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bigtree

bigtree's Journal
bigtree's Journal
February 25, 2024

Trump is such a simp to Putin that he can't denounce his endorsement of Joe Biden

...Trump elevated Putin's clumsy lie about supporting Pres. Biden to a question he should have known he couldn't respond to.

Putin's endorsement wasn't necessarily a reflection of Trump's thinking until he got the idea he was clever enough to use the cynical ravings of a murderous dictator against his Democratic rival.

So now there isn't any shield of indifference to what Putin said for Trump to hide behind. He's committed himself to confirming whether he agrees with Putin's supporting the president's reelection, as he did in that now viral clip where he said ”I agree with him, I agree.”

There's no wiggle room here. Trump didn't just misspeak. He's placed himself in controversy over not only what he believes, but what he thinks Putin believes and wants - and we all know Putin wants a Trump presidency willing to surrender not only Ukraine , but the entire NATO protectorate defending a free and democratic Europe from Russian aggression.

This isn't just the silly, but admittedly, tragically funny joke that Trump is too mentally addled to recognize what he's saying. His gaffe was about his duped or compromised determination to align U.S. interests with Russia's, at whatever cost Putin merely suggests.




https://news.yahoo.com/trump-agrees-putin-biden-president-203052899.html
February 21, 2024

My guess about why Trump and other republicans are carrying Putin's water

...I'd guess the select few who visited Moscow, including the seven Republican senators and one House member who took a surprise trip there on July 4, 2018, as well as the leading republican candidate for president meeting privately with Putin five times in office, were all summoned by Putin to review their individual kompromat files complete with videos and audio and other incriminating evidence against them.

Putin likely gathered them together in a room where he was recording them and displayed each member's compromising material in turn, then gave each a packet with everything in it, including their marching orders, then told them to gtfo.

We saw visible evidence of that blackmailing when Trump had that private session in Helsinki with Putin after the summit on July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland, just weeks after the republican senators visited Moscow, and he came out looking like he'd been bludgeoned.




Trump and Putin Have Met Five Times. What Was Said Is a Mystery.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/15/us/politics/trump-putin-meetings.html

TPM:

The two world leaders have interacted face-to-face in five different locations since Trump took office in January 2017. Sometimes they’ve sat down for extensive private conversations; other times they’ve just exchanged words in full view of press cameras. More than one of those meetings have coincided with fraught moments in the federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Per the Post, no substantial record of any of them exists.
Foreign policy experts say that these off-the-record encounters leave the rest of the U.S. national security apparatus in the dark about how to navigate the country’s relationship with Russia, allow Russia to control public perceptions of the talks, and leave Trump more vulnerable to manipulation from Putin.

February 20, 2024

Donald Trump is a Russian agent

....it's incontrovertible and voters need to be made more aware.

Another excellent video from Ben Meiselas at MeidasTouch



February 15, 2024

Fani Willis has means and right to have large sums of cash

..she said the largest amount she had at one time was about 15k.

Trump's lawyer is trying to say Fani Willis would not be expected to have her own money.

It's just so offensive that it's infuriating and triggering.

So many times in my life I've been reminded how so many of our countryfolk have such a low opinion of black people as to assume they don't live the same way as their white counterparts, or better.

Older black folks in my family had traditionally distrusted banks and often keep larges sums of cash, on their person and in their home, and that habit is often passed down to their children.

The problem in this questioning is as much about the inferences, as they are about the seemingly innocuous prying into details of Fani Willis' personal habits.

FFs, the attorney just tried to call Wade an employee.

Most close relationships aren't transactional, but this questioning assumes every meeting or outing they had was some quid pro quo, instead of people friendly with each other and enjoying each others' company.

Relationships that aren't between married couples can be uncertain, but this questioning assumes something nefariously binding about the association that's not apparent anywhere but in the insinuations.

I'm going to hope here that these exchanges are viewed though the context of not only the outrageousness of the questioning about sexual behavior in a courtroom trying Donald Trump and associates, but with the understanding that black folks, especially women, have not only always been made to openly justify their sexual and other relationships, but have had those relationships tied to any public assistance they might receive to the degree that black women had to remain unmarried and even hide their male companions from social workers.

Fani Willis would have heard these stories from her parents. That's how recent all of that was, and it looks like people want to bring it all back.

I'm listening to the questioning of Willis and Wade and for the life of me I can't see why their sexual relationship was ever allowed to be raised in open court.

I also don't know how anyone can determine when their relationship was a romantic one; certainly not just because they had intercourse. It was obviously brought up to provide salacious video for ignorant people to grunt at, with no context that the people directly involved get to decide when they are in a romantic relationship, not someone looking on from the outside judging them by their own peculiarities.

Where will our defenses come from today since the substance of these indignities are contained mostly in black folks' fears; and also in their detractors' antipathies; attitudes and perceptions which took generations to alter?

February 11, 2024

Wife and I were talking about how we felt at this moment

...when Kate McKinnon performed Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" a couple days after Trump was elected:



"I did my best; it wasn’t much.
I couldn’t feel, so I learned to touch.
I told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you And even though it all went wrong,
I’ll stand before the Lord of song
With nothing on my lips but Hallelujah!"


