Posts Tagged ‘historic site’

Chili: Redux

Apr 25

A long, long time ago, in a blog post far far away (or here) I talked about the delicious tradition of Cincinnati Chili. I was at Skyline then, one of the many ubiquitous chili hot spots to be found in the Cincinnati area. It’s a very strange phenomenon to me, this regional food delight. While everyone has certainly heard of chili, almost no one I polled knew anything about how it is served in the Cincinnati area.

How much is that Chili in the Window? Oh... $5

There are two major distinctions which set Cincinnati chili apart. First, its unique ingredients. Chili, Cincy style is often made with things like cinnamon, allspice, and…cocoa powder!!!  That last one is as delicious as it sounds. Trust me.

The second oddity of this dish comes from how it is served.  Its consistency is more liquid, making it perfect to put on top of spaghetti. Oh yes. It is commonly served on top of spaghetti, with fresh diced onions, beans, and a heaping mound of shredded cheddar cheese melting perfectly over the dish.

I have to confess, my first attempt to eat it with spaghetti was a failure. But, I quickly realized that it was because of the way the spaghetti was cooked. That is to say, overcooked. Cincinnati does chili brilliantly. They don’t necessarily do spaghetti. So, this trip, I did what any self-aware person who is at least as smart as Pavlov’s dog would do: I ate it by itself, or on top of a coney dog.

The jury is in. The verdict: criminally scrumptious!  At the risk of going all Food Network on you, it’s savory, but not too meaty or chewy. The spices really bring out a sweetness that you don’t normally expect with chili, but compliment the dish beautifully.  Now, as for the best place to eat this dish…

One Big Man: One Giant Life

Apr 24

If the category of Presidents came up in Jeopardy! and I didn’t know the answer, I would always guess “Who is Taft?” You’d be amazed at how often I was right. My theory was that Taft was famous enough to be known as a president, but didn’t do anything famous enough as president to be widely recognized. One trip to his childhood home in Cincinnati, Ohio disavowed me of that notion, and catapulted Taft into the top spot as my favorite President.

Trying to Get My Arms Around His Presidency

First of all, I’d like to state that a little respect at a National Historic Site is in order. An extremely rude Brit, who looked disinterested the whole tour, spit her gum out onto the front lawn of Taft’s house. I know this fact isn’t essential to the story, but I bring it up because Americans abroad are constantly being labelled as rude. No. This is rude. And disgusting. But I digress…

The William Howard Taft National Historic Site contains a treasure-trove of information about the 27th President of the United States. The house itself has been restored to its original appearance, with cooperation from the William Howard Taft Memorial Association, and does much justice to someone with such a rich and expansive CV as our man Taft. No wonder he is the answer to so many a Jeopardy! question!  In his time, Taft was President, U.S. Solicitor General, the 1st Civil Governor of the Philippines (seriously), U.S. Secretary of War, 1st Provisional Governor of Cuba, and, the one he was most proud of: Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I get exhausted just writing one blog post. (Almost done. Nap time!)

Highlights of the tour include recordings of various campaign speeches Taft made, and, always a favorite with me, animatronics! Taft’s son, Charles Phelps Taft II is depicted in fishing gear, animatronically spinning yarns about his ol’ man and the rest of his family.

Show me a man’s life as depicted by some sort of robot, and I’ll listen. Fortunately, Taft is a worthy subject, and the Taft National Historic Site is a must see for everyone!

Wright Makes Flight

Apr 19

Birds do it. Bees do it. Even scientific chimpanzees do it. And why? Because back in 1900, Orville and Wilbur Wright decided it was time somebody took to the skies. And those beautiful skies that were so inviting to them were right here in Dayton, Ohio.

Getting their start running a successful bicycle company, the brothers knew that many a man before them dreamed of a machine that could break the oppressive bonds of gravity; which Isaac Newton so thoughtlessly “discovered” nearly 400 years earlier. While the English were clearly content to rest on the laurels of discovering why we were bound to the Earth, American will and resolve made strides to break that bond. And in order to do it, Orville and Wilbur learned from their experience with bicycles what any of us who has learned to ride a bike can attest: balance, and patience, is key.

Sadly for Dayton, there is just not enough regular wind or sand. The Wright brothers chose Kitty Hawk, NC, as the place where they would conduct their experiments with flight. Regular ocean breezes, and plenty of sand for soft crashing was what Kitty Hawk had over Dayton. And, in 1903, the Brothers were successful in getting their Wright Flyer off the ground. The rest, as they say, is history.

