Out and About (Sort of): No Ordinary Wall, No Ordinary Support by Howard Freedlander

How does the arrival on May 31, 2018, of a three-fifths replica of the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall relate to a program to provide basic, urgent support to Mid-Shore veterans?

While the Mid Shore Recovering Veterans Group (MSRVG) provides funds for such things as dental treatment, food, disability access, clothing, rent, wheelchair repair, auto maintenance, license tags, heating oil and residential plumbing, a group of Vietnam veterans is working to welcome the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, from May 31 to June 6.

Both groups have a similar mission; to care for, and about veterans. That would seem an obvious conclusion when viewing the good deeds of MSRVG, founded in 2011 and led by Royce Ball of Easton. It has helped 122 veterans in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties. The Vietnam Wall replica, containing the names of 58,215 men and women killed during the war, also will serve the veterans of that conflict by enabling them not only to honor the memories of buddies, but to feel the appreciation of the communities that often treated returning Vietnam veterans poorly and abusively roughly 50 years ago.

Fighting in a controversial and unpopular war, soldiers came home to an unwelcoming country. They deserved better. They did not develop ill-advised policies and poorly conceived strategies. They simply served. Just as citizens from every part of our nation have done since the Revolutionary War.

The Mid Shore now can say thanks to our veterans. It will mean much.

Stories abound of Vietnam veterans being called “baby killers,” even spat upon. I’ve heard tales of veterans flying into West Coast airports and hurrying to a restroom to change from their uniforms into civilian clothes. What a shame, what a blemish on our country for its outrageous behavior toward folks who supposedly erred by doing one thing wrong—serving their country!

The MSRVG warrants due recognition. Distributions totaled $21,687.84, not including scholarships, in 2016. Donations amounted t0 $33,292.50 in 2016, marked by significant contributions from the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Queenstown American Legion Post 296, the Kent Island American Legion Post 278 and the Easton Rotary Club.

Veterans served by MSRVG represent the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Merchant Marine and the Army Air Corps (World War II). Military service was performed in Vietnam, Korea, the Middle East, Europe, Kosovo, Alaska, Guantanamo Bay and the Philippines.

Through Royce Ball, MSRVG has representation on the Mental Health Association of the Eastern Shore and the Homeless Roundtable, managed by the Mid Shore Behavioral Health.

When the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall comes to Easton at VFW Post 518 (355 Glebe Road), one Vietnam veteran will be particularly pleased. Kenley Timms, whom I’ve known for a number of years, came up with the idea to bring the three-fifths replica to Easton after seeing it in Timonium in Baltimore County at a commemoration of the Vietnam War sponsored by Maryland Public Television. Timms has worked hard and long over the years to increase the visibility of the Vietnam War in Talbot County and promote recognition of the service performed by county residents in Southeast Asia.

For seven days, 24 hours a day, the traveling wall will be open to the public. I suspect it will draw thousands and thousands of people who will want to find names of family members and friends and pay homage to them. I think that people will find this starkly poignant wall, with nearly 60,000 names, a powerful reminder of a war that ripped apart our nation and generated fierce protests.

And the wall will provide a place for healing. That will be its crucial purpose.

The Mid Shore Recovering Veterans Group helps those with serious needs live comfortably. Our veterans are not forgotten. The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall will help promote understanding of a divisive war and place undivided attention on soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and Coast Guard members for their service.

A community is stronger when it pulls together to help those in need, to support its veterans, to honor the sacrifice and to understand invisible, painful wounds that last a lifetime.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Economic Fallout from Climate Change by Howard Freedlander

Until I recently read a white paper concerning local climate adaptation, I simply didn’t focus on the financial cost of ignoring the effects of climate change on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It’s downright eye-opening—unless you choose to look the other way and believe that the current cycle is just an inconvenient phase.

My source is a clearly written and well-researched document entitled Prioritizing Local Climate Adaptation through Regional Collaboration on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, prepared for the Eastern Shore Climate Adaptation Partnership by the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC). Though I am a board member, the white paper is readily available on the ESLC website.

The facts are alarming. Scientists project sea level rise in the Chesapeake region of 2.1 feet by 2050 and 3.7 to 5.7 feet later in the 21st century. “Nuisance flooding” created by chronic tides affects large portions of Dorchester County, the causeway in Oxford and waterfront in Chestertown. The two feet of sea level rise forecast for 2050 will flood more than 33,000 acres or 2.9% of land across the mid-and-upper Eastern Shore. Tropical storms and hurricanes will become increasingly more “destructive when their storm surge is augmented by sea level rise,” according to the white paper.

