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Historic Harrisburg Home Tour another great success

Thank you to Historic Harrisburg.

Their annual home tour was once again a lot of fun. We get to walk around in the winter time’s crisp air, with a lot of interesting and friendly people. All of us care about our community, which is important. The homes are always interesting, and many are spectacular. The hosts are always gracious, sometimes with the aid of a glass of wine, or sometimes a bottle or two.

One thing that bears repeating from past posts about these tours is kudos to Alex Hartzler, who has invested in Harrisburg’s re-development for umpteen years. His effort has been as an investor expecting a return, yes, but let’s face it, his WCI Partners faces an uphill task. There is a lot of risk, and the possibility of very little ROI, if any. And yet they go house by house, block by obliterated, abandoned block, and breathe life into Pennsylvania’s capital city.

Another fact worth repeating from previous blog posts here is the important role of gay people, mostly gay men, in gentrification and the slow reclamation of abandoned neighborhoods everywhere, not the least of which are here in Harrisburg.

You have issues with gay people? OK, you are entitled to those feelings, as sexuality really is a private matter. And if your views are Biblical, as are mine, then again, you and I are entitled to our Biblical views on human activity. That said, in my practical observation gay men are an incredible force for economic development and neighborhood renewal, which are good things in my experience and in my view. And they make fantastic, fabulous neighbors. They tend to be neat, kind, friendly, law abiding, all of which are desirable qualities in a neighbor.

In fact, let’s face it, I am downright envious of gay men: They get to spend all their money and time on themselves.

And in that spending process they are helping rebuild Harrisburg into a prosperous and safe community. So I say Thank you, neighbors; I really do not care about your private lifestyle, and I really do appreciate your investment in my neighborhood and community. Everyone have a wonderful holiday season and a successful 2019.

Here are some photos from our tour.

A reclaimed row home in Mid-Town. 100 years ago, these homes were built of strong and attractive materials, with neat designs. These attributes are being re-discovered and appreciated by many Americans seeking close and walking communities.

My “Princess of Patience” in the Levine home in Uptown. What a woman. Until I returned from the mountains, she had been a hunting widow for many weeks.

This is why I will never have my home on the Historic Harrisburg tour: I would have to meticulously clean my lawn. Thank you to Ray Davis for making his home open.

Yay, it’s county fair season

No matter where you live, it is county fair season.

County fairs everywhere are celebrations of community, family, simple pleasures, and simple, easy fun. That fun usually includes eating really naughty, high-fat, high-carb, high sugar food you would never, ever eat any other time of the year, like funnel cakes.

Yum!

If you get the powdered sugar on your funnel cake, don’t take it on a ride until you’ve eaten it, or you will have a white powder imprint of the funnel cake on your face or shirt. Guarantee it. The small-town carnival machines populating county fairs everywhere specialize in jerky motions to entertain the riders, and those jerky motions always catch people unaware, shoving their food right back into their face or chest.

The fresh smell of farm animals there for show mingles with the smells of the fried food, and it is an acquired taste of a smell, I must say.

Last night I was at the Perry County Fair, which I have gone to for years, out near Newport.

Volunteering at the Duncannon Sportsmen booth is a lot of fun, because I get to interact with the happy public, as they good-naturedly try their hands at small games of chance for a non-profit, educational purpose (the club). Such as, when a little kid lines up the little plastic crossbow loaded with the plastic dart, getting them to shoot it at one of the club members’ hat, instead of the deer target that will win them a soft (“plush”) toy. Laughs all around, as the club members good-naturedly take the abuse. The kid gets the toy anyhow.

One thing we are missing is a dunking pool. I’ll work on that for next year, because there are several guys I just really want to see get wet, in public. And no doubt, we could raise a lot of money with a dunking pool. The Duncannon Sportsmen money goes right back into Perry County, like local 4-H, Boy Scouts troops, volunteer fire and ambulance crews, etc. As my folks would say, the money is just making the rounds, going from one hand to another to another and eventually it finds its way right back to where it started. That right there is the essence of community, ‘all in this together’.

And that is probably my biggest enjoyment of local county fairs, including the Gratz Fair in northern Dauphin County, where I live: The sense of community, the ties that bind us all together. In a time of really fractious political rancor, pushed by the establishment media more than anyone (I mean gosh, have you noticed how all the mainstream media outlets have the same exact message, which is 97% hyperventilating and aggressively negative about President Trump, all the time?), isn’t it nice to get a breath of fresh air and hang out with your fellow citizens in an environment of fun and relaxation, away from all that noise?

