Sunday, 29 November 2009

Saturday 28th November 2009 - The Deference of the Young

          I listen mostly to NPR on my computer.  Currently, I use WQED, which I picked up off-air while passing Pittsburg.  I find light classics make it easy to read, and sometimes even write, without being too distracted.  But I was certainly thoroughly distracted today, by a programme from Salt Lake City.  It was highlighting the talents of young musicians, one of whom, at ten years old gave us a terrific rendition of that hoary old trumpet test piece, "Carnival of Venice", triple-toongin' an' all (as I understand it, triple-tonguing is like when you hum a tune and say "dugga-dugga-dugga" at the same time)  Anyway, I found myself in one of those rare moments when I just had to applaud the radio, even although they couldn't hear me, and I was on my own.  There is, I seem to remember, a moment like that in the film of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", when the "Chief" throws the ball (I think).
          Later that night, there is a grown-up lady in the bar, about my age.  The barman is quite young, and, as well as being a volunteer fireman (the firehouse is across the street) he is from West Viriginia, not far from that Glasgow.  But, being from West Virginia, he is unable to stop himself referring to this lady as "Miss -----'.  I think it is possible he was unaware he was doing it.
          A notice behind the bar proclaims that they have a shuffleboard league.  The proximity of Shuffleboard and Grown-up ladies, of course, drives me to a frenzy.  They promise to let me play, but when we get through the back, this shuffleboard table bears almost no resemblance to those of my Montana triumphs.  It was more a kind-of electromechanical version of 9-pin table bowling, using a shuffleboard puck.  When I described the game I knew, they said they called that "long board".  This game, like 10-pin bowling, lacks any contact with the enemy.  The "long board" version, like bowls on grass, has the thrill of symbolic contact.
          A man sat beside me and ordered a large Chivas Regal, which he proceeded to stuff with ice.  He asked if my accent was Scottish or Irish.  He said he was part-Irish or Scottish.  He was certainly part-black, like the President.  I told him he couldn't possible be part-Scottish if he did that to Chivas Regal.  I guess he must have been part-Irish, 'cos I had to explain it to him fairly slowly.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Friday 27th November 2009 - Black Friday

         The day after Thanksgiving appears  to be called "Black Friday".  It's a shoppingfest, where all the shops claim to reduce their prices by more than anybody else.  I was advised to stay away from shops, since it is sometimes fatal.
         There was no need for anyone to worry: the Thanksgiving-dodging went on so long last night that it was nearly noon before I surfaced, with no intention of going near anywhere.
         I met a man who wants to change the constitution of the United States: no small challenge.  His case, as far as I could follow it, was that if you were a tenant, you didn't have the same protection from the state invading your privacy as an owner did.  If, for example, the state requires your landlord to provide smoke alarms, it can enter your premises to check if he's doing that, even if you don't want it too.  He's got a point, of course, but it's not a battle I can see him winning.  It is probably a general truth about all "Nanny" state activity, that they are invading the privacy of the people they profess to be protecting, and they no doubt abuse these responsibilities from time to time.  He wanted people to support him.  They wanted to talk about something else.
         Later that night, we talked about my next stop, Glasgow Delaware.  I managed an American joke which they understood.  "Where is it near?" they wanted to know.  "It's in Delaware", I said, "everywhere's near everywhere else in Delaware."
         We also had more bad taste jokes on the TV.  Like "Altzheimer's isn't all bad - you get to meet new people every day!"

Friday, 27 November 2009

Thursday 26th November 2009 - To Give Thanks or Not to Give Thanks

          I paused and thought about what I might have to give thanks for, and I realised, immediately, that arriving on the Queen Mary certainly knocked the Mayflower into a cocked hat.  On the other hand, the representatives sent to greet us by the current inhabitants' government were not nearly as welcoming.  One wonders what the original founding fathers would have thought if the natives had said "I'm afraid we can only let you stay for six months": might have changed the whole course of history.
          Everyone I pass wishes me a Happy Thanksgiving, even those who don't look like they're enjoying one themselves.  Montgomery County is really a suburb of Philladelphia.  It's the 20th richest county in the US, and one of only 30 with a Standard and Poors AAA rating, but it sure doesn't look like that where I'm staying.
          Later that night, I struggle down to the nearest bar to join a small but dedicated band of Thanksgiving dodgers.  They are watching a TV channel called Comedy Central, with a ventriloquist called Jeff Dunham, of whom I had not previously heard.  As was once said about Tom Lerher, Mr Dunham's muse is not fettered by such considerations as taste.  To give you a flavour, one of the sketches was entitled "Achmed the Dead Terrorist Hits on a MILF".  (For those of you unaware of what a MILF is, don't look it up on the internet unless your malware and virus protection is comprehensive and bang up-to-date.)  In another, the puppet justifies misremembering someone's name as "Vagina" by claiming that she's French!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Wednesday 25th November 2009 - Come from Texas

[The title is an insider's reference to Clint Eastwood, his greatest film, "The Outlaw Josey Wales" being based on a book, "Gone to Texas" by one Forest Carter.  It's a good book, to which the film is fairly faithful.  (I've started, so I'll finish) Forest Carter has a fascinating bit of history.  He subsequently wrote a really wonderful book called "The Education of Little Tree", about a young Native American brought up by his grandfather. He wrote it as a part-Cherokee story teller, about his own history.  It was much-lauded by the intelligensia, adding to Native American culture.  His name should have been a bit of a giveaway: he was named for a Civil War Confederate General.  It turned out that this Forest Carter had been a speechwriter for the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan: embarassment all round.  But, and I repeat, but, it was a very good book.  Makes you grateful the Hitler was a lousy painter, doesn't it?  Imagine he had been good.  Would his paintings have been sought after "for their own sake"?  Mind you, if he'd been a good painter, he might not have destroyed most of Europe.]
          I have been collecting law enforcement shoulder patches on my trip.  It all started in Montana, when the Police Chief said "come round, I'll give you a shoulder patch."  Ever since, I just go and ask.  Well, actually, I agonise over asking, because, if it was me, I would refuse.  And I hate worrying or puzzling people with guns.
          In the Montgomery County Courthouse, in the front office of the Sheriff's department, there was only one man without a gun, and he asked me how he could help.  I said I wanted to talk to someone about a shoulder patch, and he said that would be him.  And he gave me one.
          At the same time, in the courthouse, I saw a map which said that Glasgow was actually in Pottstown Borough.  So I thought I'd better go back to Pottstown (it's only 20 miles) and ask them for one too.  This is a city police department.  I got to talk to a young dispatcher, armed, it looked like, to the teeth, through artillery-proof glass.  He thought my project "awesome" (that probably tells you something about his age).  He wanted ID, and took down my address.  He said they would send it to me.
          Because it's Thanksgiving tomorrow, and I don't know what'll be open, I stop at a supermarket on the way back, to buy some provisions.  I can't find something I'm looking for. There is a young lady checking the shelves, and ticking boxes on a list.  I ask her where I might find what I'm looking for.  "Oh", she says, "I don't work here.  I've never been in this shop before".  So what could she have been doing?  Had she misunderstood 'virtual shopping', and instead of going to virtual shops to buy real goods, she was going to real shops and buying virtual goods?  It would certainly save her a lot of money: retail therapy at low cost.
          So I wandered on, and found a young man filling shelves.  This had to be a better bet.  But he claimed not to work there either.  Perhaps nobody works there.  Perhaps the checkout is really a bank branch, and the suppliers just leave things on the shelves for some accountant to work out payment.
          Later that night, I got my last quarter.  Just in case you were still wondering how Texas got into it, the quarter coin comes in many editions, with the states on the obverse.  I have been collecting them, just by checking my normal change.  And for some time now, I have only been missing Texas.  And, finally, Texas turned up.  So I now have the full set.  Well, actually, I don't, because there are also editions for the overseas territories (Puerto Rica, etc) and there are two mints, with a small mark on the front, 'D' for Denver and 'P' for Philladelphia.  But I'm not going to get caught up in that.  The next thing I'd be looking for proof coins, then I'd be trading and so on.  I'm collecting Glasgows, not coins.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Tuesday 24th November 2009 - It's Not What You Know

