Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Monday, February 27, 2012
I countered with a story of the not so distant past. Younger readers are free to disbelieve this story. Those of us of a certain age know the tale to be true. If I'm lying, I'm dying.
In the not too distant past, automobiles were not equipped with safety features we now expect, yet no longer think about. Minor things like seat belts, or seat back locks to secure front seat backs from flopping over when you stop.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Talking with yesterday's birthday girl reminded me of when I was her age.
Once upon a time, was an era known as "the good old days", life was simpler, even though we didn't know it then or even have personal computers, and televisions had only 3 channels.
Part of the simplicity of life was enforced by the "mom network". When I was growing up rarely, did mothers work outside the home, and to keep from going bonkers they got involved with church and their kid's schools. They knew their kid's teachers, friends and their friend's parents. Since the parents knew each other, parental peer pressure created a semi-mythical timeline of what privileges kids were allowed when. Only the bravest mother deviated from her "community standard"
I don't remember the girl birthday milestone's, but birthday presents for boys were set in stone:
7 YO's got a new bike.
8 yo's a new baseball mitt and bat
10's upgraded to a 3 speed bike
somewhere around 12 a record player or a transistor radio
until at 15 (remember these nailed to the wall) you might get a phone extension for your room.
Any 16 yo in my neighborhood imagining they would receive their own car was smoking crack.
Asking Liz about her 12th birthday yesterday, set me on this reminiscence. All she wanted to talk about was her new cell phone, while here I sit, the last American adult without his own cell phone, wondering how the world changed so much, so quickly.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Today is an international day of celebration, feasting and thanksgiving because we are each invited to share with in the festivities surrounding the natal day of my granddaughter Liz, formerly known as Paige. Where once we had Paige Day, now that she is older and has created her own stage persona, we celebrate "Liz Day formerly known as Paige Day."
Liz is an aspiring actor. The acting bug has bit her hard. I've never seen anyone so happy as she is on stage. Last fall she was Annie in her school production of Annie Jr. Annie was soon followed by the second lead in Harriet and Walt.
Each summer Paige spends a week at our house. She getting to that middling age where spending a summer week at grandpa's is beat. I understand, that this is a phase, but I'm not taking it sitting down. A local theater company offers week long acting/dancing/singing classes for aspiring superstars, so for her birthday present I've signed her up. Hopefully, summer at grandpa's this year will be remembered as not so boring this year.
Friday, February 24, 2012
Each died too young.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
While straightening the deck chairs on my personal Titanic, I received a letter from my MD, which I'll paraphrase. "Toad, it says, bad news dude. I've been your personal physician for 37 years, but I'm hanging up my sign. At the end of April I begin my semi-retirement by transferring 7/8's of my patients to other doctors in the community. (A smarter guy might have sold the practice, just sayin'.) The remainder I will continue to serve on a concierge basis. The first to mail in their retainer stay, the rest go. In the mean time I hope to minimize your inconvenience. So long and thanks for all the fish." (I suspect he's been watching too much Royal Pains.)
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
I didn't find it at the Itunes store but Amazon has several used copies. Occasionally, copies turn up on EBAY too.
If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in NOLA today have a Hurricane for me. I need one verily.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Friday, February 17, 2012
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Does Mobile Really Have “The Original Mardi Gras,” Or Not?
In Mobile, we like to throw around the phrase, “the original Mardi Gras,” and we often claim that we had it. We get a little huffy with anybody who disagrees; anybody who disagrees is probably a Communist, even from New Orleans.
Well – maybe not.
Let’s back off and think about it. Not to be too Clinton-esque and all, but it depends upon what “the original Mardi Gras” means. It’s a troublesome phrase, and it overreaches. We probably ought to say instead that “Mobile is the Mother of Mystics,” which it clearly is. Why gild the lily?
