Art of Citizenship

Civic:  relating to the duties or activities of people in relation to their town, city, or local area.

It’s like history:  people think of history as these broad narratives usually of, by, and for white men.  Digression.  Back in March 2018, the Hoover Institution (on War, Revolution, and Peace) sponsored a conference on “Applied History.”  Thirty male historians, one female historian, ALL white, ALL associated with American institutions.  Not having been there, I couldn’t tell you what “Applied History” actually means; my knee-jerk reaction is to wonder whether anyone talked about the use and misuse of history by policymakers, or whether this was just a bunch of white Americans telling policymakers what they should be doing on a national and international basis.

What do people mean by civic?

Yesterday, a very young and lost boxer followed me for a mile.  I went back to my Airbnb and not knowing what to do, asked my host to help me.  She cut me off:  “The dog needs to go back on the street, he can’t be here, and I can’t help you.”  After the initial panic, I realized that I can in fact take care of the problem.  I called the local no-kill shelter, they referred me to Animal Control, and I sat with the dog until the officer showed up thirty  minutes later.  He assured me the dog would be scanned for microchip information, held for 24 hours to wait for owner, then taken to the no-kill shelter.  Today, I have a “civic” survey in my inbox, asking me what I think civic means.  Based on the choices on page one, civic would seem to mean citizen action of the obvious sort recognizable by the general public:  voting, demonstrating, petitioning.  Yesterday, DH and some neighbors sent out postcards to registered voters encouraging them to vote in the upcoming midterm elections.  Yesterday, I rescued a friendly young dog with no common sense.  Yesterday, I found out my Airbnb host, who has a full life as a feminist/Democrat/community activist, did not see my action as a civic one.

I must admit that I was tempted to ignore the dog . . .  but he was so obviously lost and clueless.  A couple of local neighbors helped figure out that the dog belongs to a family not far from where I am staying, his name is Bruno, and he is quite young (about 5 months old).  I am hopeful his family picked him up from Animal Control last night.


On my last morning in Santa Fe, I found this heart hanging on a fence outside a Canyon Road art gallery.  I am indeed grateful that I am lucky enough to live in a country where civic action — or inaction — is (still) a choice and a right.

Road Trip: Golden, Colorado

DH has been preparing for this bucket list ride for months (or arguably, for years).  This was his year for the 2017 Triple Bypass cycling event . . . and it was cancelled.  But for the ride, we would not have been in Golden — not that we would NEVER have gone there, but we have lived in Colorado 24 years and never even driven through the city.

We loved our short visit:


Not named after gold, but after early prospector Thomas Golden.


On the campus of Colorado School of Mines. No donkeys, no mining …


The one-room Guy Hill schoolhouse at Clear Creek History Park, with the mountainside “M” (for Colorado School of Mines).

DH still went for a 64-mile ride:


The city, from Lookout Mountain.


A denizen of Lookout Mountain.


Juniper Pass

Other fun things:


A much-modified late-19th century house . . . .

IMG_0912 (2)

. . . . with a modern shed-roofed addition around the corner to the rear . . . .

and, wait for it:


. . . . a set of row houses attached to the other side of the original house.

Sigh.   But what fun would it have been if I couldn’t laugh at some atrocious renovations?

In the Autumn of My Life

When white American men get angry and scared, they elect someone who is all they think they want to be.  He is white, he has gobs of money, he is a taker of women, money, property.  He is a racist, he is anti-intellectual, he is apparently amazingly potent — look at the much-younger beautiful-but-thick-as-a-brick wife, the many kids!  He would turn back the clock for all these angry and scared white men to a time when everyone knew where people of color belonged, where women belonged, where there were no such things as LGBT people (let alone rights for them), where Americans were home-grown and had a special relationship with God, where American military-industrial complex governed the world.

As a citizen, an immigrant, a woman, an intellectual, a believer in the rationality of science, a basically ethical human being, I am saddened by the election.  As a historian, I will take the long view, and I know America will survive this.  I don’t believe in American exceptionalism, but I do believe in American resilience.  I am happy to live in a state that did NOT vote him in, and I will do something I never really did before: pay attention to state’s rights.  As a doctor, I am glad that Colorado has become the 6th state to allow right-to-die measures for the terminally ill.  It was a sad election day, but with bright spots and hope intact for the future, for the next four years I will do my best to take care of my little corner of America.

In that little corner, I have other things to think about:


It’s not just any old knife:  I coveted this knife for the last two decades, and almost two years after Mom died, I brought her knife home.  Today I took it to Jim, my favorite knife sharpener.  He has been retired for years, but he sets up his tools every year during the summer outside one of our local grocery stores, and the rest of the year he sharpens knives and tools out of his garage.  Every time I bring in my other Mac knife (swiped from Mom years ago), he tells me how much he loves these Japanese knives.  Dad took care of Mom’s knives the old-fashioned way, with a whetstone.  This knife was Mom’s everyday/everything knife, and in the last few years, Dad stopped sharpening it for her, much the same way he stopped doing various things around the house for her.  Since her death, he has also stopped doing things for himself.

