September 27, 2016

Kate Conquers Canada

Ladies, holster your claws and admit K-Middy rocks this red!

I think my K-Middy was tired of all the abuse and stepped up her game just as ol' GSL knew she would.

Lady Sings the Blues

This should make those naysayers (you know who you are) Evergreen with envy.

Kate trying to remain calm amid the thunder.  Not sure if 'Scorch' is with the Royal Household.

Canada's First Lady Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau
That lid perhaps better suited for an Al Capone biopic premiere.

Georgie Porgie Pudding Pie; stiffed the PM and made him cry.
The Den likes ol' George who can't be bothered to high-five the backroom boy of the G-8

UPDATE: The Den is delighted to report one of our workshop attendees has gone on to glory.

Sausage Pinch Workshop Honor Graduate Mary Jordan of Bellevue, Ohio had a little tussle with a Mickey Ds employee.

September 11, 2016

September 11th

It seems every generation has a "where were you when..." moment and the September 11th attacks loom larger than any single moment in American history because so many people experienced it in real time.  Seared in my memory was a routine weekday morning interrupted by Dr. O phoning from his car to tell me to turn on the telly and I switched on NBC and saw Tower 1 burning as Katie Couric provided stunned commentary.  Less than an hour later, a 2nd plane came into frame then disappeared behind Tower 2 with flames bursting thru the front.  Like everybody else, I instantly knew the Tower 2 impact was extraordinarily well coordinated terror.

I knew the world changed in that moment perhaps in a way it shouldn't have. When both towers fell, I assumed like most others there would likely be casualties far beyond 10,000 after hearing of the many hundreds  stranded above the flames jumping to their deaths rather than passively waiting to be incinerated. I like to think I'd have been among the jumpers who chose to go out on their own terms.

The 110 Story Sears Tower now known as Willis Tower was for about 20 years the World's Tallest Building. After Tower 2 fell, I called my buddy Ash who worked on the 85th Floor for Solomon Smith Barney. I was going to tell him to get the hell out of there but couldn't get thru. I tried calling his wife Aparna knowing she was in full panic but she was deluged with calls from India and elsewhere and was frantically trying to reach her husband.  I finally got ahold of Ash the following day and he was still shaken while describing the harrowing scene as the building evacuated with thousands racing down the stairs en masse.  Had the September 11th attacks been fully successful, the Sears Tower would have also been hit.

Later that afternoon, I met The Good Doctor and Doc M at a sidewalk café in the 'Viagra Triangle' (a famous nightlife district anchored by Gibson's Steak House), as we discussed what happened and what was next.  A half million people evacuated the downtown business district all at once just a few minutes after Tower 2 was hit.  We watched thousands of commuters walking by heading north carrying briefcases, with many women barefoot carrying heels, as trains, buses, and cabs couldn't handle a fraction of the sudden demand. I was then 36 years old and already knew the Army's enlistment cut-off age was 35 but Good Doc encouraged me to stop in at a recruiting office and plead my case. I did several days later to no avail and stopped by every 6 months or so and my appearances took on the same routine...."no, we have asked and told our commander about you and he sent it up but there's nothing we can do..."

Nearly five years later, on June 22nd 2006, I was in an excruciatingly boring insurance seminar.  The Iraq War was at it's lowest point with troop allocations already stretched too thin,  recruiting numbers plummeting, and President Bush deciding, but not announcing til months later, to go all-in with a surge requiring many thousands of additional soldiers. I'll never forget the moment of looking down at my fancy Palm Treo and seeing an incoming email saying CALL ARMY RECRUITING ASAP!  About 5 minutes later, a scheduled break allowed me to go outside and make a call that forever changed my life.

Hey Mr Law, we just got a MILPER...we have you down as 41.... when do you turn 42?....okay, if we can ship you to bootcamp by your birthday, we can take you...

August 27, 2016

Walden Pond & The Mount

Edith Wharton (nee' Jones). The American Idiom "Keeping Up With the Jones's" alludes to EW's Society Matron forbearers moving Uptown Manhattan with the socially ambitious keen to follow suit.

Two weekends ago, I had an unexpected layover in Greater Boston. I do have someone near & dear in the area but since I hadn't given prior notice, I wasn't just going to sneak up on her unannounced disallowing the usual lavish preparation GSL gals giddily undergo after long separation.

Replica of shed where Henry David Thoreau secluded for 2 years and wrote Walden.

Saturday, I headed over to Walden Pond which is a State Park with several miles of walking trails and of course the famous little cabin where Henry David Thoreau retreated to "live deliberately and to front only the essential facts of life..."


Sunday brought the fulfillment of a long intended pilgrimage. I have said on at least 1 other blog when faced with the oft asked Fantasy Dinner Party query, I'd first invite and then defer host duties to Edith Wharton. Ms Wharton is my absolute favorite woman of History. Until 2010, I thought of her only as a Society Matron who could write a little.  She was so much more than that. She had her summer home, The Mount, in the Berkshires built and designed to her specifications which were more form & function oriented contrary to the more chintzy oaky-baroqoey Victorian tastes of the day. She considered herself a better gardener than novelist. When I was in Haiti on Humanitarian Relief post Earthquake  back in early 2010, I asked a UN staffer if she had access to any good books. The following day, she handed me the Pulitzer Prize winning bio of Wharton by R.W. B. Lewis. Amid the devastation zipped in a mosquito net on a cot in an overcrowded tent wearing rifle range earplugs, to enter EW's world was an enchanting diversion. I've since read House of Mirth, Custom of the Country and her memoirs: A Backward Glance and several of her short stories. She was a brilliant writer but I admire her even more for how she threw herself into aiding orphans & refugees during the first World War. Then living full time mostly in the South of France, she took up residence at her Paris apartment, EW leveraged her talent, fame, and resources and became the first foreign woman awarded the Legion of Honor by a grateful nation.

A docent and one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen. Probably mid-70s, largely untouched to my eye,  likely French to my ear; which may explain a lot. The land The Mount sits on was purchased by EW from the Sargents,,,yes those Sargents. Their cousin, John Singer, would have lunged at an opportunity to immortalize the above beauty.
Our guide was the delightful Wendy.  GSL loves docents and fills Sergeant-at-Arms (no, those other sergeants) duties to border collie slowpokes and shoot shushing glares at chatterboxes.
EW's bedroom where she wrote House of Mirth. Docent Wendy said she'd write all morning while sitting in bed tossing finished pages to floor quickly scooped up by chambermaid relaying to secretary for transcription. She had a staff of 20 at The Mount.  EW was independent but not low maintenance.
This view from the Italian Garden opposite the French Garden.

This is from a photoshoot Vogue did at The Mount back in 2012 celebrating EW and her literati circle that was shot by Annie Liebovitz, styled by Grace Coddington for a mag edited by Anna Wintour. Why have a Russian Supermodel, Natalia Vodianova, as Edith Wharton and not a female writer or literary scholar? GSL would have viewed this as a wonderful opportunity to introduce a young, talented female author to a huge international audience.... and do so with even greater style and substance.

I just remembered that Uncle L helped bring this splendid film adaptation of one of EW's darker novels to the big screen.
Shot in Northeast Kingdom, Vermont on a shoestring budget, I remember him telling me a perfectly timed snowstorm cut production time and prevented cost overruns.