Monthly Archives: September 2022

Cycling through France!

Susie Kelly and her husband Terry cycle through the countryside of France in The Valley of Heaven and Hell: Cycling in the Shadow of Marie Antoinette. She is riding an electric bike while Terry pedals a regular one as they travel 500 miles in 17 days. Susie takes us on the ride with them as she sprinkles in tidbits of French history, battles, and new green spaces that now cover former tragedies. 

Initially, we see them start out in Versailles and cycle to Paris and stay at a hotel close to the Gare du Nord (train station).  Then, they set off and cycle halfway across France. She has studied the life of Marie Antoinette, so she consciously traces the steps of the lives of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. Through Susie Kelly’s descriptions, we can see her as a young Austrian child-bride used as a political pawn by her stern mother. Young Louis had a hard time accepting his married state but over time, they learn to love each other, mourn their lost children and nurture the remaining two children. The oldest daughter, Marie-Therese survives the Reign of Terror and tells the tale of what happened to her family, 

As Susie and Terry cycle through the various French towns, she humorously gives descriptions of the hotels, eateries, and the characters that they encounter along the way. There are several “laugh out loud” moments and she is even able laugh at herself when she thought she could not continue the feat. Once, she overhears an absurd conversation with a child who continually asks his parents why about six times. Amazingly, he received six full explanations and Susie just shook her head in the other room.  

They follow the plight of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette from the prison at the Tuileries all way to the guillotine where Louis is beheaded long before Marie Antoinette. Her wait time continues as well as her suffering until her final moment finally comes. Again, Susie tells the tale with such lightness as she goes back and forth from their time in the late 1700’s to the present. She allows her readers to enjoy the beauty of the French towns, cathedrals and other pristine moments and takes us back to a more in-depth tour around into Paris. I am so happy that Val Poore recommended this book!  

Sainte- Chapelle of Paris

Lynn M.
September 24, 2022

Bullet Train: A Movie Review

Seeing Bullet Train was a great escape for me and certainly two days after the Queen’s death. I needed to be on a different stratosphere for a few minutes and I was convinced that Brad Pitt could get the job done. He always brings a light touch with a slight sense of humor and of course, there is his undeniable charm.

In this caper, Brad Pitt (Ladybug) is a hired assassin in Tokyo, Japan. Once he enters a speeding bullet train, he is not able to get off because the action moves at the same speed as the train. It is non-stop. Several colorful characters, who are also passengers on the train, have their own agendas. They clash leaving dead bodies often in a grisly fashion, but still with a comedic twist. There are a lot of bumps, bruises and contact fights while all of them are in pursuit of the silver suitcase which houses the loot.

Ladybug regularly answers his ringing cell phone with his female handler on the other end who consoles him, encourages him and gives him his orders. In between calls, he runs into a host of other assassins who have their own varied methods of execution. He just wants to get off the train as viewers get a peak into modern Japanese culture and technologies. There is a memorable children’s car with human, disguised Disney-like characters who may well be another combative assassin.

Towards the end, few are left to tell the tale as Ladybug finally gets off the train after it crashes and burns. The woman that had kept him grounded on the phone then shows up and it is a shocker as she makes her cameo appearance. I won’t reveal her identity here.

Bullet Train is a great way to forget about the real and present world for a couple of hours. I crunched through a huge bucket of popcorn long before the excitement was over and it was worth every cent!

Lynn M.
September 20, 2022

There in Spirit!

I had always meant to get to London during Queen Elizabeth’s lifetime. As an English major who taught Shakespeare and studied him in college, I thought I would get there in time. I had always planned to add  a trek to Stratford-Upon-Avon while there.

As children, we sang “London Bridges…, my Fair Lady.”  I could see Big Ben in my mind’s eye as I read Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. I hear the phrases from English Literature classes such as Lady Macbeth crying, “Out! Out, damn spot,” as her guilt overtook her. Or I hear Hamlet pondering the validity of his existence in his “To be or not to be” soliloquy.  We had to recite that speech in front of our Shakespeare classmates taught by the indomitable Dr. McMillan at the then, Chicago State College.

