Friday, February 27, 2009

My Aunt's Recipes

My dear Aunt Loraine of Cincinnati passed away in 2007. She was closer than a mother to me, and a large and cherished part of my life. I miss her dearly and am so grateful for the many fond memories I have of times spent with her over the course of our lives.

Among my aunt's possessions passed down to me I found a recipe book she had been maintaining for many, many years. Weathered, worn, and rubberbanded to hold the many loose pages and clippings, it contained handwritten recipes, newspaper clippings, printed and typewritten recipe cards on everything from cardstock to the back of old maps and sticky notes. I smiled as I browsed through them, as many of them she had received from me, and there they were, stuck in her recipe book in my handwriting or within a card or letter I had written her. Many more dated back to the years she was working as a secretary for Puncheon Engineering in Cincinnati (where she met her late-husband and my uncle, Otis), as they were typed on old Rolodex cards from the firm's files. A meticulous saver, I can't say how many she actually tried for herself, but certainly all of them left an impression on her and a thought that "she might try that some day."

In her memory, I have started another blog: My Aunt's Recipes. It contains all of her notes, recipes, and helpful hints as I found them in the book. More for myself and a tribute to the memory of Aunt Loraine, I am working on the blog as I have the time. Quite a few recipes are up already, and the link is here in my sidebar in case you want to take a look or try a recipe or two. We also have another family cookbook that my Uncle George has compiled and maintained (The Matthai Family Cookbook link also in my sidebar), and some of Aunt Loraine's recipes are in there as well. (Uncle George, you can add any you like.)

Enjoy as I share my memories and tribute with you.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chicken Poop and Chasing the Furniture

Don't get me wrong; I'm a fan of Craig's List ( I've both bought and sold through it's venue. One can find quite a lot of terrific bargains, and it's fun to window shop as well. Of course, there are also those who believe it to be a fine, upscale mercantile through which they may sell their old, used, drooled upon, spilled on, soiled, 1990's Aztec/floral/geometric/wood-grain-like furniture for top-dollar because it's Ashley or Bernhardt and they paid $1800 for it originally. A good deal? Not so much.

But today I offer the lighter side of Craig's List: the ads that somehow make you giggle because you really don't know what in the world they are selling, or the grammar/spelling is so atrocious you actually have to read the ad to see if it's really something you want/need or not. For instance:

There's the ad selling CHICKEN POOP LIP BALM - $3. What in the world is chicken poop lip balm? I thought of my cousin Cathy ( when I read this; maybe she'll know.

Chicken Poop Lip Balm is actually made of all natural ingredients (so chicken poop isn't natural?) like soy, jojoba, sweet orange, lavender, and beeswax. No chicken poop whatsoever. It goes on very smoothly with a hint of lavender aroma, and quickly works to soothe and soften chapped lips (or put it on your elbows, ankles, anywhere you want softer, smoother skin). A novelty item, to be sure, but effective and a hot seller right now.

So how did it get its name? A little girl from Kansas grew up, designed the product, and named it after her grandfather back home on the farm. Seems when she was child, every time she would complain that her lips were chapped, her grandfather would threaten to coat them with chicken poop so she wouldn't lick them. Have you tried it, Cathy?

I wondered what 5 LIGHT CANDLE OPERAS were and found someone was selling "beautiful 5-light brass chandeliers." Perhaps the seller simply couldn't spell candelabra, which is odd since in my estimation, chandeliers is a much more difficult word to spell. Or am I the one in the dark? Is candle opera an acceptable synonym for chandelier? Perhaps. I googled candle opera and received 7,410,000 results! Most that I scanned were either selling candelabra or extolling the renown of some singer I also never heard of.

Someone in the business section is trying to sell this SCAFFLE. According to The Urban Dictionary (, to scaffle is to steal a small or insignificant object, or to steal something that belongs to someone who will not care upon discovering that the object was stolen. The definition denotes theft, but maybe not morally wrong theft.

"I scaffled a donut from Bob; he had too many to eat anyway."

Scaffle can also be slang or the street term for drugs and the drug trade. I don't think that's what this guy was selling. I guess a workman worth his hire doesn't necessarily have to know how to spell.

