Tuesday, January 31, 2006


When I was very small I used to like to look through the photo albums and see pictures of my parents and grandparents when they were young. The pictures were black and white and inserted in little corner tabs on all four sides.

My first camera was a Kodak Brownie; I got it when I was about 8 years old. I was so proud to be able to take pictures just like a grown person. The pictures weren’t great, but they were mine!

My father used a 35 mm Kodak Pony, as basic 50s style camera. He had me pose for what seemed like hours for the requisite Easter photos. But mostly he took travel photos. Some were in black and white and others were in color.

Daddy could process black and white film in his darkroom and I used to help him. We put the film in little black light-tight canisters and poured in smelly chemicals. He took the negatives out and hung them up with clothes pins to dry on a line he strung across his workshop. Once the film was dry the next day, we would make prints. We put out several trays of very smelly chemicals. Daddy had an enlarger that enabled us to insert the negative and an image would be projected on the paper. Magically, when we put the paper in the developers, the image would appear. When we put the paper in the stop bath, the development would stop. Then we had to rinse the photos. Still, the paper had to dry. We had large spiral blotter books that we put the pictures in to absorb the moisture. The finished product was usually a matte finish print. Paper was expensive, so 8” x 10” prints were reserved for the best shots.

About 1953, my Dad had my uncle, who was stationed in Germany, get him a Retina IIIc camera. It was a fine camera that produced high quality 35 mm. photos. He loved that camera and used it for about twenty years before he upgraded to a newer style 35 mm. camera.

Daddy tired of processing his own film after a few years and he started shooting slides. We bought an old Bell and Howell projector that used rectangular shaped trays. You had to put each slide in a separate little plastic frame. Putting a slide show together was a big deal! Still, after each trip or special event, slides soon followed. We had a small tripod screen that served us well for decades.

When I was a teenager I got a Polaroid camera. It took poor quality instant black and white prints that had to be coated with a gel as soon as they developed. The camera wasn’t great, but the price was right! I still have a madras covered photo album from the old Swinger.

When we got married in 1969, Steve had a 35 mm. Pentax camera. It is a nice basic single lens reflex camera and he has a range of lenses. He still uses it and is in no hurry to upgrade.

Shortly after our marriage, we bought a Kodak Carousel projector. We got a model 850 (the top model) and it came with a really nice zoom lens. Having used Carousel projectors routinely in my training and work in the audiovisual field, I thought I was hot stuff when we had our own. We even bought a remote control, a stack loader, and a synchronizer unit. I could make synchronized slide shoes.

My first serious adult camera was a 35 mm Yashica in about 1971. I was involved in the Norton AFB Officers’ Wives’ Club and worked on the magazine. All the photos were taken with the club’s old Polaroid camera, and the only place with enough light was the ladies’ bathroom in the O Club. The wall paper was light colored and there was one open wall that served as backdrop. All photos included the bottom of a window air conditioner power cord. My contribution was to provide 35 mm. black and white shots taken with a flash in rooms OTHER than the ladies’ room. But, of course, taking the pictures wasn’t enough. We worked a deal to pay an airman to develop them for us in the base hobby shop’s photo lab.

I took photography lessons in the local Adult Ed program in San Bernardino, California. Steve also patiently taught me how to handle the mechanics of photography. Like my father, he had a darkroom and we (mostly he) started processing our own photos. I soon lost interest and opted for camera store processing.

By the late 70s I was doing more and more serious photography and felt I needed a Single Lens Reflex. I bought myself a Nikon EM, a low-end Nikon. Nikon lenses use a bayonet mount and Pentax lenses use a screw mount. Steve, being a big Pentax fan, has never quite understood my appreciation of Nikons.

Using little red ceramic letters I could even shoot title slides, but that also required I use a copy stand. It was a unit that held the camera up above the subject and there were lights on either side. Getting the ceramic letters was hard, but I could make decent looking title slides. I felt so empowered!

I eventually replaced my old Nikon EM with a Nikon FG. It was still not the finest model by any stretch, but it had more bells and whistles than any camera I had ever had before. That camera was my all-time favorite and it served me well for many years. I accumulated a wonderful tripod, lots of great lenses and filters. With all of this equipment and years of experience I got to be a pretty decent photographer.

The years kept moving and I gradually learned that having a heavy camera was a liability. I hated to carry a camera that would not fit in my purse. I tried Instamatics, 110s and finally a small, automatic 35 mm. camera made by Nikon. It is a really good little camera and I still use it today when I want to shoot film.

About eight years ago, Steve gave me a Sony Mavica digital camera. It uses floppy disks and is a whopping 1.8 megapixels. Still, in many ways it was a miracle. I could shoot a photo and simply pop the disk into my computer’s floppy drive. But, as most digital cameras of its vintage, it was heavy and certainly wouldn’t fit in my purse.

Meanwhile, I got involved in a zillion other things and photography was not something I had much time for anymore. When I needed photos, usually I enlisted a staff member to do it for me. Gradually, my Mavica became a dinosaur. Usually I just used my little Nikon “purse camera” when the need arose.

Last spring I went to South Carolina and wanted to photograph a very special event there. The light would be limited and I couldn’t use a flash, so I opted to shoot with my old Nikons (black and white film in one and color in the other). I loaded up with high speed film and packed my tripod and big bag of cameras and film. The pictures were not great! I can no longer see to focus. One camera died in action and the other wasn’t working consistently. The Sony Mavica performed OK, as did my little Nikon “purse” camera. I took some pictures with my cell phone and they also were OK (though low resolution for sure). I had some photos, but not the great stuff I had wanted!

That incident did it! I went to the camera store and bought a new digital camera. Yes, it a Nikon and it is so tiny it fits in my purse or pocket with ease. It is 5.1 megapixels and turns out some terrific photos. I feel fulfilled, but I am sure soon something better will come along and I will have to have it. Meanwhile, Steve will just keep on happily using his nearly forty year old Pentax.

