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When those now young are old… Remembering John Fitzgerald Kennedy
50 years ago, the president of the National Geographic Society wrote, “When men now boys are old, in distant time beyond the year 2000, they will say, ‘I remember. I remember when they brought him home, the murdered President, from Dallas…’”
And now it is 2013. About 20% of the population is over 55, old enough to say, “I remember” -and most of us do. We recall the exact moment when normalcy unhinged itself from the mundane predictability of our ordinary lives and never quite righted itself. The time since has been slightly skewed as if certainty has fled and lunacy hovers at the edges of a perfect day, waiting to pounce.
Medgar Evers was killed the same year, and In 1968, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy also died at the hands of homicidal freaks. The sixties brought us the commencement of war in Vietnam and the foundations of redemption with the Civil Rights movement; It was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, it was a decade of magic and mayhem. The mayhem began in earnest on November 22, 1963.
I was standing in our front yard in Santa Barbara with my baby son on my shoulder when the Danish widow who lived next door ran to the fence and cried, “Oh Janice, they’ve shot the President.” Her accent made the word “pwesident,” and of course that sticks in my memory too.
For many days afterward millions of Americans hardly left their living rooms. From the minute Walter Cronkhite announced the grim news, we began our melancholic vigil, staring at television screens, hearing the same words over and over; “President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas. President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2:00 Eastern Standard Time.”
Jacqueline Kennedy stood mute and glassy-eyed next to Lyndon Johnson on Air Force 1 as he took the oath of office. Returning to the White House she began arranging a funeral to duplicate Abraham Lincoln’s in the essential respects. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested and Jack Ruby shot him dead, thus removing almost every vestige of confession or denial potentially available to a public obsessed with conspiracy. 50 years later it has abated some but still abides in the hearts of persistent skeptics. Oswald said he was innocent, that he was only a patsy. That was about it.
The images of those sad days still reside in your memory if you witnessed the end of America’s Camelot (a comparison, incidentally, that the Kennedys were reported to have scorned or welcomed, depending on who was doing the reporting).
JFK’s brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, helped with the funeral arrangements and supervised the removal of personal effects from the family’s quarters and the Oval Office - the books, the paintings, the ship models, and the files. The last items removed were President Kennedy’s two rocking chairs.
And then it was all over. The eternal flame was lit at Arlington National Cemetery and the 35th President of the United States was consigned to history. Like Lincoln, he belongs to the ages. He was 46 years old, his life shorter by a decade than Lincoln’s. If he had lived and avoided illness and assassins as well as surviving the debilitating Addison’s disease he carried to his grave, John Kennedy would have been 96 in May. Jacqueline died at 64 as did Lyndon Johnson.
From the day the President was killed until the present, more than 40,000 books have been written about him. Not surprisingly, JFK’s assassination is a major focus that makes it nearly if not completely impossible to develop a rational assessment of his presidency.
Since he was only able to serve for 1063 days, his incomplete tenure also makes it difficult to judge Kennedy’s leadership according to major issues of his time such as Civil Rights, the Cold War, and what he might have done to advance or retreat from our involvement in Vietnam. How much credit should he earn for his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis and how harshly should he be judged for the Bay of Pigs? How should history evaluate programs such as the Peace Corps and the inspiration Kennedy provided for the space program? How much does the retrospective view of his personal life matter in the overall portrait of a President?
We have had 50 years to think about the life and death of the youngest president we have ever elected. John Kennedy’s stature will never be equal to that of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt -the top three on just about everyone’s list- but I believe he will be well-treated by posterity for qualities vital to leadership and often In short supply. He was smart without being an intellectual snob, he could laugh at himself, he took responsibility for his own mistakes, he abandoned safe positions when the risks were worthwhile, and he was admired by people around the world.
Two things stand out in my memory. One is specific -the President’s unflinching courage during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The other is ubiquitous- his mastery over language and the presentation of his ideas. He was an incredible speaker.
