Friday, June 27, 2014


On occasion I’ve wondered if doctors have to develop a thick skin when it comes to laymen picking their brains. (Or would that be a thick skull?) Now I know that, as with any other person in any other occupation, it depends on the specialist and the specialty. For many years it happened that a neighbor of ours was a retired surgeon. He was a veritable font of helpful information but was often, as my husband said, ‘god-like’ in his pronouncements. He enjoyed being the supreme expert on things medical and non-medical alike.

I was at a party last weekend and one gentleman there learned that another was a doctor.  Sitting nearby and tuning in on their conversation, nosey me, I heard the first gentleman lead the doctor into a general conversation, the wind and the weather and where are you from. Then he pointedly said “you’re a ….”, and he named the specialty. He went on to tell about his own recent surgery and wanted to know if what he experienced usual. Not wanting to malign others in his field, I suppose, the doctor went on to tell him what was usual under those circumstances. 

Well, I tuned out then – other interesting things were going on – but I had to chuckle.  I knew the man was a doctor but I didn’t know his field, as that gentleman did. I had wondered what it might be because I have a question or two I’d like to ask of a doctor in a different particular field. Not questions enough to actually make an appointment, but some I’d just like to have answered. I suppose we all might have a few such medical question of our own, just for a bit of reassurance and a bit of peace of mind. I’m not always happy with what I read on-line. That gentleman was in the right place at the right time to get his own bit of reassurance, and the doctor was gracious enough to supply it. Sometimes I miss our neighbor.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


You know that expression we use when we say that something will happen when “hell freezes over”? Well it’s time.

Ah, yes! Hell. I've been near it, but never been to it. (Trondheim, Norway is the closest I've been.)  I've been saving this picture for years and finally thought to use it today.

The average high temperature for his part of South Carolina in the month of June is 86°, average low 65°. Has it been that this past week or so? No – it’s gone up into the 90’s. So I am wanting hell to freeze over for a while – just a while until the atmosphere gets a grip on itself and eases us back into summer. Come July I’ll be ready for all this. 

Friday, June 20, 2014


After telling you about Hide and Seek on Tuesday, I thought I’d introduce you to the second painting that “spoke to me”. This one is Fumée d'ambre gris (Smoke of Ambergris) by John Singer Sargent, and it resides at the Clark Institute in Williamstown. Massachusetts. When we lived near there for over twenty years, I was a frequent visitor to this particular piece.

When I first saw the painting, a majestic 64½” x 45½”, rightly voted by museum-goers as their favorite painting during the Clark’s 50th Anniversary celebration, I could get right in front of the painting, even touch it if I’d been so stupid, but I wasn’t. (A few years later, when it came back from a tour of Sargent’s paintings, they moved it to a more secure location and put a guard rail a good bit away from it, outside of touching range, but also, for me, out of study range.)  There is so much to see in the painting: the simplicity of the scene, the grace of her hands, the questions of why she is censing herself, where is she,  and what are the clothes she is wearing.

What absolutely amazed me was the way Sargent depicted silver and shine – the silver of the brazier and her jewelry, the shine on her polished fingernails. I’m sure I’d seen the same effects in many pictures before, but this was the first picture where I was close enough to see the brush strokes. Whew! I was absolutely bowled over, I tell you. Close up: just strokes of white paint; far away: silver and glint.

I’m sure that in your life you’ve come upon a thing or two that amazed you – this was one of mine.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


I understand from my current investigations that this painting, Hide and Seek by Pavel Tchelichew, is about as old as I am. I suppose, like me, it’s been a puzzle for all these years. (And I suppose I am a puzzle mainly to myself – but I digress.) I came upon this huge piece of “visionary art” – it is 6’ 6½” x 7’ ¾” – on one of my first wanderings through the Museum of Modern Art, MOMA in NYC, many, many years ago. I’ve kept a print of I ever since, and every once in a while I dig it out and study it again. It is one of two paintings that have ‘spoken’ to me, though this one speaks in a strange tongue. On first glance it was a big tree, then a good look after a double take showed me that the tree was made of children – from newborns on up - everywhere in the painting. Someone had thoughtfully provided a bench in front of it, and I can’t recall how long I sat there and looked at the painting, but it was quite a while.

In seeking the correct spelling of the artist’s given name – from Paul to Pavel to Pavlik, all correct as it happens – I came upon the picture below. This one is called Phenomena. I discovered that it was the first of a series he was doing relative to Dante’s Divine Comedy. Phenomena was Inferno and Hide and Seek was Purgatorio. Tchilichew never did one for Paradiso – who can begin to guess what flights of fancy that one would have produced in him?

Monday, June 16, 2014


I say revisited because, though I did write a brief piece on them at the beginning of the year, last night was the first time I’d seen them dance since we moved to South Carolina.

Last night, on our way home from Father’s Day dinner at our son's house, just after 9 p.m., we noticed lots of firefly activity in the woods and brushy areas around his house. I was driving and could easily have been distracted so, needless to say, we had to stop for a while and delight our eyes. Then when we got back to our own area and wound our way through the streets, we saw more fireflies dancing in the brushy areas here between the sections. Now, just before full dark, must be the right time for the fireflies to twinkle here, not the later upstate New York time of the summer.

As I said before: 
Butterflies are enchantment on wings in the sunshine
                        Fireflies are enchantment for and early summer evening


Friday, June 13, 2014


Friday the Thirteenth - lucky for me because I can recycle an essay I posted a few years ago - even that was recycled from an article I wrote for our community magazine. 

Don't you just love the Count?

Heads up all you friggatriskaidekaphobics and paraskevidekatriaphobics: this is Friday the 13.  Triskaidekaphobia means fear of the number 13.  It is from the Greek: tris means 3, kai means ‘and’, deka means 10, and phobia means ‘fear’. The word was coined 100 years ago in 1911.  Frigga was the Norse goddess for whom Friday was named, so add her name to the front and it becomes fear of Friday the Thirteenth. I won’t begin to decipher the meaning of that second word; it suffices to say it means the same thing. 

In western culture, the number 13 is widely associated with bad luck. No one wants to live on 13th Avenue, or have an apartment on the 13th floor.  Hotels also eliminate the 13th floor, but the floor is really there, isn’t it?  It’s just been renumbered.  Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose. For ages the number thirteen was just one of many and had no special significance.

The superstition surrounding 13 seems to have arisen in in medieval times.  It is said that folks became aware that there were thirteen at the Last Supper, and thereafter tried to avoid thirteen - not only at a table but everywhere else.  Norsemen may tell you that when the mischievous Loki crashed the party at Valhalla to which Odin had invited eleven of his closest friends, all Niflheim (that’s Norse for hell) broke loose, resulting in the death of the beloved Baldur. Another case of thirteen at the table.

Fear of Friday the Thirteenth, that paraskevidekatriaphobia, is a newer, just as irrational fear.  Some point to the fact the Jacques de Molay and many of his fellow Knights Templar were arrested for heresy on Friday, October 13, 1307, but many other significant events, good or bad, could have taken place on other Fridays the Thirteenth.  It really seems to be a combination of fear of 13 and the fact that many people wouldn’t care to start anything on Friday.  Actually, neither would I. Not that it really matters, but starting a job on a Friday seems strange: Monday, with the whole work week ahead, seems more logical.  Folks don’t usually want to get married, start a business venture, move, start a trip, or even give birth on a Friday.  “Friday’s child is full of woe.” 

There are probably a baker’s dozen of reasons to admire the number thirteen: a baker’s dozen cookies, or loaves or biscuits, fits nicely on a baking tray.  Thirteen is a prime number, divisible only by 1 and itself.  It is also a Wilson prime and a Fibonacci number, but that’s more mathematics than we need to know right now.  There were thirteen original colonies in our United States, and thirteen stars and stripes on the flag. We’ve added a star as each state was admitted to the union, but we’d be down to pinstripes if we hadn’t kept just the original six white and seven red.

There are thirteen players on a rugby team and thirteen cards in a suit. At thirteen you become a teenager and can watch all those PG-13 movies.  Wilt Chamberlain, Shaquille O’Neal, and Dan Marino wore number 13. Alex Rodriguez wears it for the Yankees. Well, that’s not quite a baker’s dozen reasons, but you get the idea.

And by the way, it might come in handy to know that for some obscure reason the first Friday the Thirteenth of any year is also observed as Blame Someone Else Day. Don’t look at me: I didn’t think of it.

And while I'm messin' around in the picture files, I'll tag on this one -
one of my favorite old American Express ads.
Eddie Arcaro and Wilt Chamberlain -
Don't you just love it?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Do you notice anything unusual about this scene? I’ve kept this photo in my archives for two years. I love this picture! Why? Because the Queen isn’t hanging on to one of her blankety-blank purses, pocketbooks, hand bags, whatever you call them.  Oh, I know what she carries in there – you can read about it here – but couldn’t a handy lady-in-waiting carry all that for her?

I'm just being a bit of a curmudgeon today.

Friday, June 6, 2014



Every morning my email inbox contains an item from Delancey Place - “eclectic excerpts delivered to your email every day”. It’s usually a bit from a recently published book, usually historical in topic, and always interesting.

The entry for May 30, 2014 was from The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur, by Mark Perry. Here’s an edited excerpt from that excerpt: "As [Marshall] scanned the list of senior officers capable of higher command [to be stationed in Australia and lead the war against Japan in the south Pacific] … …Dwight Eisenhower, Mark Clark, George Patton, Omar Bradley, Courtney Hodges, Robert 'Nelly' Richardson, and a half dozen others (all of them listed in the little black book he kept in the drawer of his office at the War Department) he noted that none of them had [MacArthur's] experience. Eisenhower was untested, Clark a sniveler, and Patton a marplot;”

Well, stop right there! Marplot. What’s a marplot? “Inquiring minds want to know” – so to Google I went and found the Merriam-Webster definition:
Definition of MARPLOT: one who frustrates or ruins a plan or undertaking by meddling

I never knew much about Patton, except for what I got from the movie, so the word ‘marplot’ in connection with him could have meant anything. Turns out that the word’s origins are somewhere back in the late eighteenth century. Marplot – what a juicy word, what a useful word! I believe I’ve run into several marplots in my lifetime – haven’t we all?

It’s finding intriguing little gems like ‘marplot’ that keep me going each day to sites like The Writer’s Almanac, Astronomy Picture of the Day, or even the BBC News in Pictures. Takes but a moment, but one never knows what treasures one will unearth, do one?

I never did read the rest of the excerpt, but there’s always more to learn out there.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


… a Mercedes-Benz – so I can be the envy of all of my friends.”
                                         (you've got to sing that with a little bit of a twang.)

Many, many years ago, my grandmother, then in her seventies, ‘always wanted a red ‘jag-u-are’.  Now I know what she meant. I am coveting this Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG. Price? Oh a mere bag o' shells. I kid the family and tell them that they should all chip in and get me a nice red one for Christmas. Wouldn’t it be loverly?