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Star Pilot in the Civil War

[from tiny Blue Book story early 1980s]

Star Pilot fought against slavery anywhere in the Galaxy, because of an oath he took as a boy in Star Academy. His ship instruments picked up telegraph signals from Union President Abraham Lincoln. So Star Pilot turned the tides of our Civil War.

Civil War Star 1

Union forces still suffered heavy casualties. But bullets and canon balls only dented the Star Ship.

Civil War Star 2

Soon the Rebels were forced to retreat, past their canons, and across the river.

Civil War Star 3

Union General US Grant sword fought Rebel General Robert Lee. Their styles were different, but they were equal in power. Star Pilot had to break the stalemate.

Civil War Star 4

At the end of the last battle, General Lee surrendered his sword. This meant the War was won, and Star Pilot could move on to another planet.

Civil War Star 5


Tristate Mentors (concept)

Tristate Mentors Concept Proposal for Grants

This month I founded ‘Harpers Ferry Mentors’ for low income families & unemployed neighbors. This project is to expand upon local area efforts underway now. The goal is to fund grassroots teaching, learning, and community spirit in the Tristate area (WV, VA, MD). I am doing this for the same reason I do all my projects (see SCOD), because it is how I choose to live as a Veteran Environmental Architect with a Masters Degree.

Tristate Mentors will work with local teachers and professors around the USA to empower the human children of Earth (of all ages and abilities) to be cooperative partners in a progressive future. Tristate Mentors will build from alternative networks established by SCOD (Sustainable Cooperative for Organic Development) and Harpers Ferry Mentors; to raise awareness of patterns and cycles of life that have various values, share information and knowledge about various subjects, and encourage wise decision making skills. Mentor wisdom will aid children in utilizing their awareness and knowledge through-out the rest of their lives. Mentors will teach compassionate ethics, environmental sustainability, community consciousness, individual wellness, social justice, and multi-culturalism regarding various common subjects.

I have always been extremely passionate about these issues because of my own education, so I am convinced that if others know what I know, there would be more of us.

The Tristate Mentor project will use multimedia, but will primarily be old-school tutoring. The focus of the project will be paying and giving gifts to students and adult teachers, to sit down with eachother and share what they know. The mutual exchange between mentor and student will focus on positive aspects of progressive living (compassionate ethics, environmental sustainability, community consciousness, individual wellness, social justice, and multi-culturalism). The subjects taught will be Reading, Mathematics, Sciences, Social Studies, Local Regional History, US History, World History, Physical Fitness, Psychology, Philosophy, Visual Arts, Video Film-making 101, Performing Arts, Architecture, Art History, Wood Working, Drawing, Gardening, Harpers Ferry History, Martial Arts, Musical Arts,

and more….

To teach others Tristate Mentors must be FREE and AVAILABLE at least to the poorest members of our communities. When students and mentors get gifts and money, they will promote these values. Tristate Mentors can potentially reach thousands of people, and will affect hundreds directly. Since 2000 I have been building up to this point.


WITHOUT GRANTS, MENTORS CANNOT TEACH FOR FREE OR EVEN TRADE. Exceptions include barter gifts of $20 an hour utilitarian equivalents like $20 in gasoline, $20 in something else agreed on but reserve right to decline unless the tutoring is for a life-saving subject.

When I was a kid growing up in Harpers Ferry, WV I founded a local ‘Ghost Busters’ franchise with Fritz, Jane, & Keith. We built equipment and investigated many cases. I wrote and illustrated a ‘Supernatural Guide’, as well as many adventure stories. I even made business cards for neighbors to call us if they had a paranormal problem. The cards had different catch phrases on them: ‘Call us’; ‘We get the job done fast.’; ‘You got a ghost? We’ll bust it!’; ‘Tips – do not panic, get to the phone fast, call us!’


Ghosts 01Ghosts 02

Childhood teams I formed included: Ghost Busters, Bird Fighters*, Bee Busters, Fly Busters

*Bird Fighters did not fight birds, we were like Voltron.

