Tag Archives: Amelia Altalena Solkoff

“Carolina in my mind” plus Mebane: Wedding site

Of course, it is impossible to think of North Carolina without hearing James Taylor singing: “Carolina in my mind.”

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When I lived in New York City, the song lyric reverberating through the skyscrapers was, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”

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North Carolina, as you can see from the photography on the You Tube video (linger at the end and watch the ocean)  is not New York, the City where I was born and graduated from college.

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Many bumper stickers ago, I remember one that read pithier, but in essence:

“God created North Carolina first. That is why the sky is Carolina blue.

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Our family moved to North Carolina in 1990 in time to celebrate Thanksgiving in corporate-paid luxury temporary housing while Northern Telecom waited to see whether it had to abide by its agreement to purchase our historic landmark house on Capitol Hill if Diana and I were unable to sell it.

Joanna and I would drive down the road to Chatham County–where I lingered in the country store (and gas station) counting the number of chewing tobacco brands on sale.

Not far from our home, knowledgeable equestrians had relocated from New Jersey and built lavish horse farms full of exquisite horses–horses Joanna came to love and ride, train to jump, and teach others how to ride.

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Amelia was an infant when we visited and moved to Durham. Amelia had been born two months prematurely. On our first visit, Amelia was still attached to a heart monitor. In the premie ward, she had simply decided to stop breathing.

We had stopped for the night in Durham as a result of a last-minute telephone call to my friend Patric Mullen (formerly a DC lobbyist for the National Sharecroppers Fund). We had been en route to elsewhere.

Patric and Trina’s next door neighbor Kathleen Atwater came over to the Mullens’ kitchen to meet us and drink wine. She was a manager of documentation at Northern Telecom, a company that controlled nearly half the telephone switches in the U.S. and was making fistfuls of money selling telephone companies software to download in their switches. [The company is now bankrupt as a consequence of stupidity and greed at its Canadian corporate headquarters.]

Kathleen promptly hired me on the spot on first meeting to work for her as a senior technical writer. I had never even been a junior technical writer.

I was then working for the U.S. Postal Service. I had been hired by the previous postmaster general who loved my work, saved the organization from imminent destruction, and left to help his brother run CBS while I had remained behind to do public relations work. [I had become obsessed with bar code technology which, to the surprise of many, was a technology where the postal service led the world.]

None the less, I was indeed going postal.

Diana’s job had lost its luster.

Each of us had lived in D.C. for 17 years.

After my second cancer and Amelia’s birth, we were desperate to leave the nation’s capital, ticking off on our fingers the problems we had to solve, which included the decline of public education in DC– total destruction would be more accurate.

Diana and I had each attended private schools.

We were committed to educating our children in public schools. After three years in DC schools, it was clear that Joanna was not learning what children must learn to get ahead. The public college in D.C. was and still is dreadful.

We arrived in North Carolina just before the school system in Durham ran into decline. Nevertheless, through constant vigilance–primarily exemplary work on Diana’s part– both Joanna and Amelia received a decent education. It helped that school board members  , for example breakfasted at our home,

Joanna and Amelia were able to graduate with honors from the splendid University of North Carolina system the astonishingly brilliant visionary former-governor and candidate for President of the U.S. Terry Sanford had created as a true center of excellence for the people.

Simultaneously, Sanford was instrumental in  creating the Research Triangle Park (RTP) concept–an astonishingly effective alternative (at least for a while) to the Silicon Valley and Boston’s high-tech corridor. I worked as a technical writer at RTP for over four years.

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As I write, I can hear Joanna wondering:

When will Dad stop writing about North Carolina and  makes sure he packs his bag to get down here?

When, indeed?

Time to get my bag out of the closet.

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–Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

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Posted below is a section from the Wikipedia entry for Mebane North Carolina where Joanna will marry Jade in five days. Afterward, you may want to read the entire entry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mebane,_North_Carolina

“Mebane /ˈmɛbən/ is a city located mostly in Alamance County, North Carolina, United States, with a part of it in Orange County,North Carolina. It is part of the Burlington and Chapel Hill North Carolina Metropolitan Statistical Area. The town was named for General Alexander Mebane, Jr., a Revolutionary War general and member of the U.S. Congress. It was incorporated as Mebanesville in 1881 and in 1883 the name was changed to Mebane. In 1987, the official name became the City of Mebane. The population as of the 2010 census was 11,393.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rodeo has enhanced my life—a cancer therapy digression

I swear out there ain`t where you ought to be / So catch a ride, catch a cab / Don`t you know I miss you bad / But don`t you walk to me / Baby run…. 

–George Strait

This is Taylor Swift singing her favorite George Strait song: Run

Consider the performance a teaser not on the importance of country music. Personally I love Mozart (five instruments or fewer).  I love country; I love what is happening to country music.

Here and now, I am trying to prepare you for my appreciation of the influence rodeo–yes rodeo–has had on my life.

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Consider the following first two paragraphs from a column I published February, 2011:

“The handler applies the fully charged cattle prod to the rear of a bull bred for ferocity. The cowboy—Slim really is his name—holds onto his hat with his left hand. In his right hand are the reigns, two strips of leather held on tightly at first, but capable of falling apart to help the rider jump away from the bucking bull to safety after the regulation eight second ride is complete.

“The maximum score is 100 points; 50 for the rider and 50 for the bull. A mean angry bull is the most desirable because he gives the rider the opportunity to make the most money. This bull is mean. When the bull jumps higher after the cattle prod, Slim smiles with optimism. The gate leading to the ring fails to open. Historically, when the gate sticks, a confined maddened bull has been known to break both legs of a rider. Slim, who attended rodeo schools, is aware of the danger.As a reporter at the World Series of Rodeo at Oklahoma City (before it moved to Los Vegas), I am sitting next to the handlers on the inside wooden planks of the chute. It took considerable effort to get permission to be this close to Slim—close enough to watch his pupils dilate into huge ovals displaying a fear he cannot disguise. The lead handler asks Slim if he would like to wait 20 minutes before beginning the ride. Slim nods him off. The gate opens.

