Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Emmer Sucks

Thinking that Tom Emmer could one day be our governor is frightening.
by Charlie Leck

This is another of those blogs that my national readers will likely not find interesting. I apologize, but we are dealing at this moment, here in Minnesota, with an extremely important political campaign for governor. A strange fellow, named Tom Emmer, about whom I have written here a number of time, wants to be our state’s governor and has been endorsed by the confused and almost indescribable and indefinable Republican Party of Minnesota. Emmer has also been endorsed by the crazy bitch from Alaska, Sara Palin.

I attended a political gathering last night at a very pleasant residence in Minneapolis that looked out over the lovely Kenwood Park. About fifty people gathered to talk about their struggle with their voting decisions for this year’s gubernatorial race. Everyone I talked to just wants Tom Emmer stopped and turned away in his election bid. The remaining choice then, for folks who feel this way, is between the Democrat, Mark Dayton, and the Independent, Tom Horner. I’d say the room was filled with Democrats; yet everyone wondered if Mr. Dayton isn’t too far out, too anti-business and too unknown for our tastes. A dominant question also centered around whether or not he could win!

I was mellowed by the meeting and I feel more comfortable about voting for Dayton; however, the concern remains with me, and with almost everyone at that meeting, about stopping Emmer. The unexpressed question on the tips of all tongues last night had to do with wasting our vote. Which of the two options to Emmer can win the race? That is the decision that is yet to be made. There will be a lot of poll watchers this year, anxious to see what effect their votes will have on keeping the wacky guy on the radical right out of office.

I read a wonderful blog this morning on Bluestem Prairie that catches the essence of Tom Emmer and explains just how irresponsible and dangerous he is. If you’re from Minnesota, I urge you to read it; yet, even those of you around the nation might like a peek at what we’re up against here in our state.

Here’s how the blog opens. It gets pretty good as you continue to read it.

“Tom Emmer is fond of saying that that he'd run the state's finances the way he'd run those of his own household, that families in hard times:

‘are living within their means, they are spending less money overall, and they are focusing their spending on essentials. That is exactly the way state government must behave.’

“So has Tom Emmer behaved that way in his own family's finances? When I take a look at his papers, it doesn't look like it when it comes to financing his home.”

Read the rest of the story….


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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Search for Roots

I’m determined, before I die, to learn as much as I can about both my mother’s and my father’s side of our family and to take our family tree as far back as I can go.
by Charlie Leck

It keeps me busy – this search for my roots – and I get elated when there are new discoveries and I feel beaten up when I keep running into dead ends.

Have you gone searching for ancestors in an attempt to build a family tree? I have spent the last four years working on this project. First I traced my wife’s family all the way back into the early 1600s and even a family member or so into the 1500s. It was hard work, but the digging was made easier by little clues various family members left laying about when they departed this earthly sphere. My family seems to have left very, very little. So, I pick the memories of my siblings and a couple of cousins and I then dig and dig as best I can.

There is no question that is a valuable resource – though certainly not cheap. I’ve also tried (and didn’t like it) and (didn’t get much of anything).

Looking at census records has been the most helpful, but one needs to be careful about them. There is a great deal of human error and there is very imprecise spelling and also poor handwriting. Yet, sometimes, when you find a census report on members of your family and you look at the names of the people living in the household, it is almost as if you are there, in the room, with the census takers and those they are interviewing. And, you often find really big suprises.

My maternal great grandparents, Vaclav and Annie Vavra, lived at 337 East 97th Street in Manhattan according to the 1900 U.S. Census. With them, at the time, lived my grandmother, Emma (age 10) and two of her siblings, William (age 18) and Salma (a sister, age 12). That put them on the very northeast edge or corner of a Manhattan neighborhood called Yorkville. This was a popular neighborhood for German families after Little Germany (Kleindeustchland), down on the Lower Eastside, began to decline in the late 1800s. (I wrote about Kleindeustchland in an earlier blog).

A portion of Yorkville was known as Germantown and another section of it was known as Irishtown. German Boulevard as it was known to the local population was 86th Street, all the way from Carl Schurz Park on the East River to the magnificent Central Park and Fifth Avenue. My grandmother loved to tell us about the fun that could be found in Germantown. There were some terribly popular restaurants there – Café Mozart, Die Lorelei and the Gloria Palast (that also had a movie theatre on the street level). One could count on some mighty fine music and plenty of dancing in all these eateries. The Ideal Restaurant was a popular German style coffee shop and the Kleine Konditorei was a successful little pastry shop.

