Friday, March 27, 2009

Truant in the Trees & Treasures: Could This Be George Washington's Teacup?

Shackleton is being tutored three days a week now, far from the Last House, at a place where they have experts who will transform him into a reading boy. (Oh please, and fast! These experts don't come cheap).

Tutoring ended at noon today, a Friday. I was supposed to be at work but because WHusband is down Mexico way giving a paper at some academic conference, and because tutoring must not be missed, I took the day off to attend to Shackleton.

Remember, it was NOON on a FRIDAY when Shack was sprung from tutoring. His school is about an hour from the tutoring center, meaning he wouldn't get there til 1 PM. Schol ends at 3 PM. The sun was out. Our favorite park, Redrocks Park in South Burlington, Vermont -- where some of the last old-growth trees in Vermont grow on cliffs above Lake Champlain -- was just down the road. Should we drive an hour back to school or get a picnic lunch and go to Redrocks?

One guess...

In Other News

My day began today with WHusband summoning me to the phone with shampoo in my hair. His hair was practically on fire down in Mexico because we got a robot call from a credit card company yesterday saying "Call Immediately about Your Account." I passed on this info. in an email, but it turns out he couldn't call from Mexico - the number wouldn't work. "Fix this!" He was nearly frantic. I could not fix it for various reasons. (Like, I am not on this account). Long story short, after many early morning abortive attempts to resolve the mystery credit card issue ("call and enter this code," was all the instruction I had, and the code didn't work) we left late for school. I drove through the morning's gray rain in a BAD Mood. After dropping Shack with the experts, I was on my way to a computer somewhere to see if I could attack the credit card problem online when my attention was diverted by a sign "Williston Antique Center" and a flag that fluttered by the door, "Open". The sun came out at about that moment.

Brown transferware from the aesthetic period is a recent interest. Et, voila:

And haven't we been talking off and on about hat boxes?

And you know my unfortunate weakness for anything English and twee? I think these are from about 1948...

I felt much better after an hour in that shop. The jug may have to go to EBay to finance this little bit of therapy. However it works out, though, it was cheaper than a marriage counselor or a divorce lawyer.

I didn't get to my email til we got home around dinner time. It turned out there was no fraud. (He finally got through to them on his own). The robot phone call was the fraud. Take note. Whusband was apologetic in his last email.

One Last Thing - Could This Have Been George Washington's Tea Cup?

After tutoring yesterday (Shack doesn't go back to school on Thursdays cause tutoring starts late) we went to the household goods store at Recycle North. It's a great place where they sell donated goods for good purpose. I love it because you never know what you'll find and I have no guilt buying stuff there. Shack got a Soap Box Derby trophy and a change bank and I got a bunch of Made in USA midcentury pottery:

for about $6.

My great find yesterday, however, may be this little teacup. It was sitting with all the other 25 cent tea cups - but I could see right away it was old, old, old. Any experts out there who can weigh in with some info.? It is not so white as modern porcelain and it is rough to the teeth when you rub it. (I think this means something about how it was made, which is why I am willing to share that I have rubbed a junk-store teacup against my teeth.)

OK experts, do your stuff. I would be grateful for anything you can tell me about this object. We're talking, there's-a-prize-in-it-for-you grateful. Something kind of good, though not this teacup. I am taking it to Shelburne Museum next time I go...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Sun Coming Up in March

Just this morning, a few minutes ago...

And yesterday, about 7 AM - the sun was off to the right and a rainbow of sorts appeared in this cloud.

March has its consolations.

A Little Cecil Beaton Update:

For those of you who might be in London sometime in the next couple of weeks, the famous Chris Beetles Gallery is having a Cecil Beaton retrospective (in conjunction with Sothebys) for about a month starting on April 22. I take it that means a whole bunch of his photos are going on the block in May. For those of you who will be in London this spring with a wad of cash, take note.

Monday, March 16, 2009


A couple of months ago iTunes gave away a song called "Hometown Glory" by a teenaged British singer called Adele. I like to get things for free, so I downloaded it. Adele was described by the iTunes mavens then as the Next Big Thing over in the UK. I didn't hear much about her after her moment in the Free-Download-of-the-Week Sun.

Well, that has changed, hasn't it?

