Go West, Go West



“Go West, young man, Go West and grow up with the country,” urged Horace Greeley,  a New York Tribune editor and promoter of manifest destiny who edited and reprinted the injunction.  The year was 1865.  The United States was destined to stretch from coast to coast.

Thomas Jefferson’s dream of Americans on the Pacific would be fulfilled.  “Great joy in camp we are in view of the ocean,” wrote William Clark in November 1805, although the Pacific was still more than 20 miles away.

I recently sat in a small house on China Retreat Beach in Ilwaco, WA. looking out from 35 feet of window, overlooking  a marsh and the mouth of the Columbia River.  Several miles to my right was Cape Disappointment where Lewis and Clark sited the Pacific.  (Footnote: Dissapointment refers not to Lewis and Clark but an English Captain John Meares who failed to cross the river in 1788.)

President Jefferson purchased much of the American West from France in 1803 — check out the Louisiana Purchase.  He had no Congressional authorization.  Spent about $15 million then, quarter of a billion in 2016 dollars.  Imagine.  Federalists (the other party) objected but the past is history.  Jefferson got the territory.  And in 1804 he engaged Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the territory. It became part of the United States.

img_2084The  journey, about 3,700 miles from Saint Louis, Missouri to the Pacific, was made by the Corps of Discovery, 33 individuals, including York, an African American slave, and Sacajawea, a Shoshone woman who would help guide the expedition. They  forded  rivers, ran rapids, and climbed mountains. Wow,  too much.  Diane and I got to China Beach Retreat on a different route.

We flew west on American Airlines frequent flyers miles that I’ve had for decades.  School vacations always matched blocked dates.  But after an internet search months ago,   I had 2 round trip tickets for 50,000 miles.  We had to fly to Raleigh, NC, then to Seattle.  How many hours, time zone changes, forget it.  But quicker than the  Corps who took over two years. Their stop overs were improvised.

China Beach was one of several overnights in our trip to the Northwest.  We arrived in Seattle, rented a car (Enterprise), drove to my  sister’s house in Boston Harbor, outside of Olympia.  Traffic on Route 5 from the airport to Olympia was amazing, and we were told it never stops.


Marylee is my third sister —  check out a recent blog, “Number 3.”  She lives alone (recently seperated) in a warm, comfortable house in Boston Harbor, about 10 miles from downtown Olympia.  The gas fireplace, music, garden views, mission-style furnishings, friendly kitty, personal arts and crafts from childhood, family and travel, we could spend our two weeks right in Boston Harbor. Check out my recent blog, Number 3, for a full profile.

After a few days, we  headed out for our  China Beach Retreat experience.  One day was spent exploring Cape Disappointment, light houses and the Lewis and Clark Intrepretative Center.  Our first night we ate in town at the Shelburne Inn, owners of our retreat.  I had razor clams appetizer, excellent.  First time I ever had them.  In conversation with another couple, they recommended another place for a razor clam entry.  In fact they came back year after year to celebrate their anniversary and eat razor clams.

As always food is big for us.  I learned that the waitress and her husband, made and sold sausage.  So I ordered 2 pounds of smoked and Italian, delivered at tomorrow’s breakfast.  Next day after a Shelburne breakfast, we went to a local museum that was featuring their cranberry festival.  Small town.  Crafters.  Enjoyed some local history and bought a huge bag of cranberries.  After lunch at the docks, a few shops, knitting and of course local bookstore, we took a drive to the northern end of the pensiula.  Found a park with trails to the beach but I was too tired to walk.


On the way back to the retreat, we stopped in Oysterville.  A small historic district. Old cannery that now sells oysters and other seafood.  I bought cans of smoked oysters, tuna and razor clams.  That evening we went to our Razor clam restaurant, 42nd Street.    Razor clams can be on the tough side but tasty.  Met the owner, drank some local brew.  Weather was rainy most of the day so we went back to the house, fired up the gas stove, watched birds and rain in the marsh.

Next we spent a few nights in Olympia, local explores.  Marylee invited fellow kayackers for dinner.  An interesting group.  Very nice.  On Sunday one friend took us on a motor boat explore from Boston Harbor.   It was raining lightly.  But this is expected.  For me the concern was, can I climb in and out of the boat?  Made it.  Button up, settle in.  Diane saw otters, probably the highlight of the two weeks for her.  Can’t say I really saw them.  We anchored in a small cove and enjoyed a picnic lunch.  Wind and rain got heavier so we headed back.

The next day off to Seattle.  We dropped Marylee off at the Convention Center where there was a nursing conference.  Diane and I dropped baggage and car at the Inn at Market. Seattle. Coffee time. Always it seems.  On Pike Place, in front of the market, we crawled past a Starbucks, crowded with Asian tourists, cameras snapping.  OK, I get it, this was the first Starbucks.  A block away, almost as crowded as Starbucks, we settled down in Cafe Capagne for coffee and croissants.   At home, my coffee is black, but on the road,  I’ll go for change,  cafe mocha, delicious.

