life in a modern pandemic

We have been here in pandemic land before. Spanish Flu 1918. I remember being told as a child how it killed a lot of my maternal grandfather’s family.

It’s oddly prophetic that this past fall an exhibit at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia opened about the last Philadelphia area pandemic called “Spit Spreads Death: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918-19 in Philadelphia”

We are all being introduced to coronavirus. Our pandemic for modern times. A reminder that while we have come so far in many aspects in society, we as humans are still vulnerable to disease and pestilence. Hunker down, it’s a global pandemic. Literally.

Now we know why things like the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Philadelphia is cancelled. In Philadelphia pretty much all big events are being cancelled. All colleges and universities seem to be going to virtual/online learning modes and emptying schools. Some school districts are closing schools. This is also why annual traditions to us in Chester County like the Chester County Antiques Show which was to open tomorrow with a special preview party.

I received notice of other things being cancelled that I was attending. My friend Andy King had a show scheduled at The Living Room in Ardmore. He’s been postponed until June, and the venue is closed until May 1st . A pop-up dinner by Peachtree Catering we were going to at the end of this month is also postponed indefinitely.

Last night it was announced flights from Europe weren’t coming to the U.S. for 30 days – a 30 day ban starting Friday I think it is. Ban thus far doesn’t extend to the U.K. as of now. Unless passengers were U.S. Citizens or U.S. Permanent Residents. Residents returning to the U.S. will be expected to self-quarantine upon return for about two weeks. It’s all very confusing, even to CNN.

Our financial markets are having big time issues. The U.S. markets have always been driven in part on emotion, and it’s 2020 but starting to feel like 2008. And people can weather that, what we don’t want is 1918.

I was doing a little gardening event and that is being postponed too. I can’t help it. I am still a cancer patient, which means I am in that lovely class of the immunocompromised. We are all supposed to practice social distancing – AKA minimizing close contact with people. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Those precautions involve “social distancing,” meaning minimizing close contact (defined as within 6 feet) with other people. While big gatherings increase the risk that lots of people could be exposed to infection — especially events where cheering could mean saliva flying — there may be no safety in small numbers.

“There’s no threshold. This is a time when if you’re invited to a dinner party with five people, you should say, ‘No thanks,’ ” said Carolyn C. Cannuscio, a social epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine….Cannuscio at Penn was dismayed by city officials’ implication that gatherings of fewer than 5,000 are low risk.

“They need to walk back that number,” she said. “That number will be talked about in public health classes for decades to come. Everybody is vulnerable to making mistakes in communications, but I want our leaders to recognize that we need to reduce social contacts. I know I might sound hysterical, but I recognize the public doesn’t understand the importance of social distancing.”

People, for the time being, it’s time to practice our nesting instincts and just stay home and enjoy each other’s company. Even Broadway, yes as in New York City, is going dark for a couple of weeks:

People are bitching left and right because things like NCAA March Madness is CANCELLED to live audiences. The tournament will go on, but the teams will be playing for the ghosts in the stadiums only. The NBA has suspended it’s season altogether. The NHL has suspended it’s season and MLB is delaying opening day.

This is actually no joke, yet on social media I see otherwise intelligent people saying that coronavirus is a “liberal conspiracy”. Seriously.

I am not in the mode of panic, but honestly? I am concerned. It’s taking people down in Europe and elsewhere and there seems to be no solution. It seems like pandemics before it, it must run it’s course?

Of course what also bothers me is we are still ill prepared for these disasters. Today Governor Tom Wolf basically started the wheels turning for PA shutdown. Montgomery County in particular on lockdown.

But what really gets me other than the mass confusion is how will this affect small businesses and hourly workers? Our economy is not as dandy as everyone would like to play make believe about. A friend of mine with a small business recently posted the following:

Governor Tom Wolf…now that you have taken our kids out of school, how are you going to help all the parents who work full time and have to work full time but have kids in school?
How are you going to help small businesses who have moms or dads as employees and now they can’t come to work?
What are you doing for the 1,000,000 small businesses in PA that are losing work but still have to pay mortgages, bills, employees?

What’s your game plan? You wanted to be our leader and I respect your position…I just need answers on what your are proactively doing for us.

For a lot of us if we don’t work, we don’t get paid. Those in the millionaire category will grumble about their various inconveniences… and survive.

And what about the testing? How do we do it, how do we get them? That seems to be about as clear as mud. HOW do you get a test? Who decides if you should get one? What kind of games will insurance companies play with this? (See Inquirer’s Coronavirus testing in Pa.: state lab is not following CDC guidelines to get more people tested by Marie McCullough, Updated: March 12, 2020- 1:26 PM)

Another thing that bothers me is the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Cardiologist who is last media report in really bad shape in the hospital with Coronavirus. I really hope he recovers as he has a family and friends and colleagues who love and care about him. BUT….what the HELL was he thinking? He knew about Coronavirus and he saw patients? Children under the care of a cardiologist? So he’s sick, someone else in his house is sick, and so many schools and school districts had to close because of virus fears and why? Because he saw patients when he came back. He’s a DOCTOR. Shouldn’t he have known better?

Sorry not sorry, it really bothers me.

And oh this:

Philadelphia Inquirer: A Philly teacher had known exposure to a coronavirus patient. The district isn’t notifying parents.
by Kristen A. Graham and Wendy Ruderman, Updated: March 12, 2020- 2:03 PM

A Philadelphia School District teacher gave the grim news this week: A relative had tested positive for the coronavirus, and he had been in close contact with the family member recently.

The Randolph High School teacher informed his students on Wednesday, then the principal sent the teacher home to isolate for two weeks.

What followed was panic: Staff had questions, students had questions, but it seemed no one could provide answers. Students panicked, some donning rubber gloves, many asking if school should be closed. Eventually, most of the student body walked out. But parents were never notified about the close contact the Randolph teacher had with the coronavirus patient.

I am so at sixes and sevens about this. I don’t know what to think. As far as society progresses, we can’t escape the natural correction caused by disease is what keeps floating through my brain. I know, I am being repetitive.

Cancel Everything
Social distancing is the only way to stop the coronavirus. We must start immediately.

MARCH 10, 2020
Yascha Mounk
Contributing writer at The Atlantic

We don’t yet know the full ramifications of the novel coronavirus. But three crucial facts have become clear in the first months of this extraordinary global event. And what they add up to is not an invocation to stay calm, as so many politicians around the globe are incessantly suggesting; it is, on the contrary, the case for changing our behavior in radical ways—right now.

The first fact is that, at least in the initial stages, documented cases of COVID-19 seem to increase in exponential fashion. On the 23rd of January, China’s Hubei province, which contains the city of Wuhan, had 444 confirmed COVID-19 cases. A week later, by the 30th of January, it had 4,903 cases. Another week later, by the 6th of February, it had 22,112.

The same story is now playing out in other countries around the world. Italy had 62 identified cases of COVID-19 on the 22nd of February. It had 888 cases by the 29th of February, and 4,636 by the 6th of March.

Because the United States has been extremely sluggish in testing patients for the coronavirus, the official tally of 604 likely represents a fraction of the real caseload. But even if we take this number at face value, it suggests that we should prepare to have up to 10 times as many cases a week from today, and up to 100 times as many cases two weeks from today…..

The coronavirus could spread with frightening rapidity, overburdening our health-care system and claiming lives, until we adopt serious forms of social distancing.

This suggests that anyone in a position of power or authority, instead of downplaying the dangers of the coronavirus, should ask people to stay away from public places, cancel big gatherings, and restrict most forms of nonessential travel.

Well it’s a good thing I like being home I suppose. But then there is the other thing: you can’t even get food/pantry basics in some places because people are just wiping out stores. Some hoarding and I am sure the people who will re-sell at astronomical levels will surface more and more (Just look at trying to get supplies on Amazon.)

My mother just called me. She lives in Philadelphia. My stepfather had just gone to Trader Joe’s for some basics. Their shelves are literally bare, and not just for toilet paper.

