Friday, April 29, 2005

Southern Pacific

Very interesting! I just received a phone call.

“Hi, This is Steve ---. I am standing in front of the Reflecting Pool in Washington, and I am calling to tell you that I have not been able to get back to you about the Southern Pacific tablecloths. I left you a message, and you left me a message, but it didn’t work out. I won’t be at Alameda this weekend, but I’ll try to get together with you Thursday evening.”

“You are where?”

“In Washington, D.C.”

“I thought that’s what you said! I’ll save them for you.”

Steve collects railroad items, and I had told him that I have two Southern Pacific tablecloths, plus a Pullman linen that fastens on the seat headrest.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker

That’s exciting! I wish I had been the first person to spot the ivory-billed woodpecker. I can just imagine what it would have been like to be there, and see this huge bird for the first time in my life. Incredible! I’ll only ever see it in photos.

The woodpecker was spotted last year in a swamp of the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas, after having been long-thought extinct. This information was just revealed, having been kept a secret while agencies made every effort to confirm the discovery.

I am definitely not an ornithologist, although I knew someone who worked at the Cornell Ornithology Lab. I am not even a bird-watcher, although I like to watch birds. I have always loved watching the numerous species of birds in my parents’ backyard, and my two daughters’ yards, on the East Coast. I have been to many public gardens where hummingbirds abound, and I was enthralled. Some of my fondest camping memories were of the birds in the woods in the Southern states, especially Kentucky. Waking up in the morning, with the forest filled with birdsong, was an experience I can still feel. The woodpeckers, cardinals, blue jays, and all of the other species filled the days with wonder.

I have the Audubon Baby Elephant Folio, and the woodpecker is in there in all his glory, with a couple of lady friends. A twenty-inch wingspan makes for one big woodpecker.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A Missing Person ...

My father’s youngest brother, Chris, disappeared when I was quite young. It was probably in the 40’s. I remember times when he came to our house to visit us. I always liked him; he was an attractive young man.

At some point, he just seemed to disappear into the sunset. My father and his family tried for years to find Chris, but they were never successful in doing so. They did not know if he was still alive after so many years of searching.

It is hard for me to remember the full details of this, as I was so young when it happened, but the subject did come up from time to time. I have no idea, of course, as to what precipitated the occurrence.

My father’s family was a bit dysfunctional. His father and mother did not speak to each other for fourteen years, communicating through their children. I don’t think my father was very close to his father for a time, but eventually, before his father died, they did establish a closer relationship.

I was so surprised, upon the death of my mother last June, to acquire a card my grandfather had sent to my father, upon my birth as my father’s first child, giving him instructions on my care. I don’t remember ever seeing my grandfather’s handwriting before that.

My father’s sister had emotional problems causing her to be institutionalized for many years; and his other brother was an alcoholic. He died years ago in a rented room, estranged from his wife and daughters. My father was the one stable member of the family, keeping house and home together for a wife and eight children, plus countless grandchildren. He enjoyed life.

It always bothered him that he never found his little brother. I named my first child Chris, although he is not totally named for my father’s brother. He was due on Christmas. I also have a niece named Kris. Chris is a great name.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Downtown Petaluma Antique Faire

Petaluma is a great destination for the lovers of antiques and collectibles. Antique shops and collectives abound, in a setting of beautifully restored 1880’s buildings. The residential streets are lined with Victorian houses, and the whole city has an upscale atmosphere blended with a touch of the rural from local farmfolk.

Sunday I set up my usual booth at the semi-annual Antique Street Faire. The day was unpredictable, weather-wise. As the day progressed, everything was the exact opposite of what I had read on the Weather Channel on the internet. It predicted no rain, we got rain. Cold was predicted, it was warm. Cloudy all day; the sun ruled.

I got out of bed at 2:00 A.M., and left the house at 3:00, arriving in Petaluma before 4:00. This makes for a very long day. Shortly after getting the canopies set up, luckily covered with plastic, the tables, cloths, and cases containing jewelry and sterling flatware, plus crates of old books, dishes, some art, beaded bags, sterling and celluloid dresser accessories, it rained. Luckily, I came prepared with plastic sheeting to cover the tables, allowing people to see what was for sale. Crates of books were shoved under the tables, and I continued trying to sell. Now, I can’t even remember whether or not I sold anything at that time.

