July 29, 2020

John Denver’s 1977 Letter to Me

I’ll never forget John Denver’s reply to my letter.  I was an innocent kid and I'd asked him if the rumors were true that he used illegal drugs (marijuana).

He replied, “don’t let what you think about me get in the way of the value the music has for you.” At the time I thought it a cop-out, a non-answer, but I appreciate it anew all the time now and see the wisdom of it.

And his thoughts are certainly “contra the times” nowadays during our cancel culture, where professors, writers, public figures (and 15th century explorers) are deemed unworthy because of past bad deeds or thoughts.

Denver might’ve been my first experience of disappointment with a figure I esteemed but hardly the last. Now everybody and their brother has disappointed me: the U.S. voters, the FBI, CDC, Ireland, early Catholic bloggers who left the Faith, B. MacFarlane Jr., Cardinal McCarrick, Eric Gill, Herman Melville, Pope Francis (a very truncated list).

Part of it is that when I was a kid I had a disproportionate respect for adults, thinking them marvels of competency and goodness (at least compared to kids). I had a much more benign view of human nature back then before the disappointments. It’s not that I hadn’t learned much history, although I certainly could’ve learned a lot more, but I somehow felt that the era I lived in was different. I think it’s similar to how people who participate in a booming stock market feel "this time is different” even though all the indicators say the market should fall as it had in the past under similar conditions.

I felt it also because I’d come to political and religious awareness under the gauzy time of Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II. I read about the Medici popes but JP2 was not them, not even close, nor could the cardinal electors have been of the same quality to have elected JP2. I saw Communism fall, the Evil Empire gone. I saw the Reds win back-to-back World Series’s. I saw no U.S. wars or draft between 1975 and 1990. I could perhaps be forgiven for thinking I was living in a time when the era of “bad history” was gone.

But history comes back with a vengeance as does human nature. I knew intellectually that human nature doesn’t change and that people don’t get better with progress, but just didn’t have quite enough experience with it to bring it home.

Then came 9/11. And Bush’s wars. And Barack Obama. And the sudden conviction that half of cardinals are gay and that the gay mafia runs the Church. And that Pope Francis was coming to Make Catholicism Protestant Again (like in the early ‘70s). And of course the whole sordid tale of greed, sex, and corruption in the Church was beyond dispiriting.

But John Denver’s comment has stood the test of time. The value of the Catholic Church lay not in her hierarchy! “Don’t let the message of the gospel be lost by the actions of her members,” he might’ve said. Don’t let the appreciation of great books be lost if the writer was a horrible individual in his/her private life. Don’t let the value we feel for any artist be lost by the worst part of themselves. Don’t let the value we ought feel for our neighbor be lost by the positions they take or their actions. Easy to say, hard to do. Especially for an INSJ’r.

July 20, 2020

Into Each Life a Little Triplog Must Fall

Hilton Head! It’s been 4 long months since my last vacation which is like 12 months to the average soul. I’m ready to read like I’ve never read before. Beginning with the Clarence Thomas bio: he said when he was a kid at Catholic school in Savannah once a year the nuns took them to a black beach on Hilton Head. And he loved it except one time he got pulled out by an undertow and almost drowned! He was rescued by a chance swimmer and Thomas attributes it to his patron saint, St. Michael the Archangel.

Brand new condo. It feels so different that it’s like I’ve never been here before. The remodeled place just really looks so good. They did a heckuva job and almost nothing is recognizable (even the coffee mugs). It looks even better given our knowledge of what it looked like before (large cracks in drywall, etc..). Big king-sized bed that is open (no wall anymore). And place is so much cooler what with multiple cooling stations. Which is nice given it’s a zillion degrees here!

8:10 departure and 7:45pm arrival; 25 minute delay on 278 due to an accident. Not the best drive time at 11.5 hours, since we didn’t have the dogs, but we’ll take it. And they good thing is we never had to stop for food: had sub sandwiches I packed and I brought McD’s from Hilliard. Rest was snacks. Always feel a pang of “the Other” while driving through Appalachia.

Listened to quiet for first 6 hours, some jazz for a half-hour, Jimmy Akin podcast on the nefarious FBI (the unlikely story of citizens who broke into an FBI office and found incriminating evidence on the Bureau), and Amity Schlae’s C-Span podcast on economics and such. And slept! Really easy drive.

Later settled in and watched an episode of “Alone” on the flat screen TV. I’m kind of surprised how much the updates and look of the new condo matters to me, not just the TV but the aesthetic things.


So my hunger for history shows up even on a beach vacation. Starved for it, I saw a historical marker on SC-462, about 30 miles outside Hilton Head and researched it afterward.

