Monthly Archives: August 2016

a message to an old friend


Ella Lou Rutledge was a friend of mine from high school days. We were both very active in Liberal Religious Youth (LRY) and belonged to the Norfolk Suffolk Federation of LRY in Massachusetts.

Ella and I attended the same college, as is noted below.


— Roger W. Smith

   August 2016



from: Roger Smith

to: Ella Rutledge

January 25, 2016



I recall you enrolling as well as me for a freshman humanities course at Brandeis on Greek poetry, Humanities 5. We both ended up in Humanities 6, Literature of the Bible.

I recall that you were there when we showed up at the door of the building for Humanities 5 and found out that the class had been canceled.

I learned a whole lot from the Literature of the Bible course. It was an easy A. Genesis; Ecclesiastes; Job; Amos, Hosea, and other prophetic books; and so on.

I definitely was in that class! They used to call me (behind my back) “the goy.”

Have you seen that Norfolk-Suffolk Federation newsletters which I posted on my blog at?

There are eleven newsletters from the years 1962 through 1964, totaling around 45 to 50 pages. Some issues are missing. You were editor for almost all of them.

[Rev.] John Coffee saved them.

Also, Phil Pierce also sent me a copy of the tribute to John Coffee at John’s memorial service. I posted it at:

And, Phil also sent me a copy of four page letter about Midwinter Conference from John Coffee to me in 1964. It is posted at:

Some people I remember well who are mentioned in the fed newsletters are you (of course), George Kaldro, Phil Pierce, Dick Ryan, Steve Cooper, Cappy Pinderhughes, John Coffee, Melissa McQuillan, Dave Klotzle, Paul Klotzle, Bob Day, Dick Barnaby, Richard Derby, Chuck Forrester (President of continental LRY), Peter Baldwin (advisor from the UUA), Bruce Elwell, Rev. Jack Hammon, Russ Weisman, Eileen Day, Charlie McGlynn, Kathy Phair, Larry Jaffa, Gordon Hall, Larkie Colebrooke, Leon Hopper (executive director of LRY prior to Peter Baldwin), Bill Moors, Dick Hood, Cal Mosher, John Ertha, my brother Pete Smith, Rev. Kenneth Patton, and Chris Adler.

There were some other names which, when I saw them, reminded me of people I knew but had forgotten about: Martha Chickering, Herb Weeks, Chandler Newton, Rick Corley, Jane Urich, Lorna Laughland, Rev. Carl Scovel, Wally Fletcher, and Jean Nichols.

The May 1963 fed newsletter had a story based on a supposed popularity poll. The headline read, “ROGER SMITH VOTED MOST IMMORAL BOY IN FED!” John Coffee cooked this up and took great delight in his joke. The joke was that I was regarded as such a straight arrow. See:

“Roger Smith Voted Most Immoral Boy”

The November 1963 fed newsletter contained a review of a made up book, Pest Control in the Pripit Marshes, signed “J.C.” I was at John [Coffee’s] apartment with other LRY’ers who were visiting when he wrote this piece. Maybe you remember this.

In another issue, there is a plug for the book Growing Up Absurd by Paul Goodman. I actually got to meet Goodman a few years later in New York when I was hired to house sit in his apartment for a few days and walk his dogs while he was traveling. I was performing alternative service as a CO then.


Ellie Lou Rutledge

Ellie Lou Rutledge

Roger, 'mug shot,' Brandeis University, fall 1964.jpg

Is the Brooklyn Bridge boardwalk too crowded?


walking the Brooklyn Bridge.JPEG

walkers on Brooklyn Bridge, August 2016; photo by Roger W. Smith


Brooklyn Bridge boardwalk at 11:36 a.m. on a beautiful summer day; Tuesday, July 24, 2018. This is too crowded?




Brooklyn Bridge, the ‘Times Square in the Sky,’ May Get an Expansion

by Winnie Hu

The New York Times

August 8, 2016


In the above referenced article re pedestrian traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge, New York Times reporter Winnie Hu notes:

New York City has commissioned a $370,000 engineering study of the bridge’s walking and biking promenade to address crowding.

An unnecessary study and a waste of money.