I was put in mind of Adele tonight in a roundabout way. My friend Nan, over at Letters from a Hill Farm, (see the sidebar), recently posted a Dusty Springfield video on her blog. You should go to there and check out a link to a WBUR in Boston interview about the wonders of Dusty and all Nan's other great recommendations - for all manner of things, from muffin recipes to murder mysteries. (I'll give you the video here too, in a minute).

After being reminded by Nan of how great Dusty Springfield was, I ran back to iTunes and bought a few DS classics. Listening to those put me in mind of Adele, who seems to be carrying the fire of White-English-Girl-Genuine Soul. "Hometown Glory" has become one of my favorite songs. I did a little reading about Adele just now and learned that she did, in fact, seem to be fizzling in the US until she appeared on the same Saturday Night Live show that featured Sarah Palin last year. There, she sang this song: (sorry, you have to cut and paste the link to Youtube as embedding has been disabled; it's worth it).

I can't believe this girl is 20 years old. What a gift! I hear she is just starting a concert tour in the U.S. this month and will sing with Etta James at the Hollywood Bowl in June at the end of it. I don't like crowds, and I don't like California, but I would like to see that. So, while Fergie may claim (in "Fergalicious,") that there "ain't no other lady can put it down like [her]" here are some others who don't need to brag in or about their songs...

Some classic Dusty to complete this evening's circle:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

New Old Stuff for Your Consideration and Hello Again Frank Osborn

What, with the threat that the credit card companies may jack interest rates through the roof at any moment and a sizable chunk of school tuition still hanging over our heads, your hostess has had to really discipline herself in matters of getting and spending. It’s Sunday, and there’s an auction going on just down the road as I type this, but I am here – not there. It isn’t easy, either. Fortunately, having attended the preview, I know there is nothing being sold today that I absolutely can’t live without – but who knows what bargains may be flying into the hands of others even as I write! Oh well. Something has to give. Enjoy those bargains, my fellow bidders. I am hors du combat.

To be perfectly honest, however, I have managed to forage a few, wee items during these last couple of weeks from an antique shop or two. Let’s start with the happy little item at the top of today's post. Here's another view:

The backstory: Shackleton and I stopped by an antique store in downtown Newport, Vermont yesterday while the Understudy was at her piano lesson. As previously noted, Shackleton is a fine and enthusiastic auction participant and likes to trawl antique shops as much as I do.

I told him upon entering this store, which is new to us though I have been by it a thousand times, that he could get “one little thing.” He tried out a few obscure campaign buttons on me, along the lines of “Clark for County Treasurer,” but eventually lost interest in those and started gravitating to toys (too expensive). Fortunately, he also has an unaccountable interest in boxes. In the end, I persuaded him that this great shabby-chic record holder (for 45s, remember them?) would be great. ($1.50). While rummaging through the back room of the shop, I found these 1950s felt souvenir banners from obscure Canadian recreation destinations ($2.50 apiece). Atmospheric, no? I tried to persuade Shack that these would be great for his room but he wasn’t convinced. I have “borrowed” his 45-holder for my room for the time being, with his agreement, and added it and the banners to this fussy little tableau.

(My grandfather built this beautiful desk and the picture is of my great Aunt Margaret – a career school teacher who noted that she was “once young and beautiful” when she gave this picture to my sister years ago).

I was worried that the Understudy would be put-out about our buying stuff when she wasn’t around to get something herself.

I found a basket full of the work of amateur photographers of yesteryear. I found this fetching 8 x10 of a collie puppy for her. I will pop it in a frame and put this in my room as well. (Sorry kids. You can really have it all when I am dead). Note to self, amateur photographers of yesteryear, along with our family snapshots from early to mid 20th century, are one of the coming hot areas for collecting.

Frank Osborn – Another Artist Rescued from Obscurity

Here’s one other item I picked up since we last spoke. It’s an airbrush print – I am still not exactly clear on the process by which such things are made – by an artist called Frank Osborn. I got this at M. Lewis antiques in Waterbury, Vermont about two weeks ago. The store assistant told me it had been his, but he had tired of it and decided to flog it in the shop. It is grim, yes, it is titled in pencil “Ruins” – but it has that je ne sais quoi that makes it art.

