Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Poe Plaza

 William F. Poe Plaza, a bricked walkway that connects 2 blocks, is a pleasant and shaded walkway between highrises.  A fountain breaks the monotony of the brick walkway, and variations in terracing provide contrast.  Poe was mayor of Tampa from 1974 to 1979, and initiated improvements in downtown Tampa during his tenure.

 Although it was relatively quiet on Friday evening, Saturday it was filled with adolescents skateboarding, flipping off the walls enclosing the fountain and other spaces, and sliding down handrails.  I thought the fascination with that sort of "sport" ended years ago, but clearly not.
Apparently, McKay's contributions as mayor of Tampa may have sparked the impetus for Mayor Poe's namesake, Poe Plaza, being located on this site.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Toast to Tuesday

Iron Rat Stout, the perfect accompaniment to a Cuban with black beans and yellow rice.
Just take the streetcar from Greco Plaza to Centro Ybor and turn left.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tampa: Day 3 Headless Horses

 When I arrived Wednesday night and walked across Gaslight Park, I was stopped in my tracks by this eerie sight:  a metal works statue of two headless horses, skeleton horses with bones barely connecting hooves and haunches.  I stood, fascinated, by the bits and pieces of metal connecting, separating, the thin strands that held parts together, as contrasted by the flat panels for major swatches of the horses.  What was that about?
Things have been busy since Wednesday night, and though I have walked past them a couple of times, tonight was the first night I had time to stop and photograph, and think about what it might represent.  I tend to see symbolism in everything, and seek deeper meaning in everything.  Today came with unexpected pleasures and unexpected difficulties, as most days do I think.  Things you think you will do, you don't or can't, and sometimes, things you did not have an inkling would be a new experience tend to surprise you.

While so far, my "new experiences" average on this trip has not been that great, and the "disappointing experiences" is in the lead, I had one of those unexpected pleasures.  I walked up the street a few blocks to relax after the last workshop, and to locate a place to eat a light supper that might be more enjoyable than my lunch had been.  On Wednesday, first evening I discovered the disturbing headless horses art, I had noted the Crumb and Cork Wine/Cheese/Jazz on the corner.  The food the sidewalk dining patrons were having looked great, and I was intrigued and wanted to go, but that was the end of a long day and seemed to need company to maximize the experience.

Well, that did not happen yesterday or today.  So, whilst walking up the street taking in a few sights and taking photographs, listening to the Friday night sounds of music wafting into the streets, I impulsively walked into the Crumb and Cork.  My original thought was to get my wine and whatever ordered and sit on the sidewalk table to enjoy the last of the pleasant evening.  You know how you have those instantaneous changes of plans for no explicable reason other than it felt like the thing to do?

Joshua introduced himself from behind the bar, and asked if I wanted a table or to sit at the bar.  He said he always enjoyed the company.  While I learned a long time ago to embrace the pleasures of being alone and it does not bother me or make me feel awkward to dine alone in any restaurant, on impulse, I said the bar sounded great.  Turned out, Joshua is the owner, and I enjoyed the most pleasant evening in a long while, savoring my wine experience, cheese, the occasional conversations with Joshua about the wine when a lull in his services permitted it.  I selected the option for a flight of 4 red wines, selected by Joshua, and an accompanying cheese tableau with bread, also selected by Joshua.  I could have picked my own, but feeling adventurous, it seemed like a fun gamble.  It paid off.  The wines were all delicious, and my favorite was one of his two star picks, and perfectly suited to my taste.  I fell in love with a Utah cheese, with a cocoa rind that was one of his 4 picks and seemed to go with every wine.

We conversed about South African wines, and I reserved his last bottle of a pinotage blend from the Helderberg area for tomorrow evening.  I have been there many times, but this is a small family winery and I am not familiar with it, but never pass up the chance for a new experience. Those small family wine farms in South Africa have been among my most amazing discoveries.  So, my invitees will either join me this time for the experience, or once again, I will venture out alone, inhaling deeply of the opportunity to engage in relationship and community of choice.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tampa: Day 2

The weather here today was stupendously beautific, with pleasant temps, gentle breeze, and sunshine.  We had coffee break on the bay, and then lunch on the bay.  Meetings so far have been inspiring and validating, and I met some new folks I hope might become colleagues in the future.  I spent the morning in reaffirmation workshop consultation, and the afternoon in child welfare track training, that focuses on partnerships between child welfare agencies and the universities who train social workers.  Both were time well spent.