          I like to start at the Historical Society, absorb a few names, before I head for the courthouse.  Unfortunately, The Historical Society chooses Tuesdays to stay open in the evening, and therefore doesn't open till the afternoon.
          So I start at the courthouse.  Being a city, it has gentlemen with guns to look up my bottom before I get in.  And when I get in, it turns out that the Recorder of Deeds is now in another building.  They think it's quite funny, but they return my knives, cameras, and recording devices without a murmur.
          This county is computerised.  I can look up names, I can look up addresses, but I can't lift up big heavy tombs and bump into the right thing by accident.  There is no 'collateral' searching.  So I find very little.  To be fair, it must be much better if you're a lawyer doing what the records are kept for.  I find references to "at what is known as Glasgow", and "Glasgow Estate", but nothing leading back any distance in time.  Of course, when it acquired its name, this was Philadelphia County, and a crown colony, so all this is probably a waste of time anyway. 
          As President Reagan said after he got shot, "All in all, I'd rather be in Philadelphia".  (That's what W C Fields proposed as his epitaph, but it was never used as such).  Perhaps I need to go there.
          The McCalls, it would seem, were a fabulous family, in the sense of rich and powerful.  George and his wife had their portraits painted by Hessulius, the pre-eminent American portrait painter of the time.  The children belonged to exclusive dining clubs, one of which restricted itself to 25 members.  They married into other wealthy and powerful families.  One daughter married the son of the Governor of New York, himself a Scot, another the son of the President of the New Jersey Provincial Council, and yet another the Mayor of Philladelphia.  The sons, like their father, were on the City Council.  They were active in the Dancing Academy, an attempt (apparently successful) to emulate the goings-on in Bath (don't forget, this is a colony).  But they were also active in the St Andrew's Society, which, although it enjoyed dining and socialising, also did charitable work among the distressed Scots of Philladelphia.  Half of them were married in Christ Church, where George was a vestryman.  Christ Church is sometimes described as the first church of America, with seven signatories to the Declaration of Independence, including Benjamin Franklin, in its graveyard  (the St Andrew's Society, by the way, boasts five).  Christ Church, perhaps surprisingly was CofE.
          One very odd fact has to be reported.  George's second daughter, Anne, married her cousin, who had come from Scotland, and was named for their grandfather, Samuel.  And then her younger brother, who was also named for their grandfather, married someone called Anne.  If you wanted to hide your identity, you couldn't do it better.
          And it wasn't a "rags to riches" story, either.  The grandfather, Samuel, was a wealthy Glasgow merchant, and the grandmother was the daughter of a (Scottish) Court of Sessions judge. 
          I guess if George wanted to call this place "Glasgow", "Glasgow" it was going to be.
          Later that night, I found myself drinking from a glass advertising the "Intercourse Brewing Company"  "Ho, ho, ho", I thought, "they're real cards, these micro-brewers.  That's not a gnat's gnipple away from "Dog's Bollocks" and the like.  But it does seem an odd package, beer and intercourse.  Not reputed to go too well together.
          So I asked the Landlord.  "Oh, no", he said, "Its from Intercourse.  That's just up the road."  And so it is.  I've looked it up. 
          It's even got a Best Western, the "Intercourse Inn".  You couldn't make that up, could you?  "Why don't we go away for the weekend, darling, get to know each other a bit better". 
          "What a wonderful idea, darling.  Where shall we go?"
          "Well, I know a wonderful little Inn, darling, very out-of-the way".
          "What's it called, darling?"
          It's not going to work , is it?

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Monday 23rd November 2009 - No Comment

          The sky is getting gey dreich (do words like that have proper spellings?).  It makes low-flying birds more visible.  There are lots of geese flying south (I assume it's south).  Not huge flocks, just Vs of 3, 5, up to maybe 12 or so.  It reminds me I should be doing the same.  This indian summer can't last.
          I'm now in Norristown, the county seat.  It's only a journey of thirty miles, but it puts me on the outskirts of Philladelphia, and it has all the feel of 'big city' about it.  I have found an even cheaper place to stay.  As I check in, I meet with a lady in what passes for reception.  She is looking for toilet paper.  She is clearly in shock.  "Have you stayed here before?" she asks.  What she is trying to say is "Don't stop!  Run for it.  There's still time!"  But I have already looked round.  Girls have such silly standards for these things.  I resist the temptation to explain the economic facts of life to her.  I nod and "umm" sympathetically, and allow her the role of victim.  The man behind the grill is more practical: he gives her the roll of toilet paper.
          It's OK.  The only real problem is the usual one with cheap motels: the TV remote has been lost, and they've upgraded several times to new cable systems.  So I have to find out which channel the Cable delivers on, then I can watch something.  But the remote will not access the TV menu, so I can't adjust the colour.  The American TV colour transmission system is called NTSC, translated by engineers, when I was involved it cable TV, as "Not The Same Colour".  The last person to have a remote which could adjust the TV has turned up the colour and the tint (NTSC has two colour controls, which is one too many) and the brightness.  So it looks like those first transmissions from the moon, coloured in by a small child  But that suits me.  I'd rather read, and listen to the radio over the internet.
          I try to avoid the TV and the papers.  When I bump into the news, these long polemics leap to my lips, and sometimes even my pen.  People who are not here need the benefit of my wisdom.  Sometimes they even make it to the first draft of the blog, and then have to be cut out. And, of course, they taint everything, and when I cut them out, there's sometimes almost nothing left.
          I have to remind myself that when I was actively involved in politics, nobody paid the slightest heed to any of my carefully prepared polemics.  Why on earth would they listen now?  Even I don't want to hear them.
          Later that night, I venture out for some entertainment.  In the dark, this part of town is clearly run down.  Which is strange, because it is the inner west, and that's usually the best bit of a town.  It reminds me of North Kensington and Notting Hill all those years ago when I first came to London.  These were once spectacular houses.  Some of them are vast enough to qualify as country houses back home.  But they now have large numbers of mailboxes outside.
          And I notice something I've not seen before.  Some of these big houses are semi-detached.   Really big, fancy semi-detached houses, dating back a century or more.  Here, a 'semi' (pronounced Sem-eye) is an articulated truck.  I wonder what they call these houses?

