Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Soap Box

There seems to have been a lot of soapbox speechifying in the past week on a variety of topics so when I came upon this postcard, sent to my grandmother's sister, Mayme, in June of 1909, I had to laugh. (Mayme was not a well young lady so the family sent her postcards from their travels--exotic places like Glenham, South Dakota and Nelson, Wisconsin.)

I love the slightly quizzical look--dripping with false piety--that we see on the gentleman's face. His coat, top hat, and what appears to be a bible provide a clever juxtaposition to the soap box he sits on and the sentiment expressed on the card. And since clearly that wasn't humor enough...the writer scribbled in pencil on the card (you can see this if you click on the image): "Do you think that's so?" runs up the side and "Angelic He! Ha!" is at the top.

Even better is the verso, though. It's all in ink, informing the family of when the writer will be home and asking if they all still "chew the rag as much as ever, ha ha" but then, in altogether different penciled handwriting is the following..."Don't think I ment {sic} slur by sending, but I thot {sic} it was pretty good." It seems as if the sender realizes that the intended recipients may not see the same humor as he does within the vignette. A century later, though, we're all in on the joke.

This is me stepping off my soapbox, then, to bid farewell to February's chilly winds and bid welcome to the spring breezes of March.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Oft-Mentioned "Bump In the Road" and a Little Scherenschnitte

There are a few old chestnuts out there regarding the aforementioned bump in the road. Whether it is "If you want to hear God laugh, announce your plans..." or "The best laid plans..." we have all likely been derailed at an inopportune moment. I know, like there's an opportune moment to have life and its intricacies and little practical jokes intrude on our well-managed schedule. There isn't, but as usual, it is how we respond to these little hiccups that determines the real lasting outcome, right? Right.

So the next installment on The White Turkey Inn in Danbury, CT will be a little delayed by one of those life-pitched curve balls.  (Those who know me "in real life" know that I am basically identified by the following things/traits: RayBan Wayfarer sunnies--even when it isn't; my ubiquitous BlackBerry; a scarf of some sort; nail lacquer that functions as an accessory, and my beloved PowerBook G4 laptop.) It is the laptop that was, to continue my silly baseball analogy, hbp--that is, hit by pitch. It is for all intents and purposes no longer with us--it is, an ex-laptop. It isn't resting or pining for the fjords, it is dead. There was hope for at least a small recovery mission which looked good, but in the end, the gods decreed otherwise and I have to accept that.

I'm fortunate that I have most of my files from before November of 2009 on a passport device, which means all is not lost. However, the things I've researched and written over the past couple of months are pretty much gone. So while I still have all the sundry papers for many things, I no longer have them properly written up to share with you (both of you) nice folks. Hope springs eternal, though, and once I'm all sorted out again there will be more on the White Turkey Inn, and even some other local spots that are intriguing to me. I hope you'll bear with me while I reconnoiter, regroup, and rewrite.

The bigger lesson in all this, of course, is to be more diligent with backing up my work, even the little research projects I do on the side. While I'm sure that some of the writing and outlining I'd done for a book project is possible to recreate, I'm not sure I will. I think some of my material had been revised and reworked too many times and maybe this is a chance to look at all I've read and all the information I've processed via a fresh take. Granted, I don't have much of  choice, but this approach seems to make the most sense to me. I had my meltdown over all I'd lost, but holding on to that feeling is totally counterproductive so it's onward and upward and more time spent plugging away on my reliable (and fully backed up, I'll have you know) slow old iMac.

So while I shop around for a new MacBook, and wait to see whether the good people of Apple are going to be releasing a new model, I'm restricted to pretty basic web stuff on this machine. I've been enjoying looking through the marvelous old books at which has some really fun distractions. They also have a nice selection of early 20th century equestrian books on foxhunting, hacking about, and riding techniques. While dated, the writing style and prose is wonderful to read and enjoyable for those of us who enjoy an afternoon spent on horseback. I'm looking forward to doing my exploring there, you just never know what you might stumble upon.

And speaking of being stumbled upon, the image at the top of the page is from a bookplate of a gentleman named John A. Seaverns. It was in the front of a cheeky volume (aptly titled) The Haughtyshire Hunt. I think bookplates are rather interesting and some of the old ones are actual works of this one is. It's an ink representation of scherenschnitte, German folk-art papercutting. In the center is an octet of little foxes who appear to be sticking out their tongues at their pursuers, while in the next circle are hounds at full cry. The mounted (and top-hatted) hunter on the outermost circle is taking the fences with pretty fine form.

I'm going to leave you with the horses and hounds for a bit while I attend to my real work.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The White Turkey Inn, Danbury, CT part 1

I'm the first to admit that I develop little obsessions. I think, as a person who really enjoys creating--whether it's putting together an ensemble, preparing a complicated meal, making a "love" collage or researching a project--it's easy to allow ourselves to develop more than a passing interest in small and seemingly obsessive details. When I worked in a small history museum, I'd spend entire days thumbing through the old local newspapers or boxes of family history papers to help flesh out a provenance, anecdote, or story.

