Hemingway and Van Gogh

Two such towering figures.  Two very different men who left the world on their own accord, with words and thick paint remaining in their wake.

I read two books this week, “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain and “The Last Van Gogh” by Alyson Richman.  Both are works of fiction, based on historical fact.  Both broke my heart, even though it’s obvious that there would be no happy ending.  Well, not the ending a romantic like me would typically prefer.  But that’s not how life is, at least when your eyes are too glued to a hardback.

“The Paris Wife” tore at my being in many ways.  I certainly won’t compare myself to Hemingway, but I understood his naivety and spirit during these early stages in his career.  I understood his longing to be something greater and prolific.  Of course, I’ve yet to technically strive toward anything with that much intensity, but I know that what it takes to be substantial is in me.  And his first wife Hadley, comforts and encourages him along the way, so bravely and maybe foolishly, only to be tossed aside.   It was heartbreaking, maybe because the ending was written before the Hemingway’s could touch the Parisian sidewalk.  It was all there, waiting to end this way.

Hadley & Ernest Hemingway

Hadley & Ernest Hemingway

 

“The Last Van Gogh” is no less tragic, but left a similar feeling of longing. Continue reading

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Take Care of Your Feet

Warning: This is a ridiculous lady rant about shoes. You’ve been warned. Paragraphs may imply awkwardness and whiney personality. It does not have “Whitney” writing as my spellcheck insists on telling you.

I spent almost four hours dodging fellow shoppers and navigating two shopping malls, traffic and a random shopping center after work tonight. Countless department stores, shoe stores, teen, sophisticated, hipster, skater, sport and anything-apparel type stores later, I found a decent pair of shoes. I didn’t have crazy criteria; somewhat stylish, comfortable, flat and with an ankle strap. I prefer non-man made material and I didn’t want to wear something resembling my grandmas cruise apparel from the early 90’s.

I learned a couple things tonight:

– All athletic shoe stores carry exactly the same brands, styles and colors. If you’ve been in one, you’ve seen them all.

– All retail employees ask how you are but they don’t listen to your reply. I learned you could respond with an array of ridiculous answers and they will still say, “great, if you need anything, let me know.” Well, salesperson, I can tell you right now that you are not the kind of person I can rely on, considering you think that my dog dying is great. (My dog didn’t die, but it still would not be great.)

– Old people know how to take care of their feet. Is it wisdom or refusal to cram their feet into awkward confining foot-shackles any longer? Either way, they have quite a selection to choose from. My younger feet even seemed old when I tried a couple on. Eek, glimpse into the future?

– Young people will pay for a flat piece of plastic, covered in cheep vinyl, with a piece of fibrous rope glued to it and be happy about it. My heels cringed thinking about wearing them for more than ten paces. And that’s coming from a kid who wore “jellies” in the 80’s.

– Lastly, I’m old. I’m not even 30 but as I shopped, I found myself in an undefined category. I saw professionals in gorgeous and costly shoes, twenty year olds with canvas wrapped loosely on their feet and old people with cushy leather clod-hoppers that have bulbous soles and unflattering bulky shapes.

I’m going on a trip where I will do a lot of walking, out of dozens of stores, I found one, just one part of sandals that were well made, comfortable and not from grandma’s or little cousin’s closet. Do I ask for too much? Is it too much to try to avoid blisters and pain but still care about appearance; is it too often one way or another? Such a silly argument, I know, but there I was thinking that I couldn’t be the only one that didn’t want to limp this summer with irritated and abused tootsies.

If only I could make Hush Puppies trendy for my generation. If you had a grandma who dressed up, you will know what I’m talking about.

Trust me…they do look cute on, I just don’t feel like being a foot model tonight.

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Smiling at Gladiolus

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Gardening is peaceful to me, as it probably is to anyone who gardens. Those who don’t find calmness and pride in it probably hire landscapers. I even find picking weeds makes me happy. Although I like to be intellectual, sometimes the mindless activity of pulling weeds stimulates my mind because it can drift along with the breeze; thoughts wonder unforced and unprovoked. I do some of my best thinking hunkered down along the flower beds with dirty fingernails. Gloves just done give me the ability to snag those tiny, tricky weeds.

