First timer? In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48). I call this “landing.” I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near. I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above. To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”
Landing number 2297; A Landing A Day blog post number 727.
Dan: Ding! Ding! Ding! This is my first NY landing since I changed how I came up with random lat/longs (81 landings ago). Of course, NY is an OSer, and my Score went down – all the way from 701 to a new record low, 682.
Check out “About Landing (Revisited)” if you don’t understand the above, and, for some reason, want to.
And get this: I went from Troy to Troy – Troy VT (last landing) to Troy NY!
Here’s my regional landing map:
And my local landing map:
I can see that I’ll need to zoom in for a closer look:
And an even closer look:
I landed in the Three Daughters neighborhood, with streets named after Eva, Teresa and Anna May.
Here’s my streams-only map:
Street Atlas (bless its heart), lets me know that the stream near my landing is known as Stream. Not Latham Creek (or whatever), just Stream. And then, “Stream” dead ends. Of course, it doesn’t really dead end – I’m sure it makes its way via storm sewers to the Hudson River (15th hit).
And then, that drop of water that falls on my landing travels way down the Hudson, past yet another landing location (where Sully put his jetliner gently down in the middle of the river), past the Statue of Liberty, and out to the Atlantic.
It’s time for my Google Earth (GE) spaceflight into the Capital District. Click HERE, enjoy the trip to suburbia, then hit your back button.
Google Earth is typically quite good about Street View coverage in urban areas, and this area is no exception:
And here’s what the Orange Dude sees, as he’s looking at 20 Eva St., Latham NY:
Here’s another look at my least-local local landing map:
You can see a pretty crowded area. As I searched Wiki, I came up with a strange threesome of hooks: The Night Before Christmas (Troy); Mother Ann Lee and the Shakers (Niskayuna); and the birth of the Beatniks (Loudonville).
I think I’ll start with some Christmas poetry. From the Troy entry for Wiki:
On December 23, 1823, The Troy Sentinel was the first publisher of the world-famous Christmas poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (also known as “The Night Before Christmas”). The poem was published anonymously. Its author has long been believed to have been Clement Clarke Moore, but its author is now regarded by some to have been Henry Livingston, Jr.
This isn’t much of a hook, so I’ll be as brief as I can. Here, from the Wiki entry for Henry Livingston:
Henry Livingston, Jr. (October 13, 1748 – February 29, 1828).
[Total personal aside: Henry shares his birthday with my sister Tacey and his death date (yes, February 29) with my ol’ buddy Mike.]
He has been proposed as being the uncredited author of the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”
Credit for the poem was taken in 1837 by Clement Clarke Moore, a Bible scholar in New York City, nine years after Livingston’s death (and 14 years after the poem’s publication). It wasn’t until another twenty years that the Livingston family knew of Moore’s claim, and it wasn’t until 1900 that they went public with their claim. Since then, the question has been repeatedly raised and argued by experts on both sides.
Around 1807 (16 years before the poem’s publication), Livingston’s sons Charles and Edwin and a neighbor Eliza remembered the poem being read by Henry. Following their father’s death in 1828, Charles claimed to have found a newspaper copy of the poem in his father’s desk, and another son Sidney claimed to have found the original handwritten copy of the poem with its original crossouts.
The handwritten copy of the poem was passed from Sidney, on his death, to his brother Edwin. However, the same year that the family discovered Moore’s claim of authorship, Edwin claimed to have lost the original manuscript in a house fire.
By 1879, five separate lines of Henry’s descendants had begun to correspond among themselves, trying to compare their family stories in the hope that someone had some proof that could be brought forward, but there was no documentation beyond family stories.
Don Foster, Professor of English at Vassar, has argued that Livingston is a more likely candidate for authorship than Moore. Foster’s claim, however, has been countered by document dealer and historian Seth Kaller, who once owned one of Moore’s original manuscripts of the poem.
[“once owned,” eh? Sounds suspicious. Where it is now?]
Kaller has offered a point-by-point rebuttal of both Foster’s linguistic analysis and external findings.
New Zealand scholar MacDonald P. Jackson invested over a year of research statistically analyzing the poetry of both men. His conclusion: “Every test, so far applied, associates “The Night Before Christmas” much more closely with Livingston’s verse than with Moore’s.”
