Here we are with only two days left to November, closing out autumn. Though the season doesn’t officially end until December 21 or 22, depending on the year, the last day of November always feels like the turn of the page into winter with December 1st. So, I’d like to present you with a blog or two taking a lingering, pleasing look back at the “season of mellow fruitfulness.”
Last year, Yang and I celebrated Halloween during the day with a hike at Colbrook Reservoir in western Mass. Remember how we were in drought status that year? Well, that’s why we not only were able to have a memorable walk along the waterway on an abandoned two-lane paved road, but also could discern parts of the town that had been submerged by the flooding to create the reservoir. We even caught sight of the phantom bridge! This year we sought to repeat our adventure, with hopes of an even more pleasant outing since the weather was so much warmer than last year. Unfortunately, in 2021 we had so much more of something else than last year: Rain!
Last year there was water, shoreline, road, rocks and trees. This year, there was water, rocks, and trees. We were flooded out in both directions of the road from the parking lot. Yang mentioned that we also rode our bikes here the day after Thanksgiving last year; so, I commented that unless we had paddle boats, we weren’t doing any paddling here this year! Disappointed, I still managed to get some nice shots of foliage and water, as you can see. Yang had another idea, which also had been percolating in my head. We hopped in the car and headed just across the nearby border for Heublein Tower on Talcott Mountain in Connecticut! (If you want to get a look at what we saw at Colbrook last year, click here for my earlier blog .)
A little on Heublein Tower. Heublein was the third tower to stand on Talcott Mountain, built by German-born, American businessman from Hartford, Gilbert Heublein, While hiking the mountain with his fiancee, he promised her “a castle on a mountain,” keeping his promise after their marriage by constructing this tower. The edifice, which contained bedrooms on all but the pinnacle, a spacious ground-floor living room and foyer, dining room; second floor sun room, an elevator, and a ballroom on the glassed-in top floor was completed by 1929. Here, the Heubleins relaxed in their summer home, inviting guests and holding events that drew the cream of Hartford’s social crop. Heublein died in 1937, with his building falling out of use until bought in 1943 by The Hartford Times. Once again, it became the place to be for social events with celebrities of the era in attendance, including Tallulah Bankhead! Eventually, it was let slide by the Times and nearly bought by developers, until saved by the group Save Talcott Mountain. Now the mountain and the Tower are open to the public for hiking and viewing, as the area has become a state park. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy nature and some unique architecture. For more details on the Tower and the park, click here for the web site.
Hiking up the mountain isn’t too bad a hike at all. There are several trails to get to the Tower. The most popular one is a little steep at first, through autumn woods, but there are benches along the way if you’re out of shape and need a rest. We were in good enough shape not to! Then, you come out of the woods and onto a ridge overlooking the valley below. The view along this ridge is wonderful, and you might even see a hawk as we did! Some great overlooks.
The Tower itself is quite a treat! This old photo shows what the foyer and living room originally looked like. My shot lets you see an updated in-color version. The furnishings have been carefully assembled to approximate the style and taste of the original era. Though I’m not sure I would have wanted a big deer head on my wall, I would have loved to relax before that fireplace in a comfy chair or to play card games with friends on a crisp fall evening, with coffee or tea and scones for sustenance. And how about this nook by the window that looks out over a gorgeous mountain landscape, cascading fall colors into the valley below? How’s that for having breakfast or an afternoon tea? I wonder what flavor that cake is on the table?
Or maybe I’d take tea, solo or with companions, on this wonderful sun porch, warm with solar emanations? Could also be a great place to settle down and read or listen to the radio programs back in the day. And the view from up here ain’t bad, either.
How about some of those bedrooms? Not necessarily luxurious, but roomy enough. Plenty of sunlight during the day, should you wish to retire here. Pleasant, if not elaborate, decor. But you’re on a rustic retreat, so who needs frills? Though this set up is far from camping on the cold, hard New England bedrock. And, oh, those views when you get up in the morning! Imagine the rising sun setting aflame these fall colors!
One of the most interesting parts of the Tower is the observation deck. Originally, this area was known as the ballroom, as you can see from this old image of the earlier set up. Wouldn’t it be grand to dance away the evening on these hard wood floors? It could be a real Stardust Ballroom, with the twinkling lights of the darkened heavens glittering through the tall windows of all four sides of the room. Of course, you’d have to move away all that furniture. Great place for a big party!
