Saturday, September 23, 2006

crow's feet

An excerpt from Kafka on the Shore:

"I was there then."
"Blowing up bridges?"
"Yes, I was there, blowing up bridges."
"Of course."
You hold her in your arms, draw her close, kiss her. You can feel the strength deserting her body.
"We're all dreaming, aren't we?" she says.
All of us are dreaming
"Why did you have to die?"
"I couldn't help it, " you reply.
Together you walk along the beach back to the library. You turn off the light in your room, draw the curtains, and without another word climb into bed and make love. Pretty much the same sort of lovemaking as the night before. But with two differences. After sex, she starts to cry. That's one. She buries her face in the pillow and silently weeps. You don't know what to do. You gently lay a hand on her bare shoulder. You know you should say something, but don't have any idea what. Words have all died in the hollow of time, piling up soundlessly at the dark bottom of a volcanic lake. And this time as she leaves you can hear the engine of her car. That's number two. She starts the engine, turns it off for a time, like she's thinking about something, then turns the key again and drives out of the parking lot. That blank, silent interval between leaves you sad, so terribly sad. Like fog from the sea, that blankness wends its way into your heart and remains there for a long, long time. Finally, it's a part of you.
She leaves behind a damp pillow, wet with her tears. You touch the warmth with your hand and watch the sky outside gradually lighten. Far away a crow caws. The Earth slowly keeps on turning. But beyond any of those details of the real, there are dreams. And everyone's living in them.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

that right is right

it is fall and the ghosts are coming out. my typing fingers are tempted to stray to talk of fall and the haunting months. as soon as the chill creeps into the nights every october passed finds a foothold in my mind. i feel foggy, lost, but oh so pleasantly. i am content to walk in this sort of wilderness, crunching across leaves and staring at moons, waiting to see what might jump out of the darkness. delicious. i like to fall.

but back to the task at hand. i want to talk about a place. of late i think it might be the most fun in the world to spend my time learning everything i can about a single place. every event that has happened there, every person to pass through, every thing. this is a newer passion to me, i think i may have sublimated something. solid to vapor. vapor to solid. so it goes. it reminds me of a line from a movie. the exactitudes escape me right now, but i have a hunch it may have been reese witherspoon in the man in the moon telling the ill-fated jason london that she wants to know him, she wants to know everything about him. oh, did that movie make me sob.

you know, though, even the most ho-hum places turn out to have fascinating stories. for instance, i've recently acquainted myself with a number of interesting facts about ripon, wisconsin. ripon is exceedingly close to my hometown oshkosh, as such i found it very boring for many years of my life. even childhood tours of the rippin' good cookie factory, which does make lovely chocolate pinwheel cookies that you can eat off your pinky finger and a tasty wafer cookie trio, could not sway my lackluster opinion of this town. a brief stint on college break as the receptionist at dickinson's gourmet preserves(owned by Smuckers!) still left me unimpressed. there's never been anything wrong with ripon, it just never excited me.

that changed quite by accident. i cannot ever recall exactly how my staring at the wisconsin state song and the words "champion of the right" brought me to this point, perhaps i simply looked up "birthplace of the republican party" since i knew it to be ripon. and hey ho, here we go:

top ten reasons to read about ripon, wisconsin
10. rabbit holes
ripon was named after the english cathedral town of ripon, yorkshire. and whose papa was a residentiary canon of the cathedral? lewis carroll, go ask alice...
9. the trouble with kansas
from what i can see, the republican party--which ripon claims to have birthed when some folks against slavery went into a schoolhouse and had a conversation--began out of a concern for kansas. note to self, cultivate friendships with newspaper editors before beginning the wendigo party.
8. talk yourself horace
ok, horace greeley isn't directly related to ripon, but he was friends with this guy alan bovay. bovay said those few words which made the republican party pop out of its proverbial womb, they really aren't that exciting and if you search on alan you'll see them because apparently they are the only interesting thing that man ever said. wait, not interesting, noteworthy. what is interesting is that bovay and horace were probably friends...well because they met in new york, but better than that...because they liked utopias!! which is why bovay ended up in ripon in time to utter those noteworthy words, he was hunting utopias...more on that in a bit. meanwhile, horace was part of his own utopia in red bank, new jersey. red bank doesn't appear to appreciate a sense of history as you can mainly only find financial information and "gateway to new york" propaganda. notable citizens: well it's associated with bruce springsteen and kevin smith, no mention of dear horace.
7. the gristly details
a man named david mapes came to the site of ripon in 1849. really this guy seems to deserve all the credit for making ripon - the little town that could. not content with his grist mill and happy little river, mapes was way into development. he gave away land, but in order to get a lot you'd need to build a business in the town square. you had to contribute to the community or build a specific building he desired in return for your sweet little spot of grass. he was a founder of ripon college, but mainly for brochure purposes: "Mapes was a booster, a boomer, who promoted Ripon's growth as a city relentlessly. He saw the addition of a college as a way of attracting desirable newcomers to settle in the town he had founded. Ashley and Miller, p. 5, say that "under his guidance the College never became much more than a promise"used to lure travelers into becoming citizen." he convinced the feds to build a railroad and to move the postoffice from ceresco (ceresco, get a little shiver when you hear it and get ready for more) to ripon. i do not like him. he was ugly and i consider him not nice. his ripon next to ceresco is like america next to canada.
6. classic battle of good vs. evil
what do i mean about america and canada, ceresco and ripon? well before i get to ceresco (shiver), let me explain that bovay (yes that man that said the word republican) was coming to the region to go to ceresco when that beastie mapes convinced him to come to ripon instead. mind you ceresco and ripon were right by each other (they were incorporated into one town when incorporation occurred). bovay was coming to live in the community of a man named warren chase (shiver), but then mapes lured him into ripon just like he seduced the post office. alright, let's drop the seduction motif. but mapes was weird. why the hell did he want to make a town so bad and he didn't even name it after himself? weird. also, he supposedly had a real rivalry with warren chase (shiver)... i mean he came and put his stupid little town right next to chase's (shiver) ceresco (shiver) community and as such destroyed ceresco (shiver), why? he couldn't have moved 20 miles in some other direction? really, the land is pretty much the same around there. trust me. to make things odder, warren chase (shiver) is another co-founder of ripon college. the college's page on its founding cites mapes as the primary founder of the college and remarks that chase "was "briefly" one of the first trustees of the College. His autobiography, The Life Line of the Lone One: or an Autobiography of the World's Child, gives further insights into his beliefs and differences with the beliefs of those around him." it would appear mapes (stalker much) had chase on board just so he could point out how different and odd chase was only to further discredit the man and his community. ceresco had already disbanded, mapes, you won already. you won! leave chase alone.
5. ceresco - that's latin for awesome
ready to hear about ceresco? "On May 27, 1844, the first settlers of the Ripon area reached their destination. They were members of the Wisconsin Phalanx - nineteen men and one boy - who were led by young Warren Chase. Inspired by Charles Fourier's principles of social philosophy, the Phalanx set out from Kenosha to establish a community which was to be an experiment in what we today would call Socialism.They named this community "Ceresco" after the Roman goddess of the harvest, and located it in a valley nestled between two hills. Before long, this was the home of more than 200 idealists. The members constructed several commonly-owned dwellings called long houses, one of which still stands on its original site. For five years the Fourierites prospered to an extent greater than those in most utopian socialist experiments. To this day, this area continues to be called Ceresco." a ripon historical website tells us. the fond du lac public library website tells a more nuanced tale. ceresco disbanded six years after it began, perhaps because of mapes and his juggernaut community of ripon, perhaps not. i'm very interested in learning everything i can about ceresco, it doesn't seem a failure in the way of some of the other communes.
4. free love
knowing that ripon was first ceresco is just a good reason to read up on charles fourier and all of his kinky ideas. strangely enough, wikipedia seems to have lost its entry on charles. it was there last month, really, and he's linked in discussions of the north american phalanx and the phalanstere (his original commune concept). good thing the internet is not simply wikipedia. you can read about fourier here. oh please please do, he is DELIGHTFULLY SPECIFIC...
3. warren chase 2. warren chase 1. warren chase
i like warren chase. i am going to run right out and get "The Life Line of the Lone One: or an Autobiography of the World's Child". without having read his life story, i already know he rose from orphandom and poverty to founding a successful utopian commune. way cool. and, "Chase fought vigorously to enshrine a broad variety of social reforms in both the 1846 and the 1848 constitutions. He was well-liked, even by his more conservative colleagues who regarded him indulgently as a sincere if impractical idealist. Chase was an adamant and consistent opponent of banking, even in 1848.He was a leading advocate of black suffrage and of a broad homestead exemption.He also tried to enshrine a ban on capital punishment in the 1846 and 1848 constitutions." an all around good guy. he became a spiritualist in california before he died. i love me some californian spiritualists!

well, i feel like i started a utopia of exactly 1600 people (complete with a bevy of men ready to console if a lover rejects me) and lived in bliss for six years, only to have some asshole move in next door, build a walmart and mcdonalds, and invite me to serve on the school board with him. i'm pooped and like chase in the end it is time to get back to thinking about spirits and shades.