Turns out it’s the grave and grounds of a signer of the Declaration of Independence and member of the Continental Congress. Soldier in Revolutionary War, had textile mill and old house with thousands of acres .... now all gone, all bare ground due to a fire. The only thing that remains are his grave, statue and those of his family.

From an article:
“The foundations of White Hall are all that remain now. Part of the property burned in 1870 after having survived Sherman’s March during the Civil War. The remainder of the house collapsed before 1964, leaving only the foundations standing.
The bricks that form the ‘grand entrance’ are still in place, although they are overgrown with grasses. A massive black walnut tree grows next to the foundation for the ballroom.

In 1791, George Washington rode down the double avenue of oak trees and climbed the steps of that grand entrance - and it’s an otherworldly experience to stand in the middle of that span of dirt and old brick and look down through the oak avenue toward the original gates to the plantation house’s lane, knowing that people who were so important to our country’s founding more than 200 years ago saw a very similar view of that avenue in their time.” 

We had a fine Panera breakfast delivered via Uber Eats (Door Dash didn’t have any breakfast places). And we didn’t go to Church due to the pandemic; I don’t feel the same level of trust as with St. M’s where there are a dozen or so people and everyone wearing masks. No big Sunday masses for me.

Did hard jog in the 90 degree heat on the bike path where at least there’s some shade. Come noon we headed out for grocery shopping at Harris Teeter’s. Weak beer selection!

I’m so soft! Read some of Thomas bio about his “tough love” grandfather. Never told his charges they did a good job. Said that a good job was their responsibility (ala Jesus when we should say, “we’re only doing as servants should”). He protected Clarence & his bro by shielding them from idleness. He said man was made to work sun up to sun down as the result of the Fall, as is said in Gen 3-17.

Thomas also says that “blisters come before calluses and vulnerability before maturity”.

Clarence Thomas, oh my, there would’ve been a movie about his life if he wasn’t a conservative. (There is one for Justice Marshall naturally.) What a story!

I had no idea he not only left the seminary but dropped his Catholic faith and was a black radical during the late 1960s. It just makes his viewpoints all the more persuasive.


The beach is the bodily equivalent of no secrets, of every thing being shouted from the mountain tops... it’s the equivalent of the body X-ray machine at airports, the architecture of the human form, once concealed under clothes, revealed for the world to see.

The drink of beach, the liquid quench. Sun-drops by the gallon-full, rum-hung cads in the sand hills. Lush tropic landscapes sporting tattoo scars mid-thigh. Scurrying toddlers refilling the un-fillable moat. Girls tied up as with a bow binding nature’s mammarial gift.

We didn’t make it to beach till 5 but had a more spacious period for happy hour. We spent a lovely two hours there amid the gentle breeze and shade (provided by clip on umbrella). Then late 8pm dinner followed by Yellowstone. Perfect evening!


Sliding into the genteel routine already. A fine night’s sleep with pleasant dreams. Prayer time then 10:30 breakfast. Reading about progressive encephapathogy. Aaron called Steph and mentioned he was calling her because he was bored and that he’s turning out to be a “40 year old momma’s boy”. Said his workload is killer, having studied all weekend and there was no downtime. Of his own ambition but...

They say it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. But sometimes it’s both and today’s daunt (“feels like 102” according to the weather app) left me undaunted. The winds strong enough to overcome the heat and so I read more of the Clarence Thomas autobiography. I also saw someone on Twitter say it was there second favorite book of all-time, right behind the Bible. So that’s saying something.

It’s not a book I thought I’d like seeing it as a “nose to the grindstone” sentimental book about Thomas’s grandfather and tough childhood. But it’s so much more, and I’m impressed by how meaningful even his childhood was to me given I usually don’t like reading about the childhood of famous people. I think it’s in part due to very good editing (a Wall Street Journal columnist helped him weed out the ‘kudzu’ as Thomas put it). That said, there’s no co-writer or ghost-writer so that’s pretty unusual these days. It’s inspiring and Lord knows we need more inspiration these days.

So I headed out the land of sea and sky around 11; it was as crowded as I’d ever seen it. Of course we never go to Hilton Head in July, peak season. I spent a nice 2-3 hours out there, listened to some jazz and then walked/jogged a couple miles.


The wheels of medicine turn slowly. Joe K Jr. has to wait 10-15 days after his spinal tap to get results.  That seems likely the only diagnostic tool left as they’ve done an eeg and mri and others and they look normal.

They’ve ruled out psychological cause and are calling it progressive encephalopathy, which means brain function malfunction due to a myriad of causes, like poison or Lyme disease or an infection or stroke or cancer. It could be reversible or permanent. Tragic.


