earth great again…

And that’s part of my story. What’s yours?

www.personalhistorywriter.com

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Moving Idea

Sometimes an idea will simmer in your mind for a long time before you get the details worked out. Or even begin to take it seriously. Then some sort of trigger gets pulled and you feel compelled to act. Even obsessed with bringing this idea to fruition.

When I was a child my father’s employer transferred his job to another city. Another state. He loved his job, so he was going. And so were we. He was moving from the sprawl of Northern New Jersey to a manufacturing town in Pennsylvania. Not far from the Amish Country. He wanted to live in a rural area.

He and my mother looked at houses to make their new home. One of them was a farmhouse on a large hunk of acreage. In the middle of nowhere as farmhouses with vast expanses of land tend to be. He liked it. My mom, not so much. She was afraid that she would be isolated from the rest of humanity. And that her two young children would be stranded far from friends. Eventually they built a house in an upcoming new subdivision. Close to town, and shopping. The best schools in the state. A one-quarter acre lot.

This particular area was still considered to be in the country, and there were vast cornfields behind the house. And across the street, in the still undeveloped portion of the neighborhood, there were open fields. Up the road was the farmhouse and red barn to which all of this land had once belonged. So my father got a little of what he wanted, and my mother got everything she wanted.

That’s where I grew up. From age five until I graduated from high school. The day after I graduated, my parents moved out. They had bought my father’s dream home. An old stone farmhouse on ten acres of land. With a barn. They lived there for the next thirty-eight years and although I had grown up in suburbia, I have ever since considered this second home, Shadowlawn Farm, to be my real home. Like my father, I too loved the country life.

Fast forward to twenty years ago. My life takes many turns similar to my fathers. My wife and I had started a family and were living in an urban subdivision. The schools were failing and we wanted more for our children. We started to look in the neighboring county. Which happened to have the best schools in the state.

We looked at existing subdivision homes. We looked in the country. Every Sunday we would drive out to the country and ride around looking. One neighborhood had particular appeal to my wife. Best one in the county. We had always heard that you should buy the worst house in the best neighborhood you could afford. That was her plan. I was still holding out for the farm.

Finally it was my father-in-law who caused me to take action. He shamed me into it. What he said to me one day was that my kids needed to move. They needed to be near other kids. And I should get off my wallet and do right by my family. Of course I was going to take care of my family, but I didn’t have to do it at the expense of my life. But I did.

Time was passing and a new school year was approaching. If we bought a new house, or piece of property in the next county we could enroll the girls in the best schools available. There was a vacant lot for sale in that best neighborhood. So I bought it. And my wife and I got together with a builder and proceeded to construct a new house. It was exciting, but a story for another time and blog post.

Fast forward once again. This time to 2016. For the past twenty years I have been poring over real estate books looking at houses. Moving has never been a consideration. The kids were still in school. Then college. My wife was content. I was antsy. Then my back failed. Two surgeries later and I was having real difficulty with the stairs in our three story house. And walking. Moving suddenly became a consideration. But where?

To be continued…

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

www.personalhistorywriter.com

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Stressless Moving Series

Certain events in life cause great levels of stress. Some of the biggest stressors include loss of a loved one, major health issues, becoming an empty nester, loss of a job, retirement and moving. There are many others, and by no means am I downplaying their importance. In the past year, I have experienced each of those I listed above. At least once.

Some of these I’ve talked about a little I think. And some I don’t care to talk about at all. But moving, now that’s a subject I will gladly talk about. So, just to give all my readers a heads up, I am going to be putting together a series of posts regarding my adventure in moving. From nineteen years in the suburbs to a mini farm in the county.

Stay tuned for chapter one soon!

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Dust Cloud

In old western movies if you saw a cloud of dust on the horizon you knew it was one of two things. Making all of that dust was either a troop of cavalry coming to rescue the settlers under attack by evil villains, or a pack of evil villains coming to attack. Either way, it was a bunch of people riding horses. And headed in your direction quickly.

That was old westerns. In my back yard a cloud of dust means my dog is playing fetch. She’s not like that kid Pigpen in the Charlie Brown cartoons who travels around inside his own personal dust cloud, created by his less than civilized personal hygiene habits. She stays pretty clean, although she does shed a lot of hair. All the time and everywhere she goes. No, the dust cloud is exactly that- a cloud of dust created by her rambunctious play.

Whether or not you believe in climate change, this year has been the hottest and driest on record where I live. It’s five days before Thanksgiving and for the first time since May the temperature has dropped below 80 degrees. And no, I don’t live in Hawaii, or California, or Florida. And with all that heat, we’ve also been the fortunate recipients of a fifteen inch rainfall deficit. The water level in the local lakes is down by several feet and the green green grass of home looks more like tumbleweed blowing across the desert.