Claims Versus Facts
First, let’s go back to all that talk of Carnival in Mobile in French Colonial times. I’ll spot you that at Mardi Gras back then, maybe some French soldiers or French-Canadian moccasin-clad “Coureurs deBois” drank too much red wine with their deer meat or boiled buffalo (yes, we had bison then) down here in South Alabama. If you think that gives Mobile “the original Mardi Gras,” well then, you are entitled to think it. To me, that does not support the grandiose claim. And anyway, it would likely have been on what they named “Mardy Gras Bayou,” generally thought to be in Mississippi.
Yeah, but all that French Colonial Mardi Gras stuff that people around here keep repeating, what about it? Like the claim that some Frenchmen back in the 1700s had a Mardi Gras parading society called the Societé de Boeuf Gras, and that they had a papier maché bull’s head on wheels that they rolled around like Spanish bullfighters do, and that when The Late Unpleasantness hit in the 1860s, they used the papier maché from that bull’s head as cannon stuffing and shot it with cannonballs at Yankees. What about all that?
Well, prove it, I say. Show us one original document proving that. I don’t mean some popular Mardi Gras history book written in modern times, fluffily claiming it. I mean prove it. Show me some hard evidence, like a French diary or document or report that says that. I have read the best sources, like d’Iberville’s journal and the Penicaut narrative, and they don’t mention it. I have even asked actual historians, who understandably would not publicly touch this issue with a 10-foot pole, but who clearly aren’t taken in by the tale.
You cannot prove it. Nobody can. Somebody just invented that stuff out of whole cloth. Who? The best old Mobile historians named to me a likely suspect, but they went to their graves without blowing his cover publicly. It isn’t my job to out the old boy on his perfidy, but I call “bullshit!” You cannot prove that the Frenchmen in old Mobile had anything that would support a serious claim that we invented Mardi Gras.
I say that “Mobile is the Mother of Mystics,” rather than that we have “the original Mardi Gras.” Why do we need to gild the truth? The truth is magnificent.
Mobile invented the way that both New Orleans and Mobile now celebrate Mardi Gras — the themed parade with illuminated floats, the turnout of the population for the parade, and the celebration of the Mystic society after the parade. Mobile clearly invented that. But when Mobile invented all this, it was originally something done on New Year’s Eve and not on Mardi Gras. Can New Year’s Eve be “the original Mardi Gras?” You must admit that it’s pushing the issue to claim that.
An 1858 invitation to the Cowbellion de Rakin festivties. According to it, the presence of a Mr. Bryden and Ladies was requested for the 28th anniversary event, held on Christmas night.
Cowbellion de Rakin Society's Big Debut
OK, so when did all this parading Mystic society stuff start here in Mobile? According to an 1890s newspaper article, it was Christmas Day in 1831. Michael Krafft, a local cotton broker who was described as a man of “infinite jest and fond of fun of any kind,” who had “a cocked eye which gave him a quizzical appearance,” was down at the waterfront and got into a wine-filled Christmas dinner on the sailing ship of a sea captain named Joseph Post of the Hurlbut Line of New York packets. Post was known as “Pushmataha” or “Old Push” after the Choctaw chief who sided with the whites in the Creek Indian War. Krafft and Old Push made a day of their winey luncheon, and Krafft didn’t leave until about nightfall. Krafft came out into a cold drizzle and borrowed a sailor’s sou’-wester hat and a “monkey jacket” to sortie out from the ship.
You know the basic story. Krafft walked down to Commerce and Conti Streets at Joseph Hall’s hardware store and leaned against some rakes and cowbells in a sort of rustic display out front. They made a racket. Just for fun — everything in Mardi Gras is just for fun — he put the cowbells on the rake and paraded up and down the bar area ringing the cowbells. A passerby asked, “What society is this?”
And Krafft said, “This? This is the ‘Cowbellion de Rakin Society!’” He then fell in with James Taylor, “Jim,” the forgotten cofounder of Mobile Mysticism. They paraded around and rode a mule into a saloon on Exchange Alley, to the general delight of the tipplers and drunks in the bars on Christmas night.
