I didn’t grow up in a “boating family.” Neither did my husband. We both grew up in middle-class families with multiple kids and multiple priorities. About once a summer or so, my own parents rented for me and my sisters paddle boats, a rowboat, or perhaps a canoe from a PA State Park boat concession. My dad eventually purchased a used canoe from a boat concession auction.
When Jonathan and I were on our honeymoon, he purchased a kite. He flew his new kite on the beach. He told me that wind power fascinated him. He later confessed to me that sailboats and sailing actually fascinated him since childhood but that he was too shy to mention this to his parents.
We took a few sailing lessons on a Flying Scot at Lake Arthur at Moraine State Park in Western PA. We borrowed my parents’ canoe once. We purchased our own canoe / kayak hybrids.
Jonathan monitored Facebook for postings about boat sales. I learned that prospective boat buyers have no problem finding boats for sale at the end of summer, before prospective boat sellers need to store their boats for the winter. So, on one October Friday, Jonathan drove through several counties to meet the man selling a Flying Scot. By the end of that day, we owned our first sailboat.
That weekend gave us “hot” October weather. We took our “new” Flying Scot to Lake Arthur that Saturday. We rigged our new boat in the parking lot of Moraine’s public boat launch. We sailed and sailed. We noted that the sun started to set and that other boaters headed to shore. We headed to shore. Then . . . the wind died down.
Did I mention that our Flying Scot had no motor? Yeah, this is important. The wind powered our boat. After the wind died, we sat in the middle of the lake.
We sat there for about an hour. Then, Jonathan grabbed the boat’s sole oar and “paddled” us to shore. In the twilight. Then, we had to de-rig our sailboat in the dark, assisted by one flashlight.
That next summer, we returned to Lake Arthur with our Flying Scot and rented a slip at the marina’s dry dock. We sailed again. And again, the wind died on us. We found ourselves becalmed on Lake Arthur, with no motor, again.
Except, this time the wind died due to a very impending, severe thunderstorm. We saw the lightning as we sat, stationary, on the lake. Mother Nature mocked us.
I said a few angry things to Jonathan. He grabbed the oar and, once again, paddled us back to shore.
The storm’s downdraft actually pushed us the last few feet to the dock. We jumped off of the boat and ran through the rain to our truck. Then, we realized that our truck keys were still on our boat! So, Jonathan had to run back to the boat before we found shelter inside of our truck.
Jonathan is very lucky that I sailed with him again after this.
This summer we now have a sailboat docked in Erie, PA, on Lake Erie. I sailed with Jonathan ON THE OPEN LAKE. I have the experience of sitting becalmed on Lake Erie, covered in bug spray and swatting at biting flies. Thank destiny that we now own a motored boat!
After I first sailed, I collected the sailing mishaps noted in historical fiction AND nonfiction.
For instance, Aaron Burr’s only child, Theodosia Burr Alston, boarded the schooner Patriot in 1812. The ship sailed from South Carolina. It never arrived in New York City. History noted Theodosia Burr Alston as “disappeared” or “lost at sea.” Theories and folkore (see Wikipedia) abounded on the fate of “Dear Theodosia.” One famous legend involved pirates. In fact, one storyteller described Theodosia walking the plank to her death.
Now, for the promised 1779 sailing mishap, here is a passage from Chapter Five of “Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation” by Cokie Roberts. This recounts John Jay and his wife Sally’s voyage to Spain after Congress named John Jay as Minister to Spain during the Revolutionary War:
“ Two months later, still aboard the ship and nowhere near Spain, Sally recounted their adventures to her mother. After being at sea a couple of weeks, she heard a terrible noise on the deck in the middle of the night: “We had been deprived of nothing less than our bow-spirit, main-mast and missen-mast . . . however our misfortunes were only begun, the injury received by our rudder the next morning served to complete them.” The ship was dismasted and rudderless, the seas were high, and winter was on the way. A council of ship’s officers concluded tht there was no way to reach Europe under those conditions, so they set course for the island of Martinique. It took a couple of weeks for the winds to get them going in the right direction, but, Sally cheerfully reported, “we are now in smooth seas having the advantage of trade winds which blow directly for the island . . . while our American friends are amusing themselves by a cheerful fireside, are we sitting under an awning comforting ourselves with the expectation of being soon refreshed by some fine southern fruits.” . . . What she didn’t tell her mother was that she was pregnant. Stranded at sea, Sally and John threw a party, surprising and delighting fellow passengers. Finally, at the end of December, the ship limped into port in Martinique, where Sally was able to send off her letter home.”
