city at night

city at night

Monday, November 30, 2020

Cleveland's Haunted House

Back in early November when I took a drive to Wendy Park, I also drove through Cleveland's Ohio City neighborhood to snap a few photos of one of the neighborhood's most famous... or infamous... landmarks, the Franklin Castle.  The 19th century mansion has been called "the most haunted house in Ohio".

The house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was built between 1881 and 1883 on Franklin Boulevard for Hannes Tiedemann, a wealthy German immigrant, and his family.  In 1891 his fourteen year old daughter daughter died of complications from diabetes.  Just a few weeks later his elderly mother died.  In the next three years three more of his children reportedly died.  Supposedly to assuage his wife's grief over these tragedies, Tiedemann had extensive additions to the house built, including a fourth floor ballroom and turrets with gargoyles which gave the mansion its castle-like appearance.    In 1895 Tiedemann's fifty-seven year old wife died, and a year later he sold the house.  In 1908 Tiedemann died.

Unfounded rumors swirled around Hannes Tiedemann... that he had murdered his wife (he married a much younger woman shortly after his first wife's death)... that he hung his mentally-ill niece from the ceiling rafters (or was she really his illegitimate daughter?)... that he killed a servant with whom he was having an affair.

Between 1921 and 1968 the castle housed a German cultural organization.  Stories of espionage and more murders were invented.

In 1968 the mansion was purchased by the Romano family.  They reported numerous sightings of ghosts, and unexplained noises.  They even asked a priest to exorcise the house.  He refused to do so, but supposedly told them that he felt an evil presence and that they should move.  

In 1974 the Romanos sold the house.  The subsequent owner gave haunted house tours.

In 1984 the house was bought by Michael DeVinko, the last husband of Judy Garland.  He spent a fortune renovating the castle and even tracked down some of original furnishings.  He sold the house in 1994.  There have been numerous owners since then, and it is now owned by a recording company.

The stories of ghosts include the sound of a crying baby, and a woman dressed in black who appears in the upper window of the front turret.  While many of the tales surrounding Franklin Castle are surely the product of gossip and overactive imaginations, it's interesting to ponder if this old mansion is indeed inhabited by unhappy spirits. 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Early Lights

I can remember as a child looking out the window to see who was the first neighbor to turn on their Christmas lights.  Once I saw a house lit up I would ask my mother, "Can we turn our lights on?"  She would respond with something like, "No, it's still too early.  Christmas isn't until two more weeks."

Now as soon as Thanksgiving is over the holiday lights appear.  In fact this year, a few people turned on their lights even before Thanksgiving!

Yesterday I ventured out into the cold, moonlit night and took a short walk down the street.  Here are a few of the Christmas decorations in the neighborhood...



I have written several posts documenting the demolition of my alma mater, Berea High School.  In the last post that I wrote about it, work was underway to tear down the oldest section of the building which was built in the late 1920s.  

My friend Gayle, who graduated with me in the BHS Class of 1970, told me that she had driven by and that nothing was left but the chimney.

Yesterday was a sunny day, so I decided to get some exercise and walk the two miles to the site of my old school.   I found that, yes indeed, except for several piles of rubble and the chimney of the boiler room, there was nothing left of Berea High (or Berea-Midpark High, as it was called after it was consolidated with the other high school in our school district).


Behind the chimney stands the new high school.

The demolition zone is surrounded by a chain link fence.  (These photos were taken through the holes in the fence.)  However, when Gayle passed by here, one of the entrance gates was open.  Someone had driven in and was taking some bricks from the pile of rubble, and Gayle followed suit.  She grabbed four bricks and put them in her car.  Yet another person arrived and was about to do the same, but a worker arrived and told them that they had to leave.  However, Gayle already had her memento of our alma mater.

Looking at the pile, I am wondering if some of the lighter colored pieces might be of Berea sandstone, which was also used in the construction of the original building.  I would have loved to have a piece of sandstone.  However, even if the gate had been open, it would have been a bit more exercise than I would care to attempt, walking home two miles, lugging a chunk of sandstone!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

A Trip to the Post Office

Shortly after Thanksgiving I always take a time-consuming trip to the post office.  I have my Christmas cards all made out, and I also have calendars that I send as gifts to my European cousins.  I have to buy stamps, domestic and international postage, and put them on all the cards.  I put the calendars into large, padded envelopes which the post office sells, and address them all.  Then the postal employee hands me customs declaration forms for each calendar which I have to fill out.  I end up spending a good portion of the morning at the post office.

