Dan Gets Out of the Wishing Business

Our recent trip to Angel’s Landing got me thinking about parenting.  One might think that taking our preteens to climb a trail with its last half mile hanging on to chains 1500’ above the valley floor was not the greatest example of parenting?  Then again, maybe it was?

MRW picture in pp room

Molly, Robyn, and Will circa 1987

In the past, I was a wisher.  I wished the best and more for our kids, Molly, Robyn, and Will.  Nothing wrong with that, right?

A positive high school experience.  Athletic success.  Meaningful, lasting friendships.  Satisfying jobs.  Excitement.  Adventures.  Enduring relationships.

But now I am out of the wishing business.  Done.  Gone fishing.

Now I am into observing their journey.  Seeing what lies ahead in their lives by the choices they make.  I’m excited to see how the universe unfolds for them based on their decisions.

From the sidelines, I’ll then support them.



Dan and Hannah Get the Weekend Off and Are Blown Away

The Big Bad Dude

The Big Bad Dude

Having successfully hiked each day for the last six along the coast of California while storminess threatened, we have indeed taken a scrumptious bite out of our Maine winter this January.   But our debt to El Nino is coming due.   He wants his pound of flesh and he wants it this weekend.  But he is not why we are blown away.

As we wake this Saturday morning, we meditate and then steal a morning walk through the neighborhoods of Santa Cruz, a town of 60,000 before the rains come.  Spanish for Holy Cross, Santa Cruz has its origins dating back to the 1800s and the Catholic Mission System.

From Santa Cruz to San Francisco

From Santa Cruz to San Francisco

After breakfast at our Comfort Inn here 70 miles south of San Francisco, we drive in light rain on route 17 out of town bracing for one of California’s triumvirate: wine tasting, earthquakes, and today traffic.  None yet, but within 20 minutes we are on I-280’s ten lanes of highway heading to the 19th Avenue stretch of San Francisco to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Nov Golden GB

In fog, the Golden Gate Bridge is still majestic.  Really, we two country mice from Maine can hardly believe that we are tooling across one of the Seven Wonders of the World!  With 35 miles to our Quality Inn in Petaluma, CA, we have a date with the Chiefs of Kansas City who are coming to New England to play our beloved Patriots.

Nov Patriots

Today with a full complement of players, the Patriots score early and often and have the game in hand so we celebrate in the motel hot tub as light rain falls in Petaluma, the site of American Graffiti (1973).  After hiking the coast of California, our feet and knees appreciate the R and R.

Nov spiritual

The Sunday forecast is steady rain by noon, but we’ve had plans for weeks to attend the service at the Unity in Marin (Novato, CA) spiritual center.  Our “religion” comes from an eclectic mix of pretty regular attendance at Unity on the River 30 miles south of home in Amesbury, MA, reading the Daily Word and Unity Magazine, and living a life of gratitude, forgiveness, and love.  It’s further augmented by seeking out Unity services when we hit the road.

Today we travel 16 miles south from Petaluma, CA for the service at Unity in Marin.  Unity minister’s give “talks,” not sermons.  Today, Rev. Bill Englehart’s talk is entitled WTF…aith about having choices no matter the circumstances.  We each have the power to choose our response to life’s challenges.  Do we see ourselves as victims or do we choose another way.  Instead of asking why me?  Ask why not me?

Unity in Marin

Unity in Marin

And then he tells the story of his sister whose 18 year old son, Bill’s nephew, died in car accident when his teenage buddy crashed the car they were both in.  His sister’s son died immediately while the teenage friend driver wearing a seatbelt lived.

What would you do if you were Bill’s sister in her profound grief?  I’m guessing a past me would be crushed by the sorrow and immobilized.  But in time, I hope I’d follow his sister’s lead.

Nov forgiveness

What she did is call the young man to ask him if she could come over and would he be sure to have his parents there?

Once together, she forgave him.  She told him not to lose his life in regret.  She had a choice and she forgave him when he needed her most.  She had a choice and she chose not let the poison of not being able to forgive him ruin her life.  At the lowest low, she forgave him.

