Tuesday, May 31, 2011

the abandoned chairs of Hoover Street

... and yes: the series resumes, 3,000 miles away from New Jersey!   We aren't even sure whether these chairs belong to us or not - I increasingly think that they probably did - but out on the street they went ... One of them was appropriated by a neighbor.   And that discreetly, but definitely placed piece of orange peel?   That wasn't even posed, but left by a squirrel,  I suspect.   My definitive Oh Yes! I live in California now! moment today?   Picking an orange from the tree and eating it on the spot.

Monday, May 30, 2011

circles in the sky

Home is - well, not where the cats are, yet, but where our orange tree grows.   And beyond that ... a circle and cross in the sky.   A little airplane has been drawing this symbol in the sky all day - most mysterious.   At least - probably not mysterious to some, because a quick google reveals that these are rather striking ads for the new X men movie.   Since I didn't even know there was an original X men movie, let alone a new one, this was rather lost on me: I'm disappointed to find that it wasn't some strange kabbalistic communication.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I do resent these buildings that have sprung up directly in line from my study window.   Admittedly I've exaggerated somewhat by standing at the edge of our yard and by using a telephoto lens.   But.   Still.   And of course, the view is still spectacular - this garage and workshop don't block out any of the mountains (or I would be inconsolable and  hysterical - I thrive on views) - and I can see other large chunks of mountain and sky if I turn my head to the right a little.   And what's blocked is, in truth, a view of the little occasional train that chugs its way through Eldorado, and the sprawl of Eldorado itself.   And they will look better when they're covered with the obligatory faux adobe.   And our neighbor, whose house is out of sight to the left of this image, is much closer to them, and would surely find them far more of an obstruction if he actually lived there, and didn't just use it for storing furniture and as a kind of man-hut and occasional spare bedroom for his guests.

But.   Still.   Given all the planning regulations and ordinances around here, you'd have thought that the local residents' association planning committee would issue notices of forthcoming building work to residents who might have an interest in the matter, and might want to make a protest ...

Saturday, May 28, 2011


There has been a strange outbreak of bright green plastic Adirondack chairs in Eldorado - at least, on Monte Alto, one of our favorite evening walk routes, and hence also a constant site for spotting the New - from houses for sale, through people who're clearly advertising that they've gone away for Memorial Day weekend through leaving a car conspicuously Out - where no car normally sits - and taking their trash can down the driveway in anticipation of Monday morning, to - well, bright green chairs.   I suspected that there had to be some common source in town, and I happened upon it today - Ace Hardware.   I managed to resist the lure.

Friday, May 27, 2011


or: how to co-erce one's iPhone into making a peculiarly golden sunset look like an Edward Steichen picture ... so good just to be out in the evening light, with LucyFur running around making menacing chattering sounds at the towhees.   Still at the post-moving stage when it's hard to exert very much effort to do anything, other than shudder at the thought of greeting the furniture and starting to unpack it all next week.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


This looks like one of those contest-photographs: identify the common household object ... Only in fact it's an uncommon household object, the product of great ingenuity ... Alice has a probably totally unfounded confidence in my ability to solve practical problems, based, she often claims, on the fact that I'm an Engineer's Daughter.   This didn't ensure that I could quite re-fix a wheel that today rather unpredictably fell off a cat carrier, but I was undoubtedly proud of myself when it came to this contraption.

I was hammering in a nail on the side of a cabinet to the left of the sink, dropped the nail, and it fell down the waste disposal unit.   What to do?   Aha!   A magnet!   So I took a magnet from off the fridge, and taped it securely to the end of the wand of a kitty toy, and dangled it down the drain and - hey presto!  The nail!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Buffalo Bill's Indians

have, quite wonderfully, appeared at La Tienda, at the entrance to Eldorado.   These are some seventy cut-out and painted plywood figures by the Seattle artist Thom Ross, who came upon a 1902 photo of Buffalo Bill's Wild West at Ocean Beach, San Francisco, in 2006 - and decided to recreate the scene.   All 108 figures from the photo were constructed and colored, life-size, and arranged in an installation at, indeed, Ocean Beach in 2008.   Since then, they've been in storage in Seattle - until the Indians were let out in order to appear in Eldorado, no longer posed as if for a publicity photo, but riding through the sage bush.   And the cowboys have been entirely removed, leaving the Indians to take over the land.   They are hardly Pueblo Indians, but even if anachronistic, their effect is pretty striking.   And it's odd, too, to feel as though one's own research has somehow been brought to life, albeit in post-modern form.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

home is where ...