It feels good to finish a day when you are tired from travel, yet feel as if it was worthwhile, and it renews your hopefulness, increases your knowledge, and inspires you to greater heights of achievement and collaboration to address the problems we face in this country, and for which social work is engaged in either trying to prevent, or crisis intervention to pick up the pieces, or healing afterwards.

The morning starts early again tomorrow, with another full day, and this time, I need to be up in time for coffee and breakfast before the first meeting, so Dick Greco and I will say good night for the evening.  I left Mr. Greco waiting for the Trolley down by the convention center, and I sure hope he was able to catch the last one of the evening.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tampa: Day 1

 Three airports and 10 hours later, I got my first glimpse of Tampa, a place I have never yet visited.  I am here for CSWE for the week, and the days are pretty well packed, but I hope I have time to visit at least a few historic locations during some of the time.  Meetings end by 5, so that still leaves a bit of time to check out at least a couple of things in the immediate area.  I walked a couple of blocks from the hotel to pick up what I assume might be Cuban or Dominican influenced tacos--made with shredded beef and slaw.  They were quite tasty, though somewhat spicier than I anticipated.  My view from the 17th floor is fairly bland, what with other hotels in the way, but I still have to check it out and take the required "out of the hotel window" shot that has been my norm since the first high rise I stayed in while visiting Milwaukee.
 The meetings are at the Tampa Convention Center and one of the downtown hotels, so we are spread out in a several block radius, but still easily walkable.  Although after trekking through three airports, my walking was about done for the day when I ventured out a few blocks. 
 The plane from Atlanta was full, so I had to check my carry-on, being in the last zone to board and all the bins were full.  That meant pulling out the lap top, camera, iPad, meds, and loading them into my tote bag I carry for a purse--which I bought for just that reason after having had to do that on several trips.  That wasn't bad, except for toting the extra weight on my shoulder instead of pulling it, and heavy stuff still is something that is not only not easy for me, it causes pain and difficulty walking from the swelling, but a night of rest generally gets me back in the groove for the next day.  Good thing, since the convention center is a 3 block walk from my hotel.
I have scouted ahead as to the local New Deal era locations and have a list that I hope to be able to make.  After all, that is research and work, thus, should earn me a wee bit of time off from the endless sessions, in the event out of the 200 plus at any given hour, there is not one that meets my needs.

Meanwhile, time to pull up tomorrow's schedule and map out where I have to be when, and figure out the most walking friendly, humidity friendly attire I might have brought with me.  It is not even 7 p.m. here, but I am about to head for dreamland!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek

The United States Post Office, 1940, was Macon, Mississippi's first federal building according to E. Pauline Barrow (2001), who compiled the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Macon Historic District.  Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory described the post office as "...odd, watered-down variation of the Colonial Revival style."  MDAH puts the construction date as 1941.
I am not sure what earned this building, looking a lot like many of the post offices in Mississippi constructed during this time period, the description, but perhaps it is that wrought iron portico?
The Mississippi Legislature passed an act in January, 1830 that extended control of Mississippi to the land occupied by the Chickasaws and Choctaws (Samuel O. McGahey, Mississippi Department of Archives & History,1972).  This provided the impetus to begin removal of the Choctaws from their extensive holdings in Mississippi.  They had already ceded some 23 million acres to the United States, and did not want to leave the land they loved.  Most of the Choctaw rejected the terms of the treaty, and left negotiations, and what happened afterward is apparently not fully established due to varying reports (McGahey).  Following threats of ruin and destruction by the US military (Navarro, see below), and possible bribes to the chiefs who remained (McGahey, citing General Gaines' report), the treaty was signed and the removal to the southeastern corner of Oklahoma began. 
The Choctaw were the first to walk the Trail of Tears.  Nearly 2,500 members perished along the way.  Despite the many lives lost, the Choctaw remained a hopeful and generous people.  The first order of business upon arriving in their new homeland was to start a school and a church.  They drafted a new constitution.  And when the great potato famine befell the people of Ireland, the Choctaws collected money to help alleviate the country's suffering. ("Choctaw History at a Glance," Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma)

