Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a Movie Review

I would love to give you a full review of Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. However, since we only stayed for the first 20 minutes or so  that would be difficult. I can say in all fairness those incredibly long tedious minutes did not hold my attention, nor did they interest me enough to stay for the remaining 100 minutes or so.

No doubt the plot thickened, the pace quickened, and the story developed after we departed - or so I hope for those souls who stayed behind. I, however, was not willing to sacrifice my free time to see what happened. Watching a grown man zone out at any given moment as he lives some day dream is not my idea of a fun time. And, the other characters in the story were painful to watch. Their plodding and tedious performances only made it worse.

I will say the way the opening credits were done was quite creative which gave me hope only to be dashed several minutes later by an unimaginable heroic daydream by Mr. Mitty. Well, in all fairness, it was obviously imaginable to him, after all it was his day dream. I took it as an omen of things to come and prayed it would get better. However, I did not have the patience to watch Ben Stiller's character often act like a deer in the head lights, actually more like someone living in a slower parallel universe beside reality clueless how as to how to jump the divide. 

The visual Stiller, as the Director, used putting Mitty, the character, in black and white clothing was effective. Only Stiller's brilliant blue eyes showed that there was life in the character that moved at 3/4's time (and I do not allude to a waltz.)

And, the worse, most criminal part of all was the waste of Kristen Wiig's talent. She was cast as Cheryl Melhoff,  the girl Mitty secretly adores. Her character was flat, a feat I thought impossible for Wiig. (And, yes, I know I only saw little of the film - but her lines had a long way to go to give her the role she could run with.) Shirley McLaine played the part of his mother, pretty much a stock character.

I may have missed the most exciting 100 minutes of film this year by exiting early. If so, I'll take my chances. But, hey, this is but my humble opinion. The film garnered 4 out of 5 stars. I guess one of those stars would have been mine since it is a major motion picture with the star power of Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig, I cannot tell you where the other two came from. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Death by Chocolate

Every year Santa leaves me a stocking full of rich chocolates. Usually there are a box or two of rich truffles and sometimes a bag of York peppermint patties. This year in addition to two boxes of truffles there was a large tin of chocolate ganaches in different flavors such as raspberry, passion fruit, caramel, and hazelnut. Now, I'll be the first to admit that dark chocolate is one of my weaknesses. However, I like things in small quantities.

And, these chocolates are fresh and will not last forever. When I was working in an office, I came back to work after Christmas with boxes of truffles to share. Needless to say, I was very popular. So now I have all these chocolates and I do not want them to go bad. They sit on my desk just calling me. 

Santa is so sweet (no pun intended) to think of me this way. But, I feel guilty with each bite. So do I die of guilt or consumption? 

Of course, there is also Key Lime pie, Cheese cake, Cupcakes, and Pralines in the kitchen remaining from Christmas. I only hope there is Alka Seltzer and Pepto-Bismol in the medicine cabinet. Thank God, Christmas only comes one time a year.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street, a Movie Review

Is it my imagination or does Leonardo DiCaprio have a habit of narrating movies he stars in? Well, if not, he does in The Wolf of Wall Street, in which he plays Jordan Belfort, a self made multi-millionaire stockbroker. Martin Scorsese comes through again. The movie is based on the true story of Belfort's infamous rise with his own brokerage firm on Wall Street and his fall due to crime and corruption. It is a story of the American dream, of wealth and success. And often with that fortune and fast life come fast cars, fast women, drugs, alcohol, and other excesses.

The movie crosses genres - it is a crime story, a biography, and a comedy at times. It is fast paced with very witty dialogue. Warning, I would not bring young children or bashful mothers to this film, there is a certain amount of nudity, sex, and mature language. OK, there is a lot of nudity, sex, and mature language, but it is well managed within the story. 

Dicaprio fits into the role like one of the tailored suits he wears so well. Jonah Hill (playing Donnie Azoff) once again takes the role of the side kick. Azoff provides humor in the film as a thinly veiled chubby gay man thrown into this testosterone charged world of Wall Street. Matthew McConaunghey makes a brief appearance as the broker who introduces Dicaprio to the "magic of Wall Street" and shows him where the money is made, not in the rise and fall of the market, but in the commissions on the trades, and that the object is to generate as many trades as possible. Rob Reiner plays the part of Max Belfort, Jordan's father.

The movie is well made, well acted, and well cast. The story is engaging and thank goodness, since it is 180 minutes (yes, 3 hours) long. I do not think I have seen a film this long since Gone with the Wind and that had an intermission - this does not. But, no part of the film drags and, honestly, when the credits started running at the end, I had no idea my attention had been absorbed for that long. 

Yes, this has Academy Award potential. DiCaprio deserves a nod, if not serious consideration for his performance here. And, the film is one of the best this year, but, then, it has been a year rich in films. I highly recommend it. Funny, I can honestly say it was not on my top list of films to see. Thank goodness, I did though.

American Hustle, a Movie Review

It is frightening when you go to a movie set several decades ago when the fashion styles were hideous and you realize you know the words to all the music in the film because those were the years you were in college. Please tell me there are no existing pictures of me during those days. And if so, hopefully, no one would recognize me. 

American Hustle is packed with an unbelievable amount of today's young star power. I do not think I have seen  Christen Bale (playing Irving Rosenfeld, the ultimate con-man), Amy Adams (who plays Sydney Prosser, his co-hort and mistress), Jennifer Lawrence (playing Rosalyn Rosenfeld - the wife) in the same scene with Bradley Cooper (Richie DiMasso, the FBI agent). How many Academy Awards and nominations are we talking about among that group?

As part of the opening states, "Some of this actually happened." The story line is based on the Abscam sting operation set-up by the FBI in the late 70's and early 80's that brought down one US Senator, six member of the US House of Representatives, a NJ State Senator, and others on convictions of bribery, conspiracy, and public corruption. 

John Jenrette (D-SC) was one of the officials nabbed. His daughter was in my college sorority when everything went public. The press dogged that poor child everywhere she went, like she had something to do with it. That was the first time I ever realized how vicious the paparazzi could be. And, if that was not enough for my sorority sister,  her step mother, Rita, then created her own scandal by posing in Playboy and stating in the accompanying article that she and John (her husband- the congressman) had sex on the steps of the U.S. Capitol during a break in an all-night House session. (None of this had anything to do with the movie.) I digress.

I will not go further into the story line. However, I will say,"it ain't over, 'til it's over". The movie is well cast and acted (duh!). The story is entertaining and the plot is well developed. However, it is long (138 minutes) and, at times, I felt like someone told the director and screen write they had to fill up that amount of time. I am not sure which scenes, if any, I would have cut, but it really dragged. 

