Saturday, November 27, 2010

This photo almost got me kicked out of Hearst Castle!

A few years back I took in the sights at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. About 10 of us took the tour and it was really amazing. The opulence cannot be adequately described … it was so over the top. Everywhere we turned there seemed to be something made of gold or gilded with gold leaf, as in this bedroom.

When we entered this room I couldn’t help but envision Dorothy Parker here. Some of you may remember that, while a guest at the castle, she had asked for a 2nd martini before dinner. This was a definite “no, no” since Mr. Hearst’s rule allowed for only one drink per person in an evening and she was told to leave at once. It is reported that before she left she inscribed a bawdy poem in the guest book about the hypocrisy of a married man (Hearst) living with his mistress (Marion Davies), but considering it a sin to have a 2nd drink.

With this anecdote in my mind I thought it would be fun to take a picture of the room to take back home, so I took out my trusty little camera out and snapped a quick flash shot. WELL … you wouldn’t believe the uproar this produced. I was thoroughly reprimanded and threatened with expulsion !

I had to meekly hang my head and swear to obedience to the rules before we could continue on the tour. It felt like nothing much had changed since the Hearst days, but secretly I was gloating. I had what I wanted and the result is this photo of that garish bedroom where Dorothy Parker may, or may not, have stayed..

Much more interesting, to my mind, than this stock shot of the castle:

Monday, November 22, 2010


Don’t you just love this picture? I like it so much that I use it as my desktop background. I took it when I went to visit my friend Michael, the beekeeper.

After Michael showed me his bees and how they operated we took a drive around his 200 acre farm … his two VERY LARGE Weimaraner dogs keeping pace behind the truck.

I have to admit that I am not a dog person (unlike all the rest of my family) and these two were daunting to say the least. But they turned out to be very sweet once they’d determined I wasn’t the enemy ! Actually they are beautiful animals and I love their soulful eyes and that amazingly soft, light grayish-brown coloration of their coats.

When we reached the lake we parked and treated the dogs to a game of “fetch from the water” which they loved. Of course our arms gave out long before they tired of jumping in and retrieving the branches that we threw.

Eventually it was time to call it quits and with all that acreage you would think they could find a better place to shake the water off than right next to us … but, a good dousing was a small price to pay for an afternoon of fun !

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


My son-in-law Brian is a master when it comes to making art out of discarded materials. Here we see his adorable nymphet statue who I feel sure was holding fast to a cupid’s arrow before Brian got hold of her.

Now she is proudly displaying a small shovel and could be dubbed “our lady of perpetual gardening”. She sits amid the greenery as you approach their front door and never fails to make me smile.

I’m sure you’ve seen spiders made from recycled farm machinery and they have two of these on display as you approach the house on their driveway. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of them.

But I do have a picture of my favorite “Brian inspiration” … a very large outdoor bell that he designed from a discarded oxygen tank.

He cut off the bottom, outfitted it with a clapper and hung it high on one of their trees. When a good wind blows the tolling of the bell is mesmerizing. The tone is deep and reverberating and if I close my eyes I feel like I’m back in Italy.

Brian has a large stockpile of discarded metallic pieces so he was ready when a customer asked if he could make an Armillary for his estate. You see the result here:

You can tell how large it actually is when you see the satisfied customer standing next to it out in his field.

What is harder to see is the big grin on the customer’s face !

Saturday, November 13, 2010

“The Lacuna” … Kingsolver at her best.

One of my favorite books is “The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver. I read it about 10 years ago and was enthralled. Since then I’ve looked forward to other fiction by her and, although she’s been productive in this genre none of them have really held my attention.

Now she’s come up with another winner in my opinion. It’s a very ambitious novel. The main character is Harrison Shepherd, born in the United States, the son of divorced parents (an American father living in Washington, DC and a self-absorbed Mexican mother who relies on her lovers to provide for them.)

The novel begins and ends in a jungle island in Mexico. It is here that he comes as a young boy with his mother and her lover. It is in the 1920’s and, although he never receives a formal education he is self taught and becomes a prolific writer, journaling daily about everything that he encounters.

