I am pretty sure everyone involved here knew the math.
Category Archives: places
William Benjamin Gould was a slave in Wilmington North Carolina. His owner Nicholas Nixon would rent Gould out as a plasterer working on mansions and public buildings around town. When he was finishing up the interior trim work inside the luxurious Bellamy mansion, he did a risky thing for a slave, he signed his work. He scrolled his name on the inside of a section of some ornate molding before he attached it to the wall. No one knew of it till 100 years later when his signature was uncovered during a mansion renovation. It was quite the find, not just because it was unexpected, and not just because slaves weren’t supposed to be able to write, but mostly it was unexpected because historians actually knew who William Gould was.
In 1862, one year after that mansion was completed, William and six other slaves stole a small boat and rowed it out into the Atlantic Ocean where the Union Army had a series of ships blockading the Southern coast. They were scooped up by the USS Cambridge and now finding himself a free man, Gould joined the Navy.
At the war’s end Gould settled down and started a family in Massachusetts. He became an active member of the community and his story appeared in occasional articles in various periodicals. Not long after the signature was discovered in Wilmington, Gould’s diary was published as a book titled, Diary of a Contraband.
Even more remarkable is that out of the millions of black people who have lived in North America since the late 1600’s, we have such comparatively few records of their names or their stories. We know some, like Fredrick Douglass, but there were so many more. There was Henry “box” Brown, or Crispus Attucks, or William Gould. Black people have been present and participating in every step of the United States’ evolution and it is when we consider the level of that contribution that we realize how they are disproportionately invisible; so few names and even fewer stories. But if we learn to look closer, there is still a legacy.
Trinity Church in New York City was built by black men. So was the U.S. capital. Dozens of universities, Harvard, Princeton, UNC, UVA, were built by black people. We can imagine that somewhere, even if only symbolically, in all these buildings, hiding under the plaster molding, are thousands of signatures just like Gould’s. The dome at Monticello, the columns at Mt. Vernon, and the masonry walls of St. Augustine, all built by people with hidden names. Look for them. Ask about them. On Bourbon Street, in Charleston, or even St. Louis, look for the black people. They were there.
But you have to look.
When my first child was old enough to understand words and look at pictures, I began showing her images of Hawaii and calling them Disneyland. I did this in hopes that when her peers and surrounding adults would inevitably begin celebrating and pushing this fabled “land”, she would be under the impression they loved Honolulu and that she would imagine herself there… not Anaheim.
Because I would rather spend all of my money taking my child to the North Shore than some manufactured place with people dressed up as cartoon characters. I figure both places are about as equally expensive (truth), so I might as well trick my children into making me happy.
As with most preconceived notions of parenting, my plan failed.
Upon realizing that in large part due to current proximity, my children and spouse would full-on demand a Disneyland visit, I full-on planned to send them along without me. Yes I love my family and truly enjoy watching them be happy, but I am not sure my being there to see it is worth $200.
Do you know how much prosciutto I can buy for $200?
I understand that the things I have typed so far, already qualify me for some sort of firing squad. I do not intend to be sacrilegious, seditious, or even traitorous, I just don’t want to spend $800 for my family to see someone dressed up as Snow White.
Everyone tells me it isn’t just that. But it is in fact also that.
Let me attempt to be objective about this. I will admit that:
The production value of everything they do is far above and beyond whatever “par” is.
The rides, especially roller coasters, are fun.
There is at any given time and in any given place, something to do or see.
The crowd management systems and procedures are surprisingly effective, and do in fact minimize the horrors of waiting forever behind hordes of everyone to do something fun for a brief moment.
The food while not being cheap, is not bad.
My wife and children loved the place almost more than they love me. They might strike the word almost. I added it to make myself feel better.
So, having admitted all of that let me list what Disney is not:
Near the beach.
An actual kingdom.
As good as Six Flags.
Solvang is a little town in Southern California that pretends to be in Denmark. It was founded around 1900 by Danish immigrants who liked sunshine more than snow, but apparently still wanted windmills, wooden shoes, and Hans Christian Andersen.This is made “apparent” because if you go there today what you will find is windmills, wooden shoes, and Hans Christian Andersen.
Most people would describe it as cute more than quaint, and in concept it is simply odd- but in execution it is surprising in its level of commitment to a theme. It isn’t like there is just a main street with similar facade, the imitation game goes multiple blocks long and deep.They have bakeries and gift shops, a town square with a scaled reproduction of Copenhagen’s round tower, a mermaid statue, and a museum dedicated to Mr. Christensen and his fairy tales.
