Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Saint Paul .... where the Jazz Age began

This is more on the order of an announcement than a post ….
 
 Although F. Scott Fitzgerald is not among my "favorite" writers, as a student of literature and an English major I truly would be derelict not to mention the week-long 14th International F. Scott Fitzgerald Society conference which opens this coming Sunday in Saint Paul. Lifting commentary directly from the local newspaper -- the Saint Paul Pioneer Press: "Scholars (more than two hundred) are coming from all over the United States, as well as England, Holland, Germany, Iran, Sweden, Scotland, Japan, Australia, India and Macedonia."

This sounds like it has the makings for an actual "Parisian" or "Pamplonian-style" party to me.
 
Fitzgerald, you may or may not know, was born on September 24, 1896, in a house only a few miles from my current residence. (I hope it is obvious this was a few decades before my arrival.) He lived there until he was fifteen, when he was shipped off to boarding school in New Jersey. He returned to Saint Paul after being dismissed from Princeton due to failing grades. Again, lifting directly from the Pioneer Press: "With nothing to lose, he re-wrote 'This Side of Paradise' and became the inventor -- and chronicler -- of the Jazz Age. After their marriage (in 1920), Scott and Zelda (Sayre) returned to Saint Paul for the birth of their daughter, (Frances Scott) Scottie. Fitzgerald never came back to Saint Paul after 1922 (despite urban legends that place him at various places in town over the years)."
 
Rather than attempt to list the events and activities and programs associated with the conference, I will instead suggest an internet search which will provide anyone and everyone with more information than an individual is able to digest. Since I will be out of town, I will be unable to attend any presentations .... but/but/but, I will be able to visit the primary photographic exhibit, "Sight Unseen: Rarely viewed Photographs of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his Family and Friends," at the George Latimer Central Library in Saint Paul .... see you there ?? .... maybe ?? And, since this is not an actual post, there is no need for actual comments ....
 
As a footnote, it is worth mentioning that this conference alternates between the United States and Europe. It was held in Saint Paul in 2002, and this will be the first time the international event has ever gathered in the same city twice.
 
The photograph here, incidentally, is of F. Scott and Zelda about the time of their marriage. The songs are two of my favorites sung by two of my favorites .... hmmmm .... later, baby ....
 



Monday, May 29, 2017

So it is ....

Today is Memorial Day ....

It began as an event to honor and to remember the Union dead from the American Civil War. After World War I, it was extended to include all the men and the women who died while serving in any war or military action. It initially was called Decoration Day, becoming Memorial Day after World War II and officially named as such, by act of Congress, in 1967. Over the ensuing years, it has become more and more a day in which people recall and honor family members and friends who came before them. The affiliation with the poppy, incidentally, began in 1918 and the poppy became the American Legion official symbol of remembrance in 1920.

Enough with the history ....

To maintain my Semper Fidelis attachments, included here are three videos (sort of) related to the U.S. Marine Corps. And, in keeping with one of the traditions of the Corps, the photograph was "liberated" from the internet where it was attributed to Getty Images.




 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Welcome, to the Merry Month of May

No, this is not a photograph taken from the deck of Fridtjof Nansen's ship, "Fram," to illustrate what happens to a sailing vessel frozen into the Arctic ice cap or one taken recently to demonstrate the ferocity of Minnesota winters. This is a sidewalk on Main Street in Cottonwood. Best guess is that the photograph was taken around 1910 .... Cottonwood is the small, rural, Minnesota town in which I spent the first eighteen years of my life.
 
While the town did not even exist until 1888 when a post office was established and the railroad arrived, the first homesteaders had appeared in 1871. Although I was not present in 1888 or even in 1910, this is the way I remember Cottonwood during winter months and the way I remember the depth of the snow: One did not shovel the sidewalk; rather, one shoveled a one-way path along the sidewalk.

The small sign in the foreground reads: "J V Mathews Lawyer"
Behind it, the sign proclaims: "Meat Market"
Further down the street, the sign says: "Restaurant"

There is a photograph of Mathews, incidentally, in, "An Illustrated History of Lyon County Minnesota," published in 1912. He was born on his parents' homestead on March 30, 1879, moved to Cottonwood on March 12, 1907, and had his office on the second floor of the Grieve & Laingen Building. Although the "snow shoveler" is not identified, he very well might be Lawyer Mathews.

By the way, welcome to the Merry Month of May. I shoveled snow both yesterday and today ....
 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Farthest north .... for a brief moment ....

 One hundred twenty-two years ago at this very moment, a wooden ship which had been deliberately frozen into the polar ice cap was adrift within it and captive to it. Each man aboard among the all-Norwegian crew was harboring the hope -- the dream -- of drifting over the North Pole and, by that means, being the first to reach it. The name of the ship was, "Fram," which in the Norwegian language means "forward." It had been designed and constructed for this specific purpose.
 
The leader of the expedition, Fridtjof Nansen, and a companion, Hjalmar Johansen, had left the vessel earlier and were on the ice retreating for Franz Josef Land after an unsuccessful attempt to reach the North Pole by sledges and skis. On April 7 in the year 1895, they had reached a point farther north than anyone before them. It was at that location Nansen decided if he and Johansen did not turn around then and there, death on the ice cap would undoubtedly overtake them. Farthest north, for a moment -- then, the moment is gone and the trek is over and the dream is forever vanished ....
As it was, Nansen and Johansen did spend eight months living in a stone/moss/ice hut at Cape Felder on the western edge of Franz Josef Land, living off polar bear/seal/walrus meat obtained by hunting. Their journey had begun in 1893 and did not conclude until 1896. Nansen, incidentally, had been the first to cross the Greenland ice cap on skis. This dash toward the North Pole venture was his last on the ice. He became a professor of oceanography, and he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 for his work with refugees. Johansen went on to explore Antarctic regions, but his luck was bad and his taste for liquor was unquenchable. He committed suicide at age forty-five.
When I was a boy, I idolized Nansen and had dreams of leading a similar life. This took me to books and to hunting and to winter camping on frozen Minnesota lakes in the midst of blizzards and sub-zero temperatures. I named my first canoe Fram, but cruising among January "ice bergs" on Lake Superior was the extent of its "far north" exploits. Hmmmm .... I wonder who the boys of today idolize and what dreams they might have ....
This has been sort of a post .... the photograph, incidentally, was taken of the ice-bound Fram by one of the crew in 1896. The ship and the crew did make it safely back to Norway, and the vessel later spent four years in the Canadian arctic and went on a south polar expedition. It is now on display in the Fram Museum near Oslo.
I will be back sooner or later .... probably later ....


Thursday, March 16, 2017

You looking at me ??!!

There seems to be a bit of "the grouch" revealed in the eyes of Buddy as he tries to catch up on his sleep, but is awakened by me stalking him with my camera .... click, flash .... click, flash .... click, flash. This is not an actual post, but, rather, a facsimile created to substitute for the real thing. Today, March 16, is my birthday, and I felt the need to mark it one way or another. What better way than by a photograph of Buddy ?? I doubt I will be back this way again until mid-April .... I feel a sort of strong urgency to pack up and move on, and time is becoming precious to me .... but, who can say ?? Certainty about anything or anyone is a scare commodity in these times.

Something special ....