Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Texting a life-threatening situation: This is how teens talk?

At Surfside beach, on the south side of Nantucket Island, last summer.  
Here's a summer story for Toledoans on a beachfront holiday. For Toledo parents and kids.  For Sylvania families on vacation.   For grandparents with grandkids on an island somewhere. This grandmother is trying to find out how it's going with her family. The island happens to be Nantucket, off Cape Cod, but it could be anywhere in the world.   Communication is just about non-existent.  So here's a text message exchange with a beloved teen grandson that you might recognize.

"Hi Josh how was your first day on Nantucket? Post pix."

"don't have any."

"how was ur day?"

"ok. phone needs charging."

"how was ur day? What did you do?"

"good. went to surfside i had to be rescued by a home w we're cooking dinner."

"OMG. You had to be rescued by a lifeguard?"

"yeah. caught in bad undertow."

"You were alone in water?"

"yeah. waved for help but family thot I was waving hi come in."

"OMG. How did lifeguard know you were in trouble?"

"read my body language i guess."

"Lord, good lesson. always be near lifeguard, esp south shore."

"now i know."

So here's a life-threatening situation, one I've always feared, and this is how a typical teen texts the story. Basic information. Nothing more  text talk. text language. I want to hear all the details, but forget about it. My grandson, on his way to being a junior at Northview, almost drowned, and this will be the extent of it. Sound familiar?

"If it's a bad experience, it will be a good story," we used to say in the Peace Corps. However, I've become aware that texting prohibits the unfolding of the story.  "Just the facts, ma'm!"  Sgt Friday, the terse detective from the old TV mystery series, would have been a good texter!

I'd like the whole story, a beginning, middle and end, some narrative.  Ha. Fat chance.  "i had to be saved by a lifeguard." I see Josh struggling in huge powerful waves, caught in a vicious undertow, pulled away from shore, unable to get in, very scared.  I imagine him waving frantically for help, and his brother, sister and friends on shore laughing, thinking he was saying "hi, come in, join me." (I was told later they were yelling back to Josh to cut it out!)  I imagine Josh yelling and waving against the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, being pulled under and away.

How often have we warned our kids and grandchildren about the power of the ocean, the dangers.  Thank goodness lifeguards are trained to see the warning signs, and to save lives.

The best text I got back from Josh was "now i know."

Experience is the best teacher, but it sure lends itself to some heart-stopping moments, doesn't it? We the older and wiser know, but they, the younger, have to learn.  We pray that a higher power, the angel of all children, is watching over them, keeping them safe. We can also text, but we'll only get the bare bones of a story.   "now i know."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Peace Corps and More at African-American Festival

U.S. Peace Corps at 9th Annual African-American Festival, July 20-21, 2013. Tents, tables, and Toledoans come together. Annabel and me at Peace Corps table. Festival 2013 poster.
"So the Peace Corps is still going?!" The elderly gentleman smiled. "I remember when JFK set it up!"

Peace Corps came to Toledo over the weekend, at the African-American Festival on UT's Scott Park campus. It was sunny but not as hot as it was last week, and there was a light breeze.  The festival site was full of colorful tents, food stalls, rides, vendors, and music.

Annabel Khouri, Peace Corps recruiter for Ohio and the mid-western region, came from Cleveland bearing a suitcase of books, pamphlets and material, including photos of her own time in Kenya where she was a business development volunteer.  She set up the Peace Corps table under a large tent also offering information on mental health organizations and services, the Toledo Public Schools and charter schools, senior living and health issues. Annabel is knowledgeable, accessible, and able to answer all kinds of questions.

The man who remembered JFK and the early Peace Corps regaled us with stories of the good old days. A few young people came up and wondered what Peace Corps was. "Is it like joining the military?" one asked.

My main job seemed to be assuring older women that they could indeed be Peace Corps candidates.  "Too old," they would say.  And I would answer, "I just got back, and I turned 70 in Ukraine."  Annabel  assured young people, especially those in college or recent graduates, that Peace Corps service offered great opportunities for living and working abroad, gaining international experience and insight, getting jobs and applying for post-graduate studies after service.

Annabel confided: "I wish I could find more Toledo volunteers."  I wish the same.  She'll be back in the fall at the University of Toledo. I said I'd help.  Meanwhile, step up Toledo!  Look it up online and see if Peace Corps might be for you: or contact the Midwest regional office at 216-527-8170.  

Monday, July 29, 2013

Reviving Memories

At Chandler's Cafe on Main in Sylvania with Dan (far left) and David Bitter,
who grew up in Sylvania. Can't sit there long without someone they know stopping by.
"Fran Cary!" I heard someone yelling my name as I walked up Main Street to Chandler's Cafe for a cup of  'Morning Joe.'  Who's that old geezer calling my name, I wondered.  I got closer to the table outside of Chandler's where he was sitting, and I saw.  "Oh, good heavens. Dan Bitter!" I think I jumped a foot off the ground.

What a surprise to see a dear friend from bygone Toledo days early on a weekday morning. It would never have happened if I hadn't been up at 5:00 a.m. to drive my granddaughter to DTW for a flight to Seattle.

