Dear Lauren, again

I know it’s been awhile, three years since you died to be exact, but I’m back, writing, because I’ve things to tell.

First, I hope wherever you are there are some good birds.  I mean really good ones. Like your caracara. Lots of caracaras, all for you.

Caracaras all for you

I just got a female white-winged scoter, which was no. 368 on my bird life list. She was in the middle of about 60 lesser scaup on Ft. Myers Beach, floating and diving offshore. I love her because finding her was such an adventure.

White-winged scoter

I searched by myself last Sunday. The tide was low, and I got waylaid by a wonderful Indian wedding.  Are there any that are not joyful? I hope not, because they are so much fun, I’d hate anyone to miss out.  The groom arrived by boat–you could hear the drumming as they approached the island– and then he put on his fancy hat and mounted his bedecked white horse.

The groom

His family and attendants marched up the street to Bollywood music and drumming.  The bride’s family met them at the resort, and then all 250 of the guests headed to the beach, stopping for drinks served in real coconuts. (I wanted one, but we, the onlookers, were told politely to step back.)

Wedding flowers

When the bride, magnificent in red and gold, arrived  on the beach on her palanquin, carried by about six guys, she flashed her own cellphone, much to the crowd’s amusement, since they were doing the same. I smiled all day, especially when I realized how many hours I spent happily not doing what I set out to do.  Thanks to you, I knew all about Indian weddings and could provide commentary for the clueless public on the beach. I did not stay for the stealing of the shoes, however. (I took these photographs with my cell phone. I know you hated yours, but the camera is terrific.)

Back to the duck…Monday, I returned and spotted the scoter in among the lesser scaup offshore. I really did have to scope every duck carefully to find her. Makes it all worth it.

The second time, John went with me and was first in-line for coffee at the Dairy Queen while I was occupied. I can’t remember, but I think you liked their coffee…but all coffee was as vital as blood to you, wasn’t it?  Just think of all the types of pots we’ve all tried and loved–perk, drip, Mr. Coffee, Chemex, god forbid, INSTANT, electraperk, and my favorite–the orange enamel one you just dumped the grounds in and boiled.  That was good coffee.

This coffee pot is apparently now “retro”

Do you get a chance to read wherever you are?  I hope so. My favorite new book is The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott. I love stuff about Irish Catholic families for some reason. My friend Kathy heard the author speak, and said she mentioned the ideas of substitution and sacrifice as topics she wanted to explore in her latest novel.  In it, the substitute is a man who fought in the Civil War for another man who paid $300.  My own great great-grandfather did the same and I tried to find out who fought for him, but the records are gone.

Nuns have to turn their heads to look out.

The book has nuns in it, but they are interesting nuns. Did you know those big black and white head coverings were to keep them looking straight ahead not at the world around them? I found that interesting, especially after I purchased a new winter jacket for our trip to DC over New Year’s. It had a hood, and I couldn’t see anything to the left or the right.  I wonder if nuns were ever struck while crossing city streets– faith, I guess.

My favorite in the Vermeer Show at the National Gallery by a fellow artist, Gabriel Metsu–so much going on in one painting…Woman Reading a Letter

I wish you had been in my pocket when we visited DC for New Years. The Vermeer Show was fantastic. I love Vermeer because of the camera obscura stuff, but this show was of him and other Dutch artists painting around the same time (mid 1600s). Whole galleries of women opening and sending letters and making lace and even scraping turnips. And then men, and drunks and rich folks just hanging out.

Vermeer does light, women and pearls so well

Love letters and satin, and little dogs, and whoever heard of brothel paintings? We had lunch with Henriette Rahusen , who is assistant to the curator, Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. ,whom we met. What a treat. I am so proud of what she has done with her life. Many years a World Bank wife and mom, and now a historian with a PhD. Oh, and she says the artists painted everyone with light on the left because right-handed artists would position their easel near the window in a way that their dominant hand, or painting hand, would not cast a shadow over the area of the canvas or panel they were working on.  GOOD TO KNOW.

Henriette treated John and I to lunch in the staff dinning room in the East Building.

Renoir’s The Luncheon of the Boating Party is back at the Phillips and its surrounding exhibit had a slightly similar theme.  It featured all the people at the party, and what their relationship to Renoir was–fellow artists, benefactors, his wife, other friends, and one fellow they couldn’t find much out about, poor guy.  The exhibit included several paintings by the party goers, which gave you an idea of what their lives were like, about 200+ years after Vermeer and his cohorts.