Sister Wendy: “All you can do now is hold your poor barren self constantly before him, thanking him for loving you, and believing that all you suffer is love."


Come 3pm we headed out of the condo towards Roller's Liquors and Spirits, a very attractive store with lovely displays of spirits of every kind. Steph admired the garden out front (which even included a lime tree with plenty of fruit). The store had a “Rhum” aisle, which I guess is a fancy term for “Rum”. We picked up vodka and rhum and then headed to the beer section where I collected picturesque cans almost at random since there are very, very few types of beer I don’t like. (Only sours and heavily fruited beers.)

Unfortunately they didn’t have that oh-so-rare beer Steph really likes: Riverdog’s “Ambrosia”. So we loaded up the car and headed for faraway Kroger’s, a ten-minute drive. It was a huge place and the beer selection correspondingly large. Steph ended up buying 6 six-packs of Ambrosia! She said a whole summer’s worth but I’m thinking a whole year’s worth at the rate she drinks. Maybe a year and a half!

Coronavirus is large and in charge here in SC. They’ve been having 2,000 new cases a day; to put it in perspective, Ohio would have to have over 4,000 cases a day to keep up on a per capita basis (and we just went “through the roof” with about 1300 cases). So this is a high risk state. We shouldn’t be going in stores as much as we did, now with a ridiculous three shopping trips under our belt and it’s only Monday.

From local news: “Looking at the number of people who have gotten COVID-19 in the past seven days and taking population size into account, South Carolina is the fourth worst state in union.”

Steph and I tested negative for covid last Thursday, but of course that’s only through last Thursday. Since then we’ve been to three stores and walked on a narrow path to beach passing many within a few inches. So it’s not ideal way to prevent infection.


“We no longer love ourselves selfishly, but for God... We love God for God’s sake, because he is supreme eternal Goodness, worthy of being loved.” - St Catherine of Sienna


My weather app says it “feels like 104 degrees” but I’m not feeling that. Closer to 102. (Later: ok, maybe 120. I fled after an hour and a half towards the bike rack; the only way to be outside now is to be on bike, and we took a beauty “around the block” - up to Seapines gate, hung a right, and then another right.)

Whatever the truth about Clarence Thomas, as John Denver rather wisely wrote me... don’t let the bio get in the way of the value the music (or story, in Thomas’s case) has. On the other hand, he didn’t come back to Catholic faith until late 1990s, so all the hearsay was pre-conversion.

It looks like the SCOTUS nomination brought him back to Christian faith, or maybe his marriage in 1987. The combination certainly woke him up.

From an interview:

And how do you get over losing your religious faith? That’s part of Thomas’s story, too. When I ask him what it was that ultimately brought him back to the Catholic faith of his youth, Thomas tells me, “my grandfather used to say something. He used to say you just live long enough. He was right.” Life, Thomas says, “is so full of uncertainties and challenges.” He says that his “faith came back slowly . . . and then flooded in.” He recalls, “I really completed my journey home when I returned to my Catholic faith.”

There’s a consolation in that, for the many young who are to a greater or lesser degree estranged from the Faith.

An early happy hour, 2pm, with home made (Steph-made) magaritas. They have a blender here, among many other new things (like a Keurig). Even all the plates, pans, replaced which Steph liked but I was ignorant of. Really they’ve thought of everything. Steph says the remodel makes her want to keep this place all the more and I agree. I think it’s a good complement to our other vacations since it’s dog-free, which is more relaxing. Less work packing, less work once here. I almost wonder if it’s a feature that they don’t allow dogs.

The island is as beautiful as I’ve ever seen it. Everything lush and tropical and the sun at its annual zenith. But it comes at a cost: crowds, beach music, high heat, etc.. I’ll take June, August or October any time, although it was neat to come down in the mid-summer for the first time ever instead of late spring or late summer/fall. I’ve seen Hilton Head in every season pretty much except winter and early spring. Which I have no inclination to remedy. I’m fine with skipping Nov-February.

Come 5pm it’s blessedly windy and thus good beach weather when it’s 93 degrees. We descend to sea level, pop our beers, and settle in amidst the deep, soft sand the temperature of Mercury. Large-breasted women abound, abundant in their suit. A heavily pregnant woman sports a stomach orb that would make the moon jealous, with a tiny crescent of bikini bottom supporting it.


I read some of the lyrical novel/biography of Ronald Reagan by Edmund Morris. A pleasing opacity and lush writing style:
He fell in love with Southern California—its heady mix of seasons, fragrance and fire, Greece and Mexico, salt and chaparral, and (most addictive of all) its bracing lack of melancholy...