County fairs are like a big family picnic, where long-lost cousins show up once a year. Friendly people you wouldn’t otherwise see or interact with, but now you do, and you enjoy it, because people are neat. And at county fairs, everyone just wants to have a fun time.

I like that.

 

Historic Harrisburg gets an A+

Annually, in mid-December, Historic Harrisburg arranges a tour of historic homes around the city.

In the interest of showcasing our wonderful city, participating private citizens open the doors to their homes to utter strangers, who, for the modest price of the ticket, can walk through at their leisure.

Yes, there are docents, volunteers who stand guard over privacy and valuables, but nevertheless, strangers in abundance are in your home. Homeowners exhibit grace and panache, some swilling their umpteenth glass of wine, yes, but they maintain decorum and patience through a six-hour tour that would put me over the edge within an hour. Maybe less. Well, for sure less.

It’s an impressive commitment to place and pride in community displayed by these homeowners. In fact, the tour is a big statement about the sense of close, shared community we all share here in Harrisburg. Although I have lived in a bunch of different places, I have never seen anything like this tour, or this shared sense of belonging. Again: Absolute strangers are in your home, hundreds of them, and it works really well. It is an unusual arrangement. I like it.

Today’s tour was of homes mostly in Bellevue Park, a grand island of landscaping, natural contours, natural areas, and spectacular homes. My grandparents built a beautiful home in Bellevue Park many many decades ago, and I grew up going there for holidays. Summer visits involved playing in the large in-ground pool with my cousins and eating huge amounts of delicious food prepared by our grandmother, Jane. Winter holidays involved eating huge amounts of delicious food prepared by our grandmother, Jane, and then walking it all off around the park, followed up with playing pool in the basement.

My memories of Bellevue Park are long, distant, and misty-eyed. My grandparents were loving people, and we kids felt their love. Oh, how one longs for the simpler days of youth, with innocence and guileless smiles, statements of affection truly meant. Being in Bellevue Park today was like taking a time machine trip back 40 years. In a way, today’s tour was an expression of the same guileless, innocent sharing that we had as kids, but today was between and among adults and families who have previously never met one another.

Trust is the by-word for today’s Historic Harrisburg tour.

As it turns out, many of the older residents whom I met today recalled my family, and recounted trips they had taken with them, pool parties they had enjoyed there, John Harris High School events and teams they had played in together, and political events where the pool evoked then-fresh images of “Mrs. Robinson” and her lifestyle. And I met quite a few former colleagues and acquaintances, themselves taking stock of these updated homes for their own renovation plans, or providing valuable assistance as volunteer docents.

Isn’t that something. Community may always be where you find it, but one place it never disappeared from is Bellevue Park, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. One other similar historic neighborhood I have seen is Squirrel Hill, in Pittsburgh.

It is also important to recognize the many gay men and couples who have ventured further out of the city’s center to bring revitalization to some of the park’s older homes. If there is a ‘down’ side to tolerance, it is that gays are moving ever farther from the urban cores where they have traditionally played a pivotal and leading role in the fight against urban blight by rehabilitating decayed neighborhoods. Now, gays are recognized as exemplary and desirable neighbors in traditional family areas; their colorful sense of style and personal flourishes are valuable, and are just not going to be replicated by anyone else. Surely not by me or my fellow knuckledraggers. Bellevue Park is now home to a large number of gay men. I won’t say it is a gay community, because it is not. It is simply a community with many gay people in it, and it is a great place as a result.

Thank you and an A+ to Historic Harrisburg for a fine afternoon well spent with my wife, who doted on every kitchen, every light fixture, every antique stained glass window, who relished meeting every single person today, and who left the going ga-ga over the omnipresent quartersawn oak all to me. Yes, there was tons of beautiful quartersawn oak in every home. That is pretty much all I remember. Oh, that and the old friends.

Burst pipes? You were in good company

Ten days ago, weather across the country was bitterly cold. Polar vortex, solar lull, regular winter weather…seems there’s a bunch of possible causes. One defining characteristic of that week-long deep freeze was the amount of burst pipes across the country, and around central Pennsylvania. Our home had burst pipes, and a property I manage had burst pipes, and the plumbers at both jobs told me they had spent days from six in the morning until late at night working on nothing but burst pipes. The big box stores were either short on or out of key plumbing components, which caused further delays in getting homes and businesses functioning again.

Which is all to say, I have never heard so many creative reports about where families washed their clothes and dishes. Many went to neighbors, friends, or nearby families. Some went to churches. Some used water from nearby creeks. As damaging as that freeze was, it only bolstered people’s spirit and resolve to carry on, and it cemented a feeling of community and caring among many people who normally just say “Hi” to each other coming home from work.

I found that refreshing.