Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Our friend, Lou

They met in 1965.  Hubby had driven his ex-girl friend's mother's car from San Francisco to Des Moines, Iowa.  Lou had come from Monroe, Louisiana.  Hubby was 30 years old, Lou was 23.  They had come to Iowa on a government grant to bring culture for the next several years to the Iowa school systems by singing avant garde / contrapuntal music.  The troupe consisted of approximately 20 members, 10 females, 10 males, 18 of them white.  Only Lou and Hubby were Black (it was the 1960's -- and they were very, very Black).

The troupe was given housing in a small apartment complex in the heart of Des Moines, but when the owner saw Hubby and Lou, it was a "no go."  So Iowa hunted around and found the two men a house where they could live on the outskirts of town.  Lou was a "good, old country boy" who understood the ways of the South -- and consequently the prejudices of Middle America, while Hubby was the city boy who had traveled across the country trying to break into big-city opera.  Lou had just earned his BA degree while Hubby had just spent seven years with the San Francisco opera company, singing minor and chorus parts.

The troupe was thrilled because they had access to the guys' good-sized house for parties and late night shenanigans.  The men bonded.  They ate together, partied, hooked up with the girls.  Hubby lasted two years, then absconded with a mezzo-soprano from the troupe and moved her, pregnant, to the big city 200 miles away.  Lou lasted another year when funding for singing "like cats and barking like dogs" was eliminated.  Then he followed Hubby down to the city.

Hubby's wife gave birth to a son and he started a janitorial business, because singing opera in the Midwest, especially if you are Black, is not exactly profitable.  He found Lou a place to live and they worked together.  They partied together.  They played pool.  Lots and lots of pool.  Hubby's wife bore another son.  Lou's wife, Pearly, came from Monroe and she had a son.  Then Hubby's wife packed up the two boys and moved back home to her family and eventually, moved completely away, after divorcing him.  After leaving Wisconsin,  Hubby had no idea where she had vanished.

This was several years before I met Hubby in 1973 and I've had to piece together most of the stories from those days, through Lou, through Wendy's mother, and from Wendy.  Hubby really doesn't talk about those days, even now.  Eventually Lou knew he wanted to sing and Hubby had pretty well shut down when his family had departed Kansas City.  Finally, Lou and Pearlie and their son Louis, Jr. packed up and moved back to Monroe where Lou began work on his master's degree in vocal music.

Hubby sang when the offers came in.  Mostly he ran a handy-man / janitorial service.  Easter, Christmas, graduation musical gigs came through often.  He preformed at Starlight Theater -- hated singing in the warm night air when bugs flew into your mouth the moment you opened it.  He did some opera.  He directed choirs and sang in church choirs when the money was decent.  He did a lot of weddings.

Every summer, Lou would pack up and come to KC to earn money with Hubby.  He and Hubby would work on the big mansions along Ward Parkway.  The owners would come out to see who was singing on their roofs and then invite the men to their parties or their clubs.  Lou played a lot of tennis with the white country club members.   He tried to teach Hubby, but came home thoroughly disgusted, because "that dang man won't run -- he just stands in one spot and you have to hit the ball straight to him." The summers were full of hot days sweating outdoors, and long nights singing their hearts out.  And pool.  Lots and lots of pool.

When I came along, Lou would arrive for a month in June and then Pearlie would bring up her two sons for a week or so before Lou went back home.  Lou had a regular job as a voice professor at Northeast Louisiana State, Monroe but the real money was usually earned during the summers in KC.  Pearlie was a math teacher who was earning her PhD. in education. 

Lou loved cars and he was always so disgusted with the heaps that Hubby would drive.  He'd show up in his new Porche and Hubby would be driving a 1963 Toyota.  I remember riding in the back seat of that Toyota and the two guys were in the front, windows down because there was no air conditioning in Hubby's cars, singing with all their might.  Cars would pull along side of us and suddenly brake to a stop in amazement, just to listen. 

Sometimes Lou would come to sing the Messiah with Hubby at Christmas.  One year we were in a shopping mall when we found one of those "drop in and make your own recording" studios.  I begged the guys to make me a Christmas record so they trudged inside and I took a seat on the bench outside to wait.  I could see the clerks looking at these two men incredulously.

Lou was six feet seven inches tall.  He had a full head of very black, thick hair and wore big glasses.  Hubby is five feet nine, round, and bald.  By then Hubby was probably 47 and Lou was 40.  They were both in work clothes.

Mostly teenagers were using the studio, rather like a karaoke bar today. The clerks were giggling and nudging each other as the men went inside the sound booth.  Eyeballs were rolling.  I couldn't hear anything but suddenly everyone in the store came to a halt.  There was a conference of the clerks, the manager appeared running -- and then from the store came the voices of the two men simply singing "Jingle Bells."  It was being broadcast all throughout the mall.

Lou is a basso profundo -- the most glorious of huge, deep, rich basses.  Hubby is technically a baritone but with a very high, full tenor range.  Together it was like hearing "Jingle Bells" for the first time --  a simple melody that just floats along accompanied by a brilliant crescendo of rich, male voice singing in harmony. They were just having fun with it, not trying to impress or make "good" music.  Soon a crowd had gathered outside the little studio.  The song finished and the men opened the door to exit the booth but the manager hurried over.  

