Saturday, September 22, 2018

Driving between Tennessee and Georgia ... and memories

In my post of June 11, 2018, I mentioned that our black walnut tree had been uprooted by the wind and fallen on the roof of our Georgia house.  I drove from Nashville to Georgia to have it removed, then found a roofer who agreed to replace the roof in August.  In August I drove back to Georgia but he did not show up.  I had to find another roofer who agreed to replace the roof last Tuesday, September 18, so I drove back to Georgia on Sunday 16th, 2018.  Because of Hurricane Florence the insurance company had delayed our claim and not approved the new roofer.  The new date for the roof will be in October and I'll drive back here then.  Last month I stopped at my usual rest area on highway I-24 near South Pittsburg, Tennessee.  This time I could see a white blanket near the banks of the lake and as I approached was greeted by a million of little flowers with a sweet aroma (similar to jasmine.)  They formed a cascade of delicate flowers on the fence.  Their name is "Virgin's Bower" (aka Devil's Darning Needles or Old Man's Beard.)  This little flagrant flower is from a vine, the clematis virginiana, from the Ranunculaceae family (buttercup) it is aggressive and invasive.  The Cherokee Indians used it for medicinal purposes.

When I stopped again last Sunday the flowers were gone as well as the sun.  Below is a map showing where the rest stop is located between Tennessee and Georgia.

I am still in Georgia, working in the house, clearing, cleaning, giving away but I did hurt my back a bit as well as my recently operated knee by moving some heavy objects, so am taking a break today.  I'll drive back to Nashville in a couple of days.  All the closets are still packed full and while cleaning I always find some items I have not seen in years.  Again I found bags with old photos.  These are film pictures, taken years ago.  My scanner is now in Nashville but I copied some of the photos with my cell phone so I could show them here.

Looking at some of these photos brought back many good memories.  I did not look at all of them as I need to spend as much time as I can on clearing out the house.  I don't even watch TV apart from the news and weather, and lately the news brought back some memories that were not that good.  When I left Paris, France, in the early 1960s, to travel to the USA, a friend who had lived several years here gave me some advice.  He said that the US culture was very different from the French, that it was male-oriented.  He added that in France boys play with girls from an early age and feel comfortable with them and respect them.  They can have close female friends for years without any sexual situation.  But in the US, maybe because of boys' dominated sports, starting in schools, gender inequity starts early, and girls are supposed to care about boys' feelings but not vice versa.  He also said that there is a great deal of violence against women in the US that goes unreported because abusers are protected and women are discredited, disparaged and blamed.  So he added ... "you are pretty, so watch out."  And this was back in the 1960s ...  Below are some pictures I found of me from about that time.

On my way west I stopped in Washington, DC, to visit a girlfriend from college in the UK.  I remember that it was a lovely week-end.  My friend said that she had planned to have a picnic in a park with her boyfriend and that he had found a friend for me as a "blind date."  She added that he came from a very rich family in Maryland and had just been given a fabulous convertible car.  I did not know what a "blind date" was as we don't even have a French word for date, and told her I did not need one, but she said it would be fun.  We went to a secluded area of the park along a river, placed a blanket on the ground and the basket of food.  They had forgotten the ice for the sodas, and told me to get acquainted with him while they went to get ice.  I remember his car as being huge; I looked on Google to find one like his.  It was or similar to the Chevrolet Impala below.  He was proud of it and wanted to take me on a ride but I declined (I was not awed by that car as at the time my favorites were British sports cars, like the MG,  Morgan +4 or Jaguar.)  Then he asked if I was impressed that he attended an academy in Annapolis.  I did not know what that was and he made fun of me, saying I didn't know much but then I also was a foreigner, so that explained it.  He told me that it was the most prestigious naval academy in the world.  (Below pictures of the car, and of the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.)

He said something like "You are from Gay Paree, then, you know more things like this ..." and he proceeded to pin me on the ground and grab my shirt.  I was terrified and did not know what to do.  I tried to move from under him but he was big.  I started to panic as he was grabbing my bra and pulling my trousers down.  But then I heard my friends coming back and he pulled away.  They could see I did not look right so I told them I had these terrible cramps and needed to get back home for medicine and they took me back.  I never told anyone ever, this is the first time I mention it.  I felt terrible shame that he would think because I was French I was easy and tried to forget it.  I'll give you one more time I was assaulted, at my first job, in San Francisco a few years later.  Here are pictures of me at about that time.  I found these yesterday, and they are not technically good.

