Welcome to the

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

About Me

My photo
Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, January 30, 2014

We Are All Woman Warriors --We Are Amazons!

The Lost SisterhoodThe Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An absolutely magical book. Parallel tales of two women 3000 years apart yet connected through their involvement with the story of the legendary women warriors, the Amazons.

The story begins in modern day Oxford rainy and gray, our heroine Diana Morgan, a lecturer and an expert on Greek mythology and the Amazons is approached by a man bearing a picture of an ancient tablet with mysterious writing. He offers her a large sum to come with him to Amsterdam where she might see the tablet and perhaps translate its message. Reluctant at first, she soon decides to go along to solve the mystery. Particularly, since her Grandmother had taught her much about the Amazons and has since disappeared. Diana is in hopes of possibly finding her and learning her exact connection to these ancient women.

Several chapters later we are transported back to ancient days and the adventures of the first Amazon queen, Myrina and her efforts to find a safe place for the women to settle once their temple to the Moon Goddess is ransacked and they are set upon by Greek marauders. She crossed the Mediterranean in flight but her travels did not end on the opposite shore.

Back and forth the stories weave with Diana, unknowingly, following in Myrina's footsteps--from North Africa to Greece to Troy and into the northern reaches of modern day Germany and Finland. Both threads are filled with suspense and mystery and danger and in the end love.

The search for ancient relics and art works and the greed behind some of the searchers. The question of where these relics truly belong. The mystery of whether or not the Amazons truly existed and if there are any descendants today. The mystery of Troy. The story of Helen and Paris and the Trojan Wars with Greece. All of this is part of the tale. Who is to be trusted and who is not--indeed, in some cases, who is the person, really keeps the reader guessing until the very end.

The copy I read was an ARC--but I truly hope it is not changed in any way. It is perfect as is. If I had any suggestions to make it would be that the binding be changed. It is 575 pages and quiet heavy as a paperback. By page 278 the binding had failed and pages loosened to the point of falling out. From then on I had to be very careful how I opened it so as not to loosen any more pages.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Every Bit as Good as Grisham

A Case of RedemptionA Case of Redemption by Adam Mitzner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurbs on the back of this book and in the synopsis in the giveaway and in the cover letter that arrived with the book when I won it all compare it to Grisham. I sort of took that with a grain of salt--a bit of hyperbolic come on --but in actuality, several times during my reading, I thought I was reading a Grisham. That is not a bad thing, since, like many others, I'm a big Grisham fan. So, if you are, too, you will like this book.

The hero is in pain and drinking heavily. He lost his wife and child in a drunk driver accident and so he's resigned his high profile partnership in a high octane law firm and is basically drowning his sorrows. Check!

A gruesome murder is committed--a lovely pop star is beaten to death with a missing blunt instrument, probably the missing baseball bat that hung on her bedroom wall. She once sang the National Anthem at some big sports event--World Series maybe--and it was a gift. Hate to say Cameron Diaz and A-Rod come to mind but then that might be because the accused is a rap star who wrote and sang a song about A-Rod beating an unnamed someone to death with a baseball bat. So, big murder, noted person accused and very evident convincing evidence against him. Check!

Someone decides the only attorney able to turn the tables is a guy who had similar success in another big name trial. Check!

The someone is a beautiful, idealistic, young attorney who hasn't the chops to do it herself. Check! This time the hero isn't the young, idealistic attorney with the big guys lined up against him BUT, in time, the big guns from his old law firm will be lined up against him when the two try to pin the murder on somebody else. So the pattern continues.

All the pieces are in place, a la Grisham and so begins the search for the truth. In this instance the biggest obstacle to the truth appears to be the accused who never seems to tell it. This makes for some embarrassing moments for our side and some frustration when threads apparently leading to his exoneration only to fall flat as a result of sins of omission.

Secondary characters are definitely interesting and the revelations about them and their connection to the defendant, the victim and the eventually revealed murderer are all engrossing. Full of surprises and red herrings, the crime is solved, sort of, all the guilty get their comeuppance in one way or another and our hero rides away in the sunset, a bit less pained and certainly less wrapped around a bottle. He's grown and healed some and, maybe, we might see him again. One can only hope so.

View all my reviews

Friday, January 17, 2014

Coping with Loss

The Headmaster's WifeThe Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is like a play in three acts with a prologue and the epilogue left to the reader. The story starts with a man, who in time we discover is a headmaster of an exclusive prep school in Vermont, walking into New York's Central Park and casting off his clothes until he is walking nude along its paths in the cold winter morning air. Without much delay he has been arrested and sits in an interrogation room with two of New York's finest trying to explain himself. Certainly, an arresting opening.

