Mar 23

Sagrada Familia’s Passion Towers

Here’s one final post to share some of the sites from Sagrada Familia, specifically, we’re going up into the Passion Tower. But, first, the centerpiece of the great narthex. These are the central doors, of which there are seven. They were sculpted by the famed and controversial sculptor, Josep Maria Subirachs. Each door represents a sacrament — baptism, anointing of the sick, holy orders, confirmation, marriage and penance.

This is the central door, 15 feet by 16 feet, and it represents the Eucharist and features the Lord’s Prayer in Catalan. The doors also carry the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread” in 50 languages.

The door handles are the A and G, for Antoni Gaudí in “que cAiGuem en la temptació,” or “lead us not into temptation.

For more on this portion of the Sagrada Familia, I commend to you this PDF. But, now we’re going up into the Passion Tower,
built in the 1950s, years after Gaudí’s death. His plaster models had been restored and closely followed, with the tower’s shape at the base being slightly elliptical, opposed to the perfect circles of the Nativity.

Small windows.

Big views.

There are four towers in the facade, but only two are open to the public, the Philip Tower and the Thomas Tower. As a guest, the highest point you can reach is around 295 feet.

The towers go a bit farther up.

I believe this statue, between the towers, is intended to be a representation of Jesus. A Gaudí expert, sculptor, or an art history major will be along in a moment to correct me.

I mentioned two of the four status. The Bartholomew and James the Less towers aren’t open. It seems a family of falcons has taken to nesting there, so the tourists are kept away from the chicks. Guess they don’t mind the bells.

When you hear bells from far off, you might notice them. Perhaps you’ll think idly about them as you walk. Maybe you’ll stop and pay close attention. But when you’re right beside them you just wonder how far away they can be heard.

Gaudí planned for 12 bell towers, because everything here is steeped in symbolism. Some more noisy than others.

Visiting the towers is actually a diversion from the master architect’s plans. He figured them all to be only bell towers, which helps explains the narrow stairs. Apparently bell ringers in Spain are all petite and diminutive people.

If you’re interested in learning more about the towers, I’ll suggest Seven reasons why going up on Sagrada Familia towers is worth it. I suspect the views are worth it to some. And they were fine. It is just that I was too taken by the naves to have a solid impression of the towers. This is fine, but, with our time limited, I wanted to go back inside.

I’m sure one day we’ll be back. When we are powerful and can arrange for a private, hosted tour, we will definitely be back.

But, for now, we’re headed to Andorra!

Mar 23

Inside Sagrada Familia

There are a few things you should know before we step inside one of Spain’s most important cultural icons, and one of her most popular attractions. In no particular order …

As I said, I didn’t care for the aesthetic of the exterior of Sagrada Familia. It just doesn’t appeal to me. Secondly, I am probably not a talented enough photographer, and I certainly didn’t have the proper equipment with me, to capture the incredible beauty of the interior.

I say that because, in my humble and awe-inspired opinion, this was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever stood, including some of the best places of worship in London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Istanbul, New York and elsewhere.

Third, all of the liberally quoted text that follows about Antoni Gaudí’s masterwork, is from this page.

Finally, if we ever have the opportunity to visit Barcelona again, we’re blocking off a sunny day, just to sit inside this place to watch the light change. You’ll see why, just as soon as we go through the Door of the Portal of Faith.

I previously mentioned the long-running construction.

The date of completion of the Sagrada Familia has been postponed many times. It is one of the longest architectural projects in the world and if the finish date is met, construction will have taken 147 years. This is surprising if we consider that we are in the 21st century. In this article we are going to understand why the work has taken so long and why now they are moving at a good pace.

“The year 2026 will mark the centenary year of the death of Gaudí and we want to celebrate this anniversary by completing the Sagrada Familia. However, there are two things which won’t be finished by 2026: the artistic part and the surroundings of the Basilica.”

