Monthly Archives: October 2022

African Pieces~

Gem-stone necklace, coin purse & Ivory necklace

I took a few virtual tours on YouTube of Kenya after finishing Hemingway’s True at First Light and Susie Kelly’s Safari Ants, Baggy Pants and Elephants. Both books took me on safaris there, so I added a visual look into the rural countryside and on into Nairobi. Though each author had varying missions, both unmistakably loved the beauty of Kenya. I can easily see why each fell in love with this East African nation. 

Then, after listening to a Calm App sleep story about the South Africa’s Blue Train, I took a virtual ride on the Blue Train. The journalist was wise in that he muted all sounds and let the viewers feel as if they were riding the train with him and his traveling party. It is a luxury train, and they were treated like royalty as they enjoyed the scenic landscapes.

While in South Africa virtually, I thought about Val Poore’s books such as African Ways and African Ways Again. She has written very descriptive memoirs about her times while living there. So, I took virtual tours to Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, to name a few. I also thought of my new Twitter/Author friend Kalenga Mulenga, who is the author of 21 children’s books. He too hails from Johannesburg! 

I then ventured over to the lower western countries to Ghana. I had a wonderful teacher-coworker from there who used to calm me down by repeating, “No mind. No mind.” He was telling me to not give the upsetting things any attention. He has since left Chicago and returned to his homeland. I thought of him as I traveled to Ghana on YouTube. I also have a beautiful handmade fan from Ghana that I purchased at a bazaar, here in Evanston.  

I thought of the people that I have met through work and remembered a math teacher from Cameroon and a French teacher from Senegal. But most poignantly, I thought of one of my close friends that married a Nigerian. So, I added Nigeria to my virtual tour. I will never forget when her sister wrote and told me that she had moved there. I thought, “How brave!” She and I corresponded over the years and I had postcards from the University of Ibadan and the University of Ife, where her husband taught psychology. 

She often brought me gifts when she came home. As I viewed the Nigerian landscape, I thought of them as a young couple along with their three children. Two were born there. They are all grown up now and the whole family is back here in the States. There are simply too many stories to share about her years there in this short space, but I do remember the gifts. I had a snake-skinned or crocodile-skinned coin purse. I had it for several years and I kept a cross and some foreign coins in the front pouch. It stayed in the glove compartment of my car.

Then, I had a heavy necklace which her friend, Essie brought me. It was so pretty but nothing that could be worn with everyday wear. I wore it once to the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building in downtown Chicago as I dined. It turned heads and was indeed a conversation piece.  I also had an ivory elephant tooth necklace that I regularly rocked as I taught high school in the 70’s. The chain, however, was quite delicate, so I had to handle it with care.

And lastly, I had a long, colorful batik cloth with a woman standing and paddling a boat. There were several colorful fish underneath the canoe-like boat. It hung in several of my apartments as I moved around from place to place. However, during my nomadic life, I have lost these items, so I attempted to replicate them here in this drawing. They will be forever etched in my memory as I think of Africa, the Motherland!

Lynn M. 
October 29, 2022 

Love and Happiness!

The one and only Al Green’s records or shall I say, soundtracks will be forever etched in my mind. One would have to have the time with no agenda to truly enjoy his many soulful tunes from the 70’s such as Love and Happiness.  And perhaps, a tad of maturity to boot would not hurt.

Those with a few tracks on the romance railway would truly get it and identify with Al Green’s message. When he was at the height of his career, like many of those in the spotlight, he had an unfortunate incident in his hometown of Memphis. Someone threw hot grits (an African American thing) and some woman lost her life during the wildness of a party night. For a while, he was jokingly called Al Grits.

But to him, it was no laughing matter. When interviewed, he kept asking, “Did it happen?  What happened?” It was surreal to him and those who have been at alcohol-fueled parties know how quickly things can go from joy to everlasting pain. Yet, overtime, he overcame it and moved on to become a minister with his own church there in Memphis.

I was out at a club once with a friend who was working as the deejay in Gary. He was spinning records and playing the music to keep the crowd happy. It takes a level of skill to be able to read the room and decide what type of music and which musical artists will bring the most joy to the people. He could see if they were swaying to the beats, dancing or if they were sitting stiffly as if waiting for time to pass.

He chose to put on Al Green’s Love and Happiness and oh my! The place came alive as if setting off a wildfire.  The club had rocking couples and singles and when he thought he had brought pleasure to many, a tall gentleman came over to me and said, “Ask him to play it again.” He handed me a couple of dollars, so I passed it over to my deejay-friend and whispered, “Play it again.” He did. This happened at least three times and the man continued to come up with his cash because he obviously needed to relive some affair from his past.  I will never forget that event!

