Last Thursday, March 22, Tom and I flew to Los Angeles,
...before heading north for several days' visit to the coastal towns of Monterey, Carmel, and Big Sur.
And so before leaving Los Angeles we were able to briefly indulge in a few grandparently activities,
...and followed by entertainment provided by a couple of wonderful young hula dancers,
While everyone else was at work or school we drove to Manhattan Beach,
...(where the palm trees just make the parking lot),
...and marvel at the wonder of it all.
As William Shakespeare said, "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them."
In the case of Emma Gonzalez, born the daughter of a Cuban immigrant, at least two out of the three apply, and that isn't bad for an 18-year-old girl who has become the standard-bearer for a newly-energized American movement.
...and her fearless eloquence in taking on wealthy and powerful interests,
NRA Lobbyist Dana Loesh
Who knows if Emma, one day an ordinary high school student from Florida and the next the leader of a movement of millions, wrestled with any angels before she heeded the call, perhaps from above, perhaps from her own heart, to save her country from a plague of gun violence that ravages 318 lives a day, 46 of them children and teenagers. Who knows what changes took place inside her on the sunny afternoon when the plague suddenly, unexpectedly, attacked her suburban school and in the space of six minutes and twenty seconds took the lives of 17 while she, a survivor, huddled with her schoolmates in bewilderment and fear.
Maybe afterwards there was no more time for fear, no time for hesitation or indecision, maybe Emma and her young cohorts were too quickly propelled into action by the trauma of the surreal horror they’d been plunged into, the true surreality of which being that it has become so commonplace a horror in this country.
Now Emma Gonzalez is leading a battle against the behemoth Empire of the National Rifle Association with its war treasury of billions, its massive support by the American government, and its foot soldiers in the millions.
...and hundreds of other cities around the world where they took part by the millions in the March For Our Lives in solidarity against gun violence and for better gun control laws in the United States.
It was not for lack of desire that I was not among the marchers yesterday; and if it had been possible to be in two places at once I would have been marching with them.
Still I’m grateful to the many who took part in the March for Our Lives, and to anyone reading this who marched, thank you. Because every one of you who marched represented not only yourself but many others besides yourself who share your support for the cause of ending the plague of death and bodies maimed by gunshot wounds that is ravaging our country.
Because you marched in body the rest of us were were able to march in spirit.
And to our American lawmakers I say look at the images of the vast oceans of people demanding better gun control laws in this country,
Donald Trump absolutely intends to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Of course he does. This eventuality is perfectly clear, and anyone who can't or won't see it is in denial fueled by a massive case of pernicious wishful thinking, self-interest, jelly-spined fear, or whatever combination of the above is keeping our Republican-led Congress from even acknowledging the obvious, let alone doing anything about it.
Donald Trump will fire Robert Mueller because the Special Counsel's team, in its investigation of Russian meddling in our 2016 Presidential election along with any other corruption or wrong-doing it might uncover along the way, is slowly closing in on Donald Trump and his empire. Last week Mueller's investigators subpoenaed the Trump Organization's business records. Investigators don't subpoena business records out of idle curiosity; the Special Counsel smells the smoke of a fire that will burn right to Donald Trump's gilded door.
Except that Donald Trump won't let the investigation go that far. He'll fire Robert Mueller first and then shut down the investigation. He'll do it soon. He's already setting the stage for his play - his farce - with tweets falsely accusing Robert Mueller of the kind of malfeasance that a special counselor could be fired for: conflict of interest, political bias, "witch hunt" harassment. Trump will repeat and re-tweet his accusations against the Special Counsel until the accusations - which are already sticking with his base - stick in the minds of the American public.
But it really doesn't matter whether or not Trump's accusations against Special Counsel Robert Mueller stick in anybody's mind but Trump's own. He'll fire Mueller anyway.
But if Jeff Sessions won't do Trump's bidding in firing Mueller then Trump will hand the dirty job to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and if Rosenstein won't fire Mueller then Trump can give the job to Rosenstein's assistant, and if Rosenstein's assistant won't do it Trump can call on the assistant to the assistant, then the assistant to the assistant to the assistant, on down the line to the Department of Justice building janitor or the assistant to the janitor if need be.
