Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Path of Katrina

Last year, when I was traveling by train from California to Florida and back, the route took me through New Orleans, Gulfport, Biloxi, and Mobile. The tracks run all along the Gulf Coast, and the Sunset Limited has stops in all of the cities severely affected by Hurricane Katrina.

I can see the areas now, only this time they have been ravaged by wind and water. The highways have been obliterated in sections, as, I am certain, are the train tracks. The devastation is actually almost unimaginable.

I met several very personable young men of other ethnic backgrounds on the train. They were sitting in some of the seats across from me. We spent days conversing, and at least a couple of them were originally from New Orleans. They were returning home for the holiday season. One of them is a filmmaker in Los Angeles, attending school and also working in the industry. It was a very enjoyable time, and the hours passed sort of quickly, although things are not that fast on that particular train, it seems.

All of these great guys warned me that I should never visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras. They explained that it is a very dangerous place to be at that time, and that seemed amazing to me, based on the fact that they are all young and seem to be able to handle any situation.

In years past, I visited the city with my daughter, Coral, and we had fun walking around in the “tourist area”, then driving through streets with wonderful old homes. I also have been there with an ex-husband who is a truck driver. We were delivering frozen food to locations in the heart of the city, and I had a chance to walk around checking out the wonderful old cemeteries. That is rather vivid in my mind, as I had never seen above ground graves such as the ones in New Orleans. The walls around the cemeteries were interesting.

I am truly saddened that I won’t be able to visit New Orleans at all for some very long time, although the hardest part is to know of the huge amount of suffering which is transpiring in that city at this time.

It makes one wonder why “we” build cities and communities in places fraught with such dangers, although some people will always want to be located near large bodies of water, places with a view, places to swim or go boating. And why build a city that is below sea level, although it has been done in other countries as well.

Even I desire a home with a water view, and have plans to perhaps relocate to a hurricane-prone area. I do not know whether or not I am having second thoughts about that.

I may be able to reap some first-hand information from my niece about conditions in New Orleans. She is in the Navy, and is on her ship traveling from Virginia to Louisiana. I do hope that they are able to alleviate some of the suffering.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Press Release

For Immediate Release
August 29, 2005


This fall’s 46th Shadelands Antique & Collectibles Show, held at the Shadelands Ranch Historical Museum by the Walnut Creek Historical Society, brings RITA XAVIER to Walnut Creek with a dual purpose. Working from a base of lifelong interest in period jewelry, Rita will assess the value of your rhinestones as a service to the community. Also, as Rita is looking forward to retirement, she will be selling some of the pieces she has collected over the years at reduced prices.

Approximately 100 pieces of Rita’s jewelry are featured in the Fourth Edition of Collecting Rhinestone & Colored Jewelry by Maryanne Dolan, well known author of Vintage Clothing 1880-1980: Identification and Value Guide, The World of Dolls (1998), Old Lace and Linens including Crochet and American Medallion Silver. Rita became friends with Maryanne over the years, when Maryanne would sit in Rita’s booth, talking to the customers and having “a grand time discussing jewelry.” Maryanne Dolan recently passed away, and Xavier is offering her services in a kind of “homage” to Dolan’s memory.

Rita became involved with jewelry as a dealer over fifteen years ago, as a natural progression from buying and selling larger items. Beaded bags, compacts, perfumes, dresser sets, hats, and, eventually, vintage clothing, were all to become a part of the concept of displaying wonderful designer jewelry. “As the years flew by, my knowledge of the jewelry expanded, through discussions and comparisons with many other dealers, with customers, and through the large library of jewelry books I acquired,” says Xavier. She advises new collectors to acquire books to further their knowledge of items, to find out what is “out there,” perhaps to be found at the next show they attend.

At Shadelands, Rita Xavier will be offering free identification of your vintage jewelry as well as suggestions on needed care and restoration. Here is your opportunity to find out about that necklace, bracelet or hair ornament you inherited from your mom or grandmother.

With over 100 vendors, the grounds at Shadelands are filled with a wide variety of quality antiques and collectibles. Admission is free, and for a $1 donation, you may tour the historic Shadelands house. At the back of the house, the Historical Society’s volunteers will serve hot dogs and beverages, sandwiches, nachos, and homemade cookies and lemonade, all to benefit the Walnut Creek Historical Society and the Shadelands Ranch Historical Museum.

Shadelands is an authentically furnished, historic 1902 ranch house on the National Register of Historic Places, operated by the Walnut Creek Historical Society. During the Antique Sale and Show, tours of the house will be available from 10:00 to 4:00 p.m. The Museum is located at 2660 Ygnacio Valley Road, Walnut Creek, CA 94598. There is no admission charge and parking is free.

For further information, please call Museum Director ... Three photographs of Rita Xavier’s spectacular jewelry are attached for your use.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Taking a break from writing about my return trip to California last month.

This week this computer has been to see the doctor - a basically three day confinement. All kinds of problems had cropped up, not the least of which, I couldn't do anything on the internet other than receive email. Needless to say, there was no writing done on here, or anywhere else. It was getting a bit hairy, as ebay and amazon needed some attention, and I wanted to catch up on everyone's blog.

Now, I have more memory (and I can get online), a new optic mouse (freebie) because they managed to lose the software for my scroll mouse and couldn't figure out how to reinstall it, and new virus management. Plus, they physically cleaned all the dust and dirt from the guts of this thing. It was quite a build-up. This is an almost ancient computer. Now, it is almost like new, except that a few things are missing. Probably no great loss, however.

It was a bit scary yesterday when it wouldn't recognize my new keyboard that I purchased a few months ago. The old one with the broken spacer bar worked, and I had horrible images of having to revert to that one, but finally something clicked, upon shutting down, and the new one is now in use (whew!).

This mouse is noisy. It's funny, you get used to something, and don't want to change.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Our Most Favorite Place

We spent Sunday (the day I left Buffalo to return to California) at Chautauqua Institution, a wonderful cultural experience on the shores of Chautauqua Lake, on New York’s Southern Tier.

The weather was great and it seemed good to get back to one of my favorite places. I had a couple of hours to wander around and go to a concert, while Coral and family went swimming.

I decided to partake of the strawberry festival when I heard a trio playing under the tent. The trio consisted of flute, clarinet, and bassoon, and the selections were very fitting for a recreated summer Sunday afternoon from the past. I found a place at the end of a table beside the trio, and shortly thereafter a very pleasant and interesting man joined me at the seat across the table.

Not long into the conversation, he revealed that he is a violinist with the Toronto Symphony and was at Chautauqua to play with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra for a couple of weeks. We discussed the music world at length, including my time as an employee of the Buffalo Philharmonic.

In the past, Jim has played violin for shows, including Phantom of the Opera, Showboat, and Ragtime. It was comical, listening to him explain that the regulars in the pit orchestra for Phantom sometimes needed a break and he would play. He stated, with accompanying motions, “ I would wake up in the night with the music going round and round in my head. When I would get up in the morning, the music was still going round and round in my head. It was driving me crazy.”

Various orchestras around the country were included in our discussion, and my time with him brought back memories of hanging out with members of the Buffalo Philharmonic during a very wonderful period in my life.

We managed to discuss other topics also, including the residential facilities available on the grounds for times when he has to play. The Toronto Symphony no longer has a summer season, therefore Jim is available for other engagements. I suggested that he check out Alumni Hall.

I rented a room at Alumni Hall two years ago, and enjoyed my stay thoroughly. Getting up in the morning, having breakfast in my room, then heading out for morning lectures, afternoon, and evening concerts, interspersed with meandering along brick paths in this fabulous lakeside Victorian village, is my idea of a delightful way to spend summer days.

At some point we touched on the subject of injuries to musician’s hands, and Jim described several accidents he has had involving his fingers and wrist, causing extended “vacations” from playing violin.

By the time I left the table to attend a concert, I felt as though I had known Jim for a while. Perhaps I’ll see him again someday, at Chautauqua.

After our visit, I went to the Amphitheater to see the Washington High School Steel Band, from Pennsylvania. These kids are great, and I thoroughly enjoyed the music. Eventually my family joined me, and Coral’s kids had a chance to see older kids make music on “garbage cans”.

