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I advocate that the Wernher von Braun Center be renamed. Perhaps call it the Goring Complex, since Braun and Goring were members of the Nazi party. Goring’s Luftwaffe rained down death over Europe and Braun launched over 9,521 Cruise-like missiles to England, beginning on 13 June 1944. Braun’s membership in the Nazi Party is dated 12 November 1937 and his membership number is 5,730,692. If you need to reference this, use Wikipedia for basic facts. Or, if you require a more substantial historical source, any major work on the rise of Nazism will suffice. The English historian Sir Ian Kershaw is a reputable scholar of note on the period.
As a child of the Fifties I dimly recall von Braun with his affable Mr. Rogers panache, Germans label it gemuttlichkeit, on the Dave Garroway show getting all worked up explaining his proposed space station. There is a photo at the time of Disney and Braun, both in good spirits, enthusiasts. Braun was irresistible; that as a rocket scientist he built his V1 andV2 rockets (V for vengeance in German) at a slave labor camp on the Baltic Sea, Peenenunde, is washed over. The great German artist Kiefer has called such things a “conspiracy of silence.” In Operation Paper Clip the American government brought over Nazi scientists (the operative word is Nazi) to advance our rocketry and compete against the Russkies. The Russians took a helping of Nazi scientists as well. All societies, one philosopher has written, are essentially corrupt.
When I ride past the Braun Center on my way to Huntsville and read the bold letters of the center, I feel much like any black person seeing the Confederate flag beating against a post. I feel debased, forgotten, caught in a web of indifference. We speak of Holocaust deniers, yet those of us who are thoughtful and honorable citizens cannot widen their perspective to see that the von Braun Center as named is one consequence of Holocaust denial. Good people desecrate other good people by honoring a Nazi. I will say it for you – it is an abomination.
Indifference and moral sloth sustain Wernher von Braun in the minds of the Huntsville community. I am sure his memory and “good deeds” are reminiscent of Il Duce who made the trains run on time. What he has done for the citizens, fame and fortune, keep him a cherished personage. He is our “good Nazi.” Pick up a brochure in the center and you will find his past expunged or grossly mitigated. We call this collusion. This is the classic – historic – stance of the herd, always has been.
Having read considerably about von Braun and his vicious Nazi brother, Magnus von Braun, a chemical engineer who died peacefully in Arizona, Wernher expressed remarkable obliviousness to the slave workers who he viewed with total indifference. For they were objects in his mind; he was a base opportunist. Making his way to our country with the help of our government, he merchandised his scientific wizardry in a such a way the community absorbed him as one of its own. I suppose you might say he was a good immigrant. Huntsville metabolized him.
When I arrived two years ago to Alabama and observed my first Passover at Temple B’Nai Sholom in Huntsville, I noticed a police car stationed at the front door. Curious, I asked a woman congregant about that. She answered with an ancient tribal shrug which telegraphed 56 centuries of recorded history and I knew what she meant. Given my history, I would have situated Jewish men about the temple. I have less fear as an American Jew –that is why we are here. I also subscribe to the wise adage that if you forget you are a Jew, the world will remind you of it.
And when Easter arrives this year will you have police cars in front of your churches just in case?
My uncle was in the Battle of the Bulge, a sergeant and meted out swift justice to the SS he came across in the last days of the war. Awarded the Bronze Star, he knew who he was. My family has served in WW11 and Korea. And as for the role of Jews in the South, Jews fought for the Confederacy and Jews were in the cabinet of Jefferson Davis. Judah P. Benjamin, a fascinating character, served as both Secretary of State and Secretary of War. Col. Myers, a Jew, was the Quartermaster General of the Confederacy. And at the Nazi march at Charlottesville, I would know who to side with, Mr. President.
The Wernher von Braun Center is offensive to all of us. A toxic reminder of a Nazi who mingled, associated and appreciated Nazism, Alabaman Jews find it repugnant, insufferable, as I do.
