It is my brother Adam’s birthday, and I wish him the best.
To commemorate his day, I present The Open Road by Claude Friese-Greene. Greene filmed The Open Road as a travelogue of a road trip in A.D. 1924 from Land’s End in Cornwall to John o’ Groats in Caithness and then finally to London. Adam and I made our very own road trip to see these British extremities, though I suspect that we took a slightly different course.
The movie is charming—another testament to what Britain has lost since the war. What commercial liberal man has exchanged for mammon!
Anyway, happy birthday, Adam! I remember well those little towns, Welsh castles, and Scottish Highlands.
Yesterday, I presented David Sedaris’ humorous take on the Dutch celebration of Saint Nicholas Day. Here are some videos of the celebration that I found online.
Of course, the multiculturalists want to ban Zwarte Piet and his Moorishly dressed pals as tokens of Holland’s racist past. It does not look like Sinterklaas’ browner helpers are going anywhere anytime soon, though. Except periodically back to Spain . . .
The United Kingdom is in a ruinous state. You may have read that hooligans have rioted in Britain’s cities over an increase in student fees. “Youth” even attacked the car of Prince Charles and Camilla while they were on their way to the theater. I doubt that the perpetrators will be charged with treason; the men of the sceptered isle no longer believe in their crown or their law. Dysfunction reigns supreme in Albion, and I fear that it may be even worse there than here. At least, there is a vocal minority in the States who occasionally refuse to cower to the barbarians. Where is Arthur when he is needed?
It seems as if the madness has even reached dear Glastonbury, which I have visited twice to pay homage to my patron saint, Joseph of Arimathea. Evidently, someone vandalized one of the Glastonbury Thorns yesterday. Of course, the sacrilege is not as bad as when filthy pig Cromwell’s men destroyed the ancient hallowed tree, of which the current trees are cuttings. What possesses people? Well, I suppose that we know the answer.
John Derbyshire recently mused that A.D. 1963 was the apex of the good life in Western civilization. His nostalgia of good times gone by reminded him of a charming short film made for the London Transport: All That Mighty Heart (click on the link to watch it on the film page of the London Transport Museum). It is a day in the life of London from A.D. 1962, with its depictions of city streets, jolly workers, feminine women, and a London that was still English.
Derbyshire laments the loss of old England. It is strange that every generation of Englishmen mourns the loss of old England. If there is a lot of ruin in a nation, there must be a lot of loss in one, too.
Before I address the topic, I would like to wish you a thoughtful Armistice Day. Many blessings and much thanks to all active military and veterans.
Greg and Debba Haupert have an interesting blog featured on The Enquirer’s web site, 52 Neighborhoods/One Voice. On it, they write of their ventures into the Queen City’s neighborhoods, where they talk with locals, see the sights, and eat breakfast. The posts are pleasant but often laughably delicate. Consider, for instance, how they treat the slum Millvale: “Millvale – But wait, there’s more.” Yes, more crack whores, more violence, more bastard breeding, more wastes of public money . . . so much more. Yet, the Hauperts are not natives; so, I suppose their good manners may excuse their whitewashing.
I think that there are more than fifty-two neighborhoods within the city limits. What about Brighton? And I have never even heard of C.U.F. Who came up with that amalgam of Clifton Heights, University Heights, and Fairview? We always just called the whole place Clifton.
There are many more neighborhoods beyond the city limits, given how Cincinnatians have resisted annexation more steadfastly than folks from other cities (the edge of Columbus is on farmland). So, I hope that the Hauperts extend their anthropological survey of Cincinnati after they complete their fifty-two trips.
Last week, I visited the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore to see the new exhibit, “What Makes Us Smile?” If you have never visited A.V.A.M., I highly recommend it. I think that it is an art museum that even people who hate art museums would like. I have been to several of their shows, and they are always fascinating. Their exhibitions, normally a year long, feature works that complement a chosen theme. The artists showcased are not professionally trained, and so the “feel” of the works is quite unexpected and independent. As the artists represent no school, the diversity of style is as broad as the human soul aspires. The exhibitions are well displayed and organized, too, with interesting information conveyed about the topic and about the artists.
The current exhibit mainly has to do with humor, and the walls around the artwork feature quotations and anecdotes about humor from anthropological and poetic perspectives. My favorite part of the show was the section on Oregon cartoonist John Callahan. I love mordant wit and contemn taboos; therefore, I found Callahan quite a congenial dissident. Callahan died this past summer, and A.V.A.M. presents his cartoons as a sort of memorial to him. Here is one of Callahan’s cartoons:
So, pray for the soul of John Callahan and make sure to visit the American Visionary Art Museum. Or visit Callahan’s soul and pray for the art museum. A trip to Baltimore puts all of the options on the table.
