Sunday, December 11, 2011

Let's move on, shall we?

I found these two things on the cheezburger group of websites.  Lame, probably, but I'm lazy and there's lots of stuff there in one place.  Some of it horrible, some of it frequently without source (which is super annoying), but sometimes it's great and sometimes it's correctly sourced and I need to stop trying to justify my stupid internet browsing decisions.

OK.  So two things.  I really really like this picture below, which is from an unknown source, but which was posted on the WIN! site there on the cheezburger group of sites.  I mean, I really really really like this picture.  If I could, I would print it out and frame it.  Huh.  Maybe I should do that.

In a related vein, I also love Cindy Sherman.  I'm super excited because MOMA is having a major exhibition of hers this spring.  Super excited.  The photo below (grabbed from here), of herself by herself, is from 1989.  I bought the book of this exhibition.  I was just out of high school!  Crap, I'm cultural.

I also found the cartoon below some time ago on one of the cheezburger sites.  It is sourced, which is nice.  And it illustrates some interesting conflicts for me.  Maybe the time I spend imagining who Phebe was is the source of all the fun.  Maybe, if someone down the road learns about me, instead of being riveted (as my own sense of self-importance insists they would be), they would be bored or, worse, embarrassed for me.   Again, in any case, I really liked this cartoon.

OK then.  I think I mostly write new posts to get past the last thing I wrote.  It's a theory.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Who, me? Whut?

Hello there!

So...I have a great online friendish (hopefully one day an IRL friendish - but kind of already that because we've mailed things to each other - yea) and she has a great blog.  And she got an award (the Liebster Award) on her blog which then led her to talk about five "undiscovered" (I believe that was the word) blogs out there.  And I was one!  I mean, Researching Phebe, was one!  Yay!  Thanks, primamomma!  Yer the bestest!

I have to say that I am also a big fan of Gweenbrick (one of the blogs she linked) and to be included in the same category as him is a fucking honor.  I guess as part of receiving this award I have to list five "undiscovered" blogs and, while I'm kind of thinking, "Do you even have a blog if no one reads it?  It's a diary, then, right?  I think it's a diary.  A public diary which people can read and enjoy (?) if they want but in my case it's all involved because there's MS, there's my hate for this town I live in while simultaneously, my love of its former residents (two hundred sixty years ago former residents), and there's my husband, kids and shizz about my parents."  End quote.

What was I talking about?  Oh, yea, Gweenbrick.  He's awesome.

Who else?  Well, lately I've been lovin' on Kristen Stewart Wants IT (She really really does).  That guy rules.  It's funny, though, because he is also from (and currently living in) New Jersey and I once ventured the question, "Why do New Jerseyans suck so hard?"  And his response was, "What are you talking about?  I don't understand the question."  Well, anyway, besides that and his love of boobs (which, honestly, doesn't everyone love boobs?  They're everyone's first food!  What's not to love?) and football (inexcusable, imho, but that's just me), KSWI author/creater, Jordan, is fantastic.  In no way does he need my help here, though.  I just wanted to get it out there that I really really like his website.  Oh and that I agree that she really really does want IT.

Oh!  I know!  I've written about her before, but I found a wonderful historical mystery (maybe soon to be romance?  *crossing fingers*) novelist - 18th century setting, my fave - and her name is Imogen Robertson.  She and I have similar real last names.  Well.  I don't know if that's her real last name, but if so, it's similar to mine.  (Squeee!)  So, she has a blog, and she in no way needs my help, but I really really like her website (and books) too.

There are a few humor bloggers I like who are already very popular - Steam Me Up, Kid and The Bloggess in particular.  I spent a while trying to find this "Literal Animal Captions Meme" website Steamme Upkid (as she is on facebook) made months and months ago, but google wasn't helping.

However...I did find this website, as a result -  It's basically literal captions for New Yorker cartoons and it's fantastic and also does not need my help.

Hmmm.  I'm flailing here.  One last website before I sign off.  My friend Paula Cohen-Martin (rl friend, at that) is a fantastic artist and art teacher and she has started her own art classes (!!!) in her basement to compensate for the lack of good art classes in her town and she's a personal hero.  I only wish I still lived close enough to make it feasible for my kids to go.  Her blog is called Picasso's Basement.  Plus she loves David Foley of the Kids in the Hall as much as I do and that, my friends, is a good person right there.

Thought of one other!  Yay!  Bangable Dudes in History, but she's on a hiatus right now (as is Steam Me Up, Kid, sadly).

Alrighty.  Kristy (aka primamomma), I love you like a sister, gurrrl, but this whole thing has made me horribly uncomfortable.  Still, loves you.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Queen of Extrapolation

So, I'm unemployed.  Well.  I'm employed in taking care of my kids, which for most of the day only means my three year old son, as my six year old daughter is being taken care of by the school.  Supposedly.  Anywhoo, my son is only in preschool for six hours a week, so by and large, it's me.

And, since it's Christmas time, I've been spending a whole lotta money getting gifts, decorating the house and whatnot.  Sure, it's fun.  I think I'll be at a loss when I have no more gifts to buy (which is soon, I think).  I'll have to wean myself off the purchasing.

These two things are related, in that, my private (or not so private) little fantasy, is that one day, I could write for a living.  Like, be paid to write.  Wouldn't that be something?

I haven't earned a paycheck in ages (almost seven years, actually) and even then I never earned a big one.  Never one that would cover much more than the childcare that I would need to do said job.  And even then, at this moment, due to my fatigue and cognitive difficulties on account of ma MS (Thanks, MS!  Fucker.), I'm not even sure I could get any job.  Or keep it.  I guess when my son's in Kindergarden full time, we'll see, but I'm not sure of anything really.

I'm extremely lucky in my patient and smart and responsible husband.  He's kind too.  And sexy.  And I love him.  And I don't want to stress him out more.  I want to help him.  And honestly, the one thing I think I could maybe do (if I ever got over my basic gut-wrenching fear of writing) is write.  Maybe.

Here's the thing, though.  Phebe lost three babies.  And I really have no no no idea what that would feel like.  Not really.  I think I'm naive enough to believe that I can extrapolate it, though.  (Quite a sentence there.)  I say that because I know how it felt to have my son spew disgusting fluids out of his mouth and anus onto me constantly for a week last spring and for him to have to be hospitalized for dehydration because of it.  But that was one week.  And, more importantly, he was fine.

I really have no idea what Phebe went through.  Or what someone who was raped went through.  Or even something milder, like being cheated on.  I think I have an idea because of small tiny little episodes in my life that somewhat relate.  Like, when I was a teenager and out at the Junior Prom with my date, who was my boyfriend, but who I wasn't attracted to at all, and how I didn't, couldn't, stop him when we parked.  I know what that felt like.  And he got to second base, tops.  But he didn't use force, just subtle pressure.  I knew I should want it, and I did, just not with him, so I went along with it.  It felt horrible and the next day I broke up with him - the next morning, actually - and then my mother overheard me and told me to call that boy back up and take it back. "He took you to prom."

