Flying Taxis


“Everyone was in the Loop.”
                  Gordon Sondland- at the impeachment inquiry
“The Puritans nobly fled from a land of despotism to a land of freedom, where they could not only enjoy their own religion, but could (also) prevent everybody else from enjoyin’ his….
Artemus Ward

Well, you might say, that is a disparate group of beginnings. I could say that the explanation for that is fairly simple, but that wouldn’t necessarily be true. The basics are readily explainable. The title of this ramble comes from one of these pop-up ads that we try to ignore when they do their popping, but this one said something about a guy inventing a flying taxi. This got me to thinking about the advantages this would give to taxis in this time of plugged highways and byways. One then might ask: how long would that last, since a readily available flying taxi would mean that a flying personal vehicle would not be far behind, or perhaps even ahead of the flying taxi- who can tell?

This reminded me of the recent re-viewing I did of the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy and the perspective it had on that then distant time and place of 2015, which is where Dr. Brown’s flying DeLorean propelled us through a leap of twenty five years from its 1990, movie house release date. It is both funny and at the same time not so much, to have a look in retrospect at what the future could have held. In this third and last installment of trips back to the future, we find that most everyone is driving around in flying cars in clogged aerial highways, whilst in the reality of where we currently reside, we are still very much earthbound and down, almost five years on from this imagined cinematic place and time, with only the fleeting hope that a flying taxi ride might still be somewhere in our own not too distant future.

Next, in going through one of my notebooks I found the recent quote from Mr. Sondland, and while its actual meaning had much more dire implications that a certain president may be drawing closer to having at least an asterisk added to his name, it also got me to thinking that if I were to once again miss my impending writing deadline, it would mean that indeed everyone was not to be in this Loop, and so I kept flipping through the notebook until I came upon Mr. Ward’s quotation. Most in the audience are probably not familiar with the comedic writings of Artemus Ward. I only came upon him recently in connection with my Greeley tangent- he wrote about Horace’s infamous ride with stagecoach driver Hank Monk, and that account became an official part of the congressional record seven years after the event way back in 1866. For some reason I wrote down his musing on the Puritans, which because of the season got me to thinking about Puritans and Pilgrims, and so I did the google thing to sort out what the difference was. This act of the googling, of course, is always a dangerous rabbit hole of a journey to embark on, but in wanting to be counted as one of the everyones in the Loop, I took the leap. In a more than usual sense this time, I was not disappointed.

As it turns out, the Pilgrims were not originally known as the Pilgrims- they were more infamously known as Separatists, a nod to the separation they sought through their departure from the strictures of the requirement that everyone in England should worship with the Church of England. They were mostly a group of disgruntled farmers in the north country who decided that they would practice their religious beliefs in secret until they finally decided to seek freedom of worship in the wilds of the Netherlands. After ten years there they grew concerned that they were maybe being assimilated too much in Dutch culture, and in fear of losing their grasp on their own culture they sought out the potential freedoms offered by a new England that they believed was waiting for them in the “New World”. And so they set sail in June of 1620 with 102 people in the ship the Mayflower. There was a second ship, the Speedwell, which turned out to not be so seaworthy and had to turn back. The rest of the story I have no recollection of hearing about in my grade school lessons about John and Priscilla Alden. I should also say that it turns out that the Puritans didn’t decide to emigrate to the “New World” for another ten years, and while they too were seeking religious freedoms, the were not regarded as radicals, as the Separatists were before them.

I should also say that as I was falling through space and time and internets worm holes as well as rabbit hollows, I decided to take an ancestry side trip and check out where some of my fore-people fit into all of this. I have known for most of the duration that on my dad’s mother’s side we have a link to the Mayflower saga. It is curious that we never really explored much of that as a family. I recall a trip to Plymouth, MA as a youth, but we never really got into the whole reality of that connection. To refresh a bit of what I know, I went upstairs and grabbed my copy of “Katonah- the history of a New York village and its people” off the shelf. I noted that on the back of the cover there was the quotable quote from a General William Heath imploring me and whoever else to “Remember these things, ye Americans, in future times!”  Since I needed a little help in doing that, I opened the book to the Ray Family page, where I found that the crucial information I was looking for would be found in the Gorham Family records a few pages back. It was there that I noted that we had four connections that had booked passage on that boat. There was the Tilley Family with parents John and Joan and daughter Elizabeth. And there was a single man, John Howland, who not so many years on wound up marrying daughter Elizabeth.

Both of the men were signers of the Mayflower compact, which was apparently the first document establishing a form of self-government amongst all the white newcomers in the “New World”. For the Tilleys, this bit of notoriety was for naught, since John and his brother Edward and both their wives, Joan and Ann, all died with fifty other residents of the Plymouth Colony in their first winter there. It should also be noted that John Howland had fallen overboard while they were still in transit across the Atlantic, and was only saved because the sails had been raised and furled so that the ship would more readily weather the storm they were passing through, and one of the halyards from the topsails was dragging in the water, and that was what John Howland grabbed on to so that he could pull himself back to safety.

The first prototype of what Abraham Lincoln was to eventually proclaim to be the national holiday known as Thanksgiving in 1863 happened the year after the Separatist Pilgrims arrived here. It was a three day event with food, games and a bit of diplomacy between the new settlers and the Natives, who actually outnumbered the colonists at that gathering by more than two to one. Both cultures had histories of social practices that involved giving thanks. Unlike the Puritans, the pilgrims were more tolerant of other people’s beliefs and apparently did not attempt to convert the Indians to Christianity.

One of the many other things I never knew but have just been finding out about is that everyone on board the Mayflower was not a Separatist. While they were the majority on board comprised a little more than half of the passenger list, the Separatists also brought along some Separatist sympathizers, as well as laborers, soldiers, craftsmen and servants. In checking I found that the Tilleys were indeed Separatists, but John Howland was an indentured servant. When John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley were married some four years after landing on these shores, Elizabeth had been orphaned twice by both her actual and adopted parents, and Howland apparently inherited his masters’ estate and was freed when they, too, passed away from illnesses.

According to the wiki sources and other agents of ancestry, John Howland has the largest list of descendants of any of the original colonists, numbering somewhere over two million. I am among that gathering, along with the likes of FDR, the Bush clan, Sarah Palin, Joseph Smith, Humphrey Bogart and Chevy Chase. It should also be noted that the actor Christopher Lloyd is named as a descendant as well, and he of course played Dr. Emmet Brown in the ‘Back to the Future’ franchise mentioned back at the beginning of all of this. Funny how that goes- Happy Thanksgiving.