"Please sing another song -- we'll record it free."  The crowd outside had been applauding -- the manager knew a good thing when he saw it.  So the guys went back and did "White Christmas" and the crowd grew larger still.  I could hear people talking, "Man, if they can make you sound like that, I need to go in and record a song.  What do you think?"  We still play this little cassette tape at Christmas time, remember how we laughed and laughed as the guys exited the store and people would ask (as they almost always did), "You two sounded so good!  You have any training?"

Lou and Hubby talked on the phone a lot during the winter.  Usually Lou would call on a Sunday morning to see what jalopy Hubby was driving, how Wendy was, how were the singing gigs.  He'd tell about his family and sometimes Pearlie and I would chat with each other.  He even asked my mother because one summer when he was here he had answered the phone and had quite the conversation with her.  In 1978, Hubby mentioned he thought that we might get married.  "Wait until summer and I'll be best man," Lou told him.

Lou arrived that summer and Hubby agreed that before Lou left we'd get married.  June was long gone and suddenly it was the end of July.  Lou came to me to ask if I really wanted to marry this wayward cuss and when he found out that I did, he told me, "Leave it to me."

Lou on the left; Hubby on the right -- right before our wedding ceremony;  the old Toyota is behind them
"I have to go home sometime so you'd better go get that blood test," he told Hubby.  The next day we saw the doctor for the blood test.  "I have to go home sometime so you'd better go get that license," Lou reminded Hubby.  The next day we got the license.  "I have to go home soon so you'd better call the church and arrange to have the pastor there," he told Hubby.  The next day Hubby called Reverend Cleaver at the church around the corner and set a day and a time.  We got married on a Thursday, had an ice cream cake with Wendy (Hubby's beloved adopted sister), and then the two men left to play pool.  Wendy took me back home.  

Five years later, I gathered all the friends from that time and told Hubby, "We're going to have a five year anniversary and you will have to stay through the entire celebration."  Lou and Pearly came.  Wendy and her mom came.  Assorted friends arrived.  We served a lovely buffet and took pictures and laughed and told stories on each other and two hours in, Lou and Hubby left to play pool. 

5th anniversary, Lou & Hubby had gone to play pool with the men; Pearlie is under the mountain picture; Wendy next to her, and I'm in front of the old TV
Lou and Pearlie and the boys would often meet us in Houston when we were visiting Wendy.  We swam together in the Gulf of Mexico.  We pigged out on fresh seafood.  Lou and Hubby challenged two punks harassing them at the Gulf Service Station.  Then Lou lost his oldest son, something we were never allowed to talk about with him.  More than ten years later, Pearlie died suddenly.  

Eventually Lou remarried, a woman we met only briefly, but she seemed lovely.  On our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary we held a benefit concert and Lou flew up to sing with Hubby for the last time.  I cornered him and explained, that since a reception followed the concert I really needed Hubby to stay for the entire thing -- and Lou said, "leave it to me" -- and Hubby got through the concert, the reception, and the dinner following.  THEN they left to play pool.

Lou, me, and Hubby at the reception following the 25th anniversary concert
 Hubby's aneurysm took most of his voice and the heart problems have left him with only a few notes now.  Lou continued singing his heart out and teaching in Monroe.  He had a third child, a beautiful daughter who is now around five.  The calls on Sunday morning became less, health and age kept the two men apart, but if you asked Hubby who is best friend in the world was, the answer always came back, "Lou."

In late June, Lou called one Sunday morning to tell Hubby that he had a singing gig in Italy.  He would be gone most of July.  He was so excited.  He asked about Hubby's heart, his voice, and which car Hubby was driving.  He asked about Wendy and me.  Hubby laughed with him and the two laughed together just like old times.

Lou's wife emailed us on Sunday that Lou had suffered a brain aneurysm while in Italy, much like Hubby's of 2006, but he was on life support.

On Tuesday, life support was removed and Lou died. 

No more Sunday calls.  No more jokes about new or old cars.  No more Houston visits.  No more beautiful duets -- their favorite was the "Verily" from the Seven Last Words by Dubois -- I shall always regret that I don't have a recording of them singing this wonderful duet but you can hear how others sound singing it by clicking on the links below.

We knew Lou's faults, we knew his talents, we knew his appetite for life.  We knew that he understood what true friendship was all about and in every way he proved he was a deep and giving friend.  

Our sunshine was been dimmed and our lives are diminished. We shall never forget and our stories of our times together will always be a part of our family's history.  It will never be goodbye . . . only until we meet again. 

Links to hear Lou:

A Glimpse of IDE's Mr. Nabors

I Got Plenty of Nothing

Go Down Moses

This is not Lou and Hubby -- make the bass a lot more bass and the tenor fuller:  Verily -- duet by DuBois

Monroe News obit

Friday, July 26, 2013

So Bad

Hubby's been having a really bad 48 hours.

First, he drove the boys to the park for a little "pee and poop" before we left for an evening out.  He got out of the pink Lincoln (211,000 miles on it I noted yesterday) and put the car in neutral instead of park.  As he was standing with Luie's leash in his hand, he realized the car was rolling backward.  Because Hubby really doesn't walk anymore, he had merely exited the car and left the driver's car door open.  You can guess what happened to the door as it rolled down a slight hill -- not very far actually and the car itself wasn't damaged.  Just the car door -- so it won't open or completely close.  This means the interior lights remain on and you can't get in from the driver's side.

