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Random words, pictures and thoughts of one who always wishes to be on the mind's road to discovery!

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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Kicking the Habit is Just Cute Fun!

Kicking the HabitKicking the Habit by Kari Lee Townsend
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This Goodreads giveaway arrived yesterday afternoon and I finished it this morning. A fun romp of a mystery with an adorable ex-nunny bunny as the heroine and a hunky small town detective as her serious foil. Having gone into the confessional to retrieve Father Flanagan's Bible for him, newly ex-Sister Mary Cecelia ( she just told the priest she was leaving the convent before taking her final vows ) is surprised when a man enters the other side of the booth and, before she can make him aware that she is not the priest, blurts out that he has been betrayed and that he didn't know he was involved in an illegal activity. Once he realizes his mistake, he runs from the Church only to be shot between the eyes and falls quite dead on the front steps with the good ex-nun hot on his heels.

Soon, Ace Jackson, the aforementioned hunk arrives and it is clear that the dead man, a Senator and prominent resident of New Hope, Ma, has been killed by an expert sniper. The FBI takes over the case and assigns Ace to protect CeCe as she prefers to be called--he is nun-sitting. But this petite amateur detective has no intention of revealing the Senator's " confession " nor does she intend to be prevented from investigating this murder on her own.

From that moment on the Church steps til the last page, the investigation proceeds with twists and turns and surprising revelations about the Senator and other denizens of New Hope. Suspects are provided and discarded throughout but not without discovering some interesting stories about each of them in turn.

Although this takes place in Ma it is interesting to see the writer's mind must have wandered on p.144 because for one brief moment it is Fall in Connecticut! Confused me for a second but then I got back on track. Especially since at that very moment Cece found herself in probably the most serious danger to date.

Enjoy--this is a fun read on a gray wintery December day in Vermont --or anywhere for that matter!

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Would She Stay if He Regained His Weight? A Good Question!

Vegas to VaranasiVegas to Varanasi by Shelly Hickman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a first reads giveaway that came in the mail two days ago, so, since I finished it so quickly it is obviously an easy read. Basically, it is the story of a single mother of two twenty something kids, a boy and a girl, whose father was her high school sweetheart who turned out to be gay. They are divorced but still socialize--he and his partner, Richard and she, with her partner, David. David, a charming man with whom she has lived for several years, develops a serious alcohol problem and becomes quite neglectful of Anna and her kids as he strives to write the new American best seller. Once he has finished it and it has been submitted to a publisher, he ends his live-in relationship with Anna but wants to remain friends, particularly with her children.

In the meantime, Anna through one of her physical therapy patients, reconnects with another high school classmate, Kirin, who was apparently quite overweight and insecure back then. He remembers Anna as one of the few students who paid any attention to him, even stood up for him, back then. She doesn't really remember him at all but now she is overwhelmed by this man, who is, according to the book, now a modern day Indian Adonis. They start dating, eventually he asks her to join him on a trip to Varanasi to visit his dying Grandmother. She goes, they return and basically the first part of the book is repeated with a few new scenarios. But, all the problems are resolved and all is right with the kids, Anna and Kirin and even David and his new squeeze who turns out to be Kirin's ex-fiancé.

Up to and including the trip to India I really enjoyed the book. Kirin has been hurt and jilted by women when fat, obese even, but he seems more secure as a newly thin person than Anna does, with her constant preoccupation with his beauty. Okay, as her friend Judith tells her, how could she not notice his looks but come on--get over it! Obviously, some one this gorgeous is going to be noticed and once in awhile the woman involved with him, no matter how long, will notice in some fleeting moment that beauty once more---BUT, eventually, it is not consciously noted. What else, besides sexual performance does this man have to offer? And why is Anna so insecure that even after a long relationship she still needs to keep her home in case this beauty decides she isn't worth his time after all?

The best part of the book so far as description of scene and development of character takes place in India. Once Anna and Kirin return things go nowhere back home. The author does make clear that the two of them aren't sure their new found intimacy and attraction will last once they return to the reality of home and family and that is a legitimate concern. The second part of the book made me impatient and irritated with them all. No one gets impatient, angry, irritated. Everyone is kind and caring and there for everyone else in a way that I just could not believe. Anna, in particular, drove me nuts with her patience with David. Close the door already--but then it is because Anna is just so caring and sweet that ex-husband Luke, old lover, David and new lover, Kirin just put up with her.

Finally, after all this repetition, the author ends the book with one chapter that starts 9 months after the end of the last chapter and culminates with at least four adults changing the diaper of a very poopy newborn. Sort of a let down to say the least. So all in all, though easily read, the book is just okay.

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Found This Book Just Too Boring to Finish

King of CubaKing of Cuba by Cristina Garcia
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Could not finish this book; only got to page 88. I, too, grew up in NYC but did not have much contact with Cuban emigres there. Fidel's sister, I think it was, had attended my College a couple of years before me but was invited to leave because of her political activism. I remember Fidel and his party trashing a hotel room in which they had live chickens and I remember the new Cuban arrivals in Miami and the turmoil the local people felt at first with them. So, I was a bit curious about a novel involving a man, a few years older than myself, who had probably come to Florida during those years and his fixation with wanting to destroy the tyrant and return to his homeland before dying.

Unfortunately, I think my lack of real life knowledge of the people, their culture and their language made the book tedious for me to read. I found no humor in the sexual exploits of a man with one foot in the grave--indeed the exploits of two such men. Nor the strange dreams they both have when, as a result of their advanced ages, they are unable to stay awake. Probably, since the author is a multiple literary award winner, others would thoroughly enjoy this book. It is the subject matter and my lack of interest in it, which has resulted in my rating and review.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sometimes the Title Says It All!

Crimes of MemoryCrimes of Memory by L.J. Sellers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although the back cover said Detective Jackson discovers a shocking link between the murder of a homeless ex-con and the bombing of a water bottling plant by an environmental group, this link is not revealed to the reader until the last fifteen pages or so. As a result the book consists of parallel investigations--one led by Jackson, with very little progress, the other led by the sex-changed FBI agent, Carla River. While the stories were interesting and worth reading, there were several themes which contributed nothing to the cases: Jackson's impotence with his girlfriend, whom neither he nor the reader encountered very much; River's sexual arousal by the handy man she's hired to refurbish her house; the revelation that the FBI undercover agent, Dallas, enjoys sex with strangers but not with men she cares about--none of whom we ever meet, stranger or beloved.

Needless to say, with these clues, it was not hard to realize that somehow the crimes, if connected at all, would be connected through some sexual event. Perhaps I should have paid closer attention to the title of the book, which was a first reads giveaway.

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Icelandic Mystery!

Black Skies: An Inspector Erlendur NovelBlack Skies: An Inspector Erlendur Novel by Arnaldur Indriðason
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first books I read by a Scandinavian author were the Steig Larson trilogy. This led me to see the Scandinavian movie versions, on to the Masterpiece Wallendar series, then to the original European series which carried me to several other Scandinavian TV crime series complete with subtitles. I have since become a fan of the genre and this book, which I won in a Goodreads giveaway, in no way disappointed.

The action is subdued in tone--there are several deaths but the actual details of the attacks are minimal. While one of the deaths is believed to have resulted from a blackmail attempt on a rising politico and her husband by the couple who arranged wife swapping parties which they attended, there is no gratuitous sex scenes. There are actually three different crimes being investigated, four if you count the pilfering of an old lady's newspaper from her mailbox, but they seem to be totally unconnected.

The main character is Sigurdur Oli, a member of the Icelandic police force, whose lengthy live-in relationship has ended although, oblivious as he is to his lack of warmth and affection for others, he is hoping to resuscitate. He doesn't see how he or his mother contributed to the break-up and seems only mildly disturbed by his girlfriend's new relationship. This coldness and distance makes him a good investigator and the reader is carried along through the permutations that lead to the solving of mysteries with a really surprising ending.

The lack of crazy car chases, bullets flying, impossibly acrobatic sex scenes, and blood and gore produced a very satisfying cerebral crime story that seemed to be more realistic than most others. I only wish that Sigurdur Oli had a shorter name, although one would never think of him as Siggi. Looking forward to checking out a few more in this series.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Mid-October Part IV

