Friday, August 20, 2010

Rhinebeck, part 1

We arrived at Rhinebeck and I sent an e-mail to everyone that I had made contact with. Ms. Hammers, of course was the most important, I needed to set that appointment first so that the rest would fall into place. She couldn't see me that day or the next but we set it for that Friday. I also set up times to meet with Mr. Mann with the Rhinebeck historical society. We drove around Rhinebeck looking at various places and trying to figure out what was what and where and I was as excited as a little girl. I found the Astor Gate house, (looked like a ginger bread house.) Rhinebeck was a hive of historical places to go see and do. I will make a point of seeing more and doing more the next time I go. I went to the W. House (spelling, sorry) to pick up a letter but the curator wasn't there. He did send me the letters that he mentioned to me later. I went to the Church of the Messiah, and found the Astor window. I found a woman who used to be a lawyer who told me about a dispute with Trinity Church over valuable property it owned with the Astors. I asked her to dig up the info for me but haven't heard from her -- I gave her my business card...this is something I will look up with I can with the Trinity Church when I go to New York. I did not get a chance to meet with Mr. Fraiser. Nor did I get a chance to look at Church records. This is what I will do when I go back.

Astor Court is tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


We got a motel outside of D.C. since we did not want to drive into the capital. It had to be the hottest day of the year! We took a train into the city. From there we went to the Library of Congress. We had to get an ID card before we could go to the reading room that had my material. It took longer to get the ID card than it did for me to locate my material and go through it. After that, we had an expensive snack and headed for the Smithsonian, on the subway again. When we arrived at the mall, both Richard and I were out of sorts from the heat. I just couldn't face more of the heat and having to walk who knew how far since I wasn't totally sure which museum of the Smithsonian I needed to go to. I suggested that we go back to the hotel, and Richard quickly agreed. The next day, off to Rhinebeck in New York.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Home again

I cut the trip short for reasons I don't want to get into. Well, some I can share with you -- My husband was more than ready to come home, and it just felt right to do so. It was good we did.
On Thursday before, my person who was taking care of our animals called and complained that someone was in the house and was also feeding our animals - she was worried that something might be missing and we'd blame her. This got her mad and she said she wasn't going to do it anymore. I couldn't get ahold of my person (who I am not naming as she might, might, see this and also because I don't want to cause trouble in the family. ) and I called my mother to tell my person that I absolutely trusted her ...and I assumed that she would continue feeding the animals as it has been in the hundreds during the day. Water is a big issue right now.
When we arrived home, the woman that we had adopted our dogs from was here feeding and watering them, (and had been every day since the first when my person apparently quit) and instantly I knew what happened. When she came to check on the dogs, she fed them and watered them. Okay, but doing that pissed off the person we had asked and thereby quit. I wasn't happy to see the woman. She thought we'd be happy she'd been feeding and watering them -- but she caused the situation in the first place.

My husband is pissed at the person we got to take care of the animals and says he doesn't want to use her again. But I know that if I don't ask again, that this, also, will offend that person. *Sigh* How do I keep everybody happy? I am not going to be able to.

I will start filling in the posts I missed due to a hotel having horrible Internet connections, and me being bone-tired (another reason to come home.) I met a lot of people just like me, and that were willing to be of help. I didn't quite get all I wanted at Rhinebeck, but I got a heck of a lot more than I thought I would get, and this gives me a reason to go back. I have to, anyway. To look at church records and to meet another historian that is a meticulous accurate in her Astor lore. That is what I was told, anyway. Tomorrow, tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dixie Plantation

We checked out of the hotel, and went to breakfast. Bernie called and we managed to get our 3 o'clock appointment changed to right then about 11. We met him in front of his office and after getting instructions to a laundry for Richard--(he didn't want to take the tour so got stuck doing laundry.) Bernie and I yacked the whole way there and back - about Dixie, the Astors, the Dicks, etc. I taught him some stuff about the Astors and he taught me a whole lot about Dixie.

On the driveway to the house, I found an amazing Nautilus shell in perfect condition - miles away from a beach. Bernie let me keep it. It felt like a gift from Madeleine for visiting her place.

The Plantation - which I do have photos and I will post soon, was absolutely amazing place. Full of old oaks with moss hanging down, wildlife everywhere, different types of waterways - salt, brackish, fresh, so the wildlife had plenty of choices, birds, turtles and even an 3 ft alligator. It was peaceful and would make an excellent writer's retreat. I promised if I got rich I would endow a cottage and Bernie promised I could come and stay whenever I wanted if I did so. :)

The College of Charleston has excellent plans to develop it, but is handicapped by money issues; but they are working on it -- by trying to get donations and by various projects to use the place in the way John Henry Dick intended it to be used, i.e. as a nature preserve. The property is worth 20 million dollars as it stands, it'd be worth 100 million if the conservation easement was off.

I have to keep this entry short as we drove all day to Washington and am crashing in a very cheap hotel. It's a circle 8 but on the edge of being totally safe. It's clean, but ...the bullet proof glass in the check-in area made us both nervous.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Charleston was a quick in and out. I finished about 3 hours or so. I went through about 10 boxes and since I was looking for very specific things, it was easy to find. I found lots of family pictures (well, lots considering I hadn't seen any of the Dick family at all) and a few of Madeleine with her second family. No smiles in any of them.

There was an sign-in book for the Dixie Plantation where the Dick family and friends had signed in -- after Madeleine had died, and it showed a great deal of humor, intelligence and just plain fun between the crew. I found myself wishing I could have been there in the midst of it all.

Still, everyone at the Charleston Library was helpful and friendly and made me feel right at home. The main director even showed me some children's books that Madeleine's kids had owned. The names were written inside.

Tomorrow we have the tour of the Dixie Plantation and Richard is going to do up laundry. Afterwards, we'll be heading to Washington. We won't get there tomorrow but the day after. We're about 1 day ahead of schedule.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

5 days into trip

I have a ton of pictures and I can't find them...argh! So I will post the pictures at a later time.

Friday- Ringling Museum in Sarasota Florida- huge place! This was built on the estate of Mr. Ringling and had about 6 museums all on the site where Mr. Ringling had his winter home. The place I wanted to go wasn't open until 1 so we toured the house, and then headed for the art museum where the Astor rooms were. I took more photos - I swear. The rooms were huge with carved frescos, and windows that must have been 12 feet high. I had no idea that they would have that sense of expansiveness that I had never experienced before. The guard was half-asleep and I couldn't get him interested in all the history around him.

Richard got bored and left for lunch. I couldn't find him at first but then I found him at Trevios where we had a most creative lunch (amazing presentation) and suddenly it was 1 o'clock, and I had to take off without finishing it. I went to the library where they found nothing on the Astors.
We looked through files and books and nothing. (They were most kind to me, however.) Then the Archive director came and took me to the archives where I got to see 3 paintings that I have seen in old Astor pictures. Actual pictures! Then we went to the Archive office where there was a file on Astor (which as an Honory Intern I got to copy page by fragile page.) Half way through the copying the Director took me on a field trip to see Astor Items installed on the property but not labeled. Like 2 chairs in the house, a lintel for a door in the Circus museum, and the actual front door installed on the Art Museum (Which I got to touch!!! Several times!!!) I kept saying thank-you, which I am sure that they got tired of, but I couldn't help it--it was a very good day. :) Very worth while to go.

