The Mayor of the River
From the Nazi Conquest of Paris to the Liberation of a Concentration Camp to a War with Cancer and, finally, Building a Community in Texas: Denise Salamone has seen it all.
FORT WORTH, TX. The cicadas haven’t begun their pulsing late afternoon thrum in Fort Worth, which means Spring has not yet given itself over to the powerful north Texas summer heat that blankets the city long after the sun sets.
During this pleasant time of year, the Clear Fork of the Trinity River draws out people from all around the city, whether to fish along its banks, jog or bike on the paved trails that line it or just walk the family dog and let the stress of the day dissolve in the soft river breeze.
It doesn’t take great weather, though, to coax Denise Salamone out to the river. Hot or cold, or rain or shine, Denise and her golden retriever, Moses, will be there, every evening.
Denise and Moses are hard to miss. Physical ailments force the wispy 91-year-old to move slowly and with a walking stick for balance. Due to a back injury suffered years ago that has worsened over time, Denise walks nearly bent to the ground. The first time most people see Denise, they quietly wince in fear that her willful dog might pull her down, or in concern that the short trek from her home to the river community she cares for is just too many steps for her seemingly frail body to take.
But then Denise’s sparkling eyes catch theirs, and her smile and infectious spirit draw them in from being spectators to nearly instantaneous friends. Denise and Moses know just about everyone on the trails, and especially their dogs. It’s no wonder she’s earned the nickname, “Mayor of the River.” She is an effortless community uniter.
Moses, who Denise obtained from a rescue service, is not her first dog. As she explains, “He’s my fifth dog, and my last one!” Denise and her first dog, a spaniel named Keke, were eyewitnesses to history.
Denise Effernelli was born in 1927 in Strasbourg, France, to an Italian father and a French mother. Denise’s father was always entrepreneurial, and the family moved to Paris when Denise was young. That is where she and Keke lived in May 1940, when Adolf Hitler ordered German forces to invade France.
Swift German victories against Allied troops left Paris in near total fear, and Parisians began a rapid evacuation of the city. The Effernellis were no different, so they instructed their two girls that the family would be leaving the city to escape the coming battle. Denise, however, insisted that she would only leave Paris if the family brought Keke along. So, they did.
It’s difficult to imagine the cacophonous perpetual-motion machine that is Paris as solemn and still as Denise describes it when the family left. “The only things in the streets were cats and dogs,” she remembers. She was 13 years-old.
Denise and her family fled south, unsure of where to go or what would befall them and their city. As it turned out, however, instead of a drawn out and deadly street-to-street battle, it took the Germans only four days to move on Paris, and the Nazis marched through the Arc de Triomphe with no resistance.
The Effernellis had managed to board a truck on which they traveled south for two weeks. When they learned Paris was “safe,” and with no clear idea of where else to go, the family decided to return to their City of Lights, now gone dark.
The return trip was very different for Denise and her older sister, Pierette. Vehicle wreckage and even dead bodies were strewn on different parts of the road. The family slept on the side of the road, mostly, although Denise remembers one night when they slept on the floor of a church that had been emptied of all furniture.
For the first time in Denise’s young life, she knew real hunger. In two weeks, she had gone from a middle class family in the most acclaimed city on earth to a hungry refugee searching for a safe place to sleep.
Denise remembers that things would have been much worse but for a kind French officer they met who allowed the family to take some sugar, coffee, eggs and other food stuffs to help the family survive the journey back to Paris. The officer also warned them away from a bridge which the French army was set to blow up.
Eventually, the family arrived back in Paris. Denise remembers crossing a temporary bridge the Nazi soldiers had built across the River Seine. “There was a German guard there on the bridge. He was smiling and drinking French champagne. He had an entire box there with him.”
Life in occupied Paris turned out to be intolerable for the Effernelli family. Denise remembers the German soldiers passing by the family apartment every morning to go to the nearby bathhouse, from which German songs would ring out down the street. If the humiliation of the occupation was not enough, the Germans imposed severe rationing on the Parisians who remained, and Denise’s father decided after one year that they must try their luck elsewhere.
Back on the Trinity River, a mallard hen calls loudly as her paired drake chases her in a weaving route around Denise’s “mayoral office” – a group of park benches shaded by gently swaying oak trees. Denise, who has come out to meet me and bring photos from her life, has begun to attract an array of friends.