When I taught Macbeth to tenth graders, my coworker Glenda and I loved his speech, “Bring me no more reports!” For he knew that it was just a matter of time before Macduff would find him and exact revenge for the murder of his family.  Or I think about Julius Caesar’s look at his friend during the moment of betrayal when he turned and asked, “Et tu, Brutus?”

Thus, I thought I would get there while Queen Elizabeth reigned, but I did not.  However, over the years I have watched several documentaries on how she conducted business, interviews and meetings with heads of state. She timed her meetings with them and simply said “Otherwise, the meetings would never end.” This is a simple, but powerful fact and great food for thought in our business dealings.

Yet, I was blessed with a wonderful piece of memorabilia. I was temping as an Executive Assistant at Gillette in Boston.  A coworker told me that she was going to London during the Queen’s 50th Jubilee. I was so excited for her because she was a woman of color and able to attend this historic event! I asked her to bring me a memento and she concurred. She brought back the above stationary card of Queen Elizabeth II by Andy Warhol which she purchased at the Victoria and Albert Museum Main Shop.

Also, as a young child in Detroit, me and my sisters were all Christened and given what we called God names from women in the Bible. Mine was Elizabeth, though this Biblical woman was the cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus. That was another special connection that I had to Queen Elizabeth who became queen when I was about two and half.  Quite like most people, she has been on the throne for all of my cognizant life.

Someone said that this loss is a seismic shift for the world because this is a person whom we thought would always be there. It is comparable to me losing my own grandmother, who we assumed would always be up there on Alma Street in Memphis. But when she was gone, there were shifts in the family dynamics but mostly there was a huge hole that no one else could truly fill.

So no, my liege, I did not make it to the UK during your lifetime, but as long as there is life, there is hope. I still plan to go the UK one day, but just know that I am already there in Spirit during this sad time.

Lynn M.
September 17, 2022

Queen Elizabeth II: A poem

The Queen taught me grace and stability,
Her long reign enhanced my ability.

Her commitment to duty and to serve,
Her country and the world make us bow, curve.

Good manners and soft-spoken, but succinct,
Her many words of comfort? Now in ink.

She set standards for this unruly place,
Yes. Her mere example makes a strong case!

*Rest in peace, dear Queen Elizabeth II

Lynn M.
September 10, 2022

Serenaded by Babbie Mason

Babbie Mason

Sometimes people don’t know what they mean to you because you have never verbalized it. This post salutes Babbie Mason, an inspirational singer and songwriter that helped me on a daily basis. I was listening to the Moody Bible Church radio station in the late 90’s while living on the north side of Chicago.

I was feeling uncertain about my life and my future and then this woman’s voice came on the air. She started singing and for me, time stood still. She talked briefly and said that she had flown into a foggy Chicago night sky, but she felt that she had to get there, no matter the weather.

That was how I was introduced to the moving music of Babbie Mason. Shortly thereafter, I moved to the East Coast and landed in Boston for four years. I went to a music store and purchased her CD’s. They sustained me as I sorted out many things in my life through my daily promenades.

I did not have a car while in Boston, but I walked daily often with my headphones on, and my portable CD player attached around my waist. And Babbie sang to me. She comforted me. She reassured me. She boosted my confidence and mostly, she gave me hope and my faith increased. Her songs are not the traditional ones, and she has added her own unique spice from her personal observations of life.

In her song, God Has Another Plan, she wrote:

“So, when the rain falls hard
And the storm winds come
And you think it will never blow over
Trouble under your feet
Nothing over your head
And you find yourself running for cover
Oh, God has another plan.”

I listened to her as I walked the Back Bay area and circled the walkway at the Charles River.  And, after returning to the Midwest, I listen to her when I drive or on my iPad. She always gives me that umph and energy to press on. Babbie Mason offers that pick-me-up comparable to a smooth rub on the shoulder, once again letting me know that it is going to be alright.

The Charles River-Boston

Lynn M.
September 3, 2022