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Arrant Nonsense, Art, History, Removing Statues, Revisionist History, Sculpture, statue, Waterloo, William Seward

Learning All About History by Looking at Statues. Chapter VI. A Hometown Hero.

Chap VI.

Our next statue was chosen because its sculptor was from my hometown.

I wanted to discuss the intellectual and aesthetic question “Why is this artist’s most famous work, the most-replicated statue by an America sculptor, during the 19th century, like a chronic sinus infection?”

The answer to the question:  Drip, drip, drip.

I’ll explain the dripping in just a sec.

I am from Waterloo, NY.

If you ask people in my village, the only famous person from here is a football coach, named Coughlin (pronounced just like you’d think, like a cat with a hairball).

Runner-up for local history buffs, is a guy named Gridley, who invented an improved washboard (not kidding, it was curved).

The back of the village garage, which faces a defunct grocery store, and a crumbling, unusable bridge, has a mural, showing Murray & Welles, who began the village’s Memorial Day observances in 1866.

Then one day, by chance, I found out that one of the most successful American sculptors of the 19th Century was born here.

Not only is there no statue of him in Waterloo, but in all seriousness, I’ve never once heard his name mentioned in his birthplace.

It’s Randolph Rogers.  Born 6 July 1825.

You can see his works in parks, galleries, and the better sort of cemeteries in NYC, Hartford, Gettysburg, Cincinnati, Detroit, Richmond, Philadelphia, Washington, etc.

His “Columbus Doors,” all 20,000 pounds of them, are the main entrance to the U.S Capitol.  They’re an homage to Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Renaissance masterpiece, the “Gates of Paradise” in Florence.

Randolph Roger’s versions are 17′ tall, and depict everyday life in Columbus, Ohio, during a political convention.


One one door, a stylized border of venial sins surrounds panels with scenes of graft, extortion, lobbying, malfeasance, pettyfogging, etc. while the other door depicts the politicians’ torments in the afterlife.

Rogers created statues and busts of Adams, Lincoln, William Seward, General Lew Wallace (of “Ben Hur” fame), and allegorical figures like “The Genius of Connecticut” for the top of their statehouse.  (This last one was later re-named “We’re All Above Average” and then melted down for scrap during WWII.)

His Civil War monuments include the Soldiers’ National Monument at Gettysburg.

The Seward statue is in Madison Square Park, in NYC, and was the subject of a scurrilous rumor that Rogers re-purposed a leftover Lincoln body and stuck on a Seward head.  It’s simply not true.  The proportions are fine – Seward just had a small head, relative to his body and nose.

(Henry Adams wrote that he had “a head like a wise macaw.“)


And replicas of one of Roger’s statues are in almost every big art gallery in the country.

The work is called “Nydia

It was the most popular American sculpture of the 19th Century.

Nydia is based on a character in a book called “The Last Days of Pompeii” (1834).

The author, Bulwer-Lytton, was a politican-novelist, and poet-playwright.  It’s all about hyphens with this guy.

The book was a huge hit.

And it’s absolutely unreadable.  I know that, because I tried.  Really.  Cannot be done.

I mean, I have an exceptionally high tolerance for tedium.  I can show you my survivor badge for “One Thousand PowerPoint Presentations” and once, I stayed awake for 3 ½ minutes of “Twilight.”  But this book – –  I lasted one page.

Here’s the beginning:

’HO, Diomed, well met!  Do you sup with Glaucus to-night?’ said a young man of small stature, who wore his tunic in those loose and effeminate folds which proved him to be a gentleman and a coxcomb.”

Doesn’t that just make you long for a dark & stormy night, so you could kill the author before he writes anything else?

“Sup with Glaucus”??  Why no, I finally got a prescription for Amoxicillin and that cleared up that supping Glaucus, boy, I’m glad to be done with all that Mucus and Phlegma.

But it turns out, Glaucus is not a medical condition, it is the hero.  And he and Nydia live in Pompeii.

