Sunday, May 30, 2010

Seafood, Frenchfries and a Tornado Siren

I love seafood. I mean, I LOVE! seafood. Crab legs. Clams on the shell. Broiled fish. Fried fish. Baked fish. Poached. The only seafood I won't eat is squid and oysters, and oysters are on my list to try again, since they are so plentiful around here.

My favorite fish is salmon, but not just any salmon; the best I have ever had, I got at a steak house..a chain steak house, no less. Longhorn Steak House. If you haven't had their salmon, you need to try it. People in the 'salmon know,' flock to this place.


Longhorn Steakhouse & Saloon Sweet Bourbon Salmon

Sweet Bourbon Marinade:
1/4 cup pineapple juice
2 Tlb. soysauce
2 Tlb. brown sugar
1 tsp. Kentucky Bourbon
1/4 tsp cracked blk pepper
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup veg. oil
2-8oz. salmon fillets
2 tsp snipped chives

1. Combine juice, soysauce, br. sugar, bourbon, pepper and garlic in med. bowl. Stir to dissolve
and add the oil
2. Remove skin from fish. Place the fish in a shallow dish and pour the bourbon marinade over
them saving a little to brush on the fish as it cooks. (I use a ziplock bag to marinate my fish) ref
for at least an hour up to 3.
3. Preheat your grill
4. Cook fish for 5-7 mins per side and regularly brush fish with the marinade.
5. arrange fish and sprinkle with chives.


We ask for some of that Kentucky bourbon sauce on the side. I am telling you, this is heaven. Pure heaven. The stuff almost melts in your mouth.

Okay now that I've raved about Longhorn salmon, and did my duty by passing it on to you, I'm going to admit to a little secret. I, the mother who never took her kids out for fast food, the woman who proclaims that MacDonald's injects fat into their hamburgers to bring the weight up (the patty's and yours..) Yep, this fine lady who brings you this blog, has the potential for an addiction to a certain fast food. And this is it:

Captain D's deep fried fish. In my defense, I only get it maybe twice a year at best. I could eat it daily. But I restrain myself. This is the crispiest-on-the-outside, tender-and-moist-on-the-inside, fried fish you can get anywhere. God it's good. And tonight I had a hankering for it. So off I go to pick some up, along with cole slaw and sweet corn on the cob. When I get there, the place is almost empty..a rarity. I start to wonder if they're closed, but no..its just empty.

I give my order to the sweet little girl at the register, pay her and head to the counter that looks on to the open kitchen. I watch them cook, when suddenly a siren sounds, one that is exactly like a tornado siren.

In case you've never hear one, here's what they sound like. This one is from a town in north Alabama:

Now this siren goes off in Captain D's while I'm waiting for my food. That's a sound that can make a vampire's blood curdle. It'd brutal. I glance out of the window and notice the sun is shining. Huh? Just as I'm trying to decide if I should take the chance of making a fool out of myself by rolling into a fetal position on the floor and covering my head with my arms, the young busy cook runs over and pulls the french fry basket out of the oil and reaches up to turn the 'tornado siren' off.'

The siren is their french fry timer. And I am soooo glad I didn't roll into a ball on the floor, especially since a family of hungry people had entered the place just as the siren went off.

I glanced at the girl who was putting my meal together.

"I thought it was a tornado warning."

She looks at me like I'm nuts.

"Huh?" she asks. "What sounds like a tornado warning."

"Your french fry timer."

She just looks at me for a second or two with this terrifically puzzled look on her face.

It takes only a few minutes more and she brings the Styrofoam boxes with my food inside to the counter and sets it down next to a pile of place bags. She sticks out her hip and firmly plants a fist there. She looks to the left. She looks to the right. She looks at me.

"You mean to tell me I don't have a bagger??"

She is appalled. I want to tell her that if she simply shoved the boxes maybe two inches to her left, they would probably be pretty close to being bagged, but I don't.

"The other lady has customers." I point in the direction of the sweet little girl who is now ringing up the order for the family who came in during the tornado warning/french fry timer.

The meal assembler, or whatever her title might be, looks at me (again) like I'm nuts.

"Customers. Great."

She puts my order in a bag and hands it to me.

Life is just full of interesting doings..

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Liquid Gold, Black Magic; Our Downfall

I'm good at gushing on about the Gulf beaches but I have been intentionally avoiding any talk here about the oil spill. Does it mean I an unaware or burying my head in the sand? Not at all. It's simply a case where I am so heart sick over this that it's difficult for me to talk about it.