Nov 5, 2013 Office in Nashville Townhouse 12:25 pm CST After having spent a long, hot day at the Hermitage the next week or so was spent on more mundane pursuits such as shopping, eating out, doing housework and reading. We also made a dash up to Bowling Green, Ky to our favorite BBQ place, the Smoky Pig and, of course, made the trek to Grinder's Switch to attend the Radio Hour, have lunch at Breece's Café and return by way of the Trace. Attempted once more to stop at the Loveless but it is always crowded and we just aren't the type to wait on line for much of anything. If ever you have occasion to eat at Breece's do NOT get a hot sandwich. The gravy is gelatinous and tastes like the flour used to thicken it--just awful. I lifted the top bread and ate the tasteless boiled beef inside with lots of salt and pepper. The chocolate silk pecan pie, on the other hand, is delicious! The week-end of October Oct 19 and 20 was a busy one. We had had rain it seems every other day and the temps were like a roller coaster. Oct 19 started out chilly and rain was predicted but we headed over to Long Hunter State Park anyway to attend the Tennessee PowWow. There is a wide open circular area surrounded by trees. In front of the tree line all the way around the circle were vendors of all sorts of Native American crafts. Much pottery, of course, as well as beaded jewelry. I saw a squash blossom necklace for $975 which I would have bought had I not already gotten one in New Mexico several years back. This was reversible--turquoise on one side and coral on the other. Just stunning. As we wandered around I there were speakers and musicians in the center of the circle entertaining the crowd. I heard a very pleasant male voice followed by beautiful violin music--as we wandered we came to a vendor of Arvel Bird CD's and I bought one. Another vendor from Rochester, Mn had lovely signed posters of various birds and animals. It was so hard to choose but I seem to always have a crow that greets me or finds me and stays around cawing at me. So, I've sort of taken the crow as my special wild bird and, though the Raven poster tempted me, I settled on the crow. Another corner was taken up by the Tennessee chapter of the Trail of Tears Society. I have been reading It's My Trail, Too off and on for several months now. It is a sort of journal of a man trying to walk the original trail since he has some Native blood and his family settled in Oklahoma after the relocation, as it is so inaptly called. It certainly was a relocation but not by any means voluntary. Oh, semantics. At any rate, I got talking to one of the gentlemen and he talked about the various actual trails that were used to cross Tennessee and the fact that part of one of them was to be marked and opened officially in Lawrenceburg in early November. He also gave me two of the National Park brochures relating to the Trail. By this time, we were chilled to the bone and starving so we purchased a smoked sausage and coffee to eat before finding a seat in the bleachers around the circle since the drumming and dancing competitions were about to begin. I had not yet realized that I could video with my camera and that sound would be recorded as well. Just as well or I'd have hours of singing and drumming--may I tell you--veins stuck out on the foreheads and throats of these chanting men. Unbelieveably strong and melodious voices and the drumming was so vigorous. How these fellows were able to keep it up for the six hours we were there and then the next day was amazing. The prizes for the various aspects of their performances were probably a major incentive. http://www.naiatn.org/powwow/drum-singing-contest.html Not to be outdone by audible talent, there was dancing competition also. It would be best for you to go to this page if interested in the various categories in both men, women, boys and girls competitions. Let me just say that, despite one little stretch of drizzle and really cold fall temperatures--more like home than Tennessee--, I insisted on staying for them all and it was beautiful. The costumes, the intricacy of steps, the headdresses and the elegance of some of the dancers was truly dazzling. What was even more dazzling was that the whole day with my two purchases, admission and lunch was under $50 ( $43,to be exact ) for the two of us. Non-stop professional quality entertainment with a crowd that had ample room with no poor seats--where does one get that these days? The next day was sunnier and warmer so we went around the corner--almost literally, it is so close--to the Tennessee Agricultural Center for the Music and Molasses Festival. I'm not sure we stayed an hour--one group sang " Will The Circle Be Unbroken" which ranks right up there with "Danny Boy" on my list of all-time least favorite songs. Then, they either didn't know anything else or felt an audience of about ten was too small, they picked up their instruments and trudged off somewhere--???. The vendors had nothing that wowed me and that is mostly what was there--vendors. The annual Crafts Festival at Sunapee in August is much better--bigger and better products. Did not see any molasses or any making of sorghum though we did see the horse walking round and round and there-by grinding up what looked like cane--though where that came from who knows. A few ladies in costume were using various looms and wheels to weave stuff for which the prices were ridiculous. There was someone half heartedly stirring stuff to make soap which sold for $4.50 a bar. Nice display of tractors and an interesting museum though most of the stuff I've seen in other Ag museums--Bill seemed to enjoy it so that was good. But after going to the Big E for quite a few years this seemed really mickey mouse. AND Corn dogs and other Cornbread covered mystery meat did not appeal. So it was back home to watch the Titans lose once more and order Pizza Hut in. It was a bit of a disappointing day--thought being Nashville it would be bigger somehow--but again, we had a nice stroll in the country, in the sunshine and it cost $10. Finished the day by ordering tickets for a cruise on Oct 25 on the Cumberland and tickets for the Bruce Monroe Light exhibit at Cheekwood on Oct 30. Will tell you all about it on the next installment. Enjoy the colorful pictures from this latest blog. Until next time, take care, KandB

If You Are Irish You'll Love This Book--You'll Love It Even If You're Not!

Fingal O'Reilly, Irish Doctor: An Irish Country NovelFingal O'Reilly, Irish Doctor: An Irish Country Novel by Patrick Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Being on vacation it has taken longer to read this book than would be the case had I not been gallivanting and just fitting it in during quiet moments. What an interesting approach to a story and one that works beautifully. Patrick Taylor, himself a doctor, indeed an Irish doctor transplanted to Canada, has told Fingal's story in chapters that alternate between the '30's in Dublin's tenements to the '60's ( which serves as the present ) in a small country village.

In the tenements the newly minted medical man is young, single, idealistic, enthusiastic--all the things we all are as we embark on our life's journey. Bright eyed and energetic with his mother's heart and love for those less fortunate, Fingal becomes a beloved member of the dirty, impoverished, disease-ridden area in which the irascible Dr Corrigan runs the dispensary in which the young doctor is given his first job. He even, over time acquires a nickname, Dr Big Felleh, and the the affection and admiration of the unmarried, childless mentor with whom he works.

The alternating chapters find a man thirty years older, recently married to what appears to have been an old girl friend, the one who got away, so to speak. He is still enthusiastic and caring but there is a maturity about him though no lack of caring about his patients and certainly the same belonging to his community of Balleybucklebo. His patients are less impoverished though not all are what one would call affluent. The respect and admiration, even affection, of his community is evident and obviously returned. It is he who runs a dispensary now and instead of a shared flat with a fellow medical man he owns a pleasant home in which he employs a delightful cook and maid, the wonderful Kinky, so. His assistant, a young man who cannot decide whether he wants to remain in General Medicine or specialize, has taken a leave to explore his options and Fingal has employed a young woman doctor, Jenny, to fill in.

The interwoven stories lead one easily from Dublin to Balleybucklebo. We learn how Kitty got away and how, eventually, she becomes his wife some 30 years later. There are changes in medicine during these thirty years, also. Antibiotics were not around during his early years of practice and as a modern reader sees people suffer with infection and death or near death situations it is impossible not to feel the helplessness Fingal experiences and his joy when he is able to turn around a case. As a woman the advancements made in female medicine is nothing short of miraculous and with Jenny I'm happy to have borne my child, at 43, in these days rather than when my Mom at 18 in 1919 lost a full term breech birth child. A delivery accident in which her baby's medulla was pierced in an effort to turn her around resulted in the infant's death within days.

It would seem that this book is the eighth in a series and that a ninth, according to Kinky, is in the works. Most of the time I'd be sorry not to have read the earlier installments but for some reason I'm glad this is the one with which I've started. When I read the others I will see Fingal in his early years and go with him down his path but unlike him I will know what the future holds--at least where he will be and with whom in the '60's. Don't we all wish we knew, sometimes,what the future holds? Kinky says the next book will even tell about Fingal's first marriage--since both he and Kitty did take different routes out of Dublin in the '30's. Can't wait--but, Dr Taylor, take your time--I have a little catching up to do!

