Saturday, April 28, 2012

New Bern, North Carolina

When first entering New Bern I shrugged my shoulders and thought, "Just another quaint small town."

But It did not take long to see that New Bern was a little more 'Special' than most...

First of all....It is where Pepsi Cola began back in 1898 when the beverage was called "Brad's drink". Creator, Brad, soon changed the name to Pepsi to make it sound more 'healthful'.

Banners fly from light poles throughout the town proclaiming New Bern's great contribution to the fast food and drink industry....

And even Walmart shows local pride in its Pepsi display....

I needed no further encouragement to drive around and check out the town.

As I turned left onto the street below I saw a sight I'd never seen before....Is that a train in the middle of the street? I quick checked to make sure I hadn't turned wrong--nope, I was on a one way street and there were other cars joining me along the way.

Believe me..I kept checking the rearview mirror to be sure Amtrak wasn't bearing down on me. I am not sure how far cars and trains share the same street in this town but it was time for me to turn.

The next thing(s) I noticed about the town were the bears...lots and lots of bears....

It seems that New Bern was settled by Swiss religious protestants in 1710 and they named the city for the Swiss capitol....and 'Bern' translates to 'bear' (in German, I think)

Some of the bears are majestic...

Some are colonial...

There are pirates

and waiters....

and bears at every turn.

Star Jasmine was in full bloom and the heady perfume filled the air throughout the town.

New Bern boasts 164 homes and buildings in the downtown area that are listed in the National Registry of Historical Places...

Some date back into the early 1700's....

And some are even for sale--This one dated to the early 1800's. I wanted to ask, 'How much?' but didn't.

And this was the tallest 'high-rise' in the town.

For a brief time New Bern was the capitol of North Carolina's colonial government and it quickly became so wealthy there was talk of making it the capitol of the 'colonies'. Now it is just a very quaint little town tucked away on the east coast on the road to the 'Outer Banks'. I think it needs some more PR.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

AVA...For my Mother.

During much of my growing-up years my mother, Vivian, was a single mom, waiting tables to support three daughters while going to secretarial school at night with the hopes of getting a better-paying job. Scrimping was so much a way of life that Mother, my two sisters and I would regularly sit on Mother's bed at night and count her tips to see if there was going to be enough left to go into New Orleans on the weekend. And every once in a while there would be enough 'lagniappe' that we could indulge in some foolishness.

Going to New Orleans meant a long bus ride, a shorter streetcar ride, shopping for shoes (we always needed shoes), eating grilled cheese sandwiches at Woolworth's counter and, if we were really really lucky, a double feature at the Saenger Theater. When Mother was a teenager she fancied herself becoming a great movie star who would sing, dance and out-perform Bette Davis. Well, no one except us ever discovered Mother but she could do all three better than most of the starlets we saw in those movies.

I was eleven years old when "Show Boat" opened at the theatre. Mother was determined that we should go and I remember that we were all giddy with anticipation. Mother liked Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson but Ava Gardner was her favorite. I also remember that, at that time, I thought Mother looked like Ava Gardner--they were both beautiful women.

When I discovered there was an Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, North Carolina I knew I had to go.....

It is right downtown, run entirely by volunteers who knew and loved Ava.

Picture that a friend of Ava's took and put in the window of his photoshop. Within a short time someone from Hollywood saw it and, Well....the rest is history.

Ava became a star right away and her beauty and talent rivaled Elizabeth Taylor's.

Mother learned the words of many of the songs in the movie and, that night and for years later, would entertain us by singing and dancing in our living room, knocking over furniture as she twirled. We usually would collapse in giggles watching her dance but marveled with envy, her lovely voice.

Ava's first marriage was to Mickey Rooney. In true Hollywood fashion the match didn't last long.

Later she married band leader, Artie Shaw, and that ended quickly as well.

And when Ava married Frank Sinatra is was a bigger event than the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie match.

I think mother also related to Ava because they both loved good-looking men--to their own detriment. Ava's marriage to Frank was as short-lived as the other two marriages had been.

Ava had a 'stalker' artist that actually never met her but still painted a portrait of her every year for over 40 years.

Many of those portraits hang in the museum.

I think I saw most of Ava Gardner's movies while in my teens and I usually went with Mother. So, being the true southern woman that I am, I had to go to the Smithfield Cemetery to visit Ava's grave, where I discovered something else....

Ava Gardner's middle name 'Lavinia', was the same as my mother's oldest sister's name. I wonder if mother knew that. Or Aunt Billie (as we called her). It is such an unusual name that I wonder where it came from.

(If you look closely at that photo you will see a small white spot above the marker. I sprinkled some of Mother's ashes there. Now I can picture Ava and Vivian singing, dancing and entertaining others in some great after-life where beautiful and talented women go for all eternity. No, I don't believe that but I wish it were so.)

Monday, April 23, 2012

North Carolina Museum of Art--Part I

I was not able to get the blog to post all of the photos in one block so this time it is divided into 3 sections.....

No angle is too difficult for this intrepid photographer.  (BTW--I had no idea my hair was so grey)

The Entrance to the museum is pretty spectacular.....


Is it a fat priest or a cyclops with a roman nose? Any other ideas?

Since it was noon when I arrived I immediately went looking for food.....

A bad hair day in the restaurant.  I think dusting this mess would be a real problem and I thought it was a very bad choice for a restaurant--but they didn't ask me.  Anyway, their food was good--I had a chicken salad sandwich.

So Here Goes.....

Block Statue of Amenemhat
Circa 400 BCE

Dog Effigy from West Mexico
Circa 200 BCE
This reminded me of my sister's dog, Charlie, from many years back. He had an attitude too.

Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad
By J. Lawrence  1967

"Corn Harvest"
By Newell Wyeth

"Three Trees and Two Clouds"
(of course!)
By John Beerman--1990

by Andrew Wyeth
If this old house looks familiar it might be because Wyeth used it in four other paintings including his most famous, "Christina's World"

"Diana and Actaeon"
by Paul Manship, 1921

This made me think of the movie "The Hunger Games" and women warriors in general.  I grew up wanting to be Wonder Woman so I seem to gravitate to these heroines.
BTW, the movie was filmed in Hildebran, NC and around Ashville and Charlotte and I drove all through that countryside.

Don't stop now.....Keep going.

North Carolina Museum of Art--Part II

"Anubis--The Jackal"
Egyptian BCE 330

"Bust of a Woman"
Terra Cotta

"Portrait of a Young Girl"

Silver Hanukkah Lamp

"Wondrous Birds"
Hans Thomas 

"After the Mona Lisa"
by Devorah Sperber

Before you look any further down this blog take a closer look at the upside-down portrait of Mona Lisa again and see if you can guess what the medium is.

Any guesses?

5184 spools of Coats & Clarke thread--strung like beads!

Then back to the traditional......

"Joan of Arc"
Peter Paul Rubens

Now don't stop--only one more to go.....