In my mind, I don’t think of Bill’s sister as a hero.  I believe the truly heroic are embarrassed by being put on such a pedestal for just doing the right thing.  For me, she is an inspiration and a reminder I have choices, even when they are not this dramatic.

Nov 3 Sign of bay trail

Duly inspired and with only mist in the area a little before 11A, Hannah and I find a neighborhood to walk in before the deluge.  Within minutes we are at the northern reaches of the San Francisco Bay (San Pablo Bay) at the Hamilton Wetlands Preserve.   As we walk on the gravelly trail that winds between the former air base and the bay for nearly three miles, the rain holds off for 70 minutes on this 59F midday.   This is held up as a “disappointing” day in California.  I’ll take such “disappointment.”

Bay Trail

Bay Trail

The pelting rain arrives by 1P and we return to the hot tub at our Quality Inn in Petaluma.  With rain splashing our faces and heads, we thank El Nino for one fine weekend, still blown away by Bill’s sister.

Mother and Son

Twenty-four years ago our son Will and Hannah had a moment, among many moments they’ve had.  It was the summer of his ninth year when we as a family were in the midst of six week cross country camping and hiking trip to the American West.

Angel's Landing

Angel’s Landing

Arriving at the Visitor Center at Zion National Park looking for a family hiking recommendation, we talked to a young ranger who immediately suggested Angel’s Landing.  What did we know?  We certainly didn’t know that hikers held on to chains on a mountainside 1500’ above the Virgin River Valley.

While our daughter Robyn had enough of the hike, completing 80% of it, Hannah, and I naively continued on along the mountainside with Molly and Will.  Soon our daughter Molly and I were in the lead while Hannah held back with Will.  Angel’s Landing is a daunting climb at any age, and certainly for an eight year old.

AL 3A chains behind us

At that time and in those circumstances, Will was cautious, similar to what I imagine his nephew Owen might be like.  But Will pressed on with Hannah at his side.

Stung by a cactus needle, Will now added pain to his trepidation.  Still Hannah hung with him, fully planning to sacrifice reaching the 25’x25’ perch of Angel’s Landing herself to be with him.  But those of you who know Hannah know that it would be no sacrifice for Hannah to miss the summit.  Her focus was Will and any choices of hers were made in love.

Hannah and Will Ithaca College

Eventually, together Will and Hannah joined Molly and me on that Zion promontory.  But today thinking back to that mountaintop in Utah, I believe Will felt it then and feels it often Hannah’s unspoken commitment to him and faith in him born from many such moments.

Dan and Hannah are Taking a Bite Out of Winter in California

Are you looking for the bathroom? the young flight attendant asks me.  It is just the kind of question that I could expect on any airline, but I quickly gather her subtext.

FD VA plane

Let me back up.  For a third January in a row, Hannah and I are taking to the airways for California to escape Maine’s single digit morning lows, the dark that comes with 415P sunsets, and the snow without end Amen.

Flying from Logan Airport in Boston, we have a six hour non-stop flight to LAX (Los Angeles) for our nearly two weeks in the Golden State.  Packed into a tight space on our Virgin America flight, we are in the air for about the time it will take to play today’s two NFL wild card games.

FD inflight bathroom

Before we take off, the head flight attendant informs us that the front bathroom is for first class (two rows with eight people total) and the two back bathrooms are for those in coach (eighteen rows x six across equaling 108 people).  A crimson velvet theater rope protects first class passengers from the unwashed behind them.

From seat 18C

From seat 18C

Some people wear compression stockings to improve their circulation when flying cross-country.  Others pay the $100 extra for seats with more leg room.  Hannah and I always get aisle seats across from each other so we can stretch out our legs.  Another cost saving, leg saving measure is that I walk the aisles of the plane each hour.  Hence it is during one such walk heading towards first class that the flight attendant discreetly and sweetly asks her question.

Oh no, I’m just walking the aisle, I say as a relieved expression comes to her face.  Whoa.  I just think how important it is to maintain the sanctity of first class on Richard Branson’s Virgin America Airlines. That said, they are paying $610 per flight more than we are!



