Month: February 2005

Saint Valentine’s Day – The backstory

The story of how Valentine’s Day came to be is one filled with intrigue, oppression, justice and–most importantly–prison love. First and foremost, it’s not just Valentine’s Day … it is Saint Valentine’s Day, a day to remember and reflect upon on the Saint. It is his day after all. Don’t you see the apostrophe?

Second, who was this exalted one? The Catholic church recognizes three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all martyred. Barring the true Saint Valentine finally stepping forward, however, we’ll do what mythology makers have been doing since the beginning of time: blend all of them together and embellish. It makes for a juicier story that way.

Once upon a time, a Christian priest named Valentine lived in Rome during the third century. He was a happy, jolly priest (that part we made up, we really don’t know) but he defied Emporer Claudius II’s decree that all marriage be outlawed. Claudius, you see, believed single men made for better soldiers–nothing to tie them to home. But old Val thought it unfair and unjust. He secretly performed marriage ceremonies for couples, presumably heterosexual, but it was third century Rome so we may be wrong. He may have also been involved in helping Christians escape Roman prisons. Needless to say, he was eventually caught, which brings us to the prison.

While in jail, lovers came to Valentine’s window to be blessed and toss notes to him through his window. He may also have healed the jailer’s daughter who was blind (a necessary miracle needed to become a Catholic saint), or fallen in love with her (something priests to this day still do with children). Upon the eve of his death, he wrote a letter to the jailer’s daughter, which said, “from your Valentine.” It was most likely in Latin, and definitely not written on a SpongeBob SquarePants fold-over.

Some say Valentine was beheaded, others that he died of natural causes in prison(if you can say starvation is natural). Whichever true, his official death happened on February 14, 270 A.D.

Flash forward 226 years to when Pope Gelasius set aside February 14 to honor the Saint of romance. But the story doesn’t end there. There are always politics invoved when setting aside special days. and the fifth century was no exception. The Catholic church was in a heavy recruitment phase at the time and needed to give those pesky pagans reasons to switch over their gods and fill the pews.

“Hmmm,” thought Gelasius, “What pagan holiday falls in the middle of February? Why the Lupercalia festival of course!”

February 15 was the traditional pagan fertility festival, dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. The ritual for the holiday started with sacrificing goats and cutting bloody strips of hide off (called a febratio, which became February). Then the young men went crazy running through the streets and fields slapping women with the bloody febratios. The ladies liked this (who wouldn’t?) because it was supposed to ensure their fertility in the coming year. Later that day these ladies would put their name in a big urn in the middle of the city and eligible bachelors would draw their romantic partners for the upcoming year. Some historical accounts even called the festival a big “orgy.” Good times. It is believed that the Pope decided it was un-Christian to sanction these romantic pairings and this pagan holiday, hence the creation of a segue holiday, to celebrate romance and monogamy in a happy Christian-like manner.

The tradition of drawing names did carry on for quite some time though. Young men and women in the middle ages drew names to see who their Valentines would be. They would wear these names on their sleeves for a period of time after the festival. Today to “wear your heart on your sleeve” means that it is easy for other people to know how you are feeling. If you literally did this today people would file restraining orders against you.

Valentine’s body was said to be “found” by the church in1836 and given to an Irish priest by the Pope. Actually, many of the Saint’s parts have been found and bequeathed across the Catholic empire to give the pious something to reflect upon. Saint Valentine’s body now allegedly resides in Whitefriar Church in Dublin, Ireland. His heart, however, may be in Scotland and other delicate parts may still be in Italy.

Something’s smelly in Loveville 

A cynic’s view of Valentine’s Day.

You love her, but she loves him

And he loves somebody else, you just can’t win

And so it goes, ’til the day you die

This thing they call love, it’s gonna make you cry

I’ve had the blues, the reds and the pinks

One thing’s for sure … Love stinks

–J. Geils Band

Valentine’s, Schmalentine’s. Despite the statistic that over 74 percent of Americans claim to celebrate Valentine’s Day, how can they call it a holiday? You don’t get the day off like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Heck, even banks and schools close for the newest holiday–Martin Luther King’s Day. Valentine’s the Western (i.e. Christian) world’s third oldest holiday still around–right behind some prophet’s birth and death. That has got to get some respect. Right?

