Tintype Field Trip

Remember when you were a kid in school and went on field trips? Weren’t they exciting? As an adult I have perfected the art of the field trip.

Enter Laura Burlton and Houston Tintype Studio.

Who is Laura Burlton? A very talented photographer here in the Houston area. She does all of your basic types of photography. However she also has developed crazy mad skills when it comes to Tintype Photography.

What you may ask is Tintype Photography? Think about all of the photos that were taken during the mid to late 1800’s. (Yes, including the Civil War.) A Google search told me that the photograph is made by “…creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal coated.….dark lacquer or enamel.….photographic emulsion.….”. Better yet, here are some examples of work by Laura Burlton.

For those of us who are not technologically inclined, this is a fun way to have your picture taken.

These are not your run‐of‐the‐mill digital photos. These are not selfies. The pictures are taken one at a time. With a camera. Not taken with a phone. There is skill and artistry involved in these pictures. To have my picture taken, I sat on a stool in front of the camera. I posed. Laura Burlton put a metal plate into the camera. There was a bright flash of light and a mild puff of warm air. Then Laura took the plate into her darkroom and re‐emerged with one photo.

The trickiest part of this whole process had nothing to do with the artist or the photography process. It had do to with me. For many years I have hated to have my picture taken. I have never liked any picture ever taken of me. Yet, I have recently undergone gastric sleeve surgery and have lost a bunch of weight. What the heck do I look like? Other people see a difference, but I don’t always feel any different. Pictures are good for comparisons.

Here is my favorite picture. Why yes, I am wearing a Bowler hat. Why? Does anyone need to give a serious answer when wearing a Bowler hat? Obviously, I am still exploring this surrealistic phase of life that I have entered. It’s fun. I really don’t understand why more people don’t wear Bowler hats. I’m pretty sure it would help lead to world peace if more people would just wear Bowler hats. What do you think?

I like the fact that these are black and white photos. Black and white photos are developed in a dark room. This involves time and patience. A dramatic play between light and dark and shadows that cannot be found in color digital pictures.

Here is another fun picture from the Tuesday field trip. I think this one makes me look mysterious. This is the one I should bring out at Halloween and use to scare small children. Boo! I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I would mess with this woman. Yes, I am still wearing the Bowler hat; however, I could throw this hat at you and it just might hurt you. Who knows? As always, I am really looking forward to Halloween. Here in Houston my favorite holiday is just one hurricane season away.

Many thanks to Laura Burlton and Houston Tintype Studio for allowing me to have such a fun time Tuesday morning. Here is Laura talking to me from her dark room. This was towards the end of our session when all of the magic of the darkroom was finished. I can highly recommend this experience and will definitely go back myself for more fun and frolic.

Until next week.….

The Road From Spring Into Summer

I don’t care what the calendar says. I know what I know.

This is the last week for Spring weather here in Houston. Except for a few monsoon floods, we’ve had a pretty good run. In between rain storms, there were many days where morning temperatures were in the upper 60’s with low humidity. I walked. I opened windows and enjoyed fresh air.

Yet, the weather forecasters are all telling us that by next week the temperatures will rise and it will definitely feel like summer.

So during these last few days of not only tolerable, but lovely weather, I decided to visit some of my favorite strolling spots. I wound up going back to the Rienzi with some of my writing friends. We received a brief tour inside the house from Ms. Ryan Hernandez. I have to admit this was my second tour of the house and it was just as fascinating, if not more so, than the first time.

After our indoor stroll, we were free to roam around the grounds. Some of us stayed inside to write and others of us went outside to be inspired by the nature that fills the lovely grounds.

Carroll and Harris Masterson lived in this house during the post World War II years through the 1960s and beyond into the 1990s. These two were major philanthropists helping the growing city of Houston develop both culturally and with a social conscience.

Carroll Masterson served on many boards for the fine arts including the Alley Theatre, Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera among others. She also supported charities that supported both the elderly and also women and children.

Learning about this family reminded me of the research I conducted a few years ago on local poor farms and pauper cemeteries. There were many charitable organizations that were supported by local society matrons. Now that I am retired from the rigors of Social Services and local government, I now spend a lot of time at the arts organizations that the Masterson family helped to create. No wonder I felt so comfortable walking around the Rienzi House and Gardens.

There is one last field trip this weekend when I will go to the Houston Symphony to hear Blue Beard’s Castle. Then I will retreat underground and inside with lots of air conditioning. I will even switch from walking outside to enjoying water aerobics at an indoor pool. Even when I do venture out to attend the Summer Chills play at the Alley Theatre, I can get there through a parking garage and a downtown tunnel.

Not to worry. I will continue some road trips and all blogging activities before re‐emerging into polite society sometime in the fall. This will be just in time for Halloween! Since my favorite holiday is just a mere 168 days away, the days will fly by quickly.

