Category Archives: History

Reading With Fakename: In the Garden of Beasts

It’s been a while since I brought back the regular feature Reading With Fakename.  But this book deserves it.

Pretty much everyone has read books about the horrors of Nazi rule, but this is the first book I’ve ever read which describes what was happening in Germany in the first years of the Nazi takeover.  And that really is the question, isn’t it?  How could this have happened?  The book begins in 1933, when Hitler has first been named Chancellor.

Essentially four things were happening within the U.S.  First, the U.S. was in the midst of the Great Depression.  Immigration and immigrants were highly frowned upon, since the perception was that immigrants would take or compete for the few available jobs left to existing citizens.  How timely does that seem now?

Second, it wasn’t just any immigrants, it was particularly Jews.  Jews were viewed as a stereotype: always rich and controlling, particularly controlling the banks and the media.  This may have been dismissed as ignorance, if it weren’t for the fact that two of the most powerful people in the State Department agreed.  There were quotas for how many people were permitted to emigrate from any particular country.  These quotas were set by the Department of Labor, but it was the State Department which actually issued visas for travel.  They quietly and unofficially reduced the number of visas issued to persons from Germany (especially Jews) to 10% of the quota.  Even though they knew that Jews were being killed and persecuted inside Germany.  Treatment of the Jews in Germany was dismissed as a domestic problem that the U.S. had no right to interfere in.

Third, it was about the money.  (Isn’t it always?)  The U.S. didn’t want to piss Germany off, because Germany still owed a lot of money as reparations from WWI.

And fourth, there was zero appetite for becoming involved in another war after WWI, which was a horrendous conflict.  No matter how despicable Germany began to behave, it was viewed as a “European problem”.  Isolationism was the mood of the day.  Bear in mind that the reason the U.S. entered WWII was that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and had nothing to do with the noble cause of saving the Jews.

The book is told as the story of William Dodd, who became the U.S. Ambassador to Germany in 1933, after five other much smarter people had turned it down.  Dodd was a history professor at the University of Chicago, but was unhappy in his job.  First, he felt he had not been given the recognition he deserved, which I think means he thought he should have been offered the Chairmanship of the department.  Second, he was trying to write a book about the Old South, but his teaching schedule was so heavy, he had no time or energy left to write.  So he began a campaign to be named an Ambassador.  What he wanted was someplace sleepy, where he wouldn’t have to work too hard, like the Netherlands.

When Dodd went to Berlin, he took his entire family with him; his wife and his grown son Bill Jr. and grown daughter Martha.  Much of the book follows the escapades of Martha, who was, to put it in a family-friendly way, a party girl.  She was generally sleeping with four or five men at a time, including a couple of Nazis, one of whom (Rudolf Diels) was the original head of the Gestapo.  Diels was ruthless, but somewhere along the line developed a conscience, and actually testified for the prosecution in the Nuremberg trials.

One of her lovers was a guy named Boris, who was an attaché to the Soviet Embassy.  Unbeknownst to Martha, he was an agent for the NKVD, the predecessor of the KGB.  The two of them fell in love, but it was a doomed relationship.  Her last letter from him arrived after she had already returned to the U.S., after her father was recalled.  She didn’t learn for many years that that letter was written at gunpoint, and that after writing it, Boris was executed by the NKVD.  He was apparently seen as too friendly to the West.  Ironically, the letter was intended to keep Martha’s feelings for Boris alive, since the NKVD was trying to recruit her as a spy.  It wouldn’t have done for her to know that they were about to execute Boris.

Dodd was initially a milquetoast.  He took to heart FDR’s advice that he should set an example of freedom and American values, rather than “meddling” in the internal affairs of Germany.   (This meant, don’t say bad things about how they’re treating the Jews.) Dodd was more than willing to believe that attacks on Jews, and Americans, and others, were isolated incidents, not condoned by the leadership.  But eventually it began to soak into his thick skull that he was being duped, and he began to speak out, making him even more unpopular with his superiors than he already was for a number of petty reasons.  Upon his death, he was viewed as almost the lone voice in government, warning of what was to come.  He was the American Cassandra.  If he had any doubts about his assessment, those doubts were erased by the infamous “Night of the Long Knives”.

