In the course of our travels we have often witnessed various forms of risk taking behaviors. Stunts on motorcycles rocketing down the road, aggressive driving in other forms, and folks dangling their feet over the edges of cliffs are just a few examples. Most of these risk takers are under 40 years old. Folks in my age group (post-60) tend to be a bit more cautious and circumspect of their mortality.

In the last 3 months 7 of my friends and professional colleagues have died. 5 from illness, one the victim of a tragic accident, and this last week one the victim of suicide.

It was not so many years ago that encountering death among friends and acquaintances was rare. These days I am becoming increasingly aware that the odds in the lottery of life are slowly shifting against me and in favor of “the house”. My Mother recently remarked that Christine and I are blessed to have so many friends both near and far (we agree!). In the same breath she sadly noted that all of her long time friends are “gone”. Two weeks ago we celebrated both my father-in-law’s 100th birthday and our newest grandchild’s first birthday. One of the few things that those bookends of life share in common is that while they are both loved, they have few friendships. Little Lennon is too young to have yet made friends in this life, while Bill has outlived most of his. Lennon and Bill are at opposite ends of the Bell Cure of Life and Death. In our 60’s, Christine and I are approaching the peak of the curve. At age 84 statistics say that a flip of the coin has the same odds as whether we will be alive or not.

None of this is morbid or depressing to me. It is reality and much of the reason that I so passionately pursue travel. A judge once remarked to me that “Lawyers don’t retire… they just die at their desks.” There is some truth to that, although I know a few who are the exceptions and I long ago determined to be among those who would retire.

To you who are closer to my age I offer, don’t put off until tomorrow the things that you may find you are then unable to do. To you who are much younger I pray you will see your careers as a means to an end and not an end in itself. Have Fun, Do Good (as in both your best, and what is right), and Be Safe for the sake of those who love you. And finally to the few of you who silently despair of life each day, please share your secret with someone and be open to help.

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is a suicide magnet. In 2013 there were 46 who jumped to their death… in the preceding years it is estimated that over 1,600 have jumped with a 98% certainty that they would not survive. I read of a study where the author interviewed a number of those few who did survive. The thought that they uniformly held in common is that at the moment they let go of the bridge they regretted the decision.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. My friend Mark ended his life this last week. He was a brilliant scientist, a gifted athlete, and an incredibly caring and generous man. I count myself among the many who wonder why and wish that I could have intervened.

Have I said how much we like Canada? I have fond recollections of visiting as a child with my parents, our small camping trailer in tow behind a 1958 Buick. I have fond recollections of tent camping in Canada with our children in the early 1980’s. Before we entered at Thunder Bay I tuned the radio to a French Canadian radio station and told the children that upon entering Canada we must drink Canadian water in order to “understand Canadian”. At the tourist information office we entered and I immediately shuffled them off to a drinking fountain. After they had each had some “Canadian water” we approached the information counter and I asked the young attendant if she would say something to our children. She asked, “What do you want me to say?!?” The children exclaimed in a virtual chorus, “Dad, WE UNDERSTAND CANADIANS!!!” (I only wish our President did)

In those days all that was necessary to cross between the United States and Canada was a driver’s license and a smile. Unfortunately, the current political climate has made it a bit more stressful for Americans to both leave and return to the United States from Canada. It should come as no surprise that treating a best friend with mistrust will engender a reciprocal response. It is the same with nations.

Canada shares the longest international border in the world with the US. We share language and culture… We share the same aspirations for democracy, freedom, and the preservation of human rights. We have fought side by side in two World Wars, Korea, and Iraq. Canada is our number one trading partner. Christine and I support our friendship with this good nation and its people.

On July 1, 2017 we were in Whitehorse, the capital of Canada’s Yukon Territory, for the National Canada Day Celebration. It was also the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. It was a memorable day for us as we witnessed ceremonies that celebrated not only Canada’s founding, but the heritage of the First Nation Peoples, the admission to citizenship of 55 people from over 15 different countries, and the expressions of inclusion for all Canadians regardless of prior national origin, religion, gender, race or sexual orientation.