In all his books, Elie Wiesel cautions us against indifference as he finds it pernicious and allows such men as von Braun to avoid condemnation, for he is beyond redemption, thousands suffered and died so he could make his tinker toys. Recently I’ve been informed that on his gravesite there is a marker with a biblical quotation that von Braun favored. Yes, to the end, the ever evangelistic and purveyor of things over men and women, goes boldly where no man has ever gone before (Did he know that Shatner and Nimoy were Jews?).
This anecdote of the first English Jewish Prime Minister, Disraeli, might serve as a coda. In Parliament a representative from Ireland rained down anti-Semitic abuse upon Disraeli. Why? No real reason; anti-Semitism is like mold, always in the air. Nevertheless, Disraeli kept still and when the representative had his say, he replied.
“Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of Right Honorable Gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the Temple of Solomon.
Never begin a sentence with “well.” [a writer should break rules.]Well, writing, for me, was characterological. It was a consequence of a repressed and depressed childhood and adulthood. It was the spume of a discontented and directionless youth, of misspent energies and unclear goals. It was the product of an outer directed self. Aimless, un-fathered and un-mothered, I was benign neglect incarnate. There is much truth in the adage that we grow old too soon and smart too late.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
All of my books are not inspired; they are made from moving trends in my own personal reflections. When my thoughts founder upon a reef, I take the wreckage and begin to make order from disorder. A writer shapes experience. This book is a second memoir; the first was youth and young adulthood, lunacy, foolishness and recklessness; a land of mischief and misbehavior. The second memoir is more reflective, an older man’s thoughts, hopefully wiser, perhaps not; we are all fools until the day we die.
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
In my memoir I carry on an imaginary conversation with Thoreau; however, he says nothing as I speak to him about the issues of my life. I keep Thoreau silent, for the questions I ask and the answers I get are solely of my own creation. The latent message of this literary conceit is awareness, or the awakening of intelligence, to cite Krishnamurti. Thoreau, as I see him, was consumed by the meaning of experience, of how to live an aware existence. In many ways he was a scold, hectoring us, berating us, pushing and shoving us into assessing what we are doing as human lives from moment to moment. I have been obsessed, if that is the word, with understanding who I am, and how to deal with existence since a young man. And so my affinity for Thoreau. This is an old man’s memoir filled with a young man’s ardor and exuberance.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
I am free. [“I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”—Kazantzakis] I took an arrow from my quiver and it read memoir and I tried this genre free of whatever memoirs are supposed to be.
5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
All the characters in my stories and essays and novel and memoirs emanate from me., at the very least are projections of myself. The essential questions I ask are ones of meaning, intention and purpose in life. In the last essay of my memoir I ask all the questions I have ever asked of myself to an imaginary Thoreau. I would hope the reader attaches his kite to mine and sets flight.
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
I am not interested in my readership. I have deconditioned myself from that. I have no interest in twitter and all the rest. I try to get my books reviewed or seen without going nuts over it. I write for my pleasure, to divine who I am. I write for no one else. To write for others is a kind of emptiness, or outer-directedness. Who said I had to have readers? Who said I have to be read? What is it I want is all that matters. I sell a smattering of books and engage a few people in literary discussion such as this piece, but that is all. I march to a different drummer.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
Advice is generally used or secondhand; use it sparingly. It must always be questioned. With that caveat, I’ll say the following. Constantly reference yourself; look up quaquaversal which appears in my memoir. It is the source from which other things emanate. Trust yourself. Techniques can be learned and schools can teach that; but since you are the last of your kind, and no one will be like you ever again, it’s best to discover all you can about yourself through mentors, philosophers, therapists and most importantly the awakening of intelligence. Continually decondition yourself of state, religion and authorities of any kind. When you are free, your writing will be a song.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
I may have written my last book. I am not sure. I hear fragments in my mind that may turn out to be stories. To wit, “It is here. Oh my…Oh my….” Strikes me ominously. I’ll see. I have no future. I have the moment, so why waste time on a future tense.
