Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday Scraps

Windy night out there. Not a dark and stormy night, particularly, just dark and windy enough to knock more leaves off the trees, along with small branches. Green's still the majority foliage, but yellow and brown are expanding aggressively. The tree across the street from my front yard -- which I see daily from my window, here at the word mill -- has gone flush yellow in a matter of days.

The other day Ann said that she participated in a school assembly about bullying. I think this is something that pedagogues have cooked up recently, since I don't remember Lilly attending such an event five or so years ago, but then again that's the kind of thing I forget. Anyway, it was all I could do not to say something along the lines of, "You mean an assembly to help bullies improve their techniques?"

Mocking aside, I doubt that such well-intentioned anti-bullying assemblies have much effect, at least on bullies. Who among the kids will think, "Ah, I've been such a bully. Think I'll turn over a new leaf." Who considers himself a bully?

On the other hand, I remember a low-intensity bully in elementary school, a strapping fellow named David who wasn't consistently a jerk but who had his ugly moments. One day in the fourth or fifth grade, he said -- using that exact phrase above -- "I'm turning over a new leaf. I'm going to be nice." And he did it. A pretty rare transformation, now that I think about it. But I don't think his inspiration was a school assembly.

I watched part of The Big Chill on TV the other day, first time I'd seen it since I caught it at a dollar (two-dollar?) second-run theater in Memphis in late 1983. Before watching it this week, I vaguely remembered thinking it was an entertaining ensemble movie that had been lacquered with an irritating and Hollywood-contrived social message pandering to the vanities of people born right after World War II. After seeing it again, I still agree with my 1983 assessment.

Maybe I should see The Return of the Secaucus 7 again. I don't remember much about it either, except that it was an entertaining ensemble movie without much of an irritating social message, or characters who were ridiculously successful in their mid-30s.

I also saw Secretariat recently. It's a well-made, feel-good horse movie, and a good example of Disney craftsmanship. The movie also reminded me of Secretariat's intense fame in 1973. Like a lot of people without much previous interest in thoroughbred racing, I watched him on television as he won the Belmont and thus the Triple Crown. The movie encourages you to cheer for Secretariat and his plucky owner, of course, but I felt a little bad for Sham, the horse Secretariat famously bested. Clearly a great three-year-old, but one completely overshadowed by an even better horse.

Yuriko's birthday was earlier this month. She didn't want a cake, but custard-and-fruit creations from a bakery in Arlington Heights.

Boy, were they good.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Set in Stone

Busy day. Little time to ponder the gathering autumn, or any of mankind's most persistent questions, such as, "What's that plaque doing on that rock?"

When I see one, I feel the urge to document it. The more obscure, the better. This one's perfect in that regard, found in Lords Park in Elgin, Illinois. "LILACS Gift of Elgin Better Gardens Club October 1939."

Or this one, at Oakton Park in Skokie, Illinois.

"These trees were planted by the children, parents, faculty & friends of Kenton School, District 69, in honor of its 23 years of service to the community. September, 1955 to June, 1978 Marjorie Wedell, principal"

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Make It Rain, Roger

I posted this today at Dead Presidents Daily, but it's too much fun just for that site. Today was another grayish day outside, and a busy one inside, so the opportunities for whimsy were small. Luckily, You Tube is always around.

Link for Facebook readers, provided Facebook gets around to re-posting these items.

Labels: ,

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Precious Few

Fine weather for the equinox and the weekend just past. So on Saturday we had to go somewhere for a walk. Such as the Poplar Creek Forest Preserve. It has the largest field of goldenrod I've ever seen.

Very late in the evening on Sunday, cool wind blew in, along with rain. It's been raining on and off since then, creating cold puddles and the first large scattering of leaves we've had this year, though most of the foliage is still green and hanging on.

Rainy days aren't necessarily melancholy. I'll bet the recent rains in Texas were happy rains, considering how bad the drought has been. But today's rain, here in the cooling North, had a melancholy vibe. Summer's gone. Pack it away. Get out your jackets and coats. Blink and January will be here.

