When we came here in fifteen or so years ago, Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden was a magical oasis tucked in the middle of a block in Key West, a small forest said to be the last undeveloped acre in the city’s Old Town neighborhood. Full of winding paths and trees it was the rarest of spaces: loved, carefully tended, and shared with the public as a gift of beauty. But even then it felt besieged. In 2012 taxes and expenses became too much and Nancy sold off parcels to developers. From an article in Key News:
The tucked-away entrance to Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden off Free School Lane in the 500 block of Simonton Street will be closed to the public after today, as finances and property taxes have forced Forrester to sell the land parcels that have housed an artist’s cottage and gallery, parrots, orchids, rare palms, meandering pathways and a meditative garden for more than four decades.
These days the garden has been reduced to a small backyard on Elizabeth Street which Nancy uses as a rescue parrot refuge. In the mornings she gives educational lectures on the birds, full of facts about their brilliant behavior, the destruction of their native habitats, and gentle lectures about how we can all protect native parrot habitats by living more lightly on the land (hint: no red palm oil or beef). From behind the fence came the sounds of a swimming pool being installed in the cutdown middle of the former garden. Nancy has life tenancy on the ill-repaired house where she lives with the parrots.
I don’t know the details of the real estate transactions or Forrester’s finances but I find it incredible that Key West couldn’t rally around one of its living treasures. I’m glad that Nancy remains along with her parrots and I’m grateful my kids got a chance to meet her.
A good piece in the NYTimes on the stagnant jobs facing blue-collar America. I wonder if they would have written this if the votes had broken a different way and we were all talking of Hillary as president elect. A quote:
For workers like Mr. Roell, 36, who started at Carrier just weeks after receiving his high school diploma and never returned to school, the problem is not a shortage of jobs in the area. Instead, it is a drought of jobs that pay anywhere near the $23.83 an hour he makes at Carrier, let alone enough to give him a toehold in the middle class
Great stories and good reporting.
I was in early high school when I got my first alarm clock radio. My parents were a bit older when I was born, so the LPs in the back of our hall closet were a generation-and-a-half out-of date: I remember mostly musical soundtracks like South Pacific and West Side Story. My older brother had brought the Beatles into our house but he had moved away for college and adulthood years before and the only trace of his musical influence was a Simon & Garfunkel greatest hits 8-track tape my mom had bought for a penny from the Time-Life record club.
In my bedroom late at night in the early 80s, I explored the sounds inside my new radio. I would bury myself underneath my Star Trek sheets, pull the radio inside, and listen with volume barely perceptible. Three was no real reason for the secrecy. I’m sure my parents wouldn’t have particularly cared. But I was a private kid. I didn’t want to let on that I was curious about the adult world. Pop radio and MASH reruns were my secret.
I had had a shortwave radio in middle school and brought the thrill of long-distance discovery to my radio explorations. Geography and sound had more mystery in those days before the internet. On a cold, clear night, I could tune in AM powerhouses half a continent away.
One particularly cold night, one of these distant signals played a song I had never heard or even imagined. It was half-drowned out by static. The signal drifted in and out in waves but I listened mesmerized. To a introverted kid in a sleep Philly suburb, this song was a key to a yearned-for future. I was instantly certain that that no one around me had ever heard this song. If only I could make out some words, maybe I could spend the next year scanning the distant radio bands to hear it again. As I got older, I could go into the city to scour bins in the seediest of indie record stores. This song no one knew would be a touchstones to a new adulthood I was constructing in the secret of my bedroom.
As the fade came, I barely caught the DJ’s words through the static. “Hotel California.” I vowed to myself that someday, somehow, I would find this song and hear it again.
RIP Glenn Frey.
A Friends School talks openly about past school abuse:
The alumnus said he’s upset the principal [Harold Jernigan] has not acknowledged the accusations. But he said he doesn’t regret sending his original message. ‘If you read Quaker literature, they spell ‘Truth’ in the uppercase – the implication of divinity,’ he said, ‘that it is a holy thing to continue that search for truth.’
