Monday, October 22, 2007

Lyndhurst Rose Garden

Ambling on river-wise from the greenhouse, there's the Rose Garden. Complete with gazebo, and even a lady to strike a pensive pose.
Sample of the output--a lovely, perfect pink summer rose. I thought the nicest angle of the gazebo was straight up.
A tuft of wildflowers to balance out the domesticity of roses. Or something like that.
What I called a Personali-Tree.
Down the hill is the bowling alley building, apparently under reconstruction. In the background is the Hudson River.
Skulking back toward the can just see the port-cochere through the trees.
These comprise most of the front lawn end of Lyndhurst photos I took. Not far from this spot but a bit over towards the grove, I ran into an unexpected guest. Or actually, I presume, a resident...I was the unexpected guest. Mr. Beaver skittered through the brush and pretended I couldn't see him in a little grove. He made it part-way into a den hole and watched me as I watched him, both of us trying to decide what to do next. He wasn't in a good spot for a photo, and I don't think he wanted to come out and pose. So I bid him good afternoon and went on my way. I was marveling simply because I'd never seen a beaver out in the world before. I guess they have to live somewhere. Why not a cushy estate?

Lyndhurst Greenhouse

Of course if you're going to make out, you need a place to instill the right mood. And next to the grove is the Lyndhurst greenhouse.

Great floofy snowballs...(I'm sure Barnabas always said that as an expletive).
Something out of an English garden or an Ed Gorey drawing, take your pick. Gothic revival planter...handy for garden parties and hiding heads.
A trés artsy angle of the greenhouse fountain and surroundings.
Another view of the greenhouse fountain, facing a doorway/gate. A little art deco in a cage.

The greenhouse appeared to be very lavender, from where I stood.

Greenhouse ribs. And veggies.

Accidentally hit the color saturation button and rather liked the result. So here's the suped-up version of the Lyndhurst greenhouse garden!

Coolest "Club House"

Walking away from the main house, there's plenty of landscaping. I stumbled on a feature I'm sure every Collins and every Tarrytown youth would know about. But you never hear about...there's a grove of trees all huddled together for warmth or something. Sad, droopy branches, mysteriously whispering to each other...just aching to be included in a fan's story or an episode.

I'm not up on my tree species, so I'm not sure if these are weepy pines or spruce or lindens or something quite different. Some sort of evergreen, anyway. Is Lyndy looking at lindens at Lyndhurst? LOL...Anyway...

If you continue to the grove and enter it, you find any kid's dream hide-out, the coolest of club houses. The trees form great tangles and enclose the space with their foliage, so it is private with all sorts of places to sit or lean or climb. All you need is some fairy lights and a cooler and you've got a great spot for a party. Especially a Halloween party, if at night!

Let's play! Tarzan or Robin Hood, anyone?

Alternatively, it is obviously a primo spot for a tryst. Quiet, romantic, secluded, a fascinating draw in itself. In fact, over the decades, you can see evidence that I'm hardly the first one to notice this appeal.

Looking closely at the above photo, I noticed many scratches etched into these trunklines over the course of time. Hearts, names, other lovers' and kids' carved grafitti. I found Barnabas' make-out spot, heheheh.


Okay...back to Tarrytown. My roomies had been running around shopping. Parties and con stuff to deal with. Somehow the lack of a local Pep Boys became a running joke for the rest of the weekend, and everything tended to end with, but is there a Pep Boys?
Anyway I was shacking up with Nancy K., Malia & Kristi, and a great amount of paraphernalia and travel junk. We walked around, apparently casing the place somewhat, seeing who was about I guess...later we checked out the local grocery for probable party supplies, and ended up around the hotel bars. I pretty much just followed people around, like a lost puppy...taking mental notes. Mostly a chat-and-cool-down before the storm kind of evening. I finished coloring stuff. I was going to give out bookmarks to all purchasers of my Dr. DNA book, and that gave me something to do with my hands while still being social, lol. A few war plans were made, but nothing really started until Friday. Looked like the action would be on the other side of the hotel, in a hallway next to the ballroom. Julie came by to show her cool little tribute-to-JF-video to us, and I showed Richard III back, but it was more of a get-yer-bearings evening. I did get an art request and scribbled out a little Sarah Collins for someone, and showed off a couple of photos via my camera. Wasn't just wasting my time, ya know.
Friday morning I made some room coffee and rooted around, literally, with my sad leftover carrots. Since Nancy was having a party Friday night and I'd gotten a banquet ticket for Saturday, I figured I could exist on those meals sufficiently to get through the weekend if no one kidnapped me to run off to eat. Always too busy to leave the hotel at a con, it seems, unless there's a cheapie place next door, and rarely can I afford hotel food. Fortunately my hypothyroid constitution lets me operate on crumbs for days (just ask Lorraine). Nancy needed to get her party off the ground and expressed a need for coolers. I said I had a couple in the car, a regular one and an electric one. I got out the electric one because it was easier to fetch and nicer, brought it in and plugged it in to cool it off. Nancy talked about getting ice to cool down stuff and I said just don't put the ice in this thing! Malia chuckled and they spoke of using the tub and I went on a search for my bat pin, which suddenly vanished. Backtracked...or bat-tracked...and finally found it under the car (fell off when I got out the cooler). So, everything together and simpatico, and hopefully, with any luck I'd be back at an appropriate time to help with stuff, I headed off to take the Lyndhurst tour. I'd seen it before, in '85, but I figured I may as well go for all the bells and whistles since this trip might have to last me a while, being now gainfully and traditionally employed full-time as a library technician. A condition which has a lot of pluses and minuses, for an artist.
A mass of bodies were accumulating by the front door of the hotel lobby, and someone led us out towards the drop-off curb. Then we waited, and waited, and waited, and waited...wouldn't have been so bad if we knew just why we were waiting, or if my feet weren't killing me, but there seemed little more than that to do. I saw Julie but not many others I could put a name to, except later, Jim with a clipboard trying to get things underway. I gathered we were awaiting shuttles, but the shuttles weren't shuttling or something. Then they finally started, but one would fill up and go, come back, fill up...if you had other means, you could request your pass from Jim and go on. I thought about it, but since I really didn't know my way around, I figured I'd just let someone else do the driving for awhile. Finally, considerably later than all this was supposed to start, I got a spot on a shuttle bus and our human sardine-mobile puttered off to Lyndhurst.
At the estate, we disembarked, and were instructed that it was a do-it-yourself tour. Go forth and play and come back here to catch the shuttle back. That was certainly different from '85, and I wasn't sure what to think about that either. That is, it sounded more like a pass than a Tour...I had no problem with the roaming around part, though, and started to see what I could see on the property besides that big pile of neoGothic blocks, lol.

