Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 10:56 am
That Benjamin Palmer dropped $3,500 at Phillips auction house in New York is not surprising. The 217-year-old company, headquartered on Park Avenue, regularly sells artwork for tens — and often hundreds — of thousands of dollars.
What is surprising, however, is that he took nothing home. He has nothing to put up on his wall or put on a pedestal in his living room. Physically, his acquisition lies among a hub of wires, and the likelihood is he will never touch it. But it lives virtually inside every computer, smartphone or tablet in the world.
More than 400,000 Americans died in World War II, but thousands of them were never found. Some died in a prison camp, and others were lost behind enemy lines — and some were on planes that were lost in the vast Pacific ocean.
On Sept. 1, 1944, a massive B-24 bomber carrying a crew of 11 people went down in the South Pacific. Its wreckage remained undiscovered, and the fate of its airmen unknown for decades. Then an American scientist, Dr. Pat Scannon, became obsessed with the mystery of these missing GIs.
In 1980s Arkansas, one concern trumped all others: Satan. He whispered backwards on our rock albums. He possessed otherwise good people's bodies and brought them to sin. His worshippers — it was honestly believed and confidently proclaimed — lived among us.
So when my stepmother opened our town's first bookstore I was amazed by one book in particular: an infernal red and black volume called The Satanic Verses.
Steve Lickteig's life as he knew it was a lie. Lickteig thought he was the adopted son of a former World War II vet and his wife. Life was simple: They ran a farm in Kansas, went to mass at the local Catholic church and raised Steve and their eight biological children.
Lickteig wondered who his real parents were and thought he'd set out to find them someday. Then, when he turned 18, two of his best friends told him the truth: His adopted parents were actually his biological grandparents. The woman who he knew as his older sister was actually his mother.