Monthly Archives: April 2015

Ask the Universe

I’ve been doing a lot of online historical research recently. I am left with a bunch of questions I have not yet found quick answers for. So I am posting them here, both as a reference to myself for later, and on the off chance that someone might just happen to know one of the answers and supply it.

  • Are there any good books documenting life  at the turn of the century (1900-WWI) for middle-class (white color, not factory floor, not Carnegie) urban-dwelling Americans? Any historical fiction that covers this category?
  • In terms of housing, where would these residents have lived? Is there any way to track “class-flight” over time as the upper incomes followed the transit lines (and eventually car routes) into further removed boroughs?
  • Any good books describing urban flight (any time period) from the perspective of the lower-status people who inherited the neighborhood? (I’m less interested in cases like modern Detroit which does not have a population moving in to replace current exodus, leaving extended vacancies.) I am curious as to how this played out in a new-immigrant-rich city as people attempted to balance their desire for newer/fancier newly vacated “rich” houses with the social pull of staying put in a more culturally familiar neighborhood.
  • Private school information for Boston for this same time period. It seems that many of the Boston elites were sending their sons to boarding schools. Where were their daughters going to school?
  • Meanwhile, it seems that Boston public schools were still pretty popular with the middle class, with the poorest children still unable to attend school at all. Mention is made of public schools at that time still having a “nondenominational” (Protestant) religious education aspect to them. What would that have looked like?
  • Catholic schools were forbidden funding because of a state amendment, and seemed(?) to have a reputation for being academically inferior. By 1900, it seems statistically that many of them were comprised of primarily Italian immigrants. Would older Irish immigrants have still wanted to send their children to these schools? Or were there different Catholic primaries in the city to serve different languages/”ethnicities”?

P.S.– If you’d asked me five or ten years ago if I’d ever write a historical novel, I would have vehemently sworn up and down “no way, it’ll never happen. Too much work.”  My mind on that second point hasn’t changed. But apparently my willingness to tackle said work had changed considerably. I can tell already that this story is going to be amazing, and that makes all of this totally and excitingly worth it.

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ICYMI

Portrait by Caroline Poe I was interviewed this month for the blog at Sky Candy aerial studio. I work there now. Seriously. I work at the circus. It is the coolest job ever. Check it out!

Also check out my awesome new staff photo by Caroline Poe Photography!

April Fools

When I was four, my mom would drop me off at the twins’ house before preschool and then head off to work. The twins went to my school but were a year older, and their mother would drive us all there and then babysit me for an hour after the school day ended until my mom could come pick me up.

I don’t know which of the twins came up with the idea to play an April Fools joke on me. But that morning, the two of them very carefully strung several lines of clear fishing line across the front door, hoping that I wouldn’t see it, and get stuck when I tried to walk through it.

Unfortunately, in their five-year-old excitement, they couldn’t wait to see me trip over the fishing line, and crowded the doorway as I got out of my mom’s car and waved goodbye. I walked up to the front door, and couldn’t figure out why they already had the door open waiting for me, and were standing so strangely just inside the doorway.

“Why won’t you let me in?” I asked

“You can’t come in!” they shouted. “You’re stuck!”

“Why are you standing in the way?” I asked.

“You can’t get through!” they said “There’s a string there!”

“Why did you put a string in the doorway?”

“April Fools!”

They then cut the string free from the door, and I went inside and we got ready for school. I knew I had been “pranked”, but because the joke had failed, I was having huge four-year-old difficulties understanding what exactly that had meant.

A few years ago, we had a housemate who worked from home and therefore often had his laptop sitting open in front of him on the couch. Sometimes we would all be sitting around having conversations in the living room while he was working, and he would chat with us while simultaneously typing away at a programming problem.

One of his favorite tricks was to invent a crazy lie in these situations, which he would drop into the conversation completely deadpan. Then, while the rest of the house discussed how improbable such a fact was, our housemate would quickly update the wikipedia page for the topic at hand to reflect his invented lie.

“Check wikipedia,” he’d say when we all told him he was full of it.

He only fooled us a few times.

Today, the best April Fools prank I saw was the Grosset & Dunlap design team covering director Giuseppe Castellano’s desk in googly eyes.

Unlike the wikipedia lie or the fishline door, this is a prank I understand and can get behind. I think it would be awesome if Hallmark got in on this, selling massive googly eye packets. Of all the holidays to commercialize, I think there’s a market here. Compare, if you will, the googly-eyed scissors or thermostat to the stale “conversation hearts” that are a Valentine’s Day staple. The appeal should be obvious.

Meanwhile, think of the future. Think of the children. Put the plans to work now and in a hundred years we’ll have a googly eyed muppet who “distributes” April Fools eyes like Santa or the Easter Bunny.

Googly eyes on the toaster.
Googly eyes on your steering wheel.
Googly eyes on your math textbook.
Googly eyes on everything.
Everything.

It will be glorious.