My Grandma, Emma Svejda, loved having a good time and partying into the wee hours of the morning. My grandfather, Frank Svejda, used to shake his head when she began telling these stories. It was clear that he had a difficult time keeping up with her. German bands played with gusto in many places around the neighborhood and there were always German festival days to recognize and celebrate. Unfortunately, there were strong pro-Nazi sentiments in Germantown during the 30s as well.

Today the Heidelberg Restaurant is still open at 1648 2nd Avenue, between 85th and 86th Street. And, the Steuben Parade still takes place in this neighborhood every year. A couple of German bakeries are still in existence there, too – Orwasher’s and Glaser’s.

Grandfather Vavra and his wife were cigar makers and they plied their trade right out of their home. In the 1910 census, my grandmother, the hot-party-gal, Emma, married then to Grandfather Frank Svejda, was living out in Queens. My Grandpa’s occupation is listed as a fireman; and Grandma listed herself as a “cigar maker.” Clearly she learned the trade from her parents and, perhaps, she dabbled in it.

My grandfather Svejda’s mother, Mary Doubrava Svejda, lived as a widow in that same Germantown neighborhood according to the 1920 census. Her parents, John and Marie Doubrava, lived with her. Mary had arrived in America in 1877, at the age of 12, along with her parents. She married my great grandfather (whose name I haven’t been able to come up with yet) sometime in the late 1800s and had five children: (1) My grandfather, Frank, of course, in 1887. (2) Anna was born in 1883, (3) Louise in ’89 and (4) John in ’92. That fifth child is unaccounted for. Sometime between 1892 and 1900, my great grandfather Svejda died and left Mary, a quite young widow, to raise her brood. So, it was sometime between my grandfather’s 5th and 12th birthdays that his father died. I can remember him telling stories about how difficult it was. At a young age he had to chip in and find ways to make money to support the family. He did everything – from mopping up in the bars at night to selling firewood in the winter. He knew nothing but hard work for almost all of his life. I remember visiting him on his deathbed and regarding how tired and worn down he looked in those last few days and he was significantly younger than I am now.

Family trees are remarkable puzzles to piece together. The effort that goes into the work is awesome and sapping. Yesterday, I spent over 10 hours at the computer – reading, searching, probing!

I won’t burden you with much more of this information – at least until the next big discovery – but, as you know, this is why I write here. This blog is for my grandchildren and for nieces and nephews – that they may one day have some genealogical information to work with in case they want to go deeper.

I have a trip to Germany in mind for this November, to search there, in Bremerhaven (at least) for clues. Family names will dot the labels given for this blog just in case googlers out there are looking for family names that might connect them to me.


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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Grandfather Arrives from Germany…

Kleindeustchland, on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan
by Charlie Leck

My grandfather, Henry William Leck, was a boy when he arrived in America (disembarking in the port of New York City) along with thousands and thousands of other Germans in the year 1887. Because he was only fifteen, he came in the company of his mother and father and, perhaps, a brother or sister. We can’t find ship’s records or Ellis Island records of his arrival. What’s written here is part of the oral history of my family and some comes from information left in notations from my grandmother, Emma Vey Leck, who arrived in America as a little girl of seven with her mother and father, Carl and Catherine Vey, in 1882. They had come from Bavaria, in Germany. She and Henry, who probably lived in the same neighborhood on the lower eastside of Manhattan, would meet in this new land and marry in about 1897.

Here’s what I imagine!
I image young Henry and his parents were welcomed by friends and family, who had preceded him on the journey and who knew of his arrival date. I wish I knew the entire and true story of his arrival – about the home he left behind in Germany, about the ship on which he was a passenger, about those acquaintances or family with whom he traveled, and, of course, about what he felt inside his gut when he saw the Statue of Liberty as his ship glided into the harbor. The big statue arrived in America in June of 1885. It was in 350 individual pieces and was packed in over 200 crates. It was assembled and put up on a pedestal built especially for her in about four month’s time. On the 28 October 1886, the statue was dedicated in a ceremony attended by thousands and thousands of spectators.

I can only imagine that my grandpa, as a 15 year old boy, looked out upon the statue as his ship glided into the port of New York. I know too much about teenagers, after raising six of them, and I’m not going to romanticize what sort of feelings he must have had as he came down the gangway to step foot upon the land of a new nation. For all I know, he may have been angry and pouting about it.