ALAD comes down squarely on the side of Livingston, mainly because he himself never claimed authorship, while Moore claimed authorship only after Livingston was long dead. If Moore cared enough to claim authorship, why didn’t he claim it earlier?
Moving right along to the Shakers. And not really the whole religion, but their founding matriarch, “Mother” Ann Lee. From Wiki:
Ann Lee: 29 February 1736 – 8 September 1784
[There’s that February 29th date again! But this time, a birthday . . .]
In 1774 Ann Lee and a small group of her followers emigrated from England to New York City. After several years, they gathered at Niskayuna NY. They worshiped by ecstatic dancing or “shaking”, which dubbed them as the Shakers. Ann Lee preached to the public and led the Shaker church at a time when few women did either.
In 1758 she joined an English sect founded by preacher James Wardley and his wife Jane; this was the precursor to the Shaker sect. She believed in and taught her followers that it is possible to attain perfect holiness by giving up sexual relations. Like the Wardleys, she taught that the shaking and trembling were caused by sin being purged from the body by the power of the Holy Spirit, purifying the worshiper.
Lee developed radical religious convictions that advocated celibacy and the abandonment of marriage, as well as the importance of pursuing perfection in every facet of life.
In England, Ann Lee rose to prominence by urging other believers to preach more publicly concerning the imminent second coming, and to attack sin more boldly and unconventionally. She spoke of visions and messages from God, claiming that she had received a vision from God the message that celibacy and confession of sin are the only true road to salvation and the only way in which the Kingdom of God could be established on the earth. She was frequently imprisoned for breaking the Sabbath by dancing and shouting, and for blasphemy.
Move to America
Mother Ann and her converts arrived in New York City in August 1774, where they stayed for nearly five years. In 1779 they leased land at Niskayuna and the Shakers settled there, where a unique community life began to develop and thrive.
Ann Lee opened her testimony to the world’s people on the famous Dark Day in May 1780, when the sun disappeared and it was so dark that candles had to be lighted to see indoors at noon.
[Say what?!?! More about the Dark Day in a bit, but first a picture of Mother Ann:]
The followers of Mother Ann came to believe that she embodied all the perfections of God in female form and was revealed as the “second coming” of Christ. The fact that Ann Lee was considered to be Christ’s female counterpart was unique. She preached that sinfulness could be avoided by not only treating men and women equally, but also by keeping them separated so as to prevent any sort of temptation leading to impure acts. Celibacy and confession of sin were essential for salvation.
Unfortunately, the Shakers were sometimes met by violent mobs and Ann Lee suffered violence at their hands more than once. Because of these hardships Mother Ann became quite frail; she died on 8 September 1784, at the age of 48.
She died at Watervliet and is buried in the Shaker cemetery located in the Watervliet Shaker Historic District.
It is claimed that Shakers experienced a 10-year period of revelations in 1837 called the Era of Manifestations.
The Era of Manifestations? From Wiki:
The Shaker movement was at its height between 1820 and 1860. It was at this time that the sect had its most members, and the period was considered its “golden age”. It had expanded from New England to the Midwestern states of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. It was during this period that it became known for its furniture design and craftsmanship.
In the late 1830s a spiritual revival, the Era of Manifestations was born. It was also known as the “period of Mother Ann’s work,” with the spiritual revelations marked by visions and ecstatic experiences among the followers of Mother Ann.
According to Shaker tradition, heavenly spirits came to earth, bringing visions, often giving them to young Shaker women, who danced, whirled, spoke in tongues, and interpreted these visions through their drawings and dancing. The intense spirituality revitalized their meetings.
Here’s a Wiki shot of the Shakers shaking:
From the Wiki entry for the Shakers:
The Civil War Period
As pacifists, the Shakers did not believe that it was acceptable to kill or harm others, even in time of war. President Lincoln exempted Shaker males from military service, and they became some of the first conscientious objectors in American history.
20th Century to Present
By the early 20th century, the once numerous Shaker communities were failing and closing. Today, in the 21st century, the Shaker community that still exists–Maine’s Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community–denies that Shakerism was a failed utopian experiment.
