Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Our History

The tragic lost and the places they departed from...

I'm not sure when exactly my interest with history and death came to fruition. I knew I always loved history in general. I stood in the green, seeming boring fields in Gettysburg when I was 10 and knew I was somewhere very important. I stared at pictures of the great Hartford circus fire and wanted to ask Emmet Kelly what he felt when we was carrying children from the fire. I saw WW2 vet pilots and I wanted to crawl their minds and see what they saw. I wanted to know what color underwear Louise the 14th wore. I was always a curious and strange kid.

And it seems where ever history is, so is death. They go hand in hand, most times. With the death of Queen Mary the first of England, her sister Elizabeth took over and united England after much upheaval and confusion.

A little boy named Adam Walsh was kidnapped at a Sears in Florida. His head was found weeks later. The horrifying death of this one little boy changed America and even the world. John Walsh, his father, a successful business man who built luxury hotel, began a life long mission. It resulted in the capture of over 1000 criminals, the foundation of The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and multiple pieces of legislation passed into law to help protect children.

Jayne MansfieldJayne Mansfield, her boyfriend, driver and 3 children were driving to New Orleans for a show when 20 year old Ronnie Harrison, the driver, continued to drive through a fog of insecticide without slowing and slammed into the back of a semi. The three adults in the front seat were killed instantly while the three children were spared with only cuts and minor breaks. Because of this horrifying accident, all large semis have a protective bar underneath the trailer to prevent smaller cars from hitting under the bottom and shearing the top of the car off. (Sometimes called 'Mansfield Bars', or so I'm told...) How many lives has this saved?

Of course, there is a kind of morbid fascination, but only to an extent. I am not one who gets their rocks off by looking a crime scene photos or masturbates to car accidents. It's the history and the life that was lived and the events that took place. If you don't recognize the dead, then you ignore everything they did, what they died for and even how they lived. Lionel Barrymore said in the movie Grand Hotel, "Believe me, if a man doesn't know death, he doesn't know life." That pretty much covers it.

And it's about loss. Because we all die. We all have to deal with our own mortality. Some are lucky and get to drift away in their warm beds. Others not so much. This is one reason why I am so fascinated by the lives and deaths of the people that touch my heart, even if only a little. If they are a part of me and they shuffle off this mortal coil, I am compelled to know what happened to that little piece of my heart.

The actor that made me cry when he sat in Rick's Cafe and wept over the girl that had come back into his life... with another man. Drowning his sorrow, barely holding his head up, listening to their song over and over again. I know you have felt this kind of sorrow; haven't all of us? He died of cancer at his home.

A young woman, only 22 years old, was executed via guillotine for opposing the Third Reich by distributing anti-Nazi leaflets at her college. When you were 22, did you believe in something so much that you were willing to die for it? She was an amazing person.

And in 1967, my cousin was driving to New Orleans and accidentally hit a semi, killing an aging Hollywood starlet.

History happens all around us.

Closeup of the architecture of the renovated G...When I was 19, I stood in the side drive at Griffith Observatory and watched James Dean fight with the other boys from school. The beautiful boy, only 24 years old in his red jacket and heartbreaking tears. When he shot his last scene for Rebel Without a Cause, he only had 4 months before his fateful drive on Route 466. His passenger walked away with a broken collarbone and a few other minor injuries. (He would die in a different car accident in 1981.)

When I was 24, I sat at the Eiffel tower and watched as the people of France wept as the Nazis marched into the city in June 1940. I saw the spot where Hitler stood for a photo op in front of the tower. (I am determined to visit the same spot where he took his own life and Europe was truly free from that piece of evil.) Over 2 million allies were killed or wounded. In the end, the world was free from the Nazis hold, but at such a cost.

And now, I've just booked myself a seat on the Dearly Departed Van Tour of old and new Hollywood to visit the places where some of my favorite people lived and died.

It's about history. It's about death. It's about a three hour tour. And I plan to have a great time. See you there.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

The show on the side

Freaks. Sideshow performers. Unfortunates. Unclean.