... a sentimental picture indeed; an Emmett paw - but we are so glad to be back in Santa Fe, after another day's tough driving, this time with very strong winds - and delighted and most relieved to have missed the tornados crossing I-40 where we were this morning, crossing I-44 where we were yesterday, and arriving in Oklahoma City, where we spent the night, and which we left as early as possible this morning.   The people at the next table at breakfast were all looking at their iPads and staring at the large red target area that suggested that the city would be under a tornado watch by the late afternoon, and wondering how they were ever going to fly out at 5 p.m.   I'm sure they didn't.

Normal correspondence, etc., will be resumed tomorrow.   Time to sleep after all that driving.

Monday, May 23, 2011

below Joplin

or, to be more precise, at the Oklahoma Welcome Center (seen above with the windshield wipers working, and below, without), which, today, was largely welcome as a place in which to pull over in the torrential storm, which seemed to go on for ever, with lightning striping both  horizontally and vertically across the sky.   We'd just driven past Joplin, some twenty miles or so up the road.   It's not that I didn't take photographs, but they all seem to be of ravaged trees - so far as one could see anything through the driving rain - what they don't show is the sheer surreal effect of how a tornado hits a neighborhood and landscape.   One's just driving through normal, soggy, undamaged countryside - and then, suddenly, debris everywhere; road signs swivelled upside down; poles snapped off; houses with their roofs and sides shorn off, and other heaps of wood that must have been houses at that time yesterday.   From the Interstate, one couldn't see the part of the town itself that had been badly hit (or maybe one could, but it just wasn't there any more) - the strange part was the way in which the motels and the fast food restaurants on the outskirts seemed to be functioning just as usual.   The tornado had just made a clear path of destruction, as though a half-mile wide bulldozer had passed through.   Very shaking.

So for the rest of the day, we kept a close eye on the radar, courtesy of our iPhones, which is why we spent a long time in the Welcome Center, and why we're now only in Oklahoma City, and not in Amarillo, as planned.   

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Here we are, safe in a bed and breakfast inn in Springfield MO, with a tornado watch to the south of us; a tornado having hit Joplin, just down the interstate that we'd been driving down; rain pouring down, and the sun lighting up again on the horizon.   There are scary pictures on the television - the roof has come off the hospital in Joplin - and there are reports of tennis ball size hail (Gary, the very helpful owner of the Walnut Street Inn, helped us move the car under cover ... ).   We're very lucky our timing wasn't different ... earlier, we hit one bad ten-minute storm, but that was it, though we were following the storm maps on our iPhones down I-44 all the way to Springfield.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

archive fever

Ah, I have just spent half an hour extolling archival research, only for the computer to swallow my post - suffice it to say that we spent the day in the by-now run-down town of Greensburg, IN, home of Alice's maternal grandparents before they moved west to Colorado Springs.   Highlight, if one can call it that, was finding that her grandmother's family had all been wiped out by TB in 1891-93, leaving her an orphan at age 10 (she'd been living in what must have been an ill-advisedly damp house above a brook, too, with the cemetery at the end of the road).   But of course, some of the best things are the irrelevant ones, like, here, an advertisement for the visit of a couple of short people to Minear's Department Store in 1905 - Giant Bargains at Midget Prices.