A few days ago, Drudge linked to a Daily Mail article that featured demographic maps of various American cities. Cartographer Eric Fischer created the maps, and you can see many more cities so depicted on his Flickr site, Race and Ethnicity. Here is the tribal dotting for Cincinnati:
Follow the link to the Flickr site where you can look at much larger images; the larger images show the ethnic composition of neighborhoods much better, as the smaller images only allow the dominant ethnicity to show in densely populated areas. Here is the original image.
On his site, Fischer states that he was inspired by Bill Rankin, who runs Radical Cartography. Rankin has a nice section on D.C. Check out his depiction of how chocolaty Chocolate City remains. Click on the site’s image to enlarge it for better viewing.
Looking at it, what strikes me most is how Rock Creek Park effectively divides the racial composition of the city. People casually say that Northwest (the northwest quadrant) is the nicer—whiter—part of town, but the dividing line is not North Capitol Street; it is more like Sixteenth Street and Rock Creek Park. I also find it amusing how Catholic University and Gallaudet are vanilla islands in N.E.
The dark and lovely neighborhood of Crestwood is the brown peninsula jutting westward from Sixteenth Street into Rock Creek Park. This “Gold Coast” area is the historic center of upper class, black Washington, and the houses are gorgeous. Indeed, it is the home turf of recently defeated Mayor Fenty. There is nothing at all like it in Cincinnati, where “nice houses” and “predominantly black neighborhood” only signify a formerly nice neighborhood that has become a slum with cool architecture—imagine Rome in the seventh century, where civilization remains only as a memory in stone. In contrast, Crestwood remains a real community rather than a decaying relic of a dispossessed past.
If you are a map geek—a cartographile, I assume—then enjoy Fischer’s and Rankin’s works.
I found an amusing, century old New York Times article on Visualingual’s charming site: “He Likes Cincinnati, She Paris; They Part.”
Having lived in both Cincinnati and Paris, I understand the dilemma. I love both cities, though the allure of each differs sharply from the other, to say the least.
To everyone on the new calendar, have a blessed feast of the Transfiguration and a productive Dormition fast.
August is the month of travel for many folks in the northern hemisphere, and I would like to share a site that someone sent me some time ago—Egeria. It is a travel accommodation exchange site for Orthodox Christians, which allows people to travel at much cheaper costs. It also allows for people to meet new folks and to develop new friendships. I have a travel loving cousin who has used these sorts of travel exchange sites for years, and she loves them.
I find the concept interesting, but I do not know if such would be good for me. When I travel, I often meet new people at places of interest, in youth hostels, on trains, on ferries, and such. However, I have never followed up those initial contacts to develop friendships. When I travel, I have an agenda of what I wish to do and to see, and I would find the social obligations of a travel exhange somewhat of a nuisance. If I did not have time constraints, I would not mind. However, I am an object and project oriented tourist rather than a person oriented one, and I would rather pay more money than lose time. My cousin, on the other hand, likes the social aspect of travel most, and this sort of exchange suits her perfectly. It may also fit your travel preferences. In any case, I wish you the best in your journeys.
In late July, my father and I visited Newport, Rhode Island, where we had the chance to tour some of the lovely Newport Mansions.
We stayed at the Newport Marriot near the harbor. We were both very impressed by the hotel; it was perfectly situated, the room was great, and the public areas were impressive. The nautical decor in the lobby and atrium, on the carpets, and even in the shaft of the glass elevator (where the basement level featured an “underwater” scene) added charm. The gym and pool area were nice, and the gym offered free fruit in the morning. From our room, we could see the harbor, but the view was not exceptional as it looked mostly at the parking lot. Still, I could not have hoped for a better place.
The drawback to the hotel was that we had to pay $20 for parking. However, the hotel said that we could leave our car in the lot after check out so that we could explore Newport without having to worry about parking. That sounded like good advice—though we soon realized that it would have been better to have driven.
After checking out and storing our luggage in the car, Dad and I walked next door to the Newport Visitors’ Center, which we found still closed. While we waited for it to open, we checked out the minor league baseball stadium across the street. At the Visitors’ Center, we picked up some free maps and bought our tickets for the Newport mansions. I recommend the Newport Mansions Experience. For $31, it allows you to visit five of the mansions, and you do not have to use all of the tickets on the same day; they do not expire. The trouble, then, is deciding on which five to choose. We followed the counter lady’s advice and visited The Elms, Chateau-sur-Mer, Rosecliff, Marble House, and The Breakers. I had wanted to see Kingscote, as well, but I thought it best to listen to the woman.