I’m glad this is getting out now, but I did a double-take as the accused principle is still alive and living a few dozen miles from me. He was a lightning-rod figure as principal of at least two other schools after Carolina. I imagine the behavior continued. Updates below:
- An period article on his tenure at a Friends Seminary, a Manhattan Friends school, talked about the unrest of his two-year tenure there. It sounds like he came in and summarily fired the heads of the lower, middle, and upper schools. This is the kind of thing one would do if they wanted to curtail accountability.
- A memoir by Quaker educator Leonard Kenworthy talks about this period at Friends Seminary: “He moved much too rapidly in bringing about changes, asking for the resignations of the heads of the elementary and middle school, plus several other shifts, within a very short period, even before he took over as principal. Over and over I urged him not to move too fast but he said there were two ways of handling such a situation. One was to move slowly over a period of years. The other was to bring about quick changes and then to begin rapidly to initiate new programs and new personnel. He was determined to use the latter approach.”
- A 1986 New York Times profile of Friends Seminary had this to say of its former head: “After a shake-up of the staff that led to the resignation or dismissal of several teachers, a teacher’s union was formed, and students went on strike. Eventually, the principal, Harold Jernigan, resigned and the school ”rejected muscular Quakerism and returned to its mystical faith,” in the words of the official history.”
- A commenter on one news article writes: “Please also know that Harold Jernigan’s behavior continued on at Atlantic City Friends School, where he was Headmaster. As an Alum of ACFS, I thought that should be made clear.”
- Carolina Friends School wrote an open letter to the community in June.
Update December 2014. I have received emails from a former student who wished to remain anonymous at this time. I have no way to fact check this but it is consistent with the history and I have no reason to think it’s inaccurate. With that caveat, here are some excerpts:
As an Alumni of Atlantic City Friends School I am not surprised at all to hear about Harold Jernigan sexual abuse in the least . Please note this abuse along with more forms of abuse went on at ACFS into the early 80’s
Sexual abuse was not the only abuse. Abuse of the school system in general including drugs , abuse of power , money , teaching so badly that curves were used to grade so curved that the highest grade in a math class Harold Jernigan taught was a 42 yet all were passed . Harold Jernigan also would listen to classrooms and locker rooms with a speaker system in his office even after he promised Teachers he would not . Please note if Harold Jernigan did not want a student to pass he would call a meeting with all Teachers to make sure certain students would not pass no matter what .
I was a victim of his non sexual abuse but still abuse all the same .
I am only telling you this so someone puts a stop to this abuse. Back in the late 70’s early 80’s who would believe a teenager . To see this Finally come out makes me know there is Karma .
As teenagers in school we would talk amongst ourselves . No one would come forward because we knew Harold would hold back our Diplomas or not forward a letter to a college .
You must remember ACFS was attended by either high IQ students , rich kids that were kick out of their other schools or students that wanted to attend a private school . This made the student body Easy Prey .
During my time at ACFS I made friends with some of the Teachers . These Teachers are some of my sources ! They knew but needed their job
Over on Twitter feed came a tweet (h/t revrevwine):
To translate, SEO is “search engine optimization,” the often-huckersterish art of tricking Google to display your website higher than your competitors in search results. “Usability” is the catch-all term for making your website easy to navigate and inviting to visitors. Companies with deep pockets often want to spend a lot of money on SEO, when most of the time the most viable long-term solution to ranking high with search engines is to provide visitors with good reasons to visit your site. What if we applied these principles to our churches and meetinghouses and swapped the terms?
Outreach gets people to your meetinghouse /
Hospitality keeps people returning.
A lot of Quaker meetinghouses have pretty good “natural SEO.” Here in the U.S. East Coast, they’re often near a major road in the middle of town. If they’re lucky there are a few historical markers of notable Quakers and if they are really lucky there’s a highly-respected Friends school nearby. All these meetings really have to do is put a nice sign out front and table a few town events every year. The rest is covered. Although we do get the occasional “aren’t you all Amish?” comments, we have a much wider reputation that our numbers would necessarily warrant. We rank pretty high.
But what are the lessons of hospitality we could work on? Do we provide places where spiritual seekers can both grow personally and engage in the important questions of the faith in the modern world? Are we invitational, bringing people into our homes and into our lives for shared meals and conversations?
