Sunday, June 11, 2017


It’s June, by gum!

Good grief, the year’s half over. Seems like the older one gets, the faster time flies.

The four winners of SPIRITS REVIVED are Debra Guyette, Diane Meng, Kathy Otto, Eileen Kenney! I’ll mail your books ASAP, but since I had surgery a week or so ago, it might not be until the end of this next week. At the end of June, I do believe I’ll be giving away copies of UNSETTLED SPIRITS again because I have lot of copies of that one.

Anyhow, since I just had surgery to repair a piece of personal plumbing, this blog’s not going to be very long, but I had a lot of help and fun collecting its various parts.

It all started when my neighbor brought me a jelly doughnut (because he and his wife know I adore jelly doughnuts, but don’t eat them often because I try to eat healthily – I know, how stuffy, huh?) Anyway, he said he got it “from the bottom of his spleen.” That got me to thinking about some of the sayings I grew up with, and I asked folks on Facebook to lend me some of their remembrances. I’ll start with my own home.

When my dad thought someone was a meanie, he said the person had a scab over his liver. If he thought someone had done something particularly bone-headed, he’d say, “One more brain, and you’d be a halfwit.” My dad and my nephew Stephen were both in the U.S. Navy for eons and of course, for them both, creamed chipped beef on toast was always shit on a shingle. Stephen also mentioned that his mother (my half-sister, by gum) would say something was slick as a fart in a mitten.

My younger grandson, Riki, called Albuquerque “Albu-turkey” for a long, long time before he learned the proper pronunciation (well, the way New Mexicans say it, anyway).

My daughters both called hamburgers “han-gurmers.” Ever since I was given a black dachshund by a friend of mine, my kids said I was Weenie’s (that was the hound’s name) “grammoi.” So I am now Grammoi to my grandsons and both of my great-grandchildren.

My mom’s cousin’s husband, Miles Gilbert, when asked how he felt, would generally say, “Fine as a frog’s hair split four ways.” I’ve heard other people say “Fine as frogs’ hair,” but Miles had his own unique take on the expression.
Here are some other gems folks added to the list:

J.M. Cornwell produced these: Hope the crick don’t rise; lyin’ like a rug (when someone was fibbing); looks like the running gears of a katydid (when someone is skinny); gimlet butt (for someone who doesn’t have big hips); dumb as a box of rocks; a few bricks shy of a load; and a revolving door on her bedroom.

Judy Reutebach recalls her mother telling her “Your face will freeze like that” when she wore an unpleasant expression.
David Bedini’s family’s philosophy was, evidently, “Today’s plums are tomorrow’s prunes.”

Vicky Fannin offered this from her dad, Byron: “Never say only and money in the same sentence.”

Carola Dunn’s son used to say donedies for donuts. To him all four-legged animals were “maus” (probably for meow).

Nina Paules’s grandmother, when asked what was for dinner, would say, “Layovers for meddlers.”

Diane Jasperson offered these charmers: Those maniac drivers passed me by like a dirty shirt; as well as: drunk as a skunk; purdier than all get-out; coffee is strong enough to curl your toenails; and does a bear poop in the woods?
James C. Work said his mom, when entering a dark room, would say, “It's dark as Egypt in there." His father thought she had mistaken "darkest Africa" but was too polite to mention it. James also remembered these: Somebody sure put a burr unner his saddle; don’t know him from Adam’s off ox; and dead as a doornail.
Here are some delights from Charlotte Westbrook McDaniel: So poor you don’t have a pot to piss in; ain’t that a kick in the head; about as useful as teats on a boar (or a boar-hog); It’s fixin’ to come a gully washer (hard rain).
Marcia-Lee Finocchio’s mom used to say she’d do something “after I eat this egg.” Marcia-Lee still doesn’t know quite what it means. Nor do I, but I like it.
Kathryn McIntyre grew up with these: She looks like the wreck of the Hesperus; time to bring out the brass monkeys; there’s frost on the pumpkin; like chasing a fart through a bucket of nails (when something is entirely futile); colder than a well-digger’s shovel.
Vicki Lemonds’ grandmother would say: It’s cold enough to freeze your pockets off and, when something didn’t go as planned, “Must not have been holding my mouth right.” For some reason, that last one really tickles me (editorial comment).
Sue Krekeler recalls hearing: S/he looks like five miles of dirt road (when someone is really tired).
Sherry Davis Fritz’s father would say something was colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra; and something was “knee high to a tall Indian.” I have to admit I’d never heard that last one. I recall something being “Knee-high to a grasshopper” (editorial comment #2 or 3 or something).
Donna Weatherfield (another intrepid dachshund-rescuer) recalls the following: Hell’s bells and panther pants; Busier than a one-armed paper-hanger; and as nervous as a whore in church.
Debbie Sanders’ husband’s Pawpaw (whoever that was) used to say: Busy as a one-legged man in a butt-kickin contest; if frogs had wings, they wouldn't bump their butts when they hopped. Her mom liked to say: He don't have the brains of a piss ant; she don't know shit from apple butter; and you’d better straighten up and fly right.
Gina Gilmore offered the following: S/he don’t know shit from Shinola; and s/he looks like s/he’s been rode hard and hung up wet.
Susan Eggers grew up with these: Enough blue sky to make a Dutchman’s pants; it looked like the itch (if something looked really bad). I’m extremely partial to the second one (another editorial comment).

