austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Flowers are the things we knew

While bunny_hugger and I had seen enough of the capitol we still had other things in the area to explore.

In the area is a restaurant which, according to its sign, announces that it is Serving The ``Best'' Coney Island & Beef-Burger In Town!. I'm told that Coney Island things are a matter of local style, although since we didn't get one I was just left thinking of the Coney Island I think of back on the Brooklyn Riviera. Coney Island got mentioned a lot, in connection with food, considering how far everything is from the Coney Island I was thinking of.

Near the capitol but against the river is a modest park which, the placards explain, was formerly the site of the Kerns Hotel, where a horrific fire broke out on the 11th of December, 1934. It was a 211-room hotel occupying four storeys, which given the square footage of the park reminds me that in those days you could make a hotel room extremely small. The Kerns hotel itself was the location of what had formerly been the Wentworth hotel, and there's a monument with clock and a plaque explaining all this. In particular it notes the history of the buildings on it, and explains that after the demolition of the hotels the city chose to erect Wentworth Park.

This explanation would suffice for pretty much any normal person to understand that this part of Lansing is known as Wentworth Park. But that explanation did not satisfy us, because bunny_hugger and I are both PhD's who did extremely well in studying and in teaching propositional logic. Just because the plaque says this was the location of the Wentworth Hotel, and that the city established Wentworth Park, and just because we were obviously in a park, does not mean we were satisfied that this place was actually Wentworth Park. Unfortunately there's no signs on the monument or in the area to remove the ambiguities. People are just supposed to know, I guess. I suppose I will provisionally accept that we were in Wentworth Park, but I'm not fully convinced.

The park has got memorials, such as to the people who died in the Kerns Hotel fire, and to the Box 23 Club of people who came together after the fire to support the fire department (the alarm was called in on Fire Alarm Box 23), and a sculptural display to Michiganders who were killed in the September 11, 2001, attacks, featuring a piece of World Trade Center remains. That's the somber side of things. The odd side of things is the trees still had Christmas lights strung up around them.

A particular local yet secret attraction, though, was one of bunny_hugger's hobbies: letterboxing. In this context this is the preparation of small boxes with a preferably unique stamp and log book and maybe further surprises. The boxes are put somewhere publicly accessible, and clues to the location are deposited on a central web site. Those interested look up letterboxes in the area, try to puzzle out the clues, and stamp their log books and the box's when they find it. bunny_hugger had put what was, as far as she could determine, the first letterbox in Lansing, and this was going to be a great chance to check on it and show it off.

We couldn't find it. Letterboxes are, by their nature, subject to theft or having state police explosively detonate them as strange boxes nobody's put through metal detectors in hours, but then they're also prone to just being put back sloppily by someone who'd retrieved it and not perfectly memorized the location, or getting covered up by leaves or trash or what have you. Her letterbox had been hidden somewhere that people can't climb into, so they have to retrieve it by hand, but that means it's hard to look around if you're just missing it, and easy to put back in the wrong spot.

And then I had an idea so wonderful that I should have held up a pack of Mentos and grinned about it: I stuck my camera in and took pictures more or less sweeping out the field of view so that we could verify everything in the obstructed space, more or less. There's not much to do about it being partly buried by leaves, but we could verify if it was just in the wrong spot. Unfortunately, we couldn't find any evidence of it. The box had, apparently, gone missing. We had one bit of hope, though: someone else wandering around the area where we couldn't quite figure out what he was doing. Stamping a letterbox may well be done with that amount of discretion that looks furtive and cunning, so there might have been a stroke of luck by which he had the letterbox just as we were looking for it. Unfortunately, it appears that this was all just coincidence.

Wandering around the capitol wasn't the only thing we did during the day, though, not even if you include the pet shop visit. We also took a trip to World Market, one of those grocery stores which sells international-style foods. Our objective was British candies, since we've both picked up likings for the kinds of candy bars you just can't get in the United States except in specialty stores or at least specialty aisles of stores. What good is globalization when you can't get Milo bars, Picnic, Tim Tams, and Cadbury Flakes, anyway? But you can get an erratic collection of things from specialty stores at prices just high enough to take them slightly out of the line of recreational candies, and we circled the Commonwealth-based candy aisle stocking up on more than, actually, I would get to over the rest of the week there. I don't think this is just our being enchanted by the foreign; I think that some of these candies are simply superior to what the United States offers, and I don't see a good reason they haven't migrated in. On the other hand, peanut butter cups had almost no presence in Singapore, so the Wallace Lines of Chocolate are serious and important things.

Wednesday was also the day of the centipede incident previously inaccurately attributed to Monday. Besides that, though, it was also a night for doing laundry. I was able to get out there and back with just my carry-on luggage, even if I couldn't carry it all the way, but the tradeoff for this was that I couldn't hope to carry a full week's worth of clothing along. (Particularly since my best guesses about the weather put it at just the boundary between where one can wear shorts and where one has to wear full-length sweatpants.) This all isn't so very remarkable except that bunny_hugger has a top-loading washing machine, which I hadn't used in a decade or so, and a dryer very much like one my parents had when I was growing up, so there was a bit of re-learning just how these things worked to my laundry work. It all ran fine, though, and it was weeks before I learned I'd lost a pair of shorts to it.

I believe this was also the day that bunny_hugger's rabbit found an original way to be naughty while out of his cage for his nightly exercise. His exercise while I was there lasted as long as my computer's battery lasted, since he likes to chew on power cables given the chance. He also likes to chew on boxes, particularly the box of one particular video game that he found very attractive over my week there. He also has a slight habit of tumbling uncontrollably down the stairs. Sometimes he would hop up on the couch to look me over. But at one point he got to hiding behind the couch and making a perfectly awful racket chewing on something.

It turns out that he was, deviously, chewing on a toy which bunny_hugger had bought him to chew on. She wasn't expecting him to be quite that devious and had yelled at him before discovering he was acting within the legal bounds of bunny operations.

We did have to turn in early, and for the only time before my final day when I had to be to the airport at a specific hour, set an alarm to get up. Thursday, we had decided, we were going to ride roller coasters.

Oh, and I found a picture of the sign I'd said I couldn't find a picture of yesterday. It read: ``Due to inclement weather, the Comcast Leaders & Achievers Celebration has been moved''. Again, the weather was at most moderately cloudy, as far as we could tell.

Trivia: The Lackawanna railroad was the first in the United States to have the company install cup dispensers beside watercoolers on its trains (rather than a communal dipper). Source: Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design, Henry Petroski.

Currently Reading: The Wonderful Writing Machine, Bruce Bliven, Jr. It's a history of the typewriter, from the mid-50s, back when typewriters didn't need further explanation.

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