This post was a “sticky” feature and was on top throughout fundraising week. Scroll down for the whole week’s worth of more recent items.
Autumn Fundraiser 2019, Day Seven
Sunday’s Update: Madonna and Child
At last! We’ve arrived at the final day of Gates of Vienna’s quarterly fundraising week. After today I’ll stop bugging you for three more months.
But this morning I’ll take this final opportunity to remind everyone what this week is all about: Modest donations from lots and lots of readers provide enough wherewithal to keep this website going. The generosity of our donors has enabled us — and now it’s only me — to get by every quarter. Just barely, but I get by.
I’ll have to postpone indulging my taste for champagne and caviar until one of my relatives gets elected to high office and arranges a place for me on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, with a nice seven-figure annual stipend…
If you’ve only just discovered this fall’s bleg, or if you haven’t already hit the tip cup, please go over to the sidebar and make it clink. Alternatively, you can use this handy link.
My final installment concerning Memory for this fundraising week will be a few more reminiscences of my time with Dymphna.
The photo at the top of this update shows Dymphna and the future Baron. It was taken in the late 1980s, in the late summer or early fall. That summer had been hot and dry — there was a devastating drought early on, in May and June. In some of the photos from June the grass is utterly withered and brown. But by the time this photo was taken there had obviously been some rain, because plenty of green is visible in the background.
When I came across this photo recently, I looked at Dymphna’s face, and it seemed so recent — there she was! And then I looked at the fB — he obviously wasn’t yet two years old. That means that more than thirty years have passed since that early autumn afternoon.
I can remember a lot about what happened between then and now. A few years after the photo was taken I taught the future Baron to read and write, and made him do his sums. Then Dymphna’s mother came to live with us, and I took care of her for a year until she died.
All through the ’90s we were quite poor. I was painting pictures, and not making any significant money doing it. Dymphna was a social worker, and then later had her own housecleaning business. She kept us afloat, but all those years were pretty lean.
Yet we never lacked for anything. My son had no idea we were poor. He had a VCR and lots of videos. I made sure to take him to the beach at least once every summer. We didn’t get to stay at any high-toned beach accommodations, mind you, but that didn’t matter to him — he was just a kid. Staying in a little cabin and eating at Burger King was fine with him.
Just before Y2K I had to stop home-schooling him, because my skills in chemistry and physics were minimal. We sent him to private school, and I found well-paying work as a programmer so that we could afford it. The Lord provided. It worked out.
Just before he graduated from high school, his sister Shelagh, Dymphna’s daughter, died of a methadone overdose. The fB went off to college, and Dymphna went into a tailspin that she never really recovered from.
The foundation of this blog was my idea: I thought it might help her work through the pain of grieving. And it did. Most of you have seen her early work on this site, either when she originally wrote it twelve or fifteen years ago, or in the reposts I’ve been doing since she died. She was a powerhouse of a writer, and putting her heart into her essays help bring her back to the land of the living. Even as her condition worsened (she suffered from fibromyalgia), she kept at it as much as she could, right up until the end.
And now here I am, maintaining the site by myself and dealing with my own pain of grieving. My wife is gone, but she lives on in her writings, and is ever-present with me in this empty house that we shared for forty years.
I will always remember her, as long as memory remains.
Saturday’s largesse rolled in from these locations:
Stateside: California, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia
Far Abroad: New Zealand and the UK
Canada: British Columbia
A big thank-you to everyone who chipped in. Normal programming will resume tomorrow, and sometime later in the week I’ll post a wrap-up that includes all the locations, including those of the stragglers.
Saturday’s Update: The Workaday World
This morning’s update will be brief, since I’m somewhat worn out after all those brokedown-car hassles. I’m writing this in the wee hours of Saturday here at Schloss Bodissey, and I’m running out of steam.
We’re nearing the end of Autumn Fundraising Week — just one more day after this.
If you’ve been negligent of the tip cup so far this week, now is the time to drop in a few kopecks. Or you can use this handy link. Your donations provide the sustenance for this site. There are no paid ads, so you’re it — you’re what keeps Gates of Vienna going.