Of course one needs to get down the basics. So I got my share of 'foundation' shots. Lyndhurst is a nineteenth-century mansion and estate on the Hudson River. It is of interest to Dark Shadows aficionados because of its use in the Dark Shadows movies as the Collinwood estate. But even if you neglected to see House of Dark Shadows or Night of Dark Shadows, there is a fair amount of historical, architectural, botanical and artistic points of interest to keep one occupied for awhile.

And it was a nice summer's day. Lookee all the Greeeen! Both the verdant kind and the financial sort...

A cluster of Dark Shadows fans walking out on the Lyndhurst lawn.

Naturally I was attracted to all the natural bits not often promoted in brochures or movies. This is a nifty windbreak of trees.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Haunted by Jonathan Frid

There is this peculiar thread running through my life, one I've relatively recently realized (say that 3 times fast) and one I'm sure Mr. Frid has no inkling about...but the man has haunted me my whole life and is a surprisingly enormous factor in what I do. Hardly planned or anything, unless we had some sort of handshake agreement going before our births that neither of us would recall. But it is kind of funny. Now, I am a fan of a number of celebrities, as many people are. My heart goes pitter-patter over the likes of Bill Bixby, Jim Hutton, Basil Rathbone, even Leonard Nimoy and maybe Michael Nesmith, Chris Lee, Peter Cushing, Patrick McNee, Diana Rigg, Carol Burnett, Dick Van Dyke, many really....Dozens of talented folks. But Jonathan Frid occupies a unique spot in my existence. I am a fan of his, but not at all in the same way others seem to be. In a weird way he's more like a skewed mirror-image of me, which is an even odder thing to think about someone famous for playing a mirror-imageless vampire, LOL. Mom watched a lot of daytime talkshows back in the day, but would do her ironing during General Hospital and the new show following it, Dark Shadows. She encouraged us to sit and watch the spooky show (and give her a moment's peace). So I became acquainted with Barnabas Collins when I was about 5, living in Houston. I don't remember much about the show itself, but I do remember being utterly fascinated with 'that man,' and quite bored when he wasn't on the screen. Given my age, I'm not sure why, but that's the way it went. We tended to move once or twice a 1968 we ran through San Antonio and spent a day at the Hemisfair (World's Fair) and went on to Tucson for a month or so of unbridled swelter under 'A' Mountain. Dad found a job in Phoenix and we moved up there. I did typical 5-year-old things like play, draw and watch kiddie shows, like Bozo the Clown. I was never all that excited over clowns, but I always loved animation, so would watch a lot of things if they had cartoons. Of course Bozo also had contests and events and guests, so sometimes that held the attention, too. I entered a clown-drawing contest that show sponsored; it was probably my first real art contest and Mom actually encouraged me...Mom never gushed unless something was truly good, so I guess I did a pretty darn good clown for Mom to pay for a stamp and actually send it in. However, the winners would be announced (we found out later) by being published in McCall's magazine. I never heard Bozo announce them, so I never knew if I'd won and missed that episode or what. We didn't get McCall's and I spent the next twenty-five years trying to find the issue that had the clown contest. I accidentally stumbled on it somewhere about a decade ago and was rather disappointed that I didn't see an entry by the 5-year-old me. Bummer. Yes, I am persistent. Anyway, there was another time that Mom called me in from playing: Hurry, hurry! Because Barnabas Collins was on Bozo! Talk about incongruous, although I figured Bozo and Barnabas do both begin with "B." Barnabas walked on and made the kids squeal and demonstrated the Hula Hoop. Something I never could manage, so was utterly fascinated and envious at the same time. So at this point, I think, since the art contest and Barnabas were both featured on Bozo at the same time in my young life, art & Barnabas were linked. Of course Barnabas as such started out as a painting, so even without Bozo I guess the concepts were tied together. By the fall of '68 I was six and started first grade, and most of the influences of Dark Shadows started to dwindle away with the novelty of school and growing up. I saw assorted guestings of Frid on this show or that, and likely did still see Dark Shadows here and there; I do remember a little about Quentin, etc. so I must have seen some later stuff. In the summer of '69 there was Sesame Street and the Apollo Moon Landing, and I really don't recall DS much by then. I was in Tucson again, and periodically would entertain my younger sister with a chalkboard "show" called the "Lyndy Show," (Lyndy being one of my many, many nicknames). This may have been influenced by DS, since it was about two families, one all "good," of angels and white witches and sweet spirits who lived in heaven, and one all "bad," of evil witches and vampires and devils and monsters from hell, who all occasionally interacted on Earth, and there'd be angels and devils in love with each other or plotting against each other and the like, LOL. My own chalky soap opera. Mostly it was an excuse to draw wings (bat wings, angel wings) and express myself with storytelling. I was so shy I never did it in front of anyone but my sister, and erased the board the instant anyone seemed to be coming. Mom figured I had no imagination or humor at all up to this point in my growth and wondered about me. After this time, with a couple of exceptions (I vaguely recall seeing Jonathan Frid on the drive-in marquee when Seizure came out, though by then I couldn't tell you who Jonathan Frid was...I was never very good with names!), I'd forgotten about Dark Shadows. Still liked the spooky and mysterious, though. And Dad had a job working with the U of A anatomy department in bat research. How cool was that for a kid? His lab was much scarier than anything on TV, with cages of bats and bottles of bat parts in formaldehyde and big microscopes and who-knows-what-all-eerie equipment. And what the bats ate...jillions of meal worms, which en masse make a kind of crunching potato chip...rustling...sound...Sometimes I'd play "bat" at home, cutting out paper bats at different stages in their lives. Kinda changed the game when I found out that bats didn't lay eggs, but, making critters out of paper was still a major activity for me. By the mid-70's I knew plenty about bats and even a little something about TV horror, since Dad knew some of the actors who filmed the local TV "Thriller" or "Chiller" theatre stuff at the university. I think he was friends with the dwarf fellow who played the equivalent of Igor for the latenight horror movie wraparounds/intros... Leaping over a decade and several moves and a few states later, I came to the time in life where one needs to start thinking about careers and major education. Torn between art and science, I figured I'd split the difference and aim for medical illustration. You needed a bachelor's degree in something relevant, and then a Master's in the medical illustration, which was only offered at about 5 schools in the country, who accepted about as many students a year. I was exceedingly ambitious. I was also equally shy, a real hold-up, but I tried to focus on the ambition part. Had no money but I did work very hard and traded my entire social life (like a shy girl would have one) for good grades (people always said I was very smart, but I really spent all my time memorizing books) and got some scholarships & grants. I do have a quasi-photographic memory. It's not the kind that allows me to read a book and instantly thereafter quote a line from whatever page you ask, but if I read a chapter often enough I can picture the pages and what's on them, yes. So if I looked at something intently, it would pretty much be recorded enough for me to draw all the details from memory...which is why I didn't use all the direct references most of my artsy peers used. Seemed like cheating, unless utter precision (like a particular face) was needed. I wound up taking art; I'd get a Bachelor of Fine Arts and fluff it up with science courses. Most of the degree turned out to be art history and quickie studies of still lifes and bored nudes, so I thought I'd work on getting details down better myself and would go to the library, check out movie books, and draw people from those (I drew real people too, but few of those bothered to strike dramatic poses for any length of time). I liked the old movies I'd sometimes get to see on Saturday afternoons, the Sherlock Holmes and other mysteries, Hammer horrors and assorted adventure flicks, so I'd look up dramatic shots of the actors and actresses from those films and draw them for art practice. But the references were limited, so I also looked in TV books, flipping through the pages to find whoever looked interesting. I found one shot that stopped me in my tracks, hadda draw that one.