When we fly cross country from East to West we like to leave early in the morning so we land before noon Pacific Time and have the afternoon in the Golden State’s sunshine.  That way, non-larcenously, we steal an afternoon of vacation on this travel day.  To do all this, we awoke at 230A for our 720A flight from Boston, a 62 mile drive to our south.  My friend Bill emails that that “sounds awful.”   Maybe so, but what sounds awful to us is driving 3000 miles in winter to get to California from the East Coast.

Hannah's loft sign in snow

On this still very dark Saturday, light snow falls as we head out Chases Pond Road.

Arriving at Park, Ride, and Fly in Revere, MA, three miles from the airport we park my Hyundai Elantra and wait, and then wait some more for their shuttle to the airport.  One couple grows restless as 5A turns into 525A and no shuttle appears for their 615A flight to the Caribbean.  Hannah and I still have two hours to our Virgin America flight but do wonder where the shuttle is.

FD park ride and fly

Among the ten of us waiting, a thirty-something professional woman says, I’m getting a Uber ride if anyone wants to join me.  I jump at the chance and think I’ve got to get with it and get my Uber on.  While we wait for her Uber the eleven person shuttle arrives with its driver, a wise-cracking combination Matt Damon/Ben Affleck (think Good Will Hunting) Southie driver.  He takes nothing personally about the delays, encourages us all, and good-naturedly jokes.  Though we had to wait, I tip him enthusiastically in my little effort to support the joyful among us.

FD D and H with DD

With two hours til flight time, Hannah and I celebrate in the predawn Terminal B thanks to Molly and Tip and our friend Mandy.  You see Molly and Tip bought us a $5 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card while Mandy dropped off morning glory muffins from Beach Pea in Kittery, Maine.  In the predawn dark we munch and sip regally.

FD VA tv

Once seated in row 18, I have a first world problem.  No ESPN on the seat back TV.  A true soldier of the sky, I somehow survive.  We love us our non-stop flights.   In the past, we have “saved” money flying flights with connections and ended up in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport for hours!  Though drinks are all they offer for free, my orange juice goes well with my homemade peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwiches.

I settle into flipping between MSNBC, CNN, and TBS with Seinfeld reruns.  Two hours into our flight I check the video map of the flight.  We are flying at 450 mph over Michigan at 36,000’ at -78 degrees.  Thanks to the prevailing Westerlies, we will fly 582 mph when coming from West to East at the end of our trip.

Heading to southern California, we will have 50 more minutes of daylight than we do on a comparable winter day in Maine.

At the local Summerland, CA gas station

At the local Summerland, CA gas station

Our plan once we arrive at LAX near 11A PT is to get our Fox Rent-A-Car and drive 100 miles north on the coast on the 101 to our first night’s lodging at the Quality Inn in Santa Barbara.  Immediately we notice the difference in gas prices from the East Coast.  This morning in Maine gas cost $1.97/gallon.  With gas prices often a dollar more in California we learn that the refinery in California that produces the less polluting gas California requires is working at less than full capacity.  Hence the higher prices.  You go California!

Jasmine Cottage 200 yards above the Pacific Ocean

The VRBO Jasmine Cottage 200 yards above the Pacific Ocean in Summerland, CA

But there is more than bluff hiking and winter escaping on our minds.  We are looking to see if renting a house through VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) in nearby Summerland, CA (four miles south of Santa Barbara) for the month of February in 2017 is in the cards.  Our plan is to rent a home so family and friends can visit for a long weekend or a school vacation week.

After two previous January trips to California, we are hooked on its bluff trails, its mountains, and its sunshine as we start a fortnight of California Dreamin’.

Dan, Hannah, and Nostradamus

Nostradamus 2

Are you a fan of the 1500s Michel de Nostredame?  Our buddy Nostradamus was a French prognosticator who made over 6000 prophecies.  He has been credited with predicting the rise of Napoleon and Adolf Hitler as well the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center.  The bearded one gets a lot of notoriety, but, please, if you make thousands of predictions, a few are going to cross the finish line.

