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H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 10:30 AM Apr 2019

A Long, Strange Walk

“We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return; prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only, as relics to our desolate kingdoms. If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again; if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man; then you are ready for a walk.”
– Henry David Thoreau; Walking

There was snow in the air and on the ground this morning. As I prepared for my daily walk, I thought of a line from one of Rubin Carter's letters 45 years ago, when he stated, “Everything under the sun is exactly as it should be, or it wouldn't be.” Had he anticipated this weather?

Since my dogs were intent upon sleeping late inside our warm house, I decided that I would drive to an area near where I grew up, and walk along the river on a path I had enjoyed as a youth. As an old man, I find myself thinking, “This isn't the country I grew up in” frequently. I thought of a quote from Sitting Bull as I drove: “If a man loses anything and goes back and carefully looks for it, he will find it.”

I parked near the house that my childhood “best friend” grew up, and walked through a field where we used to box and play football and baseball. When I got to the river, I could look across to see my parents' house, now empty. When my father started building the house, several neighbors put up “For Sale” signs, as the were upset that an Irish-Catholic family was moving in.

Nearby was the spot where my friend and I, around the ages of 4 and 5, would sneak to in order to watch our older brothers; they had formed a “club” that they called the Swamp Kings. In more recent years, I found some scattered Indian artifacts on the site.

From where I stood, I could see the road that my siblings and I used to walk upon. One day, when I was ten, a guy driving a station wagon swerved across the double lines, towards my oldest brother, then 17. He stopped to confront my brother about his hair, as he found it highly offensive. Itching for a fight, this large hostile man grabbed my brother by the shirt collar, and asked, “What are you going to do about it?” My brother, who was about 125 pounds, likely looked too small to do much. There was a pause, and then my brother said, “This,” as he staggered the fellow with a left hook. A vicious fight took place, and my brother – a top amateur boxer at the time – beat the fellow unconscious. Then he tossed the limp body into the ditch. “Guess his kids won't be afraid of him any more,” my other brother said as we walked away.

About a quarter of a mile further, and I came to a spot where, along with a few flint chips, some long-broken items from the contact/colonial era. During the Revolutionary War, Colonel Jacob Klock had written to Governor Clinton about the camp of Mohawk leader Joseph Brant in this area. Brant had an estimated total of 1,700 men there that summer.As Klock noted, this included a number of runaway slaves.

Growing up, I learned that the black people who had joined Brant's ranks had camped on the bank where I was now standing. Looking across the river, I could see my sister and brother-in-law's house. When my father and I started building it, the same neighbors again put up “For Sale” signs, upset that a black man and his family were moving in.

No houses sold, and within a few years, those people had come to like and respect their black neighbors. When, two decades ago, a racist hate group attacked my nephew because they resented media coverage of a black high school scholar-athlete, leaving him unconscious and seriously injured in a dark field, those neighbors were among the most vocal opponents of the racist gang.

A half-mile further, and I began to come across a few flint chips and shattered red sandstone fragments. Soon, I came across the hearth, with several of the stones that had been heated in a fire long ago. Among them was the fire-pocked base of a projectile point known as a Brewerton, dating approximately 2,000 bc. It was not an artifact most collectors would treasure, by any means, much less of museum quality. But I was happy to encounter it. I was happy for the rest of my walk, and then for the drive home.

Shortly after arriving home, I learned of the hate crime at the synagogue. I felt sick. A bit later came a report about some white nationalists disrupting a presentation at a bookstore. I felt anger. But then I got an e-mail from Stosh Cotler, the CEO of Bend the Arc.

“We will not accept an America where massacres in synagogues become normal,” the first sentence of this powerful message read. It gave me confidence. Here is a link to the web site:


I laid down to take a rest, as old men often do. As I closed my eyes, I remembered a couple of people I remember from where I lived, before my father completed our house. We lived in an apartment in a neighborhood known as the “Project.” Our neighbors included a king old man named Erik Sonnefeld. He had lost all of his family in the Nazi death camps. He gave my siblings and I gifts, ranging from a coin collection to a stuffed animal.

One morning, I overheard a neighbor telling my mother, “Erik was really climbing the walls last night.” In my small child's mind, I tried to picture that literally. I recently asked another neighborhood resident if she knew what ever became of him? She did not know either, but noted that he was a talented artist, who gave her a painting that she still has.