It's also very popular to sell a REFRIDGERATOR or FRIDGERATOR on the List, as well as CHESTER DRAWERS.

And for all the couch potatoes out there, one way to get your exercise is to get up and chase the furniture. You'll need this CHASE LOUNGE, of course!

And here we are: back at the poop again, poop of a different variety.

HORSE POOP FREE FREE FREE FREE FREE FREE! The writer says it's garden time, and he has a few stalls full of horse poop to give away, "if you need the poop." He cautions respondents to bring a shovel and plenty of muscle.

Like some of the ads on the List, it's getting pretty deep in here, so this is the end of this post.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fort Southwest Point - A My Town Monday Post

Not unlike many key cities in the South, Kingston, Tennessee, has a famous fort. Called Fort Southwest Point, it is the only Federal era fort in Tennessee being rebuilt on its original foundation. Now completed are a barracks, a blockhouse, and 250 feet of palisades walls.

Fort Southwest Point began as a militia post known as the Southwest Point Blockhouse. The Blockhouse, which included a stockade, was built by militiamen in 1792 and commanded by Brig. General John Sevier. Constructed high on a bluff at the mouth of the Clinch River where it enters the Tennessee, it was located at the boundary of the Southwest Territory (Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio) and the Cherokee Nation, on the only east-west road between Knoxville and Nashville (known as the “North Carolina Road” or “Avery’s Trace,” constructed in 1788).

Sevier’s militia used the Blockhouse as a base from which to curtail hostilities between the Cherokee and Creek Nations and the white settlers heavily migrating into the Tennessee. In 1793, an attachment of regular Federal troops joined Sevier’s militia stationed at the Blockhouse; and by 1794, it was their duty to provide armed escorts for travelers journeying west through the Cherokee Territory from the Blockhouse to Nashville via Avery’s Trace.

With additional Federal troops being sent to Tennessee to control the escalating territorial disputes between the Euro-Americans and the Cherokee Indians, who still claimed the majority of what is now East Tennessee, Congress authorized the construction of much larger fort about ½ mile down-river from the Blockhouse. Completed in 1797, one year after admittance of Tennessee to the United States, the Fort was commanded by Colonel David Henley as agent of war and housed over 400 troops at its peak.

As the territorial wars were ended, the U.S. government shifted its role to that of protectionist with the Cherokee. The troops became the peace keepers as they escorted travelers across Cherokee territory, less in an effort to protect the migrating settlers from attack by the Cherokee and more to ensure the travelers did not illegally settle on Cherokee-owned lands. By 1801, the need for Federal troops was greatly reduced and Fort Southwest Point became the headquarters for a newly-appointed Cherokee Indian agent, Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs, who also served as military agent for Federal troops in Tennessee. By 1807, Fort Southwest Point had lost most of its more important functions but remained in use until around 1811, primarily as a supply depot for handling shipments passing overland from the east and then down-river to other posts along the expanding American frontier.

Fast-forward 150 years to the first archaeological investigations conducted at the site by the University of Tennessee in 1974 and 1975. The digs exposed portions of the foundations of six-foot buildings and netted a large cache of fort-period artifacts, as well as evidence of prehistoric habitation, including infant burial, storage pits, and sherds. The remains of a massive stone wall at the west end of the structure was also uncovered.

In 1984, the recon-struction of the Fort on its original site was begun as a cooperative effort between the Department of Conservation and the City of Kingston. As a result, the location of 13 buildings were positively identified and the Fort’s general plan was approximated. The most recent study done in 1996 by students from Roane State Community College along with the Department of Conservation revealed the details of a third major building, now known to have housed administrative and storage facilities.

Today one can visit the site of the reconstructed Fort owned and operated by the City of Kingston.

Situated high above the Clinch, Emory, and Tennessee Rivers, it offers spectacular views of Watts Barr Lake and the surrounding area. Visitors can picnic on the 30-acre site and see history come to life through candelight tours and period-dressed interpretations of life on the frontier.

An authentic 18th Century cannon is often fired at its events.

The Visitors’ Center examines the Fort’s vital
role in the westward expansion of America through an orientation video and many interpretive exhibits. The Fort today offers a learning adventure for all ages, with scheduled tours and special weekend events for the whole family; and it is free to the public (though donations are gratefully accepted).