Monday, 23 November 2009

Sunday 22nd November 2009 - Real Football

          This being Sunday, I declare a day of rest.  I have to pack up to move on anyway.  Pottstown has been a very comfortable and pleasant stay, but there wasn't really much to do.  Glasgow is nearly invisible, and doesn't even run to a roadsign.
          Scanning through the sports section of the complementary newspaper, I see that there is a big soccer match on tonight.  That should provide some interesting comparison with back home.
          So, later that night, I take myself of to my regular hostelry in the town centre.  The owner insists on giving me a souvenir T-shirt.  I take advantage of his generosity to ask if one of the six TV screens could be devoted to the soccer match.  All the screens are showing football, bur he obliges.
          This is the MLS (Major League Soccer) Cup, the final championship playoff game between the winner of the Western Conference, LA Galaxy (with you-know-who) and the winner of the Eastern, Real Salt Lake (how that happened I can't explain).
          The game has a lot in common with its European counterparts.  There is clearly a lot of happy banter between the players and the officials.  The TV director provides plenty of close ups of players gobbing.  Some tackles produce Oscar-winning injury performances.  There are lots of foreign names on the backs of shirts (although that doesn't make them foreigners here).  And David Beckham's appetite for silly haircuts remains undiminished.
          The game provides two 45-minute sessions of advert-free TV, which is quite remarkable in itself.  In fact, soccer has a number of difficulties establishing itself here, going non-stop being one of them.  The other is that it doesn't seem to lend itself to statistical analysis.  American sports fans rely on constantly updated statisitics to classify players, teams, and games.  Because I was watching under sufferance, I got no sound, so I was spared the stats.  I was also spared the commentary, which pleased me no end.
          Tomorrow, I'm off to the county seat, Norristown, to look over the Courthouse, and, hopefully, the Historical Society.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Saturday 21st November 2009 - Quarters, Golfers, and Nothing Much Else

          If, like me, you have to make regular visits to the laundromat, you have to collect quarters.  Typically, you will require about 12 for soap powder, washing, and drying.  There are one dollar coins in circulation, but they are rarer than hens' teeth: I've only ever seen one.  Anyway, none of the machines accept them.  Americans seem to like their dollar bills.  There are two-dollar bills as well, but they seem to be collector's items.  Dollar bills look as though they must cost more than a dollar to make, and can't last very long. 
          Does anyone else think it's funny that someone called Stone should sell hearing aids?
          Later that night, I encountered a group of people out on a pub crawl.  They were pretending to be golfers, all dressed in ridiculous checked patterns and funny hats.  And they were travelling in a school bus.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Friday 20th November 2009 - Missing the Bus

          This Glasgow doesn't take very long to visit. There are no highway signs, just the old road sign


and the old chapel


          There was nobody around, except one man sitting on the bridge parapet. I took a few ostentatious pictures, doing as much 'tourist' as I could, then I drifted up to him and asked if he was from these parts. "No", he said, flatly. Then his face said "I don't want to talk to you, go away." So I did.

          CNN came up with one of those unforgettable TV moments today. There has been some government study suggesting breast cancer screening might not be all it's cracked up to be, and, of course, the sisterhood is swirling. CNN started the story, and up came the headline "More Cancer Confusion", under a picture of the Fort Hood Massacrist, thereby adding a whole new dimension to the confusion.

          Later that night, I decide to combine exercise with pubbing and public transport. I studied the Pottsdown Area Rapid Transit web site for times and routes. I worked out I can walk a mile to one of the better pubs I found, have a few, then get the bus back. I have always thought that using public transport, particularly buses, is a signal of how well you understand a neighbourhood. 
          So I walked the walk, and I drank the drinks, and when I came out, I was ready to bus the bus. I found myself walking with a grown-up lady who was exercising her dog, a very large black dog. I could tell she was a well-off lady: the dog was very clean (you can tell as soon as you touch them, can't you?), and she was quite slim. I asked her about bus protoccols, you know, where the stop was, how you hailed one.
          As I crossed the road, a bus came. I ran and signalled simultaneously, but it swept past me. The lady shouted across that the bus I wanted would be much bigger. Then another bus came, and I signalled again. It also swept past. But as it did, I could see it was the South-East Penn Transit Authority number 92, which my researches had told me about.
          I had arrived about ten minutes before the local bus was due. I waited for twenty minutes. And since it was only a mile, and I was getting cold, I started to walk. And what do you think happened? It's the same the world over, isn't it? When I was halfway between stops, the local bus joined the sweeping-past procession.
          How do they do that: with such unfailing consistency?
          I met a man once at a drinks party. He had been something senior in the Department of Transport. "The trouble with puiblic Transport", he said grandly, "is that it doesn't work. It's a good idea, in principle, but nobody can get it to work in practice". And he's sort-of right: as soon as you move away from the centre of big cities in the middle of the day, where there are so many buses and so many passengers that it just runs all the time, the performance drops off quite dramatically.
          And they looked such nice buses, too.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Thursday 19th November 2009 - No Hanover Street

          There is, or so it is said, a calculated Jacobean insult parked in the centre of Glasgow, Scotland.  To the north of George Square, there is a North Hanover Street, which the cunning Scots abbreviated, on the road signs, to "No Hanover Street".  Pottsdown, predating, as it does, the Revolutionary war, also has a N Hanover St, but it is more prosaically abbreviated.  There are also King and Queen Streets, and more surprisingly, York and Charlotte Streets.
          My exercise program had me checking these out, and, to by surprise, two blocks from Charlotte Street, up popped a St Aloysius School and church.  It dates from 1856, a mere three years before my alma mater was founded in Charlotte Street in the Scottish Glasgow.  I guess this one must be, or have been, Jesuit, but I couldn't find anyone around, except a lady praying devoutly in the church, so not interruptable.  I shall have to go back on Sunday morning.  I expect there will be someone around then.
          Pottstowners liked to build substantial houses.  A high proportion of old houses seem to be brick.  There was a noticeable obsession with turrets on the corner.  Perhaps they wanted to express their success by aping their manorial masters back home.  I wonder if it upset the architects.
          Later that night, I decided on a pub-crawl.  What am I saying!  I decided to investigate the local bar scene.  In Pennsylvania, you can tell a bar from a restaurant.  Both are likely to have a bar, with stools, but the real bar will have ashtrays.
          I proposed to try and fit in by wearing a baseball cap, but in the first two, nobody at all, in the whole bar, was wearing one.  That came as a big surprise to me.  I thought males here were born in a baseball cap.
          I managed myself well and moderately until I got to the last one.  This was a bit up-market (no ashtrays), and I met a Kiwi who had done a US road trip.  We swapped stories and beers for far too long, and I don't remember much of it.
          I woke up this morning somewhat tentatively, expecting to feel bad, but I didn't. I had, however, managed not only to cut my finger (slightly), but to have put a plaster on it as well.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Wednesday 18th November 2009 - The First Glasgow?