And also a type of sea gull, I looked it up in Wikipedia.  “The glaucous gull (Larus hyperboreus)…the second largest gull in the world. which breeds in Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and winters south to shores of the Holarctic.”

I remember thinking that you might want to know that, but now I don’t know why.

(Didn’t you think for sure, Glaucus was a sinus or eye infection?)

One more sentence, and you’re done.

Well, you must sup with me some evening;  I have tolerable muraenae in my reservoir, and I ask Pansa the aedile to meet you.”

Well, sure, I’d love to sup, unless some clever blacksmith has invented tines, and then we could just eat with forks, like grownups, and stop all this supping crap.

Um, aedile is a type of Roman magistrate?  And I found, with a dawning sense of horror, that muraena is a type of Mediterranean moray.

So this idiot  is bragging that his reservoir is infested with eels ?? and no doubt we’re going to be supping up jellied eels for dinner??  and why is this paired with the magistrate??  Unless it’s the politician/slimy eel thing??


I misplaced my notes – – this is either a still from the 1913 silent film “Last Days of Pompeii,” or a current cabinet meeting in Washington.


It’s a long, convoluted lava flow of melodrama — Greeks, Romans, Christians, the Cult of Isis, love potions, a witch, and eels.

Most of the characters are wiped out by the volcano, but not nearly soon enough.

Pompeii is depicted as a warped and decadent place, and yet, not fun.  If anyone tried to get a good bacchanalia going, I’m sure Bulwer-Lytton threw a wet toga over it.  His artistic conceit was clearly to deep-fry every sentence into agonized contortions, to mirror the bodies found in the ashes of Pompeii.

Better to dig up roasted Romans than by buried in this book – I never made it past the first page.

So anyway.

The book was a huge hit.

It was 1834.  In three years, if you’d finished the book, Victoria would begin her reign, and you’d have 63 years, seven months, and two days of additional dullness ahead of you.

In the U.S., free from monarchies and elitist literature, we were celebrating Jacksonian Democracy and getting ready for bank failures, 25% unemployment, and a 7-year long recession.

Most of this wasn’t Bulwer-Lytton’s fault, but he didn’t help.

So…some years after all that, I was in the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, NY and ran across a statue of “The Toothache”.

(That was my guess, anyway.)

At her feet rests the broken capital of a Corinthian column, symbolizing an impacted wisdom tooth.



It turned out to be an 1861 work by Randolph Rogers, inspired by the book, depicting Nydia, as she guides Glaucus through the eruption and ash-storm that was engulfing Pompeii, towards the harbor.

There he would be safe, and have lots of lovely eels to eat.

Her mission accomplished, Nydia then continues on, into the Mediterranean.  I don’t remember why, unrequited love I think, but she drowns, or maybe the eels get her, but she definitely dies.

It’s all very tragic, because she didn’t drag Glaucus and Bulwer-Lytton with her.  Somebody should have tied them all together and dropped them off a pier, attached to a Corinthian column.

I think Nydia washes up again, in the epilogue.

So, somehow, Randolph Rogers was inspired to depict Nydia, pre-drowning, but already drippy.

The statue was a huge hit.

It’s displayed in the big galleries in NYC, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Portland, Providence, L.A., and a whole lot more places.

In fact, Rogers replicated it 167 times (seriously).

Rogers didn’t actually chisel all these himself, of course.  He had a workshop in Italy, where workmen cranked these out for Culture Tourists, in the days when a souvenir was a souvenir, and before snow globes were invented.

Here’s a mention in “A History of European and American Sculpture” by Chandler Rathon Post (1921):

“Randolph Rogers never found his vein.  He tried his hand with tolerable results at several kinds of sculpture, but all his many productions suffer from a blight of dullness…his portrait statues…are fairly respectable performances in stiff rhetoric.”

Well, quite likely, you think I’m all wet, and ignorant, and that Nydia is a lovely statue.  They have one in the Memorial Art Gallery, the National Art Gallery, the Met, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Chicago Institute of Art, I’m tripping over this thing where ever I go.

