Thursday, February 26, 2009

Elvis Spotted at Graceland

I passed Graceland at 35 mph yesterday afternoon. Our local Memphis guide eventually did stop long enough for me to snap a cell phone photo of "Elvis" at the wall of his estate near the wrought iron gate from our vehicle. If you come to Graceland bring a Sharpie - looks like most people write something to the King on the wall of his property. Thank you very much. Know that.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

American Gothic's Grant Wood Still Rests in Anamosa, Iowa

American Gothic painter, Grant Wood lived and created art around 42N country. His 1930 masterpiece hangs at the Art Institute of Chicago (above top), a city near the coveted mid-northern latitude. American Gothic is one of the most recognized images of American art and one of the most parodied. Moving a bit to the west, the master painted his iconic rural midwestern oil and several others at his studio in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Grant Wood was born and is buried in nearby Anamosa, Iowa. His grave is located along one of the middle roads in the cemetery and is usually adorned by flowers and his World War I service marker. He lies next to his sister, Nan Wood Graham, the woman who he painted in the American Gothic composition. A late afternoon photo on February 22, 2009 captures the solitude of this prominent member of the Regionalist art movement. Visit several Grant Wood sites around the 42N latitude. Click here to discover the painter's legacy. Know that.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Windmill Near Rowley, Iowa

The glaciers did a real job on Iowa during their last surge. One of the benefits of the last ice age was the creation of conditions perfect for the production of rich, organic soil. That's what is abundant here close to the 42N line. This windmill near Rowley, Iowa is located in the middle of a farm field surrounded by the relative black earth in the foreground. It's one of the reasons that Iowa and other Midwestern states produce record number of corn and soybean crops annually. Know that.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sykora Bakery Construction Continues

Iconic Sykora Bakery in Czech Village, Cedar Rapids, Iowa continues towards opening its doors soon. Amish carpenters recently finished installing the two-story fa├žade and other gingerbread details to the front of the store. Construction progresses within the building on the bakery production area and on the retail area for over the counter purchases and snack areas. Other Czech Village businesses continue to recover. Yesterday (St. Valentine’s Day) the antique store across the street from Sykora opened for the first time since the June 2008 flood. Another nearby restaurant is expected to open soon too, joining a small, yet growing number of post-flood businesses returning to Cedar Rapids. Soon the smell of kolaches and bread will fill the neighborhood atmosphere. Know that.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Williamsburg Fife and Drum At Sundown

A daily tradition at Colonial Williamsburg is the fife and drum precession near sundown. The parade starts on the eastern end of the Duke of Gloucester street and marches to the Palace Green. With no amplification from their instrument but their own breath or drum beat the parade commands attention from all visitors to America's largest living history museum. Think history is boring? Think again. Treat yourself to what colonial life was like during the 18th century by visiting Colonial Williamsburg. You'll also discover where scenes from the HBO miniseries, John Adams were filmed in 2007. Know that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ringtones From Another Era

Look hard enough and you can still find early twentieth century telephonic equipment like this Kellogg wall mount model. At a recent auction in Belle Plaine, Iowa this crank-ringer attracted four bidders and fetched around $75. In its day the phone represented state-of-the-art communication. Roughly 80 years later the Kellogg Switchboard and Supply Company of Chicago, Illinois phone is more of a decorative object than a functioning household staple. Just think - a phone with no capacity for dialing, photography, music, gps, internet, portability or even fancy ringtones. The only amenity on this model is an authentic oak cabinet. How did people ever survive? Text me the answer. Know that.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Buddy Holly & the Crickets 1955 Touring Car on Display in Belle Plaine Iowa

Rounding out tribute week to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper is a month long exhibit of the Buddy Holly & the Crickets 1955 Touring car at the Belle Plaine (Iowa) Area Museum. Holly memorabilia collectors from Marshall county, Iowa were contacted by Peggy Sue (of the Holly song fame) about the availability of the car from a Lubbock, Texas source a few years ago. LeRoy and Patti Morford purchased and restored the 1955 Pontiac. The car (named Rave On after one of Holly's songs) was once owned by Jerry Allison the drummer of the Crickets. The present owners display the car at various car shows and parades. While other Holly memorabilia is on display at the museum a more personal item is located in the car's back seat - one of Buddy's acoustic guitars. Did he compose any of his hits on that guitar? Did he use the six string during live performances or recordings? You knows, but with all the attention focused on the Holly legend this week we unexpectedly walked into a setting of real Holly artifacts that simply won't fade away.

