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Archive for the ‘American History’ Category

Montgomery Street between Post & Sutter

Montgomery Street between Post & Sutter

All the wonders of traversing the financial district streets on a weekday in San Francisco.

This particular encampment is outside a popular Asian restaurant, an iconic often-filmed bank building, and a fashionable health gym.

It spans at least four feet of an eight foot wide sidewalk. On both ends, there are piles of rubbish, garbage, containers with leftover food.

Market Street between Montgomery & Kearney

Market Street between Montgomery & Kearney

Along Market Street between New Montgomery and Third Street, outside the Ritz Carlton Residences, the brick-laid pavement is littered with wet newspapers and plastic wrappers.

Lotta's Fountain - 1906 landmark a favorite tourist site and now a litter bin.

Lotta’s Fountain – 1906 landmark a favorite tourist site and now a litter bin.

At the junction of Third, Market & Kearney, Lotta’s Fountain is a landmark tourist attraction which is featured in many films set in San Francisco, including several by Alfred Hitchcock and, of course, the Michael Douglas and Karl Malden classic series, The Streets of San Francisco.

Every day of the year, visitors are taken to this island on the busy streets to hear guides describing the fountain’s origin and function during the 1906 earthquake.

At the entrance to the Metro Station, on the same corner as the world famous Palace Hotel, across the street from the sunny plaza of the McKesson Building, a man begs for change every day, scoots along the street in his wheelchair, using his feet to propel his vehicle, to the nearest coffee chainstore to spend his

Market Street at New Montgomery Metro Entrance - once a planter, now a garbage bin.

Market Street at New Montgomery Metro Entrance – once a planter, now a garbage bin.

panhandling gains. Behind him, is what remains of a planter that the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority has abandoned from its once beautifying effort to this:

Some San Franciscans claim that their city is doing very well, thank you. Those of us who battle the litter, the beggars, the needles, the homeless off their meds, the stench from the gutters and drains, the dog messes (at least we pretend it’s dog mess), the acres of garbage and the dangers of physical bodily harm from all of the above, have a different opinion.

Farewell to a city that is one of the most expensive for residents while offering “sanctuary” for criminals who are here illegally, giving $300 a month to each homeless person (estimated to be about 795 homeless people per 100,000 residents [approximately 7,200]) of taxpayers’ money, (about $2,146,500 every month), satisfying the agenda of supervisors who justify their tax-grab, appease their constituents, and defend their rising requirement for more money, while ignoring the rising property crime and the disappearance of the people whose work built this once naturally diverse, working class urban paradise.

The city of neighborhoods of my childhood has been transformed by so-called liberal policies into a decaying relic that pretends to be the flower of Utopian Urban Life.

 

 

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PennsylvaniaSeveral cultures include festivals in the Winter months, some to illuminate the darkness, some to celebrate the hope of a coming of new life. Many of us prepare a list of goals for the coming year, a list of resolutions for change and growth. For nearly 300 years, Americans have celebrated a family event called Thanksgiving.

The American version of Thanksgiving is unique because the celebration crosses all ethnic, religious and cultural groups as a family celebration. For many of us, it is a major family get-together, celebrating the creation of this country. Thanksgiving Day became a national holiday shortly after the greatest struggle America faced in the 1800s. Abraham Lincoln encouraged Americans to gather together to give thanks for the bounty of our freedoms.

In my family, my mother began her efforts days before the fourth Thursday of the month, making fudge, stuffing dates, decorating the house, ironing table cloths and napkins. We were (and still are) a large family. Until late in her life, my mother was the sole cook, hostess and bottle-washer. We young ones eventually stuffed the dates, mixed the fruit salad, prepared the stuffing (always made from scratch). But Mom was the only one of us who made the Parker House Rolls.

I have never been able to match her rolls, though I have mastered the stuffing and my basted turkeys are well-received. My husband is the king of the stuffed dates and one of my daughters-in-law has conquered the pumpkin pie.

