Wednesday, August 6

The Family Business

Star Binding And Printing
We visit Star Binding & Printing, the company founded by my Great-Grandfather Salomon and Grandfather Jacob Orenstein.  Star Binding pulled my family into America's middle classes.

During the Second World War the company provided bindings for US military uniforms (military issue hats and trousers) and today continues to mfr bindings for hats and in-seam decals, where it is the largest in the US.

"Star Binding  Manufacturing Co. was acquired in around 1914 by Salomon Orenstein and his son Jacob. A few years later they were joined by George Zatlin who was married to Jake’s sister. Georges’ son Philip joined the firm after serving in World War II. In 1979, Philip’s son Stuart joined the company and the two run the company to this day.  Star Printing Company began as an in house printing company independent in 1926. Star Printing shares a single story building with Star Binding in the old automotive district of St Louis."
--From the website

MO in 24

Cousins Di Di and Devon
We touch the Missouri River and the Mississippi River in the same day, pretty cool, and now it is St Louis.

We visit Moe's side of the family and cousin Di Di organises a re union at Aunt Ida's Jewish retirement home (next to a Chinese restaurant, of course) which includes Liebermans and Orensteins and Seniors. Ida is 103 years old and sharp - she recalls everybody's face and where they are on the family tree. A highlight is Joy's photo album which takes us back to the 1920s.

Moe's cousin and childhood pal Al is with his wife Alice, a freshman at University City High School when Moe was a Senior. This area was predominantly Jewish until the '70s and so where my Orthodox great-grandfather Horen landed in the late 19th century, speaking only yiddish (Joy tells us). Horen left Russia to escape the pograms of the 1890s and entered America via Ellis Island. Alice tells me Moe was school President, and "very important and so handsome. We all looked up to him."

Devon is a great kid (head connected to electronic toy) and son of Shavon and Danny, who was adopted by Joy and Larry in '72, before mixed adoptions were stopped (says Joy). Danny is 6'4" and Joy 4'11".  Shavon is from Oakland and, remarkably, was a Freshman at Berkeley High School when I was a Senior, though we did not know each other.

Me: "What do you think of the Liebermans ?"
Madeleine: "Huh?"
Me: "Did you know that you had all these Jewish relatives in St Louis?"
Madeleine: "No."
Me: Pretty cool."
Madeleine: "Yep."
The Jew Crew

Sunday, August 3

Kansas City Missouri

A boy in transition
We pull in to Kansas City and decamp at the hotel, which means clothes and debris everywhere.

Sonnet meets her ancient dear friend Kevin, who drives to us from St Louis.  Kevin and Sonnet worked together at I. Magnin in San Francisco in those post college days when life was but a goof. These are the best friendships.

I have the Shakespeares solo so we go for a bike ride along the Missouri River, swim at the hotel pool then, treat-of-treats, Arthur Bryant's BBQ for dinner, the best in Kansas City and anywhere (says Calvin Trillin : "the single best restaurant in the world"). Barak Obama lunched here three days ago. Sonnet and I at Bryant's in 1997 when driving across the country and not much has changed - it has cleaned up a bit perhaps but the pulled pork as good as it ever was. The kids share a full rack of ribs and a plate of fries, washed down with lemonade. It's a restaurant without pretencion , where everybody enjoying themselves, and beats any of London's Michelin stars, hands down.

Grain Storage

Route 96
Today, back to Interstate 70 East (known as the Eisenhower Truman Highway, at least in Kansas).  We visit the Eisenhower Museum and Memorial and the Eisenhower National Library in Abeline, KA, in 45 minutes, including lunch. Sonnet runs a tight ship.

Abeline, where Eisenhower raised, a dust bowl town with maybe 5,000 people but, man, every child here believes he can be President.

Eitan patiently eats his melted RussellStover chocolates in the back seat, slowly peeling the crinkly wrap from the liquefied chocolate. Madeleine: “That is disgusting.”

Spotted from the road :
“Free Wine Tasting”, Prairie Fire Winery
“Brown v Board of Education Historic Site (Topeka)

“Wild Wild West, Gentleman’s Club, Exit 250”

“Welcome to Lindborg, Kansas, America’s Little Sweden.”

