March 17, 2013
Today is St. Patrick’s Day, celebrated in Murphys yesterday. Since my mail is by the pound, I read a notice the parade would be on Sunday. I stumbled onto the corrected date in a later notice. Went late, missed the parade, had a good beer, enjoyed the green hair, the bands, and best of all, I got a ghost story.
Not everyone wears green hair, of course, but everyone has fun. I know this guy is bald, so he enjoyed his hair and later let everyone try it on.
Others take their costumes seriously, as this young man very authentically dressed.
At 3:30 in the afternoon, the pony rides were starting to pack up and leave.
The main band stand on the street was still pumping out tunes.
There were a lot of places to sit, and Jan and I enjoyed a huge pretzel at Cactus Jacks. I had my first dark beer since getting home. The woman on the right is holding the tallest green margarita I’ve ever seen. They were all over town.
Jack’s rock band was so loud and the dance floor so crowded, we sat outside and still had to shout at each other to be heard.
Jan doesn’t drink but a sip of wine now and then. She is Italian so I had to take her picture by this barrel. Every time I come home, there is a new tasting room in Murphys.
Newsome-Harlow’s courtyard had a good band.
Their courtyard is a pleasant place to sip and chat. The fire was going in the pits, even though the weather was perfect.
Jan found a dragonfly to put in her pond.
I found some cute bird houses, but didn’t buy. I liked the idea of a waterproof roof.
We got to the end of the street, Tom Scheller, the owner of the IDEA store, pointed out some fun stuff he added to his building, which is the old International Order of Oddfellows building from the Gold Rush days. A woman standing nearby said, Have you heard about the ghost?” Me: “What ghost?”
Tom was getting his stuff moved back inside, ready to close up for the day. Tom and I were in Murphys Merchants Association together many years ago. He bought the building 37 years ago and I’ve been in Murphys 35 years. I regard Tom as a down-to-earth credible guy. Hey, Tom?
This is the story he told me. “I’ve always heard creakings and what sounded like footsteps in this old building, mostly when I went upstairs. He took Jan and I to his side door where the stairs can be reached from the outside, and a second door leads to his main display downstairs. “I had just locked my outside door. The door to my showroom was closed. I started up the stairs and I heard heavy footsteps coming downstairs. I backed off and decided to turn around when a whoosh of cold air hit me, the footsteps passed me and I heard a click of my showroom door as though something passed through it. I’ve had people get spooked when visiting the upstairs showroom over the years, they described it as a feeling of someone watching them. I’ve always ignored it. But, we’ve had some activity downstairs too. I or my employees have been sitting behind the counter, working on the computer or whatever, and papers will be picked up off the top of a file cabinet and dropped to the floor. Things have moved off the shelf and been dropped on the floor. We always joked about a ghost. We have a non-smoking environment here, but I’ll open up some mornings and find a wisp of cigarette smoke hanging in the far left corner of my shop. Then one day, a physic, who was touring with some people, looked up and said, you have a ghost, his name is Joe, he is sitting right there. She pointed to where I see the smoke periodically. I was still a bit skeptical but one day, I was doing some remodeling upstairs and I opened up the floor boards and found three bricks, one imprinted with the name Joe. I’m convinced now that I have a ghost.” (Me too.)
January 12, 2013
We had one day to visit Brownsville. The old town portion is just like a border town on the Mexico side. Cheap goods and people hawking as you leave their shops, or not. Small Mexican restaurants with hand written signs. The store keepers struggle with English because most of their customers speak Spanish. That is a slap-dash impression, obviously, since we didn’t visit a great many places. But, it is colorful, and lively and fun.
Texas became a state in 1854. Our lasting impression of Texas is embodied in cowboys, gunfights, cattle drives, branding and bandits. The Lower Rio Grande flew seven different flags, Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, Confederacy, Republic of the Rio Grande, and United States. It’s true history is of revolution and war; multiple skirmishes with Mexico over borders and control. Visitors can visit unimpressive battlefields like Palmito Ranch and Palo Alto, and more visually impressive Fort Brown, located on the University of Texas at Brownsville. But the whole story is told in the Brownsville Historical Association complex of a museum and the furnished house of Charles Stillwell, Brownsville’s founder.
It seems there has always been a military presence around Brownsville.
Almost all politics and city decisions were made at Crixell’s Bar. No women allowed, of course. And, founder, Stillwell was not unlike our modern-day CEO’s. He grabbed land, bought interests in every thriving enterprise and became wealthy beyond reason, but always wanted more, more,more while the common people grumbled, went to work and kept them going. Of course, the elites made the laws that forever kept the common people working and prevented them from making the land grabs Stillwell and the other mega-ranch owners got while opportunity was ripe.
People worked in the silver mines, they farmed, and did all building and manual labor.
A local photographer made his living photographing the people of Brownsville. Here are some samples
In his best clothes, he reported to the studio.
The huge skirts and decoration mean she was a woman of means.
This barefoot boy of color with what looks like a pipe in his hand and mouth? The photographer was known for photographing people of the streets.
The Museum had a huge section on Mexican governors and Presidents.
