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): 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.

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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. 

Out and About (Sort of): Time to Move On by Howard Freedlander

When I think about the 10-part “The Vietnam War” documentary completed last week on the Public Broadcasting System, I feel overwhelmed with emotion. It preoccupied me.

I wrote last week about my reaction to the first five episodes. I won’t rehash my comments. I was transfixed by the history of a war that proved so divisive and disruptive to our roiling country. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick produced a superbly written, studiously well-balanced and beautifully filmed documentary. The experience watching this often unpleasant history lesson was unlike any other in my life.

So, I will describe my emotions, felt, I suspect, by many others:

I felt admiration and empathy for our American soldiers (all-inclusive usage for the sake of this column). They fought bravely. They fought well. They fought amid often ill-advised strategy developed sometimes by politicians. Roughly 58,000 died against a relentless, highly motivated enemy.

As I listened to the voices of John Musgrave, Roger Harris, Tim O’Brien, Matt Harrison, Bill Erhardt, Hal Kushner, Vincent Okamoto, Ron Ferrizzi and many other veterans, I marveled at their candor, their passion and their sorrow. Their comments reflected the violence, the ambivalence and the pain of the ill-fated Vietnam War.

In response to the equally honest and passionate North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers interviewed for this remarkable documentary, I felt a human understanding of their courage, their longing for family and their mixed feelings about a war that divided and damaged their own country. These men and women fought to win and destroy the South Vietnamese and American troops.

Yet soldiers on both sides wondered: was it worth it? Was the end result a proud one?

Through the lens of this documentary, I viewed again the protests. I viewed again the riots in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention and mourned the disorder sowed by the protesters and abetted by the ill-prepared police. In 1968, I despised the objectionable, obnoxious and sometimes destructive behavior of the protesters. Now, I commend their courage, their willingness to rail against a corrupt war. I was disgusted then. I’m more sanguine now–though I still condemn riots that visit destruction upon small businesses and place the police in unenviable positions.

When I learned again, after 50 years, about seasoned veterans taking to the streets to proclaim peace, I walked back my criticism of those who opposed the Vietnam War. These men had felt the sting of buddies killed in action. They had followed stupid orders to rack up body counts. They understood the savagery of war. When some tossed away their medals during a protest at the White House, as portrayed during the documentary, I felt moved by their resistance to the continuation of a war whose purpose they questioned.

As I did when it was reported in the media, I felt repulsed by the My Lai Massacre, which occurred in March 1968. Between 350 and 500 unarmed civilians died in an outburst of inhumanity and moral depravity. Again, as so often happens, I also feel torn. While killing is legal in war, almost second nature, the murder of civilians–who may or may not have harbored the Viet Cong–is wanton human destruction. Anger and frustration over the loss of fellow soldiers can be tough to control; yet indiscriminate killing of noncombatants is intolerable.

I found bothersome but not surprising the continuous lying and deceit by Presidents Lyndon Barnes Johnson and Richard Nixon. Their preoccupation with winning their next elections and avoiding political embarrassment seemingly drove their decision-making. Their concerns about lives lost by their decisions not to unleash strategic bombing or delay peace negotiations were unconscionable.

Lest I seem too forgiving of the North Vietnamese, I learned about the increasingly influential impact of communism on leadership in Hanoi. The more palatable nationalistic actions and philosophy of Ho Ching Minh fell
victims to darker forces. Le Duan, the powerful leader who surpassed Uncle Ho in planning military operations, sent thousands and thousands of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers to their deaths during Tet and a post-Tet offensive.

Unlike Ho Ching Minh, Le Duan harbored no warm feelings about America. He was hell-bent on conquering the South and sending the Americans home to a country also divided by social, political and cultural conflict. I bemoaned too the immorality of our fervent and violent enemy.

The American evacuation of Saigon was ugly and messy, as was the war. We turned our backs on people who trusted us. It was tough to watch our abandonment of former friends. Due to Watergate and his resignation, Nixon could not fulfill his promise to help South Vietnam from being overrun. Then, Congress decided, maybe understandably so, to authorize no more money to South Vietnam. It was heart-wrenching to watch the results of our inaction.

“The Vietnam War” documentary ended on a redemptive note, showing some veterans returning to Vietnam and connecting with former adversaries. The history the 10 episodes so exquisitely purveyed filled me with dread and distress; at the same time, I felt enormous pride in our troops, who persevered on unfamiliar terrain littered with bad decisions: take that hill, give up that hill and then retake it.

The 10th and final episode devoted a segment to the Vietnam Memorial built in 1982 in Washington, DC. It too was racked by controversy over its stark, black granite design. Nothing was easy about this war. Some of the splendid veterans who spoke frequently during the documentary testified to the healing effect of this powerful monument containing the names of 58,000 dead American soldiers.

“The Vietnam War” documentary portrayed a troubled 10-year war fought by our country, gradually riven by socioeconomic and cultural conflict. I feel and believe that some of these rending fissures still remain and haunt our fragile nation, caused ironically by engagement in a civil war in Southwest Asia.

Time to move on–armed with memories of a difficult decade.

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): Storms Offer Wake-Up Call by Howard Freedlander

It was nearly impossible during the past few weeks to avoid paying rapt attention to the destruction and disruption of lives caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Many of us knew people in the paths of these two shattering and stunning storms.

I know people whose primary home is in Houston. Fortunately, they were here in Talbot County, in constant touch with loved ones. They patiently responded to expressions of concern from their Eastern Shore friends.

No sooner did Harvey ceased its fury that Irma followed in its path, visiting its devastation upon the Caribbean and Florida. Again, we had friends and family dealing with flooding and power lost to high winds and broken trees.

