‘Oh, those were simpler times’

Harrison Scott Key remarks to the 2017 St. Andrews Society of Savannah, Georgia meeting. This particular excerpt on qualities of a “real man” struck me:

“Oh, those were simpler times,” I can hear you saying. “Back when a man could solve geopolitical questions with food.”

But were the times simpler? My grandfather grew up amid lynchings. In his home of Tate County, Mississippi, he saw black men pursued with hounds by lawless mobs and hanged for crimes they did not commit. His neighbors across the fence-line were a black family, and when they were ill, he called on them with food and prayers, and when he or my grandmother were ill, they paid him in kind. How instructive for a young boy like me, from the very heart of American racial evil, to see this bold witness from his white grandfather?

Of all the memories of Monk, I remember one most vividly, when my parents were out of town and he took my brother and me to the swimming hole.

It was a wide sandy creek. You could see to the bottom in places, little bream darting in clusters. Monk fished upstream, as we played down. Soon enough, our horseplay turned into horse-fighting, when my brother and I attempted to express our fraternal love by drowning one another. Monk told us to cut it out, but we didn’t listen.

“If I have to tell you boys one more time,” Monk said, “I’ll whip the both of you.”

We had been whipped many times, at school, at home, never with fists or open palms, usually with items purchased at hardware stores, flyswatters, canoe oars, fan belts.  But Monk had never whipped us. He was the peacemaker, the Good Cop to my father’s Bad, and so we ignored him and commenced to murdering each other again, as quietly as possible.

And then the water turned dark with his shadow.

“Boys, get out,” he said, prying the leather belt off his trousers.

I felt such grand shame, that our behavior had made Monk no longer the lover of mercy but the doer of justice. I said a prayer, and looked up to see a miracle: Just as he raised his hand to whip me, over his shoulder, poking through the leaves, I saw the face of an angel.

No, not an angel.

It was Monk’s son. My father, Pop. He stepped into the clearing.

“We just drove in,” Pop said. “I seen the truck and reckoned you all was swimming.”

Bird and I waited for Monk to explain our terrible malfeasance, but when I turned back to look at my grandfather, the belt was back in its rightful place, caged and quiet.

“We was just fishing a little,” Monk said.

We all drove back to the farm. Monk never said a word, from then to the day of his death.

In that moment, so very long ago, the just act would have been to punish my brother and me, and then to tell our father what we had done. Monk probably wanted to drown us both just for ruining his fishing. Justice would have felt good to him. It often does.

You read the papers, you check Facebook, and it looks as if today’s men want justice for others and mercy for themselves. But Monk did not choose justice. He chose mercy, for us.

In the New Testament, Paul exhorts his readers like some kind of juiced-up ball coach, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong!” And then he says, as if in rejoinder to himself, quiet, calming, “Let all your things be done with charity.”

At this point in my life, where I am statistically halfway between birth and death, I have finally come to see that being a man has much less to do with chopping your own firewood or growing your own tomato and far more with this impossible marriage of strength and compassion that Micah and Paul write about.

Together, these impossible qualities are what made my grandfather a man, and all the good men who have come before us.

Toward things that last

I wrote last year on Adrienne LaFrance’s observation that the internet is, on the whole, a messaging system—not a library. Today, the pseudonymous Paradox Project’s piece “Print Your Blog” caught my eye for its riff on ephemerality and permanence:

I’ve been in the industry of software for about 10 years and I’ve met some wonderful people, discovered some amazing technologies, and watched the hard work, the passion, the blood, sweat, and tears of a new and incredible project evaporate into the air. Billion-dollar technologies have disappeared into the ether, leaving anyone who bought the illusion of digital permanency clutching the past as if they were trying to hold water in their hands.

The truth is that anything digital requires upkeep. Five years ago, Scott Hanselman made a plea to bloggers to own their own content, to host their own words. He wasn’t wrong, but hosting our own words costs money. We can’t just write and expect it to live on the internet forever. We either have to pay for the ability to extend the life of our words or we are at the mercy of some third party. …

The same goes for my old technology writings, my old online communities, everything I’ve built, recorded, written or shared. I have a nightmare that I die in a car accident, my hosting bill goes unpaid and everything I’ve ever done will go offline as I instantly vanish from the earth. …

If it’s something you want for a long time, don’t buy digital. Don’t let someone else control your media or memories. Print your blog. Buy paper books. Find your 50 best pictures from the past year and print them out. Gravitate toward things that last.