There are a million names for people that made their living themselves in traveling shows. I think they were amazing.

Sometimes people forget that these performers had back stories, most much more interesting than what was fictionalized on the back of their pitch cards. (These were kind of like postcards; pictures with a short biography on the back that the performers would sell for extra income. Many times, much of this story was fiction.) They would go in, watch the freak and leave. Not me. (And if you are still reading, not you either.)

There are a thousand stories in this industry. Uplifting, heartbreaking, inspiring, just plain funny and in the end, very human. I think it shocks people or at least strikes a cord when people hear how utterly human these stories can be, regardless of their completely different upbringing, living situation, job, friends, etc they have from this person. For example, the story of Grace McDaniels. She was believed by some to have suffered from a genetic disorder called Sturge-Weber syndrome which is characterized by a port wine stain on the face. It is also usually accompanied by seizers, glacoma at an early age and mental retardation to name a few, none of which was ever mentioned about Grace. (In fact, through all accounts she was said to have 100% 'normal' except for her facial deformity.) Through my own research, I found it might also have been Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome. This includes the presents of a port wine stain, hypertrophy (growing or shrinking) of the affected tissue and sometimes affects the lymph system. This syndrome can effect you anywhere on the body, but in Grace's case, it would have been the unfortunate location of her entire face. We will probably never know exactly what Grace had, but the crux of it all was her heart. She didn't love the sideshow like many of her peers, but she made such good money she couldn't walk away. She was well known for her generosity. Many remarked that she was the kindest woman they ever knew, often giving money and toys away to poor children that walked the fair grounds. But tragedy hit poor Grace. She became preganat after a carnival worker known for his drunken episodes, raped her. She kept the baby. But Grace couldn't catch a break; Elmer developed his father's drinking habit and he would often drink and beat his own mother. (Not to mention piss away her small fortune from preforming.) In the end, the sweet and kind Grace died in 1958 with little to her name. (Elmer died that same year, but there are many disagreements how and if it was before or after his mother.) I could find no pre-facial adema pictures of Grace, but there was many of her son. He was beautiful which seems to make it all that much more tragic. Her very handsome son, who undoubtedly looked a bit like her attacker, would hit and abuse her. I look at him and wonder, was she just as beautiful under all that?
Location in Hillsborough County and the state ...
During the off seasons, many performers, managers, and other carnival folk would find their home in Gibsonton, Florida. (It was often referred to as Gibtown.) Gibtown has special zoning laws in place so during the winter months, or for those who were retired, could keep their animals (monkeys, horses, elephants) on their property, as well as the rides and stands.

As I child I always wanted to go there. No, not to stare at the freaks. I could walk up to these people and talk to them. There were no longer on the stage, some place too far away for me to get to. They were right there. I would go and shake their hand (or foot or flipper or just wave hi) and ask them questions about the old days. I would have ask Jeanie Tolmini how she met and fell in love with her late husband. I would ask Melvin Burkhart which company he liked to tour with best. I would ask Monica Baress her favorite memory of her preforming days and if she misses them.

There were some though, I would have skipped a visit. Grady Stiles Jr. was perhaps the meanest son of a bitch to settle in Gibsontown. By all who knew him, he was a bully and murderer. He convicted of the murder in 1978 when he shot Jack Layne in the back. He didn't like the idea of his daughter marring him so BANG. Dead. Donna Stiles's one chance to get away from her abusive father was gone, just like that. And because of his genetic deformity, he never served a day in jail because there wasn't a jail that was equipped to handle someone with his special needs. He got 15 years probation. "I got away with it once, I can do it again" seemed to be his mentality, especially with his wife and children. One day, Maria Stiles had enough and knew she had to do something to save herself and her children. She hired a neighbor and one late night while Grady was alone in the trailer BANG. Dead. Maria was sentenced to 12 years in jail.

Why do I find these people so fascinating? Because I was one chromosome away from being Joseph Merrick or Minny Woolsey or Hugh Bailey. We all were. Becoming human from a tiny speck of almost nothing in our mothers is much more complicated and scary than one might assume.