Now for the Public Market.  We’ve been here before but love markets, indoor or outdoor, particularly food markets. Pike Place doesn’t disappoint, it’s rich in seafood and vegetables.  Fish, salmon of course, halibut, scallops, mussels, oysters, clams, Dungeness crabs, all carefully displayed, overflowing, piled high on chipped ice.  It’s beautiful.  One stand is famous for the theatrical throwing fish when sold to the person who will wrap it up.  The team may shout 20 pounds of halibut to Philadelphia.  Ship away.  I also noticed quite a few unknown vegetables — the Asian influence maybe.  And many speciality shops — hazelnuts, honey, pickles and jams, tea and of course coffee.  Then there are t-shirts and other not edibles.  In fact our purchases were limited to t shirts with Native American drawings — not a lot of room in our suit cases.

The entire market is actually several levels of shops down to the waterfront.  I got directions to Elliott’s several blocks away.  Working our way along a highway and industrial buildings, Diane doubts.  Do I know what I’m doing?  Do I know where I’m going?  I mumble, “I think. . .”  Elliott’s it turned out is huge, I’d read about it being a classic downtown seafood, on the Sound.  Quite a few people having lunch.  Whatever else we ate, I remember the plate of oysters — a dozen, from mild to salty.  Alaskan Red is also becoming a favorite on tap, local almost, beer.

We wander back to the hotel, stopping in a few shops — amazing chocolate, Native American crafts, maps, spices.  We crashed mid afternoon.

When  investigating Seattle restaurants online, I was intrigued by The Walrus and the Carpenter in the Ballard neighborhood.   Sharing the name with Diane I found out that the owner-chef, Renee Erickson was featured in a recent Food and Wine magazine (and Bon Appetite).  Even more amazing we had her cookbook, “A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus: menus and stories.”  This was a must.  But NO reservations.  About 5, Marylee was back, we called for the car and drove to Ballard.  In a block of run down industrial buildings we found “The Walrus.”  In the same building was Marine Hardware, a Nathan Stowell (another foodie name) restaurant on my short list.

The Walrus had a small bar, baskets of oysters, a few tables and another room with a few tables.  Intimate.  Cozy.  We started with raw oysters — Fanny Bay and Hump island.  I am slowly recognizing and tasting differences. Sweet, salty, or just tasty.    I had octopus for my main course.   Cured Salmon and fried oysters for the women. Delicate squash. A bottle of Chablis. And we shared a Maple Bread Pudding for dessert.  Beautiful, delicious.  As we drove out of Ballard, a few blocks away, we drove through a “hip” busy, blocks of restaurants and shops.  Note for another trip.

The next day, full sun (this is Seattle in October?).  I joked with people, “I’m from Philadelphia” and it’s always sunny in Seattle.  We walked several blocks to the monorail, to the Seattle Center and the Space Needle.  A new experience.  Great views, could see snow covered Rainer and Baker mountains.


Next to the Needle was Chihuly Glass Garden.  I’d seen one of his large hanging glass sculptures in the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia.  The museum and gardens were amazing.  We were reminded of some Steve Tobin glass sculpture.  There is another Chihuly museum in Tacoma.  On the list.


For lunch I’d discovered that Taylor Shellfish had a restaurant within walking distance.  They are a very big seafoood farming company.  Various farm locations, the headquarters is in Shelton not far from Olympia. The place was empty.  Too far for the Fall tourist walk I guess.  Diane had an oyster stew and I got to try local mussels, large, sweet, not the kind we get at home.  Diane’s getting to like hard cidar on tap.   Our waiter said the restaurants were a new idea, an attempt to show how shellfish should be served.  Not a money maker for the company.  On our way home from Port Townsend we did stop at the headquarters in Shelton.  Note, tours available.

Back at the Inn we crashed.  Dinner was downtown at at Wild Ginger.  I thought some variation from tradition seafood would be good.  Diane informed me we has eaten there before.  Although my blackened scallops were great; the Thai chicken didn’t sit well with her.

The Northwest offers so many trip options.  We went back and forth for months planning the trip.   The Columbia river, San Juan islands, Portland,  Olympic peninsula, Oregon coast.  After Seattle, we headed north to Deception Pass and the bridge to Whidby Island.  Again traffic around Seattle was awful.  At the bridge we stopped at an overlook.  Someone’s phone rang.  It was Eli and Viv on FaceTime.  We described how on the rapids below, Marylee’s kayak was hit by another kayak in the fast waters.  But there was a good ending to the story.  The kayak was repaired and she finished the trip.  The guy who hit her was a doctor who made kayaks on the side.  He designed and built her first hand crafted wooden kayak. These are beyond beautiful.  What craftsmanship.


