Wednesday, October 10, 2018

HARLEM, RADIO CITY AND ROCKEFELLER CENTER


Unfortunately, there are no extant photos of my beloved Anna Wright or my Nana Julie.  These are just stock photos of Harlem in the 1940's.  All my visits to Harlem with Anna meld together in one bright, colorful, exciting time.  Both Nana and Anna were independent working women and made their own decisions.  I don't know what Anna's friends and neighbors thought of the little white girl, but I was with Anna and was therefore accepted and made much of.  If I could go back in time, one of the first places I'd go would be Harlem with Anna at my side.  She knew how to have a good time.  And she was a faithful and loyal friend to my Nana who had had a very hard life.

Harry Conover was a big name in the modeling world in the 40's.  All I really remember is standing around in a big room full of cute kids holding their "glossies" and feeling very hot and bored under the lights and wishing I was in Central Park.  I photographed very well during my first five years and I wish I had my modeling photos or my baby pictures or something, but my mother would never give me any and in later years she stored all the precious family photos in the trunk of her car.
  Which was stolen.
And never recovered.
I am speechless.
The photographer who took this picture* is the gentlemen who urged my beautiful mother to register me at the Conover modeling agency where I would make "Big money."  If I ever made big money, I never saw any of it.  And it was never discussed.  I don't even mind about the money, but I sure would love to have those family pictures.  My three brothers were all beautiful babies.


During this time Nana was taking me on lovely Christmas trips to Radio City Music Hall (I wanted to be a Rockette so bad and only a complete lack of dance talent prevented me.)  We also saw the huge Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and the graceful skaters leaping into the frigid air.  The legs of the girls were always blue with cold but I doubt they felt it; they were transported.

And most important in Nana's eyes was our Christmas visit to see the real Santa Claus at Macy's!  The fly in the ointment every year was the fact that I didn't care for Santa.
In fact, he terrified me and I did 
NOT want to see him.  And every year poor Nana was mortified as I screamed bloody murder. We would have repeated this humiliation for God knows how long, but my parents bought a house in Elmhurst and Mom
had two baby boys in rapid succession.
And I had to leave my beloved New York.


*  Do not ask what the black bars behind this picture are.
I do not know.  There are many mysteries from my storied youth.






Monday, October 1, 2018

PARADES, HARLEM AND MY MODELING CAREER



Seeing NYC and Central Park again reminded me of the many spectacular parades on Fifth Avenue and I always had a front row seat.  Every child loves parades and I was particularly fond of the Annual Saint Patrick's Day Parade.  Nana Julie was an Irish immigrant who came to America to find a better life and I hope she did.  So we would find a good spot right on our side of Fifth and wait for the excitement.  What I particularly loved was that the spectators all dressed in green and we did too.  When the parade was over we went to the Automat.  Those who know what that is get a gold star.

Nana Julie had a talent for friendship. She included everyone in her circle--rich, poor, black, white or purple--everyone was her friend.  Her best friend was a black maid named Anna Wright who cleaned some of the apartments in our building.  Anna was a beautiful, full-figured woman with a deep, rich laugh.  She would join Nana for endless cups of tea with lots of sugar after she had finished cleaning.  Anna and Nana were extroverts who loved to laugh.  One memorable afternoon the subject of the conversation was the recent wedding of the Watson girl whose wealthy parents lived next door in a huge building which was all theirs.  Nana and I attended the nuptials and Anna wanted to hear all about it.

"Well, that Watson girl--I watched her grow up you know--is real pretty. And her dress was gorgeous--white satin with a long train.  And there was a little flower girl who threw all these rose petals down the aisle. She was real cute and not shy at all!"

"I wanna be a flower girl!" said I.

"And you will be, honey--as pretty as you are. Sure you will," said Anna.  (And I was too, the very next year.  I wore a long yellow dress and a big bonnet, but that's another story.)

"But the bridesmaids' dresses were real ugly," said Nana.  "They were white, just like the bride's with navy blue polka dots!
You ever hear of such a thing?"

"They sound pretty bad," said Anna, pouring herself more tea.

"And you know, Anna, that Margaret Truman, the President's daughter, was one of the bridesmaids and she's kind of homely," I said,the four-year-old voice of authority.

Anna burst out laughing and almost choked.
"That girl IS pretty plain."

"And she can't sing either," said Nana Julie, who knew about such things as her daughter, Mary Catherine Theresa, had been a lyric soprano from childhood and played the lead in all the Catholic school musicals.  "She used to win all the dance contests too!"


And I, being over-sensitive and self-centered, burst into loud tears.

"She's my mother and I can't sing or dance at all!"

"But you're a Conover model," said Nana.  That was true; I was a model, but I didn't like it.*

"Come here, Baby," said Anna, taking me onto her lap.  "How 'bout I take you home with me to Harlem and bring you back tomorrow?"

I immediately stopped crying; Harlem was pretty darn exciting.  "All right."

TO BE CONTINUED

*Little did I know that being an introvert meant I would forever hate to have my picture taken.

The parade picture is a stock photo from Google Images.











Wednesday, September 26, 2018

New York, New York!



I was born in NYC many, many years ago.  My parents both worked so for five years I lived with my Nana Julie at Two East 75th Street right off Fifth Avenue.  Oh, the parades we saw!  Nana was an Irish immigrant who worked hard all her life.  She was the Super at #2 who shoveled snow and loaded coal into the furnace.



I had feared that when I returned 70 years later my first home would be demolished or changed beyond recognition.  But it was the same!  I could not believe it. I pointed out the windows of our apartment.  I told my daughters about the beautiful roof garden on the fifth floor.


Mr. and Mrs. Costain lived in the penthouse and created the lush garden just outside their door. I was often invited for tea and cookies in their gorgeous apartment, always followed by a walk around the garden. Mrs. Costain was blonde and beautiful; she exuded class. I loved her; I wanted to BE her.

Mrs. Morse lived on the second floor with her French poodle Coco. She took Coco for many walks and fed the pigeons, always wearing black high heels and a tall black hat with feathers and a veil.  Her front door was always open and if one passed by Mrs. Morse could be seen in her hat and heels...and sadly
nothing else.


I was quite precocious and began to cross Fifth Avenue (by myself) and walk to the little playground in Central Park which was always filled with many children and their uniformed nannies. Occasionally, I was asked where MY nanny was and I would always say, "My nanny is working."  This remark caused some confusion.


I had a little boat and sometimes I would walk the short distance to the pond where I would tie a long string to the boat, set it in the water where it would sail happily in circles until I pulled it back to shore.  Then we set off for home, lunch and a nap.
I was five and fearless.

Friday, August 17, 2018

BRINGING ON THE LIGHT



I'm standing in  my bedroom and something is bothering me.  What is it?  Forget the unmade bed and the knocked over plants from the recent cat fight.  Ignore the clothes that need to be ironed currently draped over a chair.  Then it comes to me--the lampshades are dingy and mottled--not a good look.  I do not wish to spend money on new lamps or shades.  I don't even want to buy materials to cover the shabby (not in a good way) shades.  So I go to my craft room and look through my enormous paper stash.  Sure enough, I come up with some charming possibilities.  I was so excited that I forgot to take Before pictures.
The first lampshade was a dirty cream with yellowed palm fronds on each of the four sides.  The palm fronds had been a lovely pale shade of green, but now looked severely jaundiced.  A short time later--
Voila!






I painted the shade white and covered it with beautiful handmade paper infused with leaves in green and gold.  The papers were simply glued at the top, bottom and both sides--not the whole paper.  They were not long enough to cover the entire shade, so I glued strips of green handmade paper on the top and bottom.  I was thrilled by the results!  And the lamp looks lovely in the evening when lit.

On to the other lampshade which was dingy and dented and very very old.





The paper for this shade was standard letter size paper which could be folded twice and used for lovely brochures.  My daughter Sharon gave me a huge pile of this delicately shaded paper years ago when she decided she was already too busy to create a catering business even though she is a fantastic cook.  Even as a child Sharon could get a few things out of the cupboard and the fridge and create a marvelous meal while I stood there dumbly staring into into the refrigerator and wasting electricity.  Anyway, I have used this beautiful and subtle paper scores of times over the years.  Thank you,
Sharon!




    This shade was trickier to work with   
because of it conical shape.  I held each sheet up to the shade and marked where it would have to be cut to fit.  I then used a ruler to draw a line from the mark on the top of the paper to the corner on the bottom on each side.  Since I cannot cut a straight line, I always use the handy paper cutter my other daughter, Jeanne, gave me the Christmas before last.  I use the cutter almost daily and am very grateful.  Each cut paper was then glued to the shade on the top, bottom and sides.  Tiny slits were cut into the top and bottom of each sheet so it  could be folded under and glued without       tearing the delicate paper.                 





And last but not least is my painting and decorating of my ancient night table which I have had for decades and was much the worse for wear.  So I painted it with the leftover paint from my recent repainting of the kitchen cabinets and glued on brightly colored leaves cut from a wonderful British magazine called The Calm Project.



Now I think I'll lie down!

This week I am linking to Shabby Art Boutique 
                                             Create, Bake, Grow & Gather Party #328

Friday, May 11, 2018

REDECORATING ON THE CHEAP


I love my home and since I live alone (the cats are not interested in decorating) I can do whatever I want!  I wanted to do something wild in my bathroom with color.  

I have lots of ideas, but very little money.  I could not redo my bath unless I spent almost nothing.  I bought the towels and bath rugs on sale--a big sale.  I waited until the peach paint I wanted was also on sale.
Those were the only items I paid for!

Let's see how I did it.  Now, remember, everything had to be shades of raspberry, pale pink and peach.  The glorious florals at right were calendar pages.  I found an old frame, cleaned it and placed a picture I found in one of the Stampington magazines' Artist's Pages.  I cut out the best parts and taped them to the mat.  Just the right shades of raspberry.  The pink painting was created by a dear friend; the glass soap dish was a gift from another old friend.  I already had the towel hook, but I painted it peach.




The beautiful fruit tiles at left were bought years ago at a Southwestern market for $1 apiece.   I covered the cabinet doors with scrapbook paper and then applied Liquitex Matte Medium to protect them.  The candles are both gifts.





Speaking of scrapbook paper, the gorgeous picture of red hearts in the very top photo is just that--a sheet of scrapbook paper.  (I have hoarded these papers for years.)  The vignette of the garden room in the old wooden box was created with supplies I had in my craft room which were all bought over the years with coupons from Michael's and JoAnn's.





The two fairy pictures by Cecily Mary Barker are not even prints--they are pages from a magazine!   I rescued some old frames that didn't match and cleaned them.  What would I do without
Windex?



Now, not everyone wants old calendar and magazine pages in their baths or any other room for that matter.  Those people will have stopped reading this blog post long ago and are probably shaking their heads in mild disgust as they gaze at their beautiful custom framed paintings.  But I like making do and repurposing and taking old stuff from my craft room and creating something new and original.


All the collages in my bath are mine and chosen for their color schemes.  The bottom of a wooden box was painted and decorated with flowers I cut out of ARBUS
Magazine.  I got the idea for using boxes for storage from IKEA.  Theirs costs $25, but mine cost zero.  The top of the box was also painted and one of those wonderful Artist's Pages from Stampington was simply glued in and a hanger attached.

My whole house is like this--handmade, repurposed and scratched by three black cats.  The sofa is losing its stuffing, so I covered it with white quilts.  Some folks love it; some folks are politely aghast at my style.

"Well, it's very . . . homey.  Isn't it?"

Yes, it is.






