Saturday, March 24, 2012


This picture, recently passed on to me by my cousin (the child sitting in the chair), fascinates me. When I saw it, I didn’t recognize ONE thing in it – a real surprise, considering that the girl on the right is my sister and the one in the middle is me. I had nothing in my memory to connect “us” with these children.

Of course after getting used to the picture, I can now “see” us and don’t understand how it was that I couldn’t see it at first glance. But I say to myself that I have no recollection of my sister ever having long hair like she has here. I have no understanding why I would be in bedroom slippers when I am not in my own house, I can’t figure out why my cousin is sitting away from us and not participating in what we were doing (and just what was that?) and I don’t recognize the setting, except that there IS a picture on the right hand side that definitely is my cousin at a younger age.

My cousin Shirlee knows when it was taken, because she said it was when she was recovering from rheumatic fever or some other such sickness that I don’t remember her having. But I’d guess it was taken sometime between 1945 and 1947.

Memory and recognition are sometimes strange things. An example: In 1988 the old girl scout troop I was in for a 10 year period covering grades 5th through high school graduation, arranged for a Girl Scout “meeting” in conjunction with our 35th high school reunion but held the following day. One of the ladies offered to hold a pot luck at her house. I had not attended the school reunion but was anxious to see my old scout friends. When I pulled up to Mary Lee’s house, another car pulled up right behind me. The other driver and I both got out carrying plates of food and obviously were headed to the same place. But I did not recognize her at all. Nor apparently did she recognize me. We stopped at the sidewalk, faced each other with question marks on our faces, and said, “Who are you?” I told her I was Bobby and she told me she was Irene. The minute she identified herself, I SAW her. How could I not have recognized her? She looked exactly the same as she had in 1945! And when we graduated in 1953. And when we’d seen each other at the various other scout reunions we'd had over the years. In a flash, she was changed from the face of a stranger to the face of my friend Irene.

Yet seeing the picture above elicited no such remembrance and I still don’t have a kind of “AHA!” feeling about it, a feeling of familiarity. That made me think of how many memories I have of events, places and people of my childhood that are directly connected to pictures in the baby book my mother kept for me and for the several photo albums I kept throughout my childhood. I SAY I remember my grandma taking me when I was 4 years old from Long Beach to Los Angeles for lunch at Clifton’s and a ride on the Macy’s department store escalator. We went several times; my grandma liked to shop at Macy's. My mom and grandma always referred these trips as “binges.” Even hearing or reading that word conjures up vague memories of those times. I say I remember grandma and me doing this because the picture has familiarity.

I know I have a darn good memory of things past, but I also know that sometimes memories can be partly manufactured. An example is that after I had gone away to college my mother asked me if she could give my Storybook Doll collection (a childhood collection of no particular importance except that I always liked them) to my young cousin Nancy. That was fine with me. Nancy was 11 years younger than I was and I knew she would have fun with them. Many years later Nancy and I were having lunch together, talking about old times, and I mentioned my old Storybook dolls my mom gave her. She had no recollection of what I was talking about and denied ever having such dolls.

Later in thinking about this, it occurred to me that perhaps my mother gave them to my other cousin Karen, just a year younger than Nancy, and somehow in the intervening years my memory “slipped.” This was what my family always called a “right church, wrong pew” moment – some parts right, some parts not exactly right.

However, even with all those memory possibilities, I am still surprised at the picture above – at my sister’s hair (although I’ve wondered if it was near Halloween and we were in costume, her with a wig), at what on earth we were doing (apparently striking some kind of “vamp” poses, wouldn't you say?), and at why I don’t remember my cousin being sick for a long period of time (I was always the one who was considered sick, not Shirley.) I have to tell you that this photo still does not conjure up any recollection whatsoever. I now “see” that these truly are us, but I can hardly believe it so.

And because we are so dorky-looking, I almost wish I didn’t have to.

*NOTE: Click on picture to enlarge it.

Friday, March 23, 2012


The headline read “BUICK VERANO: GERITOL, NOT GEN-X"

In the business section of the LA Times I read what I thought was going to be a review of the new Buick Verano. The first reading made me mad. Not being a GenX’er any more, and being a sometimes driver of an old Buick, I took issue with being relegated to the Geritol generation.