The first act is 137 pages long and within the first twenty pages I am disgusted and think I will not read this book. As a retired teacher in Vermont, the idea of a fifty something headmaster taking advantage of an 18 year old student is totally repulsive. But, I think, there must be more to this, so I continue reading. Turns out this guy is the third generation headmaster here at Lancaster and, though that makes him a multigeneration Vermonter, he has all the arrogance and elitist attitude of the moneyed students he supervises. But not all of them are moneyed--Betsy, who becomes his obsession, is brilliant and comes from Craftsbury, where her father teaches carpentry in a small college ( think Sterling ) and our " hero " wonders why a carpenter would need a college education. He also considers Craftsbury to be Podunk--guess he's never been there or Peacham either--another nowhere place! As the play continues I begin to think, nope this book is a waste--where the heck is the woman of the title? What is all this obsessive sex with a child--but then I stop to think and I realize, wait a minute. I know what is going on and what has happened and I continue to read to find if the clues I'm beginning to notice add up. The final page of act one verifies my first hypothesis.

Act two opens by verifying my second. Where the first act is in the headmaster's voice with interruptions from his interrogators, the second act is all the wife. In 114 pages she tells the story, too. Some of it is a repetition of his account but from an entirely different perspective. Where his telling is obsessive and grating and full of hubris yet somehow pathetic, hers is heart-wrenchingly, achingly sad. By the end of her telling, you find yourself reevaluating him and, though he is no more likeable than ever, there is sadness for him, too. For them both in equal measure for different reasons.

Act three is very short. A man, who as a student, loved and was loved by the headmaster's wife and who was seriously harmed by the headmaster in their youth, returns and is reunited with her. There is no real emotion on her part--more of an acceptance of all that has gone before. He feels a resurgence of the love he felt for her over 40 years ago and maybe never stopped feeling. But it is too soon for either of them to look ahead. And so the story ends, looking over the flowing Hudson River, indifferent and eternal, as so much of the story took place looking over the Connecticut River, just as indifferent and eternal.

The place and characters are so true to life. I live in the Connecticut River Valley and taught at what wanted to be an exclusive prep school, but hasn't quite made it, despite having driven most of the locals away by high taxes and having been overwhelmed with a Dartmouth affiliated influx, with their often-times entitled children. Actually, the fooling around with students wasn't very rampant there but the elitist attitude of several headmasters and faculty existed. Though not a residential school the similarities were familiar. The themes of alienation, love and grief are universal, however and no matter the circumstances humans will respond with bare souls to them--no artifice, no protection. Each one will have to form its own way of coping and protecting the vulnerable core of self. This tells the story of two such people.

View all my reviews

Thursday, January 16, 2014

North to Alaska

Somewhere West of RoadsSomewhere West of Roads by A.E. Poynor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Despite lengthy travels throughout the U.S. the only two States I have not yet reached are Alaska and Hawaii. When I saw this book's subtitle--An Alaskan novel --I was intrigued. Reading the synopsis of the plot further interested me since I, a city girl ( NYC) had relocated to a rural, deep freeze winter area ( boonies of Vt). Though the main character of the book, John Barstow, made his move from LA to Nikiski under very different circumstances, I was curious if there might be some similarities to my experiences with such a drastic life style change. So, I entered to win a copy to read and review.

Upon opening the book for the first time I was greeted with a stanza from a Robert Service poem. Oh, I thought, I'm going to love this book. And I was not disappointed. John, a recovering alcoholic, whose most recent relationship with a live-in girlfriend has gone South, is fired from his job as a life insurance salesman. Going to a bar, though he's been sober awhile, he winds up in a brawl, gets his eye blackened, is tossed into a cab with a surly cabbie and arrives to his almost bare apartment and a letter from a lawyer in Alaska.

Seems his uncle, whom he barely remembers, has died and he is Hardrock's only legal heir. There are a couple of choices he can make--take a trailer in Alaska and $50,000 and be happy, or take over a tourist mining operation for a season and make a profit and all is his. Last Chance Adventures is a fly-in, that is West of Roads, as in there are NO ROADS. At the lawyer's insistence he gets the almost next plane out of LA to check out the options. He is to see the place, meet the staff, the accountant etc and make his decision. He opts to take the shot at making a mining operation, about which he knows nothing, a go.

The characters he meets, Doorway, Harley, Maggie, Cynthia, Wes,Reeder, Billy McCrane and my favorite, Dawg are so well developed I felt as though I'd recognize every one of them should I ever walk into the Shuttle Inn for breakfast. How they help, hinder, aggravate, teach, ensnare John is a wonderful story. How Hardrocks set up the trust to lead John to the place where the business will be saved is just perfect.

Once upon a time, a fellow with whom I'd broken up about ten times, called and left the message on the answering machine "There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold!" and hung up. Recognized the voice, did not know Robert Service poetry, but we reunited and have been married almost thirty years. The book ends with this stanza from The Cremation of Sam McGee. McGee was from Tennessee so you see, John, Sam and I are all nuts--moving to a place where winter lasts 6 months, snow is sometimes thigh high and walking on snowshoes is a trick. The book is as much a keeper as that husband of mine. Both are terrific.

