A Dentist and a Misfit

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Meet Horace Wells, a fine young Aquarian dentist (we share a birthday). The studious and altruistic Wells volunteered (at a circus) to test the effects of nitrous oxide. He felt positively nothing and was the first patient in America to be operated under ether. Shortly thereafter he began using the stuff on his happy patients, but never considered having the painkiller patented believing such a wonder drug should remain as free as air to humankind.

220px-wells_horaceHorace kindly gave a demonstration to Boston medical students but the ether was improperly administered and the patient was none too thrilled. The students and society in general cried humbug! Horace left with a heavy heart in disgrace. He gave up dentistry and became a canary salesman. Birds are cheerful little creatures.

At some point while experimenting with chloroform for a few weeks he became addicted and demented. Wells ran into the street and poured sulfuric acid over a couple of prostitutes. When Wells came to his senses he found himself in prison. He asked the guards to escort him to his house to pick up a few things–including his shaving kit.

Horace quickly administered a dose of chloroform to himself before slitting open an artery in his leg. And then he died.

1864 COMMENTARY ABOUT ETHER, CHLOROFORM AND NITROUS OXIDE

AND ON A HAPPIER NOTE, A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY!

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The Dew That Goes Early Away by Adrienne  Morris

The Dew That Goes Early Away

by Adrienne Morris

Giveaway ends December 30, 2016.

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No, The Other Brother

To be or not to be a survivor.
To be or not to be a survivor.

Edwin Booth had these eyes: dark, large and full of sorrow.They tore people’s hearts out. It was said that no one had ever seen the young actor laugh. That well-earned sorrow matured into frequent drinking binges and sometimes shoddy performances as an actor, but unlike his insane and brilliant father who begot him illegitimately there was a softness to his voice and a winning sensitivity in his acting that drew people in despite Edwin’s faltering.

His father Junius was famous and famously promiscuous having many children and setting up between his illegitimate sons a devastating competitiveness and ambition. Since Junius was nuts, but the one paying the bills, Edwin at age twelve was given the monumental task of caretaker for his father on the road. So long schooling and stability (if there ever was any) and hello late nights chasing down his father at saloons only to be humiliated when his drunk father pretended not to know him.

Maybe that was better than the nights Edwin was forced to play the banjo at his father’s bedside to help him fall asleep. Did he look down at the man he loved and was ashamed of as the old man’s nose hairs fluttered through his snoring? What must a 12-year-old think?

Edwin_booth-staudenbaurTwelve became 13 and 14 and 19. People said Edwin looked pale, neglected and exhausted but still he ran lines with his increasingly insane father who finally died after drinking river water. Imagine having spent years hiding your father under a bed as you try to explain to angry creditors and theater owners why your father is missing. Imagine sitting up late at night in shoddy hotels still a child, your eyes so soulfully taking in every last evidence that you were a nobody.

But people had noticed Edwin knew the lines his father didn’t. They wanted to take him in–those eyes demanded it. And so his acting career began. Once he played along side his infamous brother John. Once just before his brother assassinated the president Edwin saved Lincoln’s son from falling under a train. This was small comfort as Lincoln’s body was taken to be buried, but Edwin was used to small comfort. Fame didn’t erase sorrow.

Edwina healing her father Edwin.
Edwina healing her father Edwin.

People in the 19th century were acquainted with sorrow. They even worried that too much happiness would cause them to fall away from God who in his great love for these little sorrowful people called upon his own son to die for them. Edwin was no Christ figure but he was called upon to sacrifice a whole lot. He married and had one child. I like to think that when he finally gave up drinking and focused on cementing his career as the best 19th century actor that he also had plenty of tender moments with his child. I hope on those occasions the sorrow left his eyes.

Inspired by Rebel Souls

John Singer Sargent's Edwin Booth
John Singer Sargent’s Edwin Booth

Benny Havens Tavern~The Fun Spot for Future Officers

Oh! Don't slip!
Oh! Don’t slip!

When I was young my friends and I stole away from a high school class trip to get drinks, but this place looks like more fun! The future officers even wrote a song about it.

“No amount of rough terrain, bad weather, or strict rules, kept cadets from their favorite watering hole. Cadets, such as Custer, Poe, and Davis, would routinely risk their lives, or at least their studies, to venture down river, after having snuck off base, to go drink at the popular tavern. The cadets would sneak out of their windows after lights out and either travel through the dense forest rife with cliffs to the bar, or should the dead of winter have proven cold enough, they would have stealthily skated down the Hudson River right to Benny Haven’s.” Shane Cashman

Read the rest of the article here.

