Friday, September 30, 2005

NYC Post #3: British New York. 1664 - 1783. A Brief History of the Big Apple. (#3 of 8).


Note: The information here is all gathered from The Historical Atlas of New York City: A Visual Celebration of 400 Years of New York City's History.

Officially, from this point forward, the colony was named New York after James, the current Duke of York. Despite occasional moments of autocratic rule, the British governance was on the whole more tolerant and broadly conceived than the Dutch West India company, which encouraged the heterogeneity for which the city would soon be famous.

Initially trailing behind both Boston and Philadelphia in population, New York quickly acquired a reputation that belied its numbers. The dominance of the harbor combined with a mixed population resulting from competing French, Dutch, and English colonists, native influences, and soon increasing numbers of slaves, huguenots, and Jews, British New York was almost at once a rambling and confused hodgepodge of settlers.

In fact, over the latter half of the 17th century, despite broad retention of their rights, the previously dominant Dutch merchant class steadily lost ground to British and French craftsmen. By the end of the century, a sort of de facto segregation had developed, with different nationalities sorted into separate streets in six wards. The wealthier classes occupied the dock areas adjacent to the East river, while the Dutch continually moved inland. Zoning was practically unheard of, conceptually, at this point, so most blocks were a dense mixture of residences and mercantile activity. Upriver, the farmland retreated further and further as the rechristened New York continually advanced.

* * * * *

British rule was not without its hiccups, however.

In 1673, during the third Anglo-Dutch war, the colony briefly reverted to Dutch rule under the name of "New Orange." Reprisal followed in the form of intensified British colonization, a process that may have been a distant death knell for the remaining Dutch merchants (who had, of course, sided with their countrymen in the founding of New Orange). In 1682, Democratically-minded reforms introduced by governor Thomas Dongan, an Irish Catholic, were rejected by the crown, and both taxation and royal prerogative were exercised more broadly both in enforcement of laws and the appointment of officials. Upheaval later followed in the form of the "Glorious Revolution" along partisan lines parallel to the Bloodless Revolution in England. Those acting in the name of William of Orange were executed for treason.

* * * * *

Despite its continuing legacy of corruption and mismanagment, and periodic entanglement in imperial drama, New York's strategic situation was sufficient to sustain growth with increasing stability through the first half of the 18th century. The arrival of Huguenots, Jews, and Africans among the colonial populations is of particular interest, as it both prompted and suggested New York's cosmopolitan future.

The Huguenots, in particular of these groups, were not unexpected arrivals. The Walloons who had originally settled New York under the Dutch West India company (and who were of drindling numbers and influence throughout the 18th century) were French-speaking Dutchmen. The Huguenots, as French protestants, would have shared both a language and a religion with the Walloons, and especially after the Glorious Revolution the sympathies of the British government was solidly anti-Catholic. The Huguenots, then, could settle in settle in and around New York with some level of historic reassurrance.

The Jews settled under more troubled circumstances, and certainly took a more circuitous route. Spain's Sephardic community had been expelled in 1492, and many relocated to the Netherlands, and from there migrated to other colonies in present day Brazil and Venezuela. As Dutch holdings eroded worldwide, many Jews moved to the north, having more provisions under British law than Spanish. They exercised considerable freedom in Manhattan, developing their own merchant class, building a synagogue and holding religious services.

Finally, the African-American population steadily increased through the period of British rule, ultimately reaching several thousand in number, equally divided among slaves and the free. While they only accounted for around ten percent of the population, New York had a higher rate of slavery than any other colony north of Virginia. Most of these slaves held roles as domestic servants or artesanial assistance, instead of agriculture. Through the 1700s, abolition became a more contentious local issue, with several unsuccessful slave revolts that were harshly punished. The most dramatics revolts occurred in 1712, when a fire lit as a signal led to an altercation between slaves and the militia, and a later conspiracy led by taven-owner John Hughson was uncovered. Between these two events, almost sixty people were killed or exercuted, and another seventy slaves were deported. Slavery would eventually decline in New York following the American Revoultion, but wouldn't cease altogether until the 1840s.

Meanwhile, as New York played host to an influx of settlers from these parts and elsewhere, and the city was built up toward the North and along the Hudson, the Dutch presence continued to diminish, until the only relic of the Dutch presence in the city was the widespread popularity of St. Batholomew's day, on August 24th.

* * * * *

More than most major cities in the American colonies, New York was sharply divided between patriot and loyalist factions. At the outset of the war, January 1776, with the city as a decisive prize, General Charles Lee fortified both banks of the East River at Brooklyn Heights and Battery Park. When General Washington arrived in mid-April, he expanded these defences, adding a key fort at the extreme north of Manhattan.

In late August, the first British move was to occupy Staten Island and cross into Brooklyn at the narrows and march to the North. The two armies skirmished throughout the morning, and the American forces retreated to the fortification on the Heights. That night, the American army of 9,000 retreated in silence across the East river, and the move was not discovered until the next morning. Two weeks passed before the British renewed their offensive, crossing the East river and easily pushing the patriot forces north into Harlem. The most extended battle wat to happen the following day, when American troops flooded out of the fortifications on the heights, attacking along the flanks, and driving the British from what is now 128th street down to about 109th. The primary function of these activities had been to delay British maneuvers and exact a heavy toll. In this, Washington and Lee were nominally successful, though they retreated on October 16th with the bulk of their forces.

* * * * *

The Historical Atlas of New York City states that:

The experience of New York City during the Revolutionary War was unique. It was the only American city to remain under British occupation for virtually the entire struggle, and it suffered more physical damage than any other city.

In addition to the obvious consequences of any occupation, New York suffered from a dramatic vasciallations; first, loyallists fled the city as a major battle arena in the initial fervor of independence. This trend would switch, with patriots fleeing New York at the inevitability of a British occupation. In mid-September, 1776, as British and American forces skirmished in Harlem, a supposedly unrelated fire broke out near Battery Park and spead north and west along the Hudson, ultimately destroying a fourth of the city, including a thousand houses. Once the Fort Washington garrison had finally been captured in November 1776, the American forces were imprisoned, the city was refortified, and was to serve as the British center of operations through the duration of the war. They could not, however, drive out American forces from the surrounding area, which effectively limited communication, and enabled both sides to engage in guerilla warfare.