View all my reviews

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Southern Snow

January 11, 2014 1:45 pm Kitchen Post Mills, Vermont One evening at our local Applebee's ( Applebee's at Brentwood ) where we had become regulars--well, at least once a week for wings and a brew, we got talking with a nice young 20 something fellow who said he was headed home for the weekend. We asked where home was and he said just north of Huntsville in Alabama. It seems it was cotton harvest time and he was needed to help his Dad and brothers with the work. He showed us pictures on one of those small hand-held gadgets. The machinery was huge and the bales, big and round made the guys standing beside it look like miniature plastic figures from a Lego set. I said to Bill " Let's go this weekend and check it out!" Jeff, one of our friends laughed and said " You're kidding, right?" Bill and I said " No, we've never seen it and Bill is an Ag guy and I just like seeing new things." A few days later, Jean, one of our neighbors who grew up in Alabama was equally amused. Nevertheless, on Saturday, Nov 2 off we went down the Nolensville Road once more toward Huntsville. As we neared the Tennessee line we had not seen any cotton fields but we crossed into Alabama hoping they would start showing up--especially since we passed a Cotton gin with some very large freight car sized bales out front. We continued south but the area became more populated and built up and Bill did not want to wind up in Huntsville. He insisted on turning back into Tennessee saying that we would head west on that side of the border and should find something. Well, as the navigator I saw that there were no roads heading west in Alabama before we reached Huntsville so I agreed reluctantly to his plan. I'd wanted to go to Newcastle where the young man's family lived be he had not wanted to go that far east. Having not seen any cotton on the Tennessee side I was not very happy nor very optimistic that we would manage to see the harvest. As we drove north in Hazel Grove I happened to see some activity far off to the right of the road. It looked as though it might be harvesting and so we ran down a side road and came to huge fields of cotton. I simply cannot imagine what the Antebellum South must have looked like with the huge plantations given over almost entirely to cotton. We parked the car and walked to the field that was being harvested and watched the truck dump the cotton into a large rectangular container. A man jumped in and seemed to spread the material and then he jumped out and lowered a large plate that tamped the cotton down tightly. When that process ended one side of the container dropped down and the bale was slid out onto a waiting flat bed trailer--I would assume to be taken to that cotton gin or one like it somewhere locally. We returned to the main road and watched as the huge machine harvesting came right at us, followed by a tractor pulling a mower. When these two machines passed over the ground they left a swath of perfectly cleaned land--except for some cotton fluff, when this field was totally worked there would be no evidence of it ever having been planted with the crop that make the South so rich. Watching the speed with which this mechanized process progressed, it was also impossible not to think of the thousands of field slaves that picked this crop by hand only 150 years ago. In beauty and fascination this agricultural endeavor ranked favorably with the wheat harvest I'd seen in Iowa a few Falls back. Where this one was chocolate brown stems with soft, white puffs looking like flowers, that one was all golden sunshine and fields with toy tractors and other machinery moving back and forth almost in slow motion. Having gotten our fill of an age old agricultural process we headed west to Pulaski, Tennessee to visit the Trail of Tears Memorial. This was one of the places I'd chatted with a fellow at the Pow-Wow earlier in our visit to Nashville. The story of that relocation is just so horrendous and the sculpture showing a family making the trek is very powerful. Looking at the map of the various routes taken and having been in so many of the areas where they exist, brings home the tragedy brought on by greed and English-based attitude of superiority of our earliest settlers. I could not walk a few yards over some of the terrain those who made it to Oklahoma had to traverse. Pulaski is also the sight of the execution of the Nathan Hale of the South, Sam Davis. His home is in Smyrna, Tn but since it was getting late and we probably would not get there before it closed we didn't attempt to visit. We did, however, see his statue on the town square and discovered, when reading about him, that there is another at the Statehouse in Nashville. I'm afraid though, that Sam will have to be the subject of another adventure of the future.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Davis As the day drew to a close we took the Trace once more to home. Happy to have learned a bit more about our country and its people. And so, I'll close for now. Later KandB

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

War Years in France 1917-1918--Aerial vs Trench Warfare

His Destiny: An American FlierHis Destiny: An American Flier by Alden Smith Bradstock III
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In today's age of space stations and space shuttles it is hard to imagine that aviation and aerial combat were new events in the War to End All Wars--The Great War--The First World War. The book follows the life of a combat pilot in France from 1917 through the establishment of an American Air Corps to the Armistice at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. This date was forever in my parents' minds Armistice Day but the name was changed to Veterans' Day, reducing the importance of the original event if not totally erasing it from historical memory today. The description of the evolution of aeroplanes, their size, maneuverability, fire power in the armies of all of the combatants, French, British, German and eventually, American, is quite interesting. The depictions of aerial battles among them is gripping and exciting. The hero of this part of the novel is a Wisconsin boy, Jimmy Smitts. He is one of the best pilots flying for the French, prior to America's entrance into the fray. He is confident, somewhat cocky and very adept at what he does.