A young woman named Mandy moved to Texas about four months ago from Australia. Mandy likes to jog with her dog along the river, so she met Denise almost immediately. “She’s so friendly,” Mandy muses. “She’s a connector. She makes me feel welcome.” Mandy kneels down and scratches her dog’s ears and then looks with kind eyes at Denise, “I feel like you have adopted me. Thank you.”
“It’s amazing isn’t it,” I ask Mandy, “how everyone knows her?” Denise pulls out the little bag of carrots that she always carries with her to the river and offers one to Mandy’s dog. “It’s the dogs, ” Denise smiles, “They all know I have treats.”
The Effernelis had an option that most French citizens did not. Denise’s father still had Italian citizenship, so the family decided to see if life might be better in Italy – an ally of Germany and, therefore, an enemy of France. Denise recalls that the French were not happy with the family’s decision to go there.
Fascist Italy, however, was even less pleasant than occupied France. Her father could not find work, but local authorities put fourteen-year-old Denise to work in a pipe factory. Due to the war, food was scarce. Denise recalls that on more than one occasion, she passed out from hunger.
Denise’s father later heard there might be work in Strasbourg, France, where (through Denise’s mother) they still had family. He traveled there alone and found work as a truck driver. In 1942, Denise and her mother and sister followed.
Back in Fort Worth, Denise’s grandson comes running up the hillside to tell her about a “huge” fish he just caught. He’s gone before Denise can even respond, sheepishly calling as he jogs off, “I’ll be back soon!”
Although Denise is now 91 and suffering from various physical ailments, she has not lost her keen mind or her independence. “I still drive, you know,” she says, in her mild but unmistakable French accent, “I go to PetsMart for Moses, and I go to the grocery store, but I don’t like the freeways. Too much traffic!”
Denise’s daughter comes to check on her daily, but the highlight of her day – every day – is her walk down the bike path to relax with her extended family of dogs and Texans. Denise credits others with how beloved she has become along the river. “People in Texas are really friendly. They show it more, you know.” Denise doesn’t miss a day, and she usually stays two to three hours every time she comes out.
The City of Strasbourg in the Alsace-Lorraine area, is where Denise’s mother Marguerite Jeunesse was raised. Alsace has switched back and forth between Germany and France and because of this, over time, developed a unique culture. Its capital, Strasbourg, is situated close to the modern French border with Germany. A cultural crossroads of sorts, Strasbourg is an appropriate place for the headquarters of the European Union.
In 1942, the Effernelli family rented an apartment in Strasbourg. War demanded that all members of the family do their part, if the family did not want to starve. Denise’s father adapted quickly to Strasbourg’s war-born black market and soon became skilled in the trade of cigarettes and other valuable items. Denise worked too, and although the work was less physically demanding than the pipe factory in Italy, it was also less rewarding. The Germans required every business in the city to hang a photo of Adolf Hitler on its walls. Denise worked every day framing photos of the most hated man in France.
The Nazis had forcibly removed Jewish citizens from Strasbourg, and Denise remembers people refusing to rent the empty apartments to anyone, in hopes their Jewish neighbors would one day return.
Today, Denise speaks French, English and Italian. Although she learned to speak German during her time in Strasbourg, she afterwards immediately forgot the language. It was not by accident. “I erased it from my mind.”
In Strasbourg, war was not rumors of danger or the sound of bombs and gunfire in the distance. Fourteen-year-old Denise endured its direct fury. Fighting in the region was fierce. (The US 3rd Army alone sustained 55,182 combat casualties during its “Lorraine Campaign.”)
Denise remembers that American bombing runs would come in the daytime. “They only bombed Strasbourg in the day. At night-time, they bombed in Germany.” One day, bombs completely destroyed the family’s home, and Denise began to suffer from nightmares.
Bombs and guns were not the only danger. Nazi soldiers visited brutality on Denise’s father, beating him facially, when he failed to volunteer a “Heil Hitler” salute as they passed him on the street.
Strasbourg provided the family a means of income, but the cost on the girls was too high. After discovering an available room there, the Effernellis decided to move Denise and Pierette away from the city to to the tiny Alsatian village of Epfig.