We have this drawer in our front hall cabinet. It is filled with cameras, lenses, filters, flashes and cords of all descriptions. Most of the stuff actually works. Maybe we should try to sell them, but doubt they would bring much. So, we just keep on stuffing old cameras in the drawer.

We have four large bookshelves downstairs and each one has a closed cabinet at the bottom. Each cabinet is filled with slides. Some are in boxes and others are in Carousel trays. Some are my parents’ and some are ours. Someday I should set up the light table and organize them all. Maybe I could have them copied and made into a Power Point programs. Just think of how easily I could make title slides and synchronize them. Then what! It is hard enough to find a friendly audience for vacation slides when they are fresh; age them for a few decades and lose track of where or when they were taken and try to find an audience.

Then there is that dresser full of photos; and, of course, the old military trunk under the stairs filled with photos from pre-World War II. Someday I should go through all of those photos as well. Maybe I could replace the crumbling album pages with new ones from the Hallmark store. Or maybe I should get some of those photo boxes like they advertise on TV. Someday, when I have nothing else better to do I will take this on for sure. Yeah right!

For now, I am going to keep using my little digital camera and maybe get one of those special little printers. Or maybe I will just upload all the decent stuff to a Web site and erase the rest.

I wonder…will the digital photos we take today and upload to our computers have anywhere near the staying power of those old prints in the trunk in the basement? Or will they simply go away as hard drives die and Web sites go down. Guess I had better get one of those little printers. Besides, is definitely easier than the dark room used to be.

Monday, January 30, 2006

From Records to MP3

When I was about two my father would make recordings of family members, including me. In fact, I had my own little blue microphone and I loved to talk in it. He made records using a machine he had that somehow cut grooves in wax discs. We still have these precious recordings, but no machine to play them on. You need to have a machine like the one they were made on in order to play them, as they start at the middle and play outward. What I would give to hear once again the voices of my grandparents or to hear my parents’ wedding!

My parents and grandparents collected 78 rpm records. We still have some of those as well, but again, nothing to play them on.

I got my own record player at age 3. It was a 45 rpm turntable built into a small white bedside table. My father put a speaker in it and my mother covered the speaker in soft red cloth. My aunt brought me a record every Sunday when she came to dinner; sometimes they were kiddie records, but more often right from the Hit Parade. I never have parted with any of them, from the Teddy Bear’s Picnic to the original recordings of Sixteen Tons, Steam Heat and more. I particularly remember one titled, “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time.” Hmmh….just what every three year old needs to listen to! Since I couldn’t read, my mother helped me draw pictures on each of my records so I could tell what I was playing.

By the mid-1950s everyone was listening to Hi-Fi and the records starting shifting to 33 1/3 rpm. My father brought home a record called “Hearing is Believing” and we listened to the difference between Hi-Fi and regular records. The Great Gate of Kiev was amazing in Hi-Fi.

Then along came stereo; it was reserved for 33 1/3 rpm records and only the “best ones.” Everyone was rushing to upgrade from Hi-Fi to stereo and buying new stereo albums. I think one’s manhood might well have been associated with the sophistication of one’s sound system. (I don’t think this has changed!)

In 1959, we teenagers had to have our own transistor radios. They were AM only and you listened to them with tiny headphones. The sound quality was terrible, but who cared? It was a miracle of modern technology!!!

But in the late 1950s, the most important thing for me and other American teenagers was 45 rpm records by people like Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Paul Anka, Brenda Lee, Fabian, Bobby Darren and others. We could buy these albums at the dime store (aka Woolworths) for $1.00. If you got a $2 per week allowance, $1 of it went to records. We carried our records around in little metal cases. To play them on our parents’ fancy stereos, we needed little red plastic inserts that clipped into the 45 rpm record making it physically configured like its larger brother the 33 1/3 rpm album.

My junior year in high school, my father managed to acquire a tape recorder. It used paper tape and was “reel to reel.” I remember recording the movie Moby Dick and loaing the tape and the recorder to my teacher to play for my English class.

By college, 45s were passé and nothing came pre-packaged on tapes. We all bought stereo albums by Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, The Kingston Trio, The Four Preps and, by senior year, Simon and Garfunkel. You couldn’t be a real college student without a record player; some were stereo and some very mono and it really didn’t seem to matter much. You could buy a portable small reel to reel tape recorder and by connecting your record player with your tape recorder, make an audiotape.

By senior year of college, they had come out with 8 track tapes. I told my father I wanted to get an 8 tape player in my car and he told me to wait; cassette tapes were going to become the next big thing. And he was absolutely right, but it was many years later before I had a car with a cassette player in it. I think it might have been our 1977 Pontiac Catalina.

When I married Steve in 1969, he came with a nice Ampex tape recorder, fine stereo speakers, and AR turntable and a Heathkit amplifier. We were set! But soon, we decided to replace the old Ampex tape recorder with a Sony reel-to-reel. Steve had a friend buy it for us in Thailand, along with camera equipment. In those days, you could save a small fortune by buying this kind of thing in SE Asia. We still have that old Sony reel-to-reel recorder, but I can’t recall the last time I used it!

Within a few years, we were the proud owners of a cassette deck; we could make cassette recordings from records; copy them; and play them in the car or on a small portable cassette player. There was no doubt about it; we were a wired family!

For more than twenty years, reel-to-reel tapes, records, and cassette tapes had all lived harmoniously in our family room; each in their respective individually designed containers. The cassette tapes traveled to the cars. Mostly we recorded our own tapes because the store bought ones were short and broke often.

By around 1990 it was clear; we had a have a CD player to add to our collection of equipment that we were playing less and less frequently. Then, of course, we had to start buying CDs – even CDs of things we already had in other formats. And, of course, you couldn’t record your own CDs.

