Tuesday, December 21, 2010


The Shortest Day
(a poem by Susan Cooper)

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Yes, we are moving.

Short version: We have no need or desire to stay in Houston but we’re not ready to be 2000 miles away from our kids.

Slightly Longer Version: We have never loved Houston and in the summer, we actually hate it. But we have had friends and work we liked (I came here for a job) plus it was an easy place to live because staying is always easier than going. It could have been much worse.

But now Mark is retired from the U and my work requires only that I have access to an airport.

When we took our month long vacation this summer, one of my goals was return home with a plan. Instead we returned home with a tan. But it was the pits of August so we fled to the hills of Austin to seek cold springs to swim in and drive some neighborhoods and before you know it, we were closing on a house.

‘Tis a small and modest 1971 ranch-style house, a fixer- upper not far from the action, less than 5 miles SW of the Congress Street Bridge. It is a transitional home, a place to be comfortable for a couple few years and then…who knows?

So the house in Houston will go on the market after the holidays and I will try not to go crazy prepping two houses and getting ready for Christmas all at the same time.

More to come.

Friday, August 27, 2010

On the road again

The vacation ends but the travel doesn't - at least for one of us.

Fall is often a busy time for me, work wise, and I am always grateful to be working.
And I still very much enjoy the going to some place new. Yes, I joke about the glamour spots I go to, like Mattoon, Illinois and Albany, Georgia, but for me, new is good.

This time, it is Mankato, Minnesota, in the heart of the corn and soybeans belt - I assume crop rotation - and it is tidy as can be in that earnest Midwestern way that I find so endearing. And the petunias! Every cold-climed place I've been in recent years bursts fourth with a profusion of petunias - along the highways, in enormous hanging baskets, in medians and window boxes.
Summers that are short are all the sweeter.

South Dakota - trying to carve out an identity beyond the giant president heads.
Iowa - Pork. They serve a thing called pork wings. I say, when pig fly.
But they let same gendered people get married there as well. An enigma.

But I miss my travel buddy back at home and listening to Andrew Loog Oldham on the satellite every morning.

Monday, August 23, 2010

laws of attraction

The bats beneath the Congress Street Bridge have been a popular attraction in
Austin for many years; indeed, bat watching has become a mini-industry there. We have seen them - all 3/4 million of them - head for the hills at dusk a number of times. One evening was spectacular, as long spiral formations of bats, black corkscrew clouds, poured out from under the bridge for at least half an hour.

Well, not this summer. They emerge in dribs and drabs about an hour after sunset - when it is too dark out to see them.

Theory is that the bugs are so plentiful this year, they feed less often and head out later.

I wonder if they aren't simply sick of the tourists. Maybe, like Garbo, they just want to be "let alone."

We headed back to our car, wondering what conversations the bat tour boat operators have with their customers who expect nature on demand.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

still weird

Got home from vacation not wanting to be home from vacation and as the heat crept toward 100, I proposed to Mark we spend some more points and head to the hills and seek out some cool water to soothe our post-vacation blues. He readily agreed.

Have not been to Austin in...can't remember. Eight year? Perhaps. And I had totally forgotten how much fun this city is and how the lower humidity makes the heat ever so much more bearable.

We plunged into the green water at Deep Eddy and I felt nothing but happy.

Austin has gone food truck carayzee! It is estimated that there are about 1200 at this point and they expect another 400 next year. Mark had a fat torta with some of the best deeply brown fries I have ever eaten and I got the vegan 'chicken' that tasted more like egg salad, but it was swell. Lovely seating under trees by a creek on South Congress street.

It was not Ann Arbor 1969, as I was recently reminiscing about, but it certainly has much of what made that a good time - an open friendliness from most everyone we met.

Monday, August 16, 2010

What's YOUR soundtrack?

Working title: “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?”

[In a sort of Andy Rooney whine] Do you ever wonder why anyone would waste their natural soundtrack by walking around with earbuds stuck in their head? For the most part I love my ambient sonic environment. Birds, of course. Conversations heard above the rhythm of the rails on the subway. I like the random bits of music you get in public spaces. (ASIDE: I stepped into the coffee shop on High Street during a morning stroll with Ribsy in Southampton to get a cup o’ joe, and while I was waiting for some passive/aggressive politeness and apology to play out – a young man ordered a small chocolate milk and after seemingly endless machinations, settles for a LARGE white milk…Sooorry! – I heard what I thought was an en fran├žais cover of Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane”. I leaned over the lad sucking discontentedly on his white milk to listen closely to a ceiling speaker and realized that it was Bob’s original version, but damn, he really does have a French-speaking cadence…think about that next time you listen to him. End ASIDE.) And I particularly like hearing Miles noodling away on his guitar at home.

