American Caravans

Cedar Point Bald Eagle

I can see Canada from my house. Actually it’s my wife’s cabin, but it sounds better that way. Canada is a little more than a mile away, across open water. About half as far is the international boundary. Crossing that boundary is no crime. Boats do it everyday, all day long. The two dueling coast guards only complain after someone has strayed too far across that boundary. Two shipping lanes straddle this boundary, up bound is in the US and down bound is in Canada. These lanes are plied all day and night by boats big and small, up to 1000’ long. You don’t want to be going the wrong way when one of those are about.

Yesterday, when we were on Cedar Point, we were even closer to Canada, maybe a hundred yards or so from the border. Once in the past the lake level was so low that except for the dredged shipping channels it seemed that you could almost walk to Canada, hopping from rock to rock. In the winter this would be even easier, once the lake froze over.

It used to be easy to travel to Canada. Any American with a credit card was always welcome there. In areas of the border with many islands on both sides, the border patrol had setup special pay phones at public docks, where one could self declare your entry. Then 9/11 occurred and everything began to change. First US customs turned nasty and then soon after Canadian customs began to reciprocate. Now with the Rona, Canada has all but closed its border with us. There is a loophole though that American caravans of RVs can exploit to gain entry to Canada, but still it is sad to see how far the mighty have fallen.

Speaking of the mighty fallen, Mister Red T Rodent Es-squirrel continues to outwit and torment us. He was about, but was laying relatively low. Making only enough noise to keep us on our toes. The rat trap snatched its fifth victim, but not Mr. Red. In frustration I went online to research my foe. Various reputable looking websites offered advice. One totally poo-poo the idea of ultrasonic rodent repellent devices. Another informed me that Red squirrels are the hardest to catch, because they stock their nest with a larder and so are less tempted by traps. Normally, squirrels vacate the attic when it gets warmer, but in more temperate climes could remain. Mostly they advised being subtle when trying to trap them, because once warned, they will become very wary of the trap. Well, too late for that now.

Good night Moon. Good night Zoom. Good night sense of impending doom. That’s all the news from Lake Woe-be-gone.

A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings

Monarch Butterfly on a Mexican Sunflower

We mixed up our neighborhood walk some and visited Washington University. The campus was pretty dead, except for the bustling maintenance men. No word yet as to whether the school will reopen in the fall. We got as far as the DUC, which stands for Danforth University Center and doubles as the nickname for the cafeteria that resides within. Named after the former chancellor, William Danforth, brother to former Senator John Danforth, it seemed incongruous to have a legacy contracted to DUC, but somehow typical of students. On the way back we discovered the Danforth Butterfly Garden, which was named for wife Elizabeth. Finding it was an unexpected treat. It was filled with flowers and had an unusually wide variety of milkweed types.

Our normal walking path takes us through Concordia, a Lutheran seminary. All summer, it has been pretty dead too, but as of late there are cars in the parking lots again. No word yet as to whether it will open or not. Next week, Anne’s school district is supposed announce its fall plans. It’s anyone’s guess as to what they will be, anything from full virtual, to full classroom, to something halfway in-between. I’m pretty sure that Anne won’t be substitute teaching, but that’s not for certain either. She is keeping her options open, at least for now.

It seems ludicrous to me that reopening the schools is even under consideration. The pandemic is currently raging out of control, way worse than it was when the schools were all closed in the spring. Reopening the schools seems like pouring gasoline on an already burning fire. The reason of course that this is even a thing is that Trump wants to do anything to juice the economy, no matter what the cost in American lives, just so that he can get reelected. I can’t see why anyone would want to endanger their lives or even more importantly sacrifice the lives of their children on the altar of his campaign. Still, I’ll have to wait for what happens. If the schools do reopen and the inevitable illnesses, medical bills and deaths do occur, there will be holy hell to pay. I know of a couple of gun-toting personal injury lawyers here in town, who would be glad to redress any wrongful deaths with a lawsuit or two. Even WashU with one of the largest endowments in the country should take pause at that thought.

Private Places

Vandeventer Place Gate

Well, I did a weeks worth of “cooking” on Sunday and except for breakfast, I didn’t use the stove. Breakfast was eggs and bacon, but I already told you about them. After breakfast and after our walk, I got to work in the kitchen. Using the Cuisinart, I first made pesto, which I promptly froze. It became one of the blocks of ice that we’ll be hauling up to the cabin next month. Next up was gazpacho, which I also mainly froze, but we will be having some of that this week. Finally, I made tabbouleh, which will be our base course this week, including both grain and veggies, but wait there is more. Bill and Mary invited us over to their house for an outdoor happy hour, the one that we were going to enjoy yesterday. Anne was feeling well today, so I packaged two sets of chips, dip (French onion and pup cheese) and veggies (celery and carrots). This way we could share our dish with our hosts in a socially responsible manner.

Bill and Mary live closer to Forest Park than we do, almost kitty-corner to its most northwest point. Last night, while we were having wine and snacks on their back porch, a little more than a mile east of us a drama was unfolding. I learned of it this morning, when I checked Twitter and saw that St. Louis was trending. Never a good thing. A Black Lives Matter protest had begun a march to the city mayor’s house, to protest the doxing that she had done earlier of other protesters. They were marching to her home to demand her resignation. There were several hundred protesters, They were loud and apparently they broke down a gate (or maybe not) and entered a private street called Portland Place. 

Starting in the late 19th-century these private places became popular in Saint Louis among the well to do. More akin to a neighborhood association than a gated community, they were formed to address the problems that arose from a lack of any zoning regulations in the city at the time. The photo with this post is of one of the gates for a private place that didn’t make it, called Vandeventer Place. The gate is purely decorative and was not meant as an impediment to access. This gate somehow made it to Forest Park, where it is still on display.

