Monday, November 30, 2009

More on A Christmas Cracker

Careful readers, periodically take pot shots at my reluctance to honor one of the stated goals of this blog, to point out the ways men and women differ. I plead guilty, with reservations. A greater fools errand than that I'd never invented. Then I came across this little gem in "The Illustrated Christmas Cracker", edited by J. J. Norwich.

Included is the following, a book review, unattributed but clearly written by a woman.

A book review from the American magazine Field and Stream, November 1959:

Although written many years ago, Lady Chatterley's Lover has just been re-issued by Grove Press, and this fictional account of the day-to-day life of an English game-keeper is still of considerable interest to outdoor-minded readers, as it contains many passages on pheasant raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways to control vermin, and other chores and duties of the professional game-keeper.

Unfortunately, one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material in order to discover and savour these sidelights on the management of a Midland shooting estate, and in this reviewers opinion, the book cannot take the place of J.R. Miller's "Practical Gamekeeper".

I had to dust off my ancient copy of this edition to give this review its due, but clearly, any male reviewer wouldn't be so quick, or so insensitive as to dismiss the extraneous bits.

I trust this will quiet the madding crowd for a while.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

All I want for....

As part of my public service awareness plan I will periodically present great ideas for presents for any occasion.

I lead off with this recent ad from one of my favorite shops. Cobblestone Shoe Repair. Yes, they are a shoe repair shop. They are craftsmen, who know and understand shoes. They are nit picky that way.

They also sell shoes. Alden. Allen Edmonds.

This is not an unsubstantial offer, for serious shoes. I recommend them highly.

This may finally get me to move these from my wish list to home, where they belong.


john julius norwich-A Christmas Cracker

Few Americans are aware of the erudite John Julius Norwich, 2ND Lord Norwich, only child of the British diplomat, notorious philanderer and war hero Duff Cooper and his wife, Lady Diana Cooper, the most desired hostess in between the wars England.

John has lived a fabled life, rich from exposure to most everyone of importance in the 20Th century, he's a well educated and enthusiastic raconteur, brought up since birth to provide "good value for money". Self described as "shallow", he is a most charming man.

Following Oxford he followed his father's career in the foreign service. Retired after a dozen years and took to writing, mostly histories, and editing. Later had an active television career, mostly in documentaries and is a well known speaker and preservationist in the UK.

For the past 40 years he has kept a journal of favorite little poems, odd definitions, strange anecdotes and curious correspondence. Since 1980, instead of sending Christmas cards, John has printed selections of his findings and mailed them to anxiously awaiting friends. Every 10 years they are collected and printed by Penguin.

My favorite are these two entries.

From Hoare's "Short Italian Dictionary, Cambridge, 1964
Baffona: f: Woman with not unpleasing moustache.

and this description of the Opera Carmen:(click photo to enlarge)


Saturday, November 28, 2009

With Very Limited Appeal

Kansas Citians of a certain age will never forget the stories surrounding the kidnapping and murder of Bobby Greenlease. Although it occurred before my time, in the Kansas City of my youth, there was still a lingering curiosity surrounding the death of little Bobby.

Zero at the Bone, by John Heidenry provides an almost minute by minute account of the planning, kidnapping, murder, get away, ultimate capture and execution of the two culprits. The story is told in a stone cold, just the facts ma'am fashion. It's riveting. Names, addresses, phone numbers. It's all there.

The story fascinates on several levels. As a true crime novel its gruesome in its detailed account. As a mystery story, it closely follows the mystery of what happened to the stolen half of the ransom money. Something that the Saint Louis Police Department still won't talk about.

If it's your kinda thing, its worth the hour or two it takes to get through it.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Let the games begin

Nothing like a refreshing jolt of holiday Kool Aid, taken neat, first thing in the morning. Let the games begin!

I love Thanksgiving. It is the holiday I have the best memories of. The weather in Mayberry is still pretty good. Often Thanksgiving is 10+ degrees warmer and much sunnier than Halloween. Our first hard frost isn't for another week, and snow won't come until the week before Christmas. It's a good time of year.

My usual way of doing business includes waiting for the coldest weekend of the season to install the outdoor Christmas lights. Every year I study the weather channel to make certain it wouldn't be colder tomorrow, when I plan on lighting today. The last two years installations have been embarrassments to the good name of decorative lighting. It never got cold, so I was reduced to Christmas eve,eve. Never a good time to do a thorough job.

This year I thought maybe I'd try something different. I'd think the job through, in advance, and take advantage of the exceptionally nice November weather we've been having. And so I did. The job while far better than the last two years may not be up to Kansas City Plaza standards, but pretty good none the less. Now I'm having a quandary. Seemingly, I have some time coming up. Do I add more decorations?

We are going to have a fun weekend, beginning with Mr. Fox this afternoon. check in later and let me know how you're doing.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In Preparation

I promise to wake up in Thursday morning with a smile on my face, drink the Kool Aid and prepare for a holiday season full of warmth, brotherly love, and good will towards all if you will allow me this one indulgence.

In any way shape or form, does the term "Black Friday" entice you to want to leave your home at an unreasonable hour, credit card in hand, ready to lay waste to bargains galore? Do you get that warm, fuzzy, cuddly puppy, happy memory, free association when you consider the day?

It doesn't me. I'll take the retail employees view. It fills me with dread.

There are at least two urban legends as to how the term came to be. Neither reflects positively on mankind.

Don't buy into the madness. I recommend you sleep in, shop on line a bit, take the kids and grand kids to see The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and ease gently into the shopping season. It'll be there.

I promise that is my last unkind post about the holiday season...unless....

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. If you'll be on the road be especially careful. I'll be waiting here for you.


Monday, November 23, 2009

book report day - My Three Fathers

Many of my favorite bloggers are fellow unabashed Anglophiles who periodically dip their toes into the heady mythology of upper class life, literature and mores of between the wars Britain. Today's recommendation has all that and spades. For added inducement, Mr. Patten offers a look at big time American WASP life with a bit of Washington/Georgetown politics thrown in for good measure.

If this is your cuppa tea let me suggest "My Three Fathers" by William Patten.

As the title suggests, the book is about his three fathers, but more importantly his mother, Susan Mart Alsop.

Father number 1 was Bill Patten, a minor American diplomat, New England WASP.

Father 2, his stepfather, Joseph Alsop, cousin of the Roosevelt's, long time syndicated political columnist.

Father 3, and unknown by the author until he was 40, his biological father, Duff Cooper, British war hero, Ambassador, legendary Lothario, and husband of Lady Diana Cooper, the most sought after hostess of her day.

Interwoven is his mother, noted Washington hostess, and novelist Susan Mary Alsop, descendant of the Jay family of American jurists, ambassadors, statesmen. Susan Mary had a gift for knowing everyone, and everything, and keeping it all under her hat.

You know the thrill of picking up a book, reading the blurb on the inside front cover, and saying to yourself, if this guy can write, I'll be up all night. This guy can write, I was up all night.

It is a fascinating family memoir, warts and all of his extraordinary family, an insight into post WW II history and strongly recommended.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Katy Day

Firstborns do not come with instruction manuals.

Too young couples are left to their own devices to figure out how to make the best of their new situations. We hadn't a clue.

Mercifully, infants are hearty and resilient souls and our daughter Katy not only rolled but prospered. From the moment of her birth she was queen bee. First child, first grandchild, first daughter in my family for many years. Later, as the only girl in a house of boys, she continuously made it clear she was no body's mouseburger.

While it often doesn't seem so at the time, children grow up too quickly.

In honor of her birthday today I present this photo extravaganza. Many of these photos I remember like yesterday.

Mercifully, she is on a beach somewhere on holiday and won't see this post for several days. Time enough for me to make my escape.

Happy Birthday Dahlink.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Shoe Queen

To quote the inimitable Governor of the great state of California, "I am a shoe queen." Second or third class in my case, but one none the less.

For fall and winter I favor chucka boots. Gotta be suede, gotta be hard soled. Brothel creepers are for spring and summer.

After about a minutes hesitation I picked up a pair of Bass Binghamptons yesterday. The color is browner than the photo shows, almost a snuff. After a strong coat of Scotch Guard they'll stand up to whatever winter throws my way.

Great shoes? No way, but they fit well and go with everything in my wardrobe. Who can ask for anything more?


