The Summer of 1969

Flashback!

Every once in a while I think of that summer when I graduated from high school. What a unique time it was!

I’ll tell you in a minute why it has come to mind today…

But for now, let me reminisce just a bit.

That summer was a landmark in American history. And I wouldn’t have known that then because I was a mere 17 years old. Just a baby.

Even so, I felt like I had been part of history already. Only 6 years before, JFK was assassinated. I had just turned 12 but it was one of those days you never forgot where you were. I was in 7th grade music class when someone came in and made the announcement. We were stunned and speechless for the rest of the day. I remember riding home on the bus in a daze.

In 1968, when I was 16, both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were killed. I couldn’t believe it was happening. The world seemed to be falling apart. What would happen to us all?

I was a bit too young to become a “hippie” but I sure wanted to. However, my dad was a strict disciplinarian and I never got out of his sight long enough to have any notions of “free love” or any of that “don’t trust anyone over 30” nonsense. Thank goodness!

But things were a’happenin’ in that summer of 1969! Yes indeed!

Just a few of them were:

June 1 – John Lennon (and Yoko Ono) recorded “Give Peace a Chance” during a “bed-in” for world peace. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that as it was a bit too grown up for me at the time. But the recording – the first one by a solo Beatle, is still an anthem for peace.

July 8 – the first withdrawals of troops from the Vietnam war were made even though the war would go on for six more years. This was a HUGE concern for me as all the boys I went to school with were in danger of being drafted. Many of them went and many did not come back. Some who did come back were never the same.

July 16 – Ted Kennedy, brother of the most notable president in my lifetime, drove off a bridge in Chappaquiddick Massachusetts and the girl with him (not his wife) died. For me it was yet another major disappointment from someone who was supposed to be a moral role model (we were much more innocent in those days.)

July 20 – the lunar module Eagle landed on the moon. The world watched in awe as Neil Armstrong took his first steps on that surface. I was watching intently.

August 9 – the Manson murders. Sharon Tate and her friends were slaughtered by the Manson cult in Los Angeles California in a most brutal and spectacular way. The man who worked there as a gardener was shown on the front pages of the newspapers all over the country. He was from my hometown and I knew him.

August 15-18 – Woodstock. Probably the most famous rock concert ever held. And I could have gone. However, I was just 17 at the time. I did happen to be with a couple girlfriends walking down North High Street on the Ohio State campus on a hot summer night when a car full of cute guys pulled over and spoke to us. “Wanna go to Woodstock?” they asked. We giggled as we had not heard of it. “What is that?” we asked. “Concert!” they said. “Wanna go? We’re headed that way!” Not wanting to look like losers we demurely refused. “Can’t right now” we said – as if we’d catch up later! Ha! I often wonder not only who they were but if they made it there. And if they’re old guys now still telling how they took off for Woodstock back in the day. I’ll never know!

September 26 – The Beatles release their last studio album, Abbey Road. It was the end of an era.

I do feel a bit like Forrest Gump but I really was there. So that – plus lots more was the Summer of 1969. I got my first job as a teller at a local bank and enrolled in college. The future seemed like a bright shining light. Everything seemed possible. Despite the social uproar of my teenage years.

But of course life doesn’t remain so optimistic. There have been lots of good times and lots of bad. I guess it all evens out somehow. Now I just try to appreciate the blessings of each day. It is almost 46 years later and I’m no longer so young or adventurous. I love having those memories of that timeless summer of 1969, but now I want to anticipate each summer that comes along. Next will be 2015. And I’m still here. Glory be!

So while I’m dreaming of what lies ahead, I’ll tell you why this all came to mind. Today’s sketch is of an old friend from that era. We went to high school together and graduated that same spring. We both married fellas from our class of 69. While I’ve been divorced for a good 20 years, she is still hitched to her guy from back then. Kudos to them both!

Here’s my friend Donna.

Donna

This one took me several tries and it still isn’t 100% right on. But I think it’s close enough for now. And I defy you to tell me that this gorgeous woman graduated from high school in 1969! Can we just say that 60 something is the new 40? I think so!

It sure is nice to still have friends from long ago. We had so many good times. I can’t tell you how often we got together and played cards or went bowling or just out to a honky tonk where the guys would guzzle their beer. I don’t think Donna or I were drinkers at the time at all. And that’s a good thing… my ex-hubby couldn’t afford to buy my wine now in addition to his own refreshments!

I wonder if the current generation will have their own Summer of 69… it doesn’t seem like it could be replicated…

But that’s just me. Love child from way back… LOL!

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Short, Quick and Sweet

I realized today that what I’m going for in my new-found passion for portrait sketches is “short, quick and sweet.” In other words, portraying a lot with a spare amount of line and color and not overworking the whole thing to death. Which is what I usually do.

Today I am sketching Alison. We’ve been online friends for around 10 years even though we’ve never met in person. We found each other on a forum where we had things in common and have remained friends for all this time. We actually talked by phone a time or two, but other than that, it is an online thing where we keep up with each other.

Alison is a professor at San Jose State University. She teaches Film Studies (I don’t know the actual name for it, but it’s all about movies.) Pretty cool, huh?

So I did my best to make an “arty” drawing of her. It took me two tries. The first one got so overworked it no longer looked like her so I had to start over. I’m still experimenting with lots of color, but I think Alison will appreciate this. She’s all about films and art and all that. So I tried to keep my second attempt short, quick and sweet…

Alison

Also, in the last few days, I’ve done a couple spreads in my everyday journal that I haven’t posted.

First is “Salt Wars.” It is a home-cooking adventure about breaking my salt jar lid and then dumping an entire container of salt into a pan of pasta water. Not on purpose.

The good thing about these everyday adventures is that the thought of recording them in my sketch blog keeps me from getting all bent out of shape when these things happen. My brain goes immediately to how to tell the story in an amusing way. Which means I clean up the mess and go get out my sketchbook. Great therapy!

salt wars

And then there is an entry on CAVIAR. Oh my! This is another luxury food I never thought I’d eat but I’ve come to love it. And not the cheap stuff, either. Several times a year I order small amounts from my favorite vendor and go nuts. And I treat it like the royalty it is. It comes shipped in a thermal bag to keep it cold. I keep that going by serving it on ice. I also use mother-of-pearl spoons to scoop it out of its container. This is not as extravagant as it sounds. You can get the spoons quite inexpensively online and then you avoid the problem of tainting the caviar by touching it with a metal utensil. (And if you’re going to pay a premium price for caviar, you certainly want to do this!)

By the way, don’t forget to order a packet of blinis (small buckwheat pancakes) along with your caviar. They are wonderfully scrumptious and make all the difference in the world. And a nice shot of ice cold vodka (straight from the freezer) doesn’t hurt either!

caviar

So that’s my tale for today. I can cruise along in the daily journal anytime. The portrait sketches remain a challenge. But I’ll keep trying. And my new motto is “Short, Quick and Sweet.” Let’s see if I can do it!

A Spot of Tea

I never know where the inspiration for my daily drawings will come from. It could be a snippet of conversation with a friend or family member. It could be a new recipe I’ve seen on Food Network or it could be something that got mentioned on Facebook. And today’s entry is inspired by a Facebook post.

An old friend recently highlighted a site that features vintage teapots. I loved it because I used to have quite a collection of them.

However, when I downsized from my house to a small apartment, most of them had to go. I had to pick and choose what I could actually take with me to a more compact living space. But I did keep a few of my favorites.

This is a drawing of the few teapots I have left. Two are Hall collectibles, one is a Paragon from England and one is Bavarian china. They make me smile when I look at them.

teapots

Fortunately, I was able to keep more of my English teacup sets since they take up less room. Some of the ones I have are quite valuable so I can’t bear to part with them yet.

teacups

Preparing tea is not a fussy endeavor at all. It is pure pleasure. And I was reminded of that a couple years ago…

I was in Italy taking an art class and two of the other ladies there were from England. Several times a day they would have to break for a “cuppa.” Off they would go to the kitchen and plug in the electric kettle. In two minutes flat they would be sipping their refreshment and be renewed. I made a habit of joining them.

Needless to say, one of the first purchases I made when I got back home to Ohio was an electric kettle. What a wondrous thing! It heats up instantly and you can have the perfect cup of tea (or broth) in no time flat!

