Monday, January 04, 2010

No one left to keep the "sacred fire"

Read about the ancient people who kept the sacred fire going at Pecos, New Mexico, and then let it go out, and you will wonder why. But, then it strikes me I can find the same thing happening right now, right this minute at a site in Ohio, a modern, right now site. First, I will relate some of what I know about the site in Pecos, New Mexico. It is just north of Santa Fe, and I discovered it as I read about some soldiers of the Mexican War who spent a night there. In of those soldiers subsequently wrote about what he saw and heard of this place. He said that two types of people maintained the holy "fire" at an Indian church in Pecos many, many years ago. And, remember this was in 1846 that he wrote about it being many, many years ago. No matter, he went onto describe those two groups of people as being very fierce in their protection of the sacred fire they maintained there. One group was supposedly a race of 15-foot tall humans who, certainly, by their size would have scared away anyone who sought to extinguish their sacred fire. The other group, strange as it may sound, was a race of tiny humans, like two to three feet tall. They made up for their small size by being very aggressive and threatening to anyone who might think to extinguish the sacred fire as they watched it. There is no clear record, at least according to the soldiers, when the "sacred fire" went out, but it did, possibly as those two races died out and then the people who remained at Pecos gradually moved to other places or took up other beliefs. The result was the sacred fire went out, and it has never been lit since. Now to the modern example of the same thing, which also revolves around a "sacred fire." It is at Maria Stein, Ohio where since the 1840s an order of Catholic nuns have maintained a convent, church and then a collection of relics of more than 1,000 saints. They have maintained their vigil on the sacred relics in a special chapel built at the end of the 1800s. It is there today. But, alas, there are a few, very few nuns to maintain the "sacred fire" at the chapel that contains all those sacred relics because fewer women chose the holy life. More than that, the church which stands adjacent to the chapel of the sacred relics is big and beautiful, but because of the shortage of priest, there is only one mass a week there. That is at noon on Saturdays. That is for now, but given the continued decline in nuns and the number of priests, there must be a time coming, which like the sacred fire at Pecos, there will no longer be anyone to care for the sacred fire at Maria Stein. Then it will go out and the sacred relics? Well, they, no doubt will move to some other spot because there are other Catholic churches, some of which probably would receive and care for them. Then the sacred fire will no longer be at Maria Stein just like at Pecos.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Who built the Mysterious Staircase at Loretto Chapel?

Visit Santa Fe, New Mexico and you will hear of the mysterious staircase at Loretto Chapel. The story you will hear and can even find on the Web is that when the chapel was built in the 1800's, someone suddenly realized there was not room to build a staircase from the ground floor to the choir loft.
At that point a mysterious stranger appeared and with great skill built the staircase that spirals from the ground to open onto the choir loft today, and he did it without nails. Then he disappeared without anyone learning who he was.
Who was this mysterious stranger? The first time I visited the chapel, I heard several ideas, but the conclusion most often suggested was it had to be St. Joseph, Mary's husband. He was a carpenter.
The staircase is a marvel of engineering and craftsmanship. That cannot be denied as this photo taken by Ian Harris of Copenhagen, Denmark, on a visit to Santa Fe this past summer shows.
But, I have a flash for you as to the identity of the craftsman who built that staircase.
I found out from a small item in “New Mexico” magazine. The writer said she'd searched high and low for the craftsman's name, and then finally found it among some newspaper obituaries.
The obituary identified him as a certain Frenchy Rojas. It said he'd created the spiral staircase at Loretto Chapel and then some other fine piece of wood work in at another building, perhaps in Albuquerque.
The obituary said after crafting those pieces in northern New Mexico he ended up in Dog Canyon, which is south of Albuquerque. There, the obituary said, he was murdered, and, that fact, that he'd been murdered was featured first in the obituay. There were other details that I have forgotten. One vague recollection is he belonged to some French society along the lines of the Masons, as best I can recall it.
So, if you visit Santa Fe and Loretto Chapel, admire the craftsmanship, but also know you are probably one of the few people among the admirers around you who knows who built it. Thanks for the great photo, Ian.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

El Dorado!

A story of the man who sang the title song for the movie!

I truly enjoy music, music of all styles, and one particular song I enjoy hearing over and over again is the title song, "El Dorado," from the movie of the same name, sung by George Alexander. It is a wonderful movie with John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. I like the movie, but I especially love the song because of George Alexander's incredible voice. You can find the music on the web or at a link I have provided. Just click the title above, and it will take you right to the song.
But, to get to the main part of this story, I just happened to find one of George Alexander's nieces, and this is one of her wonderful memories of her uncle:
"I will always remember, whenever we went out to lunch for many years in San Francisco, where we are from, right before the bill would come, it was a family custom, for one of us, the nieces, usually, to ask Uncle George to 'hum' a few bars from El Dorado, which he would do. Then out of the blue, he would belt out the tune, and sing the whole song. People would come in off the street, everyone would stop what they were doing and gather around the table. My uncle had such a wonderfully loud baritone voice that a microphone was not really necessary. I recall bringing a boyfriend with me years ago, and he told me he felt like crawling under the table. Suffice it to say, he did not have an Uncle George in his midst!"
She also told me that her Uncle George, now in his 80s, is in a nursing home. I wish her and her uncle well.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

FISH & CHICKEN INN! Great food, Great people!

