Thursday, May 29, 2014

Southern Illinois, Day 4: Record-Players and Fireflies

Click here for Day 1: Sunday Drivers.
Click here for Day 2: Garden of the Gods, Pounds Hollow, and Golconda.
Click here for Day 3, Morning: Fort Massac.
Click here for Day 3, Afternoon: Superman.

By our last day of vacation, we had a tradition of Dear Husband playing the pump organ (you work the bellows with your feet) to conjure up another sumptuous breakfast on beautiful place settings. We filled ourselves with good food and then hit the road. Destination: northward!

There was a grand piano in the parlor, but it was out of tune, or he would have played that, too. Here I am enjoying a jaunty tune from the hand-cranked record player outside our room.

For lunch we stopped in Effingham to eat on the shores of Lake Kristie. (I have a hard time typing that without guffawing, as it's just a retention pond, named for the restaurateur's wife, with a fountain in the middle and a bunch of koi.) Firefly grill is a fancy-schmancy farm-to-table restaurant that has made quite a name for itself just off I-57. Neither of us was particularly hungry, so we shared a house salad (big enough for two) and an "oak-fired" chicken sandwich with apple slices and brie on a pretzilla bun. It was tasty enough, as were the fries, which you see DH sampling at left.

On the way back, I read to him from the collection of tourism brochures friends from church had given us. It turns out there is quite a lot to do, and I'm campaigning to change our 10th-anniversary trip from a cruise in the Greek islands to another trip to southernmost Illinois. We can hike in Granite City State Park, go zip-lining, visit wineries, go horseback riding, and canoe in a cypress swamp. (Yes, there are cypress swamps in southernmost Illinois!) Plus there are lots of little town fairs and festivals. And it's probably more in line with our budget.

Once home I left almost immediately for a patient session while DH took a nap. With little to eat in the house, we settled on Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner and Dairy Queen for dessert. We got strawberry-shortcake Blizzards, the ice-cream version of our wedding cake. DH says it would have been more authentic if we had fed each other the first bite. Ah well, maybe next year. From Carbondale, IL.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Southern Illinois, Day 3, Afternoon: Superman

Click here for Day 1: Sunday Drivers.
Click here for Day 2: Garden of the Gods, Pounds Hollow, and Golconda.
Click here for Day 3, Morning: Fort Massac.
Click here for Day 4: Record-Players and Fireflies.

"Truth, Justice, and the American Way"
After a lunch of restaurant leftovers, we decamped from the over air-conditioned house to the swing in the small side garden, where we looked at the albums of wedding photos I had brought with us for precisely this purpose. (Many of you celebrated with us, and it was amazing to see how young we all looked back then!) Then it was time to walk to the Super Museum.

Along the way, we looked for the murals that a local artists' group painted showing various scenes from the history of the town. If you could overlook the undergraduate-quality prose in the pamphlet, you learn quite a bit. Metropolis has been the home of Superman only since 1972. In the 1800s, it was a bustling river town of up to 22,000 inhabitants. When the railway bridge came in 1907, it marked the beginning of the end. One neat fact: you've seen the movie The Longest Day about the D-Day invasion, right? Well, one of the parachutists who got hung up on the steeple of St. Mere Eglise Church was John Marvin Steele, native of Metropolis, later played by Red Buttons. If I had known he is buried in the cemetery north of town, we could have stopped to pay our respects on Memorial Day.

The mural also depicts African-American soldiers from
World War I and WACS/WAVES who served in WWII.

Metropolis, IL, has been known as the hometown of Superman since the Illinois Legislature declared it so in  1972. Plans for an amusement park deteriorated for lack of funding, but in 1986 the city put up a 7-foot-tall fiberglass statue. It wasn't bulletproof, so in 1993 it was replaced with a 12-foot-tall bronze one. The Super Museum opened in 1993, too. Here's what the Super Museum has to say about itself:
"In Superman's home town, Metropolis, across the street from the statue of the Man of Steel, sprawls the Super Museum. It is stuffed with over 20,000 items relating to the 60+ year old Superman saga. The Super Museum is the life's work of Jim Hambrick, who also owns the overstuffed Superman souvenir and collectibles store you must pass through to reach the museum entrance."
Overstuffed, indeed! Dear Husband observed that it was like visiting some guy’s basement. In fact, as a boy Hambrick turned his bedroom into a museum and charged a nickel entrance way-back-when. Sprawling it is not. It does take up a small city block, but the feeling inside is rather cramped, thanks to the thousands of cases, posters, toys, props, costumes, and other memorabilia grouped roughly in themes.