Yet there’s no need to wait for evening to fall in love with the observation deck. During the day, you get views for miles, across Connecticut and into Massachusetts – an especially fine sight in the autumn, when the hills burst with colors. Feast your eyes!
Finally, returning to the first floor, towards the rear of the building, you find the formal dining room, gorgeous in wood paneling, dark wood furniture, marble fireplace, exquisite Persian rug, elegant china and cutlery, and painted medallion above the fireplace. How about the gorgeous beamed ceilings? It’s fun to notice that the door to the butler’s pantry is hidden in the shape of the paneling on one side of the fireplace, while a closet is similarly hidden on the other. Light pours in the windows.
Now, I ask you, would this not be the perfect setting for a mystery? This is how the UConn campus at Avery Point inspired me for Always Play the Dark Horse. So, how should we work this? Jessica and James are invited for a weekend by the owner, a mysterious sort who seems to know more about them than they about him or her? Or maybe it is someone they know, or think they do. Should guests start dropping like flies over a dinner in that elegant dining room? Should Jessica settle down to a quiet read on the sun porch, only to be interrupted by a figure sailing past to his/her death below? Should Liz also be on hand? What do you think?
In our first overnight trip away, Yang and I traveled to the renovated Capitol Theatre in Rome, New York for Capitolfest. This year’s subjects proved irresistible: the fabulous Bennett sisters, Joan and Constance! We were fortunate to see the theatre, designed by Leon H. Lempert and first opened in 1928, returned to much of its original art deco glory. However, our trip was even more of a treat. Not only did we get to see two Joan Bennett movies from early in her career that I’ve never seen, but we met up with wonderful friends from the Friends of Joan Bennett FB group: Kayla Sturm and Eve and Edward Lemon! It was a fun, heart-warming, and exciting experience.
First, let me tell you about the theatre – and share some images with you, too. Many of these are courtesy of Eve and Kayla. You can see that the original marquee is not the same, but the outside still has much of the original feel. Further, once you enter the lobby, you see wonderful polished wood doors and art deco detailing on the walls and ceiling.
The inside is spacious, seating over 1000 people, with plenty of room on the ground floor and in the balcony. The latter place is where we Bennettphiles sat. You can see that the screen is huge, just like in the old days that some of us are life-experienced enough to remember. Other Lowellians, remember the Strand Theatre, with that ginormous chandelier that none of us wanted to sit under – just in case? There’s me in the lower right corner, wearing my hat and my mask.
Note the organ just below and in front of the stage. The theatre was built in 1928, so silents still would have played there in the infantine era of sound. Also, people would love to hear pre-show concerts on that organ – before you got to the raffles, the cartoons, the newsreel, the Lower half of the double bill, then the feature. Here’s a closeup of the organ. We had a little concert, ourselves, before the start of Weekends Only. (Note: both these shots are courtesy of Kayla Sturm.)
She also photographed one of my favorite things to shoot: heads in relief. I wonder who these guys are? To me, they look like Eisenhower, Marx, and Peter Lorre; but I’m probably wrong.
How about this shot by Kayla of the gorgeous arches?
There were lots of early, pre-Production Code films by Joan and Constance – plus both Joan and Constance doing their bits against the Nazis in Manhunt and Madame Spy, respectively. Come to think of it, Joan practically made a cottage industry out of taking down goosesteppers: Manhunt, Confirm or Deny, The Man I Married, The Wife Takes a Flyer, and Margin for Error. Who needs John Wayne?! (That’s Kayla’s photo of the Manhunt poster).
Anyway, Yang and I saw two films I’d never seen before: She Wanted a Millionaire and Weekends Only. Hush Money had also been on the bill, but Disney forced the festival to pull it in a legal CYA move. That’s the technical term my lawyer nephew gave me. God bless UCLA for going to bat for the festival and still getting us these two films. They were something else. Millionaire is a humdinger, starting out as a romantic comedy and turning into a Gothic piece with a sadistic husband who lures a naif into marriage, using the typical secret passages, peep holes, and untrustworthy servants in his isolated, creepy mansion, but modernizing Otranto’s castle with high tech (for ’32) listening devices. His manipulations, viciousness, and violence would give Manfred, Brother Ambrose, and Schedoni a run for their money. Joan does get up the gumption to hang tough and give her tormentor what for; but, darn it all, they have her faint at a crucial moment. They just had to go all Victorian, didn’t they? Victorian, with the exception of Margaret Hale in North and South, who has to get hit in the head with a rock to go down for the count.
