Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Lincoln speaks to me

Lincoln in Indiana
Originally uploaded by michael j nolan.
I was back in my hometown of Indianapolis last weekend for my niece's wedding. When I was taking a morning walk, I came across this sign commemorating a speech by Abraham Lincoln.

In words spoken almost 150 years ago by one of my all-time heroes it instructed me to get my ass back to Philadelphia a.s.a.p. and help to ensure John Kerry wins Pennsylvania. The "liberties of this people" are threatened as never before.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

My mother, Rhoda McCoy

Rhoda McCoy
Originally uploaded by michael j nolan.
I came across this tombstone as I was walking the dog and he meandered through the graveyard at Old Swedes Church here in South Philly. Something about it made me stop in my tracks and after reading the inscription, her name and her lifespan, I decided to photograph it.

Rhoda was born in 1777 and lived 88 years until 1865 when she was buried, presumably by her only child. Her life began during the Revolutionary War and ended after the Civil War. Imagine what she must have seen in her time.

The ghosts of Philadelphia are all around. Tiny little graveyards are everywhere, their ancient tombstones obscured by moss and decay. They say 5,000 dead soldiers from the Revolutionary War are buried beneath Washington Square. People sunbathe there on blankets and towels, blissfully unaware--or maybe aware--of the bodies below them. There's an Italian Catholic church nearby where the first pastor's tomb is right there at the front entrance, practically on the sidewalk.

These ghosts seem benign, often noble. At least none of them have given me any trouble.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Am I up to it?

am I up to it?
Originally uploaded by michael j nolan.
Okay, so I've always had this dream of having a side business buying fixer-uppers and reselling them for a tidy profit. Here goes my first one. (Our Indianapolis house was a trial run, and besides it took 10 years to renovate--mostly because we were living there while we did it.)

But it seems we've gone and bought possibly the ugliest house in New Jersey. Now I'm on the hook to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, as they'd say in Indiana.

This is a quick in-and-out. Contractors do the heavy work, I specify the IKEA kitchen components and other design spiffs that will make the house appeal to somebody next summer. Everything on time and under budget; otherwise it'll be a financial flop.

The main appeal of this place is that it's just an hour and a half away from Philly (when traffic is light). It's only two blocks from the lovely Delaware Bay on the Cape May Peninsula, and gentrification seems to be taking place throughout the neighborhood. And take a close look at the two gigantic oak trees. One of them must be 200 years old and 150 feet tall. For Jersey Shore afficionados, while this isn't front and center, it's near enough to qualify as a "retreat."

On the bottom of the picture you can see my plans executed in a quick Photoshop sketch. Wish me luck.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Positively 4th Street

Originally uploaded by michael j nolan.
4th Street in South Philadelphia has been "fabric row" for more than 100 years (I'm told.) It's two blocks away from us and represents one of the things I like best about big cities: whole districts devoted to particular commodities.

Last week I was in Orlando for a conference. No sooner had I arrived in my hotel room than I turned on television to hear that Hurricane Frances was bearing down on us. I made plans for an early escape on Friday and changed my flight. Lucky I did so because my flight left just about an hour before the Orlando airport closed for the duration.

Orlando. Funny place. Sterile hotels where the windows don't open so you can't hear the wind blowing through the palms. Sweeping boulevards of malls and hotels and condo complexes, impossibly long distances to walk. Everything painted cheerfully in Florida colors. No sign of the ocean.