We who were young in 1963 remember John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
(Janice Peterson is a former college professor at Santa Barbara City College in the field of communication, with emphasis on public speaking, argumentation and debate. Janice tries to be a useful member of the community and a willing volunteer. )
The Good Die Young... But The Rest Of Us Can Fake It
A note to readers: This article was written in mid-summer when the days were warm and we all walked on the sunny side of the street. When a series of tragic deaths stunned the island, we entered a period of sadness and reflection on unanswerable questions. Those we have lost will live in the memories of all who loved them but this has been very hard and wounds will not heal quickly.**
If the timing is still off for this column, I hope you will forgive any offense because none is intended
A local paper offered a thought-provoking question from a reader. Why is it that families and the recently deceased (if they make their preferences known in advance), choose photographs decades old that barely resemble the current model? What shall we make of obituary pictures of a ninety year-old who looks like he just got out of high school or joined the army, or a gorgeous bride who turns out to have lived a hundred years.
Research of a sort actually exists on this question. Most of the answers boil down to: practicality, ego, and love. I like the last one best so I’ll save it for then,
Photographs of a person born when Kodak was still a thriving industry were not a dime a dozen. When I was growing up we had a picture box that took care of two or three generations of glossy black and white snapshots with deckle edges.
That was it. No online photo sites or Facebook, no hard drives, cameras, phones, and IPads preserving mega-pixeled digital masterpieces. Few of the photographs from long ago involved professional photographers, editing, or sophisticated cameras.
The best pictures were taken at the graduation or the wedding, to formalize military service, or record some other monumental life event. Many noted a coming of age. They memorialized endings and beginnings. These fragile prints were golden.
As other keepsakes gradually disappear from our lives, the family photos outlast the moves, the flooded basement, and the mice in the attic. If people have to evacuate their homes when a fire breaks out, they invariably grab the kids, the dog, and the photo albums.
Then one day a beloved aunt passes away and we resurrect evidence of a stunning girl from long long ago. Let’s put that picture in the paper. A very practical solution.
Some are motivated by vanity in selecting the final photo. Much is made of mature beauty with the years etched in our faces, but in truth most of us were born looking a little like Winston Churchill and start to resemble him again as the final curtain begins to fall.
Someone once described Peter O’Toole’s face as a “magnificent ruin.” For many, the accent is more on ruin than magnificence. The way we look today is not how we would like to be remembered.
Today’s miracles in refurbishing bodies to look younger can only go so far in holding back the press of time. The skin tucks, face lifts, eye work, and botox injections have palliative effect but too much expensive renovation begins to stretch skin like an over-inflated balloon, make eyes angle unnaturally upward, and distort the mouth oddly. People begin to make nasty comments about duck lips and having too much work done. This is not an image for the ages.
Shall we move on?
Aging may make us better people, it may endow us with wisdom still an undiscovered country to callow youth, and it seems often to bring a deeper sense of what is important in life, but it seldom makes us prettier. Who wouldn’t find the Robert Redford of yesteryear nicer to look at than his 76 year-old self?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, beauty is only skin deep. But vanity is not without its attraction.
Which one should I pick when the time comes?
And we come to the third answer to the question.
When someone close to the deceased chooses a photograph for the obituary, as likely as not the decision will come from love. “She looked just like this when I fell in love with her,” “He was the handsomest man I ever saw.” That image is indelible.
Love also guides the choice of a recent photo. Someone once said that there is nothing more beautiful than the love an old man has for his old wife. As we age, those of us who are lucky enough to know love that feels like it has lasted forever would not want our husband or wife or lifetime partner to be remembered as a 20 year-old but rather as someone who earned every line and wrinkle in a long and rich life.
These are photographs that will be seen by the small society of an Island or the larger audience of a big city newspaper. They matter. They signify something about life and death beyond the words of the obituary, They might say, “This is when she was happiest,” or “This is how he looked at the height of success,” or “This is exactly how she looked the day she died.” A few days ago I sent a photo I’d taken some years ago of a friend who recently died, to his wife. She sent a note back to say how much she liked seeing his laughing face.
Bill Cosby reads the death notices. “Like everyone else who makes the mistake of getting older, I begin each day with coffee and obituaries,” he once said. Death is usually hard to believe. How can someone we have known for so many yesterdays not be here with us tomorrow? The photograph in the paper removes doubt and denial. I read obituaries too.
