‘5 Star Posts’ Category


Part Of The Process

23 capitol maineLinda Burton posting from Augusta, Maine – “There’s not much legroom under the desks,” said Dan, pulling out the wastebasket for us to see, “so people tend to set these behind their chairs.” He proceeded to demonstrate how crowded that made the walking space for getting in and out. “Big feet like mine are prone to trip,” he continued, “but little kids can zip through in a flash.” Dan Fournier, our guide in the Maine State House this morning, was explaining the Honorary Page Program, which allows even very young Maine students to spend a day working in the 23 longstafflegislature during session. “Their job is to deliver messages, or documents, to the legislators,” he said. “And they love it. They don’t just observe what happens here, they are part of the process.” Our tour group today included State Representative Thomas Longstaff, one of Maine’s 151 legislators. As we sat in the House Chambers he added his comments, pointing out the colored bands on the desk microphones. “They designate what paper materials we want to receive,” Tom explained. “I have chosen to go paperless, using my laptop for retrieving the documents we need. If a mike has a yellow band, for instance, that 23 house voting boardperson chooses to receive a paper copy of a bill.” I looked around the room, noting yellow bands on mikes. Tom called our attention to the electronic voting board in the corner too; “In addition to the 151 legislator names,” he pointed out, “there are three more names at the bottom that represent the Maliseet, Penobscot, and Passamaquoddy tribes of Maine, and even though they are non-voting members, they have the right to speak, and introduce legislation. They are part of the process.” Our attention switched from the building itself to what happens inside of it; questions began to fly. » read more


Smell The Smoke

21 fire buildingLinda Burton posting from Augusta, Maine – You can read the history books. Or you can smell the campfire smoke. Which is the better way to get a handle on the past? Dick Freeman, Chair of the Fort Western Board of Trustees, happened to be at the Fort today and talked with me after my tour; he believes we need a little of both. I smelled the smoke the minute I entered the Fort Western gate; three people in costume were just starting a fire for the afternoon demonstrations. The wisp of smoke eventually became a steady 21 freeman and fort.2campfire; the warm smoky smell followed me the rest of the afternoon as I walked around the Fort. You know how smoke gets into your clothes; it even followed me back to my hotel. So did the stories, and images, from the Fort; I wondered if that happens with the school children who visit. They offer 17 programs to help students in grades K-12 meet selected Maine social studies standards through a visit to the Fort, or through classroom study of what happened there; they cover civics, government, citizen participation, economics, history, geography, and individual 21 woman in costumeconnections. Marjorie Dearborn, in costume, was my tour guide today. “The building has been restored to the time when it served as a store, and a home for the Howard family,” she explained. We looked at the merchandise on the shelves; the shoes that were made to fit either foot; the ledger that contained an entry for every item sold. In April 1774 someone bought nutmeg, and sugar and salt; in May there was a purchase of chocolate, and women’s shoes; in August it was coffee, and corn; in October Daniel Townsend bought 2 quarts of rum. Back in my room, with the smell of smoke still clinging to my clothes; I began to read the history. » read more


From Mexico To China

17 augusta riverLinda Burton posting from Augusta, Maine –My target today was the easternmost capital city in the United States. I knew my drive would take me through Vermont’s Green Mountains and New Hampshire’s White Mountains before getting to Maine; from the Maine state line, the map showed twisting roads and changing highway numbers. I expected to get confused, but I didn’t expect to wind up in Mexico, or China. I’m studying the map now, trying to follow the route my GPS used to get me 17 st johnsbury 2from Montpelier, Vermont to Augusta, Maine. It put me on US Highway 2 from Montpelier, and that curved me into St Johnsbury, where I disregarded its instructions long enough to drive around the postcard-pretty town; it has an incredible collection of church spires in just a few blocks, all framed by mountains. I stopped at a crosswalk on the St Johnsbury Academy campus while a crossing guard waved through a parade of young people in jackets and ties. It wasn’t far from there to the Connecticut River (Connecticut’s capital city, Hartford, is 200 miles to the south); the river separates Vermont and New Hampshire, flows through the middle of Massachusetts, divides East Hartford and West Hartford, and winds up in Long Island Sound. New Hampshire’s Live Free or Die sign welcomed me; the mountains and valleys seemed to expand. More signs; Franconia 17 franconia nNotch, Pinkham Notch, Mt Washington (New Hampshire’s highest point at 6,288 feet). Signs for cog railways, ski runs, snowmobile routes, moose crossings. I stopped for gas at Gorham. “Where am I?” I asked, studying a Maine map posted on the wall. “You’re still in New Hampshire,” the nice lady replied, “where are you headed?” We looked for Augusta; “Follow the Androscoggin River,” she pointed, “and go to Mexico.” » read more


