Thursday Doors – The Cosmos Club

The Cosmos Club

One of the meetings I attended last week in Washington, D.C. was held at The Cosmos Club. I’m not saying that attending this meeting is the only way I could get inside, but, as they say on their website:

The Cosmos Club, founded in 1878, is a private social club for men and women distinguished in science, literature and the arts or public service. Members come from virtually every profession that has anything to do with scholarship, creative genius or intellectual distinction.

Among its members have been three Presidents, two Vice Presidents, a dozen Supreme Court justices, 36 Nobel Prize winners, 61 Pulitzer Prize winners and 55 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

So, as soon as some respected authority takes notice of the creative genius and intellectual distinction that is No Facilities, I’m in. Either that or maybe a friend of a friend of a friend gets married there. Who knows.

The Cosmos Club, in many ways, is like every “men’s” club in America. It’s selective, probably expensive, opulent, quiet and secluded. Surely, this was a place where influential people men met, pondered, schemed, wheeled and dealed, ate drank and were entertained.

Last week, about 40 people from various points on the Information Management and Information Services map, got together to share stories, listen to influential speakers, ask questions, discuss possibilities, make plans, eat and drink. It was a great venue for such a meeting.

Several of those people were aware of my interest in history and doors. Throughout the meeting, people were asking me “did you get a picture of…” or telling me that a door that had been open was now partially closed. At one point, a friend came up and said: “If you go to the men’s room, make sure you take your camera. There’s a curved door that you’re going to want a photo of.”

This was a place where I got a slightly funny look when I stepped out to use the men’s room without wearing my jacket and where people had been ushered out of the lobby before making a phone call. I was pretty sure taking a camera into the men’s room would be frowned upon. However, I took my phone and feigned interest in some artwork until staff members passed and I could snap a picture of that curved door,

Thursday Doors is a forward thinking social blog-hop for men and women distinguished by their love of doors, and a passionate interest in history, literature and the arts. The experience is cultivated by the foremost doorthorian, Norm Frampton, of the Montreal Framptons. All members and guests should enter through the front door and peruse the doors on display in the main gallery. Those wishing to study additional doors should search for the azure amphibian and depress the button of your pointing device in his general area. The club staff will then usher you into the main gallery, where you can observe all the doors on display.

The Cosmos Club has been located in the historic Townsend House mansion on Embassy Row, near DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C. since 1952. The house had originally been home to Mary Scott Townsend and her husband Richard (retired president of the Erie and Pittsburgh Railroad). Richard died shortly after construction on the house was completed in 1901. Mary died in 1931, and the Townsend’s daughter Mathilde Scott Townsend lived in the house, off and on, through the mid to late 1940s. The Cosmos Club purchased the property in 1950. The house is adjacent to the Indian Embassy building, a photo of which is included in the gallery, especially for my friend Sharukh Bamboat who publishes a wonderful India Travel blog.

Most of the photos were taken clandestinely, using my iPhone. I did some work in Lightroom to straighten, crop and improve the lighting. Click on any photo to begin a slide show. There is a stunning photo of the building in the National Historic Registry application, but it states that it is not to be reproduced. That photo is reproduced in the pictures accompanying this history website.

Posted in Photography, Thursday Doors, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 83 Comments

One-Liner Wednesday – Consideration

Last Friday, I settled into a nice comfortable seat on AMTRAK’s Vermonter, getting ready to enjoy a six-hour ride home from Washington, D.C. I take the Vermonter because it’s a through train to my destination, meaning that I don’t have to change trains in New Haven, CT. Trust me, that’s huge. That means I can plug my laptop into an AC outlet, connect to the free WiFi and work, read and write.

Until someone in front of me puts the seat back.

Actually, AMTRAK seats aren’t too bad. There’s enough legroom to adjust, if the seat comes back slowly. If the seat comes back fast and unexpected, well, the diagram says it all.

This is why I was so pleased when the guy in front of me looked over his shoulder and asked:

Would you mind if I lean my seat back?

Seriously, no one has ever asked me that question.