And if you’d like a keener look into the past, keep your eyes and ears open for a ghost or two. Whether the spirits of some fallen soldiers on the frontier or the ghosts of some early settlers returning to stake their claims, they have at times made a surreal impression upon a few astute visitors who claim to have felt unseen presences or heard faint whispers and gunshots in the background.

“History of Southwest Point.” 21 Feb. 2009 <>.

Smith, Samuel D. “Fort Southwest Point.” The Tennesee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. 2002. The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville. 21 Feb. 2009 <>.

"Fort Southwest Point." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 16 Jan 2009, 07:28 UTC. 22 Feb. 2009. <>.

2002-2005 John Norris Brown. Part of
John Norris 21 Feb. 2009 <>.

*Fort sketch from:
Smith, Samuel D. (Editor) 1993 “Fort Southwest Point Archaeological Site, Kingston, Tennessee: A Multidisciplinary Interpretation.” Tennessee Division of Environment and Conservation, Division of Archaeology, Research Series No. 9., Nashville, Tennessee.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Handprints on the Window

Both of my sons, now grown, were “day-care babies” since the age of 6 weeks. Necessarily a working mom as a single parent for most of their early-childhoods, I would drop them at the center or the babysitter as early as 6:30 or 7:00 a.m., and not return to pick them up until 6:00 p.m. or later. More often than not, they were the first children to arrive and the last to leave. It broke my heart daily, but I learned in the process that God gives his children an extra measure of grace in the midst of the more difficult circumstances of their lives.

I learned many other lessons during those first years as well, although the message was not always immediately clear. Yet every day, I found renewed strength to be both mother and father, breadwinner and caretaker, nurse, teacher, taxi driver, cheerleader and disciplinarian, and all of the other roles a woman fulfills in the lives of her children. I learned to trust God for that strength, for many days and nights I went to bed and woke up weary, uncertain of just how or when our needs would be met, but always assured of His faithfulness to meet them.

Still today, when I have a tendency to doubt or to try too hard to direct the course of my own life, God tenderly brings those early years to my remembrance, to renew my faith and to encourage my heart. He used one of those such childhood images recently to vividly illustrate to me His desire that I come to Him with the faith of a child. For as I sat lunching with a dear sister in the Lord the other day, recounting all of my difficulities with my health, our schedules, our one-car-ness, and fears of the economic downturn, I suddenly recalled the faces of my little children at the daycare center 20 years ago, especially Aaron, my youngest, who at the age of two had great difficulty adjusting to my leaving him.

Although Aaron would cry and wiggle when I dropped him off, I knew it was momentary since I regularly waited in the hall for a few moments until his tirades ceased. Yet, every day for what seemed a very long time, as I returned to pick him up, I would find him with his hands and nose pressed hard against the daycare’s window, earnestly watching and waiting for me to appear, totally immune to his surroundings. All of the play and activities and children behind and around him did not interest him as he seemed to desperately hold on to the windowpane, as if letting go would somehow prevent my coming. It was only when I walked through the door that he would release his lifegrip on the glass. As vivacious and precocious as Aaron was, it saddened me to think he had missed out on all of the other activities of the day and the fellowship of his playmates that he might otherwise have been enjoying in order to keep his solitary vigil for me.

Then, slowly, as the days and weeks passed, I began to notice that Aaron wasn’t always at the window when I arrived. Sometimes, he would be just near enough to either hear my car or see me out of the corner of his eye, and sometimes he would not notice my coming at all until I walked through the door. Eventually, though, I would daily find him well-immersed in his total daycare experience, and I realized that at last he had complete confidence that I had not left him alone and that I would, indeed, return to pick him up.

So it is with our Lord, Jesus. From the very day that God places us in this world, he leaves us in the care of others: our parents, our teachers, our families, our friends, and ourselves. Yet, He has not left us, and He promises to return for us. His Word says that he has left His children another Comforter:

16And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
John 14:16 (King James Version)

Jesus did not leave His children abandoned, as orphans to fend for themselves. Instead, He sent another Comforter, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, one with Christ and one with the Father, to be our guide, comforter, advocate, counselor. Similarly, as I left my children in the care of others for a short while, those teachers and caregivers were all those things to my sons while I was away and until I returned for them. Over and over every day, my children learned to look to their daycare providers to meet their needs and to teach them. They learned to trust and depend upon them in my physical absence. And, they learned to rest in the assurance that even though they could not be with me physically, I was still with them and I would absolutely return for them.