One of my friends has a husband who is very immunocompromised – she’s been buying cases of rubbing alcohol.

What is the right answer? Everything in the US is a study in confusion. To me it feels like a somewhat rudderless ship. (See CNN)

The Philadelphia Inquirer is providing pretty good coverage. So is the New York Times. The CDC has a whole section about coronavirus. But there is so much condradicting and confusing information out there, isn’t there?

Vox has this interesting chart and notes the following:

The Spanish flu of 1918-’19, the most horrific pandemic in modern times, focused mainly on the young. It had biological similarities to a flu pandemic in the 1830s that gave some older people in the 1910s limited immunity.

Most common symptoms in China, up to February 22, 2020

So PhillyVoice had this amazing article in 2018 about the Spanish Flu in Philadelphia:

SEPTEMBER 27, 2018

(Part 1) 100 years ago, ‘Spanish flu’ shut down Philadelphia – and wiped out thousands
Some 12,000 people died after the city held infamous Liberty Loan parade
BY JOHN KOPP AND BOB MCGOVERN

September 28, 1918 was to go down as a great day in Philadelphia.

Some 10,000 people were expected to watch the latest Liberty Loan parade – a patriotic spectacle designed to boost public financing for World War I.

But amid growing excitement that the war was nearing an end, 200,000 people flooded Center City, loudly cheering as thousands of military personnel, industry workers, relief workers, scouts and veterans marched down Broad Street.

That so many people came out astounded the local press, which did not hold back any praise in its coverage. The Philadelphia Inquirer lauded the parade for its pageantry and the enthusiasm of its onlookers, often in flowery prose.

“The energies of the city – its wealth, its brawn, its intellect, its patience, its skill in the works of brain or of hand – these were seen, as they never had been seen before in such a time and under such stress,” The Inquirer wrote in a front-page story. “Yet in every stride and in every voice there was to be seen and heard the first premonition of – victory.”

The Evening Bulletin, published later that afternoon, was more succinct but no less laudatory in its parade coverage. “This is a great day in Philadelphia,” its front page story began.

But tucked deep inside the newspaper was a story about Thomas Harlacker, a 30-year-old city policeman who was one of influenza’s latest local victims. The account, which noted 118 new cases of the disease in the city in the last day, carried a warning that, 100 years later, reads prescient.

“The epidemic is assuming more serious proportions,” the story cautioned, citing a warning by the city’s health director, Dr. Wilmer Krusen. “If the people are careless thousands of cases may develop and the epidemic may get beyond control.”

(Part 2) SEPTEMBER 28, 2018

In 1918, Philadelphia was in ‘the grippe’ of misery and suffering
The dark days of influenza epidemic: bodies piled up with no way to bury them

BY BOB MCGOVERN AND JOHN KOPP

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Charles Dickens wrote in 1859.

Nearly 60 years later it was an apt description of life in Philadelphia.

World War I was winding down, victory in sight. The city had proudly and vigorously raised millions of dollars to support the local soldiers on the battlefield. The patriotism and excitement was palpable: the boys would be coming home soon.

But in late summer 1918, the city was in “the grippe” of a second wave of a Spanish influenza epidemic sweeping the United States. The city was quickly plunged into misery. Illness and death and decay was everywhere. Dread and despair tormented the living. Unspeakable indignities visited the dead and alive.

For two weeks in September and October, from the start of the epidemic through some of its darkest days, the city’s newspapers chronicled the misery in the streets of Philadelphia. But they also shared tales of heroism, hope, frustration and evil.

Here’s how the epidemic played out – day by day – for days immediately after the Liberty Loan Parade that many experts say led to the explosion of influenza in Philadelphia. They were some of the darkest days this city and surrounding towns have ever seen.

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We need to learn from the past. But it would help if information wasn’t conflicting or seemed to omit things wouldn’t it?

Government does not want full scale panic.

Hell, no one does. It won’t kill us to practice “social distancing” but we need to live our lives.

And I don’t think individual people should be able to clean stores out of cleaning supplies and more, do you?

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Trader Joes in Tredyffrin. Facebook Photo

I guess there is a reason we didn’t have any snow days with schools this year other than global warming, right? Because snow days are becoming coronavirus days but what of the parents of all these kids being told to stay home? Are we all supposed to stay home?

I was told this afternoon all of the schools and colleges/universities in Ireland had closed down.

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ACME market in Paoli. Facebook photo

So our ultimate takeaway? Hunker down I guess.

But I still do not know how I feel about this. Other than don’t hug, don’t spit, and PLEASE wash your hands.

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From PhillyVoice via U.S. NAVAL HISTORY AND HERITAGE COMMAND/VIA LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

modern love

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I don’t talk about what I watch on TV much on this blog.  I like a wide range of things including what the streaming services put out. But yesterday I watched Modern Love from Amazon Prime and well…awesome, amazing, beautiful.

The genesis of Modern Love on Amazon Prime are the marvelous Modern Love columns in the New York Times.  They are among my favorite things to read.  Amazing essays. (Here is a LINK to an anthology the New York Times put out to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the column in the Times and the release of Modern Love on Amazon Prime Video.)

 

I sat and binge watched every single episode last night.  I even cried during parts of them.  This series is THAT good.

Watch it.  It’s a beautiful series.

The fact that it is a beautiful and thoughtful series based on something I have loved reading for years, makes me completely unable to understand why Shirley Li of The Atlantic is such a sour grapes bitch about the series in her article from yesterday.

The essays come to life in Modern Love are actually about real people.  People Magazine wrote about this on October 22nd.

The thing about love is that it is never perfect and always idealized, often unrealistically so.

From a female perspective, when we are little girls and even teenagers we have completely unrealistic expectations about what love actually is.  We have no clue and fall in and out of love with great regularity as we grow up. (Often in defiance of what our mothers want us to do or be.)

You learn about love as you grow up and experience it, and continue to learn about love and it’s many forms and twists and turns throughout your entire life.

Love is is exhilarating, exhausting, and even terrifying. Love is beautiful and sustaining and true and can be all-consuming.

To have love in your life is a blessing. Love takes many forms. Love is friendship and love is also romantic and love is the enveloping warmness and all consuming love and protectiveness you feel for a child. Or the unconditional love of your favorite pet.

Love is also a process.  Sometimes it’s more simplistic, other times complicated.  I think it depends on your age and stage of life and maturity as much as anything else.

I hope you give this series a chance and watch it and appreciate it for what it is on your own.  I found it lovely.

What is Modern Love?

By Daniel Jones New York Times

For 15 years, Modern Love has brought personal essays about love, loss and redemption to readers of The New York Times. Four years ago, it became a podcast. And now the column has inspired an eight-episode series on Amazon Prime Video.

on the eve of 9/11

In two days it’s another anniversary of 9/11. It has been 18 years.

Above is a screenshot of a New York Times newsletter email I opened this morning.

I. Can’t. Even.

On the eve of 9/11, no less.

February, 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Let me tell you a true story…

I came out of the trade center during the first trade center bombing. February 26, 1993. I was working on Wall Street for a municipal bond trading firm and I had gone with a friend from work into the shopping concourse of the old trade center because this woman – her name was Deirdre – had wanted to visit the Hallmark Gold Crown store – her grandmother or someone collected their Christmas ornaments and they were on a clearance sale.

So we went there and we grabbed lunch, and as we were standing right outside the trade center staring at Century 21 Department Store and wondering if we had enough time to go in there as well, the ground started to shake. Like you would imagine an earthquake. And then we thought it was snowing because all the stuff was floating down in the sky. We of course later realized that was like soot and ashes and stuff and then one by one it was the strange cacophony of car alarms in the garage going off like weird church bells. Then the sirens of first responders started.

But at first, right after it happened, time stood still. The explosion underground which caused the sidewalks to move underneath our feet, followed by a hold your breath moment of complete silence. Then came the chaos.

