Monday, October 28, 2013

Riding the train called The City of New Orleans - part 1

In 1972 I bought Arlo Guthrie's 33 long playing album "Hobo's Lullaby."  My favorite song in the album was called "The City of New Orleans" and I played it on my stereo constantly until I knew all the lyrics.  Several years ago our daughter gave us Hobo's Lullaby on a CD so we could play it in our car.

The song had been written by Steve Gooman and recorded by him in 1971.  Steve wrote the song in 1970 aboard the Illinois Central train when he and his wife Nancy were going to visit his wife's grandmother.  Steve described what he saw while on the train and when he came back home he found out that the train was scheduled to be removed from service because of lack of passengers.  He released the song to help save the train.  At about that time Steve Goodman was diagnosed with leukemia so he approached Arlo Guthrie at the Quiet Knight, a bar in Chicago, and asked Guthrie to include the song in his repertoire.  Goodman was hoping that the song would become successful and provide money for his wife after his death - he died in 1984.  The song became a hit for Guthrie but also for Willie Nelson who recorded it in 1984.  Willie's version reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Single.  Below is Steve Goodman singing his version of The City of New Orleans.

A couple of years ago I bought a book for my grandsons called "The Train they Call the City of New Orleans" showing Goodman's lyrics and illustrated by Michael McCurdy.  My grandsons love trains and I thought they would like this book - they did.  The book contains all the lyrics and shows the stops on the train journey to New Orleans.  Click on collages twice to enlarge and see better.

Here is the famous refrain -

Good Morning America, how are you?
Say don't you know me, I'm your native son
I'm the train they call the City of New Orleans
I'll be gone five-hundred miles when the day is done

Fast forward about 4 months ago.  Our daughter who moved from Long Beach, California, and now lives in Memphis, Tennessee, asked us to come for a visit in the fall.  While I was looking at the calendar and making plans for the trip to Memphis I heard a song in the background and it said "Memphis, Tennessee" - it was The City of New Orleans song.

I stopped and thought "can this train still be running?" and I quickly checked with Amtrak.  It is.  It seems that the train called City of New Orleans, which had been introduced in 1947 by the Illinois Central Railway, was now part of the Amtrak passenger system and still doing the Chicago to New Orleans run.  Then I checked the timetable from Memphis to New Orleans and back, the price, rooms in New Orleans and also found a discounted cruise from New Orleans.  It all worked out and this is how we came to board the City of New Orleans from the Memphis Central Station on October 3rd, 2013.  We arrived at around 6:00 am for our 6:50 am departure.  I did not take pictures outside the station as it was still dark but below are some old postcards showing the station in 1910 and later, as it is still now, the vintage Illinois Central City of New Orleans train and the other side of the station, near the single track.

There were less than a dozen people waiting for the Amtrak Superliner train.  Such a big station for a single train, coming twice a day - in the morning from Chicago to New Orleans, and in the evening arriving from New Orleans and going to Chicago - just those trains, that's all.  I was a bit amazed, really.  I took so many trains in France, to high school every day, to Normandy or Brittany, to England, to the Riviera or Italy or Switzerland, to Belgium and the stations were always so crowded with trains arriving and departing constantly - but the Memphis station was quiet.  Memphis is the largest city in the state of Tennessee with approximately 656,000 inhabitants.  I went outside and took some pictures.

The train arrived on time, around 6:25 am.

I had booked a "roomette" as meals are included, free of charge.  There were 2 seats, which could be extended.  Roomette shown below and the indoor corridor.

The train pulled away from Memphis as the sun was rising.  The conductor announced that we could go to the Dining Car for breakfast as soon as we were away from Memphis.

As we ate our breakfast (eggs, bacon, multigrain biscuits, grits for me but potatoes for my husband, coffee and orange juice) the sun was getting brighter and the scenery was sharper, but the train was shaking a lot and as we went back to our seat we had to hold on to whatever we could.  Later the conductor told us that the tracks were used mainly by freight trains.  They damage the tracks which have to be constantly repaired.  Our first stop was in Greenwood, Mississippi - a 15 minutes stop.

The landscape was rural with fields, farms and small towns.