It would have been too easy, if not foolish, to disregard the possibility of storm surge on our low-lying piece of Planet Earth. It would be equally silly to ignore the impact of global warming in enhancing the intensity of Harvey and Irma. Media reports rightly focused on the dire plight of residents of Houston and other Texan towns and cities, as well as Key West, Miami and other cities in Florida. I suspect that scientists will contribute their analyses at some point.

All of us should pay attention to the human dimension of the recent storms, specifically on the correlation between global warming as caused or aggravated by all of us on earth and the frequency and powerfulness of storms in recent years.

I will refrain from my typical exhortations about global warming and climate change. Instead, I will spend a few paragraphs addressing preemptive steps, long-discussed, to minimize the impact of storms. My source is Brian Ambrette, coastal resilience manager at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC). For full disclosure, I sit on the ESLC board of directors.

In his frequent electronic newsletter, Ambrette wrote the following, with which I totally agree:

“Why do we wait for tragedy to occur before planning for it? The answer is probably as psychological as it is political and best left to the pundits to debate. To break the disaster-then-prepare cycle, sea level rise is the next clear scenario to consider. A prudent course is to model hurricane flooding with educated assumptions about how much higher the sea will be in future years. Those results can inform zoning and building codes so that the housing stock built today is prepared for the storms of tomorrow. On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the country’s third most vulnerable region to sea level rise, communities are collaborating via the Eastern Shore Climate Adaptation partnership on proactive responsible planning to reduce the cost in lives and dollars of future storms. Likewise, federal leadership must prioritize and fund planning for the next storm, not the last one.”

As I’ve learned about Brian Ambrette and his patient work to encourage communities to adapt before a calamity, he offers a common sense approach to the devastating and destructive impact of storm surge. His words and thoughts are devoid of political recriminations or unproductive denial. This ‘pundit” does not feel so restrained.

If denial of global warming is steeped in politics—however much I question such errant thinking—then I believe that “adaptation” in the form of stronger, realistic building codes might provide a common ground for constructive action and unified agreement.

As Ambrette wrote, “Now Harvey has introduced a new challenge for disaster planners: formerly incomprehensive quantities of rain. With luck, communities will become better prepared for city-swallowing rainstorms thanks to the suffering heaped on millions of Texans (and Floridians).

Media coverage continues to illustrate the resilience of our fellow citizens in Texas and Florida as they seek to recover and reestablish the normalcy of their lives. Tales of neighbors helping neighbors and disaster relief agencies working feverishly to restore power and clear streets and highways of trees, cars and debris are heartwarming and reassuring.

Still, we must confront the ill effects of global warming. And we must prepare now for the next storm, the next disaster, the next life-shattering weather event.

We must adapt today. Tomorrow may be too late. Lives are at stake.

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): Filling a Void by Howard Freedlander

You sometimes don’t know what you’re missing until it’s missing. And you grieve as if the “it” is a family member.

And so I felt when Mason’s, a well-known, well-appreciated restaurant on Harrison Street in Easton, closed a few years ago, replaced by a steak house that never seemed too appealing.

Now, Mason’s is returning as part of Easton’s vibrant restaurant mosaic, thanks to Chance Negri, Jeffrey Parker and Jutta Sayles. This new ownership group plans to reopen the doors of Mason’s (yes the name is returning) in late October.

As I confirmed this past weekend, the sale of the building was completed last Friday. A void will be filled. And so will the appetites of customers yearning for return of good, reliable and friendly dining.

More than nine years ago, my youngest daughter and her husband-to-be enjoyed their rehearsal dinner in the outside area of Mason’s. Matt Mason, the conscientious proprietor, abided by the wishes of the young almost-marrieds and served pizzas. Why was this remarkable? Matt didn’t have a pizza oven. It was special evening, one fondly and happily remembered.

So, ever interested in the reopening of a restaurant that provided wonderful memories, excellent food, terrific service and diligent ownership, I met last week with Chance, Jeffrey and Jutta to learn about their plans for 22 South Harrison Street. Like many, I was eager to hear about a new start for a place that once served as a community hub.

Negri and Parker, who have lived in Easton for five years, plan to offer a modern American cuisine. They plan to change the menu four times a year. Chance will serve as the general manager. Jeffrey, a New York-based interior designer, will handle the interior ambience. Jutta will be a frequent presence watching and listening.

Negri, Parker and Sayles all agree they want the new Mason’s (Redux 2017) to become a central fixture in Easton “excellent, fine and relaxed dining,” one that is “warm and welcoming, a “community hub for al organizations.”

In short, the new owners plan to offer an experience that includes a post-church brunch on Sundays, jazz on some evenings and special events.

Aware that the resurrection of Mason’s had created a real stir in the community—emblematic of a small-town environment—Negri said he wants to “live up to the hype.” He is seeking a chef that will “execute what we have envisioned.”

Jutta Sayles envisions Mason’s “delivering fabulous food and a comfortable experience.”

Parker said he looks forward to “seeing people enjoying and experiencing conviviality, warmth and affection every time they dine with us.”

Since the former owner closed Pascal’s Chophouse in the former home of Mason’s, I felt a tinge of sadness for what was a wonderful Easton venue. This former customer always felt comfortable with the menu, the staff and the prices. I always felt secure in Matt Mason’s constant presence in the restaurant; he ran a first-class operation.

As of late October, the void on Harrison Street will no longer exist. It will come alive again, reflecting the tastes and style of Chance Negri, Jeffrey Parker and Jutta Sayles. Old, familiar sandwiches will reappear, albeit with different names and likely different tastes depending on spices and flavorings.

A food connoisseur I am not. My tastes are decidedly basic. But I do like Easton’s varied offerings of restaurants and their expression of their owner’ personalities. Every new or revived eatery improves life in our town, county and region.

The past is just that. The future promises change. The new Mason’s elicits feelings of anticipation and comfort.

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.