We spent two nights on Whidbey.  The Boatyard Inn was a B.and B. Marylee had  stayed at before.  On the Saratoga passage, our room looked out on small harbor-dock area.  Very warm and comfortable.  Not much in town.  We had a kitchen, so dinners were right there.  A nice change.  One day we explored Coupeville.  Renee Erickson, The Whale and Carpenter experience, was photographed in a pier there.  Why?  Local, Penn Cove mussels.  Of course I had a bucket of them.  Diane and Marylee enjoyed the shops — quite a few.

The weather was turning.  A major storm was expected.  High, very high winds.  Rain.  At the Boatyard we watched the weather turn.  Dramatic.  Exciting.  Could we get the ferry in the morning?  I called and we were able to board a 10 a.m. ferry to  Port Townsend.  By  mid afternoon, the ferry was closed.

Our ride was smooth.  The ferry was bigger than expected.  But we arrived early in Port Townsend.  Marylee immediately took us to a boat building school on the docks.  Very neat.  Especially the computer generated navigation simulation on the third floor.  Computer programs generated screen conditions, that the student navigated with a wheel.  We lunched in a small waterfront cafe and headed to our B.and B.,  The Old Consulate.

Although the Inn was a satisfactory Victorian, the Inn Keepers were a bit overboard.  They dressed in costume, had period spiels, and many rules.  Diane was particularly put off by the communal 9 a.m. breakfast.  But the weather was the big story.  Both nights we ate in the Silverwater Cafe,  a place Marylee liked.  It was quite good.  We explored the docks as the winds and surf wipped up.  Drove around, watched a guy wind surf in the gathering storm.  I saw a more daring sister than I expected, as she navigated the wind gusts to take surf pictures.  Back at the Old Consulate the windows rattled, one blew out.  But by morning the storm had passed and  we headed back to Olympia.

One stop was at the Hama Hama oyster farm.  Renee Erickson buys oysters from them.  Do you detect connections.  It was noon, we ordered a dozen, and took home a pint.  Diane would make a delicious oyster stew — flavored with some smoked salmon.

We spent a few more nights in Olympia.  A small town really, market, a few blocks of shops, waterfront.  More important was the time spent with Marylee.  Getting to know her better.  Sharing stories from the past and hopes for the future. Boston Harbor was relaxing.

I had worried about travel.  I’m sure the first explorers of the Northwest worried.  For me pouches and drains.  For them, hardship, weather, sickness, the unknown.  But they made it.   I made it.  I had discomfort some days; but overall excitement at new experiences.  There is a lot more to explore in the Northwest. I want to continue my read about the Oregon Trail, Lewis and Clark.  And hopefully I will make another trip.




The Day After


November 9, 2016 might be a day always remembered like September 11, 2001 or November 22, 1963. The day is already remembered as “Kristallacht” or “Night of the Broken Glass” when the Nazi began their campaign against the Jews that lead to the Holocaust.

In 2016, it’s the day after the controversial election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.  Despite lack of support from many mainstream Republicans, outrageous comments and revelations, negative media coverage, Trump rallied his supporters in a populist uprising against the establishment.  He rallied rural Americans.  Forgotten Americans.  White Americans. High School graduate Americans.  Male Americans.  And unfortunately, Bigoted Americans, White Supremists, and sexists.  They rallied against elites, government, the establishment.

Many thought a win by Trump was impossible.  But the voice of the majority has spoken.  I suspect they have been heard.  Republicans now control all three branches of government.  Where will we go?  The worse case scenario would be mini Kristallachts — attacks on those that are perceived as different, through intimidation or laws. The best is probably a toned down Trump seeking advice and help in unifying the country.  In  between these extremes, we might see the erosion of many liberal policies that have been in place for years, decades.  How will women, Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, Homosexuals fare in a Trump America?

I was not totally surprised by the election outcome.  I wanted to close my eyes to the possibility but I knew it could happen.  I had given Trump 30-35 % committed core  supporters (not all but a percentage of them probably deserve Clinton’s “deplorable” label).  It became pretty clear there was another dissatisfied  group (some just anti-Clinton) who would vote Trump. Maybe, if it was 15%, he could win the election.  And it happened.

I wake up reflecting.  I spoke out strongly against Trump.  And still believe he will be bad for the country.  Maybe I should say my country.  Obviously many feel he will be good for their country.  Part of my current  reflection is the composition and beliefs of these different countries.  And how to bring them together.

I guess I am part of the establishment, the elite.  Although I sympathize and want to help those struggling, I live the “good life.”  My retirement so far (except for medical issues) has been pretty nice.  We vacation in nice places, eat in the best restaurants, go to whatever theatre or entertainment we wish.  We have good health care and don’t worry a lot about the cost of something we want.  We’re not really rich but part of an upper middle class percentage.  Lower-upper?

Today I wonder, how did Diane and I get here.  First  we had good families. We went to college.  We worked.  Both teachers.  Not the highest paid occupation.  And I even worked in private schools that paid less.  We didn’t inherit a lot.  We saved and tried not to waste.  So now we are part of the “elite?”  I don’t fully understand.

