Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I read the news today, oh boy: The Paper House of Rockport, Massachusetts

The Paper House was built in 1922 (with a wooden frame, floor and roof) and it still stands today!

The piano is the only piece of furniture inside that wasn't made of little newspaper logs. It's a real piano that was decorated with newspaper logs.

This is a detail of what the walls look like. The newspapers are from the 1920s and 30s and have been varnished over the years.

This desk is made up of the Christian Science Monitor...

...and this one is made up of accounts of Charles Lindbergh's flight.

This grandfather clock has newspapers from the capital cities of the 48 continental states.

And here's the sun porch. These pictures come from The Paper House website.

Lots of people like to do unusual things with their homes to make a statement, but it takes a true eccentric to build a house out of newspapers. That's what a Mr. Elis F. Stenman, an engineer who designed paper clip-making machines, decided to do with his Rockport, Massachusetts summer home, back in 1922. The framework, roof and floor are wood, like any other house, but Mr. Stenman wanted to see what would happen if he filled the spaces in-between with an inch-thick layer of newspapers glued together and varnished. Almost 90 years later the house still stands, so I think you could say, yes, it could work. But wait, there's more! Inside, he made furniture out of little newspaper logs. Chairs, lamps, tables, a fireplace mantle...you name it. There's even a grandfather clock with newspapers representing the 48 continental states. And the furniture is actually heavy and fully functional. The house has been a museum since the 1940s, and Mr. Stenman's grand niece lovingly maintains the place today, according to their website.

And as a fellow who works in the old-fashioned newspaper industry myself, I'd like to say, oh sure, your fancy shmancy internet is good for lots of other things but can you make a house out of it or line a bird cage? Didn't think so.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pools of sorrow, waves of joy: New York City's Strawberry Fields and The Dakota

The Dakota's most famous residents in 1980 (photo by Allen Tannenbaum)...

...and the building as it looks today.

At one time, the Lennons owned the top floor with the iron balconies (at least that's what one of the natives told me).

The Lennons were first introduced to the Dakota through an apartment they sublet from tough-guy actor Robert Ryan.

Its exteriors were also used in the 1968 horror movie "Rosemary's Baby".

Strawberry Fields is across the street from The Dakota and has this lovely mosaic which was donated by the city of Naples, Italy.

A crowd of people stood and stared.

Lennon's activist spirit lives on in this political button kiosk at the entrance to Strawberry Fields.

Photographer Bob Gruen bought this now famous t-shirt for $5 at a souvenir stand, cut the sleeves off and asked Lennon to put it on for this iconographic 1974 photo.

Gruen also shot this famous photo. Kinda nice to see John acting like a tourist. Also love the ironic "Keep off grass" sign, since the U.S. Government tried to deport him for marijuana procession.

John Lennon loved New York City. His residence for the last seven years of his life was the famous 1880s co-op apartment building on New York's Upper West Side called The Dakota. It is believed that the building got its name because its original owner, a Mr. Edward Clark, had a fondness for the new western territories of the United States at that time. Many famous people have lived there, including Lauren Bacall, Judy Garland, Leonard Bernstein, Jack Palance and Boris Karloff. Just being famous isn't enough to get you in these days, though, as Billy Joel, Gene Simmons and Antonio Banderas have all been turned down by the board. Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, got into the building through an apartment they sublet from actor Robert Ryan ("The Wild Bunch") and eventually bought a floor of apartments in the building. Sadly, the building got worldwide notoriety when Lennon was shot and killed by a crazed fan in the Dakota's entry way in 1980. To honor Lennon, and with the financial help of Yoko, the city created a memorial area out of 2.5 acres of Central Park directly across from the Dakota. The centerpiece is a mosaic with the word "Imagine" inlaid that fans and tourists can visit and remember Lennon by. It's a nice place and was surprisingly crowded on the April Sunday when we visited. Nothing to get hungabout, though.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The horns of a dilemma: New York City's Duke Ellington Blvd.

The legendary jazz musician Duke Ellington made New York City his home for many years and when he died, the city renamed West 106th Street Duke Ellington Boulevard in his honor (he lived in a townhouse on the corner of 106th and Riverside Drive). Having said that, it seems rather ironic that a "No horn blowing" sign sits right below his street marker. Duke Ellington without horn blowing is like New York City without the A train (although we actually rode up on the number 1). Kind of puts you in a mood indigo, but then again I don't get around much anymore.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Day at the museum: Eccentric items from the Smithsonian

Jerry Seinfeld's puffy shirt

I hope this was the turkey/mashed potatoes/stuffing TV dinner.

Buzz Aldren's space suit (looks like he's a contestant on "To Tell The Truth")

Tito Puente's timbales (they're good and Puente)

Uranus looks lovely tonight

Not the most sophisticated exhibit but my personal favorite.

Washington D.C.'s Smithsonian Institution exists because a generous British scientist named James Smithson (1765-1829) wanted to increase knowledge among all mankind. He left his fortune to the United States government even though he never visited the country. We call this Eccentric with a capital E, and would like to tip our cocked hat to him.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Burn one, take it through the garden and pin a rose on it: Some diners seen along the way

Nothing is more all-American than the humble diner, with its comfort food, friendly staff and folksy clientele. You can be 1,000 miles from home and still feel like everyone knows you in one of these steel and Formica monuments to yesteryear. We try to patronize these living, breathing museums of America's culinary past as often as possible while out on the road. Nothing could be finer.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I got you, Babe: Bemidji, Minnesota's Paul Bunyan statue

Even though Paul Bunyan, the world's most famous giant lumberjack, has French-Canadian roots and dates back to 1837, many states in the northern USA lay claim to him as their favorite son, and luckily for the eccentric roadside attraction fan, many of these adopted hometowns have giant statues for all the world to see.

Bemidji, Minnesota is a beautiful lake community ("The first city on the Mississippi," they proudly boast) where Paul Bunyan Park features a glorious 18-foot statue of Paul and his big blue ox Babe as goodwill ambassadors to all passersby. The statues were erected in 1937 and Bemidji's mayor at the time, a Mr. Earl Bucklen, served as the model for Paul. Lots of people like to have their picture taken with Paul and Babe, including Scooter Christensen of the Harlem Globetrotters, the Mens and Womens 2006 Olympic Curling teams, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Bemidji State University mascot Bucky the Beaver, and the Lincoln Elementary Kindergarten Class, who were learning about the letter "P". And who can blame them?

Paul and Babe are awesome examples of what makes America great: borrowing someone else's cool thing and making it even cooler. What could be better, I ax you.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sapp-happy: The Sapp Bros. coffee pot water tower of Omaha, Nebraska

A bunch of Sapps, you might say...

They've even got a mobile chapel...Hallelujah!

You don't get much more Nebraskier than this...

Just off Interstate 80 in Omaha, Nebraska stands a proudly caffeinated eccentric roadside icon: The Sapp Bros. Truck Stop coffee pot water tower. At 110 feet, they claim they've got the world's tallest java-themed water turret, and we don't doubt it. It's even engineered to have steam waft from its spout, although this wasn't the case when we were there in 2006 (perhaps they had just put on a fresh pot on to brew). The Sapps run a chain of eponymous truck stops from Pennsylvania to Utah, all a home away from home for weary travelers in need of good grub, a shower, some gas and a decent cup o' joe. And their sign is not only beautiful, but it's practical, as well...furnishing H2O for Nebraska's Sanitary Improvement District 48. So the next time you're near Omaha, don't be a drip and take a break from the grind with the perks offered by this friendly Java the Hut. And do it ASAPP.