Monday, February 25, 2013

Who Is This Royal Bride?

 This pretty lady, wearing a tiara and holding flowers, is a small (6 ½ by 9-inch) watercolor that I bought in a box-lot of old books at an auction last week.  At first I thought it was a print, but when I took it home and examined it closely I realized it's a skillful drawing done with watercolor paints and perhaps some ink.

Below I’ve posted a scan of a similar painting of an Eastern-style man that was in the same lot,  I assume by the same artist.

There is no signature anywhere.  On the back of the “bride” painting there are, in pencil, matting and framing instructions and the name “Mr. Patterson”.

Because she is wearing a tiara, and because her rings are prominently displayed, I’m calling this “a Royal Bride”.  At first I thought she might be one of Queen Victoria’s daughters.  I spent some time checking them out, but came up with nothing.  I thought that the hairstyle was perhaps earlier—maybe around the 1850’s (You can see examples of those severely smooth hairstyles in my blog post about “Spooky Twins” which shows a number of my daguerreotypes and ambrotypes  featuring women from that period.)

After googling  “royalty” and “tiaras”, I began to think that  she resembled  Maria Feodorovna (born Princess Dagmar--1847-1928), a Danish princess who was the mother of the assassinated Czar Nicholas of Russia.   She has a fascinating story—first she was engaged to marry the Russian heir apparent Tsarevich Nicholas of Russia but he died of meningitis in 1865, right before the wedding, and she went  back to Denmark brokenhearted.  His brother, who would become Alexander III of Russia, came to visit and console her, and they were married in Russia in 1866. 

Maria Feodorovna had a very tragic life, including the assassination of her son and grandchildren. She refused until the end of her life to believe that the Czar was really dead. She has been portrayed in a number of films and plays about Nicholas and Alexandra and the fate of their daughter Anastasia.

Unfortunately for my romantic imaginings, I slowly realized that the painting was not Maria Feodorovna, because in every photograph of her, she has very wavy hair which could not resemble that of the tiara princess.

I may have to accept that the lady in my painting is an idealized fantasy—not a real person.  (I think that is true of the turban-wearing young man in the painting below.)

But I know from experience that there are many people out there who are incredibly knowledgeable about vintage European royalty, so I’m asking:  if you recognize this beauty, let me know who she is.  If you find it difficult to leave a comment below (and many do!) then e-mail me at

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Teacher Who Inspired a City

 In yesterday's post I described Edmund Schofield, a kind of renaissance man from Worcester, MA who devoted his life to studying the history of his native city.  His last days were devoted to researching a high school teacher who, he discovered,  taught and mentored some of the finest authors and poets to come out of Worcester.  Ed sent me this article about Miss Shaughnessy but he died unexpectedly a few days later,  on April 17, 2010, before he had time to add one more name to the list of writers she inspired:  my husband Nicholas Gage.  Nick came  to Worcester at age nine after his mother was executed by Communist guerrillas during the Greek Civil War and grew up to write his mother's story in the book "Eleni" and "A Place for Us"-- about  his and his sisters' adjustment to Worcester and the father he'd never met. Miss Shaughnessy taught him in 10th grade and appointed him editor of the school paper.   She took him under her wing as she had done with so many before him. Learning that Nick was another of her students thrilled Ed in the last week of his life.  I know Ed Schofield would want this article published, and I believe that Miss Shaughnessy deserves this recognition of  what she gave to her students and to Worcester.
(Below is the dedication to her from the Classical High School yearbook of 1966)
Anna Camilla Shaughnessy, Poets’ Muse
Edmund A. Schofield

Edward Tyrrel Channing taught writing at Harvard for thirty-one years during the early nineteenth century. Among his students were such renowned authors-to-be as Emerson, Thoreau, Richard Henry Dana, Thomas Wentworth Higginson (who lived in Worcester for a decade before the Civil War), Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell. Quite a haul for one professor!

Yet if Harvard had its Edward Channing, Worcester’s Classical High School had its Anna C. Shaughnessy. And if Channing had his Emerson, Thoreau, Dana, Higginson, Holmes, and Lowell to brag about, Anna Shaughnessy could boast that she had fledged her very own brood of aspiring writers.

