Saturday, August 17, 2013

Time goes by in a park and in restaurants


Most of my life I have lived on hills or mountains and I love being up high.  When I was a wee child I lived in Vaison-la-Romaine with my grandparents until I was about 4 years old.  This town in Provence is at the base of the Mont Ventoux - which is quite a stiff hill for the climbers of the Tour de France.  Here I am below with my granddad at the base of the Mount Ventoux that can be seen in the background. (Click on collage twice to enlarge.)

Then I lived in Paris in the Montmartre area, near the Sacre-Coeur.  I don't know how many times I went up and down the steps shown in the photo below (I never need much encouragement to show a photo or painting of my hometown.)  This photo was taken in 1936 (before I was born!) by the famous Hungarian photographer Brassai (born Gyula Halasz - 1899-1984) and entitled "Les Escaliers de Montmartre" - the Montmartre Stairs.

But I have some photographs of my own.  Walking along the streets of my old neighborhood you can see the Sacre-Coeur on its hill while turning a corner or crossing a road - of course now you can also see hundreds of tourists.

As shown in my post of July 28, 2013 - A Birthday Party, I also lived on a hill in St Leu la Foret, going toward the Montmorency Forest.  Later, when I arrived in the US I first lived on Nob Hill in San Francisco, then on a hill on 17th Street and then on the hill near the SF Mint.  Here in Georgia I have been fortunate to live near Kennesaw Mountain.  Actually Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is about 4 miles from my home and on my road.  Although if I walk the other way I can see a hill in the background of my second neighbor's land, behind his cattle.  It is called "Lost Mountain" because as you approach it, it disappears from view - I guess because the terrain keeps going up.  (I don't live in a suburb really; it is more like the countryside at the bottom of the end of the Appalachian Mountains.)

For decades I had to drive through the park every day going to and fro from work and shopping.  When I had to work on some Saturdays I would drive through the park around 5 am, and it was a bit eerie crossing the park in the early morning fog.  Now that I am retired I don't just drive "through" the park I walk into the park and up the mountain.  People come from far away to visit the preserved 2,923 acre National Battlefield Park where the largest battle of the Civil War in Georgia was fought.  Fighting occurred in the vicinity of the mountain from June 18 through July 2, 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign.  The battle on the mountain itself was on June 27, 1864.  The Confederate Army had 63,000 men and 187 guns.  The Union Army under William Tecumseh Sherman had 100,000 men, 254 guns and 35,000 horses.  There were about 4,000 casualties on the mountain during the battle (Union: 3000, Confederates: 1,000 casualties.)  A soldier's belt buckle was found in our yard by the previous owners.  Some of the canons are still on the mountain.

 The earlier inhabitants of the mountain were the Cherokee, Native Americans from that area.  They were forced from their homes when the land was parceled out to white settlers.  Later, in the Kennesaw Mountain region, there were some free blacks - no large plantations were around here so slaves were very few.  Two free blacks, the Johnson, lived in the nearby city of Marietta - Monemia ran a restaurant and store and James, her husband, was a barber.  After Atlanta was captured in November 1864, Union troops ransacked her restaurant and home and took everything there.  Then the store, restaurant and home were destroyed by fire.  Monemia Johnson filed a claim against the US Government for over $2,500 in damages, but she received a check for only $246, thirteen years after the end of the Civil War.

Just a couple of days ago we went up the mountain again.  It had rained that morning (as it has been raining for over a month almost daily.)  It was cool for an August day - about 65 degrees F (18C.)  It is 64 degrees F and raining as I am writing this today.  Having lived near Kennesaw Mountain now for 37 years I know it so well - the trails, the rocks, the trees, the historical markers and the view.  The view is imposing.  I never get tired of looking toward Atlanta, which is about 20 miles away (32 kms.)  That day it was a bit hazy and one could barely distinguish the tall buildings in Atlanta in the distance.

There is a parking area at the top of the mountain and some benches.  As my husband was walking up another trail I sat on a bench to read my book.  Not many people were around - a couple of hikers, a man with his dog - the dog stopped by me so that I could pet him.  Another man was meditating on the grass in front of the view and butterflies were fluttering around.