We arrived today in Ottawa, this nation’s capital, where our friends Tom and Nanci are treating us to the hospitality of their home. We joined with them this evening for a spectacular multi-media presentation on Parliament Hill. In words (English and French) and laser images projected upon the Parliament building. A “Cliff Notes” recitation of Canada’s history played out to the delight of hundreds of spectators. As citizens of the United States Christine and I were proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Canadian friends as the strains of “Oh Canada” concluded the festivities.

Peace Everyone. Pete

Canada’s Eternal Flame.

The buildings that comprise Parliament Hill, the first being Parliament.

The offices of the Prime Minister.

Selected images from the multi-media presentation.

In the interest of full disclosure, this is not a “travel post”. In my work and education I have been associated with the American Justice System for nearly 50 years. I am a fan of the Justice System, and I firmly believe that the system as a whole and those who dedicate themselves to working within it are honorable servants of society. However, as a creation of humans, administered by humans, it is imperfect… strive as it/they might to achieve perfection.

I recently reconnected with a former client who I represented as an attorney over 30 years ago. “Dana” (not her real name) came to me after her children had been taken into custody by Child Services. I represented her in the proceedings to place her children under the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court. I was empathetic to her situation and although I believed her to be much a victim of her own history and circumstances it was clear that intervention for the benefit of her and her children was appropriate.

The Court took jurisdiction in a largely uncontested action. Dana and I saw this as an opportunity to secure services for her, the children, and to extricate all of them from the abusive shadow of her husband. The avowed intention of the Juvenile system is reunification if such can be accomplished in the best interests of the children. In this regard a Parent Service Agreement is crafted that is intended to give clear guidance to the parent of what she must accomplish to achieve reunification. In “Dana’s” case, the husband was and would be no longer in the picture.

Dana actively pursued compliance with the Service Agreement. However, with each achievement the “finish line” seemed to move. It appeared this way to both Dana and to me. Our suspicion grew that the caseworkers had pre-ordained the case for Termination of Parental Rights. This is the equivalent of the death penalty for a parent. The irreversible termination of a parent’s relationship with her/his children. The children could then be legally adopted by another family and the natural parent would become less than a memory.

The caseworkers repeatedly found minor faults with Dana’s performance. I found the complaints to be disingenuous. Ultimately I was informed that the workers believed that her acceptance of responsibility was inadequate… her “acts of contrition” were insufficient. Dana’s energy had long been exhausted by the abuse that she had both witnessed and suffered. She was unable to continue. Dana instructed me to inform the workers and the Court that she would accept the termination of her rights as a parent.

I learned in my first undergraduate Survey of American Justice class that there are 5 main purposes for the imposition of punishment:

1. Restitution

2. Deterrence

3. Rehabilitation

4. Incapacitation (elimination of further threat), and

5. Retribution.

These are stated in no particular order, but it seems to me that rehabilitation, restitution, and deterrence are the most noble while retribution is the least principled.

There were many outcomes in the course of my 3 year career as a Probation/Parole office and nearly 40 year career as an Attorney that I disagreed with, but only a few that I felt were fundamentally wrong. Dana’s was one of the latter. With the removal of her children came the removal of services for her. In my recent meeting with Dana I learned of the results for her and also for the children who she reconnected with in later years. There was no benefit for any of them.

As a society we like our news stories, novels and movies to have clean discernible endings… the good guys are distinct from the bad guys. Perhaps for some in the Justice System clean and discernible conclusions are valued as well. There are occasions that the System makes a determination that is clear on its face, but the distinctions between the good guys and the bad ones are less well defined. “Acceptance of Responsibility” and “Sufficient Contrition” are not a substitute for the purposes of punishment outlined above. The Innocence Project has proven time and again that a legally convicted defendant is not always “the bad guy”.

Peace Everyone. Pete

Yesterday I mentioned my challenges with relaxation and solitude. That remark drew thoughtful comments from good friends. Before I delve further into that… first about today.