The oak frame and the glass are original. The print is signed and is dated 1930.
This purchase gave me some room to do my favorite thing, which is research stuff I have bought. Shackleton is getting some reading tutoring near Burlington these days and this has left me with a couple of hours on my own in what passes for a big city here in Vermont lately. I feel I put those hours to good use this week by getting myself into the library at the University of Vermont and checking out Mr. Osborn, who has an internet presence but one that is fairly scant. He was born in Altamont, New York in 1887. That’s one town over from where my Dad and stepmom live now so, already, that makes him interesting. He was “famous” or sort of, for a while largely because of a method for making airbrush prints. He married another artist called Alice Newton Osborn. She was wealthy and they became patrons of the arts. They lived in New York city and environs during the 1920s and 30s, but left a lot of art to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They wound up their lives in southern Vermont, in the postcard-pretty town of Manchester. He died there in 1948.

There are several mentions of Osborn and his works in contemporary art criticism in the New York Times. The Albright-Knox gallery in Buffalo has one of his airbrush prints and there’s a New England Dealer selling another (asking about $250). Also of interest was the record of a sale at Freeman’s auction house in 2000 when a bunch of his paintings were on the block. Only one went for anything like real money (a nude, in the manner of Matisse, for $1,900).

An Osborn Painting from Artnet - Good? I think so.

Unfortunately, “Osborn” is not in a league with the artists who once traveled in his sphere. E.g., Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp John Sloan, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso,Georgia O’Keefe, Childe Hassam etc. Really, no kidding.

The most fun thing I have learned about Osborn since I got started down this road is that he was a participant in every year between 1917 and 1933 (except 1930, the year he made my print, interestingly) in the annual exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York. This Society, based on the famous “Societe des Artistes Independants” in Paris (sorry, can't do those French accent marks), likewise had no juries, nor prizes and was famous for hanging art in alphabetical order. Anybody could join the society for $5 and pay $10 to get two pieces in the show. All those artists listed above were represented (along with a hundred others who are less well known). Its 1917 show, in which Osborn exhibited two pieces, is an art history milestone. Over the years, the quality of the material went downhill and it is interesting that Osborn stopped showing up after 1933 (when he exhibited three air brush prints). And, (will the wonders of the internet never cease?) we can all of us these days access the catalog for that 1917 show on Google. Osborn’s entries, something called “Picnic” and something else called “Portrait” unfortunately for me, didn’t get illustrated in the catalog but lots of other stuff did. It is amazing to see whose names and whose art is still famous 80 some years on and who has bubbled under utterly. Do I feel a Wikipedia article coming on? I think so.

One Last Thing Here’s an item the Understudy picked up at the MoMA design store in NYC a couple of weeks ago. I suppose it is a standard museum store item, but it’s still cool. The video was written, produced and directed by the Understudy. Like so many films, it drags a bit in the middle, but it has a surprise ending so hang on (keep your speakers on - and your expectations at an appropriate level...).

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sunday, Muddy Sunday

I think I'll get the lifejackets out of the barn. There's a puddle by the mailbox that is menacing. Like the tarn in "The Fall of the House of Usher". (I remember I had to look up "tarn" back in high school or college or whenever it was that we read that story. I am happy in the age of the internet that I can save you the trouble). The kids are pleased, however, with all puddles including the one that has spread across the front field and qualifies, temporarily, as a pond. (See the pictures). The Understudy came inside just now with one of Maisy's dogtags that has emerged from the melt. The snow is giving up its secrets, and its trash.

There is fresh snow in the forecast for tomorrow, however. March is like a war between the seasons here in Vermont. Today's battle went to Spring, as will the war, eventually. In the meantime, the trenches are full of mud.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Odds and Ends of the Season

Today's banner is a scan of a painting by Rockwell Kent. It was sent along to me by my nice New York artist friend (see my last post)after I expressed to her my admiration of Rockwell Kent.

By way of a quick follow up on my New York visit, The New York State Museum in Albany is having a fabulous show of Kent's works right now. Kent lived all over the place, including Vermont, but wound up in the Northern Adirondacks at a farm he called "Asgard", after the home of the Norse gods. His widow, apparently, left a treasure trove of his works to the modest state college in Plattsburgh. These have been shunted down to Albany and displayed beautifully at the State Museum (located in the semi infamous government complex known as Rockefeller Plaza). I know no one every goes to Albany unless they have to, but it is one of those places that can reward a person, (especially given that almost everyone must arrive with low expectations). The Museum is just great and - are you sitting down? It is FREE.