This review only scratches the surface of the incredible amount of information in the book, but I wanted to include a story that made a huge impression on me, the story of a guy named Fritz Haber.  Haber was a German scientist who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1918 for inventing the Haber process, a method of synthesizing ammonia from hydrogen and nitrogen gasses.  He is also known as the father of chemical warfare, starting with the development of chlorine gas.  His wife begged him to stop doing this kind of work, to which he replied “Death is death”.  Nine days after chlorine gas was first used against the French at Ypres in WWI, his wife committed suicide.

Haber had just one problem–he was a Jew.  He was allowed to continue in his post as director of Germany’s institute of chemistry, even after laws were passed that essentially made it illegal for Jews to be employed at all.  Nevertheless, he began to see the handwriting on the wall.  He came to Dodd, asking to emigrate to the U.S. Dodd told him he couldn’t help, because that year’s quota had already been filled.  This of course, was not true., although Dodd believed it was.  Haber ended up emigrating to Great Britain, and died within six months.

In what has to be one of the most tragic ironies of history, one of the things Haber invented was a pesticide called Zyklon-A.  The Nazis tinkered with it and made Zyklon-B.  This is the gas used to murder a million people, most of them Jews, in the gas chambers of the concentration camps.

Must- Have Fashions of the 1960’s

I’m a member of a Facebook group for people who live or once lived in the small town in the mountains of North Carolina where I grew up.

I’ve observed an interesting sociological phenomenon here.  People who no longer live there have fond memories of the town; those who still live there do a lot of whining about how great things used to be, but it’s now gone to hell in a handbasket.  Actually, that applies more to the people who never left.  Many people I know left and then returned by choice.  They love the town and the surroundings, but don’t think it’s the one and only place in the world to be.  Nor do they think it’s been ruined by(pick one) tourists or the government.  I’m not sure what conclusion can be drawn from this, but something surely could be.  All I can conclude is that you have much fonder memories if you left, than if you stayed.  I wonder why?

In any case, I innocently did a post asking if the women in the group remembered two particular hair care products:  home perms by Toni, and the gel Dippity Do. (They still make that, by the way.) You cannot imagine how that question morphed into all sorts of memories of must-haves of the 60’s.  From hair to perfume to clothes. I’m talking about the early to mid-60’s here, not the later 60’s with the influence of the hippy movement.

Here is a partial list of products and apparel:

Tame crème rinse.  Breck and Prell shampoo.  Breck had “Breck girls” in their magazine ads.  Ordinary girls, just like you and me!  We could be a Breck girl too, picked out of a crowd for our shiny hair!

Sleeping (or not much) in big round hair rollers (sometimes with brushes!) so our hair would be curly in the morning. If your hair was long enough, you could dispense with the rollers and use empty frozen orange juice cans.  Rinsing your hair in beer to give it body.  Using lemon juice to lighten it.

Perfumes:  Interlude.  White Shoulders.  (You weren’t allowed to wear the heavier stuff your mother had–Estee Lauder.  Jungle Gardenia.  Chanel #5). Canoe or Brute for your boyfriend.

Mohair sweaters.

Wraparound skirts.


Bass Weejuns.

These are great memories and have been a lot of fun for everyone who answered.  But, I don’t miss those days of thinking we had to own or use a particular product to be worthy.  I’ve never seen the show Mad Men, but I might watch it.  That was truly the golden age of advertising.  And we were more gullible.  They still make Bass Weejuns, by the way.  I looked.

The First Thanksgiving. Er, Sort Of.

The American holiday of Thanksgiving is this coming Thursday, and here in America we have a host of traditions about it, from the food to the story of the first one.  In fact, we have a lot of stories about a lot of things, some of which are outright myths (Paul Bunyan and Babe, the Blue Ox), some stories which may or may not be true (George Washington and the cherry tree), and the story of the first Thanksgiving, which we all learn as wee children.

Here’s how that story goes.  The Pilgrims came to America from England, in search of religious freedom.  They landed on Plymouth Rock, in Massachusetts, in 1620.  They were befriended by a Native American named Squanto, who taught them how to plant native plants such as corn, squash, and beans, and how to make the crops thrive by planting them with dead fish.  The next year, when it was time to harvest, they had their first Thanksgiving feast.  In drawings, this is usually depicted as the Pilgrims and their native American friends seated side by side at a long table, enjoying turkey and a bounty of other dishes.  And they all lived happily ever after.

