Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I'm very excited, for today, the article I wrote about the things from halfway around the world that found their way to my site was published!

For all the work I'm doing to get The Book finished up, so that I can get it to a friend of mine who is a kick-ass copy editor who actually -gets- archaeology (sie is freelance, drop me a note if you're looking for someone), so that I can get it to my press editor (who has happily resurfaced after an extended absence)... Well, for all that, it is Really Satisfying to get something finished and out in print.

So satisfying that I might just have to do it again. Did I mention ritual concealments (yep, multiple, and close on each others' heels, too)? There's also tale about a watering hole waiting to be told, and something about things that used to float...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

More Finger Lakes Photos

A few more photos from my recent trip up to the Finger Lakes.

I was hoping to try a new place to eat in a little town along Route 79 East between Ithaca and Route 81. I'd seen the signs, and was hopeful for both good food and maybe some local eats... unfortunately, when I drove by at 6pm, there was an open sign in the window, and not a soul in the parking lot. That is a Bad Food Omen, and I chose not to stop. I did notice another place earlier in the day, along Route 89 near Taughannock Falls that was PACKED; I'll try there next time I'm up!

Base of Taughannock Falls, March 19, 2010.

The Persistence of Winter: spring ice on the path to the falls. March 19, 2010. I wouldn't have wanted to be around when that fell down the gorge.

The Persistence of Winter II. Ice on the path to the falls. It was 64F when I took this photo. March 19, 2010.

Spring Shoreline. Cayuga Lake at Taughannock State Park, just north of the Marina. March 19, 2010.

Reconstruction work at the Wesleyan Chapel, Women's Rights NHP, Seneca Falls. View from the front; you can see how far forward the rebuilding will come by the open spaces in the scaffolding floor, to the right. March 19, 2010.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Persistence of Memory

The Persistence of Memory, by Salvador Dali. Original at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC

I was just up in the Finger Lakes region again; I seem to be on some sort of quarterly schedule to get up that way. While up there this time, I stopped in Seneca Falls at the Women's Rights National Historical Park, part of the National Park Service (NPS). Work on the rehabilitation of the Wesleyan Chapel, where the first U.S. Women's Rights Convention was held in 1848, is finally underway.

Wesleyan Chapel, undergoing reconstruction. March 18, 2010.

What struck me about this site is the persistence of memory. That this location, in a small town in Upstate New York, has been remembered as the location of Something Important, even though the physical place was almost entirely obliterated.

The Wesleyan Chapel was built in 1843. It went up very quickly; those Wesleyan Methodists didn't waste time on anything. They split from the main body of the Methodist Episcopal Church over irreconcilable differences regarding the abolition of slavery, holding their first formal meeting in February of 1843 in Andover, Massachusetts (Brown 1987; Weber 1985). In March of that same year, the First Wesleyan Methodist Society of Seneca Falls was formally organized; in May they bought a vacant lot; by July construction of the church was underway; and on October 14, 1843, the church was dedicated (Brown 1987). The original structure measured 64 feet by 44 feet, and was built of local brick. A second floor balcony ran around three sides of the interior.

As well as a location for regular services, the church was also the location for several lectures and meetings, ranging from philosophy to politics, abolition, and temperance. The church was made available to these speakers free of charge (Brown 1987; Weber 1985). It was not at all a strange choice of location, therefore, for the first U.S. Women's Rights Convention organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright, Mary Ann M'Clintock, and Jane Hunt.

Approximately 300 people attended the two-day convention on July 19 and 20, 1848. Sixty-eight women signed the resulting Declaration of Sentiments; 32 men, including Frederick Douglass, signed their names in support of the women. I was doing the math while I was up there; it would be only barely possible to jam 300 people into the building, assuming each person only required nine square feet (3x3); certainly not everyone would have been in simultaneous attendance, but I can imagine people were also congregating outside the church, conversing and debating along the streets and on the adjacent open lawn.

In 1872, the Wesleyans of Seneca Falls moved to a new church. Their old, 1843 church was sold, and renovated to serve as an entertainment venue, as well as having storefronts along Fall Street. Subsequent owners renovated the building for use as an Opera House, a movie theatre, automobile showroom and repair garage (complete with a ramp to drive vehicles up to the second floor), fire hall, apartment building, and (ironically) a laundromat (Brown 1987). The structure of the Chapel had been virtually obliterated; no one looking at the building, even in the late nineteenth century, would see a church.

The Wesleyan Chapel from 1962-1985. It's in there, really! Image from the Women's Rights NHP website.

In 1932, a commemorative sign was placed by the New York State Education Department at the corner of Fall and Mynderse Streets, reading "First Convention for Woman's Rights Was Held On This Corner in 1848" (you can just make it out in the photo, above). Though this could be read that women met on the corner, as though it was a street protest, it underscores how GONE the chapel was. The sign doesn't commemorate their meeting in the building at the corner (in 1932, it was a car dealership and garage), but at the corner. Despite the disappearance of the chapel, women continued to remember this as the location of the Convention, and continued to meet at the corner, often trying to meet within the building. Some owners let them in; others, including one of the dealership owners, refused.