The snow here in Vermont is not looking nearly so fresh and bright today as the snow in this painting. Mud season has begun. Our weekly ski trip for tomorrow has been cancelled because it is supposed to rain. I am not so sure that April is the cruellest month... Don't forget to set your clocks ahead an hour tonight!

Finally, here's a great youtube video. I have seen it posted at a bunch of places around the internet (My friend Mrs. Uhdd has it on her beautiful "Up Hill Down Dale" blog - see the sidebar) but if you haven't seen it, you should check it out.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The People Ride Through a Hole in the Ground

Sing it, "New York, New York!"

Phew. Back in Vermont having done our part in NYC over the weekend to spend the country out of this miserable recesssion.

A few vignettes for your consideration:

1. We somehow managed to stumble into the "quiet car," on the Amtrak train from Albany to Penn Station. This is a a form of library on wheels, as the conductor reminded us, particularly us, seeing we were traveling with children, numerous times. The woman seated behind Shackleton and I promptly got out of her seat and moved down the car when she saw us settle in. Thankfully, I had a deck of cards. I whipped Shackleton at blackjack all the day down the Hudson until we got to Sing-Sing. He didn't want to miss the view of the prison (at Ossining, the institution of "up the river" fame).

2. NYC on Friday last was enjoying spring. It was about 56 degrees Farenheit when we arrived. We had left the land of mist and snow and felt like we were in the banana belt. Shirtless joggers, that sort of thing.

Arriving at our hotel via yellow cab, my precious packet of hotel info., tickets etc. were caught in an updraft such as you can only get when opening a cab door on a street with skyscrapers on three sides, and an ocean on the fourth, and a strange temperature gradient. All were carried away. You know that mad scramble moment of getting out of a cab, paying the fare, getting children to sidewalk, getting bags out of trunk without wasting one second of the cabbie's valuable time? (My inner mid-westerner asserts itself at these moments and I am worried about under/over tipping, appearing awkward and like a person who hardly ever rides in New York cabs). Add to that moment a requirement to chase bits of paper into traffic and Welcome to New York! I missed the fact that my return train ticket was one of the things that blew away. This ignorance, as you will learn later, was a kind of mercy.

3. Isn't it fun to go to a hotel? We were staying at the Embassy Suites at rates that I think of as a recession special ($140 a night with the tax!). They let us check in early and we felt like kings in our suite which looked out at NY Harbor. Crane your neck just a little and there was the Statue of Liberty.

The view from the temporary last house

4. Off to the Museum of Natural History uptown. This was my first time back on the NY Subways since M. Giuliani allegedly cleaned them up. Subway man behind bullet-proof glass was periodically intelligible as he leaned into a skinny, stuttering microphone to tell us to go to the machines to buy our tickets. He smiled kindly at Shackleton and did not seem irritated by our ignorance. The Understudy saw a rat run across the track while we waited for the uptown train. She had been saying in the not too distant past that she wanted a rat for a pet. I think we're down with that. Train showed little evidence of the hand of Giuliani.

5. Ahh, Central Park. I had forgotten that New York really has beauty and magic. If I were going to live there, it would have to be someplace around the Park - like, in one of those apartments Woody Allen used to shoot the interiors of Hannah and Her Sisters. I could be happy in that New York. New York as a voyage of self discovery... Now I know I am an uptown girl. Well, former girl - do they have uptown drudges?

6. The kids' favorite part of the museum was not the $20 a ticket planetarium show, or the reconstructed dinosaurs or anything featured in the "Night in the Museum". Predictably, as per our usual museum experience, the gift shop was the main source of fascination. In a "quiet car" karmic moment, there was a little kid seated behind me in my $20 seat (they quake during the cosmic collisions, by the way) who began screaming, "Let's get out of here!" as soon as the dome dimmed... An usher eventually arrived with a flashlight to lead him and his mom away, thank You Know Who.

