Category Archives: “Dog Days” Diversions

A Quaker “Walks Cheerfully,” Up To His A** In Alligators: A Final “Dog Days” Journey

Travels-book-openA Quaker

(NOTE: Friend William Bartram, traveling by canoe alone, somewhere in Florida, circa 1773. Considering the dangers he faced here, I ponder on the fact that this was still what he most wanted to do, what he felt was his leading. (A relatively long read, 4400 words. I have divided some of his long sentences & longer paragraphs, for modern readers. The spelling is original.)

BARTRAM: THE evening was temperately cool and calm. The crocodiles began to roar and appear in uncommon numbers along the shores and in the river. I fixed my camp in an open plain, near the utmost projection of the promontory, under the shelter of a large Live Oak, which stood on the highest part of the ground and but a few yards from my boat.  Continue reading A Quaker “Walks Cheerfully,” Up To His A** In Alligators: A Final “Dog Days” Journey

Dog Days Meditations: William Bartram on Human & Animal Hunting

Human & Animal Hunting
From Bartram’s Travels, by William Bartram, 1791:

 I AM sensible that the general opinion of philosophers, has distinguished the moral system of the brute creature from that of mankind, by an epithet which  implies a mere mechanical impulse, which leads and impels them to necessary action without any premeditated design or contrivance, this we term instinct which faculty we suppose to be inferior to reason in man. Butterfly-Bartram

        [YET] THE parental, and filial affections seem to be as ardent, their sensibility and attachment, as active and faithful, as those observed to be in human nature. Continue reading Dog Days Meditations: William Bartram on Human & Animal Hunting

Dog Days True Tales: Vietnam & the Secret Life of Pizza

In the Ken Burns Vietnam documentary, there’s an episode which is called “Things Fall Apart.” It appears to center on an incident of violence during the January, 1968 Tet Offensive that produced one of the most unforgettable images of the war. This image still produces intense reactions.  Indeed, this photo was back on the front pages after that Ken Burns episode.

And I have something to say about that.

Not commentary, exactly, or film criticism. More of a footnote. A real-life footnote. It’s not in Burns’s documentary, and I’ve changed a name or two. But what follows is as true as when I lived it. I’ve called it “The Secret Life of Pizza,” and the connection to Vietnam will be clear enough in short order.

Continue reading Dog Days True Tales: Vietnam & the Secret Life of Pizza

Dog Days Tale: Honesty Is the Best Policy – Mostly

An Almost Entirely True Story . . .

My brother Mike picked up the ringing phone: Nonantum Times,” he said, listened a moment, then handed me the receiver.

I put my hand over it and raised an eyebrow at Mike. “Ted Epstein,” he whispered.

Ted Epstein was a lawyer in downtown Boston. He was also a board member for the Nonantum Times. It was a new low-budget suburban weekly newspaper; I was the founding editor. That is to say, he was one of my bosses.

Nonantum-Map

“Ted!” I said into the phone. “Got any good news for me?”

There was an awkward pause on the other end. Then, ”l’m afraid not, Chuck,” he said.

“Oh no,” I said, “don’t tell me our first big investigative scoop isn’t gonna happen.”

Continue reading Dog Days Tale: Honesty Is the Best Policy – Mostly

Dog Days Meditation: Bartram Faces a Murderer

Friend William Bartram traveled, mainly alone, through much of the American southeast, between 1773 and 1777, looking for collecting, and drawing plants, wildlife, and the occasional Indian. His book based on these journeys was published in 1791. Here is another excerpt:

IT may be proper to observe, that I had now passed the utmost frontier of the white settlements on that border.

It was drawing on towards the close of day, the skies serene and calm, the air temperately cool, and gentle zephyrs breathing through the fragrant pines; the prospect around enchantingly varied and beautiful; endless green savannas, checquered with coppices of fragrant shrubs, filled the air with the richest perfume.