In 1985, the National Park Service purchased the property (then an apartment complex and laudromat). A national design competition was run to determine how to develop the new park. The winning design included the removal of all building and structural elements not associated with the 1843 church, with a few elements added to keep it standing. The result was essentially a standing ruin.
The Wesleyan Chapel in 2007. Image from the Women's Rights NHP website.
The lighter brick and steel roof are modern materials to keep the structure standing. The darker bricks are original to the 1843 chapel; portions of the original roof and wall plaster are on the interior. Original portions of the foundation survive below grade.

In order to address conservation issues associated with making the former interior of the Wesleyan Chapel exposed to the exterior elements, with vandalism, and with confusion on the part of visitors regarding what they were looking at, the NPS is rehabilitating the Chapel. Using what is known, the Wesleyan Chapel is being reconstructed, incorporating surviving elements, on its original foundations (Orcutt et al 2007).

An artist's rendering of the completed reconstruction of the Wesleyan Chapel. The red brick is original to the 1843 structure; you will be able to tell on sight which are original and which are reconstructed elements. Image from the Women's Rights NHP Website.

The result will be much more legible as the Wesleyan Chapel. But I wonder about this reconstruction. The persistence of the memory of the convention makes it clear that it is not the building that is important, but the place. And I am generally troubled by the sterility of historic reconstructions and many living history museums; they feel like just-so stories. What I hope is that the NPS utilizes the space within the new Chapel building for meetings, conferences, lectures, and other programs associated with women's history, women's rights, and women's experiences. It would be totally consistent with the Wesleyan's use of the building, and would do ongoing honor to those 100 who spoke up in 1848.


Brown, Sharon A. (1987) Historic Structure Report, Historical Data Section, Wesleyan Chapel, Women's Rights National Historical Park, New York. NPS.

Orcutt, Tina, Jennifer McConaghie, Cheryl Sams O'Neill, Christopher Tavner, and Mark Warner (2007) Women's Rights National Historical Park - Wesleyan Chapel, Seneca Falls, New York: Rehabilitation and Preservation of the Wesleyan Chapel Environmental Assessment / Assessment of Effect. NPS.

Weber, Sandra S. (1985) Special History Study, Women's Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls, New York. NPS.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Shaved Haircut, 2 Packs

Well, the title's a bit of a stretch, but being a girl, I didn't get a shave and a haircut, and instead of two bits, it was two packs of smokes.

By request, the story of my 2-pack haircut. Or what I remember of it, occasioned by the following comment at Ink's place: "Um. Wow. At least when I traded 2 packs of cigarettes for a haircut once from stranger on a trip, I knew it was most likely going to suck."

The details are fuzzy. Very fuzzy. Somehow, I've confused this event, which I'm reasonably certain took place in Montreal, with an entirely more wholesome trip to Ottawa sponsored by the nice Rotarian folks trying to make good citizens of a gaggle of high school students. For the record, there were no black market bad haircuts on the Rotarian trip to Ottawa. I do distinctly recall, however, explaining all the myriad applications and correct grammatical uses of the F-word to a woman from Quebec eager to improve her English. But I digress.

The 2-pack haircut could not have been while I was in high school, because I distinctly remember returning to work with said haircut, at a place where we were required to wear a polyester uniform; a place I only worked at during the last few years of my undergraduate degree. It must have been the early 1990s. I know it wasn't in my home city, and the bars in Montreal have a particular neon-ness about them. I have no good substance-induced reasons to not remember; I guess it was just generally an uneventful trip, except for the haircut.

Actually, now that I think on it, it must have been some sort of student conference. I was relatively active in university -- school radio, club newsletter, that sort of thing. Anyway, I got it in my head that I wanted a haircut, and that I wanted a really short haircut. In the process of coming out, I'd been terrified I'd become the stereotype. In Montreal, I decided the only way to deal with it was to go there, and in a fit of bravada, made a deal with a guy I'd only just met, as we hung out at his apartment. For two packs of smokes, he'd cut my hair good and short. He SWORE he'd done it a million times, and wouldn't leave me bald or scraggly. I bummed two packs of menthol smokes from my friends, he broke out the clippers, and we laid towels out on the kitchen floor.

Well, I did say I wanted it short. And he did promise not to leave me bald. But, it's a damn good thing hair grows back. Nothing was longer than a half inch, shorter on the sides. I remember being excited it was so short that night, and waking up in the morning having a holy sh!t moment. It was very, very short. I might as well have been bald. And no choice but to wear it until it grew in. Funny thing was, very few people said anything about it, though they did stare a bit. You do get what you pay for, I suppose!

Oddly enough, now that I look back, it can't have been all that traumatic... when I go to the barber to get my haircut now, it's not short enough unless he pulls out the clippers to trim up the edges. And yep, I go to a barber for my haircuts. He's good with short hair, costs less than a stylist, and has yet to try to fix me up with a pixie cut.

Oh... and I'm a fine, upstanding citizen too.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I'm skimming the news and perusing the internets, as I'm wont to do of an evening, and I see this:

In other court action, an Auburn stay-at-home dad pleaded for leniency at his sentencing for possessing hundreds of child pornography images on his home computer....

[He] got a break from [the judge and] was sentenced to four months in county jail on the felony child pornography charge and 10 years post-release supervision...

[He] could have been imprisoned up to four years on the charge, [but] asked for leniency so he could continue watching his children at home while his wife worked.

Am I the only one that sees something terribly, terribly wrong here?????