Weekends Only was interesting and enjoyable. Joan was a snappy, intelligent gal who grows up fast when her rich-girl paradise crashes and burns with the stock market in 1929. She’s smart and independent, so she’s is no easy victim to sly seductions or aggressive assertions. We also can tell that this is a pre-Production Code because it’s clear that when she and artist Ben Lyon fall in love and show that they genuinely care for each other there are a couple of fadeouts that indicate the two aren’t off for a round of pinochle. Of course, misunderstandings do gum up the romantic works; however, things get resolved in a way that suggests their reconciliation is believable. And the slick rich guy who wants Joan for his mistress bows out with humor. The depictions of the loft apartments where Joan and Ben Lyons live hint at an almost pre-noir dreaminess. Black and white is so evocative. I do wonder what happened to the two portraits painted for the movie. (Thanks to Eve for the shot of the film’s opening on that delicious big screen!)
Anyway, our crew had a wonderful time. We enjoyed films together. Traded Joan gossip. Got to know one another better. Had a lovely dinner ensemble after the first movie on Friday afternoon on the outside terrace at the Delta Lake Inn – thanks to Eve’s planning! Gosh, I had a great time. I can’t wait for another Joan festival to bring us all back together!
Images from Weekends Only and She Wanted a Millionaire from IMDb
Thanks again to Kayla Sturm and Eve Lemon for letting me borrow their photos for this blog.
I haven’t had a chance to do a lot of photography around the yard lately, since I’ve been so busy with writing and traveling. However, we do have many neat critters to see. We still have many interesting birds, for examSas for several days, visiting around 5:00 in the afternoon. Rosalind noticed the turkey first and tipped me off. so, we got some nice shots of her.
The cardinals have been bringing their kids to visit. I see plenty of Mr. and Mrs. Cardindal, but I’m not sure how many adolescents they have because they are all olive colored with black beaks (The beak helps you distinguish kids from female adults). I only see one baby at a time, so I don’t know if it’s the same one repeatedly or different Cardinal kiddos every time. Last year, the parents brought quite a few to the feeders, and we had about six males and females in the winter and through the spring. Then, we only seemed to have two adults. My guess is the last generation of kids moved off to college or got a job and nest in a new territory. What do you think, Cardinal experts? Anyway, this kid is pretty aggressive. He was on the feeder with a female Rosebreasted Grosbeak, who had scared every other birds off, including Mommy Cardinal. Not this kid! He kept pecking right back at her for some time.
Speaking of Grosbeaks, we have at least three males (whom I’ve seen all at the same time), but I’m not sure how many females. I have noticed that I do see a pair show up frequently, though I usually see a male or two show up without the wife. Occasionally, I’ve seen a female without the hubby. These two like to hang together on this particular feeder. They also decided to check out the oranges we put out for the Orioles as well.
The catbirds used to come frequently in the beginning of the summer, then they disappeared, pretty much, for about a month. However, now they are BACK. And they are aggressively defending the suet, cocking up their black tails and showing off that red spot underneath. I’m glad to see them-and hear them call my name, “Sharon! Sharon!” There’s one outside my window right now!
I’ll have to do another bird blog, to show you more pictures of our other feathered visitors.
We all know about the main supporting cast of Star Trek. Lt. Uhura, Lt. Sulu, Ensign Checkov, Nurse Chapel, Yeoman Rand, and Mr. Scott were all regular players with important roles in the action of the original series. However, the show also created a sense of verisimilitude with another level of players, supernumeraries. These spear, or phaser, carriers may not have had lines (though many did) but they appeared in multiple episodes as crew members, thereby creating continuity. Sometimes, though, that continuity might have been set askew by outfitting them in different uniforms and occasionally having them show up as aliens or civilians filling out the background. After working my way through the series this year, I thought it would be fun to create a run down on the cast supporting the supporting cast.