She was born in Cherry Valley in 1896 and died in 1985 at Clark Manor Nursing Home in Worcester—scarcely two and a half miles from where she was born. A devout Catholic all of her life, she received many honors from her Church, including the Pro Deo et Juventute Award from the Diocese of Worcester. She is buried in Saint John’s Cemetery.

Her father, Michael, was born in Ireland and worked as superintendent of a woolen mill in Cherry Valley. Her mother, Anne (Daly), was born in Pittsfield. The family of twelve moved into Worcester early in the twentieth century.

Anna graduated from South High School in 1913 and from Radcliffe College, Class of 1917, magna cum laude. In 1955 she received a Master’s degree in Education from Clark University. During her second year at Radcliffe she was one of only fourteen sophomores in the top tier of honor students. According to the Boston Globe, a Radcliffe honors student had to have “Very high academic distinction and concurrent testimony in her favor from a sufficient number of instructors.” In 1916, while at Radcliffe, she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

After Radcliffe, she taught for a year in Newton and then, for two years, in Millbury. In January 1921 she came to Classical, where she taught English until her retirement in 1966, the year in which Classical High School was shut down. For several years she also was head of the English Department of the City’s schools.

In the words of one Classical graduate, she “was an inspirational teacher.” Indeed, less than five years after her arrival, the Class of 1925 would dedicate its yearbook to “Anna C. Shaughnessy, a brilliant scholar, a thorough teacher, and a true and sympathetic friend.” The accompanying photograph shows a beautiful young woman of serious mien with haunting, brooding, almost sad eyes.

Anna Shaughnessy labored for the City of Worcester for decades. And yet who (beyond co-workers, close friends, and family—and the many young people whose lives she must have touched) has ever heard of her? Granted, she once did receive a key to the City for her work with young people, but that is all. She has been swallowed up in undeserved oblivion.

It is high time Worcester further recognized this dedicated, “inspiring” teacher, perhaps through a scholarship or prize for aspiring writers. (Worcester County Poetry Association, please take note.) For through her long teaching career she would bring honor and credit to our City. Not just directly, through her labors with young people, but indirectly, through the later high triumphs of certain of her students—at least three of whom rose to become very well known writers. And who could possibly calculate her citywide influence during her years as head of the City schools’ English Department?

Three renowned writers that we know about were Stanley J. Kunitz (1905–2006, Classical 1922), Charles J. Olson (1910–1969, Classical 1928), and Milton Meltzer (1915–2009, Classical 1932). Do these names ring any bells for you? They should!

Stanley Kunitz was a self-starter at Classical if ever there was one. He seems to have chosen the vocation of poet from the start, which does not seem to have been the case with Charles Olson. In his Junior year at Classical Kunitz was assistant editor of the new student literary magazine, The Argus, and held that post until his Senior year, when he rose to become “Editor-in-Chief.” He was a prolific writer for The Argus and a top scholar.

According to a reliable source who knew her well, Stanley Kunitz studied with Anna Shaughnessy.

In recognition of his stature as a poet, Kunitz would serve two terms as Consultant on Poetry to the Library of Congress—in effect, as Poet Laureate—and one term as actual Poet Laureate of the United States, after that post had been created. According to Wikipedia, “He was considered by many observers to be the most distinguished and accomplished poet in the United States at the time of his death in 2006.” Professor Michael D. True of Worcester believes that Kunitz’s high reputation will continue to grow over the years. I agree.

The documented evidence for Anna Shaughnessy’s influence on Charles Olson is much stronger than that for Kunitz, and the influence was profound. “She was the teacher of Stanley Kunitz,” says my source, who knew Olson very well and is sure that Miss Shaughnessy “must have mentioned him and talked about him to Charles, because it was not too long before that that [Kunitz] had graduated, and, of course, came quite early into the poetical scene.” Indeed, Kunitz’s first book of poems, Intellectual Things, was published in 1930, only two years after Olson graduated.