I think this is 100 percent correct, and many good examples of ephemerality are included that I didn’t excerpt here. The hundreds of pages of my grandfather’s memoirs that he wrote and assembled from old letters for our family not only give me a window into his life in the 1950s, but also help me concretely remember the man I grew up with but who died nearly twenty years ago.

My attempt to write in public, even when I don’t have much to say other than share a photo or excerpt something interesting I’ve read, is as vulnerable as WordPress is, ultimately. I believe in Matt Mullenweg and his vision for WordPress as a resilient and sustainable platform—but what happens to everything here after Matt and I are gone? If there’s any lasting value in the things I’m writing and sharing, past experience points to a physical version of at least the images and words (if not the video/audio) being as important as whatever survives on the internet. Ideally, everything survives. It would be a joy to me if my grandchildren or great grandchildren would be able to see and hear the same sights and sounds that I’m sharing from time to time here—but worst case, the words are enough to tell at least part of the story. How do we ensure something tangible might last for the future?

“Don’t let someone else control your media or memories. Print your blog. Buy paper books. Find your 50 best pictures from the past year and print them out.” Et cetera.

Rathskeller

I was very sad to hear that the All-American Rathskeller in State College is being forced to close its doors. The Skeller is one of those places that feels like it’s been around forever, with a gritty yet lived-in, distinctive, and welcoming feeling with worn cement floors that tell the stories of generations whose paths have met there, and wooden rafters, bars, and booths that have an age and weight and even wetness whose physical aroma conveys the place’s character in a way that few establishments ever allow to develop.

Skeller feels like it’s been around forever because, in a certain sense, it has. Few if any Penn Staters or Nittany Valley people are still alive remember a Happy Valley without the Rathskeller. It’s 84 years old, and Pennsylvania’s oldest continuously operating bar. The Foster Building, which houses the Skeller, is one of the oldest structures in State College. You can see it in this 1924 photo of State College:

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The Foster Building houses the Skeller among other College Avenue businesses, was purchased by new local investors the Herlochers earlier this year:

Duke and Monica Gastinger have owned the two businesses since the 1980s, but the Rathskellar has been around since November 9, 1933, three days after the end of prohibition in the United States.

Chuck and Neil Herlocher — yes, those Herlochers — bought the property, which houses Spat’s Café, The Clothesline, The Apple Tree, Old Main Frame Shop, Rathskeller and Sadie’s, in June. None of the other businesses have yet announced their closing, so the fate of the property is still unclear.

“My father and I are happy to be purchasing this historic area,” Neil Herlocher told the Centre County Gazette in June. “Business there will continue as usual. There are no plans to make drastic changes to the properties, although we will do some renovations and improvements.

Jay Paterno chimed into #SavetheSkeller Twitter conversation to share another angle of the story, which is that the Foster Building was nearly purchased by national investors intent on tearing it down and building something new, as is happening so many other places in State College’s downtown:

Herlochers Save Rathskeller Location From Wrecking Ball

In July 2017 our company Cornelius LLC concluded an investment in downtown State College with a plan to buy the Foster Building. While other investors intended to raze the property, we were steadfast in our commitment to preserve the historic nature and location of this landmark building.

When we took over the property we became aware that the operators of the All American Rathskeller and Spats had been operating without a lease since 2011 and paying well below market rates. Attempts to resolve the issue were unsuccessful. Our offer to purchase the businesses were also turned down.

We understand the concern many Penn Staters and State College natives have expressed. We want to assure you that as State College residents and Penn Staters we fully understand the historic importance of that location and memories made there across decades. We are committed to maintaining the character of the location that was founded in 1933 by Pop Flood as the Rathskeller and Gardens until 1934 when Doggie Alexander named it The All-American Rathskeller.

Our goal in the coming weeks and years is that Penn Staters past and present will walk into this location and find their memories of great times past still living there. The new tenants will be the latest in a long line of owners who have maintained the proud tradition of good times and good friends meeting in this downtown State College landmark.

If it’s true that Duke and Monica Gastinger refused to sell the Rathskeller name/intellectual property after rent negotiations failed, that their out-of-lease rent was way below market etc., that’s a real shame. Not only will Happy Valley lose the oldest-bar-in-Pennsylvania distinction, but it will likely lose the physical place as an historically authentic gathering place.