I do know this; there had been a task force catastrophe team sent to our nearby Floridian beaches to keep an eye on things. They have been sent packing and commissioned to other parts of the Gulf shore because apparently (and luckily) there is no immediate danger to our coast. Louisiana is not happy that they are getting the brunt of this horrible mess. And I don't blame them at all. They must feel fairly cursed at this point.

I cannot bear to watch the news reports. I dread the inevitable film of birds being scrubbed with Dawn degreasing soap. I will miss the ready availability of seafood. But more than that, I can't deal with the long term affects of so much black, syrupy oil being so continuously gushed into our beautiful Gulf.

I hear that BP is putting in something like 125 million bucks PER DAY! to deal with their blunder and that they can well afford it. In fact, it puts barely a dent in their profits! What a sin. What a horrible, horrible sin that any company can have that much cash sitting in their pockets while at the same time ruining our big blue ball.

Each time I go to the beaches I look for any sign of black gunk but so far I've not seen any. It's there tho. It's simply lurking somewhere out there.

That is it. It's all I'm going to say. Except for this; how ironic it is to me that the downfall of our world's well being could be caused my Earth's own blood..oil.


I have not been very attentive to my blog friends. I've been busy, I've been doing other things. But I have the next two days with nothing planned. I'll get to all your blogs and let you know there how much I love you all.

Ti amo e mi mancherai.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Blue Mountain Beach (Or, How Sally Got Her Groove Back.)

Yesterday, we left early in the morning and headed a little over an hour southwest to a village on the Florida panhandle, called Santa Rosa Beach. That is the name of the village; the beach there is named Blue Mountain Beach, because it is the highest point on the entire Gulf. Right before you get to Santa Rosa Beach, you need to cross over the Bay on one of those magnificent, arched bridges that overlooks the phenomenal bay.

We noticed, at the start and the finish of the bridge, many folks were out there with nets. Men, women, children were prancing about, scooping for something just off the shore. After asking, we discovered that the crabs were in and folks were catching their evening meal. What a delight!

Back to Blue Mountain Beach; here is a photo I took:

It is impossible to see the bands of deep green in the water but they are there. These are what give the name to that section of the Gulf, 'The Emerald Coast.' It is beautiful. The sand, as you can tell, is white, in contrast to the beige sand of the east coast ocean beaches. It is called 'sugar sand.'

Blue Mountain Beach is accessible by climbing down wooden steps perched on a low bluff. The photo I posted was taken standing about half way down those stairs. Immediately above the stairway is a row of empty Spanish style mini-mansions.

All of these houses are named, most with exquisite Spanish names but this one made me smile; it's called Fried Green Tomatoes, after its color. (obviously the owners opted for humor over beauty and I like that.)

No, the house is not leaning; your photographer was..:) Sorry about that. Can you imagine sitting under that ceiling fan on the balcony in the mornings, drinking coffee and watching the sun rise over the Gulf of Mexico? Or relaxing in the evening with a frozen daiquiri, looking out at the pink sky over the sea?

But the best reason to visit Santa Rosa is to stop by and visit my friend, Sally. Sally is a transplanted Yankee who moved down here about 15 years ago after a divorce, with her two teenage kids. She opened a store that goes by the tongue in cheek title of Sally's By The Seastore. Sallys' store is unique; it's really a combination store, restaurant and bar and the locals adore her. I found this brief review of her place from a site called 'Coastal Classics.'

Sally’s by the Sea Store

Just a couple of miles west of Coastal Classic in the beach community of Blue Mountain Beach is Sally’s by the Sea Store. Aside from gasoline and small grocery items that you may have forgotten to get when you were at Publix or Winn Dixie, Sally has the best breakfast sandwich menu on the our end of Hwy 30A. If you get up early and are hungry before your crowd rises to prepare breakfast, drive, bike or walk to Sally’s for a great breakfast biscuit (egg, cheese, sausage, bacon, ham, croissants, etc.) and a good cup of coffee.
Depending on the season, Sally usually barbecues on Friday night and serves great pork barbecue on Saturday.

This article failed to mention Sally's bar with the singing bartender. This bartender lady takes song requests several evenings a week and belts out a song while she pours your drink. Let me tell you, the place is packed on those nights, and the writer of that little blurb shouldn't have failed to at least give her an honorable mention; the locals love that singing bartender!