Olson was an outstanding student in all subjects, but (my source says), his principal interest probably “would have been in English literature because there was a teacher whom I considered an inspirational teacher, and I know has had a great deal of influence on a good many people.” That teacher was Anna Shaughnessy.

In his senior year Olson placed third in a national oratorical contest, winning a thrilling ten-week tour of Europe along with the other top winners. From Classical he went first to Wesleyan University and then, after receiving a Master’s degree there, to Harvard, though he did not finish. For his part, Kunitz had graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in 1926 and went on to earn a Master’s there.

Unlike Kunitz, it took Olson some time to settle on his métier. Not especially interested in poetry during his high school years, once he did settle on it he excelled and is today considered one of the twentieth century’s most important American poets. His influence has even spanned the Atlantic, reaching to important poets in Britain.

In 1969 Olson wrote to Anna Shaughnessy, by then retired from teaching. “My dear Anna S,” he began, continuing somewhat incoherently, “You shldn't at all be surprised I've carried you as close to my heart as the first days I ever sat in your class.” (Chalk up the quirky spelling and syntax to poet’s license.)

Milton Meltzer, the third writer influenced by Anna Shaughnessy, though not a poet, entered Classical in 1928, graduating in 1932. He died in New York City on September 19th of last year. A prolific writer, he would write more than one hundred books on such subjects as Jewish, African–American, and American history, primarily for young people.

Few of the teachers at Classical were interested in ideas, he felt, but simply wanted students to memorize facts, dates, and names. One notable exception was Anna C. Shaughnessy. My source tells me the same.

In his charming little reminiscence of Worcester, Starting from Home, Meltzer notes that it was she who introduced him to Thoreau, one of his favorite authors: he would later write a biography of Thoreau, edit a collection of Thoreau’s political essays, and collaborate on another book about Thoreau.

Years later, his life, gone awry, was redeemed when he reread a climactic passage from Thoreau’s book Walden.

But let him tell the story.

Miss Shaughnessy “asked whether I knew of this Massachusetts writer who’d lived only some 40 miles away, in Concord,” he writes. “I didn’t.”

“‘Thoreau was born in 1817, about a hundred years before you,’ Miss Shaughnessey said. ‘But I think, when you read him, you’ll find his ideas, his way of looking at life, will mean as much to you as if he were born yesterday.’”

“So I started on a copy of Walden that I borrowed from her,” Meltzer writes.

His book has the rhythm and flow of the changing seasons. And out of that pattern came his central symbol—rebirth and renewal, not only of the world around us, but of our own inner development.

Many years after my first encounter with Thoreau, when I was deeply troubled by the course my life was taking, I went back to Walden once more. On the last page I read this passage:
”Every one has heard the story . . . of a strong and beautiful bug which came out of the dry leaf of an old table . . , hatched perchance by the heat of an urn. Who does not feel his faith in a resurrection and immortality strengthened by hearing of this? Who knows what beautiful and winged life, whose egg has been buried for ages under many concentric layers of woodenness in the dead dry life of society, . . . may unexpectedly come forth from amidst society’s most trivial and handselled furniture, to enjoy its summer life at last!”

As I finished reading those lines, I began to sob. The image of a bug emerging into life after all those years in its wooden tomb, touched something deep in me. The tears poured out in relief. Feelings that had been frozen so long, melted in a rush. My wife, who had come running at the sound of crying, looked at me in amazement, then put her arms around me. I felt like one reborn. . . .

And so it was that Anna Camilla Shaughnessy, a brilliant Irish–Catholic girl from little Cherry Valley, Mass., would help three fledgling writers (and more) rise to the beautiful, winged, “summer life” of poetry and literary prose. I doubt that Worcester high school students have ever seen, before or since, the likes of her. As a high school teacher, she can have had no peers.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

An Ecstatic Historian and An Inspiring Teacher Who Deserve to Be Remembered

I never met Edmund Schofield face to face, and I only met him over the telephone six days before he died unexpectedly on April 17, 2010.  He was calling, he said, because he wanted to talk to my husband, author Nicholas Gage, but when I replied Nick was out of the country, he started asking me questions.

