Travel

Cooperstown Memories

It was announced last week that Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones and Trevor Hoffman would represent the National Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2018. It is always a day I look forward to.

I remember watching Jim Thome play 3rd base in the Kingdome against the Seattle Mariners during the 1995 ALCS playoffs. He was a dominate power threat on those roster-stacked Cleveland Indians teams of the mid 90's, now sitting 8th on the all-time home run list. 

For years I saw Vladimir Guerrero tear up the AL West, crushing balls thrown out of the strike zone without the need of batting gloves. 

Chipper Jones was on TV throughout my youth, seeming to always be on base as I flipped through the channels, briefly stopping on TBS.

Since Trevor Hoffman played his entire career in the National League, I didn't have as much exposure to him, but it was clear he was a respected reliever, holding the 2nd most saves in baseball history.

Remembering the careers of these 4 new Hall of Famers inspired me to dust off some old photos I took from my visit to Cooperstown in 2016, shortly after Ken Griffey Jr. had been inducted. Hopefully they will spark some excitement for the spring on a winter's day in late January.   

The Gravesites of Grover Cleveland and Aaron Burr

In Princeton, New Jersey, not far off from the elegant campus of Princeton University, is an old cemetery containing the gravesites of Grover Cleveland and Aaron Burr.

Gravesite Location: The Princeton Cemetery of Nassau Presbyterian Church (29 Greenview Avenue, Princeton, New Jersey)

Grover Cleveland

  • 22nd and 24th President of the United States (1885-1889, 1893-1897)
  • Born March 18, 1837 in Caldwell, New Jersey
  • Died June 24, 1908 (age 71) in Princeton, New Jersey
  • Democratic Party
  • Lost to Benjamin Harrison in the 1888 presidential election despite winning the popular vote
  • Won the popular vote in all 3 of his presidential bids (1884, 1888, 1892)
  • The only U.S. president to serve 2 non-consecutive terms in office

Aaron Burr

  • Vice President to Thomas Jefferson during his 1st term (1801-1805)
  • Born February 6, 1756 in Newark, New Jersey
  • Died September 14, 1836 (age 80) in Staten Island, New York
  • Infamously shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in 1804, thus ending his career in politics
  • Democratic-Republican Party

Martin Van Buren's Home and Gravesite

I made a side trip to Kinderhook, New York - the hometown and gravesite of Martin Van Buren, the 8th President of the United States.  

Known as Lindenwald, his house has been preserved as a National Historic Site and is available to tour.  Many of Van Buren's original possessions remain in the house, including the bed he died in.  Here are some photos from my visit.

Home Location: 1013 Old Post Road - Kinderhook, New York

Gravesite Location: Kinderhook Reformed Church Cemetery - Kinderhook, New York

Martin Van Buren

  • 8th President of the United States (1837-1841)
  • Born December 5th, 1782 in Kinderhook, New York
  • Died July 24, 1862 (age 79) in Kinderhook, New York
  • Democratic Party
  • Vice President to Andrew Jackson (1833-1837)
  • Ran unsuccessfully for the Presidency 3 more times (1840, 1844, 1848 - including under the anti-slavery Free Soil Party in 1848).
  • The first President to be born after the United States declared independence.
  • The only U.S. President to speak English as a second language (Dutch was his first).

A short distance from Lindenwald is Van Buren's gravesite in Kinderhook Reformed Church Cemetery, as well as the location of the house where he was born.

Chester A. Arthur's Gravesite

Here are photographs from my visit to the gravesite of Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the United States.  