All of that is fine. Very nice. Whatever.
Th real reason to go there is because this place called the Succulent Cafe has hands down the best charcuterie and cheese platter I have ever experienced.
Go there. Eat it. Wear some clogs, have two blonde braids, read about a princess and a pea, or show up on a Harley, any of those things… just make sure you have what they call the 4+4 for $44. (four cheeses, four meats, and a whole bunch of great little nuts, peppers, spreads, jams, olives, etc.)
The first thing I saw when I walked in the doors of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was a giant portrait of a guy wearing a kilt. The little plaque at the bottom said the subject shared my last name which obviously required me to like it.
But it wasn’t my favorite.
I gravitate toward American artists, like the Eakins they had there, but at LACMA this was also not my favorite. Nor the Rembrandt. Not even the Picasso exhibition which came complete with a guard who tells you to stop taking pictures, even though the painting were picture worthy- still not my favorite.
I think LACMA had squeakier floors, more construction, and just plain more wear and tear than most of the museums I have been too, definitely more than the Broad or the Barnes, but what made up for it, what became my favorite, was the people.
It wasn’t quite like some other places where you go inside and the only people there are retirees wearing clothing from the gift shop and bus loads full of middle-schoolers on field trips. No. This was more like if all those people who run up the Rocky steps in Philadelphia, then proceeded inside the museum. No one in Philly actually goes inside that place, in LA, they do.
I will not forward that the art is better, or that the patrons appreciate it more, just that there were more of the folks you see out on the streets- inside.
People of all sorts are always my favorite.
But aside from them, what LACMA did best, at least in my Philistine opinion, is what California has always done best.
The Eames duo were not LA natives, but no one is. But those chairs go with those paintings, which work in those normally awful (shall we say severe) buildings, and they then find themselves in LACMA.
Yeah… they have other stuff there too:
California, just like Texas, is kind of its own place. We don’t normally relate the two today, I blame the 60’s, but believe it or not both places have cowboys. Both places have also once been Spanish colonies, then Mexico, then their own country, and then a state. Oh yes, and there were plenty of people living in both places long before Spain showed up (though I wonder why anyone would have ever lived in North Texas or Barstow).
Californians are always trying to be innovators and ahead of the curve, in any way they can, so naturally they tried to imitate Texas.
As the capital of the Spanish state of Alta California, Monterey was the focal point of Anglo American capitalists and settlers. Mexicans kicked out Spain in 1821 and then things got a little silly.
Americans kept immigrating illegally to Mexican California and when they couldn’t get the support from the Mexican government, they decided they would just make the place America.
But first they declared independence. They raised a flag with a California Bear and one lone star… like the one in Texas. These Americans living in Mexico declared they were their own country of California… and then later that same year (1846) America went to war with Mexico and the folks with that bear flag said “just kidding independence. We would rather be America.”
So in Monterey, amid the nice little coffee shops and a remodeled Cannery Row, you can find an Independence Hall just like in Philadelphia. Remarkably like Philadelphia. feather quill pens and everything.
Then Texas struck oil and California struck gold, Hippies moved to San Francisco, and depending on who is president, both states talk about secession.
We selfied our way up the California coast.
It has taken me some years to accept the selfie as a photographic genre. Normally I prefer the standard ask a stranger to push the button, or perhaps a staged self timer on a tripod method of putting one’s self in the image. But in the spirit of true manliness and adulthood, I have relented.
Sometimes I kid myself it is strictly a visual form of journaling, more akin to record keeping than vanity. But really, it is just me refusing to act like a dignified grow-up. Or as some would say, a “man”.
What better way to record and commemorate Mancation 4 (or IV because as the Super Bowl tells us, Roman numerals are manlier) than to take self portraits via a method made famous by pre-teen girls and the Kardashians?
3 dudes on the PCH, one of America’s most romantic byways? Selfie. 3 hetero guys buying cream puffs at a bakery in Solvang? Selfie. 3 bearded fools in San Francisco? You got it; selfie.
Okay, two bearded fools and a scruffy guy. Feel free to confiscate my cool card- I don’t think I ever had one. But my man card holds firm. Come and pry it from my Charlton Heston hands.
We took 3 1/2 days, a rental car, and a complete disregard for planning and hit the road.
Mancation IV is in the books.