And Then I Am Gone: A Walk with Thoreau tells the Story of a New York City
man who becomes an Alabama man. Despite his radical migration to simpler
One of the most thought provoking memoirs in recent years challenges readers to examine not only the world around them but how they are living their lives in author Mathias B. Freese’s novel
And Then I Am Gone: A Walk With Thoreau. Here’s the full synopsis: Freese wishes to share how and why he came to Harvest, Alabama (both literally and figuratively), to impart his existential impressions and concerns, and to leave his mark before he is gone.
This was one of the most unique and creative memoirs I’ve read in recent years. The story of the author’s journey in his later years in life allow us as readers to take the time to appreciate not only our own lives, but challenges us to think critically and take the time to find meaning in our lives. It does a marvelous job of using past life experiences, history, humor and classic pop culture reference s to contemplate the current state of our world. From the rise of Donald Trump as the United States President and what it says about the mentality of the nation as a whole to the hours spent on subjects like religion and life views that end up dividing us when there’s no need for it, this book is a perfect read for anyone looking to find meaning and purpose.
Written almost like a diary entry or an actual conversation between the author and the philosopher Henry David Thoreau himself, this story exudes insight, psychology and honesty. It shows the power of hope in tumultuous times, while also showing the history of the world and the threat of being doomed to repeat it in our modern times. It’s as much a reflection on our society as it is on himself, and despite the title’s ominous overtones, this story is not one of loss and hopelessness but one of learning from our own pasts and finding the will to reflect on our lives and come to terms with it. It’s a story of love, loss and life itself, and deserves to be read. If you haven’t yet, be sure to pick up your copies of And Then I Am Gone: A Walk With Thoreau by Mathias B. Freese tod
Book Review: And Then I Am Gone-A Walk with Thoreau by Mathias B Freese
Posted by bookishjen in And Then I Am Gone, Baby Boomers, Book Reviews, Books, Culture, Faith, Family, Henry David Thoreau, Inspiration, Love, Marriage, Mathias B Freese, Memoirs, Mental Illness, New York city, Non-Fiction, Nostalgia, Politics, Self-Help, Uncategorized, Walden Pond, Writing and-then-i-am-gone-book-cover-200×300
There is one thing people realize once they come to their “twilight” years. They have more of a past than a future. This is a time when they often take stock of their lives – good, the bad and the ugly. Writer, teacher and psychotherapist Mathias B. Freese is one these people, and now he shares his journey in his thoughtful memoir And Then I Am Gone: A Walk with Thoreau.
Thoreau, of course is Henry David Thoreau author of the classic Walden Pond, which many of us probably read back in high school. For Freese, Thoreau is a muse who guides him during his journey of self-examination. Ultimately Freese is asking himself, not the cliché “What is the meaning of life?” but “What is the meaning of my life.”
And Then I Am Gone is divided into two parts. Part one sets up the tone for the book and provides several chapters focusing on moving to Alabama, finding happiness with Nina, a past love affair, his relationship with his children and his own childhood, his thoughts on Trump, writer Norman Mailer, the movie Citizen Kane, and Thoreau as therapy. Part two focuses on Freese’s new life in a new home, his journey with Thoreau and coming to grips with his own mortality.
Born and bred in New York City, Freese is a secular Jewish man now living in Alabama with his southern belle, Nina, an Irish-American Roman Catholic. Not surprisingly, Freese finds country life below the Mason-Dixon line a complete cultural shock and often has difficulty navigating a world so different from the hustle and bustle of city life. However, it does force him to come to grips with his past. Freese has had success with his professional life, but his personal life was often in shambles. Childhood was difficult with a mother suffering with mental illness. Freese has been married and divorced a few times, and is also estranged from his daughter but is closer to his son Jordan.
Okay, Thoreau. Just what is life all about, hmm? Freese wants to know, You wrote a damn book about it. Surely you’ve got the goods. Now pony up!
Freese has questions and Thoreau provides answers, which often leads to Freese having more questions. Needless, say this can be quite maddening, which often leaves Freese feeling downright pessimistic.
