Category Archives: Like Life
Leta and I spent most of our time at Longwood Gardens in the controlled environment of the conservatory, while the rain washed the outside. One of the destination plants of the conservatory is this single individual bread palm, Encephalartos woodii; the species is extirpated in the wild. Each of this cycad’s bright orange cones, each larger than a loaf of bread, is a pollen strobilus.
My copy of Chris Ware’s Building Stories has been sitting on a shelf—well, lying on the floor propped up against a shelf—for months, too pretty to unwrap. This afternoon I finally had some time to clear off the coffee table and take a few snaps of the unpackaging.
Just as I act on stage “for fun,” and I’m reluctant to engage in paid work because of the baggage that comes with it, I’m perfectly happy to record textbooks on a volunteer basis. But I think it’s great that the growing audio books industry is keeping some professional actors afloat.
Entertainer’s Secret? Gotta get me some of that stuff.
I’m back with NPR for a short gig, working on- and off-site. As Scott Simon reported this morning, NPR is relocating from its Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. building (really two buildings stitched together: on the 5th floor, there’s a two-stair difference between the blunt end of the building and the Tiny Desk Concerts venue at the “skinny end” where Bob Boilen sits) to new digs on North Capitol Street.
My consultant’s badge for my new client has this awesome legend on the back:
All Authorities are requested to cooperate in facilitating the movement and emergency mission of this bearer.
Well, “awesome” isn’t quite the word for it. “Humbling” is better: a reminder that some people work at a job where they don’t get to come home every night to a warm bed and a roof.
Hmm. I see a lot of these titles are still on the shelf from last time.
As I was looking for pics of Mom, I found pictures of the Austin America (the one that I crunched). Something in the chronology is wrong here: the date on the edge of the print says 1970, but I would have been only 14 then. Did we really shoot pictures of me behind the wheel when I wasn’t legal? Also, I’m not sure when it was that we lived in the house on Roy Avenue, which you can see in the background. Was it 1970 or 1972? I remember hanging out in the semi-finished attic, reading David Copperfield for class, so maybe it was 1970.
I visited a couple of new DC-area performance venues this past year. The conference room at MITRE is stretching the category a little bit.
- Room 1N100, MITRE Corporation, McLean, Virginia
- Gregory Theater, Hylton Performing Arts Center, Manassas, Virginia
- National Galley East Building, ground level, Washington, D.C.
Yet more traveling this year, visiting family and plants. Overnight stays in 2012:
- Lexington Park, St. Mary’s County, Maryland
- Richmond, Virginia
- Brooklyn, Kings County, New York
- Woodstock, Shenandoah County, Virginia
- Martinsburg, Berkeley County, West Virginia
- Glen Allen, Henrico County, Virginia
- Marmora, Cape May County, New Jersey
- Bexley, Franklin County, Ohio
- Sharonville, Hamilton County, Ohio
- Rocky River, Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Our last stop in the Dayton metro was at Oakwood High School, a rather fine institution from which I was graduated in 1974.
There is nothing new under the sun, and a young person with access to an automobile will find a way to use it for mischief. And so it came to pass in those days, that after an evening with my nerdy friends of playing Risk and usually intoxicated by nothing stronger than diet soda, we would find ourselves on the streets of this lovely, leafy suburb in my mother’s blue Austin America (an underpowered MG with a singularly peculiar suspension system).
And my friends said, behold, the other end of this sidewalk ends with a curb cut on the Avenue of Schantz, near the playing fields. Let us rejoice in this attractive nuisance, and drive your vehicle from the parking lot directly into the Avenue of Schantz, without impediment.
And so it was done, and we drove the America down the sidewalk (think of Jason Bourne being chased through the streets of Paris in his Mini Cooper, but at vastly reduced speeds), and it was good.
That is, until some obstacle loomed on the passenger’s side and put a big crimp in the door. (Was it that big red oak that you can see in the first image? I seem to remember some sort of stanchion.) I achieved a new level of creative prevarication when I explained to my mother that the damage wasn’t my fault. (It was only last year, when she was zonked on hospital sedatives, that I came clean to my mother. But I think she’d figured it out a long time ago.)
Mom drove the America for another year or so, into my first year of college at least, until the hydrolastic suspension leaked and the car developed a severe list.
In any event, the sidewalk connection and the curb cut are still there, almost 40 years later. The ADA-compliant bumpy bits are the only change.
We took a quick drive through Dayton on our way back home to D.C. I spotted this building-mounted street name sign in the Oregon district. Back in the 70s when I lived in the metro, the Oregon was ju-ust starting to be revived and redeveloped. That might have been the first time I hear the word “gentrification” (though perhaps it was when I arrived here and heard what was going on on Capitol Hill). At any, the neighborhood looks rather spruce these days.
Leta and I walked around downtown Piqua on a quiet, somewhat chilly Saturday afternoon. We had coffee at a local ice-cream parlor, chatting with the proprietor; he said that much of his business was party catering out of a truck. I found a fallout shelter sign on the wall of the YMCA where I used to play bumper pool.
Evidence of the city’s milling and manufacturing past is still quite evident. This building is close to the river, just a few blocks down Main Street from what used to the the movie theater and is now a Hallmark store.
The centerpiece building of the downtown square, once the Orr-Statler Block and then the Fort Piqua Hotel (where the Greyhound buses would stop), is now the recently-restored Fort Piqua Plaza. The public library is the main tenant; I can’t turn up the story of how and why the library moved out of the Flesch mansion on Greene Street.
We didn’t have as much time to explore Cincinnati as we had hoped, but we did make it to my first intended destination: the American Sign Museum, located in an industrial district between the Mill Creek expressway and the rail yards.
The strength of this place is its collection of neon and other lighted signs, but there are some fun non-electrified artifacts as well. This Big Boy adheres closely to the original design: three-dimensional slingshot in the back pocket, striped pants, saddle shoes, and a zaftig physique. You can also find some well-authenticated Burma Shave signs, not the dime-a-dozen reproductions.
The examples of neon on display are just stunning, and many of them in remarkably clean condition, especially considering the proprietor’s disposition against restoration work. Leta was extra fond of this tavern sign, at right.
Just a few blocks back toward the freeway, at Colerain Avenue and Hopple Street, we stopped for cheese coneys and chili at Camp Washington Chili, then back on the road!
Fortified with gluten-free donuts, we set off south from Columbus to visit three Scioto Valley sites dedicated to preserving earthworks built by pre-European peoples. We talked a lot about the “mound builders” when I was going to school as a boy in Ohio, but I can’t recollect actually visiting any of the sites.
The orderly groundskeeping by the NPS makes you wonder what the Hopewell did to keep these enclosing ceremonial walls tidy. Certainly they didn’t have access to golf course fescue for planting.
We continued southwest, and after recovering from a wrong turn in the town of Bainbridge and chasing the setting sun, we proceeded to Serpent Mound, near Peebles. Current scholarship now attributes this work to the Fort Ancient people. The two approaches could not be more different. Where the Hopewell sites are geometric and situated on level ground, the Fort Ancient construction is organic, undulating along a ridgetop. It reminds me of Andy Goldsworthy’s wall at Storm King. The one thing the sites have in common is proximity to a watercourse.