Do you know of this man?

Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg. Tom Huntington. 406 pp. Stackpole Books. 2013.

I’ve just finished an interesting story about a man whose name I knew but whose exploits I was only vaguely familiar with. Who doesn’t know that Meade was a general in the Civil War and won some significant battles, including Gettysburg? 

Very few, according to the author of this book, and that’s why he set out to set the record straight. He did it in a slightly different way. Rather than write a regular biography, he traveled around the country to visit most of the battlefields and forts where Meade had been. He was not surprised to discover that at many of those places Meade goes unmentioned or is relegated to corner. 

Meade not only won the Battle of Gettysburg, he did it just three days after being put in charge of the Army of the Potomac. He was, according to Huntington, a thinking man’s soldier. He did not rush into battle, but considered his options, devised a plan and then fought. In a couple of cases, wary of the circumstances, he did not fight and that has tarnished his reputation. Some of the criticism is deserved, the author points out, and also notes that it did not help Meade that he had quite the temper. 

What makes the book especially readable is that we can in one paragraph be with Huntington at some site where Meade fought and the next minute be with Meade at the same site. The author blends the past and the present well. 

Why did I know the name?

Well, my paternal grandmother was a Meade, born in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, as was her father, Thomas. His father, Ambrose, was born in Cornwall, England. General Meade’s grandfather was an Irish immigrant to Philadelphia, although the general was born while his father was in Spain. Still, he maintained his Pennsylvania roots, died there and is buried there. 

However, as far as I know (and I checked with a Meade cousin), we are not related. Still, it’s a good book.


I made a print!

I took a short course in printmaking at the Bellefonte Art Museum the other day. I don't think it's for me, although I am going to try one more time. I think I want to make a print of a barn and see how it would look on the cover of my coffee table book Pennsylvania Barn Stories, which won't be published for a couple of years. Meanwhile, the print I made is from a photograph I took inside a barn a couple of weeks ago.


Book on Cuba now available

Paulette and I are pleased to announce that the fourth book in our Pixels and Bristles series is now available at https://www.createspace.com/4142214. It will show up in amazon in about a week.
Pixels and Bristles is our trademark for books that display Paulette's painting and my photographs from a trip. We've done books on Chianti, Canyon de Chelly and Wales, although the Wales book does not have any of Paulette's paintings because of time constraints.

This was our itinerary. We flew from Miami to Cienfuegos, visited  there and nearby Trinidad before moving on, via the Bay of Pigs, to Havana. Before going into more detail on Havana, let me tell you first about Trinidad, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. As in any Spanish town, the Plaza Mayor is the focal point and there we enjoyed the Iglesia de la Santisima Trinidad and the Museo de Arquitectura Colonial, which included some photographs of old Trinidad. We had lunch in a nearby restaurant, which was packed all the time we were there and had a long line waiting when we left. In the meantime, we were entertained by a quartet that later offered us a CD for sale.

CDs for sale were the norm just about every time we were entertained. Given that U.S. citizens may bring back music from Cuba, we understand why CDs are popular. They raise money and they’re legal. We came home with a total of eight, two being gifts for friends.
Later that day we were entertained in Cienfuegos by the Coro Cienfuegos, a multi-generational choir. Lovely voices. We bought the CD. The night before we were entertained by a troupe of flautists. We bought the CD.

Havana, as the capital, has much to see. It has many plazas, including the one in the old city which is another UNESCO World Heritage site. The architecture is diverse and many buildings are in need of repair or are being restored. When we weren’t visiting plazas and admiring old buildings, we were visiting a ballet school, an elementary school, a senior citizen retirement home, a Holocaust museum and Jewish center, the Plaza RevoluciÓn, the National Museum of Fine Arts, and an artists’ cooperative.

On our last day, we visited Las Terrazas, which is described in one guidebook as an eco-resort, complete with hotel and restaurant, but which is really more than that. It is also a socialist community that was begun in the 1980s. Our local tour guide explained how the community operated, how who did what when, and what happened if you didn’t fit it. (Rather than shunning you or throwing you out, the community finds a way for you to make a graceful exit.) Crops are grown organically. Our lunch, at which the photographer was feted for his 69th birthday, was vegetarian. (The photographer celebrated his 50th birthday in China and is wondering where he will be for his 98th.)



All the World’s a Zoo

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, himself the son of Cuba immigrants, criticized people who visit Cuba as propping up the dictatorship of the Castro boys.
The quote I focused on, courtesy of The Hill, is: “Cuba is not a zoo where you pay an admission ticket and you go in and you get to watch people living in cages to see how they are suffering.” Rubio said that you could spend five minutes with him and you’d be up to date on Cuba.
 Can’t I find out for myself?
Having recently visited Cuba, I take his point. But I’ve also visited (and lived in) China, with whom we do have diplomatic relations and have watched that country as it has opened up over the past two decades.
And that got me to wondering about other “zoos.” If you think about it, a lot of the Third World has no middle class to speak up and lives in a top-down society. What a zoo! But why stop there? Aren’t all countries open to tourists something of a “zoo”? How many foreigners come to the United States to gawk at us?
With apologies to Shakespeare, I would suggest that all the world’s a zoo and we’re all in it in some capacity.


The Man Who Gave Us CATA

The next time you take a CATA bus from Point A to Point B, thank Jim McClure. When I read his obituary in the CDT last month, I realized that more needed to be said about Jim’s contribution to the greater community.  
I know I can say without fear of contradiction that Jim was the father of CATA. When the Fullington Bus Company said it was going to end service without a subsidy from the Borough of State College, Jim, a member of Borough Council, began a one-man campaign that eventually became CATA.
It was a rocky road. Council voted against a subsidy, but Jim persisted. He was soon joined by others too numerous to name here and eventually they won over the political leaders, not just in the Borough, but the Centre Region, and CATA was born. I remember decades later when one of those oppositional political leaders volunteered in a public meeting that Jim had been right and he had been wrong.
Jim not only led the charge, he was the midwife. He helped design and produce the first bus stop signs and with another graphic designer created the design for the buses. When some CATA workers repainted used buses, Jim intervened because they didn’t get the typeface quite right.
His attention to detail showed itself in many of his endeavors and the community is better for all of them.
(Resources for this letter include Jim Miller, Tom Kurtz, John Spychalski and Hugh Mose, all with CATA connections past and present.)