Friday, February 13, 2004

Chief magistrate blog.

I take even minor holidays seriously, or at least as opportunities for sloth, so NO BLOGGING till after "Presidents Day."

But I will type up something meaty for today. One of my travel hobbies, whenever it's possible -- and it isn't too often -- is to visit presidential sites. I've only been doing this since about 1996, so I can't call it a life-long pursuit. And I rarely go out of my way to see a presidential site. But if it's around, I'll seek it out.

Why presidents? There's a certain fascination with the office, and the characters who have occupied it. So it satisfies an historical curiosity, while at the same time not offering an unrealistic challenge -- there have been only 42 separate individuals who have held the office, after all.

Listed below are the sites I've managed to see, with a little commentary.

Washington Monument, DC. Inspired by Egypt, hotbed of democracy. But a fine work all the same.

Monticello. Fascinating place, but I understand that home improvements drove Jefferson into penury.

Jefferson Memorial, DC. Doesn't inspire quite like the Lincoln Memorial.

The Hermitage, Jackson's home in Nashville. Made quite an impression on me when I was 8. Still good as an adult.

Tippecanoe Battlefield, where Wm. Henry Harrison won his fame. The best diversion on the dull drive between Chicago and Indianapolis. See the Aug. 30, 2003, blog.

Polk's grave, Nashville. A neglected president, because his style of imperialism is out of fashion.

Lincoln's tomb, home (Springfield, Ill.); Lincoln Memorial, Ford's Theater (DC). Lincoln's name seems to be on every other brick in Springfield. A new Lincoln Library will be opening there soon, so I'll have to see that.

Andrew Johnson's birthplace, Raleigh, North Carolina. The only president who was born dirt poor, and you can tell that by seeing this tiny house.

Grant's home, Galena, Ill., Grant's home, St. Louis. At the latter, my brother and I looked around for empty whisky bottles, but no luck.

Grant's tomb, NYC. Marvelously restored, and the area's not so dangerous anymore. Worth seeing.

Hayes' home and grave, Fremont, Ohio. The docent was really glad to see me. Stopped there to break up a trip on the interminable Ohio Turnpike.

Benjamin Harrison's home, Indianapolis. This docent was glad too. Nice Victorian house.

Benjamin Harrison's grave, Indianapolis. Too simple. Some governors of Indiana had better headstones.

Teddy Roosevelt's boyhood home, New York City. A well-done replica of the original brownstone, which actually has a brown exterior.

The Blackstone Hotel (Smoke-Filled Room, Harding), Chicago. Supposed to have been converted into condos, but last I heard they weren't selling well.

Hoover Library, Hoover's birthplace, Hoover's grave, West Branch, Iowa. I admire Hoover because he was a well-traveled man.

Truman Library, Truman's home, Truman's grave, Independence, Mo. There's something a little odd about being buried on the grounds of your library, but there he is with Bess.

LBJ ranch, LBJ grave, Stonewall, Tex. The historical re-enactors at the ranch refused to give me, the only visitor, any of the pie they had made.

Nixon Library, Nixon's boyhood home, Nixon's grave, Yorba Linda, Calif. Where President Nixon lies still.

Carter Library, Atlanta. Every now and then I have a touch of nostalgia for the Carter administration. No mention of the Killer Rabbit incident or Billy Beer at the library, however.

Reagan's boyhood home. Bizarre statue next door of Reagan holding kernels of corn.

George HW Bush's Kinnebunkport home, Maine. I was a little lost on the coastal roads of Maine that day, I'm pretty sure I saw it from a distance in 1989. I'm surprised I was able to get as close as I did, but I suppose he wasn't there that day.


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