I'll also admit that I've been a New Yorker reader/fanatic for most of my life. There's still a pile or two of them in my old bedroom in Minnesota and I can't resist looking through any old copies that I find in an old bookstore or antiques shop. I've spent hours reading over old The Race Track columns written by Audax Minor (the pen name of George F. Ryall, a Canadian writer) wherein he not only discussed the horses, but he'd describe with delicious detail both the high society and nearly ubiquitous Runyonesque racing aficionados. I know I have only scratched the surface of all the columns, but delving into these vignettes of the horse world--from the 1930s and 40s especially--is not only educational and entertaining, it's downright interesting.

On one such (likely rainy) afternoon, I'd been reading through the New Yorker digital archive and happened upon this advertisement near one of the columns on polo or horse racing.

Hmmm, I thought. How intriguing. Like something out of Holiday Inn or Christmas in Connecticut, no doubt. A classic New England inn, close enough to NY City for day trips, but far enough out to realize you are not in NYC, either. Living in the area and being a complete fanatic of that sort of idealized old New England, I began to conjure up all kinds of images in my mind. I wasn't sure I'd be able to find out much more about the establishment, let alone find images of what it might have looked like, so I just started to dig a little deeper in the New Yorker Archive.

Throughout the 30s and 40s and even into the 50s, the New Yorker would do small articles on dining out at inns or supper clubs that were within an hour or so of the city. At certain times of the year (noticeably summer and autumn) they would include trips that were farther afield and had broader dining suggestions.

Showing up in many of these round-ups or at times in the Supper Clubs section of the Goings On About Town pages, was The White Turkey Inn. 

In this mention from the August 20th issue of 1938, the inn is mentioned both in the front Goings On area (under the title "Pleasant places here and there along the road for dinner--without dancing--while motoring) and later on in a piece about restaurants.  (click on either clip to enlarge and read)


I do love when one of my little obsessions is validated...clearly The White Turkey Inn in Danbury--and it's sister restaurants in the W Village and Midtown--were both popular and important once upon a time. 

More on my findings and the fun I've had along the way in the coming days. Especially with little footnote stories like this, the journey is all the fun and there is real joy in discovery. Hope you'll want to join me for the rest of my little sojourn into the history of The White Turkey Inn. 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Having Wonderful Time, Wish You Were Here...

Happy St. Valentine's Day to one and all!

Earlier this morning I was flipping through my postcard collection looking for something all Valentiney and sweet. While I found some lovely floral arrangements--complete with gold glitter in some cases--with detailed embossing, there was nothing covered with cupids or hearts. (I'd later realize those are probably in Minnesota with my mother as she used them as inspiration for a quilting project, I think.) No worry, the bouquet of roses I did find served my purpose just fine.

I used to be a much more avid postcard collector than I have been lately, but I've still managed to pick up a few over the past couple of years in little wayside shops or even on e-bay. Some of them are quite fun and I'll try to post them here now and then or as the spirit moves me.

As an opener though, a couple of favorites that have a little story to tell...

Any (either) of you who have read my earlier pieces know how much I love Paris. I came upon these postcards one afternoon at a shop in my hometown of Rochester, Minnesota. They are at first glance, perfectly nice photos of Paris...Sacre Coeur and The Opera. But what compelled me to buy them was the little near short-story on their reverse sides. It's hard to see on the Opera Garnier card which was damaged in a move, but both cards are addressed to a loved one, a misspelled Ahmie rather than Amie. (If you enlarge the photo below you can read Bill's note to his Ahmie.) I surmised Bill was a GI in Paris and he'd bought a pack of cards to send home to his wife or girlfriend. The back of the Opera card reads: Ahmie: I didn't get to see this building. It is one of the nicer buildings in Paris I guess. It was in the collection I bought so on to my honey. Love Bill. The reverse of the Sacre Coeur card reads as follows: Ahmie: Another place I didn't get to see. Maybe I will get a chance one day. What ever [sic] it is looks pretty good. Love, Bill. 

I remember being charmed at how nonchalant our Bill was about the structures, surely two of the most famous and most recognized buildings in the City of Light, but not to our GI. His comment that Sacre Coeur "looks pretty good, what ever it is" is really charming. 

And then there's the handwriting...Bill had really lovely handwriting for a fact, it is almost too perfect. At any rate, this little glimpse into a couple, whether they were married or just young lovers, is delightful to me. I can almost imagine the girl, Bill's Ahmie, showing the cards to her friends and remarking on how kind it was of Bill to think of her or how Bill would've enjoyed the cosmopolitan delights of Paris. A delicious little reverie for St. Valentine's Day, no? 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Winter in Manhattan: An Homage

They've written songs about Autumn in New York and April in Paris...and I've experienced both more than a few times. But for my money, there's not enough musical homage to winter in Manhattan. 

When I used to live in Manhattan one of my favorite things to do during a big snow was to go out and take pictures.  When snow blankets the island it becomes a quiet and timeless place, for a short while, at least. The views from the bridges and looking out over the parks become snowy picture-postcard vistas that even Ansel Adams would have admired. 

