Saturday, April 21, 2018

Omaha - I Hardly Knew You

You can't go to Nebraska without going to it's biggest city, Omaha. Omaha had a little bit of a special draw for me because I lived here for one year when I was about 10 years old or so. I did make a journey to the old homestead which was fun for old times sake.

I went to the Joslyn Museum. The building was built in 1931 and in 1938, it was listed among the 100 finest buildings in the United States. It was a pretty stupendous Art Deco building. The outside was all done in pink Georgia marble – I guess we could call it Pretty In Pink (I know, I know – that is pretty bad). There were a few interesting art pieces but I must admit, the building itself was the star of the show.

The inner courtyard

Art Institutes always have such elegant dining options.  Sliders and animal crackers - yum

I always thought Jackson Pollack was sort of over-rated. 
Now I find that the more I know about him, the more fascinating his work becomes. 
Note: Jackson Pollack does not use a brush to paint, he just drips paint onto a canvas - hence his nickname - Jack the Dripper

Chihuly Gone Wild:

In the Native American section - it cracked me up

I am generally not a fan of zoos. Unless, of course, they are all about research, conservation and education. Somebody I met told me that I needed to go to the Omaha Zoo which is all about those things. It didn't hurt when I also heard that it was the second largest zoo in the United States, right behind the San Diego Zoo. I tried to pick a good warm day so that the animals could be outside if they wanted. What is interesting about this zoo, is that it is a series of buildings and outdoor spaces.

I think the Jungle Building was my favorite. You walked through the greenery and felt that you were really walking through the jungle. Birds were flying free and there were several colonies of bats that were hanging around in the open. 

Pygmy Hippopotomus

Everybody seemed pretty laid back

Lots of wildlife to see

There were yellow frogs

And blue frogs

From the jungle to dry arid biosphere

Doesn't he look like he is posing? 
Giraffes are becoming endangered - in the last 15 years, they have lost 40% of their population.

And we finally have a nice day, complete with green grass

Of  course there was another Junior Ranger opportunity - Lewis and Clark National Trail.  Score!!! 

I am going to finally call it Spring.  There will be no more snow in the homeland.  I think it is time that I journey home.  Until next time.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Give Me Land, Lots Of Land

I moved up to Beatrice, Nebraska. Beatrice is said Be-At-Trice. I would think it would be hard to live in a place where you constantly have to correct how somebody says the name of your town. Beatrice is a little town where I decided I should hunker down while it snows and blows. Have I mentioned how uninsulated an RV is. This whole trip I've had a small space heater to help supplement my RV furnace. This way I don't have to use quite as much propane which is what the RV furnace runs on. I've run that space heater almost 24/7 and the fan is driving me nuts. It finally broke me so I ran out to the local ACE hardware store and bought me one of those oil radiator heaters. Ahhh – the quiet is wonderful. I don't even want to turn on the radio or the TV because I don't want to disturb this wonderful quiet I have. I'm so grateful for the little things.

My walking the dog attire.  It was brutal outside, weather wise.

Beatrice is also the home of the Homestead National Monument – a tribute to all the Homesteaders who came out west to try to make their fortunes. The Homestead Act was signed by President Lincoln in 1862 and gave anybody who wanted a 160 acre plot of land. All they had to do was improve the land which means building a house and putting in crops. If, at the end of five years, you had fulfilled the agreement, then the land became yours. The last homestead granted was not all that long ago – it was granted in the 1970's in Alaska. There were 30 states where land could be homesteaded. I thought the Monument was well done – they did give a fair amount of attention to the fact that this land was already occupied by Native Americans and it was land that was not really the U.S. Government's land to give. 

They had a whole wall of the thirty states where you could homestead with the available land to homestead cut out.  

The Beatrice Quilt Society had a National Parks Quilting project where each lady would pick a park and quilt however that park inspired them.  Evidently this particular trip is my Quilting Journey.  

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

I am parked on the edge of Lake Shawnee. Across the lake is a botanical garden where every Spring they have a tulip festival. Miko and I wandered over there – the tulips are getting quite a late start because of all of this cold weather we have been having. I just wanted to share some pictures of Spring for my northern friends. I'm not trying to be mean, I'm just trying to give y'all hope that Spring is possible and on it's way.

One of my neighbors in the campground.  He was a competitive BBQ Smoker.

My view out my door - a Kansas sunset at it's best

I also hit another worthwhile, strange museum, the Evel Knievel Museum. For you youngsters out there, Evel was a daredevil stunt performer who specialized in doing motorcycle jumps over great distances and over buses, cars, fire, and man-eating sharks during the sixties and seventies. He broke nearly every bone in his body during his career. Evel was actually from Montana, but there was a tiny little connection to Topeka so some of his fans built the museum here. The museum is located in a Harley Davidson dealership, but it is huge at two stories and about 13000 square feet. There were plenty of displays of his actual motorcycles and his outfits (the sixties were not a particularly good time for fashion). There were also panels that displayed his jumps. On these panels there would be a square that would explain what the jump was and where it took place and what happened (ex: Caesar's Place, Dec 31, 1967, Crashed). There was a video that would show the particular jump, landing and crash if applicable. If he broke a bone, there was a picture of a skeleton depicting which bone/s he broke. A little strange, I think. 