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Part III

October 31 2013 2:07 pm CST Office in Nashville townhouse. Hello all and Happy Halloween! I cannot believe my last blog was the 17th ! I will have so much catching up to do. Our sojourn is coming to a close. Becky and Bob arrive home on the 16th and we will head north on the 17th. They board their Carnival cruise across the wide Atlantic tomorrow in Rome, I think, but certainly somewhere in Italy. I was looking at the list of places I wanted to explore while here and have been amazed at how many we have gone to see. As usual our tastes are quite eclectic and our desire to connect with locals continues. We've become somewhat regulars at our local Applebee's and are greeted as such. It is our local Cheers--many of the same people are there when we stop in for wings and Yuengling drafts. Lloyd the young manager always comes to sit at the bar with me--he talks to Bill, too, but I think I'm a mother figure for him. He had been to Cheekwood and the Bruce Munro Light exhibit and whipped out his fancy cell phone to show me pictures when I said we had tickets to go. Another young man, originally from Alabama, also chats me up and this week he told us of the cotton harvest going on in Alabama right now and I think we will head down this week-end to see it. There is another regular, probably in his early 60's, who is originally from Las Vegas, NM so we talk about our travels there. He keeps shaking his head when I say we haven't gone up to Taos because of the snow--so maybe we'll have to give it a try this year--it is the only part of NM we haven't explored. Anyway, you get the picture. We also go over to Logan's on occasion since I love to make myself throw the peanut shells on the floor--it is a real challenge. The bartender there is from Indiana so he and Bill talk sports etc. We've also taken to weekly treks to Grinder's Switch for the radio hour before which we get donuts at the local bakery and after which we go to the local café for lunch but that is another day's blog. Other than our first excursion out there in Centerville, we have spent days exploring the shopping areas around here and becoming familiar with the roads and various ways to get places. I've set Greta Garmin to avoid Interstates so we've gone to Aldi's on Nolensville Pike, over to Thompson Lane to Ulta's, Michael's and Logans. We headed out the Franklin Pike again to Academy Sports where we both got ourselves some new walking/running shoes at a real discount. Kroger's has become our grocery of choice on Old Hickory Boulevard and Mapco the gas station of choice on Nolensville Pike. We don't need Greta anymore in the immediate vicinity. We also have days of reading on the deck and running the robot over the floors while the washer and dryer keep our laundry from piling up. We take turns cooking --depending on what we want to eat and who is in the mood to make it. All in all, some things are similar to living at home and others like our road trips. The one nice thing is that it is Fall here, though we've had two frosts one two consecutive mornings but by and large we are still in short sleeves or a very light long sleeved hoodie. Some evenings are so mild and breezy that we sit on the deck until 9 or 930. The bugs are gone, except the yellow jackets and the leaves are finally turning, though our tree line across the road is almost bare now. We still have a plant on the deck and it is flowering. I love it. Today, I'll pick up where I left off on Oct 5. You may recall that we had gone to Columbia and spent time exploring Polk's home. Other than a trip to Centerville and the local excursions just described we didn't do any major sightseeing again until October 10 when we spent the entire day at The Hermitage, the home of Andrew Jackson, our 7th President. Betsy has no use for the man since he is responsible for the mass eviction of the local Native Americans in the brutal march that has become known as the Trail of Tears. Bill gave me the book American Lion for Christmas two years ago and I still haven't gotten around to reading it. It is during Jackson's administration that the Second Bank of the United States, a private institution and one that held Federal funds, lost its charter. Jackson felt that it favored affluent people at the cost of the common man and so withdrew all Federal funds from it and placed them in States banks. During this time tokens were issued as currency and one in particular shows Jackson, with sword raised high above his head, standing on a chest of coins and the motto reads " I take the responsibility!" Bill had one of these tokens placed in a gold bezel and put on a chain as his gift to Betsy on her 18th birthday. But back to our visit. The day was sunny without a cloud in the sky and though I dressed in the lightest blouse I owned it was hot as blazes. We decided to see everything available to us and so we purchased a ticket for the carriage ride, the tour of Tulip Grove and the tour of The Hermitage itself. The first order of business was walking to the mansion and behind it to take the 11 am carriage ride. The route to the Hermitage from the townhouse takes us past the airport and both the townhouse and the Hermitage are on flight paths into it. As we walked among the trees, planted by the ladies guild or some such and taken from each of the sights of battles in which Jackson served, huge jets would periodically go screaming overhead disturbing the quiet of this oasis so close to the developed urban areas that are Nashville suburbs. One of the shots in the album is sort of a where's Waldo shot--looking up through the canopy of one tree there is, almost hidden, one of the silver birds coming in for a landing. Many of the trees along what is called the War Road are long dead but there are still plenty to offer a bit of shade and respite from the heat. Around one curve framed by Eastern red cedars the stroller catches a glimpse of the façade of the Mansion. The walk does not follow exactly the original drive by which visitors of yore approached the home but the original gates are still off to one's right and the point at which the home is first espied is almost the same at which occupants of an arriving carriage would have first seen the entrance. The hurricane in 1998 wiped out most of the cedars that lined the original carriage road but the ones immediately in front of the home remain. It seems that Jackson wanted to obscure the fact that the façade was the only Greek Revival aspect of the home and that the sides and rear did not continue the motif. We bypassed the entry to the gardens, passed along the path before the mansion, around the left side and the unattached kitchen to the rear yard. Our cart awaited us with the driver Liddy and Percherons, Rachel and ?. There were only four of us for the trip so we were able to spread out and turn in all directions without disturbing anyone else. One of the first cabins we came upon is known as Alfred's cabin. Alfred was a slave on the plantation who remained after emancipation. In time he acquired Jackson's bed when the descendants were forced to sell. He served as a docent when the home was first opened to the public and he requested permission to be buried in the garden near the graves of Andrew and Rachel Jackson. As we slowly moved along the gravel path Liddy pointed out that the trees which we taking up a great deal of the landscape were not there in Jackson's time--all of the acreage, including the lovely park area through which we had strolled was planted in cotton, a small patch of which was planted for those of us unfamiliar with the crop to see. It was not yet ripe and ready for harvest. 1000 acres of cotton, as far as the eye could see! Jackson built a gin for his cotton and, for a fee, he ginned his neighbors' crops. Once baled, the cotton traveled by boat to New Orleans where it was sold to textile mills in Britain and New England, beneficiaries, too, of slavery. Coming out of the trees we reached a large open area with a strong flowing spring and the outlines of duplex housing for the field slaves. Here they lived and worked. They were allowed to hunt for food as well as receiving meat from the plantations larder and also tended gardens in which they grew vegetables. Fruit from the plantations trees and bushes were provided them as well. Artifacts have been found that indicate that there was also a system of barter among slaves of various plantations. Returning to the main house grounds we passed a cabin with two doors that was the second floor of the original home in which the Jackson's lived rot 13 years. The lower story was removed though no one seems to know why. Rachel had papered it with expensive French wall paper and had furnished it in style. When they built the big house they removed the first floor and converted the remaining second story into slave quarters. As we turned back into the wagon's tie up we passed another excavation, this one a triplex and the housing for some of the house slaves. We returned to the visitors' center to tour the museum before driving out Rachel's Lane to the Tulip Grove. One of the first displays is a blown out model of the cabin in which the Jackson's lived initially. Also a brief outline of the interactions between the " lords of the lash and the lords of the loom" and the place the Hermitage held in that union. As we walked about we found that the Jacksons like the Polks had no children of their own and, like the Polks, " adopted " a child from the family to be their son and heir. Rachel's brother had twin boys so one of them was named Andrew Jackson, Jr and became their son and heir. They also had an adopted son who was a Creek Indian found on the battlefield of New Orleans near his dead mother and sent home to the Hermitage by Jackson for Rachel to take under her care. That has always perplexed me--soon to force mothers and children to march to Oklahoma but so concerned about this one Creek? The family history as told in portraits became very confusing since it seems that every member of Rachel's family felt compelled to name a son Andrew Jackson somebody or other. Jackson himself had no family. His father died when he was young--his two brothers and mother died by the time he had fully grown. Rachel on the other hand seems to have more than enough kin to keep them happy and being childless they, like the Polks, always seemed to have nieces and nephews etc coming out of the woodwork. It is sad to note that shortly after being elected President, Jackson lost his wife and so after all the stress of scandal and war etc, she was not there to share his major triumph. Which brings me to the confusion--Rachel's niece, Emily, married her cousin ( Emily's, not Rachel's ) Andrew Jackson Donelson. The Donelsons went to Washington where Emily served as First Lady, in today's parlance, and AJD served as the President's secretary. It is they who built Tulip Grove. Emily died shortly after the construction of that mansion and AJD married another cousin, who was also Emily's cousin, Elizabeth Martin Randolph, the widow of Merriweather Lewis Randolph, Thomas Jefferson's grandson. Got that???? Meantime, AJ jr was back home taking care of the Hermitage--poorly it would seem--and raising children. One of whom Rachel was destined to be the last Jackson to live and become involved in the purchase and rehabilitation of a plantation and home gone to ruin. The South and its economy changed after the Civil War and the Hermitage was devastated as so many homes were by the changes. In addition, most of the men of the family died off leaving women to somehow hold on. The pictures and story of the decline are pretty self explanatory. Eventually, an old age home for Confederate veterans was built on the property. A Confederate cemetery was located nearby--up near Tulip Grove and the church that Rachel helped establish and attended. Eventually, an organization of prominent women managed to start the salvation of the Jackson home. Once exclusive in its membership it is now open to anyone, I read, with an amused eye. I just bet! Off we went to the car and a trip out to Tulip Grove. We were early so we roamed around the Church and I took pictures of the Tulip Poplar trees that are so prevalent here. Eventually, our young docent arrived and we had a tour of a rather bare building, the most impressive item of which was the lovely oval staircase that climbed three stories. Donelson himself had a rather impressive political career though he aligned himself with less than successful candidates. I'm sure his appointment as Ambassador by Polk was as much a result of his relationship to Jackson as to any real qualifications that set him above others for the post. Returning to the Visitors' Center we watched the video about Jackson and the Hermitage--most of the information we had already gleaned. Pretty tired of walking and very hot I decided to take advantage of the golf cart transport provided by a delightful security guard. She is from Texas and has worked here for three years and loves it. As I was the only one wanting a ride we had lots of time to chat. By this time it was about 330 and the wait to enter the house was very short. We sat on a bench in the shade as the period dressed docent repeated once more the story of the house and its reincarnations. Soon the door opened and we were taken through the lower rooms by yet another docent. Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed so I'll have to try to describe the rooms. We entered a narrow hall the walls of which are papered with papers that form a mural of Telemachus' search for his father on the Isle of Calypso, a section of the Odyssey. I must admit I didn't find it attractive but for the period in which the study of the Greek and Latin cultures was de rigueur I'm sure it was all the rage. Seems the kids enjoyed finding the various characters and locales. Well, heck, no computer games or internet. On the left of the central hallway are two doors each of which open into a parlor, both of which connect to each other. The rooms are furnished primarily with scattered small tables and chairs. Many of Jackson's momentoes are there including a sword presented to him by the State of Tennessee and a Italian marble bust of him. At the end of the hall is another elliptical staircase but we bypassed it to go round the back porch and into the lower hallway, where we were greeted by another docent. Here were found a very large room with bookcases and a huge chair and tables. Massive bound books of newspapers were stacked on the floor. Jackson subscribed to about five newspapers and read them each day and in time had each years output bound in a book. This was his library. Attached to this room, his bedroom with Rachel's portrait on the wall across from the foot of his bed. In his later years this pair of rooms is where he spent most of his time. Across the hall, a smaller room used as an office by Jr to run the business of the plantation. Then we climbed up to be greeted by another docent at the head of the stairs. Upstairs, six huge bedrooms--each holding two full sized four poster beds, wardrobes, and dressers. Larger than any rooms I've seen in any other plantation. Curtains enclosed each bed during the winter and gauzy mosquito netting enclosed them in summer. The upstairs floor plan is interesting. You go up a short flight and there are two bedrooms one on either side, up another short flight and two more, then down the other side into a large hall with a guillotine window at one end and large doors on the other and two bedrooms across from the stairs. Here are some seating couches and then the opening to the oval staircase and a return to the main hall. Once more we proceeded out to the entrance to the dining room which is, in the Southern style below the house where it is cooler. No curtains, they catch dust. Venetian blinds. Not carpet but a painted floor clothe and a huge dining room table. Very simple chairs and a sideboard. A few pieces of silver serving pieces that he bought from Commodore Stephen Decatur's widow. And then we left by the back door to see the kitchen that is in a building of its own. This was built after a fire almost destroyed the whole house in 1834. A smokehouse stands beside it. By this time, I was thoroughly tired and the day was almost over. I asked the docent at the front door to summon the cart and sat in the setting sun waiting. It wasn't until I got home that I realized we never went into the garden nor saw the grave of the Jacksons or Albert. Off we went past the airport and Barleycorns Liquor Barn to our townhouse and some chicken wings from Applebees. Completely tired but happy with comments about the beautiful day we'd enjoyed. Hopefully, you've enjoyed it,too. Until next time, take care KandB

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Early October Through Columbus Day--Part II

