Friday, June 29, 2018

Miss Amy's "I Can Do it Myself"

Last weekend I had a time warp experience -- I went to a Miss Amy Kids concert. For those of you not in the know, Miss Amy is a Rock Star to the preschool set. We most likely first encountered her at one of her library local performances, but followed her to Princeton MarketFair and other venus. She is also a Rock Star to the moms of these preschoolers.

Miss Amy has high energy and enthusiasm. She always his a kind word and encouragement for everyone she meets. Her target audience members are 18 month olds through kindergarten -- an age she says keeps on being born. It is awesome! She is a fabulous role model (for us moms, too) and a Grammy nominated artist. Her Big Kids Band has performed at the White House's Easter Egg Roll.

The sad thing is, as our kids age past Miss Amy's target audience, we stopped seeing Amy as often. My BIL, Chris, is the bassist for her Big Kids Band. He shared with me they were performing around the corner from our house at Terhune Orchards' annual Firefly Festival (which, oddly, is held during the day before the fireflies come out, but while their target audience is still awake).

Even though it has been about a decade since last attending a Miss Amy concert, the words to her songs came right back to me. When she sang "I Can Do it Myself" I started wondering what new lyrics should be added to refer to 16-year olds.

The song can be found HERE. Trust me it is better in person when Miss Amy is interacting with real children instead of playing to the camera and interacting with the camera. 

The words talk about the things the preschooler no longer needs help with, such as getting dressed, and brushing teeth, but I choke up when I listen to the chorus: 

I still need you to you hold my hand, tuck me in and sing so sweet 
( so sweetly).

What does the 16-year old in my life still need me for? The same 16-year old who got her drivers permit this week?

The obvious is ... she still needs me to help her practice driving, she needs me to help her study for hard tests (even if I don't know the topic), and she still needs me for rides. 

I'm sure there are other reasons she needs me, maybe to listen, to love her unconditionally, to support her dreams, and to take her places (can you tell I'm a bit fixated on my role as Mom Taxi?). I do know her 16-year old needs are different from her toddler needs, as they should be. I also know they will change as she grows, which is also how it should be.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Knoebels Amusement Park

Knoebels Amusement Park proclaims themselves to be America's largest free-admission amusement park. To our surprise and pleasure, we could have spent the day there without spending any money. Parking was free -- and an easy walk to the entrance. Walking around the park was free. Because it was free, you could enter from several points. There is no bag check. Leashed dogs are allowed to come in with their owners. There is a picnic area. After countless trips to Disney theme parks, the business model confuses us. Even the concession prices seemed reasonable. How do they pay their employees? How do they maintain their grounds?

Rather than questioning it, we tried to enjoy it.

Rides cost money -- but not a lot of money. Their biggest, baddest coasters were $3 a ride. Don went on five rides. I went on three. We spent $24 riding coasters. A drop in the bucket compared with a day at Disney.

Don's favorite coaster was a woody called Twister. I found it too jarring.

By contrast, my favorite was a woody named Phoenix, which in my opinion lives up to its proclamation of being "world's finest roller coaster," and an ACE (American Coaster Enthusiasts) landmark. There were signs inside telling us to stay seated. What else would I do? the loose lap bar practically begged for floating. The last half of the ride I was out of my seat more than I was in it. I felt weightless and invincible. It was awesome! Huge toothy grin at the end.

We even had our picture taken with characters, who came to the site by standing on the back of a golf cart. They did awesome crowd control. Parents were to stand behind a rope. The area was blocked off so the characters did not get crowded, and so there were no other people in the photos. Disney could learn from them.

The park also boasts a pool, golf course, and cabins. You pay for what you want. Entertainment is free. The atmosphere is laid back. We'd consider making the three hour drive again someday. It was a great way to spend our first weekend without rain in nine weeks -- a trend I hope continues.

Carousel Organs

Two years ago, we stumbled upon the Carousel Organ Association of America (COAA)'s showcase in Princeton. It was a "Who knew" kind of moment. Every other year they hold this event at Knoebels Amusement Park, and the other every other year it is held someplace else. Don has been following them. 

This year it was held at Knoebels Amusement Park -- a free amusement park. I'll share more about that in my next post. 

Looking at their website, I see they have more than one rally a year, but one is their big rally. What we saw in August 2016 was the COAA Rally at Amica Convention. Yes, I am still confused.