Ann Watson Smith’s kids used to say nip-nops for flip-flops and pasghetti for spaghetti. My own kids said the last one (editor again).
Julia Anderson grew up with: Mad as a wet hen; I have so much wind, if I could finger it just right, I could play “God Bless America.” The latter was generally said after a meal containing beans, which “Stretch a meal and also cause gas.”
Debra Iverson recalls people looking as if they’d been drug through a knothole backwards.
Jeanell Buida Bolton recalls hearing Hells bells and little fishes.
Johannah E. Zimmerman (and I, too, actually) recalled people being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Susie Lonsinger remembers, when someone was getting uppity, s/he’d be told to get down off your high horse.
Lea Hood’s dad used to say she and her friends were a bunch of “wild Bohemians” when they were having fun (maybe too much fun).
Tabitha Hall and I remember calling a refrigerator the ice box. Becky Muth recalls the refrigerator always being the Kelvinator.
Thanks, everyone, for your input! I came away from this particular Facebook experiment with a whole bunch of new (to me) colorful expressions to use when life is dull.

If you’d like to enter June’s contest, just send me an email (alice@aliceduncan.net) and give me your name and home address. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, you may do so on my web site (http://aliceduncan.net/) or email me (you won’t be smothered in newsletters, because I only write one blog a month, and that’s an effort). If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, visit my page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925.

Thank you!

Sunday, April 30, 2017


Yay for May!

 
Okey-dokey, so my neighbors and I were chatting about stuff a couple of evenings ago. I recommended they watch The Knick, which was a Cinemax series starring Clive Owen as Dr. John Thackery, a sort of early-days House, if you’ve ever seen that series. House starred Hugh Laurie, whom I still think of as Bertie Wooster, but that’s not his fault. Anyway, my neighbor began watching The Knick and is enjoying it. He doesn’t mind gore as much as I do.

All this contemplation of early medical practices and cures got me to thinking about why I write historical novels. The reason, I concluded, is that I like to think of the 1920s as somehow nicer than the 2000s. I’m wrong, of course, and one only needs to think about what was and wasn’t around back then to realize it.

For instance my mother, who was born in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1913, remembered cholera epidemics, flu epidemics, dysentery problems and all sorts of other conditions we hardly consider these days. So I started Googling (Google wasn’t around in the 1920s either, natch). By the early 1900s people routinely got vaccinated for smallpox, thanks to Edward Jenner. Jenner noticed that people who contracted cowpox didn’t come down with smallpox, and the realization prompted him to invent a vaccination for smallpox. But other than that, there was no penicillin, no other antibiotics, and the only pain reliever people knew about until the mid-1880s was either laudanum or morphine, both derived from the opium poppy. Unless, of course, you wanted to go out and find the right kind of willow tree and gnaw on the bark thereof. Not too many people knew about the pain-killing properties of willow bark, however.

By the way, my mother’s father, William Jones Wilson, a circuit-riding Methodist minister, died two days after my mother was born in November of 1913. The family’s regular doctor was away from Roswell, and the substitute thought my grandfather was suffering from sympathetic labor pains. He wasn’t. He had a ruptured appendix. But that’s a story for another day.

