Inauguration Day (30 April 1789)

Recently elected President George Washington – the first president under the then just ratified Constitution (under which the U.S. government still operates) – delivered his inaugural address in New York City on April 30, 1789. The text is eight – that’s right, only eight – pages long and is in his handwriting. Held at the National Archives, these are its first and last pages:


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History: Unfollowed

Ah, Monday morning:

And less than two weeks before the inauguration of a new U.S. president who has not exactly charmed half the people in the country, we need this?

Yesterday, History on Instagram shared some “history” with us.

Good grief.

First, nothing in that History Insta-caption above is outright false. However, it is an inch deep and far from the whole truth. For that shallowness in the current climate, and what it unleashed in the post’s comments, I unfollowed.

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As Decided In Philadelphia

Well, my absentee ballot has arrived here in Britain. The election is almost upon us. I vote in New York state, in the 19th congressional district, which is located upstate partly in the Catskills where our house is:

New York State absentee presidential ballot. [Photo by me, 2016.]
New York State absentee presidential ballot. [Photo by me, 2016.]

Let me offer a quick explanation of that ballot because this fact might baffle some people. The United States does not have a presidential election as such. It has essentially 51 presidential elections simultaneously – separate elections in all 50 states and the District of Columbia (meaning Washington city, which is not in any state but is the national capital named after, OF COURSE, HIM!).

As I vote in New York State, I vote for electors – locals whose names one rarely knows – who gather at Albany in early December. They are pledged to cast THEIR ballots formally for the pair of candidates who had received the most votes back on November’s Election Day.

…Please, stay with me a moment. πŸ˜‰

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Living With A Legacy

Emma has returned from a summer in Charleston, South Carolina. She has written various posts detailing how she’d had a wonderful time. We’ve been there, too; Charleston is definitely a gorgeous city.

A street, Charleston, South Carolina. [Photo by me, 2014.]
A street, Charleston, South Carolina. [Photo by me, 2014.]
Now, she tackles THAT question:

I think this is one of the things I’ve heard the most when I was in the U.S. : French people don’t like Americans. Well, let me tell you something. THIS IS NOT TRUE. I’m French, I’ve spent all of my 21 years of life in France, and I have never heard more than two or three persons maybe saying that they didn’t like Americans…

This issue is always hovering around out there. It has been a source for a great deal of literature as well as for uncounted plots in movies and television episodes. As an American who has spent a lot of time in France since, uh, the 1980s (yes, good grief, I’m now THAT old!), and read tons of Franco-American history, I’d like to take a crack at this one briefly. πŸ™‚

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That Wide Ocean

America’s top official in France from 1785-1789, forty-something Thomas Jefferson, came to believe U.S. diplomats should not be overseas more than about eight years at a stretch. He felt if they (and they were then only men) were, they would lose touch with events and opinions at home. As a result, they would eventually be incapable of representing America properly.

He grew concerned also about young men “without attachment” becoming “involved” with European women, and felt their being overseas too long made such “intimacy” almost inevitable. The young women they encountered in diplomatic and social circles (and who, in France and elsewhere on the continent, could speak English) were overwhelmingly aristocrats. He believed “relationships” with those women could damage those “impressionable” young men’s “republican” sentiments and alienate them from the outlooks of most of their fellow Americans at home.

A few years before, a 16 year old future U.S. president became rather “enthralled” by young women he met while visiting Sweden. Yes, it’s a shocker: An American teenage boy loose in Scandinavia notices girls. Yet in that he demonstrated Jefferson’s concerns were perhaps not groundless.

Then lacking the television, internet, etc., that we take for granted, one could see Jefferson’s point about being too far removed from home as well. It took three months minimum for a letter to travel from Europe and to receive a reply from America; and that was usually during the summer months. Far fewer ships risked crossing the Atlantic between December and March – and even navies weren’t keen on it if they could possibly put it off until spring.

Sunset, Soulac-sur-mer, France, over the Bay of Biscay, which eventually becomes the Atlantic Ocean. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Sunset, Soulac-sur-mer, France, over the Bay of Biscay, which eventually becomes the Atlantic Ocean. [Photo by me, 2016.]

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Drama At Sea

One of the troubles with writing is you feel awkward discussing what you did at work today with those humanly closest to you. It is simply too difficult to explain. It just feels more comfortable to take to a keyboard and share it online with social media friends and readers who follow because YOU want to.

Meaning that here on my own writing site I’m not risking making a total “bore” of myself (I hope). πŸ˜‰

But one of the challenges in sharing what you did at work is if you include any excerpt it also shouldn’t give away too much; inadvertently “spoiling” your own upcoming novel is, frankly, idiotic. However, yesterday’s work, and this morning’s, was full of plot detail and “surprises” that I just don’t want seen yet. That said, having scoured it, I think I can share this:

Sneak Peek into  "Conventions." Click to expand.
Sneak Peek into “Conventions.” Click to expand.

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“Land of lovely dames”

A bit more “history.” Please don’t run for cover. I think you’ll find this amusing – especially given this is 4th of July weekend in the U.S.:

Excerpt, from Kindle for iPad.
Excerpt, from Kindle for iPad.

That excerpt is from a recent biography. The first part is from a 1782 letter written by the subject while he was traveling; the second half is from an 1811 letter he also wrote. In 1782 the writer had made his way across Sweden (including Finland, which was part of Sweden then) while returning from Russia.

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Your “X” In The Box

“Remember,” my (now late) mother lectured me some years ago, “Billy Joel said it best.”

“Huh,” I recall replying, “I’m afraid to ask about what. Something about Italian restaurants?”

He being another “real” New Yorker – and particularly a Long Islander – and not much younger than herself, my mother loved Joel’s music. [Full disclosure, I like him, too.] She paused after I’d questioned her. Suddenly, she looked puzzled.

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“Remain” Vs. “Leave”: All The Arguing

We don’t see this sort of thing happen in our lives too often. These next few weeks? Remember them:

Screen capture of Twitter.
Screen capture of Twitter.

For American readers, “luvvies” is British derogatory slang for….

a person who is involved in the acting profession or the theatre, esp one with a tendency to affectation

As you may know, on June 23 British voters will be asked to answer this referendum question, Yes or No: Should the United Kingdom remain a part of the European Union?

The arguments for remaining vs. leaving are now all over the airwaves, filling newspapers and the net. British voters are being deluged with opinions. As with those entertainers Sky presenter Kay Burley tweets about, it seems most every figure is voicing a view.

Taking no public position either way myself (I’m not British, so I don’t feel it’s appropriate), I will say I’ve noticed two major tendencies that broadly underpin both sides’ arguments:

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At This Journey’s End

Hello. I’m typing this on March 11 mid-afternoon here at a lounge in Newark Airport (in New Jersey), a few hours before our flight back to the UK. I think it’ll make for blog post on arrival “home” in England.

Around us on the sofas and chairs in the busy room are assorted people, some “type type typing” or “tap tap tapping” their mobile devices feverishly. I’m using my iPad with its Bluetooth keyboard. My wife across from me is on her Microsoft Surface. Some travelers are conversing quietly. Some kids I see are also engrossed on I-somethings. Some people are eating. Others are watching TV. (Nancy Reagan’s funeral is on the big set.) A couple I see in a corner are snoozing.

Sitting a few feet away from me is an American couple in their 20s to young 30s. Understand, I’m not trying to single out my fellow countrymen here – this lounge is full of other Americans. These two, however, seem to think everyone else has to hear what they’re yammering about.

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