Friday, June 27, 2008

Reenactment Overload...!

How many reenactments can one town take, and in how short of time can they happen? I guess we are about to find out.

This weekend just outside of Gettysburg, on the site of the former Yingling farm and major reenactments of the past, they are having 'the March to Destiny" reenactment. Mid-week, on the Sheppard Farm south of town, they are reenacting the Cavalry Battle of Hanover. Also, throughout the week, Black Horse Tavern is having living history on site, the Confederates are taking and occupying the Shriver House in town, and various living histories such as the farbfest at the Wax Museum will be happening. The weekend of the 4th-6th of July will have the 145th anniversary reenactment, and the following weekend, near Frederick, MD, there will also be a reenactment.

Can you say, "Phew! That's a bunch!"?

Just who exactly are the event promoters counting on actually being there to both participate and also to watch? The cavalary fight will be good, the in-town living histories will get there share, and of course the 145th will get major turnouts. What about all the rest.

I don't know. It may just be my opinion, but I think that too much is being done, that the farbs will be out in full-force, and that this will be just another death-nail in an already dying hobby. Anyone else agree?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

RIP to a dear friend...

...Deb Mattern. For those not in the know, Deb was a waitress and bartender at the Gingerbread man in Gettysburg for the past 15 years. If you'd ever have seen Deb, you'd remember her. "Pittsburgh Deb', or just plain "Pittsburgh" (as some of my friends and I often called her) was a tried and true fan of the Pgh. Steelers. Also, if she was tending the bar or waiting your table, you knew you were in good hands. She truly was one of the best!

Deb had been absent from the Gman for the past several months. Upon inquiring as to why, I was told she was 'very sick'. She had a myriad of illnesses that I can't even go into.

Let's suffice it to say that she succombed to these illnesses on Thur. June 19th after putting up a valiant fight. Deb, those of us who knew you will truly miss you. Those of us who never had the opportunity to know you have no idea what they missed out on. In her bar or in her section, you were one of the guys! She'd always take the time to inquire as to how you were doing, bring about some idle chatter when she was not busy, and make you feel like you were important, because in her world, you were!

RIP, Deb. You are in a better place. The Earth as we know it has suffered a great loss, but Heaven has gained another worthy soul! You truly will be missed!

Friday, June 20, 2008

My favorite monument of the entire Gettysburg Campaign...

 that honoring the 1st Pa. Cavalry. Located on Hancock Ave., not far from the Angle and the Copse of Trees, it shows a kneeling Cavalry trooper, with a Sharp's carbine at the ready and a look of determination on his face. A man, Pvt. Joseph Lindemuth from Co. L of the unit was used as a model for the monument. Sculpted by H.J. Ellicott, it initially cost $1500 and was dedicated in 1890.

Ok, so there are hundreds of monuments, hundreds of different sculptures on the field and in the surrounding area, so why this one?

Why this one, indeed? I don't know really. It has something to do with 'his look'. The sculptor got it right. He looks so real that sometimes, I almost expect him to step of the base, to walk around, and to talk to those of us nearby.

Several emotions are captured in his facial features (the photos don't do it the justice it deserves. It must be seen to be truly appreciated!).

He has a look of concern. He's obviously worried about the coming onslaught and possibly in a bit of fear about what the future may bring. If the Confederate assault breaks through, life as he knows it will change drastically.

He also has a look of fierce determination, a look that says that no matter what happens, he will hold his ground and do his duty. What more can one expect? He may be moved from his position, but not without putting up a heck of a fight first!

I was explaining this to Lori a few weeks back. I think that this sculpture summarizes life in general. Be aware of the present while at the same time, look toward the future. Look with a bit of concern, though, because we never can be truly certain of what's coming. Let's be ready for it! At the same time, have the determination that no matter what happens, be prepared to deal with it. Take it all, good or bad, but take it nonetheless, and win.

That is what this monument means to me. In the area while I now live, there was a lot of concern, a lot of changing fortunes, and a lot of dealing with a future the men involved had no control over. The boys did it then and prevailed. How can we be expected to do any less?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My True Gettysburg Dream...

...and the first major purchase I'd have made (after the celebratory party, of course) if I had ever won Powerball would have been the George Spangler Farm. Located 'behind the Roundtops', and between the Baltimore Pike and Taneytown Rd., the Spangler Farm was a major Union field hopsital, and the site where Confederate Brig. Gen. Lewis Armistead died a few days after the battle.

