Thursday, September 23, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Mr. Sullivan's Further Travels
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Sepia Saturday: Acetate and Cold War Memories
In this photo are (from the left) my mother (Helen Biggs), maternal grandfather (Ralph Polley) and my mother's sister (Barbara Dunbar) at the time of Aunt Barbara's first marriage in 1958, when I was almost two. Amazingly, I have the print above the fireplace as well as the golden tea pot. How I wish I had the pink round chair and footstool, pink lamp, pink couch and golden drapes. This photo speaks volumes of the people and the era. For years I would look at it and see people and a sensibility of an era as foreign and incomprehensible to me as life on Mars. Now I look at my grandfather and see not only aspects of myself, but even my past.
Of the many daunting tasks in my life as the "patriarch" of my family, one of the more challenging is being the steward of my maternal grandfather's relics. He loved music, and had several hundred 78s, most of which I still have in my possession. (The photo above is the tip of the iceberg.) They cross many labels, genres, and sensibilities. I won't try to list them all here. But in the spirit of Sepia Saturdays, I'd like to suggest the recently discovered resource of Old Hat Records. My grandfather had a good number of the tracks available there. I have long since made MP3s of his quirky mix of 78s that include Bob Willlis and the Texas Playboys, Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong, Herbert von Karajan, Kate Smith, the cast of "Broadway Melody", Benny Goodman and various recordings of "Mother Machree". Looking back at these acetate discs and the murky McCarthy era image at the top of this post, I have mixed emotions of what I carry forward from the past to the future. Though I will have no heir to carry forward these memories, there will be family members to whom I hope to pass these relics on to whom I hope will at least respect if not revere them. I care less about the various discs of von Karajan's take on Beethoven as I do about the Crew Cuts' version of "Slam Bam", Sarah Vaughan's "Naughty Papa" and The Stevedores take on "Last Night on the Back Porch I Loved You Most of All".
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
Sepia Saturday: Abandoned
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I worked for a couple of small town and suburban newspapers. At some point I will trudge through old photos and articles. I enjoyed interviewing local eccentrics and recall being in a tiny, poorly ventilated dark room as I processed film and made prints. "Surely a day will come when all of this can be done...without these wretched chemicals I mused." I don't miss the chemicals but sometimes I miss those images slowly emerging in a pool of developer under a 25 watt red light.
Much as I loved the people photos, my favorites were those of abandoned places and buildings such as these two. I don't know anything about the stories behind who lived here once or why these places were abandoned. The fact that they are a mystery is probably why they most appealed to me then and now.
MAGPIE TALE: It's Not Out There
Another week, another Magpie Tale. The others are here.
When Nelda Aldridge's husband Jesse died after 48 years of marriage she took to reading books on the life of Mary Todd Lincoln, a Confederate woman married to the President of the Union. In 1861 Mrs. Lincoln consoled herself over the death of her young son by buying 3,237 gloves on five different trips to Manhattan.
Only in his death could Nelda begin to comprehend what a cruel, miserly man Jesse was. For years she had never protested his assertion that her twelve dour dresses were an extravagance. "Why would any woman need 12 dresses when there are only seven days in a week?" She discovered bonds, savings accounts, CDs and more and more assets he had never revealed to her, and she wondered how a modest carpenter managed to squirrel away such a fortune.
But if mystery is the spice of life, the Aldridges lived in the pot of the steamiest masala in all of Durham. Even before his body was lowered into the ground, Nelda began her channeling of Mrs. Lincoln, ordering gloves through catalogs, buying them at Talbots or the Surrey House on Oxford Lane. The month of October was consumed by shoes. Shoes of every size. Children's shoes for the grandchildren her two daughters would never produce. The winter months were devoted to every possible dress, gowns by trendy Japanese designers just in case the day came when she could fit into a size two again. Then she started gathering a selection of scarves. She covered her face in a scarf and then would don each frock in the front window, well aware that the neighbors might be spying her. So what if they jabbered. Sometimes she spotted the Carvington girls sitting on her front stoop, smoking a joint and talking about g-spots and iPods and who was the most popular boy in school, occasionally glancing up at the window but far more interested in the trivial details of high school life than the rapid unraveling of Nelda Aldridge who was unleashing nearly 72 years of restraint, denial and long, silent meals with Jesse at that Formica table.
When the two guest rooms had no more space for her purchases, Nelda hired a carpenter to put up rods in the three car garage -- always over sized for their modest bungalow -- and she quickly began filling it with her increasingly stylish couture.