And I thought of one of my brothers' friends, who visted us often. His being black did not seem strange to me. But finding out, years later, how a school teacher beat him in her classroom seemed unacceptable. She beat him until he was bloody once, yet remained employed as a 3rd grade teacher.
His brother and him, along with a friend, were murdered at a local bar in the late 1970s. The guy with the shotgun was frustrated that he lost a card game. He had been friends with the three for years. I often saw them at his house when I was out on walks.

Last year, my friend's son contacted me. I hadn't seen him since he was a little boy, 40 years ago. His mother moved far away then. I look forward to getting to know him. I have some good stories to tell him about his father.

I think of my reaction, 45 years ago, to Rubin's message. There was so much wrong in America then, including a criminal in the White House. I was young and confident – perhaps overconfident – that my generation was going to right the wrongs in our country. It's been a long, strange walk since then. And we still have a long ways to go.
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A Long, Strange Walk (Original Post) H2O Man Apr 2019 OP
Wow. The more things change, indeed. Damn. spicysista Apr 2019 #1
Thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #2
I was transported, walking with you along the river. panader0 Apr 2019 #3
Thanks, panader0 ! H2O Man Apr 2019 #6
Thank you for sharing voteearlyvoteoften Apr 2019 #4
Thanks! H2O Man Apr 2019 #7
K&R... spanone Apr 2019 #5
Thanks! H2O Man Apr 2019 #8
What a beautiful post malaise Apr 2019 #9
Thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #11
We are all the products of everything we experienced malaise Apr 2019 #13
Right. H2O Man Apr 2019 #18
You brother are a free man malaise Apr 2019 #70
An excellent read. gademocrat7 Apr 2019 #10
Thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #12
Thank you, I enjoyed reading your post. Bluepinky Apr 2019 #14
Thanks! H2O Man Apr 2019 #16
The spirituality shines through in your writing, it's very comforting. Bluepinky Apr 2019 #26
Again, thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #32
Sounds like the perfect set-up--cabin, woods, pond, crackling fire and dogs. Bluepinky Apr 2019 #101
"What a lo-o-o-onnnng strange trip it's been..." lastlib Apr 2019 #15
Thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #17
A wonderful and bittersweet read, thank you for posting it..n/t monmouth4 Apr 2019 #19
Thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #33
TY for this thread! bluestarone Apr 2019 #20
One of the finest posts I've ever encountered on this forum. A pleasure both to read and Atticus Apr 2019 #21
Thank you, Atticus. H2O Man Apr 2019 #34
What a beautiful and moving post, my dear H20 Man... CaliforniaPeggy Apr 2019 #22
Thanks, Peggy! H2O Man Apr 2019 #36
. lunatica Apr 2019 #23
Right. H2O Man Apr 2019 #37
Wisdom, always wisdom, H20 Man. democrank Apr 2019 #24
Thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #38
Sometimes the best we can do is simply bear witness. Kind of Blue Apr 2019 #25
Thanks! H2O Man Apr 2019 #39
he gave 'me' etc. for good writing kiri Apr 2019 #27
Yet English H2O Man Apr 2019 #29
no reason for disparaging the Brewerton culture kiri Apr 2019 #45
I wrote the H2O Man Apr 2019 #46
Determined to pick at it, are you? I see we didn't accompany Waterman on the same walk... Hekate Apr 2019 #63
Wouldn't that be "Pict attic"? yonder Apr 2019 #69
Looking for a Pict-ax would take me much further afield than New York State. Gods know what's... Hekate Apr 2019 #71