My first entry is Dr. M’Benga (Booker Bradshaw). This sawbones made such an impression that many people, myself included, were surprised to realize that he only appeared in two episodes. In “A Private Little War,” his background interning in a Vulcan ward provided him with the knowledge that in order to bring Mr. Spock out of a healing trance, the first officer needed a good sock in the kisser. Poor Nurse Chapel, following Dr. M’Benga’s instructions, ended up in a tussle with Scotty, who didn’t understand why she was smacking Spock around. Fortunately, Dr. M’Benga arrived on the scene to slap Mr. Spock back to consciousness.
We might wonder if Mr. Spock thought the good doctor had been a little too good with his rough prescription. In “That Which Survives,” Spock verbally slices down the doctor for being a bit too cheery about pronouncing he has no idea why a crewman had died from having every cell in his body exploded. Then again, when crewman are dropping left and right (some not even in red shirts!), maybe a playful attitude about your ignorance deserves a cool comeuppance.
Even after the series ended, Dr. M’Benga’s popularity in the Star Trek universe lived on. He has been a major character in Star Trek novels and some non-canonical works. Everybody and his brother has a first name for him. Memory Alpha provides a nice bio of the character with more details. Actor Booker Bradshaw has the intriguing background of graduating from Harvard University, studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, and acting as talent manager for The Supremes (IMDB and Find a Grave)!
Lt. Palmer (Elizabeth Rogers): Uhura has to sleep sometime! So, in two episodes, we find Lt. Palmer taking over for her at the communications panel: “The Doomsday Machine” and “The Way to Eden.” With her blonde beehive and patrician features, Palmer remains stoic and efficient in times of adversity, be it an omnivorous space Hoover, a nutso commodore commandeering the Enterprise, or really obnoxious space hippies. She must be fairly high in Communications, because she’s the only member of the department who, like Uhura, knew how to repair the Communications equipment. Enterprise GRRRLS do science!
In one Star Trek short story, her first name was revealed to be Elizabeth – a tip of the hat to the actress who played her. In at least one of the appearances, Palmer replaced Uhura because Nichelle Nichols had a singing commitment to fulfill. Reports differ as to which episode this was, but Rogers herself said that she was used as “an instant ‘threat’ replacement.” This last statement is according to Wikkipedia, which I am loathe to quote because they’re frequently soooo wrong about stuff; however, the writer of the article did cite These Are the Voyages, Season Two as the source.
Rogers is an interesting actress. On Star Trek, she also voiced “The Companion” in “Metamorphosis.” If you watch much sixties or seventies TV, you are likely to see her in a guest-starring role. Further, she was a friend of producer Irwin Allen and played in The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure. I didn’t catch her in the second film (though I’ll be sure to look for her next time), but I remember her in The T.I. She’s the first one to ride the captain’s chair across the cable strung between two skyscrapers – and she’s screaming all the way! Planet-devouring doomsday weapons and pain-in-the-ass space hippies are nothing to her – but heights? That’s another matter! Memory Alpha and Memory Beta are solid sources for more information on the character and the actress.
Mr. John Farrell (Jim Goodwin) Like Dr. M’Benga, Mr. Farrell only appeared in a limited number of episodes. Three to be exact. Usually, he was navigator, though the gold-shirted young officer with reddish hair and slightly protruding eyes did take a turn at Uhura’s console in “Miri.” This installment of “Phaser Carriers,” we just seem to keep catching our girl Nyota off-shift! We discover that Farrell’s first name is John when Sulu refers to him as “Johnny-O” after they both have been knocked off kilter by the hormone-stimulating drugs of “Mud’s Women.” In this episode, poor also John Farrell gets schnoockered out of a communicator by one of Mudd’s gals, Magda. Interestingly, according to Memory Alpha and The Lost Redshirt sites, some dialogue cut from the scene reveals that Farrell had a girlfriend and was thinking of growing a mustache! Anyway, he’s not doing too well in the formal inquiry of Harcourt Fenton Mudd and his hotties, is he?
