Sunday, January 06, 2008

Coney Island's Dreamland II

The Dreamland Fire

A panoramic view from across Surf Avenue. Working left to right we see:
1: "Bauer Sisters- Burned out but still doing Business"
2: "Living Freaks"
3: The remnants of the Dreamland Tower
4: "Dreamland's Animal Arena"
5: The Giant Racer Roller Coaster, untouched by the fire
(Photo courtesy the Library of Congress)
At two in the morning on May 27, 1911 workers worked in Dreamland's Hell Gate attraction, preparing it for opening day only a few hours away. A few light bulbs burst, buckets of tar were tipped over and shortly Hell Gate was engulfed in flames. The fire spread quickly to the rest of the park. Dreamland burned through the next day. Fire companies came to the scene, but the wind's direction calmed a fire that could have otherwise engulfed the island. Coney Island icons like Thompson's Scenic Railway, the Iron Tower and all of Dreamland were destroyed. The park burned for 18 hours. The lathe & plaster structures were very flammable and the Dreamland tower was so bright it was seen in Manhattan (and that was in a period when the city's buildings averaged around only ten stories tall). Ironically, William H. Reynold's greed could have been the undoing of the park. He set down Dreamland so fast that the city did not have time to pull up their fire hydrants. The firemen reported serious issues of low pressure, which could have come from the dozens of hydrants leaking water amongst the ruins.

I have always been fascinated by Coney Island and places like it. Maybe I was so enamoured because under no circumstances was I ever allowed to go. I stayed quite often with a friend who's family had a beautiful place at Buckeye Lake, but the amusement park there was breathing its last breath, so it doesn't really count.

Scotland II - Bonnie Prince Charlie

The Cottage at Culloden - Field quarters used by government forces

Welcome to Culloden
Very few place names stir stronger emotions than Culloden. When Scots hear it they think of more than just a location: the moor in the north of Scotland just to the east of
Inverness. They think of the death of an era, a noble world view and a civilisation. They think of a heroic last stand against vastly superior forces, of claymores, blood soaked tartan, of religion, nationhood and the price of modernity. The connection between Culloden and all of these images and ideas is remarkable, especially if we consider that the event which connects them to this moor lasted less than half an hour: the Battle of Culloden, 16th of April, 1746. No other event in the history of Scotland has come to mean so much to so many.
In retreat the 5000 strong army was hounded by an 8000 strong government force right into the heart of the Highlands at Inverness. The decision by the Jacobite commanders to stand and fight on Culloden Moor, 5 miles to the east, has to go down as one of the greatest shows of incompetence in military history. The Jacobites were not just outnumbered, outgunned, exhausted and malnourished but had marshalled their men on open ground: easy targets for the long range government artillery. Driven by bombardment into a wild attack of men who know they are about to die, they charged sword in hand and were mown down in less than half an hour, most without ever reaching the government lines. When the battle was over government troops went on a rampage, indiscriminately arresting or killing everyone they came across. Bonnie Prince Charlie was amongst those to escape.

Read more here.

Haggis, Because I Was Asked

For Webutante who has the great fortune to have a son she loves and the good fortune to be visiting Scotland. Scotland beat the English. They were so rude to Rome that Hadrian built a wall to keep them in Scotland. The Scottish also gave us possibly the two greatest banes known to man, golf and Haggis. It is fully possible that the first Haggis may have been made possible by a frustrated Scotsman slaughtering a sheep with a nine iron.

Being that you are a lady, I will suggest that you only read the ingredients alone or with close friends.

Haggis Recipes

Haggis "is typically served on Burns Night, January 25, when Scotland celebrates the birth of its greatest poet, Robert Burns, who was born in Ayrshire on that date in 1759. During the celebration, Burns poems are read, and the haggis is addressed by a member of the party, ceremonially, in the form of verses from Burns' poem, 'Address to a Haggis.' A typical meal for Burns Night would include Cock-a-Leekie, Haggis with Tatties-an'-Neeps, Roastit Beef, Tipsy Laird, and Dunlop Cheese."

Oh, and did I mention that whisky is also served?

Haggis has many ingredients, many recipes and many supporters. So do many other fetishes.

P.G. Wodehouse has the following to say about haggis:

The fact that I am not a haggis addict is probably due to my having read Shakespeare. It is the same with many Englishmen. There is no doubt that Shakespeare has rather put us off the stuff.... You remember the passage to which I refer? Macbeth happens upon the three witches while they are preparing the evening meal. They are dropping things into the cauldron and chanting "Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog," and so on, and he immediately recognises the recipe. "How now, you secret, black and midnight haggis," he cries shuddering.

This has caused misunderstandings and has done an injustice to haggis. Grim as it is, it is not as bad as that-- or should not be. What the dish really consists of -- or should consist of -- is the more intimate parts of a sheep chopped up fine and blended with salt, pepper, nutmeg, onions, oatmeal, and beef suet. But it seems to me that there is a grave danger of the cook going all whimsey and deciding not to stop there. When you reflect that the haggis is served up with a sort of mackintosh round it, concealing its contents, you will readily see that the temptation to play a practical joke on the boys must be almost irresistible. Scotsmen have their merry moods, like all of us, and the thought must occasionally cross the cook's mind that it would be no end of a lark to shove in a lot of newts and frogs and bats and dogs and then stand in the doorway watching the poor simps wade into them....

An odd thing--ironical, you might say-- in connection with haggis is that it is not Scottish. In an old cook book, published 1653, it is specifically mentioned as an English dish called haggas or haggus, while France claims it as her mince (hachis) going about under an alias. It would be rather amusing if it turned out that Burns was really a couple of Irish boys named Pat and Mike.

To paraphrase Waylan and Willie, "Mothers don't let you babies grow up to eat Haggis."