Archive for the ‘ Parallel Universe ’ Category

House Rules

Seems Prince Charles , though he longs to be King, is in no hurry to move into Buckingham Palace when it’s his time to do so.

Why?

Apparently, it’s a dump.

If so, it certainly puts on a good face, er façade.

The place wasn’t always the home front for the British Royal Family, heck, it hasn’t even always been a palace at all.

It was originally the love child of the Duke of Buckingham.  He built it as a townhouse and called it Buckingham House.

King George III – the one who lost the colonies – bought the place in 1761 for £21,000 for his wife and Queen, Charlotte.  He of course made it even more grand by adding several new wings and an inner courtyard.

After his death, his extravagant, overbearing, spoiled son and heir, George IV went decorator crazy and gilded the place!

Queen Victoria, the current monarch’s great great grandmother was the first monarch to take UP residence in the place full time and even she didn’t really want to!

The façade of Buckingham Palace we have come to know as the face of the Monarchy wasn’t even there until Victoria’s husband Albert designed it in 1847.

Queen Elizabeth II resides there as her official residence, and occupies a nine room apartment in the place.  She pays for her own furnishing and the rest of the place is a 775 room museum which according to Charles is falling down, unsafe, and rat infested.

The staffers at the palace had been bucking the government for years for cash to fix the place.  Finally after a chunk of the roof line fell and nearly killed the Princess Royal, Parliament caved and coughed UP the equivalent of $500 million over the next ten years to refurbish the place.

Over the next decade, workers will replace 100 miles of electrical wiring, 30 miles of water pipes, 6,500 electrical outlets, 5,000 light fixtures, 2,500 radiators and 500 pieces of “sanitary ware.”

Some of the wiring is 60 years old and most of the plumbing pre-dates World WarII!

But, even with all this, Charles and his wife, Camillia, Duchess of Cornwall (she’s really the Princess of Wales, but no one has the nerve to say it) have no desire to move in.

Of course when there actually is a King Charles III, his official residence will be Buckingham Palace.  It’s unlikely he’ll spend much time there as he’ll inherit his mother’s private residences of Sandringham, Balmoral, and the Crown Estate of Windsor.

But to the world, Buckingham Palace is the residence of the British Monarch, dump or no dump!

Buck UP Charlie, life could be worse!

A Small Reminder…

More and more often I’m reminded of my age.

Seems there’s a new ache or pain every week.

It is rare that someone says something that makes me realize I’ve experienced things some never will.

But, once in a while, it jumps right off the page and slaps me in the face like it did this weekend on Facebook.

A former co-worker posted a poem on his page, and as always, I tried to think of something to say.  I was at a loss, so I simply commented “Burma Shave.”

A few notifications his reply came; “I had to google Burma Shave.”

Yeah, that was a wake UP!

So, for all you whipper-snappers out there today we’re talking about Burma Shave and the way things were when traveling by car was an adventure.

First a little business:

Burma Shave

Burma-Shave was introduced in 1925 by the Burma-Vita company.  His original product was a liniment with ingredients that came from “the Malay peninsula and Burma.” No one cared, the owner needed to make some cash, so he looked for ways to expand his business.

The outcome was Burma-Shave, a brand of brush-less shaving cream.  Oh yes, back then, it was shaving soap, and it was in a mug, and you used a brush to slather it all over your face.  Burma Shave was in a can, and at its peak was the second highest selling brush-less shaving cream in the US.

One of the reasons for its popularity was it road side advertising campaign which consisted of “series signs” spaced along the highways.

The first one in Lakeville, Minnesota was put UP in 1926 and they were roadside staples until 1963, when they became a casualty of Lady Bird Johnson’s beautification project.

The signs imparted knowledge such as “The Place to pass on curves you know is only at a beauty show” Burma-Shave.

That’s right, each series of sign ended with Burma Shave and there was no question who was paying for the ads.

Most  were funny:

Candidate says campaign confusing, babies kiss me since I’ve been using Burma shave.

Some were serious:

Violets are blue, roses are pink on graves of those who drive and drink – Burma Shave.

They all reflect a time that seems in retrospect innocent, and a time that is past.

Now, at 70 MPH on most highways, signs are a blur.

But I miss the signs of my childhood, I miss the advice and the laughs they provided.

Do you remember your favorite Burma Shave slogan?

Here’s one of mine.

Big Mistake

Long ago in a land far away, there was a happy band of people.  They loved their land, loved the people they served, and toiled each day at a task that made them feel worthwhile and joyful.

They were masters of accommodation; being all things to all people.

These masters of accommodation knew the land and its people like no other; its hills, its valleys, the caves in which to hide, and the open fields where they could soak the sun’s rays.

They were helpful, hopeful, hop-to-its who never failed, always came through, gave much and demanded little.  They were teachers, fortune tellers, mentors, and nurse-maids; they could work miracles, find the lost, feed the hungry, and fix the misfortunes of the failed.

And the people loved them.

And the land was happy.

Then, there came an evil princess.

Evil Princess

She was jealous of theses masters of accommodation.

