The Lorraine

Welcome to day 14 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society.  Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
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I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my 2006 train trip through New Orleans, Memphis, and Minneapolis. Today, 53 years after Martin Luther King, Jr., received the Nobel Peace Prize on 14 Oct. 1964 for his work combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance, I want to focus on one motel in Memphis, the Lorraine Motel, where King was shot and killed in April 1968.

But first, a few things King said in the 1950s and 60s that are just as relevant today as then.

“It’s not only necessary to know how to go about loving your enemies, but also to go down into the question of why we should love our enemies. I think the first reason that we should love our enemies, and I think this was at the very center of Jesus’ thinking, is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil.” — 17 November 1957, “Loving Your Enemies,” sermon delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL

 “There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. … For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does.” — 17 November 1957, “Loving Your Enemies,” sermon delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL

“For nonviolence not only calls upon its adherents to avoid external physical violence, but it calls upon them to avoid internal violence of spirit. It calls on them to engage in that something called love. And I know it is difficult sometimes. When I say ‘love’ at this point, I’m not talking about an affectionate emotion. It’s nonsense to urge people, oppressed people, to love their oppressors in an affectionate sense. I’m talking about something much deeper. I’m talking about a sort of understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men.” — speech at the Great March on Detroit, 23 June 1963, Detroit, MI

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” — “Beyond Vietnam,” 4 April 1967, New York, N.Y.

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The Lorraine Motel from a block away, Nov. 2006

In 1945, Walter and Loree Bailey bought the Lorraine Motel in downtown Memphis (before that, it was operated since the 1920s as the Windsor Hotel and the Marquette Hotel) and transformed it from a whites-only establishment to an upscale motel welcoming both blacks and whites in the Jim Crow era. Among guests were Ray Charles, Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Aretha Franklin, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Nat King Cole.

King himself visited numerous times, including the spring of 1968, when he and Dr. Ralph Abernathy were in town to help lead sanitation workers in a protest against low wages and poor working conditions (timeline of strike). Jesse Jackson was also with the group.

King gave a speech on 3 April at the world headquarters of the Church of God in Christ, the Mason Temple, in which he told them,

“I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you.” 

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bookstore for the Church of God in Christ, a few blocks from the Lorraine Motel (Nov. 2006)

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The next day, 4 April, King was shot in the neck walking back into his motel room (room 306) from the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, where he had asked a saxophonist to play “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” at the rally that night.

The motel’s co-owner, Loree Bailey, operating the motel switchboard, “suffered a stroke when she heard the shot fired. She died on April 9th, the same day as King’s funeral.”

Walter Bailey continued to run the motel after King’s death but instead of renting out room 306 again, he turned it into a memorial, until 1982, when he “declared bankruptcy and stood by helplessly as his high-end establishment became a brothel. The Lorraine would have been sold at auction, but the Save the Lorraine organization bought it and decided to transform it into a museum.” After the final tenant, “Jacqueline Smith, who had resided there as a housekeeper since 1973, refused to leave and was forcibly evicted,” the motel closed in March 1988 and the National Civil Rights Museum was dedicated in the summer of 1991.

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The sign for the motel, Nov. 2006: Wounded in America: Stories of Gun Violence
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How the Lorraine Motel (National Civil Rights Museum) looked in Nov. 2006; it later underwent renovations (2012 to 2014). The two cars are a white 1959 Dodge Royal with lime green fins and a white 1968 Cadillac.

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James Earl Ray was arrested, pleaded guilty, and was convicted of killing King; Ray was sentenced to 99 years in prison, and died in prison in 1998 from hepatitis.

In 1999, the King family brought a wrongful death case against Loyd Jowers, owner of Jim’s Grill, a restaurant near the Lorraine, and “other unknown co-conspirators” for King’s murder. After four weeks of testimony, with more than 70 witnesses, a Memphis jury unanimously found for the family, i.e., “that Jowers was part of a conspiracy to kill King, and that the assassination plot also involved ‘others, including governmental agencies.'” Coretta Scott King named some of those others as “the Mafia, local, state and federal government agencies. Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department (under Janet Reno) had ordered a new investigation in August 1998 and its findings in June 2000 refuted allegations that there was any conspiracy to assassinate King, “including the findings of the Memphis civil court jury.”

Only a little more than 6 years after King was shot, his mother, Alberta Williams King, “was shot and killed as she sat at the organ in the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta” one Sunday (30 June 1974), by Marcus Wayne Chenault, a 23-year-old black man from Ohio who said he shot her because “all Christians are my enemies.” 

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I noticed a woman protesting the museum when I was there. That woman is Jacqueline Smith, the same housekeeper who was evicted in March 1988; she has been there protesting ever since (at least until 20 Aug. 2016, the last mention I found online), because she feels that the National Civil Rights Museum “worships” King’s death rather than celebrating his life. She also opposes the way that “King’s legacy in Memphis is tangled up with gentrification. She points out that many blacks can’t afford to live around the Lorraine Motel.” And she objects to the commercialisation of King’s life and death; one of her slogans says “Dr. King came to Memphis to support the poor, needy and oppressed; not to buy worthless junk.”

You can see one of her signs below, in my photo (Nov. 2006).

