Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Very Favorite Picture


...of my grandparents. From their honeymoon!

"The Hunting of the Snark"


No, that's really what it's called! This is an 1874 illustration of the Lewis Carroll poem by Henry Holiday, via the Steven Poke blog, which in turn was via the terrific "Turn of the Century" tumblr (and thanks to Jessica for the link!) Think Denby would get a kick out of it?

Out of the Blue

Isn't it funny: just last week I mentioned the young man who'd introduced me to 84 Charing Cross Road. Who, then, should find me on Facebook not three days later! He writes,


Dear, dear Sadie: It's been a year and a day (and even that's an understatement) since we drank gimlets on Kimbank Avenue and went to see Elaine Stritch. I still remember what you said after the performance, that it is essential to take a taxi home from the theater--in case the reality of the subway pulls your spirit down!


Well, that certainly strikes me as the sort of asinine thing I might have said at 21, so I'll take his word for it. In any case, I'll certainly go see him perform at a piano bar one day soon.

In sweeping statements: my mom has defiantly declared the divinity of Christ a diminution of his message. Meanwhile, two friends told me they're over Brooklyn (neither has plans to move.)

My parents, speaking of them and of moving, sold their house. To their favorite couple of all, who have an adorable, well-mannered and bespectacled three-year-old boy and an 8-month little girl.

My friend Ruby gave me a wonderful birthday gift: a Mets pin from the 1960s.

And in other news, finally found "Mambo Italiano" on a karaoke machine, at Montero's on Atlantic. I sang it largely for the benefit of an old man at the bar, who seemed unimpressed, yet riveted.

Various

People sometimes suggest to me that I know more than my share of characters, or else am exaggerating people's eccentricities. I swear, neither is true. But then other times I start to wonder.

The other night at an ironical prom, we met a young man, very dashing in regimentals, with whom we ended up going to a sinister and exclusive Weimar-esque club. We ended up having to leave without saying goodbye, and I wrote with my regrets, since he is now across the pond. Anyway, here's what I received:

Darling,

I'm the most dreadful cad for leaving you and your chap amidst the vespertine fray, but I'd managed to disgrace the queen's uniform by throwing up the best part of a sloppy joe in the stairwell, only to be asked back in by the manager and force fed tequila ad infinitum. Insensible with drinking on a now empty stomach I had to admit defeat without the good grace to say goodnight to the pair of you, or even locate my missing spur.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Kitchen Essay


Agnes Jekyll (1860-1937) was the daughter of William Graham, Liberal MP for Glasgow and patron of the Pre-Raphaelites; she had a literary and artistic childhood. After her marriage to Herbert Jekyll (soldier, public servant and wood-carver) she lived at Munstead House in Surrey, with her sister-in-law Gertrude Jekyll nearby at Munstead Wood. Agnes's gift for friendship and organisational skills made her an excellent hostess: Mary Lutyens described her house as 'the apogee of opulent comfort and order without grandeur, smelling of pot-pouri, furniture polish and wood smoke'; while Gertrude Jekyll's biographer remarked that if she 'was an artist-gardener, then Agnes was an artist-housekeeper.' Created DBE for her involvement in numerous good causes, Lady Jekyll (as she had also become) first published Kitchen Essays (1922) in The Times 'in which she was persuaded to pass on some of the wit and wisdom of her rare gift for clever and imaginative housekeeping.'


[via the ever-glorious Persephone Press]

More Inspiration


Check out this Ziegfeld Follies performer, Ann Pennington, seen here in'18 with Will Rogers. I have been fiendishly scouring the net for fringed pants like this in order to make the scene, but can only find hideous 80s iterations that are not the same things AT ALL. If anyone has a source for vintage buckskins...?

Style Stuff


This isn't my fam, but rather from the Sartorialist's "vintage photos contest." I've been seeing it all over the 'sphere, and it's easy to see why fashionistas are sweating Grandma Lois pretty hard!

The Heir and Astaire from Metro Pictures on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Coast to Coast

Last night, I called my brother in L.A.

"How are you spending your days?" I said.

"Well," he replied, "Maeve has been shopping the line at boutiques. And I'm wearing that vintage sweater you gave me with the horse on it."

"Sounds productive," I said.

"Highly."


The good news is, they received the box of Catholic caramels I sent for M's 25th.

"Have you gotten our birthday present yet?" Charlie asked.

"No!"

"Well, that's probably because we haven't sent it. Or bought it. Or thought about it before now. Wait, Maeve is saying that's not true. She was going to send you some See's candy. But she forgot."

I suggested that because it's the thought that counts, maybe I could just order some for myself. We agreed this was probably the most effective plan.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My great-aunt writes...


"Dear Family, here is a picture of Stevan and Grandma Topsy Olds and Yumma Benedict and 4 Navy WAVES, 18 March 1945, in Woodside, MD not long before Yumma was his date graduation week at West Point. - Margaret/Sis"

Ruth Mary "Yumma" Benedict was my grandma; she's the one in front in the cardigan. May "Topsy" Olds was my great-great grandmother, Yumma's grandma. The dashing Stevan was her cousin.

-Sadie "Sadie" Stein

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gloomy Sunday

Although it has the moniker the "Hungarian Suicide Song," and although the lyrics are pretty bleak, I've never found Rezs┼Ĺ Seress's "Gloomy Sunday" anything but exhilarating. To tell you the truth, although I love the famous Billie Holiday version, I must admit that the one from Schindler's List is sort of my favorite and I don't know whose it is.


I also like this Paul Whiteman recording:



And, of course, Artie Shaw!




(The composer, of course, jumped to his death.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Books And Ephemera


It may seem strange, but up until last night, I had never seen 84 Charing Cross Road. I'd read the book in college(it was introduced to me by a rather eccentric young man with a love of cabaret music. We saw Stritch together) but for some reason hadn't gotten around to viewing it, even thought Netflix was always pushing it on me under any number of guises. Well, last night, I broke down and watched it, and what a treat.

For those of you who don't know the premise, it's about the (real-life) 30-year correspondence between an anglophilic New York woman and an antiquarian book dealer in London. Because of the story's time-span, tehre's obviously some aging awkwardness, and it's hard to say which is goofier, casting up as they did here or, young, as in Brokeback Mountain. I think it's safe to say that both are ridiculous in their own ways. But what a cast! Anne Bancroft, Anthony Hopkins and Judi Dench?! Gosh.

It's a really sweet story - I'd also suggest the book to anyone who wants a cozy read - but as much as the testament to friendship and letters, it's a really heartening portrait of a happy, independent, single woman with a rich and full life. (I like to think that if I end up a solo New Yorker, I can strike a balance between Helene Hanff and Dare Wright. Emphasis on the former, of course, but with a few dolls and photo-shoots.) I also like these friendships that can endure purely through letters, even when friends don't meet. Makes me doubly-eager to get to know some of you. That said, if ever there was a character who could have thrived in the blog age, it's Hanff: her breezy tone and open frankness would have made her a natural!

Been feeling Anglo-philey myself lately. Have been re-reading Barbara Pym, which I recommend to anyone in need of spiritual bolstering. I've also been contemplating actually trying the Barbara Pym Cookbook, although it's obviously imprudent. Am compromising by making a dish of "cauliflower cheese" for our dinner. For my birthday, my mother gave me a book I'd really been coveting: Agnes Jekyll's Kitchen Essays. These were written in the 1920s and have titles like "Luncheon for a Motor Excursion in Winter" and "A Supper After the Play." (I have not yet read "For the Too Fat.") A few examples of the author's prose:
Too much effort given to material things entails neglect of spiritual ones, too little induces loss of temper, money, and health. Some rare spirits there are who may discipline themselves into indifference of creature comforts, who may write magical poetry on lumpy porridge, paint glorious pictures on indifferent eggs, lead armies to victory on bully beef - we salute them and pass on! But with those who, whilst lifting reverential eyes to the stars, yet know and love this kind, warm earth, we would take counsel awhile.


And,

A blue-blooded and conservative marquis may be forgiven his temporary loss of self-control when the newly-engaged cook sent on its gay career round a decorous dinner-party of county neighbors a transparent and highly-decorated pink ice pudding concealing within inmost recesses a fairy light and a musical box playing the "Battle of Prague."*


Even by the standards of sketchy 1920s recipes, and even for one who by any standard has cooked a lot from said canon, Lady Jekyll's are inscrutable. But as far as reading goes, this is obviously a literary gem. And who am I kidding? Slim gave me an antique aspic spoon for my birthday.

*"A popular piece of music during the late 18th and 19th centuries" by Frantisek Kotzwara. I couldn't find a recording!

Further Proof That My Friends Are Fantastic:

Within minutes of my sending out a black walnut-cracking SOS, Lindsay from Asheville had texted me the following: "For the black walnuts: I use tongs and a hammer on a stump. Tell me if you decide to do this and I will ask [my Brooklyn boyfriend] to deliver a stump from the back yard."

I should also note that I only knew about the challenge of black-walnut shells (one of the hardest known organic substances!) due to a book Lindsay gave me, the endlessly fascinating Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine: The Folklore and Art of Southern Appalachian Cooking. I highly recommend it!

(Am also curious to hit up my Arkansas kin-folk on the subject of black walnuts, since apparently they're pretty thick in the Ozarks. Not that my particular branch seems to have gone in much for foraging or cooking; they were too busy being in the Bin.)

Oh, and while they're at it, in addition to the stump, they can bring the tongs! And the manpower! I am, however, soaking the nuts for 2 days in water, per the book's instructions, to soften the shells.

I have Big Plans for these nuts, if we ever do manage to shell them and extract any meat from the pile of shards. Don't look now, but it involves brittle...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

In Other News...

I think Netflix imagines my tastes to be more rareified than they are.

Does anyone else ever feel embarrassed to admit you are "not interested" in whatever worthy foreign film they've suggested, so that it continues to pop up every time you click on "Movies You'll <3 ?"

No?

Circle of Friends

Y'know, this may seem strange but, any of you who read this, I feel like we're pals. So please do go ahead and friend me on FB, if you'd like. Because sometimes it feels like it's all folks I don't know and, ideally, it can actually be a good way to get to know people. Yes? No? Maybe?

I am inspired to say so because once, back when I didn't really understand how Facebook worked, I went ahead and "friended" a couple of strangers just because they were the only other folks who'd listed "The Pastels" as a musical favorite, and I sorta thought that's what one was supposed to do. Anyway, this was a few years ago now, but the other night, at the estimable Clean show at the Bell House, one of these gents approached me on the strength of our musical FB friendship, and he was utterly nifty in reality, and now I have a new sorta-friend, and none of this would have been possible without the good works of messrs Zuckerberg and Moskovitz. And in short I have a new appreciation for its benign capabiities, connectivity-wise.

And besides, I'd like to know you!

Mother's Day etc.


I once read somewhere (I say as if I don't know full well it was the American Spiritualism Society's web site) that a penchant for seasonal allergies can be an indication of psychic ability. If this is true, all I can say is half of New York City must be clairvoyant this week. "They" say it's a bad year for allergies (isn't it always?) and certainly an al fresco dinner the other night left my eyes streaming and my nose twitching. No hint of a sign from the other side, alas.


While I may not have communicated with the Beyond, I did see the Costume Institute at the Met, which is terrific, and marred only by the constant repetition of Lenny Kravitz's "American Woman" in the final room, which is wholly audible in the gift shop. Entertained brief fantasies of dressing like a Gibson Girl for 2010-11; decided I'm too old. Even more fascinating than the Costume Institute, I thought, was the show "Playing with Pictures: the Art of Victorian Photocollage." (Yes, these are images from the show.) It was apparently fairly commonplace to make collages of original drawing and watercolor with photographs - early scrap-booking, but far more whimsical and ornate and impressive than this implies. An outlet, one supposes, for all sorts of artistic talent - after all, every lady of the era could paint and draw, or at least was schooled in it.

In case you're wondering, yes, I did see these shows with my mother, following a lovely early brunch at Cafe Sabarsky and the receipt of a (very modest) tin of (American) caviar.

Things to think about: how do I shell the black walnuts I bought yesterday? And, what's the deal with Harmony Korinne's new film?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I am being assigned a new senior "friend." Provided my latest background check comes up clean and my references don't reveal a hitherto unsuspected penchant for elder-abuse, by this time next week I will have met an elderly woman in the East 50's with a distaste for conservative politicians and a love of modern art and 19th century opera. I don't yet know her name, but have a sneaking suspicion that in terms of Jewishness and vintage it won't be too dissimilar to my own.

I sort of pity this unnamed woman for the weight of expectation already resting on her frail shoulders. She think she's signing on for an hour of conversation a week; little does she know I have her pegged as my Salvation.

After Anthony (my last friendly-visiting friend) died, I hesitated to ask for another. Not merely because it seemed disrespectful, but also because I thought it would be unfair to form a connection with someone and then kill myself, which was what I had ever-present in mind at the time.

I'm as low these days as I've ever been, but fighting it's much better. And I have great hopes of gaining Perspective and Wisdom and Friendship from someone who's Lived Life. And it's all very unfair and quite preposterous.

I should also know better. Anthony was a lovely person, but Tuesdays with Morrie this was not. My total ignorance of cars was a constant disappointment to him, even though he was very polite about it and listened to my stumbling readings from Car and Driver with good grace. (He'd been an automotive inspector.) Mostly, we watched TV. Sometimes we listened to the Andrea Bocelli CDs I gave him. I don't know how much he enjoyed it, actually.

The social worker says that this lady and I will be "a perfect match." I feel like a lousy ambassador for youth, but if we both moderate our expectations, maybe it'll work out. I'm learning that this may be a big part of being in the world. So she, at any rate, will probably already know that.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Happy All the Time

Birthday! I was all down about it...why?! It's a beautiful day, my friends and acquaintances are amazing, and there's a whole 'nother year to begin. I mean, ask me again in an hour, but as of 3:23, the year is just fine. "Surprise location" for dinner, I'll let you know.