Category: U.S.

Cleveland’s Lakeview Cemetery

Euclid Avenue gate, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Euclid Avenue gate, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

If Cleveland’s architecture provides insight into its history, its magnificent Lakeview Cemetery yields insights into the dreams, accomplishments, and tragedies of its people.

Modeled after the great garden cemeteries of Victorian era England and France and opened in 1869, it is the  permanent resting place of more than 100,000 Clevelanders.

Cleveland skyline from heights above Lakeview Cemetery

Cleveland skyline from heights above Lakeview Cemetery


Nearly 1,000 permanent residents are added  each year and a quarter of the 285 acres are yet undeveloped.

Many of the immigrant stonemasons who landscaped the cemetery and carved its monuments lived in adjacent Little Italy.

Gravesite statuary, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Gravesite statuary, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

One of the more poignant memorials is to the nearly two hundred children killed in the Collinwood school fire of 1908.

The cemetery is the final resting place of twentieth century notables, as well as of some of historical footnote interest.

Garfield Monument, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Garfield Monument, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

James A. Garfield, twentieth President of the U.S., is the most well-known of the statesmen buried here, which also include U.S. Senator and Republican Party kingmaker Mark Hanna, U. S. Secretary of State John Hay, and Newton D. Baker, World War I Secretary of War.

Oil baron John D. Rockefeller is also buried here.

Garfield, a former Civil War general, college president, and Congressman, became the Republicans’ dark horse nominee on the 36th ballot and won the election by only 10,000 votes.

Garfield Monument, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Garfield Monument, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Only four months after his inauguration in 1881, he was shot by a disappointed officer seeker in Washington’s railroad station and lingered for two months before he died.

His monument is an imposing sandstone structure that combines Romanesque, Gothic and Byzantine styles of architecture, and stands 180 feet tall.

On a clear day, visitors can see up to forty miles of Lake Erie shore from its balcony.

Garfield Monument, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Garfield Monument, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland


Garfield’s life and death are depicted in five terra cotta panels, and more than 100 life size statues.  The Memorial Hall is done in gold mosaics, colored marble, stained glass windows and red granite columns.

Cleveland Indians short stop Ray Chapman, killed when struck in the head by a pitch in 1920, is buried here.  He is one of only two MLB players to die of a head injury sustained on the playing field during a game.

Lakeview is also the burial site of pioneer rock ‘n’ roll DJ Alan “Moondog” Freed.


Gravesite statuary, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Gravesite statuary, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Some of those buried here are not themselves well-known, but have made widely-known contributions from the profound to the lighthearted.  Garrett Morgan invented the gas mask and the three-colored traffic light .  James Salisbury invented… the Salisbury steak.

The ashes of Untouchables detective Eliot Ness, Cleveland’s Director of Public Safety from 1935-42, are scattered here.  So are the ashes of comic book writer Harvey Pekar, known for his groundbreaking series American Splendor.

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

The cemetery’s Wade Chapel is a must-see.  Built in memory of Western Union founder Jeptha Wade, it contains one of the few surviving interiors totally designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Massive bronze doors set into the Neo-Classical style exterior open on a chapel dominated by Tiffany’s stunning stained glass window.

Its brilliant colors are at once opalescent, iridescent, and translucent.


Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland


Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland

Wade Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland


A mosaic on the Chapel’s west wall symbolizes prophecy and the law of the Old Testament.


The mosaic on the east wall symbolizes the fulfillment of the Prophets’ laws by Christianity.


Both were constructed in the Tiffany Studios in New York and re-assembled on site.

Gravesite statue "Angel of Death Victorious" by sculptor Herman Matzen.

Gravesite statue “Angel of Death Victorious” by sculptor Herman Matzen.

Also check out the smaller but well known memorial, “Angel of Death Victorious”  at the gravesite of the Haserot family, created by sculptor Herman Matzen.


See my related post on La Recoleta (one of National Geographic Top 10 cemeteries) in my post Links to a Buenos Aires past.  

See also my related Cleveland posts:

Both Cleveland and its Public Square, along with Cleveland’s Little Italy, figure prominently in my recently published novel Lifelines: An American Dream, available on Amazon.


Cleveland’s river roots

View of "The Flats" from the Terminal Tower.

View of “The Flats” from the Terminal Tower.

The magnificent buildings of Cleveland’s historic downtown reflect commercial activity that was once a feature of its riverfront.


For nearly a century, Cleveland’s location on Lake Erie at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River made it one of the nation’s premier commercial hubs.



The Warehouse District sits on the East Bank bluffs above the river.

The historic Warehouse District sits on the East Bank bluffs above the river.


The river has carved its bed through the bluffs on which the city is perched.


The low-lying area along its banks has long been known as “The Flats”.


In the 1820’s, Cleveland was first connected to the Ohio River by a canal which was the region’s primary commercial traffic route until railroads replaced it in the 1860’s.



In the years following, Cleveland grew into a major rail hub.  The New York Central, Erie, and Nickel Plate railroads all connected here.

View of Downtown Cleveland from the West Bank of the Cuyahoga River.

View of Downtown Cleveland from the West Bank of the Cuyahoga River.


Today, parts of the canal are preserved under park service stewardship, and a restoration of its towpath has created jogging and bike trails.


The river’s water quality and fish populations have improved every year since 1970.


Lake freighters carrying Mesabi Range iron ore south and railroads carrying West Virginia coal north converged in Cleveland to fuel one of the nation’s largest steel-making centers.

Refineries and steel mills have been replaced by cultural and entertainment venues.

Refineries and steel mills have been replaced by cultural and entertainment venues.


In The Flats, the smelters and rolling mills of U.S. Steel, Republic. Bethlehem and Jones & Laughlin along both sides of the river became the pillar of the city’s economy, as well as a major source of river pollution.


On the East Bank, the refineries of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company leaked oil into the river for decades.



The Cuyahoga River has caught fire more than a dozen times since 1840.  The last fire  was in 1969, and the story which appeared in TIME magazine was a wake-up call both for Cleveland and the nation.

West Side public market and clocktower.

West Side public market and clocktower.


Beginning in the late 1960’s, the migration of steel-making to China and Europe triggered massive layoffs and plant closings, leaving The Flats populated by decaying buildings and the river plagued by persistent pollution.

West Side Market clocktower

West Side Market clocktower

In the mid-1980s, the Flats saw a resurgence as warehouses and other historic buildings were converted into nightlife destinations.


Cleveland's West Side Market

Cleveland’s West Side Market


The Flats became an entertainment mecca for the region

By the early 1990s, The Flats had the highest concentration of bars in the Midwest, but its heyday was short-lived.

Current plans call for a new mixed-use development on the East Bank that aims to create a new downtown riverfront neighborhood.

Rivergate Park, a public park devoted to rowing, canoeing, kayaking and dragon-boating, officially opened May 2011.

The West Bank has fared better.  Many older establishments still remain open, and new housing and retail venues like the Steelyard Commons have breathed fresh life into this neighborhood

The Powerhouse, which once generated power for the city’s streetcars, has been renovated to include multiple bars, restaurants, and an outdoor music venue.  A National Historic Landmark, it is also home to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium.

Cleveland's West Side Market

Cleveland’s West Side Market

The story of Cleveland is the story of immigrants.


In the 1820’s, the West Bank was home to the heavily Irish immigrant workforce that built the Ohio and Erie Canal in the 1820’s.


In the twentieth century, the neighborhood was a center for the city’s Eastern European immigrants.


(The West Side’s St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Cathedral was the location of the wedding scene in the movie The Deerhunter.)

Cleveland's West Side Market

Cleveland’s West Side Market


The West Side Market has been there through it all.


Opened in 1840 at the corner of West 25th and Lorain, it is Cleveland’s oldest publicly owned market.


It was first operated as an open air market, and the current structure dates from 1912.


Today it is home to more than one hundred vendors selling fine meats and produce, fresh seafood, baked goods, dairy and cheese products, and even fresh flowers.

Cleveland's West Side Market Cafe

Cleveland’s West Side Market Cafe

Many booths also sell ready-to-eat foods, and products often reflect Cleveland’s melting pot history.  More than a million people visit the market annually.

The next post wraps up my visit to Cleveland with a walk through the city’s historic and scenic Lakeview Cemetery.


Many of the places picture in these posts figure prominently in my recently published novel Lifelines: An American Dream, available on Amazon.

See my related posts on Cleveland:

See also more public markets in my related posts:

Cleveland’s historic architecture

The Arcade, Cleveland

The Arcade, Cleveland

A city’s architecture is like tree rings that tell its life story.    Cleveland’s industrial decline in the last part of the twentieth century left much of the city’s architectural legacy intact, and its buildings now stand as a living timeline.

The Arcade, Cleveland

The Arcade, Cleveland

One of the most notable examples is Cleveland’s Arcade, which opened its doors in 1890 to become one of the nation’s first indoor shopping centers.

Modeled after the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milano, Italy, the exterior is done in the Romanesque Revival style, and the interior in the Victorian style.

The Arcade, Cleveland

The Arcade, Cleveland


Once known as Cleveland’s Crystal Palace, The Arcade connects five stories of galleries to two ten story towers.

Along its indoor balconies were boutique shops and restaurants.  It was, in 1973, among the first buildings to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A partnership with Hyatt Hotels rescued the Arcade from the wrecking ball with a restoration completed in 2001, and today Cleveland’s Hyatt Regency occupies the twin towers and top three levels of the atrium.

The Arcade’s two entrances connect Euclid and Superior Avenues at 14th Street.   The lower two levels remain open to the public.

Cleveland Trust Building

Cleveland Trust Building



By 1924, the Cleveland Trust Company, was the nation’s sixth largest bank.


Like many Cleveland buildings constructed early in the century, its home office reflects the neo-classical influence of Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition…. the “White City.”

Cleveland Trust Building facade detail

Cleveland Trust Building facade detail




It’s not surprising that the muralist who did much of the work on the Columbian Exposition was chosen to paint its interior murals.  The building was completed in 1908.

Rockefeller Building, Cleveland

Rockefeller Building, Cleveland

John D. Rockefeller lived in Cleveland for thirty-five years, and founded his Standard Oil Company there.  His seventeen-story Rockefeller Building, completed in 1905, was designed in Chicago’s “Sullivanesque” style.

Art Deco facade, Cleveland

Art Deco facade, Cleveland

Cleveland’s zenith as an industrial powerhouse in the years between the World Wars fueled a building boom which defined a clear break from the city’s past and made Deco a major architectural feature of its central business district.

Art Deco facade, Cleveland

Art Deco facade, Cleveland

Art Deco architecture first appeared in France after World War I and became internationally popular from the 1920s until shortly after World War II.

Art Deco facade, Cleveland

Art Deco facade, Cleveland

It’s a style that  integrates craft motifs with Machine Age imagery and materials, employing rich colors, bold geometric shapes and lavish ornamentation.

Art Deco was a reflection of luxury and glamour, and the nation’s exuberance and faith in social and technological progress.


Playhouse Square, Cleveland

Playhouse Square, Cleveland

Playhouse Square is a row of five Euclid Avenue theaters built in the early 1920s.

These temples to the golden age of Hollywood are done in decorative themes that would do any Las Vegas casino proud.  Playhouse Square was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

The Ohio and State Theaters – both in the Italianate style – the Allen with its Pompeiian motif Allen, the Classical Hanna, and the French Renaissance Palace theaters have a combined total of over 10,000 seats,  making Playhouse Square the largest performing arts center in the U.S. outside of New York City.


Playhouse Square, Cleveland

Playhouse Square, Cleveland

These theaters presented serious theater, vaudeville shows, and movies for nearly half a century,.

The growth of the suburbs and the rise of TV led to their decline in the years after World War II, and by July 1969, all but one of the theaters had closed.

Art Deco facade, Cleveland

Art Deco facade, Cleveland

Plans to raze the vacant theaters in the ’70’s caused a public outcry, and public-private partnerships raised $40 million for the Square’s renovation.

Most of the work was completed between 1979-1988.

In 1978, Playhouse Square became one of nearly 400 Cleveland area sites named to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Euclid Corridor Transportation Project, which connects Public Square to the Cleveland Clinic, opened its Playhouse Square station in 2008.

So far I’ve not ventured more than ten blocks from Cleveland’s Public Square, so there’s still plenty more to see here.

Still to come: An exploration of  Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River roots and the stunning monuments of its Lakeview Cemetery.

See my related Cleveland posts:

Cleveland’s Public Square

Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland

Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland

Cleveland, Ohio is the home of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, the Cleveland Clinic, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the AFC’s Cleveland Browns.

It was also, in the ’70’s and 80’s, arguably the Rust Belt’s poster child.

A century ago, though, this home of the Federal Reserve’s Fourth District was the nation’s fifth largest city,  and for nearly half a century one of its industrial and political powerhouses.

Terminal Tower & Old Stone Church, Public Square, Cleveland

Terminal Tower & Old Stone Church, Public Square, Cleveland

It was here that John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil, and both he and U.S. President James Garfield, assassinated in 1881, are buried in its Lakeview Cemetery.

Cleveland’s Mark Hanna played Presidential kingmaker before the turn of 20th century, and Democratic Party national  conventions were held here in 1924 and 1936.

Cleveland’s  rich legacy is still very palpable in its historic architecture and the relics of its twentieth century melting pot neighborhoods.


Those who wonder why Cleveland is home to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame may not know that the very first rock ‘n’ roll concert was held in the Cleveland Arena in 1952, promoted by radio disc jockey Alan “Moondog” Freed.

The fire department closed the concert down when attendance far exceeded the Arena’s 20,000-seat capacity.

In the late 1960’s, Cleveland radio station WMMS-FM was a pioneer broadcaster of the ‘progressive rock’ radio format.



The current Cleveland Browns stadium was built in 1996 on the site of an earlier stadium dedicated in 1931, and where the first event held was the Schmeling-Stribling world heavyweight title fight.

Browns Stadium, Cleveland

Browns Stadium, Cleveland

The original structure was one of the first multi-purpose stadiums in the country, and until 1994 also the home field of the Cleveland Indians, who played games from their pennant-winning 1920 and 1948 World Series there.

Terminal Tower, Public Square, Cleveland

Terminal Tower, Public Square, Cleveland

The Browns began play in 1946, the year after the Cleveland Rams won the NFL title and moved to Los Angeles.

The new team won its first NFL championship in 1949, and would win it three more times within the next 15 years.

Cleveland has the distinction of being the only city to retain the name and archives of an NFL franchise when its team moved to Baltimore in 1996.

A revived Cleveland Browns franchise resumed play three years later.


Cleveland was first settled just before the turn of the nineteenth century by families arrived from New England, who brought with them the idea of a  ‘town commons’ and accordingly laid their city out around a Public Square.


Terminal Tower, Cleveland

Terminal Tower, Cleveland

In 1930,  a new rail terminal was constructed on its southwest corner, topped by a fifty-two story structure that came to be known as the Terminal Tower.  It was, at the time, the tallest building west of the Hudson River and the biggest dig since construction of the Panama Canal.

Terminal Tower, Cleveland

Terminal Tower, Cleveland


Terminal Tower, Cleveland

Terminal Tower, Cleveland

While rail traffic has significantly diminished in the eighty years since its construction, the Tower lives on as the hub of the city’s light rail system, and as a vibrant retail and entertainment venue.  Much of the original architecture has been lovingly restored and maintained.

Terminal Tower, Cleveland

Terminal Tower, Cleveland

Old Stone Church, Public Square, Cleveland

Old Stone Church, Public Square, Cleveland


The Old Stone Church, a longtime downtown Cleveland landmark, sits opposite the Tower on Public Square.

Its congregation dates back to 1820, and the current structure, dedicated in 1858, is the third church on the site.

Historical marker, Public Square, Cleveland

Historical marker, Public Square, Cleveland

Built in the Victorian Romanesque style, its interior is notable for its wood paneling, ornate carvings, stained glass, and a barrel-vaulted ceiling of trussed wood.  The church is the oldest surviving building on the Square.

Soldiers' & Sailors' Monument, Public Square, Cleveland, OH

Soldiers’ & Sailors’ Monument, Public Square, Cleveland, OH


Just across the Square, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, located within the Square commemorates the Civil War.


Along the monument’s esplanade, bronze groupings depict battle scenes for the  Navy, Artillery, Infantry and Cavalry.  The thirty actions in which soldiers from Cuyahoga County fought are listed on bronze bands.  Perched atop its 125-foot stone is the statue ‘Goddess of Freedom’.


Bronze relief sculptures here are among the first to honor the war role of women nurses, and to show a free black man in a combat role.  Before the Emancipation, Cleveland was a center for Abolitionists and served as fugitive slaves’ last stop on the ‘underground railway’ before Canada.


My walk on this morning has covered only a few blocks of Cleveland’s vintage downtown, but more architectural treats lie just beyond the Square.  Come along when I next post!


Author’s notes:

  • Both Cleveland and its Public Square, along with Cleveland’s Little Italy, figure prominently in my recently published novel Lifelines: An American Dream, available on Amazon.

To Live and Die in New Orleans

French Quarter, New Orleans

French Quarter, New Orleans

I’ve been to New Orleans more times than I can count, but as I planned my first post-Katrina trip, I wondered how much of its long-familiar landscape would still remain.

My New Orleans ritual has remained unchanged in all of those years.  It begins with beignets and café au lait at the Cafe du Monde, followed by a stroll around Jackson Square and a climb to the crest of the levee, where I sit and watch the boats plying the Mississippi.

Larger-than-life Louis Armstrong parade mask.

Larger-than-life Louis Armstrong parade mask.

On this morning as I sit in the cafe, a van pulls up and its two occupants extract from it a gigantic paper-mâché mask of Louis Armstrong.

Both men seem improbably short to be walking the streets with it perched upon their shoulders, but an entourage shortly appears, dressed in Mardi Gras finery.

"Second Line" dressed for a parade.

“Second Line” dressed for a parade.

The mask’s occupant appears and suits up, then the troop sets off down the streets for reasons and parts unknown.

More "Second Line"

More “Second Line”


It’s a perfect welcome back to New Orleans.



Jackson Square is always a feast for the eyes.  Artists who hang their work on its wrought iron fences are regulars, but the supporting cast of characters is constantly changing.


Jackson Square play date.

Jackson Square play date.




Today, two mothers sitting in the shade watch over a play date and what can only be described as the mini-van of baby strollers.



Across the square, a group of choir boys files down the sidewalk.


Choirboys near St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, New Orleans

Choirboys near St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, New Orleans


Motorcycle cowboy, Jackson Square, New Orleans

Motorcycle cowboy, Jackson Square, New Orleans




The engine of a motorcycle with longhorn handlebars and an honest-to-God cowboy saddle clicks and cools as its owner sitting nearby with guitar and harmonica, picking out a tune.

Hey, buddy, can you spare some change for gas?






Garden District, Washington St., New Orleans.

Garden District, Washington St., New Orleans.


I decide to revisit old haunts in the Garden District and hop aboard the St. Charles Street trolley, hopeful that I’ll find the District as unchanged by Katrina as the French Quarter seems to be.

"Katina cross" marks a hurrican damage inspection.

“Katina cross” marks a hurrican damage inspection.

At first not much seems out of place, but after only a few blocks’ walk I come upon my first vacant house marked with the infamous X-code, or “Katrina cross”… which many have mistakenly taken for a demolition flag.

The markings in each of its quadrants actually record the date and time that the house was searched, the identity of the searchers, and a count of people found in the home…  whether alive or not.

Lafayette Cemetery, Garden District, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery, Garden District, New Orleans

The Lafayette Cemetery #2 is five blocks off St. Charles St., at the corner of Washington and Loyola, and even though I’ve seen the St. Louis cemetery – the heavyweight among New Orleans burials – on past trips I can’t resist walking its lanes to check out the stories told by its gravestones.

Back in the French Quarter, I stop by the Central Grocery for the world’s best-known muffaletta sandwich before wandering the streets.

Funeral procession, New Orleans

Funeral procession, New Orleans




A procession led by a brass band appears, and I realize that I’m about to see my first New Orleans funeral parade.

Although such funeral parades were a widespread practice among both blacks and whites in New Orleans at the start of the 20th century, whites stepped away from the ritual in the years before World War I.



It was not until the 1960’s that it began to spread across ethnic and religious boundaries.

Funeral procession, New Orleans

Funeral procession, New Orleans







It feels far less like a funeral than it does a wake.









Funeral procession, New Orleans

Funeral procession, New Orleans






Many in the procession are dressed in black, and the mourners hold pictures of the deceased high.






Funeral procession, New Orleans

Funeral procession, New Orleans

One woman walks, turtle-like, beneath the weight of an ornately framed painting of a saint with cherubs.  From time to time, one or another breaks into dance.

Funeral procession, New Orleans

Funeral procession, New Orleans

I never manage to learn the name of the deceased, but the rousing and worthy send-off tells me that he’s someone who will be sorely missed by many… and that I can cross one more item off my bucket list.

Up in smoke

It had been a year since I’d last seen him, but I had – or so I thought – more important things to do on his birthday this year and now he’s gone, one more superstar snatched from us before his time leaving me with guilty regret.

There was some dispute about his true age.  His official birth certificate listed him as 60 years old, but it’s now widely accepted that he was actually born two years earlier in a small town 70 miles from Dallas and given up for adoption by the two men whose names appear on his original birth certificate.   Darker rumors maintain that he was not legally adopted, but sold to the State Fair for a paltry $750 in a slam-dunk case of baby trafficking.

Big Tex, larger than life

Even his most fervent admirers will admit that he had a Howdy Doody sort of caricature look, but that fixed grin belied his shrewd management of a meteoric rise to stardom and six uninterrupted decades of celebrity.

Ringed around the Cotton Bowl

Big Tex was the last of the great carnival barkers, towering above crowds and tents and spinning rides against the backdrop of the Cotton Bowl to welcome visitors to the State Fair of Texas.

Big Tex burns; Photo by Alison Griffin

He was Texan through and through, his skeleton a metal frame made from oilfield drill casing, and he seemed so indestructible that all were stunned when a garden variety circuitry malfunction laid him low. To put it inelegantly, he had a short in his shorts.

The end was mercifully quick.  Flames consumed his paper maché frame in a matter of minutes, but billowing smoke rendered him almost immediately voiceless.

Onlookers could do nothing but watch as his Size 110 blue jeans turned to ash and his parched skin flaked  away to leave only a steel frame and his fallen, giant hands.  Oh, the humanity!

Fried food reigns at the Fair

“B.T.” looked incredibly fit for his age.  Some attributed his slim figure to the fact that he didn’t drink.  Others attributed it to his refusal to indulge in the Fair’s annually featured deep-fried foods like the Fried PBJ & Banana Sandwich, Fried Coke, Fried Cookie Dough, Fried Banana Split, Chicken-Fried Bacon, Fried Beer™, Fried Frito Pie, or Fried Buffalo Chicken-in-a-Flapjack.  (This year Deep Fried Jambalaya won ‘Best Taste’ and Fried Bacon Cinnamon Roll won ‘Most Creative’.)

Tall and lean even in the face of such temptation, B.T. was from time to time the target of accusations that he was a closet anorexic, but adoring fans would hear nothing of such slander and he returned as big as ever in each succeeding year.

Plenty of aerial views

They say they’ll rebuild Big Tex, that he will be taller, and that the reconstruction will incorporate “new engineering and technology techniques.”

I confess to skepticism.

Dallas is, after all, notorious for paving over its history in the name of progress and has not infrequently confused bigger with better (any naysayers should be instantly silenced by the concert acoustics in the nosebleed section of Jerry Jones’ stadium monument!)

The line of booths is endless

Had Dallas managed the Statue of Liberty’s bicentennial renovation, it’s likely that her torch would now be spewing laser-beam fireworks, her gown would be sequined with ever-changing red, white and blue lights like a Las Vegas billboard ( or – uh – Dallas’s new convention center hotel), and she’d be performing the moonwalk on the hour.

There’s been some loose talk that B.T. might return as a fire department spokesman to preach the dangers of faulty wiring. (Say it ain’t so!)

Who needs video games?


There’s something about Big Tex that speaks to a moment in time when Baby Boomers were still kids, and Texas was as it appeared in the classic movie “Giant.”  A Texas before video games and PDA’s and downloadable media, when little boys played cowboy with stick horses and the good guys were not yet all bad boyz.

Entrance to the Midway

The Fair ran for two more days after Big Tex’s untimely passing.  The rides and booths and food were all just the same as before.

Art deco sculpture

The Fairground buildings – the Southwest’s largest surviving collection of Art Deco structures – were unchanged, but without Tex’s long, tall shadow creeping across the sun-splashed midway the Fair’s mojo was – at least for the moment – gone.

Rocking horses & rocking chairs

We can only hope that a Big Tex reborn will still have the same campy, carny feel that he exuded for more than 60 years… and not reincarnated like a classic Wurlitzer jukebox slickly and vacantly restored with mp3 guts… reduced to a 21st century drug store cowboy.

America’s rain forest

Road ascending into clouds

Seen from the sea, El Yunque Mountain peaks at a modest 3,500 feet, but its slopes are still an imposing knot on the horizon.   It’s the focal point of El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest system.  The park is less than 40 miles from the past day’s visit to downtown San Juan, and the drive takes just over an hour.

The name of this place has changed so many times that you’re to be forgiven if you’ve not heard of it before.  King Alfonso XII made it a Spanish forest preserve in 1876, and it became America’s Luquillo National Forest in 1906.  It was renamed Caribbean National Forest in 1935 and the El Yunque National Forest in 2007.

View from observation tower

Here Atlantic trade winds smack into the mountains to produce almost 250 inches of annual rainfall and a constant shroud of clouds.

Without a distinct wet or dry season and with constant temperature and daylight, the growing season is year-round and the bio-diversity is incredible.

Waterfalls abound

On this day a misty fog hangs heavily enough in the air to dampen clothing, and the 70-degree temperature feels much chillier in the stiff mountain breeze.

Yokahu Tower lookout

Visitors can survey four different vegetation zones within the park from 6 different trail segments.   There’s also a walkway 60 feet above the ground at the El Portal Rain Forest Center – located about 4 kilometers inside the forest – that allows for a treetop view.

Rain forest canopy

There are also two lookout towers – El Yokahu at around Kilometer 9 and El Britton at around Kilometer 15 – that afford great views.

Rainfall returns to the sea

Anyone who’s come face to face with a bear will be relieved to know that no large wildlife inhabits the park, but small game is abundant, including species unique to this spot like the Puerto Rican Amazon parrot (Amazona vittata).  Its wild population had shrunk to only 30 birds until it was introduced into other local forests in 2006.

The Jurassic forest

Among the forest’s four vegetation zones, the bosque enano… the dwarf forest… is unique to Puerto Rico, and sits at around 3,000 feet.   Their growth stunted by shade of the rainforest canopy and incessant winds, tree trunks are widened and branches have fewer leaves.
Twenty-three species of the forest’s trees occur nowhere else on the planet.

Mountains in the mist

Most species of coqui, small frogs native to the island which have endeared themselves to Puerto Ricans, are found here in abundance. These tree-dwellers have no webbed feet and hatch their young out of water not as tadpoles, but as fully-formed frogs!

El Yunque’s 3,500 foot elevation may seem modest, but the ascent to the peak from just above the Yohaku Tower rises 1,500 feet over just under three kilometers.  Bring a poncho! 

See related posts on my trips to:

Mt. Rainier National Park
Channel Islands National Park

Pike Place market bench

It’s no easier to imagine Seattle without the Pike Place Market than without the Space Needle, but in 1963 private interests came close to demolishing the 56-year-old structure to build in its place a complex of office buildings, apartments, and a hockey arena.

They were prevented by the intervention of a group of public-spirited citizens who succeeded in having the Market designated an historic preservation zone and returning it to public ownership.

A restoration of the Market’s historic buildings in succeeding years honors the original 1907 blueprints and building materials, and the Market is now 105 years old.

Late in the morning of this August Sunday it feels to me like tourists outnumber locals among the shoppers and browsers. The crowd is packed to just this side of discomfort.

No red meat here!

The waterfront is tightly woven into the character of this place.

Waterfront dining

Through windows behind the stalls and restaurants on the Puget Sound side of the market, giant wharf cranes tower above ocean-going freighters and ferries churn up wakes.

Flying fish

Just inside the market I see a continuously restaged performance of fish-tossing at the Pike Place Fish Company.    A hefty whole fish flies through the air for twenty feet with neither pitcher nor catcher losing a grip on the slippery missile.  I’m sure there was a time when fish was routinely off-loaded from boats in this fashion, but these days it seems mostly a tourist spectacle. (Photo below; just in front of the green banner at 1 o’clock!)

Eat it here!

It’s a particularly colorful market.

Incomparable cut flowers

Neon signs of classic design point the way to stalls and restaurants, and brightly colored produce and flowers seem also to be painted from an electric palette.

There’s great neon everywhere

This market, though, is as much about artisan crafts and artisan foods as about fresh fish and produce.

Artisan pastas

There are foods to tempt any gourmet.

Hand-crafted wooden cutting boards

There are arts and crafts in just about every imaginable medium.  Some of the works are artful twists on useful items. Others are a bit more fanciful.  Most of them can bring a smile to any face.

Cigar-box guitars

Totem pole just outside the market


I pop out into the outdoors near the tallest totem pole I’ve ever seen, thinking I’ve run out of market before I realize that there’s plenty also happening in specialty shops and restaurants on the opposite side of the street.

I’m reeled in by a shop specializing in flavor-infused oils and linger long enough for a tasting of truffle oil.  It’s decadently delicious.

Native American street musician

No public gathering is complete without live entertainment, and street musicians here run the gamut.

Street musician across from the Market

My favorite, though, is a very entertaining guy who plays the guitar behind his back while also playing a harmonica and twirling a hoola-hoop!

It must be time for a latté because this is, after all, Seattle, and there are more espresso machines within a couple of blocks than stop signs.

The next morning I fly out of Sea-Tac still flush with the memory of 10 fantastic summer days in the Pacific Northwest and I promise myself that this won’t be the last visit.

Read the other two posts from this trip to the Pacific Northwest:

Portland’s Alberta Street

Magnificent Mount Rainier

Etched glass bus stop shelter on Alberta Street

Before I begin four days of camping and hiking around Mt. Rainier I head to Portland, Oregon for the weekend, catching Amtrak’s Cascades train just a stone’s throw from Sea-Tac airport.

Artist with flowered hat on Alberta Street

The trip takes a bit more than 3 hours, the train is spacious and clean, and the route winds through great forest and waterfront scenery, ending in gem of a train station that’s right out of a ‘40’s movie.

“Art On Alberta” trailer studio

The first thing that hits me is how green it is here.  More shades of emerald green than anywhere else, speckled in August by the blooms of flowers and wildflowers.

The second thing is that there’s an economy to the layout of this town.  Almost no part of it much more than 20 minutes from any other, and the local light rail and bus service sets a standard.

The third thing is that Portland is an uplifting example of a community which has so passionately embraced the values of community, diversity, and sustainability that they’re woven into the fabric of the place.

To say that Portland is pedestrian-and-cycle-friendly is a gross understatement. This weekend there’s also a bicycle event that routes 20,000 local cyclists back and forth across every bridge that joins the city across the Willamette River, where windsurfers scoot along the river’s surface.

Jubilantly recycling!

There are more great neighborhoods, microbreweries, and wineries than I can possibly see in a weekend, but it’s my good luck to arrive during the annual Alberta Street Festival, which promises to pack as much of Portland as possible into a single event.

Wall mural

Muslim henna tatoo artist

This is not your typical neighborhood street fair. Originality rules here, and along the entire 20-block midway no two of anything is alike, with plenty of it likely to be seen absolutely nowhere else.

Co-op grocery

It’s hard to escape the feeling that the best of the ‘60’s counter-culture lives on here, if updated for the new century.

Faux flowers on sidewalk tree

The aura of jubilation here is nothing if not mellow, a celebration of an historic neighborhood revived and reinvented and a harmonious community.

People of every persuasion mingle comfortably and unaffectedly, and no age group seems to be unrepresented.

Black Cat Café

There are plenty of coffeehouses and taverns stocked with microbrews.

Caffé Vita

Bug-headed balloon sculptor

There’s hardly a block without some kind of street performer, and they run the gamut from jugglers to musicians.

Street musician quartet

Street jugglers

Island food truck

The foodservice here is nothing if not electic. Great eats from international cuisine to American comfort food is offered in everything from sit-down restaurants to food trucks.

The Grilled Cheese Gril


Pedi-cab taxis are are about as “green” as you can get!

Gargoyle…. purse not included

Vintage clothing and furnishings scream “recycle me” from resale shop windows

Art lamp chandeliers

Art and crafts in wood, leather, glass begs for a closer look at every corner, and the artists and artisans are engaged in animated conversations with passers-by.

You don’t have to be a shop-a-holic to end up buying something to take home.

Box-banjo player

Quirkiness is a virtue here, and if elsewhere it can be an annoyance here it’s almost always endearing.

The Hempress Café

The weekend runs out far too fast, but as I board the train back north I’m already looking forward to the next few days camping and hiking around Mount Rainier.

Mt. Rainier, WA from White River Campground

I’ve seen Mt. Rainier from the air on countless occasions, but nothing compares to the experience of approaching it on the ground.  At 50 miles away its 14,000-plus feet already dominate the skyline, and by the time we reach our campsite at its feet on the White River it dwarfs us.

Before dawn the sky here is pitch black and covered densely in stars that shine brightly through the thin mountain air.

Mt. Rainier at sunrise

As dawn ripens into sunrise, snow-capped Rainier glows in rosy hues.

Mt. Rainier at sunrise

The White River flows brightly and turbulently from its invisible source at the foot of the glacier, carrying ancient and ashen volcanic pumice and rock through emerald forests at the mountain’s feet. Along its bank cairns built by hikers from river stones stand like miniature prehistoric monuments.

White River footbridge, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

Rock cairns on the White River

Riverbank rock cairn, White River

Wildflowers and rock cairn, White River

We’re only 6 miles from Rainier’s summit as the crow flies, but there’s no straight line route anywhere within its surrounding park, and distances are measured at least as much in altitude as in linear miles.

Wildflowers along the White River

The day’s hike covers connecting trails about 6 miles long.  The route ascends 1,100 feet from the Sunrise Visitors’ Center at 6,400 feet and then descends 3,000 feet back to the campground.  The hike will take more than 6 hours, but with no wireless coverage and no clocks time is measured only by the sun’s position and its shadows.

Wildflowers, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

The first leg of the climb winds through shallow elevation and dense evergreen forests broken by meadows covered in a riotous carpet of wildflowers.

Brown bear, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

Not an hour into the trip a young brown bear grazes his way slowly on a converging path not 150 feet away, and we slip quickly and quietly past and ahead before the trail narrows.

White River from Burroughs Trail, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

The route begins a steep ascent, at times shrinking to no more than a couple of feet wide above steep drop-offs.  The August skies are sunny and the temperature is T-shirt warm, but at one point we work our way gingerly through remnants of winter snow.

Mt. Rainier and Shadow Lake

Rainier and its surrounding peaks loom ever larger across the White River valley, and Shadow Lake sits far below us, its waters turned bright aquamarine by mineral-rich runoff.

The pines become shorter, slimmer, and fewer until they vanish at the tree line, leaving only grasses and the riotously colored carpet of wildflowers.

Wildflowers, Burroughs Trail

Looking eastward from Burroughs Trail

Burroughs Mountain, the highest point of our climb, sits between the fingers of two of Rainier’s many glaciers, and as we approach its summit ridge a stiff wind cools us from the rigorous climb and glaring sun.

Here a breathtaking panoramic view unfolds across all points of the compass.   To the east rows of mountains stretch as far as the eye can see. The Cascades are draped across the horizon to the north and Mt. Rainier still towers more than 6,000 feet above us only three miles away, the details of its glaciers now crisp and clear.  Only to the west do the mountains subside into a flat skyline. The terrain is rocky and desolate here.

Burroughs Trail summit, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

Mountain goats on Burroughs Mountain

A small herd of mountain goats, the only animal that can survive in this inhospitable terrain, grazes in a closely-cropped meadow on a plateau separated from us by a shallow valley.

We begin our descent through a grade more than twice as steep as our ascent, weaving through a seemingly endless series of tight switchbacks.

Beginning the descent, Burroughs Trail

Wildflowers and grasses are the first to reappear, followed by pines which grow steadily taller and sturdier as we drop below our departure altitude.  Within a couple of hours we are hiking among trees up to three feet in diameter packed so densely that only occasional patches of sunlight filter through to the forest floor.

Burroughs Trail, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

Here all is quiet except for the ever-present sound of rushing water and tumbling stones in the White River far below.

Burroughs Trail, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

Small creeks begin to appear out of the mountainside, tumbling downward toward the river through pint-sized waterfalls that we sometimes ford and sometimes cross on narrow log footbridges.

Burroughs Trail, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

Burroughs Trail, Mt. Rainier Nat’l Park

By the time we reach the campsite we’ve crossed through several microclimates and geographic formations layered upon each other like some giant archeological dig.

It’s hard to experience nature as we have without reflecting upon man’s brief existence on this planet and his insignificance in the face of the forces of nature.

Mount Rainier is a memory that will remain vibrant for the rest of a lifetime for all who are fortunate enough to experience it.