Monday, November 25, 2013

Larry and Me

Larry and I met in 1982 at Minute Man Printing.  I was hired to manage the copy division and Larry would come in and take over while I went to lunch. We were part of a small work force and we had a softball team and everyone had parties so we all knew each other. A few years later I left to work elsewhere as a commercial artist and then I got my real estate license. Our paths had crossed several times when he called me in 17 years later looking for an apartment. When my kids left home I sold my house in Lunenburg and moved in with my 96 year old mother in Southborough. Coincidently, I had recently bought an 1830s fixer-upper in Barre and I had planned to go out on slow days and work on it  I told Larry about the house and I said he could live there rent free if he helped fix it up. I knew he had experience in construction as he had worked with his dad who was a contractor.  He agreed with my terms. As time went on he would call with questions on a project and I would go out and work alongside him scraping paint or tearing out walls.
He treated me like I knew what I was doing and I appreciated that. .  I had been through some unpleasant relationships and decided that I wasn’t very good at choosing men so I had my life planned out for the next twenty years as an unclaimed blessing.
 I can tell you the time and location when Cupid shot his arrow into my heart and I made the astonishing discovery that I loved that man. He had made a tape of his favorite tunes and sent it to me. I was playing it on my way to work on that morning. The tune was Welcome To My World with Dean Martin. Now, I knew that song but I heard it again for the first time at that moment. I never before had that incredible certainty that I loved someone. But I wasn’t sure how he felt so I kept my feelings a secret.  I would go out to Barre and work, we’d have supper, talk or watch TV and go to our own rooms-he at one end of the hall and I at the other. One time he filled my room with lilacs from the garden and when I went to bed the room was like a fragrant bower. I got into my antique spool bed and there was a knock on the door. He came in dressed in pajamas carrying his guitar. He sat at the end of the bed and serenaded me a while and then left. I had lovely dreams.
In August he convinced me to go to the threshing bee in MN and meet his family. Wow.  Everyone had work duties. Mine was to make Saturday breakfast.  I pitched right in and made breakfast for 2000, well maybe it was only 200.
His family was so warm and friendly to me.  I was scooped up and hugged by Boomgaarden brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. It was there I learned about Larry’s Elvis act. He played along with his brothers’ Iron Horse Rock Band.
I watched the famous antique Case steam tractor in action powering the thresher to separate the oats from the chaff..
Anyway, on the way home, we stopped in Worcester at a nice restaurant for supper and he proposed. He said. ‘Well, my family likes you. Do you want to get married?’    I said ‘You Bet’. That’s Minnesotan for Yes.
My mother had a stroke and she lost ability to speak. She wasn’t able to call for help on the phone so I quit one of my jobs and stayed home with her.  It was a rewarding experience for me. She was very sweet and I figured out by her gestures what she wanted. But if she fell I had a hard time getting her up. So Larry moved in with us and he was a Godsend. He entertained her on his guitar and she could sing with him and then she’d clap her hands and laugh. He was so kind to her.
Larry joined my choir at Framingham First Parish.  It was with that choir of 35 that we went to England in the spring of 2000 and sang in churches including Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He recorded the music at several locations and it was made into a CD which some of you have and it was a money maker for the church. My mother passed away in February of 2000.
 When we came back from England I was asked by the choir director and the minister if I would like to get married in church on a Sunday. The church usually had a choir Sunday of special music but since we had recently returned from England they felt the choir was too tired to learn more music. I agreed as long as it was a secret from the parishioners. I didn’t want them to feel they had to get us gifts.  So it was, that I walked down the aisle to meet my sweetheart at the altar. The church was packed as the minister advertised that there would be a surprise.  Larry said later he wished he had sung a special song but agreed that he was too emotional to have done it. When the vows were over the minister said to me ‘you may now kiss the groom” and everyone laughed.
Our next big project was renovating an 1880s house in West Brookfield into a bed and breakfast and tea room. There again his ability to do renovations paid off. Larry would entertain our guests with his guitar. After 4 years, we realized our guests were having more fun than we were and so we sold it and bought a 37 ft. Class A motor home with all the amenities. It was like a nice condo on wheels. We loved it and we were completely satisfied to live year round in it. We zigzagged across the United States for almost seven years. He had all his music stuff and I had my art stuff and two computers of course.
