Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Theatre Comique

One of my sister Becky's interests is historic theaters. She posted this high resolution photo of an old theater in Detroit. I thought I would share it here.

You can click on it to see it larger.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Proof of Time Travel

The other day at book club, Julie was talking about a viral video that shows a woman talking on a cell phone. In the 1920s! Someone found it in footage from a Charlie Chaplin movie premier. Proof of time travel!

We once read and liked The Time Traveler's Wife so this is a fascinating subject. It's fun to think what it would be like if you could go to another point in time. Like Marty McFly!

See if for yourself here:

I just couldn't stop looking at this. I just love the idea of someone traveling in time and getting caught on film.


If you really look at the movie closely, it hard not to be distracted by the woman's shoes. U-G-L-Y, even for the time period, I would think. And so, if you were going to be a time traveler, and someday be seen around the world on a viral video, wouldn't you also make sure to have on at least slightly attractive footwear? Think about it, you would know.

Of course, in the book, the Time Traveler could not bring clothing, or objects with him. But in this case, if the woman was able to bring her iphone, wouldn't she be able to drag along some fashion items as well? It's not as if she's hiding here.

And who would she call?

I just don't know! But this brought to mind a photograph that people were talking about a while back, also called proof of time travel. Check out the dude in the sunglasses:

So he looks like he could fit in our times, yet looks out of place where he is.

Makes you think.

I just know that I like looking at old photographs, so I did some googling, to find out what else was out there.

And sure enough, there are people, "photo historians," who do this kind of thing, and generate their own controversies among themselves.

The latest seems to be: what is the first known photograph with a person in it?

See this:

Last month at the excellent Krulwich Wonders blog, Robert Krulwich examined a set of astoundingly-sharp 1842 daguerreotypes of Cincinnati along the Ohio River. According to the University of Rochester, it's "the oldest photograph of an urban area in existence." Zooming way in, one could barely make out what appeared to be two people at the edge of the river, collecting what looked like a bucket of water. Inspired, one of Krulwich's readers did a bit of photo forensics and provided us a much better glimpse of those two folks. He blogged about his findings at Hokumburg Goombah. Krulwich followed up with another post and asks if this is the "first photo of a human being ever?"

And then some other guy magnified and sharpened a detail to show that it had people:

They look kind of like ghosts or aliens to me.

But the commonly accepted first known photograph of a person is this Daguerreotype from 1838:

The purportedly first picture of a living person. The image shows a busy street, but due to exposure time of more than ten minutes, the traffic was moving too much to appear. The exception is the man at the bottom left, who stood still getting his boots polished long enough to show. Look closely and you will also see another man sitting on a bench to the right reading a newspaper. Also in the upper left hand side you can also see another man standing under the awning of the 3rd building from the left. What looks to be a woman standing under the street lantern at 10 o'clock from the man getting his shoes shined and another one in the big white building,1st row 3rd window down. Notice the child in the top floor window of the white building in front.

I can totally see the guy with the shoe shine, but I had to look more closely to see the other people. I have magnified and sharpened the image to show you this detail. Do you see it?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Please Send In

So there we were, in the middle of the full craze of the Friday night Homecoming football game, in the stands cheering for the team,, the student section pulsing with excitement, the band blasting out their peppiest of pep songs, lights and people and noises all around, and my darling son Jeffrey turns to me and says:

"I need to bring a pineapple to school on Monday. Don't forget."

OK, with all the distraction and no place to write anything down, there was a pretty high likelihood of me forgetting. It was better than him telling me at 6:30 on Monday morning though.

You'll be glad to know that we did get out and purchase the pineapple, and I also found a moment to ask Jeffrey why he would even need to bring a pineapple to school in seventh grade. He didn't seem to know, exactly.

"It's for Spanish class, we're doing a thing with food."

"So, like, everyone was assigned a different item, and you got pineapple?"


"So, the teacher just looked across the room and said: 'You--in the blue sweatshirt! Pineapple! Monday!'?"

"No, not like that, it's for a skit...there's another kid who has to bring in a MANGO."

I'm still not entirely clear on what the pineapple is for. But I know he is planning to draw a face on it with a sharpie.

This incident reminded me of a conversation between the moms in my neighborhood about the outrageous requests from teachers for things to send in to school. It seems to start out strongest in elementary school, when you never seem to know when you are going to get hit with a sudden need for exact amounts of cash to cover field trips, pizza parties, group gifts, or whatever. Contributing the money isn't the problem, but sometimes coming up with the right combination of small bills equaling 4 or 8 dollars to put "in an envelope with his name on it" could be a challenge at 9:00 at night or before school in the morning. There were times when we were out of cash or only had large bills on hand, and we had to resort to IOUs in the piggy bank, shaking out birthday cards or digging through jacket pockets to find the exact tender.

But worse than money are the requests for specific objects, often delivered home in a backpack in the form of a checklist, or sometimes a slip of paper reminiscent of the old birthday party scavenger hunts. I've had to send in single ingredients of recipes, photographs, supplies, even objects of a specified shape. (Ok; what do you have in your house that's shaped like a trapezoid. Think fast!) Kendrea told me of a time when she had to drive to four different craft stores in search of a quantity of chenille stems (aka pipe cleaners) in a very specific and obscure color.

Worst of all were the outfits that needed to be pulled together for the themed music class concerts, usually at the last minute because the music teacher is outside of the usual parent-teacher communication loop. Last year the second grade moms were going out of their minds trying to find dinosaur costumes two weeks before Christmas. I remember one time being stumped when Jeffrey announced that he had to dress up like a blow fish. Even further back Tim's class was doing the Pied Piper. I recall that time the note included a helpful hint of "think of Lord of the Rings type styles." Sure, but they had a 285 million dollar budget and eight years to put those movies together, and I had one night and the contents of our closets. I think he looked okay in a pair of rolled-up sweatpants and one of my old maternity tops with a belt. A step above the time my friend Sharon gave up on a swashbuckler theme and sent her son in with a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap.

Even my ultra-creative neighbor Kim, who once made her son an amazing costume of the Solar System for Halloween, was stumped by the direction to turn him into a "crabby cabbage." She actually managed to figure something out with felt or paper leaves or whatever, but then how do you go about making it different from lettuce?

You would think that these types of requests would die down when the kids moved out of elementary school, but no. Last Spring I found myself rushing out to buy FOUR HUNDRED paper plates to send with Tim to the regional track meet. I still don't know what for.

And on the evening of March 13 Jeffrey declared that he was supposed to bring in a pie to math class. Since it was late baking a pie was out of the question so off I went to the grocery store to spend $7.95 on a stale-looking blueberry tart. It was a cute idea, tying in the idea of pies to pi and 3.14, but I questioned the teacher's own math skills for failing to calculate that there were 5 math classes times 25 kids with pies cut into 8 servings each...equals even more food than even the teacher's lounge could accommodate. Since Jeff had math last hour they were already maxed out so we had stale blueberry tart at home for dinner that night.

This probably isn't a new concern. At least these days we have 24 hour big box convenience stores. I still recall a tense family moment from my childhood when my procrastinating sister announced she needed poster board to complete a school project long after all the stores had closed. You had to stock up on that stuff. Or else!

I'm sure that my stories aren't unusual. What have you had to do at the last minute to fulfill a request to "please send in?"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I'm Looking Over

You may recall the time that the boys found a purse in the lake, and I remarked at how it provided an unusual glimpse into an unknown person's life. Somehow, the objects that a person chooses to carry around with them are strangely intimate and revealing.

I recently got to take an unexpected glimpse into the wallet of someone whom I've never met. Who has been dead for nearly half a century. My paternal grandfather.

I'm not exactly clear on how it came about that my cousin Michael came into possession of a bundle of old papers wrapped in a paper bag and tied up with a rubber band that included the death certificate and wallet contents of our grandfather, but this week he put them on the scanner and sent the images to my sister Becky, who sent them to me.

The death certificate is interesting. It shows that he was born in Iraq in 1898, and died in 1962, an American Citizen. It lists his mother's maiden name as Wadou Cacox, which is a name I have never heard before, possibly a phonetic misspelling, but she would be my great-grandmother.

Even more interesting are the photos that he carried in his wallet.

This one is of my beautiful Aunt Judy, probably from her high school. It is inscribed on the back in her still-familiar handwriting "to my favorite daddy, from his favorite daughter, Judy."

And then there is this lovely lady, oh so fashionable. Who is she? Not my grandma. Possibly a relative. My great aunt? My dad might know. I'll ask him.

And check out these good looking guys drinking beer. I don't know who they are, but they seem like a fun bunch.

Less fun but still a source of fascination is this one, clearly from "The Old Country" but I need to find out the identity of the people. My great grandparents?

And this is just scary:

There are other pictures of people I can't identify, as well as a few that I can, such as a scowling young Uncle Pete, and baby pictures of his three oldest children.

There is also a faded driver's license, made of paper and without a picture. A couple of very old prayer cards (he was Catholic) and his voter's registration, and a card for one year of free service at Golde Clothes Shop on Campus Martius.

But the thing that I like the best is this four-leafed clover, pressed in a piece of plastic. I wonder if he found it himself, or maybe it was given to him by one of his children or grandchildren. I like it that he put it in his wallet, and that it still exists, a once-living thing, to this day. A puff of air could turn it into dust. I remember finding a four-leafed clover when I was a little kid, and putting it in my wallet. I still have it, now in a scrapbook.

Who knows if those clovers ever brought either one of us any luck. All I do know is that it makes me feel like I have something in common with him. Well, that and the genes.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cottage in the Woods

A bunch of my neighbors were gathered to visit with someone who has moved, and everyone was talking about the home-for-sale brochure that was mailed to the addresses in our neighborhood. (Everyone, except me, it seemed. Maybe they saw our brown lawn, and knew...) It is for a mansion on a private peninsula, starting bid for the auction $1,100,000. The thing is, this place is less than a half mile away!

I should point out that our sub is filled with similar-sized nice but unpretentious houses. The kind where they are made of siding with some brick in the front, where everyone mows their own lawn and (almost) everyone has an in ground sprinkler system.

Check out the details of the TaMar estate here.

One of the neighbors had the idea that we would all pull our money together to buy the thing, and we could kind of time-share it for a jointly owned "cottage." With 7 bedrooms and 2 kitchens, quite a few people could be in on this. The indoor salt water pool would be nice in the winter, when it's too cold on the private sandy beach. The book club liked the idea of two wet bars, and wanted to know if the 270 bottle wine cellar comes pre-stocked. The 1800 square foot garage would provide handy extra storage space.

But then we started getting realistic:

That driveway would be a pain to shovel.
Eleven bathrooms are a lot to clean, even with a central vacuum.
The elevator probably breaks down a lot.
$32,000 a year in taxes!

The next morning I shuffled through our mail pile and found that I did get the brochure, it was wedged inside the Crate and Barrel catalog. I looked up the address. I know where this place is! I go there on my bike rides. When the lot was unbuilt and for sale I used to kickstand my bike and walk around on the private peninsula, with my helmet on, sipping from my plastic water bottle.

I decided to go and check it out. I got on my bike and rode out of my perfectly pleasant subdivision, marred only by sight of garbage cans lining the street, and the big stinky truck roaring along as I pedaled past.

There were big signs posted, announcing the auction, and the gates were open. I was tempted to go through, but since I'd read about the 12 IT security cameras in the brochure, I didn't risk it. So I just admired the landscaping around the gates, and got back on my bike, and almost collided with...that same garbage truck that was just on my street!

We all have garbage. I rode home imagining all my trash (ie: pop-tart wrappers) co-mingling with whatever the people who live here are throwing out (caviar containers?)