Second, he came home, washed up, changed clothes and we headed out in the Lincoln to have dinner with our friend, Lou, at Houlihan's on Shawnee Mission Parkway.  Lou's wife couldn't come so we decided it would be nice to treat Lou to dinner.  Hubby had meatloaf but since it was Thursday night, Lou and I opted for the petit steak which we could get with $3.00 lobster tails.  It was a yummy meal which Hubby and I finished off with strawberry shortcake and Lou had himself a new type of beer which was also on special for half price.  Then the bill came.  Hubby had forgotten to change his wallet from his dirty shorts into his clean pair.  He was penniless.  I ended up paying the bill.

Next we drove up a couple of blocks to the beautiful Old Mission Methodist Church where we were attending our first concert of the season with the Kansas City Chamber Orchestra.  Because Hubby has been feeling better we opted for season tickets this year.  Hubby, forced to slide across the entire car to get out on the passenger side, let me out in front of the church.  I gave him his ticket while I went in and claimed our seats.  At the church the seating is not reserved and I knew Hubby needed an aisle seat near the back so I wanted to stake our position early.  Eventually Hubby showed up but in the meantime he had lost his ticket.  He claimed he simply pointed at me and growled, "that's my wife" and the ticket taker let him in.

Banged up car, no money, and lost ticket all within the span of six hours.

This morning, Hubby rose early and took the Lincoln over to his mechanic friends.  They hammered on the door and got it closed.  Then they decided they should have actually opened it so they could see if they could find a used door as a replacement and they hammered it back open. Once again the interior lights do not go off.

This took until 2 p.m.  but eventually Hubby came home, door still broken, to take me to the grocery for the fruit he craves with every meal.  We ran out of fresh melon on Wednesday but I made do yesterday since we were eating dinner out last night. I gathered the dogs, got them in the car, Hubby went to turn the key to start the engine and the ignition broke (now I'm not sure it was the ignition -- but it was the spot where you put the key in the hole and turn).  Now, as well as the door not opening, the car wouldn't turn off.

We were very low on gas so Hubby dropped me at the store where I loaded up on fruit and veggies and he and the boys went off to put a couple of gallons in the tank.  He took us back at the house and drove off to re-meet the mechanics at his trusty garage.  It was three more hours before I saw him again, dragging and dropping and cussing a blue streak.

"The entire steering column will have to be removed on that *&***^%% car." he moaned as he limped to the bed. "G**d** door and now the g**d*** steering column!  I hate the g**d** car!"

I brought him his salad, a couple of hunks of cantaloupe, his salad dressing, and some water.  Hubby is trying valiantly to diet but he can't eat lettuce (or any green leafy veg due to the coumadin blood thinner).  We make salads from cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, boiled eggs, a bit of cheese, some beets, and lots of onions.  Then he dives in on fresh melon.  He put his salad on the nightstand and dug in with his fork -- and turned the entire salad upside down of the floor.

One look at his face told me he had reached his physical and mental limit for the day.  "Go away.  Just leave it to me.  Get up and leave this room and go away," I told him.  And he did.

I gathered a new bowl, the soup ladle, and a heap of paper towels and rescued what I could.  The dogs licked up a lot of grated cheese and egg.  I added some new fresh veggies from the frig and brought him a new salad, a bottle of ice cold water, and found him sitting hunched over in the computer chair, looking morose.

"I'm really tired," he said softy.  Then reaching out he took his new salad and dug in.  

One can only hope that tomorrow his life will improve immeasurably. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bits and Bobs

It's pretty obvious when I'm feeling depressed; I simply have nothing to say.  I've noticed that this is true on the blog, during the water aerobics class, or around the house.  I don't write and I don't talk. My aerobics participants keep asking me if I'm feeling okay because I'm not smiling and being a cheerleader -- my normal function in the class.  I respond I feel fine and I do; I just don't have anything pertinent to say and it's takes too much energy to smile and carry on a cheery conversation.  The GP has prescribed serotonin and I've been taking it faithfully for a week and I think I'm beginning to feel a bit more upbeat.  It's not that I'm sad, really, it's that I'm just disengaged.

 Meanwhile, I'm vegging in the house.  Except for making sure Hubby gets at least one decent meal a day (EVERY day, oh my lord! I'm sick of cooking -- Hubby won't eat just a cold cut sandwich which I'd be perfectly fine doing right now in this heat), I'm sinking into my books.  The TV only goes on when Hubby's home.  The DVR is now over 50% full -- which means I've got over 100 shows taped.  I've been through five books just this week -- found a lovely series by Anne George about two crazy old Southern sisters that I have loved and was very disappointed to learn that George died in 2001 (explaining why her Kindle books were so cheap on Amazon).  Then I downloaded the new mystery by J. K. Rowling -- and I love it.  Marion Chesney (the author also known as M. C. Beaton) wrote on Facebook that she was really pissed that Rowling had written a mystery now -- like there weren't enough mysteries out there -- but then apologized when she delved into the book and discovered it was wonderful.  So of course, I had to have it, too -- and Chesney was right, the book is good.   I've been reading enough so I have to recharge both Kindles and the Samsung every day.