Ed Schofield was a passionate scholar, researcher and historian.  He spent his life unearthing secrets of the history of his hometown, Worcester, MA, and he did it out of his love of knowledge—no one was paying him.  His goal, as he told me, was to complete the book he was writing about Worcester’s history.

I recognized a kindred soul in the voice on the phone.  Ed was as excited about unearthing a nugget of information as I was when I learned the sitter’s identity or the story hidden in an antique photograph (such as the ones in the list at right.)

When Ed called me, he was on the track of a deceased high school English teacher named  Anna Shaughnessy, (1896-1985), an Irish spinster who taught for 45 years in Worcester’s Classical High School.  Ed was set on rescuing her from obscurity after he discovered that Miss Shaughnessy had taught and inspired several of Worcester’s most celebrated authors and poets, including Stanley J. Kunitz (one-time Poet Laureate),   poet Charles J. Olson and Milton Meltzer, author of more than 100 books on such subjects as Jewish, African-American and American history, primarily for young people.

The reason he was calling, Ed said, was to ask if by any chance my husband, Nicholas Gage, an author who had attended Classical High School, had been a student of Miss Shaughnessy as well.

I didn’t know the answer, I told him, but I’d ask the next time Nick called from Greece. 

Our conversation continued, because I learned that Ed was an expert on the subject of historical photographs, especially the daguerreotypes taken of Henry David Thoreau in 1856 by the Benjamin Maxham studio in Worcester.  In fact, Ed used to be president of the Thoreau Society.  The three Thoreau daguerreotypes are now in museums, he told me, but one of two ambrotypes made of him in New Bedford in 1861 has gone missing, firing the dreams of photo collectors like myself.

As soon as we hung up the phone, Ed e-mailed me a half dozen of his articles on Worcester abolitionists, John Brown and Harper’s Ferry, Thoreau and “Miss Anna Camilla Shaughnessy, Poets’ Muse.”

The next day, after my husband called from Greece, I sent a quick email to Ed, with the following message: 

“Hi Ed, I talked to Nick this morning and he said that, yes, he had Miss Shaughnessy for 10th grade and she made him editor of the paper and he was one of her favorite pupils and he thinks he was in her class in 11th grade too.

So you have another Worcester writer mentored by her…”

Seven minutes later he replied: 

Dear  Joan,

Wonderful, wonderful wonderful!

Yes, yes, Nicholas will be in my article—a coup.  What a school that must have been…

More later, after I ponder and am able to absorb your message.

I’m ecstatic!  I’m sure you know how writers can become ecstatic—not to mention collectors like you.

O happy day.


 Ten minutes after that, having pondered, he sent me another e-mail:


S. N. Behrman, Stanley Kunitz, Charles Olson, Milton Meltzer, Donald Baker, Nicholas Gage---omigosh, what a "haul." Those in color I know had Miss Shaughnessy. Behrman was too early for her; Baker I'm still working on!

I'm absolutely thrilled to have Nicholas in the lineup. His “A Place for Us” will now be in the list of autobiographical works having to do with growing up in Worcester, along with Behrman's “The Worcester Account”  and Meltzer's “Starting from Home”. I wonder if there are more.

Really, I feel there was a kind of magic in Worcester in those days, and I'm thrilled to be in contact with one of Miss Shaughnessy's former students.


I could see that Ed was falling in love with the Irish spinster who devoted her life to teaching and mentoring high school students who would become notable authors and poets.  I understood perfectly.  It’s how artists fall in love with their models, biographers fall in love with their subjects, and antique photo collectors fall in love with long-dead people, especially those they’ve identified and researched.  It’s an intimidating feeling to hold in your hand the image of someone who sat in front of a camera 170 years ago and to realize that you are the only living being on the face of the earth who knows the identity and significance of that person.

That’s sort of how I feel about Edmund Schofield.  Five days after he wrote “I’m ecstatic!  O happy day”,  Ed died as he was sitting on a bench in Worcester’s restored Union Station, waiting for a train to take him into Boston—no doubt to do more research. 

