“The brand’s beleaguered design team, accustomed to a spreadsheet mentality—churn out X chinos in Y colors, repeat—were suddenly given what felt like creative carte blanche. Drexler “put the product and the design before the business, in a way,” recalls a former employee. “He made the creative drive the business.”
Drexler once told a roomful of employees that he’d passed on a hire because the candidate didn’t know the meaning or origin of her high school’s name. How could you go someplace every day and not be curious enough to figure out where the name came from? Drexler stayed five steps ahead, and for those who could keep up, the sky was the limit: invent a new product, a new category, a new business within the business. And if you can’t keep up, get the hell out of the way.” https://archive.vanityfair.com/article/2019/6/j-who
“The original Fitch High School (now the former location of Fitch Middle School) was built in 1928 next to the Town Hall on Poquonnock Road, and was funded in part by the will of a local merchant, Charles Fitch, with the stipulation that it be named after his son, Robert E. Fitch. In the early 1950s, the district enrollment was larger than the school could handle. The school district decided to split to a junior high and senior high system. In 1954, the school district built a new school, the current Robert E. Fitch Senior High School, in its current location at the top of Fort Hill Road, and renamed the existing school Robert E. Fitch Junior High School.”
featuring Model: Caroline Walz
as my PISCES
for Personal Universe, an astrology series
26 September 2017
Watch Hill, Rhode Island, USA
Photograph by Michelle Gemma
title from the song, “Caroline’s Supposed Demon” by His Name is Alive, from their album Livonia (1990). Lyrics by Warren Defever
“Caroline’s supposed demon
Caroline they say she’s haunted
We may only once divide the
Pain and darkness deep inside us”
“Defever began recording in his basement in 1985, while still in high school. His initial work consisted primarily of Defever alone recording the music to a 4-track recorder, with friend Angie Carozzo providing vocals. After Defever went off to college and met Karin Oliver, she became the band’s primary vocalist.
The group’s work resulted in a self-released cassette. Defever sent the tape to 4AD in hopes of being signed to the label. Despite label president Ivo Watts-Russell‘s rejection of the band, Defever continued to send him tapes, with improved versions of the songs appearing on each new tape. Ivo signed the band in 1989, believing that (along with his This Mortal Coil partner John Fryer) he could re-mix the songs into a proper album 4AD could release. Livonia appeared in the summer of 1990, and became one of the label’s biggest sellers of the year. ‘He took it apart, and he didn’t put it back together,’ Defever would later comment on Ivo’s production style.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/His_Name_Is_Alive
When I was on social media (June 2013-June 2019), I came to the attention of Warren Defever, because, on occasion, I posted a variety of his lyrics, mostly from Livonia (1990), and Home Is in Your Head (1991) to illustrate my photographs. I used the hashtags #hisnameisalive and #hnia and #warrendefever
and soon enough, I found that he would “like” the posts. His user name was “xoxowar” and one day I realized what his name meant! I thought, oh he must sign his letters with the fond and cheerful “xoxo” which means hugs and kisses (I had many Italian aunts who used this signature for all correspondence). And his nickname must be “war”. I was so excited that I decided to message him on Instagram. He responded soon after, telling me that I was correct! That was the extent of our correspondence.
“Give me your eyes
That I might see the blind man kissing my hands
The sun is humming
My head turns to dust as he plays on his knees
As he plays on his knees
And the sand
And the sea grows
I close my eyes
Move slowly through drowning waves
Going away on a strange day
And I laugh as I drift in the wind
Dancing on a beach of stone
Cherish the faces as they wait for the end
Sudden hush across the water
And we’re here again
And the sand
And the sea grows
I close my eyes
Move slowly through drowning waves
On a strange day
My head falls backs
And the walls crash down
And the sky
And the impossible
Held for one moment I remember a song
An impression of sound
Then everything is gone
A strange day”
“*FULL MOON* in Aquarius alchemizes the cauldron of our humanity. Within this axis, Aquarius (humanitarian) and Leo (Self), we become the change. It’s easy to focus on others, but if we keep our focus on our Self and do what we feel moved to do, we create space for others to be informed and inspired by our actions and be led by their own free will, rather than through any kind of pressure or intimidation. This Aquarius FULL MOON encourages us to witness what is being illuminated and unhinge from the ties of public opinion to continue to unfurl who we truly are. We are in an evolutionary time that is encouraging us to embody our true essence. Everything is shifting right now, and it is a time to access higher mind and take a broad wide view. These are the keys that open the doors to new perception. Our thoughts create our world. That is the frontier.” http://www.mysticmamma.com/astrology-full-moon-in-aquarius-august-15th-2019/
“The Full Moon in August is called Sturgeon Moon because of the great number of this huge freshwater fish that could once be found in lakes and rivers in North America. Other names for this Full Moon include Grain Moon, Green Corn Moon, Fruit Moon, and Barley Moon, all inspired by various crops that can be harvested in August. The lake sturgeon has a greenish-grey color and a pointed snout with two pairs of whisker-like tactile organs dangling near the mouth. It is sometimes called a “living fossil,” as it belongs to a family of fish that has existed for more than 135 million years. Lake sturgeons are extremely long-lived. The males can reach 55 years, while females can live up to 150 years! And they can grow to be enormous. They are the American continent’s largest fish and can grow to over 2 meters long (6 feet) and weigh around 90 kilos (200 pounds). Lake sturgeons do not only live in lakes; they also live in rivers, but not in the ocean. This monster fish used to be a major part of the ecosystems in North America’s Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and in the Mississippi River, and they were once found all the way from Canada to Alabama. Today, the lake sturgeon has become one of the rarest fish in North America because of intense overfishing in the 19th century, pollution, and damage to their habitat and breeding grounds due to agriculture and lumbering.” https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/moon/sturgeon.html
featuring Model: Hadlai Palmerone
15 August 2019 during the Full Sturgeon Moon of August
Barn Island, Stonington, CT USA
Photographed by Michelle Gemma
featuring lyrics from “A Strange Day”, by the Cure, Pornography, (1982).
