Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?

Newport, Rhode Island

You probably saw the commercial back in the 1980s. A man riding in a Rolls Royce pulls some mustard from the glove box and spreads it on some roast beef.

Another Rolls pulls alongside and the other guy says, "Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?"

Last week a man rolled down his window in Salt Lake City and asked another driver the question. In response, the second driver pulled out a large gun and replied, "Here's your %$*#@ grey poupon, you @#%%#@. Now roll up your %$*#@ window. Later the second driver was charged with assault (defined as a threat to commit bodily harm).

So we drove to Newport to see the famous mansions. These were built during America's gilded age, before income taxes, when being a millionaire used to mean something.

The first picture in this blog is a summer cottage called "The Breakers". It was built by Cornelius Vanderbilt and contains 138,000 square feet. The rooms are extremely ornate and were built in France and shipped over.

Cornelius was an interesting guy who borrowed his first $100 from his mother to buy a rowboat. He rowed people from Staten Island to Manhattan. He ended up with hundreds of steamships and dozens of railroads. His net worth was about $100 million when he died. Inflation adjusted, that's equivalent to $167 billion in 2007 dollars, considerably more than the net worth of Bill Gates, who currently is only number 20 in the list of wealthy people.

It was very fashionable to have a "cottage" here in Newport. The first to build were rich southern plantation owners, followed by Yankees who became rich in the Old China trade and, eventually the Vanderbilts and Astors.

I missed the street with the big mansions and eventually got rained out just when I figured out where they were. The little cottages here were built on some of the surrounding streets.

Richie Havens showed up again last week for the annual Newport Folk festival.
The Festival was started in 1959 by Theodore Bikel. Bob Dylan performed here in 1965 with a electric band and was widely booed by the purists. Havens went on to play a 3 1/2 hour set at Woodstock with seven encores. My first wife abandoned me in 1965 and drove to the Newport Folk Festival in my car with a bearded beatnik named Tully. She told me about Havens and Dylan and we dissolved our union soon after when I met Mrs. Phred.

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