No, Valentine’s Day gets short shrift because it deserves it. From elementary school, to going out, to the time of year, to the fact that love is overrated, to the cards (oh, don’t get me started on the cards), to the crappy little candies made with what tastes like recycled sugar–Valentine’s Day sucks. Here’s why.

humiliation of rejection and public school

Valentine’s Day, unlike any other holiday experienced in the halls of public school, was the most humiliating, embarrassing and soul-crushing experience for me growing up. I remember the days well. They are burned forever in my psyche, so deep even therapy cannot dislodge them.

Little foldable, punched-out pieces of cardboard printed with that year’s favorite cartoon characters and pithy phrases with some of the worst puns imaginable (a kitty saying “I have felines for you,”) were prepared at the kitchen table weeks in advance. Parents armed with school rosters, tried to teach all-inclusiveness and make sure one was made for every kid in class. But the way to school is a long walk and many of them ended up in the gutter. Kids would rather the sewer take cards than be forced to give them to someone they didn’t like. I saw many with my name on them as I walked to school.

We put them delicately in paper sacks taped to each other’s cubbies or lockers. The popular kids would always end up with the most overfilled bag. Me? I’d get two or three, usually from the kids that ate their own boogers. One year I got a Strawberry Shortcake valentine from the pretty girl in class, but later found out to be a joke at my expense.

Nowadays, they have the e-card where you can send valentines (via the Web) to people–friends and lovers alike. Once again society has created something I get to be snubbed by. How is my fragile ego going to take another rejection? Will the pain never end?

Going out-can it get any worse?

If you are lucky enough to be in a relationship–one that is actually working and not dysfunctional– then I’d bet you would rather have a root canal with no pain medication than suffer a night out making googly eyes at your significant other. Being a person of the Y-chromosone gender I have big issues with going out on a date with someone you’ve already wooed into a relationship.

First, it is typically the man’s job to make dinner reservations. It is against the male instict to be organized enough to plan ahead. Men are opportunists. We don’t plan. We wait until that dumb animal lopes along, and then-wammo! We eat! In the downtime we tend to sleep and conserve engergy.

Secondly, you have to dress up a little more than a baseball cap and your most comfortable jeans with the hole in the rear. Ech.

Third, don’t forget the roses. Fifty million roses are sold for Valentine’s Day and each for triple what they’re worth any other time of the year. If you have to get flowers do yourself a favor and buy her cheaper tulips or gladiolas. She just might buy your B.S. about being creative enough to buck the tradition.

Fourth, she might expect a gift. Go sentimental and find something you gave her years before. Clean it up a little and rewrap it. Then make up something corny about “remember when …” as you give it to her. This might get you off the hook for blowing the reservations and being forced to eat at McDonalds.

Even after dinner your nightmare may not end. If you fail to wine and dine her to the point of a food coma, you might be subjected to an onslaught of nostalgic conversations about your best dates, cuddling and–the worst of the worst–spooning. My father always advised me to break up before big holidays and get back together afterwards to avoid such rituals.

Love is overrated

If you were paying attention in high school biology class instead of getting horny over Betty Sue’s developments or Billy Bob’s new muscles then you might have connected the dots and realized that all love–all evolution for that matter–is a series of chemical responses to stimuli designed to ensure the survival of the species. Speaking generally, without taking into account the myriad of human pairings possible, men instinctively look at attractive women with–ahem–assets that would make them a good mother and nurturer. Women, on the other hand, instinctively know to look for the smart, strong, charismatic men with “skills” around them–the good providers. Love is an emotion created by a chemical bond that begins to take effect once attraction develops. This “honeymoon” effect usually only last a few years, after which it fades, never to return unless sparked by a brain injury or lightning. Love’s purpose is simply to solidify the relationship, ensuring that offspring have not one, but two parents to watch over them until maturity, when the whole thing happens again. Sorry to burst your bubble. It’s a cruel world out there.

Why February?

Forget history. Valentine’s Day is in February because the month represents the typical aspects of most people’s love lives. It’s the shortest month, it is depressing and cold and you get only one extra-exciting day every four years, just like leap year.