“Following the band’s previous album, 1981’s Faith, the non-album single “Charlotte Sometimes” was released. The single, in particular its nightmarish and hallucinatory B-side “Splintered in Her Head”, would hint at what was to come in Pornography. In the words of Robert Smith, regarding the album’s conception, “I had two choices at the time, which were either completely giving in [committing suicide] or making a record of it and getting it out of me”. He also claims he “really thought that was it for the group. I had every intention of signing off. I wanted to make the ultimate ‘fuck off’ record, and then sign off [the band]”. Smith was mentally exhausted during that period of time: “I was in a really depressed frame of mind between 1981 and 1982”. The band “had been touring for about 200 days a year and it all got a bit too much because there was never any time to do anything else”. The band, Smith in particular, wanted to make the album with a different producer than Mike Hedges, who had produced Seventeen Seconds and Faith. According to Lol Tolhurst, Smith and Tolhurst briefly met with the producer Conny Plank at Fiction’s offices in the hopes of having him produce the album since they were both fans of his work with Kraftwerk, however, the group soon settled on Phil Thornalley. Pornography is the last Cure album to feature Lol Tolhurst as the band’s drummer (he then became the band’s keyboardist), and also marked the first time he played keyboards on a Cure release. The album was recorded at RAK Studios from January to April 1982. On the album’s recording sessions, Smith noted “there was a lot of drugs involved”. The band took LSD and drank a lot of alcohol, and to save money, they slept in the office of their record label. The musicians usually turned up at eight, and left at midday looking “fairly deranged”. Smith related: “We had an arrangement with the off-licence up the road, every night they would bring in supplies. We decided we weren’t going to throw anything out. We built this mountain of empties in the corner, a gigantic pile of debris in the corner. It just grew and grew”. According to Tolhurst, “we wanted to make the ultimate, intense album. I can’t remember exactly why, but we did”. The recording sessions commenced and concluded in three weeks. Smith noted, “At the time, I lost every friend I had, everyone, without exception, because I was incredibly obnoxious, appalling, self-centered”. He also noted that with the album, he “channelled all the self-destructive elements of my personality into doing something”. Polydor Records, the company in charge of Fiction Records, the label on which the album was released, was initially displeased with the album’s title, which it saw as being potentially offensive. Regarding the album’s musical style, NME reviewer Dave Hill wrote, “The drums, guitars, voice and production style are pressed scrupulously together in a murderous unity of surging, textured mood”. Hill further described it as “Phil Spector in Hell”. Trouser Press said about the track “A Short Term Effect”: It “stresses ephemeralness with Smith’s echo-laden voice decelerating at the end of each phrase”. Ira Robbins observed that “the song closest to basic pop” is “A Strange Day”: It “has overdubbed backing vocals plus a delineated verse and chorus wrapped in some strangely consonant guitar figures”. The journalist also commented: the song “Cold” “gets the full gothic treatment”, with “grandiose minor-mode organ swells”. Describing the title track, writer Dave McCullough said that it “tries to copy Cabaret Voltaire, all shuddering tape noise”.
This post is dedicated to Dan Curland, owner of the Mystic Disc and sponsor of the music-film series showing at Mystic Luxury Cinemas. The Cure’s “Anniversary 1978 – 2018: Live in Hyde Park London” played at the Mystic Cinema on 11 July 2019, and Curland’s attendance that night introduced him to the Cure for the very first time. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/the-cure-40th-anniversary-concert-film-841494/
He was moved immensely seeing the film, and the record store has had “Disintegration” and “The Head on the Door” playing on repeat ever since that night. I asked Curland about his recent fascination with the Cure.
