It’s hard to remember the trip the gardener and I took to Costa Rica 10 months ago. The monkeys were plentiful, which should have foretold the year ahead.
At least the monkeys in Costa Rica were very cute.
We all still need to be very very careful. Even if the vaccine works well for the majority of people, it takes weeks to work. You need about 3-4 weeks between the two doses, and then a week or so after the second dose before you can be reasonably sure you are not contagious. And they are going to be much slower about getting the vaccine to us than first predicted. That’s because human systems are involved, and human systems are very bureaucratic and plagued by human error and missteps. And laziness.
My 86-year-old mother lives in a garden home (duplex) by herself, but within a senior community in Kalamazoo. There is a current covid outbreak in the assisted living portion, and within the month of December half the infected residents have died!!! They were supposed to get the vaccine on December 21, then at the end of December, then January 7, and now the vaccine date has been postponed indefinitely due to “shortage.” I want you to know that this senior community is five miles from the Pfizer plant making the vaccine. I wrote letters to politicians about the situation, but it felt like dropping my iphone into the Grand Canyon.
On Christmas day, I watched an episode of Tiny Pretty Things on Netflix. My friend’s daughter plays Delia, and that is what drew me to the series. Four of my cats watched with me. (I’ve now finished the series). Then I wrote the first draft of a poem and painted a background page in my art journal. That was a good day.
I’m still plagued with a few symptoms from the Valley Fever and now the fall I took, but I am stuck at home anyway heh.
Are you living in a lockdown? Arizona is not locked down. In fact, I don’t even know what the rules are for restaurants and such because we have so few rules and haven’t heard much from Governor Doofus in awhile.
Please keep on staying safe for the new year. We all want to celebrate an end to 2020, but let’s not get carried away. It’s going to take 2021 a lot of effort to really get rid of 2020 altogether.
Hugs to everyone and make it the best January and 2021 you can for yourself and others.
I finished another story scrap for my SCRAPS scrapbook–finally.
As a reminder this is the first post. Click the photo to read it.
When I was a preteen, my grandmother sewed me shorts sets from cotton blend prints. She made the tops and shorts out of the same material, but the tailoring was fairly sophisticated, so the end product had more in common with a summer dress than a romper. I don’t know where she got the idea from or if it was in style in the sixties. At least one fabric was made into matching mother-daughter shorts sets for Mom and me.
But my favorite set was in a fabric that I found very cheering. Balloons in varying shades of spring greens, both solids and prints, float on a white field. The shorts were mid-thigh, and the top had a fairly high neckline. Because Grandma made it for me, the outfit fit perfectly. It was comfortable, and I felt good wearing it.
Not that I didn’t love to wear my denim shorts and short-sleeved sweatshirt. But Grandma’s short sets were lighter weight than my other play clothes and much more convenient than dresses.
In this photo I am posing alone–to see the one with my mother look at the finished pages at the bottom of the post.
In our old photos, I found myself wearing the balloon set on two different dates. The summer photo came first. It was on the occasion of our trip to Canada to attend Expo 67. In fact, in a scrapbook, Mom labeled the picture, “Mother and daughter enjoying a rest.” A body of water is behind us. Below that photo, my mother had pasted another photo and labeled it, “Sawmill at Upper Canada Village.” There is another image of just me in the same spot but without my mother (the one above). From examining the few photographs I could find online, I do think these photos of me are also from Upper Canada Village.
In the photos, I am wearing the shorts set, with its matching triangle headscarf tied at the nape of my neck. I also wear a blue ¾ length sleeve cardigan that Grandma knitted for me. On my feet are navy blue Keds-type shoes.
I’ve written before about our Expo 67 visit, but we also went to other tourist sites in Canada during our trip. Upper Canada Village was one of the places we visited. Niagara Falls was another.
My grandmother must have made this outfit for me in the spring of 1967 when I was finishing up elementary school (6th grade). I started junior high in September.
