Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Haunted by bad taste

I was pretty sure my apartment was haunted for a week.

As an introvert with strange feelings about emotional safety, I hate the idea of other people being in the place where I live.  Obviously, I don't mind friends and family, but I don't want strangers and their leavings in my place.  I don't want them looking at my things and polluting up my air with their stupid breath and their ugly and sad thoughts.  Living in the world is psychologically taxing to me, and I need a place that feels clear and safe to relax in after work.  It is a fragile ecosystem that can easily be disrupted.  I recall having a plumber in my apartment last year and looking forlornly down at the perfect dirty shoe print he had left on my vintage white crocheted bathroom rug.  Invader.

After the chaos of moving settled, I began to notice the little calling cards left by the prior owner of my apartment.  Yes, this late 60s dream palace is a condo, and rather palatial by the standards of midtown New York.  I began to piece together the clues that the prior inhabitant was a woman, and an old one.  In drawers, I noticed errant curler pins that haven't been in stores for decades, ones that looked exactly like the ones my great-grandmother would stick in her rollers in front of the tv on a Sunday night.  Once, I found a prescription pill previously lost forever under the bathroom vanity.  Worst of all was when I pulled the stopper out of the bathroom sink and found it was attached to hair.  THE HAIR OF ANOTHER PERSON.  I reeled in horror and disgust, considered complaining to my landlord, but ultimately stuffed it away with the other terrible experiences of my life.  I later poured an aggressive amount of Drano into the hole.

The hole in the sink, not the one in my sense of peace and placidity.

It was in this atmosphere of discomfort that I met my neighbors, also elderly, who expressed relief that the apartment had been rented to someone so reasonable looking as my self.  "It was a real bad situation in there," Rita said as she hooked a thumb towards my door.  I nodded in bland sympathy, Yeah, I hate bad situations too, and didn't ask questions because I didn't want to know.  "She was real sick," R continued.  "Real sick."  I looked into my darkened apartment.  "And she must've smoked three packs a day."  Fucking really?  I thought of my bathroom closet, which had been missed in the repainting that followed my landlord's recent purchase.  The dank and hideous cubbyhole smelled like a combination of mothballs and smoke, with remnants of spilled bath products staining the walls.  I had already repainted it myself in an emphatic turquoise to kill the scent and appearance.

That night, the furnace turned on by itself every two hours, from midnight to 6 am.  It was 65 degrees outside, and each time I heard the jet engine sound begin to crank into gear, I dragged my limp body from the bed and angrily held the "down" button until it said 40 degrees.

"It's her," I thought in my sleep-addled state, which is always 80% more delusional and superstitious than my waking self.  "It's the ghost of the bitch who lived here, angry that I'm inhabiting the space she died in." Oh, I had already assumed she died in here.  She was old and sick and now she's not here.  What other conclusions were there?

"Maybe she didn't die," my mom suggested hopefully.
"Oh right, she's probably just on a cruise," I sneered.

Of course she had drawn her last rattling breaths in the space now occupied by my bed.  Of course she had lain in here for days in the middle place between life and death, sweating and waxy, dreaming of her youth, alone and uncalled on and increasingly distressed, permanently staining the spiritual parcel with the confusion and ugliness of the end of an unremarkable life.

I mean, what else?

Turns out, I guess she just moved to Dallas.  That's what the landlord told me.  Maybe my mom paid him to say that, but I believe it, and the furnace doesn't act by itself anymore.  That was just a problem with the thermostat.  I've thrown out all of her old pins and hairs and pills, and I've disinfected the place to my liking, and I haven't had any dreams of half woman-half demons in curlers rocking in chairs in my bedroom or anything.  I think the place is clean.

I think I just heard a sound in my bedroom.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Austin Dispatch Part II

Moving to a new place is being like a baby.  You learn every day!  I moved into my own place 2 weeks ago and I no longer have to use google maps on my various paths home.  I haven't had to use it for several days, in fact.

So I looked at this blog, recalling that it exists, and realized that I have answers to my questions posed so few days ago.