From Sarasota, we drove to Orlando where the plan was to visit the Titanic museum but missed the last tour by 20 minutes and they would not allow me to go in which pissed off Richard, and he did not want to stay for the special dinner show. I told him that it was not that important, and I would have liked to see the museum but it was okay that I didn't. I know the story, I was just curious about the artifacts that they had.

We drove until 2 in the morning on Friday night (by the most back country roads - one was dirt, even) and checked into the Circle 8 in Aiken, South Carolina. I planned to sleep in but woke up at 9 and knew I had to get to the tour for Aiken. Rounding up Richard, we charged off to arrive in time to talk to the tour group leader - a Ms. Burgess. She agreed to talk to me when she got back from leading her tour. I went to the library and did a search on the newspaper for Aikens and found very little. Going back to the tour spot, I met up with Ms. Burgess who after hearing my spiel, i.e. I am a writer researching Madeleine Astor, blah blah,...she took me to the places that she knew was connected to the Astors. There was an Astor house, (I took pictures), the hotel that she had to have stayed at, (she did -- there was a suite named after her there.), the railway depot where I have a picture of here there, and to the historical museum. After that tour, we went to the hotel and the museum and checked them out. I was allowed to look around the Wilcox (not the Astor suite - because it was occupied but the one next to it.) hotel, and took more pictures. I was getting tired so after all that, we went back to the hotel and I camped out with Richard tending to me. The next day we loaded up and came to Charleston.

At Charleston, the first two hotels were in pretty crappy neighborhoods -- think drug dealers and prostitutes--so we passed and ended up in downtown Charleston at that Circle 8. (See the theme developing.) A bit more expensive than I would have liked but the room is nice with extra amenities. Lunch was at Toast next to the Hotel. 3 girls were chatting about the most personal topics -- think condoms and the use thereof and you'd have the favor of the conversation -- I wanted to go over to them and tell them that they were in a public place and I really didn't want to know exactly where the saran wrap went ...but I was too darn tired to bother. Next time, ladies.

Tomorrow is College of Charleston to go to see the John Henry Dick collection for photographs of the Dick family -- Madeleine married William Dick and was the mother of the famous John Henry Dick. There are some family photos and others that I am going to go see. I hope I can get copies. :)

I am getting sleep again, so I am off to bed.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Second Day of Trip

Here's a picture of a cow stature at a place we stopped to eat. An adult can stand under its belly without crouching...odd, huh?

Neither one of us went to sleep very well -- I didn't fall asleep until about 4 in the morning, and Richard about the same. Nerves? Trip fatigue? No clue. I am exhausted and ready to go to bed right now.
We traveled to Sarasota in 7 hours but did not go to the Titanic museum as I had wanted. We hope to be able to hit it tomorrow. The Tom-Tom was both a help and a hindrance as it would sometimes give instructions that were more complicated or not clear as it ought to be. We missed a couple of turns that should have been announced just a little sooner. But it clearly helped us find what we needed. More experience is needed.
We went to a buffet that was very homey and cheap but with lots of chow. :) We ate lots of chow. Lots of old people. They were the majority of people in the restaurant. I talked to two women that were sitting next to us and asked them questions about how expensive it was to live here. It is is about twice as expensive in regards to taxes and in property. Nice town, though, white streets that made everything very clean and fresh. I saw hints of being so close to the coast--palm trees, sea birds fighting over scraps in the parking lot, and houseboats in a cluttered channel in various states of repair. I was also amazed at the number of trailers set up as permanent homes with porch and flowers, etc in parks that were like our gated communities. I saw lots of signs for discounts for seniors.
Sorry, I am a bit jumbled in this entry--I am one tired hussy and am going to go to bed when I finish my bath.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

First Day on the Road

Nine hours on the road and it went by pretty quickly. We are in a hotel outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Both Richard and I are in the hotel working (playing) on our computer. Our routine is usually when traveling is to unpack the car, then immediately plug in all the electronics, and next after that the computers come on. Somewhere along the way, the clothes come off but only after the computers are on. Mmmm, perhaps that was more information than was needed on this particular blog entry. A few cars/trucks tried to share space with us, and once Richard tried to share space with another car. Thankfully, none of the cars kissed and told, and we got here without a scratch. There is a Titanic museum trip in Orlando planned for tomorrow and then we will check in a Motel 8 in Sarasota. Friday, the official research part of this trip begins. :) (That's me grinning really wide.)

I realized that my husband is traveling with me for no other reason than to make his wife happy. The Astor topic bores him dreadfully after 3 years of hearing it. We don't have time to do the things that he might have found interesting. Awwww, the man deserves a medal for knowingly going on a travel trip that will not interest him, will not do things that he will like, and will consist of his wife telling him what to do for almost 4 weeks straight. Sometimes you just gotta go, "Awwwww."

Sunday, July 18, 2010

12 days, or 10 days...or are we there yet?

I am trying to get Richard to talk to his teachers to be let out 2 days early. That is so I can get to the Ringling Museum not on a Sunday. The museum is open, but not the library. If I get there during the week, I can see some Astor stuff not out on display. I want...I want...I want...

I made arrangements to see Elise, Richard's sister when I thought I was leaving on Monday, now with the change, his sister isn't happy with the change. I can't help it. I thought it would be a cool ideal, but it's back to having to consider others in the planning, and it ropes me down, and, and, and,... *breathe, breathe...*

I will do my best to let her know when we will get there, just as soon as I know. I swear.

I have gotten all the exclusively trip stuff done. I packed my audio books, got the gifts ready, all the planning is done, etc. I only have to do the packing and the electronic stuff --the stuff I have to do before every trip.

Is it time to leave yet?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fourteen days and counting...

Um, you might think that my math is off a bit. But things, like always, have changed. First, my husband is coming. That changes the date we are leaving, and how long I will be gone. Before, the plan was that I would travel until I got to all the spots I wanted to get to and then come home. Well, that sorta fell apart when we could not get a vehicle for Richard in time for me to go without dipping into the very money I had set aside for the trip. This dipping in hurt my feelings, and my husband, who cannot stand for my feelings to be hurt, made an executive decision and decided to go with me. There are pluses and minuses with this--on the plus side, I now have a driver and someone to run interference for me where I won't have to do it all when I am going. That will be nice. I will get tired, and he'll be able to help me get to the next place while I am resting from the stress. On the negative side, I will have to consider him in everything I decide to do, and having another person along will occasionally slow me down. And I had planned on using the extra time I had (this could be a joke) to work on my novel. Now there will be extra noise from the TV and an extra person to work around. Still, the negative is one I am familiar with, so it is not the big fat negative that it could be. A bigger negative would be no money. And the positive side of having him along -- along with company and someone who loves me -- will make the trip nicer. So with one adjustment comes others, but nothing that we cannot handle. Who better to go with me than my partner in life? Poor thing is going to be bored out of his mind.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

19 days and counting

I have set the date for leaving for the 26th. Nineteen days. Wow, not long now. I have settled out my list of to do, (basically by moving everything off the list) and have only kept two things on the list. First - I need to get the photo work done of the photo copies I plan to give away as gifts to those who have helped me and second - to get my scrapbook done for taking with me. I can't pack up yet, not until that weekend of, and shopping for the trip will need to wait until then as well. Funny, I am working on the photos first as I have a feeling that the scrapbook will take a while to get sorted out. Plus I need pages to put into the book, then I have to take out other pages so the darn book won't be so darn heavy.
So basically, I am done with the planning and will let the rest of the trip fall out where it will. I have planned the places I want to go but for the most part, it still will be very flexible as far what and for how long. I will let the events tell me what they want. If short, then short. If long, then long. I got a good gift yesterday: a film that I was going to go by and see at the University of Columbia, has been copied and mailed to me. Can't wait to see it. It it a film about John Jacob Astor VI marrying Miss French. Madeleine Astor Fiermonte will be in it. :) Imagine being able to see her. I wish I could find a film on his father -- JJ Astor IV other than the blurry one of him at Camp Wicoff(sp). It shows him but not clearly at all, and not him walking or interacting with others. Or to have his voice recorded somewhere--ah, to know if it were clipped or harsh or accented or deep or high even. His writing tends to come across more verbose and full of ten-dollar words, makes me wonder if he spoke like that as well. If so, then no wonder, Jack, you had such a hard time making friends.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Planning some more.