Yesterday, amongst my other chores, I found myself gazing at the pride of my garden, the gladiolus. They stun me each summer with their beauty and each summer I smile as I pull into the driveway or as I pull away and see their bright colors on tall stems. For the time in between, I’m sure a dog walker or two can appreciate them, but otherwise they complete their short cycle of blooming beauty and whither during the high heat of July, generally ignored and unappreciated.

I decided to cut some and enjoy them in the main area of the house and I can’t tell you how many times I stopped to smile at the arrangement as I walked by this weekend. For someone who loves nature so much, I’m not sure why I hadn’t started to bring the outside in a long time ago. Maybe I felt bad cutting the plants up, but they will certainly be enjoyed in here more. After all, bouquets aren’t grown in a vase, the flowers all grow in dirt somewhere.

Graffiti: Art or Disrespectful?

Graffiti cement barrier. Looking out on One World Trade Center.

I tend to like things neat and tidy, but I also appreciate art and character. I don’t know that I consider graffiti art. I’ve never known an actual graffiti “artist”, so I’ve had no one to help me solidify the answer. The closest I’ve come is the random guy at an artist street fair who makes cool poster size prints from spray paint. They usually have a painters mask on while little kids sit right in front, breathing the fumes as their parents stare in fascination.

Back to graffiti; I won’t say I’m not intrigued by it. It’s hard not to draw your eyes from random splashes of color in places amongst plain brick or cement backdrops. There are times that I appreciate color on a decrepit and crumbling wall, in the form of a beautiful mural. There are also times I see spray paint on two hundred year old Continue reading

I’m A Brick – Part Two

Philadelphia was built by innovators and blue collar immigrants. Though we’ve housed our fair share of wealthy folk, it has never been an upscale or rich city; rich in culture and history, yes, but not in money. Like other old East Coast cities, Philadelphia was built by people like my ancestors. They mixed the mortar, carried the bricks, polished the marble and bend the heated iron.

The city has beautiful areas that are captured of Philadelphia based movie and TV sets. It also has beautiful materials left in rundown neighborhoods that share marble steps amongst trash and crumbling concrete. It may not all be polished, but it’s ours.

To coincide with my last post, here is Philadelphia and its brick.

 

I’m A Brick!

If the walls in these shots could talk, they’d mimic the words of Ralph Wiggum.

For me, I think the way to appreciate beauty is to capture the good and the bad.  My eyes sway toward the gritty truth of the world around us, so I know I’m not meant to be a wedding photographer.  Though the Philadelphia tourism board would likely burn my pictures of trash, destruction and neglect, there are plenty of beautiful things that can be grabbed from the background.  It’s the truth of what a city is outside the paths that tourist take.  Today, I just share bricks.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hands

This is my hand holding my Great-Grandmom’s hand.

By the time I was born, she was already 71. She had already lived a full life and had been retired. She’d be a widow a year later and I only knew her to be one. She would take me to bingo and we would play board games. She’d teach me things about cooking and tried to teach me to crochet. She was one of my favorite people and her hands always fascinated me, even the way she twiddled her thumbs.

Her hands had what she called “liver spots”, though most of us know them as age spots. She had been an avid gardener all of her adult life, so it was likely sun inspired damage. After she ate, I remember how she’d sweep her fingers over the table to gather any crumbs. Her fingers were strong and crooked and her fingernail and tips were oval. I just remember always thinking how unique they were. They weren’t thin and ladylike, though her movements were not harsh; they were the result of lifelong hard work.

I took this picture one morning when I sat alone with her before she passed. She was unable to speak, but she knew I was there as she squeezed my hand in response to my words. I knew I’d never forget her hands, but still I was afraid that I might. I haven’t forgotten, though it’s only been two and half years, but I like to know that I have a picture of one to remind me.

She would’ve been 100 this week. Happy birthday Grandmom.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Blue

After posting about the Air Show at the Maguire Air Force base this weekend, “blue” was an obvious choice.