I got a cup of coffee and sat down with Dan, brother David, and friend Mark to catch up. My tiredness lifted.  "What are you doing here?" Turns out Dan and David are in Sylvania to fix up their family home to sell, the place they grew up, the place that holds so many childhood memories. Their mom died a few years ago, and their dad several years before that. Dan and David both live in Atlanta, and have for many years. It's time to move on, they both agree.

The Bitters, whose ancestors are German, are an old Sylvania family. They lived in the same house off upper Main, just a block from the Michigan line, for years.  Same red and white house, with a white picket fence around it. Same antiques, adorable bird cages in every tree (or fallen to the ground), children's toys and books, tools and other treasures in the garage. It's an antique dealer's dream.  Dan, his brothers and sister went to the original Maplewood School and Sylvania High School. Dan remembers walking to school; strolling along the railroad tracks; stopping at shops on Main on his way home, including a bakery at the same spot Brieschke's is today, and at the hardware store, which is now Chandler's; collecting pre-historic fossils from the quarry on Centennial Road; and just being "free-range" kids before the computer and internet age. They still have lots of friends here, lots of connections, and vividly remember the neighborhood as it was over 50 years ago.

I hadn't seen Dan in over a decade, since I lived in Tampa and he lived in Tampa, where our paths crossed again briefly.   Since then I've moved to St. Petersburg, then Ukraine, then Sylvania. Dan's been in Atlanta, though he still has a house in Tampa.  I never knew where he had gone.We just lost touch.

Memories came flooding back. When I lived in Toledo, in the Old West End (OWE), Dan painted our house on Robinwood. First he stripped off the old paint on the gray shingles, coat after coat, layer after layer, dropping paint chips into puddles of water, into the ground, onto the gardens. It was a hard job, and took longer than we thought it would; much longer. My kids were about 10 and 7 years old, and they had fun with Dan.

One night, our family dog Tryg, a beautiful Norwegian Elkhound, went crazy, chasing his tail around the house and howling.  We took him at 12:00 midnight to the only Vet who would see him, Dr. Bob Esplin in Sylvania. Dr. Esplin was thrilled to inform us, the next day, that Tryg had lead poisoning. OMG. The paint on our turn-of-the-century house.  We were shocked, but Dr. Esplin was kind of excited: first case he'd seen of lead poisoning in a dog! He was pleased he had made a proper diagnosis and could treat our family pet. So were we.  We've appreciated Dr. Esplin ever since, as have so many other Toledo families over the years and to this day.

Dan, meanwhile, continued with the paint job, aware of the issue of lead on OWE homes.  Our house got painted and looked stunning in its natural cedar shingle state, with a coat of transparent varnish that brought out the grain. A shining star on Robinwood. A work of art, Dan called it.  It's since been painted again, now a  pale yellow with light bayberry green and cream trim, but it is still as pretty as it was when Dan Bitter had a go at it.  And, thanks to him, it's free of lead paint.

Dan is skillful and talented, a Renaissance man. I've always enjoyed talking to him about any subject, from politics to religion and philosophy to art.  He's knowledgeable, thoughtful and funny.  It felt in a way like meeting friends at my 50th high school reunion at Harley School in Rochester, NY, although Dan's younger than me, I have to say, before he says something about old geezers.  

Isn't it the greatest thing to "bump" into an old friend from the old days, to reminisce and catch up?   We picked up the threads of wonderful discussions from all those many years ago and are now weaving them into our ever-expanding quilt of memories.  Serendipity and convergence: reviving memories.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  
Here's an article that Dr. Bob Esplin wrote for the Sylvania Advantage, where my daughter is graphic designer. She asked Dr. Esplin, who writes a regular column for the paper, to talk about the dangers to pets of lead paint. Of course he remembered Tryg, and filled in a few more details.
Sylvania AdVantage, March 21 2012 issue
Bob Esplin, Pet Sylvania
Q: Dr. Bob: Years ago my dog Tryg was diagnosed with lead poisoning by you. I am sure your readers would like to hear this story and other facts about the risks of lead poisoning in pets. Thanks, Elissa
A: Though not common, elemental lead can be highly toxic to pets and cause serious disease. Three cases that I clearly remember show the many faces of lead toxicity. Elissa’s parents lived in the Old West End and were doing major outdoor repairs on their home. The summer months were filled with scraping and repainting the outside of the house. An early 20th century home, the paint being scraped off was lead based (paint companies no longer make lead based paint). Flakes of old paint both big and small mixed with water from a power washer as the siding was prepared for a new coat of paint. Tryg was frequently seen wandering through the gardens along the house where the paint debris was landing.

Tryg was presented to me in seizures in the middle of the night. He had no history of seizure previously so there was concern about epilepsy. As his history developed and he calmed down with sedation I was able to do a more thorough exam. Chips of paint were caught in the hair of his feet. Dogs lick their feet, so Tryg was swallowing paint chips. Questions about why he had paint chips on his feet caused the light bulb of suspicion to brighten. As part of the workup for the convulsions we chose to do a blood lead test. The test came back positive and the proper medications were used to remove the lead from Tryg’s body. He lived many more years with no consequences from his encounter with lead poisoning.

