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Some active “humor” for this Independence Day!

If anyone’s still out there reading this blog, THANKS! And a hearty howdy!

I won’t bore you with the details of my silence — suffice it to say that I muzzled myself for two long years for the sake of gaining and keeping employment in realms where my true thoughts were taboo. I scrubbed most of the “real” posts here into oblivion through the “make private” function in the WordPress software. And I quit writing, here or pretty much anywhere (except on the jobs).

Well, mostly, all I learned was that I don’t fit into what I’d call the standard, get-ahead sort of work situation, even when I do keep my mouth and mind sealed. I refuse to play the wasteful, deceitful, power-grabbing headgames others inflict on me and insist I ought to play too. (That’s what they really mean by the inane, manipulative, patronizing “team player” crap.) So for me, it comes to feel like I’m wading hip-deep in manure all day long — and I’m the only one sickened by the stench!

What’s intriguing is the feeling that, through this span of time, the mind I’ve kept quietly leashed has been busy thinking, growing, toughening itself. Busy seeking out new kindred spirits and spiritual homes.

I expect I’ll be saying more about these topics now that I’ve doffed my hip waders (and gotten the hell out of the manure pile!) and cast off my self-inflicted muzzle. But I would be wrong to promise that this time will be different — that I’ll really get to posting here regularly and frequently. I don’t know for sure that I will. I think I will, because I have so much to say, so much I’ve been saving up!

But I’ve never faithfully kept similar promises in the past. Too much seems to change too often (in myself and in the world). Here’s a post from Suelo at Zero Currency that brought me some new insights on promises as a form of burdensome debt:

It’s natural to plant ideas and plan with words and thoughts.  But beware of boasting for tomorrow, making vows, placing ourselves in debt!  When our minds are in debt or seeking credit (attached to the past or future), our hearts, our treasures, are not Here and Now.

I think now that, when I used to pep-talk on the blogs about posting more often, I was actually seeking credit in advance for having a little bit of the “chops” to become one of those bigtime, “thought-leader” bloggers. (Ugh again.) But I wasn’t able or willing then to make the regular payments in the form of time and energy spent on writing — so, in effect, I defaulted on the debt I’d entered into by making the promises in the first place. It was dishonest, and it could only create unpleasant experience on both sides. By repeatedly over-promising, I set myself up to under-deliver to you. I’m sorry.

As Suelo writes, “The doing is the vow, the doing is the commitment.” So — I’m not making any promises as to future posting. Talk IS cheap, and when it’s only talk, you can feel how cheap it is. Let’s see what kind of doing I manage to offer, here and elsewhere.

It occurs to me that I’m thankful to have this blog as a place for my thoughts to return to over the years, thankful for the connections it has provided with you. I am grateful to you for reading!

The day-hikes guidebook I co-authored with Stephen Mauro, AMC’s Best Day Hikes Near Washington, DC (Appalachian Mountain Club Books, 2011) is now available! You can find it in stores, or order it online at the AMC’s website (link in title above),, or Barnes&

Update: E-book editions are ready to rock — and walk! I’m proud to say that AMC chose our book as one of the ten inaugural titles to launch their new e-book venture. Kindle version. Nook version.

Woman at work!

Hi everyone. In preparing for the publication of the guidebook I co-authored, I’m doing some reorganizing here on the blog. So, for the next little while, things might look a little odder than you’re used to (heh), and some links might not work properly, and all that. I’ve got some link trades to arrange, and new content to add, and those “support” links to set up.

Much more coming soon. This is an exciting time. 🙂 Thanks to you all for being here.

I’ve just sent in a resume for a position with a national rural-life organization, and while I was writing the cover letter, I thought of Jefferson and Washington. How they loved their farming pursuits and their lands. (I’m leaving aside the slavery question at the moment, but it’s never far from my mind.)

Jefferson, for instance, with all his legendary bookishness, loved to experiment at Monticello with varieties of peas, his favorite vegetable, to see how well they’d grow in his soil, when they would ripen, how they tasted. He also introduced viticulture to the United States. He kept copious notes over years and must have learned a great deal.

And Washington, who vastly preferred the life of a gentleman farmer over that of a politician, enjoyed using his ingenuity to develop a plow that would cut effectively through his pebbly, tough soil. He also designed a 16-sided threshing barn with a grooved floor through which the grains of wheat would fall after horses’ hooves worked them out of their hulls. In the barn cellar, slaves would then gather and sack the grain.

These two men of the world, of accomplishment and experience, dearly loved the land. I think they had a bond with it that many of us today have never known: View full article »

This is the unedited, original version of my Washington Post Style section piece from March 2001. It was originally written as part of a tour guide’s memoir/guidebook I was working on at the time! 🙂



by Beth Homicz

Sometime in the early 1960s, when John F. Kennedy was president and his lovely wife set fashion standards with a wave of her hand, a company started up to provide tour guide services to groups visiting the nation’s capital. The guides were ladies, and showed it by wearing white gloves as Mrs. Kennedy was wont to do (the company advertised “white-glove service”), and by each carrying an open umbrella for use as a sort of standard ‘round which the group would rally.

