Saturday, August 26, 2017

Life at the Dakota by Stephen Birmingham

Too bad this book isn't about the Dakotas of the West and Deadwood, South Dakota,  but it's the Old New York version of the Old West. The Dakota (Apartments) was named after the Old West because at the time news about the Wild West was a popular subject and The Dakota was built outside of New York City about 30 miles away from downtown New York City. It had a bad name because it was on the West Side where the working people lived. It was actually on the west side of Central Park with a view of the park across the street from the upper floors and roof. It was built by Edward S. Clark and Isaac  Merritt Singer, the inventor of Singer Sewing Machines. Both were millionaires and the Dakota was built for rich people.

Some of the residents are/were the Steinways (the Piano people), Boris Karloff, Lauren Bacall, John and Yoko Lennon, Robert Ryan, Roberta Flack, Candace Bergen, Leonard Bernstein, Earl Blackwell, Henry Blanchard, Mrs. Winifred Cecil Blanchard, The Browning Sisters, etc., etc., and etc., all millionaires or had the money to live there. Mister Birmingham tells the history from the time it was built to present day, the structure, the layout, the services, and ll the esoteric plumbing and electricity when it came into being, the elevators, the rooms available, size and decorations, and so on.

The first years it was all rentals until it was bought out and the new owner threatened to tear it down and put up a commercial building of some type. It was finally worked out to be a cooperative where the apartments had to be bought and managed by the co-op itself. A lot of the services were covered by the Clarks in a haphazard fashion, but now the owners must pay for everything and the prices went up.

Some of the tenants were not happy with the arrangements and some moved out, making the apartments available for others to purchase and some lived there free. Miser Birmingham does a fine job explaining all this in the book and I found it very interesting as it still stands today. He tells about the uptown and downtown rich people that you can be right there with him.

I give the book five stars for enjoyment and it is well written.  

Friday, August 18, 2017

Manhunter by Matt Braun

Luke Starbuck, the private detective, is at it again in Manhunter. He is hired to find the James boys and kill them, especially Jesse. He puts on disguises as needed as usual and travels to Clay County, Missouri, where he thinks he may find the James boys. He passes time with a floozie named Alvina in a brothel where the Younger brothers hang out and occasionally Frank and Jesse visit. He plans to infiltrate the gang acting as a horse thief but doesn't quite make it.

He hears about the plan to rob a bank in Northfield, Minnesota, and Starbuck makes tracks there to thwart the robbery. As we know it was a mess and the bank was saved and the robbers get away. Starbuck doesn't get a clear shot of Jesse and has to follow them out of town where the Youngers brothers are wiped out, at least one of them.

Starbuck tries another tactic after the Northfield failure and catches up with Jesse in St. Joseph, Missouri, but his plan to get Jesse fails with the killing of Jesse by Bob Ford. He goes after Frank who is a different type and captures him.

I thought this was an entertaining rendition of the end of Jesse and Frank James and give it a solid four stars. Matt Braun is a fine writer and brings satisfaction to the reader. Recommended.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Jolly Old England

Deviating from my usual Western books, I've taken a diversion to England via Bill Bryson's book,  The Road to Little Dribbling. I really like books with comedy in them and this is one of the finest in my estimation. This is strictly, well almost, all non-fiction, but Bryson throws in some asides that could be either in this travel exposition. He travels a route from one end of the country to the other, ending in Cape Wrath in Scotland.

Along the way, he expounds on the railroads, the people, the towns and villages, the countryside and the museums. Bryson became a British citizen after he realized that it was better than the U.S. where he was born. He is a journalist and lived in London for some years, marrying an English woman and having a couple of kids there. He rattles on about the shabbiness of some towns since he was last there and how the people had changed and their sense of humor. Bryson spends time commenting on the railroad system and how the UK government has screwed up some of it and reduced the tracks to about half what they used to be. He spends a lot of time in Museums, explaining their exhibitions and how brilliant the English are in comparison to everyone else in certain fields. His descriptions of the countryside around these various towns and the beach resorts are really interesting. He doesn't include many sports, except walking. There are thousands of miles of trails through the countryside and along the seaside and he does quite a bit of it.

Bill Bryson is a funny writer and I enjoyed the book. I'll even give it five stars to show how much I liked it and if you like travel writing, I recommend it highly.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

A Bundle of Indifferene

This week has been nothing but one thing after another, almost from A to Z. I managed to work on Vol. 2 of the trilogy some though, so it wasn't all a loss. The thing with computers is, it's easy to find yourself in a bind by scheduling videos and canceling other things. I schedule some so-called training videos and the time passes before you know it, and I've missed them. I try to catch up on the replays, but the same thing happens. I don't pay for the training, but it's over before I think of it. Yesterday morning at 9 AM one came on, but I was out to breakfast after reminding myself that I had something to do. It must be old age. Yesterday was my 85th birthday and I was pre-occupied anyway.  All I can say is Thank the Lord for continuing life!

I try to keep things straight, but there doesn't seem to be enough time in the day. So from now on, I'll do things by the week and maybe it'll straighten itself out. Maybe a large calendar with Notes and Reminders on the wall. I don't have enough wall space to do it right and proper in my "Office." Maybe I'll move outside and paint the Notes on the wall in contrasting color paint on the patio. I can see it now, the HOA will send me a bunch of letters threatening legal action and telling me I can't do this. AndI'll tell them, do what?  Old age is fun.