Monthly Archives: June 2009

…To Grandmother’s House We Go

This summer I have the honor of staying at my wonderfully Americana grandparents’ house (constructed 1856); a house brimming with history, character, and photogeneity. The house is also devoid of that annoying antique-store kitsch aesthetic, which I find pretty incredible and difficult to pull off. So naturally, I’m obsessed with documenting the experience. I took these photos with my new camera, a Vivitar EF35, which Lulu thieved from a pack rat cobbler’s store in Chicago.

So here is the first round — I’ll definitely be be taking hundreds more though over course for the next few months at the house and around Bainbridge Island/Seattle, the best of which will be posted.

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Summer, Fitzgerald, and the Days of Dapper Inebriation

scottzelda1

Drinking, if done well and stylishly, can lead to literary inspiration – or at least not impede it too much. Take that great chronicler of wealth and high society F. Scott Fitzgerald, for instance; some of his best work was clearly done under the influence. Just look at the soaking-wet Tender Is the Night (1934). Of course the intemperate author, left entirely to his own devices, might have been less poetical in his consumption of alcohol and thereby rendered a less perfect work of art. But his great friends, patrons and mentors Gerald and Sara Murphy, upon whom Tender Is the Night is based, showed him how to do the thing properly.

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The beautiful, rich, and clever Murphys, iconic figures of the Jazz Age in France, held court at their villa on the French Riviera in Antibes (Villa America, as it was dubbed) where they would hold legendary dinner parties. Gerald tried to limit his guests’ consumption of the hard stuff in order to prevent the gatherings from devolving into total inebriation, though Fitzgerald usually managed to down more than his fair share. This often led to breakages, shouting matches and even suicide attempts.

The Fitzgeralds of course, were legendary boozers. When they later lived in shabby gentility in Great Neck, Long Island, they would drive back and forth to Manhattan for death-denying binges in a second-hand Rolls-Royce. Their houseboy would frequently find them passed out on the lawn in the morning, the car more or less in the driveway.

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Murphy immortalized drink-making as a stylish ritual in his 1927 painting “Cocktail,” now in the Whitney in New York. Asked what he was mixing in his silver shaker, Gerald would always reply, “Oh, just the juice of a few flowers.” (The line was later borrowed by the Murphys’ friend, The Philadelphia Story author Phillip Barry, for his movie Holiday in which it was said by Cary Grant). What Gerald was actually concocting was something he called a Bailey; “invented by me,” Gerald wrote to Alexander Woollcott, “as were a great many other good things.” Indeed.

Gerald Murphy’s “Bailey”:

3/5ths gin
1/5th grapefruit juice
1/5th lime juice
Sprigs of mint

Personal instructions:

The mint should be put in the shaker first. It should be torn up by hand as it steeps better. The gin should be added then and allowed to stand a minute or two. Then add the grapefruit juice and then the lime juice. Stir vigorously with ice and do not allow to dilute too much, but serve very cold, with a sprig of mint in each glass.

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Filed under Drink, Expatriates, Literature, Media, Quotes

Fiction Meets Reality: Daniel Plainview

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Fiction.

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Reality.

Wiki:

Edward Laurence Doheny (August 10, 1856September 8, 1935) was an Irish American oil tycoon, who in 1892, along with partner Charles A. Canfield, drilled the first successful well in the Los Angeles City oil field, setting off the petroleum boom in southern California. Formerly an unsuccessful prospector in New Mexico and the American Southwest, the Wisconsin-born Doheny became wealthy through his California oil interests, and was later also successful in the oil fields of Tampico, Mexico. During the administration of President Warren G. Harding, Doheny was implicated in the Teapot Dome Scandal and was accused of offering a $100,000 bribe to Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall in order to secure drilling rights without competitive bidding to the Elk Hills Naval Petroleum Reserve in central California. He was twice acquitted of offering the bribe that Fall was convicted of accepting. Doheny and his second wife and widow, Carrie Estelle, were noted philanthropists in Los Angeles. The character Vern Roscoe in Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil! (the inspiration for the 2007 film There Will Be Blood) is loosely based on Doheny.

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GD

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Abner Jay

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I’ve specifically tried to avoid posting anything regarding music because there are so many good (and a few great) blogs focusing on pretty much every aspect of it. That said, I can’t help but dedicate some space to the criminally underrated Abner Jay.

Here’s a pastiche biography I edited/pieced together: The archaic Abner Jay from Fitzgerald, Georgia described himself as ‘the last great Southern black minstrel show.’ Jay learned most of his banjo and old-time songs from his grandfather, who had been a slave in Washington County, Georgia.

The trajectory of black gospel folk is complex. There’s the first level of European Americans recognizing the creativity in the slave quarters as an attractive component for assimilation; secondly, there would be the response from the African American community that would mimic the mimickers; and last, there would be a contingent of African American musicians who would seek to parlay that polarity — that is to say, to take the original and dynamic components of that experience, and attempt to do create something original out of it. Abner Jay falls into the last group. For over fifty years Abner was a one-man band. In addition to the six string banjo he played the old swamp style guitar, harmonica, bass drum, cymbals and sang — all at the same time. He went on to lead the WMAZ Minstrels on Macon radio from 1946-56 before going solo and touring the country in his portable log cabin, complete with its own PA system.

Jay claims the secret to his good health was “layin’ on [his] belly drinkin’ water from that ol’ Swaunee River”.

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Dead Man

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Guthrie_house

Okfuskee County, Oklahoma, birthplace of Woody Guthrie.

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