Christmas with Jesse James

Jesse James, jesse jamesChristmas can be a stressful time. In fact, statistics show that you’re more likely to have a heart attack on Christmas than any other day of the year. Hanging out with family too much can be hazardous to your health.

Some families, of course, are more hazardous than others. Most people don’t have the emotional baggage that Jesse James, Jr., did. He was the son of the famous outlaw but didn’t even know it until his dad was assassinated. He thought his name was Charlie Howard and his father was named Thomas.

Despite living under aliases, the James family couldn’t give Jesse Jr. or his sister Mary a normal upbringing. Junior’s earliest memory was of a gangmember shooting through the front door at a suspected prowler. They also moved a lot and were discouraged from playing with neighborhood children.

Junior was accustomed to his father going around heavily armed at all times. One Christmas while living in his father’s final home, which is now the Jesse James House Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri, Jesse decided to dress up like Santa Claus to surprise his children.

The outlaw came into the house dressed in a costume he had borrowed (not stolen) from a local church. Giving a cheery “ho ho ho” and bearing gifts and candy, he delighted his son and daughter. He asked if they had been good and Junior and Mary said they had. Santa then opened up the bag of goodies and the kids rummaged around inside. Junior felt a gun under the cloth and exclaimed that this wasn’t the real Saint Nick, but his father dressed up as Santa! Their mother then explained that Santa was very busy that year and Dad was helping him out.

So next time a family member embarrasses you at Christmas, at least be grateful they’re not packing heat.

For more stories of Jesse’s hijinks, check out my series: On the Trail of Jesse James.

[Photo courtesy Library of Congress]

An animated version of New York City shows a timeless quality

No matter how many ways New York City is depicted in film, there is always another view that offers a surprise. Here is a link to a video by New York artist and filmmaker Jeff Scher. He writes the blog The Animated Life for the New York Times. As he says about this particular 2:06 minutes of visual artistry he created in 1975, there is a timeless quality about New York.

What Scher made more than 30-years-ago looks similar to the essence of New York City today. That’s not true about many places.

A few years ago when I was on a six-hour walking tour of Cleveland, I thought about how that city had changed since the 1960s when the Terminal Tower was the 2nd tallest building in the world. It was the world that Ralphie of A Christmas Story went to on his visit to Santa Claus. Higbees where Ralphie gazed in the window at animated wonder has long closed. Downtown Cleveland on a Saturday morning along Euclid Ave. is not a crackling place. I really love Cleveland. I really do. I’d live there if I didn’t live here. But if you did a video 30-years-ago of Cleveland, it would not look the same as today’s version–at least not if you shot it downtown. Maybe it would, if you squinted and imagined people.

Scher’s vision of New York City is a jazzy rendition of a city that no matter what happens has a constancy that one can count on year after year. Jeremy is capturing much of it in his weekly series “Undiscovered New York.” Plus, Scher’s film is a cool art piece besides.

The photo is from another one of Scher’s blogs, Reasons to Be Glad. The blog has other shots of New York City that are examples of the variety of intersting angles out there.

A few years ago when I was on a six-hour walking tour of Cleveland, I thought about how that city had changed since the 1960s when the Terminal Towers was the 2nd tallest building in the world. It was the world that Ralphie of the movie A Christmas Story went to on his visit to Santa Claus. Higbees where Ralphie gazed in the window at animated wonder has long closed. Downtown Cleveland on a Saturday morning along Euclid Ave. is not a crackling place. I really love Cleveland. I really do. I’d live there if I didn’t live here. But if you did a video 30 years ago of Cleveland, it would not look the same as today’s version–at least not if you shot it downtown.

Scher’s vision of New York City is a jazzy rendition of a city that no matter what happens has a constancy that one can count on year after year. Plus, it’s a cool art piece besides. The photo of a bus and a taxi is another Scher creation and a feature of his blog “Reasons to Be Glad”.