Monday, May 20, 2019

May birthdays and other happenings

More pictures from Pittsburgh and New Orleans need to be downloaded for my posts.  But I am back in Georgia now and my main camera is in Nashville.  Today I'll write an eclectic post.   Before I left Nashville we celebrated my little granddaughter's 6th birthday.  She is growing so fast and is almost as tall as her brother, who is about 2 years older.  Below are some photos taken last month while she was on holiday with her mother visiting friends in Malaysia, Singapore and Borneo - am not sure where each of the photo was taken.

Her May birthday was on the 10th.  Her father, my son-in-law's birthday is May 25th.  My own father-in-law's birthday was May 9th and my sister-in-law's birthday is May 30th.  My late mother's birthday was on May 12th and I wrote a post on it in 2009: "Mother's Birthday, l'anniversaire de maman" (birthday in French is anniversaire.) Click on title to read it.  Mother loved hydrangeas, so I'd always give her one, a different color every year.  Now I have hydrangeas growing in the front yard in Georgia.  I'll need to move them to Nashville.

My birthday was last March, on the 26th.  In my post of February 2nd, Books in the Mountains, I mentioned that Nancy Pelosi was born on March 26 as well.  Then strange things started to happen.  I am not making them up, because what would be the use.  Since I am going through my late husband's books to give away, I usually pick up one or two to read while in Georgia.  That one evening I found 3 books by an author I did not know.  Her name is Amy Blackmarr.  The three books were: "Going to ground: a simple life on a Georgia pond," "House of Steps" and "Dahlonega Haunts: Ghostly Adventures in a Georgia Mountain Town."  I started to read the ghost book on Dahlonega as my husband and I went often to that little town in the mountains, then decided it might be too spooky for that evening.  Instead I started Going to Ground.  In it, Amy Blackmarr was recounting how she went back to live in her grandparent's cabin, far away from people.  I checked to see how old she was when she moved there and found out she was born, as me, on March 26, but in 1958.  Coincidence.

I took all three books back with me to Nashville.  As I remember, I was tired that evening after the long drive, February 10th, and decided to watch the 61st Grammy celebration which was in progress on television.  Diana Ross, the American singer, record producer and actress, came to perform.  They mentioned that they were celebrating her 75th birthday, one month early.  I wondered what day she was born in March.  I looked it up - she was born March 26, 1944.  Another coincidence.  Pictures below are hazy, taken from my television.

I returned to Georgia in March.  That first evening I was ready to read some new books from my husband's collection on the long bookshelf in the upstairs hall.  I picked up 2 at first:  "Collected Poems" by Robert Frost and "Memoirs" by Tennessee Williams.  Then I saw a book on the floor with a shiny cover, "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins.  As I picked it up I saw an old candy bar stuck behind the shelf, a Stuckey's Pecan Log Roll, certainly ancient.  I started the Robert Frost book and it opened on the poem Ghost House ...

I dwell in a lonely house I know,
That vanished many a summer ago,
And left no trace but the cellar walls,
And a cellar in which the daylight falls,
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow....
...I dwell with a strangely aching heart,
In that vanished abode there far apart,
On that disused and forgotten road ...

OK, enough I thought.  I am back here in my old house in Georgia and don't need to become even more gloomy.  Instead I picked up Tennessee Williams's Memoirs and started to read it.  I wondered where in Tennessee he was born, because of his name.  I looked it up - he was not born in Tennessee, his father was.  Then I saw when he was born: March 26, 1911.  Another coincidence again, thought I?  So I checked Robert Frost, why not - he was born March 26, 1874 (the plot thickens?) Just to make sure I also checked Richard Dawkins - he was born March 26, 1941.  I was apprehensive when I checked when the pecan log merchant, Stuckey, was born.  I found out that Williamson Sylvester Stuckey, Sr., was born on March 26, 1909.  Too weird.  All right, enough, I decided not to read but to listen to music.  I went to bed and played music on my cell phone.  It was Beethoven's Romance No. 2 - so beautiful and soothing.  At least I knew Beethoven was not born on my birthday, I thought he was born in December.  To make sure I checked - yes, Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized on December 17,1770.  But then I saw it ... WHAT? and I got goose pimples.  Beethoven died on March 26, 1827.  Am I going crazy? Is someone playing with my head?  What is this?

Is this what is called synchronicity?  Wikipedia says: "Synchronicity (German:Synchronizität) is a concept, first introduced by analytical psychologist Carl Jung, which holds that events are "meaningful coincidences if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related."  I checked several sites on the Internet.  Judy Orloff, MD, says "Synchronicity is a sign that we are intuitively attuned, not only to our immediate friends and family, but also to the greater collective."  Another site indicates: "Synchronicity is an unconscious awareness of life.  It is a set of messages.  Synchronicity is an unlikely or impossible coincidence that cannot be explained by luck and chance."  Another site says "Often mistaken as coincidences, these amazing synchronicities are actually universal nods, confirming that you are on the right track.  Synchronicities, when recognized, are meant to be road signs to help steer you in the best direction.  Quite helpful at times when you are feeling confused or lost in some way."  In an article on synchronicity in Psychology Today it said "When you're on the right path, the universe winks and nods at you from time to time, to let you know."  I like this, the universe nodding at me :-)  I searched for a photo symbolizing the universe - but I don't have one in my collection.  May be one of the secret paintings of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel, Children's books author and cartoonist, American 1904-1991) can give some feeling about it?