Now, it seemed to often be the case that during our stay on Grosvenor Street my Uncle Mike would slip away from the scene of some discombobulated conversation, and just as I was asking “where did Mike get to?” the strange and mesmerizing sound of this instrument would waft into the room.

My Uncle calls his creation a BernouIli. (Another ASIDE: After Jacob Beroulli, not Daniel Bernoulli (his nephew), whose principle attempts to explain why planes fly, shower curtains attack, and your screw-top red wine tastes better after carburetion. Check out this over-achieving family – extra points for properly identifying his relationship to Hermann Hesse…)

Uncle Mike explains:

“Key change via a simple rotation of the instrument or the person(s) playing. All strings are the same and tuned the same. Geometry takes care of pitch changes. All vibrations go to a paraboloid and then to it's focal point to a tiny mic that is amplified. Outer and inner bridges are log spirals. Fret is a log spiral. 12 strings...with about 3 1/2 octaves. Every octave is a 360 degree rotation of the fret. Every string is the same length.”

[So I said, you need to compose something! But since a western musical scale is not particularly useful, I mentioned the apparent truism that scientific discovery is often preceded by new/improved mathematical notation. He was already ALL OVER that…]

“Every note is an integer triple (clock face number, rotation integer from the center, number of beats). For example (2,1,1) means two o'clock, first rotation of the fret from the outside, hold for one beat…It is best played by 4 people at once. I created the design electronically, transmitted it to a 3-axis mill and milled it…It's more like a sculpture than an instrument. The spiral fret morphs into a spiral bridge to a spiral finial to a spiral seashell. Very tidy!”

And, of course, further down the road (Traverse City), just to make sure I didn’t miss the point, I look up from shaving to see nature’s reminder hanging on the bathroom wall. My sister-in-law has a thing for nautilus shells. It’s ALL the same.

Have you ever tuned into Hearts of Space? (You should!)

OK, one last James Burke/“Connections”-type comment: When we approached the Lake Michigan shore on that last Sunday, the west wind on the back side of an overnight front was whipping up the surf, bending large tree branches, and that noise was gushing through this opening as we approached the shore. It was very loud…a Wall of Sound on the beach, and something I might once have described as White Noise. But it was no more White Noise (which has a fairly precise mathematical definition) than the cacophony of New York City. I realized that it’s unplanned/spontaneous sounds that I prefer. Random conversations. Car horns. Uncle Mike at the Bernoulli!

Which, I guess, is why I hate that calculated sonic barrage you get at the ballpark in the home half of the inning (Let’s hear some N O I S E!)...it’s not about the frequency at all.

[Perceived exception that proves the rule: A perfect segue (planned) is always a surprise!]

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Final Countdown

Countries - 2
States - 19
Provinces - 1
Both Michigan peninsulas
Great Lakes seen -- 4 out of 5, plus Georgian Bay, Ontario
NY Boroughs entered (if only briefly) 4 out of 5
Museums - 4
Plays - 3
Ferries - 3
Relatives seen - 16
Arguments with yelling - 1
Days when laundry was done - 6
Days with a beach visit - 6
Times pulled over by a cop - 1
Tickets issued - 0
Gas tank fill ups - 12
Time away from home - 27 days 10 hours

This does not mean the end of posting, as many things take time to gestate. Expect further anecdotes and philosophical musings, as well as loose end tied and a few more photos.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How to make it work

So there we are, having decided we needed a little more beach time, on a Saturday night in August and there are no rooms at ANY of the inns. We head inland and spot a humble fishing camp and score the last place- a two bedroom cabin.

The owner was just returning from picking up the canoes he had rented that day. He also raises chickens and has a huge garden. Sells hanging baskets and walking sticks he carves with morel mushrooms as a common stick top carving.

Cabins are heated for hunting season and there are ski holders in the cabins as well.