More facts are startling. From the 1980s to the 2000s, as compared to the 1960s and 1970s, the number of “extreme heat events” doubled during this period. Scientists project a rise of 4-6 degrees Fahrenheit later in the 21st century. Why does this matter? Days with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit will range from 60-90, up from an average of 30 days during the late 20th century. Annual days over 100 degrees Fahrenheit will increase from just a handful to 10-25 days per year.

An economic perspective of these climatic changes further substantiates cause for concern and the crying need to adapt.

Excessive heat is particularly dangerous for low-income persons unable to escape the heat for several days. Emergencies and consequent health crises will exact higher costs for residents, emergency services, hospitals and health departments. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in older buildings will be inadequate, requiring maintenance and upgrades to roadways, buildings, and infrastructure; local governments thus will face serious financial costs.

Having experienced a 5-10 percent increase in annual rainfall over the past 60 years, with precipitation expected to increase 10-20 percent above the average amounts experienced at the end of the 20th century, the Eastern Shore will confront “intense downpours that deliver more rain in a shorter time period.” It’s reasonable to project that stormwater systems, roads, infrastructure, and property will become inundated. Currently, inadequate stormwater systems will have to be replaced. Sooner, rather than later.

Another flash point are droughts. “As rainfall becomes concentrated in more intense downpours, the region will also see longer dry periods between precipitation.” Longer droughts will become likelier. The agricultural economy will experience lower crop yields, probable crop failures and costs associated to switching to drought-resistant crops.

According to the white paper cited at the outset, “In the long term, choosing not to prepare for climate change will impose rising financial costs on communities…the report (produced in 2008 by the University of Maryland) cites tourism, agriculture, and health—all critical to the Eastern Shore’s prosperity—as sectors that are expected to suffer if attention is not given to climate adaptation and resilience.”

Adaptation and resilience are the words of choice for professionals intent on forestalling calamity.

For example, local governments can spend money now to upgrade infrastructure, such as stormwater systems, to handle the inevitable onslaught of water created by a sudden surge of rainfall.

From a planning standpoint, local governments can impose higher “freeboard” requirements—that is, requiring an increase in the height of the first floor to generate greater safety for homes and buildings and preclude flood-water damage to a structure, its occupants, and contents. Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties all have requirements in their floodplain ordinances of two feet of freeboard. Cambridge, Oxford and St. Michaels also have the two-foot requirement. Chestertown has a one-foot requirement.

Finally, the white paper calls for policy changes that would “encourage more resilient building codes and practices for siting and construction…greater risk reduction can be realized by directing the new private development and public investment of less flood-prone areas of the community.”
The white paper represents a collaborative effort by seven counties, two cities (Oxford and Cambridge), state agencies, academic institutions and non-profit organizations. I applaud this regional approach to share data and develop processes and recommendations to ensure that the Eastern Shore can respond effectively to climate change.

I mentioned viewing the need for climatic adaptation from an economic perspective. I am not ignoring the significant impact on humans of sea level rise, more frequent and intense rainfall occurrences and increasingly extreme heat days. The cost in dollars and lives is inestimable.

Inaction is not a thoughtful option.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

 

 

 

Out and About (Sort of): Two Local Events are Fulfilling by Howard Freedlander

As Thanksgiving approaches, offering peace and tranquility prior to the madness of the high-pressured build-up to Christmas, I savor a time of year characterized by cooler weather and festive moods. The gift-buying crush remains a constant burden.

Aware that I might summon a “bag Humbug” reaction to my increasingly negative attitude to the well-documented commercialization of a rather sacred Christian holiday, I will quickly pivot to a more optimistic tone. Perhaps the omnipresent holiday music—which I love—and the incessant TV commercials selling Christmas consumption drown out the insane shootings, the political mess, and mayhem in Washington and worldwide terrorism.

Just think about it: we can escape into buying, buying and more buying. And it’s legal and maybe soothing to some.

Okay. It’s time for cheerfulness.

Last week, my wife and I partook of a “soft opening” at Mason’s Redux on Harrison Street in Easton. A few months ago, I interviewed the proprietors, Chance Negri and Jeffery Parker, along with Jutta Sayles, also an owner, about their plans to resurrect a beloved restaurant once operated by the Mason family. Like so many former devotees of Mason’s, I looked forward to the filling of a vacuum created by a former owner of the property; Mason’s failed to exist, replaced by a chop house that gained no traction and closed.