Yikes! H2O Man Apr 2019 #83
I really enjoyed reading this post. I could visualize every step he took on his walk. I didn't Tess49 Apr 2019 #81
Thanks. H2O Man Apr 2019 #82
Thanks for the input. It helped to stifle my strong desire to be mean to that person. n/t Tess49 Apr 2019 #90
The bow & arrow H2O Man Apr 2019 #91
Excellent point. I feel like I need to copy this response and carry it with me in my purse. I tend Tess49 Apr 2019 #96
Uh oh! How are you ever going to outdo this essay? Thank you very, very much for sharing Karadeniz Apr 2019 #28
Oh, thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #47
Thank you for sharing your stream of remembrances and reflections Pluvious Apr 2019 #30
Right. H2O Man Apr 2019 #48
Beautiful and poignant... Docreed2003 Apr 2019 #31
Thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #49
Beautiful writing! llmart Apr 2019 #35
Thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #50
Wow! Interesting stories. llmart Apr 2019 #73
Oh, yes. H2O Man Apr 2019 #93
I read lots. This is the best I've read on the internet in a long time. Thanks. mahannah Apr 2019 #40
Wow! Thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #51
Beautifully written. Thank you. Shrike47 Apr 2019 #41
Thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #52
Thank you. yonder Apr 2019 #42
Thanks! H2O Man Apr 2019 #53
Thanks for taking us on a thoughtful ramble... Hekate Apr 2019 #43
A few years back, H2O Man Apr 2019 #56
One of the fine things about being older is the long View. nolabear Apr 2019 #44
I agree. H2O Man Apr 2019 #57
Your story took me back to my own youth... kentuck Apr 2019 #54
It's a curious thing, H2O Man Apr 2019 #58
I always felt younger than my body. kentuck Apr 2019 #61
I think that is H2O Man Apr 2019 #64
The young tend to think they will be young forever. kentuck Apr 2019 #67
I'm glad that H2O Man Apr 2019 #68
Thank you H2O Man! kentuck Apr 2019 #74
Very moving essay and excellently written. Thank you. justhanginon Apr 2019 #55
Thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #59
Thank You for the post...K and R. Stuart G Apr 2019 #60
Thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #62
Great post! bluecollar2 Apr 2019 #65
Thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #66
This is a treasure. You are a treasure. chia Apr 2019 #72
Thanks! H2O Man Apr 2019 #84
You have to be old enough to appreciate the sentiments of looking back like this. keithbvadu2 Apr 2019 #75
Right. H2O Man Apr 2019 #85
I've never been a fan of Thoreau's philosophy. but ppl can't be painted in a single Kurt V. Apr 2019 #76
Thank you, for your poignant post. wendyb-NC Apr 2019 #77
Well, thanks, wendyb-NC ! H2O Man Apr 2019 #86
I love going on your walks with you coeur_de_lion Apr 2019 #78
Thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #87
The more we walk the further away the city on the hill seems to be. grantcart Apr 2019 #79
Valid point. H2O Man Apr 2019 #88
sirs or mamm, AllaN01Bear Apr 2019 #80
Thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #89
Thank you for bdamomma Apr 2019 #92
Well said. H2O Man Apr 2019 #94
Thank your for your wonderful story H2O man. Absolutely lovely. One of the best reads I have c-rational Apr 2019 #95
Thanks! H2O Man Apr 2019 #98
kick Demovictory9 Apr 2019 #97
One question: H2O Man Apr 2019 #99
lol. i hope so! Demovictory9 Apr 2019 #100
I needed this, H2O Man MBS Apr 2019 #102
Thank you! H2O Man Apr 2019 #104
I don't think I've ever read an OP of yours that I didn't Rec. This is one of your most powerful. nt femmedem Apr 2019 #103
Thanks, femmedem! H2O Man Apr 2019 #105