But to my uneducated, rustic eye, it looks awkward, and a bit odd.


Like someone you’d feel bad for, if you ran across her downtown, and probably kind of avoid, because she’s hunched and her dress is half-off, and then you’d feel terrible, when it dawned on you that she was blind, and you weren’t sure if she was trying to cross the street, or if she was aware of her wardrobe malfunction, and depending on the angle, she’s either suffering from toothache, or is listening for something, like maybe an oncoming bus, or chariot, so you’d have to go back and hesitantly ask if she would like assistance in crossing the street, and she says, no, thank you, I’m actually listening for a volcanic eruption.  And until Mount Vesuvius actually blows, you’d think she was delusional, and should you call social services or something, the whole thing is awkward.

Oh, I forgot to mention that.  The character was blind.  I hadn’t realized this until I looked at the book, it’s hard to tell with a statue.  The full title is “Nydia, The Blind Flower-Girl of Pompeii”.


She’s not identified as such, but pretty sure this is Nydia, from the 1913 silent movie “The Last Days of Pompeii” (Library of Congress)


It’s an interesting example of how tastes change.  I don’t know if most people today, would be crazy for the statue, or the book.  I’ve yet to find anyone who’s actually read Bulwer-Lytton.  Because I’ve asked a lot of random people at airports, bus stops, restrooms, and bars, and only gotten funny looks.  Apparently he’s really not popular anymore.


(Do you know he added a third Lytton to his name?  Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton.  Because having it only twice, you might forget??  Or to distract people from “Bulwer”?)

(Today, “Bulwer-Lytton-Lytton-Lytton Disorder is better known as “Compulsive Redundancy Syndrome.”)

Most of us tend to remember and focus on the good stuff.  In the 1830’s, people were reading “Oliver Twist,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Lady of Shalott,” etc.  But just like our own time, people consumed lots of not-so-wonderful stuff.

Maybe that’s the value of looking at “Pompeii” and “Nydia”  – – for contrast, and to show just how wonderful the good writers and artists were.  To remind ourselves, just how exceptional Dickens, Poe, Shelley, Hawthorne, Washington Irving, Byron, Emerson, Delacroix, etc. were.  In 1861, when the statue was unveiled, there were other horrible things happening, like Fort Sumter and the Battle of Bull Run, but there was also Church’s “The Icebergs,” Whistler’s “Symphony in White, No. 1,”  Manet’s “Music in the Tuileries,” and Leutze’s “Westward Ho!” so Rogers can’t use the Civil War as an excuse.

Nydia is shown as she guides some Pompeii people through the blinding volcanic ash-cloud to safety – the man she loves, his girlfriend, and some really insistent people hawking postcards.  That’s admirable, and that’s why she’s holding her hand to her ear.

Although I still think, she could have had a toothache, too, right?  and that’s why she drowned herself, not the unrequited love thing.

The museum sign informs us, that the statue is evocative.  But would you have understood the situation, if I hadn’t told you? That she’s listening for which way an exploding volcano is located?  If she were a Labrador, would you guess that someone was blowing a dog whistle?  Or figure, poor doggy, has a toothache.

Well, we’re all learning a lot from these statues, aren’t we.

And anyway, Randolph Rogers was born in my hometown, he was knighted by King Umberto I, and Art is in the eye of the beholder.  So is glaucoma, I did look it up, and it’s related to Glaucus, but I forget how.  Something to do with seagulls.


Excavation of the Temple of Isis at Pompeii (Wellcome Library)


P.S.  Glaucus, glaucoma, and the seagull really are all related!  But this post is way too long already.


An earlier, and I think, much nicer work, “Ruth Gleaning” (1850).  As in the Book of Ruth in the Bible, and “gleaning” as in gathering up leftover barley.




And one final piece, “The Last Arrow” (1880) – – I wonder if his fellow Upstater, Frederic Remington, saw this, since it predates his bronzes by fifteen years.  These two pictures are from the Met website.

