During the big President's Day storm a few years ago I remember hopping on the Lexington Avenue Line and taking the 6 train all the way downtown to the Brooklyn Bridge. I just knew the views would be unforgettable. And I wasn't disappointed. I emerged from the Subway station and started to make my way over to where the pedestrian walkway begins and I realized I could walk more easily--and just as safely--on the actual bridge. There were no cars and the bridge looked like something from the 19th Century rather than the 21st. The photo above is from a different storm, but I love the foggy darkness that pervades the image. 

The area surrounding South Street Seaport is always fun to wander, but in the snow, since the buildings are so wonderfully evocative, it's even better. This was taken of course before all the fish mongers moved up to the Bronx, but surely looks like it could almost be from a much simpler time. 

In my ealier days in New York City, I lived on the UWS and when it snowed my travels inevitably took me to Central Park. There are few places that are lovelier when cloaked in snow than the history-filled landscape of Cavert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead. What I found myself most amused by were the snowmen. Even with the minutest amount of snow resourceful tourists and clever New Yorkers could manage to fashion a snow creation of some sort. I've a whole collection of these photos, a couple of my favorites are farther down the page. 

Snow seems to give us the opportunity to slow down a little or to even be childlike again. I have been just as giddy as a school child these past couple of days anticipating this big snow. And yes, I'll even admit to having had snow envy when the Mid-Atlantic states stole what surely should have been some good old New England blizzard thunder. It's all good though, we'll get our share today. 

I'm thankful I don't have anywhere I need to be today and so long as Connecticut Light and Power keeps the electricity flowing, I'll be one very happy camper. 

Be careful out there if you HAVE to travel...otherwise, why not fix yourself a mug of cocoa (laced with Kahlua if you're of age) or prepare a nice hot toddy of some sort and curl up with your favorite novel or movie and enjoy the snow show that Mother Nature is putting on for us!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Quotable Valentine

It's been a busy week...multiple projects (for which I am VERY grateful) and some glitches (Mac crashes, Tyger meltdowns, BlackBerry malfunctions, bad hair days) but all in all, a week that made me happy for Saturday to arrive. I made all my deadlines, though there was a near all-nighter on Thursday and I even managed to deliver one editorial job early. *yup, that's me being quite chuffed*

Did I get much of my own writing done? (shuffles bespoke English bench-made shoes on the ground while looking at the sky and refusing to make eye-contact) Um...not so much. I did a lot of writing for other people, but not much of own this past week, so I will endeavor to change this coming week. At some point, writing IS writing and I did actually enjoy some of my week's work.

And look, if I were less tired (mentally, anyway) I'd come up with some dashingly clever segue to get me over to the impending holiday...but that's not happening. SO...St. Valentine's Day is coming up, don't say I didn't warn you.

I'm celebrating my V-Day a little early. The Snow Monkey and I have a pretty disparate schedule next weekend, so we'll be celebrating Monday and Tuesday when I'm in Boston for the Bean Pot championships. Now you may be wondering why I'm announcing my V-Day plans here--fear not, The Snow Monkey does not venture into the blogosphere--he being all overly published and writerly--so all my secrets are safe with you lot, right?

Neither The Snow Monkey nor I really have discussed the holiday so I think this will be a pretty low-key Valentine's Day.  And honestly, I've not had the time to scour the shops or e-bay looking for the right baseball item for him or some piece of amazing Canadiens memorabilia. So what I've decided to do is a fun little gift...simple, but as he'd say...very us, very trig. It's in the spirit of a medieval book of hours...illuminated (if you can call my simple drawings illuminations, but you know what I mean) and filled with verses and dedicated to someone I love. *That said, he'd better NOT forget flowers...*

We love a lot of the same things, The Snow Monkey and I, so I am collecting a bunch of quotes, sayings and comments made by our favorite people about our favorite things. I spent a lot of today looking through favorite books of his (The Ginger Man, Confederacy of Dunces) and searching beloved authors (Waugh, Liebling, Joyce, Wilde, Maugham) for the right little nuggets of love and laughter. There are also hockey quotes, horse quotes (he's a budding horse lover, I'm slowly leading down the equine bridle path) and quotes about the artists he loves like Hogarth, Gillray, and Winslow Homer.

I've bought one of the little watercolor sketch pad Moleskine's and I'll illustrate and do some watercolors throughout, plus add a few little words that I know will spark Mahler. He'll laugh about that. No one laughs at Mahler like we do. Actually, probably no one laughs about Mahler except us. Hmmmm. Anyway, I think it'll be fun and romantic and I do hope it'll hit the target. Whatever my artwork (ha!) lacks in realism will be made up for in cheeky humor and creativity.

Wish me luck on my little arts arts & crafts project...and with that I leave you with the best quote that I came upon while working on my Livre de L'amour...

From The Ginger Man:
"When I die I want to decompose in a barrel of porter and have it served in all the pubs in Ireland."