Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Sepia Saturday 368: Ssssnakes

I have a few snake photos. Where we live in Southern California, they're abundant. We see them frequently. But the fifteen-year-old photo of the snake around my neck was taken in Bali at a touristy view stop. The man was offering snake "feels" for money. I have to say I'm rather ashamed of participating in this, looking back.

My cat Pink plays with the small snakes that slither onto the patio. We discourage this but still, cats are cats and we catch him at it occasionally.

My friend Diep posed with this snake in the Mekong Delta...I can't remember exactly why. I think it
may have been another paid photo-op tourist thing. I was on a food tour with a great bunch of Canadians I bumped into on-line. I had been all set to go on a Vietnam tour with food people from Orange County. Then 9-11 happened and everything was canceled except this Canadian tour in November 2011. I met people in the group who have become friends for life. Diep was so young....since then, she built a tour company, married and divorced a Canadian, established herself in the Montreal food world and is building a village north of Vietnam (this is a long and complex story I can't do justice here).  She is the hardest working person I know.
Once my eye got past the snake in the prompt photo I began to appreciate the beauty of the patterns and looked for similar images. I think it goes well on stockings.

Finally I remembered my husband's cousin's husband who is almost completely tattooed from neck to toe. His back is currently in progress and the image incorporates a couple of snakes. It's a work of art.

Slither over to Sepia Saturday  to read sssssstories by others.

Saturday, May 13, 2017


Still photo from "Bob's Love Affair" (Cinema 1915) New York Public Library. 
As I looked at the photo prompt this week, I thought about re-cycling the photo of my rich uncle, James Armstrong, because of his hair. 

But then I began imagining the organist playing as the silent movie "Bob's Love Affair" flitted across the screen. One thing led to another and I stumbled on the Fotoplayer. 

The Fotoplayer was used in theaters in Canada and U.S. It was advertised as “The Ninth Wonder of the World, The Musical Masterpiece that Expresses the Griefs, Joys, and Triumphs of the Artists; that Supplies the Unspoken Words in the Pictures—Magnificent Orchestral and Organ Tones."

I guess this clever invention put a few organ players out of work, or they learned to operate the device. If you listen to the Youtube performance below you'll realize it's unlikely that these particular zany sound effects would be appropriate for "Bob's Love Affair," although looking at Bob and his small crowd of accusers? admirers? maybe it would work. 

The Fotoplayer was produced between 1912 and 1925 and then it was all over when "talkies" began. In today's parlance, we'd say the industry was disrupted big-time. According to Wikipedia, between 8000 and 12000 were made during that time period. Only twelve were still playable as of 2012. I found one that was sold by Sotheby's in 2012 for $360,000.00.

You can read more about the Fotoplayer here if you're interested. If you'd rather read interesting stories inspired by today's prompt, get on over to Sepia Saturday.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

My Bad Habit

The candies rattled as I eased a box off the pantry shelf. “Into the pinknwhites again?” my husband asked from another room. Damn it. I was usually good at slipping a box out of hiding without making a peep. My stash of candies lived in the darkest reaches of the pantry behind the rarely-used Cuisinart, the eight-gallon soup pot and a stack of twenty non-stick muffin tins. Nobody ventured into that section of the closet except Pink the cat, looking for something alive he could kill and eat.

I wasn't that far gone...killing for my candies. At least not then. From what I knew of addiction, denial loomed large in the diagnosis and treatment. Could I be sure I wasn’t dangerous?

Admittedly the substance I abused had a deceptively benign name...Good and Plenty! While it sounded much more positive than heroin or cocaine - too much of anything is too much. I realized my “GP” problem had exceeded bad habit status and drifted into addiction when we were traveling in Asia, my supply was running out and I had to mete out chips and morsels into small doses in order to make it through the trip. A half-lozenge a day is how I survived the last week. I’d hit bottom.

My Good and Plenty problem began years prior with the 16 grays of radiation I absorbed for tumor eradication. The offending benign growth in my brain was neatly zapped but there was corollary damage to my perception of taste. My tongue, formerly bathed in a pleasant neutral bath of saliva, gradually began perceiving phantom tastes...a gush of acidity, a dash of bitterness. The very organ I used to earn a living turned against me! There were other symptoms from the tumor - my right foot was permanently itchy, my left ear screeched, whistled and hummed non-stop, cognitive problems waxed and waned. Each of these perception problems bothered me intensely for a while but then, the brain as it does, adjusted and the itchy foot for example, was incorporated into my new normal. Taste perception problems would also have faded out of my daily consciousness had I not spent years training myself to be acutely aware of taste. How ironic.

