Current Littourati Map

Neil Gaiman's
American Gods

Click on Image for Current Map

Littourari Cartography
  • On the Road
    On the Road
    by Jack Kerouac
  • Blue Highways: A Journey into America
    Blue Highways: A Journey into America
    by William Least Heat-Moon

Search Littourati
Enjoy Littourati? Recommend it!


Littourati is powered by
Powered by Squarespace


Get a hit of these blue crystal bath salts, created by Albuquerque's Great Face and Body, based on the smash TV series Breaking Bad.  Or learn about other Bathing Bad products.  You'll feel so dirty while you get so clean.  Guaranteed to help you get high...on life.

Go here to get Bathing Bad bath products!

Entries in future (2)


Blue Highways: Conquest and Cato, New York

Unfolding the Map

If you're a map lover, or you like stories about where towns get their names, or you are into irony, then there's something of each in this post.  If you love all three, you've hit the jackpot!  We'll pass through Conquest and Cato with William Least Heat-Moon (LHM), and then move on.  But before we do, see where these places are located by referencing the map.

Book Quote

"Off I went, hoping Conquest would find me.  In the dairy country, chewing Holsteins and Guernseys switched their tails and flicked their skins.  On the other side of Johnny Cake Road lay Conquest.  Then I began the game again, looking for Cato.  Along the roads were cottage industries selling clothesline poles, purple martin houses, potted plants, AKC pups."

Blue Highways: Part 5, Chapter 8

Sign depicting the intersection of Cato, Ira, Victory and Conquest, New York. Photo by "Dougtone" and hosted at Flickr. Click on photo to go to host page.

Conquest and Cato, New York

Sometimes you wonder how towns got their names, especially if those names are interesting.  Many towns are named in honor of people, some are taken from place names already in the area, some are named after cities of antiquity.  In fact, as we travel with LHM through this area, we'll find cities like Palmyra, New York, named after an ancient city in Syria, and Syracuse, New York, named after a city established by the ancient Greeks on the island of Sicily.

I have two directions that I'm going to go in this post.  One of my previous posts explored city names with an ironic twist.  In the case of Conquest and Cato, there is an irony.  I think that LHM thought he was looking at a little bit of irony when he mentioned in Blue Highways that Conquest is just down the road from Victory.  But there's even more irony here than that, but it's a little convoluted.

First, Cato.  Cato is one of a number of towns established in a large tract of land, called the Central New York Military Tract, that was reserved for ownership and settlement by New York veterans of the Revolutionary War.  The idea of setting land aside was conceived by the U.S. Congress to compensate veterans, and was to consist of 100 acres of land per soldier.  However, New York was slow in getting this land together, so the state legislature set an additional 500 acres per land, for a total of 600 per soldier, in a series of 28 contiguous townships in the middle of the state.

The townships were allegedly named by a clerk in the New York Surveyor General's office, who was an avid reader of classical literature.  Thus, the township name of Cato was joined by other townships named Lysander, Hannibal, Brutus, Camillus, Cicero, Manlius, Aurelius, Marcellus, Pompey, Romulus, Scipio, Sempronius, Tully, Fabius, Ovid, Milton, Locke, Homer, Solon, Hector, Ulysses, Dryden, Virgil, Cincinnatus, Junius, Galen and Sterling.

Conquest was a settlement within the township of Cato, but became independent of Cato after a political dispute.  Upon achieving their desired political aims, Conquest immediately declared victory by starting a new town called Victory, and later giving LHM something to wonder about when he sees the two places on the map.

However, the Cato-Conquest-Victory saga is not free of irony yet.  Cato Township could have been named after Cato the Elder, a Roman military commander and statesman.  If that were the fact, then Cato Township having birthed Conquest and Victory has no irony whatsoever.  However, it is more likely that the township of Cato was named after Cato the Younger, a Roman statesman and philosopher of the school of Stoicism.  As a Stoic, Cato the Younger would have held the belief that emotions can be destructive forces, especially if used to try to control inevitable universal forces, and that reason and ultimate happiness came from keeping oneself under self-control and evincing fortitude.  One cannot control what the universe and should not try, and if one is virtuous and in control, one is immune to misfortune.  The early Greek Stoics even eschewed politics because they believed in cosmopolitanism - that one is a citizen of the greater world and not just of one political entity.  Thus, the irony.  The town of Conquest was born out of political dispute with the township of Cato, complete with the investment of anger on both sides, and is an example of petty and small political concerns over brotherhood and equality that Cato the Younger would have emphasized.