I hope that in our modern times, people with genetic conditions such as the afflicted above can get the jobs they need. I wouldn't know, since I know none. I do know that in the past, many had only one choice to be independent and make enough money to live and that was to join the traveling shows. I assume that people born different from myself in this way are finding the jobs without ridicule and because there are almost no traveling shows left. And if it is true, I am not so sad that the side shows have almost fully disappeared from modern life. If you want to see a side show these days, you're going to see fire eaters, sword swallowers and human blockheads. And just as well. I'm a girl that loves her blockheads.


Much about these performers has been lost to time or misinformation has taken over truth. Sadly, all that is left of some are their pictures. Information can be unreliable or just plain false. If you have any addition favorite stories or anything to add, drop me a line.

If you want to check out the few resources about Sideshow acts and performers, go get these awesome books-
Lobster Boy: The Bizarre Life and Death of Grady Stiles Jr. by Fred Rosen
American Sideshow by Marc Hartzman
Check out the fabulous website
I love this chick.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A List

A short unfinished list of things that scare the crap out of me. Enjoy.
  • Anything that jumps out at me (a monster, my cat, a leaf)
  • Spiders (the little ones, I like the big ones.)
  • Dangle-y earrings
  • Scrapping a pot with a metal spoon
  • Complete and total darkness
  • The Church of Scientology
  • Creatures in the water that are bigger than me
  • Disappearing
  • Car crashes
  • Straws or chopsticks(etc) that stick straight up (i might poke my eye out.)
I'm out of town for the rest of the week. Wish me luck.

where the wind comes sweeping down the plains.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Louvre me up baby.

The blisters were the size of your head and worth every bit of pain they inflicted.

The Louvre is massive, but you know that. It's one of the most famous museums in the world housing some of the most recognizable pieces of art known to mankind. Open since 1793, the Louvre's over 500,000 square feet of museum holds over 35,000 pieces of priceless art. From Antonio Canova's Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss to Da Vinci's Mona Lisa to the Venus de Milo, this place holds them all in a building that is art in and of itself. But I think it's the art in between that some people miss, and that which I treasure most.Napoleon  by Antonio Canova,  Apsley House, London

The first thing I hope everyone takes a moment to admire is the building itself. Born as a fortress to protect Paris from the Anglo-Normans, I'm not sure anyone could have known what it would become. Kings and queens occupied the great structure when in 1793 the Museum Central des Arts opened up in the Grande Galerie and the Salon Carré to the public. From then on, the art expanded through until 1882 when the Louvre was fully dedicated to art and showcasing it to the public. Walking through the halls and from great room to room you realize you are walking in the footsteps of kings. Look up the the ceilings to see intricate and amazing murals. Marble and tiled floors. Beautiful wrapping staircases with metal work that boggles the mind. Even the lighting seems that it was considered when they installed the windows. To live in such a place must have been something to behold.

One of my favorites was the huge Near Eastern stonework; simply breath taking! The Assyrian human headed winged bulls were so much larger than I had imagined from books and pictures. I was really looking forward to seeing the Code of Hammurabi but it was currently on a tour of Europe and Africa. And I have been in love with ancient Egypt since I was a child; what kid isn't fascinated by mummies? The stone monkeys and The Grand Sphinx was just too cool. Just imagining someone working on it roughly 2600 years before the modern era is baffling.

The marble statues were amazing. To stare into the eyes of a statue that has been in existence before my family lived in America, before English was a modern language, before so many things really puts my life into perspective.

Now here's the highly distracting bit. Modern art. I dig modern art, I do. It can be fun and quirky or dark and dramatic. And many times, very confusing. I love that though! I love a good mystery. I can sit there and let the wheels in my head turn and try and figure out what this person was saying, if anything at all. But right in the middle of soaking in Dutch and Flemish masterpieces, there in the middle of a very large, long room was a large, long pile of headstones. Entangled under and over them was a huge, hairy earthworm with a human face. And to top it all off, somewhere, hidden among the toppled tombstones, was a speaker emitting soft moaning and whispering fast phrases in french. (Did I mention the worm was hairy. I actually almost gagged...)

