Friday, May 30, 2008

Decoration Day at Greenfield Village

For my family and I, this past weekend - Memorial Weekend 2008 - was spent at Greenfield Village. And what a time we had! It was the Civil War Remembrance Weekend, and nearly 500 of us reenactors spent the entire weekend wearing period clothing and giving the record-breaking crowd a taste of what life was like during those four years in the early 1860's, camped out in canvas tents, cooking our food over an open fire, and emulating the life of our ancestors.
The president of our Civil War unit, Mike Gillett, loves to use the the term "The Best Ever" at every event. Like me, he cannot wait to don period clothing and head out to an event. Heck, he and I would be satisfied wearing 1860's clothing and sitting in our own back yards!

This here is a photo of Mike and our unit watergirl, Emily.

Anyhow, this past weekend at the Village truly was The Best Ever. Everything just seemed to fall into place, especially the weather. But, seeing all of our reenactor friends - not just from our own unit, but from the many other units who participated - is like a reunion of sorts. We're all one big happy family and the hugs and greetings abounded throughout the weekend.

And not once did any of my kids even hint at missing the television, radio, video games, or any other modern electronic devices.
So, why was this particular event better than all the rest? I can't just pick one instance. It just seemed that all factors fell into place. Saturday evening, my oldest son played his (modern looking) guitar, performing the great period tunes of the time: Hard Times Come Again No More, Just Before the Battle Mother, Wayfaring Stranger, Goober Peas...much to the delight of not only members of our own unit, but other unit members stopped to listen as well.
Walking among the historic structures (unfortunately, walking on very modern cement!), helped to give one that feeling of stepping into the past. I especially enjoyed the mourning presentation at the Adams House.
As the only postmaster in the reenacting community, I enjoyed receiving and delivering mail. Of course, the civilians had to come to me to get their mail, but I did deliver (with the help of the Good Chaplain) mail and packages to the troops. Feedback tells me that, for those who received mail, it was a great success. I guess my finest compliment came from Beth Turza, who told me that I was helping to make us all more of a community and was bringing all of the different units together.

I also had a great time working with another group I belong to, the Michigan Soldiers Aid Society (MSAS), a civilian-only unit made up of a few men and many women. They are sticklers for accuracy in virtually everything 1860's, which is one of the reasons why I joined their organization - they know their stuff! At the Village, we put on a scenario where Reb prisoners were being brought in to the Smith Creek Depot by train to then be transfered to a northern prison camp.
The lone guy with the women of the MSAS - yup! That's me!
The Memorial Day/Decoration Day service on Monday was as touching as any I have ever been a part of. It included the laying of the wreaths by women dressed for mourning. The day - this weekend - means more than the barbecues and cottage openings. And it's this sort of service that brings it all home. It is truly a day to remember those who have fought for our country - yes, I thought of my father, who fought in WWII, and who passed away at the much-too-young age of 55. Here is a photo of him taken back in 1945.

Civil War reenacting has become a lifestyle - a passion - almost an obsession - and I am very proud to play a role in this hobby. The Oakland Press, in the May 29th issue, says it best: "More interactive than a book and more accurate than many movies, reenactments allow visitors to not just glimpse history, but to step back and experience a moment in time."


By the way, welcome to the newest 21st Michigan members: The Keeney Family, Mark Bonekowski, Tommy Spanski, and Lynne Dunn. This was their first real reenactment - hope you all liked it!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"There were no Dominos in the 14th century!!"

As a reenactor, this commercial has got to be one of the funniest I have ever seen:
And it is causing great controversy in the "real world." Stupid comments about how violent the commercial is, how it is disrespectful to delivery drivers, how it doesn't make sense...I hope these folks never watch a Monty Python short - they'd be totally lost!
Anyhow, we in the reenacting community strive for '1st person,' where we try to give the impression that we are really from the era that we are portraying. This means, for example, that for Civil War reenacting you (hopefully) won't find (in the public eye) wristwatches, telephone usage, modern eyeglass frames, anything plastic, etc.
That's where the line in the commercial "There were no Dominos in the 14th century!" comes from.
Now, apply it to the 1860's: "There were no wristwatches during the Civil War!"
Same thing.
And you don't have to be a reenactor to laugh at it - you just gotta have a sense of humor.
So, for those of you who do get offended, I certainly hope you are not watching most shows on television in this day and age. They are far worse than this hilarious Dominos commercial."Good afternoon, Dominos - I'd like to order...."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What Others Are Saying About Us

While in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to meet folks from around our country, since Gettysburg is one of the hot vacation spots in the U.S. I met people from upstate New York, Virginia, Maryland, Indiana, Delaware, etc., and some fine conversations ensued. When asked where we were from, however, some curious responses were given:

"So, where are you from?"
"The Detroit area."
1. "Oh! Home of the 'Hip-Hop Mayor'!"
2. "Are you packin'?"
3. "I'm sorry."
4. Oh! Little Baghdad!"
"So, where are you from?"
"Oh. Do you still own your house?"