Whether the pictures are from another time or very recent, the expressions are largely the same -" smiling. It’s good to have one last happy picture.
Somebody Throw That Train Wreck Under The Bus
Take a listen. Which approach to this column is right for me? Due diligence suggests that I have something to bring to the table but at the end of the day it could just be bells and whistles instead of a real paradigm shift.
We can talk (and write) about this endlessly because there is always a fresh supply of words and phrases that have outlived their usefulness but not their synergistic ambitions. Pile enough of them on top of each other and maybe something new and interesting will pop out of the linguistic sludge.
But I doubt it. The low hanging fruit of unimaginative cliché has been picked. It lies fetid and fermenting atop the garbage pile of terms we would like to forget but keep mindlessly resurrecting when better words fail us.
Would enhanced input make the idea more robust? Has that video gone viral? Do we have enough signage? Are we focused on sustainability and being green? Are we reaching out? Has he been drinking the Kool-Aid? (Be real careful of that one; it will mark you as a mush wit and a ditto head). Does she have your back? Is the council being transparent? What was it like back in the day? Does it impact you that I keep turning nouns into verbs? OMG is that toddler multi-tasking already? That is Awesome! Check it out. Are we having fun yet? Am I empowered? Are we on the same page?
This entire discussion is not brain surgery (there you go; a popular cliche!) but don’t you sometimes wonder if your mind is going? I do. Why do we keep using the same expressions over and over again when we know that if we took a little time to think, we might come up with something smarter?
I suspect we choose the hackneyed over the inventive for many reasons. It makes us part of the group (find me a teen-ager who can get through a paragraph without “awesome” and “like” and I will show you an adolescent who grew up on Pluto). It’s also easier to use a worn-out word than a new one. Then too, many of the most prevalent language choices say quite a lot in a few words. That’s why they infiltrated the lexicon. “New normal” expresses an intriguing social/cultural phenomenon, don’t you think?
There is probably little hope for improving our language habits because we are lazy and we can get away with it. I may complain out loud about a jargon spewing television news-person but I would never say to a friend, “You know, you really are a lot brighter than your cliché-driven language would suggest.”
Here’s something we could do: Try to introduce some new words into your own language and add a little spice to the conversation. I swear I was the first long-suffering whiner to compare the malignant growth of eco-maniacal organizations to a whack-a-mole game, but of course this can’t be true because that metaphor has thoroughly penetrated contemporary discussion and not that many people pay that much attention to me (more’s the pity).
Here are some not yet tattered words and phrases from the youth culture to enlarge and enrich your vocabulary. These expressions may impress your friends although you will appear pathetic if you use them around anyone under 21.
Miley Cyrus did not invent “twerking” but she has definitely jazzed it up.
“Fetch” has become a synonym for “cool,” as in, “That’s so fetch.”
According to New York Magazine, “ratchet” can be something nasty or something good, e.g. “Have a ratchet weekend.”
My own contribution to the transformation of an old word into a new meaning is “algorithm” which I define as a step-by-step procedure (ideally conducted in three-quarter time) for tracking the crackpot global warming conclusions drawn by the former vice president.
A final word I commend to you is “pareidolia.” When you look at clouds and see puppies and elephants, when you stare at the ceiling in the dentist’s office and imagine the outline of Lincoln’s face, that’s pareidolia. People who see the Virgin Mary in a potato chip and sell it on ebay are profiting from pareidolia.
I feel a large and pointless digression coming on, so concluding with William Saffire sounds good.
“Last but not least, avoid clichés like the plague.”
Fly Like an Eagle - (Finally)
Although Ben Franklin argued against the bald eagle (and in favor of the turkey) as our national symbol, most people who have seen a kettle of soaring eagles would agree that the bald eagle is nothing short of awesome. With 7,000 aerodynamically perfect feathers, a healthy bird may reach a height of 10,000 feet and fly at 35 miles an hour.
That is if it can get off the ground. On July 5th, one of the fledgling eagles in the nest next to our house fell, jumped, or was pushed from his eyrie. We had been watching the family with binoculars from the ground and on the water for weeks so the launch was no surprise but we were astounded to see how big the bird was up close, and how menacing. The beak, talons, and size clearly communicate the character of a true predator.