We got back to our office which was at 44 Wall Street and people were all freaked out. It was at that point we learned what had actually happened and came to the realization of how lucky we were to get out.

Over the course of the next couple of hours we had “refugees” that we knew from the twin towers who had to go down hundreds of flights of steps in some cases and came to our offices to wash the soot off their faces and just chill.

I remember this girl name Katie who was a trading assistant along with me whose fiancé worked for Dean Witter at the time. He was one of those people that had to walk down lots and lots of stairs and showed up in our office looking like he was completely done in black face but it was soot. And he was shaking, just standing perfectly still in our reception area, shaking. I will never forget it.

So when 9/11 rolled around and the first report came over my car radio, tears started streaming down my face as I sat in my office parking garage. They came back was the only thing that went through my head. Then my cell phone rang and it was my late father who at the time was on a train to New York City to head into his office. He was reaching Metro Park and I told him to get off and turn around and come home and he didn’t listen to me because the Amtrak conductors told him it would be fine.

My late brother in law was working in NYC by this point and thankfully he was able to meet up with my father and they holed up in someone’s apartment for a couple of days until they were able to get out of the city. But it was scary when they were all cut off from us with no phone communication whatsoever. Because it was absolute insanity in New York when the towers came down.

I remember when I went up to my office in between the first plane and the second plane and people were crowded around TVs and some broker’s office and I remember again I said “they came back.”

People looked at me and said you don’t know what you’re talking about it’s just a small plane that crashed into the side of the trade center. A horrible accident. Then the second plane hit. Then you had the news out of the other two planes.

I think all of our lives in some small way changed on 9/11. For years I kept running into people that knew people who died. People I knew from college died in the twin towers. They weren’t people I knew very well but a small school on a small campus they were people you recognized.

And our current President was going to meet with the Taliban at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 except it got cancelled?

WTF. Seriously, WTF????

How Trump’s Plan to Secretly Meet With the Taliban Came Together, and Fell Apart

New York Times

By Peter Baker, Mujib Mashal and Michael Crowley. Published Sept. 8, 2019
Updated Sept. 9, 2019, 8:35 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON — On the Friday before Labor Day, President Trump gathered top advisers in the Situation Room to consider what could be among the profound decisions of his presidency — a peace plan with the Taliban after 18 years of grinding, bloody war in Afghanistan.

The meeting brought to a head a bristling conflict dividing his foreign policy team for months, pitting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo against John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, in a battle for the competing instincts of a president who relishes tough talk but promised to wind down America’s endless wars…..In the days that followed, Mr. Trump came up with an even more remarkable idea — he would not only bring the Taliban to Washington, but to Camp David, the crown jewel of the American presidency. The leaders of a rugged militant organization deemed terrorists by the United States would be hosted in the mountain getaway used for presidents, prime ministers and kings just three days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that led to the Afghan war.

Thus began an extraordinary few days of ad hoc diplomatic wrangling that upended the talks in a weekend Twitter storm. On display were all of the characteristic traits of the Trump presidency — the yearning ambition for the grand prize, the endless quest to achieve what no other president has achieved, the willingness to defy convention, the volatile mood swings and the tribal infighting….And even after it fell apart, Mr. Trump took it upon himself to disclose the secret machinations in a string of Saturday night Twitter messages that surprised not only many national security officials across the government but even some of the few who were part of the deliberations.

No words. I just don’t get politics except for the overwhelming feeling on the eve of 9/11 that national politics just must be for dangerously selfish and narcissistic people.

Timing is everything and had this meeting happened it would have created more opportunistic divisiveness in this country.

Enough already. Some dates on the US calendar need to be respected. Stop already the national politics of self aggrandizing narcissistic behavior.

The timing of this just disgusts me.

9/11

r.i.p. john mccain

I will let John McCain’s final words be a lot of this post. He was a great American. He was an American Hero. We were lucky to have him in our corner.

We live at present with turbulence and ugliness that is NOT a hallmark of being an American and certainly resembles no Republican party I recognize and, in fact,  it’s a travesty. Maybe you don’t like my opinion, but it is what it is and I am not alone in my sentiments.  In my humble opinion, John McCain represented a good portion of  what I respected  once about  most Republicans.

Sad trivia: John McCain died 9 years to the day from when Ted Kennedy died…and McCain and Kennedy  died from the same cancer.  Sadly, I will never view Ted Kennedy with the same eyes.

Time for a brief segue… (come on now, it’s only a wee ramble…)

When I was child, Ted Kennedy was in Philadelphia.  It would have been after Chappaquiddick.  Anyway, he was making a stop at the American Catholic Historical Society at 263 S. 4th Street in Society Hill.  My family at the time lived at 271 S. 4th Street.

I was a little girl with an autograph book (remember those?) and I knew a Kennedy would be a few doors down from listening to all the grown-ups talk about it.  So I asked my parents if they could take me down for an autograph.  Kennedy got out of the car. He didn’t see me and waved his arms out I guess to wave at people or greet them or something a politician would do… and he knocked me down. Seriously and for real. He didn’t stop to see if the little girl he knocked over was o.k.  But that is why at an early age, I became an UN-fan of Senator Ted Kennedy.

Back to John McCain.  He was true to himself and to the American people. You can’t ask for more than that in a public servant/politician.

John McCain was a man whom I would have been proud as an American to have had as a President.  Sadly, they paired him up with Caribou Barbie, otherwise known as Sarah Palin.  He would have had a much better shot at becoming President I think if they had not stupidly chosen Sarah Palin. No I have nothing kind to say about Sarah Palin. I have always found her to be ridiculous. Her comments upon his death are no exception. She sounds like a bitter divorcée who lost her alimony or something.  However, since even our current President is apparently lacking in the decorum at death department, why should Scarah Palin be any different? Maybe she’ll be the next new hire on the White House edition of the Apprentice?

The New York Times has written  a beautiful obituary on John McCain . READ IT HERE.

Excerpt from New York Times Obituary:

John S. McCain, the proud naval aviator who climbed from depths of despair as a prisoner of war in Vietnam to pinnacles of power as a Republican congressman and senator from Arizona and a two-time contender for the presidency, died on Saturday at his home in Arizona. He was 81.

According to a statement from his office, Mr. McCain died at 4:28 p.m. local time. He had suffered from a malignant brain tumor, called a glioblastoma, for which he had been treated periodically with radiation and chemotherapy since its discovery in 2017.

Despite his grave condition, he soon made a dramatic appearance in the Senate to cast a thumbs-down vote against his party’s drive to repeal the Affordable Care Act….A son and grandson of four-star admirals who were his larger-than-life heroes, Mr. McCain carried his renowned name into battle and into political fights for more than a half-century. It was an odyssey driven by raw ambition, the conservative instincts of a shrewd military man, a rebelliousness evident since childhood and a temper that sometimes bordered on explosiveness.

Also read this Penn Live Editorial and here is an excerpt:

With McCain’s death, a call to serve | Editorial
Updated 3:43 PM; Posted 2:19 PM

By PennLive Editorial Board penned@pennlive.com

Fittingly for someone who always seemed larger than life, the death Saturday of U.S. Sen. John McCain at the age of 81 seemed like several events wrapped into one.

For McCain’s family, friends and colleagues – both in Washington and across the nation and world – it was a time to mourn a beloved father, spouse and colleague who battled bravely against an aggressive form of brain cancer to the very end.

For historians and political scientists, it offered the chance to observe, in real time, the passing of one era of American politics and the continued dawning of a new – and very different – one.

And for the rest of us, it was an opportunity to reflect on an extraordinary career of public service….Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who appeared at McCain’s side throughout his 2008 White House bid, said his longtime friend “lived a life to service as few others have. And when you take a look at that lifetime of service, his was performed with unfailing integrity.”

….He taught us that we work best when we work together.

I hope you read the entire Penn Live Editorial. It is brilliant.