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I didn’t know about this controversy ahead of time and was confused when I saw Smith protesting the museum. I thought that she and her protest were the main attractions, and though I knew King had been shot there, which is why I was visiting the motel, I didn’t realise there was a museum on the site.  I wish I had and that I had looked through the plexiglass into the room where King was staying. That will have to wait for another trip to Memphis.

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“We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate. As Arnold Toynbee says: ‘Love is the ultimate force that makes for the saving choice of life and good against the damning choice of death and evil. Therefore the first hope in our inventory must be the hope that love is going to have the last word.’ … We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.” — “Beyond Vietnam,” 4 April 1967, New York, N.Y.

 

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Few Hours in Life More Agreeable (Middlebury Inn, Vermont)

Welcome to day 9 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society.  Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.

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“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” ― Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

I mentioned earlier that there are six motels/hotels that we (spouse and I) stay at over and over, in Savannah, Boston, Middlebury VT, Orleans MA, Boothbay ME, and Ogunquit ME, and I profiled the one in Savannah, the Holiday Inn on E. Bay St., in that post.

Today, let’s check out — or check into — The Middlebury Inn, in Middlebury, Vermont, home of Middlebury College.

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The Middlebury Inn is actually both an inn, in an historic building with a lovely lobby, quirky old elevator with a staffed operator, and tea service every afternoon, and a motel adjacent, where pets are allowed. We’ve stayed in both sections, the motel when travelling with dogs and the inn when not. I didn’t take photos of the motel, though, except a blurry one of the dog on the carpet. The rooms are not all that different from those in the inn.

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The lobby is welcoming.

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morning coffee

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Here’s an upstairs corridor in the inn:

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Some room shots,  in different rooms over three years:

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As usual, for us and I imagine other travellers, location is key, and the Middlebury Inn is right in the middle of this small college town, across from the town green and Episcopal church,

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The Inn from the green
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Early November on the green
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early December on the green
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St. Stephen’s on a Sunday morning
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storm clouds over St. Stephen’s and the Congregational church
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St. Stephen’s in late November
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crabapples and window reflections at St. Stephen’s

… a short walk to the supermarket, to Fire and Ice (our favourite restaurant in town),

FireandIceRestaurantexteriorMiddleburyVT23Nov2016FireandIceMiddleburyVT31Oct2015

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Adirondack chairs made of skis on the Fire & Ice porch
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part of the big salad bar at Fire & Ice

… and to the downtown/Otter Falls/Frog Hollow area, with the Edgewater Gallery (we have a few pieces of art in the house from Edgewater),

silverglistenshimmerOtterCreekMiddleburyVT26Nov2016
Otter Creek shimmering
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entrance to original Edgewater Gallery
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glassware inside Edgewater Gallery, looking out at Otter Creek

… more restaurants and coffee shops — Carol’s Hungry Mind Cafe, 51 Main, Storm Cafe, The Diner —

StormCafeatFrogHollowMiddleburyVT30Nov2013
Storm Cafe at Frog Hollow
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Carol’s Hungry Mind Cafe (red awning) and other shops
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The Diner (yellow), theatre, Baptist Church, and others

the Vermont Book Shop, a stationers, a small cinema, an old-fashioned Ben Franklin’s 5&10, clothing shops (I buy clothes and Christmas gifts at Sweet Cecily), and other boutiques.

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Ben Franklin and Marquis cinema

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It’s also walkable to the Marble Works businesses, which includes the Stone Leaf Tea House that we love love love,

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bridge over Otter Creek of Marble Work shops and businesses
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dark sky over Marble Works
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gone-by sunflowers against marble
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Round Robin resale ship in the Marble Works
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everything looks great against marble

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Stone Leaf Tea House
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Stone Leaf Tea House
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tea and treats at Stone Leaf Tea House
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lemon and green tea cake (Stone Leaf Tea House)
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gunpowder tea
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tea sampler with dark puer, cherry, jasmine (Stone Leaf Tea House)
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matcha and lemon cake, tamari almonds, dried fruits (Stone Leaf Tea House)

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… and to Danforth Pewter, where many Christmas gifts for friends and family have been purchased over the years (ornaments and earrings, mostly).

Otter Creek Brewing is just a short drive away.

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And probably most importantly, the Inn is centrally located for walking/hiking the Trails Around Middlebury, which is what occupies most of our time when we’re visiting the area.

Below are some photos from some of the TAM trails over the years, all hiked between end of the October and the beginning of December. (I have no idea what Middlebury looks like in the spring or summer. For us, it’s a fall-winter tourist town.)

The [Middlebury] Class of ’97 Trail

fencebarbedwirepostsfieldClassof97TrailTAMMiddleburyVT26Nov2016
(26 Nov 2016)
bridgegrassesClassof97TrailTAMMiddleburyVT26Nov2016
(26 Nov 2016)
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three yellow birches (26 Nov 2016)
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Middlebury College building, solar panels (26 Nov. 2016)
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(30 Nov 2013)
bridgeandtreesClassof97TAMTrailMiddleburyCollegeVT30Nov2013
(30 Nov 2013)
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sumac and white pine (30 Nov 2013)
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“walk quickly through the area – don’t run” (26 Nov 2016)
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juniper (26 Nov 2016)
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hornet’s nest (26 Nov 2016)

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Johnson Trail (all 24 Nov. 2016)

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snowy boardwalk

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Chipman Trail (first, 24 Nov. 2016; the rest, 2 Nov. 2015)