While she had taken to ordering most of her meals through take out, Nelda ventured out only for shopping tours. There was always one more frock that she felt might sweep away the years of starving denial. Once, while rushing to through the mall to the ballgown department on the fourth floor of Regstrom's, she dashed by B. Dalton's and saw an image of Mary Todd Lincoln on the cover of The New Republic, a magazine she never read. "The Mother of American Consumerism?" the cover headline read. But Nelda was in too much of a hurry to read it, though the term "The New Republic" stuck with her. When she returned home in her 22-year-old Buck
Skylark, Nelda spread her purchases on her bed and said, "I have created a New Republic. A republic of elegance and beauty. I shall never experience deprivation again." Just as she said it, she felt faint and retired to the back sitting room, aware that she had not eaten in 32 hours but was too frenzied by her fashion to be bothered by it. She staggered to the kitchen and drank two Ensures, immediately gaining the strength to put on her veil and parade in front of the window, not sure nor interested if anyone might see her. As she twirled in the window, she heard a voice, perhaps that of Mary Todd Lincoln. "It's not out there." Her frenzy prevented her from asking that voice just what was not out there. The answer, the solution to hunger or it? Just the it of it all that had bugged through all those years with Jesse? She knew there was no it to be found with Jesse, but it still wasn't coming through with all her shopping.
"It's not out there." The voice grew louder, just as the Nordstrom catalog and her Mastercard bill were pushed through the mail slot. "It's not out there, Nedra. It's not out there." She ignored the voice and twirled and twirled in front of the window until she fell on the floor. Her two nieces from Rexton found her on the floor 48 hours later and began the process of getting the house and her affairs in order. The garage sale of all the gowns barely payed what insurance would not cover for her wheelchair. All mail was now closely monitored. Catalogs were shredded upon arrival. Twelve simple dresses were in her closet, each in varying shades of green, the same shade of green of Jesse's ever watchful, envious eyes.
Labels: Magpie Tales
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
Monday, September 06, 2010
Mug Shot Series No. 9rc381 A, B & C - Parental Panels
Sunday, September 05, 2010
MAGPIE TALE: Delicious
Our contribution to the Magpie Tales Series. There rest are here.
Lulu Giggler bit the apple and thumbed through Vanity Fair as she waited at Transgressions Salon on the east side. She ignored the muffled chatter in the waiting area, knowing that she was the object of every stealth conversation. Lulu was a part of the Giggler family of Louisville whose rise to fame and fortune came during the First World War when her great grandfather T. Everett Giggler invented the multi-level parking garage. Having seen the various car parks of Europe, he was unimpressed with what he saw there and felt that there should be something unique for storing automobiles in the U.S.
At nine stories, Giggler Elevated Garage was for years the third tallest building in Louisville and was soon copied from Detroit to Manhattan to even Wichita where the Gigglers built a combination parking garage and beauty salon, not unlike a flapper era version of Transgressions.
T. Everett's sister Eileen often claimed that it was her idea, something that she envisioned on the Cunard line when she, her brother and their mutual spouses were returning from a tour of Catalonia and Tuscany. Eileen swore for years that after hearing her brilliant idea, T. Everett wired it back to one of his assistants, and plans were drawn up before they even arrived at the docks in lower Manhattan.
Eileen did benefit from the garage fortune but managed waste it away, first with Ernesto who was 25 years her junior and then a series of husbands and suitors, included a counterfeit Swiss count and a "rising star" who claimed to have an exclusive contract with R.K.O., though no one recalled ever seeing any of his films. "Oh, yes, I was in that one with Jean Arthur. The one with all the snappy dialogue."
Eileen would meet a tragic end in Dubrovnik in the early 1950s. She managed to restore her lost fortunes after the end of the war through clever investments in rayon and linoleum, but her fondness for mysterious suitors resulted in a horrible final scene as she fell from a poorly crafted hotel balcony where she fell to her death while her husband of only 48 hours and 45 years her junior looked down in horror.
Though Lulu never met Eileen, she had a mixed reaction to those who said she was "the spitting image of her great-great Aunt Eileen. She was always struck by stories of Eileen's flaming shock of hair and mercurial temperament. But she resented her mother's constant chiding, "Be mindful of who you date and where you invest, Lulu. You don't want to end up like dear old Eileen."
Just as she was becoming engrossed in an article about Peggy Guggenheim -- whom Eileen accompanied on their first trip to Machu Picchu -- her stylist escorted her to her station.
"And are we going to be brave with a bit of color today, Miss Lulu? What do you have in mind?"
Taking a big bite, Lulu raised her apple, smiling defiantly as she chomped away.
"Ah. Excellent suggestion. Delicious. Absolutely delicious."
Labels: Magpie Tales