One year a Beagle was presented for pale gums and weakness. During his visit I learned that the dog was a big chewer of all things wooden. Lab work revealed a low red blood cell count which meant anemia. In looking at a blood slide we found target cells which can mean lead poisoning. Further history revealed that our wood hungry Beagle was chewing on an old chair with many coats of paint. There was no time to wait on lab results so the anti-lead medication was started while we waited on the lab test to verify my suspicion. The time gained by a simple blood test and a good history made our Beagle’s recovery quicker and more successful.

Molly was a quiet, sweet Sheltie that suddenly had a change in personality. She began to howl, pace, bump into things around the house and in general seemed “crazed.” I immediately started looking for the cause of such bizarre behavior. Lab work didn’t help much but during my several exams I noted she seemedmuncomfortable in her belly. X-rays revealed a large, square, very dense mass in her stomach. Surgery to remove the object showed it to be a lead weight for the bottom of a floor-length curtain. The owners had no idea Molly had chewed on the hem of the curtain let alone swallowed the lead weight. Again proper treatment corrected Molly’s lead toxicosis.

Lead poisoning is not common but one must be careful where access to lead containing objects is possible. Houses built before 1950 can have lead issues with water pipes. Fishermen with lead weights in their tackle boxes can be a risk for a curious pet. Painted antique furniture or paint chips in an older home can be a risk to pets and kids in the house. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Nantucket Memories

The view from Hinckley Lane Cliff Beach.
My daughter Michelle and her four kids (ages 18, 16, 11, and almost 2), and two special friends as well, are on their way to Nantucket. They're packed into a large van overflowing with excited passengers and lots of luggage. Imagine seven people surrounded by suitcases, beach stuff and food supplies, every electronic gadget available, and tons of things for an 18-month old.  Imagine an 18-hour or more ride to Hyannis from Sylvania, due east through Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and parts of Connecticut and Rhode Island over to Cape Cod, Massachusetts.   We used to do this every summer, plus we took along our huge Norwegian Elkhound Tryg (after Trygvie Lee, the first head of the United Nations).  Of course it's all worth it, once you get there. 

I decided not to go this year, and to plan a trip to California in the fall  to see old Toledo and Peace Corps friends.  But I'll miss Nantucket: relaxing on the ferry over from Hyannis; catching the church steeples on the horizon as we approach the island, "the Grey Lady," 30 miles out to sea.; docking in the busy harbour; driving up Cliff Road to the cottage on Hinckley Lane, passing grey shingled houses surrounded by deep blue hydrangea and wild roses. 

Last summer, July 2012.
Just thinking about it takes me back. We summered there when the kids were growing up. Vacation and family time mixed together. Still, to this day, I smell the salt air, the fresh breezes over the moors, the honeysuckle and bayberry along the lane to the beach. I hear the sound of waves crashing on the shore at Surfside and the foghorns at night.  I see the ocean from the top of the cliffs, white sails in the distance, the Jetties beach to the East, Madaket to the West.  A beautiful watercolor scene, blue and pastel, serene. I see the moon setting over the ocean, an earthly phenomenon we would rush to see after dinner, running down to the beach. 

"Nantucket's in my blood," Michelle says, "and now it's in my kids' blood, too."  She wanted to make sure of that, and she has. Nantucket memories.  They fill up your senses, live in your soul.    

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Celebrating Sylvania Families: City of (Family) Trees

From top left corner, Bob Smith, president of the Sylvania Area Historical Society Board, traces his origins to Sylvania's early history;  the Historical Society Museum on Main Street.
once home to a doctor and his family;  samples of  family trees;
 Mimi and Polly, who between them cover most of Sylvania's early families.
  From bottom left corner: Gayelynn Gindy, Sylvania historian par excellence, shares family research with Polly and board members Liz Stover & Sandy Gratop; Mimi and Polly talk to a guest with roots in Sylvania. Lower right: Joy Armstrong, head of Sylvania Village, Village  board member and treasurer Mary Kay, and Liz prepare tea.    
The Sylvania Area Historical Society (SAHS) celebrated Sylvania families with a special tea last week. The Historical Society and the Sylvania Historical Village came together to share a family history project featuring some of the first families of our town, as well as those who came later. The lovely family trees cover the walls of the Historical museum.  Between them, Mimi Lenardson Malcolm, whose family came in 1832,  Polly Cooper, and Bob Smith, members and officers of the Historical Society Board, pretty well cover the first families of our town, up to the present.  Sylvania, the City of Trees, takes on new meaning in this context!

As a relative newcomer in town and on the SAHS Board, my family tree isn't even in the picture.  Still, as an historian I value the work of the SAHS and the Sylvania Historical Village, which preserves our past for future generations.

Mimi Malcolm, a teacher and skillful geneologist, has been writing a column for the Sylvania Advantage that presents different aspects of our fascinating community history from the beginning. An incredible history detective, Mimi says "I can find just about anyone, anywhere."  "Women, too?" I ask. "Yep, women, too!"  She will be conducting a Geneology Workshop on November 16, 1-4 pm at the Historical Society Museum on Main Street. Mark your calendars now!   Family history is community history, and that makes up American History.  