          My resurrected walking exercises have reminded me of the now-infamous five-a-side football disaster.  And, curiously, so has a short story I was reading at breakfast.  It's called "Texts", by Ursula LeGuin.  In it, her heroine notices how much text there is around her.  To steal one of her lines, I may be the only person in America, perhaps the world now, not wearing an advert.  But she begins to notice more.  On the beach, the incoming tide scribbles incoherently to her, then knitted scarves and pullovers trumpet short repetitive phrases, and finally, she finds hand-embroidered lace communicating long, elegant ideas. 
          Well, when I damaged my knee, I began to notice that the little veins on the surface above it were beginning to bruise, the way you see when people old enough to know better wear shorts.  As the days turned into weeks, a definite message appeared.  Unambiguously, and no doubt with feeling, they formed themselves into the text "F U".  I hoped my knee would feel better for having got that off its chest (if you see what I mean).  But it didn't.  It's still there.  In fact, I now notice there is another message appearing.  It seems to be starting with an "S".
          The answer to the naming of this Glasgow lies with one George McCall, born, apparently, in Glasgow, Scotland, who came here at the beginning of the 18th Century and started a forge.  He did this on land that he bought from John Penn, the son of William, the man who founded this colony.  The land came to be known as "McCall's Tract", and the forge as "McCall's Forge".  This was back in 1725 (although he didn't actually buy the land till 1735).  It quickly came to be known as "Glasgow Forge", and has lasted ever since, with a Glasgow Iron Works exisiting almost to the Second World War.  But it should be noted that it was a forge (wrought iron) rather than a furnace (cast iron).
          There were quite a number of forges and furnaces about the area, and with names like Colebrookdale, Warwick, Coventry, Reading, so my guess would be that said George McCall deliberately named it "Glasgow" after his birthplace.  That makes it one of the few actually named after Glasgow in Scotland, and, possibly, the first. 
          George McCall was a successful Philadelphia merchant, and, from the amount of land he bought, a man of some means.  He was on Philadelphia City Council in 1722. 
          Later that night, I got caught up in thinking out the shape of all this writing.  I think I worked it all out.  But since it was so important, I neglected to write any of it down.  And since it was later that night, I can't remember any of it.  Oh, well.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Tuesday 17th November 2009 - There's Iron in Them There Valleys

          My exercise program is now in full swing.  I feel better already.  Having walked a couple of miles a couple of times a day, my knee no longer hurts when I wake up.  Unfortunately, it now hurts when I walk.  So instead of hurting all the time when I don't use it, it now hurts all the time when I do (actually, "hurting" isn't the right word).  Is that better, or worse, or just different?  I shall persevere, see what the outcome is in a couple of weeks.
          At least the weather is holding up, and the walking is very pleasant.   I saunter along to the diner, have breakfast and a short story or two, then on to the library.  I feel a bit like Burlington Bertie from Bow.
          The grown-up ladies of the library (I suspect most of them are volunteers - they probably found out I was coming to town) find me a fine selection of ancient leather-bound tomes, and a quiet corner with a socket for my computer.  When I finish this trip, I won't be able to remember which ladies were in which library, and which library was in which town.  I will have a composite perfect library in my head.
          This place is about iron.  The town is named for the pre-eminent ironmasters of the area, the Potts, although iron making started here way back at the beginning of the 18th century, if not late in the 17th, and Pottstown was only chartered (in Pennsylvania, that makes it a 'borough', just like Glasgow, Beaver County) in 1815.  To my astonishment, the geographical description of the borough limits in the charter (from the State Legislature) includes the word "Glasgow".  So Glasgow definitely predates Pottstown.  If you go back through the 18th century, the significant figures in the iron business here, whom the Potts learned from/bought from/married into sound like nothing less than a Rab C Nesbitt gang of football hooligans, being Rutters, Savages, and Nutts.
           Pottsdown celebrated its sesquecentennial (a very common word in American history, meaning a century and a half) in 1953, so it must have been 'laid out' in 1803.  There is a 1953 Sesquecentennial History published.  It has a very early 18th-century map as the flyleaf binding.  I can never resist trying to make sense of  a map, and when I locate where Pottstown would be on it, lo-and-behold, just up above it, where Glasgow is, it says "McCalls Tract".  That's got to be worth pursuing.
           Later that night, I have the young ladies behind the bar in thrall.  These small-town girls are clearly entranced by my European sophistication.  They are hanging on my every word.  Then one of them produces the Sesquecentennial History.  They've got a copy of it, behind the bar.  Apparently the bar is in it. 
          At least one of them could understand my accent, and my mission.  I shall bestow my favours on her.  It will save drawing lots.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Monday 16th November 2009 - On the Road Again

          So now it's off to Phillidelphia (well, nearly).  I have a careful look at CNN weather.  American weather is fairly easy to understand.  Apparently there is a big low stuck over the central US, held there by Atlantic highs.  So the system picks up moisture in the Gulf, carries it up to Canada to freeze it, then brings it back a bit and drops it all on Kansas.  Kansas is not just going to get early snow, it's going to get lots and lots of it.  The east (that's us), on the other hand, are going to get it nice and warm.
          The odd thing now out in the countryside is the corn harvesting.  There is still a lot of very dried corn in the fields, and they're clearly harvesting it bit by bit.  That surely must be to do with Ethanol: it certainly seems very unnatural.
          The radio tells me that they're running out of highway patrol troopers.  It's the way the budgets work: the federal government insists on certain services (like truck weigh stations) for its money, so when the state has to cut back, it's the other bits that go.  I remember back when I was interested in that sort of thing, I used to muse that if my local council was forced to cut back till it could only afford one employee, I would hope it would be their very best carpenter or plumber.  But it would, of course, be their Chief Executive.
          The shortage probably accounts for all the exhortations that line the sides of the roads, about buckling-up, keeping alert for 'DUIs' (driving under the influence), slowing down a bit.
          But there was one sign which appealed to me.  As we were coming out of some mountain ridge, there was a long, steep fall in the road (some of them can be ear-popping) and there was a sign at the top instructing a mandatory stop for trucks before they started down.  It wasn't advisory, I could see them all doing it, they had to pull in and stop.
          I'm beginning to get the hang of the rivers.  I'm on US 322, running alongside the Juniata.  When I get to the state capital at Harrisburg, I shall cross the Susquehanna, and then I'll really be East.
          It's when I'm doing these longish runs that I notice gas prices.  I'm now paying 2.75 a gallon.  A US gallon is about 4 litres, so that's about 70 cents a litre.  Which is presently a bit above 40 pence.  Americans bitch about how high this is.  No wonder they don't do any walking.  By-the-way, there's a study currently in the news saying that American children don't do less exercise than they used to, if anything, they do a bit more.  Their obesity is due to the fact that they eat a lot more.  That's a real candidate for the "No Shit, Sherlock" column, isn't it?
          When we get to Pottstown, Dulcie takes me straight to the cheapest of the motel chains, like I asked her.  But it wasn't anything like as cheap as it's been elsewhere.  So I decide to head off for Norristown, the county seat (where the courthouse is) to see if it's any cheaper.  As I turn onto Pottstown's High Street, I see one of the more expensive chains, and, I don't know why, some sort of appraisal of its appearance maybe, but I pull in and ask the rates.  And it turns out to be as low as I've paid for some time. 
          So I'm on the High Street.  I can walk almost everywhere.  The library is about ten minutes away, the Post Office about twenty.  So I'm going to get a bit more exercise. No sooner do I bitch about how difficult walking is, than my path is smoothed for me.  Maybe somebody up there likes me.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Sunday 15th November 2009 - A Day of Rest

