Thursday, October 20, 2011

Up That...Hill

My friend Sherrie and I were always ready for adventure. We met while I was a student at RPI and she at Radford. We stayed in touch off and on and after school we both ended up working at Miller & Rhoads and sharing an apartment, the Cave, on Park Avenue near campus.

This night the Four Tops were performing at a very small club on the north side of Richmond. We really wanted to see them and decided that it was worth paying our own way, since neither of us had a date, to go.

And then we decided to up the ante. We recently had a spontaneous photo shoot (thanks to store photo pal, Ed Booth) with Troy Donahue when he visited M&R and we were on a mission to add to our celebrity photo wall. I had a Polaroid camera loaner with free film since I was a Polaroid Camera Girl and so we plotted to be press looking for an interview. Like I said, the club was really tiny so in hindsight our scheme was probably completely unnecessary, we could have gotten a picture just about anytime that evening, but we forged ahead with our grand plan, sold our story to the club manager (surely he didn't believe us nevertheless he played along) and got our pre-show picture. Before we headed downstairs to our table, Sherrie asked a few questions to make us legit all the while jotting answers down on her note pad (we were prepared). Crazy girls!

But probably my craziest memory of an antic with Sherrie is the time she decided that she had to go home. Her folks lived in Williamsburg and one night she pops into my room and says that she has to talk to her mom, right away. She had already borrowed a car from Mike Stull who lived upstairs and was the only person in the entire building that even had a car. She begged me to go with her since she couldn't go without someone to drive (I don't remember why she did not have her license but she didn't). We both had to work the next day but she assured me that we'd be back in time. I told her that I didn't know how to drive a straight stick. She said that she would shift gears while I drove. Never one to dampen an adventure, off we went.

The next morning I'm feeling more confident about my driving after I realize that first gear is the only nasty one to master and so I do all the driving including gear shifting myself on our return trip to Richmond. This is no interstate days and our approach to home and work is up Broad Street Hill with a left turn at 8th. Well it so happens that the turn is at the crest of the hill and I just catch a red light. So not only am I on a steep hill, I am the first car in line. The light changes, we even have an arrow, so my only concern is going forward but I can't do it. I am convinced that we will roll back into the car behind us. Mike will kill me if I do anything to his car. It's not new but he hovers over it. I still cannot believe that he let Sherrie borrow it. I stall the car again and again and finally we lose the light. It's rush hour, everyone coming from the east uses this turn to get to work in downtown Richmond. The next light cycle I still mangle every attempt, drivers at this point are going around me, honking, pretty mad.

We go through I don't care to say how many light cycles and I still cannot get the car in gear and going forward. I won't let Sherrie help, it's a steep hill, I know we'll roll all the way to the bottom taking numerous cars with us. Finally the guy behind me gets out of his car and comes up to us asking (nicely) what the problem is. He listens and says that he will drive the car through the intersection for me. Then I think that it dawns on him this plan leaves his car unattended, or worse attended by me. He changes his mind. He tells me to just let my car roll back into his, it will be fine. Really. I look back at his car. It's a real car, like a Chrysler or something. What can a little Dodge Dart do to that? I trust him. Really. The next time we have the light, I gear up and shoot through the intersection, not rolling back at all.


Monday, October 17, 2011

My First Car

She was a beauty. A 1950's something Volkswagen complete with a tiny back window; a starter button; a gas tank system that had a flip switch to give you one more gallon before you really ran out of gas; seats belts (rare but Don Cully, who owned her, was a far sighted guy and he put them in all his cars) and a name, Velma.

The year was 1967. I was working at Miller & Rhoads in the Advertising Department as a layout artist. The pay was okay, my expenses few, but saving money just didn't happen. And so when Pat Cully, fellow artist whose cubicle office was across from mine, said that she and Don were selling their Volkswagen that he had just finished rebuilding my ears perked up. I didn't have a car, never had been able to afford one. Over a year out of college and still without a car. Yup, that was me. I walked or rode my bike to my job, to visit friends, and to the grocery. I took the train home to Alexandria. It worked but a car of my own? Sigh. "How much," I asked certain that it would be well out of my reach. "Two hundred," she replied. "Two hundred? I'll take it." Nevermind that I did not know how to drive a straight stick (this doesn't count) or have a clue how much insurance would cost. My own car!

We sealed the deal, I got insurance, and asked my ex boyfriend to teach me the basics of stick shift driving which turned out to be a couple of thirty minutes lessons in a school parking lot after which he declared me good to go. I wasn't so sure but he had me do the driving back to the Franklin Street vintage home turned into apartment units where we both lived and that was that. I was street worthy.

Velma and I were made for each other. I learned to parallel park in the most minimal spots, on the left and right side of the street, all good since street parking was what I had available. I was a proud gal. Especially since I had failed my high school driving test by pulling wrong out of a parallel parking maneuver that I had just executed perfectly between the two poles designated for the test. Dad had always chided me about my depth perception being bad and assured me that I had lots more room than I thought and so this one time I decided to heed his advice and allow that I had plenty of room to make my exit. Except that I didn't. My front fender just barely touched the pole and didn't even tip it over. But it wobbled and if it had been a real car fender it would have suffered, so, I flunked. It was the last thing on the test too. I had done every other part perfectly, driving in traffic, hand signals, the whole nine yards.