So, yes, I’ve given up coffee in favor of tea. I DO love coffee but it doesn’t love me. I save it for special occasions.

In the meantime, I enjoy trying out all kinds of tea.

Have a “spot” anyone?

Frustration Again

Some days when I’m sketching I just can’t seem to nail it. And it’s usually the portraits. It drives me a little nuts.

It is just so frustrating to be able to get it some of the time and not others. Because a portrait just isn’t any good when it’s off.

My subject this session is my oldest grandson, AJ. At age 16 he’s a very thoughtful kid. He spends a lot of time producing electronic music on the computer so he’s a rather “arty” type. He also has a pretty good sense of humor.

As he’s gotten older he has become very accommodating with me… opening doors, carrying things, asking if I need help. One time I commented, “AJ, I’m so proud of you! You are becoming quite the gentleman!” To which he replied, “thanks, Nonna… but don’t tell my mom!” I thought that was hilarious. And smart. We wouldn’t want his mother’s expectations to soar too high, now would we?

I was pleased with the first sketch. And I have to say it looks much better in person. It’s all scribbly and sketchy like I like.

AJ

The second one started out ok and then got lost. At one point it was quirky and cute but I just couldn’t leave it alone. I kept messing with it to the point of near ruination. Ugh!

AJ1

So I figured, why not do it again and try to have a little restraint? Go for the quirky and keep it sketchy and lighter. Same thing happened again. And this time I managed to make him look older than he is. I don’t even know how I did that since it was the same photo. Double ugh!

AJ2

I don’t think they’re horrible. They’re just not what I was going for. Thus the frustration.

And I realize I have a couple problems here. One, it wasn’t a great photo. I liked it, but sometimes you can’t get a good drawing out of a challenging photo.

Two, I’m working in a bound book. That makes me feel pressure to make every drawing “nice” so there aren’t bad pages in the book. This is dumb. Not every drawing is going to be good or on the mark. I know that. So why am I expecting such a thing?

I think a way around that is to work on single sheets. I’m planning to cut up some of my spiral bound sketch pads into a huge stack of loose pages. Then I can work with more abandon. If I do a bunch of bad drawings, I can simply throw them away. The ones I keep can be bound into a book of their own.

So I guess I’m off to round up supplies and start getting the pages ready. I’m itching to get loose!

Doggie Love

I love dogs. But I can’t have one. Allergic.

And boy does that burn my biscuits!

We DID have dogs when my kids were growing up. It was hard for me to tolerate at times, allergy-wise, so I popped the pills, got the shots and suffered a lot of upper respiratory infections. I didn’t realize how sick that had made me until we didn’t have dogs anymore. But I enjoyed those four-legged characters. And my kids were always ga-ga about them.

So… a few years ago, when I was seriously feeling the effects of the empty nest, I decided I wanted a dog. A little one. I would be Paris Hilton toting my new best friend with me everywhere.

I did some research to determine the most hypoallergenic breeds. And of course I would get a rescue. No high-priced puppy mills for me!

As fate would have it, I met my dream canine. I had gone to a rescue facility to meet with a little maltese but there were other dogs there as well.

Sadly, the maltese only wanted to get away from me. We didn’t connect at all. But… a scruffy white poodle jumped in my lap and wouldn’t leave. He was twice the size I wanted… 11 pounds… so I kept putting him down and chasing after the maltese, who insisted on ignoring me.

The poodle swooned every time I looked at him. And if I acted the least bit inviting, he’d follow me until he could end up in my lap. He was just the right amount of polite-but-anxious-to-be-loved. Kinda like me.

The rescue ladies were watching surreptitiously. I think they knew what was going to happen.

And happen it did.

By the end of our one-hour play date, the maltese had dumped me and the poodle was mine. But the poodle wasn’t quite ready. If I wanted him, I would be given a few days to think about it. Then, if I confirmed, I could pay a very low fee to have the dog neutered and all shots brought up to date. I agreed.

A week later my daughter’s family drove me back up to get my new companion. I thought it would be fun for the grandkids to be part of the experience.

We loaded the poodle in the van and the kids were enthralled. All the way home we brainstormed about what to name him. We decided on Beaux – the French spelling of a rather French name for such a frenchy sort of dog. Perfect.