1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
John 14:1-3 (King James Version)

My children soon learned they did not have to be afraid; they knew I would come back and pick them up. They were able to participate in whatever the day held for them because they could rest in that assurance. God has promised His children that He, too, will return for them, to receive His sons and His daughters to Himself, and that they will live with Him forever. As children of God, we need not doubt. God is trustworthy, and we can rest in this assurance, regardless of our circumstances, our emotions, or the state of the world.

At my luncheon yesterday, God really wanted to drive this lesson home; the lesson about the faith of a child: the pure faith that allows him to giggle and play even though he does not have the means on his own to provide for himself and cannot understand all that is happening around him. That child is secure in the trust that he’ll be fed, clothed, and cared for, protected against harm, cherished and loved. He doesn’t have to press his hands and nose against the glass waiting for rescue with bated breath. Just as I longed for my children to enjoy and engage in their everyday activities while I was away, so God wants his children to work, and play, and minister while we are on this earth.

I have been in a holding pattern for nearly a year, on a shelf, so to speak, wondering what God has for me next, without a specific ministry for the first time in 20 years, without a full-time job, and often alone with my children grown and my husband on the road. It has been trying, at the very least, and I have been pleading with God for answers. Now I see that his answer is, “Wait, daughter, with the faith of a child.” He does not want to see me, his beloved child, with clinched fists holding on for dear life, anxious and paralzyed with worry or fear. No, he wants me to enjoy this season of waiting, and to get as much out of it as I possibly can. He wants it to be a season of refreshing, a time for my health to be restored, a time to pursue other interests long abandoned for the responsibilities of raising a family, a time for spiritual renewal through Bible study, prayer, and fellowship with other believers, and a time for personal growth.

None of that can happen if I’m stuck with my nose and hands pressed against the windowpane. With the faith of a child, I will do well to remember that God has a plan for my life, a plan for good and not for evil, a plan with a future and a hope. My medical problems did not confuse Him; He didn’t run out of resources when my job ended; and He was not taken aback by the state of the economy or of the world. Jesus has given me the Holy Spirit to guide, comfort, and teach me, and He will come for me again.

3 And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and
become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:3 (New International Version)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My One Car World

With my son’s car still on the outs, we remain a one-car family and this is my one-car world. My son Aaron has the privilege of using the family van since he goes to school all day and works all night, and I “borrow” the van when I have to go somewhere. Although Aaron hates the van, and definitely prefers his small, fast car to an old-people’s vehicle, he will deign to use it under these dire circumstances. He does feel that I am putting him out, however.

Tomorrow is a must-do-errands day for me, and I have a doctor’s appointment as well. Since Aaron doesn’t have school on Fridays, he works all day instead, so my first chore is to leave the house at 7 am and take him to work in Oak Ridge, some 35 miles away. Too far for me to return home (think gas prices!) and do my errands locally, I will spend the day in Oak Ridge and Knoxville. Maybe I’ll take in some thrift-store shopping and wander through Stuff Mart. Plus side, see my other son before he goes to work and have lunch with a girlfriend, get all the errands taken care of in one day. Downside, all day till Aaron’s quitting time at 6:30 p.m. away from home, and I’ll probably have to sleep most of the day Saturday to recover. (Of course, a lot of people would finding sleeping half the day on Saturday a blessing.)

Trucking News

My husband was home last weekend for 3 full days after having been out for 20 days. It was good to have him home, although he spent most of his “down time” trying to repair our son’s car, which still does not run and now sits. At least dh is heading south this run, to Central Florida, away from the icestorms and snow. He passed through Savannah yesterday and was able to have dinner with our daughter and son-in-law. We haven’t seen them in almost a year, so he was glad to be able to visit, brief as it was. Today he is heading back the way he came, and it’s getting colder by the mile.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Town Monday: Penmanship Lessons - $3

In a digital age where flash-speed communication happens in the click of a mouse, the grace of a handwritten note or letter is almost just as rapidly vanishing. Emails, word processing programs, and texting have taken over.

