Jim DeRogatis Leaves Sun-Times

Brainnnnnnnnssssss!
Plans to teach; sing about silver and gold.

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Louisville! The Possibility City! Part 5

Lincoln
Mike and I didn't spend our entire time eating pork and green beans in Louisville. Being both history geeks and Lincoln buffs, we spent a morning and early afternoon in and around the town of Hodgenville. We first heard about Hodgenville back in February (I think) through the film Being Lincoln: Men with Hats, a documentary about Lincoln presenters and their annual convention. That was what prompted us to head down to Kentucky for spring break. Even if you're not a Lincoln buff, and even if you do nothing else but visit Hodgenville, it's a nice little trip. Absolutely beautiful country. You can see why Thomas (Abe's dad) or anyone would have wanted to put down stakes there. True, the attrition rate was horrendous, but at least while settlers were starving/freezing to death or choking on their own tubercular blood, they had some pretty country to look at.

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site is the official starting place of Honest Abe's story. Abe was, as the story goes, born in a long-gone, single-room log cabin at the site. The only object in the park that has any connection with Lincoln (though in extremely modified form) is Sinking Spring, the source of the family's water supply. Signs advise against tossing coins into the spring pool or, should you take the time to climb the gate and reach out for a handful, to drink from the spring. Sounds like a good idea.



And look! Just beyond the trees you can see the Beaux-Arts temple Thomas Lincoln constructed out of logs with his own two hands, an axe, and a 1900s work crew.



The former Lincoln farm (which didn't provide very good soil for farming and which the Lincolns had to leave a few years after due to litigation), was later bought up by such personages as William Jennings Bryan and Mark Twain, and later Robert Collier, publisher of Collier's Weekly in order to preserve Lincoln's legacy. In 1909, the temple's cornerstone was laid by President Teddy Roosevelt. Pres. Taft showed up a few years later for the dedication, and a few other presidents have stopped by over the decades to deliver speeches and suck up all that positive rail-splitting energy, man.

Inside the temple you'll find a genuine phony log cabin that President A.L. wasn't born in—at the time of our visit the temple was closed for repairs, but it doesn't sound like we missed much. Amusingly, the site's brochures seem embarrassed about the place's gaudiness in the park's otherwise pastoral surroundings. "Uh, people used to build this fancy memorial crap all the time back then," the brochures mumble, "Sorry about that." Mike made the observation that the famously humble Lincoln would have been aghast at the ostentatiousness of it all. Good thing he didn't live to see his tomb.

Stop by the Nancy Lincoln Inn, right across from the temple, for a grand selection of Lincoln knickknacks and the voodoo doll John Wilkes Booth used in his first failed attempt on the president's life.



Back in Hodgenville we visited the Lincoln Museum, which features one of my favorite roadside attractions: wax dioramas. Lincoln is shown debating Stephen Douglas, being sworn into office, delivering his Second Inaugural Address (if you haven't read it, you simply must), and enjoying a play at Ford's Theater.



"Pipe down, Short-Round, I'm talking."

Also, death/life masks. During feeding time, the Abe Face eats a whole live rat.



Unfortunately, Nate chose to act uncharacteristically insane in the museum's confining quarters, so we kind of whipped through. Naturally, we took time for the requisite cut-out photograph. It is a little-known fact that I am as fugly as Mary Todd Lincoln.



The town center has a distinguished bronze statue of Abe created by sculptor Adolph Alexander Weinman. I think Lincoln is the president most often reproduced in statue-form. Some people can't take a bad photo. I posit that Lincoln couldn't take a bad statue. Man, he was one suave son of a bitch. Look at that statesmanlike bastard!



Overall, a great little road trip. And be sure to stop and have lunch at Abe's Country Kitchen. They serve the classic plate lunch of meat and two sides. I went with the country-fried chicken with green beans (and pork) and fries, because who needs an unclogged heart anyway? Be sure to pick up a mug. I think these are our sixth and seventh Lincoln-themed mugs, allowing us to drink our coffee with malice toward none and with charity for all each morning.

Crafts Project with the Boy

Nate Crazed
Now I just need to make a little Thor Heyerdahl .

House

Carpenter
The last time I made an entry to the old mr_neighbor blog was way back in 2006. We've done small things here and there, but nothing worthy of photos or commemoration (adding outlets and lamps, stuff like that). My father-in-law and I built a patio a year ago, but I just didn't feel like posting about that, or the house in general because, well, I probably saw a lightning bug buzz by and chased after it, leaving mr_neighbor to rot.

