Category Archives: Vintage American culture

Two Poems in Tin Lunchbox Review

Two of the poems I started during the Tupelo Press 30/30 challenge were published in the first issue of a new magazine called Tin Lunchbox Review. I love that name. It reminds me of the old tin lunchboxes kids used to take to school.

“Tennessee Valley” is on page 15, and “Uncrossing the Strait of Georgia” is on page 31. The first poem was sponsored by a blogger for her friend who lost her young daughter. The second poem was in celebration of our trip to Vancouver Island last summer.

Tin Lunchbox Review 1.1

Yup, I’m still resting on my laurels, as I think Marie put it. #amnotwriting

Hope your week is a wonderful one. I expect mine to be busy and sweaty because for some reason even in the air conditioning I feel the heat of the weather outdoors. Disclaimer: we do have a pool. But the water is hotter than a warm bath.

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Filed under Literary Journals, Poetry, Publishing, Tupelo Press 30/30 Poetry Project, Vintage American culture, Writing, Writing Talk

Song or Surname? What Shall It Be?

The gardener doesn’t like how Slupe’s name is spelled. Not that she’s our cat (yet). She’s still a foster, but as time moves along, things are looking more and more hopeful that we can keep her. She roams the house outside her bedroom for about 5 hours a day and then sometimes an hour later on. But she doesn’t want to stay out longer yet, as she gets a little stressed and hasn’t found her own safe spots yet.

I don’t know where the name Slupe comes from, but since some jerk  her previous owner turned her into County (where they usually kill cats so they don’t have to find a cage and food for them) I will assume that they turned in her name along with her body.

Now the sound of Slupe–which is pronounced just like Sloopy or Slupey–is kind of cute, but if you didn’t see it spelled out you might think it was spelled Sloopy, which can’t help but remind me of these old song lyrics:

Hang on, Sloopy
Sloopy, hang on
Hang on, Sloopy
Sloopy, hang on

Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town (Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)
And everybody, yeah, tries to put my Sloopy down (Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)
Sloopy, I don’t care what your daddy do (Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)
‘Cause you know, Sloopy, girl, I’m in love with you (Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh)

And so I sing out
Hang on, Sloopy
Sloopy, hang on
Hang on, Sloopy
Sloopy, hang on

Kind of chilling lyrics (“tries to put my Sloopy down”), considering the circumstances of Slupe’s life.  Here is the whole song:

Slupe has been hanging on at the no-kill shelter for two years now, so she definitely followed the song’s advice.

What’s your opinion? Slupe or Sloopy? Will she care? Is it better to make the gardener happy by changing the spelling? What IS a Slupe/Sloopy anyway?

According to the internet, there are all kinds of negatives associated with the word sloopy–and usually likened to sloppy. Some people say the inspiration for the song was a 51-year-old Columbus, Ohio, singer named Dorothy Sloop, but this is really stretching things.

There is a Project Sloopy that helps people around the world get medical supplies. People use Sloopy as a nickname or term of endearment.

The song itself has become unofficially tied to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Here is info about that phenomenon.

Then I looked up Slupe. I found this link! Thasssssss my girl!

Apparently Slupe is a surname. It could be related to Sloop, which definitely comes from the Dutch Sloep. A sloep/sloop is a type of sailboat. I’m glad that Slupe found this Dutch girl’s house!

I took her to the vet the other day for a checkup, and I warned them how at the shelter they found her to be so difficult to handle. Hahaha, she was angelic. She even let them cut all her nails. I think the carrier I used was very helpful. While we waited, she could feel my hand and leg against her body through the mesh.

Another thought . . .

Sometimes I get random thoughts about a subject and spend some time wondering or even researching said subject. Today it was privacy. It is an important topic today since we are increasingly losing our privacy because of technology like cell phones, the internet, and now drones.

But I have actually been contemplating cat privacy. Since Slupe was two years in the shelter, she hadn’t had a moment of privacy in all that time. You know how cats like to find little private places every once in a while? How does it feel to a cat who can’t find any place private for years? No, I don’t believe cats really need privacy in the litter box–just safety. Or even mating. But I do think they like “alone time” every so often.

Bottom line:

Song (Sloopy) or Surname (Slupe): what shall it be? Whichever it is, you know that she will never let us know her secret name.

And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover –
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.”
T.S. Eliot, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats

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Filed under Art and Music, Cats and Other Animals, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing

More Arizona Exploring

To get away from the record heat in Phoenix, we went south for a day. Tucson, at 2,589 ft,  is a higher altitude than Phoenix, which is 1,086. Plus, Tucson is protected from the sun by the mountains and thus has more cloud cover. But we didn’t stay there long. We went to the real mountains. To Bisbee, AZ, to be precise. 5,589 ft.