Then, of course, when we bought our next cars, we had to have CD players in them. My 1998 Olds Intrigue came with one; Steve’s Dodge Caravan didn’t, but that was soon remedied by his installation of a unit he purchased separately.

Of course, the old stereo system in the family room just got bigger and bigger with more and more components as the years went by. Soon we added a VCR unit and hooked the TV up to the mixture. When we built our house in 1992, we added a cabinet for all of this stuff! A few years ago, we added the DVD player!

But the family room system isn’t portable, so soon I also had to have a boombox; I am now on my third one! With a boombox, I could play my CDs anywhere and life was sweet.

Soon, however, the boombox became less important because my laptop computer could play music; in fact, I can even watch DVDs on it. My desk top computer can also play CDs and DVDs and it has it own external speakers.

Within the last year, my husband and I bought a new cell phones and they contain MP3 players. I have even learned how to download from Napster. I can also download my CDs onto my telephone and listen to music with a tiny headphone that reminds me of my first transistor radio. I had a really nice memory card with about 100 songs on it, when I discovered that my camera’s memory card was full. All I had to do to keep on shooting in a remote location was move the card from my phone, reformat the card, and start shooting pictures. I’ve been too busy to make another card of music for my phone.

Our house has 40 years worth of sound equipment and all kinds of media. Most of what we have is totally obsolete and that’s OK. The stuff just sits there and doesn’t bother anyone!

I can listen to music on my cell phone, but I don’t! Why, because I am too busy to take the time to figure out how to make it happen using my phone MP3 feature. Sure, I did it once, but I forgot what I did. Maybe I don’t really need music on my cell phone anyway! I still have my CD player in the car after all! As for all the components linked together in the family room – too much trouble! And that’s the curse of encroaching old age; all this stuff becomes harder to do and certainly less important! Maybe when I retire I’ll organize my records, tapes, CDs, DVDs and the like…but I doubt it!

Thursday, January 26, 2006


My grandmother used to have a suitcase that was large and rectangular shaped; it had a bakelite handle and stripes on the sides in shades of brown and yellow. She packed it for the two of us when we took the bus from Birmingham to Savannah in about 1954. There was something very special about her suitcase; to me it smelled of mysterious places faraway. In reality, neither she nor the suitcase ever traveled more than about 300 miles away from home. My grandfather, who had traveled widely on the Mississippi as a young man referred to her suitcase as her valise.

My father’s suitcase was a big reddish brown Samsonite bag. He took it on all of his trips to Washington, DC. He used to fly the old Capitol Airlines and stay at the Willard. His life seemed so exciting to me and that suitcase symbolized the lure of business travel (little did I know of the drudgery).

By the time I was in elementary school, I started going to conferences with my parents and we traveled all over the US. I got to borrow my grandmother’s suitcase and it and I went to exotic places like Columbus, Denver, St. Louis and Boston. My dad always drove; and he always said as we packed the car that all the suitcases would never fit in the trunk. But they always did!

When I got to college I got my first REAL set of luggage. It was a three piece set of American Tourister – beige with green lining. It was heavy and better suited to a porter’s cart than my weak arms. The first weekend home from college, I felt compelled to bring my BIG suitcase and my little square matching “train case.” How silly that all seems now.

That luggage served me well for many years, but in the 1980s I discovered soft-sided luggage with wheels. I picked up a few pieces here and there and my old American Tourister sat in the closet. It was a joy to pull a nylon bag along on four little wheels, although the thing often flipped over.

My family has a habit of naming my luggage and they referred to very unusual bag I bought in about 1990 as the “little black pig.” It was a magic bag with lots of little wheels on the bottom and it never tipped over. I still have it, but it hasn’t gone anywhere in years.

In just a couple of years, the “rolly bag” hit the scene. I saw a friend from New York with one and I just had to have one. Since then I have collected a fleet of the things in different sizes. I recall with terror my memory of falling backwards down an escalator at Gatwick Airport while trying to pull my huge “rolly bag” up the escalator.

After a recent trip with a conventional small, airline approved “rolly bag” I realized that I could no longer wield a heavily-loaded bag and get it in the overhead compartment. Independent soul that I am, I knew that even with my gray hair, I couldn’t count on some man coming along to heft it in and out of the bin for me.

I went online and ordered a new bag. It looks like it is made out of black patent leather and is sort of oval shaped. It has wheels like inline skates and is very ergonomic. It only weighs 5.5 pounds and holds a decent amount of clothes. I love it! My family, however, promptly named it Darth Vader’s vacuum cleaner. These days, traveling light is more important than being well-dressed. Who cares what those people in other places think of me!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Typewriters to Computers

I first typed on an old Underwood manual typewriter; they have just like it in the Smithsonian. It had a red and black ribbon and the keys didn’t strike very evenly, but it WAS a typewriter and it wasn’t every family who even had a typewriter. It had been my grandfather’s, although it was shared by all the family.

Gordy, my grandfather, also had also had an “adding machine.” It had lots of buttons for each number, a crank and a paper tape. He was a bookkeeper by profession and this was a tool of the trade. He also had a small pocket calculator that would add and subtract. You put a stylus in a slot and pulled it down to get the answer.

My junior year in high school I took something called “personal typing.” I was in the “advanced academic” diploma program, so I took typing as an elective not a real “core subject.” It was always a race to get a typewriter with letters on the keys. The people in the regular typing class (who were planning to be secretaries) were OK with those typewriters without letters on the keys, but our college-bound skills not up to the same standard.

In my senior year, I had my own green Smith Corona manual portable. I had to type term papers and the old Underwood was too much of a relic. That was a great little typewriter and it served me well for a few years.

When a senior in college, it became clear that I needed to have an electric typewriter. I got a blue Smith Corona electric that was the big brother to my little green portable. That was nice typewriter and lasted for many years. Our son, David, was a bright little guy and started typing on it at age 3. He knew the letters and the words, but didn’t have the coordination to write them by hand. So, at age three, all of his correspondence (mostly thank you notes to grandparents) was typed by him personally.