With the pandemic I was not looking forward to spending so much time in a busy and relatively small, indoor space.  I bought all my stamps ahead of time and had the cards all ready to send.  I told my friend Gayle about how it takes me forever at post office each year to get everything done.  She said that at her post office the customs forms are sitting out at a counter.  On her next trip there she picked up a bunch of them for me and dropped them off at my house.  On Thanksgiving evening I filled out the form for each of the six calendars I was going to send.  Another step completed ahead of time.

On Friday morning I donned my face mask and a face shield and took my cards, calendars and customs forms to my local post office.  I arrived at 8:30 A.M. when it opens.  I found the padded envelopes that fit my calendars... fortunately there were just six left... and addressed them.  After finishing that there was still no line of customers, and I went right up to the clerk.  He then began a laborious process for each calendar.  He weighed it, printed off the postage sticker, typed in all the customs information, printed off another sticker, separated the multi-copy customs forms... one copy is retained by the post office and I keep one copy... and then  put the remaining copies in a clear, plastic envelope which is taped to the front of the package.  The total bill was quite hefty and I paid with my credit card.  There were no other clerks available to wait on customers.  I felt guilty because by the time my transaction was completed there was a line going out the door.  Even with the preparations that I had done ahead of time, I had spent an hour in the post office.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Thanksgiving a la Mexicana

I spent Thanksgiving by myself, but I did buy a small turkey breast at the supermarket for the occasion.  However, that it where any semblance between my Thanksgiving dinner and the traditional feast ended.

My meal had a definite Mexican spin.  That is not so bizarre when you consider that the turkey was first domesticated in pre-Hispanic Mexico.  The word commonly used in Mexico for turkey is "guajolote" which comes from "wuehxolotl", the name in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs.

For my "guajolote", I took out of the freezer some Mexican peanut sauce which I had made a while ago.  The sauce is generally served with poultry.  When I removed my diminutive bird from the oven, I spooned the sauce onto the slices of turkey breast, and garnished it with some chopped cashews.

To accompany the turkey I opened a can of "frijoles refritos" (refried beans) and doctored it up with sautéed onions, jalapeño slices and shredded "Mexican style" cheese and garnished it with some sour cream.  I had also purchased a small bag of coleslaw.  Although coleslaw is unknown in Mexico, I made a spicy version with chipotle mayonnaise.

   It was a very tasty, albeit unorthodox, Thanksgiving dinner. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020


 I apologize in advance for ranting on Thanksgiving Day, but I have to get this off of my chest.  There is a sizeable portion of the U.S. population that is made up of selfish, spoiled brats.

In the United States we are experiencing a surge in Covid19.  There have been more than 100,000 new cases reported here every day for the last three weeks.  According to the Worldometer website, the latest seven day average has been 1708 deaths per day, with the death toll topping 2000 for the last two days.  We have reached a record high of 88,000 people in the U.S. hospitals, and more than 24,000 Covid patients are in serious or critical condition.  Many of our hospitals are reaching the breaking point.  

Last week the CDC issued a warning, and Dr. Fauci has pleaded that the American people not travel during this holiday period and that Thanksgiving gatherings be limited, ideally to include  no one from outside one's household.  Many have headed that advice.  One poll estimates that around 60% of Americans have scaled back their Thanksgiving plans, and that one in ten will not be celebrating Thanksgiving at all.  (I am one of those.  I will spend the day by myself.)

However, 40% of the population will have ten or more people or will have people from outside their household on this Thanksgiving Day.  Just as with the issue of wearing facemasks, there are people who declared that limiting their holiday celebrations is an infringement on their liberty.  That is a pile of B.S.!

In the last nine months more than a quarter of a million people have died from this disease in the United States.  We are on course to exceed the U.S. combat deaths during the more than three years of World War II.   Our parents and grandparents knew the meaning of sacrifice during that war.  More than 300,000 made the ultimate sacrifice, more than twice that many (including my father) were injured.  Those who made it through the war unscathed physically endured the hell of the battlefield.  Back at home the civilian population was expected to make sacrifices in their daily lives.  Families had ration cards which limited the amount of food, gasoline, tires, and even clothing they could purchase.  Macaroni and cheese became a popular substitute for meat, and driving to visit out-of-town relatives was often impossible.  Recycling of metal, paper and rubber was encouraged.  Many planted "Victory Gardens" to supplement their supply of vegetables.  By 1945 an estimated 40% of vegetables grown in the U.S. were from "Victory Gardens".  While black marketing and profiteering did exist, the vast majority of civilians willingly made these sacrifices.

