Saint Louis Landmarks: Washington Historical Society

Evidently, before there were enough veterans, they named everything after Washington. You can’t blame ‘m. Like the case with the veterans, try voting against such a naming decision and then sleep at night. Also, writing my blog posts in reverse alphabetical order (I can see one or two light bulbs go off among my readers) inevitably results in the same name coming up twice. It’s a good thing we already had two universities, otherwise the letter ‘U’ would be near endless.

Anyway, the Washington Historical Society is located on Washington Avenue, probably explaining the name-giving mystery and thus rendering the last paragraph fairly useless. It was founded in 1959 to preserve Washington Missouri’s history. It’s okay, I also had to read that sentence twice. They mean the city of Washington, Mo. Also, we finally found the key to the naming process (I’m leaving this puzzle on purpose). The society harbors a number of museums and libraries, including the awesome sounding firehouse museum, the Missouri Meerschaum Corn Cob Pipe Memorabilia, and a featured ongoing exhibit on the importance of the gymnastics club from 1856 to 1916 to social life in Washington, Mo, complete with photographs.

Completely in line with being a historical society, the website hasn't been updated since the society's founding in 1959.

Completely in line with being a historical society, the website hasn’t been updated since the society’s founding in 1959.

Maybe you can’t read the above sentences with a straight face, either, but I think it is really cool that a small town of almost 14,000 residents, located 50 miles outside of St Louis has nested itself downtown and exhibits itself. Not only that, this chamber-of-commerce-like attempt has been rewarded with a spot among the city’s landmarks. I tip my hat to that, Washington Missouri!

This blog post is part of a series on landmarks in Saint Louis. Every week, I take one of the 250 landmarks selected for the 250th anniversary of the city and look up some information. This way, I hope to get to know my new city a little better every week together with you, my readers.

PS. I found someone doing a similar thing, but instead taking pictures of every cake. Check out her blog right here: http://astlouiscakewalk.wordpress.com/

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Saint Louis Landmarks: Washington University School of Medicine

Another university. Or rather, something university-related. The School of Medicine of Washington University (WashU, for a few close friends and many lovers) is the only of the university’s seven schools to get its own spot in this list. After tough choices like these, I am glad I didn’t create the list myself. The other six schools must be so jealous.

The School of Medicine was founded in 1891 and has grown to a really prestigious research facility. Since the first rankings became available, the university has been a constant member of its top ten, with a second rank as its high spot. Just reading about the research facilities and its place in several rankings, I started to see why the School of Medicine is somewhat special. Even before I knew about the status of its School of Medicine, I had seen Washington University in Saint Louis pop up in the World University Rankings of THE and Shanghai University.

washuschoolofmedicine

And suddenly I realized where its status as a landmark comes from. Not only is WashU an educational giant in Saint Louis, but its research facilities’ fame stretches to all corners of the world (notably Shanghai). Maybe their medical care is fantastic, maybe their doctors don’t make any children cry, but I think there is value in cherishing your treasures. And to Saint Louis, WashU is a treasure.

This blog post is part of a series on landmarks in Saint Louis. Each week, I take one of the 250 landmarks selected for the 250th anniversary of the city and look up some information. This way, I hope to get to know my new city a little better every week together with you, my readers.

Saint Louis Landmarks: Webster University

This is one of my favorites, for several reasons. First of all, I met my wife because she was studying at Webster University and took their Global MBA program, which landed her in my hometown. Second, this means that Webster University reminds me a little bit of home, because to me, Webster University is still the white frame red brick building on the Boommarkt in Leiden. Third, we now live a five minute drive from Webster University, so it’s a local thing in my new country as well.

In the picture, it's that white frame red brick building. To the right.

In the picture, it’s that white frame red brick building. To the right.