October 17, 2013 Colder and rainy on and off. A good day to blog. 2:44PM CST Townhouse Office Nashville, Tn October 5 dawned sunny and warm and we made our way to Columbia, Tn to visit the only remaining home of the 11th President of the United States, James Knox Polk. The only remaining residence, that is, but for The White House. Greta Garmin acquired her satellites and led us a familiar path to Old Hickory Blvd to Franklin Pike which we expected her to continue to follow into Columbia but she diverted us to the East and so into Columbia only blocks from his home without taking us through the heart of the city. I like that Greta, sometimes. The homes in Brentwood continue to amaze me by their size for single families, though in comparison to Belle Meade this are shacks. Upon arrival in front of the Polk residence we were directed to the home beside it, known as the Sisters' House. It is so called because one of his elder sisters and her husband lived in it until they were expecting their ninth child. At that point, they decided the home was too small so they removed to a larger house and another of James' sisters moved in with her husband and two children. The Sisters' House has had the downstairs converted into a theatre in which a short film is shown about the Polk family history and James' early life before his marriage and eventual entry into politics. Another room houses a modest gift shop and several other rooms house a small museum with a timeline of Polk's history and some of the smaller items he possessed. It is sad to think that the Polk Place in Nashville, which was his final home and site of his final resting place, as well as the home in which he widow dwelt until her death, was torn down in 1901 in order for a hotel to be built. His grave was then moved to the Capital Building grounds. One of the portraits in the film room that particularly appealed to me was of a very handsome red-haired fellow. Turns out he was George M. Dallas, for whom the city in Texas is named and who ran with Polk as the vice - presidential candidate. I found several items and several comments particularly interesting. Loved the fun of campaigns that existed even as far back as the mid 19th century:" One for the ropes, the other for the gallows" ! Also the restraint in accepting gifts as President and First Lady: and ink pot, a cast of an extremely miniature foot, a beaded bag. In the house were a few larger gifts but, in general, when having seen the collections of more recent Presidents it is so modest. This fellow Polk was a definite man of the opinion that we had a Manifest destiny to own all the land to the Pacific Coast and eliminate any European holdings at least in the North American hemisphere and that he did. This attitude probably stemmed from the personal acquisition of land by his grandfather and father before him on behalf of the Polk family. His great-grandfather was an early settler of Mecklenburg, NC, the family having immigrated from Scotland in 1680 to Maryland. The West was very attractive to his grandfather, Ezekiel and his father, Samuel because of the available land. Through his job as surveyor, Ezekiel was able to acquire large tracts in what was to become Tennessee and he moved to it in 1790 but had to return to NC when his wife became ill. In 1803 he returned with other members of his family and, at first settled slightly south of Franklin. Samuel and his family arrived in 1806 when James was 11. At this point there were five children in the family, with James the eldest son. They established a farm north of what is now Columbia but as the area grew a new county, Maury ( pronounced Murray around here ) was organized, Columbia was designated the county seat and the first courthouse was built in 1809-1810. Samuel continued farming, bought or acquired lots in town and went into business with is eldest daughter's husband. Through all this activity it became evident that James was frail and not able to follow into the business. Before his 17th birthday his father had to take him to a specialist in Ky for major, for the time, urinary bladder surgery. It is supposed that this surgery had the unintended result by which James and his wife were unable to have children. Recognizing this lack of stamina it was decided that James would be educated as well as possible and proved to be an outstanding scholar at the University of NC at Chapel Hill. He had first honors in math and the classics and delivered the salutatory address in Latin--not particularly unusual in those days when Latin and Greek were both essential elements of a well-rounded education. Not once in his three years had James returned home and after graduation needed a week's rest before he could return home. While he was away much had happened. His eldest sister now had three children and was living in the Sisters' House next door to a new home his father had built in 1816. His second sister was now married to a doctor and lived with him and their child nearby as well. In the new home he joined his parents and seven younger siblings--two sisters and five brothers, ranging in age from a one year old to the eldest at 16! He was now 23 and stayed home for only a short time before heading off to Nashville to study law under the tutelage of a Mr. Felix Grundy, whose home would many years later after some renovation become Polk Place. During this time, James stuck his toe into politics and was chosen clerk of the State Senate, which was located in the then capital city of Murfreesboro. He was admitted to the bar in 1820 and returned to the family home in Columbia, practicing law out of a log cabin not far away. In 1823 he was elected to the State Legislature, began courting Sarah Childress, the daughter of a wealthy family and a highly educated young woman and married her on Jan 1, 1824. Then in 1825, with the support of Andrew Jackson, he ran for and was elected to the US House of Representatives. He served seven terms in Congress, and in 1835 was chosen Speaker of the House--only one ever to become President. His alliance with Andrew Jackson put him at odds with Henry Clay and led to the humorous exchanges mentioned earlier when they ran against each other for President. Before that unexpected event, however, Polk almost destroyed his political career by leaving a successful career in Washington to run for the Governorship of Tennessee, which he won for one term. He ran two more times and was defeated each time. He felt quite depressed by this but kept his eye on events in Washington and decided to seek the Democratic nomination for vice president in 1844. The Party had so many factions and could not agree on a Presidential candidate that it came as a total surprise that Polk was elected as the candidate on the 9th ballot when the original compromise choice, Silas Wright of New York, whose VP running mate was to be Polk, refused the nomination. Elected by the smallest margin of any President, Polk reduced the tariff, established an independent treasury, settled the boundary of Oregon, acquired California and New Mexico by winning the Mexican War, annexed Texas, negotiated a treaty with Britain about rights on the High Seas, established Annapolis as the Naval Academy and established the Smithsonian. He served four years, never intending to seek re-election, went home to Tennessee badly aged and weakened, contracted Cholera and died three months after leaving office. As I mentioned before Polk Place in Nashville was razed and a great-niece of Sarah Polk, whom she and James had adopted as their daughter, and the niece's daughter proposed that the Polk possessions be housed in the War Memorial being built in Nashville. Before the building was finished, however, the adopted daughter died and her daughter organized the JKP Memorial Association and with funds from various governmental and private donations the house in Columbia was purchased in 1924 and has become the museum we toured today. Its furnishings are all from the original family of Samuel Polk's time, from the Polk White House and from Polk Place. In 1937, the original Polk property housing the Sisters' House was acquired, the original foundations of the kitchen and adjourning room were found and the buildings reconstructed. The gardens are original and the fountain is the Polk fountain. Having absorbed much of this history from both the film and the museum ( where we saw a image of the original plan for the Washington monument, the cornerstone of which was laid by Polk ) we proceeded to the adjacent home. A lovely young woman named Lydia was our guide. To the left of the entrance hall is the formal parlor dominated by a beautiful mosaic Egyptian marble topped table given to Polk upon his retirement from the Presidency. It depicts the American eagle surrounded by 30 stars, representing the states of the Union in 1848. In one corner also stands the pianoforte which Sarah's father bought her and which cost the same as an acre of land! Hanging on two walls on one corner of the room, a painting of Polk when he assumed the Presidency with another painted at his retirement. They spoke more than words how those four years aged the man. Through the archway in one wall could be glimpsed the dining room. In pride of place opposite the entry from the hall, a painting of James' mother and to the right of that, a horrible painting of Sarah that Lydia and I agreed she probably never had hanging anywhere where it could be seen! Sarah's choice for White House china was a different Tennessee wildflower on each piece. Upstairs, a small room served as James' bedroom when he was a single man--a sleeping couch a bookcase and a desk-chair that I really loved. He probably shared it with the next oldest son. Next came the girl's bedroom which was light and airy as we entered. Painted white with bright green accents the case windows walls and trim are a beautiful peach. When the sun shone that peach just illuminated to whole place. Unfortunately, the sun went behind a cloud when the room was emptied and I could photograph it. Across the hall, Sarah and James' room but the portrait came after his death, hence she is in black widow's weeds which she never gave up, though, after a year, mauve and pearl gray were socially acceptable colors of a widow's garments. At the top of the stairs a portrait of Cortez, sent to Polk at the end of the Mexican War by General Pillow, who also gave Mrs Polk that heavy gold fan. A note included said that Cortez had been the first to defeat Mexico and that Polk was the second. Finally, another bedroom with a sitting area and a fire guard positioned beside one of the chairs. Ladies' make-up of the time contained wax and it would begin to melt in the warm from the flames. This shield which could be adjusted up and down protected the woman's face sitting in the chair close to the hearth. Lydia led us to the back door and we explored the kitchen area and then she rejoined us and led us rapidly through the garden to..... An adjacent Church has been purchased and renovated and serves at the Polk Presidential Hall in which exhibits are staged that relate to the period of James Polk's life. When we were there the exhibit was Keeping Time: Clocks from 1795-1850. It was during the later part of this period that American clock making was reaching its peak--a period when clocks made in New England were actually being used in our country and also being exported to Europe rather than English and French clocks being imported for American use. After exploring the various styles and periods of clocks we were free to wander the gardens at leisure. I sat in the shade on a elevated bench and just enjoyed the quiet and beauty of the surroundings as Bill strolled about looking at the various trees and shrubs. By this time it was almost 3 and we headed west toward Hohenwald and entry to the Natchez Trace--one of my favorite roads in America. We drove leisurely north, took the detour to the old Trace and stopped at a couple of memorials that were not there the last time we'd driven the Trace--one marking the Tennessee Valley Divide and another commemorating Jackson's march to and from New Orleans where he made a name for himself during the War of 1812--though the battle occurred in 1814 after the Peace Treaty had been signed in Paris--darned that mail service! Soon we were off the Trace on Tn route 100 and headed once more to Old Hickory Blvd and home--another full and interesting day gone by. Until the next installment --enjoy ! BandK

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Early October through Columbus Day

October 13 2013 4PM CST Townhouse Office in Nashville, Tn Hello gang! This will be a serial account of excursion days and domestic days here in the lovely Nashville Townhouse and environs. I must say we are truly familiar with all of the major roads in and out of town and their names are now as familiar as any road in Post Mills, New York City, Burlington or any of the places with which I am most familiar. Amalie, Old Hickory, Nolensville Pike, Edmonson Pike, Harding Pl, Rt 100, Franklin Pike etc and I even know how to get to them and The Trace without a map! When I look up directions to anywhere on MapQuest or dear Greta, I can skip about the first five to six steps. BTW, I was referring to the Gamin the other evening while discussing the sights with the Applebee's manager, Lloyd McDonald, a young man who hails from Knoxville. It was he who told me that Greta can be programmed to ignore Interstates, toll roads and dirt roads ( which I've done ). He also said that he and his family find Greta's voice quite seductive so they call her the Gamin Hussy! Love it! As always one day runs into the next and we are never quite sure what day it is. For some reason the first two days of October were not very active; indeed, I slept until 11 am on the 2nd. I shouldn't say that any of our days are " unproductive " but though we've made several lists of places we want to explore and annotated them with info from google etc, we find that, since we are actual residents of Nashville, we don't feel the need to be on the go every day in order to see everything before moving on. This, of course, may mean that some places will not be explored but that is always the case even when we are traveling. The Government shut down could have had a truly disappointing impact on our stay but the historical sites associated with the Civil War, such as Stony Creek Battlefield and others in the immediate area, we had visited already the year that quite without planning became our Year of The War Between the States. Other sites are under the aegis of the State of Tennessee and remain open. In addition, that beautiful road, The Trace, though Federal, remains open and we have been out checking foliage several times. My plan then is to cover the highlights of our explorations and try to cover just one day's excursion per chapter. It is hoped that by breaking the story into little bites you will be able, as we have been, to more easily enjoy them without being overwhelmed and without the sometimes hot and sweaty experiences they may have been. Also I won't be boring you with the laundry, cooking, exhausting dodging of the Roomba, and draining loading and running of the dishwasher that unfortunately occupy the once in awhile day we spend sunning on the deck and reading or the Sundays watching football on TV! So, all that being said, come on to Grassmere and the Nashville Zoo. There are hysterical signs all over this area but most are located on the aforementioned Pikes and Roads on which traffic is heavy and the drivers are nuts. If ever you drive around here do as one of the regulars at Applebee's told us. Stop when the light turns YELLO but watch your rear end when you do and DO NOT go on green until you've counted to 50, because no one else stops on RED! We laughed but will tell you each time we came to an accident and the condition of the cars and people when we did. At any rate, we did not stop to read the hysterical sign at the entrance of Zoo Road ( which we discovered quite by accident when Greta got us to Aldi's a few days earlier ) which is right off Nolensville Pike and the intersection of which has a traffic signal including a turn arrow--all good! I had read an article in The Tennessean before Bill arrived back from Vermont which talked about a new exhibit of red kangaroos through which one could walk and where one could PET A KANGAROO!!! Well, you can bet that went right to the top of my MUST DO things while in Nashville. Bill is very anti-zoo but some of my happiest memories growing up was excursions to the Bronx Zoo and when I lived in Burlington I made several trips to Granby Zoo and Parc Safari in Quebec. Not having been since Betsy was little and NEVER having pet a roo I was determined to go. After all, he won't fly to Australia ( or anyplace else, for that matter ) and I don't think I'm going to get to the Serengeti anytime soon to see any of these other beasts in their natural habitat, my wish became his command. The history of the land on which the Zoo is located is really interesting although I didn't have the stamina in the heat and humidity to explore the historic home which is off to one end of the grounds. Tennessee was originally part of North Carolina and in 1786, NC granted 640 acres to Wm Simpson in gratitude for his service during the Revolution. His son sold 272.5 acres to Michael Dunn of Virginia in 1810. Dunn built a Federal style brick home which he sold along with the land to his son-in-law, Lee Shute for $10,000. Shute acquired more land over several years and in 1859 sold the house and the now 346 acres to his son Wm for $5. This Wm named the Estate Grassmere after Wordsworth's poetry. Though pillaged by Union troops, the home and family survived the War and became prosperous once more. In time, the farm was inherited by William's four daughters, one of whom with her husband and two children resided there until moving to Cuba. In 1931, these two children returned to live at Grassmere with their Aunt Leila who left the farm to these two unmarried women in 1952. They lived there and ran the farm until the last one died in 1985. Margaret and Elise felt the land was more important than its monetary value and in 1964 they donated it to the Children's Museum of Nashville. In 1985, at Elise's death, the museum developed the 200 acre area into the Grassmere Wildlife Park which opened in 1990 but it closed due to lack of funds. In 1997, The Nashville Zoo took over management at the instigation of Nashville's then mayor. Today, in addition to the Zoo visitors can go to the farm and its various buildings, including at certain times of year, a tour of the home. Perhaps, before we leave we will go back to do just that. A lady who we often see at Applebee's--our very own Cheers--told me this story and encouraged us to go see the Roos which she said were great fun. The Zoo is beautifully laid out in two very large loops, exclusive of the loop to the Farm. We arrived shortly after it opens at around 9, since it is only minutes from our home. There are a few slight rises and many of the walk areas are boardwalk type under the canopy of large trees. The Zoo has not gone overboard in the number or types of animals they have and the areas in which the animals are located are open and the animals, free. There is a short introductory loop that brings you to a main plaza like area in which there are rest rooms, a restaurant and small gift shop. It is from this area that one chooses which way they want to go for their first major loop. Since the Kangaroo Kickabout was my main goal we headed out the Jungle loop. But not before encountering the park's greeters, Hyacinth Macaws. Since Blue is my favorite color this was a thrill since their blue was so stunning and they were so pleased to pose and preen for these curious creatures passing them by. Each of the exhibits has a marker giving various tidbits of info such as habitat and scientific name etc for the creatures contained within. I had just discovered Earth Flight on PBS a few nights earlier and the particular episode I'd watched included the red headed crane--so sacred in Asia and I was really excited to see that the very next area contained two of them, one of which chose to remain hidden and its partner to ignore us. Nevertheless, to see them and realize their true size and the beauty of the plumage was wonderful. As we rounded the corner we encountered the white cheeked gibbon and another, which I don't remember. What a pair! The yellow fellow was quite laid back and indifferent to both us and his island mate. They were separated from us only by a narrow moat and seemed perfectly content. The white cheeked fellow was very active and seemed very anxious to get the other guy to join him in play but noooooo. I had mentioned to our lady friend that as a kid I always stayed out of the monkey house--I found it horribly nauseating and monkeys, except for few--like the marmosets--really obnoxious. I do like the Silver Back Gorillas in Quebec, though. She told me that Grassmere had only a few primates and no gorillas, they didn't feel they had the facilities for them. That made me happy that the management was realistic and concerned about the animals enough to limit their numbers and size. On the next Island was a bit larger fellow with whom I was not familiar, the Siamang of Malaysia and Sumatra. I would have loved to have seen them inflate their throats and call out but apparently they had nothing to talk about that particular morning. Over the hill and around the bend we came to some of natures clowns--they aren't, of course, but they do seem to amuse us. The meercats. One group of three were particularly noticeable and amusing. Using the trunk and roots of a tree in the corner they rolled backward on their butts as if in hammock chairs and exposed their little bellies to the warm morning sun! A young man not much bigger than they enjoyed watching them watch him. One of the neatest things about a zoo is watching little kids --they so love the animals and their glee is contagious. There were many young mothers with infants and toddlers chatting away with each other as their children excitedly took it all in. One young woman had a two year old in a stroller with a set of twins in another. She said there was a 4 year old at playschool. She and a friend, with one toddler were enjoying the early morning visit. I told them their children were adorable and how happy I was they had such a lovely place to bring them. Then the toddlers and I talked to the meerkats as they stared back at us. Next we came to the broad banded beak stork--at first no birds were in evidence and then one sort of sauntered out from behind the shrubs, followed more slowly by another who walked out and then back and then around the shrub. All of a sudden the first turned back and stood tall as he lifted his wings wide. Again, I was seeing what had been shown in Earth Flight--a mating dance! He ran away from her and piroueted gracefully, jeted and leapt--it was a true ballet worthy of any Edward Villella. I could not believe my eyes, the grace, speed and strength of the performance was breath-taking---so much more impressive in real life. I could have watched forever but soon they started back to the bushes and I felt that perhaps privacy was important to birds, too. After passing through another plaza area containing an amphitheatre and exhibition hall of spiders, snakes and amphibians of various types, in which I had no interest, we came upon another sign for the roo enclosure and then, there they were. We were instructed to stay on the path and allow them to come to us. Unfortunately, there is plenty to eat and though very close to us, the animals had absolutely no interest in getting petted. Except for Irma, that is. Irma was lying right on the path and was very interested in having her back petted. She allowed the keeper to rub her tummy but we were told to only approach her from behind and pet her back but not her head. That was fine with me--these are, after all, wild animals and as such can feel threatened by what seems the most innocuous behavior but these dumb upright creatures. For one thing, that pouch is pretty special and I would imagine even empty Irma isn't too thrilled with strangers getting that personal. As for the canine head pat, probably not a good idea. She looked at me sideways, kept her ears turned my way and allowed me to stroke her thick wooly coat. One of the highlights of my life!!!! The rest of the Zoo was just icing on the cake. Since my knees aren't always as dependable as I'd like I chose to bend from the waist rather than squat--easier to get out of the way, should Irma decided I'd stroked enough. The resulting pictures aren't my most flattering--but I DON'T CARE--I PATTED A ' ROO!!!! I could have stayed right there all day but that isn't fair to others, not that you are asked to leave or that anyone was at the door limiting entrance, though I imagine that probably happens at times. Also, Bill wasn't as enthralled as I and didn't pat a 'roo! Continuing round the bend we came to an open grassland, which interestingly wasn't considered part of the Savannah loop, in which eland, Reba Zebra and friends and a comically curious ostrich reside. On we continued to the cats area, well some of the cats--a beautiful white tiger who was headed right toward me, and of whom I would have gotten a great close-up, but for the marauding middle school group that came to the barrier with fierce roars that sent him back to the rear of the enclosure and close to his more naturally colored next door neighbor who watched him pace unblinkingly. The same beastly brat roared equally loudly at the Eurasian lynx, who both lay unmoving doing a very good job of impersonating furry sphinxes. With a sigh I continued along my way and almost, but not totally, embarrassed to admit that I didn't tell another rambunctious unrestrained brat, who almost took me out at the knees as he rounded the downhill curve in front of the Alligator Cove sign, that the alligators were inside the building that had two doors and resembled a rest room with an entrance and exit. I allowed him to continue round the next curve without even acknowledging my existence before I casually walked in and eyeballed those living logs for a short while with a smile on my face and in my heart. I know, I know, but sometimes the lack of consideration for others supercedes my understanding of and tolerance for youthful exuberance. The Bamboo Trail actually starts prior to the gate that announces it and the pathway is imprinted with bamboo leaves --all of it very soothing. There are so many types of bamboo but I've never actually encountered the incredibly tall bamboos of Asia. This flora certainly adds to the ambience of the habitats of the fauna of this area. Hopefully, in some way it reproduces the normal habitat of these creatures. I absolutely fell in love with the Clouded Leopard and the Red Panda. I had only seen one other Red Panda, in Quebec. They are really cute and cuddly looking but those Clouded Leopards---how regal and elegant--even piled three deep in one crook of a tree--and the length of those tails! Oh, just gorgeous. Nocturnl animals are always appealing because of their huge eyes. I was actually surprised that the lemurs were as active as they were since the light was rather bright and they were outdoors. The Cassowary is far less appealing to look at, I think, but their adaptations and life-style is rather fascinating. For one, they are flightless birds, no big surprise! Their head is protected by a helmut-like covering, the wing tips are elongated to create a sort of armor and there is an elongated toe nail on the inner side of its claw so that is jumps and slashes, disemboweling attackers! The males incubate the eggs and take care of the young until about a year old. Ugly but pretty impressive. The red-ruffed lemur was even more active than the ring-tailed lemur and there were more of them for some reason. The tapirs on the other hand were not about to leave the shade or the far distant side of the enclosure. I forget who that avian creature was with them but it was a long tall drink of water, that doesn't really show up in the picture. And then we arrived at the flamingo lagoon. Oh, these were the flamingoes of my dreams. I was so disappointed in my teens to see the flamingoes in Florida--they were so pale, almost albino looking. I simply was not impressed and really haven't seen any since that impressed me. Even those on Earth Flight were kind of less than pastel--but these guys were vibrant! Coral pink orange and dazzling. Just magnificent! By this time I'd had it--the loop was finished but we needed to return to the original plaza area and I was hot and tired. Bill wanted to continue the African Savannah loop with elephants and giraffes and red river hog. I wanted something to drink, a postcard or two and a bench. Not a problem for either of us. We slowly made our way back to the gibbons--I sat in the shade on a bench and Bill went off to Africa. He was back in about 45 minutes and I chatted with Moms with toddlers and enjoyed the antics od that white-cheeked gibbon. As we departed we saw the arrival of many more school trips--each group from a different school or church group wearing a different colorful t-shirt emblazoned with whatever. Was happy to leave the grounds to them. As we left Zoo Road there was our first accident. The object resting on the front grill of the car nearest us as we went by was the door of one of the vehicles. Who knows how that happened but both cars were pretty shot. Couldn't tell is anyone was injured but purchases were strewn all over. AND this isn't downtown!!! Decided to go to Applebee's for appetizers and a beer for early dinner and something simple later at home. I decided to get my hair trimmed next door at Supercuts and then joined Bill and the locals we usually run into in late after noon. Three hours at the zoo, hair washed, trimmed and styled, chicken wings and a Yuengling. Life is good. Hope you enjoyed the day as much as we. Til next time KandB