However, a second reading showed that I actually missed the point. The writer was trying to be funny. And although I hate to admit it, he actually was.

He gave a glowing report of the inside of the car, but when he got to the outside, he was less than kind. Here’s what he wrote:
To be clear, the Verano is certainly not a bad-looking car; much of its look is similar to the rest of Buick’s conservatively styled products at the moment. It has a prominent chrome grille and wide, eager headlights out front. At the back is a handsome, straightforward design, accented only by a pair of thick chrome trim pieces that seem to draw their inspiration from the eyebrows of the late Andy Rooney.

The writer of the article equates “conservative” with “elderly,” which initially didn’t set particularly well with me. Although he says that Buick is aiming at buyers of more luxurious cars – Lexus, Volvo, etc. – (and here’s where he is funny) he says the exterior design reinforces the notion that a Buick is only for people who buy Ensure by the pallet.

I finally laughed. It’s fun to read something clever and well written. And I think he was kind to write “Ensure” instead of “Depends.”

Thursday, March 22, 2012


I’ve been reading a book written by a woman who moved to India and she talks a lot about the trouble with learning the unwritten customs inherent in a culture different from her own. I was reminded of all the learning that Jerry and I had to do when we moved to Turkey for 18 months. His job was to set up a metal building business for a joint venture between a privately owned American company and a privately owned Turkish company.

We were met at the airport by two young men from the Turkish company. One, Melih, was to be the accountant for the new company. He spoke good English. The other was the driver that had been assigned to us. His name was Ahmet, and he spoke some English, though it was quite rusty from not being used for about 8 years. Ahmet had lived for a few years in London, where he picked up some English, but it took a while for him to understand us, and for us to understand him.

We were advised that the Turkish company was going to order a car for Jerry’s use, but until that happened, Ahmet was to use a company limousine, a Mercedes, to be exact. (See above) Now this sounds pretty prestigious, but it was old and beat up, with several of the windows being held in place by wire. But the engine was good so we had no complaints, other than we felt very uncomfortable being chauffeured everywhere. Upon leaving the airport on our way to the Hilton Hotel, where we would stay until we could decide where to live, we felt like we were the Astors, not the Titles sitting in the back of that 7 passenger limo!

Ahmet was much more impressed with the limo than we were. The car that was to be our ultimate “company” car took a long time to arrive – and we had no clue what the Turkish partner was going to provide. We spent many months using that old blue limo, even taking it on several weekend trips (driver included) out of the metropolitan area.

One day Ahmet phoned me to ask if I would take a picture of a new car that had just been delivered. I wondered if it might be the one we were going to get. Ahmet said none of the drivers knew who it was for, but he hoped it would be for us.

I walked the few short blocks over to the company and sure enough, there was Ahmet standing beside a shiny white brand-new limo. I could see the gears of his mind working to imagine how he would look in the driver’s seat….so I snapped a photo like he wanted. The next morning Ahmet arrived all glum and downcast; he told us that at the end of the day, the boss came out with his driver, got in the new white limousine and drove off.

It was hard to keep Ahmet the driver separate from Ahmet our friend. Constitutionally, Jerry and I do not think of people according to their rank. Ahmet helped us a great deal and we felt like he was part of our family. We had great fun together, the three of us. But during the working day, we had to allow Ahmet to be a driver like the other drivers. If we were out to lunch on a Saturday, we expected him to sit at the table with us and we paid for his lunch. During the work week, he always sat with the other drivers over in the corner of a restaurant.

Finally, many months down the line our company car arrived. Ahmet didn’t say a word, but I know he was disappointed. Even the driver of a rattle-trap Mercedes had more cachet than the driver of a little Ford, shiny and new notwithstanding. It was not so hard for us to sit in the back seat in this car. And it certainly made for easier conversation while we were out and about. But we knew Ahmet was disappointed.

We lived on the Asian side of Istanbul and Ahmet lived across the Bosphorus. He did not have a car. It was a long trip to and from work for him, necessitating a combination of busses, boats and dolmuses. There were only two bridges crossing the Bosphorus, with both before and after work necessitating a trip of at least an hour or so. It made for a long, long work day. But when the little Ford was turned over to us, we told Ahmet that we would like him to take the car home with him at night and pick Jerry up in it the next morning. We made sure he had insurance, told him he would need to keep gasoline in it, and to take care of it as if it were his own car. And he needed to be available for us on short notice. He agreed, and for the rest of the time we were in Istanbul Ahmet had a car. He never once inconvenienced us, and I’m sure he found it much more satisfactory than being able to drive a new limousine only once or twice a day on the job.

Jerry and I never did work up the feeling that we were deserving of some special kind of attention. I think perhaps Ahmet was left with a picture of us that was not really who we were. But I also think that we probably made those two years for him as different and as exciting as he made them for us. It was a good swap, and in spite of a few little snags now and then that we never did understand (and which we considered par for the course because it certainly must have been a cultural thing), we were sorry to go home when our time there was over.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


The picture above does not have anything to do with school, although it looks like a composite of many things I wore during my school years, though not at the same time. In the picture I didn't show the model's head, but it really was a perfectly nice picture of a perfectly nice face, but since I was going to refer to it as a stupid-looking outfit I didn't want those words connected to the person! But can you imagine ever walking down the street looking like this? Is this now the trend? I hope not, because it is truly stupid looking.

However, it got me thinking about the changes in the way school clothes have changed in each generation. I can remember as a kid looking at pictures of my mother when she was little and laughing at the clothes she wore. I'd guess my children and grandchildren would laugh at childhood pictures of my clothing, too. However, today I'm going to show you what my scrapbooks say about what we wore to school.

This is a school picture of my mom's school about 1918. She is at the left in the middle row. She was in Caldwell, Kansas, which is just above the border of Oklahoma and almost due south of Wichita. It was a one room school house and this was the entire student body. I know that four of the children, one boy and three girls, belong to her Ryland family. Their Grandfather was one of the early residents of Caldwell, Kansas, coming to town in the early 1870s and basically living there the rest of his life. You can see what kind of clothing was appropriate for wearing to school at that time. We now would look at it and think the families of these school children must not have been very well off, but the Rylands were. This is just what all the kids in Caldwell wore to school in rural Kansas in the early part of the 20th century.

Now we are going to jump down a generation. The year is 1947 and the place is Long Beach, a good-sized city in California. This is my 6th grade class at Whittier School. Our families have gotten past the Great Depression and WWII. Kids in our class, who were all drawn from the residential area surrounding our school, were required to dress appropriately, which meant for the girls dresses (or skirts and blouses) and for the boys shirts and trousers. Girls did not ever wear long pants to school. We wore them at home, but definitely not to school.

Except for a few of the more mature 6th graders, none of us ever thought of how we were going to look. Our mothers bought us our clothes and we wore what she bought. There were no trends in clothing and certainly no "designer" labels. We wore cotton dresses with belts that tied in the back, hair ribbons in our hair, and socks with our shoes.

There is a drastic change, I think, between the look of my mom's generation and my own generation when it came to school clothes. No wonder I laughed at my mother's clothes.

And I really didn't see all that much change between the kinds of things I wore when I was a kid and what my own kids wore when they were in elementary school, below.

This picture actually was taken after Sunday School one day, but it still is a good example of how the third generation, my own children, dressed for school. I'd date this about 1967 or '68. We lived in Ontario, California. I made most of the girls' clothing. I liked to sew, the girls were still in dresses, and often it was simply easier and cheaper to buy enough material to make dresses when they needed them. Neither the kids nor their friends were fussy about what they wore. Clothing just wasn't a big deal. It wasn't for me and it wasn't for them. The girls were still required to be in dresses at school and the boys in pants.

If you noticed, there is one change that has taken place: knee socks started being worn. When I was in school there wasn't such a thing as knee socks. The big difference is that synthetic materials came to clothing; for the most part it didn't affect the kids as much as it affected the amount of ironing the mothers had to do on their kids' clothes.

But for some reason, there is a mighty change between what you see in my kids' elementary school apparel and in the next generation' much of a change as between my mother's generation and mine. Take a look at how the well-dressed child goes to school in Los Angeles today. These are my youngest granddaughters. They have picked out their own clothing since they were old enough to walk and point. If I hadn't taken them to school many times and seen what the other kids were wearing, I would think my little grandkidlets were wearing outlandish things. (Actually, what you see below is one of the more subdued "looks.") But honestly, this is the look that is in. I am not sure there is anything inappropriate for elementary school kids to wear to school now. Shorts, leggings, pants, long skirts, short skirts, name it, I've seen it on my granddaughter's playmates.

My, my, my. How times have changed. Yes, some of the schools have school uniforms (which actually I think is a good idea) but my little imps are good students and bright, happy children and I don't think that school uniforms would make any difference in their lives and their habits. It does make me wonder, however, just what the next generation is going to be wearing to school: space suits, maybe?

Friday, March 16, 2012


I keep finding that having surgery in December for my stupid gall bladder problem gave me a blog setback, as well as a physical setback. I had some good things happen to me last year that I intended to share at year end – and I swear that the surgeon took out some words and some memory, along with my gall bladder and stones, and I just forgot about it. Gradually I’m getting around sorting through all the lost things, and today I’m back at the “good things” idea.

The first thing that happened in 2011 was finding a family in Bakersfield that I’d been looking for ever since the internet got into social networking. In 1951 this family moved in down the street from us. They had a daughter Ruth, my age; a daughter Audrey, my sister’s age; a son Glenn, a year older than me; and then a cute young son about 7 named Norman. We all got along famously, and as it would work out, Glenn became my first boyfriend. A year passed, and their father’s job took him back to Bakersfield. I kept in touch with the family until the late 50s, at which time we lost touch. This past year I was able to locate little Norman on Facebook (not so little anymore!) and we had a “reunion” lunch at Hodel’s restaurant some months later. Glenn provided me with the wonderful picture above. Of special interest was that the car in the photo is the one that he and I painted baby blue using fly sprayers. Such memories. So that was Good Thing #1.

The second thing that happened was that through a strange set of events, which I won’t go into here, a first cousin who I’d been looking for since 1984 found me. Their parents, my Uncle and Aunt, divorced in the early 1950s. My aunt moved away, my uncle joined the military, and I never saw my two little cousins again. Because they lived next door to us in Long Beach and I was a teenager when they were just little tykes, I felt particularly close to them, and all these years I felt an incompleteness. In 1984 when I started into genealogy I began putting queries out, first in print sources and later, when the internet arrived, on the web. I hoped that one day one of them would stumble across their name and discover that I wanted to get to know them.

In spring of 2011 that very thing happened. I got a letter from my cousin Susan saying she had seen online that I was looking for her – and since then we’ve been in constant touch. She is a delightful person and we’ve had many long conversations over the phone. One of these days we’ll meet, I’m sure. So that was Good Thing #2

The third thing that happened was that my special friend Nancy arranged to have me spend two days with her in San Francisco where we got together to work on a booklet on her Buddington ancestors. We have worked together several times since 2004 on these family projects. She uses a computer but is not real comfortable with the graphics that are needed in a booklet, so she does the thinking and writing and I do the layout and the execution. We had thus far been limited to e-mails and phone calls; by spending two days with her we really got our heads together and made some progress. Since I’ve been in San Francisco many times we didn’t need to go sightseeing, but she did take me to some of her favorite haunts, put me up in a perfect hotel close to the ocean and the zoo, and we just had a great time together. She is a registered parliamentarian and in the last few years several times I’ve had to call for her expertise in solving a by-law problem for a group I was in. That was Good Thing #3.

The fourth thing that happened was that in October, Nancy came to little Mira Loma and spent the night in one of our complex's “corporate units” so she and I could sit in front of my computer (a desktop not meant for carting to San Francisco) and make the final decisions on what her booklet was going to look like. I picked her up in Torrance and we had a tour of all the coastal cities on our way back home, and she got a taste of what rural Riverside county is like. Again, we made those 48 hours count and we had a great time together. That’s Good Thing #4.

The fifth thing that happened will seem minor to most of you, but to a genealogist it is a major event. I have a blog called “Immortal Nobodies” in which I post information about my ancestors. Once such posting was about my great-great grandfather Uberto Wright, who was a preacher with the Church of Christ in Barren County Kentucky back in the 1870s and 80s. He was a man who lived what he preached, and in my blog I noted that I had hoped a picture of this man would search but it seemed, after 25 years of researching, it wasn’t going to happen.

Here’s Good Thing #5. A fellow named Terry Gardner, an expert in the field of Church of Christ historical documents, saw my blog and knew where a picture could be had. Of all places, it was on the web! Terry not only led me to it but managed to find a copy of his amazing obituary and many other writings Uberto had published. I am so grateful to Terry for this act of kindness.

And the sixth thing, although in 2012 not 2011, is the latest to happen. Just this past week I received an e-mail from another genealogist who said that he was convinced his family’s Katherine Alexander was one and the same as my family’s Catharine Alexander. His Katherine had married a “Mr. Dobbins” and my Catherine had married Rev. Robert B. Dobbins. His Katherine’s brother had gone from South Carolina to Clermont County, Ohio in the early 1800s, and my Catharine Dobbins and her husband had gone there after they were married in 1804. Further e-mail confirmed that these were the same person – and there was much hooting and hollering at both ends of the e-mails over such a serendipitous discovery. And how did it come to pass? A booklet I did in 2001 entitled “Four Generations of Dobbinses – 1773-1917” had been put on the internet by one of my cousins and was found by a descendant of one of the Alexanders. How good is that, I ask?

I may have lost my gall bladder and stones, along with some words and ideas in 2011, but overall I’d have to say “My Cup Runneth Over!” So many good things! How lucky I’ve been.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


In recommending a book about an artist in the first place one is apt to lose a few readers. In the second place, by mentioning that the book has some 860+ good, readable pages one is apt to lose another big chunk. But for those few hardy souls who are left, reading this book will be one of the best decisions he or she could make.

The authors of the recently published “Van Gogh: The Life” indicate in the book that their intent was to reach general readers as well as specialists. I can’t speak for those specialists but as a general reader I will say that they, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, have spectacularly succeeded.

When I put the book on reserve at the library I was unaware of how long it was, and after my name came to the top of the list, I realized I was going to be hard pressed to finish the book in the two weeks our library allows for checkouts. And the library’s policy is “NO RENEWING” on new books! I determined that I would need to read three chapters a day to finish it and I’d have to put my regular life on hold to accomplish it.

I needn’t have worried. From page one I was totally engrossed in the telling of Van Gogh’s life and times. I could not put the book down! I stayed up later at night reading. I read while the morning news was on TV. I opted for reading instead of taking a little afternoon nap. And I admit to letting my husband do all the work at the Laundromat this last week so I could finish the book. Oh, such a feast.

I have read one other book by these authors, “The Mormon Murders,” and I knew that their writing was very, very readable. Telling stories that have a lot of technical stuff in them can sometimes be deadly boring, but Naifeh and Smith avoid that. They use some words that in a less well-written book I might have skipped over because I didn’t know what they meant, but in the telling of Van Gogh’s story I stopped at every word I was unfamiliar with and looked it up, so as not to miss a thing! (William Manchester is about the only other author I have ever done that with.)

Now here is an example of the kinds of experiences I had in the reading of this book. I came upon a paragraph where the authors are talking about a time sometime after Vincent’s ear-cutting episode where he wrote the following in a letter to his brother: “I have no need at all to go to the tropics….Personally I am too old and (especially if I have a papier mache ear put on) too jerry-built to go there.”

I stopped in my tracks at the word “jerry-built.” I knew what it meant, because I had an English teacher in the 10th grade who introduced that reference to the class. However, she said that it came out of World War I when the German army was in disarray and they were using boards and wires to hold their equipment together. She said that “Gerry” (that’s the spelling she used) was a term used for those in the German army and that Gerry-built or Gerry-rigged meant something barely held together. But when I read the above statement in the Van Gogh book, which was taken from one of Van Gogh’s letters to his brother Theo, I saw that the term was in use at a time considerably earlier WWI like my teacher said. So then I had to go on the internet to find out why my understanding of the timing was so “off.” I learned it was my English teacher who was a bit off in her attribution, but this whole episode made me reflect how amazing it was that something I learned in 1951 could be resurrected and corrected in 2012 because of a book about a Dutch painter!

I had noticed early on that the book had no footnotes or endnotes and I wondered why. There are several appendixes at the end of the book, along with “A Note on Sources.” There the authors explain that the notes and their sources ballooned to roughly 5,000 typewritten pages, a length unmanageable in a single-volume biography. So they put them on line, free of cost to all researchers. That website is

As to the story itself, these authors know how to bring people to life. The book is not dry facts. It paints wonderful pictures with words. And beyond that, they have provided an abundance of Van Gogh’s spectacular paintings in full color on slick paper – even pictures that I had never seen before, and I’ve seen a lot of them.

I reluctantly returned “Van Gogh: The Life” to the library yesterday. I’m sorry to see it leave my home. I feel having that book in my hands for two weeks was a real gift, and I hope that it gets the readership it deserves. In the meantime, I have put the authors' previous book, on the artist Jackson Pollack, (which I had not known of) on my reserve list. I have no reason to think with the two books of Naifeh and Smith I’ve read being so good that the one on Pollack won’t be equally satisfying to me.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


My only experience eating kale was in England. We were staying with our cousins and Lea announced that she had bought some kale at the market for the evening’s vegetable. She said she’d never cooked it before, but the price was right and the vegetable man told her she needed to cook it a lot so it wouldn’t be tough but that it was tasty, so she bought it.

I’d never eaten it before. In fact, the only time I had ever been close to it was at the Claim Jumper restaurant where for years it always sat, raw and purplish, decorating the end of a plate. To the hand it felt like cardboard.

To make a long story short, it was a good thing Lea had other things on her menu that night, because not a one of us could gag down the cooked kale. I don’t remember how long she had cooked it, but it certainly wasn’t enough. I have looked askance at it ever since.

However, kale has suddenly come into fashion here in California and perhaps elsewhere. An article in today’s LA Times about using it as a salad almost makes one a believer. The cook has to go through some simple but important machinations to make it edible, but even doing that isn’t so off-putting as to strike it from the “To Try” list of an intrepid cook.

The key, apparently, is simple: Chop or tear it into bite sized pieces and then, using both hands, give it a good massage. Russ Parsons, whom I trust and who not only writes with words I can understand but also with directions I can follow, says to grab the pieces, squeeze the daylights out of them and then rub them together. Like kneading bread, he says. You are supposed to watch the pieces wilt as you rub. And instead of staying tough, they will turn dark and silky. If you do this correctly, and he makes it seem as if it’s not possible to err, the volume would reduce to about half of what you started with.

He says a little taste will confirm that you have massaged long enough, that you will find a sweet component that shows up to mitigate and blend with what little bitterness there might be. The best part of the whole thing is that you really don’t need much in the way of a dressing. He suggests a bit of good olive oil and salt on the leaves while you are massaging and a squeeze of lemon juice (or vinegar) upon completion – and VOILA', there’s your salad. He says this works with all kale, no matter the color.

Even better, he suggests mixing in some home-made toasted bread crumbs and then topping the salad with grated or shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Russ notwithstanding, I still remember the feel of the first bite of the greyish-green cooked kale as it went down my esophagus so many years ago. That was enough to make me think I probably now should leave well enough alone. But that was then and this is now and I might take another look at the kale next week when I go to the grocery store.

I wonder if all this is true and if Russ himself tried it and found it to his liking…. I wonder.

Friday, March 9, 2012


At 4:30 a.m. this morning the cat decided it was time for breakfast, and to make sure I got the message, she jumped up on the window sill and proceeded to push each of my California Raisin Jazz Band off onto the floor one by one. I'm sure she understands that it's the "THUNK" they make as they hit the metal base of a floor lamp nearby that rousts me out of bed.

I got the message all right, but it also occurred to me that perhaps if I showed you my musical California raisins, you would balance out yesterday's critique of certain kinds of jazz with the pleasure I get in seeing these little guys ready to make their kind of music. These raisins aren't playing avant-garde stuff but rather good Dixieland jazz. And the smiles on their faces really reflect mine when I hear jazz I can understand.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


A small private university near us sponsors a monthly jazz concert. The price is right (free), the participants are all professional musicians and because this event is held in a small alumni house on campus, we are able to sit really close to the performers, enabling us to watch them in a way that one can’t ordinarily do at a big concert. As the name of my blog might indicate, I prefer “cool jazz” but that era is past, so I listen to that jazz at home and take pleasure in what is offered at these little concerts.