Gussie has been sick and really scared the pee-waddin' out of me last Friday.  He vomited all over the bed and then, when I moved him to the floor for the next bout, besides vomiting, he had runny diarrhea.  What a mess to clean up.  Even worse, though, were the sad eyes and the pitiful moans.  We had to carry him outside to pee (and vomit some more).  Then he would just lay on the floor and give these sad whimpers and pant.  I lay beside him, rubbed and cajoled and he just looked sadder and sadder.  We talked with the vet, we made an emergency appointment for the next day, and I worried all through the night.  Gus wouldn't get on the bed (after all, he'd already covered it in vomit) so I'd get up every hour or so and lay beside him and croon to him.  He looked so pathetic that I began to worry that maybe this was it for him, but by morning he was ready to go out on his own and sniff the yard, by noon he began noshing out of Luie's food bowl, and by evening he consumed his own plate of boiled rice and hamburger and was quite the chipper little lad.

Hubby has been going to see ENT (ear, nose, throat) doctors -- he now has two.  One handles his sleep problems, the other is working to get the phlegm out of his throat.  Why we need two I'm not sure.  The initial doctor didn't seem concerned about the phlegm, just worried that Hubby has severe sleep apnea.  So we got a second consult and this doctor is concerned because he believes Hubby has suffered from severe acid reflux for years and this has caused the problem with his singing voice. This doctor has increased the prescription count considerably.  I've lost track of just how many pills Hubby is now required to take each morning and each evening. Add in the two cardiologists and the nurse specialist, the orthopedist, and the GP and we see one doctor at least once every week for something or other.  Next up Hubby wants to improve his hearing and we have to meet with the eye doctor.

The AC went out on the pink Lincoln and Hubby has been suffering without it.  Six or seven years ago he had heat stroke and since then, heat has bothered him terrifically.  The AC can be fixed as soon as the old parts can be found and the wiring replaced (I'm not sure of the technical details) so the car needs to be kept by the mechanic for a couple of days.  This means we will soon be driving around in the older gray Lincoln which has enough problems that I don't feel safe with it.  Thankfully, during this current heat wave, the house has been blessedly cool and the central AC continues to run just fine (knock wood).

The old gray Lincoln seven years ago
 On Monday I toddled up to Fantastic Sam's and got a perm and hair buzz cut.  This always helps lighten and improve my disposition. 

I've been going to water aerobics but Hubby has demurred since the center decided to refurbish the men's dressing rooms and closed them off to the public.  He could use the men's bathroom but, I guess any excuse not to get wet in a pool, is acceptable.  

We've had two evenings without electricity.  Storms didn't knock us off the grid but something went haywire with KCP&L.  One night we were without power for over three hours but the Kindles had already been charged for the day, so I wasn't much concerned.   I did begin to wonder if dinner that night was going to be pints of softened ice cream but then the power was restored and the Haagen dazs was still solid, so we ate melon and tuna fish instead.

That's the news from our neck of the woods.  We keep plugging along, singing a song, side by side.  

Monday, July 08, 2013

Just a few memorable words . . .

While discussing our enjoyment of the latest movie we attended, The Lone Ranger, Hubby and I threw out some of our favorite movie quotes:

Gone with the Wind:  Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Casablanca:  Play it again, Sam

Wizard of Oz:  I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

Star Trek:  Beam me up, Scotty (which I heard on The Big Bang Theory was never actually uttered in the movie).

Sherlock Holmes:  It's elementary, my dear Watson.

Oliver Twist:  Please, sir, I want some more.

James Bond, Dr. No:  Bond.  James Bond.

Apollo 13:  Houston, we have a problem.

Dirty Dancing:  Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

Network:  I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take this anymore.

The Lone Ranger:  Hi ho Silver! Away! (and in the new movie, Tonto tells the Lone Ranger to NEVER say that again!)

So what are your favorite movie lines? 

Thursday, July 04, 2013

A Quiet but Meaningful 4th of July Celebration

Gus and Luie wish everyone a wonderful Fourth of July -- but hope the fireworks stay out of their neighborhood.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sinking to a New Low

I love my ereaders (and have several so one is always available while others charge) and I've run up quite the tab with Amazon.  It's just so easy to click "buy" and there are so many good, cheap, and sometimes free books available.

If a writer has been recommended and a special for his/her work at Amazon appears, I tend to buy all that is available.  I watch the free and and bonus books closely.  Thus I'm continually adding to my collections of mystery authors, light-hearted reading materials (Jan Karon), or books that look like they have literary merit and I would enjoy the work of slogging through them (John Irving). 

Last summer I discovered 50 Shades of Gray (and wrote about it on this blog), admitting that I enjoyed the entire series of three books very much, even though they were outside my sphere of approved reading  Then a friend recommended Laura Willig and I downloaded several of her series of "flower books" including the Pink Carnation.  Joyce describes these books as "swashbucklers" in the vein of The Scarlett Pimpernel (one of my all time favorites) and frankly, she's a little optimistic in her descriptions.  These are romance novels with a hint of sexual play thrown in to keep us interested.  However, Willig is a decent writer and she holds a plot together so well that even when the mysteries of the books are superseded by the romantic tinglings of the heroine, you keep reading. 

