Shameless in Brattleboro: Stories From Higley Hill

Now that we are back on the grid, most evenings my husband and I watch series TV together. Breaking Bad and Mad Men are in the rotation right now. We have also been shamelessly wasting our viewing time watching Shameless, a series starring William H. Macy.

In case you’re not familiar with the show, Macy plays Frank Gallagher, the alcoholic father of six kids. He is almost always drunk and passed out on the floor. Fiona, his oldest daughter, takes care of the kids while her father is out drinking and working schemes to collect disability or someone else’s social security check.

The kids are adept at making ends meet; stealing food from the back of a delivery truck, pinching pennies from Unicef collections, and various other scams. In the first few episodes I liked the kids’ grit and solidarity as a family but by the end of the second season enough was enough.

The show moves at a frenetic pace. Everyone’s always rushing around. In most episodes Fiona is running through the house in her bra pulling a T-shirt on or off.

In my mind, Shameless reinforces the stereotypical crap politicians use when they try to gut services for the poor. It’s Ronald Reagan’s welfare queen driving the pink cadillac, reinforcing the belief that everyone on welfare is gaming the system.

Remember during the Great Recession when Obama extended unemployment benefits and the Republicans fought it? They argued most of the unemployed didn’t want to go back to work because they made more money collecting.

As a bookkeeper, I have filled out state unemployment forms for over thirty years. Unemployment is insurance. Your employer pays into the program every quarter. This money is a trust, an insurance plan paid for by employers. Not you. Not the government. No one makes more money collecting unemployment and because this is America, when you lose your job you lose your health insurance.

Fact: Most people would rather sleep in a comfortable bed than under a bridge where Frank Gallagher was found in one episode.


The other night, Rich and I found ourselves Shameless in Brattleboro.

Before it unfolded, we stopped at a shopping plaza where Rich went into a barber shop to get a haircut and I perused the aisles of Rite-Aid.

Rich doesn’t have a regular barber and will bravely stop in any old place, so of course he has a lot of barber shop stories. He found his favorite barber in Queens. We were flying to St. Kitts for our 20th wedding anniversary and our flight was canceled due a snowstorm so we hung around Queens for an afternoon. Rich decided he was overdue for a haircut. The barber was a professional soccer player from Jordan and offered the full service, which included hot towels and a shave. He also watched international soccer on cable TV. Rich says it’s the best haircut he ever got.

After the Brattleboro haircut, Rich of course had new barber shop stories to share. This time he and the barber discussed hometowns and they somehow connected the dots that make up the surprisingly small world we live in.

Rich’s lifelong friend who also lives on Higley Hill had a college roommate who grew up in the same town as the barber, so Rich asked, “Do you know Danny Kippit?”

The barber did. They were both on the football team in high school. Danny once sold Rich and his friend a one-ton truck with a camper attached. It was the truck they moved to Colorado in when they were nineteen. They rebuilt it, painted it forest green, and replaced the front seat with a crushed red velour bench seat from a Lincoln Continental. It blew the engine in Denver, then the rear end went and the truck was dead in the water.

The barber told Rich one of the busiest times of year is when the mountain men come out of hibernation.

“Come March, the boys start coming out of the woods,” the barber said. “They’ve got the full beard and long hair. They need the full service. It gets pretty crazy in here.”

After the haircut, I told Rich about a motel across the street from the Rite-Aid. They were getting rid of some nice looking night tables and had placed them on the sidewalk along the road. We drove over to check them out.

When we pulled into the parking lot, a man had two of the six tables already loaded onto the bed of his truck. He was on his cell phone, probably asking his wife how many more she wanted. We decided they might be too low so we passed on them and headed home.

I guess you could say our Shameless show started with the dump picking in the motel parking lot but it really took off when we stopped at the state liquor store.

There was only one cashier working that night. When we walked in the store she was dealing with a difficult transaction. Something to do with a debit malfunction out at the gas pumps. A woman was charged for diesel. She had purchased unleaded. The cashier told the customer it happens sometimes. She was unfamiliar with processing a credit. The line running parallel to the counter started to grow.

We joined the back of the line which was now up against the entrance door. The man at the front of the line noticed and moved his carriage so he was facing the counter. Everyone followed suit and formed a perpendicular line along the whiskey aisle.

“We should form a conga line and you guys follow me up and down the aisles of the store while we wait,” the man at the front said. A few people started to cha-cha.

The cashier finally figured out the credit transaction. It was now the man at the front of the line’s turn. His carriage was filled with individual granola bars, snickers, and bags of Fritos and Bugles. He also had bottles of vodka, gin, and single bottles of local IPA beers and soda.

“Sorry,” he said, turning to the rest of us and smiling sheepishly.

Rich said, “This is the seven items or less line.”

Everyone was joking around, waiting to purchase bottles of booze and six packs of beer. People talked about the weather and the ski traffic over school vacation week. I put our six-pack of Guinness Blonde on the floor by my feet. Rich was holding bottles of Jameson and Svedka vodka. When you live in Vermont, it’s not just the mountain men who come out of the woods and attend to overdue business. Shopping is always an expedition.

When the man’s basketful of individually scanned items was finally rung up, he wheeled away from the counter and then turned and said, “Oh, wait a minute. I need a money order.”

Everyone groaned. Behind us, a mountain man with a beard down to his chest and a pint of White Lightening in his hand said, “Hey, I was clean-shaven when I came in here.”

“Hold your horses. This is your second time in here today,” the cashier hollered back.

“Kidding,” the front of the line man said. “I’m just kidding.” He turned around and rolled his carriage out to the parking lot.