Eros, to us, was a pantheistic god, indistinguishable from Narcissus. Los Angeles’s Hellenic light and white houses, its mild air and ozone, its perpetual efflorescence and cooing of doves, its pristine pools, the sweetness of its fruits and flowers, its ocean—half a world of water—washing the air with morning mist and daily pounding the beaches cleaner and finer...

[Ronald’s] hortatory manner, as if he alone knew who Jan Massaryk was, caused Wayne Morris to nickname him ‘teacher’... He found a ready listener in Eddie Albert. The young actor had a serious interest in politics, and like Dutch, tended toward the far left of New Deal theory. His Mexican wife, Margo, went them both one better, acting as Hollywood agent of La Rasa Party while pursuing an independent, activist, political agenda. Eddie today is evasive about just how far left she traveled, but if Margo was not a Communist in 1938, neither was La Pasionara.


Superb comfort despite 90 degrees thanks to gentle breeze and umbrella. Beach is quiet at 11am, not a music speaker to be heard. Just the susurrus of the waves. “Susurrus” is one of those words that look like what they mean. Peaceful easy feelin’. Despite the manifold troubles of the world .

11am at the beach feels so much like childhood and adolescence, the large swatch of summer time ahead, the lull, the lack of accountability or responsibilty. The rare of rare times where I feel no need to do but to be.

Later I did a beach walk that turned into a beach run. It was hard to get anywhere close to 6 foot distance most of the time, which made me feel like running the beach isn’t the best of ideas, at least out of an “abundance of caution” as the saying goes.


One line thoughts:

If BLM wasn’t controversial something else would rise in its place. Conflict is the straw that stirs the drink.

‪The timing of my check/pledge to bishop’s annual appeal is on Roman time, ie at same speed as McCarrick report.‬ I think with the Church - in centuries.

The Wall Street Journal has article on how unprepared Arizona was when virus spiked their in mid-June - showing the capacity for human denial/optimism is apparently bottomless. Part of the “plan” was they figured it would go away during the summer.

It must feel odd to feel air on your butt cheeks while out in public. Most men wear more fabric to beach in trunks than women do, even with females having to add on (partial) breast covering. I assume like anything else they get used to it, like how nudist at nudist colonies eventually forget they’re nude. Maybe they’re practicing for “Naked and Alone”, the former rather than the latter.

Malcom X’rs are plentiful as grass: Martin Luther King’s are rare flowers. Good cop/bad cop but everyone wants to play bad cop.

I wish road races had BMI categories such that I could compete for fastest time by a grossly overweight male aged 50-59. I feel I could dominate that category.

I’m astonished people find Trump so interesting as to make the book by Mary Trump a bestseller. Not a bad president but he doesn’t seem to have a lot of depth.

Clarence Thomas also writes on his slow return to the Faith during ‘the ‘80s: “It wasn’t easy for me to admit that the unsophisticated, ill-educated people among whom I grown up understood all along what I was just beginning to accept, but grief is a great teacher."

We did a 4-mile bike ride in the heat, and the heat was certainly impressive. Nice on the shady parts though and beautiful jungle foliage all around.

Then took a long break in condo, ate a late lunch early dinner at 4:30, and didn’t get to beach until 6pm, boo! And of course the boom boxes were booming.

Gov. Dewine had a rare 5:30 press conference but it was just a motivational speech, no grand announcement that we were closing down again. Got to use all the tools in your tool shed and one of his is exhortation. So he exhorted us now, asking we not be like Florida or Arizona. I’m not sure being in Hilton Head is what he would favor. At least we’re going to self-quarantine for 7 days (2 weeks would be better, but Steph can’t go that long without grandkids and average time for symptoms of covid to show is 5 days).

The sun drug,
And water care-drain. 

The beach is wonderful after 5 and thankfully the days feel longer than we’re used to when we’re down here. Maybe it’s just that instead of being a bit too cool (with wind) at 7pm now it’s very temperate. So we can stay till 8pm easily (8:30 sunset).

So a great day:
8: wake up
8-9:30: balcony
9:30-11: breakfast and such
11-12:45: beach, prayer, run, walk
1-2:45: rest inside, FaceTimed joe
2:45-4: bike ride & cvs
4-5:45: eat, condo
5:45-8: beach! Read Clarence Thomas 


Headed on deck at 7:30am and see a deer with big antlers peacefully eating leaves in the mazes paths of shrubbery next door to us (at other building).