Monday, August 08, 2005

East Aurora

The day after the anniversary luncheon, I headed to East Aurora, on a Greyhound bus. Coral and James picked me up in Buffalo, and we headed back to E A so we could pick up Lissa at day camp. That was on a Thursday afternoon, and on Friday I spent the better part of the day with Arthur and James. We went to Warsaw - New York, that is - so that Arthur could deliver papers to the courthouse there, with the plan that he, James and I could then look around town for something to do. Warsaw is a neat old town in the beautiful rolling hillsides of Western New York.

Unfortunately, just as we arrived in town, there was a downpour, and James and I didn’t even get out of the car. We drove around the “Historical Section” and viewed the great old Victorians, then headed back to East Aurora for lunch. It wasn’t even raining there.

I was so happy to see oldest granddaughter Allie during my few days in town. She was very busy working at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, as a summer intern, and also as a paid employee. Allie put in long days, six days a week, preparing for a totally special exhibit, Extreme Abstraction.

On Saturday, Coral, Lissa, James and I went to Buffalo, to the Marina. I had made reservations on the Miss Buffalo, for a Niagara River tour. We had time to eat hot dogs at the Marina, before embarking on our “cruise”. The day was gorgeous, and the tour was interesting. It even included a trip into the lock at the end of the Erie Canal, and a ride through the Black Rock Channel.

After the cruise, we had ice cream at the Marina, then walked a short distance to the Naval Park. The decision to tour the two ships and submarine there was a great one. The kids loved it, and Coral and I did, also. The ships and sub are all from World War II – “The Sullivans”, the “USS Little Rock”, and the “Croaker” (submarine). I must say, I got quite a workout, going up and down the stairs on the ships, and stepping through the hatches without tripping and breaking my neck. It was almost unbearably hot down in the holds. The submarine is so small, it makes one feel extremely claustrophobic. What an experience!

James is five years old. After we had walked to the Naval Park, he sat down on the sidewalk and said he didn’t want to tour the ships because he was too tired, but once he got started following the yellow line, he was ahead of us all the way. We had to keep telling him to slow down and wait for us.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

50th Anniversary Party

My cousin, Pat, recently celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary, and decided to have a luncheon at Sheldrake Point Vineyards, in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. The beautiful winery is on Cayuga Lake, and was once a dairy farm. Pat and her husband George lived there when they were first married, and their sons were born while they operated the farm.

Pat’s mother and step-father owned a farm up Sheldrake Creek from the present day winery, at the point of the wonderful Sheldrake Falls. George’s cows had run away, across the creek above the falls, and my uncle and cousin Pat worked at getting the cows home, thus Pat met George. I spent a lengthy amount of time at Pat and George’s farm as a teenager, and also helped Pat when she had her babies.

The luncheon was a beautiful affair – quite elegant, even though most people were dressed fairly casually. The winery consists of several buildings, plus the farmhouse and large old barns. Most of the buildings have been painted a creamy yellow, and the gardens are very attractive, with many lavender colored blossoms, mixed in with other colors.

The party was held in a large white tent that is attached to the tasting room. A buffet and free wine flowing, before, during, and after the meal, made for a very festive occasion. I was seated at the table with the “bride and groom”, as I was a member of the wedding party. All but two of the wedding group attended – one is deceased and the other couldn’t make it.

George is a retired Cornell University professor, and there were Cornell colleagues in attendance. One group of people was from a People to People tour Pat and George led to Russia 40 years ago.

There were tables made up of their three sons, spouses and children. Pat’s sister and two brothers attended (including one from Miami), and several of George’s brothers and their wives. My sister was in attendance, and provided my transportation.

Pat was so pretty in a long purple dress. I enjoyed seeing people I hadn’t seen in years, and the memories flowed as we talked.

It seemed so strange to be in such a perfect setting on the shores of Cayuga, between the house and the cow barns, with the vineyards on the hillside and the other parts of the winery spilling over with tourists from many areas of the country, and remember that this was once Pat and George’s home.