Sunday, March 25, 2012


When I was a child, my parents did not drink wine with meals. Like most Southerners, they drank iced tea. The sterling silver had ice-tea spoons and there were certain LARGE glass dedicated to iced tea only. It wasn’t that my parents were “tea-totalers,” but my Dad’s taste ran more toward the hard stuff. But wine – well, that was mostly for medicinal purposes.

My grandfather had hardening of the arteries. He wasn’t a drinker, but the doctor forced him to drink a small glass of wine every day. His “medicine” was Mogen David wine, an inexpensive, high alcohol-content fortified wine still made today. Of course, he referred to it as David Morgan wine. My father knew what he meant and brought it home from the State store on a regular basis. My father was the only one in the family who bought alcohol. While I guess my mother could have legally gone to the State store, she was a Southern lady and not about to be seen there.

The other kind of wine my father had to bring home was sherry. It was known as cure for “cramps.” When I had my first “cramps” I got to taste sherry for the first time. Mostly my mother used it to cook with – in an amazing “sherry wine pie” and as a major ingredient in her holiday sausage ball recipe.

When my parents had their 25th wedding anniversary, I joined with their friends in giving them a big party. The punch had sauterne and champagne and I remember having a bit too much of it!

In college, there was beer and there was bourbon, but no wine. The bourbon was consumed in Coca-Cola, and the beer came in kegs at frat parties. As a co-ed, I could get kicked out of school if I drank any of it. Obviously, not so for the boys who could drink as much as they liked – the old double-standard.

In graduate school I got some acquaintance with real wine. I was then old enough to drink and my husband-to-be introduced me to chianti – the kind in the straw bottle that became ubiquitous with its candle and melted wax. He cooked pizza and proved to me that it was really chianti that went with pizza, not beer.

Along about that same time, everyone I knew was drinking rose’ made by Lancers and Mateus. I never have been much on rose, but the bottles are nice.

When we moved to southern California in 1971, we discovered wineries and went to wine tastings and bought wine by the case. And, of course, we bought wine glasses for us and for my parents, who were by then also gaining an appreciation of wine.

Since then wines have come and gone into our lives. I remember when there were three flavors – white, red and rose’. White mostly was chablis and red mostly was burgundy if it wasn’t Chianti. Chablis, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, viognier, resisling, and their blended kin lead the whites. Burgundy, cabarnet sauvignon, chianti, merlot, zinfandel and malbec bid for our attention. We have been to Europe many times and had fine wines in Germany, France, Austria, Italy and even Greece. My personal favorites are Alsatian.

We bought a bottle of Sherry in St. Thomas on our honeymoon in 1969. We still have it, unopened. These days we don’t drink much sherry. The “cramps” are a painful memory mercifully gone forever. So we will wait another few years and open that wine on our 50th anniversary. It probably has gone bad, but we’ll see. We can share it with our son and his wife. Of course, none of us really has that much of a taste for sherry. Oh well, it seemed like the thing to buy at the time!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Making Copies

Remember carbon paper? It came in four colors – blue, black, blue/black and red – at least those are the only colors I remember. I actually still have some stashed away in basic black. I saw it on sale someplace about ten years ago and decided to buy some before it became extinct. Of course, I am not sure what I thought I would do with it. As it turns out, I have found a few instances when I used it with a clipboard to make a handwritten receipt at the same time as the original purchase information. At that rate, I will be able to leave an almost full package for my grandchildren (Hmmh.. maybe I should tell them what is for. )

I remember typing with carbon paper. You could actually have 5 or 6 sheets of carbon paper if your copies were made on very thin onion-skin paper. But the copies on the top were darker than the ones on the bottom. So, the most “worthy” copied recipients got the darkest copies.

Of course, typing using carbon paper was not for anyone prone to typos. The process for making a correction was no fun. First, you would tear off as many small slips of paper as you had carbons. You would then go to the last carbon and erase the error with a special typing eraser with a little stiff brush on opposite end from the eraser (my favorite brand was a soft green color). You used the brush to get rid of the erasure fragments. Then you would move to the next sheet and insert a small piece of paper behind the carbon so the pressure you apply in making the erasure will not smear the page behind it. Once you have erased all of the copies and the original, you would hit the correct key and hope the erasure is not too noticeable.

In grammar school, high school and even college, we got dittos – sometimes still wreaking of intoxicating fluid and damp to the touch, but always purple. The teachers could handwrite or type them on a Ditto master. Forever, I will associate the smell of Ditto fluid with the dreaded “pop quiz.”

