Roving South

Willard Price
John Day, 1948

booksThe pleasure of travel books written between before memoirs became popular is the voice of the writer and the insights to living in the times. Tone has the pleasant quality of a friend who knows you’re along on the trip for a good time of talking to strangers, discovering a little history, and generally avoiding introspection.

Willard Price is an extraordinary travel guide on a tour where he

The author himself, years after his one of many adventures.

The author himself, years after his one of many adventures.

knows you didn’t buy a ticket to hear about his heartbreaks, career dramas, or parental guilts interspersed with wordy descriptions of sunsets. Over the course of one trip that took two years he and his wife traveled through Mexico, Central America, South America, and back up through the Amazon and into the Caribbean. The trip took place immediately after WWII when by today’s standards few traveled, and the luxury of the plane trips he took would have been exotic and sophisticated.
Current living conditions described a better portrait than my schoolbooks ever touched on. It’s only humorous that in the 1940s Price complains of Walgreen’s Drugstore taking over historic Mexico City real estate (Why did I think that was a new phenomenon?), but the book was a primer for politics and social issues we don’t hear about in the States.

Eva Peron. Because early explorers wiped out most indigenous people, many South Americans and especially Argentineans are of European heritage.

Eva Peron. Because early explorers wiped out most indigenous people, many South Americans and especially Argentineans, are of European heritage.

There were the quirks like Panama’s way of drawing a color line between whites and Indian in public places by referring to the “Gold Only” which would be white and “Silver Only,” or all others. More educational were descriptions of several countries that supported Hitler’s philosophy. Chief fan at the time was President Peron of Argentina. The intrigue of Argentinean politics was placed within a country rich in education, food, and surety of racial superiority. The musical Evita will ever be changed for me, but Peron was a lightweight measured against the Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo who was nicknamed “Beautiful Murder” after having killed 12,000 people in one day.

Rafael Trujillo, the dictator of Dominican Republic from 1942 to 1952.

Rafael Trujillo, the dictator of Dominican Republic from 1942 to 1952.

The Americas is a continent of contrasts, so perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising to read about the social conditions of Argentina’s neighbor, Uruguay. Uruguay was made up primarily of Italian immigrants who were thriving under government terms of education paidfor all citizens through college, free medical care for everyone, no fathers allowed to skip financial or inheritance laws regardless of whether they married the mother or

Why does a good guy not have a good photo? Juan de Amezega, president of Uruguay during WWII.

Why does a good guy not have a good photo? Juan de Amezega, president of Uruguay during WWII.

not, and an eight hour workday for all!
Price was interesting enough in his geography, history, and present-day wrap-ups that halfway through the book I wondered if he and his wife were faring well. I decided to believe they were when after a cruise on the Amazon where pajamas were the only allowed daywear, they slept in hammocks, and were given only one meal a day of a little meat, and they did not complain.

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Artist Sam Guevara Takes Prescott, Arizona!

Sam specializes in wire art. Many of them are made from one piece that he magically twists to become a unique individual.

Sam specializes in wire art. Many of them are made from one piece that he magically twists to become a unique individual.

Earlier this month husband Sam and I traveled to Prescott, Arizona USA for a summer art show in Prescott’s town square. It was the first one Sam entered his work in and we were pleased he was a juried selection. For weeks he planned, created and finally was ready for the trip. Prescott is an old western town founded in 1864 for mining and cowboy carousing. Now it exists for tourist carousing on the famed Whiskey Row and community events on the town square across the street.

 

This will be a story in photos.

As we drove into town we stopped at this antique store. Prescott abounds in antique stores.

As we drove into town we stopped at this antique store. Prescott abounds in antique stores.

When we arrived at the town square a wedding was in progress.

When we arrived at the town square a wedding was in progress.

 

No one could start setting up until a bell notified us the last judge of the county had left the building. Then it was a free for all as a hundred vendor tents went up

No one could start setting up until a bell notified us the last judge of the county had left the building. Then it was a free for all as a hundred vendor tents went up.

Sam worked really hard.

Sam worked really hard.

Then he worked harder while I stepped back to take pictures. (I really did help, but my job was also documentarian, wasn't it?)

