Time Devours All Things

Things seem to be moving slowly at an incredible pace, I wish I had more hours during my day/night.

We are on the Oregon Coast and just survived probably one of the worst summers since moving here. Thankfully, it has cooled down, and there is a strong breeze blowing and the rest of the week looks to be normal 70s.

The Book
I am slowly inching along, my subject has died and the funeral is done and I am officially at the end of the book, second draft. Now I am heading into the epilogue and then taking a much needed break to work a few months on posters, update the website with the new posters and the oddments section, and start preparing a section on the website for the book. All of the photos for the book will be on the website, and I am already thinking about how to design that section. All hand-coded by moi.

When I am all caught up on all that, then I can jump into third and final draft which will go a whole lot faster. I would love for it to be done by next October, but that is wishful thinking. I still have to design the cover.

As of this writing, there are about 20 posters, ¾ of them are ready to ink but I keep coming up with new ideas and adding a new poster to the list. The newest poster added to the list is for the National Museum of Civil War Medicine located in downtown Frederick, Maryland. I am not taking any more poster requests, but they asked and I jumped at the chance.

Civil War and 19th century Medicine is such a large part of the book I am working on, I ended up visiting this special museum twice.

The Itineraries
We did six extensive trips back east for research.

August 18 to August 23, 2015
New York City
5 days research during a brutal heat wave
It was a thousand degrees outside, and on my first day in NYC, both feet were covered in blisters. I had to push my way through the heat and extremely painful blistered feet for the next four days to get all my research done for the first Itinerary.

The number one most important place I needed to visit on that trip was a room where much of the main setting of my book takes place. I was able to sweet talk my way into this room and was allowed to stand in it for all of 15 minutes and take a handful of photos.

Today, a brand new ugly-assed condo stands where the room was. It is now permanently erased from history forever. I remember when I was finally standing in that room, my feet no longer hurt. It was like crossing a finish line except I now realize I had only just begun.

The next day, I went looking for the resting place of my main subject and ended up getting separated from my husband at dusk in a dark and foreboding cemetery in the farthest reaches of Brooklyn. I was determined not to leave the cemetery until I found the resting place. As I hobbled up and down winding streets of 19th century mausoleums, my feet was bleeding watery blood from blister sweat as I kept calling out my subjects name, where are you?

At dusk, I finally found my husband, and he told me we were in the wrong cemetery, it was the one next door. This first trip was a total success.

Eight Months Later:

April 12, 2016 to April 19, 2016
Washington, D.C.
7 days research during Lincoln Assassination week
Every single day in Washington D.C. was for research. I found a building that had been used extensively during the Great Rebellion and it was where my subject worked during the war. It is still standing. I asked one of the workers if they had a trap door, and why yes, they did. I was so shocked to see that it was still there, if they only knew what it was once used for.

My biggest disappointment was Ford’s Theatre. I wanted to see it on the same day as the assassination, believing that what I was looking at was authentic. They don’t mention anywhere that it is an entire 100% replica of what it used to look like before it was all torn out and then in 1864, it was turned into the Army Medical Museum. And then after that, the entire insides collapsed. It was during the great Disneyification of American history during the 1960s when the inside of Ford’s Theatre was rebuilt to look like it did when Lincoln was shot.

There is one authentic corner in the basement, you can see where the bricks have been violently bent and separated the day the floors collapsed. Those are the original bricks from the original Ford’s Theater, “witness bricks” I guess you could call them.

The best part of the whole Lincoln experience was probably Petersen’s Boarding House. I very much enjoyed seeing the 4 rope nubs that had been used to hang the 4 conspirators. The items they had on display were nicely authentic and not as sanitized as in Ford’s Theatre, which made the trip worthwhile.

I wanted to get up into Mary Surratt’s house. When I was there, the main part had been turned into a Karaoke bar, but the upstairs is off limits and from what I heard, it still looks the same as it did when Mary was there. I asked the bouncer guy—who was very nice—if there was a chance I could get inside, but he said no one is allowed up to the top floor. I would have paid dearly just to see a bare room with 1860s dust on the window sills instead of the homogenized Interactive displays that are so prevalent in almost every modern museum nowadays.

