Archive for Travel – Page 2

Important Perspective…

Monday’s catastrophic fire inside the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, terrible as it was, might just allow us to step back from the 24-hour news cycle and reflect on the longer horizon of human history. The fire damage to this iconic structure provides us an opportunity to look at a longer horizon and set other events in perspective. There is little doubt that the church will be rebuilt and restored. Even as the embers were still glowing, President Emmanuel Macron was promising to rebuild. This is not the first time its existence has been in peril. With luck, however, it may be the last. read more

Cultural Placeholders…

I’ve been thinking about generational differences lately and how each generation anchors itself with a set of creative icons, go-to figures, that serve as reference points on a timeline of cultural awareness.

What do you say or who do you think of when people ask you for your favorite movie, book, painting, or rock group? Who’s on that playlist? What music pops to mind? What paintings do you think of? What writers do you refer to and re-read? How you answer those questions most likely depends on the artistic/creative imprinting of your generation.  read more

Kindergarten Rules Updated…

In 1988, a local Unitarian Universalist minister published a book called All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It was a back to basics primer for Baby Boomers. It snuck onto the New York Times bestseller list and stayed there for 2 years. Twenty-five years and 7,000,000 copies later the author, Robert Fulghum, revised his little primer and added  a few new essays for the anniversary re-release. Today, his advice is just as cogent as it was when first published – maybe more so in the Age of Trump.

Here’s Fulghum’s Kindergarten code, in red, updated for the Age of Trump, in black:

“All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain (We don’t know about Donald, since he ordered his schools to hide his grades),but there in the sand pile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned: (Pay attention Donald. Turn off Fox and Friends. This is not Executive Time).

  • Share everything.Your tax returns and all the tainted money your father gave you. Be grateful.
  • Play fair. Stop lying, cheating at golf, and stealing from the American people.
  • Don’t hit people.Or put them in cages.
  • Put things back where you found themRussian money. Golf divots. Your dick.
  • Clean up your own mess. OMG, this is the big one. If you’ll get out of the way, the Democrats will do it for us.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours. The Affordable Care Act.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Mexicans, disabled reporters, Christine Blasey Ford, and the other 372,200,000 of us.
  • Wash your hands before you eat. Especially after you put everything back where you found it.
  • FlushFox News.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. KFC, Big Mac’s, and porn stars are not.
  • Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Hard to balance when you’re dancing with Lucifer.
  • Take a nap every afternoon. Alone. No tweeting.
  • When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. If Melania lets you.
  • Wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. The great wonder is how Trump ever got to the White House and how he manages to stay there.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup—they all die. So do we. And, so will Trump, in spite of Dr. Ronnie Jackson’s bogus misrepresentations.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned—the biggest word of all—LOOK. Not TAKE.
  • Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living. Fulghum’s Golden Rule is not a reference to the tacky decoration in Trump’s New York apartment, but I couldn’t resist this picture.
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    Gnarled and Twisted…

    I love this gnarled, twisted tree trunk. It’s “growing” in the front yard of my friends, Dick and Kit Duane, in Berkeley. Dick and I were law school classmates there 57 years ago. They bought the house 47 years ago, raised their children there, played music, made plans, drank wine, cooked meals and read poetry there. The tree is old growth by any standard of time, just as we are old growth by the standards of the Social Security Life Expectancy chart.

    Kit wants to have the tree taken out. She has a point; it could fall on the house when one of those fast-moving Pacific storms rips through the Golden Gate and blasts the Berkeley flats, but I’m betting on the tree. It’s seen a lot of those storms.

    Dick and I can’t remember the specifics of how our friendship began. We were in the same law school section, one of three, in a class of 750. He was recently out of the Navy and I was fresh from the Marine Corps but early on we uncovered a mutual interest in swimming. I had no talent…still don’t…despite millions of laps in thousands of pools around the world. He, on the other hand, was a competitive swimmer at Cal… but everything about him was relaxed. He never minded doing 3 laps for every 1 of mine, and I was grateful he didn’t mention it. We both needed a release from those mind-numbing hours in the law library and found it in our noon workouts at the UC pool and browsing stops at Cody’s Books on Telegraph Avenue.

    There is probably something deeply psychological about my affection for the Duane’s gnarly twisted tree. It’s like my gnarly wrinkled hand in some ways. Both show the effect of time in lumps, veins and scars on surfaces that were once  smooth and elastic. When I suggested to Marilynn that we take a photo of our hands for this article she didn’t want any part of it. I love her hands, but she tells me that women are sensitive about their hands and rarely does a “woman of a certain age” allow her hands to be photographed. I love her vanity. It means she still cares about showing the world the best side of herself. Me? Not so much.