At first I was fascinated and disgusted by the groudy human-earthworm. How interesting! What does it all mean? Jan Fabre is famous for shocking his audience. (In 2005 he held an exhibition in which woman reveal there bleeding nether regions and men peed into bottles. Yum...) Certain reviewers of his latest work say that he has lost his provocative touch. I'm just glad I didn't step in human waste or get peed on. Regardless though, this giant work was sitting in the middle of a room housing some of the best German, Flemish and Dutch paintings in the world! After moving on, trying to look at some of the other paintings, I felt that I could not concentrate. I couldn't enjoy and ponder these while some creepy earthworm dude was moaning and whispering french at me. Sadly, I was forced to move on.

There is so much history here and controversy to boot. After WW2, thousands pieces of art were returned to France, although many did not have a clear owner. Many years later, pieces began filtering back to Jewish families who had lost them via the Nazis. (Don't even get me started on the devastating loss of so much irreplaceable art destroyed by those evil fuckers. Just seeing photos of Nazi officials holding The Coronation of Napoleon by David makes me so angry and disgusted... Check out the fabulous documentary The Rape of Europa if you want to know more about how curators, soldiers and everyday people saved so much for future generations to see. Heart-breaking is that many pieces are still missing to this day and may never be found. But that's a whole other blog...) There are still debates today about who owns what in the Louvre. Not just from WW2 but acquisitions taken by Napoleon and art taken from digs in Egypt and many other countries.

Mona Lisa or La Gioconda (1503–1505/1507)—Louvre, Paris, France
There is so much that's contained in a single piece of art. Not only the image and technique but it's life it has lived. For example, the Mona Lisa was completed at some point in 1503 and later sold to the King of France. After the French Revolution it was transfered to the Louvre and stayed there until Napoleon took it to decorate his bedroom. After he was banished, it returned to the Louvre. Fast forward to 1911 when it was stolen my a man who worked at the Louvre who CUT it from it's frame and ran off with it because he believed it belonged in an Italian museum. Two years later it resurfaced and was returned. During WW2 it was moved six times, once being transported by ambulance to conceal the true nature of it's cargo. It made it through the war only to have acid thrown on it's lower half and have a rock thrown at the upper left part of the canvas in 1956. Since then, good ol' Mona has been chillin, going on the occasional tour, but mostly behind bulletproof glass in the Louvre.

I really wish my brother had been there. I could have told him all the greek mythology I knew and try to recall all I could remember from my Art History and Art Theory class in college. He loved the hidden things in art that spoke about the piece more than just the overall painting, because like life, there is so much more hidden in the crevasses. (haha, insert dirty joke here. Thanks Jill...)

My favorite piece? Who can pick? There are so many I love. One of my many favorites is this one. Her. She is so beautiful, no?

Of course I have completely forgotten her name. I think she is Veiled Woman by Agostino Corradini. If I'm wrong, shoot me an email and let me know. (Behind her and to the right you can see Canova's Psyche.)

In 5 hours I saw almost every wing and room that the Louvre had to offer. My feet paid the price. So worth it.

I felt like I had travel through time and back and my mind was scrambled and tired after all of it. When asked about my day, all I could do was smile and drool. My brain was done for the day. As the sun sat on that lovely day I had broiled beef and margaritas, dragged my ass back home and passed straight out, images of Rodin and Degas floating in my dreams.

For more info on the Louvre, check out http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/Paris/Museums-Paris/Louvre.shtml

For more info on the Mona Lisa, read and relish
The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to Post-Modern by Carol Stickland

Creepy worm shot borrowed/stolen from

If you wanna steal my pics, it's cool. Just shoot me an email and mention me on your site.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

The places that we find ourselves

Paris was something unexpected.

I'm not sure what I was actually expecting. I knew that I never expected to go. On those sad lonely days, I thought I would never get to the places I had always wanted to go. But that's life. It will constantly surprise you.

I was sitting having brunch with the most awful women on a hot day in May. My large brimmed hat wasn't covering face enough and she was going on and on about politics.