After a couple off days just for 'life' in general - (a mammogram- ugh and some other issues that I am too polite to mention) I worked a bit today. I can't decide when to leave. Earlier means I have more time in places before Rhinebeck, *which I *HAVE* to be there on the Sixth. But that means I don't know when I will be there for the stuff I need to reserve. I hate saying 'I will be there the first week or the second week...' Some of this will probably just have to be on the fly...perhaps. How can you plan if you aren't sure how long things are going to take? I don't know if my search will take an hour or all day. If I will get side-tracked or what. I tend to do that...get side-tracked I mean. Like right now. I guess, I will know when I need to leave. I tend to know when I am suppose to do stuff, but the not-knowing makes it hard to plan. Does it sound like I am going around in circles here. I am. I am.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Count down...

Twenty-nine more days- max. Til' I leave for my trip. Or it might be 26...depends on things. I still have things to get ready, and things to shop for. Mostly, I am going to be waiting. Waiting for return phone-calls. Waiting for the money to come in, waiting until it feels right to go. I need to doctor up some photos--take out the defects and specks. I decided as a gift to the ones who are doing these things for me, to give copies of some very special Astor Photographs. To the owner of Astor-courts, I am going to give to her an original photo that I have. It would mean more that way. I hope she likes it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Argh!!! I waited one year too long. Beechwood has been sold! I sent an e-mail but it was returned. I do have the name of the supposed current owner with an address who I will write tomorrow. His wife is a novelist, so perhaps because of that-- he might be sympathetic. I just want a tour, not to buy the place. I might just show up and see what happens. Maybe it will be sold or given to the Newport Preservation people or maybe they will keep running it as a tourist place or maybe it will be a private home that if you ask can see. :( I'm sad...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Plugging away...

Got the time line for my trip done...and it looks like if we don't do anything but our research and not dawdle on the way...we ought to be able to hit every spot I need to, and a lot of I want to. I have details to finish and a lot of people to start contacting for various stops. All of which I can't do until Monday because ...nobody answers phone calls from pushy researchers...did I say pushy? I meant to say, researchers...that's the ticket. I am tired and want to go to bed, but I still have my regular writing work to do. Ugh. Don't you just hate those days when all you want to do is sleep and sleep is the last thing you should do if you want to stay productive?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


While I was in Omaha visiting Nebraska, I made contact with the head of the Rhinebeck Historical Society and the Museum of Rhinebeck History. Between the two of them (I am not listing their names to respect their privacy...not that there's a big risk of all these Astor groupies flooding them with requests ...but you never know...) There is so much potential history there and material for my books, ...more than there was at Stanford. Here I have listings to drool over, and to fantasize about and well-- ahem, more than enough to make all of the trip coming up worth while. I should have kept this blog updated with the whole back and forth between us -- but, I didn't but I do promise to do better in the future. Today, I am trying just to catch up and get back in routine and the time is running away with me and I am struggling to get laundry done and to get the house cleaned up and the finances cleaned up and ...and...and...fighting a migraine as I go. I promise to bore you...I mean, write a better blog tomorrow.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Planning for Trip

Starting today, I am going to be working on the actual trip planning needed for this massive trip. I like the idea of doing two lesser trips into one more major trip...and if I can get New York out of the way...that would be cool, as well. I ended up using this month travel money on various things that needed fixing and on some other stuff that I ended up with NOTHING in my travel fund at all!!! My inner travel person had a major fit but after a brief discussion with my husband...I think we'll be okay. I hope. I hope!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Still not doing much...

I am having the most difficult time getting back into routine. I am researching...*cough--not much--cough, cough*...but without making much headway. *sigh* I promise to try harder, tomorrow...always tomorrow.

I did make a firm decision about my trip in August...No planes, we're going to drive in order to have the maximum flexibility in doing what I am doing. I know that I run the risk of finding no vacant rooms, etc. because it will be August, the height of the vacation season. Yet, it is the only time that Richard can come with me, and it would be the same time period that the Astors were at Bar Harbor and Newport. If Richard runs out of time, I have decided that I'll let him drive home, then I'll rent a rental car and finish what I have to do, then fly home. Or take a bus, or a train...or whatever. But we have 25 days with a possibility of maybe, just maybe, a week more. Anddddd, I am going to do all the stuff that we had planned for the May trip as an added basically, head to Florida, then North Carolina, Washington, New York, Ferncliff, Newport and Bar Harbor. Some places will only need a day, others--??? who knows. So driving our own car will help keep us moving...or not.

Richard did manage to throw one sour note in all of this...but I just thought of a plus side to it. He said they are talking that because of the oil spill, that gas will possibly go up to five dollars or more a gallon. Yikes! Still, I am going. We might sleep in the kia, but we are going. The positive on that would be there would be less people traveling during that peak season, so less likely not to find an open room. This could work.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Photos 3

Laura and the underwear eating Laci...and a clock in downtown San Francisco...

Photos 2

Note the organic straws....

Pictures from my trip.

One of those interesting stores....

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Last of it.

I met three of Laura's friends, each different, but all interesting. Laura also took me to Berkley, a session of meditation, and to various intriguing stores. There was also a concert where I heard play the 'Red Violin.' I was pleasantly surprised at freedom that Gays and Lesbians had in expressing themselves publicly. There were street performers that we listened to. Later in the week, we went to San Francisco where Laura works an attendant to handicapped woman who could move nothing but her body and head. At first, I was embarrassed, and wasn't sure what would be rude or not. So I played with her 3-month puppy (a yellow lab) and won over the owner by the acceptance of the puppy for me. The puppy even brought me toys to play with. I needed to see her, she had no self-pity for her condition and had a life that was full and productive -- by choice and hard work. (I don't give more details about the handicapped woman than this to preserve her privacy.) If I ever get to this point (and I still could if my nerve degeneration comes back), I see that I don't have to let it keep me from a life of my own design. Nor do I need to wallow in self pity of any length. She invited me back as we did not have a long time to get to know each other. Laura told me that this was a compliment as her employer was a very private person and does not invite everyone back. We also did the touristy thing and rode the over-crowded trolleys down to the heart of San Francisco where we got accosted by three separate pan-handlers in three separate events. One we managed to stump when we gave him our left-over salad from our dinner instead of the money hand-out that he had asked for.