Separated from their parents, the sisters earned their keep in Epfig by picking grapes in the vineyards. Even Epfig, though, was not “safe.” “We always wore the same green sweaters,” Denise said, “so that we would blend in with the vines.”
Denise remembers when the Third Army, commanded by General George S. Patton, liberated Epfig. The Germans knew the Americans were coming. She and Pierette hid near a window one evening and listened as the German officers and soldiers argued about whether to abandon their post. The Germans fled Epfig that night, and soon thereafter, Patton’s battle-hardened troops arrived.
The farmers the girls were staying with would not let them go out in the street as the Americans marched through, but they did let the girls make sandwiches and drinks to set out for the men on two low window sills in the home. Many grateful GIs hungrily accepted the food, but one American soldier simply jumped through the open window and into the house. Denise and Pierette were shocked for a moment, but the lanky American went straight for a piano he had glimpsed through the window and, to the delight of his fellow GIs (and the girls), pounded out “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” on the keys. Denise laughs and exclaims, “It was the happiest day of my life!”
Meanwhile, on November 23, 1944, French General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque and his troops liberated Strasbourg. It was a moment of French pride by design. The Allied commanders hoped Leclerc would be the first to cross the Rhine, and the men under Leclerc’s command more than earned their welcome into Strasbourg. Marguerite looked up the next day and noticed the French flag flying proudly over the famous Gothic-style Strasbourg Cathedral, and she took a photo. The war was closer to an end.
Denise’s parents immediately set out for Epfig to reunite with their daughters and return them to Strasbourg. They only had bicycles for transportation, so the trip took two weeks.
The rumor in Alsace was that General Patton was annoyed that the Allies had allowed Leclerc (instead of himself) to liberate Strasbourg and, as a result, had pulled his troops back away from the city, leaving it vulnerable. Alsatians feared a possible German reconquest.
The reunited Effernellis learned of a place for rent in the town of Schirmeck, west of Strasbourg. So, that is where they moved next. Schirmeck did not suffer from the hovering unease that had settled over Strasbourg, but it bore a perhaps more lasting scar.
Near Schirmeck was a German-run concentration camp called Natzweiler-Struthof. Lesser known than the infamous camps such as Auschwitz, Natzweiler-Struthof was the only concentration camp on French soil, and it was a house of horrors. From May 1941 to March 1945, between 19,000 and 20,000 people died in the Natzweiler-Struthof camp system.
Rumors began to emerge about atrocities that had occurred at the camp, and Denise and her sister were some of the first civilians to witness, first hand, the evil soon revealed to the world.
Denise and Pierette rode their bicycles to the camp and were allowed to walk through. They saw the gas chamber where prisoners were executed and the “oven room” where the Nazis destroyed their bodies with ruthless efficiency. Some time later, Denise returned and photographed the oven with a table that still held a few shoes from the Nazi’s prisoners. “When I first went there, the table was stacked high with shoes.” She also remembers the hair. “There were bags and bags of women’s hair” – shaved by the Germans before they murdered their victims.
Denise also recalls a room which she did not fully understand at the time, but which we now know was used for pseudo-scientific medical experiments. “There was a large table in the middle of the room, sitting on a single pedestal. On the sides of the room were drains, where they could wash away…,” Denise’s voice trails off.
One great hope, evinced through world history, is that even in the midst of war and the cruelty of humanity, love flourishes. It was such love, in a way, that eventually brought Denise to America.
Pierette fell in love with an American GI she met in Strasbourg. When the war finally ended, he returned to the US, but he wrote and asked Pierette for her hand in marriage. Pierette replied that if he was so interested to marry her, he should come to France to get her. He did.
The new bride persuaded her little sister to follow her to America. Denise did, and the girls’ parents eventually followed as well. “If Pierette didn’t meet her soldier, we would have all stayed in Alsace!”
Twenty-five year-old Denise Effernelli arrived in Chicago, IL, in the winter of 1952. She could only shiver so long in the Chicago cold. She left Illinois and, after a stop in Florida, found herself in Erie, Pennsylvania.