And this Donald Trump will do. To save his skin he'll go down the line until he finds some sycophant or political opportunist willing to defile him- or herself and our country's rules of law and justice.
And the members of the Republican Congress will let it all happen. Of course they will. If they weren't intending to let it happen they'd already be acting to prevent it from happening. They'd be moving at this very moment to pass bipartisan legislation that's already been introduced in the Senate to protect the Special Counsel from interference in his investigation. This law would in essence protect Robert Mueller from being fired by Donald Trump.
But the Republicans in Congress won't pass this law. They could, but they won't.
Republican lawmakers prefer to pretend that the law isn't necessary because Donald Trump wouldn't dare fire Robert Mueller. Pretending Trump wouldn't do what we all know he'll do is easier than standing up to him.
"I've received assurances (Mueller's) firing is not even under consideration," says House Speaker Paul Ryan.
"I don't think (firing Mueller is) going to happen so I just think (the legislation protecting Mueller is) not necessary," says Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate.
“(Firing Mueller) would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we’re a rule-of-law nation,” says Republican Senator Lindsay Graham.
But what does Donald Trump really care about his presidency or the rule of law if his self-preservation is at stake?
Firing Mueller would be "the stupidest thing the President could do," says Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Actually, under the circumstances firing Mueller is the smartest thing Donald Trump could do to save himself. And he'll do it, and Congress will let him do it, surly as day follows night.
Donald Trump will then get get away scott-free from the consequence of whatever transgression of law, ethics or decency the Special Prosecutor is now on the scent of.
You don't have to read the book to learn how democracies die; you just have to read the news.
Please prove me wrong.
Tom and I just finished our 2017 taxes, and while Tom barely broke a mental sweat through the whole ordeal, my brain is so over-heated you could scramble an egg on it. In fact it feels as if somebody already did.
In any case, this year's tax-filing experience having borne such a remarkable resemblance to last year's tax-filing experience - except worse because now we had to figure out how to pay taxes on income from the books I'd sold - lump the book income in with the piano teaching income? Crack open a second business Schedule C? - anyway, my brain being in no mood, I decided to just re-publish last year's post on the subject:
A Taxing Endeavor (Posted 4/5/2017)
The Lieutenant Colonel is a wiz at many things,
...and he can whip his weight in pre-taxable, taxable and non-taxable entities, gross vs. net incomes, deductions, refundable credits, non-refundable credits, and applicable percentages derived by multiplying the light of the moon by a puppy dog's tail then dividing by your shoe size.
I've had no trouble learning Latin, French, German, Russian, Spanish, or a few words of Hungarian.
Or rather, for the purpose of him doing the taxes and me trying figure out what he's doing.
...as I did once again this year.
"But those are the same notes you took last year and the year before that and the year before that," said Tom, glancing at my notebook as I scribbled away, "why do go to the trouble of writing down the same things year after year?"
"Repetition is the key to learning," I replied,
I do my best, though, to help fill in the forms with Tom's patient mentoring.
"No, you fill it in with "XYZ," he corrects me.
"What?" I cry in dismay, "how do you figure that?"
Anyway, it never seems to me that we rake in or hand out enough cash annually to merit such a long and tedious tax-paying process.
...not to mention the half-a-million dollars a day of my tax money and yours that it takes to keep Donald Trump's family living in Trump Tower in the style to which they are accustomed instead of in the far less opulent First Family's wing of the White House.
In memory of Dr. Stephen Hawking, whose spirit left the Earth the day before yesterday, I decided to re-share a post I wrote on January 22, 2016 concerning his latest theory on Black Holes.
Dr. Hawking, you always knew that, once having left, one could never return to this universe. May you now find yourself in a new, more beautiful one.
Black Holes (Posted 1/22/2016)
In truth all I really know about Stephen Hawking is:
2) what I learned about him from "The Theory Of Everything",
But the other day while roaming around the internet I came across an article from The Guardian with the most compelling title: "Stephen Hawking: 'If You Feel You Are In A Black Hole, Don't Give Up. There's A Way Out."
I was intrigued, and wondered whether Dr. Hawking was referring to physical black holes, those mysterious bottomless pits lurking somewhere out in the universe where space and time meet, sucking in anything that gets too close; or was he perhaps talking about metaphysical black holes, those deep feelings of dark despair into which can be lost one's hope, happiness, peace of mind and well-being?
