VILLAGE SQUARE

village square sign

We had to get there in the car; it was out of our daily orb.  Way past the high school on Dunn Road.  An exotic place then.  Much later, its sign is on the DE-cline.

Village Square

Funny that it seems normal to see this memory only in black and white.  The media, such as it was was just that.  The clean design of this architecture almost demands it. After a while, shopping centers had to be covered, and this jewel was lost.  The grab for money was on.

Those globes hanging from the front facade of Goldies, was it?  This height of style impressed even a ten year old.  During the sixties, when this country was different, even in VERY middle class suburbs, the design style was fresh.  People were working, taxes being paid, accommodations growing like weeds to embrace the boom. Nearby McDonnell Douglas was literally reaching for the moon.  Our needs in this place?  Bona Venture Art Supply.

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The Gateway Arch on the riverfront was finished in 1965.  Simple and moving, this was the image for our city.  Every week the Post-Dispatch had photos of the progress.  Creeping cranes were invented to put these aluminum clad blocks in place.  Eero Sarrinen led our way.

Lambert

Lambert Airport finished in 1956 and designed by Minoru Yamasaki, was influential for many later international airport spaces.  Softer arches than the later Gateway braced the glass clad and flowing interior space.

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The colors of those plastic chairs would pop your eyes out in this black and white world.

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Henry Moore figures frame arches of water which perfectly reflect Yamasaki’s roof design.

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We were living in Art.  Why did it take so long to notice it?  Bauhaus, anyone?

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MARCH WORK

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Why do this?  To see if it could be done.  The origin of my work is always with the materials.  They inspire new ideas whether it was back in the day when I stitched reacting to a wonderful new pattern, or whether, in this case, when my husband gave me a fine set of wooden casters.  Who knows why he rejected them, but they gave me all kinds of ideas.  This piece stands around 34 inches tall.  The wooden high chair within the system of windows is for a doll.

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The wooden windows are screwed together in a “Z” conformation to a depth of about 24 inches.  An old toy wooden hammer and toy ladder make up the rest of the elements that serve to embed the chair within the windows.  Initially the chair was purchased for its wooden parts, but the more interesting question became the merging of the two compositions together.

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The seat of the doll chair has luminous single digit numbers and bits of paper under layers of varnish.

The former chair then inspired the next chair, which made itself into a gift for the baby of my baby, Benjamin.  It started as a reaction to the first chair, and then became HIS chair as the universe presented elements to me, over and over again, which represent his first trip around the sun.

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I bought the little chair without a back years ago.  It became a plant stand.  I loved the peeling paint, and for this piece it has been preserved with layers of varnish.  The bit of brownish paper on the right front leg came with it; as the chair began to form and use so many warm browns, I added the rest of the newspaper bits, from an old St. Louis paper.  Have to get his heritage into the work!  One bit just says “boy”.

Glenn has lots of rusty metal farm parts for his work around.  I love the hay rakes and the way he stretches and curls them in his work but here one is used intact, minus the handle.  The bird couples had all been secured at the flea market at one time or another.  Interestingly when looking for dowels to use there was the little wooden plane at the bottom of the dowel box.  Perfect for a little boy’s circle of the sun in his first year.  All the circles used in the composition refer to this trip as well.

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The arms constructed for this chair are fairly complex using a mismatched pair of wooden swans, same with wooden birds (mismatched), and a  spoon and a fork.  They are finished with the inside and outside of an embroidery hoop with a nod to his grandmama, the former stitcher.  The tail of the little plane moves, as well as the rotor.  We shall see how he feels about this (un)toy.

 

 

 

 

 

THE WORKINGS OF CREATIVITY

Artists need to observe patterns in their behavior.  For me,  pattern is the most important element in art making.  Knowledge comes from repetition, visual cohesiveness comes from repetition, personal truths come from repetition.  Notice.

If the artist can pull way back and observe the chronology of their work, patterns will emerge.  Often, that pattern is seen retrospectively, but it helps to know what you are doing, even if you are in the middle of it.

