Category Archives: americana

Hiway America -Ghostly “White Vortex” Captured During Texas Hotel Investigation

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Ghostly “White Vortex” Captured During Texas Hotel Investigation

Posted by  on August 14, 2017 // Ghosts & Phantoms // 0 Comments

Paranormal investigators allegedly encountered supernatural mist at the Magnolia Hotel in Seguin, Texas earlier this month.

The video shows a “black mist” roll into the hotel’s Campbell Room at around 1:48 AM on August 5, 2017. The footage has been circulating online since it was posted last week by the YouTube channel Strange Town, based in Austin, Texas.

Haunted Magnolia Hotel

The black mist enters twice, first dissipating, then transforming into what the video describes as a “white vortex” much closer to the camera. It kind of swirls around, and you can even make out what some would possibly call a ghost orb or two.

“A spinning white vortex forms in the middle of the smoke-room while being preceded by a black mist entering the smoke-room…Boot steps are often heard on the wooden floor, and the smell of cigar smoke will appear in the air.” – Strange Town

Many aren’t convinced the video shows anything paranormal. Some commented on the possibility that the “white vortex” could just be smoke (from vaping or otherwise) from someone behind the camera.

However, the owners have stated that they were present at the time and smoking of any kind was not allowed. Others questioned if it could be AC condensation, but again, one of the building’s owners, Erin Wallace, commented that “the hotel does not have central ac only a small window unit.”

The Magnolia Hotel is, naturally, known for paranormal activity, hence the presence of investigators there in the first place. The hotel’s official website contains newspaper clippings regarding the death of Emma Voelcker, who was brutally murdered there in 1874 when she was only about 13 years old. She’s not the only one said to now roam the hotel from beyond the grave.

HIWAY AMERICA-These coders used 13,000 old photos to make a Google Street View map of San Francisco in the 1800s

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These coders used 13,000 old photos to make a Google Street View map of San Francisco in the 1800s

Above: OldSF.

Image Credit: Screenshot

If you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like to travel back in time and walk the streets of San Francisco, this might be the closest you’ll get.

Two developers, Dan Vanderkam and Raven Keller, had the brilliant idea to take all the old photographs from the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collectionand put them on an interactive map. This map functions similarly to Google Street View, except when you zoom in on a particular place, it gives you photos from as far back as 1850.

The project, called OldSF, lets you manipulate a slider to change the range of years (it goes from 1850 all the way up to 2000). Vanderkam and Keller have geocoded about 13,000 images.

Visit the site here, or look below for some of the best photos we saw from the 1800s, marked with their locations in the city. (All photos via San Francisco History Center/San Francisco Public Library.)


Point Lobos Avenue and 43rd, Dick’s Saloon, 1890

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Central Park, 8th and Mission, circa 1887

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Group of people overlooking the Cliff House from Sutro Heights, 1890

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Bush Street, west of Kearny, 1877

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Palm Avenue in Jefferson Square, 1881

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View from City Hall, looking south down 8th at Central Park, 1896

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Woodward’s Gardens, 1864

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California Street, looking east from Montgomery, 1865

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Exterior of the What Cheer House on the south side of Sacramento, below Montgomery, 1865

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Building on northeast corner of Front and California, 1890

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Baldwin Hotel bar, 1880

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Steuart Street, 1864

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J. C. Flood Mansion, California Street, 1886

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St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, southeast corner of Sacramento Street and Van Ness, 1895

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Sacramento and Van Ness, 1887

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Woodward’s Gardens, 1874

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Miss Lake’s School for Young Ladies, corner Sutter and Octavia, 1890

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Howard Street, looking east from 6th, 1866

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1919 California Street, 1887

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Southern Pacific passenger depot, 1879

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Cablecar at South Park, 1865

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Fire Engine No. 13 at 1458 Valencia, 1884

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Shotwell Street near 20th, Snowfall, 1887

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The Willows, 18th & Valencia, 1864

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Musicians performing outside the “Haunted Swing” at the Midwinter Fair in Golden Gate Park, 1894

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This story originally appeared on Www.businessinsider.com. Copyright 2016

In Defense of Hippies

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(crossposted from the front page of My Left Wing)First of all, the stereotype for hippies is about as reliable as the stereotype for any other people, that is to say not at all.  Hippy culture was never monolithic.  It encompassed well over half of every kind of kid there was in the late 60s and early 70s, and spanned every socio-economic strata of American society.  If you weren’t a hippy in those days, what you know and think about hippies is probably wrong.  It’s not your fault.  The media has distorted the reality as a part of the conservative culture wars.  They are, and have always been, threatened by hippies who never had any trouble seeing straight through them and who consistently called them on their bullshit.  Progressivism (or enlightened thinking), started well before the age of the hippies, but for that one seminal decade, hippies were its natural home (though not exclusively of course).

 What do you think when you hear the term hippy?  Most likely you think of spaced out goofballs without anything more than a tenuous connection to reality, mildly dangerous dope fiends who blather endlessly about inane bullshit, or hippy-dippy airheads without an intelligent thought or coherent idea worth noting.  That kind of outrageous distortion is what a conservative and unprincipled media is capable of doing.  Were there people who approached the stereotype somewhat?  Sure – somewhat, although practically no one is that goofy or detached from reality.  Was that a majority?  No, not even nearly so in my experience.  It was at most a distinct minority, and again none of them were as goofy as the conservative propaganda has many believing.  It’s all a rightwing `big lie’, just like the one about liberals being idiots, or pacifists being pushovers.  No truth to it, just a big ugly lie told over and over to `catapult the propaganda’.

I have often encountered strongly biased attitudes toward hippies.  Most of the time there’s not much point in saying anything.  Too often people don’t want to be educated about hippies.  Hippies are beneath them, an object of scorn or derision.  I understand that it’s usually just rightwing propaganda having its way.  You can’t avoid it and if you’re insufficiently discerning, if you don’t have your bullshit detectors on, why almost anyone could end up believing it.  The other day I came across this comment in a thread about the lack of activism on the part of today’s young people, which BTW thereisnospoon did a fine job of debunking in his thread Where are the Youth? I’ll tell you where they are!

We’ve grown up being too afraid to rock the boat. Many of us grew up learning that although Vietnam was a mistake and a bad war, the protestors were even worse. “Dirty hippies who spit on soldiers” is the last thing we want to be compared with.~ anonymous young kossack

The rightwing noise machine has our kids right where they want them.  Afraid to rock the boat and of becoming no better than `dirty hippies’ (who spit on soldiers).  There were some goofy hippies and there were some dirty hippies (though most weren’t), but I never saw ANYONE spit on a soldier.  Most soldiers related well to us and vice versa – especially the one’s who had been to Nam.  They always came off the boats shooting peace signs at us, and us to them.  They hated the war and we did too.  We were natural allies.  There was no spitting.Seeing the horror and fucked-upedness of Vietnam showed people that the hippies were right all along – and that our government was strictly bad news, full of fucking liars and chickenhawks who were willing to let them die for nothing.  Well, the more things change the more they stay the same.  And the one thing I can tell you all is that it is high time to rock the fucking boat!

Also, let me point out that `dirty’ people (as bad as that sounds) are merely people with dirt.  Being clean doesn’t make you a better person – only cleaner.  I’d much rather associate with Jim S., the dirty homeless man my son and I had lunch with recently (Nam vet, former heroin addict, borderline alcoholic with a strong core of human decency that shone right through all the dirt and pathos) than to get anywhere near the spit-shined K Street crowd or the gleaming, buttoned-down, slicked-up, squeaky clean neocons out to destroy humanity.  Quaint homilies aside, cleanliness does NOT equate to human decency – or Godliness.

Another big slam on the hippies is about all the drugs they used.  First, let’s face the fact that on this issue, as with so many others, our overly conservative culture is shockingly hypocritical.  The fact is that people have always used drugs and always will.  It’s just a question of whose drugs are in and whose drugs are out at any given time.  You can’t smoke pot, but drinking yourself to death is just fine.  Alcohol, one of the very worst drugs, destroys millions of lives each year–and it’s perfectly legal.  Fancy that.  The next worst drugs after alcohol are crystal meth, heroin, pcp, and pharmaceuticals in general.  These substances are very destructive.  They attack the person who uses them.  My father is embroiled in a class-action lawsuit because the Vioxx he took for three years gave him a near fatal stroke.   Some pharmaceuticals are milder than others–but it’s all bad medicine.  The good medicines are organic: plants, fungi, cacti, which are often illegal.  Plants like cannabis, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and peyote are strongly outlawed in most countries these days, yet traditional peoples often viewed these substances as medicine as well as allies, friends and guides to assist them on their spiritual journeys.  Pharmaceutical companies hate medicines that people can grow themselves or find in the forest.  It cuts into their obscene profits from the poisons they push.  In 1971 Richard Milhouse Nixon declared the `War on Drugs’.  Tricky Dick had a pathological hatred of `drugs’, and yet swilled scotch like a drunken monkey.  His so-called `War on Drugs’ has caused irreparable harm to our society, torn families apart, ruined millions of individual lives, and overwhelmed our courts and prisons.  We should have listened to the hippies.  Drugs should be legal, rehab should be free, and education and harm reduction should be our focus.

There was a time when the pull to become a hippy was damn near universal for my generation.  When this simple song came out, it spoke directly to us all.

If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re gonna meet some gentle people thereFor those who come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there
In the streets of San Francisco
Gentle people with flowers in their hair

All across the nation such a strange vibration
People in motion
There’s a whole generation with a new explanation
People in motion people in motion

For those who come to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there

If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there

~ written by ‘Poppa’ John Phillips, recorded by Scott McKenzie

There really was a strange vibration all across the nation.  We all felt it – me and all of my friends, and millions upon millions of others.  You didn’t really have to decide to become a hippy, you either felt the vibe or you didn’t.

Most of the hippies I knew were extremely bright, full of intellectual curiosity and life – and were just a lot of fun to be around.  Think of college kids today, now imagine them as much more liberal (and progressive), much more keen to engage the larger world in a profound way, and inhabiting a time of great cultural and spiritual upheaval. Throw in some recreational drugs, a massive dose of primal rock-n-roll, an `establishment’ that stunk to high heaven and of which we wanted no part, the paranoia of a bloody shooting war in Vietnam and an active draft, and you begin to get a picture of what hippies were really like.  In school they were more often the smart kids than the dumb ones.  They tended to be intellectuals, or in some cases just different – although there was also room for the underachievers as we were pretty much equal opportunity employers (so to speak).

Hippies attracted kids who were offbeat or not readily accepted in other cliques, kids who looked a little strange or thought a little differently.  Why?  Because hippies were tolerant and accepting people who would try to love you even if the reasons why they should were not abundantly apparent.  Love, peace, and kindness were our highest ethics.  Almost anyone could find a home with the hippies as long as they were non-violent.  That’s what made the hippy sections of large cities so damned interesting – the sheer variety of colorful characters who felt at home there.  Hippies were welcoming and generous people.  They cared about humanity for humanity’s sake.  You didn’t have to be an important person, a successful person, wealthy, accomplished, learned, or whatever.  You could be any of those things or none of those things.  It was enough to be a person.  The idea was to be a good and decent person, an authentic person, a person unlike those who thought it was okay to drop bombs on people.

Plastic people, ooh baby now, you’re such a drag!  ~ Frank Zappa

`Plastic people’ was what we called those who were so superficial and lame that they never questioned anything they were told by the `authorities’ – the same sort of folks sometimes referred to as sheeple these days.  Hippies were different – we questioned everything.  We believed that everyone should think for themselves.  Contrary to popular belief, virtually all of the best and brightest of our generation were hippies.  If you were between the ages of 15 and 30 between 1965 and 1975, and you were smart and had a soul, you were most likely a hippy.

It was fun being a hippy.  We were like a large extended family.  We sheltered each other, fed each other, and helped each other.  We raised money to pay for free clinics, food co-ops, and bail funds for busted hippies.  We acted as a real and unusually caring community.  There were crash pads if you needed a place to stay, free food was generally available, and people took care of each other as the need arose.

As a hippy you could go into any large city, find the hippy part of town, and instantly connect to like-minded brethren – though all were strangers.

Let me acknowledge that I am generalizing somewhat because hippies were not all alike by any stretch of the imagination – yet we tended to have certain things in common, certain philosophies.  We opposed war, the one in Vietnam that was ongoing at the time, and all others as well.  We believed it was possible for civilized people to work things out without resorting to violence.  We believed in tolerance, acceptance, and compassion.  We advocated peace, love, and understanding.


What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding?

~ Nick Lowe

The hippies I knew and respected most were among the most serious people I would ever meet.  They were radically curious and unwilling to accept false or facile answers to tough questions.  We were very serious young people who took our responsibility to understand the world accurately and to act upon it in a profoundly positive way very seriously indeed – much more seriously than a majority of our non-hippy peers I dare say.