Mandating a meeting of her minions, the princess declared, “Something must be done.  These masters of accommodation have too much fun, too much joy, too much power.  They do to much for others. They must be stopped.”

So into the land the minions flew, questions were asked, meetings were held, brainstorming boomed.

“What do they do that the people love them so?”, asked the foolish followers of the evil princess. “How can they make the people so happy; how did this happen, this power, this joy?”

Shaking with fear, the weak ones cried, “Oh, it is not so, it cannot be, they aren’t so grand, they aren’t so brave, they don’t help me.  I can do this and I can do that, I find my way each and every day.”

Loving the lies and lapping UP the lore, no one asked those who knew more.  The masters of accommodation were completely ignored, knew nothing, were blind, and went on being kind.

So off to the castle the minions flew, armed with the lies of a chosen few.  The princess was pleased with the news that they brought, and felt joy in the fact that her efforts would not be for naught.

Sessions were held, the coven was called, the young and the old the short and the bald gladly gave UP the lay of the land, and all was to go according to plan.

Back in the land all was well, the rumors appeared, and then began to swell.  The masters of accommodation huddled in fear, knowing the end of their joy was near.

And on a day least expected the hammer did fall; no mail, no message, no call, no hint – no, nothing at all.

A flurry, a fluster, flashing and fighting; what goes, what stays, who helps, who hides?

There were some who cried, “Why is this so?”, they knew it was done, and some things must go.

As darkness crept in on that warm summer eve, the landscape was ravaged, the air not so fresh, the masters of accommodation were wounded in the flesh.

Back in her palace the princess was pleased, she’d stopped these masters, and that was her need. She cackled and crowed, the minions cowered at her screed!

But, hope springs eternal in the land far and wide, they are waiting, and watching, some continue to hide.   The cries of displeasure are heard day to day, but really the people know not what to say.

Yes, hope springs eternal in the land far and wide.  Princesses come and go, workers roll with the tide. The masters of accommodation, though battered and bruised, are helping and hoping and hopping as they usually do.

Community Plotters

Burial plots in the United States, prior to the beginning of the Civil War, were generally either in the church yard or the back yard.

Sometimes, if you were really important, a big spender, or a deeply religious person, you were interred in the church itself.

Everyone was generally buried east to west with their head to the west.  The reason for this, is that The Lord Jesus Christ, when He comes in the clouds for the Rapture will come from the East, so the dead in Christ want to be facing that way.

Headstones which filled family grave plots and church yards were often elaborately carved if the cash was there and the ego was big enough.  Often times, a simple cross, the symbol of Christianity, would have to do until money could be garnered for something special.

The population explosion, both from births and immigration, gave public health officials, such as they were, cause for concern.  As towns were becoming over crowded, so were the church yards.  Mortuary services being slightly less advanced than today, the decay of flesh, clothing, and coffin caused “well worry” and “ground water groanings.”

Some bright soul came UP with the idea that maybe we should bury folks away from the town, and the Rural Cemetery Movement was born.

Mount Auburn in Boston came about in 1831, and is generally considered the first rural cemetery.

Mr. Auburn Cemetery, Boston, MA.

Mr. Auburn Cemetery, Boston, MA.

Now, by rural, they didn’t mean out in the sticks, just away from the population center, and more importantly, the wells.

As the movement grew, cemeteries became more elaborate, more “well groomed”, and much better designed.  English Landscape gardening, ever popular in Colonial times, was used as the blueprint.  The parks, as they were often called, provided quiet, beauty, nature, and sanctuary.

It was also a good place for a talk with Granny, the Ouija board not being popularized in the US until the late 1800s.

People would take the family; mom, dad, kids, nanny, and a picnic lunch for a day with the ancestors, sitting around the tomb of grandpa, munching on watermelon, fried chicken and potato salad, remembering the good old days, when they could sit on grandpa’s knee and listen to his stories of the Revolution, War of 1812, or maybe the charge UP Chapultapec hill.

The movement moved west, cities got on the bandwagon, and bought huge parcels of land for the final resting places of the dead.

It became big business.

Famous landscape architects were hired, the earth was moved, lanes cut, trees planted, and plots laid out.

An article in an 1857 issue of The Country Gentleman, an agricultural magazine, outlined the specifics when it came to planting requirements for the new style of cemetery:

“Cemeteries are not to be left naked and desolate, as were most of the old-fashioned burying yards . . . we conclude that a cemetry [sic] should be a pleasant, cultivated scene . . . the grounds should be substantially enclosed with fences or hedges and belts of trees, to give them an air of security and seclusion . . . and to make them appear to be a suitable resting place and home for the dead.”

Kind of like this.

Germantown Union Cemetery, from the back looking to SR 725.

Germantown Union Cemetery, from the back looking to SR 725.

But, the movement wasn’t just about water, wells, and weeping willows.  It was about America’s obsession with the afterlife, the dead, and grief.

Sadness aside, the movement provided some beautiful parks, places of sanctuary, and a seed for the urban parks  – minus the graves – that would later come to adorn our over crowded cities.

Since it’s October, and since we’re exploring the spooky and scary, I think we should visit a few, but I promise, we won’t go every day.  I hope you’ll join me.