A City of New Orleans Route Guide was given to us.  It showed the train route and gave information on the points of interest.  The entry for Greenwood said "Greenwood has a reputation as a cotton producer dating back to pre-Civil War times.  Today, its historic downtown boasts upscale shops, antique shops ... and it has retained a small-town, Deep South hospitality.  Florewood River Plantation State Park is the recreation of a 1850 antebellum cotton plantation."

Our next stop was Yazoo City, Mississippi.  The Route Guide said that it is known as the place where "The Delta meets the Hills" with the Panther Swamp Wildlife Refuge nearby.  Yazoo City was the main location for the book and the movie My Dog Skip.

Our next stop, Jackson, was going to be a "smoking" stop (the train is non smoking) so it was a bit longer.  Jackson is the capital of Mississippi.  It was originally named LeFleur's Bluff but was changed in honor of Andrew Jackson.  It was invaded three times during the Civil War and burnt to the ground.  It sits on an extinct volcano.  The gold dome of the state capitol was built in 1903 and resembles the nation's capitol in Washington, DC.  We stepped down from the train and I took pictures of the capitol behind some fencing and then walked a bit further.  There was not much traffic in Jackson in that part of town, but many birds were perched on the electric line above.

My husband walked in the other direction toward the back of the train.

We re-boarded the train and went toward the Sightseeing Lounge Car.  It was very light but there was too much reflection from the panoramic windows for my picture taking.  The train stopped in Brookhaven, Mississippi, but just for a short time.  I asked someone to take our picture but at that moment the train started again with a bump and it made the camera move ...

As we approached the town of McComb, Mississippi, it was time to return to the Dining Car for lunch.  McComb enjoys the distinction of being the "Camellia City of America," with the largest variety in the US of this flower.  A gentleman from Christchurch, New Zealand (he is in the center of the collage below) came and sat at our table and we talked with him as the train was rolling along small towns and fields.

He said he was surprised to see such many houses that were crumbling or without roofs or boarded up.  He added that in New Zealand these houses would have been condemned as a health hazard and destroyed.  I replied that I had seen an article stating that Mississippi had the lowest per capita income in the US and the highest percentage of people living below the poverty level (37% of the population is African-American) so many lived in these houses.  The state has the highest percentage of infant mortality, deaths from cardiovascular diseases and diabetes in the US - it also ranks 51st (after the District of Columbia) for life expectancy (below Vietnam and Jamaica and the same as Albania, Lebanon and Jordan.)  Mississippi ranks dead last in national health care and is on par with many developing countries for diseases.

The state is also one of the most conservative in the country where anti-abortion is very strong and a priority - there is only one clinic left out of fourteen and the Governor is trying to close it and even trying to criminalize miscarriages and stillbirths.  The man from New Zealand shook his head and said that he could not understand all this in such a wealthy country as the US - why this insensitivity toward the poor he asked?  I answered that this was a baffling subject and would take time to discuss and lunch was now almost over, so he listed the major sights to visit in New Zealand.  A conductor stopped by and told us that starting after Hammond, Louisiana, the scenery would be beautiful.  Already we were crossing a river.

Our ride in The City of New Orleans and back to Memphis ten days later took about 16 1/2 hours total (8 hours + each way) and I took over 350 photos.  This post is getting long, so I'll finish it on my next post.  More to come...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A book sale in Atlanta

Every year the American Association of University Women (AAUW) has a book sale in one of the malls in Atlanta.  Since 1960 they have raised $1 million and distributed it as scholarships and programs for girls and women.   We have been going to their book sale for years - and have the books to show for it ... The 54th Annual AAUW BookFair started this year on the evening of September 23, 2013, with a $10 admission for Opening Night.  Then the BookFair was free from Tuesday morning September 24th through Sunday 29th.  We went on the morning of the 24th.

I took my little Lumix camera but frankly I became so involved looking at books that I did not take many pictures.  As advertised they offer 75,000 used books - some look brand new.  They display them in 50 categories, such as Southern Authors, Popular Fiction, Art, Photography, Military, Mysteries, Science Fiction, Reference, Cookbooks, Foreign Language, Children's Books, Philosophy, Religion, Nature, Romance, Biography, Politics, History, Poetry and much more.  This year it was held again at Perimeter Mall - north of Atlanta.  In previous years it was held at Lenox Mall, in the Buckhead area of Atlanta.  Perimeter Mall is remodeling so the BookFair did not have as much room as in previous years and was located in the lower level of the mall only.