I have that experience and I believe I can extrapolate it to having to go through something much much worse, but then I have this horrible fear that doing so would insult someone who went through something so horrible.  That it would belittle them.  And then I want to write nothing at all.

I also know, from having children, that some things simply must be experienced.  The feeling you get when your child issues that first cry in the delivery room...blah blah blah.  But it's true.  That feeling is corny and overworked, but I will never forget it.  That sound went straight to the goddamned core of my stupid fucking soul.  And when or if I ever thought of it before having children, I rolled my eyes.  And when people are too tired to deal with their children and younger, childless people get annoyed, I realize that that was me too, being annoyed.  Not understanding.

Oh and old people!  Now that I'm unofficially an old person (many days I feel about 70 years old), I get a lot more things than before.  But still, not really.  I don't know what it's like to have cancer, for instance.  I don't know what it's like to watch my spouse have cancer either.

Shit.  You know who's fucked me up?  Well.  Besides my mom, of course.  Christina Aguilera, is who.  Surprising, right?  She was on one of the first Behind the Music produced by VH1 or MTV (back when they concerned themselves with music) in the 90's.  She said, and it was the tagline for the series, I think, "You think you know, but you have no idea."  And this from a girl who's big hit was a thinly veiled song about clitoral stimulation.  A teenage girl.  In any case, it fucked me up, because it's true.

But I still want to write about Phebe.  And I still do want to write and get paid for it somehow.  And I do want to understand.  I hope that's enough?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sensory Issues

Well hello!  Today, I rant about parenting books.  That okay?  Yea?  Well, aren't you nice.  Thanks.

Let's get started.

My son was born six weeks premature.  He was a great weight, though and overall, very healthy, so we thought "Great!  Whew!  We dodged a bullet!"  But only kinda.  While I am eternally grateful that he is overall very very healthy, his prematurity has caused a few minor issues.  Concerning his sensory integration.  Which, honestly, I was just so over the moon he was healthy, that I didn't notice until recently. Or, I noticed his sensory problems but just thought they were his own adorable quirks.  Which is apparently common.

I realized it's common due to my reading "Raising a Sensory Smart Child," which really is a very very useful, well organized book.  I gobbled it up in a day or two and learned so so much.  For instance, I learned that my son's absolute horror of swings as an infant is related to his absolute horror of riding in a car at that age, is related to his dyspraxic speech at two years old, is related to his abhorrence of any food other than breast milk until one year old, is related to his extreme pickiness regarding food in general, is related to his exaggerated startle reflex (still), is related to his abhorrence of loud, unexpected noises - especially crying.  All those things are related.  Who knew?  Well, I perhaps should've known to look out for something like this since he was premature, but I didn't.  Likely I was too tired and, in the last year or so, too wrapped up in my own health problems to notice.

But, in any case, now I have noticed.  I have read this very good book and now, I have let this very good book invade my head and stress me out a bit.  Which I don't think was their goal - I think they're just covering all their bases.  It's just maybe unavoidable with parenting books.

Here's a passage in "Raising a Sensory Smart Child" which is a perfect example of what I just mentioned:

Do not forget that children with sensory issues often escalate their behavior in order to control their environment.  If escalation works (for example, your child throws up and you stop presenting him with an offending food item), he will keep doing it.  If he throws up, calmly clean it up and tell your child he can try again tomorrow.  This way, he will learn that throwing up, or throwing a plate, or whatever negative behavior he is using to try to control the situation, is not useful.  However, some children with smell and taste sensitivities are truly nauseated by particular foods.  If your sensory smarts tell you this is the case for your child, do not continue to present the offending food.  Some parents let their children pick out a small number of foods they will never, ever be forced to eat.

See?  *sigh*  If this, do this.  But if this, do this.  How do you tell the "this's" apart?  Unclear!  Use your judgement!  Confusing.  Meanwhile you're "doing" all these things, instead of just being calm and letting things go as they will and possibly (for me, definitely) getting even more stressed out.

This is only one small part though.  I shouldn't nit-pick.  This book has been great in that it showed me what was going on and how things are tied together and how things are often very confusing, but that with occupational therapy, that the outlook is actually quite positive.  Which has been very helpful, as I said.

In general, though, I avoid parenting books now like the plague.  When my daughter was a baby (roughly six years ago), I tried to solve the problem of lack of sleep by buying loads of books about sleeping and consuming them also.  It only ended up making me more stressed out and was counter productive.  In the end, we just let her sleep with us when she needed to (which was most nights after about 1 am) and eventually she just kind of slept through the night.  Probably at around age 4.

I don't even bother to worry about sleep with my son (who's now 3).  We just deal.  Which is what I was trying to do with his eating, but it turns out that his sensitivity to sound has the potential to make school extremely difficult for him in the future and we need to deal with it now, therefore, before things get possibly worse.  So, occupational therapy with a Sensory Processing Disorder specialist, and lots of positive reinforcement for my son when he tries new things and is brave and I believe we're alright.

Trying to be positive in general.  Until next time...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Two Grandchildren

I found a copy of Catharine Elizabeth Taylor Moore's portrait in the book, The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore (Facsimile of the Original 1848 Edition With a Life of Moore by Arthur N. Hosking).  That book cost me $3!  Woot!  Here's her portrait.  Or a horrible reproduction of it.  The portrait is probably very lovely in real life.  I blame my camera and the shiny paper that I photographed.

In any case, I think she is lovely.  She was born in 1795, married at nineteen, had nine children, and died at thirty-six.  And, important to this blog anyway, she was Phebe Taylor's granddaughter (by Phebe's son William Taylor).

I thought I'd also post a good portrait that I found of another grandchild of Phebe's, Commodore William Bainbridge (who I've posted about before) and then comment on the fact that I think there's a likeness between him and Catharine.

Is that just me?  They were cousins, and while I don't think I look anything like my cousins, my brother, in fact, does.  And my brother looks a whole lot more like my mother than I do.  But then he doesn't look like any one of his grandparents.  I don't know.  I don't know!  It's impossible to extrapolate, but this is all I've got so far, people!  I'll bet there was a portrait of Phebe somewhere at some time but that it's still in someone's personal collection.  And who knows who that someone is.  *sigh*

I'm just going to have to be happy I've got these portraits.  Which are nice.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Night Before Christmas

Well, hello!  I've been doing a fair amount of work on this whole project and I just found out something exciting.  Phebe Taylor's granddaughter, Catharine Elizabeth Taylor, in 1813 married Clement Moore, author of the famous poem, The Night Before Christmas.  Cool, right?
Clement C. Moore

Catharine Elizabeth was the daughter of Phebe's son William.  He at one point was the Lord Chief Justice of Jamaica and, oddly - to me, anyway - he came back to New Jersey at the end of his life and is buried in the St. Paul's cemetery in Perth Amboy.  My son and I just found William's grave.  Photos to follow in a later post.