The museum had a 4D virtual reality jump that you could do. You would sit on a motorcycle (which was on one of the original ramps that Evel used). They would put headphones and a virtual reality headpiece on you. I was trying to decide if I should do this and told the guys there about my experience trying to summit the dome at the state capital. One of the guys said – 'you know, I'm supposed to push this ride, but I really don't think it would be a good idea for you to do this.'  Ok, since I'm not on the debit side anymore for doing scary thing for the rest of the year, I decided to pass on this. 

I try to keep this blog politically free and fairly upbeat. I really do try to not offend others. Sunshine and light is what I'm all about. So, I am going to deviate from that for the remainder of this blog. Topeka is the home of one of the most horrendous groups in our country – the Westboro Baptist Church. Westboro hides behind the bible for all the hateful actions and inflammatory hate speech that they do. They are especially against LGBT people but also Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Jews and U.S. soldiers and politicians. Their tactics are despicable and hate filled. Just nasty, nasty people. 

I will not show the hate signs on the church, there is no need to have that seared in your brain. This is their flagpole.

I went to the Westboro Baptist Church neighborhood. Just the thought of being in the same area as this organization made my stomach roil. Why, you ask? I went to see and support the Rainbow Houses which are across the street from the church. 

Planting Peace is a nonprofit huanitarian organization which specializes in global causes, such as orphanages in Haiti and India, international deworming efforts, rainforest preservation and anti-bullying programs. Planting Peace bought a house across the street from the church and proceeded to paint it in rainbow colors, in tribute to the gay pride flag. They called it the Equality House. They have rainbow flags all around the property. They then bought the house next door to Equality House and painted that house in the Transgender colors – white, pink, blue. Sort of like a finger in the eye to the Westboro people.  You Go Planting Peace, You Go!!!!

The side of the Equality House

Take Care of Each Other.....

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Place Where We Dug Potatoes

Greetings From Topeka Kansas. Who knew Topeka Kansas has so much to offer? I certainly didn't.  Topeka is a Kansa-Osage sentence that actually means "place where we dug potatoes".

First up was the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. Brown v. Board of Education was a 1954 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision where the court declared that state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students was unconstitutional. There were actually five different lawsuits from five different states that were all combined into one decision but Plaintiff Oliver Brown from Topeka was the one that they named the suit after that made it to the Supreme Court. Brown's daughter went to Monroe School, an all black school that was a couple of miles away from her house instead of the all white school that was only a couple of blocks away. This historic site is located in Monroe School and it is one of the better urban historic sites that I have visited.

Even though it is a 1926 school, the exhibits were state of the art. There were wrap around movie screens, interactive exhibits, buttons to push, classrooms to visit. One throwback to the early days was the kindergarten room which was lovely. It had a fireplace which added to the cozy feeling.

I had heard the state capital building was not to be missed. In fact, I heard that it was the only state capital where you could go up to the very top of the dome and walk around outside on a little platform. Views were supposed to be stupendous. Ok, I'm in for the tour. First though, I had to tour the first five floors of the building. Our tour guide, Larry, told us how lucky we were that we had him because he was the 'Singing Guide' and sing he did. Nice voice made nicer by the fact that the building lent itself to making sounds seem very grand. Larry sang in almost every different room that we saw. At one point, in front of the giant John Brown mural, he lead the group in a rousing round of Home Home On The Range. Larry took us from the basement up to the fifth floor where those of us who were going up in the dome got a spry younger guide. 

A very impressive, very tall building

Another beautiful dome

A very pretty building

A close-up of the very top of the inner dome

Let me explain a few things first. The dome is 304 feet tall which is taller than the U.S. Capital building in Washington. I think the guide said it was 25 stories tall. We had 296 steps to conquer to get to the top of the dome. There is an inner dome which is what you see when you look up from the floor of the rotunda and it has all the pretty murals on it. Then there is an outer dome which is what you see when you look at the building from the outside. 
Now, it is important that we all remember how heights sort of make me a perhaps little bit nervous. Ok, I'm lying – the truth is that heights terrify me and this fear seems to be getting worse as I get older. But, as I told the guide somewhere between the sixth and seventh floor, that Eleanor Roosevelt says that we should all do something everyday that scares us. This was going to be the scary thing I do that would count for not only today, but the week, the month and maybe even the whole year. The problem was that as you got above the inner dome, it was this huge very very tall open space and the stairs were just sort of hanging there in mid air. I soldiered on to the eighth or ninth floor and I realized that I could go no further. I had reached a small little landing and I was plastered face first against the wall. I was shaking, my stomach was all in knots, I have not been that scared in like forever. It was horrible. I told the guide to go ahead, save yourself, I was done. He and the rest of the group went on and I had to go back down by myself. I was grateful for that because it would have been too embarrassing to have anybody watch my pitiful descent. I literally sat down on the top step and scooted down the steps very very slowly on my bum. I could hear the others about three stories above me before I even got down the very first flight. I am glad to report that I survived, I'm glad I got as far as I did, but never, ever again. 