These pictures were worth the back breaking effort as I strained backwards to take shots of impressive planes that whizzed by with speed and precision.  It was often hard to capture altogether, particularly when we were unaware of when the planes would appear and out of what direction.

I only wish I could capture the sound of the planes to complete the sensation of these shots.  I suppose that is what video is for, however, my videos would be accompanied by sounds of frustration equal to the plane noise as I tried to capture all I could with zoom and focus.  These videos would leave you more annoyed than blue, so pictures, take it away.

Enjoy “blue”.

Atlantic City: The Original Vegas

Atlantic City Boardwalk

Saturday was so beautiful in the Northeast. It was the perfect kind of day to spend in the garden, or divert the car towards Atlantic City.

So that’s what we did.

Eighty degrees, cloudless sky and a nice sea breeze. Add that to the smell of funnel cake, sunscreen and slurp down the experience with fresh lemonade, while strolling the boardwalk and recognizing street names you normally see on your Monopoly board.

Steel Pier, Atlantic City

Atlantic City is a diverse mix of people, but it has most everything that Vegas touts, except there’s an ocean and expansive boardwalk. No, Celine Dion isn’t playing Atlantic City every night and I’m ok with that, but there are shows to be seen. There are glitzy and glamorous nightclubs, casinos and hotels. The amusement rides may not be as sparkly and the exterior decor may be a little more worn, but there’s something to be said for the city by the sea.

I grew up being fascinated by films of ladies jumping their horses off diving boards next to Steel Pier and photos of the old timers who wore their Sunday best as they wandered the boards in the early 20th century. I’ve also watched a lot of Boardwalk Empire on HBO, and though I know its primarily fictional stories written for entertainment, I have no doubt that Prohibition brought waves of crime and corruption that still linger today. Feeling that way does take away from the nostalgia of flapper girls and their shiny cigarette cases and replaces it with heroin chic society types that rival fashion models of the 90’s.

Atlantic City is an accessible city. It is a little less sparkly but nice equivalent to a five hour plane right to Nevada from the East Coast. But just like Vegas, don’t wander too far off the “strip” in Atlantic City; unless you’re looking for some non-fiction CSI type experiences. Also, get some saltwater taffy; it’s so good and the remnants of it can be tasted for days since it’ll be stuck in your molars. That might be an exaggeration, but in all honesty, stop at James’.  If taffy isn’t your thing, drop by the Whiskey Tavern in the new Revel casino, order an Old Fashioned and slip into shiny 1925 subway tile heaven.

James’ Salt Water Taffy

“Oh, you have plenty of time” And Other Lies

I thought I’d be something more successful by now.  I’ve mentioned this before but bear with me, I’ve got a different point today.  I’m not unsuccessful; I’m just not what I want to be, professionally and maybe a little personally.  I’ll be twenty-nine soon, and not that it’s the end of the world and not that I’ll have a little “almost thirty” or “twenty-nine forever” crisis but damn it, I can if I want to.

When I was in high school all my teachers from math to gym said I would be the next Katie Couric.  That’s when Katie was unstoppable and on the Today Show.  That is also when I respected the Today Show and before Kathie Lee had anything to do with it, and before I started to see through major media outlets.  I never felt like my supporters were blowing smoke up my rear and I felt like I had such a bright future.  I had talent and I had zero fear to stop me from getting where I wanted to be.  I also had a psychic who told me I’d work for the BBC.  Well, reality took over and I was too levelheaded to take a career with so much risk.  Fine, I’m ok with that because it’s not like I tried and didn’t succeed.  I just didn’t try.  Eck, not much better.

I also thought I’d be a mom by now, and more than to just my pug.  It’s pretty common for my generation that I’m not one at this age, and most of my friends aren’t moms yet but by the end of the year I’ll have been married five years, so the clock seems a little different to me.  I’m not waiting to meet Mr. Right.  I already found him.  “Oh, you have plenty of time” they say.  “Why are you rushing things?  There’s so much life ahead of you.”  Really?  Do these particular people, who are almost everyone, by the way, really believe that there is always plenty of time?  Did they not just tell me how fast time goes and how they can’t believe this, that or the other never happened or happened too fast?  Don’t lie to me, Continue reading