But mostly we were brothers and sisters embracing an ethic of gentleness and kindness, and who felt a deeply human and humane connection to one another.  My closest friends, hippies all (or freaks as we came to call ourselves), as I look back on them in all their joyful idealism, were among the noblest creatures to ever grace this planet.

1967 is the year the hippy movement took root in the USA, though it had been building for years.  I turned 15 that year and was already dialed in.  I knew all about Timothy Leary (turn on, tune in, drop out), had read all about pot and couldn’t wait to start smokin’ it.  I worshipped the Beatles and the Stones and all the other rock gods.I was a hippy waiting to happen, and when the wave came I caught it.  I smoked, dropped acid, and took mescaline.  I left home, dropped out of school, and hit the road hitchhiking across the country to get a realeducation.

Everywhere I went I had an instant connection to other hippies.  We all instantly recognized each other (most of us were sort of hard to miss 😀 ).  Flashing a peace sign was like showing ID.  It said `Hey!  I’m one of the cool ones!’  Most hippies were generous and kind to a fault.  Most anybody you met would offer you a place to stay for a day or two, and treat you like an honored guest whilst you were amongst them.

Hippies would always pick me up hitchhiking, and usually get me stoned, feed me, whatever.  There was a powerful sense of brotherhood between hippies.  It was a trip…like having family you never met in every city.  There was a ton of goodwill between us.  We all believed in peace and love after all.

The height of my hippy career was Woodstock in August of 69…three days of peace and music…I can still feel the love.  🙂  I haven’t felt a sense of brotherhood like that since those days went by the wayside.

Though I don’t much look like it these days, I will always think of myself as a hippie.  It was the best damn thing I ever was.

~ Easy Livin’, coolest hippie I ever knew

Hippies had a major impact on the broader culture.  For all of those who hated us, others were inspired by us – people such as artists, musicians, and intellectuals.  Popular art was strongly affected by the counter culture.

We also influenced the fine art of the day – or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that we shared influences.

Our numerous wonderful and colorful influences on American culture were appreciated by many, but not all.  Conservatives, whom the culture was trying desperately to break away from, hated us.  We saw them for what they were and we called a spade a spade.  We called them pigs because that’s what they were (and still are).  They didn’t much like that – or us for that matter.  They hated the truth about themselves or about anything else – and they hated us for telling it.  Because of their grip on the propaganda machine, their voices dominated and we faced horrible discrimination as a result.  Ironically, this only served to strengthen our bonds with black Americans, Native Americans, gay Americans and all others who experienced the same sort of treatment.  We embraced Truth, Love, and Peace.  Nothing is more threatening to those who live on Lies, Hatred, and War.  We preached against materialism while their whole world ran on it.  Greed and materialism was what they were all about and we told them so.  We filled them with fear and loathing, and they were merciless towards us.

The legacy of the hippies:

– There’s nothing funny about Peace, Love, and Understanding.
– Peace is better than War, Love is better than Hate, and Understanding is better than Ignorance.
– An opened mind is a useful approach to life.
– People deserve to be loved, accepted, and cared for.
– Drug warriors and laws against drugs do infinitely more harm than drugs themselves.
– People should be totally free as long as they aren’t hurting or causing harm to anyone.
– We should all have more respect, empathy, and concern for one another.
– War and violence suck and have no place in civilized society!
– Our government lies like a fucking rug and must be restrained by the people.
– The excesses of capitalism must likewise be restrained by the people.
– It is easier to mock, scorn, or trivialize than it is to understand, but understanding is worth the effort.

Volkswagen Re-Releasing Classic Hippy Van As New Electric Version

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Volkswagen Re-Releasing Classic Hippy Van As New Electric Version

POSTED ONAPRIL 16, 2016LIFE 384001
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Are you looking for a way to get back to the good old days in one way or another?  This classic hippy van is a way to do it without compromising your values over the things that are important to you.  Most people understand that gas guzzlers are a thing of the past, but not everyone is ready to flow into the confined market of electric cars because there is not enough personalization to enjoy it.  Now, Volkswagen is introducing a brand new model of its beloved hippy van and enjoy all of the benefits that come from enjoying a modern vehicle.

The exciting part of this van is that it maintains the authenticity of the hippy van that we all love and cherish while making sure that is has all of our modern needs in terms of fuel/power as well as things like AC and a powerful engine that will take you all over the world with no carbon footprint to speak of.  This is sure to get heart pumping, I can imagine.  It’s a modern piece of history come back to us at last, and we couldn’t be more excited.

#hippie-van#volkswagen#electric#beatnikhiway.com#ana_christy

The big top comes down: Ringling Bros. circus is closing after 146 years. Hiway America.

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Ringling Brothers

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 Charles and John Ringling, along with their brothers Albert and Otto, founded the Ringling Bros. Circus in 1884, in Baraboo, Wisconsin. By the 1930s, the Ringling brothers were among the most famous American entrepreneurs, and were known throughout the world. By that time, they had bought out their biggest competitor, the Barnum & Bailey Circus, and were operating as the largest circus in the United States.

The big top comes down: Ringling Bros. circus is closing

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 Circus Ringling Bros.Barnum & Bailey Kings of the Circus

Ringling bros and barnum bailey circus Atlanta 2016 final

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train and Union Pacific 3985
History was made today when the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train and Union Pacific Railroad’s “Challenger,” No. 3985, joined together, literally, between Speer, Wyo., and Denver, Colo., to celebrate U.S. railroad heritage. Challenger pulled the mile-long circus train, packed full of international performers, exotic animals, and all the equipment needed to present the all-new Ringling Bros. Circus, Barnum’s FUNundrum!SM, which makes a two-week stop in Denver. Union Pacific’s No. 3985 continues on a six-state tour from Cheyenne, Wyo., to Gorham, Ill.
“We are proud that No. 3985 pulled the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus train into Denver. A record was set when Challenger pulled a 65-car train that is more than 6,000 tons and nearly 6,100 feet long, the most for a steam locomotive in the 21st century,” said Dick Hartman, Union Pacific’s director of public affairs for Colorado and Wyoming.
The combined trains arrived shortly after 10:00 am and were met by over 500 excited fans at the intersection of York Street and East 47th Avenue. A welcome celebration followed that featured Ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson and performers from Ringling Bros., officials from Union Pacific, and Denver city auditor, Dennis Gallagher, who presented a proclamation from the Mayor of Denver.
“Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is excited to be part of this railroad heritage celebration; we’ve been riding the rails for the last 140 years, so we are a part of railroad history,” said Johnathan Lee Iverson, Ringmaster for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Barnum’s FUNundrum!SM, is a monumental, once in a lifetime show, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of the legendary P.T. Barnum, and can only be experienced at The Greatest Show On Earth, Barnum’s living legacy! Ringling Bros. will be performing in Denver through October 10, 2010 and then will continue on its two-year tour.
For more information about Ringling Bros., visit http://www.Ringling.com.
For more information about Union Pacific or No. 3985, visit http://www.up.com.
Stock Footage – CIRCUS PEOPLE, 1950

Ringling Bros. Circus Chooses First Female Ringmaster in Its 146-Year History

History of the Circus Sideshow / Freakshow

A visit to Ringling Brothers Circus Museum in Florida

Tamara Lush, Associated Press
Associated PressJanuary 15, 2017

ELLENTON, Fla. (AP) — After 146 years, the curtain is coming down on “The Greatest Show on Earth.” The owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus told The Associated Press that the show will close forever in May.

The iconic American spectacle was felled by a variety of factors, company executives say. Declining attendance combined with high operating costs, along with changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal rights groups all contributed to its demise.

“There isn’t any one thing,” said Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment. “This has been a very difficult decision for me and for the entire family.”

The company broke the news to circus employees Saturday night after shows in Orlando and Miami.

Ringling Bros. has two touring circuses this season and will perform 30 shows between now and May. Major stops include Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and Brooklyn. The final shows will be in Providence, Rhode Island, on May 7 and in Uniondale, New York, at the Nassau County Coliseum on May 21.

The circus, with its exotic animals, flashy costumes and death-defying acrobats, has been a staple of entertainment in the United States since the mid-1800s. Phineas Taylor Barnum made a traveling spectacle of animals and human oddities popular, while the five Ringling brothers performed juggling acts and skits from their home base in Wisconsin. Eventually, they merged and the modern circus was born. The sprawling troupes traveled around America by train, wowing audiences with the sheer scale of entertainment and exotic animals.

By midcentury, the circus was routine, wholesome family entertainment. But as the 20th century went on, kids became less and less enthralled. Movies, television, video games and the internet captured young minds. The circus didn’t have savvy product merchandising tie-ins or Saturday morning cartoons to shore up its image.

“The competitor in many ways is time,” said Feld, adding that transporting the show by rail and other circus quirks — such as providing a traveling school for performers’ children— are throwbacks to another era. “It’s a different model that we can’t see how it works in today’s world to justify and maintain an affordable ticket price. So you’ve got all these things working against it.”

The Feld family bought the Ringling circus in 1967. The show was just under 3 hours then. Today, the show is 2 hours and 7 minutes, with the longest segment — a tiger act — clocking in at 12 minutes.

“Try getting a 3- or 4-year-old today to sit for 12 minutes,” he said.

Feld and his daughter Juliette Feld, who is the company’s chief operating officer, acknowledged another reality that led to the closing, and it was the one thing that initially drew millions to the show: the animals. Ringling has been targeted by activists who say forcing animals to perform is cruel and unnecessary.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a longtime opponent of the circus, wasted no time in claiming victory.

“After 36 years of PETA protests, which have awoken the world to the plight of animals in captivity, PETA heralds the end of what has been the saddest show on earth for wild animals, and asks all other animal circuses to follow suit, as this is a sign of changing times,” Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote in a statement.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, acknowledged the move was “bittersweet” for the Felds but said: “I applaud their decision to move away from an institution grounded on inherently inhumane wild animal acts.”

In May of 2016, after a long and costly legal battle, the company removed the elephants from the shows and sent the animals to live on a conservation farm in Central Florida. The animals had been the symbol of the circus since Barnum brought an Asian elephant named Jumbo to America in 1882. In 2014, Feld Entertainment won $25.2 million in settlements from groups including the Humane Society of the United States, ending a 14-year fight over allegations that circus employees mistreated elephants.

By the time the elephants were removed, public opinion had shifted somewhat. Los Angeles prohibited the use of bull-hooks by elephant trainers and handlers, as did Oakland, California. The city of Asheville, North Carolina nixed wild or exotic animals from performing in the municipally owned, 7,600-seat U.S. Cellular Center.

Attendance has been dropping for 10 years, said Juliette Feld, but when the elephants left, there was a “dramatic drop” in ticket sales. Paradoxically, while many said they didn’t want big animals to perform in circuses, many others refused to attend a circus without them.

“We know now that one of the major reasons people came to Ringling Bros. was getting to see elephants,” she said. “We stand by that decision. We know it was the right decision. This was what audiences wanted to see and it definitely played a major role.”

The Felds say their existing animals — lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos and llamas — will go to suitable homes. Juliette Feld says the company will continue operating the Center for Elephant Conservation.

Some 500 people perform and work on both touring shows. A handful will be placed in positions with the company’s other, profitable shows — it owns Monster Jam, Disney on Ice and Marvel Live, among other things — but most will be out of a job. Juliette Feld said the company will help employees with job placement and resumes. In some cases where a circus employee lives on the tour rail car (the circus travels by train), the company will also help with housing relocation.

Kenneth Feld became visibly emotional while discussing the decision with a reporter. He said over the next four months, fans will be able to say goodbye at the remaining shows.

In recent years, Ringling Bros. tried to remain relevant, hiring its first African American ringmaster, then its first female ringmaster, and also launching an interactive app. It added elements from its other, popular shows, such as motorbike daredevils and ice skaters. But it seemingly was no match for Pokemon Go and a generation of kids who desire familiar brands and YouTube celebrities.

“We tried all these different things to see what would work, and supported it with a lot of funding as well, and we weren’t successful in finding the solution,” said Kenneth Feld.

#barnum_bailey_circus#circus#ringling_brothers#the-big-top#the-greatest-show-on-earth#wisconsin#beatnikhiway.com#ana_christy#anachristy#entertainment

THE COUNTERCULTURE

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The Counterculture

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photo Janis Joplin and Big Brother and The Holding Company, Lagunitas, California, 1967. Joplin’s gritty, full-throttle blues-rock style offered a new, liberating image for women in the world of rock music.

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Unconventional appearance, music, drugs, communitarian experiments, and sexual liberation were hallmarks of the sixties counterculture, most of whose members were white, middle-class young Americans. To some Americans, these attributes reflected American ideals of free speech, equality, and pursuit of happiness. Other people saw the counterculture as self-indulgent, pointlessly rebellious, unpatriotic, and destructive of America’s moral order.