The bearded man shouted to the cashier, “Hey, did you get those X-tra large condoms I ordered? The nice sheepskin ones?”

“Behave yourself,” she said.

“How about porn magazines? Did you get any new ones?” he asked.

“Yeah. We got the gay ones, too,” the cashier snapped back.

Back in the car we laughed about how we had stepped into our own episode of Shameless.

I’m not going to speculate on whether some of the people in the store were alcoholics scamming the system although a few reminded me of shameless Frank Gallagher. When I look at the world around me I look from a place of hope. We were a group of people waiting in a long line on a Friday night. Everyone was friendly. Everyone was patient. Some even had a raucous sense of humor.

There’s a line from Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter that might apply here:

“Nowadays, I’m willing to say yes to as much as I can: yes to my town, my neighborhood, my neighbor, yes to his car, her lawn and hedge and rain gutters. Let things be the best they can be. Give us all a good night’s sleep until it’s over.”

Yes, until it’s over. Many Americans aren’t sleeping well these days. Five weeks into the Trump presidency the entire world is reeling.

Sometimes all it takes to keep an open mind is to walk out your front door and bear witness. It really is a small world. You may meet a Middle Eastern immigrant soccer player turned barber who gives you the best haircut of your life. A few friendly people in a liquor store may provide a much needed laugh. It doesn’t take much to get out and experience the world with your own eyes.

As we drove up the dark mountain I told Rich, “We are not watching that shameless show tonight.”

Instead we watched Mad Men. It was the episode after President Kennedy was assassinated. Newly divorced Don Draper was on a date with a young woman. Three civil rights workers had recently been killed in Mississippi. The young woman told Don she was breaking her rule of not dating divorced men because a mutual friend has made Don her project.

Don looks bemused and says, “There are so many real problems in the world right now.”

Yes there are, and the world spins madly on.

Weary To My Bones: Stories From Higley Hill

It was a blue sky Saturday. Large dagger-like icicles dripped from the roof. I had an errand to run in Bennington. Rich said he would join me and after the errand we could drive across the New York border.

“It will be like when we use to escape the Inn,” he said. “Just hop in the car and head out for some random exploring.”

I checked the map. My finger followed a loop taking Route 9 out of Bennington that turns in to Route 7 at the New York border, hook a right in Hoosick and take Route 22 to Hoosick Falls.

“It’s probably one of those old mill towns powered by the falls. We could walk around, check out some cool old architecture, maybe find a coffee shop or a brew pub.”

“Let’s go,” Rich said.


Hoosick River, New York

We drove through downtown Wilmington where cars with New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut plates waited at the red light in the center of town on President’s Day weekend at the start of a school vacation week. The height of the ski and snowmobile season. Old Man Winter has been generous this year, conditions are good and local business is doing well.

Route 9 climbs up and over the Green Mountains then descends into Bennington where I quickly ran into CVS to pick up a prescription then we were back on the road. The Bennington Battle Monument loomed in the distance, a 306 foot stone phallic symbol commemorating a revolutionary war battle.


Bennington Battle Monument

In 1777, the Continental Army once stored weapons and food where the monument now stands. The British, camped out in Upstate New York, were planning a raid on the provisions. John Stark and 1400 other men from New Hampshire were called on to help the Green Mountain Boys defend the provisions.

Back in 1752, Stark had distinguished himself when he was out hunting and fishing along the Baker River in Manchester, New Hampshire. He was captured by Abenaki Indians. They took him  to Canada where he was forced to run a gauntlet of warriors wielding sticks. He grabbed one of the sticks and began to defend himself. The Abernaki chief was so impressed he adopted Stark and John spent the winter with the tribe. In the spring of 1753, a government agent was sent to rescue him. He paid $103 in ransom for Stark’s release.

Six years later, in 1759 during the French and Indian war, Stark was ordered to travel from Lake George to an Abenaki village deep in Quebec. He refused to participate in the raid out of respect for the tribe that had adopted him and instead, he returned home to his wife Molly.


Hoosick Falls, New York

We drove past collapsing barns, fields dotted with rusted farm equipment, and empty silos. I thought about the Patriots who once lived here, farmed these fields, settled the towns, and fought for freedom. Rich and I discussed the President’s Day holiday, how it was once Washington and Lincoln’s Birthday but then became one holiday celebrating the American Presidency on a three day weekend.

Our friend, Peter, was visiting with us for the weekend. He and his daughter were back at Mount Snow skiing for the day. The night they arrived he reminisced about the cherry pie his mom always made. We talked about George Washington and the pie and “I cannot tell a lie.”

“Now it’s alternative facts,” I said. With nothing else to say, we all nodded sadly.

We passed through Hoosick quickly. It was like a lot of the New England-Upstate New York towns we’ve traveled through since returning from Florida. Empty mills, peeling paint houses, old cars abandoned in the backyard, sagging front porches. Forgotten chapters from the story of Election 2016 that many politicians skipped over. But I saw it. I was writing it all down.


Hoosick Falls, NY

Before we left the house I quickly Googled Hoosick Falls and saw mention of a brew pub. I also quickly glanced at a link to a New York Times article about contaminated water but once Rich decides he’s ready to go somewhere, he’s ready to go.

“If we find this brew pub, we need to ask if they use local water to make the beer,” I told him.


Pub for Sale in Hoosick Falls, NY

We never did find the brew pub or any dining and drinking establishment that was open for business. I’ve seen some sad cities in my time. Woonsocket, Hinsdale, Torrington, Waterbury, the list goes on. Many are off Route 91, aka the Heroin Highway. Places where you can find the answer to the question, How did Trump win the election? The intrigue wasn’t only coming out of Russia. It was all here, right next door, just a short drive from the bright lights of the cities and the driveways of suburbia.