Although Ive been registered both Republican and Democratic, my politics have always supported what are labeled liberal policies.  I’ve never identified with national Republicans, big business or jingoistic American ethnocentrism.  I’ve believed American diversity was a strength, tried to overcome my male chauvinism, and supported the equality of all people.  That pretty consistently led me to Democratic candidates, particularly nationally.

Now we have a populist movement of average people.  Unfortunately up to now it seems like a movement of predominately average white people.  I might be part of an elite but I’m  in a party with a lot of average, nonwhite people.  What’s going on here?  I recall in 1966-67 when I was attending Boston College.  I spent much of my Sophomore year involved in the anti-war movement.  I was active in SDS.  We decided students had to reach out to the the working class.  They were being hurt by the war.  They not us (college students) were dying in Vietnam.  We tried to organize and recruit in poor and working class Boston neighborhoods.  Blacks and Irish.  It didn’t work.  For them, we were part of a deferred “elite.”  They continued to fight and died in Vietnam for another 8  years.  Tragic.

For me the current election frenzy leaves me a bit emotionally exhausted.  I will spend today, tomorrow and the coming days reflecting.  Can we forge new political alliances?  I’m pretty sure I won’t be satisfied in a Trump America.  But this may be a turning point.  A dialogue must begin.

Time to reflect today, listen to the rain, contact some close friends, watch the birds and the stock market.   Bake some bread and pumpkin pie.  Finish reading my book on the Oregon Trail — the story of some pioneers that made America great (unfortunately they slaughtered Native Americans and bison in the process).  But I  must think positive.  Today is just the first day after.

Is it time to circle the wagons?  Together?



Hail to the chief.


Tomorrow it’s time to vote.  It’s been a bizarre, even frightening campaign for the next President.  The outcome is a toss up; the consequences possibly nasty.  I’m 69 years old.  There have been twelve Presidents in my lifetime.

I’m a Harry Truman baby.  He became President when Franklin D. Roosevelt died in his unprecendented fourth term.  In 1948 Truman, a Democrat, from Independence, MO ran against Thomas Dewey from NY.  I don’t need to emphasize that I don’t recall anything firsthand about the campaign or Truman.  History  books document other names I recognize, Storm Thurmond (Southern Conservative), Henry Wallace (Progressive) and Norman Thomas (Socialist) — they all ran as Third party candidates.  So did Edward Teichert (Socialist Labor) but I never heard of him.

As a student of media and photography. I have seen many times the Chicago Tribune  newspaper headline declaring Dewey the winner.  Harry held a copy high.

“The paper relied on its veteran Washington correspondent and political analyst Arthur Sears Henning, who had predicted the winner in four out of five presidential contests in the past 20 years. Conventional wisdom, supported by polls, was almost unanimous that a Dewey presidency was “inevitable”, and that the New York governor would win the election handily. The first (one-star) edition of the Tribune therefore went to press with the banner headline “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN”.”

I also remember from history books, Truman’s desk sign, “The Buck Stops Here.”  Honest, small town kind of guy.  Most importantly I’ve thought about and taught lessons related to Truman’s decision to drop the atom bomb on Japan.  I’m not sure I or the history books have a definitive ruling on whether he made the right decision.

In 1952 Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected President,  Richard Nixon was his Vice President.  I was five years old.  Ike was a war hero who accepted the Republican offer.  His Democratic opponent was Adlai Stevenson.  Stevenson was known (maybe some puff) as a liberal and intellectual.  When we toured the Eisenhower farm in Gettysburg a few years ago, we learned that Ike read western novels and ate TV dinners on a small porch.  I seem to remember as a kid (he served two terms), thinking of Eisenhower as a grandfather-President.

It was during these years that Andy, one of my best friend’s father took us to John Birch Society and other right wing meetings.  Dr. Vince Romano was textbook.  A successful, small town, Catholic doctor, father of maybe a dozen kids.  Conservative to the core, obsessed with Communism, probably abortions and homosexuals (although both topics would have been taboo).  But I really appreciate how Dr. Romano exposed me to hard work (rebuilding the stone wall on their Riverfront home), political issues and bird banding — monthly trips to a banding station in Washington Crossing State Park.  Ironically in 1964, my first year in college, I was a member of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), a Romano legacy, and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a Boston opportunity.  I do wish I had some of the pulp novels published and circulated by the far right at that time — great drama — and then the classic “None Dare Call it Treason.”

The election that stoked my political consciousness was 1960.  John Fitzgerald Kennedy (Massachuttes Democrat) ran against Richard Nixon (California Republican).     Kennedy was Catholic; I went to a Catholic elementary school.  Guess who I supported?  Andy Romano and I made several trips to a Kennedy field office on Otter Street (collecting buttons and other campaign material).  I still have some of those buttons.