Later I see a wedding take place on our deck, eight folks with female minister. Groom wearing shorts. I correctly opined to Steph on whom the groom was and that it was an actual wedding and not just pictures afterward. Score one for me, ha.

Absurdly hot and humid even at 9am: 85 degrees but the “feels like” temp is 96. Temperature only to get to 89 today - I can’t even imagine how hot it would feel like if the temp got to the upper 90s, as well it could in these parts. Weight gain makes heat more oppressive. Likely a temp of say 98 would translate to a felt temp of 113.

I thought today I’d disturb the routine and head to Mass (and confess after) but I learned soon enough I’d forgotten my mask. So I ended up staying outside the whole time, watching a mass online.

From an article found:
Earlier in April, Bill Gates had suggested his foundation would spend billions of dollars to fund a coronavirus vaccine, reminding everyone that it was the rich, as often as not, who seemed to be guaranteeing our survival, rather than government. I asked the executive if depending on the goodwill of such a small group might make us resent them.
Dependence seems to breed resentment in some cases. See South Korea’s inexplicable anti-Americanism in the face of being saved from destruction from N. Korea and China by America.

It also could explain the resentment many people feel towards their Creator and Redeemer.

Finally a saint book for me
"Saints are human, and humans complain. A lot. How can we reconcile these two facts? Despite the somewhat one-dimensional portraits of sanctity that we find in some devotional material, every saint struggled in his or her life.

“Complaints of the Saints “by Sr. Mary Lea Hill, FSP, shares some of the saints’ responses to suffering. The witty anecdotes and wisdom Sr. Hill conveys are both consoling and relatable, teaching us that the saints experienced the same emotions we do in the face of hardship. And they complained to God!"
My appreciation for pelicans down here grows:
Although the late-medieval viewer felt guilt for inflicting wounds on Christ by their sinfulness, his wounds also carried other, more salutary verbal connotations. Although wounds were perceived as guilt-inducing emblems of Christ’s pain, they were also exalted as the means of man’s healing from sin. Medicinal language was therefore a common method by which a Christian could better understand their relationship to the Incarnate God. The wounds were seen as mankind’s doorways to Heaven, remedying the human race from the condemnation previously prescribed to it by original sin.

This devotion to Christ as paradoxically both patient and doctor – his wounds inflict pain on himself, yet heal the spiritual wounds of mankind – was also commonly expressed through the iconography of Christ as a pelican. The pelican was perceived as an exceptionally self-sacrificial bird. When there is no other food available and the pelican’s offspring are hungry, the pelican is known to stab its breast with its own beak to such an extent that the wounds draw blood from which the hungry young pelicans can be fed. Not only does this image symbolise the unconditional love of Christ for his children (the Church), but the feeding of the children by the pelican’s own body and blood is particularly resonant of the Eucharist, in which Christ gives his own body and blood for the nourishment of the Christian community. It is this sacramental meaning which St Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) celebrates in his hymn Adoro te devote: Pie pellicane, Iesu Domine, me immundum munda tuo sanguine; cuius una stilla salvum facere totum mundum quit ab omni scelere (‘Pious pelican, Lord Jesus, cleanse me, an impure one, with your blood, one drop of which can save the whole world from all its sin’).

It’s funny how pleasurable it is to “camp out” on the beach. Especially now that, given corona, I’ve moved to back-back, some 20 ft from the last row of beach sitters. Having a “structure” (chair with canopy of umbrella) makes me feel like it’s a tree house, or like I do when under roof during a rainstorm. And the immediate relief brought by putting up the umbrella is gratifying to the extent that I see why the prophet Jonah loved the little shade tree God made for him.

The coraonavius might be “revenge of the nerds”, i.e. introverts for whom the idea of going to be parties and catching a virus isn’t appealing. But in the long run - with politics - extroverts will have the last laugh.
“On what psychologists call ‘the Big Five personality traits,” conservatives score highest only on conscientiousness, leaving Leftists to lay claim to agreeableness, extroversion, and openness. (Leftists also score more highly on neuroticism... ) The conservative’s old emphasis on duty, emotional restraint, experience, and realism are intrinsically less appealing than the Left’s freedom, novelty, and utopianism.” 
But, on the bright side, there’s no salvation in politics anyway. As someone told Clarence Thomas: “freedom comes from God, not Ronald Reagan”.

Kind of interesting how little Trumpism plays in the old emphasis. Duty? Not so much, not if it requires wearing masks during a pandemic. Emotional restraint? Hell no, self-included. And see Donald’s Twitter feed for an example of no self-restraint. Experience? No, Trump’s nomination shows we don’t value experience since his was negligible in terms of understanding and running a government. Realism? Only this seems to be true, since Trumpism is a realistic reaction to a left-wing media that without fighting back is a recipe for endless election losses.