The last part is the hardest. On the last day I was to be there, (which turned out to be the next to the last since the plane I was to take was canceled due to weather in Denver--we used it to visit the Mystery House in San Jose, and slept the rest of the day and night. A perfect way to rest for the very tiring journey home.) Dinner with Laura's parent was arranged. I had been dreading it the entire visit, yet Laura made it easier for me by telling me that her mother had some guilt for adopting her children, for taking them away from their mothers, that it was important for them to know that we (I) thought they had done a good job. I had not thought of it from that viewpoint, only that Laura's mother would judge me for not going back to school and becoming a doctor like I had originally wanted. That I had not become a 'pull-my-self-up-by-my-own-bootstraps' person that I had first shown promise to being.

Yet, I do not consider myself a failure; my family is out of debt, my husband and I have a good marriage, my children are in my life and we have enough income that I don't have to work and hence can stay home and do all this fancy research and writing. That I have the freedom and the money to pursue this passion with the full support of my family. I only feared that SHE would see me so. Because I had not graduated from college, nor gone on to some profession that paid well.

At the dinner, it was at first awkward, and stiff but when it gradually loosen up. And I found a place to tell them that I thought that they had done a good job of raising Laura. I was surprised to see both of her parents visibly relax at the same moment as I spoke, I had not expected to see them as tense about the meeting as I had been. Then, it was over. Both the visit and the dinner. I haven't related everything that happened, to retain privacy for the people involved, and because of the sheer volume of the experiences. Her parents spoke of my coming back, as a matter of fact, Laura's friends did as well. But more important than all of that, my daughter invited me back, back into her life and into her space. We love each other, more than friends, less than parent and child. Still, it is more than enough for the both of us.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Second Day

The next day, I woke up early because the sun was early. I hadn't yet noticed that the window had blinds that could be shut (Laura showed me that night.) I got up, and padded my way into the kitchen. I knew we weren't planning to leave for the Stanford Library until about ten, so I had plenty of time to wake up and have breakfast, etc. I had been given frig. privileges the night before, so I looked into the cabinet and into the fridge. Most of a three tiered cabinet was filled with organic this and that. Mmmm. Might have better luck in the frig. Looked in the frig. Things were pretty similar, most things had labels that said organic or soy and well, to be frank, things I had never seen before. Oh, no, not in that way, I meant food that I had never heard of before. I took a deep breath and repeated to myself -- when in California...

I took another look and found some organic, vegetarian cheddar cheese. Ah, something I had heard of before. Organic shouldn't be too bad, and vegetarian just meant, that no animals had been harmed in the making of the item. I could live with that. So I cut off a small piece of the cheese, looked for crackers, found something that looked sorta like crackers, and located an apple. Ah, a feast for the gods. I brought everything to the table, and took a nice bite out of the cheese. And spit it promptly out. It had a rubbery texture and a taste that resembled the texture. Honestly. It was horrible. I settled for the apple, and that was my breakfast.

After breakfast, and well, because I wanted to be a good guest, I went ahead and tidied up the living room and the dining room. Then unloaded the dishwasher (noting that the soap had not dispersed) and reloaded it up. Laura woke up a bit later and asked me if I had tidied up. I beamed as I nodded. She said it was nice to have someone to help her with the housework as her husband rarely thought to help. I eagerly planned to repeat my activities every day I was there.

We got dressed and headed to Stanford. It was a beautiful campus, and I kept stopping to look at building details. Finally, we got to the library, and had to sign in on a computer just to enter the library. I got Laura to type the information in because I still had on my fancy nails that I had put on for airline flight--they were beautiful but too long to type with. That's what I told her, but the truth was actually that when I changed to the Dvorak keyboard I l0st my ability to type on a Qwerty keyboard-weird, huh. Then go down some corridors and up some stairs to get to the Green Library where the special collection was held. The Shafter papers had to be ordered up the day before in order to be available. There we had to show ID, sign into the computer again, and then we were given a key to a locker where we had to put our purses, pouches, coats, etc. Nothing personal was allowed to be present with the historical documents. They even supplied us with pencils and paper. On the ceiling were cameras and I am sure someone was watching us the whole time as we and one other man were the only ones in the library.

We had from 10:30 to 2:30 that day to get the research done. Laura had set me up to have a massage from a co-worker at work. So we got to work and I had to restrain myself to keep the noise down as I kept getting excited about what we were finding in the boxes of material...but I am getting ahead of myself. The papers were in folders inside boxes. The actual documents. I ran across McKinley's signature on one of the letters in the box. Other names I recognized from history kept flashing before me as we were looking in the folders for the Astor name. Pretty heady stuff! The plan was made for us to find the Astor stuff (Eight or ten items out of the whole set. Each folder had about 50 items, and each box had about 20 folders, and there were 6 boxes) and then look back for interesting articles or background material. Laura helped a great deal by filling out the two slips of paper for each article I requested to be copied, and also by looking herself in the folders. I realized that a whole another fascinating story was in those folders, eager to be teased out...hints of problems- with the men, from higher ups, with the weather, from reporters, with prisoners and survivors. America was not ready for this war, so it was a good thing that the Spanish weren't really interested in fighting--at least not in Cuba. Ah, but that's another story. I could have spent my whole time there just reading in the folders but I chose not to, so I could spend time with Laura and seeing California and getting a taste, um, look at the California lifestyle. We managed to find all the Astor references just in time for us to leave, so there was no need to come back unless I just wanted to. I was skipping by the time I got out! So very cool to see history that close. To see real telegrams and even their secret codes, and the letters and know, really know that these people were real, and alive once, just like me.

Laura then took me to her work-an upscale spa--where I was not comfortable at all. Too much money floating around, and a lot of naked women. However, it was interesting to see where she worked and the environment. Her friend came out, greeted me and took me back for a Cranial-Sacral massage. Basically, it is not a touching massage but one where energy work is done. Using energy (not electrical but like universal energy) to help the client's energy to work better. I can't explain it better than that. It's a California thing. I really wasn't expecting anything much. Some waving of the hands, some closed eyes, I'd get a nap...but that's not what happened. As soon as she put her hands on my feet, yes, feet, I felt a charge of electricity from her hands that made me jump. My massager actually apologized for having her energy up too high--saying that her teacher said she was supposed to be in neutral when she 'read' the body. That she wasn't always good at doing that. Staying neutral that is. I have a very strong inhibition about strangers touching me and visa-versa, and wasn't even sure if I could stand a traditional massage (and that's why Laura got this one for me instead since you remain clothed during it.) But I trusted this woman, I could feel the healer in her, and the obvious some-thing, some-thing going on. I am very practical and pragmatic. I don't have to believe in something to use it. If it works, it works, even if I can't explain it. Nor am I going to pretend that I feel something just to make the person doing the waving of hands feel good. So this went on for about 1/2 hour to an hour. I felt heat coming from her hands like a heating pad, my own energy moving around, some pain, some shifting, some things I can't describe. Before the massage was even over, I knew that I needed to see her again before I left California. She agreed with me. But not at the spa. We arranged with Laura to meet another time at her home, later in the week. I got up from the table feeling like I do when I get up from the dentist chair with full gas an novocaine--I was shaken all the way down to my toes. Pretty amazing for some waving of the hands, uh?

Laura offered me other services of the spa but I turned them down because of how shaken I was. And this feeling took about twenty minutes to pass.

That night, I offered to buy pizza for everyone -- and ordered extra so that there would be plenty. We brought the pizza home, and started to share it around, when Trent went to the kitchen to get some dishes for the pizza. And noticed that the dishes weren't clean. The ones that I had put up. It seems that they have an old dish washer that you absolutely must pre-wash everything before sending through the cycle. I have a new one and no-prewashing is necessary. I had forgotten that the old ones needed that to wash well. The dishes I had put up had not been washed yet. I had looked at them, and they had seemed clean, except for one or two more obvious items that I repacked into the load I had washed. I apol0gized multible times, as I heard Trent and Laura going through all the dishes to fish out the ones I had put away. I offered to wash everything up tomorrow but since I was the guest and perhaps not wanting a repeat of the same disaster wouldn't allow me to help.

At least Laci liked the pizza.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Finish of the first day

Day one cont.

We got back to Laura's house in the early evening, where she showed me her home. It was marvellously eclectic, with surprises everywhere...yet it all seemed to work. For example, she has live fish on the wall in bubbles in the bathroom (a half-bath attached to a whole bath--first time I had seen that arrangement.) In the room where I slept, she had put up pictures that spoke to her - hundreds of them in no particular order except to her. Tons of books, just like me, arranged in a fashion that made sense to her but without her telling how she had sorted them, I never would have guessed it. She had a lemon tree, an orange bush, and other flowering trees in her backyard, along with a pool that was being used by the neighborhood frog for a dating site. All of these touches made for an artistic, flowing sense to her home. Even on my last day, I kept finding artistic things or influences that I had not noticed before -- and I have a good eye for detail. There were Chinese influences with Mayan and Modern Art. There were lots of plants, growing or not growing-- her motto on that "Only the strongest survive..." Yet, I did not feel out of place in her home. She told me later, that Abigail,my other daughter, was the first overnight guest and I, the only more than one night guest they had ever had. They are jealous over their privacy and basically never invited anyone there before. I feel honored that they trusted me enough to let me in. I tried to be a good guest and respect their space...but there were a couple of misteps that I will mention later.

Her house is about the size of mine, 1600 sq. feet, but I was astonished to learn that they bought it for about half a million dollars. That they had managed to purchase for less than the owner had wanted due to the whole housing bubble bursting. Wow. Our home is worth about 70,000 so houses in CA are about 10 times what they cost here. Ouch! How does anyone afford to buy a home? If Laura's husband not had a trust fund from his father, they would not have been able to do so either.

Laura was concerned that my being there would disrupt her sleep routine, and told me how fragile it was, and how necessary to her work. Yet very easy to get off track, and how hard to get back on it. (I am exactly the same, so I did understand. I am just lucky that I work at home so it doesn't matter when I sleep, nor does my boss care when I start work.) So her plan was to have me stay the first night, then put me up in a hotel for 3 nights, then back at her house for the rest of the visit. But this plan was not able to happen because her brother was suppose to help her with the reservations and he went incommunicado after the second day of talking with her about it.

I promised her that I would not try to keep her awake past her bedtime and to respect Trent's gaming time on the sofa (another concern of hers) as well as the winding down period that she needed before bedtime in order to get ready for bed. For the most part, all that was successful. I had to tell her three times the first night to 'go to bed', even though she still wanted to chat--and because I did that, she felt like I could stay and not be a disturbance, so I ended up staying all the nights with her. There was also a plan for me to rent a car, but that wasn't needed either, which gave me money to do other things with later in the week.

We had a funny conversation that first night, where she said, "do you remember where you said you wanted to wait until you came before you bought us gifts...?" I said, "yes." She goes, "I know what I want, if you are willing, I want to get a tattoo." I told her that if I did not have to pay for the motel or for the rental car, I would have more money for things like tattoos..." And I left it at that, because we had already broached the subject of my possibly not having to get a motel room. I had never been asked for a donation to a tatoo fund before...

Oh, Laci. I completely forgot about her. I am not crazy about dogs in general. I get to like dogs after a while, after I get to know them. Laci was a rescue dog that Laura and Trent had adopted and after a year still had a lot of fear issues that they had been working with her about. A mutt with Labrador influences, white all over except for two lines of eyeliner black around her eyes, 50 pounds maybe, and a little over knee high, she was a beautiful dog. Would act friendly towards newcomers, but if you reached to pet her, she would suddenly become a barking, fearsome beast. Laura would have to dominate her to get her to quiet down (The dog whisperer is her hero) and then Laci would be okay as long as you ignore her completely. She barked at me a little the first night, and after that, only if I startled her unexpectedly. By the last day, she was allowing me to pet her for longer and longer periods. Giving her multiple pizza and cheese crusts helped quite a bit with the process, which she'd take delicately out of my hand. On the next to the last day, Laura had to tell me that Laci had stolen one of my uh, used, undies...and that she had found it gnawed on in Laci's dog bed. After that, Laci treated me as one of the pack.

I told Laura later, that she could have just trashed the underwear and I never would have known the difference... Maybe, by next year, when my embarrassment has faded a little, I'll find the story funnier. Well, actually, it is a funny story *now.* Except, I wish it had happened to someone else....

More to come.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Day 1 cont.

Did I show people my Astor pictures? Why, yes, I did. To Mr. Santa, to a traveling business woman, to the man on the plane. And on the way back-- I show moderation and restraint by showing what I had left to just one woman who was waiting for the flight back to Little Rock with me.

Mmmm, okay, while I did travel first class and I didn't have to pay for things like snacks and drinks, earphones or a blanket, etc. I found that I didn't really need all that and it wasn't worth the whole lot extra I paid for it. I met interesting people but I would have back in economy as well. I appreciated the extra room in the first class seat, but the seat belt was more snug than I would have liked. The Red Carpet club helped me more than anything else.

Laura was a bit late for picking me up. We had had a conversation about my arrival that Sunday and as a parting shot she said, "See you Thursday." I interjected, "No, see you on Tuesday." We laughed about it but waiting for her, with my bags already claimed from the baggage claim...all I could think was, "Not Thursday, not Thursday." But she got there before I totally panicked and all ended well.

I do have a confession to make. On the last leg of the journey, when that fellow traveler asked me about what I did--I said I was a writer. (That's not the terrible part.) Oh, really, he said, would I have read any of your work? No. I said, ...and proceeded to make a story about my non-existent career and my non-existent, I grant you, that most of what I said was true. I have been published, I have won prizes, but I don't have an agent, or been published by any publisher with major imprint. I lied, *was* first class and I had always wanted to fly first class, and be a famous writer, and well, telling him I was a wantabe and hadn't broken that glass ceiling of having a novel published by a major publisher...okay, fill in the rest, and let's move on. I only feel a little guilty about it, because ...because the rest of what I said was the truth.

Now Laura, she is my biological daughter that I gave up at birth for adoption. I have been blessed with an open adoption and have had a real relationship with her all of her life. She's been to my house, and now this visit to hers. Phone calls, while not regular, tend to be long and full of laughter. We have a bond, but its not like that I have with my other daughter. I love her, and she me, yet not like parent and child...more than friends, less than parent and child. She and I are very similar. She told me that she thought she was unique in the world since nobody in her family was like her, and then I come; that it was disconcerting that here was someone so much like her. Not the totally the same, but enough by the end of the visit, that we were picking up thoughts from each other.

We have talked about the whole adoption thing and she doesn't hold it against me, nor is angry about it. For me, it would have been worse if I had not had that contact, and knowing that she was being well taken care of. I have run out of time, so more of day one, tomorrow.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Trip- day 1

I just got back from California. Each day was full of activities and outward centered activities. The first day I got up at 4 in the morning and was a bit irritable at my husband, which, poor guy doesn't deserve, but I always get that way when I am anxious about what I am doing. We said good-by at that choke-point at the Little Rock Airport, and then I went through the security checkpoint. I needed three buckets for all my things. I also had to take off my shoes. I felt like I was getting ready to go to prison. Then I bought breakfast and talked to a man who was a salesman and also played Santa. I talked to him until it was time to go on the flight. The first flight was very light in passengers. I talked to the person next to me and he helped to calm my nerves. *I figured out I hadn't flown since 9-11. I remember being able to see the pilot. Then at the Chicago airport, I found the Red Carpet Club and chilled out there a bit--again I could have free snacks and drinks, until time to find my next connection (this was in Chicago.) I did not have a seat mate on this flight, which was actually nice. I received a chicken sandwich with a slightly wilted salad. The sandwich was tasty. On the flights, I had the option of having whatever I wanted, and as much as I wanted. (I was flying first class.) I basically drank orange juice and ginger ale. More tomorrow.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Off to Californa

I am all packed up and ready to go to California to do the Stanford research on Col. Astor. These are the Shaftner papers and there are some references to Col. Astor in them. Enough to get excited about, but not so much that I'm drooling over it.

In true Geek fashion, I charged up my ipod, my laptop and my nook before I bothered to pack my clothes. I start tomorrow at a very early 4 in the morning (to wake up) and have to be there by 6. An hour for the drive to the airport. Ugh. Who can tell me who the person in the room is that is most definitely *not* a morning person. Especially, when this morning begins at 4 a.m. I will take some pictures and post them, when I come back -- expect them about a week from Friday.

Along with the research, I will be visiting with my daughter (see...I'm such a historyophile that I mention the research first as well.) This will be my first chance to see her in her own element in California. I am looking forward to the experience. California is not like Arkansas...very unlike Arkansas. That might deserve photos as well...

Well, I'm tired--I've been cleaning, packing, repacking, and trying to not to go to sleep so I can go to bed early this get up early tomorrow, but that makes me a space cadet ignore any part of this that did not make sense.

Till next Week.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Photo

I found a new photo today of JJ on E-bay. He's the one driving the car on the top photo. I believe it is from 1902. He's got his chauffeur with him, just in case of some dirty work, I suppose. :) Those early machines were prone to break-downs and flat-tires. All those machines had to carry a lot of spare parts--like 2 extra tires, some carried 4. Then extra parts in a tool-box that came as standard equipment strapped to the running board. Glad we don't have to do *that* anymore. Cars were expensive to maintain and to run...and John had 26 in America just before he died. He converted the stables under his house to a car garage to house his New York collection. Both wife one and two knew how to drive. First Mrs. Astor had one of the first electric runabouts. Okay, that's as much as I I plan on getting to know more about the early autos, I just haven't gotten to it yet. I still have so much to learn. I am still reading my stack of newspapers--but it ought to go faster now and perhaps I'll even be done in the next day or two. I hope. Then the newspapers into the folders, then to get it into the computer. I know I keep harping on that, but this project has been so almost feels like for every 'bite' I manage to take and get down, two more show up to take its place. This was suppose to be a months research that...and now two and half years later...I'm just getting done with the newspaper printing out...and putting away. I am still amazed that photos keep floating up in E-bay. And all these little tid-bits about JJ in various books, each one I had to go seek out and find out if it important or relevant. Sooo, this is actually an exciting place to be...the getting it all together, making the finial push before having to ***OMG*** TO WRITE TTTHE BOOK. That will be scary.
On a less serious note...I found the camera cable and learned how to transfer photos. (Guess where I found it, ....nope...not there...not there either...It was within hands reach, within sight, on my filing cabinet. I'm only been looking for the cable for about 4 months.)Which means that I can now take photos of my own and be a better blogger/list owner...well, a more interesting one when I do go off traveling. Hey, I might even get a follower or two. Nah, that's really wishful thinking.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mabel Mercer

Sometimes, in my reading of these old newspapers, I come across stories that I wish I knew how they ended. Like today--I found a story about a girl in 1907 that at 18 was considered still a child in Pennsylvania but of age in NY. Her father disapproved of who she was engaged to, so she ran away to NY and became an actress in order to support herself. Her father came, told her that her mother was dying and put her in a convent for being incorrigible. She escaped with the help of her fiance and was back living in NY. Spunky, right...but what happened then? Did she marry the darling fiance? Did she reconcile with her father? What happen to Mabel? I don't know. And a search revealed many Mabels and I can't be sure which is her. I did not find a marriage announcement, but that doesn't mean she didn't marry her fiancee when he too, finally, became of age. *Argh!!!*

I come across stories all the time that I want to find out if the child survived that fall, or if this person or that person managed to do what they set out to do. All these stories, and I won't ever find out without some really hard digging. Really, really hard digging. I don't have the time to research every single one. But I want to. I really really want to, sometimes.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

More work...

The next week or so is going to be taken up with reading that 2 foot high of newspaper articles, culling out the duplicates, and putting the rest into the binders. I was looking forward working with my books, and putting the references into files...and this mundane bit of housekeeping has to be done first. *Ugh.* It's only virtue is that I can lie on the sofa and read while marking the relevant parts. I have to read them to spot the parts that might be useful later. Time consuming, but ought to save me time later,...I hope. Most of it is just about Mrs. Astor and what she is wearing and how beautiful she is...and where John Astor is off traveling to. I know now that the marriage is beyond repair, and they are basically living separate lives. Yet, still sad to know that they were forced by societal demands to make that sham work.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Last Three Percent

I have declared myself done with the newspapers. I could work more, looking for small and there. Yet, when is enough, enough? I am pausing here to admit how scary it is moving from the intake of information to the assimilation of information. Later, I will have to put my assimilation of information into something coherent. Something that other people will want to read. That will be the most scary part of all of this. I think I hesitant because this step is the safest step. You cannot get wrong the information stage -- as long as you keep looking. I still have items outside of the Internet to research--that I have to travel to get to, but I meant, this part...the gathering of what I can find easily. The first 80 percent or so is easy. Like studying for a test in school, there is that learning curve. The first 60 percent is incredibly easy--stay awake in class. The next 10 percent -- do your homework. A little harder, granted but no bloody noses by doing that. To get into the eighties-- well an extra hour with the ol' textbook and maybe make a set of flashcards. Make them but not necessarily use them. But to make an A, up in the nineties, that takes work, real work. Several hours with the textbook, all homework done and understood, flashcards used until you get them right the first time. Hard work. Very hard work. That is where I am now--do I keep going and maybe work another month (or year) and find, maybe another article or two that I can use or say, time to move on. I could spend another year looking under every single rock and boulder and tin can, to really find everything...and I mean everything, but would that be a way of distancing myself from the real work? The writing of the biography? The work that others will see, and judge. Another year of research might make the book better or it might just provide another year of hiding out. Am I working for that A from a B or am I just avoiding the really tough work? And that finial moment of judgement.