Here’s a fun semi-medical fact: Dr. Pepper was originally touted as a “brain tonic” (I could use one of those, but I don’t care for Dr. Pepper). The drink was first bottled and distributed at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, informally known as the St. Louis World’s Fair, in 1904. From 1889-1914, its advertising slogan was the “King of Beverages”. And people still drink it today. Well, except for me, since I don’t like it. However, I don’t believe it ever contained any actual medicinal properties.

 
A guy named General John Pemberton, a former Confederate surgeon, invented Coca-Cola after the Civil War (actually, he’d probably have called it the War of Northern Aggression) in the 1870s or 1880s as a cure for his own morphine addiction. He formulated the original product in his Eagle Drug and Chemical House in Columbus, Georgia. Coca-Cola originally contained a combination of caffeine and cocaine. Coca-Cola was intended to be a patent medicine, but folks found other uses for it. It still has the caffeine, bless its heart, but somewhere along the way the cocaine was dumped. Probably disappointed a whole lot of people, as it undoubtedly gave folks a happy lift. Don’t have a clue if it helped cure Dr. Pemberton of his morphine addiction. Oh, by the way, my mom said her mother used to give her Coke syrup when she had an upset stomach!

 
Laudanum, an opiate, was routinely sold over the counter for people who suffered from any kind of pain. I know for a certified fact that if I’d been around in the early 1900s (providing I could afford to buy the stuff) I’d have been a laudanum addict because I’ve had so much trouble with various painful conditions for most of my life. That’s kind of a lowering reflection, but it’s true. People could also obtain morphine OTC for many years. In the series House, Dr. House was addicted to Percocet or Vicodin (can’t remember which). In The Knick, Dr. Thackery is addicted to morphine and cocaine. Some things never change, I reckon. Anyhow, Dr. Thackery is delighted to discover heroin because he believes it will be a cure for his addiction. After all, since heroin is sold by the Bayer Company, it has to be safe, right? Well… Maybe not.



Then there’s cocaine, which was used for lots of medical problems. Nobody thought anything about it. After all, it was medicine, right? Again, maybe not. I found this ad when I was browsing:

 
 
Oh! We definitely shouldn’t forget acetylsalicylic acid. In 1899 the Bayer Company made pills out of the ingredients and began marketing it to the general public as a product called Aspirin. Prior to the Bayer Company’s naming and marketing of the drug, one could buy salicylic powders, dump some into a glass of water or another beverage, and drink the resulting concoction. It must have tasted vile, but it was a heck of a lot less dangerous than morphine or heroin. However, by the time aspirin came along, people like me would have been laudanum or morphine addicts for decades. Or dead. I’d certainly have been dead because when I was twenty-two or -three, I got hellishly sick, was headed toward encephalitis or meningitis, and was only saved from extinction by the administration of antibiotics. Which, by the way, were prescribed for me by Dr. Benjamin, who is a frequent visitor in the Daisy Gumm Majesty books.


 
If I’d had that illness before the accidental discovery of penicillin by a Scottish gent, Sir Alex Fleming, in 1928, I’d have been a goner. Penicillin wasn’t available for general consumption until the mid to late 1940s. Luckily for me I got sick in the 1970s. Back in the olden days (1970s and before), you got a shot of penicillin, took two aspirin tablets, and called the doctor in a day or two. These days, antibiotics are generally prescribed in pill or tablet form. Times have unquestionably changed.

Then there were the so-called “operating theaters." In The Knick’s days, the operating theater really was a theater!

And we’d better not forget X-rays. Invented in 1895 by German (well, really, he was a Prussian, but there’s no Prussia any longer) mechanical engineer and physicist, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, X-rays revolutionized medicine. Doctors could see inside a human body using Röntgen rays (or X-rays). Back then no one knew that a person needed to be extremely cautious when using these electromagnetic wavelength rays. Sometimes things went wrong and patients (and sometimes technicians) suffered severe burns or even death. Gotta be careful with that stuff.
At any rate, times have definitely changed since the early 1900s. Because I have such honestly terrible back pain, I’m kind of sorry one can’t just waltz into a pharmacy and buy a bottle of heroin anymore, but I’m sure I’m wrong to think that way. Probably. Or perhaps not. Phooey. Don’t suppose it matters. I’m sure not going to hang out on street corners and pray a drug dealer strolls past.

