Austin City Saloon

Review

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The Austin City Saloon, located in the heart of beautiful downtown Corbin, Kentucky, is a pretty cool place to eat. Just opened. Hostess one of those beautiful Kentucky girls you hear so much about with long blonde tresses that fell to the small of her back. A million dollar smile and tight blue jeans. Step this way she purred as she strutted her way among the tables in her high heeled cowboy boots. Food was good but the service was slow and the country music was so loud you couldn’t think. But I did call my hostess over a time or two for a little tete-e-tete which took away all the pain. Bottom line. Yep, I’d go back.

Vincent van Gogh: His Life in Art

Museum Exhibition

On a recent trip to Houston, Texas my step daughter Kim and I had occasion to visit the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. This is something I always do when in Houston as the museum here is world class and they always have great exhibitions. This time was no exception. On exhibit, much to our delight, were the paintings of Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890).

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Vincent van Gogh, Self Portrait

This exhibit highlights the artist’s early years in the Netherlands; his luminous period in Paris; his search for light and color in the South of France; and his exploration of nature as a source of enduring inspiration in Saint-Rémy and Auvers.

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Street Scene in Montmartre Le Mpulin a Poivre, Feb.-March 1887

The exhibition showcases portraits, landscapes, and still lifes drawn primarily from the collections of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, the Netherlands.

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In the Cafe: Agostina Segatori in Le Tambourin, January-March 1887

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Basket of Lemons and Bottle, May 1888

The color yellow held a particular fascination for Vincent van Gogh. Experiencing the intense sunlight of the South he once wrote his brother Theo, in Paris, “Sunshine, a light which, for want of a better word I can only call yellow – pale sulfur yellow, pale lemon, gold.”

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Portrait of a Prostitute, December 1885

Van Gogh, who lived with a former prostitute for years in the Hague, was particularly sympathetic to these women cast out by society.

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The Langlois Bridge at Arles, 1888

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Still Life with a Plate of Onions, January 1889

This picture was painted the day after Van Gogh was released from the hospital where he was being treated  for the self inflicted injury to his ear. The book in the painting is a handbook of homeopathic medicine and the envelope belongs to a letter he had received from  from his bother Theo.

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Tarascon Stagecoach (La Diligence de Tarascon), October 1888

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The Sheaf Binder (after Millet), September 1889

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Peasant Woman Binding Sheaves (after Millet), September 1889

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The Good Samaritan (after Delacroix), May 1890

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Portrait of a Peasant Woman in a Straw Hat, June 1890

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Women Crossing the Fields, 1890

Van Gogh had seen these women walking and described them in a letter to his brother Theo just a month before he died. It was in one of these Auvers wheat fields that he shot himself with a revolver on July 27, 1890.

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Farmhouse with Two Figures, 1890

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Irises, May 1980

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A Pair of Leather Clogs, autumn 1889

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Tree Trunks with Ivy, July 1889

Feeling to weak to live Van Gogh checked himself into The Saint-Paul-de-Mausole mental hospital at St. Remy. in May 1889. He was allowed to paint out of doors, but was confined to the garden of the hospital where he painted several versions of this sous-bois of tree trunks and undergrowth.

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The Garden of the Asylum at Saint-Remy, May 1889

There is little doubt that Vincent was a talented genius and a tortured soul. These  magnificent master works are on display for all to see at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts through June 27.

 

PINK HOUSE!

The Story of a Victorian Mansion

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On one fine day in May I was strolling through one of old Louisville’s beautiful “walking courts” with my good friend and trusted side-kick Victoria Mansion. When much to our surprise we came upon a phenomenon down toward the end of the block for which neither of us was fully prepared. A Pink House! Now this wasn’t any ordinary sort of pink house it was an extra fancy with raisins sort of pink house. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t a house at all but a palace.

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What caught our interest was a small gathering on the porch. Everyone had a drink in their hand and seemed to be having a good time. Come on in, they beckoned. Well it was just too hard to resist. Turns out it was an open house put on by a local real estate agency. The old Pink House was for sale!

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Now let me tell you what they had to offer for refreshments: beer, whiskey, two kids of wine, cheese and crackers, and sushi. Well, we came right on in and helped ourselves. We were invited to explore the house which we did.

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A little of the history of the place. The “Pink Palace”, circa 1896, features beautiful period architectural details and a massive turret. The entry foyer and elaborate and ornate staircase are impressive to see as you enter the front door. You will see quarter-sawn “Tiger Oak” floors and woodwork throughout and magnificent stained and leaded glass windows. The “turret” rooms are located on each level of the house are as you might imagine round and filled with light. Great for sitting or reading.

