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?”
File this in the “Be Careful What You Wish For” folder.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
Unless 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.
Dog Days Profile: Jim Corbett, Sanctuary Prophet of Post-Desert Quakerism
Friend Jim Corbett, of Pima Meeting in Tucson, died on his Arizona ranch August 2, 2001 after a short illness. He was 67.
With his passing a quiet Quaker giant departed.
I for one am grateful to have lived in the same two centuries as he. For those who become familiar with the important strands of Quaker thought and action of our time, I believe Jim’s life and work will loom even larger with time.
Not that we’ll see a lot of monuments to him; he deserves them, but that wasn’t his way, and Quakers aren’t much for it.
In the 2017 Ken Burns Vietnam documentary, there’s an episode 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.
It was Marcy Siegel who first realized that a killer was about to strike.
“No!” she shrieked. “Don’t”
But it was too late. The killer squeezed the trigger, squeezed it smoothly, silently, remorselessly. The rifle popped loudly, and the sound bounced back from the low hill in front of them.
The victim jerked and fell to the ground.
Then Marcy Siegel screamed, and so did the others.
Camp Frontier, in the Hudson Valley of New York, was not much different from dozens of other such places: A long rambling row of cabins spread out along the shore of a cool blue lake. Behind them were softball fields, basketball courts, and other athletic equipment. A big lodge divided the boys’ cabins on the east from the girls’ on the west. In the big lodge we ate, heard announcements, and griped about the food. Continue reading Dog Days Tales: His Eye Is On the Sparrow→
One of the finest, most eloquent ministers of this generation of liberal Quakers, William J. “Bill” Kreidler, of Beacon Hill Meeting in Boston, died on June 10, 2000. That was a time to mourn, and also a time to remember, and to pay tribute. And today, more than a decade-plus later, remembrance and tribute are what I want to do here.
Of Bill’s biography, I know only a few scattered facts: He was from a farm community in western New York, and grew up in the Dutch Reformed Church. He began college in Buffalo and finished in Boston, where he became a public school teacher. He was gay. He wrote books about conflict resolution in schools, and did consulting with school systems on violence prevention. Where and how he came to Friends I don’t know; but he was a founding member of Beacon Hill Meeting.
[NOTE: This is the first in a series of “summer reading” posts, for the “dog days” of August. Taking a break from current politics, religion, and other disasters, most are personal reminiscences, mainly true.]
When I was a boy, it seemed like I was always outgrowing things, especially shoes and pants. Even though I was pretty hard on clothes, scuffing up shoes and wearing holes in the knees of my jeans, sometimes there was still some wear in the clothes when I outgrew them.
Then my mother would sigh and say, “Well, at least we can still get some use out of them,” and hand the shirt or the pants down to one of my brothers.
Since I was the oldest, though, there was no one to hand clothes down to me. I liked that. It meant my new clothes would really be new.
Often enough, when I needed new clothes my mother would bring out a thick catalog from Sears of Montgomery Ward and order them by mail. To do this she unrolled the measuring tape from her sewing box and measured my arm and chest and the length of my leg. To figure out my new shoe size, she had me stand with one foot on a piece of paper, while she placed the side of a knife against my big toe, my heel and on both sides where my foot was widest, and then made a mark at each spot with a pencil. Continue reading Dog Days Stories: Who Needs A Machine Gun?→