But as I kept reading And Then I Am Gone, I thought to myself. Well, maybe we’re not always meant to have all the answers to our questions after we ask them, whether we ask Thoreau, our best friend, a therapist, our horoscope or a stranger on the street. At times those answers will leave us not exactly happy or more confused than before. Or sometimes we will find clear, concise advice or wise counsel in a time of confusion (especially in one of the most messed times in our nation’s history).
I found Freese’s book to be a true inspiration as I go through my own journey of self-exploration and after year of great difficulty, self-care. There are times I look for answers and feel nothing but despair and at times I feel true joy. We’re not supposed to solve the mysteries life and just accept things are going to be murky. At times we live life to the fullest and at times we are slackers on the couch. we should just live our lives the best we can before we are shuttled off this mortal coil.
I also appreciated Freese’s vivid style of writing. He can be a curmudgeon but he’s also wise, funny, a true storyteller. And Then I Am Gone is a treasure of a book.
Now if only I had kept that copy of Walden’s Pond….
By Mattie Lennon
Flann O Brien had a burning ambition to have at least one of his books banned. When he invented the character Fr Kurt Fahrt he said, “ The name will cause holy bloody ructions. It will lead to wirepulling behind the scenes here to have the book banned as obscene.” But the book wasn’t banned, which brings me to sensors.
It has been said that every editor should have a brother who is a pimp. To give him (the editor that is) somebody to look up to. Should every censor have a similar sibling?
There is a World Day Against Cyber censorship. It is celebrated every year on the twelfth of March. (Next Tuesday.) Should there be a world Day against the other sort of censors? My namesake, the critic Michael Lennon wrote that Ulysses was,” . Not so much pornographic as physically unclean……” I am not in a position to agree with or contradict him. Because despite numerous attempts over the years I have not yet got to Molly Bloom’s “Yes I said yes I will yes.” Of course contrary to popular belief Ulysses wasn’t ever officially banned in Ireland so ninety-seven years after its publication I can’t blame the censor for my lack of erudition in that area.
However, though I am reluctant to use the word “victim”, for more than three score years I have
been a soft touch for “censors” of various hues. Although in most cases I took Sam Goldwyn’s advice to, “Don’t even ignore them.”
As a bus inspector I once submitted a report on a complaint from an irate passenger. I had transcribed, verbatim, his objection which included many expletives, known in polite society as “the vernacular of the soldier.” My Divisional Manager asked me to change the wording, explaining, “I can’t ask the girls to type that. “
As fifteen year old, due to strict parental supervision, I was obliged to devour the exploits of The Ginger Man, Sebastian Balfe Dangerfield , and his fantasies about Miss Frost, in the semi-darkness of the cow-house in remote west Wicklow. While “the shelves of Patrick Kavanagh’s library” were the hedges of his small farm at Shankaduff my book collection was kept on the wall-plates of a thatched byre which lacked diurnal illumination By the time I got my hands on “Goodbye to the Hill” a neighbour had moved out, his cottage was empty and I could savour the carryings on of Paddy Maguire around Ranelagh and Rathmines in relative comfort.
A wise man once said that if you want something to last for ever you should either carve it in stone or write a song about it. Although I grew up within spitting distance of Ballyknockan granite quarries I am no stone-cutter. But I did on occasions make a feeble effort to record local happening in ill metred verse. Court cases were threatened more than once but , sadly,didn’t materialise . And before you ask . . . I haven’t ever been prosecuted under the Obscene Publications act.
My verbosity didn’t escape censure either. My olfactory organ, you will have noticed, has a Grecian bend. And what, you may well ask ,has that got to do with censors? I didn’t acquire my nasal fracture through walking into a wall, falling down, or being hit accidently. No. It happened in Blessington fifty-five years ago when a civic-minded man, head-butted me on the grounds that I had been using un- parliamentary language in the company of females. The ultimate in censorship I think you will agree.
When my one-act Play, “A Wolf by the Ears” was staged by an amateur drama group in Kildare the producer removed just one line. “In case there would be somebody sinsitive in the hall “, he said.
