Althouse | category: Delaware



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"He awoke to the sound of water dripping into a rusted sink. The streets below were bathed in medieval moonlight, reverberating silence."

"He lay there grappling with the terror of beauty, as the night unfolded like a Chinese screen. He lay shuddering, riveted by flickering movements of aliens and angels as the words and melodies of 'Marquee Moon' were formed, drop by drop, note by note, from a state of calm yet sinister excitement. He was Tom Verlaine, and that was his process: exquisite torment. Born Thomas Joseph Miller, raised in Wilmington, Delaware, he left his parental home and shed his name, a discarded skin curled in the corner of a modest garage among stacks of used air-conditioners that required his father’s constant professional attention...."
Writes Patti Smith in "He Was Tom Verlaine/Patti Smith remembers her friend, who possessed the child’s gift of transforming a drop of water into a poem that somehow begat music" (The New Yorker).

"He lived twenty-eight minutes from where I was raised. We could easily have sauntered into the same Wawa on the Wilmington-South Jersey border in search of Yoo-hoo or Tastykakes. We might have met, two black sheep, on some rural stretch, each carrying books of the poetry of French Symbolists—but we didn’t. Not until 1973, on East Tenth Street, across from St. Mark’s Church, where he stopped me and said, 'You’re Smith.'... Examining each other’s bookcases, we were amazed to find that our books were nearly identical, even those by authors difficult to find. Cossery, Hedayat, Tutuola, Mrabet...."

Goodbye to Tom Verlaine, my fellow Wilmingtonian. I too lived among the Butterscotch Krimpets, long ago. Never have heard of Cossery, Hedayat, Tutuola, and Mrabet though. Imagine being into Cossery, Hedayat, Tutuola, Mrabet, then meeting somebody who had books by all 4.

"It creates a little mystique about the city... It creates great curiosity about the city — people coming by all the time wanting to know what is going on, tell me about your city.""

"Wilmington has always been on I-95 between Washington, Philly and New York, you know."

He compared its famously dull, corporate vibe to the unvarying “Mad Men” uniform worn by the legions of lawyers and chemical engineers who once populated its downtown: “a white shirt, a sincere tie and 12-pound wingtips.” 
“It was not a creative culture,” he said. “It was pretty predictable, stay within the guard rails.” 
The main mystery about the place seems to be identifying something, anything, that distinctly says “Wilmington.” Ask residents to name a unique feature and the universal response is a long pause....

This mayor is kind of annoying! How do you get to be mayor with such a sadsack attitude toward your city. I left there more than a half century ago, and I wouldn't take that tone. And I don't like the knee-jerk putdown of lawyers and chemical engineers. My father was a chemical engineer, and I don't think you should be overly obsequious about the "creative culture." Plus, it makes no sense to say "stay within the guard rails." Guard rails are put up to keep reckless people from going over the precipice. If people are actually acculturated to follow rules and norms, the trite expression might be "color within the lines." But everyone stays within the guard rails. That's the idea of guard rails! This man bothers me. Feeding quotes like that to the NYT! Your city finally catches the eye of the world and you have nothing to offer. 

I like that the NYT article begins with a photograph of the Charcoal Pit — even though the picture shows the sign with the first 3 letters burnt out. The caption calls it a "local favorite" of Joe Biden's. It is the Wilmington restaurant for me. I've written about it from time to time, including the when Joe Biden confused Delaware's declaration of independence from Pennsylvania with Delaware's ratification of the Constitution. He said: "We declared our independence on December the 7th." Which just by chance is today. Delaware Day. (It's also Pearl Harbor Day.) How could you grow up in Delaware and not know about Delaware Day? At the time, I said, "Maybe he was seated at the next table [from young me] at the Charcoal Pit."

"An eight-foot tall whipping post has been removed from outside the Sussex County Courthouse in Georgetown, Delaware."

"The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs (HCA) said the post had been used to bind and whip people for crimes up until 1952, with African Americans being punished disproportionately" — 6ABC reports.

I remember growing up in Delaware and talking about whipping still being on the books as a form of punishment. Exactly how did we experience that? Hard to remember, but I think it just seemed weird, something odd about our state. It was something that wasn't actually used, but it could be. It was there. You never know!