S. Douglass Crockwell was primarily an illustrator, and his work was similar to that of Norman Rockwell and he was featured frequently in the Saturday Evening Post.   He departed significantly from that style to illustrate the signing of the treaty for the mural to be featured in the Macon post office, near where the signing occurred in Noxubee County.
Image used with permission of USPS
In the Post Office in Macon, Mississippi, a commercial illustrator departed from type and explored dark and emotive styling to depict...The Signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, September 27, 1830.
 Crockwell's choice of "...dark color palette, flowing human shapes, and evocative environmental elements...draws upon these themes of darkness and loss..." (Meghan A. Navarro, Indians at the Post Office, Smithsonian Institute Postal Museum).  As a whole, the post office murals accepted for installation were of the regional or realism genre, and while significant history of the community or region was one of the preferred topics, the Treasury Department sponsored program tended to avoid topics that might be seen unfavorably--at least in the eyes of the dominant culture.  Current interpretations of some of the subject matter of murals that depict Native Americans, those of Mexican descent, and African Americans are often involved in controversy.
Image used with permission of USPS
It is clear that this was a sad and dark time for the Choctaw, as they were coerced into accepting a Treaty they did not want, and whose terms were not honored. This mural draws upon these themes of darkness and loss through its dark colors, deep shadows, and the despairing expression of the Choctaw painted in the lower right of the mural. As noted above, the mural is a marked departure from Crockwell’s wholesome commercial depictions of American life, and more of an expressionist or abstract depiction of a historical event, heavy with emotion. Notably, the Choctaw in the foreground is the only figure in the mural whose face is painted clearly. In fact, Eaton, Coffee, and the other United States representatives are all painted from behind. The physical postures of those Choctaw who are distinguishable as individuals are tense, and the rest of the Choctaw surrounding the clearing melt into one large mass of inseparable faces and bodies. Circling the clearing in which the Treaty is being signed, they resemble the close-growing trees, and seem to fade into them, as though into the background and the shades of the past. There is also something primitive about them, a mass of people all painted in flesh tones, with no clothing distinguishable. (Navarro)
 I think it was the image on the face of the man--the only face clearly revealed in the mural--that has haunted me every time I look at it.  What must it have felt like to experience every element of your life and experience disappear, and the future of yourself, your children, your people, your nation be an uncertainty?  In 1855, the Choctaw who had been removed to Oklahoma appeared at the White House to appeal for "right and justice" (Papers relating to the claims of the Choctaw nation against the United States, arising out of the Treaty of 1830, Library of Congress).
Once our possessions embraced the valuable and fertile territory now included in the States of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, and over which our sway was undisputed and supreme...But another and a stronger race came and swept us away into a distant and wilderness land, where we had long to struggle against the depressing effects of sad and painful reflections upon the hard and unyielding policy which deprived us of our father-land and cherished homes.  At the time of our first treaty with the United States in 1786, when the Choctaws placed themselves under their protection, they owned and possessed about fifty millions of acres of land east of the Mississippi river, which was gradually and by piece-meal wrested from us, until, in 1830, we were required to cede the last foot of it to the government.  For all this magnificent domain...which has put millions upon millions into the treasury of the United States, we received the most meagre and inconsiderable consideration. (Papers relating to the claims, pp. 5 & 6)
The delegation went on to describe the relationship between the Choctaws and the United States government, and in particular, that the Choctaw Nation was the only tribe which had never been engaged in hostile conflict with the government, broken a promise or violated the treaties, and that they were calling for just compensation: to receive the amount of money that had been acquired by the United States government for the sale of the lands belonging to the Choctaw, and compensation for their livestock holdings and personal belongings that they were required to leave behind, with the promise they would be paid for or provided in Oklahoma.  These claims for compensation under the treaty were under negotiation and appeals from 1830, until 1855, with no resolution.  Under the 14th article of the treaty, each head of family could elect to remain in Mississippi and receive sufficient land to be independent, which was identified as 640 acres (Choctaw Nation v. United States; United States v. Choctaw Nation, November 15, 1886).  Of those 143 heads of families who were able to register and actually received land--neither Mississippi nor the federal government wanted any of them to remain (Edward Davis, 1932, The Mississippi Choctaws, Chronicles of Oklahoma, 10(2) and they were subsequently forced from those lands.