For more information go to:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Reflections on Zimmerman Case

It’s one thing to question the outcome in the George Zimmerman case and to re-spark dialogue about race in the US, but it’s another to scapegoat him for the jury’s verdict in a state where “stand your ground” is the law and “reasonable doubt” is always the standard for guilty in such cases everywhere.  Many lawyers, commentators and ordinary citizens do not believe the prosecution proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.   

It’s one thing to mourn for Trayvon, and to continue to examine race issues, another to spew hate, threaten Zimmerman and his family, make death threats that send them into hiding.

It's one thing to protest against injustice, for changes in the law, and in attitudes as well, but it’s another to take out all one’s rage on one human being who is as much a victim of our society as anyone else. I don't think Zimmerman acted with malicious intent. I know this is debatable, and that's okay.  I think the situation was tragic.  But Zimmerman is not the embodiment of evil, the incarnation of evil racism.  He just helped a family stuck in an SUV as the result of a truck accident; a random act of kindness, a good deed. 

Do any of us know how we would react if we felt threatened? If some fear, conscious or unconscious, triggered some survival reaction?  How many of us have crossed the street if a black person is following us? Distanced ourselves from a group of black teenagers?  We are all victims of racism and stereotypes, black and white, white and black Latinos, new and old immigrants. Most of us grew up in segregated America and imbibed the culture.  It’s not good, but social pressure and cultural programming exist.

I know. It’s hard for most white Americans who ease through life on white privilege to feel the consequences of subtle racism, the kind the president talked about when he said that Trayvon Martin “could have been me 35 years ago.”  The kind that evokes the "two-ness" that W.E.B. DuBois talked about:  the focus on the color of our skin, not the content of our character. It’s good the president reminds us of the pain this causes, the violence to the human spirit.

Many of us with immigrant grandparents can relate: we remember the animosity against newcomers.  My Italian grandparents could buy a house only in the Italian section of Buffalo.  My mother, a teacher and opera singer who spoke several languages, was denied entrance to the University of Rochester because it had met its “Italian quota.”  Yes, an Italian quota.  My sis came home crying after a name-calling session at a new school that sent my Dad to the principal’s office to decry the use of epithets like “dago” and “wop.”  People have asked me if my family were mafia. Still do.  Did it matter that our family was educated, cultured, enamoured of the American dream?  Nope. Did the taunting stop once people got to know us? Yes. Does the pain linger?  Sure, the memory does, but  things change overtime; my kids and grandkids, a blend of dozens of ethnicities, know nothing about this kind of ethnocentrism.

I suppose you can argue it’s not the same thing as racism.  And it’s not, exactly.  But it is about stereotypes, profiling, injustice, and intolerance.

That’s why ongoing dialogue about race is a good thing, and also about immigration policy. The history of America is a history of struggling to live up to our ideals.  America is a work in progress.  "The arc of history is toward justice," Martin Luther King, Jr. believed.  We need to keep this in perspective as we work together, across race, ethnicity and class, to solve our problems and achieve a more just and enlightened society. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Claiming Helen Thomas

President Obama and Helen Thomas shared a birthday,
August 4. He gave her cupcakes at one of them.
WikimediaCom, a public domain photo
One of my favorite journalists, Helen Thomas (1920-2013), who people loved to love or loved to hate, just died at age 92. Whether or not you liked her, you had to admire her guts, persistence, and fortitude. She covered 11 presidents, an often-fearsome fixture in the White House press corps for decades.  She was a pioneer woman journalist, in the tradition of Nellie Bly, who faked insanity to cover conditions in early 20th-century mental institutions, or Ida B. Wells, an African-American journalist who campaigned against lynching. 

I think Helen Thomas belongs to our area of NW Ohio/SE Michigan. She grew up in Detroit, the daughter of Lebanese immigrants, graduated from Wayne State University, and will be buried in Detroit.    

I remember her from my days in Washington, DC.  I would see her eating, alone, in my favorite Lebanese Restaurant, in Woodley Park near the bridge with the large lions.  I think she lived nearby. One time I got up the courage to approach her.  She was amazingly friendly and open.   We didn't talk politics, but just living in Washington and good food.  She suggested something on the menu, which I got the next time I went there.  I saw her a few times thereafter, and we'd wave and say hi.  It was hard to believe this was the fearless journalist who scared presidents! 

One time I told her I had lived in Toledo before moving to DC, which she knew immediately.  She said something like "Holy, Toledo! I like that town. Art Tatum. Good jazz. Good restaurants."  I like to believe she had the Beirut in mind.

The Detroit-Toledo connection.  Another reason to claim Helen Thomas.  She was a tough woman, but she had a softer side.  Not many people saw that.  I'll always treasure it.  The next time I'm at the Beirut, I'll imagine her sitting at a nearby table, and we'll toast to good food and good times.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Tuesday Market: Support Our Local Farmers

Hey, city folks.  The Sylvania "Tuesday Market" has come to town!  That means we can support our local farmers by buying locally produced food. Fresh, healthy, tasty, from the farm to our tables.

