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.

Paint Bank

Definitely not on the menu!

There’s nothing quite like a dose of history to help keep things in perspective.

This past Sunday The Redhead and I, having hit another endurance limit of Cootie Lock-down, decided to do a bit of exploring in an area of Virginia we haven’t visited much: South West Virginia. So, with a tank-full of gas and a thermos of our Mayorga coffee, we headed out from Staunton down Route 81 to our destination: Paint Bank, VA.

Route 81, while a busy highway, offers some very beautiful scenery. But, as we approached Lexington and diverted onto Route 64 W, the scenery became even more spectacular. We crossed through the Allegheny Mountains, over the Maury River and parts of the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson forests.  I cannot imagine anyone seeing this and not feeling the Hand of God.

When we reached the tiny city of Covington we exited the highway and continued along Route 18, toward Paint Bank. Talk about twisting roads! Past farmlands and forests and rivers and creeks , the scenery just rolled by. The route was dotted with a number of abandoned houses – some modest shacks, others quite substantial, holding the secrets of families that had lived there a century or more ago.

Finally, we arrived in Paint Bank, an area or hamlet more than a town. Its “Main” street consists mostly of the Paint Bank General Store, which also houses the Swinging Bridge Restaurant. Tingler’s Mill and several other buildings, including The Lemon Hotel and Depot Lodge are close by.

Paint Bank, Virginia
The “working” side of Tingler’s Mill, Paint Bank, VA

 Across the street from The General Store is Mountain Crafters, a small yet interesting craft shop featuring the works of area crafts people and artists. The owner, Barbara Willard, was in the shop knitting when we visited. Barbara also spins wool and her loom is behind her 19th century work desk. As we browsed, Ms. Willard gave us a brief history of the area, including the origins of the town’s name. Paint Bank got its name from the ochre and red clay lining the banks of the nearby stream now known as Potts Creek. Cherokee Indians used this clay as body paint as their war parties followed the rivers along the Allegheny Mountains. They also used this clay to make and decorate their distinctive pottery. Years later, the clay was used by the settlers to produce commercial paints and also bricks for their buildings.

Mountain Crafters shop, Paint Bank, VA

By now, The Redhead was famished so, after a few purchases, we said our goodbyes to Barbara and walked across the street to the Paint Bank General Store and the Swinging Bridge Restaurant.

Paint Bank General store and the Swinging Bridge Restaurant

Just inside the store is an assortment of everything from coolers containing beverages and food items, including local bison and beef. Shelves are loaded with an array of candy, camping foods, homemade fudges, snacks and some gift items. Toward the back is The Swinging Bridge Restaurant, so named because of the swinging bridge connecting both halves of the upper floor of the building where there is a Christmas oriented gift area. But, for us the main attraction was the restaurant. If you enjoy quality, homemade country food this place is for you, especially if you like something a little different: Bison! Yep, Bison, raised locally at Hollow Hill Farm, is served a number of ways, including burgers and steaks. Never having tasted bison before, we opted for a safe bet and chose the grilled, chopped bison. It is similar to a Salisbury steak but much leaner and with a more “wild”, savory taste that reminded me a bit of grilled liver. Very delicious! Also on the menu is chicken, locally raised Angus beef and other dishes.

Upstairs gallery of Swinging Bridge Restaurant

Painted Bank General Store, Mountain Crafters and all of Paint Bank will surely be on our list of future “tours” for family and friends.

Now, I had not intended to make this blog a restaurant and shop review. Rather, it was intended as a reminder for all of us to get out of our lock-down frames of mind and discover the beauty all around us, especially in small towns. But, in reading and researching a bit more about the area we had visited, I was also struck by one thing in particular: the resiliency of people. The area we had just visited was, less than 300 years ago, The Wilderness of our yet-to-be new nation. Families looking for a new life and a chance to prosper were often attacked and killed by raiding parties of Indians of various tribes that roamed the valleys and rivers along the Allegheny Mountains. If a raid was successful, survivors would often be carried off into slavery, many never to be heard from again.

Times were very hard. Brutality was a fact of life and not one-sided by any means. But, the people survived. Two things were key factors in their survival and ability to cope with very difficult times: their willingness to support one another and their Faith. https://richpatch-humphries.com/the_humphries___persinger_connection

Can we learn from our ancestors something to help us through these hard times? I hope so.

Get out and enjoy all that we have been given. Support one another. Discover Good. Have faith.

Beauty almost everywhere you look

As part of an experiment in writing, this blog was originally posted using a different title. Except for that and one other minor change it remains the same.

Cancelling Kristina

She was skinny and blonde and kind of pretty.  For this 12 year old to even think so must have meant that she was actually, beautiful.

She lived with her parents on the first floor of a six-family house at the end of an alley across from the playground. Her backyard was the parking lot of the A&P where, in the summer, we’d ride our bikes on weekends and in the winter become Kings of the Mountain atop piles of plowed snow.  She never joined in our games, but would sometimes watch through the chain link fence that separated her from us.

We spoke only once. A bunch of us kids had ventured down the alley where she was sitting on the porch. I remember the house being painted green – jail-house green I would think as, years later, I patrolled past the old neighborhood and that house – that was the reminder of my shame.   

My parents work and I can’t leave the house”, she told us. “Both parents?” I asked.  “Yes, both”.  I had never heard of both parents working before. My dad worked two jobs, but my mother was always home.  The same with almost all of the other kids, too. This was odd, I thought. But, not as odd as the way she spoke. There was something different in the way she said her words. She certainly wasn’t Irish, or French or Italian or Hungarian or Puerto Rican.  I knew those accents.  “Where are you from”, I asked. “Russia”, she answered.