Stephen Hawking, possessed of a superlatively brilliant mind in a body that was already failing him when he was diagnosed at age 21 with ALS, is certainly the world's expert on black holes, of both the cosmic and existential kind.
But the article was in fact about a lecture Dr. Hawking gave last year on his latest theory on black holes: whereas he'd previously concluded that information - by which he means the elements that come together to make up any physical or abstract entity - that is sucked into a black hole is destroyed, gone, lost forever, he has more recently concluded that information that falls prey to a black hole is not in fact destroyed because it's not in the nature of something that has ever existed to cease to exist. Rather, Stephen Hawking now asserts, for information that falls into a black hole there can be one of two outcomes: the information can either linger on the edge - known as the event horizon - of the black hole in a useless state or it can pop out of the black hole in a different universe. But what information that ends up in a black hole can never do is return to its original universe.
And yet, though his was a discourse on quantum physics, the symbolic - and inspirational - element of it all was not lost on Dr. Hawking. Perhaps it was for the sake of those of us whose minds exist on a lower cerebral plane that he concluded his lecture with a life metaphor : "The message of this lecture is that black holes ain't as black as they are painted. They are not the eternal prisons they were once thought...So if you feel you are in a black hole, don't give up - there's a way out."
It's good to be reminded of this by someone who knows.
An organization called The Action Network was calling for for the community to come out the high school and stand in solidarity with the students when they walked out at 10 a.m.
So I signed up and RSVP'd that I would be at the demonstration the following day.
I wondered whether people would be carrying signs and banners as they generally have at previous gun violence protests and sit-ins at Congressional representatives' offices that I've attended in the past.
Figuring that would likely be the case this time, as well, I made myself a sign,
However, on Wednesday morning when the time came and I'd parked in a shopping center a block from the high school, a little voice in my head coming from I know not which quadrant of wisdom in my brain suggested that, this being a high school, and perhaps everyone's purpose possibly not aligning with mine, and there being children and perhaps concerned parents present, maybe I should leave the sign behind this time. So I did.
As I walked from the shopping center towards the school I expected I'd soon catch up with fellow demonstrators, but by the time I arrived at the high school,
True, the announcement gave no exact location where the demonstrators would be meeting, but if I'd had my wits about me I would have walked around to check the back of the school.
Instead I did something in retrospect kind of dumb, definitely naïve and most assuredly tone-oblivious to the fact that this walk-out was not planned or necessarily condoned by the school administration, whose members' feelings about the walk-out might well range from the ambivalent to the antipathetic: I walked into the high school to ask where student the walk-out would be taking place.
I was met inside the front entrance by a tall, muscular, no-nonsense-looking police officer and an equally no-nonsense-looking man sitting at a desk next to the officer. I was asked what could be done for me, and when I, all smiley and good-natured and a little nervous, asked where the walk-out would take place, I was sent by the police officer to the principal's office.
Now, the police officer hadn't been especially unfriendly, just - to me - scary; nor was the principal unfriendly, either, in fact he was quite nice, and he told me that the walk-out would be from the school to the football stadium directly behind the school, but he did make it clear to me - in a nice way - that this was the students' event and it was the school's wish that outsiders not participate or be in the area. So I thanked the principal, the police officer, and the man behind the desk and I left the premises.
On my way back to the shopping center where my car and protest sign were parked I passed a group of high school kids who were walking from one of the school's annex buildings back to the main building, presumably to participate in the walk-out.
It occurred to me as I was walking back to my car that there was no reason I couldn't walk over the the football stadium and stand outside the gate while the students were gathered inside the gate. In fact I later learned that this was where those members of the Gahanna community who showed up to stand in solidarity with the students gathered, outside the stadium gate and behind the line of police officers who were guarding the perimeter of the fence around the stadium.
But I figured, well, I asked, and was asked to leave, so I'd leave.
I'm a peaceful demonstrator at heart, not a rabble-rouser.
By the time my sign and I arrived home it was a few minutes before ten, the designated time for the walk-out nationwide. I decided to walk around my neighborhood alone for 17 minutes, - without my sign - not because I thought taking a pleasant walk by myself would make any difference,
...even though it's well-known that Rob Portman is among those law makers who are deepest down in the the deep, deep pockets of the National Rifle Association,
And I can vote.
