Tag Archives: history

11.

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50th anniversary of the week of the Apollo 11 moon landing

I was 11

on the cusp of everything 

we went over

to my parents’ friends’ house

everyone was transfixed

air was electric

all gathered around the tv

watching

silent and awestruck

gobsmacked

as the first man walked on the moon

spoke his first words on the moon

 lots of emotion in the house

I ran to the window to look at the moon 

hoping I would see him up there

right in the middle of all of this

the hostess

left to go to the hospital

to have her baby

she named him neil

after that man on the moon.

“we ran as if to meet the moon.” 

― robert frost

 

 

image credit: Ann Arbor district library archives

speakeasy.

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whenever I’ve visited my friends’ lake house in the irish hills of michigan, there has never been a shortage of lakes and trees to be enjoyed. on one recent visit they took me on a walk through a very special place that I’d been wanting to see since hearing about it. at first impression it appears to be a beautiful, rolling, wide open natural space, but there is much more to it than first meets the eye.

once known as aiden lair, and now known as mccourtie park, it was formerly the 42-acre estate of herb mccourtie, a cement magnate. its trademark is its concrete bridges artistically handcrafted to resemble wooden structures. a visionary who loved architecture for art’s sake, mccourtie showed the versatility and beauty of the product he manufactured in 17 bridges that he commissioned to be created on his property using the 19th-century lost art of “el trabajo rustico” (the rustic work) in faux bois (imitation wood).

for more than 10 years, two mexican artists, george cardoso and ralph corona, created the bridges that span the creek on the property, as well as two concrete trees that cleverly hide the chimneys to his rathskeller. the bridges were individually created from wet mortar to resemble ropes and logs simulating native trees, such as oak, walnut, cherry, birch and beech. the intricate details include knots, insect holes, saw cuts, wood grain and even moss, lichen and beetle holes. an elaborate system of underground wires provided lights on and under some of the bridges. in addition, he created two huge pools, one for use as a swimming pool and the other as a fishing pond for his guests’ enjoyment.

(stills hidden in the cement ‘trees’ mixed among the natural trees)

known for giving lavish parties, he hosted a homecoming celebration every year that drew thousands of people to aiden lair to witness stunt flyers and enjoy baseball, local musicians, dancing and free refreshments. in the underground garage and rathskeller he created, he threw all-night poker parties that were attended by the likes of detroit auto baron henry ford.

throughout its history, the park has been the subject of rumors and legends. mccourtie’s rathskeller, which features a large bar, fieldstone fireplace, and vault, is rumored to have been a speakeasy during prohibition and a stopping point for al capone and other gangsters who bootlegged whiskey from chicago to detroit on U.S. 12.

it’s also been rumored that there are tunnels under the park property that served as stations for runaway southern slaves on the underground railroad. some people have reported sightings of a ghostly “lady in blue” strolling the grounds in old-fashioned clothing.

(a peek into the window of what used to be the ‘rathskeller’ – a bit creepy now)

in 1991, mccourtie park was named to the state register of historic sites by the michigan historical commission. the next year, it was added to the national register of historic places by the national park service.

 

 

“prohibition has made nothing but trouble.”

-al capone 

 

 

 

 

 

source: mlive

war letters.

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“I don’t think any man can exactly explain combat. It’s beyond words.”   Soldier, WWII

Based on newly discovered personal correspondence from the Revolutionary War to the Gulf War, War Letters brings to life vivid eyewitness accounts of famous battles, intimate declarations of love and longing, poignant letters penned just before the writer was killed, and heartbreaking “Dear John” letters from home.  


War Letters
premiered on television in 2001.

Visit American Experience for bonus videos,

timelines and transcripts of letters from war. 

 Visit Website

 

“letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.”

-johann wolfgang von goethe

 

 

dedicated to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice on this Memorial Day and every day.

 

 

sources: pbs.org, American Expérience, Chapman University, chapman.edu

stories are the rivers.

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my daughter was given a small box

filled with items

from her great grandfather/great grandmother

on her father’s side.

it contained such an interesting mix

with no one to explain

the meaning

the importance

the story

of the items inside.

some of them were:

a pocket knife,

a key to a city in louisiana,

one heart-shaped earring,

and a piece of paper with

‘hamlet, act 1, scene 3’

handwritten on it.

i wish we knew the story of

why each was significant in their lives.

why was each item worth saving in a special box?

‘we all belong to an ancient identity.

stories are the rivers that take us there.’

-frank delaney

wondering.

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after walking up to this truck

i wondered about all the stories it could tell

where it’s been, who it carried, what happened

no one knows for sure

all that’s left is to imagine.

what a ride it must have been!