We made a point to visit a very important vault in Georgetown’s Oak Ridge Cemetery. To finally stand right there in front of the vault in person, it was an interesting feeling.

At the hotel, I got an email asking if I wanted to buy some very old human brains. After we went back and forth, I bought them. And then when I got home and got them, my mind was blown. After doing months of research on these preserved brains, I realized that they had once belonged to Dr. Valentine Mott.

We rented a car in D.C. and were driving looking for some other destination on the Itinerary when I saw a sign that said 89 miles to Gettysburg. I had no idea we were that close, Gettysburg is such a huge part of my book I figured we could scope it out for a future trip just to the battlefields.

We next drove to Alexandria, Virginia, I was there to see the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop, and where the Marshall House once stood. There is an interesting plaque in front that tells their side of the story.

Five Months Later:

September 22, 2016 to September 27, 2016
New York City
5 days research - much better weather
This was another long list of places, some places I missed the first time around, or I needed to double-check something. The places were mostly to see the lay of the land, take photos and look at old maps. One day was spent on the Bowery, taking photos of numerous buildings. 5 years later, a lot of those buildings are no longer there.

One Year Later:

5 days of research

September 14-15, 2017
In and around Gettysburg
2 days of research
We drove from the airport in Baltimore directly to E. A. Poe’s grave to pay our respects, and then from there we drove straight to Gettysburg. I found the building with the live shell still embedded in it from the war, and I can honestly say that I did sleep on the Gettysburg Battlefield for two nights, so there was that.

Unfortunately, it was nothing like when Shelby Foote spent many nights sleeping on the battlefields on anniversary dates, but it was close enough.

I found all the locations where my subject and crew were during the Battle of Gettysburg and was pleasantly surprised to see many of the places on my list were still standing.

The best shop in all of Gettysburg was like a Ye Olde Civil War Curiosity Shop, there was even a full size adult Egyptian mummified head (?) and tons of interesting relics from the war, all dusty and yellowed in their beat up frames. I bought a few iron case shot balls recovered from Culp’s Hill. The main reason I went to Gettysburg was to take photos of all the locations where my subject had been.

We went to nearly every Civil War museum we could find, and even drove up to Harrisburg to the National Civil War Museum. After a while they all started to blur. The best one (mho) was the one in Frederick, Maryland, the same one I am making a poster for. The next best museum was the Douglas G. Bast Museum of History and Preservation in Boonsboro, Maryland.

Douglas Bast is a man on a mission, his collection is phenomenal, one of the best private/public collections I had ever seen. He has the most amazing artifacts from the American Civil War, which I prefer calling the War of the Rebellion because there was nothing Civil about that war.

September 16, 2017
1 day in Fredericksburg, Virginia for research
The place we stayed survived the Battle of Fredericksburg, there were bullet marks on the wall outside our door where we would be sleeping. This time was spent mostly checking out the battlefields and a location where my subject’s crew was situated for much of the war.

September 17-19, 2017
2 days in Richmond, Virginia for research
One of the most surreal experiences was in Richmond, Virginia. In the middle of the night, a woman walked down the street wearing a full-blown Scarlet O’ Hara hoop skirt. There was no one else on the street, just her.

Since we were at Ground Zero of the Confederacy, I wanted to see the belly of the beast and came to Richmond specifically to see the inside of Jefferson Davis’ house. What was surreal about it, was that surrounding this mid-19th century house is a medical hospital industrial complex.

In order to get inside, you have to first buy tickets in the gift shop and then wait until it is time to go in. Then our group of 12 or so walked inside a long parking garage, took the elevator down, then we went down a hall inside the hospital facility, and then finally come out a back door and there we were, in the backyard of the house. it was kind of insane just trying to get inside the house.

Our group consisted primarily of Jefferson Davis sympathizers, I was merely an observer though at times I felt more like an undercover spy.

Once inside, many of the rooms were still pretty much intact, and I will be honest, I was duly impressed by how authentic it all was. It hadn’t been all Disney-fied. The guide was informative and the tour was actually pretty interesting. Stepping out of the 1860s back into 2017 was definitely an odd time-warp feeling.

