2010.03.24 The obscure details

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN
Obscura Day has come and gone. It never really came to this area, but it’s surely gone. However, there’s always next year.
One of those internet searches that takes you from place to place to place took me to Atlas Obscura a few weeks ago.
The website is described as a compendium of the world’s wonders, curiosities and esoterica. There might as well have been a note at the top of the page: “Hey, David Green, this is your sort of thing. Stop here!”
That’s right. It’s so much my sort of thing that, as I mentioned last week, I went to pay homage to the Atlas Obscura people when I was in New York City recently, only to discover that the “office” was someone’s apartment and that someone had moved away.
That was disappointing, but the odyssey took me to Grand Army Plaza, and for a boy from Morenci, that’s a world wonder.
When I think of curious esoterica, I’m reminded of one of my all-time favorite movies, “The English Patient,” and more specifically, of when Kip takes Hana to the dark church and winches her into the air with a rope harness he made. Upward she went, with a flaming flare in her hand to illuminate the artwork on the walls.
What an experience. That’s a guy to hang out with. He knows how to have a good time.
What is there around here to compare? I’ve walked the path along Bean Creek in the dark without a light. I’ve crawled under a railroad trestle while a train went overhead. I hunted the small mouth salamander alone in the dark with only a headlamp.
None of those experiences would make it into Atlas Obscura, but here’s one. Geocaching took me to Hillsdale County in search of the Silas Doty cave. This was the most astounding experience I’ve had in this area since I don’t know how long. I’m following a path, I take a turn to the left and it was as if I was instantly transported to a different part of the country.
The Silas Doty Cave will be on my agenda when I organize an Obscura Day event for Morenci. I wanted to participate last Saturday, but got hung up on what to include.
With the two-headed calf long gone, what do we have for our esoteric claim to fame?
Let me take you to the atlas for a moment. I’ll select “Take me to a random place” and see what comes up.
• The Owakudani Black Eggs: Legend holds that eating just one of these black eggs can add seven years to one’s life(Hakone, Japan).
• Mirny (Russia) Diamond Mine: The world’s second largest hole.
• Kelley’s Island (Ohio) Glacial Grooves:  Deep scars on the Earth left by the Ice Age.
• Mary Nohl House: A house and yard adorned with bizarre concrete sculptures in a Milwaukee suburb.
• Blythe Intaglios: Ancient human, animal and geometric figures drawn in the earth (Blythe, Calif.).
• Warther Museum: The spectacular collection of one of the world’s best woodcarvers (Dover, Ohio).
So you get the picture. There are some natural wonders, some oddities created by humans and some places that are just interesting to experience.
Because I failed to place Morenci in the Obscura Day lineup, I created a quick YouTube video showing the oddities in the Observer office. The monkey mask, the Robert Ritsema photo, the tube of Imperial Vitaflux for the Linotype, the printing plate showing Cosmic Curt, a handsome turtle shell, a news rack with the last edition of the Fayette Review, the amazing doughnuts that never disintegrate, a leaf from Woody Hibbard’s empress tree, bathroom art by Eric Wood, an official Taft Highway road sign from the 1930s, a collection of children’s toys, a bag of maple leaves used to conceal the Observer geocache, an autographed photo of Billy Joe DuPree (a fake?), great blue heron art piece with cattail seed background from my grandmother, and an old Pepsi bottle next to an old Seagram’s 7 bottle that must have helped some editor of the past make it through the week.

I’m accepting ideas for next year. Bill Lampe’s champion sycamore? The old pump station down the cemetery hill? Whatever happened to that two-headed calf?

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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