Authorities banned the psychedelic drug LSD, restricted political gatherings, and tried to enforce bans on what they considered obscenity in books, music, theater, and other media. Parents argued with their children and worried about their safety. Some adults accepted elements of the counterculture, while others became estranged from sons and daughters.

In 1967 Lisa and Tom Law moved to San Francisco, joining thousands of young people flocking to the Haight-Ashbury district. The counterculture lifestyle integrated many of the ideals and indulgences of the time: peace, love, harmony, music, mysticism, and religions outside the Judeo-Christian tradition. Meditation, yoga, and psychedelic drugs were embraced as routes to expanding one’s consciousness.

 


 

 

photo The “Freak-Out” show, Los Angeles, 1965. Rock music, colorful light shows, performance artists, and mind-altering drugs characterized the psychedelic dance parties of the sixties held in large halls in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

 

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A concert in the Panhandle, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, 1967

 

photo The Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco, 1967. Students, hippies, musicians, and artists gravitated toward the community’s inexpensive housing and festive atmosphere.

 

 

photo Hell’s Angels motorcycle club members, the Panhandle in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, 1967. While some people admired the Hell’s Angels’ audacious style, its members had an uneven and sometimes violent relationship with people in the counterculture.

 

photo Musician in the Panhandle, San Francisco, 1967

 

photo “Summer of Love,” the Panhandle, San Francisco, 1967

 

photo San Francisco, 1967

 

photo Easter Sunday Love-In, Malibu Canyon, California, 1968. This was a celebration of the counterculture movement.

 

photo Suzuki-Roshi, a Buddhist teacher, at the Human Be-In, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, January 14, 1967. Also known as “A Gathering of the Tribes,” the Human Be-In was an effort to promote positive interactions among different groups in society.

 

photo Poet Allen Ginsberg, Human Be-In festival, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, 1967. Ginsberg, known for his poem Howl, lived and symbolized the bohemian ideals of the Beat Generation of the 1950s and embraced the counterculture of the sixties.

 

It [the counterculture] was an attempt to rebel against the values our parents had pushed on us. We were trying to get back to touching and relating and living.

-Lisa Law, 1985

 

photo Monterey International Pop Festival, Monterey, California, 1967. Monterey Pop was one of the first large outdoor rock festivals in the 1960s. Lisa and Tom Law sheltered people who were having difficult psychedelic drug experiences in their “Trip Tent.”

 

photo Timothy Leary, the Harvard-trained psychologist who coined the phrase “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out,” at the Human Be-In, San Francisco, 1967

 

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#counterculture#sexual liberation#rebellion#values#Haight-Ashbury#Timothy Leary#Monterey International Pop Festival#Allen Ginsberg#Suzuki-Roshi#love_in#summer_0f_love#sanfransisco#Hell’s Angels#The “Freak-Out” show#Janis Joplin and Big Brother and The Holding Company#nixon#sexual liberation#lsd

HIWAY AMERICA- THE CHELSEA HOTEL -AND LEONARD COHEN’S CHELSEA. NYC

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chelsea

Dave Christy, my late husband and I regularly stayed at the Chelsea. We made many happy memories that I always will treasure.

Where The Walls Still Talk
Tales from the legendary hotel-slash-commune that housed Jackson Pollock, Dylan Thomas, Arthur Miller, Bob Dylan, Robert Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith, and Sid Vicious—told by residents like Rufus Wainwright, Betsy Johnson, R. Crumb, and Andy Warhol.
BY NATHANIEL RICHOCTOBER 8, 2013 12:00 AM

Anita! Soon this Chelsea Hotel

Will vanish before the city’s merchant greed,

Wreckers will wreck it, and in its stead

More lofty walls will swell

This old street’s populace. Then who will know

About its ancient grandeur, marble stairs,

Its paintings, onyx-mantels, courts, the heirs

Of a time now long ago? . . .

—“The Hotel Chelsea” (1936), Edgar Lee Masters

Today the halls of the Chelsea Hotel are salted with dust. The hundreds of paintings that adorned its walls have been locked away in storage. The doors to abandoned apartments are whitewashed and padlocked. Hotel operations ceased in 2011 for the first time in 106 years, and now the few remaining residents roam the echoing corridors like ghosts. They have watched workers haul out antique moldings, stained glass, even entire walls. Ancient pipes ruptured during renovations, flooding apartments, and neighbors returned home from work to find their front doors sealed in plastic wrap. The Chelsea’s new owners say that the building had fallen into dangerous disrepair, and they are restoring it to its original condition. Some residents believe that they are being forced out, and that the Chelsea as they know it—and as it was known to residents from Sherwood Anderson and Thomas Wolfe to Sid Vicious and Jasper Johns—will soon vanish before the city’s merchant greed.

Dystopias always begin as utopias, and the Chelsea is no different. Though in its current state it bears an unfortunate resemblance to Los Angeles’s Bradbury Building as transfigured in Blade Runner, the Chelsea was originally conceived as a socialist utopian commune. Its architect, Philip Hubert, was raised in a family devoted to the theories of the French philosopher Charles Fourier, who proposed the construction of self-contained settlements that would meet every possible professional and personal need of its inhabitants. After the stock-market crash of 1873, Hubert decided New York was ready for its own Fourierian experiment and devised a plan to build cooperative apartment houses in New York City. Tenants would save money by sharing fuel and services. Hubert’s creations—New York City’s first co-ops—were tremendously successful, and none more so than the Chelsea, which opened in 1884. Keeping with Fourier’s philosophy, Hubert reserved apartments for the people who built the building: its electricians, construction workers, interior designers, and plumbers. Hubert surrounded these laborers with writers, musicians, and actors. The top floor was given over to 15 artist studios. Hudson River School paintings hung in the common dining rooms, and the hallways and ceilings were decorated with natural motifs. At 12 stories, the Chelsea was the tallest building in New York. (For a full history of the Chelsea Hotel and its origins, see Sherill Tippins’ forthcoming Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel.)

But Hubert’s grand experiment went bankrupt in 1905, and the Chelsea was converted to a luxury hotel, which was visited regularly by guests such as Mark Twain, William Dean Howells, and the painter John Sloan. After World War II, as the hotel declined and room prices fell, it attracted Jackson Pollock, James T. Farrell, Virgil Thomson, Larry Rivers, Kenneth Tynan, James Schuyler, and Dylan Thomas, whose death in 1953 further enhanced the hotel’s legend. (“I’ve had 18 straight whiskies,” said Thomas, after polishing off a bottle of Old Grandad on the last day of his life. “I think that’s the record.”) Arthur Miller moved into #614 after his divorce from Marilyn Monroe. Bob Dylan wrote “Sara” in #211; Janis Joplin fellated Leonard Cohen in #424, an act immortalized in “Chelsea Hotel #2” (“you were talking so brave and so sweet/giving me head on the unmade bed”); Sid Vicious stabbed Nancy Spungen to death in #100. Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Chelsea, William Burroughs wrote The Third Mind, and Jack Kerouac had a one-night stand with Gore Vidal. In 1966 Andy Warhol shot parts of Chelsea Girls at the hotel. In 1992, Madonna, a former resident, returned to shoot photographs for her Sex book. Christo and Jeanne-Claude once stole the doorknob from their bathroom door for an art project; the doorknob is now in the permanent collection of the Hirshhorn Museum.
In its last half-century, the Chelsea was run as an informal artists’ colony. Artists traded paintings for rent, or lived for free, subsidized by the exorbitant rates paid by the troubled children of the hyper-rich—another demographic that has historically been drawn to the hotel. Tourists from all over the world paid for cheerless rooms and the opportunity to sit in the moldering lobby and gawk. The curator of this living museum, the gatekeeper responsible for deciding who should be allowed admittance and for how much, was Stanley Bard. His father, David, had been one of three partners who bought the declining hotel in 1943; Stanley assumed management in the early 1970s. An institution himself, he’s been called everything from “the best loved landlord in history” to “the biggest starfucker of all time.” But six years ago, he was forced out by the heirs of the other two ownership families, who wanted to sell the hotel against his wishes, and two years ago the Chelsea sold to the real-estate magnate Joseph Chetrit for approximately $80 million. Chetrit, who refused to talk to the press, has recently sold the property to King & Grove, a boutique-hotel chain, which is currently overseeing a $40 million renovation.

So far, the promised “re-invention” of the Chelsea has not gone well. Some of the building’s remaining tenants, alleging that Chetrit had tried to bully them into vacating their apartments, filed a lawsuit alleging hazardous living conditions and intimidation. The tenants’ efforts drew the support of former residents, architectural historians, and local politicians. That suit settled two weeks ago, but the building still resembles a construction site, and tenants who did not receive a settlement complain that little has changed. I set out to chronicle its history in the words of those who have lived, worked, caroused, and died there. This is the story of the Chelsea Hotel as told by its past and future ghosts.

NICOLA L.(Artist, current resident): The first time I came to the Chelsea, I was invited to New York to perform at La MaMa in 1968. I remember the first floor was only prostitutes and pimps. One pimp had pink shoes. For me it was unbelievable. It made Paris look like the provinces by comparison. But prostitutes and pimps were a part of the package of the Chelsea. And artists—I will not say that they are prostitutes, but they are selling themselves.
Former longtime manager Stanley Bard, in the lobby of the Chelsea. He was known for his lax leasing system, which allowed struggling artists to live and work in the hotel for decades., By Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images.
SCOTT GRIFFIN(Theater producer and developer, former resident): You had a constantly changing cast of residents, some of whom had been there for a hundred years, some who were only there for a month. There was an incredible cross-pollination of people of all ages, social classes, and levels of accomplishment. And it was all curated by Stanley Bard. It was a vibrant, dynamic place to be, particularly as a young person. You could go to one floor and talk about the theater with Stefan Brecht and go to another floor and talk to Arnold Weinstein about poetry and then have dinner downstairs with Arthur Miller. There aren’t many buildings in New York like that.
GERALD BUSBY (Composer, current resident): Stanley Bard had a sense of who was really an artist. He also had a sense for rich dilettantes. He himself was a dilettante who wanted to be part of the artistic scene and wanted to be identified with it. So he became the landlord daddy for artists. It was an astonishing role that he created for himself. His relationship with every tenant was personal. That was the way he behaved—he took everything personally.

MILOS FORMAN (Film director): I finished a movie in 1967, and I didn’t have any money. Somebody told me that Stanley Bard would let me stay at the Chelsea until I would be able to pay him back. At the time all I knew about the Chelsea was that some people in the hippie world were staying there. But I didn’t know that it had the slowest elevator in the whole country.

NICOLA L.: Anything could happen in the elevator. It was either Janis Joplin or the big woman from the Mamas and the Papas who tried to kiss me in the elevator. I can’t remember which. It was a crazy time.

MILOS FORMAN: Once I was going up in the elevator to my room on the eighth floor. On the fifth floor the door opened, and a totally naked girl, in a panic, ran into the elevator. I was so taken aback that I just stared at her. Finally I asked what room she was in. But then the elevator stopped and she ran away. I never saw her again.

And I remember in the floor above me there was a man who had in his room a small alligator, two monkeys, and a snake.

GERALD BUSBY: There were rooms kept aside for black-sheep children from rich families, who paid Stanley to babysit. The most auspicious of these was Isabella Stewart Gardner’s grandniece, who had the same name: Isabella Stewart Gardner. She was an excellent poet—a poet laureate of New York in the 70s—and married to Allen Tate. She was also mad as a hatter, a total masochist, alcoholic. She’d get drunk and meet someone and he’d take her up to her apartment and fuck her and beat her up and steal something, and then she was totally happy.

BOB NEUWIRTH(singer, songwriter, producer, artist): That was the period in which the Chelsea Hotel began to take on a tabloid character. It moved from the realm of a bohemian hotel to a kind of hot spot. Rock-and-roll people began to stay there. Andy Warhol and the people who hung out in the back room of Max’s Kansas City were discovering the place.

GERARD MALANGA (Poet and photographer): When Andy and I traveled, it was pretty much first-class, but then we weren’t actually “living” in those hotels. The Chelsea was different. It appeared a bit rough at the edges. Quite seedy. Paint peeling. Throw rugs needing a cleaning. I don’t recall if the maid ever turned up the sheets. But nothing I couldn’t live with.

Chelsea Girls was one of those divine accidents. When we first started filming, we had no title or concept in mind. We were shooting wildly, you might say. Somehow we found ourselves continually going back to the Chelsea to film. It was our instant set. Andy liked the idea of shooting “on location.” So that’s how the title for the movie pretty much evolved. Not all the sequences were shot there, but structurally when we pieced the sequences together, it gave the appearance that they were shot in different rooms.
BETSEY JOHNSON(Designer): I left a husband [John Cale] in 1969 and went to the Chelsea with a toothbrush. I meant to stay for a couple of days, and I stayed eight months.