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
11. Thank you!
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 10:53 AM
Apr 2019

I am glad that you liked it. After I finished writing it, I wasn't sure if I should post it or not. It's a long, strange essay, I suppose.


(269,528 posts)
13. We are all the products of everything we experienced
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 10:59 AM
Apr 2019

I love Rubin's presence on the way you explain some of your experiences


(2,279 posts)
14. Thank you, I enjoyed reading your post.
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 11:04 AM
Apr 2019

Your descriptive writing allows me to see and feel what you’re saying. I also like the quote by Thoreau.

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
16. Thanks!
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 11:22 AM
Apr 2019

We all get a turn here, on this living organism that we call Earth. Some of us get longer turns, some shorter. I enjoyed reviewing parts of my turn while on walks, and thinking about others who had walked along that same path next to the river hundreds and thousands of years ago. And the experiences they had.

Being both a hermit and a local historian, I've tried over the years to document where interesting events took place in this area. One of my main sources was the neighborhoos Elder that my father bought our property from. Hence, I knew about where the escaped slaves camped since I was a little boy in the first grade. Many years later, I was able to document it further, by readin the journals of the men who fought in the Revolutionary War.

Another thing that the Elder told us about took place in the field I crossed on my walk. It ha been a garden and fruit orchard for local Indian people leading up to that war. It was destroyed during the Clinton-Sullivan campaign. The old man told me that the soldiers had killed women and children there. No regional historians had documented this in recent times. But a little over a decade ago, I found that there was a soldier's journal in a small historical society in PA, where he described making a game of running a bayonet through Indian infants, to see how long they would "wiggle." But I don't imagine that this was what Trump was yapping about over the weekend.


(2,279 posts)
26. The spirituality shines through in your writing, it's very comforting.
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 12:22 PM
Apr 2019

We live in such a crazy, hectic world, I try to find peace and tranquility where I can. I generally find it in long walks with my dog in the woods or along a quiet path, where she can run and not be leashed. I love to see her joy in life, sniffing the different scents and chasing something only she can see or hear.
We need more thinkers and historians, less boasters and blowhards. I did enjoy hearing Ron Chernow at the WHCD, it was a thoughtful and measured speech, one that Trump and his fans wouldn’t bother to listen to or even try to understand. A Trump rally is not a peaceful place to be. I can’t even stand the sound of his voice.

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
32. Again, thank you!
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 12:58 PM
Apr 2019

I'm lucky to live in a rural area. My driveway was part of an old turnpike made at the end of the Revolutionary War. I can walk it still, through the woods. And there is a swamp on my property, and a small pond. My younger son put a small cabin near the pond for my use, and with his brother, built a large fire pit. I hang out there with my dogs.


(2,279 posts)
101. Sounds like the perfect set-up--cabin, woods, pond, crackling fire and dogs.
Tue Apr 30, 2019, 12:14 AM
Apr 2019

There’s something mesmerizing about watching a fire.

The best thing about cold NH nights is our wood stove; we get it cranking when it’s really cold, we love the radiant heat, and seeing the dog and kitty stretched out in front of it.


(23,431 posts)
15. "What a lo-o-o-onnnng strange trip it's been..."
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 11:17 AM
Apr 2019

Wow. what a powerful statement that is! Thanks, H2OMan!

Bookmarking. K & R!


(15,124 posts)
21. One of the finest posts I've ever encountered on this forum. A pleasure both to read and
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 11:48 AM
Apr 2019

to contemplate.

Thank you.


(149,911 posts)
22. What a beautiful and moving post, my dear H20 Man...
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 11:56 AM
Apr 2019

I greatly enjoyed walking along with you, seeing the sights and hearing these stories.

It gives me perspective into today's happenings...

Thank you so much.


(53,410 posts)
23. .
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 12:03 PM
Apr 2019

You tell a much needed dignity to aging. What so many people miss about it is that the only thing that is lacking for brilliant young people to get better at what they do is experience. Aging is the thing that gives the needed wisdom to those sharp young minds. It’s good to remind us all. Thanks from this old hermit herself who finally feels right at home in her mind and body.

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
37. Right.
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 01:12 PM
Apr 2019

My younger son likes to tease me when I'm listening to Neil Young's song "Old Man," noting that I'm no longer the young man I was when I first heard it. I figure that in time, he'll make jokes about Neil's song "The Loner." At my age, I have patience, and will wait quietly!

Kind of Blue

(8,709 posts)
25. Sometimes the best we can do is simply bear witness.
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 12:19 PM
Apr 2019

And yours is a fine, fine essay of allowing us to be in the stillness with you standing firmly in the light that doesn't obscure some awful truths.

Thank you very much.


(802 posts)
27. he gave 'me' etc. for good writing
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 12:40 PM
Apr 2019

I do enjoy good writing and an evocative story, but it grates when I read "He gave my siblings and I gifts"... Me? We do have an objective case in English, which is used after a preposition, e.g., "between her and me." Also as a direct object after a transitive verb.

I gasped at the inconsistency: "His brother and him"... He? As a subject. At least 'him' is somewhat natural, and I am not a stickler. But let us respect the objective case, eh?

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
29. Yet English
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 12:54 PM
Apr 2019

is but my third language. As I noted, my family is from Ireland. Thus, we do not care about speaking proper English -- except when it came to my 5th grade English teacher, who was a great lady.


(802 posts)
45. no reason for disparaging the Brewerton culture
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 02:55 PM
Apr 2019

BTW, there seems no reason for disparaging the Brewerton culture of projectile points.

