A Dentist and a Misfit


Meet Horace Wells, a fine young Aquarian dentist (we share a birthday). The studious and altruistic Wells volunteered (at a circus) to test the effects of nitrous oxide. He felt positively nothing and was the first patient in America to be operated under ether. Shortly thereafter he began using the stuff on his happy patients, but never considered having the painkiller patented believing such a wonder drug should remain as free as air to humankind.

220px-wells_horaceHorace kindly gave a demonstration to Boston medical students but the ether was improperly administered and the patient was none too thrilled. The students and society in general cried humbug! Horace left with a heavy heart in disgrace. He gave up dentistry and became a canary salesman. Birds are cheerful little creatures.

At some point while experimenting with chloroform for a few weeks he became addicted and demented. Wells ran into the street and poured sulfuric acid over a couple of prostitutes. When Wells came to his senses he found himself in prison. He asked the guards to escort him to his house to pick up a few things–including his shaving kit.

Horace quickly administered a dose of chloroform to himself before slitting open an artery in his leg. And then he died.



Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Dew That Goes Early Away by Adrienne  Morris

The Dew That Goes Early Away

by Adrienne Morris

Giveaway ends December 30, 2016.

See the giveaway details
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QUOTE: “The way things are supposed to work is that we’re supposed to know virtually everything about what they [the government] do: that’s why they’re called public servants. They’re supposed to know virtually nothing about what we do: that’s why we’re called private individuals.” ― Glenn Greenwald


LINK: Yahoo secretly monitored emails on behalf of the US government



Taken Prisoner

A Confederate officer stood alone at a crossroad goading his horse to move on in the aftermath of the Union retreat at BULL RUN. Sensing danger he glanced over his shoulder. A Yankee raced over the field tramping the freshly cut hay. As the Yankee drew closer he struggled to pull something from behind his back. The Confederate, with heart thumping through his uniform, pulled out his revolver and took aim.

The Yankee waved a white flag,  stopping abruptly at some distance. He wavered there for a few minutes until the Confederate swore he would do him no harm. Looking to his left and then right, the Yankee weighed his options and moved forward.

The Confederate noted the man’s flushed cheeks and face not yet ready to be shaved. The boy could not be more than twenty yet he was a lieutenant from a New York regiment.

“I give my word to you, sir. If you let me go I’ll never pick up a gun again. I’ll leave at once for my father’s farm,” the boy begged.

The Confederate kept silent and the boy on his horse soon followed, resigned to his fate.

The Confederate and the Yankee may not have realized at this early stage of the war that to be a prisoner was as deadly as fighting on the battlefield, but something in the young man’s cowardice already worked on the Confederate’s conscience. We don’t know if this Confederate officer cursed the angel on his shoulder as the two men walked ten yards.

“Go back to your friends, boy,” the Confederate ordered. “One more prisoner will hardly make a difference.”

When the Confederate met his own scouts they asked what had happened. When they set off in search of the “escaped” prisoner, the Confederate officer refused to join them.*

I wonder about the young New York lieutenant. The other night I happened upon our cat devouring the skin and fat of a just killed chipmunk and was surprised to see the organs still in movement. What moving things did this young man see at Bull Run? Was he a shy boy having trouble fitting in? No. There was something of a leader in him to be made lieutenant. Did he run all the way home or just to his friends?

A Confederate officer stuck on a stubborn horse gave the New York lieutenant his life back. Like a fish released from a net there was no time for gratitude. The currents of war and blood and peace move men along with hardly a moment to consider a chance meeting at a crossroad.

Why did boys on both sides enlist? CIVIL WAR SOLDIERS Their Expectations and Experiences by REID MITCHELL presents  the uplifting and awful traits that make us human.  Mitchell shares  the forgotten stories of individual men. Each one of them (unlike fish unable to escape mere instinct) left  marks on others they  encountered only briefly and never met again.

How did that New York lieutenant live and die? His fear, his youth, his innocence touched a Confederate soldier once. The man was never the same.

*A re-telling of one of the many poignant stories written about in Civil War Soldiers.

**Image courtesy CIVIL WAR TALK

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Mark Twain

British Impressionism Paintings 17

“All the pathos and irony of leaving one’s youth behind is thus implicit in every joyous moment of travel: one knows that the first joy can never be recovered, and the wise traveler learns not to repeat successes but tries new places all the time.” Paul Fussell

**A question: Does anyone know who this painting is by?


“I think the answer to bad speech is different speech. The answer to bad speech is not shutting down speech.” Larry Summers


“I worry very much that if our leading academic institutions become places that prize comfort over truth—that prize the pursuit of mutual understanding over the pursuit of better and more accurate understanding—then a great deal will be lost.” Larry Summers [Weekly Standard interview]



Turn Your Itchy Scalp into Millions!


Sarah Breedlove was not the type to crawl up into the fetal position when tragedy struck. Sarah’s parents celebrated the birth of their first child not born into slavery–but not for long. First Sarah’s mother died. Her father remarried–and died. An orphan, Sarah went to live with her sister and her abusive husband. To escape the abuse Sarah married Moses Williams, but soon after the birth of their daughter Moses died.

There are some people who under similar circumstances might turn from God or throw themselves into the deep end of a pool having not learned to swim. Sarah Breedlove was not this sort.