Q: What's the difference between an oak and a live oak?  Are they different?  Oaks here are often smaller than I expect, and twisty like an olive tree.
A: So, I asked an actual field biologist this question. I work for a nature conservancy ("the" nature conservancy, if you want to get real) and had the opportunity, and regretted it as soon as I asked.  "Well, dumbass," she began, "there are many types of oak trees, as with every fucking plant ever.  When you think of oaks, you probably envision the Southern Oak, but the one that lives here is colloquially called the Live Oak."  :|

Q: Is this an acorn? Is this other thing an acorn? 
A: Yes.

Q: Do you call it a crik or a creek?  
A: Crik. Don't dump in it. Or in your gutter. It'll get in the crik!

Q: What is cedar fever?  When will I get it?
A: First of all, what they call a cedar is goddamn juniper. I was so confused when I got here because I had never seen a cedar before and thought they looked like the junipers in Arizona, but yes, the things that grow here are in fact junipers, and the people who live here are just in collective agreement to be wrong, kind of like all fans of the Boston Celtics.  Secondly, yes, I will get it, after I have been here for exactly 6 years, which is how long it takes for the allergy to develop, according to common social wisdom.  

Q: What's with the whitish-yellow granite?  Slabs of this locally harvested stone are EVERYWHERE.  Houses are built from it, and long rectangular hunks line freeways and parking lots all over the county.  Pieces of it are arranged artfully in front of city hall as makeshift benches that no one uses.
A:  Oops!  That was limestone!  I guess it's everywhere because it's what Texas is made of, in addition to oil and a curious and mostly unfounded sense of self confidence.  

Q: Where are all the references to native tribes?  Streets and areas here are named after the topological features, or early Texan politicans.  Cedar-this and lake-that, Lamar here and Houston there.  I have observed zero references to native culture.  There is a modicum of Spanish names, but nothing remotely proximal to the Mexican heritage or population.  Even crazily-racist Arizona has native names galore.  What the fuck, liberal Austin?
A: I had a fight about this with a local recently, but sorry bitches, the proof's in the pudding or whatever: YOU HAVE NO REFERENCES TO NATIVE PEOPLES ANYWHERE.  Every street is named after an early Texas president or Confederate or some kind of rabble rousin' white dude.  So far, my impression of the social history of Austin is: hell of white washed.  I can't speak for other Texas cities because I will never visit them for non-business purposes.

Q: Why is everyone so nice to me?  Do they want money, or sex?  I don't understand.  
A:  I don't know!

Q: What will happen when even more people move here?  The city, small until approximately 8.5 years ago (based on a verbal Pew poll, just kidding, based on anecdotes) is bursting with obnoxious new people who drive the rent and traffic snarls up up up!  How dare they?!
A: I do not know.  All day long I talk to people who remember and honor the "old" Austin, which is Austin from any time between the 1960s and 1999.  People stream into this place in a near-constant flow, most frequently from CA & NY, which really chaps old TX hide.  Honestly, I'll probably have to move in a few years.  Traffic is already regoddamnediculous, and the city just does not possess the infrastructure to continue to support the influx of new people.  The general answer will be sprawl, but the inner city will only continue to increase in ridiculous price and outrageous human snarl.  

I know Phoenix is cheap because it's meaningless and artless, and because it's 500 square miles which means you can find what you want anywhere and at any price, but apartment hunting in Austin did cause me to appreciate my prior situation in Phoenix: Downtownish, decent square footage, high ceilings, historic features, tons of natural light, and original tile.  In Austin, that would cost about $2500/mo. 

The other thing that sucks is that Austin evidently did not experience much dynamic growth in the 1950s and 60s, which means that midcentury architecture is pretty uncommon.  There are plenty of ranch styles from this era, but the surrounding commercial structures have either been demolished or were in short supply to start. You'd think the rareness of MCM would make it precious here, but locals seem not to know what it is.  That's one thing about Phoenix - miles of midcentury.

My first few walk-throughs of apartment rentals in Austin were...interesting.  I'd turn on my heel after a few beats, "Ok. Thanks for your time (and your fleas)."  I learned that <$950 = GHETTO RAT TRAP ROACH PARADE if the place was within 10 miles of downtown.  

Luckily, I eventually found a totally acceptable place within a reasonable distance from work for a price that only kind of guts my monthly net income!  Heyo!  Wood floors!  Ghost stories to follow.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Austin Dispatch Part I

I don't miss Phoenix, and only the Facebook feed of Arizona Highways magazine, with its occasional grandiose photos of rugged craggy sandy-colored Saguaroed desert, is capable of inspiring a pang in me.  But I've always loved the high desert and the forested west and the canyons and peaks and plateaus - who wouldn't?  I remember driving north on the I-17 as a twelve year-old with my dad, off to see some family in Cottonwood, staring out the truck windows at the sun setting over canyons spotted with pinions and junipers and thinking, I love you! I love you, desert.