Apparently, Catharine was involved in the creation of the famous poem.  The following passage is from this link:

An anecdote on the origin of the poem goes as follows:
“On Christmas Eve 1822, Reverend Clement Moore’s wife was roasting turkeys for distribution to the poor of the local parish, a yearly tradition discovered that she was short one turkey, she asked Moore to venture into the snowy streets to obtain another. He called for his sleigh and coachman, and drove “downtown” to Jefferson Market, which is now the Bowery section of New York City, to buy the needed turkey. Moore composed the poem while riding in his sleigh; his ears obviously full of the jingle of sleigh bells. He returned with the turkey and the new Christmas poem. After dinner that evening, Moore read the new verses to his family, to the evident delight of his children.”

Moore and his family are buried in the Washington Heights section of New York City.  I should go visit Catharine's grave too.  She died at thirty-six, leaving behind nine children.  Clement lived to eighty-four and never married again.

So, right now, we have a few well-known descendants of Phebe:  Commodore William Bainbridge (grandson), Mrs. Clement Moore (granddaughter) and Professor John Maclean, President of Princeton (great-grandson).  Oh and Mrs. Clement Moore was said to be "talented and lovely."  She even wrote a poem, "Clement C. Moore - My Reasons for Loving" which I will be searching for on google.

So from now on, thanks to the anecdote above, I will be thinking of Catharine and her turkeys and Clement on his sleigh ride when I read The Night Before Christmas.  Which is overall, pretty great.

Update:  I thought that last bit was a little sappy of me.  So I'll include these extra bits of information:  1. The poem might possibly have not been written by him, but by Henry Livingston, Jr. and 2.  Clement Moore was against abolitionism, meaning pro-slavery.

Alrighty then.  I still like the anecdote, even if it is fiction.

Update Number 2:  Although I wasn't able to find the poem by Phebe's granddaughter to her husband Clement, I did find the illustrated copy Phebe's great-granddaughter made in 1855 for her father's poem.  The great-granddaughter's name was Mary Ogden, and I rather like the illustrations.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lady Robinson's Recollections

In my reading about Tories and Revolutionary history lately, I found a reference to a short book entitled "Lady Robinson's Recollections".  I must find a copy of this book.  Maybe it's at the Monmouth County Historical Society Library?  I haven't been there in ages.

Lady Robinson was born Catherine Skinner, daughter of Cortlandt Skinner (links 1, 2, and 3), leader of the New Jersey Volunteers, a regiment of Loyalists from New Jersey who fought for the British against the Patriots.  He was a very high profile Loyalist and was reviled in Monmouth by the rebels and even, most likely, uncommitted people because he led the raids for supplies that went on for years in this area.  I need to write this all out more carefully, referencing how I know everything, but right now, I'm not feeling well.  I just wanted to mention her book.

More or less, it's a family history.  It's not online in its entirety, but I did find her introduction, which is charming.  Hopefully, I'll find a full transcript somewhere, because I believe she has some things to say about the Revolution, as she experienced it, as a child (errr, it wasn't good).  In any case, it starts off in the following way (this from a rootsWeb excerpt which focussed on geneology mostly):


I have often observed when people are young they are seldom anxious about
family history, and think any mention of times and things as far back as
grandmothers a bore. When getting old themselves a hope to be remembered
naturally arises, and more interest is felt in those who are gone. I will
therefore detail, as far as I know, who and what were your ancestors, both
on the side of your lamented father and myself. You may, probably, some
future day wish to trace some member of your family when no one is left to
explain ; but bear in mind the writer of this is approaching seventy-five,
and, as I have somewhere before said, the mind, like the body, is prone to
decay: this must excuse errors.
Your affectionate Mother,



November, 1842.

Charming, right?

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Hi. name here is fake.  It's a pseudonym.  I don't think anyone would really care, but I don't want any of my Middletown neighbors accidentally finding it, while trying to google my phone number for a PTA thing (which they totally wouldn't anyway) and then, eventually, have it hurt my kids in the long run.

So this is a fake identity; an avatar, if you will.  And while Penelope Heard is generally a nice not-young woman, sometimes she's inappropriate.  Or depressing and emo.  Or callous, spiteful, extremely snobby and classist.

Here's the thing about me, though (real me and Penny me), I like to talk.  I like getting shit out.  Mostly because, as a kid, I was constantly told to be quiet, don't say that (probably for all the reasons mentioned above - *sigh* my parents tried).  So is Penny my id or something?  I don't know, I never took psychology.  Mostly because that teacher in my high school... you know what?  That's a whole story, for another time.  (Surprisingly, not a pervy one, just awkward.  *sigh*  Relax.)

Alright, so she's inappropriate.  She's also fairly lazy.  So, while I have an avenue to say things as the real me, via facebook and twitter (which I never do, but have set up), Phebe does not have any other accounts.  And there are plenty of things that real me really shouldn't post.  Especially at certain times.  Like today.  So, I thought I'd just do a post where I list a few of my current "status updates" that I would certainly regret if I were to post them as myself.

At the pediatrician yesterday and an 8 year old boy saunters in.  He really sauntered.  He has gel in his hair and (I'm not lying) two pierced ears.  Two!  On a small boy!  Can you believe that shit?  What the hell?  And then he opens the door to office and the receptionist gives him a big old hug and says "Oh!  My God!  We haven't seen you in so long!"  And says nothing about the earrings.  Oh and at this same pediatrician's office, they were playing a full-on pirated version of Kung Fu Panda 2.  I know this because of the quality, sure, but also because you see, at one point, two people crossing the screen, going to their seats.  I think it's time to find another pediatrician's office.

You know how they say you should learn something new every day?  I feel like I've spent the last two decades learning, daily, how shitty people are.  I feel like that's not a good thing.

I had to go to my primary care doctor today while my son tagged along.  He's three.  It's horribly painful to try to have him behave in an office for an hour, but I had to do it.  In the waiting room, a grandfather started talking to me about my son.  It was ok, he was nice.  So we're talking, talking and then get to how he lives with them, and how sometimes he has to discipline them, but not often.  He hates time outs, though.  Sometimes a kid just needs to be smacked.  What the hell to say to that?  Oh and also, this grandfather mistook me as my child's grandmother.  I may need to also find another primary care physician.  Or move.  Moving might be easier.

As far as the learning new something everyday thing, though, I actually did learn something new at my doctor's appointment.  Turns out dandruff and psoriasis are not the same thing.  Who knew?  So the "dandruff" I've had for seven years is actually (say it with me) pso-RI-a-sis.  That's how I pronounce it, anyway.

I have a question.  How does anyone have an affair with their doctor?  I mean, in the history of mankind, that's happened, right?  Only, in my case, my doctors tend to hear things like, "My pee smelled funny yesterday and also today."  Or, "My left boob hurts so bad, is so swollen and hard, that I want to cut it off with a kitchen knife, because that would be less painful."  That one was due to mastitis.  So-Mui took it like a champ, though.  She's a professional.  Seriously, there's not one sexy ailment, really.  Maybe that Benjamin Button thing?  "Doctor, I seem to be getting younger every day."  "Call me when you look like a twenty year old, Madam."