Benny Havens
Come fill your glasses, fellows, and stand up in a row.
To singing sentimentally we’re going for to go.
In the Army there’s sobriety, promotions very slow.
So we’ll sing our reminiscences of Benny Havens. Oh!

Oh! Benny Havens, Oh! Oh! Benny Havens, Oh!
We’ll sing our reminiscences of Benny Havens, Oh!

To our kind old Alma Mater, our rockbound highland home.
We’ll cast back many a fond regret as o’er life’s sea we roam.
Until on our last battlefield the light of heaven shall glow.
We’ll never fail to drink to her and Benny Havens, Oh!

Oh! Benny Havens, Oh! Oh! Benny Havens, Oh!
We’ll sing our reminiscences of Benny Havens, Oh!

May the Army be augmented, promotion be less slow.
May our country in the hour of need be ready for the foe.
May we find a soldier’s resting place beneath a soldier’s blow.
With room enough beside our graves for Benny Havens, Oh!

Oh! Benny Havens, Oh! Oh! Benny Havens, Oh!
We’ll sing our reminiscences of Benny Havens, Oh!

west point benny havens

 

Drunks

A top the moral high ground!
A top the moral high ground!

I’ve had my fair share of less than stellar drunken moments running with the fast crowd and trying to keep up with my boyfriends’ drinking. And then my husband’s drinking. Such was life in the 20th century. Men and women were equals. “Anything you can do, I can do better,” was my hidden mantra when the boys came round.

Yet, looking back my father was right. Nothing good comes of a girl out past 12 in a saloon. Dancing on a slippery bar and crashing down with the hanging glasses  almost landed a friend in the hospital. How many places in Hoboken were we banned from? I can’t remember.

Now what does this have to do with history? For a brief shining moment in America there came upon the land the Cult of Womanhood. People nowadays look on this period as the ultimate joke against women. They think that the sinister members of the patriarchy, rubbing their hands together viciously,  devised a way in which women could be fooled into actually believing that their role in society mattered. They forced women to think that they  were an integral part of bringing forth a civilized nation. (Note: should one sex be more moral than the other?)

Of course women did drink and get knocked up and all, but the point was that in general they were to be the torch-bearers of the high ground and were to pass it on to the next generation. You see how devious this plan was? Women kinda fell for it (even as the very few smart ones saw through it and worked for free love and the right to wear pants).

A lot of women thought being with the kids felt right and that working in a coal mine wasn’t appealing. Many thought politicians were swine and were happy to steer clear of the pig pen. While they mourned the loss of their men in battle, most didn’t want to join them. Some will say the men were just throwing the women a bone whilst they went off to do real things like make war (and do boyish things like play video games in their pajamas all day).

Notice the stereotypical drunk face (code Irish).
Notice the stereotypical drunk face (code Irish).

There were women who bucked the whole marriage and family thing and were looked upon warily until they proved their mettle. They edited newspapers, traveled the world and became spies, etc. People like to say men don’t respect women, but do women respect men? Aren’t we all a bit self-righteously pointing fingers most of the time? Do we live in a fantasy land that says women are as strong as men until they get knocked out by a drunken football player? Or that women can get drunk and high and accuse all men of gang rape? Or that teenaged boys will consider sex with a hot teacher rape? Haven’t men and women been abdicating responsibility for their actions by blaming the other sex for centuries?

None of us want the moral high ground anymore. That’s for suckers. We want to do as we please and call it some form of sublime equality instead of a race to the gutter. We’re all only one sloppy drunk night away from killing someone on the rode to our “rights.” Men and women sit equally on the bar stools. We have our rights. We want more rights. But do we have love?

The waters are muddy once the intoxication wears off. Temperance women were laughed at and their battle lost. Some went on to fight for rights and others went quietly home to their husbands (some of them good and some of them bad). Rights are about me. Love is about you. Which am I willing to I fight for?

The Fabulous Life of Champagne Charlie

Adventure, intrigue and Drink.
Adventure, intrigue and Drink.

Some people live large and don’t ask for permission. Charles Heidsieck. There’s your example. Champagne Charlie, as his adoring American public dubbed him, had drama in his veins like some of us have fear and loathing. His father rode before Napoleon into Russia on a white stallion to take orders for celebratory champagne (someone was going to win, right?).