Within a radius of 5 miles my bicycle carried me to a number of remarkable (and memorable) sights. The Stockton Dam, constructed in 1963, featured a state of the art hydroelectric turbine. The original turbine now stands on display. In 2009 one of its huge blades failed, breaking off from the unit and then discharged into the lake. It was retrieved, welded back in place, and the turbine was restored to service in 2010. However, the handwriting was on the wall and a new more efficient turbine was installed in 2013.

Near the sight of the turbine monument are huge rock cores that were excavated at the time of the dam’s construction. These cores provided engineers with valuable information regarding the stability of the underlying strata to support the dam structure. Moreover, the cores gave geologists a remarkable window into Earth’s past. The cores exposed layers of rock that date back 450 million years, a time before vascular plants and vertebrate life forms existed. The cores could not only be examined on the surface, but the holes that the cores left were large enough in diameter to allow geologists to descend the 200 foot depth and closely examine the strata in-situ.

Perhaps the most unexpected encounter on my exploration was a small out of the way cemetery founded by Issac Lyons Hembree (1796-1865). He had settled 1600 acres of Missouri wilderness in 1852 and determined to be buried in a place where he could watch over the work in his fields below. His gravestone is weather worn, but a bronze emblem gives testament to his service in the War of 1812. Other monuments to his descendants speak to service in the “Indian Wars”, and most poignantly to the service of Thomas Wilson Hembree, USN, who died on December 7th, 1941… “a date which will live in infamy”.

I had the good fortune at camp to meet Katherine, a retired educator originally from Kansas City. She and her partner moved to Stockton Lake, attracted to the natural beauty of the area and the favorable cost of living. Initially there was some concern whether they would find acceptance in the rural society. Those concerns were quickly forgotten as they not only were embraced by their neighbors, but Katherine’s partner was elected Mayor of their town.

Katherine introduced me to her neighbor Craig, a 59 year old retired hydrologist. Craig found a new passion in retirement, hand building wooden boats. He brought to camp a kayak and a gaff-rigged catboat. They are both sea-worthy works of art. Tomorrow, weather willing, Craig and I are going to sail the catboat together.

Back to my starting reflection: My friend of 50 years, Maxine, suggested that I sit beneath a large tree and with the aid of a magnifying glass (or bifocals) engross myself with the close examination of the wonders to be found in a square foot of the ground. She touts this as a meditative exercise to embrace both solitude and relaxation. I intend to take her up on this suggestion. However, my first impulse was the thought of what others might think of a 66 year old white haired guy playing detective with blades of grass. Mind you, as an adult I have hugged trees in order to “feel” the life of those stately creatures… I have laid upon the grass to contemplate the endless universe above and the 8,000 miles beneath that separates me from those on the other side of the world. In these and other similar actions I have found a tension between my proper “adult self”, and the childlike wonder that occasionally motivates me.

Childlike wonder reveals what adult propriety suppresses. We knowingly smile at a child’s play with imaginary friends. We gently discourage a child’s “overactive” imagination… and eventually we drive that free spirit into compliance with the norms that we ourselves were taught to observe as the price of our adulthood. What if the unfettered imaginations of a child or an adult nearing the end of life, are able to perceive what we have become blind to? “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” (attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche among others)

Today was a journey not measured in distance but certainly as experienced in its depth.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. Perhaps tomorrow will be about “The Next Thing”.

Evelyn Evans taught high school English and more importantly she taught life. She took the time to give me and other of her students a glimpse into the potential that she saw within us. Another of my high school teachers once took me aside and expressed his opinion that I might be better served in pursuing a “technical education” … college was probably not a prudent option for me. Mrs. Evans looked beyond my struggles with spelling, penmanship, and adolescence to express a different opinion. There are only two assignment artifacts that I have retained from those days, not because of the content of my classwork but because of the content of Mrs. Evans’ written comments to me. Her words mattered and it is not hyperbole for me to express that they may have changed the course of my life.

Each of us has the potential to give the gift of “words that matter” to either encourage or discourage. Be mindful in the exercise of such an awesome responsibility.