But last night’s concert – at least the half that I was there for – was just not my cup of tea. And I’m sorry to say we left at the intermission. We arrived a bit early and I heard them rehearsing after they got set up. It did not sound like music. And what followed – the opening number on their program – was more of the same.

I try to be open to different styles of music. Much of what I don’t like is because I don’t understand it. I was hoping that when this piece was completed, the “leader” would say something that would help me understand what was played. But no, all he said was that the name of it was “She” but was being changed to “Woman.”

I first got interested in just more than “listening” to music when I was in college. I sang in the choir and we did some pieces that were full of all kinds of dissonant chords and changing tempos. Most were quite hard to sing initially, but once they had been mastered, it turned into great fun to do a good job on them. Our prof took us to hear the Roger Wagner Chorale rehearse George Antheil’s *Eight Fragments from Shelley” and while parts of it didn’t sound like music as we knew it, we learned to love it just as we learned in English Lit to love Shelley’s poetry.

What I heard last night was the same kind of surprise that a newcomer to orchestral music might feel if he or she had been familiar with traditional musical works of Brahms or Beethoven and then sat down totally unprepared to listen to Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps.” Or more contemporaneously, John Adams’ new “City Noir.” To say this person might be nonplussed is an understatement.

That’s pretty much what I felt last night when I heard a bass, piano, sax, trumpet and drums, not to mention lots of little clangs and dings from various metal things lying around on the floor, play a piece of music that had, to my most virgin ears, no beat or tune, no rhyme or reason…. I know it was all there but I just couldn’t hear it and certainly couldn’t feel it.

In fact, when it was over I told Jerry that the nearest way I could describe it was that it was the way my chest feels when I am experiencing a bad spell of heart palpitations – but that’s another story. To be honest with you, I don’t like how I feel when that happens, and I don’t like how I felt when that piece of music was being played.

I admit that the problem is mine, not the musicians’. I tried my best to see it as an aberration in an otherwise good program, but it really wasn’t; and it wasn’t until about the sixth offering, a much more traditional bluesy piece, that I found a tiny bit of enjoyment. I really hated to leave at the intermission; I felt it wasn’t a nice thing to do to those fellows (AND a young female jazz pianist), but the idea of sitting through a second half on the hope that I would have some great enlightenment that would make the music suddenly enjoyable was just too much of a longshot. So we left.

Yes, I feel bad that I did. I can sit through the Rites of Spring and I can sit through City Noir, but last night I couldn’t sit any longer to hear that jazz. With apologies to the group.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


This is a picture of my mother. Anyone my age can take one look at it and know it was taken in the early 1940s. It's the hairdo that shouts that era the loudest.

It was the time when "rats" were used for many of the hair styles, rats being "stuffing" of a sort that the hair was wrapped around and then pinned in place, making pompadors that framed the face. Pincurls instead of rollers or blow-dryers were used to make curls.

I have lots of snapshots in my albums of mother during those years, always wearing her hair in what she called an "up-do." But that's really not the way I remember her.

She was always pretty, but I remember her mostly in "house dresses" - washable cotton dresses that were worn in the daytime, and mostly with an apron over it. The apron always had a bib on it and it was functional, used to keep the dress clean so when Daddy came home from work she looked fresh and not like she had worked hard cleaning the house, doing the laundry, ironing the clothes, sewing dresses for my sister and me, and all the other chores that fell to the "housewives" during those years.

I wear an apron when I cook and when I do dishes. People my age do, but for the most part the next generation doesn't even know what an apron is. I don't think they know what "house dresses" were and I KNOW they don't know what rats were.

I do have later pictures but still this is my favorite picture of her. Her name was Virginia Louise Ryland Dobbins. She was born in Colorado Springs on June 14, 1911 and she died on February 3, 1982. She was a good wife, a loving wife and loving mother.