Kansas State University : International Research Facility and Five Times Men’s Basketball Champions. 

Sonnet: “Well, that was Topeka.” [Dad's note: Topeka is the capital of Kansas and we went through it in 5 minutes, 65 mph]


It's agriculture
We depart Montrose saying our sad good-byes to Stan, who takes it stoicly : “Now I can have some peace and quiet back”. The kids sit quietly in the back as we pull away honking the horn one last time.

Today’s route : Montrose, HW 50 to 96 at Pueblo then to Route 40 to 25 North, where we spend the night in Colby, KA, “the oasis in the plains.” It's hard driving, about 8 hours in all, without much to look at, other than the corn fields and blue skies.

Museums : Salida Museum of Local History (Salida, CO), Fort Wallace Museum (near the Fort Wallace, CO, cemetery); Prairie Museum of Art and history (Rte 40, KA); High Plains Museum, Colby, KA; Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Kansas State University, Hays, KA; Czech Museum and Opera House (Wilson, KA); Eisenhower Presidential Library, Albine, KA); Kansas Motorcycle Museum, Minneapolis, KA; Smokey Hill Museum and the Salina Art Center, Salina, KA

An Interlude

Stan's turkey
Stan is plagued by the neighbour's turkey and two chickens, who wander into the house if a door left open. The kids love them of course.

And Now For Some More Sandstone

Dead Horse Point
The Colorado River does its work. The oldest strata, the Cutler Formation, closest to the brown red water, deposited during the Permian Period from 275 to 250 million years ago.

Eitan wraps up football camp with the Montrose Indians, which is the pre screen for Montrose high school football team.  Coach is a soccer guy, ex athlete, and enthusiastic in a way that American coaches are meant to be: everybody above average and each kid deserves a chance to play. Eitan sniffs at the quality at first then fits right in. As an aside,  Coach say the colleges recruit from the academies where prospects may play 80 or 90 games a year+the high school season "It's all about touch time", Coach adds.

Stan gives a toast in front of 50 of his friends: “Eitan, who is your favorite football team?”
Eitan, pause: “The Montrose Indians.”
Me, aside: “Nice one kid. You’re learning how to play ‘adult’ “

A Natural Bridge

Natural Arch
The Natural Arch and Bridge Society, which does indeed exist, opines that Landscape Arch is the longest natural arch in the world, having measured the span in 2004 at 290 feet or slightly longer than a measurement made by the Society in 2006 of Kolog Arch in Zion. Give or take.

Since 1991, three slabs of sandstone measuring 30, 47, and 70 feet long have fallen from the thinnest section of the arch forcing the park to close the trail that once went underneath.

Madeleine and I walk the 1.5 miles to National Arch without spying Davey Jones. 

Friday, August 1

Arches National Park

Davils Garden, sunset

Madeleine and I road trip to Moab, mano-a-chica.

Me, inside Arches as the sun sets: "Have you ever heard the story of Davey Jones?"
Madeleine: "No. Who's he?"
Me: "Well, Davey was a friend of mine when I was a little younger than you, living on San Ramon. They say he was murdered in Arches. Not too far from here, in fact."
Madeleine: "Yeah, right Dad."
Me: "The funny thing is, they never found his body."
Madeleine: "That's not funny."
Me: "It was a long time ago. They know he was in the park because they found his backpack. It included his journal, when he wrote about his horrible end."
Madeleine: "You're scaring me."
Me: "They think his throat was cut but no one knows for sure. Now, people say, the killer is still at large, maybe even here tonight watching us. From his journal, we know Davey was stalked before his death."
Madeleine: "I don't believe you."
Me: "If you want, we can go see the markings in the stone. Where his finger nails scraped away the rock as he struggled to escape. It's only about a mile from here, I'll show you."
Madeleine: "No way am I going there."
Me: "Just make sure we aren't separated. They never did find Davey Jones' killer."
Madeleine: "Can we just go now?"

Davey Jones was a friend of mine before they went and slit his throat.
Davey Jones was a friend of mine before they went and slit his throat.
The blood flowed from his neck sweeter than the reddest wine.
Davey Jones was a friend of mine and now he's living with the swine, oh yeah, and now he's living with the swine.
--Sung to "Her Majesty" by The Beatles