The Tuesday Market is held right on Main Street in front of  the Sylvania Historic Village. Come north. on Holland-Sylvania or west on Monroe and you're there. Nearby farmers come every Tuesday to sell their fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs. Whatever is in season.  Friends, neighbors and people from around the town and city come out to do their shopping. Local artisans set up booths, selling everything from honey, fresh bread and home-baked cookies to candles, jewelry and popcorn. The shops around the market like Limelight and Heaven's Gate Soy Candles bring out their wares.  It's a win-win for everyone. It's like being at those joyous, colorful markets you've visited in Mexico, Europe, and other places around the world.

"Nana, look," my grandson shouts to me across the pretty green luttuce and yellow squash I'm buying. "Gust Farms is here!"

Ah yes, our pumpkin farm!  Up the road just over the Michigan line. It's where we go every fall to celebrate the harvest and the colors of the season and to get our pumpkins. There's something special about Gust Farms, Keil and Sons, and other local farmers--the  sources of our food supply--coming to town and bringing what they grow to our urban market.  Healthy produce for low cost, grown organically or with minimum spray, fresh from the soil, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits.  It's what I like about one of Main Street Sylvania's newest restaurants, Element 112: the chef there buys all his produce locally, and the meals are truly delicious.

I also learned about the Gust Brothers' CSA," or Community Supported Agriculture.  My daughter Elissa, who is the graphic designer for the Sylvania Advantage, reminds me that a cousin who is farming outside of Boston is doing something similar.  "It's not new but it's a growing trend," she tells me.  How does it work? People sign up in advance to get fresh produce weekly that is grown by our rural neighbors.  Elissa and I are splitting a $200 membership (shares they call it) so we can get a big basket of  vegetables and fruits every week right through October.  For more information about this CSA opportunity, contact Jake Gust at or call 517-605-2209.

And if you come to get your produce at the Tuesday Market you can talk to the farmers directly, ask questions, and get tips about growing, harvesting and cooking. Buy local. Support our farmers. Eat healthy!

For more information on Community Supported Agriculture go to or

Embracing Community at Asbury Grove

Ilse and Carl welcome Jud and me to Asbury Grove (top), playfully mimicking the enthusiastic hands-outstretched pose they teasingly noted  I (over) favor.  Collage:  some of the historic cottages; the Chapel (yellow, right);  the red brick Cafe, with Jud in front, Carl walking in; Ilse and Carl's cottage, upper right.   
I enjoyed a slice of folksy Americana last week at Asbury Grove in Hamilton, MA, about 20 miles north of Boston.  Asbury Grove was founded by the Methodist church in 1859 as a summer camp meeting ground, part of the religious revivals that flourished around the 1850s to the turn of the 20th century. Religious groups of various denominations still "camp" at the 85-acre site, but today it is mostly a community of  privately owned rustic summer cottages for people from up and down the East coast and beyond. There's also a growing number of year-round residences.  The land is owned by the Methodist church.

Peace Corps friends Ilse and Carl invited me to their cottage in "the Grove," as it is affectionately called by the people who summer there, and I took them up on the invitation.  So did our PC friend Jud, who now lives in Washington, DC.  What a great place for a reunion of RPCVs who shared time in Ukraine!

Ilse and Carl, adventurers and world travelers, have summered at Asbury Grove for over 30 years."I fell in love with it the minute I saw it," Carl says. Over the years they've fixed up their cottage, modernized inside, added a great screened-in porch, and plan to paint the porch floor (deep aqua) and trim (eggplant purple), add "gingerbread" architectural features around the outside, and put in a garden. That cottage, in short, keeps them busy. Or, I should say it keeps Carl busy! They love it. And now their children and grandchildren do too.

In fact many of the friends and neighbors we met on the winding paths of the Grove, all friendly and welcoming, have summered here for generations. They waved hello or stopped in for tea or wine and great conversation on every subject imaginable, politics not excluded. Roger the photographer took photos. We met other neighbors tending their gardens; admired the latest updates to a cottage; shared concerns for preserving authenticity.  We joined friends for a hearty meal at the dining hall and for a Zydeco band concert at the Tabernacle, the oldest tabernacle in America. The band called themselves the "Squeezebox Stompers," and oh boy, did they get us dancing!  Among it's tall pine trees and exuberant bright blue hydrangea, Asbury Grove also features an olympian-size pool and other recreational amenities, great for families, campers, and kids of all ages.

A precious sense of community predominates.   Fellowship, bonds of friendship, the ties that bind. It's easy to feel as if you belong, even if you are a stranger.

Residents proudly note that Asbury Grove is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. As part of the application process, residents researched the architecture of the cottages--Victorian Gothic, Italianate, Vernacular--and the history of the community. It was a labor of love, with many volunteer hours donated.  The folks of the Grove (including Carl) continue to do research, collect records, photos and memorabilia, and work with top-notch archivists, who are also residents, to preserve and digitize their collections (I think at Boston University) for future generations.  A "wholesome" place, as Jud put it.  A community of kindred spirits, rare in this day and age.  