It was in Erie that Denise met her husband and became Denise Salamone – and where she truly settled in. Denise lived in the same home in Erie for forty-six (46) years. She and her husband raised a daughter there. Denise was far from the bombs of Strasbourg and the horrors of Schirmeck, but her battles were not over.
Cancer and Loss
At age 60, doctors diagnosed Denise with breast cancer. “My daughter was very upset, but I told her, ‘I’m not afraid of cancer! I survived the war!’”
As it turns out, cancer was no more of a match for Denise than the Nazis. She persevered until the cancer cells, like the unwanted German soldiers, departed.
Denise’s husband passed away when she was seventy. Independent as ever, Denise carried on. She found comfort in the community and the ritual of her Catholic church in Erie, where she remained active. She also began regular visits to Texas, where her daughter was married to a physician and raising Denise’s two beautiful grandchildren.
Denise Salamone discovered the Trinity River trails during her early visits to Texas to see her family. Denise met a couple who lived nearby, Ann and Paul. Ann was from England, and Paul was from Austria, and they were both dog lovers. Of course, they hit it off with Denise right away.
Ann and her little dachshund Otto are now regulars when Denise and Moses set up every evening by the Trinity. “This place is wonderful for conversation,” Ann says in her lovely British accent. “People put their phones away and just talk.”
Ann and Paul actually helped Denise find a home in Fort Worth when her daughter (and the river?) finally convinced her to leave Erie. Denise moved to Texas permanently in 2013 and purchased a home near the “Trinity Trails.”
The sun is getting lower in the sky when Ann (and Otto) and another friend Melissa (and her dog Henry) arrive. Moses is sharp, and he learns quickly which of Denise’s friends like to pay attention to him. Moses immediately wants to play with Melissa.
Before Melissa takes Moses to chase throw toys, she says to me quietly, “You know, Denise is always in pain, but she never complains about a thing.”
My dog Charlie returns from the river with a tennis ball stolen from Moses and proceeds to shake water on both of us. Denise just laughs. “It’s fine! It’s not a problem.” As we continue to wind down the evening, she mentions off-hand that her cancer came back about four years ago. When I ask for more information, she replies, “I have to take the pills, and it’s making me lose some of my hair. Every six weeks, I have to go to the oncologist, but you know, I’m not scared of things. I went through the war.”
Soon Polly Steed and her dog Bruce come by. Polly met Denise when her own dad and his dog Bubba started going to the river. Polly’s father mentioned this really nice woman and her handsome golden retriever, Moses. Soon, Polly and Bruce were Denise’s friends as well. It’s a repeated story.
Yet another friend stops by and reports a concern she just received from a fisherman. “Denise,” she warns, “did you know he found a water moccasin over there? It was a big one. He cut its head off. You might want to be careful. He thinks the snakes are going for the duck eggs.”
Denise is not bothered by the news. “Oh, I know about the snakes,” Denise beams back. Then she looks as me, “They are always telling me – ‘Look out for the snakes’ or ‘It’s getting dark, don’t you want to go in?’ – but I tell them I’m not afraid. I survived the war!”
I gather up Charlie to head home before it gets fully dark, and yet another friend (and another dog) has stopped by to see the “mayor.” It’s a long way from the streets of pre-war Paris, and even from her house in Pennsylvania, but Denise Salamone is home.
City of Fort Worth parks boast many “donated” benches, usually dedicated by plaques to those who paid for each specific bench. Denise’s family has decided to give Denise her own bench on the Trinity Trails. They’re just waiting to purchase a nice shady tree to watch over it.
No matter where she sits, tomorrow evening Denise will be back at the Trinity Trails. Moses will chase tennis balls into the water, and “the Mayor” will continue to add new members into her river community.
MisfitsPolitics would like to thank PoliticalSock for allowing us to share this story. For more from PoliticalSock please visit: https://politicalsock.wordpress.com/
Last week President Trump referred to illegal immigrants as “animals.” That is not actually true, but if you follow media outlets like the Associated Press and C-SPAN you would believe it is. What really happened is the President referred to MS-13 gang members as “animals,” during a meeting of law enforcement officials complaining about California’s so-called sanctuary state law that helps shield MS-13 gang members. The media then selectively edited his comments to make it appear as though he was referring to all illegal immigrants. The Associated Press has corrected their initial report via Twitter, but the horse is already out of the barn. But even the correction is not enough for people like MSNBC host Chris Hayes and Slate. They believe the President was talking about all immigrants without actually proving it.