Dad is down to skin-and-bones now; he can barely get himself out of bed, he needs help bathing, he has a walker he hates to use but has to because he fell and broke his wrist.  Dad was a skinny kid and a skinny young man.  After he came to America, he finally developed a belly.  That belly would go up and down a bit and up again, and when it got too Pooh-like, Mom would put him on a diet.  For 50-something years, he had that belly, and he lost it all in the last year.  I help him bathe, and I am shocked by all he is now.  No fat, no muscle, just skin and bones.  He is so brittle.

I wait for Mom to take him home.

When a Historian Meets a Travel Diary

She naturally wants to know who, what, when, where, why.  The who was the difficult one: I had her name on the flyleaf, and what I thought was a timeless commentary (State Insane Asylum) by a teenager about her condition in life.  I should have known that a well-brought-up young lady in late-19th century America would not make that sort of comment.  Mary Campbell Andrews (1875-1962) was the daughter of Judson B. Andrews, M. D. (1834-1894) and Agnes Sinclair Campbell (1840-1931).  Dr. Andrews was the medical superintendent of Buffalo State Hospital from 1880 until his death, so Mary was not being snide, she really did live at the State Insane Asylum in Buffalo (although the official name for the institution was the Buffalo State Hospital).

Dr. J. B. Andrews

Dr. J. B. Andrews, photograph from “North Haven in the Nineteenth Century: A Memorial,” published by the Twentieth Century Committee, 1901.

J. B. Andrews was born in North Haven, Connecticut, in 1834, and graduated from Yale in 1855.  During the Civil War he was a captain of the 77th Regiment, New York Volunteers, and later assistant-surgeon of the 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery.  In 1867 he was the 3rd assistant physician at Utica State Hospital, later becoming the 1st assistant.  Dr. Andrews became the superintendent of Buffalo State Hospital, remaining so until his death at the hospital in August 1894.  He was a prominent “alienist,” and was President of the Medico-Psychological Association (now called the American Psychiatric Association) from 1892-93.  He produced monographs such as “Exophthalmic goitre with insanity” (c. 1870) and “Case of excessive hypodermic use of morphia: three hundred needles removed from the body of an insane woman” (c. 1872).  Dr. Andrews married Agnes Sinclair Campbell, and daughter Mary was born in January 1875.

Mary seems to have lived her entire life in upstate New York; she was born in Utica, and died in Utica in 1962.  In between she married Dr. Herman Gustavus Matzinger and had four children.  Dr. Matzinger (1860 – 1931) came to prominence in 1901 as one of the doctors who performed the autopsy on President William McKinley.  McKinely was visiting the Pan-American Exposition of 1901 in Buffalo when he was shot by anarchist Leon Czolgosz.  Unfortunately, he lingered on for another nine days, finally dying of what modern scientists think was pancreatic necrosis (secondary to the abdominal trauma).  Pancreatic necrosis remains a high-mortality condition today.  Dr. Matzinger was variously designated as a bacteriologist (of the Buffalo State Pathological Laboratory) at the time of the McKinley assassination, and later as a Professor of Psychiatry at University of Buffalo.   I love the days of undifferentiated medical practice . . . .

Travel Diary: Miss Mary in London!

I think Mary C. Andrews was a teenager.    And what was this fascination with Amy Robsart?!  127 years later, the London itinerary for the average visitor to the city has not changed at all.  

June 6 Thursday

Came to London this morning and this afternoon took a ride on the Strand and went to St. Pauls Church.

June 7 Friday

Went to the tower of London this morning and saw where the princes bone were found but they would not let us go where they were murdered because it is a private house.  We went to the old chapel where the kings and queens used to be crowned and saw the crown jewels which all together all worth 3 million pounds.  We also went through the old banqueting hall which is filled with armour and weapons and the council chambers which are also filled with armour and weapons.  We saw the armour of the Lord of Leister husband to Amy Robsart.  Beauchamp tower where the prisoners were confined and they have carved inscriptions all over the walls some of which are very curious. n Near here is the house where Lady Jane Gray was confined.  Then we went to Westminster Abby and went all through it and saw the old Chapter house where the first parliament met, the poets corner and the tombs of the kings and Queens among which are Mary Queen of Scots, Mary and William, Elizabeth and her sister Mary and the tomb of Edward the Confessor which is very old.  We also saw the chair where the queen was crowned and under the seat, a stone where the Scotish kings were crowned and which is also very old.

