Thanksgiving Poetry

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Jeff’s Odd Destinations: Valley of the Moon

Valley of the Moon

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image from yelp.org

First order of business, I have an important announcement to make. After much thought I have decided that “Jeff’s Eccentric People, Places and Things,” has to awkward a title. While I am pleased with how my work is coming out I decided to go with a different name. While “Eccentric Person of the Month,”  and “Unusual Place of the Month,” my old titles from the Seeds’ Newsletter have been suggested  I decided on “Jeff’s Odd Destinations” and “Jeff’s Gallery”

Now for a very special trip today, I take you on a very mysterious journey to a land of wonder and imagination. To Tucson Arizona’s mystic and mysterious Valley of the Moon. For over eighty years this strange land has enchanted children of all ages. Its story begins with the coming of the Mountain Gnome, George Phar Legler. Born in Evansville, Indiana somewhere between 1884 and 1887, George was a former post office clerk who was forced into an early retirement due to an automobile accident. He was also a spiritualist and believer in fairies. He moved to Arizona around 1917 and bought the 2.25 acres that soon became his life’s work. Nearby lived a clergyman whose teenage daughter was dying of tuberculosis. George created a little mountain scene with a waterfall and a bathtub lake just outside her window. She could leave her room and explore the serene landscape with her imagination. When she died George comforted her mother by telling her she had moved to the spirit world where she would live forever now. He found his life calling and expanded on the small landscape and started building the Valley in 1923.

 

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image from tucsonvalleyofthemoon.com

 

With the help of friends, family and locals George Legler constructed his “secret” fairyland and wild animal sanctuary, opening up officially in 1926 and full of homemade rock decorations, buildings and sculptures of wonder opening to the public . George lived on the property giving tours, telling stories and performing magic tricks as the Mountain Gnome. During the Valley’s original run it did not allow boys in-between the ages of 12 to 21 as visitors in because George thought that they would upset the fairies for not believing or being imaginative for the “magic” to work. The Valley was open until 1963. George would live by himself in his now abandoned fairyland until 1971, when he got an unexpected surprise visit from a group of High Schoolers. While the park never officially closed, visitors were coming less and less. The Valley was falling into disrepair due to vandals and George’s health was failing due to his age.

 

The boys apparently thought they all shared the same dream of a friendly gnome. Apparently they decided it was no dream and went on a quest to find an almost forgotten part of their childhood, climbed over the fence and rediscovered the Valley. While George at first thought they were vandals, the Mountain Gnome gave them an over two hour tour and told them that they were welcome back any time. The boys later formed the Valley of the Moon Restoration Association (VOMRA) now called the George Phar Legler Society (GPLS). The Valley of the Moon was listed on the Arizona Historic Places Register in 1975 and George was awarded the Tucson Outstanding Citizen Award a year before he died in 1982 around age 95. It is also an official National register of Historic Places under Pima County in 2011 and a Historic Landmark for the city as of 2016. The Valley is now owned mainly by the GPLS and partly by the Boy and Girl Scouts of America.

image from http://tucsonsbirthday.blogspot.com

Now, I have never been to the Valley of the Moon (yet) so I can only judge from what I have read and studied but the park contains a large number of statues and buildings made from scraps of old toys, and junk George found and put together. This includes the Wizard’s Tower, a bridge, a cave, a homemade pond and an artificial flower garden. In 2008 a number of sculptures were added from closed down mini golf course named Magic Carpet Golf now a car dealership. A house that a friend of George Legler helped build in the Valley became a storage room for props and costumes stood on the site but burned down not too long ago. Today the park is kept by members of the GPLS and volunteers. I don’t know if it is still an animal sanctum however.

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image from flicker.com

 

The Valley of the Moon is open on the first Saturday of every month for free and paid for visits are on special occasions and holidays. As well, exploring the Fairyland of the Desert shows are performed by members of the GPLS, many with the audience participating. You can find more information about the Valley of the Moon, George Legler, and helping to keep the wonder and magic alive at the website www.tucsonvalleyofthemoon.com. The Valley is at 2544 E. Allen Rd. Tucson AZ and can be contacted at 520-323-1331 and valleymoon1@yahoo.com.

Keri’s Hawaii Trip

Keri used to be very shy, but SEEDs for Autism has helped her build confidence and improve her social skills. At SEEDs, Keri enjoys creating beautiful, hand-crafted items using ceramics and wood and she is also a regular contributor to this blog. Here, Keri shares experiences from her wonderful trip to Hawaii. (Ed.)

Hello my name is Keri I went to Hawaii for 6 days. It was really green and tropical. I went to one Island it was called Oahu. I chose that Island because it had a lot of activities to do. I went to a couple of different places. I went snorkeling at Hanauma Bay and went on a helicopter ride too. On the helicopter ride we flew over the island. We flew over the Dole plantation and the world’s largest maze, too. We also saw a waterfall on the helicopter ride. Also, we went to the famous Waikiki beach. Pearl Harbor was neat and we saw the Arizona Memorial. We went to the Cemetery of the Pacific were World War 2 veterans were buried.  We went to see the state capitol too. Also, we went to a luau and a dinner cruise too. For the dinner cruise we went on a Friday because if you go on a Friday you would see Fireworks where they set them off at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.  It was really beautiful scenery and breathtaking beaches.

JEFF’S ECCENTRIC PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS: EMPEROR NORTON

Image result for sparkletack.com emporer norton

image from sparkletack.com

Think that politicians are off their rocker? I don’t blame you. No Matter what political party you belong to, there is no argument that most have more than one screw loose. And if there is any city in USA that has plenty of loose screws that is none other than San Francisco. But probably never in the city’s history (or the American government’s) has there been a more eccentric or bizarre character than Joshua Norton, the first and still only Emperor of the United States of America

The Emperor was born in England somewhere between 1814 and 1819, but grew up in South Africa. Joshua Abraham Norton moved to the US in 1849 with about $40,000.00, a little over one million in today’s money, to his name to seek his fortune. After some successes in real estate, he tried to make a monopoly in the rice industry with unsuccessful results that ruined him. Probably embarrassed, he left San Francisco for a short time.