It's incredibly triggering, but it reminds us of just how far we've come since that awful moment, and how important and vital it is that we have the same resolve today that we mustered back then to push through to the next election and put Trump on his ass.

“It really felt like the perfect distillation of what we wanted to say,” SNL wrier Sarah Schneider told Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller, the directors of the upcoming documentary Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song (in theaters July 1 and inspired by this book of mine). They sent the verse to McKinnon—who, though she described “Hallelujah” as “the most beautiful song ever written, one of my top three songs of all time my whole life,” also wasn’t familiar with these lines, and actually asked if Schneider had written them for the Hillary character. Still, they worried that at this moment of such raw emotion for the country, the song would feel “too sad, too defeated.”


We were both rallied by the performance. It was a moment of unity. A few days later the Women's March on Washington was announced for the day after Trump's inauguration - which my son and I attended even though I had the flu and had to work that night. I still look back to this performance as the moment we looked up from that devastating defeat and began to fight again.

Funny sweet story. That night when the networks announced he'd won I had to immediately go to work stocking shelves on the grocery night crew. We were a 24-hour store, and I saw an elderly lady come in to shop looking much the same way I felt.

She said she was in to find some comfort food. We commiserated with each other about the election, and I suggested, as I always do, that she get something familiar that she likes instead of something new.

On the way out she stopped by where I was working and gave me a candy bar she'd bought. Said she didn't eat candy but she thought it would make me feel better.

I thanked her, stopped working and ate it, and I did feel better.
February 10, 2024

Hur's politicking in his report is backfiring today, and predictably so

...I've watched more than a few influential pols and pundits calling this smear job by Robert Hur out-of-bounds and provably untrue.

The top assistant to Trump deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, clerk for Justice William Rehnquist, chosen by Trump AG Jeff Sessions to be U.S. Atty. of Md., thought he was doing yeoman's work for MAGA when he included his sophomoric fiction about the president alongside what amounts to a solid exoneration.

Ironically (right word?), incredibly, Hur ratf**ked his own political hit job by revealing himself as a clear anti-Biden partisan. Nothing could make his decision to decline charges against Joe Biden more convincing than his own visible antipathy to the president contained IN HIS OWN REPORT.

Hur made a clumsy political stab at the president which was rendered fiction mere hours after the report's release when Pres. Biden stepped before the cameras, in an appearance many stations carried live to see if he was indeed in a stupor which would rival Mitch McConnell's drooling deer-in-the-headlights presser, and sharply acknowledged the win with his usual clarity and forcefulness as he angrily devastated the SC's salacious accusations.

It was a rookie move by Hur. Most GOP operatives know well that not only is Pres. Biden not hampered in any significant way because of his age, it's foolishness to put themselves in a position where they're directly challenging him.

Joe Biden isn't shy or lost for words, and he's known many of these pols and pundits before they put on their big kid pants. Nor is the press corp who is with him daily engaging in some sort of coverup, propping up the octogenarian like FDR's waist high photo ops.

More obvious is this successful presidency so far, complete with historic progress and accomplishments led by this old guy.

I've seen many campaigns where the opponent overreaches, as Hur has, and casts his rival in an unbelievable light, obvious to everyone looking on to be far from the truth. It's a classic blunder, and this amateur political operative stepped right in it.

January 24, 2024

Tweety and the Morning Schmo say Haley can be a Black Swan

...the black swan events metaphor describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The term is based on an ancient saying that presumed black swans did not exist, until they were discovered in Australia in 1697.

The trio was lathering themselves up in anticipation of a Haley/Biden matchup in the end, comparing Nikki Haley to a 'black swan' like she has some universal, and more importantly 'moderate' appeal that will amaze and spark voters enough to transcend the Defendant as an actual competitor in this race.

Tweety, practically breathless as he realized he had room to make one of his goofy observations, lavished Haley with praise.

"Nikki Haley's a lot better now than she was a few weeks ago," he gushed. "She is now the star close to the star."
twitter.com/Morning_Joe/status/1750211886899929492


Joe chimed in as Mika nodded approvingly:

https://twitter.com/Morning_Joe/status/1750143365205622867

The new script they worked up on set has all the networks and news orgs Nikki Haley offering the woman who has about 20 delegates in her pocket an opportunity to do her faux-moderate, anti-Trump act through her home state's primary, hoping a Trump conviction will knock him out before the election and she'd be the last one standing.

I think most republicans in South Carolina moved past Haley when they hounded her out as governor after going all trumpy. Even if she has a good showing there she's likely to still lose to the cult favorite, and her money will dry up.

Right now, there's a palatable amount of schadenfreude watching Haley attack Trump and echo the Biden campaign's highlighting of Trump's addled and diseased mind. But it doesn't make her a moderate... on anything.

She's made that point, herself.

In response to an NBC News question at a campaign event in Amherst on Friday, she asked anyone claiming that she’s not conservative to “name one thing that I wasn’t conservative on,” citing voter ID efforts, right-wing immigration laws and pension reform she championed as governor.

“Not one person can tell you how I wasn’t conservative,” she said, adding, “Show me where I’m moderate because I’m not. The difference is who is deciding who’s conservative and who’s moderate.”

“Is it because of what I say?” Haley added. “Is it how I talk?"


