That’s what I love about the South! Fetching roadside crap.
Photo: Copyright © 2014 John Cronin. All Rights Reserved.
That’s what I love about the South! Fetching roadside crap.
Photo: Copyright © 2014 John Cronin. All Rights Reserved.
My dad is a country boy, despite a closet full of suits and a house in the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama. This notion first presented itself when I ate supper at a kindergarten chum’s house and made a puzzling discovery: Her family ate beans from tin cans.
Until then I thought beans came from jars. After all, jars of beans, tomatoes, peppers, beets, and bread-and-butter pickle lined shelves in our playroom. Jars of muscadine grape, peach, pear, and blackberry jam glowed like jewels next to the Pachinko machine. Boxes of empty Mason jars—awaiting next season’s harvest—towered on the upright piano.
I rushed home to report the news. “Most people eat processed vegetables,” Mom said, confirming this new fact of life. “They also eat fruit in tin cans. Aren’t you children lucky that your father is a wonderful gardener?”
Dad had a powerful ambition: transplanting the traditions of Talking Rock—his childhood home in North Georgia—to a strip of Alabama soil. But Martha, Bud, Mary, Peggy, and I did not feel sentimental about growing squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, okra, corn, and beans, beans, beans. We stood by helplessly when our father got permission from a neighbor to plow his easement, providing room for all sorts of beans: McCaslin, Blue Lake, Rattle Snake, and Kentucky Wonder-151.
The bean field grew into a forbidding jungle. By early July, vines strangled the poles, their lush, deep-green leaves hiding pods. Baskets in hand, we trudged to our appointed rows. How we ached after an hour of reaching high and bending low. How we longed for a drizzle to relieve sweat-stung brows and itching, vine-brushed arms.
No wonder I groaned years later on reading Thoreau’s chapter about beans in Walden: “I cherish them, I hoe them, early and late, and this is my day’s work. It is a fine broad leaf to look on.” He could idealize agricultural experiments; he never suffered Alabama’s growing season in the dog days of summer.
Tom Sawyer proved a more inspiring literary figure. He turned the chore of whitewashing a fence into an enviable pleasure, so we determined to give humble string beans cachet. My brother Bud figured that if each of us invited a friend to drop by at four o’clock, five kids would show up about the time we started stringing our just-picked produce on the patio. With a little playacting, 20 hands instead of 10 would be on task.
“Do y’all have to string all those beans?” a curious onlooker inquired.
“Sure, nothin’ to it.” Martha was the smoothest talker of us all.
“Really?” another wide-eyed child asked.
“Oh, yeah. Last week we strung twice as many,” Martha said nonchalantly, knowing that this audience would soon be captive.
“Can I try?”
“I don’t know. . . . It takes most people two years to develop the technique.” Martha flicked her wrist as she snap-snapped.
“But I’m a fast learner.”
“I don’t know. My father doesn’t like just anybody handling his beans.”
“I’ll be careful. I promise.”
“I don’t know. . . .”
“Let me just try.”
“We-e-e-ell, maybe . . . ”
Ah, the art of delegation.
“Wow, Dr. Hamrick, did you grow up like the Waltons?” the new day laborers chorused.
“Heck, no, the Waltons were rich,” Dad said, relishing his role as suburban legend. “They had a radio and a car. Doc Weeks had the only radio in our county. On Saturday afternoons, he propped it in his window and turned up the volume for everybody standing around in his front yard.”
“You didn’t have a car?”
“Before the government paved the roads, a car was a thrilling sight in our neck of the woods. If the folks in Fairmount—about 10 miles away—spotted a car, they called our general store that it was on the way. Then a crowd gathered by the side of the road to watch it go by.”
“Dr. Hamrick, your father must have been just like Pa on ‘Little House on the Prairie.’”
“No, he didn’t have a blow dryer,” Dad said, contemptuous of Michael Landon’s mane.
Sometimes Dad got carried away with his storytelling. One of my friends went goggle-eyed on seeing my father stack 15 quarts of just-creamed Silver Queen corn in one of the playroom freezers.
“Why are you putting up all that corn?” she asked.
“Haven’t you heard about the famine?” he said, looking dumbfounded.
“A famine?” she asked, her voice quavering. “Can my family come to your house if we run out of food?”
“Have you heard the story of the Little Red Hen?” Dad looked at her sidewise and then inspected the sage and rosemary drying on the pool table.
Whatever my father’s antics, Mom usually stayed calm and amused. But she said “No!” when he donned a neighbor’s camouflage hunting garb and sat motionless in the garden with a 22, waiting to pick off a groundhog that had gotten fat on young bean plants.
Mom confiscated his gun and made him use live traps. (When the guys at Hart’s Gulf filling station in the village said they had heard tales of Dad and his 22, she concluded the police might show up.) Thereafter, he caught trespassing critters and turned them loose in another county so they would waddle into somebody else’s garden.
Dad turned to folklore to fend off rabbits, squirrels, and other interlopers. Once during Sunday dinner, he noted that human hair scattered around plants supposedly warded off animals; he eyed my two waist-length braids. Fortunately for my scalp, it was a passing thought.
Watering the “back 40″ became Dad’s DIYI (do-it-yourself-irrigation) obsession. Hoses snaked through the backyard and then wound around metal laundry line poles staked every three rows. Lawn sprinklers topped the poles, sending wave after wave of precious drops during dry spells. When picking vegetables under a beating sun, we refreshed under these automatic showers.
Dad dreamed up this irrigation system after he spotted a hose sale in a Home Depot circular. When he came home with his prize purchases, Mom was not happy. Some hoses were tan and orange, not color-coordinated green.
Shocker: the local power crew had tromped through the easement the day before, spraying herbicide. Dad lit the first match. Whoosh! It was a barnburner. The trampoline mat melted in 3 seconds.
Cooking supper, Mom heard faint calls: “Hose! Hose!”
She poked her head out the porch door and called, “Wha-a-at’s that, dear?”
Smoke misted through the trees. “HOSE! HOSE!”
Mom tripped down the pebble path and yelled, “Which color would you like?”
“Any god-damn hose you can find!”
About then, the firefighters, whose station sat atop the next ridge, spotted the conflagration. They sat on their porch for years, entertained by my dad’s eccentricities. They good-naturedly climbed the woodsy hill and hosed off the easement in minutes. Thereafter the next-door neighbors kept long hoses screwed into outdoor faucets—just in case.
My dad’s front-yard gardening captured the attention of humans. It was his uniform: a tattered one-piece cotton jumpsuit that usually had seed packets, spring onions, or carrots absently stuck in the pockets. Sometimes he tied a scarlet bandana around his head as a sweatband. (Imagine Ed Asner sporting Willie Nelson’s favorite headgear.) In Dad’s world, only the Man in Black overshadowed the Red Headed Stranger.
Intrigued, a well-coiffed socialite tooling around in her Mercedes once pulled up and tried to hire my father as a yardman. “My, you look like a hard worker,” she said sweetly. “How would you like to work full-time in my yard?”
“I earn a good rate here,” Dad said, leaning on his rake.
“I get homemade lunches and fresh-squeezed lemonade and brownies on breaks,” he said, cocking his head.
“I’ll prepare any food you want,” she insisted.
“I also get a special bonus,” he smiled wickedly.
The woman backed her car out of the drive, from 0 to 40 mph in 2 seconds.
Certainly, Dad’s country habits nourished the body. And sweetly they comforted the soul. He rocked his children and grandbabies, crooning ballads and hymns sung by generations of his family in Appalachia.
Before falling asleep at night, I imagine his deep, off-key rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Like a prayer.
Patches from My Crazy Quilt © 2014 Catherine Hamrick. All rights reserved.
Tin can courtesy of Sun Ladder
Food basket courtesy of Liz West
Green beans on vine courtesy of Snijboon
Green beans courtesy of Daderot
Hoses courtesy of Bearofthecup
Willie Nelson at Farm Aid courtesy of Larry Philpot, www.soundstagephotography.com
Lemonade with straw courtesy of newleaf01
The sun fingers and prickles me,
And the dock creaks gray,
Floating on algaed styrofoam.
A silvery leap spatters
This drowsy morning,
Now tail-thrashed alert.
The trout flee weedbeds,
And sunken-log mysteries
For spring-fed depths.
My toes curve over the edge
Of wave-slapped wood,
And I dive,
In an arc,
Into their current,
Desiring mute cool green
Until it presses
Hard on my breast,
And I push upward,
Bursting into white air,
Leaping Trout by Winslow Homer
Underwater courtesy of Mikhail Vedyokhin
Drops of water courtesy of iamharin
My mother was no-nonsense, even when it came to planning weddings. “For God’s sake, don’t book it on religious holidays: Christmas, Easter, and football season. You’ll have no-shows around New Year’s, spring break, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. Mother’s Day is sacred, too. Father’s Day? Oh, men get over it.”
“Forget August,” Mom added. Her excuse was like a bad weather forecast. “Too much humid hair frizz and perspiration.” (In the South, “sweat” is verboten. Yes, we “glisten” on steamy afternoons.)
She waved away any bride’s dithering and checked off the key players within three days of the engagement announcement: the preacher, the church, the florist, the photographer, the caterer, and the reception location. Her lifelong sewing club demanded immediate notification because they were drowning in showers. All their daughters were coming of age.
Mom didn’t sweat some details. Four days before one wedding, she and dad rolled home from a two-week trip to the Cotswolds. Heavens, she thought, I need a mother-of the-groom dress. Mom yanked a blue mother-of-the-debutante dress out of her closet and sped off to the dry cleaners that did alterations.