Despite such tumult, New York's population gradually increased, as loyallists relocated to the city as a major British outpost. There were to be no further military engagements during the American Revolution, but Cornwallis surrendered on October 19th, 1781, and British Troops departed the city two years later, on November 25th, 1783. 8,000 loyalists, one-fourth of New York, left with the British, and New York entered into a new phase as one of the new country's most ports.


Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Great Adventure, Part 3: A Quiet Interlude


Jess had been feeling reluctant to leave throughout the day because we'd have to miss our families and friends at their brightest. As we stopped, briefly, in the granvel road leading out of ArmCo, to adjust the lights and mirrors, she said, "I'm so glad we left!" We followed the twisting roads out to Maple, turned left, and angled out toward Dresden. We passed Adornetto's and Wade's and the Colony Square Mall, where we had spent so much of the past week, and soon we were in the rolling farmland and countryside, sometimes tree-lined, sometimes pasture, in the Muskingum Valley as it stretches to the north of Zanesville.

This drive couldn't have been choreographed to have been more be more beautiful: the sun was setting off the the left, and the are was just dence and thick enough that the light had that golden, liquid quality that spilled out over all of the trees and roads and grasses, undulating, dripping down and gradually dimming as everything sunk towards night. The wind was tearing all around the car and the aluminum cans banged along behind us, Jess in her dress and I in my tux. We arrived in Dresden, a little slip of a town in a part of the valley where the banks are particularly steep.

The Inn at Dresden is a bed and breakfast, a massive house on a huge hill formerly owned by David Longaberger, founder of Longaberger baskets. The car reluctantly took the slope, which must have graded at twenty or more degrees, no kidding, and we pulled alongside. Jess and I stopped in front and checked in wearing all of our wedding gear. The desk clerks congratulated us, gave us our keys, and directed us to our rooms, part of the same building, on a lower level.

We'd reserved the "Wild's room," patterened after the exotic wildlife preserve to the southeast of Zanesroom. The room was massive and boxy, tan painted, with an explorers cap and palm frond fan and comforter of swayde. The bathroom was almost as huge as the main room, and featured a jacuzzi and shower, while the front porch was enclosed and fitted with a hammock.

The first thing Jess and I did, after taking a moment on the porch with the purple fading to gray in the twilight, was change out of our wedding gear, microwave the leftovers of our heart-shaped pizza, and watch Jurassic Park. We came in at the appromate moment of Genarro's devouring. The jacuzzi was psychotic, not obeying commands, with the jets sometimes coming on at unexpected moments and sending sprays of foam and water out over the floor. Later, we went upstairs, where the cook was tidying up the kitchen area, and we talked with her for several minutes about the wedding and the Inn. We bought a couple Sprites, got a couple cookies, and hurried downstiairs. We borrowed the movie Big Fish, which I'd seen a year earlier, but had largely forgotten. We put the movie on, but fell asleep.

Sunday, when we woke up, we went upstairs for breakfast overlooking the rolling hills and ridges spreading out to the North. We had eggs and sausages, and sat in the enclosed porch in the sun, then went back downstairs to catch some more sleep. Except I couldn't sleep. So I watched Big Fish, and it made me upset, because the old couple in the end reminded me of Jess and me. When Jess woke up, we watched the movie again, together. With the same result. We were late checking out at 1:20, and spent several minutes walking about the porches and on the veranda. Then, we got in the LeBaron, and cruised the short way back, already feeling like days and weeks had passed since we weren't married.

On the corner of Blue in Zanesville by the gas station and elderly couple in a giganticar congratulated us (the LeBaron was still decorated, though I'd cut off the clanking cans and set the pew bows in the trunk); they'd just been married over fifty years. Back at the Brighton house, Jess and I were alone, so I showered, and got down just as Jeff and my family arrived: it was mom, dad, Caitlin, Cody, Aunt Liz, Aunt Sue, Jeff, and briefly Jeff and Chelsea.

They told us about their adventures at the reception, and we opened and tracked our gifts, and said goodbye to everyone heading back to Michigan that night.

Jess and I stopped in new Concord, reading our cards along the way, to get Jess' wallet from her moms and pick up Bill's tux. We arrived back in Zanesville in dusk, noted the 24-hour mark, and shopped for our honeymoon neededs: first KMart, then WalMart. We'd gotten gift certificates. Back home, Jeff was sleeping. We packed through the rest of the night, doing laundry, and briefly taling to Julie when she got home. It was a wonderful day, relaxing after the crushes of the day before, but animated with the excitement of what was on its way. I went to sleep at two.

The alarm went off at 3:30, and I went to the basement to grab the last load of laundry. They weren't dry. In horror, I told Jeff, and he discover that the head had been left off the drier after the last load. Meanwhile, my dad arrive a few minutes past four... evidently, the Vibe had died from an obscure electrical mishap. With improvisations and mostly-dry laundry, Jess, Caitlin, Cody, dad, and I crowded in and rolled through the fog toward Columbus. Our flight was set to leave at 6:30. We spoke to mom on Caitlin's cel; mom was stranded in the dead Vibe. After a couple smaller adventures in the airport, including my neurosis about missing our flight and some equally neurotic dogs yapping from their carrier cases, we managed get checked in and said some more goodbyes. "Go make some memories," my dad said.

We boarded the plane to Houston, and ultimately, Belize.


NYC Post #2: Dutch New Amsterdam. 1610 - 1664. A Brief History of the Big Apple. (#2 of 8).


Note: the information here is all gathered from The Historical Atlas of New York City: A Visual Celebration of 400 Years of New York City's History.