Charlie toured New England and the state of New York and saw at once that these people needed some bubbly. Have you met New Englanders and Upstate New Yorkers at the end of a long winter? He seized the opportunity by hiring an agent to sell his family champagne and when he came back five years later it was to roaring crowds and banquets. He had become the toast of New York high society!

charles-heidsieck-posterDrinks are fun, but someone has to pay for them and when shots were fired at Fort Sumter Charlie wondered who was going to pay the tab for his bubbly. The US government declared that since the South seceded Northerners didn’t have to pay their cotton debts–or their drink debts. More than half of Piper Heidsieck assets were in unpaid US drink debt.

What to do, what to do? A lot of people would throw up their hands in despair, maybe go into hiding or commit suicide, but not our good man Charlie. In the midst of war, Charlie determined to get his money directly from the  merchants. All of this must be done in secrecy so he made for New Orleans in hopes of eventually sneaking north.

One merchant gave him cotton as repayment, but the boats loaded for France failed to get through the blockade and were sunk. By now all routes north were cut off so he tried getting out of the country. The consul in Mobile gave him a pouch  to deliver to New Orleans before leaving, but Benjamin Butler’s men caught him, found the pouch that had documents about French textile merchants supplying Confederate uniforms and Charlie was sunk, imprisoned at Fort Jackson as a spy.

The whole thing created a big stir between France and the North and left Charles a broken man–but wait. There’s more. Once back at home he received word that the brother of the New York merchant who had cheated Charlie had a guilty conscience. He wanted to repay Charlie but only had a stack of deeds to land out west–Denver deeds. In a very short time he recouped all of his losses and with the profit rebuilt his drink business and everyone was happy.

The End

denver-1898

Thanks, mbracedefreak for the great lead! If you like cryptic, opinionated blogs here’s one for all of you.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Heidsieck

http://vinepair.com/wine-blog/the-story-of-champage-charlie/

When People Get Nice On You

I was just popping in for a few minutes at the library when one of my new favorite librarians hailed me over to see what she’d found at a garage sale?!

Cover ideas for book five bursting forth as we speak!
Cover ideas for book five bursting forth as we speak!

I come from a long line of people who want to trust others, but just don’t. It’s an affliction we wear with humor and secrecy. I’m not a rock or an island. I’m a small time farmer/writer so I don’t get out much, but when I do I’m always surprised at how well I’m treated, especially at the Saratoga Library.

When on an ordinary day you suddenly have all of your questions answered about a little piece of the world you’re creating for your characters handed to you in a single brilliant bit of happenstance you have to wonder about the hidden workings of the universe (or as we old-fashioned Christians might say–God). I believe God hands out talents, but that’s for another day.

This librarian stacked five crumbling out-of-print books on my table before remembering that she’d purchased this hotel booklet. Buck Crenshaw has an eventful stay there in the summer of 1889. I’d been gathering bits and pieces but what great delight I felt when the librarian who hardly knows me said I could borrow from her personal collection this perfect book! (she also gave me the email for the contact person holding a rare house tour at Yaddo  who is looking for volunteers–who will get in for free–and the email for a lady who volunteers her time doing FREE proofreading for local authors!). What a day!

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I think God may be telling me to act nicer to others . . .

“Desperately Poor and Uncivilized” Proud To Be Irish Anyway

George Henry Hall, A Dead Rabbit, or Study of an Irishman, 1858.
George Henry Hall, A Dead Rabbit, or Study of an Irishman, 1858.

The Irish in my family were rogues and dreamers, back stabbers and the kindest people I’ve ever met. They knew how to throw a good funeral, but their parties were awkward with new wealth and old wounds. They were treated as the scum of the earth but knew how to fight. My blood’s been mixed with more civilized tribes, but I still like watching a good scrap and getting together at the funeral parlor with my clan.

Do Irish people really like potatoes? Damn straight. My father ate them every day of his life. He also told police stories so amusing that people came from all over to hear him when he visited his home town in New Jersey. Yeah, and the Irish in my family drank (not my father) and died doing it. Others lived on to make sure their kids would have plenty of hilarity, dysfunction and a sense that no one but another member of the clan could ever fully understand them.

That’s why the NYC parade is so great. You march along with other freckled faces thinking– “What a bunch of misfits we are but we’ve taken over the town.”