Malabar Farm

Malabar 088Malabar 092 About 80 miles northeast of Columbus in Lucas County lies the exotically named Malabar Farm. This 1000 acre farm was the home of writer Louis Bromfield. In his time, Bromfield was a Pulitzer Prize-winning, best-selling author and screenplay writer. He was also an early environmentalist who advocated sustainable farming practices.¬† Additionally, he was world-traveler (the farm is named after the coast of India) and a bit of a gadfly who hosted loads of celebrity friends at the farm. Apparently he made his guest work when they visited, and James Cagney liked to run the produce stand (produce stand sign is the first picture) when he was at the farm. Most famously, Bromfield and Malabar hosted Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s 1945 wedding. Because why wouldn’t Hollywood royalty want to get married on a gorgeous Ohio farm? ūüôā

A friend’s master’s practicum involved archiving and cataloging 9 boxes of photos from Bromfield’s estate for OSU. For that friend’s birthday a few weeks ago, we went on a trip with him to tour the farm.

Malabar 084 Malabar 054We toured the “Big House” and it was interesting. The tour was pretty chill and I felt like the access guests were given was unusual -we could pretty much poke around most of the house as we worked our way through with our knowledgeable guide. Built by Bromfield in the late 1930’s, the 32 room house is large but relatively casual. It was clearly intended to both be the main residence on a working farm and to host scores of guests.

The main entrance was the fanciest bit, here’s one of the double staircases in it:

Malabar 034Otherwise, it looked like a fairly modest, lived-in, well-loved place. Malabar 047

I especially enjoyed seeing Bromfield’s office. The giant semi-circular desk was pretty sweet:

Malabar 044Apparently, Bromfield’s neighbors weren’t quite sure what to think of the fact that the home was built with a bunch of bathrooms rather than having an outhouse! Here’s one of them, hard to imagine something so mundane was a sensation to the area farmers at the time.Malabar 045

Bromfield was well know for his love of his dogs, boxers. They were even featured in a liquor ad, the art for which was hanging in the office:Malabar 043

Other notable art found in the house included 2 Grandma Moses pieces. Also? His eldest daughter painted this:

Malabar 046After the house, we toured the barns and took a tractor-pulled tour of the farm, all of which was lovely. Malabar 052

Malabar 055Malabar 074Malabar 072Malabar 056The Lucas County Ohio Bicentennial Barn was located on the property:

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This pretty much says it all:

Malabar 050An absolutely lovely day-trip!

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Gild My Ride, or Why the Stax Museum is Awesome

We made sure to leave plenty of time to tour the Stax Museum of American Soul Music on our last morning in Memphis. Driving into the parking lot we immediately knew we were in for something special: it was immaculate and there were speakers blasting some very danceable soul tunes throughout the lot.  And the speakers had great sound quality to boot. They were robust and clear, not sad and tinny. This was not going to be your average museum, kids.

281 Stax started out as a small Memphis record store housed in a former movie theater. It grew into an amazing record label, launching the careers of artists like Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, the Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett, Luther Ingram, Albert King, the Bar-Kays, Booker T. & the MG’s and more. You might not have realized it, but trust me, you’ve heard a lot of songs from the Stax catalog. The museum covers Soul as a musical genre, so there is plenty on Motown Soul legends, too.

This museum was fun! And jammed with history. Tours start with an excellent short documentary about Soul. I especially loved seeing the footage of several legendary Soul icons talking about how much they’d looked forward to the Grand Ole Opry growing up, about how their whole family would stop everything to tune in to the show. There was something unexpected and delightful about hearing Isaac Hayes sharing his love for the Grand Ole Opry. My mind just hadn’t equated Bill Monroe and Shaft in quite such a fashion, you know? The role of Country and how it influenced genres like Soul and Rock actually seems pretty obvious if you listen to the music, but I don’t feel like I hear Country getting the credit it deserves from people my age (or younger). Somehow that connection seems a bit lost, and it was refreshing to see props given equally to Gospel, Country, and Blues as foundational elements of Soul.

Following the movie, visitors guide themselves through the museum at their own pace. On exhibit are many expected sights.¬† But in addition to things like stage costumes and instruments, there are plenty of thoughtful, less-obvious extras. There’s an entire old one room southern baptist church that was taken apart, transported from the Mississippi countryside, and then rebuilt inside the museum.¬† Above the pulpit inside the church a television plays vintage footage of Sister Rosetta Tharpe rocking out gospel songs on her electric guitar… in a very similar church.¬† It’s a space and a moment that brings the Gospel roots of Soul into sharp, surprising, and palpable focus. I love that they dedicated the space that they did within the museum to bring that point to life.