Friday, May 20, 2011

bedford springs

Somewhere dispersed among the various boxes of clothing that I took to Goodwill were four or five swimming costumes, which all looked tired/dated/small - but I hadn't expected to find myself missing them quite so quickly.   We stayed last night at the Bedford Springs hotel, just south of Bedford on the Penn Turnpike - I used to pass this on one of my short cuts down to US50, and be fascinated by this apparently ruined, huge, lat C19th spa resort, all peeling white railings and balconies and little turrets.   In fact, although I didn't know it, it was already in restoration, and finished a year or so ago, it was the perfect place for a celebratory first night away from NJ (which isn't to say that we weren't on tenterhooks  until 3.38 this afternoon, when we had the phone call to say that all went smoothly with the closing).

This pool - opened in 1905 - was one of America's first indoor pools, apparently.   The Springs were originally a Native American site, but were colonised and used for their restorative powers from the late 1800s.   It was an immensely fashionable place in the 19th and early C20th - and for James Buchanan was the summer White House during his presidency - indeed, apparently he received the first transatlantic cable in the lobby of the Bedford Springs in 1858.   Transatlantic history!   It was all as tranquil and restorative - especially our early morning walk - complete with a groundhog - in the slightly steamy, misty, chlorophyll-full woody air outside.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


... doing our final walk-through of the house and the basement, to see what the movers might possibly have left behind, the answer was - one book.   And out of all the books that might appositely have fallen off the shelves in 113 ("where did you get all these books"? "have you read them all?"), what would be better than David Eng and David Kazanjian's edited volume Loss: The Politics of Mourning? (duly rescued, and squeezed somewhere into the bulging interstices of the car).

For even if I'm excited to be heading west, there is something sad about leaving - about saying goodbyes this morning in Murray Hall; about leaving the house (in a hurry, and with a cleaner coming in through the front door), and even about pulling out of Highland Park for the last time - it only really hit home that it was the last time as we drove away (I have an almost bottomless capacity for denial and repression when it comes to uneasy and unsettling feelings, but the bottom was pretty much scraped up today).

That being said - our fingers are firmly crossed that at 3 p.m. tomorrow, give or take, we'll hear that we don't have to worry about the creaking, leaking problems of 113 again...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


It rained.   And rained some more.  And poured.   And yes, that is a workman smoking inside the truck.   I will muse at leisurely length on the process tomorrow, but right now we're heading off in search of a drink ...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Final Highland Park Abandoned Chair

... and it's only fitting that it should be one of our own.   It's a much travelled chair: it was my office chair on Oxford.   But I can't keep carrying it around for more or less sentimental reasons; I have no desire to keep it in storage with the 72,398 boxes of books that would keep it company; it seems to have a broken spoke; and it has some fresh - well, what I think must be squirrel shit on the back of it.   That did it.   It was a bad say with the squirrels.   Early this morning, one was scurrying over the garage door - and caugt his/her front claw in the spring.   It took a long time before it managed to extricate it.   And where was it going?   Somewhere at the back of the garage is an excited squeaking from a nest of tiny squirrelies!   Probably inside an a/c unit that's resting there.   I truly don't want to think about it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

packing up

well, day one.   Two cheerful packers.   Horrendous humidity.   Threat of intense rain.   Already finding that unpredictable things have been packed.   Trying to live out of stray bags in one room.   Quick trip to office for working internet ... another bulletin tomorrow ...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

a little surprise ...

... which of course it won't be, now, since the next occupant of my Union Street room is a FB friend, and I'll remove it, if he asks nicely, in the next couple of days ... But I can't reach it; it's on the top shelf of a closet, and is weirdly heavy.   Or perhaps not weirdly - I guess all bleached, painted, horned cattle skulls are heavy.   This was possibly my oddest ever eBay purchase, and all I can offer by way of self-defence was that I was at a pretty depressed moment of my life.   Still ...

But I do like the idea of having something unusual to find in one's new room ... when I moved in here, it was to a closet full of old tea cups and saucers, and a duvet, and some saucepans - not a selection of items suggesting that one could live in here - more like the remnants of a garage sale.   

I must make a dash for it with the remainder of my things: it looks like it might temporarily have stopped raining...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

give stuff away free (this time) day ...

