Ready to launch

26 August, 2015
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Yes, Kim, I know. I’m fixing to jet to the school house for the students’ first day back. Definitely looking forward to seeing everyone and getting some initial sounds out of what I hope will be a few good ensembles this year.

Also on the schedule is my dual enrollment history class (Western “classical” music from circa 900 through 1940), which I enjoy very much.

I can’t remember a year when I didn’t look forward to hitting that first day — either as a teacher or a student. Subsequent days had varying levels of enthusiasm ;-) but I do love what I do, and can’t really imagine having chosen another career.

I don’t mind when people razz me good-naturedly about having “summers off” (a misnomer). I remind them that my low salary has the last laugh, so all jokes about my cushy life are taken with a smile when I get a notion to gripe about having to get up at 4:45 every morning after a summer of sleeping in until, oh, 5:45 every morning.

What was your favorite part about starting school? Seriously, a huge memory from my childhood was the fall weather. It smelled so good outside. Of course, we never started school in August back in the 60s. I’m not sure exactly when it was, but I’m certain it was well after Labor Day, because I remember going to and from school wearing a coat. Another lasting memory: I loved the way my 3rd grade classroom smelled when we were working with construction paper and glue. My teacher, Miss Rinehart, wore perfume I loved. I liked the (now-unpopular and disproved) round-robin reading time, and always volunteered to read first. (“Let’s give someone else a turn now, OK?”)

I didn’t enjoy recess, because I was afraid of some boys who always picked on me. They were not nice. They’re probably corporate presidents now.

I hope your week is going well, fiends. I’ll check in after the craziness!

Here’s your round tuit

19 August, 2015
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Grandma Johnson had one of these on her refrigerator in magnet form, and as a young kid, I remember figuring it out by reading it aloud. I thought it was clever, and it reminded me of the dozens upon dozens of times I’d heard my parents or grandparents utter its associated phrase: I’ll do it when I get around to it. Well, here’s your “round tuit.” Silly grownups. ;-)

Several books are on my “round tuit” list, and last night I took the first one off the pile. I must say I never realized how much we women owe to Nellie Bly.

Born Elizabeth Cochran in 1864, she lived a decent early childhood until her father passed away, leaving no will for his many children, and therefore rendering the family unable to lay claim to his estate. She tried odd jobs and school to try to help her mother provide for the kids, and they all ended up in Pittsburgh, where they ran a boarding house.

It was there that Nellie read an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Dispatch by columnist (and typical 19th-century chauvinist pig) Erasmus Wilson, who wondered why women were trying to get into the work force and establish careers, when clearly, a woman’s place was cleaning, cooking, reproducing, and generally not worrying themselves with cogent thought. What were they on about anyway? All they were doing was cluttering up the workforce and making things difficult for men.

Eighteen-year-old Nellie was having none of it, and wrote an articulate and compendious rebuttal, which, while written respectfully and without snipery, drove the point right between the old geezer’s beady eyes. (You can read portions of it here, about halfway down the page.) As a result, the paper’s editor went searching for her and hired her on the spot to write for him. It was on.

So, to get around to my round tuit: I finally got around to starting Ten Days in a Mad-House, the first-person account of Nellie’s groundbreaking undercover stint in the Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum, posing as a nutter in order to write about conditions there. (You can read it for free here — fist pull for classics in the public domain.) I’m halfway through the short book, but already horrified at what was allowed to happen to not only the poor, unfortunate souls who needed psychological help, but also to perfectly sane women who were simply down on their luck, sick, or alone and unable to make ends meet.

Sidebar: I have a recurring nightmare (not often, but more than once), in which I am being dragged away to the nuthouse, and though I know I’m completely sane, every argument I try to pose to my captors falls on deaf ears. The more I insist I am normal, the more they smile benignly, nod their heads, and continue to drag me to the padded room. It’s terrifying. Am I mental? Yikes…

Investigative journalism got a tremendous shot in the arm after this book went to print. Nellie was not only a pioneer in that field, but she went on to enjoy an adventurous career in travel, making the round trip from Hoboken in 72 days, thus breaking the record set by the fictitious Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s novel, Around the World in 80 Days. 