Just the kind of day to listen to one or more of the many versions of "September Song," such as this one by Sarah Vaughan. She also did a cover of "September in the Rain," but if you listen closely to the lyrics -- as I never did until today -- it's actually a fairly cheerful song.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Item From the Past: Moscow Big Mac

In late September 1994, we visited Moscow, seeing many of the places that tourists usually see: Red Square, the Kremlin, Lenin's Tomb, St. Basil's, the Pushkin Museum, and the world's largest McDonald's. You know, the McDonald's that had opened to such curious interest from Muscovites in 1990. I've read that the 23,680-square-foot McDonald's remains the world's largest even now, though an even larger one is slated to open in London in time for the Olympics next year.

By 1994, the lines were still longish, but not around the block. Even so, the Moscow location was sprawling and busy. It had bouncers. It was the only McDonald's I've ever been to that had bouncers.

Among the small group I went with that evening, I was the only American. Also represented were a Japanese (Yuriko, that is), Britons, Australians, a Swiss, and I forget who else, but it was a motley international crew. Maybe we all wanted to confirm, once and for all, that the West had won the Cold War. The food turned out to be exactly what you'd expect. It was a McDonald's, after all.

I managed to find a souvenir during my visit, one that few others probably have. A paper place mat. It's too large to scan in toto, so I did it in two pieces. First, the happy McDonald's crew. Maybe happy because it beats working on the collective farm their parents did.

The right side of the mat featured what looks to be a job application.

To residents of Russia in 1994, the application might have been just as much of a novelty as the McDonald's itself.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Some Useless Information to Fire My Imagination

Got a message from the friendly folks at Facebook recently. And one from some spammers in a non-English speaking nation. First, the Facebook message.

Hi Dees,
We're trying out a new feature to reduce the amount of email you receive from Facebook. Starting today, we are turning off most individual email notifications and instead, we'll send you a summary only if there are popular stories you may have missed.
You can turn individual emails back on and restore all your original settings at any time.
The Facebook Team

Suits me. I get too much in my in box anyway. This was, of course, a day when the social media site annoyed many millions of -- I suspect -- its middle-aged users by changing something suddenly. Seems like this has happened before, but I can't remember now. The main thing Facebook does to annoy me is forget to republish BTST to my Notes section, which has been happening this week. Guess the Facebook servers have been too busy gearing up for the Next Big Thing to attend to routine business.

Got a chuckle out of this in the New York Times today: "Facebook, the Web’s biggest social network, is where you go to see what your friends are up to. Now it wants to be a force that shapes what you watch, hear, read and buy."

Don't we already have an entity like that? You know, television.

Here's the spam. Of the two messages, I preferred the spam. I get so little quality spam these days. "Septimus Obama"? I have to like that.

Howdy Septimus Obama is without a doubt giving Gov Grants that can help family members locally to help stimulate the particular financial state. Investigate for yourself N7Gov . com tend not to pass up. It's not going to last lengthy!!

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Lucille Ball Translation Chain

I Love Lucy was never a favorite of mine, but I did watch a fair number of episodes as a lad, mostly after school, when it tended to be paired with the likes of The Honeymooners. One scene that has stuck with me all these years involved Lucy getting into some scrape in Paris, through a typical hi-larious Lucy misunderstanding, and being hauled in by a gendarme. But the police at the station had no English, and of course Lucy had no French.

Ricky shows up and asks if any of the police speak Spanish. None do, but they bring out a fellow obviously arrested for public drunkenness who speaks German and Spanish. One of the cops can speak German as well as French, so they set up a translation chain: from the monolingual French sergeant to the French/German policeman to the German/Spanish drunk to Spanish/English Ricky to monolingual English Lucy. Even as a kid, I appreciated the comic inspiration of the setup.

Naturally, the clip is on YouTube, and information about the episode is freely available elsewhere (original air date: January 12, 1956). Lucy had paid for something with counterfeit money, it seems. I'd forgotten that detail. But for something I hadn't seen in at least 40 years, I remembered the gist of the scene almost exactly. Guess it made an impression.

I thought of that scene recently when using Google Translate to gather information from some German and French web sites. I wondered what would happen if you ran some famous text through a translation chain. As someone familiar with English signs written by Japanese speakers, I know that human translation can be drop-dead funny. But what about machine translation?