Cokie Roberts, “Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation.”
Just imagine drifting around for several weeks on the ocean in a ship that lost most of its sails. And its rudder. Just hoping that the trade winds would blow the ship to Martinique before winter. With a navigation system from the late 1700’s. And no motor!
Maybe, if this happened in 2019, Sally Jay would tweet a selfie of herself on the disabled ship. “Can’t believe where I ended up. LOL.” Followed by an interview with Anderson Cooper. (Or Cokie Roberts.)
I watch and listen to strangers. At the park. In restaurants. In stores. On the train.
Several years ago, I rode the Amtrak by myself from Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh. The Capitol Limited. I sat in the coach section. A man and woman sat behind me. They were both white and slightly older than myself. This couple – especially the man – talked throughout the ride. To each other. To the conductor. Also, the man talked to numerous folks that I never saw – on his phone.
I never spoke to this couple, and yet I learned much.
The man grew up in Connellsville (Pennsylvania). He most recently lived in Louisiana. He and the woman had just taken the Amtrak from New Orleans to Washington. Now, they travelled from Washington to Connellsville on the Capitol Limited. At which point they intended to show up – with no prior notice – at the home of the man’s parents in Connellsville.
The man had not seen his parents for 17 years.
You see, this is why the man spent large amounts of time on his phone during our trip. He needed someone to give him and his woman a ride from the train station to his parents’ house.
So that he could show up unannounced on his parents’ doorstop after 17 years.
In between these phone calls, the woman asked the man if he thought that his parents would like her.
The Amtrak stopped in Connellsville before it reached Pittsburgh. This couple disembarked and I never heard from them again.
Later, I thought about posting a “Lost Connection” ad to see if I could learn the ending of this story. Post it where, though? Facebook? Reddit?
Or maybe somebody who knows the ending will Google “Amtrak” and “Connellsville” and find this blog.
(This is a redux from the blog that I created with my husband Jonathan, www.jennyandjonathangetmarried.com. I will shortly pull more of my favorite stories out from the crypt. I want to share more of my favorite moments and places with you fantastic readers.)
This is a photo of the induction ceremony for the Black Rock Negative Energy Absorber at the 2015 Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. The ceremony and the festival occurred in Point State Park (at the Point) in downtown Pittsburgh in June 2015.
See, the festival occurs each year during the week of my husband Jonathan’s birthday. So, we usually spend Jonathan’s “birthday weekend” at the festival. We plant our camp chairs at the festival and view whatever programming appears.
In 2015, we showed up at the festival about noon on “birthday Saturday” and looked at the schedule. We actually arrived a few minutes before the start of this “induction ceremony,” which happened directly in front of our chairs. So, we watched this ceremony.
Now, the festival commissioned Rudy Shepherd to create this artwork. At this “induction ceremony,” a performer spoke about all of the negative energy that the artist designed this artwork to absorb.
This ranks among my favorite artwork from the festival!
Now, if you’re not familiar with Western Pennsylvania, know this: downtown Pittsburgh marks the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, and the mouth of the Ohio River. That’s why Pittsburgh exists. George Washington served in two military campaigns in the 1750’s to claim this land for the British.
After the second campaign, the very piece of land in my photo became the British Fort Pitt.
A lot of blood spilled over this piece of land.
If you want to read a bunch of depressing stories about Fort Pitt and the founding of Pittsburgh, you don’t have to work too hard on your Google search. There’s even a Lore podcast shout-out to the Fort Pitt smallpox blankets.
This isn’t a political post. I’m not going to repeat any rumors, conjectures, or hearsay. This is my personal experience on September 11, 2001.
Flight 93 crashed less than 10 miles from my parents’ house in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. I grew up in that house. In September 2001, I was between apartment leases, so I lived in that house with them and some of my sisters.