Even in the public school system today, with increasingly demanding standards to be met and more emphasis being placed upon math and science, the importance of handwriting instruction is seen as negligible at best. While most students do have some form of handwriting instruction by third or fourth grade, still there has been a shift from the beauty of handwriting to writing efficiently. No more elegant lettering, precise loops and curves, and slant, but more of a modified printing called Italic. It is a style of handwriting that uses small “tails” to semi-connect printed letters. Yet most students, if given the choice, still prefer the computer keyboard to the pen.

So good penmanship, so important and defining of character when I, and perhaps anyone over the age of 40, was a child, is an all but lost discipline. And no longer vital to our successes in today’s business world, it is generally not featured in the course catalogs of institutions of higher learning or even adult education facilities.

Not so for the students of my town, Kingston, Tennessee, in 1857, who, according to an original document possessed by a Ms. Sandy Pierce, signed up for a commercial penmanship class. Ms. Pierce stated that the flourishes of the handlettering make the document at times difficult to read, whether the result of poor penmanship, hence the need for the course, or the extreme strokes of the Spencer method of handwriting.

(The Spencer Method was introduced in 1848 by Platt Rogers Spencer and became the basis of how all cursive handwriting was taught in the United States for the next 50 or more years—see the Coca Cola logo for an example. In 1894 Austin Palmer developed a less ornate but equally rigid method of cursive writing that became the norm for all public school students by 1925.)

But, I digress; back to our Penmanship Class. The registration document dated March 17, 1857, showed our mid-19th century students paid $3 each for 10 two-hour lessons in commercial penmanship. 21 students were enrolled in the class taught by a “J. C. (could be H.) Walker.” (It appears whoever prepared the document for signing needed the course as well.) That seems quite a large class to me. I could understand if it were “Windows for Beginners” or “Texting 101.” It’s all relative, I suppose.

I still prefer the cursive writing I learned as a child, even though I, too, have succumbed to the speed and efficiency of the keyboard for most of my own personal communications, save an envelope or a sticky note or two. I have actually received many complements over the years on how “pretty” my handwriting was (it has somewhat degenerated, I admit). I make it a point to send handwritten “thank you” notes and birthday cards, at least, so they are more personal than an email. Once in awhile, I will send a handwritten letter as well (it is a lost art I want to cultivate). And I have saved most every handwritten letter or card of any type I have ever received, and I cherish them. (When was the last time you received an email you cherished?)

Friday, February 13, 2009

. . . Then Comes Spring

I am urging spring along. It doesn’t really need my help, for already it is prying at winter’s shell to see if it might poke through. Only last Friday the warmth of day and cool of morning breeze lifted my spirits in anticipation of what is to come. Spring is hope, as God intended. I’ll not mourn winter’s death as I go about seeking buds and blooms.

And here I have found them in my own backyard, expected yet surprising. Reddish-purple buds beginning to split at their seams, like half-popped kernels of corn. Soon the tree will burst forth with flower, then leaf. First the Bradford Pears, then the Dogwoods, will come alive in a brilliant display of white and pink blooms. Every other bud and blossom and leaf and flower will follow.

The neutral landscape weathered and brown, like an old photograph, seeks to shed its weighty blanket for light, and life, and breath, fresh and new like spring.

So it is as the wild onions erupt from the hardened ground, green and wispy and pungent.

No, spring can't hide for long. Her secrets have already been gossiped across the land, and blossom by blossom, blade by stalk by leaf, she will appear in all her glorious splendor.
"The year's at the spring
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hillside's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in His heaven -
All's right with the world!"

Robert Browning

A Bargain at Any Price?

I saw this article on Yahoo! Sports today: Baseball granny cashes in big with sale of rare 1869 card. It first interested me because it was a Cincinnati Red Stockings baseball card (before they were just the Reds), and I’m from Cincinnati. Then, I noticed the card sold for over $75,000 on Ebay! Now why can’t I find something like that?