Gravesite Location: Albany Rural Cemetery - Menands, NY (Section 24, Lot 8)

Chester A. Arthur

  • 21st President of the United States (1881-1885)
  • Born: October 5, 1830 in Fairfield, Vermont
  • Died: November 18, 1886 (age 56) in Manhattan, New York
  • Republican Party
  • Succeeded President James A. Garfield after his assassination in office

After reading more about his ascension to the Presidency, I visited other notable places from Arthur's life, including his home on Manhattan's east side (123 Lexington Avenue).  A little after 2:10am on September 20, 1881, in the ground floor parlor of his home, he was sworn in as President after the assassination of James A. Garfield.  He also died in this building in 1886.  Kalustyan's, a specialty store featuring foods from around the world, now occupies the space.  There is a commemorative plaque at the residential entrance (it is behind glass and didn't photograph well).

After his death, his funeral was held at the Church of the Heavenly Rest (5th Avenue and 90th Street).  In attendance that day was President Grover Cleveland and President Rutherford B. Hayes.

And last, at the northeast corner entrance of Manhattan's Madison Square Park (at Madison Avenue and E. 26th Street), there is a bronze statue of Chester A. Arthur.  It was dedicated on June 13, 1899.  

Springwood: Franklin D. Roosevelt's Home

Some photographs from my visit to Springwood - FDR's home in Hyde Park, New York (about 2 hours north of NYC).  Click here for more information to tour his home, visit his gravesite and walk through the large museum.  If you are in New York, this is a not miss for any fan of U.S. history. 

Jack Kerouac Pilgrimage to Lowell, Massachusetts

I've been wanting to do this trip for a while - visit the hometown of my favorite writer, Jack Kerouac.  Lowell, Massachusetts was the birthplace and childhood home of Kerouac and provided the setting for 5 of his novels: The Town and the City (1950), Maggie Cassidy (1959), Dr. Sax (1959), Visions of Gerard (1963) and The Vanity of Duluoz (1968).  I took a day and explored by foot his old stomping grounds, chatting with locals and snapping pictures of various places of significance in Kerouac's life.  Here are the highlights: 

Born here on the second floor apartment -1922

Top of the Grotto which haunted him, featured in Dr. Sax

Home - top apartment

Home - where his father was sick

Home - 1927

Home - 1929

One of his most notable homes - where his brother Gerard died at age 9 when Jack was 4 - 1926

St. Louis School

Home

Jack and his father spent a lot of time here

The Lowell Sun - Kerouac worked here as a sports reporter in 1942

His Alma Mater

Stained glass at the entrance of the library which he frequented

View from the old Moody Street Bridge featured in Dr. Sax

Another view from the old Moody Street Bridge, overlooking the Merrimack River

Old mills on the Merrimack

A collection of old possessions on display

His old Underwood on display

Formerly Nicky's Bar - a frequent haunt when he moved back to Lowell in the later part of his life

The Archambault Funeral Home - where his body was waked - 1969

First Trip to the Catskills

Last week I took my first camping trip up to the Catskills, just 2.5 hours from New York City with friends Monte and Amy.  I took advantage of exploring the trails around North-South Lake on the NE edge of the Catskill Range, where the legend of Rip Van Winkle took place.  Because it's still early in the year, the campground at the base of the trail was closed for another week, so I had the trails to myself. 

I've spent a lot of time this past year lamenting about how far away I live from the mountains and nature of the West.  After last week, I now feel pretty certain that my desire to explore natural places can be pacified for the time being with what lies close by in the Catskills. 

2011 Burning Man 50k Ultramarathon Race Report - Earn Your Burn

Hurricane Irene hit New York City on Sunday, August 28 causing my flight to Burning Man to be delayed by a couple of days till Tuesday, resulting in me missing the first part of the festival.

I survived the tempest and after a sleepless night on Tuesday I left the house at 2:45am - 2 trains, 1 bus, 3 planes and a car ride later I arrived through the gates of Burning Man.  There was a big round of hellos to good friends then I went to the car to get all my belongings and my act together because for God’s sake I was running the Black Rock City 50k Ultramarathon in the morning!  Was in my sleeping bag close to 11:30pm and the distant sounds of techno music put me fast asleep.  In my dreams I could hear the steady bass beat of the music - oonst, oonst, oonst - then awoke to realize it wasn't the techno music but my alarm beeping at me - beep, beep, beep, beep, oonst, oonst, beep, beep - it was 3:30am and with a whole four hours of sleep after a tired day of travel it was time to get up and get on with it.  This is what Burning Man should be.  Take all the comforts and everything you think you know and flip it upside down and try to scramble to survive and somehow make sense of it all.  Or not.  Maybe it's best to just ride out the wave. 