Now we are in the midst of another war.  With the development of effective vaccines, the end is in sight, but until then the number of deaths continues to mount.  We have too many  ignoramuses who believe that the pandemic is overblown or even a hoax and idiots who believe that the vaccine is a government plot to control our lives.  And far too many people are unwilling to make the simple sacrifices of wearing a mask or foregoing their usual holiday celebrations for one year.  I wonder how these people would have coped if they lived during World War II.  Perhaps they would have preferred to see the Axis win the war rather than have their petty, little lives inconvenienced.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Light in the Darkness

 Between the years A.D. 300 and 800 the face of Western Europe was transformed by the invasion of barbarian tribes from the north and east.  The Western Roman Empire crumbled, and with it centralized government and trade.  The population of cities declined (the population of the city of Rome, for example, went from 450,000 to a mere 20,000), as did literacy, learning, and scientific knowledge.  The era became known as the Dark Ages, although modern historians are loath to use that term.  As the gallery in the Cleveland Museum of Art shows, that time, which they refer to as the Period of Migration, was not devoid of artistic pursuits.

Here are a few items from the museum...

These objects, crafted from silver, are known as "fibulae" and they were used like safety pins to fasten ones cloak.  These come from the Alemanni, a Germanic which lived in the Rhine Valley.  (Interestingly, the tribe gave its name to the French and Spanish words for Germany...  Allemagne and Alemania respectively.)

This medallion comes from late 8th century Germany.  It is made of cloisonné enamel and gold mounted on copper.  It represents a bust of Jesus.

This gold brooch has nothing to do with the Star of David.  It dates from late 8th century or early 9th century and comes from the Frankish Kingdom of the Carolingian Period (the dynasty that culminated with Charlemagne).  It may have been used to secure a woman's veil under the chin, and it may have been an amulet to ward off bad luck.

These pieces of carved marble formed a "transenna", an openwork screen of stone or metal which surrounded a shrine within a church.  They come from Rome in the 700s or 800s when Italy was occupied by the Germanic Lombards (the tribe that gave their name to Italy's Lombardy region.)

This bronze cauldron comes from pre-Christian Hungary 
and was probably used in religious rituals.

This sandstone sculpture comes from northern England.  It was carved by the Celts and it is not part of a larger statue.  The Celts considered the human head to be the center of a person's magical energy.   Large numbers of these heads have been found in England, and they were probably venerated in shrines.

When our visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art continues we will visit the numerous galleries devoted to the High and Late Middle Ages which saw an explosion of artistic expression. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

My Daring Cousin and His Flying Machine

If you have followed this blog for very long, you have already met the many family members from Switzerland that I found through my genealogical research.   On my visits to Switzerland (three to date) they have all welcomed me into the family.  They may be distant cousins but they have all become very dear to my heart. 

One small silver lining to the pandemic is that I have been chatting regularly with some of them on Skype, and we have become closer than ever.  Almost every Saturday I chat with my cousin Walter and his wife Helen.  They live in Aarau, the capital of the canton of Aargau, less than twenty minutes down the road from the little town where my great grandmother was born.  Walter is a medical doctor and Helen is a speech therapist at a school for handicapped children.  

Walter has been telling me about his new "toy", an autogiro, also known as a gyrocopter.  An autogiro looks like a small helicopter, although the mechanics of it are quite different from a helicopter.  Thrust is provided by an engine-driven propeller behind the cabin, and the helicopter-like propeller on top is unpowered.  It rotates freely and provides lift.  It was developed before the helicopter.  The first one was built and flown in 1923 by the Spaniard Juan de la Cierva.  

A number of times when I have Skyped with Walter, he had just returned from a flight on his autogiro.  He has taken a number of short, round-trip flights to different places in Switzerland.  On a recent trip, a friend that met him at the landing field took some pictures.  Walter forwarded them on to me.


My daring cousin Walter

I can imagine that it would be an exhilarating experience to fly in the autogiro, especially through the beautiful Alpine scenery of Switzerland.  Maybe someday, if I muster up the courage, I could accompany Walter one of his flights when I visit Switzerland again.  However I might have to lose a few pounds since there is a very strict weight requirement on how much the flying machine will safely carry!

