Twelve Pictures ’17

Back to posting on January 2, 2018, or so. Like last year, I’m going to wind up the year with a leftover picture from each month. This time, for no special reason, no people, just places and things.

Champaign, Ill., January 2017Charlotte, NC, February 2017

Kankakee, Ill., March 2017

Rockford, Ill., April 2017

Muskogee, Okla., May 2017

Naperville, Ill., June 2017

Barrington Hills, Ill., July 2017

Vincennes, Ind., August 2017

Denver, September 2017Evanston, Ill., October 2017Chicago, November 2017

Birmingham, Ala., December 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

To the Smokies and Back ’08

Our trip to the Great Smoky Mountains NP and other places in 2008 was a late June, early July event. Has it really been seven years ago? The world seems like a different place now.

At Mammoth Cave NP, there was the famed cave, but you could also rent fun vehicles to tool around in.

Lilly & Ann June 2008It’s good to show your family places you know, but which they don’t, such as the Nashville Parthenon.
Parthenon, June 2008That’s what this country needs, more public-private partnerships to re-create the wonders of Antiquity. The Hanging Gardens of Omaha. A new Lighthouse of Alexandria in Alexandria, Va. The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Wash. A new Temple of Artemis in Tucumcari, NM. That kind of thing. (Or city walls around Dallas, as my brother Jay has suggested.)

Next, the Mingus Mill, which is part of the Great Smoky Mountains NP. I liked it just for the name. Water was flowing in the trough, and the girls liked it because they could float things in the trough.
Mingus Mill July 2015As the NPS says, “A half-mile north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center is Mingus Mill. Built in 1886, this historic grist mill uses a water-powered turbine instead of a water wheel to power all of the machinery in the building. Located at its original site, Mingus Mill stands as a tribute to the test of time.” Yep.

In the Indian town of Cherokee, NC, you could pose for a small fee with this fellow. Chief Syd, he called himself.
Cherokee, NC July 2015It wouldn’t have been a good trip without dropping in on a dead president. Andrew Johnson, in this case. President Johnson reposes in his hometown of Greeneville, Tenn. As it happened, we saw his memorial on July 4. (I did. Family stayed in car.)
President Andrew Johnson, July 4, 2008It’s also good to happen across little-known historic sites, such as Liberty Hall in Frankfort, Ky. Little-known, at least, outside of the immediate area.
Libery Hall, July 2008“This Georgian mansion was begun in 1796 by John Brown and named for [the] Lexington, Va. academy he attended,” says the landmark sign. “His wife Margaretta and Elizabeth Love began [the] first Sunday School west of [the] Alleghenies in [the] garden. Guests have included James Monroe, Zachary Taylor, Andrew Jackson and Gen. Lafayette…” The plaque maker must have charged by the letter, what with all of the definite articles left out.

A lovely garden it was, too.

Liberty Hall garden July 2008One more thing. As I’ve said, it’s good to be open to sampling new things on the road.
Root beer, July 2008I don’t remember, but it was probably tasty. Things often taste better on the road.

NC Early ’81

The demographics of this visual gag is a bell curve based on age. The bulge of peak understanding would be roughly between age 45 and 55. For my part, I laughed right away. It also reminded me of the early ’80s.

My spring break trips during the period weren’t particularly decadent. Downright wholesome, sometimes. I’m glad I wrote this down. I barely remember most of it.

March 4, 1981

Carolina Beach State Park. After dark, we cooked and ate dinner. The campstove was working, compared with the disappointment of the previous night, because we read the directions this time. We were alone in the park, which was a little spooky there under the big pines, but it wasn’t that cold, so on the whole we figured it would be good to sleep outside in our sleeping bags. Unless it rained.

Shortly after crawling into our bags for the night, which were warm and comfortable, we felt a few drops. Then a few more. Then some bigger ones. Then boom! and a flash of lightning. So much for warm and comfortable, or at least dry. We retreated to the car and didn’t come out until morning. Neal had the driver’s side of the front, I had the passenger’s side, with my head up against one of the sleeping bags next to the window, and Stuart had the back seat, which wasn’t much bigger, considering the everything stowed back there.

