The SomeDaily – 2013-08-14

A not-every-daily feature to help keep track of the days…

New Orleans City Council prepares to discuss a report on the city’s “soundscape” and recent bizarre enforcement of sound ordinances on places like Frenchmen Street. Suggests requiring permits for street musicians.

Oh, and the powers that be are trying to do away with go-cups.

If you haven’t already seen this (and it’s been linked about everywhere by now), Todd Andrlik has compiled the 1776 ages of all your favorite American Revolutionaries at his excellent site Journal of the American Revolution.

And, returning to the dirty south, another article in the same Web journal specs out a meal in Bernardo de Galvéz’s New Orleans (complete with recipes).

Onward and upward.

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The YWCA Pool

Ten years ago this summer I quit my job to go back to school. There was a YWCA pool behind the office at that job, and for a time, my office window overlooked it. Every day for three years (except in winter) I had to watch kids splashing, playing, having fun while I sat in a cube and coded. On my last day at the job, I packed a bathing suit. I was going to go swim in that #$%@#$% pool after work when I was free. Finally. But I didn’t, because the pool was unexpectedly closed that day and for some lengthy period after. I actually don’t think it ever reopened, and it’s long-gone now. The place is pretty much overgrown with weeds from what Google maps shows me. There’s a lesson there. I’m not entirely sure what it is.

While America is on the topic of political movers and shakers…

A few years ago, before she lost control of her memory, she was rich in interesting reminiscences of the early history of this city [….] She spoke sometimes of the strange little man with the wonderful bright eyes, Aaron Burr, who was so polite and so dangerous. She loved to talk of Lafayette, who visited New Orleans over half a century ago. The great Frenchman came to see her at her house and kissed her on the forehad at parting.”

Times-Picayune (New Orleans, La.), June 17, 1881, “Death of Marie Laveau”

 

YOU GUYS.

I CAN’T EVEN.

I mean, I know, it’s 19th century journalism, so who knows if it’s really true, but politically she was certainly one of the most important people in town. Maybe not at THAT age, but STILL.

Lafayette and Laveau. They fight crime.

I’m writing this.

… and Aaron Burr? What was up with that? I need to know more.

Public Transport Limbo

“They told me to take a street-car named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at – Elysian Fields!”

– Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire

And, you know, once upon a time you really could take all those streetcars – from sin to death to the afterlife – one right after another. Now they’ve mostly been replaced by buses, and if you’re me, they’ll likely leave you stranded somewhere along the way. To be fair, the last time I was stranded, I was actually on Elysian Fields, and my destination was Metairie which in many ways is a kind of suburban hell, so… I think I’ve stretched the metaphor too far already.

Voyages

“Shortly before leaving, he was introduced to the famous Georg Forster, a thin man with a cough and an unhealthy pallor. He had circumnavigated the globe with Cook and seen more than any German had ever seen; now he was a legend, his book was world famous, and he worked as the librarian in Mainz. He told tales of dragons and the living dead, of supremely well-mannered cannibals, of days when the sea was so clear that one seemed to be rocking over an abyss, of storms so fierce that one didn’t even dare pray. Melancholy enveloped him like a fine mist. He had seen too much, he said. That was the meaning of the simile about Odysseus and the Sirens. It was no good tying oneself to the mast; even when one escaped, one couldn’t recover from the brush with the unknown. He could hardly sleep any more, he said, his memories were too strong. Recently he had had the news that his captain, the great saturnine Cook, had been boiled and eaten on Hawaii. He rubbed his forehead and looked at the buckles on his shoes. Boiled and eaten, he said again.

“He too wanted to go on voyages, said Humboldt.

“Forster nodded. Quite a few had that wish. And everyone of them regretted it later.

“Why?

“Because one could never come back.”

– Daniel Kehlmann, “Measuring the World”

I’ll Rochambeau Ya For It Part 3: Mount Vernon

At long last, the final installment of my Revolutionary trek across Virginia! And it has been so long since I started this (mini) series that I barely remember what I wanted to say… But I promise at least the pictures will be pretty.

In 1781, Washington really, really, really wanted to take back New York. In classic Freudian repetition George was ready to make another hopeless go at what had become an all-too-willing British stronghold. This time, however, he had a few boatloads of French soldiers to back him up, and he stood a real chance.