But let’s not quibble, we are still talking about him 500 years later.  Any chance you yourself will be searched in the 2616 edition of Wikipedia?   I’m not ruling it out.  Here’s a way to test your predicative powers and possibly your place in history that is both fun and lucrative.  Did I say lucrative?  Indeed I did.

Han and Nan 2015

Hannah and Nan at the Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine

As Hannah’s mentor during her Health Education Masters Days at Arizona State University, Nan Inskeep has returned to our lives with a flourish.  Her visit last June was one of the highlights of our summer.  She is just so damn interesting and interested in us to boot.  When Nan was here, she wanted to do all the things we do so she could live our lives for a few days.  Eat what we eat, go where go.  How cool is that!  To my everlasting gratitude, she got me to increase the number of scoops of coffee I use when a brew a pot of joe.

New Year

Just a few weeks back, she filled us in on what she and some friends do around the New Year.  And immediately we knew this had Dan and Hannah written all over it.

Here’s the scene.  Nan and a few friends get together over lunch and then go to the movies.   After, they get their Full Nostradamus on and write down five predictions for the coming year.  With their predictions, they each include $10 in an envelope and seal it for 365 days.  The following year when they get together, they read all the predictions and whoever has the most correct predictions wins the money in the envelope.

M and T at VCU

Molly and Tip at Will and Laurel’s pre-wedding dinner at VCU.

We offer this idea to Molly and Tip and they are all in.  We come up with nine categories from which to make our five predictions.  Writing these nine on the top right of our prediction paper, we all agree that we can have more than one prediction in any category to reach a total of five.

Our categories are: (1) self, (2) spouse/partner, (3) immediate family, (4) close friends, (5) work or volunteering, (6) sports or athletic endeavors, (7) events in your town and state, (8) national events, and (9) international events.  There could be more categories and we are open to learn what you might include.

Scoring?  Hannah and I want to reward those betting on a long shot.  So this is our plan for the opening of the envelope in December of 2016.  The first person, say Dan, will read the first of his five predictions.  If it is correct, the other three (Hannah, Molly, and Tip) will agree on how many points from 1 to 10 the prediction warrants.

For example, if I said that I will be hiking in the Northwest this year, which is not much of a leap, I hardly deserve more than a point.  Now if I said, Trump will run, but not win, as an independent and choose a Democrat, say Bernie Sanders, as his running mate, I hope the other three will reward me with a full ten points.

If there is a tie, we have two tie-breaker questions.

Super Bowl 50

The first is the teams in Super Bowl 50 and the score.  The second is predicting the Presidential Race for 2016.


I should say so!

Let us know of how you unleash your inner Nostradamus.



Hannah Fills You in on Fifty Things you just might not know about Dan

Even though he’s Daniel A. Rothermel (as was his dad) he is NOT a junior. (Dan’s middle name is Archer – his mother’s maiden name and now our grandson Max’s middle name. His father’s middle name was Angstadt.)

He was born 6 weeks prematurely – and his Grandmother Archer insisted on his coming home (against the hospital’s wishes) after two weeks so she could help nurse him up to fighting weight.

50 Algeria

As a junior in high school, he spent five weeks in the summer of 1964 on Rue Victor Hugo in Algiers, Algeria with a French family.

He delivered the afternoon Bergen Record newspaper for nearly six years well into his junior year in high school. The paper cost patrons thirty-three cents for six days of delivery. A seven cent tip was huge!

The hardest physical test he ever did was biking the 190 miles of the mountains of the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada over four days with me (my hardest too!).

Mamas and Papas

The Mama’s and Papa’s California Dreamin’ planted the seed for taking his first teaching job in Anaheim, California.

He quit that job as a fifth and sixth grade teacher of science, social studies, and Spanish by Christmas of his very first year.

The US government did not believe his contention that he was a conscientious objector during the Viet Nam War.

In retirement on Thursday afternoons he plays ping pong with his amigo George Derby, one week in York and the next in Kittery Point.

In 1973 he and I bought our first house at 542 West 16th Street, Tempe, Arizona for $21,000…fully furnished!

50 Tresh

He was president (albeit self-proclaimed) of the Tom Tresh Fan Club (a player on the New York Yankees in the 1960s).

