Archive for history

Union Canal, 6/25/17

Posted in real life with tags , , , , on June 25, 2017 by sethdellinger

Today, Karla and I visited the remains of the Union Canal, not far from us, in Lebanon, PA.  The Union Canal (so named for the merger of two companies–it was unrelated to the Civil War) was one of the first canal systems in early America.  It actually started at Middletown, our current home, and extended to Reading, PA, in an attempt to connect the center of the state with the port in Philadelphia. Today, only 5/8 of a mile remains, right here in Lebanon.  And part of that remaining stretch includes the Union Canal Tunnel–the oldest “transportation tunnel” in North America.  It was pretty awesome! There are few things I love more than these vestiges of early American history that are hanging around in our own backyards.  Here are some pictures and videos I took.











Valentine’s Dog Dagurreotype

Posted in real life with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2017 by sethdellinger
  1.  I know A LOT of people who hate Valentines Day, so it seems.  And every year, most of them feel a need to unleash an anti-V-Day screed of some kind via social media (almost always involving the word “Hallmark”, “corporate”, or “made-up”.  And hey, I get it.  In fact, I essentially ignore almost all holidays, and I’m quite fortunate that my life partner feels the same.  We don’t really hate any holidays, we just don’t really notice them (with a few exceptions).  But what I’m wondering right now, as I continue to see these same people with these same rants about these same holidays year after year after year…why not just ignore it?  Let it pass with zero comment from you.  There is little more that a holiday hates than a complete lack of attention from you, whatever holiday it happens to be that you hate.  Just a suggestion, of course.  Certainly I have lots I like to bitch about, too, but it just seems to me like bitching about a holiday is some wasted bitching.
  2. I sure love my dog.  Who doesn’t love dogs?? But I feel a very special way about Benji because I’ve been lucky enough to be brought into his life late.  Benji is 15, which is nearing the absolute oldest he can get for his breed (at the absolute most, he might live two more years but that is unlikely).  I spent almost all of my adult life wishing I could have a dog; almost all of that time, I lived alone and worked jobs with long and erratic hours and was hesitant to own a dog under those circumstances.  But, once I found my love Karla, she came not only with Boy, but with Dog, and my time with Benji has been very special.  Now, he is not without his quirks (a truly obsessive-compulsive licking thing that can literally coat an entire couch if no one is watching) but in just about every way, I could not love him more.  I’m sad that I don’t get more years with him, but the time I do have fills my heart.  Almost anyone who has a dog says “They are part of the family”, and never has anyone meant it more than we do.
  3. Here is the earliest known photograph (actually it’s a daguerreotype) taken in the city of Harrisburg.  It is from freakin’ 1860!:

Why We All Need the Cubs to Lose the World Series

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 23, 2016 by sethdellinger

First, a few points of order:

1.  When I say “we all”, I am only talking about baseball fans.  I am under no illusion this is of significant import to the wider world.

2.  I like the Chicago Cubs.

OK, now.  Here’s where I’m at.  I know we all feel for the much-ballyhooed long-suffering Cubs fans.  It’s been over a hundred years since they won a championship.  And they have always, at least within my lifetime, been a likeable team, and how can you not like Wrigley Field?  And all the mythos around their losing streak (the “curse”, the goat, Steve Bartman, etc).  The Cubs winning a championship would be HUGE.  We have ALL grown up with that storyline in baseball–everyone alive today has grown up with that being part of their baseball experience.

I vote we keep it that way.  While I feel for the Cubs fans (but really now–they’ve had plenty to enjoy from the Bulls, Blackhawks, and even the White Sox), in the quickly-evolving world of baseball, the Cubs losing streak is too powerful of a tale to give up.  It helps to connect baseball fans within our grand narrative.  The Red Sox used to have a long losing streak, and it’s now over, and with the face of baseball inevitably changing as our culture accelerates through change, let’s not lose some of the only historic stories we have.  If the Cubs are no longer perennial losers, what do we have left???