Delaware abolished the punishment of whipping in 1972, but keeping it on display was apparently considered valuable as a matter of history. But, the director of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, Tim Slavin says it ought "to be preserved in the state's collections, so that future generations may view it and attempt to understand the full context of its historical significance," but....
"It's quite another thing to allow a whipping post to remain in place along a busy public street - a cold, deadpan display that does not adequately account for the traumatic legacy it represents, and that still reverberates among communities of color in our state."
Interesting use of the word "deadpan," which I feel as though I've only ever seen as a way to deliver comic lines, and obviously there was no comedy behind the stark presence of the whipping post. But "deadpan" simply refers to the expressionless face, and the missing expression can just as well be disapproval or regret.

But something is lost when the notorious object is removed from its historical place. You can no longer go there and see and touch it and say, right here, this is where Delaware whipped its convicted criminals, and imagine that happening to you, perhaps contemplating whether you might prefer a minute of whipping to a year in prison.

From a 2013 Delaware Today article:
Poisoning someone could bring 60 lashes. Trafficking in stolen mules could mean 20 lashes, as compared to wife beating, which could get as few as five....

The whipping post, an oak column standing in a prison yard, was called “Red Hannah,” and the whipping was done with a cat-o’-nine-tails of nine leather thongs.

The last time anyone was sentenced to be whipped was 50 years ago in 1963, although that one was never carried out. Lashes had been laid on since the Colonial days, but not since 1952, and times had changed.

Bert Carvel, the Democratic governor, commuted the sentence as fast as he could to keep the case from getting into the court system and turning Delaware into a laughingstock. “My thinking is this thing shouldn’t go to the Supreme Court and embarrass the state,” Carvel said, in a quote from the Wilmington Morning News of Feb. 22, 1964....

A man who was whipped in the 1940s for stealing a car talked about it during a newspaper interview in the 1960s. “It made me feel like an animal,” he said. “It doesn’t rehabilitate anyone. It degrades him. It makes him worse.”...

"We all know that Trump is a bully. But I say, I’m a New Yorker, and I know how to deal with bullies. I did it all the time. I’m not afraid of Trump and he knows it."

Said Mike Bloomberg, quoted in "Wounded but defiant, Bloomberg promises to keep fighting."

I don't think any of the Democratic candidates are afraid of Trump. They all say he's a bully and offer to stand up to him. The question isn't whether they're afraid, but whether they are capable of fighting to a win. Bloomberg's real answer on that question is that he's got all that money. And that he's more capable than the other finalists not because he's a fierce debater, but because he's moderate and normal.

By the way, I'd like to look at the new Bloomberg ads. Why can't I find a YouTube page that just gives me all his ads? Is it that the campaign wants to force me to go through a page where I give them my information (which I don't want to do), or is that they have targeted ads and they don't want me to see the ads that are targeting other people?

ADDED: About that "I’m a New Yorker" business. Sanders is also a New Yorker. I'm interested in the way United Statesians find important meaning in their particular state affiliation. Amy Klobuchar presents her Minnesotanosity as a compelling qualification. Buttigieg has some belligerent pride in Indiana. Biden finds meaning in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Warren goes all Oklahoma on us. They all act as though their particular state gives them special powers.

I like this about America, but it is a form of prejudice. It's apparently an acceptable prejudice, this notion that my state is superior to the other states, that I'm better than other people because I come from this state. I've lived in New York and experienced the New Yorker's attitude of superiority. I happen to come from Delaware, and I've learned that people don't think much of the Delaware person (unless it's a corporation), but I grew up thinking we were very special because Delaware is The First State. Like: We're #1.

But I learned long ago that no one outside of Delaware cares at all about that. New Yorkers, on the other hand, never let go of the belief that in their own superiority. You see that in Bloomberg. Who's nearly 80. And who's trying to convince the people in all those other states that he's their guy. He expects them to be awed by his superiority. But he was crushed at the debate. Where's the superiority?

Maybe he's too sophisticated to take the bait. These people can't make me mad. If you can find video that shows Bloomberg's face when Elizabeth Warren says "horse-faced lesbians" — most video shows only her at that moment — you'll see he does not look the slightest bit alarmed or intimidated. There's a slight smirk, like he still thinks his joke is funny or thinks Warren is merely amusing in bringing it up.

"They held a town pageant in Arden, Delaware, on September 5, 1910... One Ardenite, an anarchist shoemaker named George Brown, played a beggar."

