Monday, December 26, 2011

Fun and Feasting


Christmas Eve eve, we went up to the West Side Market, a sort of family tradition of late. It was festive, as it always is during the holiday season. I was happy to see that the Greek bakery lady was back. The last few times I had been there she was not at her usual place behind the counter. I found out that her father, the baker, had had a stroke and she and her husband had been taking care of him. Now she is both baking and selling and she has not mastered all of his recipes, especially the little tortes I love, but will soon be up to speed. The vendors were jolly, some wearing silly Santa hats. We had lunch at Min Anh, the Vietnamese restaurant on the west side. Delicious food there, as usual. For this reason we got to the market a little later, which meant that some of the vendors were cutting prices and we bought a lot of stuff which has been used for great dinners.
Christmas Eve, Polly decided to make pierogis, using an online recipe. They were excellent, but she says that she will never so that again - too  labor  intensive. We ate a lot, gave some away to a friend who dropped by with a nice beef roast (That's the kind of friend to have!!), and still had some left to freeze for later.  Emily had sent a box of German goodies which we are trying not to gobble down all at once, things like Mozart balls and Lebkuchen, not for the calorie conscious.
Christmas morning started with John's pancake breakfast, which kept us full enough until the late afternoon and dinner. Christmas dinner was a sumptuous feast, with duck prepared by John with Polly's homemade marmalade  and two great side dishes (armored turnips and Brussels spouts) and a mince pie by the chef d'jour Polly. She has spent a lot of time in the kitchen during her visit home, and her way with food is  much appreciated. I did stir myself enough to make some plain old mashed potatoes and Sally did the clean up.
Today the Kinder are taking a hike in the  Cuyahoga Valley National Park and then we are going to the movies with dinner to follow at the Chinese restaurant  next to the theater. And after that, we'll come home and finish the mince pie.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Dead Cat Christmas Card

Since Dupree has been my Christmas card subject for lo! these many years, I had to include him again this year. So his little spirit joins me in wishing everyone
A very pleasant and peaceful Christmas holiday season.

Embellishing the Tree

The siblings put the tree up the other day and trimmed it mightily. Polly is the usual arbiter of what goes on and what does NOT go on. This used to cause the annual putting up the tree fight. However, now everyone being in their fifties, or close to it, the trimming went smoothly. Polly had the idea to use some of my German Jumping Jacks, which are a great addition.
I love these things and have a selection  of them: Mozart from Salzburg, a lederhosen wearing lad from Rothenburg and a jester from Oberammergau, the home of the Passion Play. Perhaps there was a jester somewhere during the Passion, but I do not know exactly how that role would fit in with the general scheme of things.

The Slovenly Peter is John's but I have hung it up with my others. Slovenly Peter was the creation of Dr. (of what I do not know) Heinrich Hoffman, a series of cautionary tales for children, in which infantile miscreants suffered all sorts of gruesome chastisements: getting their fingers cut off, being drowned in an ink well, exploding from over eating, and the like. My sister and I absolutely loved this book when we were very young children. At some point the libraries took it off the shelves as being too intense for delicate children, and I didn't see it for years. My friend Bob Morrow, a former art teacher of mine, had an original copy of it he had had saved from his childhood.  I was able to find a copy of it from Blackwell's in Oxford. Anyway, there he is, along with a miniature Peter which I bought at the Chriskindlmarkt in Akron a couple of years ago when they had brought in a group of jolly Germans to brighten up the holiday season here in Northeastern Ohio.
 Before I found my Slovenly Peter book, feeling that my children would benefit from this sort of thing and thinking they would find it as hilarious as my sister and I had, I got them a couple of similar books by Hillaire Beloc, titled "Cautionary Tales for Bad Children." Alas, they did not find it funny, but were rather terrified by the fates of some of the kiddos - burning up in a fire (playing with matches and being eaten by a lion (disobeying the warning signs at the zoo.) I think they're still dealing with this in therapy. We were much hardier in the old says.
The tree looks great.

Monday, December 19, 2011

What Does It All Mean?


I wrote a post a while back about how, in Catholic school, we were presented with concepts well above our understanding, burdening our little minds with weighty theological terminology. A lot of this came in the Catechism, in which a question was asked and an answer given to be memorized. In the very early grades, some of this we could understand, if we cared to delve into it, but most the our responses  sprang to our lips automatically, for which we could accumulate holy pictures of agonized looking saints. By the fourth grade, preparing for Confirmation, things got a bit  more complicated, and asking for explanations was not encouraged. Our heads were full of big words about bigger matters, like "occasions of sin," "plenary and partial indulgences," "transubstantiation," and the like. We never never questioned these mysteries, so they stuck in out little heads forever.
The illustration above, done by Sally when she was 7 or 8, is an excellent example of the way a child's mind, confronted with one of those mysterious  pronouncements in religion class, tries to get around that mystery. I don't think anyone answered her query. I don't remember hearing about a wind blowing through the room during the visit of the holy spirit. I remember being confused as a child by pictures of the apostles with little flames over their heads. I knew it had something to do with Pentecost.  My nun didn't mention what that meant or anything about a wind. In Sally's picture, she has a sort of round thing dripping with flames hanging over the table at which the apostles were seated, as if they had yet to settle on the heads of the apostles. She needed to get that wind out of the way first. I love the look on the face of the questioning apostle. I have saved this drawing for over forty years. It is one of my favorites of the many drawings my children did. I cannot answer the question that Sally used this drawing to ask it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December Sky

I do not love to exercise. What I do like, though, is having done it. I like doing it early in the morning, because that's as bad as I'm going to feel the rest of the day. It's over by 8:00 a.m. and from then on, is on;y going to be better for that. I have been doing something exercise-ish early in the day for about 45 years or so. I was in an exercise program at the university for years, which involved floor stuff (stretching, bending ) and a lot of running. Then I did walking, lots of walking. After my first hip surgery, the elective one, I started Silver Sneakers, a program for geezers, which involved the stretching and bending stuff with a little mild aerobics thrown in. I have found all of this immensely boring, but I have done it anyway. Now I am in a water aerobics class which I actually enjoy, thanks to the other participants, a group of friendly, funny, smart women. We do this at 7 a.m. twice a week, which means I arise at 6:00 a.m., while it is now quite dark.
All this is just a lead up to the subject on this post, which is the beauty of the December morning sky. There is no other time like it. I don't know why, and I have seen years of early morning skies. In December the sky is the deepest and richest shade of dark blue. You can almost hear this color. For the past few days the moon has been full and pure glowing silver. In spite of light pollution, there are actually stars to be seen. Venus, of course, low in the western sky, smaller but as bright as the moon. I love this sky The moon shines into my room, but I have to get out of bed to see it. Early in the evening it is low and huge and then toward morning it is way high up in the western sky but still extremely bright. I remember flying home from some place years ago in December on a clear night and could see the silver pools of water far below as the moon reached them in a sort of explosion of brightness - the sort of magic that takes away the thought that you're in a speeding metal tube high above the earth. Even down on the ground, I love to go out to get the paper and just stand there and look up at the December sky and enjoy the moment.
Then I have to go and exercise.