“Sometimes it is prudent to know when to give up.”

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Later in this posting I will explain how I came to be sitting on the edge of the bull shoot watching the electric prod holder pressing his instrument against the mean bull’s huge hide and watching the fear in the bull riders eyes when he realized he was trapped with a maddened bull with the door to escape locked? What did I learn from that?

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Orientation note: I know I am missing something here. It feels as if I lost my car keys and am frantically rummaging through my stuff looking for the keys. Of course, what I am looking for here is some context.

Why is Joel [I am now going back and forth first to third person in describing myself clearly split in some way] writing about rodeo?

He just had cancer.

Doesn’t Joel have better things to do but type away words and words and words about the time he covered the World Series of Rodeo for a solid week of

  • Bull riding
  • Bronco riding
  • Roping
  • Barrel racing
  • Fervid pro-rodeo rhetoric
  • Groupies up from Dallas just waiting
  • a near-fight in the Gusher Club when the World Series Champion of Rodeo five years in a row nearly punched me for lifting the Champion’s $560 hat off the chair I wanted to sit on. It was a close call. “Never, ever touch my hat,” he said convincingly.

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Here is the Prologue Joel [that’s me] failed to provide on his way of introducing his rodeo theme.

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I have been thinking about my life. Next month I will be 66:

  • What have I accomplished?

  • What is left to be done?

For me the key to surviving cancer was the knowledge that I could not die because there was work to be done. The first cancer would not let me die because I had a book to finish under contract and my publisher would kill me if I defaulted. Nor would I have been alive to conceive my elder daughter Joanna.

If I died after the second cancer, I would not have had the opportunity to watch Joanna grow until next month when she will marry.

I am especially delighted that she is marrying Jade.

If I had died from the second cancer, I would not have been alive to conceive my younger daughter Amelia Altalena.

Amelia and I will see each other at the wedding after the cancer awfulness became successful surgery to remove the death threat of kidney cancer–an operation less than a month ago from which I am slowly getting better. Slowly.

Certainly, expert medical treatment and good odds were essential. I had the best medical care available during a period when advances were occurring rapidly and I was as close to those advances as possible.

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It is late during a very long day during which I made arrangements to attend Joanna’s wedding outside a horse barn in Mebane, North Carolina. I have been writing this posting automatically in the middle of serious stuff I am dealing with. For example, I have not yet recovered fully from major surgery and my mind does not have the attention span it once had. I find I am writing several things at the same time, saving the document, going away for a while.

When I went away for a while this morning, I saw George Strait play Amerilla.

I thought of the rodeo and what it meant to me. Sadly, I cannot leave you with more lessons learned and appreciation of rodeo, not to mention my life. I will return to rodeo. Do not you worry. I have a bad reputation for straying from the beaten path.

You can depend on it.

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Joel Solkoff

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.

Here  is the first stanza from George Strait song Amarillo, the best cowboy song ever written.

Amarillo By Mornin’ / Up from San Antone / Everything that I got / Is just what I’ve got on ./ When that sun is high in that Texas sky, /  I’ll be buckin’ at the county fair.”

My father Isadore Solkoff

Obituary notice

ISADORE SOLKOFF, 1902-1989, Friend of Jabotinsky, Briscoe, and other early Zionist leaders

UNION, NEW JERSEY, January 15, 1989: Isadore Solkoff was buried at the Temple Binai Abraham Cemetery. In an Orthodox Jewish service officiated by Rabbi Phillip Goldberg of the United Hebrew Community of New York, the mourners were reminded of Solkoff’s work in introducing Vladimir Jabotinsky and Robert Briscoe to the Jewish Community of New York City.

Vladimir Jabotinsky (1880-1940) was an early Zionist leader who is buried in Jerusalem next to the grave of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism. Jabotinsky was an extremely controversial figure. He was also a brilliant orator, capable of delivering his speeches in several languages, including English and Hebrew, which as an adult he learned to speak Hebrew fluently because he believed that every Zionist should speak Hebrew. Although he died in 1940, he predicted the Holocaust, advocating relief measures so Jews could be sent to Palestine. He also advocated strict military training for Jews and a series of summer camps for youth around the world were opened for that purpose. One of those camps was located in suburban New York.

Solkoff arranged for Jabotinsky to speak to a packed crowd at Town Hall in New York City in March of 1935 warning of the impending Holocaust. Solkoff produced a film of Jabotinsky observing military exercises of Jewish youth, later shown at Jewish synagogues in the New York City area.

Jabotinsky was the founder of the Zionist political party now running the state of Israel. Yitzhak Shamir, the prime minister of Israel, was a follower of Jabotinsky. Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin had been an aide to Jabotinsky. When Jabotinsky died in 1940, Begin inherited Jabontinsky’s movement. Solkoff supported Begin in his efforts to obtain arms and get them into Palestine. Then in 1948 when the state of Israel was created and the War of Independence took place, Begin’s troops obtained arms despite a United Nations embargo. Solkoff donated his correspondence with Jabotinsky to the Jabotinsky Museum in Tel Aviv.

Solkoff worked with members of Jabontinsky’s United States supporters who formed an organization based in New York City called the Revisionist Zionist Organization. They publicized the difficulties of Jewish refugees especially the unwillingness of the British to permit immigration into Palestine. Stories of British insensitivity to Jewish concerns were late in being highlighted by the world’s press. One incident that was highlighted occurred after World War II was over. A ship called the “Exodus” contained refugees from Nazi concentration camps. The British refused to allow them to get off the boat at a Palestinian port. The ship was in poor repair and was incapable of leaving the country safely. The plight of those Jews who had escaped Nazi concentration camps perhaps only to be drowned in a leaky boat because of British policy caused an international sensation. It also led to a best-selling novel based on the incident and a popular movie.

