Tag Archives: cemetery

The Contrast

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In Portland, Oregon lies a cemetery that we visited on our trip there in July. I love to roam old cemeteries and read the epitaphs and see the various art on the tombs.

As we were walking through this particular cemetery, there were numerous graves which had tombstones with pictures on them. Some were of the images of those who lay underneath the grass, embraced in slumber. Others were scenes taken from nature.

When we were almost done walking through the cemetery, my eyes spotted the stone in today’s photo. The lighting was just perfect as it filtered down through the trees, highlighting certain parts of the engraved image just where they should be lit up. I simply had to stop and take some images. It looks great in black and white, too.

Apparently there was a large historical population foreigners who lived in Portland in years gone by and this type of stone seems to be a common style of stones among them in this cemetery. I don’t recall their nationality, and I couldn’t read it, but I could appreciate the beauty of the stones.

The contrast on this stone, the white/black, dark/bright…reminded me of the contrast of life and death itself. And that only made it all the more intriguing.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1984, Ed Gein, a serial killer infamous for skinning human corpses, died of complications from cancer in a Wisconsin prison at age 77. Gein served as the inspiration for writer Robert Bloch’s character Norman Bates in the 1959 novel “Psycho,” which in 1960 was turned into a film starring Anthony Perkins and directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Edward Theodore Gein was born in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, on July 27, 1906, to an alcoholic father and domineering mother, who taught her son that women and sex were evil. Gein was raised, along with an older brother, on an isolated farm in Plainfield, Wisconsin. After Gein’s father died in 1940, the future killer’s brother died under mysterious circumstances during a fire in 1944 and his beloved mother passed away from health problems in 1945. Gein remained on the farm by himself.

In November 1957, police found the headless, gutted body of a missing store clerk, Bernice Worden, at Gein’s farmhouse. Upon further investigation, authorities discovered a collection of human skulls along with furniture and clothing, including a suit, made from human body parts and skin. Gein told police he had dug up the graves of recently buried women who reminded him of his mother. Investigators found the remains of 10 women in Gein’s home, but he was ultimately linked to just two murders: Bernice Worden and another local woman, Mary Hogan.

Gein was declared mentally unfit to stand trial and was sent to a state hospital in Wisconsin. His farm attracted crowds of curiosity seekers before it burned down in 1958, most likely in a blaze set by an arsonist. In 1968, Gein was deemed sane enough to stand trial, but a judge ultimately found him guilty by reason of insanity and he spent the rest of his days in a state facility.

In addition to “Psycho,” films including “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Silence of the Lambs” were said to be loosely based on Gein’s crimes.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The most decorated unit ever in U.S. history is the 442nd regimental Combat Team, whose motto was “Go for Broke.” It consisted of Japanese-American volunteers. Together they won 4,667 major medals, awards, and citations, including 560 Silver Stars (28 of which had oak-leaf clusters), 4,000 Bronze Stars, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, and one Medal of Honor, plus 54 other decorations. It also held the distinction of never having a case of desertion.

Looking the Other Way

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When one goes to Jerusalem, the obligatory photo that everyone takes is usually shot from the Mount of Olives looking westward toward the Old City. Why is that so popular? Because of the spectacular Dome of the Rock, the Muslim shrine that sits atop the temple mount with the amazing golden dome that seems to dominate the city. I took that shot, too, but often we get so caught up in the obvious that we miss looking around for other images. For example, today’s photo.

I took this photo from near the Dome of the Rock looking eastward, toward the Mount of Olives. What you see is a Jewish cemetery…and I’m told it is the largest one in the world. 

Yesterday, I shared a story about the Biblical Imagination tour we were on and how we were encouraged to imagine how things in the Bible came to be. This image wasn’t shot from the southern steps outside the walls of the old city that lead up to the temple mount, but one like it could have been taken there. Here’s the biblical connection:

The southern steps leading up to the temple mount were a very common place for rabbis to stop and teach their followers. It is almost a certainty that Jesus did that with his disciples. 