I said that I didn’t mind, but asked for enough time to move my laptop from the portion of the seat that would grab and crush it.

It’s absolutely amazing how good that little bit of consideration made me feel.

This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s fun weekly series One-Liner Wednesday. You can follow this link to see the one-liners from the other participants. The gallery includes a few of my favorite photos from the ride home. You can click on any one to start a show and read the captions. You know, all work and no play…

Posted in One Line Wed, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 63 Comments

Caring for Tools

Dad would never let this happen

As I explained yesterday, Father’s Day caught me off-guard this year. I think that’s OK. Father’s Day might be the official day that I think about my dad, but it’s far from the only day. I was thinking about my dad a few days ago when Maddie and I walked by that scene at the right. If I had left his tools outside, overnight, well, that’s just it, I wouldn’t have. If he had seen that toolbox, I would have been out there, in the dark, putting those tools away properly in the toolbox and bringing the toolbox inside. This I know – from experience.

I was planning an elaborate post around that toolbox, and the memory it evoked, but now, I realize that that isn’t necessary. The fact of the matter is, I see my father’s influence in the way I think about almost everything. I regularly encounter people, things, images and activity that remind me of my dad. I regularly find myself in situations in which my actions and reactions are the direct result of having been raised by my dad.

I think, if my dad were here right now, he might say:

Stop trying to make this more than it is. Tell them about the toolbox and let them go about their day. They have other things to do besides listening to you.”

My dad worked hard to teach my brother and I several things about tools. He established multiple rules about his tools, and he urged us to carry those rules forward when we started buying tools of our own. I haven’t always listened:

Never lend tools – My dad would drive to your house and fix something, but he would not lend you the tool needed for that repair. He wanted to be sure that his tools were being used correctly. I have broken this rule on several occasions. More than once, I paid the price by having a broken tool returned or by not having any tool returned.

Don’t borrow tools – Dad felt that if he borrowed a tool and then broke it, he would have to replace it. That was usually all the justification he needed to buy the tool he needed. I’ve broken this rule, only to find, as dad predicted, that the premium extracted upon return can be higher than the interest rate charged by Sears.

You will never break a tool by using it correctly – First heard after breaking the handle of a garden rake. Yes, I had been banging it into the ground, trying to get better leverage on a rock that needed to be dislodged. Upon fessing up to the mistake, we first dug the rock out with proper tools. Then, we fixed the rake.

Regarding the photo, I’ll share the story I was reminded of: I had ridden my bike home from a friend’s house one night. When I got to the bottom of the hill we lived on, I discovered that my back brakes were not working. Anyone who has ever gone over the handlebars of a bike when only using the front brakes knows the dilemma I faced. Fortunately, we lived at the corner of two hills and I was able to turn up the side street and let gravity bring me to a safe stop.

Not wanting to have that experience again, I used a small socket set to loosen the cable on the back caliper. I then used two pairs of Vise Grips to pull the cable forward and to hold it in place while I tightened the cable clamp.

Then I went to bed.

My father was bowling that night. He came home after midnight and saw the tools on the floor next to my bike. The next thing I knew, I was up, out of bed, moping my way downstairs, in my underwear and barefoot, to “wipe those tools off and put them away.”

This is a lesson that never stuck with me. I still tend to leave tools out, but I hear his voice every time I walk into my garage.

I know I’m sliding this in under the wire, but I hope all the fathers in your life had a Happy Father’s Day.

Posted in Family, Learning, Tools | Tagged , , , | 63 Comments

Sign Sign Everywhere a Sign

When I saw the SoCS prompt last night, I breathed a deep sigh of relief. I had just returned from a week in Washington, D.C. and the post I was planning to write kinda went off the rails. “Off the rails” is a good metaphor since I traveled to and from D.C. via AMTRAK. Well, you could have guessed that, I’ve taken you along on several train rides to D.C. Great, now this post is going off the rails.

You see, the plan for today’s post was for something wrapped around Father’s Day. I had a good plan. I was going to share a few things my father taught me. I’ve been writing them down for months. There was one problem – before leaving for Washington on Monday, I didn’t realize that this weekend is the home of Father’s Day. I thought I had another week to assemble my thoughts. I mean, I don’t pay attention to when Father’s Day happens, other people do.

