HOUSTON? WE HAVE A PROBLEM

We are old, but still have a senior in high school.  In my entire life with children, this is the first time the advantage of public transportation to school could be utilized.  At first, it seemed like a miracle.   But even then, the experience was a little weird.

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Our drive is more than two-tenths of a mile, off a dirt road, and off a state highway.  The students are not allowed to stand on a two lane highway to wait for the bus, so our driver comes down the dirt road to pick Garrett up and turns around in our drive, also dirt.  My bad:  our drive is pure sand; one cannot ride a bicycle down it.  Where we live used to be the bottom of the ocean.

The driver once tried to use the circle drive accessing our three buildings and with a tight radius, with the bus.  Nightmare for a gardener.  She almost took down half of an adolescent live oak tree, and a group of bridal veils. We all decided she would pick up Garrett down by the mailbox.

We first met our driver when signing up Garrett before his junior year in high school.  She was eating her lunch at the receptionist desk in the public area of the school.  She IS the receptionist.  And she drives a bus.  And she is the manager of the bus system for the school.  Lucky, she is her own boss.  And therein lies the problem.

We went to early Thanksgiving dinner at school last week.  On the way to the cafeteria, my husband spoke to the receptionist/bus driver.  She looked down, ashamed.  She knew what was going to happen.  We are trying to figure out how she looks at her job in this middle class institution of a public school.  She goes through the motions of running a bus on a route.  But running a bus on a route is NOT the job, the picking up of students on that route and getting them safely to school is the job.  Often she will come around 15 minutes early to our stop (or a little more or a little less). Garrett not being there, she turns  around in our drive, and leaves.  We can hear her back-up warning through the woods.

Glenn has been around the block (so to speak) with her many times.  He called Garrett’s old school in Missouri and requested the bus schedule handout that all the parents get at the beginning of each school year which shows the bus route and the window of time for arrival at each stop.  They were amazed, but they sent it for Glenn to show this bus driver and manager of busses.

Cultural differences run deep.  The idea that if she is running early, that she should sit at a stop for a few minutes (who knows?  Maybe the students on that stop will have time to make the bus) so she arrives at the rest of the stops in the correct window of time is beyond her (and her boss).  We think that part of the problem down here in SC may be that rural students simply do not go to school when it is cold. That would make her early if many stops did not have to be made.  Hard to believe, but this is South Carolina.

What she said to us at the Thanksgiving lunch is that her new aide on the bus is always on time, so they always leave “early”.  Digest that statement!  OK, so no notification of any kind to let us know about the good work habits of the aide?  No, we just smoothly slide by each stop wondering (or maybe not) why there are no students waiting.

It happened again this morning, after our little talk.

 

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NOT RACE, NOT CLASS, IT’S CULTURE

Still thinking about Ferguson, Missouri.

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I grew up a stone’s throw from there, in the 1960s, and there were no blacks to speak of. We were all middle class whites and were trained with middle class ideas. Most of us went to state institutions, middle class schools, for college. We knew the program.

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After graduate school at a second middle class state institution, I came south to take my first college teaching position. The only person I knew in South Carolina was the person who hired me.

Landscape, behavior, attitudes were all unfamiliar to me. And true, I lived (still do) in a county that is majority minority. There was some kind of political plan to make this county the way it is, and its shape is huge, and far-reaching to attain that goal. Both whites and blacks were confusing.

I was truly in a different pond. Could not understand why strangers spoke to me. What did they want? Someone was to pick me up “after church” and I thought, “Which service?”. Overwhelmingly, there is only one here, and it is at eleven. The details of life became unfamiliar.

Having later married into a local family, it was very early on that I realized they were playing a game for which I would never know the rules. That is a cultural difference. Neutral, not bad, not good. It got me in trouble sometimes. That description stayed with me; it exactly depicted my emotions. I meant no harm, was simply confused. My antennae did not work well here.

People, black and white, do what their parents and grandparents did; they are the models. Those traditions may seem very strange to the other. Cultures are different ponds. Should know better, but last weekend was sort of shocked by the organization of a local Democratic Party campaign event.

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The fish fry and meet and greet was to start at four. We got to the event at that time, there was not a soul around. We sat in the car until we saw some movement in putting up a tent in the parking lot. My oldest, with us, is always embarrassed by my activities. We walk into the building behind the line of signs, against his advice. There was a meeting in a glass office taking place, and about 40 black people sitting in chairs around the perimeter of the office quietly and politely.