Everything was vivid green - every bush, tree and grass along the mountain road - it certainly has not been a dry summer.  We stopped at the bench facing the 1/2 mile trail to Little Kennesaw Mountain.  There were wild flowers and wild animals there too.

As my husband went down the trail I sat again on the bench but could not read my book - it was so peaceful and beautiful there - a good place to think.  I could not stop reflecting about all the brave men, from both armies, who fought so many years ago.  I thought that if I looked closely I might see one of them coming around the bend of the trail... if they came back I am sure they would recognize the mountain.  Time passes slowly on a mountain.  I have taken pictures of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park under many skies, sunny and grey, cold, wet and warm weather.  It is a mountain for all seasons.  Time goes by it but all the memories remain.

The 150 years anniversary of the big Civil War battle here is approaching.  The park attendant told me that they are starting to plan their "Sesquicentennial Commemoration."  It will take place toward the end of June 2014 with re-enactments, stories, living history displays and more.  More flowers have been planted and the cedar rails have been refurbished.

So Kennesaw Mountain and park near my home have not changed much in those 37 years - and it is good.

However, other "things' do change, sometimes forever.  I am talking about old restaurants now.  (This is another eclectic post.)  One of the first restaurants we visited when moving to Atlanta was "Dante's Down the Hatch."  It was an Atlanta institution where you could eat several fondue dishes while listening to jazz.  The interior resembled an 18th century sailing ship tied to the wharf of a mythic village in the Mediterranean Sea.  There were several levels where you could see the sailing vessel with its sails, mast and crocodiles surrounding the hull.  Clocks from the original Lloyd's of London, paneling from an old English bank and an 1892 barbershop from Sheffield, England, were some of the antiques there among other fascinating memorabilia.  (Picture below courtesy Dante's.)

But the restaurant was located in a high rent district - on Peachtree Road in the Buckhead area of Atlanta.  The city increased the taxes of Dante's restaurant as if it were a 40-story high rise.  Dante Stephenson, the owner, announced that after 43 years of business in Atlanta, he had to close the door on July 30, 2013.  He tried to work something out, but could not fight the city or promoters.  Atlantic Realty Partners will build a 10-story luxury apartment tower on the property.

In another state an historic restaurant closed at about the same time.  In the last few years we usually visit New York City once a year and stay in a hotel in the Upper Westside.  We have seen most of the tourist sites and try to discover new places but we always walk by the Hudson River which we can see from our hotel window.

Another stop in our routine is "Big Nick's Burger & Pizza Joint" just a couple of blocks away on Broadway at West 77th Street.  We have been in that neighborhood so often, we know the shops, grocery stores, the second-hand book store, the restaurants and underground station - it is familiar and like home.

But I just read that Big Nick's closed on July 28, 2013 after 51 years in business.  Impossible but true.  The first time we went there, years ago, it took me forever to read the menu - it was so large.  The booths were small and not that comfortable, but the staff very friendly and the food like homemade and very reasonable - a rarity in New York City.  There were 60 varieties of hamburgers and such an assortment of other dishes - similar to a roadside diner.  There were autographed photos on the walls between announcements and food ads - it was quite unique.  I did not even get a chance to try the fried pickle!

The owner, Demetrios Niko Imirziades, came from Athens, Greece in 1961 (same as me in San Francisco) but he stayed in New York where he started by washing dishes and then went all the way to be owner of his restaurant.  As in Atlanta, the city, the developers and landlords are hungry for more money.  Big Nick's rent increased from $42,000 a month to $60,000 and he could not pay that.  To me this was like a landmark in New York.  (Photo below - unknown author.)

Cities in America are losing their soul, destroying historic places, whether they are old restaurants with a loyal clientele or grand ole mansions - I guess it's called capitalism and free market - so as times goes by, things change (but is it better?...)  I am sad because we, the patrons of these unique restaurants, have lost them forever.  We just have to sing, as Frank Sinatra did "Thanks for the memories..."   I just hope Paris can stay the same and that I can return to my old stairs in Montmartre for real, and not just in my memory.

La Rue Muller in Montmartre painted by Maurice Utrillo, French (1883-1955)

"When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered ... the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls ... bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory.
- Marcel Proust, French novelist (1871-1922.)