I have dozens and dozens of questions about him that I’ve been unable to answer to this day; however, I keep searching for data and facts about this young boy and what happened to him in this land and under what kind of circumstances he lived while in Germany.

It seems likely that he and his mother and father moved in with some friends who had arrived in America somewhat earlier. They probably settled into a residence near the southern tip of the Island of Manhattan, not very far at all from a spot where they could look out upon the Statue of Liberty. In those days that neighborhood was known as Little Germany. Thousands and thousands of families of German descent lived there.

Tompkins Square was pretty much the center of their community. They called is Weisse Garten. Surrounding it, in the neighborhood that stretched from the East River to the Bowery, there were beer gardens, theatres, shooting clubs, libraries, choral organizations, retail shops, small factories and workshops.

Stanley Nadel, author, in 1990, of Little Germany: Ethnicity, Religion and Class in NYC (1845-80) describes the neighborhood like this…

At the beginning of the '70s, after a decade of continuously rising immigration, Kleindeutschland (the German city in the ever-growing Cosmopolis) was in fullest bloom. Kleindeutschland, called Dutchtown by the Irish, consisted of 400 blocks formed by some six avenues and nearly forty streets. Tompkins Square formed pretty much the center. Avenue B, occasionally called the German Broadway, was the commercial artery. Each basement was a workshop, every first floor was a store, and the partially roofed sidewalks were markets for goods of all sorts. Avenue A was the street for beer halls, oyster saloons and groceries. The Bowery was the western border (anything further west was totally foreign), but it was also the amusement and loafing district. There all the artistic treats, from classical drama to puppet comedies, were for sale. [Quotation from Stanley Nadel, author, in 1990, of LITTLE GERMANY: ETHNICITY, RELIGION AND CLASS IN NYC (1845-80); University of Illinois Press, Urbana]

When one reads Nadel’s and others’ accounts of Little Germany it is not difficult to picture young Henry and Emma Vey growing into adulthood there. I can see her going to Weisse Garten to play among the flowers and ponds that were laid out there. When they first dated, there would have been so many dozens of beer halls and restaurants for them to visit and listen to the sounds of the German music they must have loved. They likely married in one of the big Lutheran churches that were established in the neighborhood early in its history – perhaps even in Saint Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Shortly after their marriage, my grandfather set up a grocery store slightly north of Little Germany, near the corner of West 44th Street and 8th Avenue. The 1900 census report shows that they lived at 310 West 44th Street. My father and his parents lived there along with two boarders, Longis Lesoine (age 13) and at school during the census interview and Gustav Busling (age 25), born in Germany and arrived in America in 1897. His occupation is listed as a clerk (perhaps, I can only imagine, in my grandfather’s grocery store). Their home would have been almost directly across the street from where the famous Birdland Jazz Club was established in 1949. As a teenager, I can remember lingering outside Birdland, too young to go in, so that I could hear the remarkable music of Thelonious Monk (watch a video below if you wish). Little did I know then that, my father and grandparents had lived right across the street and that my father was probably born there and, after his father, was named and baptized Henry William Leck, Jr..

I can’t find a record of the family in the 1910 census, but the 1920 accounting shows my father (now 21) no longer at home, but 6 other siblings had joined the family and there were no longer any boarders. My Uncle Charlie, after whom I was named was, at 19, the oldest of those children living with my grandparents.

Where was my father living in 1920? What was he doing? I know, only from his own oral accounts, that he went very frequently to the Polo Grounds to watch his beloved New York Giants play baseball. He went off to work very early each morning and was finished in time to take the trolley up to Coogan’s Bluff where the Polo Grounds ballpark, as he knew it, had opened in 1912. He told us that he always bought the cheap bleacher seats and enjoyed sitting out there in the summer sun.

My mother (age 9), during that 1920 census, was living at 309 West 97th Street, about 7 blocks west of Central Park, with her parents, Frank and Emma Svejda, and her little brother John (age 6). They were not too far away from a neighborhood known as Yorkville, but commonly referred to then as Germantown by the people who lived there – and especially by the Germans who lived there. The famous Heidelberg Restaurant, Manhattan’s most famous German eatery, is still there and serving dinners on Second Avenue between 85th and 86th Streets.