On October 16,  1960 Andy and I rode our bikes up Radcliffe Street, through Tullytown to the Levittown Shopping Center.  We waited and waited.  Finally the motorcade arrived.  Kennedy spoke:

“I come here today as the standard bearer for the Democratic Party in this most important election. Actually, there have been many significant elections in the history of this country, and it is my hope that as a result of this campaign, as a result of our efforts, that the people of this country, all of them, Republicans and Democrats, will come as a result of our effort of the last few months to some definite conclusions about what our country must do. I believe if this election is to serve a national purpose, the best purpose it can serve is to inform our people, not of all the things that are good about our country, because we know there are many things that are good about our country but the things that we must do if we are going to maintain our country’s freedom.”

The text of the speech is interesting to read today, the Cold War,  education, social programs.  He concluded:

“I come here today, on a cold and windy Sunday, and ask your help in this campaign. I ask you to join us, to give us your hand, your voice, your support, join us in moving our country forward, join us in trying to do for this country what needs to be done if it is going to maintain its position in the world, if it is going to move ahead. Join us in moving America again. Thank you.”   Sound familiar.

I’ll admit.  I’m a Kennedy Democrat (most of the time).  JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you,” images of  sailing on  Cape Cod, John and Caroline in the White House, yes, for me and I believe many of  my generation, this was Camelot.  And then the unthinkable.  Dallas.  Assassination.  November 22, 1963.

The Kennedy memory and legacy is complex.  Bay of Pigs, increase presence in Vietnam Nam, foot dragging on Civil Rights,  Cuban missile crisis. Later we learn obout personal issues.  Diane and I would graduate and join the Peace Corps.

I was in the HGP parking lot on a Friday, November 22, 1963.    We were organizing for a dance.  “We interrupt this program,for a tragic news bulletin.  The President has been shot. I repeat President Kennedy . . .”  We were brought to the HGP chapel and the reality of what had happened began to sink in. Then there was the shooting of Oswald on national TV and the photograph of Johnson with Jackie  Kennedy being sworn in on Air Force One.  Mother and Father drove to DC with friends and joined the long line paying their respects to the President and his family in the Capital rotunda.  With my sisters, I was glued to the TV all night looking for our parents.

Lyndon B. Johnson.  A sad presidency.  A Southerner, Texan, skilled Congressman, in the shadows of Harvard educated, Mass, Kennedys.  Johnson fought for Civil Rights but was strangled by the Vietnam War.  In 1964, he  runs for a full term.  His running mate is Hubert Humphrey, a Minnesota liberal. Republicans, led by the Conservative wing, anoint Barry Goldwater from Arizona.  I’ll admit I was intrigued by Goldwater.  I read “Conscience of a Conservative.”  Individualism and freedom from government intervention struck a chord, but I was wary of the extreme anti-communism.  The John Birch Society, Young American for Freedom rhetoric that I’d learned about thanks to Doc Romano had turned me off.  If I could have voted,  it would have been Johnson.

However by 1965, Johnson was the enemy.  His Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, came to Boston College to speak.  There were lines of protesters and another line of BC “jocks” screaming “get off our campus.”  I stood with a small group of Freshman. This was our campus.  We wipped out our student IDs and joined the protesters.  BC security didn’t care, we were swept off campus with the protesters.  Off campus we got together and established contacts with Harvard and Boston University chapters of SDS.

Back on the BC campus we helped establish an SDS chapter.  Despite my political naiveté, I was elected secretary of the chapter.  One reason was that a small group of juniors and seniors, political science majors, had already had scuffles with the school administration and wanted a low profile.   I believe that they were  the organizers of the food riot that forced a change in food service and showed us that collective action could achieve results.  Power to the people!!

In retrospect, I feel sorry for Lyndon Johnson.  But maybe I should reserve judgement until I read his multi-volume biography written by Robert Caro.  The war dragged on, more and more politicians began to join the anti-war movement. More Democrats turned anti-war and anti-Johnson.  Lyndon eventually decided not to run for a second term.

1968,  enter center stage, Gene McCarthy, an anti-war candidate.  Clean up for Gene was the cry (it meant cut your hair, shave, and change clothes).  I recall going to a rally in Madison Square Garden.  But McCarthy was too much for most older Democrats.  Robert Kennedy entered the race but was assissinated.   The party  went with the more traditional liberal team of Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie.  Republicans reached back and found Richard Nixon with running mate Spiro Agnew from Maryland.  Footnote: George Wallace (Southern racist) and Curtis LeMay ran on the American Independent ticket.  Agree was off the wall, would fit in with today’s fringe Republicans.

Disappointed at my choices, my first Presidential vote, I voted for Humphrey.  American politics is compromise.

In 1972, the war raged on.  Nixon and Agnew carried the Republican banner again. Amazingly Democrats went with anti-war candidate George McGovern from South Dakota.   I didn’t get real involved but  enthusiastically voted for McGovern.   Nixon won. The war ended in 1974. Finally.

