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H2O Man

(73,516 posts)
Mon Apr 29, 2019, 10:30 AM Apr 2019

A Long, Strange Walk [View all]

“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 [View all] 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
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