As of 2016, there are three Shakers remaining at Sabbathday Lake: Brother Arnold Hadd, age 58, Sister Frances Carr, 89, and Sister June Carpenter, 77. Brother Brian Burke was recently the youngest of the Shakers; he joined the community in March 2015 at the age of 29. He has since departed the Shaker community.
There’s a robust website for the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community (MaineShakers.com). Here’s the homepage, showing a worship service:
There is much power in fairly recent heavenly revelations – how about the Mormons? But the Mormons started out practicing polygamy (resulting in scads of kids). Although polygamy is outlawed, they still believe in having scads of kids. The Shakers believe in having none.
Phew. Just one more topic: the Beatniks. But first this, about the aforementioned “Dark Day” when Mother Ann began her public testimony. From Wired.com:
1780: In the midst of the Revolutionary War, darkness descends on New England at midday, May 19th. Many people think Judgment Day is at hand. It will be remembered as New England’s Dark Day.
Diaries of the preceding days mention smoky air and a red sun at morning and evening. Around noon this day, an early darkness fell: Birds sang their evening songs, farm animals returned to their roosts and barns, and humans were bewildered.
Some went to church, many sought the solace of the tavern, and more than a few nearer the edges of the darkened area commented on the strange beauty of the preternatural half-light. One person noted that clean silver had the color of brass.
It was darkest in northeastern Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire and southwestern Maine, but it got dusky through most of New England and as far away as New York. At Morristown, New Jersey, Gen. George Washington noted it in his diary.
In the darkest area, people had to take their midday meals by candlelight. A Massachusetts resident noted, “In some places, the darkness was so great that persons could not see to read common print in the open air.” In New Hampshire, wrote one person, “A sheet of white paper held within a few inches of the eyes was equally invisible with the blackest velvet.”
Professor Samuel Williams of Harvard gathered reports from throughout the affected areas to seek an explanation. A town farther north had reported “a black scum like ashes” on rainwater collected in tubs. A Boston observer noted the air smelled like a “malt-house or coal-kiln.” Williams noted that rain in Cambridge fell “thick and dark and sooty” and tasted and smelled like the “black ash of burnt leaves.”
As if from a forest fire to the west or north? Without railroad or telegraph, people would not know: No news could come sooner than delivered on horseback, assuming the wildfire was even near any European settlements in the vast wilderness.
A definitive explanation came in 2007. In the International Journal of Wildland Fire, Erin R. McMurry of the University of Missouri forestry department and co-authors combined written accounts with fire-scar evidence from Algonquin Provincial Park in eastern Ontario. They documented a massive wildfire in the spring of 1780 as the “likely source of the infamous Dark Day of 1780.”
There you have it. OK. On to the Beatniks. Under Notable People for Loudonville, it says:
Joan Vollmer, beatnik and common law wife of William S. Burroughs.
Her name was clickable, so of course I clicked. I’ll start with a pic (showing that she got in a little trouble now and again):
Wow. A Shaker she ain’t. Here’s a Wiki excerpt:
Joan Vollmer (1923 – 1951) was the most prominent female member of the early Beat Generation circle. While a student at Barnard College in New York City, she became the roommate of Edie Parker (later married to Jack Kerouac). Their apartment became a gathering place for the Beats during the 1940s, where Vollmer was often at the center of marathon, all night discussions. In 1946, she began a relationship with William S. Burroughs, later becoming his common-law wife. In 1951, Burroughs killed Vollmer by shooting her in the head in what was apparently a drunken attempt at playing William Tell.
Geez. Here’s a little more from Wiki:
Joan Vollmer and Edie Parker shared a series of apartments in New York’s Upper West Side that they shared with the writers, hustlers, alcoholics and drug addicts that later became known as the Beats. These included: William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, Herbert Huncke and Vickie Russell (a prostitute and addict who appears as “Mary” in Burroughs’ novel Junkie).
All except Vickie Russell are clickable and have their own Wiki entries.
So, she married Burroughs and he killed her? From Wiki:
Burroughs initially tried to support his family by farming cash crops in the Rio Grande valley. When this failed, he moved Vollmer and their children to New Orleans. While living there he was arrested for heroin possession, during which time police searched Vollmer’s home, unearthing letters from Ginsberg discussing a possible shipment of marijuana. The resulting criminal charges were grave — upon conviction Burroughs would have served time in Louisiana’s infamous Angola State Prison; he fled for Mexico City. Once he was settled, Vollmer joined him, along with her children.