That's an interesting little story, but here's the other point I want to make in this post.  Many place names in the United States are derived from ancient Greece and Rome, or from Europe.  This makes sense, as the U.S. is a nation of immigrants.  Therefore, the first English settlers on the East Coast gave their towns and states and regions names that evoked their homeland, such as Dover (Delaware), Cambridge (Massachusetts), Camden (New Jersey), New York City, and Plymouth (North Carolina).

Of course, other ethnic groups that made up this country named areas that evoked their own homes.  We have many place names in the Southwestern U.S., for instance, that are Spanish.  Germans added places in the U.S., often multiple times, as Berlin, Potsdam, Hamburg and Hanover.  Names that evoke Italy include Milan (multiple states), as well as Rome (multiple states), Naples (Florida), Venice (multiple states), and Florence (multiple states).

New York was New Amsterdam in its early years as a Dutch settlement on Manhattan.  In the middle of Texas, you can find Czech town names.  French place names are found all over the United States, given that much of the middle part of the country was explored by French explorers and trappers.

It all makes me wonder, given that the United States is in a period where it is the preeminent power in the world, if that a thousand years from now the names of our great personages will dot the globe.  Will we see a village, town or city of "Gates" spring up in China, or a "Jobs," India?  Will someone name a town after Jefferson in Africa (the capital city of Liberia, Monrovia, is named after President James Monroe)?  Will the U.S. even have people, academicians or politicians or celebrities or captains of industry, who are deemed important enough to name places after in other parts of the world?

Let's take our query a little further.  Will the U.S. have enough impact on the world that someday we will see a New Chicago spring up in another country?  Will a Houston or Dallas appear in some other region of the world to one day rival the memory of their American forebears, just as New York dwarfs Old York, and Boston, Massachussetts is more well known than its English namesake.  Does the United States have anything to offer the world so that even one day, when our empire crumbles as it will, as it must, some place names will evoke the country that pioneered a working, large scale democracy for the world?  Or will something happen that causes American emigration - a huge diaspora to other regions of the world - so that those peoples, in foreign lands, remember their lost homeland by naming their settlements and towns after the places they left?

We see the remnants and memories of some past great civilizations every day in the names that we have chosen to give to places in the U.S.  When our time is past, will we be worthy of such remembrance, or will we fade into obscurity like other civilizations whose memories are locked in museums and books.  It's interesting to think about and speculate.

Musical Interlude

I'm not sure why I thought of this song, I Don't Wanna by the Asylum Street Spankers, except that it has a lot of place names in it.  It's a catchy tune, though.

How many of the place names in the song do you know or have you been to?  See bottom of page.*

If you want to know more about Conquest and Cato

An 1879 History of Conquest
Town of Conquest
Village of Cato
Wikipedia: Town of Cato
Wikipedia: Village of Cato
Wikipedia: Conquest

Next up: Somewhere on the north side of Oneida Lake

*Place names in song:  Scotland, Wales, England, France, Moscow, Malta, Spain, Cuba, Brooklyn, Paris, Rome, Teapot Dome, Orleans, Cairo, Broadway, 21, India, Georgia, Pismo Beach, Smithfield, China, your house.


Blue Highways: Caddo Mounds State Historic Site, Texas

Unfolding the Map

Click on Thumbnail for MapToday's post is a contemplation of time and space, brought about by William Least Heat-Moon's (LHM) own musings as he continues through Texas in Blue Highways.  As he says, Black Elk looked from a great height and understood more than he saw, but LHM says he sees more than he understands.  We all feel like that sometimes.  Click on the thumbnail of the map to see, if not understand, our place in time, space and our own mental geography as we continue our journey.

Book Quote

"The sky turned the color of chimney soot. A massive, squared mound, quite unlike the surrounding hills, rose from a level valley; it had been the central element in a Caddoan Indian village a thousand years ago....

"....The aura of time the mound gave off seemed to mock any comprehension of its change and process - how it had grown from baskets of shoveled soil to the high center of Caddoan affairs to a hilly patch of blackberries. My rambling metaphysics was getting caught in the trap of reducing experience to coherence and meaning, letting the perplexity of things disrupt the joy in their mystery. To insist that diligent thought would bring an understanding of change was to limit life to the comprehensible.

"A raw scorch of lightning - fire from the thunderbird's eye - struck at the black clouds. A long peal. Before the rumble stopped, raindrops bashed the blackberry blossoms, and I ran for Ghost Dancing. Warm and dry, I watched the storm batter the old mound as it worked to wash the hill level again."

Blue Highways: Part 4, Chapter 1

A Caddo burial mound at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site near Alto, Texas. Did William Least Heat-Moon contemplate this mound? Photo by Dana Goolsby at Click on photo to go to host site.

