Saturday, April 27, 2013


I admit it: I’m a flea market/antique store hound.

There’s something about prowling through a shop or wandering the aisles of a flea market that intrigues me. It’s the element of sweet surprise, I think; about the finding of something unexpected, something that absolutely speaks to me on a level I’m not quite willing to analyze – what is it, after all, that compels me to sort through the leftover objects of other lives, other times?

I have a self-imposed limit on those days: I buy things that cost no more than $5.00. – if it’s tagged at $6-10, I might try to haggle it down to $5, but that $5.00 is a firm limit!

Here are three of my favorite $5.00 items!

I found the baby head in a shop in Brunswick, Maine. She was looking straight at me from the end of a tall bookshelf; her eyes were open, penetrating, and I was so startled I jumped a foot off the floor, then burst out laughing.
I bought her on the spot.
$5.00 on the nose.
And what a nose! She’s just lovely when you look closely, even through all the cracks and imperfections. She now lives on a bookshelf in my living room (once a bibliophile, always a bibliophile!).
Some people are totally freaked out by her, others grin in delight...

The little camera came from the Rockland area. I picked it up to look at the detail work on the lens – it was heavier than I anticipated; turned out to be solid metal. The bellows don’t move, of course, but it’s intriguing. Imagine my surprise when I turned it around and found that it’s really a pencil sharpener – you insert the pencil through the bottom, and the sharpening blades are inside the box.

And then there’s this metal cage. I spied it about four years ago at a huge flea market in southern Maine – one of those places that has at least one hundred tables arranged in rows; it’s so enormous you can spend an entire afternoon walking the aisles!
I saw the cage near the front, but didn’t want to carry it around with me, so I took a chance – I left it there and went on.
It was still there when I finished, which I took as a positive sign from the Flea Goddess, so I handed over $4.50 and headed home with it.
Sometimes I wonder what I’ve done – whatever would I do with this thing? It sat outside on my back porch for a few weeks, and then I stuck the pot of ivy inside...
...the rest is history.

Saturday, April 20, 2013


In the late 19th-century, my great-grandparents built a summer home in East Boothbay, Maine. These days, fifth-generation family members still vacation there – one from as far away as California – to beat the heat and spend time lounging on the back porch watching the ebb and flow of the Atlantic in Linekin Bay.

These days, we recycle our glass and haul our trash to the landfill, but in my great-grandparents’ day, a lot of stuff – especially bottles and broken china – were loaded onto a skiff, rowed offshore and unceremoniously dumped into the ocean. But the constant tug and pull of the tides, the churning of waves, causes great upheaval on the bottom of the bay, and bits and pieces of glass and china come back to shore; what my great-grandparents dumped is all coming back to us!

Most of what we find is English transferware, hugely popular in this area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Master patterns were etched in copper; color was applied, and then printed onto thin tissue paper; the paper was then applied to the ceramic piece, where the wet ink “transferred” the colored image to the ceramic. Colors included blue (most expensive), brown (most common and least expensive), black, green, red.

The repeating border patterns were applied to earthenware pieces in sections – sometimes nearly perfectly, but sometimes not – I’ve found pieces where the borders have occasional jags where the transfer was not applied accurately.

Some of the central patterns, found on whole plates, bowls and platters, were amazingly detailed – country estates with elaborate houses and outbuildings, men and women strolling through gardens, cattle drives down tree-lined rural lanes, fields of livestock. Village scenes appeared, too, and cottages with thatched roofs; also city-scapes, with taller buildings, trains, horse-drawn public transportation (great on a platter, but a tough sell on smaller items) and bridges. There was a whole series of Biblical images, too!

Manufacturers? I’ve found several, but a few notables are Staffordshire, Johnson Brothers, Spode, Ridgway, Adams, and Clews.

I’m happy enough spending long periods of time prowling the shoreline for the smaller pieces – oddball shards of plates and cups and salvers and teapots that have washed up over the years. My cousin Bob, though, goes for bigger stuff: when we have exceptionally low tides, he puts on his nastiest pair of sneakers and mucks around in the mud below the seawall; he’s found some great chunks of things over the years.

Gives whole new meaning to the term “transfer station,” doesn’t it?

Saturday, April 13, 2013


 Anodyne (adj.) – That which has the power of mitigating pain (from Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language, 1770).

Anodyne – a painkilling drug or medicine; a soothing application.

Before the 1900s, an anodyne was, simply, a drug that people used to soothe pain by lessening the sensitivity of the brain or nervous system.

In 1810, Abner Johnson (1786-1847), an enterprising physician from Waterford, Maine, formulated, bottled and sold Johnson’s Anodyne Liniment to his patients.

And, lo! it worked! (Of course it worked: the two main ingredients of the liniment were morphine and alcohol, and they both certainly make the brain less sensitive!)

Word spread, and soon Johnson moved to Bangor, where he established his business. His son Isaac Samuel Johnson took up the reins, and by 1881, had packed up and headed for Boston, where he opened his liniment business – I.S. Johnson & Company – on Custom House Street.