The first time I tasted a Good and Plenty, post-treatment, I felt a rush of relief almost like euphoria. I consumed a box at one sitting and bought another. My husband, seeing my improved mood, bought me more. Why not..what the hell. It was a simple solution to a complex neurological problem. We made regular runs to the dollar store buying twenty boxes at a time. I ate nineteen and a half boxes of each purchase. My husband, feigning enthusiasm, ate one-half box for show. I caught him with a raised eyebrow watching me sucking and slurping candy after candy.

After a couple of months, I gained a few pounds and became aware of a sugar rush that now accompanied the taste relief. I began falling asleep, almost passing out, after an evening of munching. I resolved to quit, but couldn’t make it through an evening without a fix. I’d get up in the middle of the night rooting around in the closet looking for an overlooked box. My husband found me unconscious on the couch, pinkish drool staining my pyjamas, Pink, the cat looking on with feline disgust. My husband began to worry. I started sneaking around.

After the Asia trip and my realization that I was an addict, I resolved again to quit. And I did, cold turkey. A support group would have made the journey easier, but there wasn’t one for Good and Plenty abusers. In today’s interconnected world I could likely get a group together via the Friends of Fallbrook facebook pages! I’m keeping the option in mind because I can feel myself slipping out of control again. Let’s see...we can call the group AAA - Altoid Abusers Anonymous.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Sepia Saturday #366: Menu Memories

You wonder about the "sardine on plate". How else would it be the can?

Having worked in the food business for forty plus years I have no shortage of menu memories. Perhaps because I'm sweltering in Bali, reminiscing about frozen foods appeals to me this week.

When I first began consulting, eons ago, I worked for Wolfgang Puck, of Spago fame, who was just beginning his frozen food company. The first product was to be a line of frozen desserts popular in the restaurant: Marjolaine, Apple tart with caramel sauce, Pecan tart.

I spent several days in the kitchen at Spago observing the creation of the desserts to begin planning how we would produce them commercially. I watched for a while and then began making then myself, the only way I learn anything. I tried to intrude as little as possible in the restaurant operation. At that time Spago was the hottest spot in town and attracted a high expectation crowd who wouldn't stand for even a hiccup in the place. They painted the interior once a month to keep the place looking fresh and sparkling.
The pristine Villeroy and Boch china was kept under lock and key.

I carefully cleaned as I went about my business and gathered my waste products in a designated plastic garbage bag in the kitchen. When I emerged for the first time to deposit my bag in the dumpster, out of the shadows popped a dozen photographers with flash bulbs popping. "What's happened?" I wondered looking around the trash enclosure. Later I found out the papparazzi took photos of everyone coming and going just in case a person might become famous one day. They wasted film and flash bulbs on me.

I wonder if some Sepian years from now (an Alan type) will find the negatives from those shots of me, wide-eyed like a deer caught in headlights, clutching my bag, skulking through the shadows and wonder about what was happening.

A few months later I was a customer in the place when I heard a clatter behind me as John Travolta and a date climbed over the back wall. They would have passed through the garbage enclosure to get there. Those paparazzi knew what they were doing!

Halfway through the work on the desserts, the marketing people decided to change direction, and sell WP frozen pizza instead. I was out - as there were specific pizza consultants better suited for the job. I had never been fired before nor was this, technically speaking, a firing. Consultants come and go on jobs I would realize as I continued in the business. I'd been working in the basement of a hotel in downtown LA in a bad neighbourhood . . . I should have been happy to get out of there, but I'd started out in two empty rooms and established a prototype plant. Something from nothing. Perhaps it sounds crazy but I had an acquaintance with the homeless people who lived around the area from constantly coming and going by their squats. It was wrenching to leave the little community. Life went on.

Today Puck has a large successful international business, his brand is on kitchenware, television shows, cooking schools, cookbooks galore and many food products. It's been fun to watch his success.