On one occasion, he spoke to his disciples and warned them to beware of the religious leaders who were like white washed tombs. It is quite possible that Jesus was looking across the Kidron valley to the Mount of Olives as he was saying those words. You see, to the Jews, passing through a cemetery made a person “unclean” – and if they were “unclean” they couldn’t come into the temple to worship. In order to prevent people from accidentally traveling through the cemetery that was on the Mount of Olives even in Jesus’ day, at times a white barrier was painted around the cemetery to warn pilgrims to avoid the place. 

 

The religious leaders, Jesus said, were hypocrites. The whiteness on the outside looked beautiful, it it held in all sorts of death and decay. I can easily imagine that Jesus was looking across the valley and saw that sort of view – a cemetery boundary painted white surrounding a bunch of graves full of death – when he describes the religious leaders.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1974, John Denver became a household name. Of his many enormous hits in the 1970s, none captured the essence of John Denver better than his first #1 song, “Sunshine On My Shoulders,” which reached the top of the pop charts on this day.

“Sunshine On My Shoulders” was John Denver’s attempt to write a sad song, which is really all one needs to know in order to understand what made Denver so appealing to so many. “I was so down I wanted to write a feeling-blue song,” he told Seventeen magazine in 1974, “[but] this is what came out.” Originally released on his 1971 album Poems, Prayers and Promises, Denver’s lovely ode to the restorative powers of sunlight only became a smash hit when re-released on his John Denvers Greatest Hits album in late 1973—an album that went on to sell more than 10 million copies worldwide.

It should come as no surprise that an artist who played such an enormous role in the softening of mainstream pop music in the 1970s would find little support from rock critics. “Television music” marked by “repellent narcissism” was Rolling Stone‘s take on Denver. “I find that sunshine makes me happy, too,” wrote Robert Christgau of The Village Voice, “[but] there’s more originality and spirit in Engelbert Humperdink.”

Such critical response did little to dampen public enthusiasm for Denver’s records during his heyday, however. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, John Denver has sold 32.5 million records—4.5 million more than Michael Bolton, and only 4.5 million fewer than Bob Dylan.

Born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. on December 31, 1943, in Roswell, New Mexico, John Denver died in California on October 12, 1997, when the experimental ultra-light aircraft he was piloting crashed into Monterey Bay south of San Francisco.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: researchers believe the word “tabby” comes from Attabiyah, a neighborhood in Baghdad, Iraq. Tabbies got their name because their striped coats resembled the famous wavy patterns in the silk produced in this city.

Without a Leg to Stand On

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The statue (or what remains of it) that is the topic of my photo for today stands in Oakland Cemetery in downtown Atlanta, GA. I thought it was interesting because it was both headless, missing part of her right arm and the lady is also missing one leg…yet she still stands, thanks to the fact that her gown or dress forms part of the support for the statue.

I wondered who took the head and if they were also the ones who took the leg. There is a low cement wall that runs along the south side of the cemetery and I would imagine that someone probably hopped that fence one night and decapitated the statue and broke off one of the legs, too. It’s a shame. I would have liked to see this statue when it was whole.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1940, cowboy-movie star Tom Mix was killed when he lost control of his speeding Cord Phaeton convertible and rolled into a dry wash (now called the Tom Mix Wash) near Florence, Arizona. He was 60 years old. Today, visitors to the site of the accident can see a 2-foot–tall iron statue of a riderless horse and a somewhat awkwardly written plaque that reads: “In memory of Tom Mix whose spirit left his body on this spot and whose characterization and portrayals in life served to better fix memories of the Old West in the minds of living men.”

According to Mix’s press agent, the star was a genuine cowboy and swaggering hero of the Wild West: He was born in Texas; fought in the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion and the Boer War; and served as a sheriff in Kansas, a U.S. marshal in Oklahoma and a Texas Ranger. In fact, Mix was born in Driftwood, Pennsylvania; deserted the Army in 1902; and was a drum major in the Oklahoma Territorial Cavalry band when he went off to Hollywood in 1909.

None of these inconvenient facts prevented Mix from becoming one of the greatest silent-film stars in history, however. Along with his famous horse Tony, Mix made 370 full-length Westerns. At the peak of his fame, he was the highest-paid actor in Hollywood, earning as much as $17,500 a week (about $218,000 today).  Unfortunately, Mix and Tony had a hard time making the transition to talking pictures. Some people say that the actor’s voice was so high-pitched that it undermined his macho cowboy image, but others argue that sound films simply had too much talking for Mix’s taste: He preferred wild action sequences to heartfelt conversation.