Meticulous Attention

11 david and chairLinda Burton posting from Montpelier, Vermont – Meticulous. That’s the word. When it comes to restoration, there are two ways to go about it. You can recreate the general mood of the past – who would really know, after all? Or you can pay meticulous attention to the smallest detail. Such as the antlers on a hand-carved deer, so tiny no one would ever notice they were missing. I stood in the Governor’s Office as David Schutz, Curator for the State, pointed out the deer. It’s part of the Constitution Chair, so called because it was carved from the timbers of the frigate USS Constitution (aka Old Ironsides) and has served as the official governor’s chair since 1858. Now that’s a pretty awesomely unique chair, right there. But, as David pointed out, it suffered from years of use, and modernization. It was reupholstered with modern fabrics, and somewhere along the way, the 11 david and chair cdelicate antlers of the deer were broken off. During the restoration of 1985, the decision was made to restore the chair, and give the deer its antlers back. But not just any wood was used. A trip was made to Boston, where the USS Constitution is berthed for public tours. By special arrangement, a small piece of “Constitution timber” was obtained from which to 11 skyline vermontcarve new antlers for the deer; the Constitution Chair was made whole again. Meticulous. There’s another word that describes the Vermont State House, and that word is “intimate.” The building nestles between the river and the hills; inside its granite walls there’s warmth and color in every room. It has a cozy feel, but touches everywhere that make it grand; soft red velvet draped against shuttered windows; gilt-bronze radiator screens with delicate patterns of cast-iron curving vines; tiny warrior cherubs perched on the gasoliers. » read more


On Henry’s Behalf

29 hh hmLinda Burton posting from Albany, New York – A lot of good things are discovered while somebody is looking for something else, like a passage to China. The Hudson River Valley is one such example. Now, the river was there eons before Englishman Henry Hudson sailed the Half Moon about as far north as where Albany sits today. That was 1609, when Henry was commissioned by the Dutch East India Company to find a way to get to Asia in a hurry, where they could trade for exotic spices. Henry wasn’t the first European to observe the river; in 1524 Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano (sailing for France) sailed all around the Upper Bay; he just didn’t go as far north as Henry did. And before Verrazano came along, the Iroquois, who lived along both banks of the lower portion of the river (now 29 half moonNew Jersey and Manhattan) had already named the river “Muhheakantuck” – translate that to “river that flows two ways.” Because the Hudson River is subject to the rise and fall of the tides; as far north as Albany there is a four-foot tide twice a day. The river comes out of Henderson Lake in the Adirondack Mountains and flows 315 miles south before emptying into Upper New York 29 hm wvBay. Its lower half is a tidal estuary; tidal water influences the flow as far north as Troy. I learned that today while sailing on the river myself, on a daily afternoon run of the Dutch Apple Cruises. The cruise started, appropriately enough, with a full-on description of the buildings of Albany alongside the river; with particular attention called to the 800-pound weathervane atop the SUNY headquarters. Hard to make out from a distance, but the narrator assured us it was an exact replica of Henry’s ship, the Half Moon. » read more