Journal – July 2013

List of on going projects:

1.  painting exterior porches of house

2.  replacing broken boards on porch

3.  redesigning bathroom (master bath)

4.  regular chores:  mowing, clipping, checking, dusting, feeding birds, trash…

5.  writing 3 books

6.  planning to camp in August at Blackberry Cove with Reid

7.  working with locals on mutual cooperative projects (SCOD, AMM)

8.  paying locals to help with projects

9.  planning to convert piano into tv center

10.  cleaning and converting

~ I sat beside him, through the night.

Listening, praying, thinking.

He’s dying,” I said to God and myself.


My brother: the architect; the mayor; historian; artist; husband; father… my brother.”


Please, take care of him.”


Then I thanked Kip, in unspoken words;

for teaching me to be patient,

for going with me to New York City (so I wouldn’t be alone),

for showing me how to use my imagination,

for always being happy to see me,

for giving me unconditional love.


Then, as the gray of the icy January morning receded,

I turned on the television,

so Kip could hear history being made,

only an hour away.


I think he passed on peacefully that night;

leaving behind his devoted family, his beloved town, and his country;

all well-prepared to build new structures;

strong and beautiful, enduring and dynamic;

formed from the truths he believed in and passed on,

to all of us. ~

My childhood friend, Fritz, had a Grandfather named Ganst (short for Ganstas), and a Grandmother named Ganny. Ganst was Mayor of Harpers Ferry; but he found time to play games and tell stories with us kids. Although I was not related to Fritz, these neighbors were like family to me; because my own grandparents had lived far away, and all but one had passed away; in fact all of my family relatives lived far away. We had neighborhood parties, and everyone had a lot of fun back then.

Fritz always loved vehicles, he could name any car on the road; and we often played many games involving ‘driving’. We both loved ghosts and monsters; and Ganst was always willing to play the ‘monster’ that chased us around the neighborhood, yards, and houses; in a sort of horror hide-and-go-seek. It was amazingly fun!

One evening Fritz and I had just watched the movie Amityville Horror, at his house. We had wandered around his mansion and property; running, playing, and even going so far as Harper Cemetery, and the old town well, by the junk car parts and old VW Beetle covered in ivy vines. Now his mother, Freddie told us to get in the jeep (Cherokee) and she would drive us up the street to Ganny and Ganstas house.

We knew that visits with Ganst meant playing ‘Monster’, and hearing spooky mysterious stories. Playing Monster was (as I said) like hide-and-go-seek, but Ganst would make monster sounds, and we hid and ran in terror. Sometimes we had to attack the monster, because he had found or caught us. But no amount of hitting, punching, kicking, or biting would stop the Ganst the Monster for very long. Although sometimes we would land a good strike, and we would hear “Ouch, dammit you little shits!” or something like that, which was as close to victory as it got! There was a real thrill from the fear I felt hearing the monster noises, voices, and being pursued and gripped by a giant white polar-bear (or whatever else we pictured him as)!!

Time playing with Ganst was one of our favorite things to do in town, besides exploring, messing with toys, and watching movies. We also loved stuffed animals. Fritz had a favorite one that he kept with him as a ‘security blanket’, named Clowny. We both had enough stuffed animals that sometimes we slept in piles of them. When we grew up we knew we would be ghost-busters, so we did what we could with what we had at the time.

Ganst was in his back yard, watering the lawn, plants, and flowers with the hose. We begged the mighty Ganstas to tell us a story. Ganst said “Oh you don’t want to hear a story do you!?” And we would say “Yes, yes please!!” And so he would say “The Ganstas will now tell you a story. Are you ready to listen?”

And so our story began…

Fritz has a four wheeler, and Walton has a three wheeler. They are driving down the dark highway at night. It starts to rain. Lightning strikes, and thunder booms!! Soon they come to the edge of a cliff, overlooking a huge sprawling Haunted Mansion. They decide to race down the cliff, and up a jump on the other side of the cliff. They full-throttle their vehicles!

They woosh down the slope, and pop up on the other side. Clowny goes flying high above their vehicles, and suddenly the ramp opens up under the boys, and a Giant Coo-coo (Cuckoo) bird swoops in and nabs Clowny! The bird carries Clowny up and away, before the boys can do anything! The Coo-coo bird then flies into the highest tower of the Haunted Mansion. Fritz and Walton fall into the opening in the ramp. The pitfall becomes a slope underground, leading towards the basement of the Haunted Mansion.

The boys manage to regain control of their steering, and the underground slope levels out into a long tunnel. The tunnel is miles long, so they drive and drive. Their headlights work well, and they avoid traps of all kinds; dodging this way, and that. They come to a parking garage, and come to a halt. They stop their vehicles, and turn off their ignitions. Using their flashlights, they find a set of old stairs.

Eventually they climb all the way up the old stairs to the Mansion. The see a closed hatch above them, and hear a rocking-chair rocking above them, and a cold wind blew past them. Then the strangest thing happens! An old lady in white descends the stairs, and she passes right through them!! “A ghost!!!” They yell, and push open the trap-door hatch quickly, and rush into the front hall of the Mansion.

All the windows are boarded up, and there is a thick layer of dust and cobwebs on all the antique furniture. Walton sees a stairwell leading to the high tower, but Fritz stares frozen in terror, as he spies a Coo-coo Clock on the wall; and it is about to strike Midnight!!!

The tiny arms click into place, and the small clock chimes. The doors swing open on the clock, and the enormous Coo-coo bird that stole Clowny comes out! The giant bird flies out towards the boys, with a dreadful cry; “Cuck-coo Kuck-koo”!! The boys do not stop to think about how such a large bird could fit in such a small clock; they run and scream for their lives!

While Fritz is busy being chased around the house, Walton hides and looks at the Coo-coo clock. The doors on it are still open, and Walton is small enough to fit inside. So carefully, he sneaks from behind some curtains, and climbs onto a chair to reach the clock. Once inside the clock, he realizes it is bigger on the inside, than on the outside. Inside the clock is a large nest, with many stolen items; including Clowny! So grabbing Clowny, Walton climbs back out of the clock, and calls to Fritz.

Hey Fritz! Jump down into the trap door, I have Clowny!” Walton shouts. Fritz is relieved to hear that, as the Coo-coo bird nips his sweater. “Let’s get out of here!! The front door is locked from the outside, I already checked it!” So they jump back down the hatch, as the Coo-coo pecks after them. As they tumble down the steps to the parking lot, they hear the echoes behind them; “Coo-coo Coo-coo”!

They had gotten Clowny from the old Coo-coo Clock, so they run back to their vehicles in the basement, to try to drive back the way they came, and escape. Fritz and Walton start their vehicles, ‘vroom, vroom’; and begin driving back through the tunnel. All the while they hear the Coo-coo bird coming behind them “Coo-coo Coo-Koo”!

The tunnel begins to slope upwards again. Fritz floors it; petal to the metal! Walton floors it! ‘VROOOOM! VROOOOOOOM!’ The slope gets steeper, and steeper. The floor becomes a wall, and they are now driving straight up the wall! They make it out of the pit, just as the giant Coo-coo bird swoops from out of the darkness!!! The ramp opening closes, but the kids have made it out. They drive up the canyon road to safety, and the boys go home to bed. Some nights they still hear the echo “Coo-coo Coo-coo!”

The End


I was brainwashed by society, schools, and parents that I should go to the most expensive college, and there were no other choices; just as they had been brainwashed before me. So I accepted the loans, forcing my family to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, with very little financial return. Here is my life story, and before you judge me, know that I am convinced I have made the best mistakes and choices that I could, and I am very proud of the friends and experiences I have earned.

I got a Masters in Architecture, but when I graduated I tried to work at various firms (applying to dozens), and realized I was not the type of person to be satisfied with office jobs, as I found no bosses or jobs that fit me or that I could fit into for longer than a year at a time, without significant time off for adventuring and exploring my own interests.

I was always more of an artist and writer, so I picked my father’s career of architecture to bond with him, and provide a challenge as it was a combination that was the most difficult major I could find that fit my talents and I was interested in. I worked with him for years on and off afterwards, earning only several hundred dollars annually, with additional jobs, sometimes 5 at a time.

I was happiest teaching with my father at a local college, but as an adjunct they cruelly cut our classes completely after a year, simply because the department heads were jealous of our success and popularity with the students, and did not care about us. As adjuncts it was legal, although unjust. That is when I had to decide if I were going to go bankrupt to live in the woods with my homeless friend Allen, or doing something else drastic.

I was tired of struggling between jobs, none of which I seemed to fit; so I joined the US Air Force, for a secure pay check. After 5 years of sacrificing my ethics and spiritual self, I left as a conscientious objector to war, and have never been happier in my adult life. For one thing, I had married a great and loving partner, and I gave up trying to earn more when it was sacrificing my own mental well-being. I realized if I reduced my bills as low as possible, I was more content because I was able to work on my own projects. I pay my bills as a landscaper, landlord, gardener, custodian, and archivist for my family property and house; so I work for my mother, and am an occasional consultant for neighbors (which rarely pays). I often trade services and goods with willing neighbors.

To me this way of life fits my needs and circumstances, in many ways better than I can ever imagine other ‘regular’ jobs doing. Therefore I welcome others to try to not bully other people to ‘try and get a better job’, or not even acknowledge that people have jobs at all, when in fact they often do have jobs. Jobs and careers are not always conventional. If you can pay your bills, or have them covered by a benefactor, and you are not hurting anyone, and you are best fitted for doing work that does not pay very much; that is ok. In fact it might even be good, and life fulfilling. If people get high paying jobs, good for them; but if they do not want to do so for various reasons, perhaps they should not; and I say stop pressuring them and check your own stress.

I have taken a vow that includes poverty or wealth, that I shall be as content as I can be with a life that makes me happy.

(this essay was sent to Money Marketplace on NPR)

The Unique Weirdness Beyond the Strange Boundary

by Walton Stowell

 Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allan Poe, one of America’s greatest poets, short-story writers, and literary critics; wrote such famous stories as The Raven, The Masque of the Red Death, The Black Cat, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Fall of the House of Usher. In most of his works, Poe used first-person narrative to pull the reader into a weird, and strange world; where the reader is forced to use their powers of deduction. The reader must make their own way through the mystical and gothic-romantic atmosphere.

Taken from The Haunted Palace:

And all with pearl and ruby glowing, was the fair palace door; through which came flowing, flowing, flowing, and sparkling evermore, a troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty was but to sing, in voices of surprising beauty, the wit and wisdom of their King.”

Born in poverty in Boston, January 19, 1809; dying under unfortunate circumstances in Baltimore, October 7, 1849; Poe’s whole literary career of scarcely fifteen years appeared a pitiful struggle for mere substance. His memory was initially malignantly misrepresented by his earliest biographer, Griswold. Poe the half-starved poet only received $10 for The Raven.

At a young age, Edgar Poe was adopted by John Allan (where Poe’s middle name comes from), and taken from a life of poverty, into an adopted life of luxuries and advantages that having more money could provide. Edgar was spoiled and shown off to strangers.

From his 8th to 13th year, Edgar attended the Manor House School at Stoke-Newington near London, when his adopted family lived in England. Edgar did will in school. Returning to Richmond, Virginia in 1820, Edgar was sent to the school of Professor Joseph Clarke; who said this of the young Poe: “While other boys wrote mere mechanical verses, Poe wrote genuine poetry; the boy was a born poet.” It was also said that Poe was sensitive, tender of heart, and would do anything for a friend; he was void of selfishness.

