Aug 28 2016

What does “liberal” mean? What does “conservative” mean?

We’ll start with Jack Plano and Milton Greenberg’s definitions: Liberalism: A political view that seeks to change the political, economic, or social status quo to foster the development and well-being of the individual. Liberals regard man as a rational creature who can use his intelligence to overcome human and natural obstacles to a good life for all, without resorting to violence against the established order. (oooh, isn’t that scary??) Liberalism is more concerned with process, with the method of solving problems, than the specific program. Significance: Liberalism evolved in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as a doctrine emphasizing the full development of the individual, free from restrains of government. The twentieth-century liberal,conversely, looks to government as a means of correcting the abuses and shortcomings of society through positive programs of action… Liberals have fought totalitarianism of the left and right by pursuing policies that seek to reduce economic and social inequalities and to produce political stability.
val macewan
Conservatism: Defense of the status quo against major changes in the political, economic, or social institutions of a society. The philosophy of conservatism has been expounded most effectively by the English statesman, Edmund Burke. He held that political stability could be maintained only if the forces of change could be moderated by a slow and careful integration of new elements into time-tested institutions. Significance:Both major American political parties have conservative wings that frequently unite in opposing liberal legislation. Today in American politics the term “conservative” has no precise meaning and is often used accusatorily against a rival party or candidate. The general conservative position on issues, however, has been fairly consistently opposed to governmental regulation of the economy and civil rights legislation, and in favor of state regulation of the economy and civil rights legislation, and in favor of state over federal action, fiscal responsibility, and decreased governmental spending and lower taxes.

Before you go off and think I’m quoting from some strange and scary political diatribe, let me tell you that I’m quoting from The American Political Dictionary, published in1967 by Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, Inc.  Here’s a freebie, an insight for you to chew on, it’s in the preface:
It has become commonplace to speak of the need for an informed citizenry in order to maintain a free society. This necessity is, nevertheless, both real and urgent. The authors hope that this volume will contribute to more effective use of classroom time to attain this goal.

So these aren’t screaming lunatic radicals. And I’m trying to figure out why labeling someone liberal or conservative is like saying they’re some kind of social deviant. Ooooh, you liberal you. You horrible conservative. You should be imprisoned for your beliefs.

My mother gave me the book when I was in junior high school.


Aug 27 2016

Fabricating verse…

while waiting for the magnificent storm clouds to fully mature, I thought about creating verses on scans of the hand-sewn napkins and handkerchiefs passed down from my at least two grandmothers back and my mom and some from my Sylvia, my once mother-in-law. What better way to elevate the art of embroidery than to add literary art over top of it? This is my first attempt. Fabricated Literature, fabricated verse. Will scan more sewing …

Fabricated Verse by Val MacEwan

Fabricated Verse. Developed this day, Saturday, August 27, 2016 in my Brown St. Studio and Gallery.


Aug 27 2016

October 2005 A post about Daddy

Posted on Thursday 13 October 2005

Daddy loved to eat really good food...Found this card with my father’s things. He went to New Orleans in, I think, early 1942, on his way to OCS. Most of his letters from the WWII era involve food. If Daddy had something good to eat, he was just fine. Stationed at Newport News, VA, he was a Lt., had something to do with loading Liberty Ships. Mother worked as a civilian for Army personnel, interviewing and hiring civilians for the shipyards.

He trained in Ithaca NY and the letters to Mom would describe, in great detail, how well he was being fed at the boarding house they were staying in. I’ll have to dig out the letters… remember him through them.

And then there’s THIS.

1 Comment for ‘The Restaurant Antoine’

  1. Caroline
    12/4/2005 | 12:40 pm

    The THIS is really fun and addictive.


Aug 26 2016

Back in 2005, I Tried and Succeeded in Saving a Pure Oil Station here in Washington NC

Written and posted on back in 2005, I heard the Presbyterian Church was planning to tear down our beautiful vintage iconic Pure Oil Gas Station and something just went *bing* in my head and I had to stop them. So here it is, in its entirety, the post from the past. Names and contact info changed since 2005, small town politics, actually many names are the same, it’s what position they currently hold that’s different.