One of the most annoying things about recent transplants to new cities is their tendency to draw constant comparisons between places.  I did it every minute for months.  Fog?  Oh we don't do that.  What are all these stickers for my car?  I don't like IPAs!  Don't you guys know Four Peaks, jesus I thought the whole country loved them.  Sometimes I don't feel like having a taco for breakfast.  Toll?!

I'm finally beginning to stop as the treeish, big-little city of Austin starts to feel like home.  I think I offended my dad when I called here "home" on the phone the other day, but I can only have one home at a time and Arizona ain't it.

I love a new place because I love learning new history and new plants.  I have a thousand questions, and I feel frustrated when locals don't have the answers.
  • What's the difference between an oak and a live oak?  Are they different?  Oaks here are often smaller than I expect, and twisty like an olive tree.
  • Is this an acorn? Is this other thing an acorn? 
  • Do you call it a crik or a creek?  
  • What is cedar fever?  When will I get it?
  • What's with the whitish-yellow granite?  Slabs of this locally harvested stone are EVERYWHERE.  Houses are built from it, and long rectangular hunks line freeways and parking lots all over the county.  Pieces of it are arranged artfully in front of city hall as makeshift benches that no one uses.
  • Conversely, the Capitol building is built seemingly exclusively of a decidedly pink granite, which I understand to be found in the hill country.  It's everywhere in there, dusty pinky gray.  The Capitol is an expert combination of gilded era polish and 19th century rusticity.  Inside, you will find quality oil paintings of every governor of Texas since the Confederacy.  I happily took a photo of poet/ladies man/Texan president Mirabeau Lamar, but Bush II was also there.
  • Where are all the references to native tribes?  Streets and areas here are named after the topological features, or early Texan politicans.  Cedar-this and lake-that, Lamar here and Houston there.  I have observed zero references to native culture.  There is a modicum of Spanish names, but nothing remotely proximal to the Mexican heritage or population.  Even crazily-racist Arizona has native names galore.  What the fuck, liberal Austin?
  • Why is everyone so nice to me?  Do they want money, or sex?  I don't understand.  
  • What will happen when even more people move here?  The city, small until approximately 8.5 years ago (based on a verbal Pew poll, just kidding, based on anecdotes) is bursting with obnoxious new people who drive the rent and traffic snarls up up up!  How dare they?!
I don't know if I'll stay here forever, probably not, but this is the only place I've ever been where I can eavesdrop on the conversations of construction workers and find they're talking about how to blanch kale, and where I can chat with a bus driver about the premier bat caverns of the world (hint: they're here!) and where the best Detroit pizza is (yes this is a thing), and where people on the street smile at me for no reason in a non-sexual way, and where twenty-somethings who elect to be homeless sit on Congress and bang on overturned buckets next to dogs lazily blinking in the sun.  Those guys aren't unusual in a city, but the ones who hang out around my office are clever even by my asshole standards, and when someone can call something to me in a street and I don't get offended and possibly even laugh openly, then magic has happened.  

The end.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Final Mitford

Debo Cavendish, nee Mitford, has died at 96 years old.  Sad.  I last mentioned her in this post.

You can't blame a 96 year old for up and dying, but it does make the world feel more colorless when the last vestiges of better generations (ok, granted, she probably was THE last vestige) fall off.  There's something a little fascinating knowing that one of those participants is still kicking around, someone for whom amazing stories are memories rather than myth.


She's not famous like her sisters were because she preferred to live a quiet, unostentatious life.  She liked country life, chicken-raising, children, and farming.  Nice work if you can get it, as the sisters Andrew said.

Those Mitford girls were the cutest, though.  I think Debo most resembled Decca.  Nancy looks like the milkman's child, a dark and angular girl in a crowd of soft and peachy blondes.

When she married her husband, Deborah became the Duchess of Devonshire, a title formerly held by the famous Georgiana Cavendish back in the 18th century.  More about her some other time.