The Brooklyn Bridge promenade is very crowded. As noted in the article, the pedestrian walkway is thronged with walkers, including lots of tourists, who (along with the locals), besides walking, often at leisurely pace, are often loitering to take in the view, fraternize, take photos, and so forth. Aggressive bikers on what is supposed to be a separate pathway are often ringing their bells or shouting for pedestrians to get out of the way.

Sound chaotic and unruly? Indeed, it is. But this is not a problem, nor is it a cause for alarm, in my opinion. It’s actually kind of fun. The fact that the bridge is thronged with cheerful pedestrians — besides its aesthetic appeal and “walker friendly” construction (the boardwalk, which is raised above the traffic lanes; the benches) — is what make walking over the Brooklyn Bridge such fun.

Cities are crowded places by definition. Don’t like it? There are smaller cities, exurbs, suburbs, small towns, and so forth where, I would imagine, one can find uncrowded streets and thoroughfares to walk on.

To get back to the stampede on the Brooklyn Bridge that the Times reporter describes (accurately): I like it — I should say, LOVE it. I am not alone among walking enthusiasts who love the experience of walking across the bridge.

If one wants seclusion or a place to walk without hardly anyone else around — in the City, that is — such places can be found. Central Park, believe it or not, often feels uncrowded — in some spots is virtually empty — during many times: weekdays, for example.

I frequent a park in Queens that is one of the most beautiful in the City. It is in a residential neighborhood, is quiet, and is almost always uncrowded. Not just uncrowded, but practically empty. (And, yet it is not a scary place to be in; on the contrary, it feels safe and always has a core of dog walkers and neighborhood residents.)

I frequently walk across the Queensboro Bridge to Manhattan and back because is it is the shortest route for me to walk to Manhattan. The Queensboro Bridge is not a scenic or fun walkway. There are no good views. There is no boardwalk. There are no benches. There are few pedestrians. Sometimes, I don’t care. I am lost in my own thoughts. But, on “aesthetic” and “experiential” grounds — as a walker who loves walking for its own sake — I prefer the Brooklyn Bridge by far. It’s no contest. And, I like the crowds. One gets such good vibes from them. Everyone seems cheerful and friendly.

A final point: pedestrian crowding on the Brooklyn Bridge is a seasonal thing. The bridge is thronged with pedestrians mainly on the nicest days and during the warmest times of the year. At other times, it is less crowded. Not that crowding during the good weather is a problem. It’s anything but, in my opinion, as I have argued above.

Depend upon it. The “traffic engineers,” pedestrian traffic engineers, besides pocketing a hefty fee, will mess things up. They will make the experience of walking the bridge worse at the minimum — whatever “solution” they come up with to address the “problem” of pedestrian overcrowding — and could ruin it.

The boardwalk has been there since the bridge was originally opened in 1883. Leave it alone!


— Roger W. Smith

    August 2016



See also

Walking the Brooklyn Bridge

re “One Star Over, a Planet That Might Be Another Earth”



“One Star Over, a Planet That Might Be Another Earth”

by Kenneth Chang

The New York Times, August 24, 2016



I copied a friend of mine on this article. He emailed me back as follows:

Roger — yes I saw this exciting piece. What amazes me is that this planet is described as relatively close but is in fact a trillion miles away or so.



I replied to my friend as follows:


A couple of things:

Kenneth Chang, the NY Times’s lead science writer is excellent.

They used to have some boring ones (science writers) years ago.

I am woefully uninformed and poorly educated in science, but I find this sort of stuff fascinating.

To get to the planet Proxima b, traveling at incredibly fast speeds, would take something like a hundred (or is it fifty?) years.

Given its distance from us in light years, it would take around four and a half years merely for a signal or electronic message sent from there to reach us (and vice versa).

Another thing (or two):

We know that life on earth originated from a “primordial soup” … there were four basic elements present that made life possible.

It seems certain that life could originate elsewhere.

Planets that could be habitable keep being discovered orbiting other stars … this is only beginning because of powerful telescopes that we didn’t have before which are orbital.

It seems to me now — considering the arc of discovery, as it were — that there is no question whatsoever that there is life on other planets — there are so many stars in the universe, including the zillions with planets orbiting them, it boggles the mind.

Of course there are! I would be inclined to say — definitely, inarguably. There are habitable planets out there with a form of life. We just haven’t reached or contacted them.

— Roger W. Smith

   August 25, 2016

“extreme vetting” of immigrants?


