Remembrance Day

Day of Remembrance


The following was originally posted 6/21/2013:

Manzanar National Historic Site, one of ten camps where American citizens of Japanese descent were incarcerated during World War II.

Just because of their heritage.

They were Americans, held prisoner, without due process, without a trial, by their own government.  A government that they trusted.

A government that held them prisoner.

Just because of their heritage.

Manzanar War Relocation Center, Independence, California

—————————–

After Goddess and I drove through Death Valley, Manzanar was an absolute must-stop.  I was aware of the history, Goddess was not.  I also needed to see how they had improved the site, since the National Historic Site complex was not opened until 2004.  Prior to that, there was nothing to mark the location other than a single stone obelisk that was the edge of the cemetery for those that died here.

Some 30+ years ago, I lived just 90 minutes south of here and on our many trips on US 395, I’d see the sign marking the dirt road to the obelisk.  Just the simple act of reading it as we passed by a few times a year was enough to cement the name in my mind.  Later on I became familiar with Ansel Adam’s landscape and documentary images of the camp, which led to research and learning.

It was a place that came to mind often while we lived in Europe, touring places like Dachau.  Although I could never equate Manzanar to Dachau since there was no plan or action to eliminate the prisoners in Manzanar.  Some studies of the mortality rates of Manzanar show it to be statistically similar to free cities with the same population.

With heavy hearts we drove onto the grounds, just thinking about American citizens who were imprisoned just because of their heritage.  The point was driven home as we walked into the visitor’s center.  Seated on a bench was a park ranger with two kids of Japanese descent.  Mother stood nearby as the ranger explained to the kids, the oldest about eight years old, that had they lived in the United States during that time, they would have been rounded up and held prisoner in this camp.  Just because of their heritage.

That was tough to hear and see.

If you are ever driving along US 395 along the Eastern Sierras, take an hour or two and stop in.  The site is large and there are several displays scattered about several miles where they were able to restore artifacts that made life more bearable for the prisoners.

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As far as the landscape goes, that’s the Eastern Sierras in the background.  Absolutely beautiful chunks of rock, if you ask me.  Of course, I’m biased, having been able to spend several years of my youth living with them in sight, being able to camp and hike and fish all over them.

And if you look at highest peak left of center, that is Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States, topping out at 14,505′.


In just a few months, Goddess and I will be standing on top of that peak as part of our hike along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

Sigh

It has been a bit over 24 hours since we got the news that Ezra Caldwell, artisan of Fast Boy Cycles, succumbed to his battle with cancer.  An on- and off- and on-again battle that’s lasted six years.

It was a rough notification here at the house, as Goddess and I have been following Ezra’s story for more than a few years now.

RIP Ezra Caldwell aka Fastboy

Click on the image to open a video about Ezra.  It is well worth the 12 minutes of your time.

Some of you will recognize the photo on the left.  It’s the same one that I had framed in my office as a simple reminder to keep myself grounded and centered.  It hangs in my garage now, within sight of all of the bike tools that I need to work on bicycles, beneath the full-sized frame drawings of the frames that I built this past year.

My last interaction with Ezra was this past December, after I had finished building my titanium mountain bike.  As Ezra was an inspiration for me to learn to build a bicycle, in my mind I always called that bike “Fast Boy”.  A snippet of our conversation says it all:

“And yes.. It really is an amazing feeling to throw your leg over something that YOU built and ride it and have it WORK.. It feels like magic. And the cool thing is – That feeling doesn’t go away. I STILL get that.

All my best, e.”

Our hearts and thoughts are with Hillary, Putney (their dog) and family as they get through this, a period of what has to be mixed emotions.

For me, now it’s even more of a reason to find/build a frame worth of the Fast Boy Brooks Saddle that I have in a box here at the house.  It was Ezra’s wish that the saddle not be a show piece, but a saddle on a working bike.

This is the saddle.  Mine is brown.

Fast Boy Brooks Saddle

Building a working bike? It’s the least I can do.

I hope I can live up to it.

(click on the pic of the saddle and you can watch a compressed video of Ezra prepping a frame for brazing).

Sigh…

Today, thanks to social media, we were introduced to this video of our last home, Heidelberg, Germany.

In the middle of the most phenomenal city, chock full of history and character, was a US military community, established after World War II.  That community was why we were there.

But Heidelberg, and the surrounding Germany communities and people, were what made it home for the Goddess and I.

Here is the video.  Goddess and I cannot get through it with a dry eye.  We miss the place and our friends, nay, our family, there that much.

If you don’t watch the video, that’s understandable.  Especially if you don’t have that personal connection.

But trust me, when these are the views on your weekly Monday morning run, the place grows on you.

Heidelberg Dusting, Heidelberg, Germany
Altebrucke Morning, Heidelberg, Germany

To have been lucky enough to live in a town full of history filled with the Hohenstaufen’s, Martin Luther and the Reformation, as well as Mark Twain and the 150 years since, was nothing but a blessing for us.

Visit if you can.

Manzanar View

Manzanar National Historic Site, one of ten camps where American citizens of Japanese descent were incarcerated during World War II.

Just because of their heritage.

They were Americans, held prisoner, without due process, without a trial, by their own government.  A government that they trusted.