Neither of us knew very much about the character or the series, but from scattered labels and the documentary playing on a television set, we learned a few things. (But not the name of the documentary, available on DVD in the gift shop, which I had to look up later: Look, Up In the Sky! [2006].)
  • Highschoolers Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster first created Superman as a villain and got a story published in 1933. Later that year, they re-imagined him as a superhero with a mild-mannered alter-ego. They eventually sold the rights for $130.
  • Superman stories appeared as comics and radio plays before moving to the big screen and then the small screen. His costume for the black-and-white features was actually brown and gray, so it would convey the proper color ratios.
  • Kirk Alyn (1910-1999) was the first actor to play the superhero (1948-1950), but the most famous is probably George Reeves (1914-1959), whose run in the tv series was cut short by his suicide. He seems to have been unhappy with his inability to find other work during the unpredictable tv-filming schedule: he was too famous to play anything other than the caped hero.
  • Both DH and I recognized Christopher Reeve (1952-2004) as Superman, although I was only five when he last appeared in that role.
  • Supergirl has just been an excuse to create a sex symbol.

Over breakfast the next morning, Dear Husband asked me what I would collect if I could have a museum, and I had to confess that I couldn’t think of anything that I wanted to own so much of. As a historian, I would want to have a few representative examples that I could contextualize and with which to tell a narrative. This is part of what made the Super Museum so frustrating and the documentary DVD so useful. Besides what was dusty or missing, little was labeled in the museum. The OCD part of me wanted to go in to clean, organize, and label, label, label. Otherwise, it's mostly just curiosities to ogle at rather than objects imparting information. I wish we had been allowed to take photographs at the private superhero museum in Indianapolis when we visited for our second anniversary, for comparison's sake. I'm not sorry we went, but I was disappointed.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Southern Illinois, Day 3, Morning: Fort Massac

Click here for Day 1: Sunday Drivers.
Click here for Day 2: Garden of the Gods, Pounds Hollow, and Golconda.
Click here for Day 3, Afternoon: Superman.
Click here for Day 4: Record-Players and Fireflies.

Because the previous day’s itinerary had been so stimulating, we had less ambitious plans for our second full day in Metropolis. After a slow start and a big breakfast cooked to order by our enthusiastic host, we set off on a pair of 1950s Schwinn bicycles for Fort Massac State Park. Hank had warned us that the bicycles would give us more of a workout than we were used to, and he was right: not only were the seats too low for my taste (= shallow leg thrust) but the front wheel of mine rubbed up against the fender, making peddling more arduous than it needed to be. So we were happy to get out of the heat and sun at the visitors center.

The center consists of three rooms of variable quality. The first room contains what amounts to a small, local and natural history museum of various oddities in glass cases with more-and-less detailed labels. In one, a stuffed raccoon squats next to a piece of honeycomb and unearthed metal odds and ends. In another, newspaper clippings telling the story of a Civil War-era skeleton found in the park lie next to a description of how to make mother-of-pearl buttons (below). I had never thought about how to make them before; the button factories thrived along the river until plastics were introduced after World War II. The wall of arrowheads and stone knives from thousands of years ago probably had the best labels.

I have no idea what the feathers are about.
The second room in the visitors center is a theater for viewing a five-minute documentary about the history of fortifications here on the Ohio River. The French built the first two forts: Fort de L’Ascension (begun on Ascension Day in 1757) and Fort Massiac (1759-60). Having lost the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the French ceded all their lands on the North American continent to the British (Canada) and the Spanish (Louisiana Territory) in the Treaty of Paris (1763). The British renamed it Fort Massac but never occupied the site, and Chickasaw warriors soon burned it to the ground. During the American Revolution, Governor Patrick Henry sent Colonel George Rogers Clark to capture the fort for Virginia...which was easy to do, considering there wasn't even a fort, much less a garrison. Nevertheless, the Daughters of the American Revolution dedicated first an obelisk and later a statue to this "hero."