Listen, I hear you.  You think I’m being a weird contrarian.  And maybe I am.  I like this Cubs team (but I like Cleveland’s team more).  And think about this: wouldn’t it make an excruciating but undeniably delicious chapter in the Cubs’ losing streak for them to make it to the series and lose???  To Cleveland, on the same year that entire city’s losing streak was just broken by their basketball team???  This world series, I’m rooting for intense, epic historic narrative.  Plus I saw the Cleveland baseball team play when I lived in Erie :)

Visiting Ado

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 1, 2015 by sethdellinger

It’s been awhile since I posted about old postcards, so for those of you new to my old bloggy-wog: one of the things I have an interest in is old postcards.  I love them blank or with writing (they are two very different artifacts!).  I adore finding collections of these in antique or specialty stores and spending hours poring over them.

Old postcards with writing are especially fascinating: they are glimpses into the past.  The off-hand messages written by people (almost certainly now dead, written to people also now dead) who never expected long-distant strangers to be buying their postcards and reading the messages and pondering the lives of those in the past–it can often take my breath away.  In addition, the evolution of the postal service (and by extension, our culture at large) can be traced via how the postcards are addressed, stamped, and postmarked.  And the postcards themselves are beautiful and delightful artifacts, themselves changing in style and purpose about every two decades.

Anyway, I recently came across an enormous cache of old Harrisburg postcards at a local bookstore and my postcard interest has been renewed.  I present to you here one that I just bought today.

This postcard is from the early 1930s.  Almost anytime you see a postcard in this style–artist’s renderings in vibrant colors with a white border–they are from the ’30s.  It shows what was then the Harrisburg Educational Building (now the State Archives):


The back, postmarked August 14th, 1933 (that’s 82 years ago, folks!) in Philadelphia, and sent to Marietta, PA (a town about 30 miles from Harrisburg).  It is of interest that a Harrisburg postcard was sent from Philadelphia to a town near Harrisburg.  Elements of the address are of interest.  It was sent to:

Mrs. Frank Ziegler
Front St
Marietta Lanc Co

Of course the whole Mrs. Frank Ziegler isn’t surprising for the time, but given how the world has changed since then, it is of interest.  The street address being simply Front St with no number speaks to a much simpler time, at  least mail-wise, if nothing else.  Note the absence of a zip code.  The inclusion of the county was, I believe, even strange for the time period–I’ve never seen it before.

The text of the postcard is thus:

Monday, August 14, 1933

Dear Aunt Mabel

Dorothy and Marion are bringing Mother to Marietta to visit Mrs. Peck, so I decided since I wasn’t nursing I would like to bring Bob and myself along with them and stay all night with you then go to Quarryville on Thursday to visit Ado.  That would mean four of us staying at your house Wednesday nite.  [name I can’t read], Marion, Bob & I.  Hope it is OK, See you Wed, Mimmie


These Secrets Are Being Recorded

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2015 by sethdellinger

My love and I just took quick day trip to Washington, D.C. to visit the National Museum of American history.  She, like me, is interested in most anything, although I must admit I funneled our decision toward that particular museum because I find our nation’s history particularly interesting.

There were people everywhere.  In this day and age of technology and immediacy, I must say I was surprised by the size of the crowd; and they were people who did seem to genuinely want to be there and were quite interested in the whole affair.

We started out on the third floor in the exhibit highlighting our nation’s many and varied armed conflicts.  We were tickled by some of the astonishing items on display from the Revolution and Civil Wars (Washington’s uniform!  The furniture from the surrender at Appomatox! Lots and lots of rifles!).  We took our time perusing the extensive collection.  There were even plenty of items from such footnotes as the War of 1812, the French and Indian War, and our conflict with Mexico (including Teddy Roosevelt’s San Juan Hill uniform).  Then a World War I display–tanks, bombs, more guns, and more of the same in World War II, including some amazing photographs of “nukes”.  By the time we got to the Chinook helicopter that flew missions in Vietnam, we looked at each other, seemingly reading the other’s thoughts.  “Do you want to move on?”  I asked.  She replied, “I’m just tired of war.”