Unlike the Princeton event, the one at Kennywood did not include a map. We were told by the first owner there were about 25 large mechanical organs, and 25-30 smaller ones. I wish I knew how they chose their spots. Some seemed more prime than others: shadier, more foot traffic, etc. Adding to the confusion is that Knoebels is host to several (two, three?) carousel organs, which is throwing off my ability to count.

Twice a day (at 1 pm and 4 pm) they had a presentation of hand organs -- ones that are portable. At the first

performance they had eight different organs (one was tied to another by the man in the top hat). Each owner spoke a bit, then played a song. The emcee told us how far they traveled (the furthest as 1197 miles). Songs ranged from "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" to "Dizzy Fingers." While walking around the park I heard a large one play "Mr. Sandman," and a handheld one play "La Foule" -- a favorite accordion piece of mine.

Cranky People Wanted sign
I ended up returning at 4 PM because Don was riding a roller coaster I didn't feel like riding. There was a different batch of eight hand organs for that performance. After the played a song, they went back and answered the question: "When did you first fall in love with mechanical instruments?" They all vividly remember either hearing a carousel organ (perhaps in Binghamton, or another city with many carousels) or knowing someone with a player piano. They then played a second song.

My favorite sign at the event was "Cranky People Wanted," because the hand held organs are hand-cranked.

At the half-way point in the concert three people came up and held a concertina concert. They have one sender and the rest are receivers (the day before there were five in total). These are even more portable. They wove their way through the audience.

They are a self-identified aging population. We spoke at length with Terry and Pat. They readily admit they do not know if they will return to Knoebels in two years. This loquacious couple had their carousel organ built to their specifications (yes, they are still being made). They wanted the case to be Craftsman style, and visible from all four sides. They are just charming. Finally Pat lovingly told her husband that "these nice people might want to see other organs."

There were a couple of repeats from Princeton.

Perhaps the oddest one was made a 1200 pound granite organ. As you can imagine, some holes took longer than others to drill.

Organs work on computers (like the one above), SD memory chips, pin wooden barrels (which are unique), and paper rolls (like the one below). The paper rolls are basically an early computer as they work on the binary system -- they either play a note or they don't. 1 or 0. My geeky friends' eyes are popping. My non-geeky ones still don't get it.

At the 1 PM concert, the emcee talked about the history of organ grinders, something Terry and Pat also shared with us. In the early 1900s people would rent them for a dollar a day and stroll around town playing music for tips. In those days for poor people to hear music was rare. You might hear it church, but most people did not have the exposure to it like was have today. In Gigi's interview she talked about following an organ grinder for blocks dancing to his music. It was a treat we cannot imagine now a day. Buskers would get to keep whatever they earned above their dollar investment. Disabled veterans of wars in Europe made money by playing these organs. 

It is hard not to smile when you hear a carousel organ or calliope. The COAA's 400 members consider theirs the "happiest music on earth."

As a parting shot, a few more pictures:

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Author Marie Benedict

Many of you know one of my biggest hobbies is reading. My favorite genre is one I have dubbed "grown up Nancy Drews," including Cleo Coyle, Carolyn Haines, Diane Mott Davidson, Jill Churchill, and many others where ordinary women solve the crimes the befuddle the professionals. A close second is historical fiction, including  writers Jacqueline Winspeare, Rhys Bowen, Lauren Belfer, and Marie Benedict. Last night I had the honor of hearing the latter talk about her writing, her books, and her inspiration as part of Princeton Public Library's third annual Soiree

Marie is a pseudonym. She also writes under the name Heather Terrell. As Marie, she has published two books, one called "The Other Einstein" and another called "Carnegie's Maid." Both tell the story of a woman whose history has been all but been forgotten. She is currently working on "The Only Woman in the Room" about Hedy Lamarr. When she announced that to the room at the Princeton Historical Society at Updike Farm, there was an audible "Oooo." She is contracted to write five more books in the next five years.

Marie talked about the differences between writing about historical figures (such as Mileva Einstein) versus writing about the purely fictional Clara Kelley. You have more flexibility with fictional characters, but since Clara was connected to the very real Andrew Carnegie, she still had limitations. Mileva and other real women leave behind real letters, diaries, and documents that ground them as well as help flesh them out when she writes about them. Clara was based on Irish immigrants in general who worked in "the big houses," such as Carnegie's mansion, including an aunt who worked in Henry Clay Frick's mansion in Pittsburgh (which Marie visited as part of her research).