In the late 1970s I needed a better typewriter, so I got a Brother with a erasable ribbon built in. I would have loved to have a Selectric, but they were too expensive. My father was, however, given a Selectric as a retirement gift and when he passed away I inherited it. I still have it, but it doesn’t work anymore. I just hate to part with it.

As a college librarian for a few years back in the late 1960s, I dreamed up a new kind of typewriter that someone could use in a library. It would have a keyboard, a screen like a TV, and a place on the bottom that would print out the copy just like a photocopy machine. Steve said that one day there would be such a thing.

Steve brought our first home computer into the house in about 1981. It was a Northstar and very expensive. But he, as an engineer, needed it. He tried to sell me on using it as well, but I was resistant. But he pushed me and pushed me and eventually I gave in.

I was working at Chesapeake Academy in that same time frame and quickly saw the value of computers to the school, both for administration and instruction. I led an effort to bring in computers. We rented Atari 400s for the students and bought an Epson QX-10 for administration. I figured out how to do databases, accounting, and correspondence on the computer. I even set up a library catalog using the mailing list software. Those three programs – a spreadsheet, word processing, and database management became the basis for my computer skills. In time, I bought myself a Morrow portable that had a tiny screen and looked a lot like a portable sewing machine.

In the meantime, however, I had been doing work in publishing and was the owner of something called a Compuwriter Jr. It was used for setting type, which was then printed out photographically and pasted onto boards with hot wax. I used to change the belts and pulleys every time I wanted to change the font. You could only see one line of type at a time and if you made a typo, you had to cut and paste the “fix” in using an Exacto knife. I taught David how to use this machine and he actually, at age 12 set all the type in the 1983 Severna Park Directory.

In 1989, I bought an Atari ST (David was selling them at Toad Computers at the time) and resolved to teach myself this new thing called desktop publishing. It was a lot like the publishing I had done in the past, but all electronic. I put out the first issue of Chesapeake Living, an Anne Arundel County newcomer’s guide, doing all my own design work using a German program called Calamus.

In 1994, my publishing firm, Bay Media, Inc., made the transition to Windows and bought new computers and software called Pagemaker, by Aldus. That was version 4.0. We just phased out version 7.0 in favor of Adobe’s (who bought Aldus) new industry standard, In Design.

I got my first laptop computer in about 1996 and that changed everything. I am on my fourth one now and probably about ready for a new one. My Dell Latitude, fortunately under warranty until recently, is on its third keyboard (have worn the letters off and twice and I still like to have letters on the keys).

I also had an Atari Porfolio. It was an amazing machine. It folded up to be about ½” high and 8” long and about 4” across. It could do calendars, spreadsheets, databases, and word processing. I loved it!

In time, it gave way to the Casio equivalent that was a bit smaller and more compatible with my desktop computer. I could type on the go and merge my calendar.

Then along came the Palm Pilots and I had a Visor. Honestly, I never got the hang of that script you had to write in with the stylus. The Visor was black and white and I couldn’t see the screen too well, so a couple of years ago I bought a Palm Zire with a bright colored screen.

Meanwhile, of course, I had started carrying a two-way pager and a cell phone, along with the Zire. I had to have a big purse just to contain all of my electronics. Enough was enough and when the cell phone and pager both died last year, I decided it was time to do something radical!

I bought a Treo 650 and life is good again. I only have the one piece of equipment to carry and it small enough to wear on my waist. I can use it for everything – and yes, I can sync it to my desktop computer and my laptop. I can even leave the laptop at home and keep up with my email while traveling using the Treo. In one handy little device I have the functionality of a typewriter, a telephone, an adding machine, a camera, a record player, a tape recorder, a computer and more. Imagine the size of the box it would take to hold all this stuff in 1957! And, of course, now I have learned to type with my thumbs! Wouldn’t my typing teacher be amazed!

But a part of me still longs for a simpler time when typewriters were for term papers; the telephone was black and sat on the hall table, and you could leave the house without an electronic leash. I guess those days are gone until senility hits; then all I will need will be a button to call for help.

Sunday, January 22, 2006



When I was a little girl I wore my hair in a ponytail, pulled straight back. It was fine and tangled easily. I have memories of standing on the floor radiator on cold mornings, with my mother right behind me pulling out the tangles with a comb. It was SO painful! The austere ponytail effect made me all freckled face and ears. Sometimes I wore a bow on top of my head and looked really silly. My mother would put rollers in my pony tail to make it look curly. The rollers were long and green – sort of like asparagus and looped back into themselves – strange! All those years with the pony tail took their toll. There is a flat space on the back of my head – REALLY!

At about age 14, I got my hair cut short. My mother insisted and I reluctantly went along. Life was never the same. Then I started to have permanents that seemed to take forever and then my hair usually looked frizzy. The frizzy hair, accompanied by teenage pimples, and makeup that was too dark – well, I didn’t look very good.

In those teenage years, hair rollers were a fact of life. I had to roll up my hair every night. At first there were brush rollers that attached with pink plastic pins about 3 inches long. I would wake up every morning with a sore head and a mark in the middle of my forehead from a roller pin. But all the girls had the same mark, so it was OK.

Then they invented Dippity-Do, the first gel and by using this gel I was able to switch over to smooth rollers. These attached with horizontal clips. They didn’t stay in as well, but they didn’t hurt like the brush rollers.
The idea was to get the hair stiff and curly enough that you could tease it to get that pouffy look so popular in the mid-60s. Of course, once you curled it, teased it and combed it out, you then sprayed it. Aqua Net was a mainstay of teenage life, later supplanted by Just Wonderful! Sometimes we wore little bows on clips.