If you've never been there, you have to stop by for some excellent food, but also to meet some really nice people!
The place is the FISH & CHICKEN INN at the corner of Hudson Street and Joyce Avenue in Columbus, or more properly at 1828 E. Hudson St.
There you can have a fish sandwich that will impress you as it does the regular customers in the area who know about this marvelous place. And, you can have a lot more, including a gyro. Food is excellent and prices are reasonable. That means you really get value for your money, which is not always the case at a lot of restaurants where they spend more on the decorations and the advertising than they do the food.
Besides the great food, you also will get a chance to meet two of the nicest people you will ever meet Boubker Laassbi and his son, partner and co-owner, Adenane Haimani. No, those are not names you recognize, and you will even have to ask them how to pronounce their names.
They have their names because they are from way, way off, like Morocco, a country on the northwest part of Africa.
Boubker said they started the business about a year ago because they are good cooks, and they know the restaurant business and how important good food and value are, too.
They are also miracle workers in a way, in that they took what once, probably a long, long time ago, was a Dairy Queen, and by their own work turned it into what you can see today.
What you see is a brightly painted yellow building with welcoming signs. The building brightens up the whole neighborhood.
All of those things you must appreciate, plus the fact that Baoubker and his son had the nerve to go into business. Just that alone has to impress you because while going into business is easy, staying in business can be tough. Yet, he and his son have done it.
Go inside the FISH & CHICKEN INN and you will see a place that is clean, really clean. That means you will not only enjoy the food but that you can trust it, too.
“People like it,” Boubker said of the food he offers at the FISH & CHICKEN INN.
Their customers may like the place because the father and son likes their customers.
“When you treat people well, they like it,” Adenane said. “That's what we try to do, treat people well.”
Boudker especially praises his son's work. "We did everything together equally. We both cook, and we are business partners."
So, next time you are hungry, stop by. You will like the food, and you will like the people behind the counter.
You might also like their story about how with all the world to pick from they ended up in Columbus, Ohio—and also remember to ask why they keeps the front door wide open!
They are open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. -- 9 p.m., on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. -- 10 p.m. And then from noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.
If you want to order ahead, or get lost trying to find the you can reach them by calling 478-0675.
Click the picture to make it bigger. They stand outside their restaurant!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Who flew Flying Boxcar 037 to the US Air Force Museum?

There are two strings of airplanes parked in a sort of air park at the U.S Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, and in one of those lanes is a C-119, no to be precise a C-119J with the nose number 037.
For those of you who do not know, this was one of the first Air Force transport that could be loaded from the rear. Many of the early versions of Air Force transports, the C-47 and C-54, for example, all required side loading—and in the case of the C-47 through a very narrow door.
Also called the “Flying Box Car,” the C-119 at the Air Force Museum was configured for a specific mission, because it has a, well, what I can only call a clamp tail, in that it could be opened up, something like a clamp or mouth. The special tail was created for a special mission, to catch one of the early satellites in the United States space program.
A sign in front of this very unique C-119 says that, indeed on Aug. 19, 1960, made a mid-air recovery of the parachute to which the space capsule was attached. It says the event occurred at 8,000 feet 360 miles southwest of Hawaii. There must have been some jubilation among the aircraft's crew when that happened.

I'm including photos of it, a side view to show the clamp tail and then another that shows a curious configuration of antennas on the nose.
But, to my story and question, about who flew it to the Air Force Museum.
So, far I've had three different people tell me they flew it in.
One was an old friend Jim McMaster who for a long time was the public affairs spokesman for the 302nd Airlift Wing when it was at Rickenbacker ANGB, Ohio. He was a retired Air Force colonel and had had long service flying every plane imaginable during World War II.
Now, Jim, said he was the pilot. Well, since then, including two men I've met at the Air Force Museum say they were the pilots who flew it in, all suggesting to me that they were the pilot as opposed to the co-pilot.
Maybe I should have asked if the other two knew Jim McMaster, but I did not. So, maybe one or more of them weren't the actual pilot but, rather, the co-pilot for the trip to the Air Force Museum. The sign out front says the craft was flown to the museum in 1963.
That is interesting only from the standpoint that they were still in wide use then, at least in the Air Force Reserve, though maybe in active duty units, too.
No, matter, if anyone else out there knows who might have flown this bird to the museum, drop me a note.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Capital Winds: If You Live in or around Columbus, Ohio, You Must Hear Them!