Back to the dog. She likes to exercise, as any puppy would. Since she is a German Sheppard, she likes to play a lot, and strenuously. Fetch is good. I find a small log in the woods, something maybe eighteen inches long and three or four inches in diameter, and I throw it as hard as I can. As soon as she sees me starting to wind up she takes off at full sprint speed. I think she could take a cheetah in a hundred yard dash.

Since I broke my shoulder a couple of years ago my throwing arm isn’t like it was when I pitched for the sandlot sluggers. The dog is well past where the stick will land by the time it sails through the air. But she happily comes back for it, grabs it with her teeth and brings it back for another toss. I prefer a smaller tree branch to the tree trunks she likes so sometimes we compromise. She will bring a six foot long branch to me which is only two inches across. The damn things are so heavy and cumbersome I can barely throw them but she’s got the thing in her mouth running around with two inches on one side and the rest unbalanced, but firmly held.

Another game she likes to play is biting at my hands and feet. Sometimes it hurts so I’m glad she is just playing. She could probably bite either of my appendages off quite easily. But ten or fifteen tosses of the stick usually satisfies her.

And the dust cloud? As she thunders across the dry grass in the yard she will slam on her brakes when she knows it’s time to catch or pick up the falling stick. She slides across the yard and tears up the grass and stirs up the dust. There are now places in the yard where the loose and bare soil is about three inches deep. When she hits that patch of dirt at full speed and puts on the brakes, a huge cloud of dust erupts. I’m sure the neighbors see the cloud rising above the fence and think I’m using a bulldozer to dig a hole to the center of the Earth.

Oddly enough, having her chase the stick also allows me to give the arid lawn some water. She gets so excited chasing that stupid stick that starts to foam at the mouth. The slobber gets all over the stick, which then gets covered with dust that turns to mud. Globs of slob fly out of her mouth as she runs. Her fur gets covered with the stuff, as does the ground. And the stick. Sometimes that stick is so slobbery that when I throw it I loose my grip and it slips out of my hands. Bad throw daddy she barks. And brings it again.

The cloud of dust makes me laugh. She is silly. And loyal. And playful. But we really do need some rain.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Scooter Trucks

Vehicles are built differently to accommodate varying purposes.   Giant earth movers have construction capabilities while a Fiat 500 is designed to be an in town personal people mover. Tractor trailers, pickup trucks and vans each offer cargo transit on varying levels. There are luxury sedans, economy sedans, and sporty coupes and convertibles designed for getting from point A to point B while making a statement, or fitting a budget.

A scooter, that motorized creature somewhere between a motorcycle and a bicycle, is intended to be fun, and economical transportation for one person from here to there. Generally a short distance. You can put a bungee cord, or milk crate, or helmet box or even saddle bags on these mini-motos, but they weren’t really made to haul much of anything.

Sometimes however we have to make do with what we have at the moment and I have used my scooter as, yes, a truck. The helmet box carries lots of stuff besides a spare helmet. Matter of fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever put the spare helmet in the helmet box. It’s usually stuffed with clothes, or water bottles, or small antique knick-knacks for the store. And of course the anchor. That’s a separate story.

But lately I’ve begun to take the scooter to yard sales and antique shops when I go on shopping expeditions. I tell myself I’ll figure something out. I have carried coffee table books in the compartment under the seat. And more recently I had a suitcase, too large to be classified by the airlines as a carry-on, strapped to the back of the seat. And an ice cream parlor chair as well. The scooter is really pretty good at haulin!

When I was in Hawaii I saw lots of scooters. And many had a strange contraption on them that I just couldn’t figure out. It was a set of curved metal pipes attached to the side. Not exhaust pipes. I just couldn’t figure it out. Then I saw one with this gizmo in use and it made perfect sense. The folks here use their scooters to transport their surfboards! Drop the board sideways into the curved metal rack and viola! I’m not sure how easy that is to drive since the board can be longer than the scooter, but they seem to manage. As I said, I saw a lot of scooters with this contraption on them, but only the one with it in use.

So, all sorts of things can be adapted to other uses. I’ve seen delivery trucks turned into restaurants, and truck trailers turned into homes, and now scooters turned into trucks. I’m trying to figure out how to make my scooter into both a boat and a snowmobile. American ingenuity. What a great thing!

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Rental Car

It’s like Mardi Gras. Or Halloween. A costume party anyway. You get to change your identity, if only for a little while. When you rent a car you can choose what you want. Leave behind the hum drum econo-compact and get yourself a big Mercedes-Benz. Or a sporty convertible. Redefine yourself.