Because of the historic significance of the place, and because it was for sale on the open-market, the farm was recently purchased by the Gettysburg Foundation with the ultimate goal of interpreting the property and eventually turning it over to the NPS.

This is a major stroke of good news. Many areas that are currently private property in the Gettysburg area have major significance, yet are totally unprotected and may possibly be lost forever. It is wonderful that such organizations as the Foundation are able to see that these properties are protected, lest we have another fiasco like the area that was once Camp Letterman.

It is stated that $1.9 million dollars was paid for the 80 acres of the Spangler Farm. Remember, the Foundation needs money to continue to do this type of work, so donate if you can. This entire area will benefit if you do!

Remember also that we should give three cheers to the Gettysburg Foundation for all of their efforts. In spite of what we think of the new Visitor Center (and it totally wasn't the fault of the Foundation itself) the Gettysburg Foundation continues to fulfill their ultimate mission of preserving what once was the area of the Gettysburg Campaign.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

So, here's a question I've been asked before,...

...but never gave much thought until recently! How can someone born and raised in the mostly-liberal, mostly-democrat area of the state be such a conservatve?

Let's explain. I was born in Pittsburgh, and spent the greatest majority if my life within about 50 miles of the Pittsburgh area. My father is a retired teamster, and both of my parents are extremely liberal in their political leanings. I also have a brother who is just as anti-republican, anti-Gorge W. Bush as anyone on the planet! I have several cousins in the Pittsburgh area, and a few re-located to the Ft. Lauderdale, FL area who compliment my family of Bush-haters quite well! In general, my family pretty much blames George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the entire republican party for every evil in the world.

"Get out of Iraq!"..."Bush and Cheney are war profiteers and should be tried (and hung!) as war crimals (Innocent until proven guilty? Fair trial? Not on my family's watch!)..."They're all in it together (the oil industry) so they are responsible for the high gas prices!...Blah, blah, blah...blah blah blah blah If I had a dollar for every time I heard it, I wouldn't care how much gasoline cost because I could buy all I ever could possibly want...Yep!...It's that bad!

So how does someone born into that atmosphere hold such extremely right-wing conservative views (as the scale goes, go as far right as you possibly can. When you get there, go a bit farther! Now, you're close to my way of thinking!)?...Why is this all important?

My girlfriend Lori is about as republican as a person can get (Love you, Lori!), and she asked me this very same question. Knowing that I come from such a liberal area of the country, she expected me to be a liberal democrat, and was surprisingly shocked when she learned how I truly feel!

To answer the question...I really don't know! I teasingly say I refused to give into the dark-side, etc. I did a lot of reading (away from the mainstream), did a lot of political correspondence, helped support the the rights of gun owners, and so forth, and I guess it all helped me to come to the realization that I now have.

Am I saying that the Republican Party is 100% correct, that I 100% support G. W., and that I feel he can do no wrong?...Not hardly! Every person and every party has faults and makes mstakes. It's the nature of us all. I just ask myself a few questions...

...When a significant world event, terrorist attack, or global crisis occurs (aka Sept. 11th), who would I feel more comfortable with?...Who do I feel would be the best defender of the American Constitution and would do the best job of upholding our freedom and values?...Who do I really want to count on to help give me the opportnity to help live life to the fullest and to help better my way of life...?

...In all cases, the answer is a conservative!!! We have the instruction maual (the Constitution) given to us by the Founding Fathers. It is our job to put the best person in office to see that the rules are obeyed and the values put forth are upheld!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

So, they're in the news again...

...the ghost tours that descend upon the streets of Gettysburg like a plague of locusts. Enough, already!

So, what's going on this time? A lot of the tours aren't following the rules!

What rules? A series of guidelines put into place by the boro to help regulate an out-of-control industry!

The include limits on the sizes of the tours, group leaders being required to wear identification badges, and so forth.

It's kinda sad to me that an entire industry is springing forth based on something that cannot even be proven to exist. It's also sad that many of those in said industry don't want to follow some simple rules to help make things better for all.

If you've ever been through Gettysburg on a weekend night during peak tourist season, you'll understand why regulation is necessary.

