Day-Tripping 2

1954 MG, W W Motorcars

Two recent day-trips that the Redhead and I took are less than 1.5 hours drive from Staunton, VA and both were to small towns – one actually more like a hamlet.

Broadway, VA is North of Staunton in Rockingham County, VA, about 12 miles north of Harrisonburg, along Route 42. With a population of less than 4,000, it has been ranked as one of the safest places to live in VA. Slow down as you approach, Broadway is filled with lots of surprises.

WW Motor cars was an unexpected surprise in this tiny town. Located within an old Feed Mill, WW provides superb restorations of antique cars. Several of their works in progress can be viewed through display windows facing the main street or tours of the facility can easily be arranged with the owners. WW Motors: http://www.wwmotorcars.com/index.html

J&B’s Antiques, Broadway, VA

Just down the street is Ben Franklin’s J&B’s Country Store antiques ( https://www.facebook.com/Ben-Franklin-J-Bs-Country-Store-Antiques-Treasures-Broadway-VA-131869670197155/?tn-str=k*F) This is a collection of “pop-up” shops and a small coffee / sandwich/ donut cafe, too. The ladies working here are very nice and enjoy talking with customers and browsers – old and new.

If you’re looking for a tasty bite, The Gobbler restaurant is nearby as is the unique Hummingbird Bistro – a gourmet, family run, food truck: http://www.thehummingbirdbistro.com/index.html.

Like many small, rural towns Broadway might be overlooked – certainly as a tourist destination. But, for those looking to find those hidden gems where the people are the story – Broadway, Virginia is certainly worth a visit.

Next stop, heading South from Staunton…the place that made Al Roker cry – with pleasure!

For some time now, we’d been hearing from our friends and neighbors about “The best pies ever”. When we asked where these pies were all they could tell us was, “someplace out in the country”. Being country folk, when James and Ann say, “Country”, they mean COUNTRY. Like the middle of nowhere! Or so it seemed. So, finally getting an address and relying on Garmin and Google Maps and luck, we set out to find “Woodruff’’s Pies”.

Woodruff’s Pies and Cafe

Actually, while a bit remote, Woodruff’s Pies are fairly easy to find. Monroe, VA is a small, hamlet type of area that is located somewhat between Lexington and Lynchburg and very close to the city of Buena Vista and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Starting in the early 1950’s, James and Fannie Mary Woodruff ran a small grocery store and gas pump from a building they had built themselves and which also contained their second floor living area. For 30 years they ran their shop and then in 1998 daughter, Angela, and her two sisters reopened as a small sandwich cafe. It didn’t take long until Angela’s passion for baking took over and Woodruff’s Pies were born. Being an out of the way location Woodruff’s Pies struggled along until February, 2020 when NBC Today host, Al Roker, paid the Woodruff family a visit (https://www.today.com/video/103-year-old-still-helps-run-pie-shop-she-opened-nearly-70-years-ago-79076933543). Two months later Covid struck and the nation-wide lock-downs ruined many businesses. But, thanks to Roker and the Today Show segment, lines of customers clamoring for the now famous pies formed outside the shop. Today. customers can enjoy their pie and a tasty sandwich at one of the small tables inside the shop or out in the yard at a picnic table. On our visit we enjoyed the Apple and the Almond Delight pies and the chicken salad sandwiches. Fantastic!

The Woodruff family and their pies are truly an American Story – in every sense. Woodruff’s Pies.

The Woodruff sisters

One of the many things we enjoy while day-tripping is the ability to truly get to know an area. Guide books, Best Places, Trip Advisor, etc. all have their purpose. But, nothing can replace just getting in the car, exploring, talking to everyone you can along the way and and taking time to …taste the pie!

Detectoring

It will be a year next month that the Redhead gave me the key to discovering where I’m now at. Until this past week, I have not had the courage to see what it would unlock.

Perhaps, it is age more than mere curiosity that makes me now wonder how I came to be here in this particular place at this particular time. I am a city boy through and through, feeling more at ease surrounded by concrete, asphalt and steel than deep woods. Red says I’m a baby by refusing to take a hike in a forest. No, I say, I’ve just been “Deliverenced”. Darn Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight, that movie would have dissuaded even Thoreau from spending the briefest of afternoons at Walden! Squeal, Baby!

Deliverance (1972)
The movie that kept me in the city

So, City Boy I was born and stayed…until now. Don’t get me wrong, Staunton, Virginia is not the Wilderness – at least not for the past 300 years or so. But, to put it into perspective, it is about 1/5 the size of our former hometown in Connecticut or about the population of ½ square mile of Manhattan! Yet, The Redhead and I still chose to live outside the City limits into the County and thus we have far more livestock than people as neighbors. True to my nature, however, I still crave civilization, now, especially, that of the past. Tumbled barns, remnants of stone foundations, depressions in a field’s landscape now surrounded by trees and occasionally overgrown, wild ornamental plantings give evidence that somebody was here before us. Why they came and what made them leave or disappear may answer my question: Why am I here? Is there something more than the natural beauty – so reminiscent of my family’s home place in Ireland’s West – and the gentleness of the people that drew us, after a few false starts, like a magnet to this land of both Peace and Rebellion?

Read all you want about a place, nothing gives more clues about its true nature than the artifacts, the tangibles of those that came before. Study Pompeii ‘til blue in the face and nothing will give you a clearer sense of that place or those people than actually seeing the chariot ruts and street-side “cafes” or the menus inscribed onto the walls of the “guest houses”. View the bleak stone slopes of western Ireland and one can instantly comprehend Cromwell’s curse of those refusing to submit. Thus it is with every place, past or present: it must be touched to be known.