There are those darn lines again!

It was a lovely temperature for summer. I don’t know what temperature it was, but it felt perfect. There was even a drizzle part of the day.

See that B up there on top? Stands for Bisbee.  No kidding! The population is about the same as the altitude. About one person per foot of altitude.

Bisbee is a very charming looking town because in the downtown area there is very little new construction. It’s almost all “antique.”

The museum had a lovely garden.

And the shops were interesting to me. A honey shop. A custom hat shop. A dress shop where I bought a hat in my favorite color (coral called peony). And a shop with a window after my own heart.

Dolls, masks, old photos, and memento mori. What more could I want?

The only thing they had very little of: gluten free food. Yikes. OK, I won’t go into that rant again.

On the way back from Bisbee, we drove through Tombstone (yup, that Tombstone), where we’ve been before.

I had to take photos out of the car window . . . .

We also drove through St. David, a town founded by LDS pioneers. It’s still mainly Mormon, and it appears to be a farming community, but maybe the farming was in its past. I was glad to get home, though, to my 4+1 cats. Slupe is doing so well! She’s now been out with all the others cats, and I am hopeful that they can be one happy group (when Tiger watches her back so Kana doesn’t sneak up on her).

Slupe

Slupe

My new writing project is a play. I’ve been working on the play with my daughter. I find it fairly easy to write dialogue, but more difficult to conceptualize how it all works onstage. That is her expertise. As an actor, she has a good feel for the physical parts of the play. I expect it to move slowly because of being the work of two people.

Have you ever worked on a project, writing or otherwise, with someone else that you were used to doing by yourself?

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, History, Inspiration, playwriting, Sightseeing & Travel, Vintage American culture, Writing

Someone I Never Actually Met

When I heard that Muhammad Ali had died and I listened to his chronology, I realized that his Parkinson’s was diagnosed before my kids were even born. They don’t remember Ali as I do. When I was a little kid, there were two big celebrities whose names swirled around me on a weekly, if not daily, basis: Marilyn Monroe and Cassius Clay. It wasn’t until 1964 that the Beatles eclipsed these names. For me, the name Cassius Clay itself was memorable, as was his personality and his reputation. He was a bit of a P.T. Barnum, bellowing and insisting upon attention and admiration. He was talented, and he knew it. He was handsome, and he knew it. He had the “IT” factor, and he knew it. He was also willing to stand up for himself and didn’t hold himself back, furthering civil rights by engendering in my generation the notion that OF COURSE all people should be equal. He did that with his expectations.

Then he converted, changed his name, and avoided the draft–and stirred up even more attention for himself. At that point, he tested the sympathies of middle-aged middle America. But for my generation, he showed that you don’t have to accept things just because the government says it is so. You can fight against what you feel is wrong. He showed that some things are worth fighting for. Whether you agreed or not with his political stance, it was impossible not to recognize that he was a FORCE and a TEACHER. We were young. We were blank slates. We learned so much from him.

Until very recently, my kids didn’t know any of this. The only thing they knew was that Muhammad Ali was a big name, an ex-champion, and had a vague illness.

If we don’t teach the history, how will they know that Ali’s importance didn’t lie in his boxing skills? How will future generations understand that teachers can come in unusual packages?

As a student of history, I am sensitive to history as an entity–its identity, its reputation, and its existence. Think of history as a person that you care about. I worry about the welfare of history–maybe that’s what I am saying.

The most important role of history, of course, is to remind us  of the effects of our action and inaction–and to understand the process. As George Santayana so famously said: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. We don’t want to keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

Even through grad school (where I was working on a master’s in history before I switched to English and creative writing) and my teaching career, I saw that history was sometimes maligned or misunderstood, but had its place in the world.

I’m not so sure anymore.

I could look up a lot of statistics, but I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon and it’s inching up toward 115 degrees. It was 115 yesterday. My air conditioning can only cool my house just so much. I am fogged up with migraine aura from the heat and the thick particles of crud in the air. All I can say is I suspect that we are leaving history in the dust as we move on toward our brave new technologically driven world.

Tangent over. Back to Ali. When my kids were little, a baby in my family was born, and she was related to Ali. We were almost kin. This was exciting news. Just so you know, I am also almost kin to George Burns (“God” and Gracie’s husband) and Anton van Leeuwenhoek (microscope inventor). Anyway, Ali was gracious and generous to the new baby.