We arrived around 10:15 am and left, after having a late lunch, around 3:30 pm. I tried not to choose too many books since I already have so many at home, may of them still unread.  I usually go directly to the Foreign Language section as they have some French books, but not many, most of them are dictionaries or language books to learn French.  I did find some books though.

The books used to cost only 25 cents, 50 cents and one dollar, but now they are more expensive.  They have little dots to indicate prices - red is 50 cents, blue $1, green $2, yellow $3 and orange $4.  Some of the "coffee table" books are more expensive and some that are autographed.  I usually buy the 50 cents and dollar books.  After going to Foreign Language I find the Travel Section - and I found some interesting ones this year again.  I also like to look at Mysteries to see if I can find some Agatha Christie books that are not in my collection - I was lucky this year (I'll show my books below.)

Then this year I went to the History section and then on to the Cookbook section.  I have so many cookbooks already that I really should not get any more - but who knows, there may be an exceptional one ... I took a quick look in the bins.  I could not get to the last bin because a lady had stopped there for quite some time - she was reading recipes in one book.  I tried to take an oblique look at the bin in front of her.  She became agitated and told me that I was not to look over her shoulder. She said I should just wait until she was finished, whenever that was.  So I went away to take some pictures and just now realized that she is in the picture - she is the lady with a bun on top of her white hair at the end of the row.  I did get a small cookbook for 50 cents, and I'll tell you why below.

My husband was looking at the autographed books, and did get one (for $2) but I did not get any this time.

Then I went to the African American section and did find a book I was looking for.  I also found something in the Literature Section.

There were some lovely volumes on the Coffee Table book section.  A picture book on San Francisco was tempting - but I resisted!

I walked around all the sections, in case I had missed anything of interest.

By 2:00 pm I went to look for my husband who was in the "Animal" section.  He did get a really lovely new book by Jane Goodall "Hope for Animals and their World" for $1.  It was time to go so we would not be enticed to look deeper in the sections and find more books.  He had found 14 books and I ... well, I did not count them.

At home we inspected our lucky finds.  I usually take a look and remove the little stickers, but I have not looked at all of them yet.  I took pictures of the books to show them here.  Click on the collages twice so you can read the titles better.

As you can see above I found some good French books: Victor Hugo, Cocteau, Camus, Appollinaire, Georges Simenon, Irene Nemirosky.  I also found some books on Paris (I always look for them) including Gertrude Stein's Paris France.  When I was reading about the 20s and 30s in Paris and the bohemian life of the American writers there, I saw the name Djuna Barnes but had never read any of  her books - there was one there, for 50 cents - Nightwood.  On the back cover Dylan Thomas is quoted as saying "One of the three great prose books ever written by a woman."

I brought my list of Anne Perry and Agatha Christie's titles of books I have and was pleased to find books I did not have.  The book "Journalistas" sounded interesting - it said on the cover "100 years of the Best Writing and Reporting by Women Journalists."

In the African American section I had found "Complicity - How the North Promoted, Prolonged and Profited from Slavery" by Anne Farrow of the Hartford Courant (Connecticut) - may be there is some thought provoking research in it (pictured above near the green Simenon book.)  I also was very pleased to find a great copy of "The Bondwoman's Narrative" by Hannah Crafts.  A friend had just been telling me about this book written by an African American woman.  At the time of publication - 2002, there were questions about its authenticity.  However, a professor in South Carolina just found out that this was indeed written by a former slave who had escaped from a plantation before the Civil War and written it around 1850 or so.  The other book called "Willie Mae" by Elizabeth Kytle is "the true and captivating story of an African American servant in Georgia."

When I went to Montana, my first mother in law gave me several thin cookery books.  They were written in the late 1950s, have little illustrations and are charming.  I found one such booklet, from the same era, on Cakes and Tortes, shown below on the left.  The booklets on the right are those that were given to me.

Below, in yellow, "A Blue Hand" about Allen Ginsberg in India, and the blue book "Finding George Orwell in Burma" were found in the Travel Section.

Below "Reality Sandwiches" is a small book of poems by Allen Ginsberg.  The book on the right is "From a Native Daughter - Colonialism  & Sovereignty in Hawaii" by Haunani Kay Trask.