Redd The Singing Bartender:

Sally is an earthy, always smiling, energetic naturally pretty lady ,even sans as much as a touch of makeup. And she is my friend. The decor of her business can only be described as festive. Here are some photos of her place, to give you an idea of what I mean:

EVERYTHING on the outside is yellow, blue and red.

These are functional hurricane shutters just in case one of those belligerent off coast nasty visitors rolls in to reek havoc.

Sally's window treatments. Even I couldn't kill those plants!

Sally supports local artists and they support her. The artist who painted this sign also does block screen shirts for Sally. Sally told me an interesting story about her. Apparently, this artist lady moved down here and married a local chef who had quite a following due to his culinary capabilities. The only problem, he hated cooking! After a few years of marriage and watching the joy his wife derived from her art, he decided to chuck the chef business and turn to art himself. He did quite well. But, alas, the marriage could not survive the competition between the two, and they each took their own easels and parted.

Sally told me this over some cog. Cog...this is the nickname for Sally's coffee, better known locally as a Cup Of Gossip..COG.

Speaking of coffee, I feel a cup of cog calling my name, so I am off to imbibe. and if you find yourself down by Blue Mountain Beach, stop in to see Sally and tell her I sent you. She'll give you a cog and a smile that will make your day.


Sally's bar is located at the back of her store. It's called 'Sally's Backside' and when Redd is bartending, you need a reservation or you will not get in. It is packed.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I'm Moving to an Italian Villa (uh-huh..yup)

Yay to me!! I have won a multi million dollar lottery and I am buying this villa, named Bramasole, in Tuscany, Italy:

Here is a charming, Romeo and Juliet type balcony off to the side of the house:

And the grape vines and olive tree groves which have been brought back to life by a local gardener who knows the land well:

Okay, I'm blowing lies outta my ass fibbing. I didn't win any lottery and therefore, I am not buying a villa in Tuscany. In fact Bramasole is the name of the estate in the travel guide book "Under The Tuscan Sun,"which I'm reading right now. But man, what a dream for my wish bucket.

My family is from the east coast of Italy. I am not talking generations and generations ago, either; my mom could not speak a word of English during the early part of her life. My cousins in Italy would write long letters to my mom and I would watch her write out English translations to simple Italian phrases because they wanted her to teach them English.

Of course, none of my Italian family owns a villa. They are simple people with simple lives.

I, if I win a big lottery, will be the very first villa owner in my family. And I will invite the entire clan there to drink the wine made from my grapes and eat bruschetta made with olive oil from my harvested olives.


6 slices crusty Italian bread, halved crosswise
1 lg. garlic clove, crushed and minced
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
6 lg. firm ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
salt and pepper
1/4 c. minced fresh basil leaves
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar, or to taste

Preheat the broiler. Arrange the slices of bread on a baking sheet and broil 5 inches from the heat until lightly browned. Turn and brown the other side.
In a small bowl, combine the garlic, and 3 tablespoon of the olive oil, and brush the mixture on one side of the bread slices.

In a skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat, add the tomatoes and salt. Heat until the tomatoes are just heated through. Stir in the basil and vinegar.

Top the toasted slices with the tomato mixture.

Serves 6.

And I will invite all my blog and bookclub friends! So, get your passports ready.

Cara mia, ti voglio bene.

'Bramasole'; (pronouced, 'Brama solay') "To yearn for the sun."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The G Rated Post; (for the Faint Hearted)

For those of you who found the previous post to be too tasteless to read, I wanted to include this video so you have something to look at during your visit here.

The Exam; (Not for the Faint Hearted)

This is going to be one of those posts where my guy readers are going to throw their hands up in the air and exclaim, "Beej! What the hell are you thinking!!??" The lady readers might do the same but at least they'll know where I'm coming from.

Okay, Beej, take a deep breath and get your typing fingers ready; one. two. three..go.

It's getting to be time for my annual woman's checkup. Yup the good old pap smear thingie. Now this is not the highlight of my life. The little stirrups, themselves innocent enough lying pushed down, bring shivers to my spine and set my heart racing. Pushed up into their utile position and I know the unevitable is, well, inevitable.