Here is an example of some of Poe’s short poem work at age 13: “Helen thy beauty is to me, like those Nicean barks of yore; that gently o’er a perfumed sea, the weary way-worn wanderer bore to his own native shore. On desperate seas long wont to roam. Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face, thy Naiad airs have brought me home, to the glory that was Greece, and the grandeur that was Rome.”

Poe entered West Point, but obtained a dismissal upon hearing of the birth of a son to his adopted father (who had remarried). This event cut off his expectations as an heir to his adopted father’s estate. When Mr. Allan died, Poe committed himself at once to authorship for his own support. In 1827 Poe published a small volume of poems, which soon ran through three editions, and excited high expectations in the minds of many learned critics, who saw future distinction for the young author.

Edgar Allan Poe wrote this to tell of the sorrow he felt from the loss of this child-wife: “I was a child and she was a child, in a kingdom by the sea; but we loved with a love that was more than love – I and my Annabel Lee; With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven coveted her and me. And this was the reason that long ago, in this kingdom by the sea; a wind blew out of a cloud, chilling my beautiful Annabel Lee; so that her high-born kinsmen came and bore her away from me, to shut her up in a sepulcher in this kingdom by the sea.”

Poe was a genius with poetry. He had an indescribable oneness with a Shakespearean style with the English language, with a knack for melancholy. He used two great qualities; vigorous minute analysis details, and incredible fantastic imagination. The analysis aspect is needed for plot and setting descriptions using words. The imagination aspect is the vision and feeling that spawns and feeds everything in the story.

Poe chose to focus his power mainly on the dark-side of reality, which extends from the very fringe limits of the probable, to the weirdness of superstitions that are inexplicable and unreal. In his writings he was able to inject a mysterious influence, that is extracted from the shadows by the reader upon reading. Death, fear, and suffering are natural evils, but to dwell on them often seems strange to people; because we are usually encouraged in life to do the opposite. These negative feelings that his writing evoke, are almost mathematically bizarre, compared to our mundane literature. Poe’s writing are mystical.

Poe as a maverick, seemed to have tapped into an immortal pulse. Often our imagination is left to finish the picture that he started in his tales. The reader is called upon to settle endings, which are quite unsettling. Creativity is allowed freedom in his work, beyond any superficial boundary. Our consciousness and subconsciousness are challenged to meet, and settle their differences. Human morbidity is a truth that resonates within us, hidden by our fears. His monsters are demons of humanity; physically and mentally. Facing evil and danger is thrilling.

His poem, The Raven, was about his own life. Poe was the master of that bird. The bird was a voice in his head. His consciousness is the main character that tries to understand why the bird is saying “Evermore.” The gloomy solemness, and frantic repetition is intriguing as evidence of a peculiar intellect. Despite the gloom, despite the eerie strangeness, there was also a basis in goodness and normality.

Before his second wedding, Poe stopped in Baltimore for a few days. The events that followed are mysterious, but Poe was found lying outside a voting place on October 3, 1849. He died in a hospital bed four days later, while in a coma. Poe never woke up, and his killer remains unknown.

Behind the melancholy, there was some humility, and a willingness to preserve belief in another’s friendship and love. There is even gratitude for cordial friendship, in characters. Many events were grotesque, but his brilliant detail and romantic prose off-set much of the horror. Poe lived between William Shakespeare and Stephen King, not only in time period, but also in linguistic style. After Elizabethan England, and before modern America, he lived from 1809 to 1849. William Winter’s poem, read at the dedication for the monument to Poe in 1885:

Edgar Allan Poe;

He was the voice of beauty, and of woe.

Passion and mystery and the dread unknown;

Pure as the mountains of perpetual snow,

Cold as the icy winds that round them moan,

Dark as the caves where in earth, thunders groan,

Wild as the tempests of the upper sky,

Sweet as the faint, far-off celestial tone of

angel whispers, fluttering from on high,

And tender as loves tear when youth and beauty die.