To our surprise, however, the unexpected guest displayed few or none of these traits. He hung around practicing take-offs and landings from our pier, deck chairs, and a wading pool for five days before joining his parents and a sibling in flight. The adults screeched at him for the duration and brought appetizing morsels to eat. We had plenty of time to assess the peril behind those eagle eyes and there wasn’t much of it. Certainly, he would have easily defended himself against the neighborhood dogs if they had approached (none did) but the overall mood he expressed was nearly alarming friendliness. More about that in a minute.
For the first day or so, we tiptoed and whispered and rhapsodized. How many people have been lucky enough to see a bald eagle at close quarters in a wild state for almost a week? We named him (“Popcorn”) which had no impact on the eagle but served to anthropomorphize him even more for us.
A bald eagle in flight is breathtaking, but the same bird walking around on the ground is comical. Popcorn’s forward movement was accompanied by a sashaying lateral much like the gait of a very fat old lady. When he stood still or perched he commanded respect but not when he strolled around our yard.
After a few days, the eagle was comfortable with us and moved closer to the house. The wading pool on the patio was a casualty of his sharp talons and we began closing the guest room door because he showed every indication of wanting to come in. Our walking back and forth bothered him little but when he tired of us he would fly back to the spot under the nest where we first discovered him grounded and just sit there looking regal.
Wolf Hollow wasn’t as worried as we were about the eagle’s extended stay and we were assured that his reluctance to take to the air was not uncommon.
Still when the fledgling bald eagle finally left us, we were relieved. Sad to see him go, but glad for the future we imagined for him, released from the bonds of gravity and approaching a long life in the San Juans.
The temptation to idealize and romanticize nature is strong even at the distance wild creatures usually keep from us. But when something as magnificent as a bald eagle enters human space for a time, the impulse is even stronger. We will pick him out among other birds soaring above our house and know that he remembers us - which he will not - and misses us - which he will not - and wishes we would have made him more welcome with something tastier than the ripe carrion he finds on the beach or fresh meat from his own kills - which he will not. And that’s how it goes. Eagles are eagles and people are people, but sometimes, to the rare privilege of the humans, the twain do meet.
Just Do Good
Here’s a joke about evolution. You don’t run into things like this every day: One day a zoo-keeper noticed that the orangutan was reading two books, the Bible and Darwin’s Origin of Species. Surprised, he asked the ape, “Why are you reading both those books?”
“Well,” said the orangutan, “I just wanted to know if I was my brother’s keeper or my keeper’s brother.”
With summer arriving and islanders clambering out of the winter funk, I am hoping for a friendly reaction to a topic that rivals politics in its relational train wreck potential. I cannot shut up about politics but rarely get on my high horse about religion so the subject may be workable for an unorthodox column. Could be trouble too so I will tread lightly and apologize in advance for unintentional offense.
Almost everyone can talk with some authority about religion. Its principal players, various doctrines, symbolism, and rituals bespeak a country steeped in the traditions and dogma of theology. (“Dogma” excludes the Unitarians whom I’ve never known to be dogmatic about anything. I am not criticizing). Faith is both comfortable and comforting to many; to others it is a source of wrenching discord.
The attraction to a belief system is profound. A universe without a higher power to lean on, a holy book to study, hymns of prayer and thanksgiving to sing with like-minded others, would be intolerable to some. (Did you know that that “hymnody” is a word, by the way? It is a specific musical genre).
Who can listen dispassionately to Holy Holy Holy? Who can ignore Ave Maria? Who can be unmoved by the strains of Amazing Grace? (Actually, I admit to being one of the very few people on the planet who does not care for the bagpipe version of that refrain although yesterday’s Memorial Day presentation may have turned me around).
Before my mother died she asked for two things at her funeral, prayers and Amazing Grace, preferably sung by her granddaughter if she was up to it. I wrote and delivered the prayers and my daughter sang like an angel -all seven verses.