Men might have this blurry, queazy idea of what a pap is about. But men, you really don't. Let me explain.
Better yet, watch this video:

Okay, did you see that thing in the beginning that sort of looks like a skinny plastic duck beak? That's called a speculum. Whoever invented that should be deep fried in KY jelly. That thing hurts like an s.o.b! The Dr. will tell you, ladies, "It isn't pain. It's simply pressure." This makes me want to scream bloody murder...
"It's pain, you stupid muthaf**ka!"

Now when that's all done they will do breast exam. This is when they squeeze each breast until it almost pops. And after that they want you to go have a mammogram, which is similar to slamming each breast in a car door and taking a picture of it.

Ladies, we are brave and I don't think men could handle this. They don't even like to go for their little 'bend-over-and-cough' exam. They ought to try it with the big plastic duck beak.

Okay now that I've stunned y'all with his post I am going to debate publishing it. Once I press the 'publish post' button, I'm outta here,

Thursday, May 13, 2010

To Kill A Mockingbird; the Fiftieth Anniversary

Harper Lee can't figure out what all the fuss is about. She wrote her book in simple language and style and at this point, after fifty years, wishes all the excitement would die down. Not to mention, she is still highly offended that so many folks have cashed in on her novel.

She is, of course, the author of a true American literary mainstay, 'To Kill A Mockingbird'. Each year, during the late Spring and Early Summer, the story is re-enacted in Monroeville, Alabama, the locale of the courthouse and home of the fictional Finch family, headed by the attorney, Atticus Finch, who is the chief protagonist of this great book.

The is the actual Monroeville courthouse that Lee modelled after in her book and that is where a part of the play takes place each year.

My friend, Dennis, plays the role of Atticus and has for a very long time. He has played this role worldwide, and does it justice; in fact, some say that Dennis IS Atticus Finch. (Dennis is also known for his portrayal of Henry Drummond in 'Inherit the Wind'.)

I was visiting with Dennis yesterday and he told me about a little celebration in which he took part this past Sunday. This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the novel and he, along with the cast and other local notables, (including Harper's older sister, Miss Alice) went to visit Miss Lee (known around these parts as 'Nell') to give her a bouquet of fifty red roses. Miss Alice reminded Nell who Dennis was. Dennis laughed when he told me that Lee did not even look his way. This is soooo Harper Lee. She is, after all, sick of the entire thing at this point.

Also attending was a reporter and editor of the magazine, 'Vanity Fair.' Miss Alice told her sister that they would like a very brief interview. Nell did not hesitate.

"Tell them to go away. They aren't getting one word from me."

This is not surprising; a few months back some spokespersons from NYC approached her about putting on a Broadway play of 'To Kill A Mockingbird.' They tried to sweet talk Nell and told her that Broadway needed revamping and needed to be brought to its original intention of creating fine drama on the stage, that Broadway was failing (I doubt that..) and her book could revamp it.

Miss Lee stared at the wall for a long while before she gave her answer:

"I do not see why the burden of saving Broadway should fall on my shoulders. No."

I gotta admire this Southern Icon; even at her age, she will not buck.

Happy fiftieth, Miss Nell. I hope you enjoy the rest of your life in peace.


Here is an article published several years ago that talks about Dennis in his role as Atticus:

As I See It


I saw Atticus Finch a couple of weeks ago.
He looked much as I'd expected. Tall, lean and good-looking, he was wearing a three-piece white linen suit, de rigueur for Southern lawyers of his era. And when he paced the courtroom questioning a hostile witness -- eloquent but understated -- he fingered the pocket watch tucked in his vest.

Of course, the man I saw wasn't really Atticus Finch, the beloved attorney who battles racial injustice in Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird." I was watching Dennis Owens, a local financial planner cast in the role in this season's production of the play based on the novel. Every spring, a local group stages the play at the historic courthouse in my (and Miss Lee's) hometown, Monroeville, Ala.

For an amateur, Owens did a good job. But, of course, he can never really be Atticus Finch. That role belongs to the late, great Gregory Peck, who personified the character as no one else could have. Watching the movie for the umpteenth time, I tried to imagine a modern-day actor as Atticus.

Tom Hanks? Too nerdy. Robert Duvall? Too old. (Duvall had a small role in the movie as the young recluse, Arthur "Boo" Radley.) Harrison Ford? Too Han Solo.

Peck, who died last week at the age of 87, brought Finch alive in the 1962 film because he exuded courage and a quiet moral authority, the same rare qualities that made the novel's Atticus an enduring hero. In a prepared statement issued after his death, Miss Lee, a good friend for four decades, said, "Atticus Finch gave him the opportunity to play himself."