I had mentioned to him that I had a dream of illustrating a children’s book. After reading some of the horrible books for children today I wanted to write a nice one but I had no idea what about. He came to me one day and handed me a sheet of paper. “Here it is, an outline for your story.  All you have to do is flesh it out.”  I did. He was technical supervisor. I gave him first billing because if we were going to sell any they would surely be to his big family.  It is called Up in Smoke. It is a great children’s book showing a loving family working together to get a job done and having fun. It will go down in history as a classic.
 We became workampers traveling every 5 months to a different park around the country.  He entertained with his guitar doing campfire sing-alongs. He would select a girl in the audience and sing a special song to her using her name. He also did  DJing and karaoke. But mostly he worked in maintenance doing repairs, plumbing, electrical and construction and I worked in the office or store.  During that time we saw pretty much all of California, Oregon the coast and  the Willamette Valley, Washington state to visit my nephew’s family in Seattle and over the snow covered Cascades to  Larry’s brother Allen’s family in Chelan for a month then across thru Idaho, Montana  and saw his niece and nephew in Yellowstone National Park. He thought the nice thing about visiting relatives in our RV is not having to disturb the household.  Larry felt connected to those that came before him. He often updated his family tree and had European connections. Our travels were from one relative to another. There would be his cousin in Corpus Christi, his cousin, Don in New Orleans, my nieces in Virginia, my daughter in Los Angeles, , a school chum in Sacramento , a sister in Hawthorne, Nevada, his cousin in Amarillo, my brother’s family in Phoenix,  his family in South Dakota, Illinois, Florida, South Carolina, a sister in Iowa, and a boat load of relatives in Minnesota and friends in Arkansas and Tennessee.  Wherever we went he brought his guitar and played and sang for people and got them or their kids to play too. He found folks to jam with at parks and hunted down the places where there was an open mike. He wasn’t the least bit shy. He was an avid fan of steam engines and we went to every train museum. He loved his family and his friends. He called them on the phone to see how they were doing. If someone wasn’t doing well he made a special effort to keep up with them. He was immensely patriotic and proud of his service in military. He was a constitutionalist, very interested in government and politics. We visited Washington DC several times.
I remember how athletic he was. His high school games were legendary.  He was singled out in the newspaper sports columns for some outstanding play saving the day for the team be it football, baseball or basketball. He helped win some of the trophies in the Ellsworth High School foyer. What may not have been well known was that he tried out for a baseball major league. When he first came to live in Southborough we went next door to my brother’s pool. I asked him if he could swim. He said no. I said well, I’ll keep an eye on you and if you get into trouble I’ll save you.  He went to the edge of the pool and dove in swimming under water the entire length.  I felt like a fool. I yelled at him ‘How come you said you couldn’t swim!’  He said ‘well, I am not good at the crawl but I can swim under water’.  The next time he conned me was when we played golf. I lived adjacent to Stony Brook Golf Course which my father had designed and built after he retired. Larry said he couldn’t play golf very well. He whacked the first ball onto the green.  Again I yelled at him for conning me. He just laughed and thought it a big joke. He was also good at tennis.
  He was great about keeping things in repair and took care of problems right away. He was often thinking of better ways to do something, a better sign, a better display.
If someone was tentative he gave encouragement. He was not awed by a person’s fame or fortune. They were his equal. He said marriage was work. He showed me how to be a better person, to understand what is important in a relationship and to overlook petty details of little worth in the larger picture. I did all the cooking but when I broke my leg last year he did everything-he learned to cook, did the laundry, cleaning, shopping and worked my hours as well as his.
He wished he had studied music when he was young. No one taught him to play. He watched other guitarists play chords and learned from observation. He never felt he should teach anyone how because it might be wrong. He admired anyone who could pick a tune on the guitar.  He admired his father’s ability to play any instrument. His father had an orchestra and after the Second World War ended his father played for wedding dances 364 nights of the year. He also regretted he didn’t spend more time with his father and talked with him more.  He left home soon after he finished high school and joined the Air Force.
In Texas a couple years ago he got a deal from a professional studio for us to cut a disc with them. That was pure fun. We only could afford one take, so any mistakes that are in it, we know about. At each park campfire I handed out rhythm instruments and sing along sheets, we did duets and we entertained at parties in people’s homes. We made a lot of sweet memories. We said ‘I love you’ every day.
We finally landed jobs doing just what we wanted. I was teaching art and some crafts and Larry was doing music-live, DJing and karaoke at this really beautiful park in Fredericksburg, TX called Texas Wine Country RV Park.