So by coincidence, I’m reading the book “Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War” by Nathaniel Philbrick.  This is the third book by Philbrick I will have read.  The first was “In The Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex”, for which he won the National Book Award in 2000.  The second was “Sea of Glory: America’s Voyage of Discovery, The U.S. Exploring Expedition”.  He’s written two others, one about the  battle of the Little Bighorn, and another about Bunker Hill.  I’m quite sure I’ll read them too.

The thing that used to confuse me the most about the Pilgrims was the religious freedom part.  When you look at the later history of the Pilgrims (take the Salem witch trials, for example), and indeed the history of our country to this day, religious freedom had nothing to do with it, except for their own.  They weren’t interested in religious freedom for everyone, just for themselves, because they were right, and everyone else was wrong.  Also only half, or slightly less than half of the “Pilgrims” were Separatists (from the Church of England), coming to America for religious freedom for themselves.  The rest were people coming for various reasons, including the hope of bettering themselves financially.  Plus, the Separatists didn’t live in England.  They’d already left and lived in Leiden, Holland.  They had to go back to England to board the Mayflower.  Some things they believed I wish we’d kept, such as a firm belief in the separation of church and state.  They thought marriage was a secular ceremony, not a religious one.  While they thought they were right, there’s been no mention of them attempting to “convert” their Native American friends…so there is in fact evidence of tolerance.  And that was a good move.

There actually is a big rock at Plymouth, but they didn’t “land” on it.  In fact, their first landing was at Cape Cod.

They did have ceremonies called “thanksgivings” on a regular basis, but the First Thanksgiving was more like a harvest feast.  There was a Squanto, and he apparently did teach them to plant corn, squash, and beans, using dead fish as fertilizer.  But there probably weren’t any turkeys on the menu.  The English were familiar with turkeys, they’d been imported to England long before, but the wild turkeys in America were very hard to catch.  Probably they had ducks, geese, and corn, squash and beans 🙂  But probably no fish.  They’d been farmers, and didn’t know how to fish.  It’s thought that the Native Americans brought some deer.  And they may have brought some fish too.  Let’s hope they had a dessert or two.  Maybe something with pumpkin or apples.  They could have sweetened them with honey or maybe maple syrup.

The long table is probably completely made up.  They barely had houses, much less furniture.

All in all, while the story has been simplified, much of it is true in essence.  Except for the part about living happily ever after.  After an auspicious beginning, things go to hell in a handbasket as far as relations between the settlers and the Native Americans.

It remains a good story.  They really were courageous and endured many hardships, both on the ship and in their first year in a strange land.  They had much to be thankful for…having food, having each other, having new friends, and surviving.  If parts of the story aren’t quite true, it’s still a good life to aspire to.