Now, I have never been accused of being a girl with a lot of tact but I do have rules. I don't discuss religion or politics, especially with someone that I merely an acquaintance.

I had tried to steer the conversation away to different subjects like knitting (she was an avid knitter) and her lovely husband and his new and equally lovely girlfriend but she only wished to discuss American politics. So rather than get into a shouting match and having to storm away after punching her in the face, I let my mind wander.

I closed my eyes and looked at the shadows of the tree branches above me through my eyelids.

I saw myself walking through Paris, riding the carosel in front of the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, wandering the street until I found a cute little cafe to have a bite to eat. I listened to the wind blow and the quiet of the city in the early afternoon.

A heavy clang of a knife dropping onto a plate brought me back to my brunch. She was staring at me. I apologized, telling her the martini had gone to my head. Flustered, she dropped a few twenties on the table and bid me a good afternoon. I think I made her mad.

Never mind that though. She was a twit anyway. I had a thought at that moment that would change my current path. A sudden and strange realization. I knew someone that was in Paris right now. At that exact moment she was walking along the Seine, watching people peruse the book stands along the sidewalk.

How could I have not thought of it before? I booked a flight that evening. In 6 days I would be in Paris.

Never underestimate what is possible. You MUST ask yourself, "Is this idea impossible? Is there no possible way for it to come true?" I think we get caught up in the details and 'what if's' and the negative things. Ask yourself, "Why not?" and then don't answer.

There are somethings in life you just have to jump into. Having a baby? No. A trip to Paris? Yes! High risk investing. No. Saying yes to the guy at the cafe who asked you out? Yes! If the little voice in the back of your head, even for just a moment says a quick "Yes!" then go for it! Don't let you sych you out.France_Paris_Tour_Eiffel_02

Believe me. I do it all the time.

Sitting on the plane, my first time in first class, I was in awe of myself. I never thought I would find myself here. I was going to a foreign country with no plan. I knew a total of 6 words of French. I was taking the Parisian subway all by myself without maps or directions. I was scared as hell. I was ecstatic. I was doing it.

And then, I opened my eyes and I was in Paris. And it was one of the best trips I ever had. But that's for another blog. I digress. My point?

If you let it happen, you can still surprise yourself. Jump.

Again, feel free to use the photos that are mine; just let me know and link me.
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Friday, September 19, 2008

Heroes belong to stories

I never had an answer for that question.

It seemed to private, like asking about someone's religion or their sex life. It was an intrusive question that I couldn't answer to anyone.

Who is your hero?

Most kids picked historical figures or their parents. I told them no one. I didn't have anyone as my hero. Or if feeling a bit cheeky, I'd say Superman or lesser comic book heroes like Aquaman. (Now wouldn't life be a sad thing if Aquaman was your hero?)

But I did have someone I looked up to. She did the things I wanted to do and lived the life I wanted. She was a writer of young adult novels and not widely known to all. It was like she only belonged to me. My own person Jesus, if you will. I carried her beautiful books around with me at all times and I read them at every chance I got. I even met one of my best friend because of her.

On my first day of college I sat in a class room with 200 people in it, feeling exposed and alone. I pulled one of her books from my bag and disappeared for a while. Then a girl from two rows back whispered to me, "Hey!" I turned around and she held up the same book. Both our eyes lit up. We found each other.

Her books were filled with every thing I felt as a young girl. The girls in her books felt isolated and alone. They loved and hated their new bodies. They saw the things that kids my age took for granted. And they lived in worlds I wanted to be in. Faeries and magic and gritty life and the bad guys never won, not really.

Last year I found myself in LA, helping jump start an internet company of a friend of mine and I checked my email between meetings. That same college friend sent me an email that said that our favorite author was hosting a writing workshop there in LA in just a few days. I quickly wrote a check, shipped it off and waited in absolute anticipation.