On the day he died, Mix was driving north from Tucson in his beloved bright-yellow Cord Phaeton sports car. He was driving so fast that he didn’t notice–or failed to heed–signs warning that one of the bridges was out on the road ahead. The Phaeton swung into a gully and Mix was smacked in the back of the head by one of the heavy aluminum suitcases he was carrying in the convertible’s backseat. The impact broke the actor’s neck and he died almost instantly. Today, the dented “Suitcase of Death” is the featured attraction at the Tom Mix Museum in Dewey, Oklahoma.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In 2007, a dog named Rocco discovered a truffle in Tuscany that weighed 3.3 pounds. It sold at auction for $333,000 (USD), a world record for a truffle.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

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This place looks like fun, doesn’t it?  I mean, there are bright colors, neat decorations.  It almost looks like a place where kids would go play!  I even looks, with a bit of imagination, like something Egyptian.

It isn’t.  It’s the Grant Mausoleum at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, GA.

Just goes to show you…looks can be deceiving!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1888, the Bandai volcano erupted on the Japanese island of Honshu, killing hundreds and burying many nearby villages in ash.

Honshu, the main island of the Japanese archipelago, is in an area of intense geological activity, where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are relatively common. The Bandai volcano is a mountain in northern Honshu with a very steep slope. It had erupted four times in the 1,000 years prior to the 1888 eruption, but none of these had been particularly deadly.

At just after 7 a.m. on July 15, rumblings were heard from Bandai. Only 30 minutes after that, an explosion on the north side of the mountain caused powerful tremors. Fifteen minutes later, there was another explosion and, in the next two hours, dozens followed. The explosive eruptions sent debris thousands of feet into the air. The resulting cloud of ash and steam was estimated at 21,000 feet wide.

The giant cloud sent a dangerous rain of burning mud down over the area. Several villages in the Bandai area were buried by a combination of the fiery mud and landslides caused by the tremors. At the Kawakami spa, 100-foot-deep debris covered the ground. Although 100 bodies were recovered there, many were never found.

The best estimate is that 461 people were killed and hundreds more were seriously injured, suffering broken bones and skulls from the rain or flying debris, as a result of the eruption. More than one hundred people were critically burned. The eruption left an 8,000-foot crater in the earth. In the aftermath, the ash from Bandai dimmed the sun slightly worldwide for months.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: As we’ve seen exciting photos of Pluto today, I thought this might be appropriate: the oldest known map of the moon, about 5,000 years old, was found carved into a rock in a prehistoric tomb at Knowth, County Meath, in Ireland. Before this was discovered, the oldest known lunar map was by Leonardo da Vinci, which was created around 1505.

In Honored Repose

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I do not know why the graves of veterans of wars so move me.  Perhaps it is because I never served and I feel guilty about that.  “My” war would have been Vietnam, but those were the days of the draft lottery and my year of primary eligibility I had a high number and was not called.  I later almost enlisted, but by then the war was over and a friend of mine who was in the military told me that for a family man (which I was at the time), it wasn’t a good idea.  So I never did serve.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t respect those who did serve.  I do – I hold tremendous respect for the men and women who have put on the uniform of our country – whether in wartime or peace.  One of the greatest honors of my life was shaking hands with an old man who had stormed the beach at Iwo Jima during the WW2 landing.  It isn’t every day that you meet a genuine hero.

While shooting in Oakland Cemetery, I came across this scene just as I was about to leave to return home.  It was very simple – nothing at all like the fancy mausolea that were never really out of eye sight.  Yet, this simple marker, and the markers of the thousands of Civil War dead, moved me far more than the fancy stone and rock buildings erected to house the earthly remains of those of means who are also buried at Oakland.  I noticed that he died shortly after the end of the war and I couldn’t help but wonder if he died as the result of injuries received during the war – whether physical or emotional.

Edgar N. Nichols, may you rest in peace.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1943, the Battle of Kursk, involving some 6,000 tanks, two million men, and 5,000 aircraft, ended with the German offensive repulsed by the Soviets at heavy cost.