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Good Suspenseful Romantic Story

Bad Nights (Rockfort Security, #1)Bad Nights by Rebecca York
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a first reads giveaway and was glad to receive it since I haven't read a Rebecca York in awhile. From the first page the book kept my interest--first, wondering as Morgan does, what a naked man is doing running around loose in the mountains, then, once she had him safely indoors so he didn't freeze to death, being as frightened to death as she when the cabin is attacked by rather well armed strangers claiming to be Federal agents.
The one weakness I found was the inadvertent identification of the money man behind the militia--as soon as he was given a certain object I knew and found his subsequent actions unlikely considering his age and background. A minor weakness, however, since there was still plenty to keep me anxious and curious about how it was all going to end.

Worth the read, and it is a fast read, since I couldn't put it down and then had trouble sleeping since I live in the country and there was a militia type incident not many miles away just a few years back.


View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Nashville vs Franklin 1864

October 9 4 PM CST Still in Office in Townhouse in Nashville September 24 found me spending the day in bed after a sleepless night during which I'd gotten sick twice. Mostly I was tired and decided to stay in bed with a book and tea since I must have eaten something that didn't agree with me. Didn't even go down for the newspaper and since the screen door was getting covered with stinkbugs by the dozens in late afternoon I decided not to go out on the deck. Emailed the Ag center to ask what could be done about the invasion and, though I received an immediate reply it was really not helpful at all. I already knew that these Asian invaders were very horribly, repulsively stenchy if squashed, I could not seem to get an info about what, if any, pesticide would kill them and whether such a chemical was available locally.I was, however assured that the infestation would get worse before getting better in mid winter. Seems the creatures were looking for places to hole up when the bad cold weather arrives. I felt truly imprisoned by their presence and could not wait for Bill's arrival and his pesticide expertise. His ETA was sometime after noon on the 26th--he spent the 24th in Batavia, NY and the 25th in Cincinnati. I, in the meantime, made up the grocery list, though I still had at least a week's worth of provisions left, lacking in variety and fresh fruit and veggies but I would not have starved. I was rather proud of how well I'd filled the larder for my retreat. Although, I had and have the use of both Becky's Saturn and Bob's Prius, I chose not to use either, unless there was a real emergency which, fortunately, did not occur. Since it was also the end of the month, I also set up the bill payments for October. Then I got out all the info on the area and started making lists and marking places in the visitors' guide that I thought would be interesting to explore. Bill arrived right on time the 27th with potatoes, squash and onions from our garden and mail and books and my new pocketbook. We decided to eat out at Applebee's--a treat for me, after five weeks, though not so much for him, since that is his go to place between here and Vt. Still we had a good time and, as usual, met some more of the locals which we always enjoy. Having been on the road for three days, Bill really wanted to just veg the next day. So, he got a taste of breakfast on the deck and life in the townhouse. I had seen an article in the Tennessean to which I subscribed about the second week, about the last baseball game of the season using 1864 rules. If you are interested both the rules and the vocabulary of the old game can be found at www.tennesseevintagebaseball.com It is quite a different game. The strikes are shown by the number of white handkerchiefs threaded through the backstop. There is only one ump--at the plate. No gloves or cleats or helmits. But a lot of fun and funny cheers and taunts between the guys. Quite a crowd attended the free game, families with picnics and pets. The brat and sauerkraut was delicious. It was fun to see the young pre-teen boy in Franklin garb run over to upgrade the score. Fun, too, to see that the out of town games were also listed for those interested. The game was held on the grounds of Carnton Plantation in Franklin. We wandered around the grounds and came to the Confederate cemetery containing the dead from the Battle of Franklin. It is a wonder there were any men left in Mississippi afterwards, so many died here. Soon the threat of rain decided us to head home. We used the Gamin --or at least I had set it up but also had the MapQuest directions since Greta Gamin only seemed to understand the use of Interstates. We, of course, avoid them when possible. Lo and behold we found Franklin Pike!!! Leecia had taken me out that way but it didn't look familiar at all. I brought us back on Wilson Pike on which I found a railroad underpass WORSE than the ones on Rt 14 near Royalton or the one on Glen Rd. Much tighter and no visibility at all. Bill was thrilled in pouring rain. Greta kept getting very annoyed with me--she'd tell us calmly to make a U-turn when we ignored her directions--when we continued to ignore her she'd get very dictatorial as she reiterated the order to make a U-turn. When we still did not obey she'd reluctantly relent and, with exasperation in her voice, she would announce that she was recalculating! Soon, with the use of Greta and MapQuest we were back home, safe and sound and now knowing not only Old Hickory Road but also how to find the Franklin Pike!! On the 30th we refilled the larder at Krogers.

My Lovely Me Time in Nashville for a Month

October 9, 2013 3:15 PM CST TownHouse Office Yesterday I received an email from one of you saying she hadn't heard a thing from me in ages and wondered if I'd decided to forgo blogging my visit to Middle Tennessee as the locals call this neck of the woods. Well, as the three albums I just forwarded to y'all show, I've been following no particular schedule and paying no attention to time at all. I'm sorry the pictures are redundant at times and even mixed up but basically my days have been wonderfully mixed up and redundant and disorganized, too. Mostly, I've been enjoying the weather and my little hideaway. After Bill left to return to his ag and winterizing chores in Vermont I remained in what I call the tiger room. The bed is a very comfortable double and the room has a full bath attached. The window faces onto the road beside the deck and is nicely lit at night by a distant streetlight. I found it to be a really cozy nest at night and my slumbers were deep and undisturbed. We had gotten me enough provisions for the month so I never had need of leaving and so I didn't. Well, except for one day, when one of the ladies two doors down decided that I at least had to see what was around. She took me out to Belle Meade to see the houses where various rich folk live--it was the neighborhood in which the Gores resided before breaking up. We drove by Cheekwood which is a wonderful gardens which I have on my list of places to see--there is a Munro light exhibit there and we will go out one evening to enjoy it now that Bill is back. Leecia and I drove into downtown and across the Cumberland River past the Titans stadium and then back to Broadway and up past the honky tonks. We went to Centennial Park and the Parthenon and the Capital building. Over past the Frist Gallery and the Country Music Hall of Fame as well as by the Predators arena. I got a closer look at the Batman Building and a peak down the street at the Ryman. We then came back out to the outskirts of town and had a delightful lunch at the Puffy Muffin. My head was in such a whirl--having no idea where I was in relation to the townhouse and the names of the streets just blended one into another though I did notice that lots of them are called " Pikes " and the first name usually designates where you'll end up if you take it out of Nashville--such as the Nolensville or Franklin Pikes. When we returned she lent me the book by Eisenhower's driver about their " affair". I reviewed the book on my blog after I read it. I haven't seen Leecia since--she took off the next day for Charleston for three days and then was flying out to LA for a week before returning to Nashville to do laundry and then head up to Northwest Tn to visit her folks. Other than that interlude, my days were my own--sometimes Jean, another neighbor would come up to the deck if I were out there while she took her walk and Percy, the girl next door would call over on her way to work. I did the laundry and read and did my nails and read and watched the Manning Bowl and read and finished my Netflix DVD's so I could return them, dyed my hair and read , sat up and watched Leno or Letterman and Fallon when I felt like it and read some more. I must admit, that though I spoke to Bill everyday at around 10:30 and he sent me some of his jerky when he made it, I really wasn't in the bit lonely or bored. By the end of the fourth week though I finally felt as though I wanted to explore and start seeing new things. It was with pleasure that I made up the grocery list, paid the October bills and got out the travel guides, maps and brochures in preparation for Bill's return in the last days of September.