I never thought Ali would cross my path again, but I was wrong.

A couple of years ago, my son visited the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrows Neurological Institute here in Phoenix where he received a diagnosis that had eluded us for years. There he was diagnosed with a rare movement disorder called Myoclonus Dystonia. The gardener and I had been taking him to doctors since he was nine months old, trying to figure out the source of his tic. Thanks to Ali’s donations and guidance, the center at Barrows (St. Joseph’s) is world class. When my son and I walked the hall, looking at all the photos of Ali, he said, “That’s our relative!” Hah, yeah, sort of. Pretty cool.

RIP, Teacher.

###

On a related note about the importance of making a place for history, did you watch the new Roots mini-series? Did you see the original version? If you were old enough when the first series aired and if you lived in the United States, I’m pretty sure you watched it. Although its story is fictional, it’s based on a historical novel by Alex Haley that is grounded in historical research and based on his own ancestor. So the TV series is a wonderful teaching tool.  But if you weren’t around for that show, have you done your reading or is the history of African Americans one that you watch only in current events on your computer screen?

Did you watch the new Roots? I still haven’t found anybody else who has watched the new one. I hope you did. Even if you saw the first one, the new one has some new perspectives. For instance, Kunta Kinte, the first main character of the story, is a Mandinka warrior, not a simple villager. I like this because it gives the story and its characters a powerful guiding force throughout, and instills a sense of pride, as well. There are events, though, where I wondered if they pushed too far. If you watched it, I’d love to know what you thought about that last gunshot near the end. If you respond, please write a warning about a plot reveal!

In other news, we have the first blossom of a new hibiscus bush!

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Books, Family history, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, History, Inspiration, Novel, Vintage American culture

Pilot Fish Trailblazer Nominee: Cleveland Amory

I’m so honored to write an article about my hero Cleveland Amory for Patti Moed’s Trailblazer Nominee series over at Pilot Fish. Please check it out and see what kind of world Amory wanted to create.

Pilot Fish

It’s with great pleasure that I introduce this week’s guest blogger, Luanne Castle, who writes about a man who has inspired her since her childhood.Luanne is an award-winning poet, educator, writer, and an advocate for animal rights. She divides her time between California and Arizona, where she shares land with a herd of javelina. Her heart belongs to her four cats and the homeless cats at the animal shelter where she volunteers.
The New England conscience does not stop you from doing what you shouldn’t–it just stops you from enjoying it.–Cleveland Amory

Black Beauty

Black Beauty Cover, First Edition.https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dc/BlackBeautyCoverFirstEd1877.jpeg Black Beauty Cover, First Edition.https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/dc/BlackBeautyCoverFirstEd1877.jpeg

When I was eight and staying overnight with my grandparents, I discovered a tattered copy of Anna Sewall’s novel Black Beauty in my mother’s old bedroom. I began to read and when my parents came to pick me up the next day I was still reading, lost in the…

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Filed under #AmWriting, Blogging, Cats and Other Animals, Essay, Inspiration, Nonfiction, Reading, Vintage American culture, Writing

Sorting and Collecting for Free

I’ve been adding social media to my life for a few years. Some types or platforms I find more useful or more appealing than others. While I have not gotten excited over Instagram, I do love Pinterest. I rarely think about the social aspect of Pinterest. I’m simply infatuated with the intriguing photos that lead to stories, more images, or recipes.

As a collector, I find it addictive to add to boards that categorize some of my favorite subjects, and I’m grateful to other Pinterest collectors for providing pins and for the ease of adding my own contributions.

Something about Pinterest reminds me of  sorting M&Ms by color before eating them. And collecting shells on the beach and sorting them by shape or color. Simple and therapeutic. Sort of puts me at the emotional age of a toddler.

M and Ms

Some of my boards are writing and reading related, as you might expect. Check out Writing, Scribbling, and Jotting for an idea of my boards. If you have a particular blog post (written by you or someone else) that you would like me to pin onto the board, type the link into the comments here, and I’ll check it out!

I have boards for that ever-present child in me (I linked to Dollhouses in case you want to see a sample):

  • Dolls, dolls, dolls
  • Dollhouses
  • Tiny beauties (miniatures)
  • Vintage toys
  • Kestner dolls
  • Children and dolls
  • Puppetry pins
  • Paper dolls
  • Doll art
  • Antique, Vintage and Old-fashioned Nurseries
  • Dionne quintuplets

I’ve got fairy tale boards called Red in the Woods and A World of Snow. The former is one of my best boards, mainly because so many artists have a version of Little Red Riding Hood! I don’t usually pin the highly sexualized ones, but there are a ton of those, too.