Hoosick Falls is one of the saddest places I’ve visited. Most of the buildings were empty. The streets were empty too. A family of four walked a snow covered trail along the Hoosick River where we parked our car. A woman with weights in her hands walked briskly across the bridge. Other than that no one was around on this blue sky day.

We walked a few blocks. I snapped some photos. Rich wanted to go in a barber shop but the guy was closing for the day.


Thorpe’s Hoosick Falls, NY

Grandma Moses is buried somewhere near here. Her paintings depict the landscape in and around Hoosick Falls in a different time. A different America.

We took a different road back to West Bennington. Before crossing the border into Vermont, we passed the Battle of Bennington battlefield, now a state park  in Walloomsac, New York. The British soldiers never made it across the border to Vermont. On August 16, 1777 they were decisively defeated by George Washington and his troops, joined by the Green Mountain Boys, and John Stark and his men from New Hampshire.


Pharmacy Hoosick Falls, NY

It was a quiet drive home. Our adventure didn’t turn out as expected. Back at the house, I Googled Hoosick Falls again. I was curious about what happened to this ghost town. I discovered a man named Michael Hickey contacted the state requesting a drinking water test after his Dad died of kidney cancer in 2014. The Saint Gobain Performance Plastics plant has now been declared a super fund site and the residents of Hoosick Falls have been told the water is contaminated with the toxic chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which is used in making teflon and household cleaning products. The chemical has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer as well as other health issues. Erin Brockovich has visited the Hoosick Falls.

According to CNN, late last year, more than a year after the first samples showed higher-than-advised levels of PFOA, the EPA issued an advisory recommending village residents avoid cooking with and drinking the water.


Tattered Flag Hoosick Falls, NY

I knew Trump had done well in Upstate New York and I’d seen the lawn signs myself when we worked at the inn and took day trips through Duchess County to places like Hudson, Millerton, and Rhinebeck. Google only gave me election results by county. In Rensselaer County, the district Hoosick Falls votes in, Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 2 percentage points. During the primaries, Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton 60.255% to 39.75%.

As always, the story of this election was right there, laid out before us in a landscape of forgotten places, struggling middle class Americans, toxic drinking water, ineffective politicians, and insufficient news voters could use. Most people weren’t paying attention and neither was the media.

I was. I’ve been writing about it since the day I started writing five years ago. Not that it makes me smarter than anyone. I’ve often been mistaken and I’m very confused these days. I don’t even know where this blog is going.


Storefront in Hoosick Falls, NY

I fear it’s all going to get worse. Scott Pruitt runs the EPA, Betsy DeVos is in charge of public education, and Trump replayed the election results in one of the scariest, craziest press conferences I’ve ever watched.

The history of America is always around us. The historic houses, the museums, the battlefields, the old graveyards. The lies to Native Americans at Standing Rock. The misinformation, the rewriting of history.  Does anyone pay attention? Trump never mentions history. I’m quite sure he’s never heard of the Battle of Bennington. He and his administration recently spoke of Frederick Douglas as if he were still alive.

I’m weary. I don’t know what to do. It often feels like a losing battle. Although others make excuses and disregard their own culpability, I am well aware of what went wrong. I’ve been watching this unfold since Ronald Reagan. As Jack Kemp once said,“{Murdoch) used the editorial page, the front page and every other page of The New York Post to elect Ronald Reagan president” and that led to smooth sailing on his effort to build Fox. I don’t think I need to tell where that took the “news”.

I’ve been fighting this battle for a long time and my optimism is growing dim. It’s not what it used to be.


Message of Hope in Hoosick Falls, NY

John Stark was married to Molly. They had eleven children. Molly never lived in Vermont but she is immortalized here in the town I now live in. There is the Molly Stark hiking trail on Hogback Mountain and a statue of her in the center of town. The scenic byway we take from Brattleboro to Bennington is called the Molly Stark Trail.

Molly ran a hospital in her home in Manchester, New Hampshire and cared for her husband John’s troops during a smallpox epidemic. She is most famous for her husband’s battle cry on the night he fought the Battle of Bennington. “There are your enemies, the Red Coats and the Tories. They are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow!”

Small things leading to big things. A man fighting for freedom and liberty. His wife supporting the effort while raising eleven children. Do small things add up? Is that how history is made?

Keep making those phone calls, my friends.

Keep sharing real news.

Talk to people who don’t agree with you. Educate them.

Show up at your town meetings. Don’t let your representatives hide. Remember they work for us. Our taxes pay their salaries, their pensions, and their awesome health insurance.

There are two marches coming up in April. The March for Science could be as large as the Women’s March, possibly even larger. The links are below. It should’t be hard to find one near where you live. Hang in there. Remember, we’re all in this together. You are not alone.

March For Science, Earth Day, April 22 

Tax Day Marches April 15

And there’s always music:

This Story Has No End: Stories From the Women’s March



Women’s March January 21, 2017 Washington DC

January 22-23, 2017. The Journey Home

We slept late, tired legs and feet, aching knees, and slightly more optimistic hearts. My oldest daughter’s 25th birthday was on Friday,  Inauguration Day, not a great day to reach the milestone of a quarter century. I hadn’t sent birthday presents yet. It’s hard to shop in Vermont, there are no big box stores or popular chains nearby, and I love that about Vermont, but here in the DC neighborhood of Friendship Heights it is a short walk to a world of shopping. I bought a soft leather wallet and incredibly soft knee socks at DSW, a long sleeved blue RBX activewear shirt at Marshall’s, and blue crystal drop earrings at World Market. I also found  lavender for my younger daughter who has been wanting to use it in her creme brûlée recipe. The cashiers at this very hip store I had never been to before had attended the march too. Everyone was fired up and  still rushing with adrenaline.