I found myself excited by the much-awaited opening of Mason’s Redux. A new chapter was being written. A hometown favorite was finding a new, though different future. A hole on Harrison Street would be filled.

I was not disappointed. In fact, I felt thrilled to participate in a new venture in an updated venue with delightful food offerings.

The new Mason’s has enlivened the food landscape in Easton. It’s added a spark on Harrison Street. Negri and Parker, supported by Sayles, have created a venue that I suspect will become increasingly popular. The kinks from the two soft opening nights will become less important.

After speaking three times with Negri following our wonderful evening, I savored his enthusiasm, his purposefulness to create a superb dining experience. He’s determined to produce top-quality food and provide excellent service. The response from hundreds of diners has been overwhelming to Negri, Parker, and Sayles.

My wife and I joined other repeat customers for Sunday night dinner. We hardly ever dine out on Sunday evening.

Another opening happened in Easton on Saturday night with the first of two performances of “Modern Warrior Live,” about which I wrote a few months ago. This unusual, powerful musical drama tells a story about a young veteran of three tours as an infantryman in Afghanistan and his sometimes tortuous effort to acclimate himself to a civilian world devoid of a constant struggle to stay alive and protect your buddies. He confronted the death of fellow soldiers and the collapse of personal relationships back home.

Poling’s story is poignant. The message is broader than his wartime and civilian experiences. For me, the underlying theme is the difficulty of melding military and civilian sensitivities in such a way that returning veterans and the families, friends, and co-workers that provide the welcoming mat understand the tension that can divide the two parties.

The music produced by Dominic Farinacci, a world-class trumpet player, three singers and instrumentalists beautifully and strikingly enhanced the power and pungency of Poling’s autobiographical story.

Sitting in the Avalon Theatre, I found myself transfixed by the message and music. Farinacci’s trumpet sang with its variations of somber and upbeat sounds. Those accompanying him on the piano, string instruments, and drums provided a magnificent blend of spellbinding music.

And the three singers provided an extension of Poling’s story, probing the depths of his utterly frank talk of deadly combat action, searing introspection about war and family, despair prompted by a complex re-entry into the civilian world and, finally, the self-satisfaction of using the past to chart an optimistic future.

As I knew from speaking recently with Farinacci and Poling, the final takeaway from the show was that veterans are not damaged goods unable to adapt to lives without combat and intense bonding. Wartime experience can and does lay a foundation for personal growth and achievement—but not without a struggle at times.

It would have been difficult, if not impossible to walk away from this performance without absorbing its celebration of veterans and their intense challenges back home.

Without the support of Richard Marks and Al Sikes, two community leaders are known for their commitment not only to “Modern Warrior Live,” but also to other local activities, this unusual music drama would have bypassed Easton on its way to New York.

I began by talking about Thanksgiving, a holiday that summons good food and good chair—and no gifts. Others share my angst about the oncoming onslaught of ceaseless Christmas promotion. The successful opening of Mason’s Redux and the exceptional performance of “Modern Warrior Redux” have provided a pleasant prelude to my favorite holiday.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Modern Warrior Live by Howard Freedlander

A theatrical opening brought the curtain up in Easton on Saturday night with the first of two performances of “Modern Warrior Live,” about which I wrote a few months ago. This unusual, powerful musical drama tells a story about a young veteran of three tours as an infantryman in Afghanistan and his sometimes tortuous effort to acclimate himself to a civilian world devoid of a constant struggle to stay alive and protect your buddies. He confronted the death of fellow soldiers and the collapse of personal relationships back home.

Poling’s story is poignant. The message is broader than his wartime and civilian experiences. For me, the underlying theme is the difficulty of melding military and civilian sensitivities in such a way that returning veterans and the families, friends, and co-workers that provide the welcoming mat understand the tension that can divide the two parties.

The music produced by Dominic Farinacci, a world-class trumpet player, three singers and instrumentalists beautifully and strikingly enhanced the power and pungency of Poling’s autobiographical story.

Sitting in the Avalon Theatre, I found myself transfixed by the message and music. Farinacci’s trumpet sang with its variations of somber and upbeat sounds. Those accompanying him on the piano, string instruments, and drums provided a magnificent blend of spellbinding music.

And the three singers provided an extension of Poling’s story, probing the depths of his utterly frank talk of deadly combat action, searing introspection about war and family, despair prompted by a complex re-entry into the civilian world and, finally, the self-satisfaction of using the past to chart an optimistic future.