MG: What were your first thoughts seeing, hearing and being immersed in the Cure’s anniversary film?
DC: Even though it was a movie I could feel that opening, the love of the crowd for Robert was so real and immense and the same for Robert to the audience. He just seemed so damn real, humble and then, I did not even know he played guitar, he plays so uniquely, throw into it Simon who is also so charismatic, the power of the drummer, I could not take my eyes off of them obviously Robert is the focal. On stage, one mic, no harmonies, no need for that, he is a troubadour, totally unique. The amazing thing was I knew none of their songs, no lyrics ( Although the way he sings and his emotion I felt like i knew what he was saying) usually I know a song or two, I knew nothing, amazing that he could grab me like that.
MG: After being convinced for yourself, of the mastery of the sonic and lyrical content of the Cure, what keeps you coming back?
DC: The incredible songs, lyrics that just blow me away, again even on a record he exudes this beautiful authenticity. I keep going back because once Robert has you that’s it.
MG: I find it really fascinating that you are so into the Cure and I think that your insights are so fresh and refreshing. I think it reminds all of us to give something a chance that you might not initially think is for you. And when you said that your rock band is learning some country songs, that’s pretty interesting. I guess it’s the essence of being human and I’m glad that you’re here to teach us all a little something!!
DC: We all learn from each other.
“He stands, today, as every day, in a pose of attack. The sword is being drawn as every sunrise arrives.”
A period of upheaval surrounded the removal of the Major John Mason statue in Mystic, Connecticut. The public discourse around the relevance of the memorial grew heated, and local factions clashed. The result of that discourse was the relocation of the statue. The Mason statue was moved to Windsor, Connecticut—the American hometown of the Major—after pressure from Native groups. The controversy around its removal eventually led to a collective understanding by the local population that their society was far different from the post-Civil War era that created the monument. During the decades following the end of the Civil War, many Americans funded the creation of memorials to lost figures in American history who had participated in the colonization of the US. The citizens of Mystic, Connecticut chose Major John Mason as their historical hero. In 1889, the Mason Memorial, designed by sculptor James G. C. Hamilton, was placed at the intersection of Clift Street and Pequot Avenue.
Mason led a coalition of English soldiers and Native tribes in a coordinated attack on the Pequot settlement at Mystic during the Pequot War of the 1630’s. What ensued was the first large scale military operation on American soil. The Pequot were nearly annihilated in the course of one day. Had it not been for the Pequot warriors who resided at Fort Hill, a few miles away, they most certainly would have.
The conventional wisdom about the battle is that hundreds of men, women and children perished at Mystic because of their lack of defense. But Kevin McBride, former head researcher at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, determined that the Pequot warriors made the trek from Fort Hill to Mystic just in time to drive the remaining combatants off, chasing them through the nearby wooded area to the west, and then further south toward the coves around the peninsula at West Mystic. Archaeological digs have uncovered evidence that the English and Native coalition was not successful in eliminating the tribe, despite the massacre of over 400 people.
Why did the Pequot need to be forced into submission? They sat on the largest concentration of wampum in the southern colonial settlements, the currency that was at the center of the fur trade, which brought both English and Dutch explorers to the area. The Pequot essentially were The Bank of Southeastern Connecticut.
They were also not looked upon kindly by neighboring Native groups, for that reason and others.
In 1636, the Pequot took to the offensive, attacking settlements at Saybrook and Wethersfield. On the first of May 1637, the Connecticut colony ordered war against the Pequot. Twenty-six days later, the attack at Mystic began.
By 1910 there were only 66 members of the Pequot tribe. Today they oversee an international casino empire, and the power which they leveraged in the early 1990s to bring about the removal of the Mason statue was real.
“You cannot alter history…”
Following the tragedy at Charlottesville, I found myself thinking back to 1991, when the residents of Mystic began their discussion about the removal of the Major John Mason statue. Of course, those opposed offered as their central argument that such removal would be “Altering History”. I wanted to remind Mystic about how local debates over the Mason statue had resulted in its relocation. I also wanted to make a public statement about how to move forward with the removal of Confederate memorials. I decided to add a touch of confrontational graffiti to the jersey barriers acting as a replacement guardrail on US Rt. 1, near the Baptist church in town.
