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chestwest

Having received a fabulous welcome at my last talk, I am now gearing up for the next one.

“An African American Family in Connecticut: From Slavery to Triumph” is part of Chester Village West’s Lifelong Learning Program, which includes talks about Hollywood icons of the 1950s and advice for maintaining heart health.

“African American Family in Connecticut” will introduce my amazing family to another audience: we have generations of nurturing women, the man who was coachman to a governor, a Buffalo soldier, and of course the iconic Anna Louise James. I’ll feature bits and pieces of my books Can Anything Beat White?: A Black Family’s Letters and At Home Inside: A Daughter’s Tribute to Ann Petry. And of course there’ll be an update on the film project.

The lecture will be October 18 (a Tuesday) at 4 p.m. at Chester Village West, 317 West Main Street. It is free, but registration is required. Call 860.322.6455, email Chester Village West, or visit the website.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

So Many

oldEdison

Thanks to Jerry Augustine, one of the veterans in the writing group, we learned “A little history most people will never know.”

The stats piled up – the first to die, the youngest. Beyond tragic. Then I found this: “54 soldiers on the Wall attended Thomas Edison High School in Philadelphia.” The comment was I wonder why.

Here’s a theory: Thomas Edison High School was in one of the poorest areas of the city. I moved to Phila. about ten years after the first of those boys enlisted, and it had grown worse. This article is testament to the fact that almost 40 years later, nothing has improved. Even though students occupy a new building, the neighborhood continues to deteriorate. Young men are still dying, but now it’s not in service to country.

So aside from the patriotism that was far more pervasive in 1964 than now, I believe those boys joined up because that was the best option for most. There were few jobs. Many could not or did not want to attend college. So off they went to the jungles of Vietnam.

I do have one question: Why does the “little history” include only 54 names while the article says 66? Either way it’s a national tragedy.

National Days

equal

Thanks to the folks at National Day Calendar, we now know today is National Webmistress Day, National Dog Day, National Women’s Equality Day, and National Cherry Popsicle Day.

As is obvious, these national celebrations veer from serious to ridiculous.

National Women’a Equality Day came about because Congress passed the 19th Amendment on this day in 1920. Of course in the eighty-six years since, we still have not achieved equality in pay, political representation, or pretty much any other segment of life. U.S. Representative Bella Abzug put the ball in motion to establish the day in 1971. The National Day Calendar folks suggest that we observe it by learning more about the movement and the 19th Amendment.

National WebMistresses Day shouldn’t fall into the shadow of Equality Day. The blurb says the term is twenty years old, but the day was established in June of this year, so shouldn’t it be celebrated then? Plus, couldn’t they find a better title?

National Dog Day has a useful purpose – to encourage dog ownership. It really should be National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day. As for celebrating with photos on social media – um, no. Taking a walk with a dog or volunteering at a shelter, yes.

National Cherry Popsicle Day seems  just crass commercialism, since the celebration involves buying stuff.

Farmington Avenue Follies

closed

The day began with extinguishing brush fires and making attempts to catch up on the projects neglected in favor of Sunday’s speech. All proceeded well until the drive to Hartford this afternoon.

I had a general idea of my destination but decided to try it out on Waze, which had successfully navigated me to Ithaca last month. The big benefits are that it warns of traffic jams, police, and construction. It claims to find better routes than Apple Maps. That’s the theory. For reasons never determined, it dumped me in downtown, miles from where I was supposed to go. Then it wanted me to turn onto a road that was closed.

I ignored the rest of the directions and found the place on my own. Its tiny parking lot was full, so I headed around the corner to park on the street. I was into the turn when the driver of the car parked illegally at the intersection started backing into my car. He stopped just as I was about to blast the horn. Needless to say, I arrived at my appointment shaken and shaking. A large cup of sencha and good conversation restored me.

We conducted our business. I was about to pick up the menu as I hadn’t eaten since a.m. toast and yogurt and it was getting on toward 3 p.m. Then I looked at the adjacent table where a group of obese young people had dived into neon-colored martinis and other high-octane beverages. I watched as the guy closest to me downed his drink and ordered another.

Then something unidentifiable arrived, which they devoured with their hands. A few minutes later they each received enormous plates. French fries were the most prominent feature. I lost my appetite, again.

My brain is frizzled — that’s frozen and fried at the same time. Please forgive all errors. It’s been a long, 90-degree day. I’m curling up with White Noise for a good laugh.