Ross Lehman, 1942 graduate of Penn State who was later head of the Penn State Alumni Association, once reflected on some of the things that made a Penn State experience what it was in his Centre Daily Times column “Open House:”

If I had felt lonely and isolated in these hills it was not for long. I became part of the heart throb of Penn State, and it was a new, exciting world. I fell in love with this unique place.

The campus was, and is, something rather special. It houses the “Penn State spirit,” which is a difficult thing to define because it is composed of so many things.

Perhaps it can be called a feeling, a feeling that runs through Penn Staters when they’re away from this place and someone mentions “Penn State.” The farther we are away, in time and distance, the stronger the feeling grows.

It is a good feeling, a wanting-to-share feeling. It is full of a vision of Mount Nittany, which displays a personality of its own in all its seasonal colors, from green to gold to brown to white. It is the sound of chimes from Old Main’s clock, so surrounded by leaves that it’s hard to see; it is getting to class not by looking at the clock but by listening to it.

It is the smell of the turf at New Beaver Field after a game, and the memories of Len Krouse, Leon Gajecki, Rosey Grier, Lenny Moore, Mike Reid, Franco Harris, Lydell Mitchell, Todd Blackledge and Curt Warner helping to swell our fame … and the top of Mount Nittany as seen from the grandstands in autumn.

It is the quiet of Pattee Library, facing two rows of silent elms; sunlight falling gently through those elms on a misty morning; a casual chat under a white moon on the mall.

It is talk, too: a great deal of talk, here, there, all around … in fraternity and sorority bull sessions or over a hasty coffee in the Corner Room or Ye Olde College Diner, talk un-recalled except for the feeling of remembrance and the heart-tugging wanting some of youth. …

It is a dance in Rec Hall; a beer in the Rathskeller; a kiss in a secluded campus niche; the romance that bloomed into marriage; the smell of a theater; the laugh of a crowd; the blossoming of spring shrubs and the blend of maple, oak, birch and aspen colors in the fall; the ache of a night without sleep; and the sharing of a thousand other little things and incidents that honed our “Penn State spirit.”

“A beer in the Rathskeller” amidst so many other great and small points of the mystic chords of Penn State identity may seem like a small thing, but that would be to miss the fact that the greatness of Penn State is in its innumerable little greatnesses, of which the Skeller has been a remarkable part for so many generations. It’s also remarkable that, in Ross Lehman’s tribute, every other specific place he recollects remains a living part of campus and town life. It’s a testament to the fact that, as much as changes in so little time in a college town, so many of the great little things stay the same in the towns that earn legendary reputations.

Downtown State College is experiencing a once in a century (or more) “reset” of a lot of its built environment. Over the past century a general agglomeration of mostly local investors purchased downtown properties like old homes, low-slung storefronts, etc., and made little business empires of them. Now, as they die or their families re-assess their holdings, many are selling to national developers who are building what for a downtown like State College are much larger mega-developments of six or eight or twelve story mix-used structures. A great deal of local ownership is vanishing, and that’s a shame to the degree that it makes local businesspeople less accountable to local people, and to the extent that State College becomes aesthetically, architecturally, and culturally more derivative of other college towns due to the “cookie cutter” building mentality of taking what might have worked in College Station or Ann Arbor and plopping it on a piece of land, heedless of the harmony or complementarity of surrounding structures. What conservationists can do is add their voices to the choir singing for as much of the old, time-worn authentic characteristics of past places to be re-incarnated in the new skins of the new buildings to come as is possible.

All things considered, I’m cautiously optimistic that the Herlocher’s local purchase of the Foster Building will achieve some degree of good conservation, although it’s a tragedy for the distinctiveness of State College to lose the Skeller in the process.

I reflected a few years ago on what “nostalgia” really means by asking “Where nostalgia lives” in a practical sense:

When I walk down College Avenue and sit on that stone bench, I’m sitting in a place where my grandfather sat at one point nearly 70 years ago. I’m sitting in a place where my cousin sat nearly 20 years ago. And maybe my children or theirs will sit there at some point.

We’re so socially, economically, and physically mobile today that most of us don’t have fixed, solid places like this to root our experiences. Where is the family farm that’s been with us for generations? Where is the tree in the yard planted decades ago? Where is the room in the house where your great grandmother once softly sang as the leaves of that tree rustled in twilight?

We lack these things. We move. We die. And thousands of experiences and stories are fragmented as a result. It becomes difficult to remember what we’re doing here.