Until next week.….

Visiting the Veil Between the Worlds

It all started out one night when my dear friend (DF) and I were on our way to dinner. In addition to eating, we were also on a mission to visit a restaurant that knows how to appreciate El Dia De Los Muertos (otherwise known as The Day of The Dead)!

There are ghosts out there. Some are friendly and some not so much. How do you interact with your ghosts?

At a restaurant in the upper Kirby area of Houston called 100% Taquito, they honor the souls of loved ones who have departed. As soon as you walk in the door, you see ofrendas, or altars dedicated to the departed. You are also welcomed into the restaurant by this jolly fellow.

One aspect I love about living in Houston is the access to so many cultures and customs. That is never more true than this time of year. Whether you call it Halloween, El Dia De Los Muertos, Samhain, or All Souls Day, this is the time of year when we are reminded that there is an afterlife. There are souls, spirits and ghosts out there and this is the time of year when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest. Some of us prepare favorite foods of loved ones who have passed. Some of us dress up in costumes so that the bad goblins will not recognize us and hurt us. Some of us pray for those who have gone on before us.

At 100% Taquito DF and I had the honor of dining in the presence of some wonderful spirits. We were also serenaded by a delightful chap with his guitar.

As I have alluded to in previous blogs, this is the time of the year when we can laugh at things that scare us. We can take charge of our lives and not get unnerved by things that go bump in the night.

Along one wall of the restaurant there was an elaborate ofrenda. We sat next to this as I enjoyed a traditional flan desert and DF had a mango pudding. This was my first visit to 100% Taquito, but I am sure that I will go back.

When I returned home I looked at some of the various seasonal items I have collected over the years. It is a definite mix of Halloween and El Dia De Los Muertos. I like to think that the spirits that surround me this time of year are friendly. Hopefully the ones that aren’t will be scared off by my collection of skulls and scary faces.

Here’s to hoping that your ghosts and goblins are friendly as well.

Until next week.….……

Wisdom and Greatness

This has been a week for wisdom and greatness. Not from watching television news or paying attention to current events. What I did was to surround myself with some wise and great people.

Last night I went to see Anne Lamott talk about her latest book. The title is, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope. While standing in line, I was able to capture this picture of her arriving for her talk. I was delighted to be joined there by so many great and wise members of the Spectrum Center Writers Guild plus a couple of folks from my Soul Collage group. What a great group of creative people.

Back to Anne Lamott. In her chapter on Writing she states:

We have to cultivate the habits of curiosity and paying attention, which are essential to living rich lives and writing. You raise your eyes out of the pit, which is so miserable and stifling to be in and which tried to grab you and keep you there, until something sneaky hauled you out and changed you.”

Paying attention has been an ongoing theme of the RoadBroads. It is essential to stay curious and see what is all around us. I paid attention to Anne Lamott speak on how to keep moving whether you are writing or living life. One foot in front of another, one word at a time and next thing you know you have written the next chapter, survived the next crisis, accomplished what was once just a dream.

And speaking of accomplishing great dreams, I had the great opportunity to attend the Houston Symphony Thursday evening. Itzhak Perlman played and conducted. His passion and intense attention to every detail of the music is amazing to watch. He is focused yet is able to play a concerto by Bach all the while conducting a symphony orchestra. I was awed. It goes without saying the music was transcendent. If you get a chance see Itzhak Perlman perform, then run…don’t walk, to the nearest symphony hall. Hint: there is another performance in Houston on Sunday afternoon.

Finally, this past Friday afternoon I attended my first Halloween Party for the season. I went back to the workplace I had retired from back in May. This was my first time to go back. Years ago I started a tradition of holding an annual Halloween Party for staff and didn’t know if it would continue in my absence. I needn’t have worried. Janet, the woman who took my place and Brenda, one of the greatest Administrative Assistants of all time, made me proud. They not only carried on the Halloween tradition, but they even added a Haunted House to the festivities.

Here is a picture of the three of us. I am once again joined by wisdom and greatness. Yes, the creature with the skull face is the woman who replaced me. Obviously, she is doing a great job.

On a final note, I have to thank my friend, Ann, who remembered the song that I wrote about during my last blog post. The name of the song is, Who Were The Witches? You can catch a version sung by The Gaia Choir on YouTube. Thanks, Ann!

Until next time.……

Witch!

Who were the witches,

Where did they come from,

Maybe your great, great, great

Grandma was one!