When the film's Atticus explains to his daughter, Scout, why he made the unpopular decision to defend a black man wrongly accused of raping a young white woman, you believe you're watching a real father trying to explain something important to his child:

"Atticus, do you defend niggers?"

"Don't say 'nigger,' Scout."

So why are you defending him? she persists.

"For a number of reasons. The main one is that if I didn't, I couldn't hold my head up in town. I couldn't even tell you or Jem (cq) not to do somethin' again."

He made a rare act of courage seem such a simple thing.

Peck's presence was so commanding that he played any number of strong male figures, including the obsessed Captain Ahab in "Moby Dick" and the less-than-noble rancher's son in "Duel in the Sun." He was even an evil Nazi in "The Boys from Brazil."

But he was best known for the roles to which he lent his strong moral convictions, including the conscience-stricken commander in "Twelve O'Clock High" and, notably, a journalist who crusades against anti-Semitism in "Gentleman's Agreement," a film that was shunned by much of establishment Hollywood but went on to win acclaim.

It was his role as Atticus that won him an Oscar and created a legacy. Just days before Peck's death, Peck's Atticus was chosen the screen's all-time No. 1 hero in a poll conducted by the American Film Institute.

Peck went to Monroeville to meet Amasa Coleman Lee -- Miss Lee's father and the attorney on whom Atticus is loosely modeled -- and study his mannerisms. In his film portrayal, Peck used Lee's habit of fingering his pocket watch while thinking, and Miss Lee later gave Peck the watch as a gift. He carried it onstage when he accepted the Oscar.

Perhaps Peck was all the more believable as Atticus because his private life never betrayed anything other than the deep love for family and strong personal convictions of the novel's Finch. There was never a tell-all book about a "Daddy Dearest" who abused his children; never a bio-pic about a man of strange sexual proclivities, a la Bob Crane; never tabloid tales about drunkenness and abuse of illegal narcotics. He is survived by his second wife, Veronique, to whom he was married for 47 years.

My father and other Monroeville natives have told me that, while Miss Lee's story is fiction, attorney Lee was well-respected for his belief that all should stand equally before the bar of justice. But I never met him. He died in 1962, when I was a small child.

So Gregory Peck will also be Atticus Finch to me.

Cynthia Tucker is editorial page editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Michael Came Calling Again.

As he promised us a couple of weeks ago, Michael came calling again today. I handed him our Toro leaf blower and asked him if he would mind blowing off the walk and the patio when he was done. Michael was more than willing to do this, so my major problem with his work was satisfied.

Just as he began the back yard, our 100 lb doggie, Abby, the same doggie who wags her precious huge tail at any fruit fly that lands in front of her, started jumping at the back door. I had to let her outside because she had the urge to water the lawn and would not, could not, take no for an answer. She did her duty and sauntered up to Michael, wagging her tail (as if he were a fruit fly, har!). I watched Michael bristle in fear.

"Michael, are you scared of big dogs?" I asked.

"Yes'm. I'm kinda blessed if she don't bite me."

"She won't bite you. Her teeth would probably fall out if she did.. She's old."

"Well, then I really am kinda blessed, I reckon."

I sat on the patio while Abby sniffed around, more to put Michael at ease than anything else. Michael decided to sit with me.

"Are you married, Michael?"

"Oh yes, ma'am. Me, her and I have been married a year." (Oh a little menage de trois? Of course, I didn't SAY that..and do feel a bit ashamed of myself for even thinking it.)

"a 'course, this is a second marriage." he continued." a lady at my church died Tuesday. They buried her on Thursday. I'm kinda blessed because she was my good friend, and I cried when I heard she passed. She was 74 and she were married 61 years.."
(Hmmm..13 year old bride, huh? But I didn't say that..)

"She had cancer and the cremo(sic) hurt her heart and she drowned in her own blood."

Michael's eyes began to fill with tears and I thought, cremo or no cremo, this is a man with a kind heart.

He brushed the tears away with his arm and looked around the yard.

"You think I'm doin' a good job?"

"Michael, you are doing a wonderful job."

He smiled.

and I felt "kinda blessed."

Lena; Rest In Peace


Legendary jazz singer Lena Horne dies at 92

Associated Press Writer Verena Dobnik, Associated Press Writer –

NEW YORK – Lena Horne, the enchanting jazz singer and actress who reviled the bigotry that allowed her to entertain white audiences but not socialize with them, slowing her rise to Broadway superstardom, died Sunday. She was 92.