As I knew from speaking recently with Farinacci and Poling, the final takeaway from the show was that veterans are not damaged goods unable to adapt to lives without combat and intense bonding. Wartime experience can and does lay a foundation for personal growth and achievement—but not without a struggle at times.

It would have been difficult, if not impossible to walk away from this performance without absorbing its celebration of veterans and their intense challenges back home.

Without the support of Richard Marks and Al Sikes, two community leaders known for their commitment not only to “Modern Warrior Live,” but also to other local activities, this unusual music drama would have bypassed Easton on its way to New York.


Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Dining in a Kitchen – Just Right by Howard Freedlander

 

Amid all the wonderful restaurants in our area, I had a particularly unusual and tasteful experience two weeks ago. It happened in a kitchen, albeit a commercial one.

For years my wife and I have enjoyed the culinary delights produced by our favorite caterer, Blue Heron Catering. The owner, Susan Joy, and her hard-working staff seem almost like family to us. Mind you; our needs are simple. Nonetheless, Susan and her crew unfailingly proffer terrific food, surpassed only by their service and friendliness.

Blue Heron Catering has been an integral part of memorable family occasions, including a milestone birthday, a recent retirement and Thanksgiving.

At this point, I will say only that this column is not intended as an advertisement, just a description of the first-time event for me. A food critic I am not.

My wife and I hosted a kitchen party at Blue Heron Catering, which recently moved to a strip shopping center on Dover Road. Most folks probably know this nondescript spot by its longtime tenant, Domino’s Pizza. It once housed a Sherwin-Williams Paint Store. And it nearly adjoins Rails to Trails.

No commercial kitchen party is worth its name without a demonstration. That’s exactly what the affable and talented Susan Joy did, as she explained how she prepared the main course, Beef Wellington. Some “foodies” among our guests peppered (excuse the pun) with questions about ingredients and other details concerning preparation. She handled all queries and comments in her typically calm, easygoing manner.

Lest I forget, not only did this kitchen dinner party provide a different and appealing venue, it meant that at its completion we had no responsibility for clean-up. That result was downright pleasant.

A very basic eater, who rarely savors in particularly critical detail his food, I found it wonderfully tasty and fulfilling. My hunger was easily satisfied. Our guests seemed pleased too.

On a personal level, I have long considered pigs in a blanket my very most favorite hors-d’oeuvre. Along the way, I’ve discovered that others with far more sophisticated and discerning tastes than mine also crave this rather basic food offering.

According to Wikipedia, the source of voluminous information in our modern world, pigs in a blanket (hot dogs wrapped in bread) are served not only in the United States but also in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Russia, Canada, and Japan. In the United Kingdom (UK), “pigs in blankets” are small sausages wrapped in bacon, “a traditional accompaniment to roast turkey in a Christmas dinner.” They often are followed by “devils on horseback,” an appetizer of prunes wrapped in bacon.

Were I in the UK, I would forswear the “devils on horseback.”

So, why am I expending my words and your attention on this personal delicacy?

Because Susan Joy served pigs in a blanket at our kitchen party. She did so to please me, though she and my wife had far loftier options on their minds.

Sitting around a square table for 12 people, our guests seem enthralled not only by the unusual venue but also by the quality of  Blue Heron Catering food. As mentioned, some of these folks truly appreciate good food and feel comfortable as chefs in their own kitchens. They ate admiringly.

As noted at the outset, our community offers many delightful eateries, each with its own personality and appealing dining experiences. For us and our guests, a dinner party at a commercial kitchen operated by a professional and gracious chef in an unremarkable shopping center was simply terrific.

Thank you, Susan Joy, for the pigs in a blanket.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Out and About (Sort of): Illustrious Name, Notable Career by Howard Freedlander

Situated on the southeast corner of Goldsborough and Aurora streets sits a stately, distinguished-looking brick home. I learned very recently it once belonged to Oswald Tilghman, a man whose last name carries significant currency in Talbot County, and whose career bears attention.

Oswald Tilghman

I mentioned his last name for good reason. His ancestor, Tench Tilghman, a lieutenant colonel in the Revolutionary War and aide-de-camp to General George Washington, was tapped by Washington to deliver the announcement of British General Charles Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown in 1781 to Congress.

Another ancestor, Matthew Tilghman, was a member of the Continental Congress during the time of the Declaration of Independence. And his mother was the daughter of John Leeds Kerr, U.S. Senator of Maryland from 1841-1843.

