“Thank you for your service”

August 17, 2016 § 1 Comment

thank-you-for-your-serviceA few years ago, Mark and I were sitting with a friend in a Panera restaurant having coffee and talking. Suddenly a man I call the Panera Stranger, thrust his hand at Mark and said, “Thank you for your service!” Mark mumbled something, I was paralyzed, and we were all – including, most likely, the Stranger, were left feeling awkward and uncomfortable. « Read the rest of this entry »

Chautauqua, and not a moment too soon

August 16, 2016 § Leave a comment

250px-ChatauquaInst_HallPhilosophyI came to the Chautauqua Institution six years ago and while I loved it, I had not been tempted to return. My own fault, really. I approached it, by habit, as a Learning Experience. I took classes. I listened to lectures. In the spirit of the Institution’s founding, I felt Improved. But nothing happened that stirred me.

This year, by chance, I came across the theme for the season, “What It Means To Be Human,” and saw the theme for Week 8, “War and Its Warriors: Contemporary Voices.” I scanned the speakers. Some were new to me but I had the books, in some cases multiple books, by four of them on my shelves. « Read the rest of this entry »

Chautauqua, Day 1, Evening

August 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

fdr4Well, it’s only the evening of the first day and I am already unglued. Eight years ago today, Franklin Delano Roosevelt stood in the amphitheater at Chautauqua, the place I was sitting, to deliver what came to be known as the “I Hate War” speech. Tonight the program interspersed anthems and hymns with recorded segments of that speech. « Read the rest of this entry »


August 14, 2016 § 2 Comments

chautauquaAnyone who knows me knows this just isn’t my style but here I am and that table is my desk for this week. I am at the Chautauqua Institution, a village on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in far southwestern New York State, founded in 1874 (hence the Victorian style and yes, those are plastic flowers) as a place for lectures, performing arts, interfaith worship, and recreational activities. Each week throughout the summer, the grounds fill with people exploring a theme. My week is War and Its Warriors: Contemporary Voices, so naturally, I am here. « Read the rest of this entry »

The Great Garage Saga, Part 1

July 25, 2016 § 7 Comments


That’s Elizabeth back there. I think.

I am going to tell a (very much on-going) story about my garage. And if you were to detect any symbolism, any metaphoric connection to our current political situation, that would be completely intentional.

There are two major problems in the garage. Maybe more, depending upon how one counts. The problems result from conditions we knew about, ones we didn’t know about, and ones we should have known about. We had every opportunity, in other words, not to be in the position we are in and yet here we are and, really, we aren’t to blame. “How were you to know?” one contractor said. But I should have. « Read the rest of this entry »


April 5, 2016 § 2 Comments

vguernIn Hanoi, three of us went to the National Museum of Fine Arts. My academic training kicked in, so I moved quickly – to get an overview of the history of art in Vietnam, to see how the styles changed. At the point the French began teaching Vietnamese artists a studio style my art historical brain began ticking off the stylistic succession  – Impressionism, Cubism, even a Vietnamese take on Picasso’s Guernica. In spite of my uncharacteristic tunnel vision, though, I noticed that the styles might have been derivative (my first, analytical, word) but the subjects were Vietnamese and the styles served the nation. There were expressionistic fighters (including women) crawling forward, holding weapons. What in Western traditions would have been bucolic landscapes depicting a pastoral life were almost manifestos – images of the land, the villages, the rice paddies, that the fighters were defending. 
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The reason we come

March 21, 2016 § 1 Comment

imageVo Minh, the author we met last week in Binh Dinh Province, came to our hotel in Hanoi last night with his wife. He brought a present of Vietnamese coffee from Buon Ma Thuot and an hour of conversation that took place in such rapid Vietnamese that often Hai forgot to translate. Vo Minh wanted to tell me a little about the book he had given me, so that I would understand. He wrote the book to help in the process of reconciliation, he said, not between Vietnam and the United States – there is hardly anything in the book about the United States – but between the North and the South. « Read the rest of this entry »