What is worse, however, is that many on the left are essentially defending MS-13 members by claiming it is wrong to dehumanize a person as an animal. After all, members in MS-13 are simply trying to survive in a racist world which does not understand the struggles of black and brown individuals. For the left, it is the Rousseauian notion that man is not evil, but it is civilization, and its hierarchical structures, that made him evil. This line of thinking inspired Marx and eventually the modern left intelligencia. Rousseau, however, believed civilization would always be with us, and the best man could do was to protect his individual liberties against a tyrannical civilization that forced conformity.
For Marx and the modern left, that was not enough. Individual liberties give rise to private property, freedom of speech, religion, equal protection under the law, and ultimately a border, which helps secure those liberties against foreign powers. They do not want individual liberties, as those freedoms protect oppressor and oppressed alike. For them, the whole system must be upended to bring about a society where good and evil do not exist, but a stateless people with no hierarchy akin to Rousseau’s “Noble Savage." But that utopia is false from a historical and biological perspective. Wolves, baboons, and even chickens have natural hierarchies, and we too are wired for it. That is not to say every hierarchy is good or moral. The hierarchies found in Nazi Germany and the Indian caste system were clearly immoral. However the demolishing of all hierarchies is part of the modern left’s ideology, which is why we are seeing the left argue MS-13 members shouldn’t be called “animals.”
For the left, MS-13 did not cross the border, because borders should not exist. It is not MS-13’s fault that members are incarcerated for drug trafficking, because that is the fault of white America’s racist and outmoded drug laws. MS-13 members should not be labeled as “animals,” because ultimately every human is equal and deserving of respect. These notions are both wrong and dangerous.
Each man is responsible for themselves, and children know at a very young age what is right and wrong. The vast majority of children know not to hurt others. Many young kids I befriended growing up in the ghetto knew how to act properly, and all of them knew they should not harm individuals. Over time, some of those friends joined gangs, and each one of them knew they were doing the wrong thing. For the left, it is the patriarchy that is at fault for modern social ills and the hypermasculinity that causes gangs. In reality, those young boys who joined a gang often did so because there was a lack of masculinity in the home. Boys need the love, attention, and correction of a father. If they do not have some form of male hierarchy within their lives, they will seek it out to help them become men and for security. But for every one hundred fathers absent from their boy’s lives, there's at least one disgusting psychopath who’s more than willing to take their place. That is MS-13 at its core, a fatherless, patriarchal structure designed to create soulless animals for financial gain.
MS-13 has initiation rituals which often involve the brutal killing of a human being. Before he is inducted into that organization, however, he often runs around the periphery of MS-13’s sphere of influence. Boys, and now reportedly girls, will act as lookouts or help run drugs. Each time, their humanity is shaved away. Each act becoming more heinous than the last, until the induction ritual is nothing more than a formality. By that time, they are no longer human because they have stripped away all that it means to be so. That little boy or girl is gone. Their innocence, hopes, and dreams gone. They are not human. They are animals, and you’ll rarely find one that snaps out of that mode because their humanity has been destroyed.
Anyone who claims MS-13 should not labeled as “animals” because every human deserves some modicum of respect, is a disgusting apologist for their inhuman brutality. Not every human being deserves respect because there are a lot of bad people in the world who deserve nothing but contempt. So what would you call beings that contribute to an organization that actively recruits adolescents and turns them into soldiers, traffics drugs and humans, extorts, robs, kills, kidnaps, preys upon the most vulnerable humans, and pimps out children!? For me, the word “animal” is not enough. They are monsters.
Cal is a guest contributor for MisfitsPolitics. Follow on Twitter @TheCalCoconut.
Ask Alex - May 18, 2018
Welcome back to "Ask Alex", where I answer all of your stupid questions with even dumber answers. Have a question you need answered? Tweet it, email it or submit it here and I will get to it (maybe) next week.
I thought I was going to get this to you early last week, but I didn’t, and then I was at a wedding all weekend (rehearsal Friday, wedding Saturday, brunch Sunday and then a bunch of out of town relatives of my husband’s for dinner Sunday). Which means I never got around to it and I am really dragging today. But it was a really fun wedding and #TeamFlowerGirl killed it.