The Luncheon of the Boating Party

Of course, The Boating Party itself is fantastic.  It draws you in and you wish like sin you could have been there too. Young, beautiful and happy. Drinking eating and laughing on a beautiful day on the water under that fantastic awning. Which he painted in later. There are such geniuses in the world.

We had a great time in DC with our friends, eating and drinking and talking and laughing.   It has been three years since we last were together. It was sort of like the Boating Party but it was cold and there was no awning. But there was love. And loss. And an appetizer called a Grand Plateau.

Capitol Grill’s Grand Plateau.

Oh god or whatever,  I hope you know how much I miss you. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve thought, “Oh, Laurie would just love this.” I just hope you get this, somehow, someway, and till the next time, love from your friend,


PS I also want  to talk about grandmotherhood, but another time. And plants, and the oculus at the African American Museum on The Mall. And joining Zonta, and even Trump. And how he drives me to drink, which I have given up for the month of January.  More later.








The Secret Revs and a Surprise


                                         Radiator Art

Our former neighbor, Joerg came for a visit last week. He is German, works for Mercedes, and is incredibly friendly. He loves Americans and Florida. As a birthday treat, we took him to the Revs Institute in Naples. To be honest, we had never heard of the Revs Institute, but another friend, who couldn’t get in during high season, said it was an exclusive car museum known only to car lovers. (It’s been open to the public since 2014.)
“Interesting,” I said to myself, “a museum that actually turns people away.” The Revs is only open three days a week and you need a pre-arranged ticket based on time of entrance. Walk-ins are out of luck.  I immediately wanted to go, because nothing means more to Americans than rare and exclusive places or things.

                      The Revs Institute of Naples, Florida

The Institute itself is a big gray building in a quasi-industrial area of Naples. It looks as if there are no windows until you enter and see that the windows are in the back. Gray, black and silver predominate inside and out, and the staff, many of whom are volunteers, are very friendly and helpful. There are three floors of cars, and big, wonderful black, white and sepia photographs everywhere.

              Geronimo’s Cadillac, one of the pictures featured at the Revs

We took a two-hour guided tour, and our guide, Carl, hardly stopped for breath. There are about 100 cars in the museum, and each one has been carefully curated because it tells a story or is famous in some way. There are cars demonstrating how the auto changed the world, many racing cars, a lot of Porsches and some just plain neat looking cars.

When race cars were like bullets




...and car grilles were grand









The collector/owners, are the Collier family and many were collected by Briggs Cunningham. Amazingly, all the cars, except one, which is fiberglass, are used on the road and sometimes for racing. I have no idea who drives them, but many have a historic plate that says “horseless carriage.”

Jeorg took a lot of pictures. So did everyone else. The museum was cool and soothing, and if you really know and love cars, you could spend a day or more there. Many of the older cars and even the race cars are beautiful. Many exposed motors also were displayed, although I failed to appreciate them. Much of what Carl said was over my head. For instance, a very famous car, the 1939 Mercedes W154–the Silver Arrow, had twelve cylinders in vee formation, double overhead camshafts, two Roots-type superchargers 2962cc, with 483 hp at 7800 rpm.

I just like the way old cars look., but it reportedly could go 190 miles per hour.

                                     The famous Mercedes-Benz W154/39 142


                                                  Sometimes it’s even raced

After hours of ooing and ahhing over cars, We ate lunch at a nearby restaurant called Spanky’s Speakeasy, after one of the characters in the 1955 TV show The Little Rascals. Unlike the sleek, crisp Revs Institute, Spanky’s is chock full of all kinds of old-time memorabilia, and it has been in the same location for over 30 years.

        Spanky’s ladies room decor

When it was time to pay the bill, the waitress provided a pen, which was the biggest surprise of the day.
It was blue and silver at proclaimed “SUNY Canton Alumni.” (This pen was a long way from its upstate New York location.) My Mom, who died several years ago at age 93 in Florida, was a 1940 Canton alumna.

     A long way from Canton, N.Y.

The waitress had no idea where or when she got it. Two days earlier, I had received some photographs and documents from my cousin—including my mom’s diploma and yearbook. And now I have a pen.

Life throws you memories when you least expect them.

Car in the wall at Spanky’s