The Duchess at home

Marrying the 11th Duke of Dev


Bye, Debo.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

CYCLISTS GTFO

I hate these people, and I feel justifiedish enough to be open about it it.

Of all the trifling, stupid ass things to be smug about - bicycling.  Not casual riders, but the intense hobbyists who buy the little 1920s swimsuits and thousand dollar bikes and race up Dreamy Draw like it's their fucking job.  Why I hate them: they are SO INCREDIBLY RUDE. ALL OF THEM.  They seem to feel entitled to the entire street.  Entitled in a resentful, angry way, as though cars are the enemy, as if you won't see them loading their bikes onto a Hummer H2 an hour from now.  I concede that they are pretty easy to kill/maim on their little bikes, which is why I do keep an eye out for them, but don't think I won't instantly lose my temper when some errant Lance decides to unnecessarily ride in the center of a neighborhood street, leaving no room for cars to pass.  When you do pass him, he is angry!  He wants you to drive 8 mph behind him, admiring his gristly, ropy body as he sways furiously on his dream machine.  Blow me, Lance.  Get a real hobby, you yuppie fool.  Try taking all of that time, money and anger and directing it into a more relevant occupation, LIKE BLOGGING.  Who could possibly derive such smug satisfaction from such a useless, pretentious engagement?  Riding your bike really hard over hills?  That's one for the history books.  Does the President know about you?

If my reaction seems strong, then I encourage you to live on a street favored by cyclists.  In 6 months, you would be sitting on your roof, trying to shoot tires out with a bb gun, I promise.

Oh, here's another thing - the ones whose little suits are covered in sponsor logos.  I KNOW YOU CAN BUY THEM THAT WAY, BLAINE.  No, I do not believe that Dyson has sponsored you for your weekly trek through the Squaw Peak Preserve.  Jesus Christ!  I can't deal with this.  Much of the point of this hobby is display.  Look at my bike!  Look at YOUR bike.  It is not as expensive as my bike!  Look at my calves!  Are they not hideous!  How do I even find pants to cover these things!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Written Language: It's over, find something else

Everyone is so tasteless and no one can write.

After months of composing all of our communications at work (as a favor: relevant), it has occurred to me that our director has no actual ability to see the difference between bad and good writing.  Not that I'm trying terribly hard or am turning out pieces that are spectacular, but they accomplish the purpose in an easy to read way that is appropriate for our audience.  Without explaining anything, partly because I'm lazy and partly because I don't want to be at all identifiable on the internet by people who know me in person except when I'm cursing and spitting on Facebook (and even then, I don't like it), I have to show all of my pieces to this facilitator we're paying before I put anything out.  This person is allegedly an expert in the field and, perhaps more importantly, is a personal friend of the boss.  Instead of making suggestions to me, she rewrites the copy and sends it back, but the rewrites seem to have been composed by a child, and they contain outrageous spelling errors as well as the most fragmented sentences I've ever seen.  Find the worst fragmented sentence in the world, and I will best it with the output of this titan of communications.  The errors are obviously not intentional, but this is no excuse because it means she didn't proof herself, because she apparently has no respect for the world or anything in it.  She just rewrote the copy like an asshole from her phone in bed or perhaps while drunk or on a rollercoaster and then sent it back.  And because she is apparently some kind of deity, like She-Ra, I get "the hand" when I complain, and the repeated answer that the facilitator knows best.  

Like these fucking spelling errors and half-sentences, which don't include any new or altered content and which disrupt any organic flow to the pieces, are all part of some master plan which is too complex for my puny mortal brain to understand, and that some day, in the future, we'll all look back and understand why it was necessary that we put out an annual report that contains the word "defiantively" instead of "definitively".  

This will not stand, of course.  Now I just show her the copy, she shows me her crayon drawings, and then I publish what I already had in the first place, and no one notices because they don't actually care.

Language obviously doesn't matter to many people anymore.  Half of my time on the internet is spent  making shitty remarks in the comments section on Gothamist about what duress the writers must have been under to have produced such tripe.  Not only that, but tripe that is hardly legible to the English-speaking audience.  Are these words?  Is this some kind of...new language?  Did someone give you money to create this?  As Truman Capote said, "That's not writing. That's typing." (about Jack Kerouac. I agree. Sorry, latently literate 26 year olds.)