"This annoyed some of the other players, because no such role had actually been written. But Brown decided to add it to the program anyway, so he dressed in rags, caked himself with mud, and invaded the proceedings, taunting the other characters and demanding alms from the audience. Many 'onlookers needed assurance,' The Single Tax Review reported, that Brown 'was only "part of the show."' This was a pattern: Brown liked to talk, and not everyone liked to listen to him. According to the novelist Upton Sinclair, who lived at the time in a little Arden house that his neighbors had dubbed the Jungalow, Brown insisted on 'discussing sex questions' at the Arden Economic Club. When the club asked him to cut it out, Brown declared his free-speech right to continue and kept talking until he'd broken up the meeting. He broke up the next meeting too, and finally, Sinclair wrote, 'declared it his intention to break up all future meetings.' At this point some of the locals wanted to have him arrested for disturbing the peace. But that required outside help, because the town of Arden did not have a police force. In fact, the town of Arden didn't have a government at all.... [E]veryone involved in the George Brown caper of 1911 is long dead. Yet Arden is still here, a little shire surrounded by an otherwise ordinary suburban landscape...."

I'm reading "Delaware's Odd, Beautiful, Contentious, Private Utopia/Arden is a suburb, an artist's colony, and a radical political experiment" by Jesse Walker at

I'm reading about Arden — here, in pre-dawn Madison, Wisconsin — because Meade and I were talking about growing up in the early 1960s, when you saw lots of kids outside playing all the time. I was thinking about the Arden store, where I blew my allowance every week on penny candy....

... which I ate all at once on that porch. The Arden Store, on the edge of Arden, was about 3 blocks from where I lived, in what Reason called the "ordinary suburban landscape." We thought of Arden as a strange place, where the artists lived and where taxation was very different.
The Single Taxers were followers of Henry George, a 19th century economist who argued that government should be financed solely by a tax on land values. No income tax, no sales tax, no tax on the improvements to a property—just one tax on land. The campaigners crisscrossed the state in armbands, knapsacks, and Union Army uniforms, delivering streetcorner speeches and singing Single Tax songs ("Get the landlords off your backs/With our little Single Tax/And there's lots of fun ahead for Delaware!").... The invasion was a flop.... 

"Because of Bob’s mixed blood, he was often teased as 'the little yellow boy' or 'the German boy.' He was described as shy, resourceful, and clever."

"In 1957, Marley and his mother moved to Kingston, settling in a dense, ramshackle neighborhood referred to as Trench Town. Marley fell in with a crowd that dreamed of making music. He formed a group with Neville (Bunny Wailer) Livingston, Peter Tosh, Beverley Kelso, and Junior Braithwaite. They eventually called themselves the Wailers, and their sound fused American-style soul harmonies with the island’s jumpy ska rhythms. Under the guidance of Joe Higgs, a singer and producer, the Wailers were a local sensation by the mid-sixties. But island stardom brought little financial security. After moving briefly to Wilmington, Delaware, where his mother had relocated, Marley returned to the Wailers in 1969, just in time for a revolution in Jamaican music: the jolting, horn-inflected styles of ska and rocksteady were slowing down. Reggae was the new craze."

From "Manufacturing Bob Marley/A new oral history shows just how much of his story is up for grabs," an article in The New Yorker (about this book, "So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley").

There are many interesting things in that article, but the most interesting thing to me was that Bob Marley lived in Wilmington, Delaware in the 1960s. I look up his address — 2312 Tatnall Street — and find it in Google Street View:

Google calculates how far that was from where I lived — 5.5 miles. I left in 1964, and he didn't arrive until 1965.

Do Americans get the Midwest? Can a candidate with a midwestern accent and demeanor ever get elected?

When's the last time we elected a Midwesterner President? Ford doesn't count. He wasn't elected. You have to go back to Eisenhower and by the time we elected him, he wasn't just from Kansas anymore. He was from The World — The World War. And Kansas isn't even really the Midwest I think of as the Midwest. It's too far south. When's the last time we had a President from the North that is not the East?

Here's a list the home states of all the Presidents. I was surprised to see that I could have said we have a President right now from the Midwest! It never occurred to me — even as I rewatched that Bloggingheads segment — to think of Barack Obama as a Midwesterner, despite his connection to Illinois. His demeanor and his accent don't come across as midwestern. I think of him as coming from Hawaii.

I think we've never had a President from the North that is not the East. We've had a lot of Presidents from Ohio, and in that video clip, where I'm talking about Scott Walker's chances as a midwestern-style person, Bob Wright gets fixated on Ohio Governor Kasich, but Ohio isn't what I mean when I say Midwest. Note that I have lived in Wisconsin for the last 30 years, so I have an idea of the Midwest (and the North), but I consider myself from the "mid-Atlantic region," born and mostly raised in Delaware — just about exactly at the place where the Mason-Dixon line would cross if the mapmakers hadn't switched to using a compass when drawing the head on the little man called Delaware....