All the way to St. Louis with her young daughter squirming on her lap Sarah fought the urge to scratch her itchy scalp (or at least that’s how I imagine it). After years of lye soap and nerves Sarah suffered from dandruff so severe she was balding. Not a good look for a future millionaire, but I get ahead of myself.

Sarah’s brothers owned a barber shop in St. Louis in which Sarah learned about hair care. She found work as a washerwoman, vowing to save her dollar a day pay for an education. Fate used her itchy scalp in another way. Sarah took a job on commission selling for another black hair care entrepreneur (capitalism has its success stories)  ANNIE TURNBO MALONE.

Sarah moved to Denver and married a newspaper and advertising man who encouraged her passion and helped her develop an advertising campaign for her new mail order company. Madame C. J. Walker as Sarah was now called traveled the country with her husband selling not only her hair care products but the idea that African American women could be the captains of their lives even in a time of lynchings, poverty and prejudice. She recognized that even in the turbulent times she lived that hard work and good marketing smashed glass ceilings.

Sarah hired women. This is key. She didn’t bemoan the fact that men hired men. She hired women. She trained them to be “beauty culturalists.” She organized clubs and rallies for women who aspired to greatness. Here was a rare woman not threatened by other women. Sarah bred love wherever she went. She even hired the first licensed black architect in New York VERTNER TANDY to build her mansion.

One might wonder if Sarah only helped other women because it helped her company, but that was not the case. Sarah stressed to her women followers the essential thing to a life well-lived: helping others. She threw herself into politics, but more importantly threw her money into philanthropy, donating much of her wealth to orphanages and campaigns against lynching. Some say the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, but boy, it was. Think of the sorry state of Indians on reservations. They got some land. Black Americans were given something better and more powerful: a political voice. It’s been a roller coaster ride for sure and not a perfectly safe ride, but look at Madame Walker.

Sarah never waited or asked why me? (maybe she did sometimes but never let the why paralyze her). Sometimes, most times, it’s better to look at heroes than problems. Sarah Breedlove lost so much and came from so little. Plagued with dandruff (something that might send a lesser lady into hiding) she never said I can’t do this because I’m black and I’m a woman and I’m an orphan and I’m poor and uneducated.

Sarah washed other people’s dirty underthings, healed other people’s scalps and hearts and died a rich woman. The first African American woman millionaire was Madam C. J. Walker.






Misanthropy and Why I’m Done with It


Have any of you suffered through a three week flu? It’s awful, isn’t it? But there is a bright side. Everything I do is in slow motion so I’ve actually spent more time with my humans and animals–especially my animals who love sick naps.

Today I was amused to find that growing lettuce, eggplant or cucumbers is more damaging to the environment than raising pigs or cows. Getting  veggies to market and onto our plates consumes a tremendous amount of energy, it turns out (according to scientists) and I’m not surprised having worked on a few organic farms, but I know where this always leads.

charles-hayard-and-his-daughter-marguerite.jpg!xlMediumI was once a misanthrope. How could I not be? I went to public school and watched PBS. It didn’t take a genius to see that as a white  girl I was personally responsible for pollution, slavery, genocide and the deaths of baby harp seals. I stopped eating meat as many a white girl has done to distance herself from all evil. The moral high ground of starving oneself is a great thing for one’s self esteem until your body gives out and you realize you really don’t want to die. It is then that I realized that my idealized love for animals actually made me wish for the deaths of other humans. Humans I didn’t know. Humans out there who polluted.

Have you heard of the Georgia Guidestones? They are stones in the middle of nowhere calling for a mass reduction in humans. Scary.

edmond-ramel-and-his-wife-born-irma-donbernard.jpg!xlMediumI re-grouped after the doctors forced me to eat hamburgers and researched my family tree looking for Indian killers and corporate evil-doers. All I found were men and women who wanted to be free. They intermarried with Indians, fought against tyranny, worked for oppressive bosses at age six and died in the fight against slavery.

Outside the classroom of my youth and when I was hospitalized for a serious condition that wouldn’t have materialized if I hadn’t hated humanity and loved fuzzy animals, I was amazed to discover that all around me were humans with the capacity for good. Of course I always knew my family members were basically good (though misguided for eating meat), but there were others! In the world beyond! Doctors and nurses, scientists and hunters. Activists and skeptics.

madame-jean-auguste-dominique-ingres-born-madeleine-chapelle-ii.jpg!xlMediumFor a while I watched nature films. You know the ones showing a crocodile killing unsuspecting little Bambi. The I got a small farm. I’ve watched ducks brutally kill other ducks for no apparent reason. I’ve seen the aftermath of a fox killing frenzy. I’m pretty sure the fox didn’t pray over his prey.

So eating lettuce is now bad for the environment. Huh. Maybe we don’t get to live in Utopia. Yet as I sit at my laptop reading about misanthropes and cucumbers, I smile. I love western civilization even with its faults. I love its art, its music, its cinema. I like insulation in winter and an air-conditioned hospital room when I’ve eaten nothing but lettuce for weeks. I like napping with dogs (it’s what dogs do best), but I LOVE writing novels and reading blog posts and obsessing over Christmas gifts for people–yes those crazy characters who occasionally tell really good jokes (my dogs can’t do that).

I love loving people no one loves. So I can’t be a misanthrope.


** DRAWINGS by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres