Oct 31, 2007

Push the Button

Artsy Weekend

On Sunday, I joined Paul Bolinger and his lovely wife, Camille, for a trip to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford. The museum's claim to fame is that it is "America's oldest public art museum." Their Web site describes their origins: "Hartford art patron Daniel Wadsworth (1771-1848) founded the Wadsworth Atheneum to share the wonders of art with the public. In the mid-nineteenth century, average citizens had little if no exposure to fine art, antiquities, or beautiful objects. Only the very wealthy purchased paintings or decorative arts, and then only for their own enjoyment. Thus, Wadsworth's generous gesture was an exciting turn of events that raised the cultural fortunes of an entire community."

This was a wonderful place. Not only is the collection spectacular, but it is exhibited in a most "visitor-friendly" way. At one point, I was studying a Picasso oil that was the size of a postcard. I realized that my face was about one foot from the painting. There were no barricades and the guards were observant but not oppressive.

We planned to have lunch in the museum's cafe. Quite frankly, I was expecting a soggy chicken salad sandwich. Boy, was I wrong! I had a Santa Fe chicken salad that was as good as any I have ever encountered -- crisp vegetables, delicious spicy chicken, creamy pungent dressing, and looking like an ad for the Food Channel. Paul and Camille raved about their lunches as well.

The museum's collection is so varied as to be difficult to describe. Their Web site describes it better than I could:

The European Art collection is a rich and diverse collection featuring approximately 900 paintings, 500 sculptures, 800 drawings, and 3,000 British and Continental prints. Paintings on display represent periods ranging from late medieval through the mid-twentieth century. Especially impressive are Baroque paintings, including masterworks by Caravaggio, Strozzi, Ribera, Zurbarán, Hals, van Dyck, and Claude Lorrain. Nineteenth century artists, particularly those working in France, are amply featured and include significant works by Degas, Cézanne, Renoir, Monet, Manet, and van Gogh.
The American Decorative Arts collection uniquely embodies the history of material culture in New England and America. From elaborately carved and painted seventeenth century chests to the modern masterpieces of Marcel Breuer and Frank Lloyd Wright, this collection is filled with works ranging from the utilitarian to the luxurious. Connecticut craftsmen are celebrated through the fine examples of Samuel Loomis (1748-1814), maker of Colchester/Norwich style furniture, and Eliphalet Chapin (1741-1807), Connecticut's most renowned colonial cabinetmaker. Unique forms come to life in the modern meets natural ethos designs of George Nakashima (1905-1990).

The American Painting & Sculpture collection is one of the most distinguished of its kind in quality, range, and historical importance. More than 600 paintings, 200 sculptures, and 1,200 drawings and watercolors by approximately 400 artists constitute a nearly encyclopedic survey of fine art in the United States. (Paintings, sculpture, and works on paper after 1945 are part of the Contemporary Art collection.) Extraordinary in quality and nearly exhaustive in scope, this collection includes the earliest known dated American oil, a portrait of Elizabeth Eggington, painted in 1664, by an unidentified artist. Also featured are concentrations of colonial-era portraits and history paintings, Hudson River School landscapes (the paintings are currently traveling as an exhibit in Europe, see Traveling Exhibitions), post-Civil War Era favorites, and fine examples of twentieth century movements including Ash Can, Modernism, Surrealism, and Realism.
Needless to say, it just goes on and on. You could spend many days enjoying this place and still not see it all. Highly recommended!

Oct 29, 2007

The Dolceola

Saturday, Tom and Bev Webster came down to my motel all the way from Maine. They had contacted me a couple of weeks ago to see if I could look at a musical instrument called a Dolceola which Bev had inherited from her late father. They wanted to know how much it might be worth and what it might take to restore the instrument. They had found me through another Dolceola owner in California, Greg Miner, who has a Website describing this rare instrument. Greg has a Website relating to his phenomenal instrument collection. When he was restoring his Dolceola, he contacted me. Therein lies an interesting story:

In September, 1997, I attended the Memphis Dulcimer Festival. On the program, I noticed that at 2:00 PM, Andy Cohen would be playing the gospel music of Washington Phillips , accompanying himself on the Dolceola. Since Ididn't know who Andy Cohen was, or Washington Phillips, or what a Dolceola was, Iattended this session. I was completely captivated with the music, the instrument, and the musician. Andy, his lovely wife Larkin, and I have stayed in touch and become friends through a common love for this unique instrument and its music.

I enjoy bringing old devices back to life. The Dolceola is no exception. Through Andy's connections, in 1998, I had the opportunity to restore a Dolceola for a gentleman in Montana. It was an enjoyable job, although one that tested my patience on more than one occasion. I even reproduced the decals that were applied to the originals!

The body of the instrument was badly cracked and had become unglued in a number of areas. The keyboard mechanism had, at some time during its long life, been submerged in water. That caused a lot of rust that had made much of the mechanism inoperable. Moths and mice had taken their toll on the felt parts of the action (but the glue remnants were still there to let me know where the felt had been). Many strings were broken, but I was fortunate enough to find a source of custom-made strings. And here's the result of 2 years' work... before and after:

Below is a picture of Andy tuning the Dolceola (Serial No. 2793) which I restored.

Andy and his wife Larkin have an online store, Riverlark Music, where you can buy a recording of Andy playing the "Dolceola Favorites." He's a fabulous musician!

Oct 24, 2007

Fond Memories

Today I got an Email from an old shipmate from the USS Hugh Purvis. Bill Leslie and I served together in 1962 and 1963. He included the following:

How To Simulate The Life Of A Navy Sailor...

~ Buy a steel dumpster, paint it gray inside and out, and live in it for six months.
~ Run all the pipes and wires in your house exposed on the walls.
~ Repaint your entire house every month.
~ Renovate your bathroom. Build a wall across the middle of the bathtub and move the showerhead to chest level. When you take showers, make sure you turn off the water while you soap down.
~ Raise the thresholds and lower the headers of your front and back doors so that you either trip or bang your head every time you pass through them.
~ Disassemble and inspect your lawnmower every week.
~ On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, turn your water heater temperature up to 200 degrees. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, turn the water heater off. On Saturdays and Sundays tell your family they use too much water during the week, so no bathing will be allowed.
~ Raise your bed to within 6 inches of the ceiling, so you can't turn over without getting out and then getting back in.
~ Sleep on the shelf in your closet. Replace the closet door with a curtain. Have your spouse whip open the curtain about 3 hours after you go to sleep, shine a flashlight in your eyes, and say "Sorry, wrong rack."
~ Make your family qualify to operate each appliance in your house -dishwasher operator, blender technician, etc.
~ Have your neighbor come over each day at 5 am, blow a whistle loudly, and shout "Reveille, reveille, all hands heave out and trice up."
~ Have your mother-in-law write down everything she's going to do the following day, then have her make you stand in your back yard at 6 am while she reads it to you.
~ Submit a request chit to your father-in-law requesting permission to leave your house before 3 pm.
~ Empty all the garbage bins in your house and sweep the driveway three times a day, whether it needs it or not.
~ Have your neighbor collect all your mail for a month, read your magazines, and randomly lose every 5th item before delivering it to you.
~ Watch no TV except for movies played in the middle of the night. Have your family vote on which movie to watch, then show a different one.
~ Make your family menu a week ahead of time without consulting the pantry or refrigerator.
~ Post a menu on the kitchen door informing your family that they are having steak for dinner. Then make them wait in line for an hour. When they finally get to the kitchen, tell them you are out of steak, but they can have dried ham or hot dogs. Repeat daily until they ignore the menu and just ask for hot dogs.
~ Bake a cake. Prop up one side of the pan so the cake bakes unevenly. Spread icing real thick to level it off.
~ Get up every night around midnight and have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on stale bread.
~ Set your alarm clock to go off at random times during the night. At the alarm, jump up and dress as fast as you can, making sure to button your topshirt button and tuck your pants into your socks. Run out into the backyard and uncoil the garden hose.
~ Every week or so, throw your dog in the pool and shout, "Man overboard port side!" Rate your family members on how fast they respond.
~ Put the headphones from your stereo on your head, but don't plug them in. Hang a paper cup around your neck on a string. Stand in front of the stove, and speak into the paper cup "Stove manned and ready." After an hour or so, speak into the cup again "Stove secured." Roll up the headphones and papercup and stow them in a shoebox.
~ Place a podium at the end of your driveway. Have your family stand watches at the podium, rotating at 4 hour intervals. This is best done when the weather is worst. January is a good time.
~ When there is a thunderstorm in your area, get a wobbly rocking chair, sit in it and rock as hard as you can until you become nauseous. Make sure to have a supply of stale crackers in your shirt pocket.
~ Make coffee using eighteen scoops of budget priced coffee grounds per pot, and allow the pot to simmer for 5 hours before drinking.
~ Have someone under the age of ten give you a haircut with sheep shears.
~ Sing "Anchors Aweigh" in the shower.
~ Sew the back pockets of your jeans on the front.
~ Lock yourself and your family in the house for six weeks. Tell them that at the end of the 6th week you are going to take them to Disney World for "liberty." At the end of the 6th week, inform them the trip to Disney World has been canceled because they need to get ready for an inspection, and it will be another week before they can leave the house.

Next time you meet up with a sailor...thank them!

Thanks, Bill. This is great!

Oct 14, 2007

A Trip to the Met...

Yesterday, I visited the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art for the first time. It won't be the last.

A friend from high school, Roland Racko, lives in New York and had asked if I could visit while I'm working in Connecticut. I got up early yesterday and took the Metro North into Grand Central Terminal. I had not seen it since its restoration. It's really an incredible building.

After taking the subway down to the Village, I met Roland and we had a pleasant, liesurely lunch at Jack's (corner of University Place and 11th Street). Then we went to Union Square to catch the subway uptown. There was a farmers' market in the park at Union Square. Such wonderful smells and sights! Fresh breads, fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices all mingling in the breeze. I bought some fresh tart cherry preserves which I later had to forfeit to guards at the Met -- no glass containers allowed in the building.