In short, like people all over the world, especially in small towns, the man does a LOT of things for a living.

Do you only have one job? If I recall correctly, a line from the movie Local Hero, said by a village Scotsman to the oil exec from Houston.

Knife throwing: A handy skill

Some people serve appetizers before dinner. Great Uncle Mike gives knife throwing lessons.

Let's play 2...

Before moving on to another (inevitable) baseball-related post, allow me, in reference to the previous DIA post, and with a wink and a nod in the general direction of the movie “High Fidelity”, to pose the following question: What are YOUR Top 5 favorite places in the Whole Wide World?

For me, Rivera Court is on that short list, and as I was standing there (again, and on this day) in the midst of its sun-streaked brilliance, I realized it’s HIGH on that short list. Yo, Sistine Chapel, take a hike…

Tiger Stadium used to be on that list. I visited the corner of Michigan & Trumbull last fall as the dust was still settling on the demolition site…this before my understanding of touching the past by “sharing space” had matured. I nearly got sucked in to some kind of emotional Black Hole.

So, on to Comerica Park (where folks like to be in the picture, and come AT you for the privilege), a place I’ve been trying to figure out for the better part of a decade. ASIDE: I’m fanatic (some might say psychotic) about where and how to view a ballgame. There are a lot of variables, some subtle, some obvious, some out of your control. But I engage in all kinds of pseudo-science, and I can tell you, unequivocally, that the best place to watch an Astros game at Minute Maid Park is in the low rows of Section 413! (I’d be willing to listen to an argument for Section 411, however.)

But Comerica Park has been a bit of a mystery. Watching the sky darken around the Old Skool Detroit skyline is pleasing (if somewhat melancholy-inducing). I’ve seen maybe a dozen games there over the last 10 years, all of them from the upper deck and between 1st and 3rd, and despite a whiff of the Motown Vibe, there has always been something missing (besides my distant youthful innocence).

This time, we figured it out. MUSIC REFERENCE #2: As Rockin’ Bobby Seger suggests, “[you] got to ramble!” With the Tigers down 4-zip to the White Sox in a game that would underscore their irrelevance to this year’s MLB late-in-the-season proceedings, and with the crowd up on their feet for the 7th inning stretch, Sheila and I began a meandering descent toward the exit. Our journey around the outfield wall revealed a stadium that allows for community. They let you bring in food. There are picnic tables. There are large spaces to gather with decent views of the field. Rain threatened, but did not materialize, and despite the score, the crowd thankfully basked in the warm breeze of a perfect southeastern Michigan summer night.

Exhibit 1 – Lots of railings for leaning INTO the game …

Exhibit 2 – The cheap seats attract a sense of history…

I told this young man that I had been at the first Fidrych “curtain call” game on June 28, 1976. He said, “You mean the Monday Night Baseball game against the Yankees?” (That is correct.) “My Dad talks about that game all the time!” Old Guy Alert! (Ouch.) Incidentally, if you are not familiar with the greatest Shooting Star story in the History of The Game, please Google Mark Fidrych, or start with this link. It was a summer of Detroit baseball delirium...far better than a championship season.

I found I prefer Al Kaline’s plaque at Comerica to the one at the Hall of Fame (see earlier post). "Equal skill" indeed...

By the time we got near the gate, the Tigers had put the tying at the plate with 2 out in the bottom of the 8th. A pitching change and a welcoming usher allowed us to find a couple of seats just on the fair side of the foul pole in left field. Hope filled the air, like an ether, in the middle of a city that outsiders say has none. Anyway, we FELT it. As it turned out, pinch hitter Jeff Frazier swung through a 2-2 heater, and that was that.

But we were satisfied that we had watched this one well, and headed toward our car through a gauntlet of guys in wheelchairs with cups at the end of outstretched arms.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Obama Bucks

Did you ever ask yourself, "What happened to all that American Reinvestment and Recovery Act money, all those shovel ready projects that were supposed to take place?"

I have the answer.


It seems we never could drive more than 50 miles without a serious slowdown and the biggest traffic jam we were in was on a Sunday afternoon in Nowheresville, Michigan.

I add this only because the single most frequent sight on our trip were the signs telling you how much time you would spend in jail for killing a road worker.