His obituary said that Ed’s only close family member was a sister. I was pleased to learn that his papers and research were going to  “The Walden Woods Project” Library at the Thoreau Institute in Lincoln, MA.  On its web site is written: “The Edmund A. Schofield Collection consists of materials collected and created by Edmund A. Schofield Jr. – botanist, ecologist, educator, editor, writer and conservationist; former director and president of the Thoreau Society; a founding director and president of the Thoreau Country Conservation Alliance; and president of Walden Forever Wild.”

So all his research and his unfinished masterwork about Worcester history are in a library where they can be accessed.  But he left me with six of his articles on my computer, including the one about Miss Shaughnessy, to which he was never able to add his latest discovery—that she mentored author Nicholas Gage as well.

Having Ed haunting my computer for three years has troubled me, because I know that his eloquent article on Miss Shaughnessy deserves to be read.  She was an extraordinary woman (and a Worcester treasure) who deserves to be celebrated, not lost to history.  So in my next post, on Friday, I will publish “Anna Camilla Shaughnessy, Poets’ Muse” by Edmund A. Schofield.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Amalia's South Beach Valentine's Day

 Granddaughter Amalia and her parents were back home in swinging South Beach, Miami for the week leading up to Valentine's Day, before returning to quaint, quiet, colonial Granada, Nicaragua until April.  So Nick and I, better known as Papou and Yiayia, flew down to hang out with them.

Here are some of the ways Amalía celebrated the South Beach way.  She greeted us at dawn on  Thursday with a valentine cookie each and the words: "I love you Yiaya.  I love you Papou." (And I think she did it unprompted by parents!)

Horseback time with Papi .

Opening a musical Valentine.

Rockin' out to her musical "Dora the Explorer" guitar.

Her favorite game is opening an entire box of kiddie band-aids and using them to decorate Papou's legs and Yiayia's arms.

Lunch with Mommy, while sharing sun screen, on Lincoln Road.
Watching the balloon sellers and playing with friends on the grassy knoll.

Sliding at the park with Papi.

Happy  hour at the Ritz with friends.

While making the biggest possible mess with the seashell gravel.

And finally, Valentine's Day dinner on Lincoln Road with Papou and Yiayia.

Mas pollo, please!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Let St. Anthony Find Your True Love (A Valentine Day Ritual from Mexico)

(Back by popular demand! Two years ago, in February of 2011, while I was traveling in Mexico, I posted this story about a ritual and a restaurant I encountered in Morelia.  The restaurant owners claim that thousands of women have found their soul-mates thanks to their "shrine" to St. Anthony.  I'm reprinting this  because the post turned out to be so popular  And at the end I'm adding a photograph of the Spanish- language pledge to the saint posted in the restaurant, because so many women have asked me for it.   Here's hoping that it will work for many more in 2013.)

On Tuesday, arriving in Morelia, Mexico on Day One of the Monarch Butterflies and Michoacån Cuisine tour, I didn’t see a single butterfly but did learn about a place that may be more efficient than E-Harmony and in helping single ladies find the man of their dreams.

It was San Miguelito, the restaurant in Morelia where we ate the first night.  It calls itself a “Restaurante, Bazar, Galeria, & Museo” and they’re not kidding. 

 In addition to scrumptious Mexican food, they sell Day of the Dead figures, Botero-like fat little angels, a wooden chair that is also a skeleton, and aprons imprinted with Guadalupe.

 But the main draw is the back room, which, in addition to dining tables and chairs, holds more than 700 images of St. Anthony of Padua all UPSIDE DOWN.

For over twenty years, according to proprietor Cynthia Martinez, single women have been thronging to this room to beg St. Anthony to intercede for them and send their destined mate to their side.

 There are bulletin boards filled with photos and thanks from satisfied customers who have finally met their soul mate.

Here is what you have to do:  take 13 coins of the same  denomination from two bags hanging nearby.  Line up 13  coins on the base of the main St Anthony statue.   Walk around the statue 13 times.  Pray to St. Anthony.  (Suggested prayer below.  The restaurant also provides a Spanish-language version.)

There is a three-hole notebook below the statue on which you can write your specific request.  One woman covered 21 pages detailing her requirements in a mate.

Nearby is a shelf holding some of the dozens of notebooks  which have been filled in the past two decades with single women’s requests.