Peace Everyone, Pete

PS: There was also Mr. Robert Dreher. He was a successful attorney in Carbondale Illinois who taught a “Survey of the Law” general education course at Southern Illinois University. On the first day of class he confidently strode to the front of the auditorium and announced to the assembly of over 100 students, “I’m Robert Dreher, I’m a LAWYER… you may call me Mr. Dreher or Professor Dreher. You may NOT call me Doctor Dreher… because I’m a LAWYER.” Mr. Dreher, though short and portly, wore his three-piece suit with the strength and dignity of a medieval knight in armor. The large cigars that protruded from his vest pocket were like a coat of arms.

At mid-term, we were required to submit an essay to him. The day that the papers were to be returned to us Mr. Dreher began his lecture by first asking, “Is Peter Schloss here?” (we had never spoken). I raised my hand and he then asked me to see him after class. My heart was in my throat for the next 50 minutes. After class I walked up to him and asked, “Professor, you wanted to see me?” He looked me in the eye for a moment longer than was comfortable and asked, “Have you ever thought about becoming a lawyer?” “No sir”, I replied… To which he responded, “You should”. That was the extent of the “conversation”. Words that matter.

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(Originally published December 5, 2016)

 

There are many great nations in the world today, but perhaps only one whose people are self burdened by the sobriquet of “Greatest Nation”. There are also a few nations whose people wish to have that burden. So it is and so it has always been.

That burden has been borne by Rome, Macedonia, Spain, Portugal, Great Britain, ancient China, and a host of other notables whose accomplishments are recorded in the annals of time and the ruins of tourist destinations. During their reign as “The Greatest” was there ever a time when their citizens imagined that they would not be the greatest? Could Romans imagine a world without Rome? Could Britains imagine a day when the sun did set on The Empire?… Spaniards and Portuguese contemplate a North or South America where they held no territory?

Humans have a wonderful instinct for the moment. We identify events and we memorialize them with monuments and sometimes holidays… we teach them to our children and they become part of our culture. The year 1066, December 25th, July 4 1776, December 7 1941, June 6 1944, and yes 9-11. Dates and events that remind a people of an important moment in time.

Humans are good at recognizing the crossroads of history, but poor at recognizing historical trends within the times that they live. There is typically no one day that marks the apex of greatness nor the moment of decline. With the benefit of telescopic hindsight those “events” can be identified, described, and written about… that is the purview of historians. Books that chronicle decline take hundreds of pages to describe the erosion from “greatest”, and notwithstanding that the decline occurred, the books often generate controversy among peers as to when and how.

It is perilous for a citizen to warn of decline or the loss of greatness during the time that the mantle of “greatest” is worn by fellow citizens. At best the cryer is marginalized, at worse vilified… sometimes even prosecuted. Yet their cautions to fellow citizens were proven in time. Warnings are threats to the status quo. Cautions threaten both the entrenched brokers of power and the population that is ever eager for the assurances that they remain “The Greatest”.

No doubt there were Romans, Britains, Spanish, Portuguese… who saw their leaders redefine “truth”… who recognized the concentration of power into the hands of a few whose agenda was the pursuit of personal goals and an abandonment of the nation’s interests… who saw their people equate military might as the sole measure of greatness, abandoning maintenance of infrastructure, and neglecting the care and education of their people… who recognized that fear mongering was merely a ploy to divert a peoples attention from the real ills of their time… who saw their one nation becoming a house divided.

The inertia of greatness may well be the ultimate cause of the decline of all great civilizations. When confronted with a peril to navigation a small boat can alter its direction with ease, but to change the course of a great ship much effort, distance, and time is required… if the peril is not recognized in time then disaster is inevitable.

Fortunately, all this is about history and boats. Nothing here is relevant to the place and times within which we now live.

Peace Everyone. Peter Schloss

Our non-stop flight from Iceland to Kansas City touched down in KC the evening of June 22nd. Three days later and I am still catching up on mail, bills, time with family, and reacquainting myself with the marvels of my own bed and shower. My backpack and assorted items from the journey remain piled on a chair in our bedroom, demanding my attention. Perhaps later today, but first these closing “Thoughts” from the journey.