The problem was that those French soldiers had someplace to be, and that someplace was France. They were less interested in a New York City bloodbath than in getting things over as quickly as possible and getting on the boat back home. The fastest route to achieve that end was south, where French ships were already swarming their territory in the Caribbean lest the British navy try to extend its reach after pummeling the sorry American forces. General Rochambeau, a grizzled veteran of political and military battles alike for decades, gently prodded Washington in the direction he wanted to go. When word came that Admiral De Grasse just happened to swing by the Chesapeake Bay on holiday from his more lucrative tropical battles and beat a few holes in the British Navy’s line, Washington’s decision was made for him. He had to strike where the British were weakest, and that meant a long ride south to Virginia for all.

Washington had not been home in six years of fighting, but this would hardly be a relaxing homecoming. Upon nearing Mount Vernon, Washington rode ahead to arrive a day early and help Martha and the servants prepare for hundreds of houseguests with barely a day’s notice. Washington and Rochambeau would then meet in the mansion’s unfinished dining room while tents and troops were pitched everywhere on the grounds outside. Then they would ride to Yorktown, to their southern generals (including Lafayette, of course), and to victory.

Two hundred thirty years later on September 10-11, 2011, Mount Vernon, a ton of reenactors, and some French ambassadors decided to made a thing of it. They threw a big reenactment of the encampment to commemorate the event and the opening of a trail marking the route taken from New York. Mount Vernon is one of my favorite places on Earth, and I had to go.

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Even wore my tri-cornered hat and (this is the only time in my life I’ll probably ever say this) wasn’t out of place at all.

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For a super-sekrit military maneuver, there sure was a huge crowd of onlookers. The day started with Washington, Rochambeau, and Rochambeau’s translator explaining their plans to move on Yorktown. I think maybe the nation’s first spymaster needs a reminder about the definition of “clandestine service.”

Washington Rochambeau Encampment Reenactment 2011 - Opening

Seriously. They even provided a sign language interpreter so no one would miss details of the plan.

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I kid, I kid. But to make up for their lack of discretion, they were very snappy dressers!

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And well-armed:

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Mmm, provisions.

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Back in the camp, I spent some time with some geographers where I learned how to, er, tell if a circle is round. Yeah, well, I guess science has to start somewhere, doesn’t it? Seriously, though, these guys were amazing.

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These guys are awfully proud of their cannon. And… what’s that? A Spaniard?

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These two were a hoot. They totally schooled me about Spanish involvement in the American Revolution, which I knew to some degree but not in so much detail. Spain, like France, would take any shot at Britain they could get, but unlike France, they weren’t about to give any crazy ideas to their own colonists that they were trying to beat down. Instead, they let Louis Seize run out in front and threw money and guns at the French effort from behind.

Unfortunately these guys also tried to convince me that King Carlos paid Lafayette’s salary, which I don’t think can be true. At least it wasn’t at the start of the War. Lafayette was an American major-general, meaning that whatever money Spain gave to France, it didn’t go to him. No, you don’t lose as much money as Lafayette did by taking a cut of the Spanish goods. You lose it by blowing it on your own ship and a crapload of guns so you can go play soldier without the King knowing. Continental Army doesn’t have enough money to pay or arm you? No prob! You just bring your own!

All this so a couple hundred years later you can be commemorated with your own pastry kiosk.

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Washington was not fond of war. His letters from the front read like 18th century emo rock. When things were at their bleakest, I wonder that he didn’t throw himself off one of those sandstone cliffs in Virginia. But he always hoped for peace, and he always served when called even when it would have taken a mental patient to believe he could win. He was a reluctant leader who, unlike most other revolutionary generals, gladly relinquished power as soon as the country had legs enough to stand on its own, and in his late 60s, he died astonishingly young. (Those paintings were all made decades after his death. He never really looked that old.) So, I take solace in his choice of a wind-vane, especially now that I have moved to New Orleans.

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And that’s all for that trip, kids. Now that I have moved allll the way down here, you’ll be hearing more about that soon.

I’ll Rochambeau Ya For It Part 2a: Mea culpa

It has come to my attention that my last installment in this series may have made it sound like I meant to encourage visitors to sneak into Colonial Williamsburg without paying admission. This is certainly not the case. The actors involved in the Revolutionary City performances (and all day long, really) are amazing. Pay them! The only problem is that, if you’re only there for a half-day or less as I was, you can’t see them all plus the buildings and the museum. So, if you’re pinched for cash and you think there’s a chance you might go back, save your money until then, walk the streets for the experience, and buy a ticket to the evening events if you have time. The evening events are cheaper and perfect for late arrivals.

As for me, I have no idea when or if I will ever make it back, and I didn’t want to die without seeing it proper, so I bit the bullet. I just wish I’d been able to spend more time!

Now, here: Have a sneak preview of part three:

Washington Rochambeau Encampment Reenactment 2011 - Opening