In the context of the reality of this daily life, college towns and the little places they contain like College Avenue’s stone bench tell us what we don’t have. We probably won’t recover most of the beautiful little experiences of yesterday’s America, but at least in our college towns we are often presented with some of the life we’ve lost and reminded we can have it again, even if just for a pleasant visit.

When I had lunch with Onward State’s David Abruzzese in May earlier this year, we sat in what might literally have been the same booth at the Skeller where my grandfather might have sat in 1946 when he arrived as a freshman, or in 1947 when he was struggling to memorize his Greek poetry, or in 1950 when he would have been celebrating commencement:

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Pop looms large in my childhood memories as a source of wisdom and gentle love, and though he’s been dead nearly 17 years now, losing a place like the Skeller rips away one of the last physical places in the world where I can go and spend some time with memory of him, where I feel particularly connected, as if time might evaporate and his younger self might walk through those cellar doors to sit down with me for a bit, one more time.

And it rips away a physical place where I might bring my own son or daughter one day, sharing a similar experience, and looking into the twinkling eyes of uncertain youth to share the reassuring words that the sands of time and veil of death that covers ancestors, friends, and communities seemingly long separated isn’t always so thick in every place—that in certain places the sands of time pass ever more slowly, giving us a chance to savor what might otherwise be a quotidian moment in the most delicious and heartening way with someone we love, and with whom we’ll share a small place in the vast universe to return together in spirit.

To lose the Skeller, for a town to lose that sort of place? It really hurts.

Love is not a means to an end

Zach Rocheleau shared his experience in college learning about marriage and family earlier this month, and I’m excerpting some of that here. It captures so much of the spirit that I saw at work in the life of my grandparents, especially, but also so many of the older pre-Baby Boomer marriages that were still active and alive when I was a child and observed them up close:

In college, I took one of my favorite classes of all time and it was called Creation & Grace. My professor was Dr. Riordan. He was a short man his mid 70’s. His voice was soft but he could speak with so much passion. I could listen to him for days. It was peaceful but yet engaging and inspiring.

The purpose of the class was to show how philosophy and faith can come together to truly give us the ability to see the world in it’s purest form. To help us see how beautiful this world is and how lucky we are that it was created for us.

One day in class, the topic of marriage and raising a family came up. He explained that there are two ways you can see your wife. He needed to explain the philosophy first to help us understand. He articulated that you have two options when you see something. You can either see it as a means to an end, which is the fact that this thing could lead you to a desired result. Or you can see it as an end in itself, which is that you see the thing as the end goal. He asked the class if we understood and we all agreed.

He then moved back to the topic of marriage and raising a family. He explained that in order to have a lasting and beautiful marriage, you must see your wife as an end in herself rather than a means to an end.

He then went into explaining what this truly means and this is where my life forever changed. My priorities changed. How I saw women changed forever. I fell in love with my future wife right then.

He talked about his love for his wife of 53 years and what it truly meant for her to be the end in herself. He explained that she was his best friend. His teammate for life. Her contagious personality could light up a room. Her cute little cackle when she laughed. How she would blush even after the smallest complement. How she loved more than anything when he would wink at her from across the room. How he would still catch himself standing in awe of her even after 53 years of marriage. He explained that he just wanted her. He didn’t want anything she could do for him. He just loved her unconditionally. He only wanted her.

Then he explained the significance of this. He explained that love is not a means to an end. Love is unconditional. Love is loving someone as an end in themselves. He further explained that a lot of the guys nowadays see women as a means to an end not an end in themselves. Treating them like a physical object that can be replaced rather than something that is truly special and one of a kind. And I got sick to my stomach when he said that because I knew it was true and I was guilty of this.

I’ll never forget that class. I remember before I graduated college, I told Dr. Riordan this exact story and he had tears in his eyes. He was such a kind man and I knew his love for his wife was pure. He then said to me, “Zach, this principle does not only apply to your wife. I want, even if you do not think the young lady with ever be your wife, to treat her like she will be your future wife. He said better yet, like she is your future daughter.”

Being ‘childlike’

I’m sharing Saturday’s Gospel reading, and Bishop Robert Barron’s reflection on it, because it’s not only a beautiful reflection on what Christ means when he tells us to be “childlike,” but it’s also a good way to return to C.S. Lewis’s trilemma to figure out who Christ is:

Bishop Robert Barron, Daily Gospel Reflections
Luke 10:17-24

Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus calls his disciples and us “childlike”: “Although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike”. How so? Children don’t know how to dissemble, how to be one way and act another. “Kids say the darndest things,” because they don’t know how to hide the truth of their reactions.