Liz Tighe post on Facebook

August 15, 2016

“Extreme vetting” of immigrants? Does that mean water-boarding? I think we should extreme vet any orange-faced lard-ass and those related to him who travel outside the country to Russia and Ukraine, and Scotland for golfing; water-boarding before let back in to see if they can recite the preamble to the constitution, the Articles of Confederation and explain the difference between The Constitution and the Bill of Rights and explain all of the amendments to the Constitution and why each came to be … yeah, yeah, turn ’em upside down, pour water down their gullet till they drown. Don’t let ’em back in until they can demonstrate understanding of our founding principles. While we’re at it, maybe we oughta extreme vet every human on the planet, to be sure they are actually human beings, and not aliens, or “other-worldly”, Satan spawn type entities that are infiltrating our republic and taking over the country from within. What dreams have become.


a respondent: Vet them, why not?


Liz Tighe: Vet, yes. but he didn’t say “vet”, he said “EXTREME vetting, I mean EX-TREME!” he added with great emphasis … define. Actually, if water-boarding was only considered an ‘enhanced’ method of obtaining information, what is meant by “extreme” vetting? What is the vetting now, how does it vary by country of origin and what would it mean for vetting to be “extreme”? Does anyone actually know? It’s the responsibility of citizens to know what it is they’re voting for. policy positions not appeals to fear and ignorance.

respondent: I would never wish this but, maybe the only way you would see it different is if your family member had died in marathon bombing or was raped sodomized and head cut off in Benghazi . It seems you disconnect from those evils! Salaries it different cause he lives in a world

Where his people die!


Roger W. Smith: Just because terrible things happen in the world, one doesn’t go about picking on large classes of people who were not involved to exact revenge and impose what might be called “collective punishment,” striking out blindly and trampling on our rights as citizens, which were not won or granted easily.



N.B. – Liz Tighe is the daughter of Robert W. Tighe, my former English teacher.


— Roger W. Smith

   August 17, 2016



letter to the editor, The New York Times, August 17, 2016


To the Editor:

Re “Trump Invokes Cold War in Plan to Fight Terror” (front page, Aug. 16):

My jaw dropped when I read that Donald Trump stated that the Orlando and San Bernardino mass attacks were carried out by “immigrants, or the children of immigrants.” I am the child of an immigrant. My father came here after being in a slave labor camp in Siberia, having fled the Nazis in World War II.

My family and I live in a very diverse town of immigrants. Amazingly, there isn’t a terrorist in the whole bunch of us.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Trump did not mention homegrown terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, or Dylan Roof, the Charleston church shooter. Instead of worrying about immigrants, I would like to know how Mr. Trump plans to deal with the problem of white men, or the children of white men.

Elaine Edelman

East Brunswick, N.J.



See also a related post of mine on immigration:


— Roger W. Smith

   August 17, 2016

Central Park


Adolf Dehn, 'Spring in Central Park'.jpg

Yesterday was a beautiful late summer day. Central Park was uncrowded, quiet, and peaceful. Whole parts of it were virtually empty. It’s hard to believe that you are in the midst of Manhattan, cheek by jowl with some of the priciest neighborhoods.

Such an urban space could never be created today; the real estate developers would never allow it. But, then, no one can touch Central Park (though the developers would love to).

It’s sacrosanct, thank God.


— Roger W. Smith

  September 14, 2016


footnote: Central Park was established in 1857 on 778 acres of city owned land in part of Manhattan that was at that time undeveloped.



photographs by Roger W. Smith





“good and undesirable qualities, annoying and redeeming traits”


Below is an email of mine to a coworker whom I worked with a long time ago.

It concerns a former boss of ours who must remain anonymous.

I worked directly under this individual, as his assistant. My coworker worked in the same office, which was headed by the former boss of ours.

My reason for posting the email is that I think it makes a key point, in the last sentence specifically.

— Roger W. Smith

   August 7, 2016


********* *******************************************

While I was out walking this morning, I thought briefly of _______ [our former boss] with respect to what I wrote you about him yesterday.

What I wrote was critical.

I  should add that:

At times I connected with him. Sometimes we “jibed.” At other times, he seemed preoccupied and could be distant, sort of standoffish.

But at other times he could be personable as well as considerate and thoughtful.

He was not arrogant.

He had a good sense of humor and could take jokes made at his expense; he could be humble and diffident.

