Category Archives: United States

Cape Meares Five-Wick Oil Lamp

 

Ruth and I spent most of the past week re-exploring the north Oregon Coast between Tillamook and Wheeler.   The essential magazine to have on such a journey is The Original Highway 101 Mile-by-Mile Guide, which is available all along this incredible coast.  This guide rightly calls 101 “The Road Through Paradise”.  It’s not fast but it sure is scenic

Ruth used to have a relative who lived in Tillamook.   When we visited Aunt Cleta, there wasn’t much to do in this town that gets, on average, 88 inches of rain each year.  Now there are about half a dozen places to explore within a short drive of this town named for a Native American tribe.   The town itself has some traffic-slowing construction projects occurring and it’s incrementally improving.   The big draw, however, is still a tourist lure that isn’t in many guidebooks or in the Mile-by-Mile Guide or on TripAdvisor–The Tillamook Cheese Factory.  We stopped there twice.  One of my favorite local lures is Cape Meares, where one of Oregon’s 11 lighthouses stands.   We went there only once this time because it wasn’t opened, and it was both cold and rainy up there.  Tours will be available and its gift shop will reopen in May.

 

The Cape Meares Lighthouse operated from 1890 until 1963.   It stands on a promontory 217 feet above the Pacific Ocean but is short.  In fact, the path down to it offers views of its Fresnel lens, not its white exterior.  It’s only 83 feet tall.   It’s lens is super-powerful and could be seen 21 miles out to sea.  It’s light is permanently off until half a million dollars are raised to repair it.

In 2010 two drunk guys fired shots at Cape Meares Lighthouse, breaking 15 windows and damaging its rare bull’s eye lens.  They were identified and arrested one month after their escapade that they admitted was the dumbest thing they had ever done.   It was, at first, estimated that the cost of repairs would be $50,000.  However that amount has risen to more than half a million dollars, so it’s unlikely that the lens will ever glow again.  The 15 window panes were quickly replaced but the lens remains damaged.   In court Zachary Pyle and David Wilks Jr. were ordered to pay $100,000 and serve 3 16-day jail terms over 3 years, but I don’t know if that sentence was carried out.   I do know that the lighthouse was originally built for $60,000.   The road up to it is closed beyond the lighthouse because the Cape Meares Scenic Route was damaged by a landslide in 2013.  Road repairs are supposed to occur soon so that the route can be reopened in 2020.  In 2015 the North Head Lighthouse at Cape Disappointment, which is across The Columbia River from Astoria, was also vandalized.

The many visitors to Cape Meares usually walk into the forest to see The Octopus Tree, a Sitka Spruce with an unusual shape.   We didn’t, this time, because of the weather, but we did watch the murre colony for a while and read about them.  Baby murres, white-breasted seabirds, have never flown when they leave the nest at 3-weeks-old.  They leap from the cliffs and either soar or fall upon the rocks below.  If they survive, their father takes care of them for up to 8 additional weeks as they learn about their environment.  Murres live in crowded conditions but often soar above the lighthouse.  They are an impressive sight as is the scenery at Cape Meares, which is 10 miles west of Tillamook.

Hank

 

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A Lost Nevada City

It’s a little more than 62 miles from Las Vegas to Overton, so I wanted to make sure that the trip was worth it.  There were 2 gentlemen working in the new visitors’ booth in the Las Vegas Convention Center.   The 1st had never heard of the Lost City Museum, which is in Overton, and the 2nd man was silent, probably because he didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the older gentleman he was working with.  As soon as the man who had never been to Lost City was distracted by another traveler, however, the younger man motioned me closer and whispered ,”The Lost City is really worth visiting.”