Love and Happiness?  There is nothing like it. So, when you have time, push play and take a walk back down memory lane with Mr. Al Green!

Lynn M.
October 22, 2022

True at First Light- a book!

Ernest Hemingway’s book, True at First Light was assembled from his writings by his second eldest son, Patrick Hemingway many years after his death. I have read many of Hemingway’s major works such as A Farewell to Arms, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Sun Also Rises and even taught parts of The Old Man and the Sea. I can still see Spencer Tracy in the movie as he sat there in that boat while contemplating life. 

I went on to rent the movies after finishing his books to compare the likenesses and differences. I was impressed with how well Hollywood stayed true to the script, but we avid readers know that a movie can never fully embody a book, itself. And then, around 2011, author Paula McLain wrote The Paris Wife, and it reawakened my interest in Hemingway. 

Her book featured Hadley, his first wife, and their early years in Paris. Hadley believed in him wholeheartedly and was highly instrumental in helping him get his career off the ground. He never stopped loving her and in his later years, after the world became his oyster, he often reflected on those simpler times in Paris with her and their son, Jack. 

After reading The Paris Wife, I finally knew that it was time for me to make that trek to Oak Park. There are not that many great writers from Illinois, so I had to go see his museum for myself. The women who worked there told me that Paula McLain had recently been there for a book signing. There were artifacts from his life everywhere such as old typewriters, news reels from WWI where he fought, huge movie posters from movies featuring his books and we could even hear his voice from some news clips.

Also, I had the opportunity to walk about a block away and see his Boyhood Home and the docent was very knowledgeable about every detail of his life. We saw the library, the kitchen, the bedrooms upstairs and I could see the Marshall Field’s trucks leaving from delivering the mother’s finery, which he thought his doctor-father often could not afford. 

Afterwards, I furthered my study of his life and read Mary Welsh Hemingway’s book How it Was. I remembered it being a bestseller in the early 80’s when I worked at a bookstore. It is over 600 pages long as she gives a detailed account of their lives together. She was his fourth and last wife and many call her the real Mrs. Hemingway. She stayed with him for over 25 years and was there on that fatal day in 1961 when his life ended. She too was a writer and foreign correspondent and she learned how to let him have his plateau but would also argue with him when she felt he was wrong. 

So, True at First Light is not a tale nor a writer’s birds eye view of the happenings going on all around. It is more of a memoir told in a first-person narrative about he and Miss Mary’s (as he affectionately called her) time in Kenya in 1953. Here, we get to see how he felt about several issues, how he relaxed and what kept him up at nights. 

We see him in the role as Papa-one who had late night talks with his beloved Mary and one who even had an African girlfriend, Debba (fiancée) who wanted to become his junior wife. (Of course, Mary was not having that!) But it was told in a light tone that did not stress nor concern the reader. He was by that time, a Nobel Prize winning writer that pretty much ruled his own world. 

Mary is determined to kill a lion in the novel to prove whatever and though she gets the job done, he and another shooter had to help put the lion totally down so it would not retaliate. Her shots did not fully kill the old lion. But more importantly, we see him hunting on a regular basis to make certain that all depending on him ate and had regular meat. We see him as a doctor administering aid to those who were sick. We see him reading and cherishing news and updates in the mail, and we see him getting up and sitting by the fire to think things through when everyone else was sleep. Many relied on his judgment and depended on his ability to lead and by that time, he was known as Papa to those around him.

True at First Light is a light book but cannot be read in a rush because it is filled with dribbles of wisdom and life lessons for those who are truly attuned. I laughed out loud when he received a letter from a woman in Iowa telling him that he was immature, that he had four wives and asking him when he was going to write something substantial. He thought,” I have written something substantial.” He later referred to her as the Iowa bitch, two times. I hollered!  

I am so glad that I picked up this gem from a secondhand store. It has been sitting on my shelf, but I was working before and not really ready for this treat and trip to Kenya. But then the time came. Yes, it took me a little longer to get through it but all who know Hemingway understand that he is no one to be read in a hurry. Each word is a bite to be tasted, chewed and savored! 

Lynn M.
October 15, 2022

Ossie Davis!

I was looking at an old Bonanza episode the other day and paused when I saw a black cowboy. I looked closer and saw that it was Ossie Davis. I did a little research and saw that it was originally televised in 1969. He was playing a black man in the Antebellum South, trying to protect his family in a hostile environment. “Ossie Davis!” I thought as I sat up taller. He was here for so many years and then he left us quietly as if someone gently blew out his candle in 2005. 

I do not think that I had ever seen him that young on the screen. I normally thought of him with his wife, Ruby Dee in their latter years. They did a lot of work in the Spike Lee movies, and I especially remember his pivotal role as the concerned patriarch in the movie Jungle Fever. They had roles acting as the voices of reason and conscious in Lee’s films.  

Years before, Ossie Davis was known for writing the play Purlie Victorious where he played the leading role of Reverend Purlie Victorious. It was a breakthrough play for blacks back in the early 60’s. I do recall seeing it staged in downtown Chicago, back in the day. And then there was the movie, made in 1963, a year of so many iconic films.

It was called, Gone Are the Days where Ruby Dee, his wife, played Lutiebelle and Ossie Davis played the Reverend Purlie Victorious. It was produced and directed by Brock Peters and Nicholas Webster and Godfrey Cambridge, Alan Aida, Hilda Haynes, Sorrell Booke and Beah Richards were outstanding in their roles. I found out that it on YouTube, viewed it and it is a blast! It held me spellbound. So superb. Afterwards I wrote this jingle,

There was a great actor named Ossie 
Who had Ruby Dee as his posse. 
Yes, together they made good, black art. 

Both of them playing a vital part!”

In the 80’s while living in Memphis, I heard that this husband-and-wife dynamic duo would be speaking over at LemoyneOwen College. I simply gassed up and made the trek over to the campus Whenever notable talent made its way to the Sunny South, we knew to snatch the opportunity because those events were few and far between. So, I went to lay eyes on them while they were there in the Bluff City.

 I am so happy to say that I saw them because we are all mortals who pass on sooner or later. They were in the college auditorium and there was standing room only. They spoke as a unit as they sat close to each other, revealing their mutual love and understanding for each other. I do not remember a word that they said because I was relishing each moment. I just knew that I was breathing in the same space with Ossie Davis along with his beautiful and gifted wife, Ruby Dee! And yet, I marvel! 

Lynn M. 
October 8, 2022 

Blonde: The New Movie

I recently viewed the movie Blonde which just came out on Netflix. I read the book Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates this summer and I wanted to compare the book to the new film. So, I took out a new subscription with Netflix to have this experience because I was disturbed by some of the online comments. In this day of trolling and negativity, I wanted to form my own thoughts. 

The book Blonde has 738 pages, and I took in every line. Joyce Carol Oates refers to this look into Marilyn Monroe’s life as a fictionalized account and wisely so. However, she did in-depth research and the book was published twenty-two years ago. Of course, there is bound to be controversy.  

With the book’s content fresh in mind, I sat back and watched the new movie which is almost three hours long. Those who have read the book are better prepared for the onslaught of uncomfortable scenes. Therefore, they will not see the movie as being overly exaggerated or harsh. Let’s face it, Marilyn had a difficult time as many artists do. That is the dichotomy and thus, an artist was born. 

Andrew Dominik, the film director, did a phenomenal job. He was able to take so much material and put it into one flowing piece for viewing audiences. He had to leave out some years which also shaped Norma Jeane (Marilyn Monroe) such as her extended time in the orphanage and in foster care.

Her foster mother forced her to marry while she was still in high school because of her husband’s roving eye. She wanted her out of the house and Marilyn Monroe never forgave her and did not answer her letters once she became famous. As expected, that marriage, did not turn out well nor was it shown in the movie. 

I think that Ana de Armas totally embodied Marilyn. The movie stayed with me for hours after watching it and I think she did a masterful job. I did not detect her accent though some wrote that they found it to be a distraction. She was brave for even attempting to walk in Marilyn’s shoes. 

For those who study art, this is for them. It is amazing how the scenes go back and forth from black and white to color frames. When Marilyn was about to face another abortion, I liked the way they showed a small human being forming in her womb. Then, all could understand the depth of her pain and loss.

When she was involved in a threesome with Cass and Eddie, they just showed a merged, blurred picture of elasticity like a rubber band. This represented their physical and emotional interconnectivity.

The entire cast was superb! There was a lot of new talent on display and not surprisingly, Adrien Brody was great as Arthur Miller. This movie is keeper for those who read, first. Otherwise, three hours might be a bit much for those looking for a quick spin on 36 years of a memorable life. It took a New Zealand-born Australian film director and a Cuban-Spanish actress to put our beloved American Marilyn Monroe back in the spotlight again! 

Lynn M. 
October 1, 2022