My husband is always watching Antiques Road Show, and he repeatedly says the same thing: “Why can’t we find that rare relic in our attic?” (We don’t have an attic.) Sometime ago we lived in a house that was nearly 100 years old and found the walls stuffed with newspapers from the early-1930’s, used for insulation I assume. They weren’t worth anything.

Some folks know I have a small Ebay store called
The Whatsoever Shoppe (banner to the right). While I’d like to say I’m a Power Seller, I’m not; but it is fun, and I have made a buck or two. Once I bought a used autoclave for $100 from a permanent makeup artist friend of mine and sold it for $650. Not a bad profit.

Bought several Fitz and Floyd Glass Fishes at an auction for $3 each; sold them for between $15 and $45 each. And more recently, I sold two 1960’s Jim Beam “I Dream of Jeannie” bottles that I inherited from my aunt and uncle’s estate and they brought $26 and $36, respectively, on Ebay. More often than not, though, like I said, I make a buck or two.

I’m so glad spring is on the way and yard sale season is fast approaching; in fact, the parking lots and roadside stands are already filling up. Hunting through thrift stores and the like is fun, but there’s something exhilarating about the outdoor scavenger hunt called a yard sale. Yard-saleing is big business in East Tennessee, and I expect it to be an even busier season this year because of the economy. Buyers and sellers alike are cutting corners and employing thrifty measures to both make ends meet and to conserve less and less spendable cash. I, for one, like a bargain, and sometimes even bring home something for myself.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Think I Saw that Movie

Sometimes ideas just pop into my head in the middle of the night, so I get up and write them down, mainly because I have trouble sleeping anyway, but also because maybe I’ll think of something to say. Tonight it was movies—really old movies, the ones I saw as a teenager or very young woman a l-o-n-g time ago. As they flash before me, I realize I didn’t really understand most of them then, not the plot, the statement they were trying to make, or the storyline, really. It makes me want to watch them again, really watch them, with a lifetime of experience and perhaps understanding, and a little wisdom thrown in, behind me.

No reviews here, as that would require some extensive research since I don’t much recall the movies and this was meant to be a quick post. But I do remember certain scenes and images even if I can’t explain the plot.

Dr. Zhivago – Omar Sharif and Julie Christie starred in the original 1965 version of this epic saga of the life of Dr. Yuri Zhavago between 1912 and 1925, the years that span the WWI, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the Russian Civil War. It also starred Rod Steiger and Alec Guiness. I was only 12 when I saw this movie, a very adult movie for such a young girl, especially one who wasn’t even allowed to cross the street by herself at the time. I had never even heard of the Bolshevik Revolution then; no wonder I didn’t understand the movie. I remember the magnificent scenery in the Russian winters, the “ice palace” and the frozen lake, and the gorgeous costumes, especially the furs. And who can forget the the enthralling music, especially “Lara’s Theme.”

The Godfather – Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 saga about the aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty who transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son. With major stars like Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, and Abe Vigoda, all I really remember is the horse head in the bed.

A Clockwork Orange – Directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1971 and technically a sci-fi movie since was set in futuristic London, it was billed as the movie “about the adventures of a young man whose primary interests were rape, ultra-violence, and Beethoven.” Starring Malcolm McDowell and Patric Magee, I fortunately don’t remember many violent scenes (I probably closed my eyes). Speaking of eyes, what I recall most vividly is the reconditioning of the young criminal by some new experimental aversion therapy that involved forcing his eyes kept open (with the use of plenty of eye drops) by some mechanical device as he was subjected to countless hours of violent images played before him. I never did understand the significance of the title; I might have been in a slightly-altered state of mind at the time myself.

Chinatown – Starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, it was Roman Palanski’s 1974 film about a private detective who stumbles on to a scheme of murder that has something to do with water and leads to a dramatic showdown in Chinatown. I know I saw this movie, but I don’t remember anything about it, except wondering how they all ended up in Chinatown.

The French Connection – Gene Hackman played Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle in this 1971 film about a couple of New York cops in the Narcotics Bureau who stumbled onto a heroin smuggling job coming in from France (hence, the French connection). I remember the car chase(s).

I still don’t really like spy and espionage-type dramas…way over my head, or attention span.

Then there were the “in” movies of the 70’s, the ones that sort of defined the decade.

