The Suitcase Lady


June 30, 2020, 9:17 pm

As we approach the Fourth of July holiday, I believe a historical reenactment is in order. America needs another Boston Tea Party, but with a change of venue. I would propose the Potomac River.

“Taxation Without Representation” was the rallying cry of our first Tea Party. Led by Samuel Adams, the Sons of Liberty were merchants and tradespeople who opposed the onerous taxes imposed by the British government. The Tea Tax was a special windfall for the British Treasury as the colonists drank 1.2 million pounds of tea a year.

The protest began with a boycott of tea from the British East India Company. Dutch Tea was smuggled into America, and Sam Adams and John Hancock were among the smugglers. This action resulted in lots of surplus tea and impending bankruptcy for the British East India Company. The British parliament then reduced the price of tea but retained the tax. Even with the lower price, the colonists preferred to smuggle.

On December 16, 1773, three British ships, the Dartmouth, Beaver and Eleanor, entered the Boston Harbor loaded with tea from China. Thousands of colonists rallied and refused to pay the tax. But their colonial governor ordered the taxes to be paid and the ships unloaded. That night, 100 colonists disguised themselves as Indians, boarded the ships, split opened the chests with their tomahawks and dumped 342 tea chests into the harbor. This act of civil disobedience took 3 hours and involved 45 tons of tea which would cost around a million dollars at today’s prices. No property was damaged (other than the tea), no looting occurred and the ships’ decks were purportedly swept clean by the “Indians” before they disembarked.

If you visit Washington D.C. today, you will notice the residents’ license plates bear the words  “End Taxation Without Representation”. The population is 702,455 and 49% of the population is African American. Wyoming and Vermont have fewer people.  Residents of the District pay taxes and fight in wars, but have no voting members in Congress.

A 51st State is in order. And while we are at it, let’s make it 52 by adding Puerto Rico. It’s time for America to get out of the business of having colonies.

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June 23, 2020, 12:56 pm

As a graphic designer, I try to keep up with the latest art fads. However, until recently I was clueless about a hot art craze that surfaced in 2017.  How could I have missed avocado art? Perhaps it’s because I’m a Midwesterner, and we are always a bit behind the cutting edge.

Food as art is a long-standing culinary tradition. Think of radish roses, butter sculptures, watermelon baskets and myriad other fruits and veggies turned into dazzling banquet displays. Down through the ages, chefs have ignored their mother’s command, “Don’t play with your food!”

Nevertheless, the humble, squishy avocado, mostly associated with guacamole, seems like an unlikely candidate as an art media. But it, too, becomes a masterpiece in the hands of a culinary wizard, And wait, there’s more. The pits are turned into tiny works of art as well.

These intricately carved avocados (a.k.a. alligator pears) and their pits are a delight.

This all goes to prove that there is no excuse for ever being bored. And if you are a bit art challenged, don’t worry. You can always make avocado buttons.



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June 16, 2020, 4:18 pm

Driving home from a hike last Saturday, we spotted a little tug and its huge, empty barge turning into the Manitowoc River from Lake Michigan. Since our house is a reporting station for Marine Traffic (1080 Cat Cove) we decided to detour down to the riverbank to check out the tug’s name. We are familiar with the vessels that regularly ply the lake 5 to 7 miles in front of our house.

The tug was our old friend, the John Marshall, and we instantly decided to try and track her down the river, no easy task as the river soon would twist and turn through an industrial area of huge factories, overgrown foliage and no frontage roads.

She was quickly out of sight and we were zigzagging up and down many dead end streets trying to get her back in view. When we found her, she was moored, but not loading, an activity we wanted to see. Then we noticed two giant cranes on the opposite side of the river busily swinging back and forth, their vessels obscured from our view.

A quick check to Marine Traffic on our phone informed us that the Undaunted, another tug familiar to us, was over there. Determined to view the action, we continued our pursuit to find a viewing point. We found it on a hill high over the river where a small break in the trees afforded us a partial view of a big, old, tired looking boat named the Pere Marquette that was being loaded with giant scoops of gravel. We could not see the Undaunted.

When we got home, we immediately started a computer search to find out what we had seen. Why was an unreported boat receiving cargo? We found an amazing and detailed answer to our question.

The “boat” we saw was a boat but wasn’t a boat at the same time. It is a marvelous tale of use, recycle, and then recycle again and again. Here is a quick summary.

The Pere Marquette began as a Lake Michigan carferry, the City of Midland, that was launched in 1940. She had room for 367 passengers,  60 luxurious staterooms, 12 parlors, 34 rail freight cars and 50 autos. For 45 years the vessel faithfully traversed the lake until the cross-lake  service was ended in 1985. Upon inspection, the City of Midland was found to have an unrepairable boiler, and she was retired and moored in Ludington, Michigan. Then, in 1998, her two powerful engines and deck cabins were removed and she was converted to an open- deck barge. She would never move again without a tow boat, but an extremely historic vessel was found and fitted to her.