Monday, November 23, 2020

From My Kitchen

I was looking through my recipes one day, and I found one that I thought that I had lost.  Some years ago I had printed off a recipe that I had found on the internet...  one of my favorite Spanish tapas, "ensalada rusa"... Spain's version of potato salad.

"Ensalada rusa" translates as "Russian salad".  I never knew where the name came from, so I did a bit of research.  In the late 1800s a French chef opened a luxurious restaurant in Moscow.  Drawing upon earlier recipes which were called "Russian salad", he created an elegant dish which added caviar, venison or partridge, veal tongue and crabmeat to the potato salad.  It became a favorite with the Russian upper class.  After the Russian Revolution, aristocrats took the recipe with them into exile throughout Europe.  In Spain the dish evolved into a salad made with inexpensive ingredients and it is served today as a "tapa" in bars throughout the country.

This recipe tastes just like the "ensalada rusa" that I have eaten in Spain.

1. Boil two pounds of Idaho potatoes in salted water until fully cooked.  Cool to room temperature and skin.

2.  Blanch 1/2 cup of diced carrots, 1/2 cup of frozen peas, 3/4 cup of diced red bell pepper until tender crisp.  Drain and refrigerate.

3. Drain one pound of canned tuna.  Place on a clean towel and wring out the excess water.

4. In a large bowel mash the potatoes with a fork until large pieces are gone.  Add the tuna, the vegetables, 1/4 cup of shredded hard boiled egg, 1 1/2 cups of mayonnaise, and 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper, and mix thoroughly.  Salt to taste.  Refrigerate.

By the way, they have "ensalada rusa" in Mexico but they make it without the tuna.  


Sunday, November 22, 2020

A Visit With the Byzantines

 Last Wednesday I paid another visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art.  It is fortunate I did, because on Friday the museum once again closed due to escalating Covid19 cases and a stay-at-home advisory in Cuyahoga County.

As on my previous two visits, I focused on just a few galleries rather than skimming through the entire museum.  I have always loved our art museum, but by taking my time to look at everything and read the descriptive information, I am gaining an even deeper appreciation for the depth and quality of our great museum.

I began my visit with the rooms devoted to the art of the Byzantine Empire.

In A.D. 330 the Roman emperor Constantine moved the capital from Rome to the Greek city of Byzantium located on the Bosporus Strait which separates Europe from Asia.  The city was renamed Constantinople in honor of the emperor.  (Today it is the Turkish city of Istanbul.)  By 395 the increasingly unstable empire was split into Western and Eastern halves.  By the late 5th century the Western Roman Empire had fallen to barbarian invaders.  The Eastern Roman Empire however lasted another 1000 years until Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.  It was only after its fall, that scholars began to refer to the Eastern Roman Empire as the Byzantine Empire... after the ancient city of Byzantium. 

The museum's collection of Byzantine treasures shows how the splendor of ancient Rome continued in the east for centuries after the Western Empire's fall.

This gold pendant, part of a necklace which may have belonged to an imperial family member, was made shortly before Constantine moved his capital to Byzantium.  In the center is a coin with Constantine's image and around it are mythological figures.

 These earrings, from the early Byzantine period, are made of gold, pearls and emeralds.

This silver wine pitcher would have graced the table of a wealthy family.

An entire case full of household objects is known as the Wade Silver Treasure (named for early museum benefactor Jeptha Wade).  They came from the home of a well-to-do family in what is now Syria.

The throve of silver includes this bowl with a beaded rim...

...a pitcher with a trefoil (three-part) spout...

...and an oil lamp with a horse's head handle and a lampstand.

These fragments of mosaic floors date from the 5th century and were found in northern Syria.

This fragment of a wall hanging from 5th century Egypt shows a sea nymph.

Before the empire had split in two, Christianity had become the official religion.  The church in the Byzantine Empire was headed by the Patriarch of Constantinople rather than the Pope in Rome, and evolved into the Eastern Orthodox Churches of today.  Many of the items in the collection are religious art.

This ivory plaque of the Virgin and Child comes from 10th century Constantinople.

This marble altar front may come from Ravenna, Italy.  The Byzantine Emperor Justinian the Great in the 6th century sought to restore the old empire.  He conquered the barbarian Ostrogoths and brought Italy under his control.  Ravenna became a provincial capital and was a center of Byzantine culture.

The silver liturgical vessels sitting on the top of the altar are most likely from Syria.  Such church treasures were often buried to hide them from the Arabs who invaded Syria in the 7th century.