My mother saw it as an easy chop job. She inclined toward simple silhouettes. However, her request horrified the attendant. “Just whack it off at a respectable length for an afternoon wedding.” Mom had marked the spot with a straight pin. “I’ll pay extra for a one-day hem job.” Then Mom dashed out the door, leaving the poor woman agog—her mouth frozen in a giant “O.”
A few years later, Mom hesitated when I asked to wear her wedding dress. It was a fanciful notion since my childhood. How I adored its 1940s sweetheart neckline and satin-covered buttons. Great-great Uncle Bill had bought the Brussels lace (then a mantilla) during World War I for my grandmother.
Nannie would have us imagine that he clutched it to his chest as he crawled from trench to trench, flushing out Germans and crying, “Not a shred of lace for Kaiser Bill!” Once safely delivered to Nannie’s arms, the mantilla lay lovingly stored in a cedar chest for 31 years until she used it to embellish Mom’s wedding dress—her masterpiece after years of sewing college formals with sweeps of satin and bundles of netting.
As a child, I would steal into my parents’ large storage closet and climb, like a monkey, to the top shelf and reach for their musty wedding album. (Mom was a packrat, so she stacked albums and baby books on top of it.) I loved the photograph in which Mom and Dad clasped hands, with sweet promises ahead.
Forty years later, Mom’s face was rounder and rosier (all that cooking for a tribe). Dad’s thick mop looked plucked. A mortgage and their children’s 30 years of combined college tuition had consumed their lives. To my consternation, Mom had no clue where she had stashed her wedding dress. She didn’t want to help me search, fearing the worst, as if it had rotted into a silverfish-infested heap.
My sister Mary, who had taken over as wedding planner, knew exactly where to look. The attic. Mom had saved everything. The debris could facilitate an archaeological dig by 22nd-century specialists in Cold War studies.
Mary and I excavated about 25 elementary school class pictures, a few with cracked frames; nine sets of shedding cheerleader pompons; a pile of shriveled corsages; Barbie with three wigs and an orange sports car; twist-and-turn Barbie with bendable legs (one of the subcutaneous wires had popped from a joint); a bald Midge; and Skipper, who had undergone a shag haircut worthy of Mrs. Brady Bunch. There was a mother lode of Milton Bradley Games and a fried (blackened) Easy Bake Oven.
Mary crawled over four broken chairs, boxes of letters, and creased poster projects to uncover the dressed wadded up in a plastic bag near some fiberglass insulation. The lace had browned a bit, though the coronet and veil had fared better.
Mary excitedly tried to squeeze me in the dress. I stepped into the garment, but the waistline would not slip past my thighs. Ever hopeful, Mary attempted to haul it over my shoulders.
In her day, my mother’s waist must have been as small as Scarlett O’Hara’s—17 inches, the most svelte in three counties, according to Margaret Mitchell. Or Mom could have been Gibson Girl pin-up.
My mother? That tiny? Get out! Speaking of getting out, there I was stuck, my head in the bodice, one overhead arm in a sleeve and the other trapped in the elbow of the other sleeve. I sucked in my breath, and Mary somehow inched off the satin-and-lace vise.
Mom and Mary did not shillyshally. They made an appointment with the queenly dowager who restored vintage wedding gowns and deb dresses in her rambling mansion on Birmingham’s Southside. I delighted in the rumor that it was once a brothel. My mother must have pulled off the charm job of her life because that dear woman agreed to cram the dress into her mad pre-wedding and pre-deb garment preps for the upcoming season.
For the first fitting, I resurrected my ballroom manners. The Dowager of Repair Wear was petite, her accent cultivated. However, when she saw my mother’s crumpled wedding dress, her voice let off sparks, like matches hitting cold brick. For once in her life, my buoyant mother wanted to crawl out of a room.
The plain-Jane assistant never said a word. Her mousey hair pulled back in such a tight Mee-Maw bun that her wrinkles almost disappeared. (Think of Joan Rivers’ face, with her leftover skin stretched and knotted back under an über hair-sprayed ‘do.) Frocked in black, the assistant clutched a measuring tape and pressed a bunch of straight pins between her lips. A tomato-shaped pincushion strapped tightly on her right wrist.
Once more, I squirmed into the dress for inspection. I held my arms above my head, and the shoulders of the dress trapped my elbows. The bodice again smothered my head. “Dear God!” the Dowager of Repair Wear cracked as she spun me around to poke and prod. “What I wouldn’t give for the perfect figure. In my next life, I’m returning as a 6-foot flaming redhead with big boobs.” I almost ripped the dress from stifling guffaws. Surely, the assistant was spitting pins. However, when I popped out my head, there she stood, her lips pressed even more thinly.
Thankfully, the formidable dressmaker pronounced the dress “doable,” as my grandmother had allowed enough fabric to let out for the next bride.
Not so doable was my bustline. Typically, a right-handed person has a smaller left hand and foot. The right foot may be a half-size larger. Nature had done an extra number on me. Right-handed moi somehow had a right boob with extra oomph. The assistant shook her head after measuring. The Dowager of Repair Wear dispatched me to The Lingerie Shoppe in Mountain Brook, Alabama, the mecca for dainty undergarments. It has serviced three generations from blue hairs to brides—for chest rearranging.
You think today’s Spanx is cruel after 18 hours? Try shoving yourself into a long-line contraption similar to that hawked by Jane Russell in the 1960s and 1970s. It was as deathly as a steel-like whalebone corset.
Aside: If you are underage and don’t watch “Turner Classic Movies,” Miss Russell was the 1940s/1950s broad who topped her 24-inch waist and 36-inch hips with a 38D chest. She had ramrod posture. Otherwise, she would have toppled forward. Bob Hope once introduced her as “the two and only Jane Russell”—in the age before feminist ire and bra burning. Of course, the voluptuous Miss Russell could have lit a bonfire with her gargantuan bra. (It bested Marilyn Monroe’s 36D.)
Washed-up actresses usually ended up in TV hell: Jane Russell plied Playtex bras to “full-figured gals,” and Jane Powell, who had real teeth, oozed about Polident.
One of the gentlewomen of The Lingerie Shop tugged and pulled to even out my bustline. I tried not to take her professional touch personally. “Emma, dear,” she called to one of her cohorts. “Have you ever seen such a difficult fit?”
Emma peered at me, with her thick cat-eye glasses magnifying her bulbous farsighted eyes. I felt like a smashed bug under an entomologist’s slide. “Mercy,” she replied and started to work me over. Two “mature” customers crowded in to help twist and shift.
The corset of choice generally smoothed my silhouette, but my chest was still a tad “off.” Worn out, I bought the corset against a storm of protests. “Wait, wait,” they cried. “We can special order!”
Kleenex makes for good stuffing, I thought.
The Dowager of Repair Wear concocted a secret recipe for transforming the satin from stained to lustrous cream. It was a miracle. She could have made major bucks selling it to Procter & Gamble. The dreamy lace looked fresh, as if stored for decades in Nannie’s cedar chest.
We kept the dress a secret from Nannie, who had bought the satin from the downtown Atlanta Rich’s department store. She fastidiously sewed the wedding dress and fearlessly adorned it with the lace. Nannie attended the final fitting and wept when I stepped into the room. A few straight pins fell out of the assistant’s mouth, and she brushed away a tear.
Mom ignored him. For the wonder and delight on my grandmother’s face, the restoration was worth every pretty penny. Too bad the marriage did not last. But that heirloom dress is forever.
Patches from My Crazy Quilt © 2014 Catherine Hamrick.
Auburn-Alabama Football courtesy of Matthew Tosh
Dry Cleaners courtesy of Kenneth Allen CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Junk Yard courtesy of Alex Proimos
They said the LST could ride higher in the water when landing in trim. She hit the sloping beach, and the bow door fell and disgorged jeeps and tanks and finally men with hands to work. It was gray all round, the water, the sky, ship after ship beside, around, and behind as far as he could see, if he dared to look back.
He looked forward only. German mortar and artillery shells exploded, but he looked forward only—wreckage, strewn wreckage of metal, of flipped, ripped jeeps, of wire, of bodies, whole and fallen, of twitching pieces, arms here and legs there, of detached trunks spilling guts, of oozing, foaming blood.
His automatic-motion hands dragged and patched the broken living and passed them to other hands that stretchered them up the ramp.
The day thundered, but he distanced the noise. He heard nothing but the whir in his brain, punctuated by hoarse yelling or screaming. His hands, now practiced, moved with machine-like precision.
He paused once. Why Omaha? A city in a golden prairie sea. Why Utah? A land-locked state and a salt lake? But this Omaha, this Utah, opened to a dead sea.
My parents and I traveled to the beaches in September 1994. Low clouds hung dully. My father glanced at the tourists wandering about. “It’s so empty,” he said. “The sea, the sea—it’s so empty.”
My father nodded. “Then we thank you,” the stranger said. “I am part of a group who makes pilgrimages to such places. I look out to that water and thank all those lost boys—all those innocent souls who lost their lives ahead—and say a prayer.”
Patches from My Crazy Quilt © 2014 Catherine Hamrick. All rights reserved.
Original invasion footage by The Daily Telegraph
Reel America: D-Day to Germany
In a hail of fire, Piper Bill Millin played troops forward on Sword Beach
World War Two through Robert Capa’s Lens
A Walk in Ernie Pile’s Footsteps
How Soon Will We Forget?
From the Op-Ed “D-Day Highlights Historical Illiteracy” (The New York Dispatch) by Daniel Burnett, American Council of Trustees and Alumni
–Just 40 percent of Americans know that June 6 is the anniversary of D-Day.
–Not even half know that the president at the time was Franklin D. Roosevelt.
