Monday, May 23, 2016

Michigan Trip: Phase 1

I tried something different with this entry and the next.  As I drove alone in the car, I used "Speech to text" on my phone (hands free, of course.)  I can't say I'm thrilled with the results, but I tried it.  It took HEAVY editing, as it wasn't punctuated at all, etc.

Oh well.


When Linda Lewis moved down to Pennsylvania she would didn't intend to stay; we were just a way-station on her way to Tampa, Florida, where she was to join her then love.

 For reasons that are none of our business, that fell through; stranding Linda in Pennsylvania.  Eventually, she found a job in Pennsylvania, and we moved out of the boarding house into an apartment. Fast forward two years later. Most of Linda's possessions were still in a storage area in Saginaw, Michigan. She'd been living out of a suitcase for over 2 years.

Now it was time to go and bring her things here. It took a while to save up, and in the end it was a very generous Grant from a mutual friend that allowed us to do this. My car had been repaired, and I even got an oil change. Linda had saved enough, again thanks to generosity, to afford a U-Haul truck one way.

And so it was that we went West on a rainy May 18th.  We jumped on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and headed west for Ohio. We didn't know how far we would get before we got tired. We were supposed to start early in the morning, but for various reasons that did not happen.  We didn't leave until 2:30 in the afternoon.

Crossing the Border

We drove through the day, and as soon as we crossed the Ohio border with Pennsylvania, the sun came out. I wonder what that says about Pennsylvania? In any case, we had a very good time singing along to CDs, making fun of the other cars on the road, general road trip fun stuff.

We began to get very tired, especially me, since I was doing all the driving as Linda does not drive a stick shift. We'd planned to get to Toledo, which is on the other side of Ohio from Pennsylvania, but that just wasn't going to happen.  So we ended up stopping south of Cleveland in a place called Streetsville.  There we had dinner at the Happy Moose, and then went back to the hotel, which I think was the Wingate, and bedded down for the night.

Tired, but happy.  The wings were quite good

In the morning, we thought about going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is in Cleveland; but I would want to spend the whole day there, and we were on a time schedule. That night, we were to be at Linda's at sister's house. So instead we both noted on the map that we were close to Kent State University. For those who don't know history, on May 4th 1970 National Guardsmen opened up on a protest of unarmed students, who were protesting Nixon's invasion of Cambodia. They ended up killing four of them: four unarmed civilians whose only crime was to stand up for their first amendment rights of peaceful protest and assembly.

Kind of sounds like what happens under Republican presidents now.

In any case, there's a museum there ,and there are monuments to the Fallen where they fell in a parking lot.  The National Guardsmen were quite good at their craft.

Monument to Jeffery Miller, 265 ft from the shooters.  Shot through the mouth

We walked the grounds of the commons where the protest took place,  We stopped where the National Guard lined up before marching across to the Victory bell which rang that day to summon people to the protest.

View across the field towards the protest.  Point of view of the National Guard

Linda next to the Victory Bell

We walked over the hill to the Pagoda, which is where the where the students ran. They proceeded to run down the hill on the other side of Tyler Hall to a parking lot. The National Guard troops advanced over the hill and into a practice field flanking the students.  They then withdrew to the top of the hill by a pagoda, at which time many of them lined up and opened fire with live ammunition. The closest person hit was a mere 60 feet away.There's a sculpture near there that had been there at the time. It still has a bullet hole in it.


Bullet hole.

I can't begin to tell you how this occasion made me feel.  I was standing on sacred ground.

I made a video there with Linda, and Linda started to break down as we made it. She was 10 years old when this happened. I was only 3.  However, it affected her deeply, and affected me in many ways.

We stood on the ground where these people stood for their freedoms, and were shot down by an uncaring right wing government.

 View of the soldiers shooting at students

View from where Jeffery Miller fell to the Pagoda (center) from which the Guard fired.

Soldiers firing at the students.  From the Museum.

There is a Museum that tells the whole story, and does Justice to quote both sides. There are quotes there from newspapers and people at the time saying 'those dirty hippies deserved it.'

To say that my Kent State experience affected me deeply is to be sorrowfully lacking in words. I was very touched, even changed by it.  I texted with a dear friend about it.  As she is a retired Marine, she held a different perspective, which opened my mind further.