Then the love affair began. Beaux was house-trained within days and we were smitten with each other. Every day we would go out on the back porch and he would calmly let me comb him out. Even though poodles don’t shed heavily, I wanted to keep him clean as possible to make it easy on my allergies. He acted like I was doing him a favor!

And smart! My goodness that dog was smart. After just a few tries he would sit, stay, lie down, and even hop round in circles on his hind legs – to which I would exclaim “circus doggie!” and laugh in delight. He seemed to love to make me laugh.

In the house I had figured out where he might want to lay or sleep while I was gone and I bought color-coordinated towels to put in those locations. (It’s an artist thing…) Again, this was so I could wash them frequently and guard against the allergy effect. Beaux quickly learned where he was allowed to park himself.

All was going well until I woke up with hives one morning. I didn’t think too much of it because I am an allergy girl. You never know what will set me off.

But the hives didn’t go away.

After a few days I was getting short of breath. And I noticed it was worse after having contact with Beaux.

I can’t tell you the dread that came over me.

Finally I ended up in the hospital getting breathing treatments. I was devastated. I knew I couldn’t keep Beaux.

That was several years ago and I am still heartbroken about it. I had to return Beaux to the rescue group. My only consolation was that I DID help find him a new home – and I DID do a fundraiser to raise money for the rescue facility. But it was very hard emotionally because I made a connection with that animal that was one-of-a-kind.

Now I am not one who thinks pets are substitutes for children. However, they are the epitomy of unconditional love. They don’t care what you look like or what your opinions are or what has happened to you on any given day. They are there when you walk through the door and they think you are a genius for showing up once again! How great is that?

So I have a couple doggie sketches today. They aren’t great masterpieces… just quickie sketches done for a couple of journal pages.

Here’s Jamie’s Harlow, a cute little Boston…

Harlow

And here’s Abby. She belongs to my grand daughter Josey, who posed her a bit. Abby likes to nap in Josey’s bed, so Jo let Abby hug her favorite stuffed bear…

Abby

I know that most of my friends have their own doggie-loves. (Really, can you fully trust someone who doesn’t love dogs – even if they can’t have one?) So please go give your pooch a kiss and hug for me. Auntie Starr sends her love!

Moments to Savor

As I get older, I realize how important it is to store up really good memories.

Not that you want to live in the past. No. You just need to be able to call up better times when harder times come.

I’m not sure if I developed the “mental-savoring” habit because I’m an artist or if I’m just wired that way. But I’ve pretty much always done it.

When I find myself in a moment of bliss – which can be anything from watching my grandkids play to walking on a beach to noticing the first flowers of spring – I try to memorize it. I lock that image in my mind and tell myself… “I’m going to remember this now so I can enjoy it again later!”

And you never know when that will come in handy.

Last year I had to have several tests done by MRI – the giant clanking tube that makes you feel like you’re in a coffin. No wonder people are afraid of that thing! The fear of it alone can do you in.

So here’s what I did.

First, I said yes to the sedation. I love me some legal drugs when they are available.

Then I went through my memory bank and picked out what I would think about while sequestered like a sardine in a can. I chose Italy because I lived there for a few months a couple years ago.

It was scary getting ready. By the time I got earplugs, eye covering, padding all round my head and totally strapped down I was glad for the sedation. And I had decided that once I closed my eyes I wouldn’t open them again until it was over.

I took deep breaths as the table I was laying on slid me inward. I clutched my little panic ball, which they say you can squeeze if you need to get out, but not too tightly. What could be worse than panicking your way out of that machine only to get put back in again? Better to see it through the first time.

IMG_3034Soon I was back in Lucca in my mind’s eye. I walked down the cobbled streets looking in shop windows. I strolled past the butcher where I loved to get parma ham. The open air flower stand at the intersection was bright with all colors of blooms. And just round the corner was my favorite lunch place, Pizza Da Felice. I craved a slice from here almost every other day!

But just as I was about to bite into my imaginary pizza, a voice interrupted.. “Doing OK in there?”

It took me a second to reply, “yes, I’m fine.” And I rather resented the intrusion.