By the way, I'm not in any way attempting to trivialize the current epidemic of opioid overdoses plaguing the country. However, I had a lumbar-spine operation in September of 2012. Recovery was the most painful experience I've ever been through (well, except maybe labor, but labor didn't last as long). I was given, I think, morphine and Percocet. I took the meds as prescribed. No more. No less. When the drugs ran out, I went through withdrawals!!!! Not bad withdrawals, but I felt like a wilted lettuce leaf for a week or two and was sweaty and shaky. That's no joke. Opioids have their place, but it isn't in our kids! Okay, off the soapbox now.

Anyhow, I’ll be in touch with the winners of April’s giveaway book, UNSETTLED SPIRITS, individually. At the end of May, Bam-Bam, my winner-picking wiener dog, will select winners of SPIRITS REVIVED. SPIRITS REVIVED is Daisy Gumm Majesty’s seventh adventure, but since I can’t get the rights back from the original publisher, it’s sort of languishing out there in publishing limbo and there’s a hole in the Daisy series. Maybe one of these days all of the books can reunite and Daisy will throw a big party. Or maybe not.

If you’d like to enter the contest, just send me an email (alice@aliceduncan.net) and give me your name and home address. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, you may do so on my web site (http://aliceduncan.net/) or email me (you won’t be smothered in newsletters, because I only write one blog a month, and that’s an effort). If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, visit my page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925.

Thank you!

Thursday, March 30, 2017


March Came In Like A… Caterpillar?

 
Kind of creepy and crawly, if you know what I mean.

For one thing, I made a quick trip to California, primarily to visit one of my dearest friends who is mortally ill. I figured I’d rather see her in person one last time than go to her funeral. The month didn’t get much better from there, as it was fraught with my own health issues, veterinarian bills and plumbing problems. Grumble.

Therefore, since I’m sick of it all, this month’s blog isn’t going to be about any of that bad stuff. It’s going to be about the kinds of research a person who writes historical novels has to do. Because I write books set in the 1920s, I need to know a lot of stuff about the area in which the books are set. In the case of my Daisy Gumm Majesty books, that means I get to learn about Pasadena and Altadena history. Sometimes this information isn’t as easy to come by as figuring out what people did and ate in ancient Rome. The twenties are historical, but they’re recent enough that some things aren’t well documented.

For instance, I had to find out what law-enforcement agency took care of crime in Altadena, California, in 1924. Altadena is a smallish (well, it used to be smallish anyway) community just north of Pasadena. Unincorporated, it’s part of Los Angeles County, but it’s not officially part of Pasadena. So, I looked on-line and couldn’t find out. Then I decided what the heck and called the Altadena Historical Society. Darned if my question wasn’t answered by a woman with whom I went all through school! I mean, we met years ago. Plus, we evidently looked so much alike when we were kids, our parents often tried to pick up me when they wanted her and vice-versa. However, Kathy found out for me that the Altadena area was served by the Los Angeles County Marshal’s Office, and that their headquarters were pretty much on Lake Avenue and Foothill Boulevard. Mind you, Foothill Boulevard, where Mrs. Bissel in my Daisy books lives (in the house my aunt used to own), was renamed Altadena Drive in the 1950s or 1960s, but it’s still there. The marshal’s office was just down the road and across the street a bit from Mrs. Bissel’s house.

Then there’s food. Daisy’s Aunt Vi is one of the better cooks in the universe. In fact, if she were a man at the time the books are set, she’d have been called a chef and made boocoo bucks. Boocoo, by the way, is an expression from the 1920s. Anyhow, from time to time, I also have to find out what people ate back then. It’s fun research to do, because I love food. But cooking was a heck of a lot harder back then than it is now. No blenders. No food processors. No Instant Pots (although folks used pressure cookers). No automatic dish washers. No electric mixers. No plastic or aluminum wrap, although they did have waxed paper. No store-bought bread, for Pete’s sake! Fortunately for Daisy and her family, Vi makes the best bread in town.

And today I had to look up meatloaf. Meatloaf? Yes, by golly, meatloaf. Good thing for me one of my dear Facebook friends, Andie Paysinger (http://www.asenjigalblogs.com), is a genius at cooking history. She and my niece Sara Krafft (also a research maven) both showed me to a great web site for researching food history (http://www.foodtimeline.org). Meatloaf for most of us is a pretty easy meal to prepare, and I personally love it.

However, life was different in the 1920s. For one thing, in order to make a meatloaf, Aunt Vi had to grind her own beef, pork, veal, chicken, and/or whatever other kinds of meat she wanted in her loaf. Not a problem, because Vi had one of these handy-dandy tools:

 
Oddly enough, my mother had one (and I still have it) that looks precisely like that. It probably dates from the same era, too.

Then, of course, we return to the problem of bread. It wasn’t pre-sliced or store-bought in those days. You had to knead your flour, yeast, water, milk, butter and/or whatever, form it into loaves, and then bake it in your own oven. Fortunately for Aunt Vi, both her employer (Mrs. Pinkerton) and her family have self-regulating gas stoves. However, after you bake your bread, you then have to cut it. Both Daisy and I suffer a deficit in the bread-cutting area. We can’t cut a straight piece of bread from a loaf to save ourselves. Fortunately, Daisy has other people in her life who can cut bread for her. I’m stuck all by myself with odd-looking slices of bread. What the heck. There are worse problems to have. Here’s a picture of a lovely stove Aunt Vi might have cooked on at the family’s residence. Needless to say, Mrs. Pinkerton, who is rich as Croesus, has an even bigger and fancier one in her mansion.

Oh, and no chopped nuts! You had to crack your own nuts and chop them if you wanted to use nuts in something. Wow. Life must have been hard indeed. But you could still use your self-regulating gas range once you prepared your nut loaf.

 

One thing Pasadena had in the 1920s is still alive and functioning: Mijares Mexican Restaurant. While I was in Pasadena to visit my friend, I also saw my younger daughter, Robin, and my younger grandson, Riki, quite often. Riki and I had lunch at Mijares, by gum! Great place. Always was. Still is.
 
But enough of that. I’ll be in touch with the winners of March’s giveaway book, FALLEN ANGELS, individually. I might even get the books mailed out in April, too! At the end of April, I’ll be giving away a few copies of UNSETTLED SPIRITS, Daisy’s tenth (actually, it’s her eleventh) adventure. If you’d like to enter the contest, just send me an email (alice@aliceduncan.net) and give me your name and home address. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, you may do so on my web site (http://aliceduncan.net/) or email me (you won’t be smothered in newsletters, because I only write one blog a month). If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, visit my page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925.

Thank you!

 

 

Sunday, February 26, 2017


Hmmm….

Writing is a strange business. I mean, it’s fun to tell stories but sometimes I become plotless, and that’s not a good thing.

For instance, I know who the victim is in the next Daisy Gumm Majesty book (Spirits Unearthed) and I know who dunnit. It’s those pesky 300+ pages in the middle I have to figure out. I expect Daisy to do more spiritualist stuff, which is fun and should take up several pages. And maybe Sam’s Voodoo juju will pester him again (it did in the forthcoming Daisy book, Spirits United).

As a fake spiritualist-medium in the 1920s, Daisy has a built great business for herself and her family. True, she lies to people for a living, but she justifies her line of work by reminding herself she helps grieving family members and friends by reassuring them the dear departed is happy on the other side of life. Above all else, Daisy doesn’t want anyone to commit suicide because they want to rejoin their late beloved. I guess that’s a sound answer to people, including her fiancé, Sam Rotondo, who tell her they think it’s rotten of her to fool people. Of course, Daisy generally reminds him that the people she fools want to be fooled. Fair enough for government work, as folks used to say. Not sure they say that anymore—or that it’s true—but what the heck.

As a plotless Daisy story whirls in my head, I’m also getting ready to visit my own and Daisy’s old stomping grounds, Pasadena, California. The reason for this sudden trip is lousy, but I expect to see some of my old favorite sites. That should be nice.

In the meantime, as I was trying to clean up stuff, work-wise, before my trip, I decided the book I’ve wanted to finish for more than a decade now will never get written if I don’t have a deadline. I haven’t written to a deadline in… well, a whole bunch of years. So I decided what the heck and sent a query to an editor. Much to my astonishment, the editor emailed me the next day and asked me to send him the full proposal. So I did. With any luck he’ll reject the book, but if he doesn’t, I’ll be in full-blown panic mode as I finish that book and try to figure out the next Daisy plot.

Sometimes I think I’m an absolute idiot. Other times I’m sure of it. Sighhhhhh.

Anyway, I’ll be in touch with the winners GENTEEL SPIRITS, February’s contest book, individually. At the end of March, I’ll give away three copies of the original hardback version of FALLEN ANGELS.