And so many people have chipped in this week — it’s amazing. A lot of first-time donors, which is really encouraging.
Today’s update is tangentially related to Memory — this week’s theme — in the sense that I’m asking you to remember the numerous dedicated volunteers who contribute to the content here. I’d like to think that the graphic at the top of this update represents the Gates of Vienna translation pool. In the background you can see Nash Montana consulting with MissPiggy about some obscure detail of a German translation. In the foreground are Ava Lon and Tania Groth pecking away at French and Danish translations, respectively. Actually, Tania might be working on Swedish or Norwegian — Vlad refers to all three as the “horn-helmet languages”.
Vlad Tepes and C and JLH and FouseSquawk aren’t in the picture because they’re men. Being representatives of the oppressive White Patriarchy, they’re holed up in some well-appointed office, drinking brandy from snifters and smoking cigars while they count all that money they’ve made from exploiting the Sisterhood out there in the translation room.
Seriously, though — Vlad’s part in this operation is crucial. He and I have divided up the labor: I do text and graphics, while he does video and audio. I hate to say it, but video is more important than text, because it has a greater reach. More people are willing to watch videos than will bother to make their way through the tedium of reading discursive essays. So what Vlad does is absolutely essential, which is why I tithe to him from what I make in these fundraisers. If you want to augment that measly amount, please visit his site and hit his own donate button.
There’s one more thing I’d like to say about Memory before I hit the hay this morning. We Islamophobes, we Deplorables, have the responsibility of passing on the core elements of Western Civilization to the next generation. Our political and social leaders have abdicated their responsibility — most of them have surrendered in the face of a relentless assault by the Cultural Marxists and become “woke” just to get by. And the educational system has been all but destroyed by the long march through the institutions.
So we’re it. If the history of this time is not to be written in Arabic (or Chinese), then we are the ones who will be responsible for it. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.
We have to be the Mnemonists.
All of the Thank-God-It’s-Friday donors showed up from:
Stateside: Colorado, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia
Far Abroad: Germany and New Zealand
I’ll be back here tomorrow for the final update.
Friday’s Update: The Wall-Bash Cannonball
My car is now at the service department of the dealer, waiting to be repaired, and I’m driving a rental, so I’m back on track, more or less. Which means I can return to this week’s theme, which is Memory.
But first I need to reiterate what I’m doing here, for the benefit of any newcomers: for one week per quarter I pester this blog’s readers to donate to the tip cup on the sidebar (or use this link) to help keep this enterprise alive. There are no paid ads here; I do this instead.
And I must say that the response this week has been astounding — so many modest donations, and so many first-time donors! I am deeply grateful to all of you, and all of you will eventually receive a thank-you note. They’re going out, but I have a lot of them to write.
This morning’s musings will be a combination of personal reminiscences and collective memories, once again concerning the Recent Unpleasantness, a.k.a. the War Between the States, a.k.a. the American Civil War.
I was born in the heart of Civil War country, and the Centennial was being observed when I was a child, so the events of 1861-1865 were very much imprinted in my young brain. My grandparents lived in the Central Piedmont, which meant that whenever we drove to visit them, we passed through or near various battlefields and historic sites — Manassas, Centreville, Brandy Station and so on. And other battlefields were not far away from our route. Winchester, Port Republic, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Chancellorsville, and Appomattox are all tightly clustered in the Virginia heartland.
Before Interstate 66 was built, the only major road to the Central Piedmont from Maryland or Northern Virginia was U.S. 29, now known as Lee Highway in those parts, but formerly called Alexandria Pike. That’s what my grandparents called it. The road had been widened and improved since its days as a turnpike (i.e. a toll road), and most of the way it was a dual highway with four lanes. But not through the Manassas Battlefield Park. That was (and is) a chunk of federal property, and the Park Service preserved the historical nature of the road as much as they could without returning it to a mud track. Drivers traveling from D.C. towards the Blue Ridge saw it skinny down to two lanes as it wound between the rail fences and historical markers.