In early July, Germany and the USSR concentrated their forces near the city of Kursk in western Russia, site of a 150-mile-wide Soviet pocket that jutted 100 miles into the German lines. The German attack began on July 5, and 38 divisions, nearly half of which were armored, began moving from the south and the north. However, the Soviets had better tanks and air support than in previous battles, and in bitter fighting Soviet antitank artillery destroyed as much as 40 percent of the German armor, which included their new Mark VI Tiger tanks. After six days of warfare concentrated near Prokhorovka, south of Kursk, the German Field Marshal Gunther von Kluge called off the offensive, and by July 23 the Soviets had forced the Germans back to their original positions.

In the beginning of August, the Soviets began a major offensive around the Kursk salient, and within a few weeks the Germans were in retreat all along the eastern front.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Because the movieHalloween (1978) was on such a tight budget, they had to use the cheapest mask they could find for the character Michael Meyers, which turned out to be a William ShatnerStar Trek mask. Shatner initially didn’t know the mask was in his likeness, but when he found out years later, he said he was honored.

What!?!?!?! Why!?!?!?!?

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OK, I have to admit, that every now and then I see something that really puzzles me. I have to stop and ask myself, “What were they thinking?!?”  (Maybe a better question would be, “Were they thinking???”)

Okay, okay…I understand if you were to think, “Well, yeah, but Galen is such a blockhead that it is only to be expected that he wouldn’t grasp lots of things!”  And, I guess there would be some truth in that.

Today’s photo is another one that I took at Oakland Cemetery in downtown Atlanta, GA.  These doors were on the entrance into a families mausoleum.  At first I was just thinking that the lion heads would make an interesting picture if shot from an angle. Then, after I got back and looked at the photo, I began asking myself the question that should have popped to my mind right away: “Why do people put door knockers on the entrance to a tomb?”

What do they think goes on inside of that tomb?  That those enclosed are sitting down to dinner and that you need to knock on the door to gain entrance?  Maybe they think that there’s some kind of wild and crazy party going on inside and they need door knockers in order to gain admittance by overcoming the raucous noise?  As if someone on the inside is going to get up and come open the door for you? I don’t get it.  I mean, I understand having a lock on the door so that those outside can’t get in and vandalize the tomb…that makes perfect sense.  But door knockers?!?!?!?!  I’m confused….

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1915,

On July 12, 1915, Allied forces make a sixth and final attempt to capture Achi Baba, a prominent hill position featuring a commanding view of Cape Helles, on the Gallipoli Peninsula, from its Turkish defenders.

Though many modern-day historians have questioned the actual strategic importance of the hill in the grand scheme of the Gallipoli invasion, Achi Baba was seen by the Allied command at the time as a crucial objective in their struggle against the Ottoman Empire s forces and their German allies. Because of this, Sir Ian Hamilton, chief commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, had set the capture of Achi Baba as a priority from the first day of the Allied land invasion, on April 25, 1915. In addition to the disorderly landing itself, three separate unsuccessful attempts had been made to capture the heights, as well as the nearby village of Krithia, by that June. On June 28, another attempt met with similar failure, at the cost of heavy Allied casualties, in the Battle of Gulley Ravine.

The attack of July 12 began after the arrival of Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston, a regional commander sent from the Western Front to aid Hamilton on the front lines in Gallipoli, along with an additional division of Allied forces. Yet again, the Allies were unsuccessful, gaining a total of only 350 yards over two days of heavy fighting before Hunter-Weston called off the attacks. The Allied casualty figure–4,000 dead or wounded–was lower than the Turkish one–some 10,000 men–but Achi Baba remained in Turkish hands. From then on, the bulk of Allied operations in Gallipoli were focused further north, around the so-called Anzac Cove (named for the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) and Suvla Bay.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Tortoises in the Mojave Desert store up to 1/3 of their body weight in urine. When they need water, the water in their urine flows back into their bodies while the waste remains and expels. Tortoise soup, anyone????

I Just Want a Place to Rest

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It is just one of the many mausolea in Oakwood Cemetery near downtown Atlanta.  The date above the door says 1890.  It seems strange to me to realize that 125 years have passed since it was constructed and the first occupants were laid to rest inside this monument.

