What Would Help?

Determination and faith as the ship of state steams toward peril.

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It’s been a tough 18 months. I’ve been alternatively filled with dread, furious, determined to do something, hiding in Facebook, talking to dispondent friends, reflecting, scanning the news, avoiding the news. It’s been 19 months since Barack Obama left office. Nothing has inspired me to write much about his absence from the presidency or the current state of the presidency. I usually have something useful to say about politics. My useful intellectual or moral contributions in the past year and a half have been restricted to posting interesting articles from various online newspapers on Facebook and Twitter.

Now it’s not that I’ve felt powerless. One of the things I’m very grateful for is my professed Christian faith, lived out for the last 33 years at Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Louis with my spouse, Stephen Nichols. Even though I want this post to speak to a broader audience than my fellow Christians, I think a moment’s reflection on how my faith has impacted my life in the Trump era might be instructive. One thing I like about my faith is that I can practice it without being assured that I can alter the political situation in what I consider to be a positive direction. My Christian life is simple: I have to love God, and I have to love my neighbor as myself. So, a paragraph or two on each of these rules.

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Riding the Train in Sedalia: It Takes all Kinds

I miss the long overdue train to St. Louis, have an engaging interaction with an unlikely fellow, but it’s all ok.

IMG_6154(This is in a series of posts about my trip to Sedalia, Missouri May 31-June 2, 2018)

My most fascinating yet challenging experience in Sedalia had nothing to do with the ragtime festival. Even though I had had a spectacular time on my own, the two days in town had flown by quickly, and I found myself getting off the bus a block away from an Amtrak terminal near downtown an hour early.

I felt a bit intimidated. There was no one in the station, no agent, no passengers. The train just slows down and stops very briefly to drop off or pick up passengers, and then it is gone. I thought of a line from the poem I had memorized in high school, Ozymandias:

“Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

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My Brother, Tom, is Born

Jim grows up during the war in a river town and in a family who loves him, and how he learns to give some love back.

When I was six year old, we lived on Quarry Street, one of the steepest streets in Marietta, Ohio. I don’t remember exactly when we moved from 107 1/2 N. Fourth St., but I suspect it had something to do with the almost annual floods we had to deal with. Marietta, the county seat of Washington County, has a lot of historical significance, since it was the first permanent, organized settlement in the Northwest Territory. Its location at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers no doubt influenced its significance, since local, regional and even national trade flowed through the city. But we paid a price for that fortuitous situation with those rising, raging waters. I suspect, but do not know for sure, that my mother, Lorene—witness of many such floods and poor as a rural church mouse throughout much of her early life—wanted her domicile to be a haven away from the river.

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Riding the Bus in Sedalia: a Window into a Community

(This is in a series of posts about my trip to Sedalia, Missouri May 31-June 2, 2018)

I knew I would enjoy all the ragtime virtuosity that is almost continuously on display at the International Scott Joplin Festival in Sedalia, Missouri, but an unexpected adventure unfolded for me on Sedalia streets. It all went back to my decision to take a train ride. Stephen and I moved to Kirkwood, Missouri in April of 2017. The downtown area of Kirkwood, which includes an Amtrak depot, is less than half a mile from our home, and so I found myself walking there often. One day, quite unexpectedly, the idea popped into my head: Before I die, I want to take the Amtrak train from Kirkwood to Sedalia for the annual ragtime festival held there in late May.

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The Cradle of Ragtime Concert

(This is in a series of posts about my trip to Sedalia, Missouri May 31-June 2, 2018)

As I said before, here I am at seat G10 in the Liberty Arts Concert Hall, full of anticipation for my first concert at the 2018 Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival in Sedalia, Missouri. A good place to start is to elaborate on the program blurb:

This unique concert celebrates the melodious compositions of the Missouri Valley, lovingly referred to as the “Cradle of Ragtime.” You might hear rags by James Scott, Brun Campbell, Charles Johnson, or John William “Blind” Boone, to name a few. There’s sure to be a wonderful mix of classic and folk ragtime to please even the most ardent fan of America’s greatest music.
Featuring David Reffkin as emcee, Jeff Barnhart, Marty Eggers, The Rhythmia, Virginia Tichenor, Mat Tolentino

Dave Reffkin, himself a long term participant in the festival, introduced the first act.

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