The original Kleindeutschland, down on the lower eastside, had pretty much broken apart and become more multi-ethnic after the horrible tragedy of 1904 – often referred to as the General Slocum Disaster. On 15 June 1904, the big Lutheran Church in Little Germany, Saint Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, had chartered a big side-wheel steam passenger ship to carry people to a church picnic. It remained, in terms of loss of life, the worst disaster in New York City’s history until 11 September 2001. The big ship was bound for the Locust Grove picnic site near Eatons Neck on Long Island. More than 1300 passengers, mostly women and children, were aboard as the ship sailed up the East River so that it could then head east across the Long Island Sound. The voyage came to a disastrous end when a fire broke out in the Lamp Room (forward). At 10 AM the fire was first noticed. When the untrained crew tried to use the fire hoses, this equipment was found to have rotted and it fell apart, literally, in their hands. The crew had never had a lifeboat drill and they were unable to loosen and lower the small boats. Some of them turned out to have been wired in place and were unmovable. The ship’s captain, a fellow named Van Schaick, continued on up river. He was close enough to shore that he could have docked at numerous places to unload his passengers. Instead he moved into strong head winds as he neared the sea and that fanned the dangerous flames. Passengers began jumping. Most of the women were dressed in clothing of that era, very full and blousy, that wouldn’t allow them to swim. Those passengers who used life vests discovered, once in the water, that they were poorly manufactured and had hung in place, open to the elements, for over 13 years and had never been examined or tested in all that time. Well over 1,000 passengers died in the tragedy.

Kleindeutschland, a neighborhood that had already begun to decline, virtually disappeared after the disaster. Many of the residents moved uptown and settled into the Yorkville neighborhood. My grandparents and my father had earlier moved up to West 44th Street.

My search for information about my great grandparents goes on. Most times it seems hopeless, but, perhaps, somewhere I will find some clue that will unlock a great deal more information.


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Friday, September 24, 2010


That’s the law here in Camelotski!
by Charlie Leck

No longer shall a road run up a hillside
Each byway and hiway must run on downward
And no auto shall be forced to strain on upward
For from here and ever onward it’s all downhillward

Read in Paul Krugman’s latest column about the Latin American political party that promised that its nation would save on gasoline costs by building highways that only ran downhillward.

Is Krugman the last economic and political thinker with any sense? Sometimes I think so. I always get my reality check by reading him.

Right now he’s asking the Republicans to make just such a check. They are promising us no more deficits when they take control of Congress. And, they are promising to renew the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy!

Highways that run only downhill! It is that for which the GOP is asking us to vote.

There really is a sucker born every minute and they are all lining up to vote the GOP back into office – the party that gave us two multi-trillion dollar wars and tax cuts to boot. We are about to restore to power the party that treated us like we had no brains and ran roughshod over our constitutional rights to privacy.

Somehow the party of the rich has got those with little swooning after it! It’s an infatuation that will lead to heartbreak when those with the mad crushes find out who the GOP really loves!

Here they come again!
We’re about to have some fun again!
Don’t bother asking!
Don’t bother checking!
We’ll make the rich so much richer again!
Let’s do it all over again!

Insanity reigns in America. The big liars are selling us Double Whoppers with Cheese! Here's how Krugman puts it...

“So what’s left? Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math. As he points out, the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won’t cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: ‘No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress.’”

And, oh yes, all highways built in the future may only go downhill!


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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Twins Win!

Ron Gardenhire and TC make the Twins look great in their spectacular new ballpark!
by Charlie Leck

We were at a Twins game again last week, enjoying our community’s breath-taking new ballpark, when my wife took notice of TC, the Twin’s mascot. She enjoyed watching him interact with the fans and especially the little kids. He’s full of energy and runs hither and yon as the stadium is filling up before the game. During a game you might find him almost anywhere – out in the right field stands, up in the third deck behind home plate, or dancing on top of the Twin’s dugout.

“Whatever is he supposed to be,” my wife asked, “some kind of animal?”

I looked at her in surprise. What kind of baseball fan is she? Wasn’t her very own father one of the movers and shakers among the powers who brought the Twins to Minnesota in 1960 – an amazing 50 years ago?

Instead of telling her the obvious, I tried singing a little jingle to her that might jog her memory…

“From the land of sky-blue waters,
From the land of pines, lofty balsams,
Comes the beer refreshing,
Hamm’s the beer refreshing!”

“Hints of lakes and sunset breezes,
Dance and sparkle in each glassful,
Hamm’s the beer refreshing,
Hamm’s the beer refreshing.”