“i like stories that leave you wanting more,

leave you wondering, but don’t tell you everything.”

-viggo mortensen

 

ann arbor – summer 2018

smithsonian.

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Happy Birthday, Smithsonian!

The Smithsonian was officially created on August 10, 1846,

and one of the first things on the to-do list was constructing a building.

The 1850 glass lantern slide above

is the earliest-known photo of the Smithsonian Institution Building,

known as the Castle, and the only image of it under construction.

Smithsonian Explorers, c. 1862-63, Smithsonian Institution Archives

From the enchanting to the eccentric, the Smithsonian has an extremely rich past. There was even a group of rowdy scientists who used to live in the Smithsonian Castle. In 1857, a zoologist named William Stimpson formed a club of young naturalists aiming to build the Smithsonian’s collection. Their meetings were held in the Smithsonian Castle, and many of the members lived there.

Stimpson named the group the Megatherium Club, after the giant extinct sloth that once roamed South America. Over the years, the club developed somewhat of a rambunctious reputation among neighbors (they were known to drink beer late at night, and had sack races down the Castle halls). They called themselves “great beasts,” much like the sloth that they named themselves after.

Despite their mischief, these men were a dedicated group of naturalists, and we owe them a great deal for contribution their descriptions, classifications and specimens to American science, the Smithsonian, and many other institutions in the U.S.

 

“science doesn’t have all the answers,

but it is good at spotting the important questions

when they are camouflaged against a background of common sense.”

-richard dawkins

 

 credits: smithsonian museums, smithsonian institution archives, smithsonian magazine

falling through the cracks.

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had a great breakfast with family

who returned a file of family history papers

that had traveled on a journey with them

across the seas

 i was happy to see them again

 had the papers in my hand for all of 1 minute

 as i set them down next to me

for safekeeping

they fell into a hidden crack

 just kept going deeper into the abyss

until they were gone

a very kind manager

without judgement

without questions

with a good sense of humor

offered to assist

by moving chairs

pulling the whole table out

taking the booth apart

and retrieving the precious files

intact and none the worse for wear

the family journey continues

with just a short detour.

“cracks especially. you have to be careful of the cracks.

sometimes they are disguised as something else.

a doorway, or a smile or even a winking eye.

and if you fall through them, you never know were you will end up.”

-isabelle carmody – greylands

eat like a genius.

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The Grocery List Sketched by Michelangelo
You can’t sculpt like Michelangelo, but you can eat like him.

In March 1518, Michelangelo feasted on fish and bread. 

ACCORDING TO MICHELANGELO’S SHOPPING LIST, genius thrives on a diet of fish, bread, and lots of wine.

Owned by the Casa Buonarroti museum in Florence, Italy, this 500-year-old list was written and illustrated by the sculptor/painter/poet/personality on the back of a letter. Michelangelo’s servant was likely illiterate, so Michelangelo sketched out what he wanted to eat.

And Michelangelo wanted a feast, spread out over three meals. He depicted bread rolls as quickly-drawn circles, and for one meal, Michelangelo wanted two rolls. For another, he wanted six. On the page, an elegant herring floats in the air, while bowls overflow with salad and anchovies. Two dishes of stewed fennel are sketched side by side, and when asking for a smaller amount of dry wine, Michelangelo carefully drew a small wine jug next to a larger one. Sadly, he did not draw two plates of tortelli—he only asked for the ravioli-like pasta pouches in writing.

The menu consists mostly of vegetables, fish, wine, and bread. This might seem particularly healthy, but the letter on the other side of the list is dated March 18, 1518, around the time of Lent. Since eating meat was frowned upon, Michelangelo ate the requisite vegetables. However, Gillian Riley writes in The Oxford Guide to Italian Food that this was definitely an upscale menu. Despite his frugal reputation, the artist was probably used to dining with nobility.

By 1518, Michelangelo had already finished many of his most famous works, including the Pietà, the David, and the Sistine Chapel ceiling. But among all his work, this rough list is perhaps the most down-to-earth glimpse of the artist himself. It’s interesting to imagine the famously mercurial Michelangelo taking the time to illustrate for his servant what he wanted for dinner.

The survival of this list is remarkable, too. Only around 600 of Michelangelo’s sketches still exist. 1518 marked the year that Michelangelo burned many of his early drawings, and 46 years later, he ordered many of his papers to be torched in anticipation of his death. Maybe he wanted to preserve the aura of divine genius that surrounded his art. A list showing his sketched takeout order might not have given the right impression.

 

“all writing is an act of self-exploration.

even a grocery list says something about you;

how much more does a novel say?”

-steven saylor

 

 

 

credits: atlas obscura/gastro obscura, anne ewebank,Casa Buonarroti- Florence, Italy