Then he worked harder while I stepped back to take pictures. (I really did help, but my job was also documentarian, wasn’t it?)

When it was all set up the tents close up like blobs of marshmallows and were turned over to the care of local hired people to patrol all night since artists leave their stuff inside. Can you believe it?

When it was all set up the tents close up like blobs of marshmallows and were turned over to the care of local hired people to patrol all night since artists leave their stuff inside. Can you believe it?

Quite an appetite is worked up so we retired, after a toast at a local saloon (of which there are many) to the Palace Hotel which has an original saloon bar.

Quite an appetite is worked up so we retired, after a toast at a local saloon (of which there are many), to the Palace Hotel which has an original saloon bar.

Whiskey Row is lively every night of the week.

Whiskey Row is lively every night of the week.

We stayed at the St. Michael Inn on the corner of Whiskey Row.

We stayed at the St. Michael Inn on the corner of Whiskey Row.

I think the elevator was added many years after it was built.

I think the elevator was added many years after it was built.

The screen door is original and perhaps there to keep a person from falling down the shaft.

The screen door is original and perhaps there to keep a person from falling down the shaft.

The hall was a warren of hallways in every direction.

The hall was a warren of hallways in every direction.

The next morning we were in the square finishing the window dressing.

The next morning we were in the square finishing the window dressing.

People came.

People came.

Everyone who stopped by ours exclaimed how original and interesting the people were.

Everyone who stopped by ours exclaimed how original and interesting the people were. See his fun representations of the Saguaro cactus along the bottom? More of his work can be seen at http://www.samguevara.com.

I stepped away to do a little Prescott exploring.

I stepped away to do a little Prescott exploring.

Unfortunately, I couldn't visit the purveyor of this fine store. I hope he/she is okay.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t visit the purveyor of this fine store. I hope he/she is okay.

Prescott has a lovely independent bookstore named Peregrine Book Company a block from the town square.

Prescott has a lovely independent bookstore named Peregrine Book Company a block from the town square.

There is also another "original" hotel, The Hassayampa Inn.

There is also another “original” hotel, The Hassayampa Inn.

It was time to return to help Sam. Everyone who stopped by ours exclaimed how original and interesting the people were.

It was time to return to help Sam. Everyone who stopped by ours exclaimed how original and interesting the wire people were.

In a booth nearby a woman was selling table runners made from handwoven materials or cowhide. She makes a living at that.

In a booth nearby a woman was selling table runners made from handwoven materials or cowhide. She makes a living at that and prices appeared to start at $650.00.

It was a Saturday and Sunday event that went very well. And Sam went home sitting on a heavy wallet!

It was a Saturday and Sunday event that went very well. And Sam went home sitting on a heavy wallet!

Posted in The Street View | 7 Comments

The Book of Ages, The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin

Jill Lepore
Alfred Knopf, 2013

National Book Award winner in 2011 for nonfiction.

National Book Award winner in 2011 for nonfiction.

Excavating the remains of the “plain” lives of “merchants and gentle ladies, the busy tradesmen and the surly apprentices” for a biography earlier than 1900 who were not of royal blood or historically important is guaranteed to be incomplete and hearsay. So began Lepore as she gave her reason for attempting to unveil the life of a favorite sister of the American icon Benjamin Franklin.

The sparseness of factual detail of Jane’s life gave Lepore plenty of pages to generously lace the story with other historical details of daily life, history, and small professorial detours into subjects like whether non-fiction writing is less real than fiction writing. That came from another byway into the beginnings of modern novel writing with Samuel Richardson’s Pamela about a young servant who must keep her virtue. Yes, there are enough examples of males telling females how to act in this book to choke a whale like, “Don’t be plagued with a reading wife.”

The documented history tells the skeleton story of her twelve children, a number of whom spent

Jill Lepore

Jill Lepore

years in insane asylums and/or died well before their mother. The list of children, grandchildren and finally great-grandchildren she saw buried was crushing and yet, common enough that she did not feel alone. Richard Price’s On the Objections Against Providence provided her with comfort. Paraphrasing, since spiders lay 500-600 eggs and see a handful survive, so it is with humanity.