Webster University started out in 1915 in Webster Groves, and was only open to female students (still before the nineteenth amendment of 1920 that would let them vote for real, mind you). It has grown since, and even grown to the extent that half our local irrelevant newspaper was filled to the brim with discussions on how much more they should be allowed to grow, and what vacant buildings they should not save from looming destruction. Its mascot is the Gorlok, a mythical creature with the paws of a cheetah, the horns of a buffalo, and the face of a Saint Bernard dog. If you find yourself thinking that you’ve never heard of this creature in any of the true mythologies, you’re not mistaken. This creature was made up in 1984 in the context of a contest. The outcome, as you might agree, shows the Liberal Arts philosophy of the school more than anything. Perhaps, when we’re making mythology out of thin air, a 1984 punk rock Gorlok would make for some good local Saint Louis mythology. Speaking of punk rock athletic mascots, the Webster University chess team has won back-to-back championships in the last two years. When nerd is as cool as it is nowadays, that’s not a bad image to have for a university.

Webster HQ in Webster Groves. Probably as close as Leiden Webster was to my Leiden home.

Webster HQ in Webster Groves. Probably as close as Leiden Webster was to my Leiden home.

This blog post is part of a series on landmarks in Saint Louis. I take one of the 250 landmarks selected for the 250th anniversary of the city and look up some information. This way, I hope to get to know my new city a little better every week together with you, my readers.

Visiting Michigan (Prelude)

As Mrs Missouri and I are escaping the Missouri summer heat that kicked in (it was an easy summer until last week, where temperatures reached well over 90F, and the humidity was that of a swimming pool), I wanted to repost the very first blog I ever wrote, because I can be really sure only a handful of people read it. This is from September 2011, folks. Almost four years ago, which also means it’s our anniversary :). I’ll be back next week, and there’s a scheduled Saint Louis Landmarks post waiting for you tomorrow; my absolute favorite so far! Greetings from Michigan!

As I flew from Los Angeles to Saint Louis, I was reminded of my initial image of the Midwest: four hours flying with nothing remotely spectacular to see. The circular crop fields slowly moving exactly one cruising altitude below me promised me nothing to look forward to, but a lot of corn. Even the airport was the least interesting of all the airports I had seen on my travels to Saint Louis. Not too impressed, I walked out of the airport, only to get hit in the face by Missouri’s notorious summer climate. Now that was impressing.

Maybe this church thinks they're being clever, but I just wonder what it means that Satan is calling them of all churches.

Maybe this church thinks they’re being clever, but I just wonder what it means that Satan is calling them of all churches.

In the week before my arrival, I had been to two different locations, with two different climates. One was Dublin, which was very humid (=rainy). The other was California; dry and hot, although every now and then a cool breeze softened the most intense warmth. Those two climates combined were no training for the humid hell that Missouri provided. The humidity was so high at the moment I arrived, I could feel it when breathing. Every breath I took reminded me of a sauna. Even worse: it was hotter than in California too. The combination immediately made me sweat. By the time I got to the car, I was soaking wet and already freed from scepticism. I would be for the coming month.

Little Crumbs of Holland

It’s been almost a year since I’ve moved here, and the blending of countries and cultures (identities, perhaps?) is in full swing. I read Dutch newspapers, I watch Dutch news, but the rest of me is immersed in Americana. Well, except on Saturday mornings.

cowboy

Me on other mornings

As I’ve told you, Saturday mornings are for garage sales. We find everything there a house could want, and then some other things. Wooden shoes for example, or Delft Blue ornaments. The two things tourists eagerly take from the Netherlands to the United States to have something Dutch in their home (some say Mrs Missouri went a little overboard bringing a complete Dutchman in her home). The other morning we found a little wooden shoe at an estate sale, which read ‘In een huwelijk mag men kijven, maar de liefde moet blijven’ (I can’t translate this without cringing, but it basically means ‘You can fight within a marriage, but love has to stay’; it doesn’t make more sense in the original, nor is it more inspiring). I am amazed at the little crumbs of Holland that I find in unexpected places; I’ll take them as signs that I am dearly missed.

Loopholes In Homeland Security Exposed

Since the founding of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS, for experts, lovers of abbreviations and yours truly), the security business in the United States starts to look more and more like one of those real-life shows where contestants try to impose logic-defeating rules on unsuspecting counter-participants. MTV had one of those, Boiling Point, where people received $100 for having others walk all over them for a set period of time. I strongly believe DHS is doing the same now. “You want to fly? Okay, but we want to see you naked first. Please stand over there, with your arms raised.” I think the whole idea of air travel passengers standing in a line holding their shoes is the result of a brain storm session where one hot shot told the other, “I bet you a thousand bucks I can make everyone take off their shoes in some twisted patriotic sense of homeland security.” All us unsuspecting participants can do, is patiently wait for the big prize.