My office in San Francisco was on Post Street, close to Union Square.  It was not very large, maybe about 50 employees or so.  I really enjoyed working there and had made many friends, male and women.  My best friends were a woman from Texas and also two gay males, who were wonderful gourmet cooks.  I was a purchasing clerk and had a kindly manager.  I never had to interact with the president of the company, an elder man, who was often away on business.  Below are pictures of San Francisco in the 1960s, with Union Square.  The postcard of Post Street is vintage, early 1900s.

About 2 or 3 years after I started working there one Friday (I remember it was a Friday because most people did not stay late) I decided to work late to finish some work.  I needed to count some items and went into the warehouse in the back - a huge warehouse.  It was very dark because of the week-end coming up.  I was not sure where the items were and walked up and down the aisles.  The president of the company came behind me and asked if he could help me.  I told him what I was looking for and when he led me to the back of the warehouse in almost total darkness I was not suspicious.  Alas, he turned on me, grabbed me and tried to undo my blouse.  I started to shout but he placed his hands on my mouth.  Again I was petrified and remembered my last encounter.  It was so dark there.  He pushed me against the shelves and I fought to get him to move his hands away, doing so I knocked a bunch of boxes on the shelf that went crashing down making a huge noise.  Unbeknownst to us there was a warehouse employee working and he came running to see what the noise was.  The president said it was a mouse that had scarred me.  I don't know if he believed it but I was able to get back to my desk and leave.  I was sick about it the whole week-end but did not tell anyone as I needed the job and knew no one would believe me since he was the president.  I did not even go to my Clairol hair modeling job that I had on week-ends.  (More pictures I found in the closet from that era.) 

I had two more instances like these in another company, but not as bad.  I never told anyone about any of them until now.  The first one happened in the early 1960s or more than 50 years ago!  But you know I have never forgotten and as I was writing this tears were falling down my cheek.  It's silly I know, it was such a long time ago.  I tried to forget but it had been traumatic and I could not.  I researched and found out that the US has 75% more rapes than in France, that it is one of the top 3 countries in the world for sexual assaults.  Every 98 seconds a woman is sexually assaulted in the US and one out of every 5 women is assaulted in college.  The US Justice Dept estimates that 300,000 American women are raped every year (but the CDC estimates that because it is highly unreported the number is closer to 1.3 millions.)  The US audience, male and female, does not seem to care and more assaults go unreported as the victims are usually not believed and blamed if they come forward (63% of assaults are unreported and 99% of aggressors go free.)  I read a couple of weeks ago that some men reported that when they were children (40+ years ago) and Altar Boys, they had been sexually assaulted by priests.  Those men were believed and not ostracized and harassed and no one sent them death threats - but then, they are men, aren't they?  As long as women are not taken seriously (women make 51% of the US population but only 19% of the Congress) there won't be much equality under the law.  The Parliamentary Union compared in 2018 women in parliament in 193 countries,  France came no. 14 and the US no. 103.  Well, I better talk about better memories from my old photographs.  Below, the top pictures are in Bruges, Belgium.  The bottom left is at Butchart Gardens, Victoria, BC, Canada and on the bottom right the Tezcuco Plantation in Burnside, Louisiana, built in 1855.

The top left picture below was taken during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.  We had purchased tickets to attend the bicycle racing games in Stone Mountain.  The top right picture was taken in Browning, northwest Montana, the site of the tribal government of the Blackfeet Nation, an American Indian reservation established by treaty in 1855.  I had visited my younger daughter who was spending the summer in Montana for her Master's Thesis from Jones Hopkins University.  She was studying something about the health of Native American women.  The bottom two pictures were taken at Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada, that borders Glacier National Park in Montana.

More pictures of the Blackfeet Nation festival.  The bottom right photo was taken on my 60th birthday with my two daughters. 

There are more pictures that I have not seen in ages.  It will be fun to go through those, once I am finished with the Georgia house.  But that won't be for many more months - after additional driving between Nashville and greater Atlanta, Georgia.


David said...