That’s one of the signatures of this museum: bringing things to life and putting them into historical context in a very inviting, tangible fashion. Another such moment? There’s a room decked out with lights, a large dance floor, and a disco ball where old episodes of Soul Train are projected floor-to-ceiling on one of the walls. Nearby signage talks about the synergy between radio, television, concerts, and the music, and about how each provided inspiration for the other. Further on there’s an amazing space where you can pop on some headphones and listen to the entire Stax catalog…well, not all at once. But still. Awesome.

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Isaac Hayes memorabilia.

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Check out one of Tina Turners’ stage costumes!

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Dance along with the Soul Train footage if you’re feeling bold.

The Cadillac.

The Cadillac.

 

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Record store boy heaven.

This place takes you on a real journey: you find yourself dancing to the amazing music, awed by eye-candy like the pimped out splendor of Isaac Hayes’ gold-plated Cadillac, and then choked up by straightforward reminiscences like one shared by a DJ from the first black radio station in the United States, Memphis’ own WDIA, about how he helped get segregation laws that prevented black ambulance companies from helping anyone in need, regardless of color, changed (because of segregation, the black ambulance workers weren’t allowed to cross color lines even in cases of dire emergencies) after talking about the issue on air.

The balance between lighter, pop-culture stuff and heavy, profound social history is managed deftly. To be able to go from novelty oven mitts (“If it’s too hot to handle, it must be from Stax”) to one of the white members of the biracial Booker T. and the MG’s talking about the impact Doctor Martin Luther King Jr’s slaying had on their band is a tall order, but the Stax Museum pulls it off.¬† This is history that doesn’t feel medicinal. It’s vibrant and immediate.

So what I’m saying is, get yourself to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. It is small but mighty.¬† Your time will be well rewarded. Plus, admission is totally reasonable, the stuff in the gift shop is fun, the bathrooms were pretty lovely, and, as noted earlier, even the parking lot was cool.

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I leave you with footage of the aforementioned gilded Cadillac that belonged to Isaac Hayes. This thing was decadent, and I don’t know when I’ve ever looked at a car and thought, “I want to get in that car barefoot and go cruising”. Hold on til the end for the wicked great sign…

Sun Studio: Where Rock Got Born

201It sounds like hyperbole, but it’s not, not really. ¬†706 Union Avenue in Memphis Tennessee holds a very special place in the history of Rock and Roll (and Country, for that matter!). ¬†It is the location of Sun Studio, and it is where seminal music was recorded: ¬†Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash, to name a few. ¬†It all started here.

It’s small, but if you’re a music geek, you gotta stop by and pay your respects. ¬†The AV Club has a cool little piece about Sun here: ¬†http://www.avclub.com/articles/memphis-sun-studio-home-to-elvis-presley-johnny-ca,56984/

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Memphis had quite a few oversize guitars, compared to most cities. Here’s the one at Sun.

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Sun Studio, parking in rear.

Random side note? The driveway you need to use to get to the rear parking mentioned on the side of the building? Super narrow, easy to miss, and generally has people standing in the middle of it whilst they take pictures of the building or pose by the building, just like my husband is doing 2 pics up. We drove right past it and parked on a parallel side street.  
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Gotta love that the sign for fans of the King is right in front of a pic of the Killer.

Another random side note? My husband and I were lucky enough to see Jerry Lee Lewis in concert in Mansfield, OH (seriously, how random is that???) back in 2008. Hell of a show. He was 73 at the time and was positively electric. It was a master class. He absolutely put performers 50 years his junior to shame. Incredible.

Going to Graceland

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Graceland

It would be hard to be in Memphis without being aware of Elvis’s ties to the city. The two sorta go together like peas and carrots. So naturally we had to make a pilgrimage to Graceland while we were there…sorta.

We decided to forgo the mansion tour. Partly because doing so would have taken hours.¬† The lines across the street looked orderly but insane. But also? The whole thing is just such a racket! With the cheapest option coming in at $33 per person to tour the mansion, plus $10 for parking, we’d have been out $76. (There are even pricier options for the √ľber fan.) Poor guy, dead 35 years and they’re still pimping him as hard today as Colonel Parker ever did. I like a kitschy Jungle Room as much as anyone else, but we just weren’t feeling it that much.

Going to gawp at the exterior satisfied our Elvis cravings plenty. There’s a nice (free!) pull-off area directly in front of the mansion walls where you can get out, soak things in, snap some pictures, and then be on your way. We could even see the Lisa Marie (Elvis’s plane) across the street. Perfect.

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The rockin’ gates of Graceland.

The Lisa Marie.

The Lisa Marie.

The graffiti left by Elvis devotees outside of the mansion is omnipresent and pretty interesting, we enjoyed looking at the tributes and messages folks had left for the king.

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Even the Historical Marker outside of Graceland is covered in graffiti. I think they finally wised-up and covered the metal in plexiglass so they can periodically scrub it down more easily.

Darlene Perez (and many, many others) loves Elvis!

Darlene Perez (and many, many others) loves Elvis!

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A portrait of the King.

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Another portrait of Elvis. I assume!

