Monday, March 30, 2009

A Little R & R...

Ok, so this phrase conjures up visions of vacationing on a white sandy beach in some far away place. Right now, for me, this means “Reading and Recovery.” Last week, I had reconstructive surgery on my left leg—remember that near-fatal accident in December 2007? This surgery removed the excessive scar tissue and skin that resulted from the way it healed…think of it as a “thigh tuck.”

So, it has been a week since the surgery and the incision seems to be healing well. To pass the time, I have been catching up on reading—reading legal cases and writing briefs for my Planning Law class at UC Davis and finishing a book I had checked out of the library well over a month ago. The book is called “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson. It was recommended by a fellow student in one of my Planning courses since the book focuses on the Fair’s architect Daniel Burnham—notable architect and urban planner who is one of the founding fathers of urban planning. Among other structures, he designed the Flatiron Building in New York City. In addition, the book focuses on Frederick Law Olmsted who designed the landscaping for the Fair. As the founding father of landscape architecture, he also designed Central Park in New York City. The backdrop of the book is the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair – the Columbia Exposition that celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival the New World.

The Fair was nicknamed “The White City” for its majestic beauty. Intertwined within the story of Burnham & Olmsted designing the “White City” is the story of H.H. Holmes—a serial killer who uses the Fair to lure his victims to his hotel. This was a fascinating book to read—all the more enthralling because it was a true story.

Here are some fascinating facts associated with the Columbia Exposition:

--One of the carpenters who worked there was named Elias Disney…eight years later he had a son named Walt (I wonder if his dad’s stories about the “White City” inspired him?)

--A poet named Katharine Lee Bates visited the fair which inspired a line in her poem “America the Beautiful”

--The belly dancers on the Midway danced to an improvised tune now commonly associated with snake charmers (you know the tune…There’s a place in France…)

--George Ferris built the first Ferris wheel here as a structure to “out ‘Eiffel’ the Eiffel Tower” built for the Paris World's Fair in 1889. The wheel was 264 feet high with 36 cars that could hold up to 60 people each!

--Some well-known products made their debut at the Fair: Cracker Jack, Shredded Wheat, Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix, and Juicy Fruit gum

While the Fair was being planned, built, and hosted, America was in a state of economic turmoil—banks were failing, people were losing their jobs. Sound familiar? Yet, through it all, a group of talented people created something that forged change in America in many so ways. I have hope that the times we’re living in now will make us equally stronger.

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