In this, they are like stars or flowers or animals, things that are what they are, unambiguously. The challenge of the spiritual life is to realize what God wants us to be and thereby come to the same simplicity and directness in our existence. To find out what is in line with the deepest grain of our being.

Let me put this another way: children haven’t yet learned how to look at themselves. Why can a child immerse himself so eagerly and thoroughly in what he is doing? Because he can lose himself; because he is not looking at himself, conscious of the reactions, expectations, and approval of those around him. The best moments in life occur when we lose the ego, lose ourselves in the world and just are as God wants us to be.

Children “don’t know how to hide the truth of their reactions …are like stars or flowers or animals, things that are what they are. … The best moments in life occur when we lose the ego…”

Luke’s Gospel is great for returning to C.S. Lewis’s trilemma, because it provides insight into Christ that makes it impossible to consider him merely a “great moral teacher” or some sort of spiritual philosopher. Christ tells his disciples, “I have given you the power ‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy.” Christ instructs his disciples to “rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” And most startlingly, he literally shares that “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky.”

“Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma…”

SKOAL: Short Film

I’ve written about John Shakely, my grandfather, through his obituary and a later tribute. I’ve started working on his 1950s sailing manuscript, with an eventual goal to release that manuscript as a book through Nittany Valley Press in the next year or so. What I haven’t shared yet is a short film of his Pacific sailing adventures:

 

Panama to Galapagos

  • 00:00—SKOAL docked at Panama Canal Yacht Club, Canal Zone (Atlantic entrance to Canal).
  • 00:12—John Shakely on deck adjusting mooring lines.
  • 00:44—General view of yachts at PCYC, shoeing SKOAL. Many yachts on deep-water cruises stop here before heading on to the Caribbean or through the Canal to the Pacific.
  • 01:07—Dianne, Tahitian girl who is sister-in-law of American Canal Zone policeman we knew, dancing a hula.
  • 01:34—English yacht leaving for England, escorted out of harbor by several yachts of friends.
  • 02:56—Checking list of food stores and loading aboard SKOAL. 1,476 cans were dipped in hot paraffin to inhibit rust.
  • 03:23—Menace, the cat, our mascot given to us by a “friend.”
  • 03:33—Pablo at helm, Gatun Lake during Canal transit. Transit took about eight hours and cost $4.72 in tonnage fees.
  • 04:17—SKOAL at sea—we had to cross the doldrums causing a 26-day passage to make less than 1,000 miles.
  • 05:03—Birds on water.
  • 05:11—Menace the cat had a propensity for actions that roused my ire so we gave the beast to a farmer at Academy Bay in the Galapagos.
  • 05:31—Sea turtle on deck—about midway between Panama and the Galapagos we came upon fifty or more turtles. We roped one and pulled it aboard for photos, then turned it loose. After two days the turtles left us as abruptly as they had come.
  • 05:47—Pablo swimming—we saw no sharks so when the wind died it was perfectly safe to swim.
  • 05:57—Sunset near the Galapagos—the sunsets and dawns on the sea are quite sudden and dramatic. The color film cannot do full justice to all the subtle hues.
  • 06:24—Approaching northern islands of Galapagos, clouds.
  • 06:57—Coming into Sullivan’s Bay, San Salvador, Galapagos. This was our first stop in the Pacific. The island and its neighbor, San Bartoleme, have no human inhabitants.
  • 07:12—Landscape of San Bartoleme and San Salvador showing jumble of cinder and ash and sparse, stunted vegetation.
  • 07:47—SKOAL at anchor in Sullivan’s Bay.
  • 07:53—Seal (this required stealthy creeping and wading on my part, but I think the animal knew of my presence all the time and was playing with me.)
  • 08:16—Sea iguana, indigenous to the Galapagos—Darwin came here in the ship Beagle to gather data for his “Origin of Species.”
  • 08:35—Bird. Heron.
  • 09:17—Red crabs on rocks.
  • 09:45—John Shakely chasing crabs. (We eventually caught enough to make a meal—they had not much taste.)
  • 10:05—Porpoises.
  • 10:19—After four days at Sullivan’s Bay we headed south for Academy Bay, Santa Cruz. On arriba trail to farms, Santa Cruz. Agriculture is possible in the highlands (arriba) of some of the islands where the “garua” (drizzle) provides sufficient moisture. Many types of common and tropical vegetables are grown with some coffee and potatoes for export to Ecuador.
  • 10:32—Schoolhouse, arriba, Santa Cruz. Class was stopped while the teachers—husband and wife—made us feel at home.
  • 10:45—Birds. Pelican Bay, Santa Cruz. This is separated from the settlement at Academy Bay and so lots of wildlife gathers here.
  • 11:20—Pelican, surf on rocks, landscape, iguana—all at Pelican Bay.
  • 11:48—Goats, Academy Bay, Santa Cruz. These have been domesticated from the wild goats of the island—goats were originally left on these islands by pirates, whalers, etc.
  • 11:55—Hawk, Barrington Island. (From Santa Cruz we sailed east and anchored overnight at this uninhabited island.)
  • 12:05—Sea-lions, Barrington Island. Hundreds of these are seen in the islands, and occasionally penguins are found. The cold waters of the Humboldt Current sweeping up from the Antarctic make these equatorial islands unexpectedly cold.
  • 13:51—SKOAL anchored at Post Office Bay, Floreana Island and John Shakely coming ashore to mail a card. (The Bay got its name from the practice of old-time whalers who, on outbound voyages left letters here to be picked up by home-bound vessels. The practice is perpetuated by yachtsmen.)
  • 14:46—Nailing “SKOAL” sign to mailbox post. This is the custom of all visiting yachtsmen.
  • 14:53—Landscape of Floreana on way to Black Beach.
  • 15:10—Guide who directed us to the Wittmer farm, arriba.