She still didn’t get it and looked at me as if I’d slipped off my rocker just a bit. I think she was a bit embarrassed by the old singing voice, too, as people around us began to snicker. I figured they were chuckling at her for not knowing what TC is, so I continued the little jingle as best I could remember it.

She began talking to the chap next to her, pretending, I think, that she didn’t know me. So I gave up on the song. Eventually, she broke off her conversation with the dude on the other side of her and turned back to me.

“What has that song got to do with what that mascot is supposed to be?”

I shook my head. Now I was the embarrassed one.

“How long have you been a Minnesotan,” I asked. “You were old enough when the Twins came here from Washington. Hamm’s beer – our own Minnesota beer – was the primary sponsor of our new, major league ball club. You remember that don’t you? And don’t you remember all those commercials – you know, the tom-toms, the canoes, the flowing waters, and the Hamm’s bear?”

She was shaking her head now.

“I was sixteen years old – not even sixteen – and I didn’t care about baseball. I cared about horses – and ice cream – and boys!”

“Well,” I said, with plenty of pride beaming across my face, “at least you now know who – or what – TC is.”

She looked out on to the field, where TC was jogging around the bases with a couple of very small children – perhaps six year olds. She turned back to me.

“You mean that thing out there is supposed to be a bear?”

I gave up and turned to the woman on the other side of me. She, confounded, was shaking her head at my wife’s ignorance. Mutteringly, she whispered something to me.

“Some fan!”

Here’s an old black and white commercial for Hamm’s Beer. It features the Hamm’s Bear and the famous song! You’ll thank me for the memories.

By the way, the Twins are Division Champs again. They’ve won this crown 6 out of the last 9 years. It’s an extraordinary achievement by the team’s manger, Rod Gardenhire. That’s Rod in the picture leading off this blog. We don’t’ look anything alike, but I’m often confused for him when I’m out shopping or dining in a restaurant.

Two weeks ago, a fellow came up to me in the grocery store and told me I was doing a fine job with the team and wished me the best of luck in the playoffs. I told him I wasn’t Gardenhire. He laughed and shook his head.

“Oh, sure!”

“I’m not,” I said. “It four o’clock already. Gardenhire is at the ballpark with his team, getting ready for tonight’s game.”

“Nice try, Ron. Good luck!”

At a restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis on an evening last week, when the Twins were out of town, a woman at a nearby table kept looking over at me. Once, when I looked over at her, wondering what she was staring at, she gave me a little wave, wiggling her fingers at me. I could only shake my head at her.

I don’t have those fat cheeks that Gardenhire has. Sure he’s a great manager, but he’s not the looker I am. Granted, I’ve got some age on him, but… but…. Where was I going with this anyhow?

Congratulations to Gardenhire. As the President of the Twins said a couple days ago: “If Ron Gardenhire isn’t the American League Manager of the Year this year, they ought to stop giving out the award!”

He is! Ron Gardenhire is the manger of the year! And, TC is the mascot of the year! No doubt about it.


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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is it Ignorance or is it Brobdingnagian Greed?

The Koch Brothers are generously funding an initiative on the ballot in California this fall that would kill AB 32 – a clean energy bill that was hailed by environmentalists as an important achievement.
by Charlie Leck

You can see from the title that my “word of the day” came through this morning; and it’s recommended that I try to use it three or four times on the day I get it, so you are my pigeons this morning. Yet, it is not a misused word in this context; rather, it is very appurtenant here!

Brobdingnagian \brob-ding-NAG-ee-uhn [adjective]
Of extraordinary size; gigantic; enormous

I suggest you read the New York Times editorial of 20 September 2010 about “The Brothers Koch and AB 32.”

Here’s an extraordinary example of the power that wealthy, corporate moguls have in America and how they can mess with and manipulate our political systems far beyond the ability of normal, everyday citizens.

The Koch Brothers are providing huge sums of money in a campaign for a ballot initiative in California that will kill a law that is providing great hope that climate change can be slowed and our dependence on foreign oil reduced. The law, however, threatens to reduce the bottom line at Koch Industries. The billionaire brothers also happen to believe “global warming” is nonsense.

So, this California law that aims at reducing carbon dioxide emissions is in danger of being repealed. Such greed and stupidity should no longer surprise or shock me. I guess it doesn’t, but it does still make me angrier than hell!