Then Amazon recommended Sylvia Day to me and that's when I kind of lost perspective.  Any pretensions I still held as an English major with a MA degree became lost in the sex, sex, sex.  Romance, heartbreak, reconciliation.  More sex.  Good sex.  Redeeming sex.  Day's literature is called Mommy Porn -- and there's a reason it's called porn.  And every Mommy wants it "hot" like in Day's novel -- and even retired old ladies think it might be fun to sample.  Oooh!  Her novels are HOT!  But unlike E.L. James (50 Shades) who had good plot lines but wasn't that great a writer, Day is a decent, if not better than that, novelist.  She manages to hold you through 300 pages of "hot, steamy romance" in a seven hour marathon read -- and then you want another of her books.  It's like "you can't eat just one" -- and so she's hooked her readers by creating five novel sets.  And I'm reading them all and panting for the next one in the series.  Plus she has the swashbucklers and the period pieces -- and even the mystic romances. 

I started June on a high note, finishing off my Charles Todd series of novels / mysteries set during and after WWI.  I read P.D. James Death Comes to Pemberley (boring but I managed to finish it).  Then dear god, I veered off into Kathleen Morgan and her Highland period romances and several others of that ilk.  But I'd Still I always went back to something literate in between the romance and porn.  

This week, though, I hit a real low.  First I read Antoinette Stockenberg's A Month at the Shore.  Somebody on Facebook had announced that the ebook was on sale for something like $0.99 and so I bought it -- and the proceeded to read the entire thing, enjoying the romance immensely -- and the mystery plot just a little.  Not Mommy Porn, this was truly the ultimate in beach-read romance.. It wasn't art or good writing or fabulously interwoven plot -- it was just a good read. 

Finishing the Shore book last night, I chose the next one to the bottom of my extensive ebook download and, horror or horrors, I had a vampire book.  I hate them.  H A T E!  I don't see vampire movies, I don't read vampire books, I don't want a vampire to have hot steamy sex.   I had no idea when I opened A Hidden Fire (sounds like romance, right?) by Elizabeth Hunter I was embarking on a vampire series -- called Elementary Mysteries.  I had downloaded it free on recommendation and before I could scroll through to close the book, I was hooked and the mystery was good and the vampires were believable and I haven't really come to any romance / sex -- just a potential for one -- sometime in the distant future, maybe. 

June isn't even over yet and I'm reading Mommy Porn, sucking-up-time beach romances, and vampire novels.  Can I sink any lower? 

Friday, June 21, 2013


It's not been a lottery ticket win, certainly. 

After visiting the KC fine art appraiser, we came away with little information.  I guess our artists are just too minor to be noticed -- or not purveyors of "fine art."

The 100 year old oil on canvas of Pike's Peak is probably by the best know artist but even then, without cleaning the painting, it's not worth more than a couple of thousand dollars (surprising even at that figure). 

The other two artists are untraceable and unknown, at least to the middle-aged white appraiser we visited (and forked over $50 to). 

We came away with the information that we should do a lot more research on the pictures.  Yeah, well.  If I had been able to do the research, I'd not have paid the woman $50.

What do you think this might be worth?  Your guess will have to be as good as the appraiser's was. 

First Day of Summer

Yesterday, June 20, a Thursday, was the longest day of the year.  Traditionally the summer solstice falls on June 21st but this year because of our position on Earth in relation to the sun, the US celebrated a day early.

The summer solstice occurs when Earth's axis is the most tilted toward the sun -- the angle is known as "maximum axial tilt." As a consequence, the sun rises at its most northeasterly point along the horizon and also sets at its most northwesterly point in the northern hemisphere.  Our days lengthen and spin, full of unknown possibilities and moments of pure, unfettered freedom. 

Science aside, summer is the time to relax, swim in the outdoor pool, sip lemonade, read trashy novels, and wear minimal clothing.  Summer is for traveling, even if it's just 20 miles away in the countryside, a time for eating out of doors, for planning day-long adventures, for connecting with old friends. 

Let's agree to make the most of this summer. Who knows how many more we have ahead of us?


Friday, June 14, 2013

Check That One Off

When I retired, one of the things I swore we'd get accomplished is some appraisals on the things we own that might (or might not) be valuable.

We have a couple of art works (that I've written about in the past) that need appraising -- for selling or donating -- whichever the case requires.

It's hard to find an art appraiser, especially if you're cheap.  I tried all the free ones that are national but everything we own came back as "un-appraise-able," mostly I suspect because the artists are minor and difficult to trace.  Eventually I began to send out an email here and there to locals, and decided the first one to respond with a reasonable rate would warrant an appointment.

We heard back today from FaFa Appraisers.  Ha!  What a silly name -- so fru-fru -- right?  The woman owner would do a thirty minute appraisal for $50 which seemed reasonable if we brought the art to her.  This is doable except for the mural sized painting over the sofa in the basement -- and for that we'll use a photo and detailed description to see if she should come view it in person.  

I don't think we own the equivalent of a lottery ticket (or three tickets?) but at least we'll know what we've actually got.  And I can check one more thing off the "to-do" list.  With the actual cleaning of the inside of the refrigerator last week, this makes five things checked off the retirement list since a year ago June.  Way to go, Milly!  Could you move any slower?