So I ran the Gettysburg Address through a Lucy chain: English to Spanish to German to French and then back again to English. Not as funny as Macho Business Donkey Wrestler, but interesting for its rough spots, and also for the things that came through exactly, such as the famed last phrase. Maybe the equivalent phrase is almost as famed in other languages. Anyway, this is the translation.

For 87 years, our ancestors on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are in a great civil war testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We met on a great battlefield of that war. We arrived at a part of the field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live to pay. It is only right and proper that we need to do this.

But in a broader sense, we can not consecrate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have hallowed above our poor power to add or delete. The world will little note nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, but now the unfinished work which they fought so far so nobly dedicated. It is rather for us to be is the big task ahead dedicated - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last and devotion - to solve that this high dead have not died in vain - that this nation under God, then a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.

And the original, for reference.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Salt Creek in September

The stretch of the Salt Creek Trail near Mile 0 doesn't actually pass next to Salt Creek. To reach Salt Creek, you have to take one of the well-worn but unmarked dirt paths that people use mostly to access fishing spots. I didn't have fishing in mind on Saturday, but I did want to visit the creek again.

This is looking roughly east, toward the Arlington Heights Road bridge. The bridge in the distance looks small, but it's actually four lanes. Under and near the bridge, but hard to see, are a handful of people fishing.

Looking roughly west. Not far away is a dam that creates the main body of water in Busse Woods, which is popular with recreational fishermen too.

Dragonflies and other bugs flitted around the banks and the water. Near the far bank, a large turtle was sunning himself on a large rock poking out of the water. Elsewhere, ducks paddled by. Hard to believe this spot will be icy only three months from now.

Labels: ,

Monday, September 19, 2011

Salt Creek Trail, Mile 0

I forget now who described meeting Eleanor Mondale, but he was a fellow in my high school English (?) class (senior year? That would put it in '78 or '79), and he was a casual, only-in-class acquaintance. I got the impression from what he said that their meeting didn't quite rise to the level of a "date," perhaps because of a persistent Secret Service presence. I don't remember the exact circumstances of the meeting, though if I had to guess I would say that his parents were locally important donors to the Democratic Party -- even in Alamo Heights, there must have been a few such.

Anyway, that's my Eleanor Mondale story, tenuous as it is. Hadn't heard anything about her in years, but it's never good news when you hear about someone dying at only 51 -- someone, in theory, you could have gone to school with.

It was finally warm again on Saturday, so I made my way to the Ned Brown Forest Preserve (Busse Woods) for some walking. But on pleasant Saturdays at Busse Woods, a walker like me shares the trail with a lot of people who have taken to their bicycles. I can't begrudge them space on the trail, but bicyclists whizzing by every other minute or so makes for a less relaxing stroll. So I walked down the Salt Creek Trail, which connects with the main trail at the Salt Creek Trail's Mile 0, but which doesn't attract nearly as many bike riders.

The scenery's pretty much the same as on the more crowded trail. This time of the year, that means a still-summer green tinged with goldenrod. The much-maligned goldenrod, taking the rap for ragweed pollen.

In some spots, a lot of goldenrod.

But that's not all. I don't know this species, but I like its looks.

Also, a few manmade items. Such as one of the more obscure plaques anywhere in the Chicago area.

Actually, the rock and its plaque aren't on the Salt Creek Trail, but on the main Busse Woods trail, very near the Mile 0 sign. The plaque bears the shield of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and says:

Illinois Section Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement - 1986

Upper Salt Creek Watershed Floodwater Management Plan

I'm sure it was the crowning achievement of someone's career.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Item From the Past: Waldheim Cemetery

Way back in the spring of 2003 -- seems like a different era, doesn't it? -- I posted about visiting Waldheim Cemetery (a.k.a. Forest Home Cemetery) in western suburban Forest Park, Illinois. Warm September days are fine times to visit cemeteries, I think. Yesterday would have been a good day for such an expedition, since it was warm after a string of unseasonably cold days, but I didn't make it. Today was cool and rainy, so no go.