Punctuation History and How Technology Caused Some Changes

Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, & Other Typographical MarksShady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, & Other Typographical Marks by Keith Houston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

onceuponatimeattheheightofthegreekandromancivilizationsthewrittenwordlookedlikethisorTHISBUTTHENFEWEEHTNOOSNEMYRTNUOCDNASNAMORSDNEIRFWONKUOYSNOITAROHGUORHTELPOEPEHTOTEMACNOITAMROFNITSOMDNADAEROTELBAER

orators needed some indication of where to, at least, take a breath. So began the use of punctuation and the development of its rules.

The first two sentences of this review shows a very early form of writing, actually the all upper case primarily in the Greek because that was the only case they had ( Homer's time ) and the ox-turning style from line to line. One of the earliest developments was the use of dots between words like.this or maybe:this. In time, paragraphs were introduced and a punctuation, that I never knew had a name, the pilcrow, appeared. I'm glad to know its name and I like it--my early grade school writing had so many red pilcrows, those funny looking P's with lines through them like dollar signs, that I despaired of ever obtaining an "A" on an essay or, indeed, ever reach a point where my first submission would be accepted for a grade, without a rewrite. Oh, but the permutations that aggravating mark endured before reaching the form favored by those nuns of my training!

If, you, like me, detest that horrible car commercial with the robotic girl who sits in the driver's seat and crosses her fingers as she intones " hashtag, something or other" you will be happy to know that hashtag, which I will always call the pound sign--for the weight measurement, not the amount of pressure exerted on the keypad, has an alternate name--the octothorpe! And this will now be my new favorite word for the sign. But who developed it and who named it? Well, Bell Labs and touchtone phones played a part.

And how about Ampersand? Where did that sign come from? But isn't it a great word and what would A&P do without it?

How about an interrobang--I want one. When I call out Who finished the toilet paper, whilst sitting on the throne, it is more than a simple interrogatory remark--it is an exclamation of dismay at the same time. What better than an interrobang to express that combination of feelings?

Do you think @ was developed solely for email addresses? Think again! And where did asterisks come from--I prefer that term to star--or the dagger? How about hyphens and dashes--they are not the same thing and dashes come in many forms including en dash and em dash. Even Castle talked about fitting words to the page in a recent episode. Quotation marks as inverted commas? Doubled, of course!

But then there is the manicule--I love the manicule--it is used in rebus writing all the time. A hand with a pointing finger--maybe with a nice cuff or a ruffled flounce, perhaps with hand in a fist or index finger outlandishly enlongated. Originally, not printed in texts, handwritten and illuminated or printed on a press, but rather a device of the reader to mark out lines on which were made marginal notes. One I love is not a manicle at all but an adorable octopus whose tentacles embrace several lines, much like a bracket.

Throughout the book we meet the people who developed these devices that make reading so much easier but make writing a bit more difficult with its rules. We see how the coming of mass produced documents written by hand, copied and recopied, and eventually printed with presses of moveable type caused some of these symbols to be eliminated or changed to accommodate progress.
The advent of the typewriter and touch-tone keypads and, in time, the development of computer keyboards continue to impact punctuation and even vocabulary.

This book does not read fast--it is dry in places but for the most part is interesting and even humorous. The debate that has taken place for ages to arrive at some indication of irony and sarcasm in text is particularly fun. If language and writing interest you, this is a book you want right up there with Roget and Funk & Wagnall and Webster, among others. Looking for something new to bring up at your next cocktail party? Try the discussing the evolution of the octothorpe! Have fun!

This was a first reads giveaway that I will share with my teacher friends and that guy I met at last week's cocktail party--just kidding!

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Sour Grapes

Past Forgetting: My Love Affair with Dwight D. EisenhowerPast Forgetting: My Love Affair with Dwight D. Eisenhower by Kay Summersby Morgan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'd call this fantasy and wishful thinking. A close relationship, no doubt--the times that brought them together were stressful. Love--perhaps. An affair--don't think so. She was vivacious, pretty, fun to have around and competent in her job. Divorced, engaged, a party girl and 20 years younger, I'm sure there was an attachment. War ended, he went home with his whole staff, excepting her. They saw each other again, briefly by her doing and it was over. She met famous people, drank lots of champagne, ate well, had uniforms tailored to order matching his, played bridge, sunned on the Riviera, drove his car, rode horses, batted around a golf ball. He got her a commission in the WACS and appointed his aide. He arranged for her to receive American citizenship on a fast track. Got her a couple of medals and promotions but didn't bring her to the Pentagon. War over, good-bye shadow. And, as a result, it was important to her, on her deathbed to make sure that we all knew he often became ill, smoked heavily and was impotent. Ah, so much for love Summersby dictated this " memoir " as she was dying after liver cancer surgery and arranged to have it published in 1976, after her death in '75 and many years after DDE's death. Mamie, however, was still living. How additionally cruel

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

A rainy, Nashville Sunday noon

Sunday, September 1, 2013 1:52 pm The office in the townhouse. After the spell of incredibly hot, humid weather that sent me scurrying for cover inside with the A/C set on 73, it was a pleasure to awake at 7:30 to the sound of rain on the metal awnings. After disconnecting the alarm system I opened the back door to find the temperature had dropped considerably as had the humidity.
It has been a week since Bill returned to Vermont and, for the most part, I've been " busy " taking coffee and a book out onto the deck around 8ish and staying out sunning and reading until around 10-11. Each day I do something different like listen to music, read magazines, do the laundry, prepare meals, do the dishes etc. He and I speak daily for half an hour so I know what is going on with Attila the Cat and the chipmunks, Betsy and her teaching, and all the rest of the daily life at home. Today, unable to go outdoors in the rain, I opened the door, pulled over the screen and decided to do my nails.
While the first coat dried I put aside the book I'm reading on the history of punctuation and symbols and other typographical marks for a slightly lighter read.
Several chapters in, totally engrossed and oblivious to my surroundings, I was pulled back into the present by three deep toned gongs on the wind chimes hanging across the deck from the open door.
Looking up I saw that the rain had stopped and a slight breeze was blowing the pendulum. Most of the time its motion was not great enough to strike the hollow pipes but every so often a stronger gust would provide enough energy to cause the striker to play a short ripple of music. Now that I was awakened to the day once more my ear began to pick out other sounds. The cacophony of unidentified and unseen birds alarmed it seemed--by what? A cat? A dog? A neighbor out for a walk? A larger bird? Within seconds I heard the lonesome sound of a train whistle and then the heavy passage of its cars over tracks that seem to be fairly close. I didn't know I was near a track! What I've been well aware of is the proximity to the airport. As if reading the path my mind was taking there soon appeared a huge jet, its engines screaming, close enough, it seemed, that I could touch it, making its way to a runway for a landing. I try not to allow myself to think how much of this neighborhood would be wiped out or what my fate would be if either the plane had a mechanical failure or the pilot somehow miscalculated in his approach. Having lived in Winooski for several years along an approach to Burlington Airport, I know, that in time, I won't even notice the flights anymore. Farther in the distance the sound of a siren, shimmering with the Doppler Effect, makes me wonder if it is mounted on a police car, an ambulance--the hospital is near, as well-- or a fire truck. In a few seconds, the original is joined by the Wop-Wop-Wop sound that says get out of my way and then the Whoooooo up and down of the vehicle in unobstructed flight moves farther away. Beneath the deck I hear the acceleration and then almost stopped sounds of cars passing by along our street, which is mottled with speed bumps, one of which is right at the end of the deck. I'm amused by the drivers who go so fast for such a short gap between them before hitting their brakes to come almost to a standstill going over one. Eventually, the emergency vehicle has gone beyond my hearing, the plane has landed, the train has moved on and the birds have flown in one darkened mass away to another tree line, having ceded possession of this one to whatever alarmed them originally. The breeze dies down, the cars are gone and all that disturbs the air is the constant drone of the cicadas which never stops. It is so much a part of the background that the early morning seems strange without their sounds. I check my nails--they are dry
and almost the color of my bookmark. Quiet restored I return to my book. A while later, Betsy calls to tell me that her master teacher, who is exactly her age--graduated the same year from Hanover High School as she did from TA--has been allowing her to take over in his classes. In one she ran the discussion that starts the class for fifteen minutes. He decided to have her do the same thing in the next session without him in the room, then, when discussion was over and he had returned, he directed her to teach the day's lesson. She says she isn't nervous with the kids but since this is sociology and she isn't really well versed in it, she became panicky once he returned. He assured her she did quite well for a first shot and she is to develop the questions for Tuesday's discussion--they are reading Tuesdays with Morey--I've been meaning to read that book. She is excited and loves what she is doing--I can hear it in her voice and I'm glad and very proud of her. She also said that she has put HULU Plus on both TV's and the computers--so I checked to see if I can get it on my computer and it is working--so another streaming if I get bored with TV and/ or books. Haven't touched my embroidery yet--so thus far, I'm happy as a pig in --well, you know! Enjoy the rest of your Labor Day weekend all--until my next missive--bye from Central Tennessee. Kathy

Saturday, August 31, 2013

SOURCE-FORGED ARMOR by Paul J. Bartusiak Three stars! UPGRADED TO FOUR STARS!!!