Finally, The Washington Post Obituary on John McCain:

John McCain, ‘maverick’ of the Senate and former POW, dies at 81

By Karen Tumulty August 25

U.S. Sen. John S. McCain, the son and grandson of four-star admirals, was bred for combat. He endured more than five years of imprisonment and torture by the North Vietnamese as a young naval officer and went on to battle foes on the left and the right in Washington, driven throughout by a code of honor that both defined and haunted him.

Sen. McCain, 81, died Aug. 25 at his ranch near Sedona, Ariz., his office announced in a statement. The senator was diagnosed last year with a brain tumor, and his family announced this week that he was discontinuing medical treatment…..A man who seemed his truest self when outraged, Sen. McCain reveled in going up against orthodoxy. The word “maverick” practically became a part of his name.

Sen. McCain regularly struck at the canons of his party. He ran against the GOP grain by advocating campaign finance reform, liberalized immigration laws and a ban on the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” — widely condemned as torture — against terrorism suspects….Once Trump was in office, Sen. McCain was among his most vocal Republican critics, saying that the president had weakened the United States’ standing in the world. He also warned that the spreading investigation over Trump’s ties to Russia was “reaching the point where it’s of Watergate-size and scale.”

John McCain was indeed a maverick. And American here. An example of a dying breed of public servant.  We need more like him from both parties.  I think it’s high time to look for actual public servants, true voices of the people. Not puppets for their respective political parties, beholden to lobbyists and deal makers.

John McCain, thank you for your service. A literal lifetime of service.  You weren’t perfect, you did not pretend to be, but I think you were amazing.  May your memory be a blessing.

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#savestoneleigh (and photos from the opening)

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On May 8th and May 10th I wrote posts on Stoneleigh in Villanova.  A little far afield from Chester County but so important. I am a supporter and believer in Natural Lands, and then there is a more personal bent.  You see, one of my high school classmates grew up on Stoneleigh. His parents, John and Chara Haas, put the property into a conservation easement in 1996.

The 1996 conservation easement was with Natural Lands. The express wish of Mr. and Mrs. Haas was that the property be preserved for future generations to enjoy. Open space, gardens, and so on.  Now today is Mother’s Day and yesterday at the members preview on Stoneleigh, people were speaking of when Mr. and Mrs. Haas would open up the property on Mother’s Day for people to enjoy.

Here is a photo array to see before continuing with the post here – it takes a while to load – a lot of photos:

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After Mr. and Mrs. Haas passed away, their children decided to donate the property to Natural Lands, and that happened in 2016.  The conservation easement remains very much in place today, but is now under the stewardship of the Lower Merion Conservancy. Lower Merion Conservancy now is responsible for the annual monitoring.

I think Lower Merion School District is already starting damage control with their eminent domain B.S. given this overly verbose don’t hate us because we are big jerks press release currently on their website. I am more than a little disappointed by former 6ABC  reporter Amy Buckman already. Her predecessor’s press releases were much easier to follow and didn’t word wander, but I digress.

With regard to what is on their website, it is the full on poor pitiful Pearl routine where among other things they say that “LMSD is now the fastest-growing District in Pennsylvania by total number of students over the past eight years and enrollment could surpass 9,500 students in the next ten years.

But do they tell you WHY the district is growing so fast? Do they mention all of the development they have never, ever questioned? And yet, they are making a play for Stoneleigh based on future assumptions, or a possibility?  Call me crazy but they seem to want land for a future not a present need? And why are their needs the problem of Natural Lands and Stoneleigh? Just because it is there?

I have permission from Natural Lands to share some of the history of Stoneleigh so here’s an excerpt:

Stoneleigh’s history dates back to 1877 when Edmund Smith, a rising executive with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, purchased 65 acres of land in Villanova and constructed a residence there. To shape the grounds, Smith hired landscape gardener Charles H. Miller, who trained at Kew Gardens in England and later served as chief gardener for Fairmount Park.

At the turn of the 20th century, Samuel Bodine, head of United Gas Improvement Company, acquired the property. In addition to building the Tudor Revival style building that exists today, Bodine hired New York landscape architecture firm Pentecost and Vitale to radically redesign the gardens in a more formal, or “Beaux Arts,” style.

Evidently, Bodine was not pleased with the results. In 1908, he retained the Olmsted Brothers of Massachusetts—sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, and the most prestigious landscape architecture firm in the country—to “guide him in the gradual transformation of the place.” Over the next 50 years, the Olmsted Brothers firm returned periodically to Stoneleigh to plan vistas and pathways, establish gardens and terraces, reroute points of entry, select plant species, and transplant trees.

Following Samuel Bodine’s death in 1932, Stoneleigh was subdivided and sold. Otto Haas, entrepreneur and co-founder of Rohm and Haas Company, purchased the southwestern portion of the estate, launching a more than 80-year tenure of careful stewardship by the Haas family. Otto and Phoebe’s son, John, and his wife, Chara, acquired the property in 1964 and lived there for the next five decades.

Yesterday, Stoneleigh was packed. Natural Lands members turned out from everywhere to tour the house and the grounds.  It was lovely and bucolic, and I would like to think what the Haas family had hoped for.  Family members were on site yesterday.  I am sure it was also a little bit hard for all of them. This was their home, after all.   Now it’s an achingly beautiful public garden space and although this is the path set forth by their lovely parents, it just has to be bittersweet. And then to learn that Lower Merion School District is seemingly proceeding on a path of land stealing? Well, I can only imagine.

Apparently Lower Merion School District is having a tour on May 18th? Allow me to quote them again:

Due to a need for additional field space, Superintendent Copeland has stated that the District would like to pursue the 6.9 developable acres of Stoneleigh no matter whether or where a new middle school site is acquired. The District is hopeful an amicable accommodation can be reached.
As part of their continuing due diligence, and especially now in light of the possibility of the Class 1 designations on two of the potential sites, District representatives in April requested a walk-through of the entire Stoneleigh property for May 18, 2018.

Amicable is school district speak for give us what we want NOW.

Here is an excerpt of what WHYY wrote in an article May 12th:

WHYY: Conservancy mobilizes as Lower Merion looks to Stoneleigh garden for school use
By Laura Benshoff   May 12, 2018

To combat overcrowding, Lower Merion School District has proposed buying — or seizing through eminent domain — 6.9 acres of the Stoneleigh estate and historic garden in Villanova.

In response, Natural Lands, the conservation trust overseeing the property, has launched a public advocacy campaign called “Save Stoneleigh,” urging the district to drop its bid…

At Stoneleigh, gardeners and conservators have been doing their own planning, preparing the picturesque 42-acre estate that once belonged to the Haas family to open to the public, starting Sunday….

Lower Merion School Board will ultimately weigh every option before deciding whether to invoke eminent domain.

“It’s not the district’s first choice to do that,” said Roos. “But it just can’t be taken off the table as an option.”

Thugs. That is a good descriptive adjective don’t you think?  I am all for what lawyer Arthur Wolk wants at this point: removal of the entire school board. To that I add the removal of autocratic school Superintendent Robert Copeland.  To THAT I add Lower Merion Commissioners and township staff who have been ever so gung ho over development for YEARS and years.  Just clean house.  

Legal battles aside, that is exactly what needs to happen to prevent this B.S. in the future.

Savvy Main Line has a lovely write up about Stoneleigh on their website. Check it out.

And now that Stoneleigh has opened, visit. It will take your breath away. And once you are there and experience the magic of the place, you will understand why oh so many of us are so passionate about it. It is magical. Simply magical.

I hope you have enjoyed the photos I shared.

Please see Save Stoneleigh for more information.  Please consider signing the petition . Please write a letter, speak at upcoming meetings, and keep spreading the word.  Open Space should not be threatened like this. And at the end of the day, if the Lower Merion School District is unwilling and unable to respect the legacy of the Haas family, it is our duty to see that they are taught respect, don’t you think?

#SaveSoneleigh (pass it on.)