The other photo revives vivid memories. It was taken 31 October 1967, Halloween, probably around 6 PM. I remember my mother posing me in front of the living room fireplace. I have very few memories of actual picture taking, so this is very special to my heart.
I am wearing a heavenly sheer green silk flapper dress that had been owned by my grandfather’s cousin Therese Remine. It was heavily beaded, and over time, the silk had weakened, and the beads were too heavy for the thin fibers. By the time I got home that night, the dress had already begun to rip. You might wonder why my mother would allow me to ruin an expensive vintage dress by wearing it one night for Halloween. I wonder that myself, but my mother’s value system is limited. To sum it up: she didn’t have any interest in the dress, so she didn’t care what I did with it.
Because the dress was sheer, I had to choose clothes to wear underneath, and the only thing that seemed to my 12-year-old mind to “go” was the balloon shorts set because both outfits were green. I made myself a flapper headband to match and carried a handbag that must have belonged to Therese, although I am not positive about that. You see, I used to collect old discarded fancy wear and had quite a collection from a few women.
It had been my mother’s idea to make a headband. I don’t know how much I knew about the 1920s, and I probably needed her suggestion to visualize the whole outfit. I have mulled over the question: where did I first learn about flappers with their bobbed hair and short skirts? Their narrow flat outlines so like my own. I don’t remember what movies or books might have shaped whatever image I had by age twelve.
An essential part of my costume that night was the large diamond-shaped earrings. I’m not sure where those dangly earrings came from. I hope I didn’t lift them from the dime store at the plaza.
While I stood in the middle of our living room, smiling into the camera, my mother pulled her face out from behind the camera and pinned me with her gaze. “This will be your last year trick-or-treating. You’re getting too old.” So that was that. I felt compelled to enjoy myself this one last time.
The living room accessories in the photo were accumulated from various places, generally from other people. The big brass candlesticks were heavy. The painting was not a copy, but an inexpensive original painting. The Don Quixote figures had been displayed at a home décor shop. My father had purchased an old house on Westnedge on a land contract and rented it to an interior decorator who opened the shop. When she went out of business, she gave my father some small furnishings in lieu of back rent. That was how we ended up with the large wood fork and spoon that hung on our kitchen wall for years (yes, like in Marie’s kitchen on Everybody Loves Raymond).
I look so young in these photos, and yet poised on the brink of burgeoning womanhood. I remember how I felt wearing that flapper dress. The twenties was my era, and I felt as if I belonged.
As my photograph was snapped, the bell rang. My friends had arrived so we could begin the house-to-house process. That’s when I realized I had to wear my wool coat over my costume. Or rather, my mother informed me I had to.
We trudged from front door to front door, but the knowledge that this was my “last time” weighed on my mind. My fingers grew chilled from the cold that had arrived early to Michigan. That’s where this memory ends.
In September I posted photos of the fabric scraps I still have from my childhood. The inspiration for ruminating on what to do with them came from a couple of sources. One was Dawn Raffel’s book The Secret Life of Objects. The other was Swedish death cleaning–getting rid of stuff so my kids are not one day burdened with it.
I promised I would do something with the scraps, and I have not forgotten. I am far from the point of actually getting rid of the fabric, but did start a project that was suggested by sarahsouthwest.
I’m making a scrapbook of scraps! For each page I plan to include a fabric remnant, a story or description of the memory it stirs up, and, if possible, a photograph of the garment made of the fabric. So far I’ve only made the cover and one page, but thought you might want to follow along with the process. I’m not very good at crafts, but hey, it’s mine, baby, all mine.
First, I chose an ugly on-sale scrapbook and then padded it and covered it. I selected a print corduroy from the late 1960s for the front cover and a gingham from the early 1960s for the back.