Lake Sunapee

Biography & Geography based on an English Class assignment in 1989


There is a place in New England where I went every summer since I was born, until I finished college. The name of it is Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire. Lake Sunapee is a very unique place; and I have interesting experiences, feelings, and memories associated with it, accumulated over the years. Let me explain to you the rare treasures of Sunapee that are familiar to me; the ideal mountain vistas, the gorgeous and thrilling waters, the beautiful vegetation and geology, the pine scented air, great old boats, and metamorphosis of seasons.

My father (Kip) and his two brothers owned our family cabin, which was really a small house that we affectionately called the ‘Camp’. They inherited Camp from their parents, who originally bought it from their friend, Marion Savory, in 1960. The official title of Camp is ‘Summer Savory’, which is a pun of Marion’s last name, the sweet summer herb, and the adjective savory (morally pleasant). Camp was built in 1903, on a small lakeside wooded lot. Under the seclusion of the trees, while resting in a hammock, you can glance around and see several types of trees, animals, ferns, lichen, moss, and rocks.

The grey rocks are formed so smoothly, they encourage soft relaxation. Every rock is blended into the leaf-covered surroundings, as though arranged by ancient pagans. The rocks are familiar to me, each with their own characteristics. When I was four years old, I named them all. Some look like chairs and tables, some look like animals or vehicles. A large rock I played on by the Camp as a kid, was named ‘Ship Rock’. Most of the rocks are down by the water; Computer Rock, Frog Rock, Boat Rock, etc.

If you follow the path down to the water, you use steps made from the old train-tracks that were on the terrace landing, between the Camp and the Lake. Down by the water’s edge are a series of wharfs and docks. Uncle Chan and his family keep boats, canoes, and other aquatic devices there. Uncle Chan was a police officer on the Lake, and he kept his police boat there too. Uncle Jay did not actively use the Camp, but he had his own place on Great Island, where he had a collection of antique boats.

The clean fresh air in New Hampshire tends to be typical of New England; the wind is dry and cool, with an aroma of pine needles. When it rains, it is often just as beautiful as when it is a clear, warm day. Although thunder storms do knock hillside trees down, perhaps reminding us that nothing is forever. In the Winter the Lake freezes over so thickly, that trucks can drive over it. It can get very cold and windy. Camp was not winterized (insulated), and so we depended on the fireplace and thermal blankets.

In 1989 we went skiing with Uncle Chan. During the Summer I often participated in water sports with Cousin Chip; water skiing, water tubing, and swimming. The State Beach is nearby along the shore. The Beach has nice sand, and usually full of people having fun in the Summer Sun! Near the paddle-boats, there is a secret canal swamp to explore by canoe.

Mount Sunapee sits above, behind the Camp, and looks down upon the Lake. It has ski gondolas, ski slopes, and hiking trails. At the top is Lake Solitude. Other mountains nearby include Kearsarge, Ascutney, and Monadnock. All of the mountains have lush forests, with pine and deciduous trees. It is intriguing to watch the hang-gliders. We had many hiking adventures. On one such adventure, Dad and I hiked up Mount Sunapee without a trail, and got lost; so that by the time we reached the top, it was sunset, and we could barely walk down the ski slopes. Once we got down, we had to hitch-hike to our car on the other side of the mountain. I remember we did find ruins of a cabin on one of the bluffs I mapped out, we would never have seen if we had not gone our own route.

Lake Sunapee itself is a powerful 10 miles long, and at its widest part is 3 miles across. The navy blue-grey waters can be very deep. On Great Island, there are 18 summer cottages. Dad and I annually canoed to Minute Island (the smallest island), and then to Great Island (the largest island). The Native American name ‘Soonippi’ meant “Land of Wild Goose Waters”.

On cold days we sat in front of the stone fireplace, with its twin owl andirons, and roasted marsh-mellows. In the mornings we liked to sit on the porch eating breakfast, and watch the sail-boats and motor-boats plow across the Lake. There are two pleasure cruise ships that circle daily; the Dinner Boat and the Sight-Seeing Boat. One of our favorite things to do, was have my uncles drive us in their boats to go get ice-cream at the harbors. One of Dad’s favorite things was to get in the car, and explore around all day. Other favorites included going to St. Gaudens NHS, or the John Hay Estate NWR. At the Hay Estate, which is directly across the Lake from us, we loved to draw the gardens, and walk to Sunset Hill.

Dad and his brothers sold Camp to Uncle Chan’s daughter Kim, so I am glad that my cousin owns it. In 1989 we had a family reunion that saw more relatives than the Camp had in over 50 years, and we got it on video! The main reason I do not travel there every year anymore, is because of the massive distance. For tranquility and adventure, Sunapee is the place to go though!


I still remember how she plowed through my heart like a flaming juggernaut.
The nights were dark and stormy that summer of ’98. The thick humidity of the day had finally broken into saturated night. The driver pierced our carriage through the rain, and through the 30 foot wrought-iron gate ways, topped with immaculate scroll work and scores of lanterns. As I peered from the black shimmering carriage, my eyes beheld an image of massive splendor. She was just as Alice had described her; strong and indomitable in stature, with finely sculpted features.
Strength beyond strength” epitomized her role as the sublime, figure on the landscape, and equally the omnipotent goddess of my heart. If it was love at first sight, then it was the kind of love that bucks you in the jib. Like a timid puppy, I stepped out under the shelter of the porte-cochere. Alice was waiting, with a gaggle of guests by her side.
She’s beautiful, Alice!” I exclaimed as we exchanged greetings. “Absolutely marvelous! I should say no more, for fear of fainting!”
Oh you darling!” shouted Alice Vanderbilt, who looked as glorious as ever.
No, it’s true! She has a Venetian sensuality about her, and a sumptuous scale that makes my etsy-bitsy mind simply go ‘Baroque’. Her fascia is most definitely Indiana limestone, or I am not wearing real pearls. The Italian Renaissance is alive and well, and living in Newport, Rhode Island my dear!” At this we both laughed and embraced. I continued to gawk as we walked. “The Italian attention to classical detail takes my breath away. I am only too eager to discover if I have been fooled by her immaculate facade, or if the glow if her celestial light shines from within.”
Alice laughed, “Please refer to her as the Breakers, for the sake of the guests. I will come to you at the close of this evening, and then you will tell me if your love for her is only skin deep. Come inside darling…” And with that, she took me up the stone steps, through the double doors, and into the brightly lit foyer.
To this day, no one throws a party like a Vanderbilt. Everyone and their mother was there. To my left was the ladies’ reception parlor, and to the right was the gentlemen’s billiards room. I let my hat, coat, and cane be taken by the gentleman servant. Then I allowed myself to be drawn forward, catching a glimpse of her heart through the immediate atmosphere of party smog.
I could no longer feel my legs moving, but moving they were; for I soon found myself standing in the center of the cortile, or great hall. My senses reached a feverish panic! My eyes were as wide as saucers, and my mouth parted as if to speak, but alas my words melted. I was in her heart!
Her heart was a generous one; open on two levels. The wall between the double loggias was glass, and conscious of the Moon above the deep Ocean outside. Palms and orchids provided an exotic atmosphere. Composite columns raked the space vertically on all sides, creating three arches on each wall. Above these first-level arches, ran an interior balcony; subdivided by marbleized bronze capped ionic columns. The luscious colonnade beckoned my eyes toward the heavens, as my mind floated with the painted clouds in the painted blue sky above.
This heavenly painting encompassed most of the ceiling, and was elaborately framed by the various three-dimensional patterns in gold-leaf, centered on all four sides by the regal Vanderbilt symbol of the acorn and oak leaf. A heavy chandelier hung from the center, and to the left a red carpeted stair ascended to the second floor. Perhaps the Vanderbilts truly had broken into paradise.
