I just realized (or remembered, now I think about it) Kindle has a visual quotation feature. This one refers to Tahiti, “paradise” to the early sailors who landed there and found a different and less restrictive society, not so much after a few visits.
June 25, 2022, third full day in Ann Arbor
I woke up with a charley horse in my right calf. Then I put weight on my straightened right leg and quickly took it off. When that nerve isn’t happy, I’m not happy — or able to stand or walk. I settled in with Stacy Schiff’s The Witches and tried to baby my leg for a few hours. Then for a few hours more.
That didn’t work, and my inactivity made me feel guilty.
Finally I dragged myself out. After a brief rest in the campus park a block away (yes, that’s sad) I decided I was up to walking to Nickels Arcade.
On the way I passed the State Theatre. I like the old-school tile although I’m not tall enough to capture the entire name. It looked like the theatre had been taken over by a Target store, but I found out later Target had replaced another retailer in the building, Urban Outfitters.
Coming attractions for the Michigan Theater (note ”er” vs. ”re”) down the street (Liberty):
I reached Nickels Arcade and thought I’d check out the Peace Corps medallion Roadside America claims is nearby. That required walking several more blocks south on State Street (hint, Roadside America: No, it’s not near University). I found the building but didn’t have the steam left to go around it to find the medallion. I’ll regret that, I’m sure. Well, here’s a Nickels Arcade marker instead:
I did spot this other Roadside America attraction across the street — it’s hard to miss. Whimsically called “See No Evil” by Roadside America, it seems especially appropriate for the times.
Another sculpture dominated the museum’s lawn.
Finally I limped back to Nickels Arcade for iced coffee and a cookie at Comet Coffee, to Sava’s for a drink and dinner, and to the park area for a bit of shaded rest before limping back to my room.
I don’t think I ever posted this marker before. It’s across Huron from the bed and breakfast.
5,171 steps so far at 20:24. I would have sworn it was at least 7,500. Each painful.
May 16, 2021
When J and I first visited Deep River County Park a few years ago, this sign intrigued us. We’d meant to return for a game, then along came COVID-19.
At last, however, with Pfizer shots 1 and 2 in arm and appropriate passage of time, we headed over to Indiana to see the Deep River Grinders take on the Chicago Salmon in a VBBA match.
We arrived just as the game was starting, and the good-sized parking lot was beyond full. Just as we were about to give up and park at one of the other lots a good walk away, a miracle happened — someone backed out of one of the prime spots close to the field. It was meant to be.
I plopped my chair on the near side of the field — the Grinders’ side. No matter — this is supposed to be a gentlemanly sport where everyone cheers everyone, everyone’s a good sport, and breaking the rules (including spitting) earns you a fine of 25¢, paid to the game’s judge.
While J went to a nearby table with food warmers that looked like it might belong to the hot dog vendor, a woman in period costume passed out cookies. Some, not all, were giving her donations, so I did too. I have no idea what they were for.
Meanwhile, it turned out the people with the food warmers were holding a birthday party, but they told J he could have any leftovers, which we did later in the game. Eventually we spotted the hot dog truck, so we ended up with two sets of hot dogs. And a cookie. And the popcorn I’d brought.
Early on the Salmon took the lead, although the Grinders started to come back. Then the Salmon had a blowout inning from which the Grinders couldn’t recover. As the game progressed, the judge (not umpire), sporting the town dress of a man of business, kept an eye on things (no doubt hoping to earn a 25¢ fine or two). He was drinking from what I thought was a beer bottle, which seemed out of place, but it turns out you can wash your hot dog down with sarsaparilla. I figured that out too late to get one.
For the seventh inning stretch, the teams performed a musical number from which we found out tidbits of trivia about many of the players.
Several times during the game, an alert sound popped up on someone’s phone. I was puzzled as the weather looked stable. I overheard that they weren’t weather alerts, but, sadly, Amber Alerts. At some point she turned the volume down, they stopped, or she left.
The game had started at 2 p.m. and ended before 4 p.m. There’s not much time wasted between pitches, batters, or innings.
After the game, some players stayed behind to practice with any interested children. One girl who looked to be about three or four years old hit the ball (with some help) and toddled around the bases (with some help). I wonder if she’ll remember that in 20 years. No doubt there’s video if she doesn’t.
At Graceland Cemetery, where many of Chicago’s most notable citizens are buried, these two tiny stones, one slightly tipped and more worn than the other, tell a sad story — but I don’t know what it is.