During the week between Christmas and New Year’s of 1831, newspapers demanded that the Society turn out again on New Year’s, and they did. A group of men stood around the E.P. Dickinson Clothing Store on Dauphin Street. Later, in the 1890s, Mayor Pat Lyons said that right then and there was the beginning of the Cowbellion de Rakin mystic society. The crowd, 40 or 50 strong, assembled in the upper floor of a coffeehouse on Exchange Alley, and at about 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, they began parading. Mayor John Stocking sent a messenger to invite them to his house, and after the parade, they joined him for a big spread of food and drink and later visited some local oddball that Lyons would call “the original George Davis.” Ultimately, they marched back to the coffeehouse and dispersed. And that was our “original Mardi Gras,” but it was on New Year’s Eve, not Mardi Gras.
Michael Krafft died in 1832 before the second parade, but that year the Cows picked up speed, and at least by 1842, the Cows had a theme and a parade with torches, floats, transparencies for lighting and all the mystic stuff that we now identify with Mardi Gras — but it was still New Year’s Eve.
This 1938 sketch by Mobile artist Marian Acker shows off the float honoring the Strikers in St. Louis’ Great Veiled Prophet Parade, which first named Mobile Mother of Mystics. Courtesy of The Strikers
More Societies Follow Suit
By the 1840s, the Cowbellions had gotten to be a stuffy champagne-drinking society that took itself very seriously — so much so that when the Strikers were formed in 1842, they made fun of the uptight Cowbellions by adopting bock beer as their official drink, rather than the Cows’ champagne. The Cows were organized along military lines. “The Captain” was in charge, and they had a secret committee, a blackball system and a ritual initiation, just like some — or maybe even most — of the stuffy old Mardi Gras mystic societies we have today in Mobile. Although by the 1850s Mobile had at least three New Year’s Eve parading mystic societies, (the Cows, the Strikers and the T.D.S., which stood for “The Determined Set”), Mobile did not yet have a Mardi Gras parading mystic society.
The Transition from New Year's to Mardi Gras
At some point, the floats, the parade, the crowds and the party afterward migrated from New Year’s Eve to Mardi Gras. When? Why? Not enough Mardi Gras historians have focused on when or why that happened, probably because the entire issue casts doubt on our dubious claim to have “the original Mardi Gras.” I have good reason to believe that it was between 1881 and 1889.
Mystic societies made the jump to Mardi Gras in New Orleans before we did in Mobile.
We have to give New Orleans its due. The first parading Mardi Gras mystic society was the Mystick Crewe of Comus, in New Orleans, held February 24, 1857.
But, it is widely known, even in New Orleans, that Mobilians played a prominent role in the founding of Comus. The group proclaims that the men who helped found it were Mobile Cowbellions who had moved to New Orleans: S.M. Todd, L.D. Allison, J.H. Pope, Frank Shaw Jr., Joseph Ellison and William P. Ellison. We also know that the new group apparently acquired (and probably bought) the costumes, floats, flambeaux, and even theme — not to mention their very name, Comus — from the 1856 Cowbellion parade (Milton’s “Paradise Lost”). There are also indications that Strikers from Mobile were involved, and they went en masse to the first Comus event.
Reconstruction of Carnival in Mobile
OK, so back to Mobile. We all know that during reconstruction Joe Cain put on the costume of the fictional Chickasaw Chief “Slacabamorinico” and led the local spirits in a Mardi Gras parade to perk them up a little, and all that. Oddly enough, Joe Cain, who is revered as founder of Mobile’s Mardi Gras, was a member of the T.D.S., a New Year’s Eve parading society. There is no evidence that he was ever a member of a Mobile Mardi Gras mystic society.
In 1867, 10 years after Comus was established in New Orleans, the Order of Myths was founded as the first Mobile Mardi Gras parading mystic society. And, the next year the Infant Mystics were founded as the youthful “Gumdrop Rangers.”
