A Facebook Friend said he was writing something about the death of RFK (Bobby Kennedy), and did I have any thoughts or memories? Here’s what came up:
When RFK was killed, June 6, 1968, I was in suburban DC with my first wife & 3 buddies, working on a book about the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC). It was planned to be a pictures-and-text thing; everyone else was a photographer; I was the writer.
I said no to Chris Olson-Vickers. Chris was a mild-mannered social worker in Richmond, Virginia. She was also a Quaker, who in August of 2001 had agreed, perhaps rashly, to host an impecunious co-religionist in need of shelter during the mid-Atlantic Quakers’ regional assembly, called Baltimore Yearly Meeting.
That impecunious co-religionist was me. Laid off and low on cash, I was too strapped to stay on-campus nearby, where our sessions were underway. I was packing lunches and avoiding the cafeteria.
Heard a wood thrush yesterday, or maybe several. Haven’t heard one in at least two years.
Wasn’t expecting or looking for it; which is the best way to encounter them. In fact, such a visitation was the last thing on my mind.
It happened at a trailer park in rural Robeson County, NC. Among Carolina’s one hundred counties, Robeson is the poorest and the most crime-ridden. I don’t go there for fun, or for nature’s wonders, but to see people who are important to me.
I wasn’t having a good night. And I hadn’t had a good day. Needleman in the Washington office had called just after lunch. “Nelson,” he barked, “We need you here right away.”
I had to help the boss get ready for a big hearing at the Defense Systems Commission. Tomorrow.
I told him I’d promised to take the kids to a ballgame.
Needleman wasn’t impressed. “They play ballgames in Pittsburgh every night, Nelson,” he said. “We get a chance at a hundred million dollar contract once every ten years, if we’re lucky. This hearing could win it for us. The boss needs your data, and he needs you here to explain it to him. Tonight.”
While reading about and “living with” Progressive Friends, I was inspired by several of the memorable personalities I walked with. I admired and learned from all of them, as well as others who interacted with them.
But there’s one Friend I identified with especially: Samuel M. Janney.
The first thing I noticed when we drove into my Fager grandparents’ front yard in St. Paul. Kansas was not their small frame house, not the field behind it, nor the barn at the other end of the yard. The first thing I noticed was the outhouse. And I can still recall it clearly after more than sixty years.
In December 2010, on a bright but cold afternoon, I took a serious blow to the ego, and what’s left of my cultural pride. It probably did me good, but I’m still rubbing the sore spot: it’s like a bruise that just won’t heal. It started out fine, when I got off a bus not far from Waterford, Ireland, just in time for an interview.