Posted on Saturday 8 October 2005

Washington NC has a marvelous Pure Oil Station, right downtown in front of the post office. [photo soon, we’re drowning today, got this whole storm thing going on, 6+ inches of rain…]  It’s in fantastic condition. According to my sources (meaning — here’s what my neighbor told me) the “ladies” of the Presbyterian Church have first right of refusal for the property and as soon as they can get their hands on it, they’ll tear it down and make another parking lot. The station would make such a unique footprint in Washington if someone would save it and turn it into a restaurant, coffee shop… something. Rumor has it the owner was offered $65,000 to “retire”. All I know is — the building is a classic. Fully intact, even the front bay window.


Washington NC contact information:

Bobby E. Roberson
Office Phone: (252) 975-9317
Fax: (252) 946-1965

John Rodman, AICP
Planning Administrator
Office Phone: (252) 975-9384
Fax: (252) 946-1965

Cynthia S. Bennett
Administrative Support
Office Phone: (252) 975-9383
Fax: (252) 946-1965

Contact by Mail:
City of Washington
Department of Planning & Development
P.O. Box 1988
Washington, NC 27889
(with “Attention To:” appropriate section or individual)

A Beginner’s List of Preservation — Petroleum Style. As time permits, I’ll add more links. This is just a quick page, thrown up on a Saturday morning. No, I didn’t really throw up — silly — I feel just fine. Please, preserve our Pure Oil Station, or I will most certainly engage in reverse peristalsis.

Harwell, GA Pure Oil Station. Scroll down about 2/3rds of the page to see it. It’s on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Vintage Gas Station online album

Lyons Gas Station, Newark, NY — soon to be a tourism office.

Tangletown Gardens, Minneapolis, MN. Garden center.

Pure Station, Summit Co., OH, National Park Service restoration. MD Garage – restored by National Park Service as a historic part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Rec. Area.

Fuel Pizza, Charlotte, NC — Six restaurants in Charlotte, NC. Please, Fuel Pizza people, come and buy the Washington station. You know you want to expand into the eastern part of the state!

Dish, a 1950s gas station converted into a restaurant in Atlanta, GA.

Pure Oil Station, Cape Charles, VA — this one’s for sale.

Copeland Service Station, Milwaulkee, Wisconsin — Restored and converted to Sherman Perk, a coffee shop. To make his plan feasible, he put together a creative package of grants and income tax credits. From the city he received a site assessment grant, a facade improvement grant and a retail start-up grant. From the state Department of Commerce he obtained a brownfield cleanup grant. He also received preservation tax credits which allow him to deduct 25 percent of the project cost from his state and federal income taxes.

Shell Station, Winston-Salem, NC — The “Shell Station,” located in Winston-Salem, N.C., is the last of 8 that were built in Winston by the Quality Oil Company in the late 1930s. Preservation North Carolina is the organization that restored it – saving it from destruction – and turned it into its Winston-Salem Regional Office. It is now fully operational and its staff, headed by Kirk Carrison, works toward preserving properties in the western piedmont and mountain regions of the state. More information can be obtained by visiting the Preservation North Carolina website at

National Historic Route 66

Pure Oil Gas stations (looks familiar, eh?)

The Big Pump, King City, Missouri — The Big Pump is now located in King City, MO on property owned by the Tri-County Historical & Museum Society of King City, MO., Inc. Their address is 508 N. Grand Ave., & Jct. Hwy 169, King City, MO 64463. The museum is open from Decoration Day through the month of September on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and on holidays. The Big Pump is outside so one can see it anytime.

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Aug 25 2016

Gertrude O. Breck and My Dad

One ponders much whilst planting zucchini. Today’s topic? The Natural Body. In the United States of America, we loathe all things natural which occur to our bodies. We spend an inordinate amount of money, an obscene portion of our income, on getting rid of: freckles, stretch marks, wrinkles, age spots, gray hair, leg hair, underarm hair (and don’t let’s forget back, nose, and ear hair)


come on, join in:

cuticles, moles (benign little flat round ones, famous models get to have them but “we”, the great unwashed, do not), eyebrows…

yet we also create new bodily sensations to add to those which we disdain – tattoos, holes in our ears, nose, eyebrows, navels, and other places too perverse to mention – and years later spend $$ to remove those bodily sensations as they become droll, out of date, or faded. That was Part #1 which led my thinking around to Part #2.