If she had suddenly struck me with a baseball bat her answer could not have shocked or frightened me more.  Russians were bad, I knew. We had drills in school preparing for the Russians to attack us with bombs. The government said they were bad.  They killed people and starved them and didn’t believe in God. They were spies. And my eldest brother was at that very moment stationed in Germany protecting us from…The Russians.  And they thought differently than we did.  And, and…

Surely there must be a better way

“You’re a Commie”, I blurted. “No”, she said, “We got out”. It didn’t matter. She was a Russian. A spy. I just knew it. We all ran. And left that little girl sitting alone on those green steps of her new home, in the land of The Free.  In today’s parlance, she was Cancelled.

Her name was, I think, Christine. Or, perhaps, Kristina. She was, after all, A Russian. If I could only do it all over. But, I can’t. And, the thing is, despite my fear, my sheer ignorance – I knew better. And that is the cause of the shame that still, to this day, haunts me. I knew better.

If thoughts could fly through the air, mine would somehow reach Kristina and she would know that I was and still am, sorry.

And, if thoughts could fly through the air, I would send them out to anyone thinking of acting as foolishly and hurtfully as did I those many years ago. Be Kind.  The memory of our actions and of those we Cancel or Dox today may haunt us for a long time to come.   

Sometimes in Winter

This morning we woke to our first winter in five years. Snow was covering everything, at least everything up to two inches! But, snow it is and what a welcome sight.

Before clearing our driveway and sidewalk I grabbed my camera – just to record the scene before me: snow covered fields, pine trees with snow draped branches and snow fog – the sort of fog arising when warmer air mixes with cold snow below. It may seem funny, but to this former New Englander, the sight of this snowy morning meant one thing – I am home. Yes, in this Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, I am home.

We are Home

Memories can creep up on you from almost anything and at the most unexpected times. This past week or so, I have been plagued by my annual December Creepies that always seem to wait until nightfall to make their appearance. It’s been a bit of a battle keeping them at bay. But, this morning, shovel in hand, other, very welcome memories popped up: Music and Coffee.

Sometimes in Winter. It has been many years since I’ve heard or thought of that Blood, Sweat and Tears song. Part Jazz, part Rock, part Poem, it is the type of song that can stay with you forever. And, there it was, playing in my head as I stood in front of our home early this morning. Click: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_D0HVYiMyq8 Yes, sometimes in Winter, everything seems right.

Another melody that popped up, altogether unrelated tonally to the first, was Tchaikovsky’s, Winter Dreams. Perhaps, it was the sight of the snow and frost covered trees that reminded me of an old DG album cover of this recording: Click:   https://youtu.be/tFAvb-Kga30  This symphony, or at least as much as I could recall, would, long ago, accompany me as I drove for hours through wintry, city streets. Yet, here it was again, in full daylight.

Now, some may think that coffee is coffee. But, no, there are differences, just as there are with any food or beverage. There is what is called Commodity coffee. That’s pretty much what you get in most restaurants, diners and even many “coffee shops”. Some of it is downright awful, some, not so bad. One of the most well-known coffee sellers charges a small fortune for a cup of coffee by adding flavorings and fancy names to otherwise unremarkable brew. There are now a lot of local or regional coffee shops / kiosks offering really good coffee. But, it comes at a price, which I understand: quality costs.

The real issue for us, The Redhead and I, is how to have a really good cup of coffee at home. This is especially true with all of the lockdowns and restrictions we are enduring. So, I began my quest for really good coffee that I could brew at home. I first tried some old favorite brands found in the grocery stores. Eh. Then, some experimentation with generic, “organic” coffees found at the local alternative grocery store. One wasn’t too bad at all. The other tasted like, well, old dirt. Since we don’t add sugar to our coffee, there was no way to fix this bad boy! Some mail order coffees cost a fortune and quality wasn’t a sure thing if the on-line reviews can be believed. Then, a light bulb went on in my noggin’.

A while back we had gotten some really good coffee beans (we grind our own…it’s a nice way to start the morning) from Costco. But, with all the restrictions, we haven’t been to Costco in about a year. So, I looked up the company and yes, they sell directly to customers. Mayorga Organics https://www.mayorgaorganics.com/. Their prices are very fair, the coffee is great and their customer service is outstanding. They roast the coffee at two locations: Florida and Maryland. A quick phone call later and I was speaking with one of their Team members, Natasha. We spoke of the different coffees and, since I am partial to Mocha Java, Natasha also recommended the Mayorga Mayan blend. I’ll report back to you on this blend very soon! The Mocha Java is very good, though.

No, Enjoyment is not necessarily an addiction!

Now, here’s the really nice thing about Mayorga. They deal directly with the coffee farmers in Latin America, thus ensuring top quality coffee and a truly decent way to deal with the people that actually grow the beans. All farmers should be so lucky! If you are interested in trying one of the Mayorga coffees, just give them a call or go on-line. It’s very easy. If you order before the end of December, ALL on-line sales will be donated to relief efforts in Latin America due to hurricanes Iota and Eta. What a nice Christmas present for those folks!

Oh, BTW, I am not affiliated in any way with Mayorga. I just really like their coffee and the way they do business. Period.

So, how do Winter and Music and Coffee tie together? Well, we are now entering winter, both literally and figuratively. We need to stay healthy and happy and connected to one another. We cannot let fear separate us. If you can, invite someone – a family member, a friend, a neighbor over to enjoy some good coffee and good music. Not sure if it’s the “right time”? Well, maybe, it’s Sometimes in Winter.

Baby Jesus is coming. Don’t be afraid. Pray. Be nice.