Listen or download here as museum volunteer, Elizabeth Gates describes the touring car and guitar. Know that.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Please Hold for Buddy Holly

While the celebration at last night's tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa made international news a re-discovered telephone call recording by Buddy has appeared. Apparently in 1957 Buddy was unhappy with his Decca Records contract and wanted out. He phoned the Decca boss and tried to move the issue along. Here are links to the story and to the call. Download the call here. Know that.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Surf Ballroom - The Day the Music Died

Tonight many people who are lucky enough to have a ticket will gather at Clear Lake Iowa's Surf Ballroom to honor the legends of early rock and roll - Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. Richardson, also known as the Big Bopper. The story is familiar to many about the tragic plane crash 50 years ago tonight that took the lives of the pilot, Roger Peterson and these influential pioneers of the rock era. Our last visit to the Surf two years ago showed it to be a busy place with booked acts like the Los Lonely Boys, B.B. King and the Doobie Brothers scheduled to play during early summer 2007 (see top photo.) L (Sea) Storm moves in front of the then closed ballroom (it was a Sunday) to get a better look at this icon in rock history. Its something to imagine that Peggy Sue, LaBamba, and Chantilly Lace were last performed inside that ballroom by the original artists that made them hits. We remember and celebrate in spirit with the on-site revelers tonight -- maybe even with a Beatle. Know that.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Plus Side of Living in Cedar Rapids

Canada geese hang out in below zero degree weather near the Quaker Oats and Cargill plants in Cedar Rapids, Iowa last week. What is the attraction to sticking around sub-zero quarters instead of someplace warm? The answer is food - lots of it. Where these geese hang out is one of the staging areas for grain trucks heading to the plants. Spills of grain by the waiting trucks accumulates on the road. This in turn attracts the large birds from the north keeping them well fed over the winter. Watch your step. Know that.

EVP From Mt Vernon Iowa Cemetery Haunting

EVP stands for electronic voice phenomena. This definition is a standard for anyone who watches the SciFi Channel's Ghost Hunters. It refers to the ability to hear ghostly sounds that are usually unheard by human ears at the time of an audio recording. Interesting. So off to the Mt. Vernon - Lisbon, Iowa's cemetery with our team to see if we could get EVPs on our first attempt. Though it was mid-afternoon (not nighttime) one day last summer we walked the cemetery with a voice recorder in hand asking questions and listening.

Listen to or download the file here.

Upon review of the recording we distinctly heard the following:

Investigator: "Is there anything that you wish to say?"
EVP: "No" or another interpretation is "Get Out" which may start before the question audio ends.

Listen closely to hear the soft response to the first question. Our follow-up question and the none response is included for you to hear the background noise as a comparison. We don't know what we captured but it certainly was quite the find for first time ghost hunters. We plan to check the site out again. Read more about the account here. Know that.

Trinity Methodist Church Set for Demolition - Victim of the Cedar Rapids 2008 Flood

June 2008's historic level flood of the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids, Iowa continues to take its toll on the city in many ways. Demolition of the century old Trinity Methodist Church near downtown is scheduled to occur in the next two weeks. Five feet of mud and water entered the church and caused more damage than the cost to replace according to church officials. The water line on the door can be seen in the photo above. Salvage teams reclaimed the stained glass windows and other less damaged items from the church recently. Rev. Robert Dennert, the church's pastor several years ago helped celebrate many good times in the sanctuary. Those images endure. Know that.