It's school pick-up time. Despite the millions of dollars spent on our little elementary school, the engineer somehow pulled a "Titanic" as far as parking goes and scoring a parking space is as likely as getting into a lifeboat on the big T. I've learned. Always have something to read and something to listen to that you'll never get away with once she's in the car. Culture gap. In more ways than one. I reach under the passenger seat to a hidden compartment where all my "Mom Music" is hidden and grab a cassette. Oh, you don't know what that is? Then you're probably too young to be reading this blog.
I flip through the latest issue of Harper's Bazaar, mostly thinking to myself "people really wear that?" when a song begins to play that gives me reason to pause, be still, and reflect. "A Month of Sundays" by Don Henley.
The demise of the farmer in this country and the role corporate technology and greed played in slowly destroying what many had spent generations building is told in this woeful ballad. My grandfather was a dairy farmer and I am the grandaughter and daughter of a farmer. I take great pride in that. No other inheritance, no matter how materially valuable, could ever replace what my grandparents gave me in life at the farm. If you are a farm-girl, you understand. If you are not, you have no idea what you missed.
My grandfather was a quiet man. A tall, handsome Swede who, I assume, kept most of his feelings on the inside and kept up a strong, quiet front on the outside. That said, I can only write from what I observed. His words were few and his routine was paramount to keeping the farm running. We knew when we could be loud, silly, rambunctious kids and when it was time to be quiet. Lawrence Welk on Saturday nights was most definitely quiet time. Dinner was always planned around the show. He would sip two highballs before dinner (Imperial & Gingerale) which usually left him in a light-hearted and less serious mood and I remember him, at times, throwing his head back and laughing at the three of us girls...I always looked at my grandmother then, and she smiled too, happy to see him joyful and free from the stresses that weighed in on him, if only for a few moments....
He had a tiny office just off the dining and living room of the big farm house. In it there was a huge roll-top desk, a large grey metal filing cabinet, a waste paper basket and a small army cot that had a flat pillow and a blanket folded neatly at the foot. There was a window that faced North. Out of it you could see the banana yellow Piper Cub plane, the rusty green John Deeres, the tilting silo and the land he owned rising up like an ocean wave, speckled with seaweed made of black and white cows
I used to sneak up on him...usually from the living room side as that was where my grandmother had created a "school-room" for me to play teacher in, blackboard and all, and sometimes he would leave that door open. I would creep, very, very quietly toward the door to see just how long it would take him to discover me. Sometimes he would say, without turning around: "Is that you, Shelly?"...but most of the time he just sat, very still, with his big journal spread out on the desk before him and a freshly sharpened pencil in his hand. Not moving, not writing, his head bent down. Sometimes, after what seemed an eternity, he would rub his forehead and sigh, then slowly turn to look out the window.
As a child, I never understood this quiet, almost penitent time he spent at his big old desk. As an adult, I came to understand it only too well. His world was disappearing and he knew he was powerless to stop it. He was an old-fashioned farmer in his golden years who was facing a very modern world and was up against foes his generation could never have fathomed a reality. There was only one option for him.
Sell. The. Farm.
Those three words resonated across this country with alarming volume...but it was a cry, it seems, that only the farmers and their families heard. And now, the wealthy masses flock to specialty stores to spend exhorbitant money on "organic", "home-grown", "grown in the USA" products that were once left in a crate on the stone wall of our farm--free for all. Yeah, that's progress.
I know what fresh milk tastes like. Do you? Do yourself a favor--go visit a dairy farm, if you can find one.
It was just about a year ago that I wrote about the Newport Vintage Dance Week, hosted by The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers. (If you missed it you can read about it here.) Part of the schedule last year was an afternoon at The Newport International Polo Grounds to watch a polo match, enjoy a picnic buffet and dance under the big white tent. The CVD contacted me to see if I wouldn't mind adding a bit of vintage tailgaiting decor to the event and to observe, interview & capture it through photographs. I jumped at it, of course.
There was one common thread that ran through the brief conversations I was able to have with some of the guests: a fear that the days were numbered for events such as this and that there was a weakening interest in all that the CVD and it's devotees stand for. I drove home that night feeling as if I had been transported back in time to old~world Newport, the original resort town by the sea and fearing, too, that this wonderful experience would not be had by many more in todays rapidly & ever-changing world. . .
After much thought, I decided to wait until the spring to write this post, thinking that it could give the event a big shout-out as the season was just about to descend upon us but in plenty of time to book the trip and save the date.