I have no way of knowing when I will be finished with censors but I know when it started. I was eight years old and it was 1954. The year that Sean O Faolain was commenting on the powers that were and their criticism of crossroad, dancing, V-necks, silk stockings and late dances. To this list of debauchery was added mixed bathing and advertisements for female underwear. And either close dancing or bikinis was a passport to Hell. One Sunday my mother arrived home from first Mass with news. The curate, in a stentorian voice only a few decibels below that of a Redemptorist Missioner had warned the congregation against “turning over the pages of the rags of Fleet Street.” Despite her less than perfect eyesight my poor mother managed the decipher the small print on the back pages of my Beano and Dandy which showed that they were printed at D. C. Thompson’s outpost in Fleet Street. Dennis the Menace and The Bash Street Kids weren’t actually banned from the house but my father reckoned it was “the thin end of the wedge.”
My parents were unanimous in their belief that the relatively young Curate was well qualified to set the moral compass for the youth of west Wicklow. And why wouldn’t he; wasn’t his father a Guard in Bray?
|O’Neill City is now being twinned with Blessington where his descendent , Wicklow County Councillor, Gerard O ‘Neill now lives.|
By Mattie Lennon.
John Moriarty was a Kerry man on whom it would be difficult to put a label. Poet Paul Durkin described this man of many parts as, “ . . . Ireland’s most outstanding philosopher-theologian since Bishop Berkeley in the eighteenth century.” Another writer described him as, “A missionary in the tradition of the early Irish monks.”
John, whom many described as a mystic, was born in North Kerry in 1938 and educated at Listowel and University College Dublin. He taught English Literature at the University of Manitoba in Canada for six years, and returned to Ireland in 1971.
Eist Recordings has now brought out a 4 CD set of John’s talks Celtic Spirituality in which he explains, in layman’s language what he calls “other dimensions of reality.” Several times in the course of those talks he reminds of how we tend to ignore our spiritual side. He emphasizes how unfortunate it is that, “ Our eyes become economic brain tumours.” In this series of talks, which were recorded in Glendalough, brings the listener on a spiritual journey in which the north Kerry habit of describing a woman as ,”a fine mare” is linked to the Hindu approach to the female. An inebriated Gaelic speaker, in Conemara, who couldn’t pronounce “W” in English, lost his bearings one dark night and asked John, “Fare the fuck are we”? What other theologian could use that story to illustrate how we are losing our way spiritually? Even the sentence structure of the Healy-Rayes is worked into the spiritual mix. This CD set is a must.
Details of Celtic Spirituality can be found at www.eist.ie
AN UNUSUAL MATCH.
By Mattie Lennon
Lisdoonvarna, County Clare is famous for its annual Matchmaking Festival. It is the location where, in many people’s lives, love-stories began. Now Dublin author and poet Michael Lacey, currently living in Lisdoonvarna, has taken the matchmaking to a new level. In his latest publication The Proud Chamber Pot he matches up a chamber pot named Helaine with a jam pot called Sam. I won’t spoil it for you with any more details because you see this is actually a children’s story. It is beautifully illustrated by Italian artist Lucia Tripepi.
Oh yes . . .they all lived happily ever after.
Details at; www.limerickwriterscentre.co
NOTHING RHYMES WITH VOLVO.
By Mattie Lennon.
I’m trying to set up a support group called VOLLOCS; with a V. (Acronym will be explained anon).
You see I owned a Morris Minor in the seventies…Which reminds me. Have you ever noticed, apart from the social possibilities afforded, the literary merit of the MM? Fair play to Christy Moore, Richie Kavanagh, and Micky McConnell – they saw the rhyming potential of the Morris Minor; Dine ‘er, Wine ‘er, Baldy Miner, Recline ‘er. Try working Peugeot, Chrysler, Citron, or Hyundai into a villanelle or a sonnet.
Have you ever heard anyone stand up at a Fleadh to sing; “The Toyota Camry Car?” And an ode to an Isuzu or a Renault would be utter Philistinism. I suppose you could rhyme something with KA, but who’d want to?