Happy Mother’s Day to all.

not our pipeline

Pipeline and sinkhole. Just The Fact Please photo. November, 2017

Before I moved to Chester County, I was somewhat ambivalent about Sunoco and their pipelines. Among other things, I grew up with a father who was for years, in-house PR for a then major oil company.  And part of that was during the Exxon Valdez era.  But oil companies had deep pockets and what did I know? Nothing was near where we lived and those oil company deep pockets were always giving box loads of stuff to schools, bought full page ads in school newspapers for the kids of employees, etcetera.

When you first hear about problems with pipelines, pipeline construction, or even fracking, it is like this fuzzy thing out of focus ahead of you in the haze. It can’t possibly affect you. Until it does. And in my opinion, it is.   I have friends who hail from Western Pennsylvania who literally have been warning people for years.  And they are just nastily labeled “fracktivists”. Guess that is the new label for “concerned citizen”? Because I have got to tell you, the people I knew who once lived in Western PA are…wait for it…MOMS.  You know how dangerous moms are, right?

Then it seems like in an instant but a couple miles in either direction from where you live as far as the crown flies in any direction, stuff starts to happen.

Well issues.

Sinkholes.

You feel like local municipal officials and politicians are just covering their ears saying “na,na,na,na,na,na,na,na,na” in order to NOT have to listen to residents.  Respected environmental activists are labeled as being alarmists.

Then all of a sudden the  PA DEP seems to wake up and temporarily halts work on Sunoco’s Mariner 2 Pipeline.  Only as per residents in some affected Chester County neighborhoods and State Impact by NPR  that might not quite be true as they report on January 9, 2018:

When Danielle Otten woke up Monday morning, she didn’t expect to see men working on the Mariner East 2 pipeline construction site that sits about 40 feet from her backyard, along Devon Drive in Uwchlan Township, Chester County.

For one thing, work in the area had stalled after drilling dried up and damaged nearby water wells this past summer. And just last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a court order halting construction along the 350-mile long pipeline after Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners continued to violate its permits, causing damage to private water wells, streams and wetlands…..When DEP issued a stop work order to Sunoco last week, it appeared that all work would halt aside from drilling and erosion controls that had to be continued in order to prevent additional environmental damage. But a spokesman for the DEP now tells StateImpact that when it comes to anything other than earth disturbance or water crossings, the agency doesn’t have jurisdiction.

 

In Chester County, as a resident, you can’t avoid the truth of the pipelines. And the risks and dangers. So many of us are on wells. And so many with wells are already having issues. And then there are those other pesky things…you know like sinkholes and so on?

The jarring visuals you see with your own eyes like the beautiful swaths of lands torn assunder are burned into your brain.  Once you see it, you can’t un-see it and you wish you could.

Swing sets and play houses of small children sit in macabre juxtaposition to giant earth moving machines and huge pieces of pipe.

Giant walls, pipes, and earth moving machines also sit across the driveway from senior citizen apartment complexes and grocery stores.

Pipeline so close and on top of churches and schools in addition to residential neighborhoods and please, tell me, how is that safe?

Next to firehouses too? So basically, Sunoco puts those supposed to protect us at risk as well?

You have friends and former neighbors who have Sunoco gobbling up their land for the pipeline.  You count your blessing like we did that we moved long ago from certain parts of Chester County because otherwise this view could be your very own backyard:

Uwchlan Safety Coalition photo

Only you can’t help but wonder if your slice of heaven will remain unmolested by pipelines? Like Medieval Feudal Lords, you are never quite sure what they will swoop in and take, are you?

You are, as residents of Chester County and elsewhere, supposed to bend over and accept these new vistas:

My photo, taken July, 2017

When you say “no I think this is bad” there are people who will  jump all over you. “It’s perfectly safe. You don’t know what you are talking about.”

Perfectly safe? Is that why CBS This Morning ran and over FIVE minute segment on the national news this morning from coast to coast?

Sunoco is raping our land. They are depleting it, irrevocably changing it and in my opinion putting us all at risk.  It is not OUR pipeline, it is THEIR pipeline being forced upon us all and we are not benefiting from it.  This isn’t OUR infrastructure, it’s Sunoco’s infrastructure. What they take is being shipped OVERSEAS.

As another friend Ginny said to others:

Sunoco cannot replace the large, mature trees they are chopping down for this. Nor can they restore the fragile and important wetland there if they wreck it, just as they couldn’t restore the private wells that they wrecked in Marchwood this summer with this pipeline. 

Living with hazardous liquefied natural gas lines is not a part of living in suburbia. In fact it is reckless to put these lines through densely populated areas, right alongside houses, schools, apartment buildings, shopping centers, seniors homes, etc. 

And now, Sunoco also wants Chester County Library’s freaking lawn? (See Dragon Pipe Diary)

When does it stop?  When did Corporate America’s rights become more meaningful than ours in Chester and Delaware Counties and elsewhere in Pennsylvania?  Why are we as residents being forced to live with something that destroys and takes and give nothing back in return? Why don’t residents matter? Why do we spend so much time feeling like our elected officials have forsaken us on this issue?

And why is it when you mention anything about not liking or distrusting pipelines some fool will always hop up and cry foul partisan politics? I mean do they really think we are such imbeciles that an issue which is non-partisan and affects EVERYONE is an example of partisan politics?  Take off the dunce caps, because opposition to Mariner East is clearly bi-partisan.

Pipeline, East Goshen. My photo. Summer/Fall 2017

Today in addition to the CBS News report, Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety is a nonpartisan, fact-based, grassroots coalition of locally-based safety groups, made up of concerned Pennsylvanians from across our Commonwealth issued a press release:

Well guess what? I believe these folks, and this pipeline and it’s march across Chester County and elsewhere terrifies me.  These people protesting are our neighbors and friends. And there are quite the growing numbers of experts, environmentalists and others who believe these residents.

There is also a very important petition circling. It is directed at our rather elusive Governor Tom Wolf on Change.org asking him to protect our communities under the PA Health and Safety Statute.

Please sign and share this petition today.

Here are some articles:

Dragonpipe Diary: Sunoco’s destructive plans for the Chester County Library lawn

State Impact PA Despite DEP order to halt Mariner East 2 construction, some work is still allowedJANUARY 9, 2018 | 5:34 PM Susan Phillips

State Impact: Water problems persist along Mariner East pipeline route despite court interventionOCTOBER 12, 2017 | 5:03 PM BY JON HURDLE

State Impact: DEP issues violation to Sunoco for another spill of drilling fluidAUGUST 30, 2017 | 6:40 PM BY JON HURDLE

grist: BRIEFLY Stuff that matters PIPE DOWN

Daily Local: Pennsylvania DEP shuts down construction on Sunoco gas pipeline By Bill Rettew, brettew@dailylocal,com POSTED: 01/03/18, 5:25 PM EST

Daily Local: DEP accuses Sunoco of unauthorized drilling By Bill Rettew, brettew@dailylocal.com POSTED: 01/02/18, 3:49 PM EST

Daily Times, Phil Heron: Editorial: Economic benefits alone won’t resolve pipeline concerns

Look at the end of the day, did we come to Chester County for this view below? I don’t think so. We need to protect what is ours.  And what is ours, is not necessarily theirs.

#Resist

Uwchlan Safety Coalition Photo

april fools’ from the pa dep on bishop tube 


My my my. My late father always said a lot of real news was buried in the Saturday paper. And here we have it.

File under April Fools’ from the Pennsylvania DEP?

At this point I can’t decide who is sleazier,  can you? Developers with their perpetual sets of the emperor’s new clothes or the state agencies who are supposed to protect us?

I wonder what does the EPA think? I realize they are a Federal agency but do they care?  Or are residents on their own with TCE across the country and the damage it does? The damage TCE has done already?

So yeah, Pennsylvania DEP, people ARE watching you. Remember Limerick? Remember how people rose up and demanded the DEP actually do their jobs and not just push paper around?