One week later, I left her house feeling strange. She was just a woman. Her hand shook when she wrote and she had bits of gray in her hair. She was so thin and small. She was quiet and timid, not at all the strong, motherly type I had envisioned. She had been more beautiful than I had imagined. And her home was just how I pictured it. But in the end, she was just a woman who wrote beautiful stories. She did not hold the answers to the universe. She did not hold the the power to make me understand me.

Heroes are best left to stories. Fables and fairy tales. Because those that dwell on the surface of this planet can be no more than just what they are. Yes, they can do heroic things, extraordinary things. But the heroes we build up in our minds only live in fiction, as they should. That is way too much pressure for one person.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

When a house is a home

I bought my first house today.

My realtor called me on my drive to the studio this morning and said that the sellers "weren't happy about the offer but they were going to sign". Whatever, ya greedy bastards. I got it! It's small and modest but I love it and it's mine. After 5 months of looking, 13 contracts written up and denied...

It's a lovely bit of land with nice tree cover and i even get the occasional visit from the local bird population. I'm thinking I may make some bird houses for them out of old boots or tea kettles.

In that one moment, that one little phone call, all the scrimping and saving, all the dinners of frozen veggie stir fry and bean and cheese burritos, all the missed opportunities and vacations, it was all worth it in this moment.

But in all my happiness, and as it is in these life milestones, my thoughts go back to those who can't stand next to me and give me a hug and help me pick out a rug and bring me a plant for the kitchen window. My brother will never crash on the couch or help install my surround sound. My Granny won't help pick paint colors or stay in the extra bedroom. I know they're super excited for me but I still wish they were around. I wait for a sign.

It's not fair.

But we move on. That's what we do. For me, I have to push that out of my mind for the moment. There is so much to do.

I don't have a sofa! Which room is gonna be which? But right now, my mind is occupied with what to do with all my adorable custom address labels... Perhaps send out house warming invites?

I can't wait for that first night when things are put together and the lights are turned on and we're having pizza in front of the TV with the cat zooming from one room to another. There will be room to breath. Room to dream.

I will be home.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The way we move

Dancing is silly.

You wave your arms and shake your ass and jump around. It's quite a sight.

But for me it is more. So much more. It's life, love, pain. It's a religion. It's everything. And there is no real way to explain it. Only other dancers know this feeling; it fills you up and makes you move. It makes you beautiful and perfect, everything you want to be.

My gorgeous friend Georgiana dances flamenco professionally and she said something that sums it all up for me.
"The truest expression of a person is in their dance. Bodies never lie."
Maybe that's why I love it. The moment you open your mouth you can lie lie lie but dance and that is you. Then open you mouth again and say what you will but I just saw it all buddy.

I can tell you, from my personal experience, dancing is the best medicine. A cure in modern times. It's so much better than a spa weekend, than therapy, and yes, even sex. There! I said it! It's better than sex. And you can quote me.

When I dance ballet or jazz or at the club or tango, swing, waltz or just tossing myself into the pit, I'm in control of all yet nothing at all. I'm in the spotlight but so is everyone else around me. We are player on a stage of our own lives. The main role in our own movies.

I was in a little dance club in Osaka and saw this beautiful girl, so demure and sweet looking. She had short dark hair and a short skirt on, that she kept pulling down and straightening. A new song came on and the lighting queue changed and she marched on out to the dance floor and started flailing and bouncing and rocking out. I sat there and thought to myself, "Fuck yeah!" That's my kind of girl.

I probably look ridiculous. I look like the crazy people at the asylums dancing with their arms over their head, spinning to the songs that play in their head. (G-d bless their heads) But that's why dancing matters! You can't judge those people, the ones without rhythm or sense of space or movement. Just look at their faces. They feel that same love and joy that any fully qualified professional dancer feels. So why would you judge that pure joy?

We are all fools, whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance. You should too.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene...

I began my early morning atop a hill in Verona, New Jersey. Back in that time, all the buildings were still there. There had yet to be a fire or wreaking ball. But it had been in a great state of disrepair for sometime. It had once been a shining example of forward thinking and state of the art care but now it was simply a shell, covered in graffiti and garbage. But as I walked through the fog and the monster appeared in front of me, Essex Mountain Sanatorium didn't feel like just a empty shell to me. I felt like it could breath me in; the walls would expand and contract and breath a long sigh.