Mysticism in Mobile during the 1870s was sort of catch-as-catch can, for both New Year’s Eve and Mardi Gras. Some mystic societies paraded on December 31 for a while longer, until Mardi Gras eclipsed New Year’s in the mystic world of Mobile.
But the biggest puzzle of all about Mystic Mobile is this — how and why did mysticism in Mobile move from New Year’s Eve to Mardi Gras? That mystery includes other big questions about mystic Mobile. What happened to the Cowbellion de Rakin Society? Before, during, or after its collapse, did the Cows join other societies, or not? And if so, which one? There are lots of vague legends and unsupported notions, but nobody has ever made a study of it. It is not a secret. Most of it is in readily available records in the public libraries — but apparently nobody has ever done the work to study it, put it together and write it down. You saw it here first.
In 1878, the society’s secretary noted about 120 living Cowbellions, 82 of whom signed their 1878 Constitution. (A few more signed a resolution.) Some of them had an illegible hand, but I have identified 104 Cowbellions by name, who were recognized by the group during the 1870s and ’80s.
The legend among old Mobilians who are mostly dead now was that the Cows got so full of their own importance that they stopped voting people in and died out. But even if that’s part of the story, it certainly isn’t the full one. In any event, they certainly didn’t stop voting people in until fairly late in the game — the 1880s, maybe — if ever. Of the 101 Cows identified by initials and date of initiation in the Cowbellion 1878 Constitution, only four were initiated before the Civil War! At least 95 new members were initiated in the 14 years between the end of the Civil War and 1879, six or seven per year on average. Very few mystic societies today do much (if any) better than that. The Cows were holding their own.
But the OOM was founded in 1867, and beginning in the first two years of its history, some Cows started joining it, most staying in the original group, too. By the end of the 1870s, about 16 percent of the Cows had joined another society; that hurts, though most of them also stayed in the Cows until the 1880s.
By 1880, New Year’s Eve mysticism was dying out in Mobile. But for Dec. 31, 1880 there was one final rally, which set the high-water mark of Mobile’s New Year’s mysticism. It was the so-called Semi-Centennial of Mysticism, the 50th anniversary of New Year’s mysticism in Mobile. The Cows, the Strikers and the T.D.S. hosted a joint celebration, with an invitation and program, right, quite rare today, showing the Cowbellion owl with a clutch of eggs including the Strikers and the T.D.S. It looks grand in retrospect, but it was the death rattle of Mobile’s New Year’s Eve parading mysticism.
During the 1880s, at least 11 more Cows joined the OOM, bringing the number of members going to the OOMs to 27 in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. That’s a loss of at least 27 percent of the Cows’ members to the OOMs by the 1880s. That really hurts.
As a result, in the late 1800s there was an abortive attempt to merge the OOMs and the Cows into a single group called the “Michael Krafft Society” after the founder of the Cows, but it fizzled. After the early 1890s, the Cowbellions were never heard from publicly again. By then, they were getting a little age on them and probably just dropped out of parading life. It takes a lot of people and money to pull off a parade and dance.
The Extinction of New Year's Mysticism
Mardi Gras historians don’t talk about it, but Erwin Craighead, editor of the Mobile newspaper after the Civil War, always had a theory that one of the things that killed New Year’s mysticism was that Mobile adopted what he considered a Yankee custom. On New Year’s Eve or Day, homes would be open for society callers. Supposedly wives and mothers insisted the men be there and be reasonably sober. He added that it was tough to change into and out of formal clothes for both the dances and the open house. Might be.
In October of 1894, the Great Veiled Prophets Pageant in St. Louis put on a parade on the theme, “History of Mystic Societies in America,” with the papers noting that “The Historic City of Mobile, which lies at the mouth of the Alabama River and close by the Mexico Gulf, is the mother of mystics in this country.” This is apparently the first recorded use of the term “Mother of Mystics,” for Mobile, a term which I believe Mayor Pat Lyons coined. The first float represented Mobile’s “Cowbellion de Rakian Society,” adopting Pat Lyons’ preferred nomenclature of the Cows; the second Mobile’s Strikers, and the third, Mobile’s T.D.S.