Having acquired a knowledge of the Hudson River and environs through Hudson's expeditions, the Dutch sought to use the area as a base of trade and exploration to compete with the English, French, and Swedes in North America. By the mid-1600s the English and French, in particular, were well established, and the Duth West India Company moved quickly, drawing their colonists from French-Speaking Walloons (Protestant exiles). The Nieuw Nederlandt arrived in 1624 with 30 families, who settled on the southernmost tip of Manhattan, on what they named "Fort Amstedam."

Like most colonies at this time, life expectancy was low. In addition to competition from other imperial powers, relations were stained with with the increasingly frustrated and desperate native tribes, as well the health consequences of poor sanitation and hygenic practices in areas of high popultion density. Incentives included provisions for transportation and land and the possibility to get an easy start in agriculture. Settling was, in fact, regarless of nationality, a colossal risk with the possibility of allowing settlers to rise in social rank and wealth to an extent not possible in Europe. From the outset, Fort Amsterdam in particular was in perilous straights. The population of 300 was incredibly vulnerable. Moreover, Dutch imperial ventures were failing worldwide at the time, and the only initially profitable aspect to colonization of the Hudson was an in on the fur trade.

In 1626, Peter Minuit, the first "Director-General" purchased Manhattan from the Canarsie tribe "for the value of sixty guilders,"and immediately set about fortifying the settlement. In 1633, the second Director-General, Van Twiller, imported slaves from the West Indies and used them to improve fortifications, though most were later transferred to agricultural holdings upriver.

Despite general progress, the colony's haphazard positioning among its neighbors and erratic contact with the Netherlands required improvisation for growth. In addition to the Walloons and slaves, more settlers were drawn from English-speakers, while imported Dutch-speaking merchants became a sort of local aristocracy. As a company town, the colony was also governed with an eye toward company profits, and Director-Generals tended to be autocratic and corrupt.

It was a lack diplomacy and circumspection among local leaders that led to the castropic Indian wars. Double-dealings had infuriated the Algonquian tribes upon which New Amsterdam depended for the fur-trade. Uprisings in 1640 and 1643 left the colony on the bring of ruin.

* * * * *

Peter Stuyvesant, the most remembered of these early civil leaders, traded corruption for puritanism, and while he had a better developed military savvy, he destablized the community by imposing sanctions on liquor sales and persecuting the Quakers, as well as alienating immigrant Jews and Lutherans. Stuyvesant restricted actions of the governing councils, instead focuing on redeveloping the fortifications and building Fort Amsterdam on the southwest corner of what is now Battery Park, and redesignating streets in its vicinity.

In 1664, the English arrived with warships to stake a claim to New Amsterdam. A half-century of warfare and mismanagement had strained any national loyalties to the breaking point. When the English announced that property rights would remain intact, the Dutch leadership handed over the fortress without a fight. The population had grown to 1,500.

Today, there are no structures remaining from the period of Dutch rule. There, is however, a physical signature on lower Manhattan in the form of the street scape. The original street layout conformed to the physical characteristics of the island and haphazard land allotments the fanned out from the tip of the island. Thoroughfares such as the Bowery and Broadway were defined at this time, and the area including Heere Gracht, Prince Straet, and Beaver Gracht would later remain in the layout of Chinatown and the Financial District.

The Dutch are responsible for the narrow and haphazard streetscapes of lower Manhattan.


The Great Adventure, Part 2: Cana.


Got up at 8.

I hit the snooze button once.

I got up at 8:15. Showered, shaved, and dressed. I grabbed half of an English muffin from the Continental Breakfast. I was there with my aunt and brother and sister. We drove out to ArmCo where we spent two hours adjusting tables and chairs, setting toppers on the tables and vases on the toppers, hanging flowers, arranging flowers, resting flowers into the ground, staking torches into the ground. Skylar arrived around ten thirty, and we set up the speakers and DJ station on the edge of the dance floor. We pulled the generator far out into the field and confirmed that the sound was effectively dampened with a Chevy pickup parked in front. The whole crowd out there consisted of myself, my parents, my brother and sister, Peg, Jeff, Chelsea, Jeff Jr., Uncle Chuck and Aunt Sally, Uncle Gary, John and Becky Faulconbridge, Bill and Connie, and Sky.

After setup was finished, I hurried back to the hotel. In the parking lot, I encountered some of my Chicago friends: Liz, Whet, Lisa, her friend from Germany, Irina, Bella, Armand, and Vivian. We exhanged a few words, and I excused myself. I took another shower and said my vows from memory ten times. They were getting better, gradually. Less stumbled and jumbled, gradually.

Then, I dressed in my tux, worked my hair, and tried to polish my nails, but succeeded only in scratching them up. Cody and I went to the church. I saw Fathers Michael and Leo and they asked if I had the Marriage Certificiate. Of course, I did not. Calls were made to the Jalbrzikowskis... the Certificate had been located in Jeff's Jr.'s room, and Jeff would bring it. I waited in the sacristy for several minutes, spent a few minutes greeting guests in the church, returned to the sacristy, got word that the Certificate had been delivered, conferred with Father Mike about prayers and devotions, and watched the clock tick down. I was getting very nervous. Not really dread or anxiety. Not, I think, what they call "cold feel," but excitement and speculation.

At one point I moved to a side door, and the hymn playing was so moving, so pure and startling, I had to clench my hands. And then Father Mike comes down, probably to calm me, and we talk about something. What, I cannot remember.

We begin.

* * * * *

NOTE: I'd already posted the rest of this entry, but due to mishaps of myself and Blogger, I must retype it from scratch. Apologies for any attendant abbreviations, etc.

As the official wedding scores began to play, Jeff escorted his Becky down the aisle, with Bill following, and then Cody escorted my mother with my father following. The groomsmen took their place at the front of the church, and Father Michael and I joined them. The church had filled on both sides most of the way back.

Now Purcell's voluntary began, and Caitlin entered first, was met by Jeff midway, and they took their place near the sanctuary, then Julie entered and was met by Cody. (Julie has an uncanny resemblance to Jess, though their mannerisms are very different; many of our friends, having never met Julie before wondered why Jess was wearing a bridesmaid's dress).