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This glorious mansion began its history as a Gentleman’s Club and Casino for the male residents of St. James Court and Belgravia Court to relax and unwind. They enjoyed a good cigar, brandy, stimulating conversation and cards, as well as other past times including the services of  ladies of the evening.

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The Gentleman’s Club was in existence for only a few years before it was sold to the local chapter of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union who bought the mansion for  their headquarters and promptly painted the red brick structure pink. Hence the “Pink Palace.”

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It is said the Pink House is haunted by a friendly ghost named Aviary.

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He only appears at times of danger to warn the residents…

You can see Aviary in the mirror above the fireplace.

It was on a very merry day in May…..

 

 

 

NIAGARA FALLS

Road Trip

Once upon a time in a land faraway (New Jersey) I made a road trip with my then wife Robin to Niagara Falls. On the way we made a stop in Corning, New York for a business meeting which justified our trip.

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We traveled in my new convertible Crossfire which could go from 0 to 100 in under 10 seconds. It came equipped with it’s own green frog whose name happened to be Kermit.

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We stayed at the Embassy Suites Hotel on the Canadian side.

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While walking around the downtown area of Niagara Falls we sort of wore ourselves out. Robin commented that if I was a few years younger she would make me pick her up and physically carry her back to the hotel.

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I responded that if she was a few pounds lighter I would pick her up and carry her anyway. She laughed and I laughed and we both had a good laugh.

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Next day we went out to the falls which were nothing less than spectacular.

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She Came to Stay

When I was in London recently I had occasion to stay at the Thistle Hotel. In the morning as I was having breakfast my waitress came over to offer me more coffee. Sure, I said, I’d love some. As she refilled my cup she glanced down at the book on the table which I had brought with me to read. She look back at me and then in her best English accent asked me, “Well did she?”

Of course to her I was the one with the accent.

“Did she what?”

“Did she stay?”

At first I didn’t know what she meant. I looked at her and then I looked at the book and then I look back at her again and then in an instant of recollection, understanding, and reckoning I said, “She did indeed.”

My waitress beamed a self-satisfied smile and flitted off to the next customer to offer them some coffee.

The next day I was off to France to drink a toast to the author of the book, Simone de Beauvoir. This I would do at the fabled Cafe De Flore in Paris.

But I still had another day in London so I thought I’d spend it at the British Museum.

Elephant Walk

On Safari in Africa

On this spot in 1989 Kenya burned 12 tons of ivory worth over three million in U.S. dollars.

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Nairobi National Park

According to then president Moi, “To stop the poacher the trader must be stopped and to stop the trader the final buyer must be convinced not to buy ivory.”

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The tusks that were burned represents more than 2000 elephants  shot and killed over a four year period.

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Hotel Serena, Nairobi, Kenya

TONY’S WAY

Philadelphia Story

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There are a million stories in the semi-clad metropolis and this is one.

Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, and in each neighborhood there is a distinctive culture or ethnicity.  Each neighborhood has gradually become more mixed and diversified. In South Philly you have the Italians, in Fishtown the Irish. West Philly and North Philly are predominantly black. In Center City you see the greatest diversity, but it too has its own characteristics. In Kensington, where Tony’s Way is located, it is mainly Spanish, as in Puerto Rican. Tony’s Way is a little Puerto Rican bar nestled below the elevated Blue Line in Kensington.

I lived in several different neighborhoods in Philadelphia. For a while I lived in Fishtown in a little house across from the Palmer Cemetery.  Fishtown is a neighborhood that adjoins Kensington.  I  would sometimes walk over to the Blue Line to take it into town. On the way back home when I arrived at my stop and descended the steps from the “El” I would find Tony’s Way beckoning to me in the darkness. So one night I hustled there inside.

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I stepped inside of the brightly lit cantina and immediately was blasted with the sound of Latin music blaring on the jukebox and uproarious laughter.  The joint was juking and very colorfully decorated with tinsel and streamers and signs of various descriptions. Very festive. The bar was in the center with seating all around. Behind the bar were a pair of barmaids in cut off jeans and tank tops.

I stepped up the the bar and ordered a shot of tequila and a Corona. That was what everybody else was drinking. I had a couple of rounds then stepped back into the night and walked home.

Since Tony’s Way was right on my way as I walked back and fourth from the El, I started to become a regular. I would go over in the afternoons sometimes and on the weekends. One day I was in there having a beer and a shot when Tony walks over to me and introduces himself.

He gave me a broad smile and stretched out his hand which I took. He had a strong grip.

“I’m Tony,” he said. “This is my place. Welcome. If you ever find you have a problem here, you see that large fellow sitting over there in the corner? That’s Ricardo. He’s my cousin. And do you see that other fellow standing over there? That’s Edwardo. He’s my other cousin. You just call one of them over and he will help you.”