To any amateur, they look like the standard arrow-head points. Some artisans were better, some poorer in making things, like now. Paleolithic peoples many times re-discovered the notch, but the really vital matter was how a point was attached to the shaft. Glues, twisted vines, recover the hard-won point to re-use. Hunters were less interested in aesthetics in favor of how it penetrated/killed and could be recovered from a missed shot.


Even in Irelandish and Gaelic, between "him and I" is bad aspoke. Gaelic grammar mostly copies Latin grammar. Go thou and do likewise.


(91,195 posts)
63. Determined to pick at it, are you? I see we didn't accompany Waterman on the same walk...
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 04:03 PM
Apr 2019

I admit I was raised by a rigorous Grammar Nazi, and her lessons stood me well enough that afaik I was the only member of my doctorate class who didn't have to hire an editor, and who pretty much sailed through the proofreader's office with only a few scrapes.

But longer ago than that I learned not to let Mom's rigidity get in the way of hearing or reading someone else's excellently-unfolded story.


(91,195 posts)
71. Looking for a Pict-ax would take me much further afield than New York State. Gods know what's...
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 05:55 PM
Apr 2019

...in my attic, though.

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
83. Yikes!
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 09:33 PM
Apr 2019

My mother was a spelling and grammer Nazi.

My father was one of 14 siblings, who spelled our last name eight (8) different ways.


(1,580 posts)
81. I really enjoyed reading this post. I could visualize every step he took on his walk. I didn't
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 09:19 PM
Apr 2019

expect the grammar police to show up. Go away.

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
82. Thanks.
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 09:27 PM
Apr 2019

It's fine, though. I know who that person is, and don't take them seriously. But, just for fun ....their attempt to feign knowledge about Brewerton culture exposes them. Reference to Brewerton points as "arrow heads" is a direct result of attempting to use "google" as a shortcut to insight. As I noted elsewhere, I wrote the book on Brewerton culture. And I presented a paper to the largest conference of North American professional archaeologists on ....among other related issues ....Brewerton culture. (grin)

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
91. The bow & arrow
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 10:40 PM
Apr 2019

was introduced in this section of North America somewhere around 2400 years after the projectile point that I found the broken base of was made. I have, of course, over 100 of them that are works of art, made by true craftsmen. I've loaned some to a few of the best regional museums, including at some of the universities that I've spoken at. In my younger years, I had some frpm those universities assist me on excavationsm and used their labs -- for free -- to analyze organic remains.

There have been a few times when I was working in the field that a tiny chihuahua would bark furiously at me. I ignored it. I mean, why would anyone want to argue with a chihuahua? They pose no threat, other than possibly being annoying.


(1,580 posts)
96. Excellent point. I feel like I need to copy this response and carry it with me in my purse. I tend
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 11:11 PM
Apr 2019

to be outspoken, when keeping my mouth shut would be the better option.


(22,634 posts)
28. Uh oh! How are you ever going to outdo this essay? Thank you very, very much for sharing
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 12:47 PM
Apr 2019

these thoughts. Well worth reading!❤❤❤


(4,368 posts)
30. Thank you for sharing your stream of remembrances and reflections
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 12:55 PM
Apr 2019

I guess it's no surprise that we become more reflective and wax philosophical as our turn at life slowly winds down.

I catch myself often doing this more and more lately

So many of the clichés I've heard repeated over the decades, like "youth is wasted on the young" etc - they all make so much sense now lol. But so does realizing the futility of trying to help them young'uns from repeating my own past mistakes.

In the end, we're left with the hope that our species will wise up fast enough to survive the future's challenges awaiting it.

We need a miracle everyday.

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
48. Right.
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 03:04 PM
Apr 2019

Not everyone gets the opportunity to grow old. I try to keep that in mind, when I get frustrated by my increasing inability to do the things that used to be easy.

I think the younger generation is better prepared to address most of the issues today, than my generation was in the 1960s and '70s. Maybe that's just based on those I know. But I hope they can build upon our foundation. It will be hard, but not doing so will be much harder.


(15,580 posts)
35. Beautiful writing!
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 01:00 PM
Apr 2019

It took me back to my youth where there were acres and acres of land my six siblings and I could roam and look for arrowheads and remnants of the past. No one stopped us with their "No Trespassing" signs, mostly because everyone knew everyone else's family. I grew up in a rural area and the people that owned the land thought nothing of having kids on it. We fished in their ponds with hand lines and grasshoppers that we caught in our hands. We ice skated on the pond in the winter when it froze over. We played imaginary games and learned all about the insects in the creek, made up stories about the treasures we found. There was no such thing as a season when you didn't go outside.