A prominent landmark on that route was (and is) the stone house on the turnpike near Manassas. A Civil War-era photo of it can be seen at the top of this update.
When I was a little kid it was very exciting to drive by that house. You see, there was a Civil War cannonball embedded in the eastern wall, which was what you saw as you traveled westwards towards the Blue Ridge. My father pointed it out to me when I was tiny, and every time we went to my grandparents’ house I would be glued to the window as we drove through the battlefield, waiting to spot the cannonball in the wall of the stone house.
Many years later I read some of the literature on the house, and discovered that the cannonball wasn’t quite what it purported to be. If I had learned the full story when I was little, it would have been devastating — like being told there was no such thing as Santa Claus.
It seems that the cannonball had been mortared in place in that wall after the war, to mark the spot where a cannonball had hit the house. It had probably struck the wall at a high velocity and passed right on through into the interior, leaving a round hole in the stonework. The owner later commemorated the event (and mended the hole) by finding a cannonball and fixing it in place, where it can still be seen today.
So that cannonball isn’t a lie, but it’s not quite the truth, either. It’s an embellishment.
One of the pleasures and privileges of recalling events from long ago — especially if you’re the only one left who can remember them — is the embellishment of the story. Exaggerating a little bit. Straightening up the story line. Simplifying the complex chaos presented by reality at the time. Putting the words that were spoken on the occasion into a grander form, making them more florid and coherent than they were when they were first uttered.
Such are the perquisites of old age. I’ll take them where I can find them.
NB: The future Baron told me I should have titled this post: “Their walls are built of cannonballs, their motto is Don’t Tread on Me.” I said that was far too long for a title, although it is apropos.
Thursday’s many gifts rolled in from:
Stateside: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Texas, Virginia, and Washington
Far Abroad: Denmark, France, Italy, and the UK
I’ll be back tomorrow with the first of the weekend updates.
Thursday’s Update: A Spanner in the Works
Well, a little automotive surprise has derailed the normal course of this week’s fundraiser. Before I get into all that, however, I need to remind newcomers of what I’m doing.
This fundraising week is my big push for financial support for Gates of Vienna. It happens once every quarter. For seven days I harangue and wheedle my readers into donating a pittance to the tip cup on the sidebar (or via this link).
Yesterday’s response was nothing short of astonishing. Thanks to a shout-out by Western Rifle Shooters, a whole lot of people came by to donate a little bit to the cause. I’ve never seen so many modest donations as have come in during these first three days. It’s miraculous.
So be patient — it will be a while before all the thank-you notes go out.
Now back to my automotive woes. I had planned some sort of rambling memory-related treatise this morning, but a few hours ago my car decided to make fundraising week that much more difficult.
As you may recall, Dymphna’s luxury car outlived her by only three weeks, and I had to buy a car back in July (which was why I had to go ahead and hold a fundraiser in August). Several weeks ago the new (old) car developed an annoying habit: the engine would cut off suddenly while idling in traffic, and then refuse to start again. If I let it sit for a few minutes, eventually it would crank. But for a while I would just have to sit there, blocking traffic.
This car is new enough that it can’t always be fixed by the shade-tree mechanics I usually consult. I had to take it to the dealer for this problem, which meant driving many miles to a town. I did that. During the first trip the resident boffins dumped the computer info and diagnosed it. Then they ordered the replacement part (a coterminous transverse fibrillant valve, or something similar), and during my next visit they installed it.
After that the car worked fine for six days. Then, late yesterday afternoon, when I went to start it, it did the same thing, but this time when it was cold — it cranked, and then cut off. After several attempts at coaxing it to keep going, it refused to crank at all — turning the key had no effect, even though the battery wasn’t dead. My actions had evidently awakened the car’s instinctive self-defense programming, which it stores somewhere deep in its reptilian computer brain.
It was late in the afternoon by then, but I was able to talk to the service department at the dealer before it closed. The upshot is that I will have to get someone to tow the car many miles to the dealer’s, then find someone to take me to where I can rent a car to get me through the next few days. The retrograde comportment valve that went bad should be covered by the parts warranty from last week’s service, but I’m going to have to shell out for the towing and the rental. *SIGH*.