History, Removing Statues, Sculpture, statue

Learning All About History by Looking at Statues. Chapter V ~ An Iron Curtain Descends


I’ve always revered architects, and will often come to a complete halt to admire a building.

Even if that’s frustrating to the people behind me, honking their horns.

But while I love architecture, I’ve never really cared deeply about interior design.

So I didn’t immediately identify this statue as one of the founding fathers of interior decorating, Fritz Pingelig, in his day, draped in glory, and known throughout Europe (as well as the Sultanate of Brunei, and some parts of Abyssinia), as “The Iron Curtain”  (or “Langsir Besi” in Malay, or “Yebireti Megareja” in Amharic).

He traveled the length and breadth of a war-torn continent, stitching together a more sophisticated lifestyle, advancing civilization yard by yard.  And in the process, developing valance theory.


The artist Pingelig in his salad days. When he ran out of windows, he’d hang curtains in the surrounding woods. Some people thought that was weird, and hampered the crossbow season.


Pingelig felt strongly about home décor, and nothing in his plans was more important than curtains and drapery.

The statue depicts him with a curtain rod, draped in one of his baroque creations.

“I care not a pin for putting up walls, but envision a Running Fence of Fabric, separating culture from the abyss.” 

During the endless strife during the Thirty Years War*, Pingelig somehow stayed neutral, traveling from court to court, castle to castle, on the rough corde du roi roads of the day, helping the hidebound to get over their hangups, introducing curtains and a bit of privacy to Europe.

I can do nothing about this endless war,” he declared, but at least I can oppose the drafts.”

He constantly exchanged ideas with other artists and architects of his day, through a network of messengers he called “The Silken Web.”  Whenever inspiration struck, usually in the wee hours, he would dash off a textile message.  The archive in Lisle, France preserves some of these notes, written in a tiny hand on scraps of foolscap – exhorting, self-promoting, criticizing – and they provide us a window into the past, and into Pingelig’s soul.  Essentially, he was mad as a hatter.

Somehow surviving a badly-frayed social fabric, and decades of warfare, his tragic death stemmed from his blind hatred for Venetian blinds.

“A window hanging is too good for them” he would often say.

He greeted each new acquaintance with the question You know how to make a Venetian blind?”

followed by “Poke him in the eye!”

Then he would laugh maniacally.

He never got tired of that one.

And he had a sword, so most people shuttered, but laughed along.

Finally, he trotted out this joke to a visitor named Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola.

Who did not cotton to this bit of drollery.

Andrea, better known by his professional name, Palladio, was not only one of the most famous architects of all time, but a proud citizen of the Republic of Venice.

Shortly after this, Palladio invited Pingelig to the unveiling of a grand colonnade of his design, hinting that a nice bit of chintz might be the perfect, neoclassical finishing touch.

But due to a typo in the brochures, the affair turned out to be a cannonade, and Pingelig died in an accidental crossfire.

We draw a curtain over his soon-forgotten life, a loose thread in the tapestry of history, his legacy just blowing in the breeze.

No one really pays any attention to that man behind the curtain.

Peace to thy gentle shade.


* Ok so technically, the Thirty Years’ War wasn’t endless, but a lot of people said it felt kind of endless, between the wholesale slaughter, burning, looting, and the Baroque music of the time – you can only take so much harpsichord and sackbut.  A lot of folks said, you know, doesn’t it feel more endless than the Hundred Years’ War?  Which was kind of on-again-off-again, there were famines and plagues to kind of add variety, at least you got a break once in a while?  They would have laughed at the Seven Years’ War, big deal.  And in our gone-to-the-dogs modern times, talking about the 1967 Six-Day War, please, people from the 17th c. would find it pathetic.  Although the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896 clocked in at under 45 minutes.  Some people describe my digressions as endless, come off it, venga ya, they’re no ways as bad as the Thirty Years’ War.