We lived in a 100 years+ old structure (it wasn't really a house) that had been a one-room schoolhouse in the 1800's. There were several outbuildings. A brother and I went back to visit our old house probably 40 years later and it still stands. We stood on the property (the new owners were fine with us doing that) and reminisced about our wanderings. We walked along the creek where we spent so many hours. Every single one of us is an outdoors person and we're all in our 70's now. I no longer even live in that state, but with the beauty of the internet I have been able to do some research on that house and the surrounding land.

So, thank you for allowing me to walk down your particular memory lane because you and I both know that at a certain age, we have plenty of memory lanes to walk down. There's a reason that people talk about the wisdom of age. Not everyone has it (think Trump), but some of us do.

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
50. Thank you!
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 03:13 PM
Apr 2019

I think I've mentioned this before, but my house was a stage coach station built as among the first stops on a turnpike after the Revolutionary War. It was built circa 1795, and had a doctor's office in it, and served as the first local post office. And there is the foundation of a black smith's shop at the edge of my lawn, dating from the late 1800s.

I've loved local history since I was in the first grade, and the principal spoke to our class about an incident with Joseph Brant that played a role in the Revolutionary War. I remember being excited when I told my mother about it. She told me one of my g-g-grandfathers had been friends with Brant, and adopted two Indian children orphaned by the war. My older brothers showed me the sites where various things had taken place. I still have the book I got on Indian history in 2nd grade.


(15,580 posts)
73. Wow! Interesting stories.
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 06:21 PM
Apr 2019

Have you done any family genealogy? Sounds like your family history would be interesting.

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
93. Oh, yes.
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 11:08 PM
Apr 2019

I've done that dor many decades. Lately, my oldest son has taken over. On both sides of my extended family, there have been one or two people who take on that responsibilty. When I was my son's age, my grandfather's cousin got a hold of me. (My grandfather was born in Ireland in 1874.) My "cousin's" mother had been the family historian on both sides of the Atlantic. He passed on her bible from Ireland, which contained information that was thought lost when the church in their little community burned. Lots of photos, too, including a large number of tin-types. With my son's computer skills (I have none), we have been able to share them with a large group of relatives.

Thanks to the work of others before me, my son and I can trace both my maternal and paternal sides way, way back. There were some characters.


(91,195 posts)
43. Thanks for taking us on a thoughtful ramble...
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 01:51 PM
Apr 2019

The May issue of Atlantic has a long article called "Elegy for the American Century" by George Packer, who says it only lasted 50 years anyway. "Doomed" featured somewhere in it, as did "Bosnia." I started to read it last night, but was too exhausted so put it aside and went to bed.

Yesterday's Los Angeles Times has an Op-Ed by Virginia Heffernan on Joe Biden: "The white male savior we've outgrown." She really did not like his announcement video, which she called, "an elegy for an obsolete American dynamic." There's that word Elegy again.

In the case of Joe Biden, I object, and surprisingly I feel rather hurt. I don't believe much in saviors myself, and I know Joe's a Catholic and probably doesn't confuse himself with Jesus, either. Personally, I started out hoping Biden would stay out of the race because of his age -- and I could practically write Andrea Mitchell's snarky jabs about "gaffes" in my sleep, as well as DU fights about Anita Hill.

But then Joe released his video, and I practically wept. The old warrior, I thought, had got it exactly right for this moment. While the others are going to spend their time arguing over fine points of what is already in the Democratic platform and worrying about whether they should ignore Trump or engage with him by name, and how to make the deplorables vote for them, Joe went straight for the jugular of the Mad King and called him and his cultists out. My God, somebody has to do it, and I find myself grateful that it is Joe Biden. If what he is telling us in that video is obsolete, we really are doomed and damned.

Thanks for letting me ramble on a bit myself. I think I needed to.

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
56. A few years back,
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 03:30 PM
Apr 2019

I sent a link to one of DU essays to one of my associates. She said that I write exactly how I speak, and that my writing was simply a conversation that I have with myself inside my head. She was, of course, correct. And each of my children could swear to the fact that I do ramble!