Follow the umbrella,” these ladies would chirp to their charges. Group leaders who returned annually would ask for their favorite “umbrella lady” and gush about how the group had enjoyed the tour the previous year.

Over time, the umbrella became a tradition among guides in the capital, even those who worked for other agencies, and in other cities as well – Montreal, View full article »

Here’s an essay I wrote a few years ago. Thought you might like it. 🙂

Rosa Parks Redux

For much of the time I worked as a D.C. tour guide, I lived downtown, and — thanks to Washington’s clean, convenient Metrorail subway — didn’t actually need a car to get where I needed to go. On the other hand, one difficulty that we guides often faced (until recently) was early meeting times on the weekends, when the Metrorail didn’t open until 8:00 a.m.. (It was one of our pet peeves, and you bet we loved to gripe about it amongst ourselves!)

Thus it happened one Saturday morning, several years ago, that I needed to take a city bus to get to my meeting point by 8:00. I can’t recall now just where I was headed –- somewhere in Georgetown, I think — but I walked five blocks to Independence Avenue and caught the even 30’s bus line toward the northwestern end of town.

For 7:15 on a Saturday morning, it seemed to me that quite a lot of people were aboard, and there was no seat available anywhere in the bus. So I squeezed View full article »

Just a little post, and overdue, for which I apologize. I don’t know why I didn’t think to give thanks and credit to you sooner, my darling friend lewlew!

It’s because of a great conversation with you that I found the right name for this new/renewed blog. You willingly listened to my initial idea for a bloggy name, and you liked it and told me why. It was a name that hummed of doing one’s work daily, of staying practical and focused and simple. I liked it for that reason. I need reminders to keep on keeping on, put my shoulder to the wheel and all that.

But you knew I wasn’t quite certain. And you probed gently, wondering why not. In doing so you showed me what it was that was missing for me: a sense of charm, excitement, and freedom along with the “doing.” A touch of practical magic, you might say.

You reminded me that this is the combination that has brought good work out of me before. Like when I did my guest editor gig at Strike the Root: I wanted to offer suggestions for living in greater individual freedom now, not ceaselessly analyzing and debating politics and economics as so many “libertarians” were doing. (Have you noticed, by the way, how the picks at have become much more focused lately on how individuals can do freedom?)

And when I first started this blog under the title The Freedom Outlaw, it was the same kind of happy, “sparkly” sense of life that drove me, or led me, or both. Your sweet, savvy presence reminded me that this was so.

I just wanted to send you warm thanks, lewlew, for helping me find my way to a name, a theme, that rings true and clear in me. It is a name I want to live up to, just as you are a friend I aspire to deserve.

After commenting on a post by Claire just now, I thought, what the hey…this needs its own blog entry. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you episode 1 in a surely ongoing saga of real-life travesties of the magnificent English language by all-too-ubiquitous (and, thanks to the internet, self-reinforcing) fools:

Any intelligent lover of the English language nowadays is saddled with a panoply of peeves, I fear.

For instance, what’s up with “predominately” for when someone means predominantly?

Or “principle” to mean the principal amount of a loan?

Or “wallah” for voila?

Heh, I was beefing about this topic in a journal entry not long ago:

Listen, all you dumbasses out there:

You don’t REIGN in something that’s out of control. You REIN it in. As in pulling back on a horse’s reins to slow it down. (D’oh!) And when you do, you don’t say WOAH, you say WHOA. And if the horse doesn’t obey, you don’t LOOSE control of the animal, you LOSE control. Then you don’t WHINGE about “that stupid horse” to the stable groom, you WHINE about it.

What does all this have to do with my beloved usual topic of freedom? And hey, isn’t “proper” language a form of tyranny over the mind? Well, sure, just as much as the rules are over the players in a golf game. No rules = no game = no sport at all (if you consider golf a sport 😉 ). No rules = no winner, only losers.

And when it comes to language, the quality of one’s language is directly related to the quality (if any) of one’s thought process, of one’s ability to see relationships. Like why we say “reining in” government spending. (Although in this case, “reigning in” could, ahem, apply in some sense too.)

Hey, I’m all for creative linguistic juxtaposition, poetic license, and all those goodies. I studied languages and linguistics in college, and the linguistics professors liked to insist that “language is productive”–meaning that people over time change the language’s usages, spellings, syntax; they coin and borrow new words; they create new rules and demolish old ones. Same thing happens in golf, which is why there’s a new Rules of Golf published every so often.

Linguistic rules are what give structure and meaning and definition to the flow of ideas. They’re the basic guidelines of the game of communication. And don’t ever forget that it was Lenin who slyly advised dictators, “First confuse the vocabulary.”

It’s messed up that a town meeting would even see the need to debate and legislate the right to choose one’s own nourishment…the very stuff that makes up our bodies.

But, welcome to fascist la-la land, aka modern-day America. Go Sedgwick!

My thanks to Kevin at Cryptogon for the link.