I had a huge loft, and I was making costumes for the movie Ciao! Manhattan. I would dress up in them and sit in the lobby to see if they got any reaction. I sat there with cone ears, cone tits, cone knees, in a stretch black knit. I looked a little strange, but I can’t remember any laughing or harassment. It was no big deal.

MILOS FORMAN: One night, around two in the morning, a fire alarm went off. It was a few days after a horrible fire in Japan, and we’d seen on television people jumping to their death from a burning building. So I panicked. I ran into the corridor to see what was happening.

There were other doors opening and people asking questions, and suddenly I heard a bang: I had a window open and the draft closed my door. My key was inside, and I was naked in the corridor, which was beginning to fill with people.

Across the corridor there was a lady. I said, “Do you have any pants?” She said, “No, I don’t.”

I tried to call downstairs, but they just yelled back at me: “The building’s on fire, and you want us to bring you a spare key!” So this lady said, “Well, I can lend you a skirt.”

I put on the skirt. By this point I can see down the long spiral stairwell that everybody is going to the rails to see what’s happening. I was on the eighth floor, and we could see, on the fifth floor, that firemen had started to blast an incredibly powerful water cannon through the door of an apartment to extinguish the fire. From above we saw water running down the stairwell through the different floors, like a cascade. It was like a Niagara Falls.

Then we saw the firemen carrying out an old lady. We didn’t know if she was dead or not—to this day I don’t know if she was dead—but they had blasted her apartment with so much water that she might have drowned.

It seems cynical, but when they were pouring the water in, all of us on the floors above were just standing and watching, as on a balcony in a theater. A bottle of wine was passed around, and some joints, and everyone drank, smoke, talked, and watched the waterfall.

But when they brought out the body everything stopped. There was total silence except for the sound of the water running down the stairs. We all waited for the elevator—the slowest elevator in the world—to come up to the fifth floor. Finally it came, and the fireman took away the lady. And then, the moment the elevator door closed, bang: bottles of wine, joints, everybody talking, and the show went on.

JUDITH CHILDS (Current resident): Edie Sedgwick set her mattress on fire. She was staying across the hallway from our apartment. We had a very alert fellow at the desk that night, and he hadn’t liked the way she looked when she came in, so he went to check on her and found the fire. Later, after the firemen came, we were all in the lobby, mostly in our nightclothes. When the firemen said everything was O.K., we all went into the El Quijote [the Spanish restaurant on the hotel’s ground floor] and had a drink—in our nightclothes. Now that was very fine. That was the moment when we got to know a lot of the people in the hotel.

BETSEY JOHNSON: In those days, nobody was famous. Nobody was like whoa, except for Andy and Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger. Everyone else was on the same plane of having an idea, believing in it, and going for it. Needing to talk about it, needing support from other people in the same boat. It was a clique, but it was based on talent and passion rather than who you knew or how much money you had. It felt real homey and droll and addictive. I made handmade clothes for Nico. I was working with the Paraphernalia clothing boutique, and my fitting model was Edie Sedgwick, who also was staying at the Chelsea. That’s when, somehow or other, her room caught on fire. She was wearing my dress!

It was very comfortable because there was no scrutiny; there was no “you’re too weird for us.” Do you remember that Buñuel movie, where the dinner guests can’t leave the party—The Exterminating Angel? That’s what the Chelsea was like.

WILLIAM IVEY LONG (Costume designer): I moved to the Chelsea because I knew that Charles James lived there—the great Charles James, the Anglo-American couturier, designer, friend of Cecil Beaton’s, friend of everybody. He lived there in great squalor and never accepted assistants or interns.

Mr. James had two rooms in the Chelsea Hotel. There was peeling paint, maquettes of dresses hanging from the ceiling. He dyed his hair with shoe polish because it would drip like in Death in Venice. It probably wasn’t shoe polish, but I called it that. He had a dog, Sputnik, who had an infection and wanted to scratch his ear. So he wore one of those big Elizabethan collars.

I would do things like get him food or cook, and he would eat dinner at my apartment. I’d walk the dog. He already had an assistant, so I was just a gofer. I worked with him until he died, in ’78. I’ve known about five world-class geniuses. One of the traits of genii is they dare the world to understand them. Many of them are belligerent and stubborn and unpleasant. This is justified because the aura that they give off is so appealing, so compelling, that you’re drawn to them. It’s a little test because they’re aware of their special gifts. Charles James’s particular test was that he was an asshole to everybody.

BETSEY JOHNSON: Charles James! We used to send notes to each other. He was a private guy—I never saw him. I would invite him to the shows, and he’d write a note about how he loved my work but he wasn’t feeling well so he couldn’t come. It was an old-fashioned thing—you’d leave a note in his hotel mailbox. I wish I’d had the money to have him make me a gown.

RENE RICARD (Painter, poet, critic, current resident): Charles James was a dear friend of mine when I was a little boy—17, 18. He was mad as a hatter. I had no idea how famous he was. We used to go to Max’s together. One night Charles was at a booth with me in the back room and someone sent over a bottle of champagne with a glass. I don’t know who the person was, but Charles started shaking. He turned the glass over on the bottle and told the waiter to take it back. Everybody was trying to help Charles, and you couldn’t help Charles.

He spoke with a beautiful Mayfair accent, very much like Joan Greenwood in The Importance of Being Earnest. Which was rather interesting considering that he came from the Midwest.

GERALD BUSBY: I arrived here in 1977. Virgil Thomson was my mentor, and he called up Stanley Bard—the famous, outrageous, phenomenal creature that he was—and said, “Stanley, this is the kind of person you’re supposed to have here.” So that was that.

The Chelsea then was bizarre and wonderful and strange. It was just coming out of its super drug haze. I remember there was a guy who sold grass. He had a five-foot-high pile of grass in the middle of his living room with roaches running out. It has always been a place where, because of Stanley, you could do virtually anything short of murder, though that took place too. There used to be a murder, a suicide, and a fire every year. You’d go into the elevators, and you’d see a shoe and a sock. Somebody had committed suicide by jumping down the stairwell and, on the way down, lost a shoe.

My boyfriend and I lived across from an apartment that always had young married couples who fought bitterly, screaming and slamming doors. I came out one day and a man from one of the most vociferous couples was leaning against the wall, drinking a can of beer. He looked flushed and weird. He said, Hi. I said, Hello. I approached the elevators, and 20 policemen came rushing up and grabbed him. The man had just shot and killed his wife, you see, and he had been waiting for the police to come.

If you paid your rent and didn’t cause too much trouble with the manager, you could get away with almost anything. Many people became drug addicts here—including me for a period, when my partner died of AIDS—because you can do anything. The atmosphere encouraged outrageous adventures. That was because of Stanley.

JUDITH CHILDS: My husband, Bernard Childs, died here. The ambulance came. On that late afternoon, after I got back from the hospital, all of the neighbors visited, even those who didn’t know us, who weren’t personal friends.

Something else happened that I always will be grateful for. The housekeeper—at that time we still had maid service—came in and took away all of my husband’s underclothing. She changed the sheets and I never saw the underclothes again. That was a beautiful, incredible thing.

GERALD BUSBY: It was a perfect place for me mainly because of Virgil. He lived there like a graduate student. He had a wonderful, six-room apartment, in its original condition from 1884, but it had been part of an 11-room apartment. He got the part that didn’t have a kitchen. So he built a makeshift kitchen in the linen closet.

I met Virgil when I was working as a cook. After I had an experience cooking for him, I said, “Oh, Virgil? I’ve written a few pieces and I wondered if I could show them to you.” He said: “Not until I taste more of your food. I need to see if you can put things together and turn them into something else.”

He’d call when he held fancy dinners at his apartment—when he would entertain Philip Johnson and his sister, for instance. He would say, “Can you run up a crème brûlée?” And I’d run him up a crème brûlée. So our relationship was mainly about food.

GRETCHEN CARLSON (Current resident): My husband, Philip Taaffe, was living in Naples in 1989, and he wanted to move back to New York. A friend was living here, and she told us that Virgil Thomson’s apartment was going to be up for sale. He had just died. The idea was to leave the apartment in its original state. It’s one of the few apartments that wasn’t chopped up into little pieces when the hotel became a flophouse in the Depression. Virgil is present in this place. Like a benign, gentle ghost. He died right here.

WILLIAM IVEY LONG: I had this fabulous apartment in the front: #411. It proved to be very exciting, because it’s also the number that people dial for information. I was always answering people’s questions in some strange way. Sometimes, though, I would actually give them the number they wanted. I would look it up for them.

My next-door neighbor was Neon Leon. He had a white girlfriend and a black girlfriend and, I think, children with each. They would take turns fighting with him and setting fire to the mattress. I would take gaffer’s tape and tape around my door because the smoke would be coming in, but I would be too busy to evacuate. There would be foghorns and people yelling, “Everyone out!”

VIVA (Writer, painter, actor, dilettante): There were a lot of suicides out those windows. One night, a guy from a floor above us landed on a metal table in the courtyard—on his head.

The very next day another guy jumped out the window onto the synagogue next door. It was just after John Lennon was shot. But this man didn’t die—he was bloody but conscious. He was being carried down the hall on a stretcher. I asked him, “Why did you jump out the window?” He said, “Because John Lennon was shot.”

GERALD BUSBY: I was cooking dinner one night for Sam, and I noticed that the flame on the stove was turning a very strange color. The atmosphere was palpably different. You couldn’t quite define it. What was happening was that there was a fire on a lower floor and enormous billows of smoke were coming up the stairwell. When we opened the door, a black cloud of smoke came in. We ran to the windows to breathe. There were people outside shouting at us, “Jump!”

It turned out that a country-Western singer had a fight with his girlfriend. She poured kerosene all over his fancy shirts and set them on fire. He was asphyxiated, and the whole hotel was filled with smoke.

We went out on the fire escape and were rescued by cherry pickers from fire trucks.

ED HAMILTON (Writer, author ofLegends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living with Artists and Outlaws of New York’s Rebel Mecca,current resident): I loved it immediately because it was my ideal of bohemian heaven. People left their doors open; they’d invite you in for a glass of wine. It had a vital energy. At the same time, it was a little bit scary because, in addition to the artists and writers, there were all these crazy characters, schizophrenics and junkies and prostitutes. Mine is an S.R.O. room, so it’s got no kitchen, and the bathroom, which is shared between four rooms, is next door. Junkies would break the lock and go in and shoot up all the time. That was the biggest problem. They’d stay there for hours because they would nod off on the toilet, and they’d leave needles and blood on the floor.

And the prostitutes—it doesn’t sound so bad that there would be prostitutes. But the way it works is that three or four of them rent a room and they take turns with their johns, a john every half an hour, so there’s a steady stream of people that you don’t know. When one of the prostitutes is working, the others have to hang out somewhere, so they usually go to the bathroom. They’ll stay in there for hours. I’ll ask them, “Why are you always in the bathroom?” And they’ll say, “I’m using the toilet. What’s your problem? If you need to use the bathroom, just knock.” But you get sick of knocking on the bathroom all the time to get rid of the prostitutes.

They also have a habit of hanging their underwear in the bathroom. There’s underwear hanging all over the mirror and the sinks and the tub and the shower rod. They have a lot of underwear, prostitutes do. That’s something I’ve noticed.
The lobby before renovations, which caused a huge uproar when the artwork was taken down and put into storage. Now only the girl-on-the-swing sculpture by Eugenie Gershoy remains., By Cindy Marler/Redux. © Hollandse Hoogte.
GERALD BUSBY: There were no leases. Stanley would let you get behind in your rent. If you were really an artist, you could get behind for a month or two or three. But he had this wonderfully bizarre sense of timing: you’d be alone in the elevator and just as the door was closing, he would dash in and you were stuck. Or he would yell after you in the lobby, to embarrass you. Viva used to have these loud, screaming arguments with him in the lobby. Stanley loved that. He liked confrontation. She would say, “You fucking asshole! I don’t know why you think I’m supposed to pay you any more rent!”

NICOLA L.: One day Viva decided that her apartment was too small. The room next door was empty, so she broke through—she made a big hole in the wall. There was a big duel with Stanley about that. She always chose the best moment to fight with him, like noon, when all the tourists were checking out.

ANDY WARHOL (diary entry, October 12, 1978): The police just arrested Sid Vicious for stabbing his 20-year-old manager-girlfriend to death in the Chelsea Hotel, and then I saw on the news that Mr. Bard was saying, “Oh yeah. They drank a lot and they would come in late. . . . ” They just let anybody in over there, that hotel is dangerous, it seems like somebody’s killed there once a week.

RENE RICARD: Sid Vicious was the sweetest, saddest boy. He didn’t know what happened to him. It was so sad. He was so sad.

WILLIAM IVEY LONG: I remember walking past a body. It was not the first body I had seen—when you live in an old S.R.O., which part of the Chelsea was, old people die. But they usually don’t sit in the lobby. A policeman was guarding it. When I asked about it, they said, “That’s that rock-and-roller’s girlfriend.”