Wright Brothers Museum

Wright Brothers Museum

To Dayton, it’s a bit more. The city is proud of its most famous citizens. A visit to the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park – free admission – proves that the lasting impression made by these two pioneers of flight is not only above us in the clouds, but also here, in their beginnings, when they were just two men with the same dream others had held for centuries before. But, with some innovation and patience, this dream became a reality.

First Airplane, Wright Flyer III, Dayton Historical Places, History of Flight

Huffman Field

It is here in Huffman Prairiewhere they perfected their (air)craft. Between 1904-1905, over 150 flights were conducted in this field. It is also where the Wright Flyer III, considered the world’s first practical airplane, was tested and perfected.

It is an awe-inspiring experience, to walk in a field where dreams literally took flight.

The Deadwood Ghost

Oct 31

Historic Deadwood, South Dakota was the destination, and the city’s reputation for murder and mayhem brings out the supernatural in everyone. The town, they say, is filled with ghosts; in the streets, in the buildings, and particularly, in the Bullock Hotel: the very hotel in which we were staying!

“Ooh, you’re staying in the most haunted room in the hotel,” the lady at the front desk told me, her voice quivering slightly with both awe and fear. “I won’t go in there. Ever.”  And I have to tell you, I believed her.  Everyone at the hotel seemed a bit, um, uneasy?  Spooky?  Odd.  That’s the word.  Like the Adams Family were odd.  And though I don’t believe in ghosts, I do believe in being scared, so I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be staying in Super Supernatural Room.

Rob and I decided we should take the hotel’s ghost tour, just to see what we might be up against that night. We were not disappointed.

The head of the tour was a guy who looked like real-life Deadwood legend Seth Bullock.  Back in the late 1800s, Bullock was the sheriff of the town, and the original owner of the hotel from 1895. You may know him best as the lead character in the HBO series “Deadwood” from a few years back.

On the ghost tour, we learned only one very important ghostly fact: in 1919, Seth Bullock died in room 211 of this hotel at 2:30am! Guess which room Rob and I were booked into for the night?

The tour concluded, I turned to our guide and told him in jest, “See you at 2:30.”  He laughed. Of course, I never saw him again.  But, I wasn’t the only occupant of room 211…

Later that night, Rob woke me up with some sort of crazy commotion.  It was around 2:45am.  Most of the lights in room 211 were on.  So was the TV.  I asked Rob confusedly what was going on?  He responded, “Nothing. I’ll tell you later.”  Too tired to think it was anything other than an insatiable desire to watch American television, I fell back into a blissful sleep.

When morning came, I prepared for Rob’s explanation.  Apparently, while I slept, at 2:28am, the door handle to the room began to jiggle.  There were loud bangs on the door, and, most of all, the door to the washroom, which I had left open, slowly, slowly began to close.

Rob asked me if I had left the washroom door open.  Indeed, I had.  I don’t like closed washroom doors at night just in case one needs to visit that room. I didn’t think it would be a ghost.

The two of us walked around the room, knocking on walls, making ‘boo’ noises, checking the washroom door to see if it was rigged.  My philosophical training has given me an acute sense of what it takes to rig a room for supernatural experience.  I sensed none!   There is no other explanation except that THE GHOST OF SETH BULLOCK WHO DIED IN THAT ROOM AT 2:30am CAME TO VISIT THE ROOM AGAIN AT THAT SAME TIME OVER 100 YEARS LATER AND TRIED TO GET INTO THE ROOM BY USING THE HANDLE! THEN, UPON DISCOVERING THAT THE DOOR WAS LOCKED, HE DECIDED TO KNOCK LOUDLY SINCE IT WAS LATE AND WE WERE PROBABLY SLEEPING!!!  WHEN WE DIDN’T ANSWER HE THOUGHT WE WERE RUDE, SO HE USED HIS SUPER GHOSTLY POWERS TO CLOSE THE WASHROOM DOOR: SLOWLY!

There are no other explanations for how someone from a hotel who wanted to perpetuate the myth that there were ghosts (because ghosts attract tourists) could jiggle the handle of a door from the outside and bang on it, with the vibrations enough for the washroom door, which is framed over an inch off the ground and therefore precariously open, to close.  Slowly.  However…

During the ghost tour in The Bullock Hotel in Deadwood, we were encouraged to take pictures, especially in the mirrors, as there were reports of faces (not your reflection kind of faces) and other abnormalities sighted in there.  Oh, we laughed and snapped away.  Then we looked at one of the pictures.

