You can live in a place a long time before you really get to know it. So it was that it took me three years to get to the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, as chaperone on a Girl Scout field trip. It’s a lovely house, a piece of local history; the Fords were generous people. We all bow in their general direction. Let us stipulate that up front, because there’s something about drooling over rich people — and that’s the response encouraged by the tour — that bugs me. Many of the home’s stellar details were plucked from the rubble of English country houses falling to neglect and reversed circumstances — the six-inch-wide oak floorboards from here, the stained-glass medallions on the windows from there. Maybe in another 200 years they’ll be in some rich man’s house in China or India. The great wheel turns.
One doesn’t feel encouraged to say these things out loud. In Edsel’s office there’s a photograph of him with his dad, Henry, and Edward, Prince of Wales. That was a real meeting of titans — two fortunate princes of lucky birth and one man who made his own fortune. What were they talking about? The Jewish Problem? Henry and Edward were on-the-record anti-Semites, and some accounts say Edsel was the one who got his old man to tone things down, at least for the sake of business. These things don’t come up on the tour; you are invited to exclaim over the woodwork. Ah, well. It’s worth an exclamation or three.
Here’s something interesting I learned: Edsel commuted to his job in Dearborn in true style — by water. Google won’t let me alter the route off the actual pavement, so you’ll have to use your imagination. Here’s how he would have gone via asphalt today:
Now imagine a stylish man in a mahogany speedboat, pulling away from his backyard dock and going south on Lake St. Clair, into the Detroit River, taking a right at the Rouge River and tying up at dad’s place, or at least someplace where the motoring leg to the office would be only a short hop. It was 28 miles by water, the guide said; in that pre-freeway era, it was a 2.5-hour surface-street commute. Edsel liked the wind in his face, I guess. Can’t blame him.
Quick bloggage, because today is Organize the Tax Records Day:
Today’s NYT profile is the most I’ve yet read about Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro, aka Barack Obama’s mother. Worth reading if only as an interesting counterpoint to the old argument that only children raised in stable, two-parent homes grow up to amount to anything. Soetoro’s life was a whirl of marriage, divorce, children by different fathers, relocation across continents and heart-following work, and it may yet turn out that she raised the next president of the United States. A fascinating portrait.
The story ends with an image of Soetoro’s children scattering her ashes in the Pacific Ocean off Oahu, which reminded me of Jon Carroll’s column about doing the same thing when his mother died. Through the miracle of the Google, we can enjoy it again. Bonus not-very-fun fact: Jon Carroll’s mother was adopted into “a wealthy Grosse Pointe family,” and later disinherited from it after her marriage to a poor Irish Catholic. Another useful lesson about the good old days, maybe.
Yesterday we had a parent-teacher conference in which the teacher encouraged us to help our kid increase her vocabulary. (Please, no jokes.) I’m going to require daily 10-minute sessions on Free Rice. (And yes, I know I’m only the latest person in a very long line to tell you about Free Rice. Humor me.)
You can’t legislate morality, but you sure can tax it. Unfortunately, morality has a way of evading taxes. A look at the the fallout from Michigan’s $2/pack cigarette tax, in today’s Freep. My friend Frank, the doctor, says high cigarette prices are the most effective discourager of young people taking up smoking, so I’m not unsympathetic. But you really can’t blame people for making a quick hop over to Indiana to pick up cheap smokes, either.
The baby polar bear picture of the day is giving me a new time-waster (because surely I need another one of those): internet translation. When the daily picture showed little Flocke gnawing on her keeper’s back, it read:
Milch, Hundefutter, Kalbsknochen – alles lecker, aber nichts geht über einen saftigen Pflegerrücken.
Which, translated, means:
Milk, dog fodder, calf bone – all lecker, but nothing goes over a juicy male nurse back.
Crude, but enough to get the gist. “Hundefutter” = dog food. German is funny.
That is all for me today, friends. Enjoy the start of Green Beer Weekend.