7. Lovely friend from high school with whom I recently reconnected via facebook got me on my cell phone and hiked some huge distance with her own two-year-old in a stroller to meet us all at the museum. I had given her carte blanche to avoid us; she is a painter who has three little kids and who also had at least three relatives visiting last weekend, but she came anyway. Hello and thanks again T! I loved it that my friend, the Manhattan artist who has run a couple NYC marathons, had given her baby a Homer-Simpson style donut with white icing and sprinkles (not eaten but held with interest) and that she was excited about two months of free HBO. Maybe people in Manhattan aren't so different from you and me...

My friend and her baby showing Shackleton and the Understudy a beauty spot with a view of New York.

8. Dinner at Pizzeria Uno across from the museum, with the rain falling on the big windows and the headlights from the taxis lighting the dusk with the dark trunks of Central Park's trees across the avenue. We were served by a Jamaican waitress called "Pauline." She wrote her name on a napkin for us and put it in the center of the table to get things going. Pauline sounded like she had stepped into Uno from Jamaican Central Casting. With her accent, even "There are no free refills" sounded like a song.

9. Highlights of the next day included FAO Schwarz, the fabulous toy store that sits at the knee of that Grande Dame, the Plaza Hotel.

The people at FAO were really nice, like, Wisconsin nice. Wow. A clerk ran around with the Understudy and her friend giving them ideas for good digital photos. Here's the trio of kids and the nice clerk. The guy watching me snap the picture looks slightly put off by us, doesn't he?

10. Other events of the day included the MOMA Design Store. I had learned my lesson and skipped the museum and went straight to the store. The kids liked it almost as much as FAO. Then lunch and the matinee of Mary Poppins. We were in the nosebleed seats but found much to admire, if not to love, about the play.

11. The next day was Sunday and our last day in New York. The hotel was next door to Ground Zero, so we walked over to pay our respects.

Ground Zero from the porch of St. Paul's Church

12. My big plan for Sunday morning was to visit the Tenement Museum. It is, as the name implies, a museum in a preserved lower-East-Side tenement building. I had read great things about it and decided we would walk around in Chinatown (which has gobbled up most of that section of Manhattan) by way of a cultural experience. By then, however, the wind was blowing very cold. At one point, a small Chinese woman stepped toward me with a paper in her hand and made some request, in Chinese. I don't really look Chinese, so this was curious behavior. Vermont children were complaining of the cold and slightly freaked out by the downtown scene so I finally got a cab. Unfortunately, the cab driver did not know where the museum was and, literally, couldn't find it with a map. We abandoned ship when I determined we were within a block or two (on Delancey Street - as I write I hear Blossom Dearie singing "I'll Take Manhattan": "It's very fancy, on old Delancey Street ya know." That was irony and poetry. It was not ever, and is not now, very fancy on old Delancey Street.)

We found the place just in time to take a tour of two tenements lived in by garment industry workers. I learned a lot - mostly that being a garment worker in NYC around the turn of the century and living in a tenement really sucked. Appalling, unbelievable, third world conditions prevailed. We all know this, of course, but seeing the rooms where these people sewed and lived, if you can call it that, was eye opening. My own grandfather was born to a German immigrant in 1898. My great grandfather, a vain martinet, accordng to family legend, at least had the sense to get the hell out of New York City after he got off the boat. He managed to procure a farm upstate and to marry an American woman. While I am sure that farm life in the Catskills presented its own difficulties, at least the risk of TB was greatly lessened and my grandfather and his brothers and sisters didn't have to share the backyard privy with 20 other families.

13. Back to the hotel and the train station. As we round up the bags, I see I have no train ticket. It must have blown away on Friday! Well, ignorance was bliss. Surely Amtrak will replace it? One need only wait in a long line to get the answer. The answer is, "No." A man with a defeated air and long fingers looked at his computer screen in the dull fluorescent light of Penn Station and informed me, in rather an embarrassed fashion, that "Amtrak policy is to make you buy another ticket if you lose one." Bastards.

14. The train was packed and I irked a guy who was getting ready to sit down by telling him I was planning on sitting in that seat. Sorry! But two days in New York had made me pushy. Also, I was trying to stay near the Understudy, since we couldn't sit together. Good thing too, as a strange man approached her seat a few minutes into the journey and tried to say her seat was his. The woman sitting next to the Understudy said he hadn't been sitting there before we boarded so I told her to stay put. This kind of thing doesn't happen in Vermont...

Glad to have gone. Glad to be home.