And then came the Watergate scandal.  During the early 1970s Diane and I  lived in New Hope with John and Barbara Paglione.  Everyday, in the afternoon, we watched the TV Watergate hearings. “Did the President know?”  Nixon knew enough and didn’t run again.  Gerald Ford became President.

In 1976 Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale, Democrats,  defeat Gerald Ford and Bob Dole.  I don’t remember any interest or participation in the election. Carter seemed a nice guy but didn’t inspire me

1980, Carter and Mondale were looking for a second term.  Along comes the ex-actor, Californian Governor, Republican Ronald Reagan and his running mate George H. Bush from Texan.  Reagan had tremendous appeal to what was called Middle America. I was appalled at his conservative, self-righteous paternalism.  I was at a party in Bristol and my brother-in-law was singing the Reagan song.  I decided to register Republican to vote for the more moderate John Anderson in the Republican primary.

Reagan and Bush won in 1980 and again in 1984. Democrats Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro did little for me.  It was great seeing a woman on a national ticket but I was interested in more aggressively liberal candidates.  But the country has shifted to the right.  Conservatives were in.

In 1988 Reagan was followed by George H. W. Bush and a weak VP, Dan Quayle.  The Democrats ran Michael Dukakis (Mass) and Lloyd Bentsen.  Ron Paul emerged as a Libertarian candidate. The Republicans prevailed again.  Bush had a refinement that seemed to represent another era, my father’s candidate.  He got us in and quickly out of the Gulf War.  Democrats it seemed we’re having a difficult time finding charismatic leadership.  Other than voting, I was not involved in National elections.

Strangely, ironically, Diane would say sadly, after registering Republican to vote against Reagan, I was approached by Yardley Borough Republicans to run for Borough Council.  At the time I was active organizing a Bucks County chapter of the Sierra Club.  Club officials told me we need Republican environmentalists.  Go for it, they advised. I met Susan Taylor, another Republican council candidate.  She was a fiscal conservative with none of the social conservative beliefs that were dominating  the party.  We got along well.  I decided to run.  We won.  Two terms. We forged a strong local Republican Party.

By the 1990s, Susan and I were finished serving on borough council.  I wanted to stay involved locally.  So I became a Republican committeeman with some input on who ran for council and other county offices.  I was always proud that my partner, committee woman, Sharon Lantzy, and I  were the only Bucks County committee people that did not vote to endorse Rick Santorum in his Senate run.

In 1989, I took a sabbatical from Holy Ghost Prep to work on my dissertation. The topic was educational policy making in Pennsylvania. I spent much of a year in Harrisburg. I was living State politics. When a new State house district was formed in Bucks County, I decided to run. There were at least four candidates.  I was doing ok with committee people, my cousin, Tom, Republican County Treasurer, even said I sounded like a Republican.  But the County chairman, Harry Fawkes, wouldn’t support me.  I was a teacher, he said and supported Dave Stiles, a Lower Makefield businessman.  Later I would joke that Harry probably made a good choice.  Although there was talk of an open primary, I dropped out to finish my dissertation.

George H.W. Bush was marked to be a one term President.  His challenger was Bill Clinton, Governor of Arkansas (running mate, Al Gore, Tennessee).  Ross Perot led an interesting third party bid.  1992 marked the return of a Democratic President.  Although I was happy, Clinton was from my generation, he moved much too far to the center for my politics.  In 1996, he held off Bob Dole and Jack Kemp.  Clinton’s style, working with Republicans dis lead to Welfare reform, an improved economy, no wars.

In the mid 1990s, I switched my registration to Democratic.  Harry Fawkes, Bucks County chairmen,  wasn’t listening to my recommendations for council but was supporting a true blue Yardley Republican faction.

In 2000, Clinton passed the baton to Al Gore.  I liked Gore and his VP, Joe Lieberman but I had no history of contributing or becoming involved in a national election.  As a teacher, however, I had been helping to run mock elections, invited local politicians to speak at school and took kids to DC and local rallies.  I remember seeing Clinton in Bristol one year.  Gingrich in DC.

The 2000 election was close.  There were disputes about voting in Florida.  Eventually the Supreme Court weighed in and George W. Bush with running mate Dick Chaney were declared the victors.  Republicans were back in the White House.  I was disgusted.  Much of my adult life was Republican candidates I would not support and Democrats that were uninspiring.

Bush and Cheney won a second term, defeating John Kerry (Mass) and John Edwards (NC).  Democrats seemed to constantly return to Massachuttes looking for that Kennedy replacement.  For years we vacationed in Nantucket.  Saw the Clintons there one summer and thought I was going to meet Kerry.  His wife, Theresa Heinz, had a house in town.  But I began to see her car on a dirt road with access to Nantucket sound, across the street from our rental. There were major renovations happening.  Was this going to be the summer White House?  Kerry lost the election.  Theresa Heinz responded to a letter I wrote saying a staff person was using her car.  No summer White House.  Didn’t meet Kerry.