Is it the ghost of Seth Bullock?  Teddy Roosevelt?  Michael Jackson?  Am I looking at the Man in the Mirror?

Room 211

Aug 24

“Ooh, you’re staying in the most haunted room in the hotel,” the lady at the front desk told me, her voice quivering slightly with awe and fear.  She concluded, “I won’t go in there.”  And I have to tell you, I believe her.  Everyone at the hotel seemed a bit, um, uneasy?  Spooky?  Unbelievable?  Odd.  Odd is the word.  Like the Adams Family were odd.  And though I don’t believe in ghosts, I do believe in being scared, so I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be staying in Super Supernatural Room.

To offset any impending fear, the boyfriend and I decided we should take the hotel’s ghost tour because ghosts are the opposite of bees: if you ignore them, they will not go away. They just want your attention and love.  So we confronted them.

The head of the tour was a guy who looked like Seth Bullock.  He dressed like a cowboy and had the long hair and mustache seen in the many photos of Bullock that graced the walls of the hotel.

He also made a big point of telling us that he was Seth Bullock, relating all stories in the first person Seth.  I will tell you that the mystery and magic that a ghost tour can hold disappears just a little bit when you know the guide is a guy pretending to be a dead man whose ghost (which is him) is haunting the place where you are staying.

We didn’t learn much about ghosts, except for the most important fact: that Seth Bullock (our guide, or not, depending on what level of crazy you operate on) died in our room at 2:30am! Excellent!  We actually cheered.  We knew the history of Bullock from the show Deadwood, so it was actually fairly exciting to be a part of history.

The tour concluded, the guy pretending to be Seth Bullock stayed in character, talking about how he went to Mexico to get his brother’s body after the Spanish-American war, then left the building dressed as Willie Nelson.  The last thing I said to him was, “See you at 2:30.”    I never saw him again.  But, I wasn’t the only occupant of room 211…

Deadwood: Not Just TV, It’s History…I think

Aug 23

Whether you are familiar with the HBO series* or not, Deadwood, South Dakota offers up a fascinating view of the lawless history of the settling of the West. 

Deadwood was originally part of the Dakota Territory granted to the natives, however, once General Custer and his men discovered gold in them there parts, all bets were off.  This gulch in the Black Hills quickly became ‘settled’ by fortune seekers, from both sides of the law.  And behind every fortune-hunting gunslinger, there is invariably a whole lotta hookers.  Prostitutes and prospectors: how could this town not succeed!?!

Deadwood was a place where people came to make money.  An illegal settlement not part of the United States Union, it quickly gained a reputation for its lawlessness; one which was well deserved.  The murder of former lawman Wild Bill Hickok – shot in the back while playing poker – was a prime example. 

But HBO kept the memory of the town alive in its show, bringing back to life all of the characters that once brought the town its infamy.  These are their stories…

Naw, just kidding.  But I will give you some highlights coming up so you’ll understand our encounter with the ghost of Seth Bullock!!!


Jacqueline Smith

Apr 28

I can’t cover all of Charlie’s Angels, but when I get the opportunity, who am I to turn it down? 

Y’all met Kate Jackson earlier in Birmingham Alabama; which, all things considered, seems like a distant memory.  I pause now to reread my own post from several weeks ago, and encourage you to do the same.

Back to Jacqueline Smith. Any true fan of the Angels or of K-Mart will notice that this is not the spelling of the name of the actress and fashion designer. So what Jacqueline Smith am I talking about?  Well, Rob and I went to the Lorraine motel, where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed in 1968.  It’s now the National Civil Rights Museum, and has been for many years.  As many years as Ms. Smith has been protesting its existence on a corner across the street from it. 

She was working as a maid at the motel at the time King was assassinated.  Afterwards, the owner of the motel kept the building, maintained it as working motel, but with one difference: he did not touch King’s room, which remained as it was the day of the assassination. 

But what of Ms. Smith?  In 1982, when the motel foreclosed and it was eventually turned into the museum it is today, Ms. Smith, who was living there as part of her payment for being an employee, was evicted.  She didn’t like that.  Not one bit.

And so, the vigil began.  Her neighbo(u)rhood of low-income housing was being turned into museums and more expensive buidlings.  She believed that these changes violated the message of Martin Luther King.  She wants to preserve his legacy. 