Everybody said, “Oh, Sid Vicious killed her, slashed her throat.” But I didn’t see any blood. The body was on a gurney, covered by a sheet. A low gurney, I remember, knee-high. Not one of the ones they use for living people.

RENE RICARD: Stanley denied everything. “Killed his girlfriend in my hotel? Nobody ever killed his girlfriend in my hotel.” “Fire? Edie never had a fire.” He’s totally rewritten the history. I think that’s how he lives with himself.

EDDIE IZZARD (Actor and comedian): The first gig I ever did in America was in Memphis, around 1987. It was a street-performing gig, and a British woman there said, “If you’re ever going to go to New York, stay at the Chelsea Hotel. It’s crazy. You gotta go there.”

So I thought, “O.K., I’ll go there.” I hadn’t heard of it before.

The rooms were bonkers. The rooms were so bonkers. You’d go down a hall, which used to lead to a door, but they closed the door off, so it was just this bit of corridor that was useless. Every room had its own theme, but the themes were usually just whatever they’ve managed to get into that room. I remember staying there when I was performing Dress to Kill at the WestBeth Theater. I was walking around with makeup, dressed in heels, and I think I just blended right in. It was just odd, fucking odd, but I liked it.

LINDA TROELLER (Photographer, current resident): I moved in around 1993. I’d broken up with my French boyfriend, and my collector, who always stayed at the Chelsea Hotel, said, “Why don’t you see Stanley Bard?” I did, and he said that he happened to have something, but only if I moved in by two o’clock the next day.

It was room #832. He told me it was a writer’s room, that it had a big history. He showed me the bedroom and the bathroom, which was beautiful. Then he opened the closet and there was a huge black snake. It was rattling in a cage. Stanley closed the closet door. He said, “Don’t mind that. There were Goths staying here, but we’re getting them out!” He was a great salesman.

RENE RICARD: After September 11th, I was homeless. I was walking down 23rd Street, and just by coincidence I had $3,000 on me. Stanley Bard is standing outside the hotel. He says, “Rene, why don’t you move in?” Every time he saw me he’d ask me to move in. He’d come on with a big smile—you know, the host extraordinaire. But this time I said, “Sure, absolutely. Show me a room.”

He showed me the smallest, worst room they had. I ask how much it was, and it’s as if he could read what was in my pocket: “$1,500 a month,” he said. He says he needed one month’s rent and one month in advance. That’s $3,000. I just emptied my pocket and gave him the money. If you could see the old payment system, what the documentation looks like when you pay your checks—it’s incomprehensible. It’s state-of-the-art somewhere. Perhaps Romania.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT (Musician): I was at the Chelsea for about a year, writing my second album, Poses. I was gathering material and anecdotes and songs and boyfriends. I used to party a lot with Alexander McQueen there, and I fell in with Zaldy Goco, Susanne Bartsch, Walt Paper, Chloë Sevigny—that set. The nightclubbing, Limelight, club-kid culture. Those who had survived the 90s.

I felt that for the album I was writing, there was no better address to have in terms of communicating decadent, sad 20s esprit. I mean, you can’t talk about the Chelsea and not talk about drugs. I don’t do drugs these days, so it’s fine, but it was my last grasp at extreme youth, with all the trimmings: not just the drugs, but the alcohol, the sex, everything. I was approaching my Saturn return and things were starting to get a little darker and a little more sinister. There’s nothing like those high ceilings at the Chelsea Hotel to accentuate that—the phantoms up near the trellises. I couldn’t have asked for a better place.

ARTIE NASH (Author, activist, gadfly, current resident): Rene Ricard was the first person I met after I moved in. I woke up to someone singing opera in the shared bathroom. It might as well have been right outside my door. It was four a.m. He told me that a 15-year-old hooker had lived in my apartment before me, which was both sad and fun at the same time. He loved my room, he said. He assured me that only the best people had committed suicide there.

GRETCHEN CARLSON: That’s what they called the little rooms: suicide rooms. This was a place that drew people who’d hit bottom. For some reason, they had it in their mind that they should come here.

ED HAMILTON: Dee Dee Ramone was about the craziest person I’ve met at the Chelsea. He was staying next door from me, and I didn’t know it was him. There were construction workers upstairs, and he started banging on my wall, “Shut up, shut up!” Then he came to my door, dressed in just his jockey shorts and covered in tattoos. He said, “Shut up with that racket!” I said, “It’s not me, Dee Dee. It’s those guys upstairs.” He ran back into his room and threw open his window and started yelling at them, “You shut up, up there! Motherfuckers! I’ll come up there and kill you!”

Of course they deliberately made more noise, and that just drove him nuts.
Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his manager-girlfriend Nancy Spungen in 1978, the year he stabbed her to death in one of the hotel’s most famous murders (there were a few . . .)., By Chalkie Davies/Getty Images.
R. CRUMB (Artist): A bunch of really crazy people hung around the Chelsea. You could tell that people were going there just because of its reputation—poseurs with artistic pretentions or European eccentrics with money. There’d be poseurs sitting around the lobby. The lobby was really annoying.

I only started staying there about 10 years ago. It was always when somebody else paid for it. I never could afford to stay there—even 10 years ago, it was too expensive. Except for the old residents who clung desperately to their rooms and by some law were not allowed to be kicked out, the guests there were all arty-farty pretentious people with money who wanted to stay there because Sid and Nancy lived there. That was my impression, anyway. The whole thing seemed extremely self-conscious to me.

LOLA SCHNABEL (Artist, former resident): My father had always rented a room in the Chelsea. Guests would stay there, and collectors. He always dreamed of living in the Chelsea, but he was in a different part of his life, he had a family, so it just sat there. When I was 22, I got a scholarship to Cooper Union. My father figured I was on a good track and could come up with the rent, so I moved into the Chelsea. I would do my homework at the bar of El Quijote. I would always order a croquette, until one day, when I found a human tooth in my croquette. Then I stopped eating food there. But I still sat at the bar—it’s a great place to do homework.

ED HAMILTON: As the 90s moved into the aughts, Stanley started renovating the place. It needed it. It was run-down. They had fluorescent lights in the hallway, checkerboard linoleum.

He replaced the lighting and the linoleum. There was a lot of pressure on him from the board to make more money. Some of the marginal characters got edged out, especially the junkies and the prostitutes who didn’t pay their rent. The people in the tiny rooms got squeezed out, and the rooms were combined for people who could pay more. It was the same story all over New York.

JUDITH CHILDS: Some people say it was all over long before Stanley Bard left in 2007, but it wasn’t.

When the Chetrits came in and fired everyone who worked here, the whole staff, we went through a mourning period. They were part of our family. The day that happened, everybody was hugging and crying in the lobby. It was shocking. Then they closed the hotel. And finally they took down all the paintings. We were unbelievably sad. It was like the Panzer Division moving into Poland. And they know that we feel that way.

LOLA SCHNABEL: It’s sad to see the bare walls and to walk in the lobby and see an unfamiliar guy at the desk who doesn’t even say hello. The staff used to look out for you. If you were breaking up with your boyfriend, they’d give you a pat on the back and say, “It’s only a setback.” They would help you if you were carrying too much stuff—they don’t do that now. The doormen used to always give me comments about my outfits. I have this one pair of boots that I can’t take off by myself, and it was nice when the old management was there, because I had someone to help me take off my shoes.

ED HAMILTON: They took down all the art and put it into storage.

ED SCHEETZ (Founder, King & Grove [new owner of the Chelsea]): The art has not disappeared. It’s all stored, catalogued, and being taken care of so it doesn’t get damaged during the renovation. It’s not sold, it’s not gone, nothing.

As a hotel person, I’m involved with a lot of hotels, including iconic ones like the Delano in Miami. The Chelsea is a dream deal for someone in my career. It’s a fantastic investment, but it’s also just a lot of fun to help shape its future and its renaissance. Some people say, “Don’t change anything. You’re ruining the Chelsea!” That’s Luddite. It’s ridiculous. Are we destroying the spirit of the Chelsea? No. It was not destroyed, but it was trampled on for many decades, and we’re trying to bring it back. I think we will successfully do that.

We’re going to have $130 million or something invested in this building, plus all this time and energy. People act like it’s in our interest somehow to destroy it. Even if you say, like everybody does, that we’re just greedy developers, well, the best way for us to make money, and create something that is long lasting, is to do the right thing. That’s what is going to attract guests, people to the restaurants, visitors, tenants. That’s what’s going to make the most money. There is no incentive for us to do a bad job or make it into shiny glass condos. Staying true to the spirit of the Chelsea is not just the right thing—it’s the most profitable thing.

SCOTT GRIFFIN: The thing that is very hard to grasp about the Chelsea is that it’s all about the mix. It doesn’t matter whether people are paying a lot or a little, it’s about the mix, and the minute the Bards walked out that door, that mix was gone. Without that mix, the building just doesn’t work. If the new owners can quickly grasp the importance of the building’s history, if they can think outside of the box, as all smart people do, and learn to embrace the many eccentricities and unusual opportunities that this building presents—if so, they could be great landlords.

But in the last two years, the building has continued to deteriorate. I moved out in April—I feel it’s dangerous to be there now. The workers are routinely causing flooding, shutting off power. They’re destroying the building.

ED SCHEETZ: I understand that the renovations are disruptive and aggravating. But it’s a short-term inconvenience for a long-term permanent improvement. The building is a mess right now. It’s amazing they even allow people to live there. It is not complying with fire codes. It’s not complying with electrical codes. It does not comply with anything. It’s not safe; it’s not modern; it doesn’t have air conditioning; it doesn’t have working, functioning plumbing and heating. When you put in plumbing and air conditioning and modern electrical systems and comply with fire codes, yeah, that’s a pain. But it needs to be done, and it’s for the benefit of everybody, including the current residents. And we’ve done everything that anybody has asked us to do to minimize the intrusion. If they say, “Hey, a pipe broke and it leaked. Can you clean my apartment?” We say, “Sure.”

R. CRUMB: At a certain point you just give up on Manhattan. What can you do to stop it? Nothing, unless the whole fucking economy collapses. Manhattan is going to keep pushing in that direction, more and more expensive condos, apartments, hotel rooms. Then again, it’s always the end of some era in New York. They’ve been saying that about New York since before the Civil War.

MILOS FORMAN: These things are unstoppable. And it’s a pity. Greed is overwhelming.

GERARD MALANGA: Whenever friends planning a trip to New York would ask me about the Chelsea, I’d recommend they reserve a room at the Gramercy Park. In fact, until 15 years ago, the Chelsea rates were higher than those of the Gramercy Park. I have no sentimental attachment, none whatsoever to the Chelsea. I think the best thing that can be done with it—and I say this with the hope that its architectural integrity be preserved—is that some hotelier take it over and transform it into the luxury hotel it’s begging to be.

WILLIAM IVEY LONG:I’m very sentimental about it. Stanley Bard and the Chelsea Hotel saved my life. He certainly saved my artistic life. Stanley accepted the Bohemian biorhythm. This biorhythm is endangered. Stanley was determined that he wasn’t going to be the one to put the lid on anyone’s career. The people who could pay, did pay. The rich Italian tourists paid. The even richer rock-and-roll people paid. The people who couldn’t, he supported them. I had some depressive moments there. But Stanley was one of the few people in New York saying, “You can do it.” His belief in talented people will be his legacy.

ARTIE NASH: I’ve lived here since late 2005. I’m the last resident to get a lease under Stanley Bard. I live in Dylan Thomas’s old apartment. For a year or two, when Stanley was still here, it was as nurturing an existence as you could hope for. I’ve heard it described as a vortex. People do their best work here. But the spirit of the place, what inspired people to live here, has been drained.

MICHELE ZALOPANY (Painter, current resident): It’s a tomb now. There’s no life anymore. The human energy has changed completely. I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone.

ED HAMILTON: It’s hard to say where I’d end up if I had to leave the Chelsea. This place is synonymous with my experience in New York. Certainly I wouldn’t be able to find another place for $1,100. Not in Manhattan—probably not in Brooklyn, either. And I’d never find a place like this where everybody’s an artist. There are no places like that. Yeah, it’s a shame. This is the last outpost of bohemianism in New York.

 LEONARD COHEN’S CHELSEA HOTEL AT MIDNIGHT

or Somewhere In The Suburbia Of Manhattan

The Story of a Legendary New York City Hotel

Text and photos by Christof Graf

For some, they are the odd spots of boredom, for others havens of relaxation. For some they mean necessary evil, others use them as roadside rests on a long journey. Then again others use hotels and make them the center of their living.The Chelsea Hotel even became an oasis within the breeding grounds of New York’s Beat Generation.New York City is the biggest concert arena, the largest open air festival on earth and it’s not long-haired hard rockers or skinny techno freaks who are the main actors but the canyons of houses, the skyscapers and the frantic pace of a postmodern society that is setting the trends for the rest of the world. This is the center of the universe, this is where it all starts. Arts, culture and commerce. Pure Rock ‘n’Roll. New York, New York is swinging, jazzing, rocking and rolling.