By the way, FALLEN ANGELS won the Arizona/New Mexico Book of the Year Award in 2012 for best mystery/thriller (tied with Sara Sue Hoklotubbe’s THE AMERICAN CAFÉ). As a rule I don’t enter contests, since I share George C. Scott’s opinion about judging the worth of artistic endeavors. I honestly don’t think you can deduce one book is better than another if you’re comparing, say, COCAINE BLUES by Kerry Greenwood, to GONE GIRL by Jillian Flynn. Personally, I loved the one and detested the other. If all judges of all book contests were like me, GONE GIRL wouldn’t have been the fabulous success it was. I’m probably wrong, but it’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it, darn it!

Also (this is silly) the only reason I entered the AZ/NM BOTY contest was because, the state of literacy in New Mexico being what it is (abysmal), the notion tickled me. Sometimes I think I have a black heart.

Anyhow, if you’d like to enter the contest, just send me an email (alice@aliceduncan.net) and give me your name and home address. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, you may do so on my web site (http://aliceduncan.net/) or email me (you won’t be smothered in newsletters, because I only write one blog a month). If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, visit my page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925.

Thank you!

Sunday, January 29, 2017


The Joys of History

 
1924 is the first year in which Daisy Gumm Majesty will be eligible to vote in the United States of America. Women were granted the vote in 1920, but Daisy wasn’t twenty-one and, therefore, was unable to vote in that election. Now you only have to be eighteen, but even if that were the law back then, she still wouldn’t have been able to vote in 1920, because her birthday came after the election. This is only relevant because she and her father have a political discussion in the book SPIRITS UNITED, to be published sometime this year. I have to finish writing it first, of course. I’ve never taken so long to write a book in my life. Gah. Don’t know what happened, but I suspect having a hip replaced, having cataract surgery, and enduring months of physical therapy disrupted my regular writing schedule.

Anyhow, the Gumms and the one remaining Majesty (Daisy) decide to vote for the Republican candidate, Calvin Coolidge, in 1924. Daisy’s favorite president up to and including 1924 was the Republican Theodore Roosevelt, because he was a reformer! No longer could food-processing companies poison the consumers of their foods with impunity, because Teddy Roosevelt put his foot down (not on the food). Roosevelt was also a vigorous conservationist and established the United States Forest Service, allowing the creation of five National Parks. Daisy is all for national parks and for reform, even if she isn’t quite sure what needs to be reformed. Of course, if she had been able to vote in 1920, she’d have voted for Warren G. Harding, who died before everyone discovered he was a rotten crook.

Like most of us, Daisy is more concerned with her day-to-day life than she is about national and international politics. She probably would lift her eyebrows if she read about Coolidge’s immigration law, which restricted immigration to the United States, but she wouldn’t think too much about it because it didn’t affect her personally. She’d be more interested, not to say delighted, that her daily newspaper had begun printing crossword puzzles because she’s a wordsmith, if not a particularly well-educated one.

She’d naturally be horrified by the brutal murder of young Bobby Franks by Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, who wanted to prove their intellectual superiority by committing the “perfect crime.” As Sam Rotondo could have told the two murderers, there’s no such thing as a perfect crime; but sometimes it’s difficult to find evidence pinpointing the perpetrators of whatever crime is under examination. In fact, this is a problem for Daisy in SPIRITS UNITED. As ever, Daisy remains only slightly daunted in her search for the criminal. According to Sam, she’s not supposed to be anywhere near the crime and its suspects, but Daisy persists anyway. She’s such a buttinsky!

Daisy is a good person. Even she feels a little uncomfortable about her animosity toward the entire German people because Germans killed her husband via the Great War. She knows she’s being irrational, but she can’t quite help herself. This is primarily because she and a whole lot of other people blamed the war and everything that happened during it on Kaiser Wilhelm. They’re wrong, of course. The Kaiser was as much of a nitwit as anyone else, but he was far from the only instigator of that ghastly and incredibly stupid war. However, Daisy couldn’t know what we can know, because the war was current news to her. It wasn’t history, as it is today. Did you know, for instance, that many Germans didn’t believe they’d actually lost the war? Well, they didn’t. After all, no battles were lost on German soil.

