‘A+ People Posts’ Category


Messing Things Up

21 state houseLinda Burton posting from Providence, Rhode Island —Changing the status quo can be messy. And Roger Williams (1603-1683) messed things up wherever he went. Roger didn’t mean to create problems, he meant to simplify. At least, that’s the way it’s interpreted now. Now he’s deemed a hero, a fighter for freedom, and, no small accomplishment – the founder of Rhode Island. The Roger Williams National Memorial, operated by the National Park Service, occupies 4.5 acres in downtown Providence, near the corner of Smith and North Main. The Rhode Island State House is just across the easy-flowing Moshassuck River, an impressive sight through the October-gold of the park’s trees. A pot of yellow mums sat by the building’s door; inside, a solemn wooden statue in patriotic blues and golds held a book. I started with the overview movie of Roger Williams’ life; I browsed 21 williams statuethe exhibits, and the gift shop. The Park Ranger gave me a walking map, marking spots in Providence that were important to the Roger Williams story. Enough time inside; I headed for the First Baptist Church in America, a few blocks down Main Street. I passed the Hahn Memorial along the way, and the spring that was discovered by Roger Williams in the 1600s. Roger built his house nearby (although it no longer exists); that fresh-water spring sustained not only Roger and his family, but the settlers that followed. Judge Jacob Hahn donated the land for the park, and the memorial, 21 spring entranceto the city of Providence in 1931; it was given in honor of his father Isaac Hahn, the first person of Jewish faith to be elected to public office from Providence. These items offer hints of what Roger Williams stood for, and that was “freedom of conscience.” Should I start at the beginning, or the end? » 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


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


The Scoundrel And The Saint

11 pigs eye sketchLinda Burton posting from Saint Paul, Minnesota –Every city has both scoundrels and saints in its past, and Saint Paul is no exception. It may have a “saintly” name today, but it started out as Pig’s Eye. Sit back and listen to this tale of two men, and the legacy they left behind. The first character I introduce is Pierre Parrant, a French Canadian born near Sault Ste Marie, Michigan around 1777; he made his living as a fur trapper. He acquired the name “Pig’s Eye” when he became blind in one eye; he began to have troubles with the law when he started bootlegging. Pig’s Eye Parrant claims two distinctions – he was the first person of European descent to live in what became Saint Paul; and he operated the first business there. The second character I want you to meet is Lucien Galtier. He was born around 1811 in Saint Affrique, in the south of France. He became a Roman Catholic priest, and was sent to the 11 lucien galtierUnited States as a missionary at the time people were settling near Fort Snelling in Minnesota territory; he arrived at his new post in April 1840. The distinctions he claims are several – he was the first missionary in the area, he built the first churches in what are now the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and he is responsible for the name of the city of Saint Paul. The church he began in Saint Paul now occupies its fourth building in the city; sitting atop Cathedral Hill and overlooking downtown, it is the third largest church in the United States and a National Shrine. The city of Saint Paul, beginning with the contributions of two men who tackled the wilderness in strikingly different ways, became capital of the state of Minnesota. » read more


Honestly Abe

13 alpmlLinda Burton posting from Springfield, Illinois – “It’s like Epcot,” I was told by a Springfield resident, referring to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum at the corner of Jefferson and Sixth. “You’ve got to see it!” In a town that’s filled with Abe-ness, this is the spot where every facet of the Lincoln story is presented “Disney style,” in ways designed to hold the attention of even the most blasé. Everybody knows Abraham Lincoln basics; born February 12, 1809, assassinated April 15, 1865; 16th President of the United States. His rugged face is familiar to us; he’s often portrayed wearing a top hat and a somber expression. His boyhood poverty and 13 museum frontrise to leader of the land is the stuff of inspiration; “he learned to read by candlelight,” we’re told, and thus we know we can achieve greatness too, no matter how humble our beginnings, just like Abe. This is the place to kick up what you know a notch; it’s all there in an air-conditioned walk – the replica of “Abe’s Boyhood Cabin;” his courtship of Mary Todd; his children Willie and Tad playing in his office; his presidential campaign; his time in the White House; his coffin in the Springfield capitol. Special effects surround you; there’s a TV studio 13 ghostsplaying the 1860 presidential campaign as though it were held in modern times; a barrage of words and images depict the world that surrounded Lincoln as he sat as his desk to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. During the projection show in the Union Theater the seats tremble when Civil War cannons are fired; in Ghosts of the Library a live actor debates holographic ghosts. A fabulous experience, all in all. But here in Springfield you can see the honest-to-Lincoln sites too, like the Lincoln home, and offices. For real. » read more


Sunday in the Park with George

03 sunday parkLinda Burton posting from Raleigh, North Carolina – Stephen Sondheim (b 1930) is an accomplished American composer best known for his contributions to musical theater. In 1984 he and James Lapine put together a Broadway production called Sunday in the Park with George. It opened to mixed reviews, but in the end, wound up winning a Pulitzer Prize for drama, two Tony Awards for design, the 1991 Olivier Award for Best Musical, and the 2007 Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production. The play was inspired by a painting called A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, done by George Seurat (1859-1891), a French Post-Impressionist painter. It took George two years to complete this 10-foot-wide piece that shows members of different social classes participating in various 03 george 5park activities on a Sunday afternoon; he devised an innovative technique for it called “pointillism,” using tiny juxtaposed dots of color, rather than physically blending the colors on canvas. Very different in its day, and as you might guess, the painting “opened to mixed reviews;” today however it is recognized as a work that altered the direction of modern art. So what does this have to do with Raleigh, North Carolina? I’m about to tell you the story of Antonio Canova (1757-1822), an Italian sculptor, and the controversial statue he did of George Washington (1732-1799) that sits in the rotunda of the North Carolina capitol today. It wasn’t meant to be controversial, of course, and what you see today isn’t what Canova did in 1820; but, well, I’d better start from the beginning to explain. » read more