–Among college graduates: 55 percent know today is the anniversary, and 57 percent know Roosevelt was president.
–Only 17 percent of college graduates knew the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation, and only two in five knew the Battle of the Bulge occurred in World War II.
–Only five of the top 50 public universities in the country require even one survey course on American history or government.
In recent years, undergraduate students have bragged to me that they do not need “useless” composition courses. Are history courses just as pointless?
This morning I scanned The Huffington Post and spotted this morsel by Stephanie Marcus: “The Mirror reports that the 36-year-old rapper commissioned street artist Bambi . . . to paint a topless portrait of his new wife wearing just a G-string and Louboutin heels. It’s titled Perfect Bitch.”
I found this amusing because these celebs are obsessed with admiring themselves in mirrors, and the Mirror faithfully follows them. This outlet is the online version of Brit pub The Daily Mirror, whose tagline was “intelligent tabloid” until the Trading Standards Agency ruled that they must remove it (January 2014).
The man is such a skilled, wily interviewer. Piers asked every guest this piercing question: “Have you ever been properly in love?” To which many a famed person’s facial expression said, “WTF?” (I apologize to my family matriarchs. I typically avoid expletives.)
Hmm. Did I miss a segment in which Piers posed this question to Kimye? I suppose I will break down and watch the season opener of “Keeping up with the Kardashians” to find the answer to this deep question.
For the object of his affection, Mr. West already blew a bunch of bucks on gifts: a flower tower on Mother’s Day, a 20-foot flower tower on their wedding day, and an oversize Hermès Birkin bag festooned with hand-painted naked ladies last Christmas.
Mr. West, if you suddenly become thrifty, you might consider buying reprints of Mrs. West’s nude photos in Playboy. Then you could wallpaper your room with blown-up images complemented by mirrors bouncing off the light of gigantesque Baccarat crystal prisms.
Hey, you can always change out the images when you redecorate. After your baby’s birth in 2013, Mrs. West revealed, “I want to do Playboy [again].” My, my—the urban use of the verb do mightily resonates.
Alternatively, you could download copyright-free nude masterpieces and Photoshop Mrs. West’s amazing form over the fetching women who have garnered their rightful places in art history. How classy would that be?
I just overheard my mother in heaven sighing and wringing her hands over the fact that you must explain the facts of life to underage miracle child North West if she toddles into your bedroom.
When Mrs. West busts up this marriage for her fourth trot to the altar, how much will she make auctioning off this bundle of “tasteful” art? As for the flower towers—no go. They already have wilted.
Congratulations on your one-week wedding anniversary!
Until the latest media barrage, I had not followed pop culture since working at a subsidiary of Time Inc. in the 1990s. An issue of People (shared weekly by the magazine staff) was one of our perquisites.
Nary a baby bump graced a cover. Somewhere in the haze, I recall the disgrace and the departure of Diana, Princess of Wales, from the Windsor “family firm” and the ensuing blather.
Oh, dear. Nick Nolte was the “sexiest man alive” in 1992. Ten years later, Nick’s DUI mug hit the hungry media.
Last week, I put up my feet and wildly punched my way through multiple remotes. Kim/Kanye marriage mania was the mantra of every network, and I could not catch a break.
Fawning correspondents—British, of course—gushed over the details of your country-hopping bliss. The only “news” outlet sans Kim/Kanye madness was C-SPAN. A lone legislator spouted off to an empty chamber.
Alas, Mr. and Mrs. West, dramatic cuts to the mass Isla Vista slayings interrupted your publicity triumph. The smiley anchorette went somber—on producer cue—when switching to the alleged killer’s chilling video. It looked as if the network sickos would play every creepy minute. I hit the “off” button. That oscillating coverage must have kicked in a viewership bonanza.
Okay, I am not of the crowd who solemnly declares, “I dare not sign up for cable. PBS is our channel of choice.” Nor do I echo the few, the proud, and the presumptuous who declare, “I do not own a TV, and I lock up my mobile devices. Even a glance will destroy my child’s brain.” I want my TV: “Andy Griffith,” “I Love Lucy,” “The Daily Show,” “The Big Bang Theory,” the “Star Trek” franchise, “Downton Abbey,” and “Game of Thrones.”
Well, Mr. and Mrs. West, you finally sucked me in with that pre-nup bash at Versailles. (My excuse? I am an ardent Francophile.) I hopped, skipped, and jumped through the remotes to catch “Entertainment Tonight.” Oh, my. Two decades had flown by. Mary Hart and her $1 million legs were no more. But another blonde talking head carried on. (Vanna White, your alphabet days are numbered.)
A portrait of Louis XIV may have caught your eye as 100 champagne bottles uncorked. His heels were the envy of the court, elevating his stature all the more. Copy-cat a pair for a red carpet change. Better yet, introduce them in next season’s Kardashian Kollection at Sears.