I was very pleased to find the little book "Emily Carr and her dogs" written and illustrated by her, and a biography about her by Maria Tippett.  Since I visited Emily Carr's house in Victoria, BC, Canada, I have read most of her books and enjoyed going to museums and looking at her paintings.  Emily Carr was quite a remarkable woman and a great Canadian artist (1871-1945.)

I almost forgot to mention the book below "The Far Side of the World" by Patrick O'Brian.  I heard about this book several years ago when it was made into a movie called Master and Commander (starring Russell Crowe.)  In the book the naval fight in the South Seas in 1812 is between a British whaler and the American Frigate USS Norfolk.  But, the movie was made in 2003 and the director thought that the American public would not go and see a movie where the bad guy - the American frigate - is American.  They thought it would be a better seller if the bad guy was changed to a French one (because of the Iraq war) so they turned the USS Norfolk into the French privateer Acheron.  It will be interesting to read the story the author wrote and not the biased Hollywood account of it.

There are a few more books that I have not photographed including those my husband found.  We had a great time at the AAUW BookFair.  Now I'll have to wait for next year's BookFair - but I have plenty of books to keep me busy until then.

Basic Necessities by Deborah DeWit Marchand, Dutch-American, born in 1956

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Blog Intermission No. 22 - Chalk Art in Marietta

Running in conjunction with the Art in the Park in Marietta, Georgia, was another festival called Marietta ChalkFest.  We visited both on Sunday, September 1st, 2013 - you can see my post on the Art in the Park here.

This chalk art festival was hosted by the Cobb-Marietta Museum of Art.  Twenty professional chalk artists from around the country came to compete in their allocated 10 square feet each.  Local children and adults could also participate and create their chalk arts in a juried competition in the Youth or Adult division.  (Click on collage twice to enlarge.)

This chalk art festival was just a block off the historic Marietta square, on the street near the Cobb-Marietta Museum of Art and on another street around the corner.

I enjoyed watching the professional artists drawing their pictures.  There was a large variety of subjects such as renditions of photographs of famous people like Abraham Lincoln and Ray Charles (Georgia born singer, 1930-2004.)

It was not easy taking pictures because I was too close to the ground.  It would have been better if I could have taken them from some height.  I took the photos from different angles.

A photographer went down on his knee to get closer to the subject - so I did too, but ended taking the artist's leg!

But I did take a picture of her drawing - a soldier on a horse.

Artists enjoyed using Civil War theme and horses

and soldiers and spies.

There were other animals,

miscellaneous subjects

and faces of people and actors.

The winner was Jennifer Chaporro of West Palm Beach, Florida, with her depiction of Ivy, a portrait by Will Wilson (Jennifer was sponsored by Moore Colson.)

 This is only the third annual Chalkfest festival in Marietta, Georgia, so it is modest compared to some other chalk art festivals such as the festival in Israel which drew 50,000 visitors.  Chalk art is not new - in Italy in the 1600s painters would draw images in chalk in front of churches and the public would throw coins if they liked the art - usually reproductions of paintings of the Madonna and Child.  These street painters became known as "Madonnari" and would make a living going around various towns holding festivals for religious holy days.  In Germany they were called Strassenmaler, and in England Screevers.  In 1982, an American artist, Kurt Wenner, who was furthering his art education in Italy, developed an innovative sidewalk style of drawing combining the century old technique of the Madonnari and knowledge from his classical training in architecture and perspective.  This is now called anamorphic, or 3D Street Painting, 3D Chalk Art or 3D Pavement Art.  Kurt Wenner and several artists including Julian Beever, Manfred Stader, and Edgar Muller are famous for creating 3D street art challenging the perceptions of the public walking by these masterpieces in chalk. (Don't forget to click on collage to enlarge and see better.)

I don't know the authors of these photos as they were taken on street sidewalks where thousands of people can photograph them.

Some of these chalk drawings are also professionally done for advertising purposes or to bring attention to various causes.  These 3D drawings can only be seen from one viewpoint to get the full 3D effect; if you stand in another area of the drawing the image appears distorted.  As an example of this, below is a drawing made by British Julian Beever at the request of Live8 to support the pressure campaign on the G8 in Edinburgh, Scotland.  It is called Make Poverty History.  The top photo shows the drawing from the side, the "wrong" side and then below it, from the "right side."

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