Solkoff was friends with the late Robert Briscoe, who in 1956 became Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ireland. Briscoe was also a fascinating figure. Before the founding of the states of Ireland and Israel, Briscoe regarded himself as both an Irish and Israeli revolutionary fighting a common British enemy.

Briscoe introduced Jabotinsky to the early leaders of the Irish fight for independence. Before and after Jabontinsky’s death, Briscoe worked at transporting Jews from Nazi-dominated countries to Palestine. Solkoff introduced Briscoe to New York City Jewish organizations. Solkoff and Briscoe both collaborated with Ben Hecht to create a highly controversial full-page advertisement on the back page of the first section of The New York Times. The year was 1943. The ad was entitled, “FOR SALE TO HUMANITY, 70,000 JEWS, GUARANTEED HUMAN BEINGS AT $50 A PIECE.” Romania had offered to let their Jewish citizens leave Romania on the condition that the Four Superpowers pay $50 for each Jewish head and agree to transport them to Palestine. The British opposed transportation to Palestine, which was under their control. The Jews who might have been saved died.

Solkoff’s most important contribution to the effort to avert the Holocaust was the fact that Solkoff arranged a secret, private meeting between Robert Briscoe and Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) then a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Brandeis took pride in his influential role with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and in the American Jewish community. The meeting did not go well. It took place at Brandeis’ Washington home. Briscoe gave Brandeis a warning about the American Jewish community’s indifference to the plight of Jewish European refugees. Later Briscoe reported to Solkoff the warning he gave Brandeis. “Your accommodationist stance with the British will result in millions of unnecessary Jewish deaths at the hands of the Nazis.” Briscoe continued, “The blood of those Jews will be on your hands too and that of the rest of the American Jewish community. It will be on your hands even though you do not directly commit the murders.”

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Solkoff was a graduate of Columbia College, class of 1924. Receipt of his diploma was delayed six months because of failure to pass a swimming test. Solkoff, who never learned to swim, said that after sitting around the pool for six months trying to get the courage to jump in, the coach took pity on him. “If you jump in, I’ll pass you, even if we have to fish you out with a net.” Solkoff jumped in, sank to the bottom, was fished out with a net, and formally received his B.A. degree.

Solkoff attended Cornell Law School in Ithaca, New York, class of 1930. He practiced law in New York City before moving to Miami, Florida. After becoming a member of the Florida bar, Solkoff specialized in the practice of bankruptcy law, especially Chapter 13, which he used as a device to stop foreclosure on his indigent clients’ homes. Before his retirement from practice in 1984, he represented 97 percent of Chapter 13 suits brought in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida. Solkoff met with members of Senator Robert Dole’s staff when they were preparing to make the recent revisions in the bankruptcy law.

He founded the Miami chapter of Parents without Partners, serving as its president. He also formed the Revisionist Organization of Dade County in 1977 to support Menachem Begin. The American Jewish community generally was alarmed because of fears that Begin might be more extremist in his views about Israeli territorial expansion than they thought prudent. Solkoff’s organization helped alleviate those fears. Solkoff met with members of Begin’s staff during a trip to Israel in 1976.

Solkoff died of respiratory failure on January 13, 1989 at the Miami Jewish Home for the Aged at Douglas Gardens in Miami, Florida. He was born on March 14, 1902 in a field outside Odessa, Russia and came through Ellis Island as a refugee from a Russian pogrom.

He is survived by his wife Wilma of Miami, his grandchildren Joanna Solkoff, Melissa and Mark Schollmeyer, Jason and Lisa Herskowitz. He is also survived by his brothers Benjamin, Morris, and Ephraim, and his son Joel of Washington, D.C. Joel Solkoff is a senior writer at the U.S. Postal Service and is the author of The Politics of Food and other books.

News of Isadore Solkoff‘s death was delayed at his request. Also at his request, the funeral was private and in accordance with Jewish law. Memorial contributions may be made to either of two Miami organizations: the Guardianship Program of Dade County, Miami, Florida or the Jewish Home for the Aged at Douglas Gardens.

For further information please make contact with Joel Solkoff, phone at work 202-268-2182, phone at home 202-543-5232, address 612 E Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002-5230.

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N.B: I am Isadore Solkoff’s son Joel and I now live in State College, PA. I wrote this obituary notice in 1989 shortly after my father’s funeral. My daughter Joanna Marie Solkoff also attended the funeral and watched as this notice was written on a computer and preserved on a floppy disk. The floppy disk was destroyed and the only copy of the original text was preserved by the Jabotinsky Institute where Amira Stern, Director of Archives, emailed it to Joel from Israel in October, 2011.

Isadore Solkoff arranged a critical interview between Robert Briscoe and U.S. Supreme Justice Louis Brandeis. The interview is recorded in Briscoe’s 1959 autobiography For the Life of Me. It is also documented in correspondence Solkoff initiated with Justice Brandeis.

The meeting between Robert Briscoe and Justice Louis Brandeis was the most important accomplishment of Isadore Solkoff’s life. According to Briscoe, Brandeis almost certainly reported the meeting to the President Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s refusal to act on the information resulted in the unnecessary deaths of millions of Jews in Europe.

When I was born in 1947, my father was a man burned out by the fact that he had the vision to see the impending tragedy, did everything he could to avert it, and had to live with the tragic reality that he had failed. Jabotinsky was and remains today a controversial figure. He was by all accounts a leader of astonishing magnetism whom my father loved with a love which could not be compared. Isadore Solkoff’s tombstone reads, “Follower of Jabotinsky.” When my younger daughter Amelia was born, following Jewish custom of naming children in honor of the dead, her mother and I gave her the middle name Altalena.

Altalena was Jabontinsky’s pen name. It is also the name of an arms ship that was brought into Israel in the middle of the 1948 War of Independent which to this day is a source of passionate controversy. As one Israeli asked me querulously, “You named your daughter for an arms ship.” I replied, “No, I named my daughter for the man the arms ship was named after.” Either way my father would have been pleased and my father’s love for me was steady and pure and this act of homage is the least I could do.