And so, this past Thursday, I finally made my journey into the past that now surrounds me, using the key that The Redhead gifted me last Christmas. I unpacked and charged up my long-desired but intimidating metal detector. A few Readers of this blog are actually quite astute in the use of these machines and have experienced both the joys and frustrations of combing through fields, parks, beaches and, well, just about anywhere they can get permission to search for the past. Some seek “treasure” in the form of jewelry or coinage – both ancient and not so much so. Others, while never turning their nose up at things of value, mostly enjoy “the hunt” for the past. I’ve read their blogs, watched their YouTube videos and enjoyed and even became hooked on the wonderful British television series, Detectorists. I was ready. Or so I thought!

Mackenzie Crook, Gerard Horan, Toby Jones, Pearce Quigley, Divian Ladwa, etc.
The Detectorists

My machine, (just saying it makes me feel, “part of the club”, lol) a Nokta Makro Simplex+ is designed to be just that: Simple, yet “advanced”. Perhaps it is. Cradling it under my arm and carrying a canvas ditty bag containing gloves, “pointer”, sharp-edged mini-trowel and a zip-lock enclosed instruction manual (just in case) I walked down to the property of our neighbor whom had given me the all-important permission to “hunt”.

Nokta Makro Simplex Metal Detector 3
The Simplex Machine

He said to wear old clothes since his land was a bit rough. Unlike the fields and pasture lands of the videos I had watched over and over, Old Kevin’s land was a mire of brambles, saplings, old growth trees, ruts, abandoned “privies” and cesspools, a tumbled down shack and enough blackberry bushes to feed several bears for a season and enough thorns to keep everything else away. Except for Moi, the newbie “detector”. And all of it was, it seemed, located on a 30 degree slope!

By the time we reached the back of the property, the site I would begin searching in, I looked, thanks to the blackberry thorns, to be auditioning for the lead role in a Passion Play. Oi! Selecting a relatively clear area, I turned on the machine and began the search.

What the…? Not using headphones (why bother) the air was filled with static, crackles, pops, screeches and toots of every sort. Selecting a spot that emitted a steady screech I knelt down and began digging with the trowel. Rocks. More rocks. This can’t be, I thought. I held the machine up to a few and yep, the signal was louder than ever. There was a ton of iron in those rocks. Hmmm. Maybe that’s why I had read of there being so many pre- Civil War small iron smelters in the area . Well, I thought, let me move to another likely spot, with a different tune playing, so to speak. Ah, for the love of Pete. I can’t get up. My knees have locked! Trying to look just inquisitive rather than flummoxed, I root around a bit more until I spy a nearby sturdy looking branch and knee-waddle over to it to hoist myself upright. Jaysus!! The fookin’ thorns pierce my leather palmed gloves. Bugger me! This is rough work, I’m thinkin’. But, I’m up.

Eeee, eeeee, Eeeet. Now, That’s a signal, I’m sure. Down I go, much faster than I had just gotten up, I assure you. Scratch, dig. Retry the signal. Eeee, Eeee, EEEEEE. Ah, you’re onto something now, boy. Dig a few more inches. Aha! I can feel something. Coins? Old musket balls? Oh… Well, a pile of old nails is something, at least. Not wanting to grab another palm full of pain, I decide to use the trowel for a bit of leverage to get up. It sinks into the only soft dirt for probably several yards around. I look at the detector and hope it will not bend or break if I use it as a bit of a crutch. It holds and I’m up again, even if a bit slower than before.

Navigating more ruts and brambles, we come to a bit of a clearing and then it happens…a new signal, different than those of before. Oink, oinnk, ahoink. This has got to be gold. Or silver. Or an old Civil War relic. Kevin is nearby rooting around with a stick and unearths a skull. Animal, for sure. But, what else could be lurking nearby? We are, after all, only a few hundred yards from a compound of “Odd Ones”, as the locals call them, who find it rather amusing to hang deer butts from posts in their front yards. Nothing like a little “local color”, I suppose. But, the oinkking doesn’t quit and neither will I. The trowel hits something a few inches below the surface. An iron fence-wire guide emerges. I keep digging . Good thing, too. Something big is struck. What the heck! An old hinge of some sort is pried out. Maybe part of a buggy. Maybe an old piece of some machinery. Beats me. But, wait, there’s more, as the old TV commercial used to taunt. Is it wood? No. It’s a bit soft. Ah, an old leather satchel lost in the heat of battle? Hmm. No, not that either.

Heavy work, Detectoring!

As I said at the beginning of this piece, to know a place or a people or a particular thing you must touch it to know it for what it is.

After only one afternoon of being a “relic hunter” (as painful as it was) I found something – quite by chance – that generations of historians, archaeologists and scientists have devoted their careers to either proving or disproving. I held in my hands proof that the believers were right. I did it.

Unearthed in this Valley of the Shenandoah, on the outskirts of Staunton, was irrefutable proof that not only does The Mighty Sasquatch, The Yiddi, The Bigfoot exist, but that he, too, like us, has a life cycle. And a not yet considered intelligence.

For the first time in known history here is the proof:

Sole of Bigfoot shoe, probably adolescent. Note wear hole and rudimentary stitching!

Believe! And keep hunting.

Here are just a few of the blogs on metal detecting that I follow and you may find interesting as well:

The North Essex Detectorist (UK)

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/108296728

Detecting Diva

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/8473461

American Digger

https://americandigger.com/

Day Tripper

Well, how the heck are you doing? It’s been a tough few weeks, right? Same here. That upper respiratory virus that’s going around sure put a whooping on me…no energy for anything. But, when it passed, The Redhead and I decided to hit the road and do a little day-tripping in this beautiful part of Virginia.