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It reminded me of the above event from last year when all staked out their seats in a covered picnic area, loaded with railroad collectibles hanging from the ceiling. The people were glued to their seats, and were not going to give them up until fed. Same thing for the fish fry last week. They had all evening, they would listen to all the speakers, and then they would eat. Never mind how slow the start was. We, starving, left to go eat pizza as the event had yet to be born. Should have learned this stuff by now. It made me think of the Old South and the new black voters and getting out the vote. And generations of black families doing as they had seen done before.

FERGUSON, MISSOURI

This small city is my husband’s home town. Who would have known it would become so famous? Figuring what you must be seeing on television, let me tell you about his Ferguson, my Ferguson. Some of that information can be gained by contrast.

The next suburb north in St. Louis County is Florissant. This is where I grew up. Kids from Florissant and Ferguson merged together in 10th grade and attended the same high school, named McCluer High School. The school gained some fame in 1967 when a small airplane hit the old gym, just as modern dance students left it to change. The pilot was killed. The school was just beyond one of the major flight patterns for Lambert Airport. That would change. It was the middle of the boomer experience and kids were everywhere. Our school was the biggest high school in the state.

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Ferguson and Florissant represented two different ways to live, and I noticed it immediately when we were looking for houses, just having come back from a stretch in Japan. Ferguson had little streets and trees everywhere. The houses on each street were mostly unique; periodically a builder would create two or three houses on one street. Glenn’s house was one of those. In that area it was hilly and there were many parks. The neighborhoods were heterogeneous looking but there were better neighborhoods, and lesser neighborhoods. There is a distinct downtown area that most could walk to. I still remember one two story house my family looked at; I was so impressed because it had an intercom system between the front door and the kitchen. There were two like it on this little street in Ferguson.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/616+Superior+Dr,+Ferguson,+MO+63135/@38.753376,-90.296,3a,90y,94h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sTrz7ClcraI0CbKZ3SKAZIg!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x87df49e1473dc545:0x9c24a8df5ec32fd7

Glenn’s house

Unbelievably, Florissant was the higher end choice for those days. Acres and acres of farmland were scraped raw for the advent of subdivision houses rising from the mud. With each house you got two trees for the boulevard areas. One developer, Mayer Rasher Mayer (I think) developed most of the city. There was a downtown area which was more a cluster of strip stores. Not leafy like Ferguson. There was a small old part of Florissant that was older than any of the surroundings. That part of Florissant was like Ferguson.

https://www.google.com/maps/@38.797884,-90.294279,3a,75y,354.95h,89.77t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1shfKoHIR4Hn9jlLgIoTAjMg!2e0

My house

Florissant in the summer was as hot as you could imagine with those two toddler trees and cement streets. The sounds of all the air-conditioners made it seem the houses would fairly take off! We rode bikes or walked to friend’s houses in all that heat, counting blocks and streets with names of horses. You would see the same “model” house over and over again. That interested me for some reason; I would never live in a place like that again, although I knew no different.

Florissant had a park and a public pool, tennis courts and an A and W root beer stand, but it was too far for us to walk there. Ferguson, on the other hand, had the magnificent January Wabash Park where there was a pool and a bandshell and the old red brick Ferguson High School, to be turned into the junior high for Ferguson when McCluer was built. It also had a little lake where people fished. In the winter, the little lake froze and we ice skated. Nothing like that in Florissant. At January Wabash lake we spent much time during the Brownie years learning about nature. I remember seeing my first coiled up frog eggs on the edge of the lake. I remember one winter in ninth grade in my cheerleading get-up, crowding around a fire for warmth and then scandalizing myself because I smelled like smoke after.

During the summer of the Watts riots–there were black suburbs near us, everyone stayed calm.

The father of my life-long friend was the superintendent of schools for the Ferguson-Florissant R-2 School District. He came here about three years ago, and we spoke of the integration of the school district. This happened just after we were off to college. Dr. Brown said to the board “Give me a year for this”, and the board did. The integration was accomplished without drama.

Last summer we went back for a fifty year celebration of the opening of McCluer High School. These two suburbs are majority black now, but in riding by the houses, all looked neat and clean. So did the park, the tennis courts where Glenn and I first met; sadly the A and W is not anymore.

My heart is broken with Ferguson being in the news like this. And Florissant has its own problems. Turns out all those space-age houses were built upon a cesspool of a creek called Coldwater. And we have ourselves a huge cancer cluster there.

THOSE WERE THE DAYS, MY FRIEND

And now some of us are 64?  Will you still need me, will you still feed me…

Where the hell did all the time go?  Have you listened to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” lately?