Back around 1966, my father went to a labor meeting in Chicago. As he always brought me some tidbit prize when he went on trips, I was really looking forward to his return. I’d gotten more and more bold in my requests and he’d complied each time. I still have the teaset, the 007 Aston Martin Matchbox Car and other gems he produced upon disembarking. But this particular time, he didn’t listen to my request for a Madame Alexander doll. Upon his return, he handed me a booklet. Somewhat abashed, a bit embarassed, he said, “I got this autographed for you.”

I looked down at the title and saw the small pink book was about “growing up, the changes a young girl goes through” and it was printed by the Breck Company. We were both kind of embarrassed then. “Look inside,” he said.

In old lady handwriting (you know, like your grandma has, that formal even kind) “You are a very fortunate young lady to have such a father. Good luck,” and it was signed, “Gertrude O. Breck”

Ain’t that that something? I still have that book around here somewhere.


Aug 24 2016

The Great Run of Southern Literature Is Over … Not.

Posted on Monday 18 February 2002

An essay, originally published in Popmatters. The encounter at Piggly Wiggly is certainly dated, now in 2016 when we all understand email (right, we do? got that. You do understand it and you are not an idiot.) We have Facebook now, we have Twitter, it’s fascinating how far we’ve come:Skillet and squash and life is good

Linton Weeks, in the Washington Post, claims that, by the mid-1970s, the “great run of Southern literature was coming to an end.” The Fugitives and the Agrarians — movements in Southern literature — all dead. Weeks claims there is “really no such thing as contemporary Southern literature.” Take Lee Smith’s latest novel, The Last Girls published by Algonquin books last September.

As Week’s explains, it’s got everything you need for a classic Southern tale, including a dead woman named Baby, but there’s no mention of it being “Southern” in the New York Times’ book review, or the Boston Globe’s. Like it’s some kind of bad taste in the literary mouth of the reviewer, they’re loathe to pigeonhole books as Southern literature.

It’s the Fear-of-Being-Labeled-Bubba Complex. Write about the South but don’t admit you’re doing it. Seems like Southern writers are schizophrenic. They don’t want to be classified as Southern, lumped together as a sort of genre of writing. They want to be American writers. But in truth, a story by any other name would smell as sweet. Local color is the foundation of any writing. It’s like denying the human experience to deny the influence of the South. Donna Tartt, this month’s literary femme fatale with a fine novel The Little Friend out last month, doesn’t want to be lumped into a group of writers (southern) simply because of the circumstances of her birth.

Algonquin’s “New Stories from the South” this year contains writing from Italy, New York, even Madison, Wisconsin. You can take it anyway you like, but I see it as the globalization of the Southern experience. Just because we “leave” the South, it doesn’t mean we’ve left it behind. The Southern experience is insidious, like eczema — rising to the surface of on our mind’s epidermis and making us itch, insidious and always lurking in the background. Storytelling is precluded by geography, good storytelling that is. Southerners talk.

Every action and reaction becomes a narrative. This is the basis for Southern writing. Remembering every detail of an insignificant event, and relating it to anyone who will listen– stranger, family member, hunting dog — just keep on talking and somebody or something will nod in agreement.

Like last week — I stopped in at the Pig, the one next to the closed-down Kmart on Fifteenth St.. My neighbor, Retha, told me they had home-grown yellow squash and really good cantalopes. Besides, I needed to pick up a box of wine for my 85 year old mom. As I was smelling the melons, I noticed a friend I hadn’t seen in years, sorting through the Vidalia onions.

