Some people head for the Edson Cemetery in Lowell because they want to visit Jack Keruac’s grave. Me, I’m more interested in visiting my own late family’s digs – so to speak. Something else that has always fascinated me about this graveyard are the two bronze (or bronze-coated) statues that dominate the landscape. Ever since I was a kid, when my parents brought me here, I always insisted in checking out the statues of Passaconaway and the giant elk honoring the B.P.O.E.
The day Yang and I took these pictures was really sunny, We found that when we were shooting straight up at the sky, the colors tended to wash out or the darks and lights formed too severe a contrast to capture detail. So, my apologies for those photos that look washed out. You can perceive more detail if you click on the photo to see a larger version of your computer or iPad screen.
The story behind Passaconaway is especially interesting. He was a Sachem of the Penacook tribe in the 16th and 17th centuries who united the Wamesit and Pawtucket tribes in a protective league against the Mohawks, whose territory extended from Western, Mass. His organization of tribes drew on a democratic order that later influenced the establishment of English settlements. He kept peaceful terms with the Europeans immigrants, allowing the them to settle in what is now Chelmsford and Billerica. In fact these immigrants admired his wisdom, honor, and good governance. After his death, sadly, the Europeans proved aggressive and greedy, driving off their predecessors from their rightful lands (Kelley). At least the names Wamesit and Pawtucket remain in circulation in the Merrimack Valley area, as well as other First Nation names. According to marie Donovan, the statue was commissioned by the Improved Order of Red Men in 1899, but had not been kept up over since 1967. I can well remember the changes in its appearacne over the years that I lived in Lowell. In the twenty-first century, the organization turned to “Fred Hein and his students in the metal-fabrication shop at Greater Lowell Technical High School” to do repairs and return the statue to its glory (Donovan).
The Elks Rest Statue is also a monument that intrigued me as a child. I have seen it refurbished over the years, but have not been able to find any background material on the statue other than that it honors deceased members of the B.P.O.E. If anyone could add something, like when it was created and by whom, I’d love to hear. I could incorporate the info into this blog – giving you credit of course!
History of Passaconaway: Michael Kelley, Tewksbury Town Crier, 12/02/2017.http://homenewshere.com/tewksbury_town_crier/news/article_e16632ee-9dbd-11e9-b94c-2b88e245c7a4.html#tncms-source=article-nav-prev
Statue Refurbishment: Marie Donovan, “Refurbished statue of Chief Passaconaway rededicated Sunday in Lowell” The Lowell Sun. 5/20/2011. http://www.lowellsun.com/rss/ci_18103578
Once school was out- permanently for me now! – I had more time for readings/talks/signings. One of my first events was the Local Author Book Fair in Worcester at the Wesley United Methodist Church. This was a signing and chatting rather than a reading. I had a wonderful time. I met lots of new readers and also got to talk with many other local writers. Jean Grant and I did a book trade, so I’m looking forward to reading her A Hundred Breaths this summer. I also saw some old friends. Kate Zebrowski, whom I know from my time at Worcester State, had the table next to mine where she was promoting her time-slip fantasy Sleepwalking Backwards as well as her poetry. Tom and Barbara Ingrassia were at the other end of the auditorium with tables for their work as well – Barbara on copyright law and Tom with his “supreme” books on the Supremes (Reflections of a Love Supreme) and self-help (One Door Closes). By the Bye, Tom’s One Door Closes is being turned into a film that is nearing conclusion. Stay tuned for more on that!
In June, I returned to my alma mater where I earned my BA, then ULowell- now UMass-Lowell, to give a talk on becoming a published author through the school’s LIRA (Learning in Retirement Association) Program. To my delight, the talk was at the South Campus (originally Lowell State), where I did all my course work. We were in Allen House, a beautiful old building on a rise overlooking the Merrimack River. There are some wonderful views, as you can see from this photo that my cameraman and husband, Yang, took.
I can remember going to some receptions here back in the mid to late ’70s when I was an undergraduate- a child undergraduate, that is. The place was entirely redone after having been abandoned for a long time after I had graduated – no connection. The room I presented in was done beautifully in dark wood paneling with floor-to-ceiling doors looking out on a green and then down to the river.
The presentation was loads of fun, with a packed house and an audience who had great questions for me on my personal experiences as a writer and on the travails of finding a publisher and promoting my work. I especially loved sharing with the audience the powerful influence of filmed and written mysteries of the golden age and film noir on creating Bait and Switch and Letter from a Dead Man. Of course, I made sure to give a tip of my mightily feathered hat to my favorite smart-talking gal Joan Bennett and her influence on the creation of my heroine Jessica Minton. I also got some nice comments on my hat and suit! The nylons with the seam up the back (from the WWII Museum in New Orleans) were a big hit, too!