Who’s talking ‘New York’ actually mostly talks about Manhattan, although the other parts of N.Y., The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island are accounting for most of its space and population. But Manhattan is like nothing else. Nowhere else, you are so stunned and impressed by people and architecture, technics and art, speed and rhythm. This city is a child of Rock’n’Roll in every way, the constant “Walk On The Wild Side” that Lou Reed used to sing about. This is equally true for stock brokers, businessmen or visitors as for writers, painters or musicians.

One of the crucial points is to find one’s own natural rhythm which for europeans also means to turn back the clock six hours upon arriving at Kennedy Airport, which is located about 90 minutes outside of downtown New York.

Beginning at this point, you’re irritated by a fact that happens to bewilder most first time european visitors in the U.S., that is that you’re adressed very friendly by people completey unbeknownst to you, telling you about their friends and family and all kinds of things. Some of them tell you things you would’t even want to tell your friends back home about.

You might think, what a friendly crowd and might want to offer your heartfelt friendship. But what Europeans are getting wrong is that Americans are very well able to distinguish between openness and frienship ,that they just have a different understanding of what, and how much to tell strangers. What one is saying is not necessarily what the other is understanding. What’s happening is that Americans are surprised to learn how easy Europeans offer their friendship, thinking of them as rather superficial. Got the picture ? OK then, let’s start our trip to Manhattan because we will encounter this situation again, masterfully re-created by Woody Allen in his movies again and again. The second, everlasting impression of the city is equally impressing: everything is bigger, brighter, louder, no matter if it’s day or night. It is ‘The city that never sleeps’.

For those who can deal with all those impressions, who are swinging with the rhythm of the city, who are playing their own Rock’n’Roll instead of getting the blues, their first won’t be the last visit in New York. He’s addicted from now on. The city becomes most beautiful if you let yourself float with the stream. It’s the only way to discover the real New York City away from the sightseeing trips and tourist attractions and to get in some sort of pioneering spirit.

A sightseeing tour for free is offered by the Staten Island Ferry crossing the river between Staten Island and Manhattan. Every half an hour it brings a stream of busy people to and fro at free of charge. Those who also want to enjoy the long, sand beaches of Staten Island should reckon about half a day for this trip. Back in the buzz of the Urban Jungle it is useful to take the same points of orientation as the drivers of the famous yellow cabs. The southside of Manhattan is consisting of the Financial District, including Wallstreet and the World Trade Center.

Then, next to Tribeca (the Triangle Below Canal Street), we have Chinatown and SoHo, Little Italy and the Lower East Side heading up north. After this we’re getting to Greenwich Village and Chelsea, the bohemian and artists quarters. It’s here that the characteristic rectangular system of streets begins. It exists since 1811 and it reaches way up to even include 155th Street.

Fifth Avenue is, besides Park Avenue, not only a very glamourous avenue, but it also divides East and West in the city (From right -West- to left -East- we have First to Eleventh Avenue, from bottom -South- to top -North- we have First to 155th Street). By the way, Central Park starts at 59th Street.

If you want to check out the trails of the Beat Generation in nowadays New York City, you can’t avoid to visit Greenwich Village and Chelsea. The ones who are looking for Rock’n’Roll history, searching for the spirits of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Jim Morrison, Nico or Patti Smith are likely to find some of it within the red brick walls of the Chelsea Hotel, located at 222, West 23rd St. between Seventh and Eight Avenue, where in the past many a famous song has been written.

Greenwich Village is one of the very few areas of Manhattan that does neither have the rectangular street pattern nor is part of his numbering system. Here, the streets still bow and bend at will and also, there still are a lot of green surroundings everywhere. People were living in Greenwich Village long before the decision was made to pave ways and build houses up to 155th Street. This is why the european character of the ‘Village’ is still intact in spite of the skyscrapers up north. But building modern Manhattan has threatened to destroy the quarter.

Only thanks to the imigration of artists, creative and critical spirits to the Village around the turn of the century, its charme could have been preserved. In the fifties, the Village became attractive for the beatnicks. In the sixties, the hippies came. In the seventies and eightees, it was the Rock’n’Rollers and everybody who wanted to be hip who made Greenwich Village and neighboring Chelsea symbols of the New York way of life. One of the particular spots is the Chelsea Hotel, meanwhile under national protection. This place is talking more about popular culture and its artists than any other spot in the Village.

The Chelsea was famous even back at a time when Mark Twain was living in one of its rooms. Thomas Wolfe and Arthur Miller have been living and writing there. Miller, who stayed six years at the Chelsea described the famous artist’s hotel like this: This hotel does not belong to America. There are no vacuum cleaners, no rules and shame…it’s the high spot of the surreal. Cautiously, I lifted my feet to move across bloodstained winos passing out on the sidewalks–and I was happy. I witnessed how a new time, the sixties, stumbled into the Chelsea with young, bloodshot eyes.

Until 1884, the Chelsea Hotel was the highest building in New York City. Today it is burried somewhere in the suburbia of Manhattan. The glamor of ancient time has been nagged away by the destruction done by the years. Only the main entrance with its memorial plates is reminding us of the great past of the hotel. The lobby is resembling an art gallery consisting of objects that sometimes were kept by the hotel management in lieu of payment for a rent long overdue.

The reception desk looks like straight out of an old black & white Hollywood movie. Both lifts seem to move in slow motion up and down the ten-story building. Sometimes, the inside of the hotel looks like a barracs. But holes in the floors, sqeeking waterpipes or breathing heatpipes only add to the ambiente of the hotel. Nonchalance is being cultivated in this place. Luxury is unwanted. Usefulness, atmosphere and non-conformism are dominating.

Pompousness is looked down upon, nonetheless there is tidyness all over the place. In the last five years, a lot of money has been spend upon the restauration of the victorian-gothic building with its many oriels.

Even today, only 100 of the Chelsea’s 400 ‘units’ are available to ‘normal’ New York visitors, the rest of them is occupied by permanent residents. The most beautiful of all (# 600) is a luxury suite which has a marble floor and a bronze fireplace and is currently rented to the gay couple writing love stories under the moniker “Judith Gould”. If you want to stay at the Chelsea, you’d be better adviced to book at least two months ahead, even if it’s only a ordinary room. You rather pay for the famousness of the hotel than for the rooms themselves. You can get a room facing the street at about $ 140 and the Chelsea is highly recommended for people who love something special.

Every room at the Chelsea tells its own story. In # 205, welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who reputedly inspired young Zimmerman to change his name to Bob Dylan, fell into a fatal coma after having 18 whiskies in a row. # 100 was once occupied by Sid Vicious, bass player with The Sex Pistols, and his girlfriend Nancy Spungeon. On the morning of October 11, 1978 Spungeon was found in the bathroom, stabbed to death.

Viscious, arrested under suspicion of murder, died shortly thereafter of a heroin overdose. Jimi Hendrix lived, loved and experimented here, with drugs and other things. Janis Joplin did not only have a love affair with Southern Comfort but also had a short liaison with Leonard Cohen. The canadian rock poet, too, loved the hotel: It’s one of those hotels that have everything that I love so well about hotels. I love hotels to which, at four a.m., you can bring along a midget, a bear and four ladies, drag them to your room and no one cares about it at all.

His song Chelsea Hotel is not only a remembrance of past loves with the likes of Janis Joplin or Nico, it’s also a declaration of love towards the hotel:I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel/ You were taking so brave and so free/ Giving me head on the unmade bed/ While the limousines wait in the street/ Those were the reasons and that was New York/ I was running for the money and the flesh/ That was called love for the workers in song/ Probably still is for those of us left.

The list of Big Names of literature, music or the arts scene who stayed at the Chelsea is seemingly bottomless: Jane Fonda, Jackson Pollock, Brendan Behan, Sarah Bernhardt to name but a few. They all encountered tragedies and comedies. They wrote short stories, movie scripts and novels and painted their pictures. They completed their movies within their heads, long before the actual shooting took place. Some of them had fatal endings…

For many, the Chelsea was a hideout or regular adress for many years, remembers Stanley Bard, who’s been the hotel manager for almost 40 years now. Some of them lived here over decades. It was only recently that punk-icon Patti Smith moved out.

Stanley Bard appears to be friendly but keeps distance, on the other hand he’s happy about reminicing every once in a while and he points out the bookcase in his office. I’m collecting every book that has been written in my hotel, he says taking out Thomas Wolfe’s novel You Can’t Go Home. Many things have happened here, he continues. Jim Morrison, Hendrix and Janis Joplin were having their drug parties here. Today, there’s a ‘No Smoking’ sign in the hotel lobby.

For many years, Bob Dylan used to live in suite # 2011, # 411 was Janis Joplin’s suite. Over the years, Leonard Cohen has lived in many rooms. I like to think of him, back then. He was one of the very few calm ones in these tumultous times. But perhaps his restlessness was better hidden than that of the others. Most of his time in New York in the sixties he was living at # 424. Long after this, Jon Bon Jovi wrote the song and shot his video for ‘Midnight At Chelsea” in suite # 515.

But Bard refuses to talk about the mysterious Viscious/Spungeon murder case. That’s a different story, he says but he’s proud of Andy Warhol’s love for the hotel. In the 60s, Warhol and Nico have done a movie, Chelsea Girl, at the hotel. All in all it has been a turbulent time back then, Stanley Bard resumes and wistfully finishes, I don’t want to have missed any moment in the life of the Chelsea Hotel.

There’s hardly been an artist who has lived in the Chelsea that was not in some way captured by its flair, says Patti Smith. Of course, Leonard Cohen is amongst them and with his song Chelsea Hotel No.2 he not only remembers his former lover Janis Joplin but also puts up a monument to his former hunting trails.

Nonetheless, the song has not been written at the Chelsea. I wrote this for an American singer who died a while ago. She used to stay at the Chelsea, too. I began it at a bar in a Polynesian restaurant in Miami in 1971 and finished it in Asmara, Ethiopia just before the throne was overturned. Ron Cornelius helped me with a chord change in an ealier version, Cohen remarks in the liner notes ‘Some Notes On The Songs’ of his 1975 Greatest Hitscompilation.

Cohen recorded the song in the studio as late as 1974 at the sessions for his album New Skin For The Old Ceremony but premiered the song live on March 23, 1972 at the third show of his London, Royal Albert Hall residency.

Chelsea Hotel No.2, yes, but is there a Chelsea Hotel No.1 ? The answer is No, at least where Cohen’s ‘official’ records are concerned. But, like Bob Dylan, who is varying his set list at every show to keep in fans constantly on their toes, Cohen, too, not seldomly presents radically different versions of his songs, changing lines or adding whole verses. The following version, differing from the officially released one, is commonly known as Chelsea Hotel No.1 and is featured in Tony Palmer’s 1972 tour-movie Bird On A Wire. Cohen also performed this version at his show in Frankfurt on April 6, 1972.

The Chelsea Hotel in 1998
222, West 23rd St, New York City,
Manhattan

Lobby of Chelsea Hotel…

Some details in the lobby *)

Art in the lobby *)

…and the foyer

Leonard Cohen singing
“Chelsea Hotel # 2”

Bob Dylan lived in
the hotel (in room # 205)…
in the Sixties

Joan Baez

Jon Bon Jovi’s movie
“Chelsea At Midnight” was
inspired by the well-known
New Yorker Hotel

Photos © by Christof Graf.
Photos marked with *
by Dick Straub & Lizzie Madder.
Used by permission.
And thanks to Lizzie
for the postcard.

Visit the website of the Hotel

Chelsea Hotel # 1

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
You were taking so brave and so free
Giving me head on the unmade bed
While the limousines wait in the street

(And) Those were the reasons and that was New York
I was running for the money and the flesh
That was called love for the workers in song
Probably (It) still is for those of us/them left

But You got away, didn’t you baby
You just threw it all to the ground
You got away, they can’t pay you now
For mailing your sweet little song

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
In the winter of sixty-seven
My friends of that year they were all trying to go queer
And me I was just getting even
And me I was just getting even
And me I was just getting even

(And) those were the reasons and that was New York
I was running for the money and the flesh
That was called love for the workers in song
Probably (It) still is for those of us/them left

But you got away, didn’t you baby
You just threw it all to the ground
You got away they can’t pay you now
For making your sweet little sound

© by Leonard Cohen.
Reprinted with permission.

Chelsea Hotel # 2

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
you were talking so brave and so sweet,
giving me head on the unmade bed,
while the limousines wait in the street.

Those were the reasons and that was New York,
we were running for the money and the flesh.
And that was called love for the workers in song
probably still is for those of them left.Ah but you got away, didn’t you babe,
you just turned your back on the crowd,
you got away, I never once heard you say,
I need you, I don’t need you,
I need you, I don’t need you
and all of that jiving around.