He was right.  The Lost City Museum proved to be both worthwhile and unusual.   The name refers to a Puebloan culture, people who lived in the area about a thousand years ago but are pretty much unknown.   Archaeologists have determined that they were the first permanent residents of what is now Nevada.  But who they were  is largely unknown.  Too much time has passed.  Artifacts not recognized by the untrained were damaged.  Mormon pioneers built atop the pueblo site.  A road was cut through it.  By 1940 many sites were under Lake Meade.  Scientists have figured that this lost city’s residents were basketmakers and builders of a pueblo that extended for 30 miles.    They were already living there 15 centuries ago, had a dynamic culture by A.D. 1000, experienced drought and abandoned the pueblo around the middle of the 12th century.

The Lost City Museum, a Nevada State facility, is comprehensive and not the kind of place I can explore in a short visit.  There was too much to absorb. A WPA project, the Lost City Museum has been around since 1934 and is unusual in that an actual archaeological dig was incorporated into the exhibits.  There are examples on display of stuff found in the area from many eras and many tribes.  There were beautiful baskets, reconstructed pottery examples, exhibits about the Mormons, info about mining, etc.  The displays ranged from updated to traditional, but it was obvious that this place is well curated and cared for.

One of my favorite areas was about Katsinas, which were represented by a number of well-dressed Hopi dolls like the fella with red ears.    Katsinas were spirit beings who guided and taught people.  They lived on mountain peaks, descended to be among humans during the winter solstice, and stayed with them until  late July.

Both of the films available were worth watching.  I enjoyed observing native Americans repairing outdoor pueblo examples.   The Lost City Museum is a 5 Compass attraction that’s exactly where it needs to be.

Hank


Victorville

Excluding towns that have been absorbed into large, nearby cities, there are only 19 stand-alone metropoli in the United States with populations over 100,000 that Ruth and I haven’t visited.   Last year we made it to Chattanooga, TN, Columbia, SC, and Charlotte, NC.  On our 3rd adventure of 2018, we made it to Victorville, CA.

Victorville is north of San Bernardino in the Victor Valley just past Cajon Pass.  Those driving north to it on I-15, which cuts diagonally through Victorville, have some fine views of the San Gabriel Mountains.  In 1860 Victorville had a population of 10.  Growth occurred shortly after that because a telegraph station named after railroad pioneer Jacob Victor located there.  Victor’s big lifetime achievement was bringing this nation’s 2nd transcontinental railroad to the West Coast.  The California Southern Railway was part of the Santa Fe system.  In 1885 Victor drove the first train engine through Cajon Pass linking San Bernardino to Barstow, which is 34 miles north of Victorville.  Victorville is on the edge of the Mojave Desert.   By the year 2000 Victorville had a population of 64,000.  Today it exceeds 122,000.

Some crazy people live in Victorville and commute to jobs in the Los Angeles area.   I talked to a very nice woman who lives in Hesperia, which is just south of Victorville.   She told me that her husband drives to his job near LAX every day.  She starts waking him up for his long commute at 3 am.  I have no good photos of Victorville because it’s 95% shopping centers and new neighborhoods strung along I-15, and the old part of town is the dilapidated home of about 3,000.

Surprisingly, 13 movies have been at least partially shot in Victorville.  One in the Fast and Furious series was filmed there as was Grand Theft Auto.   The script for Citizen Kane was written there.   Cowboy star Roy Rogers and his wife Dale Evans were both born in Victorville, and there used to be a museum devoted to their careers here but it moved to Branson before closing permanently.  There’s still a small tribute to them in the California Route 66 Museum on D Street in the old part of town, where Ruth & I learned that most of 66’s foreign visitors now come from Brazil.  Why?

 

Hank


The Focused Whitney

 

The last time Ruth & I were in The Whitney Museum in New York City it was in what appeared to be a cramped, upside down building at Madison Avenue and 75th Street.  It was 2010.  In 2015 a new Whitney, it’s 4th location since its founding in 1931, opened in the Meatpacking District.  One of the reasons why we returned to New York City in 2017 was to see it.   The Whitney is unique in that it is devoted to American art.   It had outgrown its East Side location because its collection was up to more than 21,000 works.

The new Whitney is between the Hudson River and High Line Park.  It was designed by Renzo Piano, whose works like the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris have been controversial.  I like London’s The Shard, but its top level condos proved hard to sell.  His Whitney design is not beautiful in the traditional sense but it’s a winner as expansive museum space.