Speaking of hairspray, I had this roommate in college who was a moocher of the first order (she was assigned to me courtesy of the college). And she dated a LOT of guys – including the football team (if you get my drift). She didn’t go to class and she mostly worried about her hair. She was always using my hairspray. I set her up! I bought a brand in a large can with a paper label. After she got accustomed to using it, I removed the label and put the label on my spray starch. She had a HOT date that night with a football star. She rolled her hair, sprayed it with spray starch, and the results weren’t pretty. Talk about a “flip” gone wild!

With the aid of a hair dryer, it was possible to not sleep in rollers. Our first hairdryer was a model that sat on the table and resembled a modern-day hairdryer. That soon gave way to the bag dryer. This model featured a large plastic bag, a long hose, and a small round unit you could wear over your shoulder. Finally, by college, they had invented the dome shaped kind that sat on the table and you felt like you were at the beauty shop. These were portable and ubiquitous in my college dorm.

From about the time I was 15 to my early 20s I often had my hair “frosted.” I thought it made me look cool. Frosting was very painful, as they put a tightly fitting plastic cap on your head and pulled through the strands of hair with a crochet hook. Those strands got colored blonde. Then each time, to keep the blonde looking good, I used the same purple stuff that little old ladies used to keep their hair looking white (not yellow).

About the time our son was born in 1971 I let my hair grow long for the first time. Yes, I wore it parted in the middle and flopped behind my ears. It looked OK I guess, but was definitely too much trouble and didn’t last long.

In about 1972, I discovered blow drying and life was good again. I kept my hair cut short and I blew it dry. It didn’t look very good, but it was easy!

As the years went by, I started to notice a little gray creeping into my hair until one morning a few years ago I looked in the mirror and found it was more gray than brown. Hmmh.. how did that happen? I like it in a way because it looks a lot like it did when I used to have it frosted. These days I use “blonde” shampoo and mousse, as that makes it look more white than yellow -- just like when I was a teenager.

So, my hair looks sort of frosted(at least I kid myself into thinking that -- really it looks gray) and I don’t have rollers or permanents. All I have to do is wash it, spray in some mousse and blow dry it. And I have to have it cut every three weeks! But it could be a lot worse, and definitely has been. Will I have it dyed --- never – why complicate my life?

Saturday, January 21, 2006


The first shoes I can really recall were black patent leather Mary Janes. I was about three and wore them for church with little white socks, rolled down, with lace around the cuffs. I never heard that patent leather was somehow even because it reflected up your dress. We weren’t Catholic, so it wasn’t an issue. I always got new Sunday shoes for Easter.

For school, I wore brown leather shoes, sometimes with straps and sometimes with laces. I got a new pair each September and that involved a trip to the department store. We used to go to Goldstein and Cohen in Ensley, Alabama. Mr. Cohen was in Rotary with my Dad. At the store they had one of those foot x-ray machines. That way you could really see how well your shoes fit. Of course, they were banned eventually. I know if I ever get “toe cancer” to blame those machines.

Tennis shoes, or sneakers, were for play or Saturday. Mine were usually blue and made by Keds. They had that little Keds patch on the back end of each shoe. Some kids had PF Flyers, but for some reason I always had Keds. They felt so good on my foot – great for running and playing.

I remember in about sixth grade I had my first pair of heels. They were bright red patent leather and I wore them to a birthday party at my friend's house. All the other little girls wore heels to that party as well (I think our mothers planned it). Of course, it wasn’t just as simple as wearing the high heel shoes, it also involved wearing hose and a garter belt. This was pre-pantyhose and something had to hold your stockings up. What a contraption! We must have been sight, all of us wobbling in our brand new high heel shoes and struggling with the garter belts. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to grow up after that evening.

In junior high, we had rah-rah shoes. They were a bit like saddle oxfords, but had band that was swept back at the top of the saddle on each side and ran to the back of the shoe. They came in colors too – not just traditional black. We wore them with our white cotton socks pulled straight up and thought we were cool.

Then in high school, there was only ONE kind of shoe that was socially acceptable and this was non-negotiable. We had to wear Bass Weejuns in brown in the penny loafer style, but without the penny (we were too cool for pennies). The shoes had to be special ordered in June to have them for September and cost a whopping $35 in 1962 dollars. No wonder my mother really wanted to go to Penny’s and buy cheap imitations. But, I prevailed, convincing her that I would have no social life whatsoever if I had to wear the imitations. It was bad enough that I couldn’t buy my socks at the expensive store in Mountain Brook. I think I had to contribute babysitting money, but I got the Weejuns.

In college, we were still wearing Weejuns. When I was a Girl Scout camp counselor, we took our worn out Weejuns and cut patterns in them with razor blades. Imagine! But this was 1968 and this was about as Hippie as we could muster in the woods of southern Georgia at a Girl Scout camp where we were required to wear green shorts, white blouses with ties, and knee socks with flashes (you know those garters in different colors that go at the top of your knee socks – it was a Girl Scout thing).

Of course, in college there were times when Weejuns were not appropriate. School regulations required that one wore heels to football games and on Sundays – even if you didn’t go to church. Auburn University played the role of “in loco parentis” very well in those days – at least for the girls. The boys, on the other hand, could do whatever they pleased.

When I got married in 1969, I had white linen shoes that had lace sewn on to match my dress. I think I still have them. They were what you called “Cuban” heels – very low and almost comfortable.

In the early days of my marriage, I used to feel that if my husband wore a necktie I had to wear high heels. That was one of life’s more basic rules and he was mystified by it. In those days he wore a necktie more often than he does today. I can recall walking for what seemed like miles and miles in New York City, Paris and Frankfurt wearing high heels JUST because he was wearing a necktie.

But as the years went by, all of this started to change. I have a few pair of heels that are Easy Spirits and reasonably comfortable. I don’t wear them very often, but probably more often than my husband now wears a necktie.

Most days I wear low heeled shoes to work, usually with slacks and trouser socks. If I wear heels, I am too exhausted to move by the end of the day. I especially like my black Weejuns with tassels. They make me feel young. I also like my black shoes that are made out of microfiber. They are great for wearing the snow.