I felt a kindred spirit with Marie when she spoke. We were both history majors in college. Unlike me, Marie was encouraged to become a lawyer and spent a number of years working in New York City as a lawyer. She has since returned to her geographic roots of Pittsburgh (where "Carnegie's Maid" takes place) and is now a full-time professional author.

Also our eyes light up taking about going down "rabbit holes" while conducting research.

I was thrilled to win her two books. When I entered the event I was handed five tickets. The person at the front table told me if there was a prize I really wanted I could put all five tickets in one basket. I heeded her advice and put them all in the basket to win her books. As a bonus, they pulled three winners. 

The first numbers were called ... and I lost. 

Then another set of numbers were called ... and I lost again. 

Then to my surprise and shock my number was called on the third pull!

After claiming my prize, I joined the line to have my new books autographed. Marie is very charming in person. She made time to talk to everyone about anything they wanted to talk about. I suspect she is a good friend.

It was a lovely night out. The Bent Spoon provided two sorbets: Dark Chocolate Orange and Mango. They were both to die for. There were also other treats I did not have a chance to sample because I was too busy talking to friends.

The Princeton Historical Society at Updike Farm was the perfect setting for the book talk because their permanent exhibit is on Albert Einstein, who lived in Princeton from 1933 until his death in 1955. He is a Princeton icon.

In 2016 the soiree was held at Labyrinth Books. Last year they held it at the Arts Council in Princeton because the book had an artistic theme ("Christina's World" by Christina Baker Kline. Time will tell where it will be held in 2019. I hope I can attend.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Pickets and Persistence

Seven years ago I visited Paulsdale, the home of Alice Paul. Alice Paul was a pioneer in the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment, which still has not passed. This New Jersey heroine pushed hard for women to get the right to vote. Another heroine in the fight for women's rights was Jeannette Rankin. Who was Jeannette Rankin, you ask? In 1917 she became America's first female member of Congress. Some of my history buff readers will say "but, wait, how did that happen since women did not get the right to vote until 1920?" NATIONALLY we did not get the right to vote until 1917, but some states allowed it sooner. New Jersey was the earliest state to allow women to vote, but they took it away. Some women in New Jersey voted as early as 1776, but in the 1790s and 1800s, large numbers of unmarried New Jersey women regularly participated in elections and spoke out on political issues. That changed in 1807 when our New Jersey constitution was changed (source: National Park Service's website)

Historian and author Carol Simon Levin told us many interesting facts about Jeannette Rankin and the women's rights movement. Rankin was from Montana. The year she ran her state was growing and they suddenly had two seats in Congress instead of one. Today they are back to one. Districts had not yet been drawn up so she ran on the platform of "vote for the incumbent and also vote for me." Using that logic, she beat the other men running for that seat. 

A life long pacifist, her first order of business was to vote whether or not to enter World War I. She voted against it (she wasn't the only one). A quick history, she lost her reelection bid because by then she was running for Senate (and was rather outspoken about women having the right to vote). She did not win a congressional seat again until 1941. Okay, history buffs -- what big issue did she have to vote on then? .... Whether or not the United States should enter World War II. She cast the only no vote that time, and again was not reelected.

A famous quote attributed to her: "I may be the first woman member of Congress," she observed upon her election in 1916. "But I won't be the last." (also on her Congressional the page linked above)

Carol shares the history of many other famous women: Abigail Adams, Juliette Lowe (founder of the Girl Scouts), and Emily Roebling. She is author of the coloring book "Remembering the Ladies." Yes, it is a black and white book with large pictures, but it is so much more. Every other page has a biography of why each woman is important to American history. She was writing it during the election and hoped the subtitle would be: From Patriots in Petticoats to Presidents, instead the last word was changed to Presidential Candidates.

If you ever have the chance to catch Carol's presentations, I highly recommend it. I've also seen her as Emily Roebling.

The event was only $5. It felt good to support the arts.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Art All Night 2018 -- Pictures of Artwork

Here are some of the artwork done by friends, family, and strangers that I want to share from Art All Night. Since the event was cut down around the half-way point due to gunfire, many people did not get a chance to go. Some of us are sharing our pictures in the hopes that people will be able to see artwork done by their friends and family.