11
Jan

Remembering Salzburg, Austria

In 1987, my daughter and I traveled to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. I kept a diary during that two week journey. Here are the entries from Salzburg, Austria.

Walking through the streets of Salzburg is like walking back into history. One sees houses with flower boxes, painted scenes on the exterior walls of the buildings, church steeples, roofs of clay tiles and bell towers. The streets are cobbled and many of the windows are made of leaded glass.

There are vineyards up on a nearby hillside and an ancient ivy covered building with sagging tile roof across the courtyard lends a medieval flavor to the view. Church spires peak out above the red tile rooftops on nearby houses and unconsciously we scan the faces of the passersby, perhaps expecting to see Mary Poppins. Dates carved on the churches range from the year 1200-1400. One church is said to be 1000 years old.

A kitty sits atop a nearby rooftop, meowing piteously, as tourists peer up and try to decide if he is stuck, hungry, or just bored and teasing the tourists.

We drive along a river and follow a road up the side of a grape-laden hillside to the very top. Below us, a park follows the curve of the river. We can see the tiny train below and churches steeples scattered among the rooftops. A storm is brewing and the sky darkens with rain clouds as we stand atop the mountain, looking down over the city which for hundreds of years is unchanging.

Yes, as modern times came, freeways and electric wires approached the city, the merchandise sold in the stores has changed, and automobiles replaced the horse carriages, which once clip-clopped along the cobbled streets. The narrow lanes remain the same, the lovely churches, fortresses, palaces, and hillsides are unchanged. The city will tolerate progress but it will not give in to it. Our modern conveniences are an intrusion on its medieval splendor.

Visitors from the United States marvel at the unchanging and apparently timelessness of this beautiful country. The land stretches out unspoiled as we compare it to our familiar busy cities. The mountains beckon hikers upward into the cold clean air. Though there are industrial areas, much of the land is still in its wilderness state, as it was at the moment of creation, lush and green and seemingly immune to modern marvels.

In the town of Salzburg, there is a town square where a street musician plays Ave Maria on a violin. Above us pigeons fly from rooftop to rooftop and the music echoes around the courtyard. I let my mind wander and it is easy to imagine the town filled with people coming and going up and down the tiny cobbled streets in horse drawn carts. Over here would be a peddler selling vegetables, and over there a princess is escorted by her ladies-in-waiting. Over here a group of soldiers march down the street, straight and tall, tired from slaying dragons on the hillsides.

Another day and music might have filled this same courtyard, not from the church but from the house down the street where a thin young boy named Mozart plays the harpsichord and writes melodies that will one day make him famous, even several hundred years later.
Over there a beggar sits by the church wall and begs for alms. Many pass him by, even as today, so many hungry people walk our streets and though we call ourselves “more civilized,” how many of us are guilty of turning away?

A horse cart clip-clops by, bringing me back to today as the last beautiful strains of Ave Maria fade into the sky. We give the musician money and move off down the street where we buy a watercolor painting of the church from a local street artist.

3
Jan

OWNEY, THE GLOBE-TROTTING POSTAL MASCOT

273350-pb-110727-owney-rs_2_blocks_desktop_small

OWNEY –The Globe-Trotting Mail Mascot - I ran across an interesting story the other day about a little mutt dog that became the nation’s Post Office mascot from 1888 - 1897. Owney, a little mixed terrier, traveled for nine years across the nation’s railways on mail trains, always returning to Albany, PA, a key division point on the New York Central railroad system, one of the two largest railroads in the U.S. at that time. Over the years, he was given medals and citations by various organizations, as the country marveled at the little dog’s dedication to the mail service.

Once, it’s said, that a mail bag fell from a delivery wagon. Owney jumped off the wagon and guarded the bag until a postal worker missed him and the mail bag and returned to find him sleeping on top of the bag, preventing anyone from touching it except a postal worker.

OWNEY’S MEDALS: Over the years, post workers around the country where Owney visited, hung medals on his collar until he had accumulated hundreds of medals. It was necessary to give him a vest on which to pin the medals. He jingled like sleigh bells when he walked.

Occasionally, Owney would jump on an outbound train and disappear for weeks or months until he would reappear in the Albany post office. A train trip into Canada got him into trouble once, when he was detained by the Canadians and held for ransom, demanding charges for his board. The Albany postmen pooled their money and bailed poor Owney out of Canada. He was returned once more to the Albany post office.

EUROPEAN TRAVELS: It is documented that in 1895, Owney traveled via steamship and rail, riding with mail bags throughout Asia and across Europe. He was fed and tended by postal workers along the way. The Emperor of Japan awarded him several medals bearing the Japanese Coat of Arms. His triumphant return to American was covered by newspapers nationwide. He became world famous after the trip.

As the years progressed, Owney’s eyesight and health failed. On orders of the local postmaster in Toledo, Ohio, they detained him (I suppose they thought for his own good) and kept him tied in a basement. The report is that he became aggressive (probably from despair at being held against his will). He allegedly attacked a postal worker and bit him. He was shot and killed on June 11, 1897.
PRESERVED AND HONORED: The nation’s postal workers refused to bury their beloved mascot. They asked that the dog receive the honor of being preserved and taxidermied. His remains were sent to the Post Office Department Headquarters and eventually to the Smithsonian Museum. His remains required an extensive taxidermy makeover by 2011 when the USPS issued a stamp honoring Owney.
Owney has been the subject of five books. His remains now stand in a glass case in the Smithsonian Institute in the National Postal Museum atrium in Washington D.C., wearing his harness and surrounded by many of his tags.

