the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Blogs Across America

Pat Benatar at “Hands Across America”

Since the last election, our country seems to be split, our citizens at odds with one another. Blue States vs. Red States. Blacks vs. Whites. Liberals vs. Conservatives.

Have we forgotten that we are one country: The United States of America, from sea to shining sea? Was it only twenty years ago that we all stood hand-in-hand, brother and brother, across this great land for a honorable cause?

“On the afternoon of Sunday, May 25, 1986, more than five million people joined hands to form a line that stretched 4,152 miles – from New York City’s Battery Park to a pier in Long Beach, California. This nationwide event, called Hands Across America, was intended to raise money to fight hunger and homelessness.”

Brooke Shields stood as anchor at the George Washington Bridge in New York. Ronald Reagan held hands at the White House. Bill Clinton was in Arkansas. Millions were raised. An awful song was written. For fifteen minutes, we were all one people.


But there is a dirty little secret about this event, something that has been festering for twenty years:

The “unbroken chain” never really worked.

“There were many breaks in the chain. In order to allow the maximum number of people to participate, the path linked major cities and meandered back and forth within the cities.”

In some places, like in the Arizona desert, there were long stretches of emptiness.

For many of us, this failure has haunted us for two decades. Some say this was a new generation’s Vietnam — a societal disappointment that has prevented many of us from becoming self-actualized individuals.

But can we fix the mistakes of the past? Can our country become whole again? Can WE become whole again?

I say YES. In the last twenty years, modern technology has brought us high speed internet and blogging. We can finish the job left undone.

The following is the original route used in Hands Across America for connecting the two coasts:


To reproduce and finally complete this historic event twenty years later, we will need AT LEAST one blogger in the following states to be a part of an unbroken blogger chain across America:


New York (Yes!)

New Jersey (Yes!)

Pennsylvania (Yes!)

Maryland (Yes!)

Washington D.C. (Yes!)

Ohio (Yes!)

Indiana (Yes!)

Illinois (Yes!)

Missouri (Yes!)

Tennessee (Yes!)

Arkansas (Yes!)

Texas (Yes!)

New Mexico (Yes!)

Arizona (Yes!)

California (Yes!)

Can we do it? I think we can!

The theme song:

Blogs Across America.

Blogs across this land I love.

Divided we fall.

United we stand.

Blogs across America.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: What is a Neilochka?


  1. jenny

    My god! So it was all a big fat lie? I feel sick right now.

    But I’ll hold your hand in Illinois, Neil. And I know a blogger in Missouri, so we’re 3/16 of the way there!

  2. Alissa

    So will I need to travel to (god forbid) Ohio or Illinois to be part of the chain? Why can’t you loop near Detroit for me? Huh? Are the lakes getting in the way? Is it the car companies? They always ruin everything!

  3. Alison

    I cannot BELIEVE they didn’t go through Kentucky! I mean, really, it *is* the most fashionable state according to…some magazine.

    But I was born in PA. Does that count?

  4. The Retropolitan

    I’ll take New York.

  5. Kevin

    I know we already have an Illinois rep, but I can reinforce that link. Strength in numbers!

  6. e.

    So close to Virginia, but no.. I feel snubbed.

  7. justrungirl

    In my opinion, the problem is that there were no hands across Colorado.


    I feel left out in Alabama; does no one want to hold my hand?

  9. Brooke

    This blog has a lot of heart!

  10. Neil

    Sorry, loser States!

    From the the official site:

    “It was a powerful sight to behold. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, over mountains, rivers and through deserts seven million Americans holding hands over 4,124 miles across America bringing attention to the plight of the nation’s hungry and homeless. People of all races, religions and political persuasions… of all sizes and abilities, on one day, at one moment, captured the world’s imagination by simply standing together, thousands of miles long, and saying we must care. There were new babies and people over 100 years old, prison inmates, the physically challenged and the physically gifted. And most importantly on that historic day — May 25, 1986 — included in that number were the very people for whom the public demonstration was designed to help–the hungry and homeless.”

    But no Colorado or Kentucky.

  11. Sarah

    You know I got Pennsylvania. City of Brotherly Love and all that. Of course it has to go through here.

  12. Elisabeth

    I’m your girl in PA, Neil!

  13. Charming, but single

    No Louisiana? You ignored most of the South!

    First you ignore the lady bloggers with pretty eyes … then you knock the dumb bloggers who can’t write … and now this.

    I am at a real loss here, Neil …

  14. Neil

    If I would do it, I would have included all 50 states. But I’m just being historically accurate.


    Calling Heather B or Fictional Rockstar in D.C.!

    TWM in Tennesse!