A government that held them prisoner.

Just because of their heritage.

Manzanar War Relocation Center, Independence, California

—————————–

After Goddess and I drove through Death Valley, Manzanar was an absolute must-stop.  I was aware of the history, Goddess was not.  I also needed to see how they had improved the site, since the National Historic Site complex was not opened until 2004.  Prior to that, there was nothing to mark the location other than a single stone obelisk that was the edge of the cemetery for those that died here.

Some 30+ years ago, I lived just 90 minutes south of here and on our many trips on US 395, I’d see the sign marking the dirt road to the obelisk.  Just the simple act of reading it as we passed by a few times a year was enough to cement the name in my mind.  Later on I became familiar with Ansel Adam’s landscape and documentary images of the camp, which led to research and learning.

It was a place that came to mind often while we lived in Europe, touring places like Dachau.  Although I could never equate Manzanar to Dachau, since there was no plan or action to eliminate the prisoners in Manzanar.  Some studies of the mortality rates of Manzanar show it to be statistically similar to free cities with the same population.

With heavy hearts we drove onto the grounds, just thinking about American citizens who were imprisoned just because of their heritage.  The point was driven home as we walked into the visitor’s center.  Seated on a bench was a park ranger with two kids of Japanese descent.  Mother stood nearby as the ranger explained to the kids, the oldest about eight years old, that had they lived in the United States during that time, they would have been rounded up and held prisoner in this camp.  Just because of their heritage.

That was tough to hear and see.

If you are ever driving along US 395 along the Eastern Sierras, take an hour or two and stop in.  The site is large and there are several displays scattered about several miles where they were able to restore artifacts that made life more bearable for the prisoners.  I’ll be posting images of some of those things in the coming weeks.

—————————–

As far as the landscape goes, that’s the Eastern Sierras in the background.  Absolutely beautiful chunks of rock, if you ask me.  Of course, I’m biased, having been able to spend several years of my youth living with them in sight, being able to camp and hike and fish all over them.

And if you look at highest peak left of center, that is Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States, topping out at 14,505′.

Fleeting Memories

One of my favorite spots in Munich is one that few notice.

But that’s true of many cities.  I do like the out of the way, the off the wall places.

But this one’s neither out of the way, nor is it off the wall.

But still, few notice.

It’s the Viscardigasse, otherwise known as “Shirker’s Alley”.  Or, back in the day, Drueckebergergasse, as a drueckeberger is a hedger or quitter.

There is a lot of history in this alley.

But before I get into the history, I will preface by saying that my focus on German history, as a student of history, has not been the Holocaust.  I do not think it should be, no matter how horrific those events were.  The story of Germany and the worldwide contributions of the Germans is epic.  But like any other society or nation, there are its low points.  The 1930’s and 1940’s were Germany’s.

Spacially, Viscardigasse is a small alley (hence the -gasse suffix) that connects two significant parallel roads, Residenzstrasse and Theatinerstrasse, both of which head northward from Marienplatz.  Viscardigasse stretches east to west, just south of Felderrnhalle, which faces the Odeonsplatz.

The importance of Viscardigasse reaches back to 9 November, 1923.  On that day, an illegal march led by Adolf Hitler, with a goal of revolution, was confronted by Bavarian National Police along Residenzstrasse, next to the Felderrnhalle.  The march became known as the Beer Hall Putsch.

During the confrontation, gunfire erupted, resulting in 16 marchers and 4 police killed.  Hitler was arrested and sentenced to a prison term.

Jump forward several years, after Hitler gained power.  He ordered a plaque to the 16 “martyr’s” be placed on the Feldernhalle.  After that, passers-by were required to render a sieg heil as they passed the plaque.  Compliance was monitored by Nazi supporters.

That’s where the story of Viscardigasse starts.

As Jews or anti-Nazi individuals would approach the Felderrnhalle, they would duck down Viscardigasse to avoid rendering the salute.  Soon the Nazi’s caught on and started stopping individuals walking down Viscardigasse, demanding their reasons for avoiding the Felderrnhalle.  Those that could not provide sufficient reason were often whisked away to camps.

Taking the Viscardigasse was a form of resistance.

And a way to become “disappeared”.

So when we are in Munich, I choose to stop and reflect between these walls, looking at the stones as a whole, but especially the bronzed stones forming a wavering, ever decreasing path, before disappearing midway down the alley.

While the reflection does include the events leading to the placement of the stone, reminiscent of stolperstein (example here), memorial in the alley, the reflection turns more introspective, wondering if that Viscardigasse would be the path that I would take in the face of such an oppressive regime.

Wondering if I could leave Goddess behind like that.

Wondering if Goddess would join me.

But I seriously doubt that I would go out so passively.

That is the result of reflection.

So why the title “Fleeting Memories”?

Because as we sit, observe and reflect, so many tourists pass by the alleyway, walking quickly down Residenzstrasse and Theatinerstrasse, enroute to either the Odeonsplatz or Marienplatz, oblivious to the significance of this small alley.

Or, as in the picture below, we see many tourists and locals walk right down the alley, hurrying to and fro.

And we wonder, how many are even aware of what they are walking over?

Fleeting Memories