Then, on September 17 1859, he entered a number of articles to various city newspapers declaring himself the “Emperor of these United States,” and later “Protector of Mexico.” For the next 20 years he paraded around the city inspecting his “realm” and delivering his own brand of philosophy and wisdom to all who would listen in an old navy uniform with golden epaulettes, a worn out old saber, gifts from the local military fort, and often with a beaver hat with a peacock feather and a brass rosette. (see picture). The people however decided to play along with him, giving him real royal treatment and the imaginary monarch was genuinely loved and respected by his “subjects”.

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image from en.wikipedia.org

He was given free meals at restaurants, rides on the trolley, a reserved seat at theaters and city council, and had a yearly inspection of the Army post at the Presidio of San Francisco. He only accepted handouts if the giver gave them as taxes and had his own money printed that was jokingly used by local business and were great souvenirs for visitors. His Imperial residence was just a room in a boarding house that he lived in for free. He even stopped an anti-Chinese riot by standing between the groups and recited the Lord’s Prayer. Another interesting event of his “reign” was when a police officer actually attempted to arrest him and send him to an asylum. The people were outraged and demanded that their Emperor Norton be released. The chief of police complied, issued a formal apology and had the police force salute the Emperor whenever he was present. His Highness saved the embarrassed policeman’s job by issuing an Imperial Pardon for the man who arrested him. He also printed a number of decrees, often printed in the city’s newspapers, demanding things like disbanding the Republican and Democrat parties, creating a League of Nations and even was a leading supporter of building the San Francisco-Oakland Bridge, a command finally obeyed long after the Emperor’s death, starting in 1933 and completed in 1936.

Some fascinating rumors spread around Emperor Norton during his “rule.” There was some talk that he sent a letter to Queen Victoria of the British Empire, asking for her hand in marriage. Some also said that he was the son of Napoleon III although Norton never claimed that, (and Louis Napoleon would still be a kid when Joshua Norton was born). Other people said that he was secretly still rich and only faked insanity. He is reported to have met a real emperor, Pedro II of Brazil when the South American monarch made a visit to the US and really did write to Queen Victoria, though I doubt she wrote back. On his way to a lecture at the California Academy of Science, His Majesty fell from a stroke and died on January 8 1880. His funeral had about 30,000 mourners and even a three gun salute. In 1934 a new tombstone was placed on his grave that said: Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.

The Emperor Norton remains a figure admired, laughed at and laughed with in American lore and San Francisco culture. He has inspired characters or appeared as a character himself in books, comics, role-play games and musicals by various authors including Mark Twain, Christopher Moore, Neil Gaiman and Robert Anton Wilson. Several western and anthology television shows have done an episode on the American Emperor including “Bonanza.” There is a walking tour in the city called “Emperor Norton’s Fantastic San Francisco Time Machine” with a guide dressed and acting as Joshua A Norton. There is even a parody religion, Discordianism, that has him as a second class saint (first class is for fictional characters) and one of the oldest LGBT organizations, the International Imperial Court System, uses the Emperor as an inspiration. (Well it is San Francisco!) The founder, Josè Sarria, gave himself the title “the Widow Norton,” and is buried at foot of his hero’s grave.

Every January 8 in the city he once ruled celebrates Emperor Norton Day. In America’s capital of Eccentricity, he still reigns  as the King of Eccentrics and is still the only monarch of the United States of America.

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image from foundsf.org

What SEEDS means to me

What Seeds means to me

2/16: At the time of writing this I have been working at SEEDS FOR AUTISM for over a year. During this time I’ve come out of my shell a lot. In High School I was always the quiet person in class that wouldn’t talk anyone and no one would even try to talk to me. I did have a couple of friends from Middle and Elementary school that I would hang out with at lunch and on the bus, but we didn’t have any classes together. I secretly felt kind of lonely but was to afraid to actually talk to new people. After I graduated, my family took me to a job/program/school fair where SEEDS had a booth. It seemed interesting, so that summer I signed up for the summer program -and it was a lot of fun. I met some nice people who I became acquaintances with, but I still didn’t feel at home/comfortable yet. Then in December, I joined the official SEEDs program. I was still pretty nervous, until someone who also works at SEEDS said he remembered me from the summer program and welcomed me into the SEEDS family. I felt bad because I didn’t remember him.  After a while though we became good friends and still are. I started talking about similar interests, things that are on my mind, how life is going, and now I have many new friends! Now I feel like I can make friends, share what I have to say, and I am slightly more confident. I am now truly part of the SEEDS family!

5/25: Today I am leaving SEEDS, I still feel the same as I did when I wrote the paragraph above. I am leaving because SEEDS has given me confidence to follow a new opportunity. I will miss all of my friends and all of my instructors very much, but it’s time to move forward with my life, and SEEDS FOR AUTISM has given me the knowledge to do so successfully. I have learned skills and made things here that I never thought I would ever be able to. I am very grateful for SEEDS FOR AUTISM and everyone here for helping me with so much. The only thing I can say now is, thank you!

~Breanna D.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

~Nelson Mandela

My Favorite Department

My name is Matthew and my favorite department is Newsletter. In Newsletter I get to use my talent of making amazing stories and harness it into great blog posts. In Newsletter I learn to make cool titles with pictures. In Newsletter I’m free to write about what’s on my mind or what I write in my journals and I get a lot of support from Michele and my friends they are the first people in the world that like my stories and believe I could be a writer.