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How appropriate that this center of our young lives was also on Route 66.  It adds to the romance.  We could, and did, walk here, but it was a long cement trek.  It was very near to our high school. The Grandview Cinema (which would materialize about where the little floating sign suspends above) did not open with the shopping center; it was built a little later.  There, we dated.  We shopped at Penney’s.  We stared into the mostly matte black windows of the Jet Lounge, and wondered what was going on in there.

The most evocative part of the picture above is what is surrounding Grandview Plaza: the pattern of houses.  They marched on for miles.  No one lived much differently than anyone else.

I begged my father’s new 1967 Le Sabre Convertible soon after I got my license for some unimportant task.  Took that car top-down to Grandview, parked it and strolled around Penney’s.  It wasn’t until looking for my keys on the way out that I realized they were left in the car.  With the top down.

dad's car

grandview plaza postcard

You can see the sign in this postcard in the lower left of the first image, across from the gas station.  Image is sure more important now.

Much more fun to take the bus, changing once at the exotic Ferguson Loop and go to Famous-Barr in the Northland Shopping Center in Ferguson.

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We’d save up our money, have lunch in the mezzanine between floors; there were drawings of women shoppers; angular, a mix between Audrey Hepburn and Barbie carrying hat boxes.  Later, during the British Invasion, there was a shop for juniors mimicking Carnaby  Street.  You just had to use the bus to get that kind of fashion interface!

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Glenn had his first accident in the area just under the Kresge sign.  Years after this picture was taken, but we remember the Christmas candles on the roof.  And it was Santa in the helicopter.  This was probably the first year Northland did this.

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Northland was destroyed in 2005.

My now thirty year old son was maybe six when he realized that my youthful world was not actually black and white.  He was very perceptive.  In a way, the sixties WERE very black and white.

PLAYING WITH CUSTOMS

On my recent trip to British Columbia, I drove the last 150 miles to Nelson.  The drive was perfect and easy.  Today my friend Joyce is making the same trip, and there is a live traffic camera at Metaline Falls, Washington, and the contrast could not be greater.

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We both grew up in St. Louis, and have driven in this stuff; now we are both southerners.  I have lost my skills for sure.  Hope Joyce has not.

Below is the little customs house that occupies the border.

metaline border crossing

This view is from the Canadian side, entering the US.  There is a nice woman who smiles working this side most of the time, I gather from my Canadian friends.  Met her when entering the country the other day.  “Do you have anything that should be declared?  More than 10,000 in cash, guns, alcohol, cigarettes? ”

I wondered that anyone would buy alcohol in Canada and bring it down here.  Everything is so expensive there! Why would anybody do that?

Said no to her question, but then admitted that I did have something illegal.  My friend Madelyn packed me a goodie bag for the trip, and included oranges.  “Oranges you cannot take to the states, so eat them on the way.  If you don’t, offer them to the nice lady customs guard.  For the rest of the stuff you don’t eat, offer it to the homeless at the Spokane airport. ”  So Madelyn!

Got out and opened up the trunk.  “Look at all the gifts my friend packed for me!  See the oranges? How am I going to consolidate my purse and these three extra bags for the plane?  Please take these muffiins!”

Those in line must have wondered at my badness having to open up the trunk.  After we did, the customs lady said I was good to go.  “Aren’t you going to take the oranges??”  I desperately needed to lighten my load.  “Since they are illegal, I will.”

I described while in Nelson the interchange that the Canadian border official conducted with me when I entered the country.   Was told that he used the new “conversational” style of getting and judging information.

“What is your reason for coming to Nelson, ma’am?”  I told him that my oldest friend from 4th grade had been diagnosed with colon cancer, that I had had it in the 1990s and it was my job to be there when she started her chemotherapy.

“So you went to school together?  How did she get to Canada?”  Madelyn went to Smith College,  and when there met a Canadian soccer player attending Amherst, who after observing all the freshman newbies, chose her right there and then.  They married fairly soon after, and she immigrated to Canada after they graduated.

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Guess there was enough detail to my story, and not any hesitation in getting it out, that it was believable.  Interesting job, judging people’s motives.

Yeah, I was going to Canada to buy wine at incredibly high prices!

THE SPACE BETWEEN THINGS

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The Hat Makes the Man“, 1920,  Max Ernst

Images of things seen push around and populate the crevices of my brain.  Or maybe not the images themselves; the feelings experienced when seeing images is what lurks there.  In the example above, finding the image again and presenting it here was a surprise.  It looked unexpected, but was the one.  An artist takes away what she needs and flings away the rest.  Steal the core of the thing and push on.  “You take it, it’s yours”, Picasso said.