This is where we are climbing to.  I made it up to the landing on the upper right side.  Notice the tiny little stairway to the top and how it turns into a spiral staircase.  You are going to die if you go up there.  Well, I would - others maybe not.

That little platform underneath the statue is where you can go outside and view the sights. 
I made it as far as the square windows.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Kansas City Here I Come

I'm going to Kansas City
Kansas City here I come
I'm going to Kansas City
Kansas City here I come
They got a crazy way of loving there and I'm gonna get me one

I'm gonna be standing on the corner
12th Street and Vine
I'm gonna be standing on the corner
12th Street and Vine
With my Kansas City baby and a bottle of Kansas City wine
Kansas City (Leiber and Stoller)

Truman National Historic Site – Junior Ranger – Check
I'd been there with Tony many years ago. The site did not deal with Truman's presidency very much, it was more about his and Bess's life in Independence which he loved. 

The main draw for me in Kansas City this time was the National WWI Museum and Memorial. This place was stupendous. WWI, 'The War To End All Wars', has started to slip from most Americans' memory. The Great War originated in Europe and lasted from 1914 to 1918. There was a horrific number of casualties with over nine million combatants and seven million civilians dying. 

These two statues on the ends are called Memory And Future.  Memory faces east toward the battlefields of WWI, shielding its eyes from the horrors of war while Future faces west, shielding its eyes from an unknown future

I don't know why I found this museum so fascinating. It was probably because the displays were nicely laid out or maybe it was because of the interactivity of some of the displays. They touched on multiple different subjects – armaments, history leading up to the war, women in the war, how civilians lived during the war, just to name a few things. They even had listening booths where you could go in and hear the music of the era(Over There, etc.), or parts of books (All Quiet on the Western Front, etc.).

One of the movie theaters where they talked about how the United States got into the war. 
Different parts of the exhibit would light up during different times in the movie.

Posters were part of a huge campaign to bolster patriotism and funnel support for the war.  

A poster directed at President Wilson pointing out that women were not able to vote until after the war was over. 
The war ended November 11, 1918.  Women did not get the vote until the 19th Amendment was passed on Aug 26, 1920.
Sad Fact.

I fortunately/unfortunately was there with a large group of young men from some sort of military group. Fortunate because they were on a guided tour so I could listen to the spiel, unfortunately because we were sort of moving through the museum at the same speed and when we got to some sort of interactive display or a movie, it was a bit crowded. I so hate it when I have to push and shove my way up to the front. Just kidding, they were all extremely polite and let the old lady go through without a hitch.

A special exhibit that they had was a giant mural that was painted by the famed society painter John Singer Sargent called 'Gassed'.  I am so used to his portraitures of the rich and famous that it was quite an eye opener to see this painting.  You could see some resemblance to his use of light between the two genres.


I did get to eat out and have lunch at their café which was called Over There. The café wanted to give patrons the idea of what it was like to be served in a WWI canteen.  I'm telling you, if you had to base your impressions on what WWI was like based on this café - let's just say I would join up in a heartbeat.  I had some lovely fish tacos with Jicama and Cilantro. Don't get to eat out much so this was a real treat. 

Let us not forget the visit to Leila's Hair Museum.  Tony and I had visited many many years ago, back when it was attached to a beauty parlor.  Now Leila (said Lay-I-La) has purchased a building and there are four rooms dedicated to the Victorian Hair Art.  

A lot of the time these art pieces were done to commemorate somebody who had passed. They would cut the hair of the deceased and make a funeral wreath out of their hair.  Most of the time though, the hair art was a form of genealogy.  They would clip hair as each family member was born and then as the family grew, they would keep adding to the wreath.  There was a lot of symbolism in the works.  For example if a family member died, they would add a black bead to the center of that individual's hair. 

I thought this one was pretty

Back in the day, cloth was in short supply.  The person who had the most cloth was usually the town undertaker.  The women would send their finished pieces to the undertaker who would do the mounting in the shadow box.  That is probably why so many of the backgrounds looked like coffin liners.

You could buy kits of these baby pictures and then you would add your child's hair onto the picture

There was also a wall of famous peoples' hair.  We were not allowed to take pictures of this wall.  There were tiny little pieces of hair from Elvis, John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, Daniel Webster, Jenny Lind and several others.  She also displayed provenances of the hair to show that these were 'the real thing'.  

Speaking of famous people, look who visited the Hair Museum last month.  I move in rare circles.