Aunt Tess and ….. Hillary?

“NO!” She said. “I am not going to vote for that woman! And don’t you dare write that I’m even thinking about it!”

“But you must be thinking about it,” I protested. “You just said you were mad at Joe Scarborough for picking on her on TV.” We were in the car, riding home up the Parkway from Cape May. I took Aunt Tess and her buddy at the Assisted Living, Becky Gottlieb, to the Brass Band summer concert. Nothing makes Aunt Tess happier than tapping her feet listening to John Philip Sousa marches from that little gazebo in the park. Takes her back to when she lied about being 18 to get into the Women’s Army Corps at the end of the War. Years later when she became secretary of her Teamsters Local she made sure every union rally started off with a salute to the flag and a record player with Sousa coming out loud and clear.

“Sure I’m mad at Scarborough,” she said. “I get a kick out of that ‘Morning Joe’ show of his, but when he goes on one of his rants, I wish Mika would slap him a good one. One minute he’s making sense and sounding like a fair guy, and next minute it’s like he’s got Fox news hiding under his desk feeding him lines.” Aunt Tess watches TV news like a sportswriter watching the World Series. She knows the players, the score, and when to look for the double play.

“So what if he’s picking on Hillary?” I asked. “You don’t like her anyway.”

“Of course I don’t like her. She’s way too liberal. But she’s smart and she’s tough and these clowns are picking on her for being smart and tough and a woman at the same time.”

“How so?” I asked. “I don’t see that happening.” Sometimes you have to push back with Aunt Tess. Otherwise she thinks you’re a wimp.

“That’s because you’ve got the memory of a newborn rabbit. Plus, you’re not paying attention to the game strategy,” she said. “Hillary’s been in fights with Republicans all her life. Her first Washington job was on the staff of the Watergate Committee that voted to impeach President Nixon. When Bill became President he gave her the job of getting his his health reform through Congress, and the Republicans beat her up on that. Then when Bill jumped off the porch to chase Monica, she went through a tough time because she stuck by him. Then they went after her on that Whitewater thing, and later Benghazi, so now it’s the emails.”

“But you agreed with the Republicans on all that stuff,” I said.

“Sure I did,” she said. Aunt Tess doesn’t back away from contradictions. Or much else. “That’s not the point. What’s going on now is that she’s always been too smart for them. They wanted her bills from when she worked for that law firm, and she held them off for a long time before they showed up on a hall table. She claimed they must have been found during a housecleaning. They couldn’t prove she hid them in the first place, because she learned early on how to keep her guard up.”

“That’s what’s going on now,” she continued. “They’re trying to get her on the email thing about classified documents, but every time they think they’ve got her cornered, it turns out they can’t put the cuffs on her. Now they’re trying to say she had classified information in her personal possession, but they have to admit it wasn’t classified when she had it. The New York Times ran a big story that the Justice Department was on a criminal investigation, but the Justice Department denied it and the newspaper and the Congressional Committee ended up with egg on their faces. The harder they punch the faster she ducks. And here’s Joe Scarborough this morning saying the New York Times and the Justice Department and Congress are all on her trail so she’s not gonna make it. ”

“Yeah, I saw that show,” I admitted. “But I don’t see how that proves they’re picking on her because she’s a woman?”

“That’s because you’ve got a man’s eyes,” she snorted. “Trust me, every woman knows men do not like being outsmarted by women, especially in public. They’ve been trying to beat Hillary most of their lives, and she comes out stronger every time. She’s still married, and likely to be the next President.”

“So you’re warming up to her,” I poked, always unwise with Aunt Tess.

“Not a bit. I just wish we had women on our side with her brains and toughness.” Aunt Tess shot back. “Although that Carly Fiorina is interesting. They made her sit at the kiddie table in the Republican debate, but I like the way she took on Donald Trump for his disgraceful comments about women. If the Republicans don’t watch out, they’ll be lucky to get enough of the women’s vote to be worth counting. ”

© 2015 Joseph T. Wilkins

A farewell to an Italian restaurant …

Nagged by a vague uneasiness brought on by too long a gap between visits, we drove on a beautiful summer Monday evening out to my favorite Italian restaurant, Cavallino Nero – “The Little Black Horse.” It is located, as its name implies, on the road known locally as “The Black Horse Pike”, in the woods a mile or two west of the Hamilton Mall, out where the Pinelands begin.


© 2015 Joseph T. Wilkins

A midsummer baby illustrates power of hope

We are at the very height of the summer. The tomatoes are in, the corn is high. Every leaf on every tree has made its appearance and every summer flower is abloom. Life abounds in the woods and on the beach. The back bays have their fishermen; the salt meadows their greenheads. Even the boardwalk boasts a bumper crop of visitors out to celebrate this season of fertility and abundance.


Author’s dilemma: what to write about next

I made the mistake, in the luxury of early morning idleness on the Fourth of July, of watching a speech on CSPAN by writer David McCullough. There are few authors so universally respected by readers, leaders and obscure writers like myself who celebrate his success and recognize the tremendous amount of work and dedication he brings to his chosen field. His best-sellers about John Adams, Harry Truman, 1776, the Panama Canal, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Wright Brothers hardly come out of his typewriter before the public and the Pulitzer committee snap them up.


Protect the heads, and dreams of our young athletes

Thousands of years before the Christian era there existed on the Greek Island of Crete a Minoan civilization with a great palace at Knossos. Its fabled history lives on today in tales of the Minotaur, a monster half bull and half man, which was imprisoned in a great labyrinth; a maze into which young men and women were sent as sacrifices to become lost and ultimately devoured by the monster.


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End racism but keep the rebel spirit alive

In War: Resolution
In Defeat: Defiance
In Victory: Magnaminity
In Peace: Goodwill
Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War


Jersey does not want to pump its own gas, and neither does Aunt Tess

Aunt Tess, the youngest in a family of 11 including nine older brothers, is not one to ease up on family duties just because she’s getting on a bit. She had celebrated as her brothers had come home after licking Hitler. She still shows up to celebrate as her large crop of nephews and nieces go through the weddings, baptisms and graduations that mark all our lives. As the last survivor of her generation she is accorded the first pew in the church and the best chair in the house at such events.


AC needs a sense of where we are

John McPhee, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and perhaps the finest writer New Jersey has ever produced, wrote books so good they echo in the mind 30 years after you read them. I thought last week of his “Coming into the Country,” his classic work about wandering north in Alaska in the 1970s, eyes open and mind finely tuned, trying to explain to himself how the parts and turmoils of that great wilderness fit together. He blended geography and politics, zoology and sociology, rowdy drunks and adventurous bush pilots into a wonderful tale of a new state a-building.


In praise of politicians…

We are deep into the birthing season of presidential candidacies, midwived by super-PAC billionaires, talk-show hosts, pundits, pollsters, columnists, cartoonists, fund-raisers, Sunday morning TV panelists, and every coffee-shop waitress in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.


Encaena in Galloway …

“Encaena” is an old Latin word for a graduation ceremony, seldom used in the U.S. but cherished in the lush green fields and among the libraries and colleges and pubs of Oxford in the heart of England. It is an annual festival, a ceremony of honorary degrees and new-minted graduates celebrating their achievements with glasses of champagne sipped happily in garden parties and along the River Thames and on the punts that glide along the River Cherwell near  Folly Bridge.