Vox:

In the traditional three main policy areas in US politics — economic, social, and foreign policy — the former South Carolina governor’s platform is deeply conservative. Haley has endorsed invading Mexico and increasing the age at which Americans can receive Social Security benefits. She has called herself a proud “union buster” and said that Florida’s infamous “don’t say gay” law doesn’t go far enough. She wants to cut taxes for the wealthy and hike them on green energy companies. Those positions are not extreme enough to be out of step with the MAGAfied modern GOP, but they are not “moderate” by any reasonable definition of the word.




All of that is more than likely fine and dandy with MAGA voters, but those aren't the voters showing up for Haley. A CNN exit poll showed some 70 percent of Haley voters in New Hampshire were not registered Republicans.

One of the question was, "Do you think Biden legitimately won in 2020?"

AMONG TRUMP VOTERS
Yes: 17%
No: 80%

AMONG HALEY VOTERS
Yes: 83%
No: 15%

Here's the rub for Haley with republicans. More than half of Iowa (of the 15% of registered Iowa Republicans that showed up to caucus) voted against TFG, and almost half of New Hampshire's.

More daunting for the GOP, an NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll of voters in that state found that fully 43 percent of Nikki Haley supporters said they would back President Biden over Trump.

Most of Haley's republican voters so far are never-trumpers, and the rest aren't fired up at all to reinstate Trump into the WH, and amenable to a Biden presidency.

What should push them even further toward the Biden campaign is Haley's promise she would support Trump as their party's nominee for the 2024 race even if he was convicted of a felony, and even pardon Trump if found guilty of trying to overthrow democracy.

“For me, the last thing we need is an 80-year-old president sitting in jail because that’s just going to further divide our country,” Haley said during a town hall event with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday. “This is no longer about whether he’s innocent or guilty. This is about the fact: How do we bring the country back together?”


That should play out into a political landscape where our incumbent Democrat has all of the gravitas, just as voters are focusing in on election day in November. But, buckle up, because Trump's republican antagonist isn't done promoting herself, and she's as pernicious and despicable as the man she's busy railing against.
January 9, 2024

President Biden in S.C. today telling the truth about racism, 'and it matters.'

President Joe Biden delivered remarks at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., today, where nine worshippers were killed in a mass shooting by a white supremacist in 2015.

He spoke to the congregation about "the day word of God was pierced by bullets in hate and rage, propelled by not just gunpowder but by a poison —white supremacy."

"From that day, this nation saw this congregation, this community demonstrate one of the greatest acts of strength I have ever seen — I mean it sincerely, from the bottom of my — the act of forgiveness, the act of grace. It was, as President Obama sang from here, “Amazing Grace.”

It changed hearts. You did something that may not have happened but for your courage. You brought down the Confederate flag in South Carolina. You brought it down— you did.

And you helped the nation heal. You showed what America can overcome, what we can be when we want to be something."


Notwithstanding the dignity and grace which that congrgation and community demonstrated in the face of unspeakable horror and hatred, one of the things which disturbs me when tragic violence occurs which is clearly motivated by or associated with racial animus of a white individual toward black individuals is how some observers cast calls for reconciliation or togetherness as an ultimate and comprehensive solution.

While good relationships between racial and ethnic groups are important and essential to the preservation of the fabric of our democracy and society, what's often involved isn't a case of some mutual animosity, prejudice, or discrimination. What's far too often involved is an attitude of bigotry and hatred directed primarily and almost exclusively from one side of the racial fence toward the other.

As we saw from news reports of the barbaric execution of black men and women in the S.C. church, the issue wasn't about whether the black community, represented by members who welcomed the white killer into their prayer circle without reservation before he gunned them down, was accomodating or welcoming enough to white individuals.

The gunman's grievance was his simmering hatred and fear of our nation's black minority which he reportedly felt was 'taking over' the country, which is being stoked and allowed to spread against anyone regarded as a potential threat to an increased number of individuals in our nation's evolving white majority.

One of the questions which needed answering is where the young white assailant got the notion that our black community was enough of a threat to him and his way of life that he felt a need to act out with violence against some of us.

There's been a resurgence in the past few decades of old racial divisiveness. It is a product of the same fear many in the white majority experienced at the birth of our Union of the potential of black Americans assuming positions of power over them - fear that blacks would act out the same prejudices which had been so arrogantly and wantonly perpetrated against them.

There has been a fear of black advancement throughout our American history - fear that blacks would rise up and dish out the same injustice & violence many in the white-dominated had perpetrated against the race of people since slavery and through the years of segregation and state-sanctioned discrimination. Yet, despite our tragic history, blacks have shown great forbearance and benignity in the face of it all.

In the immediate wake of Reconstruction and the election of a handful of black lawyers, ministers, teachers, college presidents to the national legislature, there was a concerted campaign of character assassination by their white counterparts and other detractors in a successful effort to challenge their seats and to construct discriminatory barriers to the election of other blacks which persisted for generations and generations.

President Biden spoke about these deliberate and devastating deceptions, today:

"Look, after the Civil War, the defeated Confederates couldn’t accept the verdict of the war: They had lost. So, they say — they embraced what’s known as the Lost Cause, a self-serving lie that the Civil War was not about slavery but about states’ rights. And they’ve called that the noble cause.