          A lovely warm fall day.  I decided to have a traditional Sunday,  The best I could find for breakfast was McDonalds.  The traditional restaurants seem to open late and gear themselves up for Brunch.  But McD was quite and sunny, so I got a bit of reading in.  I'm working my way through the Oxford book of American Short Stories.  It has a lady editor who has not yet proved to me that she's grown up, but the stories are quality.
          Then I discover, in, I have to say, a state of deshabille,  that there was no bathplug.  Just as I'm ready to relax entirely, I have to get the old mind back in gear and do something clever with an old yoghurt carton.  But that allows me a heavy sweat and and another couple of stories.
          Then it's round to the Red Horse at Pleasant Gap.  They have, unfortunately, run out of civilised beer, and I have to make do with a local brew, from the Bavarian Barbarian brewery at Williamsport, some fifty mile away.  It's called 'headbanger' which has to serve as a warning.  I even try the Sam Adams October Brew, but it bangs my head just as hard.  I have a long, and, of course, erudite discussion with the barman about whether Sam Adams or Yuengling (The rather nice one that's run out, and another local Pennsylvania brewery, in Pottsville) is the biggest American brewery, now that the Belgians have bought Anheuser-Busch.  He favours Yuengling, but it can't really be true, since it is still, after six generations and 180 years, family-owned.  And I indulged myself in a pizza.
          And, of course, it being a Traditional Sunday, there was no later that night. 
          But there was one moment of excitement: I went out to look for a shop (that's also a pretty forlorn hope here on a Sunday night) and I nearly killed my first deer.  Big bugger he was, too.  I just managed to slow just enough to let him leap away, but it was pretty close.  He's lucky to be alive.
          Actually, they say here it can do you as much damage as them.  So maybe I'm lucky to be alive.  It certainly would have made a fair mess of poor old Rozzie.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Saturday 14th November 2009 - Getting Some Exercise

          I've tried, with some success, to keep up my exercise program while I'm travelling.  Since my knee never recovered from the five-a-side football, I restrict it mostly to floor exercises.  At my age, half-an-hour three or four times a week is quite sufficient. 
          But sometimes I feel I ought to be walking more.  Walking is quite an unnatural thing here, and sticks out like a sore thumb.  I can see why Americans have to buy funny clothes and go to parks to do it.  And cheap motels are usually on the edge of town, where there are no sidewalks.
          Anyway, I decided I was going to go for  walk.  I walked down the hill into town, and discovered it was only half-an-hour to the library.  I could have done that every morning.  And only another ten minutes into town.  Problem  was coming back, because I had to walk up the hill.  I think my knee is going to suffer tomorrow.
          And I need to eat more fruit.  Which means buying it.  I went to a supermarket called "Giant", to buy some apples, and found that all the apples were giant too.  A single apple would have fed a small family.  Still, a nice selection of fruit is what I need.  I will ask the motel manager for a large fruit bowl, to put my apple in.
          While I was resting from my walk, I watched football on the TV.  Notre Dame were at Pittsburg.  My neighbour at the bar wanted to know which team I was supporting.  "Well", I said, "my sister went to Notre Dame, so I suppose I'd better support them".  They were all quite impressed.  Come to think of it, so was I.  The "Fighting Irish", as they are know, lost narrowly.
         I remain quite fascinated by College Football being on prime-time television.  In fact, the colleges seem to advertise extensively in the half-time interval.  I wonder if that's part of the deal?  It's certainly big business.  We're next door to State College, the home of Penn State.  They were entertaining Indiana, known as the "Hoosiers".  There were over 100,000 people at the game.  My sources assure me there are practically no away supporters.  Penn State also won, a bit more comfortably than Pittsburg.
          Later that night, I met a man from California who was having a love affair with Texas.  Said when he retired, he was going to go to Texas.  Played lots of country music for me on the juke box.  Texans have this wonderfully arrogant song, "When I die I want to go to Texas".
          When he left, I wished him all the best, and expressed the hope that he died in Texas.  He seemed a bit non-plussed.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Friday 13th November 2009 - Too Little Television

          I wanted to see something on the television.  I have to find the listings on the internet, then I have to put in the zip code, then it asks me if I want sattelite or cable or broadcast, then it wants to know which cable operator it is, and I don't know, so I have to go through a few channels and see if they match up.  And I can't tell which channel it is during the adverts, so I have to wait till they end.  Then I notice that the adverts have lasted for nine minutes, so I start to watch the program (it's a silly Tom Cruise as a boy film) and it lasts for nine minutes before it goes to adverts and I get hooked on the timing.  This channel seems to have adverts 50% of the time.  I'm going to get a chess clock, so I can do this more easily.
          I think it must be time to move on.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Thursday 12th November 2009 - Who'd be a Postmaster?

          I think I've said this before, but I really rather like sitting in libraries and reading.  And it's not (just) the scenery and the hired help: it's the peace and quiet, and the other people doing the same thing.  If I won the lottery, it might be enjoyable to have a library of my own, but it would be more important to organise access to specialist libraries open to like-minded people.  Anyway, this not being a 'Glasgow' place, I've spent a week sitting in nice library reading background about Post Offices and Postmasters.
          Postmasters of the nineteenth century came in four classes, depending on the amount of business they did.  They were largely political appointments.  It is said that if you went to a nineteenth-century party convention, most of the people there worked for the Post Office.  And the more desirable the income, the more likely it was that a change of President would result in a change of Postmaster.  It was part of the "spoils system" developed by Andrew Jackson, the 7th President (1829-37), although that probably owes more to his Vice-President and successor, Martin vanBuren, the first serious political organiser in the world, whose work ultimately resulted in Tammany Hall.  VanBuren was the first President not of British ancestry, probably not a 'proper chap' at all.
          Anyway, postmasters of the fourth class often did the job as a favour to their neighbourhood: they didn't make much money, if any.  So our subjects, the worthy Glasgows of Ohio and Pennsylvania likely saw it as what supermarkets would now call a 'loss-leader', to attract people to their store and village.
          There are many stories about the difficulties of running a post office in those days.  In the 1890s there were volumes of racy tales about the activities of the 'Special Agents' of the Post Office Secret Service.  In a time when miners entrusted packets of gold (hard to believe, isn't it?) to the Post Office, temptations were high.  The Postmaster had to get two people to stand bond for him.
          My favourite story is about congress deciding to change the remuneration of 4th-class postmasters (apparently they were always tinkering with it).  To save money, they had the bright idea of changing from a salary based on the level of business to a commission based on sales of stamps.  The system involved allowing postmasters to buy stamps at huge discounts, 40-50%.  Well, you can tell what happened, can't you?   Sales of stamps by 4th-class postmasters went through the ceiling, while, surprise, surprise, sales of stamps in nearby towns and cities went through the floor.  There are some things governments just shouldn't do.  Although it was Richard Nixon who finally removed the post office from executive control (so he wasn't all bad!).
          Later that night, I was mulling over the vast difference between talking about something, and writing it down like this, where anybody can see and comment on it.  I was really thinking of yesterday's little homily on conditional mood on road signs.  If I'd been talking about it, I would certainly have said "subjunctive".  Writing about it, I had to look it up (isn't the internet wonderful?).  In fact, in that context (the use of 'modal' verbs) I always used to say 'subjunctive'.  I hope nobody copied me.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Wednesday 11th November 2009 - Forgetting to Remember

