A lovely country, despite its flaws

I’ve never been much of a perfectionist so human flaws really don’t trouble me much. I see them all as a reflection of the fact that everyone is either worse or better than I, and there is nothing I can do about that except tend to my own shortcomings, pray for forgiveness and improve what and wherever I can.

On that note, I took leave of the impeachment of Donald J. Trump Friday morning and went to city hall in Evanston to vote, because I am always hopeful and it’s alway nice, I think, to go into such a fine old building and perform a civic duty. I stuck my “I Voted” sticker on my jacket and then my wife and I wandered off for a trip around the snowy sidewalks of the neighborhoods that surround city hall.

Evanston is a nice place and not at all like Altoona, Pa, where I was raised and rambled endlessly until it clearly became time for me to skedaddle. The houses in Evanston are high quality and well maintained. People have nice cars, nice porches, nice everything, actually. It costs a pretty penny to live here, of course, and the taxes would gag a horse, but I do really like the place. It’s flat here. A postal worker friend of mine from Altoona once described it as “heavenly,” because he had spent so many years climbing those rolling hills of Altoona that his knees had gone bad and his ankles always hurt. You can look straight down the street in Evanston for what seems to be miles, and there is little elevation to speak of. Perfect Postal territory, I would suggest.

We were walking along one of the avenues having a conversation about the First Amendment (because after nearly 50 years of marriage we can still do that kind of thing) when we tip-toed across an icy alley. I glanced to the right and something about that long, sloping alley touched me in a place I have always loved, my nostalgia pit. That alley, I concluded, would be perfect for sled riding.

I knew alleys just like that in Altoona what, 60 years ago, long before the career, long before the jumping around, long before the arrogant certainty that I was always right about everything. Now that was an era, the Eisenhower years, when a kid could grab a car by the bumper and slide on packed snow all the way down the street. Or rocket down the hill on the Flexble Flyer that belonged first, to my sisters and then to me and later, to my brother and my other sister. It was an indestructible piece of equipment. Better than the Lightning Guider by lots because it had a great turning radius and was loose enough on the front end so the turning bar actually worked well.

You could tell just by the slant of it, with some elevation down at the end near Ridge Avenue and a gentle slope that would deliver a well-kept Lightning Guider or Flexble Flyer all the way to the end, a good 75 yard slide. Then, you could grab the frozen rope on the front, haul it up the hill and go at it again, stopping just long enough to break an icicle off a garage roof to suck on while you were walking back up.

If you had any good fortune at all in your life, that adventure would be followed by hot cocoa and either a peanut butter or grilled cheese sandwich for lunch, maybe some gingerbread and a nap on the living room floor listing to jazz singers on the radio. These things would ALWAYS be dunked. No one would give you any guff about any of this because it was what was expected of a healthy young American of any sexual description or age. You could just lay there on the rug and sleep and think about, oh, say, Doris Day or fantasy Mouseketeer Annette!


It was what winter was all about.

This is why the past few weeks in Evanston have been so delightful, with lots of fluffy snow and cold to remind you you are, after all, in the midwest and right by a big lake that is a weather engine year around. It has also reminded me that America is not about its politicians, not about its brutal arguments, not about the bitterness some people seem to wear like a lettered sweat shirt.

You can get yourself quite incensed about the way Republicans act these days, the fact that they can’t see clear evil when it marches right in front of them. They are all afraid, and because of that, they are unlikely to do the right thing. Cowards rarely do.

But not us!

We are never far away from the thought, or at least the memory, of how good that garage roof ice sickle tasted after we had made a couple of alley runs. We have not forgotten the beauty of the place, and neither have we become confused about who and what is important.

Press on, all of you. Don’t let the boogymen and thugs wreck your day or your vision. You are better than they are by far, and there are better memories to build ahead of us.

4 thoughts on “A lovely country, despite its flaws

  1. What a joyful time it was. Then warming yourself & melting your eyelashes which were frozen..by the coal furnace! My joy growing up between two brothers has always been that I am strong like the boy’s! The sadness in all of this is that Trump has never know the simple joy of growing up in a railroad town. Which is why he has no moral framework! No real joy in his life. Poor dog.


  2. Wonderful post. Pulled me out of the Covid/impeachment/winter doldrums I’ve been feeling at least for a while.
    Thank you.


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