Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My eyes were opened

Norval White has died. On our shelves sits a copy of the first printing of the AIA Guide to New York City, a tall but skinny hard-bound book. It's one of the few books that has a bookplate in it. It's very well worn. I read it cover to cover and from it learned that I had grown up (elsewhere) in a built environment that was predominantly of the nineteenth century, with a bit of construction from between the turn of the century and the Great War and traces of other eras. I learned that I was working in a Saarinen Building. The Guide even mentioned Knoll, but not the delight of using all that furniture that's now considered classic or the pleasure of the weekly floral adornment for my desk or the art on the walls or the music in the halls. I learned that I wanted to make my home in Park Slope, and I did, within a half a block of Prospect Park, in a beautiful limestone row house shared with just one other household, that of our landlord, who had bought the house from the estate of a daughter of the family that had built it. The house had been her home to the end. It would not have been possible, even thirty years ago, to rent a doghouse in Austin for what we paid in rent for an entire floor, plus a basement, shared use of the stoop, and exclusive use of the back yard. Most of the buildings on the block had been divided into rooming houses, and the children of the families who lived in them had never been more than about a block away so of course they'd never been across the river to Manhattan. This was long before gentrification set in. We were within walking distance of the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza, a movie theater, the F train (which may have been the only air-conditioned line at the time), the butcher, the fishmonger, the hardware store, the drugstore, Farrell's bar, the formation of the West Indian Day parade, the zoo, the carrousel, and much more. Green-Wood Cemetery, Coney Island, and shopping and movies in Flatbush or in downtown Brooklyn were never far away. Of course, we saw most movies at the New School (William Everson) or at the Museum of Modern Art, and spent more time than that at the Fillmore East. From the roof, we could see the Statue of Liberty, among other sights. St. Saviour was just down at the corner. We always said that our cat Spike was a Methodist, because she followed me all the way home from the Methodist Hospital. She immediately got along well with our other cat and our two dogs. We could always park in front of the house, either on our side or on the other side of the street, depending on the alernate-side parking rules, which were governed by the day and hour. The F train was so much more comfortable than the elevated train that I'd been riding in from Brownsville. I bought the Guide at the Doubleday bookstore, the one with the stairs to the second floor that used to attract male observers hoping to catch a good look up one or more miniskirts. Anyhow, thanks to the AIA Guide, I began looking at buildings and built landscapes of all kinds with greater awareness and realized how my entire life had been influenced by the vernacular and more grand buildings that had surrounded me from my earliest days.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


We now have leaves showing for two more varieties of species tulips, chrysantha and clusiana or lady tulip. All anemones and ranunculuses are now in the ground. Milkweeds that were not frist-stricken are blooming in their pots. So are various paperwhites dumped out of the pots in which they were once forced to bloom.

Monday, December 28, 2009

You know what they say about curiosity

Mine led me to read Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert). I still don't know what it has been on the best-seller lists for so long, but, then, I was mystified about Olive Kitteridge, also. It's easy to see why these are book-club favorites (short stories, vignettes). Short segments are always good for busy people. Thank you, Austin Public Library and Half Price Books. Now I know what people have been talking about.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Book list

After a delightful visit yesterday to Domy Books, I was curious to see when the inventory of books (or "bookx") on hand was last updated. The answer is sometime in 2006. Nothing has been de-accessioned in that time, but little has been added. I do know that I've bought a few books about typography, for instance. We rely on the library to the extent possible, and life has been busy. It's a good thing that we've kept as many mysteries as we have, for that person who enjoys reading them a second or third time, since the library has discarded so many. I bet that, since whatever that date was in 2006, we've acquired more books, though, than we think we have. Maybe it's time to find out. Do I sense a 2010 New Year's resolution shaping up?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Neon birds

These handsome specimens were found at Classical Glass Neon today, where we stopped to try to capture a picture of the toy rocket ship, but found much else. We'd been out visiting library branches on the East Side today.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Tweety has been repainted

No longer is everything two dollars. There's now a pink Tweety and a blue Tweety. El Piolin has been refurbished and no longer sports hand-painted everything. El Piolin now appears to be affiliated with Mi Tierra, an indoor operation, which does have hand-painted signs on its windows.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Not sorry to have read it

It's not at all a good book in any way (although New Mexico magazine likes it). I'm glad to have read In the Sun's House: My Year Teaching on the Navajo Reservation (by Kurt Caswell), and now it can be passed along to the next reader. There's a list of courses taught at Tech by the author. Our residence among the Tl'ochini was some four decades ago; his appears to have been in 1994 or so (he mentions his brand-new 1994 truck), at Borrego Pass school in McKinley County, close to Crownpoint. The book is more about the author than it is about where he was residing, and not very perceptively, at the time recounted

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Not watched by many

This is a ticket from the Yale-Princeton football game of 1967. Only the diehards stuck it out, so those who did could enjoy the better seats. This, along with the post cards from the Pershing punitive expedition, locomotives going to the Great War, patriotic sheet music, boys in dresses, portrait of a nineteenth-century family, and so much more, is part of the scan-o-rama series.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Where did they go?

It appears that all surviving examples of accordion-pleated plastic rain bonnets are now for sale on eBay. I remember that they counted as hats for church-going (just as those silly little round doily-like items did), that older women who rode the bus always had one in their handbag ready for downpour emergencies, that they came in a little soft plastic case, that some were clear and some were more gray and some even sported little gold printed allover designs on them, and that they were often available with ads on the case from banks, car dealerships, and the like. Their existence as giveaways is something that I was beginning to think I had not remembered correctly, since others I've asked about these don't recall that aspect of their existence, which is documented on eBay. I'm not talking about the plastic rain hats with the seam and the sort of visor, either. Very rarely, these bonnets are to be seen on older women right here in Austin, the same older women who still carry a big umbrella as a shield against the burning rays of the sun. This entry is brought to you by the House of Factoids.

Monday, December 21, 2009

In no time at all

Four days ago, the leaves on the ornamental pear tree were green. Overnight, they became golden, red, orange, and purple. Yesterday, a few leaves fell, and most of the tree was golden. This noontime, leaves were dropping everywhere. I suppose that tomorrow morning the tree will be bare. Only clusters of nuts remain on the pecan tree. Until yesterday evening, about 15% of the leaves were still on the tree; this morning there weren't even any branchlets snagged. It's time to rake again.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Keeping up the reading pace

We read too many books that we've already read, so I've been trying to find fresh reading. Cloudsplitter was one example, and another is Sanctified and Chicken-Fried (Joe R. Lansdale), which contains some stand-alone stories and some excerpts. I was happy to read Bubba Ho-Tep, especially before seeing the movie, which I do still hope to do one of these days. The Google preview does not sample any Bubba Ho-Tep. Some of these are the sorts of yarns (or derived from them) that guys relate to one another, embellishing with each retelling. I'm now inclined to try one of Lansdale's mysteries. (Note to those who need to know: this stuff is not particularly woman-friendly.) This anthology comes from a university press, yet in it are "peeked" for "peaked" as well as "waddles" for "wattles" when "flews" is the proper word. All pieces in the book are set in Texas, and Lansdale is a great story-teller and does have a wonderful ear for conversation. Here's a bibliography. The library has six copies of "Sanctified" and they're all checked out right now.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

758 pages

That's the longest book I've read in a while. Apparently, the length of Cloudsplitter discourages some people. I'm told that Russell Banks has appeared as a narrator on some PBS episode about the Adirondacks. Adirondack Life recently published a piece about John Brown and his farm in Essex County.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Modern material culture: confectionery packages

These fancy boxes have obliterated any memory of their plainer predecessors. The jelly sticks were ordered as a surprise for the person in the household who loves them. They came via Vermont Country Store and the contents were made by Sweet's Candy of Salt Lake City, "a family tradition since 1892." I don't know why the boxes are of slightly differing dimensions. The display typeface is one that has been quite popular recently. Central Market was using it for ads and promotional literature until a short time ago, and some other enterprise has been employing it in Chron ads. Vermont Country Store does not offer the dark-chocolate raspberry sticks. I treat myself to Wilbur Buds; everyone called Hershey Kisses "buds" when I was a kid. Wilbur Buds are more refined and less grainy than the Hershey product. According to the Wilbur history page, Buds date from 1894. Hershey Kisses made their debut in 1907. I like them both. This entry is also part of the continuing scan-o-rama series.

December 1980 books read

David P. Handlin: The American Home: Architecture and Society 1815-1915
Paul Fussell: Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars
Angela Thirkell: Wild Strawberries
Anthony Trollope: Christmas at Thompson Hall
Robertson Davies: Fifth Business
Robertson Davies: The Manticore
Robertson Davies: World of Wonders
Tom Dardis: Keaton: The Man Who Wouldn't Lie Down

The Trollope was reprinted in 1978 (with facsimiles of the original illustrations) by Caledonia Press of Racine, Wisconsin, as part of the Harting Grange Library series.