Annie Hall – Woody Allen’s 1977 film about a neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer (played by his truly) and his love affair with the ditsy and equally neurotic Annie Hall played by Diane Keaton. My thoughts at the time: What could anyone possibly see in Woody Allen?

Saturday Night Fever – John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, 1977, scored by the Bee Gees. Already loved him; just wanted to see him dance. I have actually seen bits and pieces of this movie since the 70’s, so I recall more. Stuck in Brooklyn, the only way Tony Manero (John Travolta) feels that he can make something of his life is to become king of the disco floor.

Although I can still picture Travolta’s gyrations on the disco floor, I don’t remember the ending, but I do remember thinking how much my brother Jon (right) resembles him (still does).

The Goodbye Girl – By Neil Simon, filmed in 1978, starring Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason. A romantic comedy about an unemployed dancer and her 10-year-old daughter who are reluctantly forced to live with a struggling off-Broadway actor. In a sort of practical co-habitation, they end up falling for each other, which two-time-loser-in-love hesitant Paula (Marsha Mason) resists (hence the title, goodbye girl). I’m not sure there were any memorable moments in this one.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show – A real cult flick made in 1977 starring Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a scientist, and Susan Serandon, the heroine. Meatloaf was also in the movie. A recently engaged couple have a car breakdown in a isolated area and go to this bizarre mansion-castle for help. Transylvanians dance to the 'Time Warp', Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a mad scientist from the planet Transexual, builds his own man, a beautiful Adonis he names Rocky, and a whole host of participation for the audience to enjoy.

I was living in Miami, Florida, at the time, and I saw this with a group of straight and gay friends from work. While many fans went to the movie in full drag, my friends did not, at least not the time I was with them. (It was a movie to be seen over and over and over again, although I would not recommend it for a young person.) It was the audience interaction that was most fun as we took our bag of props with us to the theatre. For instance, you hear a loud “bang” and the couple’s tire blows, and at the same instant, everyone in the audience pops a balloon. The couple run through the rain to the castle while the audience squirts squirt guns at each other. Fans sang along with the songs and held lit cigarette lighters to light up the darkness. Ridiculous, eccentric, it was fun. The last lines of the movie as the castle and the aliens within it fly away:

And crawling on the planet's face
Some insects called the Ruman Race.
Lost in time,
and lost in space......
and in meaning...

Then there are the classics, movies I’ll love forever, and that I have actually seen many times but still want to see again.

Fiddler on the Roof – Made in 1971, with Topol as Tevye and Norma Crane as Golde, his wife. What’s it all about? One word: Tradition. Tevye sums it up in the first lines: “A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn't easy. You may ask 'Why do we stay up there if it's so dangerous?' Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!”

The music is glorious, and even though this movie took place around the same time as Dr. Zhivago, in pre-revolutionary Russia, I loved the story line of a poor Jewish peasant who had to contend with marrying off his three daughters in non-traditional ways while antisemitic sentiment threatened his home. It is a beautiful story of romance with a glorious musical score and memorable characters.

The Sound of Music - Made in 1965 with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, perhaps the best musical (or movie) of all-time. This is one you can hardly forget as it airs almost yearly now, like The Wizard of Oz, usually at Christmastime. A biographical saga about a nun turned governess who ultimately falls in love and marries a Captain with 7 children, it has everything: music, the stunning scenery, a basis in fact and history set in WWII Austria, romance, drama, comedy, adventure and suspense (a little). Loved it all, and will watch it again and again and again.

Cabaret – Bob Fosse’s 1972 musical starring Liza Minelli and Michael York. At the center of the movie is the Kit Kat Club. The club is the hub of Berlin’s lowlife during the rise of Nazism—an essentially immoral place where anything is for sale. While I do not remember anything more specific about the movie, I cannot forget Liza Minelli’s appearance in garter belts and bowler hat.

So many others, too many to mention, and you can see now why I just have to see them again—surely they all have much more relevancy than my memory alots them. Then, too, with the price of everything through the roof and the economy in such a slump, to put it mildly, good old-fashioned movie nights are an attractive alternative to nights on the town (not that I’ve had one in 20 years). Time to trade some DVD’s, pop some popcorn, and settle in for a family oldies-but-goodies movie fest.