General George Washington had the fort re-built, and in 1794, it was the largest outpost of the American military. But that was short-lived, as the frontier was rapidly moving west. In 1803, William Clark (George's brother) and Meriwether Lewis stopped by on their way to the St. Louis Arch. In the visitors center lobby Dear Husband chatted up Billy, who invited us along for the boat ride down the Ohio, as you can see on the right.

The third room in the visitors center holds museum-quality exhibition cases with artifacts, reproductions, and a few hands-on items for the kiddos. Outside, the fort buildings are blocked off with a fence, as they are purportedly undergoing maintenance. That will all have to be done by October, when 100,000 people descend on this sleepy hollow to dress up in red face and 18th-century costumes. There was an album of photographs from the 2000 celebration, at which there was an "authentic" wedding. We might have made some slightly inappropriate jokes about what made it authentic, how big the sticks he could beat her with could be, etc.

DH wanted to try one of the trails in the park, but we didn't make it far before the heat, the poor quality of the bicycles, and the stench from a stagnant creek caused us to turn around. We had to shower and change clothes after we made it back to the B&B, but we spent the rest of the morning in the mansion's parlor reading and writing thank-you notes.

Ricky the Raccoon says, "Hi. I'm not creepy at all."

Monday, May 26, 2014

Southern Illinois, Day 2: Garden of the Gods, Pounds Hollow, and Golconda

Click here for Day 1: Sunday Drivers.
Click here for Day 3, Morning: Fort Massac.
Click here for Day 3, Afternoon: Superman.
Click here for Day 4: Record-Players and Fireflies.

The Blue Street Journal (27 May 2013) 
On Memorial Day, Dear Husband and I set off for Shawnee National Forest. All of the promotional materials were happy to tell us about the Native-American prehistory of this area, how white settlers cleared the land (presumably of both forests and Native Americans), ruined it with row crops, and finally called in the federal government to save them in the 1930s. But we couldn't find out how the park got its name.* Since the 1930s, the National Park Service has carefully cultivated the flora and fauna and controlled access to seven "wilderness" areas within the park.

* Shawnee only lived in southern Illinois for a couple of years in the 1680s (near Fort St. Louis) and again in the 1740s (near the Ohio River), giving what became the capital of Gallatin County its name: Shawanoe Town (that's what they call themselves) --> Shawneetown. We later read about Old Shawneetown being a banking center in the early 1800s and once denying Chicago a loan for being located in the boonies. The British called the Shawanoe the "Savannah." There's a long and detailed history of their altercations with the Iroquois and their subsequent migrations all over the eastern half of the continent here.

We headed for the famously beautiful Garden of the Gods Wilderness, one of the most photographed areas in the state. The day hadn't turned hot yet, so we rolled down the car windows to smell the honeysuckle as we discussed The Grapes of Wrath and why the internet blew up last Memorial Day about the photo above, which purports to show recently freed slave children saluting an American flag during a memorial celebration for Union soldiers whom their parents had disinterred from a mass grave at a Confederate POW camp and reinterred in proper graves.

View looking south from Indian Point

The hike to and from our first destination was mostly quiet, and we were almost entirely alone. We listened to the frogs, watched butterflies and hawks, and identified a few plants. Along the way several fire circles and one tent revealed that several people had camped illegally overnight, and at Indian Point we sacrificed the rest of the contents of our water bottle over campfire pit that was still smoking. DH quipped something about stopping forest fires. We enjoyed the view (above)--and the breeze. The long hike back under the tree canopy was hot, and the path was so narrow that we spent most of it looking down, trying to avoid anything shiny green with "leaves of three." We also had an uncomfortably close encounter with a small-to-medium-sized black snake in the brush just off the trail (timber rattlesnake?), so we were glad to return to our car.