This time, back in Georgia, I am reading one of my books, in French - the childhood memoirs of Marcel Pagnol (French novelist, playwright and film maker, 1895-1974.)  It was a magical time for him in Provence and a delight to read.  The Kidney Foundation called saying they would come by this week to pick up any clothes, books, etc.  During the days I have been busy collecting some of my husband's clothes.  There is so much of it as he kept everything.  I found a bag full of socks, at least 200+ pairs, some old, some brand new with tags.  I even found two uniform work shirts from when, as a teenager, he worked for a Coca-Cola bottling plant.  They are from 1955 at least.  They are in pretty good shape for being so old.  Here they are below.

Looking at some of the shirts or sweaters given to him for birthdays or Christmas was kind of sad.  I tried not to think about it.  But again, something happened.  I was not going to mention it, but since I told you about the happenings around my birth date I'll tell you what happened yesterday.  I had already filled 3 large black plastic bags with his clothes and shoes.  The 4th bag was almost full.  In the back of the closet was a green pair of slacks.  I knew them well, as he wore  them often on trips, usually with a plaid shirt.  Should I give them away?  I could not decide.  I cannot wear them and both of my sons-in-law wear different sizes.  With a heavy heart I placed the slacks in the bag.  Then I saw the plaid shirt.  I started feeling tears coming up.  No, can't do that.  I placed the shirt in the bag, then I took it out again.  Placed it in the bag once more, and finally took it out thinking I'll think about it tomorrow.  Moving the bags through the hall filled with books is not easy.  As I pulled this heavy bag, some books fell; I walked on a paper sack.  When I came back upstairs I stopped in the hall to pick up the books and the sack.  Several pennies had fallen out of the sack, a pencil and a piece of paper.  I turned the paper over - it was a photograph.  When I saw it I was completely bewildered.  I looked around, no other photographs anywhere.  I don't know how it got there in that sack.  I went downstairs with the plaid shirt and took the green slacks out of the bag to take a photo so I would not think I imagined it all.  The picture was of my husband wearing that exact pair of slacks with the shirt in front of an angel statue somewhere by the sea, I think in Mexico.  How in the world this happened, I don't know.  I took most of our old photos to Nashville and they never were in the hall anyway.  Another strange happening, or synchronicity?  What do you think?  Here is the picture below.  As I write this I still can't believe it.

I guess I should take this as a sign that it's OK to give away the clothes since I can see them in the photograph, and not be sad.  Actually my son-in-law, whose family is from India, has invited me to come to his cousin's wedding in Atlanta next weekend.  This will be a fun occasion - weddings from Indian families are big events, all the women wearing colorful saris, good food, dancing and more.  I have some Indian clothes but they have long sleeves and the weather predicts 97 F (36.1 C.) in the shade.  I bought an Indian made tunic with tie-die indigo stripes and will wear white linen slacks with it.  Most of my shoes now are sneakers because of my bad ankle.  I found a pair of white lacy Mary Jane style shoes and will wear them this week while dancing with some music so they become comfortable, like boogie shoes!  I used to have great red leather flat shoes for dancing, but they are long gone.  Here they are below with a white pantsuit, photo taken in San Francisco decades ago.  Also shown is the tunic from the catalog, and future boogie shoes.

My record player is still here with all my albums.  I found some old disco LPs so I can exercise a bit with my new shoes.  Here is a video of one of the tunes, from the 1970s - "Boogie Shoes" by K.C. and the Sunshine Band.  Might as well wink at the universe and end this post with a song!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

A visit to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Last week I spent five days in Pittsburgh visiting Celine, my eldest daughter, and her family.  Attending her wedding in California in 2016 was the last trip my late husband and I took, and I wrote a post on it at the time.  Click on "A challenging round-trip to Orange County, California."  Celine invited us several times to visit her in Pittsburgh but my husband's illness was too advanced for a trip, then last winter, it was too cold to fly north ... About a month ago she tempted me to come by sending me a link to the Pittsburgh's Frick Museum that is having an exhibit on 1940s photographs of Paris.  The flight only took about 1 1/2 hour.  I had thought of Pittsburgh as a northeastern city, flat, grey with many factories.  As the aircraft circled the downtown center I was surprised to see an interesting group of buildings, rivers, bridges and hills.