He took me by train to New York City on New Year’s Eve in the late 60’s when we were dating as college students; clueless about making the most of this opportunity, we were back home in New Jersey before midnight.

He lived with as many as 11 other guys in a two bedroom apartment in Tempe, AZ; rent for the six of them who were actually paying rent was $30 per month.

He was a political science major/history minor at the College of Wooster, Ohio.  He transferred to Arizona State University his senior year and graduated with a degree in elementary education.

Super Bowl 49 Malcolm Butler

He still can hardly believe the good fortune of our New England Patriots winning Super Bowl 49 over the Seattle Seahawks.  Karma!

Pete Carroll is his favorite coach.  Not because he called the final play of Super Bowl 49, but because of his positive philosophy of life outlined in one of Dan’s favorite books of 2015, Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play like a Champion.

He lived in the Irish Hall dorm his senior year at Arizona State.  When the Arizona residents left for home on the weekends, he bonded with four out-of-staters in the dorm for his good times: Rich Meyer (Hawthorne, NJ), Big Steve Kyker (Vienna, VA), Gale Nobes (Muskegon, MI) and Art Pfohl (Bergenfield, NJ)

Doug with Hannah circa 1971

Doug with Hannah circa 1971

He was one of my brother Doug’s very best friends.

His first car was a ’68 Volkswagen Beetle.  He bought it for $1800 after graduating from Arizona State.

He and I shopped for our wedding bands at WOOLCO (aka Woolworth’s) just off the Salt River river bottom in Tempe.

He and I married on July 1, 1972 on my dad’s Christmas tree farm in East Penfield, NY.

50 Johnny Rivers

His choice of song for our wedding was Summer Rain by Johnny Rivers.  (By the way, I chose Crazy Love by Helen Reddy.)

We got married at 130P and by 430P everyone was gone.  No reception, though there was a wedding cake.  No first dance.  No best man toast.  No throwing of the garter belt.  Just the start of the ride of a lifetime.

Two of the ten best days in his life were July 3, 2011 (Molly and Tip’s wedding day) and April 25, 2015 (Will and Laurel’s wedding)

A third of his ten favorite days in his life was our first dance in the fall of 1967 at the College of Wooster in Severance Gym that started our five years of off-again and on-again courting.

He would hitchhike from Wooster to his Uncle Bill’s and Aunt Caroline’s in Toledo, OH with his brother Richard carrying a sign that read “It’s Mom’s Birthday!”  It worked wonders.


Born into the Lutheran Church, he spent a good part of his adult life wandering in search of a spiritual community.  He went to a Quaker Church with me, was a Unitarian-Universalist, and attended the local Congregational Church.  He was a square peg in a round hole.  Then two years ago our friend Donna Ellis talked about her experience at Unity.  Ever since, he and I have ourselves an excellent spiritual home.

After giving up tennis after college, he is just now getting into Pickleball on the courts of the Kittery Community Center.

Growing up, his favorite foods were: jello, Wheaties, and tomato sandwiches.

50 Wheaties

One year in high school he ate 1362 (he tallied each one) bowls of Wheaties, the Breakfast of Champions he thought.

For my 40th birthday, he sent out index cards to all my friends asking them to mail them back to me with words of wisdom that had helped them in Life.

On another of my birthdays he asked many of those same people to recommend their favorite book; many of them sent me a copy.

On still another of my birthdays in the 1980s, he sent friends a cassette tape on which to record their birthday message for me.

Tuesdays highlight his weeks as he and I drive to Chelmsford, MA to spend the afternoon and evening with our grandsons, Owen and Max, then have wine and dinner with Molly and Tip.

His brother Richard and sister Patty are two of the most generous people he knows.

50 Blue Highways

Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon about traveling the country in a van is a favorite book of his.

He would like to take a one month road trip with me to celebrate our 70th.  (not in a van!)

He ran the Fiesta Bowl Marathon in Arizona in 1981.  He was smoking a 7:15 per mile pace until he hit the “wall” at the eighteen mile mark and hobbled to the finish line at 3:48.  At the end of the race he couldn’t step down a curb.