Horne died at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, according to hospital spokeswoman Gloria Chin. Chin would not release any other details.

Horne, whose striking beauty and magnetic sex appeal often overshadowed her sultry voice, was remarkably candid about the underlying reason for her success.

"I was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could accept," she once said. "I was their daydream. I had the worst kind of acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I contributed. It was because of the way I looked."

In the 1940s, she was one of the first black performers hired to sing with a major white band, the first to play the Copacabana nightclub and among a handful with a Hollywood contract.

In 1943, MGM Studios loaned her to 20th Century-Fox to play the role of Selina Rogers in the all-black movie musical "Stormy Weather." Her rendition of the title song became a major hit and her signature piece.

On screen, on records and in nightclubs and concert halls, Horne was at home vocally with a wide musical range, from blues and jazz to the sophistication of Rodgers and Hart in songs like "The Lady Is a Tramp" and "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered."

In her first big Broadway success, as the star of "Jamaica" in 1957, reviewer Richard Watts Jr. called her "one of the incomparable performers of our time." Songwriter Buddy de Sylva dubbed her "the best female singer of songs."

But Horne was perpetually frustrated with the public humiliation of racism.

"I was always battling the system to try to get to be with my people. Finally, I wouldn't work for places that kept us out ... it was a damn fight everywhere I was, every place I worked, in New York, in Hollywood, all over the world," she said in Brian Lanker's book "I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America."

While at MGM, she starred in the all-black "Cabin in the Sky," in 1943, but in most of her other movies, she appeared only in musical numbers that could be cut in the racially insensitive South without affecting the story. These included "I Dood It," a Red Skelton comedy, "Thousands Cheer" and "Swing Fever," all in 1943; "Broadway Rhythm" in 1944; and "Ziegfeld Follies" in 1946.

"Metro's cowardice deprived the musical of one of the great singing actresses," film historian John Kobal wrote.

Early in her career Horne cultivated an aloof style out of self-preservation, becoming "a woman the audience can't reach and therefore can't hurt" she once said.

Later she embraced activism, breaking loose as a voice for civil rights and as an artist. In the last decades of her life, she rode a new wave of popularity as a revered icon of American popular music.

Her 1981 one-woman Broadway show, "Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music," won a special Tony Award. In it, the 64-year-old singer used two renditions — one straight and the other gut-wrenching — of "Stormy Weather" to give audiences a glimpse of the spiritual odyssey of her five-decade career.

A sometimes savage critic, John Simon, wrote that she was "ageless. ... tempered like steel, baked like clay, annealed like glass; life has chiseled, burnished, refined her."

When Halle Berry became the first black woman to win the best actress Oscar in 2002, she sobbed: "This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. ... It's for every nameless, faceless woman of color who now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened."

Lena Mary Calhoun Horne, the great-granddaughter of a freed slave, was born in Brooklyn June 30, 1917, to a leading family in the black bourgeoisie. Her daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley, wrote in her 1986 book "The Hornes: An American Family" that among their relatives was a college girlfriend of W.E.B. Du Bois and a black adviser to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Dropping out of school at 16 to support her ailing mother, Horne joined the chorus line at the Cotton Club, the fabled Harlem night spot where the entertainers were black and the clientele white.

She left the club in 1935 to tour with Noble Sissle's orchestra, billed as Helena Horne, the name she continued using when she joined Charlie Barnet's white orchestra in 1940.

A movie offer from MGM came when she headlined a show at the Little Troc nightclub with the Katherine Dunham dancers in 1942.

Her success led some blacks to accuse Horne of trying to "pass" in a white world with her light complexion. Max Factor even developed an "Egyptian" makeup shade especially for the budding actress while she was at MGM.

But in his book "Gotta Sing Gotta Dance: A Pictorial History of Film Musicals," Kobal wrote that she refused to go along with the studio's efforts to portray her as an exotic Latin American.

"I don't have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I'd become," Horne once said. "I'm me, and I'm like nobody else."

Horne was only 2 when her grandmother, a prominent member of the Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, enrolled her in the NAACP. But she avoided activism until 1945 when she was entertaining at an Army base and saw German prisoners of war sitting up front while black American soldiers were consigned to the rear.

That pivotal moment channeled her anger into something useful.