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A while ago, I knew that sooner or later I would do something with chairs in my work.  Love their shapes and their differences.  We have two houses chock full of chairs, to the point that we can handle no more.  Where did this start?  Figured that out.

It was with my rather large collection of gliders.  Most are in good shape, nicely reflecting a well-used history.  Some are kind of abused however.  It was with these that the idea came.

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Glenn got this one for me off of a street in south St. Louis.  Its rails are gone, and the seat is full of automobile body putty.  I still wanted it.  I WANT THEM ALL.

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This one is in better shape, but the rails and swinging devices are totally gone.  It sits on nubs.  Low-slung.

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This aluminum glider skeleton never had any cushions.  I put pressure treated wood where the seat should be and have plants on it nine months out of the year.  Being aluminum, it is in fine shape.  It simply has no cushions.

I would love to be able to take parts of these gliders and mix and match them, weld them to the other, and make silly conjunctions.  My mind can see how wonderful they would be.  But I lack the skills.  Glenn has them, but he has his own work to do.  I dropped the idea and started working with wooden windows.  I can do screws and a drill.

The chairs did not leave completely however.  An early window sculpture features the back of a chair that was found in a house built in 1939 which was moved to our land.  It was used as a beautiful line.

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The detail shows also that an armrest for an outdoor aluminum chair was used in the composition.  The break in the pane of glass is highlighted in gold paint the way the Japanese do their broken teacups.

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Coming into the present, the image above represents a good haul from one day at the Goodwill Clearance Center, a place where parts for sculptures are secured.  The white baby high chair I bought for the wood, knowing that it would make great spacers to keep my windows from colliding.   They would do what the dowels are doing in the image below.

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I sat the doll chair in front of three windows for which I intended to use it as spacers.  Then I thought, why not keep the chair integral but also use it as spacers?  So below it is in progress.

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And here it is finished, but not photographed with an infinity wall yet.

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A child’s ladder, divided in two and wooden hammer complete the image.  The sculpture rolls around on wooden casters.

For the next chair in progress, the windows are completely dropped.  Interesting way to progress.

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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.

MADELYN AND LEE IN KINLOCH

Madelyn sent me this link when all in the Ferguson diaspora looked with pain at the violent images every night.

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119106/ferguson-missouris-complicated-history-poverty-and-racial-tension

Briefly, it says that to understand Ferguson, you have to first understand the story of Kinloch and the story of north St. Louis. As a kid without a car, north St. Louis escaped me. But I knew Kinloch. Madelyn and all her (even then) political activities took me there. It amazes me this vein of authenticity that runs through Madelyn; fifty some years after we first met, she has the same ideas about the same things she always has. She was right then, and is right now.

This was back then when “liberal” was not a bad word, and when Lyndon Johnson was creating his “Great Society”. Madelyn got involved in Head Start, a program of early education for children so that they were not behind already on their first day of kindergarten. Not surprisingly, she has taught children all her life. Madelyn and I went to the same church and we belonged to a very active youth group, much of the time guided by Madelyn’s politics. I can still see her brainstorming ideas for programs for the group. Having recently come to Florissant from some years in Japan, it was interesting to me that she suggested a program called “Youth in Asia”. Of course, she was suggesting “Euthanasia”.

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That was Madelyn. This time she was collecting old clothes for children in Kinloch, the all black suburb of St. Louis closest to where we lived. We were to drop them at the Head Start location there.

No one could believe it when Big John bought his first convertible. Conservative, but a Democrat, he was a government bureaucrat at a high level. Friends and neighbors were intermittently questioned about him by the government because he dealt in sensitive stuff. My dad was quiet. Then something remarkable happened and he bought a 1964 Buick Special convertible, black, and a big straw hat with fringe on it!

Three years later he bought a 1967 silver Buick Le Sabre convertible, like the one pictured above, and that is the car that Madelyn and I borrowed to deliver old clothes to the Head Start in Kinloch. Beautiful summer day with the top down. Dad at work.

I remember the day; the boxes in the back seat sitting on red leather, the freedom of the wind, the freedom of the car, and the freedom of the lazy summer.

When Big John got home from work that evening, he was appalled. You did WHAT? In KINLOCH? In the CONVERTIBLE? WITH THE TOP DOWN?