Anyway, I spent my hour in the “tube o’death” enjoying Italy all over again. And when I got back to my room I wasn’t stressed at all. Slept off the sedation like a baby.

And that’s the power of memories to savor. At least for me.

So today’s sketches are the quickie portrait kind. And I think they are typical of moments to savor.

First is the daughter of two of my high school chums. Ashley just had son number two and this delightful scene shows son number one giving his brother a warm welcome.

Ashley2

Second is a quirky version of a couple young friends of mine. Matt and Chelsea recently celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary. It looks to me like they drank a bottle of bubbly with dinner and got the giggles. I’m calling this one a Champagne Selfie. And I think everyone should enjoy their anniversary so much! (Congrats you two!!)

chelsea and Matt2

I know I am going on overlong here, but I want to say one more thing about savoring good moments…

As an artist, I’ve had the privilege of preserving a lot of them for friends, family and clients. Over the years I’ve done hundreds of portrait sketches. Some of kids, some of pets, some of mom or dad after they’re gone. And I can’t tell you the reactions I’ve gotten. Believe me, some of those are memorable for me!

One day, back in the era of answering machines, I came home to a message exclaiming breathily.. “Oh Starr! Oh Starr!” over and over. Yikes! Just as I was thinking it was some sort of obscene call, the caller identified herself. She had just received a gift from her husband – the portrait I did of her family. She was overjoyed and it made my day.

I’ve had more than one person tell me that if their house was burning down, the one thing they would grab on the way out the door was the painting or portrait I did for them. That’s mighty nice validation for me. And wonderful memory preservation for them.

And by the way… I did a pencil portrait of the pizzaola at da Felice as well as a sketch of their front entrance (shown above.) They hung it on the wall and wouldn’t let me pay for a slice again after that! That’s happiness to me!

So be aware of your own fleeting times of bliss. Recognize when they happen. Pay attention. Study them closely and link them to how you feel right then. Because later, when you need a boost, all you have to do is dream. You have precious moments to savor.

Seafood Extravaganza

Oh my, but do I love seafood!

Well, really, I just love food…

And now that I am officially a Food Network addict, I’m always trying new things.

I guess I’ve become a FOODIE. And I’m thrilled. It’s a way to put some adventure in your life without leaving home. (Although I like leaving-home adventures, too.)

But whether I leave home or not, I can’t wait to eat something exciting – or comforting – depending on my mood.

Although that did not come naturally…

My mother was not a good cook. She just wasn’t interested. Besides, she lived on coffee and cigarettes to stay thin. And she had a strict grocery budget. Not the makings of any type of chef. The funny thing is, when I think back, I can’t even remember what we ate. It was that nondescript.

Then I was married forever to a man who had food FEARS. He didn’t like anything pickled, he wouldn’t eat vegetables, and he was so TERRIFIED of mayonnaise that he used to check the trash to make sure I wasn’t tricking him. No salads, no casseroles, just meat and potatoes non-stop. No wonder by the time we parted, we both looked like meatloaves!

Well, not now! (Actually, I don’t even know what HE looks like anymore, but I exist on fantastic food!)

I figure if a food sustains any group of people, anywhere in the world, then it is worth giving a try. I’ve had alligator, baby goat, rabbit, bison, suckling pig, rattlesnake, snails, squid, octopus and more. It’s a bit harder to get into insects, but I do think I tried a chocolate covered cricket once.

At present I am totally digging seafood. Specifically shellfish. And I think I might be craving it because I am perpetually low in zinc due to several surgeries. So bring on the zinc!

One great source is shrimp… oh what lovely food these ugly bugs cook up into!

shrimp

And then there’s oysters.

oysters

Now I never thought one of these would cross my lips, but how wrong I was! I even bought an oyster knife so I could shuck them myself. Love…

So that’s the day’s post. And as far as drawing goes, it is an easy one.

For me, doing portrait sketches are like pedaling a bike uphill. You gotta work at it. But food in the daily journal? That’s coasting downhill for miles. Just relax and feel the breeze in your hair. After all, if you’ve seen one oyster, you’ve seen them all.

But I’ve got another couple portrait sketches lined up for later today. Discipline, you know…

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