“Finishing the Sagrada Familia is a long and complicated task. The reasons for the delay in the finalization of the project are its complicated architecture and historical changes such as the death of Gaudí, the Spanish Civil War, the destruction of the original project and the limited economic support from private donations that have subsidized it.

The photo collage shows the evolution of the work over the years.”

I’m not the sort to pick on these things myself, but if you listen to the audio tour, there is some discussion of the columns, which are both artistic and structural. They, like so much of Gaudí’s work, are meant to be evocative of nature. Trees, in this case. And once you realize that — the shape, the shade of the selected stones, the way the branches fly into the ceiling — you can’t unsee it. As … you’ll see …

The windows facing the west are the reds, oranges and yellows. The ones to the east are in cooler blues and greens. And this sets the mood of the entire place.

We were there in the middle of the afternoon, at a time of day when you’re struck by how much of this enormous space is filled with natural light.

“(A)narchists set fire to part of the Sagrada Familia at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, including the workshop where Gaudí had always worked.

“In Gaudí’s workshop there was not a large library and the graphic material was reduced to a minimum. There was a photographic workshop, a space for sculptures, a large area for plaster models (scale 1:10 or 1:25) and a large number of models to investigate aspects of lighting, functionality, construction and structure.

“Many of the sketches, drawings and models by the great architect disappeared and a lot of information on how to continue the work was lost. In 1936 they tried to preserve the remains of the destruction by sandwiching the pieces, and that is how they survived the conflict, hidden between two walls.

“The Civil War caused the paralysis of the works for 17 years (1935 – 1952). It was not until 1976 that the four towers of the Passion façade were finished, where Josep Maria Subirachs added his sculptural work which begun in 1988.

The Sagrada Familia is an expiatory temple which means that it is financed only by selfless donations from the loyal supporters and by the tickets of the tourists who visit it.”

See those trees yet?

So there’s interpreting the architect’s intent, following what survived of his plans, and continuing on, but also those budget problems. What’s before us, then, is even more breathtaking considering these circumstances.

Three generations of architects have dedicated themselves to recomposing the more than 1,000 pieces of model left over from the fire of Gaudí’s studio in 1936. But Gaudí’s work was so avant-garde, that architects could not easily reconstruct their designs.

“The forms that make up the building are so complex that five different computer programs have had to be combined to reconstruct the surfaces outlined by Gaudí. These programs are used in the automotive and aeronautical industry. This is without a doubt an important factor in the completion of the Sagrada Familia.

“Gaudí transformed his plans into large scale models because he wanted to see the three dimensions.”

If you stand right in the center, and look up, this is the ceiling, the underside of Gaudí’s magesterial canopy.

“Since 2000, his model has been continued thanks to the use of 3D printers. These allow us to manufacture the gypsum models originally designed by Gaudí. It is indisputable that 3D vision has helped guide decisions about the design and structural behaviour of the project.

Since the end of 2016, the technology offered by virtual reality glasses has been used to carry out three-dimensional simulations. This technology allows us to reduce the work times in projection.”

New building techniques are also speeding up actual construction, particularly as it applies to the towers, of which you’ll count 18 when the building’s work is done.

Remember, I began this post saying I’m not a talented enough photographer to share this with you. I mentioned the changing light. Both of these are proven in the last two shots, taken from almost the same spot, just a few moments apart.

Yes, I would spend a day in here, watching the wonder of the wandering light dancing through Gaudí’s inspired work.

“The straight line belongs to Man; the curved line belongs to God,” Gaudi said. The man knew some stuff.

Up next: A quick trip into one of Sagrada Familia’s towers.

Feb 23

Did you have “Appalachian murder ballad” on your Bingo card?

I took three photographs today, each one less useful than the last. First, two big wheel cars came down Indiana Avenue. I have seen them both before. You see a lot of cars over and over in your daily routine, of course. Most sensible mid-sized sedans and the ubiquitous SUVs don’t stand out, but when you see the classic land yacht on oversized rims, it stands out. When one of them is purple and gold and celebrates the Los Angeles Lakers, you make a mental note. I saw that car today. He was in front of this guy.

They generate a lot of interest and, it turns out, they have annoyingly interesting horns. I only looked out of the window because it sounded like an animal was dying, over and over. And, thus, the from-the-hip photo.

The next picture was of a daisy someone brought into the building. It seems there was someone outside handing out flowers. If you’ve seen one thoughtless composition of an oversized flower, you’ve seen them all.

Also, this little guy. I’ll let you figure out what it does. I know, but do you? Here’s your hint, we have four of them in the studio.

And, if you cheat and look up those letters, you’ll quickly learn what it is. But it is more fun if you guess.

We have some catching up to do on the Re-Listening project, and so we should dive in while I can still remember the order of things. So two quick ones today, both of which I picked up from a radio station I worked at, probably in early 1997, or the very very end of 1996. I know that because this first one had a stamp in the liner notes. Not for promotional use.

It was The Lemonheads, their last record on the Atlantic Records label. Band members were coming and going around lead singer Evan Dando, including a lot of talented session musicians, and for whatever reason — promotion interest, most likely — it was not as successful as the previous alt rock records from the Massachusetts group. But it has developed a cult following, and that’s the least we can do. This is a great record.

The first track is one of my favorites.

But then there’s the next song, which was the one that got a fair amount of air play.

But you see pretty quickly, I think, how The Lemonheads’ style was being outpaced by what was being offered on radio and MTV. The mid-third of the record gets a bit eclectically moody.

Then, and I still don’t understand why, though I’ve certainly burned brain cells on it, there’s an Appalachian murder ballad in the eighth spot. I knew this song right away.

Let’s take a little detour. This is worth it. This is why I knew that song.

The Louvin Brothers’ version was published in 1956. And in the Tennessee Valley, in the Highland Rim, I heard that around a kitchen table or in a garage, or both. Charlie Louvin, who was born on the other side of the mountains, in the Sequatchie Valley, in the Cumberland Plateau, did a haunting version of it again, 51 years later.

It’s deep in the marrow, is what we’re left with. Knoxville Girl dates to the 1920s, but it’s all borrowed, a version of “The Wexford Girl,” a 19th-century Irish ballad, which owes its origin to a 17th century English ballad, “The Bloody Miller or Hanged I Shall Be.” (Samuel Pepys wrote that one down for all of history.) It may go back even further. I wonder if the three dozen or so bands that have recorded the song in the last several decades knew all of that.

For some reason, and maybe this is why this record has a cult following now, there’s an ode to the movie Se7en. Then another ballad and, finally, more glorious noise rock.

I wish I could give you a count of the number of country roads I sped down listening to that song, or, indeed, the whole record. It would be a substantial amount.

I could not say about this next record, which was another radio station freebie. It had a little airplay. It was not for me, the guy who is referring you to the history of an Appalachian murder ballad, but a girl I liked at the time loved ska, so I picked up Goldfinger’s eponymous, debut, record.

I remember one sunny day, one curve in a particular road, where I caught the punchline in one of these songs. Which, hey, if anyone remembers a joke I’ve done 20-some years on, I’d be pleased, but other than that …

On this listen, this is the only one that I find interesting at all.

I know what is coming up in the next few CDs, I’m going to like those much better. Maybe there will be some stories to tell. Maybe you’ll like them too. The stories, or the music, either one.

Feb 23

I want a Montezuma University Medical College t-shirt

Sorry for the abrupt Friday post. I was apparently tired. That night I went to bed early, feel asleep reading and slept the whole night through. I woke at an, well a normal time for a Saturday morning, I guess. But that meant 12 full hours of sleep. Felt great on Saturday! So good that I was still awake at 4 a.m.

Ahh, the biorhythms.

Bookies are now taking action on when I’ll wear down this week.

Let’s start off with the reason why you showed up on Monday, the site’s most popular weekly feature, the check in on the kitties.

We’ve had some periodic morning sun, lately. And whatever the number of times is required to make something a habit for a cat has been met.

Now, they are waiting, each day, in this spot. The sun isn’t always poking through the clouds, but they’re here on this carpet, on spec. Roll back the curtains, people, there might be some sunlight.

Being cats, Phoebe and Poseidon will lounge in it indulgently as long as they can.

So the cats are doing well. Their biggest news is that Poe got in a scuffle with his sister and she marked his nose pretty good. It’s healing well, which is good. His pink nose is a big part of his charm.

Though I did not ride on Friday because, ya know, sleep, I’d like to think I made up for it a bit.
I got in 40 miles on Saturday. I had six Strava PRs, including two climbing segments which I will never be able to equal. Mostly because I was chasing my lovely bride.

We took another ride on Sunday, and I ticked 33 more miles into my legs. It was slower, but steady, I guess. Never felt like I could accelerate. Couldn’t drop The Yankee, but I surely did try. Somehow I took 6:09 off my best time up a cat 2 climb. I am not a climber. Even though Zwift gave me the polka dot jersey on Saturday.

And then, the weirdest thing happened this evening. I decided to spin out an easy recovery ride. Then I forgot about the recovery part, I guess. I set three more Strava PRs, and took 1:26 off another climb.

So it is shaping up to be an interesting year on the bike, I suppose. Or a perfectly average year, who even knows.

The 2023 Zwift route tracker: 66 routes down, 58 to go.

(If you’re following that little tidbit, you might have noticed that the math has changed here. Turns out I was using a slightly outdated route list. Four new routes were added since last November, so there’s your mathematical inconsistency. This list is accurate, until Zwift adds the Scotland routes in March. Basically, there’s plenty still to do, hopefully most of it before I take the bike off the trainer and start riding exclusively outside again.)

The hardest part of having a couple hundred books waiting to be read is trying to decide which interesting thing to choose next. I solved that problem yesterday. Instead of grabbing one book, I selected the next three. And I’m starting with the great Willie Morris and his memoir, North Toward Home.

There aren’t many memoirs that appeal to me for a variety of reasons. But Willie Morris, above talking about one of his ancestors, is in a different category. If I could write like anyone the boy from Yazoo City, Mississippi would be on the very short list.

This is a third edition of his memoir, the first run was in 1967. The language can be problematic, particularly in these early stages of the book. The kid that would become a not-quite-singular progressive voice from the South grew up in those small towns and visit those hollers and delta swamp lands and live it before he could wrestle with desegregation and coming of age in a time of deep and lasting change. We’ll get to that later in the book, I’m sure. First, there are rich memoir moments, like the nearly universal nature of the southern church experience. There was much nodding along. Two generations later, and a state to the east, there are many similarities.

And, here, his first time in a Catholic church.

I recall my first visit to a Catholic church, but not as clearly as all of that. The story goes like this.

The town was founded by a coal man, a Methodist and a Democrat, in 1886. Henry DeBardeleben was the ward of one of the state’s first industrialists, and inherited, or otherwise acquired, much of his assets. The quintessential New South industrialist, DeBardeleben decided to create a town near the booming Birmingham to exploit the local iron and steel resources and their dirty, important, industries. One of his sons continued the family trade, becoming a coal magnate in the first half of the 20th century, but he was an Episcopalian and a Republican. So the DeBardeleben name is important in that region, but the second generation German immigrant’s neighbors, the Italian and Irish immigrants, were the ones that built the first local Catholic church.

There was a 50-room hotel, which first appeared at the New Orleans World’s Fair in 1884. For 10 years after DeBardeleben bought it and had it moved to his new city. He lived there for a time, in the hotel, the former headquarters of Mexico’s delegation to the World’s Fair, on the 10 acre lot. The railroad marked one border, a local creek tributary, today little more than an oversized and running drainage ditch, marked another. For 10 years the Montezuma was a hotel, for three more it was Montezuma University Medical College, then it burned, in 1899. That’s where the first Catholic church in the area held their services. Today there’s a pharmacy, a closed foundry and low income housing in the hotel’s footprint.

Just before the fire, the church got their own land from the city, a choice spot, just in the direction the city would grow and thrive for the next few generations. They built a frame school building, then replaced it in 1912 with a modern brick building, the first of its kind around, and there they thrived for decades.

I went to mass there once with an elementary school friend and his family. My friend was the oldest kid. He had a brother and a sister. Both of his parents were educators. They had the first remote control I ever saw. We were friends until I changed schools in the 5th grade, and eventually grew apart. But he’s still there, working in medicine or some such. I wonder if he still goes to mass. The parish he grew up in was a full, ornate building. I remember the colors being rich and dark low, and growing lighter as you looked toward the ceiling. I am sure the room was smaller than my memory. There were the solemn processions, the costumed finery, the purification and sanctification of the incense, the call and answer, both joyous and monotone. All of it different. All of it interesting. None of it mine.

The church stayed in that spot until it burned in 1989. A century between fires. They still have a convent on that block. There’s a halfway house and a law firm there, too. The local board of education is across the side street. Across the way today there’s the “Opportunity Center,” and the Homeless Education Program.

The church built their new parish four miles away, again, in the direction where the city was still (somewhat, somehow) growing. Last Christmas they celebrated 30 years there. I bet I’m the only person who has found a vague, passing, unintentional, similarity between the Montezuma and their current building.

I’ve been to one or two other Catholic services elsewhere. I saw Catholics before a mass praying for Pope John Paul as he lay dying. I even watched mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica. Those last two I can remember clearly, but I was an adult by then.

I think that’s the problem I’d have writing a memoir, and the pure genius of Willie Morris. Look at all he gives us in a half of a paragraph. Look at the space I filled up in 600 or so words.

Also, there’s the issue of memory.

Feb 23

Just 83 years ago …

I have next to nothing today, but there’s always the weather! Before I woke up, some rodent had doomed us to more winter. The high here today was 39 degrees. The low was 19. It was sunny.

Why is it that some creature elsewhere determines my weather? Don’t I have any agency here? Of course, I don’t. The weather is a part of a global meteorological system barely within our understanding, and certainly beyond my control. But, really, the lack of agency is galling. Not me, but some critter that’d just as soon stay in his hole, honestly.

I know how he feels. As soon as I read about the shadow, I wanted to climb into a hole, or at least back into the blankets.

Groundhogs. What a silly, successful bit of marketing. We persist in this because it is fun, right?

And also tourism.

We haven’t looked back at the old college paper in a month. When last we had a look, we poked around in 1929. We’re jumping forward a bit today, to 1940. On this day, 82 years ago, there was a new committee that was formed to think about cheating. I wonder what they thought.

Oddly enough, this guy was on the same front page. R. Temple Greystoke was a man named Ray Price.

He started in the magic business in 1921, and can’t you imagine that was a challenging lifestyle. It begain with kids shows, a dog act and he eventually developed what is called a Spook Show, and became a famous and popular act through the 1930s. Soon after he played at Auburn he returned to a more conventional stage show. He moved home to Alabama when his health began to fail him in 1955. He passed away in 1973.

Dawson Mullen here, he was a BMOC. He was an electrical engineering manager, honor society member, he was on the mysterious leadership council of his time, president of something called the engineer’s council, colonel in the ROTC, captain of the rifle team. And, in this same issue, we learned he was on that cheating committee.

I’ll have to look ahead and see what, if anything, that august panel resolved. Anyway, Mullen, I believe, found his way to Georgia. If I have the right one, he died in 2001. There’s not a lot on him, however.

This bit of copy is a hoot.