Saturday, April 21, 2018

THE ELUSIVENESS OF SPRING



Today was cold and rainy all day.  But it's Spring!  Mother Nature is obviously confused.  One day it will be warm, sunny and delightful and the next day I'm closing the windows and looking for a sweater.  I know it's cold when all three black cats are cuddled up to Mommy in the dark cold of night.




Thankfully, we have had springlike days during which I race outside with my spade, trowel and clippers.  Last year's flowers have returned in all their glory after looking black and dead and scaring me to death.  The blue flowers I planted in small pots inside a few weeks ago have blossomed forth outside and are threatening to take over.  What was withered and brown only a short time ago (like the English ivy) has recovered and shiny green leaves are once again covering the ground.


 I am prancing about my tiny garden watching all the new life popping out of the ground and taking full credit for this recurring miracle and feeling proud of myself.  The three cats are lined up inside on the windowsill and staring at me with great intensity.

 It is possible they do not believe I am Mother Nature in all her glory, but instead feel that I am an ancient nut case defacing their territory when I should be inside preparing still another meal for them. 

I ignore the felines and decide to gather a huge bouquet of  spring flowers from my very own garden.  I clip many, many blossoms and dance through the ivy when I suddenly notice my pea plants may be producing peas!  This is exciting news indeed and I dash to the wall of green and harvest three peas which I immediately eat.  That night I dream of bowls overflowing with huge, fat, bright green peas.  The cats dream of bowls filled with Fancy Feast Grilled Salmon.  All is well.


TO BE CONTINUED

Thursday, January 11, 2018

MURPHY ESCAPES THE VET!



I rushed home to pick up my Murphy for his annual visit to our vet, but I was not at peace because I knew capturing the Murph would be a battle.  He always behaved as if he had been tortured in terrifying ways whenever he left home.  
Molly was sleeping in my bed. 

Maks was stretched out under 
the lamp and he was making funny little noises. But where, oh where, was the elusive bad boy, Murphy?  Hiding of course.  I crept to the closet and lifted out the cat carrier, then casually left it open on the floor by my bed.  I began an exhausting search for Murphy.


 He was fast asleep on the windowsill.  Aha! this would be easy after all.  Silently, I approached the slumbering feline and stretched my arms behind the curtain and grabbed him!  We struggled and he burst free, flying out of the bedroom as if the Furies were in pursuit.

There followed almost an hour of uninterrupted and unsuccessful chasing of a big black cat by a silver haired lady.
Oh, Murphy was in the bathtub!  Now he's trying to hide in the cupboard under the sink with all my shampoo and cotton balls.  But he escapes my grasp yet again and gallops into the studio looking for shelter amidst the paints and brushes and sewing scissors.  He goes under the craft table, but he is still fully visible!  Murphy darts away from his ancient and arthritic  mistress who is beginning to tire.  Where will he be safe?  He tries to hide between the washer and the wall, but it's too narrow for a big boned cat.  Aha! he will hide in Mommy's walk-in closet behind the luggage.  And so he does.  He squeezes behind a big suitcase and he is completely hidden!  Except for his long black tail which gives him away.  I grab him again, but he wiggles from my grasp and slides under the bed.  Groaning, I get down on my knees and try to coax him from his lair, but he just stares at me with his big green eyes, knowing I cannot reach him.  At last, I admit defeat and stagger to the phone to cancel Murphy's appointment.  The girl answering the phone is not helpful.

"Why don't you just grab him up and stuff him in the carrier and come on down?"

Through gritted teeth I tell Miss Cheerful that I have been trying to do that for an hour, but Murphy remains at liberty.

That night I finally fall asleep after watching two hours of sex, violence and various tantrums on Game of Thrones.  I awaken at 4 AM and can't get back to sleep.  Perhaps I'll read for a few minutes, so I turn on the lamp.  And there sitting in the open cat carrier, staring at me with those huge green eyes, is our boy Murphy, smiling like the Cheshire Cat.  He knows the vet is not open at 4 AM so he is safe.  A clear victory for felines.