There are some potentially Academy Awards  here (IMHO), however, I do not see it as Best Picture. I do recommend seeing it, just buy the large drink and pop corn.

Oh, and after Rita divorced John Jenrette, she went on to marry Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi of Piombino*.  Ludovisi commissioned the recreation of a fragrance originally devised for one of his princely ancestors in honor of his bride. I kid you not. Oh, what a life!

*Piombino is an Italian principality dissolved under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Very Fond Christmas Eve Memory

For Christmas, I thought I would repost a true story about my father and Christmas Eve. If you remember reading, humor me here, if not, I think will enjoy it. Either way, I hope you have a wonderful holiday.

One of my fondest holiday memories is not a special Christmas morning, or my first bicycle it is actually Christmas Eve at my father's drug store.

Our small town had three or four local drug stores and all the pharmacists were good friends. Everyone in town had "their" drugstore and rarely did anyone stray. Dad's store was on the street with the doctor's offices behind the hospital - a very strategic location. But he was all about customer service. Just for example - a customer, Mrs. McGee, who happened to live around the block, commented one day that it would be helpful it he carried quart containers of milk along with the pint sizes he had in the drink box. Sure enough, the next week when the Pet milk man came in, Dad placed a standing order for Mrs. McGee's milk. She knew it would be there every week for her.

As you can imagine Dad got to know all his customers very well. After all, this was a long time before Wal-mart and Target. Besides prescriptions and other medications, he carried a complete line of cosmetics, magazines, snacks, drinks, and ice cream, Hallmark greeting cards, and an incredible assortment of chocolate candies. Let me tell you I honed my art of wrapping gifts on boxes of Whitman Samplers. I can wrap one in my sleep! I digress.

But everyone knew that you stopped by Daddy's store on Christmas Eve. The festivities started around noon when folks started bringing in goodies - cakes, tins of cookies, homemade snack mix. When it first started, Dad furnished the food, but over the years, as it grew, everyone wanted to contribute their "special" dish to the event. Every time the delivery boy came in, he would be loaded down with more contributions. Then the customers and friends would start dropping by to visit, eat, and wish everyone holiday cheer. By five o'clock the store was still open but a sign went up stating "The Pharmacy was closed" and the bar was open. Then the party started.

Daddy would set up a full bar on the counter where he and the other pharmacists normally filled prescriptions and everyone would gather around and "a good time would be had by all". Everyone loved my Daddy. Even my friends would drop by during my college years and later, not to see me, but to visit with Dad. Only after everyone else had left, would we clean up and make our way home to crawl in bed and ready ourselves for Christmas morning.

My father passed away thirteen years ago and had sold his drug store many years before that, but to this day, every Christmas, I still have people in town stop me and say, "You know I was thinking the other day about going by your Dad's drugstore on Christmas Eve." I'm pretty sure Christmas Eve at my Daddy's store was part of many local folk's holiday tradition and he enjoyed every minute of it. I know I did.

Photography Post - Christmas Trees for Sale

Christmas trees for sale on the sidewalk in Chelsea.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bates, My Hero

Bates is by far the hardest working character at Downton Abbey. This revelation came to mind as I stood there yesterday polishing my mama's sterling silver goblets for our family's Christmas Eve dinner. Just when I thought I had removed every bit of tarnish, the cloth would have more black on it. 

Anyone who really knows me, knows my affinity for sterling silver flatware. I guess I got that from my Mama. Not only did she collect silver, she used it. As children, we ate all our family meals using Mama's sterling flatware. And there is little doubt in my mind that that sterling silver saved our family from dying of some bungee bungee disease brought on by Mama's cooking, or lack thereof. On those evenings when she "retired" early, what was left for dinner was often questionable at best. 

I am testament to the fact that the alloys in sterling silver will fight off most any viral or bacterial infection. Under cooked meat, mystery casseroles, or charred roasts all seemed a little less daunting when using silver utensils. We may not have been born with a silver spoon in our mouths (and all the largess that accompanies it) but we used one at most meals. Thank God to the quick thinking of Great Great Grandmama who buried the family silver in the garden. In many cases that was all some southern families had left when the dust settled. 

Perhaps that is what saved most of the British explorers in Africa. They always traveled with their cooks, porters, and full accompaniment of fine crystal, china place settings, and sterling for their meals. Just a thought.

So I could relate to Bates as I sat there polishing each piece. The Victorians had their silver and enjoyed it, but they also had their servants to keep it polished. But, that's OK, I still look at it as a life saver of my youth. Or at least that is how I justify polishing all of it.

Photography Post - Bicycles

Bicycles on the snowy sidewalk in Greenwich Village.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saving Mr. Banks, a Movie Review

This past week I went to see Wicked on Broadway (stay with me here). Most folks know that things happened in OZ before Dorothy dropped in. And, so they made a Broadway show about it, or book or whatever. But, I digress.

Saving Mr. Banks is basically the story of the 1964 Walt Disney award winning movie Mary Poppins before the narrator starts:

Winds in the east, theres a mist comin' in
Like somethin' is brewin' and 'bout to begin.
Can't put me finger on what lies in store,
But I feel what's to happen all happened before.

Even before Dick Van Dyke showed up on the roof top, Walt Disney himself spent twenty years trying to convince P.L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins book, to let him make a major motion picture of the story. 

The movie (Mr. Banks) weaves Ms. Travers childhood back and forth with her two week gut wrenching trip from her home in London to Beverly Hills to meet with Disney's folks about the script. The story line goes back forth between her angst to give up her beloved "Mary Poppins" to anyone and her anything but idyllic childhood. As her battles with the script writers and the guys writing the score continue, you are thrown back into the past.

As the script is being written, you learn more and more about the real people the characters in the book were based on. And, as Ms. Travers angst grows about the project, her childhood story reveals more. No spoiler here, the two collide. 

Emma Thompson who plays Ms. Travers is in her element. I can not imagine anyone else in this role with the facial expressions, the stature, and the ability to play a strong remote  being asked to open her soul. Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney and he is most convincing, which is hard to do.  I still remember him in my den every Sunday evening when my brother and I would sit down to watch Tinkerbell wave her wand around the castle and then Walt Disney himself would be there to introduce that night's show.

Thompson's Travers plays well against Hanks' Disney, neither is not quite sure what they are up against. Annie Rose Buckley who plays Ginty does a masterful job playing a young child caught up in a world where she watches everything she believes in just go away. All the promises made to her evaporate. The close ups of her face show the innocence of a child, but often the fear of the unknown. 

The scenes where the songs for the Mary Poppins movie were being created brought so many memories. In my mind the lyrics were so familiar and so incredibly well done. The movie is long, 125 minutes. Bring tissues, this film evokes emotion through out. It is not one where you can easily wipe the tear from your cheek as you leave the theater. There were folks so caught up, they were having to wipe their noses, removed their glasses, and rummage for more Kleenex.