One Year Later:

September 18, 2018 to September 25, 2018
7 days in New York City for research
September 19, 2018 I stopped by my subject’s resting place for what I knew would be the very last time, bearing a bouquet of flowers. When I arrived, I noticed that someone else had placed flowers on my subject’s resting place and I must say, I felt a bit piqued and booted the previous flowers off, and placed my bouquet front and center. Who the hell was putting flowers on my subject’s grave?

This trip was mostly spent in the Five Points where the first Tombs once stood, Mulberry Bend, Chatham Square, Oliver St. Church and the Bowery. I tried in vain contacting the person in charge of New York City Marble Cemetery because I wanted to visit a certain vault. I did get in touch with the wonderful lady who runs the New York Marble Cemetery, but not the one I wanted. So that was kind of frustrating.

We went to the Met to see the Egyptian Mummies on display, then to see the Temple of Dendur, I needed to photograph a piece of graffiti that had been carved onto the temple. And then last but not least, I had to photograph a certain painting, the entire reason we went to the Met was to see this painting in real life. I know who she is. When we got to the gallery where the painting was, it was roped off and the lights were turned off.

After ugly crying to a nice security guard, he took me to another man and I cried more real tears to him, then he called on the red phone in a small room until another man showed up and I cried to him, and then he disappeared and finally the head honcho museum man shows up and nods in my general direction to follow him but I get lost in the maze of galleries looking for him. I finally end up at the gallery with the painting, the lights are on, the rope is gone. And there she was. No one knows her name and yet everyone knows who she is. I know her name. I think I even saw her smile.

Exactly One Year Later - Last Research Trip:

September 18, 2019 to September 24, 2019
6 days in New York City on the Bowery for research
This trip I almost didn’t make. I decided at the last minute it was now or never. I got very emotional believing if I didn’t go now, many more things would disappear, they go so fast. One minute it’s there, the next minute it’s gone.

I only had a bit more research I wanted to do, and much of it was on the Bowery. So that is where we stayed, right there on the Bowery.

I tried again to get into the NYCMC to see that vault, but still no response no matter how much I tried. I had lots of contact numbers and emails, but no one responded. Instead, I went and stood outside the metal fence and I could actually see the location of the vault from where I was standing. And there was no way to get inside.

I needed to see the “Hanging Tree” in Washington Square Park, but more importantly I was looking for something else in Washington Square Park. I know she is still there somewhere. I think about her all the time.

We ended up walking and ended up in Greenwich Village. Since we were there, I decided to visit this one certain house I had been obsessing about for 5 years on. My subject was at that house during the mid-19th century, and when I stood in front of this house to take yet another photo, the door opened. I got yelled at by the woman who lives there and 2 hours later, she invited me inside the house. I offered the owner $40 to allow me to take photos, she grabbed the bills and said shoot away. I could not believe I was actually standing inside the house where so much happened. I was happy to see that very little inside the house had changed. The cellar made my hair stand on end.

The last day I spent in New York City, I was able to get myself into Gramercy Park. I made a pilgrimage to the park where Dr. Valentine Mott loved to walk and sit in, and I even stood outside his townhouse, which unfortunately the last time I was there, it looked like work was being done. I hope they didn’t put those pinlights in the ceilings. God I hate pinlights in ceilings. When will that fad finally be over? Whatever happened to nice light fixtures or hanging lamps?

The day we left New York City was very intense, it felt like something bad was coming and we were running in molasses, traffic was backed up, we couldn’t catch a cab if we wanted to, the subway wasn’t working right, we missed our stop, we were stranded and eventually a bus to the airport showed up. The plane was leaving in an hour and we were meandering our way through Corona, Queens. I desperately wanted to leave New York City as quickly as I could, I didn’t want to stay there any longer. Something didn’t feel right this time.

The bus arrived at the airport and we ran for what felt like our lives, I remember yelling at the back of my husbands head, RUN!!!!

We made it to our terminal with maybe 5 minutes to spare and just barely got on our plane. When we got home, I was never so glad to be completely done with my research. 5 months later, coronavirus landed in Corona, Queens. The community was devastated and I still think about all the people I saw on the bus that day.

Nearly everything I researched, photographed, visited in person, sadly most of it is all gone now. Chewed up by greedy developers or shut down because of the virus. What if I had waited to write about my subject this year instead of seven years earlier?

Music: World Destruction by Time Zone feat John Lydon & Afrika Bambaataa


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