I worked at my first post-college “office job” in downtown Johnstown, PA. Johnstown sits just north of the Somerset County line. Even though Johnstown is a third class city, the region south of it (in Somerset County) is pretty rural. My parents lived thirty miles south of Johnstown. When I commuted between my parents’ house and Johnstown, I drove through one traffic light.
I remember that a few days before 9/11, a resident of Davidsville (a “Johnstown suburb” that is actually in northern Somerset County) crashed his ultralight in somebody’s yard. This was not the first time that the guy crashed his ultralight. I saw this all over the local news. I was under the impression that the guy was okay.
On the morning of 9/11, I went to work at my employer’s office in Johnstown. We gathered in a conference room for our weekly meeting. Someone at the meeting mentioned that an airplane had crashed into a skyscraper in New York City. We proceeded with the regular business of our meeting. We returned to our cubicles.
One of my co-workers turned on a television located on the other side of the office to watch the news coverage in New York. I ended up in front of the television. I watched the first tower collapse.
The television coverage also referenced a plane collision at the Pentagon.
The owner of the company that employed me walked over to the television and told his employees to get back to work. I went back to my desk. One of my co-workers walked past my desk to tell me that the second tower had fallen.
THEN, the daughter of the company’s owner rushed through the office. She announced loudly that an airplane had just crashed in Somerset County.
I said, “No. That wasn’t an airplane. That’s an ultralight. This guy in Davidsville keeps crashing his ultralight.”
The company owner’s daughter said, “No, it was an airplane that crashed.”
Really? In Somerset County?
I emailed my good friend E. who worked in downtown Pittsburgh on that day. E. told me that her office was being evacuated.
Well, it just so happens that a United States federal courthouse sits in Johnstown. So, public officials announced an evacuation of downtown Johnstown.
Even though my employer had told me only an hour or so previously to “go back to work!,” I got to evacuate my office.
Here’s the problem: I lived south of Johnstown, in Somerset County. And, we had just learned that an airplane crashed south of Johnstown, in Somerset County.
There was very, very limited information available online about the airplane that had just crashed in Pennsylvania. We didn’t have Twitter back then. I didn’t own a smartphone, and I didn’t use any social media. I heard rumors from my co-workers that the main highway and a bunch of other local roads were closed south of Johnstown, but I didn’t have any concrete information about this.
Finally, I couldn’t call my parents. I tried, and none of my calls went through. So many other people tried to make phone calls at that same time!
I got into my car and turned on the radio. The local radio personalities didn’t have any helpful information for me. So, I decided to just drive towards home and see if I hit any road closures. I reasoned that if I came upon any, I could just detour on a back road. (I didn’t own a smartphone or a GPS system. However, I learned how to drive on a series of farm roads between my parents’ house and Johnstown. I reasoned that I could just “wing it” on the back roads of rural Pennsylvania if I needed to do so.)
It turned out that the local authorities closed the main highway just north of downtown Johnstown, but they left the highway open south of Johnstown.
So, I made it home by taking my usual route. I didn’t actually see any barricades or any sign of the crash.
Then, someone drove past my parents’ house in a pickup truck with a bed full of gas cans.
A few days after 9/11, my employer at that time wrote a letter to the local Johnstown newspaper proposing that a memorial to the Flight 93 passengers be installed next to the convention center in Johnstown. The newspaper printed his letter.
Look, I know that my story isn’t very exciting. I don’t have firsthand testimony to support anybody’s theory of WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED.
However, I won’t forget the day that I watched television coverage of three airplane collisions into nationally known buildings, and then learned that a fourth plane had crashed “somewhere” between my workplace and my home.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, my husband Jonathan and I spent this past weekend in Erie. We attended Tall Ships Erie 2019 on Saturday. We slept on our sailboat at our Erie marina on Saturday night. We cruised past Tall Ships Erie 2019 on Sunday. Then we sailed on the open Lake Erie.
Jonathan plans to blog a detailed pros-and-cons recap of the festival on our other blog, so I won’t go into much detail about the festival here.
This was our third one-day trip to an Erie tall ships festival. We attended for one day each in 2013, 2016, and now in 2019.