Galapagos to Marquesas, Tuamotus, Tahiti, Pago Pago, Auckland, Sydney

  • 15:27—SKOAL at sea under fore-and-aft rig. We sailed generally southwest on this rig for about ten days, then changed to twin-jib rig.
  • 15:59—SKOAL at sea under twin-jib rig. Showing the sheet from bom to tiller arrangement which provided a form of self-steering so that we had to stand no watches, and could both sleep each night. This rig is usable only when sailing before the wind.
  • 16:46—John Shakely firing shot-gun in celebration of Independence Day.
  • 16:55—Dolphins swimming alongside SKOAL and dolphin I speared which Pablo cleaned and cooked. The meat is very good. We were followed by dolphins—at least one of them the same one—for almost three weeks while we were on the twin-jib. The number varied from two or three to several dozen. The dolphins frequently shot ahead of SKOAL to chase flying fish.
  • 17:36—Southern coast of Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas, and approaching Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva. We anchored in Taiohae Bay on the 38th day after leaving Black Beach, Floreana, Galapagos.
  • 17:58—Taiohae Bay. This is a large and beautiful bay protected on all sides except its opening to the south. The village of Taiohae is situated at the head of the bay and the official residence of the French administrator of the island is here.
  • 18:06—Taiohae Bay seen from near the pass on the trail to Taipi Vaii, the valley to the east of Taiohae.
  • 18:21—Wild horse on the trail to Taipi Vaii. In addition to wild horses there are wild cattle, goats and chickens on these islands.
  • 18:38—Landscape showing water-falls in valley of Taipi Vaii. This is the valley of “Typee” made famous by Melville in his book. These islands rise abruptly from sea-level to as high as 3,000 feet and rainfall is quite adequate so there are numerous impressive cascades and falls.
  • 18:48—Pablo and guide at site of the Tikis. These ancient stone gods are arranged in a rough circular pattern at the old location of religious ceremonies of the cannibals who lived in this valley. The site, several kilometers from the village, is now overgrown and the tikis are weathering away to total obscurity.
  • 19:08—Guide on horse and horses on way back to Taiohae. The saddles are carved from wood and often the horses are quite obstinate so I generally preferred to walk.
  • 19:33—Waterfall again, seen from valley floor.
  • 19:39—Taiohae Bay.
  • 20:10—Taiohae Bay, kids with outrigger canoe.
  • 20:41—Guide who took us to waterfall in Hakaui Valley. Here he is roasting the fresh-water shrimp which he caught in the stream, using a loop he made from a near-by leaf, and crushed coconut meat sprinkled on the water for bait.
  • 20:45—Hula-Hula, the traditional dance of the South Pacific, performed by the people of Taiohae as part of the Bastille Day observance. The “grass” skirt, or moré, is actually made from the inner bark of a tree that grows in the higher lands. The hula in its true form always tells a story—some incident from history or an anecdote. The gestures are stylized movements representing some everyday action such as paddling a dugout, grinding corn, etc. The same gesture may be used in different dances. The chief, in the green moré, is the dance director. In many of the dances a litany is included in which the chief leads, with a responsive chant by the dancers.
  • 26:23—SKOAL on the beach at Haveii Bay, Ua Huka. We had departed Taiohae after a two-week stay and headed south for other islands in the Marquesas, but a repair on the main-mast rigging necessitated putting into this bay. The parting of first one anchor cable and then the second resulted in SKOAL being swept onto the rocky beach where she was so battered and broken that repairs were not practical. Virtually all the able-bodied men of the island came to help in the salvage attempt.
  • 27:02—The hill on the north side of the bay is a nesting place for thousands of birds—this provided a ready supply of eggs (very similar to chicken eggs, but smaller) which, with the fish and lobsters caught by the islanders furnished ample food for us all. (I should mention the several hundred tins of food we had salvaged, many of them with the labels soaked off.)