This is a snippet of a song that I learned years ago when I attended a women’s camping trip in the Texas Hill Country. I don’t remember who wrote it or when it was written. This is all I remember of the song, but I think about this every Halloween. Actually it is my interest in women’s history; including the history of witches and the Salem Witch Trials that has really sparked my interest in Halloween for many years. Anyone who is invited over to my house around October 31st gets my lecture on how witches were persecuted women. Yes, back in the old days (Really.…old days.…days even older than me!) women were subjected to torture and hanging if the local cow’s milk went bad or farmer Brown’s crops didn’t grow. Many women were killed because of the suspicions of others. I wish I had a broomstick I could ride around on today. Not only would it be better than Houston traffic, but maybe it would solve my fear of flying in planes!

Of course one would hope that after that dark period in history, humanity would evolve. However, please tell me if you have ever heard of Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, Mary Ann Evans, Karen Blixen, or Joanne Rowling? They are all women writers. Maybe you are familiar with their pseudonyms; George Sand, George Eliot, Isak Dinesen and J. K. Rowling. Even Louisa May Alcott started her writing career by publishing under the name of A. M. Barnard.

 Back in the day, women had a lot of trouble getting published. It was easier to write using a male pseudonyms or initials so the reader could not tell the author was a woman. It would be nice to say that this was not the case any longer. Alice Mary Norton died in 2006 having spent a career writing science fiction and fantasy works under the name of Andre Norton. One of her works was called Witch World.

Women artists have also had their troubles. There was a time when women weren’t allowed in art academies or art guilds. They were sometimes seen as mentally ill because of their avant garde life styles and independent natures. Sometimes they were merely shunned, because they were too different from those in polite society. One sculptor, Camille Claudel, spent the last 30 years of her life in an asylum in France because her mother and overly religious brother kept her in the asylum and wouldn’t allow her to return home.

I love almost any form of art. I love taking the art history class at the Glassell, Women in Art. I also love to write. Do these facts make me a witch or does this make me crazy? No, that’s not a trick question and I won’t put a spell on you if I don’t like your answer. (Probably.) I have been called a strong and independent woman; which I consider a compliment.

Consider the image below:

Do you think this is a picture of a male figure or a female figure? How can you tell? How does sexual identity change your impression of this critter? Does it make a difference in how scary this image is?

Halloween gives me so much to think about every year. I review my list of positive female role models and hope that I have been a positive role model to some of the women in my world.

Until next time.….….….

Things That Go Bump In The Night

I woke up this morning and the first thing I did was look out the window. Another grey day. It has been cloudy and rainy for over a week now. Houston goes through these depressing periods when you almost forget what it is like to wear sunglasses and see blue sky. There’s been a lot of flooding along the Gulf Coast.

I was on the verge of feeling depressed, but then I remembered what day it was. Ten years ago today Hurricane Ike blew through the area. I lost electricity for a week. Others did without power for longer. I had to take cold showers by flashlight, because as a local government employee, I had to get back to work as quickly as possible. At least at work there was air conditioning.

Watching Hurricane Florence move onto the Carolina coast reminded me of Hurricane Ike. The storm surge moved far inland before the actual hurricane winds and rain made landfall. There was a twinge in my stomach as I remembered sitting in my kitchen at 4:00 a.m. listening to the winds blow as various objects hit the walls of my home or land on the roof. A little storm PTSD maybe? I wish everyone in North and South Carolina all the best!

All of a sudden my grey day is not so bad. Instead of a hurricane, I only had to put up with some drizzly rain as I drove over to the Glassell School of Art for my Art History class. I heard a wonderful lecture on Women Impressionists by Dr. Anna Tahinci. Artists like Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot painted scenes from their everyday lives back in the late 1800s. The pictures were beautiful and colorful, but still easy to imagine how restricted life was for women back in that day.

I especially enjoyed this lecture, because I have not had much culture this week. Earlier on Tuesday; which is my traditional culture day, it was rainy. I needed to buy cat litter. My great culture adventure for the week revolved around buying cat litter. I promise to do better next week.

Also, I went to Local’s for lunch on Tuesday. I was fascinated by their wall decorations. It reminded me of the song by the band Chicago:

Does anybody really know what time it is,

Does anybody really care,

If so I can’t imagine why,

We’ve all got time enough to cry.

Okay, so let me see if I can end this blog a little more upbeat.

My good friend Melanie took a road trip to Portland, Oregon recently and brought me some of this dandy sipping chocolate! So, I took a fun road trip into my kitchen and made a cup. Yum! If you knew the level of my culinary abilities, then you would understand what a risk I took on the road trip into my kitchen. The good news is that I can occasionally boil water and the sipping chocolate was a delicious success! I am looking forward to trying a recipe that will include hazelnut milk along with the dark chocolate! I will let you know how it goes.

Also, on a very positive note, I purchased my first Halloween decoration for the year this past week. Every year I purchase at least one Halloween decoration and have built up quite a collection! Here is my most recent acquisition:

When Halloween gets here all hurricanes will be gone, cooler weather will be here and the sun will be shining again. I can laugh and make fun of all the things that scare me and all that goes bump in the night!

Until next week…