One of the cashier said, “We can’t stop here. We have to keep fighting but what do we do? I’ve heard there are already plans for another march in April.”

I swiped my debit card and said, “Well, I’ve been to DC a lot but I’ve never seen the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Until then I think we need to keep calling our representatives.”

Ann had an early work day on Monday. My flight wasn’t leaving until 10:40 pm but I told her she could bring me to the airport early. I could watch the Patriots football game. She got me there by the end of the first quarter and I found a seat at the bar right across from my gate. Women still wearing pink hats roamed the airport and the Patriots had a ten point lead. I ordered an Obrycki’s Amber Ale. I know my around here, I’ve been to this bar before.

An older couple to my left were engrossed in their own conversation and weren’t interested in the game. They didn’t like the Patriots they told me. They hate Tom Brady.

The menu was limited but the crab salsa and nacho chips looked good. The bartender told me he was out of food. I ordered another beer and posted pictures on Instagram until two brothers arrived. They sat one seat down from me then George arrived and took that empty seat. All three of them didn’t like the Patriots  and a lively discussion about Deflategate ensued. I told them they were all just jealous.


At Obryicki’s Bar, BWI Airport

The brothers had brought their Dad on a fishing trip to Costa Rica for his 80th birthday and were now headed home. One brother lived in rural Pennsylvania and the other Connecticut. They met here in Baltimore where their Dad lives. George lives in rural Maryland and was on his way to Wisconsin to sell some sort of heating pipes. He owns his own business. They of course asked where I was headed and what I was doing in Baltimore. When I told them I was in DC for the women’s march they laughed and smiled like it was something silly or futile.

I told them it was amazing then laughed and said,  “I guess we don’t agree on football or politics.” I changed the subject to the weather. All of our flights had been delayed and whenever in doubt, discuss the weather.

Then they surprised me. Connecticut said “I voted for Bernie, but I couldn’t vote for her.”

“Me too, couldn’t do it,” his brother from Pennsylvania said.

We all looked at George from Maryland. He looked up from his beer and said, “Me, too. I voted for Bernie but I couldn’t trust her.”

heard this time and time again over the course of the election. My heart still aches when I think about Bernie and What If.

I sighed. I could have replied, “And you trust Trump?”

But did I really want to go there at a bar in the middle of the Southwest terminal? We started to talk about the things we did agree on: the economy, the middle class, Wall Street greed, the cost of college.

“Trump has appointed three guys from Goldman Sachs,” I reminded them.

They had all the talking points. I knew where they got their news although George swore he watched MSNBC. They all believed Trump wouldn’t really disrupt things like healthcare. They said gay marriage and abortion weren’t big concerns of theirs and they weren’t worried about Trump disrupting any of that. I asked them about Paul Ryan and the vote to repeal the ACA. They all agreed Trump won’t let that happen without a replacement.

The Patriots scored another touchdown. The brothers left to board their respective flights. George wanted to talk more politics. We both ordered another beer. He seemed to feel the need to defend himself. He thought there were too many taxes on a small business owner like himself and the government wasted a lot of his hard earned money. He wanted me to understand his point of view and he reminded me of the builder I worked for in Pompano Beach. A nice guy. George was worried about the Putin situation. I sensed he had a few doubts about his voting decision.

“So what do you think you accomplished?” he asked.

I told him it wouldn’t end with the march. We were fired up to go home and get active. There would be more protests and marches. We would call our representatives. I would be writing about it. I told him I understood his dislike of Hillary and I too was tired of politics as usual. The money, the lobbying. I told him I also understood the frustration. My husband paints houses for a living and we struggle to pay the bills.

Boarding for his flight had begun. The bar was closing. We wished each other safe travels and I found a wall outlet to plug my phone into.

Two young girls were using the same outlet. They were sitting on the floor holding hands, one girl with a crewcut and the other with long blond hair. They had marched in Austin, Texas where they met and used to live and were now on their way home to Providence. I told them I was staying with my daughter but now that we weren’t arriving until 12:50 I was thinking of calling Uber but was having trouble loading the app. The blond helped me but in the end I didn’t have enough available data for it to load.

The other girl said, “Just call your daughter. Even if it was three in the morning, I’d still pick up my mom.”

She was right, of course. My daughter told me she’d come get me.

On the plane I took the aisle seat next to two other young girls still wearing their pink hats. Across from me were two women around my age who had also marched. We discussed what was next and a mother and daughter behind me also joined the conversation.

The daughter said, “You’re so lucky Bernie is your senator.”

Leaning into the aisle, I craned my neck to see her behind me. “I wish we were all so lucky,” I said.

She and her mother made sad faces. We all exchanged emails and promised to keep in touch regarding upcoming protest events in New England.

My daughter was waiting right outside the door and we got back to her apartment at 1:15 but I couldn’t fall asleep. Exhausted but still excited about the weekend I went online and read all the stories and commentary. At peaceful marches all over the world, no one was arrested. No riots broke out. I fell asleep at three a.m.

On Monday January 23, 2000 women who were traveling home from the Women’s March on Washington showed up at their state capital in Salt Lake City, Utah with their signs from DC. It was the day the state legislature opened and they wanted their voices to be heard. They led the charge to keep on fighting.

The marches are just the beginning of this story. I don’t know where and when this story ends. Like some of the signs at the march said, “I Can’t Believe We’re Still Protesting This Shit.” There’s a lot of work to be done. We need to fight for what we believe in and stop this President from tearing down everything we’ve built up over the years.