WE REMOVED MASON’S STATUE
My goal was to send a message that removing controversial memorials had a precedent, right here in Mystic. I was surprised that the graffiti had been covered by slate grey paint the following day. Undaunted, I decided to return two nights later, to restate the message. After all, I painted graffiti on the original Mason statue in 1990:
AMERICAN FREEDOM FIGHTER
That was during the aftermath of the Iran-Contra scandal, a period when the Freedom Fighter moniker received renewed scrutiny. I returned to the jersey barriers and again sprayed in black paint:
WE REMOVED MASON’S STATUE
The message was again painted over and covered up the next day. I was shocked: it seemed that our community wouldn’t broach the topic that we had defined decades earlier, to help assuage another similar issue in another part of the country. A friend told me that descendants of Mason would have painted over my graffiti. But I was still convinced that Mystic could give our fellow citizens a roadmap toward a future that would represent shared values. Confederate memorials could be approached the way Mystic dealt with Mason. We had already established an historical precedent around the topic.
During the writing of this piece, my research has been two-fold: the resistance to change among the local population regarding the Mason Monument, and how our local controversy mirrors the protests against removing Confederate statues from the public square.
“In his effort to clarify and simplify, noted local historian, William Peterson has stated; ‘Many of us have gotten lost in a forest of peripheral issues …. The implications of removing this statue go far deeper than our own parochial interests. The real issue is not about who was right or wrong in the early 17th century; it is not about justice or injustice; it is not about sacred sites or battle sites; it is not about John Mason or genocide. The merits of these points can be argued (or acted) convincingly and emotionally, but to no one’s satisfaction. The fundamental issue is FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION – one of our basic American ideals! The location of the statue may be insensitive by today’s standards but a past generation could not possibly anticipate the moral persuasions and cultural sensitivities of future generations. The site, the plaque language, and the statue are part of the 1889 expression. The reasons that the site was sacred to the Colonists and their descendants may be different from the reasons given by other people today, but they are no less valid.’ Mr. Peterson believes
“That the statue should remain where it is, unaltered.”
“The moral and cultural sensitivities of future generations.”
This is the lesson that the generations before us did not recognize. This is not an accusation. This is a description of an awareness that is an undeniable fabric of modern American life.
The most revealing element was the counter argument from the defendants, as presented by the Mason Foundation during negotiations. The family foundation was surprisingly accommodating at every level of the negotiations, and yet they ended up with no concessions at all.
We, the members of The Mason Family Memorial Association Inc., being descendants of Major John Mason, do
hereby submit the following specific recommendations to the State of Connecticut.
1. REMOVE ENTIRE STATUE from its present location on Pequot Ave.
2. REMOVE ORIGINAL PLAQUE and loan it to a local museum. Suggested museums: The Indian and Colonial
Research Center, The Mashantucket Pequot Cultural Museum, The New London County Historical Society, The
Mystic River Hist. Soc.
3a. INSTALL STATE HISTORICAL COMMISSION MARKER at the Fort site. b. Promote acceptance and
implementation of Marcus Mason Maronn’s entire proposal for an alternative monument at Pequot Ave. site.
4. RELOCATE ENTIRE STATUE TO HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT. Site on the grounds of the State Capitol or the
5a. REBIRTH IMAGE to represent John Mason as a whole person. b. INSTALL NEW PLAQUES as per M.M.M.
6. PROCLAIM DAY OF HONOR for Major John Mason.
7. PRODUCE DOCUMENTARY FILM of the entire process for historical and educational purposes.
8. APPOINT M.F.M.A. MANAGEMENT STATUS in regards to J. M. Statue.”
However, their initial stance was confrontational:
“Marcus Mason Maronn has the right idea when he says, ‘We could save a lot of time and energy if the council simply passed a motion to dismiss this entire issue, which has no basis other than the motivation for revenge by certain radical extremists.”
Letters to the editor of the local newspaper echoed those sentiments:
“No matter the right or wrong John Mason acted according to the best thinking of the time. What happened, happened. Our monuments and writings must remain undisturbed.”
“I must be dreaming – having a nightmare, that is. An article in The Day is headlined, ‘Groton OKs loan of statue to Pequots.’ Going back in time a little, the Pequot Indians approached the Groton Town Council requesting that the John Mason statue be removed because it was ‘too painful for (them) to look at.’ Now the Pequots are to gain possession of the Mason statue for their own museum? This was a gutless decision by gutless town officials. Only Town Councilor Frank o’Beirne had a grip on reality, stating that he’s “having a hard time understanding how a statue that was offensive to them (where it is located now) … would not be offensive if they put it in their museum.’ Councilor O’Beirne expressed his concern for the welfare of the statue in an earlier meeting, a concern I share. Just how much time do the Indians spend cruising Pequot Avenue, being ‘hurt’ by the presence of an historical monument?”
The writers of these letters have attitudes similar to those of people opposed to the removal of Confederate memorials in the South. My southern friends like to remind me that the North is not so innocent.