It is worth noting that after naming my younger Altalena, I received a lengthy letter from my late beloved mother Miriam Schmerler begging me not to name my daughter after that awful man Jabotinsky.

Jabotinsky had served in World War I as co-captain in the Zion Mule Corps with David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. The two hated each other and the views they each represented. My parents met at a synagogue weekend where members of various Zionist groups presented their ideas. My mother was a follower of Ben Gurion. My parents’ marriage was not made in heaven.

The resolution to the inter-Zionist animus, which continues to this day, must be solved before peace in Israel can possibly be achieved. Peace with the Palestinian community and their Arab neighbors is the only way the state of Israel can preserved. Ironically, both Jabotinsky and Ben Gurion would agree with this statement.

A classic is a book no one reads, Mark Twain said

"I read from Mark Twain's lips one or two of his good stories. He has his own way of thinking, saying and doing everything. I feel the twinkle of his eye in his handshake. Even while he utters his cynical wisdom in an indescribably droll voice, he makes you feel that his heart is a tender Iliad of human sympathy."
“I read from Mark Twain’s lips one or two of his good stories. He has his own way of thinking, saying and doing everything. I feel the twinkle of his eye in his handshake. Even while he utters his cynical wisdom in an indescribably droll voice, he makes you feel that his heart is a tender Iliad of human sympathy.”

I had pneumonia until three days ago when I was discharged from the hospital.

These days, my health has been doing well:

  • In May, I attended my younger daughter Amelia Altalena’s graduation from college.
  • In June, I spent two weeks in McKeesport, PA seeing how low-cost high-tech housing for elderly and disabled individuals can be made to work.
  • In October, I returned from elder daughter Joanna and future son-in-law Jade Phillips’ Engagement Party.

I am happy in my work and in my life.

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A little illness serves to remind that the way we spend our time matters.

What follows on this site is short installments of Helen Keller‘s 116 page book The Story of my Life.

Here in this season of darkness, when fancy paper containing gifts you will not use are torn away, I have decided to make a token gesture that will brighten your life and change your world view for the better if only you let it.

What follows are selected quotations Helen Keller published in 1903. How Helen Keller’s perspective on the value of life has affected me personally is a subject for another time.

For you, the following may alert you to the fact that a young woman in her 1920s, a woman who could neither see nor hear, opened up the world to another way of viewing reality–a path so radical in its conception and so beneficial to anyone who reads her that life as we know it will never be the same again. That is why The Story of My Life is   appropriately regarded as one of the great books of the 20th Century (and of the century in which I live in now).

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–“I found out the use of a key. One morning I locked my mother up in the pantry, where she was obliged to remain three hours, as the servants were in a detached part of the house. She kept pounding on the door, while I sat outside on the porch steps and laughed with glee as I felt the jar of the pounding.”

–“I was stringing beads of different sizes in symmetrical groups–two large beads, three small ones, and so on. I had made many mistakes, and Miss Sullivan had pointed them out again and again with gentle patience. Finally I noticed a very obvious error in the sequence and for an instant I concentrated my attention on the lesson and tried to think how I should have arranged the beads. Miss Sullivan touched my forehead and spelled with decided emphasis, ‘Think.’ In a flash I knew that the word was the name of the process that was going on in my head. This was my first conscious perception of an abstract idea.”

–“It seems strange to many people that I should be impressed by the wonders and beauties of Niagara. They are always asking: “What does this beauty or that music mean to you? You cannot see the waves rolling up the beach or hear their roar. What do they mean to you?” In the most evident sense they mean everything. I cannot fathom or define their meaning any more than I can fathom or define love or religion or goodness.”

–“In geometry my chief difficulty was that I had always been accustomed to read the propositions in line print, or to have them spelled into my hand; and somehow, although the propositions were right before me, I found the braille confusing, and could not fix clearly in my mind what I was reading. But when I took up algebra I had a harder time still. The signs, which I had so lately learned, and which I thought I knew, perplexed me. Besides, I could not see what I wrote on my typewriter. I had always done my work in braille or in my head. Mr. Keith had relied too much on my ability to solve problems mentally, and had not trained me to write examination papers. Consequently my work was painfully slow, and I had to read the examples over and over before I could form any idea of what I was required to do. Indeed, I am not sure now that I read all the signs correctly. I found it very hard to keep my wits about me.”

–“I began my studies with eagerness. Before me I saw a new world opening in beauty and light, and I felt within me the capacity to know all things. In the wonderland of Mind I should be as free as another. Its people, scenery, manners, joys, tragedies should be living, tangible interpreters of the real world. The lecture-halls seemed filled with the spirit of the great and the wise, and I thought the professors were the embodiment of wisdom. If I have since learned differently, I am not going to tell anybody.

–“But I soon discovered that college was not quite the romantic lyceum I had imagined. Many of the dreams that had delighted my young inexperience became beautifully less and “faded into the light of common day.” Gradually I began to find that there were disadvantages in going to college. The one I felt and still feel most is lack of time. I used to have time to think, to reflect, my mind and I. We would sit together of an evening and listen to the inner melodies of the spirit, which one hears only in leisure moments when the words of some loved poet touch a deep, sweet chord in the soul that until then had been silent. But in college, there is no time to commune with one’s thoughts. One goes to college to learn, it seems, not to think. When one enters the portals of learning, one leaves the dearest pleasures–solitude, books and imagination–outside with the whispering pines. I suppose I ought to find some comfort in the thought that I am laying up treasures for future enjoyment, but I am improvident enough to prefer present joy to hoarding riches against a rainy day.”

–“But the examinations are the chief bugbears of my college life. Although I have faced them many times and cast them down and made them bite the dust, yet they rise again and menace me with pale looks, until like Bob Acres I feel my courage oozing out at my finger ends. The days before these ordeals take place are spent in cramming your mind with mystic formulæ and indigestible dates–unpalatable diets, until you wish that books and science and you were buried in the depths of the sea.”

