Legacy Project

“Bacon makes everything better.”—a sign in Susannah Mushatt Jones’s kitchen.

Susannah Mushatt Jones of Brooklyn, NY, is 116 years old today. She was born on July 6, 1899, in Alabama, and one of her grandparents was a slave. When Jeralean Talley died in June at the age of 116, Miss Jones became the oldest verified person on Earth. “I’m the oldest person in the world? No I’m not,” she is said to have exclaimed to her relatives.

At the moment, Mushatt Jones and Emma Morano of Italy, who was born in November 1899, are the last two people alive who were born in the 19th Century. The last breath of that century is upon us.
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Song of Myself

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.
My tongue, every atom of my blood, form’d from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.
Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never forgotten,
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.
—Section 1, “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman, 1855

By the end of his life in 1892, Walt Whitman had published eight revised editions (eight or so; there is some debate on this matter) of his major volume of poems, “Leaves of Grass,” culminating in a ninth edition, what he himself called the “deathbed edition.”

“L. of G. at last complete—after 33 y’rs of hackling at it, all times & moods of my life, fair weather & foul, all parts of the land, and peace & war, young & old,” he wrote a friend. He was only 72 when he died, but with his white beard and self-presentation as a man who had existed for the entire country’s history, he seemed older.

It all started on the 4th of July. On this date 160 years ago, Whitman published the first edition of “Leaves of Grass,” a book that contained twelve poems, each without a name, and starting with the opener, a poem that became known over time as “Song of Myself.”
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Empty Foresight

One of my favorite expressions, one that I used to employ frequently but no longer do, is, “This is X-number of minutes I am never getting back.” I would say this after experiencing something incredibly boring and frustrating, like waiting on line only to discover that I was waiting on the wrong line the entire time, or when I was in a traffic jam in which I learned that the hold-up was people gawking at an accident which by itself would not have created the traffic jam.
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ewaste recycling event

Objets D’Obsolete

Each of the three cars I have owned … hold on, was it three? Let’s count.

My first car exploded into a fireball and melted into a big mound of car before my eyes precisely 23 hours after its long-standing overheating issue had been repaired. Making so many repair shop visits about this concern had been annoying, but some quick fixes are neither. The next car was also prone to overheating—steam, not flame, in this case—and I perpetually thought it was ten minutes from an explosion as well. When one has owned a car that one watched meet its end via self-immolation, one develops a sensitivity to over-heating. PTSD, even. But I saw that car on the roads of my town for a full five years after I sold it. My last car was repossessed because I was not an adult back then, and banks like doing business with adults. So, yes, three cars.

The tools of life and I do not have a functional working agreement.
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I’ve Always Depended on …

Angry, barking angry. “Ass-hat angry,” neither of my grandfathers would have called it, because neither of my grandfathers ever said “ass-hat.” The kind of angry that both of my departed grandfathers in the hereafter would have been forced to come up with pretend back-country colloquialisms to describe their grandson, also known as me. That frustrated and angry.

The story has a happy ending, of course. And the anger departed the moment it was expressed at the anonymous Newark-ian who knocked me over. It was a night in which Jen and I discovered that there are no short-cuts on the path to meeting good people.
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TV Land is Not Bree Newsome

I am offended that I have to defend “The Dukes of Hazzard,” a show I was not a fan of, but this is where the purveyors of popular culture have brought us. Not “where we have been brought,” but where they have decided to bring us.

Two blogs broke the news today that TV Land, a channel dedicated to TV nostalgia, has silently pulled the late-’70s comedy from its line up. “TV Classics ‘R’ Us” published a piece, and then Will McKinley’s great website, “cinematically insane,” followed up on this news, and he requested an official comment from the nostalgia channel. A representative from TV Land confirmed to him that the program had been deleted but gave no elaboration. (Article: “TV Land Pulls ‘The Dukes of Hazzard.'”)
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On the Beach

This was a year without spring in upstate New York.

Technically, this is incorrect, as spring-like things transpired: trees bloomed and pollen burst from them like toys from an overstuffed piñata, and now summer is here: insects are everywhere—which would be adorable if they were kittens, but they are not, they are buzzing insects—and the deer and the bears are hanging out wherever their fancy takes them, because there is food everywhere and invitations that were not sent out by humans were ignored because grass in fields and berries on bushes is invitation enough. But winter snows and cold dreariness extended past their usual expiration date, and today is only the second day above 70°F since summer arrived last week. It is raining as I type. I am wearing a sweater. This feels like a hostage note … send heat.

Jen and I may go to the ocean this weekend, hence this re-written piece from months ago:
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Mark Aldrich:

Bree Newsome, the brave activist who on Saturday briefly brought down the Confederate battle flag from its place of (dubious) honor in front of the South Carolina statehouse was released from jail later that same day after posting bond. She and a helper, James Ian Tyson, were both arrested after they hopped the wrought iron fence that protects the flagpole from such actions. Ms. Newsome climbed the flagpole alone, however. Mr. Tyson was also released after posting bond that day.

A fundraising campaign was launched that same day to help Ms. Newsome afford whatever legal costs will be incurred. Here is the website: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/bail-for-bree-newsome. As of right now, 2:27 p.m., Monday, June 29, precisely 4478 donations totaling $114,278 have been pledged, almost six times greater than the amount first sought.

Her actions caught the attention and imagination of many people around the world; the image of Ms. Newsome removing that odious bolt of hated cloth from a place of honor will remain beloved in history for as long as lovers of justice cherish such moments.–Mark, The Gad About Town

Originally posted on The Gad About Town:

On her website, Bree Newsome describes herself with a collection of hyphens: “Writer – Director – Producer – Singer – Songwriter – Activist – Consultant – Speaker.” Today she alphabetized that list and moved “Activist” to the front.

Earlier this morning, she hopped the fenced-in area protecting the flagpole from which the Confederate battle flag has flown since 2000 in front of the South Carolina statehouse, climbed the pole, and cut down that odious bolt of cloth that American history somehow simultaneously celebrates and reviles.

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