Chicago. Cleveland. Boston. Philadelphia.
I kept turning it over in my mind, what I might have blocked out at the time, due to a myopic focus on my own expectations toward a certain outcome. The point of view that we cannot remove specific memorials was not isolated to a predetermined understanding of Southern values, but was readily expressed by Northerners during a similarly divisive discussion on inclusion and exclusion. And yet, after all of the arguments, the opinions being stated, historical precedents being presented, our community finally removed the Mason statue.
Mystic, Connecticut can show the nation a road map to the future. Our story can teach others how to remove memorials that create hate and division, through thorough negotiations with all sides represented equally.
The conflict delineates history. American history deserves to be a truthful recitation.
“In an era of great division, a point that is often missed in the Confederate monuments debate is that most factions rightly agree that history should not be erased. The question is in how it should be remembered.” — Dr. Susannah J. Ural, “Let Us Speak of What We have Done”
Ancestry.com is a Pandora’s Box. I always knew that there were wealthy slaveholders on my mother’s side, who owned large plantations in Georgia before the Civil War. But I had been told by my father that they were the exception, not the rule; and that his ancestors had been of a different class, working poor who couldn’t have owned slaves even if they’d wanted to. But the hours I’ve spent on research have disproven any imagined innocence of my paternal line. Census record after census record show that many of my predecessors on both sides owned slaves. Some may have owned just a few, but others hundreds. Sometimes the first names of these slaves are listed in census documents, but more often not, as they were considered property. There are no records of them beyond that, where they were from or where they were buried. Their descendants can’t build family trees.
All of my ancestral lines came to America early. They turn up in the first censuses taken in colonies in what are now Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas. A few were Pilgrims, several were Quakers (something I never knew) and a number were Huguenots (far more than I realized) who came here to escape religious persecution. Some came as indentured servants or prisoners of war, some as wealthy planters or traders. I’ve found four ancestors accused of being witches in colonial Massachusetts, and one hung for heresy. Many fought in the Revolutionary War, and many would fight in the Civil War, for the South. I qualify as both a “Daughter of the Revolution” and a “Daughter of the Confederacy” many times over. In other words, I’m the product of settler colonialism, both Northern and Southern.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was that one branch of my family tree was triracial (Native, Anglo, African). My great, great, great grandmother was Annie Jean Jacobs of North Carolina. The North Carolina Jacobs have been multi-racial for generations, and can be traced back to one slave, Gabriel Jacobs, who was freed around 1690. My father told me that my grandmother had some Native American ancestry, although he kept changing the name of the tribe: Tuscarora, or Waccamaw, or Lumbee. He didn’t say anything about her African American ancestry because it had been a family secret, I think, for years. Studying the census, I can see that my Jacobs ancestors made a choice around 1850 to present as white; they had previously identified as free people of color. Other Jacobs identified as Native Americans, and I have found records that classify the same person as “Mulatto”, “White”, and “Indian”. The more that I look, the more stories I uncover about the “tri-racial isolates” (as anthropologists call them) of North Carolina. Their histories are case studies about the complex realities of racial identity in early America. I can see on paper the effects of changing laws (for example the one-drop rule) on the Jacobs over generations.
I wish I could share these discoveries with my father, but he isn’t speaking to me, because I don’t like Trump or the Confederate flag.
When people ask me where I am from, I tell them Atlanta, Georgia. If they ask me if I consider myself Southern, I say yes. I suppose if I tracked all my days from the ages of 0 to 18, most of them would have been lived above the Mason Dixon. But I spent the first 6 years of my life in Georgia, and my ancestors have lived in the South since before the Revolutionary War. Moving as a child to the most Yankee of places—Mystic, Connecticut—didn’t change that.
For those who aren’t locals, Mystic is beautiful historic village on the coast of Connecticut, close to the Rhode Island border. The Mystic Seaport is there, and the Charles Morgan, the only wooden whaling ship left in the world. Mystic is a place where the lines between past and present constantly blur, and it is easy to time travel there (especially as a teenager on acid).
After my stepfather got a job at the Mystic Seaport, he moved us into a house on Pequot Avenue, a street that cuts across the hills above town, running parallel to the river, down to the sea. Clift Street climbs up from the river to meet Pequot Avenue at its top. At the intersection of Clift and Pequot, there is an odd little roundabout, just a circle of grass, that forces drivers around it for no discernible reason. The roundabout isn’t a speed bump or an abandoned garden; instead it served for many years as the base for a statue of John Mason, a local colonial hero.
Mason’s statue was erected to commemorate a raid that he led on the Pequot tribe in 1637, afterwards known as the Mystic Massacre: “Major John Mason… said, We must burn them, and … brought out a firebrand, and putting it into the matts with which they were covered, set the wigwams on fire. Within minutes, Mistick Fort was engulfed … In one hour, more than 400 Pequot men, women and children were killed.”