I want to be clear that in my experience, this festival involved significant crowds and significant walking. We even encountered large crowds in the lines for the shuttle buses and the ice cream stand. In fact, the ice cream stand ran out of waffle cones and several flavors. I was so relieved that I could still get my chocolate cherry ice cream!
For each trip, we purchased the one-day passes that permit us to walk past the boats but not to board and tour the ships. These are the lowest-cost passes.
During all three festival years, we observed significant lines to tour most of the ships. For instance, this year the festival included Santa Maria, a claimed replica of Christopher Columbus’ ship. We heard someone at the festival say that a two-hour wait existed to tour that ship.
Here is the Santa Maria as it looked on Saturday:
We also observed significant wait times to tour Picton Castle. Here is Picton Castle‘s bow:
Here is Picton Castle‘s Stern:
On Sunday, I took several photos from the water as we cruised on our own sailboat to Lake Erie. I will post my water photos shortly.
I committed to blogging this month about women writers. Then, I realized that the movie “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” will finally be released this month.
This movie was based on the book of the same name by Maria Semple. The movie was supposed to be released over a year ago, but the release date was pushed back twice.
The story actually took place mostly in Seattle. However, the actual movie was filmed in Pittsburgh and my current town, New Kensington. In fact, one scene was filmed down the street from my house, at the former Bloser’s Jewelry building. I pasted above a photo that my husband, Jonathan Woytek, took of this same building in 2009.
I read the book a few years ago. I didn’t care for it. I took the book too seriously. This novel was a dark comedy. Just about every adult who appeared in the story was a jerk. The protagonist’s husband was a fancy schmancy developer at Microsoft. The protagonist (Bernadette) was an award-winning architect who dropped out of her own life after professional and personal setbacks. I personally believe that “untreated mental illness” was another main character in this story. I think that I would have enjoyed the novel more had I read it with a “tongue-in-cheek” attitude.
I’m interested in seeing which scene or scenes from the movie were shot in New Kensington. I’m also interested in seeing how well the novel’s dark comedy translates to the big screen. I might possibly watch this movie.
Check out this link to the blog post that I wrote about the book two years ago, on my old blog.
We are coming up on the third anniversary of the day that my mother-in-law, Fran, passed away.
Fran loved mystery novels, books of all genres written by Pennsylvania authors, and books written by women.
For instance, she loved to tell friends and family that mystery author Mary Roberts Rinehart (1876 – 1958) was a native Pittsburgher.
Fran took Rinehart’s The Circular Staircase on vacation. Then, she downloaded a Rinehart travel memoir onto her tablet and read that during the same vacation. She paused multiple times to tell my husband and myself about the her favorite parts of the Rinehart memoir.
For instance, Fran read us a page in which Rinehart talked about the household staff that Rinehart brought along on an African safari.
Fran said, “Can you imagine? Bringing servants with you? To go camping?” She laughed. She got quiet and read more for a little bit. Then she told us about another story in the Rinehart memoir that tickled her fancy.
I do the same thing every time that I blog here about something that I just read that excites me. You are all excellent people for reading the little tales that I recount from other people’s books.
My own mom, Shirley, passed away last October. Shirley also read voraciously. Even better, she read often to me. Finally, my grandma, Hilde, taught me to love historical fiction.
In memory of these three fabulous women, I have two special treats for you blog readers:
Special Treat #1.) I added the following new category to The Parnassus Pen: Women Writers. If you want to read any or all of my blog posts about writers who also happened to exist as women, you just need to do any one of the following:
A.) Click on the link that I provided in the above paragraph.
B.) Go to any post that I wrote in the “Women Writers” category. You will see the category label on the left side of that post. You can click on the actual words “Women Writers” on such posts.
Special Treat #2.) During the month of August, I will inundate this blog with short tales about women who wrote stuff.
I have no plans to blog this month about anybody that I studied in high school English class. So, you won’t see any posts this August about Jane Austin or the Brontes. (My apologies to you Janeites out there!) Futhermore, I will not mention any of the fabulous women writers whom I grew up loving. (Sorry, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Lucy Maude Montgomery.)
I WILL mention several women who I didn’t even know were writers until very recently.
My series about women who wrote stuff launches next week. In the meantime, please check out all of my blog posts about Women Writers.