Oddly enough it didn't hit me at the time whom I was drawing; I simply liked the dramatic intensity, and I got an exceptionally good result from it. Eventually I read the article accompanying the photo. At first, nothing...then in bits and pieces, I started remembering...wait a minute, I watched that show...I know that role...why didn't I remember it before?? I used the (drawn) picture in a brochure version of my resumé for awhile, too. But the photo and the show info started to worm its way into and out of my subconscious, and when I learned it had lasted until the early '70's, I wondered, well what on earth happened? How did the show end? Why didn't I see any of that or remember it? Huhhuhhuh?

Of course, I knew few who could answer these bothersome questions. One girl said she remembered something about it all ending in a big fire. I did a few more sketches, wondered more, found a book in the library that turned out to be a DS book (Ross). Hmmm. But it didn't seem to answer much. In the meantime, I was a big Star Trek fan, yup, a Trekker...and my friends and I were in a pre-internet group, well, several really, of penpal/newsletter clubs. My Tucson friends ran one that involved a kind of club organized as a Federation starship, with everyone being a Starfleet human or alien of some kind. For kicks, I organized the opposite, a pirate ship to annoy the Starfleet ship in our make-believe world. The captain happened to be a debonair vampire...but he wasn't evil, just totally amoral. What drove him was boredom...he had lived so very long and done about everything and couldn't die, so he did whatever would entertain him the most. He was tall and like to wear different hats for different occasions and wore a tape cassette player on his belt so there'd be dramatic background music wherever he went (for those memorable entries and dire announcements). R.H. (René Hades) Redgrave. His henchman was Chester (whose middle name was Barnabas), a goofy bat. Chester actually exists, as he is a soft-sculpture (stuffed animal on a wire skeleton frame) bat I made, and he dangles even now, though with a coating of hoarfrost dust, in my room, complete with the blood donor medal my Dad got, lol. At any rate I can't say I didn't have Barnabas on the mind a bit. I would occasionally pine for the opportunity to see the show, just to know what happened. One day I looked up and there was Barnabas' face on the TV screen, with a quick ad about Dark Shadows. I thought I had imagined the whole thing. I didn't know anyone else who even thought about the show. Then there was this Out-of-the-Blue. Naaaaaaa.

