Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Neighborhood Christmas


This is the first Christmas that I've spent in Louisiana, and I've lived here since 1982!  I always took advantage of the time off from work to go visit my family in Virginia, but this year I'll head to the mountains of southwest Virginia after Christmas. 

I've enjoyed this year's holiday season in Shreveport with Ricky and numerous friends.  It seems everyone had a Christmas gathering, whether it was the combo Christmas/birthday party that my writing group had for one of our members, the delicious dinner my wine group enjoyed in one member's new-to-her, but vintage, Craftsman bungalow, the luncheon the faculty at work enjoyed at a local Mexican restaurant, or the lovely afternoon soiree hosted by two of my mystery reading friends. 

I'm amazed that most of my younger friends seem to think in images, so they have great photographs to commemorate every gathering or interesting event, while I'm the one who gets home and berates myself that I forgot to take out my cell phone and snap a pic.

However, my family and friends took some photographs of special holiday events this year, and I want to share way too many of them with you!

The Holiday Tour of Historic Homes the first weekend of December served to jump start the season.   I again chaired the event with lots of help from my friends.  It occurs every other year and for that, I'm grateful. 

Saturday night the entire avenue was closed to vehicular traffic except for tour trolley and limos, so guests could stroll along a luminary lit path that led to each house.

Here are a few images from the neighborhood's historic homes:

 

Doors and windows, the architectural details, the d├ęcor--all dazzled



 









 

Interior window imported in 1920's from Tiffany's in New York

 
More Tiffany windows in another 1920's era home.
I learned that 1920's Shreveport had more millionaires per capita than Chicago did,
as evidenced by the details in some of these mansions on tour. 
 


 

 
There was a string quartet playing in the gazebo of a hidden garden
Wine was served
And Mrs. Santa and elves frolicked in the garden
Some of the women who worked with me on the Home Tour.  I'm sporting the elf hat.
 
Finally after the Home Tour, I could think about decorating my own house. 
Our foyer where Santa rested before the big night
 
Dining room with mantle full of Santas

And more Santas in the music room


 
 

 
 
I attribute my obsession with Santa Claus to growing up in a small town where my great-uncle was Santa for decades.  On Christmas Eve when I was small he would come to my grandmother's house and visit us before we went to bed.  The photos above show my Uncle Joe as Santa.  He was the best.  The top photo shows a tired Uncle Joe after a hard day of being Santa Claus.  The bottom picture is my sisters and me with Santa at my grandmother's house.  I'm the dressed-down child in the middle, while my younger sisters wear their dresses in hopes of impressing Santa.
 
There were other special holiday celebrations with friends from the neighborhood this year.  One warm night in mid-December, the local Bed and Breakfast opened its doors for a party complete with a band, open bar, valet parking.  My friend Tina and I closed this party down but we were home at 10:30.
The crowd spills out of Fairfield Place Bed and Breakfast onto the porch and into the courtyard.

Our friends Howard & Sarah's gumbo party was held in the magical

surroundings shown below:

 
 


 
 
Sarah gave every guest homemade biscotti when we left
 
 
There was an enjoyable evening out with my former department head and my present one, both good friends.  I'm so fortunate to work with great people who are also long-time friends of mine.
 
Then, on Christmas Eve we headed up the street to the home of our friends, Terry and Marsha, who host an annual Christmas Eve open house.  Marsha's home is always beautifully decorated at Christmas.  As a matter of fact, she and her husband participated in this year's afternoon Tour of Homes that is held on Sunday after the Saturday night candlelight tour.
 
Christmas Day found us kicking back for lunch at a friend's house for soup and corn bread, then scurrying back to our house to host Christmas afternoon High Tea, a tradition from my family in Virginia.
 

As you can tell, I'm very blessed to be surrounded by loving friends and family this holiday season. 

 

And I wish each of you a joyous Christmas and a Happy and Healthy 2014.

 







Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving

I'm extremely thankful to my friend Liz and her husband, Steve, for giving Ricky and me one of the greatest gifts this Thanksgiving--leisure.  I feel guilty when I say that I took a long nap yesterday afternoon to get rid of a persistent headache and stiff neck when all the women I know spent hours in the kitchen.  After weeks of work on our neighborhood holiday tour of historic homes, Celebrate Highland, I'm able to enjoy a low-key Thanksgiving day and recover some of my stamina, thanks to our friends' invitation to their orphans' meal for those who don't have family near-by.

Ricky is working on our outside Christmas decorations--his annual scene of Santa Claus, up on our roof, riding in a red rick-saw pulled by bicycles lit with Christmas lights!  Every year Ricky adds a new detail.  The lead bike will be elevated as it takes off with Santa this year, if all goes according to plan.

