Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cool Art

I was surfing the web today and came across an artist I've never seen before by the name of Ben Heine.

Here is a link to his website:

His Pencil vs. Camera creations are my favorite - very unique.  This is the sort of thing I'd like to hang on my walls...

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The End of an Era

I wish I could say the title of today’s entry was original with me; however, the NBC Nightly News used it on Friday, Sept. 23, 2011 before I had the chance to get my entry posted here. 

The End of an Era refers, of course, to the last episode of ABC’s soap opera All My Children.  I’m not quite sure why I feel the need to record my reaction to it here, but as I was watching, I thought to myself that I needed to write about this in my blog. 

All My Children started broadcasting in January of 1970.  I’m not sure exactly when I first became aware of it, but it was in the early ‘70s.   I can remember that I was taking piano lessons from Mrs. O’Neill, and often got to her house early and had to wait for the person ahead of me to get finished.  While I waited I would sit in the family room where her teen age daughter was watching it.  That’s how I got interested.  At some point, my lesson time changed, and I was home when it was on and started watching it myself.  I only watched it in the summer and on Christmas vacation days because it was on when I was at school – this was long before such a thing existed as the VCR. 

I paid attention to the show off and on throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, but at some point I stopped watching regularly.  For many years I was able to keep up with the basic story line without watching every day, or even every week, but there came a time during the ‘90s when there were more characters I didn’t know than ones that I did. 

It just so happened that I had a vacation day yesterday, so I decided to watch the final episode, just because I could.   There were many people I knew:  Erica and Jack of course, Tad and Dixie (who supposedly died), Opal, Brooke and Adam/Stuart, Jesse and Angie. 

I found it interesting how they incorporated the ending of the show into the story line.  Angie talked extensively about friends who had known each other for 20, 30, even 40 years.  It was very clear that the lines were intended to have a double meaning.  It was interesting too that they found ways to bring back people who had been off the show for years (like Dixie and Brooke), and to have a big party at the Chandler Mansion was very appropriate – especially since the entry way and living room looked amazingly like the old Tyler/Wallingford Mansion.  Interesting also that it was Tad Martin who was chosen to do the big speech (as a toast), in which he too talked about Family, Friends and Neighbors who had all known each other for many years.  He made a joke about remembering them since high school.  Again, everything he said had a double meaning for those who knew the story of the story.   Of course, everyone in the scene was crying, and I’m sure many viewers were as well – as was I (but then I’ve been known to cry over Hallmark commercials!). 

I have to say that I found the ending of the show very disappointing.  The final lines, spoken by Erica and Jack, were a straight throwback to Gone With the Wind:
Erica: Jack wait!  This isn’t how I want this to end!
Jack: Frankly Erica, I don’t give a DAMN what you want. 
At least Erica didn’t follow it up with how tomorrow’s going to be another day!

Then there was the gunshot that rang out as the scene cut to black.  I was first reminded of the famous cliffhanger on Dallas – Who shot JR? - and more recently of The Sopranos which ended similarly. 

So, to me, it was disappointing that after 41 years on the air, they couldn’t come up with an original ending.  I know there have been many references made over the years to how much alike Scarlet O’Hara and Erica Kane were, but still…. Really?  Maybe all the writers were so busy crying that they just didn’t have it in them to be original in the end.  Maybe it was an inside joke that they just couldn’t pass up. 

I would like to have been a fly on the wall in the studio after the tape stopped rolling.  I’m sure the rap party was huge and very emotional.  I know how emotionally connected students get when they work on a musical for 8 weeks, so I can imagine what it must be like to work with the same actors on a show like that for many years. 

I’m glad I watched it.  It is a show that is part of my childhood, and the ending of it symbolizes huge changes in viewing habits and interests in my lifetime.  I’m also curious to see what, if anything, happens with it now.  There is talk of it becoming an internet show with or without Erica.  I’d like to see Susan Lucci hit prime time in her own series (either as Erica or not).

Yes, the End of an Era, indeed! 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Help

This summer, one of the books I read was The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.  I also got to see the movie the first week it was out. 

