Thursday, December 31, 2015

...Christmasing at The Jefferson hotel (it really isn't about the toasted marshmallows in the sweet potato soup...or maybe it is)...

Built in 1885, Lewis Ginter put in funds to build The Jefferson hotel so that Richmond could have a Five Star hotel. Obviously, Ginter would consider the hotel a success considering twelve US Presidents, including Harrison, McKinley, Wilson, Coolidge, Taft, both Roosevelts (Theodore and Franklin Delano), Truman and Reagan, both Bushes (George H. W. and George W.) and Obama have been guests at The Jefferson Hotel. Other celebrities includes Elvis have stayed at the hotel. When Elvis stayed in 1956, he brought his own television and the hotel manager was shocked that Elvis ate his bacon with his fingers. There is even a legend that Bill "Bojangles" Robinson was discovered by his life-long agent while dancing across the dining room at The Jefferson Hotel. 

Yesterday, my life-long friend, Babushka, and I went to The Jefferson for a Christmas lunch. The hotel is lovely any ol' day of the year but during the Christmas season it is beautifully decorated with hundreds of flowers, thousands of Christmas lights, and a large Christmas tree. The hotel becomes that much more festive with an entire agenda of performances. 

We enjoyed such delicacies as sweet potato soup with roasted marshmallow croutons, and pumpkin ginger ale. She even tried the egg nog crème brûlée but since I’m not a fan of mushy food I went with the chocolate cake.

The decorations included the whimsical gingerbread display that included 300 pounds of gingerbread, 400 pounds of royal icing, 75 pounds of fondant, 20 pounds of rock candy, 40 pounds of marshmallows for snow. There are several more ingredients that were added to this list but oy! my teeth hurt just thinking about all of this.

The hotel is quite popular today but it also has an interesting history. While The Jefferson hotel was supposed to open on November 1, 1895, at the last minute it was realized that November 1 was a Friday, and it was considered bad luck to start anything on a Friday. Instead, the hotel was opened on Halloween :p

In 1901 there was a fire in which the statue of Thomas Jefferson was rescued from the building only to have his head bumped on the cobblestones.  He was taken to Edward Valentine’s art studio where his head was reattached. 

Alligators once resided in marble pools in the Palm Court Lobby.  Richmonders would vacation in Florida and bring the baby alligators home as pets.  As they outgrew sinks and bathtubs, residents would bring them to live at The Jefferson.  The last alligator died in 1948. There is still a great deal of alligator motifs throughout the hotel.

…this post is not about cars…

Studebaker Avanti similar to my dad's- from the web

I was raised by a man who loves cars, Studebakers to be exact. Some of my earliest and fondest memories involve old car shows. As a young girl, I knew exactly what car I would drive when I was an adult. I would be just like my dad and have a Studebaker.

Some people show their love by giving presents; others show love through food. My dad has always shown his love through car care. He checks my tires; he changes my oil. He takes care of the daily maintenance of everything. Car care has been a time of bonding. We change the oil together. If something is broken, we troubleshoot together. I adore these moments with my dad and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

I believe that I’ve written before that when my father was in the ICU and we thought he was dying, he confessed that he wished he had provided for the family a bit better. It’s still upsetting now to even relay this. I HAD THE BEST, MOST MAGICAL CHILDHOOD EVER! Dad remembers that our old camper van would break down each vacation and that we couldn’t afford hotel rooms; I remember that my father could fix the van and how incredibly cool it was that we got to stay in campgrounds and sleep in a loft that my father had built! He remembers that he couldn’t afford to give his children new cars; I remember him teaching me how to drive on an old Studebaker and thinking how one day when I grew up I would buy an old car just like his. Perspective.

Studebaker Gold Hawk- from the web
I’m using other people’s pictures for this post since currently the closet, which holds some of the old pictures I was going for, is blocked by the contents of my fella’s former car. A few weeks ago, he bought a new car. He wanted a luxury vehicle to use to and from work to lift his spirits. I just read Linnea-Maria’s post, “Throwing out old garbage and looking forward to a fresh start” and her second point about *if one can’t change an aspect of one’s life, try something else* resonates in our household right now. She writes, “Think of doing something completely different.” He wanted to transform his commute to something that was enjoyable. I could go into more details but it’s his private business so I’ll just note that he *emotionally* needed a change.

Studebaker Lark- from the web
I’ve been thinking about getting another car recently because the miles on my 2008 Vibe are really getting up there. I have *always* used my cars until they cannot possibly be used again. My first Saturn station wagon drove into the sales lot with all kinds of engine lights on and died-died. It was almost at the 200,000 mile point. It had been a used but new-to-me car so those weren’t all my miles but I put a great amount of those miles on them driving the 525 miles back and forth to Boston during my graduate school internship and my first year of teaching high school. Then there was the doctoral program where I drove nearly 100 miles to teach in one town and take classes and live in another. (Just a note to my International readers: in the US, we drive. We don’t have great public transportation and the government doesn’t put much stock or money into our train system so unfortunately we can’t go everywhere on the Amtrak.) My first Saturn died and my second (another used/ new-to-me station wagon) was completely totaled when a tractor-trailer T-boned me and continued to drive for a quarter mile because he hadn’t realized that he had hit another vehicle. The first thing the police officer said was “I can’t believe you’re alive”…not exactly reassuring but minus a bit of physical therapy, I was good to go. I turned around and bought a 2008 Pontiac Vibe. It was exactly what I wanted and exactly what no one else wanted (manual transmission) so I was able to afford it easily. It was my first NEW car. Within a week, my ex-husband slammed into it when he was backing up in the driveway not paying attention. He said he didn’t see it. Unlike vampires, I’m pretty sure vehicles have a reflection in mirrors so… an ex is an ex for a reason (or in this case, reasonsssssss). My new car was fixed the best it could be fixed but the driver side door (oddly enough as I write this, I’m just realizing that is where the tractor trailer and my ex hit my cars… driver side door. Hmmm) was never quite right. It’s become somewhat of an albatross with each wonky hinge problem reminding me of my former life. My fella has been very encouraging about us saving money so that we could get rid of our past wonky memories.

