My Travel Memories: Portland, Maine

After we left Massachusetts, we drove up through New Hampshire and into Portland.  I was, at this point, still 17 or so years away from becoming a lighthouse enthusiast, so I missed out on my chance to see one of the most-photographed (if not the most-photographed) lighthouses in the world, Portland Head Light.  If you see a photograph of a white lighthouse and the outbuildings all have pretty steeply pitched red roofs, that’s Portland Head.  Before Alex and I started to buy calendars of our upcoming destinations (this year’s calendar is Munich), I usually bought a calendar with lighthouse pictures and my usual goal was to find one without a picture of Portland Head.  Some years I was more successful than others (and one year I found one with two pictures of Portland Head, each taken from a different angle).  If you’ve ever watched Babylon 5, the episode “Shadow Dancing” ends with Delenn holding a snow globe with a lighthouse in it.  That lighthouse is Portland Head.  Anyway, I hope to return to Portland someday to actually visit the lighthouse that I’ve seen so many damn times in photographs.

While we didn’t go lighthouse spotting, we did visit yet another famous person’s house and this one did make an impression.  We visited the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  Among the things we saw was what they refer to as the “Rainy Day desk,” which is where Longfellow wrote his poem, “The Rainy Day.” You know the saying, “Into each life some rain must fall”?  That’s from “The Rainy Day.” The poem also references a vine and there is ivy on the exterior wall outside the window above the desk. The tour guide said that the ivy was there during Longfellow’s lifetime and may have been of some inspiration to him in writing the poem.  So I went outside and stole a leaf from the ivy.  I took care to get it home in one piece and then sealed it in a plastic bag.  I used that leaf as a bookmark for most of the following school year. I wonder where it is now. It’s probably still in one of the books I read that year.

I’m pretty sure we also went to the Portland Museum of Art.  At least the building it was in at the time, the McLellan-Sweat Mansion looks awfully familiar.  It turns out that 1981, the year we were in Portland, was the year they began work on the current building across the street from the mansion. The new building is much more modern and more memorable.

That night we went to a lobster restaurant and had whole steamed lobsters for dinner (my parents have never gone for terribly fancy food).  I wouldn’t swear to it, but it looks like it might have been whatever restaurant was in the same building where Street & Co. is today. That is certainly the right area of town. My dad made some joke or other at dinner and I laughed so hard that the screw fell out of my glasses and we couldn’t find it anywhere.  We had to go to the Pearle Vision store in downtown Portland on our way out of town to have a new screw put in.

It’s not really about Portland, but while we were in Maine, we were driving through the woods somewhere (probably on US 201) and I saw the biggest dog I’d ever seen sitting in the lanes going in the opposite direction.  As we passed the dog, it looked up and I realized that no dog has round ears like that.  The large dog I saw was actually a bear. My parents didn’t see it at all.

Sorry I’ve Been Quiet for a Few Weeks

I had a few posts written ahead of time, then a few things happened to throw off my groove:

  1. One of my coworkers took a couple of weeks off. During that time, others had obligations that meant that they had to take a day or two off.  This led us to being short-handed and to my boss scheduling me for the early shift pretty close to every day.  I was used to working one of our later shifts except for, generally, one day a week (Wednesday), which means that my brain is used to going to sleep much later than was comfortable and I don’t write so well when I’m sleep-deprived.
  2. I was feeling kind of under the weather.  I developed some kind of rash on my neck (the doctor says it looked like some kind of allergic reaction) which itched all the time, so even when I was asleep, I didn’t actually get any rest (see point 1 above about sleep deprivation and my writing skill).
  3. I just hit the November 2015 issue of National Geographic.  When Netflix first became a thing (back in the days when they’d send you a DVD in the mail), my now-ex and I watched at least one episode of The X-Files a night.  Watching it like that brought some of the weaknesses of the show into sharper relief than might have been obvious to the viewers who watched it as it was broadcast (don’t get me started on Samantha Mulder).  I am having a similar problem with reading this many issues as quickly as I am.  In this case, though, it begins to get kind of monotonous — unrest in Africa, global warming, global warming, unrest in Africa, here’s some pictures of Norway, unrest in Africa, global warming . . . .  The November 2015 issue is entirely dedicated to global warming and I just needed a break. Oh, and my dad’s subscription seems to no longer allow me to access the issues online, so in order to write on the issues, I will need to hold them on my lap while I type, which seems like it will be kind of a challenge.

At any rate, I am working my usual schedule tomorrow and have Thursday off, so I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be able to get back to writing soon.

And I’m almost back to where I was when I lost my external hard drive, so I’ll be back to counting the pictures I’ve scanned in soon, as well.

My Travel Memories — Boston, Massachusetts

Boston was the first place I ever traveled where I looked around and said, “I wonder what it would be like to live here.” The place I was standing at the time was Beacon Street right across from Boston Common, so it would probably be fantastic to live there, but unless this blog becomes more really amazingly profitable I will never be able to afford it.  But a part of me still wonders what it would be like.