That was a lie, a lie that had — not just a lie but it had terrible consequences. It brought on Jim Crow.

So, let me be clear for those who don’t seem to know: Slavery was the cause of the Civil War. (Applause.) There is no negotiation about that.

Now — now we’re living in an era of a second lost cause. Once again, there are some in this country trying — trying to turn a loss into a lie — a lie, which if allowed to live, will once again bring terrible damage to this country. This time, the lie is about the 2020 election, the election which you made your voices heard and your power known."



Racism certainly isn't chic anymore; not like it was in the days where slurs, slights, and outright discrimination were allowed to flourish under the umbrella of segregation and Jim Crow. But, the fear and insecurities which underlie discrimination and prejudice still compel some to draw lines of distinction between black and white aspirations and potential for success.

There's also a dwindling white majority in the nation's workplaces, and a dwindling dominance in other institutions which is, ironically, producing a familiar insecurity in some. Overall, black Americans' reaction to a dominating majority has been remarkably gracious, patient, and forgiving over the decades. Some of these dominionists could learn from that as they reconsider their role in a more inclusive society.

I'm fortunate to have a long line of outstanding family members and friends of the family to recall with great pride in the recounting of their lives and the review of their accomplishments; many in the face of intense and personal racial adversity. In many ways, their stories are as heroic and inspiring as the ones we've heard of their more notable counterparts.

Their life struggles and triumphs provide valuable insights into how a people so oppressed and under siege from institutionalized and personalized racism and bigotry were, nonetheless, able to persevere and excel. Upon close examination of their lives we find a class of Americans who strove and struggled to stake a meaningful claim to their citizenship; not to merely prosper, but to make a determined and selfless contribution to the welfare and progress of their neighbors.

That's the beauty and the tragedy of the entire fight for equal rights, equal access, and for the acceptance among us which can't be legislated into being. It can make you cry to realize that the heart of what most black folks really wanted for themselves in the midst of the oppression they were subject to was to be an integral part of America; to stand, work, worship, fight, bleed, heal, build, repair, grow right alongside their non-black counterparts.

It can also floor you to see just how confident, capable, and determined many black folks were in that dark period in our history as they kept their heads well above the water; making leaps and bounds in their personal and professional lives, then, turning right around and giving it all back to their communities in the gift of their expertise and labor.

The attacks in this generation are not to be taken lightly, even though we may assume that the nation is past all of that. The attacks need to be openly and loudly defended against by Democrats and Republicans alike. They can't just be brushed aside as some sort of acceptable standard of discourse.

For the most part, they've been responded to with dispatch and sincerity. For the other, there's a glaring silence -- and even a rhetorical encouragement by some in the political arena who are leveraging age-old stereotypes to serve their cynical campaigns for office.

That's the backdrop for this resurgence of racial animosity toward black Americans; something which, for the most part, blacks have little control over. It remains for the white community to lead the way in setting the standard for discourse and relations in this nation.

It's that backdrop of acquiescence to the which appears to have fueled the tragedy in S.C.. There's a cottage industry, driven in great part by petty legislative politics, of divisiveness and racial hatred which has spilled out into the public consciousness and legitimized/encouraged the pitting of groups of Americans against others.

The republican political class, in particular, benefits directly from racial and ethnic hatred and resentment that they fuel with their rhetoric at every opportunity. It's an old game, adopted from our tragic beginnings as a nation, practiced by people who should know better but don't give a damn about our humanity, as long as it provides red meat to throw to their rabid constituency.

President Biden, again, today:

"We saw something on January 6th we’d never seen before, even during the Civil War. Insurrectionists waving Confederate flags inside the halls of Congress built by enslaved Americans. A mob attacked and called Black officers, Black veterans defending the nation those vile of racist names.

And yet, an extreme movement of America, the MAGA Republicans, led by a defeated President, is trying to steal history now. They tried to steal an election. Now they’re trying to steal history, telling us that violent mob was, and I quote, “a peaceful protest.”

That that insurrection — those insurrectionists were — these are his words — “patriots.” That there was, quote, “a lot of love that day.” In fact, the rest of the nation and the world saw a lot of hate and violence."


There is a revival of that racism and bigotry which is being encouraged by the cynical politics practiced by the present batch of republicans united behind the disgraced, twice-impeached ex-president. That attitude is certainly trickling down to folks in our communities who are encouraged by these pols to identify their own small feelings with these racist and bigoted appeals which have roots in our nation's tragic past.

In so many ways, I was a direct beneficiary of the civil rights movement which grew out of segregation; which grew out of Reconstruction; which grew from the Civil War and slavery.

My grandmother on my Mom's side's mother was a former slave who eventually became one of her slaveowner's many wives, she bearing him several mixed-race children in the final succession to his white families.

In 1968, I was living in D.C. and witness to the upheaval that the shooting of Martin Luther King produced in our middle-class neighborhood. D.C. was a smoldering mess of brick right after Dr. King was killed. It was chaos for everyone. Blacks there seemed to suffer the most from the violence. It was a fearful time for a young kid like me. Knives, not guns, were the weapons of choice. Really tough times. Lots of robbery. Mostly blacks were the victims as well as the perpetrators.