On Saturday the weather was sunny, not too warm.  My son-in-law drove us to Mount Washington, where he used to live when he first moved to Pittsburgh.  It is a 600-foot mountain, on the south side of downtown Pittsburgh, with woods, trails, stairs and inclines.  It used to be barren when several coal mines operated near its base; rock was also quarried from its hills.  Actually, until 1876, it was called Coal Hill.  I found several vintage photographs showing Mt Washington when the coal mines were in operation.  (Courtesy Wikipedia.)

The cliffs of Mt Washington border the Monongahela River. "Monongahela" is an American Indian name from the Unami tribe meaning "falling, or sliding banks."  Early on Mt Washington was covered with trees.  But by the late 1800s coal production, extracted from the mountain, amounted to 13 million tons, and the trees disappeared.  A mile-long set of wooden stairs had been built along the ancient American Indian trails.  Workers in the coal plants, mostly German immigrants, as well as horses, had difficulty getting around the mountain on the winding trails and steep stairs.  They suggested that some "standseilbahns" (inclines) as they had in Germany should be constructed.  Starting in 1869 twenty-three inclines (we call them funiculaire in French) were built.  It made it easier to carry freight on the steep hills, and more convenient for workers to reach their housing on top of the bluff.  They were popular and averaged 2000 riders a day.  But by the mid-1960s when the coal plants were closed the inclines also stopped working.  Two old inclines, now restored, are left, the Monongahela and the Duquesne inclines.  Below are some vintage postcards of the inclines then and now (in center.)

The Duquesne incline, opened on May 20, 1877, and costing 5 cents for the ride, was in operation until 1962.  Since 1964 the incline has been operated by a local preservation society after they restored it in 1963; they retained its original ornate wooden cable cars.  In December 2006 the incline celebrated its 20th million rider since 1964.  Below are more views of the Duquesne incline.

I knew the name Duquesne was French and researched on its connection to Pittsburgh.  This led me to the history of the city.  In the 1740s the French started setting up forts and outposts on the Allegheny and Ohio River valleys.  The French called the Ohio River La Belle Riviere (beautiful riviere) althought it comes from the Seneca language Ohi:yo or Good River.  To consolidate their holdings on the river the French built a fort at the junction where the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio rivers meet.  This fort was named Fort Duquesne after the Governor of Canada, the Marquis Du Quesne de Mennville.  From then on the French and their native Indian allies fought the British to retain control of the area.  This lead to the Seven Years War, known as The French and Indian War.  By 1758 the fort was in terrible shape with few and starving soldiers and no supplies.  The British took advantage of this, fighting and taking the fort.  The site was re-named "Pittsborough" after British statesman and Prime Minister William Pitt, then Fort Pitt was built.  The site of both forts is now on Point State Park.

A 2006 landmark 750 pounds bronze sculpture, by James A. West, named "Point of View" sits at the edge of Mt Washington.  In 1770 George Washington stopped by Fort Pitt looking for investment in real estate as well as for "bounty lands" - land grants to give away to colonists and soldiers of earlier wars.  George Washington was a large land speculator and held 52,000 acres of land in the colonies.  He met Guyasuta, a member of the Seneca-Mingo tribe, for friendly campfire talks about the land.  The sculpture is based on that meeting.

There are stunning views of Pittsburgh on Mount Washington, indeed.  Looking to the Golden Triangle where the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers meet, or the landmark skyscrapers, or to the left or right, the panorama is breathtaking.  In fact, USA Weekend Travel Report ranked it America's second beautiful place in the country.  Overlook platform decks are located along the well named Grandview Avenue.  Graduates were taking photos there and also a couple of weddings.

After a tornado touched down on Mt Washington in 1998, the community rallied to form "Green is Good" to preserve the land.  They feared developers would start building ugly houses and condominiums all over.  The park was officially created on Earth Day 2007 as the 280 acres (1.1 km2) Emerald View Park.  A plaque gives the history of the park.  There are 10 miles of trails wrapping around Mt Washington, and 10 more miles are planned.  The park is free to the public.  (Be sure to click on collage twice to enlarge writing.)

We had parked along Grandview Avenue and I noticed a library sign.  We walked inside and the librarian told me that the building was going to be renovated as it had been built in 1900 as a Carnegie Library.  Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) had been once the richest man in the USA.  A Scottish immigrant he later formed the Pittsburgh's Carnegie Steel Company that he sold to J. P. Morgan for $303,450,000 in 1901.  The company became the U. S. Steel Corporation.  With his fortune Carnegie became a philanthropist and built 1689 libraries in the US, and 660 more in other countries.  At this branch a telephone booth had been kept.  The librarian told me they used it for storage or when someone needed to make a cell phone call in private.

We walked along the avenue and drove through the neighborhood.  There are many styles of lodging, apartments, condos, cute Queen Ann houses, new and old houses and churches.  The Shiloh Street business area offers restaurants, bars, banks, shops and a post office.  I was surprised at how steep some of the streets were, reminiscent of San Francisco's streets.  I can understand why Pittsburgh is proud of Mount Washington and its community and cherish it.

I'll share more of my visit to Pittsburgh in forthcoming posts.

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