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aspen leaf + grasshopper
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yellow beech tree leaves
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aspen leaves

rockpurplesplotcheslichenChipmanHillTAMMiddleburyVT2Nov2015yellowbrownfallfoliagesunlightleavesChipmanHillTAMMiddleburyVT2Nov2015

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Battell Nature Park (first three, 24 Nov. 2016; last 31 Oct. 2015)

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multiflora rose bramble
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grey dogwood (Swida racemosa), 31 Oct. 2015
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(31 Oct 2015)

Otter Creek Trail (29 Nov. 2013)

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dam and falls from Arnold Bridge
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limestone
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waterfall and hydro dam
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ethereal snow, moss, mist
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four cows

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Wright Park (27 Nov. 2016)

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Otter Creek with grasses and slanted trees
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hepatica foliage
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yellow jelly fungi
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Arnold Bridge across Otter Creek

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Murdock Nature Preserve (1 Nov. 2015)

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cave
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rock
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large twig bird’s nest

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Means Nature Preserve (24 Nov 2016)

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shagbark hickory bark

redleavesvinesnowMeansNaturePreserveTAMMiddleburyVT24Nov2016

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Jackson Trail – obviously a favourite

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28 Nov. 2013
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geese in flight (28 Nov. 2013)
wetareasunlightwoodsJacksonTrailTAMMiddleburyVT1Nov2015
(1 Nov. 2015)
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(1 Nov. 2015)
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garter snake I accidentally hit with my foot (1 Nov. 2015)
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dark sky (1 Nov. 2015)
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bare trees and dark sky (1 Nov. 2015)
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cricket (1 Nov. 2015)
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mound of polypody ferns (25 Nov. 2016)
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one equisetum stalk (25 Nov. 2016)
beechleavestreesorangeJacksonTrailTAMMiddleburyVT25Nov2016
orange (25 Nov. 2016)
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sunlight on snow (28 Nov. 2013)
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blurry horned larks – the field was full of them (28 Nov. 2013)
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machines shed (28 Nov. 2013)

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As always when travelling, what’s nice is coming back to the comforts, even luxuries, and the privacy of the hotel, motel, or inn. At the Middlebury Inn, that pleasure is doubled when returning for a little nap in the room before afternoon tea in the spacious and well-lit lobby.

MiddleburyInnentranceMiddleburyVT30Nov2013afternoonteaMiddleburyInnVT29Nov2013

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Seaside Inn, Between Earth & Sky

Welcome to day 5 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society.  Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.

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SeasideInn29Dec2014

“…vicinity to the sea is desirable, because it is easier to do nothing by the sea than anywhere else”― E.F. Benson, The Collected Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson

The Seaside Inn in Kennebunk is “directly on the beach!” and walkable to Kennebunkport’s Dock Square shops and restaurants.

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view of Kennebunkport from St. Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery
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Country Squire station wagon at Hidden Pond Resort
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at the Kennebunkport Brewing Co. store

Not to mention just a few hundred yards from the really interesting St. Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery and Guest House,  with its Lithuanian art, stained glass, and sculpture. (And a red-tailed hawk, the day we were there.) What became the monastery and guest house was built around the turn of the 20th century, with landscaping “arranged by the Frederick Law Olmsted Brothers, designers of New York City’s Central Park and Boston’s Emerald Necklace.”  The Lithuanian Friars of St. Casimir bought it in 1947, when they fled the Soviet invasion of Lithuania; their founder here, Fr. Justinas Vaskys, had left Lithuania at the beginning of the occupation of his homeland in 1940. (More on Lithuania under Soviet control in World War II and after.)

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the chapel at St. Anthony’s
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juvenile red-tailed hawk in tree at St. Anthony’s
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lichen on wall, + river, St. Anthony’s

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sheep at Lourdes shrine, St. Anthony’s
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nativity scene, St. Anthony’s
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stained glass window, St. Anthony’s chapel
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stained glass windows, pews, St. Anthony’s chapel
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Stations of the Cross, St. Anthony’s
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side altarpiece, chapel, St. Anthony’s
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frieze detail, St. Anthony’s
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Vatican Pavilion detail, St. Anthony’s
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dried hydrangea, pachysandra, St. Anthony’s
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frozen cove, St. Anthony’s
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rhododendron, path, St. Anthony’s
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ice split on grasses, St. Anthony’s
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ice, rocks, seaweed, St. Anthony’s
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grasses in ice, St. Anthony’s

A bit farther, but still within walking distance, is the Mornings in Paris cafe, selling coffee drinks and a wide variety of macarons, napoleons, truffles, and other pastries and sweets.

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A favourite home store for more than 20 years, Pallian & Co., is nearby in Wells.

PallianstorewindowsWellsME31Dec2014

Also in Wells, the wonderful Wells Reserve at Laudholm (or, Laudholm Farm, as I call it), with a short walk to the beach and ocean at Drake’s Island.