Once again, this year, our celebrations will be much different because my husband and I are living far from our family. Chances are that we will share our Thanksgiving with friends but I wanted to share a Verrill/Rhys family traditional recipe that is always a big hit with adults and children alike.

Winter in WalesThis is also simple and great for children to participate in the preparations of this wonderful family event.

STUFFED DATES

1 package (or more) of dates (pitted is easier but not necessary: the pits separate from the fruit without much effort)

Cream Cheese, Peanut Butter, Hazelnut Chocolate Butter and/or other favorite creamy spread (Cookie Butter Cream, anyone?)

Open each date and drop a ½ teaspoon or so (personal taste is the final determinant!) of any of the above spreads into the center of the date.

Arrange decoratively on a pretty plate and try to get them to the family before they disappear.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all and best wishes for a joyful Christmas season too.

© 2014 Parts of this post were first published at ClassicandCozyBooks.blogspot.com

Photographs: © Leigh Verrill-Rhys

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My hometown is a village located in the southwest corner of Maine. For the first five years of my life, I spent my days wandering the woods and groves of lilac bushes around my house or with the kids down the road, an older girl and her younger brothers.

During the summer before I turned six, my father found work in San Francisco and my mother drove across the country with my older brother as a relief driver and the car loaded with luggage, my younger sister and me.  We arrived in the city and moved into a flat in the Haight-Ashbury. My parents enrolled me for the first grade—my first experience in school as Maine didn’t provide pre-school/Kindergarten education—and my father taught me to read before school started.

From rural Maine to cosmopolitan San Francisco might have been a shock, but not for me. We were close enough to Golden Gate Park for me to disappear in the groves of cyprus instead of the lilac bushes. My school was Dudley-Stone which drew its student population from the north and western Haight, rich in cultural and economic diversity. Later, we moved a little south to the Cole Valley and I started third grade at Grattan School.

The Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council held many community events—potluck dinners, talent contests, street fairs. We didn’t call it ‘diversity’ then. We called it community, neighborhood, friends. When I moved to live in Wales in the 1980s, I was so proud of my roots in San Francisco, that I wrote articles and gave talks about the spirit of community, neighborliness and friendships formed in my early school years with people of every race, religion and culture from around the world.

There was no strained, self-conscious effort to accept one another. We just did. The kids in my neighborhood ran around together, played and commiserated, disagreed and had water balloon fights without any distinction about the color of our skin, the origin of our culture or the denomination of our faith. Of course, we saw and sensed the differences but they were celebrated. We were all inhabitants of a sunny neighborhood and enjoyed the experiences of a wide world.

These are my experiences and I do not pretend to speak for those children I considered my friends in that long ago time, but the interference of adults in the innocence of childhood has never been more pervasive than it has been in this century.

This school year in San Francisco, the Board of Education is forcing children to learn about matters that only concern adults. Parents have a responsibility to protect their children from undue influence, including their own prejudice. As one of my childhood friends, now a renown clinical psychologist, once said, children do not need to know about what matters to you, only what matters to them.

My parents did not teach me prejudice and I have never looked at anyone to judge them for their color, religion or position, only for their character. And I have faith that most of us are good, honest, optimistic people who want only to be left alone to live our lives and raise our families. These are the people I write about.

 

 

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The Very, Very Basics of Writing Anything

There are three fundamental elements of every piece of written work—including film, non-fiction and grocery lists.

These three elements must be present or there is no point in proceeding.

In non-fiction, the three elements forming the basics of a book are:

  1. Idea – the Topic
  2. Reason – Information or Add Information
  3. Goal – to Educate or Refute Previous Thinking

9781870206129_bachBefore my publisher, Honno, agreed to consider Parachutes & Petticoats, which I edited with the renown feminist historian, Deirdre Beddoe, we had to convince the board of directors that 1) the Topic, Welsh women’s experiences during World War II, was worth the effort; 2) we could find enough material to make a full volume of women’s autobiographical memoirs; 3) the information we gathered, written by the women themselves, was of sufficient interest and relevance to warrant the expenditure, effort, and examination required to bring a collection of essays by unknown women to fruition.