Two weeks into that gig, it ended. God called Larry home.  Remember the good times and every day; tell your sweethearts how much you love them. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg,Texas


5  10 25 cent store
Noble immigrants arrived here in the Hill Country of Texas from Germany in the early 1800s.  This area is west of Austin and includes such towns as San Antonio to the south, Comfort, Stonewall, Banderas, Dripping Springs, Luckenbach (of Willie fame) New Braunfels, Fredericksburg and many more wonderful names. Fredericksburg ,hereafter aka Fred., is a prosperous town of 10,000 + with a main street packed with stores, hofbraus, (brewpubs) and eateries with menus that list schnitzels and wursts of all kinds. Naturally there are shops displaying 'scootin' boots, leather goods, homemade ice creams, pastries and chocolate shops and shops representing the local wineries. There is a 5,10 and 25 cent store, a great visitors center, a half dozen B&Bs plus motels for a bustling tourist trade. About 20,000 are expected this weekend. Replete throughout the hill country are vineyards and, I am told, are second only to Napa Valley in wine production. Larry and I are working for our keep at Texas Wine Country RV Park a few miles outside of Town. We are directly across from Grape Creek Vineyards with it's Tuscan style villa. They have received gold, silver and bronze awards in national competitions for their Viognier, Syrah, cab, merlot, Riesling, Pinot Grigio and more. They want $20 each to tour and $12 for tasting.  A little steep for me.  I'll stick with Ste. Genevieve wines, another Texas vineyard, they're quite good, sold in the grocery and easy on the wallet.
The November issue(out now) of Artist Magazine has an article on page 8 entitled Art & Common Gound.  It is about and artist that started a workshop business called art and vino that has become very popular. I was delighted to read about the thriving art interest be it galleries or hands on artists here where I am living at this time.
I am looking forward to attending an event called First Friday Art Walk, Fredericksburg.
 I am off to work now to paint faces and help with pumpkin painting. I  teach art and do crafts with adults and children.
 Larry is the DJ and tonight he is having 'Stump the DJ" at the pool. He also does karaoke on another night, organizes jam sessions, and mans the pool tables. I know, but somebody 's got to do it. We are given black polo shirts and a name tag for our uniform. First time we've had black. Sensible color. In the past we 've had green, bright blue, yellow and light blue and they all get dirty half way thru the day especially if your cleaning out firepits or painting.

No Madison Ave art dept here
Add Fredericksburg to your list of places to visit. It's October and days are warm and nights are cold. As winter progresses it will get colder during the day but not parka and mittens weather.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Midsummer in Minnesota

We'll be celebrating Midsummer Fest amongst Norwegians-Uff-Da to you. Oddly they think Uffda is Norwegian when in fact it is upper MidWest specifically Minnesotan.
Dutchmen's Breeches
Rose Breasted Grosbeak

Baltimore Oriole

 I am residing in a lovely area of southern MN in a tiny secluded valley thru which the Zumbro River winds. It is edged by old growth woods and is a haven for golden eagles, turkey vultures, Baltimore Orioles, Rose breasted grosbeaks, cardinals and many other lovely birds. A gravel road runs from Rt 52  circuitously to other farm and county roads-gravel as well. Someone took a T-square and right triangle to southern MN except for our particular road which oddly enough has a name-Sherwood Trail. Roads have numbers. Farms have 6 plus digit numbers. Like 69825  324th Rd SW.