He Never Set Foot

15 columbus statueLinda Burton posting from Columbus, Ohio – A statue of Christopher Columbus nestles under the buckeye trees on the southwest corner of the Ohio Statehouse grounds. It isn’t quiet there; the statue faces busy High Street and a main stop for the COTA buses; to his left across State Street the marquee on the Ohio Theater flashes for events; a highrise hotel on the corner welcomes visitors to Columbus. But Chris looks peaceful enough, reflectively studying the globe in his hand. A few blocks away, in Battelle Riverfront Park, the Santa Maria floats gently on the Scioto 15 santa maria 2River. It’s a replica of course, open for public tours, and offering educational programs about life, and sailing, in Christopher Columbus times. Chris is a major presence in Columbus, Ohio, even though he never set foot anywhere remotely near. The “explorer’s mystique” surrounds his name; it has been chosen for cities and parks all over the world; his statues are everywhere too. The one on the Ohio Statehouse grounds isn’t a heavy-duty marble; it is crafted of hammered copper plates joined together with rivets and was created in the workshops of W H Mullins Company in Salem, Ohio in 15 columbus statue 31892, as the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ first voyage approached. Americans looked for ways to recognize what many felt was the beginning of the nation’s history; in Columbus Monsignor Joseph Jessings, founder of Pontifical College Josephenium, commissioned a statue and put it on the grounds of the Seminary. In 1932 the statue was given to the state, and has remained on the Statehouse grounds since. The base was added in 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage; it was rededicated on Columbus Day; presiding were the Mayors and Governors from Columbus, Ohio and Genoa, Liguria, the Italian city and state thought to be Columbus’ birthplace. » read more


Reach For The Stars

07 capitol w tree left fLinda Burton posting from Lansing, Michigan – The catalpa tree was already there when architect Elijah Meyers came to build a capitol. “We figure it’s more than 140 years old,” the groundskeepers told me. Construction on the third Michigan state capitol began in the summer of 1872; the catalpa would have grown as the capitol grew. From the day of the capitol’s dedication on January 1, 1879 until today, when I came for a visit, the catalpa has stood just to the left of the front sidewalk, watching over everything. It is well over a hundred feet tall and 85 feet across 07 tree fencedits crown, one of the biggest of its kind in the country. It is fenced for its protection, and steel posts now support two of its extensive limbs; its 20-foot trunk is split, from earliest days, it appears. But it is wearing its age well and each year produces a hearty crop of long thin seed-filled pods, which the groundskeepers collect and give to the Michigan State University arborists for “starting.” Plantings are shared with the community; you might find this catalpa’s babies all over Lansing. “All trees that grow from this tree’s seed split too,” I was 07 entrance 2told, as I was handed a seed pod to keep for my own treasure. I tucked it into my backpack and headed on towards the capitol entrance. No steps and no mystery; a clearly marked ground-floor entrance led me directly to the Visitor Information desk, where Matt VanAcker welcomed me and gave me information about the capitol. “A few days ago, there were no desks or chairs in the chambers,” he said. “We are just getting back in order after some major renovation.” I headed for the first floor rotunda, where the tour was already underway, booklet of facts in hand. » read more


Saturday’s Scene

29 aged cheddar wrappedLinda Burton posting from Madison, Wisconsin – Cave Aged Bandaged Cheddar from Bleu Mont Dairy in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin sells for twenty-five dollars a pound. I bought $8.50 worth; yes, I finally found that Wisconsin cheese I’ve been looking for. I discovered it at the Dane County Farmers’ Market last Saturday, on Capitol Square, right in the heart of downtown. I can state with almost a certainty that you’ve never been to a Farmers’ Market like this one; it claims to be the largest producers-only farmers’ market in the United States. And all those open-air tents against the background of the capitol make it without doubt the prettiest farmers’ market in the country. The DCFM has been happening since the 70’s; blue tents and white shelter as many as 300 vendors selling everything from cheeses and meats to vegetables and flowers. It happens every Saturday during the 29 fm postersummer from 6:30 AM to 2 PM; Wednesdays too, although the weekday market doesn’t draw as many vendors, or crowds. There are just a few strict Do’s and Don’ts – it always happens, regardless of weather, that’s a Do; and all items must be produced locally by the vendor. No resale is allowed, and no pets are allowed at the market. Any vendor you see waited a long time for an invite to sell at the DCFM; the average wait is five years. The best chefs want to buy at the market, and the 27 onionsbest producers want to sell there; DCFM producers regularly receive national and international recognition for the quality of their products. I could see that as I walked around the square; red torpedo onions shining like a work of art; bundles of garlic rowed up like pretty girls at a party; lemon scones plump with blueberries; fresh sweet corn. And award-winning cheese. » read more


