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Archive for the ‘Merry Made’ Category

I woke to a radio report that the Zeppelins were on the move again. Bewildered, I rose to look outside. My breath caught at seeing shadows move across the grass.

“Get dressed,” my wife ordered. “They’re leaving.”

I did and then we ran down restless streets. I caught dreadful glimpses of them between buildings until the sky opened up and there they were, hovering with terrible efficiency.

“Zeppelins were never supposed to be used again.” I turned to my wife in confusion. “Why didn’t they tell us?”

Her expression pushed me back.

“How could they have been any more obvious?”

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There had been countless days and nights of flinging himself against the arguments of futility. Finally, this thing born in the hollow spaces of his mind had become fact. Now, just in time, at the right time, he could agree that spending so much time in the grip of the abyss had been worth it. He led the mechanism into the King’s presence. Within his gestures of presentation was the careful push of a secret lever. The mechanism’s first startled, and then delighted, the court.
“Well done,” said the King, “on winning the day. I may yet spare your life.”

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Aaaaaaand I’m back! After a very, very long hiatus, after not much of a start, I’m finally coming back to my little blog, my little tavern on the Web, my own Striped Sock. Pull up a chair, drink a pint, play a game of dice, go ahead, I know you want to, I see that twinkle in your eye.

These days I’m up to my eyebrows in self-assigned projects, with a heavy dose of history. For instance, I spend a fair amount of time in the local archives here in Omaha (that would be the Douglas County Historical Society, holla!), covered in bits of paper and sneezing out dust. This library has so much stuff in it that the building is literally sinking. Especially impressive is the vaguely claustrophobic room that is crammed to the gills with the huge number of newspapers that this town and surrounding towns have produced in the past century. My job? Magically turn these pages into text on a computer screen.

There’s nothing like holding a piece of paper that was printed 100 years ago or more to make the past feel more immediate. The stories are, by turn, interesting, intriguing, funny, outrageous, ridiculous, eye-opening, and, yes, at times, offensive. You could say that spending day after day scanning old newspapers into the computer has got to be mind-numbingly boring. Well, you would be surprised, because really it means I have history in all its messy glory displayed before me, waiting for me to sweep the dust off it, or even to piece it back together. No easy task, that, by the way. Some of these pages are so fragile that merely touching them causes them to crumble.

When I tell people what I do, the common reaction is less than enthusiastic, and, frankly, that drives me crazy. It drives me crazy because, not only do so many locals seem to have no idea that we’re here (let alone anybody who isn’t local), but also because I’m confronting my age old nemesis: apathy. I’ve never ever understood why so many people insist history is boring. Really? I just don’t get it, because its anything but. It contains everything under the sun. It has something for everyone. Whatever you’re interested in, I guarantee you can find it in history. Fashion? Check. Gossip? Check. Traveling? Check. Politics? Check. Intrigue? Check. You get the idea. Plus, so many fun people hang out in history. People like pirates, highwaymen, rum runners, bootleggers, rogues, spies,  smugglers, mighty generals, dastardly conspirators, conniving courtiers, doomed queens, monstrous kings, reckless explorers…..anybody who is anybody, really.

Then there’s my second nemesis, the Midwestern Misperception. Oh, I don’t  mean (not necessarily anyway) the misperceptions that Midwesterners have about the rest of the world, but rather the misperceptions that the rest of the world has about the Midwest. OK, maybe not the rest of the world, but certainly the rest of the country. The idea that the U.S. consists of the east coast, the west coast, maybe the gulf coast, and the middle is one, big, boring, irrelevant blank. There’s nothing of interest here, never has been, never will be. I can tell you for a fact that’s just not true. I’ll grant you that we’re not New York, we’re not L.A., that is true. That doesn’t mean we don’t have anything to bring to the table and if you don’t take the time to get to know us (or, if you are a fellow Midwesterner, to get to know yourself), then you’re missing out.

These are the things I think about while I’m standing at my scanner, patiently (more or less) scanning in one page after another (or, as I like to think of it, because I have delusions of grandeur, saving history one page at a time). For some time now I’ve been thinking its a shame that most people don’t really have ready access to these newspapers. I like to think that, if they did, maybe, just maybe, they would get a sliver of enjoyment out of them.

So that’s just what I’m going to do. I’ll be your transcriber, your reporter, your Nellie Bly. The stories won’t be posted in any particular order; I’m basically starting with a box of papers and working my way down. While I currently envision mainly posting articles that particularly focus on the Omaha-area, since that’s where I currently live, that won’t always be the case. Even the smallest papers printed stories from around the world and if I think its something interesting, then I’m gonna post it. I’m also going to transcribe them exactly as they are; typos, grammatical errors, misspellings and all. For those of you who get your kicks pointing those sorts of things out (yes, I’m one of them, so no judging here), have fun. Have fun anyway, please, because history is fun, its cool, and I love it and you should, too.

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