9781906784119_bachThe resulting request for autobiographical essays brought in hundreds of submissions from women in Wales whose experiences had never been heard. The book was published in 1992, reprinted in 1994 and 2003, with a fourth reprint in a smaller format with minor editorial additions appeared in 2010. The essays that we couldn’t include in the volume were submitted to the National Library of Wales (Llyfrgell Genedleithol Cymru) to become a part of the national archive. Next year, 2017, will mark Parachutes & Petticoats’ 25th anniversary. Though neither edition is still in print, the book is still available at bookstores and online book retailers.

For fiction (of any kind, in any genre, in any medium) they are:

  1. Protagonist – the Hero
  2. Antagonist – the Villain
  3. Purpose – the Goal

For example, in my most recent published novel, Nights Before: The Novel (originally published as a novel in six installments), the above structure works like this:

  1. Protagonist – Jocelyn Tavers
  2. Antagonist – Jason, her ex-boyfriend
  3. Jocelyn’s Goal – to find a replacement boyfriend before the end of the year

Nights-Before-Final200_thumb.jpgThose three elements will not, in themselves, make a full sized story, let alone a full length novel but without them, there’s no beginning, middle or end. Jason also needs a goal to combat Jocelyn’s efforts to reach her goal. And Jocelyn needs a lot more than a boyfriend to make the essentially girl-meets-boy, girl-loses-boy, girl-finds-new-boy story something more than just that.

Though Nights Before is a romantic comedy, there had to be some depth to the story and that called for a secondary goal. This is usually something hidden, even from the protagonist—a long buried pain that has left a wound that will not heal without more pain. Enter an absent parent or two, conflicting potential new boyfriends, torn stockings and a lobster feast, a demanding employer, a car accident and abandonment issues.

With my upcoming American historical novel, Pavane for Miss Marcher, the three elements are shared between the Hero and Heroine, both of whom have Goals and Antagonists out to get them:

  1. Protagonists: Cathryn Marcher / Rupert Smith
  2. Antagonists: Susan Miller / Jericho Colson
  3. Goals: Staying in Maine / Moving to Wyoming

ggncMay2012Both Cathryn and Rupert have Deuteragonist supporters who get in the way for the best reasons and enemies who get in the way for the worst reasons.

The story is set in Maine five years after the end of the American Civil War and I am currently researching and reading on both sides of this terrible conflict in our history. Keeping faith with our nation’s past has complicated the process, especially with such an emotive background that plays an enormous part in our lives 151 years after the conflict came to an end.

With family members from the southern states and a strong New England heritage complicates the story on a personal level as well but I believe a writer’s duty is to write the story that comes from their own heart, regardless of possible consequences. As my mother always said, “Be true to yourself.”

Pavane for Miss Marcher is scheduled for publication in 2017.

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Reposted from Classic and Cozy Books Blog, Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Traditionally, graves of Union soldiers were decorated with flowers. The Confederate soldiers were commemorated similarly, but on a separate day. By the 20th Century, the competing days merged into the one we now know, the last Monday of May, the beginning of summer.Every year, we commemorate the sacrifices of our military heroes on two days, separated by six months. Memorial Day is the most American of the two as it was initiated in 1868 as Decoration Day, following the end of the War Between the States (also known as the Second War of Independence), the American Civil War.

Veterans Day (originally known as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day in other countries in Europe) commemorates the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month when the guns went silent at the end of World War I. This holiday evolved from this WWI connection to honor the service of all veterans of the U.S. Armed forces. Memorial Day honors the military personnel who died while serving our country.

Along with many of my fellow Americans, I visited the graves of members of my family who served in the U.S. Army during World Wars I and II, and the Vietnam War. To my knowledge, no one in my family died in combat, despite a long history of service in the Armed Forces.This year, unlike so many in the recent past, the United States is not engaged in any major conflict on foreign soil, a reason to think of this year’s holiday as one to be set apart.

Since the 1950s, the Golden Gate National Cemetery has been the resting place of uncles, aunts, my parents and siblings. My father and uncle, both U.S. Army officers, are buried with their wives. My sister-in-law passed away a year before my brother and they were interred together in my parent’s grave.

