Diplomat Henry White
Diplomat Henry White

And what did Henry White, who was neither witty nor a brilliant talker, nor even, to tell the truth, a man of very deep cultivation, contribute to this gang (British select society)?

‘I really think it was his GOODNESS,’ Lord Robert Cecil suggested. ‘He never said an ill-natured or bitter thing in his life. He never claimed anything as his due. If there was a dull or disagreeable duty to be done, Harry took it on. Every lame dog naturally turned to him for help. To say he was unselfish is inadequate. He lived to increase the happiness of others.'”  from THE VANDERBILT ERA by Louis Auchincloss


weary of runningSpeaking of humans, there’s plenty of them (though not quite so good) in my new book: WEARY of RUNNING. I mention this because it just came out and my first book will be on sale for 99 cents Friday and Saturday for KINDLE.




An Ideal Woman and Why We Hate Her

Oh, don't you look  so smug in your perfection!
Oh, don’t you look so smug in your perfection!

“. . . she carried out her duties as mistress of a small family with ‘piety, patience, frugality and industry’. Moreover,

‘… her ardent and unceasing flow of spirits, extreme activity and diligence, her punctuality, uprightness and remarkable frugality, combined with a firm reliance on God … carried her through the severest times of pressure, both with credit and respectability …’ (The General Baptist Repository and Missionary Observer, 1840).” bbc history of victorian women

Here’s why we don’t like you, dear: You make us look bad–and selfish. You save money, dress with no hint of muffin-top or dirty flip-flop feet and in general seem to  actually take your place in society seriously.


We moderns scoff at manners and “rigid” rules. You see the value in a well-run household. And damn those studies that actually prove children thrive  in predictable, nurturing settings! And the homemade family suppers you insist upon–turns out you were annoyingly right about them as well.


Keeping busy at the church? Statistically people who attend church regularly are more active in their community so just being spiritual doesn’t seem to cut it. As much as we brow beat you, dear, and try to convince you that being an office manager is as important as raising the next generation of adults and that being a salaried employee automatically makes you happy and that free love and the abandonment of your place as moral arbiter will make you EQUAL to men, you demur with that look of placid innocence we despise.


You don’t have to have rabid Facebook wars–pro-choice vs pro-life–that honestly would make you sick. You give us that scolding look that shows how shocked and dismayed at how hostile and ugly we’ve allowed ourselves to become. At least pretend to have some manners, you say. Our language shocks you and how we laugh when children repeat it!


You’re not sure you believe in evolution at all. Unless there’s a species that devolves. You wonder at how often we speak of happiness instead of goodness and we laugh at you mockingly. If there’s no such thing as truth then there’s no such thing as goodness. You’d know that if you were paying attention to something other than being perfect.


You look at us like we’re mad.


Elias C. Boudinot: “If the competition were not so stiff, Boudinot might be ranked among the great scoundrels of the Gilded Age.” Richard White

Trust him at your peril.
Trust him at your peril.

So you think all Native Americans were noble? Think again. Some liked Gilded Age corruption as much as the next guy. Richard White says he was dashing (in the Custer kind of way). I say smarmy, but that’s me.

Interesting factoids: Elias was a pro-slavery Democrat despite being raised by a New England mother.

He was the son of Elias Boudinot, editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, the first Native American newspaper. His father and some other relatives were assassinated in 1839 as retaliation for having ceded their Cherokee (Trail of Tears) homeland in the 1835 Treaty of New Echota. (Wiki)

He served in the Confederate Army as a lieutenant colonel under his uncle Stand Watie and then opened a tobacco company with him after the war only to have it confiscated for not paying taxes.

Okay, yeah, I do like the beard.
Okay, yeah, I do like the beard.

He was a bought man for the railroad builders who wanted their trains run through Indian Territory (they even sold bonds to European investors as if they already owned the Indian land). Elias used his Indian status to get ahead and to help powerful men get their way. He was hated by other Cherokee and worried he might be killed by one of them when with the help of railroad big bugs he erected a huge fence surrounding a portion of Indian territory for the railroads.