The next Thursday I decided to go to the open house, I could make it there before the Middle School parent's night started. I decided that I should try to look like someone who might be able to buy the house, but that's kind of hard to pull off when most of my clothes are from TARGET. I settled on a sweater blazer that my mom gave me for Christmas (she shops at better stores than me) and a pair of nicer jeans.

I drove my needs-a-wash Saturn VUE over and parked it on the street outside of those gates, and walked along the driveway to the house. Very scenic. Closer to the house there were several cars parked. I checked them out, mostly foreign-made sedans.

I made my way across the fantastic entrance courtyard and then knocked and entered through the thick wooden doors. A real-estate lady greeted me, and asked me to sign in on a clipboard. Then she asked to see my driver's license, so she could verify that what I put down was the truth. (It was!) She asked how I'd heard about the property, and I told her "in the mail." Then I added that I was "one of the neighbors." I told her that there was a lot of buzz about the house and I wanted to check it out. She welcomed me to go in and said that there were associates throughout "to answer any questions." (read: "to make sure you don't steal anything.")

Everything about the home was truly beautiful. Right away I knew that I liked the decorator's taste. Somehow they managed to combine the "wow" of such magnificence with an inviting sense of comfort. I could imagine myself living here. Apparently the owners still were. I inspected their family portraits with the same curiosity I had about the house. They were a good-looking white couple, probably around my age or a little younger, with two elementary-aged children, a boy and a girl.

I asked one of those hovering associates why the family was leaving, and he told me that the house was "built to be sold" and that they were moving to South Carolina. I wanted to know more, but didn't ask.

I went around through the different rooms, each more incredible than the last. Upstairs were the bedrooms. The kid's rooms (suites) were done in themes, with the boys being all sporty and the girl's in Disney princess, with a full canopy bed and glamorous crystal chandelier. I loved it.

Every room had a fantastic view of the wrap-around lake. I stood for a while gazing out through one of them, and then I realized that I was in one of the master closets. The two-story study had its own circular staircase. Every room, even each of the eleven bathrooms, was fully decorated with lots of built-in touches, such as painted ceramic bowl sinks.

I went down to the basement, (lower level) which is where it really got to me. I could totally imagine me and the Glenmoor Gals, or the Tri-Deltas, sitting at the liptus wood bar enjoying some wine from the 56 degree walk-in cellar, then going for a swim in the Gunite pool with the Badu and whirlpool jets, and then taking in a favorite movie in the theater room, which when I peeked in was playing one of my favorites: Mamma Mia!

On my way out I strolled around the landscaped yard. I especially liked the four-level tiered waterfall. No brown grass here.

I could have stayed longer (like forever) but since I had to get to the school I hurried on my way. I kind of want to go back. There's another open house on the 16th. You should go. And then buy it. And then invite me over. I won't stay long. Maybe just a few weeks...

Property Features:
2,200+/- feet of Shoreline
6 Bedrooms
7 Bathrooms and 4 Half Bathrooms
5 Fireplaces
4.5 Car Garage
10,800+/- Square Feet
Indoor Pool
Water View from Every Room
Private Gated Entrance
Private Beach for Swimming
Great Fishing off Dock

“I Never Want To Leave”

No man may be an island, but now your home can be. Welcome to Villa TaMar, a stunning Mediterranean Villa located on an elevated peninsula offering fabulous panoramic views. As you drive through the gated entrance, past the tree’s and water and stop in front of the elegant stone Piazza, you will feel the need to “check in” to this private resort. Relaxation becomes the main theme as you try to decide where to spend your time, swimming at the beach or indoor pool, enjoying the landscaped grounds including sounds of the 4 pond waterfall with creek or watching a movie in the theater. With all this home offers, the only regret will be is when you have to leave.

Villa TaMar surrounds you in warmth as you enter into the grand hall, with soaring ceilings, timeless stonework and old world carved woodwork. Every room in the villa offers a beautiful view of the lake, and the sound of a waterfall soothes your day. The master bedroom includes a fireplace, his and hers custom oak walk-in dressing rooms, spa bathroom and kitchenette. Five other bedrooms located throughout the home offer plenty of room for family and friends. Complete with 5 fireplaces, an indoor and outdoor waterfall, and a 1,800+/- square foot in duel garages, professional theater, gourmet kitchen and family room, space and how to relax in it is never an issue. The villa boasts whole house sound and video monitoring, geo thermal heating for inexpensive and green living, and central vacuuming.

An outdoor deck area tops a lower level screened in porch and pathways lead to separate peninsulas of oasis like relaxation. One peninsula is like camping in the woods listening to the wind in the pines, and the other offers a sandy beach and dock for boating, swimming and fishing. Whatever your desire and however you like to relax, resort living can be yours everyday as you watch the sun rise and set on your own fantasy island.

Villa TaMar encompass 10,800+/- square feet of living on over 13+/- acres of land. The cost to duplicate this level of luxury and attention to detail cost over $4.4 million dollars, but can be yours with a price of your choosing with bidding starting at only $1.1 million dollars.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Earlier this summer, some relatives were visiting us, and my sister-in-law Julie pulled out her knitting to pass the time. She was making a pair of socks, and they were so pretty! I told her that I have always wanted to learn how to knit. When I was little my Grandma taught me how to crochet, but I never took it up as a hobby. Since Julie was my captive houseguest, she agreed and we went to the craft store and bought a skein of yarn, some needles, and a book titled "Learn to Knit in One Day."

Well as you can guess it took longer than one day but with a lot of help from Julie and many references to the book I eventually did get the hang of it. My first few attempts were awkward and contained lots of mistakes. First I made this little purse, and then I made this scarf and hat for Jeffrey.

I am very proud of my knitting progress. The more I do it, the easier it gets.

Also around that same time, Timmy was taking Driver's Education. In Michigan they can do that when they are fifteen, and then get a whole year to get in 30 hours of practice driving with an adult before qualifying for a limited license at 16.

Once Tim completed his training, I took him to the Secretary of State office to get his permit. The plan was that he would drive home from there.

He filled out the paperwork, and looked into that vision test machine. It all went well until we got into the car. Tim wasn't used to the feel of my truck's brakes, and the gas pedal. We lurched around in the parking lot. Jeffrey hollered for a change of drivers from the back seat, but I knew we had to start somewhere, and this was it.

When he pulled into traffic, I had that exact feeling that you get on a roller coaster.
Not that hands-up whee excitement. More like the way it feels at the moment when the cart has crossed over the top of the first hill, and you are looking down at the impossible slope of track. Also known as pure terror. Except in this case it is sustained for the entire car ride.

In the backseat, Jeffrey plugged in his ipod and closed his eyes. By the time we got home, tensions were high, for all of us.

I saw some advice for a friend in this similar situation that said to keep an open bottle of wine in the refrigerator, and a glass of it already poured, for when you walk in the door. I wish I'd done that!

But since then, I have been taking Tim out for drives of different lengths, in different conditions, and he really is getting better at it. Like knitting, driving isn't something that you can learn in one day. It takes practice, lots of it, to get good at it.

So now I feel a lot more confident when I am being chauffeured around by my son. Only moments of terror, instead of the whole time. And I hardly ever have to slam on the "invisible brakes" on the passenger floor mat.

This weekend I even had time drive for a couple of hours as we went on a mini-vacation Up North. He did very well. While we were up there, we went golfing. We rented those little electric carts. Guess who talked me into letting him drive. Uh oh!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

fawing over it

On Monday morning it was quiet in the house because my boys were still at their cousin's after traveling to Cedar Point. I missed them and wished that they had called me like I asked them to, so I knew how things were going. I looked out the window at the lake like I always do, and saw a deer standing out on the swampy peninsula that juts into the water behind our house. We see deer all the time, but this was an unusual place and time of day for that. So I looked a little closer and saw something else over to the left.

A baby fawn! Just barely visible. I watched as the doe very cautiously inched away from where the fawn was. She would go a little further each time, and then look around to see if anything saw her. I have heard that does leave their newborns all day so they can forage for food without attracting attention to the helpless little one. Eventually, she left the area, but I knew where her baby was!

