Letters: Tiger Woods, City Life and Dealing with Floods Listeners comment on Tiger Woods' win at the U.S. Open last week and talk about the special attributes of the cities they live in. Also, two people tell their stories about how they are coping with the waters that have caused devastation in their hometowns.
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Letters: Tiger Woods, City Life and Dealing with Floods

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Letters: Tiger Woods, City Life and Dealing with Floods

Letters: Tiger Woods, City Life and Dealing with Floods

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It's Tuesday, the day we read from your emails and blog comments. Last week, we talked about Tiger Woods' win at the U.S. Open after a 19 hole playoff, an achievement amplified by the subsequent news of two stress fractures and a knee injury.

One caller asked why the most popular athlete in the world declines to adopt a political or social agenda, and Brian, listening in Phoenix, Arizona, responded, nobody ever asks what a white male athlete's social legacy will be. While I understand that black athletes have historically used their popularity as a platform to affect social change, it's my belief that just because they chose to speak out, that doesn't absolve others, minority or not, from their obligations to speak out on issues that affect us all.

By way of example, when the controversy over Augusta National's policy against admitting women was in the headlines a few years back, many in the media wondered aloud what Tiger was going to do about that. If Jack Nicklaus was ever asked about that, I am unaware of it. And if Jack Nicklaus was asked about his position regarding Augusta's lack of minority membership during his career, I am also unaware of it. Why is Tiger held to a different standard?

Our show with Richard Florida, on the special attributes of your city, brought letters from across the country. A listener now in North Carolina pined for the Beltway. I left D.C. in tears in 2002 and relocated to Maine. I missed the intellectual energy and culture of D.C., but much enjoy the wonderful scenery, recreation and the low-key pace of Maine. On a visit to friends in D.C. in 2005, I met my husband. He was visiting the same friends. I'd never met him. Likeminded people will gravitate to certain cities even if they can no longer afford to live there. They can hang on to these little footholds in their friends' houses. So my advice is to keep visiting those places you love.

And after Richard Florida sang the praises of a certain city a little too loudly, Charlie wrote us, fed up. Please ask your guest to keep his opinions to himself on Portland. We want to keep this wonderful city a secret.

And last week, we asked for your stories about the floods in the Mississippi Valley, what survived, what didn't and how you dealt with all that water. Our email inbox flooded, too, and we decided that some stories were too good not to share. The University of Iowa was devastated by flooding, and Katherine Donovan, among many others, rushed to help. In particular, the library there was in danger. Kate Donovan wrote us an email about the effort to save it. She joins us now on the line from Iowa City to tell us the story. Nice to have you on Talk of the Nation today.

Ms. KATHERINE DONOVAN (Resident, Iowa City, Iowa): Thanks, Neal, nice to be here.

CONAN: And tell us what happened.

Ms. DONOVAN: Well, the university was gaining water quickly, and so, my boyfriend and I felt that we needed to do something. Our house was dry, and so we thought that we would go to the university and see what the need was.

CONAN: And how did you know to go to the library?

Ms. DONOVAN: The university was really good about putting information out on its website about where they needed help with sandbagging and the library - the main library is right by the river and so we knew that it was in danger.

CONAN: And you didn't end up doing sandbags, though.

Ms. DONOVAN: Not that day.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DONOVAN: We did later. That was Friday, Friday the 13th. And we joined - I don't know - hundreds of other volunteers in the library, grad students. I got my master's degree here. He's a PhD student. Employees, you know, just about anyone you could imagine, and we formed sort of a book brigade, if you will, passing volumes up from the basement to the second and third floors of the library.

CONAN: And so, did you ever get the chance to look and to say, oh, Nietzsche, maybe I'll drop this one.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DONOVAN: Well, we did try to peak at a few titles as they passed. We saw a lot of thesis, PhD thesis from the 40s, some very interesting looking art history books, but the line was really moving too quickly to delve in too deeply.

CONAN: So just to - that I get the picture straight. One person handing a book to another person to another person, like a bucket brigade.

Ms. DONOVAN: Precisely, and upstairs, no less.

CONAN: Upstairs?


CONAN: And were the books saved?

Ms. DONOVAN: Yes. My understanding is that it was largely special collections that was in the bottom of this basement of the library, and that they moved out pretty much everything that was irreplaceable. And so, the basement of the library has a lot of muck that is being cleaned out, but I believe they got most of the volumes out.

CONAN: Well, Katherine Donovan, thanks very much for being with us today, and congratulations on saving all those theses from the Mississippi waters.

Ms. DONOVAN: It was nice to be with you, Neal. Thank you.

CONAN: Katherine Donovan joined us from Iowa City today. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. Books and music both needed saving, but in Cedar Rapids, music was not so lucky, when a historic Wurlitzer organ met its demise. Neal Marple is with us from the Cedar Rapids Area Theatre Organ Society, and he could tell us about the last days of the Paramount Theatre's organ. Thanks very much for being with us today.

Mr. NEAL MARPLE (Secretary, Cedar Rapids Area Theatre Organ Society): My pleasure.

CONAN: And Mr. Marple, what happened?

Mr. MARPLE: Well, as the previous caller described, we had quite a bit of water here in this area, Cedar Rapids being about 20 miles north of Iowa City, so upriver. We had a downtown area that was literally inundated with many, many feet of water, and unfortunately, in that downtown area, many of the artistic treasures of Cedar Rapids exist within a block or two blocks of the river. The Paramount Theatre is just about one block off the river where the waters were at some of their deepest level.

CONAN: And this organ is how old?

Mr. MARPLE: This organ is 80 years old in July.

CONAN: The Mighty Wurlitzer.

Mr. MARPLE: That's right. The organ, fortunately, we've had lots of reports, and we've been getting a little bit more access into the theater, and we're really happy to be able to say that the visual part of the organ, the console that's been shown, just about everywhere being dragged, appearing as though it's completely destroyed out of the theater. Above that part of the organ is the voice of the organ, the pipes of the organ, and we've been in those areas of the theater, and they have fortunately remained dry, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us to bring this instrument back to the community.

CONAN: It got pretty well ruined, the console, anyway.

Mr. MARPLE: Yeah, it did. There was eight and a half feet of water at stage level in the theater for several days. It's an incredible amount of water to fill that space, and when you're in the theater now, you can just see what the water has done to all the ornate plaster work, all the ornate art deco and gilded work of the theater and to the organ itself, which has been partially removed and is awaiting help at this point.

CONAN: So at least there the phrase "high-water mark" is a lot more than a journalistic cliche.

Mr. MARPLE: Yeah, absolutely. It's quite incredible to see where the water was.

CONAN: Well, good luck restoring it.

Mr. MARPLE: Thank you.

CONAN: Neal Marple joined us from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, home of the late and, well, once and future Mighty Wurlitzer at the Paramount Theatre there. And one last romantic flood tale from a listener named Zack.

During the flooding in Martinsville, Indiana, on June 7th, I was married. Every road to and from my small town was completely flooded. A local police officer told someone attempting to go into the town that there was no way a wedding could take place. The town is under water. It was humbling to see that some who waded to our wedding didn't know if they would even make it home again. All said, it was a beautiful wedding even though we had to change churches, boat in the flowers and evacuate people from homes and hotels to our church. Love conquers broken levees.

We want to hear all your stories, romantic or otherwise. The email address is talk@npr.org. Feel free to write us on other topics, too, of course. Please tell us where you're writing from and how to pronounce your name. Tomorrow, Ken Rudin, our political junkie, joins us live from the Newseum. We'll be talking about polls and about money, now that Barack Obama has decided to abandon public financing. This is Talk of the Nation from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

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