36 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Another eclectic and beautiful post. Thank you so much. And I LOVE the stairs of Monmartre.

Jojo said...

My uncle says that in America, all cities are beginning to look the same. Chain stores and franchises have replaced the locally owned. It's sad.

betsy said...

That Brassai photo is magnificent! I loved this post. I love all your posts-

I am not sure very many American cities have souls to lose. Nashville does not. It is a nice place to live for many reasons, but having a soul is not one of them.It can be a sleazy city where dirty deals and hypocrisy are the norm. It does welcome immigrants though, and that is a plus. It is not the homogenous city I moved to 30 years ago anymore.

Write some more posts! I love them.

Frances said...

Vagabonde, you know that although I've enjoyed this entire post it is the mention of the disappearance of Big Nick's that brings this comment.

Yes. A certain city character is being lost. Many folks I speak to who, like me, live on the West Side, cannot quite believe that Big Nick's is no more.

Perhaps in a few more years Upper Broadway will resemble characterless and architecturally sterile Third Avenue on the East Side. I hope not, but this prediction seems to be in the cards.

This is a time to cherish some memories. xo

Friko said...

The saddest thing is that we end with only memories and even these will fade without the real thing to refresh them.

I doubt that your beloved Paris remains the same, we who have left and lived our lives away from our old homes, expect that nothing has changed when we finally return. Not true, sadly. Life goes on without us and changes overwhelm us.

I f I go back now I go as a tourist, there's nothing left for me. the parks are still there but even the people in the streets are strangers from countries all over the world,

It breaks my heart.

Nadege said...

I agree with you; loyal costumers are left with the memories but I also wonder about the owners and the staff. It must have been really hard for them to move on. I think that is why Europe is called the old world because european know the value of its historic landmarks and are fond of the memory of past souls.
(Beautiful quote from Marcel Proust!).

I never heard of Kennesaw mountain. What an amazing place!

Ann said...

i so very much enjoyed your post and photos!!!
i love the photo of you and your grandfather!!!
i am well acquainted with the area near Kennesaw Mountain. You live in such a gorgeous part of the state. my father was of Cherokee heritage on his mothers side.
thank you for sharing...i had a lovely time!!!!!
my grandchildren will be going back to school on Monday..the youngest will start kindergarten!..will be the first time in 9 years that my husband and i will have no kids in the house m-f 8-2pm!! i'm not sure we will know what to do with ourselves!! i think a mega-nap will be my first choice!!!!!

David said...

Vagabonde, There is an old saying that one can't go back and capture the past. It's sad but generally true. Paris...with it's rules on historic properties and the limits re: the height of the skyline, is one of the exceptions to the rule. In general, Europe is better at preserving history than the USA is. I too love the old restaurants, homes and historic structures...as well as the wide open undeveloped areas around the country. There is a burger joint in my hometown in Michigan...still in business since 1928...3rd or 4th set of owners...but still pretty much the same. It's nice to be able to return to the familiar things from our past... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Kay said...

There is so much history, pain, sadness, anger and beauty in this post. Your memories are so rich, Vagabonde.

DJan said...

There are so many things I could comment on in this post, but once I read on, my mind continues ahead and I forget what it was I wanted to say earlier. I love the pictures and the stories. I guess you have had the rain we didn't have this summer. We had the driest June in over 50 years, and now the trees are beginning to lose their leaves over the stress. It's not normal weather here. At least finally the rains have begun to return. I love the misty picture of Atlanta in the distance. :-)

GaynorB said...

WOW! Such an interesting and beautifully illustrated post.

One of our memorable visits in France was to a lavender festival at a village called Sault at the foot of Mount Ventoux - the opposite side to Vaison. The sights and smells were fantastic.

Of course there is now a large observatory at the summit which I didn't think is there on your photographs.

Most years the TdF climbs the mountain and in the 1960's a cyclist called Tommy Simpson died on the way up.

Jinksy said...

What a plethora of pictures! You must have strong knees to have coped with all those hills...lol.♥

Fennie said...

You have a magnificent park at Kennesaw Mountain. Horrible to imagine all that slaughter in such a peaceful setting. Not that it would have been peaceful then, of course.

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

I can't get over how many places you've visited.

How interesting. Vaison-la-Romaine is where Patricia Wells and her husband have their home, Chanteduc, in Provence. She conducts cooking classes there frequently.
Sam

Mary said...

Before I got out of bed this morning - another dreary, damp one like most this Summer here in the southeast - I read your post. It's another lovely one, chockablock with personal thoughts, historic happenings, France, and beauty. I love your French stories, I have been to Vaison-la-Romaine to view the lavender - such a sweet you in the pic with Grandpere - and of course visited Sacre-Coeur several times, and will always be ready to go again!

Yes, closing of businesses, especially longtime restaurants which have become historic places, is always heartbreaking. Those emigrants worked so hard to build their businesses over the years, and to be closed due to politics and greedy developers is very sad.

Thank you dear for another look at life over the years - your mountain home is gorgeous and next year the big celebration should be wonderful.

Happy day -
Hugs - Mary

Nadezda said...

I feel the sadness in your words when you say about restaurants in NY. The cities lose their soul, I can repeat with you. Love your pictures taking in mountains!

rosaria williams said...

Oh Vagabonde, so much to remember and reflect on.This post is rich with present and past allusions and helps us all meditate on time passing.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

These Battlegrounds hold such History....And I think the Civil War was one of the darkest periods in American History---Brother fighting Brother, so to speak. Those statistics you shared---The numbers of people and the numbers of guns...It doesn't make any sense! How could there be so very many people and so few guns?? And...SO Many killed....Were they fighting with their bare hands?

It's funny....you mentioned that Restaurant that you knew for so many years in NY---it Opened the year I left New York, so I never knew it....For me....Sardi's or Schraft's are Restaurants that were around, and still are--at least Sardi's still is---for 90 or 100 years....We don't treasure the past here in this country....

I cannot imagine Paris ever changing so much that the Great Great things of History, would not be there.
In NYC, even 42nd has changed drastically....OY!

Down by the sea said...

My Dad was born at the top of a steep hill and he always maintained that his love of mountains originated from this! It must have quite a climb as a child in Paris! What a wonderful place to look down on Atlanta! I'm sure change is not always for the better - those businesses that have existed for many years do so for a reason, how sad that they are now more. We visited a beach cafe today that has been there since the 60's. I know one day it will be bought by someone else and won't have the same atmosphere or be the same.
Sarah x

Carola Bartz said...

What an interesting post that touched me on so many levels. First, the mountains - I love the mountains, and I never know what I love more - the mountains or the ocean. When I am in the mountains I miss the sea and vice versa. Finally, I found both in Vancouver, BC which is only a two days drive from where I live.

Second, that wonderful Brassai photo - many many years ago during my first visit to Paris (1977?) I fell in love with this magnificent photo, and it was one of the reasons why I wanted to visit Montmartre. My European heart smiled at the beautiful photos you took.

Oh, and Mont Ventoux - I went there in my late teens, it's Cezanne's mountain, isn't it? We went up there and I still remember after all these years how cold it was up there.

What you wrote about the cities losing their soul rings so close to me. When I go back to Germany I see how much my country is changing. I feel like a tourist there and not like someone who belongs there anymore. Yes, I do speak the language, but it is not my place anymore. Home now is California, with all its pros and cons.

I admire your ability to capture feelings in your writing so beautifully. You seem to speak right to my heart.

Magic Love Crow said...

I enjoy your posts so very much! It is so sad about those restaurants! I don't think it's good that so much history is being lost, because of big business! I think we are all going to be sorry for this! Take Care ;o)

Magic Love Crow said...

I forgot to say, I love the photo of you and your granddad! Very precious!

.•♫•. Nancy .•♫•. said...

Bonjour chère Vagabonde ! :o)

MERCI pour ces beaux voyages que tu nous offres à travers tes mots et tes belles photos.
Je suis toujours ravie de venir sur ton joli blog !!!

Je t'envoie de GROS BISOUS d'Asie vers la Géorgie !!!!
Bonne semaine !

Miss_Yves said...

Magnifique photo d'introduction pour
ces intéressants souvenirs et ces beaux moments présents.
Curieux et amusant, de lire Marcel Proust , traduit en Anglais!(Mais la phrase originale est plus longue, n'est-ce pas?)