          TV here is quite hard for the casual viewer.  There is such a high proportion of adverts that you can't really channel-hop till you find what you want.  I would be quite happy to watch CNN in the morning, if I could remember which channel it is.  But I can't, and I'm not willing to take the pain of hanging about to find it.  So, since I read a book at breakfast rather than a paper, I can quite often get to the library (or whatever) without knowing what day it is.
          It wasn't till I got back in the afternoon, and put a classical NPR station on on my computer that I remembered.  It was playing what I immediately thought of as "solemn music" from the old east European communist days, and I thought "oh, someone's died".  Then I remembered it was Remembrance Day.  In fact, they told me.  I hadn't appreciated just how important a signal all those poppies are.  Of course, all the public building flags were at half-mast, but that's been true for some days, since that awful event in the army camp in Texas.
          The Philatelic Society Library continues to impress me: they found me some Glasgow postmarks and cancellation stamps (these are different things, you know), and found some dealers and their web sites where I could actually buy them, quite cheap.  "Cancellation" was to mark the stamp, so it couldn't be used again.  Here is one, from Glasgow Missouri, known as a "fancy" stamp:
The page listing it shows, for those of us old enough to remember, that typewriters didn't use to have a 'one' key, because they didn't need it:
          Later that night, I am reminded of the effect recessions have on pubs.  They really are bellweathers, particularly on Wednesday nights.  I should just stay home and read.  Perhaps I should write to the Immigration Service and remind them that pensioners are true capitalists, and are still spending: wouldn't they like me to spend in their country, rather than another one?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Tuesday 10th November 2009 - A Well-Equipped Library

          When I first arrived, I rushed down to the library to check whether it was worth staying in town for a few days.  I told them what I was looking for then rushed off to check-in and get my tyre fixed.  When I get back this morning, a whole table has been set aside for me, with books I might want to look at, and printouts from interesting websites: very impressive and very welcoming.  My regular readers will know what I mean when I say that this is a very well-equipped library.  In fact, there is one piece of equipment I can hardly keep my eyes off; almost as fine as the equipment at Winchester Library in Scott County Illinois.
          The Library itself is in a renovated match factory.  So it's one of those places where the simple structure of the building is highly visible, and the air-conditioning is surface-mounted.  It is quite clear that this building did not cost a penny more than was absolutely necessary.  Any Victorian British city housing speculator would have been proud of it.  I'm sure you won't be surprised to discover that, not only are the innards made entirely of wood, it's not even hardwood.  One single match and it would have been gone, which is an odd thing to observe about a 100-year-old MATCH factory.
          The most interesting book is one from 1892 about Post Office History in general, with lots of quite partisan anecdotes.  In particular, it has a whole chapter on how local Post Offices came into being.  For example, when the whole process had been completed, the about-to-be-appointed local postmaster got a certificate and instructions from the "Office of the Fourth Assistant Postmaster General':
          Later that night, I find myself in a bar which was opened originally by Gene Tunney, who was heavyweight boxing champion of the world in the late 1920s.  Although in somewhat distressed circumstances, it is still clearly has many original art-deco features.
          [It occurred to me that some people might find it a bit odd to put nitrogen in tires.  It certainly seemed odd to me.  When I was getting a check done in Minneapolis, at the Mazda dealers, I asked them to check the tire pressures, and they said "would you like us to put nitrogen in them?  It's a free offer at the moment".  And they gave me a leaflet.  Apparently it saves petrol by keeping the tires cooler, and therefore nearer the right size.  Something to do with moisture content.  I can't find the leaflet, but that's what I remember.  It was free,and resulted in cool green dust caps.  Of course I should have remembered that when I was using my old trick of finding out if the pressure was low by feeling the temperature]

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Monday 9th November 2009 - Finding out About Post Offices

          "10-12% Gradient next 3 1/2 miles" the sign said.  And when I got to Tyrone, by ears actually popped.  I think I'm on US220, when it suddenly ripes its mask away and confesses to being Interstate 99.  Dulcie has triumphed again.  I'm going North-East to Bellefonte (I think of the black actor, but they appear to say "Bell-font"), where I will find the home of the American Philatelic Society.  I'm hoping their library is not just about stamps.  I'm hoping I can find a little about Post Office History as well.
          The scenery is spectacular.  We're sweeping out of the Alleghenies and into (I think) the Susquehanna River system, which ends up in Chesapeake Bay, which looks like it's in Maryland.  So little has been happening lately I'm getting interested in the scenery.
          But in the end I'm distracted by something more interesting: a (quite common) sign which says "Bridge may be icy": a modal verb; very sophisticated; treates us like grown-ups.  I wonder how the European system of graphic representations manages that?  Perhaps a picture of a bridge and an exclamation mark?  Anyway, pondering on nonsense like that caused me to miss the sheriff parked up in a gully.  "I may be going too fast", I thought,and had a few miles to worry about that.
         I've been worrying a bit about one of the tires looking a bit soft.  If it's only slight, one way to check is by feeling the temperature after a long run and comparing it with the others.  When I get to the motel at Bellefonte, I decide to do just that.  And, blow me down, one of the others is completely flat: not soft, completely flat.  It must have happened just as I turned into the motel, because I certainly would have noticed that.  My insurance company gets someone out in half-an-hour to put on the temporary spare, and ten miles south to State College (that's the name of a town, believe it or not) gets a quick cheap replacement at a tire place.  "It had nitrogen in it", I tell him.  "Oh, we always use nitrogen now" he said, so that was me put in my place.
          Actually, there's a long and interesting story about that tire, but I'll save it for another time.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Saturday 7th November 2009 - A Day Off

          A chap's entitled to a day off, now and again.  It's getting quite cold up here in the mountains, so a day off involves snuggling up in bed for too long, then wrapping up and finding somewhere to watch TV.   Actually, that's not quite true, because I put on some extra layers (this is not the most expensive hotel in the world), sat at the desk for a while, and settled into writing a story: about one of my Glasgows.  "And about time, too", I hear you cry.  Actually, these things seem to come at something like there own pace.  There is certainly no forcing them.  I even had to stop at several point on the way through.  But it's a start.
          Watching College football reminds me of the vast stadiums that stand beside every University I pass.  They are all fifty-thousand-plus places.  But the support is really a bit like rugby: it's people who have been to college.  So it's doubly fascinating to watch NASCAR (the frightening oval "stock" car racing) on another screen and seeing some sparsely-attended meeting.  NASCAR is a redneck sport.  I guess the empty seats are there for the same reason all these bars are closng.  Unemployment is now officially 10+%.  The pundits say that could mean anything up to 17 or 18%.  They say coming out of the recession will be bumpy.  I think I'll just watch the NASCAR crowds as my guide.
          The third screen was showing the local hockey team, the Pittsburg Penguins.  They were playing "SJ".  I thought it unlikely that the Sociey of Jesus would stoop to ice hockey, althought they were winning handsomely, so they were a possibility.  When I asked, It turned out to be San Jose.  Can you believe San Jose has an ice rink, let alone a hockey team. Well, they do, and they were winning, and it turns out they're top of the league.  Life's full of surprises.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Friday 6th November 2009 - Princes and (Pill) Poppers

