Memphis Is More

To hear some Memphians talk, our city has already arrived via hand basket at a very hot place. Whenever  a violent  or undesirable event takes place, the hand basket crowd sees nothing good about our  community. It’s THOSE  people, they say. Those all- bad people who  make Memphis a hopelessly inferior all- crime- all -the -time- place where no citizen can ever be safe.  Make sweeping generalizations much?

Recently there was another deplorable incident  in Memphis. A large group of teens attacked some people at random in a grocery store parking lot. Of course this is bad news. The behavior of the teens was unacceptable. Eleven persons were arrested, and will hopefully make appropriate amends for their crimes.

In the wake of such an occurrence, what is a person to do? A  first impulse may be to harden one’s heart, and to add to the suffering with pejorative remarks about our citizens and city administration. But  negative talk does not solve problems. The social ills which contribute to violent crimes are way too complex for simple solutions. I do not claim to have the answers, but I know  Memphis is more than crime,  hatred, and judgement. I know that Memphis is also friendly, kind, and quirky, just like that relative you all have that everyone agrees is a “character”.

As an individual I try not to harden my heart against the perpetrators, their families, and the trash talkers, and ponder what more I  can do to make Memphis a better place. I am not the only one to take this stance, as evidenced by the “Love Mob” that gathered a few days after the incident in the grocery parking lot. The “Mob’s” purpose was to express their support for the victims but also to display their love for Memphis, most of whose citizens are hard working law abiding people.

I had all this in my mind last weekend when I set out for the annual Cooper Young Festival. After all the negative press and hateful talk around the city, how would Memphis rebound? Would this last round of senseless violence render us unable to come together, unable to mourn our losses and heal our wounds?

I set out early Saturday morning for the one day neighborhood festival. The weather had become cool, causing me to walk briskly from my condo to the festival to warm up, as I had worn a thin shirt with no jacket.DSC_0037

And there was the festival, my old friend, with its music, food, and family activities, just getting underway. I was glad to know Memphis had such a welcoming event planned.


Here was my favorite junk shopping booth. I  bought two items here which I cannot show because they are gifts. May I leave my items here and pick them up on my way out, I asked the saleslady. In typical Memphis fashion, the answer was of course you may. We’ll remember you.


Next was the vintage clothing booth. I needed to stop  in there to buy something to wear because I was cold! After I picked out this highly appropriate sweater, I stayed to help two young African American ladies pick out a jacket.

DSC_1731I think they appreciated my taste.


And speaking of cold, these two young men were freezing over their water bottle concession stand.  For the price of a bottle of water, they agreed to pose. And since there has been a lot of talk about poorly behaved youth, let me say that giving them the price of a bottle of water was my idea. I am sure they would have posed without it, but they were here to make money.


In just a few minutes I fell into a comfortable stride at the festival. With my companion I wandered in and out of booths, shopping, listening, and feeling the vibe of my fellow festival goers.  I didn’t always buy, but maybe I should have.

Why did I pass you up?

Why did I pass you up?


Do you need your own original poem?

Do you need your own original poem?

And here was The House of Mews, Cat rescue organization, where a volunteer induced Spice to pose for me.DSC_0051

Then the Choose 901 booth, full of Memphis-proud items.

DSC_0052I paused at one booth and renewed my membership to the Memphis Heritage  Society, where the director took the time to speak with me about some ongoing projects. After all this meandering, I found I needed to stop for refreshment at Growler’s, a beer tasting garden that was not open this time last year.


From our spot at the window we could watch the crowds which were now streaming in – folks in costumes, families, couples, all mingling and having fun. Yes, this is Memphis.


DSC_0072Next we stopped into Celtic Crossing for some lunch. The hostess showed us to a table beside a loud beer truck, but cheerfully moved us when we objected. We sat on a back patio, enjoying a sandwich while people watching. Across from me several young woman were lunching. I approached their table. “Excuse me dear, but your purse is on the ground behind you; I didn’t think you would want it there.” Grateful, she scooped her purse up. It felt good to be helpful to someone.

I must share that if I drink beer it is best for me to have food with it. Since Growler has no food, I was in just the right shape to accidentally call our male server “ma’am.” But he let it roll off his back, even as he was run right off his feet serving the patio crowd.

Back on the street, I  was able to resist the enticing aromas of the food trucks, as I had already had a sandwich.

DSC_0055 The crowds were gathering to listen to the music on several stages. I heard the Memphis Brass Band playing, but couldn’t get very close through the dense thicket of people. Taking pictures was becoming more  difficult, so for some time I gave that up and simply flowed on with everyone else.

DSC_0059Spying Goner Records, I made a beeline to their one dollar album display. Guess what I found? YEEEES!  Jeanne C. Riley’s Harper Valley P.T.A. !  I was thrilled because one of my biggest problems when I was taking care of my new grandson was that I couldn’t remember the words to this priceless tune. What kind of grandmother can’t sing “Harper Valley P.T.A.? But… oh no, there was no record inside the sleeve. I  marched right  inside the store and explained my whole sad predicament to a very nice clerk who came out from around the counter and found me a copy of Jeanne C. Reilly’s Greatest Hits. Crisis averted. And he threw in the empty album cover for free.IMG_3017

Having come early, we were ready to make our exit. We would have stayed longer but we had a commitment for later in the day. We won’t make that mistake next year. On the way out we stopped for my two gifts, still safely held by the ladies at the booth. They were a little thrown off by my new sweater, but they remembered my  red hair.


Turning off Central onto Cox, I heard someone call my name. Oh, what delight for my feet! It was a neighbor from a zero lot line close to our condo, offering us a ride home. We squooshed ourselves straight into her back seat. Could she come in and see our condo? Well, not today because her husband was waiting on her, but on another day, certainly.

We got upstairs and I put up my poor little feet. I mused upon how almost every single person I had come across had been welcoming and willing to go beyond just the basics in service or compassion. Memphis has social problems, no doubt. I would never be so naive as to try to sweep poverty, crime, and an uneducated populace under the rug. But I felt encouraged by what I had seen and felt at the Cooper Young. Just as I thought, Memphis is more. More friendliness, more diversity, more hospitality, more hope.


Optimistic much?

Little Ole Ladies In Pasadena: Advice From Professionals

Magpie TV, devoted to bringing viewers the very best in practical information, is pleased to bring you travel tips from two very special little old ladies: The Magpie herself, and her stalwart companion Readmegirl. Hey, there’s precedent:

She's such a copycat! Source:

She’s such a copycat!

Martha Stewart appears on her own network. Tune in today to learn how to make sure YOUR trip feels as smooth as the zipper in your properly sized and packed suitcase  from start to finish!

Commercial Break: Planning a trip to Pasadena? We’d love to help, but we’ve only seen a few sights  there: Huntington Gardens, a famous bridge, and the Rose Bowl. What we can recommend is walking the neighborhoods and admiring people’s yards. If you happen to see inside their homes, so much the better. Here are a few neighborhood highlights:DSC_0382

DSC_0401DSC_0416Part One: The ladies, recently returned from visiting Krug The Thinker in Pasadena California, were not available to appear live, which is fine because this is not a live show anyway. Nor is it taped ahead of time. Our unique no audio/no video format made it oh so possible for our guest stars to compile some dos and don’ts from their most recent peregrination.We are also privileged to have some of their photos for our commercial breaks! ( We suggest some music now, but all we can think of is “Leaving’ On a Jet Plane.” Lame.)

1) Trip Planning: Arranging conveyance by airplane is more complicated than ever, warns  the Magpie.The fares, the routes, the service – all have become so unpredictable and frankly, unsuitable for civilized beings. What one wants and what is available often do not mesh conveniently. However, if possible, when arranging a trip, depart the morning AFTER the clock springs forward, depriving you of the one hour during which you sleep most deeply. You’ll be in such a daze you won’t even notice the delays or the bad breath of  the man behind you in the TSA line.

2) Airport Transportation: Never make assumptions about ground transportation. The wise traveler learns ahead of time what is available and makes arrangements accordingly. The alternative is to stand at the exit with one’s mouth open, inviting native insects in for a visit. IF one arranges a pickup by limousine service as the little ole ladies did, it is helpful upon landing  to respond immediately to the driver’s text announcing his arrival at the airport. But don’t call the one who most recently texted you. Ignore THAT text and call the one who picked you up last December!! That will really surprise him on his day off, and make for a zany good time leaving the airport!

Little Ole Ladies in Limo

Little Ole Ladies in Limo

3) Footwear:  Magpie makes it a point to have comfortable walking shoes. Last year the Magpie had occasion to own two identical pair of walking shoes, the first pair having rudely hidden themselves in the closet until after the second pair was purchased. Magpie’s response was to immediately put one pair inside her suitcase so she would always have a pair of walking shoes. Upon arrival at the Saga Court Motor Hotel, congratulating herself on her forethought, Magpie whipped both of those left footed babies right out of the suitcase.



4) Packing Light: Be creative! The Magpie never checks bags, so she tries to use multi purpose garments. For example, a bathing suit cover up can double as a nightgown. If, as happened to Magpie, you underestimate how cool it gets at night, especially with a roommate who wants the air conditioner running,  and you have to add a couple of shirts on top and a pair of jeans on the bottom so you won’t freeze, that bathing suit cover up will tuck right down in your jeans so that you barely have any bulges when you appear in the lobby in  your two left footed shoes and an ice bucket in which you plan to stack three or four cups of coffee to take  back to your room. Decorum is everything, Readmegirl reminds us.

This is a very nice look for the hotel lobby.

This is a very nice look for the hotel lobby.

5) Be Courteous! Some travel companions have odd proclivities, such as announcing that they cannot sleep while being serenaded with the combination of honking, sawing and gurgling that makes up snoring. If  you are awakened by a nudge in the middle of the night, and  are surprised to find a frowning yet familiar face hovering above you, demanding that you cease and desist, simply say “Thank you,” and go back to sleep. That’s how the Magpie handled it , and she’s convinced that the gentle approach to the nudger made all the difference.

Commercial Break: ( We recommend narration in a calm dignified tone.But you do what you want.)  Today we feature the Saga Court Motor Hotel  of Pasadena.

View from the second floor. Source: Saga Motor Hotel

View from the second floor. Source: Saga Motor Hotel

This 1960s gem, located on Route 66, offers palm trees, a heated pool, and 1980s bedspreads. (Now  a little suspenseful music.) In addition, the  Saga’s peach colored stucco walls, retro atmosphere including jalousied windows, will make you sure that a noir mystery is occurring on the premises. We can’t be sure one did NOT take place, as we had a mysterious call from someone asking for “Marcia.”Who calls anymore on your room phone?? Keep the Saga in mind when you visit Pasadena. It’s reasonably priced, has an air of mystery about it, AND has a few books to read in each room.IMG_2664

And now we return to our show: We’re learning so much about how the smart set travels. But there’s more!

6) Don’t Avoid Responsibility: When you have been invited into town to see someone, don’t make THEM do all the heavy lifting. Specifically, Readmegirl tells us, when your hostess announces that her one of her sweetest friends who is also an incredibly talented chef is in town and wants to cook for all of you, insist on supervising! You may look as though you are only snapping peas, lounging on the couch, and drinking a purple drink called an Aviation, but in fact you are making sure those kids don’t burn the house down. In the name of safety, search your heart for the humility needed to complete this noble task. You won’t be sorry!

Stealth  Supervision

Stealth Supervision

Can you trust a man who makes beautiful crusts with his bare hands?

Can you trust a man who makes beautiful crusts with his bare hands?

And makes you a beautiful purple drink in the middle of the afternoon????

And makes you a beautiful purple drink in the middle of the afternoon????

Supervision has its own rewards.

Supervision has its own rewards.

7) Clarify, clarify, clarify: Readmegirl reminds us of the importance of communication. Here’s the kind of ubiquitous situation to which she refers: When you are  enjoying a glass of wine at an Italian restaurant where the decor is reminiscent of the Ratpack days  and your sister returns from the restroom and announces, “We’re all going to have to go on a field trip to the bar after dinner. It’s got gold wallpaper with black stripes with  machine guns on the walls”, DO NOT JUST ASSUME THAT THE SHOTGUNS ARE REAL!!!!!! You will be so, so disappointed!

When they get so disappointed you have to let them sit in the special chairs for a few minutes.

When they get so disappointed you have to let them sit in the special chairs for a few minutes. I won’t say who thought the machine guns were real, only that between these two there are 78 years of formal education.

8 ) Don’t be territorial: You don’t have to be the center of attention at all times. Allow your travel companions to get ahead of you on walks and have their own conversations. After all it’s not THEIR fault you can’t keep up because you are having to wear someone else’s too large shoes that squeak so loudly that you have no chance to practice your favorite pastime of eavesdropping. Try not to take it personally when they get ahead of you while you lag behind to take pictures because after all, life is art, and that while ahead of you THEY witness a woman  watering her flowers clad only in a shirt and some shiny underpants. It won’t be easy, but in time you will get over it.

You can't be talking every moment when there is such beauty to capture...

You can’t be talking every moment when there is such beauty to capture…

Ahey're probably NOT talking about you.

And they’re probably NOT talking about you anyway. Right??

9) Use your Southern hospitality! Expect to be included in your hosts’ lives and activities. When invited to drink celebratory beers with a group of Cal Tech astrophysicists and assorted other left brain specimens, accept happily and chances are they’ll never dream you know nothing about science. Instead, choose a topic of universal interest, such as your own wedding 35 years ago, and how your seventeen year old sister had to drive home the car that your male guests had adorned with inappropriate sayings. That’s something everyone can relate to!

Nonmembers cannot make purchases at the Athaneum Club. So all we could do was amuse the geniuses with our wedding stories. It seemed an even trade.

Nonmembers cannot make purchases at the Athaneum Club. So all we could do was amuse the geniuses with our wedding stories. It seemed an even trade.

10) Getting Home: All good things must come to an end. If you are reluctant to end your voyage, chances are you will be packing, inexpertly, at the last minute. Some of the inexpertness could be due to the lateness of the hour, to the wine you are drinking to assuage your sadness, or to the knowledge  that the new suitcase you just  bought at the thrift store because luggage was 40 percent off does not unzip all the way around. Though Readmegirl is a very efficient little cuss, she could not make headway with her suitcase situation and was forced to avail herself of her sister’s help. Magpie’s expertise at least got all items packed, but put Readmegirl over the line for  carryons. Should this happen to you, advises Readmegirl, decide what you will give up if challenged at the airport. Should you decide to let go of the  red duffel bag you brought, as was Readmegirl’s choice, only leave your ignition key in the bag if you think it would be funny to call your husband and ask him to come pick you up at the airport one hour away from home at midnight. That joke never fails to get a response!

Readmegirl struggles with her unzippable bag. Note the expendable duffel on the floor. Who knew it contained one tiny loose ignition key?

Readmegirl struggles with her unzippable bag. Note the expendable duffel on the floor. Who knew it contained one tiny loose ignition key?

Well everyone, that’s all the time we have for today. We hope we’ve left you with some useful tips from this peripatetic duo. Viewers, as always, if you have tips to share, or simply want to validate the ladies’ experiences, we welcome your comments!DSC_0372 DSC_0407

The Magpie’s Jewel Box

Welcome again to Magpie TV, the unique low tech television show which challenges YOU to use your imagination! In Episodes One and Two, and also Three we detailed the Magpie’s journey to find and renovate a little treehouse of her own. Today’s show is the Magpie TV version of the typical last day of HGTV renovation shows, in which we see a fast forward ( in our case, imaginary) video of a renovated space being furnished.

For those who are new to  the show: You’ve followed the HGTV shows which depict  a hapless individual or couple completely renovating their home or yard over the weekend. It’s easy, right?  Two skinny celebrity do- it- your- selfers come over and show you how to operate heavy machinery on a Friday afternoon. You get four or five friends, and together you rip out those passé  walls and smelly hi-lo carpet, laughing and laughing at the sheer hilarity of tearing up your house.  That’s Friday night. On Saturday you rebuild the walls, install the new kitchen cabinets, and paint. Some of you work inside while others outside make new furniture and decor by gluing sequins to  pieces of board found by the roadside.  Or maybe they reupholster or even spray paint the fabric from a thrift store chair which will eventually be placed in front of the fire place. And finally, on Sunday, all the  magically chosen new furnishings are moved in, curtains and pictures are hung, candles are lit, and everyone lives happily ever after.

But of course it’s not that easy.  Magpie found out it takes a LOT LONGER than a weekend!  In today’s episode we hear it straight from the Magpie herself. ( The show has a fairly low budget.)

Part One:  As far as furnishing the condo went, for many months I had only vague ideas of a midcentury modern space, which included an attractive credenza housing a hi fi, a snazzy bar holding all the cocktail accoutrements I did not yet own, and a teak hutch from which I could serve my guests. As far as upholstered goods went, I came to the conclusion that although I would have loved to furnish the place with all vintage furnishings, I didn’t really want to sit on fifty year old upholstered items. I would therefore look for vintage case goods but buy a new couch and chairs.

It was too soon to buy furniture, but I felt as though I MUST start finding things for the condo. The solution? Art from silent auctions. I readily confess that silent auctions bring out the most desperate acquisitive parts of me. I never leave an auction without something. That is because I bid on 500 things. I will leave my silent auction behaviors for another post but suffice it to say I have left auctions with items  ranging from the doors of railroad cars to hand knit scarves. Since I could not yet hang my selections, for many sad months they languished in a closet. One silent auction find was a painting so shiny I had to have it. Look at the upper left of there photo below:

I bought a painting that reminded me of this Sputnik from outside Joe's Liquors in midtown Memphis. As HGTV would say, it was my "Inspiration"

I bought a painting that reminded me of this Sputnik from outside Joe’s Liquors in midtown Memphis. As HGTV would say, it was my “Inspiration”

Also we had this former swag lamp turned into a dining room chandelier.IMG_1908And suddenly it was time to find things.  My ideal method of furnishing the condo would have been to stop in at consignment places and estate sales, waiting until I found just the right thing. But that method wouldn’t work for two reasons. Number One: I didn’t feel I had the luxury to shop slowly over time. I had a mighty powerful hankering to see the place finished. Second: Folks, I don’t like to shop, in part because I don’t like to drive the car around. I did make a stab at shopping locally for furniture when my sister was here, when  we hit a consignment place and found these two tables.

Table Number One. And on the right a partial view of the “Sputnik” painting.

IMG_2060But after that I went straight to…Ebay! I have to laugh because prior to this I had never bought one single thing from Ebay. Instead of starting small, with a dish towel or kitchen implements perhaps, I started with a dining room table!  So you can Imagine my surprise when, as a complete newbie,  my bid was accepted. And now  imagine my further surprise when I realized my bid was only for the TABLE, not the chairs! Oops!

But the table… I loved it! Look what it does!

Its smaller diameter.

Its smaller diameter.

But it expands! This baby is from the50s, but it was in its original box. Never used!

But it expands! This baby is from the50s, but it was in its original box. Never used!

So after purchasing a table I got busy looking for chairs. I could have spent more money, but after the table incident…. I thought these would work, and they did.

These do have signs of wear. Well, so do I.

These do have signs of wear. Well, so do I.

And while I was at it, I found some nesting tables that could be used in lieu of a coffee table.

These hail from Denmark.

These hail from Denmark.

I now had a bed, a table, chairs and two side tables and nesting tables.  The next step was to find the living room furniture. What did I actually have room for in this Magpie’s nest?  Not very much,  as it turned out. After lots of measuring I  got together with Jane the Designer and chose a couch, a chair and an ottoman. At the same time I chose fabric for a curtains and sheers at the sliding glass patio doors. I particularly wanted that big glass door to be covered by the time winter winds came through.

COMMERCIAL BREAK: Hum a peppy “Susie Homemaker” type tune to yourself. Read out loud to yourself: Looking for ways to go greener during the next holiday season? Mindful Magpie has a free tip for you.

I'll et they've never seen a present like this!

I’ll bet they’ve never seen a present like this!

Out of bows and ribbons? Or too lazy to walk all the way up the stairs and find them? Do what the Magpie does and decorate your packages with STUFF YOU ALREADY HAVE!!! Look how nice that coaster looks with the wrapping paper.  It almost keeps you from noticing the bunchy wrapping job. You’d be surprised what items can be used: Mardi Gras beads, small statues, even a nice ripe bell pepper would be festive. Next year get out of the wrapping rut and see what you can come up with.

Part Two: We placed our furniture and drapery orders and waited eagerly for delivery. Weeks and weeks went by. Since I could not speed up the delivery of these items I returned to Ebay for more instant gratification  mid-century modern pieces. We had only two possible spots in the living room for a bar. The space limitation meant we could only use a very shallow piece. Eventually I found this:

And there's another glimpse of the Sputnik painting as well.

And there’s another glimpse of the Sputnik painting as well.

The wire to the little lamp inside had been cut, but it was configured to use in England anyway. Replacing the light is on our to- do list. Now we were getting closer to being able to have those Manhattans! After purchasing the bar my budget was a bit maxed out. Until the furniture came in I really couldn’t make any more decor choices anyway.

Finally, some time in the fall, the drapes and sheers came in. My husband thought we did not need to pay someone to hang these, that he and my taller son could handle it themselves. He and the son did eventually get them hung, but it was a lot of trouble, so much so that when the curtains proved to be a little longer than I expected I chose to leave them as they were rather than take them down for hemming. Ready to see the drapes?

Drapes, a definite improvement over the vertical slat blinds.

Drapes, a definite improvement over the vertical slat blinds.

Drapes and sheers.

Drapes and sheers.

Light coming in through the sheers. Have you ever seen such cuteness?

Light coming in through the sheers. Have you ever seen such cuteness?

I was so pleased with the  drapes. But when would the furniture come in so I could sit and read in that room? Find out when we come back!

COMMERCIAL BREAK: Cue some music with building tension. Newscaster’s voice: We interrupt this commercial for a Handknit Sock Alert. The mate to this sock has been reported missing at the home of local citizen Mindful Magpie.

Will this sock become a permanent singleton?

Will this sock become a permanent singleton?

Some say it is unfair for her to use her own show to broadcast information which may only pertain to her. But Ms. Magpie is convinced of the existence of a global sock abduction conspiracy. No doubt some of you are as well. We at Magpie TV want to give this issue all the attention it needs. If you have seen this sock, please return it. No questions asked. More updates as the story…unravels?

Part Three: Fall 2013. Thanksgiving approached and the furniture had still not arrived. Since we had ordered it in the summer, we were beginning to doubt we were ever going to get it. The manufacturer kept assuring Jane the Designer it would be delivered but then… it wouldn’t be.  How did I manage my impatience, you ask? It wasn’t easy! Sometimes, audience, it seemed the only thing that kept me going was to  remind myself that ONE DAY I  was going to be able to write a blog post showing this whole process. ONE DAY!!!! became my mantra!!!

We decided that if we did not have a true delivery date by Thanksgiving we would simply scrap our plans, go to Macy’s with our tails between our legs, and make the best selection from what they had on the sales floor. Luckily at just the last minute, the company did load our things on the truck and deliver. I had forgotten what I had ordered, it had been so long, but when I saw it I was so grateful I had not had to scrap the all my carefully made plans.   ( Furniture will be shown momentarily.)

Now at long last we could do the part that looked so easy and fast on television: hang the pictures, ( as though that could ever be fast with a male involved) roll out the rug, turn on the lamps and set out the accessories!!!!!!! Drum roll, please!!!!! Close your eyes, and OPEN!!!

Come in the front door!

Come in the front door!

The living room

The living room

The comfy chair and ottoman.

The comfy chair and ottoman.The picture on the wall is a by young local artist, Joey Evangelisti , who also happens to be autistic.

A few accessories...

A few accessories…


The photo on the wall is from a collection of vintage downtown Memphis scenes.

So here we are. We’re not completely finished with the condo, but what is undeniable is that what started as a treehouse has turned into a Magpie’s Jewel Box. Shininess Abounds!  True, I haven’t solved the hi fi problem, but I’m working on it. Some walls still need pictures. We haven’t done much to spruce up the balcony. But each time I unlock that front door and walk in, I feel as though the condo is welcoming me to sit down, prop up my feet and relax. After eighteen months of condo work, I’m more than ready to do that! Manhattan, anyone?

The first Manhattans!

The first Manhattans!

Closing Credits: A few before and after shots. Sing the song of your choice.

Magpie with her first condo visitors: Jane the Designer and her Ubiquitous Mother, AKA Mimi.

Magpie with her first condo visitors: Jane the Designer and her Ubiquitous Mother, AKA Mimi.

Memphis Sesquicentennial glasses, an early find for the bar.

Memphis Sesquicentennial glasses, an early find for the bar.

In the kitchen.

In the kitchen.

A Word From the Magpie TV Staff: Thanks to all who have faithfully tuned in to a show with no staff, no budget, no audio and no video. We’ve tried to give  a realistic but hopefully not too tedious picture of the making of the Magpie’s Jewel Box. If you have questions or  comments we want to hear them, please!  After all, this is our  first television series; we depend upon your feedback!

Silly Manager

It’s been really ugly around here. I haven’t wanted to include tales of woe and carnage in this blog, but I can compartmentalize no more. I must announce that this very day an attempted coup inside my brain has been  peaceably put down.  Silently and insidiously, possibly for months,  my left brain self, a nerdy middle manager with an extensive collection of pocket protectors, has been co opting the machinery of my right brain. Misled by injections of cortisol, my right brain leader, goddess, and protector of magpies routed untold amounts of energy bound for cooking, writing, sewing, drawing, and countless other creative  and enjoyable endeavors into an endless examination of minutiae.

It’s been awful! Here is how the maniacal manager took hold. About a year ago, my husband and I bought a small condo in a cool part of town. The object was to have a  simple pied a terre for when we wanted to go to the theater, eat out, or just get away. The price was oh, so right, so we bought it, and Voila! We had our little getaway spot. Well, not exactly. It needed a little cosmetic work. The cheap laminate floor was buckled; it would have to go. The walls needed painting, and the crown molding appeared to an upside down baseboard, a construction trick I would probably have tried myself. The kitchen wallpaper was hideous.

We may have just made the above simple changes if I hadn’t realized after closing that THE TOILET WAS YELLOW!!! So the toilet water would always look YELLOW!!!! I could not accept a color scheme with yellow water. And yes, before we knew it we were deciding to basically gut the entire condo. We required the excellent services of Bubba S., renowned contractor, who guided us patiently through months of destruction and construction. We were not able to put a bed in the unit until June 2013, ten months after we bought the condo. Progress was sometimes slow, but since we didn’t live in the unit, it was not as arduous for us as it could have been.

The condo is now transformed, and I promise to do some posts about it later, but for now we must focus on the rebellion. During the  long months of waiting to be able to use the condo, my left brain was busy fomenting dissatisfaction. Along my nerve synapses, it was sending messages such as , ” You’ll never be able to use that condo.” “We’ve been waiting for a year.” “We could have gone to the condo this weekend.”  (Yes we did sleep there some on a blowup mattress, but it’s so uncomfortable.) Thanks to all that left brain agitation, as soon as we were able to put a bed in the unit, I felt a great pressure to get the place furnished instantly. Instantly.

It sounds easy to just furnish a one bedroom apartment, right? Wrong! First, we decided to take our current queen sized bed to the condo and buy ourselves a new king sized bed for the house. So now my old bed is at the condo, and I don’t have one here yet. Because my bedroom here needed painting. So I had to pick paint. But I couldn’t pick paint until I picked out a duvet cover. “Just try harder,” the left brain urged as I scoured every single internet source for duvet covers. The situation again  made fertile ground for the opposition. I ‘ve slept upstairs in a guest room for a month, my clothes are all stuffed in hefty bags, and I only know the whereabouts of one pair of earrings, because they happened to be in my purse. Yes, my brain cells were becoming attuned to the directive voice suggesting I just needed to get organized around here, to make some choices,  to get something accomplished.

At the same time, I needed condo furniture. I wanted a midcentury modern look. In my imagination I could see a snazzy living room with a hi fi set, a vintage bar, a clean-lined buffet,  groovy accessories, and Don Draper sipping a martini in the corner.  But the reality is that that stuff can be hard to find. Many extremely  cool items are either quite expensive or only available for local delivery. I know this because I have also searched every single possible outlet for these items regardless of my need for sleep and moisture for my bloodshot eyes.  And I told  all this to my left brain but he made me keep looking. Finally I found a dining room table and chairs on Ebay.

151061656738_1281087241683_1 I had never bid on anything before, and I think dining room furniture is a pretty formidable first choice for a beginner. But again, my left brain informed  me it was an emergency. I persevered.