By all means go see it. It is slow at times, but it takes a while to wrap the two parts together. This is Academy Award material, Thompson and Hanks - definitely; Best Picture, perhaps (but it's a tough field this year), and a possible nod to Buckley for her talent with such an intense role.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I've Been Through the Heart of it

After 9 visits to 5 Irish pubs , 6 wonderful days in the big city, visits to Soho, Chelsea, and Greenwich Village, visions of jewels in the diamond district as well as diamonds in Tiffanies, Bryant Park and Central Park, and what is left of the Plaza, the tree at Rockefeller Center, the windows at Bloomingdales, Bergdoph Goodman, and Lord and Taylor; Broadway, Grand Central Station, and Times Square, not to mention the food, I cannot even begin to go there - it is time to come home.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bergdorf Goodman Windows

Bergdorf Goodman took a different approach this year. They decided to do a window for each holiday, not just Christmas. Here are their windows:

Valentine's Day

Ground Hog Day

April Fool's Day

Fourth of July

 Arbor Day

Christmas in the city

There is a good reason I do not live in New York City - it is cold up here. But, I will admit during the holidays it is festive. There are the 100's, well maybe 1000's, of Santas roaming around in search of a pub. (Note the one spraying his beard on.)

And then, there are the windows in all the department stores. Lord and Taylor has a Victorian theme this year.

I would show you more of the scenes, however, there was so much pushing and shoving by the folks up here, I felt I was taking my life in my own hands just to join the queue to view the windows. But, then they are Yankees, bless their hearts, and probably don't know any better.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Weather up There is Frightful

Packing for my trip to New York city, I thought I would check the weather - high tomorrow, 32. Perhaps that was not such a good idea afterall (to check the weather). Yes, I have warm clothes, scarves, gloves, boots, and a down jacket. The good news is that the cold weather will make it really seem like the holidays. The bad news is I don't know how long I'll be able to stay outside. The good news is most of the bars up there are heated. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Nightmare of Escaping Atlanta

I have found it hard to sleep lately. Have you ever had that horrible dream, not the one where you show up at work naked, but where you cannot get anywhere? Like you are in north Atlanta trying together back to South Carolina. As you come down I-85  you get engulfed in 5 o'clock traffic even though it isn't 5 o'clock yet. And just as get on I- 285, you learn that there has been a major car accident that has most of I-285 and I-20 East at a stand still. 

You pull off at the next exit, consult Google maps on your phone and plot out another route on state roads. Soon you realize two things- a lot of folks have decided to do the same thing and you now are dealing with stop lights every other block. You start your new rather circuitous route anyway. As traffic starts to move and you can see that you are making progress you find yourself behind a succession of city buses on their regular routes, stopping for folks. 

Finally, you make it through the country to I-20 and are on your way home in very light traffic. Your cell phone beeps indicating you have a text. Being a safe driver you pull off at the next exit, to safely read the text. Only then do you realize that this exit off the interstate has no return ramp. 

And, after consulting Google maps you see that the closest route back to the interstate is going to take most likely an additional hour. This is when your phone rings and you hope like Hell it is your alarm clock taking you out of this frustration nightmare. But, alas, it was not. 

This was my trip home from Atlanta last night. A four hour trip took almost 6 hours. Oh, as for the exit, I very carefully backed down the exit ramp to the Interstate. Hell, if I was going on another goose chase. I think Scarlet did a better job escaping Atlanta when it was burning with Melanie and  Prissy in that cart with the dying mule than I did with a V-6, a full tank of gas, interstate highway system and Google maps. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Book - Progress Report

The book about my mother is written and has been through one edit. I have done corrections and some rewrites. Now is back with my dear editor once more. I still have no title but am that much closer to publication. My plan (at this time) is to publish it as an eBook as well as in hard copy. Stay tuned, I will need all the support I can get when it is published.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Hunger Games: Catching Fire, a Movie Review

Once again, buy your popcorn and that extra large coke - you are going to need them. Two hours and twenty six minutes is a long time to sit in one place - well that is unless you are totally wrapped up in a story. First - if you haven't seen the first part of the Hunger Games Trilogy, rent it or download it before you see this film, otherwise you will be loss from the get go. 

The first film left us with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) having saved Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) in the 74th Hunger Games by sheer skill and wit - having threatened suicide of two lovers on TV shown live across the districts, if both their lives were not spared. Having emerged from the games alive, this victory afforded their families a life out of poverty in the "Victor's Village". And, the only question that we left the theater with was: will Katniss choose Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) her longtime friend as her beau or Peeta. The later being the relationship that was part of the charade that allowed them to escape the Hunger Games alive, but then soon became a little more real than Katniss had imagined. But, I digress.

Catching Fire opens with the love triangle smoldering, and the audience (at least those who had not read the trilogy) wondering which way Katniss's heart would go. The Victor's Tour Katniss and Peeta must take visiting all 11 other districts only begs that question more. When President Snow fears Katniss's national heroism may strengthen the embers of revolution within the Districts against the Capitol, he knows she must be stopped. A new character, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) comes into the picture as the new "Games Master".

Suddenly all the living victors from each district are thrown back into a pool for the 3rd Quarter Quell (75th) Games and Katniss, once again, finds herself in the arena. No spoiler here, all of this is in the trailers, if you have seen any. 

The costumes are even more over the top. Ceasar (Stanley Tucci), the cheesy Show Host, and Effie (Elizabeth Banks), the Victor's guide (always dressed somewhere between the Queens Court in Alice in Wonderland and Martha May Whovier from The Grinch, return in their memorable roles. And, of course you have Woddy Harrelson's character, Haymitch Abernathy, the hard drinking, dedicated strategist who aids Katniss and Peeta in preparing for the games.The games and the arena are more challenging than before and alliances are key to survival. 

When the movie ended, my DH turned to me and said,"You know when you come to the movies and sit through two and a half hours, you want an ending." Well, I felt a little more satisfied, perhaps because I have already read the trilogy and know what the third book, "Mockingjay" holds in store. However, for those who have not, the movie ends as if the film paused for a commercial break at a pivotal moment. Many may feel like that Friday afternoon episode on their soap opera when the male lead asks the female lead, "Just what do you mean by 'I really don't care'?". The screen goes dark, the credits start rolling, and the music begins. 

Having read the books, trust me: stay tuned. I felt the film stayed true to the story. The acting was excellent. The dull soot and grayness of the districts brought on a feeling of even more despair as juxtaposed to Kodachrome colors and opulence of the Capitol. Every time the camera panned in on a close up of Jennifer Lawrence's eyes one could see the emotion she felt, the unfairness of it all. Her countenance showed the weight of the responsibility resting on her. Hiding honesty was not one of Katniss's strong suits.