I think his life had been and was difficult at times, that it had never been easy. I got the feeling, somehow, that he had always had to struggle to achieve and be accepted by people.

He was an Army veteran and had a “regular guy” side.

All of this made me think today about the admixture there is in all of us of good and undesirable qualities, of annoying and redeeming traits.


— posted by Roger W. Smith

  August 2016

$3.99 a bag?


I took a long walk this morning. A beautiful summer day.

On the way home, I stopped at a Stop & Shop supermarket.

I was about to buy two bags of Wise Ridgies potato chips. I did not look at the price.

I put them on a scanner at checkout and the price popped up on the screen: $3.99 per bag.

A price of $3.99 for a bag of chips?

I left the bags on the counter and left the store without buying them.

This got me to thinking about inflation and how outrageous it is. I seem to notice it most with the prices of little items.

I know it’s a topic about which there’s really nothing to say. Everyone already knows about it and experiences it continually.

But …

I was discussing the same thing with a friend the other day.

My friend was telling me that he has been feeling pressure recently to earn money because his spouse wants to purchase an expensive car.

I wrote thusly in an email him:

A “sinkhole.”

But, you know what? It seems like no one nowadays has enough $$$.

I’ve given up trying to keep track of or control expenses.

Breakfast in a diner in Manhattan is over $20 and a can of soda or a small bottle of juice usually costs two bucks and sometimes more. A medium sized coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts is over two dollars.

A hot dog from a street vendor in Manhattan costs three dollars.

T-shirts in New York City department stores are priced at thirty dollars each. (My wife often manages to buy them cheaper on sale.)

The newsstand price of the Sunday New York Times is five dollars.

It got me thinking about various comparisons between now and then. For example, I recently went with a friend on a two week trip to Spain. The hotel prices were cheap by US standards, usually around $150 a night.

But I recall when my parents took me to New York City for a trip that I have never forgotten in 1953. We stayed in the Edison Hotel in Times Square. (It is still there.) A room for the three of us was four dollars a night.


— Roger W. Smith

      August 7, 2016


Roger W. Smith, “war horses, Andy Williams, Leonard Bernstein”


Yesterday was a stressful day for me. I bought a desktop computer, a “lemon,” and wanted to return it. I had to lug it back and forth to the computer store in a big box using public transit.

After much aggravation, I got my money back. It wasn’t easy.

On my way home in the evening, being hungry and tired, I had dinner at a Thai restaurant in my neighborhood.

There was a CD on of all-time favorite songs. The singer, I am certain, was Andy Williams. He did a great job, really did the songs justice. He sang them simply and clearly, with just the right amount of emotion, songs like “Canadian Sunset,” “Autumn Leaves,” “Moonlight in Vermont,” “Never on Sunday,” and “The Exodus Song.”

I was enjoying the music greatly and thinking to myself, gosh, I really like some of those war horses! I guess everyone does.

Maybe I was just emotionally exhausted from a stressful day and anything would have soothed me.

One of the songs that he sang was “Maria” from West Side Story. It moved me and I was thinking about a brief discussion I had had re Bernstein a week or two ago at a restaurant in Manhattan with a friend, Thomas Kranidas, an emeritus professor of English who, like me, is a music lover.

I was prompted to write Professor Kranidas a follow up email this morning:

You know, I have never made up my mind about Bernstein.

I never liked him as a conductor. As a composer, he was nowhere near to being a Gershwin, as you pointed out.

He wasn’t great. Yet, take West Side Story. Some of the music really does get to me and always has. Yet, at other times the whole thing seems corny and trite and the music itself a little too clever, a bit too _____ (what?).

I don’t know.

Bernstein had — I think the best way to put it is — a touch of genius.

I think he should have devoted his life just to composing.


— Roger W. Smith

   August 5, 2016

early morning light, Queens, NYC


I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a great photographer (my niece Alison B. Smith is), but I love — am fascinated by — the quality of light on a summer morning, whether it’s in the city or the country.

Today, I made a point of going for a walk very early to see if I could catch the early morning light.


— Roger W. Smith

   August 4, 2016


photographs by Roger W. Smith



also 6-54.JPG


Woodside 6-52 am 8-16-2016.JPG


My Manhattan


Now I am curious what sight can ever be more stately and
admirable to me than my mast-hemmed Manhatta

— Walt Whitman


photographs by Roger W. Smith