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The Meatpacking District is undergoing a Renaissance.  It has design stores, fine restaurants, great buzz, etc.   The Whitney with its contemporary look, outdoor decks, and supersized indoor spaces fits right in.  NYC’s original City Guide calls it “The most cutting-edge of the major art museums in New York”, a city with more than 1,000 museums, and adds that the building itself is worth the trip.  This is correct if you like white walls and austere rooms.

The building uses floors 1, 3, 5, and 8 for temporary exhibitions.  Floors  6 & 7 are devoted to The Whitney’s own collection but there will be, I was told, frequent changes.  At first, for example, the curators had not put up many of the Edward Hoppers The Whitney is especially known for, and they had to bring some out of storage to satisfy visitor complaints. I liked the way they mixed photography with more labor-intensive works, giving this art form some well-deserved, equal credibility.  Ruth liked the Studio Cafe on the top floor.  We both liked the step-outside-for-grand-views decks on the upper floors.  The best temporary exhibit we saw was devoted to Alexander Calder mobiles.  It has closed.  A couple of times each day a staff member used a stick to make some of them move.  Mobiles are meant to move but they seldom do in museum displays.

Plan ahead.  Unlike other museums that traditionally close on Mondays, the Whitney’s day off is Tuesday.

Hank

 


Bosnians & Syrians

 

The neighborhood in St. Louis where I grew up has been transformed.  By 2013 there were 70,000 Bosnian immigrants living in the area.  This was the largest concentration of Bosnians outside Europe.

While there are almost 2 million Hispanics in Chicago, there aren’t too many in St. Louis. Why did Hispanics migrate to much colder Chicago instead of St. Louis?  I don’t know. Where Ruth and I live now, there are lots of Hispanics but also a large number of Asians. Asians, it seems, choose the West Coast in far greater numbers than the American Midwest.

St. Louis has always been a city of immigrants.  Between 1763 and the Louisiana Purchase, it was basically French.  Streets in my old neighborhood have names like Laclede and Chouteau.  Germans and the Irish arrived in large numbers in the 19th century.  My father was the former and my mother the latter.  Most of the Italians, who arrived in large numbers a bit later, lived on The Hill.  Three of my best high school friends were Italian, Austrian, and Polish.

Why did Bosnians choose to come and settle in my old neighborhood?  When Yugoslavia splintered in the 1990s, Bosnian refugees fled civil war.  Many came to St. Louis and lived near the intersection of Grand and Gravois.   This part of town became known as Little Bosnia.   When I was growing up, Gravois was not pronounced in the French way.  It was Gra-voy Street to me, the first syllable pronounced like the GRA in grass.  Early Bosnian settlers in the 1990s built smokehouses in their St. Louis backyards to spit-roast whole lambs.  This alarmed some locals.

Bosnians proved industrious.  The area they choose to live in centered around Bevo Mill, a long-time St. Louis restaurant.  The neighborhood improved. Bosnian shops and restaurants sprang up.  Bosnians started many successful businesses.   Zlatno Zito, Taft, and Iriskic Brothers are on Gravois.  The 1st two are restaurants and the 3rd is a grocery store.  Bosnians sent their kids to universities.  Their community had less unemployment than others and has already somewhat splintered.   Many of the mosques, restaurants, and Bosnians are in other places in the St. Louis area.

 

When I ask St. Louisans about Bosnians, most of them tell me that they’ve dined in their restaurants. Bevo Mill has recently reopened, but I don’t know its cuisine.  Grbic serves Bosnian food, is well-liked, and is still on Keokuk Street in the old neighborhood.

But Bosnians have begun to scatter. Berix, a Bosnian restaurant, is on Lemay Ferry Road relatively far from Little Bosnia.  So is the Bosnian Islamic Center of St. Louis.  Many Bosnians would like to see more Syrians settle here.

I took the photo below in a store window on Grand Avenue near where I once lived.

Hank