Monday, October 31, 2011

The Last of October

Halloween tho' it is, the last day of October never fails to bring to mind a poem that I learned in kindergarten.  Sitting cross-legged in a circle around our teacher, Miss Jenkins, our class would recite in unison:


The last of October
We lock the garden gate.
The flowers alive all withered
That used to stand straight.

The last of October
We put the swings away
And the porch looks deserted 
Where we like to play.

The last of October,
The birds have all flown.
The screens are in the attic,
The sand pile's all gone;

Everything is put away
Before it starts to snow---
I wonder if the ladybugs
Have any place to go.

Aileen Fisher

Are your bulbs planted, your mulch spread, and is your garden prepared for winter?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Farewell Old Friend

Though we grew up one block away, and Bob was a little older than me, our lives intertwined from grade school through art school and after.  I lived in a hundred year old farmhouse, and he in a sparkling new tract house popular in the 50's.We attended the same neighborhood parochial school, where the Sisters of Mercy were not so merciful in reining in a single classroom with a typical population, as shown below, of 53.  

 Bob is in the bottom row, 5th from the right.

One of many favorite neighbohood hang-outs was "The Creek". Now it is boarded up and inaccessible; I can't imagine why children nowadays wouldn't want to play down there. Their parents might think it is dangerous, but back when we were kids, things were different.  After school and summertime, kids left 'to play' and the parents were not interested in monitoring our activities.

The Creek

"The Creek" is a storm sewer.  Just imagine these tunnels funneling 5 feet diameter of water after a big downpour.  We would follow these tunnels as far as we could, popping up out of manholes many blocks away in foreign territory.  Sometimes we would ride our bikes in the tunnel; just imagine doing DNA type loops.  The creek was a never-ending source of fun, exercise, and education. Bob designed a whole relay of 'vines' to swing on diagonally from side to side, just like Tarzan. Creek travel could traverse entire subdivisions in minutes!  

The Creek Tunnels

While I dug rich clay from the creek banks to to make pottery, the boys would come through crashing and splashing, engaged in their own adventures. One day, I noticed what seemed to be an underground clubhouse at the top of the creek bank.  There was a ventilation pipe (for a fireplace) and a plywood padlocked door.  I was curious and furious that I couldn't get in to see it!  (Boys and girls didn't play together in those days).  The engineering and courage to build it was pure Bob, helped by his friends.  Some time later the roof collapsed (fortunately no one was in it).  The 'roof' was plywood supported by columns, but the clay must have become too heavy and waterlogged.  Bob blamed 'the girls'  for destroying it,  but I told him later in college, I would never destroy something that I admired and respected so very much.  

Kenrick Seminary

The mode of transportation in the old days was walking or biking, no matter how far away. Kenrick Seminary and the nun's convent didn't seem too far away, tho' today it seems to take forever to drive there by car from where we lived. The grounds were havens of  extensive woods with a large pond.  There was even a cave where 'bums' hung out. During the summer was fishing and swimming; during the winter, was skating. Again, no adult supervision.

Kenrick Manor, formerly the grounds of Kenrick Seminary

Here is what happened to the woods at Kenrick and the convent. The once huge acreages are blanketed with crowded, nondescript housing.  What became of the utterly amazing 3 story treehouse with individual rooms and glass windows that Bob built? Who knows, but he never stopped doing what he started in his youth, creating fun, artful playgrounds.  As far as I know, he never had a 'real' job;  he just did what he loved.  Always.

It was as if he never grew up, so how could he die?  I had a dream about Bob a few nights after he died.  I said to him, "I thought you were dead!"  He said he was back.  I don't think he'll ever leave us, really.   


After the memorial service, and a party at City Museum, a large contingent of work colleagues, friends, and family gathered on the river across the road from Cementland, his latest project.  We were each given votive candles in cups to hold as 6 canoes farther up the river paddled to our station on a cement receiving bridge. His ashes were scattered in the river that he loved so much. Wood flutes played in the still quiet; the only other sound was water lapping at the river banks.

Many children have experienced his pied piper magic, and many future generations will, too.

Bill Christman built a wood sculpture which erupted into fireworks followed by an enormous bonfire. Dogs ran free and all seemed good in the world on a beautiful fall night.  All was good, except that Bob was gone.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Perfect Restaurant

A recent dining experience at a new, trendy restaurant in town tested my tolerance once again.  The pervasiveness of poor restaurant design has me not wanting to go out for fear of being disappointed once again.  My biggest complaint about this last one, as is the case in too many others, is having to practically shout to converse.  This is usually because of too many diners crammed into a space, music being played too loud, and/or poor interior selections.  I almost never see a sensible balance of hard and soft materials to alleviate this problem.  Restaurant owners, listen up!  It's not all about the food and drink!   Let's have an all-around agreeable meal!

Restaurant Can Jubany
Calldetenes, Catalonia

This restaurant gets my highest award for interior design. Ingredients that promise a perfect dining experience for me (besides fantastic food and service) are:

1.  Ambiance: An open airy atmosphere, as opposed to a crowded, congested feed-lot feeling.

2. Lighting: Efficient, soft and balanced lighting; flattering  to both cuisine and customer. One would be neither in the dark nor under a harsh spotlight. 

3. Sound control:  Rugs, wood floor, fabrics help to absorb sound. A variety of materials maintain high sound fidelity, like different instruments in the orchestra.

4. Privacy: The design element of partitions provide discreet privacy; the experience is both public and private.  Additionally, I give these dividers high marks for aesthetics!

5. Comfort: Woven chairs with arms and tablecloths.  Corner seating allows for easy conversations.  

Now that menus overall have become so sophisticated, why can't there be a similar revolution in restaurant interior design?  Does this bother you as much as it does me?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Autumn Aria

When my daughter Emily visited recently, I suggested that we take a hike at one of the area trails.  The weather has been gorgeous with resort 70's, but the weatherman never lets us forget that cold weather is just around the corner. Getting a late start, we chose a nearby trail at Powder Valley.  It was respite for my soul, and I had the perfect song to sing, one that I had grown up hearing my own mother sing:

As we meandered along, Emily commented that "the critters were making a lot of noise".  Just then, we saw what was making all the rustling...only 20 feet away or so, were a doe and her fawn.  It was an amazing experience, as Powder Valley is surrounded by suburbia.  There is something so magical about seeing animals in the wild as opposed to in a zoo.  I am happy to see them free.

Where'er you walk
Aria from "Semele"
G. F. Handel (1685 - 1759)

Where'er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade;
Trees where you sit, shall crowd into a shade,
Trees where you sit shall crowd into a shade;
Where'er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade;
Trees where you sit, shall crowd into a shade,
Trees where you sit, shall crowd into a shade.
Where'er you tread, the blushing flow'rs shall rise,
And all things flourish, And all things flourish, 
where'er you turn your eyes, where'er you turn your eyes, where'er you turn your eyes.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hunkered In My Home

Whether it's because of the weather or the wampum, I had a hankering to be home.  When my daughter Emily decided to stay in New Orleans after graduation, I asked her if she would mind if I moved my office into her old room.  That way, I could spend more time with Chewy, who is getting up in years, plus be closer to my piano and my art studio!  

Chewy...the cutest dog in the world.  Now I have lots more time with him...

Driving to the office for the last time...

It was fun while it lasted...

The end of an era, but there's a new world out there...

The Great Recession...Missouri style!

Maybe I could be featured in "The Hoarders"...There's a grand piano in here somewhere!

To the strains of Schubert Sonata in A, I painted the walls white.  The ceiling was already painted like a sky, so I am ready to soar like a bird!  It will be a new beginning, a new chapter...