Naturally, it was hard to sleep. Instead we talked about this and that, including stories about other trips we’d taken, or other times when things hadn’t gone according to plan. I told them about how three years ago exactly, Ellen had shattered Nancy’s glass-top table [or rather, Nancy’s mother’s table] by trying to bound across it during a party we were all attending. Eventually we did sleep, though I can’t call it restful.

The next morning [March 5] the campground was completely soaked. We left in short order. We a found a series of covered tables at Hugh MacRae County Park in Sea Breeze (New Hanover County) and stopped for an hour there to make breakfast. I also put together the kite we’d bought on Bodie Is. The sun was out and temperatures were rising, so we went to Wrightsville Beach for a while.

Neal and Stuart threw a Frisbee around while I flew the kite. It took a while to get it airborne, but the wind was up (and temps in the 60s, so pleasant), and I got it flying very high over the ocean. To keep it stable, though, I kept having to give it more and more line. When I tried to bring the kite in, the thing got unstable and looped until I gave it more line again. Eventually the kite broke in mid-air and I crashed it onto the beach. Should have crashed it into the water, which would have been more dramatic. While it flew I enjoyed its motions against the partly cloudy sky, wind blowing and waves making their back-and-forth sound.

Toward noon, dark clouds returned, and we headed back to Durham mostly on US 421 by way of historic Wilmington and later Spivey’s Corner, which I’d only ever heard of because of Johnny Carson. For lunch we paused at a roadside table in Clinton to eat hot dogs and so forth, and an old farm dog befriended us for our food. We gave him an extra weenie.

Item from the Past: Cronkite’s Last Broadcast

Memory is unreliable, so keep a diary. Or so I read once in an article about planning and executing a months-long trip. Memory is unreliable, of course, but written accounts aren’t always much help either.

On March 6, 1981, I was in Durham, NC, on spring break and wrote: “We all went to a North Carolina Mexican restaurant, which wasn’t bad. Better than El Sol in Logan [Logan, Utah, where I’d been the year before, and which featured cinnamon in its enchiladas, if I remember right]. The place was divided into the Cosmopolitan Room and the Fiesta Room, or something like that, and one was mainly a bar, though you can eat there, which we did. It had a television on the wall.

“Since we were there from roughly 6:15 to 7:15, Walter Cronkite’s last news program was on. During his final words, the whole place was watching, maybe a dozen people. I’ve never watched his broadcasts that much, but I think he wrapped it up with style.”

I don’t remember a thing about that nameless Mexican restaurant, what I ate, or what my friends – Neal and Stewart – and I might have talked about. So much for the efficacy of diaries as a memory aid, at least in this case. I vaguely remember the quiet of the place, with everyone watching a communal television event that would never happen now (who cares about network news anymore?). But if I had to cite any of Cronkite’s words, I couldn’t, except for “that’s the way it is,” because he always said that.

It was a fluke that I saw it. I didn’t have a TV in my dorm room, didn’t know anyone who did, and probably won’t have ventured down to the common room — which had a TV — to watch it there, had I been on campus that day. We were staying with Neal’s parents during that trip, and I don’t remember watching much TV there, either (though I did read most of Helter Skelter there).

Naturally, in the age of YouTube, you can see it again if you want. I agree with my original assessment of the sign off.

I thought of Cronkite’s last sign off on Saturday when I spotted a small error in the pilot episode of The Americans, which I started watching because I saw it described as “a period piece about Russian spies in America.” The period turned out not to be the height of the Cold War, but the late Cold War setting of 1981. No, I thought, it can’t be a period piece if I remember the period as more or less an adult. But I guess that isn’t true anymore.

Anyway, it’s a pretty good spy yarn, more interesting because the spies in question are sleeper Soviet agents who pass as middle-class Americans (with convenient orders to converse only in English, even among themselves). The small error was in passing. The scene showed a television, and Walter Cronkite was delivering the news. The show is clearly set in the spring of 1981, April at least and probably May. Cronkite was gone after March 6.