The Pequot War is a pivotal moment in colonial history; the tribe was vanquished so the English could continue to take over Connecticut. Mason’s statue was placed near the approximate location of the Pequots’ fort, and its purpose was forthright: it was to mark, in space and time, the successful displacement of natives by settlers. The local people (including some Mason descendants) who devoted themselves to the cause of raising a memorial on Pequot Avenue—a considerable investment of time, energy, and money—did not question his heroism. Their intention was that the statue would evoke awe and gratitude in its viewers. After all, without Mason, there wouldn’t be white people in Mystic, or Connecticut for that matter.
As a kid, I didn’t understand that my house was built where hundreds of Native people burned to death. But the woods behind our house scared me, and I never explored it. I waited for the school bus at Mason, sometimes leaning against him, or climbing over him, or chasing my friends around him. I read the inscription on his base again and again—“Erected AD 1889 By the State of Connecticut to commemorate the heroic achievement of Major John Mason and his comrades, who near this spot in 1637, overthrew the Pequot Indians, and preserved the settlements from destruction”—but I didn’t wonder about the story being told, let alone the stories being left out. He was huge, bronze, and he had a sword. Looked like a hero to me!
But as I grew older, my feelings about Mason and his statue changed. I was not alone. Mason and his troops, despite their best efforts, didn’t kill off all the Pequots, and descendants of the massacre survivors still live in the area. After getting federal recognition in 1983, they built a huge casino on their reservation, Foxwoods, which became a spectacular success. Regaining economic and political power in Connecticut after centuries of marginalization, the tribe again became a force to reckon with, and they directed some of that force at taking Mason down. For them, the statue was an insult, the equivalent of a murderer doing a victory dance on top of his victims, and its removal was imperative. After years of efforts by activists, Mason was relocated, peacefully, away from the site of the massacre, leaving only grass behind. There was some local fuss but certainly nothing like the deadly riots over the Robert E. Lee memorial in Charlottesville. My stepfather, an old Yankee through and through, was fascinated by the archeologists digging around his yard. He did not protest Mason’s removal, unlike some of our neighbors, but he was once a history teacher, and better prepared than most to think through the complexities of public memorialization.
When the topic of Confederate memorials started appearing in headlines a few years ago, my first reaction was their removal was a bad idea. I imagined all the statues in little towns across the South, and then Charlottesville-style violence erupting at each one because of outsiders coming into peaceful communities. Leave those statues alone, I thought, don’t make trouble!
But then a friend from Mystic reminded me of Mason coming down. The statue’s removal and relocation were reparative acts. Instead of just accepting history as told by “the winners”, Pequot activists demanded acknowledgement of other perspectives. For them, Mason is nothing to celebrate; he destroyed their culture. By challenging the established narrative of his heroism, they made room for other views, for example that colonization is a cruel and destructive process, based on theft and murder. Their perspective is valid, and could apply to many other memorials on American soil as well.
My initial resistance to the removal of Confederate memorials was due to my consideration of only one side of the story. There are several men in my family tree who fought for the South. My mother’s elderly relatives in Eatonton, Georgia, still referred to “The War” and told stories passed down about Sherman’s March (his troops stole all the food but spared the Steinway piano). My father told me more times than I can count that the display of Confederate memorials and flags is intended to “honor our ancestors”. What he never mentioned, and still doesn’t seem to consider, is the perspective of the descendants of slaves. The Civil War and its aftermath are still quite present for them too, but there aren’t any flags or statues for their ancestors, although they suffered much more than ours did before, during, and after “The War”.
Many of my ancestors once owned slaves, and fought a war so that they could keep on with that owning. There is no way to separate that truth from the existence of Confederate memorials. Public sculptures aren’t just gravestones, created to honor individual family members. They are monuments in common space that everyone sees while going about their daily business. In my opinion, we should certainly remember and memorialize our dead, but we can’t ask (or force) others to honor them, as Confederate statues in public space demand. There are many bodies in Southern ground unmarked by even the smallest of stones: the bodies of people stolen from their families, then abused, and then buried in strange soil. We should remember and honor their lives too, rather than continuing to erase their histories.