On top of sharing a great community, Ilse and Carl, generous and accommodating hosts, took Jud and me to tour nearby towns along the beautiful North Cape area:  Ipswich, Halibut Point, Rockport, Newburyport, Gloucester and the Rocky Neck Art Colony, and historic sites like the Choate bridge (1764) and the General Patton house, soon to be a museum. We browsed at antique shops, souvenir stores, and various galleries; admired ocean fronts, boats, ships and lighthouses; reminisced about our PC days in Ukraine; shared fantastic meals and camaraderie.  Best of all, we savored a kinship that crosses time and space, and made many new memories.  Historic Americana all the way. A feast for the spirit, food for the soul.
Gloucester, the famed fishing village where the ship in "The Perfect Storm" went to sea and never came back. Monument to Fishermen, upper right, which is surrounded by a granite wall etched with the names of those who have died at sea. Sailor Stan's Cafe in the famous Rocky Neck Art Colony, and a few artists' cottages (lower right).  With Ilse, Carl and Bea at our  "farewell"  all-you-can-eat steak dinner at old Weathervane Tavern in Hamilton (lower left). "Okay," Carl called out, "hands outstretched!"
Halibut Point, a beautiful site, where Carl, Ilse and friends picnic on the large granite boulders.
Powerful storms have shifted their configuration over time, an amazing phenomenon. A lovely path
leads to the rocky shore (lower right corner)
"Perhaps Loren's path," the ever-kind Jud says to me. 

On to colorful Rockport, once known for its timber (for boatmaking), fishing, and granite quarries like Halibut point.

Choate Bridge 1764 in Ipswich (upper left), then over to lovely Newburyport.  Carl on the waterfront. Great dinner
 (clams, scallops and shrimp) at famed Clam Box on way back to Asbury Grove.
There's ALWAYS a line to get in. General Patton's homesite and future museum (right corner).

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mr. Atomic: Explosive Art

Art by Mr. Atomic owned and photographed by
my granddaughter: wide-eyed innocent-looking-
but-not boys, and below, a somber  Edgar Allan Poe,
the 19th-century Gothic poet and mystery writer.  

We were walking out of the Toledo Museum of Art, one of my favorite places, and I asked my grand- daughter Julia if she had a favorite artist. Philip was skipping ahead of us looking at the sculpture.  "I like Matisse and some of that kind of art, and I love photography," she said," but one of my favorites is the art work of Mr. Atomic. That kind of art."  That was the first I had heard of Mr. Atomic.

The next time I heard of Mr. Atomic was at an art fair on Main Street in Sylvania. I had  moved here after ten years in Florida and two years in Ukraine with the Peace Corps. Julia  took me to the Mr. Atomic exhibit.  Wow. The art was large, colorful and bold; some of  it was wry. some a bit on the dark side.   Philip liked the big action figures. The art drew them in.  It's certainly explosive.

I learned from chatting with the artists that day that “Mr Atomic” is two people, identical twins Michael and Mark Kersey.  They are well-known in the Toledo area and across the country. It's great fun to talk with them about their art, which is a combination of two people who look alike but have very different personalities.  They share a common past, and a common destiny it seems: love of comics and science fiction, graduation from Start High School and  UT, lessons at the Toledo Art Museum from an early age, and an urge to tell stories.  They paint bold, larger-than-life, often surreal canvases that pop.

Their art is, I've learned, in the “Pop Surrealism” tradition that goes back to California in the 1970s ("Mr Atomic,” Holy Toledo Magazine, Winter 2013). The tradition is associated with a counter-cultural scene-- punk, hotrod, and surreal--but at bottom the "Mr. Atomic" artists are just nice guys with great talent, devout Christians with a strong sense of sarcasm, humor, and mortality, and a little bit of the macrabre thrown in. They say that their art is getting better as they get older, that they are painting for the ages, for posterity.  Mr. Atomic won't go off into the neon red sunset without a blast, that's for sure.  

Julie likes Poe's The Raven. 
A lowercase “T” Atomic is Mark’s signature, and a capital “T” Atomic is Michael’s. Mr. Atomic Studio Gallery is on 1700 N. Reynolds Road at the Common Space. Their website is

Monday, July 8, 2013

Egypt Emerging on yahoo
The revolution continues.  Egypt's democracy is emerging.  But it won't be easy. It won't be easy because the Islamists won't accept the will of the people.

Morsi could have stepped up to Mandela status and listened.  He could have included more voices in his regime. He could have vetted the new constitution with people outside of the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Muslim Brotherhood could have agreed to engage in a democratic process.  Show in practice that they know what democracy means. They could have accepted other points of view, rather than talking about democracy and acting like tyrants.  Now they are inciting violence, begging for violence, killing Christians and other minorities who disagree with them, acting more like terrorists than citizens, keeping Egypt in turmoil rather than promoting a peaceful transition that the majority wants.  Really, I don't think they care about what the majority want.

Can the Islamists swallow their anger, get out of revenge mode, and step up, for the good of the whole. Have they ever done this?  We can acknowledge the critical role they played in ousting Mubarek from power, a grassroots uprising.  But did they have to install an Islamist Mubarek-type government after all that?  Did they have to turn the Arab Spring on its head? Couldn't they have been among the first Islamist government to stand for a real democracy, a secular state with separation of church and state, open and tolerant? That's the real Egypt and they know that.