You can see what my first page looks like in the slideshow above. I decided to keep the page very plain and even left the raw edge of fabric visible. In the photograph you can see me wearing the sleeveless tent dress that my grandmother made for me. It has a high yoke decorated with large embroidered white daisy appliques. I loved that dress. It was so comfy and very pretty. The type of fabric was called “whipped cream,” and was lightweight, airy, with a little texture to it. My mom’s cotton or cotton/poly fitted dress, also sewn by Grandma, was very Barbie-style.
This is the story I wrote about what the dress and the photo remind me of:
In this photo, my parents and I are in Canada, seated at a restaurant in the 1967 International and Universal Exposition.
The summer I turned 12 is the one I will always remember as a peaceful and memorable week with my parents. We left my 4-year-old brother with my grandparents in Kalamazoo and drove to Montreal for Expo ’67, the World’s Fair.
We stayed in Montreal at the winter (city) home of my grandfather’s 2nd cousin, Harold Remine, the Chief Engineer of Quebec Hydroelectric. It was a beautiful and elegant brown brick row house. The dining room was complete with all the requisite china, crystal, and silver. But the house was not large, and I had to share a bedroom with my parents.
Harold and Lillian also had a lovely lake home, which we visited. Harold introduced me to curling, a sport I had never heard about before, by taking us to a curling club.
The Expo itself excited and exhausted me. It had some elements in common with a state fair or Disneyland, a place I had not yet visited. There were snow cone and cotton candy booths, hot dog and burger stands. A caricaturist drew my likeness holding a book. I was disappointed afterward that I hadn’t given him a better hobby. Reading seemed so nerdy. But the truth was that I read more than I did anything else.
Each participating country sponsored a magnificent pavilion that was supposed to reflect the national personality. The U.S. pavilion was a huge geodesic dome—this is a sphere that is built of short struts that follow geodesic lines (the shortest line between two points on a sphere) and form an open framework of triangles or polygons. There were very, very long escalators that seemed to hang in “thin air,” and the park’s elevated minirail ran through the structure. The effect of being inside the pavilion was of being suspended in space. I believe I saw a doll collection and space race memorabilia, but since I was afraid of heights, I mainly remember my fear.
My favorite pavilion was the Burmese one. Under its appealing multi-roofed pagoda design, a gigantic golden Buddha dominated the interior lobby. I suspect that the restaurant in the photo is the Burmese one. To this day, it is my favorite type of food. If you haven’t been lucky enough to eat it, it is a cross between Thai and Indian food.
Habitat 67, a futuristic housing development, was situated near the edge of the fairgrounds. It reminded me of photos of Anasazi dwellings for some reason. I was both repelled by the makeshift quality and fascinated by a new way to conceptualize living quarters.
I guess my parents had decided not to bring my brother because he was too young to appreciate the cultural opportunity or even to go on the fair rides. But when we got home to Kalamazoo and stopped at Grandma and Grandpa’s to pick him up, he was flushed with a high fever. He sat on someone’s lap, and somebody else snapped a pic a second before he leaned over and threw up on the floor. That’s when I started to feel guilty that we had left him behind.
Happy Labor Day. I hope your labors are light today, whether you celebrate or not.
When I left Alaska, I was eager to get home and see my cats and return to my routine. My initial thoughts were that I was so happy to have had the opportunity for this Alaskan experience and that I didn’t see the need for a return visit. The sites were beautiful and so different from what I knew, but it is quite remote in SE Alaska, and I like my city pleasures.
But this week I’ve found myself longing for Alaska. I miss the glaciers, the mountains, the wildlife, and the sparse human population.
The gardener doesn’t understand at all. He still feels that it was a wonderful trip, but he’s “done.” He loves warm weather and sun, and while I do like warm, sunny days, I don’t need it the way he does.
I love the way the mist lingers between the mountains. And how a low hanging cloud can transform a hill into a strange shape, even an animal.
Look through the mountains below to see yet more variety of landscape.
The next photo interested me because the waterfall is not centered. That way it’s possible to see more variety of topography.
Look at the next. Why is the umbrella over the flowers? It can’t be because someone positioned their umbrella there when they went inside. The flower pot is far from the door of the bookstore in Petersburg.
A phenomenon that I noticed in Juneau was that many people decorate their mailboxes. Unfortunately, with a big rear view mirror sticking out in my passenger side view, I couldn’t take a pic of too many of them.
Maybe I’ll have stopped blabbing about Alaska by next week . . . .
One thing before I go: I finished Ellen Morris Prewitt’s fabulous new novel Tracking Happiness. I posted a review at Amazon and Goodreads. Here is my Goodreads review, although I stupidly posted it under the Kindle edition, and I read the paperback. It begins this way:
People sometimes ask me for fiction recommendations, and when they ask for a funny book, I remember that my list is very short. Sometimes they ask me for a feel good book, and that list is also pretty short. But since I just finished Ellen Morris Prewitt’s new novel Tracking Happiness: A Southern Chicken Adventure, I am putting it at the top of both lists.
The review is found here. It’s such a feel-good book you will thank me for recommending it :).
Last week I told you about the great restaurant we found in the Ozarks, along the White River bank. But we did more than go to that restaurant. We kept my uncle going every day! It had been decades since we had been to northern Arkansas. When we last visited, there were so many ancient Ozark-style log cabins tucked into the woods on the side of the road that the flavor of the land was everywhere you looked. If you don’t know what those are, they are small slightly rectangular box cabins with a peaked roof and a front porch with roof (imagine a wooden rocking chair and Pa with a corncob pipe just about now). Typically, the cover to the porch is a different pitch than the main roof–and best yet, the roof is generally tin. There aren’t very many left, but the remains of the ones being slowly claimed by the forest can be seen. Also, some have been refurbished with aluminum siding. Some new houses are built in the same style, to reflect the traditional architecture.
The reason I don’t have photos for you is that most of my Arkansas photos are crap, having been taken through a car window. It was too hot and humid to keep rolling the window down–and the so-called highways (NO freeways at all) are winding and long. It’s way out in the country, y’all. Anyway, the gardener drove, and it exhausted him so I didn’t want to distract him by rolling the window up and down–or asking to stop where we could have been run over IF someone else had driven there just then (that’s a big IF).
This part of Arkansas must be well within the Bible Belt. In Mountain Home (population 12,448), the Wednesday newspaper had a listing of churches in the immediate area.
I counted FORTY-ONE Baptist churches. There are also a lot of other denominations, including LDS, Jehovah’s Witness, and even Bahai! There is no synagogue, and I don’t think there is a mosque. Also, there are only two Catholic churches–one in town and one in a nearby town. The one in town is my uncle’s church. You might wonder then how my uncle ended up in Arkansas. He was born and lived in Chicago. After a horrible crime touched his life (story coming tomorrow in thefamilykalamazoo.com) he moved his family to rural Illinois–and eventually to Arkansas. He wasn’t alone–there is a whole “expat” group of Chicagoans who live there. They like being away from the hubbub–and a lot of them like to fish. That–and some Californians who have escaped the west coast–probably makes up the majority of people who attend the Catholic churches.
Let me mention that my favorite church names are the cowboy churches. Notice that this listing shows Bar None Cowboy Church. We flew into Tulsa, OK, and drove to Mountain Home. On the way, we saw other cowboy churches, like the Cowboy Gatherin’ Church in Inola, OK, and Crooked Creek Cowboy Church in Harrison. Apparently “cowboy churches” are a thing and are scattered across the country. Who knew? Well, I sure didn’t.
Speaking of Harrison. It’s only 48.4 miles from Mountain Home, but there’s a big difference. Mountain Home, as I said, has attracted people from Chicago and California and is close to reknowned trout fishing near the Bull Shoals dam which links Bull Shoals Lake with the White River. People think of pretty Ozark country when Mountain Home is mentioned. Harrison’s reputation comes from being known as the most racist city in the country. I got that from Wikipedia. So who knows the accuracy. Apparently, between 1905 and 1909 white citizens threw out all the African-Americans who lived there and established their city as a “sundown town.” That means just what it sounds like: no non-white people in town after dark. You think things have changed?