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path with frost
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orange and blue rock, Drake’s Island beach
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blue-orange speckled rock, Drake’s Island beach
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4 p.m. on the next to last day of the year
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lichen
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boardwalk with maple leaves
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Canada geese
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clam shell in foam, Drake’s Island beach
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brook with leaves under ice

We also walked on the Mousam River Estuary Trail in Kennebunkport (if you haven’t listened to Hugh Laurie singing “Mystery,” please do. It’s the most important thing I can offer in this whole series.)

pathMousamEstuaryRCNWRKennebunk31Dec2014iceformationsDMadelynMarxPreserveMousamEstuaryRCNWRKennebunk31Dec2014iceformationsCMadelynMarxPreserveMousamEstuaryRCNWRKennebunk31Dec2014
pilingsfieldriverreflectionMousamEstuaryRCNWRKennebunk31Dec2014.jpg

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Seaside was the perfect place to stay in the waning days of December 2014. I can’t say the room was anything special — the most special thing was how well you could hear what was going on in the other rooms nearby (a reminder that the seemingly private space is actually public) —

bedviewtograssoceanroomSeasideInn29Dec2014bedsdeskbureauclosetroomSeasideInn29Dec2014sinkandfridgeroomSeasideInn29Dec2014

— the patio outside the door was nice —

patioSeasideInn29Dec2014

PleaseDoNotFeedtheSeagullsSignSeasideInn31Dec2014
the sign on the patio wall

— and the location, across a small yard from the beach, is absolutely splendid.

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9 a.m. view of ocean from room
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crow in shrubbery between motel and ocean

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frost on seaweed

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“At the seaside all is narrow horizontals, the world reduced to a few long straight lines pressed between earth and sky.” ― John Banville

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During this mid-winter time, the monastery grounds and church, the French bakery, the quiet beach and seaside motel, the cracking ice everywhere all lent a heterotopic feel to the place, a sense of being suspended in time in a timeless frozen landscape, of finding oneself in the alternate winter universe of a summer tourist town. It felt dreamy and slow.  It felt like the place was taking a deep breath, an intermission, waiting patiently for what would be next, as one year ended and the next came into view. It felt like a good place to end and begin again, a place blurring land-sea-sky boundaries.

iceinKennebunkRiverbyStAnthonyFranciscanMonasteryKennebunk31Dec2014leafonwaterLaudholmFarm30Dec2014sunset435pmSeasideInn30Dec2014

I wonder if the Lithuanian friars felt that it was a good starting place, when they came here under tragic and difficult circumstances from the Soviet Union rather than, probably, be deported to labour camps during and after the war.

StFrancisFountainFranciscanMonasteryKennebunk29Dec2014

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SeasideInn440pm30Dec2014

There is Comfort. There is Reassurance.

Welcome to day 3 of 31 Days of Heterotopias: Motels and Hotels, a month of posts about how motels, hotels, and inns function as heterotopias and liminal spaces in society.  Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may mention motels and hotels only peripherally or may focus on them without referencing heterotopia or liminality. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.

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There are six motels/hotels that we (spouse and I) stay at over and over, in Savannah, Boston, Middlebury VT, Orleans MA, Boothbay ME, and Ogunquit ME. I’m not sure exactly what their appeal is. Prices per night range from $89 to $250, all fairly mid-range for their locations. The locations themselves are great but they differ — two are in the heart of cities, two are in the heart of towns — all four very walkable to the things we want to walk to — and the other two are on the outskirts of town, though still walkable into town (a mile or two each way, which we enjoy), and one of those is a few blocks from the ocean. Three accept pets, which mattered to us until a few years ago.

I’m going to highlight one of these hotels today, The Holiday Inn Express-Historic District, Savannah, GA. We’ve stayed here at least four times and would have stayed more but they were booked twice when we travelled and we had to stay at other hotels, including the Cotton Sail, which sits just above River Street, chic, modern, expensive, and the Planters Inn, on Reynolds Square, which is old-fashioned, falling apart (when we were there, the elevators didn’t work, almost the whole time!), and the staff was unfindable and not helpful. There was a complimentary bottle of wine in the room for my birthday, which was a lovely surprise, but things went downhill from there, and at more than $300 per night, things needed to be pretty perfect.

But I love the HIX.  Yes, it’s a Holiday Inn — which, when I was growing up in the 70s, was “the nation’s innkeeper” and its iconic sign was everywhere (my family stayed in family-friendly Holiday Inns and Howard Johnsons on our once-a-year vacation) —

Holiday Inn_0002_NEW(above, not my photo)

— but this one is on the corner of E. Bay and Abercorn, one block from River Street, a few blocks from the City Market, a block from Reynolds Square. The location can’t be beat. (Shown below with red tag. You can also see the Cotton Sail Hotel and the Planters Inn on the map.)

HIXSavannahmapOct2017

We come into town on the train,

savannahtrainstationfeb2007

take a cab to the hotel, and we don’t rent a car (from the airport, miles away) until we check out and leave for Jekyll Island, an hour and a half away — often via the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens:

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Somehow the HIX feels like a sanctuary from the moment I enter the wide, whooshing automatic sliding doors, usually for the first time each visit at 6:30 a.m., more than 24 hours after having fallen out of bed in New Hampshire at 4 a.m. to catch the 5:50 a.m. bus to Boston, then the 9:30 a.m. train from there, through a change to a different train line in New York’s Penn Station in the afternoon, with evening and overnight on the Silver Meteor (which continues on to Miami), to be awakened early again, at 5 a.m., for disembarking.