For my love of textiles I have Hankies and History, Lace and other fun textiles, and Buttons buttons. Really all these textiles and trimming are related to history.

For history I cultivate these boards:

The apron board is new and was inspired by blogger Sheryl Lazarus here and here.

I’ve got animal boards like Beasties (just because I love that Scottish word), Black Cats Rule, and Children and Animals.

Speaking of black cats, Kana is doing well! Here she is enjoying a little box. No box too small for this girl!

 

Art-themed boards include:

  • Art of the Scrapyard
  • Revision Art
  • Translucent beauties
  • Scrapbook and paper crafts (woefully in need of work–just like my own scrapbooking!)

Most of my recipe boards are gluten-free. I’ve even got a couple of secret boards. Subjects? Hah, that’s why they are secret.

Some people (read: hubby) might think I’m wasting my time on Pinterest, but it sure seems fun to me. And I only “play” over there for a couple of minutes almost every day.

What about you? Are you on Pinterest? Why or why not?

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Books, Cats and Other Animals, Children's Literature, Dolls, Fairy Tales, Family history, Food & Drink, History, Lifestyle, Photographs, Reading, Research and prep for writing, Vintage American culture

Getting All Out of Art

When we visited New York in October, we saw this sculpture:

I didn’t really understand what it was, although there was a sign that said it was the Merchant Mariners’ Memorial at Battery Park. I thought it was amusing because of the bird perched on the guy’s head.

Tourists were in front of it, snapping photos, and I had a hard time getting an angle I wanted.

And there was a fence around it, too.

I was with hubby and daughter and we walked on through the park. After all, we could see the State of Liberty and Ellis Island. I don’t know much about Merchant Mariners other than:

  • my dad’s uncle was one during WWI (he died in his 30s from a car accident)
  • my dad’s friend when I was a kid was one (he was a very sweet guy but used to get drunk and in bar fights when he was on leave)
  • Daniel Keyes, the author of Flowers for Algernon (run to library if you haven’t read it), joined the Merchant Marines at age 17 and practiced medicine on the sailors

Daughter has been visiting (and has to leave today BIG SOBS). She’s packing right now. I just ran across these pix and wondered more about the sculpture. A lot of effort and money goes into these public art projects, so what is this one about?

Apparently, it’s supposed to look like THIS:

American Merchant Mariners' Memorial, designed by the sculptor Marisol Escobar, is located just south of Pier A on a rebuilt stone breakwater. It is a representation in bronze of four merchant seamen with their sinking vessel after it had been attacked by a U-boat in World War II

American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial, designed by the sculptor Marisol Escobar, is located just south of Pier A on a rebuilt stone breakwater. It is a representation in bronze of four merchant seamen with their sinking vessel after it had been attacked by a U-boat in World War II

These men were drowning after a Nazi U-boat attacked their ship. And look how powerful it is. Why is it so blocked now that you can’t get the effect of this drama? A beautiful work of art, but because the “setting” or “context” is no longer correct for it, much of the meaning and beauty is lost.

Like a diamond needs the right setting and a painting needs the right placement, does writing need the appropriate context, too? Are there ways that the full expression of a book, story, or poem is lost because the context has changed? Or is writing something that we can always access in just the way someone did 20 years before? or 200? What do you think?

 

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Nonfiction, Sightseeing & Travel, Vintage American culture, Writing

Where Do You Store Your Treasures?

I store photographs and documents in a fire safe in hopes that if there was a fire, they would be safe, but from what I’ve read, it depends on how hot and how long the fire lasts whether even a fire safe can save them.

Other treasures I store in an antique trunk I stole received from my father years ago. He gave it to me to use because he didn’t have room for it, so I got it refinished because I was 25 (many people would say I should not have done that), and I’ve loved it ever since.

The furniture restorer followed the original look of the trunk–with the alternating light and dark oak stripes. It’s an antique dome-top steamer trunk that would have been used for travel.

antique trunk

The pictures inside are classic Victoriana.

Here are some close-ups.

So what do I store in my antique trunk?

I store holidays decorations, including Hanukkah decorations and my grandmother’s vintage glass Christmas decorations.

Where do you store your treasures?