I just got back from taking Treble on a serene walk in our neighborhood park on this crisp morning.  Treble got neutered this week but hasn't missed a beat, nor has he calmed down.  The cats were hoping he wouldn't be so enthusiastic about chasing them around the yard.  That hasn't happened, but he's still a lovable little fellow.

 

Park Art

Columbia Park panorama



Hoping everyone can take time to be thankful for

life's blessings 

on this day set aside for thanksgiving.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Stories of the Beat Generation

 
I knew the authors labeled “The Beat Generation” weren’t choirboys.  After reading The Typewriter is Holy: The Complete, Uncensored History of the Beat Generation, by Bill Morgan, I realize the full impact of this group’s self-centered  and self-destructive  behaviors on those around them. 

In 1943, Lucien Carr, a troubled and wealthy young man from St. Louis, enrolled in Columbia University where he met Allen Ginsberg.  Carr was a friendly guy and invited Ginsberg to meet some of his Greenwich Village friends.  Through Carr, Ginsberg met William Burroughs and another man, David Krammerer, who like Carr was from a wealthy St. Louis family.   Krammerer was a gay man obsessed with the young, attractive and heterosexual Lucian Carr.  Carr’s circle of friends also included two young women from well-to-do families, Edie “Frankie” Parker, and Joan Vollmer Adams, a young pregnant war bride.  It was through the women that Carr and Ginsberg met Jack Kerouac, as aspiring writer from a working class family who Edie was dating at the time.

Photo of Kerouac & Carr
(from Allen Ginsberg Trust)

Because Kerouac and Carr wanted to “see the world,” they hatched a plan to become seamen and travel to France, then Paris, where they hoped to live after it was liberated from the Nazis.  Krammerer found out about the proposed adventure and wanted to go along, since he was like an obsessed groupie  when it came to Carr.  After a long night of drinking and arguing about the trip, Carr stabbed Krammerer with a pocket knife and pushed him into the Hudson River, causing him to drown. 

David Kammerer
Carr immediately confessed what he had done to Burroughs and Kerouac.  Burroughs advised Carr to contact a lawyer and turn himself in, while the working-class and less worldly Kerouac felt Carr should try to hide all evidence of the crime and then helped him do it.  After a day or so, Carr’s conscience got the better of him and he told his mother's lawyer and turned himself in.  Burroughs and Kerouac were also arrested as material witnesses. 
Burroughs, whose grandfather had invented the modern adding machine, was immediately able to post bond and get out of jail.  Kerouac’s father refused to help him, and Kerouac got out of jail only because he and Edie Parker got married and she used her trust fund money to get him out.  They later divorced when Kerouac didn't feel comfortable around her well-to-do family. 

Carr avoided serious prison time for killing Krammerer,  because Columbia University and Carr’s lawyers depicted him in court as a young man who was defending himself from an older sexual predator.  Carr spent two years in a reformatory for the crime.  Charges against Kerouac and Burroughs were dropped.
The film, Kill Your Darlings, depicting Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Ratcliff), William Burroughs (Ben Foster), and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), is coming to the Robinson Film Center in Shreveport and is based on this incident.
 
The Carr-Krammerer affair was merely the first of many tragic exploits surrounding this group of writers.  Burroughs, despite being gay, ended up marrying the friend of the writers, Joan Adams.  They were both addicted to drugs and heavy drinkers.  While living in Mexico, Burroughs would accidentally kill Joan—shooting her in the forehead while trying to shoot a whiskey glass off her head. 
Many of the circle of friends and acquaintances surrounding the Beat writers were unstable.  One man, Bill Cannastra, who like Burroughs had attended Harvard, boarded a subway in New York after a night of barhopping.  He then decided he wanted to return to the bar after the subway doors had closed.  He tried to crawl out the window after the train started.  He wasn’t totally out the window when the subway reached the end of the platform.  He was knocked out of the window, onto the tracks and crushed by the train in full view of his horrified friends. 

One of Cannastra’s closest friends was a woman named Joan Haverty who moved into Cannastra’s loft apartment after his death.  Shortly thereafter,  Kerouac  stopped by the loft looking for Carr. He met Joan and, within two weeks, Kerouac and Joan were married despite the fact neither seemed to be in love with the other.  The marriage ended in divorce, but Joan bore Kerouac a daughter.   Kerouac would spend the rest of his life denying his paternity and trying to avoid paying child support.
There were other well-known friends, such as Neal Cassidy, and those not so well-known.  The Typewriter is Holy explores the interactions of this loosely knit, yet enmeshed, group.  Ginsberg emerges as the most sane of them all, and he was in and out of therapy his whole life. 

Along the way, some seminal works of literature were written.  For almost 40 years, author Bill Morgan worked as an editor and archival consultant for nearly every member of the Beat Generation.  He is well-informed about his subject matter, but this was a hard book for me to read.  These are important writers, but the story of their lives and works is like watching a series of train wrecks. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Our Neighborhood Studio Tour

My "To Do" List seems to be growing more than I have hours in the day, probably because there are finite hours in a day, but my list at times seems to be infinite.  I've borrowed a page from my friend Tina's life, and I create on my computer a list of tasks to accomplish each day.  I print it out, then I whittle at the list each day and add to it as things come up.  The most fun part is physically marking through a task when I complete it.  I officially revise my list each morning on the computer, deleting completed items and adding new tasks and events.  I've done this for a grand total of two days but it seems to keep me more focused and calmer.

Lest you think me all work and no play, Ricky and I did attend the Highland Open Studio Tours (HOSTS) event this past Sunday afternoon after brunch at one of our neighborhood dives, I mean diners.  The best part of this adventure is we never had to leave our neighborhood.

The first studio we visited belonged is a friend of ours, and I bought this piece of pottery from her bargain table.  I plan to use it as a rustic platter.

Pottery by Nancy Ferrari

Among the other venues we visited was the Meadows Museum on the campus of Centenary College where another Highland neighborhood artist had a show.  I plan to borrow one of her ideas about creating "idea" scrapbooks of the bits and pieces that people like me tear from magazines and newspapers.  The artist pastes  her scraps of paper into an existing old book for which she no longer has a use.  Her favorite books to recycle in this manner are old typewriter manuals.

(Photo by Robert Trudeau)
Ricky and I at the Meadows Museum talking to the photographer's wife, Talbot, another Shreveport artist.
 
The day was a lot of fun and a success in other ways, too.  Our artist friend who made the pottery gave us home-grown mustard greens that Ricky and I cooked last night.  I bought raffle tickets to help the local low cost spay and neuter clinic at another studio and won a massage!  (The artist is also a massage therapist.)

So, while I might be overly busy right now, I see some relaxation in my future.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Cozy Halloween

 

I admit it.  I love Halloween, but not so much the blood and gore and scary horrors.  I like fall and pumpkins and black cats and orange!!  So, though I have no children I indulge my inner child and decorate just a bit for fun. 


Obviously I just pick up cheap trinkets and Halloween decorations that I use to accent a small table in the foyer--nothing like my friend Jenny who makes the most delightful dolls and Halloween decorations.  I am orange with envy.  To see Jenny's blog about her original Halloween creations, click here.

 
 

Halloween is a day when you don't want to be trying to prepare supper while answering the door to all the little goblins and Ninjas and princesses.  So, in keeping with my Slow Food efforts I'm observing a crock pot soup day.  Yesterday I filled both my crock pots, so today we're serving split pea soup with corn bread.

 

Or, if you would rather, you can eat navy bean and ham soup.  And, of course, a fat piece of homemade corn bread!

Note the gourd Jack-o-Lantern I bought at the Farmer's Market in Little Rock.  I couldn't resist the big guy.

What about you?  Do you have any Halloween traditions that have carried over to adulthood?

 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hello Again

I've been busy lately.  I had some computer issues (had to replace hard drive, router problems, Adobe Photoshop issues) and I've been on the road (Virginia to visit my family and Little Rock to a young friend's wedding). 

I was about a week too early to experience the full splendor of the fall trees when I was in the mountains of Virginia.  However, the view from Bill Clinton's Presidential Library in Little Rock featured some lovely red maples and a skyline view of the city, which helped assuage my disappointment. 

 
 
I'm in charge of  the Holiday Tour of Historic Homes in our National Historic District neighborhood.  How did Christmas creep up on the calendar so quickly?   If you're in my neck of the woods, save the dates of December 7 and 8 and step back in time to visit some charming historic homes.


Autumn and the hint of cooler temperatures motivate me to enter my kitchen again to start cooking, so I've been on a "Slow Food" kick .  My sister in Virginia really started me on my recent Slow Food initiative.  She sent me back to Louisiana with potatoes grown in their garden and apples from their apple tree.  I was inspired to make an au gratin potato and ham dish similar to what we ate in France when we visited friends in the High Alps region a couple of years ago.




Then I made an apple pie with caramel sauce.  Duly inspired by my successes, I was up early Saturday morning when we were in Little Rock so we could go to the Farmer's Market there.  I came home with yellow crookneck and zucchini squash and some Arkansas Black apples.  I see another apple pie in our future!
 
Apple pie with caramel sauce
Lastly, as you may have seen on this blog, we got a new puppy--the infamous Treble (often pronounced Trouble) who requires almost as much time as a child.  I set up play dates to socialize him, take on daily "poop" walks to the park (pack paraphernalia for clean-up), and shop at stores I never entered before.  My husband claims Treble is a charter member of the Toy-of-the-Week Club.

Treble at 6 months

Some of Treble's toys!!
But I've missed my blogger friends and my blog so I'm going to start putting something on the page.

I may even find time to read a book!