The city has been dubbed “the most racist city in America” because of its high presence of white supremacist organizations. Kingdom Identity Ministries, a white supremacist organization, was founded in 1982 in Harrison. Thomas Robb, national director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, maintains his office near Harrison in the outlying town of Zinc and uses a Harrison mailing address for the organization. Combined with the history of the 1905 and 1909 banishment of unemployed railroad workers and all other African-American residents, this incidental connection to the KKK has given the town a negative image.
The article goes on to say that there are people who are trying to combat that image by speaking up against racism. Of course, all this just made me want to visit. The writer in me, you know. But that’s an easy call as a white woman. As the white mother of Asians, I would not have suggested we visit if they were with us.
When we got to town, I saw the pretty historic theatre where events are still held.
Love the neon sign!
Harrison is quite a pretty small town, and there wasn’t much to hint at a dangerous undercurrent of racism. Then we stopped at an antique shop for the gardener.
My eye was drawn to certain things. I started to feel uncomfortable.
I realize people collect Mammy this and that. Raised in Kalamazoo by my northern relatives, I will never feel comfortable with this stuff. In fact, in Arkansas, I had to keep reminding myself it used to be a slave state. I’ve never lived in a state where slave-holding was legal.
And then there was this little section.
Don’t you love the juxtaposition of items? The Rise and Fall swastika, desperation, a book called Rifles and Shotguns, Rhett Butler, and the fragility of that ruffled porcelain atop the stack. I figured we’d been in town long enough. Time to go!
Next day we visited my cousin’s home in the mountains. He is an orchid farmer by trade, and they live way out in the middle of nowhere (yup, it’s probably even called that). He always loved cacti and orchids, and it’s kind of cool that he’s made a living all these years doing what he loves.
He’s got such cute grandchildren, too. So much fun playing with them!
One day we visited Mystic Caverns. I guess northern Arkansas has a lot of underground caves. Many have probably not even been discovered yet.
Close to Mountain Home is a tiny town called Norfork. There you can find the Jacob Wolf House Historic Site.
The site includes the main house, which was the territorial courthouse, built 1825, as well as some outbuildings. Seeing how the men “roughed” it even inside the courthouse really made me think of what the settlers went through. During the day, court was in session, and at night, the men spread out their bedrolls where they had been sitting in court earlier.
As we left Arkansas, the gardener and I stopped at the Osage Clayworks because the area has been known for pottery for quite some time. They had some good buys on “seconds,” and I bought my daughter a garlic thingie to use for her rings on her dresser.
The Photography of Justin Hamm
If you like seeing small towns and the fading past of America, you need to check out the photography of poet and photographer Justin Hamm. He’s also the editor of the museum of americana. I love Justin’s photos. Rustic images of old cars, barns, that kind of thing. Gorgeous. Click here for his Instagram. Here are the photos on his website. Look at this photograph of an old Ozark barn, care of Justin. He’s been in the Ozarks recently so I am watching for all those shots I imagined but couldn’t pull off.
The Art of Len Cowgill
On the subject of beautiful American art, I want to tell you a little update on the work of Len Cowgill.
Many, many years ago, when Len, the gardener, and I were all very young, Len gave us a series of three pieces as a gift. This was before he knew about archival materials, and over the years in the hot sun of California, the drawings faded. Here is one of them–see HOW faded.
Upon hearing about the fading, Len kindly offered to repair all these drawings. Look out great they turned out! In the first one, he changed the static brick wall to Allen Ginsberg’s poem “America” and then followed the theme for the rest of them.
I’m so blessed to have such thought-provoking and breathtaking art in my life. Thanks to Len and thanks to Justin both for sticking with your passions and making the world more beautiful.