For those who came in late, about five years ago the wife and I purchased a 110-year-old Chicago workers cottage in the northwest side neighborhood of Mayfair. Mayfair is a fairly nondescript place; we never heard of it until the real estate agent took us there. We're north of Old Irving Park, where all the fancy-pants homes are, including the Ropp-Grabill House, an Italianate-style structure that existed before the Chicago Fire and, likely, the Civil War. I like to joke that the servants of the folks who owned all those Victorians, Georgians, and greystones probably lived in our house. Not so, but it was kept in a single family for many years before we bought it. At one point, nine people lived here, and it wasn't until the 40s that they converted the attic into a second floor.

Truthfully, the house was never in that bad of shape, and the owners didn't go nuts with aluminum siding or similar crimes of taste. They did, however, LOVE to paint and wallpaper—too much so. We've had to scrape and melt through an eighth of an inch of both to get down to the original wood in the front room and dining room. Currently we have a team stripping our woodwork and hardware and, as needed milling and replacing the original baseboards. Yes, I'd love to keep it all original, but some of the wood is damaged, and the plaster around the bottom perimeter of the walls and the ceiling in the front room is giving up the ghost. The work they've done so far is phenomenal; however, it's a slow process. They promise to be finished by this Friday. I will believe it when I see it.

Anyway, three years ago, when we were rehabbing the bathroom, we discovered some rather nifty wallpaper beneath the cheap plastic tiles and the not-so-nifty 80s paper. I'm sorry to report that we couldn't preserve a sample of the crane paper, so I'm happy I took pictures.

A few days ago we had the same experience in the kitchen. The contractor's men already discovered that the woodwork in the kitchen is maple, which will look unbelievably gorgeous when it's stripped and stained. Out of curiosity, Mike decided to start stripping the peculiar wallpaper currently in the kitchen (I don't know if I like the old-fashioned coffee grinder or the fish weather vane more), discovering beneath the kitsch some of the cutest, brightest, most cheerful fruit-themed paper we could have asked for. Too bad we can't save it. Sigh.



Louisville! The Possibility City! Part 4

Baron Samedi
Naturally, while in Louisville, I went gravetripping. Internet study didn't turn up much, at least for me. If you're one of those chubby guys who spends his weekends pretending to be a emaciated Civil War soldier with your buddies, you'll love it, especially if you favor the side that thought it looked better in grey. Not me. I wanted to see the last resting place one of Louisville's most prominent citizens. During the week, as we drove about, we saw community-boosting billboards touting Possibility City's favorite sons and daughters. Not all of them though. A giantess Diane Sawyer was within sight of our hotel, and one can run but NOT hide from Muhammad Ali. Dr. Hunter Stockton Thompson, on the other hand, is absent.

Then there's this guy.



Yes, as I told my co-workers, Col. Harland Sanders was a real guy. And yes, he really dressed like that—and without irony. The colonel's mint-julep-scented countenance is fairly prevalent around town, and seeing an actual photograph of the man does throw you a bit if you're used to seeing his cartoony doppelganger.



Col. Chicken-killer can be found at Cave Hill Cemetery, which is an experience in and of itself. A Victorian cemetery, the visitor can expect the usual picnic-ready grounds, though Cave Hill is a bit more rolling than others I've seen. As hinted at by the name there's a cave on the grounds, but we didn't see it. The main goal was to find the Colonel, which was remarkably easy even though we didn't have a grave location or any directions. We drove a bit and then there he was; or rather there his bust was, sagely assessing us beneath a romanesque pediment.





While standing over the Colonel's mortal remains, did I detect the faint aroma of 11 herbs and spices on the wind? Nah, but if I had it would have been wafting in from the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant less than a hundred yards or so from the cemetery. If he'd been cremated, however, I'm sure I would have caught his extra crispy scent.

When Mike and I travel, we usually plan a handful of must-do things and then, upon arrival, see what the town has to offer. Sometimes this works out well for us, as when we visited the Iron Man Museum on our way to Maine. Sometimes not so well when we visited the home of President Rutherford B. Hayes on our way through Ohio, which was surely the most boring thing we have ever participated in in our lives. Visiting the gravesite of President Zachary Taylor fell somewhere in-between, though more toward the Iron Man Museum end.