If you think that you've seen certain items here before ... well, yes, almost two years ago, we had our infamous yard sale in LA, when no one bought anything.   So this time round, and it being National Give Your Stuff Away for Free Day, we did much better.   A slow cooker disappeared almost before it hit the sidewalk.   So did thermoses, mugs, glasses, saucepans - mysteriously, pretty much all that we're left with are three good-quality photo printers / combined printer and fax machines.   But they make good tax deductible items, so we are left smiling.  At least we don't have to ship stuff back 3,000 miles ... And just like LA, it turned into a Social Highlight of the Season.

And now: to finish clearing my office.   Impossible to believe that it could ever have held so much Stuff.

Friday, May 13, 2011

NJ (turnpike)

Ah, I do love my colleagues here - my colleagues who were at my farewell gathering yesterday evening, and who furnished me with the perfect bon voyage gift - a most tasteful NJ tee-shirt and magnet-with-thermometer, which will record LA temperatures against a NJ background (today, I ordered a whole lot of bright blue steel bookcases for my new office, with the sense, among other things, that I can stick such carefully crafted magnets on them).

And these goodies (plus a NJ pin) came from a Turnpike rest stop!   Better yet! for someone whose favorite Rutgers undergrad course was the one that I taught with a perfect subtitle: "American Road Cultures - counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike".   I'll wear the shirt when we drive out of town next Thursday (don't know yet about a photo of that one ...).   The Simon and Garfunkel song seemed so very full of the whole mystical promise of America when I first heard heard/knew it in England - I'm sure that it's fuelled a great deal of my restless travelling at some subliminal level.   No hitch-hiking from Saginaw - though in the early 80s there was a Greyhound bus ride from Fredericktown, New Brunswick, down to Key West, running scared from a (by the time I got on the bus, ex)- quasi girlfriend who was having a bad mental health time, and hid under the table, because she thought that I was Terry Eagleton.   Yes, an odd point on which to be confused.   I don't think I told that story in the class ... but a good number of stories got told yesterday evening, including perhaps my favorite ever tale, of the day I looked out of a classroom window during the first orals exam in which I'd been involved, and saw a possum climbing a tree.   I'd never seen a possum before, and was frozen in mid-sentence at this weird creature.

It's very hard leaving friends when they're part of one's daily institutional as well as social life: I'll miss them more than I'm currently letting myself think about.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

truck wreck

I think this can go.   I think this will have to go.   I always want to hold onto the gifts that I've received from students, particularly groups of students - but this smashed on the journey over from Oxford, and has been sitting wrecked in a drawer ever since.   No way am I - is anyone - ever going to mend this crumbling soft clay Ecuadorian truck full of people and pigs and bananas and a broom and various buckets and pillows and cases - and at this point it seems like Oh No! this is some dreadful metaphor for moving.   But I can't decide whether that makes it more or less imperative that I should bin it ...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

things I'll miss about Highland Park

I've found something!   Roberts Flowers! where I went to get some welcome home - home? - flowers for Alice this evening.   Maybe I will even buy myself one of these lichen-covered balls before we leave: I've long coveted them ... though part of me, the hysterical part of me that seems to be living in the midst of a second-hand book-store gone wild, giving away sofas, shudders at the thought of one more possession of any kind.

Still without internet at home, I'm taking temporary refuge in my Rutgers room, with chirping squirrels in the walls - very cute and mellifluous - and a big frat party down the street, which appears to be chanting in a totally unmellifluous fashion.   Give me an evening with furry rodents, any day, over them.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


for thoughts, remembrance, etc - I cast around for something that would work as an equivalent to all the desperately proleptically nostalgic pictures that I too in Los Angeles before we moved away, thinking that we'd never return, except, maybe, for a semester on leave ... I was so devastated to pack up from there, and I keep waiting for angst to kick in here, but it doesn't ...  All the same, I shall miss sitting outside on the deck, especially in the fall - it's such a green leafy oasis.   And these pansies have lasted all through the winter, and are happily flowering (I kept them out of the frost in the porch).   But they are suffering Depredations - squirrels are already burrowing in them.