Cards

Americans send over 192 million valentine cards each year (85 percent sent by women) and despite the hoped-for belief that valentine’s cards are a construct of the greeting card industry, valentines are perhaps the oldest form of card. It is documented that the Duke of Orleans sent a Valentine’s card to his Duchess in 1415 while a prisoner in the Tower of London … another example of prison love. (see “Saint Valentine’s Day” on the next page) While people were sending little valentines to each other in the 17th and 18th centuries, it wasn’t until the 1840s when commercially produced cards became available in the U.S. You could say that the entire card industry arose from the story of Saint Valentine. Meaning … we can blame him for the suffering we have been forced to endure over a lifetime of Hallmark moments.

Candy

America is suffering from an epidemic of obesity. If you really love someone then why would you give candy? Americans ate 24.6 pounds of candy per person in 2003 (down from 27 pounds just a few years earlier) and most of that was given on Valentine’s Day. Only Halloween trumps the day of love when it comes to sugar and cocoa.

But Valentine’s Day is the holiday when candy makers pull out the good stuff. Chocolate is renowned as an aphrodisiac. It contains a chemical called phenylethylamine–a neurotransmitter resembling amphetamines with other euphoric qualities. In other words, chocolate is a drug. Combine it with all that sugar and you’ve got one hot momma on your hands. Of course, you have to eat 45 pounds of chocolate in one sitting to really feel the effects. And if you eat that much chocolate in one sitting … well, you’ll be sitting for some time afterwards too, if you catch my drift.

If you still haven’t realized the truth that Valentine’s Day is for suckers, we found some great stories about being dumped at http://happyrobot.net/robotchow/getting dumped.asp.

A Rally To Save The Courthouse 

10 reasons to save the old Ada County Courthouse

History repeats itself. Four years ago, in March, 2001, Boise Weekly put its publishing power behind the effort to save the Old Ada County Courthouse, which faced destruction then–as it does now–at the hands of Idaho legislators without regard to the pleas of the community wherein its majestic art deco halls sits. This week, we call on our readers to do the same thing they did four years ago and get involved.

Last Monday’s sunny but cold and windy afternoon saw over 200 local residents gather on the Statehouse steps to protest the proposed bill to demolish the courthouse after a bill to remodel it failed on the Senate floor. The rally featured a parade of local figures dedicated to preserving Idaho’s past including Preservation Idaho’s Nancy Richardson, Boise historian Arthur Hart, architect Charles Hummell, former Ada County Prosecutor David Leroy, Boise City Councilman Alan Shealy and Idaho State Historical Society director Steve Gerber. They spoke of protecting the building, presenting efforts by organizations and the Boise City Council to urge legislators to reconsider remodeling it over demolishing it. Each call to action raised applause and nods of approval.

“It was built as a symbol of recovery in bad times,” Steve Gerber said through the loudspeakers. How ironic, then, that as Idaho and the rest of the U.S. is coming out of a post-9/11 recession, the modern equivalent of the symbolism of progress and hope for the future is to tear down the building and rebuild a new one, even though it costs more to do so.

The following 10 reasons to save the Ada County Courthouse were written four years ago by BW staff, including editor Sara Kuhl, Anna Webb, Cynthia Sewell and Mindy Kay Bricker. The reasons have been updated and abridged for length. Please visit www.boiseweekly.com for the full version of the March, 2001 feature.

1. If we can renovate the Capitol then we can certainly do the same for the old Ada County Courthouse

Boise Mayor David Bieter said four years ago while a state rep. that the private sector–not the Idaho state government–has done an excellent job of recognizing the value of historic buildings in Boise. Just look at some of the downtown buildings: the Egyptian Theater, the Idanha, the Union Block building, The Mode and the Empire Building.

Jerry Lowe, the project architect on the Capitol building project, said that replacing historic buildings with a new one is like building a new, modern church to replace the Vatican. Amen.

2. Boise has lost enough of its historic buildings already

Boiseans can rattle off the names of razed, irreplaceable buildings–old City Hall, Pinney Theater, the Hip-Sing building (and the rest of Chinatown) DeLamar House and more–like others rattle off the names of dead relatives. We’ve had ample time to reflect on what we’ve lost and now have the chance to keep the Courthouse off the list of the dearly departed. If we lost the courthouse, we’d lose another chunk of what little visual history we have left.