And so, every day, for 20 some odd years, all day and well into the night, she stands across the street at her corner with large banners of protest, selling books and fiddling with her cell phone, encouraging everyone to stay away from the National Civil Rights Museum.

Despite talking to her, I did not really get any of the information above from her.  The more lucid parts of this post I was able to cull off of the internet.  I guess after 20 years of protest on the street would make anyone lose focus.


Apr 25

“Vicksburg is the key.  The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket.” Abraham Lincoln. 

And he was right.  Rob and I knew it.  Which was why, disguised as harmless Canadian tourists, we found ourselves in Vicksburg, Mississippi this fine, sunny day:  to win, for ourselves, the key to America.  To fulfill all of Rob’s childhood hopes and dreams. 

Stealthily, we made our way to the battleground, now known as the Vicksburg National Military Park.  Lucky break: the park admission was free this week, as were all National Parks in America!  Our plan was exceeding beyond expectations. 

Inside the visitor’s cent(r)er, the park ranger was playing a tin whistle, spinning a yarn about Guinness beer and his youth spent in Ireland.  Sigh.  Guinness. I love you, Guinness.  But I digress…

With the ranger being so distracted, how could we fail?  Purchasing the interactive CD for the car, we set out to bring our plan to fruition: tour the park and learn more about the siege of Vicksburg during the Civil War! What.  We’re Canadian.  What kind of plan did you think we would have??

This site was far more interesting a tour than Gettsyberg. Sure, I was in High School when we (history class) went to Gettsyberg, but even Rob agreed. 

By the way, if you don’t know your history (it’s U.S. history for my non-American readers), the siege of Vicksburg was won by the Union lead by General Grant’s army.   Not by either me or my faithful companion.  Now, it’s time for a Guinness.  Sigh…

Ebony and Ivory

Apr 20

I have to say, Montgomery is the most historically opposed and interesting city I have ever been to.  Where else can you find a wealth of landmarks dedicated to the Confederacy, right alongside those noble benchmark achievements of the civil rights movement?  In a matter of blocks and minutes, you can stand on the very spot where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as President of the Confederate States, and then sit on the very bench where Rosa Parks waited for the bus ride that would change the course of history? 


Montgomery also boasts the first White House of the Confederacy, where you can very freely roam the grounds and look around.  In contrast, follow the trail of the march from Selma to Montgomery which helped define the struggle for human rights.  Every turn leads you to a different relevent, fascinating piece of history.  It’s almost overwhelming.

The Capital building is a stunning momument to this greatly conflicted state.  There are even a few surprises on the grounds, like a statue to Dr. J. Marion Sims, considered to be the father of modern genecology. 

But even odder than our good doctor, and certainly farther reaching, was this find.

Why is Rob wrapped around this tree in a rapture of love?  Because, this is a Moon Tree.  That’s right.  The seeds that were used to grow this tree were brought aboard the Apollo 14 flight to the moon.  Amazing.  With all of its contrasts, it’s really a tree from the moon that brings us all together.

Truly, Montgomery is the gift that keeps on giving.

Wrong Turn: We’re Now in Greece?

Apr 13

In my 4th year Metaphysics class, Dr. Griffin gave us a hypothetical case. Suppose some guy named Sam sneaked (as my mother always said, there is no such word in the English language as snuck) into the grounds of the Parthenon and took, every night, one brick, while replacing it with another identical brick.  Eventually, he took and replaced all of the bricks that make up the Parthenon. Sam used the ones he took and rebuilt the historic building in his backyard.  Question: which one is the real Parthenon? The one he left behind in Greece, or the one he built in his backyard?

Well, years after graduating, I finally know the answer:  The Parthenon is in Nashville, Tennessee. 

What does a town that wants to get recognized do to, well, get recognized?  How about promote.  And I mean, promote the hell out of yourself.  In 1897 , Nashville had a 6 month exposition to put themselves on the map and let everyone know they were there.  This is long before Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, or Dolly Parton bringing the mountains with her.  And what was one of the things that Nashville built for this exposition?  Why, the Parthenon.  No.  Really.  It’s a full scale replica of the Parthenon.  And it is incredible!

The outside is impressive enough.  But spring for the whopping $6.00 to get inside, and you will be knocked over.  On the upper floor, they have recreated a 42 foot high statue of Athena.  So outrageous is this statue, even Rob was moved to worship our favo(u)rite Goddess of War. 

Lesson: if you want to promote yourself, DO IT RIGHT!

*Lisa knows there are really no answers in metaphysics.  That’s why she did so well in it.