I had a good day, business-wise. Sales were not as great as last year’s at the two shows, but good enough. Many items sold were in the $100 and over range, so that adds up. The $85 items also help. I started right off with an “as is” very large beautiful beaded bag with an iris motif for $125. When I told the woman I would come down to $125 from the $175 price tag, her response was “I’ll take it! Let’s see what else you have.” She loved the wonderful celluloid frame and chain. The purse would have been marked $275 by other dealers. Actually, my first sale of the day was an old “as is” umbrella with holes, but with a red bakelite handle, for $10. I had forgotten that I still had a couple of umbrellas from my days of doing the Vintage Shows, and I found them in my closet when I was cleaning my bedroom. One more thing is out of the house, never to be seen again.

Several of the pieces that I had at the show were items that I had not had displayed before. Some were new purchases and some had been languishing in my cupboards for a few years. One lovely little thing that had been languishing was a beautiful salt cellar, from England. It was sterling silver, with a cobalt blue glass liner, and a sterling salt spoon. The cutout design was great, and the shape was pleasing. It was sort of rectangular with rounded ends that curved up, and the cobalt insert totally followed the shape of the silver. The salt cellar had cute feet. I sold this item fairly early in the day, and I know that the price should have been higher. It was a very good piece; that is why I had been saving it.

I also sold an ornate sterling napkin ring, with “George” on it. I had just acquired four napkin rings and I usually never find them. A woman bought a spoon with a gold bowl engraved “George”, along with other sterling flatware, and the napkin ring.

The day was strange. Very few of my regular customers were there. It was a whole new group of people. One antique dealer came by and purchased a very good Hattie Carnegie fur clip from the late 30’s – early 40’s, gold color with a huge “topaz” in a Retro design. The clip was very large and beautiful. The very early Carnegie pieces were marked with just “HC”. He is my usual customer for Hattie Carnegie, Nettie Rosenstein, and McClelland Barclay jewelry. I believe those are the only designers he has ever purchased from me.

It was a day for rhinestones. I have one large case that is all clear rhinestones, with my colored stone pieces in other cases. The jewelry is on an emerald green velvet cloth, and is very striking. There was a time when no one wanted the clear stones, but now they are very “hot” again. The first piece I sold was a lovely 20’s bracelet, with tiny round clear stones, and pale green baguettes. The woman who found it practically grabbed it. She was very happy with her purchase. After that young women were buying three pins at a time out of case. It is approaching empty, so I have to shake the dust out of the cloth and refill it with pieces I have been working on. This jewelry needs a small stone or two to make it ready to sell. That is my project for the week.

I usually sell quite a few books in Petaluma, but I only sold a few cookbooks. That was depressing, as I had hoped to further eliminate some of my book inventory. If I said $3, they wouldn’t take a book unless I came down to $1, which is much less than I paid for it in the first place. Oh, well. They have to move out.

I always love being at the show in Petaluma. The air is festive, with the displays of all the antique dealers on the street and in the parking lot nearby, plus the food vendors sending great aromas into the air. I am set up in front of the Petaluma Catering Service, and they usually sell coffee and food while they are busy preparing other food for the inevitable Sunday party. The Downtown Association provides coffee and great pastries for the dealers. It is fun admiring the wonderful old buildings across the street in my spare moments, and soaking up the atmosphere of the place and the day. The crowd is usually very large, and Sunday was no exception. The Lions Club served breakfast, with young girls traveling around with a wagon taking orders and delivering them to the dealers in their booths.

The sales for the day would have been mediocre, save for the help of three women. These sales occurred after I had packed boxes and was getting ready to load the van. One woman and her daughter found some jewelry they just had to own. Then, after the cloths were in the cases covering the jewelry so it could be loaded, a young woman and her fiancee came along asking for rhinestones. I took the cover out of the rhinestone case, and she spent a considerable amount of time choosing three pins for the attendants for her wedding in July. I really gave her a deal, just to make a final sale. Two of the pieces were Coro duettes, very early, desirable jewelry. The designs were great, and the stones were fine. Duettes are pins that are made up of two dress clips or fur clips fastened onto a frame that contains the pin part. They can be worn as a pin or separately as clips to be worn apart from each other.