I am hooked on what's happening in Egypt because I love the country and its people.  The Egyptian ambassador, Mohammed Tawfit, has told the true story: the ouster of Morsi was not a coup: it is a correction on Egypt's path to democracy begun in the Arab spring.

When Morsi was elected, hope ran high.  Tawfit and many like him suppored Morsi, hoping he would get a new democratic government on track. Now THAT would have been a revolution!  Instead, Morsi did the opposite.  When you refuse to open up the government to other than Islamist voices, when  you call for jihad, and start calling opponents "infidels,"  you are not running a democratic government.  You are imposing a totalitarian Islamist government on the majority of the people who hoped for better and want a democracy.

The Muslim Brotherhood is showing it's true colors by inciting violence and refusing to participate in a new process.  They are talking democracy and acting like extremist religious nuts.  That's the worst aspect of this whole thing: the Islamists can't seem to rise up to expectations for a tolerant democracy that includes many voices.

So Egypt remains in crisis.  We all hope the interim president can hurry up and offer new elections and begin again the promise of the Arab Spring. When it comes to the Middle East, I always say "hope springs eternal."

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Walking along Main Street

Sylvania Historic Village, Chandler's, Reve's, painted bench,
pink hydrangea against a shop on Main Street. 
I walked from my place, which is next door to Harmony in Life, down Main Street to Reve's Salon for a haircut on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I bump into an old Toledo friend with her daughter, visiting from New York. We used to live on Robinwood in the Old West End.  Memories explode.  Such a small world! It's one of the things that this mostly urban senior loves about being in a small town. I'm on Main Street USA.

It's an overcast day.  Most shops are closed for the long July 4th weekend. It's quiet. Still, I love walking
along Main Street any time of the year, in any weather, looking at the shops, Sylvania Historic Village, the Historical Museum, restaurants and boutiques. I notice a new woman's store, Lily Whitestone, has just opened next to Hudson's Art and Frames, and I make a note to go back soon.  I like to shop local when I can, and feel bad when favorite places, like Dragonfly Tea Cottage and the Pink Door, close.  It's hard to keep these small businesses going, not only on our Main Street but on Main Street America in general.  I make a silent wish that new businesses make it.  I'm happy when a new venture, like the Tuesday Market, opens on Main, bringing us fresh produce from local farms..

On this gray Saturday, Chandler's Cafe is open.  I call my daughter to see if she can meet me there for lunch after my hair cut. It's right across the street from Reve's.  "Sure, we're on!"  I have the delicious Reuben sandwich and Elissa, who is gluton-free and dairy-free, has plain chicken salad on plain greens. I find her diet a challenge, but she's got the hang of it, and likes it.  "I've never felt better in my life," she tells me, and I'm almost 40 pounds lighter."  I think there's a lesson for me there! We catch up on work, world events and family matters.  The rain starts to fall.  Time to go home.

Main Street looks as pretty as ever through a soft mist. It makes me think of  Jane Austin, the moors of Nantucket, the beacons of light from lighthouses on oceans and lakes everywhere. Rain or shine, it's nice to be here. It's Main Street USA.  

Thursday, July 4, 2013

July 4th: Celebrating Independence

The fireworks in NYC are spectacular! I remember watching
from a rooftop one year.  Memorable.
Statue of Liberty, closed since Hurricane Sandy, reopened today.
yahoo image,

I love reading the Declaration of Independence.  When I taught American History in Toledo and St. Petersburg and when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine, I'd pull out the text so my students and I could read it together, taking turns reading, one paragraph at a time, word for word.  My American history students would admit it was the first time they read it, and found it awesome. The members of the English Club in Starobelsk, Ukraine, compared it to the independence of their country from the Soviet Union in 1991. We talked about the meaning of independence, freedom, equality and self-governance.

It's  the greatest history lesson of all.   It's a  basic document of American democracy;  it voices the ideals of our founders, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Ben Franklin among them; and it sets the stage for the evolution of the United States and a new form of democratic government that  the world had never known before.

We especially had memorable and animated discussions about the meaning of  the historic phrase: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

I told them they were acting like Supreme Court justices, interpreting the meaning, and application, of these words.

Next up we'd read the Articles of Confederation and then the US Constitution.  I'd throw in some of the Federalist papers too. I'd hear a few groans, but persevered.  In the end, the students were glad to have gone through the seemingly tedious exercise of reading the basic documents of democracy and talking about the principles of our American government. "We the people," the Bill of Rights, separation of church and state, the three branches of government, checks and balances, equality and freedom, the rule of law.

yahoo clipart
These are the fundamental ideals all Americans share.  They have underpinned every reform movement in our country, from the abolition of slavery to the Civil War through the women's suffrage movement up to the modern Civil Rights movements of modern times. They have been a beacon of hope to the world. They resonate in what's happening across the globe to this very day, in Egypt now, in other countries struggling to establish their own forms of democratic governance, and yes, in America itself.  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Egypt Erupting