It’s an interesting time in our country, for sure.  Things seem to be getting a lot more “liberal”, which is good.  I recently told a friend I could sum up my political and social philosophy just by saying “I want to make sure everyone is alright”; apparently, this is a liberal ideology, and so be it.  I’m not afraid to put a label on it.  It is what it is.  Whatever that is.

At times when our nation goes through divisive growing pains like this, there is always a very vocal group that just wants everyone to get along.  “Why can’t we all just believe what we want and leave each other be???” they bemoan.  And it’s a lovely notion, even though it’s complete horseshit.  I don’t want anyone thrown in jail for thinking gays can’t get married or for pushing for the continuance of institutional racism, but I don’t want to just let them be.  What kind of complacent, docile, horrific world do these people want?  They’d rather the boat didn’t rock than actually stand for something.  Rock the fucking boat, you motherfuckers, rock the fucking boat.  I’d rather live in filth than in a land of complacent hatred.

And why is it that the people who most frequently tell you to read your history books are the ones who clearly have never read anything at all?  Doo-Doo, Dee-Dee.


We live next door to an artist.  She doesn’t know we know she’s an artist, but we know.  A little sleuthing and a little circumstance led us to the knowledge.  She has a garage full of huge canvasses that look surprisingly like Mark Rothkos (I thought they were Rothko paintings at first).  Immense color fields, oranges, deep blues, with smaller squares of blacks and browns in the middles.  And a large, unfinished sculpture in wrought iron of what looks like a male ballerina, mid-adage.  I want to talk to her about it.  I want to name-drop Mark Rothko.  I want to tell her I love John Sloan and Auguste Rodin.  But I’m not going to.  But maybe she’ll catch me wearing my Rousseau hat.


You try so hard at things in life that mostly will never matter.  Will anyone care, after I am gone, how close I got to my ideal weight?  How close of a shave I managed to get, how many points I racked up on my grocery store loyalty card, whether I had all the Arcade Fire albums on vinyl?  (I do).  Holy moly.  It seems so cliché and trite but I just try to be better everyday than I was the previous day.  Nicer and more caring and less selfish.  And it is so hard and it never gets easier.

But still.  I don’t want to gain my weight back, and I do LOVE my Arcade Fire vinyls.  Life, it sure is complicated.


One thing I know to be true: it was a lot easier to like the Philadelphia Phillies when there are awful back when they had powder blue uniforms.

Spoiler Alert

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2015 by sethdellinger

It rains and rains some more.  Some would say That’s summer and some say This should be over by now, but in the end, it’s raining a lot and the rain doesn’t know what month it is. I wonder if the months themselves know what month it is.  It’s my understanding that months don’t care about much.


I saw the new Jurassic Park movie.  I liked it well enough.  It entertained me, which is more than many movies do, but of course much less than I ask of the movies I’m passionate about. One can’t deny it is occasionally nice to be simply entertained.  But even as the genetically-engineered dinos were (inevitably, terrifyingly) taking over the park, it can be difficult to shut off the part of my viewing mind that wants to pick everything apart.  Is the female character strong enough?  Does she exist just for the male character to obtain glory (in this instance, it passes my feminism test–but just barely).   What does a movie about resurrected extinct creatures (even if said movie is a summer popcorn flick) have to say about animal rights and the ethics of genetic cloning (in this instance, quite a bit, but it’s all a little aimless and lacks coherence).  These and many other questions I simply CAN’T turn off when I’m watching a movie, but ultimately, sometimes I just want to be wowed.  And at least this dino flick provided me with interesting questions to ask in between raptor maulings.