The problem with today's shitty writing is three-fold:

1. They're writing about something that is insultingly stupid and irrelevant to begin with. The intent is to create something where nothing exists.  This is possible if you are particularly witty or an expert comedian.  Unsurprisingly, people with these skills are not sitting around writing Buzzfeed articles.

2. Structurally weak pieces with poor word choices and awkward, stilted sentences.  There is generally no flow, and they often fail to make the intended points.  These pieces usually leave the reader with more questions than they had before they began.  The people who create these pieces are not writers, they are merely people who are trying to write, perhaps because their first career choice of being a music video producer didn't work out.

3. Basic grammatical errors, spelling errors, fucked up punctuation, weird capitalization.  The core elements of a sophisticated written language are missing.

Even blogs and publications that I like are turning out more and more items of dubious quality.  I don't want to be the uptight basketcase who's like, I ONLY READ LAPHAM'S QUARTERLY AND THE NEW YORKER BECAUSE I CAN'T EVEN, but I will be, eventually.  And it's not that I want everything to be written in the Queen's English, but there's a difference between an artful or playful flouting of "rules" and just plain boring, shitty, stupid fucking writing borne of ignorance and laziness.  I like to write in a conversational manner that echoes my speaking style because that's most amusing to me, but I think it's possible to write informally without creating something that would make Gore Vidal shoot himself in the face and then drown himself in a well.

At least SOMEONE cares:


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Interpersonal disputes with foreign language animals

I hate mockingbirds.  I never did before.  I guess their mocking was less noticeable to me in the past.  They used to build nests in our citrus trees, and I would drag a splintery wooden ladder just beneath them, and climb up to peer inside the nest.  Sometimes there were speckled eggs that looked like Easter candies, and sometimes there were a few bedraggled pinkish nubs with brown down and comically unhinged beaks.  I remember watching their tell-tale striped wings as they wheeled around our yard, hollering and screaming.

Mockingbirds used to torment my great-grandmother's cat, a marble-gray Persian named Sheena, who would be permitted on nice days to lay in the grass just outside the front door, and sunbathe.  It was only a matter of time, after a peaceful interlude of slow blinking in the sun and lazy tail waving, before the birds came.  They'd flit from branch to bush and circle in the air, hooting and jeering.  Eventually, the brave ones would dive bomb her, floating down with wings awkwardly splayed to seize a beak or clawful of the loose long hair, and then shoot away impossibly fast to stash it somewhere.  I couldn't believe the ego and audacity; Sheena was scary and everyone knew it.

I haven't thought about them much since, but they've been hell on wheels this summer.  One of them followed me for a long time after I passed under her tree, jeering and screaming and swooping as close to me as she dared, which was pretty close.  Now two more live at either end of my house, and all they do is charge around their respective trees, branch to branch, barking at nothing.  Their chirps are aggressive, loud and mechanical sounding, like something caught in a machine.  I don't know what they're angry about, no one ever goes outside now except for a few listless outdoor cats who lie like corpses on their sides underneath bushes, motionless except for wind ruffled fur and occasional tail flits.

The birds will bark for an hour after I've passed by, or after a cat has moved.  Their indignation is completely unreasonable.  So now I just yell at them like a common schizophrenic, shouting and gesturing at a tree. "Shut the fuck up! Right now!"  "No one cares about your nest!"  "Should I get the hose?"  They're very obnoxious.  Nothing like the distracted tittering of normal birds.  Normal birds aren't trying to talk to you.  They're just living their lives.

Mockingbirds have to talk shit, though.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

From the Personal Archive

Here's another one.  I found this in the pages of an old book at Qcumberz (seriously, that fucking name, I'm going to start calling it something else) a few years ago and was so amused by it, I kept it.

It's a packing list for a vacation, or camp or something.  The notepaper the list is written on is brittle and deeply yellowed at the edges where it peeked out of the pages of the book.  I instantly assumed it was at least 40 years old from the condition and the terminology used, but I could be wrong.  Things keep well when trapped in books.  It could be older, but I don't think it's newer.