Okay, now that I have verified Oswald Tilghman’s pedigree, I now will tell readers about the man himself, a person born in 1841, dying in 1932 at the age of 91. I also will confess my intense interest in the county’s history and some of the notable people who lived here way before the Bay Bridge and the consequent population explosion on the Eastern Shore.

We all know that a family name, if unblemished by misdeeds, helps in life. It can open doors before they close should a person’s performance not match the familial reputation. Oswald Tilghman embellished the name, in my opinion.

He served as an officer in the Confederate Army. During the siege of Port Hudson in Louisiana, he commanded an artillery battery on the banks of the Mississippi River, becoming only one of the battery’s four officers to survive the battle. He was taken prisoner, serving 23 months in captivity at Johnson’s Island in Sandusky, Ohio, until the end of the war.

Tilghman returned to his home county, where he became an attorney, practicing law and engaging too in the real estate business. In 1864, he married Belle Harrison, They and their two children lived at the aforementioned Foxley Hall, an impressive and imposing home.

A well-known politician, Tilghman served in the Maryland Senate, 1894-96. He was a chairman of the committee on public buildings in Annapolis, the judicial proceedings committee, the pensions committee, the committee on the Chesapeake Bay and Tributaries and amendments to the Constitution. He helped establish the State Bureau of Immigration.

He later became president of the Board of Development of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. From 1904 to 1908, he was Maryland’s secretary of state under governor Edwin Warfield (on a personal side, I served under Governor Warfield’s grandson, Major General Edwin Warfield III, when he was the adjutant general of Maryland and commander of the Maryland National Guard).

Known as Colonel Tilghman, an honorary rank he received after representing Maryland at the Yorktown Centennial in 1861, wearing his grandfather Tench Tilghman’s sword, this Easton attorney, businessman, and politician, also wrote the History of Annapolis; History of Talbot County, Maryland and Memoir of Lieut. Col. Ten Tilghman.

Local history fascinates me. It’s important to me to try to understand the heritage and culture of a place where I’ve lived more than 41 years. I like to know about those who roamed the streets and waterways of our community and contributed their time and energy to a community that still resembles to some extent what Oswald Tilghman knew so well.

Knowledge about the past informs our sense of place.

A proud wartime veteran, educated at the Maryland Military Academy in Oxford, Tilghman established a notable presence in the legal, business and civic life of Talbot County. His public service in our state capital of Annapolis also was noteworthy; He bridged the gap between the Eastern and Western shores.

A sense of history is good for the soul. I enjoy the exploration.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

 

Out and About (Sort of) Fabulous Fall by Howard Freedlander

Were I a poet or a writer blessed with the acumen to describe nature in a lyrical way, I would take my Yellow Lab (yes, the wonderful Sandy), venture into a wooded area for her to frolic and escape the alleys and streets of an urban environment and then describe the experience in lofty terms.

I did take Sandy for a walk in the woods. I am writing about it. But not splendidly.

Sandy Freedlander

Sandy and I, along with my wife, chose Pickering Creek Audubon Center as a venue for the three of us to enjoy an Eastern Shore treasure. A 400-acre working farm outside Easton, the center’s property offers a mature hardwood forest entwined with well-kept walking trails and small bridges over streams. Signage is frequent and discreet. Also part of this pristine and soul-satisfying property are fresh and brackish marsh, meadows, tidal and non-tidal wetlands, more than a mile of shoreline on a tidal creek and cropland.

Sandy—much-written about by this Spy columnist–loved walking amidst the trees and vegetation. Unlike most Labrador Retrievers, Sandy is very mellow, with no desire to jump into a stream or creek. In fact, she avoids water, even normally appetizing puddles produced by a rainstorm.

Pickering Creek is not new to us. It is easily accessible every day of the year, drawing birders, painters, naturalists—and dog owners who find the property a relaxing way to enjoy an outdoors experience surrounded by a natural setting. When we took our hour-long stroll, we were utterly alone., That’s not unusual.

Though not particularly adventuresome or even curious, Sandy continues to provide great joy to my wife and me. Now eight-years-old, she demands only love and attention. She gets both in large dosages.

During the same week, we enjoyed Pickering Creek, I attended OysterFest at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) the past Saturday. A CBMM board member, I constantly am amazed at this event’s drawing power. It seemed as if a few thousand people partook of the sumptuous food, music, concessions and waterfront access.

