“Well, you have to visit the Underground,” a friend told me over dinner last fall. It was just before I took off for my first trip to Seattle, and my head raced with questions. What underground? Was there some sort of impressive underground rail system in Seattle? Was “the Underground” a little-known community within the town? Some sort of artistic district I just had to see?
As it turns out, my friend referred to an actual underground Seattle. An entire historic city, located beneath the modern-day one. As soon as I figured that out, I immediately booked a ticket to tour the caves, tunnels, and corridors of the historic Seattle Underground.
In the summer of 2016, I drove down an isolated road in Southern Georgia. There wasn’t much around – just a few run-down houses here and there. Cotton fields stretched to the horizon. Silence hung heavy along with the heat.
Only a few signs with arrows pointed me to my destination. I followed them to a small parking lot that was practically empty of cars. A quiet visitor center beckoned. Behind it lay a sprawling field, fully exposed to the hot, Georgia sun. A few concrete monuments were scattered across the horizon. I also spotted a row of gnarled shanties, and a section of a stockyard wall. Other than that, there was nothing. Nothing… as far as the eye could see. This was all that remained of one of the most notorious Civil War prisons – Andersonville.
As winter sets in, here is some poetic musing on the force of time and how fast it moves. Enjoy!
Tick, tock, tick, tock
That’s the sound of the old brass clock
I breathe deeper, it chimes the hour
It has no feelings, it does not cower
I sit and grip the arm of my chair
It sits across from me with a blank stare
It has no eyes, yet I feel them there
Boring into the mask that I wear Read More
Once upon a time, deep in the mountains of Germany, there lay a charming little village called Lauscha. It was surrounded by snowy slopes and magnificent pine trees, and generations of glassblowers called it home. Their town was extra-special too, because since the mid-1800s, they had made Christmas their primary trade. The traditional German Tannenbaum or Kristbaum had caught the attention of the rest of the world. Seeing an opportunity, Lauscha turned their glass blowers to making ornaments. The thriving business swept up every glassblower in town.
Lauscha even became the inventor of one of the most famous ornaments – the glass ball. On slow days, glassblowers would often amuse themselves by seeing how big a glass bubble they could blow in their ovens. Known as “kugels,” blowers silvered the balls with shiny solutions like lead or zinc to give them a dazzling reflective look. Sometime in the 1840s, someone got the idea to use the kugels as a tree ornament. Read More
May 2, 1946, started as a normal day on the job for William Miller. Well, at least as normal as any day could be on “the Rock” – what most people called Alcatraz Prison back then. Situated on a tiny island just off the coast of San Francisco, Alcatraz was a harrowing prospect for federal criminals. It boasted zero successful escapes, although many inmates had tried. The guards easily stopped and apprehended most of them before they even made it off the island. Some tried to make a swim for it but got shot in the water. Some disappeared into the icy San Francisco Bay, and were never seen or heard from again. Read More
In the summer of 2015, in a silent boneyard in Wisconsin, there sat an abandoned old aircraft. Like the rest of the planes there, its original use had been long-forgotten. It hadn’t graced the sky in decades. It was corroded and covered with rust, inside and out. Only a rotting skeleton in a valley of dry bones remained.
Little did anyone know, this silent airplane had an amazing story. On a cloudy day in June of 1944, it took to the war-riddled skies. Under the control of a brave flight crew, piloted by Lt. Col. John M. Donalson, it carried in its cargo hold a stick of nervous paratroopers. Their names have been lost to history, but they were boys of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, of the famous 101st Airborne Division. Like all parachute jumpers in the second world war, they came from a variety of backgrounds, and had undergone rigorous training. Read More
On a chilly night in 1903, two men sat before a crackling campfire in the Bridal Veil Meadow of Yosemite Park. The stars shone down on them, and the surrounding pine trees whistled in the night breeze. The sound of waterfalls soothed their tired minds. One of these men was John Muir, a famous mountaineer and naturalist. The other was President Theodore Roosevelt.
The story of this famous camping trip started in 1868, when a young John Muir first set eyes on the Yosemite Valley. He fast fell in love with the splendid rock formations, beautiful flowers, and charming wildlife. He wrote – “No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its walls seems to glow with life… their feet among beautiful groves and meadows, their brows in the sky, a thousand flowers leaning confidingly against their feet, bathed in floods of water…. myriads of small winged creatures – birds, bees, butterflies – give glad animation…as if into this one mountain mansion Nature had gathered her choicest treasures, to draw her lovers into close and confining communion with her.” Read More
On a cool morning in April of 2016, I visited a small prairie in the wilderness of Virginia. A wide-open field of grass sloped into a deep ravine. Blooming purple and white Dogwoods whispered in the breeze and showered the place with petals. Butterflies flitted everywhere – especially Tiger Swallowtails, their yellow and black wings a marked contrast with the fresh green grass.
Standing among such beauty, you’d never think so much blood got spilled here. The only sign of it are a few stone monuments with faded carving. Next to them, a sign reading “Bloody Angle” points to a ripple in the grass that barely qualifies as a shallow ditch. But one-hundred-fifty years ago, “Bloody Angle” wasn’t just a ripple in a peaceful meadow. It was the scene of one of the most horrific encounters of the American Civil War.
Twenty-four years ago, a man named Kevin Wisniewski arrived at the annual EAA airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He stood out in the crowd of thousands, because he came dressed as an officer from World War II. Every piece of his gear was authentic, part of a lifelong collection. He wondered around the displays of World War II planes in the show’s famed “Warbird Alley,” and his outfit enthralled onlookers. Many asked to take photos with him. His outfit was such a hit that the next year, Kevin asked his best friend to join him. A few years after that, representatives of Warbird Alley approached them and asked them to set up a camp there. Read More
A cold, unfeeling marble stone
That’s all there is for the soldier unknown
Lost in a graveyard as big as the sea
My love comes looking but won’t find me
Because all I have is a white marble stone
And all it says is “soldier unknown”
I fought like the heroes, we were the same
But I got no medal, they don’t even know my name
I was just one body in an ocean of death
Just one warrior who took a dying breath
I got no honors, nothing to show
Just this marble stone, white as snow Read More