Changing topics, There's a blogger I think is incredibly funny - Steam Me Up, Kid.  I (real me) follow her on facebook.  Lots of people do, she's (rightfully so) very successful as a humor blogger.  Anyway, one of her more recent status updates mentions that she was in Soho (the blogger's mentioned she lives in California) and saw Lady Gaga get out of a car and I literally had to walk away from the computer so I wouldn't write "Wait!  You were in New York?  I was within twenty miles of you, Steamme?  Crazy!" because honestly, that would've gone over like a ton of bricks, me thinks.  Methinks?

Last one.  I recently discovered, via Imogen Robertson's blog (see my last post for my ravings), the blog The History Girls.  It's a blog that features posts from roughly fifteen successful female historical novel writers.  And they're mostly British, it seems, but not all.  And they're all professional writers.  Mostly, that's my point here.  And they seem really cool and I can't wait to read all the archived stuff and maybe find some series via them, etc etc.

Anyway, today's post is about cross-dressing in historical novels.  Mostly, they say, hey, I'm having two young-ish girl characters dress up as boys so that they can do things (like go to a play, or be in a play, or escape or something - not the other kinds of things - mind out of gutter).  Has anyone else had their characters do this?  So that's the general gist.  Oh and that it's hard to have it be a man dressing as a woman (for similar things, I guess?) and have it not degenerate into something farcical.

And again, I'm having a hard time not commenting and saying, "Uhhh, guys?  Dr. Frank-N-Furter?  Hello?  Sexiest mother fucking sweet transvestite out there, amiright?  Well?  *crickets*" Hell, I can't even do that as Penelope Heard because they might link back to this website and, since honestly, I hope to one day be a historical novel writer, I don't want to "introduce" myself to them and then immediately make them think I'm a perv because I find Tim Curry extremely fuckable in that outfit.  Amiright?

Although, come to think of it, Diana Gabaldon has written about gay male transvestites in her Lord John series and since I'm guessing there's not a whole lot of slash writing going on over there (there's a lot of young adult novelists in the mix), they may not have thought of that whole aspect of it.  Mayhaps I should educate them on that too.  *sigh*  No, I won't.

Kind of reminds me of the time that my mom used the word "fluffers" to describe herself and her sister and I had to tell her what it really meant.  See, not due to anything in my control, mind you, but at that time I was in grad school and had an a-hole for a labmate and he had to play Howard Stern every god damned night.  Every night.  It was fucking horrible.  This went on for a year, and then thankfully, I got out of that particular room.  Horrible.  Anyway, so I learned what a fluffer was.  Cut to a year later, when my mom was congratulating herself on what a wonderful wedding prep job she had done for a friend of hers in Santa Barbara and that it wasn't really a matter of redoing their backyard for the small reception, it was a matter of "fluffing it up".  "We should call ourselves "The Fluffers," shouldn't we Sue?  Let's do that!"  Errrr, Mom?  I don't actually think she's looked at me the same since.

That's it for now for the inappropriateness.  Whew.  I'm glad I got all that off my chest.  I feel better.

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Instruments of Darkness Excerpts

Well, hello again.  Should I have used an exclamation point there to convey happiness and excitement?  Or... would that have been overly eager and kinda annoying?  I initially thought the latter, but then regretted it, almost immediately, and thought maybe I did need to do it to convey that I was actually in a pretty good mood and that this post would be light.  Huh.  Oh, my son has a cold and I slept in his room, so that my husband wouldn't be kept up all night by his coughing and then I was, in fact, kept up all night with him and now I'm extremely tired.  So there's that.

Alright.  I've had out this library book for ages and now I need to return it and not pay the fines.  I've been wanting to transcribe some passages that I thought were perfection - both for just being well written and for the excellent job they did in establishing the characters and more, their world.  I'm gushing over here, is what I'm saying.

The book, Instruments of Darkness: A Novel, by Imogen Robertson is great.  It is of course set in the 18th century.  I'm realizing I have a real jones for the 18th century.  Huh again.  And it is, of course, a murder mystery. My favorite (read: only) genre!  I'm thinking from here on out, I'm going to look exclusively for 18th century murder mysteries.  Saves time and guarantees satisfaction.  Only not.  There are tons of lame historical mysteries out there, so really, it's the opposite.  It's like discovering gold when I find one that's both well written and actually entertaining.  Gold, I say!

So this one's gold.  As is the follow-up novel, Anatomy of Murder (I've picked an excerpt from that book too to rave about later).  I'm going to order Island of Bones today.  Today!

Without further ado, two excerpts.  Uhhhh, you don't really need to know too much, except that they're both from towards the beginning.  Mrs. Westerman found a body on her estate.  Her husband is a Captain in the British Navy and is away.  Mr. Crowther is a kind of early forensic scientist.  They've just met.  She asked him to come to see the body, even though they had never met, because she had read an article he published concerning forensics.  Mostly, he stays indoors with his specimens and avoids people.  Have I mentioned that I love him?  Cause I do.

Here we go - Imogen's words will be in italics.  Any annotation I make will be in normal font.  This first part is after the body's been moved to Mrs. Westerman's barn and is ready for examination.

Crowther turned to the corpse again, wondering if Miss Rachel Trench (sister to Mrs. Westerman) had ever been to sea, and if not, what she thought of the family now gathered round her.

He had been expecting Mrs. Westerman to leave him at this point, but she did not.  Instead, she folded back her habit from her wrists, and picked up an apron to cover her skirts.  Catching his look, she gave him a wary half-smile.

"You did say it would not be a full examination."


"Then I think I shall stomach it."  She moved to the body and folded away the linen cover, then, her attention caught, she bent down to examine the hand.

Crowther had studied with some of the best surgeons and teachers of anatomy in Europe.  They were busy practical men, their inquisitiveness their main feature, their niceties blunted by their commerce with the dead and the necessary dealings with the underworld of bodysnatchers and resurrection men.  He had seen any number of corpses cut up and manhandled, the floor slippery with blood and air thick with human effluvia while a dozen men in powdered wigs jostled over a body to examine some peculiarity pointed out by their instructors.  He thought now that he had never seen a sight as shocking, or as strangely beautiful, as Mrs. Harriet Westerman taking the stiff fist of the corpse between her own white hands and stooping to examine the dead flesh.  Its gray, waxen emptiness alongside the delicate coloring of her face and intelligence in her eyes, seemed a metaphor of divine spark.  If she had breathed on that hand and made it warm again, and alive, Crowther would have accepted the miracle and believed.

Now that's how you introduce characters, mother fuckers.  (Sorry, Imogen, I felt cursing necessary.  Big fan.)

Another excerpt and then I have to stop.  There's not too much you need to know here, except about the bit at the end.  The local children have been told or decided that Mr. Crowther is something of a ghoul.  I like this section, because once again, it's a wonderful way to introduce the household.  Really, elegantly done, in my opinion.  OK, then.  Here we go, again:

Crowther and Harriet were walking up to the French windows that gave onto the main lawn, when they heard a sharp slap and a child's cry of surprise.  Crowther looked to Harriet, who hurried over the last few steps to the house.  He followed.  As they stepped into the room, Crowther saw Rachel, her cheeks flushed, holding a boy of about five by the arm and vigorously shaking him.  There was already a red mark rising on the little boy's cheek and he was clutching a paintbrush in his free hand.  Rachel's voice, as she spoke, was quavering and hot.

"Stephen, you naughty boy!  How could you?"  The boy caught sight of Harriet in the doorway and, shaking himself free, ran over to her and buried his face in her skirts, crying lustily.  Miss Trench saw them both and gave a start.  She held out her arms to Harriet in appeal.

"Oh Harry, I am sorry.  I did not mean to, but he has painted black marks all over my picture just out of  badness - and it was just as I wanted it!"

Harriet knelt to better embrace the boy and, having removed the dangerous brush from his hand, she handed it wordlessly to Crowther and stroked her son's hair.  His crying slowed a little.  He put his face into her neck and mumbled something between sobs.

"What is it, Stephen?  I can't hear you,"  Harriet asked him softly, still not looking at her sister.

"Crows.  She forgot the crows," he said, then his voice rising to a bitter wail, "I was helping!"  He tucked his face into Harriet's neck again, his small hands gripping the collar of her riding dress in determined fistfuls.

Rachel looked more stricken than ever.  Crowther remained in the shadows of the drapery, as if Harriet's curtains might provide some protection from the emotions flying around the room like the Chinese fireworks at Vauxhall.  He looked down at the dirty brush between his fingers.

Harriet waited until the little boy was calmer and spoke to him gently.

"Perhaps Aunt Rachel did not want crows in her picture, Stephen.  Have you thought of that?  You would not like it if she painted all your soldiers yellow, now would you?  Even if she thought they looked better that way."

The little boy's sobs stopped suddenly, and he pulled away from his mother as he considered this horrid possibility.  He shook his head.  She took his small face in her hands and smiled at him, then kissed him on his hot smooth forehead.

"Well, you do not seem much hurt, young man.  Apologize to your aunt and perhaps she will not paint on your things in revenge."

Stephen shot a glance toward Rachel, then walked carefully over to her.

"I'm sorry, Aunt.  I thought it would look nicer with crows."  He thought for a moment and extended his hand.  Rachel knelt down and took it with great seriousness.

"I didn't realize you were helping, Stephen.  And I am very sorry to have been so cross.  May we be friends again?"

"You won't paint my soldiers yellow, then?  Because they should all wear red coats."  She shook her head.  Crowther found he was smiling a little, and stepped clear of the curtains.  Stephen grinned with relief and pounced forward to kiss his aunt on the cheek, then struggling free from her embrace, turned and started with surprise as he caught sight of Crowther hovering in the doorway behind his mother and twisting the brush between his fingers.

"Who are you, sir?"

"I am Gabriel Crowther."

The little boy considered for a moment, then his eyes widened considerably.

"Do you eat children, sir?"

Crowther stooped slightly from the waist, till he had brought his thin body to the point where he could look the little boy in the eye.

"Not as often as I would like."

Stephen looked at him with awe and pleasure, thrusting one small fist to his mouth.  He then announced to the world in general that Mrs. Heathcote had made cake and he would be allowed to eat the crumbs from the tin, and raced out of the room.  Harriet stood and smiled at Crowther, then, her eyes growing more serious, she turned to her sister.

"I'm so sorry, Harriet.  I didn't mean, I-"

Harriet looked irritated, and held up her hand.  "This is not like you, Rachel."

It goes on, of course, I just thought I'd stop here.

I also thought I'd make a list (for myself, as well as for any reader) of my favorite historical mystery writers, with a link to their books at Amazon.  My inability to remember names constantly astounds me, especially because I like these people so much.  Huh.  Good gravy, I'm tired.  Until next time.

Judith Rock:

Ariana Franklin:

Margaret Frazer:

Imogen Robertson:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Well, hello...

Hi!  OMG, I have plans for some posts.  One (possibly two) relating to Phebe, in fact!  Weird, right?

But first, I wanted to show you this panda bear my daughter brought home from a birthday party.  A birthday party that somehow involved "building" things.  You know what I mean.  In any case, she had a great time.  A great time was had by all!  Oh, thank God (seriously, thank GOD!) another girl's mom brought my daughter to the party.  God, I am coming to hate kids' birthday parties.  Hate.

So, here's the panda.

As I sat on my daughter's bed last night, trying to work out how the eff the bedwetting alarm system was supposed to work, hopefully without traumatizing my daughter, I started looking at this bear.  Staring at it, really.

And here's what I noticed.  This bear looks pissed that she (or he) is wearing a cheerleading outfit.  Pissed.  So, look again.


Oh and before I sign off, I should also tell you that I, myself, am pissed at Barbie.  Pissed.  I was at the Tar-zzhhay buying a present for this same birthday party and I noticed that still (STILL!) the only career options open to her are teacher, babysitter/day care worker, vet (or vet tech?), ice skater and rock star.  Couldn't they, for the sake of PR, throw out a Scientist Barbie?  Even if she sells not a single time?  My conscience would be a hell of a lot clearer.  I mean, I know that it's incredibly hard to be a veterinarian and that those are some smart, science-y ladies, but still.  Why not orthopedic surgeon?  Cardiologist?  Neurologist?

OK, that's all.  I found another haunted house that would've been there when Phebe was alive and that is, in my opinion, related to her.  It's led to all kinds of magical thinking on my part.  You can imagine.

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Hi!  So... lately I'm in the mood to write about good writing.  Or really, maybe, I just want to, in some way, archive things that I like.  The latter.  Both.  I don't know.  There are probably other reasons, too.  I'm just going to go with it.

In the New York Times this past Sunday, there was an article entitled "Let's Hear It for Aunthood" by Kate Bolick.  First of all, the first sentence is fantastic:  For simplicity's sake, let's call me a childless spinster.  So there's that.  But overall, it's a pretty good article.  She doesn't have a lot of precedent to draw from, regarding her subject, which is kind of the point of the article, so it's slim, but still interesting and well written.  (That may seem a given for the NYT, but...dude.  Have you read all of the Styles section before?  Or every single Modern Love column?  No?  Good for you.  Don't.  It's depressing how lame some of the stuff is.)

Wait.  Where was I?  Oh yea.  There was a paragraph that I thought was great.  This is not so much to do with writing styles or anything other than the fact that I feel the exact same way and yet would not have been able to put it so well.  So here it is (but first the paragraph immediately before my fave paragraph, for context):

In April, Melanie Notkin, a social-media entrepreneur, seized on this underrepresented underclass with "Savvy Auntie:  The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers, and All Women Who Love Kids" (William Morrow).  Her book is a spinoff of her Web site,, which aims to be an "all-inclusive guide" for what she calls PANKS:  Professional Aunts No Kids.  It's a rallying girl-call in high chick-lit style:  lots of hot pink and cheerful advice filed under rubrics like "Auntre-Nous:  Straight Talk for the Childless Auntie" and "The Importance of QualAuntie Time."

I do appreciate Ms. Notkin's auntrepreneurism.  But as a chronic non-joiner, I'm not interested in becoming part of a "unifying lifestyle platform"; for me, much of the allure of being an aunt is being liberated from expectations, free to make it up as I go along, constantly surprised by the delights of the relationship, which includes not only passionate love but blessed freedom.