All Hail to the United States Postal Service

“Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”. Most Americans, I’d say, think this is the motto of the USPS, but actually, they don’t have a motto. This particular quote appears as an inscription on a post office in New York City.
The quote itself is taken from the writings of Herodotus (circa BCE 500), the Greek philosopher that I remember as being famous for saying that you can never step in the same river twice. (Still a very profound thought.) But describing the Persian system of messengers, he said, “It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey, so many are the men and horses that stand along the road, each horse and man at the interval of a day’s journey, and these are stayed neither by snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.” Think Pony Express. It also reminds me of the origins of the Iditarod.
The USPS is in a very weird position. It’s mandated by the U.S. Constitution, and yet, it’s received no money from the taxpayers since the early 1980’s. So it’s expected to sink or swim on its own merits, by hook or by crook. But let them try to raise the price of a stamp by even one cent (which has to be approved by Congress), and watch the outcry. They are always between a rock and a hard place. They’re expected to act as a private company would, but without the ability to set prices or charge higher fees based on whatever hardships may be involved based on where they have to deliver. They have to deliver everywhere for the same price, regardless.
For instance, they deliver mail to a Native American tribe living at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, which they have to do by donkey.
This is an unsustainable business model. They cannot compete with private companies that aren’t hampered by these archaic regulations. FedEx killed them. Email killed them. In the sink or swim category, the answer is…sink. The USPS lost $5 billion last year.
Think about what you get in the mail these days. Bills and ads, mostly ads. Crap you just throw away. Wasted paper, and wasted labor to deliver it.
It’s no wonder that working for the Postal Service is very depressing. The employees are under a tremendous amount of pressure to perform, but in the end, what is the reward? Yes, you get very good federal benefits, if you can manage to keep your job. But how motivating can it be that your goal is “Don’t get fired”? The first mass shooting by an employee in the workplace in this country was by a postal worker. We even have a saying for it…”going postal”.
So…at work have a regular mail carrier named Alvin. Alvin is black. Always wears an earring and has a little soul patch on his chin. Has ear buds in his ears, connected to his cell phone in his pocket. There was a time when none of that would have been permitted. The ear buds and the earring may still not be permissible, so it could be that he attaches them once he’s out of headquarters, but the soul patch isn’t something he can take off and on. So the USPS has relaxed its standards…or, said another way, has migrated into the 21st century.
Alvin likes us, because we are always glad to see him, and we tease and joke with him, so he sometimes spends a few extra minutes with us, even though he is always in a hurry. On Friday he regaled us with stories. One of the stories is that the USPS now delivers on Sunday for Amazon. When you go to work, they give you your packages and map which says, “Go here first”. And how long has FedEx been doing that? Apparently there was a bid, and the USPS won. In another story, he told us all the things you can ship via USPS, which includes food and dead bodies. He also said that because of his appearance, he is often approached and asked to take packages from one address to another without postage and without it going through the normal channels. He said he thought that was the quickest path to federal prison for him. So he isn’t going there.

The Nanny State

In the U.S., our government (federal, state, or local) is often determined to outlaw things for our own good.
Today’s rant is about the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), The FDA is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that food and drugs sold to the public are safe. Good idea. How are they doing? Not so well. My guess is they aren’t funded well enough to do the job right. Nobody even remembers who they are until there is some scare, like contaminated spinach. And then who gets blamed? The FDA! Not the growers. The FDA is in a Catch-22 world.
During the recent 16 day government shutdown, all their inspectors were suspended because their jobs were considered “non-essential”. Really?
In any case, the FDA announced about two weeks ago that they are going to start cracking down on Schedule III drugs. Let’s talk about the schedules. Schedule I drugs are those with a very high potential for abuse, have no accepted medical use in the US, and a lack of accepted safety even under medical supervision. This includes things like heroin and LSD, but also marijuana, which is pretty funny since at the state level, marijuana is legal in many states. So the Feds still consider it illegal, but there seems to be a hands-off policy when it comes to prosecuting people in states where it’s been legalized.
There are five schedules, each of which has a declining level of potential abuse, do have accepted medical uses, and have been tested for safety.
Schedule II includes drugs like cocaine, morphine (which is derived from opium) and various synthetic versions of morphine, including the heavy-duty pain killers Percocet, Oxycontin (considered the really big bad boy of the list), Percodan, Dilaudid and Demerol.
Schedule III includes such things as anabolic steroids and Hydrocodone, as long as it’s combined with an NSAID like ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Lortab, Vicodin, Vicoprofen).
Schedules IV and V aren’t worth mentioning.
So supposedly there’s a new epidemic of abuse of Schedule II drugs. Nonsense. It isn’t new. Thirty-five years ago I worked in a methadone clinic. I never met one person who was addicted to heroin. Apparently, heroin was pretty hard to come by. They were addicted to Dilaudid. How did they get it? In some cases, doctor shopping, going from doctor to doctor with phony complaints and getting prescriptions from each doctor. In some cases, from sympathetic doctors who knew they were addicts but didn’t want them to suffer. In some cases by breaking into or outright robbing pharmacies. And let me tell you, these people led miserable lives. Going from getting high to going into withdrawal. Always worried about where the next pill was coming from. Even if they didn’t rob pharmacies, they burglarized homes and fenced the take, to get the money to buy drugs. I knew a guy who bought a van, had signs painted on the side that said “Acme Movers” or something like that. He would back the van up to a house where he knew the people weren’t home, and clean it out, in broad daylight.
So the “new” epidemic has been around for a while, and the “cracking down” on Schedule II drugs has also been around, to the point where many doctors are afraid to prescribe them at all. Why? Because if you’re determined by the government to be over-prescribing them, they can revoke your medical license. Never mind if you’re an oncologist or an anesthesiologist (who typically run pain clinics for people with chronic pain) or an orthopedist.
The “cracking down” on Schedule III drugs will now remove the last effective alternative for treatment of pain, in my opinion. Pretty soon, if you, say, break your ankle, the doctor will put it in a cast, tell you to take two aspirin and call him or her in the morning. Not because they don’t think you need it, but because they will be scared.
Recently, the Florida Attorney General has been touting her success at closing down “pill mills”. The amount of Oxycontin prescribed in Florida is down by 20%. In a related story, heroin overdoses are up by 20%. What does that tell you? I seriously fear that this approach will not reduce addiction and overdoses, but will make it much more difficult for people who really need pain drugs for legitimate reasons to get them. A woman on NPR (National Public Radio) last week said she got a prescription for a pain drug, but couldn’t find a pharmacy that would fill it.
When will we ever give up on this ineffective “war on drugs”?
NPR also did a story about the issue, here’s a quote. “The US has about 4% of the world’s population, and we’re consuming more than 80% of the world’s oxycodone supply. We’re also consuming more than 99% of the world’s hydrocodone”. What a misleading statistic. What percentage of the world population has no access to medical care of any kind? What other countries have more lenient laws about drugs, and thus less crime associated with it?
You would think we (the US) would have learned when alcohol was banned in 1920 with the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. In 1933, the 18th was repealed by the 21st Amendment. Prohibition did not work then, and it doesn’t work now.