Back in the U.S. I had heard that people wanting to sell their homes would bury a statue of St Anthony in the front year, upside down of course, to speed up the sale. (A new friend, Christina, tells me that that’s actually St. Joseph.)

I think the point of the St. Anthony ritual is that, when your wish is fulfilled, you will release the saint and turn him back over.  But the St. Anthonys at San  Miguelito restaurant in Morelia have been standing upside-down for so long, while bringing couples together, that I  don’t think they have any hope of landing on their feet again.

Here is a poster on the restaurant’s wall advertising the Saint’s miraculous powers to lead you to love.
If you want to try this ritual at home:  get your own statue of St. Anthony and 13 identical coins and give it a try.  Here is a suggested prayer I found on the internet.  If you would like to have the Spanish-language prayer given out by San Miguelito Restaurant, a photograph of it is below.

Oh Wonderful St.Anthony, glorious on account of the fame of thy miracles, and through the condescension of Jesus in coming in the form of a little child to rest in thy arms, obtain for me of his bounty the grace which I ardently desire from the depths of my heart. Thou who was so loving towards miserable sinners, regard not the unworthiness of those who pray to thee, but the glory of God that it may be once again magnified by this request which I now make to you. Amen

Here is  a photograph of the St. Antonio pledge that was posted at the restaurant:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Rolling Crone and Elizabeth Keckley together in The New York Times On Line

The three verified images of Elizabeth Keckley
           Last Thursday I got on a plane for Miami, just missing the blizzard called Nemo.  This long-planned trip brought me to South Beach to help babysit granddaughter Amalia while daughter Eleni was traveling to South Carolina to promote her newest book “Other Waters.”

           On the same day I left Boston, Feb. 7,  the New York Times on-line published an article I wrote for them about Elizabeth Keckley, the mulatto former slave who became  the dressmaker and confidant of Mary Todd Lincoln.  Here’s where you can see it:

          The article, “Mrs. Keckley has Met with Great Success”, appeared in a section of The Times’ “Opinionator” section called “Disunion” which “follows the Civil War as it unfolded.”  Appearing in this section inevitably brings a crowd of readers and many comments, some of them from experts in every detail of the Civil War (which I am not!)

          I first discovered Elizabeth Keckley – an extraordinary woman who bought freedom from slavery for herself and her son with her skills at sewing—when, in 2007, I bought on E-Bay a cased ambrotype portrait of a mixed-race woman. Pinned to the velvet lining was a scrap of paper with the words “Elizabeth Keckley, Formerly a Slave”.  Researching her story was a revelation to me—of what a woman born into slavery managed to achieve in the nineteenth century. I posted my first story about her in “A Rolling Crone on Sept 27, 2009.

          A month later, in Oct. 23, 2009, I wrote a second post on Keckley, comparing the only three known images of her to the woman in the ambrotype I had bought.  Here’s the post: 

         In the end I realized sadly that my image of “Elizabeth Keckley” was not authentic—there was too much disparity between the verified images of Keckley and the one I bought.  But I didn’t mind that much, because buying the image had introduced me to such a fascinating person.

          I read two books about Keckley’s life and I tried unsuccessfully to interest The New York Times in publishing  an article about Keckley, but did not succeed.  Then, a few months ago, the film “Lincoln” appeared and snapped up a lot of nominations for the Oscars.  Evidently many who saw the film were intrigued by the character of Elizabeth Keckley,  (portrayed by actress Gloria Reuben)  in a relatively minor role, and they wanted to learn more about her. 

           I knew this was true because the number of hits on my old posts about Keckley suddenly soared as people began Googling her.  I tried again to interest The Times in a piece about her and last Thursday it appeared in “Disunion.” (And yesterday’s Sunday Times Book Review contained a full-page ad for the new novel “Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker” by Jennifer Chiaverini, which is already number 11 on the Best Seller list.)

           So far my essay in “Disunion” has received 34 comments—some critical, some favorable.  The most common complaints claim that it’s inaccurate to say that Mary Todd Lincoln was institutionalized by her son Robert when she  “descended into total madness”.   He did commit her to an institution for fear that she would harm herself, but evidently she was not completely insane and was later released.