I wrote: "I went to see Waldheim Cemetery early last September [2002], on a warm day when I unexpectedly had a few hours free. Besides some lawn maintenance men, I had the place practically to myself. It was all you would expect in a cemetery dating from the 19th century, plenty of ornate old headstones set in lush grass, surrounded by big trees, and featuring inscriptions ranging from the laconic to the poetic. Many were in German: VATTER and MUTTER were popular on family stones."

This formally posed couple, as I recall, were one such Vatter und Mutter pair, looking out at us from the late 19th century.

I continued: "The Haymarket Martyrs' Monument is near the entrance, and so was easy to find. That day there were fresh flowers at its base and costume jewelry around the neck of Justice and the fallen worker.

"According to Graveyards of Chicago, the 'Haymarket Martyrs' Monument was erected in 1893... It features a granite shaft and two bronze figures — a woman as Justice placing a crown of laurels on the brow of a fallen worker, while preparing to draw a sword. Sculptor Albert Weinert designed this monument based on a verse from the "Marseillaise," which [the men] had sung before their hangings.

“ 'The monument was dedicated June 25, 1893. Thousands of workers and visitors to the World's Columbian Exposition marched to the downtown train station and then rode to the cemetery. Floral tributes had been sent by several nations, and red bunting decorated the monument and speakers' platform. Speeches were made in English, German, Polish and Bohemian, and an orchestra played the "Marseillaise." ’ ”

At the time I posted that, no memorial to the victims of the Haymarket Riot existed besides the one at Waldheim. One was erected on the site of the riot a few years later.

"The cemetery had other interesting spots, only some of which I could find, considering the maddeningly vague guide pamphlet. I saw the mound that was a burial site for Pottawatomie Indians before the 1830s, which was one of the reasons this area later became a cemetery. I also happened on the large headstone of Samuel Fallows, who was a bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church — a breakaway group from the Anglican Communion — and a lesser-known brigadier general in the Union Army.

"But I couldn’t find several better-known people, such as Emma Goldman, Samuel Gompers or Billy Sunday. Some other time, perhaps."

I haven't made it yet. So many interesting cemeteries, so little time (till one must become a cemetery resident oneself).

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The President is a Sick Man

The President is a Sick Man (Matthew Algeo, 2011) is my kind of book. A crisply written, popular history describing a fairly well-known yet astonishing incident in presidential history, namely Grover Cleveland's cancer and its secret treatment. The book fleshes the story out with plenty of interesting context and detail. Such as the extreme dread cancer posed for those living in the 19th century. Who can doubt it? Cancer is dreadful enough now. Imagine when the diagnosis meant an almost certain lingering death, the kind that Ulysses Grant suffered.

Turns out that President Cleveland had a rarer, much less dangerous kind of tumor in his mouth than former President Grant. But it was dangerous enough. It seems that medical science was just advanced enough in 1893 for Cleveland's doctors to excise the growth without killing the president, but it must have been a near thing.

"It's worth mentioning just a few of the tools that the surgeons would not have had at their disposal, simply because they had not been devised or perfected," writes Alego. "They would have no suction apparatus for draining blood or other fluids from the operative site and no means of artificially resuscitating the patient should his heart stop. There would be no electronic monitors, no ventilators, no laryngoscopes, no endotracheal tubes. Surgery had come a long way since the Civil War -- but still had a long way to go."

And, of course, no blood transfusions or antibiotics. Fortunately for Cleveland, his doctors were fully persuaded of the benefits of sterile surgery, then a fairly new idea. As Algeo put it, "surgery pre-Lister was a gamble that most patients were bound to lose." So Cleveland got vastly better treatment than poor President Garfield did only 12 year earlier, when doctors examining his GSW couldn't be bothered to wash their hands, even though they must have heard of Joseph Lister's ideas by then.

The medical drama's only part of the story, however. Doubly astonishing is the fact that the July 1, 1893, operation -- performed on the yacht Oneida in Long Island Sound, of all places -- was kept a secret until 1917, long after Cleveland had died of another kind of cancer (probably) elsewhere in his body.