The squirrel activity is nothing, however, compared with that going on behind the walls of my office (at least, I think it's squirrels, but it's so noisy it could be raccoons, or five year old humans) - making sounds that range from beaver-gnawing, to furniture rearrangement, to trilling little whiffles of, I hope, affection.   I keep waiting for the plaster board to give way and one of them to stick a little grey head through ...

Still minus the internet at home, and I have no idea how to be successful at straightening that one out - I tried every re-booting trick I knew, last night ...


[reposted from Facebook, yesterday evening ...] 

This may be in lieu of today's blog entry. It is a smoke detector. It goes off - since the visit of the Occupancy Certificate Inspector (who did, indeed, fail the house) every 90 seconds. In trying to set it right, change battery, etc, had to turn power off at mains. Endeavors unsuccessful - and in process have disempowered Internet. First electrician who can be persuaded to turn out arrives at 9 am. I may have been driven just about crazy by beeping by then.

And so ... the electrician arrived at 10.30 a.m., and shrewdly recognized that by that stage, I was in need of a big hug.   Beep.   In fact - I timed it with my iPhone timer - it was going off every 61 seconds.   Beep.   I am uncertain how I slept - what I do know is that it had rendered me savagely obsessed with its beep by 10.25 a.m.

I asked Helpful Electrician - Kevin - what I should do should this happen in future (which it shouldn't, since (a) he's taken everything down for now and (b) will replace with the kind that should have been there in the first place on Friday and (c) we'll be out of the place ...), and he suggested finding a bar, with a lengthy cocktails list and a Yankees game playing.   That sounds about right.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A concrete achievement

And for tomorrow's houseselling hurdle: the Certificate of Occupancy inspection by the Borough of Highland Park, where they make sure that all the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and kitchen fire extinguishers are present and working; that there are no loose wires hanging anywhere; that the sidewalk is smooth and ... ah, but ours had a round hole in it.   Someone had, at some time, stolen the old metal cap that used to lead to some pipe or another, and left a four inch in diameter cavity.   So I am congratulating myself for mixing cement and filling it up and smoothing it level ...

... Quite how this house passed any kind of inspection when I bought it, I can't imagine.   It had just about every kind of electrical danger imaginable, let alone a dubiously elevated piece of wood sticking up from the sidewalk, in relation to which Highland Park was keen, a little bit later on, to stick an order on me for being in possession of an Obstruction.   I am trying to leave nothing to risk tomorrow - even so, I'm quite sure that they'll find something - a stray springtime petal, maybe - that's out of place, that will need removing, and then the property re-inspecting - and another fee paid.   Cynical?   In relation to HP, moi?

Saturday, May 7, 2011


I want to make amends for the glassy-eyed elephant by showing the expression on the eye of a very live sheep, one of the occupants of the Farm Museum in Cooperstown, where I dodged in and out of the heavy showers among the old farm buildings in this reconstructed village.   One of the sheep had just had two little lambs yesterday, who were in the old hay barn - it was all idyllically bucolic, including the old rare breed of turkey, and the working horse rolling in the muddy field - I'm sure the more idyllic because it was pre-memorial day and hence almost devoid of families.

It wasn't, however, devoid of farmers, real or pretend (there were a good number of dressed-up Interpreters around), and I had a particularly fascinating conversation about rural poverty.   Indeed, this gentleman told me, those who haven't got an old family farm have left the countryside for jobs elsewhere if they possibly can.   But over 50% of the newcomers in that county are Amish (and this is only four hours from NYC ...) - mostly from Ohio, not PA - and they are doing well enough using old methods.   Farmers have been going badly into debt buying, and repairing, machinery - a blown tire on a tractor can cost a month's profits - but a couple of horses and a hand plough involve pretty low overheads.   Throw in the Fenimore Museum, and a beautiful cross country drive (set the GPS for Shortest Route, and No Interstates is always fun - a huge NYC reservoir; miles and miles of the Poconos), and it was a curiously educational day.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cooperstown cotillion

I'm doing some research by proxy on my way back to NJ, staying in Cooperstown, where Alice's mother was at school in the late 1920s.   The Knox School occupied the Otesaga hotel during the winter months, and then it turned back to being a hotel for the summer season.   It's in a spectacularly beautiful position, overlooking the lake (leaves just coming out look curiously autumnal in the evening sun), and is grandiose, with sweeping steps and an over-the-top elegant terrace.