We landed just after 5pm in an unfavorable landscape: drunks to the left of us, music to our right. It was loud. July is a different animal than early June or early August. Very party-full. Or maybe that’s because there’s some pent-up covid vacationing/partying catch-up. Regardless it’s surprising how crowded 5-8pm is consistently on the beach. I had my noise-cancelling AirPods which worked like a charm. It’s good at blocking a lot (just not deep pounding bass from a good stereo, which is what we had the other day). We’ve been calling these folks “Larrys”, as in “another Larry” after our neighbor.

But it worked out well enough. We ordered DoorDash at 7:30 and by 8 it had arrived. A Mexican place called Mi Tierra Mexican Restaurant.

Read another 20-30 pages of Thomas autobio, so now about 2/3rd done. Read 180 pages in the 5 days here; unlikely I’ll finish 100 pages with the one day remaining alas. He no like Anita Hill. Certainly I get why - he had took her along as a favor to a friend. Definitely the mother of all back-stabbings. He strikes me as very naive in his early Washington days which is a recipe for disaster. Washington eats those types for lunch. He actually trusted Joe Biden for heaven sakes.


So today’s morning event was a withdrawal from the Bank of God’s Love, in the form of Confession. I had that great and gentle old priest, who was sporting an n-95 mask.

In the Clarence Thomas book he wrote about Hodding Carter penning an article for Playboy in 1986 about “Reagan and the revival of racism”. Same as it ever was. Apparently reports of the revival of racism were greatly exaggerated or premature.

What’s devilishly difficult with covid is how it threads the needle of being deadly without being too deadly. One key difference between it and the flu seems to be that everyone shows bad symptoms of flu. It’s pretty obvious - high fever, etc... But not everyone has symptoms of covid. Helluva quandary. In an already polarized country with mediocre leadership at most levels, it was a fait accompli America would have one of the worst bouts with it.
So wow, my nephew tested positive with corona. I said half the country is going to get it eventually but I didn’t think family members would be getting it this soon.


Enjoyed some beach time in my prime time appreciation: 11-12:30. Jogged/walked a couple miles after which I quenched my thirst for island beauty with a 45-minute 6 mile bike ride. Stunning time of day (very early afternoon) riding on the most stunning bike path I’ve likely ever traveled on: the one from Seasides up to SeaPines gate.

It’s got everything: serpentine paths, parts of full sun, parts of full shade, big variety of plant life including tree trunks the girth of a rocket ship and corrugated with wrinkles like caverns. There is a section along the way that is undeveloped land and it looks like a jungle fit for Gilligan’s Island or Treasure Island.

Plenty of atmospheric Spanish moss. From a website:
An image of beautiful Spanish moss hanging from majestic trees instantly reminds us of sultry summer days in the South. Prettier than kudzu, less formal than a palm tree, it is a symbol of nature at its most relaxed.
The old ‘60s song “Hair” by the Cowslips came to mind: “long beautiful hair, shining, gleaming, flaxen, waxen...” Then the standby “Sea of Love” by the Honeydippers. Played them on my “radio” (phone).


So a great week. Hilton Head is my Santa Monica, where melancholy goes to die.

And it’s a very complementary environment: the washed white sand and windswept cleanness of the beach as well as the green leafy dappled jungles in the interior. Vacations always zipline the calendar date: I was relatively certain it was early July before we left, perhaps July 7th, it’s now on the cusp of the 18th. With literally almost no effort. Time passes effortlessly on vacation.

Friday, promptish at 5 we beached it, great spot right in front of the Atlantic Ocean. The drumbeat of time waits for no man and we’re on the edge of disaster (vacation’s end). The great and abrupt terminus. I’ve drunk about as much as probable (and more, I’m plain dunked-out), and listened to enough music and sea-gazed almost enough, and read to my heart’s content. Even got more biking than usual. So I don’t feel too much dread at the notion of it being Friday, that beloved day turned bad (great on workweeks, a crime on vacations).

7:37am roll .... By noon we’re in North Carolina and on a 6:53 arrival plan (11.5 hrs) which seems longer than expected given our driving performance thus far but it is prime vacation season and we’re competing in traffic.

Talked politics with Aaron G. on the way home. He thinks it’s 50-50 on whether Trump gets re-elected - he just can’t see how working class people are going to fall for Biden given that it was the elites who sent all their jobs off to China. Plus he knows Republicans who didn’t vote for Trump in ’16 who are now - it’s anecdotal but still. And of course I would fall into that camp.