Ub the 1700s women could do little on their own and less if they were married. Girls were not considered worth educating and few learned to read. Women were made for childbearing and household duties and men did the rest. In the Franklin family there were seventeen children from their father who was widowed and married a second time. Number fifteen, Benjamin, taught number seventeen, Jane, the basics of reading and a bond was created that lasted over fifty years until Franklin’s death in 1790.

What survives of their correspondence is spotty. Jane kept Ben’s letters far more diligently. She is self-conscious of her limited education and often apologizes, but she manages. In an early letter she begins, “I have wrote & spelt this very badly, but as it is won who I am shure will make all Reasonable allowances for me and not let any won Els see it I shall venter to send it.”

Where I like to see Franklin's portrait.

Where I like to see Franklin’s portrait.

For the era, Franklin appears to care for his younger sister. He visits her only once every ten years but lack of traveling ease and Ben’s international living did limit his time. She made his favorite soaps and kept him up on family news. More important, he consoled her as no one else, stepped in to help her when she was at the brink of poverty, and toward and the end bought an annuity to support her for the rest of her life.

But the real end is a puzzle and also an indictment of the modern format of the autobiography. Franklin’s My Autobiography was a first of its kind, but it was an age old format of flattering history that neglected to mention even once his poverty-stricken sister. The one person in life to love him for who he was and always protect him from what nosy naysayers or greedy distant relatives came her way.

 

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Chasing “A Flaw in the Blood”

Such a clean box design. Made to hold treasures.

Such a clean box design. Made to hold treasures.

I got a new iPad! A major reason why is I am trying to gain control of books. I always have and always will maintain a personal, quirky library. Books have always been necessary treasures in any home I’ve lived in, but…they can be cumbersome.

Especially those that though they are beautiful to someone, when I am finished reading them I do not feel a mother’s or a lover’s need to protect. That category can become weighty and some of them are known before I buy them.

Another issue is I take personal shopping bags to grocery stores, use cloth napkins, avoid running water overlong and would take in my wine bottles for refills if it were possible. My carbon footprint is still deep, but I like to think of myself as a person who gives effort.

The iPad is an effort. My first iBook project is A Flaw in the Blood by Stephanie Barron. This book club pick sounds like an entertaining read though I am not familiar with Barron’s writing.

There's something fitting about juxtaposition of an iPad and a mythological-themed Spanish tapestry copy.

There’s something fitting about juxtaposition of an iPad and a mythological-themed Spanish tapestry copy posed on an old Robert Louis Stevenson Treasure Island and St. Ives.

Amazon sells a new book starting at $4.68, Kindle at $9.99 and used $.01 plus shipping from a supplier. Barnes and Noble sells it for $12.97 or a Nook for $11.99. Half Price Books sells paper versions for $1.89 new and $.99 plus shipping for used. I have accounts at all three. iBooks is $11.97. Apache Junction Library is free and has one copy. Now the considerations.

1. Do I need new of this title? No, but I momentarily feel for Barron that her income after countless hours is diminished, and I don’t like other people’s scrawls in used books. Small, light pencil marks are okay.

2. What is my purpose in reading this book? If it is strictly entertainment such as a celebrity biography, the cheaper or free is better. In this case it is to ingratiate myself with the book club that I have done my duty and to learn about one more author.

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3. Will I keep this book? That depends on what I ultimately think of her writing. Those questions usually circle around: Does it transport me or teach me writing? Is it useful information? Will I be attached to it because I am and I don’t have to explain myself?

4. Does it have gift or charity value? Would I like to give it to someone or leave it on a park bench for the next reader, or donate it to a library.

Overall, my reservation about the author is it appears she has a cartload of books all based on rewriting history with some historical documentation and a lot of imagination. This statement is not verified. Odd how they all turn out to be mysteries. It is not a likely keeper.

So yes, I’d spend $.01 or $1.99 plus shipping to support business and recirculate a book, but in this case I’m opting for free from the library (Cost: $3.75 or one gallon of gas.). Maybe I can amortize that with several stops.

I’m still looking for an iBooks purchase because now it seems important and I have a list of “to reads” to consult.

 

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