But we also need to change the way we do politics in America. I sensed it in the conversation at the BWI bar while watching a football game with three decent guys who voted reluctantly and now shared some regret but are still hoping things will be okay. I don’t feel that hope, I don’t feel like it’s going to be okay but I did tell George before he left that I was going to be fighting every day to make sure both parties were listening.

As Gloria Steinem said on Saturday, “The constitution doesn’t begin with I the President. It begins with We the People.”

Once again I slept late. I left Providence at ten. A nor’easter was approaching and I needed to beat the storm to Vermont. By late afternoon the weatherman was forecasting twenty-four hours of snow and ice. Crossing the border into the Green Mountain state I felt like I had left the rest of the mad world behind me.

George asked me about Vermont. “There’s a lot of poverty there, right?”

Yes there is poverty, quite a bit of it. I tried to explain the state of mind that is Vermont but it’s not easy. It’s a unique place. An American place. Different yet still the same. We’re all in this together.


Brattleboro VT’s inimitable grunge style

***Join the conversation. If you attended a march share your stories in the comments section below.***

Keep speaking up. Here is one suggestion for something to keep this train moving:


We Are America: Stories From the Women’s March on Washington

Loyalty to the Nation all the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it” ~ Mark Twain


We The People

January 21, 2017. We started the day with bagels and coffee and a stop at CVS for poster board and magic markers. The shelves were almost empty. It was another sign the media was underestimating this march. All that was left was a package of ten small multi-colored poster boards and medium size red and black Sharpie pens. Our signs were pretty weak compared to the other signs we would see throughout the day. We decided at our next protest we will plan ahead and make better signs.


My very lame sign This is What Democracy Look Like

At the Metro the lines to purchase tickets were long. Yesterday I took the subway from Union Station to Tenleytown but only filled my card with enough money for the trip. Again, I should have planned ahead. I sent my cousin Ann to the head of the line to help all the out of town visitors purchase their tickets and our line began to move pretty quickly.


Me and Claire

I managed to get an empty seat on the very crowded subway car and sat next to Claire, a college student who drove from Ohio and picked up a friend along the route then continued on through the night. She was holding a sign that read Pussy Grab Back in reference to Trump’s lewd remarks to Billy Bush that were caught on tape. A group of ladies standing by the doors started singing This Land is Your Land and moved on to This Little Light of Mine. Everyone joined in and there was a magical, holy feeling that we were setting off to make history.


Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. ~ Robert Kennedy


Real Men Get Consent

Note to Trump and disbelievers of real news: I was on the planes, trains, subways and streets of DC on inauguration day and the day of the march. Traveling on the subway I sensed more than ever that this was going to be bigger than anyone imagined. Yesterday most of my fellow travelers were coming to D.C. for today’s march. As I made my way to my cousin Ann’s house the subways and streets weren’t nearly as crowded as they were today. I saw it with my own eyes. Donald Trump can whine like a small pouty child about attendance at his inaugural all he wants but eyes don’t lie. This is not an alternate fact.


We weaved our way through the throngs of people trying to make their way to Independence Avenue where the parade was scheduled to commence. Like riding a rip tide, people forged paths in different directions. Everyone was shouting and waving signs. A roar of voices raised in protest would roll along the streets like an ocean wave growing in size as it crashes toward the shore. People chanted. This is What Democracy Looks Like.


When we could finally go no further and were packed in like sardines, we could hear the speeches from large speakers lining Independence Avenue. Alicia Keys rallied the crowd and the speeches kept coming. And coming. Three hours later the marchers started to get restless and shouted “Let’s March, Let’s March”. Still carrying my package of posters and magic markers, I made signs and passed them around. We held them high and joined the chant, “Let’s March”.

Note to Democratic Party: Michael Moore’s battle cry “We need to take over the Democratic Party” spoke directly to me. It was exactly how I felt during the long primary battle and the summer of my discontent while Hillary hobnobbed in the Hamptons raising millions of dollars. I found myself asking, How did the Democratic party fail to capture the energy here on the streets of DC and in the marches across the country and around the world? My knees and lower back started to ache and we all needed to find the port-a-pottys. But the speeches kept coming and it seemed like a metaphor for the Democratic party of which I have been a member all my life. In recent days I will admit I often feel like a woman lost at sea. A woman without a party.

I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. ~ Thomas Jefferson


And yes there were celebrities and I did get to hear Madonna sing live while watching her on a Jumbotron we finally made our way to.



Note to Madonna: I did not appreciate you saying “Fuck you, Donald Trump” or telling us you fantasized about blowing up the White House. Not that I don’t dislike Trump as much as you do but I agree with Michelle Obama that when they go low, we go high. And more importantly, I knew Fox and other right wing news organizations would lead with your words and ignore the hundreds of thousands of us who made sacrifices to travel across the nation and march for the values we believe in. You won’t be losing your health insurance, Madonna. Your life won’t be on the line or disrupted nearly as much as many of us marching. This day was much more about us than you and you detract from the coverage of the real news when you draw attention to yourself like that.

And sure enough, there was Donald Trump’s tweet this morning.


Grow Up Trump! Shut Your Twitter!

But despite the celebrities and the tweet, that was not what this march was about. What it was about was the millions of women, men and children who traveled from across the entire nation to make it clear to our new president-elect how we see America and what our values are. The women who slept overnight on rally buses, took a day out of work, found babysitters for the kids and wished them a good day at school from the airports and train stations, or drove through the night so their voices could be heard.

Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you. ~ Thomas Jefferson


Good Luck Telling My Wife What To Do

Throughout the day there was a camaraderie and sisterhood in participating in something bigger than ourselves. We had created a movement that could change the world.