She and her boyfriend were both happy with the decisions, and she wants me to see if I have anything at home for her eight-year-old flower girl. I mailed white gift boxes to her yesterday for the pins. As she stated, it was worth my while to allow her to see the rhinestones, because she spent quite a bit, although she received the items for about half what I would normally charge.

I arrived home after the show at 8:00 P.M. and I was exhausted. As I said, it was a very long day, but I was happy. I am not certain that my health allows for the exhaustion, as I felt completely worn out yesterday, but I managed to do many things around here, not the least of which was moving a good share of my “garden” so men could replace my neighbor’s water heater. That has become a two-day job because they are here again today.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Four Seasons

The Four Seasons can conjure up visions of Vivaldi’s masterpiece, music that is beyond famous, or the names of places, among them the restaurant in New York City. When rummaging around in a flea market a couple of years ago, I found a copy of the cookbook from The Four Seasons Restaurant, and I just had to buy it, even though I am not a cook. This is a very large, attractive book, which one would probably call a coffee table book.

Many years ago, in the seventies, I worked at Calasanctius Preparatory School in Buffalo, a school for gifted children run by the Piarist Fathers. My children were students at the school, and I worked as Secretary to the Board of Trustees member in charge of finances, in exchange for my children’s tuition. Many of the priests affiliated with the school were Hungarians, and the Headmaster, Father Gerencser, was a very close friend of Paul Kovi, the Director of The Four Seasons Restaurant.

From time to time, the school held gourmet dinners and wine tastings as fund raisers. I was in charge of arrangements for these festive occasions, with duties including everything from maintaining the mailing list and sending notices to those who were most likely to attend, to being hostess at the door and gently reminding those who had not yet paid for their tickets. I made several long gowns for the hostess part of the job.

When Paul Kovi presented one of his gourmet dinners, I was involved in every tiny detail. Father Gerencser had a copy of the cookbook from the restaurant, and one of my jobs was to make copies of the menu and recipes for the cooks at the school, after the dinner was planned. The cooks would start preparations long before Paul arrived in Buffalo. I can not remember each item on the menu, but early in the dinner there was a small bird under glass, and the entrée was Rack of Lamb. I had remembered the large photo of Rack of Lamb in the cookbook for all these years.

Dessert was fabulous torte, prepared by Lenke, an older Hungarian woman who had an office of her own in the house that was used by the staff as an office building. Lenke had a pet squirrel that would come through her office window and sit on her desk eating nuts. He had a tail, ratty in appearance, which had been damaged when he was hit by a car.

The dining room at Calasanctius was in a new building behind the mansions that had been converted into a school, on the edge of Delaware Park in a very exclusive section of the City of Buffalo. It was a beautiful area, and the new building was tucked into the property so as not to be obtrusive, although it was rather large. There was a library near the dining room, and these sections of the building were rather imposing. The dining room was just that, not a cafeteria in appearance, but a carpeted area with proper furnishings, chandeliers, and batiks on the walls done by Father Gerencser’s sister in Hungary.

Betsy, the head cook for the school, was from Indonesia, and spoke Dutch. She was an exceptional cook, and had birthday parties for herself at her home, preparing all the food. I was a close enough friend to be invited to her parties for several years. She worked long hours preparing for the gourmet dinners, instructing her staff, and was in constant communication with Father Gerencser and Paul Kovi regarding the menu for this very special occasion.

Table settings for the gourmet dinners were very formal, of course. I think there were about ten wineglasses at each place setting, many pieces of flatware, and several pieces of dinnerware were used for each setting, also.

Ladies wore gowns, and the whole occasion was one of great festivity, a highlight of participating members’ social life. Luckily, I was able to attend these dinners and partake of the meal after greeting everyone at the door. Owning The Four Seasons Cookbook will help me to remember an interesting part of my life.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Jekyll & Hyde

The Musical. The San Pablo Social Club is just a fancy name for the group of seniors that takes trips and attends events such as the aforementioned musical at the Contra Costa Civic Theatre. Wednesday evening we all got together for dinner before going to the theatre on the two small City of San Pablo Recreation Department buses. Dinner was at a near-by Mexican restaurant.