Magical History Tour, Part 2

Back story - Mark's mother moved last month to live near her daughter in Wisconsin, thus we were left with, not only a lack of accommodations in the Detroit area, but lack of a reason to return to MI. Small kids and grandparents was a big driver. Now we have adult kids and few relations left in Michigan. So Mark and I took this opportunity to visit old haunts and say goodbye to places.

One actually occurred in July, when I spent an hour in Stamford, CT and saw the place where I lived for about 15 months where a portion of my brief college marriage took place. The building had been very poorly remodeled and thus looked completely different, as did the house across the street, and it was strange and I felt almost nothing and was surprised at how little I remembered.

Compare this to Ann Arbor, where I lived almost the exact same amount of time. (I left home after 11th grade and left A2 to go to college in East Lansing.)

This was the A2 of The Weathermen, The White Panthers. It was a great place to be young at a great time.

Ann Arbor was so clear in my memory and both places where I had lived looked basically unchanged.

Note: The Weathermen did change their name to the Weather Underground when the women objected to the sexism, which leads me to my next overheard conversation at the Fleetwood Diner in A2 where we had lunch and where Mark used to eat in the early 80s when he worked in this city.

"I told him what she said and he tells me 'That is impossible. I would never use a gender specific slur.' Oh puleeze!"

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

If you seek a beautiful peninsula, Part 2

But we did have fun and the weather was good in the mighty mitten.

Any temperature over 85 gets them groaning about how hot it is. HA HA HA HA HA!

We spent our anniversary (28!) in Friendly Ferndale. Went to a comedy club for a short play about three dudes who live on a lake and think their lives were saved by Rock and Roll, specifically Bob Seger. There was even a reference to our old station, WRIF, which is where Mark and I met and it remains a rocker in The Motor to this day. It was perfectly appropriate.

The following day we went to the Detroit Institute of Arts. It is one of America's great art museums (and it also has an excellent cafe in the basement with killer mac and cheese). This was corny romantic for us, as our early days together included quite a few trips to the DIA, especially for their Bruch with Bach on Sunday mornings. We was young and crazy and happy.

But the Rivera Court never fails to amaze. Though I have been there a zillion times, I see something new each time. Diego Rivera was hired to create these murals back in the 30s and it was funded by Edsel Ford. When the locals learned that a communist was being paid to paint, they protested. When local religious leaders saw a corner of the mural that seemed to show the baby Jesus getting a vaccination while being held by a nurse who looked like Jean Harlow, they were livid. Edsel held his ground. The rest is art history.

It took Rivera nine months to paint the murals. Meanwhile, Frida, who came to Detroit with him, had a miscarriage at Henry Ford Hospital. She painted about that.

And we met an old friend (another radio alum) for dinner and he left me laughing and it was good.

Photos, many photos to come. I swear, this crummy connectivity issue...

We also went to a ball game, but obviously, Mark will need to write about that!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Oh How I Wish Again

I was in Michigan and have been many time since I left in 1981 and my impressions are as they have been -it is a very beautiful. Yes, Detroit is blighted and we took no photos of that blight NOT through any agreement or plan and we have not even talked about it but I think we both thought it too cliche, too easy.

And then, on the cover of the USA Today today was this story about states trying to create a brand for themselves, like Pure Michigan, an ad campaign that has been very successful in a way they may not have anticipated; making Michiganders feel better about their state.

We have always loved the place. I wonder how much of that has to do with the fact that we spent the first nearly three decades of our lives here. After all, I do know people who are glad to have left their home city, state or even country and have never looked back. I just know that my favorite beach in the world is there.

Now, I have been to some good beaches: Cape Cod, both sides of Florida, California, Jamaica, Mexico, even Hawaii and France, but for me the best beach in the world is just a few miles south of Manistee, Michigan.

(How many times on this blog will I bemoan the inability of happy snaps to convey the beauty of a place? At least once more.)

And what I find so astonishing about this beach is that, in the 40 years since I first saw it, almost nothing has changed. There still are not many people, there still are no amenities, there is still nothing man-made in sight except for one new item; a sign designating that dogs are welcomed to the right, dog- free beach to the left.

Over and over I say "I am not a beach person" but this place makes me indescribably happy.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Mike, Mario and Max - Top Cats in TC

We arrived in Traverse City the last day of the extremely successful Traverse City Film Festival, created by Michael Moore and now in its third year. He claims it has brought so much money into the area, even Republicans are stopping him on the street to give him a hug.

