Happy Halloween!


I didn’t decorate for Halloween or even for fall this year. I bought a few mums and put out a plaid tablecloth on the porch. That’s a far cry from what normally happens here but I really just wasn’t feeling it this year.

Consequently, I have no great current art to share with you in honor of Halloween. So here’s a picture from a few years ago. “Eat, drink and be scary” are fun words to live by on Halloween. . . . Or if you eat and drink too much today, weighing in tomorrow could be scary.

Interpret the message however you wish. Whatever you think about it, I hope you have a Happy Halloween!

Always Fresh



Isn’t this a great sign? It feels both vintage and new at the same time.  Always fresh seems like a pretty apt description for both their baked goods and their signage!

By the way, this was at a Tim Hortons in Canada where the service is superb and the breakfast sandwiches are actually good. They use real egg instead of that weird egg omelette thing we have in the States.

That’s all I wanted to say today. Great sign. Better breakfast up north. Carry on and have a great day!

Meeting David Grann

David GrannThis weekend I attended the West Virginia Book Festival in Charleston. They had several good authors speaking, including master storyteller David Grann. In fact, I made the two hour pilgrimage to West Virginia’s capitol city just to see Mr. Grann.

He has written a number of books but his “Killers of the Flower Moon” is one of the best pieces of nonfiction I’ve read in many years so I really had to go hear him speak.

And I’m so glad I did. 

He gave a nice presentation, complete with beautiful black and white photos to support the narrative. He even shared some materials not used in the book.

I don’t want to spoil the mystery for you but the book explores the story of those members of the Osage Indian Nation who were murdered by greedy, corrupt white men in the 1920s. The Osage money came from oil rights and members of the Osage community were millionaires many times over. In fact, they were the richest people per capita in the world at the time.

Since racism toward Native Americans prevailed in America, no one really cared that an entire community of people was being systematically killed off – another instance in a long line of reasons to be ashamed of how we have treated people in this country.

The author spent years researching this story, getting to know descendants of parties involved and embracing the Pawhuska, Oklahoma community where the events took place. His work also pieced together the early days of the FBI and how this case caused J. Edgar Hoover’s men to embrace modern and creative investigation techniques to make progress in the case.

The story is broken down into three parts – told from the perspective of the Osage, from that of the investigators and finally, in the author’s voice. It is a beautiful piece of nonfiction that I’m not adequately describing (I’m not a book reviewer and never claimed to be, friends). However, I hope you’ll take my word for it when I say this book is worth your time.

David Grann signatureWhile there I also picked up a copy of “The Old Man and the Gun” which is now a motion picture that I’m dying to go see.   He graciously signed both that and my first edition of  “The Killers of the Flower Moon.”

The event included a number of other speakers, lots of activities for the kids, a giant used book sale and many vendors representing publishers from across the region. It was a book lover’s paradise! Admission was free and parking cost just $3.

I would absolutely go back. 

I love to meet people who create something and to hear them talk about the story behind the story. It doesn’t get much better than hearing a writer speak about what motivates them to write and about what went into bringing their ideas to life. I thanked him for telling the stories that he does. After all, he’s calling attention to stories and injustices that history has all but forgotten.

Incidentally, if you’re not a reader, Mr. Grann says that Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio are adapting this book into a movie.




Remembering Sears

Sears ad.jpg

I stumbled upon this vintage Sears ad while searching for something else the other day. It was published in the October 1925 edition of McCall’s Magazine, some 93 years ago this month. It’s classic twenties advertising, heavy on text and selling a state of mind and a lifestyle rather than product.

I’ve thought about Sears a lot lately, especially since their recent bankruptcy filing. Most of the stores in my area have already closed and honestly, I didn’t shop there much in recent years. Craftsman tools have long been and remain a staple in my family. When I started my first real job as a local newspaper reporter most of my dress clothes came from there – cute little pant suits with matching scarves and nice skirt sets were readily available for reasonable prices.

But then they started making it hard to love them. Poor selection in dress clothes became the norm and what they had started to look tacky. A terrible experience with the service department severely damaged my attitude toward my closest store.

The stores had the overall feel that they wanted to keep up with the times but didn’t know how. And that seems positively tragic to me.

I mean, Sears began in a time when people depended on small neighborhood and general stores for everything they needed. Their mail order catalogs were essentially the Amazon of their day. During their hay day, you could literally buy anything you wanted from the Sears catalog. Sure, you could buy a doll, a suit of clothes and a kitchen table. You could also buy livestock and even an entire house.

If you needed it, chances are Sears could sell it to you.

In a lot of ways, the Sears catalog opened the world to people in rural areas who had mail delivery but limited access to stores.

I heard a story recently about how Sears also aided people of color who were refused service in stores but who could mail order anything they wanted. I hadn’t even thought about it from that perspective. 

Sears defined the mail order catalog and they set the gold standard with their department store model. They reinvented themselves many times over their 125 year history. To think they just couldn’t figure it out one more time is pretty sad.

When I was a kid we called the Sears catalog the Wish Book and we looked forward to its arrival every Christmas. I would dog-ear pages and draw circles around all the things I longed to find under the tree that year.

The above ad reads in part  “There is no catalog number for ‘happiness,’ but we sell it just the same. You’ll not find it illustrated, but it appears on every page.”

That’s pretty smart advertising if you ask me.

A lot has changed since 1925. Too bad Sears didn’t keep up. What’s your favorite Sears memory? Tell me about it in the comments!

Flight 93 Memorial


Earlier this week I told you that we’d talk about my recent visit to the Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Truth is, I’ve been putting off telling this story.

I visited the crash site not long after September 11th. At the time, it was just a makeshift memorial –  a chainlink fenced covered in tributes and a guard shack turned temporary visitors’ center that was manned by a volunteer. The day I visited, the elderly man who greeted us was a farmer who saw the plane go over his barn just before it crashed.

Since I was going to be in the area this month, road tripping with a good friend, it made sense to stop by and pay our respects.

This memorial is very well done. You can tell that the loved ones of the forty people aboard that plane have been involved every step of the way. You actually follow the flight path to reach the concrete and glass visitors’ center. It sits on a hill overlooking the crash site as well as a white marble Wall of Names.

It’s a sobering experience.

IMG_5315They have done a nice job telling the story of this tragedy and its place in the history of that day. They don’t romanticize anything. They don’t exaggerate. They don’t commercialize. There’s no need. They just tell the story using photos, videos and memorabilia. The last piece is a wall of names that includes all September 11th victims.

There are phones where you can hear last calls placed to loved ones.We both chose to skip that. It sounded a little more intense than either of us were prepared for that day.

You can drive to the Wall of Names but you can also walk a winding, tree-lined path. That’s the route we chose and I was glad. It was peaceful, serene and beautiful. When those young trees mature, the grounds will be absolutely gorgeous.

The newest addition to the memorial is the Tower of Voices, a 93 foot tall tower with a chime that represents each of the forty people aboard that plane. It isn’t quite done but it will be a complicated system of chimes that I’m certain will sound beautiful someday.

There were a lot of people there that day but everyone was respectful and quiet. Somber. I appreciated that. The actual crash site is sacred ground and inaccessible to the public.

I’ve been to the site twice – both spring and fall – and it was windy and cool both times. If you go, I recommend dressing in layers and allow yourself at least an hour to do everything, longer if you wish to walk the path rather than drive.

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