Monday, December 12, 2011

See This Movie


Yesterday Sally and I went to see "Hugo."  It is based on the Caldecott award winning graphic novel and it is just a splendid movie, directed by Martin Scorsese, and it is an homage to the art of movie making. There is a version in 3-D which I did  not want to see, because I never get the 3-D sensation and I can't think of any reason that anyone should need to see it in 3-D. It is beautifully cast and filmed in plain old 2-D. Ben Kingsley, whom I didn't recognize at  first plays Papa Georges who turns out to be someone you may never have heard of unless you're a film nut like me. Sacha Baron Cohen plays a frustrated station guard in a fine and funny Peter Sellers kind of way without a trace of Borat.
If you have a brighter than average 8 or 9 year old  kid relative or friend who has not had his/her wits dulled by the usual kid movie crap, I think the movie would be even more enjoyable than already is. It has not been very heavily promoted, so people are taking their children to see junk like the chipmunk movie, which is a shame. " Hugo" is set in the 30s and there's not one anachronistic use of language in it, which is refreshing, too.
Lovely flick. Don't miss it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Meanderings

I have been remiss in keeping up with my blog of late. No particular reason.  Thanksgiving was busy, what with  visiting relatives from far away, namely Polly and Emily. Polly spent a lot of time in the kitchen, much to our delight, since she is an excellent cook. Emily made her Gorgonzola pasta which we all love. A good time was had by all.
The girls and I went down to Salem to tour the Charles Burchfield house. Burchfield is one of my favorite artists, one of these great Ohio guys from the 30s and 40s. He did theses magical expressionist watercolor landscapes.The neat thing about the house is that copies of his paintings are positioned so that you can look out the windows and see what he saw, since not much has changed in the neighborhood over the past 100 years - a rare thing, indeed. Much of his work is in Buffalo, NY, since that's where he ended up. The Cleveland Museum of Art has some of this paintings also. He was a contemporary of Clyde Singer.
Went to see "The Descendants." which we all enjoyed. It's an Alexander Payne ("Election,""Sideways") flick set in Hawaii. Never liked Hawaiian music, but just loved it in this movie. And then there's George Clooney, who just gets better and better with every  movie he makes.  They need to give the guy an Oscar.
Of course, there was the loss of Dupree which was tempered somewhat by having everyone home. Then, of course, the girls left and the house was really empty. We keep thinking Dupree is still around. I mean after 17 years,m he was part of the furniture, only warmer, fuzzier and cuter. We really miss him.
Saturday's opera was "Rodalinda, a Handel work with much tessitura, a lot of it by two counter tenors. They had beautiful voices, except when the had to do their recitatives in falsetto, which came across like an old Sid Cesar skit, the one where he played a silent film star whose career was ruined by the arrival of sound. The one counter tenor even looked like Sid Cesar. When they were interviewed during intermission, they both had very deep male speaking voices. I'm not sure why Handel used that vocal range for those roles, since they both were regular guys, one of whom was married to the leading woman (Renee Fleming).So  she's singing a duet with a guy who sounds like a woman. Oh, well. It's only the second opera by Handel that I've heard and it was a good lead up to a Messiah sing on Sunday which Sally and I attended up in Hiram. I haven't sung a "Messiah" for about fifty years, and even though I can whistle just about every chorus and a few of the arias, trying to follow it along was not easy and I got lost a couple of times. It didn't help that some tone deaf guy kept walking up behind me and throwing me off even more than I already was wandering about in the mass of notes. But it was great fun and the soloists were mostly great. That night it was up to the campus to hear the Kent Chorus do their Christmas program, which included a Missa Brevis by Haydn. I don't know why it seems as if every weekend I am engulfed in music. Coming up this Saturday is the Met "Faust," which looks good even though they are setting it in the 30s. But the misc will still be great. I think.
So, I guess I have been busy. Really enjoyed having all four of my grown children here for two weeks. Polly will be coming home again for Christmas, hurrah.

Friday, November 25, 2011

R.I.P. Dupree

Today was a sad day at our house. It was inevitable, of course. I read somewhere that when we get a pet, we know that we will outlive it, but we continue to fall in love with our animals and go through the pain of loss eventually, over and over.
Dupree had been failing for some time. He could not process his food, but was hungry all the time. He was incontinent, which was not pleasant, for us and for him, since he was a fastidious groomer. Since he was not able to process food, he was so thin you could feel all his bones. Lately, he had been getting up into my lap, and staring right into my eyes as if telling me he was not happy. So this morning, John took him to the vet to release him from his misery. It was just too sad, but necessary.
John buried him in one of his favorite spots by the side of the house.
It's strange, but I keep thinking I hear him at the front door, or feel him jumping on the footrest of my throne.
He's had a good life, has been much loved, but will be much missed. He was a little over 17 years old, and until this past summer had remained a kitten. He used to climb up a tall fir tree on the corner of the house to get on the roof in order to walk over to the edge to meow over John's window to get his attention in the middle of the night. He would then climb down the lattice-like support of the porch roof  like a monkey.
He liked to walk with his tail held high, like a plume over his back. He was a lovely cat and knew it. A fine purrer. Spoiled, too.
We told Dupree stories at dinner tonight and toasted his memory with wine and cranberry juice - separately, of course.
He was a very good cat.
You can read a poem I wrote about him here.http://kentkapersll.blogspot.com/2010/08/cat-prizes-for-me.html

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lotsa Stuff

Good grief, Charlie Brown! Where has November gone? Right now I have a house full of company, most welcome, since they are all related to me by birth. This is the first time I have had all four adult children  home at the same time for Thanksgiving in over ten years. Having long meals, talking, laughing, arguing on occasion and generally  having a good time. I believe some singing is in order this evening. I shall probably retire early, since I had to get up early this morning to go to the retina guy, who is trying to retard the progress of macular degeneration. He is very sorry that I had to give up driving. Not his fault, I told him.
Well, before all of this I had a busy couple of weeks, music-wise and movie-wise. First of all, there was the live in HD Met production of "Siegfried," starring the wonderful Texan, Jay Hunter Morris. My ear for German is not that good , so I don't know if he sounded like a Texas German, or a German Texan. I only know that he has a terrific voice and looked great, all blond and tall and all. Even though it was six hours long, it went by in a flash. German mythology is about as wacky as most cultural mythology, with dragons and dwarfs and incestuous breeding and all  and Wagner was a virulent anti -Semitic  jerk, but he certainly could write some gorgeous music."Gotterdamerung" is coming up in February, with the same cast, so I think I'll catch that one, too, and watch the end of the gods.
Then Kent State theater department put on "A Chorus Line," a splendid production, with superb dancing and mostly good singing. There is a tendency these days for young women to speak in Munckhin like tones. Not sure where this is coming from, but when a desperate dancer is trying to sound dramatic, as the cast of this musical is wont to do , the voices sound too much like Donald Duck's girl friend, all up in the throat ans all. I think the theater department should start a required course in voice, not singing, but speaking, so that they will sound like adults. I can't imagine how Lady Macbeth would sound in that un-dulcet timbre, but it may be the coming thing. Other than that, it was a really fine show.
Sally and I went to see "The Way," because I have loved Martin Sheen since he was my shadow president during the long, dread days of the Bush administration. "The Way" is a lovely film about the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage taken by people in Northern Spain. The scenery is breathtaking and the performances are fine and funny, too. You can even enjoy it whilst being a pagan such as I am. There are no explosions, not too much religion, no F-words or sex scenes, which are getting downright tiresome these days. There';s not much to have sex with in this movie anyway, except maybe with a few rocks. I enjoyed it very much and highly recommend it.
Then there was " J. Edgar." a very dark, literally, movie with a miscast Leonardo DiCaprio, a tall, skinny guy wrapped in a fat suit to play a short, stocky J. Edgar Hoover. It was interesting, and cleverly arranged to make him look like a hero, except at the end when you learned that he lied a  lot about his exploits. I did enjoy it, but wondered why the casting was what is was, considering that there are plenty of short guys who could have done it. like Matt Damon.
Last Saturday was another RD opera, this time "Satygraaha," about Gandhi in South Africa,which was by Phillipp Glass, who could put a hard-core insomniac into a coma-like snooze. However, it was very
interesting, especially the staging, which involved enormous puppets made of old newspaper (ya hadda be there) and a bright blue Krishna, who looked very much like Tiny Time, the late falsetto singer.  The libretto was in Sanskrit, based on theBaghava Gita,which I really must read some day in the distant future. It was worth seeing, and I did wake myself up with a very short kind of a snort, the beginning of a snore. I dont'; think anyone heard it, being sound asleep for the most part. But I an glad that I saw it. Richard Croft, who played Gandhi, had the most beautiful voice, even though he sang a lot of repetitive lines - a factor in the general drowsiness which resulted. It was a very rueful performance for all.
I just finished "The Paris Wife," which I enjoyed immensely. It was about Hemingway's first wife, Hadley (a fictionalized account),  and it was very fine and true and brave. And Heningway was a bit of a s--t. What else is new?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Time Travel, Sorta

This past weekend was one of those in which all sorts of things are going on one after the other. I spent it gong from 12th century Sicily to 18th century Seville to 16th century London. Two operas and one movie later the only thing that's tired is my seat.
On Friday I went up to Cleveland with friends to see an opera put on by a small, but excellent opera company of a rarely performed work by a Polish composer who shall remain nameless. This opera company used to be headquartered here in town while the star was getting her PH.D.at the university. She is an amazingly wonderful bel canto soprano who is a joy to listen to. While they were here, they did a series of bel canto operas, by Donizetti, Bellini and others. They used the university as well as local churches in which to perform. I was really looking forward to hearing her again, even though the opera was one I'd never heard of. It begins in Sicily, travels to the mysterious East and ends up in ancient Greece. I think. It was sung in Polish, but there were projected subtitles, which I couldn't read, but never mind. It was written in the twenties and is the kind of formless music with lots of declamatory singing and no arias. The beautiful voice was mainly used in a kind o vocalise, hard to hear over the full orchestra and a chorus of loud male voices. They staged the opera in a large pseudo-Gothic church with terrible acoustics. Everything about the performance e was excellent, professionally done, great voices, etc., except that the music was just pretty bad, or not my cup of vodka. There was one character, called "The Shepherd," a young blond man, dressed all in white, with a lovely tenor voice, who minced around in a badly choreographed sort of dance, who was just unwatchable. He was supposed to represent Spirit, I think.I expressed to my companions, that I thought I knew why this work was so rarely performed, and they agreed. And both of them are musicians and know a lot more than I do about this sort of thing. We left before the third act. I hear that this opera is a classic in Poland. Okay.
The next day I went to see a real opera, one of those in HD form the Met. It was "Don Giovanni" and both of the male leads, Leporello and Don Giovanni were hunks with gorgeous voices. I noticed that Giovanni really got into his character, taking advantage of being a lech by vigorously feeling up the women he was seducing. They were supposed to be virtuous Spanish maiden, - well except for one, who was doing her best to get him to seduce her again and all. One of my favorite singers, Ramon Vargas, played Don Ottavio, and got to sing a couple of fine arias. He played one of the seducees boy friends, whom she didn't find too exciting compared with the hot seducer. The final scene, where the Comnmendatore sends Don Giovanni to hell was full of flames and smoke, but the women didn't get to see it, but heard about it later and were sad and all. No more feeling up time for them.
Monday, Sally and I went to see "Anonymous," which is all about how Shakespeare didn't write all those sonnets and plays because he was a right idjit. The actor who played him apparently viewed him as a Will Ferrell kind of guy, because that's how he portrayed him. We also learn that the Virgin Queen was not virginal, and dropped bastard babies all over the country, leaving them to be brought up by noble families, never learning of their royal heritage. All in all, this movie has its own story about that era, which makes for a fun movie. Great acting, costumes, sets, et cetera. When I took a Shakespeare course a few years ago, the professor, Kelly Gentoff, a Shakespeare scholar said at the beginning of the class: "Shakespeare wrote it all; nobody else wrote the sonnets and the plays." I wonder what Kelly would think of this movie. I think he wouldn't bother to see it in the first place.
On this Saturday, a friend and I are going to see the six hour "Siegfried." Renee Fleming interviewed the tenor Jay Hunter Morris, who is playing Siggy. It was hilarious. Morris is from Paris, Texas, has a great Heldentenor voice, but talks like the sausage guy Jimmy Dean. He claims to be right thrilled to be kissin' Debra Voigt. I reckonn we'll tote us some vittles for the two intermissions.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Red-faced at the Market

Last Saturday was the penultimate market days for our great Farmers' Market in Kent. Sally and I went down  to buy stuff and enjoy the ambiance. At this point, there is still a lot of produce available. I wanted some fresh lettuce from a particular stand which has the best, even this late in the season. That's the first place I started and I bought a lovely head of Boston lettuce. Then I went to the goat cheese stand just opposite the lettuce lady's place. I sampled a bit, which was delicious. Then I reached in my pocket for my wallet, only to discover that it was gone! I had just arrived, and hadn't moved more than 4 feet. I looked around, Sally looked around. I could not imagine that anyone there would have picked it up and walked away with it.  I wandered down to where that day's musicians were entertaining the crowd and asked it I could use the mike for an announcement. They kindly ceded the mike and I plaintively asked that if anyone found it, would they please turn it in to the director's table. Soon I had all these people helping me, asking at each vendor's stand if they had seen it. All I could think of was having to call the bank, the credit card company, Macy's (where I had planned to go after the market to take advantage of their one day extravaganza sale - 50% off on select items!!) and the 50 bucks  in the wallet with no way to get more because my debit card would be gone. We decided that we'd better go home and start calling. I had left my purse in the trunk, so Sally got it out and there was my wallet inside. I had totally forgotten that I had taken 20 bucks and put it in the pocket of the jacket I was wearing. I had forgotten that completely and instead of putting my wallet in my pocket I had just put the money in it. When I had reached into my pocket for the not there wallet, I hadn't dug down deep enough to feel the change from that twenty, so I didn't remember that at all. Sally went to the  market director's table to tell her, and to announce that it had been found, and I felt like a total  fool. All I could think of is that they would put it down to my being a fuzzy headed old person whose memory was slipping. I reason that it was one of those things that a person does without, and that I probably would have done the same thing when I was 44 instead of 84. So Saturday is the last day and I'm thinking I will just stay away.
And then I had been asked to write a letter to the editor in support of the library levy for the local library, which I hardly ever use because put up this new building which looks as if it was designed by someone who flunked out of the Architecture School of Stalinist Russia in 1947 (a bad year for architecture everywhere), the interior of which is also badly laid out. I wrote what I thought was a very nice letter, but when it appeared I realized that either their proofreader had goofed or I had (probably the latter) and instead of "100 years of library use" it read "100 tears". I admit that I am a terrible typist, really awful, and I am also not a very good proofreader either, as Emily and Sally are only too eager  to tell me.  But anyway, that's twice I have embarrassed myself publicly this week-end. One more time and I may have to change my  name and relocate.
But I did get to Macy's great sale and bought two jackets for the price of one; one for Sally and one for me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Faded Leaves

For some reason, this fall has not produced the usual brilliant,t colorful foliage which I look forward to every October. I noticed this on that geezer bus tour last week. We were about 45 miles south of here, and most of the trees were already bare. The ones which were not bare  had dull, faded colors. In my neighborhood, most of the trees are still green. The two maples in front of my house are usually a glowing golden color by now, filling my  living room with the warm tinge of buttery yellow. We have had a lot of rain, record amounts, in fact, which usually keeps the trees green longer, but the hues now  are the kind you get when there's been a drought. Even the brilliant red maple at the cider mill, the most photographed autumn tree in Portage County  is just a muted, washed out looking shade of plum instead of the flaming scarlet that makes people bring their cameras  when they come for cider. I have not had a chance to go through the golden tunnel of the maples out on Lake Rockwell road, so I don;t know if they  are suffering from the same problem as the other trees around here, whatever that may be. My friend in nearby Hudson tells me that the trees in her neighborhood are lovely and colorful, but then, everything in Hudson is lovely, being upscale and all. Even the trees know their role in the overall scheme of a perfect Western Reserve town.
Below is  a picture from the past of the golden tunnel.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Geezer Bus Tour