Nobody goes to their high school or college reunion driving a ten year old clunker. It’s amazing how well to do all of your classmates have become. The parking lot is full of Mercedes, Jaguars, Cadillacs, Lexus. You name it and it’s there. Except for junkers. Guaranteed some of them are rentals. No one wants to look like they can’t afford a nice car.

I had never rented a car before, but on a recent trip I decided that the easiest way to get from point A to point B, and all things in between, was to rent a car and drive myself. It gives you a lot more freedom than a city bus.

I had called in advance and made a reservation for an economy car. This trip was costing me a lot and I was trying to save a few bucks. When I showed up at the rental agency the dude behind the counter smiled and said, “are you sure you wouldn’t rather have the Jeep?” By that he meant a four wheel drive, four door Jeep Sahara, 2016, with a removable hard top. That would be pretty cool to drive around in on this tropical island. Hmmmm?

Then he added that it would only cost twenty extra dollars. I’ll stick with the boring econobox. It does its job. He must have had a quota to fill for renting Jeeps because the next thing he said was, “how about if I give it to you for the same price?” That’s different.

I didn’t need it, but I did think it would look cool and be more fun. Not that I needed the four wheel drive, or would use the removable hard top. It would just look cool. So I got it. A new me.

As I drove around I began to notice that there were an awful lot of vehicles that looked just like this one on the road. Exactly like this one. Maybe that’s all they rent here! No, because I saw a lady walk up to two silver Mustang convertibles parked side by side and she had a hard time figuring out which was hers. A rental.

While I was walking down the street I noticed a young couple taking pictures of themselves sitting in a convertible Mercedes. Brand new. They were certainly enjoying themselves. As I looked at them it seemed to me that they couldn’t afford to buy that car if they sold all four of their grandmothers, and a couple of grandfathers too. Hold the hate mail, I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But it was a rental. They were living a big life on vacation from wherever.

My dad used to travel a lot with his job when I was young. The company always gave him a rental car. His personal car was a station wagon, but the rental was always a Plymouth Fury. A police car in it’s day. It was always very exciting to see him pull up into the driveway in that monster. It wasn’t him, but it gave him a big time executive look. A man of importance.

If you need a cheap vacation, or a quick change of identity, go rent a car. Something you wouldn’t normally drive. Who would you be?

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Selective Screening

After 9/11 the Transportation Safety Administration made air travel really difficult. You had to show an ID with a name and picture matching the name on your ticket. That was just to stand in line. Then you had to take off your shoes and belt and watch and any jewelry and empty your pockets and put all of that stuff into a bin that was run through an x-ray machine. And of course your carry on baggage also went through the x-ray machine. And so did you.

They weren’t taking any chances. Guns and knives and crazy people still showed up at airports, but for the most part the agency was able to keep the items of danger off of airplanes. Just not the crazy people.

After a while, as things calmed down and no more planes crashed or blew up, not including the ones shot down by various nation’s military, and that Malaysian flight that still seems to be a mystery (can you say crazy pilot?), the procedures eased up a little bit.

People were getting tired of standing in line for hours. Yes, hours. We were told to arrive at least two hours prior to flight departure to be sure we could get through security screening. You still had to wait in line, and still had to do all of the above, while being sniffed by bomb and drug trained dogs, but somehow it moved a little faster. Then for some reason it got really bad again.

The head of security at the Atlanta airport, the world’s busiest, got fired. Too many people waiting in too many long lines. Somewhere in that time frame the TSA began selling a pre-check service. If you told them all of your secrets, and gave them all of the information they wanted, they would allow you to go through security without taking off your shoes. It only cost $85.00 per year.

I don’t fly enough to make that a worthwhile investment. If I can drive somewhere in less than a day, I will hit the road rather than the airways. It’s easier. And sometimes I’ll drive for two days rather than fly. Even though I almost always get randomly selected for a TSA pre-check. For free.

It’s supposed to be a random selection, but I would say that the last six flights I’ve been on, I’ve been randomly selected for this rapid security screen six times. Maybe they know I was travelling on a bereavement pass one time. Or that I’m a combat decorated veteran with a disability. Or maybe they know that I have stinky feet and taking my shoes off makes everyone’s day unpleasant. I don’t know.   I

t doesn’t seem to save me much time except that I don’t have to stand in as along a line to get to the part where you run your belongings through the x-ray machine.

They may be catching on to me though. The last two times I flew I scooted through with the TSA pre-check, and then got randomly stopped at the x-ray machine for further evaluation. The first time I think was not random but retaliatory for asking the TSA guy a question while he was talking to someone else. The second tome I think was because I was having a bad hair day.

I’ll take it if they give it to me, but it won’t make me fly any more frequently. But it’s nice to know that someone trusts me. That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized