Yet Another Journal

Nostalgia, DVDs, old movies, television, OTR, fandom, good news and bad, picks, pans,
cute budgie stories, cute terrier stories, and anything else I can think of.


 Contact me at yetanotherjournal (at) mindspring (dot) com

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» Friday, December 31, 2010
As the Clock Counts Down...
...we count our blessings, talk to our friends, garner one more treat, and enjoy home in Holiday Harbour.

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» Thursday, December 30, 2010
Hail the New Year Lads and Lasses...
...or partying with friends in Holiday Harbour.

Did get some disappointing news today: the library called and says they cannot get the other Hildegard Frey Camp Fire book for me. The only place that has it will not lend it out. Bother.

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» Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Fast Away the Old Year Passes...
...and we're shopping for New Year's and enjoying Christmas in Holiday Harbour

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» Tuesday, December 28, 2010
What Conan O'Brien, Borders Books, and Debit Cards Have In Common...
...in Holiday Harbour.

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Aha! So It's the Doorframes!


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» Monday, December 27, 2010
Creative Uses of Droids and Other Troubles
The Christmasy part of the day appears here: Holiday Harbour.

I did have a funny thing happen to me at Books-a-Million. Well, it's funny now; at that point I wasn't sure how to get out of the predicament.

I was perusing the magazines when I had an urgent call of nature. Dashed to the ladies' room and hurriedly accomplished what needed to be done. It was only then I noticed there was no toilet paper. The ladies' room was empty, so I grabbed my stuff and went into the only other stall. No paper in there, either, and there was only a hand dryer, no paper. What to do?

Pulled out my trusty Droid, opened the browser, found Books-a-Million and the store locator, found out the phone number of the store I was in, called the front desk. A few minutes later, a very embarrassed woman clerk handed me some toilet paper over the top of the stall. She said the rolls that fit the dispensers in the stalls had not come in. No offense, hon, but you're right across the parking lot from a Target. Send someone over to buy TP! LOL!

Anyway, I came home from all my shopping and went to see if the postman had come yet. I was startled to discover that our mailbox wrap, the one with the cardinal, chickadee, and bluebird "stamps," was gone. It's magnetic, so all I can surmise is that someone swiped it, unless a good gust of wind somehow got under it! What really upset me is that I've been so busy I didn't notice it was gone, because when I went back to look at the photos I took of the snow on Christmas Day, it wasn't on the mailbox then, either!

This seemed a tiny, stupid thing to fret about, however, when I finally got the mail and opened a friend's card and discovered her mother-in-law was hit by a car and killed earlier this month. Perspective is everything.

This evening we went to Stella's Neighborhood Grill, a new place, for Alice's birthday dinner. There were eighteen of us altogether and I don't think the restaurant was used to that. Food was delicious, and the company delightful, but service was slow.

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» Saturday, December 25, 2010
Would You Believe Snow for Christmas...
...in Georgia? The tale can be told in Holiday Harbour.

As for my high glee yesterday, since the news is now official, I can pass it on: "our Jen" and our longtime online friend Mike Waters are officially engaged! We wondered when Jen mentioned that she called Mike every week, and then wondered more when Mike attended Jen's boot camp graduation (since Mike is a homebody and doesn't tend to travel), but when Mike flew out to spend Christmas with Jen and her family, we knew something was definitely up. We got a confirming e-mail yesterday afternoon!

[Ah, just had to go find the words that so apply to this news: "O wonderful, wonderful, most wonderful wonderful, and yet again wonderful, and after that, out of all whooping!" (from "Twelfth Night").]

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"Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!"
by John Williams, from Home Alone 2

Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!
Sing a song for the glorious season.
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!
Sing a song for a happy new year.

Sing merrily, merrily, loud and strong,
Welcome the wintry season.
Just follow along with the holiday song.
Santa is here again, yes!

Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!
Sing a song for the glorious season.
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!
Sing a song for a happy new year.

The reindeer fly, if you need any proof.
It's merely a matter of reason.
Just listen, you'll hear when they land on the roof.
Santa is here again, yes!

Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!
Sing a song for the glorious season.
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!
Sing a song for a happy new year.

Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!
Sing a song for the glorious season.
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!
Its a magical, miracle, annual, lyrical,
sing-along now, sing a song for a happy new year!

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» Friday, December 24, 2010
A Joyful Noise
We've had news, lovely news, news I can't tell because all the proper people haven't heard about it yet, yet I can't keep silent. It makes us no richer in money, but so much richer in our hearts, richer in the way that counts. Will be able to tell the news eventually, but right now am just dancing in my heart. Like Scrooge after the visit of the three spirits, "I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!" (And hearing this all in Jim Backus' voice—LOL!)

Just let me say: Best Christmas gift ever!

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» Thursday, December 23, 2010
Oh, Let Time Slow Down and Linger
Now is the time to savor Christmas...the scents of pine and cinnamon and ginger...the bright colors from the lighted homes and the bright baubles and the tinsel or garland...the visiting of friends and family and visits from them in return...special treats eaten only between Thanksgiving and the New Year...games played...music heard—the unique Christmas music whether sacred or spritely, tunes almost always familiar, but always some new ones, whether antique or contemporary, to tempt the ear...even the Christmas shopping, if the need is not too dire or the shop too crowded, places where there are still smiles and greetings...greens or gilt in unexpected places...a welcome gift, but the best gift being someone's company.

Certainly there are some today who don't want time to linger: those in need, those flooded out with homes filled with mud, those who are sick. We do our best to help and hope for better times for them. But if the season is doing well, let's not rush it and tear it down Christmas afternoon, but leave it to savor like a fine wine or chocolate on the palate. Let's keep Christmas all through the twelve days (or at least through the new year), enjoying sparkle and spice.

We are keeping Christmas here, in Holiday Harbour.

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» Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Moving Chairs, Vacuums, and Clothes...
...plus stuff that was more fun in Holiday Harbour.

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» Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Nothing Like a Day With My Sweetie...
...doing the last of the Christmas shopping in Holiday Harbour.

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» Monday, December 20, 2010
Christmas Wouldn't Be Christmas...
...without wrapping gifts, baking cookies, watching Christmas stories, and other misadventure, all told with kringly feeling in Holiday Harbour.

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» Sunday, December 19, 2010
Weekender...
...in Holiday Harbour.

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» Thursday, December 16, 2010
Candle Light...
...and wet feet in Holiday Harbour.

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» Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Slick Without, Chilly Within
Woke and started work to a grey sky. It was quite damp and I actually finally bumped the thermostat up to 70°F for a few hours just to take the chill off the house. I'd woken up with a headache from the arthritis in my neck and was out of sorts during the morning; it let up later in the afternoon and I was able to do some chores during lunch and wash three loads of clothes.

About midmorning I noticed snow flurries drifting about outside. Later they turned into sleet. Then I quit paying attention, so when I took Willow outside when I'd finished up, I was quite surprised to find everything wet, the brick front steps slick with ice, and the grass a bit crunchy. Oddly, the lock to the back gate was not frozen!

I didn't expect James home quickly, and I was not surprised. He called me at 5:30, saying he was just leaving work and had already taken a fall out in the parking lot. It took him 90 minutes to get seven miles. He's limped about for the rest of the night. The news has been full of car crashes, people skidding off the road, and every ramp on the freeway being closed down (some of them are still backed up since rush hour!).

Anyway, I scanned some old Christmas photos while I was waiting for James and they are here.

[DAMN! Not only is James hurt, but it looks like the fall killed his netbook!]

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» Monday, December 13, 2010
From Dark to Dark
Cold this morning. 27°F, and snow flurries still dancing around merrily until I reached I-85. I believe the wind chill dragged it down close to single digits. For those of you in Saskatoon, this is just a fine winter day; in Georgia, this involves appendages dropping from brass monkeys. Plus I had to stop for gasoline, having run out of time to do it yesterday, bundled in winter hat, winter coat—unfortunately there is no way to run the machine with winter gloves on. A singular experience.

I didn't go out at lunch for obvious reasons, and it never struck me how warm the garage keeps the car at night until I got into the car at 4:30—the temperature of the car seat was...startling (it was 28°F at that point, down to 27 by the time I got home). The car creaked and squeaked until its fluids started to get warm. On the other hand, the ride was nice.

When I got home I snapped Willow on the leash (I can't take her out leashless any longer; she and the dog next door go right at each other through the fence—it sounds like SFX for Cujo). The combination lock to the back yard was frozen shut (James noted this last night as well) and I had to breathe on it for a couple of minutes to get it to let go.

Warm welcome inside, though: as I sat down to type this, Schuyler let out a wolf whistle. Who's been showing this bird movies about sailors? :-)

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» Sunday, December 12, 2010
The Birthday Whirl--Coda
Birthday Whirl weekend ended with dinner at PF Chang's to celebrate Neil Butler's 21st birthday. We had never eaten there before; always thought it was too expensive. It is actually quite reasonable. We had a big long table with 20 people at it. Charles and Jack sat with the college crowd and we were with the "elders" at the other end, with Bryce and Roman (elementary school age) in the middle. The food was delicious, and we both had a tiny chocolate mousse for dessert served in a square glass. It was a great time.

The snow flurries continued as we drove home, blown in swirls before headlights and streetlights, and pushed in rippled eddies on the street. The cold is quite fierce for this area: 27°F at that point, 11 with the wind chill. Juanita did not come to the dinner and we had brought her the rest of the last batch of turkey soup (since she supplied the carcasses for that batch as well!). So we took the container to her. She has Christmas villages all over the house: on a rotating platform in the den, on the pass-through between the kitchen and the sun room, on the shelves in the dining room, and on the furniture in the living room, plus the big tree in the living room as well. It's all so pretty!

Came home just in time to see HGTV's White House Christmas.

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The Birthday Whirl
We've been birthday-ing quite wildly this weekend...well, wildly for us, anyway. LOL.

Friday night, as I recounted in Holiday Harbour, James got a few friends together to celebrate my birthday one day early. We went to Old Ephraim's, a barbecue/general restaurant on Marietta Square. (It's one of the more reasonably priced restaurants on the Square, too; we considered having lunch at Shilling's one day until we gasped at the menu.) It was a nice, warm, happy night—the Butler boys were both home from college, so we had the pleasure of their company as well.

Plus before we left the mail came and we had a nice photo of Jen in her uniform!

James took me out for ice cream at Bruster's afterwards and we had a nice drive home hunting down Christmas lights.

Were up a little after eight on Saturday morning to get dressed, wrap a very late Hanukkah gift, and head over to the Butlers for Hair Day. Juanita was roasting a turkey for the lunch centerpiece, so we just picked out something that would go with a turkey dinner: corn and cranberry sauce. We also brought breakfast nibbles: apple and raspberry mini-pastries and mini-cinnamon rolls.

There was a small, lively crowd. We chatted, ate one delicious meal (other sides were mashed potatoes and artichoke dip, with apple and pumpkin pie), and the piece de resistance, a birthday cake for Neil Butler, who turned 21 five days ago.

Yes, of course there was a trick candle on the cake. :-)

We left about 1:30 so James could go to his club meeting. I went to Lowes to get more birdseed, since we're about to have a deep freeze starting on Sunday. While I was there I got more clear blue C7 bulbs for the window candles and an LED timer candle.

I stopped at Borders for a few moments and noticed that the latest Monk book is out in paperback. The promo for the next novel says it is going to take place after the series end; that should be different! I found three magazines: the new "Shop Smart," the December British "Country Living," and the winter "Vermont Life" ( if nothing else for the beautiful picture on page 30-31).

I went through the Connector to the Best Buy on Cobb Parkway, blanched, and went to Office Depot instead to recycle the two laser printer cartridges I had. But I didn't want to keep the television that was still in my trunk, so I did go to Best Buy and recycle it. Wow, what a zoo! Now I know why I don't shop there, especially at Christmas.

I was looking for a DVD, but didn't see it there, so I whipped out my handy-dandy Droid and checked to see if it was at Borders. It was, and I got it with a coupon (using my phone, by the way, which I approve of, since it cuts down on waste paper).

I was out so long that James was home when I got there. I tried to lie down a little, but a piece of mail had bothered me, so I couldn't settle. So we went out about six, stopped at Fresh2Order, where I had a birthday coupon for buy one, get one, and had supper. From there we drove out to Avondale to the Academy Theatre to watch this year's ARTC Christmas show.

The performance seemed a bit uneven, but they did all the favorites, and the Academy people also did two Christmas sketches, and a very funny lady named Jennifer Teeter sang and strummed along on the ukelele, with songs like "Present Face" (when you get a gift you don't like, you put on your "present face"), a funny song about what she wants for Christmas (peace, harmony...and a pony), and others. James bought her CD at the end of the show, and we stood talking to the Kiernans for a few minutes before driving home.

A nice night on chat, although Jen didn't show up. She had liberty and went to the symphony with some crewmates.

This morning we slept in. It had rained last night, but when we got up it was very cold and brown. I looked out the window after we had finished getting dressed and it looked like it was a fine mist outside. No! It was very fine snow which turned into fine sleet by the time we were halfway to Publix. We did all our shopping there today and only stopped at Kroger for gasoline. The wind was quite sharp and blew the sleet (later snow again) and leaves in swirls, and sent the flags and banners snapping.

When we got home James began putting together the turkey soup ingredients; we had received three turkey carcasses from Juanita. He took them out so they would not be so cold to peel the meat off them, and we had some of last year's soup with elbow noodles for lunch while watching This Old House. Then I did some tidying up while he peeled most of the meat off the bones, and put it in the big stock pot with carrots, onions, celery, a little salt, a bay leaf, parsley flakes, even some mint. This completely filled the stock pot, and it is BIG. After an hour or two James had to "bleed" some soup off the top because the pot was threatening to overflow.

We had listened to some of last week's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" on the way to the ARTC performance, and after the soup was going we listened to the rest, and then this week's episode. Now we are listening to an episode of "Travel With Rick Steves" about Christmas in Europe: Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Portugal, western Ireland so far.

[Note: If my dad was still alive he would have been 97 today...]

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» Thursday, December 09, 2010
Sound and Fury, Accomplishing Nothing
So James took my car off to work, and I slept as late as I could, since the first thing I had to do this morning was have blood taken after my checkup. I got dressed, drove to Kaiser, visited the vampires, ate the fiber bar I had in my pocket, and headed for the mechanic. They gave me a ride back to the house and I finally got to have breakfast.

I thought I would finish cleaning downstairs—everything had to be moved out of the way for James to bring the tree upstairs and there were "needles" everywhere—before I started any work on the Christmas tree, so that's what I did. After fighting a ten minute battle against static electricity—nothing I was sweeping would go in the dustpan properly; instead it arranged itself in magnetic patterns along the floor—I just pushed everything away from the baseboard and vacuumed the hall instead. Then everything went back where it belonged, I vacuumed the runner, and then the laundry room.

Vacuumed the foyer, too, and the stupid vacuum cleaner made streaks on the Pergo.

And I vacuumed Those Damn Stairs.

By the time I got to the tree it was way after one o'clock. Okay, can't tell the tree lights without a scorecard. There were four strings: the two miniature light strings that I fell in love with because they have all six colors, even if the orange is a bit cantaloupe colored. Then there was a string we got when we bought the tree, white bulbs with rounded color covers. We had two of them, but one burnt out last year, so I replaced it with a string of GE crystal lights.

Now, all these lights were working when we put the tree away last January. But when I plugged it in, the one with the round covers was completely off, and half of one of the miniatures string was off. I took off some of the covers on the first string, and the light bulbs were all blackened. Dang it, same thing that happened to the other string. I took the miniatures string off the tree. James said there was another crystal light set in the garage. So I strung those two together on the bottom of the tree, and was going to put the other miniatures string on the top. But first I would replace the few burned out bulbs in the string.

I replaced two bulbs and then half of that string died. I could not revive it. Damn, damn, damn, damn.

Having no way to get to the store to buy another string of lights, I was stuck. So I dubbed off a couple of episodes of Castle and cooked turkey for dinner. We ate this quickly, then went out, intending to go to Lowes, but stopped at Home Depot first—and they had another set of the GE crystal lights!

And then it took us over an hour just to get them even and fasten them to the tree. Despite all our efforts there are more lights at the bottom than at the top. Sigh. I love Christmas trees. I hate putting lights on Christmas trees. Surely one of the nine rings of hell includes putting lights on the Christmas tree.

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» Wednesday, December 08, 2010
More Decking, Fewer Halls Left...
...in Holiday Harbour.

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Doctor Who Christmas Special Article
Via Kim Holec on the Brittrack Yahoo Group (thanks, Kim)!!!

Cover of the BBC "Radio Times"

Scan of the article from Life, Doctor Who, and Combom blog (thank you!):

Page 1

Page 2

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» Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Shopping for Memories
Reading Dave Aldrich’s blog (check blogroll) about old retail stores always makes me think about “going downtown” with Mom. We’d do it at least once during Christmas, winter, and Easter vacation, and at least twice during the summer, and it was always something to look forward to, despite declining fortunes (as a cynical teenager I used to refer to taking “the bus UP Cranston Street to watch the neighborhood run DOWN”). In the early sixties there was a chirpy radio jingle about Providence being “Southern New England’s largest shopping center”; by the late seventies “downcity” looked like a once proud dowager gone to seed.

These excursions always started the same way; we’d be up to have breakfast with Dad, who rose at six and left the house by twenty past, after gulping a homemade eggnog and hot coffee. I drag myself out of bed at six these days, but on those downtown days was dressed, washed, and into the kitchen in a flash. I had an eggnog, too, for breakfast (it was the only way I would eat eggs willingly) on other mornings, but not on these. We would hustle to get dressed, make the bed (heaven forbid we left the house without making the bed!), and walked the three blocks past Berkeley, Doane, and Clarendon Streets, crossed the WPA-era concrete railroad bridge past the junkyard, walked past Harold Crook’s garage, the Hideaway Inn, and Cleary’s Dry Goods to wait for the bus on Cranston Street. On winter mornings the bus was invariably late and you’d stand there stamping your feet and sticking gloved hands deep in the pockets of your winter coat, the wind always finding a way down your coat collar despite a scarf. Later we had a bus stop across the street, and if we didn’t hustle we had to make the walk. This is how I learned to make a bed, complete with tucked sheets and rolled pillows, with no wrinkles under the spread, in 2 minutes and 14 seconds!

The bus chugged its way into Providence with many starts and stops, past the looming dirty brick walls of the old trolley barn on one side and the Narragansett Brewery on the other (trolley barns seem to have proliferated in Cranston; the Taco company was also located in an old trolley barn and my dad remembered another on Webster Avenue), through the old neighborhood of peeling triple-deckers and taps with their round brick windows and the only A&P nearby, past the castellenated, fantasy-inspiring structure of the Cranston Armory, and finally taking a sharp left at the Saints Peter and Paul Auditorium (I still recall a heart-stopping hard left there when they were building the auditorium, riding on a school bus going to the annual Rhode Island Philharmonic concert for the schoolchildren, where we were all certain we were going to be tossed into the maw of the building excavation), before trundling into downtown and getting off at Weybosset Street.

We hadn’t eaten breakfast because we were going to confession at St. Francis Chapel, then in an old brick building owned by Johnson & Wales business school. I preferred confession at St. Francis because they still let you do it the old way, where you said “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” rather than the new way we had learned in Catechism class where the priests asked you questions. We didn’t usually stay for the 7 a.m. Mass, but it was comfortable when we did, only a half-hour service in the small chapel downstairs, the air pleasant with the scents of incense and candles (in the winter wet wool coats and mothballs tended to be added to the mixture), older people who attended Mass daily around you, murmuring silently to themselves as they fingered beads while saying their Rosary.

Now that the solemn part of the day was over, we were free to have a rare treat: breakfast out. Today when I eat out each weekend it is hard to remember how very special this really was. Dad worked in a factory; later Mom went back to work, also in a factory—there wasn’t much money for dinners out. Big formal dinners where you dressed up in Sunday clothes were confined to holidays: Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, Mom’s birthday. Occasionally on a Sunday we might grab a hot dog from a truck at the beach, get a burger at Burger Chef or go to Aunt Carrie’s or Rocky Point for clam cakes, or Gus’s at Oakland Beach for doughboys, but this was chiefly confined to summer. (Later Mom tired of lingering fish scent and she and my dad started getting fish sandwiches at McDonald’s on Friday. I despised fish, especially battered and fried, and would either have “rice and gravy”—white rice with Mom’s tomato sauce on it—or pork fried rice.)

We would have breakfast at the Crown Coffee Shop, in the lobby of the Crown Hotel. The waitresses wore little white caps and starched white aprons, and I had toast with real butter instead of the margarine at home. The seats were revolving stools which Mom would have to make me stop spinning on. We’d be among mostly businessmen having a coffee and some eggs and toast before going to work, and professional women with their alligator purses and high heels, all who would be hunched in woven overcoats, the ladies with fur collars, in the wintertime.

Breakfast was almost too leisurely, since we had to wait for the Outlet Company to open; they were the first store available, at 8:45 on the button, not a minute earlier, to my chagrin. If it wasn’t cold, we would go stand at the brass-and-glass doors with the other early shoppers, and I would press my nose on the glass like a kid in a candy store.

Once in the store I’d make a beeline to the book department while Mom did her shopping. Mom did something that would horrify parents today: she left me alone, first in the toy department, then in the book department, of stores. I was not to move out of that department, nor talk to strangers, nor go anyplace with anyone unless it was a policeman. I didn’t move and didn’t talk, and it suited me just fine. I hated tagging after Mom as she shopped for clothes; I despised shopping for clothes and shoes for myself, even as a teenager, and did it only under duress. Better in the book department at the Outlet, which was on the first floor next to the café, running caressing hands over hardback books we couldn’t afford, or spending three weeks squirreled allowance on a Get Smart book.

We had a regular route worked out. From the Outlet we would go to the Paperback Book store across the street. I can close my eyes and see the store exactly as it was—like Ebenezer Scrooge I could “walk it blindfolded”—dark brown shelves tall enough to be over my reach, posters of everything from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to psychedelic Peter Max rainbows and glowing unicorns on the ceiling, books being sunned in the display window, the clerk in an elevated booth on the left, the mystery books in the far back right corner and the media-based books to the left under the clerk’s nose, the scent of bookprint everywhere. It was there I saw my first fanzine, out for sale with the regular books; it was pretty obvious the clerk was fannish.
We might stop at Read-All, a narrow bookstore/card shop , or later at Strawberries, the record store, on Union Street on the way to Westminster Street, which, during most of my teenage years, was a no-traffic mall area, and here there were riches indeed. Until it closed in 1968, my favorite venue there was J.J. Newberry. The main level had a coffee shop, sundries, and stationery, and there was an upper level with clothes, but I made a beeline for the basement: toyland, children’s books, and hardware. Newberry’s main appeal was the Whitman books, cheap (29 cents in the 1960s) hardbacks with glossy covers that were either classic children’s books like Heidi, Call of the Wild, Little Women, etc. , serial books like Donna Parker, Ginny Gordon, the Timber Trail Riders, Trixie Belden, and more, or media-based tie-ins. All my Lassie books came from Newberry’s. (It was not the eldest of the “dime stores” downtown: a very vague recollection of the downtown Kresges, which closed when I was small, remains: a dim interior, with the old-fashioned wood-and-glass display cases and the shelves upon shelves behind the counters. If you wanted to see something, you asked the salesperson to get it down for you. The “toy department” was a collection of windup tin painted toys and rigid dolls and teddy bears.)

Two other “five and tens” were on Westminster Street, Woolworth and W.T. Grant. Woolworth I can remember as if it were yesterday, as it was the first thing I saw after walking down the stairs of the Alice Building wearing my new glasses at age nine. I looked at the classic red sign and exclaimed to my mother “Mommy, I didn’t know the world was so bright!” (I had been living in a dull, nearsighted haze for some years and didn’t realize it, until my best friend spilled the beans: “Linda can’t read the blackboard at school!”) Woolworth’s was a sensory experience at any time of year—the scent of coffee and tuna sandwiches from the lunch counter at left, the wonderful odor of fresh popcorn, the bright candy in bins right up front, the shrill chirping of the parakeets from the rear of the store, bright seasonal geegaws from sand pails and plastic sunglasses to Easter baskets and stuffed rabbits to Hallowe’en pumpkins and noisemakers—but came into glory at Christmas with tinsel swags, ornament boxes, candy canes and multicolor “Christmas candy,” peppermint scent and sample perfumes, inexpensive toys, tissue-paper honeycomb bells, and Christmas carols playing in the background. Each of the five and tens at Christmas, especially Grant’s, had bins in the seasonal area where you could pick out individual figures for your nativity set: start with a base of the Holy Family, add the ox and the ass, some shepherds, the Three Kings, and then more figures: sheep, others offering gifts, the shepherd boy, the camels, the camel driver, a sheepdog…the possibilities and arrangements were endless.

At Grant’s, another lunch counter—all the stores had them at this time—and cosmetics, cream rinses, hair dye, toiletries, first aid. They had the best price on Crayola crayons, and each year I bought myself a fresh box with the distinctive Crayola odor paired with a Woolworth’s blank calendar pad to make and illustrate my own calendar for the year.

Westminster Street held more boring stores that I was obliged to tag into occasionally (clothing stores, of course)—Gladdings, Peerless, Cherry and Webb, Kennedys when dad needed a shirt—but there was one place I was never reluctant to go: Shepards. The big Shepard’s clock on Westminster Street was a meeting place to many, and Mom went to Shepards when she couldn’t find it anywhere else, a “dressy dress” for a wedding, pretty lingerie, stockings, a new purse, whatnot. Their book department was a nook on the first floor where I could peruse all the Marguerite Henry hardbacks to my heart’s content, wishing we could afford them, while I waited for Mom.

Invariably we would need to make a “pit stop,” and we did that in Shepard’s, for they had, not a tiny rest room perpetually out of toilet paper and dripped with water, but a big ladies’ room that must have been something when the store was built, and was still impressive, especially to a kid from a tiny house in the suburbs. It even had an attendant. The dividing walls were made of glass bricks, and there were long counters with mirrors behind them where you could put your shopping bags down and fix your hair instead of at the sinks where you would get everything wet. People still “dressed up” to go downtown back then and you might even find older ladies adjusting fur stoles and replacing hatpins in big picture hats that you only saw in old magazines, checking their stocking seams.

We might go into Richleys, the little card shop that also sold gift items and small stuffed animals, or Pier Linen, where Mom coveted the cut crystal but never bought any, or Garr’s Fabrics. Garr’s was another place that had not changed in years; the walls were hung with satin drapery and formally dressed women helped you select thread and cut cloth for you. At Christmas I would go to Garr’s to buy ribbons as gifts for my stuffed animals.

One of my too-brief discoveries was a bookstore called Dana’s, which was very close to one of my other favorite stores, E.L. Freeman’s, the stationery shop. I used to wander Freeman’s in a happy daze, imagining all the stories that could be written on their different composition books. Dana’s was a basement shop in the 1920s (or earlier) Wilcox Building with the lovely cornices and façade of that era. Once inside, the store smelled delightfully of old books. These were not simply old paperbacks as you would find in a used bookstore now, but vintage books, many of them dating back to the 19th century. These books were always fascinating, with their small size, colorful leather covers, and inlaid, curving fonts in gold. There was one corner where all of Lucy Fitch Perkins’ “Twins” books were lined up in a row; also glimpsed were bound issues of St. Nicholas and other children’s magazines. Alas, not a year after I discovered it, a fire in the top story of the Wilcox Building ruined Paradise. The books were untouched by fire, but the water and smoke ruined them. Soon after I stood at the iron railing at the sidewalk level, looking down into the bleak, locked, dark bookstore where the books lay smeared across the floor of the shop. I could never walk by there for years afterwards without wanting to cry.

One occasional treat, at least until 1970, would be a movie. There were still four movie theatres downtown during my elementary years, the big Lowes State which got the blockbuster films like Lawrence of Arabia and Cleopatra, the Strand which showed more controversial flicks like Butterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, the RKO Albee which had things like Jerry Lewis movies, Westerns, comedies, and my favorite of all, the Majestic, which showed all the Disney films. The Majestic was a big white stone building that had started life as a vaudeville theatre; it still had the bathrooms downstairs as in a stage theatre, with a small box office and vending machines replacing most of the once-large lobby, but popcorn and candy was still available at a small stand, and you went through curtained arches to get to velvet-plush seats. A big red curtain opened just as the movie started, giving the old blue Disney “Buena Vista” logo a rippling, purplish cast. I saw Mary Poppins there, and Old Yeller, and Three Lives of Thomasina, and other wonderful Disney classics. Eventually the Loews became the Providence Performing Arts Center, the Strand turned into a “dirty movie” house and then died, the Albee became a parking lot; only the Majestic survives as the Trinity Repertory Theatre playhouse.

The final stop involved going past the Planters Peanut shop. I have forgotten in what small corner of what side street it was in, but all you had to do to find it was take a big sniff, as the roasting peanuts—yes, they did it right in the store!—could be smelled for blocks. Mom always bought peanut clusters for Dad and herself; I preferred my peanuts directly from the shell.