P.S.  I did not make up the name Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola, that’s the Palladian architecture guy’s real name.  His father wasn’t a gondolier, either, so I don’t get it.

P.P.S.  There’s been a lot of confusion over claims that Pingelig claimed to have designed the Louvre.

He never said that.  It was already there, for centuries. And Cardinal Richelieu told him, they already had enough curtains.

Pingelig designed the louvre, or what we in the U.S. would call the louver.  

And when the Venetians came up with a better, adjustable version of slanted slats, that’s when the resentment started.

P.P.P.S.  from Carole King’s “Tapestry”

He moved with some uncertainty, as if he didn’t know
Just what he was there for, or where he ought to go…
Soon within my tapestry, along the rutted road,
He sat down on a river rock and turned into a toad
~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Chap. IV  “The Perils of the Pavement”   Dog Warden Philip Eckel

Chap. III “A Tale of a Forgotten Colony”   Harold, of the House of Hamburg

Chap. II  “Giving History an Icy Reception”  Teddy Roosevelt

Chap. I “Stumping for President”  George Washington

Finger Lakes, FLX, Nature, NY, Upstate New York

Indian Pipe, Ghost Plant

Last summer, after a wet spell, I posted some pictures of colorful specimens of toadstools and other fungi, sprouting all over the local woods.

I also included this shot, of a strange non-fungus, “monotropa uniflora,”  called by various names like “Ghost Plant,” “Indian Pipe,” or “Ghost Pipe.”


I would not care to hear whatever dark and sinister tune might whisper out of these pale ghost pipes.

From a distance, it has a pale, porcelain prettiness, and the stems are a rather nice pink, but on closer inspection, the overall effect is of an unhealthy, repellent fleshiness.  But perhaps I’m just projecting, because of its vampirish lifestyle.

A lot of fascinating info on Tom Volk’s Fungus Web Page.


My first surprise, was to find out that it’s a herbaceous perennial plant, and somehow related to much more cheerful plants:

cranberries, rhododendrons, azaleas, and blueberries!

Seems like it would be a strained relationship.

That pale, creepy Uncle Fester we never discuss when the young blueberries are around.

Not only did we find it growing amidst the various fungi, but like them, it lacks chlorophyll.

A parasitic existence, living on fungi.

It’s host fungi, in turn, have a symbiotic relationship to trees, often beeches.

Professor Volk mentions a “one-way flow of carbohydrates,” which immediately brought an image of me in a pasta restaurant.

Given its somewhat creepy appearance, and parasitic nature, its not surprising to find another, creepy, nickname,

“Corpse Plant.”


I’ve only seen it a couple of times in my life, and was surprised to find it again, embedded in greenish glass, in the Corning Glass Museum!

This is an amazing glass creation by Paul Stankard, “Cloistered Tri-Level Botanical with Indian Pipe Flower and Spirits”

I’m sorry it’s not a better picture, I photographed it inside a glass case, which could have used a wash.  We know which visitors are making things smeary, we can identify their fingerprints.


But if you look closely, you can make out the spirits on the underside of this strange plant.



Here’s a link to a better image, on the museum website


Apparently Native Americans discovered a number of medicinal uses, including a root tea, used as a sedative and soporific.

I don’t experiment with such things, and in this case, doesn’t it look like, as a sleeping aid, it might just work a bit too well?








Blogging, memory, music, South America, Sudamerica

The power of a song ~ ~ ~ Musical journeys in my mind

Every day, I’d look at the volcán Villarica. At night, there was a glow in the sky above it, from its lava lake.


A little over a year ago, I was living in Chile, teaching English to school kids.

I think about my time there quite often, but whenever I try to write down my impressions of that country, I find it very difficult.


I arrived, and dove right into it, caught up in a fast-paced orientation program, then moving to a small town in the foothills of the Andes, during the wintertime. I got off the bus, found my host family and moved into their hostel.

