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It's a long story -- hardly worth going into here -- but after this place was declared a Brownfield Site, we abandoned it for the NEW! IMPROVED!! Not Now Silly Newsroom.

Feel free to stay and read what you came here to read, but when it's time to leave go to the new place by clicking HERE.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Don't Give Up The Fort ► A Pastoral Letter

One block south of 8 Mile is the intersection of Gilchrist Street and Hessel Avenue

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Dear Pastor Kenny: 

Remember the fort we built in the backyard behind my garage on Gilchrist?

I distinctly remember scrounging some of the lumber for it from the excavation ditch that later became the Southfield Freeway. I can't remember who was with me that day, you or Dean Donaldson, but if it was you, it's safe to admit it. The statute of limitations on that crime has long expired.

It was a pretty sweet fort, as I remember. With the liberated plywood as a roof and walls, it was water-tight when it rained. We spent a fair amount of time hanging out in there, but I spent more. There were many times I'd sit in the fort reading comic books. It became my refuge away from my sisters. As you may remember, I had 4.

My old backyard showing the room my father added to the
back of the house, taken on August 2, 2016. The first thing I
noticed was that the cherry tree next to the garage was no longer
there. It was beautiful in the spring and you could sit on the
garage in the sunshine and pick cherries all the doo dah day.
Did you ever wonder why we still don't have that fort to sit within and ponder the world?

I destroyed it in a fit of pique.

My parents were bothered by the mess we left behind and ordered me to clean it up. I walked across the street and tried to get you and Dean to help me. Neither of you could be bothered, so I decided the fort had to go. With tears in my eyes, and filled with childish rage, I ripped it apart within minutes, demonstrating how shoddy we were at fort building and how I can, at times, be my own worst enemy.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

In the last 8 months my life has been on a metaphoric fort busting bender, until I find myself beached here 13 miles from the beach -- right back where I started.

Don't give up the fort.

Just when things seemed at their lowest ebb, I hastily prepared another of my epic Road Trips to visit Pops. Knowing we'd meet again on my swing through Michigan, I had a lot of time to think over what I wanted to ask you during all of that driving. I was telling my friends along the way, most of whom have read my previous Pastoral Letters, that I was going to see you again. Most of them also knew of my troubles of late. I started to make the joke that with all that was going on in my life, I needed to be Pastor-ized.

Your house still looks picture perfect, Ken
I had hoped to meet you in our old neighbourhood, where your house still looks picture perfect. However, time constraints meant we only had a small time together and I was on vacation, for the most part. I didn't mind traveling to Ann Arbor to meet you.

I wanted to share everything that occurred since the beginning of the year, but we certainly didn't have time for that, so I shared the highlights lowlights -- including the heartbreak I experienced just days earlier in Toronto. I even told you the joke above about needing Pastor-ization. Then I popped the question that had been on my mind since I left Florida. It started as a far more complex question, but during all those miles on the road it became simpler and simpler until I boiled it down to 10 words:

"What is the answer when Jesus is not the answer?"

Your answer was very Zen: Connections.

I am still processing what that means for me. I've come to the conclusion that not all connections are real connections. Nor do I really want to be connected to all those who are connected to me. The contradiction is that my writing at the Not Now Silly Newsroom, as well as my oversized presence on the facebookery and Twitterverse is all about making connections to many people I have no real connection with. Heavy, eh?

On my most recent road trip in front of my
former Kensington Market house on Nassau
IRONY ALERT: The person/place I truly wanted an improved and stronger connection with has gone cold and I have no idea how to rekindle it.

Ken, your other suggestion -- to get back to Drum Circles -- is a good one. Pops' hospitalization kept me busy since early June, and there was no time. One of my favourite ones is tomorrow. It's the monthly Drum Circle where I actually composed most of my first Pastoral Letter to you. However, here's another contradiction: I'm not a joiner.

Speaking of joiners, I have always . . . what's the correct word -- envied? coveted?-- someone who has a God to believe in. When life turns to shit, there's an entity to pray to. Atheists don't have that. Without those connections of which you speak, I've got to tough it out on my own.

The last time I believed in something bigger than myself was, in reality, not all that long ago. It was only last year and I wrote about it in a previous Pastoral Letter which I titled Before and After Synchronicity. Now I'm not sure if what I believed was real. It all seemed so right and this feels so wrong.

I no longer know what to tell the crows.

I hope it's not another year before we see each other again, Kenny, but I expect it will be. In the meantime, feel free to reply. I told you that I write these more for myself than for getting a reply. However, this time I'd love to read your thoughts.

Your childhood friend,
Marc Slootsky

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Man Without A Country ► Unpacking The Writer

Edward Everett Hale
When I was in elementary school -- back when they still taught Civics -- one of my favourite short stories was The Man Without A Country, by Edward Everett Hale. These days, whenever I cross the border between Canada and the United States (as I did recently), I am reminded of this heart-breaking story.

SPOILER ALERT: It was many years after I first read it that I learned that The Man Without A Country is not a true story at all. It was a newly-minted (in 1863) allegory about patriotism and The Civil War, which was currently ripping the country apart.

None of that meant a thing to the young, unsophisticated, me. It felt true, like a good Onion story. Like a bad Michener novel, it was peopled with real folks. Like Citizen Kane, it is the story of one man piecing together the life of mysterious man. It would always bring me to tears. I can still remember the disappointment I felt when I discovered I had been hoodwinked by a brilliant writer.