Two years ago, in July 2017, I attended a festival organized by my father, Ben “Cooter” Jones, at his Dukes of Hazzard museum and store in Luray, Virginia. Although I was glad to be with my family, I was uneasy about everything else. My father had created the festival as a response to the ongoing controversy over Confederate symbols. It had been two years at that point since the Charleston shooting, and during that time, my father had doubled-down on his defense of Confederate flags and memorials, even serving as spokesperson for the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Because of his role as Cooter Davenport on The Dukes of Hazzard, my father still has a certain celebrity. His events can draw thousands of fans. As a public figure, his opinions carry weight and have consequences outside our family. While wandering the midway, I tried to laugh with the crowds at the monster truck races and wrestling matches, but what I really felt was dread. I kept repeating “freedom of speech, freedom of speech” to myself, as if that would fix what was going on around and inside me. My father’s anger at “Political Correctness” was spilling out more often, both onstage and off, and he was directing some of it at me, the lefty, queer New Yorker. The audience gave him validation for his beliefs, something I could no longer do.
In August 2017, just a month after my father’s festival, a group of white supremacists held a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a town an hour south of Luray. They came to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee memorial. They flew Nazi and Confederate flags, burned torches, and chanted racist and fascist slogans like: “Jews Will Not Replace Us.” During the rally, James Fields, a neo-Nazi, rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing Heather Heyer and injuring almost 20 other people. He was sentenced to life in prison for this act, after pleading guilty to 29 hate crime charges.
My father is holding another festival this summer, two years almost to the day of the Charlottesville riot. I wonder if he chose the dates that he did because he is aware that some of his fans were likely at the rally in 2017, flying Confederate flags purchased from his stores. Perhaps he is trying to offer them an alternative venue for their complaints, to make things safer for them and for those they disagree with. I hope so.
I’m sad about my estrangement from my father, because I love him, no matter what differences we have. This is not our first falling out, and perhaps we will be able to reconcile again. But it is more likely that our Civil War will continue. My father is furious because he feels that his freedom of speech is under assault, although in reality he remains completely free to fly the Confederate flag and to state his beliefs. And I’m furious too, about his demands that I respect and agree with ALL of his opinions, while not being allowed to have any of my own. It is an oppressive dynamic, a dictatorship rather than a relationship, and a double standard that is no longer acceptable to me.
“The Full Moon on Tuesday, July 16, 2019, at 24 degrees Capricorn is a partial lunar eclipse. The lunar eclipse July 2019 astrology is powerful and confrontational because of close conjunction to Pluto. Intense emotional reactions, compulsive behavior, and power struggles are likely to result in a crisis. Lunar eclipse July 2019 is also square the dwarf planet Eris which will reenergize the #MeToo Movement. It will strengthen the feminist attack on the patriarchal authority. Other planetary aspects and fixed stars point to scandal, intrigue, public disgrace, and destroyed reputations. But they also give hope that empathy and understanding will lead to lasting changes.” https://astrologyking.com/lunar-eclipse-july-2019/
featuring Models: Piper Meyers, my Capricorn and Lehla Owens, my Aries from the Personal Universe series, 2018
16 July 2019 during the Full Buck July Moon, a Partial Lunar Eclipse in Capricorn and a Cardinal Grand Cross: Cardinal Fire represented by Lehla as Aries, Cardinal Water represented by the Sun in Cancer, Cardinal Air represented by the Photographer as Libra, and Cardinal Earth represented by Piper as Capricorn
The July Full Moon is known as the Buck Moon, because, “the Algonquin tribes in what is now the Eastern USA called this full Moon the Buck Moon. Early Summer is normally when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. They also called this the Thunder Moon because of early Summer’s frequent thunderstorms.” https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/995/july-2019-the-next-full-moon-is-the-buck-moon/ Here we used braids to represent the antlers for the Full Moon.
Photographed by Michelle Gemma
Elm Grove Cemetery, Mystic, CT USA
excerpt from “Turquoise Days”, Echo and the Bunnymen, Heaven Up Here, 1981.
“In 1981, music magazine the NME described the album as darker and more passionate than 1980’s Crocodiles. The Record Mirror also said that the band sang the blues and devoted themselves to existential sadness. They went on to note that the album offered ‘an anatomy of melancholy, resplendent with the glamour of doom’ ”
featuring Model: Lena Curland
The Full Flower Moon of May
18 May 2019
Stonington Borough, CT USA
Allow me to explain the legend of Chicken Charlie’s Rock. As you may have gathered, my daughter Marley has nothing to do with the tale, paths with Charlie having crossed nearly two lifetimes ago from her vantage point.
She simply accompanied me on a trip down memory lane. (Her sister Jules, aka Green Machine, was back at grandma’s house, glued to the weather forecast praying for snow).
Naturally, the trip included a handful of slow laps around the same parking lot where my grandfather first let me drive. I was twelve, thirteen tops. Having just turned thirteen, Marley got her turn at the wheel, the same as I did–no gas, permitted only to ease a foot off the brake pedal, achieving no more speed than cruising on idle would allow. Still, I imagine it to have been as exhilarating for her as it was for me, sitting beside my grandfather in my mother’s newly acquired used car.