I am an insider/outsider in the Midwest. I think I get the cultural style that one sees in people like Tim Pawlenty and Scott Walker who seem too bland for outsiders. I mean that I also get The Not Getting of It. It might help that my mother and her family were from Michigan. Bob is from Texas, which is a big place, so maybe that's why he blithely groups Wisconsin with Ohio. He also sneered at the notion that Delaware is the South. I forgot to ply him with the question whether Texas is the South, but we were running out of time.

This post has become a grab bag of issues, so I'll load in one more, because news broke as I was writing this: "Lindsey Graham officially launches presidential exploratory committee." In the Bloggingheads clip embedded above, I talked about the problem of a Southern accent for a Republican candidate and say I think Americans have trouble with Lindsey Graham because of his accent. But the discussion of Midwesterners is not so much about the accent — though it is a problem if it's too exaggerated (as in the movie "Fargo") — it's the modest, low-key, seemingly bland style. But that problem could be an advantage. People might be in the mood for modest blandness. Of course, Scott Walker's opponents won't accept that picture of the man. They demonize him. How do you demonize modest blandness? Oh, it's an old game here intra-Wisconsin.

FiveThirtyEight continues to ferret out the truth about what really matters — like which states count as "The Midwest"?

"To get this broad-based view, we asked SurveyMonkey Audience to ask self-identified Midwesterners which states make the cut."

See, because what you need is data. Because data can be analyzed. And with that data we learn that the heart of the heartland is Illinois. Or is "heartland" a somewhat different place? Maybe another SurveyMonkey for "heartland" and then a Venn diagram showing the overlap.

Are you in The Heartland and/or The Midwest? free polls 

FiveThirtyEight follows up with "Which States Are in the South?" I have a few questions here. For example: How did only 80-some percent think Mississippi is in The South?

Also, I have an answer about Delaware, where I was born and raised. Apparently somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of those who identify themselves as Southerners see Delaware as part of the south. Living there, I didn't know anyone who had the idea that we were in The South, but as an adult, I have been told repeatedly, often by people who were laughing at me, that's because I'm white. So maybe we need 2 maps of which states are in The South, based on 2 surveys — one from those who identify as southern and black and one from a those who identify as southern and not black.

Christine O'Donnell gets message from Treasury agent: "your personal federal tax info may have been compromised and may have been misused by an individual."

O'Donnell — the 2010 Tea Party GOP candidate for the Senate in Delaware — received that phone call earlier this year, but the breach occurred the day she announced her run for office:
[That very day] a tax lien was placed on a house purported to be hers and publicized. 
She didn't still own that house, so we didn't get to see how far the persecution of the woman — also taunted as a "witch" — might have gone.
The IRS eventually blamed the lien on a computer glitch and withdrew it.

Now Mr. Martel, a criminal investigator for the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration, was telling her that an official in Delaware state government had improperly accessed her records on that very same day.
State government accessing IRS records the day the campaign is announced and acting instantly to break her financially.

Christine O'Donnell gets message from Treasury agent:

"As she was considering a Senate run, Ms. O'Donnell said she was told by a prominent political figure in Delaware that if she challenged [mainstream Republican Michael] Castle, the IRS and others would 'F with her head.'"

How pathetically little investigative journalism we've had on the IRS scandal and the effort to crush the Tea Party!

5 new national monuments.

Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad for escaping slaves. Charles Young and the Buffalo Soldiers. The Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico. The San Juan Islands off Washington State. The state of Delaware.
Delaware is my home state, so I'm pleased to see:
First State National Monument in Delaware. The monument will tell the story of the early Dutch, Swedish, Finnish and English settlement of the colony of Delaware, as well as Delaware's role as the first state to ratify the Constitution. The park is comprised of three historic areas related to Delaware's rich history: the Dover Green, the New Castle Court House complex (including the courthouse, Green and Sheriff's House), and the Woodlawn property in the Brandywine Valley.
The name of the monument is based on Delaware's nickname "the First State." (It was the first state to ratify the Constitution.)
"They held a town pageant in Arden, Delaware, on September 5, 1910... One Ardenite, an anarchist shoemaker named George Brown, played a beggar.""Because of Bob’s mixed blood, he was often teased as 'the little yellow boy' or 'the German boy.' He was described as shy, resourceful, and clever."

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