Bushong Farm, New Market, Virginia

First, we decided to take a little trip up to the town of New Market, where the VMI Civil War Museum is located. Still feeling a little weak we didn’t do much walking but did enjoy the views of the town and the Battlefield. How one’s thoughts can meander when looking at the scene of the battlefield set in the middle of the Bushong family farm, just on the outskirts of town. The Battle of New Market is mostly famous because of the efforts and contributions of cadets from the Virginia Military Institute, located in Lexington. The cadets marched the 85 miles in order to stop the approaching Union Army and as a result several of these young boys lost their lives. The stories of the townspeople helping the wounded from both armies is very touching and one can only imagine the terror the Bushong family felt as they huddled in their basement as the two armies clashed at their doorstep. Today, the scene is idyllic yet it doesn’t take much to imagine what happened all around you and pray it never happens again. (https://vmi.edu/museums-and-archives/virginia-museum-of-the-civil-war/)

Downtown New Market is filled with small, family run restaurants, shops and a great coffee shop, Jackson’s Corner Coffee Roastery and Cafe.

Our next trip was to the town of Buchanan and included a stop at New Freedom Farm, a wonderful horse farm providing PTSD and other therapies to veterans. There are a number of wild mustangs on the farm and part of the therapy is for Vet and horse to bond and help one another. It is a beautiful farm and the work they do is incredible. (https://www.newfreedomfarm.org/)

Mustang, New Freedom Farm, Buchanan, VA

Downtown Buchanan is deceiving. Drive over the speed limit, 25mph, and you could go through it within 30 seconds. But, stop, pull over and you’ll discover wonderful architecture, Ransone’s, a great little grill/soda fountain, several small antique shops, the town library and an old fashioned movie house.

Ransone’s Grill, Buchanan, VA
Downtown Buchanan, VA church

Buchanan also has a canoe, kayak river tour company, Twin River Outfitters. You can rent either craft and they’ll take you several miles up the beautiful James River and drop you off so you can paddle leisurely back to town. (https://canoevirginia.net/). Buchanan also has a Blue Grass Festival in early October. While exploring the river and the swinging bridge stop by the old River Craft Rail House. It has just been bought and is undergoing extensive repairs and updates by the new owner, Tammie, who is turning it into a family style restaurant, Tammie’s Place. During our visit we were amazed at the number of townspeople helping to restore this old building and helping Tammie achieve her dream. There is nothing quite like small town America!

Tammie, owner of the soon to open, Tammie’s Place, Buchanan, VA

Our friend, Mary Ellen, from CT visited us last week and we decided to show her around a little bit. Natural Bridge and Lexington are always fun to explore. Natural Bridge, surveyed by George Washington and once owned by Thomas Jefferson, is now part of Virginia’s State Park system. The main attraction, as the name would imply, is the natural bridge carved by Cedar Creek running through the limestone hills over many thousands of years.

Natural Bridge, VA
Initials of George Washington, GW, located within square, Natural Bridge, VA

Also in the park is a recreated Monacan Indian Village, depicting how the early Native Americans lived in the area. Unfortunately, at the time of our visit the village and a section of the park was closed due to a very damaging flash flood. Workers are hard at work opening up the trails and village.

After a nice visit to Natural Bridge, we drove the short distance to Lexington, VA for lunch and a walk around the town. In addition to seeing all the historical homes and architecture we discovered an old bookshop, The Bookery, on West Nelson St. Quaint, quirky and crammed with books – mostly old and some new, The Bookery is a book lovers heaven.

Barren Ridge Winery

Sometimes there are adventures just around the corner and that is what we found when we decided to explore our own area, Staunton, VA . An afternoon at the Barren Ridge Winery was just what The Redhead and Mary Ellen needed…so they claimed. As their designated driver, I, too, enjoyed a nice selection of cheeses and crackers and the magnificent views of the Shenandoah Valley. (https://www.barrenridgevineyards.com/). The girls were very pleased with the wines, made more enjoyable by the beautiful setting.

Evening in Downtown Staunton, VA

Downtown Staunton is really a gem of a small town. Beside being very historical it also has one of the largest collections of Victorian Era buildings and homes in the country. There are numerous shops and restaurants of various types along the main street, East / West Beverly Street as well as the side streets. Latitudes, a Fair Trade shop, offers a wide variety of quality clothing, art and decorative items. (https://latitudesfairtrade.com/pages/staunton) The Foundry, is a new concept store front giving space to a number of local artists and craftspeople. We found several nice hand-made items here and enjoyed the opportunity to speak with the artists that made them. From ice cream, award-winning pizza, art galleries, a movie theater and various music venues, Staunton is the little town that has something for everyone.

Our own church, St. Francis of Assisi is located right downtown and was designed by the famous architect, T.J. Collins. There are numerous buildings throughout the area that were his creations. http://(https://stfrancisparish.org/homepage.html)

St. Francis of Assisi church, Staunton, VA

No trip to Staunton (or to the Shenandoah Valley) would be complete without a visit to the Frontier Culture Museum.

German Farm, Frontier Culture Museum, Staunton, VA
English Home and Farm, Frontier Culture Museum, Staunton, VA. Note chimney date, 1692. The house was actually built in 1630

FCM is a sprawling outdoor exhibit that tells the story of our early settlers and from where they came. As first generation Irish, I particularly enjoy visiting the Irish Farm. It is nearly a mirror copy of my fathers home in the “Old Country” – dirt floor and all.

Sally at the Irish Farm, Frontier Culture Museum.

For these early settlers, America was their dream, their lifeline and their hope. How fortunate we are. (https://www.frontiermuseum.org/index.php/about/)

Well, that’s our little day tripping. Hope you enjoyed it. It beats listening to the news, doesn’t it! If you have any questions about any of these places or have visited them, please let me know.

Don’t worry. Pray. God Bless America!

For What It’s Worth

“We’ve been patient but our patience is wearing thin”. Thus spoke Joseph Biden on September 9, 2021 in declaring his war on Covid. Or was it on the American People?