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Silly Question

One of my favorite foods ever is deviled eggs.  Like a lot of things I've discovered late in life, I like my deviled eggs pretty plain -- boiled egg, mayonnaise, a dab of mustard for tang, dill weed, salt, pepper.  I don't much care for minced onion or pickle relish added to my deviled eggs.  I've not tried caviar, salmon, crab, or tiny shrimps in them, but I somehow think I wouldn't like that either.

I've noticed a current trend in what people are currently called "upscale" urban dining.  Deviled eggs are showing up on appetizer menus around our city. Haute cuisine? You've got to be kidding -- except the price for these little jewels of canary opalescence is astronomical. 

Yesterday at lunch I could have gotten three halves (not whole eggs -- halves) for $5.75.  Granted they were listed as "deviled egg trio -- traditional, creole, and smoked salmon" -- but still -- an egg and a half for nearly $6 with tax?

The truth is I hungered for them.  I wanted a deviled egg trio so badly, yet with the other menu items at a premium price I just couldn't bring myself to order them.  You can't feel full on only 1.5 eggs while everyone else is chowing down on gumbo and mac and cheese. 

I just finished fixing Hubby some fresh tuna salad for his lunch today -- and instead of boiling only four eggs for him (added to a large can of tuna plus chopped onion and celery, a little relish, a dab of mayo and a heap of spices) I also boiled two for myself.  After mashing them and doctoring them with the required simple ingredients, I had maybe spent fifty cents max?  They taste marvelous!   Thems the real eats, folks.  Yum. 

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

June is Bustin' Out All Over

Half the year has gone by and I don't know where it went.  A second ago it 2010.  I wish I could say it was because "time flies when you're having fun" but the scientists actually think this just is actually what happens when you get old.

As people age, "they just have this sense, this feeling that time is going faster than they are," says Warren Meck, a psychology professor at Duke University.

Some scientists think this is because when you experience something for the first time more details get stored in your memory.  Because you are processing so many new events it feels like time is taking forever to "encode" on your mind.

"It's a construction of the brain," says Neuroscientist David Eagleman of Baylor College of Medicine. "The more memory you have of something, you think, 'Wow, that really took a long time!'

Naturally, science has more than one explanation for why time speeds up as we age.  You can do your own research on it.

Meanwhile five months of the year have passed:  Hubby and I are both a year older (and to be depressing about it -- a year closer to death).  Our older dog, Gus, has slowed down considerably from where he was twelve or even six months ago.  Luie, the pup, is now a full-fledged adult, willing to accept slower walks in the park and less time romping with his papa.  The pink Town Car needs a few more repairs than it did in the late winter months and Hubby has even begun thinking it might need to be replaced.  Our shoulders and knee are stiffer while all our joints creak more.  We sleep less at night and nap more during the day.  We are required to hire more help around the house.

Two things are required, the scientists say, to keep time from slipping away so elusively:
  1. Take advantage of new and unique experiences; when we go to the same places and do the same things, we don't make distinct memories and time seems to fly by.
  2. Focus on positive (rather than negative) past memories, trying to live more in the present, and holding a positive perception of the future.
Our goal for June is to use our time wisely -- and be happy.  Maybe we can slow the inescapable clutches of time just a little bit. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Food for the Soul

Last evening I met a friend from my Wyandotte High School days for dinner.  We ate at a local Mexican joint, The Salty Iguana, and consumed huge plates of chimichangas (mine was full of shrimp, hers with beef) along with the reguiste chips and salsa and a great chili con queso dip.  We topped the meal with fried ice cream and mini sopapillas with honey for dipping. The food was very good, but even better was the conversation.
Fried ice cream and sopapillas
Sarah and I taught in adjacent communities on the third floor of Wyandotte and both of us were special ed teachers.  She collabed in science and math but like me she was an English major with an interest in history.  I was only fortunate to work with her during my last year of teaching but I found a kindred spirit in terms of her love of teaching and her respect for the kids we served.  Much, much younger than me, I loved watching her energy, drive, and commitment as she built her rapport with the staff and students.

When I retired, we connected on Facebook and last August met for dinner, just to catch up with each other's lives.We have begun meeting monthly and our shared meals never run less than three hours so we have to pick restaurants where we can sit and chat well after the meal has finished.  We find we enjoy sharing family tales and swapping teaching stories and I love hearing about some of my students that she has been helping.  

Time spent with Sarah helps me remember my own career journeys and reminds me that I still have some wisdom that others find valuable.  She helps me retain a connection to today's world and makes my world a bit broader and interesting.  I'm proud to have such a lovely friend.  I'm continually impressed by this remarkable young woman.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

Shss! It's a Secret

Since this is my birthday weekend and I'm suddenly older in body than is reasonably right for the mental age I've achieved, I thought I'd share just a few of the many "dirty" secrets I hold near and close.  Get ready to be shocked.