3. Boise needs to maintain local control of its own urban landscape

It’s Boiseans who will have to live with the results of any decision concerning the old courthouse–not legislators from Soda Springs, Pocatello or Idaho Falls. Imagine the havoc that would take place if we decided to invade another city and demand a historic building be torn down. No other community would stand for such an intrusion, so why should Boise be subjected to it simply because state government is headquartered here?

4. They cannot make buildings like they used to

The Ada County Courthouse was built between March 1938 and July 1939 for $370,000. Adjusted for inflation that would be roughly $4.7 million today. Workers who built it were paid one dollar per hour. Their fine craftsmanship, a rarity today, helps it to still stand strong 60 years later, and could for at least another couple hundred years.

“When historic buildings are torn down, a part of our past disappears forever. When that happens, we lose connections with history that help define us,” says Mike Buhler from National Trust for Historic Preservation Western Office located in San Francisco. “The Ada County Courthouse is just such a link to the past. Its quality of design and craftsmanship defied the austerity of the Great Depression. Once lost, this proud symbol of Idaho history can never be replaced.”

5. The courthouse is a classic example of WPA architecture

Our courthouse was built in1938-39, one of 10 built in Idaho under President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA). The WPA provided work for American builders, artists and craftsmen during the Great Depression. The building is an irreplaceable example of sleek, machine-savvy art deco design.

6. Not just any old building can join this elite group

Getting on the National Register of Historic Places is no easy feat. Today’s prefab, synthetic stucco-over-plywood structures don’t stand a chance. They are under-designed and not built to last. Created under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, this registry is the nation’s official “Who’s who” of cultural resources worthy of preservation. On May 5, 1976, the Ada County Courthouse–then a mere 37 years old–met the standards of historically significance and was placed on the National Register. Membership on the list makes the courthouse eligible for federal projects, tax breaks and funding–a perk instantly lost when the wrecking ball swings.

7. Newness trumps logic

Legislators need more offices. Fine. They need larger hearing rooms. Reasonable. But what isn’t fine or reasonable is to circumvent the advice of architects, who clearly advise to save the existing building and make additions. It will also cost less to renovate than to demolish a $600,000 asset and rebuild–$1.8 million less.

8. The courthouse is filled with public art, a key building element, say the state and city

Saving the historic Courthouse is a completely modern, up-to-the moment idea. Here’s why: Boise City and the Idaho House and Senate approved Percent for Art programs. This means whenever the city or state begins a building project, a percentage of the project’s budget will be devoted to public art. The inclusion of art elements, say the majority of your state leaders, is key to the success of public buildings and spaces. In the case of the courthouse, the hard work is already done. The building is filled, and its exterior covered, with public art.

If the building is razed, the murals will be removed, like those disembodied parts lying around C.W. Moore Park–the stone arch and sandstone signs salvaged from dead Boise buildings. This is a consolation prize.

9. We shouldn’t give in to the greed of the legislature

The arrogance and greed of some members of the Idaho Legislature is simply appalling. The idea of replacing the courthouse to make room for new swanky offices for legislators–legislators who are in Boise just three months–is simply wrong. Especially when the same means can be accomplished by remodeling the courthouse.

10. The fight could end up in court

We could spend even more money by preservationists taking the battle to court–a boon for lawyers, but a boondoggle for the taxpayers.

GET INVOLVED

While the Senate has postponed the vote on the bill authorizing the destruction of the Ada County Courthouse one week, there is still time to contact Senators to urge them to vote no. Even if the bill does pass the Senate, it must survive the House committee and a vote on the House floor to proceed. Then the Governor must sign it for the bill to take effect.

We recommend you contact those Senators who voted against remodelling and urge them to vote no on demolishing as well:

John Andreason, 332-1333, jandreas@senate.idaho.gov

Hal Bunderson, 332-1319, hbunders@senate.idaho.gov

Tim Corder, 332-1342, tcorder@senate.idaho.gov

Patti Anne Lodge, 332-1325, palodge@senate.idaho.gov

John McGee, 332-1336, jmcgee@senate.idaho.gov

Curt McKenzie, 332-1354, cmckenzi@senate.idaho.gov

Jack Noble, 332-1340, jnoble@senate.idaho.gov

Monty Pearce, 332-1339, mpearce@senate.idaho.gov

Gerry Sweet, 332-1355, gsweet@senate.idaho.gov

Visit www.legislature.idaho.gov/senate/membership.cfm orwww.legislature.idaho.gov/house/membership.cfm for full listings of contact information for legislators.