I woke up early one morning last week, and when I  closed my eyes to go back to sleep, all I could see was an Ebay page scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.  I had lost touch with the idea that nothing at all would happen if I disregarded the voice of the left brain. I wanted to take pictures of my flowers and make pesto, but robotically I continued to focus on decisions for the condo. I was unhappy and I knew it. But I couldn’t stop. What was going to become of me? Would I wake one morning devoid of all humanity, but an expert on item numbers, bids, costs and measurements?

Last night I had a dream that a former roommate of mine in college was giving a talk on how she was tired of being materialistic and what a dangerous practice it was.  I really think that was the moment when the right side began to feel some reinforcements from some unknown place within. I woke up this morning and knew I had been delivered from the jaws of  an endless future of “human doingness” instead of “human beingness.” That is what the left brain side wanted of me. But I will not comply.

Furnishing the condo was never something to be finished, just something to be enjoyed at my own pace. I will order a couch and chair for the living room , and my new king sized bed this week. And that will be all. Becoming so thing and object oriented is not who I am. I don’t need spectacular surroundings to feel relaxed and happy at the condo; I just need peace.

Right now the right brain  leader, goddess, and protector of magpies  is having a talk with the left brain manager, thanking him for all his hard work. He will surely be needed for duties in the future. ( She catches more flies with honey.)  The neurotransmitters he controlled are being quietly disconnected. He must be tired, she murmurs, as she motions to her minions to make him comfortable in some remote location of the brain. He IS tired, he realizes, as he listens to the hypnotic tones of her voice.  And it feels so good for him to rest right here. Silly manager, he thinks as he drifts off to sleep; a coup would never have worked in a place like this.

She Who Restores Me To Myself

Magpies, in their love of shininess, have an especial need to experience scintillating moments with glittery people. By glittery I do not mean shallow, brittle, self absorbed, or vain. I am talking about an honest  shine that comes from the inside all the way out, an  unconditional shine that radiates warmth over others, a brightly colored shine that pulsates with willingness to pursue novel endeavors. I am of course describing my sister Ellen.

I promised in my last post to write about our latest adventures. But first a little background. Last summer I wrote  a post about my sister in which I referred to her as L.G., or Little General. Ellen did not appreciate that appellation, so I have withdrawn that name from our lexicon. Last week, in a blaze of dervish like activity prior to boarding a plane, I referred to my sister as a hurricane, knowing that should she read the post I would be in big trouble, my kind intentions notwithstanding.

I am  now on record to say that Ellen gets things done, but she is NOT a general. She is a force of nature, but she is NOT a hurricane. What then, can I call her?  She is a person of great intellect, wit, and charm. Her droll humor and clever imagination cannot be matched. Her no nonsense work ethic and organizational skills are an inspiration to others.   Her zest for life is unparalleled, her enjoyment of it a sight to behold. Her authenticity is a beacon to my soul. AND she loves me!

I had not seen my sister since December 2012, when I spent one night with her en route to a friend’s cabin. Little did we know that six long months would pass before we could see one another again. Somehow, with our various travel and work schedules along with  family commitments, the weeks elapsed with no firm visiting plans.

We don’t talk on the phone much. We write letters by hand, on paper, to one another, and have for years. But this past semester many weeks separated our letters. I was beginning to feel like an American colonist awaiting word from the continent.  Had my letter been lost at sea, dashed on a rocky promontory after a shipwreck? Would I hear that she and her family had perished in a smallpox epidemic? Finally my impatience got the better of me. I left her the following cryptic voice mail,”The jig is up!”

That, ladies and gentlemen, got a response, and at last we were able to plan for her to come see me in my town. She flew in on a Friday night just as my husband was flying out on a business trip, making the timing just right for an All Girls’ Extravaganza. I picked up the  Hurric. picked her up at the airport and took her straight to my new midtown condo to spend the night.  She admired the condo, and we both exclaimed over the sweet note my husband had left for us.DSC_0744  Then she unpacked a few of her things.  As I watched her familiar movements and listened to her long accustomed  voice, I had this exact thought: I am restored to myself.

Our plan for the week was to have no plan. That way our plans couldn’t possibly go wrong. That evening, we wanted to eat dinner someplace where we could hear ourselves talk. I recommended a place where we chose a secluded table. No sooner had we sat down  than a large group of ladies, some under the influence of more than two martinis with more in the offing, began screaming raucously, in a way that truly rattles the eardrums.IMG_2071

What do you suppose Ellen did? She approached those ladies, put her arm around one, leaned in and had a little ole talk with them. And they lowered the volume! When we left the restaurant a waitress followed us out to thank her for helping with  the situation!!! How do you describe someone like this?

I told you she's a force of nature!

I told you she’s a force of nature!

The next day Ellen accompanied me to a Knit In Public Day at the zoo. She joined right in with these knitters, sharing knitting anecdotes from her own experiences.. And yes, she had brought her own knitting, self sufficient as always.  She patiently allowed me to show her off to these folks who may never see her again,with nary a complaint  about the heat or crowds. What would you call someone like that?DSC_0711

After knitting we stopped in a consignment store  to look for midcentury modern furniture pieces for my largely unfurnished condo. She said she did not know what midcentury modern was, but she found  me two tables, and rearranged my car so that they would both fit.IMG_2060 But that is not all! She went all the way back down to the condo with me and helped me schlep them up there in grocery carts! Impressive, right?

And wait! There's more! She moves furniture!

And wait! There’s more! She moves furniture!

On Sunday Ellen gamely accompanied me to the Book Club Brunch where she knew barely a soul.  I had actually not read the book to be discussed but by chance she had and was able to make salient comments while I nodded sagely. Though we were at a lovely function in a lovely home, Ellen murmured not  when I announced we must be moving on to the theater to see Death Trap. This allowed me to use my last two remaining season tickets and  also take advantage of the special that day for extending my subscription. All because of Ellen.