Madelyn and I lived in Florissant, right next to Ferguson. Florissant means “Valley of the Flowers”. Madelyn and I sure acted like valley girls that day!

Here are Madelyn’s words from just yesterday:

“Yes, Lee, I remember going to Kinloch with you in your car, and am astounded at how little I knew of the effect of my life style on others, the privileges and power we had without knowing.”

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.

MODERN MATH

This is what they called it about the time the Cardinals won their first World Series of which I was aware.  The “smart” kids were corralled and marched down to the cafeteria in an off hour.  At first it was an honor, and then it became a sickness.  I began to get nauseated as that time of the day came along.

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I remember the cafeteria being all beige with eight foot long tables rearranged from lunch.  Using graphite on one of those tables made interesting bold marks.  And you could rub them away with your finger.  Even the eraser made great marks if you tracked it through a smudge of graphite.  Of course, I was just interested in the marks; they were not answers to anything.  I had no idea what the answers were.

A year later, Glenn had a similar experience in Catholic school.  They brought in a “lay” teacher to instruct in the new math.  She was all red.  Glenn remembers a redhead, deep red lipstick and a red skirt she sometimes wore.  It is all imagery for Glenn.

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In different little worlds, and both of us being in what is now called the “creative class”, neither of us understood what was happening.  We could not figure up and down anymore, we had to go side to side.  We could not use regular numbers anymore, we had to use only ones and zeros.  Why?  They said it was for a switch being turned on or off.  What switch?  Why a switch?  A switch to what?

My mind could not complete the change in longitude and latitude.  And what about cancelling out things on either side of the “equal” sign?  Why?  It was all just a nightmare.

I did not have the confidence to ask an authority about these changes.   All I knew was that everybody else understood it, and I did not.

On NPR some months ago, a man discussed that research has discovered that some learners cannot understand until they are told what the calculations were for.  Well, YEAH.  Wish I had been part of that research: they forgot about the vomiting part.

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.

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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.

ART IS EVERYWHERE

Everything is a composition.  We walk through them and thereby change them.  It can be invigorating or stultifying:  all these continually modified compositions.

Much art is intentional, and creators thought about it more in past times. Various kinds of craft was utilized on the surface of things.   Symbols were added to reflect ideas.  Think about old buildings; the ones some want to tear down now.

That is not to say that symbols are not important now.  Look at the viewing structure at the intersection of the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers.

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This structure is simplified, but even Mark Twain would recognize this as the front of a river boat.  It is perfect for this site.  This is in Fort Defiance Park in Illinois, and in addition to the converging of the rivers,  this was a Union stronghold in the Civil War.  Pretty important piece of land.

Parenthetically:

Astronaut photo of the confluence of the Missi...
Astronaut photo of the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers at Cairo, Illinois. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fort Defiance, known as Camp Defiance during the American Civil War, is a former military fortification located at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers near Cairo in Alexander County, Illinois. The strategic significance of the site has been known since prehistoric times with archaeological evidence of warfare dating to the Mississippian era. It is the southernmost point in the state of Illinois. Fort Defiance Park, formerly a State Park, is owned and maintained by the city of Cairo. At 279 feet (85 m) elevation, Fort Defiance Point is Illinois’ lowest point.

Below is an amazing factory.  And the heart of St. Louis with its tentacles reaching out into other venues, the St. Louis Cardinals for one.  The Germans who started this business represent a major immigration to this part of the country.

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The buildings within this complex are not short on symbols or surface decoration.  It is not “fluff”.  It is who and what this family and business is about.

Art reflects life.

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In this case, Victorian life.  And the value of beer perhaps!  Behind these columns are mash tanks, and here is where the various Budweiser beers are made.  Imagine.

And the symbols here?  Look at the chandelier.  It is embellished by hops.

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Of course these Clydesdales are powerful symbols of Anheuser-Busch.

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And this mash-up locates the place.

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Look at these poles.  Don’t they favor the Clydesdales?  These are  in Riverfront Park, and everything is intentional.

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Happy New Year from St. Louis!

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.

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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!