From my perspective, the most popular attraction was the oyster-sipping contest. Every time I look, the line seemed to grow longer. When a friend asked me to join her in line, I declined; I don’t have the patience.

What also interested me was how few people I knew. Perhaps I should escape my cocoon. Or, just possibly, CBMM is a destination point for many residents in our region. A festival focused on Maryland’s iconic oyster attracts large crowds. St. Michaels and Talbot County attract increasingly large numbers of tourists.

My weekend ended with a political fundraiser where food, drink and schmoozing easily and comfortably blended. Unlike OysterFest, I knew lots of people. While oysters were available, they had to compete with delicious barbecue food.

Somehow, the political gathering seemed far removed from the verbal fisticuffs in our nation’s capital. Civility seemed the order of the day. Political animus was non-existent; as best I could tell.

As we enter the final two months of 2017, I look back on a year marked by outrageous behavior, feckless performance and fact-less statements made by our president. Any sign of statesmanship is fleeting. Empathy for others is outside the president’s skillset. His fitness and emotional stability to serve as our country’s top political leader is questionable every day of his wrenching term.

From strolling at Pickering Creek Audubon Center, enjoying the culinary delights of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s annual OysterFest and then ending the weekend at a fundraiser filled with civility and good food, I become even more convinced that Fall is my favorite time of year.

A grandson turned seven on Sunday. Another grandson becomes 17 today. Their lives bring great happiness to me. And the Fall season continues to sparkles in its colors and opportunities for frolic.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

 

 

Out and About (Sort of): New Home Filled with Strong Tradition by Howard Freedlander

 

As you drive south on Easton Parkway (Route 322) toward Trappe and Cambridge, you see a building under construction with a roof that looks like a sail. It catches your eye. For me, it’s a sign of welcome, an architectural effect that has a functional purpose.

Underneath the sail-like feature is a “bimah,” a raised platform that is the center of the new home of Temple B’Nai Israel, containing the synagogue’s Torah. These blessed scrolls, written in Hebrew, comprise the teachings and culture of Judaism. They represent the treasured history and instruction of the Jewish faith. They have an enduring physical and spiritual place in the lives and souls of Jews throughout the world.

The light created by the slanted roof offers a special, spiritual backdrop.

I recently visited the temple, which is to be completed by June 2018. Frank Menditch, who heads the building committee, and Rabbi Peter Hyman, led me through the construction project. The 9,400 square-foot house of worship, known not only as Temple B’Nai Israel but also the Satell Center for Jewish Life on the Eastern Shore, will replace the current synagogue behind University of Maryland Shore Medical Center (Memorial Hospital) in Easton.

Growing from 60 to 130 families during the past nine years, hailing from Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties, Temple B’Nai Israel has taken a bold step. It no longer will be obscured by a hospital. It will have a highly visible presence. It will provide a very public symbol of the strength of Judaism in the Mid-Shore area.

Raised as a secular Jew who converted to Episcopalism more than 23 years ago, I remain enthralled by the culture in which I was raised. I am impressed by a group of people who faced persecution and dislocation over thousands of years and persevered. I continue to be overwhelmed and sickened by the 2Oth century horror and death perpetrated during the Holocaust.

Though I hardly know him, I have heard many wonderful stories about Rabbi Hyman and his deep-seated community involvement during the past nine years. He has been the public face of the Jewish community, serving not just as a teacher but as a social conscience in the face of the opioid crisis, divisive polarization in our nation and poverty.

During the tour with Menditch and Hyman of the $6.5 million project, situated on six acres, I could sense their pride and excitement. New construction unleashes these emotions. I also understand that the synagogue represents a welcoming, secure place to worship and share in events both joyous and sad. That’s true of any church and synagogue.

What’s different, I think, is that Temple B’Nai Israel represents a statement, akin to a Shofar, proclaiming a commitment to the community and hope for peace and acceptance.

Come June 8-9, 2018, when this Reform synagogue opens its doors to its congregation; it will celebrate 68 years of history, no longer crammed into a brick temple constructed based upon the same plans as the Methodist church in Oxford, minus the steeple. The design will belong entirely to Temple B’Nai Israel.

The physical future will be reconfigured. The purpose—to provide a comfortable, meaningful worship space—will remain the same.

The teachings, culture, and history embodied in the Torah are everlasting. While the new home for Temple B’nai Israel, the Sarell Center for Jewish Life on the Eastern Shore, will not match the synagogue’s Torah in duration, it will have a lasting value for current and future congregations and the community in which it is an important part.