I digress. As I said, I owned an MM in the seventies and I sustained a lumber-disc-lesion (slipped disc to you) in the same decade. I contracted the latter in the back of the former during nocturnal post-dance activities around Lacken and surrounding areas of the Wicklow Mountains. I claim the Morris Minor designers/manufacturers were, at least partly, negligible through providing front seats which tilted forward making certain pelvic roll-back activities possible, if uncomfortable, in the rear. There are many places in our towns and cities, where the outside of a building describes an internal right angle, contagious to the thoroughfare. Have you ever noticed that, in such corners, there is sometimes a convex railing, with a spiked top, in position? This was a Victorian device for the purpose of discouraging erotica while parallel with the perpendicular. Why couldn’t Sir Alec Issigonis have designed, if not spikes then, some form of deterrent in the back seat of the MM?
But instead of inhibiting they subtly advertised the added facility. A promotion leaflet from fifty years ago reads; “…relax in perfect comfort in the rear seat of the Morris…the seat is extra wide and deep and there is extra leg room…deep pile carpets pad the floor…” More recently Paul Skilleter, in a Technical and Historic analysis of the Morris Minor, says it;”…gave a standard of ride-comfort such as had never been experienced in a small British car before…is more than a car…it is a familiar, dependable friend that does everything asked of it….has well planned accommodation inside.”
And what did the late Ian Nairn mean, when he wrote, of the MM, in the Sunday Times,; “…there is no way I can see a comfortable solution to a passionate embrace in the back seat?”
Bad back or no bad back it would be sharp practice on my part to take legal action against the designers of a machine with such attributes; and anyway, Sir Alec Issigonis didn’t leave forwarding address. Of course I mightn’t fare very well in court anyway; and it would be less than prudent to call a witness.
I see, now, where the British inventor, Cris McGlone, has applied for a patent for the “Posture Perfect”; a buzzing leotard. If the wearer adopts a wrong posture an alarm will go off. I wonder…
A friend of mine, a shopkeeper, claims the aforementioned alternative gymnastics are not possible in the MM. (This man once owned a Morris Minor, but it must be said he has a perfect back) “I’ll show you how possible it is,” says I ” Get me a Morris Minor and a…” Then I remembered the words of Nicolas Boileau; “Chaquee age a ses plaisirs…” (every age has It’s pleasures) I am anno-domino-barred. However I felt obliged to point out to my friend, the shopkeeper, that when Dermot O’Leary was promoting “The Oldest Swinger in Town,” it wasn’t a Prefect or an Austin Seven he used on the posters.
I’d swear the ancient Romans knew the erotically appealing properties of the MM; do you remember that little red car in the background in Ben Hur? It certainly wasn’t a Romeo or a Lada.
Remember the character in Lee Dunne’s “Does Your Mother” who was conceived in a watch-mans hut; he was called “Watchbox.” Now wouldn’t Morris Minor make a better name for a person than, say, Ford Orien or Opel Vectra?
A University-of-California study has found that men whose initials form negative acronyms e.g. P.I.G. or B.U.M. die 2.8 years younger than those with initials like V.I.P. or W.I.N. It would hardly be conducive to longevity to be called Volvo Diesel or Saab Turbo.
And speaking of longevity; the next time you see some fellow walking with difficulty (I would have every sympathy with him, he is in pain) but, ask him what’s wrong with him. He will quote all sorts of erudite specialists and tell you we evolved too quickly. We weren’t intended to stand up straight, he’ll tell you. Then you’ll have to listen to all sorts of fancy terminology; Scoliosis, Lordosis, Lor…this and Lor..that. Just listen to him for a while and then innocently ask; “Did you ever bring a Morris Minor to a dance?”
If you happen to see my old Morris Minor on the road (the Reg.No. is 7440 IK) have a look at the current driver. If it’s male and walking in the manner described above, there is a good chance he didn’t heed the warning on the faded bumper-sticker; PRACTICE SAFE SEX, AVOID THE BACK SEAT.
Oh, I nearly forgot the acronym.
VOLLOCS= VICTIMS OF LATENIGHT LIASONS ON CAR SEATS