And just about always, our room is ready when we stumble in, bleary eyed, at 6:30, both needing showers and some sleep on a real bed before hitting Huey’s on the River for beignets, cafe au lait, and grits:

beignetsetchueysSavannah17Dec2016breakfastoutsideatHueysSavannah23Dec2013

Nothing says “welcome” like the availability of the hotel room in the wee and exhausting hours of the morning, and check in staff who seem happy to provide it more than 8 hours before their normal check-in- time. (They also give us bottles of water and sometimes fruit.)

Chilling out on the bed in your hotel room watching television, while wearing your own pajamas, is sometimes the best part of a vacation.  — Laura Marano

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We’re usually at this hotel at Christmas and New Year’s, when it’s decorated cheerfully and simply.

blueXmasdecorhotellobbyHIXSavannah19Dec2015XmaswreathsHIXhotellobbySavannah19Dec2015.jpgmostofXmastreeinlobbyHIXhotelSavannah19Dec2015

There is something especially wonderful, for me, about spending big, culturally significant holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving away from home, and it is precisely because of the heterotropic feel of it: I like the way time passes differently when travelling, when staying in a city or town where I don’t know anyone except the person I am travelling with (and if I’m travelling alone, even more so). Time is open, the future is unknown rather than proscribed as it often is when surrounded by family or friends, when in one’s usual place, taking part in the same interactions as always on these occasions.

We often spend a day or two before Christmas in Savannah, then drive to Jekyll on Christmas Eve or Christmas itself, and we return to Savannah on New Year’s Eve or the day before, spend that night there, and take the train home on 1 January. I love subverting the procession of what is often treated as “sacred” time by making it feel ordinary (ordinarily holy) through the mundane activities of packing, picking up a rental car, driving on the interstate, unpacking, finding take-out Chinese food someplace or just nibbling on snack food when most others in our culture are buying, wrapping, feasting, gathering in groups. I like interacting with cab drivers, rental car agents, restaurant staff, hotel staff on these set-aside days; I feel I am part of an underground community in some way, and at the same time I know I’m not. Our schedule and plans for Christmas Eve and Day and the days before involve not decorating a tree, not wrapping and unwrapping gifts, not making holiday foods, not meeting family/friends for a meal, not going to church, and so on, but rather just checking out of a hotel and picking up a rental car on time. Then? Nothing is certain; time could unfold any way it will.

We exchange only one or two small gifts during this period and I make some rough decoration for the room from shells, branches, sand, rocks, ribbons and rope, a few shiny things. If we were at home, I’m not sure we’d scale down to this extent, but even if we did, I don’t think it would feel the same to me, because there is something about the usual place, home, that exerts a kind of sway on time, on plans, on what’s expected to happen when, and it really does seem like it’s the place itself that has this effect.

Michel Foucault says (slight paraphrase) that “the heterotopia begins to function fully when people are in a kind of absolute break with their traditional time.” To make “an absolute break with traditional time”  — by travelling away from home, by staying in a hotel or motel that superimposes and confuses public and private space, that functions as a temporary and transitional way-station, that allows personal (and perhaps “couple” or “family”) identity to float free of its boundaries in an anonymous environment — removes or rescues us from prevailing norms, allows time and self to dissolve and re-order to some extent, blurring the boundaries of time and self as the boundaries of meaning in the space itself are blurred (public/private, familiar/strange, feels institutional/feels like a retreat, etc.). And what period of time is more traditional in American culture than Christmas and the weeks before it?  (Rivaling Christmas for traditional celebration, Thanksgiving is the other time we tend to travel each year.)

Some years, we do feast on Christmas Day at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel buffet extravaganza, and New Year’s Eve is often a special dinner in Savannah. We may attend the Christmas concert at St. John the Baptist in Savannah, or take a nighttime walking tour with a sort of Christmasy Dickensian theme (a fund raiser for the local food bank or other charity in Savannah). Even those time-appropriate, traditional “Christmas” events, however, take on a different feel, because we are in the space of a heterotopia, where multiple realities are juxtaposed. We’re in a place that’s both familiar (we have been to Savannah and Jekyll before, we have certainly stayed in Holiday Inns before) and unfamiliar, even exotic, a place where the weather is mild enough that we can dine outside at a cafe table on the sidewalk in mid-winter, when there are feet of snow piling up on our driveway at home. We are among palm trees and camellias blooming everywhere. We are wearing light clothing. We are among other tourists, also enchanted and bewitched by their surroundings and how they feel in these strange surroundings, unmoored from the usual family, community, daily household tasks. It often feels surreal, disorienting in a mostly good way.

Instead of spending Christmas morning unwrapping gifts, we light a candle or two, open a card and a gift or two, and then take a long walk on the quiet beach, admire the shore birds, maybe walk in the woods and look for stinkhorn fungi. On New Year’s Eve in Savannah, we often eat dinner fairly early, walk about on the Savannah streets a bit as festivities are starting to gear up, then head back to the waiting hotel room, where we can perhaps hear a car horn, fireworks, carousers from inside the small impersonal space.