In 2008 I got excited about a Presidential election.  Barack Obama, a Senator from Illinois, an African-American,  was the Democratic candidate.  I liked his running mate, Joe Biden, from Delaware.  Republicans chose war hero, John McCain.  He didn’t seem like a bad guy until he chose Sarah Palin from Alaska as his VP.  For me Palin marked the beginning of the take over of the Republican Party by crazies — right wing idealologues, 21st century no-nothings, anti-establishment conspiracy theorists.  I predicted then with some R friends,  the end of the Republican Party.  It could happen.

I wanted to get involved with the Obama election. I donated money several times, walked door to door in Yardley-Makefield, went to a rally at Temple and agitated among friends.  Obama seemed to represent hope and change.  He spoke as a strong liberal, not radical, but progressive.  When he won, I went to the inauguration with Dan Ryan.  Now to see some change in Washington.

Unfortunately, Republicans blocked Obama time and time again.  There wasn’t any bi-partisan cooperation, no compromise.  An important part of our democracy.  At times Obama’s liberalism receded as he attempted to court Republican support.  I don’t think there is any question that some of the antagonism was pure racism.  A black guy in the White House.  His birth as an American, his religion, and loyalty to the country were all challenged.  I became annoyed but didn’t blame him.  Republicans had become fully obstructionist.

In 2012 Obama and Biden faced Mitt Romney (Mass) and Paul Ryan (Wis).  Romney seemed to represent the end of old guard Republicans.  A businessman out of touch with much of the country.  Ryan was his nod to the conservative base.  A surprise to many, Obama won a second term. The Senate and House controlled by Republicans. Again I tried to be involved.

Republicans continued to resist anything Obama suggested.  Strongest was their opposition to tha Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, which addressed the millions of Americans without health insurance. The law has problems but it wasn’t a government take over of health care.  It was an attempt to help people get insurance, not be punished by a pre-existing condition, ideally contain costs.  Like any major piece of social legislation, there is need for changes.  But instead of  working for change or compromise, Republicans tried again and again to repeal.  A waste of time and energy.  Many issues followed this pattern, even the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice.

And now — tomorrow — November 8, 2016.  We will hopefully end what may be the sickest Presidential campaign in US history.  And there have been some pretty down and dirty campaigns.

Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, NY Senator, Secretary of State in the Obama administration was awarded the Democratic spot.  She faced a strong challenge by a real liberal-socialist, Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Senator.  As strong as he was, I thought it was always doubtful the country would support someone as far left as Sanders. Although I voted for him, I was not active in his campaign and a bit annoyed at myself that I wasn’t.   And I don’t blame my year in surgery.

Hillary Clinton carries a lot of unfortunate baggage.  For some, just as Obama is Black; Clinton is a woman.  Doesn’t belong in the White House.  As I previously mentioned I never liked the Clintons a lot.  As critics say, too tied to big business, rationalists, pragmatists.  Bill can be charming; Hillary is loyal.  But I understand some distrust.  That is not to say I accept or understand the paranoia.  The number of conspiracy theories, exaggerations, mountains out of molehills her critics  have built are amazing.  Yes she is part of the establishment but not a criminal, murderer, witch or devil.  Little has been said of her VP, Tim Kaine from Virginia.

After what has to be the craziest collection of primary candidates in history, the Republicans emerged with business tycoon, Donald Trump as the front runner.  Wow.  In the beginning there were 17 candidates.  A few were mainstream, Jeb Bush, John Kasich.  Marco Rubio and Chris Christie “seemed” normal.  Cruz, the ultimate conservative ideologue.  But then Walker, Perry, Paul, Fiorina, Huckabee, Santorum, and Dr. Carson.  Give me a break.  These are not Presidents.

But the party picked the most unlikely President, Donald Trump.  There has been some much written about him, I’ve read so many articles, reviewed the list of outrageous comments and crazy, unproductive policies.  I thought about 35% of the country would get behind Trump.  And I still believe-hope that’s about it for his core supporters, the believers.  There is another percentage, however, dissatisfied with Washington, distrustful of the establishment, of Clinton.  We will soon know the size of this group.

For months I’ve expressed my disgust with Trump in conversations, Facebook posts, several rants, and a blog post.  The purpose was primarily carthetic.  It made me feel better — primal scream kind of thing.  I’ve also tried to encourage voting.  I think I understand why the KKK, white supremacists, racists, sexists, conspiracy theorists, anti-Muslin, xenophobic, anti-semetics support Trump.  I’ve tried to understand why some normal, regular working people do.

I am not at all pleased with this election.  And I do believe it could get worse.  Whoever wins tomorrow, it’s time to find a better path.  I’d like a more wholesome debate and personally a more committed  involvement.  We can’t repeat 2016.  Your thoughts.





I see America working!


I discovered Studs Terkel in the early 70s.  I believe the first book I read was, “Hard Times: an oral history of the Great Depression.”  Followed by “Division Street: America.”  Studs was a strong voice in Chicago, a  TV personality, radio commentator, writer, and oral historian.  He was a man of the Left, outspoken, a Roosevelt liberal.  During the 1930s, he wrote for the Federal Writer’s Project.