Theological hypocrisy comes easily to me. If religious faith eases the way for the burdened and afflicted, that’s fine. I don’t believe in it anymore but like Yossarian, the protagonist in Catch 22, “the God I don’t believe in is a just and merciful God.”
There is so much to like about religion. Everybody is expected to play by the same rules and the arrangement disallows moral flabbiness. Sure, people commit sins all the time but they usually feel bad about it.
In a not too distant past guilt was a major motivator, and an effective one for keeping pious little children on the straight and narrow. The proverbial “guilt trips” for which parents of my generation were made to feel…well, guilty, worked nicely for a long time, especially at Christmas when Santa Claus teamed up with the Supreme Being to put teeth in the standard threats against the naughty.
My only complaint growing up with the First Christian Church was not being Catholic. The Catholics had it all over us in ritual with their rosary beads, holy water, genuflecting, meatless Fridays, services in Latin, and so on.
We, however, had full immersion baptism, Daily Vacation Bible School, gold perfect attendance pins (I had 13 years worth), a big choir, and a life-size painting of a beckoning Christ with eyes as blue as the ones on Jesus at the Knott’s Berry Farm Chapel that shine in the dark.
In modern times a number of groups who do not seem fond of Christianity in particular have grown prickly about religious influences. Christmas crèches draw criticism, anything with a cross on it is challenged in court, we are urged to say Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas, etc. etc. You’ve read the same news stories I have.
In the early years of trendy godlessness unattractive images of non-believers ruled. Who could identify with an in-your-face role model like Madelyn Murray O’Hair? But David Dawkins? Christopher Hitchens? The author of God is Not Great, Hitchens constructed a persuasive case for atheism, at least I think so. “Human decency is not derived from religion,” he wrote. I agree.
And the new Pope agrees. “Atheists should be seen as good people if they do good,” Pope Francis said the other day, arguing that people of all religions, and no religion, should work together.
“Just do good, and we'll find a meeting point.” When you think about it, that simple sentiment covers a lot of territory and could save us a lot of grief.
There are good people in the ranks of all religions and bad ones too. I think it’s a big stretch to suspect divine intervention in football games but if it makes fans feel good, that’s ok with me.
As long as your faith is not imposed on me and my faithlessness stays out of your way we should be OK. We just finished a long road trip and, as always, I looked forward to the billboard near Sacramento that proclaims in huge text, “GOD LOVES YOU!”
As soon as we were in the door, I heard from one of my best friends. I have a horrible cold and I know she prays for me, That’s all right. My backsliding is a work in progress,
Just do good.
Don’t Step On The Tarantula
John Muir, renowned champion of the environment, defined conservation in terms of preservation. The lesser known Gifford Pinchot, first director of the National Forest Service, defined conservation as, “the best and wisest use of our natural resources.” That fundamental distinction - preservation versus use - engages and bedevils us to this day.
We are feverishly embroiled in the same basic conflict although we probably snarl at each other more than Muir and Pinchot did. These two legendary figures in the history of conservation actually got along pretty well.
One afternoon on a walk in the Grand Canyon, they encountered a tarantula on the path. As Pinchot raised his boot to squash the hairy spider. Muir cried out, “Don’t! It has as much right to be here as we do.” The tarantula went on its way unmolested and the two giants of the American environmental movement continued their hike.
A few decades later, Aldo Leopold, wrote in his Sand County Almanac, “Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty.”
Pretty and ugly, valuable and worthless, are in the eye of the beholder. The orca is not inherently superior to the shark …the bald eagle does not by its nature exceed the dung beetle in attractiveness… And homo sapiens is just as worthy as any other species on mother earth if you buy Muir’s egalitarian perspective. The perception is (at least part of) the reality. We all have a right to be here.
Yet despite sentiments eloquently expressed by the likes of William Shakespeare, (“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty!”) powerful sentiments against human beings have arisen in our time, people not trusted to do the right thing, suspicious in all intents, and -as an irrelevant aside- too porky to make reliable judgments about their own nutrition. We need big city mayors to guide our eating habits. But we will talk about the food police some other day.