Boy soldiers were not unusual in Mexican armies. Mexican women also followed their men into battles to feed and cook for them, and sew and mend and give comfort to them.
Faces of the revolution. The strong lighting and glass makes picture-taking difficult in museums.
This one of a kind, German built MAN automobile was built like a tank for a soon to be president who didn’t make it. After his lost bid, it was sealed behind a brick wall, never to be seen for many, many years. After that it has had two owners before the museum acquired it.
The death photo of Zapata.
This drawing depicts something in which I have a small connection. A woman from my neighboring Tuolumne County claimed, “I am here because of a single white bean.” She went on to tell her story of her grandfather being among Santa Anna”s prisoners when he ordered every tenth Texan killed. According to her, he couldn’t afford to feed all of his prisoners. The prisoners dipped into a pot of beans. If they drew a white bean, they were saved, a black bean they were shot. People doubted the story was true, even from our historical society. I never doubted for a minute. And, here, Proof, it really happened.
It is a well done museum and very worth visiting.
The Stillwell House next to the Museum is very richly furnished with an eye to authentic detail.
The family history is enmeshed with the political and economic map of the area,very well done and interesting. Do visit, there are many surprises here.
Not far away, is a costume and childrens museum. They are near the zoo and close to Highway 77 /83 if you go. The Costume Museum is only one room, jammed full of Mexican folk clothing. They make the point, something I’ve learned from visting other countries, that various villages had a traditional dress and everyone dressed that way, everyday. The colorful clothing, the beautiful handwork, embroidery and designs were dazzling. All new stuff, beautifully done. I would loved to have seen it in a bigger room with bigger areas of separation. It only cost $2 each for us to look. The children’s museum is in the same building and she invited us to view it too.
About each village is a small history.
I could have spent more time here, but it is enjoyable even at 20 minutes.
This antique piece, a wedding, a festival costume, and day of the dead display were depicted as well.
We reported back to the Motor Home at the VFW, and enjoyed the company of “friends” for a couple of hours. Another good weather day.,
August 2, 2012
To resume my visit to China in 2006, we are in Kunming, The City Of Eternal Spring. It is a very temperate area known for its plant diversity. Most of China’s flower species come from Kunming with its pleasant, temperate climate. We see commercial flower gardens and orchards around Kunming, but our tour will take us to Shilin, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, a surrealistic “orchard” of stone.
The drive to this unique landscape through a three-mile long tunnel, and we worry about it caving in, probably unreasonably so. But, safety isn’t foremost in Chinese projects, we think. The tunnel replaced a twisty, tortuous road, we are told. Then we take a shuttle to the base of the 200 acres of what are called karst towers, formed 270 million years ago as the Himalayas were forming.
It’s a lovely spot by a lake, but the sign that greets us with tortured interpretations was a hoot though well intentioned. We were relieved to know what we buy here will be genuine.
Yunnan Province has many minority people. And we see them come to Shilin to get married, or celebrate special events in their lives. The most prominent minority in this region is the Yi people. The Suni Muslims are a branch of the Yi people. There are black Yis and white Yis. The black Yis enslaved the white Yis because they admired the rare black tigers of Asia over the white tigers. The Yi were great hunters and wrestlers, strong and muscular. They walk in fire and have fire torch festivals unique to the area. Mau banished slavery among the Yis. Another nearby minority is the Hui people, called barbarians. They arrived here with Kublai Khan. A very informative website can be found at the following link.
The area does resemble a stone forest, which is the common name for Shilin.
The karst formations are limestone and were shaped by a receding inland sea and harsh winds.
It was an easy, pleasant hike through the “forest” and one could imagine what it must have been like for ancient children to climb and play on the formations.
We hiked around the lake and took pictures. There are caves and waterfalls deeper inside the forest, but we were given a limited time here. Without a guide it would be easy to become disoriented and lost if we wandered too far off the path.
The people in their special native dress were fascinating, anyway.
The costumes are somewhat different, but always the main color of red and yellow.
The Yi men show their single status by the way they wear their feathers. A girl shows interest in a man by touching her horn.
Vicki speculated this was some type of local holiday celebration. It seemed very romantic to us with couples and singlels having their picture taken by the lake.
Near the gift shop, this gent was fiddling with a musical instrument. We figured there would be a musical event later in the day.
By lunchtime, the place was mobbed. I saw that under the costume the girls wear street clothes, kind of like we do for high school graduation.
This woman may have been a different minority with similar costume. I enjoyed people watching as much as the stone formations.
The Stone Forest is seventy-five miles from Kunming and actually makes its own weather. At certain times of years, storms roar out of the caves and water cascades from the high formations. We will move on to Urumichi and visit a Yi village.
July 5, 2012
I’ve taken a cruise ship once and decided it was an expensive floating hotel with sumptuous food and contrived activities to keep you entertained between brief stops. I swore I’d never take another, but I signed on for this cruise because I remembered Barry Goldwater admitting he should never have voted to flood Glen Canyon for the dam after a group of environmentalists took him for a tour before the dam was completed. I’ve seen the pictures of Glen Canyon, now forever lost. I wanted to see the beautiful Yangtze River Canyon before the Chinese flooded it with their huge dam. It displaced millions of families, that’s millions of families. It was a very controversial dam, protested by people around the world. Anyway, our ship is nice.