The Man Without A Country was written as if the author had only just read an obituary of a little remembered figure in history and expounds on why this man should be remembered 50 years after the events described. The author relates how Philip Nolan, whose obit he stumbled across, had been friends with Aaron Burr and was tried for treason along with him in 1807. In a fit of pique Nolan renounces his country and proclaims, "I wish I may never hear of the United States again!" The judge sentences him to be put on board U.S. war ships, never allowed walk on U.S. soil again, nor could people tell him of news back home. The WikiWackyWoo picks up the story:
As it appeared in The Atlantic in 1863
Deprived of a homeland, Nolan slowly and painfully learns the true worth of his country. He misses it more than his friends or family, more than art or music or love or nature. Without it, he is nothing. Dying aboard the USS Levant, he shows his room to an officer named Danforth; it is "a little shrine" of patriotism. The Stars and Stripes are draped around a picture of George Washington. Over his bed, Nolan has painted a bald eagle, with lightning "blazing from his beak" and claws grasping the globe. At the foot of his bed is an outdated map of the United States, showing many of its old territories that had, unbeknownst to him, been admitted to statehood. Nolan smiles, "Here, you see, I have a country!" The dying man asks desperately to be told the news of American history since 1807, and Danforth finally relates to him almost all of the major events that have happened to the U.S. since his sentence was imposed; the narrator confesses, however, that "I could not make up my mouth to tell him a word about this infernal rebellion." Nolan then asks him to bring his copy of the Presbyterian Book of Public Prayer, and read the page where it will automatically open. These are the words: "Most heartily we beseech Thee with Thy favor to behold and bless Thy servant, the President of the United States, and all others in authority." Nolan says: "I have repeated those prayers night and morning, it is now fifty-five years." Every day, he had read of the United States, but only in the form of a prayer to uphold its leaders; the U.S. Navy had neglected to keep this book from him. This is the supreme irony of the story. Nolan asks him to have them bury him in the sea and have a gravestone placed in memory of him at Fort Adams, Mississippi or at New Orleans. When he dies later that day, he is found to have drafted a suitably patriotic epitaph for himself: "In memory of PHILIP NOLAN, 'Lieutenant in the Army of the United States. He loved his country as no other man has loved her; but no man deserved less at her hands.'"
Had I known when I first read the story that I would come to feel like Philip Nolan, The Man Without A Country, I may have cried all the harder back then.

Unlike Nolan, I have never renounced my 'Merkin citizenship. I did, however, take up Canadian citizenship. To do so I swore an oath to "the Queen, her heirs and assigns" that I'd not vote, nor serve in the armed forces of another country. I take that oath seriously. Renunciation, on the other hand, is an overt act.

The only time my citizenship gets complicated is when I am crossing from Canada back into the United States. When I am going into Canada all I have to do is flash my Canadian Citizenship picture ID and --- Bang! Zoom! --- I'm in.

However, I've learned that coming back into 'Merka it's best that I don't mention my Canadian citizenship if I can help it. When asked "citizen of what country" I answer truthfully. "United States" precisely because I have not renounced my citizenship. I learned a number of years ago that the United States does not recognize the concept of "dual citizenship" and claiming such only complicates matters at the border. Hoo boy! I am made to feel as if I am The Man Without A Country.

This 3rd filming of the story was a Made For TV
. Earlier versions were filmed in 1917 and 1937.

The Monthly Top Ten

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Apologies to my regular readers who have noticed I've been neglecting Not Now Silly for the last little while. If you've been paying attention, you will know that Pops was hospitalized in June and spent 7 weeks there. More recently he was transferred to a rehab center, where he's made amazing progress.

Then there was the 3 week Road Trip, details of which are still to come. I thought I would have time to update the Not Now Sill Newsroom while I was on the road, but there was so much to do that I never got around to unpacking the laptop.

Even though I've been away, the Not Now Silly Newsroom archive has had quite a workout. Here's this month's Top Ten. (The All Time Top Ten is in the column to the right.)

1. Who Is To Blame For The Destruction of the E.W.F. Stirrup House?
2. The 4th Annual Sunrise to Canton Road Trip for Research
3. Javier Gonzalez Kicks Off His District 2 Campaign
4. Say Goodbye to the E.W.F. Stirrup House While You Still Can
5. The Detroit Riots ► Unpacking My Detroit ► Part Five
6. Coconut Grove in Black and White
7. Did Roger Ailes Dupe James Rosen, Or Did Rosen Dupe 'Merka?
8. Tribute to Don Knotts ► Morgantown's Favourite Son
9. Is Marc D. Sarnoff Corrupt Or The Most Corrupt Miami Politician?
10. Harry Nilsson ► Thursday (Here's Why I Did Not Go To Work Today) ► A Musical Interlude

I've stoked the fires under the Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic and the Newsroom is back up and running full-tilt, balls out. I already have several stories in the pipeline that include: A brand new, exciting Don Knotts and Morgantown Update; another Pastoral Letter, following my most recent visit with my oldest childhood friend, Pastor Kenny, who has written a very important book; Notes From A Road Trip, which I'm still collating and trying to make sense of; and a long, involved investigative article about a Miami institution that I've been researching for almost 3 years and writing, on and off, since early June. There's a just a small amount of research left on that one and it'll be ready for prime time.

And, along the way, there will be some surprises. Consider tossing a little bit into the Tip Jar above and help support Investigative Journalism from the Not Now Silly Newsroom.