I remember in that same period, a kid strutting down our street singing 'I'm black and I'm proud' at the top of his lungs. I was pretty young and naive, and I imagined he was saying, 'I'm black and I'm brown'. I thought to myself, Yeah, that's me. Black and brown.

I'm not convinced that enough folks out here are truly familiar with all of the nonsense which has been resurrected from the past in an ignorant attempt to replicate the divisive attitudes and expressions which characterized a more confrontational age.

It's going to take some education from those of us whose life experiences aren't readily available in a google search which renders our experiences mostly invisible and mostly unbelievable to a new generation. I hope for understanding. I fear though we'll be fighting many of the old battles out in the open again.

President Biden:

"The lies that led to January 6th are part of a broader attack on the truth America today that we all have seen before. The same movement that, throughout the mob at the United States Capitol, isn’t just trying to rewrite history of January 6th, they’re trying to determine to erase history and your future: banning books; denying your right to vote and have it counted; destroying diversity, equality, inclusion all across America; harboring hate and replacing hope with anger and resentment and a dangerous view of America.

That narrow view of America, a zero-sum view of America that says, “If you win, I lose. If you succeed, it must be I failed. If you get ahead, I fall behind.” And maybe worst of all, “If I hold you down, I lift myself up.”

That’s not new in America. Every stride forward has often been met with ferocious backlashes from those who fear the progress, from those who exploit that fear for their own personal gain, from those who traffic in lies told for profit and power.

But here in Charleston, you know the power of truth. Less than a mile from here was once a port where almost half of all enslaved Africans were trafficked to North America and forced on our shores.

And now you have a world-class museum there to tell the truth about the original sin. And it matters."




full speech: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2024/01/08/remarks-by-president-biden-at-a-political-event-charleston-sc/
November 23, 2023

Girl of My Dreams

It's my 44th wedding anniversary today. My wife and I married young, me right out of high school, and we had a brilliant plan to marry the day before Thanksgiving; both to get people visiting home for the holiday week to come to our wedding, and also have a date that we'd remember.

Yep, we had zero knowledge that Thanksgiving comes on the second Thursday of the month, but not on the same day. Thus confusion for years and years over whether it was on the 23rd or the 24th.

It's the 23rd (I'm almost positive, but you should humor me, because my wife thinks it's today, as well).

I dragged out up this true story I wrote out a few years back (for my wife to read again), hopefully finding room this weekend to share it with folks here, again. So, fwiw...



(Karen's self-portrait, hanging in her flat when I met her)

____Is there someone you met in the past who so captivated you that their image and the event was permanently planted into the recesses of your memory to be measured against all others? I'm not talking about some consummated meeting or relationship, but a brief, almost casual encounter which left you imagining what life would have been had you said or done something differently or pursued them more aggressively.

I was eighteen and making my first stand away from home in Cumberland Md... when I met my future wife. I had just been released a few months earlier from what the State called a forestry camp atop Mt. Savage outside of Lonaconing, Md..

I had stolen some stuff the summer before (as a juvenile) gotten caught, and had been granted the benefit of an alternative to the frightful detention center by a judge exasperated that I'd spurned his home detention ruling and skipped town to pass my eighteenth birthday with two of my best friends in a barn on the property of a girls school on an old Shaker community property right across the Mass. border in upstate N.Y..

We had taken a train ride to visit my buddy Gary's girlfriend who was in residence there; an impulsive decision to travel made after a night which began with a Neil Young concert which opened with Neil sitting cross-legged atop a massive box singing 'Silver Mountain' to a crowd which didn't stop cheering from beginning to end - and finished off with a gallon bottle of port wine shared between us in a church parking lot.

"Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons
You can't be twenty on Sugar Mountain
Though you're thinking that you're leaving there too soon
You're leaving there too soon"

We spent five glorious, life-transforming days in N.Y., deep into the unbelievably colorful fall there, drinking brandy by day and Southern Comfort every night.

One of the memories which sticks out was stumbling upon what I believe was a grave site in the middle of an overgrown woods with several short stone columns arranged in a rectangle, linked by an enormous iron chain, and a short monument or marker at one end. I tripped over the chain, and unable, somehow, to regain my feet, I crawled over to the stone obelisk to read the inscription. I memorized it:

"In loving memory of the members of the Shaker community," it read, "who dedicated their lives to humanity, passed on to immortality. Hands to work, hearts to God."


That evening I took my friends to the top floor of one of the aging barns and showed them where I had taken my pocket knife and scratched each of our names into the wooden wall at one end. Underneath them I had carved, "Lest We Forget."

I eventually relented and called home to face the music right after we were discovered in the barn by someone from the school and escorted to a truck stop at the state line. Dad arranged passage for me on a plane home and I literally said goodbye to my youth (and my friends) right then and there at the airport as they went on to spend more time in Mass. and I went home to jail.

I did my court-ordered time in a state-run forestry camp cutting dead trees down with a crosscut saw and cutting them into cords with the same aggravating tools. We split the $10-$12 dollars we earned between the 11 of us . . . I took the time to study botany out of a book one of the bus drivers for the camp gave me. I made plans to be a forester and I spent my nights reading and studying from his advanced text.

I got myself admitted to Allegheny State College while I was still locked-up and, after I was released, I had my Dad drive me to Cumberland and drop me off at the Y.M.C.A. in the middle of town.