hope you had a ripon good time!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Saturday, September 02, 2006

food for thought

you'll notice in my exploration of the driftless zone that i suggest a visit to the fort crawford medical museum. the medical museum is now part of the prairie du chen museum. i thank the prairie du chen historical society for maintaining this museum but urge them to go more in depth. is your appetite whet by the following: "The museum boasts more than 50 exhibits in 3 buildings, which reflect the historical society's mission to tell the story of Prairie du Chien with emphasis on Fort Crawford, especially the amazing story of Dr. William Beaumont."? i fear not, and so allow me to share with you the amazing story of dr. william beaumont...

you can read the full story on dr. beaumont on this quite nice genealogy page. but for your digestive ease i shall copy the choicest bits of this amazing story here. dr. beaumont was born somewhere back some time ago. for awhile he resided on mackinac island. mackinac island is pretty neat because i rode my bicycle there once, and once there all you can ride are bicycles or carriages. i also think mackinac island fudge ice cream (an old favorite) gets it name from this island. last but not least, the island boasts a pretty grand hotel:

the hotel was built in 1887. dr. beaumont occupied fort mackinac in 1819. and it is here, on mackinac island, that things start to get amazing! let's dig in.

On June 6, 1822, in the American Fur Company on Mackinac Island, a French-Canadian voyageur named Alexis St. Martin was shot in the upper left abdomen; the musket wound was "more than the size of the palm of a man's hand," Beaumont wrote, and affected part of a lung, two ribs, and the stomach. Dr. Beaumont treated the wound, but he was repeatedly unsuccessful in fully closing the hole in St. Martin's stomach; for a while, the hole had to be covered to prevent food and drink from coming out. St. Martin was now unable to work as a voyageur, so in April 1823 Beaumont hired him as the family's live-in handyman — chopping wood, mowing a field, etc.

The hole in St. Martin's side was a permanent open gastric fistula, large enough that Beaumont could insert his entire forefinger into the stomach cavity. If you want more detail, please see the fine print*.

It was not until August 1, 1825 that Dr. Beaumont — now stationed at Fort Niagara — began his experiments with St. Martin, becoming the first person to observe human digestion as it occurs in the stomach. Beaumont tied quarter-ounce pieces of food to the end of a silk string and dangled the food through the hole into St. Martin's stomach. (The food items were "high seasoned alamode beef," raw salted lean beef, raw salted fat pork, raw lean fresh beef, boiled corned beef, stale bread, and raw cabbage.) St. Martin went back to his household duties. Beaumont pulled out the string one, two, and three hours later, to observe the rate of digestion for the different foods. Five hours after he first put the food into St. Martin's stomach, Beaumont removed the food pieces because St. Martin was suffering stomach distress. The next day, St. Martin still had indigestion, which Beaumont treated.

On August 7, 1825, Beaumont had St. Martin fast for 17 hours, and then took the temperature of St. Martin's stomach (it was 100 degrees) Beaumont removed gastric juice from St. Martin's stomach, then observed the rate of digestion of a piece of corned boiled beef "test-tube" style, while also placing the same-sized piece of meat directly into St. Martin's stomach. The stomach digested the meat in two hours; the vial of gastric juice took 10 hours (maintained at about 100 degrees). The next day, Beaumont repeated the experiments using boiled chicken, which he found digested slower than the beef. The experiments showed that gastric juice has solvent properties. In September, St. Martin returned home to Canada (where he married and had children), so Beaumont was unable to experiment on him further at this time.

In June 1829, Alexis St. Martin returned to the Beaumonts, this time bringing his wife and family to Fort Crawford. Beaumont was busy with his medical work so did not have time to resume experiments with St. Martin until December 1829 through March 1830. One set of observations was to try to determine any relation between digestion and weather. By observing St. Martin on different days and times and in varying weather conditions, Beaumont saw that dry weather increases stomach temperature, and humid weather lowers it (a healthy stomach being 100 degrees).

Dr. Beaumont was busy treating patients with "intermittent fever" during the area's summer flood and fall rains in 1830. In January 1831, Beaumont just observed the normal process of digestion in the stomach. St. Martin would eat a normal meal and resume his work, and Beaumont would periodically take samples from St. Martin's stomach. Another experiment compared what happened to food placed in a vial of gastric juice (temperature not controlled), food placed in a container of water, and food eaten by St. Martin; he learned that gastric juice needed heat to digest (i.e., that cold gastric juice has no effect on food). Beaumont used more variety of food samples while at Fort Crawford; he found that vegetables are less digestible than other foods, and milk coagulates before the digestive process. St. Martin sometimes became irritable doing experiments (it was stressful for him to have food removed from his stomach), and Beaumont observed that being angry can hinder one's digestion. In April 1831, St. Martin and his family left for their home in Canada, traveling by canoe or portage all the way to Montreal.