And it was full of dressed up Young People, which meant that I had no difficulty whatsoever strolling in with a camera and, indeed, shooting away as though I were from the local paper.   Back at the somewhat more modest (thank goodness) hotel in which I'm staying, I asked what was going on, and th innkeeper said it was the Cotillion.   This, I thought, was a southern thing (obviously I'm quite wrong there) - whatever it is, it seemed to be something that I would deeply have loathed at the age of these girls / boys (who mostly seemed to be about 15 or 16).   Perhaps someone can fill me in on the social implications of this excruciating looking event?   It wasn't all that hard, though, to imagine that one could have had good parties there in 1928 or 1929, though - and imagine having this stunning lake as your View from School - other scenery would have a hard time in living up to it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

bad taste

Supposedly, this is the head of an elephant shot by George Eastman when on safari in Africa in the later 1920s - it looks oddly artificial to me, and I don't just mean that glassy baleful eye ... I know the tusks of the beast were specially made (the original elephant only had one, and that particular piece of ivory is on display beneath this huge mounted object).   It looms over the house's central room.

It's not the only trophy in the house - far from it.   There are severed hooves, and - I regret to say - big cat skins.   GE enjoyed his shooting - and I don't just mean with still and movie cameras.   He seems to have been a paradox of a man - a huge philanthropist (he left his estate - what he hadn't already given away - to the University of Rochester.   He didn't have children: indeed, as the wording of a biographical display puts it, "because he was carefully diffident about his personal life, the question of his bachelorhood remains a mystery").  He put a huge amount of money into supplying dental clinics for the poor - something that Mussolini greatly admired him for, giving him a signed photograph.   He was very liberal on race issues, employing an African-American to run his vacation retreat-estate in NC.

And yet, he had horrible taste.   He was, I guess, a businessman par excellence; someone who wanted to make photo-taking easy and commercial, too - not consolidate its tentative position as an art form.   He read, to be sure (indeed, he had so many books he had his own librarian, and he made notes about what he read on the file cards) - lots of Dickens; a complete bound Mrs Humphry Ward.   He had beautiful gardens (the sun was out today, so one could really appreciate the magnolia and the grape hyacinths).  But - oh, the furniture; the brass statuettes; the lumpy sofas - it was the epitome of the worst that good money could buy in the early years of this century.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Oh, I do enjoy research so much - the real, old-fashioned kind where you sit in a library all day long, and order up hard-to-find books and pamphlets, and then have to read the rarest of them, in all their yellowing glory, on dark purple plush blocks, as though one were about to read from them in a very elaborate church service.   And - maybe because it's a photographic history library - they are quite happy with one taking photographs, so I've amassed a whole little cache of pictures of very late C19th /early C20th equipment for flash photography.

What's more, I've found that the regular story - first there was magnesium, and then - flash! - in 1887 there was the so-much-better blitzpulver - a compound involving magnesium and potssium chlorate and antimony sulphide - isn't as simple as all that.   People carried on using powdered magnesium - or strips of magnesium ribbon - well into the C20th, and there were little instruments, rather like scent bottles, that one used to ignite the magnesium powder.   And there were things called flash-candles.   And Kodak (of course, this being the Eastman House archive, there's an awful lot of Kodak material) made things called Flash Sheets that one could attach to long sticks, and light.   And things called sachets ├ęclairs - like tea bags - that one could light using a long fuse.   Blitzpulver itself came in its component parts, ready to be mixed (don't use metal! use a stiff feather!), or in cylindrical lozenges (be careful not to cause them undue friction...).