ITEMS NEEDED BY YOUNG GIRLS ON VACATION IN THE 60S:

curlers
bible
makeup
perfume
money
stockings
church dress
shoes (shoe subcategory: 1. sandal  2. tennis  3. loafers  4. church  5. thongs)
everyday dresses
sweater
coat (1. raincoat  2. umbrella)
skirt and sweater
underwear
bra
b. c. (!!)
bathing suit
pajamas
purse
pants (1. long wool  2. couch (illegible)  3. shorts)
shirts
deodorant
shaver
toothbrushes
mouthwashes
shampoo (1. rinse)
brush
comb
slips
girdle
pillows
lotion (1. suntan)
first aid kit
hairdryer
stationery (sp)
candy
sunflower
bubblegum - 100 pieces
radio
batteries
camera
shower cap
pizza mix
books
eye drops
fingernail polish (1. file)
knee socks
hairspray
robe
magazines

Obviously, items like stockings, girdles, skirt/sweater sets and everyday dresses indicate that this is pre-70s.

What cracks me up is the "b.c." which covers a line that had been erased in which it appears that she began to write "birth control," but then thought better of it.  This list could have fallen into the hands of a man, or a parent, or the Pope!

I assume this is a young person due to the need to put candy, sunflower seeds and gum on an important list of things to remember, as well as the awkward, flouncy cursive.  I also enjoy the order of the items, with curlers, the bible and makeup as the first things she thought of.

I wish I could remember what book I found this in.  Whatever it was, it was unremarkable, and I didn't buy it.  Yeah, I stole this letter too.

I have a rosy, incorrect view of girlhood in the 50s and 60s, mostly because I watched a lot of movies with heroines named Gidget or Tammy when I was a kid.  Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap was my fashion inspiration in ~1994.  Obviously, life as a female at this time was not quite as adorable as it looked in "Tammy and the Bachelor" (1957), but in my mind, when I'm not thinking clearly, it was.

For me, it felt kind of easy to relate to those times when I was 10, 11, 12 years old because we lived in a house built in the 50s and my bedroom was largely unchanged from the way it had looked then, with the same furniture that had been chosen for some other family's daughter 40 years before.  As I have mentioned, our house came with all of its original 50s & 60s furniture, mostly unused as it had been a summer home, and we moved in and left it pretty much as it had always been, down to the glass grapes on the coffee table.  This is weird, right?  I think it's weird.  My bedroom had a custom built blond wood vanity, dresser and desk built into the wall, with a little stool covered in pink velvet.  I used the 50s jewelry box to store my own stuff, and the old ceramic cocker spaniel coin bank that had been the other little girl's is in my bedroom right now.

So anyway, I imagine this list was written by some everyday Sandra Dee.  What would she think if she knew someone had her list, and that something of such bland utility then could seem so interesting now?

 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Aerogramme

I've collected a number of letters and bits of paper over the years that have held some historic significance to me.

This is from a series of pen pal letters written between two young girls in the late 60s, a Miss Delfina Sapien of Phoenix, AZ, and Miss Stella Hardacre of Lancashire, England.

The set of letters was donated to the Children's Museum, assumedly by Delfina's family, because the museum is housed in what used to be the Monroe School, a monolithic 1914 classical revival in downtown Phoenix.  Delfina would have been a student at Monroe.

To my knowledge, the pack of letters still sits unknown, un-transcribed and generally uncared for in a filing cabinet in the development office of the museum, which is not really a museum, but rather a giant Wonka factory of installations meant to encourage children to learn through play.  So far, the Children's Museum has failed to realize its duty as the steward of its building's history, but we don't get too snippy about it; 15ish years ago, a demo permit had been issued for the building when the Children's Museum chose it for its space, saving the perfectly sound yet uniquely unwieldy building from destruction.  The building has been largely renovated since, but there are still entire rooms left in disrepair, with rotten wood floors too scary to walk on and discarded furniture covered in a furry coverlet of decades of dust.  Neat!

When Delfina attended the school in the 1960s, it would have been old, outdated, and mostly attended by poor children from the neighborhood.  It was closed in 1972 due to low enrollment, as people filtered out of the downtown area and entire neighborhoods were razed for commercial buildings.  When it was built, the Monroe School was one of the most modern and progressive public schools in the country, filled with such cutting-edge technology as flushing toilets, early intercom systems, and a teacher's lounge, the latter two being unheard of at the time.

The letters are written on tissuey, pale blue air letter paper, pre-printed with ninepence postage featuring the profile of young Elizabeth II.  We only have Stella's letters, naturally, one of which I inadvertently stole.  I took it home to read it, and, woops, I still have it!