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
you were famous, your heart was a legend.
You told me again you preferred handsome men
but for me you would make an exception.
And clenching your fist for the ones like us
who are oppressed by the figures of beauty,
you fixed yourself, you said, “Well never mind,
we are ugly but we have the music.”

Ah but you got away, didn’t you babe,
you just turned your back on the crowd,
you got away, I never once heard you say,
I need you, I don’t need you,
I need you, I don’t need you
and all of that jiving around.

I don’t mean to suggest that I loved you the best,
I can’t keep track of each fallen robin.
I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel,
that’s all, I don’t even think of you that often.

© by Leonard Cohen.
Reprinted with permission.


Christof Graf is the author of three books on Leonard Cohen:
So long, Leonard, (Germany 1990)
Partisan der Liebe, (Germany 1996
Leonard Cohen – Eine Hommage/Un Hommage, (Germany 1997)

 

51 Genius Quotes That Prove George Carlin Was A Modern Philosopher

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1 Genius Quotes That Prove George Carlin Was A Modern Philosopher

Nico Lang 0 Comments
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In many ways, the comedian has the ability to be the philosopher of our era, a social critic and theorist whose words have the ability to shape public thought. As we saw from my piece on Louis C.K. a few weeks ago, comedy — at its best — pushes our buttons and challenges our ways of thinking. To me, no person is a better example of that than George Carlin, a savage satirist and brilliant thinker who was just as much of a writer and a philosopher as he was a comedian. His medium was stand-up, but he touched on issues of race, class, politics and American life — saying the kinds of things no one else dared.

Carlin got famous for his bit about the “words you can’t say on television,” but his legacy speaks of so much more, wisdom and wit that deserve to live on through the ages. Here are 51 quotes from the late comedian that show him at his best — hilarious, irascible and never satisfied with the state of society.

  1. I don’t have pet peeves. I have major psychotic fucking hatreds.
  2. The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere, someone said to themselves, “You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.”
  3. By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth.
  4. And what can we do to silence these Christian athletes who thank Jesus whenever they win, never mention his name when they lose? Not a word. You never hear them say “Jesus made me drop the ball.” “The good lord tripped me up behind the line of scrimmage.” According to these guys Jesus is undefeated, meanwhile these assholes are in last place. Must be another one of those “miracles.”
  5. The real reason that we can’t have the Ten Commandments in a courthouse: You cannot post “Thou shalt not steal,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and “Thou shalt not lie” in a building full of lawyers, judges, and politicians. It creates a hostile work environment.
  6. It’s the old American Double Standard, ya know: Say one thing, do somethin’ different. And of course this country is founded on the double standard. That’s our history. We were founded on a very basic double standard: This country was founded by slave owners who wanted to be free.
  7. Isn’t it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do “practice?”
  8. How can [God] be perfect? Everything He ever makes dies.”
  9. If you take five white guys and put ’em with five black guys, and let ’em hang around together for about a month, and at the end of the month, you’ll notice that the white guys are walking and talking and standing like the black guys do. You’ll never see the black guys going, “Oh, golly! We won the big game today, yes sir!” But you’ll see guys with red hair named Duffy going, “What’s happenin’?”
  10. Cloud nine gets all the publicity, but cloud eight actually is cheaper, less crowded, and has a better view.
  11. Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong.
  12. Here’s another question I have: How come when it’s us, it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken, it’s an omelet? Are we so much better than chickens all of a sudden? When did this happen; that we passed chickens in goodness? Name six ways we’re better than chickens. See, nobody can do it! You know why? Because chickens are decent people. You don’t see chickens hanging around in drug gangs, do you? No. You don’t see a chicken strapping some guy to a chair and hooking up his nuts to a car battery, do you? When’s the last chicken you heard about came home from work and beat the shit out of his hen, huh? Doesn’t happen. Because chickens are decent people.
  13. People who say they don’t care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don’t care what people think.
  14. Electricity is really just organized lightning.
  15. We’re so self-important. So arrogant. Everybody’s going to save something now. Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save the snails. And the supreme arrogance? Save the planet! Are these people kidding? Save the planet? We don’t even know how to take care of ourselves; we haven’t learned how to care for one another. We’re gonna save the fuckin’ planet? And, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with the planet in the first place. The planet is fine. The people are fucked! Compared with the people, the planet is doin’ great. It’s been here over four billion years The planet isn’t goin’ anywhere, folks. We are! We’re goin’ away. Pack your shit, we’re goin’ away. And we won’t leave much of a trace. Thank God for that. Nothing left. Maybe a little Styrofoam. The planet will be here, and we’ll be gone. Another failed mutation, another closed-end biological mistake.
  16. Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.
  17. Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky, who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer and burn and scream until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you and He needs money.
  18. The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it.
  19. Catholics and other Christians are against abortions and they’re against homosexuals. Well who has less abortions than homosexuals? Leave these fucking people alone for Christ’s sake. Here is an entire class of people guaranteed never to have an abortion and the Catholics and the Christians are just tossing them aside. You’d think they’d make natural allies. Go look for consistency in religion.
  20. If honesty were suddenly introduced into American life, the whole system would collapse.
  21. Capitalism tries for a delicate balance: It attempts to work things out so that everyone gets just enough stuff to keep them from getting violent and trying to take other people’s stuff.
  22. So about 80 years after the Constitution is ratified, the slaves are freed. Not so you’d really notice it of course; just kinda on paper. And that of course was at the end of the Civil War. Now there is another phrase I dearly love. That is a true oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one: “Civil War.” Do you think anybody in this country could ever really have a civil war? “Say, pardon me?” (shoots gun) “I’m awfully sorry. Awfully sorry.”
  23. When you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front-row seat.
  24. So maybe it’s not the politicians who suck; maybe it’s something else. Like the public. That would be a nice realistic campaign slogan for somebody: “The public sucks. Elect me.” Put the blame where it belongs: on the people. Because if everything is really the fault of politicians, where are all the bright, honest, intelligent Americans who are ready to step in and replace them? Where are these people hiding? The truth is, we don’t have people like that. Everyone’s at the mall, scratching his balls and buying sneakers with lights in them. And complaining about the politicians.
  25. Men are from Earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it.
  26. I’m completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. These two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death.
  27. I don’t like ass kissers, flag wavers or team players. I like people who buck the system. Individualists. I often warn people: “Somewhere along the way, someone is going to tell you, ‘There is no “I” in team.’ What you should tell them is, ‘Maybe not. But there is an “I” in independence, individuality and integrity.’” Avoid teams at all cost. Keep your circle small. Never join a group that has a name. If they say, “We’re the So-and-Sos,” take a walk. And if, somehow, you must join, if it’s unavoidable, such as a union or a trade association, go ahead and join. But don’t participate; it will be your death. And if they tell you you’re not a team player, congratulate them on being observant.
  28. They say rather than cursing the darkness, one should light a candle. They don’t mention anything about cursing a lack of candles.
  29. Boy, these conservatives are really something, aren’t they? They’re all in favor of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born, you’re on your own. Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you’re preborn, you’re fine; if you’re preschool, you’re fucked.
  30. Some people dream of things that never were and ask, “Why not?” Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that shit.
  31. I don’t understand why prostitution is illegal. Selling is legal. Fucking is legal. Why isn’t selling fucking legal? You know, why should it be illegal to sell something that’s perfectly legal to give away? I can’t follow the logic on that one at all! Of all the things you can do, giving someone an orgasm is hardly the worst thing in the world. In the army they give you a medal for spraying napalm on people. In civilian life you go to jail for giving someone an orgasm.
  32. Comedy is filled with surprise, so when I cross a line, I like to find out where the line might be and then cross it deliberately, and then make the audience happy about crossing the line with me.
  33. There are over seventeen thousand golf courses in America, they average over one hundred and fifty acres a piece. That’s three million plus acres, four thousand, eight hundred and twenty square miles. You could build two Rhode Islands and a Delaware for the homeless on the land currently being wasted on this meaningless, mindless, arrogant, elitist, racist, there’s another thing; the only blacks you’ll find at country clubs are carrying trays. And a boring game. A boring game for boring people. You ever watch golf on television? It’s like watching flies fuck!
  34. I am perfectly willing to share the room with a fly, as long as he is patrolling that portion of the room I don’t occupy. But if he starts that smart-ass fly shit, buzzing my head and repeatedly landing on my arm, he is engaging in high-risk behavior.
  35. And you might have noticed something else. The sanctity of life doesn’t seem to apply to cancer cells, does it? You rarely see a bumper sticker that says: “Save the tumors.” Or “I brake for advanced melanoma.” No, viruses, mold, mildew, maggots, fungus, weeds, E. Coli bacteria, the crabs. Nothing sacred about those things. So at best the sanctity of life is kind of a selective thing. We get to choose which forms of life we feel are sacred, and we get to kill the rest. Pretty neat deal, huh? You know how we got it? We made the whole fucking thing up!
  36. Have you ever wondered why Republicans are so interested in encouraging people to volunteer in their communities? It’s because volunteers work for no pay. Republicans have been trying to get people to work for no pay for a long time.
  37. Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.
  38. When fascism comes to America, it will not be in brown and black shirts. It will not be with jack-boots. It will be Nike sneakers and Smiley shirts. Germany lost the Second World War. Fascism won it. Believe me, my friend.
  39. Here’s some bumper stickers I’d like to see: “We are the proud parents of a child whose self esteem is sufficient that he doesn’t need us promoting his minor scholastic achievements on the back of our car.” “We are the proud parents of a child who has resisted his teachers’ attempts to break his spirit and bend him to the will of his corporate masters.” “We have a daughter in public school who hasn’t been knocked up yet.” “We have a son in public school who hasn’t shot any of his classmates yet. But he does sell drugs to your honor student. Plus he knocked up your daughter.” “We are the embarrassed parents of a cross-eyed little nit-wit who at the age of ten not only continues to wet the bed but also shits on the school bus.”
  40. People are fucking nuts. This country is full of nitwits and assholes. You ever notice that? Nitwits, assholes, fuckups, scumbags, jerkoffs, and dipshits. And they all vote. In fact, sometimes you get the impression that they’re the only ones who vote.
  41. Ever notice that anyone going slower than you is an idiot, but anyone going faster is a maniac?
  42. Rights aren’t rights if someone can take them away. They’re privileges. That’s all we’ve ever had in this country, is a bill of temporary privileges. And if you read the news even badly, you know that every year the list gets shorter and shorter. You see all, sooner or later. Sooner or later, the people in this country are gonna realize the government does not give a fuck about them! The government doesn’t care about you, or your children, or your rights, or your welfare or your safety. It simply does not give a fuck about you! It’s interested in its own power. That’s the only thing. Keeping it and expanding it wherever possible.
  43. The IQ and the life expectancy of the average American recently passed each other in opposite directions.
  44. When it comes to God’s existence, I’m not an atheist and I’m not an agnostic. I’m an acrostic: the whole thing puzzles me.
  45. The things that matter in this country have been reduced in choice, there are two political parties, there are a handful insurance companies, there are six or seven information centers, but if you want a bagel there are 23 flavors. Because you have the illusion of choice.
  46. Those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music.
  47. Let me get a sip of water here…you figure this stuff is safe to drink? Actually, I don’t care, I drink it anyway. You know why? Because I’m an American and I expect a little cancer in my food and water. I’m a loyal American and I’m not happy unless I let government and industry poison me a little bit every day.
  48. Here’s all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.
  49. Religion is nothing but mind control. Religion is just trying to control your mind, control your thoughts, so they’re gonna tell you some things you shouldn’t say because they’re…sins. And besides telling you things you shouldn’t say, religion is gonna suggest some things that you ought to be saying; “Here’s something you ought to say first thing when you wake up in the morning; here’s something you ought to say just before you go to sleep at night; here’s something we always say on the third Wednesday in April after the first full moon in spring at 4 o’clock when the bells ring.” Religion is always suggesting things you ought to be saying.
  50. I have certain rules I live by. My first rule: I don’t believe anything the government tells me. […] I look at war a little bit differently. To me, war is a lot of prick-waving! OK? Simple thing. That’s all it is. War is a whole lot of men standing out on a field waving their pricks at one another. Men are insecure about the size of their dicks, and so they have to kill one another over the idea. That’s what all that asshole jock bullshit is all about. That’s what all that adolescent, macho, male posturing and strutting in bars and locker rooms is all about. It’s called “dick fear!” Men are terrified that their pricks are inadequate and so they have to compete with one another, to feel better about themselves, and since war is the ultimate competition, basically, men are killing each other in order to improve their self-esteem! You don’t have to be a historian or a political scientist to see the bigger-dick foreign policy at work. It sounds like this: “What, they have bigger dicks? Bomb them!” And of course, the bombs and the rockets and the bullets are all shaped like dicks. It’s a subconscious need to project the penis into other people’s affairs. It’s called “fucking with people!”
  51. If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.