See?  Good, right?  And no guilt about it.  Just a "chronic non-joiner."  That's what I am!  That's how I feel, only with respect to modern motherhood stuff.  Oh and with the exception of the "blessed freedom" part.  I do not have "blessed freedom."  S'OK, though.

So...yay!  OK then, so I have a few other posts like this, but with fiction.  A lot of this is just for me, to help me remember.

Until next time...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

This times a hundred billion million


by SEPTEMBER 12, 2011

There was a period, about a year ago, when every few nights my wife and I would be awakened by the sound of little steps in the darkness. Then our son’s quick breathing in our room, and finally his trembling voice from the foot of the bed: “I had a nightmare.”
“About what?”
The answer was always the same: “I can’t describe it.”
At the time, I thought he didn’t want to describe it: putting a nightmare into words—saying it aloud and sharing it—would only expand the terror.
But I’ve come to wonder if he simply didn’t possess the vocabulary. And if that failure of language was at least part of the problem. Words are capable of making experience more vivid, and also of organizing it. They can scare us, and they can comfort us. What makes writing so thrilling is what makes childhood so difficult.
New York City is filled with children who have no reason to distinguish the eleventh from any other day in September. At some point they’ll learn, but for now, for them, what actually happened could never have happened.
I often think about how my sons will come to know about September 11th. Something overheard? A newspaper image? In school? I would prefer that they learn about it from my wife and me, in a deliberate and safe way. But it’s hard to imagine ever feeling ready to broach the subject without some impetus. In my mind, that future conversation begins with a child asking a question.
It will be easy enough to summon answers for the matter-of-fact questions—Because they were trying to kill the people in the buildings, and scare everyone else; Because they were angry about certain things America had done; Because the fires weakened the steel that held the towers up—but what about the broken contract? How could this world be so unlike the world that I believed I was living in?
I can’t describe it.
Do I not want to describe it, or do I simply not possess the vocabulary?
When I think back over the injuries that my children have sustained—my nightmares—my mind tends to fixate on the moment immediately before the accident: we were playing on the stoop, my thoughts were scattered, we were laughing. The memory almost always deforms into a self-directed fury: how could I have been so casual, so carefree—how could I not have seen coming what I couldn’t have seen coming? Why didn’t I take him into my arms and protect him?
We can’t revise what happened, but there are different versions of the story available to us.
One of the things most frequently said by survivors of calamities is some version of “Tell your children you love them every morning.” As Galway Kinnell wrote, “The wages of dying is love.” But love can also feel impossible to describe.
Is there anyone who hasn’t played out the nightmare of having been trapped in one of the towers? Is there anyone who hasn’t wondered if he would have had the superhuman composure to call and comfort a loved one? Dozens of phone calls home were placed from the towers between the moment that the first plane hit and the time that the north tower collapsed. When words should have been most impossible to find, there were words of grace, and dignity, and consolation. Words of fear, and words of love. There’s nothing to learn from this, except everything.
Elizabeth Rivas, a mother of six, was at the laundromat when her husband, Moises, a chef at Windows on the World, called looking for her. When she saw the news of the attacks on television, she rushed home, barged through the door, and asked her daughter if there was any word.
“He said, Mommy, he loves you no matter what happens. He loves you,” Rivas told CNN. That was the last they heard from him.
Rivas later said, “He tried to call me. He called me.” 

link from here:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Oh, Steve...

Hi!  Let's talk about Blue's Clues!  Wait - where are you going?  Wait!  Don't leave!  Stop!  It'll be fine, I promise!  I promise.  Truly.  Don't go.  This'll be fast.  And not pervy (surprise!) and not particularly awkward (surprise again!).  Although it relates in no way to Phebe Taylor, I just thought it was funny and wanted to share.  Are we ok?  Yea?  *sigh*  I shouldn't have called you a slut, is that it?  I'm sorry.  OK, then, we cool?  *bro fist bump followed by self-loathing*

Anyway.  So, we checked out, from the library, the four episode arc on Blue's Clues when Steve left and Joe took over.  It was a well done transition, in my opinion, and very riveting due to the drama of the whole thing.  I have low standards for riveting, it seems.

I like this photo of Steve.  Oh and there's Joe too.  (from here)

My kids aren't huge Blue's Clues fans, but still... drama, so they liked it.  And I like Steve and, to a lesser degree, Joe (sorry, Joe), so watching this video over and over and over hasn't been too bad.  But last night, I watched and paid attention a little more.  I don't know.  Suddenly, something that I had heard ten times before made me laugh for a good half hour straight (my daughter was confused).  Still smiling about it today.  So I thought I'd share!

I tried to find the exact twenty seconds on youtube that I'm talking about, but that was a weird rabbit-hole youtube search, if I've ever seen one.  Why would someone... you know what?  Not going to go into it.

I couldn't find the clip, but I found the lines that I wanted to on this website on  And I shall paste, due to laziness.  Oh, before I paste, I should tell you what's happened up until this point on the episode.  So, Steve announces he's leaving to go to college.  To live at college.  The previous two episodes, they had introduced Joe as Steve's brother.  He's going to take over the house and all the Blue's Clues-ing that that entails.

So, without further ado, I give you the lines, said as Steve is walking out the door:

Steve: Joe, remember. Blue's pawprints will be on the clues.
Joe: Blue's Clues?
Steve: Exactly.

Yes.  Yes and yes.  Exactly.  I fucking died.  I fucking love it.  Alright, maybe it's just me.  I just love it when kid's shows throw in a joke or some things that are for the parents who are forced to watch the goddamned thing over and over.  I also love it because "Steve" knows that really, it's all bullshit.  It is.  He just stood in front of a green screen for a few years and now he's fucking stuck as "Steve" for the rest of his life and now it's Joe's turn and well... they wrote that in.  Again, maybe it's just me - my interpretation.

The other reason that this is funny is that I know a small amount about the actor who plays Steve, Steve Burns, because he recorded an episode of the Moth and my husband told me all about it.  And he talks about being a former kid's show host and tells a funny story.  I found the youtube video from this website (I have no idea what the is).  So, even though this is long you should still watch it.  It's pretty sweet.  

Lastly, I feel I should say that my husband's not a hipster, but he knows about the Moth podcasts nonetheless.  And cool bands that no one else knows.  But he's not a hipster.  I swear.  I think the difference is that he dresses badly just kind of naturally and not ironically and he does not regale people with all his knowledge about bands and cool stuff.  Plus he wears wire-frame glasses.  OK, I feel better.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What's up, sluts?

So, my computer's effed.  That sentence right there?  Had to retype it about six times.  Awesomeness.  So, this'll be brief.

