Days 44, 45 and 46, WLBT

July 31 and August 1, 2 Pittsburgh to Somerset to Harrisburg, PA, to Lenox, MA

by David Runkel


We closed out Day 43 by spending a couple of hours in the evening with Ginny and Dick Thornburgh at their apartment in the Longwood at Verona complex, where they moved four years ago from DC.  Some talk about politics, of course, but also much catching up with family and friends and former colleagues.  Dick’s Washington Post’s piece about how Republicans must stop criticizing our pal Bob Mueller and hold onto Republican law and order values was discussed, of course.  Dick has gotten a lot of support for the op-ed article from the usual camp, but no word whatsoever from the Mueller critics in the White House or on Capitol Hill. 

Day Forty Six of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Dick Thornburgh

We continued our dialogue over cereal, toast and watermelon the following morning before heading further east with a brief stop at Rita and Rick Stafford’s Somerset farm, interrupting the green bean harvest.  The beans are one of the products of Wholesale Vegetables available under the Ken and Rick’s label.  Rick farms in between Pennsylvania good government efforts from his base at Carnegie Mellon University. He’s currently working on a book about Pittsburgh’s amazing transformation from dirty, dying steel town to a high-tech, medical, educational center. 

Day Forty Six of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Green Beans

This all started under Gov. Thornburgh’s watch, but had strong bipartisan support at a time when leaders of the two parties agreed on policies, such as Western Pennsylvania’s need for a major new, coordinated effort to prevent total decline.  Rick played a key role in negotiations with the staff of Democratic House Speaker Jim Manderino on finding legislative solutions.

We ended the day in Harrisburg with The Author reconnecting with Tucker Susskind, a friend from grade school days, while The Tour Director met up with Steve Male, a friend and former neighbor, for a bridge game.  Deedie and Tucker chatted away the night, while the guys finished a strong second in the 9-table game despite not having played together for nearly a dozen years.

Wednesday’s event was a book reading at Tucker’s house with nearly 20 people. The Shalls and several other old friends from our Harrisburg days crowded into Tucker’s living room on a very warm evening.  The Author was at the top of her game, giving the event a really good feel, in part from the cheeses, nuts, wine, iced tea and other treats that Tucker provided and the chocolate babka brought by her friend Janet. Books were purchased and signed. The Tour Director neglected his duties and nary a picture was taken before the crowd dispersed and the leftover food had been put away (or eaten)..

We departed Pennsylvania for New England the following day without visiting the home of James Buchanan, the state’s sole President, even though it was only 30 miles away in Lancaster. Many times we had driven past it; this time we avoided it altogether influenced perhaps by two books which Gov. Thornburgh had found in his library, both sharing the words “Worse President” in their nearly identical titles.  Buchanan’s days led up to the Civil War, which he did little to avoid.

Instead, we drove through heavy rain at times in rural Pennsylvania, New York and Western Massachusetts, arriving late afternoon in Lenox.  Our unscientific finding is that super cab F-150 truckers are the most aggressive drivers during rain storms, as again one tail-gated us and then passed us at a high rate of speed. 

A magnificent program at Tanglewood awaited us.  It was all piano by a Brit, Paul Lewis, playing pieces by Hayden, Brahms and Beethoven, including 16 or so of his short bagatelles.   Wow is all this not-very-astute critic can say. The program notes explained extensively that Lewis was exploring the composers’ changing keys and technique, etc. We’re sure he did that brilliantly, but what he did for the Tour was refuel our souls, maybe permanently.

It was a muggy, buggy night and we opted to exchange our lawn tickets for Row J seats inside the high-ceilinged, wood decorated, beautiful Ozawa Hall with a perfect view of Lewis’s hands, facial expressions and changing posture.  In addition to the wonderful music, the lighting was outstanding, with a spot directly on his hands.  They emerged from the cuffs of his black shirt seeming at times to be totally disconnected, just hands moving swiftly across the keyboard. A magic night. 

Tanglewood played a role in the Author’s youth in the Deprived Youngest Child category. Her Great Aunt Margaretta, herself a classically-trained pianist, would come each summer to fetch older brother Bill to take him to Tanglewood for a week.  

We’re off in the morning for Maine, searching for cooler days, ocean breezes and sunshine.  Hope we find it.   The Tour Director is also still looking for that fresh cherry pie, we missed out on in Door County, WS, and again in Traverse City, MI., two of the country’s cherry capitals. Maybe it’s going to have to be peach.