". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


We're sitting here trying to get our apartment cooled down before bedtime, back from where it was sooooooooo hot to where it is just as soooooooo hot, catching up on our e-mails etc., returning phone calls and texts, listening to NPR coverage of the DNC and the Thug's latest treasonist, illegal actions, drinking some of the case of Kolsch Beer* el V brought back from the Lancaster Brewing Company. Periodically we jump up to toast the success of our get-away.**

View from the bar into the dining room of the Cork Factory Historic Hotel where we stayed in Lancaster, PA. I learned back when staying in the Penn Stater at Penn State while doing gigs there that even the HOTELS in PA have the best food. This means that even the crab dishes on the menu out of crab season are more than worth eating.
This may be only the second time we've gone away that didn't involve work, sponsored by work. The first time was another anniversary, when we went to French Canada after living a year in New Orleans (though I must confess, that I steered us to a library where we actually did perform some research, though this was not the plan). This anniversary was our second authentic vacation. 

44th New York Infantry Monument, from where I looked down to the remains of the boulder breast works and the Devil's Den.  It was So Hot, when I climbed up there.  But it couldn't have been any hotter than July 1, 2 and 3, 1863.
Everything exceeded our expectations, but particularly did Gettysburg and Wheatland.

The trees on Wheatland's remaining grounds (it wasn't within Lancaster proper quite yet when James Buchanan lived there) are magnificent.  They were already full-grown when JB was in possession.
In fact, Wheatland wasn't anything at all resembling our imagined experience. Anyone who has more than a cursary interest in our U.S. history of the Civil War, before, during and after, the politics thereof, the social and material history thereof, would be more than pleased to have the Wheatland and Lancaster County Historical Society experience. 

The restored facade of Thaddeus Stevens's House on Queen Street in Lancaster.  Unlike his frenrmy, James Buchanan, though they had so much in common, including treating their housekeepers as family, leaving them significant legacies, and practicing law, Abolitionist Stevens lived in town,

The disappointment was that the Thaddeus Stevens House and the content that goes with it is currently closed to the public. Not fair. So we only were able to see it from the outside. 

Then there was the food. I don't think I've ever eaten anywhere with such fine quality, local, fresh from farm to table meals in my life. Well, when growing up on the farm, but to be honest, though my mom was considered one of the very best cooks in our community, what we did with food out there isn't at all like what's going on now. Lancaster County is filled with endless numbers of fairly new establishments who are working this vein with everything they can think of. Additionally, beyond the long experience of brewing beer that goes back to the first Germans and (non-Quaker) English, PA loves, knows and gets beer -- PA has vineyards too. 

Dinner on the patio of the John J. Jeffries restaurant.

I had a glass to start with at the veddy high-end restaurant farm, bay, to table restaurant where we ate our anniversary dinner. It was . . . OK. I switched to a French Cab after that glass, to go with my incredible beef. But as climate change continues to raise temps, and if the PA mountains can still collect freezing temps at the right time of the year, they may well have that too in a while. 

And everybody was so nice to us! Everybody we ran into were more than willing to just talk about anything we were interested in. They were happy to take the time -- and surely they had more stuff to do, right? 

PA has got it all. No wonder the Penn Family has and the descendants are still fighting the legal fight to get it all back. Those Penn Family Lords Proprietors had a true kingdom there, with everything that a kingdom needs: ports, lumber, coal, iron, fertile fields, rivers and, on top of it, part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. 

Not to mention talented and even brilliant people who are those who live there, with a very strong work ethic. 

And yes, the less fortunate, from the Indians, to the slaves, and the poor whites too. And all that continues as well. 

But still, PA is a great state, or least possesses everything necessary to be a great state, including that it possess it all right this minute. 

And all the while the DNC is going on in Philadelphia -- which is why we didn't go there in this vacation.  We still expect to spend some serious time there too, fairly soon.

There was much more to what we did than this, of course.  But right now we're still blithering and toasting this little vacation of two historians who celebrated their anniversary so happily.

The Wheatfield battle field; second day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

I HAVE FINALLY BEEN TO GETTYSBURG! I've been wanting to go for years, so I could finally understand this turning point Civil War battle within the context of Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania.  I feel much more confident in my ideas on this than before I spent a whole day climbing up and down, pouring sweat, getting in and out of the car, etc. on this battlefield.  Most of all I was so impressed again, with our National Park Service, and how they have handled this historic site.  There are working farms and fields with growing crops and hay everywhere within this very large battlefield which hosted so many discrete battles throughout these vital three days in July of 1863 -- just like was the case back then.


*Ironically, the beer cooled faster than the apt., in the freezer. 

** Over the years now this is maybe our 9th or 10th serious visit to Pennsylvania. But I think it was the first visit to Penn State, that I did alone, to help Alis R with her twins's bar mitzva, when I finally began to see PA as more of a valuable destination rather than that big state I had to get through to get back west or get back to NYC

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