As the box office records show, this movie is a block buster, and for good reason. It is well made, well cast, well acted, and the story follows the book - a novel idea (no pun intended). 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I Believe

Just for the record, our Christmas tree has been at our house now for six days, in the stand for five days, had a string and a half of lights on it for three days. Stay tuned.

I have been able to get my mantle decorated, although I made sure I removed all breakable items until we get the den straight for fear something would get knocked off the mantle. I have decorations on my coffee table but you would be hard pressed to see them amongst the boxes that need to go back to the attic. Bottom line, this is a work in progress. 

I hope Santa comes in the back door, because if he comes down the chimney, he would find a chair in front of the fireplace. But, I have faith that by Christmas Eve, the tree will be decorated, the boxes will be back in the attic, the chair in front of the fireplace will be moved to its proper place, and all will be right with the world. Yes, I believe. 

Most people think that saying, "I believe", refers to the magic of Christmas. In my case it refers to the chances I will ever be able to walk through my den again. But, as I have often said, if not, there is always drugs and therapy.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dallas Byers Club, a Movie Review

Matthew McConaughey is having a banner year that may land him in the front seats at the Academy Awards this year, if not on the stage. His performance in Mud, earlier this year was note worthy. And, here he is again in Dallas Byers Club. The story line - no spoiler here if you have seen any trailers- is Ron Woodruf (McConaughey) is rough bull riding electrician who ends of up with a diagnosis of HIV (and a prognosis of 30 days to live) due to his years of womanizing. 

Not willing to take this sitting down, he goes to extremes to find anything that will keep him alive. While McConaughey gets the publicity for this movie, I really thought the strong roles were played by Jared Leto as Rayon, the transvestite, who befriends Ron and becomes an ally and business partner and Jennifer Garner as Eve Sacks, his doctor, who realizes that traditional treatment  may be doing more harm that good to the AIDS community. Both Leto and Garner come through with incredible performances, especially Leto. 

The film shows many us, unaware of the back story here, the issues going on in the medical community as it tried to come to grips with the HIV disease. It took a while for the FDA and most traditional doctors to get past the social aspects of the disease and realize that no one had the luxury of the traditional time it took to bring drugs to the American market, and everyone needed to look outside the box and consider alternative treatments. Even the legal system found itself caught up in both archaic and arcane laws that in some ways prevented people from getting progressive help for themselves. 

McConaughey's physical transformation for this role shows his dedication to serious acting. Woodruf's physique is as far as one can get from the beautiful buff McConaughey sported in his early RomCom films - a genre he is trying to put in his rear view mirror as he moves into serious cinema. And, with his performances in Mud and, now, the Dallas Buyers Club, it would be hard for any critic to not take him as a seriously talented actor now. Those days of romantic comedy are behind him. (I guess that body is now just a thing of our dreams and reruns.)

This is good movie: a great story with strong performances. That said, I was a little disappointed.This is a prime example where a little less hype would have served the film well. I'm not sure what my expectations were, but I left feeling, "Well, that was good, and the acting was great and I learned a lot from the story, but it wasn't as good as the hype."  Don't get me wrong, I highly recommend this movie, go see it. Perhaps I read too many reviews and see too many trailers and expect too much. I am sure tomorrow, after some reflection, I, too, will feel this was one of the better films this year. If nothing else, Leto's performance as Rayon, is haunting.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree, the most treasured of family memories during the holiday season, has a checkered history at our home.

When we first got married, I can remember going with my DH to pick out our first Christmas Tree. How I can wax nostalgic about that afternoon. Coming back to decorate our first tree, enjoying adult beverages and holiday music as we strung the lights.  That was the year I learned how damn expensive it was to decorate a tree. They looked so elegant in Southern Accents. Thank God for the Family Dollar store. But, I digress.

Then there were those years when the girls were young, the magical years of Santa Claus. Every year, it was a family trip to the Christmas Tree farm to select and cut down the perfect tree. Of course these were also the years, when us women went against the man of the house in the war of the lights. My DH insisted on colored lights and we wanted white ones. We came to a truce. We would alternate - white one year, colored lights the next. That first year we used white lights. He never had a choice after that, they have been white ever since.

After the girls went to college, my DH and I would go get the tree in anticipation of them being home for the holidays. Sometimes, one would be home in time to help decorate. Now, they are out of the house and it is just us - true empty nesters. This year, instead of making the trek to the Christmas Tree Farm, I suggested we just pick up one up from the Piggly Wiggly. My DH looked at me like I had walked out of Zombie movie. Guess not, I thought.

Now another issue we have is my DH's lack of spacial consciousness. Years ago, we lived in this wonderful old house that had ten foot ceilings. It was a dream house for Christmas trees. Ever since then, when we go to buy a tree, he still looks at the nine foot trees. I remind him we have eight foot ceilings. So he will then "consider" an eight foot tree. 

It gets ugly when I remind him that an eight foot tree doesn't really fit in a room with eight foot ceilings, once you get the tree in a stand, especially if you want to put anything on the top. (Say that large angel he insists we place atop the tree each year.) His response is that a seven foot tree will look short in our den. And, he thinks I have denial issues about living in a brick ranch house?

But, who am I to understand that the eight foot measure they use for the trees is the same eight foot measure they used for our ceilings? Every year, we come home with an eight foot tree, that has to have a good ten or eleven inches taken off the top, before it can stand up in the room. Then we have a beautiful tree with a flat top. Of course the angel will not sit on a flat top, so we end up spending an inordinate amount of time "shaping" the top of the tree. When it is all said and done, we have a seven foot tall tree, a mess on the floor, and an angel whose halo almost touches the ceiling. Stepping back, my DH always comments, "See I told you, an eight foot tree does well in our house."

One year he saw the Christmas Tree farm had a special order of "Noble Firs" from out west. They were the "Cat's Pajama's" as my dear Aunt Kat would say. He just had to have one. When we first saw it, he was thrilled. Personally, I just thought it looked like a very nice Christmas tree. It certainly didn't merit the price which was double anything we had paid in the past, as far as I was concerned. But, a Noble Fir was the choice for that year.

That same year our daughter called from Texas. She was excited telling her father all about the tree she and her beau had purchased and what a deal they had gotten. "We got this beautiful tree from Lowes. And, we only paid $15," she said. My DH then went on about his prized Noble Fir. "Oh, Daddy," she said,"that's just what we bought, a Noble Fir. Aren't they gorgeous. How much did you pay? My DH just said,"A little more than that," and quickly changed the subject to their travel plans for the holiday.