A move for any organization, whether a school, a non-profit, a private company or religious institution, is momentous. Change is exciting, filled with hope and anticipation. It also requires detachment from the familiar.

Temple B’Nai Israel is charting a new course, infused with strong tradition and confidence in the future. Faith in the resilience and sustenance of a new religious home will be a permanent feature.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

 

Out and About (Sort of): Scattered Thoughts by Howard Freedlander

About 10 days ago I had the pleasure of driving former Governor Harry Hughes from an Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (I am a board member) gathering outside Chestertown to his home in Denton. Time spent with Harry is always a lesson in Maryland politics as related concisely by one of the prime actors in the second half of the 20th century.

Nearing 91, Gov. Hughes is feeling the ravages of old age. He moves more slowly. His balance is unsteady. All expected in a person’s ninth decade. But when this reserved, gentlemanly political luminary talks, it’s best to keep quiet and learn.

A Caroline County native, Hughes served as a state delegate, state senator, secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and then governor from 1978 to 1986.

I first met Hughes nearly 40 years ago when he ran for governor; he was given little chance to win. He did, with significant help from Baltimore Sun and Evening Sun endorsements two weeks prior to the election. That was a time when an endorsement from a major statewide newspaper meant something—when people paid attention to “mainstream media.” Perhaps they still do. Showing my age, I still assign credibility to the printed word.

As my wife and I rode for about an hour in the car, we learned he loved being Secretary of MDOT because he could get things done, he liked President Bill Clinton, his political career just seemed to take off in a positive direction –and he fondly recalled having his mother as his homeroom teacher for three years at Caroline High School.

What was evident, as it always is when you spend time with Harry Hughes, is his innate modesty and mild manner. He is eminently likable.

In an op-ed piece published Dec. 1, 2016 in The Baltimore Sun by John Frece, a former Maryland State House bureau chief for the Sun and co-author of Gov. Hughes’ autobiography, “My Unexpected Journey,” about Hughes’ 90th birthday party, Frece wrote:

“The most important words that were uttered throughout the evening by a half-dozen speakers were the ones that described the values that this native of the Eastern Shore brought to Maryland’s political life: honesty, integrity, fairness, compassion, humility and restraint. In a word, civility.”

In recent years, a close adviser and friend of Hughes twice has invited me to join him for lunch with the former governor. Once, other former staffers joined the group. I was an interested bystander, noting the affection that these staffers still bore for their former boss. There was good-natured kidding aimed at Harry Hughes, who in turn kindly jabbed back. Meanwhile, people in the restaurant would stop by the table to say hello to the unassuming man from Denton.

While Gov. Hughes and his loyal lieutenants would tell stories about achievements, Harry Hughes would delight in the memories, but never dominated the conversation with anything resembling boastfulness. His willingness during his two terms to focus on Chesapeake Bay pollution–as well as management of the declining rockfish, instituting a controversial moratorium—was one of his shining accomplishments.

Though the tall, handsome former governor shows the ravages of aging, he continues to impress me with his calm, civil demeanor and dedication to environmental issues that still challenge and vex public officials and concerned non-profits.

*************************************
In seeking reactions to “The Vietnam War” documentary produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick and the two columns that I recently wrote about the remarkable 10-episode series, I spoke with a few Vietnam veterans in the area. I learned that two in particular thought that the documentary failed to portray accurately the North Vietnamese (NVA), specifically their fervent communism that they viciously imposed on villagers in the South to gain their fear-driven loyalty.

A friend and veteran forwarded an article written by a veteran in Georgia that was unyielding in its criticism of the soft way that he believed that the documentary treated the NVA, while acknowledging the duplicity of our political leaders and their unwillingness to unleash full American firepower on our enemy.

With this reaction in mind, I ask readers to submit their unvarnished opinion of the documentary. Did you consider it fair and balanced? Did you consider it skewed and too favorable to the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong?

As I wrote, the Vietnam War still lives on in the minds and hearts of civilians and veterans who lived through the 10-year war and the consequent chaos and divisiveness that gripped our country.

Please give me feedback.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Veterans Misperceived by Howard Freedlander

This is a story about a questionable narrative about veterans’ mental health in our modern-day America, told in an unusujal 70-minute musical drama. The impact is powerful. The message is mind-changing.

Jaymes Poling, who spent three tours as part of the elite 82nd Airborne Division, returned to his country having to cope with public perceptions that he and his fellow veterans were damaged goods suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, better known by its ubiquitous acronym, PTSD. He was 17 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He retired as a 26-year-old staff sergeant.