Monday, December 07, 2009


Following the recent killing frost, we waited a bit to see what's done for the season. It appears that we'll see no more of the morning glories, tithonia, zinnias, cosmos, clockvine, basil in pots, and volunteer nasturtiums. Rosemary, thyme, and oregano, all in pots, are doing fine no matter where they are; the same is true of all the fennel, which is in the ground in various places. All spider plans, whether in pots or in the ground, are unscathed. There's not one lantana without purple, frizzled leaves. About half the Turk's cap has green leaves; the other half has shriveled and falling leaves. The pecan had half its leaves down before the cold arrives and half still partly green; now only about a third remain on the tree and there's no green to be seen. Hyacinth beans look pretty well done for, no matter what their location. Potted schefflera is fine. What's most surprising is that the two geraniums in pots that survived the summer's rigors are unscathed, even the one hanging in a pot that would have been surrounded by cold air. Roses are untouched. All milkweeds are in pots. Some look fine and others don't. Whether the flowers were all yellow or orange-red and yellow didn't seem to matter. I hope that most will carry on because many were in the pod-formation stage. Remaining wild sunflowers appear to be done. Other wildflowers, flowers and leaves of spring bulbs, various spring vegetables and flowers, plumbagoes in the ground, kalanchoes and sansevierias in pots, and the fruiting process on the loquats appear to be unaffected. The pumpkin seedlings have expired.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

December 1978 books read

Salka Viertel: The Kindness of Strangers
John Glassco: Memoirs of Montparnasse
Leon Edel: Henry James: The Middle Years 1882-1895
Leon Edel: Henry James: The Treacherous Years 1895-1901
Leo Tolstoy: Family Happiness
Leo Tolstoy: The Cossacks
Leo Tolstoy: The Death of Ivan Ilych
Leo Tolstoy: The Devil
Leo Tolstoy: The Kreutzer Sonata
Leo Tolstoy: Master and Men
Leo Tolstoy: Father Sergius
Henry Green: Loving
Henry Green: Living
Henry Green: Party Going
Gordon S. Haight: George Eliot: A Biography
Peter A. Dickinson: Sunbelt Retirement
Robert Schrank: Ten Thousand Working Days
Robert Coles: Privileged Ones
Marc Simmons: New Mexico
Sophy Burnham: The Landed Gentry
Edward A. Wynne: Growing Up Suburban

I've read Henry Green again a couple of times since, enjoying the work no more a second or third time.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

December 1977 books read

S. J. Perelman: Westward Ha!
Norman Douglas: South Wind
Grace Lichtenstein: Desperado
Michael Medved and David Wallechinsky: What Really Happened to the Class of '65?
Moffat, Mary Jane, and Painter, Charlotte, ed.: Revelations: Diaries of Women
James Fenimore Cooper: Satanstoe
Conrad Aiken: Ushant

Friday, December 04, 2009

December 1976 books read

M. Dorothy George: England in Transition: Life and Work in the Eighteenth Century
A. S. Turberville, ed.: Johnson's England, vol. 1
A. S. Turberville, ed.: Johnson's England, vol. 2
John G. Waite: The Architecture of Lansingburgh, New York

Thursday, December 03, 2009

December 1975 books read

B. S. Johnson, ed.: The Evacuees
Anthony Trollope: Framley Parsonage
Paul Theroux: The Great Railway Bazaar
Lytton Strachey: Eminent Victorians
Mark Twain: Following the Equator
Arnold Bennett: Teresa of Watling Street
George Gissing: Eve's Ransom
Arnold Bennett: The Gates of Wrath
George Gissing: The Town Traveller
George Gissing: The Odd Women
Arnold Bennett: Riceyman Steps

The library at that time had an excellent collection of books by Bennett and Gissing. A coy of Riceyman Steps was in the house when I was a kid.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

December 1974 books read

Anthony Trollope: The McDermotts of Ballycloran
Anthony Trollope: The Vicar of Bullhampton
Thornton Wilder: Theophilus North
Anthony Trollope: Mr. Scarborough's Family

I've read The McDermotts only once. I've been thinking of reading lots of Thornton Wilder again. He's out in the Library of America, but somehow I find those books not inviting. I still read the work of Wm. Dean Howells again in other versions, despite now owning the LoA volumes.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

December 1973 books read

This is part of the continying transcription of an old record.

Jane Austen: Mansfield Park
Jane Austin: Emma
Jane Austen: Northanger Abbey
Jane Austin: Persuasion
Charles Dickens: Martin Chuzzlewit
Kate Chopin: The Awakening
Anthony Trollope: Rachel Ray
Richard D. Altick: Victorian Studies in Scarlet.

All but the last were not read for the first time.