What will my monument look like?  That’s really simple.  I won’t have one!  I don’t want to be buried.  I’m opting for cremation when my time comes.  Just put me in a bottle and set me on a mantle or in the top of a closet somewhere.  That would be fine with me.  I don’t have the money to build something like this, and even if I did, I wouldn’t want it.  Put the money to better use by giving it to my grand kids for college or some other worthy cause.

I have nothing against those who build such edifices.  It just isn’t my thing!!!!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:

FBI agents arrest George “Bugs” Moran, along with fellow crooks Virgil Summers and Albert Fouts, in Kentucky. Once one of the biggest organized crime figures in America, Moran had been reduced to small bank robberies by this time. He died in prison 11 years later.

Bugs Moran’s criminal career took an abrupt downturn after the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929, in which his top gunmen were slaughtered by rival Al Capone’s henchmen. (A lasting feud had been established after Capone’s men killed Moran’s friend and mentor, Deanie O’Banion, in 1924.) Moran, who just missed the massacre by a couple of minutes, was visibly shaken when reporters talked to him days later. He shouted at them, “Only Capone kills like that!”

Al “Scarface” Capone established his alibi by vacationing in Florida at the time of the Valentine’s Day murders. Sitting poolside, he mocked Moran, chuckling as he told reporters, “The only man who kills like that is Bugs Moran.” Later, while Capone was serving time for tax evasion, Moran may have earned a measure of revenge by killing Jack McGurn, one of the men who had carried out the massacre.

A bank robbery charge conviction eventually landed Moran in Leavenworth federal prison. Hewas releasedin 1956, but was then re-arrested for an earlier bank robbery. He died in prison of lung cancer on February 2, 1957.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Mars lacks an ozone layer; therefore, the surface of Mars is bathed in a lethal dose of radiation every time the sun rises. Anyone want to take a vacation trip to Mars with me?

Niobe – Grief Personified

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Oakwood Cemetery is the oldest cemetery, and one of the large green spaces, in the Atlanta city limits. Originally consisting of just six acres, it grew over time to occupy a total of 48 acres today.  The last plots were sold in 1884, but families who own some of that hallowed ground still have interments to this day.  Only about 15 burials a year take place in the cemetery as 70,000 are believe to be interred there already and space is at a premium.

If one thought of Oakwood as a place for the dead, they’d be wrong.  Today it is much more a place for the living than for the dead.  Thought it may seem macabre (or at least wierd), visitors come to the place to picnic, to walk their dogs, job or bike along the scenic pathways.  There are those who come to do historical, archaeological or genealogical research, or to paint (or like me) to take photographs.

Today’s photo was one I took a few weeks ago of a statue that is right outside of the visitor center building buried inside the grounds of the cemetery.The statue is of Niobe, a character from Greek mythology, who personifies grief.

In Greek mythology, Niobe was the daughter of Tantalus (king of Sipylus in Lydia) and wife of King Amphion of Thebes. According to Homer’s Iliad, she had six sons and six daughters and boasted of her children’s superiority to the Titan Leto, who had only two children, the twin deities Apollo and Artemis. As punishment for her pride, Apollo killed all Niobe’s sons, and Artemis killed all her daughters. The 2nd-century-bc mythographer Apollodorus mentions the survival of Chloris, who became the wife of Neleus and mother of Nestor. The bodies of the dead children lay for nine days unburied because Zeus had turned all the Thebans to stone, but on the 10th day they were buried by the gods. Niobe went back to her Phrygian home, where she was turned into a rock on Mount Sipylus, which continues to weep when the snow melts above it. (Encyclopedia Britanica)

So Niobe sits above the Gray family plot in Oakwood, a reminder of the grief that brought the families of over 70,000 individuals to this quiet place.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: on July 5, 1946, French designer Louis Reard unveiled a daring two-piece swimsuit at the Piscine Molitor, a popular swimming pool in Paris. Parisian showgirl Micheline Bernardini modeled the new fashion, which Reard dubbed “bikini,” inspired by a news-making U.S. atomic test that took place off the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean earlier that week.