When he got off the phone, I looked at my DH, "No, it was a Hell of a lot more." That was our last Noble Fir. This year, we ventured from our 30 year run of Leland Cypresses (less the one year with grand Noble Fir) and have a Blue Sapphire (tree). And, yes, it is a shade of blueish green and quite lovely. The jury is still out though, it hasn't yet been brought in and retrofitted for our den. 

Photography - Festive Decorations

Christmas decorations in Bryant Park in New York City (one of my 2013 Christmas Cards)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Philomena a Movie Review

If you ever questioned the Catholic Church this brings up a blot on their past, not widespread, but as ugly as the child sex scandal. Philomena is the true story of a Irish Catholic woman searching for her son whom she was forced to give up 47 years prior. It is a story of true faith. Nuns took her in as an unwed pregnant teen and preached that giving her son up was the punishment for her carnal sins. And, for several years she was forced to work in the convent in horrid conditions as payment for being taken in and atonement for her sins. She harbored the secret of her son into her 60's.

But that is but part of the story, the part one sees on the trailers. After her son's fiftieth birthday, she finds help to aid her in her search for her long lost son. A sacked journalist needs a story, and takes her quest on as his project. And, together they search for her son. Anything further will spoil the story.

Dame Judi Dench plays Philomena as only Dench can, incredibly well as a woman torn between the weight of the daily guilt of living a lie about her lost son and her steadfast faith in her church that took that son from her. Steve Coogan (who also wrote the screenplay) plays Martin Sixsmith, the burnt out political journalist. Coogan does a splendid job playing a cynical hard core journalist out of his element in the world of a human interest story. He needs his story for his career as much as Philomena needs to find her son. Together they make the quintessential odd couple. 

There is not a wasted scene in the 94 minute film. The story is tight, the dialogue is tidy, and the storyline keeps you guessing.  The lines on Dench's wrinkled face, as Philomena, show the pain and anguish this woman endured for years wondering where her son was and would he ever forgive her if she could find him. But, there is that twinkle in her eye when she talks of happier times gone by. 

This is oscar material. Take the time to see this film. It is not a tear jerker, a light hearted tale, nor a deep sad depressing story of woe. This is an engaging tale that needed to be told. It is the story of the end of a journey one woman started as a young teenage girl and lived every day of the rest of her life searching for what she lost, knowing she would never find peace until she found him. It is the story of her faith that so cruelly took him away and that same faith that sustained her all those years.

Follow the Recipe or Not

I got through the night without visions of mutilated snowmen and gingerbreadmen dancing in my head. I had made the Parkerhouse roll dough with the first rising and the sweet potato - parsnip puree the night before, so I could cook them first thing in the morning and have them warm for lunch. I had prepared the smokey hot flavored liquor for the collards the night before also, so the pot was ready for the greens. Before I went to bed I had chopped the cranberry and orange relish and put it in the 'fridge. 

When I awoke Thanksgiving morning, I was checking my list - twice. Rolls - check, casserole - check, collards-check, cranberries - check, wine - one, two, three, four . . . Wait there is an extra bottle here, a bottle of white table wine. The it dawned on me, that was the wine that should have gone into the brine for the turkey - but didn't. I totally forgot it. OK, certainly the salt, herbs, and spices would sufficiently "brine" the turkey. 

What happens when a turkey is just put in flavored water overnight? Do turkeys swim? Just as I was about to go into full panic mode, I remembered - surely some Baptists brine their turkeys. And, any, God fearing, choir singing, Heaven going Baptist would never put wine in their brine. (That would be worse that my dear Aunt Kat's friend Mary McCorkle, bless her heart, putting dark meat in her chicken salad.) Life would just have to continue since the turkey had been on the spit for a good two hours before I got up.

When the turkey was sliced everyone raved about the taste. The meat was so moist. Even the white meat wasn't dry like it often was. Brining was definitely the way to go. And, if anyone asks, according to the recipe one mixes all the ingredients with the water except the wine, puts the turkey in a bag, adds the solution, then seals bag. Next step - sit back drink the bottle of wine. Sounds good to me.  

Photography Post - Radio City Music Hall

The famed Radio City Music Hall decked out for the holidays. This was last year during their 85th anniversary. (One of my 2013 Christmas Cards)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Summer Break and Child Labor Laws

Perhaps we should notify the Department of Education. In case, the Secretary doesn't communicate with the Department of Labor, several years ago, OK, many years ago, the country enacted these things called "Child Labor Laws." These particular laws prevent the abuse of young children by restricting them from be able to work until an older age. These laws alone brought some civilization to parts of industry during the industrial age that kept us from becoming a nation resembling characters from a Dickens novel, well without the snow. Now, down here, we didn't have that much industry, we were still agrarian.

That brings me to my point, if you were wondering where I was going with this. Traditionally, children worked hard on family farms. No, contrary to popular belief, we all did not live on Tara. The use of slaves was limited to the large plantations and only the few wealthy land owners who could afford them. And, everyone in the antebellum South was not well off. Most farms were mainly family farms, with the entire family, young children included, pulling their weight. Farms in the mid and upper west were the same.

My issue is summer vacation. Traditionally, the school year was set around the farming schedule, so farming children would be home to help with the crops during the summer. When Mr. Deere and Mr. McCormick came along and revolutionized the farming industry and mule drawn plows and hand harvesting went by the way side, few able bodies were needed in the fields to harvest the crops. This coupled with the Child Labor Laws, that were enacted for our children's safety, pretty much legally keep young children out of harm's way and out of the fields. In the northeast, the children could no longer be exploited as cheap labor in the mills and factories. So why are we still on a nine month school schedule?

Oh, sure it is nice for the kids to have a break. And, the teachers will cry fowl by this missive of mine. However, after the three months of fun and frolic, the teachers spend weeks getting the students back up to speed, since the weeks of summer have cleared their minds of the lessons learned in the spring. Year round schooling seems to be the obvious choice here. With breaks of two or weeks between sessions, teacher and students will have mini-vacations. Both will be spared the tedium of remedial lessons. The vacation industry will have business all year round, not just three months in the summer.

Note to DC. The war is over - you won, but, contrary to popular belief, we are doing as well (are as poorly) as the rest of the country, so the boys (and girls) are no longer on the farm. If you're trying to improve education, the summer break can cease.

My niece and nephew were in a year round program and really liked it. The world did not end, the sky did not fall, and the crops were harvested. Just a thought.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Great Cover Up

While the Judge was in DC on her mission, I was back in Chambers trying to keep the cover story going. As always, she wanted her work Fed Exed to her. I had the address of the hotel where she was staying. Of course, the clerks had to think I was addressing the package to her daughter's home, not somewhere in Pentagon City. To cover this I did not put the shipping label on the package until the last minute and delivered it to the Fed Ex drop off myself, every afternoon. Her husband called a time or too, saying he could not get her to answer her cell phone. I told him I had not spoken with her either.