I opened the trunk of the car and disrobed then put on my running costume.  My wife Ciara was at a family wedding and couldn’t make it to the festival this year, but she had given me a stack of envelopes that I was supposed to open each day so she could, in a way, be with me for the week.  For this particular morning she wrote me a wonderfully inspiring note for the run on a card that almost brought me to tears.  I folded it and put it in my hydration pack in case I needed to take it out and read it during the run for motivation.

With clothes on my body, three bananas in my belly, band-aids on the nipples, a handkerchief on my head and vaseline lining my crotch I was walking by myself in the dark to make it to the start line by 4:45am.  What the hell was I doing?  Where was I?  An ominous flaming octopus on wheels blasting music and filled with furry people yelling inaudible randoms passed by me as I wondered how my life had taken me here, to this place.  What the hell was I doing?  I was about to run 31 miles through all of this.  Don’t make sense of it.  Don’t try to be grounded.  Best to float in space for the next several hours and hope that when I do land it is feet first. 

I ran the Black Rock City 50k last year, when it was an inaugural event.  This summer, the humidity of the northeast had really gotten to me and I hadn't had the best season of running.  Physically I was under-trained for the 50k distance but missing out on it wasn’t an option - I like the sound of finishing 2 out of 2 too much.  It was surprisingly warm for this time in the morning in the high desert at around 3,800 feet elevation.  Last year I was shivering under a coat and hat.  This year I was without shirt sleeves.  Hopefully it didn’t mean it would get hotter than last year.  I think it did. 

The crowd was gathering and a group of about 60 of us were fastening our race bibs to our clothes and getting ready to go.

A little after 5am we were off.  The course was four loops around the Esplanade and deep playa then a final out-and-back that went along the Esplanade to 2:00 and C then back to the finish line. 

I tucked myself in with a group of runners and as we made our way to the deep playa the sun was beginning to rise. 

We all completed our first loop and with a stop to the aid station the group mostly split up and as I kept running I locked on in a smaller group of around 5 or so.  Three of the runners were from my fellow Brooklyn and part of the running group North Brooklyn Runners which I have been meaning to run with for the past year now and haven’t.  In this group was Cherie Yanek who had the drive to create this 50k last year and has been the race director of it for two years now.  Toward the middle of the race she would developed a big bad blister on the top of one of her toes which caused a lot of pain.  So what did she do?  Took of her shoes and ran the rest of the race in her socks!  And finished the race long before I did.  And just a week and a half later she was scheduled to toe the line for a 100 miler.  Amazing!

The second loop was interesting because there was daylight now and as you ran you would pass by all sorts of Burners who were heading home after a full night of partying out on the playa.  If Burning Man is the place where all the freaks go, we were running by the most hardcore that exist in the freak kingdom - and they were all staring at us like we were the weirdest people they had ever seen.  We were the freaks to the freaks.  And we kept running.  You had acid heads with beers in their system chasing after us trying to run alongside until their energies gave way.  A woman in only her underwear was shuffling along with her legs locked together towards the port-o-potties.  As we came up behind her I realized why she was shuffling - she had shat herself.  Yes, this clearly was the hour when the animals were still wandering free out of their cages.  The junkies were scouring the land.  The werewolves were looming about.  A lost soul came up on us, suspiciously asking if we were undercover cops.  We assured him that we were.  People stopped what they were doing to check us out.  There was a chorus of comments:

“You guys are crazy!”

“What are you running from?”

“Slow down!”

“Nice tutu!”

“Nice ass!”

“Dig the mustache!”

“No way!”

