Four and a half years ago, on my first transcontinental tour, we stopped in the town of Stockholm, WI for great pie. I wandered into an Amish furniture store and sat in a rocking chair that felt like it was made for me.

I couldn’t figure out how to carry the chair on my bike and briefly considered asking my wife to drive to Stockholm to get it.

Four years later, riding through Stockholm again, I went into the same store. As I was about to sit in the chair, another shopper warned me not to. I asked why and he said, “because you’ll never want to get out of it.” I said that was the point and had a seat. This time I told the shop owner that I would be back but I still had 1700 miles to ride so it would be a while. Being a newly-retired person, a rocker on the front porch was exactly what I needed.

After the trip, I cleaned out my front porch and made the trip back to Stockholm. The shop was closed. I emailed the owner and he said he was only open on weekends. (It had been Monday both times we’d stopped there on the tour.)

A series of emails ensued. By the time a weekend arrived that I could make the trip, he had no chair and wouldn’t have another until late April. I checked in and he had three of them and would be open Friday from noon to three, so I made the 440 mile round trip for more pie and the chair now sits on my front porch. As I approached the Mississippi River, the sky turned dark. Headlights came on. Occasional spitting rain was just enough to water-spot the windshield. Fifteen miles short of Stockholm, lightning split the sky and the rain came down hard enough that the wipers had trouble keeping up even on high. I was glad I was not on my bike. It was also 20 degrees cooler here than at home. The rain let up so I could load the chair into the van.

After 440 miles of driving, I needed a beer (Capital Brewery Maibock, in case you wondered), so the chair got its first trial before I made dinner. The next morning it hosted me for my morning coffee and newspaper. While this chair isn’t the absolutely perfect chair that I sat in last summer, it is pretty darn good. The seating area and back are steam-bent white oak (they had one in walnut this time as well) so there is good lumbar support. The darker wood is hickory. The quarter-sawn oak table that I got with it is perfect to hold a beer or a cup of coffee. The shop called it a plant stand, but what do they know?

Now I’m ready to retire.

Harry Belafonte and Ed Sullivan vs Joe McCarthy

I learned something new since last week’s post honoring Harry Belafonte. According to John Nichols, writing in the Cap Times, Belafonte was aligned with Paul Robeson (singer, actor, anti-racist, and activist). Both supported Henry Wallace in the 1948 presidential race on the Progressive Party ticket. [It was Wallace who said, while Vice President under FDR, “The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity .…They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”   – April 9, 1944. This may have something to do with why he was replaced on the ticket for the 1944 election.]

Robeson was infamously blacklisted and his passport seized. Belafonte was blacklisted as well. When he was due to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, Sullivan was informed that he was blacklisted. Sullivan met with Belafonte and read the charges against him. Belafonte confirmed that he had done those things, “and there’s a lot of things that aren’t on that list that should be on that list that I have done and will continue to do.” He continued, as he told PBS in 1998, “If, as an American and as a human being, I lend my energy and my time to end hate, to end racism, to look for a better day for all of us, to look to that America, which was defended by Lincoln, and that had been created by the founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson and others, I think that I stand guilty of moving in that cadence. That’s what I’m charged with, and I stand guilty. And the choice between giving up that commitment for the privilege of being on your program doesn’t equate. I’d love to have had a chance to sing to the American people to have your platform. But, hey, I guess you can’t have it all. Thank you. And I walked.”

Sullivan did not cancel the appearance, and Belafonte appeared on his show ten times in the next ten years.