They’re found amid several generations of Marshall Fields and family. (The original Marshall Field founded the iconic Chicago store that is now a Macy’s.) I can’t say I’ve seen many, or maybe any, markers like them. Many infant markers have dates or a year and possibly a gender, if nothing else. These two, however, are “Baby.” Just “Baby.” Not even “Baby Girl” or “Baby Boy.” I have questions, many obvious. Someday I may dig for the answers.
- When were they born?
- When did they die?
- How did they die? Were they stillborn? Miscarriages? Tiny victims of birth defects or disease?
- What gender(s) were they?
- How are they related? Siblings? Cousins? Possibly twins?
- Who were the parents?
- Did the parents visit these minimalist markers?
- Finally, why did the parents or family leave such generic markers in a cemetery where vaults, obelisks, statues, and other hallmarks of fame and fortune abound?
While the Fields’ individual markers are fairly nondescript, their area is reigned over by this statue, behind a currently empty pool.
Who was “Baby”? And who was “Baby”?
September 27, 2020
Whenever I think I’m going to run out of forest preserves to explore, there always seem to be more. Sunday I spotted Whistler Woods on the Little Calumet River, but then my eye was drawn northward to Dan Ryan Woods and a single word on the map: Aqueduct. That sounded promising. I was torn, but Dan Ryan Woods is slightly closer, and who wouldn’t want to check out an aqueduct?
At 257 acres, Dan Ryan Woods is big and is one of the few forest preserves within Chicago. We stopped at the first entrance we came to on 87th, where I used the necessary and J. took videos of noisy remote-controlled racing cars.
At the next entrance, we found a visitor center (closed), a sledding hill, fitness steps based on the same principle as those at Swallow Cliff Woods, a fancy playground (relatively new, I found out later), and a monument “dedicated by Gold Star mothers in loving memory of our sons who gave their lives in the world war (1914–1918),” which had been been relocated to Dan Ryan Woods.
Dan Ryan Woods is also known for its view overlooking downtown Chicago. According to graphics by the visitor center, Dan Ryan Woods is the tip of an island once in ancient Lake Chicago, 14,000 years ago. This area is one part of Chicago that isn’t relatively flat.
We took the pedestrian underpass beneath 87th Street, where a sidewalk leads to a trail into the woods and to the limestone aqueducts that wind through them. According to the Forest Preserves of Cook County:
The limestone aqueducts at Dan Ryan Woods were constructed by the CCC to prevent water from washing away soil on the steep ridges. . . The CCC built limestone stairways in the 1930s for visitors to more easily access the ridges surrounding the aqueducts — and to admire the land below.
Time, and substantial restoration work, have turned a trip up these stairs into an awe inspiring climb through a mature woodland. Oak and hickory trees arch high overhead, while redbud and ironwood trees stand tall under the canopy. Native grasses and wildflowers carpet the woodland floor.
It’s an amazing walk, even in September, and I recommend climbing the stairs and looking down. The aqueducts were bone dry, and a few joggers ran in them. I was content to walk along them and enjoy the feeling of being deep in the woods, lost in time and space — and Chicago.
More here about Dan Ryan Woods.
1 Later I found a 1991 article that said Whistler Woods had become a dumping ground for bodies. I hope that’s well in the past.
A few years ago I met local writer Pat Camalliere at Sand Ridge Nature Center’s Settlers Day. I bought her first two books and this year read The Mystery at Sag Bridge. This passage caught my eye:
In the center of the clearing was a large stone slab, a cube of about four feet. Like 2001: A Space Odyssey, in miniature. The rock appeared to be a monument, and the clearing man-made. Fascinated, she approached the granite monolith and read the words carved on it: CAUTION—DO NOT DIG. BURIED IN THIS AREA IS RADIOACTIVE MATERIAL FROM NUCLEAR RESEARCH CONDUCTED HERE IN 1943–1949.
A memory of something she read, somewhere, sometime: Cora put it together. The old road led to Argonne Laboratory, a large national research facility that was hidden in the woods in these Forest Preserves during the Manhattan Project. It was an ideal location, for then, as now, one could walk for miles in these woods and remain unseen. She pictured Enrico Fermi and Albert Einstein walking this very ground, although she was only guessing.
This, then, was the secret hidden behind the trees that Cora had come looking for. She had no idea anything was left of the Manhattan Project and was surprised the waste was buried near the old site, as the present location of Argonne was across the valley two miles away—in fact, she would have been able to see it, were it not for the trees. She felt the same sense of history and being in another time and place as she had when she visited Saint James, just a short distance from here.The Mystery at Sag Bridge by Pat Camalliere
Because other places Camalliere uses are real, for example, St. James at Sag Bridge Catholic Church, I assumed there may be a marker over buried radioactive waste in the forest preserves. On Sunday, J. and I went to Sagawau Canyon to watch the birds. Afterward, we had a little time, so I did some quick research and found what’s known as “Site A/Plot M” located at Red Gate Woods, just a few minutes away.