For larger copy jobs, there was the fancier duplicating machine which printed out in black very quickly. This type machine was used by my professors and my sorority alike. I mastered the art of typing stencils, provided I had an adequate supply of stencil correction fluid – another memorable smell. It was hard to get the long stencil positioned just right and the ink pad properly saturated.

By the time I was in graduate school in 1968, the campus bookstore had a copier. It was a wonderful machine that spared me from using carbon paper. For certain papers, I need to keep a copy. For others, I had to submit multiple copies. Life was good!

When I got my first job out grad school, it was as Assistant Librarian a small college in the mid-west. The library had a copy machine and I was in charge of it. It was a Xerox 914 copier, the workhorse of the day. It was a very large box that stood on the floor. As with any copier, it was prone to misfeeds. Whenever there was a misfeed, we had to remove the shiny black drum, handling it carefully to avoid scratching it. Only certain staff members were qualified to exercise the care necessary for this delicate task.

We moved to California is 1971, and I longed for the convenience of a home copier. I purchased a used thermal copier (Thermofax machine). It would make copies and it would also laminate and make overhead transparencies
By the late 1970s when I worked at an independent school, there was a collection of Diito machines, duplicating machines, a copier and a thermal copier – not to mention access to a printing company. And we still used carbon paper sometimes!
In 1980, I was working in a new, small independent school. Someone gave us a strange copier that required us to make an intermediary sheet before making a copy. I never really liked that machine. We bought a Ditto machine and managed for quite a few years with what was referred to as “fuzzy facsimiles.”

In the ‘80s, ‘90s and into the 2000s, the thing to do was to rent a big fancy copier. At the school and later when I started my own business, the big copier was our salvation. We had different copiers made by different companies, but all them misfeed prone. Repairs required waiting for the “copier guy” and sometimes meant ordering a part and waiting several days. Still, we were making copies. We said goodbye to carbon paper, Dittos and the duplicating machine.

But when I took my business virtual in 2006, I dumped the rental copier. For what I was paying each month, I could buy a small copier that is still, to this date, working OK. It has been repaired a couple of times, but is functional.
These days, we also have all-in-ones --- we have three of them in the house and they all make copies – albeit slowly – especially if in color. The fax machine also makes copies. So, counting the copier, we have at least five ways to make copies. But we don’t make so many copies these days.

Most everything we do is saved digitally and never printed – much less copied. On the other hand, there is still the need to send out larger quantities of things to be printed. Instead of making copies, usually I send the file to a printer who makes the copies and send them wherever they are to go. That spares me of the challenges of collating and stapling.
But there is still that range between 2 and 25 copies where the simplest thing is to do it on the copier. This is the job I hate the most. My little copier is smart enough to collate, but it won’t staple.

I guess the next step for me with be to find a fast, small volume copier that collates. It better not mis-feed, but I bet it will. They all seem to misfeed.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Returning to New Orleans

This will be my third New Orleans blog post. It has now been nearly seven years since Katrina hit New Orleans and changed things forever. I make a point of coming back to New Orleans every few years because there is something about this city that is like none other.

The French Quarter today is as vibrant as ever. The rhythm of jazz fills Jackson Square. The steam calliope from the Natchez drowns out all the surrounding sounds. The booze still flow in the dive bars, sports bars and elegant hotel lounges. Policemen sit astride very tall horses while drunks sit on the curbside a few feet away. People sit in CafĂ© DuMonde sipping coffee and eating powdered sugar coated beignets. This is New Orleans, the way it is supposed to be and hopefully will remain. There may still be tension and pain remaining as Katrina’s legacy, but they are not visible to me as a tourist.

But once you leave the French Quarter, you see signs that this is a city still marred by a horrific tragedy. The Lower 9th Ward still show signs of obliteration, mixed with homes that have been reborn. Some are architecturally intriguing modern home with oblique angles and solar panels – a stark contrast to the early 20th century shot-gun houses that Katrina destroyed. Others appear to be replicas of what was there before, but only nicer. Along I-10, the signs of destruction still remain – office buildings, homes, shopping centers and big box stores – only shells of themselves.

We brought two other couples with us this trip, my fourth since Katrina and we are being “good tourists” and pumping some dollars into the local economy. Nice dinners, jazz clubs, sightseeing tours, museums – a great way to spend a weekend!