Monthly Archives: May 2020

The Hotel Business

While looking at some old photos of historic hotels where Ruth and I have stayed–The Park Inn, the Columbia Gorge–I came across an article I read just 8 months ago called “Thriving Hotel Industry Scrambles for Workers”.  Wow, how things change!  Written by Karen Schwartz, this article provided some information about hotels that is now obsolete due to the pandemic that has decimated the hotel industry.  The article, published last September says that, “…demand for hotels has never been higher.”

Karen says that more than 2,270 hotels and the like have opened during the past 3 years and that staffing problems plague the industry.  She says further that the new properties bring the total of places to stay in the USA to 55,900, not counting Airbnb and the like.  She brags about the 66% occupancy rate, the highest in 15 years but then says that guests may discover that the operations of places to stay are not running smoothly.  I brought up some of these difficulties in “Hotel Tips” on May 8, 2020.

Karen notes that the hotel industry is a huge employer of immigrants.  They make up 13% of the overall US population but 31% of hotel workers.  No wonder there have been 40,700,000+ jobless claims made for government assistance in the past several weeks!  The article points out that, despite the current dire situation, 50,000 people are expected to enroll in hotel management training programs in the next 5 years.

I hope things get back to normal in the next few months in this vital job-creating industry.  Meanwhile, it’s a rough business to be in.  Just ask those employed at the only existing hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Park Inn, in Mason City, Iowa,  and the staff at the classic Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River, Oregon.  Both are featured above.  Ruth & I have also visited what used to be the 4th Hilton Hotel called The Cactus in San Angelo, TX in the past year.  That staircase below used to be in its lobby.  What was once The Cactus is still the tallest building in San Angelo, but it’s a hotel no longer.  Unfortunately, it opened for business in 1929.




More Than Five River Movie Villains


Rivers are often enemies in movies.  Below are 5 of the better ones.

  1.  Chinatown.  Rotten Tomatoes calls this film a “noir classic” and it is.  Its hateful villain is Noah Cross, the rich and powerful head of LA’s water department who justifies all human behavior including incest.  Noah, played by John Huston in a juicy, late career performance, uses his position to destroy water tanks and worse while bringing water from distant rivers to Los Angeles to get even wealthier.  He is one nasty villain!
  2. The Bridge on the River Kwai.  Brits in a Japanese concentration camp during World War II build a bridge over a strategic river that leads to the deaths of thousands.  Based on an actual incident, this movie won the Best Picture Academy Award in 1958.   The bridge was in Burma but the movie was shot in what is now Sir Lanka.  Wikipedia correctly calls Colonel Saito played by Japanese actor Sessue Hayakawa “an honorable villain.”  An international star who made about 80 movies, Hayakawa was nominated for his performance in this film but did not win.
  3. Into the Wild.  Based on a true story written by Jon Krakauer in one of his first literary successes,  Into the Wild tells about Chris McCandless, a privileged young man who gives away all of his possessions and tries to survive an Alaskan winter in an old bus.  He is alone.   The villain is the Teklanika River.  Chris decided to return to society, but this river, now thawing and flowing dangerously, prevents this.
  4. Sully.  Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was a national hero in a film directed by Clint Eastwood.  He was the pilot who made an emergency landing in the Hudson River and was able to save the lives of all 155 passengers.  This tale has 3 villains–the US Government, winter, and a flock of birds.   The National Transportation Safety Board claimed pilot error and the crash caused by birds happened in January.
  5.  Against the Current.  This movie also starred the Hudson River.  Fewer people saw it because this fine film went direct to video when released in 2009.  Its hero loses his wife in a birthing tragedy, the villain, and 5 years later he decides to swim down the Hudson River from Upstate New York to New York City.  Its grim but excellent.  One of its genuine pleasures is a late career performance by Mary Tyler Moore.DSC02967


River Movies 2

DSC02377The movies below are, in my opinion, lesser known than 1-5, but their plots do focus on rivers.

dsc04947-16.  A 1960 released film, Wild River had a fine cast and a brilliant performance by Jo Van Fleet.  Her unforgettable acting was ignored by Academy Award nominators.  However, a few years before Wild River, she received a Best Supporting Actress AA, for her work in East of Eden.  Anyone who has lost a house to make way for a new highway, a dam, or a building perceived as necessary by local authorities will relate to this family’s dilemma.

7.  Wind River. This underrated 2017 movie starring Jeremy Renner and filmed in Wyoming seemed to come and go quickly without finding a large audience.  This is unfortunate because its basic mystery and resolution were socially significant and disturbing.  I didn’t know it at the time, but my first visit to the Wind River area influenced future career choices.  I’ll never forget that it was snowing there in the summer.