 We have a hill in our valley. Actually two hills. The one across from our park was a clay mine. Until the 40s there was a factory and kiln where pottery and tiles were made, there was a railroad to load the barrels to ship out to the world. There is only a rail bed now. Nothing else remains. Strikes me as odd that the clay bed is on top of a hill. I haven't mentioned the wildflowers. Drooping trillium, Dutchman's breeches,rue, huge red columbine, angelica, tall vivid blue something-that I can't find in my book,wild honeysuckle and more.
One day snow came down. The sun was shining and it was warm with a light wind. Yet everywhere was a whirl of snow. The cottonwood trees decided the weather was advantageous to their propagation and the fluffy down with a tiny seed attached falls like snowflakes and covers the ground and drifts in piles. Everything is about a month late here due to the cold and rain. Farmers in many cases have given up planting as the fields have been too wet. They have an opportunity to plant alfalfa later. If they want to collect crop insurance they can't plant anything for a while. The main crop in this area is corn-for ethanol   Farms are measured in sections. It is amazing for a native of Massachusetts to see fields as far as the eye can see--in fact the curve of the earth, of rich dark soil free of stones and instead of growing something beautiful on it they grow fuel. Ah, but that's where the money is. It is all highly mechanized even to planting with a GPS.
So I am nestled in this lovely situation with painting opportunities everywhere. I plan to paint the river,of course, with the tubers floating down bobbing and turning. Tubers are adults and kids in special inner tubes that bob and turn down the river. Fun.
 I have to work in the store 5 days and take reservations as well. Larry works outside,collecting tubers in a tractor and wagon, does karaoke parties, bundles split wood and delivers to campers, See . On Sunday we work the pancake  breakfast at the Rec Hall and sing for the folks at the church service beforehand.
We are working and enjoying Shades of Sherwood Campground in Zumbrota, MN for our summer occupation.
Last week 3 tiny kittens appeared on our doorstep yeowing at 7 AM. Larry said they came from the barn on the hill above us. Something must have happened to their mother. Two were very spookish, one was calm and sweet. One of the spookers was very much like a lilac Himalayan the other two were yellow tigers. We fed them and hugged them and with kindness they responded and became tame but still full of spunk.
Two kitties and a teddy bear buddy
They all have homes now. We will miss them and so will our adult cat,Tex. He had grown tolerant and even friendly to the last one remaining. I enjoy your input. Comment please.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Winding up the Mississippi

We left Florida mid-April to go to our next assignment in Minnesota but traveling slowly so as not to get there before the snow melts and it warms up sufficiently. Our first stop was Pensacola and the old village which was settled in 1540 by the Spanish from Spain. It then changed hands several times. The French, the British, the Americans, the Confederates and finally the Union. Can you see the various flags running up and down the pole? If you go be sure and see the Naval Air Museum. A freebie and well worth it even for folks who have a limited knowledge of airplanes. Next stop, New Orleans. We have been there several times but there is so much to see. Most importantly, we met with Larry's cousin, Don Boomgaarden and his lovely wife Paula. Don is Dean of Music at Loyola and a concert pianist as well as having a Bluegrass band etc. Check out 'You Tube' of Donald Boomgaarden. We ate at Commander's Palace, an old and  fine eatery-courtesy of Don and Paula.
Dean Donald Boomgaarden

Next morning Larry and I had cafe au lait and beignets at The French Market.
We have been toting around Flat Stanley's girlfriend,Flat Halley. 
Cafe au lait, beignets and Flat Halley

