All posts filed under: Random DJB Thoughts

This is where I put anything that is not easily categorized…

Observations from…

It is not surprising that two women and two African American men have been the most effective religious leaders speaking truth to power to Donald Trump over the past few days. My “Observations from” series usually includes a location. But this one doesn’t because, well, I don’t know where we are at this moment in this country. One of our most amoral presidents in history is walking and driving around the nation’s capitol looking for religious props for photo ops while he orders peaceful protesters tear-gassed and forcibly removed from his sight. Protesters who are, by the way, angry over yet another senseless and grotesque murder of a black man by a white police officer. Oh, and at the same time, his Secretary of State is tweeting about Chinese authoritarianism and meeting with Tiananmen Square survivors. Rightwing religious extremists are saying of the president’s use of the sacred symbols of Christendom, “Well, at least he’s pro-life.” Irony is apparently something that the modern-day Republican party doesn’t understand or at least doesn’t do anymore. So just …

Incalculable Loss. Enduring Grief.

Yesterday the United States passed a tragic milestone: 100,000 of our fellow citizens have died because of the COVID-19 virus. The true number is certainly much higher. Sunday’s New York Times featured a front page full of names and simple obituaries of just 1% of those who have died. They spoke of the incalculable loss we have suffered from the impact of the pandemic. Because of a botched response to the coronavirus from the administration that continues to this day, many more people died than would have with competent, credible, and empathetic leadership. The United States is, unfortunately, a world leader in an area where we once relegated so-called third world, developing nations. We have lost our minds. But more importantly, we have lost all that those lives that are being cut short could have contributed had they not been felled by a disease that was allowed to run rampant in support of a political ideology. We have lost world-class scientific knowledge. Soul enriching music. Literature that touches our heart. Hugs and smiles from grandmothers. …

American Patriots

Today — May 8, 2020 — is the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (or V-E) Day, when the allies accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. World War II was a time when the countries of the world came together to combat bigotry, racism, fascism and hatred. I had a father, uncles, and aunts who volunteered to serve, one of whom was at Normandy on D-Day. Many men and women made the ultimate sacrifice in those years. Yet all went to war because of what happened when xenophobia and demagoguery supplanted real leadership. Last month we passed the 155th anniversary of the surrender of Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army on April 9, 1865. The victory, while complete on the battlefield, was not capable of eradicating 250 years of racism. So we all soldier on for a better, more just world. Abraham Lincoln said it best when he spoke of the reasons for the Civil War — and our unfinished task as Americans — at the dedication of the Union cemetery at Gettysburg: …

Just Say It

If I had just one piece of advice to give to colleagues, friends, and family, it would be pretty simple. Say “Thank you.” Say it early and often. Two recent conversations raised this in my consciousness. First, a senior professional and former colleague was assisting an emerging professional with a networking and outreach discussion. They met, and because she was impressed, the former colleague offered up additional assistance. While a verbal thank you may have been given at the end of lunch, there was no follow-up communication after the initial meeting to acknowledge the gift of time and offer of additional assistance. In a second instance, a friend mentioned that a member of her family found it difficult, if not impossible, to say thank you, even when she was the recipient of an extraordinary gift. These family members have had their differences through the years. But despite that, my friend expected an acknowledgement of minimal gratefulness. It never came. Connecting to say thank you is, from my perspective, extraordinarily important. Saying thank you, as my …

Eleven Ways of Smelling a Tree

The February 10th newsletter of Chapter 16, a website celebrating Tennessee literature, was titled Paying Attention. Editor Maria Browning writes that, to her mind, February is “the most fickle month of the year in Tennessee,” with shifts between the stirrings of spring and days of snow (or, worse, ice). She continues, “Wardrobe challenges notwithstanding, this is a wonderful time to pay attention to the ever-dynamic natural world.” Her suggestion for some inspiration led me to read “Eleven Ways of Smelling a Tree” by Sewanee writer David George Haskell. As Browning notes, the piece at Emergence Magazine is a collaborative effort, with musician Katherine Lehman and art by Studio Airport. I’ve recommended Haskell’s The Forest Unseen in the past as a delightful book written by a scientist with the soul of a poet. “Eleven Ways of Smelling a Tree” has the same observational mix and magic. Haskell opens his piece with an ode to the American Basswood. Harlem, New York City Vintage: 1908 We crack the windows on summer’s first warm days. I taste diesel smoke, acid and oily. The fumes …