Anyway, two white homeowners hearing the commotion of the passing protest, took matters into their own hands, when they appeared in their front yard and confronted the protesters with their guns. A brief standoff between the 1st and 2nd amendment ensued, until cooler heads prevailed and the protesters moved along. Photos and video of the two homeowners went viral and the Twitterati were not kind, pointing out that neither person knew how to handle their gun and asking why had both of them shown up to a gunfight while barefoot?

According to reports, the homeowners are both personal injury lawyers. Their truly elegant home was featured in St. Louis Magazine. Built in the 19th-century, as an Italian palazzo, by a scion of the Busch dynasty, it is purported to be the most beautiful home in Saint Louis. It wasn’t so nice, when this couple first acquired the place, but 30 years of work has transformed it back to its former aristocratic splendor. All of that accomplishment has now been tarnished, by one evening’s rash decision to brandish firearms. Maybe if they had taken the time to put on their shoes first, none of this would have happened?

Nature Playscape

Forest Park Cone Flower

Yesterday, we drove to Forest Park, for a new variation on our walk within this park. Because the golf course is now open again for golfing, our regular parkour is now a no go. Instead, we drove to the southwest corner of the park, the city’s highpoint. We walked around the zoo, peering in through all of the foliage gaps, which with everything all leafed out, are few and far between. Needing more steps than just around the zoo would give us, we decided to explore a new site of construction that has been worked all year. I had thought that the work was mundane bathrooms and picnic shelters maintenance, but I was surprised to learn that a new playground is being built, Nature Playscape.

Nature Playscape is a 17 acre development that is located between the World’s Fair Pavilion and the Jewel Box. This is an area of the park that has not seen any real use as far as I know. Construction costs are $4.5M and as its name implies, it will be a natural playground, with eight different activity areas, each modeled after a local biome. Examples include meadows, wetlands, springs, bottomlands, mounds and various types of forests. Instead of using conventional playground equipment, rocks and sculpted tree trunks will serve as climbing obstacles. Nature Playscape is scheduled to be finished later this year, but with all other playgrounds closed, it is uncertain when it will actually open to the public.

Today is Election Day and we had voted by mail over a week ago, but the county website that we checked said that our ballots hadn’t been returned. We decided to check on this in person, but we left home without really checking out where our polling place was. The last time I voted, our normal polling place had been closed and I voted at the Masonry Institute, which is not affiliated with any secret societies, but is rather a trades group organization. Come to think about it, isn’t that how the Masons got started too? Can you say schism?

Anyway, we hiked over there only to find no joy and no polling place either. A google search determined that our poll was back where it is normally, at the Heights. It turns out that it had been moved for the last election, because the Heights had been undergoing renovations. So, we headed over there next. Bonus steps! Walking there, we passed two of the new developments that are the main source of contention in our mayor’s race. Both the sitting mayor and his opponent were outside electioneering and Anne dealt with them, while I went inside to verify that our ballots had been received. I ended up getting the oldest, slowest election official in the house, but she was able to eventually verify my vote. We just assumed then that Anne’s ballot had also made it back too. 

And Now This…

Last Week Tonight Stamps

A few weeks ago, comedian John Oliver had as the theme for his weekly HBO comedy show the plight of the postal service. In this episode, he explained the situation and offered a remedy of sorts for the post office’s woes—buy more stamps. After all, it is through the sale of postage that the mail service sustains itself. Leading by example, he went one better, when he advertised the sale of his own brand of vanity stamps. Who knew that vanity stamps were a thing? Not I. His show airs on Sunday, but it wasn’t until the following Thursday that I watched it. By that time, when I attempted to order a sheet of his special stamps they were already backordered, which actually tickled me pink. This being a clear demonstration of the power of liberal slacker activism.

The reason that Oliver chose the post office’s problems as his show’s subject is that the president has decided to lambast this institution, because it would be the servant of something that Trump fears, vote-by-mail balloting. Something that in this time of pandemic would allow Americans to safely use to express their political will. He claims to fear voter fraud, but disenfranchisement is his real goal. He wants to limit the vote of older, poorer, blacker Americans and aid his own reelection this November. To this end, he has been tweeting of late baseless lies about voting-by-mail and voter fraud. These lies have been accompanied by others, most pointedly involving the unfortunate death of a woman who had been working for then congressman Joe Scarborough, now of MSNBC. In his tweets, Trump dredged up twenty year old conspiracy theories, in an attempt to smear a political opponent.

What he did though was to elicit a heartfelt plea from the woman’s widower, asking Twitter, not Trump to cease and desist. The resulting kerfuffle so embarrassed the execs at Twitter that when Trump returned to the subject of his voter fraud lies, Twitter had the temerity to add an “asterisk” on to his posts. This minor recrimination of course triggered another Trumpian temper tantrum.

Never one to hold on to a thought for long, last night Trump tweeted about the ongoing civil unrest that is occurring in Minneapolis and is the direct result of the apparent murder of Floyd George, a black man, by city police officers. His tweet echoed verbatim the threat made in 1967 by former Miami police chief Walter Headley, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Obviously, Trump did not get the hint, causing Twitter to nuke that tweet for “glorifying violence.” Twitter later explained that it was in part the historical connection of that tweet’s last line that caused the company to take action.

Is there a new sheriff in twitter-town? I doubt it, but perhaps this moderating action will result is some small measure of moderation, before people get shot. I am reminded of the tale of the troll and the three Billy-goats Gruff. One-by-one, the troll threatens the three goats, only in the end to butted on down the river This week one-by-one, Scarborough, voter fraud and Minneapolis, Trump has employed his bully pulpit to threaten others. Only to learn, he is just a user.