What an adorable face--who couldn't love that face?
Not quite ready for lunch after a big breakfast at the B&B, we went a little farther to the short and popular Garden of the Gods observation trail. Depending on how much time you spend on the bluffs, it can take 30 minutes to an hour to make this circuit. We climbed around a bit and took a few photographs, but all the other people--mostly families--made this scenic overlook less idyllic than the first one. Below you can see how the layers of hard rock and soft sandstone have been eroded into impressive bluffs and whimsical "hoodoos" such as Camel Rock.

Hump-ity, bump-ity!
Then it was back to the car to drive a short ways to Pounds Hollow for a picnic lunch of tuna fish wraps, raspberry jello with berries, and kettlecorn from the farmers market--the best $3 I spent that week. Then, swimming. I had just told a couple at church that we were not the lying-on-the-beach kind, but I have to confess that sunning on the sand next to the lake was undoubtedly my favorite part of this day. I think it was because I wasn't moving, wasn't trying to be anywhere, and wasn't really thinking of anything in particular, a rare state for me to be in! DH observed that he liked lying on the beach as long as the sun was behind a cloud, so he wouldn't get too hot. He preferred being in the water when the sun was out in full force, because some pockets of lake water were still shockingly cold.

DH finally dragged me off the beach to change clothes and drive along the Ohio River Scenic Byway to Golconda, IL, which was founded at a ferry crossing in 1803. There we parked the car, climbed the levy to visit the riverside, and ate a small dinner at the Sweetwater Saloon: "Hunters, boaters, bikers, and locals meet where the water is sweet." While walking up and down Golconda's little Main Street, we discovered the Pope County Historical Society's museum, which would be easy to mistake for one of the numerous antique stores or someone's aunt's house. I took this photograph because among the Coca-Cola memorabilia was a soda-fountain clock I recognized from the Lost in the 50s Diner in Baltimore. (If you would like to see a better image, click here for my second post about eating out in Charm City.) After that it was home to the B&B for cheesecake from yesterday's over-generous dessert platter at the casino.

Pope County History Museum, including
Coca-Cola soda-foundation clock

Southern Illinois, Day 1: Sunday Drivers

Click here for Day 2: Garden of the Gods, Pounds Hollow, and Golconda.
Click here for Day 3, Morning: Fort Massac.
Click here for Day 3, Afternoon: Superman.
Click here for Day 4: Record-Players and Fireflies.

Image credit:
Just before graduation, Dear Husband declared that we needed to get out of town. He pointed out that my clinical rotations schedule will not allow us to take our usual anniversary vacation in August, so we decided to squeeze in a few days over the Memorial Day holiday down in southern(most) Illinois. It's a different world down there, for a number of reasons. "They have this thing called 'topography,'" explained DH to someone at church, "where the ground goes up and down and makes what they call 'hills.'" Indeed, much of the attraction to this otherwise rural, farming area involves its scenery, outdoor sports, camping, the Ohio River, etc. There's a surprising lot to do besides the casinos.

Summers Riverview Mansion
DH and I drove down after church on Sunday afternoon, stopping for a stroll beside a lake, and arriving in Metropolis, IL, just before the rain. Our enthusiastic host gave us a tour of the Victorian mansion he and his wife have converted into a bed and breakfast, complete with quilts, antique furniture, jacuzzi tubs, and a television we couldn't figure out how to work. (Who thought a more-buttons-than-you-know-what-to-do-with universal remote was a good idea??) Although he encouraged us to make ourselves at home, we immediately got gussied up for our anniversary dinner at the steakhouse restaurant at the casino across the street. Although as United Methodists we felt a little odd about indirectly supporting the gaming industry this way, our other options for dinner were Dairy Queen and Edd's shrimp shack. And we were still the best-dressed folks in the steakhouse, as capris and jean shorts are acceptable attire for pulling the slots.

Dinner was steak for him and seafood for me--we're the original surf N turf combo--with a sweet white wine from a local vineyard. We had just decided to skip dessert when our waitress arrived bearing a large platter with a complementary dessert! Thank goodness she offered boxes for whatever we couldn't eat; since we had just packed up the remains of our entrees, we were happy to demolish the creme brulee but take the cakes back to the BnB with us for later.