But it was True!! DS was returning to TV! OMG! And I was returning to school! Noooo! We barely had a functioning TV set, much less an expensive VCR. But I discovered I could at least see it every-other-day, with my schedule; and eventually I found that many times I could find it on in the student center. So I made sure I took my two 15-minute art studio breaks together at 3pm, and ran over and had an apple and tea and stared at the TV in the student lounge, whenever the couple of us could get control of the set. LOL That lasted a little while, but they changed up schedules and put it on at midnight. While I'd be home at midnight, it was hard to stay up that late, and harder to see without bothering my folks (TV sound went into their room too loud, etc.). Soon I was sleeping and waking up by alarm to catch it at 1am, then 2am, sound off or very low, in a dark room. Then they started to show it or not show it, at whim, sometime in the night. The last episode I saw was Jeremiah's hand jutting out of the earth. Now there's an annoying place to leave a show dangling in one's mind.

These days staying up late is nothing, but with classes at the crack of dawn, and never having stayed up to such hours without some dire need before, and family around, it was difficult then. Once, a student took me aside and whispered, "Your mascara is running!" I blinked at her and said, "I don't wear mascara!" Guess I was a bit of the walking dead myself...So the show ended in San Antonio and I could sleep, but I was only more tormented with fuzzy memories. I visited my friends in Tucson and spent much of it regaling them about the whole plot up to the point I witnessed, and showing them and others 'how to draw Barnabas,' as I'd doodled him so much it was fairly second-nature to me. Start with a star, stick the eyes there, nose, mouth between the lower star legs, circle, bangs, ears, voilà, Barny. It entertained people and it was fun for me.

During this time there was a tradition of penpallers called FBs and Slams. FBs were 'fanbooks' and slams were almost the same thing, but usually had little surveys or questions in them. The point was to slap a tiny booklet together to collect names & addresses of possible penpals, by mailing them from pal to pal until the book filled up and the last person would mail it back to the person who started the game. Usually the booklets either had a page devoted to each penpal--name, address, interests, comments, stickers, whatever; or asked how you felt about certain things, topics of interest, celebrities, whatever, then you added your name & address at the end. I remember one question asked "How much money would it take to get you to eat a cockroach?" Most people wrote in "millions" or "ugh!" or "not any amount!" My cocky [ ;-) ] reply was that "down here in Texas, we pay the cockroaches not to eat us." One day I got a "vampire" slam in the mail...I was getting so many FBs I usually just sent them on without playing the game, but this one seemed fun. Or that it could be...most people were answering in rather predictable ways, so I got creative about it, mailed it off and forgot about it. Eons later, the gal the slam had been created for (her friend made it and started it off) wrote me because I "had the most interesting answers." We became good penpals, though were different as night and day, so to speak. I was a fuddyduddy long-winded-on-paper Taurean Texas artist (if with a keen sense of humor), and she was studying Horse in Pennsylvania & NY, a punk rocker Sagittarian out of Maine, but we seemed to click. She said I should come up for the convention. I had only just been to my first convention, a local Star Trek one, and was still figuring out what they were. This was to be a Dark Shadows "Festival" in Newark.

It had an art show; I was out of college and diving into anything that might lead somewhere jobwise and selling art did not hurt. This convention stuff/art show thing was new to me but seemed a good "in." I'd never been farther northeast than Chicago (we lived there when I was a tot and all I got for the trouble was a sister), and travelling that direction would take some cojones...a few years back I'd been invited by Harvard to go to school but with my shyness and lack of money, that seemed incredibly wild. But I was trying hard, and cranked out some DSsy art and mailed it up north and took a bus up to New York. Quite lengthy stories in themselves. But this con had Jonathan Frid as the guest of honor, and I wanted to see how other kinds of conventions operated. So the vampire lured me in.

Therefore I met Mr. Frid in 1985. Technically speaking, we were in the same elevator going up to our rooms at the first meeting, but he was in the back of the car with his guardians and pal Suzon was behind me and I was up front with a face full of elevator buttons. But I got a nudge and I knew what it meant, though I never turned and we got off the car without saying anything. Too shy...and knowing that, yet also knowing I'd have a chance to say hi in an autograph line that weekend, I wondered what to do. (Didn't help that I'd broken out, ugh) So I drew his picture. It had always been my way of breaking the ice (having moved so often) with new folks...drawing, that is...that it seemed the best thing to do. So I spent the rest of the night drawing in the freezing hotel room (dumb heater didn't work, I remember THAT).

It was a very nice pencil drawing, almost hated to give it away...but that was the point, to offer something more than 'uh, bluh, loved you in Dark Shadows, bluh, thanks'...I can write tomes but stringing words together verbally is always a tang-tongueling matter for me. Not exactly a stutter, but lots of pausing and smidgeons of aphasia. Built-in dramatic pauses, perhaps, lol. My brain runs at a far greater speed than my lips and it loses track and has to double back a lot. Anyway at the appropriate moment I said hello, and followed with something along the lines of, that having appreciated his art, I wanted him to have some of mine, and handed him the picture. I figured he'd smile and say thanks, scribble his name on the program book and be onto the next person in line, as seemed to be the routine, so at least I'd get my thrill and not look too stupid. To my surprise he stopped and looked at it, looked at it good as they say. Looked at me and asked if I did it (why do people always do that?) and whipped out his glasses and looked at it a few minutes more, handed it back; I said it was for him, and he seemed surprised and then said thank you, signed his name slowly, and then I was off. I wasn't quite sure what to make of all that, but there was my minute of glory, heheh.