We took the subway to 77th and Lexington and walked over to Central Park. It was a perfect day for sightseeing. Lots of people had decided to go to the art museum on this gorgeous day. It is an absolutely overwhelming place! I saw on one poster that their collection includes over 3,000,000 objects. I can believe it.

We restricted ourselves pretty much to the Egyptian collection. It only contains 36,000 items. Everything from the tiniest statuary to the Tomb of Dendur -- each object is presented beautifully, with careful lighting, wonderful accessibility, and sensitivity to its cultural context.

After we left the museum, we proceeded to the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Terminal for a delightful dinner. Courtesy of Metro North, I was back in my room in Stratford by 9:30. What a fabulous day! Come to think of it, aren't they all fabulous?

Oct 12, 2007


This week I went out to dinner with some of my coworkers. We went to a nice restaurant in New Haven, so I wore a sportcoat. During the meal, someone referred to me as the "Professor" at the head of the table. The name stuck and people continued to call me Professor all week.

It brought to mind some of the other nicknames I've had over the years --
  • "Lumpy" -- a term of endearment used by Claire Melander, my father's hygienist
  • "Bartlett" -- a name used (along with "Professor") when I was in junior high school -- referred to my shape, that of a pear
  • "Smead" -- often used as a variant on my real last name
  • "Lieutenant Maloy" -- a name used by my former coworker, Laura Jean Murray, who was the Commanding Officer's secretary at the NROTC unit at the University of Oklahoma. When I arrived at the unit, the C.O. took me to the President of the university, Dr. George Cross. Captain Marcus L. Lowe, not noted for finesse, introduced me as Lieutenant Maloy. (I had just served two years on the USS Maloy!)
  • "Commodore" and "Commander" -- used by John Pape, Fred Scarborough and some other coworkers at Camber Corporation
  • "Father" -- a term of endearment used by Stephanie Jattuso at Camber

I'm sure there are others that I've forgotten. Isn't it funny how they come and go?

Oct 7, 2007

A Sunday Afternoon with the Horses

I have always had a love affair with carousels. I don't know why, but I get goosebumps just thinking about the horses, the music, the motion... This week, I learned that in Bristol, Connecticut, there exists the New England Carousel Museum. I had to go see it. Today was the day.

The museum is in an old mill building. Lack of space does not seem to be an issue. It houses what is probably the largest collection of carousel figures - horses and other animals - anywhere in the world. Also on display are other carousel-related memorabilia, including this restored Wurlitzer band organ.

The building also houses a "history of firefighting" collection and a sizeable carousel restoration shop. I only wish Mary Ann could have shared the day.

Problems and Pride in Chicago...

Mary Ann's daughter and my stepdaughter, Tori Glade, completed the Chicago Marathon today. What an accomplishment!

This is not Tori's first marathon and I expect it won't be her last. She is incredibly self-disciplined and is an inspiration. Both Mary Ann and I are very proud of her.

It was a difficult race because of the heat and humidity. According to the International Herald-Tribune, "It was the hottest Chicago Marathon ever, with temperatures reaching 31.1 degrees Celsius (88 degrees Fahrenheit)."

Many of the world-class runners had difficulty and the officials took the unusual step of closing the last half of the route for participants who had not reached it by a certain time.

(From the Web site) Due to the rising heat index and higher than expected temperatures, LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon Executive Race Director Carey Pinkowski and Medical Director Dr. George Chiampas, in cooperation with city officials, have implemented a contingency plan, as a precautionary measure, to effectively close the Marathon course at the halfway point. Runners who have not reached the halfway point by approximately 12:00 p.m. will be diverted back to Grant Park via Halsted and Jackson. Jackson will be closed to automobile traffic and the participants will be provided with additional support along this route. Participants who crossed the halfway point prior to the shut-down will continue to be fully supported along the standard course to the finish line. Participants are asked to take advantage of medical personnel, cooling buses, runner drop out buses, water, Gatorade and other means of support en route back to Grant Park.

According to some of the Forum entries I've read, some of the aid stations ran out of water and Gatorade. I can't imagine what a desperate situation that would cause. As one Forum contributor stated, "No one could anticipate temperatures 20 degrees above normal. Of the 45 000 signed up for the race, 10,000 had the wisdom not to start. Those who started SHOULD have been experienced racers who have dealt with heat and humidity and also know how to pace themselves. The race was CALLED at mile 13 when too many ambulances were busy with people down ... and race officials certainly did everything they possibly could to ensure the racers' safety."

Given the circumstances, we're even more proud than you can imagine. Congratulations Tori!

As amazed as I am at the discipline and athleticism of the participants - all 45,000 of them - I'm equally amazed at some of the technology that came into play. The runners are tracked individually as they pass certain checkpoints. Mary Ann and I were able to register to receive emails and text messages that permitted us to follow Tori's progress. Is that magic or what?!?! Furthermore, we were able to follow live coverage of the entire event on Internet streaming video!

Oct 6, 2007

The Clearwater

I just saw a wonderful show on PBS about how Pete Seeger and a few of his friends led a movement to reconstruct a Hudson River Sloop of the nineteenth century to use as an environmental trainer. It looks like this belowdecks:
Click on the image to go to a wonderful Web site that captures this whole magical undertaking!