My love’s son (which makes him My Little Love, or for the sake of brevity, in the future on this blog he will be My boy) is a very active and delightful little guy.  My love and I spend hours playing with him in the backyard (meaning: we chase him around) and we have developed quite a few fun routines.  One of our favorites is when he balances on the row of bricks that line our patio.  He carefully balances on one before moving to the next.  As he reaches each brick, he pauses and announces to all assembled one of two things: he says either Doo-Doo, or Dee-Dee.  There doesn’t seem to be any particular significance that causes it to be a Doo-Doo or a Dee-Dee.  He can walk around the approximately dozen bricks and one will hear a random assortment of the syllables, like this:  Doo-Doo, Doo-Doo, Dee-Dee, Doo-Doo, and so on.  It’s a special kind of adorable.  My love and I now find ourselves saying it moments when the boy isn’t around, when we have a moment of careful or precarious walking, or some such thing.  Secretly I’ve started thinking of it as a mantra for any moment that requires great care or special attention, or when you are close to great accomplishment.  Holy moly, that cop almost gave me a speeding ticket.  Dee-Dee.  Or maybe We got the discount even though the sale ended last week.



I went hiking today with a dear friend of mine.  It’s been a long time since I went hiking.  I used to be very familiar with the woods and parks and trails around here; it was a passion for me.  Then I got gripped by the circumstances of my life and ended up spending a few years in a city, far removed from any kind of real wilderness.  Today was a real joy for me to spend time in the real woods again (and with Michael) but it raised more questions for me than it answered.  Do people necessarily have to be Country People or City People?  Is this like the old Cat Person/ Dog Person question, where people won’t let you be both?  How did I spend so long away from the woods and not feel like I was missing something?  And how did I love the city so much yet not feel its absence now? What is the true sound of my soul–cicadas or car horns?

Can you even imagine–I mean can you imagine–what this land looked like to the first European settlers when they landed here?  Here in what would become Pennsylvania, it was all trees.  Very literally.  All trees.  The going must have been rough if you were trying to bring your boat inland for any reason, or build a fort.  Clearing a little land to plant some crops.  I can imagine some of those scraggly be-hatted Euros probably thought of the amount of trees as an actual hindrance.  Imagine!  Today Michael and I spent two or three hours at a picturesque Pennsylvania State Park–in which our government has politely provided restrooms, clear hiking trails and other amenities, all while doing a fair job of conserving nature to a high degree.  The whole time we were there (it wasn’t a beautiful day, but it IS June) we saw about 7 people.  I bet on a similar day in 1950 we would have seen 700 people.

This isn’t just a typical bitching about people not enjoying nature anymore.  I’m just wondering.  How long will it be until nobody remembers why we’re keeping these places around?  How many country boys will hear car horns in their souls?  It’s even been brought to my attention recently that most people dislike sweating!  What will become of the parks?

We saw like a thousand frogs today, and one big fish that was standing still underwater like it was dead, and then it disappeared.


Shackleton, after being stranded in the arctic with his men for two years, finally saved them all with zero loss of life.  He did this by sailing (with four of his crew) for 800 miles in a tiny boat to the whaling outpost on South Georgia Island, which, coincidentally, was the same island they had embarked from on their mission two years earlier. One can only imagine (you can only imagine) how much these men must have thought about, talked about, and dreamt about getting back to this island, which itself was a far-flung outpost of civilization.  Ernest Shackleton and his 28 men were eventually all returned to their normal, day-to-day lives.  Shackleton had already been quite famous and of course he became more so then.  But somehow, only four years later, he found himself back on remote and barren South Georgia Island, preparing to embark on another quest.  But as luck would have it, his luck had run out, and he had a heart attack and died, right there on South Georgia Island.  And he’s still buried there.  The island he made a monumental and Herculean effort to get to, so he could get back to civilization, that’s where he’s buried.  Doo-Doo, Dee-Dee.

The Past is a Melted Glacier

Posted in Prose with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2015 by sethdellinger

The section of the Susquehanna River that flows past Harrisburg has, by far, the most bridges in close proximity I’ve ever seen in my life. At one point the vehicle, train, and pedestrian bridges are so close to each other, you might be tempted to think immense, 300-foot-high mirrors have been slid behind some of them.  The reflection off the water only heightens the effect.  When one first encounters and really ponders them, many natural questions follow.  Why so many, so close?  How did this come to pass?  The city, the river, and the bridges have, I suspect, a long tale to tell.