I overload my dishwasher.  I have a teeny, tiny kitchen and the only dishwasher that wouldn't take up too much valuable kitchen cabinet space is apartment size.  This means it's half the size of a regulation dishwasher.  You should see my eyes glaze over when I see what my sister-in-law in Houston can get in HER dishwasher!  Because mine is so narrow, only a few things go into at time but if you have a sink full of dishes, (another little secret -- I don't wash up after every eating) you keep cramming in glasses and silverware, and bowls, and storage containers, and pots, and lids, and trays -- until you have to use your hip to lock the thing closed.  I must have about the best dishwasher in the city because almost always I find the dishes and everything else coming out sparkling clean.

Another secret about my dishwasher is that I didn't know it had a "food catcher" in it that one should clean out regularly.  It was only this year when I lost a knife in the bottom of my dishwasher and didn't discover it until most of the handle had melted away that I found the filter and realized I should have been cleaning it out at least monthly.

Only very close family know I have a police record, have been followed by police for over a month, and have been arrested.  In 1974 and in 1976 when I was working for the Kansas City School District I went on strike with the AFT (American Federation of Teachers' Union).  The first time the union won handily and I was not a target.  The second time, as a strong union supporter  in a city that was determined to break the union, I found myself under surveillance anytime I was on the picket line -- and sometimes just had police following me around the city when I wasn't picketing.  Police cars were on our street, on watch, 24/7.  I was even arrested for blocking traffic during a protest (I WAS blocking traffic and I did totally refuse to move), put in a paddy wagon, and transported to a cell -- where I happily played Spades for a couple of hours until the union paid the bail.  When the union lost the second strike, one of the settlements they did manage to retain was that those of us arrested our records expunged.

I also have an FBI file.  In 1966 I married a man from Afghanistan; stupidest thing I've ever done.  He was a zealot, a liar, we had nothing in common, and he was the most beautiful man I've ever seen except in the movies.  It was libido, pure and simple.  We divorced two years later -- but he never actually "let go" even though I really never saw him much after the divorce.  Periodically I would get phone calls in the middle of the night or at someplace he should never have know I was -- and there would be Zia, issuing threats or offering cajoling promises.  He really didn't want me back; he just hated to lose and he had the Afghan community in KC keep tabs on me all his life.  Anyway, he had all kinds of connections to the Middle East and was in Iran when they took the hostages during the Carter Administration.  He had his American citizenship (thanks to me) and when he was grabbed and thrown into prison for buying guns for Afghanistan, the US had to negotiate his release.  He was the last of the "Americans" released from his Irani captors.  When Russia invaded Afghanistan in the 1980's, he started several organizations to supply money and weapons to his home country.  He had a pretty high profile in D.C. and New York for awhile, as he tried to negotiate Afghan freedom but he took one trip too many to the Middle East and finally he was captured and presumably killed by the rebels or the Russians or somebody or other.  He has never been seen since the 1990's.  The FBI would show up at my door and question me about him, if I had heard from him, etc., whenever he would get himself into some pot of very hot water.  They were always very businesslike and pleasant.  I never felt threatened by them -- but I wonder if I had ever tried to get a passport to Asia of the Middle East if I'd show up on a "No Fly" list.

Twice I filed suit against the Kansas City School District.  After the second strike ended in 1976 I received one of two "disciplinary" transfers out of my school.  The principal claimed I was and would continue to be a disruption to the morale of the teaching body.   The two of us (both from the same school) filed suit against the district.  Time went on while the union lawyers and the district argued about the suit.  Eventually I discovered I really liked the new school much, much better --it honestly felt more like a promotion than a discipline.  Finally after two years the district offered to settle the suit by agreeing to give back the jobs of all the "un-tenured" teachers they had laid off after the strike ended (one of the causes of the strike).  In return the two of us would just quietly drop the suit.  The union got everyone to agree that "disciplinary" would be removed from our records and just like that it was done.
 The second suit was filed in federal court to keep the district from tearing down Paseo High School AND, more importantly, transfer the entire senior class from the school to the Science and Math Magnet instead of the Performing Arts Magnet.  In 1991 Paseo was detonated and though the district never agreed to it, they eventually just quietly moved all the kids to Southwest, the science magnet.  We had a hell of fight on this one, with 18 of my students, juniors and seniors, leading the movement.  Each student was represented by their own personal lawyer, pro bono, and the lawyers billed over $600,000 in pro bono fees for the 11 months we fought the district. 

I have fallen in love with Facebook.  It's so much fun to check out what folks are doing in real time or see what people are reading today or what they have cooked.  Most of my favorite authors have their own pages and they send out notices when they have special offers on Amazon or have delayed writing a new novel.   Things I used to share here, now I'm writing on Facebook instead.  I think if I weren't retired I wouldn't be so having so much fun on the site but then a friend (I've never met) set up a Facebook group for some of us who stay in touch by email through Yahoo groups (I've actually only met in person one of these people). It seemed so easy that I quickly formed a group of friends here in the city -- people I actually can meet and talk with face to face -- so we can arrange our lunches and meetings.  I've taken to checking out Facebook two or three times a day.  I think I'm becoming addicted.  Here's my latest Facebook jotting, which probably would have made a great entry:
A fourth of a loaf of crispy fresh Cibatta bread, two large pats of soft butter, a ripe, huge, juicy slice of gleaming red watermelon, and a chilled bottle of fresh water -- gracious dining on a Friday night. So yummy!