    Nevertheless, last weekend M and I watched an interview with Angie Dickinson, a woman famous for her physical beauty who, at 87, was astonishingly unselfconscious about her gray hair, wrinkles, and hands. I found her confidence reassuring. After a lifetime of living shouldn’t we all be able to present ourselves proudly, and confidently “as is?”

    Dick and I took much different paths after law school. Things have changed since we were there, but the curriculum and vector in those days was toward an elite private law practice. I followed the vector by way of Loeb & Loeb in Los Angeles and lasted nine months. Dick, who spent a law school summer in Georgia doing civil rights work before graduation, spent a couple of years doing poverty law in DC and San Francisco before returning to Berkeley to start his own small general practice. I remember Professor John Jackson, our Contracts teacher, taking time to extoll the virtues of small private community based practice. It seemed so contrary to Boalt’s big firm bias, but that’s what Dick chose and I know after all these years that he loved it and never thought of looking back.

    Friendship, like love, is a mix of intangibles. Several of my most enduring friendships were formed in law school, though most of these were with classmates who didn’t follow traditional paths. Like friendships formed anywhere, law school was simply the nexus that brought together a cohort of people with similar characteristics, interests, and experience. We were all achievers in one way or another, competitive and curious in others. Some moved on according to someone else’s plan and some worked out their own.

    The cement in my friendship with Dick is probably that we were slightly out of synch with the curriculum and our classmates. We maintained those friendships too, but ours didn’t depend on a shared professional experience. We were focused elsewhere. We both loved the outdoors. He was a serious rock climber (including El Capitan and some first ascents) and I spent most of my adult life skiing and living in ski areas. He’s an avid reader and lover of poetry. So am I, and we both play the guitar, though neither of us is very good. On top of that, Kit was a book editor and both couples have spent serious chunks of time traveling and living abroad. It’s all added up to a great recipe for friendship.

    Steep rock faces and snowy steep chutes are behind the two of us now. His granddaughter is on her way to becoming a world-class rock climber and my grandsons are serious freestyle and backcountry skiers. We’ve had a hand in paying it forward for them and are enjoying the ride as they figure out their futures…but the best part for us now is our enduring friendship, memories of shared experience, and talk about what’s next. Neither of us is through…just adapting to changed circumstances.

    Dick and Kit in Provence last year.

    Present at the Creation…

    My “office” these days is a scarred up antique table at Folio, Seattle’s membership non-profit for people who love books. Out my window this morning is a quintessential Northwest scene with the January sun reflecting off the Bainbridge Island ferry’s trailing wake and the dark blue waters of Elliott Bay. Further west are the peninsula’s foothills and the sharpened peaks of the Olympic mountains. So, while the rest of the country is being cold-soaked by a Polar Vortex, I’m in one of my favorite settings, surrounded by books and the natural beauty of the Northwest.

    Founded by David Brewster, a serial literary entrepreneur, Folio is located one floor above Pike Place Market, where it functions as a library, event space, work area for writers, and book lover’s sanctuary. Since opening its door three years ago, Folio has assembled a rich collection of books through the donation of private library collections supplemented by the purchase of noteworthy current releases.

    When new books arrive at Folio it’s common to find duplicates of books already in the collection, and in that case some are sold, some donated to school libraries, and others placed on a cart outside the door and given away. These give aways change on a daily basis and I never pass the cart without looking to see what’s on it.

    Today, on my way to lunch, one title caught my eye – Acheson Country – a memoir by David Acheson of his father, Dean Acheson, former Secretary of State and all-around American statesman. I might have ignored it had it not been for the fact that the senior Acheson was the commencement speaker at my law school graduation in 1965.

    On that long ago afternoon in Berkeley, the former diplomat and advisor to presidents gave a graduation address that was memorable not for the advice it contained but for the aura surrounding its speaker. There, in the hot California sun, Mr. Acheson was, as my father might have said, “bandbox” perfect. The expression is dated now, but maybe not inappropriate in this case. The reference is to the container or “bandbox” used to store and preserve the condition of a clergymen’s vestments in earlier times. In the vernacular, according to the Oxford Dictionary, it is used to “convey the smartness or neatness of someone’s appearance.”