We strolled around the square enjoying the perfect weather and listening to  the jazz musicians and the artists displaying their paintings and 
The Cathedral St Louis
at the head of the square.
 Later we went to the wonderful museum complex towards the outskirts of the city where there is a fine arts museum. A river winds through the park ,a walkway for walkers and bikers and an incredible area for kids with an old time merry-go-round, a little village to play in and a choochoo for rides around in and out the trees and gardens.I went into the museum because Don had told me about the collection of French paintings that had been locally collected when New Orleans belonged to the French. They had a huge painting of Marie Antoinette, and one of Louis XVI and other landscapes and portraits by French artists. While I was meandering thru the collection I listened to four women softly sing wonderful 30's and 40's music, kind of like The Andrews Sisters.-close harmony and terrific blend. 
Natchez Indian home
Natchez,Mississippi. One of the few towns that wasn't burned by the Union. Lots of antebellum homes to see and the beginning of The Natchez Trace. The plantation owners kept their plantations in Louisiana as the soil is fertile from annual flooding but the living conditions--cooler air, fewer annoying insects, and drier conditions were better in the higher elevation across the Miss. Think back to the days of yellow fever,cholera, malaria,dysentary, tuberculosis-you name it. Better chance of survival in Natchez. We also visited the Grande Mounds. Native Americans,(I'll call them Indians as I am not PC), all up the Mississippi River, built mounds. Some for the chief's home, some as burial tombs and some for ceremony. In Natchez, the Indians lived in permanent homes built of mud and thatch on their own individual farms. There are several mound areas in Mississippi along The Trace and all the way up to Illinois where we found the largest mounds that had been about the size of The Great Pyramids of Giza. Is there a connection?
William Faulkner
We had two days in Oxford,MI to check out Ole Miss and the nice little friendly  town. Good hamburgers at  Handy Andy's. Writer William Faulkner hometown-see statue. Also John Grishom lives there.
One of Cape Girardeau's murals
Stopped at the old French towns of Cape Girardeau,Missouri (Rush's hometown) where lovely old cathedral St Vincent's has three reliquaries, St Vincent, a Pope and Ste Louise de Marillac who started the Sisters of Charity. The tiny congregation saved the church from demolishion in spite of Cardinal Law's recommendation. Proud people.
Stunning paintings and statuary inside. Outside along the wall keeping the Mississippi from flooding the town, are a series of incredible murals depicting the history and people who lived along the Miss. I would say they were trompe l'oeil as they appear to be coming out of the wall and straight for you. Also fun is the village of Ste Genevieve where they have saved some of the oldest french architecture-very different construction that our English. We stopped at Chester, IL to visit Popeye, Olive Oyl et al. Cartoonist,Elzie Segar lived there. We did much more -Lincoln's home, Stillman Valley, German Valley, the tulip fest in Pella, IA,but I'll save that for later.

Well blah blah bah, we have arrived at our destination on the Zumbrota River, MN at Shades of Sherwood RV park and our new jobs. Larry-maintenance man and yours truly, taking reservations on the computer and doing odd help- out jobs. Plenty of time to paint in this lovely setting for the summer season. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Spring at the Gulf

We are counting down our time here on the Gulf Coast. It 's been too cool and  windy to 'do' the beach very much but for day to day living it has been fine. Sweater weather is the norm. Since the 1st of March we have been inundated with college age people wearing very little and surrounded by deafening bass sound until 4:00AM  Perhaps this area gets so much money from them that it is worthwhile to sacrifice sense and sensibility. I don't think this wild frenetic behavior would be tolerated in New England. If I am mistaken I would like to be corrected. We would have left had we not been working here.  That said, it has been lovely, Larry has been singing and recording other karaoke singers and I have been teaching pastel painting. The above painting named Emerald Coast - (Oil- 16 x 20) was done at Seaside which is on 32A, a road following the 'emerald' coastline, part of a series of beautiful new towns.  My daughter said she studied Seaside in one of  her landscape architecture classes as it is a designed town of recent vintage along with Watercolor, Rosemary Beach and others.  The clarity of the atmosphere, the intensity of the sunshine, the blue/green water and sugar- white sands I have not seen anywhere else.
Larry thought he'd try his hand at oil painting and selected a subject that appealed to him. After a few hours he said he hated it. Not his cup of tea. I urged him to finish it so he could have a painting under his belt and a feeling of accomplishment.  He tried again and gave up after an hour and I agreed that if it is torture, forget it.  It is not a lack of stick-to-it-tiveness because he spends hours at his music.  I thought he might be another dabbler, a Winston Churchill or Tony Curtis.

I am exercising my formerly broken ankle on my delightful 3 speed tricycle. It is better than a stationery bike inside.

We are going to New Orleans in a couple weeks to see Larry's cousin, Dean of Music at Loyola.  After that we will wend our way north to Minnesota to our next job, stopping to see among other things, Choctaw Indian mounds, Ole Miss, Oxford, MS, named after Oxford University, England.  I will continue to collect info for my next children's book which I plan to collaborate with my long time friend Carol Ann.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Go for the dramatic

Storm on Panama City Beach December 24, 2012.
 It's all there for the painting. The angles create drama, action, verve. Hear the thundering surf. The untrained eye may see black and white but notice the pink in the sand and the yellow, orange and Paynes grey sky and blue/green water. Wonderful reflections in the wet beach. Does it make you want to grab your brush? Would you do it in oil (acrylic) or watercolor? yes, I know the horizon is tipped