Some secrets should be kept -- there is such a thing as revealing too much to people who will use these things against you.  But many secrets, when out in the open, help to unburden your soul.  So here's one more little secret -- right now I'm big time into romance novels.  I almost want to hang my head in shame but then Lauren Willig and Marion Chesney wouldn't be on my Kindle and I wouldn't be quite so delighted with the swashbuckling tales of early Scotland or Regency England.  I loved Fifty Shades of Gray and almost everything by Sylvia Day (yes, both are red hot sexy romances).  There was a small period of time in the 1970's when I dipped into the romance genre and then suddenly it bored me out of my mind.  Suddenly, though, I'm back into the mood for torrid, passionate kisses and loins that swell with . . . oh, you get the idea. 

Enough secrets for this year.  I feel lighter already.  Time to celebrate!

Monday, May 13, 2013

An Age Gone By

If I had the choice I would take every trip by train, but these journeys would undoubtedly be on the trains of yesteryear, not the modern high speed trains of Europe or the poorly serviced Amtrak trains of the United States.  

 My grandfather was an auditor for the Kansas City Terminal Railway from the time he was 20 until he retired at 65.  The Terminal was a joint operation of the trunk railroads that served our metropolitan area and at one time was the second largest national hub.  He worked at the beautiful Union Station but I never saw his office or actually knew what he kind of position he held other than “auditor.”  What I do know is that he was granted a lifetime pass on the trains and also received discount tickets for his family.  In the beginning years of my life all my trips were either by motor car or train.

Dad loved automobiles but had a healthy reverence for trains, too.  As a young man (he didn’t marry until well into middle age) he had traveled across the United States by rail.  He had wonderful stories of getting off the train in Yellowstone Park and staying at the wooden lodge’s there.  He had seen all the west and most of the east.  He never traveled south though until he married Grandfather’s only daughter and managed to produce the only grandchild.  

In the early 1950’s Grandfather took us by train to Miami, Florida.  It was a two night journey and Grandfather sprang for two bedrooms in the Pullman cars:  one for himself and Granny and one for Mother, Dad, and me.  We made that trip twice, once in 1953 and once again in 1954.  The bedrooms were so interesting to a small kid, with the tiny washrooms and two bunks that pulled out at night for sleeping.  I always got the top bunk and I could peer down into the huge window and watch the towns flying by.  The sound and rhythm of the wheels on the rails was incredibly comforting and exotic at the same time.  Even better were the fabulous meals in the dining car.  The service was incredible and the waiters offered up menus where you could select your own food.  I always chose the fried chicken for dinner because it was followed by a bowl of warm water called a finger bowl.  The bowl was line with a filly white paper cup and because I was so entranced by the notion of washing one’s fingers following a fried chicken dinner, I was always given extra paper cups to take back to the bedrooms.  My dad loved the observation cars and then later, some trains had domed observation cars.  Stairs would go up to the dome and down to the lower level, with the lower level below the dome usually offering restrooms or a small lounge area, while the upper portion had a "bubble" of glass on the car's roof. Passengers in the upper portion of the dome were able to see in all directions from a vantage point above the train's roofline.  Dad could sit up there for hours and I’d go for a bit, but I liked exploring and coloring in the bedrooms best.  

Dining Car
Santa Fe Finger Bowls

Day room of the Pullman Bedroom
Observation Car

In 1955 Grandfather sprang for a trip to Hawaii and we rode the train to California.  From there we took a boat, the Lurline of the Matson line across the Pacific to Honolulu.  Dad only got a three week vacation so Grandfather flew us from Hawaii back to Los Angeles where again we caught the train and rode home.  In 1955 I didn’t know a single kid that had ever been on an airline, much less one that flew over the ocean.  Now I don’t know a single kid that has been in a Pullman Car bedroom (or roomette – if you were traveling alone) or has eaten in real meal in a dining car.  

In 1956 Dad drove Mother and me to his favorite place on earth:  Green Mountain Falls, Co.  Dad had stories of driving across Kansas on dirt roads in the old luxury touring cars of the 1920’s; in those days it would take three to five days to travel the 618 miles into Colorado Springs and then up Ute Pass to the cabin his family had bought in 1910.  By 1956 the Griffith cabin had been sold, but a distant aunt offered up her home to the family.  The next year Grandfather and Grandmother came to Colorado to see what all the fuss was about – and from then on, nearly all the vacations were in Green Mountain.  Grandfather even went so far as to repurchase the Griffith cabin and bring it back into the family, making my dad happier than I’ve ever know him.  

Lake at Green Mountain Falls, in the foothills of Pike's Peak
 In the early 1963 Grandfather and I went to Chicago together over the Easter weekend.  We rode the train, of course – but this time we rode in the coach car because we weren’t on the train overnight.  Still there was a domed observation car and we spent most of the trip riding above the rails through Missouri and Illinois. 
So my last real train trip was back in 1956, complete with dining car, porters, and bedrooms.  I still dream of traveling like that and wish I could climb aboard a well-equipped, well-accoutered train to cross the United States or go from coast to coast in Canada.  Even better, my own personal dream is a trip on the 1920’s Orient Express, the iconic train trip of luxury and intrigue from Paris to Istanbul.  

The Orient Express bedroom
Now this is luxury train travel -- Orient Express