Nerdy reference? Check!

Nerdy reference? Check!

In the meantime, the real security measures aren’t water proof either. It takes a little effort, but once you see the flawed logic, danger starts creeping in. Please only read on if you trust yourself, because the truth in the wrong hands will crumble any nation in corruption. First of all, there is the spectacular question on form I-94W, a form for foreigners entering the US. In its entirety, it reads: Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities; or genocide; or between 1933 and 1945 were involved, in any way, in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies? I would like to focus on the legislation that expended this question some other time, but for now, let’s look at the part where they ask you if you’re a spy. Because really, there are three options:
1. Yes, I am a spy, but since I am stupid enough to admit this on a form in an airplane, you have nothing to fear, really.
2. I do not have to sit here and be accused of something like that (you are a spy, but you can read and spy, so you choose ‘no’).
3. I am not a spy.

Also, if you were a nazi in 1933, and a minimum of 16 years old back then, I don't think you can read that sentence anymore.

Also, if you were a nazi in 1933, and a minimum of 16 years old back then, I don’t think you can read that sentence anymore.

In another instance, the security background check, the following question comes up: to your knowledge, did the person the security check concerns ever download classified information with the intent of spreading it to harm the United States? This is a closed question, so the answer is yes or no. Again, I present you the three options:
1. I do know he downloaded classified information. The reason I know this is because we are in a scheme together, but to protect myself, the answer I give is no.
2. I do not know he downloaded classified information. He did, but decided that this is the sort of activity you don’t run around telling everybody. My answer is no.
3. I do not know he downloaded such information, and he didn’t. My answer is no.

I’ve showed you the logic people. Now try sleeping at night. Because before you know it, a lying 1933 Nazi criminal will be under your bed.

Visiting Arizona, Part I: Ashes to Ashes

In an attempt to escape the claws of winter that keep scratching St Louis, Mrs Missouri and I decided to take a break and reside in Arizona for a week. Ironically enough, we left the first promising spring day, and returned in a blistering cold and road conditions only suited for one horse open sleighs (our taxi slid down the road almost horizontally, while another car came sliding by a little faster, almost hitting a police officer alongside the road). Because I married the most optimistic travel planner in the world, I will spread out the findings over a few posts, not in the least because Arizona has so much to offer.

80% of that being rattlesnakes.

Mostly rattlesnakes, though.

The first thing I noticed about Phoenix, was the amount of space available. The roads are neat and wide, because there is only one climate, and they aren’t based on Indian trails (I mean native Americans, but as they advertise their merchandise as ‘Indian artifacts’, I’ll stick to a respectful non-PC option), as I sometimes suspect St Louis highways to be. In fact, Phoenix seems built on the idea that in the desert, there is indeed plenty of space for everyone. Its city parks are half a mountain range, and I’m pretty sure nobody has ever died of dehydration in a St Louis city park, whereas I expected to see scores of skeletons along the hiking trails we visited. Risen from a ground scorched by an ever present sun, the only reasons the city isn’t named after the inventor of the air conditioner (Willis Carrier) is that Carriertown sounds silly and less impressive.

I like St Louis, but naming your city after an awesome fire bird is slightly more impressive than a 13th-century French king.

I like St Louis, but naming your city after an awesome fire bird is slightly more impressive than secretly honoring a  dull, 13th-century French king.

Arizona had more to offer than a spacious city, even tough nothing we encountered on our trips could exist in a small space (some of them even need a ‘grand’ space). In the coming weeks, I’ll take your metaphorical hand and show you the grandeur of a State that made sure to include some natural wonders in its borders to have at least something other than just desert and rattlesnakes. This is the America you always dreamed about: cowboys, cars, air conditioning, and bumper stickers the size of the Grand Canyon.