In her son’s novel Kentucky Ham (1973), Vollmer is remembered as a gentle and considerate mother who was meek and deferential to her husband’s parents. Yet she is also depicted as being prone to wild bouts of self-destructive behavior. The book recounts a reckless, almost deadly drive down a mountainside road in Mexico. Joan’s battered appearance and unpredictable behavior alarmed Ginsberg when he visited with Lucien Carr in 1951.
Ted Morgan describes her in Literary Outlaw as a woman suffering from serious drug and alcohol addictions which had aged her noticeably. Her face was swollen; she limped due to a recent bout of polio.
Three days after Burroughs returned to Mexico City from a South American trip, Vollmer was balancing a water tumbler on her head as her husband aimed a handgun at it. When Burroughs fired, the bullet missed the water tumbler and hit Vollmer, who died later that day from a gunshot wound to the skull, aged 28.
Burroughs gave several contradictory versions of events to Mexican authorities. He initially claimed he accidentally shot Vollmer during a William Tell act, but changed his story, possibly after being coached by his Mexican attorney. In court, Burroughs claimed he accidentally misfired the gun while trying to sell the weapon to an acquaintance.
Burroughs was held in custody on murder charges for two weeks before being released on bail after his brother arrived from St. Louis to dispense thousands of dollars in a variety of legal costs. Vollmer was buried in Mexico City.
For a year, Burroughs reported every Monday morning to the jail in Mexico City while his prominent attorney worked to resolve the case. However, when his attorney fled the country after accidentally shooting and killing a trespasser on his property — a child of a government official — Burroughs re-entered the United States. He discovered that Louisiana had not issued a warrant for his arrest on the previous narcotic charge. In absentia, the Mexican court convicted Burroughs of manslaughter in Vollmer’s death. He received a two-year suspended sentence.
Still in Wiki, Brenda Knight in The Women of the Beat Generation puts a very positive spin on Joan Vollmer’s contributions:
“Joan Vollmer Adams Burroughs was seminal in the creation of the Beat revolution; indeed the fires that stoked the Beat engine were started with Joan as patron and muse. Her apartment in New York was a nucleus that attracted many of the characters who played a vital role in the formation of the Beat; … Brilliant and well versed in philosophy and literature, Joan was the whetstone against which the main Beat writers — Allen Ginsberg, Jack Keruac, and Bill Burroughs — sharpened their intellect. Widely considered one of the most perceptive people in the group, her strong mind and independent nature helped bulldoze the Beats toward a new sensibility.”
Here’s the iconic William S. Burroughs photo:
For a little broader look at the Beatniks, here’s the first paragraph from Wiki’s entry for the Beat Generation:
The Beat Generation was a group of authors whose literature explored and influenced American culture in the post-World War II era.
The bulk of their work was published and popularized throughout the 1950s. Central elements of Beat culture are rejection of standard narrative values, the spiritual quest, exploration of American and Eastern religions, rejection of materialism, explicit portrayals of the human condition, experimentation with psychedelic drugs, and sexual liberation and exploration.
Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (1956), William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch (1959) and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957) are among the best known examples of Beat literature. Both Howl and Naked Lunch were the focus of obscenity trials that ultimately helped to liberalize publishing in the United States. The members of the Beat Generation developed a reputation as new bohemian hedonists, who celebrated non-conformity and spontaneous creativity.
The so-called Beatniks (especially Allen Ginsberg) planted the seeds that eventually became the 1960s hippie culture.
From Wiki, here’s a Burroughs quote from the introduction to his 1985 novel Queer:
“I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a writer but for Joan’s death, and to a realization of the extent to which this event has motivated and formulated my writing. I live with the constant threat of possession, and a constant need to escape from possession, from control. So the death of Joan brought me in contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit, and maneuvered me into a life long struggle, in which I have had no choice except to write my way out.”
I don’t have anything to say about all of this. A good part of the above is appalling, but maybe I should read some of the Beat literature . . .
It’s time for a closing GE Panoramio shot. I found this, by Ruok, taken a mile north of my landing:
Seems fitting for a rather icy post, eh?
That’ll do it . . .
© 2016 A Landing A Day