Daisy’s creator (moi) has read extensively about World War I, however, and it’s easy for me to see Daisy’s prejudice is . . . well, biased, you know? I mean, all prejudices are. The fact that a German Jew invented the gas that eventually drove her husband Billy to his suicide is only ironic to those of us who understand WWI wasn’t, as it was often called, The War to End All Wars. Rather, it was only the beginning of a long, steady decline in German policies that eventually led to Hitler and his cronies murdering millions of Jews, Gypsies, Catholics and other “inferior” people.

All of this is kind of my way of saying, in effect, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

For instance, my own two grandsons, Daigoro and Rikiichi, had a Japanese father. Born in Tokyo, by gum. And do you know why Keiji (Dai and Riki’s dad) was born in Tokyo? Because Keiji’s father, who was born and reared in California, was sent to a Japanese detention camp in Poston, Arizona, during WWII. He was so annoyed by his family’s incarceration (and the loss of everything they possessed) that he moved to Japan as soon as he could. Then there occurred a series of other circumstances that led to him moving back to the United States. If not for WWII, Dai and Riki would be Satomuras instead of Oshitas, but I won’t go into the reasons for that here. Let’s just say life is complicated. It’s even more complicated for Dai and Riki when it comes to the Issei, Nisei, and Sansei question. Nevertheless, Riki always attends the Nisei Festival in Los Angeles every year. What the heck, you know?

My son-in-law’s family changed their Italian last name to a non-Italian last name after WWII, by the way. Not that it matters here. I just mention it because it’s interesting, and I wonder if Sam Rotondo’s family would be tempted to do the same thing if they lived long enough to see WWII. Clearly, Daisy’s not the only person in the world to descend to irrational biases. Heck, my other son-in-law is an Armenian from Iran. Mind you, Armenians are culturally Christian but he’s from Iran and, therefore, if he were attempting to get into the United States today, he couldn’t.

Gah. Enough of that.

I’ll be in touch with the winners UNSETTLED SPIRITS, January’s contest book, individually. At the end of February, I do believe I’ll give away three copies of the original hardback version of GENTEEL SPIRITS. If you’d like to enter the contest, just send me an email (alice@aliceduncan.net) and give me your name and home address. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, you may do so on my web site (http://aliceduncan.net/) or email me (you won’t be smothered in newsletters, because I only write one blog a month). If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, visit my page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925.

Thank you!

 

Sunday, January 1, 2017


Happy New Year (1925)

 
Don’t know about any of you, but I’m kind of glad to see 2016 come to an end. Mind you, for me personally, 2016 was better than 2015, mainly because I was sick almost all of 2015. In 2016 I had my left hip replaced, but that was a Good Thing. Now all I have to hurt about is my back, and there’s even hope for that. But we lost SO MANY PEOPLE in 2016. Unfair, 2016. Phooey.

However, this particular blog isn’t about me, or even 2016. It’s about my home town of Pasadena, California, and its New Year’s Day traditions. And, of course, Daisy Gumm Majesty and her crew.

Daisy Gumm Majesty’s latest adventure, SPIRITS UNITED (which I expect to finish writing one of these days), takes place in Pasadena in October of 1924. But the new year (1925) is fast approaching! On Thursday, January 1, 1925, Daisy and her family (and maybe Sam Rotondo, if he can walk that far on his injured leg) will stroll the few blocks from her darling little bungalow on South Marengo Avenue to Colorado Boulevard and will, among a whole bunch of other people, watch the Tournament of Roses Parade (more often known merely as the Rose Parade).

The Tournament of Roses Parade began its history in 1890, when folks in Pasadena drove their buggies and tallyhos (whatever they were), decorated with roses, along the streets of Pasadena. Over time, the Tournament of Roses Association was formed, and the Rose Parade became a more structured event. The big deal after the Rose Parade was, for the first few years, chariot races. Then the City Fathers (and Mothers, one presumes) decided to build a football stadium, which they called the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl was dedicated in October of 1922.

When I played the flute and the piccolo (not at the same time) in the Eliot Junior High School band (yes, I know it’s called a middle school today), we actually marched in the Rose Bowl. The less said about that, the better, mainly because the tuba player ran into a goal post. It sounds funny, but it wasn’t for him. It hurt. My class at John Muir High School graduated in the Rose Bowl in… Well, the year doesn’t matter. Let’s just say I’m old. An old and venerable place, the Rose Bowl.