He uses dental tape (NOT floss) – 18 inches at a time.

Hannah with Angel's Landing in the background

Hannah with Angel’s Landing in the background

Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park is his favorite hike.

He loves him some Carpenters, Barbara Streisand, Spanky and our Gang, Petula Clark, Dionne Warwick, and Barry Manilow.

Among his favorite songs: Monday, Monday by The Mamas and Papa, To Out of Three Ain’t Bad, by Meatloaf; MacArthur Park by Richard Harris (Oh no!!);  My Heart Will Go On by Celine; Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler; What the World Needs Now by Jackie DeShannon; and Abraham, Martin & John by Dion.

He took violin lessons for 4 months as an adult.  He played the clarinet in the Fair Lawn Marching Band.

50 blackjack

He gave blackjack playing in Las Vegas a shot.  He would count cards to see if the deck was rich in tens (an advantage for the player).  Even so, the advantage with card counting was a slim 1%.  He did not have the capital to withstand the inevitable swings of good cards and bad cards and returned to teaching.

His dream job was teaching teachers.  He lived the dream at Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of New England in Maine.

It took him three separate attempts to write his dissertation.  The title of his dissertation is Using Writing Composition Pedagogy in an Introductory Teaching Education Practicum to Learn about the Motivations, Journeys, and Understandings of Preservice Teachers.

He graduated with his PhD in Reading and Writing Instruction in 3.5 years from the University of New Hampshire.

Dr. Jane Hansen and Dr. Tom Newkirk were the key figures in getting him through.

CF 5 real CF with H preview

Comet Falls, Mount Rainier National Park

Comet Falls in Mount Rainier National Park is his favorite waterfalls hike.

The California coast is his favorite for bluff hiking.

Two of his favorite movies are The Graduate with Katherine Ross and Dustin Hoffman and Raiders of the Lost Ark with Karen Allen and Harrison Ford.

When we hike, he likes me to lead. (Same when we dance.)

During our mid-1990s family trip to Alaska our daughter Robyn’s appendix burst in Fairbanks.  While we four camped, she spent four days recovering in the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

Denali National Park

Denali National Park

One day later he and I had all three kids hiking at Denali National Park.  (By the way, we did not win Parents of the Year in 1995.)

Dan Has Some Explaining to Do about Being Jailed in Knoxville (Part 6 of 6)

At 6P Sunday in September of 1971, I heard “Rothermel” from the jailer and knew my bail money had arrived.  It had been 30 hours since the Yellins, our family friends, had sent it.  What had taken so long?  No matter, I was now just glad being out of this hellhole.

Knox men's belt

Taken to the booking desk down the hall from the drunk tank where I had spent the afternoon, I was given back my belt and my $7. I was told that an officer would drive me to Western Union to pick up the bail money.  I asked what happened since I was told the money would arrive early Saturday afternoon?

Sheepishly, the booking officer said there was a call early Saturday afternoon for a “Rothermel” from Western Union.  The officer on duty checked the list of inmates and seeing no “Rothermel,” refused the $100.  They money sat at Western Union until Sunday morning.

Knox western union 2

Come Sunday morning, Western Union called the Yellins and said they were returning their money as there was no “Rothermel” at the Knoxville Jail.  Thankfully the Yellins knew better.  They contacted a judge they knew in the eastern part of Tennessee who made some calls, which determined that I was indeed incarcerated in the Knoxville Jail.

Driven to Western Union, I got my $100.  Once back at the police station, I paid the $60 bail for hitchhiking!  I rented a $10 room (It was 1971!) at a five story hotel across the street.  At this point I called Hannah with my story.  I opened with I just got out of jail here in Knoxville, TN (for she had no idea where I was).  And to that (get ready for this) she laughed.  Really? I thought. It did sound unbelievable I know, but I was looking for a little more sympathy.

I told her I didn’t want to take a bus to Ohio and asked if she would drive south to get me.  Immediately she made plans to do so the next morning; she would pick up my brother Richard at Kenyon College, and drive the 500 miles from Ohio through Kentucky to Tennessee.