Well, not quite a secret. One of the best-known journalists of the day, E.J. Edwards of the Philadelphia Press, found out about the operation and published a major exposé. But in an age when newspapers -- being the cable news of their time -- weren't above completely making things up, Edwards was discredited. Mostly because the president and everyone else on the ship lied like dogs about what had happened. President Cleveland just went fishing for a few days, that's all. Oh, and he had a few teeth pulled on board. And he has a touch of rheumatism. E.J. Edwards is damnable liar! The book's subtitle tells the tale: "Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Glover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspaperman Who Dared Expose the Truth."

Conspiracy buffs, take note. Edwards found out about the operation because one of the doctors involved blabbed about it to a colleague, who then told someone who knew Edwards, who then went to the doctor who'd first blabbed, who then confessed the whole thing to Edwards.

The president was able to pull off the deception for a number of reasons, but probably most of all because he made a remarkable recovery, and was able to wear a vulcanized rubber prosthetic jaw so lifelike that no one noticed it. (A fact I remember learning in high school U.S. history class from a fine teacher, Mrs. Collins. It amazed me then, and still does.)

Also, to be fair to President Cleveland, he was certain that maintaining secrecy was the right thing to do, since news of his cancer -- about the worst health problem he could have, and still be alive -- would have made the Panic of 1893 even worse, and it was bad enough as it was, idling countless workers and bringing much commerce to a halt. He made a political calculation, too. Being perceived as ill with cancer would have hurt his chances of persuading Congress to repeal the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, a cause dear to Cleveland, who was a gold-standard man. It's hard to imagine now the passion of the 1890s political quarrel between goldbugs and silverites, but some of it comes through in the book. It was the polarizing issue of the time, a collision of vested interests.

Cleveland got lucky, too, in that questions about his health were pushed off the front pages by a couple of large hurricanes that hit the United States in the late summer of 1893. One Category 2 storm hit New York City, and among other damage, destroyed an entire barrier island off Long Island. Another storm hit the Sea Islands of Georgia and South Carolina, an estimated Category 3 that probably killed a few thousand people and made tens of thousands more homeless.

The story of the Sea Islands Hurricane of 1893 is a fascinating aside in Algeo's book for a number of reasons, such as the fact that such a tremendous storm, on par with Katrina, has been completely forgotten (as has the 1900 storm that nearly destroyed Galveston or even the deadly New England Hurricane of 1938). It's also worth noting that neither the states nor the federal government provided much relief to the victims of the hurricane, partly because most of them were Gullah subsistence farmers, and partly because the Cleveland administration didn't believe disaster relief was within the purview of the federal government. Federal disaster relief is a 20th-century idea and, as far as I'm concerned, an important bit of progress since the Gilded Age, no matter what Ayn Rand-inspired jackasses tell us in our time.

The President is a Sick Man has a happy ending of sorts, in that in 1917 one of the surviving doctors, William Williams Keen, a dean of American medicine, wanted to tell the world what had happened. Cleveland's widow (the remarried Francis Cleveland Preston) agreed to it, so Dr. Keen published a long article about the operation in The Saturday Evening Post. Newspaperman E.J. Edwards was elderly at the time, but still alive, so he lived to see his vindication.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Wit & Wisdom of Foghorn Leghorn

A chill enveloped northern Illinois today. Mild compared to the arctic waves inevitably coming in future months, but still a sizable drop compared with Sunday or Monday. Winter's in his dressing room, getting ready for his big show.

A virus has blown through as well -- only through our house, as far as I'm concerned. Ann stayed home today with a mid-level cold. Treatment: bed rest, fluids, cartoons. I was feeling it too, but maybe my more experienced immune system held it off better. I sneezed and blew my nose from time to time, but I still filed the stories I need to file.

I also watched a few cartoons with her. One was "Strangled Eggs," a late (1961) Foghorn Leghorn vehicle. Been a while since I've seen any of those. During my major cartoon-watching years, Foghorn Leghorn was a Warner-stable favorite of mine. He still is. I can appreciate him better now, in fact. Such lines as these (from "Strangled Eggs") would have meant little to me at Ann's age:

"Bare, I say, bare as a cooch dancer's midriff."