My first memory of Boston was getting lost.  In some of our destinations, I can remember the hotel we stayed at, but I can’t remember the hotel from Boston.  It was likely a Holiday Inn or something similar.  It was near dark by then and we ended up in the North End.  The couple who stopped to help us didn’t speak English, but their son (who was probably about eight years old) did, and he translated.  I’m sure we would have found our hotel eventually, but that family made it much easier than it would otherwise have been.

We did the usual tourist things in Boston:  the Faneuil Hall, Boston Common, I think we took a bus tour, or maybe my memory of seeing Harvard University from a vehicle was in our car.  We also went out to Plymouth Rock (even less exciting than it sounds) and I think we visited the Plimoth Plantation living history museum.  We also, of course, visited at least one famous house.  The house I remember visiting was the Alcott house in Concord. Mostly I remember standing outside waiting for our turn (or maybe for them to open) while my mom told me her opinion about Louisa May Alcott’s father (which was not complimentary, she didn’t like his peripatetic nature and the fact that he was too busy philosophizing to take care of the family financially).

I don’t remember if we went to Walden Pond or not.  I would think we would have while we were in Concord, since my mom had a Master’s degree in English.  But maybe not.

Once again, I really wish I had some pictures of this trip. Oh, well.  Maybe this will be my excuse to go back to Boston someday.  “I have to go back to take the pictures that we didn’t take in 1981.”  I think I like that idea.

I Think I’ve Talked About the Howard W. Peak Greenway Trails System Before . . .

But I think that the Howard W. Peak Greenway system may end up needing its own tag.

This is because I hope to eventually walk the entire thing.  Not at once, though that would be cool to take a few days to do.  And it would take a few days, because at the moment, the brochure (Warning! This link leads to a PDF!) says that there are currently 47 miles of trails.  My current record (since I’ve been using the pedometer on my phone) is 12 miles in one day.  So if I were able to keep that pace, it would take me, well, about four days to walk the whole thing.

Eventually, the greenway system will ring pretty much the entire city from the Medina River in the south to Leon Creek in the west, and then the Leon Creek Greenway will meet the Salado Creek Greenway up at Eisenhower Park (just south of Camp Bullis) and then the Salado Creek Greenway will go down the east side of the city.  The Riverwalk runs down the center, but it will eventually connect to the Medina River. There don’t seem to be any plans to make the Leon Creek Greenway meet the Medina River Greenway, nor the Salado Creek Greenway with the Riverwalk.  It would be fantastic if they did, though, because then one could just start anywhere in the system and reach any other part almost without ever going up to street level.

And I hope to walk all of it eventually.

So far, I’ve done the middle part of the Salado Creek Greenway, the far northern part of the Leon Creek Greenway, and, just at a rough guess, the northern 70% or so of the Riverwalk.  So I have my work (or my walking, technically) cut out for me.

Northern Illinois Destinations, Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois

As I’ve said before, I haven’t spent that much time in Lincoln Park, personally.  I think I’ve been to Lincoln Park Zoo maybe five times in my life (my family preferred Brookfield Zoo) and while I’ve driven past the park on Lake Shore Drive probably a dozen times or more, I haven’t spent much time in the park itself.

While researching this post, I found one thing that was surprising.  Lincoln Park is apparently 150% the size of Central Park.  It probably wouldn’t take as long to explore, however, since, at seven miles in length, Lincoln Park is four times as long and, at 1500 feet wide, is only about half as wide.

Lincoln Park is home to the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Chicago History Museum (formerly known as the Chicago Historical Society), the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, a conservatory (the plant kind, not the music kind) and the usual park amenities — sports fields, playgrounds, public art (including statues of Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln), a field house, and things of that nature.  The city website says, in part, “The Chicago Park District is committed to making its facilities accessible to and usable by all patrons and visitors. This commitment is ongoing, proactive and intended to meet the needs of a diversity of individuals with disabilities.” So the park itself should be wheelchair accessible.

Much like Milam Park here in San Antonio, Lincoln Park is built on land that once was the city cemetery (there was also, like with Milam Park, a Catholic cemetery across the street).  The story I was told was that they dug up the bodies (with the exception of the Couch family — their mausoleum is visible from LaSalle Street where it intersects with Stockton Drive).  The truth is messier than that.  The land that was chosen to become the city cemetery was, as so much of Chicago was at the time, swampy and disgusting.  The residents worried that they might come down with cholera or something from the corpses stewing in the cemetery, so they started to agitate to have the cemetery removed.  Some of the bodies were removed, but then the Great Chicago Fire hit.  the fire spread as far north as Fullerton Avenue, which means that the land that had been the city cemetery was in the path of the fire.  Many of the grave markers were wood and burned as a result.  Near as I can tell, if no one came forward to say “Great-uncle Fred is buried here,” they just left the body there. Artist Pamela Bannos, in her Hidden Truths project, estimates that there are at likely thousands of bodies still left under the park.