Hi Vagabonde, It's good to see that you've posted to your blog site again. Driving back and forth from Middle Tennessee to the Atlanta area would get old fast. Hurting your back and straining your recently repaired knee isn't helping the situation either... Good luck with your continued packing, moving and roof repairs!

Having been born here and only traveling out of the USA for a week or two here and there over the years, I can't compare the USA with other countries as regards male/female issues and behavior. It is male dominated, no doubt about that although some positive (and painful) strides are being made. While I don't personally know any men who I know assaulted or molested women, I am aware of men who 'took advantage' of their position and who had ongoing relationships with women who worked for them. Those situations almost always ended up badly for both parties... My wife, who was a beautician when she was younger, has told me of a couple of incidents before we met where salon owners tried to make a move on her... Also, our semi-adopted daughter (who has traveled around the world) did have a date in Chicago who tried to sexually assault her...but she's fought him off. Another friend's wife told us that when she worked in huge factory in the south, she would lock herself in her office to keep the creepy grabby men away.

Sorry that you experienced the incidents you described. My rule of thumb was always, "If I'm not 'invited', I don't make any moves". I've actually had women complain about that too... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Elephant's Child said...

Love the Virgin's Bower. What a pretty plant.
You were (and are) a stylish and attractive woman. Which in no way justifies the treatment you received. Sadly I think that most women here in Australia also have similar tales to tell. And are often not believed.
Take care of yourself please. You have been doing some very long drives.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Most women of our age have been victims sexual harassment at some time but kept quiet about it for many reasons. Many men have thought they had the right to do what they wanted and to intimidate us in the worst ways. The tide is turning, and hopefully we are seeing big changes for our daughters and granddaughters. Those that take advantage better know that Times Up and we will not be silenced anymore.

Me too.

Susan Heather said...

Some lovely photos - you were a very young looking 60.

donna baker said...

Good to hear from you again. Life is sometimes so trying.

Carola Bartz said...

Vagabonde, I just read through your last two or three posts and after having read this one I just feel how angry I have become again - just like every day over the past few days. I lived in Germany for 40 years, was sexually harrassed and often had to hear degrading comments about women and terrible "jokes". I never said anything as well since I had experienced that this was just not taken seriously, and I also felt ashamed. Nowadays I'm not so much worried about myself but about my daughter.

Where is this country going to? I'm not sure this is my country anymore. And definitely not the one I came to only 17 years ago.

DJan said...

Although it's really distressing to hear of these incidents, I am not surprised. I think the number of women who have NOT been through something like this is smaller than those who have. I went through it, too. I hope that Dr. Ford will be believed. Why would she make something like this up and go through all the trauma? But enough of that: it's so good to see those pictures of your past, and I do hope you take care of yourself and that knee. :-)

Joared said...

Lovely scene on your drive. Must be frustrating waiting for resolution of the roof repair. Sorting is a problem I have in trying to rightsize — I start looking through items and get caught up in memories.

Quite a sad commentary that there seem to be a disproportionate number of males in our culture whose behavior toward females of any age, including children, is reprehensible. I’ve experienced myself and known of others subjected to unwanted attention beyond what is acceptable behavior if care and respect is present. Some of the models we’ve had at the highest levels in our country hardly have been ones of which we could be proud. Perhaps current events will resolve in such a way as to alter attitudes and behaviors toward females as being human beings deserving of respect.

Wishing you well as you wrap up your residence’s belongings.

Jeanie said...

It's good to see your posting again. You bring up many distressing points and why it is so important to remember that incidents that happen a long time ago are often put in the backs of our minds and left there till a reason comes to remind us. We've all had those stories and situations. I know one thing -- if anything like what happened to her happened to me at 15, would I have told my parents? No way. They would have hit the roof. I would have kept quiet, knowing I probably shouldn't have been at that party in the first place. She deserves more than her day in Congress. She deserves to be believed.

I'm sorry to hear about the hassles with the roof, the travel back and forth, your back and knee and all that. Hope things improve soon.

Sally Wessely said...

Hi Vagabonde. It is good to see a post from you. I also have not been posting much recently and trying to get back to blogging. I realize when I see my familiar friends here how much I miss you all. I am sorry to hear about your back and trying to take care of business when you have to work with insurance companies and distance. I hope all is resolved soon.