–“But college is not the universal Athens I thought it was. There one does not meet the great and the wise face to face; one does not even feel their living touch. They are there, it is true; but they seem mummified. We must extract them from the crannied wall of learning and dissect and analyze them before we can be sure that we have a Milton or an Isaiah, and not merely a clever imitation. Many scholars forget, it seems to me, that our enjoyment of the great works of literature depends more upon the depth of our sympathy than upon our understanding. The trouble is that very few of their laborious explanations stick in the memory. The mind drops them as a branch drops its overripe fruit. It is possible to know a flower, root and stem and all, and all the processes of growth, and yet to have no appreciation of the flower fresh bathed in heaven’s dew. Again and again I ask impatiently, “Why concern myself with these explanations and hypotheses?” They fly hither and thither in my thought like blind birds beating the air with ineffectual wings. I do not mean to object to a thorough knowledge of the famous works we read. I object only to the interminable comments and bewildering criticisms that teach but one thing: there are as many opinions as there are men.”

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For extensive bibliographic information on Helen Keller’s Story of My Life: see http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/keller/life/life.html

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Joel Solkoff, December 20, 2012, State College, PA

 

 

 

Hegira Succeeded: Report on the 989-mile-away-Engagement-Party-for-my-daughter Joanna

Mazel tov: Welcome to My Hegira.

Webster’s defines hegira as:

A journey esp. when undertaken to escape from a dangerous or undesirable situation.

Cosmic Invitation

How else to feel other than I am,
often thinking Flash Gordon soap–
O how terrible it must be for a young man
seated before a family and the family thinking
We never saw him before! He wants our Mary Lou!
After tea and homemade cookies they ask What do you do for a living?
Should I tell them? Would they like me then?
Say All right get married, we’re losing a daughter
but we’re gaining a son–
And should I then ask Where’s the bathroom?

–from Marriage by Gregory Corso

Note to Beatnik Music fans: Tom Connolly, my drumming teacher, has recorded a bongo drum track which will be added to the following recording. Listen here now at this link:

BeatnikJoel

 

The Event has concluded, but the Party is not over.

Thirty minutes before the Party begins at the patio of the Weathervane at Chapel Hill‘s famous Southern Seasons

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It is 6:06 in the morning.

I am back at my apartment in State College PA after the return from the Blessed Event at the patio of the elegant Weathervane Restaurant in Chapel Hill and spending time with Joanna, Amelia and Jade [a lot of time with Joanna Amelia and Jade] and with David Hiscoe, my former boss at Northern Telecom where I worked at Research Triangle Park for four years as a senior technical writer.

[I have never been a junior technical writer or a simple run-of-the-mill technical writer; there is grade inflation in the technical writer world where however young and inexperienced, I have always been a Senior Technical writer.]

Of course, there is the description of THE PARTY.

I will not even pretend to be comprehensive here. I am tired now and my typos are increasing at an astonishing pace.

Relax, dear reader, I will describe the party where Joanna invited her neighbors and friends and Jade imported Brandon, his stepson who is attending Guilford College in a beautiful location outside Greensboro near where my mother was very happy to live.

I will note that the proprietor of the equestrian center where Joanna and Jade plan to marry attended.

Pat and I discussed Joanna‘s plan to have George, Joanna‘s beloved horse, attend as a guest of honor.

Much as she would like to, Joanna cannot ride George because he is old and frail.

Joanna plans to ride side-saddle on Scarlet, the only horse ever to have thrown Joanna. Pat and I discussed the relative merits of each horse participant in Joanna and Jade’s wedding.

The Party and Wedding details have caused my dear muscle-bound future son-in-law to roll his eyes dramatically.

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[Note: Joanna has asserted the right to censor anything I write or any photograph I post and any thought I have in my mind regardless of subject. I have denied her the right to delete photos from my iPhone the instant after they are taken or remove photos from my computer. But this copy will change without notice. You can depend on that.]

This is the ramp the wonderful ground crew of United Airlines constructed and assembled for me and me alone to board the flight to Dulles airport, similar to the ramp used  at Dulles Airport to get to RDU  [Raleigh DUrham International Airport].

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The following is a JMS-approved photograph of the happy couple.

Jade, of course, is wearing his Tom Selleck imitation costume, but that is a story for another time, like the buying shoes story.

Jade Phillips and my only elder daughter pre-celebrate their Engagement Party on September 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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More to come.

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As an aside….

I am trying not to repeat:

  • I hate United Airlines
  • I hate United Airlines
  • I hate United Airlines

I keep trying to figure out a way to get even with United Airlines for the shabby way the company treated me.

The best solution for  United Airlines is for United CEO Jeff Smisek to hire me. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Smisek

I would serve to make United responsive to disabled individuals, especially disabled-veterans, the elderly, and Baby Boomers whose market demands will bankrupt United Airlines if it does not get its act together.

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Thank you dear readers for your donations. Those of you who did not give relax. I got there and back, didn’t I. Let us celebrate.

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The night before I left to return to State College, Joanna came over to my hotel room where Amelia and I cooked eggplant.

Amelia Altalena, Joanna’s younger sister, was appointed Maid of Honor on Saturday night.

Amelia will be flying to London on October 18th to work as an English teacher in rural Spain.  Amelia’s impending departure is the reason Joanna rushed up the ceremony. With Amelia it is easy to say here today off tomorrow for who knows where. Whooooooooooosssssssssssssssssssssss.

Joanna had worked from 5:30 in the morning to 7 PM giving pain medication to hip replacement recovery patients who were not pleased with the amount of pain they were experiencing.

Joanna just collapsed on arrival to my room.

Amelia and I shoooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwed her out of the room and into the car and home to bed before Joanna had to wake up at 5:30 the next morning for another grueling round.