(Click) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gp5JCrSXkJY

Never could it be thought to hear those words uttered by a sitting President of the United States toward his fellow countrymen and citizens – especially a president that claims to honor the sanctity and privacy of a person’s body.

The Corona virus is real and in many cases serious and deadly. That has been established as has been the fact that certain segments of the population are more susceptible than others. So, please, do not suppose that I am denying or minimizing the Corona virus disease. But, there are differences with this disease that separate it from most others.

First, it has, from the start, been politicized. Rather than attempt to isolate the epicenter of the outbreak, Some politicians chose instead to “virtue signal”, encouraging people to attend large gatherings within certain ethnic groups to show solidarity and non-prejudice. Other attempts by the then sitting President to limit influxes of illegal and unscreened immigrants were also met with resistance. So much for even trying to stem the flow of disease into our country. Today, it is much the same. Our Southern border check points are only a band-aid on a hemorrhaging limb. Yet, we have a tight-as -a drum control on our Canadian border.

Secondly, there is great mistrust of the “vaccines” and the people behind them. There is also mistrust and suspicion of the folks put in charge of our “pandemic” response. After all, it was Dr. Anthony Fauci that secured funding with American tax dollars of the research conducted in the Chinese labs that created and enhanced the corona virus to make it more deadly. Yep, research banned in the USA was, thanks to Dr. Fauci, paid for by American tax dollars. What would be the motive for doing such a thing is a question legitimately asked by informed and caring citizens of not only the USA, but the world. Very informed and knowledgeable medical people have grave concerns about the efficacy and safety of the “vaccines”. Despite recent press releases and government statements, what is being administered is not, by and large FDA approved and is still be administered with full immunity to the drug companies and providers. Many people ask, again legitimately, why?

Third, there is the response by the government to this disease vastly different from that to just about any other that comes to mind.

During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the world, it seemed, was being overcome by HIV and AIDS. Panic was rampant. So was fear, suspicion and unkindness. Initially, medical and governmental agencies sometimes gave erroneous or contradictory information. Being a “First Responder” (how I dislike that term) was no fun in those days, I can assure you. But, science marched on until finally the causes and cures were found for this very deadly disease.

There were only limited and relatively short-lived acts of aggression or discrimination against that segment of the population largely responsible for the disease. Laws were enacted, as should be, for that population’s safety and privacy. Perhaps the seminal turning point in efforts to find a cure and in showing compassion for the afflicted was with the release of the film, Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks and the movie’s very moving Bruce Springsteen title song turned anthem, Philadelphia https://youtu.be/4z2DtNW79sQ (click link to play). Today, despite WHO AIDS /HIV statistics (click link to view) showing the disease to still be a world-wide health concern and one fairly limited to life-style choices – yes, there are exceptions, including transmissions to embryos, there is no ostracizing of those carrying the disease. Indeed, the very opposite may be true, especially within certain political circles.

There are no mandates or medical passports required, apparently, for those afflicted with particular diseases, even for those that contract a disease because of, in many cases, the exercise of their free will.

So, why has Mr. Biden, his Administration and Party turned their wrath on their fellow countrymen who may have grave and legitimate concerns about injecting foreign, unproven substances into their bodies? Shouldn’t his and their wrath instead be directed toward those that concocted this disease and spread it throughout the world? Despite his many years feeding at the Public Trough, Mr. Biden just doesn’t understand America. Seriously. He doesn’t understand that we, Americans – both those born here and those recently arrived – hate tyrants.

He, too, promised to build back better
Promised great Socialism for all
Promised prosperity and transparency

And finally, as a late update to this blog, please see the following link of the farewell lecture of a Canadian college professor of Ethics. She makes much more sense than I:

https://rumble.com/vm8ie1-ethics-professor-gives-heartbreaking-final-lesson-on-refusing-vaccine-befor.html

What then will be the anthem for these times? What song could possibly express our need for deliverance from this stalking Evil?

Perhaps, only this. Song for our Time (click)

Do not be afraid. Pray.

Biden’ Our Time

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity…”
W.B. Yeats

No, the Center cannot hold. We must stand for something.

“If you be neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelations 3:16).

These past several years we have seen the world turned every way but right. The old maxim, divide and conquer, has proven to be so right. Neighbor against neighbor, child against parent, teacher against student, nation against nation and leaders against their own people. There is an Evil creeping amongst us and It has turned everything upside down. What was good is now bad. What was strength is now weakness. Loyalty has fallen victim to ambition. We have been betrayed.

Hopefully, and I believe it to be so, more and more of us Americans and people throughout the world are realizing that something has gone terribly wrong with our countries and our cultures. And of our common sense and common decency. It has gone beyond mere politics. Just today on a local web site for our little town of Staunton, VA someone posted that they would like to slap the face everyone that wont get the Covid injection. This makes about as much sense as saying that although they buckle up every time they get into their cars they would assault everyone choosing not to wear a seat belt. If an injection or a seat belt makes you safe, how does someone choosing differently impact you? It makes no sense. But, common sense, discernment and civility have been increasingly cast to the wind for some time now.

In the biography of Don Bosco by Teresio Bosco, (click) Audio bio of Don Bosco) it is written, “God, it is said, sends the world saints when they are most needed-not men and women of “general holiness,” but specialized experts who fit into the pattern of the times and are capable of giving God’s tone to their century”.

Surely, these times cry out for another Fulton Sheen or Billy Graham. Even the witty wisdom of Will Rogers would serve us well: “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so”. Or, “ What the country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds”. (Brainyquote.com)

We have bid our time for long enough. This past week has shown us that each and every one of us is disposable and expendable. We are at the brink. To put it another way: (click) Sympathy for the Devil.

Pray. Pray that God will not let us continue to go astray but will send us a modern-day saint that will guide us back to Him.