Interwoven with this aspect of the fighting is the story of American troops battling the Hun on the ground beneath the planes in a portion of France known as No-Man's Land. Here we are introduced to Sergeant Witherspoon and his commanding officer, Captain Sandhurst. Trench warfare was horrible and many movies and TV shows have depicted it but never have I read such a thorough description of how the trenches were built, how the men lived and fought from them, the wire surrounding them, the straffing of them. It was fascinating and the comparison with the German trenches not at all surprising. I actually liked this character, Witherspoon, and this depiction of the War better than the Jimmy portion.

In my mind, these are the best parts of the story. There is a bit of underdeveloped romance thrown in, possibly to indicate a growth and maturation of Jimmy but none of the three romantic involvements were satisfactory to him or to me as the reader. Another bit of history, the background political maneuvering of Eugene Stevenson, forbear of Adlai Stevenson, to initiate a Food for Soldiers movement was distracting. And the attempt on the part of Billy Mitchell to convince Congress and the US of the necessity to develop an air corps for this and future wars was rudimentary at best. The story of Billy Mitchell deserves much more attention than was given here. In my mind these threads could have been eliminated and more time spent on Jimmy's pursuit of his post war destiny.

The book is just over 300 pages in length: two thirds of it is spent covering the War, only one third is hurriedly devoted to more post war years in which Jimmy sets up a business, is awarded many metals and apparently convinces the Stevensons that he is worthy to marry their aristocratic spoiled daughter.

View all my reviews

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Only Two Weeks Left and Then It's Home to Vermont--Still So Much to See!

