Saturday, October 29, 2005

Loss of a Beautiful Girl

My friend Jose is in Peru at present, at the side of his mother, who is dying with cancer. His was an emergency flight, as her condition worsened after being moved from Lima to Puerto Maldonado in the jungle, so that she could die at home with her children surrounding her. He had planned to fly there but about three weeks later than when he actually went.

Barbara speaks with Jose a couple of times a week, to check on things. Last night she called to inform me that there has been a tragedy in Jose’s family, and as the story began to unfold, I could not believe what had happened.

Jose’s brother, Mario, had two daughters, his pride and joy. Carol, the 26 year old, has just died of complications from thyroid disease. Apparently she had been in the hospital for a month, then was sent home, but just kept getting worse, so her father took her back to the hospital. This involves leaving the jungle town, and traveling to a city. Cuzco is the nearest place, I guess, at 12,000 feet elevation. Carol had a heart attack as a result of the thyroid disease. I would think that the elevation would be a problem, after she had been living at 250 feet on the Amazon. I do not remember all of the details as to where her father took her the second time she was in the hospital, but I think it was back to Cuzco.

This is all so hard for me to comprehend. My family is riddled with people suffering from thyroid disease and its effects, and even though I actually have a niece who has had thyroid cancer, so far no one has died with this. I guess that is the difference between living in the US and living in Peru. But, Barbara has said that they are supposed to have good doctors down there.

Carol had received her Master’s Degree a year ago, and was a very accomplished young woman, just starting out on a great life. Her family is completely devastated. The University where she studied has provided her with a beautiful casket and is helping with expenses. I feel so bad for the family. I have been in touch with them somewhat in the past, through emails, helping with financial details and other things, as Barbara has no computer. One of the sons-in-law down there has a computer business and sends emails for the others. The latest thing that I was involved in was getting a reduction in Jose’s airfare to go see his mother. The family sent me cancer diagnosis reports, complete with photos of the tumor.

When Jose returns, I’ll have to give him an extra big hug. He did inform Barbara, however, that he was planning on returning to the jungle to live. He can’t handle the heat anymore, so I don’t know how he would make out.

Monday, October 24, 2005

On Make-Up

While standing in the shower this morning, I was involved in my usual creative thinking. It is where I get my best ideas, with all kinds of thoughts swirling around in my head. I can't truly remember how the subject came up, but I started thinking about make-up, as in that which women put on their faces.

As a girl in my late teens, I darkened my eyebrows, although I never removed them as so many other girls and women did in the 50’s. There are photos floating around of my blonde self with very dark, thick eyebrows.

I went to New York City to work in 1958, and a few months after I arrived there, I started sharing an apartment with Skira, a model from Lithuania. She was not a model in the sense of today’s oh-so-thin young girls, with malnourished looks, and dark shadows under the eyes. Skira was a big girl, tall and robust. I can still picture her hands and wrists. They were anything but delicate. She plucked her eyebrows totally, then painted on new ones way above the brow line. Of course, she wore lots of pancake, as was done in the 40’s and 50’s. Skira was not even very pretty, as I remember her. I am not totally sure what the attraction was, and I can not remember the jobs she had.

She worked for an agency, and talked me into moonlighting there after my own work, as a telemarketer. We were to use the phone book and call homes looking for girls to sign up for charm school. We were given a script, and admonished regarding the geographical areas in which we were to concentrate our calls. Certain areas of New York City were not called, as we did not recruit girls with darker skin. “We do not have the make-up for those girls, yet.”

I lasted for one week in that night-time job, as I contracted laryngitis and my day job would be affected. I decided right then and there that I hated telemarketing. It is a thankless job.

I wore make-up while I was working in New York City, but after I married and became pregnant, we left the city and I became a stay-at-home Mom. There was no longer any point in gussying up, and I stopped bleaching my hair. I was much too busy raising four little kids to worry about my appearance for quite a few years.

We had moved back home, to the Finger Lakes Area, and then to the Buffalo area, in the suburbs. While in the Alden area, I became best friends with my backyard neighbor, Betty Campbell. We started doing everything together, besides standing over our vegetable gardens talking while the kids played. I didn’t drive at the time, so she took me with her to places where we wanted to do things. We even took art classes together, and joined an art club. I had always wanted to do something like that, and other than a few classes which I had taken in New York at the Metropolitan, I just had not taken the time to work on this.

Eventually, we moved to the City of Buffalo, so Chris could attend Calasanctius, the school for gifted children. The other kids soon joined him there, except for Craig. By the time Craig was old enough, I had become disenchanted with the school, and enrolled the kids in the city schools, as a major program of magnet schools was being developed, with my involvement.

I changed, as a direct result of meeting new people, working at Calasanctius in the Finance Office, and helping run the Gourmet Dinners and Wine Tastings. I was also working with other parents and faculty from the school, on enrichment programs and seminars for the profession, in the U.S. and Canada. When I became involved with all of this, I started dressing up, and, yes, wearing make-up.

I still remember a time when my friend Betty, from Alden, came to see me in the city. She was shocked that I was wearing eye make-up. That was a big deal to her. I do believe her opinion of me changed at that point. I did not wear foundation, but the eye make-up became an important part of my dressing for work, meetings and social occasions. I did not leave the house without “my eyes on”. I did not use eye liner, just eye shadow and mascara. It was all that I wanted to do, and it was easy. I had been using blue eye shadow, plus other colors, but eventually changed to green, as I felt it brought out the color in my eyes.

I used eye make-up until a few years ago. I have had to give up the practice, as I now have a problem with my corneas, and the last thing I need is to pollute my eyes with a foreign substance. I was never good at removing the make-up at night, without getting a lot of garbage in my eyes, and when my eyes started hurting a whole lot, even before I went to the surgeon to get them checked, I stopped applying the make-up. Sometimes, I wish I could use it, as old ladies twenty years older than I am still put on all of their make-up, and I feel as though I have no lashes without the mascara. At least, with my glasses on, I think it is not as noticeable.

I think about make-up sometimes when I am cleaning old jewelry for resale, and have to work hard to remove fifty-year-old make-up from necklaces and earrings. The earrings are especially hard to deal with, as the makeup is all glopped into the intricate parts of the clips and screw backs. Back in those days, girls and women really plastered on the pancake, even on their necks and ears. I remember them doing it, and the jewelry certainly does. I have talked to the young girls who stop by my booth to check out the jewelry, and I tell them about the make-up in the 40’s and 50’s. They seem to enjoy hearing my little “lectures” and learning about things that happened long before they were born. Even though girls wear a lot of make-up today, they don’t come close to what was done back then.

I was involved in theatrical make-up off and on when the kids were young and performing in their musicals. It was great fun to work with a professional make-up husband and wife team, and learn the ropes, so to speak. They taught the rest of us to work with the performers, who were all ages from young kids to adults, and the results were tremendous. It was great fun to work with them every evening doing faces and hair, and achieving results that were spectacular from the audience. Also, the make-up thing had come full circle, as I was applying make-up to boys and girls with dark skin and making them incredibly beautiful when viewed from the audience. The musical George M, about George M. Cohan, contained a lot of tap dancing, and with a whole stage full of dancers in their fine costumes and make-up, performing, it was a sight to behold. This, coupled with my involvement in making costumes and providing props, was a very rewarding part of my life as a parent. Some of the productions ran for a couple of weeks, to sold-out houses. I do believe the kids still think about this at times, my kids who are now all in their 40’s.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

More of the Same

I made two trips to the Salvation Army with boxes of books and other things yesterday, and sent another stack of book boxes there today. I might be making some headway. It is starting to feel good. I should give them everything and be unencumbered. This has given me a whole new way of looking at junk, Coral and Craig.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Letting Go

At long last…I am learning to get rid of, I mean REALLY get rid of stuff. Today, it was a trip to the Salvation Army next door with many books, six or eight large boxes. Tomorrow it will be more of the same. I finally gave up yesterday, after sitting for hours, from 5:00 A.M., trying to sell more dollar books, after paying $45 for the privilege, and selling a mere four of them. Other sales did not amount to much, either, therefore I returned home in a very bad mood. I am too old for this, and the health is not too great, either, so it is starting to get to be time to enjoy myself. When I first learned of my heart problem, and was adjusting to medications, I temporarily put the flea market, antique show thing on hold, but now I have been right back out there every week, killing myself, probably literally.

I want all of this crap to be over with, and to be able to get on with my life in a decent house. I have been taking bags and boxes of stuff next door to the S.A., and the amount of items I take there will increase dramatically, as I let go. It might not even hurt a bit.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The New de Young

Yesterday was a most interesting day. Even though physically I did not feel up to snuff, I decided to go preview the new de Young Museum in San Francisco. As a Member of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, I was able to view the new museum before opening weekend.

I was not certain that I would care for the edifice, as I am not fond of modern things, and I loved the old de Young. The de Young was closed for five years, as the old was torn down and the new was built. I must say, this is a striking building, very modernistic, but in my eyes a touch of pre-Columbian. It reminds me of a structure in the jungles of Central America, and it presents this feeling in its setting of huge palm trees and giant ferns.

The building is copper-clad, and will change color as the copper turns gray-green in the next ten years. The Hamon Education Tower is rather amazing and impressive. I was prepared not to be impressed, but, darn, I was. The top floor, nine stories in the air, is an observation area, all glass and wood. The huge windows allow one to view the city from all directions, with the top of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands in one direction, the Bay, the Financial District, and buildings running up and down the hills in other directions. The other floors in this tower house various offices and classrooms.

I was able to visit my favorite 19th Century American paintings. I have been unable to gaze at them for the longest time, and now they are hung on walls again for everyone’s enjoyment. Number one for me is Church’s Tropic masterpiece with the huge rainbow over mountains, falls, and palm trees – very surrealistic and a great study in luminescence. This huge painting has been installed as a centerpiece in the Art in America section on the second floor. I spent most of my time enjoying the paintings I love, but I also checked out 20th Century work on the first floor – at least most of it.

I think I am having a difficult time dealing with the fact that there is so much modern art in the new de Young. I realize that a large percentage of the population appreciates this art, but there is SFMOMA (Museum of Modern Art) where it can be shown. SFMOMA is a fairly new, large building, and I would think that it would be enough. I must be wrong. Also, I suppose, with the modernity of the new de Young itself, contemporary art fits the building. I would just hate for the art of today to take over the building. I should be happy with what they have for me, though, as I was not able to see everything I wanted to see, anyway.

I did not spend any time in sections New Guinea, Oceania, Africa, Textiles, as I was beginning to tire after having spent hours in line for the café and the tower elevators. I can always return for those sections. I had walked a long way to reach the museum. Parking was at a premium, and we had to park quite a distance from the building. I did enjoy the weather in Golden Gate Park, anyway. It was a beautiful day, and I felt if I took it slowly, I would be able to handle the walk.

I did manage to walk through the Rose Garden on the return trip to the parking space. I thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful blooms. Some were perfect, no blemishes at all, and they smelled heavenly. All in all, it was a great day, and I hope to enjoy many more. I just have to force myself to go do those things. Sometimes I just do not have the willpower to head on out to places. I am tired a lot of the time, and prefer staying home and puttering around the house. Then I kick myself because I wish I had done something. For the rest of the day, I thought about the building, and how wonderful it felt to experience something new while revisiting "old friends". This building is definitely a looming presence in Golden Gate Park.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Lunch Fun

Monday is a sometimes lunch at Home Town Buffet. After working hard during the weekend and subsisting on peanut butter and jelly, real food comes to mind, at least a plate loaded with fruit and veggies.

Today was particularly interesting.

When I walked into the restaurant to stand in line and wait for my friend Sandy, the cashier, to take my money, the noise level hit me immediately. It was somewhere up at ceiling height. I was thinking, oh yeah, Columbus Day weekend, until I was corrected by the African-American couple directly behind me.

“Wow, everyone must have come here for lunch on the day off from work,” I stated.

“No,” the female half of the couple said. “They are here for second Monday, and they are all retired. I call them the OG’s, the Old Guys.”

The three of us joked until I had paid for lunch, then we went our separate ways.

The place was totally crowded. The huge group took up over half of the restaurant, and everyone was having a great time, laughing, walking around to various tables, hugging each other, sharing photo albums, passing out copies of printouts, taking pictures. The flash from cameras was predominant, as people posed in their seats or stood with their arms around each other in small groups.

It has been some time since I have witnessed such a boisterous, happy group. When I am with the seniors, it is not quite the same, and supposedly the group was composed of retirees.

I must say, I was probably staring at various members of the group a bit, as there were several extremely attractive women, dressed professionally in office wear, along with equally handsome men. I just kept thinking that I wished I were involved with such a group.