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Joanna, my elder daughter, is engaged to be married

August 14, 2012: Today, my elder daughter Joanna Marie Solkoff became engaged to be married to Jade Kosmos Phillips. Jade proposed on his knees at the mouth of a volcano in Hawaii on Joanna‘s birthday.

 

August 15, 2012: Jade called from Hawaii at 11:35 Eastern Daylight Savings Time. Jade asked for Joanna’s hand in marriage. I said Joanna and he would have a great marriage; he is her anchor windward. [Note 1. Watch Facebook for the formal announcement.] [Note 2. I have been on both sides now: asking and answering. Answering is better.]

August 18, 2012: Facebook notification. Joanna Solkoff is engaged to Jade K. Phillips.

Frequently asked questions:

1 When will the wedding take place? In the Fall of 3013 after Joanna graduates from nursing school.

2. Where will the wedding take place? In a horse barn in Chatham County, NC. A special guest will be Joanna‘s beloved horse George, no longer capable of enduring a rider,  in attendance. The bride plans to wear a wedding gown patterned after a Ginger Rogers outfit in the film Lucky Partners. She will arrive at the ceremony riding side-saddle on Scarlet, the only horse ever to throw her off.

3. How do I obtain driving directions to the wedding at Baywood Farms Equestrian Center in Apex, NC at a date yet to be determined? http://www.mapquest.com/maps?zipcode=27502#a7ca199086f84f6bb05916de

{Caveat lector! A shameless pitch for expenses in getting home from Joanna and Jade’s Engagement Party that still continues after the bar closed at 11 PM on September 29, 2012 at Chapel Hill NC on this link: Caveat lector!}

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[This space is reserved for  biographical sketches of Joanna and  Jade, photographs and additional material.]

 

 

 

 

Footnote 1: Technically there is no Footnote 1.

Footnote 2:

This is the Lucky Partners review Joanna and I published at amazon.com:

5.0 out of 5 stars My daughters and I re-enact this movie on long weekends, August 31, 2012.

“Lucky Partners” is one of a small list of ALL TIME FAVORITE MOVIES. My daughters Joanna, Amelia and I have watched this movie together for decades. I think Amelia was one when she first saw it; Joanna was seven.

Joanna, now 28, just told me she plans to design her wedding gown based on an outfit Ginger Rogers wore in “Lucky Partners.”

I had thought myself capable of writing this review myself. This is an urbane romantic comedy. Joanna says it is a satire on morality within a [cell phone static] within a comedy. As the battery on her phone dies, she starts quoting from the incredibly funny and brilliant lines from “Lucky Partners.” There is, for example, the opening meeting between Ronald Coleman and Ginger Rogers.

Ronald Coleman plays the role of a brilliant artist who aristocratically refuses to continue painting in Ronald-Coleman-incredible-diction. (I will never forget Ronald Coleman, in that incredible scene just before they cut off his head in Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities: “It is a far far better thing I do than I have ever ever done. It is a far far better world I go to than I have ever ever known.” [Boy, I wish I could talk like that.]

Coleman also has eccentric ideas about the institution of matrimony and honeymoons in particular (which he explains to his art dealer who is trying to convince Ronald Coleman to return to painting).

Instead, Coleman then leaves the building, walks down the street and passes the adorable [astonishingly adorable] Ginger Rogers. For no apparent reason, Ronald Coleman wishes Ginger Rogers, a total stranger, “Good luck.” “Did you just wish me luck for no apparent reason?”

As Joanna‘s cell phone dies as she drives home with her fiance Jade Kosmos Phillips, Joanna says, “Did you just wish me luck for no apparent reason?”

Joanna Solkoff and Joel Solkoff

 

 

 

 

 

 

Random Thoughts: January 30, 2013

Time for more random updates and personal revelations out of date to everyone but me

January 30, 2013: Someone stole Goya’s head. (The fact that his happened in the 19th Century is irrelevant.)

“On a November morning of 1888 in the cemetery of the Grande Chartreuse, Bordeaux, the Spanish counsel resident in that opulent city received the shock of his life. Hastening to the nearest telegraph he dispatched a wire to Madrid: GOYA SKELETON HEADLESS.

From Goya's Disasters of War, soldier cutting off head. Other Goya drawings show heads on spikes.
From Goya’s Disasters of War, soldier cutting off head. Other Goya drawings show heads on spikes.

”In a less agitated condition and able to recall the master’s whimsical etching of a seated corpse pushing up the lid of a tomb bearing the one word Nada (‘Nothing’), the counsel might pardonably begun his telegram TYPICAL GOYAESQUE SITUATION….

“Dying in self-chosen exile in 1828, at the age of eighty-two, Francisco Joseph Goya y Luciente had been buried in the tomb of a close friend and fellow-expatriate, Miguel Martin Goicoichea, deceased three years previously, the memorial tablet accurately proclaimed him Hispaniensis Peritisimus Pictor. His skull, stolen at some time unknown, has not been seen or heard of since. The exhumation duly proceeded, and Goya’s truncated remains were returned with honour to his native land after an absence of sixty-six years.”

The World of Goya by D.B. Wyndham Lewis

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It reminded me of the night when on the George Washington Bridge, bound for Manhattan, I encountered a raccoon determinedly padding his way back to the New Jersey shore. –A. J. Liebling

Amelia as a torch singer at her high school graduation

Designing a trip and a way of life

On Wednesday, I will take the longest trip since I first arrived in State College, PA about six years ago. I will be attending my daughter Amelia Altalena Solkoff’s graduation ceremony at the University of North Carolina in Ashville. Amelia has already earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish and while the ceremony may be a mere formality, it is not a formality I can miss. Many of the people I love most in the world will be there, including Amelia’s older sister Joanna who received her bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is currently completing nursing school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last time I was in Ashville was 19 years ago before I lost the ability to walk as a result of a spinal cord injury. Both my daughters have visited me here in State College, but while I have driven to other places, the 900 mile drive has eluded me to the place where F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning.”

My elder daughter Joanna visiting me at State College.