It was dingy and had a weird smell, but, when the old man put $75 dollars in travelers' checks in my hand and drove off, I was at the top of the world . . . for about an hour or so. Then I suddenly became more depressed and lonely in that room than I've ever been in my life.

Turns out, small town was indifferent to downright hostile to my presence. That was something that took this suburban boy a while to get used to. I had imagined working and going to school, but it quickly became apparent that there wasn't going to be work to be had anywhere I could travel to in that miserable place where people would yell racist things from their cars as I walked down the street.

I ended up staying on the Y.M.C.A roof for a few nights until I got caught. Desperate and running out of cash, I talked a nice lady into letting this would-be student rent a room. I got lucky. I got a nice place with a sink, stove, a bed, and a bath. I readjusted myself and headed out into town the first night.

Center Street runs down the middle of Cumberland with the hospital and graveyard up above and the railroad tracks down below. I headed up there with the few bucks I had left to see if I could buy some weed or anything other than beer. I had just turned 18 that year, but I had no ID at all, so I wasn't even in a good position to buy alcohol (even if I wanted it). So, I took a good position against the wall outside of one of the string of bars and waited . . . and waited.

After awhile, a few folks came by and walked over to me, hoping this stranger had better connections than they did. Good luck with that. I got a few promises that they'd come back if the guy they knew came through . . . I waited some more.

After an eternity, something was finally happening across the street. There came a girl in a hurry past a group of guys who were walking on the same side. They hooted and cajoled at this chick, and all at once I realized that if I wanted any action at all I was definitely on the wrong side of the street. I could've been over there hooting and whistling at the only decent girl I'd seen in the entire time I had been in town.

I was kicking myself, when suddenly, she was right beside me! The girl from across the street had gone by and doubled back to where I was leaning against the wall.

"Can you please do me a favor?" she asked. "Can I just stand here by you until they leave? I can't handle it when they do that," she said, "and I'm scared of them. Can I just stand here until they're gone?"

I was in shock, because I hadn't had more than a few minutes of casual conversation with any female in my life. Now this girl wouldn't stop talking to me. She went on and on about how she hated it when men did 'that' -- how she hated to be treated like an object, and so on, and on.

"Don't you?" she asked, not waiting for the answer. "You looked like a kind person and I knew I'd be safe standing here, I hope you don't mind."

Truth is, I did sort of mind. Here was, in all probability, the girl of my dreams, asking me to come to her house to meet her brother who played guitar and might know where to get some weed . . . "Are you coming?" she asked, now walking away toward the street where she lived. I waited until she was a few blocks down the street before I resigned myself to give up my vigil for weed and follow. She looked back and I waved her on.

"I'm, coming, I'm coming," I waved her on again and followed her home. Sure enough, her brother was there with a friend. No weed, but this girl was growing on me. She was staying in a one floor building (shack) at the rear of another larger home. Her painted art was scattered all over the place and there was a quirky self-portrait hanging right by the front door. It was the perfect hippie haven -- even without the weed.

We talked for a few hours, her brother left, and eventually, so did I - with just a memorable and careful kiss goodbye in the moonlight - but, after a long sleepless night with the impression of that kiss spurring me on, I went back to her house the next day with a couple of Grolsh beers and some carnations that I blew the last of my money on. I threw away the tacky paper they were wrapped in and presented them and myself, once again, to my future, surprised, but pleased, wife-to-be.

I remember she put a Steve Miller album on her simple stereo (Fly Like An Eagle) and our mutual tastes in music immediately put me at ease. It was my very first time in a young adult's own home, however, and I marveled at something as simple as her refrigerator full of food, and that she actually cooked with it.

We'd been eating and talking awhile and I heard this noise from the backroom. She played it off, but there it was again! I got up and opened the back bedroom door and there he was -- a little bitty baby boy.

She had been thinking the kid was some kind of deal-breaker and had kept the lid on him, I was totally cool with it, and I wondered if she would let me stay and hang out with them. I was still such a kid, myself, she being 4 years my senior. I lied to her about my age...

Later that evening her landlord delivered a letter in which he had tripled her rent. The call we got that night with a woman whispering 'n****r-lover, n****r-lover over the line put the sudden rent increase into perspective. One night and a day in her house and the townfolk had revolted against us. I resolved to stay there one more night.

I was supposed to go to my first day of college the next morning, but after a night of my first real intimate encounter, we both heard a rooster crow and realized then that her blackout curtains had hidden the full morning and afternoon which had unfolded away from our view.

I had blown my first day of college. We both then decided to leave town together and set up another house in College Park Md. She packed up the next day, gave me her last $175 dollars, put me on a bus and we promised to meet the next day when her friend brought her and her son to College Park to stay with my sister until we got settled.

What a crazy plan, as I look back on it. She was leaving the town where her mother, father, and her younger brother were living; practically her home town, given the years she had lived there after moving from Falls Church Va.. She was going to meet me at the entrance of the University of MD that next afternoon with a car full of everything she owned.

Insane. Yet, there I was on the bus back to my hometown of Bethesda, Md.. There I was, back on the street, out drinking with my buddies.