Taylor's obscurity and brief presidency are overshadowed by the crackpot conspiracy theories that posit that he, and not Abraham Lincoln, was the first assassinated president. An autopsy disproved the theory, suggesting instead that rather than ingesting poison, the president had gotten hold of some bad cherries and milk during a particularly nasty heat wave in DC an died of gastroenteritis. While not much of a president if only for his single year in office, Taylor was a military man for no less than 40 years, with "Old Rough and Ready" defending America in the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and the Black Hawk War. Interestingly, his military actions are highlighted on his memorial more than his presidency. The surrounding cemetery—Zachary Taylor National Cemetery to be specific—holds more than 13,486 ex-military residents, their uniformly colored and shaped stones sticking up like white whale teeth across the verdant grounds. I forbade Nate from joining the military at that moment.



De Profundis Netflixus

Film
The wife and I just received the disk that permits us to instantly view Netflix films through our Wii. It's mostly been handy for re-watching LOST and trying to figure out what J.J. Abrams still needs to explain in the last four episodes. Mike and I also play, "When Did the Series Go Screaming Off the Rails?" (I say the first inklings were when Boone died and Sayid—allegedly still pining for his lost love—and Shannon shacked up (note how fast Sayid got over Shannon, who was basically eye candy and a device to advance Boone's more interesting plot). The true frustration began when the Others finally turned up and the survivors became, collectively, a bunch of weepy, mentally challenged whipping boys waiting to be culled.

After Mike goes to sleep, I surf through the instant view selections—which is a lot more fun on our new wide-screen than it was on Mike's laptop. As I noted on my Facebook page today, the selections grow progressively more abysmal the deeper you search. It resembles weekend programming on the old USA Network cable channel. Basically, here's the progression of film quality in the selections:

Genres: Science-fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

1. Successful big-budget blockbuster from a few years back. Usually there's only a few of these, and you probably already own them on DVD. Why bother watching again?

2. Enjoyable 80s B-movie with plenty of rubber masks and no CGI, which brings a smile to your geek heart.

3. Memorable film from the 70s or 80s that stands out in your mind mostly for insane premise, cheesy special effects, and/or boob-displaying actress who went on to greater things.

4. Less-enjoyable, barely remembered pap from the 70s or 80s with actor who did better work before or after and for whom you feel embarrassed as you watch.

5. Brilliant director's biggest celluloid turd. The one that causes him to scowl and mutter darkly when interviewers bring it up.

6. Previously unknown sequel from barely remembered franchise, with main character played by third-string actor (e.g., substitute Alec with other Baldwin, or Liam Neeson with that dude who played that guy on that show--I think he was a sheriff or bounty hunter or something).

7. Decent indie film no one in your family but you has ever heard of that was declared an instant "cult classic" by well-known bespectacled film critic, then quietly faded away.

8. Eye-scarring Asian film that hatefucks your brain.

9. Straight-to-video, shame-producing masturbation fodder.

10. Student/fan films. Don't get your hopes up, buddy.

11. Copyright-free MST3K fuel that makes you realize how hard Joel and the robots had to work to make this swill palatable.

12. I... what? What IS this? What am I watching? Is that someone's bathroom? Does this film actually exist or have I fallen asleep?

Feed Me!

Mind Control Helmet
You know, me want TV to make more good. But it not do. Why it not make more good for me!?! Me turn on, no good is on most time. Where am good for ME? Me hit TV with gym shoe, but all for naught. Silver Spoons and Tom Brokaw still come on. Me am victim of modern age!

Likethewise, radio make no good. Play things hurt ears all of time.Very painful. me want dance to Glee cast "Don't Stop Believin'" cover, but what come up but Miley! Ooh! So angry when me think about lack of instant satisfaction! As if others like things me don't!

Hoo hah! But especially, ESPECIALLY social networking sites make no good enough for me. Talky people! All time people talk and writing thing me no care about. They say and do and post thing me not do, me not want, me no hear about because ME AM VERY BUSY IN MY ENTERTAINMENT TECHNOLOMOGIES SURFTING! No time have I seeing not good, hearing not good, and word-reading me not want!

Say, me got big idea! Create app what am hit people on head before them post what me no want! Make more good words, you betcha! People go, "Me want talk about weekend and post trolololo funnyman... OUCH!" Hammer app hit head, they forget dummy-butt weekend talky-talk and YouToob and sure are sorry! Hurr! Other app force probe into Tweetbookers and make them write like Truman Capote about only things me want read, OR DIE! Hurrrrrr! Hurrrrrrr!

