The Suitcase Lady


October 20, 2020, 6:59 pm

Imagine that you could live on a planet that revolved around the sun in ten days. Voila! Every ten days you would have a birthday with cake, presents, wine and birthday cards. The day of your birth would no longer be special if celebrated with such frequency.

As crazy as this sounds, our American way of celebrating holidays greatly resembles this pattern. The import is stolen from our special days as they are celebrated again and again for months in advance.

I faced this phenomenon head-on last Halloween. We have a tradition of eating little powdered sugar donuts on Trick or Treat night. Donuts were on my shopping list when I went to the grocery store a few days before Halloween. I located the donuts on the shelf only to discover that every brand had packaging covered with Santas and reindeer. Halloween hadn’t yet happened and I was staring at Christmas.

The stores would not be stocking Christmas cookies, donuts, candies and other holiday treats if customers weren’t buying them. When the holiday goodies are flowing and being consumed for months in advance, what can be special about the actual day of the holiday?

Christianity as well as other world religions preach the values of reflection, abstinence and anticipation. That’s what Lent and Advent are all about. Believers are not supposed to prepare themselves for the upcoming feast day by feasting for months in advance.

I had Advent calendars as a child and loved opening the little paper doors to see which picture would be revealed. After I was married, my husband told me that he had never had one when he was little. I since have bought him one every year. Last holiday season presented my biggest challenge. Every store where I searched for one only carried the calendars with a piece of candy behind every door. Since that seems like a total oxymoron to me, I had to get a mail-order calendar from Europe where candy-free Advent calendars still exist.

Consumption has triumphed over anticipation in America, and that is not helping our national happiness index one bit.

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October 13, 2020, 9:14 am

I’m a lover of letters, i.e., typefaces and fonts. Serif, sans serif, bold, condensed, gothic, italic…letters display a stunning array of personalities.

I did not, however, think that a typeface could be the inspiration for a building design. But recently this has been done, and the result is a brilliant success.

The typeface in question was created by Lance Wyman for the 1968 Mexican Olympic Games. Called “Mexcellent”, it is based on forms from ancient Mexican culture as well as op art and kinetic designs.

In the late 1980’s, a graphic design firm in Amsterdam named Thonik decided to build their own studios rather than being eternal renters. The design and construction of the company’s headquarters ended up taking twelve years, and it’s facade and interiors are a giant homage to the Olympic typeface.

Nikki Gonnissen, one of the founders of the firm states, “We are big fans of the Mexico ’68 Games because it connected a massive audience to graphic culture.” Her partner, Thomas Widdershoven, further says, “We are amateurs in the sense that we are not professional architects, but we’re also amateurs in the sense that our heart and passion are in this project.”

That passion is evident in this joyful building, in essence, a typeface on steroids.




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October 6, 2020, 8:08 pm

Earlier this year, I spent a long weekend helping a good friend downsize her apartment. She wanted to prune her possessions in advance of a planned move, and she realized her accumulation of things was causing her worry, not enjoyment.

Paradoxically, just before I left on this mission, I ran across a wonderful quotation by Sarah Whiting, the dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

“Moving makes you conscious of many things. Not least among them is confronting the astounding number of things that you own and realizing that only a few are just right”.

I’ve only moved three times in my entire life. However, I think I could be certified as an experienced sifter and winnower. Being a firm believer in Mies van der Rohe’s famous mantra, “less is more”, I am an ongoing contributor to thrift stores. In addition, I have executed five of my family members’ estates. That task entails the ultimate downsizing.

Sorting out and finding the proper homes for a relative’s lifetime accumulation of earthly possessions is a challenging experience which is highly charged with emotion. There’s mountains of stuff, and only the most meaningful items can be saved. Tough decisions must be made. And it is slow going. When a pack of saved letters is found, for example, it’s instinctual to stop sorting and start reading.

When I look around our house now, I realize I am living in a storybook.  I have the best of what we have gathered in 56 years of marriage plus the best of our inherited possessions. And our house is not a museum. We use my grandmother’s dishes and wine glasses, my mother-in-law’s big blue mixing bowl, my parent’s 76 year-old, pig-shaped cutting board and countless other items that are infused with happy recollections.

The downsizing weekend went well. I made many, many trips to my friend’s favorite charity thrift store with the rental car stuffed every time. And my friend shared her family stories with me as various objects brought floods of memories. When we were finished, we had professional cleaners come in to do a deep cleaning.

My friend has decided a move will not be necessary. Her space is no longer overwhelming…it is a joy.

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September 29, 2020, 9:12 pm

The song Rainy Night in Georgia was playing on Radio Swiss Jazz as we were eating dinner last week. That piece always brings out my sentimental and romantic side. Then a thought struck me. I get all misty-eyed about Georgia On My Mind as well. Ditto for Midnight Train to Georgia. And suddenly I realized there is an entire Georgia genre of music.

This realization led to a bit of research, and I found a playlist with over fifty versions of songs with the word “Georgia” in the title. Some were about the state, some were about a girl named Georgia and some were ambivalent.

Since I have been a fan of the Georgia genre all my life without realizing it, I thought it was high time to pick out my favorite versions of my favorite Georgia songs. Here are the results: my ultimate Georgia concert.

All my blogs are written to be about a minute long…but I only promised that the words would take a minute. I didn’t say anything about music.

P.S. I double dare any other state in the union to come up with a playlist comparable to this one.

Click on the links below for a wonderful concert and please forgive the YouTube ads.

Ray Charles – Georgia on My Mind
Gladys Knight & The Pips – Midnight Train To Georgia
Conway Twitty ft. Sam Moore – Rainy Night In Georgia
Jim Croce – Walkin’ back to Georgia
The Charlie Daniels Band – The Devil Went Down to Georgia
Ella Fitzgerald & Duke Ellington orch. – Sweet Georgia Brown

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September 22, 2020, 9:44 am

Sometimes one good thing leads to another. That is exactly what happened when I was reading an article about a unique mural project.

The mural was in Japan where a tiny, unassuming 70 year-old train station was in need of refurbishing. The town hired a young local artist and he created a whimsical transformation of every surface of the station’s interior. Here is the delightful result of his artistry.

The article noted that the station was close to the “rice paddy art fields”. Since I had absolutely no idea what that meant, I did a search and discovered this mind-boggling art.

Rice paddy art began in 1993. Various natural and hybrid colors of rice are hand planted to create massive pictures in the paddies. In other words, the pictures are grown.

The motivation to do this painstaking work was “to take advantage of the tradition of manual work in rice cultivation to give people an opportunity to learn more about rice farming and agriculture.”

The designs are chosen, sketched on computers and turned into blueprints. The subject matter of these supersize murals is wildly eclectic, everything from goddesses, Samurai warriors, anime characters and Hollywood film stars. Then, many local people and “rice tourists” help to map out the fields and plant the rice seedlings.

As the rice grows and matures, over 20,000 visitors come to see the results. Viewing is done from observation platforms on the edge of the paddies. The rice is eventually harvested entirely by hand…..and it is eaten, making the murals the world’s largest edible art project.

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