Since this is my favorite season for going on a bit of a ramble, and since I can't drive any more, I went on a bus tour last week to one of my favorite places, Hanoverton. It is now a pretty small town, but it was built along the Sandy and Beaver canal back in the early 19th century. Unfortunately, the canal was never completed down the line, and it was pretty much abandoned. It looks like 18th century Philadelphia or Boston, with brick row houses. I believe that some of the earliest settlers were Quakers. When I first went there, many years ago, there was nothing much there and many of the houses were in pretty bad shape. The houses have since been restored, and there is the Spread Eagle Tavern, a tourist draw, and one of our destinations on this tour. It's a fine place for lunch. It's been beautifully restored, and is also an inn. One of the problems for me, however, is that the owner has decorated the public rooms with pictures of himself with the likes of Reagan and George Bush. I took Harriet down there for lunch once and told  her that she was not allowed to comment until we got back in the car. I took another friend there, another fire breathing liberal, and told her the same thing. It's hard for us not to draw moustaches  on pictures like that, but so far, we have held back and enjoyed the food and the non-conservative decor. Most of the buildings in the town are on the National Historic Register.
It is a conservative area. Clement Vallandingham, the leader of the Copperheads, lived in nearby Lisbon which was also home to the Apple Farm, a commune which hoped to improve the human species by breeding super men and women. It didn't last long, since, while there was a plenitude of male volunteers for the experiment, there was a reluctance on the part of females to participate. But I digress.
We made a brief stop at the Hanoverton cemetery for some feeble ghost stories  by some not very good storytellers. One was dressed as a Confederate soldier, who professed that the war was about states' rights, not slavery. He was obviously a Copperhead. The other was supposed to be a town character and he stumbled through some tale, supposedly true, about a witch who really wasn't one, even though she put a spell on a family and they all died.  Since it was a gray and windy day, this could have been a pretty good experience. The cemetery is old and full of spooky tress, but these tellers just weren't up to it.
Out final stop was a tour of Stonegate, a pseudo Tudor castle. It turned out to be a place I had read about a few years ago, which this guy built because he'd always wanted to live in the past. John had done a seminar there once on stone masonry; the guy had wanted to hold classes there in various areas of historic handicrafts, but nothing came of it. Now he does these tours in October and his wife teaches stained glass classes. They built the house of used materials from demolished buildings. They got the stone and a lot of the wood from the property and picked up some remarkable things from trash piles and dumps: windows, furniture, beams from old barns, lamps, etc, They learned how to plane wood, plaster walls, carve stone and wood and generally taught themselves all sorts of crafts. They got slate from a torn down church and learned how to do the roof. They designed Gothic doors for the three car garage, where they presumably keep their donkey cart. It took them 33 years to do all this and it is impressive, I must say. It's also a bit tacky in spots, and it seemed pretty gloomy on this gray day. He's a self made man, happy in his isolated castle. John said that he owns a large pizza franchise, but I didn't see any pizza oven in the Gothic kitchen.
We had earlier stopped at an apple orchard, where we had cider and doughnuts and I bought some really fine apples, Honey Crisps, that John made into a pie last night in our 1950s kitchen. I enjoyed the geezer tour, but I do miss driving to places like Hanoverton.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Macaw Meets Mole

Had lunch yesterday with three women from my aerobics class. We met at a favorite Twin Lakes tavern, with lovely autumnal views of the lake, reflecting colorful tress on the other side. The specialty there is a wall-eye sandwich, which we all ordered. We started talking about times we'd been there before. Berry, who is a retired beautician and scuba dive,r recounted a true life tale of horror and hilarity. It seems that one of the women from the salon where she worked was getting married, and they decided to take her there for a pre-wedding party. They ate, they drank, and the bride-to-be especially drank and drank. This tavern had a pet yellow macaw. The tipsy bride decided that she wanted that macaw to sit on her shoulder. Now this lady also had on her cheek a large, dark mole. The macaw was brought to her table and set down on her shoulder. Mistaking the mole for a large, brown seed, it promptly began to snack. Screams ensued. Blood flowed. Most of the mole dangled from the curved. Don't know if the bird was smiling.
The bird was returned to its perch. The victim declined to go to the ER, since she did not want to appear there in her inebriated condition, perhaps before a waiting room possibly containing people who might know her.  Betty, who is always prepared, had with her 1.) scissors, 2.)NewSkin and 3.)Bandaids, requisite tools of the thoughtful hairdresser and scuba diver. (She told us that NewSkin is perfect for the odd accidental ear snip while cutting hair. I did not know that. I have never had my ear snipped while getting my hair cut. Who knew?) The wounded was taken to the ladies' room and Betty stanched the blood, and performed quick surgery, snipping off the remains of the loose mole, applying NewSkin (which is antiseptic) and the Bandaid. As the now mole-less bride-to-be was escorted out by her friends one of them remarked, "I guess you'll be canceling the dove release at the wedding now?"

Post Script: The next day the woman went to the doctor who did some further cleaning up, and it healed scarlessly in time for the wedding.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Almost Gone

There's not much better than ripe Ohio tomatoes. Right now they are available, but not for much longer. My own tomatoes did not do too well this summer, for some reason. (The beauty above is from a local farm.) Maybe I got the wrong kind of plant. They are small, but not like Roma small one, just small round ones. They work for sauces and salads, but what I really like are tomato sandwiches, with lots of mayonnaise with a sprinkle of salt. In my younger days I liked to eat a tomato like an apple, but for some reason I don't do that any more. Too messy?  Whatever. But a good tomato sandwich, boy, that's summer.
Speaking of mayonnaise, it seems to have a negative connotation, but I have always liked the stuff. My mother used to make her own mayonnaise (as did Julia Child, I discovered when reading her book about living in France). Mother made it in this jar with a metal plunger. I know that she used Wesson Oil and lemon juice. It had a most delicate flavor. I don't think she added any spices. I'm sure there are recipes galore for home made mayonnaise, but I have never tried it.
Oh, this reminds me of Roz Chast's cartoon in the NYorker last week. It's a pie chart of typical blogs: one third are about yummy food the blogger has eaten (guilty), one third trying to sell one's book or whatever (guilty), and one third conspiracy theories (not guilty).But, I don't care. A tomato sandwich is a worthy subject , both to eat, and to write about.

Dupree Update

It's been a rough summer for the aged cat who lives in this house. He's had a couple of infections which have responded to antibiotics. John is back from Athens County, which is a relief for all concerned, since I am not the only one who has had to listen to his constant whingeing and snubbing of food.  He has developed a variety of yowls. When I refuse to cater to his food issues, he produces a drawn out unworldly kind of thing. If he were a human child, it would constitute sassy remark.
On the other hand, he is extremely affectionate, nestling up to me on the footrest of my throne. He also like to get into my lap and stare steadily at me, purring all the while. He is also very good at the vet. While John was away, Sally took him several times and was very proud of his good behavior both there and on the ride home, where he curled up on the front seat and slept.
I think he is on his 81/2 life, and it isn't easy for him or anyone else. Right now he is sleeping on the carpet, occasionally muttering a brief meow, a sort of "Don't forget that I'm here," sort of thing. Not likely.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Walk in the Woods

Every year, the Akron park system has a Fall Hiking Spree. There are something like 15 parks, and  if you walk a trail in at least eight of them, you get a badge to put on your hiking staff. I did that about 15 years ago, skipped a few years and started again on the Sunday after 9/11/01, as did about half the population of the Akron area. I think we all wanted to get away from TV and newspapers and find comfort in nature. The parks are all beautiful. Some have ponds, some take you along the Cuyahoga River, some take you through gorges and up hills to viewing platforms. The trails are not paved, and some run along board walks over boggy areas. Some trails are 1 mile, some are three miles. You can see flora and fauna. As the fall progresses you go from deep green forests of late summer to the gold and red of autumn. It starts right after Labor Day and runs through November, I think. There are families with babes in strollers, grandparents and lots of interesting dogs. It's a wonderful thing to do on a golden afternoon. You  cannot stop smiling.
I have not done this for a number of years, starting when I had a bum hip and had it replaced. I coulda and shoulda. Then I had that hip break and that put me off again. This year I decided to give it a try, perhaps not going enough to get another badge to add to my measly collection, but just to see how, or if, I could manage at least a mile. Yesterday, a gorgeous day of blue sky, puffy clouds and sunshine, Sally, John and I went off to Goodyear Park, along with a lot of other people. Sally has done this for years and her hiking staff has a nice bunch of colorful badges. She usually gets it all done by either late September or early October. John has done it for years, too, but he never bothers to get the badges. This spree has been going on for over forty years and you'll see people with that many badges on their staffs.
I didn't take my hiking staff, but instead used my German walking sticks. They are basically ski poles, but you'll see many people in Germany using them for walking, so I bought myself a pair the last time I was there. They give you upper body motion while you are walking along and help when you get to a hill. Unfortunately, I forgot to change my shoes, and realized that I still had my Crocs on - not a good thing to hike in. However, I managed to make the whole 1.4 mile walk, with a couple of bench sits in there.That's the most I've walked in a long time. Sally has promised to take me along on a few other ones, mainly the ones rated 1, which means that there are no big hills and that are usually the shorter ones. I'll miss a couple of my old favorites, but no need to push it, I always say. I remember seeing these really ancient people in the Lake District in England climbing up these practically perpendicular fells. They appeared to have calves of steel, and will probably never need a hip replacement.
One of the perks of this hiking thing is that you can have ice cream after. Yesterday we had frozen custard from Strickland's, an Akron institution with a secret ingredient which makes their custard very popular hereabouts, even for those who haven't just walked 1.4 miles. But if you have, you feel ever so noble and deserving.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sunday

