Pedaling to Palisade

When you’re pedaling around in a new place, it can be hard to avoid recalling something Ernest Hemingway wrote about bicycling.

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.

Ernest Hemingway, White, William, ed (1967). By-Line, Ernest Hemingway: Selected Articles and Dispatches of Four Decades by Ernest Hemingway. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. p. 364.

In our case, the place is not entirely new, but pedaling our way from Grand Junction to Palisade for coffee on Saturday morning revealed more than our multiple drives in recent years to vineyards and wine tastings.

For any of the hill-shy among us, the route we took involved none of the sweaty climbing Hemingway had in mind. One slight, short incline – barely a bump in the road – got our attention on the way to Palisade and we didn’t even notice it on the way home later. 

Contours or no contours, exploring a place by bicycle gives you a chance to see and feel your new environment up close, with time to absorb some of the truth about it.

We rode the scenic river trail from near Corn Lake to where it intersects with D 1/2 Road, then turned north onto a quiet 33 1/2 Road, then east on E 1/4 Road, then north, then east a few more times until we were almost 10 miles from home in front of the pleasant Slice O Life Bakery for pastries and coffee.

Don’t get me started on how the roads are named around here. I may get used to it, but I don’t really care when I’m on a bicycle. You discover that you don’t have to remember to go either east or west on North, then take a right or left on 34 3/10 Road (or was it 36 1/4?), then angle northeast on Front to where it merges with G and the name changes.

You can stay on the trail until it ends at a bend in the road, keep the Book Cliffs in front of you until you’ve crossed the canal, then take the next right at the old red-trimmed house on the corner.

The Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway signs are helpful, too.

Pedal on.

B.J.

Expert: Make it “About me”

Some blogging expert said it’s a good idea to have an “About me” page even if you call it something else, so now I have one.

Here it is.

It’s all about me.

The dead had unalienable rights

Every victim
of deadly gun violence
had the unalienable
right to life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness.

You can look it up.

Share this self-evident truth with others.

 

Robert E. Lee as tragic figure?

Not too long ago I started following more conservatives on Twitter and reading—or trying to read—articles that might help me understand them better.

This article caught my attention today, in no small part because of my recent renewal of interest in the song that it features:

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

I’ve always liked the song but had never before reflected very deeply on its meaning. It is moving and tragic and, as that article in The American Conservative said, it is sad. I re-read the quote from a Wikipedia page that the writer cited just a couple of days ago.

The AC article was interesting but ultimately a disappointment as it tries to get the reader to sympathize with Southerners and their “shame-honor” culture. I was buying it all until this part of the article:

Robert E. Lee embodies the tragedy of the American South: he was the best military man in America — remember that Lincoln offered him command of the Union Army — and wanted to keep the Union together.

Never mind that others say Lee’s flaws and bad decisions were key to the defeat of the Confederacy. Never mind that he so wanted to keep the Union together than he went to war to destroy it. He “wept tears of blood” over the decision, the article says. How many shed real blood in those years and how many died in that war?

To position Lee as the embodiment of that tragedy is a grievous insult to the memory of the millions of enslaved human beings that he and his army fought to keep enslaved.

While touching and sad, the AC article’s portrayal of white Southerners as helplessly and hopelessly loyal to family and place by virtue of their Scots-Irish cultural heritage reads like a lame excuse for owning slaves and going to war to keep them. My own Irish roots are rather deep, but I have never heard anyone in my extended family, or anyone else for that matter, lionize Irishmen who killed innocents with car bombs the way Lee has been idolized in the land of cotton.

Lee made his choice, and calling it honorable is to pervert the very meaning of the word.

But, the song…

Again and again in recent weeks I’ve watched and listened to the video that turned up in the AC article, the one of The Band performing the song about “the night.” I don’t see it as glorifying the rebels or Lee or even the war, although I understand why some might. It is about terrible loss in more than one sense and, if anything, a reflection of the tragedy that is war.

I always wonder about the seven words one of the musicians says just before the music starts:

“It’s not like it used to be.”

In some ways it is, in some ways it isn’t.

Critical word for writers and editors: Why?

As an editor, I like to know that writers use their words deliberately.

If I know that the writer picked her words intentionally rather than carelessly, I can do a better job of editing.

question-mark-2123969_1280Many sentences that I encounter employ words in a way that my high school English teachers would have considered incorrect, ungrammatical or even immoral (I’m not kidding).

A stickler by nature and training, I revise or suggest improvements to stuff that other people write. More and more frequently, I ask a question that other editors and writers might find useful: Why?

Why did you choose present tense rather than past?

Why did you spell “colour” that way?

Why can’t I find a verb in what you’re trying to pass off as a sentence?

Did you really mean “their pronouns” or should it be “my pronouns”?

Present tense might be the preferred style, depending on the context. “Colour” may or may not be a typo. The missing verb? A quirk, maybe, or a simple mistake.

Pronouns are more complicated than you might think, as I’ve learned in recent years. My pronouns, for example: he/his/him. Few of my readers need to know that, but the concept of gender-neutral pronouns and inclusive language can be critical in some writing and conversation.

“Why?” can help the writer improve. The answers can be surprising and even educational, for writer and editor.

Takeaways

  • Writers: Choose your words carefully.
  • Editors: Ask why.