Fortunately, you all have already helped me take care of all that depressing tedium. However, it means that my plans to be here at Schloss Bodissey most of the time will be somewhat disrupted. The ordeal would have been similar even when Dymphna was alive, because she could no longer drive. However, she could monitor comments and maybe even put up posts while I was in the throes of automotive misery and absent from the premises. That is no longer the case, so y’all will have to bear with me when I disappear for extended stretches, and comments don’t get approved promptly.
When the weekend gets here, one way or another I will be back in the saddle, because those motorcar wizards won’t be working. But today and tomorrow — who knows?
Wednesday’s many generous donors hailed from:
Stateside: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington
Far Abroad: Finland, Israel, and the UK
Australia: Australian Capital Territory and Queensland
With luck, I will be able to resume remembering things tomorrow, instead of just having to think about my recalcitrant car all the time.
Wednesday’s Update: Fishing in the Memory Pool
Here we are, moving into Wednesday of Fundraising Week, with no catastrophic news in the news feed, and an abundance of generous readers sending in their contributions as the spirit moves them. So far, so good!
Many thanks to everyone who chipped in. If you haven’t yet put in your two cents’ worth, the tip cup is on the sidebar, or you can use this link.
The theme of this week’s bleg is “The Well of Memory”. Or, based on the photo at the top of this post (taken near San Antonio in 1893), the river of memory. It makes me wonder what sort of mnemonic fish that woman is catching, standing there in the shallow water with her skirts hiked up.
One of the perquisites (if you can call it that) of old age is the ability to indulge in extensive reminiscence. There is so much more now to recollect than there is to anticipate. When I was young, my head was full of projects, and I was preoccupied with what I wanted to do, planned to do, and intended to do. Some of which I eventually accomplished.
But now I spend most of my time wandering through the corridors of memory, stopping at various shelves and niches to examine whatever artifacts might be found there. The process was already well underway before Dymphna died, and has accelerated exponentially in the months since then.
I mentioned in Monday’s post that I had been sorting through batches of photos and memorabilia. I started out with several of Dymphna’s boxes, which contained things that were too painful for her to deal with — materials from her childhood, photos and papers from her first marriage, and a lot of her mother’s things. I dipped my toes into a river of memories that extended far beyond my own experiences with my wife, and even went back to before she was born — a photo of her paternal grandparents on their wedding day, for example.
After I organized and curated those boxes, I pulled out my own boxes and started going through them. I wandered into my childhood, and then into the time before I was born. Photos of my mother in her sorority at William and Mary in the early 1940s. Photos of my father playing clarinet in a symphony orchestra in the 1930s. A photo of my maternal grandmother in 1915, when she was a teenager. Another photo of her when she was a toddler, from the 1890s. My paternal grandfather’s baccalaureate from Williams College, all in Latin, from MDCCCXCIX.
I fell into the well of memory. Not just my own memories, but my parent’s memories, and my grandparents’ memories.
And I’m still going through the stuff. Today I came across a little cardboard box that had originally contained a hard drive; it might have been from about 2001. But the photos it contained were from several different periods. One of them seemed to be of Dymphna’s daughter Shelagh (who died in 2003), taken when she was a little girl, standing with a group of people I didn’t recognize. I’ll have to run it by my stepsons and see what they make of it.
And there is much more to come. There are two dusty footlockers up here in the Eyrie, and one of them is HUGE. Who knows what’s in them?
There are so many fish in the memory pool that have yet to be caught.
On Tuesday our donors came in from:
Stateside: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia
Far Abroad: Germany, Israel, and Kuwait
Canada: Newfoundland and Ontario
I’ll be back tomorrow with more memory-related material.
Tuesday’s Update: The Recent Unpleasantness
The week’s theme is Memory, and this morning I’ll shift from personal memories to collective memories.
But first I must remind everyone why I’m doing this.
This is the single week of the quarter when I bother my readers to clink the tip cup on the sidebar and help keep this blog going. It used to be that Dymphna and I would take turns hectoring you, but now I’m a solo broken record.