Also like M’Benga, Mr. Farrell made it into Star Trek short-story adaptations of episodes and other fiction. Though Farrell was scheduled for more appearances, his character was replaced in “Charlie X” and “The Naked Time.” Hmm, if it had been Farrell instead of Riley who’d been infected with the inhibition-freeing virus, maybe we would have discovered what his girl friend’s name was, with him singing, “I’ll take you home…?” James Goodwin, who played Farrell, was friends with associate producer John D.F. Black, so when Black left the series, our actor’s connection disappeared – and so did Farrell. Interesting to other New Englanders, Goodwin was from Boston and passed away at fifty years young in Beverly, Mass. There’s great detail on the character at Memory Alpha, Memory Beta, IMDB, and at the tale end of Tales of the Unknown Redshirt.
Images: author’s screen shots from original episodes (no copyright infringement intended, informational and educational use only)
Those of you who know me, know what a tremendous Supremes fan I am. So, you can imagine my sadness at the recent passing of Mary Wilson, one of the groups founding members. Mary was such an extraordinary woman. In addition to that delicious smoky alto of hers putting feeling and power into so much music, she contributed tremendously to making the world a better place. She and her fellow Supremes helped break down racial barriers in the 1960s and ’70s, she gave herself generously to help others through her work to protect the rights of recording artists, drew on her own experience as an abused spouse to encourage and support others in the same situation, helped at-risk young people here and abroad, acted as good will ambassador for the U.S., and supported the efforts of the Humpty-Dumpty Institute against the use of landmines.
Mary also helped so many people around her on a personal level to believe in themselves and follow their dreams to become the people they wanted to be. She loved her children and grandchild. And she was wonderful with her fans, never treating them as beneath her. She welcomed everyone with sincerity, graciousness, and humor. You knew she was just as happy to see you as you were to meet her. She had a sense of humor about herself and could tease in a way that was fun. And she loved life, especially these last years, still singing and performing to delighted audiences, competing on on Dancing with the Stars, publishing a delightful book on the Supremes’ magnificant gowns and the stories behind them, starting her own YouTube channel, and even announcing the cd re-release of her solo album with new and never before released material. We’ll miss her joy and warmth, but we’ll carry her in our hearts for all the love she gave us. I think these lines from “Nature Boy” sum up her bond with us perfectly: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and to be loved in return.”
Here’s Mary sharing her philosophy of life with us in a fairly recent release: “Life’s Been Good to Me.”
Dancing with the Stars Photo: https://dancingwiththestars.fandom.com/wiki/Mary_Wilson
Other Photos shared from web sites Mary Wilson of the Supremes: New Ways but Love Stays; Motown 1970: Not Just Another Record Company; Seventies Supremes,
If you feel your rights have been infringed by the posting of any of these photos, please contact me and I will remove them. Photos posted for personal or educational reasons. No profit is derived from this post.
As part of my Halloween viewing program, I broke out Nick Knight (1989), the made-for-TV movie predecessor of the series Forever Knight. Interestingly, the only actor to make it from this film to the series was John Kapelos as Schanke. Even the setting was replaced, LA with Toronto. So, how do they compare?
The more I think about it, the set up for each best suits its own format. The neo-noir vibe of the movie, its lighting, use of current music, locations, casting, and characterization are appropriate for a one-off movie. Then there’s the clever humor of having a vampire arrive at his home to “I’m Only Human.” Even better, this home is a former movie palace with It’s a Wonderful Life on the marquee, signaling Nick’s haunting by the dream of many past lives, likely not all so wonderful.
On the other hand, Toronto works beautifully for the series, Forever Knight (1992-96), setting the stories in a unique locale that’s a blend of the old world lurking in the new, characteristic of that city. The tone of the series is perfectly attuned to the eerie wryness of the era of The X-Files and the revived Outer Limits, with playful riffs on the cinematic vampire tradition. As a series, Forever Knight draws you into a community of the Gothic dark world and noir mean streets, but still a place where relationships shift and grow rather locating you in a stylized, neon-lit LA. Not to say that the aerial shots of LA’s blue glow, to capture a vampire’s-eye view of the city, aren’t pretty darn nifty.
