Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Grant US an Entrance

Stephen Miller, the obituary writer for the WSJ, goes by the Twitter handle @obitsman. Mr. Miller is well known for his craft, but the WSJ really only presents one opportunity, daily at best, to show off his skill. And this is generally confined to a business-type personality who has passed away. Occasionally, the complete oddball can find its way to the page, but it is not often.

Mr. Miller does his best to inform the world about others who have left us, and he does this via Twitter. The other day he informed us that U.S. Grant V, the president's great-grandson had passed away at 90, survived by others, but notably by U.S. Grant VI.

Talk about a dynasty! An unbroken chain of male heirs with the name U.S. Grant should assure the first Grant's presence on the $50 bill for eternity.

Fifties are my favorite bill. There is a special place in my heart for fifties. I only get them when I've been moderately successful at the racetrack and the payout from a bet warrants receiving at least one of them. Thus, fifties can only remind me of winning. Never mind that they get applied to a lunch or dinner tab, or suffer damage when reduced by another bet that goes south. They are the best thing to have in your pocket.

I once used a fifty to pay part of an outpatient deductible in cash as I was leaving an ER very late one night. I nearly cried. The reminder of my winning was disappearing. Fifties should not be used for health care. Ever.

Which of course brings me to what Mr. Miller's Tweet reminded me of. We already know something always reminds me of something, and U.S. Grant I-VI is no exception.

One of the more memorable side trips I ever made on a Tuesday when there is no racing at Saratoga was to take in Grant's summer cottage at Mount McGregor.

The Adirondack summer cottage, for some quirky reason known only to a land surveyor, literally sits inside an active miminum security prison's perimeter. You can get to the cottage without much trouble, but you are supposed to stop at the guard house and tell them you want to visit the cottage. My friend was driving and I neglected to tell him to do this. (Actually, I think he didn't listen.)

He didn't see anyone in the booth (the place is not Disney World) and didn't speed through, but did proceed through without stopping. We followed the signs and soon encountered a police car blocking the road to the cottage. One very annoyed, armed corrections officer got out and basically asked what did we think we were doing.

I don't remember if we had to get out of the vehicle, but it was no time to crack wise. I knew something was omitted from our entrance.

It didn't take much explaining, and we didn't have to open the trunk to convince him we weren't bringing in weapons, so we got to proceed after only suffering some very glaring looks.

The summer cottage is of course a museum and is where Grant died shortly after completing his memoirs. They stopped the clock in the parlor when he took his last breath, having succumbed to cancer, I believe.

Moral? Stop at the booth and tell them you'd like to see the cottage. Be patient. Wait for further instructions. Buy souvenirs.

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