Reading With Fakename: Rabid

Subitled, A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus.  It remains the “most fatal virus in the world, which kills nearly 100% of its hosts in most species, including humans”.  By nearly 100%, they mean a handful of people have survived, and I do mean literally a handful.  For practical purposes, don’t count on being the next survivor.

It’s diabolical in more ways than one.  The symptoms are not apparent until it has wormed its way into the brain, by which time it’s too late.  Its delivery system is also diabolical and unique.  It both infects the saliva of its victims AND drives them to bite others.

The only way to tell for sure if an animal is rabid (although its behavior is a big clue), is to kill it and examine its brain.  The authors, in a gallows humor sort of way, point out that this is like Schrodinger’s cat.

The animal is literally decapitated, and its entire head is sent to a lab.  Assuming this happens quickly, there will still be time to administer the post-infection vaccine, which exists thanks to Louis Pasteur.  Of course, it often is impossible to catch the animal responsible for the bite, unless it’s a domestic animal instead of a wild one.  And even then–capturing an infected domestic animal with rabies is risky, to engage in extreme understatement here.  So the authorities don’t try.  They just shoot it.  And be glad.  It’s the kindest thing they can do for the animal.

In my neck of the woods, any time someone is bitten by a normally shy and reclusive wild animal, rabies treatment is started whether the animal can be captured or not.  In fact, there is no question when the animal cannot be captured.  Normally this would be a bat, a fox, a raccoon, or a bobcat.  If a vaccinated domestic animal is bitten by one of the above, it’s quarantined.  If it isn’t vaccinated, say goodbye to Fluffy or Fido.  It will still be quarantined, but the outcome is…not promising.

Which brings me to Pasteur.  The people in his lab went out and captured dogs who clearly had rabies and brought them back to the lab for study.  Inside the lab, they kept a loaded pistol.  If any one of them had been bitten, one of the others would have shot him.

Another sort of side story is that Pasteur had satisfied himelf that he had created a post-infection vaccine that would work in animals, but was still reluctant to test it on humans.  When at last he did so it was on a nine-year old boy named Joseph Meister.  As a man, Meister became the concierge of the Insitut Pasteur.  I now quote:  “When the Nazis, on occupying Paris, attempted to visit the Pasteur crypt [located in the Institute] in 1940, Meister bravely refused to unlock the gate for them.  Soon after this discouraging event, he took his own life”.

Pasteur was not a doctor, and had to enlist the aid of one to actually administer the injections to Meister.  At that time it was a series of something like 13 injections over ten days or so, that would be very painful.  Today it’s four injections in the arm.

I could never write a post long enough to cover the wealth of information in this book. As usual, I have only hit the highlights as I see them.  But I’ve omitted the sad and almost amusing explanations people had for the cause of rabies, pre-Pasteur. And rabies has been around as long as (if not longer) than there have been mammals.