We all see the debates as the key if there are any, mainly to see if the American people want someone as behind-the-curve as Biden in charge. It’s funny how Aaron has come from being totally free market to “let’s move our manufacturing here and pay a little more for our goods”. But then we’ve seen the carnage of the last two decades to the underclass.

He also says that the best you can do with government (the huge administrative state of thousands of bureaucrats who permanently run Washington regardless of the party of the president) is to throw monkey wrenches into the system as much as possible, with Trump as the biggest monkey wrench of all time. He said it doesn’t matter who the president is because although the president appoints heads of agencies, the agencies do their own thing independent of the head. They can easily obstruct, create dysfunction, and undermine the head. Career bureaucrats know they hold the power as they will outlast the temporary head. Said a book by Michael Lind was very persuasive.

(Later): Arrived home at 7:30 so basically a full 12 grinder.

Kind of interesting to see how the mind works. I was reading a history book about John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay and in it the hair of an early Virginian was described as “flaxen”. It barely registered with me as I was reading it while falling asleep in bed.

The next day, on a bike ride, the song “Hair” came to mind with it’s lyric “flaxen-waxen”. It was only today that as I went back to my history book I saw the word “flaxen” and figured “Hair” had come to me as a result of that read.

I think the single biggest mistake I made with covid by far is assuming I could plug age, sex, weight into a calculator and assume that that would tell me how a person would handle covid. A familial positive test made me rethink those assumptions. If an 82-year old can get it without showing any serious symptoms then obviously the disease is far more erratic than I imagined it to be.


Touched by a Clarence Thomas hearing anecdote where beforehand Sen Danforth asked him and his wife to join him in a small private bathroom where he took out a tape recorder and played “Onward Christian Soldier” and then held a short prayer session invoking the Holy Spirit.

On the way listened to the great Jimmy Akin “Mysterious World” podcast concerning a David beats Goliath story - the time ordinary folks did an FBI on the FBI. Very satisfying to see the little guys win one.

So the last vacation day cruelly spent itself. Peacefully slept/read some of Logos Rising. The book is in need of editing, is needlessly cryptic, at times self-indulgent. He goes off on tangents (interesting to me, but not to a wide audience) about Ralph McInerney and other “inside Catholic baseball” figures.

Already feel the zip line of nostalgia time, that miss-rush of endorphins found on the hot sands of mother ocean, the richly forested bike paths, the elegant displays of Rollers’ liquid goods, the gentle Holy Family priest, the gentle fruit vendor whom I perhaps sentimentally take for a Gullah slave descendent, and the whole oeuvre of our “salad days” (only they were mostly eggs and cinnamon rolls and fake meatball days). We came, we saw, we drank, all the while trying to dance away from lurking covid. Mornings were restful, followed by restful afternoons, and capped by (wait for it) restful eves. I gallop-read Clarence Thomas, at first inspiring (his upbringing) and then dispiriting (politics).

But vacations of grandeur keep me going.

July 07, 2020

A 3-Hour Tour

Yesterday was peak-July, which is peak-Summer, which is peak-Ohio, which is peak-God in terms of natural beauty. So I took the day off work, loaded up the trunk and moved to Beverly...er, traveled to a local metro park and set up camp.

Looking at the other side of the bank always reminds me of Walden, immortalized on this ancient of days Bantam cover:

Headed out on the water via kayak.  Spent about three hours weightless on it, the sky azure and the shade relieving. Songs unbidden came like the theme from the Waltons and the oh-so-appropriate “Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers, released when I was 11 years old:
Well, I built me a raft and she's ready for floatin'
Ol' Mississippi, she's callin' my name
Catfish are jumpin', that paddle wheel thumpin'
Black water keeps rollin' on past just the same...
Old black water, keep on rollin'
Mississippi moon, won't you keep on shinin' on me...
I went farther than I’d ever been on the Darby before, which is not to say very far.  Conquered at least three sets of rapids. The trip back involved twice having to portage around a rapid. Would probably better to do the hard part upstream first and then have an easy return trip (I.e got north first). Still, much more satisfying than just tooling around a local pond/lake.

Wild country and gratifyingly quiet for the most part... a deer and two fawns stepped gingerly in mid-creek as I float towards them. Eventually one of the young ones retraced back to the woods, then the other fawn, followed by the momma. Proud to have avoided wasting time fishing out my camera.

Saw shells the size of my palm, one intact clam-like. It was a mussel, a “freshwater bivalve....The Big Darby Creek watershed has recorded an exceptional list of 44 mussel species, among the best in the Midwest for a watershed of its size.”