Think of me as the importunate widow in the parable from the Gospel According to Luke (18:1-8) who keeps pestering the judge until he gives her justice. Except in my case it’s not justice that I’m after, just a few denarii in my outthrust krater.
It was amazing and gratifying to see so many modest donations come in yesterday — they really add up. Many a mickle makes a muckle, as they say in the Yorkshire Dales. Thank you to all who contributed, and the individual thank-you notes are in the process of being sent out.
Now we can move on to the topic of collective memory. Paul Fussell wrote a book called The Great War and Modern Memory, an excellent analysis of the long-term effects of the First World War on Western culture. It’s been more than thirty years since I read it, but I still recommend it. His thesis is that the Great War had a devastating effect on the culture, even among people who were not directly touched by it and knew nothing about it. The aftershocks continue to rattle our collective china cabinet even now, more than a century later.
Similar conclusions might be drawn about the Civil War here in the South. Our reference to it as the “Recent Unpleasantness” is meant to be humorous irony, but it also contains a kernel of truth: the events of 1861-1865 are still very fresh, especially for those of us who live close to where much of the carnage occurred (which I do).
I don’t know if it’s the same for people in the North. Very little of the actual bloodshed occurred north of the Potomac River, and Antietam is only nominally a part of the North, anyway. I spent a portion of my childhood in Maryland, and I remember how strong Confederate sympathies were in Maryland during the Centennial. Marylanders were of two minds about the war.
Most of the fighting took place in the South, and the greatest part of the blood was spilled was right here in Virginia, within a radius of a hundred miles from where I sit typing these words. Families with deep roots in the state — of which my mother’s is one — remember what happened. If you come from a (white) Virginia family that lived here in 1861, chances are you have one or more ancestors who fought in the Recent Unpleasantness.
Families don’t forget. Even if the war is seldom discussed, there is a subliminal awareness of the hardship and horror of those years that is taken in with one’s mother’s milk. We are cognizant of what happened. We know that our families were impoverished by those four years of fratricide, and have never fully recovered.
My roots lie several counties away from where I live now, but there are people at my church whose families have been here since long before the Civil War. One Sunday during coffee hour after the Eucharist I sat with several of them and compared notes from our collective memories. Each of them could tell stories about ancestors who had served, and all were aware that the Commonwealth had fallen on hard times after it was all over.
So what to do now? All we can do is remember our ancestors who served with honor and courage at Manassas, at the Wilderness, at Chancellorsville, at Spotsylvania, at the Crater, at Seven Pines, and at Fredericksburg. And even at Sayler’s Creek, the last battle of the war.
Such is the power of collective memory.
I’ve quoted these lines here before, but they’re worth repeating:
How can we cut this canker from our collective soul?
How can one forget? Millennia hence,
when English is just the language of the scholiasts
or the key to ancient software, Gettysburg
will mean no more than Thermopylae does to us,
and Jackson’s tactics, like Hannibal’s,
will be studied by commanders
training for the galactic wars.
Then Appomattox will no longer appear on any map,
with Bull Run just a vague rumor,
a place somewhere off to the east
of the Blue Ridge Islands.
Monday’s donors checked in from:
Stateside: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia
Far Abroad: Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK
Canada: Ontario and Saskatchewan
I’ll be back tomorrow to post another memory-related update.
Monday’s opening post
Yes, it’s that time again: Today is the first day of our weeklong Autumn Fundraiser.
I use the word “our” out of long habit. “My” would be more accurate, but it doesn’t sound right — after more than a decade of fundraising in tandem with Dymphna, “our fundraiser” remains the preferred phrase.
This is the first time I’ve made it through an entire quarter without my wife… somehow. I did fairly well keeping up with posting, maintained the news feed, edited translations, worked with Vlad on all those videos, and responded to dozens of emails every day. Staying busy seems a good strategy under the circumstances.