Chicken Charlie’s Rock started out simply as The Rock, a massive granite protrusion that I have since come to recognize as endemic to the New England landscape. Our rock sat in the woods just behind the Village Green Apartments where my sister and I moved with our mother the year our parents split up. In time, Kim found her set of friends and got on with her thing. And I found my set of friends, Gary C. principal among them. We spent the vast majority of our spare time exploring the woods, at first on foot, then by bicycle. Eventually, we acquired motorized transportation allowing us to explore the far reaches of the woods by dirt bike, a string of secluded waterfalls leading the way to an abandoned rock quarry. The details of our gas-powered antics will have to wait for a future installment of my tales of a kid from Connecticut, making his way in the world.
The Rock played a central role as home base for our activities during breaks from school. We waged one-pump BB-gun wars on and around the rock (thankfully, no one shot their eye out). We built forts. Debriefed atop the rock upon successful completion of our daily excursions, conjured future plans sitting in full survey of the entire universe as far as any of us was concerned. We formed and strengthened bonds on that rock, tested allegiances. Through thick and thin, we grew up together.
Last and most certainly not least, I had my first kiss on the rock. We can debate whether woman or man is capable of achieving perfection. Whether any of us would know how to conduct ourselves if perfection were to show up one day and plop down in front of us. Still, I am eternally grateful to have borne witness to the tender beginnings of what I imagined at the time to be as near to perfection as might ever exist–Andrea P.
Andrea was outgoing, energetic, athletic. She would hang with us most every day, doing anything we could do and then some, though we never lost sight of the prospect that Andrea was separate from us. She was GLORIOUS–outgoing, energetic and all that jazz, and glorious to boot.
I can still picture her–even brown skin with deep set eyes like she was imagining things bigger than the rest of us were capable of comprehending and a mouth that made you wonder why lips were ever used for anything other than kissing. It would be years before I’d get another glimpse at perfection, that shift in perspective that occurs when you meet someone so far removed in thinking, in examining the world from anyone you’ve encountered, who inspires you to be more than you might have known achievable without the benefit of her outlook.
Even Andrea can’t claim responsibility for the naming of Chicken Charlie’s Rock. Charlie was a kid who moved to Village Green a couple of years into the rest of us having settled in the neighborhood. He earned the Chicken part on account of his run–stiff and upright, a cardboard cutout of a kid pushing like a sheet of plywood against a determined wind. A thick mop of rust colored hair stood on end, flopping in rhythm with the breeze to form the crowned comb atop a rooster’s head. This coupled with an innate chicken-shit demeanor and Charlie couldn’t hope to escape the nickname.
One summer, we found ourselves in possession of a length of sturdy rope. We tugged on it, swung on it, bound and tied various things with it, Chicken Charlie included if memory serves. Gary and I eventually got the notion to drop the length of rope down the face of the rock and scale the damn thing. This was well before rock climbing was popularized as sport, housed in purpose-built gyms. Instead, we climbed to achieve the pinnacle of adventure for boys growing up in Village Green.
For reasons I can’t remember, Chicken Charlie accompanied us on our maiden voyage, our trusty rope securely in place. But, being Chicken Charlie, he couldn’t be convinced to venture a climb. After several successful roundtrips apiece, Gary and I headed down the face for lunch. When we stepped outside again, we were met by a high-pitched screeching. We took off in the direction the woods where we found Charlie dangling from the length of rope having steeled his nerves to attempt the climb in private, free from jeers over his upright, stiff, plywood way of doing things.
Whether midway up or midway down the face, only Charlie can say for certain. But there he was, clinging for dear life, screaming at the top of his lungs for somebody to save him. We sprang into action. I took my place as spotter at the base of the rock should Charlie lose his grip and fall the rest of the way to the ground while Gary sprinted around to the summit then scaled down the face and escorted Charlie to safety–all in a day’s work for a couple of boy adventurers. And that’s how The Rock came to be known as Chicken Charlie’s Rock.
Everything changed after school resumed that fall. Andrea advanced to junior high leaving us to toil another year steeped in our elementary school, king of the hill, BB-gun warrior nonsense. She and her family moved out of state within the ensuing year. Gary’s parents found more spacious digs to accommodate their brood a couple of streets over, within the same neighborhood. But that quashed nearly all activity around the rock as the center of our daily adventures. Chicken Charlie eventually disappeared too. I can’t tell you with any certainty what any of us did the next summer. Some things together, many other things apart from one another. Junior high and high school eventually exposing us to our respective, separate new worlds. But that summer forged bonds that have persisted to this day.
I have limited interest to unearth what became of Chicken Charlie. But look who I found via Facebook–Andrea P. decades removed from those days on The Rock but little worse for the wear. And still Glorious. (Images used with permission.)