Sure, I have some black high-heeled boots, but I NEVER wear them. I should give them away. I can’t imagine wearing something what would tempt fate on ice. Falling is no joke anymore. In fact, I have a hiking stick that has a screw off tip that reveals a nail to grasp the ice. Do I care that with my microfiber shoes and my walking stick that I look really old? No way…there are worse things than looking old… like falling and breaking a hip.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Missing New Orleans

“Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?” Remember that song? I sure do and it makes me very sad to think that the New Orleans I knew and loved will never be the same.

Last August I wrote on my “task list” in my PDA, “plan New Orleans trip.” Of course, not in August when it is so sweltering hot – some nice time – like February. But, as we all know, shortly thereafter, Katrina hit full force and much of New Orleans was gone.

My first trip to New Orleans was in the early 1980s. I went to an educational conference with my friend Ethel Rew and we stayed at the Marriott on Canal Street. I remember approaching the city with caution, for I had heard all the tales of crime. Soon I began to appreciate what a treasure New Orleans really is! We did all the touristy things and loved every minute of it. I learned that the way to avoid being a victim was not to carry a purse.

Ethel and I went back a few years later and we stayed at the Monteleone, the old style New Orleans hotel with the Carousel bar. That trip we went to the jazz festival at the fairgrounds and walked back in the steamy, May heat and it was a VERY long walk. That was the same trip we discovered the Famous Door. In those days, this Bourbon Street haunt featured New Orleans style jazz and we adored it – the bar that doubled as a stage, the strange restroom in the back, and the fighter with the cauliflower ear. Then there was Pork Chop, the elderly black man who moved from bar to bar dancing for tips. His picture probably still hangs in Maison Bourbon.

I remember another trip some years later when I was to meet Ethel and her husband Irv at a timeshare on Esplanade. Steve was to join us a few days later. Our son, David, by then in the Atari business, told me to try to look up a friend of his and one of his Atari customers. He wanted me to have my picture taken with him. The indulgent mother, I agreed. Seriously, his friend was named Aaron Neville, whom I had never heard of (of course, I have NOW). But I asked the cab driver if he knew of him, he did and knew that Neville he was out of town that week. So much for celebrity!

One year Steve and I were sitting at the dock by Jackson Square on a boat ready to take a bayou tour when fire erupted from the Jackson Brewery Building. The building was being refurbished from brewery into a shopping mall. The flames poured out of the building and I stood on the deck of the boat shooting photo after photo. Steve stayed below. What little journalist there was still in me (yes, I was a reporter for a few years) wanted to “get the story.”

Favorite restaurants --- too many to list, but here are a few. By far my favorite, is the Commander’s Palace. I love Alex Patoots, Bayonna, Ralph and Kacoos, Court of Two Sisters, the Gumbo Shop, the Coffee Pot, and, of course, Café DuMonde. Are they all alive and well?. I sure hope so.

Another time we went to New Orleans with some dear friends and my aunt. I have memories of trekking from bar to bar in search of a drink called a Puce Café. We never found it, but it was allegedly built of layers of different liquers.

I have never been there for Mardi Gras, but have been there a week or so before and had the chance to see some of the parades, including a the only parade in the French Quarter -- rather bawdy and crude, but in harmony with Bourbon Street's colorful culture.

My favorite small hotel in New Orleans is the Dauphine Orleans. I have held two events there and love this little jewel on Dauphine Street. From the bar, a part of a former brothel and its great selection of single malt Scotch, to the bright and cheery breakfast room, this little hotel is embodies the essence of New Orleans. The meeting room there was once Audubon’s studio.

One familiar stop in New Orleans is the A & P on St. Peter Street. What a great little grocery store. Sure, their selection is limited, but they have the basics. Only one brand of deodorant, Tussy cream, but it works and that is all that matters.

I wonder how my favorite little dress shop, Rosies' Stout Shop, fared. This is a small dress shop in Metarie where you can find very affordable ball gowns in women's (large sizes). The older ladies who go to all those Mardi Gras Balls have to shop somewhere -- well, this is it!

The last time I was in New Orleans was February 2004. I was with my ABWA Top Ten friends (we get together each year). I arrived a few hours early to the Dauphine Orleans. I realized I had forgotten a few things, so I headed out toward the Walgreens just a few blocks away. While I was there I bought a bright blue umbrella, as it was starting to drizzle. With my new umbrella keeping the drizzle away, I decided to take a walk. It was winter, but the weather was mild. The streets glistened with the freshly fallen rain. All of my senses came alive as I walked for many, many blocks. I knew exactly where I was, as I have a map of the French Quarter in my head. The city and I were one and it felt good. It was a magic moment – probably never to be recaptured.

Then I watched New Orleans’ destruction on the TV. How painful to watch a city you love be torn apart! Sure they say the French Quarter is OK and so is the Garden District. That’s good; those are very special places, but what about all the rest? What about those people who suffered so much? It is too horrible to fathom.

One day I’ll go back to New Orleans and stay at the Dauphine Orleans. I’ll toast the city with single malt or maybe with one of those Black Russian milk shakes from the Daiquiri Place. I’ll go to Preservation Hall again and never curse the long line or the oppressive heat. I’ll go to Café duMonde and cover myself with powdered sugar from hot beignets. I’ll stroll through Jackson Square and marvel at the street musicians, and I’ll go to Maison Bourbon and hear the jazz. If I am lucky, I will get to take another walk through the French Quarter in the February drizzle.

Color Shifts

About the time I got married, in 1969, everything was avocado and harvest gold. I mean everything! And, strangely enough, it seemed to make sense that everything should be these two less than attractive colors. I never questioned it; I just bought stuff in those colors. Of course, we also had an accent color -- burnt orange. So decorating was simple enough. Take liberal doses of avocado and harvest gold, add a touch of burnt orange and who needs a decorator?