The Tom Tom

O.K. So we got a call from Downtown that the Mayor’s Office is getting complaints that the hotel is being used by a bunch of girls. New Haven is having a sweep so they’re probably from up there. We’ve been told to put an end to it.

With about a year and a half on “The Job” and only 2 weeks within the specialized Undercover Narcotics,Vice and Tactics unit I was as green as grass and constantly amazed at what human beings could dream up for pleasure or profit. It was with close attention and a vague premonition of dread that I listened to our squad leader, none other than, The Tom-Tom. At six foot three, 200 pounds, bald with an Irish- red face, Tom-Tom was a truly imposing figure. I would discover as a few years went by that fear was never present when Tom – Tom was by your side. And, I was about to soon discover that Tom -Tom, with his quick wit and Irish sense of mischief, could turn a routine assignment into a night never to be forgotten.

Eddie, Tom–Tom said to one of the senior squad members, I want you to work with The Kid. Come into my office.

A few minutes later Eddie came out and told me to follow him. Out into to the night we went to our unmarked car parked at the curb a short distance from our “headquarters” – a non-distinct building in an unremarkable neighborhood at the edge of town.

I’ve got to swing by my house to pick up some equipment, said Eddie. Then we can get something to eat. It’s gonna’ be a long night, Kid.

OK, I said. Actually, it was the only answer that could be given to a senior team member.

45 minutes later we pulled into the hotel parking lot to “Ron Day Voo”, as Eddie would put it, with the team. Tom-Tom explained that our “cover” would be that we were a group of surveyors traveling through the area and that we would hang out in the bar to see if any Ladies showed up.

Only hotel management knows we’re coming, he said. And, even though department regs say ,”no drinking on duty”, this is “on duty”. But, only 2 drinks for the whole night. Am I clear? Tom-Tom was very clear, it seemed.

So, off we went. Everyone moseyed up to the bar and ordered their favorite beverage. When the bartender asked what I was drinking it seemed that Tom-Tom’s eyes would bug out when I answered, Diet Coke, please. But then he got a certain little smile and said, Oh, this is going to be a good night.

Oh, boy, muttered Eddie.

It didn’t take long for The Ladies to arrive. There were two. One was wrapped in red silk, the other was in “Hardly Any” green. For working girls, our team of “Surveyors” must have seemed as manna from heaven.

Well, hello. You boys look like you’re having fun, said Red Silk as she sidled up to the apparent leader of the gang, Tom-Tom.

Yeah, we like to have fun, Honey. But, it sure gets lonely on the road. We’re working for the State surveying all the bridges. Been away from home almost three months now.

Oh, what a smooth operator this Tom-Tom is, I thought.

Well, why don’t we go somewhere quiet and maybe we could make you a little less lonely, offered Hardly Any.

Why, Honey, you know I’d love that but I’m a bit too old for that, especially with this new pace maker thing I have.

Oh, what a glib liar, I thought. The Tom-Tom was as strong as an ox and not too old for anything.

But, you know, my nephew over there could use some cheering up since his “old lady” left him right before we hit the road. And, with that Tom-Tom signaled Eddie to come over.

And, then it happened. That look of devilish mischief combined with absolute merriment came over Tom Tom’s face.

You know, girls, my son here has never been with a lady before. The iron strong arm of Tom Tom reached over and pulled me close to him in what appeared to all the world to be a fatherly embrace. I think he could use some special attention, don’t you?

With that, Red Silk and Hardly Any both erupted into convulsions of laughter.

Oh, Honey, I’ll take real good care of you. Oh, Lawd I will!, promised Red Silk

If it weren’t for the grip of Tom-Tom on my shoulder and the insistent tugging of Red on my arm, I would surely have collapsed.

Oh, no, Dad. I can’t, I pleaded.

It’s time son.

Oh, Lawdy, yes it is!, choked, Red.

But, Mom wouldn’t like me doing this. This time my plea sounded more like a whimper.

Mom will never know. And then Tom-Tom pulled me closer and whispered, It’s an order.

So, off we went. I being half pushed, half dragged by Red Silk through the hotel lobby to the bank of elevators and Eddie nearly sprinting. That Eddie, always ready to perform his duty!

As Eddie opened the door to a double bed room, my mind tried to work its way through every possible scenario where the job could get done without the actual labor, so to speak. Eddie had other plans.

Hardly Any was already down to her slip and Eddie, in a manor of seconds, had taken off his pants and shirt and lay on one of the beds, displaying the “special equipment” we had earlier stopped by his house for.

What the hell? I blurted!

What are you looking at? he said.

Nothing. I was speechless. For sprawled across the bed with his arms in back of his head was Eddie dressed in what he must have thought to be proper boudoir attire. And, I promise this is true, Eddie was wearing white boxer shorts with little red hearts, black over-the-calf socks and a stocking garter.

Now, I’m not in the habit of staring at men in their underwear, but this was a sight to behold. Apparently, our “dates” had seen their fair share of odd sights or maybe they had grown up in a circus. In any case, they didn’t bat an eye.

Part of the Outfit

Eddie continued to give me the Stink Eye and said to Hardly Any, Come on, let’s go. I’m ready! Indeed he was.

Red Silk says to me, Come on, Honey, take your clothes off.

My mind and heart were racing. Think, Billy. Say something clever. Aha!

Can we just talk for a while?

Red Silk responds, What you want to talk about? This ain’t talkin’ time, Honey. This is doin’ time.

Hardly Any: Talk??

Eddie rolls his eyes and through clenched teeth mutters, What the *!%#.

I start to pace the floor. Both girls begin to get jittery.

Let’s get out of here, Red says.

No, no, let’s just talk.

And then a look of sheer panic comes over both girls. Aaaa, Aaaaah, Aaaaaa. They start screaming, They gonna’ kill us! Aaaaaah, Aaaaaah. They start crying.