As the music dropped off into a lull, Clayton and Thalia entered. We'd expected that the circumstances would overwhelm Thalia; she was two and Clayton was three, and we'd decided to include the flower girl and ring bearer partly as an acknowledgment that we sometimes take ourselves too seriously. At the rehearsal dinner, Thalia has broken down under the pressure and needed consolation. Today, however, she strode straight down the aisle, nibbling on the flower stem, and came to the front where she turned in slow circles before Mike (her father) caught her attention. Clayton, however, who had done so well at the rehearsal, was distracted by a moment of crisis. He made it a third of the way down the aisle, stopped, and plunged his finger full into his nose, where he remained for the next minute or so. Finally, Michael (his father) cracked the door and beckoned Clayton back. "Daddy, I got a booger," he said. Michael took Clayton to the bathroom, where he blew his nose, and was ready to move on. But by that point the ceremony had moved along...

There was an odd moment of tension when Jess missed her entrance. The music swelled, and for a moment I pictured Jess, dressed in her gown and veil, hurrying away on Underwood St. Finally the doors swung open, and Jess entered on her Jeff's arm, both of them calm and composed and smiling as she walked down the aisle. I met Jeff at the front of the church, Jess transferred her arm to mine, Jeff took his seat and the ceremony began.

Michael said some opening words about the ceremony, and after we sat Jess began to tear up. I'd had my motive moment standing in the sacristy, off to the side, and out of sight, so I was calm as Jess sniffed, whispered "we're getting married, and my mother passed her up a handkerchief.

Laura read the Old Testament reading from the Song of Songs, we sang the Psalm with the organ trilling behind us, and Mandy read the New Testament from Paul's Letter to the Romans. Then father Michael read the gospel; the account of the transformation at the wedding at Cana. His homily touched on the status of water used for scrubbing dirty feet and also exposed my family's history as ex-Catholic, but the main thrust was one Michael described as "heritical." He touched on the range of sacrements, saying that there had been lists ranging from one (all-inclusive) sacrament to seven-hundred odd. He then posited that, now baptism, but matrimony was the most important sacrament. In matrimony we best obey and emulate God, for in two people joining together, there is a generation, an act of creation: a new family is born. The homily was stirring and accessible and many of our guests commented on it afterward.

After the homily, Jess and I approached the sanctuary again and said our vows, which we remembered flawlessly. My vows touched on our rings as a representation of our being bound together; of our choice to accept our connection now and for all the future. Jess' vows expressed that whatever difficulties we'd encounter in our lives, and whatever joys, she'd want us to stand together through them. We exchanged our rings, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist began.

Through the rest of the ceremony, Robyn slid back and forth among the front several rows, though we hardly noticed, taking pictures. Father Mike alleviated the serious tenor of thing by continually ribbing Julie and me. When Julie was a little late catching Jess' train, he remark that "you have the hardest job here," or when I stood on the wrong side, too far from Jess, he asked, "Leaving her so soon? You dog!" Maria offered the prayers.

Jess and I gave each other communion and passed the chalise back and forth between us, and communion continued. I saw many of our friends and Jess' relatives pass us as communion was dispensed: Amber and Liz and the Jalbrzikowskis. Caitlin and Cody approached the sanctuary for blessings. And then, after the final announcement and applause, we walked down the aisle and exited into the narthex as husband and wife.

From here, our families stood in a quick receiving line that, in the end, was not so quick, and another half our later, we hurried back into the church to take pictures with Robyn. I feel kind of bad, because the event had lasted longer than we anticipated, and by the time we left the church for good (well after four), we were officially overlapping with confessions. We left at 4:20.

* * * * *

We rode to the reception in my grandma's sparkling Bonneville. My dad drove with Jeff in the passenger side, and Jess and I in the back. We took the long way, riding along Main St., across the Y-Bridge, down Main, up State, and winding through the west side of town until we got to ArmCo. As we pulled up, the arrival song, So Happy Together by the Turtles, began playing, and as we got out of the car, everyone started applauding. The tents were a hive of activity, with Adornettos being bustled to and from the tables and warmers, and glasses of champaigne being passed around. Jess and I made our way to our table, and after just a few minutes, things continued. Cody gave a toast, echoing what my father has said the night before; that Jessica was a part of our family, and that it seemed we belonged together. Julie gave her toast, a short poem wishing us happiness together. Bill stood, bowed his head, and offered a short prayer, clear. And the food was served.

Jess and I had time for a few quick bites of salad and our own, heart-shaped pizza, and then Robyn pulled us away for photographs in the field. As the dinner music continued, Jess and I made our rounds and tried to greet all of our guest... I know I'm going to leave some out here... but we spoke with the Jalbrzikowskis and Fultons and Mikises and Stines and others of Jess' dozens (hundreds?) of relatives, my family, including Aunt Liz and Aunt Peg, the Duncans, Jill and Nicole, Lyn and Melissa, Anna and Eleanor, Sam and Libby and Sky and Coral and Lisa, the U of C crowd which was One Part Mathews House connected and One Part Scavhunt connected, Peter and Matt, Meridith and Sawyer and Laura, Rima and Evan, the Teslars, the Roccolis, the Faulconbridges, and Paul who had, despite his usual run of mishaps and natural disasters had made it through hell and high water to Zanesville.

Since the reception had gotten off to a late start, we improvised from one event to the next. First, we cut the cake Aunt Sandy had made for us to the song Short Skirt, Long Jacket. Some people got the joke by their knowing nods, and Aunt Sandy's cake was a cake, in the sense the it didn't just look like one of the most spectacular cakes ever, but it tasted wonderful as well.

Sky announced the first dance, Kissing You by Des'Ree and we waltzed clumsily but with eye-contact, even though we somehow mismatched the genders through the first part of the song. We even managed to twirl through the bridge. Sky transitioned into Landslide (the original Stevie Nicks), and Jess danced with her father while I danced with my mother. Mom and I talked through most of the dance, slowly turning and talking (the Coyne dance; something easier than a waltz), and it was another moment that always seems overrated at someone else's wedding but is memorable and worth remembering at your own.