Reuters/Suhaib Salem, Protestors hold Egyptian flag, 2 July 2013
"In one camp are the president and his Islamist allies, including the Muslim Brotherhood and more hard-line groups. They say street demonstrations cannot be allowed to remove a leader who won a legitimate election, and they accuse Mubarak loyalists of being behind the campaign in a bid to return to power. They have argued that for the past year remnants of the old regime have been sabotaging Morsi's attempts to deal with the nation's woes and bring reforms.
Hard-liners among them have also given the confrontation a sharply religious tone, denouncing Morsi's opponents as "enemies of God" and infidels.
On the other side is an array of secular and liberal Egyptians, moderate Muslims, Christians — and what the opposition says is a broad sector of the general public that has turned against the Islamists. They say the Islamists have negated their election mandate by trying to monopolize power, infusing government with their supporters, forcing through a constitution they largely wrote and giving religious extremists a free hand, all while failing to manage the country."  AP story on Yahoo, July 1, 2013

I'm stepping into another minefield here, but it's sad to see Egypt go from Arab Spring to Arab Winter, from hope to hopelessness, in this protest by millions of people against Islamist president Muhammed Mursi. The numbers alone are staggering, proof of the depth of the discontent.

This is how I see it now, not as any expert, but as a concerned citizen and lover of Egypt and its culture.  Mursi, of the Muslim Botherhood, won the presidency a year ago with a narrow 51% margin. It was the first free election in Egypt in decades. People cheered, but they were also cautious. I remember the interviews and stories at the time. Fear lurked just beneath the surface of the celebrations.

Why?  Because Mursi had one major agenda item: first and above all else build a secular multi-religious and multi-ethnic coalition government representative of Egypt's diversity.  Mursi himself recognized this, said so, and made promises to the people.

But Mursi not only failed to do this, he's done the opposite: consolidated Islamist rule. It's what everyone feared. In so doing, he lost the trust of the majority of Egyptians, and also that of the secular-leaning army, which continues to have enormous power.  The trust issue remains paramount.  "Egypt does not want a religious state," the army generals have said. It looks like they mean to enforce that position.

On top of Mursi's huge failure in governance, his broken promises, the Egyptian economy has gone downhill:  the value of its currency is sliding; wages remain at $2 a day when one can get work; prices for basic necessities, like bread and fuel, have gone up; access to communication, transportation, and electricity have nosedived; the misery index has skyrocketed.

But the real "tipping point"?  Mursi's open support of Syrian tyrant Assad at a recent rally, and his calls for jihad, a holy war.  (Reuters article on yahoo by Yasmine Saleh and Tom Perry, "Mursi Role at Syria rally is tipping point for Egyptian Army," June 2, 2013).

The army has kept the balance of power between hard-line Islamists and the majority of Egyptians, who long for a secular democracy with religious tolerance and separation of church and state. The army understands the will of the people.  It is more in tune with the protestors' unrest, distrust and demands than with Mursi, and it has made this known. Ongoing tyrany leads to ongoing unrest. The army may be, therefore, the only force for maintaining peace and establishing the secular state most Egyptians want.

This is how I see the situation in Egypt now.  Anything could happen.  Anything can change.   Hope springs eternal.

Monday, July 1, 2013

In the name of National Security

AP photo by Peter Steffner. protest in Hanover, Germany, June 29,2013,
against US spying on EU, in AP article on Yahoo\ by Lara Jakes and Frank Jordans.
It's an upsetting image.  
Why isn't president Obama taking the out-of-control and out-of-bounds NSA espionage issue seriously?  I mean the breadth and scope of it.  "Everybody's doing it," he says. I understand some of this, in the post 9/11 era.  And I understand the president has a full plate now and is in Africa. But that response is not enough.

I don't condone Edward Snowden's actions, don't even like the guy, and he will get his comeuppance.  But in my view so should NSA and the whole US government-sanctioned espionage underworld.  

Who's responsible for the National Security Agency (NSA) and a massive electronic spy network riding roughshod over the rights of millions of Americans and those of other countries?  To whom is NSA accountable? Who's addressing the apparent urgent need for checks and balances, a transparent chain of command, clear boundaries of acceptable snooping and spying, the purpose and scope of spying? What about accountability and oversight in general?  

It's the Will Smith and Gene Hackman movie "Enemy of the People" again.  NSA doing it's own thing. Spying on Americans, on enemies and allies alike, even on the European Union for heaven's sake. It's the scope of the spying that's so breathtaking.  Surveillance without boundaries.

Meanwhile, we get images like the one above, taken during a protest of US spying in Germany.  It's disturbing. Our allies are furious. "Bugging on friends is unacceptable," says the German president. The countries whose human rights records we shove in their faces are taking the opportunity to do it back to us. Not a pretty picture. Watergate was bad enough; but this NSA spy business, in league with AT&T, Verizon, facebook, and other communications giants, seems even worse.   

In the name of National Security, the spying excesses are beyond the pale.  Who's in charge of doing something about it? Should there be Congressional hearings? Should there be a White House  investigation? Examination by an independent review board? Snowden's leaks are abominable, and it looks like the fallout will continue; but so is untamed, widespread, out-of-control spying.   

Glaring Contrasts: Trump Rebuked in George H.W. Bush's Eulogies

photo Huff post. The state funeral of president George H.W. Bush, for a brief moment in time, was orchestrated to restore a sense of...