Thai Wall Hanging

Antique wall hangings from Thailand. Fake.

I was lucky to have a job with a global company. I got to travel to many countries, and although there was more work than play on those trips, I always got out and looked around. These little wall hangings were bought during my trip to Thailand, modern copies of antique forms.

I had three days after a conference in Bangkok and decided to travel up to Chiang Mai. With no reservations, I picked out a rather inexpensive hotel on the internet that had openings. Unrated, but my friend and I could afford it. Turned out to be wonderful. Big room, cool, with tile on the floor and a window that opened out onto a quiet street in a non-touristy part of town where kids who were going to go “hiking” in the Himalayas gathered.

The woman at the desk directed us to restaurant in a traditional Thai house, all teak and built on stilts. We had to take off our shoes to enter the dining area which was one big room — I think the kitchen was under the main floor. The interior was well-worn, beautifully aged wood; real antiques of musicians hung on the walls. We ordered coconut milk to drink, since no sodas were served. The waiter opened an ancient refrigerator hulking in the dining room, took out two coconuts, hacked off the tops with a big knife, added straws and served. Sweet and cool, perfect.

These little dolls remind me of a special place.

Antique Piecrust Table – Guest Post

The piecrust table is so named because of the little rim around the edge. They have 3 legs which make them an ideal table for serving tea or playing games because they never wobble. (Remember your geometry – 3 points make a plane…) Many of these tables, which became popular in the 18th century, are single, not double like this one, and the top can be tilted so as to move the table out of the way against a wall.

This table belonged to Denise’s grandmother on her mother’s side. She says it was always in the house where her grandmother lived, whether apartment or mobile home. Here’s a memory about her grandmother:

Grandma came over every week, sat at the kitchen table and gave herself a manicure with pepper red polish. I was little and laid on the counter while mother washed my hair. And my sister had to sit in her chair and practice reading “Why Johnny can’t read.” She’d sound out “mmmmoooo.” Grandma was very stylish, always in a snug bodice, tight waist, strappy high heel sandals and glasses with rhinestones. At one point she was dating “Howard.” She dropped by on her way to Los Vegas. Independent, she went to Hawaii and Acapulco by herself. I remember she kept a bowl of matches on top of the fridge. When the grandchildren visited, they got to choose what they wanted for dinner. I chose fishsticks or chef boyardee.

One time when I was there, my great granddaddy came over. He sat in the bean bag chair with an ash tray and said, “We’re going watch the fights. I’ll give you a nickel to bet – don’t tell your mother.”

To those of you who have been following this blog, we will return to the European journey sometime in the future – still to come Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark and Norway. I just needed a break and thought perhaps you did too.

German Drinking Charm

A silver charm from Germany. If you’ve gotten behind as I relive my first trip to Europe, see the last paragraph in this post. Today we are in Germany and the charm I chose was fittingly a man in a costume holding a beer stein.

I lived in Germany for four years when I was dancing, so it’s difficult to pull out my first impressions. I remember noticing that the Germans don’t jay walk. Nor do they cross against the light, even if there isn’t a car in sight. That was very odd to me. (Parenthetically, my husband and I were once stopped by a cop for jay-walking in Burbank, CA. The only thing that saved us from a ticket was an emergency call on the cop’s radio.) And the stereotype is true – they do love their beer. When the ballet company traveled to other theaters to perform, there was always a locally brewed beer in the “kantine.” Also Schnapps, and Sekt, the German equivalent of Champagne. I once saw a soubrette down two shots of something before going on to sing!

So, the first trip. Two moments stay with me. One was visiting my cousin, Paul. I’ve alreayd mentioned him- he’s the one who carved the ladle on the home page. We were going to see him at his army base and eat in the canteen. Hamburgers — such a relief after all the unusual food. We fantasized about them for hours as we drove. “Will they have bread-and-butter pickles?” “Can I order two?” “Can we take some home for later?” Oh, we were such Americans!

The second moment was more serious, but probably said as much about being an American as the first. We were traveling with my Norwegian American Field Service sister and at dinner one night, sitting in a restaurant that overlooked a wide river, with picturesque little houses scattered up a mountain on the other side, we got on the topic of WWII. The Norwegians were (are still?) very bitter towards the Germans. The Luftwaffe’s first strike when bombing a Norwegian town would be the water supply. Because the houses were built with wood (surrounded by forests), the entire town would burn down. In our discussion that night, my sister got angrier and angrier; I think we, never having been bombed, couldn’t understand why she would paint an entire nation black. Finally my mother, always the peace-maker, said, “Let’s look at the scenery,” and the arguement was dropped. The saying has persisted in my family through the years – if a conversation turns ugly or stressful, we look at the scenery.

Next up, Austria. If you want to peruse my earlier stops from my first trip to Europe with my family: Scotland, England, The Netherlands, Belgium, and France.

Fleur de Lys – Ancient Symbol of France

Fleur de Lys charm in silver. France is next in a series of charms from a bracelet I collected on my first trip to Europe with my family. I’ve covered Scotland, England, The Netherlands and Belgium.

In our new VW van, we drove into France and promptly needed gas. This was before the Euro, but no matter, we had Belgian Franks. “If we need to, we can always exchange them.” Daddy, the optimist.

In the gas station the owner made it clear that Belgium money was not acceptable. Out came Daddy’s dictionary. Ou… banque? A deluge of French answered. I, who after all had studied French in school, was summoned from the car. A nightmare scenario ensued: angry shouting, me straining to resurrect mon vocabulaire, Daddy thrusting the dictionary between us to point to a word. Eventually I understood that the banks closed for lunch for 2 hours. Daddy gave the man a an overabundance of Belgian money, we filled up and drove on to Paris.

I have since been to Paris quite a few times and in my palimpsest of memories, little survives from this first trip except that we picked up my Norwegian AFS sister at the airpoint. Another time I was there alone on Bastille Day – the French 4th of July – and heard that the opera was giving a free performance. After standing in line for several hours, I saw La Cendrillion, Cinderella, from the 6th row in the orchestra in the most ornate theatre I had ever seen. I was also there when the war in Iraq began. A man in a bar where we were eating lunch advised me to say I was Canadian and a taxi drive refused our fare.

From Paris, we drove into a little town called Beaune. The man who helped Daddy plan our trip insisted that the meal in Beaune be paid before we left. “Mr. Lewis, you will think it too expensive but you must eat there.” So we had a five course feast of which I remember the wine. A different bottle with each course. I’ve already written about my first drinking adventure at the start of this trip; as we traveled my parents allowed me to have wine with dinner. That night I got slightly tipsy. Turns out I am a lightweight when it comes to drinking, but I got it honestly. By the end of the meal, Mother was giggling and silly and Daddy said, “I don’t know what you kids are going to do but I’m going to take your mother for a walk.”