January 4, 2014 3:14pm Kitchen Counter at Home in Post Mills, Vermont As I looked over my pictures in preparation for this installment, I checked out websites to include for your further information and came across this one:http://www.tootsies.net/main_subpage.php?pg=tootsieslive. So as I write I am listening live to a band playing at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge on Broadway in Nashville. With the cold weather and snow on the ground I'm wishing I were sitting in Tootsie's with a bottle of beer in front of me, listening to this young guy with a voice so similar to a young Johnny Cash that I could believe in reincarnation. But while listening I have to remember our last minute activities in our final days of life in Nashville. Since we hadn't yet ventured into the city center at all and time was running out we decided to head to the Country Music Hall of Fame on November 1. We'd toyed with taking a cab down and back but the price was prohibitive. We then checked out the bus situation and, being a city girl and used to public transportation, I was all for taking the car to a Wal-Mart lot on Nolensville and grab the #2 bus right to the museum. The fare, one way, for me would have been $.85 and once downtown there are two free shuttles that will take you all around the city center. Bill didn't feel as comfortable doing that so out came Greta and off we went. Nolensville Rd turns into 2nd Avenue and there is the museum at the corner with Demonbruen Street. We parked in an open parking lot for $25 for six hours. A little steep, we thought, but found that we spent over 5 hours in the place. Although there aren't MANY what I'd call skyscrapers in the skyline there are a couple that stand out. The Pinnacle Building is one of the newest and is the most expensive office rental property in town. The AT&T Building is affectionately, or maybe not so affectionately, known as the Bat or Batman Building. It appears to be a universal human trait to name architectural oddities with equally odd names--in Paris, my hosts referred to the Eiffel Tower as the Awful Tower and the Bourbeau---which I can't seem to find listed anywhere--as the Boo-Boo. Also dwarfing the Museum a bit are new modern motels and across the street the back side of Bridgestone Arena, the home of the NHL Predators, the tickets for which are astronomical despite the fact they aren't terribly great. The front of the Arena is on Broadway, with its strip of Honky-Tonks and Breweries and Restaurants. Most of the Nashville attractions are well within walking distance of each other, including the Schemerhorn Opera House diagonally across from the Museum. As we entered the CHF there was a guide to direct us to the ticket office located to the left across the sunlit plaza bordered along its right side by a sweeping staircase leading to the next level. After purchasing our tickets we immediately entered the Ford Theatre where a delightful puppet show, put on by the theatre school from Vanderbilt, in which various country stars were represented by a broad spectrum of puppet types singing some of their big hits. Patsy Cline was on-stage as a full sized puppet being manipulated by a stage hand dressed in black directly behind her, like a shadow. Others were represented by traditional stringed marionettes and others still Jim Henson type figures. All of them totally transported the audience into belief in dolls as living beings. Schools were on vacation and so there were several grade school groups present. Those kids cheered and sang along in true concert goer fashion and boy, let me say, they had no problem with keeping the beat, no matter the selection. They were as much fun as the show. By the time we took the elevator to the third level where the exhibits began we'd spent at least 45 minutes in the building. At the head of the third floor balcony was a small exhibit hall dedicated to a temporary Reba exhibit. She isn't a favorite of mine, as a singer. I also don't like Vince Gill. The Oklahoma nasal sound is not appealing to me at all, though I do like Reba as a comedic actress. Fun to see how her dentition changed as she became more affluent--no snaggle teeth or spaces now! I'd seen a bit of her history in the Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City where her father and she are feted as rodeo riders--she was a barrel racer. Coming out of the exhibit a long balcony stretched the length of the building in front of us. The walls are covered with posters from a Nashville anchor business--the Hatch Show Print letterpress shop--responsible for show posters and honky tonk posters. Some of them are real works of art. Also at the start of the balcony is the entrance to the new Taylor Swift Educational Center which Taylor had endowed with 4 million dollars just a few weeks earlier. She wanted a place for Nashville kids to go to learn dance, music etc and to practice. Something she said was not available to her when she was growing up in Nashville. She is a real cutie and beloved by her home town. She shops in the grocery store and is out and about like any other Nashvillian and no one bothers her. In front of the Poster Wall are glass cases tracing the development of country music from its roots of slave music, church music and folk music. Along the open side of the balcony were small movie screens on which were projected early movie and tv performances of country music. Some of them were so wonderful I watched the loop over and over--Roy Rogers, Webb Pierce, Marty Robbins and Carl Smith singing Why, Baby, Why with June Carter as the hostess of the show on which they appeared. June Carter, cute and pre-Johnnie but still as unable to sing as ever! These early showcases held items from the country singers of my youth, Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, Gene Autry who sang Cowboy Joe that I thought was about my Dad, Eddie Arnold and Hank Williams who sang Elijah--the cigar store Indian that made me feel sorry for him. Wasn't until I was older that Williams made me cry singing "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry". Tiny Brenda Lee with the huge voice and oh, Marty Robbins! At the end of the balcony were two silo looking towers. I went into one and it was a small circular room in which you could play Ferlin Husky's 45 " Gone ". Being alone I sang along, fairly loudly and tried to harmonize a bit. Fortunately, the