The Town Square

27 capitol 11 cheeseLinda Burton posting from Madison, Wisconsin – My favorite thing about the Wisconsin State Capitol is its “town squareness.” You know, like the courthouse square in most of small-town America; the village green; the gathering place. Make no mistake; the building is massive, and elegant; and still serves all three branches of state government. The governor’s office is on the first floor; visitors are welcome in the adjoining conference room, a Venetian palace look-alike with fancy-dancy paintings on every wall; the ceiling too, look up, for sure. The Senate and the Assembly each have chambers on the second floor, as does the Supreme Court; the fourth wing is the North Hearing Room. Everything has a glamorous look; there are marbles and woods from Germany, and Italy, and France; and, to stay true to its roots, Wisconsin, of course. But it shares its elegance; it’s 27 capitol 7 openan open-door capitol. Every entrance is available, on every side; walk in and look around, or take a tour, or express your opinion, seven days a week. Visit on a Saturday, when the Farmers Market tents surround the square. People come in to be dazzled; posing for pictures on the balcony as they wave at their photographer down below; arms filled with 27 capitol 6 picture takingparcels of cheese, or farm-fresh kohlrabi, from the stands outside. The setting is magnificent; where else could you find a background like that? Where else such history, or such art? Where else such a forum for being heard? I had a conversation with the Capitol Police, whose desk fronts the Governor’s Office. And I had a conversation with one of the Solidarity Singers, who has been arrested by the Capitol Police at least five times during the last few weeks. They share a difficult problem; I listened to their conundrum. » read more


Hmong Americans

17 mapLinda Burton posting from Saint Paul, Minnesota –Saint Paul’s population is 15% Asian, third highest Asian population in the list of capital cities. That’s according to the 2010 US Census, which also denotes specific ethnicity; it tells us that 260,073 people of Hmong descent live in the United States, with the largest Hmong American community right here in Saint Paul. The United States opened its doors to Hmong war refugees with the Refugee Assistance Act of 1975 following the communist takeover of Laos; more than 18,000 Hmong had died in support of US forces during the Vietnam conflict. By 1978 about 30,000 Hmong had immigrated; primarily men directly associated with the war efforts. When the Refugee Act of 1980 was passed, families 17 h american daywere permitted to come. Political controversy surrounded the remaining Hmong refugees after the 1980 immigration wave – should they be repatriated, allowed to immigrate, or left in the refugee camps in Thailand? Eventually tens of thousands of Thai-based Hmong refugees were granted US immigration rights, leading to highly emotional reunions of long-separated Hmong families. As of the 2010 US Census, the largest Hmong American populations were in California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Michigan, with the Saint Paul metro area being home to the largest group. It is a strong and tightly woven community, as immigrants adapt to American culture while still maintaining their homeland 17 mcdonaldsroots. Organizations in Saint Paul that serve the Hmong community are the Hmong American Partnership, founded in 1990 to help Hmong refugees adjust to life in America; the Hmong Cultural Center, founded in 1992 to enhance cross-cultural awareness; and the Hmong Archives, founded in 1999 to collect and preserve Hmong heritage. And the Hmong Village on Johnson Boulevard is a favored destination for any resident of Saint Paul who loves papaya salad, or Pho. » read more