Then, with a gesture and the incredibly smart choice of the Proclaimers' 500 Miles, Sky managed to fill the dance floor with twenty or so kids, and the dancing continued through the rest of the reception. During the antipated battle for the bouquet, (Can't Hurry Love, the Supremes) in which a dozen or so Chicago girls stood back helplessly as the fires raged, Maria barely out-toppled Hallie. Then, during the unanticipated battle for the garter (Ice, Ice, Baby, Vanilla Ice), Sebastian out-toppled Cody. More pictures, and we continued.

Finally, with the sun setting and some guests angling to go, Jess and I didn't want to shut down the party, but we wanted our friends and family to see our exit. We asked our fathers if they could shut down the party when it seemed best if we left. They agreed. The last several songs for the moment played out, closing with 1979. The last dance was Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers. As Jess and I danced in the sun, our guests lit sparklers, and the tents filled with smoke.

When the song had ended, It's the End of the World as we Know It (and I Feel Fine) blasted in, and Jess and I improvised a run out to the LeBaron, with our guests chasing with sparklers. The car had been decorated while we were gone; now it was covered with pew bows and pop cans, and words had been soaped on: "I Can't Belize It!" "Just Married" and "Love and Marriage Goes Together Like a Flippin' Horse and Carriage." We dropped the top and with guests running the first several hundred feet alongside the car, we were off!

We later found out that the party had continued for a full two hours, with increased antics involving the wine and keg, and that some of our friends had appropriated (actually, given) a golf cart which was wheeled about ArmCo by the most unlikely of characters. Then, when the part was deemed over, they all hung around to pick up tables and chairs and clean up.

But Jess and I witnessed none of this. We were away...


Monday, September 12, 2005

Post-Katrina Post #2


Among the many features of the New School that I have enjoyed so far, something ranking much lower on my list than the U of C is the flavor of activism here.  Of course, I'm going off of one experience; last Wednesday I mae it up to the school by eleven to learn what I could do to help with Hurrican Relief efforts.  After all the shouting on the news to give money to the Red Cross, Jess and I have already reached our modest, jobless limits, and I was looking to see what could be accomplished in terms of work and donation.

I was a little disappointed.  Our major effort has gone toward the purchase and donation of... specifically... stuffed toys and childrens books, as facilitated by Soka Gakkai International.  The meeting's coordinator wouldn't hear much talk of donating clothing and food that day because "there isn't any place to put it," and the issue was pretty quickly dropped.

I understand the importance of inspiration (books) and comfort (toys).  I understand the impulse to direct assistance towards children specifically. What I do not understand is the rationale that these objects cannot be shared, cannot be manufactured or created by improvisation... that dance and storytelling are the oldest human arts so far as we know, and be created by a community with next to nothing.  When our stuffed toys go out to a people needing fresh water or books where diapers are wanting... you have to look to essentials first.  You can't not look to essentials first.  And especially now.  At this moment.

Not to say that we couldn't do both... I don't object to giving books and toys.  It's the "in lieu of."  Couldn't someone spare her apartment (mine is out of the question for messy reasons, but any other place I've lived would've been game)?  Couldn't New School lend us a room for a week?
There is a speed and urgency to these efforts right now.  As one woman said (in one of the most enlightened comments made during the ninety minute meeting, the last third of which was occupied by searching for our "name"), "Next week there's going to be another runaway bride on the news."
Didn't they see the necessity of speed?  And didn't they see that their excuses were barely the palest reflection of the ability to act, of the power and resourcefulness exercised by those in true need?


NYC Post #1: A Brief History of the Big Apple (#1 of 8)


Note: the information here is all gathered from The Historical Atlas of New York City: A Visual Celebration of 400 Years of New York City's History.

New York City is built upon very old land.

The Manhattan Schist, Fordham Gneiss, and Inwood Limestone that forms the bulk of the city's bedrock is all dated to the pre-Cambrian era; that is, it's as old as the Earth's rocky crust gets.
For most of last billion years, New York was underwater.  In the Mesozoic era, the Appalachians began to rise, creating the Hudson river valley, and gradually elevating Long Island and New York's present coastline above sea level.  This process accellerated during the Tertiary era, and then with the onset of the ice ages (the Laurentide glacier cut straight through Staten Island and Brooklyn at its greatest extent), glaciation left mortaines and a variety of other features.
The result of the past billion years have been the varied geology of the New York archipelago, and its excellent harbor, which was the essential ingredient to New York's long term success in the last several hundred years.

* * * * *

After crossing the Bering Sea, and a migration lasting hundreds of years, a number of Native Americans settled on the American Atlantic coast, and developed into tribes of the Algonquian linguistic family.  These tribes included the Lenape (lower Hudson - "real men"), Manates (Manhattan), Canarsies (Brooklyn), Matinecooks and Rockaways (Queens), and Wecquaesgeeks (vicinity of Yonkers).  
Most of these tribes were part of the Delaware confederacy, and were hunters and fishers.  They also cultivated local crops such as pumpkins and maize, and would later introduce the Dutch to maple sugar and tobacco.
Interestingly, Lower Broadway (as far as Madison Square) was already a well-traveled path by the time Europeans arrived, running along the high ground from the tip of the island.  Likewise, Pearl Street was named for piles of discarded oyster shells.

* * * * *

With the exception of isolated contact with Scandenavian explorers who alighted with the Americas in the 8th and 11th centuries, New York suffered little European contact until Columbus discovered the continent in 1492.  One of the first explorers to give attention to the northern Atlantic was Verrazano, sponsored by France.  In 1524 Verrazano sailed from Virinia to Maine, making note of the narrows.