Today, we are going to talk terrible movies, and maybe hatch a plan to determine The Single Worst Movie Ever. We are also going to discuss modern architecture, The Sims and people paying Michael Cohen for nothing. To close with, I will answer the trivia question I asked early last week. Special preview of the next column...you are getting a discussion of terrible bands named after places
Submitted by: TJWFW
Dark direction this week: This was going around last week and we've also been talking enhanced interrogation. So, in the spirit of Clockwork Orange, if you had to interrogate 3 followers, what movies would you pry their eyes open to torture them with?
Confession...I don’t really watch many movies. I used to watch more, especially during my super fun stoner phase at about age 19, but I rarely ever have two hours to sit and concentrate on anything that I am not being paid for these days. And when I do watch movies, they tend to be things like Sing, The Secret Life of Pets, Trolls, Peter Rabbit and the like.
Because children ruin pretty much everything.
The question, then, is really “What are the worst movies you have ever seen?” Having never seen any Fifty Shades movies, or Twilight, or a single superhero movie outside of some of the Batman ones (and all of the Christian Bale ones are overrated, btw, even though Christian Bale is the celebrity that most resembles my husband), I don’t have any really obvious ones that jump to mind. But, if I work my way through my memory a little bit, I will give you a working list of the five worst movies that I remember seeing.
Gods and Generals - This movie is funnier and more farcical than anything the Wayans brothers have ever made. If you start with “Civil War epic, starring Robert Duvall as Robert E. Lee and Jeff Daniels as Joshua Chamberlain” you are really in a pretty good spot. Or, you should be at least...no idea what happened after that, but the rest of this is a 7 hour (estimated) Junior High drama club parody of an actual movie. I think the best part of this movie is the devotion to getting little details right - apparently ever single button and patch in the movie was historically accurate - while changing the major facts of the war - per this movie, for example, there were something like eight black people in Virginia in 1862 and they absolutely LOVED being slaves! Throw in a bunch of cameos from Senators and Congressmen and Ted Turner, and this may in fact be the worst movie ever made.
Showgirls - I mean, I guess the whole point was to show a bunch of boobs, and it succeeded in that sense. It also gave us a lot of naked Gina Gershon, kind of an underrated 1990’s smokeshow, but even that is mitigated by being out at the same time as Bound, which is, on several levels, MUCH better… On the downside, it also gave us a lot of naked Jessie Spano, and entirely too much Jessie Spano acting that was NOT this kind of brilliance. Honestly, she overdosed on caffeine pills, and she really thought she could handle Las Vegas? Please.
Battlefield Earth - I recall watching this specifically because it was supposed to be awful, and it totally delivered! Terrible acting, massive plot holes an inexplicable tilting of the camera! What’s not to love? It’s even better if you think about John Travolta signing on to play the movie and thinking “Guys, this is totally gonna be the thing that wins us a whole bunch of new Scientology followers! We are basically making our own video bible!” A lot of these movies sank the careers of the people involved...this one sank the entire production company that backed it!
From Justin to Kelly - Yea, I watched this, what’s it to you?! Never minding that Kelly Clarkson is and will always be my one and only American Idol, and that Justin Guarini is kinda killing it as the miniature Dr. Pepper guy these days, neither of them is much of an actor. And this movie has a feel of being written, filmed, produced and released in a span of about 9 days. The best review I can find of this movie, from Josh Tyrangiel of Time, calls it “a monstrous Idol movie musical that in the most generous light is the worst film so far this century.”
Glitter - I can’t even imagine what possessed me to watch this, other than probably a lot of pot. I don’t even like Mariah Carey or find her remotely interesting to look at or listen to. This movie was released on September 11, 2001, and I have a hard time believing that was a coincidence…(too soon?)
I’m sure I have seen a lot of other terrible movies, but those are the ones I remember. I almost feel like this should be a poll of some sort...maybe I will collect nominations for like the 32 worst movies we can think of and have an elimination-style vote to get to the winner (loser). Go ahead and give me your nominations and I will “maybe” get that started...
Submitted by: Lady Catherine
What happened to Architecture?