I finally had a chance to find out more about the group from a man that I met at the drink dispenser. I had noticed him near my table as he made the rounds, talking to his friends. He was very tall, with a backward baseball cap, and an Olympic T-shirt. I had been curious about the significance of the T-shirt, but forgot to ask him.

“You are having ENTIRELY too much fun,” I told him.

“Yes, we are having fun,” he replied.

“I am totally envious. I wish I belonged to a group like this.”

“We all went to school together,” he explained.

“Where did you go to school?”

“In the City. But we didn’t all go to the same school. We went to Tech, Galileo, and (a third school I don’t remember). We get together every month.”

“Yes, the people behind me in line told me you meet on the second Monday. So, you all live in this area now?”

“No, we are from all over. There are some people here from the city, other areas around here and even from Sacramento today. We go to different places so that it is closer to where some of the others live sometimes. Next month we are going to Cache Creek (Casino), then after that we are going to San Leandro, then South San Francisco.

“I thought you came here every month.”

“No, we are here every four or five months.”

We would have talked longer, I think, but they started singing Happy Birthday, so he went back to the group and joined in. I must say, this wonderfully happy group of beautiful Black people certainly made my day. I suppose a lot of it has to do with the age of the individuals, the mellowing that comes after a certain amount of time of being on this earth. It also seemed amazing to me that they do get together every month, and keep tabs on each other, right down to sharing albums with large portraits of grandchildren. This seems to be something that very few people would do.

The mellowing after a certain age is attained was a significant part of a very lengthy conversation I had with a 72-year-old Black man at the market yesterday. He had stopped at my booth, and we started a conversation that centered on his being retired Air Force. He was wearing his jacket with all of his patches that he had earned.

He told me about the many places all over the world where he had served, including Sampson Air Force Base in the Finger Lakes part of New York State, a couple of miles from where I grew up; about being in the Korean war; about being stationed in Japan, where he met his lovely Japanese wife of 49 years. He speaks Japanese fluently, as well as Portuguese, “I’m a Black Portugee”, and other languages. He has a beautiful, friendly face and voice. He told me about growing up in the South as a Black, about Racism, and going into the service to “learn something” as so many of his fellowmen did. He stated that they also joined the service to see the world and go somewhere other than the place in which they were living.

He was telling me stories about being in Japan, as a Black man, in areas where he was the first Black that the locals had ever seen, and women telling their children to stay away from him. He was on his way to see his wife, on a train, when this happened, and he started speaking rapid and perfect Japanese to a woman who was treating him this way, thus winning the respect of everyone around him because he spoke the language so well. He ended up with many invitations for dinner, but turned them down because he wanted to see his wife.

He regaled me with several other stories, as he has many at his age, and told me that he was in the Air Force after the Navy, retiring from the Air Force after 26 years. He then went to work for Wells Fargo in data processing, and retired from there after 23 years, I believe he said. Quite a gentleman, and I consider him to be refined and mellow, the same as so many of the people that I met today. He goes to the market every week, to get out and keep active.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Memory

Saturday, June 14, 1980

I got up a little earlier than usual, for a Saturday. I had decided to go to an auction outside East Aurora – Center St. the ad said. Hurrying – trying to get there as soon after 10:00 as possible. What a beautiful summer day it would be.

Going through town – Main Street – saw all kinds of activity, then remembered reading something about a festival – the Roycrofters – decided to stop for a minute and check it out.

Discovered an antique auction going on, along with a craft show, art show, etc. I ended up staying and staying and staying – didn’t want to leave. Treated myself to a hot dog and sauerkraut and drink, eventually. The antique prices were high – I thought - but overheard others later saying they were bargains. Beautiful things – I only bid on two items the whole day – but I didn’t care much – I was too busy enjoying the weather, the atmosphere, the people, being alive – after so many, many weeks of not caring.

It seemed like I had walked into another state – couldn’t believe I was so close to home and making the discovery of a quaint craftsman’s and artist’s paradise.

Basically, I was interested in the whole concept of the Roycrofters – feeling especially involved in the kin of the Larkins. After the auction was over, I did manage to drive the few miles outside of town to the auction I had intended to make, but came right back to spend more time in town -–to absorb as much of the atmosphere as possible. Went through the museum to see more of Elbert Hubbard’s things – visited the other buildings on campus – now craft shops, antiques shops, studios.

The Roycroft Inn itself gave me the greatest feeling of nostalgia – straight out of Victorian days – I could feel it, smell it, hear it.

Watched some young girls doing French dances – went to a poetry reading. Sitting on the grass, under the trees, with a handful of people – really tuned in. I enjoyed Joe Meegan’s poetry. He thinks as I do – especially about trees. I loved that one – I’ll have to buy the book he is having published. Met Kitty Turgeon there – I’ll have to call her and tell her I’ll donate Mrs. Hubbard’s bedroom curtain to the museum. I think I would like that.

Kitty Turgeon – not at all the type of person I had imagined after reading about her endeavors as a decorator of all their restaurants. She sat beside me on the grass for the poetry reading. She is President of the Roycrofters At-Large – I didn’t know that until today.

This is a close-knit group – I feel like I could belong and learn to enjoy life again with these artists – learn to enjoy the simple things. I guess I don’t have to learn – I already know how – had just pushed it aside for a while.

Enjoying the weather – the beautiful sunshine on my skin – the soft breeze – the sounds – people watching – sharing – even with strangers.

Decided to visit Millard Fillmore’s house before leaving town – just around the corner. Very pleasant – and fun visiting when you are the only one on the tour and can chat with the guides. Was told I probably know a lot more about antiques and restored houses than they do. These ladies haven’t been guides for long – but I can tell they love it – volunteers. The biggest rhododendrons there I have ever seen in the North – absolutely gorgeous – in full bloom. Planning on a luncheon in the garden tomorrow – fashion show and mock wedding. Hope the weather holds out and wish I could attend.

Checked out a couple of garage sales and picked up something to sell later.

Such a lovely, lovely day. I hope to have many more like that. Even enjoyed walking around eating my chocolate chip cookies I made and drinking the pop I took along. I’ll never forget this day and when I went to sleep I was still thinking about everything that I had felt during the day.
(This memoir is precisely as I wrote it twenty-five years ago. I found it last night as I was going through a box of keepsakes sorting things to be moved when I find out where I am going.)

Years later --- since that wonderful day, East Aurora has been embedded in the lives of my children. Craig worked there for several years, at Fisher-Price. Coral, Arthur and kids have a home there, Carrie has lived there. Allie graduated from High School there as Valedictorian of her class, and also received a perfect score of 1600 on her SAT’s.

There have been many festivals in the ensuing years, always attended by one or another of us. The Roycroft Inn has been lovingly restored as a hotel and restaurant, and it is a must as a place for lunch or dinner on my yearly visits to see Coral.

Also, as a note, our Buffalo House was across the street from the Larkin complex of homes and our whole family became very involved in the history of John D. Larkin and his company. Elbert Hubbard, the founder of the Roycrofters, married into the family.

It's For The Birds

Yesterday, after I watered the flowers and gave them a good shower, I decided to do some trimming of dead branches and blossoms. I was working in the tree, trying to cut a very tall dead part of the orange abutilon, when the two hummingbirds decided to join me.

They had a great time, drinking from the passionflower blossoms, which climb all through the tree. Taking time out to sit on branches, they were no more than a foot away from me. I merely stood very still and watched them, totally enjoying my little slice of nature. They have made dealing with flower pots on a six-foot wide strip of asphalt well worth while. Of course, you can't even see the asphalt, because the plants are so close and they are actually sittng on a piece of cheap astro-turf.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


My hummingbird is NOT a hummingbird. It is TWO hummingbirds. They were both in my "garden" a bit ago, together. I always wondered why sometimes Hummer seemed to have less ruby on his throat. I was also surprised the other day when he seemed to return to the flowers immediately after taking off over the roof. I even saw him sitting on an antenna in the next row of mobile homes.

Spotted Kitty has been sleeping in a flower bowl on a low table, right beside some of the passionflower vine. I discovered him yesterday, when I heard him sneeze and saw movement in the plants. You have to remember that my garden is so overgrown with huge plants, some of them trailing all over the place, that it is hard to spot a Spotted Kitty. After he and Siamese Kitty walked away, I placed a pot upside down in the flower bowl, where he had flattened the plants. I have to keep him from eating the birds. Now I will truly have to figure out where to put two cat beds. Rainy season will be upon us soon. I don't know if they would share an area under the porch.

I can't have any more cats in the house. I have seven now, and I also can't take on any more financial burdens - vet bills, horribly expensive food, and tests for cat diseases.