“What the hell are you doing!”

“Are you serious!?!”

“This is awesome!”

“Am I hallucinating?”

“Aren’t you afraid you’re gonna die?”

“Stop here for a beer!”

“Take a swig of this tequila!”

“You guys are idiots!”

“You guys are hardcore!”

“You guys are at the wrong festival!”

“How far are you running?”

“Is this the Marathon?” to which we replied, “No, it’s the Ultramarathon.”

By the third lap as we crossed the Esplanade and made our way to deep playa the group really split up and for a while I found myself running alone.  A man in a suit jumped out of a giant beetle on wheels and started sprinting laps around me then got back on the beetle and took off.  The sun was steadily rising as well as the temperature.  Soon most of the people that had been out partying had gone to bed and the early risers hadn’t risen yet.  Things got pretty quiet.  It is here when you really feel like you are isolated in the desert. 

Photo from last year's race.  I'm on the left.  Imagine me without the other 3 bodies.

Up to this point I had been doing a good job of taking a GU every half an hour and been taking regular sips of water from my hydration pack as well as drinking the orange Gatorade from the aid stations.  Maybe too good of a job.  The liquids were sloshing around in my stomach, making me nauseous and sick to my stomach.  I really wanted to puke it all out and clear it away from my stomach but I was afraid of doing so because it was starting to get really hot (heading toward the 90’s) and I feared dehydration.  As I was in the middle of nowhere running along the border fence I couldn’t take it anymore.  A woman and a man passed by me on bikes and told me I was looking great and to keep it up.  A few seconds after they rode by I was hunched over the trash fence violently hurling orange foamy liquid into the desert dust.  My abs clutched so tight I thought that I had strained them and a new fear set in, not of dehydration but of pulling a stomach muscle.  Thankfully the pain was temporary and a good four heaves or so later and I was feeling better but I knew there was more.  I forced myself to keep moving to avoid a second round that would put me into the depths of dehydration but about ten minutes later I found myself hunched over the fence again retching out more orange.  It was at the end of this round that I felt I cleared what was bothering me out of my stomach and was able to keep moving again, slowly.  Although I felt better, my stomach was still feeling rough and I wasn’t sure what would happen when I would begin to drink water again.   

This was the low point - alone on the boarders of Burning Man, having just vomited all the contents out of my stomach, with the temperatures of the dry heat slowly causing my body to bake and knowing that there was much more left to run.  This is the point where things can start to turn.  This is when everything can go from manageable to dire.  It’s times like these that you step back and look at what lies in front of you and you make the decision to stop or continue on.  For me, even though things had almost gotten to the point of dire, I never once considered quitting.  What I did wonder was with my stomach feeling the way it was, how was I going to get through the rest of this race?  How was this going to happen?  How were the cards going to be played out?  I pulled out the card from Ciara and re-read it. 

The last part of the note.

And so I kept moving. 

It was shortly after this that Peter, one of the runners from Brooklyn came up behind me and we got to chatting.  He was having difficulties with cramping and I told him about my stomach troubles.  We moved along together for a short time before he was ready to pick up the pace.  I wasn’t, so he said that I would probably see him at the aid station up ahead.  I wasn’t so sure the way I was feeling.  About a half hour later it turned out he was right.  I got to the aid station, refilled my hydration pack, tried to eat a few pretzels and take a few sips of that orange Gatorade I had gotten to know so well and the two of us were off together with one loop left to go plus the out and back along the Esplanade. 