I have always known that fawns were being born behind our house, but I usually only get to see them once they are walking around. I couldn't help it, I decided to go look, and sure enough, there it was.

It was so sweet, and tiny.

Later, I went to pick up the boys. I asked Jeff why he didn't call me from the park and he said that I worry too much and shouldn't need to know whether he's okay all the time. I told him about the fawn and he couln't wait to see it. We went to the same spot and there it was. Jeffrey was enthralled. He wanted so badly to reach out and touch it, but understood that he shouldn't do that. He said that he also wanted to pick it up and bring it home and put it in a box and feed it from a bottle. I explained how the mother would come back eventually and take care of it. He didn't think that was very nice of the mother, but I told him that is how they do it. I assured him that when HE was a baby I barely ever put him down or let him out of my sight, which is true.

Still, Jeffrey worried about the fawn and whether the mother would come back for it now that our scent was all around the area. I could tell that he had fallen a little in love with it, just like I did. It was like having our own special, precious secret, and we knew just where it was and could go see it whenever we wanted.

The next morning the first thing we did was go and see if it was still there. Sure enough, it was, but in a slightly different spot, which meant that the mother had come back and was still protecting it. We showed Tim this time, and he loved it too. We could tell that it was already changing, the fuzzy fur was flatter now and the nose looked longer and more deer-like.

And then that evening, Jeff saw the mother deer leading the fawn away, into another more wooded area where we wouldn't be able to find it so easily. Jeffrey was sad that now we wouldn't know exactly where it was and go see it when we wanted to. I told him that we would still probably see it going around as it got old enough to walk, but we both knew that wouldn't be the same. It would be a little less ours now. Kind of like when your child goes far away for the whole day, and you don't know how he's doing. Jeff rolled his eyes and said its not the same at all, but it is, a little, and now he knows it too.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day in Detroit 2010

Today was the day I put the boys in the car and drive them out of suburbia and into the big city of Detroit to spend some time with their Aunt Becky, who seems to know everyone and everything around there.

First we stopped in the small city within a city of Hamtramck. We went to see Hamtramck Disneyland. If you have never seen it, you should go. This sign will help you find your way:

And this is what you will see there:

It even has Elvis!

After taking that in, we went downtown to the streets of "The D."

Becky knows a man she calls "Old George." He is the caretaker/security person for the building that used to house the Detroit Federal Reserve.

Hardly anyone besides Old George ever goes in there anymore, but we did.
Here you can see his "office" set up in the lobby, as well as those round holes coming off the balcony above which were for security guns to point through.

We got to go all through the place, even the dark parts where we needed to use flashlights. There was a cool balcony where we could see this view of the city:

And we went down into the vaults, where they used to keep the money. Jeffrey looked around, but did NOT find any leftover millions laying in the corners.

The walls of the vaults are five feet thick, and the doors are amazing. I liked the way the combination lock looked:

The hvac room was also scenic:

After that, we took a peek in the Penobscot building, where Becky explained to the boys who the Penobscots were, the style of architecture, the type of metal used, the meaning of the airplanes, and how a letterbox with a mail chute works.

We also checked out the Guardian building, an art deco architectural wonder:

Then we walked through the city center to the teen-pleasing Hard Rock Cafe.

Tim was impressed with the light fixtures in this room, and was able to quickly calculate the value of the cymbals they used to make them.

Last on our tour was this very meaningful historic place:

Where many decades ago if a lovely young typist had not caught a glimpse of the handsome delivery guy...

Okay, so my parents were nerds who met in a library. Now you know where I got it from.

The Detroit Public Library is more interesting inside than you might think:

The boys could not guess what these funny cabinets with the little drawers were for, so Becky showed them how to look up names to trace their geneology.

They also got to meet Anna, another friend of Becky's, who showed them this strange machine called a microfilm.

And that was the end of our day. As usual, it was a day of discovery, and curiously fascinating places and things to see.