The tug, Krystal K., was built in 1943 as a Rescue Ocean Class tug and was used during World War II to service and salvage U.S. war ships. After the War ended, she was renamed Undaunted and became part of the National Defense Fleet. That lasted until 1963 when she was moved to the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York, where she was called the Kings Pointer. Her Great Lakes debut came in 1993 when she was sold to Basic Marine who once again called her the Krystal K.. They, in turn, sold her to the Pere Marquette Shipping Company in 1998 who reverted her name back to Undaunted and made her the permanent tug partner to the Pere Marquette barge.

Both vessels are still going strong after combined service of 157 years. I find that wonderfully daunting.



John Marshall


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June 9, 2020, 9:10 pm

The other day my husband alerted me to a news item he knew I would find to be of great interest. The headline read, “Last Person to Receive a Civil War Pension Dies.”

Several decades ago, I read author Reynolds Price’s comments about reaching back and touching history. He described knowing a man who had been a slave as a child. For the first time in my life, I realized I could look back and make personal connections to America’s past. I wanted to know how far back I could go. As it turns out, it’s amazingly far… I can touch the Civil War. More on that later.

The last Civil War pensioner, Irene Triplett, died on May 31, 2020, at age ninety. The Department Of Veteran’s Affairs had been sending her a monthly pension check of $73.13 because her father was a Civil War veteran. Here’s the timeline.

Mose Triplett from North Carolina was both a Confederate and Union soldier, defecting from the Confederate forces halfway through the war and joining the Union army. When his first wife died, he remarried in 1924 at the age of 78. His daughter Irene was born on January 9, 1930, with mental disabilities. Mose died in 1938 at the age of 92 and Irene was eligible to get his pension.

These links a person can make through long periods of history are known as the Great Span. After learning about the concept, my next Memorial Day visit to the cemetery where my father’s family is buried took on a new dimension.

I never knew my paternal grandfather. His first wife died and he married my beloved grandmother who was years younger than he was. The fact that he passed away long before my birth makes him no less my grandfather. And he is my link to the Civil War.

Here is what is engraved on his tombstone:

Frank Horlivy
1864 – 1929

The Civil War was raging the year my grandfather was born. It officially ended on April 9, 1865.

William Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even the past.” How powerfully his words resonate now. America is massed in the streets protesting injustices that began with slavery, flourished through the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Civil Rights movement and continue up to the current moment. Let us hope we can finally break this ugly chain and live up to our nation’s stated ideals.


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June 2, 2020, 9:09 pm

An important life skill is knowing with certainty those things you cannot or should not ever do. Right on top of my list is, “Don’t get behind the wheel in a country that drives on the left side of the road.” My husband has similar feelings.

Exploring new places with a rented car, an open-ended itinerary and a paper map is our idea of pure joy. But it took one rented car in the Turks and Caicos to enlighten us on our driving deficiencies. Fortunately, the car was a rent-a-wreck and the traffic was light. As my husband was headed out of the rental car lot, he noticed the attendant waving frantically to us. We were headed for the wrong lane. After we were rolling on the right side which was left, other problems popped up. I always knew when we were about to make a turn because the windshield wipers came on…all the instruments were reversed on the dashboard. Although we returned the car with no new damage, we were nervous wrecks.

All this means that there are 76 countries and territories in the world where we will not be doing the driving. 34 % of the world’s population drives on the left.

The British Isles and their former territories usually are the first to come to mind when thinking of left-hand driving. But here are some more facts on the lefties.

Japan drives on the left. The custom dates back to the Samurai era when the swordsmen needed their strong hand free to deal with approaching enemies.

Napoleon and his conquests are responsible for much of the right-hand driving in Europe. The aristocracy always drove their carriages on the left with the peasants shunted to the right. Napoleon wanted a whole new society and decreed that traffic would all be on the right.

In 1955, the Swedish government held a referendum on switching from left-hand to right-hand driving. It lost by 82.9 %. However, in 1963, the people were overruled when the parliament approved the change to the right. On Sunday, September 3, 1967, at 5:00 AM, the big switch occurred. This was called “Dagen H”, the “H” standing for Högertrafikomläggningen (right-hand traffic diversion). All traffic was cleared from the roads at 1:00 AM. Amidst fireworks, the first traffic, taxis and bikes, was escorted onto the empty roads at 5:00 AM by police escorts. Throughout the day the volume was increased until it reached near normal by night. Only 157 accidents were reported for the entire day, lower than for a normal Sunday.

And, finally, you can drive on the left in America, but you have to be in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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