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Back to the hotel: The room itself is simple, like the lobby,  with just what’s needed: good wifi, a refrigerator, a microwave, a desk and chairs, comfortable bed(s), well-functioning bathroom, some space, some quiet.

hixhotelroom23dec2010bedHIXSavannahGA17Dec2016deskdressermirrorwindowHIXSavannahGA17Dec2016sofatablewindowbootsHIXSavannahGA17Dec2016toiletsinkbathroomHIXSavannahGA17Dec2016showerbathroomHIXSavannahGA17Dec2016

The staff are always attentive, and the place just works well. I don’t feel in any sense that I am home there, but I feel benignly looked after without feeling watched or intruded upon. I can be anonymous, I am unknown (even after four or more visits), but I also feel the tenuous and privileged connection that being a “guest” confers.

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While in Savannah, favourite spots besides the hotel and Hueys are the Paris Market, with their unusual toys and stuffed animals, good-smelling things, jewelry, books, household goods, fantastic displays, and the macarons, especially at an outside cafe table …

reindeerpolarbearParisMarketdisplaystorewindowSavannahGA17Dec2016IntotheforestmindsoulanimalsParisMarketSavannahGA17Dec2016SavannahCandleMysteryMagicSpanishMossParisMarketSavannahGA17Dec2016marmotParisMarketSavannahGA17Dec2016downstairsatParisMarketstoreSavannah23Dec2013moreitemsatParisMarketstoreSavannah23Dec2013packagesandreflectionsinParisMarketstorewindowSavannah28Dec2013ParisMarketSavannah18Dec2015.jpgcafeParisMarketSavannahGA17Dec2016cafeaulaitcappuccinochocolateganachemacaroonsParisMarketoutsideSavannahGA17Dec2016cafeaulaitsaltedcaramelchocolatehazelnutmacaroonParisMarketoutsideSavannahGA18Dec2016

… the fabulous Arches Bar in the Olde Pink House

OurLittleHummingbirddrinkatOldePinkHouseArchesBarSavannah1Jan2016
(Our Little Hummingbird cocktail)

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And the tavern there for dinner, by the fire …

TomMollydinnerOldePinkHouseSavannahGA31Dec2016savannahplanterstavernfireplaceb24dec2010OldePinkHousewithdressedupmenSavannah28Dec2013

… and then there is the estimable Gryphon Tea Room, serving tea sandwiches and brunch, staffed by the Savannah College of Art & Design students …

GryphonbrunchmenuSavannahGA18Dec2016GryphoninteriorSavannahGA18Dec2016

GryphonceilingchandelierSavannahGA18Dec2016
the ceiling

GryphonteapotsSavannahGA18Dec2016GryphonexteriorSavannah1Jan2016

Oh, and Savannah Bee honey, with two (maybe more?) locations in Savannah (and one on St. Simon’s Island) … Free samples of honey there, plus mead tastings, lots of lotions and potions …

honeyandmeadSavannahBeeCoSavannah23Dec2013SavannahBeehoneytastingSSI22Dec2015SavannahBeehoneytastingSavannahGA18Dec2016

… and the River Street Sweets and Candy Kitchens on River Street and at City Market (all with free praline samples) …

barrel of ZotsCandyKitchenSavannah22Dec2013candySavannahsCandyKitchenSavannah22Dec2013makingcandyapplesRiverStreetSweetsSavannah28Dec2013

Other favourite food places are Jazz’d Tapas Bar for tapas and romantic atmosphere; Moon River Brew Pub for casual eats (big outdoor space); Churchill’s Pub in the wine cellar for special occasions; Rocks on the River and Rocks on the Roof at the Bohemian Hotel for a fun, hip nosh (Rocks on the River was open one Christmas morning when nothing else was, bless them); Vic’s on the River for great view and a comfy traditional spot. Once we get the car, we usually head to the Crab Shack on Tybee Island for seafood and cocktails. I’d love to get to the Crystal Beer Parlor next time; we walked there last time but they were unexpectedly closed that day.

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Then there’s hours spent strolling on cobblestone streets, along tree-lined streets dripping with Spanish moss, beautiful and interesting architecture everywhere …

SundaymorningRiverSttheotherwaySavannah22Dec2013buildingstuccobrickSavannah22Dec2013houseJonesStminicarSavannah1Jan2016privatepatiooutdoorchandelierSavannah18Dec2015housesJonesStdSavannah1Jan2016savannahallchristmasupped23dec2010savannahriverstreetsweets23dec2010whitecolumnbrickSavannahGA18Dec2016GryphonbuildingFreeMasonstreeSavannahGA18Dec2016

… and the parks, gardens, squares, Colonial Cemetery …

wingedliononFactorsWalkSavannah23Dec2013statueandplantsonJonesStSavannah28Dec2013pocketgardenreindeerliedownwithlambSavannah28Dec2013ReynoldsSquareSavannah28Dec2013savannahforsythparkfountain1jan2011guidemotioningColonialParkCemeterySavannahGA17Dec2016camelliasOglethorpestatuelionsChippewaSquareSavannah1Jan2016squareligulariaazaleabloomsbenchesSavannahGA18Dec2016StBernardinLafayetteSquareSavannah28Dec2013WilliamWashingtonGordonstatueinWrightSquareSavannah1Jan2016

… the stairs that are so fun to climb …

TomascendingsteepstepsSavannah19Dec2015ourusualstairsSavannahGA18Dec2016

… the whimsical creche and the glorious Christmas concerts, with organ and choir, at The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist  …