I am going to move on, even knowing that I don't have every scrap of information yet. I still have to look into the divorce, and see if I can't track down the descendant of Mr. Dobbyns, Astor's secretary....The work is still messy, and fluid, and undefined. I just don't want to be one of those people who keep working on a project and never get done. Done is scary. Done is admitting that a work is the best you can do. But Done also means that you can move on to something else. Something else that could be even more profound than this one. More creative, more yourself, and reach even higher than the last. I would much rather be the author of 10 very good, finished, published books, then the almost author of one incredible but unfinished manuscript that is still a work in progress after 20 years. I have to finish so I can move on, even if there are a few more small strings I could track down. Even so.

Monday, February 8, 2010


This is always the saddest part of my research. When I get to the funeral of John Jacob Astor, I always want to cry. This man, this honorable man, who lived his life on his own terms, who tried to live his ideals even when it got hard, gone. He didn't let others opinions of him keep him from doing what he wanted or needed to do. This in a time when reputation was everything. He did a lot of good with his money, and not just by giving it to charity. He stepped up and gave of the things that were important to him. Smart, eccentric, generous. Col. Astor still had a lot of life left in him.

Still, the most important he did might have been to die on the Titanic. As I research his life (and death)...his being on the Titanic brought it to the forefront of society that if 'lessor' people had died on it, wouldn't have brought as much notice. Congress got involved and insisted on lifeboats to equal all passengers and crew. So in later ship accidents, more lives were saved. How long would this obvious safety feature taken to catch on if the Titanic not happened? I am not diminishing the other deaths on the Titanic, just that Astor's death brought even more attention to the tragedy...than if he had not died there. He was an important man in society. More than a lot of authors give him credit for being. As I was researching his life, there were at least 10 articles per month about him, even more in his later life. The papers followed what he did, even more than Gates or ?? in our times. They reported on his yacht movements, his dining out, what his wife was wearing, etc. And this is not counting the scandals of his divorce and remarriage. There weren't much else scandalous in his life, no murders, no thefts, etc. yet I have 30 binders of newspaper articles on his life and I still don't feel like I know everything about him.

What is one man's life worth? He did not choose his death; his death choose him and yet this sacrifice keeps on serving others. Something about the Titanic draws people to it, even myself. It keeps teaching powerful messages of equality and of worth of the individual life.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Up to Titanic

I am currently up to the Titanic section of the life of JJ. Astor. Of course, every paper had major coverage of it, and I have to search all through the paper to make sure I get all of the pages related to the disaster. I am soooo close to being done with the newspaper part of this that I am tempted to just keep on this project and to heck with the rest of it yet, I have to keep perspective on this. There might be another 2 thousand pages to be printed out. I might be able to get through 500 in a day...I still have time on this, I am not going to be able to be done in a day, even if I worked all day on it. It just isn't going to happen. Anddddd, the goal is not to finish this particular work but to be a historical fiction writer, so I have to keep working on all aspects of this, not just this one part. This time is very important, and I must not rush it. If I rush, just to get finished, I might miss important things along the way. I know, now, that it is not the Titanic that has fascinated me so much but the stories on the Titanic, and how did the people face this overwhelming disaster, and cope with the loss of people that they loved. The Astors are only the beginning of this. I don't know what I will write about when all of this is over, but I have a feeling that this work has only just begun.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Astor's Beechwood

This is Beechwood. John Jacob's place in Newport. It was his mother's home first, but he stayed there a lot except for the occasional times when he rented another home for the season. He inherited it when his mother died, and Vincent Astor inherited it when his father died. They use now as a reenactment place with actors taking the place of the Astors. It is also one of the places I plan on seeing when I go to Newport. I plan to tour it twice. Once, one day and then go back and see it again the next. The first is to get an overview and write out descriptions of the place, then go back and fill in any gaps. This is for the book, well, both books I should say.

I found more proof today that the Astors had not planned to come back on the Titanic, even knowing that Madeleine was pregnant. The plan was to tour Europe until the end of May and come home then. The fire at Rhinebeck has to be what brought them home. Makes me wonder who started the fire.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Trips all planned out.

I spent the last two days planning my trips. First to CA in March. Then to Biltmore, WA and FL by train in May. Bar Harbor and Newport, Ferncliff, a museum in Vermont, and maybe NY in August. All for research, looking for Astor. Then the Titanic trip in 2012. Whew! What a lot, but I will have looked as hard as I can, as wide as I can, and as much as possible for all the things related to Astor. I hope that this book will be considered the definitive work on him! And all this because I didn't like what I found in the books on him. I have such a totally different opinion about him, then when I started. I hope that if he read it, he would recognize himself in it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Titanic Memorial Cruise

I have just put down a deposit on a Memorial Titanic is the details if you want to go look...: &intPackageID=641">>&intPackageID=641

I'm excited and flustered and excited all at the same time. I can't wait!!

As I was talking to the travel agent, she told me that there were a lot of interest in the cruise, and that people had already snapped up a lot of the cabins. Writers, past-life people, and others were going to be there. I bet I will find a lot of kindred souls there.

I can't even begin to express how I to pay it all off.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Vincent gets a new car.

Just a reading day. I am reading (and marking) pages from 1906. Two new things I learned today: 1. Astor was in another car accident that threw him out of the carriage and in the path of a truck. He managed to get out of the way before it could strike him. 2. Vincent won first prize in Mathematics at St. Georges with a 98 average. The highest ever. Dad was so proud, that he bought his son a 12,000 car to be ridden in over in Europe. He would have been 15 or 16 at the time. Nice gift....

Friday, January 22, 2010

I am not sure of the date on this photo...but it was the first 'candid' photo of John Jacob I ever purchased. (sorry about the watermark--I haven't scanned in my photo, and the mark is from where I purchased it.) I learned several things from this photo--one- he was nearly bald at 45 (or so.) Two--that he was far-sighted, see how he is holding the letter down a bit to read it. And Three--look at the cuff of his pants, one is rolled and the other unrolled, as if he had gotten interrupted in the task--maybe by the letter. Still a pretty cool photo.

Oh, I realized after I posted it, that my assumption about him dying his hair after he met Madeleine (or maybe before) was true as well. He is definitely a bit gray in this photo and looks older, yet older pictures of him -- he looks non-gray and a lot younger. Or maybe it was just getting rid of the first wife that did it!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New photo...

I ordered a magazine off of E-Bay that had a picture of Astor and fiancee in it. I ordered it sight unseen, because I didn't have time for the usual email back and forth about it. I knew it could have been the one of them in the car, together (I dislike that one) or better, it could have been the one I got outbid on in that other magazine.

So, the magazine gets here today and it turns out to be one I had never seen before in either magazine or newspaper! *Doing happy dance!*

She is in a white dress, and he is carrying her coat. Aw. I know, it would be more of an 'aw' for you if you could see the photo...but I haven't had time to scan it in. I haven't decided if I want to keep it in the Magazine or cut it out or scan it in, and keep the Magazine intact or what....

Decisions, decisions....

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Minor Bump.

I am so close to being done with the newspaper printing close, and as Murphy's law dictates -- What could happen, did happen. First was that an on-line newspaper source just completely disappeared. Poof! Gone. No clue why. Okay, I'm cool with that, not happy, but cool. Then, when I am within a (print) year or so of finishing, my toner on my printer gives out! Argh!!!!!

*Sigh* Yes, I did order more toner which generally takes a week to get here...and luckily for me, I have plenty to do still at this stage that I can do to keep myself out of trouble. I will be reading all these pages that I have printed out. I end up discarding about 2/3 as duplicates or not relevant, so it is a worthwhile endeavor to go through them. Less to file, and less to have to input into the computer. Alright, I confess, the last set of papers, I just jammed them into the right folders without reading and kept on when I go back to these folders, I will be forced to read and willow them then. ....Yes, I am a lazy heifer at times.