March 5, 2017 was the day that I “met” Carmen. She was the telephone agent for Viking Ocean Cruises. We talked for almost an hour, first about the details of booking a transatlantic repositioning cruise that would take us from Puerto Rico to Barcelona Spain, and then about life and family. We became Facebook friends and Carmen has followed our wanderings ever since. April 11, 2017 was the day that we booked the cruise and thus took the first tangible steps in translating a dream into a reality.

Christine and I have mused about an extended trip abroad since the early days of our marriage. Contemplation became earnest with our retirements in 2015 and the structure of such a journey began to take form in our discussions. With the completion of our goal to camp in 49 States, 8 Canadian Provinces, and the Yukon Territory it became our “next thing”.

August 31, 2017, we purchased one-way travel aboard an Icelandair flight from Oslo Norway to Kansas City, with a one-week stopover in Iceland. This secured the bookends of our journey. We now knew the date of our departure from Kansas City to Puerto Rico, March 24, 2018, and the date of our return to Kansas City, June 22, 2018. On October 22, 2017 we purchased Eurail passes that would allow 60 days of open rail travel throughout most of Europe. Except booking accommodations for our arrivals in San Juan and Barcelona the pages of our storybook journey would remain mostly blank until we were actually on the road.

Friends provided us with insights into their own travel experiences. We listened, learned, and a plan developed. Neighbors Charlie and Mary, and my friend Hugh provided us with insight into Ireland. Moira and Gene lent us maps and advise on Scotland. Cal and Nancy shared their own plans for walking the Camino Portuguese. We would miss seeing them in Porto by only a couple of days. Kris and Dennis provided us with details from their own experience walking the Camino Portuguese and their plans to walk the Highlands of Scotland. We would miss seeing them in Port William Scotland by less than a week. We will now miss seeing Dennis ever again in this lifetime as he tragically perished on May 30th while hiking in those Highlands.

One can pour over maps, talk with friends, cruise the internet and thus come to understand and anticipate the places and things that will unfold in the course of a trip, a vacation, or a journey. However, trips and vacations are primarily about places. A journey is also about people. There are no resources to anticipate the chance interpersonal encounters of a journey. Preparation for those encounters is a matter predetermined by one’s own interpersonal skills. Like flowers on the tundra which must adjust their lifecycle to fit within an abbreviated growing season, a journey compresses the time within which relationships can form. Our journey was filled with new relationships and the brevity of the encounters did nothing to diminish the depth and richness of the experiences. In another post to follow I intend to acknowledge as many of those relationships as my memory will allow and to extend my gratitude and affection to those who allowed us into their lives and thus became a part of our life “story”. But first…

For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed watching people. I love to be invisible to those around me and become a part of the wallpaper of a place. I imagine what they see as they cast their eyes about. I wonder who they are, where they have been and where they are going. I look for answers to those questions in the clues of their dress, gate, and facial expressions. If their eyes should pass across me I wonder how I appear to them. I ask myself the question of what they see when they look into a mirror and if there is a disconnect with what I and others see when looking at them.

By the numbers we have been outside of the United States and “on the road” for 91 days, traveled nearly 22,000 miles/35,200 km (a distance that nearly equals the circumference of the Earth) through 16 countries, and visited as many capitals. We have been exposed to media within those countries and the opinions of those who we have encountered. As citizens of the United States we have been a magnet for the expression of those opinions. We have had the opportunity to watch our Nation from abroad through the eyes of others. As a temporary outsider I have found myself wondering what the United States sees when it casts its eyes around the world. As a temporary outsider I wondered about the United States, where has it been, and where it is going. I have looked for answers to those questions in what the United States projects on the world stage, in the consistency of its policies, the effectiveness of its institutions, its reliability as an international friend and partner to its allies. I have asked myself the question, “What do the people of the United States see when as a country they look in the mirror.” Is there a disconnect with what those outside the United States see when they look at us? Our journey gave me pause to ask these questions and then to answer them for myself. I invite similar reflections from you.

Peace Everyone. Pete

41 years ago today we were married. The extent of pre-nuptial counseling that I received was the minister’s pragmatic advice, “If it doesn’t work out then get a divorce.” It has worked out, but then we continue to work at it.

In the context of the last 87 days this has been a good day, but not exceptionally so. In any other context today would have been spectacular beginning with lambs bleating beneath our window.