Velma and I stayed together all the way into my marriage with Donny in 1969 and beyond. She took me from our first apartment at Westover Hills to Varina High School way out in the country off of Route 5 and back every day without a hitch. Finally one day she suffered what was going to be an expensive repair, an engine issue I recall.We had lost touch with the Cully's. I'm sure Don could have put her back together in a flash but he wasn't on our radar and so off to the junk yard she went. Still I couldn't let her go without a souvenir. And so I took off her beautiful enameled hood ornament and tucked it away. A few years ago I was creating a self portrait construction using odds and ends from around the house (if you lose something goes the family joke, look for it in mom's art) and came across Velma's ornament. We're pals together again.
Self Portrait 2003

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Charleston Bound

Our ship sets sail in the late afternoon. We have a two nights and a day to play on board. Late night laser tag is a last minute addition to activities. The kids & I decide to check it out. We play a couple of rounds. Then Donny & I do some exploring and finally figure out most of the ins and outs of the ship. One deck has really puzzled us. We could not discern how to get to it and finally we do. It is public but you have to wander a kind of maze to find it. A few days earlier, I have also discovered the adults only sunning deck. It is quiet and small. There are padded lounge chairs and a shower to cool off. Plus a hot tub but I skip that. Donny has occasionally joined me because some of the chairs are under a canopy. Upon occasion the rest of the gang stops here too, it's very restive. And to sweeten the pot, we find a stateroom hallway short cut to the cafeterias and to our rooms. We're all set.

We are told to have a member of our group attend one of Hennie's Debarkation chat during the last day and so we do. His most revealing point is to remind us that no Cuban cigars can be brought into the country. No one has mentioned this until now. While we were in Nassau avoiding the rain shower, I have bought a cigar for occasional neighbor Tommy at Donny's suggestion. Tommy defriended me on Facebook after I dropped the F-bomb in discussing the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. That caused quite a thread that lasted almost a day before Tommy up and hit the defriend button. A peace offering suggested Donny. Now Hennie says to smoke the cigars or give them to him, but do not attempt to take them through customs. I only have one cigar. I'm going to chance it. But I've already decided that Tommy doesn't deserve all this attention. I'll give it to Marty's Dad for his 60th birthday coming up in August.

What would a cruise be without fabulous food. And ours is no exception, we have wined and dined from morning until night in gastronomic splendor. True to tradition our last night dessert is Baked Alaska and it is the perfect end to our tasty tour. We take in the early tribute to the Beatles show and so miss the Baked Alaska parade and instead get treated to a farewell sing by our wait staff.

Donny & I decide to wander into the casino which we have skirted throughout the cruise. I lose money at Black Jack and get fussed at by the dealer for my mixed hand signals. It's an artist thing. Lewis & Lauren stay and actually do pretty well by the end of the evening. Donny & I drift to the coin slot machines and find ourselves almost $20 richer with only a few dollars investment. We quit while we are ahead.

 Next morning we're in port and shuffled off the ship by decks, just like in school. It's been a great cruise with awesome company. The Feeney's are fun to travel with. Everyone is ready to get on home but we all want to shop one more time at the Market before we go. The Sweetgrass baskets have made an impression on me. I think we need some. But there are so many quality merchants selling these handmade beauties. We talk to several ladies collecting prices and information. And then we meet Debra. She is the one. Her baskets are not as large as some although she'll make anything you ask and is already training both her grandchildren in the art. But her weave is the thing. It is tiny and tight. We strike a deal with her and then have a time finding an ATM that will give us enough cash but we finally do and three baskets later pack ourselves and the kids into the car and turn toward the Outer Banks.


For the best sweetgrass basket you will ever own contact. Debra Green, 1476 Palmetto Fort Drive, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina 29466. 843-800-2638 or 843-336-5160



Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nassau

We leave Freeport in the late afternoon and set sail for Nassau arriving the next morning. At dinner during our sail, we plan our activities for Nassau. The kids are going snorkeling off shore. John & Linda want to try the glass bottom boat excursion. After dinner we all get our tickets and  spend some time playing on the ship before getting ready for Nassau.

Next morning after capturing some fabulous sunrise photos and slipping in a quick breakfast, we all head for our excursion meeting places. It's a short walk to the boats and we're off. We motor past all the luxury homes on Paradise Island and get a good view of Atlantis from the water. I remember when Paradise Island was mostly deserted and you could only get there by private boat. I never went but several girls on our post college cruise did.

We get to see a pretty good variety of fish and wreckage on our little trip and coming back we round the bend by the Paradise Island lighthouse.

We have time before the kids are back. We wander through the straw market. It's crazy crowded. After that Donny & I head for Starbucks and John & Linda back to the ship. We experience a sudden downpour and duck into a conveniently located shop. It is one of the better ones. A shop with a bar at the rear. We'll tell the group about it. When we do meet later we learn that they discovered Sharkeez on their own and were impressed too. Typical tropical shower is over as fast as it started. Before we leave Sharkeez we buy a pirate theme golf ball for Colleen.

I am set to see some of Nassau. Fort Charlotte sounds interesting as does the Queen's Staircase. The staircase is close. The fort farther. An information guide tells us how to get to the fort by foot and a good place to eat near there. We start off. We walk and walk and walk. It's hot but there is some shade. Mostly the scenery is picturesque. We are walking along West Bay Street. It skirts the beach like so many in California where you can just walk right out onto the beach. The palms are beautiful, but the walk is seemingly endless. Finally we spot the shop complex where Twin Brothers is located and find it. Lunch at last. Conch fritters and burgers and just about anything else conch. Their daiquiris are world famous. I have strawberry. It is fun months later to see this tiny hole in the wall spot begin the Top Chef All Stars 2011 season finale, complete with a not planned grease fire.

We opt for a cab back to the ship. Time is short and we've walked the walk. We meet up with the group at the port authority shops and do some last minute shopping before boarding for our trip back to Charleston.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Freeport, Grand Bahamas

Daybreak sees us on the Sun Deck ready to capture the sunrise at sea. Lewis & Lauren are to meet us here but we get there first. They straggle up the steps a few minutes later. It's fairly quiet, the pool side just below us is completely empty. That will all change in just a few hours. Island music, free flowing drinks, smells of suntan oils and cooking foods all joined by a low hum of idle chatter and pool side splashing accompanied by hundreds of sun seekers will cover the decks and side lounges. But for now the ship is in its tranquil state.

We get some nice photos and Donny & I head for breakfast. Two professionally whipped and flipped omelets later, we are satiated and ready for a day in the Grand Bahamas.

The area where the ships dock is very industrialized and depressed looking beyond the gates of the harbour facility. You either get a cab or a specifically designated tour bus to take you to Freeport, one of the many beaches, or any other destination to your liking. We have decided to take the Garden of the Groves tour. The gardens are beautiful and there is plenty of shade. The labyrinth is very impressive. We try to walk it, but it's located in direct sunlight and so quit after a few rows. We get local beer from the snack bar after our tour is over. And Lewis tries to catch a baby duck but they're too quick for him.

We do some shopping in the gardens craft shops before it's time to board the bus for to our next stop, Port Lacaya Marketplace with its adjacent beach. Lewis, Lauren & I decide to take a dip in authentic Caribbean waters at last. The rest are going to shop at the many market stores leading to the beach. Donny & Linda elect to do neither. They are content to sit in the shade and watch sipping ice coffee. The water is warm and the fine sandy bottom is so nice. I just lazy swim and float around. L&L have their fins and masks and venture further out.

We have only a little time before we're due at the bus for our return. After the bus drops us off, we take turns taking group pictures in front of the welcome to Freeport sign. Then we shop a bit and finally board the ship and make plans to meet for dinner. I've lost track of the menus, but every meal is beyond amazing, our only problem being which selection to go with.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

At Sea

First full day at sea, June 12, 2010. It's a day to explore the ship. First thing after breakfast we find the Bistro on the Boulevard which has great coffee. Throughout the trip it becomes one of our primary meeting spots.

Deirdre and I get a Monkey Head drink. We're on a cruise ship. It's supposed to be dorky fun. After hanging around the pool a bit, we decide to go for mini-golf. We get our equipment on the pool deck and Monkeys in hand we head for the upper most deck where the mini-golf course and the track are both located.

The entire group is on this adventure. It's fun but hot. We're in the blazing Caribbean sun. After one round, we're done. We're just about the only crazy people out here. Lauren starts juggling the golf balls. She's pretty good. Colleen tosses another ball to Lauren who missed the cue, and the ball. It goes s-a-i-l-i-n-g overboard. We are in the middle of the deck too, not near the edge at all. John & Linda roll their eyes. They're fun loving folks and always up for a good laugh, but tossing golf balls into the brink on our first day out is just slightly over the top. "I didn't know it would go that far," sighed Colleen getting another parent eye roll.

Our dining room is the Celebration Room. Casual resort dress the norm. Throughout the cruise, we do things in small groups, eating breakfast and lunch at any of the outside grills that offer all kinds of international foods and then all coming together for our evening meal.

The rest of our first day at sea we get our bearings, find short cuts to most things and just play around. Donny & I are celebrating our 41st anniversary just a bit late, it's officially on June 7th.

Every night we find a different towel animal decorating our beds. We never use them. They are too cute. By the end of the voyage we have a nice menagerie.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Fantasy

Day Two, Friday June 11, 2010! Our ship doesn't disembark until 4 but we know the day will go fast and decide to check out of the hotel and head straight for the docks.

We can leave our cars at the hotel and take a shuttle. But the shuttle is forever in showing up, so we call a cab. Then of course the shuttle appears and not the cab. Finally our cab arrives but with our entourage we need two. We have told the company what to expect and yet they send a regular size cab. The driver explains that another is right behind him.

Finally we are at the dock. We need to tote our things to a waiting bus that takes us to the port authority building. We feel like we are at Busch Gardens.

At the check in procedure, Donny gets flagged. I have suggested to him to bring a private flask of our favorite nightcap, Remy Martin, reasoning it will not be a problem, even though anything besides a single bottle of wine is on the don't list.

The flask is spotted in the baggage scan and I think it hurt the authority worker more than us as he poured our treat down the drain. He was very apologetic as he returned the empty flask to Donny.

On board the Fantasy, we find our rooms and get settled in which takes about two minutes. We are ready to explore. So is Colleen who is rooming with Deirdre right next door to us. Off we go topside. We get our bon voyage drinks. Colleen's age is not brought up by us or the drinks gal. We have discerned that cell phones do not work on the ship without ponying up a hefty service fee so our only form of communication when we are apart from each other is to find a house phone and hope someone is in their room.

Before long, the rest of the group finds us lounging inside and we learn that there has been a mild frantic search for Colleen. Seems she forgot to tell anyone where she was going.

We have opted for casual dining and after trying to enter the dining room from the wrong end we finally get settled at one of the few bigger tables. Our waitress is Anna and we all love her. We learn that getting her will be hit or miss depending on whether the table is already occupied when we get there. We decide we're going to work it out to get our Anna every night we can!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Intermission


I snagged this photo of Bud Onstad, our friend and father-in-law to son Donald, because it's a classic waiting to be painted and I didn't want to lose it. He posted this audio from Kill Bill II on Facebook. I didn't want to lose it either and so am linking it here (click on intermission) in between writing about our cruise trip with Lewis and the Feeneys last June. That whole trip thread and all other trip sagas will get reposted when completed to World When Traveling for easier revisiting.

Cruisin' Charleston

 Alrighty! This amazing trip has taken me almost a year to write about. I usually write as we go, but on our cruise with the Feeneys to the Bahamas, we had no internet without paying (and who wants to pay to surf when you're on the surf for real). Upon our return, the 4th of July and family were upon us, then the book project, then camp and so on.

So let's begin. It's Wednesday June 9th, almost Thursday June 10th, when we pick up Lewis, Lauren and Deirdre for our all night road trip to Charleston. Donny & Lewis take turns driving. We gals sleep. We make good time and arrive in Charleston around 9ish in the morning meeting John, Linda and Colleen who have checked in the night before. Our check-in is later in the day, so we freshen up as best we can and head for old Charleston.

Our first order of business for sure is food. J, L & C have done a great job of scoping the day before and suggest Toast for a fine southern breakfast. It is everything they suggest and more. We are full and ready to tour. We have planned a full day in Charleston before our cruise begins on Friday afternoon.

Between planning and executing, I have come upon a book illustrating opportunity and it just so happens that the publisher's offices are in Charleston, a few blocks away. This is a great chance to meet and talk with the folks and see if I really want to take on the project with its looming deadline. I have chatted with Hannah and she has time. We have not mentioned this to anyone because it literally just came to fruition (which I never thought would actually happen) mere days ago. And so when the group starts sorting out plans for the day, I bring up the side trip. We are going to walk to the offices but John say the address is over by the Citadel and a bit far for a quick walk. We decide to take the bus. The rest of the group is going to browse around Charleston.

We call Hannah about which bus to take. She says the bus times are sketchy and she'll send a cab which she does, but he takes forever to find us, right in central Charleston. Then our driver, very nice but new to the job, cannot locate The History Press, our destination. He tries to drop us off at one point saying the building is just one block away according to his GPS. We do not have time to search it out and politely tell him to keep driving until he finds the front door.

Good thing we stuck to our guns because the office is more than a block away, much more. He is apologetic. His sister is writing a children's book. I tell him that she and I can talk about illustrating.

Hannah meets us at the door. She gives us a tour, introducing us to everyone. They are extremely nice and it sounds like the project will be fun. Hannah offers to takes us back to meet the group and to avoid another cab ride we gladly accept. She drops us off near the Market. We all wander through the Market. It is wonderful and overwhelming all at the same time.

By now it is mid-afternoon and the heat oppressive. Donny & John opt to go back to the hotel and collapse. Linda wants to take a carriage ride and I'm for that. We end up with the best guide in all of Charleston. She is a wealth of information. She has been doing tours, walking and otherwise for ages. She personally knows many of the residents of the charming homes on the tour and tells us awesome stories. And surprisingly the ride is pleasant. We are in a covered carriage and up high enough there is a breeze.

After the ride, we head to the hotel to check in and freshen up for dinner. We dine at the famous Hyman's Seafood on Meeting Street. We have a table upstairs. The food is really good. Almost all of the tables have small brass plaques designating celebrity diners who have enjoyed a Hyman's meal or two.

After dinner we have a grand time playing some more on the bouncing rockers benches Charleston is famous for. Donny & I really want a few of these for Bayside. They will fit right in.

Friday, April 29, 2011

In Honor of the Royal Wedding

In honor of the royal wedding I've dug up my blog post (thanks to Donny reminding me about it) on our one full day in London!

We’re off again for another birthday travel present from my guy. This time it’s London for a day+ and then Paris for two weeks.

We leave home around midday to make our 10PM British Airways flight from Dulles. The traffic isn’t too bad considering that we end up driving through rush hour traffic on the far outer fringes of DC. We find economy parking with no problem but encounter our first almost mishap when we leave a suitcase behind on the bench when we board the shuttle. Fortunately it is night and we are the only passengers, so the driver has time to be more attentive to us and notices the orphan. Donny thought I had it and I he.

Next stop is to check our bags and settle in for the wait as we needed to be at the airport three hours prior to departure. Finally boarding time comes and everyone queues up at the first call. Maybe they are all sitting in the back rows. Anyway we bid our time and eventually get on the plane. First class seats are the coolest I have ever seen. They swivel around so you can rotate four together to play cards or chat or two can be rotated head to toe so that each person ends up with lots and lots of leg room. This also turns the chair into a chaise lounge, which all adds up to a better night’s sleep than most airplane rides give you. There are also fan like shades on either side to help keep out neighboring lights.

Steerage is much less impressive but okay. I manage to sleep a fair amount including through breakfast which is fine by me. I like food coming back from Europe better than food going.

We touch down at 9:40 and by 10 have some British money and are on an airport bus to the tube. The bullet train is not working so we have to take the regular tube which is not so bad. We opt to buy a Travelcard which will let us use either train or bus for one day on an unlimited basis. One train change and we are at Liverpool St, our stop. We have to walk north about eight blocks to reach the St Gregory. The weather is fine just cold.

It’s a nice hotel on the edge of the east section of old London. Our 3rd floor room is plain but nice. One wall is a window overlooking London proper but mostly we see ordinary buildings. By now it is about noon. We consider going out but the bed beckons and we crash for several hours. The sheets are so soft and the duvet warm.

Around three we struggle out of bed and decide to explore a bit. I have printed a one day in London guide I found online before we left and Donny has some British Airways suggestions. We have not thought to get a Rick Steves book. We do not want to jump on the internet because there is a fee. All we have at this point is a tube map. Even the usual around town guide found in hotels rooms is missing. We will fumble along. We decide to follow the tour route my one day guide suggests.

We hope a bus and head for the upper deck. It’s very warm and cozy. Outside is getting dark and dampish. Shortly we are at Aldsgate, a stop near the tower, our destination, so reluctantly we leave the warm bus. With no map to guide us we can only wander in the general direction we think we ought to be going but we don’t mind, everything is so interesting. We spot a church remnant that is from an early century. Very rare as large chunks of London were either burned in the great fire of 1666 or destroyed during World War I and II. Everywhere we see ultra modern buildings interspersed with the old. The new buildings are mostly glass and have very futuristic looking designs.

We decide to have a bit to eat at the Drawn and Quartered pub but it is full of folks meeting for drinks after work, no room for sitting, and so we move on down hill toward the river. We see ice skating ahead. We have made it to the tower. There is a winter rink in the courtyard. It is festively lit. We watch from the tower bridge approach for awhile and then wander down the ramps looking for a dining place. We find a better view of the skaters and small selection of snack food. I buy a piece of fruitcake for later and after we take a few pictures, we continue our food search. Everything around the tower is closed up. We are a bit surprised, it is not that late.

Back up on Tower Hill I see people on an upper level of a glass building eating. We head that way and find a Wawamama noodle factory. We pop in and get seated. The tables are set up cafeteria style but everything is elegantly and efficiently served. The food is wonderful. I have salad and Donny soup. He is happy to have a wooden spoon instead of chopsticks. We order Japanese beer that is mild but flavorful. We find it clever and amusing that the dessert selections are printed on the table mats.

We have not arrived too soon. Before we finish eating last orders are taken. I have chocolate cake with wasabi white chocolate dressing. It is superb. Donny has sorbet with fresh fruit.

Our high thread count sheets call. We catch a bus home and are soon slumbering in London town.


Dec. 16th, 2005 | 04:02 pm

The Eye's on Me
Originally uploaded by wellingtonrabbit.
The condensed version

1. Struggle out of bed
2. Eat complimentary hotel breakfast at 7th floor restaurant – great panoramic view looking west over the city
3. Buy bus ticket around the corner
4. Hop bus to London Bridge
5. Get bus map (finally) at London Bridge Station/ big and bustling
6. Leave station; Donny asks about old cathedral close by; I say it must be a lesser place as it is not noted on my walking tour guide
7. Walk down Nancy’s Steps (from Oliver Twist) to cathedral
8. Discover cathedral is Southwark, very important; Shakespeare’s brother and John Harvard (university founder) both worshipped here
9. Get nice private tour talk from Welcomer lady
10. Walk to St Mary Overie Dock where replica of Golden Hinde (Sir Francis Drake’s ship) is docked; very small, intimate place
11. Pass by rose window; remains of Bishop of Winchester’s Palace
12. Pass by The Clink, BofW’s personal prison
13. Continue walk along Thames, this whole area called Bankside; then outside London proper so not subject to city regulations
14. Have coffee at Starbucks next to Globe Theatre; not impressed with Globe
15. Finish coffee; walk round the corner; see real Globe; now impressed
16. Amazed at the three 17th century houses next door rather tucked away in the middle of all this commerce; they are for let; Provost Lodging
17. Note Cardinal’s Cap Alley; very narrow walkway typical of the 1500’s
18. Overwhelmed by Tate Gallery of Modern Art (will go inside another trip), partially housed in first London public power station; it is huge; we walk through garden
19. Cross Millennium Bridge; called wobbly bridge as it had to be closed for a year to fix constant wobbling that resulted from too many people on it at same time
20. Wonder about odd look of St Paul’s; as we get closer discover we have been looking at cloth façade covering sand blasting
21. Get city map from Tourist Information; at last a guide to the rest of London
22. Do not chose to pay fee to see St Paul’s inside; walk through garden
23. Head back toward Thames; pass St Andrew’s By-The-Wardrobe
24. Pass Blackfriars Bridge; walking is fun but the levels and lack of pedestrian crosswalks in places make it challenging; I tell Donny we need a 3-D map too
25. Find the river walk; pass many war memorials
26. Pass Somerset House
27. Pass Charing Cross Station
28. Marvel at Obelisk and history of it; make friends here with a lone tourist that we photograph on his camera phone in front of the adjacent Sphinx; he takes our picture
29. Pause across from the Eye; Donny takes my picture with it as my halo; see our friend and take his picture with Eye; decide not to cross over to find out why it is not running (even at night we never catch it running)
30. Approach Big Ben and House of Parliament
31. Turn away from river at Westminster Bridge
32. Circle Parliament Square noting protest signs
33. Walk around Westminster Abbey; do not pay to go in
34. Pass Jewel Tower which looks interesting but it is getting toward dusk and we have more to see
35. Confused about where Diana got married (I think St Paul’s as the steps are better for showing off the gown) we also cannot decide where her funeral service was held; Donny thinks he remembers a walk from Buckingham
36. Walk on to Westminster Cathedral which I have noticed on the map near Buckingham so maybe the service was here
37. Arrive at this Roman Catholic place of worship so beautiful in its red Byzantine style after walk down Victoria St
38. Photo interesting huge (wider than the church) flag spread out in cathedral outside entry courtyard (it is gone by the time we leave)
39. Happy there is no fee we go in; contributions to offset the daily operating costs (L3000) are welcome
40. Stop at adjacent McDonald’s (at the separate “McD’s Café” inside) for bathroom break
41. Need to shop for some gloves for Donny; we are in a shopping district and it flows toward Buckingham Palace; but no gloves are found here
42. Reach Buckingham Palace as a car is entering; much searching is going on; it is now dark and the whole scene is very clandestine-like
43. Have to backtrack on ourselves to simply cross the street to walk down The Mall
44. Walk down The Mall past St James Park toward Trafalgar Square; it is dark
45. Intend to see the tree in Trafalgar Square (which was lit yesterday) by night we come upon it just as we planned (it is tall but skinny)
46. Go inside St Martin’s in the Field which is diagonally across from the square
47. Hungry, we dine amongst the dead in the Crypt Café; we have stumbled upon the best in London for church meals; it is equal to a five star restaurant
48. Hustled out (but we did get to eat at a nice pace) because a sold out concert is about to start and the cafe is closing
49. Buy expensive StM’s academy and chorus Christmas cd in the bookstore as it is closing (the partially pulled down metal security doorway, literally, on Donny’s head as he walks into it leaving – nice bruise, no blood)
50. Head for Covent Garden which is supposed to be beautiful at night
51. Climb Duke of York steps
52. Consider theater tickets at Leicester Square
53. Would go to Christmas Carol with Patrick Stewart but starts 6/12 (6 December)
54. Have been stopped three times (including once by a bus driver) for directions; we pass for Brits
55. Find gloves at a shop (Next) in Covent Garden
56. Weave our way through narrow cobblestone walkways into the square
57. Photo tree from good side; side without garishly lit Santa (note Covent Garden literature also photos non-Santa side)
58. Aim for bus stop
59. Board bus to Shoreditch (Globe Theatre originally in this district) and hotel
60. Arrive at St Gregory
61. Shower and pack for early departure
62. Happy Birthday #62


Slideshow #1-21
Slideshow #22-62
Donny's London

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Santa Dan

I'm in the process of updating my website and I decided to relocate this fun piece of my history here since I am getting ready to do a rewrite over there!

In the picture is me; granddaughter Lydia and her American Girl doll, Lydia; Santa Dan, one of the original Miller & Rhoads Santas; and Donna Deekens, Snow Queen in the program for many years. We are at the Children's Museum in Richmond where the Santaland program now resides. (So sad, not magical at all). We were doing Donna's book signing and knew that Santa Dan would be there. Emily drove the kids down from Springfield to see the real Santa. Donna took a pause from the signing to go say hi to Dan and invited me along. Lydia happened to be chatting with us at the time, taking a break from playing in the museum, having already seen Santa. We all dashed to Santa's side, cutting in line to the annoyance of many. The signing was in the main lobby. Santa in his own room. Folks in the lobby could watch the Santa activity on a monitor. Suddenly Emily, who was in the lobby with Donny and grandson Martin and had not seen us dash, spots Lydia on the monitor,"That's my daughter with Santa and the Snow Queen!" She got some funny looks. "No really it's okay, she's with her grandmother too."