Why do I think of this famous image?  It has to do with the way aluminum tumblers are piled up on my fireplace.  They are not all the same size or color or style, but they are cylinders, irregular, unstable.  They have potential energy, but happily, they do not fall.

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All things are connected: from Max Ernst and Surrealism to my sister to my husband to my father to men in hats to my St. Louis childhood and then back to art like a cat who chases her own tail.  Inside that circle is my reality.

“Hats are chick-magnets”, said my stepson.  He is right.  He learned that from his dad.  I love his hats and caps.  In St. Louis this weekend, we went to Levine Hats.  Glenn had spoken of this place, and I wanted to see it.  Glenn wanted a hat.

The place is a hundred years old.  The pattern and organization there is stunning.  That is what art IS,  bygawd, pattern and organization.

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Did not expect the hovering hats when I walked in.  Or the beautiful armature.  It was magic.

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British royalty?

1-levine 2Straw caps.

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Upstairs, better deals.

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And a closer examination of the shelving structure.  Common string stretched in diagonals between parallel lines, letting the hats breathe and making them seem to hover in space.

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This color is a neutral, try it with anything.

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For use on March 17, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the back.

On both levels of the building, one can see the original metal pressed ceiling.  Long ago, felt hats were actually made here.  Now they are only modified when sold.

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Love this misalignment of shapes which approaches the Ernst image.  They are only similar in that there are hats present, but the variety of sizes of shapes between the hats feels familiar.

When I showed the pictures on my camera to sister Nancy, she recognized Levine’s immediately.  Said she had been there when small with our dad; the business had been almost fifty years old then.  I missed out on what would have been an important early experience for me.  Always keep your eyes open.

MORE NOT GLIDERS

More people read my entry about gliders than any other (see I LOVE GLIDERS) and addicted to eyeballs as I am now, there is plenty more about gliders that we can talk about.

But my worlds are colliding.  Looking at my last post about the surprise anniversary gift purchased (AQUA DAY AT THE LOCAL FLEA), by the Sunday after the purchase, I was wondering why the hell I bought a baby stroller for a man!  Wallowing in self-doubt, I told myself that he loves FENDERS, tools of all kinds, old stuff in general.  The thing cleaned up nicely by the way, and Glenn even came home with a picture of himself in one of these, although it was a Chevrolet to my Caddie.  Glenn will tell you himself that he is a Chevy guy.

I don’t think any of my lifetime of gifts has been more appreciated!  I was so happy at his excitement, his actions (jumping on ebay to find similar ones, pulling out his childhood pic, our discussion about it).  It was then, during this discussion, and our finding comparables on the web, and that the same company made many of these, on many price point levels and styles, that I could see that these carriages also conform to my theory about means of transportation following the predominant style of transportation of the day (at the beginning, cars looked like horse drawn carriages, then trains, then planes).

Here is our new one all cleaned up.  I am now making the assumption that if a person likes old gliders, they are going to like old strollers.  Both are made of the same material, they have stamping on the sides or back, they move, they have different positions you can choose.  Of course, strollers can have fenders, and gliders do not.  That is a big minus for a glider.  Glenn is a sculptor who works  in metal.  I have two partial gliders that I want merged, and cannot do it myself.  I think the result would be soooooo fine, and I know we could work in some fenders.  Should I learn to weld?

What makes me think this stroller is older than some of them that I see on ebay is the plane that the toddler’s back rests on.  It moves up and down, and the normal position is straight up, just like the green glider on my older post.  When we get into the 40s and 50s and sultry deco lines take over, the strollers by the company reflect that.

Looking at ebay today, I found two strollers like ours, but with a more modern seat.  The newer ones are not straight up and down;  they consist of  one bent plane with each side connecting to the tray where the play beads are.

I haven’t seen one just like ours, and this one has been painted differently (sorry for the quality of the picture).  Here is another paint job, but still the seat is a wrap-around one.

Isn’t this one fine?   The next picture is Glenn and his mom,  in the height of the baby boom.  Look at those houses! This has to be the winter of 1952 in Ferguson, Missouri.   Still the curved seat with much less wood used on the stroller.

The company name for these strollers is BABY TAYLOR TOT.

Finishing up the metal furniture on my front porch, here are two nice metal single chairs, like gliders, one with an unusual flower pattern.