What? Not follow thems who talk and do things me no care about? Just "skim"?

RIMDICULOUS!

Me required to follow all 57,349 Facetwit friemds. Me hotshot cutting-edge guy who not need no data smog! Need finger on squishy pulse of what people think, save when me not CARE what them think.

Me have so many problems, like this guy.

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Louisville! The Possibility City! Part 3

Beautiful Peephole


I got the subject line from this. Seems like a more reasonable and truthful motto than "The City That Works" (Chicago). Indeed though, Louisville has possibilities, but to do what? Maybe if it just stopped playing Xbox all damn day, got out of its parents' basement, and found a job, some nice girl would want to marry it. Oh, Louisville, so many possibilities...

We wandered the riverbank (or rather the concrete ledge overlooking it for a bit because the Muhammad Ali Center had yet to open. Neither Mike nor I are fans of boxing by any means, but since watching Leon Gast's spectacular When We Were Kings, Mike and I have been fans of the champ. Try to think of a modern sports figure who not only excels in his sport, but has, as Charles Dickens put it, made mankind his business. Yeah, try to find one amidst all the adulterers, juicers, gamblers, and showboats. Maybe they do a little charity work, but how many lost their titles because of a crisis of conscience, as when Ali lost championship because he refused to be drafted.

From another angle, I hate boxing, but I must say there's tremendous beauty in the way Ali fought, as evidenced by the footage the museum offers of his greatest fights. No wasted effort. No unnecessary cruelty (save when he's verbally chopping up his opponents). He literally glides.

The museum doesn't just explore Ali's life. It looks into the civil rights struggle, his Muslim faith, and his splendid self-expression. Despite five stories of exhibits it's a quick visit (lack of interest in the chromatically splish-sploshy art of Leroy Nieman encourages haste), but a rich one. And the "how to box" part is a hoot. Behold Nate "The Great" Kelly, giving his opponent the stink eye.

Louisville! The Possibility City!

X-ray Skull
More on our trip to Louisville...

We couldn't have asked for more beautiful weather on the trip up there or during the week. The weather on the way back--real Wrath of God precipitation combined with continuous spray from passing semis--was another matter. The windmills... I mentioned them yesterday, but I can't explain how awe-inspiring it was to come upon a field of massive freaking windmills in the middle of Indiana. It was like wandering through a plain of Nephilim-erected megaliths. The blades must have measured out at 20 feet or so, and the towers at about 50 or more feet, but that's just a guesstimate. I took pictures but they failed to convey the massive, cool-white, space-age bleakness of those giant pinwheels.

Before crossing the Ohio River, I noticed that the car's gas light was flickering, so I stopped at a station that, honestly, scared the crap out of me. Men with Fu Manchu mustaches mounting giant motorcycles. Camouflage chic. A screaming bat-faced woman who seemed very angry at life. Crossing the great divide between Indiana and Kentucky, the switch from north to upper south became immediately evident. God, guns, and Old Glory started turning up on billboards and bumper stickers. When we reached the hotel, I was amused and aghast to see the pawnbroker next door was advertising that they sold both new AND used guns. Coming from Chicago, it was equally disconcerting to sit in restaurants with smoking sections. In fact, cancer sticks were alight everywhere. Before we left Chicago I mused to Mike that, unless she remembered the great state of KY going blue during the 2008 election, it might be wise to remove our Obama bumper sticker. I didn't, but no harm befell our car. My bad, southerners.

The first day was spent swimming in the hotel pool and chilling out in our room after our rapid but nonetheless five-hour-long drive. Day two began with a stop downtown, where we looked over the mighty Ohio and visited the statues of George Rogers Clark and York, voting member of the Lewis and Clark party and admirable flipper of the bird to William Clark, when the explorer suggested that, hey, now they were back in civilization, York should get back to stepping and fetching for his massa. "Screw that," said York. Really, read that entry. It's a fascinating tale.



While York wins for best statue and story, General Clark did allow for a great "No, YOU the man!" shot. (Damn that scratched lens.)



Louisville also offered a new kook for my files: Kool Smiles. A Google serch only turns up a kid's dentist, and the YouTube address doesn't seem to work. Hm. WHO is trying to silence KOOL SMILES?



More tomorrow.

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