Tag Archives: George W. Bush

Confused DNA

The Chesapeake Bay – Landsat photo
The Chesapeake Bay – Landsat photo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Until John Cabot, that well-known Italian explorer (otherwise known as Giovanni, Juan Zuan, Zuam or Zoane depending on how he felt that day) started poking around in 1498, Native Americans were the only residents of Maryland’s rolling landscape and bountiful Chesapeake Bay. The English decided to set up house in Maryland in 1634, hence my propensity for speaking the King’s English. While Congress was still busy penning the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Maryland was doing its own thing with a state constitution “of the people only . . . .” already dumping allegiance to the King of England.

Chesapeake Bay
Chesapeake Bay (Photo credit: slack12)

Technically the state of Maryland is in the south being south of the Mason Dixon Line. Virginians would dispute that as they claim “the south starts here.” Maryland remained part of The North during the Civil War but with much Confederate sympathy in the state, men staying put to face the bloodshed in the Union Army numbered only two to one to men fleeing south to join the Confederacy.

Brother fought brother as Maryland was a border state, spanning the north and the south, with planters using slaves, but free blacks in the state numbering nearly fifty percent before the war even started.

My mother’s family stayed firmly rooted with their farm in Maryland since the 17th century. My father’s family came from North Carolina and shunted between the south and the north.

Stick with me. I’ll pull this together soon.

English: Daniel Harvey Hill
English: Daniel Harvey Hill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My great, great, great uncle General Daniel Harvey Hill, born in South Carolina, served under southern General Lee but never resided in Maryland. He only set foot in my home state to take part in Lee’s Maryland Campaign culminating in the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of battle in U.S. history with a shocking 23,000 casualties. What had been instilled in me as a child, a sense of pride for my ancestor now fills me with shame, both for the senseless slaughter and the principles he defended.

So it’s in my DNA to be confused.

Am I a southerner? Don’t think so. What’s with boiled peanuts (or chitterlings, hog jowls, turtle soup or grits)? Why would you want to eat them? Am I a Northerner? Don’t feel like one.

The fact is, though I would never give up my American passport and am a loyal and patriotic American despite the George W. Bush years, I don’t feel like an American any more – north, south, east coast or west coast. Like Maryland’s history, my history is more convoluted than Italian tax laws.

I feel more European, more English. But I’m not European. I’m alien to them. Although my accent sounds English to Americans, it sounds American (or Australian, Canadian, Kiwi, Dutch or German) to the English. The Brits can’t place my accent any more than I can place myself. The term to encapsulate my curious mix used to be mid-Atlantic. I feel more cast adrift. Unanchored.

Divergent plate boundary: Mid-Atlantic Ridge
Should I start swimming? Divergent plate boundary: Mid-Atlantic Ridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And detached. Detached from English family and friends and – although this is a very banal admission to make – detached from my stuff. I would like to start unpacking my kitchen equipment. Then after getting rid of two non-digital TVs, a washing machine on its last legs, a desktop computer from the ice age and at least three jackets with shoulder pads, we’d still have nothing to sit on. But we need a house first. Then I could prepare a delicious meal whilst dressed in decade-old clothes and we’d eat off our laps whilst sitting on the floor.

All the old feelings are starting to surface again. A displaced person. I never really considered myself as an immigrant when I moved to England in 1975. At the time it seemed temporary, part of traveling. Even though I was resident for many years in the UK, I never fully assimilated. Does one ever in a country not of one’s birth?

Cover of "A Connecticut Yankee in King Ar...
Cover via Amazon

So I’m confused, as confused as Mark Twain’s Hank Morgan in “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” who after a knock to his head in 19th century New England comes to in merry ol’ England 13 centuries earlier. He manages his circumstances by remembering a 6th century solar eclipse from his history studies in Connecticut. As a trick he pretends to “blot out the sun” and quickly becomes pals with the king laying claim to a percentage of the country’s GDP. Could I pull off something similar? Would it help me to feel at home?

Have you moved away from your place of birth? Would you? Could you? Am I doing the right thing?

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The Wrong Way

“The next time I choose a route, we’ll go that way.”

A cute distraction while our car overheated.
A cute distraction while our car overheated.

“I know,” I said contritely.

“I don’t want you to interfere.”

“I know.”

”You can’t leave anything alone.”


“I expect the other way was shorter as well.”


“I can’t turn around now. The engine is overheating. I can’t even stop on this steep grade. I’m afraid we’ll never get going again. I don’t even know if we’ll make it to the top. What will we do then? I can’t reverse down the mountain. You had to . . . .”

“Awright! Awright! Awright!” Any little inkling of contrition I had felt was seeping away with this barrage, despite it being (possibly) justified. Jimmy’s estimated “easy” 140 mile leg of our journey towing our travel trailer to Garryowen had turned into a mountain climbing expedition. Our V8 engine was happily slurping gas as it whined uphill in first gear at 10 miles per hour towing 7,500 pounds behind us.

No end in sight!
No end in sight!

I had simply looked at the map before we set out from Cody, Wyoming and saw what I thought was a more direct route than Jimmy had chosen to Garryowen, neglecting to notice the tiny symbols denoting the Bighorn Mountains. They bisected our route with the road peaking at a summit of 9,430 feet while skirting Bald Mountain at 10,042 feet and Hunt Mountain at 10,162 feet. Also, the Closed in Winter designation should have been a hint that it was going to be a tricky road, but I had only judged the distance with a quick glance. A flashing yellow sign warned “Steep Grades Ahead!” some time after we had set off but I kept schtum hoping himself hadn’t seen it. We were already committed.

Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill, 1885
Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill, 1885 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A little background to these little known western towns. Cody is named for William Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, apparently the most famous American at the turn of the 20th century. He was by all accounts a splendid chap – handsome, smart, a family man (though is rumored to have had an affair with Queen Victoria), enterprising, heroic – and used his superior shooting and horse riding skills to produce “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show” which toured Europe and America for 30 years. Appearing in his show over the years were Annie Oakley, of sharp-shooting fame, Calamity Jane, an illiterate alcoholic and part-time prostitute (did Doris Day know?) and Wild Bill Hickok, a gunfighter whose early demise while playing poker makes me uncomfortable sitting near the door of a restaurant even now. Not that Bill frequented restaurants, but if he’d sat with his back to the wall at the saloon in Deadwood I wouldn’t have this hang-up.

Garry Owen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m7RPjQxjmA) was Custer’s favorite marching song and now is the name of the only town within the battlefield of The Battle of the Little Bighorn or Custer’s Last Stand. It is little known that George Armstrong Custer was the George W. Bush of his day – a lousy student at uni and a questionable military strategist. George C. graduated bottom of his class at the United States Military Academy. George B. was an average student at uni and was accepted into the Texas Air National Guard with the lowest possible passing grade on his written aptitude test. George C. arrogantly (can be interchanged with overconfidently, patriotically or zealously depending on your point of view) attacked an encampment of Sioux and Cheyenne Indians under the overall command of Chief Sitting Bull. Instead of waiting for reinforcements, George C. was wiped out along with over 200 of his men by 2,500 Indian warriors. George B. . . well you know that sorry tale.

George Armstrong Custer, U.S. Army major gener...
George Armstrong Custer, U.S. Army major general, killed in battle at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We will return to our badly planned mountain climbing expedition in the next exciting instalment!

For my followers: We’re back in the USA, but I’m sure you noticed that.