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Pretend I did finish this on Sunday, OK?...


It's good to be home.

I just returned from my first visit to Canadian Yearly Meeting, with approximately 150 Quakers from all over our country plus a handful visiting from the US. My week in Windsor Nova Scotia was awesome. I expected to eventually get bored with Business Meetings every day; I expected people to be less engaged in meeting newcomers (versus reconnecting with friends they hadn't seen in a year); I expected the food to be mediocre. Surprise!

I didn't skip a single Business Meeting, nor did I want to. Quaker process is so cool to see in action, even if the action is sometimes slow. I sung (in a chanting workshop) every day (except Wednesday, when I played hookey to go find lobster). The cafeteria was surprisingly good, with plenty of variety and lots of fresh veggies. The worst thing I can say about the place is that they completely failed at mobility accessibility- nearly everything required at least one stair, or flights of stairs; and there were quite a few people using canes. My new friend Claire, who gets around in a wheelchair, was philosophical, in addition to being patient with being wheeled up single steps all over the place. She said given that the school is 220 years old, they were excusable in her book. I can't say I agree. Anyhow, that's not the main purpose of this post.

Which is telling a few stories about just one of the characters I met.

"So, Tom, how are you getting home?" We were in the cafeteria, both eating fried fish, which was quite good. [1]

"Well, circuitously." Tom spoke slowly. He's 90 or 91, a skinny stick of a man with a bushy beard, round glasses, and a baseball cap. He lives by himself somewhere north of Lake Superior in a solar-powered house. "I'm going from here to Maine, for the 40th reunion of some students of mine at Friends World College on Long Island. We built canoes from scratch and paddled them around New York City into the Hudson and tried to see how far we could get over water."

"How far did you get?"

"The Bering Strait," he said, with a twinkle in his eye. I cracked up. He said his boat was well-built, and he brought lots of maps. He went up the St. Lawrence, across the Great Lakes, and at Lake Winnipeg he took a detour, spending a few years in Manitoba doing research on water testing and safety.

When he finally got to the Bearing Strait, he spent a while trying to figure out how to cross it, having mapped how he could get to Western Europe through Russia. But this was the middle of the Cold War, and it didn't seem safe, so he stopped at the Bering Strait.

But they got a lot of water-testing research done over the journey. [2]


Tom grew up in Princeton, through the Depression. It turns out he lived in the same block as Albert Einstein and Paul Robeson. Einstein was friendly; he always waved from the street as he went by with his huge hair. Robeson came back to give a concert at Princeton University, but the hall master refused to let him sing. So he gave the concert in a church instead, which Tom was fortunate enough to go to. He says he's had a very lucky life.

And here's a photo of Tom, from five years ago.


I have more stories that aren't about Tom, but they will wait, as I want to get myself to work!

[1] haddock from Truro, caught 2 hours away.

[2] Google tells me he gave an invited talk to CYM in some previous year.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 17th, 2011 01:46 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a great week! How wonderful to find yourself so engaged.
Aug. 17th, 2011 03:46 pm (UTC)
Tom sounds like quite the character! :)
Aug. 17th, 2011 04:18 pm (UTC)
There's a fellow in Princeton carrying on the wave work. He waves to *everyone* from his bicycle. In a very dignified and deliberate manner. And he has wild hair and a wild beard, to boot.

The public schools weren't desegregated until quite late, and by court action. After Brown, I believe, although I'm not remembering the exact date -- we used to pass by a historical marker at the former colored elementary school, not far from our house/apartment.

Now there's a street and an arts center named after Paul Robeson.

Princeton is a strange place.
Aug. 17th, 2011 05:26 pm (UTC)
Martin Duberman writes at a good deal of length in "Cures" about how much Princeton was an extension of the South during the 60s: it was the one Ivy that wealthy southern families would be willing to send their kids to.
Aug. 19th, 2011 05:23 pm (UTC)
I have certainly heard that. What's the saying? Something along the lines of Princeton being the northernmost southern city? Since I grew up just south of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city that was under martial law during a portion of the Civil War, that kind of shocked me... but it's still a pretty racist, incredibly classist place.
Aug. 19th, 2011 12:44 pm (UTC)
That does sound like a strange town. But at least it's got one friendly guy remaining... now that you've left ;P
Aug. 19th, 2011 05:25 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks. :) Aliyah's still there, but she's planning to move, too. And our wonderful next-door neighbors are probably already in Chicago...

I know there are some neat people in Princeton. I know some people really adore living there.

My F/friend Shelley calls it "the golden handcuffs." Luckily it never grew on me to that extent.
Aug. 17th, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a fabulous weekend! And such wonderful company, too.
Aug. 18th, 2011 01:59 am (UTC)
Thank you for this post. It is a bright spot in my day.
Aug. 18th, 2011 03:07 am (UTC)
:) You're welcome.

Maybe some time soon I'll have energy to write more. (A wish/hope that doesn't seem particularly unique to me, these days.)
Aug. 18th, 2011 03:18 am (UTC)
I feel the same way... of course, I spend a lot more of my time writing then I let on to!
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )