Monday, June 27, 2011

Hunkered in My Bunker

Dow in the Dumps
June 24, 2011

Well, I'm hunkered in my bunker trying to ride out the economy and the new face on the business of interior design.  It's a brave new world for designers, and for old dogs like myself, there are many new tricks to learn!

 Sink or Swim  Seminar

Our local chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers recently featured national president Michael Thomas to speak at a meeting hosted by KDR Designer Showroom.  Having met him years ago when I was on the board and chapter president, I knew that he would be generous and frank in sharing his knowledge.  He acknowledged that design firms of all levels have been affected by the dives of the Dow.  Michael as well has dramatically changed his practice; for instance high-tailing out of Florida for greener pastures.  He's tackling the ever-changing technology driven by the internet to address issues such as sustainable design and aging-in-place.  Lately, I've noticed a lot of designers offering different services related to design, trying to diversify and re-invent themselves.  A lot of designers, showrooms, and manufacturers have simply gone down, never to be seen again.  It's the end of an era.

Yours truly and Michael Thomas, President ASID 2010-2011

The fact of the matter is that the rich are getting richer and rest of us are not.  This bodes well for high-end interior design projects, but when you crunch the numbers of how many potential clients are out there and how many potential designers are competing for them, it's a dog eat dog world! Soon after writing my "Cheap, Cheap, Cheap" blog, even internationally-known designer Vicente Wolfe commented on having to resort to catalogues such as Wisteria and Restoration Hardware to bring in some of his projects on budget.  One can respond with fear and negativity to the prospect of seemingly dwindling profits, or one can evolve and re-invent themselves to accommodate the necessary changes to survive, and perhaps even prosper.  Good design has never been more important than now, and I look forward to contributing what I can to make the world a better and more beautiful place.  It will probably have something to do with interior design, art, and music...what's not to love about that? 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

What a Ball!

What a treat to hear Michael White's Original Liberty Jazz Band instead of the old Pomp and Circumstance at Tulane University's 2011 graduation ceremonies!  And then as an added bonus, Stevie Wonder treated all to an impromptu performance of  "You Are the Sunshine of My Life",  after receiving an honorary degree.

New Orleans is a tough city to top in terms of where to go to college. It's been a fabulous four years for Emily, and visiting was always an adventure into culture, cuisine, and camaraderie.

Emily graduated with honors. 

Funny, this is how some students moved out.  They threw everything out the window!  Though I appreciate the wackiness of student slovenliness, I don't recommend this solution.

Trying out the merchandise at Tara Shaw

I'm queen for a day, having written the last tuition check without going into debt!  I never get a vacation without writing it off as a business expense, though.  Happily, I have a New Orleans client to ensure my future visits to a city I love. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Aw Shucks!

"The Oysterman," 1933 by Fonville Winans. 
 Courtesy of James and Meriget Turner, Fonville Winans Collection.  With appreciation to Steve Kleinpeter, Southern Photographic Images, featuring the Fonville Winans Collection,

The above photograph is how I might have felt if a load of oysters had been delivered to my front porch.   Had I gone wrong in the commodities market?   Fortunately, with it being the summer season and the Gulf waters warm, the oysters from P & J were already shucked.  They kept nicely on a bed of ice until I got home from the office.  It was just was another example of a favorite client from New Orleans who is generous beyond belief.  Over the weekend, I was asked the question, "Would you prefer shrimp or oysters?"  She may call it just southern hospitality, but it is a behavior that we can all try to emulate. 

The P & J Oyster Cookbook by Kit Wohl & the Sunseri Family

A treasured cookbook  of more than 120 oyster recipes was loaned as well.  Oysters Bordelaise from Tujague's, New Orlean's second oldest restaurant, was the winning entree for the evening.  It was served on a bed of fettuccine, accompanied with warm crusty bread to soak up the broth,  a simple green salad, and a crisp glass of Chardonnay.   For a couple of hours, I could pretend I was in New Orleans.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Night at the Opera

Achille Lauro
Still from the film The Death of Klinghoffer directed by Penny Woolcock

It was a privilege to experience a magnificent production of  John Adams' "The Death of Klinghoffer" by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis this past week.  Though the world premiere took place in Brussels twenty years ago, performances have been rare due to its controversial subject. The opera tells the 1985 story of the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, an elderly Jewish wheel chair-bound American, by Palestinian terrorists who had taken over the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro. The time when this tragedy took place seems so long ago.  Sadly, given the never-ending Palestinian-Israeli conflicts, things seem not to have improved at all.  This moving opera raises an opportunity for civic dialogue by presenting both sides of the story. The set by Allen Moyer was particularly  powerful in support of the music.  I highly recommend that you see it!

Friday, June 17, 2011

And Now Simon


Presumably a fast-growing cancer; it probably started around the time of the blue jay dive-bombing five weeks ago.  We had since then been regular visitors at the animal hospital. His blood work showed very elevated calcium.  His prognosis was poor.

My favorite colors: gray, black,  gold, and white.  

He was the brother of Howard, and they died within 6 days of each other.  They were two distinct personalities, more like black and white than black and gray as they were.  Howard was
 outgoing yet a homebody; Simon was more shy, yet decidedly adventurous.  He was the one who usually volunteered to accompany the dogs and me on a promenade.  He even dared to cross dangerous streets to stay with us, while being very careful, though, to look both ways.

 He was a friend to Nicholas (died 2000).

He was a friend to Alice.

Simon in happier days with his catnip mouse. He was buried with it in his paws.

Unlike her name, Dr. Savage was warm and compassionate.  Simon's little heart lingered on after the first syringe.  Dr. Savage gave him a second and then he was gone.  I held his lifeless body tight.

Together to the end

It was back to the boxes of Emily's doll clothes in search of another little pillow and some sheets and blankets.  Now next to Howard he rests in peace.  Little did I know when I bought these Mexican river rocks for putting in a fireplace interior that I would use them for initializing graves.

In the stillness of the garden graves, a robin appeared.  He danced on the newly dug soil, his beak filled with wriggling worms.  And so life goes on.  The mourning dove coos and the great horned owl in the pine tree hoots.

In cat heaven...

Is there such a thing anywhere as an ordinary housecat?

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Life Interrupted

2000 - 2011

Howard was in the front yard irises when he was attacked on a recent hot and humid June morn.  I heard a cry and I looked out the window to see his body locked in the jaws of a large dog.  Horror, terror, and profound sorrow ensued.  It was unexpected and unprovoked.

He came to our home with his brother eleven years ago. They were adopted from the local animal shelter when I got it into my head that having a couple of kittens was a good idea.  Of course, I chose two of my favorite colors: black and gray.  Emily and her best friend, Caroline, were given the responsibility of names.  They decided the black one would be Howard, and the gray one, Simon. 

Raining kittens reign topsy-turvy.

They could have been named Yin and Yang!

Howard with young Chewbacca and old Nick (1987-2000) 

Howard was affable and friendly to all.  To his credit, his hunting was usually no more than bringing home a cicada, which I then captured and released back into the outdoors. He was ever curious, and always causing some sort of mischief or "trouble".  He loved climbing ladders and jumping into bags and boxes.  He loved to take naps and drink from faucets.

He was best friends with Little Earl, a talented boy who could stand upright on his hind feet.  Little Earl, too,  died far too young, at the age of four.

Puss in a pot impersonating a plant

Howard had a huge personality and provided endless entertainment effortlessly.

Here Howard is watching "Charlotte's Web".  He was fascinated by the spider and pawed at the screen. I'm sure he would have loved Wilbur given the opportunity. 

A recent neighborhood yard sale had Howard proving he was at the top of his game.  He always had a great sense of showmanship. 

Alice and Howard

Of late, Howard was best friends with Alice since she joined the household.  Even for his eleven years, he didn't mind tousling with an energetic 35 lb. year-old dog.  Howard's ploy was to lay on his back while batting away at Alice.  When I asked his veterinarian, Dr. Love,  if she thought Howard was overweight, she said he was only "big-boned".  She went on to proclaim that he had the longest whiskers that she had ever seen.  I was as proud as a parent with this assessment!

Chewy and Howard

I will miss the menagerie walks around the neighborhood; two dogs followed by two cats. No more romping across lawns in big, bounding leaps, no more sashaying in his languid walk.  No more yowls if he was left too far behind. 

At 9:00 a.m., on June 9th, 2011, Howard was alive.  Fortunately, he did not suffer for long.  Four hours later, he was not where he should be.  I made a bed of soft muslin and put his head on a small felt cushion, top-stitched with appliqued stars.  In his paws I put one of his toys: a small fluffy ball. 

An ordinary housecat he was not, and his  life was interrupted prematurely.