         Another criticism that frequently pops up when I write about racial issues is that it’s wrong to call mulattoes like Elizabeth Keckley or apparently-white former slaves like her son George, “African American” or  “black.”  I completely understand and agree with this point, but as one Stephen D. Calhoun wrote after a comment from the always-irate A. Powell on my “Disunion” piece:  

          In 1858 the rules of the laws of Maryland classified all mulattoes as negroes. Within the rules and laws of that era, the classification is not anachronistic. It is accurate.

         The comments I liked best were, of course, the many positive ones, especially this one from Ole Holsti in Salt Lake city, UT:

         This entire series is wonderful, and this is one of the best. Many thanks!

          Eventually, I’m told, The Times will publish a book including selected essays from the “Disunion” series, and I’m hoping that my piece on Elizabeth Keckley might be included.  Meanwhile, I’m optimistic enough to hope that in future I can interest The Times’ editors in some other essays on my special area of interest:  how the Abolitionists (as well as pro-slavery advocates) used the fairly new “science” of photography to create propaganda to promote their views.  (Some essays I've already written on that subject for "A Rolling Crone" are listed at right under the heading "The Story Behind the Photograph".)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Super Bowl & Lunar New Year Prep in One Super Day

 Golden Gate Park is ready for the Super Bowl
I thought that it just couldn’t get better than my first day in San Francisco, on Friday, with daughter Marina as my guide—first a nude-in on City Hall steps (see  my last post) then ice cream made to order at Smitten, take-out pulled pork sandwiches and wine from the Fatted Calf, a drive through Golden Gate Park, and a picnic overlooking Cliff House and the Sutro Baths.  What could top that?

Try Sunday, which combined the preparations for the Lunar New Year in Chinatown, followed by the Super Bowl starring the home team.
 Nick and I were staying at the Orchard Garden Hotel on Bush Street, so Marina and I entered through this gate to walk up Grant Street Although the Lunar New Year is on Feb. 10 and the amazing night-time parade is on Feb. 23, the local populace was out and about making preparations.
 Red lanterns and red good-luck symbols to buy for the house
 There is a lot that I don’t know about how the Lunar (Asian? Chinese?) New Year is celebrated in San Francisco, but here’s what I do know:  2013 is the Year of the Snake. (So is my birth year, 1941. That makes me a snake.) 
 You have to buy flowers to decorate the house
Here’s what I learned from a wall hanging in Chinatown: “The Year of the Snake is filled with chaos and is unpredictable. It is a time for inquiry, reflection and careful exploration.  Snake people possess a profound wisdom.  Many are blinded by their hypnotic charm, elegance and style.  They are always on a mission.”

Kids were standing in line to be photographed with the Lion that will lead the parade.
At least I think it's a lion. Maybe it's a dragon.

 This was a man with a message.

This man was playing music on an Asian instrument

 We stopped for Dim Sum at the Great Eastern Restaurant at 649 Jackson Street.  President Obama stopped here for take-out exactly a year before.  He carried the bag out himself.  Afterwards the media turned it into a scandal because they learned this was one of the few restaurants still selling shark fin soup after it was banned at the start of 2012.   (Who else tells you this stuff?)

On our way out we saw this fellow in costume who was being photographed  with families.  He was as popular as Santa Claus in the Mall before Christmas.  I did a little research and think he may be the Jade Emperor.  I also think he has something to do with AT&T, but I don't know what.

He was very popular and he made the same gesture with all comers. I think it was a blessing.

We also saw a long line of older people waiting for the free health clinic.

And we saw a model modelling

And some monkeys avoiding evil.

As the sun set, San Franciscans gathered around television sets inside and outdoors to watch the game.  It was very intense.

After the power went out in New Orleans it got more exciting, but the way it ended left all San Franciscans feeling very dejected.

 Especially Seamus.  He was devastated.

But this was a birthday party as well as a Super Bowl party, and the ladies lit the candles.

And the birthday boy, Matt, blew them out.

And Geana and Marina assured Seamus there would be another chance at the Super Bowl next year.