It’s not just that Dymphna shared the workload — which she did, even though her contribution had been reduced in recent years as her condition worsened. I used to discuss everything with her, bounce all my ideas off her, and convey the latest news to her. I treasured the time I spent sitting in the chair next to her bed in conversation with her.
But now I’m on my own. I can no longer preview a post with her, asking, “Does this sound stupid?” If it does, you, the readers, will have to tell me, because I lack the common-sense auditor I relied on for so long.
For a week I will be standing here, pickelhaube in hand, earnestly asking for donations to keep this enterprise going for another quarter. If you find what I do here helpful, please use the tip cup on the sidebar of this site. Or, if you prefer, you can use this link. You can also click “subscribe” to set up a monthly subscription.
There’s no paid advertising here. Instead, our readers have to endure these blegs for a week, and after that get another twelve weeks of uninterrupted programming.
This week’s theme is “The Well of Memory”. I’ll be posting my own reminiscences of the fifteen years that this blog has been extant, and relay personal memories from farther back. And also discuss collective memories. Mostly American memories, since I’m an American, but maybe delving into European memories as well.
The title phrase arose a few weeks after Dymphna died. In order not to spend so much time in bed, she had acquired a chaise longue, also known as a “fainting couch”. She kept it in the sun room, and on bright days she could be found there, half-reclining, with her tablet computer in front of her.
Once she was gone, I had no use for the chaise longue. You can’t really sleep on it (although one of her sons managed to during the week of the funeral), nor can you sit normally on it. It was somewhat of an antique, probably from the 1920s or ’30s, so I ended up donating it to a theater company in a nearby county — it would be particularly appropriate for a Noel Coward comedy or something similar.
That freed up some space in the sun room. I set up a couple of card tables, bought some plastic storage containers, and started sorting through boxes of Dymphna’s stuff.
As most readers know, Dymphna had a traumatic childhood, and then suffered abuse in her first marriage. That made contemplating the past difficult for her. As a result, she tended to throw photos and mementos into boxes, and then be unable to organize them or even look at them. Her housekeeper consolidated the stuff, but it was all still there, a well of unbearable memories.
After dragging those boxes into the sun room, I began going through them. I organized the memorabilia into different piles, and distributed a lot of it to my stepchildren (who provided invaluable assistance identifying and dating it). There were a lot of photos I hadn’t seen in a long time, and many that I hadn’t seen at all. One of the latter is reproduced at the top of this post. It was taken in the late 1940s, and shows Dymphna and her little brother on the day they were taken from their mother and placed in their respective orphanages. I recognized it because she had told me about it — the two children were aware that something momentous was about to happen, but they didn’t understand what it was. Fifty years later Dymphna wrote a powerful poem about that day, “Lament For My Brother”, which I posted here.
After I finished with her boxes, I hauled down a couple of my own from up here in the Eyrie. They had been at my parents’ house, and had come down here when the place was sold some fifteen years ago. I hadn’t really looked at them, so everything that emerged was a nostalgic surprise. Some of it hadn’t seen the light of day in fifty years or more. There was a lot of treasure in those boxes, including numerous photos I had never seen.
When I told the future Baron what I was doing, I said, “I’ve fallen down the well of memory, and I don’t know how to climb out.”
So now I’m sitting here with my trusty bottle of what Dymphna called “writing fluid” close at hand. Even though she was Irish, her preferred inspirational tipple was French orange liqueur. I keep a ritual bottle of it on the shelf in honor of her, not unlike setting out a plate of cookies for Santa.
For myself, it’s a bottle of 2017 Tres Ojos old vines Garnacha from Aragón, $5.99 on special at Whole Foods. Yes, it’s young, but that doesn’t seem to matter much with Garnacha.
Tomorrow I’ll post an update, including more memories and a report on all the far-flung locales where our donors come from.
Important note: I tithe from this week’s proceeds to Vlad Tepes, whose video work is so important to what I do here. If you think he deserves more than that pitiful pittance, I recommend visiting his site, where he has his own donation button.
The tip jar in the text above is just for decoration. To donate, click the tin cup (or the donate button) on the sidebar of our main page. If you prefer a monthly subscription, click the “subscribe” button.