We visited a museum dedicated to Iceland’s pre-modern turf homes. Unfortunately the museum was closed, but we were able to enjoy views of the exterior and gain a sense of those pioneer times.

There were waterfalls…

Tall waterfalls…

hidden waterfalls…

distant waterfalls…

and really big waterfalls.

We left the interior in favor of the south coast and the community of Vik. We will be here two nights and then return to Reykjavík on Thursday in anticipation of our Friday flight back to Kansas City. Our lodging in Vik is a well appointed satellite cottage adjoining an ultramodern hotel with a top notch bar and restaurant. There is even a half price “happy hour” where beers are discounted to $7.00 from the usual $14.00. One does eventually get over the “sticker shock”.

Those of my generation may recall a time in 1972 when the eyes of the world were focused upon two men and the chess board that separated them. The stage was Reykjavík Iceland and the players were Soviet Russia’s Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer of the United States. The chess they played was at a level beyond the comprehension of all but a very few. The Cold War tensions seething in the workup to the match were palpable. It was not just white pieces vs black pieces but West vs East, Democracy vs Communism, Good vs Evil… National Pride on the world stage was at stake in a time that the United States still took pride in its reputation on the world stage. Bobby Fischer was our hero and he was victorious.

In 1975 Fischer forfeited his title and went into seclusion until 1992 when he and Boris Spassky played a rematch tournament in Belgrade Yugoslavia. The once heroic Fischer was declared a criminal by the United States, citing his participation in the match as a violation of an economic embargo that it had imposed upon Yugoslavia. The US issued a warrant for Fischer’s arrest and thereafter he remained a fugitive from the country that once adored him. He was eventually granted asylum and citizenship by Iceland where he lived until his death on January 17 2008 at the age of 64. He was buried in an obscure church cemetery surrounded by farmland just outside of the small town of Selfoss. It was there today that I found Bobby Fischer… “en passant”.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. We have gifted each other an upgrade to our flight on Friday from coach to first class. We have earned it.

Here are some additional pictures from the day:

Here are some images from our day in Berlin:

By the way, this is the REAL Budwar “Budweiser” beer from the Czech Republic, not the Dutch owned “American King of Beers”.

Berlin is a city fettered to the tragedies of its 20th Century past. The people of this city could have easily turned their back on this past, or worse declared it to be “fake news”, but they recognize that ignorance of history merely perpetuates the malignancy of the past. This city lives the lesson taught in 1863 by Spanish philosopher George Santayana that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” There are current world leaders who could benefit from that lesson.

The people of Berlin have taken the fetters of the 20th Century and made them into the jewelry of the 21st Century… their version of beating swords into plowshares. Take for example Herman Goehring’s Luftwaffe headquarters. When built in 1935 it was the largest government building in Europe. It was one of the few centers of Nazi government to survive the bombs of World War 2.

Today, it has been modernized into a clean and efficient center of finance. Facing it across the street is a large information display that declares its use under the Nazi and Communist regimes, and its proximity to the events surrounding the Berlin Wall.

The Reichstag, a focal point of government under the Third Reich, retains its classic exterior but the war destroyed interior has been replaced by an ultramodern interior. 20% of the cost of reconstruction was dedicated to art, much of it pertaining to the tragedy of the Nazi past. Among the displays was a 20 foot portion of the tunnel that played a part in the mysterious fire of 1933 that the Nazis used as a pretext to suspend many personal rights within the country.

Of course there is the 5 acre Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe,

and the outline of the Berlin Wall.

There is Checkpoint Charlie,

and the nearby “Mauermuseum” dedicated to the history of the infamous Berlin Wall and the spirit of those who sought to escape it.

The Brandenburg Gate, is adjoined by a Room of Silence, a place for silent contemplation of the past.

The “Palace of Tears” was once a border crossing between East and West Germany at the Friedrichstrasse Train Station. It is now a museum to that past and juxtaposes images and films produced by each side concerning events of the times.

Of course there is much more. My point is that the beauty of Berlin is not limited to its architecture. It extends to the soul of a people who are committed to remind themselves and the world that the 20th Century is a recent past and the bigotry, xenophobia, and State sanctioned criminality of that time may become the heritage of any country that ignores the lessons of that past.