room was sound proofed so the people milling around Webb Pierce's Silver Dollar Cadillac couldn't hear me or Ferlin. When I came out, Bill was looking at the car, so I told him I'd just sung with Ferlin. He and I then went into the other silo only to be followed by a big haired older woman, right out of the Dolly Parton mold. We were trying to make out who the writer of Ray Price's " Crazy Arms " was. Both of us were bent over and up against the glass trying to read the label. She followed us out to the car and said to me " Did I hear you say that you sang with Ferlin Husky?" I looked at her blankly for a minute and then it dawned on me--she'd overheard me tell Bill. I laughed and said, oh, no, I sang along with the record in the other sound studio. She looked at me strangely and walked away. I'm not sure she realized you could play the records in the rooms or that Ferlin was in the other one. Oh, well--my fame was short lived. In the meantime, the Caddy bothered me because I knew I'd seen another just like it somewhere else. We finally decided it was at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Sure enough when I researched it we found that the same guy who developed the costumes that the Bakersfield school made famous, also designed silver dollar caddies for several country stars and had one for himself as well. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/04/automobiles/04AUTO.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1& After gazing at Elvis' solid gold Cadillac and the piano that Priscilla had covered with gold leaf as an anniversary gift for him, we turned the corner to a video compilation of early TV shows that featured country music--Glen Campbell Show, Louisiana Hayride, Grand Old Opry and, of course, Hee Haw. Then there was an incredible collection of musical instruments--many of them belonging to some of the big names in old country. One of the saddest stories was about Bill Monroe's mandolin--it was made in 1928 and he found it in a pawn shop. ( Lots of these instruments were bought or won in bars or pawn shops or second hand shops--amazing!) In 1985 his home was broken into and the intruder smashed the mandolin with a poker. Monroe painstakingly reassembled it --but can you imagine? How heart-breaking. The third floor ended at a three story wall of gold records and a spiral staircase down to the second floor. Before descending however we sat at a console and played tons of 45's --some of which I sang with. We sat before the Lee Greenwood display case. At the foot of the stairs was another temporary exhibit--this one dedicated to the Bakersfield Sound. Except for Merle Haggard this isn't a sound that appeals to me. I must say this was one incestuous group of singers--talk about wife swapping or girlfriend swapping. Wow. Buck Owens and his harmonizing back-up singer, Don Howard had quite a run on Hee-Haw and after the show went off the air he had a popular bar in Bakersfield where Dwight Yoakum cut his teeth. From there the history continues with the rise of Southern Rock. Lots of cross over here--Glen Campbell, Kristofferson, Cash, Roger Miller, Sonny James--singers not limited to country fans. But also a real spate of popular female singers--Tammy, Tonya, Loretta etc. Soon the Western contingent moved in with the probably most popular country singer of all time, George Strait. The Oklahomans moved in, too. And the rest of the museum is dedicated to names that are household names and appear over and over on the concert stages of current country and the TV specials. Carrie Underwood, whom I cannot stand,but also Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Sheldon and Miranda, Faith and Tim etc. And then the exhibit hall ended at the entrance to the Hall of Fame, where just earlier in the week Kenny Rogers, Bobby Baer and Jack Clement had been inducted for 2013. The room is soooooo impressive as a Hall of Fame should be--plaques for every artist ever inducted. A true shrine with a lovely mural by Thomas Hart Benson representing the roots of country music at it head and the wings of plaques spreading to either side of it. A beautiful spear to its center continuing out the roof to represent the original radio tower that broadcast country music to the rest of the world. Will the Circle Be Unbroken by the Carter Family is the official theme of the center and its opening notes are depicted on a staff on the outside wall of the room. Here is honored the talent of musicians, singers, composers who have carried on the tradition of American country music in all its permutations. I used to say I didn't like Country Music but that isn't true--as in all music there are some performers and composers that I like and others I do not--yet, it is impossible not to acknowledge the gifts with which they all were blest. Befitting that awareness, this room is silent, but for the sound of rippling water, sun soaked and somehow solemn. All who enter become quiet as if in a Church. Amazing. With that, we came to the end of the day--walking down the widely spaced shallow stairs alongside a stepped stream and looking out the glass walls to the stacked spheres of the building that form the Hall of Fame. Architecturally, the round shape of the rotunda is representative of the silos and water towers of the agricultural roots of the country; the spheres representing the evolution of the music from 78's to 45's to LP's to CD's.Were we able to see the building from above --it is in the shape of a bass clef and the curb shaped entrance hall is representative of the porches on which so much of the early music evolved. All in all, a wonderful day--filled with music and history--chats with other visitors recalling memories of the artists or their songs. The stairs culminated at a very small gift shop where I purchased a post card of the Bakersfield Sound poster for my album. Across the hall there was another very small gift shop --I got a book mark in the shape of a guitar and a few other post cards. And then it was out onto Demonbreun once more--a quick glance back and then off to 2nd and Nolensville and Applebee's for wings, a visit with the gang and a brew and home, tired but very happy! Tomorrow another installment on our final adventures. Here is a link to the brochure for the museum should you be interested--until the next time KandB http://countrymusichalloffame.org/assets/Brochure/Visitors-Guide-4.pdf