Knox court room

Having slept soundly in a bed with a mattress, pillows, sheets, and blankets, I arrived at court Monday morning at 8A.  An hour later I was called before the judge.  I explained the situation.  He nodded and said you got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Earlier this year two hitchhikers were killed in Knoxville when a car stopped to pick them up.

The judge cited me  for “Walking on the Interstate” and fined me $25.  I paid the fine, got my $35 back, which was a ton of money for someone who was hitchhiking with $7 from Arizona.

OB5 on trail to OP preview pic of Han

By early afternoon Hannah, who was not laughing, and my brother Richard arrived to whisk me back to civilization in Ohio.

While in jail, I never felt threatened or in danger.  I was just so scared of the unknown.  I had less faith and was less trusting than I am now.

I never hitchhiked again.

Was it worth it?

Please, it was Hannah!

Dan Has Some Explaining to Do about Being Jailed in Knoxville (Part 5 of 6)

As the dinner hour approached in the Knoxville City Jail this September of 1971, I soon learned that no dinner was coming.  I wasn’t hungry, but eating would at least have helped pass the time.  Always hoping my name would be called with news that my bail money had arrived, I wondered about my night in jail ahead.

Knox jail bars

With no windows and the ceiling lights always on, the cell block in the South scared the beejeezus out of this sheltered Yankee boy this Saturday evening.  I was soon to learn what Saturday nights were like in city jails in the South; the drunks were picked up and deposited in our cell block.  Loudly protesting their innocence, they filtered in all night long.

Trying to fall asleep to pass the time in my 8’x14’ cell, I crumpled up my jacket to use as a pillow on my metal lower bunk.  Fortunately, since I had not slept the night before while hitchhiking in the dark of Georgia and hanging out at the diner in Cartersville, I finally fell asleep exhausted.  I slept soundly til what I guessed was 8A the next morning.  A blessing indeed.

knox pb sandwich

Awakened, I immediately thought of the $100 of bail money that the Yellins said that they would send.  I tried to get the attention of the skewed eye, toothless jailer to no avail.  At 10A, the jailer did bring us all “breakfast.”  As he approached with the same greasy can of oily peanut butter, my appetite disappeared.   Though I had eaten but two pieces of white bread in the last 30 hours, I again just peeled apart the two peanut butter sandwiches that he made right in front of me and ate the plain white bread.  The black coffee went down the combination sink/toilet.

At what must have been near noon this Sunday, with 40 others I was moved to a drunk tank.  This 30’x 30’ barred enclosure offered no privacy, though no one was paying attention to me anyway.  There I met Saint John and Creeping Jesus, two 17 year olds who had come from Florida to set up a church in Knoxville.  When the police found them, they were sleeping on the steps of a downtown church.  Get this!  The police awakened them and charged them with prowling.  The kids were hardly bothered as they renewed old acquaintances and sang with the drunks.

knox bail monopoly

Throughout the afternoon other inmates had their names called and were being bailed out.  I never heard the sweet words “Rothermel” from the jailer all afternoon.  My trial was set for Monday morning and I figured I’d be spending another night on the concrete floor of the drunk tank or be returned to the metal bunk in my cell.

And then I heard “Rothermel.”

The final mini-blog will be posted Saturday as I go to court for my version of Southern justice.

Dan Has Some Explaining to Do about Being Jailed in Knoxville (Part 4 of 6)

Still surprised that I am being booked for hitchhiking on the Interstate here in eastern Tennessee this September of 1971, I have no smile for my mug shot; the clerk then asks for my belt and all my money ($7).  My first thought was Really? You think I am going to hang myself because I was brought in for hitchhiking?   Later I understand that a belt could be a weapon and the $ could be a source of tension between inmates if it were stolen.  My bail was set at $60.  Can you believe it!

Knox dial phone

I then asked to make my one phone call.  Reluctantly the clerk gave me the phone and I dialed my parents in New Jersey.  No one answered, for I later learned that they were in Gambier, Ohio visiting my younger brother Richard at Kenyon College, some 100 miles southwest of where I was going to meet Hannah.