 

Kudos to Deb, Again

"Coach P"
“Coach P”

So, in June my sister-in-law became the National Girls Track and Field Coach of the Year, an honor bestowed by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association.

Tonight it was the turn of the hometown crowd. The Board of Education recognized that Deb had put Middletown, Connecticut, on the national map. In an extra surprise, our hyper-energetic State Rep. Matthew Lesser (D-100) showed up with a proclamation from the state legislature sponsored by our area representatives and senators.

Deb, you’re the best!

What I’m Reading Now

noise

Still basking in the glow of the fabulous reception for yesterday’s speech, I’ve returned to reading for the “American Voice” panel at the Mark Twain House in September. Next up on David Bowie’s Top 100 list was White Noise by Don DeLillo. I recognized the name but knew nothing about him or his writing. It was embarrassing to discover that the 1985 publication won the National Book Award.

I decided not to read any more of the book jacket and was rewarded with an amusing, sometimes laugh out loud, work. White Noise is told from the viewpoint Jack Gladney, the jaded chairman of the department of Hitler studies at the midwestern College-on-the-Hill. He does not speak German. He does develop a friendship of sorts with a visiting professor in the popular culture department, though I foresee an affair between Murray Siskind and Jack’s fourth wife.

Here’s Jack’s description of Murray’s department: “The [teaching staff is] here to decipher the natural language of the culture, to make a formal method of the shiny pleasures they’d known in their Europe-shadowed childhood—an Aristotelianism of bubble gum wrappers and detergent jingles.” A great combination of grad speak and pop cult! The chairman is Alfonse (Fast Food) Stompanato. Sounds like he should be a mob enforcer instead of an academic.

When Jack and Murray first speak, the latter is searching for a subject that he can “create, nurture, and make his own” as Jack did with Hitler. Murray settles on … Elvis. Let the hilarity continue.

 

Phone Hell

front

So as pretty much the whole world knows, I’m giving a presentation on Sunday to promote the film and talk about my family. It was circa 9 a.m. Thursday, and I was revising the speech, tweaking a couple of slides on the PowerPoint – I can write and edit a 500+ page essay in the time it takes to edit a photo – upload to P/P, and make the required adjustments.

iTunes dropped a couple of times, but it was downloading podcasts, so I didn’t think anything about it. Then I tried to access the internet. The little blue bar slid about a quarter inch and stopped. I restarted the computer, rebooted the wireless router, and tried again. Nothing. Larry came in and said there were a bunch of phone company trucks up the street. I picked up the landline.

I decided to keep it after the epic 2011 storms took out cell towers and maintain the Wi-Fi through it. Cable was out of the question based on epic complaints and a racist salesman who appeared at the door and said, “You live here?” I resisted saying, “No, I’m the maid,” but told the next two hucksters. Haven’t seen it or its successor company since.

No dial tone on either phone. Realizing that I couldn’t print the speech or use email, internet, etc., I zipped over the library where the notice popped up that my iCloud account was nearly full. Turns out that my occasional use of the email had resulted in four years’ worth of saved messages in the sent folder. Ooops.

Cleaned that up and cut my storage in half.

Sent crucial emails. Then went home to prepare for the veterans’ workshop, saying a big thank you that the weather was merely hot and humid. No deluges.

I was writing and organizing at 7 this a.m. Got everything ready to go for Wi-Fi just after 10 when I noticed the police cruiser was not at the end of the street – and no sign of utility trucks. Went back in the house. Service was back! So then I scrambled through the rest of yesterday’s chores, plus this morning’s. Am now finishing the day 13 hours later and will retire shortly to a comfortable chair with a book.

More Reading

fire

I have to keep reacting to the essays in The Fire This Time.

Dear Kevin Young,

Thank you for adding a note of levity to an otherwise solemn, sad, and often angry collection. Not that you haven’t delivered a serious message about Rachel Dolezal and racial identity. But the “spoonful of sugar” makes it go down with less fuss. My favorite line: “Their Eyes Were Watching Oprah.”

I especially like your observation about each of us having something “not black.” My “people” mock me for reading Jane Austen, even as one likes the Eagles and another became a docent at a very white art museum. Austen is about as white as they come, yet she has an outsider’s view of her world, exposing the ugly stuff with scathing precision.

And thank you for giving me one more layer of understanding about what my relatives on the bayou had and have to contend with.

Can’t wait to read Unoriginal Sin.