The story is set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962-1963, with the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement.  It is historical fiction.  The main character is a young white woman who decides to write a book that highlights the life-experience of the black domestic servants in her town.  To do so, she enlists the help of first 1, then 2, then many who share their stories with her.  Eventually their book gets published and read by just about everyone in town.  Of course, this stirs a pot which is already boiling.

The movie does a very good job of depicting the story in the book, but as is usually the case, the book has a lot more complexity than the movie.  Some things in the book are de-emphasized in the movie, some are left out totally, and at least 1 key issue in the book is changed. 

I loved the book so much that I was sad when I finished it.  I could hardly wait to see the movie, and I enjoyed it as well, in spite of the fact that I cried at several points.  This is absolutely something I will encourage friends to read and see, and I will recommend it to my students as well.  My freshmen always read To Kill A Mockingbird  in the fall, and this movie will be a great supplement to that book.

I found several connections to this story which made it more meaningful to me than it might be to others.  When I was a child growing up near Dayton, OH, 2 of my great aunts had black domestic help.  The woman I remember the most was named Henrietta, and she worked for my Aunt S. and Uncle H.  There was also a black man who did yard work and was sort of a handyman for them.  His name was John, and he was related in some way to Henrietta.  Then Henrietta’s daughter Anna also worked first for my Aunt K, and then later for my grandmother. 

Henrietta worked for my great aunt and uncle for many years, and she had replaced a woman named Geneva (the 2 women were cousins) who had also worked for them for many years, starting around 1940.  It seems her main tasks were to clean, do laundry/ironing and cook. She worked until about 3 pm each week day.  There were always fresh homemade cookies available.  Geneva was like a member of the family to them, and Uncle H. paid for her funeral when she passed away around 1954.  Both Geneva and Henrietta were known for being excellent cooks.  When I was a child, it was common for Aunt S. to have big family gatherings at her home, and Henrietta usually did most of the cooking.  I think Aunt S worked with her though, moreso than we see depicted in The Help.

I was around these people in the early ‘60s, until about 1967 when we moved away (I was 8 when we moved away).  During those years, these servants were the only black people I had any interactions with.  Henrietta always treated me very kindly and called me “Miss Amy”.   She was a very large woman with a big gold tooth that showed when she talked and smiled.  Whenever I saw her, she was wearing a uniform.

Anna worked for my grandmother into at least the mid ’70s and mostly did cleaning and laundry/ironing.  Grandma always said she did the best ironing of anyone she’d ever known.  I don’t think Anna did much cooking for Grandma.  I remember that she rode the city bus to my grandmother’s house once a week.  She always wore a blue uniform dress with a white collar and white shoes that I usually associated with nurses.  Anna and Grandma would have lunch together at the kitchen table and talk about everything under the sun.  I think they actually became quite good friends, and they were very much mutually respectful of each other.

John was the largest man I had ever seen, and was also the darkest black person I had ever seen.  His eyes were quite large and very white in contrast to his skin.  Because of his size and dark color, I was always scared of him, so whenever he was around, I usually went somewhere else.

I don’t know how the issue of the help using the family bathroom was handled at my Aunt S’s house.  That house had a finished basement with a bathroom near the laundry room, so it is possible that was the bathroom for the help, but knowing my aunt and uncle as I did, it is hard for me to imagine that being an issue for them.  I do know that my Aunt K only had one bathroom, and I know that my grandmother’s helper used her main bathroom as well. 

It seems to me and based on what I’ve learned from my cousin that many middle class white families in Dayton had black domestic help from as early as the 1930’s into the 1970’s, although I think the practice was fading fast in the late ’60s and early ‘70s after the Civil Rights Movement. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

New Hampshire 2011 – Trip Summary

Day 4 – Wednesday, July 27, 2011

All along, the plan had been to take the Cog Railroad up to the top of Mt. Washington on Wednesday, our final day at the hotel.  We specifically waited because all the weather forecasts for a week had been saying that Wednesday would be the best day of the week and would be clear. 

Well, let me tell you – Wednesday was anything but clear!  It was very cloudy when we got up.  Not only was the top of Mt. Washington in the clouds, so were all the other lower mountain tops around us.  Then, it started to rain.  Tickets for the cog railroad are $64, so we were not going to waste the money and the 3 hours going up into a cloud where we wouldn’t be able to see anything.  At first we thought we could wait it out, but checks of the radar indicated that probably wasn’t going to work.

And so we went with Plan B.  We checked out of the hotel and took a different route home than we had taken going up.  Instead of taking I 93 down through the center of the state, we headed west and took Rt 10 down the western border of NH.  That route took us through many little towns and gave us the opportunity to see antique shops and scenery that we otherwise would not have gotten to see. 

The town of Bethlehem, NH has quite a few antique shops.  We went in the first one we saw which, I think, was called the Hundred Acre Wood Antiques.  Here is a photo of it.  This place was really fun to explore.  I picked up a few treasures at this place and so did my cousin.  Two treasures I found there were cylinders for Edison phonographs, and the sleeves were different than those I already have with my phonograph.  Also, the cylinders were not broken or chipped, which is hard to find.  At $5 each, I couldn't pass those up.  This is also where I found the postcard of the hotel from "back in the day" which I showed earlier.  

The next shop we stopped in was near Lisbon and was called Corn Crib Antiques and Gifts.  Also a fun place to stop, with a very nice proprietor!  My big find here was a Vermont Maple Syrup bottle.  It has a unique shape and is stamped with the name of the town on it, so I am adding that to my bottle collection.

Next came Bath.  Bath, N.H. turned out to be a gold mine of finds.  It has a gorgeous covered bridge which was still open to drive through.

It also has The Brick Store which is the oldest continuously operating general store in the country.  What a cool place!  The interior was a mix of new things for sale and antiques on display.  They smoke their own meats and cheeses, and they sell fudge that is To-Die-For! I bought some of their smoked cheese, some Vermont cheddar and some fudge - YUM! 

Next to the store is At The Hop.  It’s an ice cream parlor that is decorated to the rafters with memorabilia from the 50's and 60’s – both music and TV.  There are many signed posters and some original artwork.  It is quite the fun place.  I felt a little guilty looking and taking photos without buying any ice cream, but I think the girl who worked there was used to that.

Next to the ice cream parlor was an art gallery run by local artist Craig Pursley.  He creates paintings of the area and people, and he does photography.  I bought two matted photos of the Bath bridge – one taken in fall and one in winter with snow on the water.  Check out his work at this link.  I wanted a painting, but I will have to save up my pennies for the next trip.

Lunch that day was in the town of Woodsville, where we had a great meal at Shiloh’s.  

After lunch, we mainly just rode along and enjoyed the scenery.  I took lots of photos of local barns as we passed them.  There really aren’t many mountain views in this part of the state, especially on a day that isn’t really clear.   There is quite a bit of farmland, and more of what I would call rolling hills. 

We passed through Hanover where Dartmouth is.  There was some sort of art fair or something going on in the town square which was drawing a lot of people and traffic to the center of town.  It was nice to see the lovely college buildings. 

After Hanover was Lebanon where we picked up I-89 and headed back south and east toward the Manchester area where my family lives. 

We did get off the highway one more time to check out Lake Sunapee.  It was a little cool for swimming, so we didn’t see much activity at the lake, but it is a lovely vacation spot with the perfect situation – a ski resort for winter visitors and the lake for the summer.  

After that it was back home to unpack, admire and show off souvenirs and process photos.  I really had a great trip, and I look forward to going back again in the future.  I would definitely recommend New Hampshire as a great vacation spot – it has something for everyone and the scenery just can’t be beat!  

New Hampshire 2011 – Trip Summary

Day 3 – Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tuesday was a day of driving, looking and photographing.   We headed south to The Kanc.  The Kancamagus Highway, or Rt 112 runs east from I-93 at Lincoln and the Franconia Notch area to Conway.  Most of the driving we’d been doing so far was west of Mt. Washington, so the Kanc would take us along the south side, and then we would drive up the east side of the presidential mountain range on Rt 16, and around the north side on Rt 2 – and back to the hotel.  The Kanc is known for being a “scenic byway” and there are many outlook points provided where drivers can pull off to take photos of the gorgeous mountain and valley scenery.  

The day started off quite foggy with the clouds hanging low over the mountains.  Our first stop was at the Flume Gorge visitor’s center.  We didn’t plan to take the trip down into the gorge because that involved a lot of hiking and steps, but the visitor center has LOTS of interesting displays in addition to a video of the history of the area and a very large gift shop (I bought a couple of t-shirts and a book of Mt. Wash photos).

These first photos are of Cannon Mountain – you can see the difference in visibility from the day before when we were in the clear at the top. (If you click on any of these photos, you will get a bigger version in a new window.)

Next are some photos I took in the Visitor Center.  The display of the 2 moose with the locked antlers is a rather famous display that occasionally goes on tour.  You can learn more about it by Googling the Locked Moose Antler Project.  The story goes that a hunter found the carcasses of these 2 moose with their antlers locked.  It is believed they both died because they could not untangle themselves.  When he found them, the bodies were already starting to decay and had been feasted on by predators, but the antlers and skulls were still in tact and in decent shape.    He contacted authorities who decided this was a very unusual find that was worth trying to preserve.  Through the dedication of many volunteers, they were able to find 2 moose hides that were very similar in size to the locked moose, and a taxidermist rebuilt them around a form that displays them as they might have looked when they were fighting.  (The website has photos of the creation process.) 

Below is the Concord Coach which was actually used to transport tourists to the area before there were cars or even trains to do that task.

Following are some of the many photos I took from our drive along The Kanc and up Rt 16:

This next photo is of Mt. Washington from the east side near the Auto Road.  As you can see, even though the weather did get better as the day went on, again, it was not a good day to go to the top.  

One of the unique finds in NH was the proliferation of cabin motels.  My understanding is that these were very popular in the 1930s as tourism in the area grew.  We didn’t see any that were new or updated and remodeled to look newish, but we did find some older ones that were still being used, and some that had been abandoned.  The newer motels seem to be strips rather than cabins.  Here are a few photos of the cabin motels – used, and not…

And while I saw lots of signs warning of Moose.... I never actually saw a live moose in the wild.  I even tried the international Moose call:  "Heeeere Moosie, Moosie, Moosie".... nothing!

While I’m on the subject of moose in the wild, I will mention also that I was very surprised by the lack of wildlife that I saw in NH.  Because of all the trees, I expected to see lot of squirrels, chipmunks, and birds.  I saw almost none.  I saw 1 squirrel and 1 chipmunk, and those were in the more populated areas of southern NH.  Occasionally, I saw a hawk or a crow gliding above the trees, but I saw almost no other birds.  I also saw almost no road-kill along the highways.  Here in Ohio, you can’t drive anywhere without seeing a dead skunk, raccoon, squirrel or deer along the road.  My cousin said that in her area, they are discouraged from putting out bird-feeders because they can attract bears.  I think if I lived up there, I’d be tempted to put feeders out just so I COULD see a bear! 

And so, another lovely day of sight-seeing came to a close.  The evening was cool and rainy, and dinner was at a restaurant called Fabyan's - owned by the hotel but outside the main property.  This building was the original train station for the area back when trains were the main source of transportation to the White Mountains.   The food was terrific, but unfortunately, the experience was marred by the numerous small children who were permitted to be loud and rowdy.  (But that is a rant for another entry.)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

New Hampshire 2011 - Trip Summary

Day 2.5 – Monday Afternoon              

When we left Cannon Mt. we were hungry and decided to go in search of a place my cousin had heard about – Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill.   We found it quite easily, and got in line for a table.  The place was packed.  

We were seated along the windows and ordered our meal.  I opted for chicken salad rather than pancakes that day, but my cousin got the pancakes and really liked them.  It was an interesting place, and I can see why it has received some notoriety.  When we were there it was very noisy and crowded, so that detracted a bit from the experience.