But a final few words about bats.  Bats are one of my favorite animals.  Before the construction of Walmart in my neighborhood, which drove them away, I used to love sitting at my backyard picnic table at dusk and watching the bats.  They would often fly so close to me I could hear their wings whirr.  You have to steel yourself to an extent, not to flinch.  You have this irrational fear that one will become entangled in your hair.  Of course that never happened.  That sonar thing really does work.  Bats have the extra added attraction of eating mosquitos.  Anything that eats mosquitos is on my side (“The enemy of my enemy is my friend”.)

I’ve always known that bats carry rabies, and if one ever did become tangled in my hair, it would mean it was sick and I should carry myself to the nearest Emergency Room forthwith, hopefully with (dead) bat in hand.

Still I was saddened to read this:  “Bat bites are now the cause of nearly all human rabies infections in the United States, accounting for 32 out of 33 deaths from domestic exposure since 1990”.  And, “Bat bites are so subtle that people can be unaware of it, especially in the night, when a bat bite is sometimes not even painful enough to wake a sleeping human.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that anyone who awakens with a bat in his or room seek out vaccination for rabies.  Likewise, any unattended child or mentally incapacitated person found in the presence of a bat should be treated as if he or she were exposed”.

The book is a great blend of science, human and natural history, and amusing anecdotes despite the gravity of the subject.

Damn The Torpedoes!

Allegedly (but doubtfully) uttered by Admiral Farragut of the Union navy as he besieged the entrance to Mobile Bay.  The full (alleged) quote is “Damn the torpedoes!  Full speed ahead!”

I’m not much interested in military or naval history, but for reasons that will become apparent later, this morning I’ve been immersing myself in the history of the Battle of Mobile Bay.

One of the more interesting facts about the battle is that the entrance to Mobile Bay, guarded by Fort Gaines and her sister fort, Fort Morgan, was heavily mined with “torpedoes”.  At the time, torpedoes were anchored underwater mines.  Prior to the use of torpedoes, explosive devices were floated toward enemy ships.  These could be seen above water and were therefore avoidable.  The Confederacy was the first to use torpedoes, which disgusted Admiral Farragut.  He said (for real) that no “chivalrous” nation would make use of such things, although he eventually had to himself, in self-defense.

What’s fascinating to me is the parallel to today.  Think:  drone aircraft, which our enemies consider cowardly.  Yeah, well.  I’m not sure all is fair in love, but all is fair in war.  What’s also interesting is contemplating the ultimate outcome of superior technology.  When your enemies get it too, then what?  Will we have, eventually, a no nukes/no torpedoes/no drones policy?   I’m not taking sides on this, but I find it also interesting that the world’s powers who do have nuclear technology are hell-bent on preventing anyone else from getting it (think: Iran).  I haven’t thought this through completely, but there is something vaguely hypocritical and disturbing about it.

Another factoid about the battle is that while “Damn the Torpedos” is probably a myth, it is true that Farragut was lashed to the rigging of his ship, the Hartford, so that he could see above the smoke.  It wasn’t actually his choice to be lashed.  He climbed the rigging, and a junior officer ordered one of the men to climb behind him and lash him to it.

This whole line of thought started innocently enough with a conversation on Facebook.  My friend Jerri made a comment about how being inside the Alamo made her cry.  It was like, she said, you could feel the souls of the dead.  While I’ve been to San Antonio, it was only for a weekend, and I never went inside the Alamo.  But I knew exactly what she meant anyway.

Because I’ve been many times to Fort Gaines, which is on Dauphin Island, Alabama.  It’s first of all a remarkable feat of architecture.  There are these long hallways/tunnels, held up by arches constructed entirely of brick, without keystones.  The craftmanship that took is unfathomable.

But more importantly, I know what Jerri means.  I’m neither religious nor a believer in the supernatural.  The fort has a deserted feel, but it feels populated all the same–by spirits.  Part of it, I think, is the wind blowing off the Gulf, and whistling through the gun battlements.  It sounds like whispering. Sometimes louder, sometimes softer.

I have no way to explain this feeling, especially for a very concrete, down-to-earth sort of person like me.   The mind is a strange and labyrinthine place.  I have to remember that no one ever promised me I would understand everything.