It then dawns on me that these poor girls think they have fallen prey to the slayer or slayers of a recent string of working girls.

No, no , I say. It’s OK. I just want to talk.

Aaaah, Aaaah. Oh, Sweet Jesus, help us!

By now, Eddie has lost all attention to this assignment. If looks could kill I would be murdered right then!

Both girls drop to their knees next to the empty bed and are now wailing: Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.

My pacing becomes more frantic and so does the crying.

Red Silk opens the bedside table, grabs the Gideon and frantically flips through pages. The Lord is my Shepard…

Oh, are you a church girl?, I ask.

Eddie says, Are you kidding me? This is just great.

Aaaaah, Aaaah, Oh, God help us.

It’s OK, I tell the girls as I too get to my knees in an effort to calm them. God is with us. You’re going to be OK.

Aaaah, Aaahhhh

I glanced over to Eddie but between the look on his face and his outfit I thought surely I had entered into one of Dante’s infamous rings. Or a Fellini movie.

Just as I gave up all hope for an end to this nightmare there was an earthquake – like crash and the room door burst open. There stood The Tom-Tom.

You’re under…what the hell is this, a prayer meeting!

I suppose the open Bible and three of us on our knees might have given one that impression.

Both girls ran sobbing into Tom-Tom’s arms. Are you the police?

Yes, girls, I’m the police.

Oh, Lord. Oh, Lord. Thank you, Jesus!

The girls were ushered out into the hallway. Tom-Tom looked around the room and said, Eddie, what the hell happened?

I don’t know. I can’t begin to describe it.

Well, the other people on this floor thought that these girls were being murdered and called downtown. Patrol is on the way. We have to get out of here, but we can’t let them think this was a police operation so we’re going to put cuffs on you both and lead you out…now.

Off we went, not quite as we had entered a short time before. My head hung low as we were perp- walked through the lobby past a large wedding reception. And Eddie. Well, let’s just say he wore his special outfit, hearts and garters, proudly.

It would be a few months and several running street battles together before Tom Tom stopped shaking his head whenever he saw me. His little smile told me it was OK, but he never missed the chance to repeat those infamous words, What would mom say? And then laugh.

I think of Tom Tom often. And still laugh at that Night Never To Be Forgotten.

Dragon’s Blood and Baez

A voice. An image. A face. A song from long ago. There is no telling what will turn a distant recollection into a torrent of memories. For me it was a smell. Rather, the smell – of New York City’s Greenwich Village in the Spring of 1968.

What turned the Mind Spigot on was – soap. Recently I’ve been trying various hand-made natural soaps from soap maker, Emily Seaver. It was one of these soaps, Dragon’s Blood, with its incense scent, that sent me back decades into a world that fascinated, but would only be observed.

New York was just a bit over an hour away by train, but what had started out as a shopping trip became the catalyst for a life-long love of folk music and an admiration for one of the eras most honest artists and voices.

Washington Square

Walking along Bleeker, Thompson and MacDougal Streets and through Washington Square Park ones senses were constantly bombarded with the sounds of bongos, saxophones, guitars, flutes and voices both sweet and ferocious singing of protest or love. The smell of subway steam rising through street vents mingled with the scents of every food imaginable. The sweet, earthy smell of roasting coffee permeated the street in front of Porto Rico Coffee and from the countless coffee cafes that lined the streets of The Village. And, through it all rose the stench of unwashed bodies, garbage and omnipresent drugs. New York in the 60’s. Nothing quite like it and never to be forgotten.

Venturing into a small, colorful shop along Thompson Street I soon realized that I had entered another world altogether. What would later be learned was a Head Shop, this little store was jam-packed with pipes, bongs, clips, etc., etc. Not only were these things of no interest, I really had no idea what they were for. Such an innocent! But, what did interest me was the dizzying (truly) display of incense. Now, this was something I was familiar with. Incense sticks and cubes of various fruits and scents filled shelves from top to bottom. What really caught my eye were small bags of loose incense – including jasmine, patchouli and every Catholic schoolboy’s favorite, frankincense. A whiff of that and for sure you would feel on your way to heaven! After buying a small packet, it was time to further explore the neighborhood.

Ritchie Havens

Cafe Wha?, The Bitter End, Bottom Line, Cafe Au Go Go, The Gaslight Cafe, The Village Vanguard. Handbills plastered on the sides of buildings and construction fencing advertised both coming and just past appearances of The Stone Poneys, Ritchie Havens, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell -live nyc Little Green, Jimi Hendrix, Odetta, Peter, Paul and Mary, Tom Paxton, Judy Collins (click on hyperlinks) and – Joan Baez. What were these places and who were these people? Coming from a very parochial background (in every sense of the word) I was not in my element. But, the Genie of Curiosity was out of the bottle and while, somewhat sadly, I never got to go to any of the above music venues I did embark on a journey to discover who those musicians were and what they were saying. One in particular has kept my admiration all these years – Joan Baez.

Joni Mitchell
Joan Baez

Now, Ms Baez probably has a few views that are, shall we say, not simpatico with mine. But, her steadfast aversion to war, her respect and empathy for the common man and the downtrodden far outweigh those possible differences and have allowed me to appreciate her artistry without the distraction of politics. Her voice and songs remain both beautiful and meaningful. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvDyq66_lWY , Diamonds and Rust, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptxxq5PUHEk and There But for Fortune, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKq-nVdiQ8U are just a few of Baez’ songs that endure.

There’s no going back of course. But, I wonder, what happened … to the promise and optimism of those days and that generation? I just wonder.

Coppers

I admit it. I am not a good blogger. Good bloggers write or post consistently or at least regularly, maintaining a relationship with their readers. I do not. Maybe it’s more accurate to say, I cannot.

