Monday, July 10, 2017

Destiny and Power

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” William Shakespeare, “Julius Caesar"

Jon Meacham’s flowery biography, “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush,” begins with a variant of Shakespeare’s sentiment about fate and free will by William Jennings Bryan.  “The Great Commoner” and three-time Democratic Presidential candidate said, “Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice.  It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.”  Reading through Meacham’s biography of George H.W. Bush, I felt the pangs of nostalgia for a time when there was a modicum of civility in American Presidential politics.  That’s not to say that the competitive elder Bush did not play dirty when necessary – he brought up furloughed murderer Willie Horton so often that campaign manager Lee Atwater joked that people mistake him for Michael Dukakis’ running mate.  On the other hand, out of office, he found that he liked and respected his successors Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and certainly lived life to the fullest, celebrating his ninetieth birthday, for example, as he had done on his eightieth, with a skydive.  Meacham’s opus concludes with an episode that took place not long before that, when a hurricane was about to hit the Maine coast.  As power went out and winds approached 50 miles per hour, Bush’s chief-of-staff Jean Baker could not find him until alerted that he was outside on his scooter by the shoreline.  Barely able to stand, she reached him and asked what he was doing.  Meacham wrote:
  He looked at her with a puzzled expression, as if the answer were obvious.
  “I can’t see anything from the house,” he replied just audible over the whooshing weather, “and I don’t want to miss anything.
 1967 Monterey Pop Music Festival poster

Michelle Phillip and Justin Russell of The Head and the Heart

It’s the fiftieth anniversary of the Monterey Pop Music Festival, a symbolic event that ushered in the psychedelic “Summer of Love” and was the inspiration for Woodstock, Altamont, and, at present, Bonnaroo and Coachella. In 1967, concert-goers were treated to performances by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Who, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, Ravi Shankar, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Eric Burden and the Animals, Booker T. and the M.G.’s, the Mamas and the Papas, and many lesser lights.  Returning a half-century later were Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead, Booker T., Eric Burdon, and the still radiant Michelle Phillips, formerly of the Mamas and the Papas, who joined the Head and the Heart and sang “California Dreamin’.”  Wish I’d been there.

Ron Cohen’s “Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival,” co-authored with Stephen Petrus, got a somewhat favorable review in the Journal of American History, but – a pet peeve of mine – critic Ulrich Adelt adds his two cents about things that might have been examined more closely, such as the career of Jean Ritchie, sometimes called “The Mother of Folk.”  The Appalachian dulcimer player is credited with bridging the gap between the traditional and modern folk tradition.  The youngest of 14 children born into a musically-inclined farm family, Jean moved to New York around 1946 and worked at Henry Street Settlement. Through folk song collector Alan Lomax, who recorded her for the Library of Congress, she performed at hootenannies and became a regular on Oscar Brand’s WNYC radio show.
Delia, Phil, and Becca

Over the week-end Phil and Delia enjoyed a second honeymoon on Mackinac Island.  A half-century ago, my family took a Great Lakes cruise from Detroit to Duluth that included a stop there. Dave and Angie took Becca to show choir camp at Heidelberg University, but rain cancelled their plan to visit Cedar Point Amusement Park. 

Saturday at Chesterton library I picked up Depeche Mode’s new CD “Spirit,” featuring “Where’s the Revolution” and “Going Backwards (to a caveman mentality).”  In the serials room I read Dan Wakefield’s account of his high school days at Indianapolis Shortridge (class of 1950) in Traces magazine (the Hoosier novelist was friends with future Senator Richard Lugar; both were columnists on The Daily Echo).    
Dan Wakefield goes home

At Chesterton’s European Market an entertainer had set out a bongo drum next to his tip jar, and kids took turns banging on it – an ingenious gimmick that seemed to pay off.  Sunday at Miller Market Jef Sarver was back belting out the Animals classic “House of the Rising Sun” and other favorites, including a healthy diet of Eagles tunes.  I was eating a taco with Omar Farag when Councilwoman Rebecca Wyatt said hello and at first mistook Omar for brother Bobby.  Karren Lee told me that husband Pat had been in a cast for six weeks after missing a step on stairs and screwing up his knee.  He’s now started therapy with Toni’s instructor “Yoga Dave.”  Toni once made that mistake and broke her foot.  I did the same thing going into the basement shortly after we moved into the condo and fell forward, scraping my knee (the affected area is still discolored).
photos by Samuel A. Love

The Emerson portion of the Poetry Project kicked off with members of the Progressive Community Church, Emerson alumni, and former and current neighborhood residents. Samuel A. Love wrote: “We finally met the legendary Mayor of Carolina St, Keith, who is literally the last man left on the block and carries a great history. We enjoyed the energy of the joyful noise coming from the church while we painted. And we're glad the cops quickly realized we weren't ‘the two white guys seen looting out the back of the building.’ We'll be helping to finish securing the building and covering the boards with the people's words.”  What a shame that the historically significant school had been abandoned and left to deteriorate.
 Rosietta Brown
Barbara Walczak’s Newsletter reported the passing of bridge player Rosietta Brown, 81, for years active in the American Bridge Association, an African-American organization formed in 1933 at a time blacks were denied access to many bridge tournaments. Her friend Juwanna Walton wrote:
  I would always complain that I couldn’t remember all the different bridge rules.  You scolded me very harshly.  You told me, “Stop saying that you can’t remember – yes, you CAN!  You just have to get serious about your game, stay focused, and play as often as possible.”  I must say, that after taking your advice, I have seen improvements in my game.
  I am very grateful to you, Rosietta, for taking the time to be a mentor to e and for the role model you have become to me.  I grew to appreciate your valuable advice and from there a beautiful friendship was formed.  You told me to always remember that bridge should be a game of fun.
Rosietta Brown worked for many years as a travel agent and visited over two dozen African countries.  She donated clothes, books, toiletries, and school supplies to African children.

Arriving early to Gino’s, the hostess told me that several history book club members were at the bar.  Ken Anderson bought me a beer, and the owner gave me a free plate of delicious pasta and salmon.  Jim Pratt, a Republican and George H.W. Bush admirer, reported on Jon Meacham’s “Destiny and Power.” I noted that Bush’s greatest moment was not bragging about the fall of the Soviet Union and that his biggest political failure was not replacing Dan Quayle on the 1992 ticket with general Colin Powell.  I stressed how Bush was not averse to employing dirty tactics; everyone was familiar with the Willie Horton ads, and I added how he accused Michael Dukakis of being a card-carrying member of the ACLU.  Ken Anderson made the analogy with Joseph McCarthy’s red-baiting charges.

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