“Mobile, Mother of Mystics.” Now that’s accurate. We were and are that. But you have to push it too far to say that we have “the original Mardi Gras.”
Thank you, David.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Do you recall my buddy Joe "the Chick Magnet"? Our Valentine was sent to us by his big brother, who LOVES everything cars.
Monday, February 13, 2012
It's a cliche amongst gardeners that each spring we fall in love with a new plant or flower, a plant which takes over our heart at the exclusion of all else. Last year it may have been ubiquitous, but unseen, this year it is all we lust for. Deep in the midst of the winter that never was, my fleur de l'annee is white on white seersucker.
Not long ago, I had no idea such treasures existed, now I see it most unexpectedly, everywhere. While passing through Mrs. T's office, the television on, this handsome gent stopped me cold in my tracks. I know that suit, I'm having a very similar suit made.
I met with the alchemist last week and ordered a casual, white seersucker summer suit. He'd never seen white on white either, which I attribute to his growing up far away, but was excited to give it a go.
After our tete a tete, I believe I've figured out why so many men are disappointed with the clothes they have tailored. They simply don't put enough work on the front side to be able to articulate what they truly hope to receive on their backsides.
Men have floating memories. By the time a man leaves his tailor he can barely remember what was discussed or more importantly, decided upon, but in his own mind he is certain he knows that he and his tailor are of one mind. A month later he can barely remember showing up, much less what was agreed upon. Is it any wonder he becomes disappointed?
Happy Birthday Lou J.
Photos are from 2/6/12 airing of the television program: Hart of Dixie
Saturday, February 11, 2012
I've long been (collector is too strong a word) an enthusiast of the original London weekly magazine, Vanity Fair's caricature prints. Often, the black and white lithographs could be found framed for a couple of dollars at flea markets or garage sales. They made for inexpensive wall coverings, and as long as I didn't know any better I was quite satisfied.
Knowledge, or its lack, can be a dangerous thing. Looking at the prints on my walls I became curious. Who were these people, why where they selected for publication? Roy T. Mathews and Peter Mellini wrote a book, In Vanity Fair, which answered just such questions. It has pride of place, an arms length away from where I write this.
Another tangent I have mostly, carefully avoided are prints made my Vanity Fair artists for other outlets. I've only one very special drawing, which along with my Dickens, will be first saved in the fire.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
If You're Reading This by Sian Price is a collection of letters written by soldiers on the world's front lines including warriors at Waterloo, kamikaze pilots, US Civil War, Ypres to Afghanistan. The letters will break your heart. From the Telegraph:
Guardsman Neil ‘Tony’ Downes, age 20. Died: Afghanistan, 2007.
He wrote to his girlfriend Jane: ‘Hey beautiful! I’m sorry I had to put you through all this, darling. I’m truly sorry.
‘Just thought I’ll leave you with a last few words.
‘All I wanna say is how much I loved you and cared for you. You are the apple of my eye and I will be watching over you always.
‘Bet my bloody lottery numbers will come up, ha ha!
‘Jane, I hope you have a wonderful and fulfilling life. Get married, have children etc.
‘I will love you forever and will see you again when you are old and wrinkly!
‘I have told my parents to leave you some money out of my insurance, so have fun babe
‘OK... gonna go now beautiful. Love you forever.’
He also wrote a note to his parents: ‘Well I guess by now you have heard the good news.
‘I am up in heaven now with grandad and nana – sure they are stopping me pulling the birds.
‘Well don’t be mad, don’t be sad. I died doing what I had to do and that was serving the British.
‘Celebrate my life because I love you and I will see you all again.’
Gunner Lee Thornton, age 22. Died: Iraq, 2006.
He wrote to his fiancée, Helen: ‘I don’t know why I am writing this because I really hope that this letter never gets to you, because if it does that means I am dead.
‘Just because I have passed away does not mean I am not with you.
‘I’ll always be there looking over you, keeping you safe.
‘So whenever you feel lonely, just close your eyes and I’ll be there right by your side. I really did love you with all I had, you were everything to me.’
Lieutenant Colonel Herbert ‘H’ Jones VC, age 42. DIEd Goose Green, the Falklands, 1982.
Ten days before he was killed charging at enemy positions, for which he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, he wrote to his wife, Sara.
He said: ‘I don’t suppose there’s any chance of anything happening to me, but just in case I want to tell you how very much I love you, and thank you for being such a super wife for the last 18 years.
‘Marrying you was the best thing that ever happened to me, and thanks to you I can look back on a life that has been pretty good so far. I’ve been very lucky – let’s hope my luck holds.’
Pilot Officer Michael Andrew Scott, age 24. Died over the English Channel, 1941.
He wrote to his parents: ‘You know now that you will not be seeing me any more, and perhaps the knowledge is better than the months of uncertainty which you have been through.
'There are one or two things which I should like you to know, and which I have been too shy to let you know in person.
‘Firstly, let me say how splendid you both have been during this terrible war.
‘Neither of you have shown how hard things must have been, and when peace comes this will serve to knit the family together as it should always have been knit.
‘As a family we are terribly afraid of showing our feelings, but war has uncovered unsuspected layers of affection beneath the crust of gentlemanly reserve.’
Eric Lubbock, age 24. Died at Ypres 1917.
‘My darling Mum, One is here confronted almost daily with the possibility of Death, and when one looks forward to the next few months this possibility becomes really a probability.
‘As my object in life is to comfort and help you, so it is my last hope if I should be taken from you, that I may not cause you too great a grief.
‘Also I know that if in my last hour, I am conscious, my chief consolation will be to feel that these thoughts may reach you.’
Second Lieutenant Eric Heaton, age 20. Died: The Somme, 1916.
From his dugout, he wrote to his parents: ‘My darling Mother and Father, I am writing this on the eve of my first action.
‘Tomorrow we go to the attack in the greatest battle the British army has ever fought.
‘I cannot quite express my feelings on this night and I cannot tell if it is God’s will that I should come through – but if I fall in battle then I have no regrets save for my loved ones I leave behind.
‘It is a great cause and I came out willing to serve my King and Country
‘My greatest concern is that I have the courage and determination necessary to lead my platoon well.’
The Honourable Samuel Barrington, age 19. Died: Quatre Bras, France, 1815.
Two days before the Battle of Waterloo, he wrote: ‘If I escape with my whole skin, I shall think myself well off and be thankful.
‘If on the contrary some unlucky ball finished me, I trust I shall not be wholly unprepared to face danger and death.’----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
The stamps will become available in June. Happy Birthday.
Monday, February 6, 2012
Sunday, February 5, 2012
Saturday, February 4, 2012
1. There are a million six reasons to blog, each of them good. Clearly some of the reasons involve the hope of trading effort for coin, for which I'm in favor, but I have a question. I'm not being malicious, mean spirited or negative, I have not sampled the KOOL-ADE, nor will I, I'm simply curious.
Friday, February 3, 2012
For some this day marks a true generational divide, a date not to be forgotten, a where were you when day... For others (like me) too young to know or care, we depend upon the memories of our older girl cousins. For better or worse, you cannot be nostalgic for the time before your time.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
So the game is afoot. My appointment is set for Monday with the alchemist. So what shall I do?
Since it's to be a casual summertime suit, my plan is for something uncommon, and a little bit unexpected. Say an unlined, shawl collared, 6 into 1 double breasted suit, inspired by the top photo, which recently won the Summer Snapshot contest at The Cable Knit Charlestonian. Horsey back, patch and flap pockets. I'm set on the collar but am happy to hear your suggestions otherwise. Let 'er rip.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Copies of David's US map and other more specific maps he has created are available for sale here.