Saw a snake coiled in tree stump on the shoreline. Post-trip google searching reveals it to be a Queen snake:
“Queensnake dwells along shallow waterways....The decidedly aquatic queensnake prefers slow moving or shallow rocky creeks and rivers where it feeds primarily upon soft-shelled crayfish. These snakes are frequently seen and captured by overturning large flat stones, boards, or other debris along streams. When first captured, some attempt to bite. However, their teeth are so small they can barely pierce the skin. Others make no attempt to bite. All use their musk glands freely and struggle violently to escape. Although they become gentle with handling, they seldom eat in captivity. For this reason, they do not make hardy captives.”
Heard the deep bass croak of frogs, the occasional airborne fish.

Started at confluence of Big Darby and Little Darby and headed south, downstream. Taken far enough it would take me past Grove City and Orient to meet up with the Scioto River just outside Circleville (31 miles by car). The Scioto then meets the great Ohio at Portsmouth scores of mile south, then the Ohio meets...

One can dream.

July 05, 2020

Frederick Douglass 101

It seems this century has jumped the shark but we have it on good authority that God loves even the stupid and malicious. As Ben Stein wrote “We could use Joe McCarthy now. Compared with today’s politicians, he’s Socrates and Abe Lincoln rolled into one.”

Along with the national anthem being controversial and masks being frowned upon during a pandemic, we can add the “crime” of support of David Brooks to the list of 2020 unimaginables by a media liberal on Twitter. I’m constantly gobsmacked by my lack of imaginative powers.

It’s only a matter of time before religious liberty is stripped. But one can be cheerful about it, especially given we have the Faith to tell us that the war has already been won. It’s kind of a mental recalibration exercise but it’s only surprising without the eyes of faith.

The great J.R. Tolkien knew it:
“I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect 'history' to be anything but a 'long defeat' - though it contains some samples or glimpses of final victory.” 
A Catholic nun tweeted:
“The Christian should expect to be regularly crushed under the inexorable wheels of history until Jesus comes again. We are not here to be relevant, powerful, and understood. Our challenge is to simply remain faithful to the Gospel, to love our enemies, and to persevere in faith.” 
Appropriate prayer from St. Thomas More: 
"To think my most enemies my best friends;
For the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good
With their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred."
I think the whole MAGA gamble (Steppenwolf’s “fire all your guns at once”) that we could choose something other than options “managed decline” and “rapid decline”.   I was always of the “managed decline” school rather than “hey let’s make America great again and bring back all the jobs!” school. 

Without electing Trump, we had a chance for slow decline (i.e. a 2-term Marco Rubio).  But now a one-term Trump is likely going to lead to rapid decline -- literally with a declining Biden in pseudo-charge.

Speaking of Trump, this line from a book on China from a Wall Street Journal reporter was interesting:
"Relations with China were souring before [Trump] took office. Chinese leaders also deserve a big share of the blame, as do U.S. business leaders, who for decades acted as Beijing’s lobbyists in Washington. Chinese President Xi Jinping was as swaggering about the outcome of a trade war as President Trump was. “In the West, you have the notion that if somebody hits you on the left cheek, you turn the other cheek,” Xi told visiting U.S., European, and Australian chief executives in Beijing, three months after the Trump trade war tweet. “In our culture, we punch back.”

So it’s been healing (just as it was reading a Stonewall Jackson bio during the Clinton administration)  to start a new biography on another 19th century figure. 

There’s something quite satisfying about reading a biography of a historical hero of whom you know literally nothing about - in this case for me Frederick Douglass. (Turns out his statue was just taken down because, of course, nihilists take down statues for the reason other people climb mountains: "because they’re there".)

The spark that set Douglass apart was that of a lust for reading, one that was prompted as much as anything by overhearing a slave master say that reading ruined slaves. The natural propensity of man is to favor the thing his enemy most hates (hence anti-anti-Trumpers).

Douglass was only half-black, his white father unknown. (The libs have certainly trained us all to notice race to the exclusion of all else.)

The irony of Douglass being a champion for education is how it is so downplayed in the black community and by white liberals, the former by its association with “acting white” (apparently a putdown) and the latter by those who send their children to private schools and are are obsequent to the teachers unions because it doesn’t affect them.

It promises to be a rich read for multiple reasons: one, the inherent drama of a slave who escaped to freedom and became one of the most respected men of his generation, two, he became a Christian and who doesn’t love a conversion story?, three, because he eventually married a white woman and it’ll be interesting to hear how that came about and went over, and four because it’s set in the 19th century which is intrinsically more interesting than the woebegone 20th or stupid 21st.