From Axe To Acts

27 raleigh cape queenLinda Burton posting from Raleigh, North Carolina – I don’t know about you, but I have always associated Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) with chivalry. He’s the guy who threw down his cape so Queen Elizabeth wouldn’t have to step in a puddle, or so I’d heard. Since I’m in the city that was named for him, I’ve been reading up on the English gentleman, and asking questions of Raleigh residents. But it’s been like those Jimmy Kimmel street interviews; I didn’t find a soul who was aware that poor Walter fell out of favor with the royals and was (ouch) beheaded. As was the custom in those days of yore, his embalmed head was delivered to his wife. His body was buried in London in the chancel of St Margaret’s, abutting Westminster; you can visit his tomb today. So was he a chivalrous fellow? Probably so; his resume is an exciting read – aristocrat, courtier, poet, writer, adventurer, explorer, spy. We know he went to Oriel College in Oxford; we know he fought for England in Ireland, helping to put down the Desmond Rebellions. He was a dashing figure 01 city skyline broadof 29 when he (supposedly) assisted the Queen with a sweep of his cape; he was granted 40,000 acres of land in Munster not too long after that; he sat in Parliament; he was a favorite in the Queen’s court. Did he ever come to North America? He did not. So what did he do to get himself beheaded, and why was Raleigh, North Carolina named for him some 174 years after his death? » read more


Hey, Good Lookin’

22 poster from chrisLinda Burton posting from Montgomery, Alabama – When Hank Williams moved to Montgomery in 1937 at the age of 14, Chris Katechis’ restaurant had already been open for twenty years. I’m sitting in Chris’ Place today, eating two of his famous hotdogs, beside a wall decorated in musical notes. I came in because I’d read that Hank Williams used to sit in Chris’ and write songs, and sure enough, I spotted a large poster of Hank as I came in the front door. “Do the musical notes have anything to do with Hank’s songwriting?” I asked my server, as she brought homemade onion rings stacked up cute like a tree. She went away to find out. The lady in the booth across the aisle had advised me on my order. “I worked here myself, back in the 60’s,” she told me, admitting she had no idea what was in the famous secret sauce Chris ladled over his hotdogs. “That’s why it’s called a secret,” she grinned. My server came back to tell me the musical notes on the wall were a part of the original décor, “just because Mr Chris liked 22 server in chrismusic,” she said. Enter Gus, a third generation Katechis, who sat down in my booth and told me a little more about the restaurant, and Hank. “There was a jukebox in here, and Hank always sat in the back booth. Sometimes he’d write, and always he drank. When he’d drunk a little too much, he’d start womanizing. And when he got a little too boisterous, my grandfather would help him out the door. But Hank was a good guy.” “What songs did he write in here?” I asked, but no one had the answer to that. “Maybe Hey, Good Lookin’, whatcha got cookin’?” Gus gave me his card and invited me to come back as often as I could. » read more


To Leave A Legacy

17 three geeseLinda Burton posting from Montgomery, Alabama – The Spanish moss hanging in the trees is a southern give-away. Otherwise, you’d think you were wandering the fields near an English village, complete with geese on the pond and cobblestone paths and, of course, a Shakespearian theater. But you’re really in the Wynton M Blount Cultural Park in Montgomery, Alabama, location of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF), the sixth largest Shakespeare festival in the world. Bringing in more than 300,000 visitors from all 50 states and over 60 countries every year, the performing arts complex in the park has been a part of the Montgomery scene since 1985, thanks to the generosity of a certain Mr and Mrs Blount. What a gift! The park itself is 250 acres of landscaped paths and ponds, trees and open space; there’s a wooden bridge with 17 shakespeare buildinga stone structure atop, perfect for a sit as you watch the ducks swimming below. Montgomery’s Museum of Fine Arts is on one side of the park; meandering roads take you to the Shakespearian edge on the other side. Thatched-roof restrooms? An English garden? You’ve reached the Carolyn Blount Theater, which houses the 750-seat Festival Stage; there is a 225-seat Octagon Theater too. You’ll find Shakespeare here, and more. » read more


Listening For Stories

Linda Burton posting from Jackson, Mississippi – I heard a little inside story about Eudora Welty today but I can’t say who told it. It may or may not be true; but it could be. The story goes like this: Eudora didn’t go to the beauty parlor every week like some women do; but when she went it was always to the same place. One of the ladies who saw her there from time to time commented to another, “She’s a bitter woman. Nothing good to say.” Now, anyone who knew Eudora knew she was anything but bitter. In the years since her death, they have pondered that woman’s comment and concluded it was Eudora’s way of “sparking” a story – throwing out a line that would get people talking. And then she’d sit back and listen! Fodder for writing. On one of the interpretive panels in the Welty Museum I read these words: Welty never stopped listening, her skills at recreating southern life and its stories was based on “eavesdropping” and on living for decades in the place where she grew up. “Once you have heard certain expressions, sentences,” she wrote, “you almost never forget them. It’s like sending a bucket down a well and it always comes back up full.”

Eudora Alice Welty (1909-2001) was a Pulitzer author of international acclaim who was born, and died, in Jackson, Mississippi. Though her stories and novels were set in the south, she did not consider herself a southern writer; she traveled and lived in New York, San Francisco, Mexico, Europe; her friends included authors and artists from around the world. But her love of the south, and the people living there, comes through in every word she wrote; gentle perceptions overlain with a fierce wit, always ringing true. » read more