On Sunday night we dropped in to Tug’s at Mud Island to be waited upon by my son. While enjoying our meal there we proofread a paper my son was  writing for a summer school class. I am fairly sure we were the only two customers there discussing poetry. After dinner we took a leisurely stroll by the banks of the Mississippi River, remarking on the environs and how many pieces of driftwood resembled dinosaurs.DSC_0726 Thus ended another cultural evening.

After a discussion of poetry over dinner.

After a discussion of poetry over dinner.

DSC_0741Ellen did not flinch the next evening when it was time for Iyengar Yoga. Her graduate school schedule had  prevented her from going to her own class all winter, but she knew enough to know not to push herself. She has “subbed” in my class before, so many members were of course glad to see her. After yoga we spent some quality time outside on my pergola ( which her husband was instrumental in building)  before eating a lovely dinner of grilled vegetables and chicken. Prepared by Ellen.

Post yoga quality time.

Post yoga quality time.

Our chef having some well deserved relaxation.

Our chef having some well deserved relaxation.

Tuesday was my hair day but we made it Ellen’s hair day too. I told her I liked her hair better red than blonde highlighted, so she obligingly had it redone. I watched to see how the stylist blew it dry so I could show her later. We were too hungry to take pictures, so just believe me that we were two groovy red haired old ladies when we left that shop.

And Wednesday. By Wednesday I had to face a deadline – Mary Hannah’s portrait. For months I had been working on the portrait my niece  had asked me to paint. I had decided that I would have it finished as best I could by the time Ellen departed on Thursday so she could deliver it for me.  This meant that after helping me with some yardwork early in the day, Ellen would be stuck watching me paint.DSC_0751 Ellen had, however, bought some teeny tiny canvases, and tried her hand at them while I labored repeatedly  to get M. H.’s skin color to a reasonable tone. Or tint. Or something. Eventually, though her skin looked like combinations of calamine lotion and badly applied makeup, I could do no more. Ellen was suitably soothing and optimistic that the portrait would pass muster with her daughter.DSC_0758

One of Ellen's tiny canvases.

One of Ellen’s tiny canvases.

That night we again spent the night at the condo in order to be closer to the airport in the morning. We wanted to have a nice evening so I made us a reservation a place close by where I did not think there would be gaggles  of loud ladies. Ellen acquiesced when I suggested she change out of those crummy shorts, and together we walked in the blazing heat to the restaurant.  She changed into a skirt of mine that was too long, while  I was wearing a skirt I considered a little dowdy. As we walked I saw how easy it could be for the two of us to become peculiar old ladies together, going to the Early Bird Specials and matinees, careful to be home by dark.

It was a bittersweet evening. As I doodled on my side of the tablecloth, Ellen was compiling  a list of all we had done.

Now with red hair.

Now with red hair.

The list was long, but not nearly long enough. Oh, the things we would do if we had more time! Oh, how empty indeed would even the mundane events be without her! We decided once again that there was no help for it but to retire together in the same place, on the same property if possible. We’ll tell our husbands it’s the only way.IMG_2084

Ellen has gone home now. The portrait is delivered. I am trying to recalibrate myself after almost a week with this adorable creature who knows my thoughts, who finishes my sentences, who always finds something to celebrate. Now that you have read my post I must ask: what you would call my sister? How can she even be described? If you can think of anything – not L.G. or Hurricane of course- I’d be glad to know. For now, I’m just going to call her She Who Restores Me To Myself.DSC_0736

Funny Thing

A funny thing happened on the way to building a pergola this summer. We bought a condo. Yes. A condo, as in condominium. Here’s how it happened.

The building is just a little bit younger than I am.

I live in a state of constant searching for new exhilarating  challenges  while at the same time having to manage the boring but important  parts of life, such as arranging for food, shelter and clothing. In earlier years, having library books helped balance out the folding of the cloth diapers. Making a spaceship out of an appliance box negated the emotional effects of having no disposable income. Painting the workbench in the storage room purple took my mind off the fact that teenagers were driving my car so often that I had no chance to go anywhere. Learning to knit brought solace as I started the eventual highly successful transition to becoming part of an empty nester couple.

Today, having fewer hands- on responsibilities gives me more time to practice my Magpie lifestyle which includes  indulging myself in  little dreams which may or may not  come to fruition. The idea of buying a condo as a getaway spot  has been one of those “Wouldn’t it be nice” kinds of things. Fun to think about, but impossible financially. Fun to think about, but too much responsibility. Fun to think about, but impractical.

Though I  don’t care to my have fantasies deflated, for a time all of  the above mentioned objections were true. A luxury condo would be out of our range unless we rented it out, which would require that we furnish it nicely and deal with management people. And where would the condo be? We love the mountains, but the closest mountains would require a bone rattling drive over Arkansas roads. In the other direction if we were to drive to East Tennessee, we might as well drive to North Carolina. Since two of our three children live at opposite ends of the United States, how often would we want to make a twelve hour drive to a mountain cabin? And a long weekend? Fuhgeddaboudit!

One morning while we were still building the pergola, I glanced  at a real estate site while drinking my morning coffee. Condos. Memphis. Wha? What? Wait a minute! Here was a one bedroom  condo, perfect for a weekend getaway.  In walking distance to the theater and restaurants. Balcony. Swimming pool.  I KNEW this was for me!!!!  AND THE PRICE WAS MORE THAN RIGHT !!!

Adrenaline flooded me! My knees were weak. My fingers longed to press the “Contact me” button, but I made myself wait until my husband got home from the gym. Then I  nonchalantly asked the big question. “Honey, Would you buy me a condo if it only cost XYZ%$?” “Oh, certainly,” he replied. YES!!!!

And so a new adventure was born!  I had to make an appointment, the first one without my husband because he was, um, building me a pergola. I was sold. We went back together. We both were sold. Of course, as I so quickly remembered, buying real estate can never be totally smooth. The first unit, which had been upgraded cosmetically, was taken off the market. Ouch. We regrouped, and looked at another unit, which we bought.