Art Vandelay. Once he did the new wing on the Guggenheim, the whole industry collapsed.
The problem with architecture (in my grossly uninformed opinion) is that architects often view themselves as artists instead of builders and every building must first look like a showpiece and second be functional. Truly great architecture works in the other direction...the beauty grows out of the function. Even with things like the lavish churches of the middle ages, in all of their splendor, the intricate decoration is all layered on top of relatively simple structural ideas that were intended mostly to fit tons of people into a given space.
And you know what else? I think architecture is in a better place now than it was 40 or 50 years ago. Obviously it will take a while to see how we view things in hindsight, but buildings today are much more smartly designed than the dark, concrete-heavy Soviet-inspired buildings of, say 1960-1985. Today’s office towers, for example, are faced almost exclusively with glass and focus on ideas like light, efficiency and comfort in a way that the last couple of generations never did.
Residential design has always suffered from wide swaths of sameness, at least since America invented suburbs and started building subdivisions using model homes. The sameness, however, is improving, and I feel like the McMansions built from 2000-2005 look a lot less dated than homes built in the mid-1970’s looked by 1990. Are we settling on some basic principles of design and material that are somewhat timeless? I dunno...but we might be.
It is worth noting that my view on this might be a little skewed by living in a region where homes aren’t considered disposable after 25 years and are both designed and constructed with that in mind. The building I live in was built in 1875 (parts of the foundation are older than that) and will likely be standing in another 150 years, too. When we renovated last fall, many of the walls that were torn out were likely original to the 1875 construction (horsehair plaster...which is a literal description of the material), and several rooms on the front of the second floor still have their original wide-plank oak flooring. The oak floors in the rest of the unit are of a more modern size and look, but they will still last for 150 years of normal use.
So, I am maybe less bearish on architecture than your question implies. It is hard to say whether anyone is building any more Texas State Capitals, Chrysler Buildings or Trinity Churches because the brilliance of those buildings only comes from looking at them for more than 50 years. Will we think of the Freedom Tower or Philadelphia's new Comcast Tower this way in 2060, or will we think of them like we do the ugly boxes of the 1970’s? Only time will tell, really, but I think there is some evidence that they will hold up better aesthetically than the most recent generations of buildings have, even if they don’t replace St. Patrick's Cathedral in the popular imagination.
Submitted by: Sicariothrax
Have you ever played the Sims series? If so, who’s your favorite townie?
I tried to pawn this question off on other people to answer. First I asked @jholmsted, who says she used to play.
“Townie? I have no idea what that is. I just built my house and tried to make my sims make money for ridiculous luxurious items and giggled as they got naked and made babies.” I think you know why we are friends…
Usually I answer these questions by Googling the subject and then pretending that I knew it all along, but I am having a hard time with this one because I can’t quite figure out what a Townie is. I think this is because I have never played the game, so I don’t really understand the framework of playable vs. non-playable characters and characters that are saved vs. those that auto-delete. Also, there was apparently one version of the game that got stuck in an never-ending loop if you married a townie…
Which is pretty good advice, people: never marry a Townie.
I do have some favorite actual Townies, though! My husband’s friend not only still lives in the town they grew up in, but he is married to a woman that they have all been friends with since fourth grade, she teaches at the town’s high school and he is on the Board of Selectmen and works as a real estate developer almost exclusively in the town. That’s pretty much next-level townieism. (Also, if you are cross-referencing Alex stories, she is a really key part of all of the Suburban Mom Girls Night Out stories...she’s the non-annoying one.)
Ben Affleck was kind of a laughable two-dimensional townie in Good Will Hunting, but he redeemed the whole movie with “If you’re still here in 20 years, I’ll fucking kill you.” On the subject of Ben Affleck and townies, if every townie looked like Blake Lively, I’d rescind my “never marry a townie” advice.
Norm and Cliff were pretty great townies, too, I assume. Since they never left the bar, it is hard to say where they lived or what they did with their spare time, but I’m just going to guess that they were. Also worth noting that Hilary Normal Peterson was born and raised in Chicago and moved to Boston as an adult...like all the cool kids.
Back to the Sims...it sounds like Townies are pretty interchangeable? In that case, my favorite townie would almost certainly just be the hottest one...especially since Jen tells me that you can make them get naked!