We would wait for the bus on the corner of Washington and Mathewson Streets, where my godfather Armand Azzoli had his shoe shop. We’d go in to say hi, and sometimes to have Armand put taps on the heels of my shoes, since I tended to turn my ankle and wear them down on the sides. It was a tiny, narrow shop, smelling of fresh leather and shoe polish, a cozy place especially on a winter day.

I remember one thing we did was wait for a certain bus. Before they instituted the Arlington #31 bus that went past our house, there were three buses, 31-A, -B, and –C, Oaklawn/Old Spring, one I’ve forgotten, and the Meshanicut bus. We would try to catch the 31-C Meshanicut bus because occasionally, instead of turning down Cranston Street toward Dyer Avenue, it would go straight up Gansett Avenue and we could ask the driver to stop at Appleton Street. I think it had to do with the time of day, but we never figured it out. If it turned the corner, we just got out at the bus stop near Mancini’s hardware and trudged back the way we came. We were hungry and footsore—but it had been a glorious day nonetheless.

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Farewell
Elizabeth Edwards, 61, Dies After Long Struggle With Cancer

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» Monday, December 06, 2010
Trimmings
Decorating for Christmas on St. Nicholas Day (and a book review, too).

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» Sunday, December 05, 2010
Wickedly Wizard
Hit three stores for grocery shopping one after the other: BJs for bulk stuff like toilet paper, Publix for twofers, and Kroger for the rest. It was cloudy during the entire trip, quite cold for December in Georgia (about 35°F and windy), and every so often an errant snowflake would swirl about in front of your eyes. Came home, stuffed it all away, made a sandwich each, and went to Regal Cinema to catch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part 1).

A very somber movie. "The kids" did a bravura turn, but I was particularly impressed with Rupert Grint. In at least one of the movies, he just seemed to run around with his mouth gaping, and Ron's been used too often as comic relief. This time the writers gave him some good, solid scenes. The special effects were excellent, the location filming spectacular (I particularly liked the snowy Forest of Dean), and there are several very frightening scenes, especially the one with Nagini at the beginning. Did note the "propaganda book" scene: very Nazi Germany/Soviet Union.

If there was one edited scene I missed, it was when Dudley said goodbye to Harry; we did see Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, but only briefly. And I know it was a clichè, but I like the change they made in what happened to Hedwig. In the book she was only a bystander, but in the movie she had a chance to be heroic.

The worst part of this movie is having to wait until wretched summer to see the rest.

We had turkey soup for supper and then I worked downstairs for a little over an hour. I have the library, airplane, and woodland tree out, and the decorations ready to go, but I want to iron the cloths that go on each of the surfaces before I do the work. And then I'll have to vacuum again; those wretched inserts in the rocking chair box left flakes of styrofoam everywhere. Then watched the rest of Extreme Home Makeover and a Holmes on Homes for the Holiday, where Mike and his team helped a family of six who were living in their basement after a dishonest contractor stripped out the inside of their home, started to rebuild, and then just abandoned them. The whole structure was unstable and the house could have collapsed on them at any time!

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» Saturday, December 04, 2010
Farewell, Old Chair
When I moved up to Atlanta from Warner Robins in 1988, I needed another chair for "the Cubbyhole," as I called my studio apartment. Our friend Ann was getting rid of a big papasan chair (James has always jokingly called it "the satellite dish," it was so big) so I took that.

It's been with us through thick and thin. At the apartment Leia used to sleep on it (we flipped it over for company). When we moved to the old house we bought a new cushion for it, and when James was working horrendous hours at Wang, sometimes I used to sleep in it, next to Bandit's cage. In the new house it went down into the library, and has cuddled innumerable kids escaping the partying adults upstairs at Twelfth Night and on game nights.

But the passage of years has taken its toll: the wood is scratched and won't take much of a polish anymore. At 34 and even 44 we were still comfortable in it; in our 50s it is getting difficult to get in and out of and doesn't support our backs any longer. Plus it's really too big for the space in front of the window. So we have made the tough decision to get rid of the old chair. Tomorrow we'll dust it off and take it to Goodwill. Someone may be able to put some spit and polish into the old girl and use her in a den or comfy room where they don't care much about the scratches.

We've replaced it with this. I'd have loved a library-like wing-back armchair, but the budget couldn't swing it.

As for the rest of the day, well, it included assemblies and lights, but that's all told in Holiday Harbour.

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» Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Working and Wreathing...
...the house in Holiday Harbour.

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