It is this time of year that I am most alive. I can feel the air buzzing around me, the close buzzing of air and oxygen and the thickness of invisible moisture. All-everywhere life is springing forth, preparing to display its full self.  Today I was simply unable to stay indoors, needing to feel the pavement under my bicycle wheels, exploring this city which I have always kind of known but never known, letting the sun warm up my skin, feel my pigment change shade. I was made for heat.


Once every few years I become immersed for a few weeks in one of my minor tangential interests, early polar exploration. It’s not something I’m interested in enough to become an expert, or to have it be a true hobby, but it’s definitely something that intrigues me, for reasons I don’t quite understand. I have a special interest in Franklin’s lost expedition and the great adventure of Shackleton’s Endurance.  I just finished reading the definitive book on Shackleton’s journey, “Endurance” by Alfred Lansing. I finished the last two thirds of it in a breathless sprint today, in coffee shops and under the summer sky by the river. My brain is filled with polar agony, soaked horsehair sleeping bags, salt water-filled mouths, brittle frozen beards. The thing that I always find in these tales is that despite some of the hardest and most intense human suffering you can imagine, they are always filled with joy, hope, and celebration. And also mystery, and the idea of being somewhere nobody else has ever been, or probably will ever be again, and the vast majestic mystic magical landscape, in a world that doesn’t give a shit about you. So yeah, cherry stuff. Good summer reading.


In the quiet moments that I have, I’ve always spent an inordinate amount of time contemplating the bigger issues of the universe. Time, past, memory, and the nature of oneself. Not to sound hoity-toity, that is just what I do. Lately I have found myself mesmerized by the change that has occurred in the recently, and suddenly. I spent most of my adult life espousing the fact that being alone was my best gateway into the secrets of the universe. And I’m not backtracking now, I’m not saying I was wrong. Just that maybe these long years alone were perfectly setting me up to best experience the other side of the coin. Now I can see that living with a partner, child, and, yes, a dog, are enlightening parts of myself I’ve never even seen or thought of before. In the best possible ways, I don’t even know who I am anymore.


Karla and I were taking a walk through our new neighborhood the other day, when we walked past an ornately and oddly built and designed church, sporting in huge block letters across the front PLACE OF PRAYER FOR ALL PEOPLE. We stopped to look at it and talk about its unique brickwork and design, when we noticed the two large angel statues at the top of the building on either side of the minaret. They were odd-looking men (both were identical). Unlike most religious imagery on most ornate churches, the faces of these male angels looked…modern.  Like some dude you might see in the mall.  But there was something else strange about them that we couldn’t quite put our finger on. Then it dawned on me.  I turned to Karla and said,  It looks just like George Carlin. After a moment’s hesitation, Karla burst out laughing. It was undeniable.


I’m actually dictating this blog entry into my cell phone, while sitting on a bench in the black of night overlooking the vast but comprehendible Susquehanna River. It’s a warm night, warm enough for the bugs to be nibbling at my legs, but the breeze off of the river is calming and cooling, drying my sweat off my skin enough to keep me temperate. It reminds me of summer days and evenings in Erie, a period of my life that is not that long ago, but is also quite different than recent.  The temperature and the breeze transport me right inside my 2008 Saturn Aura, with the windows down driving down Peninsula Drive, heading out onto Presque isle, the peninsula that juts out into Lake Erie, making it also the northernmost point in the state of Pennsylvania. On one side you have Presque Isle Bay, the safe harbor formed by the city of Erie and the peninsula, and as you drive your car around the tip of the peninsula, it opens up to the vast lake, a body of water that climbs to the horizon like a mountain, not unlike an Arctic ice floe. I remember the wind through my car, the heat and humidity, the breeze off the water, an enormous plastic cup of Dunkin’ Donuts caramel iced coffee, the sugar crunching at the bottom as my straw tapped it, The National’s  “Squalor Victoria” blasting out of my stereo. It was quite a day, and quite a period in my life. But that guy, he and I don’t stay in touch anymore. I don’t know him. There’s a new me here to discover. The past is a melted glacier.

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