The week in Washington was chock-a-block full of morning to night stuff. Not much left at the end of the day for writing a post from scratch. The stuff I published this past week had been written before I left. I just had to adjust it based on the outcome of a hockey game, or in worst case, two. I figured I’d “bang out a post about dad” last night.

There are two things you need to know at this point. One, I’m not some crazy-productive writer who can bang things out. The second thing is actually part of that post about my dad. “No half-assed attempts allowed.” So, I peeked in my inbox and Linda had saved the day.

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “sign.” Use it any way you’d like. Enjoy!

You’ve been saved too, from a hastily put together post about something. The best thing about Linda’s prompt is that I love signs and I have a bunch of photos of signs. I have used a couple before, but I have several that you haven’t seen. The captions tell the story that the signs don’t tell themselves and that’s it. As Linda says, enjoy!

Oh, and if that title put a song in your head, give a listen:

Posted in Humor, SoCS | Tagged , , , , | 76 Comments

Thursday Doors – Church of the Epiphany

Church of the Epiphany

When you discover a church in what seems to be an odd location, you know there has to be some interesting history. My experience is that you can’t always find that history, but in this case, it couldn’t have been easier. I saw the church featured today when Faith and I were trying to find a gift shop in the PPG Paints Arena a.k.a. The Paint Can, a.k.a. the place where the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team plays. The Pens were in the playoffs, and we wanted some new gear.

A quick Google search on: “the church next to PPG Paints Arena” brought me straight to the church’s website. That’s where the history gets interesting:


To understand the history of Epiphany Parish, it is necessary to briefly review the history of St. Paul Cathedral. St. Paul Church was built in 1834.”

If you want the long story version, staring one of Pittsburgh’s most famous robber barons, Henry Clay Frick, you can read the entire history page. As the Devil says in the Twilight Zone Episode “The Escape Clause”, I’ll just give it to you thumbnail.

St. Paul Church, was built when Pittsburgh was still part of the Catholic Diocese of Philadelphia. Just knowing about that connection would be enough to make some Pittsburgh sports fans change religious affiliations. The church was built at a prominent downtown location, across from the Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail. The church struggled as the city grew. Eventually, the church was destroyed by fire. For some reason, the bishop ordered the church rebuilt, on the same location, at a cost that couldn’t be supported by the parish.

Long story short, the church was sold to Mr. Frick for $1.3 million, which in 1901, was a huge amount of money. The bishop erected the Church of the Epiphany and started working on a new cathedral in Oakland. Mr. Frick built what became The Union Trust building. The church was doing well. One bit of history that caught my attention was how the church started holding a 2:30 am mass for Catholic printers from the seven daily newspapers in the early 1900s. They continued holding that mass until 1991, as it was also popular with late-night partiers.

Unfortunately, the early 1960s brought urban renewal to Pittsburgh. While many good things were done under the banner of “improvement,” one that wasn’t so good was the razing of what was known as The Lower Hill District. Again, according to the history page:

“…Although it took a number of years to plan, the effect of Urban Renewal in the Uptown – Lower Hill District neighborhoods had a ravaging impact almost overnight. In the late 1950s and early 1960s the neighborhood surrounding Epiphany Parish was bulldozed off the map. In less than six months, eight thousand people were relocated. Homes and businesses were torn down, and the rubble was hauled away. No one in living memory remembered seeing so much flat land in the Uptown neighborhood waiting to be developed. The effect was devastating…”

One of the bits of development in the Hill District, as it was known to us, was the Civic Arena. This was a mixed-use arena with a retractable domed roof. It was home to the Pittsburgh Hornets hockey team, which later became the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In the early part of this century, the Penguins lobbied for a new home, and what is now PPG Paints Arena was the result. Ironically, the ideal location for the arena was partially occupied by the property belonging to the Church of the Epiphany. A deal was reached. The church would remain, and with the proceeds from the sale of a couple of church buildings, a four-story rectory and residence was built next to the church.