Darlene Woolard. I knew her from the assembly line at Stanadyne when I did statistical process control there, years ago. The Northstar system, the one GM touts as the be-all-end-all of car guts, Stanadyne makes parts for that. And filters, oil and gas filters. It’s a dingy, turn of the century (19th, I mean) type of manufacturing plant. Dark, dismal, filthy, loud, smelly, dangerous… pick some more words to describe awful. Add cheesecake half-naked photos of women sprawled across the hoods of Camaro’s and Trans Ams and you get a general idea of the working conditions. Non-profit organizations with names like Northeastern Economic Hog Farmer and Golf ProAlliance, or The Southern Manufacturers of Stuff No One Needs League say the area is a manufacturer’s mecca. Ripe for the employment plucking. That means the minimum wage is acceptable, folks will work for uner $6.50 an hour because there are no jobs or unions here.

Once she spotted me, Darlene let out a whoop. She scooted over to the melon display, grabbed me, and hugged me sideways so’s not to drop her onions. “I have missed you. Where are you working now?” she asked.

“I’m working at the police department, slapping car accidents and reported incidents into their computer. And evidence, I watch over the evidence room. You still at Stanadyne?”

She replied, “As if I’d ever work anywhere else! I got a 2% cost of living raise last summer. I’m full-time permanent and making $6.87 an hour, honey! You don’t make that kind of money anywhere else in this county, not with them benefits you get. Say, you know computers, are you on that Internet? You always was on the computer when you was working in QC.”

This is the part of every chance conversation that makes me wish my cell phone would ring or my beeper would go off. Anything to interrupt the inevitable flow of web-related how-to questions. I liken it to, “Excuse me, doctor, but my wife has gout, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, angina, and she needs her legs amputated. Could you stop grocery shopping long enough to take a look at her. She’s over in my cart on aisle 5, just left of the frozen peas.”

But I nod in Darlene’s direction, admit I am online, and she begins. “I’m beginning to fear the Internet is a’gonna’ take away Larry Wayne away from me. Of a night, he’ll call up and order “pay for view” WWF , ’cause he does love Stone Cold Steve Austin, then he turns his chair towards the big screen, boosts up that computer, and starts typing with both index fingers. He’s got one eye cocked on the TV screen and the other on the computer monitor. “He don’t hear nothing I say, won’t let me use the telephone on account of it will interfere with his downloads, and he smacks LW Jr. on the fanny every time he blocks the view of the wrestling arena. I told him I’d work double-shift a couple a times a month so’s we could afford a second phone line, but he tells me I got from when I get home at 4:00 to talk to my sister until he gets in at 6:00. Well, Lynette don’t get off work until 5:30 and it takes her fifteen minutes to get home, so I don’t get much of that quality time with her. And besides, LW Jr.’s likely to scream and holler if I don’t give him his Spiderman Spaghettios by 5:30, so my afternoons are full.  One of these days, I’m going to ride that Internet world wide wave. I got Carla, down at the plant, teaching me how to send email. She’s got one of them modems on her computer in Human Resources and she’s been showing me how to surf.

“Can you help me to understand how to get online? How do you get the phone to dial the right number that gets the Internet instead of Mama or Georgie Langdon? You know, I heard an advertisement on the radio the other day. I was listening to G. Gordon Liddy and this real nice man came on and said something about high speed access right here in town. You didn’t have to leave your local service, and I want to keep my business here in the county, I don’t want to pay some outsiders for something I can get here. It’s like shopping in Pitt County, we need to leave our tax dollars right here in this county, ya’ know? But phones are everywhere, why does it matter if it’s right here? Does that mean it’s better because you know the folks who are getting you onto the web? Can you help me? And I don’t want someone who lives down the road reading my email, that’s for sure.”

I say to Darlene, “You need to go to the community college and take a class. It’s probably less than $35 and they’ll teach you what you need to know. They have classes in the evenings. Call them today.”

As I move on to the checkout line, there’s a black man wearing a navy blue Stanadyne shop shirt. His name’s on the patch above the pocket. Frankie. “I heard you were at the PD. Gotta’ be cleaner than the QC room at Stanadyne,” he says. “How’s it going?” “Great, you?” I reply. “Can’t complain.” He shifts his groceries around in his arms. He doesn’t have a cart. He’s holding a frozen turkey like a sleeping infant and a five pound bag of oranges hangs from his pinky finger. He puts the frozen turkey on top of the rack of gum and Lifesavers. “That’s too cold to hang on to. You having a party?” he asks as he eyes the box of wine in my shopping cart. “No, it’s for Mama. Keeps her sane.” “Keeps everybody sane,” he replies. Southern literature, all it takes is a trip to Piggly Wiggly and there’s a story to be told. It’s not dead.