The building being referenced here is, I assume, the Auburn Sports Arena. We called it The Barn. It housed basketball starting in 1946. Likely a project put on hold during the war?) The basketball team moved one block over in 1968. The Barn was right across the street from the football stadium. It housed the gymnastics team, it was old and scheduled for demolition. And then it burned to the ground during the LSU football game in 1996. (A different, better, story.) There’s a parking deck in that spot now.

We like to think of the 1940s as being a fully modern time and, in many respects, it was. They were still trying to get driveways paved and sidewalks pour on campus. The depression, in-state politics, and subsequent decades of inattention were just starting to be remedied.

Scandal! Bottom of page one! Oh … never mind.

Grady Young graduated from Georgia and then studied to be a vet, like his father before him. He had three kids and seven grandchildren, and he ran Young’s Veterinary Clinic in Georgia for 42 years before his retirement. He died in 2021, at 82.

Here’s a man that made an impression, and you get the feeling the multi-sport coach (they all coached more than one thing back then) was well liked and would be missed.

Dell Morgan died in a car accident, in Texas, in 1962. He’d spent the day watching his Rice players practice, and was headed out to go fishing with a buddy when another car crossed the center line. Four people were killed.

(I wonder if that tweed jacket ever turned up. That’s one of those mysteries that will stick with you the rest of the week.)

I love the old phone numbers. Dial 611 for flowers. Cracks me up. I don’t know anything about the florist. This isn’t the sort of history anyone on the Plains is good at making readily available, and contemporary florists using SEO has basically ruined any searches of this sort. H. L. Welsted, based on the ads, was around for at least four years, but, again, he falls in the analog canyon, but he is interred in Virgina. He passed away in 1961. The Welsteds had two children, Harry Lee, junior, and Mittie, who had just graduated from AU the year before. Harry the younger became a chemical engineer, and worked in New York and Charlotte. He passed away in 2010. Mittie studied dietetics, got married and died in 2002.

Here are the Welsted kids, from the 1939 Glom. They had long, and hopefully, full and complete lives.

Their parents ran a boarding house. Moved to Auburn and set that up, specifically, so the kids could get an education. That’s what Harry Lee Welsted’s obituary said. And while I learned one or two more things about the Welsteds, but not many, it is important that we don’t stray too far afield. Because that image above is really about the Grille.

I remember the Grille. Dined in it, frequently. One night a week they did a spaghetti plate dinner. If you finished it, they’d give you a second plate free. You could get in there, stuff yourself with two plates of spaghetti, a soft drink and a brownie for about five bucks, and that was one of the better, cheap meals in town. The walls were covered in local lore and history. And in that one particular booth is where the legendary football coach sat.

And then the rent got too high, and the Grille closed in the late 1990s and it still feels like one of the saddest things that could possibly happen in a place like that. We kicked ourselves that we didn’t eat there more — maybe we could have helped save it — but we are all starving and broke college kids and downtown was changing. Downtown was always changing, every so often.

My time was more than a half-century latter, of course, but I don’t have any knowledge of these places, either. Ball’s Bakery was in the neighboring town, but clearly everyone knew of it.

They stayed in business through the mid-1950s. Reed’s? Absolutely no idea. But with a “stay out of the cold” you have to think they had their moments. Winter moments.

The Martin Theatre was still relatively new. It opened in Opelika in 1938, with 1,600 seats, and lasted until 1970 or so. Martin replaced it with one in the strip mall. That joint was the barely-hanging-on dollar theater a quarter century later. I remember watching a few movies there.

The movie they were showing? Wonderful pre-war propaganda. The film highlights the real (and dramatized) exploits of a New York unit during World War 1. Also, the picture was just released the week before. In a time when movies weren’t in theaters everywhere simultaneously, it is amazing that this was on a screen in little Opelika, Alabama, six days later.

The Martin must have truly been the place to go.

Olin Hill? The man with the tape? He’s buried in nearby Notasulga. The headline in the (Mobile) Press-Register obituary was “Auburn clothier Hill dies.” Imagine all the things he saw from 1907 until 2003.