September 2012

Posted by Ellen

John Stein hasn't written us anything from Seattle, Washington, but he does have pictures to share of his dog, Omar Little.

Posted by Ellen

In attempting to learn what the photo above was all about, I came across the two pictures below; at left is a graduation ceremony at an electrical lineman school, while at right is a pole-climbing demo from a Power Day celebration. Based on this research, I'm prepared to say with some but not complete certainly that the guys in the top photo are doing nothing more than showing off their considerable skill.

Also, based on this research, I have begun to learn a little about lineman school. Historians of electrification tell us that during the early days of our power grid, approximately one out of every three linemen was electrocuted or fell to his death at work. Back then, obviously, the job appealed to people with a very high tolerance for risk-taking, and even today, people who are cautious and risk-averse by nature will have trouble forcing themselves to climb fifty or a hundred feet into the air and fiddle with live electrical wires. Thus, lineman school was created to teach daredevils to take risks in a less risky way.

The instructor of the class at lower left is Ken Bushman, a licensed hypnotherapist as well as a long-time lineman. He teaches breathing exercises as an aid to focus while working in the air. This particular class included fifty students, forty-six of whom made it through to graduation: "laid off construction workers, a food scientist in need of a change, a Zen monk, ex-cons, warehouse box movers, recovering addicts, veterans of Iraq/Afghanistan, the children of border crossers, descendants of American slaves, slackers, jokers, and serious men who love to work hard."

Posted by Ellen

Blatt Tire and Service, at the north edge of Chinatown in Philadelphia's Callowhill district, deals with cars at a location long devoted to trains. The sidewalk grating is labeled as an emergency exit for the subway, and the overgrown overpass in the background carries long-abandoned railroad tracks that have been designated for a makeover into an aerial park like New York City's new Highline. 

The good news is: the car passed inspection.

Posted by Ellen

Looking out Helen Behr's new window in Highland Park, Illinois.

Posted by Ellen

In 1934, Carl Gustaf Nelson painted life in New York's Central Park, above, the way life ought to be; in 1932 and 1933, photographers from the New York Daily News aimed their cameras at Central Park's Hooverville, below, revealing life that was not being lived the way people ought to live. Both images tell something of the story, in an upstairs-downstairs sort of way.

New York's homeless citizens began building shanties in Central Park's Sheep Meadow late in 1931, by which time half the factories in the city had been shut down by the Depression and literally millions of New Yorkers were desperate for food and shelter. In 1930 and 1931 homeless people tried to camp in Central Park, but they were repeatedly arrested for vagrancy; as the economic situation became more and more dire, however, policemen and judges became more sympathetic to the "bums," and official eyes were averted as this and many other Hoovervilles emerged. Some of the shacks were said to be solid brick and stone houses with tile roofs, built by unemployed bricklayers.

The residents of Central Park's Hooverville said they had built their homes along Depression Street. Many of the shanties had furniture and at least one had carpets, but there was no electricity or running water, no sanitary facilities at all. In 1933, the city condemned the dwellings, evicted the residents, and demolished the shantytown. The official justification was public health.

Thus, by 1934, when Nelson painted his picture, Central Park had been officially reclaimed for the sole use of well-dressed, well-to-do people like the ones in the painting, people with warm apartments to go home to and indoor plumbing. The people of Hooverville had moved on, and they would keep on moving on, scraping by, somehow, till a government stimulus program, aka World War II, finally brought full employment back to America.

Posted by Ellen

Maggie Stein and Colin Doody write from Rochester, New York:

We have two cats: Mac and Jasper. Mac is this tall, slim, elegant, handsome, smart and funny young man. However, as he has a shiny black coat, he is fairly difficult to photograph. You can see his eyeballs in the top picture above. That's one of his favorite hiding places: behind all of his favorite DVDs. He's got a comprehensive collection ranging from boy meets world and full house to sleepless in Seattle to black hawk down.

Jasper is our chubby, off-white, special little boy. While he is super cuddly and floppy (as you can see in the two pictures above), he is also less adept at normal cat functions. He often gets stuck up on top of our shelving unit, and he struggles with bathing, using the litter box, and controlling his caloric intake. He might also have a thyroid problem (which, as it turns out is a huge problem due to Rochester's soil), as he likes to sleep at least 18 hours a day. One of his favorite pasttimes, when he's not sleeping of course, includes pulling Q-tips and sponges out of drawers. He also enjoys occupying public areas in protest. While he doesn't voice his opposition well, we think he may have something against Ikea (see photo below). 

We hope that our special boys make the Good Morning email. They would be so proud of themselves. Mac might even link to it on his Facebook account. Those interested might consider friending Macbot J. Catson.... he could use a few more friends. (Please don't tell him we said that.)

Posted by Ellen

That would be the band! The scene of this marching is the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, but bands are everywhere in the fall, parading down the street and then stepping out spectacularly onto the fields of glory. The inimitable Professor Harold Hill of Gary, Indiana, whose Think Method of musical instruction worked well enough till his encounter in Iowa with Marian the librarian, probably said it best: "I always think there's a band, son."

Posted by Ellen

There are good things to say about summertime, but there's also this: it was too damn hot. The air finally feels fresh and pleasant at this new-beginning time of year, even if I've had the same song in my head now for forty-one Septembers. . . .