The national press was working with a long list of possible candidates for the open position on the Supreme Court. I was really hoping her name would not be on it this time. However, no such luck. It was listed there, albeit at the bottom - thank God for small favors. The clerks continued to banter among themselves about her chances. I reminded them that her elevation would most likely mean the end of our positions immediately. Of course, they hoped they could go with her and become Supreme Court Law Clerks. (This was the uber position sought by all bright law students and only achieved by a very few. Most Supreme Court clerks had been Appellate Law clerks first.)

The next morning her husband called, "I have a legal document she has to sign today. I spoke with her last night but cannot get again today." Once again, I assured him I would tell her when I spoke with her. That night the Judge called me at home. "Well, I had to tell him [her husband], I had no choice. He called tonight me about that deed I need to sign. I tried to stall him but he figured it out. He's none too happy, but I don't think he'll tell anyone." She shared a few details of her day and then we went over some work issues and she told me she would be up there another day.

The idea of dealing with the charade one more day was exhausting just to think about. Suddenly the idea of taking a "mental health" day and playing hooky from work sounded terribly appealing. However, the next morning I found myself back at my desk. The clerks were circling. Our chambers was such a close bunch, the idea of trying to pull something like this off was first, not a simple task and secondly, almost disingenuous. However, I knew this was how the game was played and the Judge would deal with it after she returned. Knowing her, she would tell the clerks. After all, she needed all the help she could get now. 

The first phone call I got that morning was from the AP. Supposedly, someone had seen the Judge at a restaurant in DC the prior evening. Could I confirm she was in DC? I quickly told them, that I doubted anyone saw her there, since she was taking care of her grandchildren. Then they asked if I knew if anyone had contacted her about the Supreme Court. I laughed and said, "Only the press." And, so the morning went. Garth Brooks' song, I Thank God for Unanswered Prayers, kept running through my mind. As a little girl, I used to pray at night I would grow up to be a secret agent. After the past few days - not so much.

Monday, November 18, 2013

You Did Not Receive This Call

When the law clerks finished their clerkships with the Judge, it was like watching the chicks leave the nest. And, she always was proud to see where they landed. Most left her chambers to take jobs at private law firms, many in major cities across the country; from New York City to Chicago to Dallas to Washington DC.   And, many of them took positions with the government in agencies like the DOJ (Department of Justice), SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), and FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Others became AUSA's (Assistant US Attorneys) in various states. We even had a few at the White House in different legal positions.

We kept in touch with most of them. Many would call just to check in. If anything of interest happened (she was involved in a high profile case, for example) they would call. Often if one was getting married, I would get a call, "Do you think she would perform our ceremony?". (The answer there was always, you know she would be thrilled to.)

One morning I answered the phone and one our clerks, working at the White House at that time, was on the line. After exchanging pleasantries, he said, "Listen, you are on to get a phone call from someone in the West Wing this morning. Just do what he says. And, do not under any circumstances, let any know you received this call." "You mean the Judge will get the call." (Often the Judge and I was were referred to as "you".) "No, this call is coming to you."

After I hung up the phone, it dawned on me, dear Jesus, she was being considered for the Supreme Court. Her name was always thrown around as a possible candidate, but the White House threw out all sorts of names just to keep the press interested and at bay. We just laughed about it. In her humble way, she was always flattered to be named, but could not imagine any serious consideration.

Sure enough, less than five minutes later the phone rang. When I answered it, this polite but business like voice introduced himself and said, "Judge Williams needs to be in Washington at 10:00 am tomorrow morning. We already have her cell phone number. Tell her to expect a phone call at that time for directions of how we will handle it from there. No one is to know she is in Washington, no one in her chambers, no one in her family, not even her husband, and, no one is to know you received this phone call. Do you understand?" All I could get out was, "Yes Sir." After I hung up, I looked at my phone as if it were going to self destruct like a Mission Impossible tape.

When the Judge walked in from her Rotary Meeting, she just looked at me and I could tell from her look that she knew. I just said, "Yes, someone called me." "Just get me there." "I will," I assured her. She walked back to her office. Then it dawned on me, I would get her there, but I was not sure how in the Hell I was going to be able to. I got online and looked for a suitable airline ticket to DC that afternoon.

About that time, one of the law clerks sauntered up to my desk and asked what I was doing. This was a normal question, that would usually evoke a smart ass response on my part, like, "Making a reservation for the Judge to go to DC to interview for the Supreme Court." I wasn't willing to that chance, so I weakly said, "Checking the weather," and I quickly closed the airline screen. After he left my desk, I realized this clandestine job was going to take more scheming than I thought.

Ten minutes later, I yelled down the hall, that I needed to run an errand and asked them to cover the phones. I got in my car, drove around the corner, and found a parking space. From there, on my cell phone, I made the Judge's travel reservation, had them send me an electronic confirmation to my personal email, and went back to my desk. Knowing she was probably wondering what was taking me so long, I went down the hall to talk with her. When I walked in her office, I saw a look of total confusion on her face. "I am so nervous, I cannot even log into my computer, please tell me how I can make it through the most important interview of my life?" I assured her that she could and would come through in flying colors, otherwise they would not being calling her.

As I started telling her about her travel plans, a law clerk came to the door. She always had an open door policy - something I'm sure she questioned the wisdom of that afternoon. "Judge," the law clerk asked, "you wanted to discuss this case for court week?" She gave me a look that said, 'I'll get with you later' and very calmly, in her normal cheery voice she told him to come in. As I walked out, they started an in-depth discussion of the a very iffy legal question.

She made it safely to DC the next morning. Before her flight, she called me from the airport, "I know I forgot to pack some vital piece of my wardrobe or my shoes won't match. It was all I could do to get my things together in my bag." "Bag," I asked, "One bag?" "Well, I told my husband I was going to stay with the grandchildren, so I couldn't justify any more luggage." The fact that she only had one piece of luggage was scary in itself. We spoke several times that afternoon and evening. Afterall, the law clerk at the White House and I were the only ones who knew where she was and the only ones she could discuss it with.

The next morning when I got to chambers, I stuck with the cover story that she was keeping the grandkids. I followed up with some bit about her daughter having to leave at the last minute on a business trip. One law clerk looked at me and quipped, "Well, if she's not there, the only other place she could be is in DC interviewing for the Supreme Court." I swallowed hard and laughed, "Yeah, right. What did you have in your orange juice this morning?" Everyone had a good laugh and we all went to our desks to start another "regular" day, whatever that meant.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Blessed are Those Who are Loving and Giving

The one thing I hope no one says about me, is that I take advantage of people. Maybe someone, at least one person, will say I helped them. Remember that little ol' lady in the Walmart parking lot who needed help getting her shopping cart to her car? I was more than happy to help her and even unload her groceries. That other woman was just rude, trying to wrestle that cart from me. It wasn't my problem that there were no more carts left on the morning of the big sale. She could find her own little lady. But I digress.