I read your accounts with great interest. We lived in a different time in the sixties, and yet it is so sad to see that much has not changed. I could relate to your story about the young man from West Point. I live near the Air Force Academy and while I was in college my roommate was dating a cadet. She arranged a blind date between a friend of her boyfriend's and me. We went to dinner and to a movie. We were riding in my roommate's car for the date because the cadets could not have cars. After the dinner and movie as we drove back to the Academy which was a long ways from town in those days, and it was quite secluded in the forest, my date began to get very frisky and began kissing me and trying to undress me. I was fighting him off but did not want to make a lot of noise or scream. (I have not idea why I didn't want to scream.) Just as I was beginning to get very afraid even through another couple were in the front seat, we came to the gates of the Academy. The young man who was my date sat up straight and tall, removed his hands from my body, saluted the person at the gate and behaved like a gentleman and a one day officer should behave the rest of the way to the cadet dorms. He knew he would get in trouble and get demerits if there was any PDA (Public Display of Affection) going on in the car on Academy grounds. I am sure that the date you were on also did not want to be caught by his friend in an incident of PDA. Sadly, it appears that he didn't care what happened if no one witnessed it.

Take care.

Christine said...

Thank you for a thought provoking post.
Here in England I suffered this way from the age of 12 years and, like so many sisters, have kep quiet over the years. I once mentioned one of the 'incidences', as I learnt to think of them, and was told to stop fantasising. I have only discussed this with my present husband, this kind and loving man needed to know why I reacted once to his playfulness. He was shocked and hurt to think that I could have been treated like that. There are so many of us 'quietly'suffering and I applaud you for telling it as it doubt the animals concerned have little or no memory of the upset.
Take strength that times ARE changing and soon men will have to aknowledge that Women are not second class. Bravo

Magic Love Crow said...

My friend, please take care of your back! You have been doing so much!
I am so sorry, with all the attacks you had made on you! How horrible! Thank you for sharing them with us! That took alot of courage! I'm sending you BIG HUGS!!!
I love the photos! Such a pleasure to see you!!!
Lots of love!!!

Jenny Woolf said...

I know the horrible stuff going on in US politics now is upsetting many women, and I really hate that. I am so sad about what happened to you. I am steering clear of it - it's enough stress for me thinking about what is happening here in Britain. Better really to think about carpets of sweetly scented flowers! I would love to experience those when I stop for a rest!

Kay said...

I'm so sorry for what you went through. As women we never felt free to tell about the things that happened to us. I had an incident in college too that I still cringe to think about. Thank goodness you were saved. Sadly, the climate in our country right now is scary. Women must come forth to stop this moral decay.

Shammickite said...

There are very few women who have not experienced some unwanted attention from men, especially men who have some sort of power. It happened to me too, and I was too frightened to tell my mother. I hope that Dr Ford will be believed, but it looks very much like the Supreme Court nomination will go through.

Dee said...

Dear Vagabonde, thank you for sharing with us these stories of your experience of sexual harassment and molestation and probably, attempted rape. So many women here in the US, myself included, have experienced this. I'm 82 now and it happened to me when I was 10 years old and then again when I was in my early teens. After that, I became so wary that I really didn't allow myself close proximity to any man. And it is one of the reasons I entered the convent.

Once again, a woman has had the courage to come forward before the House Judiciary Committee and tell her story. And once again, many have not believed her accusation. This time, it is, I think, totally political. What is alarming me is that the confirmation of Kavanaugh has embolden Trump and many Republicans. I fear for our country. Peace.

Joared said...

I do hope your residence in Georgia has not been adversely affected by this most recent hurricane.

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, going through old photos is such a minefield of emotions -- even if all the memories are good, they can bring a sadness for what is gone. And the bad memories -- oh, I'm sorry you had to experience those things. I hope that the times are changing as more and more women speak out as you have.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Loved your photos. And feel you are brave to put out that like most of us you had bad male encounters. It was different in my EU background too. Here in my city it began as a teen when a doc drugged me and played with me . I had no clue till much later that I was abused. Then came the bosses but I always got out of their way. It affected how I was treated but I join the woman’s union and learned to be stronger. I recall over 5 males being evil back in 70’s. Once married even then there were a few who hoped but nada from my end.
I shall try a bit harder to keep up reading your posts. I miss being in touch. I’ll y a des annés que j’ai parler ou écrire en français, une langue que j’aime beacoup chère Vagabonde.

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