Later, in 1509, the Dutch-sponsored Hudson, who had initially hoped to find passage east to the Indies through the Arctic ocean, tried his luck to the West, choosing to explore the New York bay and upriver with more care.  Although Hudson admired the harbor and recognized its potential, he turned back by the time reached Albany; relations with the native inhabbitants had become strained, and more importantly, he realized that the river would no possibly lead to further passage west.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Great Adventure. Part 1: Before Cana.


August 1st · Monday

I was the very last person on the plane to Columbus, and as such was seated in the very front row between an overly chipper MBA from Chicago and an excessively grumpy and overweight Ohioan ("We gonna hit the mud!" he said at one point. "Oh, well maybe we can aim for the grass... or the water," reassured the flight attendant. "No. The mud.")

Jess picked me up at the airport at about three, bringing along one of our pieces of luggage that had been torn on her flight several days earlier. As I waited for my own bag to arrive, she went to customs to stake a claim. When I got the bags I exited to the Southwest claims terminal, and discovered there a very unhappy Jess. We'd have to file a grievance. Filing a grievance involved writing Southwest within twenty-one days, waiting for their response (which would take somewhere from two weeks to forever), and then sending the ripped luggage to Texas and having it replaced.

This was an omen of great significance... our travels would only unravel from here.

We drove out to Easton, a weird suburban twilight zone, where everything is separated by huge chucks of chemical grass and sprawling concrete, where even the gas stations and little apartments and trees look eerily retail.

The whole place felt like a ghost town. We stopped first at a Bed, Bath, and Beyond to pick up our comforter (which had just gone on sale), and then stopped at Trader Joe's to buy wine for the wedding.

Then, baking in the sun, we rode on down to Zanesville and sorted things out for the rest of the night. Jess and Jeff and I took Julie's dog, Brooklyn (a premonition? I'm glad the girl didn't name her dog Newark) for a walk down at the Muskingum County Fairground, one block from Jess' house. That week, I slept in Jeff Jr.'s room. Jessica slept in Jeff's room. Jeff was slept Julie's room. Julie slept on the couch.

August 2nd · Tuesday

Jess' twenty-fourth birthday. We had cake in her honor.

First, though, Jess, Julie, and I drove down to the Colonial Square Mall, to get our hair cut for the wedding. Jess skimmed through all the fashion books looking for a good haircut for me, but finally had to resort to the kids' book, from which she selected a simple, ten-year-old's pageboy cut.

Jeff and Jess and I then stopped at an industrial office supply store where we picked out the plastic cups and plates, the napkins, the forks and knives and spoons, then headed on to an outlet store for Coke products, and on down to K-Mart (South End) for Pepsi products. On our way back we stopped at TravelLodge to confirm that they had retained all of the reservations we'd reconfirmed after they'd lost them. They confirmed that they'd lost the reconfirmation. So we rereconfirmed. Great stress followed.

That evening, we drove out to Becky and Bill's outside cambridge Cambridge, ate pizza from the hamlet of New Concord (birthplace of astronaut John Glenn and one William Rainey Harper) and stayed out until one, talking about moves and religion and travel.

August 3rd · Wednesday

My birthday.

Our first excursion took us to the historic courthouse where we purchased our marriage licence and learned that Father Mike was not registered in Ohio. In Ohio, an unregistered priest cannot marry a couple. We discussed alternatives, then hurried up the road to St. Nick's where Father Leo reassured us that he would sign the certificate, and had confirmed the arrangement with Father Mike.

Relaxed, from this, we went on to Adornetto's (the Pizza people come home for) to work out the final food arrangements for the reception: how many pizzas, how much sad, how many pizza warmer's) and so on.

To celebrate my birthday, Jess proposed a picnic, so we cast about downtown looking for a spot, but it was uncomfortably hot, so we finally settled for Nichol's on Putnam. Wonderful, great, cheap Ohio food. I ordered a Slawdog, a variation on a chilidog swimming in coleslaw. It sounds weird, but was actually delicious.

Incidentally, if the whole writer thing doesn't work out (and maybe if it does), I want to open a restaurant featuring all the regional variations on the weiner from around the country. Flint coney, Detroit coney, Grand Rapids coney, and Zanesville slawdog.

After a few hours to rest up from all this, we set out to the St. Nick's fest for music, popcorn, pizza, beer, and conversation. I knocked back three Bud Lights and talked to Jess' Aunt Sally. Up in the tent, on the stage, a band of seventeen year olds played some of the most varied and verstatile covers (including Led Zappelin, natch) I think I've heard from kids that age. There was definitely an air of the elementary school craft fair, with pie givaways and gateway gambling for kids, but more rides and better energy than I remember from my own childhood. We got a mountain of decadent funnel cake, and returned home.

The days had been counting down. I could begin to feel the wedding pressing in, close.

August 4th · Thursday

Thursday is the day when everything got thrown out of order.

We got up and hustled out to ArmCo Park where Goss Rental had arrived a day early to set up the tend. We carried the tent from the back forty up to the back twenty, and set up tables and chairs with the help of Jess' uncles. Flush from that adventure, Jess and I raced down to St. Nick's by ten to meet with the cantor, who would help us select the music and also walk us through our organ options (I'd been armed with several suggestions by our family friend, Susan Harvey). She rolled us through the ceremony and making suggestions, and from there we went out to Uncle John and Aunt Sue's, where Jess was to have her final dress fitting.

She'd forgotten the shoes. Which I had to go pick up. Which was just as well, frankly, since there wasn't anything I could do to help with the fitting.

After a long visit with John and Sue, we stopped out at Colonial and shopped (with some, limited, and frustrating success) for "thank you" gifts for our wedding party. I'd have to continue, the next day.

And finally, we went out to South Zanesville (that strange land knowns only as "Maysville" -- by Prophet's Park) to confirm our program with Robyn, the photographer.

Exahusted and exhilerated, we rolled back home through the hills, and as we parked (with Brooklyn barking manically) we saw Jess' dad through the window on the computer... except he didn't often use the computer.