“The Kochs and their allies are disastrously wrong about the science, which shows that man-made emissions are largely responsible for global warming, and wrong about the economics. AB 32’s many friends – led by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California – have therefore mounted a spirited counterattack in defense of the law.” [New York Times, 20 Sept 2010]

What’s a guy in Minnesota to do about such ignorance and brobdingnagian greed?


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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ghosts Redux

They claim the ghost of Molly can still be seen, haunting Forepaugh’s Restaurant. Don’t believe it! Instead, just enjoy the spectacular Beef Wellington or “Donald’s Duck” that Chef Donald Gonzalez so elegantly creates.
by Charlie Leck

Forepaugh’s is a terrific local dining spot – if one can call our nearly 40 mile drive to St. Paul local. I think it was nearly 35 years ago when I dined there the first time and I’ve gone back every five years or so to enjoy this lovely setting and the good dinners they serve.

The main reason we went this time was to view again the photograph of Forepaugh’s Ghost. I wrote about ghosts on a blog last month and expressed strong doubt about their existence. A friend here in the Twin Cities called me to remind me of the Forepaugh ghost and the old photograph of it that had captured its existence so definitely. So, we all decided to dine at the grand restaurant to take another look at the picture.

Wouldn’t you know! We got there to find the photograph wasn’t available for viewing. The restaurant had just remodeled and the photograph had gone missing in the process – perhaps swiped by one of the many people involved in the work or, perhaps, by the ghosts themselves. One of the employees – the bartender I think – told us there was a negative of the photograph somewhere but it had not yet been found.

“I’m sure you can find the photograph on-line,” the young bartender said. “Just google Forepaugh’s ghost.”

Well, I did. And I didn’t have any luck.

Joseph Forepaugh’s mysterious death
You can see from the photograph above that the restaurant is in an unusual setting. The old house sits on the corner of Exchange and Chestnut, just west of downtown St. Paul. It’s been beautifully remodeled – this grand mansion built in 1871 by Joseph Lybrandt Forepaugh. It’s reported that the gentlemen suffered from bouts of depression and sold his home in 1886 and traveled with his family to Europe for an extended time, seeking a change of scenery and, perhaps, relief from his dogged fight with gloominess. The family returned in 1889 and Mr. Forepaugh built another spectacular home up on prestigious Summit Avenue – a location from which he could overlook his former and beloved mansion.

In Irvine Park, not far at all from his two homes, on the evening of July 8, 1892, Joseph Lybrandt Forepaugh evidently put a bullet in his head. He was found there, in the park, dead and with a pistol in his hand. His family’s story was that depression and his struggles with business finally became too much for him to handle. However, as soon as the news of Mr. Forepaugh’s death got back to the mansion, a servant girl, named Molly, went to the attic and hanged herself. Of course, this fired up rumors about the relationship between the girl and the gentleman; and gossip has persisted to this day that Molly was pregnant when she did herself in.

In the years following the two deaths, there have been many reports that both Joseph and Molly have been seen in the old house on Chestnut and Exchange. Even in recent years, employees of the restaurant have claimed sightings. Sometimes, they’ve reported, there’s a strange chill in the air and then this woman in 19th century clothing – and not theater-type reproductions – breezes through a room unaffected by the real-life people surrounding her. Or, the image of a handsome and splendidly dressed gentleman is seen, fading in and then out.

Of course, I say this is all nonsense and the product of out-of-control imaginations. Ghosts? Nonsense! The rules of science disallow it. Such claims are wildly burlesque.

The restaurant, however, is a wonderful place to take one’s love for a romantic and enchanting evening; and, in the candlelight, you may consider occasionally glancing over your shoulder.

The menu is small, but grand. The place is famous for its Beef Wellington, which now is supposed to be better than ever. I had Donald’s Duck and enjoyed it immensely. The menu describes it as "blackened duck breast and chili glazed duck confit, served on a bed of sautéed cilantro, basmati and port-Salut topped with a pineapple salad and a citrus chili sauce." I found it to be quite spectacular. For dessert, the girls shared deconstructed banana cream pie and I envied their every bite.

Chef Donald Gonzalez originally opened Chambers Kitchen in the Chambers Hotel over in Minneapolis. That was one of my favorite restaurants in town; and I am now pleased to follow him to St. Paul.

Visit Forepaugh’s web site.

A recent, brief review of Forepaugh's Restaurant in City Pages


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Monday, September 20, 2010

It’s DE-jà vu all over again!

