Ulysses Grant Dietz, Vampire author

I have never met Ulysses Grant Dietz, the great great grandson of the the general & president, but he comes across as a fascinating and dynamic individual. For one thing he is a senior curator of decorative arts at the Newark Museum, one of the finest museums in the country. It was he who led the pressure against the government to clean up Grant’s Tomb in the 1980s and early 90s, when the site was blighted with graffiti, crime, and drug use. The tomb reopened in 1997 for the 100th anniversary of its dedication. I had known that Dietz had published some art and design monographs. What I had not known until today was that he is also a novelist, of two gay vampire novel no less. He published his first novel in 1998–years before the contemporary vampire phenomenon went mainstream; that book was nominated for a Lambda Literary award in the Science Fiction/Fantasy. The sequel, Vampire in Suburbia, is available now. In this interview he talks about his work, fatherhood, his relationship of 37 years, writing and more.

The calm before . . .

As with Irene last year we are as ready as we will be for Hurricane Sandy. I worked in the morning and the Hayfoot left with me to load up on supplies. When I returned I went to Green-Wood Cemetery to stretch my legs before the deluge. I got back about a half hour ago and the wind had picked up significantly. To say that the cemetery had a unique vibe in the hours before the storm would be putting it mildly. I found this Civil War veteran’s headstone, with the old bench next to the tree, quite moving. Note the Grand Army of the Republic medallion at the lower left.

A quick internet search reveals that Captain John in de Betou Thompson, born in Sweden, lived at 308 President Street and died in Brooklyn in February 1882.

It is somewhat difficult to make out but Camille M. Horan–a granddaughter?–died in 1987, just twenty-five years ago. I couldn’t help but wonder who put the bench under the tree.

Waiting to ride the storm out here in the County of Kings. Wherever you are, I hope you are safe.

Margaret Mitchell above the 38th parallel

MGM movie poster, 1939

From the You Never Know What You’ll See Next department:

The former black marketeer has read it. So has the beautiful young librarian, and the aging philosophy professor who has spent his life teaching the ruling doctrine of this isolated outpost of totalitarian socialism. At times it seems as if everyone in Pyongyang, a city full of monuments to its own mythology, has read the book.

In it they found a tortured love story, or a parable of bourgeois decline. Many found heroes. They lost themselves in the story of a nation divided by war, its defeated cities reduced to smolder and ruins, its humbled aristocrats reduced to starvation.

The book is “Gone With the Wind.”

The more one thinks about it the less surprising it is.

“the Lincoln Memorial led me to Gettysburg”

Photographer Annie Leibovitz was in Gettysburg yesterday for the opening of her exhibit at the GNMP Visitors Center. She even got to spend the previous night at the Sherfy House on the battlefield. Her latest show is called Pilgrimage, and is based on a book of the same name. The last several years have been difficult for Leibovitz, with the death of partner Susan Sontag and financial reversals that cost her a great deal of money and aggravation. In something of a rut, she assessed what if most important to her and how she wants to move ahead by looking back; from that came this exhibit. For Leibovitz taking stock meant visiting places of historical and natural significance here in the United States and abroad that meant something to her personally. One of the drawbacks to being a commercial photographer, even a gifted one, is that too often the emphasis is on the adjective at the expense of the noun. Subjects in Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage include Graceland and Monticello, Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill, Old Faithful, Thoreau’s Walden Pond, and Niagara Falls to name a few. Walking the Peach Orchard and Devil’s Den must have been something for someone as knowledgable about the history of photography as Leibovitz. Certainly she knows her Gardner and Brady. Ansel Adams’s studio had been another stop on her pilgrimage.

It is good to see her getting back to work like this. Her talents had stagnated over the past decade. The celebrity photo shoots had become exponentially less relevant while the spreads themselves had grown increasingly outlandish and gratuitous. Seemingly gone were the simple images such as those of John Lennon and Yoko One taken in December 1980 with which she had made her reputation. Pilgrimage is a return to simplicity for the photographer, who turned sixty-three earlier this month. The exhibit will be on display in Gettysburg through January 20, 2013 before moving to other cities.

(image/Robert Scoble)

Islands in the harbor

William Zinsser always says that what cannot be said in 300 words or less is not worth saying. To prove it he once wrote 300 words about Ellis Island that proved as eloquent a synopsis of the immigration station that I’ve read. The New York Landmarks Conservancy just posted this video that captures Islands 2 & 3 in just under 3 1/2 minutes. It seems like so long ago now that I volunteered there. Good times. I know things move on but a part of me will miss the old ruins of the southern island when they are fully renovated.