Monday, February 29, 2016

...a bent fence...

I usually visit graveyards and cemeteries and then research to find out about the folks who reside there. Aside from battlefields, I rarely knowingly visit a place where someone has actually died. Sunday, along with other members of the RVA Horror Book Club, I visited the place where a man lost his life… a place so lovely that when walking by we tend to look up to the building's grand appearance and easily overlook a bent spear in a decorative fence. 

If you look up, you can see the window where a man named Colonel J. M. Winstead of Winston, North Carolina who was a highly esteemed banker and businessman fell to his death landing on the fence.
On August 23, 1894, Winstead climbed the steps of the Old City Hall clock tower. From there, he fell from the window being impaled on the spiked cast iron fence below the building.

There appears to be a great deal of speculations about whether Winstead jumped, fell, or was pushed out the window.  Some jump to conclusions (oy, that's a bad unintentional pun which I'll leave) that the distance of a jump, a fall, or even a push would land Winstead at various distances from the building.

 One site reports,  

Willie Dunsford, who was standing on the corner of Tenth and Broad streets, happened to look up at the clock tower and provided the most exact description of Winstead’s end to a Richmond Dispatch reporter.  Dunsford said he saw Winstead discard shoes, hat and cane, “then stand up on the railing of the balcony, bend over a little, and jump off headlong toward the ground.” No matter what caused it, witnesses to the aftermath who happened to be on Broad Street that day all agreed they would never forget “the disheartening sight” of Col. Winstead’s gory end on the cast iron fencing of City Hall.

Would Winstead take a dive from the building?

Have you ever heard that really it isn’t the feeling of falling that people fear when they’re in a high place such as a clock tower or bridge, but it is the fear of jumping? “No, no, no, I’m not going to kill myself,” you mutter. In fact, research shows that “high place phenomenon” or HPP actually stems from “a misinterpreted safety signal” and is not associated with suicidal tendencies.

Winsted’s body was returned to North Carolina where there was funeral at Greensboro’s Green Hill cemetery the evening after the day of his fall. 

His friends at the funeral loyally maintained that Winstead’s hat blew off, and it was his attempt to catch his hat, not suicide, that caused his death.

One of the saddest parts of this story is not Winstead’s death, which is pretty sad itself, and it is not that at the time customers of his bank in North Carolina immediately went to withdraw their money assuming that Winstead’s “suicide” indicated some type of scandal or financial problems.  That turns out to be unfounded. The saddest part of this story is that Winstead’s gravestone is so rubbed away that it can hardly be read. Without the bent fence as gruesome as it may seem, I would not even be thinking about Winstead nor would most others.  

The next time that you see a slight bend in an fence, you may just wonder what happened to cause it.  And, you may even remember the story of Colonel J. M. Winstead.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

..."I'm glad you're not dead"...

"The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything
is 42."
~ The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

I have hated birthdays since the age of 16 not because I disliked getting old but because each passing year marks a new distance of time from when everything was innocent and my friends were alive. I’m often melancholy and perhaps a bit dramatic about it. Today is different. Where has the time gone? Wasn’t I just 19, 25, 32, 39…? It’s an odd feeling to consider time passing. I was probably the only in my circle of friends who couldn’t wait to be 35 but now…. If I double my age, I’m 84. Good lord. New wrinkles on my forehead but they really don’t bother me in the way they bother some. But I notice them because I look different… now, even to me I look a bit different.

I don’t like to be wished “Happy Birthday” by the masses especially on social media so I don’t make my birthday available on Facebook. Is "Happy Birthday" really a wish or is it more a threat- "you should have a happy birthday"... what if I want to just have a birthday? I have a broken tooth; I have a ton of crap that I need to take care of... I really just want to have a nice day without feeling pressured to. I thought about it today and I much prefer the phrase, “I’m glad you’re not dead” because isn’t that the alternative? I don’t want to be dead. I want to live to be an old lady; I want to be 88 like the fortune-teller in my 20s told me I would be one day.

I woke with my nerdy fella announcing, "The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42!" 

So why 42? In the 90s, Adams revealed 

“The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought '42 will do'.”

I like the idea that he stared out into his garden.

Last night my fella and I went to dinner. We gift time… and at 42 (dramatically said) that’s pretty important ;) Anyway, I bought a new dress. Actually, I bought two new dresses but here's the one that I wore to dinner.

This morning I head to brunch with my Babushka. I made her order the chicken and waffle-wich because the name was funny. I ordered the French toast.

I visited my favorite jewelry necromancer and bought a necklace where I can place my broken tooth. It's so dainty and sweet and even has diamonds! I can't wait until someone says, "That's a lovely necklace. What's inside?" Hee hee

This afternoon was one of my favorite monthly activities… Horror Book Club! I adore them. The club is filled with folks from various backgrounds with various tastes in horror. I wanted to grow as a reader and have a group with whom I could actually discuss great and not-so-great works. This is the best book club I've ever been in. Among other things, some of which I’ll share in later posts, I grumbled about not caring for the “Happy Birthday” wishes. Because they are who they are, wonderful people indeed, as I left the book club, they shouted, “I’m glad you’re not dead!”

Yeah, 42 will do.