And while we are calling people out on toxic Bishop Tube and the fact that way too many in authority have known for DECADES about this site, should we not call out State Representative Duane Milne and State Senator Andy Dinniman? 

This is a deadly, toxic site and it needs to be cleaned up properly. Those three hot spots which are the only ones that supposedly are going to get cleaned up are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg and the Pennsylvania DEP knows it, don’t they?

For more recent posts on Bishop Tube see:

bishop tube in front of east whiteland march 8

calling erin brockovich?

the delaware riverkeeper opines on bishop tube to east whiteland zoning hearing board

the delaware riverkeeper sends the pa dep’s hatzell a letter…about bishop tube!

east whiteland reporting bishop tube site is OFF planning agenda for 3/22

the tale of the bishop tube documents

Pay attention to the post containing documents above, old documents tell interesting tales don’t they?

As of now there is a meeting hosted by East Whiteland Township on Bishop Tube on April 19. Note the careful wording of the notice because they have invited all the below parties to show up and hopefully all the below parties will show up considering the fact that some of them are now contacting residents right?  I think this meeting is a demonstration of good faith on the part of East Whiteland Township. Here’s hoping all  invited show up to the party, can’t we all agree?

why don’t we have more control over our communities? we live here.

Meet Pulte’s  “promotional video” on Linden Hall.

Described as an enclave of “luxury”  town homes, with views of an exclusive golf course anyone has yet to see how storm water runoff will affect and whose memberships are not exactly included with the purchase price of the townhouses. (Yes holy run on sentence Batman but I don’t know how else to say it.)

You see photos of rolling Chester County fields with nature, only there is no nature at Linden Hall. Only a crumbling historic carriage stop and inn that  sits and rots unrestored, even though the original developer (Benson or whomever) who sold Pulte the townhouse land and approvals promised to restore but thus far has not. All that has happened is a version of construction fencing has been erected to surround it. (Maybe with black plastic fabric fencing around it we won’t notice the building rotting, right?)

This video says that this development is 3.5 miles from a Septa Station. I assume they mean Eston which already has parking issues? And you get to that station from congested route 100 right? Or you have to invent a space at Malvern station?

The video proclaims 4 miles from Main Street at Exton and 10 miles from the King of Prussia Mall because God forbid people support local, small businesses, right? 

And my favorite, they tout the Great Valley “School System”.   Of course no one ever talks about the effect a rampant increase in development has on a school district which eventually affects our taxes and our kids, do they? And before all the PTA cheerleaders gather up their pom poms against me, that is NOT a slam at the school district, that is a very grim reality which is inevitable. 

But overall what bothers me the most is here is yet another developer touting our beautiful Chester County they are carving up into plastic houses one acre at a time. The site these townhouses are on once supported quite an ecosystem. Foxes and birds and rabbits and so on. I know the neighbors behind Linden Hall are very unhappy and worried how this development will affect their property values down the line.

The price points are not affordable for those who would need affordable housing. The quality is not so spectacular that the exteriors won’t wear quickly after a few Chester County winters. And the way they describe them, well you don’t realize if you are looking at a development essentially sitting on a highway. No matter what you do to them they are sitting on a major thoroughfare. And it’s not pretty.


Ok this brings me to the impetus behind this post:

The New York Times:  How Anti-Growth Sentiment, Reflected in Zoning Laws, Thwarts Equality

By CONOR DOUGHERTY

JULY 3, 2016


….“The quality of the experience of being in Boulder, part of it has to do with being able to go to this meadow and it isn’t just littered with human beings,” said Steve Pomerance, a former city councilman who moved here from Connecticut in the 1960s….These days, you can find a Steve Pomerance in cities across the country — people who moved somewhere before it exploded and now worry that growth is killing the place they love.

….But a growing body of economic literature suggests that anti-growth sentiment, when multiplied across countless unheralded local development battles, is a major factor in creating a stagnant and less equal American economy….

Zoning restrictions have been around for decades but really took off during the 1960s, when the combination of inner-city race riots and “white flight” from cities led to heavily zoned suburbs…To most people, zoning and land-use regulations might conjure up little more than images of late-night City Council meetings full of gadflies and minutiae. But these laws go a long way toward determining some fundamental aspects of life: what American neighborhoods look like, who gets to live where and what schools their children attend.

And when zoning laws get out of hand, economists say, the damage to the American economy and society can be profound. Studies have shown that laws aimed at things like “maintaining neighborhood character” or limiting how many unrelated people can live together in the same house contribute to racial segregation and deeper class disparities. They also exacerbate inequality by restricting the housing supply in places where demand is greatest.

This article is written by someone who doesn’t get the realities of rampant development. Nor does the author mention the fact that a lot of these developments are built just to build, not because there is an actual need. 

The author of this article of this article also does not get how these developers are actually contributing to what he seemingly despises. As in these developers are actually contributing to racial segregation and deeper class disparities. They are in fact limiting the housing supply by their very price points. How many families of multiple people and kids are going to look at condos for example that are studios and one bedrooms and if not rentals start at mid 500,000s? How many agricultural, factory, or service related workers are going to be able to afford Linden Hall or Atwater or so on or be encouraged to buy there?

And look at all the zoning together. That is developments in progress in one area, regardless of municipality, along with other development in various states of approval. A sleeper to watch for in East Whiteland would be that thing a developer named Farley got approved a while back, remember? A multi acre parcel that is accessed off a property on 352 that looks like a hoarding situation that goes up into woods and would be shoehorned in between Immaculata and the William Henry apartments for lack of a better description? So you have the increasing traffic nightmare on Route 30 by Linden Hall which will only get worse with completion of neighboring projects like off of Frame Ave and Planebrook Rd. Can you imagine adding this 352/Sproul to that? And the effect it will have potentially on King Road? Let alone what one more project so close together would have on the ecosystem of the area AND the school district!

See that is the problem with all these developments, developers, and the factual analysis this New York Times writer Conor Dougherty thinks he has done. The reality is we do NOT live in a bubble. We are connected. Developers envision and present these projects as stand alone things with no real time or effort put into the relationships between projects. It starts when you see the plans presented at a local municipal meeting.

 These projects are depicted all by themselves with nothing around them, or nothing around them realistic to human or other scale. They do traffic studies when no one is around, they don’t really look at what a large uptick in population will do to anything from roads, to hospitals, to school,districts, to the environment. They do not care about us, they just want to build, get their money, and get out. So pardon the hell out of us Conor Dougherty if we want to preserve the character of where we live and do not want our school districts, property values, and our shrinking open space detrimentally affected. And his affordable housing argument doesn’t wash at least around here because they are not building affordable housing. These developers truthfully don’t give a rat’s fanny about actual affordable housing.  None of this is about actually helping others, it’s about lining their pockets at the expense of many communities.

Chester County is at risk. I am not sure why Chester County even has a county planning department because everything getting built is about the dollars developers get from density. Our open space and communities and agricultural heritage are seriously at risk. That doesn’t anyone make sny person saying that some kind of NIMBY ….it is the truth. Why is it that the rights of those who already live in an area seem so less important than what politicians  and developers want?  Look at Embreyville and Bryn Coed – what happens to those areas if development gets approved for maximum capacity? Embreyville is already in play, and Bryn Coed is only a matter of time, right?

Community preservation and open space preservation aren’t dirty words. They should be our  right as residents of this beautiful county we call home.

Happy July 4th. Our forefathers fought for our freedoms and apparently we are still fighting for our rights.

Thanks for stopping by.

dear new york times, kindly leave my downton abbey alone

Downton-Abbey-season-5-poster

I have loved every glorious second of Downton Abbey. For the past few years PBS has magically transported us to a different time to get lost in this series and their now defunct way of life. But all good things must come to an end, so this is the final season.

But along with the last season, come the critics more snarky than usual. And none of them are as obnoxious as author Louis Bayard of the New York Times.  It must be truly wonderful to be as superior as he thinks he is.