My Richmond roots run deep. I attended Westhampton School on Patterson Avenue from grades K-2. We lived in the Little House my grandfather built behind their Big House at 6416 Three Chopt Road. I rode the city bus from school and walked by myself up Old Mill Road to home. We did the military life for the next few years with a small stop during 5th grade to slip back into Westhampton School where I joined old classmates Cary Shade, Tommy Tucker and Patsy Tyler. Our military wandering finally landed us permanently in Whitehall, Ohio but every Christmas was spent at 6416. Patsy always include me in local fun like cotillion, trips to the Clover Room and visits to her school, Thomas Jefferson. Shopping at M&R was a must with a stop to say hi to Breezy in Junior Colony where Mom used to work. I started college at Miami in Oxford, Ohio but transfered to RPI to study Fine Art during the beatnik era. I was one of the first coeds to live at 909 W Franklin, Mrs Bocock's private home. I tutored friend Webby Rhoads III's new wife, Carolyn in math and got rides to my student teaching gig (at Westhampton) with good friend, Northern Neck Judge Gordon Wilkins, who then lived in his car. After graduation I worked in advertising at M&R with Gene South and Jack Horne. A few years later I moved on to teach art at Varina HS and marry Donny Ball from Seven Pines in a fairy tale wedding at St James Episcopal Church. We lived in a tenent house on Slim & Virginia Mistr's Darbytown Road farm in Varina before buying our first home at 54 Oakland Road. It had an apple orchard next to an aging daffodil field, a hill great for sledding and two ponds perfect for ice skating. In September of 1983, just in time for school to start, we relocated to Kitty Hawk Bay on the Outer Banks. We find the beach life just the thing for us, our five children and six grandchildren.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Way of the Universe
















The year was 1969. The exact date June 7th. Donny & I were getting married! The church was St James Episcopal Church in Richmond. We were new there and found ourselves connecting well with the also new assistant rector, Rev Robert Hall Jr. He was a come late to the ministry, hip priest and we adored him.

We planned a traditional wedding with family and friends participating. My sister was Maid of Honor. Donny's best friend from the Naval Academy, Dow Needham,  Best Man.

I wanted my brother to be a part of the service in a meaningful way. Too big for the role of ring bearer, he could have been a junior usher but I wanted something special just for him. We asked Bob (Rev Hall insisted that we call him Bob) if Star could be our acolyte. Raised a Methodist, Star did not know anything about the job. Not knowing my family well Bob asked if Star could handle the task. There was a bit more to it than just lighting candles. Star had to hold the vows book while Bob read from it and a few other tasks as well as light and extinguish the candles. We assured Bob that Star would follow his every instruction and do well, which he did. He was a natural.

This past week when I looked up the obituaries at Currie Funeral Home in Kilmarnock to make a copy of Star's for a family friend, I saw two lines above his, the name Reverend Robert C Hall Jr. Yes, it was our Rev Hall. He had died three days before Star and his service was today, Easter Monday. Even in this remote part of Virginia there is another funeral home a stone's throw down the road and another but miles away. And yet they landed together. Without any doubt in our minds, Donny & I both knew that Rev Hall wanted us to know that he would help Star embark on his new journey.

When they met for the first time, Star was there to assist Rev Hall. When they met for the second, and last, time Rev Hall was there to assist my brother.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

In Memoriam Starke Jett V


I had a waking dream the night before my brother's funeral. In my dream I spontaneously stood at the end of the service and began singing Seek Ye First, knowing the congregation would follow. This beautiful hymn is easy to sing, can be sung in a round, and has a lovely descant. For these reasons we used to sing it quite frequently during communion in the little chapel at St Andrew's where all services were held, long before the new building was even a vision. It would be sung by the choir and the congregation as communion was being served. It was uplifting.


Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God
And His righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto you
Allelu Alleluia
Ask and it shall be given unto you
Seek and ye shall find
Knock and the door shall be opened unto you
Allelu Alleluia

But in my dream I could not remember the words and so hesitated to stand as I also cannot sing. I could not nudge Donny, who has a stunning voice, to sing because I could not remember the name of the hymn or any of the words, only the melody, which in any off key attempt by me would remain a mystery. The point was proven this morning when in telling Donny about the dream and trying to hum the tune for him, he could not figure out what hymn I was talking about.

Yesterday, the morning of the funeral, I forgot about the dream in the bustle of getting out of the house and on the road. It just came back to me today and I started crying. The funeral was all it should not have been. There was no praise for my brother's many accomplishments, save a lovely tribute by our sister, who at that had to muscle her way into the service. There were no hymns. There were no scripture readings. There were no prayers of commendation. I so wish I had remembered my dream in time to act upon it. Carry a tune or not, with or without words, I would have risen to the occasion. He deserved that.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Saddle Sore

The year was 1965. I had just graduated from college and had a job in downtown Richmond. My apartment, The Cave (which I actually acquired days before the dorm closed. Funny now to think how very unconcerned I was about where I would live) was blocks away. The bus schedule was too limiting, walking was a good option, and I did that a lot, but I needed a bike. I had no money. Naturally I had no car.

I really needed a bicycle to get around. But not just any bike would do. it needed to be an English racer like Dad brought me from England (on his bomber, handle bar taken off so it would fit) when I was in high school. It got stolen when I was in college after my family moved to Maryland.

Friend Sam Cotton, nephew of actor Joseph Cotton (Citizen Kane), and so good looking we called him Beautiful Sam, jumped in and offered to get me one for a good price from his dad's bicycle shop in DC. Done. $47 and Liza was mine! She has aged well. She's really too rusty to work any more but I'll never part with her. I love to look at her and fondly recall all of our escapades together. Top shelf in every way she was a Raleigh with a Sturmey Archer gear box. Maybe best of all she had a Brooks saddle, which I stubbornly refused to replace even when it fell apart. A little duct tape and all was well.

Riding my spiffy new folding bike today, I yearned for that Brooks saddle, which I would have put right on my Xootr Swift when I got her (bike awesome, saddle not so much) but it was not an easy transfer, so I bought a new Brooks. It's tooled leather and stunning. And it will be a faithful companion.

But today I was sorely reminded how much work breaking in a new saddle can be.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dad Was Clutch

Being an Air Force pilot since the mid-40's, Dad knew his way around most planes. In the early late 50's he decided to fly us in this Piper Cub from Ohio, where we lived, to Florida to visit friends as well as his sister and her family.

Many stories wander through my memory of that trip including us landing in Tampa at McDill Air Force Base without proper clearance. Dad talked his way out of that one and they even found a hanger for the plane while we were there. My dad was definitely a good one with words.

My most vivid memory of that trip though involves us on our return trip north putting down at a small airstrip in Georgia in the late afternoon to refuel us, and the plane. There was a tiny terminal, and I do use that word loosely, where we found a few vending machines and really dirty bathrooms with open boxes of mice poisoning in every corner. Mom was not a happy camper. The sooner we left the better in her firm opinion.

There was a big thunderstorm approaching from the west and it looked fierce. Dad was pretty sure we could get off the ground and up over it but it was going to be close. Our other choice was to stay the night in the terminal. The airstrip was in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing but farm land around for miles. I suppose there was someone manning the terminal that could possibly have taken us somewhere, but I don't recall them being very helpful.

And so we boarded up and taxied to the end of the runway to prepare to take off. I was always the navigator. Mom and my sister, Suzanne, sat in the back of our four seater. Our bother, Star missed the trip, he would not be born until a year later. A quick pre-flight check finished we head down the runway getting up speed. The storm is moving fast right toward us. Dad's giving the plane all its got. I'm at that age, a young teen, where my mind set is probably something like, "This is like a cool roller coaster ride, right? Dangerous, but safe."

Mom is screaming that we're not going to make it. The winds are crazy. My sister, ten years younger than me, is probably more worried about how much her hand hurts from Mom squeezing it than the take-off. Or Mom's got her eyes covered, or both. She, usually very vocal, is quiet.

Dad is cool. "Don't worry, Midge. I've got this."

We are getting really close to the end of the runway and haven't lifted off yet. The inevitable power lines that always seem to be right there at the end of every runway in every little airstrip loom just up ahead. This is going to be close. I look at Dad. He's focused, no worry shows on his face.

And then literally at the very, and I mean very, end of the bumpy runway, we lift off barely missing the power lines. We rise so fast we are over the storm in seconds.

Yup, my Dad was clutch, all the way.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tour de France rolls into Town Paris 25/7/2010
















Today, January 25, 2011, is a fitting day to finally wrap up my posts about our Paris on a Whim adventure, exactly six months since we witnessed the last day of the Tour de France.

It's been a perfect trip. We have had fun. I have created a work of love. And for the last day I have met my goal of having one day totally free from illustrating. There is nothing left to do, the project is complete. The body of art is splendid and perfect. I am extremely proud of it. Later back in the states I learn that I have entirely missed the mark of the author's vision, and at that point am more than willing to step away from the project, but the publisher wants me to stay the course, with a few changes, and so I do.

Today before heading over toward Champ Elysses to see what we can see of the race as mere spectators, Donny & I  carefully roll the precious illustrations as one unit in protective paper. The copy sheets are very big and rolling is the only way to get them into my carry on which is where they will travel. No way will they leave our sight. It's a snug fit but works and after that the rest of the packing is easy. We do have a concern about weight, not wishing to pay for extra pounds and so I wolf the remainder of the rhubarb preserves I have longingly wished to bring home to savor on special occasions.

Crossing Pont Louis Philippe we see Paris Plages in full swing. So many activities. We do not wander down to the beach but stroll swiftly along Quai de l'hotel de Ville. At Pont des Arts we hang a right and then a left to cross by the Louve pyramid. We continue on into des Tulieries and at the end find the best place we can up top to see something. We are peeking through a steel fence right above the street that leads onto Place de la Concorde but for now there is nothing but spectators to see.

It is thankfully a nice day, not very hot. Eventually we spy support vehicles. They pass in a never ending line of vans and buses and cars and trucks. All very colorful and sporting bright logos. Then there is nothing. We wait and we wait. At last we hear a roar from the crowd down below. They can see the velos and riders coming. And in a blur the dozen or so leaders are past. A much larger pack of slower cyclists bring up the rear. Followed by support cars. Eight laps they give us and each is a fast blur. It seems to take about 3 minutes per lap but that's a guess.

We head back toward the Seine and meander along the river bank watching performance art, ducks swimming, a wedding, and just before home, we wander through Paris Plages. Back at the flat we pack a bit more and head for the Polidor on Rue Monsieur Le Prince, where Emily & Marty took me for my first meal in Paris. Donny has steak tartare. It is very pink and actually quite tasty.

We are done. We have explored, worked, and wined & dined our way through another delightful Paris excursion.