Peter and I more or less decided we were in it together for the remainder of the race as we passed by the familiar theme camps, by some of the same people that had been watching us each loop and by some people that were seeing us for the first time.  More comments.  More conversation.  More people on acid with beers in their system.  More continuing on.  The last camp you see on 2:00 before reaching the deep playa fence is a camp that I like to call Camp Heckle.  They were there last year at the same place, on the outskirts of town, probably put there because of the wealth of complaints they get from year to year.  Loud dubstep techno blasts from their speakers and a jerk on the microphone hollers out as many insults as he can think of towards whoever passes by.  And being the freak runners that we were, we may as well have been running with a target attached to our clothes instead of a race number.  In truth they weren’t as bad as last year.  A year earlier in the exact same spot, the last words my friend Tyler and I remember hearing them say to us while making our way to the outer fence, echoing from the loud speaker throughout the desert was, “FUCK YOU, RETARD!”  How do you respond to that?  What do you do?  Say something back to them?  Or maybe sneak into their camp at night and puncture holes into all their water jugs?  Naw.  This is Burning Man.  The world has been flipped upside down.  You just smile, shake your head, and move on.  

We finished the fourth loop and resupplied at the aid station.  Keeping out of the sun behind a large art piece, a woman who had just finished the race was taking off her shoes and hobbling along.  I asked her how she was doing and she said she was fine although her feet were really hurting.  Having turned into an ultrarunning nerd the past year, I was pretty sure that I knew who she was but I wanted to ask what her name was just to make sure.  “Kathy D’Onofrio” she said and I had been right.  I asked her, “You won Western States twice, didn’t you?”  For those readers who don’t know, The Western States 100 is the very first 100 mile foot race in the world and is known as the Super Bowl of American 100 milers which attracts the most elite distance runners not only from the US, but around the world. She had won the woman’s field in 1986 and 1988. Kathy humbly said, “Yes I did win Western States, but that was a very long time ago.”  I told her I thought that was totally awesome and she thanked me and said, “But let me tell you something,” and she pointed her finger right at me and looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You could win it too!”  Time froze for a moment as I was taken aback by this, never haven really considered the notion.  Before I could say anything she asked if I was finished with the race and I told her I had the out-and-back left to do.  Her mouth dropped open and she gave me a funny look and yelled, “then what are you waiting for, GO GET EM!”  And she started jumping up and down on her tired feet yelling over and over again, “GO GET EM, GO GET EM!”  And with that Peter and I were off for the home stretch. 

The physical pain was intense for us both.  We’d run until it was too much for one of us and then we’d have to walk for a while.  We reached the turn around point and gave the Esplanade one last hurrah.  My stomach was really upset and I felt sick.  The heat was oppressive.  If I ran for more then a few minutes I would come close to puking.  The wind kicked up and before we knew it we were in the middle of a thick dust storm.  We put the bandanas that had been tied around our necks over our mouths to filter out the dust.  I took a few breaths through it and immediately took it off as I realized it had been around my sweaty neck for the past six hours and smelt so bad I preferred to breath in the dust.  I struggled with a few bouts of coughing.  And then after all the way we had gone and how little we had left to go, Burning Man decided to throw one last obstacle in for us to navigate through.  Blocking our path was a steady stream of several hundred fully naked men riding on bikes.  There was so many of them it was hard to cross through to the other side.  We had no other option but to carefully make our way across, fording the river of naked bicycle men, feeling like we were in the Atari game Frogger.  After much concentration, we safely made it through, managing to avoid being hit by a bike or a loose body part and we kept moving.  We trudged on together.  It is unbelievable how great company is for an event like this, especially when you are suffering.  Good conversation will take potentially hellacious miles and turn them into pleasant moments.  I was very grateful for Peter's company and hopefully I’ll make it out to some of these North Brooklyn Runner events in the future.  Finally we made it to the finish with a time of 6 hours, 27 minutes and 4 seconds and received a nice big finisher’s medal around our necks and a t-shirt to take home.  

Peter at the finish.

I can’t say enough good things about Cherie for organizing this crazy event and for the volunteers at the aid station sitting through the heat of the day to make sure the runners were properly taken care of and accounted for.

Although I had a lot of physical stomach problems over the course of these 31 miles, besides that one quick moment in the deep playa, I stayed pretty strong mentally.  I knew the whole time that somehow I was going to finish this race.  And I did.  Mission accomplished - now bring on the rest of the week!  