Hey, Kimye, how about that Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors)? Flashes of Marie Antoinette and pampered mistresses of Louis XIV! You could spot your glam selves at every angle. So could your cloying entourage.
It is no wonder that daughter North West’s pristine-white nursery has mirrored walls. The whole family can admire themselves, down to stepfather Bruce Jenner’s latest facelift.
The touches of a masquerade? Oh, how historically clever of your wedding planner! Those French royals—from Louis XIV to his beheaded descendants—flirted and teased behind their masks.
An orchestra in period garb? Eighteenth-century-style palace guards on horseback? Spiffy! (The heads of the last crew perched on spikes after they haplessly defended Marie Antoinette, Queen of France and Navarre, against a mob of starving women. Nevertheless, public taste does move on; today’s populace would rather feast on your photo-ops. How delicious they are!)
Could it be that its builders, the noble Medici family—patrons of artists (Michelangelo Buonarroti and Leonardo da Vinci) and science (Galileo Galilei)—inspired your choice of setting? . . . Nah, your wedding planner told you it was “awesome” and would be the envy of other celeb couples staging a wedding coup.
The Italian unemployment rate stagnates at 12.7 percent, so the locals likely perked up at the prospect of your 48-hour playground.
That 20-foot wall of flowers, lavish banquet spread, and all-night fireworks brought in a pretty euro. The yardmen must have thrilled to clip shrubbery, prune trees, and mow lawns. (How the locals slept through your heavenly thunder-and-lightening show remains unknown.)
On to Ireland, Mr. and Mrs. West! One week except for a 24-hour whirlwind jaunt to Prague! Now that put a temporary dent in a 12 percent Irish unemployment rate.
However, Mrs. West, you flaunt it, so here is the approximate breakdown for the peons who worship you and your husband.
Engagement ring: $1.25 million (How prudent: your last cost $2 million.)
Bachelorette party: $4,100
Bachelorette party frock: $16,000
‘Dos and hair designers: $65,000
Versailles bash: $681,000
Versailles fireworks: $204,210
Jet-setting (Paris to Florence): $218,000
Forte di Belvedere venue: $410,000+ (Bummer! At the last wedding, Montecito’s Sottee Il Monte estate was rent free.)
Guest accommodations (Paris and Florence): $500,000+ (Advantage: you cut the budget when Beyoncé and Jay Z were no-shows. Were they again stuck in an elevator with Solange?)
Family accommodations: $1,800 per room (Advantage: you saved a tad when brother Robert Kardashian checked out.)
Givenchy wedding gown, matchy-matchy dress for North West, and tux: $500,000 (At the last wedding, three Vera Wang dresses totaled $60,000. Moving up!)
20-foot flower tower and other buds: $136,000
7-foot cake: $6,815
Security: $3 million
Andrea Bocelli performance: God knows
My fellow civilized Southerners would agree (as well as their counterparts in other regions): throwing cash at an event does not make you a tastemaker. For instance, Mrs. Bruce Jenner, it is most unseemly for an MOB to wear white, much less display plunging cleavage.
And, Mrs. West, what’s with those mother-daughter twin-like wedding dresses? I do not care whether Givenchy whipped them up. Many offspring find this embarrassingly tacky. Eventually, North West will hide the pics and then change her name because she is not a direction on Google Maps, nor can she upstage Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest. (Not to worry North: fruitcake Gwyneth Paltrow named her child Apple.)
Mr. and Mrs. West, I could not afford to buy one image scan of your wedding, though I can Google your record-breaking Instagram kiss. As Samantha Grossman quipped in Time: “Kim Kardashian is kind of famous for nothing, but no longer! Now she’s famous for uploading the most popular Instagram ever.” Obviously, Ms. Grossman has never ventured to Sears for an off-the-rack Kardashian style statement, which keeps you busy-busy.
Nonetheless, I prefer to share pics of fashionable southern brides who do not deplete their family coffers to indulge in over-the-top Hollywood antics.
Renowned St. Simons photographer Sarah DeShaw captures these fresh southern beauties. Happy clicks! BTW: We never say the verboten word “classy,” only “classic.”
Just to let you know, Mr. and Mrs. West, no one in the United States is royalty. And that includes the Kennedys. This is a republic. Nonetheless, thank you for welcoming us into your studio. Your intellect and interview skills are stellar.
Maybe I’ll flip through your People wedding feature while waiting in the Kroger express lane.
White flower painting courtesy of Lincolnian
The Palace of Versailles main golden gate courtesy of Sunil.phys
Fort di Belvedere, Florence’s celebrated fortification, courtesy of Sailko
Period luxury bedchamber courtesy of Tim Schapker
Sarah DeShaw Photography/Pinterest/St. Simons Island, Georgia
My dad yearned to be a doctor from the moment he saw ol’ Doc Weeks, the county physician, set a leg. At 16, he thumbed his way from Talking Rock, Georgia, to Atlanta, where he worked as an office boy. He was in a hurry. The war was on. Youthful impatience wore down his father, who finally signed the papers so Dad could enlist at 17.