Mr. Bayard has been doing episode recaps for the New York Times. Except it is more like a hatchet job. Why dear Mr. Bayard, if I did not know better I would say you had a bad case of bitchy SOUR GRAPES. Maybe Mrs. Patmore can whip you up a digestif?

 

(READ HIS RECAPS HERE)

On Facebook the New York Times quips this morning:

“I couldn’t escape the feeling that tonight’s episode was devoted to bringing out the puppy in everyone,” our recapper writes of “Downton Abbey.” (Spoilers ahead.)

And then I read what Louis Bayard had written:

TELEVISION|Downton Abbey’ Season 6, Episode 7: Crash and Burn

By

Season 6, Episode 7

This recap contains spoilers for Sunday’s episode of “Downton Abbey.”

Send in the puppies!

And that is all I am posting. It’s obnoxious.  As a matter of fact most of his scribbles on Downton Abbey are obnoxious. (And apparently, he also doesn’t think much of the works of Jane Austen, which I also enjoy.)

Last week it was  ‘Downton Abbey’ Season 6, Episode 6: Does Lady Mary Have a Heart?

January 3rd he referred to “the dagger-mouth of Maggie Smith”

Ok wow. Dame Maggie Smith is one of the finest actresses alive and well who hasn’t loved how she has played the Dowager Countess these past few years? (Thanks to Maggie Smith and Julien Fellows we have some marvelous one liners to last us a few years.)

I guess the point I am trying to make is this: this show has been coming into our homes for the past few years and it has been a long time since we had something capture our imagination much like Upstairs Downstairs, The Duchess of Duke Street, Lillie, or the original Poldark (which has been reborn into a remake of the original series and it’s also terrific so Mr. Bayard will undoubtedly hate this series too.)

Television today is a lot of showing of body parts (usually female, and usually “enhanced”), guns, sometimes bad fashion, and darkness. A lot of darkness.  Downton Abbey instead these past few years has transported us to another place and time and gloriously so.

So why does the New York Times have to tear down every episode with obnoxious recaps masquerading as reviews?  Has it been such a trial watching a beautiful period drama? Would Mr. Bayard prefer endless seasons of ABC’s The Bachelor? Are mindless boobs (quite literally) more his speed?

With all the dreadful reality we deal with in our everyday lives in out everyday world  – you know like the terrifying array of potentially psychopathic US Presidential hopefuls (cue Ted Cruz), Downtown Abbey has been a pleasant respite. And why not?

But the New York Times? Wow. Are they that desperate to sell papers and online subscriptions that they can’t just enjoy Downton Abbey for what it is? They have to rip it to shreds weekly like proverbial blood sport? That is journalism? Is their some unwritten law where critics can’t like anything?  Or can’t review without a large dose of bitchy? That is really sad.

I will miss when there is no Downtown Abbey next season. Again, I have loved it from the setting, the age in which it is set, to the wardrobe. It has been so fun!

(And yes, spoiler alert I have seen the finale…I loved it.)

Carry on and happy Monday!

our inconvenient history: duffy’s cut

DSC_1297I saw Duffy’s Cut today. It took my breath away. It is such a compelling story, and it is an eerie, silent,  almost sacred place. Yet it is also an inconvenient history, an inconvenient truth.

DSC_1171When I was little my one grandfather whom I called Poppy would tell me stories of how the Irish were persecuted at different times in this country (John Francis Xavier Gallen was Irish and born in the late 19th century) . When he was a little boy, my great grandmother Rebecca Nesbitt Gallen was in service and was the summer housekeeper to the Cassatt Family in Haverford. If I recall correctly, he lost a lot of family during the Spanish Flu Pandemic of the early 20th century, but I digress. Poppy would tell me of anti-Irish sentiment and tales of “Irish need not apply”.

My other grandfather, Pop Pop, would tell me of anti-Italian sentiment. Poppy’s wife, my grandmother (my Mumma), who was Pennsylvania German, would tell me tales of anti- German sentiment during both world wars.  And so did my own mother.  Yes, I am off on a slight tangent here, but for all that the United States was founded as a nation of immigrants, different sets of immigrants have been persecuted at different times throughout our history and even today. Considering the immigrant stock that runs through my veins I identify with this and am basically unapologetic about my views.

So maybe while Duffy’s Cut is one of Chester County’s most astounding and horrific pieces of history, can it also be said cruelty to various sets of immigrants is as much a part of this country’s inconvenient history as slavery and indentured servitude were?

But back to Duffy’s Cut. I heard about that from my Poppy as a little girl, yet we never learned about it in history class in school. Well one history teacher I had knew of it, but it wasn’t taught to us.

duffys cutI first wrote about Duffy’s Cut in 2013. I happened to be passing by the Duffy’s Cut historical marker at the time,  and stopped to photograph it.  Given the clouds of mystery and intrigue still surrounding Duffy’s Cut, I think the foggy afternoon was perfect. I also think that given the development occurring in Malvern (borough and East Whiteland) by developers who don’t truly give a rat’s fanny about the area, the history, or the current residents (they care about building and selling  projects) it is also appropriate to remember the history. You can never truly move forward into the future if you can’t honor the past, or that is just my opinion as a mere mortal and female.

I have always thought the tale of Duffy’s Cut to be a huge part of the history of Malvern. The Duffy’s Cut Project is housed at Immaculata. You can go see it.

The Smithsonian Channel has a special about it – called the Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut.

Duffy’s Cut is a big deal.  What was Duffy’s Cut? Most simplistically the mass murder of Irish rail workers in 1832 around the time of a cholera outbreak they were blamed for but most say in actuality didn’t cause.

 

DSC_1184There had been a cholera outbreak.  People believed the Irish bought the disease with them. They didn’t as the records for the ship would later prove, but it didn’t matter. Those 57 men (and a woman) were immigrants who spoke mostly Gaelic and lived in the shanty town created to house them next to the railroad (Philadelphia and Columbia line) they were helping create in Malvern.DSC_1340

These immigrants were different. They were “dirty Irish” and locals at the time were suspect of them and threatened by them. I am sorry that sounds awful, but it is an unfortunate truth. I think that and the murder of at least some of these Irish rail workers is why this story has taken so long to unfold and is still continuing.

For example did you know that there is an edition of a paper that was a predecessor (I believe) of the Daily Local called the Village Record.

The October 3, 1832 edition of the paper had an accurate telling of what happened down at Duffy’s Cut earlier that year. The edition of the paper disappeared. The only thing that still exists is the November 8th correction article. The more palatable version of events (yet how was any of it ever palatable or acceptable?)

So my friend and I met with Dr. William Watson at Immaculata today, and he took us to the site. I will not disclose the exact location of the site because well, shall we say, Duffy’s Cut still makes people uncomfortable. And modern day residents who live near this piece of history deserve to NOT be pestered by amateur sleuths and ghost chasers.

DSC_1289Dr. Watson and his brother Reverend Frank Watson became intrigued by Duffy’s Cut when they were given a file that had been in the possession of their grandfather, Joseph F. Tripician.  Their grandfather had been a secretary to Martin Clement, the 11th president of The Pennsylvania Railroad. Their grandfather had Clement’s old file on Duffy’s Cut. (And it was Clement who put up the stone monument  at the edge of the tracks.)

Part of the PRR employee Julian Sachse document from the papers of Mr. Tripician from Martin Clement. This image appears many places including where I found it Duffy's Cut: The Murder Mystery of Malvern By William S. Patton III, Spring 2014 (PSU.edu)

Photo courtesy or Rev Frank Watson and Dr William Watson –  Part of the PRR employee Julian Sachse document from the papers of Mr. Tripician from Martin Clement. This image appears many places including where I found it Duffy’s Cut: The Murder Mystery of Malvern By William S. Patton III, Spring 2014 (PSU.edu)

In April 2010 Smithsonian Magazine had this amazing article on Duffy’s Cut. You can read it online today.