I've always liked Joe Biden. As we entered the 2016 primary season, he was my first choice. And I really liked him as vice president -- at the very least, tied with Gore as the best VP in modern times. Yet I, too, had thought it might be better if three of the older people who had run in recent times step aside, and serve as elder statespersons for a new generation.

Having seen his new video, I've changed my mind. I'm not sure if he will win our party's nomination, and I really do not have a favorite at this time. I will work hard for whoever is the Democratic Party's nominee in 2020. But whatever the outcome of the primaries, I thank Joe Biden for saying what needs to be said, over and over. And I am especially pleased that it got under Trump's skin.


(42,019 posts)
44. One of the fine things about being older is the long View.
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 02:19 PM
Apr 2019

Everyone doesn’t have the talent to share that view. It would be a fine endeavor to put together an anthology of cultural memories from talented elders who can so vividly render what it was like to grow up in ordinary America over the last sixty or so years.

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
57. I agree.
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 03:38 PM
Apr 2019

Years ago, I did an interview with Mark Rudd for DU. (For younger readers who might not recognize his name, Mark was a leader in the Students for a Democratic Society, before transitioning to the Weather Underground.) And I did a series of interviews with Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman, which first appeared in a Native American newspaper, and later were included in a book. Similarly, in coordination with three local historical societies, I've done interviews with older residents about the eras they grew up in.

All of these types of interviews have great value. You have a great idea there. You should go with it!

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
58. It's a curious thing,
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 03:46 PM
Apr 2019

recognizing that you are old, and remembering times long past. Frequently, in my mind, I mistake myself for being young -- though the fact that I am old is just one of a growing list of things I forget these days. When I encounter an old friend in the grocery store, we find ourselves talking about aches and pains, until we recognize we are doing what old folks seemed to always do when we were young. ("Oh, my fucking shoulder! It's miserable!" "Yeah, my knee is killing me. My doctor wants to do ....&quot

It went slow at the time, but now it seems to have gone by too fast.


(111,111 posts)
61. I always felt younger than my body.
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 03:52 PM
Apr 2019

There was a line in Game of Thrones a couple of weeks ago...something about why the young keep their distance from the old, because they see a reality that is diificult for them to accept. Liberally paraphrasing...

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
64. I think that is
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 04:05 PM
Apr 2019

generally true. It may be from a combination of related factors that make it more so in our life times. I like looking a house structures, and note that many of the houses around here from the 1800s and early 1900s have additions, where grandma and grandpa lived their golden years. An adult child of theirs had taken over the farm, and had his or her family in the main structure.

With the industrial revolution, kids sought to move to the big towns and cities for a variety of employment options. They lived in single family homes, where their kids saw the grandparents on holidays. And now, with high-tech society, more kids grow up in single family homes, often in apartments, and see their grandparents less often.

I was a strange kid myself. I spent quite a bit of time talking to the old folks in my neighborhood. I remember one elderly lady often commenting that I was mighty young to be so interested in history. Of course, I never thought at the time that one day I'd be old. Never gave that any thought! I wish that someone had warned me -- I might have taken better care of myself. Probably not, but maybe.


(111,111 posts)
67. The young tend to think they will be young forever.
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 04:39 PM
Apr 2019

I had to go thru a surgery a couple of weeks ago and I was very anxious about it. I actually thought I might not make it. I wrote down a living will. Suddenly, I did not feel young anymore. My thoughts have changed as my mortality has become more apparent. Youth is rapidly becomng an illusion.

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
68. I'm glad that
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 05:05 PM
Apr 2019

you are okay ....hope you are doing well, actually. Having to have surgery is no fun. It is in ways actually worse than many types of surgeries themselves, because it weighs on your mind.

It's interesting: would one prefer an older, experienced surgeon? Or a younger one who is more up to date on medical advances. At this point, almost all the doctors I routinely see seem very, very young to me.

It was a year ago this month I had the serious ead injury. One of the two neurologists said that I had to have surgery. The other, who was younger, said that I might be okay without surgery. I opted to avoid it, in part because I'd have had to cut my hair ....or have a reverse mullet.

I hope that you are taking it easy, and are (or have) recovering well.


(111,111 posts)
74. Thank you H2O Man!
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 06:34 PM
Apr 2019

I am improving. I had a few complications after surgery which has made my recovery a little more lengthy than normal, I think? It was not major surgery but the after effects that have been the most difficult.

I think I would probably prefer a younger doctor.