A lady stood before me. I assume she was another lady of various titles and wealth, for her dress was of expensive fabrics, and her posture equally rich. She was young of age, but her eyes displayed an experienced, sensual wisdom; expected of someone twice her age perhaps. She handed me a glass of wine.
Have you seen the Library?” she asked. Before I knew it, we stood before the door to the Library. Then I saw it; an H stared down at me. Not just any capital letter H, but the H of the Architect Richard Morris Hunt. Hunt had left his distinguished mark, in true Renaissance fashion.
So it was that the lady and I entered the Library. Indeed it had crowds of book shelves, and people. We moved on to the oval Music Hall, with the grand bay window, and a grand piano as well. This room made me quite dizzy, and it was not just the wine. The floor was dented with thousands of high-heel dents, and the dancing couples were not helping it any. A brilliant chandelier, and all the ceiling, were reflected by large, tilted mirrors on the walls.
No extravagant villa of that time was complete without a hexagon room, and in the Breakers it was called the Morning Room. The theme of that room was the Four Seasons. I soon realized we were making our way around the house, in a counter-clockwise procession. I almost tripped over a loaded serving cart!
We crossed the Grand Hall and came upon the Billiard Room. This room was thick with smoke, and for the sake of the lady, I tried to make a way through the crowd, to get to the other side. I was only able to catch hazy glimpses of leather, silver, bronze, limestone, and mahogany. For some reason I recall images of terra-cotta acorns and dolphins; weird I know. Perhaps it was the wine and the smoke, but my head was throbbing, and nothing existed except she (the Breakers), and I.
Suddenly I smelled sweet perfume, and my head snapped back as the two-story space of the Dining Room vaulted my vision upwards, by means of twelve enormous red and cream rose-alabaster columns and pilasters. My eyes distinguished multiple levels of carved, painted, and gilt detail trim, and noticed the high relief life-size figures and urns with painted classical backdrop. My eyes came to settle on the framed ceiling painting of Aurora, Goddess of Dawn. The rest was short lived, as two twin, twelve-foot crystal chandeliers poured my vision down onto the great oak table.
There were other rooms explored that night, like the Kitchen, Butler’s Pantry, Breakfast Room, and even a sneak-peek of the upstairs bedrooms.
At the end of the night I felt as though the blood in my veins had been drained. Like a poor rag-doll I collapsed on the landing of the minor spiral stair, by the Library. I remember staring at a metal hanging clock, and responding to her whispers. I slowly rose in a daze. The lady I was with was joined by Alice. I started to apologize for my state, but Alice said she was just glad that I came.
Alice smiled her allegorical smile. “I see you have met my daughter Gladys. She will take you up to the guest bedroom for the night, I think you have had too much to drink. I must tend to the attendants.”
I have swooned Alice! Your family has a paradise Palladio would be proud of; the Marble House has nothing on the Breakers!!” I said as I stumbled for the railing, and wiped drool from my mouth with my jacket cuff. Gladys took me upstairs. I was in no condition to argue, but I still attempted to argue. I was eventually led upstairs successfully.
The next morning I was informed of my mad babblings regarding the Beaux Arts tradition, trompe-leoi, and the New American Renaissance Revival. Well the last thing I remember was noting that the closets were set into the walls, and were virtually indistinguishable from the wall decor. Only keen eyes could make out the key hole, and the slight gap around the door. My eyes were keen, and I realized this guest room was also Alice’s intended dressing room.
In relationship to its surrounding landscape, the Breakers was a supreme figure, an immortal fortress palace. It existed with a sense of permanence and massive dominance. It imposed itself upon the elite neighborhood, and it had control of the Sea. Knowing that this castle mansion was intended only for Summer use, gives one a hint of the Vanderbilt magnitude that makes them American royalty.