And, there I was, in jail for trespassing when she arrived the next day; me, nowhere in sight. By a hair of luck, she reached my sister, practically minutes before just heading back to Cumberland. I wrote her a poem in jail which I held up to the window between us in the visitor's room:

Companion
I am where I am
Meant to be
I am settled here
Waiting
For warm currents of love
Pulling you
In a wide circle
Past the place
Where I am waiting
And you drift back
To me, after all.
Gather me
Up in your journey
I belong
Where you are going
Like the first night
We met
As I sat waiting
Where I had been
Drawn up in the
Warm currents of love
That carried us
Here together.


We married a couple of months later -- poorer than when we arrived, but deeper in love.

Now my wife is certainly my dream girl, but I'd be lying if I said she was the only girl etched into my memories of my youth. There was one particular encounter that burned into my memory and flooded my imagination with things that might-have-been on one of those glorious summer days which never seemed to end; then ended way too soon.

My friends and I used to pile into a van or car and just head out, barefoot, to the country with our guitars, our weed, and our craziness. We'd go down to Great Falls and climb around on the rocks or track through the woods before settling in a circle somewhere and passing the bowl around. We'd go to Sugarloaf Mountain and we'd climb to the top to just look out and ride the world.

Funny thing was, my wife had also taken day-trips during her youth to most of the same spots my gang liked to hang out -- like Sugarloaf, the Falls (on the opposite Virginia side), or the quarry at the base of Sugarloaf Mt., full of amazingly blue spring water with frighteningly high cliffs to dive off.

In fact, we seemed to live dual lives, even though she lived in Falls Church, Va. and I lived in Bethesda, Md.. We both lived like our hippie idols; already (happily) out of touch with the rest of society before we met and married.

We both grew up listening to James Taylor, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Rod Stewart played over and over again on WINX radio. Later, we both grew up further listening to WHFS; me, enjoying their station situated in my home town, and she, listening to the alternative folk-rock from her town in Falls Church. It kind of shaped us the same way. Kind of folky and artsy. . . hippie wannabes.

We'd seen some of the same concerts and both had enjoyed Georgetown's then-bohemian weekends in their heyday. We'd talk about those days as we grew older together as if we'd lived them together and not from opposite states. It's a blessing to share similar memories to recall together.

We'd climbed the same mountains, swam the same lakes; albeit, apart from one another; oblivious to each others existence. We'd both swam the crystal-blue waters in Dickerson Quarry at the foot of Sugarloaf, braving the high cliffs and having the time of our lives partying with the dozens who showed up there every summer.

In fact, it was at Dickerson quarry where I met one particular girl - one I obsessed on; a girl I measured all others against; a momentary encounter I had recreated and embellished in my head a thousand times a year thereafter.

I still remember that summer afternoon as clearly as if it was yesterday. Two guys I knew, Peter and Alex, had gotten wind of a fellow who was going to drive the motorcycle that had killed his buddy off of the highest cliff at Dickerson.

A bunch of us piled into Peter's van and drove to the quarry so we could see the happening and so they could film it with their new video camera. A pretty large crowd gathered on the banks of the quarry and watched the spectacle unfold.

The biker revved his engine a couple of times, hesitated, and then drove straight off the cliff into the water. He dropped for what seemed like an eternity, then finally, flipped forward over the handlebars as the bike fell out under him. Big cheers all around as he surfaced, mostly unharmed.

Not to be outdone (I was actually outdone), I took my first 'dive' off of the next-to-longest drop. I got out of the water and took a second dive off of '14', the tallest drop (not anywhere close to 14 anything - more like 100 or something).

Well, I got bored and decided to show-off for my indifferent hosts just one more time. I headed through the woods to the cliff we called the 'running-jump'. The trick to this cliff was that it sloped outward so far that you had to get a good run up before jumping way out to avoid the cliff and the little pine growing out from the rocks underneath.

I got to the top of the cliff and looked out. By that time I was shivering so badly that I could feel the ground shaking beneath my trembling legs. I was both cold and scared. I thought of giving up, but the folks I had told to watch were at '14' waiting. I paced around in the woods awhile, shivering and shaking uncontrollably now. I resigned myself to give up and walk away.

I had just hit the path when I spotted someone running towards me and the cliff. It was a girl! Yes. Exclamation point, girl!

"Hey man!" she said to me, as if she knew me. She was at least a head taller than me, and real aggressive. My sister was the only girl that tall who had EVER bothered to say more than a word to me; especially not "hey man" like I was cool or something.

But, I was cool. Cool as shit. Damn cool. But, my hair had gotten wet and I had on my uncontrollable clown hair with one side inevitably sticking up higher than the other. I felt like an idiot there, bare bird-chested, shaking like a leaf.

She didn't seem to care. "So, you gonna jump, man?" she asked me, with respect and attention that I'd never really experienced from a girl before; especially not an older one.

"Yeah, but I'm chickening out, I think." I said, not bothering to care how wimpy I sounded. "I'm cold and shivering . . . are you going?" I asked her.

"Yeah man," she said. "It's not hard. You just have to jump out way far."

"I've been practicing jumping as far as I can into the woods to get ready." I said.

"You don't have to do all that, man. Just get back as far as you can to get a good run. It's easy." And with that, we both went to the edge and looked out and down. "I'm going," she told me. "I'll wait for you at the bottom if you decide to go."