Even my parents went along with the craze. Their kitchen slipped from pink and stainless steel to avocado and the family room soon had avocado and harvest gold upholstered furniture. And we were all "with-it" and secure in our color choices.

We even bought an avocado car in 1971. Yes, it really was TWO shades of avocado and a very cool car indeed. It was a 1971 Dodge Dart and it had black bucket seats and a console.

Our son, David, was born in 1971, so naturally all of his baby stuff was also avocado and harvest gold. His infant carrier was avocado, with big gold and orange flowers on the vinyl lining. The crib was avocado, as was the matching dressing table. They both featured large yellow and orange flowers (ubiguitous in the early '70s).

With avocado and harvest gold, came shag carpet. We had avocado shag carpet in our first apartment in Illinois, and in our house in Southern California and even in our house in Maryland in 1976. It was everywhere and it made life simpler. Just buy sofas, chairs, drapes, toasters, towels, can openers, and everything else in those two magic colors and it all went together perfectly.

But sometime in the 1980's these two colors fell out of favor. For a whole generation of Americans this spelled trouble and expense. Life had been so simple. Now we had to pick new colors for everything. Jeez... just when everything matched.

We fortunately never succumbed to having any color major appliances and bathroom fixtures but white. That move alone probably saved us thousands of dollars. But for many Americans, the demise of avocado and harvest gold meant that perfectly good appliances were headed for the dump.

When we built our new house in 1992, we got rid of all things avocado and harvest gold and it was long overdue. Well, I must confess to still having a few avocado kitchen utensils and some sheets and towels here and there, but no more furniture for sure. Yes, there are couple of fondue pots...oops!

The colors definitely shifted and we got with the new palette. We have soft pinks, blues and greens -- just like I grew up with. And some of my mother's stuff salvaged from the basement after her death is a perfect match. Strange how these things work out!

I know right now the colors are shifting again. Watch enough HGTV and you learn that the new hot colors are bold. Walls aren't light colors anymore; they are vivid colors. I keep thinking maybe I should paint all the walls some new bright colors. Then I remember-- give it ten years and they will just have to be painted light colored again and think how hard it would be to repaint over fuschia. No, I'll just ride it out this time around and always remember to buy white appliances and bathroom fixtures. But, I hope I am don't have to buy any of that stuff any time soon. And if I want to use some old avocado relic, I will, because who cares?


I remember the first time I heard the word "television." I was about three years old and my Daddy took me on the front porch, sat me on his lap and told me we were getting a "television." I asked him what it was and he said it was a "radio with pictures." Of course, I knew what a radio was -- we had a big one in the living room and the grownups used to listen to it a lot.

The next day, the television arrived. It was a big wooden box that sat on the table and it had a tiny screen (7" I think). There mostly wasn't anything to watch on it but people wrestling, but that was the way TV was in those days. For some reason, wrestling was a big deal and compelling enough to televise. My parents, a few months later, went to the top of some mountain in Georgia to see television on a bigger screen and you guessed it, the program was wrestling.

We didn't have that TV with the small screen for very long. Daddy sold it and we got one with a bigger screen --- it might have been 13" and round. This was a console and it sat proudly in the corner of the living room. The programming was no longer just wrestling. For kids, there was Howdy Doody every afternoon and the locally produced Cousin Cliff, a magic show. In the evening there was the old Lucky Strike Hit Parade, I Love Lucy, Dragnet, Mr. and Mrs. North and more. And the years slipped by.

When I was in the elemetary school, we used to go to my parents' friends house, the Bankston's, to watch color TV. Mr. Bankson was in the television repair business, so it made sense for them to have the latest thing. It seems to me that the only two shows in color in those days were the Rose Bowl Parade and the Miss America Pageant.

November 1963, President Kennedy was assasinated and I sat transfixed to the television. I remember seeing Lee Harvey Oswald get shot. In one moment, I began to understand the power of the medium. It was black and white and grainy by comparison with today's TV, but it was REAL.

When I was a junior in high school, I wrote a paper for economics class about the future of television. It talked about the UHF frequencies as being the next frontier for television. Prior to that we only had channels two through 13, and most cities only had two or three channels, if that.

Gradually, television shifted from black and white to color and also took over the UHF channels I guess I was a senior in high school when we got our first color television set. That was really cool! In those days there were two kinds of families -- those with color TVs and those without.

But then I was off to college and television was not part of my life much for four years. TVs were not allowed in our dorm rooms. I do recall, however, getting a special exception to watch presidential election returns. A bunch of us pooled our money and rented a television for the evening. But for those four years, the rest of the world was watching the Vietnam War in living color.

Steve told me that in his engineering dorm at Manhattan College, they couldn't have TVs either. But they had a way of dealing with it. They each kept some of the parts and assembled a TV whenever they wanted to view one. I guess in a dorm full of eletrical engineers, TV parts wouldn't be out of the ordinary.

In graduate school, I lived in an apartment and was free to have a television set. I think it was probably black and white, as color was too expensive even in 1968. While in graduate school at Auburn University, I had to take a course in educational television. In this course, I had to write a paper on the future of educational television. I had the audacity to suggest that educational TV was going to have to stop being just people writing on chalkboards and talking. I got a D on the paper, as I obviously had insulted the professor (an old school educational television veteran). We were also asked to respond to a new show called Sesame Street -- would it be a big hit? We said "no." Boy, were we wrong!

When I got married in 1969, we had a Heath television. Steve assembled it from a kit. It was a really nice color TV, with a remote control even (it had a cord, but still). I loved that TV! I decided that it was important to show our young son, David, how to turn it OFF. I also let him look as his Daddy repaired the TV. That was probably the most important thing I could have done as a mother in determining his future. He realized that HE was in charge, not the TV.

That poor Heath TV fell out of the moving van when we moved to Maryland in 1976 and never worked right after that. We had a small black and white TV that I used and Steve didn't watch much TV. And the years went by. Sometime around 1980, I bought a small color television and we retired the old black and white one. Television wasn't all that important to us -- we were too busy living.