We walked from the Visitors’ Center through the harbor area. We were later told that the harbor was slummy until the city decided to clean it up in the 1980’s. It was pretty appealing with shops, museums, and restaurants. It reminded me a bit of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. We then started to walk uphill toward Bellevue Avenue where most of the extant mansions are. On the way, we visited Saint Mary’s Church, where John and Jacqueline Kennedy married. The inside of the church was very pleasant. I particularly enjoyed the twelve apostles’ heads above the columns.
The first mansion that we visited was The Elms. I cannot describe the mansions justly, and online photographs are rather insufficient, as well. So, I’ll just link some pictures and mention a few random points about each mansion that come to mind.
The best thing about The Elms was the grounds; it probably had the best landscaping of any mansion, though without the superb coastline of the mansions on the shore. I especially liked the old beech trees throughout the property as well as the sunken gardens.
My favorite room in the “cottage” was the orangerie room that looked out on the lawn.
We next walked to Chateau-sur-Mer, one of the oldest mansions in Newport. The design of the house was fascinating, with the central hall open to the top of the house and each floor forming a balcony around the open space.
I especially liked the family photographs that decorated the home. George Peabody Wetmore had four children, and they appeared to have enjoyed life a lot. The grounds around the house were lovely, too. I liked the “moongate.” I also liked the gardens around the carriage house with their abundant foxgloves.
Rosecliff was our next destination down Bellevue Avenue. It reminded me of a Beverly Hills mansion—perhaps because it resembled the house in the hillbilly show.
The ballroom was the most stunning part of the house; it was supposed to resemble Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors, though the house was modeled on the Grand Trianon at Versailles rather than the palace itself. With Rosecliff, we finally got to see the coast. The backyard ran into the ocean, and it was quite a sight. The side rose garden was quite charming. There were some climbers there that smelt lovely. I also enjoyed the dogs’ graveyard near the rose garden.
We then walked past the road to The Breakers, which we wanted to save for the end, to see the second most important Vanderbilt summer cottage—Marble House.
The exposition of the house focused on Alva, William Kissam Vanderbilt’s wife who had the home built. She was a character—a supporter of the arts and of feminist politics. She also was the mother of Consuelo whom I first “met” at Blenheim Palace outside Oxford, England. For Alva had her daughter marry John Spencer-Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough. Marble House was remarkable in so many ways. I liked the soft earth toned marble inside the house, and my favorite room was the medieval style library. The golden room was pretty amazing, too. I also liked the pagoda shaped Chinese Tea House in the backyard. The home, like Rosecliff and The Breakers, had a fabulous view of the ocean.
William Kissam Vanderbilt’s older brother, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, had his summer home nearby at The Breakers.
It appears that Cornelius inherited the good sense of his grandfather and father, unlike his brother William. For he married a good, wholesome woman, with whom he was a Sunday school teacher, he was a generous philanthropist, and he was an industrious worker. Still, he liked life’s good things. He built homes as a hobby, as architecture and design were ways for him to relax from the family business. He had much to occupy him at The Breakers; it was huge—and extraordinary. It might be over the top, but I liked it a lot. The magnificent central hall, the billiards room patterned after ancient Roman baths, the dining room, and the fountain alcove under the stairs were spectacular. Yet, the most impressive part of the house for me was the two balconies that faced the ocean. They were stunning.
Below, you can see the house from the back; the lower and upper balconies are visible.
The Breakers deserves its fame as the grandest house in Newport. I have not yet visited the Biltmore Estate, which was built by the youngest brother of Cornelius II and William Kissam, George Washington Vanderbilt II, but I think that The Breakers is the finest house that I have so far seen in America.
The walk from the Marriot to Bellevue Avenue was not bad, and the mansions along Bellevue Avenue were not far apart. Yet, by the end of the day, my father was tired of standing and of walking. So, instead of walking back to the hotel, we caught a trolley bus that took us straight to the Visitors’ Center next to the hotel. In hindsight, it would have been more time efficient and better for my father had we just driven the car from house to house. The tourism officials warned us about parking, but there would have been no problem.
Once we had the car, we drove along Bellevue once again to reach the scenic Ocean Drive along the coast. Repeatedly, my sea loving father mentioned how great it would be to live in Newport—though not in the winter. I can easily see why America’s elite used to “summer” in the town. It is just a shame that most of the mansions have been destroyed since the 1930’s. It is hard to maintain family wealth with socialistic policies that plunder inheritance.