The gaily attired plants which enamelled the green had begun to imbibe the pearly dew of evening; nature seemed silent, and nothing appeared to ruffle the happy moments of evening contemplation: when, on a sudden, an Indian appeared crossing the path, at a considerable distance before me. Continue reading Dog Days Meditation: Bartram Faces a Murderer

1791: When America Had a Real King – William Bartram Met Him

Bartram & The Seminole King From Bartram’s Travels, published 1791 Alachua Indians

AFTER crossing over this point or branch of the marshes, we entered a noble forest, the land level, and the soil fertile, being a loose, dark brown, coarse sandy loam, on a clay or marley foundation; the forests were Orange groves, overtoped by grand Magnolias, Palms, Live Oaks . . . with various kinds of shrubs and herbacious plants . . . .

alachua-savanna-better-Bartram
Alachua Savana — in Florida, the land of the “Siminoles” (Seminoles), sketched by Bartram

We were chearfully received in this hospitable shade, by various tribes of birds,

Continue reading 1791: When America Had a Real King – William Bartram Met Him

Friends Music Camp Stories #3: The Voice of God

The Voice of God

Three girls were clustered in the hallway of my high school. It was early April of 1958, on an Air Force base in Puerto Rico, between classes. I was walking toward them, in a way that could take me right up to them – or right past them.  I’d decide which depending on what they were talking about. Which turned out to be this:

Peggy: “Hey, Sue I hear you’ll be at the Spring Formal after all.”

Sue (with a nervous shrug): “Yeah, I’m going with Bob Gilliam.” She wasn’t looking right at Peggy.

Peggy (unconvincingly): “Oh, that’s cool. Is your mom gonna drive you?”

Sue: “Yeah – do you and Teddy need a ride?”

By this time, my decision was made – a slight shift of stride took me past them, my ears burning and my gaze fixed on the ever-fascinating rows of lockers, as if I had never noticed them before. Continue reading Friends Music Camp Stories #3: The Voice of God

The Big Eclipse?? Wake me When It’s Over

File this in the “Be Careful What You Wish For” folder.

Road signs that are flashing on highways all over North Carolina.

Once upon a time, in the summer of 1972, there was to be a total eclipse. It was, the media told us, going to be amazing, terrific & spooky. I was living in Boston then, and the path of totality was going to pass near me.

July 1972: The dark blue lines like a railroad track are the course of the total solar eclipse. The green arrows show where it was to cross Nova Scotia.

I got excited about this. And as the publicity buildup continued, I became steadily more excited. In fact, I was soon talking to my best friend David Eppers about a road trip: Continue reading The Big Eclipse?? Wake me When It’s Over

Dog Days Tale: Honesty Is the Best Policy – Mostly

Dog Days Tale: Honesty Is the Best Policy – Mostly

My brother Mike picked up the ringing phone: Nonantum Times,” he said, listened a moment, then handed me the receiver.

I put my hand over it and raised an eyebrow at him. “Ted Epstein,” he whispered.

Ted Epstein was a lawyer in downtown Boston. He was also a board member for the Nonantum Times, the new low-budget suburban weekly newspaper of which I was the founding editor. That is to say, he was one of my bosses.

Nonantum-Map

“Ted!” I said into the phone. “Got any good news for me?”

There was an awkward pause on the other end. Then, ”l’m afraid not, Chuck,” he said. 

“Oh no,” I said, “don’t tell me our first big investigative scoop isn’t gonna happen.”

Continue reading Dog Days Tale: Honesty Is the Best Policy – Mostly

My Other Hurricane: Betsy vs. the Twenty-Five Dollar House

One

August, 1956 –The night before the hurricane, I listened to the bugle calls before I went to sleep, as usual.  The calls weren’t played on a real bugle, of course, but from a record, blasting out of big loudspeakers somewhere in the barracks on the other side of the base, where the airmen lived.  They played one call at nine o-clock, another long one, called “Tattoo,” at nine-thirty, and the last one, Taps, at ten.

Ramey-Tattoo-bugleUnless there were a lot of planes taking off or landing, the bugle calls carried on the still night air over the tall palm trees and all the way to the family housing, where they echoed down our curving streets, which ran along the edge of the base facing the sea.

That sea, the Caribbean, was only two blocks from our house at 131 C Street.  That is, it was two blocks to the edge of the land; from there to the water was another two hundred feet or so, down a cliff.

Continue reading My Other Hurricane: Betsy vs. the Twenty-Five Dollar House