January 17, 2017 is an appropriate date to announce the engagement of Amelia Altalena Solkoff to Javier Blanco.
The date marks the 1925 birthday of Amelia’s late paternal grandmother Miriam Pell Schmerler zt”l who was close to Amelia and her sister Joanna.
Amelia teaches English in Pontevedra, Spain (on the Portuguese border) where she is also an enthusiastic member of the local roller derby and rugby teams. With the exception of brief visits to the United States, Amelia has lived in Spain for three years, previously residing in Pamplona as well as spending a summer working on farms in the Basque region and the Canary Islands.
Javier Blanco is a sergeant in the Spanish army. The couple met in Javier’s hometown of Pontevedra where his mother and brother reside. Javier and Amelia currently live in Toledo.
The couple plan to marry in Pontevedra or nearby during the summer of 2016. The closest airport is Vigo, the fastest growing town in Spain. [Editorial note: Plans schmans. The couple married in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on August 6th. They honeymooned in Jamaica.]
Extensive additions, revisions, and amplification of Amelia and Javier’s engagement and marriage will appear on this site. Suffice it to say Amelia’s mother Diana Bass, sister Joanna, Joanna’s husband Jade and I are delighted.
I was present at the birth of both my daughters. I watched them grow up, receive an education, become employed and generally suck up a large portion of my energy (a process which continues to this day). Watching my daughters marry (when images of their birth continually flash through my mind) is a startling reality.
Especially mystifying to me are my daughters’ attraction to military men, each of whom I approve.
My primary hero is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose practice of non-violent resistance I have held up as an example to my daughters. I received conscientious objector status from my draft board during the Vietnam War which was an evil war. Perhaps, I have a recessive military gene. Go figure.
Javier plans to obtain a library card before getting married.
Of course, it is impossible to think of North Carolina without hearing James Taylor singing: “Carolina in my mind.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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?
Time to get my bag out of the closet.
Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff. All rights reserved.
“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.”
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])”
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:
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.
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.”
Flashback: Two days earlier
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
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?
Last year, before reaching her current level of maturity, Amelia prepares to run with the bulls
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!
זיכרונה לברכה zikhronah livrakha of blessed memory.]
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.
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.
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.
In Africa, lion after lion fell before the Colonel’s artillery.Rhinos, hippos, antelopes, wildebeests, and all manner of game were struck down, helpless as Democrats.When a skeptical George Creel asked one of Theodore Roosevelt’s guides how the former President, “blind in one eye, and myopic in the other,” could hit any of the animals that he accumulated on his safaris, the guide explained that when the Colonel leveled his, three other guns were also leveled, “ Mr. Roosevelt had a fairly good idea of the general direction, but we couldn’t take chances with the life of a former president.”
—from America Enters the World by Page Smith
You are difficult.
You are difficult.
Just because I love you…
You were named Joanna
during the eye of a hurricane.
Your name meant passion.
You became the center of our lives.
I remember driving around Washington listening to your fetal heartbeat.
Your Mother carried you inside her to the Great Wall of China,
the only humanly crafted object one can see from outer space.
Watching Diana win over the Chinese–winning slowly and persistently–gave a sense of your mother’s
power and talent.
Diana received for excellence a US Department of Commerce specially minted coin presented by
the Sectary of Commerce himself.
My life also became less interesting.
Remember you were the show.
We wanted Amelia because we so much admired your performance, we wanted more.
I see you on the grounds of the National Arboretum.
You have a large ball in your hand
and are wearing an endearing look caught–as a perfect image.
Why are all the photographs we make of you perfect?
Were you an error-proof model in a previous life?
You are too close to me to write about you clearly.
I love you too much for dispassion.
I am who I am–the fellow who is there for you when you are about to trip.
I am the fellow who anticipates danger and attempts to avert it.
Why is it the father-daughter/parent-child language’s sentiment is so sugary sweet in its
We both admit that we love each other.
Does that mean we are members of some special covenant?
You are quiet with me; you are angry; you are accusing, you are a number of words and paragraphs ending with the encoded words “and I’m glad to see you.”