Next day, started teaching, often bewildered by the constant shifts in language. Textbook Spanish, to “schileno,” to some indigenous Mupache words, to “huaso” (a “cowboy” dialect used by the rancher kids), to “flaite” (ghetto slang).  My Spanish was so-so, and elements of “Spanglish” had crept in, from my City Year in a Milwaukee school.   Chile’s “English Opens Doors” program is taught entirely in English, in theory, but I was the only native English-speaker in the school, and needed to communicate with the staff, as well as the kids.

I was using every bit of spare time to think about creating lessons, to travel, find a hot shower, visit friends. I never took time to consider or reflect about my experience in Chile, until I was no longer there.

Now, I can look back, peering at that place and time in my mind’s eye, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to being able to describe it in a meaningful way.

Take Santiago, for example.

A fascinating place, but I don’t think I can really describe that city, apart from a series of brief memories. A walk up the Cerro Lucia hill, or the eerie silence of the city from atop the Torre de Americas, the tallest building in Latin America.

photos of the hillsides by Paul Quealy


But these memories already feel distant, like I’m watching a movie. Snippets of memories from Chile are vivid, but mostly they seem like a well-edited video.



I didn’t take many pictures, and most of those were taken with a cheap cellphone, and are clearly low resolution.  But I can close my eyes, and recall countless images, in clear high definition.

I can recall an emotional link (as you may get during a good movie), but as I replay these experiences in my mind, I cannot bring them back to life.



In an instant, I can conjure up a stream of images, that blend and flow seamlessly into each other, but they feel like a picture gallery, beyond reality.



That is, anyway, until I listen to music.

People often talk about scents, the aromas and smells that evoke memories. But for me, music is the strongest link to memory. Places, people, and even emotions come alive again when I’m listening, and it’s the sounds that are extremely evocative.

You usually don’t get to call the tune. For me, Chile is a song I would never have heard, had it not been for my fellow teacher, and good friend Paul, from Dublin.

Assigned as roommates in Santiago during training, by chance, we ended up posted to the same region of Chile, in towns on either side of Lake Villarica.

He was teaching the kids his kind of English, with a strong Irish accent, and would talk about his family in Dublin. And he introduced me to the music of an Irish singer I’d heard of, but never actually listened to, James Vincent McMorrow.

And like soda bread, or mutton stew, McMorrow is very much an acquired taste.

Not my usual rock & roll, or Motown soul.  I heard a high, light voice, like someone quietly singing to themselves.  Usually described by music critics as “delicate,” or even “whispy.”   It was good to hear someone singing in English, but McMorrow was really not my cup of tea.  At first, if I had to pick a single word for this terse, falsetto style, it might be “strange”.

And yet, the first song I heard, “Get Low,” immediately stuck in my head, and became the song of Chile for me.

I’d like to relate, that my theme song for Chile was a hauntingly beautiful folk tune, in 3/4-time, for the traditional cueca, the national dance.  But instead, every time I did anything by myself – riding the bus to Villaricca or Temuco, walking along the beach, on my way to school, when I got out bed – it was this almost airy Irish tune that played in my head.

And when I didn’t hear Get Low in my mind, this persistent, odd song, I’d put on headphones, and listen to it.

Chileans are a welcoming bunch.  Sincere, kind, and generous.  The teachers I worked with, the kids, and people I met day-to-day, were all honest and straightforward folks who love life.

But I was just desperate to hear English. It was exhausting to think and operate entirely in another language, especially when complicated by an unfamiliar accent, dialects and two distinct sets of slang, and there were times I felt like I was unable to think, unless I would be listening to music in English. So I would listen to any tune, any sort of dreck, so long as it was sung in English. Some of it, really terrible.

But, every day, I also listened to Get Low.


Now, over a year since I left Chile (almost to the day), when I hear that song, Chile is brought back to me in vibrant Technicolor! And with it, the memories of my friends, students, fellow teachers, glimpses of the landscapes from a bus window, the walks around town, all tinted with a happy glow. It all comes flooding back to me. I listen, and, during the span of that three-and-a-half minutes, I am revisiting Villaricca.