My trip to Ashville marks a new feature for the joelsolkoff.com site. Here I will finally take my best friend David Phillips’ advice and begin a consumer book on scooters, power chairs, and peripheral devices. Al Thieme, who invented the power operated vehicle (POV) scooter and the chief executive officer of Amigo Mobility has supplied me with his latest travel scooter, which I will be evaluating on the trip. Other manufacturers are invited to supply equipment for evaluation.

I assembled the scooter myself in my messy apartment.

The fact that this feature begins with equipment for disability travel is especially appropriate. I have been writing about disability travel for a while now and this trip to Amelia’s ceremony provides the opportunity to focus on the importance of people with disabilities being able to visit loved ones, obtain employment, and function in this mobile society. Each of my daughters has extensive experience over the past 18 years of my paraplegia riding mobility devices, figuring out inventive ways of providing me with access to the world, and indeed helping me put out a fire when an electrician installed a wheel chair lift to my car using faulty wiring and burning down my red Buick.

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The word “design” is actually the primary theme of this website, of my career, and indeed of my personal life. As anyone who knows me will testify, I am by nature an impulsive person, but impulsivity can lead to danger for those of us who are disabled. We need to put aside basic parts of our personality (as I have done and failed to do to my regret) in order to consider the consequences and redesign ourselves for a world that is not built for the elderly and disabled.

–Joel Solkoff, April 28, 2012, State College, PA

Method acting classes have made a new man of me.

Stay tuned to this posting for more, which contrary to traditional blog chronological custom, will appear as I write my story. Links will be dropped in without warning. Become a frequent flyer and subscribe to this site.

Countdown over: Amelia’s graduation ceremony was very wet; may end with my joining the Smyth County Moose Lodge

Soaking wet, Amelia Altalena Solkoff graduated with honors in Spanish at the University of North Carolina, Ashville (UNC-A). UNC-A ran an awful graduation ceremony. When I get rich, I will provide UNC-A with funds for rainy day graduations.

Asheville CITIZEN-TIMES previews the graduation ceremonies that have now taken place:

ASHEVILLE — Former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles will speak at UNC Asheville’s graduation ceremony in May.

“Bowles served as President Clinton’s top assistant and was tapped by President Barack Obama to tackle the nation’s budget woes. He also spent five years as president of the UNC System.”

http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012304170019

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Then, on May 6, 2012 The CITIZENS-TIMES report on the event:

“UNCA’s rainy spring graduation : As soon as UNC Asheville students got to the quad for the spring graduation commencement, the rain started to pour Saturday. 5/5/12 – Erin Brethauer ([email protected])”

See video; hear rainhttp://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012305060044

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Amelia at Celebratory Meal # 3 (of 4) THE BIG ONE
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At Celebratory meal # 4.

Joanna and Amelia’s mother Diana Bass

 

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At Celebratory meal # 1.

Our daughter Joanna Marie Solkoff, who graduated with honors in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is currently studying to be a nurse. Accompanying Joanna is Jade Phillips, a rock and refuge shown together at my apartment at State College, PA in March:

 

 

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Sarah Schmerler, Robert Simonson, and Asher Simonson during a brief dry spell at the graduation ceremony

Sarah is my sister (https://www.artnews.com/author/sarahschmerler/). Robert Simonson is my brother-in-law (http://www.amazon.com/Robert-Simonson/e/B001K8HFEA/ref=sr_tc_2_rm?qid=1337188291&sr=1-2-ent). Asher Benvenuto Simonson is my camera-shy only nephew; he is nearly 11.

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Asheville, NC 7:19 PM. May 4, 2012 [official Star Trek holiday celebration; see Wikipedia.].

I am ensconced in a disability room at the Asheville NC Extended Stay America motel.

This is directly down the road from the University of North Carolina Campus where Amelia graduates tomorrow at 9 AM.

Relatives, loved ones, friends, and the like are preparing to come to my hotel to engage in a Jewish celebration of Sabboth and undoubtedly much mischief.

When I have time, I promise to TELL ALL. Including photos.

Gotta run.

Amelia, the evening before graduation ceremonies, helps me unload my car.

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There is candle lighting in my room: “Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season.”

 

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Flashback: Two days earlier

Michelle, front desk clerk Best Western Grand Venice Hotel, Hagerstown, NC, prepares to put my travel scooter into the trunk so I am ready to drive south for hundreds of miles.

Michelle is my candidate for Best Western employee of the year.

 

 

As we all know, commencement is not a beginning, it is an end.

On the road again:

May 3, 2012 Hagerstown, Maryland,  Best Western Grand Venice Hotel, 11:55 AM

8 AM today ready for breakfast at the free bar on the second floor

The route from Downtown State College, where I live, to Ashville North Carolina, where Amelia will be receiving her diploma on May 5th at 9 AM at the University of North Carolina in Asheville is 571 miles–a 9 hour and 40 minute drive, longer than I have driven in over eight years.

Yesterday, I left State College after my friend Pinki Heyn helped load the Enterprise Rental Car driven by Dawn, a new management trainee, who brought me to the rental office for the ritual filling out of the forms and paying the money. After picking up a suit (which I have not worn in 7 years), several starched shirts, and clean clothing, I left town at 5 PM and drove the astonishingly beautiful Route 99 to Route 70 to Hagerstown, site of the Battle of Antietam, the first Union victory, giving  President Lincoln the credibility required to issue the Emancipation proclamation. More on Emancipation later in the trip.

I now have traveled 158 miles of a 571 mile trip. Amelia called anxiously trying to rush me. Whose celebration does she think this is?

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Amelia in my arms before age one–the rest of the crew will be described later.

 

Last year, before reaching her current level of maturity, Amelia prepares to run with the bulls

 

 

 

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This Amigo TravelMate will take me to Amelia’s graduation (photo by Andrea Gatzke).