But ... I find all this completely compelling: my inner geek, my I'm-an-engineer's-daughter-and-I-want-to-know-how-things-work side kicks in.   But it's hard to imagine that everyone will find this the riveting reading that I do - it's hard to find what I'd demand from my students, an argument in this.   Nonetheless, 
at least I get a huge amount of pleasure from this arcane trivia before I decide what I need to do with it ...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

table top photography

I've been reading old photography manuals from the 1920s-50s today in the Eastman House (a magnificent mansion, with beautiful formal gardens - so far as I can make them out through the driving rain), looking, above all, at the ways in which flash photography was presented to amateur photographers as even easier than daylight photography - and an ideal, year-round, indoor hobby.   Indeed, it was very striking how, as a hobby, it could be linked to other forms of hobbyism - taking pictures of models that one might have made, or of stamp collections, or of flowers that one had grown.   At its most horrific, “The mind that is capable of original thought will find that with a bag of sand, a piece of mirror for water effects, a few dolls and dolls’ clothes, some cotton wool and a supply of various coloured plasticine, he or she can turn their abilities to very good use…”   There's something resolutely suburban about the pursuit of amateur flash photography in the 1920s...

... but how could I resist "table top photography" - a whole category, apparently - back at the B&B?   I didn't, yesterday, even get round to cataloguing the dressing room ... here is a mysterious oily bottle (indeed, I can see in the picture that it helpfully is labelled "bath oil") filled with what appears to be dried grasses and twigs - with a mock-silver photo frame behind.   Bath oil would be even more understandable if there were a Bath - indeed, a bath would have been very welcome when I came back this evening, chilled through from the thick grey rain.

Monday, May 2, 2011

bed and breakfasts

In many ways, I'm staying in a very typical Bed and Breakfast - an American B&B, that is - not that English variety (I imagine they still exist) with pink Viyella sheets and gurgling radiators and crocheted toilet paper roll holders, and very thick tea for breakfast.   No, US ones are much more upmarket, and tend to be more expensive than chain hotels - but are at best much more comfortable, certainly more welcoming, and can give you a breakfast that does for lunch as well.

I'm here in Rochester to do some archival work in the Eastman House archives - in other words, I'm in Kodak History land, and this B&B was built in 1896 for someone who worked with Eastman.   There's not a hint of photo history in the room, though.   Its typicality lies in a bed with embroidered bedspread, brocade comforter, and three brocade pillows; steps to get up to said bed; couch with four tasselled and frilly pillows, and a throw; four vintage suitcases (that's a good and fairly unusual touch, like the four framed late C19th advertisements and the framed front page from a copy of The Lady's Home Journal); three framed flower prints; one large print of a watercolor of an improbably lush English cottage garden, and cottage; one smallish framed print of Joshua Reynolds's The Age of Innocence; one very nasty, large reproduction painting of some magnolia blossoms; five framed family photographs on different surfaces; three candles in glass containers; one Portmeirion plate and one Portmeirion bowl; one green vase with artificial roses; six diverse brass lamps; two large and one small mirrors; one comfortable armchair and footstool with embroidered pillow and white throw; one very uncomfortable brocade armchair; a writing desk; a desk chair - alarmingly fragile - with fringed cushion; a chest of drawers; a folding thingy to put a suitcase on; a cardboard box containing an Emergency Escape Ladder (I imagine the house would have burnt down by the time that one sorted out how to work this) - and this bizarre animal.   What is it?

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Whatever I had been going to write about - which was more musings about packing and leaving, and how different it feels from packing up in Los Angeles two years ago, when all I could do was to record and store in proleptic nostalgia - has been somewhat swept away by learning that Osama Bin Laden has been killed (with Obama about to speak on TV).   Whereas I'm sure this is what "we" all wanted (and please can we bring a whole lot of troops home now?  but that's probably a false hope ...) it also makes me extremely apprehensive about what Does happen next.   It's not a little chilling to have people - even if in small numbers - already outside the White House chanting USA USA.   So - rather than writing an entry that's like a set of tweets - I'll leave this flower standing curved, almost, in the shape of a questionmark.