My wife says that I often go off into my own world of thoughts. She calls it, Billyland. Whatever it is, it’s how I come to grips with or resolve within myself issues big and small. I become so immersed in the issue lots of other things take a back seat for a while. Sometimes, it’s how to fix something around the house or, lately, where to plant some trees and bushes around our property or rearranging my work room. These things I have thought through and acted on more or less. But, this is not the reason I have not written or posted here lately.

If you and I have anything at all in common then perhaps you, too, have this sense that so much of what you took for granted or thought to be true has been overturned, cast aside or just…erased. I mean really, did you ever think that the day would come when you’d need to get permission to go to church or be required, when going into a bank, to put on a mask? When did needing a law defining what a boy or girl is become necessary? Seriously, did you ever imagine days such as these? In less than one lifetime we’ve gone from the moon to the sewer, from asking what we can do for our Country to demanding what it must do for us. We’ve gone from worrying about nuclear fallout to greenhouse gases to now…cow farts. Can it get any crazier? Apparently, yes. Our Commander-in-Chief promises us that in June he’ll release information letting us know that UFO’s are for real and…get this, some creatures from outer space may have been visiting us from time to time. Oh, really? Have you taken a close look lately at Congress or your Cabinet, Mr. President? But, I digress.

There has been one particular issue that has really wormed its way into my thoughts almost non-stop: The Cops.

Nearly everyone has an opinion of cops. Some people say they love them and maybe they do – until they are getting pulled over for some traffic violation or they are putting handcuffs on them for beating their wife. How quickly love then fades. Once, as a rookie officer doing traffic duty for the first time, I managed to screw up pretty badly the flow of cars. What looked to be a simple task proved not to be quite so easy. I knew drivers were getting impatient, but I was determined to do the best I could in moving rush hour traffic through a busy downtown. I took the horn blowing in stride but wasn’t at all prepared for what happened so unexpectedly that it left me stunned. A rather fancy car pulled up along side me and the driver rolled down the passenger side window. Thinking he needed something, I bent down so that I could hear him. The driver leaned over and said, “Why don’t you go have a doughnut and leave people alone”. He then spit on my brand new uniform and sped off.

I was so stunned that all I could do was stand there in the middle of traffic looking as dumb as I felt. A senior officer noticing me standing there came over and asked what was the matter. I told him what happened and admitted , when he asked, that, no, I did not get the marker number of the car. He then told me to take a break to collect my wits. I asked him why, why would someone do something like that? His answer stays with me still: “Look, kid, if you wanted to be loved you shoulda’ been a fireman”. The doughnut comment still makes me laugh, but the spitting… Oh, well.

Most people don’t know a lot of cops. As a result, most people don’t have a real sense of who cops are or what they are like – as if there was a one-size-fits-all cop mold. Recently, I read an article on a religious web site I frequent where the author was giving his best effort to defend cops in general from the current bashing they are currently subject to. In a backhanded attempt to compliment them and explain the physicality of the job he stated, “It should be expected that because of the type of people attracted to police work that most of them would like to fight”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most cops hate to fight and will avoid doing so whenever possible. They also know that if a physical confrontation – a fight – is unavoidable, they cannot come out of it second best. It is also a myth that most cops go around shooting people. The overwhelmingly vast majority of cops never discharge their weapons, except on the practice range, during the entire course of their careers.

So, who are the cops? They are us. They are usually, as should be, from within our communities (an exception may be where, in many affluent communities, cops, firemen and teachers cannot afford to live in the areas they serve). Cops shop, worship, socialize, live and raise families right along side the people they protect. This commonality is crucial to both the cops and the community – both rely on the other.

In looking at the current situation of the anti-police attitude, if not movement, several questions must be asked and answered.

Are there problems with policing in the United States? Truthfully, yes. But, the problems are multi-faceted.

One is the increasing militarism of the police. Most apparent is the uniform. Look at many police departments today and you will see their officers dressed in military-style garb. Also, many departments have been granted or gifted military surplus equipment: armored vehicles, robots, drones and heavy weapons and this equipment is seemingly used or deployed whenever possible. This trend has been increasing over the past 30 years or so.

Secondly is training. There are two main approaches to Police Training: Warrior or Guardian. The first style emphasizes being ready at all times to be attacked while performing their jobs, thus being hyper-vigilant. The second style of training emphasizes approaching the public more as a Guardian: Always alert to safety but also actively engaging in non-enforcement contacts with the public. This is a simplified version, of course, of these styles of training but it illustrates, I think, the need for a change in style and perhaps a return to the old style of community policing.

Thirdly is Management. This past year showed us a parade of politically motivated police chiefs willing to sacrifice their communities, departments and their officers in an effort to save themselves from public criticism or political pressure. In nearly every case it had the opposite affect, cities burned, communities became more disenfranchised and officers became disheartened, jaded or worse.

Is all this upheaval coincidental or inevitable? I don’t believe so.

searching for “papers”

There have been more and more frequent calls from within certain sectors of government and private organizations for such things as “social workers” replacing or accompanying police in the performance of their duties. Also, there has been a renewed effort to adopt a National Federal Standard for police. If communities and police truly wish to have a fair and compassionate police department it must remain locally staffed, trained and controlled. And we must be vigilant in preventing any politician or group from seizing control of our communities, police or rights. History is replete with examples of this, few as eerily similar than that of 1930’s Germany.

For further information on this topic ideas please read:

Law Enforcement’s “Warrior” Problem, Seth Stoughton, Harvard Law Review (https://harvardlawreview.org/2015/04/law-enforcements-warrior-problem/)

Building Guardians to Create a Better Community, Sue Rahr, National Police Foundation

(https://www.policefoundation.org/building-guardians-to-create-a-better-community/)

The Nazification of the German Police, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,

(https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/german-police-in-the-nazi-state)

(https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/ss-and-police?parent=en%2F6413)

As always, thanks for reading. Comments always welcome.