The case finally reached the Supreme Court after many delays, including those caused by the secession of Mississippi and the formation of the Confederate States of the south.  November 15, 1886, the Supreme Court mandated judgment for the sum of $2,858,798.62 to the Choctaw Nation (Decisions of the Supreme Court in Appealed Cases, from October, 1886, to May, 1887, Charles C. Nott and Archibald Hopkins, Washington Government Printing Office).

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Former Noxubee County Jail

 While stopping off in Macon a few weeks back, and trying to figure out where the Macon City Hall was, since my GPS was not at all helpful, I had a time of driving up and down just about every street in the town, and going around the block more than once.  I pulled in to use Google maps on my iPhone, and noticed this striking building across the street from me.  At first, I thought it was still in use as the jail as there were inmates walking around in the green and white striped cotton pants used in Mississippi. 
 The former county jail was built in 1907, in the Romanesque style, and is the second oldest of three county jails in Mississippi (Mississippi Department of Archives & History, Historic Resources Inventory).  It is identified as "one of the relatively few examples of Romanesque Revival architecture in the state" (MDAH).  Jackson architect William Sharkey Hull designed the jail, and F. B. Hull & sons was builder/contractor.  Hull also designed a number of other jails in Mississippi and several courthouses.
 According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Macon Historic District, the T-shaped building has a pentile roof and "fortress-like massiveness" (E. Pauline Barrow, 2001).  Let's look at that building from the front again:
Yep, pretty fortress-like looking.  The center three windows of the second floor are part of the projecting entrance pavilion (Barrow).  She further described:
...well-proportioned frontispiece designed with broad abutments, a four-brick archivolt springing from substantial imposts and a projecting cornice...
I had to look up several of those terms, so in the event you are not familiar with them either:
  • frontispiece: the principal face of a building, or decorated pediment over a portico or window
  • abutments: reinforcing block or wall adding support to vaults and arches
  • archivolt: ornamental molding or band following the curve on the underside of an arch
  • imposts: projecting block resting on top of a column or embedded in a wall, serving as the base for an arch
Can you find all of them in the building?
 The building became the Noxubee County Library building in 1984, and was renovated and repurposed, but still retaining many of the jail's features, such as the cells, doors, and the gallows, so better not be late checking your books back in.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Okolona Post Office and its missing mural

 The Okolona post office was constructed in 1937 as part of FDR's New Deal Administration--one of many in Mississippi.  The Okolona building is still in use as the post office.
 Per the National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the Okolona Historic District,
One-story + basement, brick building with rectangular plan, flat roof, and symmetrical North facing front facade. Concrete steps with iron railings lead up to the frontispiece. The frontispiece consists of metal-framed, glass double doors; stone pilasters; and is topped by a entablature with dentils. A 5-light transom sits between the pilasters. The door is flanked by two 8/12 windows with concrete lintels and sills. Concrete coping. (Shannon Criss, 5 February 2001, p. 32)
The story of the missing mural has several anecdotal explanations, although the most likely one is that the postmaster did not appreciate the "modernism" of the mural (Mark Clinton Davis, Pearl River County Historical Society, 2012).  Harold Egan's "The Richness of the Soil" was completed in 1939, and ordered painted over by the postmaster within days of its installation.

One of the most egregious episodes of outsider insensitivity involved a New York City artist named Harold Egan, who disliked historical and documentary painting and determined to make strikingly modern works for Okolona, Mississippi, and Wake Forest, North Carolina.  He did not consult either the locals or their traditions and his Richness of the Soil for Okolona (1938) featured a horizontal, semimythical female apparently lying on a riverbed with an indescribable agrarian water sprite pointing a forefinger at her misplaced left breast. (Michael Kammen. (2007). Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture. Vintage Books. p. 126)