He tested to be an airplane mechanic. Nevertheless, my father bumped into some brass and flatly told them he didn’t want to fight the war with a toolbox. He ended up as a pharmacist’s mate on an LST (landing ship tank). It was his first crack at hands-on healing.
After pulling wounded off Utah Beach on D-Day, Dad transferred to the Pacific Theater. The typhoons terrified more than the kamikazes. The LST crew could bellow clouds of smoke to camouflage the ship from divine-wind suicide, but they could not hide from nature’s fury.
A typhoon’s roar deafened, with seas crashing all around. In the valley between 35-foot waves, my dad and his mates would stare up at a wall of water curving overhead. Then the ship would ride almost perpendicular, surviving the crest before tossed into another valley.
My father could not bear what was to come. He would scoop up a few gentle creatures and stow them in his locker. Then the typhoon would rage again, battering most birds to death against the ship.
Life, after all, in the madness of death and destruction.
Patches from My Crazy Quilt © 2014 Catherine Hamrick. All rights reserved.
Pacific Ocean courtesy of NOAA/Department of Commerce
Flying birds courtesy of jvl!vo (Julio Maldonaldo Mourelle)
Then Wilbur will be required, by courtesy of updated computer tactics, to perform a triple Salchow, triple toe-loop to the thrill of gen z huddled over their mobile devices. If the plucky little pig cannot pull off this feat, Farmer Zuckerman will dispatch him to quick bacon-hood as opposed to glory at the state fair. (Fern did not comment as of presstime.)
How else would we compliment boney, red-carpet divas, Miss America, Mrs. America, Miss Teen USA, Miss USA, Miss Universe, America’s Top Model, and blushing brides for yet another season?
3) “This has been an AMAZING JOURNEY!”
That one drops out of the mouth of every person on a reality show who hangs on to the season finale. Particularly obnoxious are shallow players in “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette”—booked by agents in search of fast money made on fresh bodies. (If you want to comment on shows that sink to a lower depth, feel free.) For the sensible TV viewer, the vacuous “amazing journey” is the highway to cliché hell.
4 & 5) “I must leave it there. But we know this issue will continue as part of the NATIONAL CONVERSATION.”
Certain pundits repeat this lame closing after a two-minute pseudo debate between opposing political entities who have engaged in a shouting match littered with cherry-picked facts and quotes out of context.
I am perplexed as to which pundits to post as evidence. My YouTube examples could go on for 365 days uninterrupted. In fact, if I included the rising tide of spray-tanned, hair-sprayed, leggy, foundation-caked, lipstick-kissed Barbies outfitted in short skirts, southward-down tops, stiletto heels, and earring danglers . . . well . . . my blog might pick up more followers of the male persuasion. . . .
You are one AWESOME woman who twirled and twinkle-toed through an AMAZING JOURNEY, creating a NATIONAL CONVERSATION, indeed an authentic sensation.
Girl, you are the real deal.
P.S. I tolerated jumping-jack, swivel-hips Judge Bruno just to watch your segment. He delivers more spittle than Chris Matthews wound up on poll returns. I’m sure you felt it.
Paisley Abbey Gargoyle by Colin
Red Carpet by Greg Hernandez (Greg in Hollywood)
Gravel Road by Repat Coober
Lipsticks by Flickr use SpooSpa
Beloved since its release in 1952, Charlotte’s Web is a must-read classic for every home library. As Eudora Welty noted in a New York Times review, “It is just about perfect, and just about magical in the way it is done.” We may forever thank the rich imaginations of author E. B. White and illustrator Garth Williams. Please, please, read it to your babies.
Can you see in the dark—in the silent night of a new moon?
William Styron saw it. Although acclaim followed the brilliant author of The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie’s Choice, a shadow stalked then swallowed him. Depression. Styron movingly penned his descent into hell and struggle for peace of mind in Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness:
. . . a patient who felt similar devastation would by lying flat in bed, possibly sedated and hooked up to the tubes and wires of life-support systems. . . . His invalidism would be necessary, unquestioned and honorably attained. However, the sufferer from depression has no such option. . . . There he must, despite the anguish devouring his brain, present a face approximating the one that is associated with ordinary events and companionship. He must try to utter small talk, and be responsive to questions, and knowingly nod and frown and, God help him, even smile. But it is a fierce trial attempting to speak a few simple words.
It is all too easy to turn away from stark facts.
In March 2014, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) released figures on this epidemic:
—Approximately 60 percent of adults and almost one-half of youth ages 8 to 15 with mental illness received no mental health services in the previous year.
—Although military members comprise less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, veterans represent 20 percent of suicides nationally. Each day, about 22 veterans commit suicide.
—The numbers are staggering for mental health issues affecting the homeless, addicts, juveniles in detention, and prisoners in the criminal justice system.
—Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.