This ivory and wood box from 10th century Constantinople is decorated with Old Testament scenes from the story of Adam and Eve.

These religious icons, done in tempera paint and gold on wooden panels, date from around 1450, just years before the last remnant of the Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottoman Turks.

From here our journey through art history will continue with the Dark Ages and Medieval periods of Western Europe.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

At the River's Mouth

During our week of spring-like weather in early November I visited a couple more parks in the Cleveland area.  One of them, Wendy Park, is a place that I had never visited before.


Wendy Park is located at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River on Whiskey Island (which is actually a peninsula).  The "island" was one of the early areas of Cleveland to be settled, and it got its name from a distillery that was built here in the 1830s.  The public park was opened in 2005, and in 2014 it was purchased by the Cleveland Metroparks.

The park offers excellent views of downtown Cleveland which is located on the opposite side of the river.

One of the lift bridges which cross the river

The park is a good place for watching boats ply the river, both pleasure craft and commercial traffic.

Unfortunately while I was there I didn't see any of the big freighters maneuver its way up the crooked river.

Looking out across Lake Erie at the river's mouth...

I zoom in on one of the lighthouses which stand at the ends of the break walls at the entrance to the shipping channel.

What you see to the right is not a boat on the lake, but the Cleveland Water Crib which is one of the major intake sources of the city's water supply.

At the end of a long pier is the Historic Coast Guard Station which is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

It was built in 1940 and is an example of Art Deco "Streamline Moderne" style.  In 1976 the Coast Guard moved their facilities to new location east of here.  The building was used for a while by the Cleveland Division of Water as a water quality laboratory, and it was used as a nightclub for a very brief period.  But for most of the intervening years it has been unoccupied and neglected.  Today the Cleveland Metroparks is slowing restoring the building.

The sixty foot high tower was used by the Coast Guard as an observation tower.

Wendy Park is an interesting little corner of Cleveland that I had never seen before.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Art in the Room

When I showed you a couple of photos of my renovated spare bedroom, the paintings had not yet been hung on the walls.  It's not surprising, given my love of Mexico and my frequent trips there, that most of my artwork is from that country or is at least of a Mexican theme.

Some of the pictures were hanging in the room before I did the renovation.

I have had these two small pictures from Mexico for a long, long time.  They were created from different colors of toothpicks.

In this detail of one of them you can see more clearly how they are made from toothpicks.

I bought this painting back in the 80s on a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico.  Outside the archaeological site of Mitla, an artist was selling his work.  I thought that this was a nice example of folk art.  It is signed Isidro Salvador de la Cruz.  I tried googling his name a few days ago, and I found nothing about him.  So I guess that he never became famous and that the painting's value has not sky-rocketed.  That's OK.  I still like it and enjoy looking at its whimsical details.

This is one of my paintings.  It is a picture of the baroque, 17th century church of San Francisco Javier in Tepotzotlán, Mexico.  I painted this for my high school Spanish teacher.  We remained good friends through the years, and she was like an adopted mother to me.  When she went into a nursing home I did this picture for her to hang in her room.  She passed away in 2005, and I brought the painting home.

   I did this painting in 2001.  It is of the tiled domes of a colonial church in Tlaxcala , Mexico.

This little image of the Virgen of Guadalupe on a piece of hand-hammered copper was given to me by my friend Irma.  Irma is originally from Mexico, and one of her relatives would make these pictures.

I had a number of original pieces of art that had been sitting in a closet for years.  This year I finally took them to a professional picture framer, and I have hung them in the room.  I photographed them sitting on the sofa so that there would be less reflection from the glass.

This print, which is entitled "The Rainbow Serpent", was given to me by my friend and former teaching colleague Carol.  The work was done by an Ohio artist by the name of Marie Lim.  Sadly in 2012 Lim was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, and she no longer remembers her career as an artist. 

I had to do some research, and I found out that the Rainbow Serpent (or Aido Hwedo) is part of West African and Haitian mythology.  It does, however, have a certain Mexican look to it (think of the feathered serpent of pre-Hispanic mythology), and it fits in with the theme of the rest of the artwork. 

Back in 2010 I bought a couple more paintings on another trip to Oaxaca.  Finally they are hanging on my wall.

This watercolor shows a village scene in Oaxaca.  The artist signed his name as "Méndez C."


Finally, this oil painting of the Zócalo, or main plaza of the city of Oaxaca, is by a painted by an artist by the name of (if I am reading his signature correctly) Rodolfo Leguna.