Submitted by: Uncle Jimmy
Jimmy business tip: Always try to assess whether the person you pay $1.2mm can help you or at minimum knows anything about your business prior to paying them. Do you agree?
So, here is what I think happened with Novartis and AT&T and their dealings with Michael Cohen. They thought that they were retaining a guy with the ear of the President and his senior advisers, through whom they could exert some influence on things like FDA or HHS appointments or the focus of those executive departments. Or that they would have inside information on the feelings of the White House towards major changes to the healthcare industry so as to not be caught totally flat-footed by any major upheavals.
Michael Cohen is not a registered lobbyist, so he neither has the open access to Congress and the executive branch of a lobbyist, or the rules about behavior and transparency that a lobbyist would. I imagine that Cohen billed himself as a kind of shadow lobbyist with the ear of his client and the ability to connect the interests of Novartis and AT&T directly to him. I have no doubt that Cohen sold them a vision of a seriously connected, major power player.
Only thing is, Cohen is full of shit and it turns out that he was no more than Trump’s bagman when it came time to pay off women who slept with him in hopes of getting a payoff to stay quiet. Cohen sold the companies a bill of goods and they realized after they had committed to paying him that he was nothing but a shallow con man.
At that point, though, the companies are kinda trapped. Sure, they could try and sue him for misrepresentations, breach of contract, or whatever he was almost certainly guilty of. But doing so would require them to outline exactly what they thought they were buying...and what they thought they were buying is, in the kindest light, at least kind of shady. If you have entered into a dirty deal, you have limited means of enforcing the deal when it turns out that your partner in that dirty deal was, well, dirty.
It reminded me of a story from the ESPN 30 for 30 episode about Southern Methodist University and their crooked football program in the 1980’s (btw...college athletes should be paid, come at me). Eric Dickerson, nationally-renowned star high school tailback, originally committed to Texas A&M University, only to decommit at the last minute and choose SMU. After that, a local reporter noticed that not-yet-high-school-graduate Mr. Dickerson was driving a brand new gold Trans-Am and reasonably surmised that he had been given the car by a booster at SMU in exchange for attending the school.
But SMU didn’t give him the Trans Am...Texas A&M gave him the Trans Am! But, SMU apparently offered him something better (he’s mum on what it might have been) so he took his brand new gold Trans Am and drove it off to SMU, leaving whatever booster gave him the car high and dry. Which left the booster in the same spot that Novartis and AT&T were in last year...to try and enforce the terms of your deal or to obtain recompense for the false representations of a counterparty, you’d have to admit what you were trying to do in the first place.
You can’t reasonably try and enforce an illegal deal to get a kid to go to your school and you can’t complain when the subterfuge you were planning to get around lobbying laws doesn’t materialize in the way you thought that you paid for!
I gave you a trivia question on Tuesday...There are nine franchises in the four major US-based sports leagues that are NOT explicitly named after a city, state or province. What are they?
First, the most obvious ones are the New England Patriots and the Golden State Warriors, named after a region and a state nickname. The Brooklyn Nets are named after the most populous of New York City’s five boroughs, but not the city itself. While Brooklyn was an independent incorporated city until 1898, it has been a borough of the City of New York ever since.
After that, there are a couple that are sort of technicalities. Carolina is not an actual state name, and Vegas is not a complete city name, so the colloquially-named Panthers, Hurricanes and newly formed Golden Knights all fit the criteria as well.
And finally, we get three teams in the same metro area that are named not after a city (although you probably think they are) but in fact after a body of water. The body of water is Tampa Bay, and the teams - the Buccaneers, Rays and Lightning - all play in either Tampa (which is named after the same body of water) or St. Petersburg (which is in Florida, not Russia).
@SoothingDave was the first to get them all...about two hours after I asked. And for that he wins...well, absolutely nothing!!! @sarahstevenson and @kengardner11 both got there really quickly, too, so they will get a slightly lesser version of the nothing that Dave got!
Alex’s random old song of the week
Let’s take a little spin back to 1988 and a perfectly nice little Viennese waltz that you probably never knew was really a Viennese waltz...it’s INXS and Never Tear Us Apart.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.