On Thursday, March 8, my piano students performed their spring recital,
And on Friday, March 9, I was basking in that familiar mix of relief and gemütlichkeit that permeates what is for me the best day of the year: the day after a piano recital.
There's nothing like that day after a recital: several days' worth of pre-performance anxiety has finally dissipated, the nerves have gone back into their cerebral cages, and I float on the bearable lightness of being on the other side the event.
Invariably, on the day after a recital several times during the day I'll feel a twinge of unease, a squeeze of angst, a flutter of nervousness, then I'll remember, No, wait, it's over, and that's the very best feeling.
And yet, in truth, I generally start feeling better already on the night of the recital, as I did this recital night after I'd arrived at the hall,
And when the hall was set up and recital ready,
...then my jitters, as always, started morphing into hopeful excitement as well.
And, as always, once my students began playing, I felt a mix of pride and gratitude,
After the recital my crew and I headed over to our usual après-recital celebratory spot,
...and the yummiest food.
Or maybe it's just that food always tastes so much better after the recital.
...Continued from yesterday:
...and after I'd made a dash to the front desk to once again nab first dibs at the 7 pm movie, Tom and I drove into town to commence doing what one does as a tourist in Amish country: walking up and down the street perusing the Amish crafts shops, Amish edibles shops, Amish antiques shops, Amish book shops, Amish quilt shops, Amish candle shops, and all the the other Amish-themed establishments that line the commercial strip that is the town's mercantile artery.
After a once around the interior of the German Village Center,
...famous for its Behalt Cyclorama,
However, as we'd already taken in the Behalt Cyclorama with the accompanying lecture twice previously we opted to just visit the Center's museum and book store.
When we'd finished our tour of the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center we drove around the Holmes County countryside for a bit,
...then on to the town of Charm for lunch at a little place we discovered on an Amish Country visit a couple of years ago and has since become our go-to-lunch venue,
...where the ambience is wholesome,
... and the food awesome.
Tom had the perch with mashed potatoes and salad,
After lunch we took another drive around the area,
...then we drove back into downtown Berlin where we parked and strolled the strip.
...which we found to be full of intriguing stuff.
And so we wiled away the afternoon along the Berlin commercial strip, then we returned to The Berlin Resort where we continued whiling away until it was time for dinner.
We opted for an East of Chicago pizzeria in town on the edge of the strip,
On Saturday morning Tom and I packed up and checked out of the Berlin Resort,
Then we drove back into town and joined the other Saturday morning tourists for a farewell stroll up and down the Berlin strip,
Before leaving Amish Country we drove back to Charm for one more yummy lunch at the cheerful Charm Family Restaurant,
Then we headed back down U.S. route 62 towards Columbus and our suburb of Gahanna,
Afterwards, going through the pictures I'd snapped during our trip I came across this one of a sign in front of one of the shops along the Berlin commercial strip:
I showed the photo to Tom and asked him what he thought. We both agreed that after 41 years of marriage we probably didn't need one.
"So how should we celebrate our anniversary this year?" I asked Tom over breakfast last month,
Tom looked up from his New York Times. "I don't know. Whatever you want."
"I don't know," said I. I gave my tea a thoughtful stir. "Amish Country?"
Tom shrugged. "Okay."
"Unless you have any other ideas?"
"Nah," replied Tom, "do you?"
"Nah," said I. "The Berlin Resort?"
"Sure," said Tom, returning to his paper.
"Okay," said I, returning to my tea.
And thus it was decided that we would celebrate this anniversary launching our fifth decade together with what has become our anniversary-default destination, two nights at the Berlin Resort in Amish Country.
"Boy, for somebody who doesn't like Amish Country you sure spend a lot of time there," teased my daughter when I told her of our plans. My daughter was referring to a former antipathy I used to feel towards that particular province of Northeast Ohio, as chronicled in a couple of blogs I wrote a few years ago (See posts from 7/1/2014 and 7/2/2014) based on an inauspicious Amish-Country getaway weekend to Berlin, Ohio that Tom and I took about a decade ago.