The musical was a wonderful production, with great acting, exceptional voices, and a talented group taking care of the accompaniment. The set was very interesting, rather minimalist, but in the small theatre it was perfect. I was pleasantly surprised at the voluminous voices performing the solos and duets. I always enjoy going to the productions at the CCCT.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Lament for a Lost Voice

When Chris, my son, was a baby, I sang to him. I had always loved singing, and my two sisters and I, when very young, regularly performed for the grandparents, plus others willing to listen. Later, as a member of the church choir and high school chorus, I had the opportunity to sing to my heart’s content.

Then, when my daughter Carrie was only a few months old, my thyroid was removed and my vocal chords were damaged. I actually lost my voice for several months, and choked every time I tried to drink. My singing voice was gone forever, and I had once been a soprano.

I enjoyed listening to my own children as they performed in school productions. I was astonished several times by each of the four kids when they auditioned for parts or sang solos. Carrie and Coral were members of choral groups, performing wonderful music. The girls and Craig, my youngest, were seriously involved in musicals during their school years. I loved those times, and I worked in makeup, props, and box office. Carrie was even in an opera at Shea’s Buffalo Center for the Performing Arts, when she was older. Chris plays guitar and sings music he has written.

Now my granddaughters are carrying the torch. Allie, in her work with the Duke Chapel Choir, continues to amaze. The choir is a 150-member organization that performs in the fabulous Duke Chapel, a Gothic cathedral-like edifice. They also travel to other locations on occasion, nationally and internationally, such as Carnegie Hall.

I am able to watch the Sunday services and concerts on the Chapel website, and it is an important part of my week. I have been able to see Allie, in the front section of the choir, close up and personal. As the group files down the very long nave in the chapel, to the fabulous accompaniment of the massive organ, and perhaps a chamber orchestra, my breath is taken away by the pomp and circumstance. I want to be there.

“I have not forgotten you, my other grandchildren. I am not able to hear you in your endeavors because we are so far apart. Perhaps one day I will be able to hear some of your performances.” Grace, a twelve-year-old, already has a good start, as a member of the Florida All State Chorus, and the groups in her school. She has done a bit of traveling for concerts, and is in Orlando at this moment for that purpose.

Unable to sing now, I have to be satisfied with listening to others. At least I can do that. At least I am able to hear. I would be totally depressed if I could not enjoy music. I think the human voice is one of the most beautiful instruments.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Can You Believe It?

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered new glasses, after an exam by my own doctor. The optometrist who was fitting me for the glasses told me “I’ll just put the new lenses in these frames.”

The receptionist informed him, “She can’t see without glasses.”

Upon asking him how long it would take, and being told that it would be three to four weeks, I insisted that I needed new frames. The present glasses were rather severely damaged when I fell on my face on the edge of a sidewalk while helping Chris and Becky move three years ago.

After I picked out what I wanted, he was measuring for the bifocal line, adjusting it upward so I wouldn’t have to tip my head back so far when looking at the computer monitor. It kills my neck and upper spine. His next remark was, “These are too big” and he dug around in a cupboard for a different pair. I didn’t really get a chance to look at them, and I have no idea what they look like on me. I am only hoping that he is an expert in his field, otherwise I am stuck with something I will hate. He did seem to know what he was doing in some ways, but his “bedside manner” left something to be desired, and I can’t imagine that he thought I could go without glasses for almost a month.

I Feel Like a New Woman

I bought a new keyboard today.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

My Failure as a Mother

When I started out as a young mother, I was fairly well focused on doing the best I could for my children, even though this was interrupted at times by my own ongoing health problems. I was very wrapped up in them when they were babies, and my love of babies continues to this day.

Then, as they advanced just beyond toddler stage, I started teaching them to read, do math, investigate the sciences. They were all good students, long before kindergarten, and we had our daily “school” sessions around the kitchen table.