I can picture walking along the Costenera, see the volcano in the distance across the lake, the children running along the cold water on the black sand beach. I can picture coming up on the big terminal of the Jac Bus station, built from large wooden beams, which signaled that I had arrived back in town. I can picture the walk to Paul’s house, up the hill apart from all the other houses, back along the windy back roads.


My village, Pucón, sitting next to an active volcano, often felt creepy, despite being a “eco-tourist hub” with its trendy bars, tour stands, even a nightclub, its legions of bikers and hikers, getting gear on, getting a buzz on, loading up the trucks and buses for their guided outdoor “adventures.”  The teachers and kids were wonderful, but their town, during the winter months, is a dark, rainy place, saturated in smog from the countless wood stoves.  Some days you could taste the air, a pea soup of green wood smoke and carbon monoxide, with a soupçon of formaldehyde and ashes.

Across the lake, Villarica felt like a balanced, happier place, furthering my theory that Pucón’s volcano exerted some sort of magnetic pulse that negatively influenced my mood and emotions. There was a constant disorienting feeling of the surreal in Pucón, a sense of unreality.


Villaricca felt normal and safe, apart from the scattered remnants of the old city, most of which was burned during a Mapuche reprisal attack in the 1570s. A local told me the history of the region, and his in-depth recitation of its wars and slaughter also left me with a feeling of unease. The Mapuches, never subdued by the Incas or conquistadors, are resistant to colonization to this day;  some of the church-burnings prior to the Pope’s recent visit were blamed on extremist Mapuche factions.

But back to the music.

As the song plays, Chile suddenly becomes real to me.

I can picture going out for a beer and fried potatoes with onions and cheese (sounds bad but tastes good) with Paul and our local friend, Valentina. I can picture walking on the old concrete of a former dock, trying to dodge the waves off the lake as the wind picked up. I see the church, which meant I was lost, as I only ever saw it when I wandered in the wrong direction. The clothing stores, surprisingly nice and high-end. Fruit stalls that struck me as honest and authentic, with their colorful concrete walls, stacks of oranges, apples, and other fruits. I went there for cheap fruit frequently, at least until I was informed by Paul that the stacks of boxes harbored a considerable colony of rats. I never saw evidence of them, but figured that he was better informed.


While the music plays, I feel and recall everything .

We had a party in Villaricca, well, really more of a low-key get together, some of the English tutors and some locals. I can smell the gas of the heaters, feel the chilly biting cold wind, and hear the endless baying of the black-faced ibises on the rooftops around us.


Some of the English Opens Door teachers.

But, the song does more for me. Perhaps as my discrete, detailed memories fade and meld into one single dream-like experience, I listen now and see more.

I can see, all at once, the entire journey from Santiago to Valparaíso and everything in between, six months of memories and experiences, compressed into a few minutes.



I listen and recall our side trip to Argentina, riding bikes into the mountains, the lakes azure blue in the dry heat and the resinous smell of the pines and monkey puzzle trees. I clearly see Valparaíso, perhaps the highlight of my time in Chile. A place that felt magical, and was one of the more amazing cities I have been – very much a place in the here-and-now, and also a place off in a kind of time warp.


Now, when I hear Get Low, while I see mostly Pucón and Villariccca, a third town Temuco floats into the recollection, a place where I spent a fair bit of time. A little regional capital, with limited things to do and see, but a place where I was happy.

It’s not that the song is great. The song isn’t great, in fact I find McMorrow’s voice a bit weak and whispery, and the tune has become annoying, or at least, it is, when it’s playing endlessly in my head.

But as a tool, as a means of recalling and reliving highlights of the past, it is phenomenal.


The view from Volcán Villarica (in Mapuche, Rucapillán) 2,860 m.


You can take a chairlift most of the way up the Villarica volcano, and then hike up the snow-covered bit. Coming back down is faster, and fun – you can slide on your back, using the ice ax as a brake.


