Gettysburg is 150

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On no levels is Gettysburg, which is commemorating its 150th anniversary, just a battlefield. The site in south-central Pennsylvania, run by the national park service, carries a big wallop even for those who find the History Channel a bore. A few years ago I went to find out how re-enactors decide who “dies” first during mock battles. To be honest, learned next to … Read on

Abe & me: When empty fields mean powerful travel

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Do we really need to visit a place just because something big, tragic, important happened there long ago? If we’re really being honest, I bet we often don’t know what to make of an in-person appearance at many historical sites. Just give it a nod, a stare, a photo, and a silent departure. Noisy traffic or faceless office building overlooking a stone marker … Read on

76: Niagara Falls! Saved by… Forts!!

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John Steinbeck visited Niagara Falls in 1960, while on his Travels with Charley roadtrip, and summed it up simply with ‘Niagara Falls is very nice.’ And it is. But when you go, as 12 million do each year, and see the cynical embrace of 1980s-era commercialism and $15 Imax screenings of the falls a stone’s throw from the real thing, it’s hard not … Read on

58 Things You Should Know about the War of 1812

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Douglas Coupland’s 1812 sculpture, Toronto ‘War of 1812’ would make a great name for a bulldog. They’re irrational creatures – with misshapen jaws and butts that make them look mean, and squashed tails that easily get infected by passing fecal matter. But down deep they’re really softies with an unfortunate tendency for leg-humping, slobber and youthful deaths. The real War of 1812, incidentally, … Read on

Photos from a Philadelphia prison

I go to a lot of museums. The biggies are great, but I tend to prefer the pleasures from bite-sized portions of more out-of-the-way, unexpected ones like Bucharest’s National Museum of the Romanian Peasant (hand-written signs about how to love your grandma), Oklahoma’s Woolaroc (largely for nostalgic purposes) and Hanoi’s bizarre Ho Chi Minh Museum, with Soviet-inspired exhibits of winner detergent boxes. I’m … Read on

Journal: Omaha Man, 2001

I’m in the long process of digitizing a couple dozen journals put together on Lonely Planet, and other, research trips over the past decade or so. I really liked this guy, met in Omaha on my first LP assignment: updating the Great Plains chapter of the USA guidebook in the spring of 2001: William Reeves volunteers at Omaha’s Great Plains Black History Museum. … Read on