Judge Williams, on the other hand, was naturally generous and giving. The "judge" part of her life made no difference. If anything, it prevented her from helping and assisting more. At lunch on Thursday, she could usually be found at the soup kitchen feeding those who needed a meal. I could go on with examples, but anyone who knew her knew this was just part of her being.

New law clerks were usually taken aback by her thoughtful deeds. In their minds she went beyond the bounds of what federal judges did, in other words she never suffered from the holier than thou "Black Robe Syndrome". She was known to bring peach pies, she made the night before, to chambers for us to enjoy. It was not unusual for sick friends and law clerks to find her at their door with a full meal she prepared for them.

But, one example took the cake (as my Mama would say). One of our law clerks was married and had two young children, ages 18 months and 3 years old. Like most of our clerks, they were far from home. He was from Utah and she was from Kansas. Early in the clerkship, he announced they were expecting their third child. Well, there was nothing the Judge loved more than small children, especially newborns. The Judge followed the pregnancy, making sure the wife was seeing the best obstetrician  in town. 

As his wife's due date neared, the Judge kept asking the clerk each morning if they were ready. He assured her they were, this being their third child. One morning around 1 am, my phone rang and it was the clerk. There was some emergency issue with his wife and he needed someone to take care of the children so he could rush her to the hospital. I told him I was on my way, just to stay calm, leave the door unlocked, and get to the hospital. Since the children were sound asleep, and I lived less than five minutes away, I felt certain I could get there before they awoke.

They came back to the apartment around 5 am, saying it was just a matter of dehydration. The doctors said both the wife and the baby were fine. The good news was that she could deliver any day. I went home to dress and go to work. When the Judge learned that the baby's birth was eminent, she was excited. She asked the clerk, after the excitement of the night before, what plans they had for the children when the baby came. He quickly said they had that covered, his wife's parents were coming to take care of them.

That Friday afternoon, I asked the other clerks what their plans were for the weekend, everyone was going to be out of town. We had a trip to the mountains planned. I stuck my head in the fourth clerk's office and asked, "Have your in-laws arrived?" He laughed, "No. We thought we would call them when she goes into labor." "I thought they lived in Kansas?" "They do." "Well, you better hope it is not this weekend, because we are all going to be out of town." By this time I was beginning to question the maturity or common sense of this law clerk.

Monday morning, when the Judge walked into chambers, she was smiling. "The baby came." "Is everything OK?" "Everyone is doing well." "How do you know this anyway? Did he call you?" "He did, at 2 am Saturday morning." "He must have been very excited to call you when the baby was born. We know you love babies. But, I think he could have waited until daybreak to tell you." "I don't think so. He was calling me to come take care of the children." "You're kidding?" 

She just smiled and shook her head. She wasn't surprised he called her, she was thrilled to take care of the children. However, she was amazed that someone who was so smart was so unprepared. And, it wasn't his first child.

But, the story got better. When the Judge got to the clerk's apartment apparently it was mess. Her OCD kicked in. (She just could not contain herself.) While she was watching the children, she cleaned the apartment, washed the dishes, and did the laundry - including washing, drying, folding, and putting away several loads of clothes. I do not think the law clerk ever understood what happened, although his wife did and was most appreciative.

This was just one more thing that made her a legend in her own time. The clerks enjoyed telling this story when other folks commented on how nice she was. However, more often than that, it fell into law clerk legend lore as the law clerk who had the gumption to have the Judge do his laundry.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I'll Tell Them I Have Other Plans

And, there are those stories some folks don't believe when I tell them. But, one should ask: why would she make that up and better yet, could she make that up? The following is but one example.

The Judge's husband had many well known friends.  Most were hunters who coveted invitations to his world class hunting lands. Once they came, they found southern hospitality at its best and genuinely nice people. Then the guests introduced the Judge and her husband to their friends. And, it went on from there. This group  included pro baseball players, politicians, ect. 

Also among the group was Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks (as in the country duo Brooks and Dunn). Anytime they were touring nearby, they would invite the Judge and her husband to visit and see the performance. Needless to say, they has fabulous seats, and were with Ronnie and Kix before and after the performance.

One of the years they were nominated for the CMA"Duo of the Year", they invited the Judge and her husband to come to the award ceremony in Nashville and sit with them. The Judge's husband really wanted to go. The Judge had one issue, the award ceremony was during one of our court weeks. She also wanted to attend, but she knew she could not miss court.

When we got to Richmond, she walked in my office,"See if you can get me a round trip ticket to Nashville on Wednesday. I"ll need to leave after I get off the bench, say around 2:30 or so." "What time for a return flight?" "Oh, sometime after midnight." "You're serious about this?" "This sounds like a lot of fun, I don't know want to miss it."

After much searching, I found I could get her to Nashville that afternoon, but the last flight out was at 10 o'clock and I had a feeling that wouldn't do. When I told her what was available, all she said was, "Let me see what I can do." I knew from experience she was a lot better than I was at many things, but making airline reservations was something I prided myself at being able to do. And, I was usually able to find a way to get most places at the right time for a decent price - it there was a flight.

The next morning she came in and smiled. "Make me a one way flight Wednesday afternoon to Nashville leaving around 2:30." "No return flight?" "No." "OK, I'll bite, how are you going to get back for court at 9:00 Thursday morning?" "Bill Elliot's jet." (as in NASCAR driver Bill Elliot) The expression on my face asked for more.

"When I told my husband there was no way I could make it up there and back from Richmond, he made some calls. Bill was happy to send his jet to Nashville that evening. His pilot will just wait at the airport. When I'm ready to come back to Richmond, he'll be ready to bring me back." Talk about pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Then she added, "And, I do not want anyone to know I am going. I'm just going to tell them I have an appointment so I'll not be able to go to lunch or dinner with the other judges. They won't think another thing of it."

So, Wednesday afternoon, as soon as she got off the bench, she went to the hotel, got her bags (with her formal attire and God knows what else!)  and took a taxi to the airport. If anyone asked, we all stuck to the story,  And, the next morning she was in Chambers, on time ready for court, looking as lovely as always.

My first question was (of course), "How was it?" "Oh it was so much fun. You know they won "Duo of the Year" so the party Arista had was over the top. I met so many fun people. I can't remember the last time I had that much fun." "What time did you get back?"