I marveled at the older women in wheelchairs who were brave enough to get lost in the crowds.


Jewish Women Will Never Stop Fighting for Human Rights

Marchers were everywhere. Walking down Independence we could look across the side roads to fellow marchers on a parallel street that wasn’t originally part of the route. We fell in with a group of doctors who chanted “We won’t go away. Donald Trump. Welcome to your first day.”


I never found my friend on the rally bus or the group of friends from New Hampshire I had planned to meet up with. Our cell phones didn’t always work and even though I had my travel charger, after all the photos and videos our phones eventually died. We had been standing and marching for eight hours. We walked to Union Station where last I heard my friends were having a drink somewhere. We never found them or the bar but we managed to get on the first train that came by and once again, packed like sardines, we made our way back to Tenleytown station.


Everyone was running on adrenaline and sharing stories. One woman mentioned to her seat mate how some Trump voters don’t know the Affordable Care Act IS Obamacare. I turned around and said, “That’s true.” I told them the story about the Vermont healthcare woman I dealt with just a few days ago. We were on the phone for an hour and she was extremely patient and helpful. She told me this week alone she spoke to twelve people who have affordable healthcare and they said they were glad to see Obamacare was going to be repealed. “What you have is Obamacare. Obamacare is the Affordable Care Act,” she told them in disbelief. “Lordy, lordy,” she told me. “Those people aren’t going to be very happy in the days to come. They are in for one huge awakening.” Yes indeed.


Back at the house, I had a few hours to rest my weary legs on the couch while drinking wine and watching the news of history being made by women all across the world before we went out to see the 15th Street Band playing at an Irish bar in Bethesda. A young girl in a pink hat was standing next to our table. Her name was Isa and she’d been up since four a.m. organizing a Planned Parenthood relay then marching with 500,000 of us on the streets of the nation’s capital.

This is what democracy looks like. Yesterday I was proud to be a part of this human race.


Diane and Ann, my Sisters in Arms

***This was the inauguration of the protest movement. JOIN ME. If you attended a march send me your stories and I will share them here. #bebrave #speakup #nowmorethanever.***

The Real Architects of Society: Stories From the Women’s March

“Women are the real architects of society.” ~ Harriet Beecher Stowe

6 a.m. It’s still dark. I’m in a strange bedroom again just a block from busy Wisconsin Avenue but it’s quiet. At this very moment, six women I know from New Hampshire are on a plane out of Manchester headed here to D.C. for the Women’s March. Yesterday on Facebook I saw a post from another woman I knew in Exeter, a stay at home Mom who used to babysit my girls while I was at work. She’s on her way to march with her daughter who lives here. Another woman is probably awake by now because she left late last night on a rally bus out of Portsmouth and I’m sure the bus full of women are starting to stir as they approach the city  after an uncomfortable night sleeping in their seats. She’s promised to share her bus trip stories with me.

The likelihood that your acts of resistance cannot stop the injustice does not exempt you from acting in what you sincerely and reflectively hold to be the best interests of your community. – Susan Sontag, At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches

We have reached a point in American history where it is not enough to be outraged. It is not enough to once in awhile throw up a picture of Meryl Streep on Facebook or Instagram and let someone else speak for me. We have to speak up and let our voices be heard.

Last night my sister in Rhode Island texted and told me all the people she knew who were coming, including the little girl we used to babysit who is now a grown woman in her forties. At a bonfire in Vermont I attended on New Year’s Eve I met ten women who were planning to come to the Women’s March. They are also traveling on a rally bus.

But they’re not all just coming here to the nation’s capital. They’re marching at 673 Sister Marches across the country and all over the world. As the clock ticks toward seven a.m. and I need to get up and get ready, an estimated 2,226,540 women are also putting on their walking shoes and getting ready to march for the values they cherish and the world they want to live and raise their children in.

I was at a meeting two years ago in Beijing, and I passed a bunch of women who were marching in a protest. Their signs were probably saying something I wouldn’t have agreed with at all. But I was so glad to see women marching. And it’s happening all over the world. ~ Betty Friedan

If you are also awake right now check the Sister March link above, find one near you, and JOIN US. Yes, there was a riot at one of yesterday’s protests not far from the Inaugural parade. That was an exception to the rule. There were more peaceful protests than not but that is what the media chose to focus its lens on. I expect today will be peaceful.

My friend on the rally bus just texted. She has arrived and is looking for the Metro. We are leaving the house soon. I believe the media has underestimated the number of people attending today. Last night on a CNN broadcast covering yesterday’s riot a guest speaker brought up the march and the commentator ignored the response and basically undermined the march. They are underestimating us once again. So get up on this Saturday morning, put on your sneakers, and let’s make history together.  #BEBRAVE #SPEAKUP #NOWMORETHANEVER

“Others, craven-hearted, said disparagingly, that “he threw his life away,” because he resisted the government. Which way have they thrown their lives, pray?”
― Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays

Necessary Resistance: Stories From Higley Hill



Higley Hill after the storm

January 20, 2017

I said I wouldn’t watch TV today. That almost worked. I left Vermont after a snowstorm. Except for the plowed roads,  the whole world was white. I drove to my daughter’s apartment in Providence.

This morning at Southwest Gate 24, women in pink knitted pussy hats waited to board the plane. I was wearing a pink button on the lapel of my black coat. “I’m with Planned Parenthood”. Several friends texted to tell me they were expressing their sadness with this day by dressing all in black, and many others in the airport were too. A young mother sitting next to me texted her daughter on her iPhone and wished her a good day at school. A majority of us were headed to the Women’s March and despite the somber mood of the day, there was a festive air as we boarded the plane. As I slowly made my way down the aisle one man leaned out of his seat, pointed to my button, and said “They do good work. I own a convenience store near their office and there are protestors out there once a week.” He shook his head in disbelief. “Are you marching?” he asked.