When I got no answer, the clerk said unsmilingly, That’s your one call.  I said, I didn’t get through, can I make another call?  Peeved, he agreed, but then I had to ask him for a phone book to look up the number of my parents’ friends, the Yellins, who lived in Memphis at the opposite end of the state.  Connecting with the Yellins, I was thrilled that they would send me $100 by Western Union for bail and a bus ticket out of town.

Knox jail bunkbeds

Led to a corridor of 12 cells each with one inch bars spaced inches apart, I found that my cell had four bunkbeds made of one quarter inch metal with symmetrical one inch holes spaced throughout.  There were no mattresses, no pillows, no blankets.  We had a combination sink/toilet which was as disgusting as you might imagine.

With no windows in this cell block, individual light bulbs hung from the only ceiling were the source of illumination.  I was scared, here in the South and no one knew where I was save the Yellins.  I was a mess.  I had led a pretty sheltered life and felt so alone.

Knox western union

After two hours with nothing to do (there were no books, please), I still hadn’t received any word from Western Union.  “Lunch time” arrived about 2P.   A man with a metal can two feet deep and 15 inches across filled with the oiliest peanut butter known to man came down the cell block making peanut butter sandwiches for us all.  His eyes weren’t right, he had few teeth and they were askew and yellow.

Oozing with oil, the peanut butter sandwiches grossed me out such that all I could do was pull the two pieces of bread apart.  All the peanut butter stuck to one side and I ate the other slice.  Raunchy black coffee was our lunchtime beverage.  And still there was no word about my bail money.

Learn tomorrow about my stay in jail and a drunk tank!

Dan Has Some Explaining to Do about Being Jailed in Knoxville (Part 3 of 6)

It was two in the morning in Cartersville, GA some forty miles north of Atlanta this September of 1971.  I had come from Phoenix with a friend and was now hitchhiking north to Ohio to meet up with Hannah.  I had been dropped off at a diner as the rain continued to fall, which made the dark even darker for me so far from home.  With no chance of getting a ride til morning, I sat down on a stool and talked with the all-night counter guy.

Knox two eggs

After chatting awhile, I looked for something to do while he worked in the kitchen.  Seeing a broom, I began slow sweeping to kill some time.  Once I sat back down at the counter, he set a plate with two eggs over easy, hash browns, and white toast in front of me.  I looked up and said that I couldn’t afford it (I had $7 now, but needed to conserve my money for I was still 650 miles from Ohio).  He said, it’s on the house.

Most grateful and very hungry, I ate and we talked through the night.  By 7A the morning crowd was shuffling in, I thanked him for his generosity, and walked out into a light mist looking for my first ride north.

I-75 north from Atlanta to Knoxville and then on to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, which is near Akron

I-75 north from Atlanta to Knoxville and then on to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, which is near Akron

In minutes I was picked up by a rangy young man in blue jeans who was driving to Knoxville, Tennessee four hours away.  He said he could use the company to stay awake.  On this early Saturday morning, I learned he was one of 25 kids from the Tennessee mountains; a likeable guy, he at the age of 24 already had four girls himself.  He drove to Atlanta each Monday evening to work in a steel mill and returned home after his shift ended early Saturday morning.

Things were looking up as I had a free breakfast and a sweet four hour ride to Knoxville.  He dropped me off at his exit and as I walked on the grassy embankment on I-75, I proceeded to stick out my thumb.  Ahead, there was an intersection with traffic lights where it would be easier to get a ride.  Back in 1971, the Interstate system in Tennessee, as in much of the country, was spotty, a little here and a little there.

Knox cop

And then more good fortune: a cop pulled over to give me a ride to better a place to hitchhike.  That had happened before during my hitchhiking years with my brother Richard in Ohio and two years before when I hitchhiked from Idaho Falls to Tempe, AZ.

And then all of a sudden he made a U-turn and headed back into town.  He said, I’m taking you to the Knoxville City Jail.  Hitchhiking is illegal on the Interstate.

Stunned, I wondered what the Knoxville City Jail would be like for this Jersey boy?  Find out Wednesday in part 4.