He smiled again and patted me on the back and strolled off to greet the other customers. That was how it was at Tony’s Way.

One Friday night I walked over for a little entertainment and to see if there might be some Puerto Rican girls just dying to meet me.

There was line to get in.  So I queued up and waited my turn to be let in. As I was waiting I noticed there were a couple of bouncers at the front door. They were frisking people, as in patting them down for weapons, before they were allowed in. Now this wasn’t too unusual for Philadelphia so I didn’t think too much of it at first. When It came my turn they just waved me in.

So I entered the establishment and walked around the bar to the other side so I could keep an eve on the door.  I ordered my usual: A shot of Jose Cuervo and a bottle of Corona with a lime wedge.

I got to noticing the way the bouncers were frisking the patrons. A guy would step up to the door and they would  frisk him and then they would wave him on in. A couple of girls would step up up and they would get waved through. A guy come in gets frisked. The girls get waved through.

As I’m watching this it slowly begins to dawn on me, hey! Wait a minute, I didn’t get frisked. What’s up with that? They must not have thought I was dangerous enough to frisk.  Now in Philly, it’s not enough to look tough. You got to look dangerous too. So this was beginning to bother me a bit and I was feeling a little slighted if not insulted.

I turned to my fellow barfly sitting next to me and relayed my tale of woe to him. He said, relax, they probably just know you.

Ohhhhh! Yeah! I never thought of that! Well, I felt a whole lot better then and enjoyed the rest of the evening.

I moved away from Philly a short while after that incident. First to Trenton then back home to Kentucky. It’s been about 10 years since I had been to Tony’s Way, but I always had fond memories.

Recently I had the opportunity to travel back to Philadelphia on business, and while there I wanted to visit some of my old neighborhoods and stomping grounds

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The first thing I noticed was the sign was down So I was’t sure if it was still Tony’s Way or not. I stepped into the bar from the bright sunlight and waited a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the light. I sat down on a bar stool and ordered a shot and a beer. I looked around and things looked pretty much the same. It was early afternoon so not too many people were in there. My eyes came to rest on a familiar character who was sitting across the bar from me reading a newspaper.

I  finished my drink and walked around the bar and approached the man reading the paper.

“You’re Tony aren’t you? I don’t know if you remember me or not but a few years ago when I lived in Philly I used to come in here. You were always very nice to me. I’m in town for a short visit and I just wanted to come by and say hello.”

“Yeah, I remember you,” he said. “Your hair was a little longer then. What happened to you?”

“I moved away.”

“Where did you move to?”

“To Kentucky.”

“To Kentucky?” He started laughing, Why’d you move to Kentucky?”

I explained I had family there and that was my home state, but he couldn’t get over the fact that I moved to Kentucky.

“Hey Angelina!. Come over here.” He waved the barmaid over. “This guy used to come here all the time, but he moved to Kentucky.”

“Kentucky?!!!”  Then she started to laugh.

She moved away from us and took another customer’s order who had just sat at the bar. And she told them what Tony had said and they laughed.  Then the people sitting next to them started laughing and shouted,  “Kentucky!” when they laughed. And pretty soon the whole establishment was laughing and shouting Kentucky! And no one was laughing more than Tony and me. But after a few minutes the laughter eventually died down, but it did not die down entirely for a long time for always at this table or that  a new area of laughter would begin.

I drank free that day.  Of course I suffered the next day from a hangover.  But it was definitely the best day of my trip.

MATATUS

Public Transportation in Nairobi, Kenya

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Busses in Nairobi are called Matatus. They are painted bight colors and are loud.

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70% of the population use them for transportation. They are cheap and convenient, but like everything else in Nairobi, they are chaotic.

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The name comes from Swahili meaning three. It is unclear as to three what, but it is commonly  believed it refers to a coin worth about ten cents which would equate to 30 cents per ride.

 

Of Cell Phones, Lap Tops, and Books

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Young Parisian couple, about a generation apart, one reading a book the other a cell phone.

Before there were cell phones there were laptops. Before there were laptops there were TV screens.  Before there were TV screens there were books.  I’m reading a book right now, which is what I am usually doing. You would be surprised  how much trouble I used to get into just for reading books. I have been called anti-social. Bosses didn’t like it.  One of my wives tossed my books out into the backyard into a mud puddle. And my own mother come into my room one day, and tipped my bookcase over, spilling my books out onto the floor. What was a poor boy to do?

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Most of the time nowadays people don’t seem to care much if I am reading a book. They are too busy with their own noses stuck into their cell phones.

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Next time you get a chance, try reading a book. Remember, Mark Twain once said, those who do not read have no advantage over those who can’t read.