    Melissa in Texas!

    Lushy in New Mexico! 

    3T in Arizona!

  15. 3rdtimesacharm( 3T )

    :-)3T here from Arizona! OK, so what are we doing??? I’m in, as long as whatever we are doing isn’t illegal.

  16. a.maria

    ooh. i’m from missouri. your chain is almost complete!

  17. Neil

    3T — That was fast. It was like I sent you the Batman signal.

    A. Maria — Welcome. But it isn’t “my” chain. It is a chain for all of us who want to get the job done, no matter how long it takes!

  18. arkansas connection

    arkansas here!

  19. Jules

    Boo…you totally left out the mid and north west states, not to mention Florida. 🙁

  20. Neil

    Jeez, am I going to get in trouble with someone every single day now? Why am I being blamed for all the left-out states? Don’t blame me. Blame Ken Kragen and the organizers. Maybe next week, we’ll do one which zig-zags throughout the entire country. Oh, yeah, then what about Hawaii and Alaska? Then, if we include them, it’s gonna be Puerto Rico cursing at me in Spanish! Sheesh… no wonder this country has so many problems. We can’t even hold hands without someone complaining.

  21. Paris Parfait

    Neil you have the best ideas! If only you were president!

  22. Tara

    Don’t worry. I’m not mad. I like to help, but I’m not much of a joiner, so I’m kind of glad it doesn’t go through Iowa. I imagine everyone else is too.

  23. The Retropolitan

    If Neil were president, he could use Hands Across America to guard the border.

  24. Heather B.

    Lately I’ve been representing DC way too much. But of course Neil, I’m your girl.

  25. Charming, but single

    All I’m saying, Neil, is that tomorrow, you better not insult me or people like me, because it will be ON.

  26. bella

    You mean we’d have to leave the safety of our computer screens and go outside and, like, touch people?

  27. Neil

    Hey, it’s Bella from TEXAS!! No, you just need to touch your monitor.

  28. jamy

    Will you accept a second DC participant?

  29. Neil

    Of course!

  30. Kelly

    I’m in Northern VA/DC, which I guess has been covered. I’ll be in Boston this weekend so we could be all unprecedented and extend it up there.

    I have to give a shout out to the original Hands Across America, which I participated in as a little girl with my mom, my dad, and my aunt.

    In the middle of the desert in Arizona.

    Yes, we were those people. Hmm, this gives me an idea for a blogpost.

  31. Caryn

    For fuck’s sake Neil… I was in Ohio, Indiana, Maryland and Pennsylvania two weeks ago. So now I’m in NY and you decide to spring this on me. Unfortunately I guess I cannot be a part of the blog love train, but I will be blogging for 24 hours straight this weekend as part of the Blogathon, so that has to count for something, right? (Sidenote: can’t stop singing “We are the World” now, thanks.)

  32. Melissa

    Ok, I’m in, but exactly what do I need to do and whose hand will I be holding? And how much is this going to cost me? Is there a PLAN?

  33. deezee

    so you get California all to yourself??? can I claim the coastal zone?

  34. Neil

    Melissa — all you need to do is hold onto Bella’s virtual hand and someone else in another state, and make Texas proud.

    Caryn — So cool that you’re doing Blogathon!

    Kelly — They must have been crazy to think that they were going to get enough people to spread across the Arizona desert?

  35. SmartSocratics

    Hi Neil, I too would like to participate. Can I be an honorary participant even though I live in Michigan and I know that the lakes might creat a break in the link.

    By the way…thanks for the comment on my blog. You were one of the 1000 to visit! I appreciate it. Hey, where am I taking everyone?

  36. LisaBinDaCity

    Do I need to learn the words to Kumbaya?

  37. Rebecca

    Anyone else going to have that damn song stuck in their all day now? No? Just me?

    I’m in the podunk hills of South Carolina so I guess I can’t play. How about if I stand in a field somewhere swaying gently and humming the song to myself, will that count?

  38. tiff

    rebecca, we could take the chain through a scenic tour of the carolinas – I would volunteer to the the exit from VA to NC!

  39. treespotter

    i’m an international observer. where’s the theme song?

  40. justrun

    No, you’re not in trouble EVERY day. Just most of them.
    The price of fame.

  41. Neil

    Now that I think about it, this “Hands Across America” idea was big on talking about bringing America together, but in reality, it said “screw you” to 2/3 of the states! And I bet you the only reason there was a detour into Tennessee rather than going straight through to Kansas is that they wanted to have some Nashville country singers on the line.

  42. Bre

    That song will now be stuck in my head all freaking week! I’m glad to see PeeAye represented well!