"Wait a minute," I said. "That's my dad." And it was. On the way down, there had been complications involving Aunt Peg's dress for the wedding and Cody picking up Caitlin in Cleveland, and they had gotten all misplaced. It took several hours to sort my family out, and when we finally did, we had the opportunity to carry many heavy flowers down into the basement, to keep cool.

We'd been watering the flowers, all this week, and now with the new additions, and my mom and Peg setting up a subterranean headquaters, the basement was swimming in sweet and pheramones.

Finally, we went to bed. I volunteered to get up at 6:30 to let my mom in. It was after midnight.

August 5th · Friday

Now we've walked a full week towards the wedding. I'd anticipated this sprawling and expansive (and in my mind, smoothy oiled) week to relax before it all comes down since the beginning of summer, but I was more surpised by the speed of each day than I was by the business involved.

On Friday I woke up at 6:30 but dozed on until things got rolling around 7:30. We unloaded more flowers.

In the morning we set up chairs and tables at ArmCo for several hours, Caitlin and Cody and both families helping and running around for several hours, before I rushed out to Colony Square to finish getting gifts.

Jess had been frustrated about a couple things, but things seemed to smooth out as the day went by. When I got back, we wrapped presents and quickly made out cards.

At a little past six, we drove to the church with Jess and quickly met up with the Kennedys, Becky, Bill, Jeff, Chelsea (Jeff's girlfriend), suddenly joined by all those Coynes (including my Grandma Coyne and Aunt Georgia and Aunt Liz and Aunt Peg) right about Father Mike, Julie, and the Orrs.


Father Mike conferred with Father Leo and some problems were corrected. Someone (including us) hadn't pinned down a lot of details, so there was a fair amount of improvisation. The whole rehearsal took scarcely an hour.

We drove down to the Market House Inn, a cave of a building (A castle of a building) in downtown Zanesville. It's located across from a municipal building that so obviously used to be a school, and the Market House itself is all rafters crisscrossing the ceilings, walls, and floors. You go down a bunch of stairs that keep wending away to the left irregularly, and finally find yourself in a rich, hollow, wooden room with gorgeous ornamentation.

My parents covered dinner for all.

My father made a glowing toast to Jessica, and we all melted.

I was swept up in conversation with Father Mike for much of the night, and he talked about his home in Brooklyn: Flatbush and Fort Greene and Sheepshead Bay and my favorite; Brighton Beach where all those Odessans live. I also talked with the rest of the party at the table. Dinner was splended, but I was close enough, and nervous enough, that I couldn't make it through anything.

Understand: for someone who enjoys to eat as much as I do, it's a very particular sort of angst to have to sit and stare at something delicious that you don't feel you can eat. Which is why I'll be back at that inn someday when I'm rich and famous.

Jess and I handed out gifts and cards, and after extensive farewells, we drove back to the Jalbrzikowskis. We picked up Jeff and Caitlin and Julie and Cody and all drove out to Sunlight Bowl where we played two games, boys vs. girls. The boys won the first round. The girls won the second. I manage to do pretty badly both times.

There was a little pre-wedding drama, but none between Jessica and me, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a sort of pull, an inertia, a gravity, when I said goodbye to Jess that night. I wasn't anxiety about what had been coming. It was a wish to draw out the moments; to draw out all moments, to make them last and last and wait and wait until they were pure crystal, memories, that could be called upon at any moment and with complete ease.

But life doesn't really work that way.

Cody and I drove back to the Travel Lodge downtown. Set up things. I'd been Counting Down. Sweating now. I stopped by to thank Caitlin for everything she'd done for me in our lives. I thanked mom and dad, and we had a nice long talk. I thanked Cody and went to bed. After 2 AM. On the day on which I'd get married.


Post-Katrina Post #1


One step goes one step by one step:

To start close to home, and selfishly, my chest has been expansive, and I'm bursting with pride. First the word arrives that Detroit is taking on hurricane refugees, then Governor Granholf's commitment to house 10,000 homeless. And now, Genesee County follows. Most of the Genesee County refugees will, in fact, be placed in Flint.

And that, I think, is remarkable. Two of the poorest cities in the country, afflicted with racial strife, violence, sanitation trouble, and grave poverty, still open their arms in a moment of the gravest trouble.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Great Adventure. Prologue: July.


As a writer confronted with a computer screen, it's simply natural to confront something like a month as something like a story. So here, after I haven't posted in close to two months, I'm posting the story of August from top to bottom, and I'm telling it in just that way.

A quick recap on July.

On the 3rd of July, Jess lost her cel phone and we had a very stressful weekend. On the 5th, Sean and I attended Billy Corgan's concert at the Vic, and I acquired Doris Henson. On the 6th and 7th, I performed Buick City Blues out of my apartment (Sam was gone). That weekend, Jess and I went to a kitchen shower thrown by my mom and Peg at Peg's place. On the 10th, we drove back, late into the night, Cody, Jess, Caitlin, Sam, and myself crammed into the Grand Am. Caitlin and Cody stayed the night at my place. Another week sailed by. On the night of the 14th, I flew out to New York to secure an apartment for Jess and myself. By the morning of the 15th, I'd succeeded. Jess and I each read three chapters of the new Harry Potter, on our own. On the night of July 16th, I went to see Willy Wonka and the chocolate Factory, while Jess celebrated her bachelorette party in Chicago. On the night of the 17th, I flew back to Chicago, taking a cab on arrival, and getting into Hyde Park around 1:30. The next week, my last at Northwestern Memorial, flew by. That weekend, Jess and I attended pre-Cana in the suburbs and finished Harry Potter (horcruxes!). On Monday, I caught a train to East Lansing. It was late. I was picked up by my father and brother, then Cody and I went out to Rube's and the Colonial. The next night, we went to see Willy-Wonka in Clio. And somewhere in there, I went for a walk in the rain of Mott Park and stopped for coffee at the Atlas. On Wednesday, I spent the day cleaning my room. And then I returned to Chicago. Cody drove with me. We spent that night packing up Jessica's things (her lease had expired) and transporting them up to Sam and my place in Edgewater Beach. It was an eight hour affair, but we weren't finished that night, and had to rent a van for the next day to get the last items out. The next day, Friday, the 29th day of July, we primed her apartment for inspection, and went to a party thrown by Dr. McLeod, head of the congenital toxiplasmosis study for which Jess' worked. And then we drove the van up, and spent several more hours unloading. 9:30 found me fresh from a shower but fresh out of clothes, standing in the mess of two people apartments all crowded into one small bedroom. There was a knock on my door. Sam and Cody stepped through into the room. The wore black hats, black ties, black shoes, black suits, and black shades. "Connor? We're here with your Union card." They were the Blues Brothers.