For years after that trip I considered Amish Country a tourist-trappy strip of over-crowded eateries, country crafts shops in whose wares I had no interest, and unfriendly locals.
But then all that changed three years ago when, thankfully, I decided to give Amish Country one more try after eying a Groupon for what appeared to be a beautiful hotel with a beautiful grounds called The Berlin Resort.
Such a delightful time we had on this second Amish Country excursion that we have ever since traveled to the Berlin Resort twice a year, once in February for our anniversary (last year being the exception when I waited too long to book and the place was filled), and once in June when our grand daughters come for a visit from Los Angeles,
And though it's cold and often rainy, snowy, or overcast in the middle of February, and the grounds soggy or covered in snow, still The Berlin Resort is kind of a cozy spot for a little mid-winter getaway.
We set out Thursday morning, February 15, heading east and north along U.S. route 62 from Columbus,
…at our usual place, a little eatery called The Hangout,
After lunch we continued on our way,
Upon our arrival we were gifted with warm giant oatmeal raisin cookies,
After we'd settled into our room our first order of business was to find out if a movie had been scheduled that evening for the hotel theater.
The Berlin Resort is the only hotel in Ohio, we learned, that has a movie theater in the building.
The movies, shown at 5 pm and 7 pm every evening, are free and the guests can choose the movies from a list of about a hundred movies available. The first guest to make a request at the front desk gets to choose that evening's movies. Every time Tom and I have been at the Berlin Resort we've always been the first guests to make a request for the 7 pm film. There are always a number of good movies on the list, however every good movie on the list we've always already seen, cinephiles that we are.
After we'd put in our request for the 7 pm movie we did a once around the building,
When dinner time rolled around we drove into downtown Berlin to The Berlin Farmstead Restaurant,
...a spacious yet homey place hung with Amish quilts,
...and offering a voluminous buffet of delicious, if not the most health-inducing, choices.
Still, Tom and I partook with much gusto, and our fellow diners appeared to be doing likewise, the commerce in the area of the buffet tables running pretty briskly.
The Berlin Farmstead is a popular place among both Amish and English (as the Amish refer to anyone who's not Amish) as well as anyone who likes great heaping helpings of comfort food, likes to eat early (the restaurant shutters at 8pm) and doesn't need a drink. In fact anyone who needs an alcoholic drink is in the wrong town as Berlin, and most of Holmes County, the heart of Ohio Amish Country, is an alcohol desert.
But there's food to be had in Berlin, Ohio and plenty of if. So long as one doesn't mind eating before the town closes down around sundown, The Berlin Farmstead being one of the few "late night" exceptions among town's commercial establishments.
In any case, though there's nada to do at night in Berlin, Ohio and Amish Country in general - which I guess is a drawback for anyone who likes to go out and do something at night - back at the Berlin Resort we had our movie theater (the only movie theater in the town and for many towns, I'm guessing), where we watched the movie I'd chosen,
And while my own review of "Ocean's Eleven" could be summed up in one word: "Meh," - probably because my feelings about Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts could in general be summed in that same word (even though I was willing to give this movie a chance based on its decent reviews) - this was quite a pleasant movie-going experience for Tom and I, not so much because of the movie we'd seen, but because of the couple who sat behind us in the theater.
They were an older couple - but not as old as us, the man was fifty-six, he told us - originally from Bulgaria but living in Pittsburgh for the past sixteen years, happily, with their three adult children and grandchildren living nearby. In the course of the conversation we learned that the couple and their children happen to be here all together thanks to the "chain migration" process, the fate of which the couple worries over.
But despite that one cloud in their blue skies, the man and his wife were a couple of cheerful, chatty, happy campers, singing the praises of The Berlin Resort and all its amenities (especially this movie theater), singing the praises of Amish Country and all the delicious food to be had here, singing the praises of Ohio in general, Pittsburgh in general, and the United States in general. And they thought "Ocean's Eleven" was wonderful, too.
After talking to that couple the movie did seem kind of wonderful, after all. Everything did.
To be continued...
"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Amazon:
The Book Loft
of German Village,
Or check it out at the Columbus Metropolitan Library
I am a traveler just visiting this planet and reporting various and sundry observations,
hopefully of interest to my fellow travelers.