European women first began wearing two-piece bathing suits that consisted of a halter top and shorts in the 1930s, but only a sliver of the midriff was revealed and the navel was vigilantly covered. In the United States, the modest two-piece made its appearance during World War II, when wartime rationing of fabric saw the removal of the skirt panel and other superfluous material. Meanwhile, in Europe, fortified coastlines and Allied invasions curtailed beach life during the war, and swimsuit development, like everything else non-military, came to a standstill.

In 1946, Western Europeans joyously greeted the first war-free summer in years, and French designers came up with fashions to match the liberated mood of the people. Two French designers, Jacques Heim and Louis Reard, developed competing prototypes of the bikini. Heim called his the “atom” and advertised it as “the world’s smallest bathing suit.” Reard’s swimsuit, which was basically a bra top and two inverted triangles of cloth connected by string, was in fact significantly smaller. Made out of a scant 30 inches of fabric, Reard promoted his creation as “smaller than the world’s smallest bathing suit.” Reard called his creation the bikini, named after the Bikini Atoll.

In planning the debut of his new swimsuit, Reard had trouble finding a professional model who would deign to wear the scandalously skimpy two-piece. So he turned to Micheline Bernardini, an exotic dancer at the Casino de Paris, who had no qualms about appearing nearly nude in public. As an allusion to the headlines that he knew his swimsuit would generate, he printed newspaper type across the suit that Bernardini modeled on July 5 at the Piscine Molitor. The bikini was a hit, especially among men, and Bernardini received some 50,000 fan letters.

Before long, bold young women in bikinis were causing a sensation along the Mediterranean coast. Spain and Italy passed measures prohibiting bikinis on public beaches but later capitulated to the changing times when the swimsuit grew into a mainstay of European beaches in the 1950s. Reard’s business soared, and in advertisements he kept the bikini mystique alive by declaring that a two-piece suit wasn’t a genuine bikini “unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring.”

In prudish America, the bikini was successfully resisted until the early 1960s, when a new emphasis on youthful liberation brought the swimsuit en masse to U.S. beaches. It was immortalized by the pop singer Brian Hyland, who sang “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini” in 1960, by the teenage “beach blanket” movies of Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, and by the California surfing culture celebrated by rock groups like the Beach Boys. Since then, the popularity of the bikini has only continued to grow.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Because McDonald’s initially did not want its customers to stay and socialize, they prohibited newspaper boxes, candy machines, telephones, pinball machines, jukeboxes, and other types of entertainment. They also installed uncomfortable chairs to deter customers from lingering.

A Die-Hard Reader

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I don’t know about you, but I love to read. I must confess, though, that I still prefer to read a paper and ink book over digital ones. How about you? I suspect that it depends on your age. Those of us who grew up holding a book in our hands probably prefer that to the electronic versions, while younger folk prefer electronic. I can see advantages of both.

I like to highlight passages as I read through a book, making notes, etc. That’s a bit more difficult to do when reading electronic versions…and it’s harder to find notes when you do. But, that’s all really beside the point.

Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta has some really interesting mausolea. (I just learned that is a word – plural for mausoleum, but apparently the spell checker here in WordPress has never heard of it.)  Just inside the gate to the right is this one. And it was the first picture I took within the cemetery itself. It was almost unnerving to look up and see a man sitting on top of the entryway, apparently holding a book in his hand. I didn’t bother to get the name on the tomb, just this photo. I suppose, maybe, one could say he is a die-hard fan of reading and of books!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1992, Mafia boss John Gotti, who was nicknamed the “Teflon Don” after escaping unscathed from several trials during the 1980s, was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty on 14 accounts of conspiracy to commit murder and racketeering. Moments after his sentence was read in a federal courthouse in Brooklyn, hundreds of Gotti’s supporters stormed the building and overturned and smashed cars before being forced back by police reinforcements.

Gotti, born and educated on the mean streets of New York City, became head of the powerful Gambino family after boss Paul Castellano was murdered outside a steakhouse in Manhattan in December 1985. The gang assassination, the first in three decades in New York, was organized by Gotti and his colleague Sammy “the Bull” Gravano. The Gambino family was known for its illegal narcotics operations, gambling activities, and car theft. During the next five years, Gotti rapidly expanded his criminal empire, and his family grew into the nation’s most powerful Mafia family. Despite wide publicity of his criminal activities, Gotti managed to avoid conviction several times, usually through witness intimidation. In 1990, however, he was indicted for conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Paul Castellano, and Gravano agreed to testify against him in a federal district court in exchange for a reduced prison sentence.