She married old (but well) and died young, doing what she loved: writing. While short, it was a life satisfyingly lived, and I aspire to do the same. Don’t we all?

And with that, work begins. Much to do in preparation for Monday. But first — the rest of the week is the Js, the A’s, and the Thriller. Score one for my last weekend of freedom.

Happy day to you, fiends, and whatever you’ve got to do, get a round tuit.

(PS — I know we still have a problem with the bizarre extra column throwing comments up from a previous post. Some file or code is corrupt somewhere. Sunny and I are on the case.)

All right, everyone…

11 August, 2015
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It’s almost time for school to start, and I’ve been putting in some hours in the choir room, trying to get ready. The new Kronos is a beast, and with the help of BoomR to keep me from pulling out all my lovely silver locks, I will beat it down and make it obey me. Promise.

This year is going to be yet another “interesting” one. For obvious reasons, I can’t elucidate, but suffice it to say that it will prove informative for one and all. :-) My class schedule (always a concern) shook out pretty well, and I’m looking forward to my varied experiences with the choirs and the dual enrollment music history courses I’ll be teaching. And then there’s Godspell, knockin’ on the door. Gotta get busy. (Why am I all-of-a-sudden feeling sickly?) Loins are girding.

I just realized it’s been almost a week since I’ve spoken to you. Apologies! I am having some design problems with the site, as you might notice; the curtains aren’t hanging correctly, causing some of the comments to run down a newly created right-side gutter. (???) I’ve called in my WordPress wizard Sunny from Bangladesh to look at the problem. But the comment function still works, so please speak if you feel so inclined.

Godspell is the plan for the day, unless I get confirmation from my union rep in Mansfield to meet for a quick palaver. I’ll be right here at this box if you need me.

Happy Tuesday — I hope all is well in your world!

New Orleans, Day 3

4 August, 2015
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St. Louis Cathedral, which has stood on this spot since 1794.

St. Louis Cathedral, which has stood on this spot since 1794.
St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, which has stood on this spot since 1794.

What a fantastic vacation this has been. Funny, because it’s one of the shortest, but we crammed an awful lot of this old, old city into our days. We continue to be inspired and awed by the architecture. We stayed last night at the Cornstalk Fence Hotel, located in the heart of the French Quarter. I’m sure the fact it was a Monday had something to do with it, but the street was very quiet and peaceful, except for the occasional tour group stopping to take pictures.

Our room was lovely, and we talked about the millions of people who must have stayed or lived here and walked its hallways since it was built in 1816 by Francoise-Xavier Martin, who added the wrought-iron fence to calm his homesick bride, who pined for her home in Iowa — hence, the Cornstalk name.

General Jackson and a statue.

General Jackson and a statue.

After check-in, we headed off to the French Market for the morning, and did some outdoor shopping. We strolled through Jackson Square, and took some pictures. :-) Parched from being outside, we rested for a bit inside the Shops at Jackson Brewery, where the main floor is full of Jax Beer memorabilia. And of course, we had to get a namesake photo, right?

After some more shopping (the Thriller bought me two pretty dresses, yay) and going by Café du Monde again and finding it crawling with overheated tourists again, we hiked it back to the Cornstalk, showered and changed clothes, and rested in the AC before going to the Clover for a late takeout lunch.

The Clover, on Bourbon Street, is about as big as your living room, but frequented by locals and celebrities.

The Clover, on Bourbon Street, is about as big as your living room, but frequented by locals and celebrities.

Known for their hamburgers, we heard great things from the locals about them. While we didn’t get a hamburger, the sandwiches we ate were delicious.

After lunch, we relaxed. We talked about what was our favorite part, then spent some quiet time on the balcony, followed by a movie and drifting off.

This morning, we’re headed for Athens, Alabama, where we’ll hole up for the night (no 14-hour drives for mama, thanks). We’ll stop at the Tennessee Pecan Company for some treats, then head for home tomorrow morning.