So, I did not watch any of the ceremony going on in NYC. Listened to concerts on WCLV and WQXR commemorating the sad event of ten years ago. In the evening there was a repeat of the remarkable documentary by the two French brothers who came to NYC to do a film about a typical New York City fire department, which ended up as a horrifying documentary about the World Trade Center destruction. It is an amazing film, chilling, especially when you know what is going to happen. Miraculously enough, not one of the firemen form the station was injured or killed, even though they were in the Trade Center when the first building fell. You can hear it as the cameraman and the firemen are in the lobby of the other building. Everything goes black and them dim from the dust. One of the brothers had stayed at the fire station and then when he realizes what happened, he goes off to the WTC, sure that his brother is dead. This is a side story to what is actually happening and they captured everything with their cameras. There is no getting away from the horror of this event, especially since they  covered some things that they can't even show. Watching it brought back the day it happened so vividly that I could feel the same stomach clutching dread that I felt that day. On this Sunday, it appeared that many people greeted the commemoration by waving flags, something that is  peculiarly significant in this country.
One thing that no one mentioned was the resultant destruction of Iraq, which had nothing to do with the WTC destruction. For the 2998 lives lost in the USA from the Saudi terrorists, we have killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, including thousands of children, maimed thousands of innocent civilians, destroyed homes and cities and their culture. We are not memorializing them, nor are we mourning for them. We are waving flags to "celebrate our resiliency." In addition, we have  lost thousands of young American lives and left more thousands with lost limbs and lost minds. We are naming streets and baseball fields for the dead and waving more flags as their hearses pass by on the way to the  local cemetery.
I just finished a book about WWI, describing the horror of those muddy battlefields and men lining up, facing each other and shooting each other across No Man's Land. And twenty years later they went through it again, with bigger guns and bigger bombs and even more people killed.We haven't had that kind of war in this country since 1865, but Europe has, with cities left in rubble, land ripped to pieces, people killed by the  millions, families torn apart, children left parentless and homeless, starving and dying from "collateral damage." We are still in shock from the WTC, the most violent man-made occurrence we have experienced in our lifetime. Are we as "resilient" as the Europeans? I don't think so. But we love that flag, don't we?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Favorite THings

Last year when I  was a guest for dinner at the home of my friend Jane, I was helping her with the dessert. She was making an apple crumble and she was peeling the apples and I was slicing them. She was using an ancient peeler, which seamed to be a bit dull. I told her about my wonderful peeler and that she should get one like it, which would be much easier than using the one she has. "Uh-uh," was her reply. She loves her peelre and has had it for years. She does not want a new peeler, uh-uh. That dull thing was an old friend and worked fine for her.
I realized that I also had pet gadgets, some old, some new which I cannot do without. Some I have had for fifty years or so, like some knives, a strainer, and a strawberry huller. I broke my glass lemon juicer a few years ago and was horrified to find that they don't make them any more. I found one in an antique shop and it was not expensive but I guard it with care.
The gadgets above are things I have to have.  Only a couple of them are old, because the others hadn't been invented yet when I first stocked my kitchen. On the left is a zester, a gift from Polly,one of three I have which I use to grate nutmeg, Parmesan cheese and lemons or oranges. For some reason the light makes it look rusty, but it's not. Next to it is the strawberry huller , which is ancient and is only used when strawberries are ripe in Ohio. Below that is a little gadget I got up in Amish country for removing that leaf stem on tomatoes. I use it mostly in the summer, when Ohio tomatoes (our state veg or fruit depending on whom you believe) are ripe. The little orange thing is also from Amish country (and we think they have such a hard life!) used to strip orange peels and I cannot do without it. They don't last forever, so I usually buy a bunch of them. I only use that in the winter months when there are good oranges available. Then there's my magic peeler. First time I saw one of these was in Germany in my daughter's kitchen. I can't remember if I bought this over there or found it here, but I can't use the other kind. The next plastic object is a lemon slice squeezer. I've had it forever and I don't know where I got it, but it is indispensable when you don't want to use a whole lemon and you  only need a tablespoon or two of lemon juice. It's old. Hovering over all is a cheese slicer. My late friend Harriet claims it was invented by a Norwegian (which Harriet was one of) and you can sere its outline on this one brand of cheese. It makes really nice slices of cheddar or Swiss to go on a cracker or to put between two slices of bread for grilled cheese sandwiches. It's not very old, and so much better than those crummy wire cutters which break right when you're in the mood for a grilled cheese sandwich.
I still have my 60 year old Revereware pans, only I don't shine the bottoms any more, but they're not gadgets, but nice familiar things I like very much.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Play Ball

The Germans have gone up to watch the Clevelands play the Oaklands (apologies to Damon Runyan) on this last day of August, as their visit and summer both wane. They had a wonderful time up in Put-in-Bay last weekend and must go to the baseball game in order to get the full summer in American experience. I don't think the girls have ever seen a live major league game, but Chris has been a fan ever since he lived in San Francisco where he and Emily lived for a year before moving abroad. I expect they will busy themselves observing the behavior of the Cleveland baseball fan in order to report back to their friends in Deutschland. After all, Ohio is the ultimate American location. After all, it is the home of a whole bunch of American presidents,, being edged out in numbers by Virginia by one. Of course they have Washington and Jefferson, and we have the likes of Warren G. Harding.
I am staying home, enjoying the unnatural quiet - but I misspeak. I have the game on TV, occasionally glancing to see if I can spot the family,. They have seats in the nose bleed section, planning to move down to the good seats after  a while. I am DVR-ing it so they can scan it when they get home and see if they can find themselves. Doesn't everybody do that? Before they left, Chris asked me if I had any poster board in order to make a sign. Alas, I do not stock such material.
I shall wander out now to the kitchen for a bowl of peach ice cream. Or maybe the coffee ice cream. Or maybe a dab of both.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Visitors from Abroad


Three beautiful women and the Greek Prince Consort are currently visiting here in Kent. One is my daughter, Emily, and two are my grand daughters, Katina and Elena, and the other one my  is darling  son-in-law Chris. It's been a few years since Chris has been able to come with them., and we are so glad to see him. The girls are grown ups now and we have lively conversations. They spent the weekend in Put-in-Bay, and aren't back yet. It always amazes me that they find Lake Erie interesting, since they've been to much more glamorous spots in Europe. It's all in what you're used to and what is new to you.
The farmers' m,market Saturday was really energized by a drum group called the African Drums, made up mostly by white middle class types who have gotten the rhythm down right. Everyone was smiling and dancing around, although the vendors in their immediate vicinity must have gotten a bit tired of it after a few hours. At one produce stand, the vendor and a customer were discussing Wendell Berry, the poet, and he is a topic you would not hear at the Acme Supermarket produce section, unless someone from the English department happened to be sorting through the lettuce  and talking to him/herself.
I ran into a fellow geezer there (the Acme) the other day, and got stuck listening to a monologue, the kind  that includes things like ..."No, now that I think of it, it was in May...no, I take that back, it was December of 2001...no,  wait, it was 1998, and then we went ..no, it wasn't then it was ..."  For about an hour this went on. I think we need to educate people to recognize that when your listeners's eyes glaze over, or they start reading the product codes on the items in their cart, that's when maybe you should shut the hell up and move on.
Well, he's a nice geezer, really quite sweet but my fake hips can take only so much standing, and my face can only look interested for a shorter amount of time.
The picture is of one of Cris' artistic creations. When he makes a dish, it is always a work of art. This is tomatoes - the kind you can only get in August in Ohio - with mozzarella, basil, garlic,chives and balsamic vinegar. It was part of our favorite summer meal: Ohio corn on the cob, Blue Lake green beans and tomatoes. And then a trip to Stoddard's for frozen custard. That night the special was coffee chocolate chip. All's right with the world.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

This and That



The above photo is of my father and some classmates at Auburn,  sometime around 1917 or so. They were in the ROTC, but by the time they graduated in 1920, WWI was over, so the band new first lieutenants had no war to go to . My father went up North to Holyoke MA, to intern at the Worthington Pump Co.,where he met a lovely young draftswoman (one of the first women  draftsmen, hired to replace the men who had gone off to the war) who later became my mother.My father is the one with what my sister calls the Lyle Lovett hairdo. He was quite blond and handsome, but my mother told me that she preferred dark haired men, and was not impressed when he appeared over her drafting table. He was persistant, thank goodness or I would not be here.
He used to tell us that he had at one time played the mandolin, and the picture is the proof. We all became players o ukuleles, guitars and banjos, but never heard the mandolin master, probably because we never had a mandolin handy. It would be so nice to have a time machine and drop in on those boys of yesteryear. My sister is trying to figure out what kinds of things they would have been playing. There were a lot of good songs in those days: early Irving Berlin or George M. Cohan perhaps? They are obviously having a fine time. The man to the right of Pa is  a man we called Uncle Nelson, his best friend, nicknamed "Swede." As small children,we got to know him when they were both working in New Jersey, before we moved to Atlanta. I just remember that his wife RosaNell had a great jointed, wooden  Felix the Cat doll that I very much hoped she would give me. They never had any children, so I wonder what happened to it. No doubt it will show up on "Antiques Road Show" some day and be worth a fortune.
Went to Blossom Center on Saturday night to see the Joffrey Ballet. They are just a wonder, like feathers with muscles. They did a couple of Balanchine pieces, including a traditional pas de deux from "Swan Lake," but their strength is in the contemporary dance genre, at which they are best. I noticed a peculiar positioning of the feet of the female dancers during a life: they stick their feet out in a flexed position which looks very awkward and a bit dirty. They did that in a couple the ballets, both with different choreographers. It's the opposite of pointed toes and strange.
Went to see "Midnight in Paris" again with a a friend who hadn't seen it. Still great. Also saw "The Help" last week  and wanted less of Skeeter and more of the Black women. Also I found the white Junior Leaguers pretty stereotyped as racists, in a way that was not believable. They were caricatures rather than real people, too over the top. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer were brilliant. The actress who played the white trash woman was touching, and was also the same actress who played the saintly mother in "Tree of Life." which I would never have known if I hadn't looked it up on IMDB. That's versatility.
I ma re-reading "National Velvet," one of my favorite childhood books and nothing like the movie. It is so beautifully written, almost poetic, and so satisfying to a horse loving child, actually a horse loving child's dream come true. I identified with Velvet who looked nothing like Elizabeth Taylor, but like me,  wan and blond and skinny. The movie got nithing right, and was on e of my first disappointments in a movie adaptation of a book I loved. One of the major goofs was that the horse was called "The Pie" because he was a piebald horse, not the glossy brown one in the movie.  Stupid! My first copy of the  of the book was a cheap edition that had little line drawings by Enid Bagnold's daughter, graceful little drawings of horses. The edition I have now is the 50th anniversary edition, which I bought twenty some years ago, with some very fine watercolor illustrations. Doesn't really need illustrations, though, because it is a wonder of writing. I have heard good things about the book "War Horse," which is also on Broadway now with these great life size horse puppets, and is coming out in December as a film by Steven Spielberg. Sally brought the book over for me to read. It's a children's book, but she loved it, as did a friend who told me about it last winter. When I finish "National Velvet" I have a  stack of things to read. And the New Yorker, looming on a table in a 4 inch stack. Oy veh!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Pedestrian Life

Well, July was just so hot that I couldn't get it together enough to update this blog. John put an air conditioner in the living room, which helped to cool things off in the afternoon, and another one in my bedroom, which cooled things off at night. I have never done heat well, even though I spent my childhood in the South. As a child, though, going swimming as much as possible and playing in the hose and just playing led me to ignore the heat. It wasn't until we moved to Ohio that I became aware of how disgusting summer could be. Ohio has miserable summers because of the humidity and there weren't any public pools where we could cool off when we first moved up here. Of course this summer was worse than most, so I spent most of July in a stupor. Now it's August with the cool nights and brilliantly sunny days with a touch of cool in the mornings.
The big news in my life is that I have to give up driving. I can't pass the reading portion of the drivers' exam that you have to take to renew the license. In spite of the treatments, the macular degeneration has progressed to that point, so I am now a pedestrian. We do have a door to door bus service, but you have to call three days ahead of time to book it, which takes all the spontaneity out of going places. I love to drive. I love to just get into the car and head out to wherever all by myself. And then there's the practicality of being able to run to the store, the bank, the movies and museums or the post office when you need to. I am going to miss that. I'm a believer in the adage "He travels the fastest who travels alone," something I like to do. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.
Had an exciting week-end. First, on Saturday, the ATT Uverse, system, which runs my TV, computer and phone conked out. The mo st important of these services is my phone, especially since the next day was my birthday and I knew family would be calling and I had no way of letting them know that I had no phone. I called ATT on my cell phone and they promised that someone would be out to fix it that afternoon between 12 and four. Well, of course that didn't happen; they would be here around 6:30 the tech said later. I had an important event Saturday night. I had won a very nice evening at Blossom Music Center with a free dinner (with Bob Conrad, the guy who owns the best classical music station in the U.S. of A., WCLV in Cleveland), plus parking in the close in lot, which means you can park only steps from the restaurant and the pavilion. It turned out that they could do it early Sunday morning, so that took care of that. I could do without the computer and TV for a few hours, but not he phone. The problem is that no one knows my cell phone number, including me, so I would be incommunicado without my land line.
The evening at Blossom was lovely. John went with me, having driven up from Athens County, and Bob Conrad introduced me to the other winners as "Mary Lu Walker's sister," since he features her frequently on his nationally syndicated Weekend Radio program. (See your local listings for day and time.) He is a charming man and a great host. The concert featured Russian music and a marvelous pianist who played the hell out of a Prokofiev concerto whole clad in a stunning viviid red evening gown. John had already bought tickets for next week's Joffrey Ballet concert for my birthday, so we had this as an extra treat.On my actual birthday we had dinner at the Pufferbelly with Sally and Cynthia.
Yesterday some friends and I went to see "The Help." We went to the early  matinee ($5 tickets and free popcorn) and the theater was packed. There was some problem with the projector during the last 15 minutes, so we all got free passes as we left. It was a good movie, with some fine performances. A couple of fiends tried to go last night, but found that the theater was sold out. My favorite film for the summer is still "Midnight in Paris." which I think I'll go see again. I have a couple of friends who haven't seen it yet, and it's playing up in Cleveland at the Cedar Lee, where all the good movies come, so I think I can wangle a ride. My brother Mike wondered if there were any Morgan Freemans in this area who would drive Miss G. around. If only.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