We didn't bother to correct them about our dual names:
I'm just impressed they spelled mine correctly!
When we left the casino, it was sun-showering outside. And to our great delight, an enormous rainbow appeared in the eastern sky, as if to suggest that we had arrived: vacation!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Monday, May 19, 2014

Initiation into Doktorhood

To see the rest of the photographs from graduation, click here.

The last day I had my graduation regalia, Dear Husband and I went to campus to take some informal photographs. One of those became my "graduation portrait." Here are two more.

1) The line stretched around the corner in front of the Alma Mater, but on a tip we went to the art and design school, whose students had created a paper-mache replica. DH took the photo as if I had climbed onto her pedestal and he were standing below. I don't know whose head you can see under her arm.

2) I have always liked the statue in front of the Krannert Art Museum, because it reminds me of Paul Klee's painting Angelus Novus (1920), which Walter Benjamin described as the angel of history in "Theses on the Philosophy of History" (1940).

Image credit: Wikicommons
"A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress."

So it's not supposed to be an Alma-Mater pose I'm doing but rather angel arms (or wings). The statue's name is really "Initiation," which is also appropriate for marking my initiation into the storied realm of doktorhood. That's Frau Doktor to you!

Sunday, May 18, 2014


Mutti serviert Bowle aus Fruchteis und Limonade.
Von Delphinen aus Bananen und Trauben überrascht.

Meine Schwiegereltern (links)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Frau Doktor Werden

Die Promovierten in Geschichte vor der Graduiertenfeier. Von SJC.

Links: die Alma Mater Figur, die ich Euch hier beschrieben habe. Fast alle Graduierenden wollen ein Foto vor ihr machen lassen, und die Schlange war sehr lang. Ich stand deshalb zur Seite. Hinter mir ist zu lesen: "Ihre Söhne [sic, Kinder] stehen auf und preisen sie selig." ~ Sprüche 31:28a
Rechts: der Dianabrunnen westlich dem Studentenwerkgebäude. Ich habe einen ähnlichen Hut zur Feier meines Bachelors getragen, aber der jetzige Talar hat Bände aus Samt die "Doktor" bedeuten. Die Kapuze ist dunkel Blau = Dr. phil. Die gelben Bänden heissen Geschichte oder Geisteswissenschaften--ich weiss nicht genau.

Links: die Professorin, die mir meinen Hood "gegeben" hat. Als Promovierte, das wichtigste Moment ist wenn ihr/e Professor/in den Hood auf den Schultern liegt. Diese Professorin recherchiert auch die Geschichte der Medizin, aber in den USA. Rechts: das glückliche Ehepaar nach der Graduiertenfeier.

Die Treppen der Bibliothek steigen.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Open Mouth, Insert BBQ

With family in town for graduation, I wanted to share good times over good food with them. I also didn't want to have to cook for so many! After running errands and doing chores on Friday, I thought we should refresh ourselves with the best BBQ in town: Black Dog. This place has such a great reputation that there would be a line out the door, if the staff would let you hold the door open. Instead, we put our name on the pad of paper inside and waited in the (partial) sun outside.

An hour later, we were seated at a high top. We had scoped out the food menu while waiting, and all that remained was to decide on a couple of beers. Before long, four metal trays appeared bearing our orders. For the folks, beef brisket with hot Texas sauce, pulled chicken sandwich with Carolina sauce, and sweet potato fries. Here's my pulled pork sandwich with mild Georgia peach sauce and cornbread. I got the slaw on top as recommended; everyone else ate theirs on the side.

I thought the cole slaw was acceptable, but I like Native Foods' herbed sweet potato fries better. I thought the menu was short on vegetables, but I guess folks come here for the meat and carbs, eh? Word to the wise: even the cornbread had meat in it!

Dear Husband had wanted a pulled rib sandwich, but they were already out, so he scored a famous burnt ends sandwich. If he looks happy in this photograph, it's because he's finally wrapped his fingers around a steaming pile of meat and bread. I couldn't capture the ecstasy on his face after he took his first bite: it broke my camera.

Happy birthday, Dad!