Friday, January 3, 2014

Finishing Up October in Tennessee

January 3, 2014 12:45 pm Kitchen at Home in Post Mills, Vermont Don't ask me why I neglected to finish my tales of the time in Nashville. I haven't a clue but I do want to get some of the memories on paper so that my personal diary will be complete. Unfortunately, when one writes several months after the event some of the excitement and animation of the story is lost. Nevertheless, it is important for me to have some narrative to go with pictures I may scrap many years down the line if ever. So, if you've tired of the trip, just skip the next few emails, otherwise, welcome back. Perhaps hearing of adventures in a time of sun, grass and foliage may help alleviate the cold and snow of the present. On October 23, I turned 71 years old! That fact just floors me, since I feel and in most cases act as though I am still in my 30's. I have moments of stiffness after sitting for very long and others of achy joints, though, not often, thank goodness, that hurl me back to reality in no uncertain terms but by and large, this 71 is not my Mother's 71 and, certainly, not my Grandmother's! I just couldn't decide what I wanted to do to celebrate--Bill offered to get me a gift certificate to the local massage parlor or take me out to dinner but neither really appealed. I had wanted to go out to Kix Brooke's vineyard for Music in the Vineyard one Sunday afternoon but the weather did not seem to cooperate--rain most of the Sundays on which we had nothing planned. I also wanted to taste the wines and the lady at the Grinder's Switch Winery had told us not to try to do that on a Music day since the crowds were too large and the tasting room too small. This being a Wednesday and absolutely gorgeous it seemed a perfect tasting day. Before heading out, however, I had two more things I wanted to set up--tickets for a river cruise on the Cumberland River and tickets for the Bruce Munro light show at Cheekwood. Not much for computers sometimes but then again being able to accomplish these reservations in ten minutes seemed like a grand idea. Off we went down the Nolensville Road for the first time. In Nashville everything seems to be either by way of the Nolensville Road or Old Hickory Boulevard. By the time we left for home in November we'd explored them both pretty thoroughly and followed them, along with the Franklin Pike to many surrounding sites. It is amazing that within a very few miles out the Nolensville Road one is in the country--rolling hills and green expanses of grass. In a very short while we made our turn off to the Arrington Vineyards in Arrington. It is a real country lane with lovely old homes set among very old trees. The Vineyard itself is beautiful. Vines cascading down a hill at the foot of the Chalet which houses the tasting room and very small gift shop. There are picnic tables scattered all over the fields and a lovely deep stone balcony on the Chalet. Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic and wander the grounds and on the music days it must be very bucolic. The only request is that the only alcohol to be drunk be the wine from the vineyard--not unreasonable. No beer or other alcoholic beverages may be brought on the grounds. We pretty much had the tasting room to ourselves and were allowed to taste eight wines each, including from a $45 bottle of a red wine, that was very good but I just cannot justify that kind of money for something that is consumed in less time than it cost to earn the price. I did buy a wonderful selection of wines as well as a glass from which to drink them and a cheese cleaver. I still have all but the Merlot, which I drank around Thanksgiving. The Vineyard has a wine club and they said they can ship wine to us--I question that--but if I decide to join the club we will soon find out. It may be something I will do when our traveling days are curtailed and I won't be able to just stock up on the trip. As we left the Vineyard we followed the road in the direction we'd taken to get there and found ourselves making a large U-shaped loop through the hills back to the Nolensville Road in the town of Triune and thus back home. A simple excursion but one I thoroughly enjoyed as my birthday present. The next day we wandered over to Ulta where I purchased some OPI nailpolish for Betsy and had an early dinner at Logan's. I had read about a new brewery that opened the first week or so in September. I'd put them on my list of places I wanted to explore. Only open on Thursday and Friday evenings after 5 and on Sat from noon. It seemed to me the hours indicated that the owners had not yet given up their day jobs and could only man the place at those times. Thompson Lane, on which Logans is located, just happens to cross Sidco Drive--how convenient--and Sidco Drive just happens to lead to Harding Place which in turn leads to a shortcut to our Nashville abode. I mean, really, how could one pass up such serendipity? So off we went looking carefully amongst the commercial buildings to locate a brewery--many of which exist in New England--most very quaintly presented as a rural or highly sophisticated pub. Ha, not in Nashville--the entrance looks like it leads into an office building. Once inside however, the little bar WAS designed to appear as though it were in the refectory of an Abbey. Nice, since the name is The Black Abbey Brewery. The bar is made of cement blocks but the top is a thick plank of beautiful light colored wood, but can't remember what the girl said it was. There are some nice reviews about the place and its beers at http://www.yelp.com/biz/black-abbey-brewing-company-nashville if you happen to like that sort of thing and think you may be in Nashville sometime. I see that it opened on Sept 26 so it was more recent then I thought. The fun thing is the seating--picnic tables in the warehouse where the kegs and vats are located. Easy to get to meet people since it is communal. Loved the sampler of little snifters and did buy one of them --it is cordial size--great for my Bailey's! Funny thing is, the people involved are from Rutland, Fair Haven, Clifton Park and Ballston Spa, New York. I'm liking Nashville more and more. I think I could live there! As we drove home just after dark I realized that we had taken the Interstate that runs along Sidco to Michael's the first time we ate at Logans. That was before we set Greta Garmin to ignore thruways---and in this case the route we were taking between the two points tonight was much shorter and more direct than that awful traffic filled route Greta chose for us back when we didn't know our way around. On October 25, we got up bright and early and headed for Ashland City, upriver from Nashville. For one of the first times the car had frost on it! Once more we followed Old Hickory Blvd to a turn which headed us out 100 and away from the Nashville limits. On a steep sweeping downgrade I noticed an entry gate that appeared to be very Asiatic in design. Craning my neck to see back through the gates as we passed I saw a beautifully carved building of the almost impossibly white stone. Marked it in my mental notes to find the time to check it out before we headed home. Soon we came to a deserted park on the banks of the Cumberland where we waited for our pontoon boat to arrive. Not knowing how far it was from home we had allowed an hour for travel and since it took only about 25 minutes we were quite early. Although not as cold as it might have been at home, it was quite chilly--in the 40's and I had on my fleece jacket and did not wish to get out of the car before it was necessary. Not able to sit still listening to Willie's Roadhouse, I got out of the car to take in my surroundings. There is something so peaceful in the early morning near the water. The high bridge over