Can you tell how much I want this stage to be over with? I would be within a week or so of finishing this part if my toner hadn't given out on me! Argh! I only change it a week ago! Stupid Printer...stupid obsession...nice Mr. Astor. Okay, I am better now.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A clearer picture...

This is that picture from the Vouge Magazine that I bid on and lost. I really wanted it. I wanted to take a magnifying glass to it and see all the little details that can tell you so much. Alas, I didn't win, but I am keeping an eye out for another magazine of that issue...Any one happen to have this under their pillow? Or under their mouse pad, not doing anything and wouldn't mind donating to an Astor crazed...I mean Astor addicted..ah, Astorophile?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The rest of the New York Yacht Club photos...

I found this photo in a newspaper...and while it is not clear, I like how you can see Col. Astor smiling. They aren't touching but it clear that they are together and happy. :) Nice to know.

These two bottom ones are from LOC and are part of the set that were taken at the New York Yacht Club at Newport. I like when I find photos of the same day, you get different views and hints of things going on. I just noticed that Astor and Madeleine don't seem to be sitting quite so close. Mom is there in the big hat.I wonder who that is across from mom. No way to know...yet. I am looking for a magazine that published the first photo and it might give details I can't see here. I got outbid on E-bay. I never know if it is another Titanic fan or an Astor seeker, or if they bought the magazine for the hats? But I wish they would let me ask the other bidders on E-Bay on certain items...and if they had wanted just the hats, I would have gone halves in acquiring the photo, because that is all I wanted from the Magazine...*Sigh*

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Favorite Photos

These are the two photos that I like best of Astor. In both, we have his son, the one on the bottom, he's a bit younger and the one on top, obviously he's gotten his growth. Mind you, these are suppose to be two years apart but I bet that it is more like four, to account for the growth of his son.

I like the one on bottom, because it is the only one that you can get a clear view of his face. (He hated reporters and getting his photo taken.) And in it, you get a hint of his intelligence and humor. The upper one, there is an ease in his stance that I think is a direct result of divesting himself of a harpy wife. Sorry Ava, if you weren't, but most reports say you were a terrible wife to him in his later life.

I did newspaper research tonight on 1909...which he got his divorce and I got a hint that there was another woman involved, they spent a lot of time being driven in his red automobile -- she a twice divorced woman, and he, well, a man with a reputation of being a rake. Later, she had rubies and diamonds that a 'Colonel' had given her that were much more expensive than she could afford...that got 'lost' and the 'Colonel' advertised and got back for $25,000 dollars. Mmmmm, that's a lot to offer for jewels that had to be worth much more than $25,000 (Half a million in today's money.) Not many people could afford to pay this once, let alone twice. There were other women mentioned, but no names published. In other papers, they said the particular woman was only there to fulfil the legal requirement of adultery -- the appearance-- and not necessarily the actual act. So a divorce could happen.

I do think he played around, but I don't fault him for this. Ava had a talent for cutting him down and they fought quite a bit before they separated for good. It's said that Ava did not want to marry him, but was pressured into it by her parents. I don't think that is a good enough reason to make your husband's life miserable. And for so long. She wasn't very kind to her son, either. Ah, off of this, I think I said all of this in another post.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I saw a newspaper after the divorce, Col. Astor was going on about how the sea air had gotten him well...'haven't had a headache, a weak stomach, or a dizzy spell in weeks'...

Mmm, I think Ava kept the old blood pressure up. And the divorce got rid of the main source of his misery--literally. It would explain why he looks so good in later photos. Healthy, happy, and positively glowing. I thought it was Madeleine, but maybe not being around someone who kept the stress up helped a lot. Maybe.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Not Jack...

Have you seen this photo?
I have on various sites. It is supposed to be the last photo of John Jacob Astor (the old guy on the far left) before he got on the train to go to the Titanic. Yet, a couple of things argue against this being Jack. One is the appearance. Yes, it looks like him...but in a general sort of way. Like a family resemblance. Like Waldorf Astor would have had. Go ahead and compare him to the other photos of Jack here....Go ahead, I'll wait.
Now if that wasn't enough to convince you...that is a picture of the English train to the take passengers in England to Queensland. Awww. the plot gets thicker... John Jacob (Jack) Astor got on the ship in France. That's a might bit far to take a train...don't you think? I have seen the caption on this photo and it clearly stated that this was taken in England...
Lastly, Waldorf Astor went to the train station to see some friends off that *were* going back to New York via the Titanic. Now this, you'll have to take on my word. I saw the information on the send-off before I started to do this research and can't remember where I saw it. Dang! Sorry. Yet, just a general once over and a comparison of a known photo of Jack with this one and it is obvious (at least to me) that these are not the same person. Go find a Waldorf Astor photo and the resemblance will be uncanny . . . okay, I don't usually give homework...but if you do, you'll see what I mean...annnnd you've get that smug feeling deep down in your chest whenever you see this photo tagged wrong. :) That's worth the digging, don't you think?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

JJ Astor and what the heart wants...

I thought it might be interesting to write about different unusual photos of Col. Astor that I have. This one I acquired from the Library of Congress...

Admittedly it isn't all that clear, but that is him on the dock on the right. Madeleine is probably the girl in the sailor suit in the middle of the group. That was a typical outfit for a teen-age girl in that period. It probably made it all the more obvious about the age difference. But as my husband has said, "The heart wants, what the heart wants..."

I have seen other couples with extreme age differences before and after the Astors. So I don't think the public 'outcry' was really about that...or that he was so rich and she so young. I read a theory that the newspaper reporters, stung over the fact that he cut them out of the divorce scandal very neatly and completely, used his engagement to this young girl to get back at him.

In a way, the newspapers did have a powerful influence over the minds of people -- so perhaps this idea has some merit. I heard one person say later that if the reporters hadn't caused the scandal to be so much more than it was, that the Astors wouldn't have even been on the Titanic at all. That they originally had no plans to get married so quick, that the hounding of the reporters quickened up everything. If they had not married that September, then no honeymoon to go on, and no Titanic ship to come back on the following April. I certainly wish that they could have gotten the time to know each other as they could have, to have the privacy to be happy together. Of course, the irony is that if they had had that privacy, I never would have know about them at all. I only learned about the Astors through reading about the Titanic disaster.

Still, I would trade all of this obsession, and 3 years work, for them to have the next twenty years together after the Titanic went down. For them to have been a "typical" family and had a chance to have a life together. I want that for them, even knowing how it all ends.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Back from Nebraska

I am back from Nebraska, bringing with me, a small cold. What a way to start the new year. I made a deal with my husband for him to take care of the house while I worked on my book. I hope to finish my book before the month is out. But I've got to get the research done. I am on the last leg of the vertical research. That I can get done in 12 days. After that, I will get the outline of 09 to 12 done, (not a deep one-just an outline with important dates and some friends identified) then I will correct my book as far as time line goes. You know I was going to stop for the day on the printing out but I think I will go ahead and the next year done. A few days concentrated and that will be done. Then I can do the outline...and then correct the outline...I could do what I said I would do. I could, couldn't I? I've got 10 days before my husband goes to school--why not use it well. It's not that much more.