MORE INFORMATION: You can find more information about Owney in Wikipedia and other internet online resources. 273349-pb-110727-owney-stamp-rs_blocks_desktop_small

16
Sep

AN INTERVIEW WITH ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Ernest Hemingway and CATS
Through the wonders of time-travel and internet technology, today I’m interviewing American author, Ernest Hemingway.

Elaine: “What is the most memorable thing you recall about your childhood?”

Ernest: “My parents had a summer home near Walloon Lake, Michigan when I was four years old. My father taught me to hunt, fish and camp in the woods. This experience instilled in me a passion for outdoor adventure and living in remote places. I guess it set the tone for my need to live an adventurous life.”

Elaine: “What was the first job you ever held?”

Ernest: “I worked as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star for six months right out of high school. They gave me a Style Guide which became the foundation of my writing. ‘Use short sentences and short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative.’ See the entire Kansas City Style guide here:

http://www.lostgeneration.com/includes/Hemingwaystylesheet.pdf
Elaine: “Tell us about your first publication.”

Ernest: “After returning from WWI in 1919, I took a fishing trip with high school friends into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The trip inspired the short story, Big Two-Hearted River, where Nick Adams takes to the country to find solitude after returning from war.”

Elaine: “I understand you were influenced by a number of famous people. Can you tell us about them?”

Ernest: “My first wife, Hadley and I moved to Paris in 1921 and I worked as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star. While there, I became friends with Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Gertrude became my mentor and introduced me to a number of artists and writers - Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro’ and Juan Gris. We collaborated on a book called In Our Times.”

Elaine: “I understand many of your books were inspired by your travels and adventures.”

Ernest: “A safari in East Africa in 1933 inspired Green Hills of Africa and several short stories. To Have and Have Not was published in 1937 while we lived in Spain.”

Elaine: “You love cats, right? You’re a man after my own heart.”

Ernest: “LOL. I learned to love cats when I lived in Cuba with my second wife, Pauline. My first cat was a gray Angora named Princessa (middle cat in photo). Two addition males were purchased and I wrote extensively about one of the kittens named Boise. At that time I was writing For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) based on my experiences during The Spanish Civil War.”

Elaine: “Wasn’t that was your most famous book?”

Ernest: “It was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 and sold half a million copies within months. That makes it one of my favorites.”

Elaine: “And then in 1954, you won the Nobel Prize in Literature for ‘mastery of the art of narrative and the influence exerted on contemporary style’ as demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea. That’s pretty impressive, too.”

Ernest: “I felt that Carl Sandburg, Isak Dinesen or Bernard Berenson deserved the prize more than me, but the prize money was welcome.”

Elaine: “You’re too modest. Here is what you wrote in a speech to be read in Stockholm, as you were not able to attend to receive your prize. “Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer, he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”

Elaine: “You have led an exciting life. Can you leave us with any words of wisdom for writers and to regular folks?”

AUTHOR CORNER: “There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly. Sometimes, like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.”
E. Hemingway.

EVERYDAY FOLKS: “I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” E. Hemingway

*Source: Ernest Hemingway - Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Hemingway

10
Sep

HOW TO EXPLORE THE GRAND CANYON

mule-header_01WHAT MADE THE GRAND CANYON? The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and is over a mile deep. While the specific process and timing that formed the Grand Canyon are subject to debate by geologists, recent evidence suggests the Colorado River established its course through the canyon at least 17 million years ago. Since that time, the Colorado River continued to erode the earth and form the canyon to its present day configuration.

A NATIONAL MONUMENT: President Theodore Roosevelt was a major proponent of the preservation of the Grand Canyon. He visited it on numerous occasions to hunt and enjoy the scenery. On January 11, 1908, President Roosevelt declared the massive Grand Canyon a national monument. It is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

VISITORS: Every year, a staggering five million people flock to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon’s sweeping views, hike the trails, shoot the rapids in rubber rafts and hop on a mule for a trip through the vast canyon.

MULE RIDES THROUGH THE CANYON: This summer, for the first time in more than 100 years, mule riders will be able to take in the breathtaking vistas while traveling along a new East Rim Trail built by the National Park Service.

WHAT ABOUT THOSE MOLLIES? A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. While mules can be male (Jacks) or female (Mollys), they cannot reproduce another mule. However, a female mule can be crossed to a horse which produces a Hinnies. Female mules are generally used on the Grand Canyon trail rides due to a more gentle temperament. While horses may tend to daydream as they walk along a trail, a mule knows exactly where they are going to put down each foot because their eyes are located on the outside of their heads, allowing them to see all four feet, which comes in handy on narrow trails, 6000 feet above the canyon floor.

Mules are the animal of choice for trail rides as they are more patient, sure-footed, hardy and long-lived than horses, considered less obstinate and more intelligent and possess a strong sense of self-preservation. I think there is a lesson here?
(For more information about mules in general, check this website: http://luckythreeranch.com/website/mule-facts/

AUTHOR CORNER: Keep an eye on all four feet around you. Keep a correct balance between your writing and your promotion. Don’t daydream like the horse and lose sight of your perspective. Keep an eye on industry trends, communicate with other writers and maintain your social media presence. Don’t be discouraged and take your eyes off the trail.

REGULAR FOLKS: Like the Grand Canyon mule, be steadfast, less obstinate, sure-footed, and intelligent. Maintain a sense of self-preservation. Keep informed of things around you. Don’t let the mundane things of life get in the way of your plans for the future. And if you ever get to the Grand Canyon, after you’ve hiked the trails, and shot the rapids, be sure and check out the mule rides along the East Rim Trail. Let me know if you’ve ever done anything quite as adventurous.

Back to Top