Large groups of people with no respect for private property walking up and down the streets. People who think it's ok to stop traffic so that they're groups can cross the street. Groups of people who won't even move aside to let you pass by as you move down the sidewalk. "I paid good money for this. If I move aside, I might miss something!"

Don't get me wrong, there are legitimate tours and tour owners who do respect the rules. I may not agree with what they're doing, but as long as they legally do it, it's their right.

So, what's the solution? Crack down on the idiots who don't follow the rules. Fine them out of business, run them out of business, or at least boycott their tours. Legality is not an option! If you want to play the game, follow the rules!

Friday, June 13, 2008

So, John Laschar's going on a trip to Utah... have a meeting with supervisors and NPS directors, and some people aren't happy about it. They're going to a resort, and it will cost $1 million.

Boo-hoo! Cry me a river!

Sorry if I'm rocking the boat here, but I think it's a good thing, something they should do at least once every five or so years.


I'm a store manager for a company that has just over 100 stores nationwide. I've never gone to one of the major manager's meeting as I wasn't a store manager the last time they had one. Complaints were made that it was a waste of time and money because it cost $250,000.

Guess what happened at the last one. Store managers from around the country got to know each other a little better, ideas were shared and suggestions were made. Corporate people heard complaints on a personal level, and everyone benefitted.

I don't think the million dollar price tag is too high. If nothing else, it will foster friendship and comraderie among park officials. Also, some true good might come out of it that never would have happened otherwise.

Go to Utah, John, and have fun! Just be sure to bring us back some good ideas!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More pictures of the trip to DC...

...taken by my girlfriend Lori on my birthday. It was a special day spent with a very special person!

Washington, D.C.,...

...the headquarters of freedom. I had been here once before quickly. About 10 years ago on my way to Virginia Beach, I made a quick stop, took a short work, and saw the sights from afar. I did spend a bit of time by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which actually was the main reaon I stopped.

So this year, now that I'm all settled in and looking for new adventures, and now that I have an awesome tour guide (my girlfriend, Lori) to go along, I'll be going to more such places.

This particular DC trip was on May 27th (my birthday) It was a rainy, gloomy looking day in the Gettysburg area, so we decided to go to the Holocaust Museum (described in detail below). After a few hours there, we were treated to sunny skies and warmer weather, so we went walking. We walked past the Washington Monument (someday, I'll actually get to go up it), to the WWII Veteran's Memorial, around the reflecting pool and past the Lincoln Memorial, to the Korean War Veteran's Memorial, and finally to the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial. A lot of walking was done, but it was a great way to spend the day after Memorial Day!

I had seen pictures of the WWII Memorial, but I wasn't prepared for what I saw. It was incredible! I truly was blown away, not just by the sheer size (this thing's huge), but by the amount of effort and detail that went into it. It is just too bad such a thing couldn't have been done a lot sooner so that more of the dogfaces, fly-boys, leathernecks, squids, donut-dollies, and candy-stripers could have actually got to see it! They truly deserve it!

The Korean War Memorial, while not so awesome in scope, impressed me more than I thought it would. I had seen pictures of it as well, and didn't think I would like it. I thought there should have been more. I'm glad I waited to pass judgment, though. This things is powerful in it's own way, without being over-whelming!

Then, it was on to Vietnam. The names of the 58,000 on the granite wall. Mind-boggling, to say the least. We won't dig up any old wounds here, but let's just say that we should all wonder how our country let this happen and be sure it never happens again.

An interesting sub-story to all of this happened by the portion of the Vietnam Memrorial dedicated to the women who served. If you are not familiar with it, it is a statue of three women tending to a casualty. One of the women is looking skyward, hoping to see the dustoff chopper that should be en route. The second is consoling the wounded soldier as they wait. The third has turned her head away from the whole scene, as if she knows that the person they are tending to won't suvive. As Lori and I stood taking this all in, a helicopter passed by, and we were awed by the reality. This is the sound the women were waiting to hear, and it truly was eerie!

Because this was the day after Memorial Day, there were wreaths, pictures, letters and other such items left all along all of the Memorials, even moreso than normally occurs, and it truly saddened me. So many personal stories of sacrifice. So many men and women who did not make it home (I read a story about a Red-Cross volunteer that was more sad than most of the others. She was killed by an American serviceman in Vietnam), but rather who died in service of their country. How can we ever repay their sacrifices or console their families' on their extreme loss? We can't!