Everything in this unit needs changing. EVERYTHING!!! But what fun it will be! The first unit was move in ready, but I  wouldn’t have chosen those particular upgrades. I would rather make my own choices. For me it is like having a brand new house, choice wise.

The floors are buckled. They have to go.

The balcony just needs cosmetic work.

The whole place needs painting.

We plan to use the condo as a weekend getaway. Not every weekend, but lots of weekends. Before, we often didn’t go into mid or downtown as much as we wanted to because we didn’t always feel like schlepping back to the suburbs at midnight. Or to be perfectly honest, 10:00 P.M. Now we can have an evening out and when we are tired, the condo is only a few minutes away. The more we think about it the more fun things we think of to do.

Could you make coffee each morning while looking at this?

Heeere’s the bathroom!

Yes, it will be gutted. All of it.

Here are two of a set of vintage Memphis glasses I bought for the condo. I just can’t leave you with that bathroom picture.

 We have owned the condo now for about two weeks. Tonight after walking somewhere nearby for  dinner and  over to see  Legally Blonde we are going to spend our first night there. We’re packing light: Air mattress, sheets, pillows, toiletries. I suspect we’ll have glass of wine on the balcony where we already have two lawn chairs, and welcome ourselves to  the neighborhood. Sometimes dreams do come true.

Vancouver Memories

Honey, I’m home!  I’ve escaped to the mountains with my sister  and returned to eerily decent weather, with  temperatures in the 60s in the mornings, and highs in the 80s, with breezes and no humidity. With this weather I could just about stand to live here! I know you are all eager to get my mountain report but today I’m going back to the beginning of the summer , to the last place where I felt such pleasant temeperatures: Vancouver.

Actually it was  cooler  in Vancouver than it is here now, but  the coolness was a welcome treat for me. Looking back  at the pictures it is hard to believe that only a few months ago I was someplace where I couldn’t walk down the street without a scarf wrapped around my neck. If someone tried that fashion trick around here they would be asked by old ladies in kindly voices, “Honey, did you hurt your neck?” Anyway, time for a look at Day Two in Vancouver!

Goals for Day Two in Vancouver were simple. Hit the Granville Island Farmers Market early, when it would be less crowded, followed by the Museum of Vancouver, to get a feel for the history of the city. From our location in Davies Village it was a short downhill walk to the place where we could catch a a little tug boat to Granville Island. These tugs come every twenty minutes, so we bought an all day ticket so we could come and go as we pleased.  On the short ride over we envisioned a leisurely walk through the various vendor stalls, occasionally stopping to sample goodies or order a strong aromatic cup of coffee. We were two cosmopolitan empty nesters, out on the kind of cool  Sunday morning adventure that cosmopolitan empty nesters have earned. EARNED.

Oops! We didn’t realize  that Granville Island was the location of The International Children’s Festival, and that very Sunday was the grand finale!   We  gamely toured the covered parts of the market, wending our way through the crowds, and admiring goodies as we had hoped.

Don’t even try to mess with her.

But the density of people was much worse outside. We quickly found we would need to scratch the relaxing plan and go with the survival plan. Apparently people can drive their cars to Granville Island, so everywhere we turned we were dodging Volvos crowded with kiddies either coming or going from the festivities. I  wonder if some of those poor people are still bumper to bumper on the Island, circling until they find a parking place?

All around us were face painters, organ grinding music, kiddie performances  and the like. Surely this is a worthwhile event, but what were we doing here? After looking unsuccessfully for a peaceful sanctuary, we came upon a helpful maintenance man, perhaps fleeing himself, who pointed out a hotel at the end of the island where we might find respite. We made a dash for the Dockside Restaurant  and were grateful to be seated on an outdoor patio, facing  the opposite  direction of the festival.

We hadn’t planned on a brunch, but the salmon burger was delicious, and the live jazz soon made us forget the cacophony at the other end of the island.Yes. These people are covering themselves with blankets.

Next we got back onboard the tug to head for the Museum of Vancouver. Aah! We virtually had the place to ourselves.  A word about Vancouver museums: there aren’t very many. Unlike other large cities, Vancouver seems to be young in its  municipal museum life.

This cozy little museum has some permanent exhibits about life in the area since white settlers came in, up to the present day. ( There is another museum that tells the story of the   indigenous tribes.)The town that became Vancouver grew very quickly after  it was named to be the final stop on the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1884.  Many ethnic minorities came in to help build the town and the railway and formed their own communities. Suburbs and roads were developed. The town was swept into the World Wars and embraced life’s modern conveniences in the post war boom.

Shoes from the Japanese part of town.

One of the two special exhibits was Art Deco Chic, a study of art deco influence on fashion. I  Ioved, loved, these dresses. And would love to wear them. This exhibit really whetted my appetite to learn more about the history of fashion. It is an interesting lens through which to view history.

This dress from the 1920s was influenced by recent archaelogical finds in Egypt.

This dress was made in Vancouver by the Aurora company.

Robin Hood-inspired accessories.

The second special exhibit was of neon signs from the city. As Vancouver has grown it has faced issues similar to other big cities: zoning, infrastructure, commerce. At one point it outlawed large neon signs. Many were destroyed, others left to languish in junkyards. The exhibit asks if the signs are an eyesore, or  art in themselves? You will have to decide for yourself.

But I think you know which way a magpie would lean on the subject.

After the calm of the museum we were ready to brave the Island again, this time to buy some goodies for dinner. The place was still bustling but at a somewhat lower decibel level. This time we actually went in a few shops, and stopped for a much needed cup of coffee.

After making a few dinner purchases we boarded the blue tug for our final ride. Our heads were filled with the vivid sounds, smells and sights of the day. We looked to forward to having a dinner of market goodies in our room and watching the sun set behind the mountains. And we did.