“Good for you. Thank you.” I smiled as I moved along the narrow aisle. It was a full flight and the overhead bins were almost full. Luckily my bag fit under the seat. Two sets of pink pussy ears peaked above the seats in front of me. The man in the aisle seat to my left spoke with a Scandinavian accent. He was returning home to Baltimore, and he also complimented liked my pin. The man at the window was watching the Fox lead up to the inauguration on his iPad and never looked up until the stewardess came by to ask if we were willing and able to open the exit doors in case of an emergency. She wanted his attention so I tapped him on the knee and he gave me a dirty look. I pointed to the flight attendant and he took his earbuds out for a moment and said, “I know the drill. I’m all set.” Then he earbuds back on.  He never shut his iPad off, even when we were taking off down the runway, or when we landed. I occasionally snuck a glance at his screen and watched as Trump and his family made their way to St. James church.


Ladies from Orlando, Florida


While waiting for the MARC train from BWI to Union Station in Washington, DC, I met many women who came here to march. Two ladies from Orlando, a young woman from Denver who had been traveling since the night before and came by way of Fort Lauderdale. An immigrant from Somalia, a woman from Hartford who broke her foot, was at the same healthcare rally I attended last Sunday, and had stayed at the Inn I worked at in Norfolk but several years earlier than my arrival. She was marching despite her injury. A husband and wife from Long Island both wore knitted pink pussy hats. His was a slightly deeper shade of pink.

At Union Station I made my way to the Metro where I took the red line to Tenley Town. A group of white suburban women wearing red Make America Great Again baseball caps, two of them dressing up the look with fur coats, took the four seats in front of me. They were whooping it up, chattering loudly and celebrating. The black woman sitting next to me looked up from texting and peered over her reading glasses. I heard her “tsk tsk”. She looked at me and we shook our heads. “Scary days,” she whispered. “Yes indeed,” I whispered back. The Trump ladies got off after two stops and so did the lady sitting next to me. A young man grabbed the seat in front of me, turned around, and in reference to the Trump ladies, said, “I just wanted to ask them, Why? Did they hear the things he said? Do they think he’s qualified? What about this Russia stuff? Why? Just tell me why.”


Trump ladies-Make America Great Again

The escalator at the Tenleytown stop is one of the steepest, scariest escalators I’ve ever been on. I road to the daylight gripping the the banister. Out to the street it was quiet. American University students and people on their lunch break passed by. My cousin had told me about a taco place not far from her house. I took a seat at the counter next to two Mexican workers who spoke Spanish to each other and ate bowls of spicy chicken, rice, and veggies. Outside the window, a man pushed his daughter in a stroller and his young son hopped along a short wall that ran along the sidewalk. The stucco church across the street looked like something you’d see in Mexico. A flock of birds swooped out of the trees and circled the steeple. Life went on and the drama taking place near the Capital seemed a universe away.

On the walk to my cousin’s house I got lost a couple of times and Siri, as usual, was useless.  A group of four young boys whizzed by on skateboards, one of them carrying a sign that read “The End of the World Begins at Noon Today”.

My cousin’s husband was home and the TV was on. Riots were taking place on a street near the offices of the Washington Post. Trash barrels were rolled over and lit on fire. A Starbucks window had been broken. The police were shooting pepper spray and tear gas. My father called. He was watching the news back in Rhode Island and wanted to know where I was in the city. He told me to be careful. I didn’t tell him I heard Trump had failed to fill a lot of government jobs and I was flying today without a director of the FAA. I also didn’t tell him I forgot to bring the whistle.


On a lamppost in Tenleytown

Once a parent, always a parent. Today is my oldest daughter’s 25th birthday. When she was born on January 20th I thought she might grow up to work for a political candidate and get invited to an inaugural ball on her birthday. This is not the year. She, like her mother, voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary and I think I convinced her to vote for Hillary in November. Today she was skiing on a foot and a half of powder in Lake Tahoe. We talked on the phone but she also sent a text, “Yoooo shreddin’ pow ma”.


I’m marching tomorrow for her and her sister. The future of the planet they will inherit, the preservation of good public schools like the ones they attended in Exeter, NH, their reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, healthcare, so many things I can’t list them all here. I’m worried about their future. Once a Mom always a Mom.






Trying To Make It Real Compared To What: Stories From Higley Hill

At first my husband didn’t want to join me in Hartford to protest the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He’s a Democrat who always votes that way, but that’s about all he does. He votes. Even in the midterm elections, so I’ll give him that.

This protest directly effects his well-being. He’s had two DVTs (deep vein thrombosis). The last one occurred when we lived in Florida and was a huge clot that ran almost the entire length of his leg. He has Factor 5 Leiden, a genetic clotting disorder. A preexisting condition. A couple of days ago, at one-thirty in the morning, the Republicans voted against an amendment to keep the provision of the ACA that protects consumers from an insurance company charging more or even possibly denying coverage for a pre-existing condition. Rich also now has a prescription for a blood thinner that without ACA would cost $600 a month.

My husband’s misery was compounded by two herniated discs in his lower back. He ended up out of work for six weeks. With the loss of pay, deductibles, and co-pays, our credit card took a beating. We were on COBRA at the time. Two nights in the hospital on a blood thinner drip cost $17,000, that’s just for the bed and other sundries. The doctors’ bills were paid separately. There were also bills from the technician who reviewed the CAT scan and the blood tests. With our deductible we owed 10% of every bill. That’s $1700 for the room alone. You know the drill. Or maybe you don’t. That’s why I’m this sharing story. The issue of health insurance in America needs a human face.