Jaynes Poling and Dominick Farinacci

When Poling returned home, seeking help from the Veterans Administration (VA) to adapt to civilian life after serving three separate years as an infantryman in Afghanistan, he immediately received a diagnosis as a victim of PTSD. Medications followed as dispensed by the well-meaning but misdirected VA.

Two fortuitous things happened to Poling: he met a woman in Cleveland and decided to return to school, and he crossed paths with Dominick Farinacci, a world-class trumpeter and music composer. Along the way, Poling decided that PTSD was misapplied in his case. Instead, he had a more positive self-diagnosis: post-traumatic growth.

Collaborating with Farinacci on an autobiographical music drama, Poling realized that veterans not just of his era but throughout history bring special skills to the civilian world. They had learned about leadership, responsibility for themselves and their fellow soldiers and compassion for the men and women with whom they served in combat.

Through the “Modern Warrior Live, which will come to the Avalon in Easton on Saturday, Nov. 18, Farinacci and Poling hope not only to change perceptions about veterans but develop a connection to the civilian world by telling a dramatic story, backed by gripping music. Perhaps, just perhaps, the public will view veterans as having special talents; the “goods” they carry are in their hearts and minds first-rate value and deserve respect.

To better understand the unusual performance, with my admittedly favorable opinion of veterans and the life-threatening experiences they encountered in combat, I spoke with Poling and Farinacci after talking with Richard Marks and Al Sikes–who not only are financial supporters of the Avalon performance but also two gentlemen known as superb volunteers and leaders in the community.

Farinacci said that during his collaboration with Jaymes Poling he saw “the power of music to build bridges, to develop a pathway to empathy, to change perceptions and create a dialogue between the military and civilians.” He repeatedly characterized poling as “authentic.”

During the production of the show, Poling said, “Sometimes the music didn’t feel right. I had to reevaluate times of my life. I had to sort out my feelings. It was not the fault of the music. The artistic musical interactions helped me hone my thoughts.”

As he discussed his life in combat and on civilian turf, Poling said he was careful. “I don’t want to tell stories that don’t belong to me,” he said. While he mentioned the name of a friend and fellow soldier killed in battle, he had checked with the friend’s mother beforehand.

Both Farinacci and Poling agreed that the message of healing and post-traumatic growth had universal implications. It applies to personal tragedy. Poling pointed to people dealing with cancer. “Why assign labels to the survivors? They have issues that provide them with a different filter on life—and a viewpoint that says ‘root for me,’ Poling said.

In summing up his appraisal of “Modern Warrior Live,” Farinacci said, “It was a 100 percent creative development. It stayed true to Jaymes’ story, with magical moments. There is absolutely no substitute for a person who went through it (war), Jaymes allows us to connect to veterans, to find out ‘what did you do?’’ His voice is authentic.”

By the time that the show comes to Easton, it will have played in New York City and Chicago.

Echoing the sentiment expressed by Poling and a videotaped cameo appearance by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Richard Marks said, “The country has to get there, understanding that PTSD is being treated in the wrong way. The show is cathartic and emotional. The veterans are not damaged goods.”

Marks, who served on submarines in the US. Navy, said he learned “the value of dependence on others and a level of camaraderie.” These lessons learned are applicable to civilian life.

A jazz enthusiastic, Al Sikes spoke about Dominic Farinacci’s “lyrical trumpet’ and the emotion it spawns. “You can tell stories with the horn,” he said. He referred to Poling’s powerful narrative.” He too spoke about the retired staff sergeant’s authenticity.

Though he never served in the military. Sikes said he gained a new appreciation for military members after the September 11, 2001 attacks on our American homeland.

I applaud Marks and Sikes for helping to provide the financial support for a music drama intent on changing the image of a military veteran and bridging the gap between combat soldiers and a civilian world drawn to misconceptions about hardened veterans. Memories of combat and death do not vanish; nor are they necessarily personal aspects that should consign veterans to life with a label. While painful at times, heart-wrenching experiences can and do strengthen a person.

Dominick Farinacci and Jaynes Poling have combined their particular skills and experiences into a production embodying creative energy, musical excellence and pure, personal testimony. The result should capture rapt attention and change misconceptions.

Chesapeake Music Presents Modern Warrior Live on Saturday, November 18 at the Avalon starting at 8:00 pm. For more information on tickets please go here.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.