That Old LIbrary Smell

Things are different now in libraries. For the past ten years or so, out area libraries have been on a building spree, erecting very large spaces. And I mean, very large spaces, in which the shelving looks a bit lost and meager. High ceilings, vast staircases, miles of carpeting, and snack bars. Jusst in time for the revolution in reading materials, libraries are dedicating enormous spaces for traditional books. Many of them are also mounting tax levies for the voters, come November. They all had lots of money for their expansion, but now they need more dough for operations. I am all for libraries staying in operation, no matter what kinds of reading, or information resources they are going to handle, but I think it would have been a good idea to have more foresight, both in the financial end of things and in the future of reading material. There is a whole new generation of people, many of whom don't read at all, and those who do, use E-readers and God only knows what technology may change that.
But what I miss most of all is that library smell which permeated the smaller, more compact spaces which used to comprise the buildings of old. It hit you when you walked in, a combination of paper, cardboard, glue,  dust, maybe the homeless in the periodical section, and on rainy days, ,wet wool. It gave off an aura of BOOKS, lots of BOOKS and primed one for the fun of finding just the one that would take you some place you'd never been. 
I loved the library i n Springfield, Ohio. It was a Richardsonian stone building, with a tower which led  to the children's room, named for Lois Lenski who had spent her childhood in that town. I loved her historical fiction about pioneers, Indian captives, New England small towns and adventurous and brave children. Our library in Atlanta, called the Wren's Nest because it was near the same named home Joel Chandler Harris, was basically a storefront and it was my first library and I loved it, but the ambiance of the one in Springfield was just so satisfying. The main reading room did have a fireplace and high ceiling which was later divided into a second floor.There were exciting glass floors in the non-fiction and reference sectionwhere my sister and I would get out Eveybody's Favorite Music books from which we would manage to murder some of the classics. (I shouldn't say that about her; she played very well.)
Summer was a great time for going to the library. Since  we were pretty  much library kids, we never got  into the Nancy Drew books, since librarians apparently  looked down on them, but we  made up for it with mysteries by Augusta Huell Seaman, in which almost every story seemed to have its roots in the Lost Dauphin of France or the Princes in the Tower. They were very old fashioned books and we loved them. When we were older we got hooked the the "Jalna" series, which had been popular in the twenties.  They were a multigenerational saga about a Canadian family, covering over a hundred years. There were scandals, chaste romances, births and deaths and we just dove into them.  We devoured books by Richard Halliburton, who was an adventurer who traveled all over the world and did exciting things, or supposedly did exciting things. I think he was later revealed as one who embroidered his adventure a bit, but he knew how to tell a good story. All these books had that library smell, mainly because most of them were already pretty old by the time we got to them. We did go outside in the summer, swimming,  biking and hanging out with friends, but there was many a day when the only sound in the house was of pages turning.
I have nothing against new libraries, and I know that they are still places to make discoveries and a wonderful asset to a community, a valuable resource for adding to the quality of life. They just don't smell like books any more.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Doing Things

The Blossom Chamber  Music concerts have started up again, but this year there are only six concerts cornets instead of nine, and I have already missed two of them. It usually runs through the second week of August, so I thought I had time. Rats! At any rate , I did get to one student concert and one faculty concert, both of which were splendid indeed. The faulty consists of regular KSU music department folks and Cleveland Orchestra players. The Miami String Quartet is the resident quartet at the university and they are outstanding. They did a "Death and the Maiden" that was just so moving ya wanted to die. They will be doing two more concerts  and the students will be doing three more. I imagine the shortening of the summer sessions is for financial reasons, since the arts are in peril at this university now. Gotta give the president his obscene bonuses for just doing his damn job. Don't get me started.
Went over to the Akron Art Museum to see the Paula Nadelstern kaleidoscope quilts, a series of phenomenal works which look like paintings. I found out that her fabrics, which almost look embroidered, are from Liberty of London, with such sumptuous designs and colors that you are mystified by how she blends and marches patterns. She also uses brilliant silks and dyes. Her quilts are a made of myriads  of tiny pieces, and according to the catalog, she makes them at her kitchen table in her Bronx apartment. Along with her quilts, the museum is displaying artist made kaleidoscopes, so you can look and watch the shifting designs that inspired the quilt artist.
The other show is a selection of works collected by the Vogels, that couple form New York who started collecting works by New York artists back in the 60s. They've been written up in magazines and newspapers because they don't fit the mold of most collectors. He worked at the post office;  she was a librarian. They have given their multimillion dollar collection to the Notional Art Gallery in D. C., and this show is a small portion. It's mostly very minimalist, installation dependent stuff that interests me not at all. My favorite is a seines of water color blobs on notebook paper, the three hole kind, torn out of the notebook and framed simply. Dozens of them lined up in a long row. Red, Blue Yellow,Green, Aqua. Blobs. Now valuable, only because the Vogels collected them? I guess I'm a Philistine.
Went to see "Tree of Life." At the beginning, it looks it looks like one of the most pretentious films ever. I am a Terry Malick fan, ever since "Badlands ' and "Days of Heaven," so I stuck with it. It's uses sort of an indirect storytelling scheme, when the characters muse, whisper and do very little communicating with each other or the viewer directly. It reminded me of the early New Wave French films of the 60s, in that you sort of have to construct the story yourself. The young actors in it are so good and can use their faces and bodies to convey both thoughts emotions better than most adults. It's not a terrific movie, but I became absorbed in the family and their dynamics. "Days of Heaven" is much better and one of the most beautiful movies ever filmed. I did see some previews which look promising for the coming fall season.
Went to see the last harry Potter movie. I had not seen part 1, but it didn't matter. I have not read the books. I started the first one, expecting E. Nesbit and C.S. Lewis, but did not and quit reading after about 30 pages. But I must say I have loved the movies and this one was very, very good. Lots of CGI, of course, and noisy booing and things going up in flame and all creepy crawly creatures, etc. but very much fun and exciting and Alan Rickman turned out not to be such a bad guy. Interestingly, the audience was almost all adults and they applauded at the end.
In between all this, my fellow spellers and I participated in a spelling bee over in the Falls at the library. It was the worst bee I have ever been in. The person could not pronounce half the words, she did not have the origin or the definition of the words and it was painful. Our champion speller won, as she always does. She is amazing. I ran afoul of "idiosyncrasy," throwing in a "c" instead of an "s" at the end.
I outlasted  a  couple other spellers who got stuck with really hard words and mispronunciation on the part of the pronouncer...ot mispronouncer.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Contemplating Felineacide

Dupree Danticat is driving me nuts. Since John is away, he is missing him, manifesting itself in melancholy yowling and manipulating me with his food. I open a can of Fancy Feast whatever, and he will scarf it down --for a while. Then it just sits on the plate and spoils, while he roams around the house yowling for more food. So I give him some new food, which he nibbles on and then abandons. What he likes at 8 a.m. he no longer likes at 11 a.m. Sometimes if I wait him out, he'll eat it. But sometimes he won't and complains in his Siamese-y yowl until I have to throw things at him. It's like having a two year old kid back in the house.
When he's not yowling he sits on my lap and stares at me while I'm trying to read. Very high maintenance, he is. He's older than I am, in cat years, and his teeth hurt and all, but he is very hard to live with these days. He is relentless and I am very tired of him.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Harriet

A dear old friend died yesterday. Harriet Begala was ninety and had been in poor health for most of last year. She had moved into an assisted living center, a very nice one, but it was not her home. She had to leave her beautiful apartment in the Silk Mill, where she had been the first and only tenant for many months. It is an enormous old mill building alongside the Cuyahoga River in downtown Kent. Some early Kent entrepreneurs had tried to start a silk business there, importing worms from Japan and planting mulberry trees. Everything died and it went through a variety of businesses for over a hundred years before being left empty, until being bought by Jim Arthur, who set about restoring it and turning it into luxury apartments.
When she had to leave the house that she and Joe had built some 47 years ago, she was determined to live the way she wanted to. She called Jim, whose building was still in the midst of restoration, and told him she wanted an apartment as soon as one was available. She moved in as soon as the apartment was finished. When I would enter the almost empty building and ride the elevator up to her 4th floor aerie, I marveled at her courage on living in this vast structure pretty much by herself. She loved it. She made it beautiful, as she did with anything she touched, with her paintings, antiques and two silky cats, Tula and Bingo. She loved to entertain, to get a group of friends singing around the piano. I remember her once singing "Solvig's Song" from Peer Gynt in her old, sweet voice. Among the art on the walls were woodcuts she made many years ago of Norwegian folk figures from her Scandinavian heritage.
She was a woman of many sides: born in Norway, coming to adulthood in California and maturity in Kent, Ohio, her final home and the place which owes so much to her community activism. (Pictures of her as a young woman show the ultimate California blond, the girl in the in the white swim suit on the beach.) She used to say that she'd always be an outsider here, but I think that sense ended many years ago as the community caught up with what she was trying to change for the good. One of the founders of the Kent Environmental Council, which she and other began by picking up trash along the river, organizing a viable and vital group which has made Kent a leader in the movement. During the Viet Nam War, she was involved in the peace movement, which culminated in her enthusiastic support of George McGovern running his campaign here and in Akron. She was tireless, she was demanding, she was an idealist who didn't just dream, but acted and worked her and everyone else' butts off with great hope. It was a pleasure to work with her because of her enthusiasm and there were always plenty of laughs.
It's hard to describe her sense of humor. Quirky? She loved to tease and play little jokes. She had a record of the inimitable Florence Foster Jenkins, which she would have Joe play, and would tell the listeners that is was she, and just knew they would like it. Watching their stunned faces gave her great amusement. A few years ago, she startled a rather stuffy doctor by serenading him with "Darktown Strutters' Ball" as she lay on the examining table. Told me I should have seen his face. She decided one day that she and I should speak German at one of the KEC's breakfast meetings. Both of our German speaking abilities were minimal, so I declined and she said I was a spoilsport.
She could be blunt. She and the late Pam Quinn and I used to go out to dinner once a month, choosing a different place each time, not always successfully food wise. One spring evening, when she picked me up, she commented that I was all wrinkly, and said the same to Pam when she joined us. It turns out hat the weather had turned warm and both of us had pulled out summer clothes without bothering to iron them. So we were wrinkly and she let us know that she didn't approve. She was always turned out perfectly, favoring the blues and yellows that went with her coloring. Never a wrinkle.
The accompanying pictures were her pride and joy. She met Barack Obama at a conference in Cleveland back  in 2006. In the first picture she is telling him that he will be president some day. When she came back from that meeting, she called the local paper to tell them what she had said to him. Two years later, she was not able to do her usual work on her campaign, but she was there, doing what she could and was thrilled with his election.
When Harriet had to leave her beloved apartment and move into assisted living, she was able to take some paintings and antiques, but had to give up Tula and Bingo, her furry companions and comfort. I know she grieved for them, but she became a presence at the center and made the best of things. I was amazed and impressed by her ability to adapt. This past year her health declined and her son moved her up to the Cleveland area. I never had a chance to say goodbye, which I regret, but she will always be in my thoughts and in the thoughts of many, many people whom she influenced so positively and in the quality of life in this community which she and her colleagues have spent their time improving.
Her body may no longer live, but her spirit certainly buzzes around this city.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Mystery Lily