(Said as he looks at his empty cupboard. I had to look up that old slang.)

"I got, I say, I got this boy as fidgety as a bubble dancer with a slow leak."

(More burlesque. What don't we know about Foghorn Leghorn?)

"My pappy used to say, 'Shoemaker, stick to your last.' And this is my last!"

(Said as he failed to get what he wanted, right at the end of the cartoon.)

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Will Not Go There, See That

Got a peculiar press release the other day (because I'm on some peculiar lists): "So-and-So Travel Co. announces its 2012 group tour packages to North Korea... Highlights include:

The April 2012 tour coinciding with the 100th birthday celebrations of North Korea's Eternal President and founder, Kim Il Sung;

New visits to beautiful Kumgang, the "Diamond Mountains," open to tourists for the first time since 2008;

New visits to several pristine remote DRPK mountain ranges for intrepid travelers."

Yep, a starving population does have a way of keeping those mountain ranges pristine.

Labels: ,

Monday, September 12, 2011

As It Happens, the Moon is Full Tonight

And a fine silver moon it is, rising from behind my neighbor's honey locust, if I stand on my deck. It's a breezy, warmish evening, so I did that just now.

I should know better than to read comments posted at any web site (except here), but sometimes I do it anyway. Such as the comments at a short article accompanying photos of the Apollo landing sites taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Here's a good one -- entirely sic:

These “pictures” prove nothing. I could do that in photoshop.
The moon landings were faked. All the facts show this without doubt. Anyone with a bit of knowledge knows this. For one thing the moon isnt a planet and so doesnt have any gravity. The “landers” should be floating in space. And why are there “tracks” on the moon? After 40 years they should have vanished. Outside my home a car track doesnt last 1 month. LOL!
Also look at the picture of the “flag” on the moon. It’s WAVING! But there is no wind on the Moon!
Don’t be fooled by the great scientific conspiracy. They use these things to control us to take away our freedoms. Put your faith in God not “science”.

I can see that guy's last point. He'd best put his faith in God, since he knows no science. Besides, God is famous for protecting fools, besides drunks and children.

Labels: ,

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Schaumburg had a remembrance ceremony this afternoon at Veterans Gateway Park, including an invocation and a laying of wreathes. I stood a few feet away from the VFW member who played Taps, a gentleman of advanced age (Korea? An older soldier in Vietnam?). Age didn't hold him back. He played the melancholy notes flawlessly.

It didn't seem right to take any pictures during the ceremony. But afterward I took a few. This is the Schaumburg Fire and Police Color Guard, right after the ceremony.

The park is at the junction of two major thoroughfares, Schaumburg Road and Roselle Road. It features is a tall brick clock tower ringed by memorials to the armed services. The four wreathes -- one for each hijacked flight and its victims -- were at the base of the clock tower.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Who Shot What's-His-Name?

I read that All My Children is going to end its run this month after 40-plus years. Not counting spoofs such as Soap and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, it was one of only two soap operas I ever took any interest in. That's because during the 1979-80 academic year at Vanderbilt, my freshman year, I roomed on the fifth floor of Lupton Hall with a fellow named Harry. We'd been put together randomly, or so I assume. I believe random roommate selection is usually a good thing, since you're bound to learn something from your random roommate.

I hope Harry learned something from me. I know I did from him. For example, some people live in Indiana and feel some affection for it. Also, some people care deeply about sports and even have an astonishing talent for sports statistics. Finally, I learned that soap operas have other viewers besides housewives.

Harry, for one. He watched All My Children regularly, even arranged his schedule (I think) so that he could be back in our room to see it. Sometimes other lads from down the hall would watch it, too. TVs were a fairly rare item on the hall, hard as that is to believe. All Harry had was a small black-and-white set.

I watched enough of the show to get the gist of the story sometimes, and knew some of the characters' names. In the spring of 1980 (again, I think), there was a weeks-long story line about the murder of one of the characters, an unlikable man who had many enemies among the other characters. For weeks, it seemed, the show teased the audience with the question of who'd shot the bastard. Come to think of it, that story line might have been inspired by J.R. Ewing's shooting, which was the same spring. The goal of goosing up viewership was certainly the same.