Intra-species prejudice thrives in San Juan County, right alongside the warring factions who argue the relative merits of preservation versus use. Those who defend property rights believe that a person who paid for the land, built the house, comes up with the taxes, and maintains all of it should be free to live in peace without interference, as long as he or she is not harming the neighbors - be they creatures of the land, air, or sea.
This is where things get dicey. Although experts from every relevant branch of science say that we are doing beautifully here in the Islands, there are some who explode in self-righteous outrage at the mere mention of the words, “pristine waters.”
In the absence of laying the burden of proof where it belongs -on those who holler the loudest about the need for lots and lots of new regulations (despite the kazillions we already have) - we hatch yet more schemes to punish land owners for believing that they should have more say- so over the stewardship of their property than the Friends of the San Juans, certain perky members of the Puget Sound Partnership, various council members thrown out of office (and one trying desperately to get back in), and a few County staff members who don’t realize how odd it sounds when they boast about their generosity in “allowing” property owners more freedom than other counties.
Some environmental protectionists have abandoned the concept of “use.” Through “preservation,” they hope to see all traces of the human element removed from areas like the waterfront. Offended by the sight of houses, they would like to see all shoreline structures disappear or move completely out of the “view shed.”
Has environmental sanity begun to erode with the simultaneous expansion of the field itself? One major American college enrolled 60 students in its Environmental Studies program in 1975. Today the program has 2,680 students. It is a huge field and it is a huge business.
If there is excessive environmental fervor in San Juan County, and I believe there is, a great deal of it focuses less on data leading to valid conclusions through established scientific method than on the conceit of the self-anointed who thrive on power rather than persuasion.
John Muir saved the tarantula. I think Gifford Pinchot might say, “Hey, save that guy trying to follow his dream on San Juan Island.” Pinchot had it right. The best and wisest use of natural resources beats the needless oppression offered up by those who cringe at the sight of an unpermitted garden.
The End of an Era
Watersheds, defining moments, and eras in general are slow to activate and slower to penetrate because it takes years, sometimes decades or centuries for us to realize that the turning point has turned and today is no longer just like yesterday. Bear with me. That was a boring start.
Think of standing on a sidewalk in the twenties watching Model T’s rattle by in a clanking pack and suddenly getting it that all the horses and buggies have gone. Yesterday the streets were littered with manure; today the air is choked with exhaust fumes.
One day we had Beaver and Wally, the next day Honey Boo Boo and Mama June. The Nelsons and the Andersons, the Cleavers, and the Ricardos reflected an America that barely exists in 2013 if at all. The children were spunky and mischievous, the adults were virtuous to a fault. Desi Arnaz may have had affairs but Ricky Ricardo did not.
If the medium was a “vast wasteland” 50 years ago when Newton Minnow delivered his famous speech, you have to wonder what he thinks of it now.
In my lifetime, the coming and going of eras has been dizzying. My music has gone the way of Muzak (in fact, I read yesterday that Muzak is out of business -so who is going to sing to me in the elevator?). Gender specific expectations about little boys with trucks and little girls with dolls are no more. Culturally, and in many ways, fortunately, we might as well live on a different planet than the denizens of the sixties and seventies.
Freedoms taken for granted a few decades ago have disappeared under the withering impact of a disapproving society. I know people who smoke -but always covertly. (Stinky clothes give them away). Smoking is not just a lousy habit anymore, it is the mark of one’s incivility to offended others. I used to smoke and I loved it. We smoked everywhere and all the time Of course I gave it up long ago. I have joined the tsk tsking majority who cannot tolerate the will power deficit of friends and neighbors who are still having fun lighting up. But they will all quit too one of these days (one way or another) and soon the era of big tobacco will cease to be.
But what is the difference, if any, between the end of an era and just an ending?
In the past year Norman Schwartzkopf, Donna Summer, Dave Brubeck, Larry Hagman, George Mcgovern, Andy Williams, Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride, Robin Gibb, Dick Clark, Andy Griffith, LeRoy Neiman, Rodney King, Ann Rutherford, Ray Bradbury, Whitney Houston, Davy Jones, and Etta James, among lots of others, all died. Which ones signaled the end of an era?