Thursday, November 19, 2009


I am longing for a road trip, although none is in the offing anytime soon.

One of my life's greatest decadent pleasures while traveling is stopping for breakfast in a small town, far from home. To you it may be a simple pleasure, but for me it is an entire reason to hop into the car, and head off to parts far away.

I love the ambiance of small town cafes, being the unknown outsider in a place where everyone knows each other, listening to the farm report and local gossip. Lingering over a newspaper filled with stories from place names I have never heard of, and people I'll never hear of again.

Best of all who can wreck breakfast? I've only had one bad one. In a pinch I landed in a Waffle House, late Sunday morning near Asheville. I knew better, I did it anyway, I paid the price.

Always, if made in the back, you need to order a slice of pie to end your meal.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I have been watching WW II in HD on the History Channel the past several evenings.

If you haven't been watching, it is much like the wars shows when we were kids, Victory at Sea, World at War and the like, only unsanitized and in color.

Using narrated letters home to personalize the combatants, the film is moving in its purity and ugliness.

My point today is not to shill for a television program, but to suggest that if you know one, talk to a veteran this Thanksgiving. My father and uncles served in WW II and when prodded wouldn't (couldn't) talk about their time in uniform. I feel I missed a lot.

Our brothers, sisters and cousins who have served in conflicts since have stories that deserve hearing. We owe it to them to listen.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

This years project

Each year Mrs. T hosts a Christmas Eve dinner party for family and friends. We plan for about 50 people, get a pre-party head count well below that number, and somehow 50 show up. It's become a tradition.

Another tradition is that sometime around now, one of us will think up a new house project that just has to be concluded before the big event. Last year was a fairly insignificant crown moulding installation. Drum roll please, this year I am proud to announce our holiday project is hallway wainscoting.

I blame nerd girl, Mrs. Blandings for this years project. Her new stair runner photo set off a chain of events which can only mean several napless days and sleepless nights.

I spent most of the afternoon measuring and blocking projected panel sizes and locations. I was having trouble on the stairway until I remembered stair panels are not truly rectangular.

Hopefully, we shall be completed in time. We always are, but the added anxiety always makes for holiday fun.


Monday, November 16, 2009

History is written by the winners

While you are preparing for your traditional Thanksgiving school pageant its good to remember a little American History.

Americans tend to believe that the first European settlers to hit what is now the continental US were those dastardly, witch baiting Pilgrims who arrived near Plymouth Rock, Mass. Not true. Tidewater Virginians duel over less slanderous allegations.

Englishmen hit Jamestown settlement, in what is now Virginia in May, 1607, a good 13 years before Pilgrims came to our shores. In one of the great coincidences in history, the Jamestown settlers were met by English speaking natives. The natives learned English during the time of the earlier lost Roanoke settlement. One of the natives first questions was "Did you bring beer?" True story.

Those in the west often take a longer view of history than those in the east. Plymouth Rock and all their shenanigans is a long way from the Pacific. Westerners have a completely different dynamic than Virginians or Mass Bay colonists.

Those west of Denver know the Spanish were there first. Spanish explorers came to America 40 years ahead of the English. So successful were their explorations that Sante Fe,New Mexico had a large and growing population when in 1607, several months prior to the Jamestown landing, it was named capital of the Spanish New Mexico territory,

Easterners have a truly tough time wrapping that idea around their brains.

With a little more work on behalf of the Spanish, we might be enjoying tacos and dramas about Coronado instead of turkey and Pilgrims.


Sunday, November 15, 2009


You may have suspected that I'm something of a traditionalist. Not necessarily inflexible, just respectful of what came before.

That is why the weeks before Thanksgiving have truly begun to grate.

I'm sympathetic to the need of retailers to have a successful selling season, but I am uncertain why that requires Mrs. T's favorite radio station to begin with the Christmas tunes the day after Halloween. Or why the television networks have already begun airing Christmas specials.

Really, couldn't some things wait until Thanksgiving?

One of the downsides of moving Christmas from late December to mid November is that a sentient adult simply becomes sick of it, long before they hit the stores. I'm going back to my cave now.

On a completly different subject, have you seen Lonny Magazine? Lonny is an online bi-monthly design magazine founded by several escapees from Domino. Frankly, I find reading magazines on-line rather tedious, but it appears to be the future.


Friday, November 13, 2009

More questions

When, or more importantly why, did it become necessary to tell a man to remove his hat once he was inside a restaurant, or in a home, or at the table? Is this a regional thing somewhere? Where, I want to avoid going there?

My sainted mother would have knocked me into next week if I ever tried it. I know, in my heart of hearts, she would gladly and quickly rise from her grave today just to kick my backside if I pulled a stunt like that.

2. I suspect women are smarter than this, but I have been re-reading a number of old magazines lately. Ancient issues of Esquire, GQ, stuff that passed for gospel in my 20's and 30's.

I suspect the management of most magazines figure they have a reader for 3 or 4 years, before they outgrow it and move on. Recycling stories is mothers milk for them. Re-reading them has been a true revelation. Was I really that vapid?

I suspect women's magazines are just as bad. Imagine if you will, taking advice today from one of the mags for new moms. Stuff you believed was vital then, you wouldn't give a second look at today. You know better.

Oddly, old shelter magazines are rather fun.

3. I'm dating myself here, but where did all the Pink Elephants of days gone by go, and cukoo clocks?


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another Character Flaw

Of all the flaws in my character I am most appreciative of my disdain for spectator sports. I don't particularly care if you want to watch sports all weekend, but leave me out. Please. No football, no baseball, nothing on ice. I'm just not interested.

This past weekend was filled with "The Big Games" in NOLA, and I had much sport with the overserved fans from LSU Saturday night.

Late in the evening I got to talking with an older couple in matching LSU sweatshirts. Remember, if you ignore suckers when God sends them to you, she won't send them anymore, so ya gotta make hay, so to speak.

We were in a saloon, and I inquired if the L or the S was silent in the LSU. I couldn't make head nor tale out of the word. Slowly, as if speaking to an idiot (or Yankee) she told me the whole story of Louisiana State University.

"Are you coming from work?" I asked.

"No, we are here for the big game", this time he was allowed to slur.

Seem a little old to be students, aren't you?

No, we came to support our team.

Do you watch a lotta minor league sports? I inquired.

Then comes the whole championship story, blah blah blah.

Ya, but isn't the premier football league in the US the NLF?


Then everything else is second rate, right?

With that they left.

Sophmoric? You bet, but a lot of fun at the time.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What do you do?

Prior to moving to The Park, Mrs. T and I lived across the street from this house. (Best seen by clicking on the photo) It is owned by our favorite neighbors, a family of 4 who moved in a year or two before we moved out.

It is a lovely neighborhood, of basic suburban homes, on large lots, in a quiet suburb of Mayberry. Several days before Halloween, our friends had a fire.

My point today is not to dwell on a personal family tragedy, but to pose a morality tale, or more importantly an insurance dilemma.

The neighborhood isn't worth what it once was (we moved out). Our friends bought near the peak of housing prices and spent a boatload of cash customizing their home to their taste and lifestyle. Fire or no, financially they were going to get hurt if they had to move anytime soon.

Obviously, the land has value, but at current construction costs rebuilding this house to "before the fire" status would price it well beyond their neighbor's or even market value. Neighborhood indentures limit the minimium home size, and this was close, so they can't build smaller.

What do you do?


Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Honest to god, my wife was raised amongst wolves.

For reasons still unclear, immediately after finalizing our plans to go to New Orleans, she invited her parents to tag along. They are each near 80, and each within 6 weeks of having had major surgery. Sure they would love to go.

Then her parents invited friends. The friends invited friends. The AARP couldn't have drawn a larger crowd.

Somehow, I was the designated tour director. As designated tour director my duties included making reservations at the better restaurants in town, arranging the car service to transport everyone the 6 blocks to lunch or dinner and best of all to meet their final demand.


In fact, the oldsters made certain that I understood they felt put upon wearing long pants.

A few things worked in my favor. Even major restaurants are feeling the pain. If you call to make reservations for 10 people, outlining their restrictions and are willing to dine at 5pm, in or near the kitchen, all is well. My charges went to bed at 8, so 5 was no problemo.

What was especially funny, was watching the $60/head dinner check getting passed around nightly. Prices have risen in the 40 years since their last visit. I made certain they tipped well.

The next hassle while predicted, arrived as planned.

Ever watch old people competitively eating? 80 year olds, with a straight face, telling the wait staff how they love Cajun spices. Make it hotter, dad gummit. Spices they c(w)ouldn't have eaten 40 years ago were wolfed down ravenously. Most of the codgers made it to their rooms before being overcome by near death experiences. Breakfasts were missed. Brunches were replaced by Tums and ice cream. They never missed dinner though, cocktails began promptly at 5pm, when it all started anew.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ellie did it!!!!!

Those with long memories may recall I made some minor effort to convince my buddy and favorite bow tie maker Ellie Stager to create a patch tweed winter scarf. My timing was initially poor, since Ellie did not care to make such a heavy item while it was still summer in her little corner of South Carolina.

None the less she eventually came around, and sent the following photo for my consideration.

Immediately I jumped at the opportunity and commissioned my first bespoke scarf.

A week later it arrived. Mrs. T immediately claimed it as hers. Ellie says it was a one off, so my search continues.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

So here is where we left off

Let's play catch up.

For Gail in Northern California. Bunky left Colorado the day before Denver was deluged with snow. It is my understanding that he was happier than a convict after a successful parole hearing in leaving. Sadly, for him, I left him with a car in need of a heater and defroster (you don't need those in Portland do you?) so the first several days of his return to Oregon was cold and unpleasant. He was not a campy hamper when I spoke with him mid week.

The Pool House: Inertia, lousy weather, and higher commitments kept the pool house from being painted thus far. We have agreed on a color, but now the pool house is being used as storage, it is going to be spring before it is completed.

The Drive: I can't say a great deal about it. A law suit is forthcoming. What I can say say is that we allege the work was done poorly, in a unworkmanlike manner and have the Fire Marshall on our side. I hate this kind of thing.

The flu: touch wood Mrs. T and I have avoided it. Many around us have enjoyed it. If you have had it, you have my sympathy. I understand it is awful. Now that I have cursed myself....

The Awakening: The second casting of the Seward Johnson sculpture "The Awakening" was unveiled on time, October 10. The weather was beastly. I'm disappointed in it.

Stuck in a suburban office park, it doesn't have the grandeur of its beautiful Washington setting. I'll have pictures later.

Anything else?


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lost and Found?

Friends: If anyone, for reasons known only to themselves printed a copy of Maxminimus's tribute to Richard Merkin would you please get in touch with him.

The piece was sublime, but is now lost. For starters check your readers if you look at it infrequently. Would have been mid to late September or so.


Perhaps an explanation is in order

In a word I freaked. I looked up summer was over, and I had spent too much time in front of a keyboard, and too little time doing what needed doing. I needed a break and didn't know it.

Many years ago, an advice columnist in Esquire recommended that you spend more time with your dog than your ISP. I took his teachings to heart. One Saturday night I told myself that we have had a good run, but its over. I erased the blog, erased my favorite blog file from my bookmarks turned off the computer and didn't turn it on again for two weeks. I was startled to find I had two extra hours of daylight per day.

Eventually, like a Christian in Lent I allowed myself to peek at the computer on Sunday afternoons. I didn't read blogs but I did a bit of shopping. To those who sent emails, I apologize. At the time I didn't really understand why I had to stop, and was reluctant to face your questions and disappointment.

What I eventually came to discover, was how much I missed being with you each day. I know my limitations as a writer, but I can and do, enjoy sharing our stories.

I've you have read this far blame Maxminimus. He spearheaded the campaign for my return. I will be in his debt for a long time.

Surprisingly, I still haven't read more than a blog entry or two in the past 6 weeks so I have some catching up to do. Thank goodness for Reader.

Thank you for your support, and for hanging around. I'll try not to disappoint, although it may take a couple of days to get back to normal. I've discovered that if I'm online at night I have still have lots of daylight per day.

In the mean time, Mrs. T and I are going to NOLA. We have been looking forward to and dreading this trip for several months. NOLA is a dangerous place to dread going to. I'll share the story next week.

See ya next Tuesday.