The first time I spent three sequential days at "genius" bar at the Mac Store at the goddamned Freehold Mall in historic Freehold, New Jersey, well, it sucked donkeys.  Really.  My harddrive was wiped clean (fortunately after backing up) but one net result, that I hadn't thought of beforehand, was that all my bookmarks were lost.  Aw, sad.  (#firstworldproblems)

I recently just remembered the fantastic website Bangable Dudes in History.  How could I have forgotten Bangable Dudes in History?  Maybe because posts are few and far between.  But, in any case, I shouldn't have forgotten because it's one of my all time favorite websites.  Along with primamomma and Steam Me Up, Kid.  Oh, and Denny Delvecchio.  And the Bloggess.  So, now I guess I have this post of mine to keep me from forgetting!  Holy shit!  Like Memento!

Also? I don't get tattoos.  I mean both, I guess.  I neither "get" them (so have none) nor do I "get" them in that I don't understand them.  A woman at Wendy's tonight was with her about 10 year old son and she had a Franklin tattoo on her ankle.  And she was dressed professionally, like she just came from her administrative assistant job while her son, in his pajama pants and Yankees cap (askew, naturally), had been sitting on his ass all day at home, playing WoW.  Which, I know, it's summer, it's his right, but pajama pants?  I know it's just Wendy's and all, but you couldn't put on real pants?  I don't know.  Somehow, all together, it was depressing.

Anyway, why Franklin?  Was it her son's favorite show at one point?  And it took me a while to place it, you know?  I was all, hey, that looks familiar.  Huh.  Is that some sort of a Dead figure?  Or a stoner thing?  No.  No, it's not.  Nickelodeon.

Also, today at a park, a young-ish woman (early 30's, I'd say) sat near me and she had a Coach diaper bag (it was big and clearly Coach, due to the word "Coach" written all over it) (UPDATE: Clearly I'm in the 00's because Coach bags aren't actually that expensive now.  Huh.  I'm out of the loop on luxury items.  Still, all in all, it was pretty flashy for a diaper bag.  I stand by my initial judgement.) and a brand spankin' new Bugaboo stroller.  Oh, and she had a tattoo of a heart on her neck (above the neckline, right on the jugular -wait! a reference to the cardiovascular system and the fragility of life?).

So, I don't get tattoos.  They seem painful.  They're permanent.  I mean, at one point I had a huge crush on Billy Corgan and, I suppose, could've gotten a tattoo of him and then where would I fucking be now?  Huh?  Or Matthew Fox?  Jesus, dude.  I mean, it's permanent, is all I'm saying.

Also, I feel like I can tell you this (as if you don't already know), but I have spent way too much time on the Twilight Saga in the past few years.  Way too much.  At one point, I had a Twilight sticker on my car.  Boy did my husband hate that.  I scraped it off a year ago (Eclipse sucked, yo.).  Both very expensive and very painful to scrape off a tattoo.  So disgusting.

Also, this wasn't short after all!  Until next time, sluts.  xoxo

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

So I get updates on the 18th-Century American Women blog by Barbara, a retired historian.  She's great.  She also has quite a few other blogs, which she updates constantly.  She finds the greatest things, an example of which is this video explaining 18th Century Women's Clothing Layers.

Follow-up video suggested by Youtube:  Getting Dressed in the 18th Century.  OK, I'm nearly (nearly) 100% straight.  I only say nearly because, damn the end of this video is erotic, right?  The swishing, the laces on the back of the stays.  I feel kinda weird about perving on this whole thing, but I'm also thinking that she put this out there on youtube and I clearly (clearly) am not the only person watching this and thinking costume fetish.  Maybe the only one with female parts, but still.

I feel weird.  It's possible I read too much historical romance-type fiction and fanfiction.  Also?  I feel weird.

That video led me to others by that same girl (I feel like a cyberstalker), koshkacat, who is adorable, as you can see here in this video 

Holy shit, there's a Costume College?  A COSTUME COLLEGE?!?  Must find out more about this. Looks like it's in Florida, though, on account of the palm trees.  In any case, holy shit, that'd be rad.

Also, yesterday we got a costume catalog for Halloween (holy crap, already?) and my children are obsessively reading it.  Mostly my son, but my daughter too.  Anyway, they have a $219.99 women's costume that I would die if I owned.  I wouldn't waste it on these losers here on my street in Middletown, but it would be nice to own, if only because I could "become" Phebe Taylor's ghost and really really indulge my freaky-deaky inner crazy person.  Here's the costume I'm talking about, Ghost Lady Elite.  I like the word elite there.

I have to be honest and say that I wish that she didn't have a stripper vibe going on.  It is what it is with women's Halloween costumes, I suppose.  As an antidote, I'm going to watch some more koshkacat videos.

Until next time and yea... it got weird, right?  Of course it did.

Update:  Following the Youtube trail, once again, led me here: and I found this charming.  Two things:  I love the curtsy at the end (one) and two, she really needs a lady's maid because her hem got caught on the underskirt and that bothers me.  Overall, though, more instructional than the first video way at the top of this post because now I get it a little more.  OK, then.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Home Maintenance, Y U So Sexy?

Hi!  I haven't made it sexually uncomfortable around here in a while, so I thought I'd share.  Some uncomfortableness of a sexual nature.

It'll be fine.  Don't worry so much.

Uncomfortable sexy story #1:

Anywhoo, today I went and bought caulk.  I went to the local paint store, which is small, and which I frequent because I may not be able to do much, home improvement-wise, but I've always enjoyed painting.  Gives you a fresh start, you know?  I go there a lot and there's this guy in his twenties who has this Judd Nelson in Breakfast Club vibe going on.  And I *still* fall for that crap.

So I'm standing around, acting like a little school girl, trying like hell to avoid talking to him on account of I need caulk, but I'm not finding the exact type of caulk I need.  So then he says, alllll sexay like (not really), "Can I help you find something?"  "I hope so.  I'm looking for a particular type of caulk.  I need the kind you can squeeze.  The kind that's white when it comes out, but dries clear.  Do you have that, I wonder? *bats eyelashes sexily*"  You get the gist.  Kinda fun, really.  (Of course I only said the first two sentences there, but wouldn't it have been great had I run with it?  Actually, nah.  I don't know how to bat my eyelashes sexily.  Plus, I'd have creeped young Judd out.  And honestly, I'm going to need more paint in the future.)

Uncomfortable sexy story #2:  A few years ago, in our last house, which was also in a slight state of disrepair when we bought it (it's a pattern with us), I had the energy to completely redo all of the front landscaping.  It was a huge job, for such a small house and a small lot.  The reason is that half the yard was taken up by pachysandra, which is a densely rooted groundcover that is frankly a bitch to remove.  A real bitch.  So I thought the rental of some equipment to help might be in order.

I trot off to the local EZ Rental place, which, again, I came to frequent.  Didn't stop me here, though.  Young-ish dude behind the counter helped me.  I explained my problem - the roughly 80 square feet of pachysandra to get up and replace, eventually, with grass.  The roots.  The roots are the problem.  So, any machine would get jammed trying to rip all that stuff out, excepting maybe a back hoe or something.  And I say to the guy, completely unaware of what I was saying, "'re saying it's a hand job, then."  "Uhhhhh."  "I mean, it has to be done by hand."  "Uhhhh....yea."


Uncomfortable sexy story #3:  For some reason, when I was a kid once, I was sitting around outside with my mom, my younger brother, and our lawn guy Kenny.  He was nice.  Died of alcoholism, ultimately, but he was a nice guy.