I have other songs. I recall Hong Kong with “We Were Kids” by Turtle Giant. I can listen to tunes to remind myself of college, or to recreate various trips. One piece of electronica instantly takes me to my college library, third floor, right side, fifth window from the bathrooms, overlooking the quad, with my countless books about the Iroquois stacked all around me.

The furthest back I can go with this trick, is six years ago, a trip through the Southwest, and specifically to Colorado, with The Killer’s “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine,” and a song called “Roya Re” sung by a Punjabi whose name escapes me. Both tunes provided by my Venezuelan friend Luis, with traveled with two things: a big collection of tunes on an iPod, and even bigger knife, and who took the time to introduce me to some new music.

I am now in Boston, and I am still waiting for the song that will define this city for me, but that will come in due time. I don’t even have to listen for it, it will just start playing one day.



P.S.  If anyone is interested in the “English Opens Doors,” here is the link

It’s a wonderful program – the concept, the staff, and the volunteers –  run by Chile’s Ministry of Education and the U.N., and here’s a bit from their website:

The National Volunteer Center is a branch of the English Opens Doors Program and is supported by the United Nations Development Programme-Chile. The National Volunteer Center recruits native and near-native English speakers to work as teaching assistants in Chilean classrooms, specifically to improve students’ listening and speaking skills. Volunteers also assist with other initiatives of the English Opens Doors Program, such as debates and English Camps.
Volunteers teach and encourage the study of English while living with Chilean host families and interacting with members of the local community.

McMorrow “Get Low”


And War with “Low Rider









































Finger Lakes, FLX, Frostbite, Nature, NY, photography, snow, Things to Do When Your Water Crystallizes on You, Upstate New York, Winter

Pictures of Upstate New York. January. A frozen stream in Sugar Hill Forest
















“Carroña (Carrion)” by Javier Perez


There were old Monty Python sketches, that started with “Well, I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition…”

When we visited the new wing of the Corning Glass Museum, I didn’t expect crows.  But there were quite a few.

And this was my kind of ornithology – – indoors, out of the snow and sleet, and the subjects holding very still.

Among the creatures depicted on, and of glass, over the millennia, birds are clearly flying high, a perennial favorite.

The crows in the pictures above, are not glass.  They’re taxidermied  in the act of dismantling a ruby glass chandelier.

I’ve always kind of liked crows.

They’re a lot like some of my friends – – not outwardly colorful, but very smart, and horrible singers.

And some of them, easily distracted by shiny objects.

You’ve probably heard about the little girl in Seattle, who liked feeding the local crows.

The crows began to reciprocate by bringing her lots of interesting junk.  Including bits of glass, some beads and tiny lightbulbs.


Here’s a funny coincidence, not making this up.

While I’m writing this, I’m listening online to the Rochester NPR station (WXXI 91.5 FM).

They’re playing Schubert’s “Winterreise

It’s a song cycle in German, not really my kind of thing, but growing on me.  Parts of it are beautiful, but very formal, and sorry, just a bit somber.

And the commentator just mentioned the song was “Die Krähe” (“The Crow”)!

I looked it up:  “A crow has been following him. It has never left him, expecting to take his body as its prey.”

OK, then.

If Schubert had just been walking with a ruby glass chandelier, he could have tossed it on the path, and run for it!

One more installation, and let this be a warning, to any crows following me, and getting ideas.








13 Crows” by Michael Rogers. The description from the museum site: “Transparent light grey glass; cast, applied pigment; assembled, paper, glue, and wire. 13 cast glass crows. The bodies are wrapped and glued, mummy-like, with newsprint ripped from the front pages of a Japanese newspaper. The crows are hung upside down, suspended by their tails from a twisted wire.”


P.S.  I then looked at some of the blogs I follow, and look what Frenchapple 10 “Creartful Dodger” posted []

It was just Day of the Crows around here!!



Art, Finger Lakes, FLX, NY, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York. January. Corning Museum of Glass ~ The Bad Crows