In my freelance days when I was hired to work on SEO I ran through a series of statistical reports and redesigned some underperforming pages, but then turned my attention to the client’s content. It was in this realm that my greatest quantifiable successes occurred. At the heart of the content work was asking how could the site could more fully engage with first-time visitors. The “usability considerations” on the Wikipedia page on usability could be easily adapted as queries:
Who are the users, what do they know, what can they learn? What do users want or need to do? What is the users’ general background? What is the users’ context for working? What must be left to the machine? Can users easily accomplish intended tasks at their desired speed? How much training do users need? What documentation or other supporting materials are available to help the user?
I’d love to see Friends consider this more. FGC’s “New Meetings Toolbox” has a section on welcoming newcomers. But I’d love to hear more stories about how we’re working on the “usability” of our spiritual communities.
“There’s a lot of bad ‘isms’ floatin’ around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism. Make a buck, make a buck.”
–Alfred, Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Did Thanksgiving even happen? Walking around the neighborhood and scanning the store circulars it seems more like some blip between Halloween candy and Christmas toys. In 1947, Alfred’s Christmas ism was a fast-footed sprint launched by Santa’s appearance at the end of the Thanksgiving parade (though with all due respect for Mr Macy, for us old time Philadelphians the finale will always be a red-coated fireman climbing into Gimble’s fifth floor).
What was a six week sprint for Christmas sales in 1947 has stretched out to the leisurely half-mile jog through the autumn months. Treacly remakes of holiday standards have been playing in malls for weeks. Box store workers who might have preferred to spend time with their family on Thanksgiving were pressed into service for pre-Black Friday sales (fed by the hype of artificial scarcity, it feeds the gambler gene’s need for the big win). And today, server farms around the country are overheating to meet the demands of the latest retail gimmick, the seven-year-old Cyber Monday (proof that capitalism hasn’t forgotten how to dream up more “make a buck” isms).
And all for what? Most of us middle class Americans have everything we need. What we lack isn’t the stuff that line the shelves of Walmart superstores and Amazon distribution centers, but the us that we’re too busy to share with one another.
I love the purity of earlier generations of Quakers. They pointedly ignored Christmas, working and opening their schools on the 25th. They would have undoubtedly skipped the commercialism of the modern consumer holiday. But I’m not willing to go that far. In our family Thanksgiving and Christmas is a time of togetherness and seasonal habits–tagging the Christmas tree, Sweetzel’s spiced wafers, making cookies and pies, visiting family. When I was young, my mother made a framed collage of my annual photos with Santa, and while it once fascinated me as a document of Santa variations, now the interest is watching myself grow up. Today, our family’s Flickr collection of Christmas routines shows that same passage of time. None of us need fall into the HalloThanksMas season of make-a-buck-ism to find joy in togetherness.
On Tuesday, Dec 28 my lovely wife Julie gave birth to our third son. After some dithering back and forth (we’re methodical about baby names) we picked Gregory. Everyone is happy and healthy. Vital stats: 20 inches, 7 pounds 9 oz. The brothers are adjusting well, though Theo’s first response to my phone call telling him it was a boy was “oh no, another one of those.”
That’s 5yo Francis (aka “little big brother”) and 7yo Theo (“big big brother”) meeting their new sibling at the hospital. More pics in the Gregory! and Gregory in the Hospital sets on Flickr.
As you can see, we’ve basically bred triplets spaced over three years apart. As further evidence, here’s Theo and Francis in their first pics (links to their announcement posts):
As I mentioned, we’re methodical about names. When we were faced with Baby #2 I put together the “Fallen Baby Names Chart” – classic names that had fallen out of trendy use. It’s based on the current ranking of the top names of 1900. “Gregory” doesn’t appear on our chart because it was almost unused until a sudden appearance in the mid-1940s (see chart, right). Yes, that would be the time when a handsome young actor named Gregory Peck became famous. It peaked in 1962, the year of Peck’s Academy Award for To Kill a Mockingbird and has been dropping rapidly ever since. Last year less than one in a thousand newborn boys were Gregory’s. While we recognize Peck’s influence in the name’s Twentieth Century popularity, Julie is thinking more of Gregory of Nyssa [edited, I originally linked to another early Gregory]. Peck’s parents were Catholic (paternal relatives helped lead the Irish Easter Rising) and were presumably thinking of the Catholic saint when they gave him Gregory for a middle name (he dropped his first name Eldred for the movies).