A Commencement Speech I Approve Of

I have been led to understand that…you are going to graduate. Well, my strong recommendation is that you don’t go. Stop! Go on back to your rooms. Unpack! There’s not much out here. Chekhov tells the story of the traveler faced with three roads… If he takes the one to the right, the wolves will eat him up. If he takes the one to the left he will eat up the wolves, and if he takes the one to the center he will eat himself up.

The point is we don’t want you out here very much. We on the outside see graduation as a terrible event–the opening of an enormous dovecote from which spring into the air tens of thousands of graduates. What is particularly disturbing is that you all come out at the same time—June—hordes, with your dark graduation cloaks darkening the earth. Why is it that you can’t be squeezed out one at a time, like peach pits, so that the society can absorb you without feeling suffocated?

My own profession is being, swamped with writers coming, out of college, despite the conditions out here that no one reads. Indeed, my friend Kurt Vonnegut was saying the other day that the only solution to ·the moribund state of publishing would be to require all of those on welfare that before receiving their welfare checks, they must hand in a book report.

So go back to your dorm rooms and stay. True, there may be some practical problem. The deans may come tapping at your door like hotel concierges wondering about checkout time. Tell the dean through the door that you don’t think you should go out into the world with a C- in Economics 10. Great damage can be caused to the economic structure, and probably already has, by Harvard men out there who earned a C– in Economics 10; you must tell the dean you don’t want to compound such a situation.

The dean will say that he needs the room for the junior who is going to become a senior–the process must go on. Tell him there’s no reason why the juniors can’t stay juniors, the sophomores, sophomores, and the freshmen, freshmen. Tell him to stop the process. Why should the process go on? The Harvard Lampoon has had, in its century of operation, 100 different editorial boards. Has it improved? Probably not. Why not keep the same one?

Besides, we are told all the time what a marvelous institution Harvard is. Benjamin DeMott once likened Harvard to the continent of Europe: “Either you’ve been there or you haven’t,” And you’ll all remember the Boston dowager who said of a nephew: “He doesn’t go to college, he goes to Brown.” Why do they tell us such things if they don’t want us to stay? So tell them you’re convinced. You’ve decided to stay. You’re not going to budge.

After a while the dean will go away. Deans always go away. They go away to ponder things. They will assume that your parents will finally force the issue. They’ll want you home. But I am not so sure. I have the sense that parents would rather not know what’s being sent home to them these days from the college–not unlike receiving  a mysterious, package tied with hemp, addressed in rather queasy lettering from Dutch Gularia.

They’d much rather you stay here. When a mother is asked about her son at the country-club dance she can always say: “Why John’s off at Harvard.” There’s something quite grand about that certainly compared to: ”Well, the last time I saw him he was throwing a frisbee in the backyard.”

If your parents insist you pack up and come home, there are always measures. If you’re chemistry major, tell them that you’ve become very attached to something in a vat of formaldehyde. If you’re in pre-law, tell them that you’re thinking of bringing home a tort. Your parents will probably have forgotten what a tort is, if they ever knew, and it sounds so unpleasant–something that your Mom wouldn’t want to have stepping suddenly out of a hall closet. Surely, there is hardly an academic field of one’s choice which does not have a nightmare possibility with which to force one’s parents to pony up enough to allow nearly a decade of contemplation in one’s room.

You’ll remember the King in Alice in Wonderland. When asked: “Where shall I begin?” the King says, “Begin at the beginning and go on until you come to the end; then stop.” What I am suggesting is that you stop at the beginning, stop at your commencement. It’s not very interesting to stop at the end–l mean everyone does that. So stop now. Tell them you won’t go. Go back to your rooms. Unpack!

–George Plimpton, Harvard University, June 1977

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The reason we moved to North Carolina, where my daughters graduated from its fine public university, is that Kathleen Atwater, then manager of Northern Telecom’s technical writing, hired me, moved my family to Durham, and arranged for the company to buy our DC home if we could not sell it.

[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Peterson_(author) “…In 2003, he was convicted of murdering his second wife, Kathleen …” Alava shalom. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honorifics_for_the_dead_in_Judaism

זיכרונה לברכה
zikhronah livrakha of blessed memory.]

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 The party is over, but I linger on in Asheville after everybody left.

The graduation was on Saturday. On Saturday at 5:15 PM we had a celebratory dinner at a classy Spanish restaurant. Asheville becomes more charming every day. On Sunday morning, my sister Sarah Schmerler, her husband Uncle Robert Simonson, and my 10.5 year-old nephew Asher left to return to Brooklyn, NY. Also that morning I had breakfast with my former wife Diana Bass, my elder daughter Joanna and her friend Jade Phillips, and Amelia. Joanna and Jade left to the airport to fly to Los Angeles where Jade’s mother lives, before…Diana drives off to her home in Durham. Amelia lingers an extra day and morning and is now with her mother camping on the Outer Shores of NC. Wonderful ferry ride. wonderful world.

And I returned to the Extended Stay Hotel here in Asheville at Kenilworth Knoll where the helpful staff help me with my disability gadgets. Here is Extended Stay Wendy helping with a light-weight wheel chair I am experimenting with.

 

 

As I pack my car to leave North Carolina, I TEMPORARILY interrupt this posting using this photo of Amelia and me in the Spanish restaurant in Asheville celebrating her graduation on graduation day. Think of this as not only an ending but a beginning for me to write more.

 

The End. REALLY.

Somethings naturally come to an End. The countdown to Amelia’s graduation from college has come to an end. She graduated a week ago today. This posting is mostly over. Yes, there are details to be taken care of such as the deep skinny on Graduation Meal celebrations 1-4.

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As I write this from Marion, VA still miles away from home at the Budget Inn (not affiliated with anything) across the tertiary road from the beautiful Walker Mountains, the details of the end have not been codified. Last night, for example, I was invited to join the Moose. Come next month’s check, I plan to join the Smyth County Moose chapter where I had friend okra for dinner last evening. My Moose card will get me in any Moose hall in the country.

–Joel Solkoff