StJohntheBaptistchurchChristmasconcertSavannahGA18Dec2016hummingbirdcrecheStJohnBaptistXmasConcertSavannahGA18Dec2016sheepSnoopycrecheStJohnBaptistXmasConcertSavannahGA18Dec2016duckscatveggiescrecheStJohnBaptistXmasConcertSavannahGA18Dec2016

I almost forgot the Telfair museums — which includes the Telfair Academy, part period house, part art gallery …

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… the Jepson Center (a more modern art gallery) …

JepsonArtCenterwindowsSavannah28Dec2013

… and a tour of the Owens-Thomas House (no inside photos allowed) …

OwensThomashousefrontSavannah1Jan2016courtyardbackofOwensThomashouseSavannah18Dec2015OwensThomashousecourtyardSavannah18Dec2015

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And after walking, eating, drinking (cocktails on the street!), attending events and taking tours, enjoying tea, (mostly) window shopping, sampling gobs of pralines and honey, pounding the cobblestone and climbing up and down the stairs, it’s so nice to retreat to the unpretentious Holiday Inn Express at the corner of E. Bay and Abercorn for a little quiet, some privacy, a few Zots candies, and some moments or hours of down time in an uncluttered, embracing room, possibly overlooking a pocket garden behind the hotel.

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Even after a long train ride and early morning wake-ups, no shower, gritty eyes, I always perk up a bit when I see this ….

HIXhotelEBayStSavannah19Dec2015

When you get into a hotel room, you lock the door, and you know there is a secrecy, there is a luxury, there is fantasy. There is comfort. There is reassurance. —  Diane von Furstenberg

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New Year’s Meme 2015

(Idea from Notes of an Anesthesioboist .)

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’ve never done before? Became an orphan, when my mother died almost a month ago.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I don’t make them. I’m not that resolved.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? No.

4. Did anyone close to you die? My mother and my uncle.

5. What countries did you visit? Just this one … Jekyll Island GA three times, Savannah GA, Beaufort SC, Myrtle Beach SC, Murrells Inlet, SC, Boothbay Harbor ME, Kennebunk, ME, Portsmouth NH, Richmond VA, Baltimore and Annapolis, MD, Darien, CT, NYC, Boston and Salem, MA, Bath ME, Longwood Gardens in PA.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014? Maybe a French bulldog.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? None. I have very few dates etched in memory.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Reading a eulogy at my mother’s funeral. Also getting outside at least a few days each week to walk, hike, snowshoe, bird, ramble, garden.

9. What was your biggest failure? Always, a failure to love more, to be compassionate, to be fully aware and appreciative of what I am receiving.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Nothing I can recall.

11. What was the best thing you bought? Vacations.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Journalists around the world in dangerous locations.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? My government’s. Most legislators’. NFL and college football players’ and the commissioner’s.

14. Where did most of your money go? Housing, health insurance, retirement savings, vacations.

15. What did you get really excited about? Trips to Jekyll.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014? Sadly, probably “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor. The one I liked best was The Pink & Nate Ruess duet “Just Give Me A Reason.”

17. Compared to this time last year, are you…
-happier or sadder? sadder, I think
-thinner or fatter? a bit fatter
-richer or poorer? richer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Loving. Letting go. Lightening up. Meditation. The usual.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Fretting. Acting out of fear. The usual.

20. How did you spend Christmas? At home with spouse, opening gifts, reading, watching “Fanny and Alexander,” and eating take-out Indian food.

21. Did you fall in love in 2014? Of course. Almost any time I look through the camera lens, I fall in love.

22. What was your favorite TV program? Beachfront Bargain Hunt on HGTV.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? I can’t think of anyone I hate.

24. What was the best book you read? The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq. Also the Regeneration series by Pat Barker, set during the first World War, in England.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? None. Didn’t listen to much new music this year.

26. What did you want and get? Clean scans for spouse. Time at Jekyll.

27. What did you want and not get? Friends’ bulldogs to live rather than die. World peace. Again.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? “Boyhood.”

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old are you? Hung out at home, early 50s.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Perhaps living closer to the the ocean.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014? One basic casual outfit for winter, another one for summer, with confusion in fall and spring.

32. What kept you sane? Time alone. Time outside. The camera. The garden. Exercise. Friends. Faith.

33. What celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? I still like Pema Chödrön a lot. The Property Brothers (HGTV) are pretty cute.

34. What political issue stirred you the most? US: gun control reform (please), drone killing, health care reform (more, please). Globally: Scapegoating, witch hunts, and all other forms of mimetic violence. Children being forced to war. The rise of anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish sentiment and action in Europe.

35. Whom did you miss? My dog Gretchen. My dad. Friends who go south in the winter.

36. Who was the best new person you met? Maybe Ruth. Enjoyed getting to know Ann, Alison, Mary Anne, Edie and Steven, and Karen better this year, too. Enjoyed spending time with Marie, Robbyn, Brigit, Jack, and Jim after about 10 years or more of not seeing any of them.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014. “In the end what you don’t surrender, /Well, the world just strips away.” — Bruce Springsteen, Human Touch

38. Quote a song poem lyric that sums up your year:

You have your eye on a small /elusive detail, pursuing its music, when a terrible truth / strikes and your heart cries out, being carried off.

— Eamon Grennan

New Year’s Meme

(Idea from Notes of an Anesthesioboist .)

I last did this on 1 Jan 2010, then forgot all about it. I’m a little late this year.

