I worked much of the morning and early afternoon on the draft of a project that hopefully will get published sometime in late spring. I intend to submit said draft, about 2,200 words, tomorrow after one final edit and fact check. I took a break around 1:30 for a walk and some fresh air in Green-Wood Cemetery, whose fields are still covered with snow. I saw these tracks and stopped to take a picture. I texted a friend to ask what he thought they might be, and he guessed wild turkeys.
I did a Trader Joe’s run this morning, which meant a rare pandemic subway ride with full shower and scrubbing when I arrived home. Now I’m settling in to work on a small project that hopefully will find a home this spring or summer. I know the image quality is not that great but I wanted to share the above scene that took place in Brooklyn seventy-five years ago today. My colleague and I spend a lot of time in our class about the history and evolution of New York City discussing the housing shortage in the five boroughs in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. As the caption notes the retrofitted quonset huts were converted into temporary housing as millions of GIs came home from Europe and the Pacific. In other civilian uses Quonset huts were used for schools as well, including Queens College. The corrugated aluminum structures were a newish invention in the early 1940s and massed produced for military use, especially in the Pacific. I would go more into the history of how they came to be used for housing but because others already have will not here today. In the image below we see the earliest period of the Baby Boom. A few years after this families would begin moving into new housing subdivisions such as Levittown. It is easy–in some circles seemingly obligatory–to ridicule the rise of postwar suburbia, but one cannot blame young families for wanting their little patch of space after having gone through the Depression and depravities of World War II.
Although we do not have a view of the Flatiron where we are here in Brooklyn, the view from our window is very much the same this February morning as it was 115+ winters ago. Wherever you are, stay safe and warm.
It was been an unseasonably warm weekend here in New York City. I was in Green-Wood Cemetery earlier today when I saw this headstone. I had seen a few monuments to Man’s Best Friend in this beautiful garden cemetery over the years but had never crossed this one before. Some quick internet searching once I got home revealed that leaving sticks for Rex has become a thing since the onset of the pandemic. The cemetery always provides fresh surprises, which is not surprising given that are nearly half a million stories to tell interred within its grounds.
Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. I have always assumed that it comes six weeks earlier than the American version because the growing season ends earlier north of the border, the holiday being based on the end of the season’s harvest. For this Thanksgiving observation I thought I would share this extraordinary photograph of Canadian troops Cambrai Cathedral (Notre-Dame de Grâce chapel) taken on October 13, 1918. As the image suggests this was in the midst of some of the hardest fighting of the Great War. This was less than a month before the Armistice though these members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force obviously had no way of knowing that at the time, 102 Thanksgiving ago.
(image/Archives of Ontario)
It’s a rainy holiday Monday. I am off but doing a few things in preparation for the coming week, which is filling up quickly. They posted my article at Roads to the Great War about Fiorello La Guardia, the second of two after one I did in April near the start of the shutdown. I wanted to return to La Guardia in recognition of Italian-American Heritage Month. Enjoy the day.
(image/Library of Congress)
I was in my office at 7:45 this morning and the first thing I noticed when I opened the door and turned on the lights after being away for more than three months was the wall calendar still turned to March. Little did I know when I turned out the lights, closed the door and left way back in late winter that I would be gone for so long. The entire spring, with all its tumult and uncertainty, came and went. Now July is here and I went in to do a few things possible only in my office, pick up a few things, and go through some papers in preparation for the upcoming fall term. I only ran in to three people in the complex: one colleague, a construction worker, and two security officers. On my way out in the early afternoon I had a brief conversation with the officer at the entranceway about all the changes in the world since late spring, not least the deaths of several people from the college community who have perished from the virus.
Today is the 52nd anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, who was mortally wounded just after midnight on June 5, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in downtown Los Angeles and died the following day. Various journalists and pundits today, in June 2020, are noting that our current year began like 1974, turned into 1918, and has since devolved into 1968. I received an email yesterday from someone who said they were so distraught that they were having difficulty processing what is happening and even functioning to a certain degree. I responded as best I could and offered Lincoln’s words from the American Civil War that sometimes events are so confusing and come so quickly that we simply cannot understand them. Our decisions and responses have weight. Contingency and agency matter. The people of Match 1865 did not know when and how the war would end. Lincoln went on though that it is up to us to do what is right as we see it.
The coming summer days, weeks, and months will be difficult on a number of levels. Memorial Day Weekend I came to the realization that the entire summer is going to be one of sheltering in place just like the last days of winter and all of spring. Alas I won’t be visiting many of the sites and places this summer I had planned to. I have resigned to this notion. Getting back to the idea of agency, a way to deal with the current moment is by focusing one’s energy in creative and productive ways. Take on a project, read some history and literature, watch and listen to historians online. Try to be in a different place, if not physically then intellectually and emotionally, come summer’s end.
(image by Boris Yaro for the Los Angeles Times)