Somehow it wasn't too unusual, I guess, that we should all be sitting around chatting.  My mom's very extroverted and is super friendly with everyone she's ever employed for anything.  In any case, I was probably 10, my brother 9.  Leaf blowers had just come out.  Yes, I seem to be getting old.  And we kind of start marvelling at it.  And my brother had the distinct honor to be the one to say, completely unknowingly of course, "Nice blow job, Kenny."  I had no idea what that meant either, but what I remember is how red my mom got and how she let out a brief giggle before she wrapped the chat up, somehow, and herded us inside.



Oh and all of these pictures are wildly sexual if you squint.  Real hard, like.

Huh.  I enjoyed this.  Even more than I enjoyed telling young Judd-ish that I needed caulk.

Until next time...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Proprietary House Visit, Filled with Awesome

Hi! I thought I'd do something different with this post and just cover one topic. I know. But with lots of supporting materials (links, photos, videos). I know. I'm expanding my blogging horizons.

Last week I took my three year old son to visit the Proprietary House in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. My only regret is that I took my three year old son to visit the Proprietary House in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. For real. That kid is getting nowhere near two hundred and fifty year old objects/rooms ever again. Much less around docents who clearly cannot handle being interrupted, constantly, by a three year old boy who just wants to climb on chairs. Old chairs.

I tried taking him to Marlpit Hall here in Middletown a while ago and that, too, was a bust. But he was older this time, I thought. It'll be better this time, I thought. *sigh*

In any case, there's so much to say. So much! Oh, so much.

The visit in itself, while brief, was great. I'm going back! They offer tea and a tour for $7 every Wednesday. For real, if you're ever "visiting" Perth Amboy (and by that I mean, oh my God, how did we end up in Perth Amboy, I'm scared. Oh look! A historic house. Huh.) you should totally visit the Proprietary House. Oh, what I like/love about the website I just linked about Perth Amboy are one general and two specific things. First, generally, it's very honest. Unlike the official Perth Amboy website. Honest is refreshing. Secondly, there's a picture of a cat in the main slide show. Great. Thirdly, there's a warning about going there after dark. Again, honest. And great. Check it out.

It was originally built with the goal, from what I can tell, of becoming the Royal Governor's mansion in the 1760's or so. Eventually, with a lot of back and forth from the Royal Governor, William Franklin (below), illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin and devout Loyalist, it did become the Governor's Mansion for East New Jersey. For two years, 1774-1776. Then he was arrested by the Continental Army. I got a big "Nero's playing the lyre while Rome is burning" kind of a vibe off of that, but that's probably just my interpretation. Regarding this portrait, I think he's a handsome looking devil, but the arched left eyebrow kills it a bit. Again, just me.

In any case, it's an enormous house. Very lovely. In pretty bad disrepair cosmetically, but lovely. And they had such visitors! Ben Franklin, of course, trying to persuade his son to come over to the rebel cause. But then William was all "No, you, come to the dark side," while breathing heavily (he had a cold). Ahh, I jest. Also, John Adams. Basically a who's who of important Loyalists/British officers and Revolutionary figures. Dare I say it? Maybe Phebe visited them! Oh, if I could prove that, I'd die.

After the Revolution, it was owned by a former British spy who was also mayor of Perth Amboy. I know! That's a cool side story. Another time. Then a bazillionaire (for the time) and then it was made into a hotel. Then disrepair. Then an orphanage. Then more disrepair. You get the idea. But now it's this behemoth building right smack dab in the middle of lots of row houses, in disrepair, in a generally very poor, very depressing town. I really had trouble picturing what the area must've looked like before. That also is another post, as I found a really good series of maps and aerial drawings of Perth Amboy from the 1770's. In any case, this drawing below, from this good website, gives an idea of how it looked as an estate.

OK, more supporting materials!

Let's start with the tea room. I found a picture! (Most pictures come from the Proprietary House website. A few come from me and a few more from da Google. I shall specify each case.) This room was originally a wine cellar and then an ammunition storage room. It's fantastic. I would hang out there all the time, if I could. It's on the basement level adjacent to the kitchen and servants' dining room. Not good if you're claustrophobic, I suppose, but I liked it. This grainy picture from here.

Alright. This is the part of the post where I tell you that this house is also on the map today because...wait for it...people believe it to be haunted. For real. Riddled with ghosts. Again? Great. And, of course (of course), there are lots of fantastic videos about this on youtube. I'll walk you through some of those in a bit. First, I want to show you more of the house and emphasize that it really is lovely, as a historic house, I mean.

The main floor of the house has a beautiful big entryway. With a lovely dining room off on one side and a lovely, big parlor off the other. I'll post below two pictures from this room. (I'm not a good photographer, especially of interiors. Huh. I'm better than whoever took that picture of the tea room, right? Right. I feel better.)

More on that mirror in the picture above in a bit.

Another photo of the interior from their website below, because I didn't want you to get the sense that all the rooms are that finished. They're not. Not by a long shot.

You can see lots more (bad) photos on their website. Check it out. And, seriously, if you ever find yourself in downtown Perth Amboy on a Wednesday, first of all, God help you and second of all, visit the Proprietary House.

Alrighty, time for the ghost stories. The house was "investigated" by Ghost Hunters. (For some reason, won't embed. Sorry.) Now, I've never seen this show, which runs/ran on SyFy, except for the video down below, but...well, I find it hilarious. These people, the TAPS people. So hilarious. A fair bit of the video is set in the basement tea room. "Are you afraid of us?" "No." I like Bruce. He seems awesome.

Anyway, I did not know any of this when I went to the Proprietary House, but I love it. OK, the ghost thing gets better though. I know. You say, "Wha? How can it get better than Ghost Hunters?" Right? It does. Enter psychic Jane Doherty, who I've read about before and who, of course, would be involved in this. Not only is she involved, but they let her give tours (in the banner of the previous link, they give some info. Sorta.). Oh and the best part about her? Her magic stomach. It's true. It's magic. In this video below (which is fantastic), you get to see it in action in the Proprietary House. Skip to 0:56 if you have to. "Here I am!"

Before I leave the ghost thing, one last video. Quick one. The mirror in the parlor in my picture above is the subject. I've watched this one about twenty times.

Almost done. Phew. Last thing to talk about in this whole big bag of awesome is "The Reenactment." So many things to say. You know what? I need to itemize. One, I just missed it and was really excited to go next year. (It's "performed" every year in early June.) Two, my favorite part of the video is the part when they write "The drama is about to begin." Three, uhhhh, Colonel Heard? Who was Phebe Taylor's brother? Yea, not how I pictured him. He's like a clean shaven Artie Lange here. Not how I pictured him. Four, my second favorite thing is the butler guy. Five, I have to confess I didn't make it past two minutes, which leads me to my last point. Six, I probably won't go next year due to my sensitivity to second hand embarrassment. For to enjoy.

In my last post, I believe I mentioned my interest in wearing an 18th century costume. My views on that are evolving.

Until next time...