After dinner, our first night, we are lavishly entertained with a program of Chinese dances and costume representing eleven dynasties of male and female clothing.
Dress clothing of the aristocracy, of course, not the everyday clothing of the working people.
It was a fabulous and enjoyable show, rich and colorful.
The extent of such finery, and pageantry surprised me. I’ve read very little Chinese history and woefully felt the lack as I listened, learned and enjoyed. Since, I’m an early riser, at 5:30 a.m. the next morning, I went to the gym on board to exercise and saw the crew busily waking up the ship, getting breakfast ready for us, and attending to all anticipated needs of passengers. At breakfast I learned a little more of the new history of China. The lavish performance of the previous night was done by the ships servers, who work hard all day then double as entertainers, staying up past 11:00 p.m. to entertain us. I’ve never been very good about setting politics aside no matter what I’m doing.
The river is and will remain a major transportation corridor for ships and barges like this coal barge, besides producing electric power.
We got a look at Bye Bye Bridge. So called because it will soon be under water. By 2004, the canyon is already half flooded. The canyon looks misty but mostly the mist is bad air quality. Chinese homes are predominantly heated with coal.
We pass half flooded caves that at one time held Japanese soldiers who lived in the canyon, unable to return to their homeland. They were in such a steep, rocky section of the canyon, they were unreachable by anyone in power. They lived on fish and birds and what few vegetables they could cadge from local farmers. In one cave, with binoculars, we could see a mummified body hanging. Another controversy in the scientific community around the world because archeologists wanted to study them and find out who they were. They were refused by the Chinese government.
The remnants of terraced gardens can be seen everywhere. The Chinese working people eat every bird, insect and plant they can devour. We saw a few waters birds, some monkeys, who will now probably become extinct because their habitat is being flooded, and fish.
This farmer, could at one time walk from his ancestral land to visit and trade with his neighbor.
The land bridge between them is flooded. For awhile, they visited each other by boat. Now that option is also gone. This farmer clings to his land until he has to take his boat and leave. It is very heart wrenching for them. Older people, hate it. Some younger workers love it. One worker on the boat told us she has her first apartment that she can own in Wuhan (oohan) City. She lives in 120 meters with a family of three. On the farm, she lived in 400 square meters with an extended family of eight. She showed us the government pictures of the canyon before it flooded. The much vaunted beauty does not compare to Glen Canyon in my opinion.
I was much more interested in the people and activity we could see along the river.
Another farm will be soon flooded. The steepness of the canyon farms were pretty amazing.Some farmers fought the flooding by building dikes, all for naught.
It had to be grueling labor to eke out a living on such land. This is old China. Here people live without knowing what goes on in their country. No electricity, or amenities. Just hard labor from hand to mouth.
At dinner, we learned to sing Happy Birthday in Chinese.
Our second day, we visit a side canyon. More tomorrow.
December 21, 2010
In the 1970′s I found this little booklet entitled Christmas At Bracebridge Hall, written by Washington Irving. A friend informed me that the Bracebridge Hall Dinner was a yearly event at Yosemite National Park, Olde English in style and costume, held every Christmas.
Since I live relatively close to Yosemite, I called there and learned one must submit a form to attend and the attendees are then selected by lottery. If your name comes up, you get to buy these very expensive tickets for this two day event, a grand Old English dress ball and banquet. I submitted an application for three years in a row and finally my name came up. But, my husband was seriously ill that year and we couldn’t attend. By this time it didn’t matter, though. We’d had an opportunity to attend a similar dinner at the Old McHenry Mansion in Modesto, costume, authentic food and all.
This picture from that dinner, dressed in costume is one of my favorites. (It was tough to get George into a tux.)
In later years, reading this little book inspired me keep menu cards for very special dinners, mostly Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners I cooked at home. With French people, food is a religion and we certainly made it so at Holidays. Its the difference between food and a feast. With what I cooked and others brought, we were likely to have five different deserts, 10 varieties of cookies, nuts, and fruits and cakes and pies. Three kinds of cranberries, two kinds of sweet potatoes, six or seven side dishes. The turkey, roast or ham, done up in a special way. Much of this food, shipped across country or imported; fruits, wines and oils we hadn’t even heard of when we were growing up. I guess I’ve come to say, during this Christmas Season, as someone before me intoned:
If you have a roof over your head, food on the table, a warm bed at night, you are certainly better off than 75% of the people on earth. If you have the type of bounty I’m describing, you are among the wealthiest 8% of people on earth. Be thankful, celebrate, share with others, and make Merry at Christmas.
I decided to go on-line, (Isn’t the internet wonderful?) and find the avenue to the Yosemite Park’s famous Christmas Dinner for you to see.
Wait a minute. Washington Irving died in 1859. This 17th century dinner has been celebrated at Yosemite since 1927?