Calling 800-626-0471 or 208-332-1000 will also allow you to leave a brief message for your legislator. Just say you would like to leave the message for your Senator or Representative. Do this for all three in your district.

Preservation Idaho (www.preservationidaho.org) also has a wealth of information you can reference including calls to action and talking points.

The Idaho State Historical Society is online (www.idahohistory.net) with information about Idaho’s historic places.

Organizers of the rally advise concerned Boiseans to speak with friends, neighbors, media contacts–anyone and everyone who may be able to put pressure on the legislators responsible for voting for the demolition of the courthouse.

Nobody said the “H” word. 

Solutions were suggested, but parents want to know the full extent of drugs in our schools.

Sally Halbach, mother of two Boise High School students, attended the community dialogue meeting Tuesday, January 25 expecting answers about student drug use. What she got was a table full of brochures about drugs and a two-hour work session with close to 200 Boise High parents, teachers and community leaders including Boise City Council members Maryanne Jordan, David Eberle, Idaho State Senator Mike Burkett, the new and former Boise City Police Chiefs and Mayor Dave Bieter among others.

“I was dissapointed that they didn’t explain what the problem was,” said Halbach. “How many kids are doing it? How many students have left Boise High because of it? How can and can’t we deal with students who are using it? What is being done by substance abuse counselors? Are there any counselors? There is no information system in place except those rumors swirling around us.”

What exactly is “it” and why did so many parents attend a meeting about “it?” One parent stood up and said he hadn’t heard the word used in any of the dialogue he had heard so far that night–heroin. “The ‘H’ word was never said,” Halbach stressed to BW with anger and frustration in her voice.

The meeting involved over 30 tables of five to eight people outlining their concerns with markers on large sheets. The process was repeated with them outlining solutions for those concerns. Without full knowledge of what they should be concerned about, many parents left feeling more lost than when they came in.

While some parents sought more answers, others were quite aware of the problems as reported by their children who attend a school that has seen a marked increase in drug use, specifically heroin, inside its halls. Concerns the parents identified through the dialogue included a lack of resources to help families at the local level, easy access to cheap and powerful illegal drugs on campus, inadequate detox and rehab facilities in Boise, anti-drug campaigns that don’t work and a lack of after-school activities.

Solutions proposed by participants in the workshop include increasing the number of drug abuse counselors on campus, closing campuses, enforcing a strict zero-tolerance policy, pressuring the city and community to establish a detox facility, random drug-testing of all students, placing drug dogs on campus and the development of an anonymous hotline for parents, students and teachers to report suspected drug use.

Nancy Lemas, mother of two Boise School District students, came expecting an open dialogue, but not around a table. “I would like to see statistics,” she said. “How many deaths have been as a result of drugs and how many citations?” She was pleased with the meeting and happy to see some BHS students participating in the dialogue. She has heard through her own daughters of other kids who have used heroin. They ask why can’t they have a forum like the parents had.

Noticeably absent by many parents were any of the six Boise School Board trustees. “Where was the School Board?” Halbach asked. Four trustees contacted by BW said they didn’t know about the meeting until it was recapped in the Idaho Statesman the next day. School Board President Rory Jones found out about the meeting from a flyer his son brought home. He attended briefly before leaving.

School Board Trustee Bea Black insisted she would have attended the meeting had she known about it. “This is not just a school problem. This is not just a family problem. This is a community wide problem. It’s going to take parents, teachers, police and everyone else to come together. Until the community decides there is a problem, we’ll continue to have one,” she said.

Halbach concured, “This isn’t Pleasantville anymore. We have to grow up and be adults.”

Boise High Principal Ken Anderson called the special meeting specifically for Boise High parents but invited neighbors and community leaders to participate in the dialogue as well. At the close of the meeting he said the next meeting is planned for February 15, where further discussions about what will happen next and what the steps to finding a solution for “it” will be.