"Oh, that's the best part. I got back around 5 this morning. You know that is about the same time I am usually leaving the hotel to go work out. When the night security man opened the door to let me in, he was quite puzzled.All he could say was 'Judge, did you have a good time? You look wonderful.' As I walked to the elevator, I know he was trying to figure out what was going on - here I am coming in at that time of the morning dressed in a formal gown. Then when I got to my room and looked in the mirror, it was even funnier. I was covered from head to toe with glitter from the Arista party."

"I was just wondering what happens if someone saw you on television last night? I didn't see it, but when they won, I know the cameras panned to them and if you were sitting right there." "Oh, that's the beauty of it. If they saw me, they would never believe it was me. After all, how could I have gotten to Nashville and back in time for court?" She had a point.

Photography Post - Junior Cowboys

As they seriously watch the competition, these little guys were waiting their turn to enter the ring to rope a calf. All these contestants were competing in championship rounds, so this was not little league.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Security and a Mystery Box

One would think security for federal judges would be tight. But before 911, it was lax. In fact when I first came to work for the Judge, I was shocked at the lack of security, especially since she was not in a court house. When 911 occurred, it was Friday morning before we got a call at chambers from the US Marshals asking if we were OK. My answer was - and what if we were not?

This was the time that court and chambers staff went through security training learning how to deal with the phone, access, and the mail. As her assistant, I was on the front line. I considered appling for hardship pay, but thought better of it. We had cameras that surveyed the outside of the building. And, cards beside every phone that gave us special "safety" answers to give to certain questions from unknown persons that sounded suspect.

As for the mail, obviously if a package was delivered that had wires hanging out of it or the address was done with cut-out letters from a magazine, there was an issue. But there were other signs: no return address, too much postage, a postal mark from an unfamiliar place, sloppy wrapping, and a list of smells.  

One morning in the US mail, a small square package arrived. The box was wrapped in brown paper and addressed to the Judge, however it did not have a return address. The postal stamp was from a town in Switzerland. Since the Judge was out of town,  I called her to inquire as to whether or not she was expecting such a package. She was as puzzled as we were.

Next call was to the US Marshals. After giving them a detailed description and answering several questions, they told me to place the package in the workroom and make sure no one messed with it. It was late in the afternoon, and since there were no ticking noises coming from the box or smells, the Marshals said they would be down first thing the next morning to take care of it. I called the Judge and told her what the Marshals had said, to make sure she knew not to open the package.

The next morning I came in and found the box had been opened. On the table in the work room was the open box and the remnants of, what looked like, the brown paper that had once wrapped the box. I went into the Judge's office and asked her if I missed the Marshals' visit. She gave me a puzzled look, "No, why?" "Well, I see that the mystery box was opened." "Oh, I opened that. It was some face cream I ordered."

"So you recognized it after all?" "No. But I wanted to see what was in the box." "So you opened it?" I didn't know if I was shocked or furious. "Did you realize it could have been a bomb and possibly could have killed you?" "Oh, I was very careful. I took the box to the back corner of the parking lot, so if it did explode there would not be a mess.

When the Marshals came I just showed them the open box. When they asked if I had opened it, I told them I had not. I added neither had a law clerk. Then one looked at me, "Please don't tell me the Judge opened it?" "Oh, but she was careful. She went to the back corner of the parking lot, so if it did explode there would not be a mess." Both just looked at me and shook their heads.

"Unbelievable," said one the them. "Oh, it's believable. Do you want to speak with her?" They both walked down the hall to her office. The Judge was as sweet and friendly as always. Neither one of them had it in them to say anything to her about the box. After they left, the Judge walked up to my desk. "They are just the nicest young men. I feel secure knowing they are looking after our safety," she said. All I could think was, "despite what you do."

Photography Post - Junior Cowgirls and Cowboys

I was at a Junior Rodeo this past weekend and was amazed at how serious these youngsters are. These little guys (and girl) were waiting their turn.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Photography Post - Blue House

A blue house, almost lost in the brush in Fort Motte, South Carolina, a ghost town now, having two claims to fame: one being briefly considered for the capitol of the state of South Carolina and the other where Julia Peterkin, the 1928 Pulitzer Prize winning author of Scarlet Sister Mary, taught in the local school. She was married to William Peterkin and lived with him on his cotton plantaton, Lang Syne, near Fort Motte.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Fashion Takes Baggage

The Judge was this elegant, five foot, ten, thin, lady who looked like a runway model. And, she was always dressed impeccably. When I said I would go months without seeing the same outfit twice, I was not exaggerating. But, unlike many females in the legal  profession, she did not wear stuffy navy and black suits. The Judge was known for her colorful (yet very tasteful) knit suits. I only saw her in navy or black on somber occasions. Of course, she had lovely shoes to go with each outfit. And, don't think being tall, stopped her from wearing, heels - it didn't.

Now, traveling with all those clothes required some coordination. They didn't quite fit in one small roll aboard and a hang bag. Perhaps, that was another reason she insisted on driving to Richmond each month. The airlines' fifty pound restriction on each bag was very inconvenient. As the Judge used to say, "A lady needs to be prepared. You never know if the weather is going to change or what random occasion may arise." Winter was particularly burdensome given she would add extra coats. 

There was the large suitcase, the bag for shoes, the hang bag, the bag for the necessary toiletries, and the hair dryer (one of those full size over-the-head styles). The first time I questioned the large toiletry bag, she insisted that any lady would need everything in that bag. I was embarrassed to think of the few things I carried as "toiletries" - no wonder I was not in her league.  

The bellmen at the hotel in Richmond, where we always stayed, knew when she drove up to make sure they had a large empty cart to carry to her car. And, the hotel always assigned her the same room that had a bathroom with a larger than normal counter to accommodate her toiletries. 

The few times she did fly to Richmond, she would rely on one of the law clerks, who planned to drive, to carry any excess luggage she "happened" to need in their car. The Judge never tried to hide the amount of luggage she travelled with, in fact she would laugh about it with everyone else. She saw it as necessary. 

The most rattled I think I ever saw her was preparing to go to Egypt when she was told that she could only carry one bag of certain given dimensions, no exceptions. And, that the one bag had to be light enough for her to manage because there would be no porters or anyone available to assist the travelers. The sight of her sorting and choosing what she could take was something akin to watching a mother choose among her favorite children. She finally managed to get the bag packed, but it wasn't pretty. The rest of the afternoon, I think she spent questioning the "what ifs?" she would not be prepared for. 

Thinking back on it, she would have done well in the early 1900's when ladies were expected to travel with steamer trunks. Thankfully, that thought never came to her. No doubt, she would have loaded one in her car when she headed to court, just to be prepared.