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Aug 23 2016

Living in the Town of James Brown, Get Down!

Aiken, South Carolina, once known to residents as the Land of James Brown… this story is 98.9% true:

Back in, ohhh, must have been Autumn 1987, late one night, hours past midnight, a neighbor living on the other side of the woods called to tell me about an escaped convict. A convict on the loose in my two-acre wood — a convict coming toward my house.

I had a vision of Steve McQueen as Max Sand, wearing striped prison garb, sweaty and dirty, meeting up with Suzanne Pleshette waiting with her dugout pirogue in the swamps of Louisiana, running from howling blood hounds and crashing toward me through my two acre wood. Reality was the convict — a murderer — had abandoned a stolen car less than a block away, near Strom Thurman’s house. He’d used a spoon to commandeer the escape vehicle, held it to the throat of an innocent bystander, brandishing it like a Bowie knife.

Hanging up the bedside phone, I snake-slithered under the quilt to the floor, and over to the shuttered floor to ceiling window and cracked the bottom shutter and looked outside. A helicopter spotlight shone down upon the half-circle drive, illuminating the macadam like I was entertaining a saint, like I’d seen Elvis’s silhouette in my freezer door — or some a holy visage, a Virgin Mary yard ornament crying real tears and, that, at the exact moment of the vision, some poor slob from Smyrna, Georgia drove by my house and told the world what he’d was looking at and the world heard him and now, here was the world at my door, witnessing and rolling and crying and speaking in tongues.

Only it wasn’t some holy tongue, it was the sound of blood hounds, howling and baying, in my front yard, by my deodar cedar and then back again, to the crawlspace hole. Two king cab 4X4 trucks with spotlights mounted on the roof, a black windowless van, and about 20 men in SWAT uniforms, wearing Kevlar vests, and carrying large rifles with infra-red scopes mounted on the barrels filled the driveway.

More bloodhounds, six of them, crashing through the woods, howling and baying, joined the original pack. The men turned toward the side yard and dogs as the animals smashed through the undergrowth into the yard. I crawled across the dining room — this was guerilla warfare now — I crawled on toward the living room, and stood up beside the window, hiding in the lace curtains, trying to watch from an angle where I wouldn’t be seen from the outside.

The dogs ran up to an overturned canoe next to the house. Howling and moaning, they circled, then they abruptly abandoned the canoe for the small trap door which led to the crawlspace. The dogs threw themselves against the side of the house as the men approached, rifles shouldered, Mag lights pointed at the door, rifle scopes sighted in, right cheek on the barrel. A SWAT man came forward, kicked open the crawlspace door from the side, and the dogs rushed under the house.

I could smell their excitement, the scent of the dogs, not the convict, as they slammed around the floor joists beneath me. Only the hardwood floor separating me from them. The dogs howled out from the crawlspace in less than five seconds. Noses to the ground, they ran to the front yard over to the deodar cedar. Jumping up against the trunk of the deodar, one dog almost made it to the first limb, climbing it like a squirrel.

The dogs were off again in a flash, running through the yard, pausing only briefly to howl and bay, then the whole pack ran down the road. Some of the men ran back to the vehicles and tore out after the dogs, others ran through my neighbor’s yard, rifles still at the ready, tracking both dogs and man.

I heard the dogs baying as they ran toward downtown Aiken, heard the helicopter overhead , then I walked over to the back door and noticed it was not locked. I locked it, went back to bed as the sun was coming up…

The next day I had an 8:00 a.m. history final at USC-Aiken. When I was late, the instructor tried to lock me out of the test and I pitched an unholy fit and made him open the classroom door. I told him what had happened the night before — he accused me of “making up the best excuse he’d ever heard.”