I made all of their clothes, stockpiled frozen food supplies from our garden, baked every day, and tried to interest the kids in the world around them. This continued for some years, until eventually I began to search for something more in life.

Today’s mother juggles a career, a family, a house, and even a social life. In my generation, it was much more acceptable to just stay home and be a “mom”. Unfortunately, I was not born to be just a mom, showing this as early as my high school years. I was not your average student, and I was in math classes as the only girl, getting better grades than any of the boys. I guess you would consider 100% on a trigonometry regents a good grade. I think it was trig, maybe solid geometry. I should have known that I would not be satisfied as a stay-at-home housewife, and would eventually rebel.

The direction I took during this rebellion was the wrong one. I started out in the world of working in an office, along with being involved in various educational groups and projects related to gifted children, as a direct result of the four brilliant children of my own. The cultural organizations that I became involved with shortly after this point, were an extension of the yearning for something more interesting and exciting than the life I was living at home. They were opening up something that had been stifled many years earlier.

Then, by being in the “outside world”, I started to meet new people, and I have always loved getting to know someone, learning about his/her life. This eventually led to involvement with men, as I always related to men much easier than I did to women. From the time I was in school, I realized that I was living in a man’s world, and I was much more interested in men things.

I was conned by a couple of these guys, but there were some that were very sincere. One in particular was a sweet guy, unfortunately an alcoholic, although I did not discover that for quite some time. He didn’t drink for long periods, then fell off the wagon at times, going on binges and hiding out at his home. He had been a concert pianist and had also been a vocal soloist in the Messiah with the Buffalo Philharmonic. I wasn’t convinced of the pianist part until he sat down at my piano and started playing.

I would hang out with these people, sometimes in very platonic friendships, and we would have fun, doing interesting things, going places in groups, and I felt as though I was doing what I wanted to do. My children were paying the price for my good times. I was away from the house quite a bit, although at some point along the way I must have been home long enough to totally redecorate a twenty-room house, refinish and reupholster furniture, deal in antiques. A couple of my men friends apparently noticed that my kids needed to be fed, insisting that I cook dinner for them, and involving themselves in the meal preparation. I had acquired an aversion to cooking, for some reason, and I retain that aversion today, except for special occasions. The kids suffered as a result of this, although I still loved them very much and wanted to be involved in their daily lives. I just had a very hard time combining my desire for the life I thought I wanted, with my wishes that my children develop into happy, healthy, well-educated individuals. I didn’t have the tools for this, or, at least, I was unable to shut off my own desires once Pandora’s Box had been opened. I was searching for the perfect relationship, at that point, and it didn’t exist with the men that were my friends.

This all seems so very long ago, yet I am still paying the price, as are my children. The past can not be undone; none of us can recover our youth and do the things we should have done – attended college, had a fulfilling career, a good, responsible life. I use these terms in generalities, applying them to those who wish they could do what they should have done, or undo what they did.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Visiting Eden

…the public gardens of northern california. I sold this book today on It was my own personal copy that I have had since shortly after it was published, by Chronicle Books, San Francisco. It is a delightful book, the photos reminding me of the gardens that I have visited, as well as begging me to check out those I haven’t yet seen.

I was able to sell my copy without too many tears shed, as I now have the copy that I sent my mother before I purchased my own, along with the letter that I enclosed with the book. When my sisters went through my mother’s house, after her death last June, they found the book and put it with the items that they were saving for me. Now I will think of Mom every time I see the book.

Another book that I retrieved from my mother’s house was the copy of Collecting Rhinestone & Colored Jewelry by Maryanne Dolan that I mailed to her. I worked with Maryanne on the book, and we took many pieces of the early signed costume jewelry that I had in my show inventory to a photographer to do the beautiful photos necessary for publication. Maryanne did not live to see this Fourth Edition published, but she had listed me as number two under Acknowledgements. I thought that the book would not be published, but one day a mutual friend of ours came to tell me that the beautiful book had indeed been published, and “Guess who’s name is second on the list.”