Observations from…The City of the Future

Depending on your age and where you lived, your childhood construction toys of choice may have been Tinkertoys (my favorite); Meccano (if you or your grandparents were European); an Erector Set (I may still have the scar from falling off the top bunk onto one of our construction sites); or Legos (our children’s favorite). I started thinking about construction toys while standing on the top level of the Silver Spring transit center this afternoon, talking with an engineer, and looking down at the vast construction site that is now our front yard (of sorts). My mind wandered to, “These men and women on the site below may have started out on the family rug many years ago with the Erector Set.” Some of them may, in fact, be living their dream! For the past twenty years, we have lived in downtown Silver Spring. We cross a relatively narrow residential street and a small plaza set in the center of an office complex to get to the Metro station, which houses the Red Line. I use …

Quest for the Best (Picture): 2020 Edition

An annual feature of More to Come is my take on the movies nominated for the “Best Picture” Oscar. However, it wasn’t until the 2019 Academy Awards show that I saw all of the nominees for the year in question. I was determined to do it again in 2020, and as of late yesterday evening, I’m pleased to say, “Mission Accomplished!” I always remind readers that I make no claims to be a movie critic. These are personal views without any understanding of the nuances of filmmaking and without a deep well of knowledge of the movies of the late 20th and early 21st century. (I’ve come late to the joys of film.) There is usually at least one movie I really loved that didn’t make the cut, and that’s the case again in 2020. I thought filming Aretha Franklin—at the height of her musical powers in 1972—singing 90 minutes of gospel music in a black Baptist church in Los Angeles, was transcendent cinema. As I wrote in my initial review of Amazing Grace, you have that …

The Top 1 Percent

You, dear reader, have just clicked onto my 1,000th post on More to Come. As it says in the tagline, you’ve found my observations and recollections on places that matter, books worth reading, roots music, the times we live in, and “whatever else tickles my fancy.” That last one gives me license to touch on just about anything. But don’t worry. Contrary to the headline, this isn’t a rant about income inequality. I’ll explain in a moment. More to Come was created in 2008 to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over, I simply continued writing. Originally I would send random thoughts on a few things I cared about to friends, family, and other travelers on the internet who might share the same passions. Over the years the blog changed to have a more definite focus and look. In 2016, I began writing an email each Monday morning to my staff at the National Trust for Historic Preservation about things that were on my mind. This discipline led to a regular …

Eighth of January Revisited

Ten years ago today, I wrote the following on More to Come: “For all who love great old-time fiddle tunes, here’s a little luncheon treat. One of my favorites among the old-time tunes is the Eighth of January, which many will remember from the old Johnny Horton country hit The Battle of New Orleans. (The date of the battle was January 8, 1815, and Jimmy Driftwood, an Arkansas school principal who wrote the words to the song to interest children in history, used the fiddle tune for the music.) The Eighth of January is a sweet little melody that’s relatively easy to play but has lots of possibilities for variations. I found this video by Roland White with a nice short mandolin version. I wrote about Roland and his brother Clarence back in March 2009 when they were featured in the Fretboard Journal. So, on January 8, 2010, enjoy the Eighth of January in a more timeless mode.” UPDATE: I was reminded of the post here in 2020 because a friend’s birthday falls on this auspicious …

Farewell 2019, Hello 2020

It is time, once again, when I first look back over the past twelve months and then think ahead to where I want to go in the year to come. This annual review is one small part of a larger practice to have an honest conversation with myself in the hopes that I’ll then be able to have real conversations with the larger world. During 2019, I’ve thought a great deal about place, privilege, and—given the tenor of the times—paths forward individually as well as collectively. Why place? My career has been focused on older and historic places, what those places can tell us, and how they can nurture us (or not) into the future. Although I took a gap year from full-time work in 2019, I didn’t stop thinking about my life’s work. Knowing that emotions flow through place, in my writing over this year I’ve focused more on the buildings and landscapes in our cities and towns that, while coming from my professional life, also have deep personal meaning for me. Why privilege? …