The Tea Party moves further and farther away from the center!
by Charlie Leck

I blogged last week about THE TEA PARTY & THE GOP and tried to explain how crazy this year’s election polling and results would be because of the way the Republican Party has been weakened by relentless Tea Party attacks on established GOP candidates and officials.

There is no better example of this dynamic than in the current campaign for a Congressional seat in NY’s 23rd Congressional district. There, the Democratic candidate was trailing the GOP’s endorsed candidate by double digits in all the polls. That GOP candidate got knocked off in the primary, however, and the Tea Party’s choice won and now trails the Democratic candidate in the polls by double digits.

Tea Party endorsed candidates are not being easily and gracefully accepted by the reasonable GOP voter. We see that in Minnesota. I think the concoctions the Tea Party is offering up all over the nation are often candidates too eccentric, too rabid and too extreme for the average voter.

A column by Simon Malloy, on Media Matters, about this NY Congressional election is very illustrative of this political “hitch” we are witnessing all over the nation. [Read Simon Malloy’s Media Matters: DE-jà vu]

Malloy's explanation of a recent and worrisome Pew Research Center survey about how, based on their political affiliations, Americans get their news is quite astounding:

"The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released a survey this week detailing Americans' news-gathering habits. Of particular note was their partisan breakdown of cable news audiences over the past decade. In 2000, 18 percent of Republicans and 18 percent of Democrats said they regularly get their news from Fox. In 2010, the percentage of Democratic regular viewers has dipped to 15, while regular Republican viewers skyrocketed to 40 percent. Moreover, 41 percent of Republicans believe 'all or most' of what Fox News says. It is the network of and for the GOP. Kevin Drum observed: 'As Fox has steadily amped up its conservative branding, conservatives have decided that's all they want to hear. The echo chamber must be getting pretty deafening over there.'"

Here's the Pew Research Center's survey report published on 12 September 2010.

This is going to be a wacky six weeks leading up to election day and I'm really into it like crazy -- I mean like really crazy!

Here are some of the U.S. Senate races I'll be following closely. It's important that the Democrats continue to hold a majority in that body.

Wisconsin U.S. Senate Race
This is one of the stunners for me. Feingold is trailing the Republican candidate, Johnson, by significant numbers. Feingold is an extraordinary Senator – one of the most creative and brilliant guys in Washington.

Rasmussen Reports sees 6 U.S. Senate races as toss-ups
As of this moment, the Rasmussen Reports sees the Democrats holding 49 U.S. Senate seats after the election, while the Republicans would hold 45 of them. That leaves 6 seats as real contests around the nation (as of right now). Those contests include California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Wisconsin and West Virginia. I'll watch each of them closely.

Add Pennsylvania
I’ll add Pennsylvania to the list of states I'll follow closely because I think the race there is still in question. Joe Sestak is the Democrat who knocked off Arlan Spector in the primary election. Sestak has a name recognition problem but he has 6 weeks to gain on the Republican, Pat Toomey, who hasn’t reached the 50 percent mark in the polls yet.

Although Rasmussen puts the Connecticut Senate race in the Democrat’s column, I think it is still much too close to do that. The Democrat is Richard Blumenthal and he gets slightly better than the 50 percent mark, but Linda McMahon, the Republican, is still polling strongly and she has time to turn some of Blumenthal’s support away from him. This is really a hold-your-breath kind of race.

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer may be in trouble in California. Polls show her in a dead-heat right now with the Republican challenger, Carly Fiorina, with 2 percent of those polled being undecided.

In all of this, Obama’s presidency hangs in the balance. If the Republicans take over the U.S. Senate you can be sure things will stagnate for the next two years and Obama will likely be a one-term president who may not even seek the endorsement to run. How fast things can change in Washington!

Will Obama emerge from hiding?
A story by Jackie Calmes and Michael Shear in this morning’s New York Times says that Obama and his aides are thinking about a national campaign to tie the GOP directly to the Tea Party, in essence to say that the Republican Party is “all but taken over by the Tea Party extremists.” [click here to read the story] According to the story, Obama is due to come out of hiding soon, in an attempt to rally the voters who came out in support of him two years ago. Many feel that the Democrats only hope is if these voters can be re-energized.

Keep me informed!
Let me know what's going on in your state's U.S. Senate and House of Representative races and which ones will see Democrats turned out to pasture.