We were a week early for the 6th annual Mario Batali Auction for the Leelenau Conservatory, wherein you can bid to get Mario to make you and 11 guests lunch. (Mario's summer home is in TC - Take that, Hamptons!) Mario has raised a sweet quarter mil this way. The Conservatory works to keep agricultural lands from becoming swankienda subdivisions. Happy to see that growing fruit is still a big business up here, though wine grapes have taken the lead in some areas.

But this is all prelude to saying that this is not the TC of my youth, the town best know for its Cherry Festival. This town has money and lots of it and it is hip. Who knew? In fact, in our travels around this water wonderland, we find the small towns have either attracted monied folks and their vacation/retirement homes or they look rather shabby. There is no in-between, or not that we have found.

But the visit was fine, time to see some relations and meet Max, a great cat with catcher's mitt paws.

The lovely view, which always pales in comparison to the real thing, is from a winery up the Leelenau Peninsula. Gorgeous!

You Would Think...

a full decade into the 21st century that quick and available internet access would be a given.

And you would be wrong.

1. Hotels have access but it is often slow. Very slow. And it can be unreliable and intermittent.

2. Chain restaurants also have access, and it is often slower than hotels. Perhaps it is dial-up nostalgia.

3. Getting on line in the homes of friends and relatives is difficult to impossible because NOBODY knows the password to their router. Do you know yours? I rest my case.

4. Mobile posting from phones shows up on the blog only sometimes and even then can be overlapping another post, making it unreadable.

We have already said that this is not a chronologically or even prompt blog. That is still true.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

West-bound I-94 (moments later...)

And I don't know how many times I've driven this stretch of I-94, but a significant landmark for me in years long past was a little restaurant on a bluff overlooking the Parma exit just west of Jackson. It's now the Velvet Touch...a whore house, surely serving as NO LESS a beacon for my fellow night riders!

West-bound I-94

Driving to Detroit. Mark at the wheel and me with the paper. " Ford is selling Volvo to the Chinese.". Then a moment later, "That is a sentence I never imagined I would say."

Strong to the Finnish

My, but there is so much room for puns!

Finn Grand Fest, Sault Saint Marie, Ontario. Met up with sister Sandi and her 100% Finn friend, Ruthann in this neighborly place, with 1/4 Finn Alexanrda and not at all Finn Mark in tow.

What's not to like about a guy with a grey pony tail beat boxing the Doobie Brothers in Finnish? Or a bunch of yoopers doing reagge tunes like "Me and Eino Down by da Trapline."

The amazing thing was how much Finnish we heard all around us - something that Sis and I had not experienced since we were small and hanging out at Finn Camp. Our Dad was fluent of course, though he claimed he was not, and Sandi and I never learned the language but the sounds have an almost genetic quality.

We learned that there are actually several Finnish retirement homes; a huge one in Sudbury, Ontario.

Mix that with the bad puns and dopey humor, plus a lot of accordion in the background and its a fest alright.

Please note the fun run medal winners in the photo. They were shocked to have won anything, since they do runs for fun, with Mark sometimes running backward taking photos. It was friend Ruthann who checked their names and picked up their medals and brought them to them just before we went to the Wife Carrying Races.

A great time was had by all or at least most. I can attest to the fact that having the wives wear helmets is very smart, as two got thrown when their men collapsed just feet from the finnish line.

But as a gent in the elevator said ruefully later in the day " You know the Bosnians have won the last two years at the World Competition."

Bosnians! Damn.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on...

See that box at the edge of the table? It contains probably 100+ letters from my Dad to his mother & father, brother Mike, and sister Joan, written over a period of about 2 ½ years, from mid-1943 to the end of 1945, chronicling his WWII experience. When I was growing up, he never talked about the War. I knew he had fought in the Battle of the Bulge (I overheard one brief story about hiding face-down in a snow drift for hours as a Panzer group rumbled by), but beyond that, I knew almost nothing about this period of his life. I had not seen the letters before this visit. There is nothing fancy about them. They are simple and direct, but they evolve from relatively light and informative (during training in the US) to a bit vague and repetitive upon arriving in Europe (owing to the censors), and finally into darker and resentful pleadings while cooling his heels during the last half of 1945 waiting to be sent back home after the War. They are emotionally vivid, incredibly moving…written when my Dad was Miles’ age!

