Tuesday, December 29, 2009

DENIAL … the alcoholic’s crutch

I don’t think I’ve ever met an alcoholic who didn’t go through denial before finally giving in and admitting that they had a problem with alcohol. It’s a very difficult thing to admit that we are powerless over alcohol and that our lives are a mess, but that’s what it takes for many of us before we can get (and STAY) sober.

Over the years I’ve heard many variations on this denial theme, but my favorite is the one that I will relate here. It is a true story and happened to a friend of mine.

Back in the late 1980’s our man was working for a company that regularly sent him on long sales missions. He was a very heavy drinker but also cognizant of the fact that his company did not condone drinking and he was careful to hide it from them.

One Monday morning he awoke in his hotel room with a roaring hangover. He had kept himself secreted there over the weekend while he drank so he wasn’t too worried that his boss would find out. However he had a meeting with a new client at noon and he knew that he’d have to shape up and be on his best behavior for that meeting.

He shaved and showered and stood before the mirror to see how he looked. “Not too bad", he thought, and, after downing a vodka “pick me up” his shakes were under control. “I can do this”, he said to himself.

He knew he was too hung over to contemplate eating breakfast but he thought that the hotel pharmacist could recommend something for this “flu” feeling that he had. He gave his hair one last comb-through and headed out.

In the elevator he ran into a little old lady who seemed to be fascinated by him. She finally got up the nerve to speak and she said, “Pardon me young man, but are you Richard Burton?” He was immediately pumped up. Now he knew that he could handle anything that came his way ... he'd pulled it off ... to her he was handsome, famous and definitely in control.

As humbly as he could he replied, “No, maam, but thank you for the compliment.” At which point she snuggled in close to him and whispered in his ear, “He was a drunk, too, you know!”

Thursday, December 24, 2009

HO - HO - HO

These are just two of the many hundreds of Santas that my mother collected over the years. She had traveled quite a bit so she had a veritable United Nations of Santas. Then, of course, we (her five daughters) couldn’t resist adding to her collection … which we did for many years. Each of those were carefully labeled with the date and the name of which girl gave it to her so that “he would go back to his rightful owner once I’m gone”.

And that’s just what we did after Mother died in 1988. We started dispersing her collection by claiming those with our names attached. Then we divided the rest of the collection by choice and I would estimate that we each came away with at least 50 Santas. This was the beginning of my own collection but my two favorites (the ones that I show in the pictures) still remain these from her original collection.

The bright red Santa is made of papier-mache and measures 14 inches high. He was a lamp base originally and I remember that when lit the heat from the bulb would activate the glass lampshade to rotate. It was mesmerizing to watch because it turned very slowly and as it did so it revealed a variety of winter scenes.

I can’t remember what caused the lamp to topple over but topple it did and the lampshade broke into a hundred pieces. We were, understandably, upset but my mother took it in stride. The next day she took the lamp parts out, worked her own papier-mache technique to patch the hole in his head and Voila! … he became the Santa that you see. I love his expression…he seems to still be in a daze over what happened !

The hand-blown glass Santa comes from Germany and is probably my most valuable one. He measures barely 3 inches from base to stopper and is filled with red water. It’s really a very sweet piece but the picture does not do it justice. I have only seen one other that resembles it and that was about ten years ago in an antique shop with a price tag of $275.

Of course that was interesting but there’s actually no way to judge the value of a collection like this … the memories alone are priceless.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Well, here I am…ready to take on the world! I was 21 and had just received my degree from Boston University. My real love was journalism but I’d been lucky to get this job in a Boston Ad Agency and it was a start.

Here I am at the drawing table with the Art Manager. He was teaching me how to set type by hand for an ad that our agency was working on. Can you believe that all of that was done by hand then?

A computer was unheard of in those days. What we used were thick books with examples of type faces. We would peruse those and choose the type that we wanted to use for the ad. Then we would manually set a page to our specifications. It was a tedious job but actually it felt wonderful to know that you were the one who put it all together. I’m not sure if I’d have that same sense of accomplishment if I’d just punched it all into a computer.

My oldest son ran into something similar. He’d done most of his architectural drawings by hand while in college and it was meticulous work but he enjoyed it immensely. Now architectural drawings and designs are done almost exclusively by computer. He’s told me that he misses doing it “the old way”.

This is true of all fields and comes under the heading of “progress” so I guess we have to bow to the inevitable. I have to admit that these are more efficient and quicker methods; but, I often wonder if we haven’t lost something in the trade

Monday, December 14, 2009

LITHOPHANE….. “Light in stone”

A few months ago I visited my daughter and her husband in New York. One night while there I noticed an interesting piece of artwork on the windowsill. It was the shape of a small tile, perhaps 4”x 6” , and seemed to be made of a very thin porcelain. On the surface was an etching of a young girl but it was barely visible and not too interesting.

“What’s this?” I asked them and they explained that it was a lithophane. “Wait until tomorrow and look at it again with the sunlight behind it”.

Sure enough, the next day I did just that and was amazed to see how the three dimensional image came through. I learned that a lithophane is an etched or molded artwork in thin, very translucent, porcelain and that it can only be seen clearly when back lit with a light source. Lamp shades are particularly well suited to this technique.

I thought I was fairly well versed in the Arts but I had never seen nor heard of anything like this. Evidently there are many historians who feel that the inspiration for the idea of lithophanes came originally from China a thousand years before the Tang dynasty. They produced bowls that were almost as thin as paper with secret decorations in them. However it was the Europeans who perfected lithophanes.

Have any of you out there heard of it or perhaps even own one?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The definition of HALCYON …calm, peaceful, tranquil !

To my eye this place looks anything but calm, peaceful & tranquil but in it’s heyday the main part of the building was called Halcyon Hall. Now this abandoned and eerie building is all that remains of Bennett College, an exclusive school for girls in Millbrook, NY

When my husband and I and our three children moved to Dutchess County in 1964 this was an ongoing Junior College. Our children attended High School in Millbrook and they would pass this each day on the school bus.

My two boys told me recently about some of their night-time escapades spying on the girls. This was a complete surprise to me but I guess since it happened over 30 years ago they felt they could let me in on the secret now !

Generations of young women from prominent American families attended Bennett over its 90 year history, but it went into bankruptcy in 1978. Halcyon Hall was never reopened and quickly fell into ruin.

When I was in Millbrook in October I took this picture. I was surprised to see that the town has not sold, renovated or razed this structure since it’s demise in 1978. Perhaps it is tied up with legalities or is too expensive to contemplate. I do know that Halcyon Hall has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places but I doubt if it’s salvageable at this point.

Of course a building like this must have a resident ghost or two and, sure enough, I talked to one young man who swore he had seen one. He made me promise not to tell his name since he was trespassing, but, according to him he was wandering the rooms at night and came across a young girl playing the piano. He could even hear the music, he said, but it all faded the closer he got.


Saturday, December 05, 2009


This could be my all time favorite photo. It shows my adorable grand-daughter Amelia when she was five. We had spent the afternoon painting and then we had framed her picture so that she could hang it in her bedroom.

Over the years I’ve watched her turn from a darling child into an inquisitive teenager and finally into a youthful maturity. Her life has not been overly easy but she’s always approached every challenge with an open mind and a will to do her best. I am so very proud of her.

This is her birthday month and she will reach the ripe old age of 21 just days before Christmas. She is still in college but has suddenly turned into a gorgeous woman of the world. I can’t wait to see where she will go from here; but, I still can’t help wondering …