It was a little difficult for me to write while I was awaiting surgery. My mind was not very sharp. I remember the ordeal with your head injury.

I think there might be more road hazards for older folks.


(2,244 posts)
72. This is a treasure. You are a treasure.
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 06:19 PM
Apr 2019

Allowing us to walk with you in your memories today... what a gift you gave us. Thank you.

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
85. Right.
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 09:37 PM
Apr 2019

I'm lucky in that all of my children like to hear me talk about these things. But I know they will have a somewhat different appreciation in decades to come.

Kurt V.

(5,624 posts)
76. I've never been a fan of Thoreau's philosophy. but ppl can't be painted in a single
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 06:35 PM
Apr 2019

brush stroke. Abolitionists, naturalists and all around good dude. Excellent essay as usual.


(3,358 posts)
77. Thank you, for your poignant post.
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 07:03 PM
Apr 2019

It stopped me in my tracks. It brought many of my experiences 40-50+ years ago to the forefront. A wonderful recollection, beautifully written.

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
86. Well, thanks, wendyb-NC !
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 09:48 PM
Apr 2019

I think that most people of my generation here on DU have similar memories. I'm thinking of the old saying about "the best of times, the worst of times."

I saw an interview with the little girl injured in this weekend's synagogue shooting today. She is eight years old. Her life has been changed. The hatred behind it was no different than the hatred that caused the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham on September 15, 1963. Good people fought against that hate then, and we will again today.


(3,691 posts)
78. I love going on your walks with you
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 07:36 PM
Apr 2019

and hope to do so in person some day.

You’re a visual storyteller - the finest kind.

Your essay reminds me that racial injustice has been around forever to one degree or another.

My own family were Irish Catholic like yours and were certainly held in low regard in my grandfather’s day. Dad got past that by going into the military where race is mostly irrelevant.

I was horrified when I realized there was a man taking over the White House who was himself a white supremacist. And I remember reading with horror the ugly things that were said to, and about, Barack and Michelle Obama. Up until then I thought we had grown out of racism, as a country.

But no, racism has always been there, and a creature like the orange psycho brings it out of hiding. All the ugliness that’s been hiding is coming to the surface and will be acted out until we flush this human excrement from our White House.

Thank you again for including us on your journey through the past. Lovely nice long read. I hope you continue to take us along.

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
87. Thank you!
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 09:56 PM
Apr 2019

Trump has given license to the white nationalists to act out. Even his comment on General Lee has to be viewed in that context, rather than a stupid attempt at distraction.


(19,065 posts)
80. sirs or mamm,
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 08:45 PM
Apr 2019

it seems that a lot of my friends and neighbors have drifted away into the sands of time , have passed on,( i just learned my primary care dr has passed on. dr. leoprati , silent key.) friends with medical problems who cant come out and play any more , or passed away, or moved and moved on with their new lives . i havent recognized this country since 2000, with a bright spot with the clintons and the obamas . now , i dont know anymore . ,but i have hope .


(63,998 posts)
92. Thank you for
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 11:00 PM
Apr 2019

sharing your life stories with us. It is indeed strange where we were and where we are now. We are embarking on a different path right now and need to recapture our bearings to find the right path.


(2,604 posts)
95. Thank your for your wonderful story H2O man. Absolutely lovely. One of the best reads I have
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 11:10 PM
Apr 2019

had in a while. This will stay with me for a while and help me with my walks. I do what I do because of my love of water - and most appreciate your chosen name.

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
98. Thanks!
Tue Apr 30, 2019, 12:06 AM
Apr 2019

I served as the top aide to Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman for decades. He was an amazing man. When I would arrive for meetings at Onondaga, some of the woman would call me Paul's son. My children were all convinced that he was their third grandfather when they were little. So I borrowed his last name here on DU!

Besides burial protection and repatriation, we worked on a lot of environmental issues in the northeast. And they all involved, at some level, protecting water.

H2O Man

(73,737 posts)
99. One question:
Tue Apr 30, 2019, 12:08 AM
Apr 2019

Do you think that Paul Reubens will play Rod Rosenstein when they make the movie about the Trump-Russian scandal?


(8,218 posts)
103. I don't think I've ever read an OP of yours that I didn't Rec. This is one of your most powerful. nt
Tue Apr 30, 2019, 07:48 AM
Apr 2019

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