Have I thanked you for indulging me and looking at my pictures and reading my silliness? If not, thank you. It’s the interaction between us that keeps this little online circus going. I heart you all! And that’s a wrap from NOLA, where the bon temps definitely roulezed. ;-)


New Orleans, Day 2

3 August, 2015
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OK, first — the beignet thing. I mentioned on Facebook yesterday that they were “meh,” and much like some reactions I’ve seen from my seafood-loving friends who are quite — shall we say — freakishly enthusiastic when confronted with people whose taste preferences differ from theirs (“WHAT? YOU WON’T EAT OYSTERS? YOU’RE NUTS!!!”), I expected an upbraiding from beignet devotees. Turns out, the blowback wasn’t bad at all. :-)

Seriously, since we’re trying to cut down on sugar, we planned to get one beignet and split it. I was going to brush off the inch of powdered sugar they put on top and just try the pastry to say I’d tried one, and the Thriller was going to finish the rest. Unsure about whether we’d encounter capacity crowds at Café du Monde again, when I called room service to order a pot of coffee, I asked for one beignet to be sent up as well. ONE beignet. They arrived with this. Of course, after I’d had my “bite” and posted my reaction about it, I found I couldn’t let all that breakfast just sit there, so I ended up trying more of them to see if they “grew” on me. Big mistake. When you’ve been off sugar since June…anyway, after recovering, it was off to our busy day.

There is a reason why the World War II Museum ranks #1 out of 478 on the list of “things to do in New Orleans” at TripAdvisor. If you ever visit NOLA, this venue must be on your list of things to see. It would take much longer than what I have this morning to list all the reasons your perspectives will be challenged (and changed) after seeing it, but trust me: see it you must.

Suffice it to say that if the United States military, FDR and Congress were worried only about avoiding American casualties, our country would be quite different today. Of course, this was a different time and Hitler declared war on us, but had he and Mussolini been treated diplomatically, the USA we know today — warts and all — would not exist. Sixty-five million military and civilian lives were lost from 1939-1945 worldwide; the film we watched, the interviews and interactive pieces we heard, the photographs and the artifacts we saw drove the point home over and over: this war couldn’t have been conducted any other way with the end result being the defeat of Germany and Japan. I was in tears at the end. It took several hours to see what we saw, and we didn’t see everything.

One of many beautifully maintained Garden District homes

One of many beautifully maintained Garden District homes

Afterwards, we took a taxi back to the hotel and mapped out our Garden District walking tour. This neighborhood of historic homes large and small, just minutes from the crazy downtown city streets, is so quiet you can whisper to each other on the sidewalks and still be heard. It was a beautiful day to stroll down street after street and admire the architecture, while imagining what it might have been like to live here in the 19th century. They have withstood war and fire and weather, and most are just as beautiful now as the day they were built.

Two of the "Seven Sisters" homes

Two of the “Seven Sisters” homes

We had the taxi driver drop us at Prytania Street, where we walked for an hour and saw dozens of beautiful houses. The Seven Sisters homes (near-identical houses, built next to one another in “shotgun” style, meaning that if one fired a shotgun through the front door, the shot would exit the back door without hitting anything) looked like the kind of places I could easily make my retirement home.

Of course, I had to see Anne Rice’s former home, bringing back memories of the Mayfair and Lioncourt families in her novels. It was a great experience, and even though it was 94 degrees and sunny, we did fine — that is, until we had the bright idea to just hoof it back to the hotel instead of calling a taxi. (What were we thinking?)

We made it 1.4 miles before stopping at the 1940s-themed Soda Shop, located at the WWII Museum, for a drink before we both fell down. Neither of us had a real idea how totally gassed we were until we sat at our booth with Cokes. With over a half mile to go to Harrah’s, the Thriller decided to just hail a waiting cab outside the restaurant, and we arrived safe and sound back in the air conditioning by 6 p.m. I was fine with that. :-)

Selfie in front of the Creole Queen

Selfie in front of the Creole Queen

After showering off the dust of the road, we walked a few paces down to the river, did a little shopping at the Riverwalk Outlet, had a light dinner at Poppy’s at the Port of New Orleans, and took a stroll down the shoreline, after which we played a bit in the casino, came back upstairs, and crashed. What a day!

Today, we plan to go back to the French Quarter, do some shopping in the Market, and check into our new hotel for our final day and night in New Orleans. It’s been a blast. More tomorrow, and thanks again for following along!