I’m flying home from Cincinnati today, ending my midwestern travels.
I know what you’re thinking. How sad that you’re traveling solo. How tragic that your family returned to work and went back to school.
Don’t cry for me. It was a much needed journey. Listen.
Day 1: Dayton, OH. How about those Wright Brothers? Wilbur and Orville. Printers, bike shop owners, aviators. They discovered how wings work by studying birds. Wilbur convinced the Smithsonian to send him all the information they had on flying. They built a wind tunnel to explore aerodynamics. They flew a primitive plane at Kitty Hawk. They crashed. They rebuilt. Ultimately they created a plane which they could reliably fly, steer, and land. They did most of their work in a cow pasture outside Dayton, which you can visit today. Just imagine Orville and Wilbur circling overhead. The heights of human accomplishment. I finished the day in Dayton’s Oregon District, the site of recent gun violence, the depths of human failings, paying my respects.
Day 2: Lexington, KY. An entire culture and economy built around horses (and bourbon). Fields of bluegrass, wooden fences, elaborate barns, racetracks, Triple Crown legends, studs, broodmares, foals, and cash. If you’re a lucky colt from a good family, and if you win a couple of races, you can land a job siring offspring at $100K a pop. Contemplate that and then try some Kentucky bourbon. Then stuff yourself with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and bread pudding.
Day 3: Cincinnati, OH. This was the main reason I took this trip, to see the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The museum is perched on the northern bank of the Ohio River, which runaways crossed, seeking freedom, escaping dogs and bounty hunters. I spent five hours in the museum. The African slave trade and the Middle Passage. Being sold down the river to pick cotton. Children ripped from parents. White rationalizations and delusions of racial superiority. Shackles and slave pens. Overseers. Rapes. Whippings. Murder. America’s highest ideals and its deepest hypocrisies- slaveholders extolling the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Courage against oppression. Freedom gained. Work unfinished.
The best part of summer is the sunlight, which guides us to new vistas and fresh perspectives. This summer included two trips with my family, six weeks on service with wonderful residents, and a solo journey that was a long time coming.
I’ll see you back in New Haven, where I’ll be spending Labor Day in the MICU.
See you soon,
PS: Highly recommended, The New York Times “1619 Project”