I visited the website this week to confirm the event dates and so forth and lo and behold you won't believe it but:
Booked Solid. The entire week. A wait list in place. How is that possible? I ask myself after so many voiced concern over a lack of interest, not to mention that bad "e" word -- the troubled economy. Well, maybe it was the wonderful piece Bill Cunningham wrote for the NYT about it or the great narrated video he created. Perhaps all the attention and excitement about the release of the 2012 version of "The Great Gatsby" directed by Baz Luhrmann? Who knows? What I do know is that it doesn't get much better than that for CVD and I am sending my warmest congratulations to them and best wishes for another wonderful week in Newport.
And now, just about one year later, but all the sweeter for the memory, are my photographs from
The Newport Vintage Dance Week at The Newport International Polo Grounds 30 July 2011.
After a look at The Trad's post from M Magazine-1985, I was motivated to dig out some of my beloved old Victoria magazines for a look-through. Sigh. To quote Karen in Out of Africa: "How good it all was..."
If you happen to follow the Facebook page of my blog/site, you may recall I mentioned quite awhile back that I had been invited to attend "The Newport Vintage Dance Week" after one of the sponsors came across my post about Vintage Tailgating. It was one of those moments when, upon learning of this event, I again thought to myself: "How is it I have never heard of this?"
Newport is less than an hour away, and although my days of hanging out at The Black Pearl, The Pelham & The Red Parrot have been long laid to rest, I do at times feel the urge to head to Newport, but on a far more grown-up level. I now tend to head there "off season", when traffic has slowed, parking is available & the weather is much more conducive to enjoying the coast with a wicker basket picnic or dining outdoors sans staring tourists with cameras and drunk prepsters who are trashing yachts Onassis couldn't afford to own. I suppose you can consider yourself a grown up when you'd rather be "un-seen" than "be seen" in such a place as Newport purports to be.
Although still the lovely "City By The Sea", when you watch films shot on location in or about Newport such as "The Age of Innocence", "The Great Gatsby", "High Society" and "Mr. North", you have to wonder where all the charm, the grace, the manners and propriety that was once associated with and demanded by those who swam the circles of Newport's social seas has gone. The glamour once associated with the glamorous likes of Doris Duke and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy has all but disappeared and been replaced with a much less refined sense of entitlement and entertainment.
While I cannot tell you (in a simple blog post, anyway) where those days have gone, I can tell you there is a troupe of rather talented, aesthetically concerned persons who wish to reclaim, revive, and at the very least recall the grand days of yesteryear.
"Travel Back in Time to the summer playground of the Gilded Age. Perfect your dancing skills with classes taught by leading experts on vintage dance. Experience the breathtaking opulence of America ’s finest ballrooms as you dance in Newport’s famous mansions. Let yourself be immersed in a bygone era as you sip tea by the shore..."(courtesy of TCVD website)
The week kicks off on Saturday, 30 July 2011 at 5:00 pm with a Polo Match (Newport vs New York), a Dinner Buffet & Welcome Dance to be held at The Newport International Polo Grounds at Glen Farm in Portsmouth, RI and includes private box seating in the Subscriber's Enclosure for excellent viewing of the match. Registration for the event will begin at 1:00 pm to allow plenty of time for settling in, mingling and enjoying the lovely grounds of this Rhode Island landmark.
I am honored to have been personally invited by Nicole Carlson of The Vintage Commonwealth Dancers to document through photographs, brief interviews and personal observation The Newport Vintage Dance Week Events. This is the first year that events can be attended as a "Per-Venue" Event for a very reasonable fee. Please visit the website for more information or direct inquiries to Newport@VintageDancers.org.
A family reunion on my DH's side late last summer found me plunked on a weathered picnic table bench digging through boxes and boxes of vintage family photographs. I'm certain I proved to be the obnoxious in~law in my attempt to find out who was who, when was it taken, who was behind the lens, and the most dreaded for those who have no appreciation for preserving the past: "Don't you WANT this????!!!!" I carried on, undeterred, a woman on a mission to preserve the past....upon finding this mini~album I dared to ask yet one more time. The answer:
"I think that was New Years Eve, maybe, then again, it could have been just another typical basement bar~room bash....we did that, back then, you know. We had bars in our basements...."
My grandparent's had a basement bar...I remember it well.
It was the road trip I looked forward to the most every year~~my grandmother would pile we three girls into the back of her 1970s Cadillac (which felt more like a ship) and off we would go, onto the Mass Pike, into Boston to spend the day shopping at Filene's Basement. She was so short she had to look through the steering wheel and the dashboard to see the road. She could park that boat as if it were a Mini Cooper. And she got us safely there and back every time. The trunk could barely close by days end . . .
"Voices From The Basement" premiering on WBGH Boston, December 9, 2010 at 8:30pm EST.
***Post update: Share your memories of shopping at Filene's Basement Downtown Crossing and enter to win a $100.00 G/C from Filene's Basement! Find the comment form here.