I find the characterizations and casting more compelling in the series, but of course a series gives more time for development. Rick Springfield is good as a slick, cynically ironic, tough-as-nails but really decent detective/vampire, perfect for 1980s neo-noir. Still Geraint Wyn Davies’ Byronic Nick has an emotional depth, an ability to reflect and regret and care, seasoned with a mischievous wit, that deepens his character. Changes in the rest of the cast also prove more interesting in Forever Knight. The supportive male coroner from Nick Knight is now played by the feisty Catherine Disher, and the romantic tension that bubbles up from time to time in Nick and Natalie’s friendship makes for an interesting evolution of the relationship that only the longer duration of a series better facilitates. The movie’s Jeanette is a poseur at Continental finesse, whereas the series version of the character is an actual woman of the Old World (like Medieval France!), who is clever, witty, and definitely menacing. Schanke is still kind of a jerk, but in the movie he’s just a jerk. In the series he’s smarter and less self-impressed. He actually becomes Nick’s friend. LaCroix is maybe the most interesting change, after Nick. Nigel Bennett’s LaCroix in the series carries a wit and menace that leaves Michael Damon’s rather wooden interpretation in the dust. Where Damon’s LaCroix is Nick’s age-contemporary, Bennett’s greater age and expertise lend an Oedipal twist to the relationship between master/mentor vampire and apprentice growing into independence.
So, glad as I am that James D. Parriot did get his vampire tale made in 1989, I’m even gladder that he recast and relocated the project to give us a series with more depth and a greater Gothic feel.
For more info on the series and movie, check out:
This month has blue moons, two in one month. The first day of October this year was the first full moon of the month. So, we celebrated with a trip to New Hampshire that was a triple header for us. First, we visited the grave of my favorite actor, Claude Rains, in the Red Hill Cemetery. It’s a small, peaceful place, with lots of firefighters R.I.P.ing there. The graves of Mr. Rains and his wife Rosemary are beautiful polished black stone Gothic arches. To pay tribute, we brought one of the pumpkins that we had grown ourselves this year. I liked presenting a little gift that Yang and I had worked hard to cultivate together. The foliage by the cemetery hadn’t quite turned yet, but there were still some pretty trees. When we go a bit later in the season, you often see some magnificent colors. Check this link to a blog with pictures of the foliage in a past visit.
It was still a lovely place for Mr. Rains and his wife Rosemary to take their final rest. I did want to place the pumpkin between the graves to honor them both, but I was a little worried it might roll off or get pushed away if it weren’t resting against the stone. So, Mr. Rains got the pumpkin. Maybe next time, I’ll bring two, especially if we have a bigger pumpkin crop. Click here for news on what we did harvest.
We also did a drive- by of the classic colonial with it’s three pillars where Claude Rains last resided. I wonder what the inside is like? It was nice to see a Jean Shaheen sign out front. You can’t see it in this photo, though you can see a beautiful sugar maple behind and to the left of the house.
Next on the agenda was to hike the Mt. Roberts trail in Moultonborough. It’s on the grounds of the Castle in the Clouds, but it’s free to visit and hike. Usually, we go up Red Hill, but I asked if we could start with something that ascended a bit less steeply, as this was my first major mountain climb of the year-major for me, anyway. It really wasn’t all that easy, but the hike was definitely worth it! We enjoyed the terrain, the changing colors, sighting a Brown Thrasher and a Wood Thrush (thank God for binoculars!). When we got to an overlook, we sat and ate tea eggs that Yang had made, then chunks of the yummy pumpkin bread I’d baked the night before. I was tired when we got back down, but I loved it! There are lots of trails on these grounds, so I’m looking forward to going back.
We thought this little toad was cute, too!
Does anyone know what kind of tree this leaf comes from? It’s actually a little darker in real life. The camera was accidentally set to overcompensate, so I’ve tried to properly adjust the color to match what I actually saw. So, if you know what the tree is, drop me a line in comments of on FB. I’d really like to know!
Last and never least: the first full moon of October! Yang took me to Weir Beach-I hadn’t been there since I was a teenager! It was pretty deserted, after the summer season was done, but there was a nice boardwalk from which to view the moonrise. When the moon first came over the trees, it was ENORMOUS! I thought Kronos was rising. These picture don’t do it justice. Click on them to get a bigger image.
It was a lovely evening to complete an exciting day. Gosh, I love our autumn rambles through the Northeast! I hope you’re having some fun ones as well. And if you can’t get out, please enjoy these.