Last year, this plant came up and grew tall like Jack's beanstalk. Eventually a lovely pale peach lily, just one, bloomed at the top. Within two days,m it was gone, snapped up by a voracious deer. It was just one of those passing  magic moments. I had no idea where it had come from. It was just there.
This year the stalk started growing again, only this time, it has borne a whole slew of the beauties. No deer has as yet chomped on it, and it has been in bloom for over a week. It has a delicate, sweet scent and glows softly in the early evening.

I have written of my mysteriously disappearing underpants, but thtis is something that has appeared out of the blue. Could the underpants thief have guiltily decided that he/she owes me something and planted the lily in passing? I don't know, but I certainly am enjoying the sight and scent of it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Night of Shining Armor

Last year, in a spate of gratitude for (or guilt) those wonderful chamber music concerts  during the Blossom-Kent Summer program, I made a small contribution to the program. So about a month ago I received an invitation to an evening piano recital at one of those homes with a name, somewhere in the wilds of Trumbull County. I checked with my friend Ann who knows about this sort of thing and she said that it would probably be a fund raiser the the School of Music and that she knew nothing about this place or the host, but did know the name of the featured pianist, a recent graduate of the School of Music. Since the venue was rather out of the way, a small bus had been obtained to get a group of directionally challenged music lovers there in one piece and on time.
The invitation had mentioned "refreshments" and a coffee bar, so I didn't bother to eat before hand, expecting lavish hors d'ouvres one would expect at a house with a name. Down a winding driveway, we arrived at a rather large parking lot and proceeded to the recital site. First thing was a Phillip Johnson-esque pool house, without a pool in it, overlooking a grand stone patio with seats for several hundred, that over looking a pond, that being overlooked by - a WHITE grand piano! I expected Fred and Ginger to come dancing out of the shrubbery. Or at least a white peacock or two. There was a large, covered  bar, where wine and soft drinks were being dispensed by a couple of cheery young women, shockingly NOT in uniform, the sort that should have had the name of the house embroidered thereon. Well, a busy host can't be expected to cover every freaking little detail.
Said host is a gastro- enterologist and there is obviously a LOT of money in gutwotk. A wandering musician pointed out the host. The doctor was wearing a suit, the likes of which has not been seen since the demise of the Rat Pack. It glowed. Pale blue, pale greenish stripes with a hint of coral.  It shone. It dazzled. It blazed into the late summer afternoon murk like unto a Sicilian donkey cart. It could not be missed. You coulda read the Sunday NYTimes by it. I never got closer than 15 feet, but that suit was burned into the very synapses of my brain. I can't tell you how old this dude is because the glow obscured his face. And he was wearing a bright red tie.
After an hour of chatting and thinking that any  minute a phalanx of Nubian slaves would arrive bearing figs and pomegranates, it became apparent that "refreshments" meant inhaling liquids available at the bar, where our bus driver had stationed himself while imbibing quantities of wine. I wouldn't have bee too upset by the lack of noshery, except that on the bus we had been told there would be stuff before the recital and dessert and coffee afterwards. That seemed official to me, but was not to be. We immediately faulted the host, of course. It was his place where we were stuck foodless.
At any rate, it was time for the recital and the host introduced the pianist and praised the School of Music for training him. The host loves Ravel and had been bowled over by the pianist's rendition of a Ravel Piano Concert lat year at the university.  So there was music, accompanied by a few growling stomachs. The white piano had suffered a bit from its exposure to the damp air, but it was a very pleasant concert, including another music school graduate, a violinist.
Afterwards there was a not too subtle hint about supporting the School of Music, which is certainly a worthy cause. I fear it fell on empty stomachs, alas. The hope was that the host had invited other wealthy locals who would cough up some dinero and pledge to support the program. Food would have helped.
Then the host thanked everyone who had helped him put the evening more or less together - his office staff, his office manager and her daughters, his gardener, his landscaper and, in passing, mentioned that he has an art advisor, who was probably glad that no names were mentioned. He also announced that he had some big fund-raisers coming up at one of which the big draw would be one of the professional dancers from - wait for it - "Dancing With the Stars," Yay!
Now I know it's easy to make fun of tasteless rich people, so I  must say that I think this shiny man was sincere in his desire to honor this young musician and provide him with a lovely venue for the recital, along with an apperciative audience. I feel like a bit of a snob for being so critical. He needed a party planner and a suit advisor, but I am sure that the pianist and his family were thrilled by the evening, as they should be. I think the host wants to use his money for good as a responsible community member. I'm not sure that he's the one who dropped the ball, food-wise, and it certainly was an evening to remember.
Ann and I hitched a ride home via friends, not being sure the bus driver was entirely road ready.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lovely Music

One of  my favorite NPR programs is "From the Top." which celebrates young musicians from all over the country, kids from 10 or so through the teens. It features singers, instrumentalists of all types and classical and jazz expertise. (I fully expect my great nephew Drew to be on it some day. After two years as a cellist, he can rip off a Bach piece with ease. He's in the Columbus Youth Symphony and quite dedicated.)
This past Saturday, the program was broadcast from Indiana, and featured, among other things, a performance by Mikael Feinstein, who has just been names director of the American Songbook Collection in Indiana. I am going to attempt to send it along with this blog, because it is just such a beautiful rendition of a Gershwin tune.
Many years ago, Alec Wilder had a program on NPR, called the American Popular Song. He featured all the excellent American  songwriters: Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Rogers and Hart, Rogers and Hanmnmerstein, Julie Styne, Withing, Frank Loessor, et. al. He had the fine singers to perform those songs, too, like Mel Torme, Margaret Whiting, Tony Bennett (when he could still sing) and a lot of New York cabaret and jazz singers. It was such a fine program. I think he (Alec Wilder, a composer himself)  was responsible for creating the whole idea of honoring our songwriters as legitimate musicians, on a par with the lieder composers of the 19th century.
Michael Feinstein has carried on that tradition himself. He started out as an assistant to Ira Gershwin, annotating and cataloguing the great music of the Gershwin bothers. I guess it might have been possible that without these kinds of efforts, some of this music could have been lost, delegated to "Tin Pan Alley" hack work, instead of a valuable part of American culture.
My friend Helen Welch, an excellent singer, has made these works a vital part of her repertoire and has developed quite a following ,  singing with various symphony orchestras in Ohio , New York and Pennsylvania.
It's mighty good stuff. And Feinstein's version of "Love Walked In" is really beautiful. He's accompanied by a teenage string quartet, harpist in a superb arrangement.