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’ve never done before? Finished a bathroom renovation. I’d never had anyone else renovate anything in a house; this renovation started in Oct 2011 and ended in February 2012. Also, designed and planted my first permaculture garden. And met someone in person (Shelley and Gerard) whom I’d only known through Facebook!

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I don’t make them. I just do what I want when I want.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? No.

4. Did anyone close to you die? Our favourite vet died in January 2012. Bella bulldog (Shelley’s dog) died suddenly in July 2012, which was shocking to me.

5. What countries did you visit? Just this one… Jekyll Island GA, Boothbay Harbor ME, Ogunquit ME, Baltimore MD, Boston, NYC, Bath ME, Manchester VT, etc.  I would rather not use the carbon that it takes to fly.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012? Actually, 2012 was pretty great: lots of entertaining and time with friends; lots of walking, snowshoeing and exploring; took several interesting classes; went on a number of fun trips. It was a good year.

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 29 July, when Bella died.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? A good balance of rest and exercise, inside and outside, solitary and social, planned and spontaneous, traveling and home.

9. What was your biggest failure? Always, a failure to love more, to be compassionate, to be fully aware and appreciative of what I am receiving.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Some upper back pain for several months.

11. What was the best thing you bought? I like my Razr Maxx droid phone quite a bit.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Journalists around the world in dangerous locations.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? My government’s.

14. Where did most of your money go? Housing/renovation, health insurance/care, retirement savings.

15. What did you get really excited about? Trip to Jekyll.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012? None.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you…

-happier or sadder? happier, I think
-thinner or fatter? same
-richer or poorer? richer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Loving. Letting go. Lightening up. Meditation. The usual.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Fretting. Acting out of fear. The usual.

20. How did you spend Christmas? At home with spouse and dog,  eating take-out Indian food. The usual!

21. Did you fall in love in 2012? Of course. Almost any time I look through the camera lens, I fall in love.

22. What was your favorite TV program? None … we have almost no channels and rarely watch TV. We have been watching Frasier on dvd but that’s been in 2013.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? I can’t think of anyone I hate.

24. What was the best book you read? When We Were the Kennedys, a memoir by Monica Wood, was very good. And the 4 books (so far) in the turn-of-the-20th-century Vienna crime novel series by Frank Tallis were excellent.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? None. Didn’t listen to new music this year.

26. What did you want and get? A dog caretaker who would stay at our house while we’re away and ease Gretty’s stress.

27. What did you want and not get? World peace. Again.

28. What was your favorite film of this year? None, really. A Late Quartet was nice, but rescreenings of Something’s Gotta Give and My Architect were my favourites.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old are you? Hung out at home, early 50s.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? I can’t think of anything. Perhaps more time at the ocean.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012? One basic uniform for winter, one for summer. Fall and spring are slightly problematic.

32. What kept you sane? Time alone. Time outside. The camera. The garden. Meditation. Exercise. Fiction. Friends. Stable marriage.

33. What celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? I still like Pema Chödrön a lot. And Rene Girard.

34. What political issue stirred you the most? US: gun control reform (please), drone killing, health care reform (more, please). Globally: Scapegoating, witch hunts, and all other forms of mimetic violence. Torture as legal punishment. Oil/resource wars.

35. Whom did you miss? My friends from my former community. My dad. Rachael and Charlie. The ocean.

36. Who was the best new person you met? Many … I met Caroline and Jim, Candis, Liz, Ann, Natalie, Mary Lou and Larry, and others between 2009 and 2011, but really got to know them all better in 2012.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012. Nothing stays the same.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

A new Moon leads me to
Woods of dreams, and I follow.
A new world waits for me;
My dream, my way…

I know that if I have Heaven
There is nothing to desire.
Rain and river, a world of wonder,
May be Paradise to me.”

— Enya, “China Roses

Mocha Pecan Pie

mocha pecan pie

I’m reposting this recipe for mocha pecan pie from Nov. 2005, because it’s become, over 15 years, my go-to pie for this time of year. It’s rich, it’s delicious, it’s easy to make, and it’s foolproof. I’ve made 5 of them in the last month.

Originally from Sundays at Moosewood, this recipe makes one 9-inch pie. I am not a fan of pecan pie generally, but I do like this one.

Crust

1/3 cup butter
1 cup unbleached white flour
3 Tbsp. ice water

Filling

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 Tbsp. coffee liqueur [I use Tia Maria and probably definitely splash in a little extra]
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. unbleached white flour
3 lg. eggs
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup toasted pecans

What to Do:

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

For crust, cut butter into flour with knife, pastry cutter, or your fingers, until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add about 3 T. ice water, and combine until dough clings together in a ball. Roll out on a lightly floured board. Place crust in a 9-inch pie plate and crimp the edges.

To make the filling, put all filling ingredients except the pecans into a food processor and puree until chocolate chips are completely ground up and everything is smooth. Pour the filling [making sure that the very sharp blade of the food processor doesn’t fall onto your hand and slice it, as once happened to me] over the pecans in a bowl, and stir just enough to coat the nuts.

Pour filling into unbaked 9-inch pie shell. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake for another 30+ minutes, or until filling is set but still moist. Cool completely before cutting. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, if desired.

You could substitute dark chocolate chips for semi-sweet if you like a darker flavour.