I did a little (very little, very short) newsroom debate on Fox 9 with a guy named Tom who appears to represent conservative Christians regarding the question of “Does Christmas have place in schools?” I quickly add that even though that was the planned focus of the discussion, it was quickly revised to be “Oh, no, not just Christmas, but Kwanza and Hanuka and stuff too.” That particular bit of backpedaling is, of course, ingenuous and annoying, because nobody from Hanuka or Kwanza is trying to force their religious holidays into public schools, only the conservative Christians. So if we were to have an ecumenical touchy-feelie “all the religions are equal” thing in the schools, you know it would consist mainly of Christmas, a nod to Hanuka, and a few snarky remarks about Kwanza. And it would probably not address in a valid way the 30 million Americans who are basically religon-free. You know this because that is how it always turns out.
Elizabeth Edwards — who catapulted into the public eye in 2004, when her husband, Sen. John Edwards, ran for president and was John Kerry’s running mate on the Democratic ticket, has died, a close family friend tells NPR. She was 61.
Over the past few years, Edwards wrote two best-selling books, fought a well-publicized battle against cancer and saw her marriage crumble after her husband fathered a child with another woman.
One day, about ten years ago, we were having a strong southerly fetch with small tornadoes popping out of the stormy front, so Julia and I were keeping an eye out the windows, watching wall clouds form and unform over our heads. Then, suddenly, there were these two ducks flying south, coming up over the houses across the street. They flew up into the air and beat their wings against the strong wind, not making any ground at all, and then finally, fell back out of our view. I’d seen these ducks before. By day they foraged to the north on the Metronics property, but roosted to the south, behind our house, on Rice Creek. Well, maybe not these exact ducks but the ducks in general that lived in these parts. So I didn’t think much of it.
But then, suddenly, the ducks appeared again in our view, rising above the rooftops from the back yards across the street, plowing into the wind, trying hard to drive forward with their wings beating, but making no ground whatsoever, but rather hovering in place with the strength and speed of the wind perfectly matching their flying effort. And, once again, they dropped out of sight.
This happened a total of about four or five times, then stopped, and Julia and I continued to marvel at the near-tornadoes forming constantly over head. Then we heard the quacking. Tired of flying nowhere, the ducks were now coming out of the neighbors yard on foot, they crossed the street on foot, passed by our house, and followed the lawn down to the play ground then into the treeline where they disappeared into the woods.
My father was a housing authority executive director during much of the 1970s and 1980s. He was fairly well known, having established one or two of the main housing authority directors’ professional associations, and having developed the shared risk pool insurance system which reduced the cost of running public housing projects buy tens of percent. Jimmy Carter offered him the HUD directorship, but he asked to be relieved of that request but reconsidered when Carter was re-elected. Which he wasn’t, else we may have spent a few years in Washington.
Anyway, it was not terribly unlikely for Joe (that was his name) to be asked to give the keynote address at a major housing authority meeting in Chicago one year. And, since dad was also a good Democrat (until later in his life) and well connected to the Albany Machine, the mayor of Chicago knew him well and was warm in his welcome to the Windy City. In fact, the Mayor personally drove (well, was driven, in his limo) over to the hotel my father was staying in, before the noon-time keynote, to surprise him, get a drink or something, and drive him personally to the meeting.