Sunday, October 21, 2012

Civil War Trails
The John Wilkes Booth Escape Route - Part 1

November 21, 2009

As part of a comprehensive tour of Civil War sites in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia during a week in November 2009 -- with my brother-in-law Tim Danklef (aka, 21st Century Stonewall Jackson) -- we re-traced the John Wilkes Booth escape route from Ford's Theatre through Maryland and ending at Garrett's Farm in Virginia.  

Booth was on the run for 12 days after Lincoln's assassination, utilizing an assortment of Confederate sympathizers to help him travel throughout southern Maryland and Virginia.  I have always found it interesting that eastern Maryland had more Confederate supporters than western Maryland, a fact that hindered the Army of Northern Virginia at Antietam during the Maryland Campaign in 1862 and in the Gettysburg Campaign in 1863.

We started early in the morning on a Saturday at Ford's Theatre.  The Theatre has a museum in the basement that has recently been renovated.  It has some interesting artifacts from the assassination of President Lincoln, including the .44 caliber Derringer used to shoot Lincoln in the head and one of the boots that Booth wore the night of the assassination. My favorite artifact in the museum is the Brooks Brothers wool coat that was made for Lincoln's second inauguration and that he had with him the night of the assassination.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Pop" - Part 2
by Kenneth W. Neal

Fred R. Neal in his garden - Sand Springs, OK 
The Ritual

My father hurried into the house with a sprightly, but reluctant gait, as if there was a bit of pain, which there often was. All the Neal men for several generations had the peculiar walk and the unusual physique that went with it. The upper body was a bit too large for the legs and the arms were carried as if they were slightly heavy.

Pop described the walk as "hunching along." It made the Neal men look - at a distance - a lot older than they were. Pop’s hunch was a little more pronounced. He'd been thrown by a horse at 15 and had suffered through two lower back operations.

The work day at American Airlines' big maintenance base at Tulsa had been routine. After a day of parts, paperwork and the smells of solvent, he was ready for the garden. It was 4 p.m. and there was still hours of June sun, time enough to get a lot done.

He thought of what he needed to do in the garden tonight. The tomatoes, his specialty, were up and thriving with blooms and small tomatoes showing. They needed a bit of spraying; blossoms needed a shot of blossom set and maybe it wouldn't hurt to work in a little fertilizer in the rows between them.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Neal Family Archive Home Movies
Movie Trailer:  California Trip 2011

Neal Family Archive Letters
California Trip 2011

To:  John P. Neal
From: Kenneth W. Neal

May 2, 2011

Dear John Patrick:

I write this after reading your father’s well-written account of the 5,900-mile western odyssey of grandfather, father and son. 

I can’t add much, if anything, to his account, but I will take this opportunity to tell you a bit about your father. 

But first, I ask a few favors of you: When you read this many years hence, perhaps when your dad is 75, please make snotty remarks about how older drivers should be kept off the road! 

Secondly, make fun of him because his hearing is failing. Finally, in general, treat him like your dullard child. In fact, he will be acting as if he is because in addition to his hearing, his health and memory will be in decline. 

And above all, watch his turn signal indicator like a hawk, and if he leaves it on an instant too long, jump his old skinny butt like a chicken on a June bug. 

For good measure, you might laugh anytime you get a chance at his skinny legs. As matter of fact, they are pretty skinny right now. 

And, you might laugh at his pot belly, his gray hair (if he has any) and his inability to walk very far. And you might show your boredom when he tells his stories. 

I am not sure what advances in electronics and other devices will be around when he is 75, but be sure and laugh at his efforts to operate same while simultaneously putting on his reading glasses with semi-crippled hands. 

Do these things for me and you will help me get even with your father. He deserves it. 
Neal Family Archive Letters
California Trip 2011

To:  John P. Neal
From: Patrick W. Neal

April 25, 2011
Grandpa Ken and I just got back from taking you on an 11-day driving trip from Houston to California.  I thought I would write down some highlights of the trip before we all forget and since you will likely not remember most of what you experienced.  
Grandpa Ken drove down to Houston to pick us up in his 2010 Infiniti QX-56. This was the same car we had taken to Yellowstone National Park in August 2010 and you named this car T-Rex because it was so big. It had a drop- down DVD player for the back seat passenger and throughout this trip and our previous trip you really liked watching DVD's in the backseat. One drawback to this was that to start or change a DVD, the car had a safety feature which required that the car be in park and that the emergency brake be engaged. Therefore, anytime you wanted a DVD changed or re-started we would have to pull over and completely stop the car. 
At the time of this trip the price of gasoline had recently appreciated to over $4.00 a gallon and T-Rex unfortunately required a lot of gas, only averaging about 15 miles per gallon. By the time Grandpa Ken returned home to Tulsa (after dropping us off in Houston) we had tallied approximately 5,900 miles. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Review:  Fujitsu's LifeBook
by Diane Young

April 13, 1999
Review: Fujitsu's LifeBook -- Welcome in This Bag of Law Books
The B112 mini-notebook is smart-looking, performs well, and weighs a lot less than this student's legal texts.

There was muttering in the office cube across from mine a few days ago -- muttering so persistent that it was distracting. Curious, I went to look. Huddled over a midget gadget were three reporters. The object of attention was so small that I assumed it was some sort of electronic planner or palm-size electronic calendar. But no, this was better.

My colleagues had been mesmerized by a small, silver, mini-notebook from Fujitsu, the B112 LifeBook. I have to admit I've never cared about laptops, notebooks, or any other electronic gear that has to be hauled around. I really, really like my desktop computers at home and at work, and so far my paper calendar is doing just fine as my personal, portable organizer.

I was immediately taken with this compact-size notebook, however. It just looked so cool. If I had to compare the LifeBook to anything else, it would be to a puppy or a Tamagochi: Once I had it at my desk, visitors came by to look, touch it, play with it, and take it home (no house training necessary). But how did it perform?
"Pop" - Part 1
by Kenneth W. Neal

       I write about my father to tell others, particularly my own children, of an unusual and interesting man, flawed, to be sure, but outstanding in his understanding of human nature. But his story is difficult to tell apart from his own father, and for that matter, apart from me.
      It has occurred to me only recently that his story includes his father’s story and that my own story encompasses them both.
      I feel a bit awkward making my father the central character in my own life and memories, because it seems I am neglecting my mother. But there will be time and space to talk about her. She played a leading role in his life and quite obviously, mine.
Fred R. Neal (approximately 1932) with unknown lady.
      Maybe I should start with my earliest memories, not so much because they are so unusual, but because they will help to understand my father, hereinafter referred to variously as “pop,” “dad” or sometimes “the old man.”
      I was born September 26, 1935, in the “east basin” near Mannford, Okla., on an oil lease pumped by my mother’s father, Ray Ingalls. My birth certificate, signed by a Dr. McDonald, lists the place of birth in Cimarron Township, Pawnee County.
      Keystone and Mannford were my dad’s early “stomping grounds,” and some of the stories about him are from before he married my mother July 11, 1934.
      My father was a great story teller, taking great pains, not to mention time, to tell me much about his early life and his own father, Radford Andrew Neal, who died in November 1937.
      I have no memory of Radford, or “Rad,” as most called him, but I know him. That’s because pop told me so much about him.
      It wasn’t that dad consciously decided that his only child should know the family history, it was that he remembered his own father with such fondness that he constantly recalled what he said and did. The good times and the bad times were never far from his mind. I believed and still believe my father told the truth as he understood and remembered it.
      Only recently, I ran into one of his old cronies at American Airlines, who volunteered to tell me that “Fred Neal was the most honest man I ever knew.”
      That impressed me, of course, but it also reassured me that the many stories and anecdotes my dad told me were not only funny or unusual, but true.
      I struggle with how to unfold this tale, so I return to my first memory: It involves the Rock Inn and a few hazy memories.
      Some time around 1936, dad found work “running” a filling station (as they were known then and for years afterward) next door to the Rock Inn, which was just outside the old town of Keystone, now deep under the waters of Keystone Lake.
     There were cabins on the rise behind the service station and the nearby roadside cafe. The cafe was something out of a scene in the “Grapes of Wrath,” yet to be written, of course.
     But it had a juke box and a long bar common to roadside diners. That’s all I remember. I am not too sure I remember that, even. Probably my folks told me about it and that has influenced my memory.
     But I do remember this: Pop had a Model A Ford. He would start the old Ford and park it beside the station to let it warm up, which took a considerable time.
     That’s where I came in. The Model A needed to be “choked” during the warmup period to keep it running.
     A Model A had a choke rod through the firewall to the carburetor (I later learned) and dad put me in the right seat to operate the choke. When the engine begin to sputter, I pulled the choke to keep it running. That I could detect this and keep the engine running “tickled my dad to death” as they say, and he must have done this a lot because I remember it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Donny & Marie, The Site
by Diane Young