She got involved in various social and political organizations and — along with her friendship with Paul Robeson — got her name onto blacklists during the red-hunting McCarthy era.

By the 1960s, Horne was one of the most visible celebrities in the civil rights movement, once throwing a lamp at a customer who made a racial slur in a Beverly Hills restaurant and in 1963 joining 250,000 others in the March on Washington when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. Horne also spoke at a rally that same year with another civil rights leader, Medgar Evers, just days before his assassination.

It was also in the mid-'60s that she put out an autobiography, "Lena," with author Richard Schickel.

The next decade brought her first to a low point, then to a fresh burst of artistry.

She had married MGM music director Lennie Hayton, a white man, in Paris in 1947 after her first overseas engagements in France and England. An earlier marriage to Louis J. Jones had ended in divorce in 1944 after producing daughter Gail and a son, Teddy.

In the 2009 biography "Stormy Weather," author James Gavin recounts that when Horne was asked by a lover why she'd married a white man, she replied: "To get even with him."

Her father, her son and her husband, Hayton, all died in 1970-71, and the grief-stricken singer secluded herself, refusing to perform or even see anyone but her closest friends. One of them, comedian Alan King, took months persuading her to return to the stage, with results that surprised her.

"I looked out and saw a family of brothers and sisters," she said. "It was a long time, but when it came I truly began to live."

And she discovered that time had mellowed her bitterness.

"I wouldn't trade my life for anything," she said, "because being black made me understand."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My Beautiful Day

Happy Mother's day t0 all the mommies! I had a great day; I spent the early part of the morning reading a really good book (The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.)

I've had a delightful run of reading some wonderful novels lately. I just finished Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese. If you love books and haven't read this, run, RUN! and get it. It'll set you back on your heels. This is what good fiction is all about.

But this post isn't about books. It won't hold any reviews. What it is about is the rest of my day. We drove up to Lake Eufaula (Eufaula, btw, is where Harper Lee's sister lives.) This little town is a throw back to the Victorian era with the most beautiful houses from that day, true Southern architecture:

This is the Foy-Beasley-Hamilton house:

This is Fendall Hall, an Italian style house filled with lovely painted murals:

the Sparks-Bennett mansion. This is a Classical Revival style house, known for its wealth of European chandeliers and gorgeous plaster molding.

And last, but certainly not least, the Pièce de Résistance, the Shorter Mansion, a Greek Revival style home:

This house is the kingpin of the Eufaula Mansions and I am including a link to its history.

These homes line both sides of North Eufaula Avenue, a lush green grass median running down the center of the rather narrow avenue.

But even THAT was not what this blog is about.

It's about the lake. We spent this Mother's Day at Lake Eufaula, just north of the avenue of mansions. This waterway covers a whopping 45,181 acres! We stopped at a resort for a wonderful buffet lunch and then walked by the lake. Here is the southern end of it, complete with islands:

And a little further down the way, we came upon these fellows. Yup, alligators. about a dozen of them. Sorry I couldn't get closer to them, folks. Even though I love this sort of animal, I was not about to take a chance by getting any closer! These critters can move fast! (But remember, you can double click on them to get a bigger view..)

I was so glad I remembered my camera. Usually I forget to bring it along but this trip, I forgot my cell phone instead.

We got home and I took a long long nap. What a great day!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Robert Mitchum Started It.

I was browsing through random blogs last week and came upon one that was pretty much dedicated solely to Robert Mitchum. Now I know about Robert Mitchum because my mom had a huge crush on him. I never understood that because, to my young eyes, he looked like a weasel. She would tell me that he was the original bad boy. (so THAT'S where I got my love for bad boys!)

Okay, now people can write about whatever they want, that's a given, but the amazing thing to me was that this blog has 234 followers!!! Are there really that many folks who even know who Robert Mitchum was much less want to read about him daily???

I figured there must be more to the man than i am aware of. So I read through her entire blog.

I realized it was not just about Mitchum; there were entries on Norma Shearer, Ernest Borgnine, Kirk Douglas. in fact, I might have wandered in there during a Robert Mitchum Week sort of thingy. But it seems he is the main star of this blog.

Well, I get this idea; if there's a blog dedicated for the most part to Robert Mitchum, there must be other blogs focusing on more weird celebrities say, like Pee Wee Herman. Sure enough, I find this.

How about Rudy Vallee? Yup.

Betty Boop? Uh huh, yessiree.

There are blogs...I've hear over three million on blogspot alone...on everything. So I looked up 'dirt.'