Already overwhelmed emergency rooms are often the only refuge for some stricken Americans. A temporary fix—and then the insidious cycle renews.
The 2008 recession hit hard, according to Medical News in 2008. Alarmed by “recession depression,” NAMI partnered with Mental Health America to survey adults nationwide. “The unemployed were found to be four times as likely as those with jobs to report symptoms consistent with severe mental illness.”
Depression rips apart families and communities, with relationships often unrepaired. Anger, ignorance, intolerance, neglect, denial, isolation, fear, sorrow, and anxiety affect both the depressed and their loved ones.
Nonetheless, courageous Americans speak through action. Mere lip service is a mockery.
On November 19, 2013, in Millboro, Virginia, an American tragedy played out. Twenty-four-year-old Austin “Gus” Deeds stabbed his father, Creigh Deeds, before taking his own life. Only hours before—after a psychiatric evaluation—an emergency custody order expired. There was no bed space for Gus.
Deeds, a Virginia state senator, went public and pushed for legislation. Omnibus bill SB260 unanimously passed the Virginia Assembly this past March. State hospitals must provide a “bed of last resort” space for temporarily detained patients when deemed necessary. SB260 mandates the completion of a web-based psychiatric bed registry.
It is a modest start, “the tip of the iceberg,” Creigh Deeds said.
Gus Deeds was a son, a brother, a friend, a classmate, a musician—not a faceless statistic.
In her groundbreaking book—An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Mood and Madness—Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D. charted the disruptive illness that threatened her life. Diagnosed early with bipolar disorder, she found a rich path and career in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Attention must be paid. No more whispers in the dark.
Folk singer Dar Williams tells a too-familiar story about pain, withdrawal, and joyless getting by.
Parity and Crisis: Quotes of Note
“We have replaced the hospital bed with the jail cell, the homeless shelter, and the coffin. How is that compassionate?”—Representative Tim Murphy, Republican, Pennsylvania. Source: “The Cost of Not Caring: No Place to Go,” Liz Szabo, USA Today, May 12, 2014
“Some of our instincts on treating mental health are good, but our implementation is a failure.”—State Senator Creigh Deeds, Democrat, Virginia. Source: “Out of Sight, Out of Mind,” editorial board, Newsleader, April 5, 2014
As of January 1, 2014, more Americans can purchase insurance that covers mental health and substance abuse disorder. As of April 29, 2014, 21 states refused to extend Medicaid coverage for citizens. Source: “Mental Health Now Covered under ACA, but Not for Everyone,” Susan Brink, U.S. News and World Report.
“In the past few weeks, serious allegations of misconduct have arisen from several VA medical facilities, indicating that records are being intentionally doctored in order to falsely portray patient wait times as reasonable and satisfactory. Recently, several VA employees have come forward and alleged what IAVA members have been reporting anecdotally for some time: that wait times at some VA medical facilities are far longer than reported.
“Disturbingly, long wait times are alleged to have resulted in the deaths of 40 veterans who perished while waiting for care at the Phoenix VA medical facility alone. It has been alleged that those and many other veterans at the Phoenix VA were placed on a ‘secret waiting list’ in order to hide actual wait times so VA officials could report that department goals were being achieved. Since the Phoenix VA story broke, more allegations of misconduct by VA personnel at other facilities from coast to coast are painting a similar picture. Unfortunately, these types of incidents are not new, nor apparently are they unique. “
Source: Statement of Tom Tarantino, Chief Policy Officer, Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for the hearing on the State of VA Health Care, May 15, 2014
Where to Turn
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (with Veterans Crisis Line), 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Bring Change to Mind (Glenn Close founded this organization to fight stigma. Her sister Jessie, a poet, lives with bipolar illness. Her nephew, Calen Pick, leads a productive life as an artist and furniture maker, although he has schizoaffective disorder.)
Out of the Darkened Room: When a Parent Is Depressed by William R. Beardslee, M.D.
Judge Baker Children’s Center (An affiliate of Harvard Medical School, the center focuses on children ages 3 to 17. The organization promotes the best possible mental health by integrating research, intervention, training, and advocacy. Parents can access treatment programs and resources on the website. Dr. William R. Beardslee directs the Preventive Intervention Project and the Prevention of Depression Study.)
Veterans on Trial: The Coming Court Battles over PTSD by Barry Shaller and Todd Brewster (Note: The book includes a history of PTSD in previous wars.)
Nocturne in Black and Gold by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Detroit Institute of Art
In the Corner by Carl Larsson, National Museum, Stockholm, Sweden
Femme Assise (Melancholy Woman) by Pablo Picasso, Detroit Museum of Art
Entombment of Christ (Lady with Tears), Saint Martin Church in Arc-en-Barrois (Author: Vassil. User: AnkhMorPork)
Sketch by Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
The Sick Woman by Jan Steen, city of Amsterdam
Homeless Man in Los Angeles by Terabass