Look here. I CAN walk and talk at the same time! Thank God no one asked me to chew gum! One bridge too far.
Interestingly enough, I also met some people who knew folk I with whom went to grammar school and high school! And people laughed at my jokes, too! So, the summer has started off nicely in terms of doing readings and such. Now, it’s on to Pettee Memorial Library in Wilmington, Vt. on Saturday, 6/22. Hmm, which hat and suit should I wear. Any suggestions?
The other weekend we had a fun mini-vacation in Portland, Maine. It was only two days and one overnight, but we had a great time. Luckily, the weather was beautiful! Sunny and cool: quite comfortable. We stopped in Portsmouth for lunch at White Heron Tea And Coffee on our drive up. Click here for my review.
The first day we got settled and then checked out the Evergreen Cemetery in the afternoon. There was lots of beautiful statuary. I was also lucky enough to spot a Thrush at one point and, later, a musk rat swimming in one of the cemetery ponds. The second day, we came back and did an early nature walk. We did hear a lot of fine birdsong – but sighting was another matter. Nevertheless, we saw a beautiful white crane. I’ll set up a blog on the cemetery visit later. I’m really hoping to come back here in the fall to get the gorgeous colors.
The second day, we also visited the Victoria House. It’s a spectacular building with lots of intriguing trompe l’oeuil effects in the architecture. I’m including some pictures of the stained glass. You can see the pelican cutting its breast to provide blood to feed the young – an important Medieval and Renaissance type for Christ.
In additional to walking the twisty, cobble stone streets and enjoying old-New-England ambience, we visiting one of the harbor walks where we had beautiful views and were repeatedly mocked by, you guessed it, Mockingbirds! People who know Portland can identify the islands better than I can. I definitely think a harbor cruise should be on the agenda for the next visit.
Yang particularly got a kick out of the narrow-gauge coal-powered steam train that you could ride along the harbor. We didn’t this time, but I hope we can do so on our next trip – again, I’m hoping for an autumn visit! Here’s a video Cecil B. DeYang made.
Of course we could refuel with delicious exotic sustenance and tea at the Dobra Tea room. Check out my review here. This was the least awful of the pictures Yang took of me there. At least the food looks great!
Maybe it was because I had the great pleasure of seeing Scherrie and Susaye of the Supremes with Joyce Vincent in Waltham this summer, but when I finally had a chance to work on a post and needed some enjoyable background music, I turned to Partners. This album is a 1979 joint effort by Scherrie Payne and Susaye Greene after Mary Wilson departed the Supremes in 1978. The ladies were originally planned to continue the Supremes with Joyce Vincent, but word is that the kibosh was put on the group continuing without an original member. As a result, we have this delightful and highly underappreciated production of Scherrie and Susaye (with Joyce in there on backup). This album should not be missed by anyone who is a fan of the ladies or loves good soulful and bluesy music. Significantly, Scherrie and Susaye wrote all the songs on the album, providing us with great dance tunes, lovely ballads, dreamy love songs, and playful exercises in vocal pleasure. You can’t help wondering what would have happened if Scherrie and Susaye had been allowed to write for the Supremes and Mary had stayed.
Anyway, I have some especial favorites. Susaye’s “Lovebug” is an impish delight with her vocally ranging from kittenish to tigerish, neatly assisted by Ray Charles as the “Lovebug,” himself. I find her “When the Day Comes every Evening” beautifully dreamy. I also love the exciting bounce of “In the Night,” “Leaving Me Was the Best Thing You’ve Ever Done” and “I Found Another Love.” Scherrie Payne’s “Another Life from Now” is powered by deep feeling and deft vocalizing that gives me chills, while breaking my heart at the message of lost love with hope for reunion only in another life from now: delicious melancholy. This is not to say that I don’t love the other songs, but these ones stick in my head the best. So, if you want your soul to make you bounce or groove or dream, this album is for you. Unfortunately, although it is now out on cd, it is exorbitantly expensive on Amazon. However, there are reasonably priced vinyl versions available on ebay. Click here.
Isn’t it wonderful that Scherrie and Susaye are back together – and touring and recording with Joyce? Go to their web site for more info.
Album cover: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6969828
The ground may be covered with snow right now, but it wasn’t so long ago that Yang and I had an autumn day at the beach. Of course, it was kind of a gothic day at the beach because we were visiting one of the famous Five Ruins of Connecticut, The Aquinas Retreat at Charles Island.