I don’t want to oversell the impact, and originally was going to say it was like putting on glasses with a new prescription. Now, after a few days of letting it sink in, I’ll go with this: It’s like walking the streets of a city whose familiarity you’ve taken for granted for most of your life, and suddenly stumbling into a neighborhood you had no idea existed.

UP AND OUT: On the subject of walking/stumbling, allow me to pay tribute to Ribsy, as fine an early morning canine companion as has ever trod High Street in the company of man!

Grannies Gems

While the classic cars were being admired in Southampton, there was up the block, a sale of previously owned costume jewelry - hundreds and hundreds of pieces, sponsored by the Saugeen Grannies. They raise money to send to the grandmothers in Africa who are having to raise their grandkids because the parents have died of AIDS. The sign said there are over 200 groups of grannies doing the same thing.

A lovely reminder that EVERY one can do something.

Below, more photos from the Saugeen area of Ontario, Canada.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

No need for comment...

On the roof of the Met/On the bridge between Ontario and Michigan at The Soo.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Maple Leaf Flag

So we blows thru the airport in Toronto and grab Alex, then make for Southampton, a town forgotten by time. Mostly. Since we were last here 4 years ago, they have built a big new Rexall drug store and a Tim Hortons.

Uncle Mike and Aunt Nikki look well and we walked the business district and still had 55 minutes left to the hour. Ate at the "Chips Ahoy" and did some beach time and went down to applaud the sunset. Note how the piper serenades the sun down.

On Thursday evenings, the classic car owners gather for people to gawk and there is a 50/50 raffle for the Saugeen Hospital. Imagine- constant fundraising for the hospital because people care for and support their health care providers. Such a contrast to the states where hospital marketing is big business. But I digress...

In fact, both of my children have been patients at that hospital. Miles still has the scars from the last trip.

The last night we were there, Uncle Mike decided to give Alex a lesson in knife throwing. Photos to come.

As this place in Ontario is really part of the Sterling legacy, I will ask Mark to expound on this segment of the trip.

Leave it to me me to go on about Finn Grand Fest, coming soon to a blog near you.

Doubling Back...

In the early 70's I visited a friend at Princeton, and I dragged him to 112 Mercer Street where Einstein spent the last years of his life failing to conceive a Unified Field Theory. (Died with notes at his bedside; or so the story goes...) Anyway, he was a hero of mine at the time, and I spent the better part of half an hour assuming various positions on the front porch, making sure that we had shared some spatial coordinates.
On our first night in NYC we were out exploring the neighborhood on foot, and I snapped this picture of the old women next to the mosaic street pole. In the course of our week in East Village I walked by and admired that pole a dozen times and went back on my way to get the car out of storage to fully document the tile work.

As I’m looking over this thing in my viewfinder (Allman Brothers, Janis, The Fugs…it says Bill Gramm Way on the other side), I’m hit with the Hot-Kiss-at-the-End-of-a-Wet-Fist: I am standing in front of what was the Fillmore East! I am walking where all my Axemen Heroes walked (or stumbled, or whatever, and I realize the stage door must have been around the corner)! But which building? The Bank. Perfect.

And I realized in a flash that I most like my History (or otherwise teachable moments) in one of 2 ways:

1. “Sharing Space” – being EXACTLY where others have been while trying to sense what of the physical environment remains the same. (There will be a follow-up post on Ellis Island relating to this.)
2. “Worshiping Before the Alter” – being in the “space created” by a great work of art. The MET comes to mind.

The problem with the Hall of Fame stuff (if you’ll allow me to beat THAT dead horse some more) is that the artifacts have been taken out of their context, and they are for the most part incidental: A scuffed ball in a plastic case, that just happened to be the one that got the ride off Hank Aaron’s bat, might be one of the worst objects to properly illuminate whatever momentous event we’re taking about. One doesn’t worship the ball, one gawks at it! Know what I mean?

I suppose I can come up with personal exceptions. The mountains of flea market junk often delivered a strong jolt of melancholy (and a kind of historical lesson), but I’m trying to make a general point.

And, of course, life is for learning.