On April 2, 1992, John Gotti was found guilty on all counts and on June 23 was sentenced to multiple life terms without the possibility of parole. While in prison, Gotti was severely beaten up by Walter Johnson, a fellow inmate. Afterwards, Gotti offered at least $40,000 to the Aryan Brotherhood to kill Johnson. The Aryan Brotherhood accepted Gotti’s offer. The prison guards surmised that Johnson was in danger and transferred him to another prison.

In 1998, Gotti was diagnosed with throat cancer and underwent surgery to remove it. It came back in 2000 and he died in 2002 at age 61.  His son, John  Gotti, Jr., said after his father’s death: “If you look on his death certificate he choked on his own vomit and blood. He paid for his sins”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Memories that are triggered by scent have some of the strongest emotional connections and appear more intense than other memory triggers.

In Rare Air

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Every so often, a professional athlete comes along who does something that no one else has ever done. They are electrifying and they dazzle us with their brilliance and abilities. There are many who can run fast, but only one person at a time can carry the title of “world’s fastest human”, “world’s greatest basketball player” or “world’s greatest athlete”.  And even then, such things are open to debate. I suppose that’s just how life is…it makes for interesting water cooler conversations and betting pools, I guess.

But when someone does something that has never been done before, and never has been done since, THAT deserves some special attention!

Are you familiar with the name Robert Tyre Jones?  No?  Does Bobby Jones ring a bell?  Ah…that might work better for you. Bobby Jones was a golfer…but not just any golfer. To this day he remains the only golfer in history to ever win all four major championships in the same calendar year. This is referred to as the “Grand Slam” of golf. No one else has done it before or since…not Arnold Palmer, not Jack Nicklaus, not even Tiger Woods.  Tiger Woods was probably the one that folks though would accomplish the feat, but he got sidetracked with some horrible decisions in his personal life, health issues and bad swing advice. Tiger did win the “Tiger Slam” when he won four majors in a row…but not in the same calendar year. And so, Bobby Jones stands alone.  Bobby Jones is also credited with starting what is arguably the greatest even in golf: the Master’s Tournament, held each year in Augusta, GA.

His tombstone lies in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, GA, and he rests alongside his wife underneath the oak trees for which the cemetery is named. When I asked at the visitor center how to find his marker, they said I’d have no trouble – people always leave golf balls there.  They were right, as you can see.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1611, after spending a winter trapped by ice in present-day Hudson Bay, the starving crew of the Discovery mutinied against its captain, English navigator Henry Hudson, and set him, his teenage son, and seven supporters adrift in a small, open boat. Hudson and the eight others were never seen again.

Two years earlier, in 1609, Hudson sailed to the Americas to find a northwest passage to Asia after repeatedly failing in his efforts to find a northeast ocean passage. Exploring the North American coast, he entered the present-day Chesapeake, Delaware, and New York bays, and then became the first European to ascend what is now called the Hudson River. His voyage, which was financed by the Dutch, was the basis of Holland’s later claims to the region.

His fourth expedition, financed by adventurers from England, set out from London on April 17, 1610. Sailing back across the Atlantic, Hudson resumed his efforts to find the northwest passage. Between Greenland and Labrador he entered the present-day Hudson Strait and by it reached Hudson Bay. After three months of exploration, the Discovery was caught too far from open sea when winter set in, and in November Hudson’s men were forced to haul it ashore and set up a winter camp. Lacking food or supplies, the expedition greatly suffered in the extreme cold. Many of the crew held Hudson responsible for their misfortune, and on June 22, 1611, with the coming of summer, they mutinied against him. TheDiscovery later returned to England, and its crew was arrested for the mutiny. Although Henry Hudson was never seen again, his discoveries gave England its claim to the rich Hudson Bay region.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The devastating 2011 earthquake in Japan created a massive 186-mile long and 93 mile wide rift 15 miles under the ocean.