Actually I did well at the con...I got to see a few events/panels with Jonathan answering some questions (which was nice since I really didn't know much, and you know how much of the show I really saw). Didn't get to see/listen to the dawnings of his reader's theatre since I didn't win the chance or whatever; saw him eating with people after the con but in no way would I crash such a group, etc. So basically, I figured that was all very interesting and culminated my entire dealings with Dark Shadows or Mr. Frid. I learned all manner of things on the trip, about NY and horses and travel and some odd folks who thought they really were vampires and people in general, and I won both first place and best of show in the art show and sold quite a few pieces, even some I threw in but didn't expect to sell at all! Quite a trip.

And that was that. Or so I thought.

I got involved in more shows & conventions, met more people. Kathy R. wrote and asked for art for her zine...(even more remarkable since I think she did that before the 1985 con, and I don't know HOW...but I may have that wrong). Anyway I started sending her illos and cartoons, pretty much generic spooky/Addams' style stuff with a few DS names sprinkled in, but it seemed to work. I even sent a package of art the following year to the DSF...I think I won an award again but didn't do as spectacularly as the first time (less stuff & smaller show, too). What floored me was a thank you letter from Jonathan for the drawing I gave him. I mean, I thought it was very polite and delightful, whether he did it himself or had a minion do it for him, but the more I thought about it, the more impressed I was. Because I hadn't signed the art. If I did, I had just started to use Sherlock, and probably hid it somewhere in the work. Either way, I was a total unknown, so somebody had to hunt down who in the hell this person was and where did she live before I could get a thank you note. I did appreciate the effort!

I continued on in my do-it-yourself art career (no, never got around to the medical illustration, that's another story). Did work here and there for places, though none of them stuck long; did ad specialty art (t-shirts, hats, bumperstickers, etc.) and illos & cartoons for small papers, clip art books, etc. Billions of clip art toons for fanzines and other small publications, with occasional covers sprinkled here and there, even a comic book or two. In general there's not a lot of good art jobs in San Antonio for a shy gal with a summa cum laude degree in fine art but little commercial graphic experience. And of course it got worse when computers crept into the equation, with all the job requirements asking for 3-5 years experience with software that had only existed about that long. I did blunder into a graphics job and had to master Corel in a week (watch the hair turn white) to catch up with the month's worth of jobs the previous artist had walked out on, so I started to pick up computerese here and there, but as I'm one of those "magnetic personalities," I couldn't be around such gizmos for long before they'd go bonkers. The self-employment stuff was good but hard to scrape up enough by...but I got to do stuff I likely never would have done, doing anything else. And being this kind of artist also resulted in something I never expected, a modicum of fame in itself. I'd get fan letters. For art!! Who'd-a thunk. Of course I never got anywhere since I'd make friends with everyone, LOL.

I caught up, finally, with the Dark Shadows saga through episode guides. Reading at least gave me some plots to follow, if not images of the actors/actresses who played some of the roles. To my surprise and delight, I ran into Jonathan again through his tour in Arsenic and Old Lace. The Majestic Theatre had been renovated (I think) and was having plays again, and a friend in my Star Trek club said she'd like to see Arsenic and so we planned and plotted and she got matinee tickets, front row center, and it was heaven. I'd not seen a real stage play in years, not since Earl Holliman's Dinner Theatre died out, and while downtown was a foreign place for the most part, to get to see all those celebrity actors in a fabulously fun play was an opportunity not to pass up. I met my friend across the street at the Gunther, which was having a special on Elderberry Wine in honor of the play, and she got a cup as we waited for the theatre to open. I think we found my brick, of the sidewalk in that area were bricked; that is the area renovations were paid with donations which entitled donees to bricks with their names on them, and one of my employers got me one as a Christmas bonus, so I can be walked over eternally now, heheh. Coincidentally it is across the street from a sign referring to Robert E. Lee, who was godfather of one of my ancestors, whom Dad was partially named after. Anyway the play was wonderful...I think James MacArthur was playing instead of Gary Sandy, (or maybe that was vice versa)...I remember the ads being different from the actual cast; and quite a unique viewpoint (never saw so many shoes, lol). I even brought another giftie for Mr. Frid, but I simply didn't have the guts to go backstage after the show. I tried, but couldn't get the nerve; he wouldn't know me from Adam (so to speak) and would be tired and needing to prepare for the evening show, no doubt, or whatever. Though if I'd been able I'd have loved to have chauffeured him around town or had a coffee (or elderberry wine) with him, or just waited around to see the evening Christmas lights along the Riverwalk. Life's tough for the shy. But at least I made it to the show.

Life went on, I did muchas art, met many people famous and otherwise, had my own stalker, had a gallbladder ripped out, had all kinds of fun, lol. Nancy K. up in NY started writing me now and then. One day, again out-of-the-blue as far as I was concerned, she asked if I'd mind doing some art for Jonathan. Like I'd mind making some art money Regardless. Of course I'd be happy to do that. I don't think she thought I knew what I was in for, but by then I'd met all sorts, so I assured her it was fine to bring it on, lol! So I got a phone call from Jonathan, who always introduces himself in such a way that you want to say, duh, like I can't tell from the voice alone! LOL And he told me all this stuff in a big gush of words. I took notes like crazy but got the gist--I have an assortment of things to whip up. This was great, but it soon became hilarious to me, since whenever he thought up something new, he'd call and add that. I think I spoke about three words back the whole month. But that was fine, too. My parents were happy that I had such an illustrious patron, not to mention a commission.