          I have fallen among a nest of catholics.  I kind-of knew before I came that there had been a very special missionary here in the nineteenth century, but I didn't think it would be so obvious.  There are large brick churches everywhere. 
          There are also more bars and taverns than I've seen elsewhere.  I don't suppose there's any connection.
          All of which reminded me that I had looked up something about this missionary before I came.  I spotted him because the local State Park is named for him.  His name was Prince Demetrius Gallitzin. 
          He led a quite spectacular life.  His father was the Russian ambassador to Holland and to France. and a friend of Voltaire.  As a baby, he was cradled in the arms of Catherine the Great (I didn't really need to put in the bit about being a baby, did I?).  His mother, a German Princess, unlapsed her catholicism during a serious illness, and seems to have induced Dimitri to do the same. 
          He threw up a career in the Imperial Rusian Army to come to America and become a priest.  I think at this point his bishop found him a bit of a handful.  It is interesting to speculate about just how humble and obedient a nineteenth century Russian prince could be.  However it happened, he ended up in the Alleghenies, ministering to a tiny flock.
          In what seems like no time at all, it seems most of the population was catholic.  And to this day, breakdowns of religious affilliation show and enormous catholic spike in this neighbourhood.  He became known as the Apostle of the Alleghenies, and is on the road to sainthood.  He was clearly a very inspiring man.
          The place he was centred in he finally called Loretto, after the Italian pilgrimage town (although it's at the very northern edge of what is now called the Laurel Highlands).   It is in between Ebensburg, where I'm staying, and Glasgow.  I thought I would go and look.  Although a relatively small town, it has a university, a seminary, and a nunnery and two pubs.  It is very well laid out and wealthy-looking.
          But it is the latest version of the prince's church which is so outstanding
Inside is equally spectacular
They also have a museum (sort-of) in his chapel house.  It has a copy of his instructions to visitors
It was noticeable that catholic grown-up ladies come with vacuum cleaners.
          The churchyard had stones indicating all ages and european nationalities, but I have to share one outstanding one with you
(sorry about the indoor camera setting!)
          Later that night, I saw a young lady getting a good kicking.  It was in a soccer match, on TV.  Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem about it, though he was thinking of Himalayan bears, rather than football players.
          A substantial number of the ads on TV are about taking pills.  Their purpose is really to outflank the doctors.  They tell us to ask our doctors for such-and-such a pill.  The doctors have retaliated by insisting that the adverts list all the side effects, however unlikely.  This has the bizzarre effect of providing an advert for a product with long lists of how much damage it can do you.  There is one particular one for Viagra (yes, they advertise viagra on the TV here).  In its catalogue of horrors, it says to seek immediate medical help for an erection lasting more than four hours.  What's been bugging me about this is that I'm sure there's a joke in there somewhere, if only I could dig it out.  Maybe it's the juxtaposition of "immediate" and "four hours"; or perhaps the medical help it for the other party?

Friday, 6 November 2009

Thursday 5th November 2009 - Courthouses and Cemeteries

          Cambria County boasts what must be one of the finest courthouses in America.  I have it on reliable authority that its main courtroom is among the ten biggest in the country.
It has a 'picture postcard' look to it, but when seen from a long way, it is a very impressive sight
Imagine the impression it must have left around the county in the nineteenth century.
          Today was the day for taking pictures of the founder's grave, but it was a pretty miserable day, so I decided I would hide for a while in the Historical Society, check out the scenery.  I managed to find which cemetery I wanted, and the actual plot number of the grave.
         The sun broke out for a bit, so I rushed up to Glasgow for the photo shoot.  There's a whole section of them:
And here is the man himself
(and, I now realise, a bit of my left foot!)
          Later that night, I was watching ice hockey on the TV.  Ice Hockey is the reason HD TV was invented.  It is now possible to see the puck.  The local (kind-of) Pittsburg Penguins were playing LA.  They were down 2-1 when LA got a man sent off (would you believe for fighting).  The Pens (as they are known) never looked like scoring.  In fact, if anything, LA looked like gettting another goal.
          Its really a very simple proof of the existence of God, isn't it?  Someimes you watch a sporting event, and you realise that not only is there a God, he's supporting one side.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Wednesday 4th November 2009 - Disrespecting the Dead

          I'm sure everyone has seen the Russian Forklift driver demolishing a warehouse full of vodka.  It's the sort of magnetic viewing that pops up on all news channels across the entire world.  And if, somehow, you missed it, I bet it's the most popular thing on UTube.
          There was, however, something much funnier on American TV this week, which may not not have made it across the world.  Since it involves a convicted rapist murdering countless (so far) women, it may not be in the best possible taste.  But it passes my test: it is actually funny, although very definitely in the category 'black'.
          After the arrest, and court appearances, police have recovered ten or more bodies from shallow graves, and (I don't quite know how to put this) 'bits and pieces' from the cellar.
          Then it turns out that the neighbours have been complaining for years about the smell.  The sausage factory next door (shall I pause for a moment while you rush for the bucket?) actually dug up its sewers and replaced them. 
          Perhaps our murderer should have done a Sweeney Todd.  Perhaps he did!
          You couldn't make that up, could you?
          One of the Glasgows was buried without dates, but still carrying his qualifications:
I don't like making fun of innocent real people, but I really cannot resist the temptation to say this stone should actually read "my son the doctor is dead".
          The courthouse wasn't much fun ( that's probably why I'm making black jokes).  We're now back east with a vengeance.  The is no plat of Glasgow, as far as I can see.  And all the surveying is done in 'metes and bounds' rather than the ranges and townships of the newer states.  Out west, you can work out where somewhere is by the survey discription in the deed.  But here, you just get a jumble of lengths, directions and markers.  So you would have to be pretty experienced surveyor to see that two descriptions were the same piece of land.
          Anyway, the real story here seems to be about George L Glasgow extending his store to a Post Office, and deciding that when people wanted to buy lots nearby, he would describe them as the "Village of Glasgow", probably for promotional purposes.
          Later that night, I went down the bar to see the Yankees (formerly the "Highlanders") winning the World series.  But there were two grown-up ladies sitting beside me discussing how awful it had been leaving their men: "I sat in that trailer, crying my eyes out, thinking nobody would ever want me again" sort of stuff.  I quite forgot about the baseball.  What was so entrancing was the way they talked as though I wasn't there.  At some points I almost believed myself that I wasn't there.
          It turned out, at the end of the evening, that they were working out what was the best advice to give a daughter on how to do the same thing.  Oh, and the Yankees won.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Tuesday 3rd November 2009 - A Small Packet of Fudge