We hadn’t planned on starting the grand tour, but our love of ruins has already taken us to two of the locations in the set. I posted our earlier visit to Hearthstone Castle in Danbury, CT. So, that Sunday afternoon, we trekked down to Milford, CT to finally get the chance to travel the tombolo out across the bay to
the island. This trip had been on our agenda for years, but getting to the island is no easy feat – not because of reefs, pirates, or sea monsters, though. The ocean only subsides from the tombolo during low tide and this land path is only dry and clear enough when the moon and sun exert their strongest gravitational pull. On top of that, colonies of egrets and cranes nest on the island from April until September, so the Wildlife Service has deemed Charles Island off limits during that time.
There’s a legend about the island holding Captain Kidd’s hidden treasure, but the treasure we found were beautiful ocean scenes and fun walking and exploring the edges of the island that has a circumference of a bout a mile. The going could be a bit rocky and uneven when you start out counterclockwise, but you get to enjoy the gorgeous ocean bay as much as do the lounging cormorants.
Then there are the ruins of the Aquinas Retreat Center. Not many extensive ruins to find. Built in 1929 by the Dominican Fathers as a lay retreat, it was abandoned by 1938. Perhaps storms or difficult access for supplies undermined its success. At this point, there are barely the scraps of stone and mortar outlines left to some out buildings and small towers.
There was also one lovely archway. I wonder if this structure could be the remains of an entrance to a chapel or shrine.
This space must have been a wonderful location for contemplation and communing with God through nature amidst the calls of wild birds, the surge of waves, and the rush of wind.
We also saw some nice smaller birds on the island. Yang got a great shot of an Eastern Kingbird.
And while I was watching birds, Yang was watching me!
It was such a lovely, warm and sunny fall afternoon. There were families and young and old couples, also making the circuit of the island, but never so many you’d feel crowded – and the cormorants didn’t seem to mind.
Say, what do you think of this place for setting a mystery novel? In the 1860s, there was resort here. Maybe Jessica and James need a vacation, or Liz needs a retreat – Naagh, no shopping!
On Sunday, September 30, Yang and I had the exciting pleasure of seeing a Motown double feature: Martha Reeves and Mary Wilson at the Barnstable Performing Arts Center. What a nice way to start the Fall season. Martha and the Vandellas kicked off the first half of the show, with Martha’s sisters Delphine and Lois as her Vandellas. Lois, as Motown friends will remember, was one of the Vandellas from 1968 until the group disbanded and Martha went solo. Martha has energy to spare and a feisty sense of humor, so we all got down and enjoyed her group’s review of old favorites and renditions of gospel and other soul tunes. The lady can put on a show, as can her Vandellas. We weren’t close enough to the stage to get any good shots of the performance, so my good friend Tom Ingrassia allowed me to borrow a few of the photos that he took. The ones of Mary Wilson on stage also come from Tom.
Mary Wilson was our rockin’ lady for the second half of the program. Mary does two types of shows: Up Close and Personal, which is a perfection of blues, jazz, and pop given a bluesy, jazzy twist (check my earlier blog) and her straight out, soulful rockin’ the night away. We had the latter this afternoon. Mary ripped through some rock standards like “Satisfaction” and “Brown Sugar,” gave soulful stylings to Supremes’ hits, and delivered with powerful feeling on “And I Am Telling You” and “Imagine,” to name a few. Then there was the playful medley of Supremes’ hits where audience members had the chance to become honorary Supremes and back up Mary – with all the right moves for the songs. Unfortunately, I was boxed into my seat and couldn’t make it up to the stage, but my friend Barbara Ingrassia did and out-Cindied, out-Maryed, and out-Floed everyone. Her husband Tom Ingrassia has a YouTube video from Mary’s Laconia concert where we can see our Barbara get down. In fact Mary gestures a “J’Accuse” to Barb in “Stop! In the Name of Love” when Mary sings that she sees her boyfriend “walk down the street/Knowing [his] other love [he]’ll meet”! Click here for a link to the video of that exciting moment! Barb is rockin’ the turquoise shawl!
I just have to say that Mary Wilson has extraordinary vocal power and control. She puts great feeling into her singing, deftly wielding her voice to move from softness to strength as the emotions shift in her song. Her abilities have only improved over the years.
Martha was not there to meet after the show. However,Mary was there to greet her fans. So I gladly joined the line for an autograph and a quick chat. I have to say that Mary is most gracious and fun! She is so lively and genuinely happy to chat with you. She takes a real interest in what people have to say and her friendliness is infectious. She also clearly has loads of old friends who have either worked with her or are fans who have become friends through the years -as you can get a hint from the pictures below.
I also had my turn to shake Mary’s hand and then let her know how much I enjoyed her concert. I can’t remember exactly what we talked about, but looks as if we made each other chuckle. Then there was the opportunity for our shot posed together. Mr. Yang, we’re ready for our close up!
Image of Lois Reeves from: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lois-Reeves