which we crossed sparkled in the sunlight and the heron beneath its span studiously ignored me as it scanned the rivers depths for its breakfast. A fisherman silently drifted in his boat, competing for the same aquatic morsel? Soon, others arrived in dribs and drabs and like us remained in their vehicles for a time before succumbing to the lure of the flowing river. By the time the Blue Heron made her appearance there were several of us ready to board. A couple with two young children and a set of grandparents. His parents? Hers? Two woman who appeared of an age all bundled up in pants and fleece jackets and hats and boots, soon to be revealed as mother and her college aged daughter home for the weekend. A mixed gaggle of older folks with whom I was destined to spend some delightful time while standing in the bow of the boat. Several others joined us once aboard but after getting underway I really didn't pay too much attention to anyone other than those in my immediate vicinity. Though I love people and interacting with them, I'm afraid once I'm on water most everything except the movement of the vessel and the passing scene fades from view. I've no idea if any of my Irish ancestors ever had anything to do with the sea but I do know my father and my brother and my sister all have shared this deeply ingrained connection to it. Water, that is--mostly the ocean but rivers, streams, lakes, ponds--they all have called to us. Mountains are magnificent and forests and fields but nothing pulls me like water. And this day was no different. We rode along the main river with the highway on which we'd arrived to our right and cliffs and trees to our left. Soon the river curved away from the road creating large fields between it and the water in which could be built lovely large homes one of which I fell in love with immediately. We continued farther north hoping to see some of the eagles the captain had spotted a few days earlier but not finding any we turned about and then took a quiet stream into the woods. Eventually we had entered a parkland with a nice clubhouse sort of building and picnic areas and a small beach. Being a tributary of the main river and little traveled at this time of year with the park deserted the heron were happy to fish and preen and fly and I was delighted to take pictures of them doing it all. Except for the lack of overhanging branches and Spanish moss the area was much like the bayous of Louisiana. Though chilly with the sun beating down on us it was very comfortable and I could have spent hours just drifting here enjoying the quiet and the wildlife. Too soon, however, the time had come to return to Ashland City's park. I had spent much of the time on the front deck and chatting with a lady who was part of the Church group from Dixon, Tn. Later, while on the way to Centerville, I would find that the town's name is spelt Dickson. We talked tornados, old South, snakes--they have them and poisonous, bugs--I know they have them, religion amazingly and travel. The group was going to lunch at the restaurant on the other side of the bridge, the specialty of which is catfish! The couple who own the Blue Heron had written on their website that reservations were suggested. NOPE--the water may call to me but in no way do catfish, thank you very much. I thanked my friend for suggesting we join them and waved to all the other sailors as we pulled out of the park and passed the condos that she had told us were built four years ago and sat empty since then--the bottom falling out of the economy left them sitting sad and forlorn. Much to my amazement the Sunday Tennessean--only two days later--would have an article on the housing situation and these condos would be featured as a development that finally was getting sold. One of the new tenants being a female pediatrician with a practice in Nashville. Hmmm, right on the river--how beautiful. Anyway, we returned to Nashville and decided to try Sylvan Park, a meat and two which Leecia had recommended. I guess there are restaurants that specialize in a meat and two sides--there are also meat and threes. Haven't a clue why they have these names--don't most restaurants serve a main meat etc with two sides? Anyway, this being Friday I ordered the fried pork chops ( forgetting that all fried food is breaded in the South--chicken fried as they call it ), cole slaw and fried apples--okay, THEY weren't breaded. Everything was delicious. Bill had baked ham, turnip greens and white beans. Both of us had sweet tea to drink. And so, another wonderful day came to a close with two tired folks happy to settle down with Judge Judy or a book. Saturday found us on our way to Centerville for the Grinder's Switch Radio Hour but since that had become such a regular event in our Nashville stay, I am going to dedicate an entire blog to it and our various treks down there and the people with whom we became regulars. From Sunday to Wednesday our week was more mundane--staying home or just taking short trips into the countryside. But on Wednesday night, October 30 we headed out to Cheekwood Gardens. As with so many of these places, Cheekwood was once a private home. I have forgotten the details of the background given us by the man who greeted us at the ticket office, but I do know that the Cheek money came from the development of a coffee blend that was sold at the Maxwell House in Nashville. Eventually, Postum, now General Foods bought the rights for $40 million and this money was used to buy and develop the property that evolved into the present day Botanical Gardens. Apparently, some of the money was also invested into the National Cash Register Company, adding to an already sizeable 1928 fortune. I had purchased our tickets online, as you may recall and though the gardens are all outside and self guided we needed to check in and receive our ID bracelets. We arrived shortly before dusk and were able to see the installations that Bruce Munro had set about the grounds before the darkness transformed them into even more beautiful and striking figures. Not knowing the lay of the land, we started at a high point and walked downward to the Japanese gardens and back up the other side, wandering among the lights until we came to the foot of a rather steep hill topped by the mansion. By the time we reached there I was quite tired and we had to retrace our steps to the entrance. I opted not to go to the mansion and in so doing missed the beautiful main hall with a chandelier that appeared to be raining diamonds to the floor and the floating lights on the stream behind the house. I had noticed people taking a tram like ride to the home when we arrived but didn't realize that would eliminate the steepest part of the tour and that all would be pretty much downhill from there. Fortunately, though I don't have pictures of these two installations, a waitress and the manager at Applebee's did have pictures and they showed them to me later in the week. Nevertheless, what I did see was beautiful and I loved every minute of the show.It was a highlight of our visit to Nashville. If you are not familiar with Bill Munro and his light installations, there was a PBS special on him not long ago. His glass and light shows at Botanical Gardens around the world are stunning and I'm so happy I was able to see one of them. In this instance, the pictures do more to tell the story than any of my words could possibly do. The next night --Halloween--not one trick or treater! So I enjoyed the candy corn pretty much by myself. With that, October and my birthday celebrations came to an end. Now we were on the downward slope of our Nashville sojourn and there was still much to do--like get downtown and honky-tonk among other things. For now, I'm going to close and leave that story for another day. Later, KandB