June 8 Saturday

Went shopping this morning and got a waterproof and two silver bangles.  Then we went through the National Picture Gallery and saw a great many pictures of the Virgin and the infant Christ.  The one we liked best was by Murillo.  We saw a great many pictures by famous artists which I cannot remember.  Then we had lunch and I bought a pin.  Then we went to the British Museum and saw some Egyptian mummys.

June 9 Sunday


Palace of Westminster, Houses of Parliament, c. late 1890s

This morning took a boat on the Thames and went down to London Bridge and then went up to Chelsea where we saw the house that Carlyle lived in.  Then we took a boat there and went to Kew Gardens.  The gardens are very pretty and very interesting.  We went into two fun houses, an orchid house and some other queer houses.  Then we came back on the top of a stage and stopped at Winsor Castle Inn and changed horse and it seemed very old fashioned.  We passed the Albert Memorial, Hyde Park, Kensington Palace (where the queen was born) and park and Green Park which has the Buckingham Palace behind it.  We had a very pleasant drive.

You Mean, Aside from World War II?

The quote of the day, from reviewer “Shomeret,”commenting on Jacqueline Winspear’s Birds of a Feather on Goodreads (April  2012):

“Until recently I thought that World War I lacked any enduring significance.”


The reviewer is/was studying library science and has a book review blog.  I gave her credit for the “until recently” part of the sentence, which would seem to imply a change of heart.  Maybe she read some good history books, I thought.  But no.  She apparently changed her mind because “. . . . some of the most interesting historical fictions I’ve been reading this year take place during that period.”

She changed her mind because of works of HISTORICAL FICTION?!  Well, I guess it’s better than nothing.

Hey, Shomeret!  Ever heard of (among other things) the crippling reparations the Allies demanded of Germany after WWI, Hitler’s rise to power, the complete change in how wars were fought in the aftermath of the Great War, and a small event called WWII?

Of no enduring significance.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

BTW, I found Birds of a Feather tedious, and as others have noted, Winspear did not adhere to one of the cardinal rules of good mysteries: All clues, however obscure, must be available to the reader.  Sheesh.

Red Chair Reads: Seven Keys to Baldpate

When the Teenager was six or so, we took her on a hike on one of the trails near Lily Lake.  It was a level ramble, with just one short but somewhat steep climb at the end, and then a short walk to the Baldpate Inn.  We had never been to this mountain lodge before, and have not been back: the brunch buffet was much praised in the area, but I was underwhelmed (I hate having to look for the fruit in fruit pies), and though I love a historic hotel, I am past the age of being willing to share bathroom facilities with strangers.  Chief among the Baldpate Inn’s claims to fame is its 20,000 key collection, but back then I did not know the history of the inn or the genesis of the key collection.  Now that I know, I wonder that the original owners thought it an honour to name their hotel after the book.

One of the joys of having a Kindle is being able to download free and out-of-print books — lots and lots of them.  Unfortunately, there is a reason why most of them are obscure, but I keep trolling through ManyBooks, in the hopes of finding some hidden treasures.  Seven Keys to Baldpate, by Earl Derr Biggers, would not be one of them.  I should have known better — I’ve not had much luck with books by writers with three names …  The book is meant to be a madcap farce, but it is not a particularly engaging one, with strange interludes of philosophical musings that would not be so objectionable if they were not completely trite, uttered by people who really ought to be charming but instead are merely annoying.  The novel is a product of its time (1913); the Progressive Era was in full swing, and it was a time of social and political instability.  Biggers would seem to have been a cynical — and perhaps uneasy — observer of contemporary reform movements, for beneath all the prattle and slang, the book reflects an undercurrent of fear and uncertainty.   The heroine (if she could be viewed as such, for the book is completely male-dominated) is meant to be the embodiment of the New Woman; we learn at the end that she is a reporter who volunteered to go on the dangerous mission of exposing the handover of bribe money.  But, when first seen, the New Woman was crying her eyes out, and when last seen was in the arms of her husband-to-be — and in between, spent her time expecting the hero to do her work for her.  And then there is the Corrupt Boss, a man who knew what he was and presented himself exactly as what he was, in sharp contrast to everyone else around him who all had secrets and hidden selves; corrupt he may be, but he was strong and got things done, and in the end, Biggers allowed him to walk free, undefeated, the man of resource and action.

As a work of fiction, Seven Keys to Baldpate is a failure; I can’t help but wonder if it is in print only because of The Baldpate Inn, which sells the book and runs mystery and book club weekends centered around the work: “our namesake book,” they proudly proclaim.  But, the book is interesting as a historical text of the Progressive Era — how much more interesting and relevant our seminar discussions could have been if it had been offered as an adjunct to the required readings!

Opie, the Red Chair Book Critic