          One of the benefits of church on Sunday was the gifts afterwards.  The lady who cornered me into going - no, that's not fair: who induced my visit - was handing out fudge rations.  Only just emerging from the Octoberfast, I packed mine away for gradual consumption.  But actually, I feel pigging is better that moderate consumption.  If I overdo it, there's just a chance that some of the calories will escape unconsumed.  I have just tested that theory with the fudge: very nice, too.
          I'm now in a new town, and have to find all the necessities of life: somewhere for breakfast, a nice boozer to walk to, and a decent supply of grown-up ladies.  So far I've failed to find a breakfast place, but the hotel does a free carbs-and-coffee offering, which might have to do.  There does seem to be one boozer in town, right in the centre: I found people drinking there at four in the afternoon: that's promising, isn't it? 
          But the main item on the agenda is the grown-up ladies.  I have to find a library and a historical society.  To my surprise, the library doesn't open till the middle of the afternoon, but the historical society is just across the road, in a delightful what-Americans-like-to-call-Victorian mansion, built by a local banker.  Apparently, it had got to be a nunnery before the HS got it.  It has the necessary local histories, and the duty grown-up lady digs out the Post Office History for me. 
         It's another Post Office.  I'm not going to find out much till I get to the Post Office archive in DC.  But I do my best to dig out ancestors and wives' names.  This are another set of Scots, who are required ot call everybody by the same name.  Ancestors, dates, and wives' names might turn out to be useful.
          Waiting for the library to open, I went back to Glasgow to retake the faulty pictures from yesterday.  Of course, they won't be as good, just the right colour.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Monday 2nd November 2009 - From Borough to Village

          I almost forgot the Sheriff's arm patch, so I had to stop at the courthouse again before leaving town.  The sheriff was busy, but one of his deputies was ever so helpful.  He even wished me success on the rest of my trip.  But I still find find talking to someone wearing a gun very inhibiting.
          Dulcie surprised me by choosing an interstate-free route (I've found a way of checking on her before we start).  Actually, this turns out not to mean very much, since the quality of the road seems to be independent of its route name.  In fact, some roads carry several routes (sometimes in different directions - one can be going south on Pennsylvania-something and east on US-something at one and the same time).  But always American road engineers are in love with concrete, so one has to give a disproportionate amount of attention to looking out for cracks and holes.
          I'm never very interested in the scenery, but, just for the record, the trees are now nearly all bare.  Except for the evergreens, of course, which are, em, as ever, green.
          My autumn fast had lasted an extra day.  Surprisingly, out of choice, rather than because it was Sunday.  Perhaps going to church does that to a person.  Anyway, I like to weigh myself at the end, just to make sure I haven't done to much damage (ha, ha).  A proper weighing requires the removal of clothes, so there is a certain difficulty with using weighing machines in the local pharmacy.  I have devised a cunning plan where I add a pair of shoes to the requisite selection of dirty laundry, and weigh that as well.
          Unfortunately, my plan comes to naught, because I can't find a public weighing machine anywhere.  I suppose most people here who need to weigh themselves would not be willing to do it in public.  But it sets me a problem.  Perhaps I could sneak into someone's house and do it.  How do you think that would sound to the men with guns?  "I'm sorry, officer, I was just weighing this dirty laundry".
          My first view of this new Glasgow involved another mistake.  On the last use of the camera, I had told it we were in incandescent light.  So it added a nice wash of blue over everything.   I shall have to redo them for the record, but in the meantime, look at the comparison between Beaver County
and Cambria County 
          This one runs to a Post Office, so this is the actual "Glasgow, PA"
(notice the coded reference to strong drink!).
Even if the Pennsylvania Department of Transport doesn't know how to spell it (perhaps the signwriter had been at the Kronenberg!).

Monday, 2 November 2009

Sunday 1st November 2009 - A Visit to Church in Glasgow

          The United Methodist Church in Glasgow calls itself the "Smith's Ferry United Methodist Church".  It's because the Post Office was originally in Smith's Ferry, and when it moved to Glasgow, it kept that name.  So, naturally, people gave their address as "Smith's Ferry", because that's what they had to say to get the mail delivered.
          They managed to muster 12 worshippers, which isn't bad, considering there aren't many more houses than that in the Borough.  The Pastor was late, because he has two other church services on a Sunday morning.  Methodists sing nice songs, and it turned out the pianist was the mayor's wife.  I gave her the letter and banner from the Lord Provost.  She promised she would get him to reply.  Somehow that seems more reassuring than getting the undertaking from a mere secretary.
          I was introduced to the oldest inhabitant.  He is 85, and remembered lots of buildings which simply aren't there any more.  Actually, there aren't very many buildings left at all.
          Talk turned to the election of borough officers on Tuesday.  Since there are only a handful of voters, they simply have blank ballots, and 'write-in' votes. They weren't sure that they would get enough people to do the job.  The sermon had been about Jonah,and his attempt to avoid a duty given him.  I had the effrontery to suggest that they should pay attention to how it applied to them.
          The main problems they have are the water supply, which can dry-up in the summer, and flooding, since they are right down on the flood plain.  At regular intervals, they can join with the Ancient Mariner and cry "Water, Water everywhere, nor any drop to drink."  A poem written at just the time the founder of this Glasgow was arriving at this place.  Although in those days thay certainly could have, and would have drunk from the Ohio.  I wonder if they still can.  It seems very industrial now:

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Saturday 31st October 2009 - A Little More About Ezekiel

           I stopped in what is now my usual spot in Beaver Falls for breakfast.  As I settled into my book, a group of young men, accompanied by an older man, sat down at a nearby table.  When their food arrived, they indulged in an unnecesarily loud grace.  Well, it's a free country.  When they finished, the older man led them through a bible lesson, at "preacher" volume.  They seemed, otherwise, nice enough people, but it's really the people who assert their rights like this who help form the constituency which ultimately acquiesses in their removal, isn't it?
           Then it was off to the Historical Centre in the Carnegie Library to see what I could dig up about the Rev. Ezekiel Glasgow.  Saturday seems to a day for gentlemen volunteers.  There wasn't a grown-up lady in sight.  Gentlemen just like to help in a different way, don't they?  It's all a bit more, how can I put it, competitive, isn't it?  One of them liked to tell stories about the 18th century Pennsylvania frontier wars (it said so on his card).  He knew this wasn't what I wanted to hear about, but, just sometimes, a switch got tripped, and he couldn't stop himself.  Of course, it was very interesting, practiced, and enjoyable.  But I kept having thoughts about it being Saturday, and them shutting early.
          Ezekiel was appointed minister of the Beavertown and Salem (Presbyterian) church in 1813, and promptly upped and died in eight months.  But he was a 'licenciate' of New Lisbon (where I've just come from in Ohio) presbytery.  And he ministered among the people throughout the area, including, in particular, Ohio Township, where Glasgow was to come into being, for some 12 months before his appointment.  Glasgow Presbyterian Church was founded and built some 35 years after his death, on land donated by George Dawson, who platted Glasgow back in the 1830s, when the canal was coming.  It was attached to the New Lisbon Presbytery. 
          George and Ezekiel would have been the same age.  They must surely have met.  When George laid out the town, petitioned for it to be a borough, and formed a church, where else could he have got the name?  And what impression must George have carried through the years of a friend fated to be forever young?
          Later that night, in the local cafe, I was joined by the owner.  The cafe specialises in 'kolaches', a Czechoslovakian delicacy.  It is a high-carb cross between a cake and a pasty.  Not having quite made the full thirty-one days yet, I was unable to try one.  I deflected criticism by making him choose whether it was, in the modern world, Czech or Slovakian.
          But what he really wanted to know was whether I knew what a "Glasgow Kiss" was.  I'm not sure whether he was checking out the veracity of some tale he had been told, or thought I might not know.  So I entertained him with the Music Hall preamble of "Can your mother sew?"