Monday, February 11, 2008

I Am a Rock (Simon and Garfunkel)

Hey, I never said this Valentine's Day countdown was going to be all wine and roses - one must honor lost love as well, right?

Homestead is only an hour south of me and I've yet to visit this landmark - soon, I've promised myself...

Ever been dumped?

Most of us have. And we've got all sorts of stories about how we've tried to win back the object of our affections.

Did you make a mix-tape full of her favorite songs in hopes of warming her heart, a la John Cusack's music geek character in High Fidelity? Or, for a more romantic gesture, you might have serenaded your sweetheart with a boombox outside her bedroom window (John Cusack again, as Say Anything's prototypical "sensitive guy," Lloyd Dobler). Or you might have just left a bunch of pathetic messages on your ex's answering machine, though we have a feeling your success rate's not so high in that case (unless you're John Cusack).

We know of just one man who could beat Cusack's celluloid record for romantic obsession: Ed Leedskalnin, a Latvian immigrant who spent his whole life pining away for Agnes Scuffs, the sixteen year old girl who ditched him just days before their wedding. After Agnes left him, Leedskalnin was absolutely heartbroken, and pledged to win her back. His method of choice? Building a rock garden in honor of his sweetheart, which he called Coral Rock Castle.

The "castle," located in Homestead, Florida, is no mere monument – it's a huge, sprawling structure, with a nine-ton gate, a 28-ton sun dial, a water well, a fountain, a heart-shaped table, and a 5,000-pound throne, along with a range of other curiosities. In total, the grounds include more than 1,100 tons of oolic limestone.

Leedskalnin began building the castle in 1923, and never let up until his death in 1951. He worked only at night, and gave ten-cent tours of the unfinished palace throughout his lifetime. Sadly, Leedskalnin's lost love, Agnes Scuffs, never came to see the magnificent stone garden that he had built in her honor. Her throne would remain empty forever.

We know it already sounds pretty strange, but here's the weirdest part: Leedskanin, who was only five feet tall and 100 pounds, and had only a fourth grade education, reputedly assembled the entire massive structure himself, with no help – even though some of the individual stones weigh as much as 30 tons, which is heavier than the blocks in the Egyptian pyramids.

Over the years, plenty of people have come up with their own theories about how the lovesick Leedskalnin constructed the amazing monument. Some believe that he was aided by extraterrestrials, or that Leedskalnin himself had supernatural powers. Even the great Albert Einstein had been unable to deduce Leedskalnin's methods, though some engineers believe that Leedskalnin used a block-and-tackle system, which is a common engineering technique. (Though not so common for a fourth-grade dropout.)

Whether or not he was some sort of superhero, or had a race of alien amigos to help him build his palace, it's certain to say that Ed Leedskalnin was one of a kind. We just don't know how Agnes let him slip away.

A person is full of sorrow
The way a burlap sack is full of stones or sand.
We say, "Hand me the sack,"
But we get the weight.
Heavier if left out in the rain.
To think that the stones or sand are the self is an error.
To think that grief is the self is an error.
Self carries grief as a pack mule carries the side bags,
Being careful between the trees to leave extra room.
The self is not the load of ropes and nails and axes.
The self is not the miner nor builder nor driver.
What would it be to take the bride
And leave behind the heavy dowry?
To let the thin-ribbed mule browse in tall grasses,
Its long ears waggling like the tails of two happy dogs?

QUOTE: "Man is harder than rock and more fragile than an egg." ~ Yugoslav Proverb

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