We went out to look at stuff today. Old stuff. Like Teddy Roosevelt’s home. He wasn’t short of a few bob now was he? In fact loaded is the word. Riches beyond the dreams of avarice, although I draw the line at more money than sense because from what I’ve learned, the man teddy bears were named after definitely had sense.
Did you know, for example, that he was instrumental in resdributing the wealth from the so-called robber barons to the common folk? And did you know that he was responsible for America having National Parks today and thanks to him there is now twice as much forest as when he became president?
Our guide for the 30 minute tour delighted in telling us these historical gems. He also delighted in telling us about his military victories, his love of family, his freakin’ amazing art collection (better than the Guggenheim — my comment) and his love of conservation.
Do you know what conservation means, son? Spit that there chewing gum out! Yes, it means preserving stuff. And thanks to Mr Roosevelt’s propensity for hunting down every species under the sun, New York has the well-stocked museum of natural history that exists today.
Good on you, Ted! Where would we be without stuffed dead animals to tell us what the natural world looks like, eh?
Okay, cynicism aside, the Rooosevelt home up on Sagamore Hill was impressive. And so was this former President’s history and his contribution to so many aspects of the truly great nation that is the United States. However, our guide, one Jerry McClueless (name changed to protect the guilty) was sometimes not up to the same standard.
“I was a New York cop for 20 years and then a school teacher for 12 years,” he informed us. I pity the fool kids who were in his class. ‘An American through and through’ Jerry nevertheless couldn’t resist telling us about his Irish heritage (third generation — one further back than me) and how hard it all was.
Jerry, yep I’m gonna talk about ya because you really are an anachronism, full of half-truths about the past of both Teddy Roosevelt (who was great) and your good self (who was a bit of a bully and not so great).
Seriously, this is a cheap shot because Jerry was a very good guide; talkative and informative and entertaining. However, when you ask the question what was the greatest invention the English ever had, you might at least remember Alan Turing’s fore-runner to the computer, or Stevenson’s Rocket, or Newton’s theory of gravity.
England was the only (yes, that’s right folks — the ONLY) nation to ever industrialise from scratch but for Jerry, whose antecedents left Eire to be forgotten all those years ago, the joy of telling us about the inventor of the toilet being one Thomas Crapper superseded all of this. “England’s greatest export was the toilet!” Over and over again. Frankly, who cares?
No invention or discovery really exists without international cooperation and collaboration. My examples of imperial greatness above also have roots in other cultures, piracy and exploitation. Whittle’s jet engine would be pointless without the Wright brothers’ discovery of flight or Boeing’s commitment to aviation now. And Jerry was right about one thing — Oliver Cromwell was an internationally disgusting disaster, to say the least!
Okay, Jerry was right about a few things. Whatever. Today just made me remember that we are one group of human beings with many cultures all striving to move forwards on this tiny planet in the vastness of space. It really is specious to hold grudges from a past none of us had anything to do with. And that applies whether it was a generation or six generations (or more) back in time.
The past is another country, they do things differently there. Nevertheless, I’m off to celebrate St Patrick’s Day tomorrow. Why? Because tradition will always have a place in the modern world.
That and beer.