This one is postmarked 22 July 1967, in Burnley, Lancashire.  Delfina's address is listed as 114 S. 8th Street in downtown Phoenix. Her house would have been a little bungalow built between the teens and the 30s.  Not only is the house long gone, the street is too, having been swallowed by the widening of Jefferson St.  The house's foundation is probably now in the middle of Jefferson's westbound lanes, a stone's throw from Mrs. White's Golden Rule Cafe.


In the letter, Stella shares the details (all of the details) of a family trip to Spain, then refers disapprovingly to the arrest of Mick Jagger & Keef Richards on a drug bust earlier that year.

"Dear Delfina,

I am writing this letter the day after we arrived back in England.  We have had an unforgettable, wonderful holiday in Spain and come back with a sun tan.  Early Wednesday morning July 5th we got up, had our breakfast, and at 6-40 am we set off in our car for London.  It took us about 6 hours to get there and we waited for about 1 hour til our flight was due. We had our passports checked and then we got into a coach which took us out onto the airfield where our plane was waiting.  We were shown to our seats and after about 10 minutes, we took off.

It is lovely looking down from 17,000 feet onto the ground!  You can see all the fields and tiny dots of houses.  Soon we were over the English Channel and we passed many boats.  We crossed the coast of France and I noticed that this part of France was nearly all country, but my dad said that southern France nearly all was.  Then the captain came on the loudspeaker and he told us that we were climbing to 19,000 feet to fly over the Pyrenees.  I felt a bit air sick when we started to climb.  Soon we were above the clouds (you couldn't see the mountains, just clouds) and it looks like you are floating through a sea of cotton wool.

Then the stewardesses came round with snacks.  This was: ham sandwiches, piece of cake, cup of tea and an apple.  We landed at Barcelona airport where we went through the customs and then we got on a coach which was taking us to our hotel.  We went through Barcelona city.  I am glad I don't live there.  Just one road was 8 miles long.  There were 4 lanes of traffic on either side of the road and they were overtaking on the right, left and centre.  After about one hour we came to a small town and our coach went up a street and stopped outside a hotel called Mar Blau.  We realized it was ours and our luggage was carried in and we entered the lounge.  Unfortunately we found that no one could speak English in our hotel and we just had a representative man who spoke English coming over once a day to see everything was all right.


We went on two excursions: one to Montserrat, and one to a night club in a nearby town.  All the rest of the days we went on to the beach and sunbathed or did some shopping.  We did not like the food very much.  It was a bit sickly sometimes.  The meat was not good as well.  We are hoping to go to Spain again next year so we are all saving like mad.

I agree with you about the Rolling Stones.  It is awful.  I don't think they should let them go out on bail.
This is all for now.

Love, Stella

P.S., Did you get the postcard?  Also if the friend of yours is not going to write to Marlene, could you find someone else please?"

Stella - you can't please her!


Friday, July 4, 2014

It is very hard to feel patriotic about a country with so much potential, yet which has always been half spoiled by various unforgivable offenses, most of which have been unthinkable to our developed, western peers.  America seems to take so much longer than its sister countries to rise above its crimes against nature.  This is, of course, due to ignorance, arrogance, and religion: the trinity of American disgrace.

Not to get too heavy-handed - it is my favorite federal holiday, because it's the only time we, as a country, would ever engage in a wide discourse about stars of the Enlightenment period.

Even if you are suspicious and resentful of the current charade, there are writings from the Revolutionary period and after that can touch even the most offish of disaffected hearts.  Reading these documents is the only time I have felt legitimately, personally proud of the concept of America.  There have been other times, stories of bravery and humanity under duress by soldiers or nurses or civilians, positive Supreme Court rulings, certain elections, but these stories always seem to be marred with a rotten underside, an unexpected or hitherto unknown terrible repercussion, something.  Anyway.

The most important things you can read this summer:

The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine, 1791.  Before this, the concept of individual human and civil rights was almost completely undiscussed, unconsidered.  How terrifying and telling that we have been focused on this type of human cultivation for such a short time.

The Virginia Act of 1786 by Thomas Jefferson.  Introducing!  Freedom from religion.

George Washington's Farewell Address of 1796.  Sweet, articulate and inspiring.

Read while listening to this on repeat for max effect.



and this



Past 4th of July posts:

J.A. says N-O