Grab your appetite and head over to to read more menu memories.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Villa Kupu Kupu Lovina

Our last villa of this trip, Villa Kupa Kupa is on the north side of the island in Lovina. We're right on a black sand beach with waves lapping up against our sea wall. The villa is like a small gallery of Balinese art...the collection of the owner.

Most of the lighting is whimsical. Twenty or thirty paper and straw lanterns light up the ceiling.

Everything is it a busy mess, like it would be if I tried this? No, it's enchanting.

Gate to the beach.

The hot pink refrigerator - a symbol of the owner's dedication to color.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Sepia Saturday #365: Hanging

I've wrung dry the subject of hanging laundry and while I love shadows in the prompt photo, I have none of my own that are suitable. That left me "hanging" as far as my search for subject matter. One idle synapse snapped something over to another (I'm on vacation in Bali) and I decided to walk on the dark side.

House of the Hanged Man was painted by Cezanne in 1873 and depicts a picturesque cottage situated in Auvers near the Rue de Four. Despite the title, no suicide or hanging is known to have taken place there. Supposedly, the house had been owned by a Breton man named Penn’Du, which closely sounds like the French word for hanged man - Pendu.

While researching the Winnipeg Police Department's buffalo robe coats I stumbled on information about the last person hanged in Headingley Jail in Manitoba. What caught my attention was the fact that the hangman got a credit. His name was Camille - he was wearing a black beret and a Hawaiian shirt. Wardrobe surprise! Wouldn't you think a serious job like hanging people would call for a somber costume...a black shirt perhaps? The beret befuddled me completely. I cannot imagine why someone would dress like this to perform a hanging, but then I know no one who would take such a job.

And so I did a little more Wikipedia research and learned that Canada's "official" hangmen have been few - only three of them:

1. J Radcliffe was hired as Canada’s national hangman in 1892. One of the original stipulations in his contract with the federal government included a clause that might seem odd today, but was apparently the norm for many hangmen of that time around the world — Radcliffe was entitled to the clothes off the backs of the men he executed.

Radcliffe, sometimes spelled “Radclive”, also liked to sell lengths of rope as souvenirs as he travelled the country performing executions. The fact was, the rope used in the hangings themselves was never passed on to the hangmen. Radcliffe was once caught in a B.C. hardware store by a local sheriff; the hangman was buying extra rope. Presumably he sold lengths as "the piece of rope that hanged so-and-so".

He was British, but lived in Toronto and worked on the side as a waiter at a yacht club; he was fired when a customer recognized him from his other line of work. At the time of Radcliffe’s death, it was reported he had hanged upwards of 150 people.

2. Arthur Ellis. Arthur Ellis was the pseudonym of Arthur B. English, a British man who became Canada's official hangman in 1913, after Radclive's death. Ellis worked as a hangman in Canada until the botched execution of Thomasina Sarao in Montreal in 1935, in which she was decapitated.
He died in poverty in Montreal in July, 1938. Ellis is prominently featured in the 2009 documentary
"Hangman's Graveyard".

3. Camille Blanchard. Camille Blanchard (a pseudonym), succeeded Ellis. Blanchard was on the Quebec government payroll as hangman and executed people elsewhere in the country on a piecework basis. Blanchard carried out many executions (for which he was not paid) in the postwar period in Canada, such as the double hanging of Leonard Jackson and Steven Suchan of the Boyd Gang in 1952.

This is as close to a hangman as I've ever been. Close enough for me.

Swing over to to read other takes on the theme.

After the party

The village has returned to normal today. Ceremony is almost over...a few loose ends remain to be done. Eighteen months from now, they do it again.

Fiddling with faces of villagers I liked this effect.

Here's the offering we've had on our doorstep today. Wayan puts dozens around the property.

Waiting for a ride to Ubud for Babi Guling.

Here's how our take away box looked. The pork was not as good as we remembered.

The shrimp appetizer we had last night was pretty good..shrimp, mozzarella, beet, gazpacho sauce.

Apple tart tonight was excellent. We enjoyed it in an unusual place...a couple of pyramids for sound therapy opening tomorrow. Pyramids of Chi.

The sky was reflected in the lily pad pool.

These structures sit in a rice field.

They're down to the final details before the opening party tomorrow. Too bad we're leaving..I'd like to hear the gongs bonging.

Bali Ceremony

We were fortunate to attend a special (every 18 months) ceremony at the local village. A totally engulfing sensory experience.