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Filed under #AmWriting, Family history, History, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing

Poetry Potpourri

the museum of americana is a literary magazine with a mission close to my heart:

the museum of americana is an online literary review dedicated to fiction, poetry, nonfiction, photography, and artwork that revives or repurposes the old, the dying, the forgotten, or the almost entirely unknown aspects of Americana. It is published purely out of fascination with the big, weird, wildly contradictory collage that is our nation’s cultural history.

They’ve published two of the poems I intend for my chapbook of poems based on my family history. You can read them here.

Two poems by Luanne Castle

I love how my interest in family history and genealogy and research connects with my partnership with poetry in these poems.

On another note, if you bought a copy of Doll Godsend me your address and I will mail you a sticker to complete your book cover.

If you haven’t bought a copy, please consider it if your finances allow–either for yourself or if you think you’ll hate it (gotta allow for that) as a gift for someone you think will enjoy it. Amazon says it will arrive before Christmas.

Have I ever told you what book existed before Doll God? It’s a scrapbook my daughter made for me two years ago. In it, she hand wrote many of my poems and she included posts from the adoption blog, Don’t We Look Alike, that we worked on together.

In the slideshow you can see a sample of the scrapbook. Note the subtle cat-themed touches. And if you see a pic of a high school couple just remember that it’s easy to find stock pix online (big winky face).

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Filed under Book Award, Book contest, Book promotion, Books, Doll God, Family history, Literary Journals, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Research and prep for writing, Vintage American culture, Writing

Our Cemeteries

In the past, when we’ve visited Michigan, hubby and I visited his parents’ graves. This time, we went with my mother to the veteran’s cemetery where my father is buried. When we got to Toronto, we also visited hubby’s grandparents’ graves.  Sherri Matthews gave me the idea to write about our cemeteries.

In Michigan, it was “pouring rain,” (is that a Michigan expression where pouring is used as an adjective meaning the rain is coming down in a downpour?) and we had left the umbrella back home.  There is a government building on the very large property, and I stopped by to see if they had an umbrella to borrow. A nice young man ran about looking for one, even running out to his own car, but alas no umbrella.

The cemetery feels very spacious because there are a lot of grounds with a curving road that cuts through. All the newer sections use flat markers, rather than gravestones, so the illusion is as if one is in a park. It looks clean and contemporary.

When we got to my father’s section, the rain stopped.

Graves are dug in the order of date of death, and many have come after my father. There is an institutional feel. Everything is large and impersonal. Big equipment just beyond my father’s grave is carving out room for more of our dead veterans, and in some cases, their spouses.

I’m grateful for the sacrifices of our veterans, and I am glad that this national cemetery is well cared for and in a beautiful setting. But it’s not where I would have liked my father to be buried. Originally, my parents had plots in a family section of a local cemetery. He would have had a regular headstone, where we would not have been limited by government rules. I also don’t like this idea for my mother because eventually (she’s in very good health and a very young 80, to be clear) she would have to go in the same grave with him, I believe. But near the end my father became more and more focused on his military service in the Korean War, and he changed his funeral and burial plans.

In Toronto, we found old traditional cemeteries. We were told the name of the Jewish cemetery where we would find hubby’s grandparents, so we followed my iPhone directions to get there. We were told it was on the north side of the road, and when we got there we discovered two cemeteries–both Jewish–one on each side of the road. We went to the appropriate side, but we couldn’t find any of the relatives, although we searched the names on every stone. I kept thinking we were in the wrong place because in general the dates appeared too old to me. Although there were a few where the deaths were past 2000, for the most part I thought these plots had been bought 100 years ago.

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I felt bad about this cemetery because although someone was taking care of the grass, many stones were falling over. I didn’t know how much vandalism had to do with this and couldn’t help but wonder why nobody had fixed them!

Jewish cemeteries are sometimes subjected to vandalism. Quite recently in France hundreds were vandalized. But these are old stones and maybe they have fallen over on their own?

Eventually I wandered across the street to the very neat and orderly, but crowded, cemetery.

I searched for some time, as the sun was moving down in the sky, creating shadows. Finally, hubby reached a cousin on the phone. He drove over and showed us that there was yet a third cemetery just up the street! That’s where we found hubby’s grandparents.

Although this cemetery had the right feel and was quite beautiful and old, I won’t show you my photos of hubby’s grandparents’ gorgeous stones because his relatives are what hubby and I think of as superstitious, and I don’t want to annoy anyone.

These Toronto cemeteries all had the look of big city cemeteries where the rows of gravestones are quite close together because land is precious.

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Filed under #AmWriting, History, Memoir, Photographs, Sightseeing & Travel, Vintage American culture, Writing