It seemed like a regular day as I went through the BW Online mail (the printed variety). Then I pulled out a bright colored postcard, and there they were: Donny and Marie Osmond, smiling broadly and promoting their new Web site, which is called Excited (and mildly embarrassed), I purloined the card from a co-worker's mail and took a covert look-see. As a child I had loved plunking down in front of the tube to catch the Donny & Marie Show. I wanted to look like Marie. I wanted to marry Donny. I wanted Donny's purple socks. Looking forward to seeing how my idols had weathered the intervening 20 years, I typed the url into my browser. 

Bummer. The site is really a companion to the duo's new daytime show, Donny & Marie, which premiered on Sept. 21. I had heard of the show but hadn't seen it, and the site sounded like a way to check it out. Alas, Donny, I hardly knew you. I understand why a show needs a Web site -- for PR purposes, mostly. But it probably helps if it's a good Web site. Why ruin your chances for renewed stardom by disappointing aging twentysomethings like me?

The site's pages are attractive enough, laid out well, and easy to navigate. But the content is lighter weight than the lyrics of an old Donny & Marie song. Come to think of it, that isn't fair. A typical D&M song lasts three minutes. It requires a full five minutes to take in the entire Web site. Lynda Keeler, head of Columbia TriStar Interactive (which produces both the show and the Web site from Los Angeles) thinks there'll be more to see after the show is on for awhile and the producers get a better feel for what interests the audience. O.K. But aren't people looking at this site because what mainly interests them is Donny & Marie? Hel-lo-o! 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Finding Michelangelo

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1654)
Madonna of the Stairs
Created:  1491
Dimensions:  22.3 in x 15.8 in
Current Location: Casa Buonarroti - Florence, Italy
Visited: September 2005

After our initial visit to Italy in 2004 I became somewhat obsessed with all things Michelangelo. This led to another trip to Italy in September 2005 and on this trip I was determine to see nearly every Michelangelo work of art that was in Italy. Over the next few weeks I will try to write a blog entry for every Michelango work of art that we visited in the chronological order of their creation.  Keep in mind that I have no formal art training, so consider my opinions as someone who is basically viewing these works as a tourist.

Madonna of the Stairs  is now accepted as Michelangelo's earliest surviving piece and was sculpted when he was around 15 years old. The scene depicts Mary and Child in front of stairs.  The muscular definition of the Child's arm will become on of Michelangelo's signature styles in sculpture and painting. 

Madonna of the Stairs is located at Casa Buonarroti which was Michelangelo's house in Florence. Now a museum, it houses many of his early works. I was surprised by how small the sculpture is in person. In my head and after seeing pictures before our visit, I had imagined it being larger. Nevertheless, it is still fascinating to stand in front of what is considered the first work of the greatest sculptor (and artist) in history.

Casa Buonarroti itself is a very interesting little museum and I highly recommend taking the time to visit it in Florence. It is not as well known as some of the other main attractions and is small, but because of the size I found it more accessible than some of the larger museums in Florence.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

The National Parks
Yellowstone National Park
August 10-11, 2010

Location:  NW Wyoming, portions of Montana and Idaho
Established:  March 1, 1872
Visited:  August 10-11, 2010 (Patrick Neal, John Neal & Ken Neal)
National Park Arrowhead Rating (5 out of 5):

They don't get better than this.  Ken had visited Yellowstone National Park as a teenager on a Fred Neal three week driving tour of the west back in the late 40's.  During August 2010, John and I were in Tulsa waiting to move into our new house in The Woodlands, TX.  Ken (who never met a drive he didn't like) suggested taking T-Rex (the name of his giant Infiniti QX-56) and driving to Yellowstone.  Due to a tight schedule we managed two fantastic days in the park.  Yellowstone lives up to the hype.  Scenery, wildlife, history and geothermal features that are from another planet.  My personal favorite parts include The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the Old Faithful Inn.  Did I mention that nearly the entire park is contained in the Yellowstone Supervolcano (the largest supervolcano in North America)...amazing!  Yellowstone National Park easily gets a 5 arrowhead rating and a scheduled return visit in 2013.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
 After the jump is an e-book on our trip to Yellowstone.