I remember when “Working” was published in 1974.    It’s subtitle, “People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do” said a lot about Terkel.  He interviewed people, listening and listening to the common person.  He gave average Americans a voice.  I became fascinated with oral history and would eventually find it dovetailed with my interest in local history.


Eventually I  used the label, “New Social History” thanks to the University of Pennsylvania’s Walter Licht who introduced me to the term during a National Endowment program.  Studs Terkel, was an Oral Historian but he was also a New Social Historian, interested in the common person and everyday life (social history).  The “New” referred to common people.   History was more than the story of Kings and Presidents, explorers and inventors.  History was inclusive and included the stories of women, African American slaves, and ethnic immigrants. An academic dissertation might be about the Italian butchers of South Philadelphia.

Bertol Brecht in “A Worker Reads History” wrote:

Who built the seven gates of Thebes?
The books are filled with names of kings.
Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?
And Babylon, so many times destroyed.
Who built the city up each time? In which of Lima’s houses,
That city glittering with gold, lived those who built it?
In the evening when the Chinese wall was finished
Where did the masons go? Imperial Rome
Is full of arcs of triumph. Who reared them up? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Byzantium lives in song.
Were all her dwellings palaces? And even in Atlantis of the legend
The night the seas rushed in,
The drowning men still bellowed for their slaves.

Young Alexander conquered India.
He alone?
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Was there not even a cook in his army?
Phillip of Spain wept as his fleet
was sunk and destroyed. Were there no other tears?
Frederick the Great triumphed in the Seven Years War.
Who triumphed with him?

Each page a victory
At whose expense the victory ball?
Every ten years a great man,
Who paid the piper?

So many particulars.
So many questions.

Earlier this week, Diane and I went to the Bristol Riverside Theatre to see “Working: a musical.”  Not what you expect as typical material for a musical —  maybe it could be compared to the personal stories in “Chorus Line.”  Stephen Swartz (Wicked) and Nina Faso (Godspell) adapted “Working” for the stage in the late 1970s.  It had a short run on Broadway; some revival in recent years.

Based on my interest in Studs Terkel, I was excited to see the show.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Overall I felt Terkel’s themes/message was communicated.  From a production standpoint, this was  a preview night. The cast was strong and will probably get stronger as they get into characters night after night.  The director, Keith Baker, in an after performance discussion commented, “they are, the entire crew, all “working.”

The first number was, “All the Livelong day.”  Swartz recognizes a homage to Walt Whitman as I did in the title of this blog.  Whitman’s America singing was not the voice of an elite but the voice of the people.  All people.  There are quite a few musicians who wrote the score.  I particularly liked James Taylor’s “Brother Trucker” and “Millwork.”

We listen to dozens of workers who tell their stories.  I believe most or all of their lines are directly from “Working.”  The voice of the people.  One of the first is a construction, ironworker, laying beams for a multi-story building.  The image of worker and building will be repeated.


During the first act I was surprised at how many workers didn’t like their work.  A flight attendant, worried about crashes;  a teacher tired of her students.  A non-appreciated housewife. A  trucker so tired that even if close to home, he will just call and continue on the road. And then there was the factory, mill worker, assembly line, toxic chemical exposured, worker.   “Who wants it?   But we need to work.  I’m happy to have a job.”   More positive, the fast food, first job, delivery boy, is excited when he’s told “keep the the change.”

Workers lament, “Nobody tells me how,” and “If I could have been.”  At intermission, I wondered were Terkel’s interviews so bleak?  Do we hate “working?”

In Act two, working is saved by a mason.  He builds in stone.  The rock is solid.  His work will last, if not forever; a long time.  And isn’t that what we want?   Some recognition, some appreciation, if not forever, at least, a long time.  Others share their positive work experience.  A waitress dances and sings her delight at “serving.” A cleaning lady endures with mop and song, so her children will have it better.  A father works for his son.  My favorite was, Joe, retired, looking to fill each day with some activity. Not a lot, just enough to say, I did it.

Work and life may not be perfect.  But for these workers, there is satisfaction.  Pride. They make a contribution to society.  They leave a legacy for family.  They have something to point to.

“It’s not just the work. Somebody built the pyramids. Somebody’s going to build something. Pyramids, Empire State Building-these things just don’t happen. There’s hard work behind it. I would like to see a building, say, the Empire State, I would like to see on one side of it a foot-wide strip from top to bottom with the name of every bricklayer, the name of every electrician, with all the names. So when a guy walked by, he could take his son and say, “See, that’s me over there on the forty-fifth floor. I put the steel beam in.” Picasso can point to a painting. What can I point to? A writer can point to a book. Everybody should have something to point to.”

At least that’s how “working” should be.


The Riverside production is worth seeing.   I need to reread “Working” and other books by Studs Terkel.