As we were walking along 'the Wall', I noticed a letter from home addressed to a soldier who's first name was Duane. Kind of strange, as there were hundreds of such letters, but the only one I really noticed was his. Kind of personal as well, as he was most likely someone just like me, but someone who's life was cut short, even as mine goes on.

After the DC adventure, I als had the pleasure of being treated to dinner at the Outback in Frederick. Lori trly made sure that my birthday was a very special day!

It was a day of many emotions, and a day that made me proud to be an American! In spite of all of our gripes about politics and gas prices and so forth, we must all remember that we are blessed on a daily basis to live in the greatest country in the world! We also are blessed that many of our countrymen and women constantly are willing to fight to the death so that our way of life can continue!

If you haven't done so recently, please do two things for me - thank a veteran for their service, and say a prayer for all of our troops in harm's way. They and their families truly deserve the Lord's blessing!

The National Holocaust Memorial Museum... Washington, D.C. is an incredible place. On the morning of my birthday a few weeks ago, my girlfriend Lori and I decided to go on a trip to DC. We originally planned on going to the zoo, but it was raining and cloudy in Getysburg. She came up with the idea of the Holocaust Museum, and am I ever glad she did!

We took the drive to Shady Grove and got on the Metro (all of this of course being a new experience for me), and made it into DC in the late morning. We got off by the Dept. of Agriculture, which was only a very short distance from the museum.

How can one truly describe this place? I really don't think you can. You have to physically go there to not only see, but to feel the aura and to smell it. The designers captured the feeling well. A feeling of sadness, misery, and a deep aura of foreboding were with me throughout. Straight up, anyone who has the audacity to doubt that the Holocaust really happened should be forced to go here.

Upon entry, you can select an ID card of an actual Holocaust victim, telling you who they were, where they were sent, and what happened to them (adding a personal level of realism to an already surreal experience). You are then jammed into a very creepy elevator for a ride to the 4th floor. A short video presentation in the elevator sets the stage for things to come.

Starting on the 4th floor, you proceed through a series of videos, exhibits and descriptions of such things as the Nazi rise to power, segregation and persecution by race, the formation of the camps, and so forth, all the way to the end which shows the Allies uncovering the camps, and the public reaction.

Very powerful exhibits and displays of not only the final solution, but of the systematic robbery and de-humanization of the victims, do a very strong job of telling the story while not being overly graphic (this is not a place for the young, the squeamish, or the faint of heart). There is even a small exhibit that details the medical experiments (torture?) that were done on some of the victims.

Two exhibits that struck me the hardest were the railroad car that was actually used to bring people to the camps, and bunks from Auschwitz. Why? Because the true smell of death was actually present. Maybe it wasn't death per se, but it was an odor in the wood unlike any I have ever experienced, and it was not pleasant.

Again, this is a very powerful, extremely awesome, and extemely sad museum. If you are ever in Washington, D.C. with some time to spare, go check it out! You'll be forever changed, but you definitely won't be disappointed!

Monday, June 9, 2008

"Boy, I bet you're really disappointed!"...

..."Too bad for you. I guess your team wasn't as good as you thought."..."Can we say 'Choke!', boys and girls?"...and lots of other things that I've been hearing as of late.

Guess what?

Let's roll back about a year-and-a-half or so. What was happening? The future of hockey in the city of Pittsburgh looked bleak. The arena deal had fallen through, and they already were celebrating in Kansas City, because it looked like the Penguins were leaving. Then, some late-game magic, and a deal was made. The Pens were staying! How did the team respond?

They made it to the playoffs last year. Though they lost in the first round, these kids got some experience. They learned that in order to succeed in the quest for the cup, they would have to up their game.

How did the fans respond? Can we say 60+ straight sellouts? Two years ago, you could have your choice of sections in a game. Now, it's the hottest ticket in town!

The Pens brought their experience gained last year and their youthful enthusiam to the ice this year, finished second in the conference, and made a serious run at the cup. Unfortunately for them they ran into the best, most experienced team in the league. After a slow start, they did manage to at least make a series out of it. They gained some more experience and learned how to win in the biggest series of the quest for the hardest trophy in sports.

If losing in game six of the finals makes a disappointing season, I look forward to lots more such disappointments! This team is good, and they will drink from the cup of Lord Stanley in the next few years!