  • 27:13—Finally, with the aid of eight 55-gallen drums, lashed to SKOAL for buoyancy, and M. Bazin’s government boat AORAI acting as a tug-boat, SKOAL—or her remains—was refloated and towed about a mile to Vai Paii, the next bay, where it was thought repairs might be effected. Examination, however, showed repairs not feasible. Whatever was usable was to be auctioned off and the returns to be put into a community fund. We had previously given the wreck to the islanders as community property. (Sometime later I received a letter from Bob MacKittrick informing me that the engine, new in Panama, had been put to use in the Catholic missionary’s boat, and the masts, sails, salvageable planking, etc. had been converted into a fishing boat for use by the people of Vaipaee. I guess you could say SKOAL lived on—body and soul.)
  • 27:28—After a six-week stay in Taiohae as guests of the Bazin’s, Pablo and I left to Tahiti as passengers aboard the VAITERE, a copra schooner that runs from Tahiti through the Tuamotus to the Marquesas and returns.
  • 27:47—Here the VAITERE is shown hoisting a sail as she leaves Taiohae Bay. She has sufficient diesel power to run without the aid of sail when necessary.
  • 28:12—Helmsman.
  • 28:26—Islanders with sacks of copra to be shipped to Tahiti.
  • 28:35—Takaroa, Tuamotus and view across the lagoon. Dozens of these coral atolls in the Tuamotus stretching far to the southeast. Only a few have a permanent population; many have a migrant populous which moves from island to island as the peral diving gets bad. In addition to copra is a major product of the Tuamotus is peral shell.
  • 28:40—Street scene, Takaroa. These islands average about seven feet above sea level, so damage and loss of life is very high when a hurricane strikes.
  • 29:09—Fish and spear-fishermen in lagoon at Takaroa.
  • 29:14—Children throwing stones—playfully, of course—at the fishermen, Takaroa.
  • 29:25—Goats on the VAITERE. These goats had the run of the place and not infrequently were chased by the cook when they ate the bananas. By the time we got to Papeete most of them had been eaten by crew and passengers.
  • 29:41—VAITERE passengers. The number of passengers fluctuated greatly as we came into the different islands. There are just four berths on the VAITERE so much of us slept on kapok mattresses on the cabin top. This was quite comfortable and, in fact, much cooler than sleeping below.
  • 29:54—Fishermen in lagoon at Papeete, Tahiti as we entered the harbor aboard the VAITERE.
  • 29:59—View of Papeete water-front from the VAITERE.
  • 30:22—Launch meeting the plane and bringing the governor of French Oceania ashore.
  • 30:38—Beach at Parae with Michele, my French teacher.
  • 30:56—Street scene, Papeete and boats tied up along quay.
  • 31:32—Hei (lei) sellers going down to meet incoming ship. When a ship comes in the whole town goes down to meet it.
  • 31:39—Road leading out of Papeete.
  • 31:52—Looking across lagoon of Papeete.
  • 31:58—SS SONOMA, the freighter on which I left Tahiti.
  • 32:10—Pago Pago Bay, Samoa, our first stop after leaving Tahiti.
  • 32:22—Unloading SONOMA, Pago Pago.
  • 32:37—School kids, street scene, Pago Pago.
  • 32:55—William Willis’ balsa raft on which he drifted and sailed from Peru. He made the voyage single-handed and traveled a thousand miles further than Kon Tiki.
  • 33:08—Auckland, New Zealand harbor. I stayed here only about six hours.
  • 33:17—Leaving Auckland aboard the MONOWAI, a passenger ship, headed for Sydney.
  • 33:45—Approaching Sydney, Australia and views of the city and harbor.
  • 34:24—Ferry boat on the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney.
  • 34:47—Motorboat and water-skiers on the Hawkesbury. (I was in Australia for about two weeks until the middle of December. I couldn’t travel much because I had to stay in Sydney ready to leave on very short notice for the job in the Philippines.)