Where was the editor on this book? Spell check is only as good as the editor that double checks it! Homonyms are NOT synonyms. Site for sight, buy for by, etc diminish the quality of the writing. Sentences such as this one " Thus, for everything that Raskalnikov suspected or wondered about Dmitri, Dmitri was cognizant of it all as well, and therefore he know that not only was it highly important as to what he said next, but also how he said it." as a single paragraph gave me headaches. It was necessary to reread them to get the meaning and I found myself rewriting them in my head. Both of these situations interfered with the rhythm and pace of the reading thus damaging the enjoyment of the plot. Distracting also were the choices of at least two of the names of the main characters--Angstrom and Keplar. In the case of Angstrom I kept seeing the Swedish letter A with its circle diacritic above it. I suppose the name was a good choice since the scientist Angstrom was very interested in electromagnetic radiation and the MAV design, which is at the center of the story, sort of, involves it. Keplar, on the other hand, was distracting since I kept wanting to correct the spelling. This choice, too, is probably another tip of the hat to a famous mathematician and physicist, Kepler. In fairness, these might only distract a student and teacher of these fields, which I am. The correlation between four inch heels and women who seem to need to sexually dominate men and enjoy kinky sex was a bit gratuitous. Angstrom's ex-wife makes an early appearance for no other apparent reason than to establish the fact that he, though a tough, seasoned former CIA field operative, seems to have been passive in his sexual relationship with her, while she seems to have been something of a nymphomaniac. Rand, the woman on his team, though his subordinate, assumes an attitude of superiority in the workplace and a dominatrix in the bedroom. She flirts with all the men in the agency, sleeps with some and according to Angstrom has been the victim of some abuse or other situation that has produced a woman with a serious psychological illness. Candy Mav, the pornographic icon used on the crowd-sourced submission for a MAV design, becomes something of an obsession to Angstrom. Surprise of surprises when he finally meets her, she wears four inch stilettos. They move off into the sunset together and, if his ex-wife and Rand are any indication, there is kinky sex ahead. Thankfully, the author did not elaborate on the sex scenes and left the reader to use his/her imagination. All in all, Angstrom's submissive and, in some ways, total disassociation is treated as normal and the womens' behavior as pathological. Having pointed out the weaknesses of the story, it is now necessary to say that the main theme is engrossing and well written. The MAV is a Marine Amphibious Vehicle and the government has issued a request to the general public for a design for a new model--the request is called crowdsourcing. Anyone and any entity can submit a design. DARPA, a Pentagon branch, is in charge of sorting through the submissions and choosing one to implement. John Angstrom, a burnt out CIA operative, has been reassigned to DARPA and is put in charge of one vetting team, which includes Keplar and Rand. A CD enclosed in a girlie magazine and sporting a scantily clad woman, on all fours, heavily made up, catches Angstrom's eye. He decides to take the CD home and view it. The ensuing cat and mouse game between John and the submitter, as well as the plotting by the submitter--The Professor--are fascinating. The specifics of the design are truly interesting and the method of transmitting them over the internet is fascinating. A process called steganography, in which images break apart into pixels and reassemble into something else; the complete take over of a remote computer by intricate programs is riveting. The back and forth action between the scenes in DARPA and the team and the master planning of The Professor and his final extraction makes this an exciting read. With a little editing, both grammatically and plot-wise, and I would have given this a four, if not five, star rating. PS The author contacted me to let me know that the errors I found in my first edition have been corrected in subsequent editions. Additionally, a reader on Amazon commented on my review to say that his Kindle edition had none of the errors I've cited. As a result of these comments I have upgraded my rating to four stars, since as I've already indicated, the story and, for the most part, the characterizations are well worth the read.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Nashville!!!

Saturday August 24, 2013 11:37 CST In the Study in Nashville, Tennessee The sunset in Bowling Green on Tuesday night was spectacular and Bill said there was a full moon as well but our room was on the opposite side of the building so I didn't see it. As a matter of fact, until I started typing this I'd forgotten that little tidbit. We were so close to Nashville that we lingered Wednesday morning and so had the breakfast room and lobby to ourselves. We ate a leisurely meal with several cups of coffee before moving on down the road to Tennessee. I called Becky and Bob as soon as we hit the road to give them our ETA and stopped at the Tn welcome center to pick up another Tn tour book, Nashville tour book, various brochures on Nashville sights ( and sounds ! ) as well as a new map. Then it was a hop, skip and jump around the city center and to our home away from home. Bill and I taught with Becky centuries ago in Swanton. As a matter of fact, for five years Beck and I had adjoining counter space in the teachers' prep room and literally worked elbow to elbow with an ashtray between the folders and blotters to share. Can you imagine the days we could smoke in a school?? Am I dating us, I wonder? I've given it up and Beck is like Bill--keeps a pack and smokes it within a couple of months. Bob, Beck's husband, is new to us and we to him, except by word of mouth--lol He is an absolute delight and after the first half hour of science teachers reuniting we included him in our conversations. He is into the geneaology of his family, indeed they are spending almost a month in Sicily with family members he's never met and seeing places familiar to his parents and grandparents--all deceased, of course. As a result, he and I spent quite a bit of time on the couch with his Apple mini something or other comparing notes and sharing pix etc. Also they have a few tablets etc so Bill and I were most interested in learning about the different devices. When they come back I will list the smaller than laptop items so I can research price etc. I think I'd like something smaller to take on our winter trip. Becky and I went off to Kroger's to pick up cold cuts and artisan bread for lunch and a chance to see where things are in relation to the townhouse. It also gave me a chance to see the car and now that I have I probably will use it if I feel the need to explore. It has a GPS that I can hit to take me home so I cannot get lost. After lunch, while the guys visited Bob's workshop and otherwise visited, Becky and I went over some essential things--where things are and how to run everything. Later in the afternoon, actually early evening Bob went off to a KofC meeting and we had a delicious tilapia and salad meal. And more reunion--catching up on where everyone is now that we taught with or that we taught. When Bob came home he had a plate then we all had ice cream and in pretty short order the day was done. Thursday we all reassembled around 8:30 ish. Since Becky and I are pretty much just coffee in the morning types the guys went off to the International House of Pancakes--it still has that sign across the building--of course, in our lovely American way of shortening all names, the chain is now better known as IHOP. When they came back the B's went off for a last minute shopping run and I printed off directions to I65 N that Bill would need to go home.I set the alarm system and locked up but the system keep beeping. So I unset it, came back in and did it all over again. Again it kept beeping so in I came once more, called Becky to ask what I was doing wrong--I expected the police at any minute since I'm sure the alarm company was getting alarmed! LOL But, I'd done it correctly so I reset it one more time, locked up and we were on our way. We took a drive to check out the route. It was hilarious trying to get out of the complex here. We stayed on the road it said to stay on but the first right came too soon and had the wrong name. So we went back and tried staying on the road in the opposite direction and went almost two miles and came to the street but it was too far and we figured it might not be the right place. We judged the street name by the residence complex name there and who knew if there was any correlation. So back we came to the house and started out in one last direction--lo and behold with the proper mileage on the MapQuest directions, we came to the same place and when we made the indicated turn we got to the next point properly as well. As is always the case, once you've figured out the route it is fast and easy and leads you to wonder why it seemed so complicated to start! Exhausted from brain strain and laughter and the heat we ambled into Applebee's for lunch. Our server Meg was a young single mother from Mass; there was another lady at the bar having a glass of wine, having taken a quick escape from family in town for her daughter's wedding. She said it was getting so frantic now that it was drawing closer she just needed a break. In the course of our conversation she found that I was going to be on my own for awhile and she is alone so we exchanged phone numbers and may meet up for lunch someday. There was also a fellow around our age who, when he heard we were from Vermont, decided he was going to needle us since he assumed were were liberals. We had a fun time with him especially when he said we must have been to only two conservative teachers in the State of Vermont. I hope we run into him again--he was truly a good time. When we got back around 3--the B's had just gotten back also. By this time, the temperature was well into the 90's and the heat suffocating. I opted for a nap and got up again around 5. Freshened up and helped Becky get things together while the guys went out to pick up the pizza and beer. The B's invited the neighbors with whom they are close to come over to meet us. What a terrific bunch of people--a musician retired from the Navy band, a salesgirl from a ladies shop and two retired ladies who also travel a great deal. Had just a terrific evening. Exchanged phone numbers and promised to stay in touch. So even though I'm on my own for awhile I certainly am not alone. Yesterday, Bob made a big breakfast for us all. Bill and I got out from under their feet as they gathered luggage etc and then we drove them to the airport in the Prius. Hugged and wished them a safe and fun trip and then as quickly as possible got that Prius back home, parked and got back into our own familiar car. Off to Kroeger's and I laid in what I hope will be a month's groceries. I really want to avoid using their car if possible. I just don't like driving some one else's car. If I ever had an accident I'd be so upset. Got back around 2ish. 94 degrees!! Made sandwiches and sat down in the A/C living room and watched Green Bay and Seattle play a pre-season football game. By late afternoon a heavy thunderstorm passed through. I cooked up some hamburgers and a salad, after which we moved onto the deck and just talked until about 8 pm. Watched TV together until about 9 when Bill retired and I continued watching this week's Burn Notice and Suits episodes which I'd missed. Up around 7, had coffee on the deck before making breakfast. Then Bill showered and packed and we had another cup of coffee before he took off around 8:30 to return to Vermont. He'll be back around the beginning of October if not sooner. I have two cloth bags of books, DVD's, embroidery and the TV remote, as well as resident music CD's. My plan is to have a nice retreat mostly alone. I've already started Dan Brown's Inferno. I'm glad I have people I can call to do things with should I get bored but at the moment I truly just want alone contemplative time. Before Bill's Mom died we had the house in Montpelier and periodically I'd take off for a week-end alone but since it has been sold I haven't really had a place like that to hole up in. This is perfect and Bill will have some solitude as well--he used to like it even more than I. So, no timetable, no need to dress if I don't want to, can eat when and what I want and do whatever, whenever. Would not want it to be like that all the time and I know I'll miss my B's but don't think I'll miss the new impish 4 month old kitten, Attila the Cat. I do dread the possibility that Misty might, like Soot, die when I'm not there but that is about all that worries me. Obviously, I don't anticipate any earth shattering events or picture opportunities during retreat so it may be possible that you won't get another blog or pictures till Bill gets back. But once he's here we will be exploring all that Nashville has to offer and I'll resume more regular updates. So worry not that it has been awhile since I've written. I will, as they say, be back. 'Til then---take care all of you. Kathy