Intimate Spaces: The Archaeology of Pockets

This is a fascinating and fabulous read! Because Abe Lincoln was one of my relatives, I was very interested in this, but the whole piece is great. I encourage you to read it.

Archaeology and Material Culture

tlc0070 The contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre in April, 1865 (Library of Congress).

On April 14, 1865 Abraham Lincoln went to the theatre for the evening, a night that would end in his murder and death the following morning.  Lincoln’s pockets contained a handful of prosaic and idiosyncratic things:  two pairs of eye glasses, a lens polisher, a pocket knife, a watch fob, a handkerchief, and a brown leather wallet containing a Confederate banknote and nine newspaper clippings.   The things in Lincoln’s pockets were perhaps a chance assemblage, like the $62.00 and a plane ticket in Kurt Cobain’s pocket when he died in April, 1994.  Those scatters of things in Lincoln and Cobain’s pockets occupied perhaps the most intimate of all clothing spaces that we generally reserve for our most essential and meaningful things.  We tend to see pockets as harboring a special…

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Reno? Tahoe? I Dunno!

I recently mentioned the fact that I would be moving to Reno and said I would update as soon as I knew more, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to write about that this morning while I wait to hear from my editor.

First….a little background….and the clarification that I won’t be moving there full time.  Read on.

Back in the 70’s, my husband, John, took a break from teaching at Penn State.  He lived out of town and the commute was long.  He sort of spontaneously decided to quit and try a second career.  (I love it when people do that.)    At that time, he had no experience, whatsoever, but had faith in his own intelligence, and a love of vintage architecture, so he decided to open his own contracting business.  Subsequently, over the next ten years, he undertook dozens of Pittsburgh historical restorations, and even renovated Gertrude Stein’s birthplace.

steins house

Birthplace of Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)

Plaque at 850 Beech Ave., North Side, Pittsburgh
“Allegheny West. Birthplace of Gertrude Stein. In this house on February 3, 1874, Gertrude Stein was born to Daniel and Amelia Stein. Author, poet, feminist, playwright, and catalyst in the development of modern art and literature. ‘In the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. This is what makes America what it is.’ Allegheny West Historic District.”

During this time, he was also a theatre critic and was writing and pursuing other scholarly interests.   (How many contractors do you know that have PhD’s?!)   As I look through the photographs of the beautiful and innovative work that he did, and the love and care that he put into each job, I am so proud of him.

Before we even met, he and I both did our own historical renovations in Houston. I guess mine was a renovation.  His was a restoration.  We lived a mere two blocks away from one another.  Both of us were working on our houses in the historical Heights district, and neither of us was aware of the others existence until much later.

This was John’s beautiful house:

john's house houston

And this was my much-more modest little cottage.  It still looks very much the way it did when I renovated it.  When I bought it, it had peeling white paint, no trees, the ugliest roof you’ve ever seen, and looked pretty hopeless.  I think it  transformed into a rather cozy little place. Don’t you?  Very modest, but full of charm.  I have so many happy memories of living there.  Sometimes, I regret having sold it.:

columbia house

So….as most of you know, my husband  now lives and works in the SF Bay area most of the time, but comes home when he can.   We  both adore Portland and don’t want to leave here, but we do want to build an affordable little get-away somewhere, because we do enjoy traveling, and we’ve had such good times in the Reno/Tahoe area…so we are now looking for property upon which to build in a rural area there, and are currently negotiating with someone there that does have what appears to be the perfect plot.  The location is great for us, because it is somewhat a midpoint between San Francisco and Portland where we can meet one another and write or work on art and simply commune with nature.

We’ve only discovered the wonders of container homes recently, and are amazed by how beautiful they are and how environmentally friendly and economically they can be built, so this is our plan.  Take a look at this video and see the innovative design possibilities.  We plan to build with either 3 or 4 containers, when the time comes.  Aren’t these great?!

Wish us luck!

Portland Has the Music

Good morning, and sincere wishes for a happy Monday!    I have so much to feel happy about….and I do!   I’m sending love and warmth to those chilly souls that are iced in and not fortunate enough to be experiencing the springlike bliss that we have here in Portland….and I’m not trying to rub it in, truly.  My friend, Vickie, who is snowed-in on the East Coast swears she is going to smack the next person she hears say that they enjoy having four seasons.  ha!  I am very appreciative of how lucky I am to be here right now.  Very thankful.

Today’s post is about music.

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”  Plato

B.B. King, Jewel, Tracy Chapman and countless other entertainers began their careers as buskers (street performers). Here in Portland street performers are the norm.  This is especially true in my own neighborhood.  A guitarist that stands outside of the ice cream parlor down the street told me that he makes around $80K every summer standing in that one popular spot playing the blues, and I believed him. There is always a line in front of this shop and his guitar case is always brimming with cash.  The city is quite supportive of musicians.

Portland has a thriving musical culture to maintain its distinctive beat.  All of the music here is a direct reflection of the city’s never-ending support for the arts.   It is a Portland-specific spontaneous way of life. We have ALL kinds of musicians here, and yes, a lot of places do, but the attitude toward music here is different.    For example, no one here thought this was even weird:

On Saturday night, I took Ingrid for a long walk down Division Street where she thoroughly enjoyed all the free musical entertainment, as you can see in this video:

Over the last couple of weeks, I organized a group consisting of 32 musicians for Sunday afternoon jams and a potluck.  A different person will host each week, and we will meet in various combinations, with guitars and other acoustic instruments to raise our voices to the sky and sing to our hearts’ content.  It will be especially nice on those balmy Portland summer evenings. Four of us are meeting independently and are working on this  Lake Street Dive version of this song now.  Admittedly, my guitar playing is a lot worse than my voice at this point in time, so I’m just singing and not playing an instrument:

These types of gatherings were a huge part of my life when I was younger and an active musician.   I look forward to these jams tremendously.  I love the open, accepting attitude of the culture here.  Some people in the group are very accomplished. Others?  Not at all.   However, the group will accommodate everyone, including those folks that just want to come, sit in and sing along.  It is all about the camaraderie and fellowship.  Portland is just that kind of city.   Music is everywhere!

Have a great week, everyone.  If you’re among my cold friends on the East Coast, please know that I am sending musical love, warmth and smiles directly to your heart. Have faith.  Spring will be there soon.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 10.15.49 AM

 stacy smiles feb 2015A line from my songwriting course this week says, “Words have meanings, music doesn’t. Music is all about motion, and motion creates e-motion.”  Hold THAT close to your heart….and move with it. 🙂

PS – I’m not in total agreement with the above-quote.  To me, music DOES have meanings…but I think I “get” this in context.