I was surprised at how fast my body ended up recovering from the race and two days later I found myself running again, this time a half marathon around the perimeter fence of Burning Man with two stellar people, Andy and Sage from the Yummy RUMInations camp.

It’s amazing how quickly the feelings of suffering fade from one’s mind and you are left with nothing but good memories of elation towards an experience.  As soon as they fade comes into your mind the next big question:

NOW WHAT?

The answer to that is I'll be running in the Inaugural Brooklyn Marathon on November 20, 2011.  And after that… I’m thinking about this.

DC National Marathon Race Report

I just finished the 2011 SunTrust National Marathon in Washington DC on Saturday, March 26.  Here's how it went:

I woke up at 4:45AM, took a shower, had a breakfast of oatmeal, banana and coffee, got all my things together and headed out the door.  I was staying with my VERY generous friends in Falls Church, Virginia.  The Metro Rail started running at 6:00AM, just one hour before the start of the race at 7:00AM.  Because my friends' apartment was a good distance away from RFK Stadium, I didn't want to risk missing the start of the marathon so I opted to take a cab.  Turns out I should have saved $40 and taken the Metro anyway as the starting gun was a bit tardy to go off and it took over 20 minutes for me to cross the start line from when the race began.  There were some 17,000 runners in the three events of the day (Marathon, Half Marathon and Team Relay) and I was placed in the very last starting corral.  Anyway, it was better to be safe than sorry and I had plenty of time to wait in the long lines to pee and soak in the pre-race atmosphere.

The weather was pretty chilly in the morning - probably in the low to mid 30's.  I brought an extra hooded sweatshirt that I wore until my corral started to move then I threw it off to the side of the road to be donated.  The best decision I made all day was about a minute before I was to cross the starting line I jumped a fence and hit the port-o-potty one last time.  Because the race had started, there were no lines and I finished my business and jumped back over the fence in no time to start the race.  By doing this I saved myself a few unpleasant miles and waiting in a long toilet line at the first aid station. 

The first half hour or so was spent threading my way through the thick crowd, passing runners.  In that half hour I warmed up and shed my hat and gloves and tied a bandanna around my head.  A little later I took off my jacket and tied it around my waist.  What had been a cold morning turned out to be a beautiful sunny day.  It remained fairly crowded until the half marathon mark when the other two events finished, leaving only the marathoners for the last half of the course.  It was really refreshing to get the extra running room and for a boost of inspiration, at about mile 14 I passed by a single leg amputee runner who was trucking along with a prosthetic leg.

The course offered some great views of the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument amoung other DC landmarks and had us running through several neighborhoods as well as past Nationals Park.  Hopefully one day I'll return here to watch a baseball game and cross another stadium off my bucket list.

The course was mostly flat although there was a few little hills mixed in, but nothing major.  The cherry trees and magnolias were in bloom and at several times during the race I would zone out and just look at them in contemplation and appreciation.  At every aid station I would get two cups of Powerade and then a cup of water and probably ate 5 gels over the course of the day.  I felt pretty strong the whole race, even though by the end my legs were tired.  I kept my mind off them by looking at all the trees in bloom and chatting with some fellow runners.  It is always fun and special to quickly get to know someone during a race.   

The race ended where it started at RFK Stadium and I crossed the finish line in 4:17:18 (9:49 pace), a new PR for me having shaved off over an hour on my previous best and much faster than my initial goal.  I got my medal, had my picture taken, drank some water and called Ciara and my parents before heading to the Metro stop to ride back to Virginia.

There are two philosophies for what to do the day after you run a marathon.  The first one is to rest.  The second one is called active recovery which means that even if you are hobbling, get out and run a couple of miles to loosen things up.  I chose a happy medium as I ended up walking probably at least 10 miles all over DC including visiting the American History Museum, Natural History Museum, Holocaust Museum, Ford's Theatre and the Jefferson Memorial.  What a great way to keep things loose and now three days after the marathon I've run twice and feel well on my way to recovery.