Caddo Mounds State Historic Site, Texas

Time is always a mystery to me.  It's a dimension that seems to mock my comprehension of the universe and how I understand it.  We live with time.  Time moves constantly, forward without stopping, and we are all subject to it.

I understand, at least on an intuitive level, space.  I don't exactly know what constitutes space, but I realize that we exist within space.  I spread my arms and realize that I take up space.  I understand that even where I seem solid, I really am a collection of cells and molecules and atoms.  There is space between my constituent building blocks that can be penetrated by particles that are small enough, and so space permeates me.

I understand movement within space.  I remember my basic physics that tells me that an object in motion will stay in motion until it encounters friction from other objects.  I understand that everything moves within space, from the galaxies, stars and worlds to the basic atomic structures that form everything that we know.

But time is incomprehensible to me.  Don't misunderstand, I don't spend a lot of energy worrying about time.  But every once in a while, such as when I'm presented with a musing or some other reason to contemplate time, I still come back to the same questions.  What really is time?  Why does it constantly move forward?  Can anything stop time?  Is there one time, or are there many times moving in parallel?  Once a certain time has come and gone, is it completely over, or does all time exist at once and do we only comprehend our own experience of it?  Why is it that physics seem to indicate that time travel, or something approximating it, is only possible to the future but not to the past?  I understand that there are paradoxes if one were to go back in time, the "if you kill your own grandfather would you cease to exist?" problem.  But why does the past sometimes seem as if we can almost touch it, and the yet the future is always such a mystery?

I often wonder if, in large or small ways, I affect time, or if it is simply a machine set in motion and I am nothing to it.  When I sit down to watch a football game and things start going bad for my team, I wonder if events might have been different had I not watched at all.  In other words, was there a time and event crossroad occasioned by my choice to sit and watch the football game, or did it matter at all?  Do my choices intermingle with others' choices and if so, do some have more influential choices than me that affect future time and events?  Or are future events set and we careen toward them with no chance of altering them even if we knew what they were?

I have stood in historic spots like the Caddo Mounds that, as LHM says above, give off "an aura of time."  I have stood in those spots and felt the past surround me and permeate me.  I have even felt a connection with the past.  A year or so ago, I was standing outside a Norbertine retreat center near Albuquerque, in the desert on the gentle slopes of a mesa near the Rio Grande.  The silence was overwhelming, except when an occasional breeze rustled the native grasses.  Suddenly, I felt a distinct thump.  I'm not sure why there was a thump - maybe I had startled a rabbit and it had thumped a warning or, maybe it was something more metaphysical.  The sound startled me to attention, and I looked around.  There, just about a body length away from me, was a potsherd.  It was the fragment of a pot used by the Indian dwellers of the area in a time long past.  There was no telling how old it was.  It sat there, white with a small section of the pot's design painted and still seemingly vibrant and alive.  I bent down and picked it up and examined it, feeling its texture and marveling at the bit of design.  For a moment, I felt connected to that past.  I wondered if, in that same spot some unknown number of centuries ago, someone using that pot also heard a thump, looked around, and felt my future presence.

If you want a sense of the past and the present colliding, go to Rome.  It is a living museum of the past, and you cannot walk into the Colosseum, with the sounds of Rome's traffic swirling around you, and not be instantly transported back to ancient Rome.  You can almost see, vivid and vibrant in front of you, a newly constructed Colosseum, its benches filled with spectators watching a fight between a tiger and a prisoner, or a mock sea battle being staged on the flooded arena floor.  At a gladiatorial contest, might a Roman patron suddenly sense the presence of an Ohio tourist in our present day standing beside him at the entrance to the arena, both observing what they can see and imagine, just for a moment before the feeling vanishes and the patron hurries to his seat to see the next battle and the tourist hurries to catch his wife who is already moving toward the Forum?

I think much more about time now that I am in my middle age.  I wonder when my life will end and time will stop for me.  I think of civilizations that have come and gone and will rise and fall.  I wonder if time will eventually run down and stop, like a slowing watch that needs to be wound.  Does the eventual end of the universe, whether that constitutes a big collapse or instead, the speeding of matter into a dispersed nothingness, mean that time itself will finally meet its end?  I sit and wonder, and in that moment of wonder I am connected through time and space with all that was, is and will be.  I am connected with all of those before and after me who have sat and will sit in wonder and contemplate the same mystery.

Then, like LHM, I go and resume my own journey through time and space as I comprehend them.

If you want to know more about Caddo Mounds

Texas Escapes: Caddo Mounds
Texas Historical Commission: Caddo Mounds
Texas State Historical Association: Caddoan Mounds
Where in the Hell Am I blog: Caddo Mounds
Wikipedia: Caddoan Mounds State Historic Site

Next up:  North Zulch, Texas