* * * * *

Bachelor Party

I'd asked Sam for something fun, but with a bit of class, and not involving strippers. He done very well. Over the next twenty minutes, while Cody and Sam were dressing me, the other blues brothers arrived: Skylar and Bill, Armand and Sean, Christian and Sebastian. Sam and I killed the last two fingers of bourbon. Jess was there to give me a kiss goodbye and a formal sendoff, and then we were down to the cars, Armand and Cody having landed the lucky jobs of designated drivers. Cody drove with Sam in shotgun, and me sandwiched with Sebastian and Sean. We rolled down Lake Shore Drive, talking about CBGB, Blondie, the Ramones, the Talking Heads, but we were out for Blues! And proved it when we got off at Fullerton, tripped on down to Armitage and struck out for Kedzie. Mama Rosa's. Where I foolished turned down a minimum wage job four years ago making fliers and putting them up evenings for Tony, the dive's Sicilian owner.

As soon as we arrived, generating laughs and comments before we hit the door, Sam dragged me out to the center of the floor, announced this was my last night as a free man, before I fused into the old ball and chain, and faces all about the place turned. And the singer, no singerette but an Indigo Queen turned her face to me and said, "Sit down. I'll finish with you later." So I sat in the shadows, flanked by these shadowy men with sunglasses, and listened to her sing. I started out with a whiskey on the rocks, I think (my memory of much of that night is a little hazy), and two songs in I was called up to take my place, for a very personal dedication from the singer. She was Texan. And she sang.

It will certainly make the 100 list of the most daunting, terrible, beautiful, and majestic moments of my life (and when you think of the 700,000 odd hours most of us will live, cutting it down to 100 involves some selectivity), and also ranks high for humor, melody, and sexiness. It was one of those moments that is infused with the essence of what Blues really is; not joy, nor sorrow, nor rapture, nor motion on their own, but all stewed up into a mixture with an unmistakable and unmistakably intense and complex signature.

I had a Guinness, courtesy of Sam, and we spent a half-hour talking to the band between sets. Sebastian took a lot of crap for his hair. We rolled out of the place, our sights set for downtown...

· · ·

The next stop was B.L.U.E.S. Chicago, and River North was much more awake at the hour; more awake and noticing of nine men moonilighting as an Akroyd or a Belushi. As we walked down the street we were treated to catcalls, pickup lines, and lines from the movies. The gentleman collecting cover inquired whether we'd prefer five chicken or a slice of toast.

Inside, the band managed to reprive Sam's salute and my friends were suddenly more attentive and aggressive to the assembly line of drinks flowing in my direction. The truth is, I don't really remember everything that I drank at BLUES. Bill got me something sweet, and I remember a tequila shot with Sean, and maybe a beer, but I could be wrong. The singer, a rail-thin combomanic with robotic piston arms and huge eyeglasses kept calling us the "Jews Brothers," probably due to Cody and Bill and their sephardic ways. Then the man wailed out the most heartfelt and non-mysoginist version of that beautiful, problematic song It's a Man's World I've ever heard, life or otherwise. Of course, there was equal funk to blues, but then this was River North (so what did we expect), and anyway, who am I to bitch about some funk. We got up and did a drunken dance, but in so doing got half of the rest of the club (equally drunk and otherwise) into the act, and we all bopped up and down, and my Brothers all got into macking, in particular upon one young lady who looked like she could have come for Social Sci down at the U of C, and a middle-aged woman (from Kalamazoo of all places) who put us all to shame in her graceful twirls and smiles. Her husband spoke with me at the urinal. But then they were sweeping me out the door and we got into the cars and up to the Green Mill.

· · ·

By the Green Mill, when we parked along the littered, broken Uptown sidewalks, things were starting to look a little rough for me. The tequila shot had stung... had not gone well... and I was too full of myself, and insisted upon a shot of Old Overholt (the Green Mill being the only Chicago joint I've ever found to carry the stuff). Dancing did not happen; not for me. The band announced my event only by saying "we're very sorry for what is going to happen to Connor." I guess announcements aren't their thing. There was a lot of lushy talk around a big table. Christian was being funny, and Sebastian was leering and smiling, and Sean had to say goodbye, and Sam was swinging, and Cody, Sky, Bill, and Armand all won a keeping the cool award... there are some perks to designated driving. Cody got me a Guinness. "In honor of our heritage." It was the last alcoholic drink I had that night, but the first I'd encounter again. I got sick. Sky got me a Sprite. The bar was going to close so they all were going to go down to Clarke's for coffee and hash browns. To sober up. I was already sick no matter what.


But I didn't. Armand was clearing out. He offered me a ride home (so long as I didn't get sick in his car), while the rest of them were on their way down for an adventure with a fight between a waitress and the Belmont folk (resulting in a broken and bloody nose). While I went home, puked again, and went to bed.

* * * * *

The 30th and 31st

I spent the whole next day useless. It was about all I could do to walk Cody down to the car and hug him goodbye.

The 31st, I straightened my room and moved all of Jess' stuff in there. Sam helped. Sky and Libby came down and we went for down to the beach and then back to our place and had a fine meal of fish and steamed veggies and rice. My first beer since the Bachelor Party.

Then the next morning was the beginning of August.

So I packed my bags and rode the Red Line down to the Orange Line and rode the Orange Line down to Midway and got on my plane, and never appeared again in Chicago as a single man.