Out and About (Sort of): Leftovers and Fake News by Howard Freedlander


After recovering from jet lag after the Bordeaux river cruise described in last week’s column, I thought I would write about some things that didn’t fit into my original piece.

Writers strike a theme and stick with it. They, however, get second chances.

I will discuss fake news as well, unrelated to the French expedition and equally irrelevant to the current usage of the term as voiced often by our beleaguered president, who is constantly upset by the mainstream media. Confused? Stick with me, and I’ll explain in later paragraphs.

As my mental fog and fatigue diminished somewhat last week, I realized I omitted some possibly interesting tidbits of information about our Viking voyage. I must state again: I am not on the Viking payroll despite appearances that might suggest otherwise.

Several staff members aboard our ship were Bulgarian and spoke more than passable English.  Why is the Balkan nation of Bulgaria the source of some Viking employees, as my wife and I have now learned during two Viking cruises? I don’t know. My guess is the pay and the opportunity to improve a command of English. Though hours are long and passengers demanding, the work conditions are comfortable. Passengers are mostly appreciative. The hospitality industry provides a way to see the world.

Cleanliness seemed next to Godliness. One day I saw something that I haven’t seen in many years: the woman who led the cleaning crew was on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor. I say this admiringly; I also wondered why she didn’t use a mop. I hesitate to make this observation for fear of seeming judgmental of sometimes unpleasant jobs. I simply marveled at the perfectionism—and painfully recalled my days in basic military training performing some tedious, even odious tasks.

Fellow guests were nearly unanimously friendly, though many formed, as human nature dictates, their own social groups. Commonly heard throughout the cruise while sitting alone was: “May I join you?” The answer was always a gracious “yes.” Solitude was permissible; camaraderie was encouraged.

Traveling by plane in modern times is a terrible, grueling experience, perhaps alleviated somewhat by first-class or business-class seating. A traveler has to focus on the destination and cope with erratic scheduling conditions over which one has no control—except stay home, I guess.

If I never have to travel again through John F. Kennedy International Airport, I will be a happy guy from the humane Town of Easton. Though Dulles International Airport in Sterling, VA seems distant and entails driving on the horrendous Washington beltway, it now strikes me as a welcome alternative to the JFK International mess. My apologies to New Yorkers who appreciate chaos and tolerate constant brusqueness.

Another image remains etched in my tourist memory—and that is the initially jarring sight of heavily armed soldiers standing in front of the historic Bordeaux Cathedral on a Sunday morning. While I realize that terrorism is a constant and nagging reality, particularly in France, I wondered ruefully about the presumed sanctity and security of a Catholic church in a lovely French city.

The well-used promenade along the Garonne River was blocked by concrete barriers from any vehicular access; memory of the recent personal destruction by a truck in Nice, France justifies this protective measure.

Real world concerns are not far from the surface of a trip organized to avoid the unpleasant aspects of life in a European city and provide a fantasy experience. Life intervenes.

Back home on the right bank of the Chesapeake Bay (excuse the allusion to the French geographical reference points), l attended last Friday evening the sixth annual Chesapeake Champion award ceremony organized by Horn Point Lab in Cambridge. The recipient was Jerry Harris, a gentleman and avowed conservationist who lives in the Church Creek area of Dorchester County.

In early April, I wrote a lengthy article about Harris in “The Star Democrat,” describing his commitment to wildlife habitat restoration and education. He’s a person who wants to protect our little piece of paradise, investing his own money in converting 580 acres on the Honga River and Chesapeake Bay into waterfowl habitat and marshland preservation. He wants to set an example for other property owners.

In commenting upon receipt of the award about my article and another one written about him and his achievements, he modestly referred to the coverage as “fake news.” He further drove the point home by telling the crowd that his dogs showed their appreciation for the words used to describe their owner in a dog’s inimitable fashion. I hope my words are suitably expressive.

So, I somehow have conflated additional information about a river cruise in southwest France with a dog’s response to an owner’s self-deprecating opinion of journalism focused solely on him.

My river cruise stories have run their course. Jerry Harris deserves commendation for his focus on conservation and education.

As for his dogs and their reaction to “fake news,” I grant them freedom of canine expression.

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.


Letters to Editor

  1. Bill Todd says:

    Sad to see (and hear an update) on the consequences of lax immigration policies in France.

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