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Greetings from Graceland!

Mosaic Menagerie

Ventured out to catch the “Marvelous Menagerie: An Ancient Roman Mosaic From Lod Israel”¬†exhibit at the Columbus Museum of Art before it leaves town. ¬†This large and stunning mosaic was unearthed during a road expansion project in Lod, Israel in 1996. ¬†It is believed to have been created around 300 AD. ¬†It was reburied until funds were secured to properly preserve it, which happened in 2009. ¬†After its U.S. tour (exhibitions at 5 museums), the mosaic will be put on permanent display back in Israel, so I really wanted to make sure I saw it while I could.

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It was wonderful.  And very macho.

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The mosaic teems with all sorts of exotic animals- many of them either being devoured or, conversely, hunting their prey.

CAMmosaic 014I had fun trying to imagine the sort of Ancient Roman semi-psychopathic tycoon who would have commissioned this for the floor of his villa! ¬†(In a very Stewie Griffin-esque voice) ¬†“Yes, well, that’s nice, but how about some more blood, some more images of domination, let’s add some more of that, shall we?”

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“There we are, that’s the stuff.”

All kidding aside, the mosaic was very impressive. ¬†There was so much movement and vitality. ¬†The level of detail was incredible. ¬†And there’s something so tactile about a mosaic, you can’t help but imagine the hands that worked on creating it, the feet that walked across it. ¬†When they were removing the mosaic to preserve it, they found foot and hand prints from the ancient craftsmen who created it in the bedding layer underneath the tesserae. ¬†It didn’t photograph well, but there was a chunk of this bedding stuff with a footprint on it displayed as well. ¬†Shivers. ¬† Just too cool.

Also cool?   I liked seeing all of the different kinds of fishes that were depicted as well as the stylized undulations of the geometric borders.

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CAMmosaic 013To learn more, check here:   http://www.lodmosaic.org/home. If you get a chance, I highly recommend stopping by the Columbus Museum of Art to see this treasure.  Hurry, the exhibit ends 1/13/2013!

Up North in Northfield

My husband and I traveled out to Minnesota last week.¬† First we stopped to see my sister’s family in the suburbs of Minneapolis and I finally got to share Northfield with him!¬† It was nice to show him some of the places I’ve enjoyed on my last 2 trips there, plus we made some discoveries together.

Enjoying a cup of java at the best coffee spot in Northfield: the Goodbye Blue Monday Coffee shop.

The simply named “Antiques of Northfield” antique store includes a bonus: it is also a television lamp museum! Back in the early days of television, it was thought that a small lamp on top of your set would alleviate any eye strain from watching the tube. I’ve never been able to tell if this was a real concern, or just clever marketing.

The store claims to have over 1000 television lamps- and they must, easily! They ring the upper part of the store and are grouped into themes (like bulls and matadors, flamingos, dogs, and so on). It was an example of how having so much kitsch in one place, displayed thoughtfully, can elevate it all. The whole was definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

My husband was quite charmed by the popcorn cart out on the town square that is run by the Northfield Senior Center. Alas, it was too early in the day when we passed it.

This is the last bank the Jesse James Gang attempted to rob. A bank employee  resisted and was gunned down, a gunfight with the townspeople ensued, and the gang fled. It was the beginning of the end for the gang, read more here: http://www.djjd.org/ .

Some of the lovely homes we saw strolling around Northfield.  (Click any to view full-sized.)  And we also saw this church:

Minnesotans will be voting on a state constitutional amendment this fall concerning whether or not to ban gay marriage.  It warmed my heart considerably to see this church taking a public stance against the proposed ban:

While I’m not very religious, I’d sure consider becoming a part of this congregation if I lived in Northfield on the sole basis of how much I appreciated seeing them support equality in this way.¬† I hope the measure to ban gay marriages in Minnesota fails this fall, and I really liked this commercial, opposing the ban, that we saw while we were up there:

Coming up next:  Nest Lake!

 

A Little Modern Art from the Met

The Modern Art section of the Met was quite enjoyable.¬† Somehow, after all of the older landscapes and portraits, the more modern stuff was very refreshing.¬† Not to say that I don’t enjoy the older stuff, but there was something minty and wonderful about this part of the collection.

I especially love “The Innocent Eye Test” by Mark Tansey, on the left.

“Kouros” by Isamu Noguchi, 1944-1945, struck me as very playful. And it slyly references the Ancient Greeks, so clearly there is much to love!

“Bohemia Lies by the Sea” (oder “B√∂hmen liegt am Meer”) by Anselm Kiefer, 1996 was somberly beautiful.

“13/3” by Sol LeWitt, 1981 reminded me a bit of the Wexner Center for the Arts, located on the OSU campus.

My husband was particularly taken with “Attic” by Willem de Kooning, 1949.

“The Banquet of the Starved” by James Ensor, 1915, was a fascinating nightmare vision.