I suppose the NRA's answer would be that those students should've been armed.

In any case, we spent 4 hours there, which is three and a half hours more than we were going to.  We eventually got on the road, and headed west through Ohio; then briefly in Indiana, then North into Michigan.

Pure?  The water sure isn't!

We headed north to Grand Rapids. That's where Linda sister lives. We were met there by her sister, her sister's husband, and by Linda's niece and grand-niece, who also had a boyfriend with her. They were extremely nice people, and they spoke mostly of Linda's family.

Linda was catching up, as she has not seen these people in years, and for most of them it was their first time actually meeting Linda.  There were some questions about being trans.  Turns out Linda's grand-niece's best friend is trans, so she knew a lot about it. That made me happy, because it's her generation to which we will be handing this world. It's nice to see that not only is she trans friendly, but trans knowledgeable.

We spent the night downstairs in the den, and then, in the morning, Linda's sister made me breakfast. While Linda showered, she and I talked about Linda, and what growing up in that house meant to them both. Linda's sister is very much like Linda: is she has deep convictions and deep feelings, which sometimes she doesn't want to discuss.  However they are there. Linda is not the most forthcoming person in the world, but when she gets to know a person, she's extremely open.  I found the same with her sister.

Eventually, we got on the road headed east through Michigan towards Saginaw.  Going through Michigan, we passed through a very large Wind Farm. I was extremely impressed, as the windmills were hundreds of feet high with three blades turning in the wind. It wasn't just one of them either- they dotted the entire landscape: hundreds of them as far as the eye could see for over 30 miles.

Some of the Windmills

We were passing through some very small towns- smaller even than the one where I grew up. Some even had a traffic light, but they all had a church and they all had bars.

We eventually arrived at Saginaw where Linda's storage space was located, and where she lived.  We stopped by her old apartment, where she lived when I first started really speaking to her. We then drove over to the storage place, opened it, and Linda looked upon her possessions for the first time in two and a half years. There really wasn't much in there.

Unlocking the door

The Treasure within

We determined that the smallest possible U-Haul truck would be needed, so we went and grabbed some lunch near a mall that Linda used to go to back in the day. The mall looked like it was built in the eighties, and that's where it was stayed frozen in time.  We walked around a bit- it was Linda's first time in the mall as her true self.  Then we rented a truck.

 We did we took approximately an hour to empty the storage site.  There were some interesting things hiding there.  Both of Linda prosthetics from Proactive Prosthetics were there. She had a wedding dress that she'd gotten off of eBay.  Many other things as well;  from an old computer to old television sets and VCRs.

With Linda's Dual Cassette Boom Box

Within an hour I was completely drenched with sweat. We then drove down the road heading back toward Pennsylvania.

 I don't know what Linda was feeling at this point as we were in separate vehicles. I was following her in my car. How would she feel about leaving her home for so many years? The home where she had grown up?  I'm guessing that really wasn't home to her anymore, as her parents have rejected her and she couldn't find a job.

So we headed south on the road toward Pennsylvania.

End Part One

What I wrote on the sculpture beneath the bullet hole with the chalk provided.  Kent State

John Filo's Pulitzer Prize winning Photo of 14 year old 
Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the body of Jeffery Miller

For Part Two, CLICK HERE

1 comment:

  1. Sophie:

    I'm older than both you and Linda and have clear memories of the Kent State Shootings. As much as many blame Nixon for everything that happened in that era, the Kent State Shootings were a direct result of Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes' call up of the Ohio STATE National Guard at the request of the Kent, Ohio Mayor. Nixon had not nationalized the state guard and had no part of the chain of command that led to the shooting of 4 unarmed students.

    Rhodes, a Republican, was of the same ilk as George Wallace and other governors of the era -- uppity students that protested the government and the war were to be silenced at almost any cost. That more of us weren't gunned down in those days is just short of miraculous. I can still smell the tear gas from the streets of Washington, D.C. And remember the phlanx of police, shoulder to shoulder and ten deep pushing through the streets and trying to crush the protests.

    Nixon was responsible for many wrongs, but not Kent State.