Here’s a picture of the Rose Bowl under construction in 1921:
 
 

Before the Rose Bowl was built, games were held in Tournament Park, which has since been renamed Brookside Park. For years and years, the Rose Bowl was the largest football stadium in the nation. Daisy didn’t much care about that, but her late husband, Billy; her current fiancé, Sam Rotondo; and Daisy’s father, Joe Gumm, are all football fans. However, they didn’t go to the 1925 Tournament of Roses Game. For Pete’s sake, tickets cost $5.00 each! Nobody in Daisy’s family would waste that much good money to watch anything so frivolous as a football game. Anyhow, beginning in 1926, the Rose Bowl football game was broadcast throughout the nation. Great modern invention, radio, by golly! That means Daisy and her mother and aunt will be able to sit in the living room and read while Joe and Sam listen to the radio-signal receiving set Daisy bought for her late husband a couple of years earlier.
 
 
The 1925 game must have been exciting, however, because Knute Rockne’s legendary (to some. I’d never heard of them) Four Horsemen from Notre Dame played Ernie Nevers and his team from Stanford. Notre Dame won 27-10, in case you wondered.

 

As for the Tournament of Roses Parade itself, for many years the queen and princesses who composed her court were chosen from among students attending Pasadena City College. Before that, however, I don’t have a clue how the queens, princesses, and sometimes even princes were selected. The very first Tournament of Roses Queen was Hallie Woods, who ruled on New Year’s Day, 1905.

Here we have a souvenir postcard from Pasadena for New Year’s Day, 1925:
 

There was no queen in 1924 for some reason beyond Daisy’s understanding or recollection (and Google wouldn’t give me a reason). In 1925, however, the Tournament gurus made up for their neglect in 1924 by choosing Margaret Scoville (who was, I presume, a local gal) as Pasadena’s Rose Queen. She was married, by the way. I think there were only two married Rose Queens in Pasadena’s long history.

Here's a photo of Margaret Scoville, not when she was the reigning Rose Queen in 1925, but taken at a meeting of former Rose Queens held in 1956. Margaret’s the kind of dumpy one in the middle of those seated:



Naturally, Aunt Vi will fix something spectacular for dinner. Well, it’ll at least be mighty tasty. In fact, because the Gumms are originally from Auburn, Massachusetts, I suspect she’ll opt for a New England boiled dinner, which can cook while she and the rest of the family toddle up to see the Rose Parade. A New England boiled dinner consists of a corned beef brisket or a smoked ham and a bunch of root vegetables like onions, potatoes, carrots, rutabagas, maybe some parsnips and perhaps even some cabbage (yes, I know cabbage isn’t a root vegetable). Since neither Daisy nor I like black-eyed peas (and anyhow, they’re a southern tradition) we’ll just skip those, thank you very much. Of course Daisy’s father, Joe Gumm, would probably adore some codfish cakes. I know my own father did (he was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, and grew up in Hartland, Maine). Since, however, neither Daisy nor I like those either, Vi will forego them, bless her heart. There aren’t many foods Daisy and I can’t get down home and comfy with, but black-eyed peas and codfish cakes are a couple of them. Kippered herrings are another matter altogether. We both love those.

 
Anyway, the last time I personally ate a New England boiled dinner was when my younger daughter Robin, my mom, and I drove across this vast nation and visited relations in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine. My half-sister, Ann Provost, (who lived in Dexter, Maine) made it for us. It was spectacular. Mind you, it’s kinda like corned beef and cabbage, but it’s not called that on New Year’s Dayor probably most other days of the year if you live in Maine.

By the way, the Rose Parade and game never occur on a Sunday, which is why this year’s (2017’s) parade isn’t today (January 1). That’s because all the floats and bands and so forth, scared the horses tied to railings outside the various churches on Colorado Boulevard (which was called Colorado Street back then). That particular custom persists to this day.

I’ll be in touch with the winners of December’s contest individually. As I seem to have an overabundance of UNSETTLED SPIRITS, one of Daisy’s many adventures, I’ll be giving away copies of that book in January. If you’d like to enter the contest, just send me an email (alice@aliceduncan.net) and give me your name and home address. If you’d like to be added to my mailing list, you may do so on my web site (http://aliceduncan.net/) or email me (you won’t be smothered in newsletters, because I only write one a month). If you’d like to be friends on Facebook, visit my page at https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925.

Thank you, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!