Yes, these are actual comments/statements made to me during conversations made while on vacation out of state. Of course, I had to laugh because, well, show me what's not true? More people are losing their homes to foreclosure than ever before (there are probably at least a half dozen on my street alone - no kidding). Job loss due to lay offs, outsourcing, and just plain greed has affected, in one way or another, nearly every one I know, and the idea that the only jobs left are to become a greeter at Walmart or to become a fast-food employee has become a reality for far too many. And I am just a paycheck away from being in the same boat.
Detroit? Well, except the few years that the city had Dennis Archer as its mayor, Detroit has been nothing but an embarrassment to Michigan, as well as to the United States as a whole. It is a third world city in every sense of the word. Crime ridden like no other, its citizens are flocking to the suburbs in droves - faster than folks are leaving Michigan for the more prosperous southern states. Our socialist governor has done nothing to help the economy - oh, she talks up a storm, but has taken to keeping her nose up Kwame Kilpatrick's butt, doing whatever the hip-hop mayor wants her to do. She has been noticeably quiet during the latest text-message scandal...hmmm...could she have a role in it herself? One has to wonder...
Does anyone out there see a light at the end of the tunnel? I certainly don't. It's not mayor Kwame; it's not guv'ner Granholm; it's definitely not any of the Democratic candidates running for president (Hillary R. Clinton, B. Hussein Obama, or John McCain. Wait-----are you saying that McCain is a Republican? Ha! Could have fooled me!); it's definitely not our current president. There's no light at the end of the tunnel, and it's only going to get darker.
I have no answers - well, yes I do but none that will come to pass:
-Stop the outsourcing of decent paying jobs to low-income private companies on a local and national level.
-Bring back to the U.S. all current outsourced jobs
-Send back to their homeland all illegal immigrants. If you want to come to this country, enter legally and go through the proper channels
-Get rid of school of choice in all communities - forcing parents to actually to get involved and to work toward the betterment of their schools and community thus keeping the money brought in by their children's attendance in their neighborhood school system
-Lower gas prices to $1.50 a gallon - very reasonable - and keep it there. The oil companies would still be making billions but the morale of our citizens would get a major boost - pride would return, spending on goods would increase, and then the economy would strengthen tremendously. It's as simple as that.
As I stated, however, this will not happen. Instead, our country will cave in on itself within a matter of five years and the United States will be no better than the third world countries that Detroit has emulated. Especially when one of the BIG THREE presidential candidates gets into office.
Oh, the sad times in which we live.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

More Gettysburg Pictures

Here are a few more shots taken last month on our Gettysburg excursion:

This first shot is of the Dobbin House built in 1776. Great food, by the way.
This next pic is of Tom, Rob, and Ashley reading the many tombstones in Evergreen Cemetery

Tom and Rob at the Lincoln shrine in the National cemetery. This is the cemetery where President Lincoln gave his infamous Gettysburg Address.

Here is a photo of all of us at breakfast in the Tillie Pierce House. The food was awesome! Another shot of mia famiglia, this time in front of the Tillie Pierce House.
Here, Patty and I are on the porch of the Cashtown Hotel / Inn

This next pic is was taken at Willoughby Run, on the west end of Reynolds Woods. There's a lot that happened here in this stream - too much to write at this time. Look it up - fascinating stuff.
Spangler Spring supplied both the north and south with much needed fresh water. It's located at the foot of Culp's Hill. By the way, if you haven't noticed, we all seem to wear our 'Civil War Faces' when having our images taken while in period clothing. It's a habit. We all had a fantastic time. Really.
Here is the famous Farnsworth House - known in 1863 as the Sweney House - where a Reb sharpshooter reportedly shot Ginny Wade from the garret window. Notice the more than 100 bullet markings (in white) on the side.

One of my favorite pictures that I took: my wife (and son) during sunset at Little Round Top
I have tons of photos of Gettysburg. I will probably post more in a future blog.
I hope you like them.
I highly recommend a visit to Gettysburg when the opportunity allows. Truly an awesome historical place.