Peace Everyone. Pete

PS. Our exchange student “son” Andre shared with us two large and well organized volumes of memorabilia from his yearlong stay with us in 1992-93. There were pictures, news clippings, and the other items common to such personal collections. It was great fun to be reminded of our own youth (40 at the time!) and forgotten family times.

One item held my attention. In 1992, 16 year old Japanese foreign exchange student Yoshi Hattori was shot to death in Baton Rouge Louisiana by Rodney Peairs. Yoshi was on his way to a party and went to the wrong house by mistake. The homeowner, Peairs, was acquitted upon his testimony that he thought the boy presented a threat to him. The tragedy and the outcome of the trial were addressed in a letter to the other exchange students. It is as relevant today as it was 25 years ago.

For more details on Yoshi’s death and the string of similar tragedies that followed here is a link: The Death of Yoshi Hattori

We arrived today by train in Brussels Belgium and were greeted by Bryony Ulyett who we have not seen for 26 years! She will be our companion for the next two days, sharing the sights and culture of a country at the western crossroads of Europe. She and Christine appear below in front of the birthplace of actress Audrey Hepburn.

Belgium is officially bilingual (Dutch and French), and Brussels City is not only the nation’s capital and location of Belgium’s Royal Palace, but also the de facto capital of the European Union. It is believed that there are more ambassadors and journalists in this city of 1.2 million than in Washington DC.

We began savoring the local cuisine and exceptional beer with her this evening. The real tour begins tomorrow.

Travel of a significant duration will inevitably include times of problem solving. As detailed in an earlier post, we were caught in a rainstorm while in the Netherlands. Christine’s iPad became “toast”. She has coverage to replace it, but only with the same model. The Apple Store in Amsterdam did not have one in stock and it could take up to two weeks for one to arrive if ordered. Of course, we have left Amsterdam and are now in Brussels Belgium.

As luck would have it, the Apple Store in Brussels was a 10 minute walk from our hotel. Christine left me at a street side restaurant with permission to caress a Belgian Blond or two (it’s a style of beer) and continued on to Apple to tell them her tale of woe.

I understand the importance of the iPad to Chris. It contains her books, puzzles, provides email and video contact for her with the “little people”, and most of all provides her with a reprieve from the uninterrupted version of me. I get it. The Brussels store had ONE in stock!

While Christine was engaged for nearly two hours at the store with the task of transferring data and functionality to the new device one might imagine that I would have become either bored, inebriated, or both. Instead, It turned into one of the most pleasant and insightful 2 hours of this journey.

I sat solo under an umbrellaed sidewalk table. It had rained earlier in the day so the pavement was wet and there was a lingering mist in the air. This was a busy upscale urban shopping district so there was a constant flow of traffic and people. A stream of life passed me from left to right and right to left… male, female, caucasian, black, oriental, young, old, fit, disabled… those characteristics stood out, but what was impossible to discern was nationality.

I was “invisible” to those who passed my table. I had become part of the wallpaper of that street scene. When I sought to make eye contact folks appeared to look right through me. The rare exceptions were a very old woman who met my gaze with a broad smile, and a few youngsters who looked at me with a mixture of wonder and curiosity. It was an extraordinary experience.

I found myself wondering. My literacy is limited to English and stands in stark contrast to the common command of at least two, or three languages by these pedestrians. Christine was availing herself of services in a “foreign country” with the same seamless ease that she would expect in Kansas City. Our sojourn will tally visits to 17 countries yet involves only 6 different currencies. Our Eurail Pass is a magic carpet of travel recognized by 28 countries. Our T-Mobile phone plan allows us virtually the same telephone and data access that we enjoy stateside, but extended to over 140 countries. We see familiar products and brands in virtually every store. I could go on…

What could any thinking nation ever expect to gain by succumbing to the siren song of xenophobia and isolationism. What insecurity drives those voices. Certainly, the forces of innovation that have conferred stardom upon a nation on the world stage sing an entirely different song.

Peace Everyone. Pete