Today’s gallery includes photos of the church, the Paint Can, the Union Trust and the Allegheny County Courthouse and Jail. Since I mentioned the Devil in this post and since, at the point of the previous period, there were 666 words, I’ll remind you that Thursday Doors is the brainchild of Norm Frampton. As interesting as it might be, I won’t be casting Norm as a robber baron, bishop or as the Devil. I’ll just say that you can visit his site, admire his doors, click on the blue frog and see all this week’s doors.

Posted in History, Thursday Doors | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 83 Comments

One-Liner Wednesday – National Aviary

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

– attributed to Chief Seattle – Chief of the Duwamish Tribe

One of the things we did while in Pittsburgh was to visit the National Aviary. This zoo, dedicated exclusively to birds, and a two-toed sloth, has been on Pittsburgh’s north side since just before I was born. I remember going to the fledgling Aviary as part of a school field trip. The Aviary has grown in the 65 years it’s been open, and, although I wasn’t able to find much early history, I think its mission has changed. From their website:

As an environmental organization composed of educators, conservationists and researchers, the National Aviary’s goals are many. The Aviary aims to provide outstanding education programming for varied audiences; present the highest quality family recreational experience that a zoological institution can offer; save endangered species by preserving natural habitats; continue endangered bird breeding programs and conduct meaningful avian research; engender a sincere appreciation of nature and a respect for natural law; and instill a conservation ethic that teaches our immense responsibility as stewards of the planet.”

More than 150 of the species housed at the National Aviary are endangered in the wild. The African Penguins, the highlight of any visit to the Aviary, are critically endangered in their native South Africa and Nambia, but they are thriving in Pittsburgh.

I was speaking to one of the guides, and she was telling me about a recent exercise to match good breeding pairs to help keep this species alive. She also explained how the Aviary recently accepted some birds that had been all but wiped out in their native New Guinea, by a snake species that was accidentally introduced to the environment after arriving on a cargo ship.

Environmentalists are currently searching for a similar island where these birds can be safely reintroduced into the wild, once a sustainable population has been bred. Other birds on display, like the eagles, are injured and can no longer survive in the wild.

As with any zoo, I’m certain that some of the displays are designed to attract visitors and raise money, but I like the programs the Aviary supports, the care they provide the animals in the charge, and the educational programs they foster within their facility.

This post is part of Linda G. Hill’s fun weekly series One-Liner Wednesday. You can follow this link to see the one-liners from the other participants.

Posted in One Line Wed, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , | 61 Comments

Back in the Burgh

No Predators, Please

Not me, the Stanley Cup. I wasn’t sure what to do about today’s post. I knew that if the Penguins won, I would want to say something about that. If they lost, and I had to go into the special kind of cardiac arrest that is being a Pittsburgh sports fan, for three more days, I’d just be sad. So, I gathered a bunch of photos. I thought if they lost, I’d just share some photos.

They WON!

Yeah, yeah, controversy, but they won. I knew they were going to. I predicted, before Thursday night’s game that they were going to win Thursday and wrap it up on the road, ‘cuz apparently, that’s what Pittsburgh does. No team has won a championship at home since 1960. I was six! I was sitting on my dad’s lap trying to get the stars to align for Smokey Burgess to get a hit. I liked Smokey. The superstition deal at the time was that I’d sit on dad’s lap when Smokey came to bat, and he would get a hit.

I know – silly.

I wore my 2016 Stanley Cup tee shirt last night. Up until last night, that shirt had performed miserably in the playoffs. I wore it three times. The Pens lost three times. I reasoned that that shirt should only be worn during the game when they were able to win the Cup. Not a game. Not a series. The Cup. It took almost the entire game (they finally took a 1-0 lead with 1:35 left to play) but they scored. They won. The Cup!

OK. I know there’s a few fans of other teams out there, maybe even a fan or two of the Nashville Predators. I’m gonna stop. I’ll show you some of those pictures now.

Lets Go Pens!

Posted in Current Events, Family, Photography, Uncategorized | 48 Comments