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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Morning Blogging on Edward Hopper and David Williamson

Edward Hopper as seen by David Williamson.
by Charlie Leck

The author of Ecclesiastes was puzzled
At the way we are wired.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time,” he wrote.
“He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;
Yet they cannot fathom what God has done
From beginning to end. ”

Hopper was there at the right times
To find beauty in dark places.
The people in his pictures
Tick to the beat of an eternal clock.

This week I received a lovely little book (about 7”x7”) from David Williamson, a reader in Wales. David posts a wonderful and intelligent little blog (VanPeebles Land) a few times each week, and I delight in following it. David, an artist himself, who writes for a newspaper for a day job, blogs about politics, theology and spirituality, art and his travels. He’s a keen and sensitive writer and a keen and sensitive man. Whenever he posts a new blog, I go there for a fill-up.

Some time ago I purchased David Williamson’s book, Redeeming Creatures. It was quite an extraordinary theological statement about hopefulness and positive living and our call to both. I loved it.

More recently, David’s new “little” book arrived and delighted the living heck out of me. I’ve spun through it three times already and enjoyed it more than I can say. About the American artist, John Hopper, it’s a picture book with some smooth little verse by David.

The book is: Eternal Light (A spiritual Appreciation of Edward Hopper). It’s a nice, bright and comfortable book to hold in your hands. It prompts you to go and read more about Edward Hopper (1882-1967) so you might understand him as well and beautifully as David Williamson does.

Artchive tells me that, in order to understand his art, I must understand how intensely private, personal and introspective Edward Hopper was.

Edward Lucie-Smith, in Lives of the Great 20th Century Artists, wrote of him….

"Edward Hopper, the best-known American realist of the inter-war period, once said: 'The man's the work. Something doesn't come out of nothing.' This offers a clue to interpreting the work of an artist who was not only intensely private, but who made solitude and introspection important themes in his painting.

"He was born in the small Hudson River town of Nyack, New York State, on 22 July 1882. His family were solidly middle-class: his father owned a dry goods store where the young Hopper sometimes worked after school. By 1899 he had already decided to become an artist, but his parents persuaded him to begin by studying commercial illustration because this seemed to offer a more secure future. He first attended the New York School of Illustrating (more obscure than its title suggests), then in 1900 transferred to the New York School of Art. Here the leading figure and chief instructor was William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), an elegant imitator of Sargent. He also worked under Robert Henri (1869-1929), one of the fathers of American Realism - a man whom he later described as 'the most influential teacher I had', adding 'men didn't get much from Chase; there were mostly women in the class.' Hopper was a slow developer - he remained at the School of Art for seven years, latterly undertaking some teaching work himself"

Williamson, with a clear way of expressing himself right from his gut, explains Hopper more precisely to me…

I don’t know if there are photo albums in heaven
That the saints can fill with snapshots of life from their days on earth.

But if
Nighthawks is the only picture we can see on the other side
That will be enough.

Philosophers could spend a trillion hours asking if there is a God.
But all of us can shudder in astonishment at the
Confounding miracle of existence
And puzzle why
We have been beckoned to play a part in this pageant.


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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tom Emmer is a Bully!

A local blogger got it just right about Tom Emmer
by Charlie Leck

I’m a regular reader of a blog called Blog of the Moderate Left. Usually it’s pretty good stuff. Yesterday morning it was really good stuff. Blogger Jeff Fecke got it just right (correctly) – spot on – when he described Tom Emmer as a bully. Emmer is a Republican candidate for Governor here in Minnesota.

Of course, it shouldn’t be surprising that Emmer holds others to standards he himself refuses to live up to. He’s a bully. He wants to push others around. There’s nothing consistent about his ethics; he just wants to force others to dance to his tune, to punish others for made-up infractions. This is who Emmer is. And it’s why he’d be a disastrous governor.

I posted a comment in response to the blog…

You’ve nailed Emmer. The operative word is “bully.” I’ve seen him in action both in the State Legislature and as a councilman here in our town some years ago. He doesn’t like people to question him or doubt him. He bullies around anyone who does. Though he’s being portrayed as a good citizen, he really isn’t. He’s left bills unpaid to people he promised to pay and who need to be paid. He has weird excuses, like: “That’s my wife’s debt!” I’d really like to get a look at his finances, so we can see where HE gets his money. Good posting. You got Emmer just right!

Fecke is a freelance writer from Lakeville, Minnesota. He covers politics for the Alexandria Independent. He’s not quite as “moderate” as the title of his blog implies, but he’s enjoyable to read.


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