#george_carlin#quotes#beatnikhiway.com#ana_christy

 

 

 

 

 

AMERICANA -Top 10 Foods Only America Could Have Invented

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Top 10 Foods Only America Could Have Invented

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The American could have excelled in many other ways and fields. They may very well be the best nations in the world but frankly speaking when it is about the foodies and the food that is being served, American stands no place to certain other nations. The Americans cannot actually boast of a single cuisine or some kind of food that is completely theirs. Most of the recipes are from some other land. Nevertheless, America is also known for some of the greatest experiments with foods. There are certain cheesy and wheezy food items that can only be created by the people of America. So, We are going to enlist up the top 10 food only America could have invented.

1. Corn Dog

Corn Dog

There is no doubt of the fact that Americans are very good innovators. Thai is very well proved when a man named Neil Fletcher, came up with his brand new idea of smearing up the hot dog with some cornflower and then frying them deep. This gave the hot dog the look of rich Gold, enough to attract the eyes of the people and at the same time feeding them the same hot dog with a layer of corn on it. According to the Americans, it is something that is quite good but hey after all it is a Hot Dog and the main credit is of somebody else.

2. Philly Cheese steak

Philly Cheese steak

This is yet another food that we would surely want the Americans to take the credit for it. The Philly Cheese steak is a combination of all the things that are surely going to change you over to some bulky fellow provided you take this thing every day without fail. It is prepared with the meat with the highest possible content of fats in it. To add to it, there is a hell lot of Cheese to counter. Whatever it may be, the Philly Cheese steak does taste great and the people of Philadelphia are proud of it!

3. Chinese Food

Chinese Food

The most interesting thing is that the Americans also have the quality to design a food that is literally not of somebody but named after that country. In any case, all the Chinese food that we know of is the modified version of some simple noodles that the Chinese have. However, the Americans have had the time and pleasure to give it a complete makeover and have made it their own. Anyways, As far As I have known, the people from the east are more in favor of Rice cakes that Hakka noodles.

4. S’mores

S’mores: Top 10 Foods only America could Have Invented

If you g take a look at it, you will surely wonder that what is actually the fuss about s’mores. This is nothing but a food that is extremely deep-fried near about burnt and then some kind of a cream are applied over it to decorate. I do not understand what is there that makes it so very much famous but s’mores are some hit amidst the American people. Most of the foreign people find it extremely difficult to understand the reason behind the eating and liking fors’mores but it is as it is!

5. Reuben Sandwich

Reuben Sandwich

This is by far one of the most beautiful looking dishes that the Americans are given the credit for the invention. This thing surely looks like some sort of a dish prepared by some international chef but hey this solely belongs to America. What is not there in this dish? It has Chocolate, Strawberry flavor to the best possible extent, some sort of Orange flavor and some cheese as well. This unique blend of colors and taste is rarely found in any other American dish!

 6. Cobb Salad

Cobb Salad

This Salad will completely make you realize that why the majority of the fat people belong to the land of America only. The Americans seem to have a tendency to put in everything in the middle of Cheese and all sorts of Fatty stuffs. In general, what do we refer to as Salad? Something that is healthy and delicious at the same time but here in this case, the Cobb Salad is that stuffed salad that will fill in the entire space that you have. To add to that, it will surely lend you the most undesired body weight that you can even imagine to have in your lifetime! In spite of all this, the Cob salad is one of the most favored dishes to the Americans.

7. Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska

I seriously do not have any Idea what is so great on this thing. This thing looks utterly fat and disgusting to me but make sure that you do not say this to any American. The Baked Alaska is something that no great chef has ever dreamt of it. It is actually a dessert. A Pie has been baked. I am personally a huge fan of Pie and I do not wish to have a pie that is baked but the people of America love it. Obviously, they have created it.

8. Buffalo Wings

Buffalo Wings

I am a huge fan of the Chicken wings that they serve as KFC counters but it is good till chicken. Firstly, it is illegal to kill a Buffalo in here and secondly, I am not in favor of eating such a huge animal But is seems that the Americans love it. The Buffalo wings are kind of Chicken wings with the meat that belongs to a chicken. They love it being served hot and steamy with some cheese. Meat and cheese is yet another combination that is 100 percent pure Americans.

9. Turducken

Turducken

The Name is in itself the acronym for the things that are in the recipe for the food. The Turducken is one of the healthiest foods ever credited to the Americans and yet it surely has some great features. There is no doubt of the fact that the Turdumcken is a quite interesting but let me tell you, the blend of Turkey with a duck stuffing plus mashed chicken with deep fried is absolutely fantastic to eat. All you need is a simple layer of cheese. It is ready to be devoured.

10. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

This is an Ice cream of sorts and yet at the same time it has many things that will help the cause of your hunger in the mean time. This is buttery and has a great taste to it considering the fact that there are stuffing’s like cookies and all in it. Originally, this is somebody else’s idea but the Americans have actually devised a great way to ensure that it is better that the original one!

#americana#food#american_food#invented#beatnikhiway.com

HIWAY AMERICA -NEVERLAND RANCH, LOS OLIVOS CA

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Inside Neverland Ranch

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By Jonathan H

Editor’s Note: The post below was originally published in March of 2008. Since the tragic events last week, I felt compelled to write a follow-up. View the farewell post and the entire set of Neverland photos here.

Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch is up for auction next week. Bearings has gained access to the ranch, and has posted the images below.

As an aside, I personally believe Jackson is innocent of all charges. I speak as someone who has been on Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. It’s a bit disconcerting to think that I stand in solidarity with Geraldo Rivera, but what can ya do?

Many images I am not posting, out of respect for Jackson’s privacy. What I do post are places that were largely seen by the public (or at least by hordes of kids who count it a privilege to have been on “the Ranch.”) Whether or not you believe he’s innocent, one can still appreciate the beauty of Jackson’s vision in creating such a place. None of us should ever lose our sense of wonder and amazement at the world, and I think Jackson truly wanted children to have this, largely because he never had it as a child himself.

Without further ado, here are the photos.

The Train Station on Neverland Ranch
The train station at Neverland Ranch, taken on Kodak T-Max 100 speed film. Taken using a Tachihara large format field camera.


Neverland Ferris Wheel
The ferris wheel – What I would give to have a ride on this puppy.

Neverland Carousel
The classic, 50-foot carousel. Each horse and character seemed to be unique.
Neverland Bumper Cars
The bumper car tent.
Neverland Statues - Bronze
Statues near the front gate with aspen behind.
Neverland Station Clock
The Neverland clock at the main train station. I believe the time was accurate.
Bumper Car Controls
Ride designed exclusively for Michael Jackson. These were the controls for the bumper cars.
Neverland Front Gate
The front gate of Neverland Ranch.
Lithograph of the Michael Jackson
A lithograph of Michael Jackson with children at the front gate.

More pictures at: http://www.terrastories.com/bearings/albums/album/72157603558879859/Neverland.html

Saying Goodbye to Neverland and Michael Jackson

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By Jonathan H

neverland-ranch-train-station-lf

I wanted to make this post, not simply to jump on the bandwagon of the media outpouring for Michael Jackson. I’m not here to judge his life or talk about his finances, or his troubled past, or the allegations, or even Bubbles. I’m writing this simply to tell a story. It’s a story that I didn’t really have the inclination to say before. Now that Michael’s “Ranch” no longer exists, and — rides dismantled — it simply stands as a bank-owned shadow of its former self, I wanted say a few things about my experience at Neverland, and the truth behind how I was able to get in.

In many ways, I feel this is sort of a confession. I never saw Neverland as an interesting place. At first, I didn’t understood its potential to tell a photographic story. As someone who finds significance in historic architecture, I neither saw Neverland as significant, nor historic. All of that changed.

In December of 2007, I was on my way down to Ventura for the Holidays. I had taken multiple trips down the 101 before. Each trip, I made it a point tostop at a roadside abandonment to photograph at night. As it invariably is every December, just prior to Christmas, the radios are filled with the repetitious yuletide jingles of yore. Usually, the six-hour drive is bearable if I switch from one station to the next – between commercials. This particular drive down, I grew weary of the music. I’m not exactly sure why Michael came to mind. Part of it probably had to do with the silence and the habit of mine to imagine music in my head in such moments. It’s also possible that I passed the off-ramp for Los Olivos and thought of the place, only to think of it more and more. Whatever it was, the idea of then-abandoned Neverland began to roll around in my mind. The radio was off, and I began mentally turning over rocks in the process. What did Neverland mean about Michael? Then the big one loomed: Why couldn’t Neverland be “historic” in my mind?

I must admit, I suffer from the myopic view, like most historians — amateur or otherwise — that history must always be equated with old. That’s why Graceland was “history” to me, but Neverland never would be — at least not until it was gone. Hours passed, and the desire to see the inside of Neverland grew stronger. I had essentially exhausted all other photographic possibilities down the 101, and I knew this opportunity wouldn’t last long. Then, a day before I began the drive back up to San Francisco, I exited a theater to find what seemed like snow falling on me. I immediately realized they were large flakes of ash from a fire nearby. The sky was dark and orange. It was an eerie, foreboding signal, or at least that’s what I made it out to be. I needed to photograph Neverland, or else — and I had a strong feeling — it would all go to ashes without proper documentation.

Neverland EntranceOnce it was decided, there was no convincing me otherwise. Still, I thought more than once of giving it up altogether and to continue driving North. I tried to convince myself that I had trespassed many times before at other locations — but the implications had never really bothered me until I considered walking into Michael’s private park. As I write this, I still try to justify my actions by thinking how much Michael truly wanted to share his world. It was a genuine wish of his for everyone to understand things the way he did. And the world largely didn’t understand what he was trying to communicate with Neverland, so he abandoned it.

People have asked me over the past year what it felt like to be in Neverland at night, alone. I didn’t want to say anything except that it was the most surreal and incredible experience of my life. Others asked me how I felt about Michael, after seeing Neverland, but I couldn’t completely answer that. I was withholding judgement. Maybe, like all battle-bruised humans, I had the sneaking suspicion that all of my best feelings about the man would be shattered when another allegation would arise. But it never happened, just as I suspected, because everything I saw at the Ranch indicated to me that he was an innocent man.

The night I drove up to the front gates, the security guard was there, sitting in a well-lit pillbox on the side of the road. Neverland itself is up the road about 400 yards from the front gate. It happened to be a dark night. In fact, there was a new moon, and the sky was clear of any clouds. Out in Los Olivos, the stars shone brightly, and there was little light pollution in the atmosphere. I was sure to maintain my speed as I passed the guard, and I drove up the road to small parking area east of the park. The walk to Neverland was about a half-mile through rolling hills in pitch black conditions. I carried a GPS, set to its dimmest level, and continued on a straight click, towards the North end of the park.

neverland-fairgrounds

I came upon a back road that seemed to have been a utility road for the animal caretakers. By then, all of the animals were gone, save a few dogs in the old aviary. Bursting out from the branches of valley oak, I found myself in a miniature city. I had emerged right at the petting zoo. From there, my adventure began.

neverland-at-nightStrangely enough, the moment I entered, a howling wind spread across the valley. Trees cracked their massive arms and fell; I could hear the Ferris Wheel creaking; the rope drawbridge waved wild and unpredictable. When I walked up to the deserted bumper car tent, the wind had become so strong, that it was tearing the red, canvas roof. It’s fortunate that the wind also allowed me to roam freely around the park without a single bark from the nearby dogs.

In the midst of all of this wind, the only static elements of Neverland were the frozen, bronze faces of the myriad statues that dotted the grounds. The children’s smiles almost seemed sad, in the context; and other than the occasional jolt of fear that hit me when I encountered a new frozen figure (thinking it was a real person), these statues were the subjects that I found my camera most drawn to. The rides themselves could have been found on any county fair in any state in the country. But it was the psyche of Michael Jackson that drew my curiosity. The statues were a conduit; they were my artifacts to catalog before the time of their eventual liquidation arrived.

I took two more trips to Neverland, each time with close friends. In all, I captured hundreds of photographs of the park. Many of these photographs, I will never publish. Each trip became progressively more bittersweet. I don’t really have any regrets about doing what I did, but if there is one thing I wish I had done at Neverland, it would have been to ride down the Super Slide; I think MJ would have liked that, and I’m sure the friends with me on my final trip would have turned it into a photo shoot.

family-portrait

Despite how kitschy it all seemed; despite the controversy; and the fact that I could only see Neverland from one perspective (that of night),  the times I spent at Neverland are among the most memorable moments of my life. Neverland allowed me to escape the cynical, xenophobic world of a country mired in war, terrorism, and daily reports of suicide bombers.  They may have been only a few nights of escapism, at best, but they allowed me to put myself in the shoes of Michael — moon walking my own way among the soon-to-end dreamscape of a truly magnanimous soul. May you rest in peace, Michael; your dream will live on.

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