He supported disbanding tribes, breaking up Indian Territory and complete and total assimilation–he’s hated even today for his work making that happen in what is now Oklahoma. The bill of goods sent east was that the tribes lived like savages (or like Sioux), but they were indeed quite civilized farmers, shop keepers, teachers and editors. They even had a Female Seminary.

Dapper or despicable?
Dapper or despicable?

The Dawes Act happened and railroads did as they pleased with even reformers in the back pockets of the powerful and dear Elias was right there with them.


“Irish Tough Guy” American Photographer Timothy H. O’Sullivan

We are but tiny specks of dust . . .
We are but tiny specks of dust . . .

Take a look at how small we  are in the grand scheme of things. At a time when people fantasized about transcontinental railroads and nation building, Timothy H. O’Sullivan captured the enormity of the physical world and the tiny little men living upon it without the slightest hint of sentimentality.

Apache couple recently wedded.
Apache couple recently wedded.

Maybe his experience capturing the bloated dead of a generation of young men seared the notion into his brain that we are here for just moments and our big dreams are dwarfed by creation–or maybe he was just a tough Irish guy.


Here is the man who brought us some of the best, most unromantic photographs of the Civil War and The American West. Tim was great to have around from an early age. Brimming with confidence and machismo he apprenticed with Matthew Brady who happened to live nearby in Staten Island before the Civil War. At the age of 21 the young lad went off to war as an “operator” or hired hand photographer who also happened to be amazingly talented.


After the war he went west on geological expeditions–sometimes with a Yale dandy and sometimes with a military man–impressing both. Rugged, brave and fun he kept the romance in his courtship and marriage to Laura Virginia Pywell and kept the bleak, huge west and its inhabitants as they really were–formidable, inhospitable and sadly defeated in the case of the Indians.


I want a happy ending here yet once again death is always sad no matter how it’s done. Dear Tim and his wife Laura after losing their only child as a stillborn contracted tuberculosis. After the geological surveys Tim had trouble finding work. He applied for a job and all of his many friends sent recommendations that give us a glimpse into his special appeal. He got the job but had to quit five months later. He died soon after his wife at the age of 42. The tough guy couldn’t escape death, but his pictures do.





Pictures Library of Congress

Manhood In A Certain Time And Place


First off, I’m giving everyone permission to objectify this man–he’s most likely dead so I don’t think he’d mind. Let’s assume that he’s looking so proud because the baby is his own. A book came out a few years ago describing a study of the present day working class white male which found that the traditional role of man as provider had suddenly disappeared and that any young man still sort of into the idea of raising a family, getting up early for work and being proud of his manhood for doing it was now considered a chump. Better to stay unmarried, father a few kids that the government could take care of and party with the boys. The working class girls had no intention of marrying these guys and fair play to them–why marry a child in a man’s body?

I don’t have a lot of wisdom on this subject, just a few ideas floating around my head about boys and men. My son used to watch me sew on an interesting looking machine. He mentioned he’d want a machine like that so as a joke my father bought him a pink Barbie one for Christmas. He opened the gift, but as soon as he saw how feminine it was he shoved it aside and never talked about sewing again. I sort of bought gender neutral toys for him only because blocks and Lincoln Logs were just that way though I was fine with him being boyish. My daughter was born loving pink and purple.

Boys are just different. Not bad. Different. The good men that I know have this drive inside of them that sometimes they have to hide. It’s a drive to be admired as a hero. Since forever people have enjoyed this about them, but it’s gone out of fashion for a while–as if by forcing men to remain irresponsible children will somehow give women more space to grow into whatever it is we’re aiming for.

I, for one want a place in the world for admiring heroic men–not super men in movies who are still kind of pathetic these days, barely able to hold their own against kick-boxing women. There is way too much ambivalence about manhood! Does this automatically mean I want Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire? No. I just believe that men who claim their roles as strong fathers and brothers, workers and friends are to be celebrated. I laughed at Everybody Loves Raymond, but do all men have to be portrayed as stupid fools?  What a miserable existence for women if when we marry we have to put up with an idiot and turn into a carping old hag.

Take a look at the picture again. This guy is proud of his manhood–as he should be.