    That expression from bygone days perfectly describes the Dean Acheson I observed that day. His neatly trimmed trademark mustache, bespoke steel-gray suit, starched white shirt, pinched regimental tie, and spit-shined shoes reinforced the impression that I was in the presence of one of the 20th century’s greatest statesmen. My father and mother, who attended the graduation, both rock-ribbed Republicans, were equally in awe of Mr. Acheson as they listened to him in the courtyard at Boalt Hall.

    Yesterday, reading the memoir’s foreword by historian David McCullough, took me back to that day and gave me an opportunity to revisit the major figures and events of America’s most critical decades in the last century and to measure their contributions against those of today’s leaders.

    Dean Acheson’s biography reveals a scholarly but pragmatic man, a Groton and Yale patrician who forged a unique bond with Harry Truman, the quintessential common man. Together, they, with the help of others crafted the institutions and policies that maintained the world order for 70 years until recent disruptions upset that balance. His post-WWII foreign policy accomplishments included the establishment of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Truman Doctrine, Marshall Plan, United Nations, and the creation of NATO. And, it was he who, during the early 1950s strongly defended State Department employees whose loyalty and patriotism were under attack by Senator Joseph McCarthy. He remained an important advisor to Truman when the US entered the Korean War and participated in the controversial decision to fire General Douglas MacArthur during that conflict.

    Mr. Acheson left government service in 1953 and entered private practice in Washington where he remained a trusted advisor to presidents Kennedy and Johnson. In 1964 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and in 1970 the Pulitzer Prize for History for his memoir, Present at the Creation: My Years in the State Department. His son’s memoir is an important reminder of the importance of character, diplomacy, and historical perspective. His was a pivotal time in American history, and the contrast with today’s leaders is stark. Dean Acheson, George Marshall, George Kennan, Henry Cabot Lodge II, and Clark Clifford were all public servants who dedicated years to public service.

    As world powers jockey for position in the 21st century, it’s clear that America has fallen from grace and is struggling to find its place in the world order. The Trump administration does not appear to have a comprehensive world view. Foreign affairs is a chess game that requires a grasp of history, culture, politics, economics, and military strategy. Donald Trump is purely transactional. His guiding star is his own self-interest. He gathers ideas by watching Fox News, denigrates his intelligence and national security advisors, and doesn’t read, understand or value the lessons of history that should be guiding him in the global chess match. Is it any wonder he is being played so easily by a former KGB functionary? Why else would he want to pull out of NATO or shred the Paris Climate Accords, Trans Pacific Partnership, Non-Proliferation and Iran Nuclear Treaties? These are the organizations and institutions that hold the world together and keep war at bay.

    Today, the US Secretary of State is an ambitious, smug former Congressman from Kansas who’s attached himself to Donald Trump’s too long, too big, too black overcoat’s coattails and now smiles and prostrates himself with murderous dictators like Saudi’s Mohamed Bin Salman and Turkey’s Recep Erdogan. I don’t want to be pessimistic, but, in light of our present predicament, if Dean Acheson was “present at the creation“ will we have to write that we were present at the destruction? I hope not, but I’m not sure.

    As I write this I’m reminded of the many outstanding US Foreign Service officers I’ve known, especially Angela Dickey, who was interim Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City when I was there. I know she shares my concern for the shredding of Foreign Service professionals at the State Department.

    At the moment I’m pinning my hopes on another patrician public servant, Robert Swan Mueller III,  a graduate of St. Paul’s School, Princeton University, and the University of Virginia Law School who also earned a Master’s in international studies from NYU and served as a Marine Corps officer in Vietnam. His public service includes time as a US Attorney, Assistant Attorney General, and twelve-years as Director of the FBI. While at the Justice Department he oversaw the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the bombing of Pan Am 103 where 270 lives, including three friends of mine, were lost.

    I’m glad to have serendipitously run across Acheson Country, where my memory was refreshed and faith restored. Dean Gooderham Acheson was a giant among giants, and even though my connection was only a glimpse of the man late in his monumentally important career, I feel honored to have been present and to have heard him speak. I’m sure his words were inspiring, but what I remember most is the imposing figure who made me feel I was in the company of greatness. I think Robert Mueller can stand beside Acheson as an American hero and patriot. It’s possible that future generations will praise him for turning the American ship away from its destructive course and someone like me will read his daughter’s recollections – maybe it will even be called Mueller Country.

    “Always remember that the future comes one day at a time.”

    Dean Acheson