Across the road is the farm where they get their maple syrup, and from the parking lot, there is a lovely mountain vista.

After lunch, we drove around Sugar Hill and went to the Harman’s Cheese Country Store.  This is another cute place with some tasty cheeses, maple syrup, and lots of tourist “stuff”.  (I bought Maple Coffee)

Then it was off to Lincoln where we found Clark’s Trading Post.  Oh-My-Goodness!  There were people EVERYWHERE.  It was difficult to find a place to park!  The store is fairly large, and was so crowded it was hard to get through the aisles and see the merchandise.  I think this is the place where every “New Hampshire” souvenir that has ever been made is sold. 

Clark’s biggest claim-to-fame is the Bear Show.  We got to see a bear, but we did not stay to watch the official show.  They also have a railroad station and train rides as well as an old town for kids to explore.    This place just screamed “tourist trap” to me, but lots of people were into it – lots of people with KIDS. 

We didn’t stay long at Clark’s.  Next we went to Woodstock where we visited some cute shops.  Their general store is also sort of a museum to the Maple Syrup industry.  It was interesting to see the equipment that is used for processing the syrup. 

By the time we visited a few shops in Woodstock, I was exhausted and ready to be finished being a tourist for the day.  We headed back to the hotel.  Dinner that night was at Stickney’s which is a pub-style restaurant on the lower level of the hotel.

Here is what we could see of Mt. Washington from the veranda when we got back from our adventures.  As you can see, it would not have been a good day for a trip to the top.

New Hampshire 2011 - Trip Summary

Day 2 – Monday, July 25, 2011

          After enjoying a small breakfast in the room, we headed out to see what kind of trouble we could get into on Cannon Mountain.  At a height of 4080’, it is not the tallest mountain in the area, but in some ways it is one of the most famous.  It boasts 2 big claims to fame:  1 – it was once the home of The Old Man of the Mountain rock formation which literally fell off the mountainside in 2003; 2 – it was the first ski resort in the country, developed in the 1930’s.  It also has 3 smaller rounded mountains connected to it which are called the Cannon Balls. 

          The weather was a little cool and cloudy, but the clouds were high, so they were not obstructing views of most of the mountain tops (except, of course, Mt. Wash.).  We rode up on the Cannon Mt. Tram which is a tourist attraction in itself.  The ride only takes about 7 minutes and is very smooth in calm winds.  This aerial tramway was the first of its kind in the nation in 1938.  The tramway was rebuilt in 1980.  It now has a vertical assent of 2022’ and each tram car can hold 70 people at a time. 

          Following are some photos of the Cannon Mt. Adventure:

The first photo shows the ski runs that have been cut in the trees and can be seen from the highway.
The second photo is a map which shows all the ski trails.  

Photo 3 shows the visitor center and the tram lines that go up the mountain - with the cars on them.
Photo 4 is the tram car that I rode on.  

         Once at the top, we were instructed that there was a hiking trail called the Rim Trail which looped around an observation tower just south of the tram station at the true summit of the mountain.  Hiking the trail was a little challenging for me, but I’m glad I made myself do it.  There were mountain views and valley vistas that I just would not have seen otherwise.  This was definitely a high point of the trip – figuratively and literally! 

Here is some of what I saw:

The highway that can be seen on the valley floor is I-93.
These 2 shots above are looking north from the tram car on the way up.
On a clear day, Canada can be seen in the distance.

The photo above is looking east - Maine is out there somewhere....

This shot was looking down from the tram car.

Following are photos taken from the Rim Trail:

The 2 above were taken from the same viewing point - the first one looking south, and the second one looking north.

The photo above was looking east at Mt. Lafayette (5239')  which was partially obscured by a cloud.  

The 2 photos above show parts of the Rim Trail.  

In this photo looking north, the ski lift is visible.

This last photo shows Echo Lake which can be seen at the bottom of the map of Ski Trails.  
Echo Lake has always been a popular boating lake for small boats.  

And so…. I go back down the mountain with lots of great memories and a bunch of cool photos.  Cannon Mt. was a trip highlight I will never forget!