Everything that makes man’s life worthwhile – family, work, education, a place to rear one’s children and a place to rest one’s head – all this depends on the decisions of government; all can be swept away by a government which does not heed the demands of its people, and I mean all of its people. ~ Robert F. Kennedy

Rich does not like to discuss politics. I am a fiery, opinionated, political junkie. I convinced him to join me by explaining his real life consequences if the Affordable Care Act were repealed without a reasonable, fair replacement. I also suggested we have a late lunch after the rally at Max Burger in West Hartford, a place we discovered when we worked in Connecticut as innkeepers. It was the olive branch of burgers, beers, and bloody Marys that won him over.

We chose Hartford because it is closer to our home in Southern Vermont than Burlington. And after all, I don’t need to send a message to my Vermont senators. Bernie Sanders is leading this charge and this is an American issue. As we approached the city listening to an old Les McCann tape I made thirty years ago I too wondered “what was wrong with the Godddamn nation”. The lyrics were hauntingly prescient. Rich said it was the theme song of the day. He was coming around.

We parked near the train station and walked to the Capital. I expected the entire Bushnell Park to be filled with people. It was a blue sky day, a Sunday afternoon, crisp but not too cold. I started to get angry. There are at least 20 million of us whose health insurance is on the line. Paul Ryan and the Republicans are talking vouchers and access to health insurance. That’s not much help with the monthly premiums that can run as high as $1200-$1500 a month. We have access to health insurance, we need affordability. Words matter, listen carefully when a politician is speaking.


Where the hell was everyone, I wondered. Two older gentlemen and a woman were asking themselves the same question. “Well, we’re here anyway,” one man said. The other man agreed. “We’re doing something and that makes us feel better.” I asked two ladies with Justice for Women signs if they were going to the march in DC. They told me they couldn’t get out of work but  thanked me for representing them. We encouraged each other to keep up the good fight.


One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

At the top of the hill a gathering of people was beginning to grow along the steps of the High Victorian Gothic style State House designed by Richard J. Upjohn. Made of marble from East Canaan, Connecticut, granite from Westerly, Rhode Island, and accented by a gold leaf dome, it is an impressive edifice. Connecticut was the first state to implement a consumer advocacy program to help patients with their insurance disputes. It became a model for the grant money the Affordable Care Act provides for healthcare advocacy programs across the nation.


Later in the day, the Hartford Courant reported over a thousand people attended the rally. Rich forged a path through the crowd and helped me make my way to the steps of the Capital where I could take better photos. We were on the shady side of the building and I was working with my old IPhone 4. Before the speeches began the battery died after I took a short video of the crowd chanting “A-C-A, A-C-A”.


Four Americans shared their healthcare stories. Jonathan Miller was born with cystic fibrosis. In a voice close to tears, he told us he would be bankrupt or dead without the ACA. “It’s not anyone’s decision to decide who does or doesn’t get healthcare,” he said.

I was reminded of a Facebook discussion I recently got embroiled in. One commenter thought he shouldn’t have to pay for obese people’s health insurance. “Why should otherwise healthy people who make healthy choices be asked to foot the bill for others who do not and most importantly do not care?” he asked. Cystic fibrosis also came up. Someone replied there are only 3,000 cases in the United States. I’m not sure about the point he was trying to make but I Googled this and discovered: “To have cystic fibrosis, a person must inherit two copies of the defective CF gene — one copy from each parent. Approximately 30,000 people in the United States have cystic fibrosis. An additional 10 million more — or about one in every 31 Americans — are carriers of the defective CF gene, but do not have the disease.” That’s the thing with the Internet. You need to be vigilant.


Jonathan Miller has been in and out of the hospital all his life. He currently takes 15-20 meds a day. “Illness can happen to anyone,” he said. “If you want to work through the Affordable Care Act and dismantle this … I want you to hear this from the bottom of my scarred, diseased lung. You will not hurt families — you will ruin families. You will kill people,” Miller said. ” The consequences will be fatal.”

Another speaker, a former drug addict who was able to get the care and counseling he needed through the Affordable Care Act shared this, “A miracle is not walking on air or water, but on this earth.” He is now a college graduate with a good job and a desire to help others.

Isabelle Endicott shared her story of having excellent health insurance through her employer when she gave birth to her second child who was born with a congenital heart disease. Before his first birthday his medical bills had reached a quarter of a million dollars, 25 percent of his lifetime cap. In a panic, she called her insurance company and they told her because of the Affordable Care Act there is no longer a cap on lifetime medical bills. Since the election, she is now worried once again about her son’s future. “It is our faces and voices that will win this fight,” she told us.

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.” ~ William Faulkner


I looked for my husband in the crowd. I was afraid he might have left and gone for a walk, protests not being his thing and all. I walked through the cheering crowd and eventually spotted him somewhere in the middle, clapping. My daughter and her boyfriend drove from Providence and were standing with him.

When the rally ended we drove to West Hartford and celebrated democracy with those promised burgers, bloodies, and beer. Overall, it was an excellent way to spend a day in the land of the free and the brave. Like one of the guys I met earlier, we felt better.

I think the world is going to be saved by millions of small things. ~ Pete Seeger

***Isabelle Endicott is right. If you can’t attend a protest or a rally, please call your representatives. JOIN ME. Share your stories with me and I will share them here on my blog.***

Happy Martin Luther King Day everyone. “One life can change the world.”