When we arrived at Red Gate Woods, I knew we were headed in the right direction when I saw this sign by a rough trailhead.
The point where we started is densely wooded, with an eroded trail marked by bike tire tracks and horseshoe prints. Soon it opened up onto what may have been a paved road at one time. I had to follow my location on Google Maps because there were several branch trails and a few splits in the paved road.
it was quiet along the way, with little traffic noise except for the occasional motorcycle or truck engine being revved.
Google Maps says this trail is “mostly flat”; my eyeballs and legs say it’s mostly uphill. We saw some bikers in the woods and on the paved road, along with a few people walking.
After another sign . . .
. . . and a few bends in the road we came to the Site A marker. The text wasn’t what Camalliere quoted in her book. Later I found out she quoted the Plot M marker, where nuclear waste is buried (“DO NOT DIG”). Site A is where the two nuclear piles (reactors), part of the Manhattan Project, are buried (I wouldn’t dig there, either). According to the Forest Preserves of Cook County website, “The area surrounding Site A and Plot M continue [sic] to undergo annual monitoring and remain [sic] safe by all measurements.”
Here’s I hoping I can make it someday to Plot M. Assuming I can find it.
Time for another look at Doctor Atomic.
Added June 5, 2022: PDF from the Department of Energy about Plot A/Site M.
Sunset on the Illinois & Michigan Canal as seen from the Texas deck of the canal boat The Volunteer in LaSalle, Illinois. Sorry for the zooms. I have to remember not to do that.
The Return of Martin Guerre by Natalie Zemon Davis. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1983. 176 pages.
In today’s science-based world, where simple DNA tests can help free the innocent on Death Row, the story of Martin Guerre might have ended before it began. Inheritance and money were involved, and then as today we take both very seriously. The risk of exposure is greater now, but at least your life doesn’t depend on guarding against it.
In Davis’s own words, the book is an attempt to go beyond the film, “to dig deeper into the case, to make historical sense of it.” In fewer than 200 pages, Davis takes the reader along an exploratory journey into the past that includes a surprising wealth of lessons about geography, local economies and law, culture, beliefs, and customs and practices. She mixes facts such as what is known about Martin Guerre, his wife, and her family, with the conjecture necessary to build a plausible story.
Why did each player act as he or she did and how? What did each hope to gain (or not lose) and how? How did each manipulate public beliefs and opinions? Davis runs through various scenarios, focusing on the village but also referring to broader, changing political and religious issues where they can help answer the larger questions, for example, about Catholic law on marriage and what it meant at the village level, or how the new Protestantism may have been spreading in Artigat and affected the people and the case.
Although the motivations of the actors can’t be known, for the most part Davis’s conjectures seem plausible against the sketchy context she is able to provide. Like Davis, we can only guess at the emotions that must have wrenched the family members when Martin Guerre left and when he returned (and returned again) — the anger, fear, perplexity, concern, and acrimony that can accompany any unplanned or unwelcome change in a life course that has been accepted, especially when that change affects future status, comfort, and security. The older Martin Guerre’s refusal to lead a “life of quiet desperation” upsets the equilibrium the village and the families have achieved and thwarts his own objectives.
In a conclusion that’s as interesting than Martin Guerre’s case, Davis covers the relevant history of Jean de Coras, an officer of the law who found himself compelled to tell the story from a legal perspective, but can’t quite put his finger on the kind of story it is. Davis’s tale of his origins, life, career and writings (including Arrest Memorable), and own demise nearly overshadows that of Martin Guerre. For Coras, “the outcome was wretched . . . at least it makes it hard to tell the difference between tragedy and comedy.” His end, no less tragic than that of the man on trial, combined with his ambivalence toward the case and his selective account of it, made me wish I’d spent less time on Guerre and more on Coras and his rationalizations and changing sympathies.
The Return of Martin Guerre is a great way for a non-historian to learn about a time that we’d like to think was simpler, but in which a seemingly straightforward case could raise religious, judicial, and even philosophical questions around one village, one family, and one man — and whether he was, and was believed to be, Martin Guerre.
A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War. New York: Random House. 2006. 416 pages.
In my 50+ years on Earth, I’ve lived through the middle and end of the Cold War, nuclear proliferation, and wars waged from the depths of tropical forests and the expanse of deserts using everything from automatic weapons to automated drones. While the war veterans of 1782 and 1865 wouldn’t recognize much of today’s weaponry or some of the new tactics, “War is hell,” as it has always been.