  43. Lushy

    Miss Lushy will represent the great chicken soupless State of New Mexico. 🙂

  44. Scarlet

    Can I write the horrible song for this!? PLEASE!

  45. TWM

    Put me in for Tennessee. I do want to hold Sophia’s hand at some point though.

  46. Non-Highlighted Heather

    Poor Ben Vereen. Stuck next to Cicily Tyson when he so obviously is longing for Raquel. And I know he’s smiling but I’m sure all Dudley Moore is thinking is “Where the hell’s my hat???”

  47. Kristy

    Wow, considering I live in Washington State, I’ve never felt so Canadian in my life.

  48. lizardek

    What about those of us overseas? Can’t we make this a global thing??

  49. Rachel

    Maryland here. I don’t have to actually hold anyone’s hand, do I?

  50. Neil

    Rachel — since you’re in maryland, it is very possible you might have to hold the virutal hand of some political intern in Washington D.C. — yuch!

    Lizardek — I love you. I love Europeans. I love those in Seattle. But we are reproducing a historic event here. We can’t have the line veer off to Norway or Miami Beach. My hands are tied.

  51. Celina

    I’ll be here in Mississippi holding hands with Margaret in Alabama and Charming,but Single in Louisiana, SO THERE! 🙂

  52. 3rdtimesacharm( 3T )

    So, representing Arizona, I guess I get to hold your hand Neil in California, (don’t be jealous ladies:-b) and Lushy from New Mexico. OK, I’m ready!


  53. Broad (Region, that is)

    From Indiana.

  54. Jill

    Well howdy from Ohio! Yes, Pepper Pike – about 15 miles east of Cleveland, still plenty of lake effect snow and tears over pretty much every sports team in town. I’m from CT originally and hubby is from MA, but we met here in 89 and have been here ever since.

    Want to follow the craziest ever political races this year? You won’t be disappointed – Ohio had a s**tload of political blogs, many which you can find on my sidebar. I write about the politics too.

    Oh – Hands? Let’s see – I was in New Haven working at Yale’s development office helping figure out how to help wealthy people give away their money. Now more than ever I always say!

    Happy Hands day, Neil – and thanks!

  55. Nance

    Geeze, Neil. I can see you never visited my profile. I’m in NE Ohio. >sob!!

  56. Neil

    Nance, you can see how I could have easily made that mistake. You are always so erudite and intellectual, that I somehow assumed you were a professor at Oxford. It never occurred to me that you lived in the great Buckeye State.

  57. kristen

    I’ve got Joisey!!

  58. danielle

    I’m with Kristen representing the Jerz.

  59. Mike F

    New Jersey! I have New Jersey! I can’t believe it’s still available at this late date! I grew up believing that the primary purpose of NJ was to keep the water off Pennsylvania but here I am representing NJ! How exciting.

  60. Rabbit

    My state wasn’t included. I guess I get to remain my antisocial self.

  61. Broad

    Northwest Indiana representin’ yo. (oh, wait. I see Neil already got me in. Thas cool.)

  62. Cheap Tart

    I’ll be the Texas substitute!!!
    Ya know incase he/she can’t … blah, blah, duties, etc.

    The Tart
    ; )

  63. Peter

    Great concept.  Just wish we had something in Kentucky.

  64. Painter Beach Girl

    goodness, I see Dudley Moore in there. Yikes, I was 13 years old. Was this the same year as “We are the World”? I sang it wtih friends at the school talent show at one point. Dork I was.

  65. Michele

    Yeah. Ummm. So Minnesota doesn’t even count, huh?

    Thanks, Neil. Thanks a lot.

  66. Janet

    Here I am! NJ is in the hoouuuse!:)

  67. ExpatJane

    Well, I remember Hands Across America and they said then that there were breaks in the chain. I know I wasn’t going to sign up to stand in the hot desert 😉

    Since I’m abroad, I can’t help you in your Blogs Across America project.

  68. wordgirl

    “I’m touching my monitor” sounds dirty.

  69. V-Grrrl

    Hey Wordgirl–My monitor IS dirty. Maybe I should give it a hand job–with a dust cloth, y’know.

  70. Miriam

    Neil, I am deeply hurt that you did not even MENTION Delaware–the First State! Deeply, deeply hurt. Now I am going to cry myself to sleep.

  71. Radu

    No country in the world could be so united, so monolithic. It’s just normal and there are times and situations when the cracks in the nation become visible. Anyway, I don’t imagine there are so many in the great nation of the United States. Just think of Yugoslavia. They speak all across the former Yugoslavia the same or very similar language and still they are so split, so divided. So don’t despair!

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