This weekend, I went (nonchalantly… not planning to buy because I’m slow and steady when it comes to decision-making) looking at cars. While I had never test-driven or even been inside one, I was pretty sure that I wanted a Nissan Juke because they remind me of goth cartoony cars (aka if there was a cartoon with a goth character, I’m pretty sure that her car would look bubbly like a Juke). My wants were somewhat small—a Juke in black with a black or grey interior even though Dad says that black cars in the South are ridiculous but then he’s a roll-down-your –windows-no-AC kind of guy.

We have two local dealerships. Because one is by the mall, I avoided it because of the after Christmas sales even though I had a better feeling about going there. I ignored my inner hunch and went to the other location where I wasn’t treated so good and the salesman clearly was not listening to me at all. He kept saying, “Are leather seats important to you?” whereas I would say, “No, I’m vegetarian. I would prefer cloth seats”… repeat five times. I test drove one of their SL even though it was in silver and had a tan interior. Their website read that they had black Jukes but when I arrived I learned that their partner-dealership in New Jersey has the black ones. Yeah, I don’t know about you but if I’m going to buy a car, I want to test-drive the actual car. After a great deal of bureaucracy and bullshit from the dealer attempting to talk to my fella instead of me, I smiled (in a Southern way which means F* you) and said, “No, thank you.” I have no idea what made me tell my fella that I wanted to go across town to the dealership by the mall but we went and there was the Juke Nismo RS. 

my new car
The Nissan website reads, “The JUKE is wickedly fun. The JUKE NISMO® is downright wicked.” The site also reads, “JUKE NISMO® RS – the ultimate performance crossover. More horsepower, sharper handling, better brakes, a performance transmission, and overall a lower, leaner, meaner attitude.” Did I need a leaner, meaner attitude? No. Everything about it (the Recaro seats, the larger exhaust tubing, the red pinstripe, etc) says race-car.

rusted Studebaker hearse from the web
My initial thought is that I have no business buying a car like this but pretty much without thinking, I bought it. My heart raced. I squealed, “Gwee!” And, I brushed away the sensible girl I have become. I realized that THIS too was something that I needed to shed. Where had the girl who planned to buy a Studebaker gone? My dad and I had had big plans of remaking an old hearse. But, life happened.

I started this blog after years of therapy and hard work figuring out how I had gotten myself into the hole I was in. The best way to describe it is that I had been adding layers and layers of protection so that I wouldn’t get hurt… so much so that I was hardly recognizable to myself. Instead of peeling away the layers, I had cocooned myself in.

In March 2009, I got out. In December of that year, I put all of my savings into building my townhome. In 2010, my divorce was finalized. I moved into my house, got to travel to London and Hawaii for work. Gradually I was becoming my old self. Even as I started a new relationship with my fella, I kept my past hurt close because a girl’s gotta protect herself. I immediately think of the lyrics from Romeo Void, A Girl In Trouble (Is A Temporary Thing).  Part of therapy has been rediscovering me, and part of my therapy progress has been realizing that some things in the past will simply stay in the past.

The therapist said I needed to write myself back. I journaled and journaled. Before my sabbatical, I decided to make my thoughts public never planning to become part of an amazing community of bloggers. (Thank you all for letting me come sit, cry, and play with you.) I didn’t realize that I would find you all, and I hadn’t realize that I would find part of me again… which really was the hope, the plan, the metaphor of gardening.

When I separated, I started gardening. I guess I just needed something to grow. I discovered that I was quite good at it; and, I discovered that I was pretty much addicted to it. I started doing things for me—nurturing my hopes and wishes. I pruned out the parts that weren’t growing. I’m still pruning. I’m still awaiting new growth. I’m still pleasantly surprised when I rediscover a lost part of myself. It seems so silly to not remember something about one’s self; but, it happens all the time. We lose ourselves to xyz. Yet again, this blog is how some plants & flowers, creepy things, the dead, and perhaps my realization that I've always loved antiques and old cars have brought me back to life… “She’s ALIVE!”, screams Dr. Frankenstein. Although my new ride brings me joy, it isn't an old Studebaker. My dreams aren't over. They're a work in progress.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

... don we now our gay apparel...

Heidi Daus’ "Captured in Beauty" pin

Just because I’m usually dressed in black (with perhaps some Santa socks this time of year), doesn’t mean I don’t get into the holiday spirit!

I completely adore Christmas jewelry. While this first piece which my mom gave me for Christmas doesn’t appear to be very Christmasy, I wear spiders this time of year and tell everyone that they’re Christmas spiders! The reindeer earrings and the poinsettia ring are completely my style. Because I Christmas until February 2nd, I have plenty of time to don my holiday jewelry.