I went to Barnes and Noble and asked for a copy. When it was handed to me, the tears started flowing. Maryanne had indeed been a good friend, spending time sitting in my booth at shows, checking out the jewelry, chatting with customers, and also purchasing items for some of the other books she was working on, such as American Medallion Silver. Needless to say, the book created considerable interest in the jewelry that I was selling at the antique shows, and many customers wanted to buy the jewelry, as well as a copy of the book showing the piece. I sold many copies, reordering several times from the publisher, and was also asked to autograph some of the copies.


Do any of you have cats that love garbage trucks? My Siamese run to the windows when the truck comes, twice a week on recycling week, and watch as the guys roll the garbage bins to the truck. They love it when the truck automatically lifts and dumps THEIR garbage.

The truck for the regular garbage picks the bin up from the side of the truck, and dumps, whereas a different type of truck is used for recycling. Two bins can be dumped simultaneously at the back of the truck. Anyway, these guys are lucky in that they can watch several neighbors’ garbage being picked up. It is the high point of their week.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


It’s pretty amazing! What do butterflies travel in? Hordes? Anyway, that’s what it seems like. They are flitting through this trailer park in large numbers today, large ones and small, of different types. Must be because it is spring. They seem as though they have a destination. They are generally flying from the west to the east, from the coast to the hills.

It has been quite a sight, for hours. I noticed them when I was chatting on the phone with a friend and happened to realize what I was seeing passing my windows. Some of them are very large. I guess you do not have to be out in the boonies to enjoy nature.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Open House

On the way down San Pablo Avenue yesterday, from San Pablo to Oakland, I discovered that there has been a significant change in the scenery, especially in Emeryville. Where once there were decrepit houses and commercial edifices, there are now extremely attractive condo and apartment complexes. Wow! I was impressed.

The new construction even extends into Oakland, in an area that still shows vestiges of blight. I have no idea whether or not people with low incomes also have an opportunity to live in these complexes. Perhaps in Oakland they are able to do so, but I am fairly sure that the Emeryville facilities are upscale enough to be unaffordable. I guess I’ll have to check into that further, so that I’ll know what I am talking about.

I was on the way to a friend’s open house in a warehouse he owns. He is in the antique business, and, at least once a month, holds an open house, hoping to sell a lot of merchandise. The warehouse is rather incredible, consisting of many rooms that are loaded with fantastic furniture in room settings. There is artwork on the walls, and wonderful decorative pieces on the furniture. Show cases chock full of smalls – silver, porcelain, statuettes, all manner of items, titillate, begging to be purchased.

There is a room that has storage bins full of art, other rooms with items from an exclusive period, such as the 50’s, vintage clothing, more than anyone would have imagined. The shelves in other parts of the warehouse stretch from floor to ceiling, piled high with collectibles of all types. The whole place could be considered the best museum you have ever had the luck to peruse. Many items, on the highest shelves, are not for sale, but are in the owner’s personal collection. He collects things in many categories; art, signage, tribal art, religious artifacts, figures made with metal kitchen items by a local artist, so many categories that I can’t remember them.

The furniture that is for sale is amazing, some pieces so huge that they would not fit in most Bay Area houses. There are pieces that I would have loved to own when I was living in the Buffalo house, and they would have fit there. I can’t imagine where he must have found them. Also, I loved a lot of the art available, the etchings and engravings, and the botanicals. I had not been to an open house here in some time, so hundreds of items were new to me.

Part of the open house “thing” is the serving of a buffet type dinner. Of course, this is a dinner eaten while walking around or perching on a lovely chair or sofa. There are always main dishes, salads, finger foods, and a staple is barbecued chicken, done by the guys on site. One main room is used for the buffet, set out on many tables. The girls who help run the open house are expert at displaying the food in a very attractive setting. The artichoke hearts last night were particularly tasty. There was quite a bit of food, as usual. A very large amount of fruit was displayed on top of two huge copper kettles, placed on a sideboard. The fruit itself was beautiful. There was a huge birthday cake, for one of the women, on another sideboard at the other end of the room –yummy. In many of the rooms, there were dishes of candy, nuts, trailmix, chips & dip, and one area always contains the drinks of all types. The people invited, friends and customers, always walk around with food and drink in their hands. I had forgotten how much I enjoy going to these open houses. I’ll have to go again soon.