My candidates are Donna Summer (Disco), Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride (the Space Program in its most exciting days), Andy Griffith (Mayberry was the geographical center of the sweetest sitcoms in the universe), and Ann Rutherford. You have never heard of Ann Rutherford? Scarlett O’Hara’s younger sister does not really conclude the era of classic films of the thirties but she was one of the last survivors. (Melanie Wilkes lives on as the nearly 100 year-old Olivia DeHavilland).
The playwright, Arthur Miller, said that eras end when their illusions are exhausted. There might be something to that.
Children of the fifties and sixties found their idols in the old West with Hopalong Cassidy, Wild Bill Hickock, Annie Oakley, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, John Wayne, and all the others who drew a thick line between the bad guys and the good guys. We adored cowboy movies. The Western represented an era of film that has all but disappeared. The characters lacked depth, the bad guys had no good qualities whatever, the heroes were perfect stereotypes, the women were impossibly beautiful (usually blonde) and compliant or dark and tempestuous (Jane Russell, Katy Jurado).
It was all illusion. But it was fun while it lasted.
Here is my vote for the symbolic end of the old West: The Roy Rogers Museum is gone. It was insolvent and Roy had left specific instructions to shut it down when/if that happened. Nellybelle sold for $116,000. Trigger’s saddle and bridle brought $386,500. Trigger himself was purchased for $266,500. I can’t believe it. They sold Trigger!
Think about these finales in the past few years. Just random endings, or eras brought to a final curtain?
Most of Kodak’s enterprises went out of business.
Lance Armstrong confessed to doping and lost all of his honors.
Newsweek stopped publication. Borders Books closed. So did the Harbor Bookstore at the ferry landing.
Christmas Eve on San Juan Island
‘Twas the night before Christmas, the weather was rotten;
only with ice could worse climate be gotten.
With solstice of winter just recently gone,
the solstice of summer seemed far and beyond
the grasp of our fingers
so stiffened with cold, that even the youngest
began to feel old.
The snowbirds took wing in advance of the storms
to places down South where sunshine still warms.
Snowflakes were hung all over the town, and
Lights glittered brightly both up Spring and down.
The harbor was lighted, the boats firmly moored,
No sound on the docks or the planks or the boards.
The silence was deep, the darkness profound;
Friday Harbor was sleeping,
There was no one around.
But creatures asea and others aground moved noiseless
and smoothly throughout Puget Sound.
Eagle and osprey, raccoon, and frog (but none with red legs)
Soared overhead or waded through bogs (see the new regs).
Fingerling fish drifted under our dock,
lazily swimming through eel grass and rocks.
We drank our hot toddies when presents were wrapped, and
sleepily dozed into long wintery naps.
We dreamed as we snoozed of a rough night ahead
for jolly Saint Nick so far from his bed,
and up in the Cloud with his reindeer and sleigh,
bringing I-Phones and I-Gifts for our Christmas Day.
But WAIT! “Ho Ho Ho” is booming from shore,
Sleigh bells jangling from antlers galore.
The Kaleetan is docking with Rudolph aboard;
He guided the ferries - each full of rewards
for good girls and good boys hoping to see
lots of presents for everyone under the tree.
On Ellwha, on Hiyu, on Hyak and Sealth,
Come Kititas, Chelan, Walla Walla, AND wealth.
Santa has come to bring holiday fun,
Be happy, Be joyful that Christmas has begun!
Bicycles, Barbies, electronic toys, games, brand new books,
and toys that make noise.
Earrings for Mom and a bad tie for Dad,
Jammies for babies, and Brother’s I-Pad.
Sister gets tats that won’t last, thanks to soap,
And everyone looks to the New Year with hope.
No cliffs that are fiscal, no new conflicts brewing,
no partisan wrangling, no politics doing
its best to make mountains of tiny mole hills;
No taxes, no fighting, no overdue bills.
As Santa Claus called as his boat left the dock,
“I see that it’s time, I can see by the clock
to say my good byes as I drift out of sight,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
May the spirit of this magic time and all its many holidays
bring you and your family peace and joy!
Janice Peterson; And, of course, Clement Moore, the author of the beloved poem,
The Night Before Christmas.