JF was getting his Clunes Associates Reader's Theatres going so the art involved promoting that. Somehow it seemed like I was the only one who didn't know anything about JF's doings, but I lived in my head in my bedroom in my parents' house so what did I know, heheh. At the end I was offered a choice of cash or a paid trip to the DSF that year (1991) as JF's guest, where we might talk about more stuff. Though I definitely could have used the money, the latter was far more adventurous so I went for it. I operated entirely on adrenalin after that. I was pretty thin for having lost weight from pancreatitis (hence the gallbladder removal) and so not quite so self-conscious, which helped. And had jobs to do, pictures to sketch, places to be; helped JF and Nancy when and where I could, got to see Suzon and Manhattan and attend the banquet with JF, visit his apartment and just get a general idea of a world at a different pace. Ended up running (neat trick in knee boots) across JFK to catch my plane back (lord knows how I did that, finding my flight without a stop, first time!) but it was all worth it. Took home his scripts and a gifted art pad and stuff to work on.

But he got into other aspects and I finally sent the scripts back. I drove up to Manhattan in '93 for the DSF; this time I was a dealer, since no one wanted to run art shows for the DSF any more. While the trip was chockful of adventures and stories, in general it seemed to be cursed; anything that could go wrong did. Miscommunications and foul-ups and zany things that no one could have prevented or predicted, regional differences in thinking and doing things, etc. In the end, I met just about everyone except Mr. Frid, for all the effort. My last chance was in the autograph line, which was so very long that I did an illustration as the line moved, scribbling on the program book.

Unfortunately he was so beat by the time I got just before his table, he left. And that was that. And along with it, our cosmic ping-pong game. Or so I thought.

About 8 years later, (when the '91 DSF venue bit the dust, sigh), I'm starting to get online. Nancy K. added me to the Yahoo group even though I wasn't even definitely hooked up at home yet, but soon I began exploring new worlds and got some new kinds of commissions. Forced to learn computerese. And still being low on dough but higher on grey matter, I learned a lot out of necessity. Apparently they were making computers sufficiently shielded enough not to be quite so quirky about my personal magnetic aura, and I could be on them longer than 20 minutes at a thwack. Still learned fast about all the weird things that can happen, lol. Anyway, while this is going on, Mr. Frid has semi-retired and gone back to Canada, and is also playing with the magic calculator box, with a website and everything. And as learning will do to a person, it spawns ideas. So, again via Nancy K., he inquired about art for some of his new hobbies, some Shakespeare-related sketches and what-all. And I started scribbling again. Had no idea what I was doing for quite some time, but I was very busy doing it, lol.

Learned about Richard III real fast, but probably not fast enough. Doing projects via the internet was much better than just phone calls and letters, but still limited since he's not big on typing and I had dial-up. But we learned about technology together, I think. It would have been best to be able to visit and work in person, but we're 2000 miles away from each other (undoubtedly a safety feature) and the commute would be a killer without a transporter beam.

Again out-of-the-blue, a friend of a friend had to give up her ticket to the Worldcon, which was in Toronto (2003). If I could get up there, I could go, the rest was paid for. Problem was, of course, figuring out how to get to another country for an event you had no plans for in less than two weeks. Couldn't be in the show, had nothing and didn't have time to do all the customs stuff; couldn't afford a plane ticket that close to the travel date (at the time the cheapest seats were over a thousand dollars). And I was working part-time at the library. But I had a van and an accomodating boss. So I drove to Lorraine's in Michigan and she drove us the rest of the way, and we visited JF a few times.

I was dazed enough that I'd get to see Canada, much less bring junk to show John. And it was more or less at this point that I began to see how similar I was to him, even to the point I actually said, there but for 35 years, go I...even Lorraine agreed. I mean, on the outside, no, of course not, he's almost twice my age, a tall northern man from a well-off family, speaks well, high-energy, flits from project to project, a long extroverted career, etc.; virtually my direct opposite in many ways. But there's an internal thread, a je ne sais quoi pas...chose, that's almost identical. Nancy calls it being birds of a feather, "free spirits" in essence. Dunno how to put it but I recognize it and find it rather amusing. Part of me sees him as the public does, and part of me sees him as just one of my pals or neighbors. Makes my brain a little cross-eyed sometimes.

There was more work via the net but it tapered off for awhile, due to all kinds of things. I broke down (ok, my baby sis did because I waffle like crazy until I make a decision on something) and got satellite and managed to see much of the parts of Dark Shadows I didn't get to see before (until SciFi canned it, of course). JF brought the project works back up with a new view and we went at it some more. I drove to ShoreLeave in Baltimore to support Lorraine getting her work out in a real book in the real world (lol), as she has often visited me at cons for that kind of thing (actually I drove straight from San Antonio to pick her up at the Baltimore airport and was dead on time...where can you find a friend like that, eh?). Afterward I circled around, visiting Nancy K. and then, finding Canada not quite so mysterious any more and more interesting than Cleveland, I went up that way and visited JF for a few beats. He was too busy dealing with life (a dead car A/C, etc.) but worked in a lunch (which I would hope to repay sometime) and a surprise cheek-peck (which turned into a neck-peck when my hat hit and slid). Then we went on our ways. I had some horrors after that involving the car and sleazy emergency mechanics in Chicago, but I escaped with some very fun memories from the trip, too.

Again things petered down. I had assumed the 2003 trip was the last time I'd ever hear from JF again...he did a Halloween-time reader's theatre soon after that but it was too much to drive right back up the map for it, and Nancy thought she'd get a tape of it but that didn't work out either, as things go, so, oh well. Therefore the 2005 quickie was a nice make-up event, of sorts. After that, Jonathan discovered the digital camera and didn't need my scribbling much, so I went to hover about back in the wings.