And articles keep being written . Especially because Dr. Watson and his brother and their team have actually gotten some of the remains returned to family descendants in Ireland to be buried with other family members.

The world has taken notice of Duffy’s Cut and what happened there. Perhaps more so than around here truth be told. However, in 2012 an Inquirer reporter named Kristin Holmes wrote a wonderful article about the Duffy’s Cut workers remains which were given burial space at West Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Long-forgotten dead of Duffy’s Cut get proper rites

POSTED: March 10, 2012

When the bodies of the 57 Irish immigrants were dumped into a mass grave in 1832, it was a secret, perhaps meant to shroud a violent end.

But 180 years later, in a ceremony to commemorate the railroad workers’ deaths, there was pomp and fanfare.

Bagpipes, a procession, and a regal, 10-foot high Celtic cross grave marker were part of a funeral service Friday meant to give five of the 57 the proper burial they never had.

The observance at West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd was the culmination of a 10-year research project, known as Duffy’s Cut, to determine the fate of the workers who stepped off a boat from Ireland in June 1832 and were dead eight weeks later.

While most died of cholera in an epidemic that swept the region, researchers say some may have been slain in an act rooted in fear and prejudice….The investigation began in 2002 when the Watson brothers, 49, read a secret file that mentioned the workers and a mass grave. The papers were left to them by their grandfather, who worked as a secretary to the president of what was then the Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad, and is now part of SEPTA.

The brothers began research that would eventually involve geophysicist Timothy Bechtel; the Chester County Coroner’s Office; Earl Schandelmeier, an adjunct professor at Immaculata; Janet Monge, the keeper of skeletal collections at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology; and others. Project researcher John Ahtes died of a heart attack in the midst of the investigation….

The men from Donegal, Tyrone, and Derry Counties sailed to the United States and were promptly hired by railroad man Philip Duffy of Willistown. The mass of workers lived in a shanty near the tracks. The washerwoman served them. Within eight weeks, they were dead – of cholera and other causes.

Four skulls unearthed at the shanty site show signs of blunt trauma, investigators said. One has a hole that might be from a bullet.

The men probably were the victims of anti-Irish sentiment, the fear of cholera, and prejudice against immigrants, researchers say.

“Their sacrifice has been our motivation,” Frank Watson said.

“Their sacrifice has been our motivation.” How beautiful a sentiment is that?

In the spring of 2013, the New York Times continued with another part of the story: they covered the remains of young John Ruddy being returned to his descendants in Ireland:

With Shovels and Science, a Grim Story Is Told

The New York Times

Decades ago, just before the Pennsylvania Railroad was auctioned off, Watson’s grandfather — who worked for the company — saved key company records before they were destroyed. Among them were documents that hypothesized the location of the mass grave and reported the deaths of 57 workers.

The documents also clearly stated that the information was intended to remain a secret.

It was a “crazy coincidence” that the railroad company’s records survived through his family, Watson said.

The papers confirmed fears of a cover up. If the men’s deaths were due to cholera, why weren’t they recorded in a local paper, like most cholera deaths were at that time? And why would some of the bodies have been brutalized?

The answers remain elusive.

 

Have you noticed when you mention Duffy’s Cut you get many reactions/opinions?  Ok I get it. Some day the entire truth will come out….and I wouldn’t want to be related to people who either took part in making these workers disappear or the cover up which ensued. It will be like saying you are related to Benedict Arnold. Or a slave owner. And it is something else historically wonky that basically happened in East Whiteland. (Dare I say it? Has the East Whiteland Historical Commission ever opined on this? Participated in research in any way? Or just erected a slightly historically inaccurate sign?)

But it is part of our history around here.  And for those of us with at least partial Irish lineage, well, don’t you just want to know? Will finally learning the truth be so bad? John Ruddy from Donegal and the woman Catherine Burns from Tyrone have been returned to their modern descendants and buried in Ireland. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to identify the remains of more workers so that they could be sent home to their modern day descendants and rest in peace?

Fresh research and searching for the truth is underway. That has gotten a lot of coverage the past few months in Ireland, incidentally:

Derry Journal: Duffy’s Cut: Hopes that the mass grave of Irish dead have been uncovered

IrishCentral.com: Further testing underway at Duffy’s Cut mass grave of 57 murdered Irish

Irish Echo:Work begins on Duffy’s Cut mass grave

And I can’t forget to mention the television piece done by CBS3’s Walt Hunter this fall as well: EXCLUSIVE: New Search Begins For Secret Main Line Grave Holding Irish Rail Workers

EW DCYou will notice in the Walt Hunter report the incorrect verbiage on the Duffy’s Cut sign by the stone monument – by the East Whiteland Historical Commission. I mean I guess they tried but they state the wrong year (1834 when the incidents occurred in 1832) and the well wrong cause of death – black diphtheria, and the disease was cholera. The text of the sign is “Burial Plot of Irish Railroad Workers. Died Summer of 1834 of Black Diptheria- East Whiteland Historical Commission.”

Core samples are being taken.  Amtrak seems to be cooperating a little more (I call that a true Christmas miracle – hopefully that continues.)

And oh yeah, thanks to the latest Walt Hunter story Duffy’s Cut has even made People Magazine.  So what of other local media? Since it was the paper that possibly eventually became the Daily Local (Village Record, West Chester, PA) had that article that disappeared from October 3rd, 1832 how about an in-depth update from our local paper or any of the other Chester County newspapers?

Dr. Watson took us to the little museum at Immaculata where we saw the artifacts and heard the tale.  I also find it fascinating how many songs and musical tributes to Duffy’s Cut exist. (You can buy a CD of songs on the Duffy’s Cut Project Website.) But it was when he took us to the site where it hit home ten days before Christmas.

DSC_1336The site feels almost sacred and is so quiet except for the occasional piercing whistle of a passing train or a hawk overhead. Dr. Watson told us not only the tale of the workers but his tale of his grandfather’s file and all the twists and turns it has taken to get this far.

DSC_1248And as his words floated in the air around us and I gazed at a stone monument and surrounding woods, could I heard in my imagination the sounds of the workers? Did they just sort of float in the air outside of our normal consciousness? I am not being fey or deliberately dotty but when you stand there and you hear what happened to them, you can almost see and hear the past…and feel it.

We need to put this right. We need to support this ongoing project as a community. It is part of our history on so many levels, like it or not. We can’t undo what happened, but we can help correct it on some level by finally getting the entire story told.

DSC_1246And finally we can learn from this. Every generation in this country founded by immigrants fleeing persecution, we somehow as a nation seem to persecute over and over different sets of NEW  immigrants to this country. How is that showing the religious and cultural tolerance on which this country was founded?

As a society, we can do better. We need to honor our dead locally whether at Duffy’s Cut or  the ruins of Ebenezer AME Church on Bacton Hill Road, or farther out towards Kennett Square and elsewhere where other bits of our history is disappearing whether it takes the form of old houses involved in the Underground Railroad, to all the abandoned graveyards that dot Chester County and the rest of the state.

We shouldn’t whitewash our history or pretend uncomfortable and horrific things didn’t happen. We learn from those mistakes. If you cover them up, as human beings we are then doomed to repeat them unless we break the cycle and face the past.

I have a bunch of photos from today from the site and the museum. I will get to them over the next day or so. You can visit the Duffy’s Cut Museum in the Library at Immaculata when the library is open. The actual Duffy’s Cut site is NOT open to the public it is impossibly located to do that, so kindly respect that fact because so many over the years have not.  People folly hunting for Duffy’s Cut only jeopardize the work that archeologists, geologists, and historians are trying to accomplish and that is not right.

Before I sign off, a big thank you to Dr. William Watson. He is kind of a big deal history professor and he took the time for us to show us Duffy’s Cut and tell us all about their work surrounding that. Educators like him make all the difference in how you learn and I think his students are so very lucky to have a professor with a passion for history like he has.

This has been a very long post….so thanks for reading through until the end and for stopping by.

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