Smaller buildings were scattered throughout the grounds. Staff houses, garages, storage sheds. It really was a community unto itself. People lived here, laughed, cried, ate, slept and died.

In the beginning, it was a reform school and orphanage but by the early 1900's tuberculosis was taking hold of the nation, going head to head with pneumonia to be the single most common cause of death. (check out http://www.umdnj.edu for more info about the history of TB.) The school was soon turned into a 'sanatorium' (this does not mean looney bin, as I always thought when I was younger. Webster states "an establishment for the treatment of the chronically ill") for much of the east coast's TB patients, much to the disapproval of the town of Verona. The facility grew, becoming not just a place for recovering patients but for WWI vets. Men that had suffered the horrors of chlorine or mustard gas which had damaged their lungs and skin, among other things, found the air easier to breath and a better quality of life.

As the years went on though, cases of TB were less and less due to advances in medicine and containment protocol. Essex began taking overflow of Overbrook psychiatric hospital. By the mid 70's, buildings were closing down and what was left was turned into a drug rehab center. In December of 1982, the city shut the gates and Essex Mountain Sanatorium was closed forever.

So here I stood, digging around on the dirty floor, only half thinking about left-behind syringes that might be hiding in the trash, when I find hidden treasures. Files. Xrays. Transcripts! The more I searched the rooms it seems like everyone just up and left in the middle of the night. Medical equipment, beds, and all sorts of strange things were left behind.

If I squinted and turned my head, I could see the clean sheets on the mattresses, walls without graffiti, ghosts of past resting in their wheelchairs. I was lost in the past when I hear something hit the floor hard on the floor above me. Ghosts indeed. I didn't feel a negative presences, although I'm sure there were some unhappy people who lived there at points in it's history. Essex was not know for their neglect or mistreatment of their patients. Quite the opposite. They had an average of a 50% recovery rate for their TB patients, which is quite good for it's time.

This place was a place of hope, rest, and care. You might not have known that from looking at some of the antisemitic and satanic writings on the walls left by vandals and vagrants. I can feel the intentions of this place. It isn't a living beast but tired and old pair of loving arms.

By April of 2002, once the dusk had cleared, there was nothing left. The sanitarium was gone. The town committed to preserving the hilltop so that you will never have to look up and see a fucking Wal-mart. (Thank you, fair Verona). It will be conserved for plants and wildlife, and those of us that appreciate that kind of thing.

Maybe on those misty mornings, if you squint and turn your head, you can see the giant that used to be there. Most likely though, you will just the a wonderful view and a peaceful, cool morning.

Check out this site for much more info:

This guys is a wealth of information and has great photos.
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Monday, September 15, 2008


I had a nightmare.

I dreamed I was a girl who was nobody.
Everything was too loud, too bright; it made her senses shriek and her body burn. She drove in a car and sat in traffic for two hours everyday to get to where she was going. But when she got there, it wasn't a good thing. Her boss ignored her unless she did something wrong. Her coworkers teased and berated her. Her car broke down and no one can help her change a tire. The people she loved die suddenly and without explanation. No one can tell her where they went. Fresh fruit cost more than a can of spaghetti. She began to cry in the middle of the frozen foods and no one looked at her twice. They walked past her, got in their monster trucks and sped off into the hazy sunset. She didn't matter to anyone and no one knew who she was or that she was there.

I was so glad to wake up. That place was so gray and mean. The bad guys looked just like the good guys. People killed each other without feeling. Theory and agendas were more important than living together, free and happy.

Yes, my world is still flawed. People die and buildings abandoned. Bad things still happen. But here we have the power to change it. And we hug strangers and lend a hand. Magic lives here, and I'm not talking hocus pocus rabbitty babbitty out of a hat either.

I do as I want and make this world. I am not G-d but I am not useless, like the girl in my nightmare. Here, no one is useless. We are loved, even if we don't know it. And we all have the power to change anything we want. Welcome.