About 1990, we built a new addition to the house and we put in a book shelf with room for a 27" color TV. Over the years, we had accumulated some small black and white TVs, and, of course, still had the small color TV. So when we moved into our new house in 1992, we had a collection of small TVs strewn throughout the house.

September 11, 2001, I was at the office and got a call from a client who asked if we had a TV and if we did we should turn it on. The only TV at the office was a small VCR unit with a rabbit ears antenna (we used it for previewing VCRs from potential speakers). I will never forget the horror of those fuzzy images of the World Trade Center and Pentagon. It was the same sick feeling as when I saw Oswald get shot!

Today, we have a nice 27" color TV in the family room and smaller TVs in various rooms. Steve and I almost never watch the same thing on TV. We havn't broken down yet and gotten one of the new flat screen, digital TVs. The ones we have work just fine! Perhaps that is part of aging -- things like that just don't matter so much anymore. Yes, they are very cool and the image quality is amazing, and so is the sound. Maybe in time -- when this one breaks.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Chinese Food

When one is sick, there is something soothing about Chinese food. I guess maybe it is the chicken noodle soup thing manifested in egg drop soup or the soft feel of lo mein on a sore throat. Because Steve and I have been fighting the flu (and it may be winning) we have been eating a fair amount of Chinese carryout food the last couple of weeks. Of course, one thing it has going for it is that I don't have to cook it! That is always a plus!

This got me to thinking back to my first acquaintance with Chinese food. I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and we had one Chinese restaurant there. It was a neat place to go as a kid because they had booths with soft curtains -- very private and special. For some reason I always seemed to have trout almondine (which now that I think about it isn't very Chinese). I especially liked that they always kept my water glass full!

When I was doing student teaching in Columbus, GA in 1968, we (myself and my two roomates) invited boyfriends over for "Chinese dinner." We bought canned Chinese food and heated it up and thought we were sophisticated. The guys were OK with it though -- guess they enjoyed the company more than the food. For my part, I ended up marrying Steve a year or so later.

Of course, Steve is a native New Yorker and really does know a fair amount about Chinese food. He grew up enjoying the restaurants in New York's Chinatown. He introduced me to really exceptional Chinese food and WOW! Early in our marriage I got a wok and learned how to use it!

When we lived in San Bernardino, California, in the early '70s we often frequented a handfull of excellent Chinese restaurants. I remember one incident where the waiter was writing Chinese characters using a ball point pen. My husband commented and the waiter responded -- "when in Rome." That is one of Steve's favorite stories.

Another of his favorites is about his Uncle Jim and the Chinese waiters. Although I never met him, he must have been quite a character. On this particular occasion, he was in the hospital and became hungry for Chinese food in the middle of the night. Picture a NYC Catholic hospital in the 1940s. He sent the ambulance driver, who came back with the ambulance filled with Chinese waiters and steaming dishes of food -- enough for the whole ward. He got in trouble with the nuns for sure!

Turns out my childhood favorite Chinese restaurant in Birmingham (which shall remain nameless) many years later opened a new cafe near my dad's assisted living home. Naturally, we decided to try it for "old times sake." Since Daddy was ill, we did carry out. I picked some nice entrees for us and an order of their traditional lemon meringue pie (I know, how Chinese is that?). Talk about a MSG headache! I'll not be going back there. So much for memories!

Today, living in Maryland, we have plenty of very good Chinese restaurants to choose from, plus Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese and a very good carryout. And my Chinese sister-in-law has given us a wonderful cookbook and lots of Chinese delicacies.

Life is so full of changes and while you are living them, they seem so subtle. When, in reality, taken over a lifetime they are monumental.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

First Entry - Recovering from the Flu

This will be my first venture as a "blogger," and I look forward to the challenge. I am starting this Blog as a part of FacetsWoman, an organization I launched last year for professional women. If you believe there should be more to life than work and family, then FacetsWoman is for you. We have a great time polishing the many facets of our interests. For more information on FacetsWoman, go to http://www.facetswoman.com. See, I have my first link.

But back to the Blog. As a leading edge Baby Boomer, I thought it might be fun to document my slide into what used to be thought of as "old age" -- 60 and beyond. My birthday is June 3, 1946 and I have to admit looking at 60 with a certain amount of skepticism. But I am not there yet -- still a youthful 59-- whatever that means.

My challenge for the week is to recover from the flu. I tried to get a flu shot from my doctor, but none were available. My husband, Steve, brought home the virus and I promptly caught it last Tuesday. This is the sickest I have ever been in my life -- REALLY!

When Steve was sick and I was still well, I made the trip to the Super Fresh to buy all the stuff he needed to recuperate. We needed a thermometer because we finally had exhausted what had, at one point, seemed like a limitless supply of them. You see both of my parents are deceased from more than a fifteen years and when they were ill they went to the hospital frequently. Every time they came back with a water jug and a thermometer and I inherited all the thermometers! But time and rough treatment took their toll. Guess what -- no more mercury thermometers and no thermometers at all in the medicine section. I found one by Gerber in the baby section and it was, of course, digital. Whatever! It is a thermometer. It beeps when it is ready -- of course, we can barely hear it and I thought my ears were OK.

I probably should have picked up one of the kind that goes in your ear. I know the man who invented it -- a Dr. David Philips, a hypnotherapist. He told me he was struggling with the issue of how to design a better thermometer and he was taking a shower. He thought he heard one of his children yell "stick it in your ear." That was where he got the idea. He also invented the plastic speculum, but that too is another story.

Anyway, I have been fighting this stupid flu for eight days now and still have no energy at all. I have had to cancel meeting after meeting. Will I be better tomorrow? Maybe. Right now I can't wait for my nightly dose of NyQuil so I can slip into unconsciousness and hope I feel less rotten in the morning.