Good lord, there it is!

Now my imagination is running rampant. Is there anything that hasn't been the subject of a blog???

Toenail fungus.


And on a chance, I look for one on assholes. (not to offend anybody, just that it seemed the most far out subject I could think of.)

This is all too much to deal with before breakfast. I need to relocate my appetite and eat. And to think, this was all started by Robert Mitchum:

..and his tremendous influence on the youth of America:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Miss Canary's Bling

In the south we refer to all women as Miss. Doesn't matter if they're 20 or 80, married or single. So when I refer to Miss Canary as 'Miss,' do not take it that she is a single lady. She is, in fact, married to one of the wealthiest men in town. They live in a mansion (they have two homes but the mansion is their main residence.) and when trying to tell anyone where she lives, she just says, "I live in the big house on route 'blahblah.' We all know exactly which house it is.

Anyway, I ran into Miss Canary yesterday. First off, I must explain that Miss Canary DRIPS of jewelry at all times; during the day she sticks to (large) diamonds and at night she dons her emeralds and rubies. I always compliment her on her various bling and yesterday was no exception.

She wore a bracelet that had to have no less than 10 carats of diamonds,shaped something like a railroad track, the 'rails' a series of smaller diamonds and the 'ties' consisted of large diamonds..maybe a caret each.

"Well, Beej, I have a small problem concerning my jewelry.."

"Oh?" I wonder if it's getting too heavy to carry.

"Yes.." her forehead,above her perfectly tweezed and penciled eyebrows, suddenly develop deeper furrows.

"You see my earrings?"

How could I miss them? They were large enough to signal a landing airplane.

"Well, I have these two lovely little granddaughters and I planned n having each of these diamonds reset in rings to give to them. But my daughter had another child, a girl, and now I do not know what to do!"

"Miss Canary, maybe you could grow another ear!"

I thought that was exceptionally witty. Miss Canary seemed frightened. She hee hee-ed nervously, said she had to leave, and off she went.

I do believe she thought I was serious!

Poor scared soul.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Oh my Gee

Oh my Gee...on or about September 18th, I am going to become a grandmother. My son is only 20. The mama is only 19.
We are all in shock.

Oh my God..

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Little Miss A. And The Candy Bars

There is a young woman who works with me at the bookstore. She's married and the mother of three little 'uns, ages 8, 6 and 3. I'll refer to her as Mrs. J., for privacy's sake.

I went into the bookstore the other morning to find Mrs. J. distraught.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"My middle kid might not be able to graduate from kindergarten."

"Oh no! Why?"

This is the story...

Apparently there is a late-in-the-year fundraiser, one of those candy bar thingies. Kids are given a big box of chocolate bars to take home and sell for a dollar each. Mr's J's kid, whom we will refer to as Little Miss A., got rid of all her chocolate bars, all forty of them. The only problem was, she only had one single, solitary dollar to show for them.

What happened to the other $39? Well, there were no other $39. This little girl stood in line at the bus and sold one lonely candy bar for one lonely dollar. Another child came up to her.

"I want a candy bar but I don't have a dollar. Can you lend me the one in your hand?"

So, being a very giving girl, she did. She handed her friend the dollar, the friend gave it back to her and got her candy bar.

Other kids saw this and being kids, they wanted a candy bar too, so the process was repeated...thirty six times. (It would have been thirty eight times but Little Miss A., being a kid too, ate a couple of them, herself.) She stuffed the empty fundraiser box along with the one lonely dollar into her backpack and scooted on home.

The day of reckoning came this past Friday when all the money and unsold candy bars were to be handed in at school; our Little Miss A. handed in one empty box and one crumpled dollar bill. the school principal phoned Mrs. J. to tell her the bad news; her daughter would not be allowed to graduate kindergarten until the school as given $39.00.

Now I've raised kids. I know all about the trials and tribulations of that. And I should have been more sympathetic to this young mother who works hard and struggles to support her family. But what did I do? I burst out laughing. I doubled over with laughter. I pounded the counter top.

Mrs. J. did not laugh.

"I suppose years down the road I'll think it's funny, too." she said.

I told her I felt that the school was partly responsible. You can't give a box of candy bars to five and six year old kids and not expect something like this to happen. The school apparently felt the same way because from now on,all parents of kindergartners and first graders are to pick up the boxes of candy.

Good lesson for the teacher, I think.

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