With that, she went as far back into the woods as she was able, ran to the edge of the cliff and propelled herself out and down into the water. There she waited, wading water as she called for me to go next. There was no way I wasn't going, so I loaded up whatever courage I had, made myself realize that could be my last moment alive on earth, and I jumped . . . I landed right beside her.

"Cool, man," she had said to me, or something like that. I thanked her briefly and she said goodbye and swam over to 'Beetle' -- the smallest drop in the quarry; where most of the girls drew the line if they were inclined at all to jump off of cliffs into crystal-blue water.

So, from that brief encounter, I had experienced the most time with a girl in my entire 14 years on the planet -- and she was taller and older, at that! Silly, I know, but, you see, I'd had just a few close encounters with girls before I met my wife, and, whenever I thought of Dickerson quarry, I also fantasized about what that moment would have been like, if I had had the nerve to follow her across the water, perhaps.

I had fantasized about that moment for so many years, so many stolen moments in my mind, that there I was sitting listening to music with my wife of 25 years on day long removed from that iconic summer of my youth; thinking of Dickerson quarry and remembering that wonderful girl who had made me feel less of the gangly kid I was and more the way I'd imagined myself to be.

Like I'd done a thousand or more times in my head over the years like a movie reel, I relived the magical afternoon that moment and tracked the distance in my mind across the quarry and back to where my friends had been watching.

I remember that I got back to the top of '14' and the guys that gave me a ride were nowhere to be found. I had waited until, finally, they came out of the woods with their camera and sheepish grins on their faces. As I recalled in my daydream, they'd found two girls in the woods by 'Beetle' rock and had filmed them in their immodesty. . .

Pink Floyd was playing the same song on the stereo that had consoled me in the van on the way back home that summer day way-back-when, daydreaming along with 'Breathe' of my ultimate romantic encounter with a girl.

Breathe, breathe in the air
Don't be afraid to care
Leave but don't leave me
Look around and choose your own ground
For long you live and high you fly
And smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be...


Suddenly I turned off the music. Silence. Thinking. Remembering...

"Honey. Listen... I have something I want to ask you," I said to my wife. "Listen, it's important."

"Okay," she answered, not certain what confession was forthcoming; not sure if she should be interested or angry.

"Do you remember," I asked, "that you told me once that you'd seen a guy ride a motorcycle off of the cliff at Dickerson Quarry. Do you remember that?"

"Yes," she answered. "I'd driven up there with Becky because she told me this guy was going to do it, so we went to see him."

"How many times did someone ride a bike . . .," I thought to myself. "Honey," I asked slowly, taking a deep breath as I waited for the answer. I had something . . . "Did you see a couple of guys with a video camera that afternoon (so very rare in those days) trying to take your picture?" I asked her.

"Yes I did," she said, after a short pause. "I was hiding in the woods because my shirt was wet and see-thru," she explained. She had to get it by now . . . That persisting vision of Peter and Alex at the end of my mind-reel of memories from that day was the missing piece of the puzzle. Why hadn't we realized this earlier?

"I knew those guys," I told her. "They brought me to the quarry that day to see the motorcycle jump. Honey," I said, "I've got something to tell you. We met that day. No, really met, in a big way."

I told her about the running jump; the tom-girl a head taller than me, and my years of daydreaming on that magic moment in the woods . . .

"You're kidding . . ."

After talking it through, we realized it was absolutely true. Turns out, the woman I had married 25 years earlier, without realizing it, was the very woman I had spent almost 30 years daydreaming about -- in fact, dreaming about at that very moment.

She remembered, at once, a skinny brown kid with lips blue from cold; helping me overcome my fear of jumping off of the cliff; going first and waiting to make sure I was safe... a perfect metaphor for our lives together.

Much to our surprise and my chagrin over 'cheating' on my wife at that moment, dredging up memories of that youthful encounter at the quarry - memories I had held as precious and defining of my youth for years and years - I had, in fact, actually married the girl of my dreams.

Almost unbelievable, but absolutely true.

Happy anniversary, my dear.

"For long you live and high you fly
And smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be..."


Salad days...
November 21, 2023

What's the point in opposing Pres. Biden's re-election over Gaza

...when his opponent and the opposition party is destructive to ANY rational or reasonable interest there.

If you want considered action from the U.S., for military support for Israel, or for any responsibility taken for the lives of Palestinians in the way of the fighting, there is only one choice in the election.

There isn't anyone running for the republican nomination with any credibility, much less anyone who can be trusted to act beyond their party's chaotic brinkmanship which shapes their response to every important issue and challenge.

There is no rational republican position on Israel/Gaza, nor is there any reason to trust them to act out of, or in any interest except their own narrow, petty political con plan.

We only have one shot at this, as a nation, and there isn't any other functioning political entity in the U.S. that is even willing to make an effort there beyond party or politics.

Because this Democratic president resolutely and promptly made his decision on who to support in this fight and how to support them early on, all that's left for Congress is to send him funding legislation for his signature.

That's as good as anyone is going to get from any American president or anyone aspiring to that office today. More than that, Joe Biden has spent most of his career working on foreign policy issues which encompassed every challenge we still face in this generation.

This is not the time for amateurs promising to reinvent from scratch what this experienced president and administration have well in hand (or better) as any others in history.

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