Finally one of the many possible projects came to fruition, a DVD of JF's reading theatrics. This would be good to debut in conjunction with Barnabas' 40th Anniversary (as opposed to last year's Dark Shadows' 40th Anniversary), so with some cajoling and wheedling and plotting and twisting, a mini-DSF was scheduled. At the last minute I did a DVD cover...well, several of them, actually, but he liked one enough, and we sprang that on the public. And that part of the story is what the present photos in this blog illustrate, in my terrifically windy and still-experimenting way.

I really regret not having the chance to Really get to know John; he reminds me of my Dad a lot, or perhaps of some fun uncle I never had. There's a lot of commonalities that I know of that I'm sure he doesn't, and if nothing else, I like to simply listen. Be great to work on something in person for once, but I guess we'll have to wait for another lifetime, LOL. Bummer.

And on to the Dark Shadows Festival, 2007.

Monday, October 15, 2007

From Here to Eternity

After a little driving, I stopped for some gas, and noting a Hardee's next door (I know of none of these in San Antonio) I decided I was finally feeling a bit peckish (after 3-4 days of the MIA appetite) and went to see what they had. The patty melt deal sounded good so I ordered that, and waited about an hour before getting it. I was in no rush, was looking at maps, doing a puzzle and slurping my soda, and had quite a few "shows" to go with my dinner. Soap opera dramas abounded with the employees, it seemed, and I overheard a number of them (and why my meal was so late). And even after getting served, there was an interesting testing of wills between an ultra-thrifty customer with an expired (but unmarked specifically) coupon and the employees. The customer won but didn't make many any rate I was entertained, and kept down my supper. I drove on through Missouri, and although I would have liked a digital shot of the Memorial Arch in St. Louis, I wasn't in a position to stop easily to get it. And I reasoned that I'd probably be coming back home the same way, and either way, I had a million photos of the arch from previous trips anyway. It was fairly dark by the time I crossed the Mississippi.

Got some travel guide booklets at the Illinois welcome center, and chose to cut across lower Illinois this trip. There was a coupon or two that seemed worth checking into, and I wound up very very late, walking dead, in Effingham, Illinois. I got a 2nd floor room at what I thought would be a safe enough bet, Howard Johnson's. Apparently HoJo's have changed immensely since I was last in one (which, admittedly, was for ice cream in the '60's). It wasn't at all a pretty room (unless by pretty, pretty disgusting), but it had the basics, and I was thoroughly exhausted. Especially after carting in most of my stuff, cleaning up, sorting and ironing a bit, etc. But I appreciated the bed all the same. A breakfast came with the room, if you got to it early enough in the lobby. It wasn't too impressive either, but I snagged an apple and some caffeine, and did have a little fun with the one intriguing thing, a waffle iron. Can't say I'm much of a cook, but the result was edible. Then I hauled everything back into the car on a rainy morning, and went up Illinois and over through Indiana and Ohio. Hit some rest stops, but mostly just drove and listened to CDs.

I basically repeated the whole process, perhaps even later at night since I wasn't seeing the places I had expected, and got a room at an Econolodge in western Pennsylvania. The room was cheaper and marginally better than HoJo's. I didn't find many of the declared amenities, seems they were remodelling or something, but after a few passes I found a room with what must have been the continental breakfast. Though it was still early, really nothing was left but a few pieces of bread. So I had a bit of toast. A family came in and did their best to fill up their little girl, too. Well, I had some room coffee so I was ok, and went about the job of repacking and crossing Penn State. Which naturally took up most of the day.

By Wilkes-Barre I needed to seek out some gas. I wound up at a Wal-Mart (no matter where I go, I end up at Wal-Mart)...but I didn't see any Wal-Marts outside of Texas with gas stations. I had a card all ready for such events, but...mrph. Stretched my legs and drove about the area. Kept getting trapped into circling yuppie strips and little malls. Finally thought I'd get lunch at the KFC I saw, and went in, read the menu and waited for someone to take my order. Others came and waited. We all waited. And waited. There were employees milling about, but they all ignored (and very well, too) the front counter. One couple gave up in a huff, and after another ten minutes, I decided I didn't need chicken either. The first couple smiled at me as they'd circled around and were going out the lot by then. I went up to the corner and the McDonald's across the street caught my eye. Not for food, just eye candy.

It was so retro...hadn't seen one like that in a long time. The ambulance parked to the side made me laugh, and all the horizontal lines rather pleased me artistically. So I took a picture of that before leaving and getting some gas in some remote corner and returning to the highway.

On through Scranton, then to avoid the messy New Jersey/New York City area, I scrambled up north a little and entered New York State. Commemorated that event with a stop at a Scenic View pullover. Hudson River Valley farmland...or at least pretty close to it. Gas prices jumped, as I expected (I think the cheapest gas I got on the trip was about $2.46/gal., in Hot Springs, and the highest was $3.03/gal. in Tarrytown), and things in general (driving-wise) got more complicated. The water at rest stops was brown and didn't taste too nice, the way got more crowded and tolls and bridges kept popping up. But all in all I was very happy that I'd chosen this route. Once I was sure I'd read the maps right (for some reason I was having a lot of trouble, suddenly, seeing up close) and was on the right road, I enjoyed the scenery. Much of it (HI-9) was like HI-7 through Arkansas, all twisty and curvy but full of trees and little towns and farmlets.