8.  Frozen River.  This may be my favorite river film.  Melissa Leo was correctly nominated for Best Actress for her stunning performance.  She didn’t win.  However, a few years later she did equally memorable work in The Fighter and won the Best Supporting Actress AA.  Her excellent, young, Native American co-star, Misty Upham,  gave her all in what was to become her only major screen performance.  She died mysteriously in 2014.  The somewhat similar circumstances to the plot of Wind River, to my knowledge, has never been acknowledged.

9.  The Man From Snowy River.  This Australian film should have turned its young star, Tom Burlinson, into a major international star, but it didn’t.  It’s American star, Kirk Douglas, gave one of his best performances in it.  The Snowy Mountains are Australia’s most significant and contain its highest peak, but The Man From Snowy River was filmed further south in this continent’s Victorian Alps. 

DSC0391010.  Hope & Glory.  This much honored British movie dealt with the affects of World War II on England’s children.  I loved the scene filmed in a river that resulted in exploding fish.  This scene might disturb fish lovers, but I found it and the film fantastic.  It received many nominations but few awards, which is unfortunate.  


River Movies


Rivers have starred in a lot of movies!  When I asked Ruth if she had an idea for a blog about rivers, she suggested that movies containing them would make a good theme.  I decided to name my 10 favorites, which gave me a chance to play movie critic.

A River Runs Through It is very pretty to watch but overlong if you’re bored by fly fishing or looking at rivers.  It has an excellent cast giving good performances and a fine music score by one of my favorites, Mark Isham.  His scores for Never Cry Wolf and The Moderns are among his most exceptional.

2.  Deliverance is a film that actually stars a river.  However, its film score is what people most remember from it.  “Dueling Banjos” became a national hit.  It was based on a best-selling novel by poet James Dickey, who also did the screenplay.

3.  The African Queen earned a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Actor for veteran Humphrey Bogart.  It’s a true cinema classic that is absorbing story-telling throughout.  Katherine Hepburn was nominated for Best Actress but did not win, a rare occurrence for a woman with a record 12 nominations.

4.  Aguirre, the Wrath of God, an epic 1972 German film, is a movie that truly stars a river, The Amazon.  In it Aguirre, performed by German actor Klaus Kinski, descends into madness while floating down The Amazon’s upper reaches in search of El Dorado.

5.  River of No Return is an old and great action film starring Marilyn Monroe at her best and the Salmon River in Idaho.  Tough guy Robert Mitchum co-starred.   Some scenes were filmed on the Bow River in Banff National Park.

6-10 will be featured tomorrow.



Rivers Flow

Focused on rivers lately, I wondered if what I heard years ago is true.  Can the Seine

DSC08387River in France actually flow backwards?  Someone told me that a strong wind can cause the Seine to reverse its course in Paris and downstream, but is that true?   I have come to conclude that it is basically not true.  Other rivers, however, have been known to flow in reverse under special circumstances.

The city of Paris is only 80 feet above sea level with 227 miles to go before it flows into the Atlantic Ocean.  I can imagine that someone walking along it in the City of Lights might come under the illusion that it’s flowing west instead of east when a serious wind is blowing.  The Seine is France’s 3rd longest river at 485 miles in length, but most rivers, and The Seine is no exception, flow downhill.  There have only been a few temporary river reversals in human history.

Tidal rivers like the Hudson can reverse flow when the tide is rolling in.  Rivers with big tidal estuaries like the Potomac and the Thames can have an increase in saltiness when the nearby ocean affects them, but I know of only one river that reverses course when this regularly happens.  The St John River in Canada’s New Brunswick is adjacent to the Bay of Fundy, which has the highest tides in the world.  At low tide the river that empties into this bay develops a series of waterfalls and whirlpools that reverses the flow of this river near New Brunswick’s capital city.  This phenomenon is known as the “Reversing Falls” and is quite a tourist attraction that Ruth and I have witnessed.

dsc00784The Mississippi River has significantly reversed direction twice in modern history.  Hurricane Issac in 2012 caused a reverse flow in the lower river for 24 hours.   In 1811 an earthquake at New Madrid in Missouri’s Bootheel was so strong that church bells rang in Boston as a result and the river flowed north instead of south for a time while Reelfoot Lake was being created.  There were actually 3 major quakes and thousands of aftershocks.

There is only one river that can completely reverse its flow, the 156-mile-long Chicago River.  This first occurred in 1887 when engineers figured a way to take water from Lake Michigan and put it into the Mississippi River by totally reversing the Chicago River’s flow.  By 1900 this became routine due to opening locks to divert sewage from Lake Michigan, the source of Chicago’s water supply.  Today this can and does happen routinely.

IMG_9065Millions of years ago some of the streams that fed  The Amazon River way up in the Andes were known to reverse flow and go west for a period of time.  Erosion and now climate change have been rumored to cause the backward flow of local rivers in some places, like western Canada.