In late 1832, Beaumont began a leave from the Army, intending to conduct further experiments on the digestive system. He located Alexis St. Martin in October, dropped off his wife Deborah and children in Plattsburgh (where Deborah's family lived), and traveled with St. Martin to Washington, D.C. Beaumont again tried different foods with St. Martin, including raw oysters, sausage, mutton, and "boiled salted fat pork." Beaumont focused on gastric juice, but did not study the importance of saliva on digestion; sometimes, he put food directly into St. Martin's stomach (once, he put in 12 raw oysters). He also observed that exercise helped the production and release of gastric juice. (Another limitation on Beaumont's work is that he could not obtain a chemical analysis of the gastric juice, as chemical analysis was severely limited in the mid-nineteenth century.)

In mid-April 1833, Beaumont went to Plattsburgh, New York, where Beaumont was reunited with his family and began work on publishing his observations in a book, "Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion." Dr. William Beaumont's cousin, Dr. Samuel Beaumont, had published a small newspaper prior to becoming a doctor himself (he apprenticed under William), so Samuel was quite helpful to William with the book's initial printing in 1833 (and with its second edition in 1846). Sometime in April or May 1833, St. Martin left for Canada due to the death of one of his children; he expected to rejoin Beaumont by June 1 for more experiments, but as it turned out, St. Martin and Dr. Beaumont never again saw each other.

Alexis St. Martin lived 58 years after his accident. After returning home to Canada for good, he worked as a farmer and itinerant laborer ("chopping wood by the cord," he described it). After the doctor's death, St. Martin did make a brief visit in 1856 to Dr. Beaumont's home in St. Louis, where he spoke with Deborah Beaumont. After Deborah's death, St. Martin frequently corresponded with Dr. Beaumont's son Israel; in 1879, he wrote that he had "been ill for six years...I am suffering a little from my gastric fistula, and my digestion grows worse than ever." His lawyer, Judge Baby of Montreal, said that St. Martin was "very much addicted to drink" in his 80's.

When St. Martin died at age 86 on June 24, 1880 in St. Thomas de Joliette, Canada, his family deliberately let his body decompose in the hot sun for four days and then buried it in the Catholic churchyard in a deep unmarked grave, with heavy rocks atop the coffin, hoping to prevent anyone from examining his stomach or performing an autopsy. Years later, to commemorate St. Martin's contribution to medical science, a committee finally persuaded one of St. Martin's granddaughters to disclose the grave's location; in 1962, a plaque was placed on the church's wall near the grave, stating Alexis' history, and that

"through his affliction he served all humanity."

*St. Martin "was accidentally wounded by a discharge from a musket. The contents of the weapon, consisting of powder and duck-shot, entered his left side from a distance of not more than a yard off. The charge was directed obliquely forward and inward, literally blowing off the integument and muscles for a space about the size of a man's hand, carrying away the anterior half of the 6th rib, fracturing the 5th rib, lacerating the lower portion of the lowest lobe of the left lung, and perforating the diaphragm and the stomach. The whole mass of the discharge together with fragments of clothing were driven into the muscles and cavity of the chest. When first seen by Dr. Beaumont about a half hour after the accident, a portion of the lung, as large as a turkey's egg was found protruding through the external wound. The protruding lung was lacerated and burnt. Immediately below this was another protrusion, which proved to be a portion of the stomach, lacerated through all its coats. Through an orifice, large enough to admit a fore-finger, oozed the remnants of the food he had taken for breakfast. His injuries were dressed; extensive sloughing commenced, and the wound became considerably enlarged. Portions of the lung, cartilages, ribs, and of the ensiform process of the sternum came away. In a year from the time of the accident, the wound, with the exception of a fistulous aperture of the stomach and side, had completely cicatrized. This aperture was about 2 1/2 inches in circumference, and through it food and drink constantly extruded unless prevented by a tent-compress and bandage." [From Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine by George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle (Philadelphia, 1896)]

Friday, September 01, 2006


if you've visited wisconsin, you might have discovered that there's rather a lot to do there. you might also have noted that some of the things to do are rather strange, bet let's hope you've enjoyed yourself nonetheless while doing them. everyone notices how friendly people in wisconsin are. i think beyond mere friendliness, people in wisconsin--for whatever reason--must simply like other people and perhaps life in general. i think it's with the desire to share any strange little bit of life discovered in one's very own backyard that i feel the most like my statespeople.

the southwest corner of wisconsin was never touched by glaciers and so it has become known as the driftless zone. it's quite geologically interesting that glaciers never touched this land, but please don't let that stop it from touching you. go on, enjoy unglaciated southwest wisconsin:

and there ends our brief tour of southwest wisconsin, can you believe there's plenty more to see! someday soon i'll take you on a virtual tour a little further north to devil's lake (my favorite single spot in wisconsin) and wisconsin dells. but we won't stray too far north until you're better acclimated, it gets scary up there. just check out wisconsin death trip...