Pray, be kind, do not be afraid.

Bill

Abridged too Far

A leader unafraid

The latest Erik Larson book, The Splendid and the Vile, chronicles the WWII Blitz of England and how Churchill and the British dealt with it.

It is continually interesting to read how the people of England dealt with privation, fear and death and how their leaders, particularly Churchill, guided both military and civilian responses to the havoc of Hitler and the Nazis.

Fascinating, too, are the details of how the Nazi government – run by madmen – controlled their own people through a sense of false patriotism, bullying and fear. If a German citizen did not adhere to the party line, or even questioned it, they would face repercussions including physical threats, imprisonment and even death.

Burning banned books…sound familiar?
Travel documents, please

One of the most remarkable things going on in England at the time of the Blitz and continuing during the course of the war was the effort to maintain as much of normalcy as possible. Children went to school, businesses were open, factories were working non-stop, pubs remained the neighborhood gathering spot, church services were conducted – sometimes in churches that had been bombed and…tea was still served.

Mass celebrated in bombed church. Trusting in God

Yes, politics, in every sense, were a consideration of the British cabinet, but the overarching goal was clear: defeat Hitler. Churchill made every effort to instill hope not despair, bravery not fear, selflessness not self-centeredness in his fellow Brits. When he would inspect the air raid shelters or tour neighborhoods just flattened by German bombs the people did not blame him for the destruction. No, they saw him as one of their own and cheered his unwillingness to be cowed by the scourge of Hitler.

Churchill visiting bombed Plymouth on 2 May 1941. Copyright: © IWM.

Fast forward to today.

The American people are being deterred from maintaining any sense of normalcy. Why?

Our government and media are fostering fear of everyone and anger at everything. Why?

The breaking point for many came this past week when President Biden stated:

…There’s a good chance – that you’re clueless

By July the Fourth there’s a good chance you, your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day. That doesn’t mean large events with lots of people together, but it does mean small groups will be able to get together”.

A good chance we can get together with our families and friends in our own yards? Really, Mr. President?

The Fourth of July commemorates the American people throwing off the yoke of tyranny. Have you forgotten this, Mr. Biden? For it seems, with this statement, you have abridged our rights too far.

Stand up for Something

I

No more. Pray. Be brave, for God and Country.

The Magdalene

Several years ago, on another site, I wrote a story about one memorable afternoon’s encounter with a remarkable young woman. At the time, I had a little furniture business that specialized in bringing old, American made furniture back to life. That particular winter afternoon, I was on the hunt for something really special and was exploring “junk shops” in an old mill town. Perhaps, it’s because looking out my window and seeing overcast skies and a construction dirtied street that I am now reminded in some way of that town and that day. But, what I found that afternoon has stayed with me all these years.

Would you tie this for me?

She held up a silver medallion hanging from a short, thick cord. It seemed an act of someone both innocent and yet filled with a nothing else to lose resignation. Annie has been around. 

Sure, why not.

She stepped from behind the display counter, turned her back to me and lifted her long brown hair.

Why was I nervous? Maybe, because I feared for her vulnerability. I was, after all, almost a complete stranger. After a bit of fumbling, a decent knot was tied and Annie admired her new bit of flash. I could see, too, that she really had a thing for rings. Every finger of both hands had at least one.  If hands could talk Annie’s would cry, See me, please. She had become invisible to everyone but herself.

With no one else in the shop it was easy to talk. She told how she displayed the furniture and bric-a brac and the care she would take in polishing the old wood.  She loved having something to do. She loved making things that had seen better days look worthwhile again. If only she could get a few more hours or a bit more money.

It’s hard getting thirty dollars for an eight hour day, she said. And, only three days a week at that. No one else will give me a job. Heck, hardly anybody around here will talk to me. My sisters won’t. My brother, either. He lives only a few blocks away and he won’t talk to me. My boyfriend mostly yells at me and calls me stupid. Hits me sometimes. But, he better watch out.  Someday…

Are you tired, Annie? I guessed what her tiredness was. I had seen it before.                                        

No, she said, it’s my medication. Actually methadone. I take the train to Bridgeport to get it. It really makes me tired. But, it’s better than… You know.

Yeah, I do. How long have you been off the stuff, Annie?

Oh, for years.

Where is this conversation coming from, I’m thinking?

I started when I was nine.

What! Nine?

Yeah. My parents were users and they gave it to me – my sisters and brother, too.  We lived in Bridgeport, then. She told me the street.

I knew the place well, it wasn’t really a street. Annie had grown up in an alley and I had driven past it several times every day for three years. I didn’t recall seeing Annie, though.  At least not this Annie.

So, my father molested me. And, then, so did his brother. I really hate him. He still tries to see me. I’d like to kill him. My sisters tell me to just let it go, it happened to all of us and, it’s in the past. But, I can’t let it go. Annie gets quiet and stares at nothing…but at something.

Well, at least I got off the stuff. No more heroin. Or coke. No pills. Just the meth. It makes me tired, though. I know I messed up my life.

But, Annie, you’re trying. You never really got a break.

She polishes a table top for what seems a long time, trying to hide the scratches and scars. 

You know, no matter how much they beat me down, I’ll never completely break, she says.

No, Annie, never give up. Never.

Then, a customer walks in and I turn to leave the shop.

Wait, she says, and walks me to the door.

Thanks.

For what?  

For talking to me. I won’t forget it. Really.

Neither will I, Annie. I hope you have a happy Christmas.

Well, at least I got one present, even if it is from myself. She lifted her new medallion and smiled.

She could not possibly know that she had also just given a gift to me.

Merry Christmas and may God protect you, Annie.