I had a great time at the marathon and it was wonderful to train for something all winter long and get to celebrate the hard work by running through one of America's greatest cities.  Now it's onward to new goals and adventures.  What's next!?!

Butte, Montana

This past January, The Decemberists released their new album The King is Dead which has a song on it titled "Rox in the Box" that is set in the Granite Mountain Mine in Butte, Montana.  Awesome song that makes me miss Butte.

I spent this past summer in Virginia City, Montana performing for the Virginia City Players and our first show, "Fire From Within" was about the Granite Mountain Mine disaster of 1917.  From the time I first visited Butte in the winter of 2002, I knew this was without a doubt one of the most interesting towns I'd ever been to and that intrigue led to me living there for the summers of 2005 and 2006 to help run the Buttenik Ensemble in the Covellite Theatre.

The Covellite Theatre, December 2007.

Although it's not always been an easy place for me to live, there's a very large redeeming quality about Butte that's made me love it unconditionally and has drawn me back to it time and time again and I'll have the memories and the friendships I've made there for the rest of my life.  I even proposed to Ciara on top of the M.

My interest expanded last year when I completed my new full length play, "Squalor" about a homeless couple living in the rugged alley behind the Party Palace bar on the corner of Park & Main in Butte.  The play has yet to be produced and it is my hope that it finds a home very soon.

The alley where "Squalor" is set.

But I'm not the only one to have been inspired to write about Butte, many others have as well from the recent Decemberists album to movies, books, plays, paintings, poetry and this article by my personal favorite, Jack Kerouac, published in the March 1970 issue of Esquire Magazine titled "The Great Western Bus Ride" which includes his experience at the M&M:

 "I slept en route to great Butte...over the Divide, near Anaconda and Pipestone Pass...Butte of the rough geographies.  Arriving, I stored my bag in a locker while some young Indian cat asked me to go drinking with him; he looked too crazy.  I walked the sloping streets in super below-zero weather with my handkerchief tied tight around my leather collar and saw that everybody in Butte was drunk.  It was Sunday night, I had hoped the saloons would stay open long enough for me to see them.  They never even closed.  In a great old-time saloon I had a giant beer.  On the wall was a big electric signboard flashing gambling numbers.  The bartender gave me the honor of selecting a number for him on the chance of beginner's luck.  No soap.  "Arrived here twenty-two years ago and stayed.  Montanans drink to much, fight to much, love too much."  What characters in there: old prospectors, gamblers, whores, miners, Indians, cowboys, tobacco-chewing businessmen!  Groups of sullen Indians drank red rotgut in the john.  Hundreds of men played cards in an atmosphere of smoke and spittoons.  It was the end of my quest for an ideal bar.  An old Blackjack dealer tore my heart out, he reminded me so much of W.C. Fields and my father, fat, with a bulbous nose, great rugged pockmarked angelic face, wiping himself with a black-pocket handkerchief, green eyeshade, wheezing with big asthmatic laborious sadness in the Butte winter night games till he finally packed off for home and a snort to sleep another day.  I also saw a ninety-year-old man called Old John who coolly played cards till dawn with slitted eyes, and had been doing so since 1880 in Montana...since the days of the winter cattle drive to Texas, and the days of Sitting Bull.  There was another old man with an aged, loving, shaggy sheepdog who ankled off in the cold mountain night after satisfying his soul at cards.  There were Greeks and Chinamen.  The bus didn't leave Butte till dawn.  I promised myself I'd come back.  The bus roared down the slope and looking back I saw Butte on her fabled Gold Hill still lit like jewelry and sparkling on the mountainside in the blue northern dawn."

With Springtime right around the corner, if that excerpt doesn't spark your wanderlust, I don't know what will.  Here's a copy of the article:

It's always great to see Butte pop up in these songs and stories and such, and I hope that artists continue to use it as the backdrop for their work.  I know I have a few more that are on my list to write.