The Ohio Capital Winds, a champion of wind ensemble music, performs a classic repertoire from masters such as Holst, Sousa, Grainger, and Ohio's own Henry Fillmore.
The musicianship of the ensemble's 30+ professional and semi-professional players is its hallmark.
Concert programs appeal to a wide range of tastes, taking audiences on a journey that blends exuberant crescendos with moments of quiet contemplation.
All that is directly from the group's web site, and all that it means is they are excellent musicians and wonderful to hear.
Their conductor is Catherine Hope-Cunningham, a young woman with a great deal of skill and love for her work.
Check their web site for future performances, to buy a CD of their work for anyone you know who loves great music and to even book them for your next event, social or business. They will bring wonder to any of those kinds of events.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Look for Adventures Right Where You Live!

A grand adventure for me usually does not begin with something planned or expected but rather something unexpected and unplanned.
For example, one afternoon some years back coming out the back door of the federal courthouse in Columbus, Ohio, I chanced to spot this large, ugly, brown and yellow boulder right in the middle of an otherwise smooth, even expanse of a soft green grass.
Hmmm? The big question in my mind was why would something so ungainly be in the middle of an otherwise beautiful lawn?
I walked over and noticed a weathered copper plaque on one side of the boulder. It said that boulder marked the spot of the first cabin built in what is now Columbus, Ohio. That cabin was built in 1797 by its first inhabitant, John Brickell, who then lived the rest of his life in what became Columbus.
Information on that plaque is mildly interesting, but most interesting is the realization that today it sits in a spot where there are large, modern buildings all around.
Think about it? That man, John Brickell, building a cabin in what in 1797 had to be nearly pure wilderness only a few years removed from the days that Indians camped on that very spot.
Yet, today, think of all that is there that he could hin no way have envisioned when he lived there and what we today could in now way imagine what was there when he lived there.
There is more to the story of the ugly boulder.
The boulder no longer sits in the middle of the lawn. It has its own place and a better place near a sidewalk.
Yet, that ugly boulder may not truly mark the spot where that first cabin was built, and maybe it never did. The boulder was moved from where I first saw it several years ago by more than the length or width of any pioneer cabin. Furthermore, several articles you can find on line about John Brickell say his first cabin was at the site of the former old Ohio State Penitentiary. If, so, that would place his cabin a couple of blocks to the north and east from of where the boulder is today.
No, matter the fact that there is anything at all to mention the first cabin built in Columbus is worthwhile. Some information on the plaque is interesting, too, but when I first saw it, the information just tended to whet my appetite to learn more about John Brickell.
The Internet was just a sparkle in someone's brain when I found that ugly boulder, and information on John Brickell could only be obtained at a library, maybe.
Today, several Internet sites tell you all about John Brickell, and one has his own account of his life up until the time he built that first cabin. He gave the account in 1842, two years before he died. At that time, he said he might give more information later, but as far as I know, he never did.
I provide a link to that site, but further explanation of some of its points may helpful for you to understand John Brickell and what happened around him during the late 1700's in Ohio.
For example, the plaque says he was born at Stewart's Crossing southwest of Pittsburgh in 1781. Again, through the marvel of the Internet you can quickly learn that Gen. Edward Braddock crossed the Youghiogheny River with his army there in June 1755 on his way to oust the French at a post that is now the location of Pittsburgh. A few days later Braddock and most of his army were ambushed and killed by Indians. One of the soldiers with him who escaped death or injury was George Washington.
Brickell captured by and then adopted by the Indians in 1791. He gives some excellent information on life with the Indians and their clashes with the Americans.
There is, for example, a reference in Brickell's account to being in an Indian village in the early winter of 1791 when Indian warriors returned from a battle with the Americans carrying a great deal of plunder. That battle was fought on Nov. 4, 1791 when many of the 1,100 or so American soldiers led by Gen. Arthur St. Clair were massacred at what is now the small town of Fort Recovery, Ohio. St. Clair had been a general during the American Revolution and was governor of the Northwest Territories, of which present day Ohio was a part, when he led that army to such a terrible defeat in 1791.
Brickell also recounts the event that forced the Indians to give him up, the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. Especially interesting is Brickell's recollection of how upset the Indians were after that battle over their betrayal by the British who'd encouraged them to fight the Americans.
If you want to feel particularly sad, read Brickell's account of how his adopted Indian father, Big Cat, reacted when Brickell, given the choice, elected to return to his own family rather than stay with his adopted father.
Another curious bit is Brickell's description of how the Indians used a candle to hunt deer at night much in the way some hunters, illegally, use a spotlight to hunt deer at night today. The light from the candle or spotlight cause a deer to stop and become an easy target. But for Brickell's account, it would never have occurred to me that the Indians would have known how to “spotlight” with a candle.
Anyway, here is a photo of the boulder with the plaque marking the spot of John Brickell's first cabin. The link to Brickell's account is provided above.