‘Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century’

Beth Teitell reports on the stresses that result from material abundance:

Tell me about it. That sums up Boston parents’ reaction to new research by UCLA-affiliated social scientists concluding that American families are overwhelmed by clutter, too busy to go in their own backyards, rarely eat dinner together even though they claim family meals as a goal, and can’t park their cars in the garage because they’re crammed with non-vehicular stuff.

The team of anthropologists and archeologists spent four years studying 32 middle-class Los Angeles families in their natural habitat — their toy-littered homes — and came to conclusions so grim that the lead researcher used the word “disheartening” to describe the situation we have gotten ourselves
in­to.

At first glance, the just-published, 171-page “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century” looks like a coffee table book. But it contains very real-life photos of pantries, offices, and backyards, and details a generally Zen-free existence. Architectural Digest or Real Simple this is not. …

Arnold said she was bothered most by the lack of time study subjects spent enjoying the outdoors.

“Something like 50 of the 64 parents in our study never stepped outside in the course of about a week,” she said. “When they gave us tours of their house they’d say, ‘Here’s the backyard, I don’t have time to go there.’ They were working a lot at home. Leisure time was spent in front of the TV or at the computer.”

I think we have a culture of material but not psychological or spiritual abundance. I’ve heard it pointed out that we really can’t describe ourselves as “materialists,” because a true materialist would be someone with love and concern for all aspects of the material in his or her life. We don’t seem to value material things, in fact. We accumulate, we overspend, we live in empty-ish homes, and we feel this terrible remorse without escaping into a life of liberty and lightness that minimalist and truly materialist thinking might afford us.

They’re going to happen

John Roberts, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, made headlines a few weeks ago for his commencement speech at his son’s New Hampshire boarding school. I’ve shared Antonin Scalia’s commencement remarks in the past, and some of Roberts’s remarks are worth sharing too:

Now the commencement speakers will typically also wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you. I will not do that, and I’ll tell you why. From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.

Ancestry/genetic history

I first read about 23andMe years ago when it was fighting the FDA for government regulatory approval to exist. I’ve followed it on and off for years, and in early June decided to spend the ~$100 to get my ancestry results.

Thanks to family members who had already spent years accumulating genealogical records, I had a pretty good sense already what the 23andMe results would indicate, but it was fun nonetheless getting confirmation by way of genetics rather than purely genealogical information. Here’s the summary:

IMG_0121

I found the Ancestry Timeline particularly impressive/interesting, because it matches very closely what we know from our family genealogical records:

IMG_0122

I paid for only the Ancestry service, and opted out of the Health reports which are another ~$100. I might pay to unlock that data at some point (which is possible in my account now that I’ve already sent the saliva sample), but both the extra cost and the vague/potentially alarming nature of the information that might be there isn’t compelling for me at the moment. Knowing that I’m potentially predisposed toward certain disease might change my behavior in ways that don’t really make sense, and seem likely to ratchet up existential dread more than help me in any practical way.

When I sent off the saliva sample I figured it would take roughly the six weeks or so that was advertised, but was surprised to find a notice in my inbox yesterday that these results had arrived in just under four weeks.

Family processions

I excerpted the above from the Lannan Foundation’s November 10, 1999 Wendell Berry reading:

Wendell Berry is a poet, essayist, and novelist, who has been called the “prophet of rural America.” Mr. Berry, who pursues what he calls “an ethic and way of life based upon devotion to a place and devotion to a land,” lives and works on his farm in Port Royal, Kentucky. He has published more than 30 books, including The Wheel, Sabbaths, and Openings (poetry); The Wild Birds, Watch with Me, and Remembering (fiction); and Another Turn of the Crank, What Are People For?, and The Unsettling of America (nonfiction). He received a Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction in 1989.