These vast rows of white tombstones and flags are, at once, a majestic and a sorrowful sight.

This post is in Memory of

  • Moses F Verrill, Infantryman, US Army, 20th Maine, War Between the States
  • Hiram W Verrill, PFC, US Army, WWI
  • Thomas A Verrill, Sr. Captain, US Army, WWII
  • Charles A. Adams, Sargent, US Army, WWII
  • Owen K Nichols, US Navy, Korean War
  • Thomas A Verrill, Jr. 1st Lt, US Army, Vietnam War

And in Honor of

  • Maxine M Dillahunty nee Verrill, 1st Lt, US Army, Korean War,
  • William D. Dillahunty, Airman 2nd Cl, US Air Force, Korean War

And with especial thanks to every one of the veterans and serving personnel who volunteer and are prepared to give their lives to protect and preserve our liberty.

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As with many Americans, because my family came here as immigrants—as did everyone else in the world to their respective countries however long ago that was—I have an interest in my roots. Over time, roots get buried so deep that digging one up disrupts everything you thought you knew about yourself and who you thought you were.

For a few generations, we may hold dear notions that help us identify certain character traits which seem out of whack with others in our community. Possibly, we have an affinity for a certain language or culinary dish. We may particularly like a certain attitude to life and the culture that attitude spawns. Someone in the family may make an assumption about a recent ancestor based on where that ancestor grew up. Someone else may embrace a particular story about a distant relation based on where that person was born.

The “I am this, therefore I am that” mindset.

Without doubt, we prefer to cherry pick according to our particular and peculiar preferences and needs. When our assumptions are vanquished by facts, our reaction is sometimes denial, a flat refusal to believe the truth, or, best case, a sense of relief that at last we know something about our past that is neither wishful thinking nor fanciful fabrication.

Occasionally, our negative reaction to these facts causes us to have adverse reactions to the truth-teller. After all, we were happy and comfortable in our personal mythology and the world-view upon which it was based. Although, in our heart of hearts, we know we can never again be sure of that world-view once we have been confronted with the truth, we will hold to what we thought we knew and shun those who have shattered our much-loved legends.

In essence, our personal mythology had become our belief-system and we are shaken from a place in which we felt we belonged when, all that time, we did not. And sometimes, that place was not the best place for us. Sometimes, the baggage of falsehoods prevents us from becoming all we were meant to be. snowdrops

Loosed from the security of long held, but erroneous information, we are at liberty to embrace a new, factual tale of our lives. Like snowdrops rising from the debris of winter, in the long run, the truth does indeed set us free.

Truth also opens many new and exciting possibilities, especially for those of us who are writers, painters, dancers, musicians, choreographers, photographers, quilters and all of the rest of the creative endeavors we undertake when we are inspired.

 

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Tricolor180 November 13, 2015

Vive la France et les Français.

Freedom Tower, NYC 2015

The 1776 foot high Freedom Tower, July 2015, an appropriate response to Radical Islamic terrorism.

 

 

 

Freedom Square, NYC July 2015 - From the Ashes the Phoenix rises stronger than ever.

Freedom Square, NYC July 2015 – From the Ashes, the Phoenix rises stronger than ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazon Solidarité

Amazon.com’s Tribute to France, 11/13/2015

 

Today, November 15, 2015 – the French Air Force has made their appropriate response to Radical Islamic terrorism.

This is mine.

9/11 photos of those who died

The people whose lives were lost on 9/11 will never be forgotten.

 

 

 

 

 

Maasai People's Gift

From just a few of our friends.

 

 

 

Remembrance Pool

One of the Remembrance Pools in the footprint of the Twin Towers, Freedom Square, Ground Zero, NYC July 2015

 

 

 

 

The final words of those who were killed by jihadi cowards were of love for their friends and families. I honor them and the memory of their heroism by remembering, and calling out those who know what was done and who among them are committing these crimes but do nothing.

 

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” — Edmund Burke

 

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