Voila, an American Dream – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

I had forgotten this song existed for decades. When I heard it, it was instantly recognizable, but I had to look up who sang it. An American Dream was released by the Dirt Band in 1979 and reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1980. The singer dreams about getting out of Augusta, Georgia on a Jamaican vacation, but is willing to settle for a trip to Coconut Grove in Florida. That’s Linda Ronstadt helping out on the vocals.

The Dirt Band was previously and subsequently known as the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Back in 1972, they had released the triple album – yes, three whole LPs – Will the Circle Be Unbroken, in which they sang traditional songs with several old-timey country and bluegrass musicians, including Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, and Mother Maybelle Carter.

Back to An American Dream: This song was written by Rodney Crowell and released on his 1978 album with its original title, Voila, an American Dream. That album, which was not particularly successful, also contained his song Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight which was later covered by Emmylou Harris and, more recently, Shovels & Rope.

Explorers Club and Infiniti Celebrate Roy Chapman Andrews’ 1920s Gobi Desert Expedition with SUVs

Source: Infiniti.


The Explorers Club, Hong Kong Chapter (which for no real reason immediately brought to mind the Flying Elvises, Utah Chapter) and the Mongolian Institute of Paleontology and Geology (IPG) recently teamed up for a twenty day jaunt into the Gobi Desert to look for dinosaur fossil and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Roy Chapman Andrews’ Central Asiatic Expedition.

Point of order here: On his trip to Mongolia one hundred years ago, Andrews was actually working as a spy for the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence during World War I. His more famous Central Asiatic Expeditions, where his team from the American Museum of Natural History made so many important paleontological discoveries, including the first dinosaur egg fossils, began in 1922.

That 1918 mission did result in valuable information that helped make his later scientific expeditions to Mongolia so successful – including his conviction that a motorized vehicle expedition was feasible.

Source: Infiniti.

For the 2018 trip, Infiniti provided three models of SUVs as transportation. Roy Chapman Andrews also used stock vehicles on his expedition, but he chose Dodge cars and Fulton one-ton trucks, in conjunction with a caravan of camels that stockpiled gasoline and other supplies along their route.

One of Roy Chapman Andrews’ motorized expeditions. Source: public domain
Source: Infiniti.

Media outlets that attended the recent trip include Maxim, the Robb Report, and Slashgear. Drones and satellite imagery were used to develop detailed maps, and 250 fossil localities and three possible new species were identified.


Assunpink Firewalk

Scenes from the first Assunpink Firewalk, part of the City of Trenton’s Patriots Week, which celebrates George Washington’s revolutionary victories at the Battles of Trenton.

Assunpink Firewalk, Trenton, NJ. Source: TCM


THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, 1776

The Firewalk was held along Assunpink Creek, near where American soldiers repulsed three British attacks at the second battle of Trenton on January 2, 1777.

Source: TCM

After night fell, Washington left a rearguard to light campfires and fool the British into believing the Americans were holding their positions. In actuality, the American troops were marching away. The next day, Washington would win another victory at the Battle of Princeton.

The Firewalk included the lighting of 13 torches, symbolizing both the 13 colonies and the fires lit by the Americans to cover their retreat, and a reading of Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis, written on December 23, 1776, and read to American troops before the first battle of Trenton.

Reading of The American Crisis. Source: TCM


Yet panics, in some cases, have their uses; they produce as much good as hurt. Their duration is always short; the mind soon grows through them, and acquires a firmer habit than before. But their peculiar advantage is, that they are the touchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy, and bring things and men to light, which might otherwise have lain forever undiscovered.

Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, 1776

These are the times that try men’s souls. Source: TCM

The Ancient Greek Inspiration for the Legendary Leg Lamp?

Does the Royal Ontario Museum have the real inspiration for the Leg Lamp from the classic movie A Christmas Story?

Source: A Christmas Story/www.achristmasstoryhouse.com

The lamp in the movie was allegedly inspired by a Nehi soda advertisement, but the original source must be this Archaic Greek leg vase, on view at the Toronto museum.

For the more recent history of the leg lamp, see A Christmas Story House.

Yes, I post this every December.

 

 

General Philemon Dickinson’s Hermitage and Washington’s Crossing

The Hermitage, Trenton, in 2018. Source: TCM

Philemon Dickinson,  called “one of the truest patriots of the revolution” by historian William Stryker, was from a wealthy family that owned land in several states, but he chose to establish a country estate, which he called the Hermitage, at a site outside the town of Trenton, New Jersey.  He bought the property, which included a house and barns, in July of 1776.

Not long after he bought the property, Hessian troops seized the building and established a picket there, which guarded the approach to Trenton from the north. Dickinson, who was a general in the New Jersey militia, was stationed across the river in Yardley, where he could observe the Hessians occupying his home. After crossing the Delaware on Christmas night, American troops marched past the Hermitage on their way to Trenton, driving the Hessians before them. General Dickinson, still stationed in Yardley, contributed to the effort by ordering the artillery to shell his own home; fortunately for his real estate, the effect was mostly symbolic.

Continue reading “General Philemon Dickinson’s Hermitage and Washington’s Crossing”

The c. 1721 Trent House, Trenton, New Jersey

Trent House. View of South elevation. Source: TCM

The Trent House was built around 1721 (although a plaque on its wall puts the date at 1719) by William Trent, after whom New Jersey’s state capital is named.  It replaced an earlier house built by Mahlon Stacy.

The house was modified and expanded over the next 200 years. In the 1930s, a WPA project removed the later additions, uncovering the brick well and  restoring the house to its original appearance.

The Trent House prior to the removal of the eastern wing and greenhouse. The well was located beneath this addition. Source: Library of Congress/Historic American Buildings Survey

Continue reading “The c. 1721 Trent House, Trenton, New Jersey”