I don't remember how that All My Children story arc played out. But there was a fair amount of speculation about whodunnit among the Lupton 5 residents who came to our room to watch. I made my own suggestion, mostly to annoy Harry, which was the "some guy" theory. That is, none of the regular characters did it. Some guy came in off the street and blew him away.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Bastrop State Park

I was unhappy to learn over Labor Day weekend that much of Bastrop State Park has burned to the ground. The park is in Bastrop County, Texas, not far southeast of Austin. It isn't a large park, a little shy of 6,000 acres, but it is distinctive for its loblolly pines -- a patch of piney-green East Texas dropped into Central Texas.

I've been there more recently, but my fondest memories of Bastrop are of two camping trips to the park with high school friends in the spring and summer of 1979. If I pause for a moment, I can picture the campsite, the fire we tended late into the night, the sloping ground nearby blanketed by pine needles and rich in pine cones -- which we spent time throwing at each other. I can hear the voices of my friends, but not quite what we said during our many and varied conversations (we had no electronic entertainment, and were better for it). I can almost smell the pines, but I'd need to visit a stand of loblollies for the memory to return with any olfactory gusto.

Over the weekend, wildfires encouraged by the windy leftover of Hurricane Lee ravaged the drought-dried Bastrop SP and, unfortunately, hundreds of homes in the vicinity. I understand that loblolly pines grow back quickly, but still. It's a damned shame.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Permanent Residents of Schaumburg

The holiday weekend included a visit to Septemberfest, the not-very-German festival that Schaumburg, Illinois, puts on each Labor Day weekend. It was lively and crowded. This year I noticed that the carny games were offering Angry Bird plush toys as prizes, along with Rastaman bananas, which I think I saw last year.

Not far away is a much quieter place, the graveyard of old St. Peter Lutheran Church near Schaumburg Road, which is much more German than Septemberfest is ever likely to be. I've posted about it before, but without pictures. This is old St. Peter.

And its cemetery, populated by diaspora Germans and others.

Many of the permanent residents of the cemetery were born in Germany, or had parents who were. I suspect that Friedrich Redeker here (1813-96) was one of the former.

A few of the names, such as Springinsguth, are now major street names in this part of metro Chicago.

According to the Schaumburg Township Historical Society, burials began at St. Peter in 1847, and its permanent residents now number over 1,000.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Earth, Air, Fire & Water

It was hot today, up in the 90s F. It hasn't been that hot since we returned from Washington, but for the opening days of September, we get a warm blast to remember summer by. By Labor Day, they say, a mass of cool air will be in from Canada to reminder us of all the much colder masses ahead. Still, looking out at my back yard, it's a little hard to believe that all the flush greens will be gone by the opening days of December, and the ground will (probably) be covered with frozen water.

No posting till Tuesday, since Labor Day weekend is no time to blog.

I can't let September 1 pass with noting that I met two of my closest friends in college, Dan and Steve, on this day 30 years ago. I know this because I wrote about meeting them in a diary I kept at the time, though it took a while for the significance of the day to become apparent. Anyway, here they are, Steve on the left and Dan on the right.

The picture was taken in 1986, which is close enough, considering how young we were. I have no images of them in college. Can college kids today imagine such a thing?

On September 1, 1981, Rich and I -- pictured here, also at the same 1986 event, and looking rather young ourselves -- met Steve and Dan.

That evening we went to a party at Vanderbilt's McGill dormitory, where we met a girl named Kim, who in turn introduced us to Dan and Steve and some other people in room 320. It was a lively bunch.

I described the meeting: "The talking went on. My mind tingled with all of it. Many subjects, a lot of laughing."

By the spring of '82, "Earth, Air, Fire & Water" was one way we described our complementary temperaments. Yet as tight as we were during my last two years in college, this is probably the only picture of the four of us together -- that same moment in May 1986, in Washington, DC, as it happens.

Left to right: Freeman, Bill (two high school friends of Dan), me, Dan, Rich, Mike (a close friend of all of ours) and Steve.