He and his mother escape the clutches of that lover and begin a new life in Mexico City. There is little security and life becomes whatever he can do to make a living. This leads him to running errands, becoming a cook and finally mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. Of course this leads to meeting Frida Kahlo, the equally famous artist and wife of Diego.

She will become a lifelong friend and is a pivotal character in the novel. It is at this time also that he meets Lev Trotsky, the exiled Russian political leader who comes to stay in the Rivera household.

Everything falls apart with the murder of Trotsky and the story takes a distinct change when Harrison returns to the United States and ends up, surprisingly, in Asheville, North Carolina. It is the late 40’s by now and the fear of Communism is rearing it’s ugly head. He finds a kindred soul in an older woman, Mrs. Brown, who becomes his stenographer, his friend and eventually his historian.

I’ll leave it to you to see how Ms. Kingsolver brings this amazing work of fiction to a conclusion; but, I can assure you that it is fascinating. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

“Have you ever seen the rain …

Comin’ down on a sunny day?”

Remember those words? They are the chorus refrain from the hit song of the 1970’s, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” by the American rock band, Creedance Clearwater Revival.

I heard it today and the words conjured up a memory that has to be at least 65 years old!

I was about 12 at the time and living in Wellesley Hills, Mass., a suburb of Boston. As I recall it some Junior High School friends and I were in the small town square sitting on a bench under the picturesque bell tower structure ... home to the town’s clock that struck the time 24 hours a day. I have no idea if it exists today but it’s vivid in my memory ... as is the bright sunshine.

We were waiting for some friends who were to arrive by bus from Boston. The actual bus stop was across the street but it was a very busy three-way intersection and we felt more secure where we were.

Then out of nowhere, or so it seemed, it started to rain … but it was no ordinary downpour. In amazement we watched as the sheets of rain pelted down ACROSS THE STREET. We could actually see where the rain ended. The people across the street were running for shelter while WE WERE STILL IN BRIGHT SUNSHINE.

In all my 77 years I’ve never seen anything like that again. If I look at it practically I realize that rain has to stop somewhere but it was a once in a lifetime experience for me.

It makes me wonder ... have any of you seen anything like that?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

My friend Michael, the BEE-KEEPER

Meet my friend Michael who lives on a large farm near me and who has taken up the hobby of raising bees and harvesting honey.

Michael is a sweet man with a sweet hobby and he was kind enough to share the experience with me. The first thing he did was to fill up his smoking device. Hopefully that helps to calm the bees and it seemed to work the day that I was there.

He said he’s been stung a few times but that’s to be expected and is a small price to pay for the enjoyment received.

You can see the bees swarming but they tend to stay pretty much in the one area. Not only does Michael keep bees but he’s planted extensive fields of alfalfa that they swarm to and pollinate. It amazes me that he has been able to do this on his own…but the flowering alfalfa proves that it can be done and he says that the honey is greatly enhanced by it.

This is strictly a hobby for Michael. He doesn’t sell the honey or expect to make it commercial. He’s just found it to be a serene and soothing pastime .

I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and it wasn’t until I was driving home later that I remembered that I am very allergic to bee stings. I guess the powers that BEE were looking out for me!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


As I mentioned in my last blog entry I was in New York City a few weeks back. My daughter, son-in-law and I stayed overnight with our friend Amy. She lives on the upper West Side and, after a good night’s sleep, it was a pleasure to wander down Riverside Drive to the Park overlooking the Hudson.

Despite the fact that Amy is 90 years old she follows this route almost daily. It is a refuge from the teeming city that lies just blocks below and there were many bicyclists and dog walkers out enjoying the morning air. We let Amy lead the way and eventually we wound up at 96th St., which is where we said our goodbyes.

Then we headed to a music store in Times Square and the atmosphere changed drastically.

Was Times Square always this gaudy? I guess it was but my memories of when I lived there paint it in a different light. I remember it as quaint rather than “over the top” but that’s probably not very accurate

This street band was just setting up as we passed by and we almost missed hearing them. We’d already crossed the street when they started to play; but their first notes drew us back. I can’t tell you what their nationality is but the music had a definite Latin beat to it. They were excellent and it was a real treat to have this free concert. My son-in-law liked them so much that he bought one of their CD’s.

Then we made our way to Grand Central to catch our train … just part of the crowd that passes that way daily … but to us it was special.