In A War Like No Other, Victor Davis Hanson outlines the cause, means, and results of the Peloponnesian War and how the strategies, tactics, and technologies evolved as the war dragged on, changing how the Greek world approached fighting and the military even as classical Greece tore itself apart. Hanson organizes his history by the war’s essential elements, such as fear, fire, disease, terror, armor, walls, horses, and ships.
This may sound discombobulating if, like me, you’re not familiar with the classical Greek era. By taking this approach, Hanson brings into relief the critical points and factors in the war’s agonizing progress and evolution, for example, the insufficiency of ravaging, the growing reliance on lightly armed troops, the need for horse troop support, the increasing desperation on both sides of sieges, and the inclination of democracy to make awful decisions and punish the leadership that carries out those decisions.
While aw is a survey, rich details draw the reader into the horrors of the war and its political background — the confusion and noise of the hoplite battle at Delium, where in the chaos Athenians kill Athenians, and the desperation at Syracuse, where men stranded on Sicily hundreds of miles from home are hunted down and slaughtered even as they drink the water of bloodied rivers. Later in the war, sailors are “speared like fish” as their triremes are destroyed.
At the beginning of the war, the expectation is that some land, mainly in Attica, will be ravaged; some cities may be besieged; some triremes may be sunk; and some hoplites will be killed honorably in a few decisive battles. As the war drags on, the rules are ignored, then forgotten. The war, which could have been a series of decisive battle and events, becomes a chronic, progressive disease with no cure but the destruction of one host or the other. Even when it’s in remission, such as during the Peace of Nicias, it’s festering within the Greek body.
By the time Athens is finally defeated, left to watch its vaunted Long Walls torn down, thousands of Athenians, Spartans, allies, and bystanders have died, hundreds of triremes have been rammed and sunk, and the Athenian treasury has been depleted, yet no clear victor has emerged. Athens and her aspirations have been reined in, but Sparta is weaker, while its enemies are not. In the meantime, war, once waged ostensibly according to conventions and rules (even if often broken) has turned into a nursery for ideas and technologies aimed at killing the most people most efficiently.
Why should you care about a war fought thousands of years ago over fear of an empire that faded soon after? Throughout Hanson refers to many wars that have happened since — Ottoman, the American Civil War, the first and second world wars, Vietnam, and Iraq. In some ways the Peloponnesian War set a precedent for why and how modern conflicts are fought, who participates, and how conflicts are marketed and perceived during their up- and downswings.
As Hanson recounts critical miscalculations made by the leaders, peoples, and combatants on both sides, it’s hard to forget that future historians and peoples will look back and marvel at our own errors and blunders and wonder how we could be so oblivious to so much that is obvious. After all the years, money, and lives lost, perhaps the Peloponnesian War’s clearest legacy was helping to make future conflicts easier to sell to people who want to be winners and ever more coldly and efficiently deadly — at which point, no one wins.
March 21, 2015
J. wanted to take his camera and lenses to a store in La Grange to be sent out for cleaning and let me tag along to take advantage of the sunny if nippy, windy day (March 21).
After leaving the camera shop around 4 p.m., we headed west to Graue Mill and Museum on Salt Creek in Oak Brook, which I’d discovered online when looking for nearby forest preserves or walking trails.
Opened in 1852, Graue Mill served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Although the mill and museum weren’t open yet (the building opens for the season in mid-April), we could still photograph the mill exterior, its wooden wheel, and Salt Creek, which has wide trails along its banks — something to check out in warmer weather. Near the mill, at the point where Salt Creek narrows before passing under York Road, a wide swath of water rushes over a dam that’s as attractive as a dam can be. Here in Illinois, you take waterfalls in any form you can find. The trails near Graue Mill appear to be popular with families.
On the way back down York Road, I noticed ostentatious houses, both finished and under construction. I saw them only in passing, but they looked like something developed at Disney — a cartoonish 21st century contortion of poorly conceived fictional, flat medieval architecture. A man’s home is his castle indeed. I’d rather spend the money on less house and more land. And an architect.
Our next stop was at the Drake in Oak Brook, where the door was locked but opened for us by a woman with a mobile phone glued to her ear. From the bathroom, I heard J. talking to a man in the strangely quiet hallway off the strangely unpopulated lobby. It turns out that the Drake had undergone remodeling and wasn’t open to the public (including us) yet. That explained the mysterious and eerie dearth of people.
Finally, we returned to the city and Julius Meinl, where my gulaschsuppe was followed by gulasch, because I was in that kind of hearty mood. Bon appetit.