En Provence, la lavande et le lavandin sont atteints d'une maladie , transmise par un insecte, qui en affecte la production : inquiétant.

Linda said...

An amazing post and beautiful photos. Thank you so much for sharing this!

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

What a far reaching expansive post. You covered a little bit of everything here.
You talk about the cities losing their soul and you are right. Here in Tulsa so many old art deco buildings are now just parking lots. We have a bit of resurgence going on with repurposing of old buildings. So that is hopeful.

Sandra said...

i was born in Savannah GA and lived there until i was 10 then lived in the Appalachian mountains, in Harlan county KY until i was 15 and back to Savannah, moved here to FL in 1984 and here i am still. I love the mountains and was very happy there, but now I am Floridian to the bone and love it here except in the 3 hot hot months of summer.
thanks for the comments on my post today... the photo's today were taken with my Canon Rebel DSLR, my Nikon is a point and shoot and i take all my flower photos with it because of the fill flash on the Nikon. now i can use the Canon because it has it to.

Jeanie said...

Well, all I can say is that living in all those tall spots, you must have built great leg muscles! That's a lot of hills to climb everyday -- and every one is lovely!

Sad about Dante's -- that is exactly the kind of restaurant I would love to visit. In fact, I think I would enjoy all of them.

What a treasure is that photo of you and your grandfather... lovely in every way!

Lowell said...

Thank you for stopping by our blogs!

I just finished this post and I'm overwhelmed. There is so much to look at, reflect upon, and absorb! I plan to go back over this post several times. Your photography is excellent also! Great composition skills. Colors and exposures are right on!

We loved Paris, but were only there a short time in 2007 for our 50th anniversary. I was born the year of the stairs!!! I loved Paris so much I wanted to move there then but it was not possible. :(

You have such an interesting background. We've driven by the area in which you live now many times but have never stopped to check it out. I think we should do that in the future!

Best wishes to you! I will be back!

Cezar and Léia said...

Bonjour Vagabonde,
Merci pour votre visite! :) ahh oui, je parle le français!Quand même,ma langue maternelle est le portugais, je parle l'anglais et je peux aussi me debrouller en espagnol et l'italien :D
Très jolie série et superbes photos.
Une histoire très intéressante et émouvante! :)
Merci pour cette découverte!
Passe une belle journée,
Léia - Bonjour et Bon Voyage

Thérèse said...

History and sadness go often together but let's enjoy the day. And these pictures are beautiful, what a nice part of the world you are living in.

Pat said...

You have lived in some lovely places.
I started out on a hill and ended up on a hill which I love.
As usual a very enlightening post.
I trust no-one will ever dare to tamper with Paris.
Vive la France!

Patricia said...

Thank you for this lovely post full of history and stunning photos.
Patricia x

Margaret said...

" Time passes slowly on a mountain. " What a beautiful sentiment and... yes, it is hard when favorite spots close down, especially for the reason you revealed - ridiculously increased taxes. Both restaurants looked unique and wonderful.

I was also intrigued by the Johnson family - why Sherman or his men would destroy there business and home makes no sense. Weren't they the very people they were defending?

I too love the old battlefields, and just the same as you, often imagine them coming around a corner as many have been so well preserved.

The B&W photo of the Montmartre Stairs is gorgeous!

Arti said...

That first picture is fantastic, esp. that you caught the butterfly so clearly in focus. And as I scrolled down, viola! Photos of Vaison-la-Romaine! As I mentioned in my comment on a previous post, I visited there with my son a few years ago. He was re-tracing his experience when as a 15 yrs old he had participated in a Music Abroad program in Vaison, something held every summer there. We had to ask a guide to lead us back to the Chapel in the north of the town, a 12 C. Chapel where my son had played a Chopin piece in a recital. It was a most valuable experience for him... and fond memories for me too.

Perpetua said...

Another thoughtful, beautifully-written and illustrated post, which will stay in my mind for a good while, Vagabonde. I'm a hill person too and have always lived within sight and reach of high places.

Your eclectic posts are so full of riches that its's hard to take them all in at one time.The part which particularly struck me was the closing of much-loved and historic restaurants because their sites will make more money for someone when they are used for yet another apartment block. So sad.

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