By late afternoon I was following the Hudson down the state. I was amused at an intersection stop...just before it I saw a street sign saying "DeVry" and another touting "Pierson." Then I looked on the other side of me and saw a sign pointing to the Bridge that the notorious Headless Horseman was to have haunted, and then drove past the Sleepy Hollow cemetery. What had made me snicker about all that together was that I was driving to a Dark Shadows Festival celebrating the anniversary of the role of Barnabas Collins. Jim Pierson was the con chair, or at least a primary organizer of the event, and I'd just worked with him a little in getting Jonathan Frid's first DVD out. "DeVry" is a name variation for the surname "Frid" (the things you learn at a library), and of course, Sleepy Hollow, besides having its own haunted history, is Tarrytown, home of assorted bits and pieces of Dark Shadows film lore. And why I was there. I just didn't expect the streets there, side-by-side like that. But then Life is just one big visual pun-athon to me. ;-)

I arrived at the road that the Westchester Marriott was supposed to be on, but I'd expected it on the north side, to my left (so much for Yahoo) and it was on the south, to my right, and I either nearly missed it or I did and had to circle about...anyway I recall it was a little tricky getting in the right lot. Then I drove over to the right side and parked, caught my breath, pulled myself together a sec. Ta da, Thursday, I'm here. And almost alive. I think it was about 5pm, give or take an hour. Now what?

Judging from the clues, cars, etc., I figured I was in the right place, and went to the front desk and asked for Nancy K. She wasn't in but the hotel staff said I could check in, just show my credit and ID and promise firstborn and such. Uh, ok. Got a room key, wandered down the hall to find the matching door, et voilà, I'm here.

No one else was. But Stuff was. Nancy stuff. Fine. And I was pleased that I'd had the grand foresight of parking right next to the room. It was still a bit of a walk-around and the entries needed keys, but I hauled my junk in. Observed that Mr. Frid's car was nearby, so I guessed that explained a few other things. I melted onto a bed, planning to surprise whomever entered the room first with something along the lines that this hotel would let just anyone in...but it was some time before anyone came. I even explored a couple of halls, then went back, deciding I needed cold liquid and rest more than anything. Then people came and all I recall is hugging and yacking.

At some point I did have the presence of mind to recharge my camera and put a bigger memory card in for all the events coming up on the weekend. Apparently had a couple of test pix left on it...Here's Paddy again. For a big bundle of fluff, he certainly gets around. (I guess I could say the same thing about me, come to think of it).

We had a "pirate book" display at the library this summer (Sail Away with Books was the summer reading theme) so my Halloween candy bucket did a little double duty. Anyway I was seeing the difference between using the flash and not using the flash. Flash works better if you don't tweak the lighting in an art program later, definitely, LOL. Captain Archer there thinks so, anyway. >wink< Ok, that's it, 5:30am and I need sleep yet again (it's like Morpheus just follows me around!) so you'll just have to wait awhile for the Lyndhurst pictures...

Speleothems 'R' Us...

Our guide only asked us not to blind him. I accidentally got him in one of my shots. Sorry about that, but it does make a nice promo shot for Onondaga, LOL!

Looks like all the sugar is pouring out!
Rocky chandeliers dripping over the river. Originally much of the cave was shown via tour boats, but that wasn't as safe or as reliable a way of getting around and so was eventually given up, though some docks are still here and there.
Some coppery "lilypads" adorn the cave ponds. And the dripping ceiling drops make beautiful crossed ripples in the crystal clear cave water. Um, I'll just call this one a cave flower (with an impressive pistil)... Wider view of the lilypad room. Complete with orbs (ok, they're just water droplets). ;-) A rainy room!
This one is an overgrown gnome.
Milk pouring out through the bacon...neat shot, if I say so myself.
An island of solitude. A closer and slightly different angle of the above.
More cavernous textures.
And one last, dramatic scene from Onondaga Cave.
After the tour I stopped in the giftshop for a few minutes, and a little onyx bat flew into the car with me on the way out. There was more to explore outside--the area where the river met the cave and other places to walk to and inspect, other prospective neat things at which to aim a lens--but the staff also announced that the front parking lot would be closed in a few minutes. At first I wondered why they'd encourage us to look around and in almost the same breath tell us we'd better get going, until I realized this was also a camping park. So the cave lot would be closing in a bit but the camping side of the park would be open. Consequently I'd have to move the car and find another place to park if I wanted to roam around. However, even though tempted, I was now very tired, and outside was very hot, so I settled for a quickie drive around the aforementioned area (saw a little bit of swamp) and circled around and headed back to the highway instead. It was a nice spot to spend a couple hours, and a new one to me.

Onondaga observations

Although you walk at a pretty fast pace, it is understandable, being a good long trip tour. "The Mammoth of Missouri."
This large room was "tweaked" a bit, that is, had the floor built up to hold enough water to provide a mirror surface to enhance the big columns in the middle, and also make the room look even bigger than it is.
The ceiling in this area is coated with zillions of small formations.
The central pillars of the reflection room...
Close-up (er, did the earth move?) of the ceiling. Definitely wouldn't want to be under that when it falls. Some of these have fallen. The smaller ones weigh a few hundred pounds. Ow.
Pillar with reflection.
Peanutbutter falls?
This is an Enormous room, and the white is a huge calcite flowstone formation. A massive hill of drips. We're on the other end of this room, and you can see the tour stairs going around it and the riverlet beneath. Pretty impressive, eh?
Muddier formations.
This one looks like it got lost from a coral reef, to me.
You can see the drippy ceiling, too.
Fried eggs, anyone? Actually the tour guide called them something else quite different, but I didn't quite catch the word. They are kind of the equivalent of mineral lilypads.
The flowstone waterfall, close-up (from the big room).
That's a lot of rock.