In the late 1800s, newsprint was the best medium for display advertising, and Boston was a hub of shipping – both by sea and railroad. Johnson made use of both, and soon advertisements for Johnson’s Anodyne Liniment popped up in newspapers from coast to coast.

The Gardiner (Maine) area newspaper advertised Johnson’s Anodyne Liniment in the Reporter-Journal, listing an amazing array of  alphabetically listed ailments, including asthmatic distress, bites, bronchitis, bruises, burns, chafing, cholera, colds, colic, coughs, cramps, diarrhea, frost bites, grippy cold, lameness, nasal catarrh, scalds, and pain and inflammation in any part of the body, “used both eternally and internally.”

In the Los Angeles Herald, May 3, 1878: “...Persons who have become thoroughly chilled from any cause, may have their circulation at once restored by taking into the stomach a teaspoonful of Johnson’s Anodyne Liniment, mixed in a little cold water, well sweetened.”

From The Newfoundlander, February 11, 1873: “...Used internally and externally, will relieve the worst cases of....Cramp or Pain in the Limbs, Stomach or Bowels, Lame Stomach, Spitting of Blood...for all Diseases of the Throat, Lungs and Heads...the Bite of Mosquitoes...

In 1893, The Cambridge Tribune declared “Generation After Generation Have Used It. Dropped on Sugar, Children Love to Take It!”

Advertisements appeared in the Bangor Daily Whig and Courier (Bangor, Maine), The Carolina Watchman (Salisbury, North Carolina), Weekly Journal (Fairfield, Iowa), Willamette Farmer (Salem, Oregon), and The Clarendon News (Clarendon, Texas).

“Every Mother Should Have It In The House!” proclaimed the advertisements...and apparently every mother did, at least into the early 1900s...

...and if it didn’t cure what ailed you, I.S. Johnson & Company also produced Dr. Parson’s Purgative Pills (yikes!) and Sheridan’s Cavalry Condition Powders for your horse...

Friday, April 5, 2013


In that lovely Sepia Saturday photograph of Conway Castle in Wales, there’s a gentleman standing beside the door in the castle wall – he’s on two canes, and I’m willing to bet that he’s dealing with what I’ve been dealing with for a number of years! He’s less fortunate than I, though, for back in those days, replacing bad hips was far beyond standard medical practice.

As for me, I’m sporting a new one; my right hip was replaced on March 18.

I don’t remember much: I remember being in pre-op with David, my Official Coach (that man is going to heaven for his support and care).
I remember getting undressed and johnnied; the nurse checking my vitals (and commenting on how stable my blood pressure was!); the start of my IV in the back of my left hand. I remember a visit from my surgeon, who marked my right hip, gave me a grin; the anesthesiologist’s check-in, his assurance that he would guide me out and back in again.
And I remember a quick kiss from David, then being wheeled through the passageway to the OR. I turned my head and looked out the window at the pigeon sitting on the outside sill at Maine Medical Center in Portland, its head shimmering purple and green in the early morning sunlight.
          “Oh, look!” I exclaimed. “A pigeon!”
          “That’s not a pigeon,” said the OR nurse, “that’s a mourning dove.”

I do not remember my reply (I was on my way “out”) but apparently everybody else in the place will remember it for a long time.
“Mourning dove, my ass!” I hollered enthusiastically...and was gone.

David was there when I woke up; he was there all afternoon as I struggled out of anesthesia – not ill at all, but just unable to come completely awake for a very long time. Every time I opened my eyes, he was there – sitting in a chair next to my bed, reading, dozing, working a crossword, patting my left foot.
He went home at 6:30 or so; came back the next morning at 9:30 to take me home. Gone are the four days in the hospital followed by a week in rehab – I was in the hospital for approximately 30 hours! This is the new routine: a total hip replacement and hospitalized for 30 hours! Astounding.

I had a friend who stayed with me 24/7 for the first four days (I slept for 12 of each 24-hour period), then another friend who spent days with me while I navigated nights by myself. Have neighbors who checked in on me first thing each morning and last thing at night; they made trips to the grocery store and ran errands.

And they put my socks on for me, at least until I had my 23 staples removed and could lean forward without them pulling at my incision. And that next morning, my first shower in 12 days – I can’t tell you how wonderful that was!

The hardest things?
Not being able to reach down to the floor (if I drop something, I poke it into a corner and leave it there until somebody comes to visit). Carrying things is impossible while using a walker; much easier now that I’ve graduated to a cane – at least I have one hand free! And everything requires such enormous effort: getting in/out of bed, getting dressed, moving across the floor.

But I’m gaining; making progress each and every day. I can stand upright for the first time in three years: I am nearly ½ inch taller! And my right foot, which used to point outward, now points straight ahead!

I’ve got a long way to go – exercises for strength and flexibility, learning to drive and climb stairs again – but I’m lightyears ahead of that poor gentleman in Alan’s Sepia Saturday photo.

I’m a hipster, a hippy, a hippo, a hipcat.
I’m a hip-chick, a hipper-dipper!

Hip-hip hurrah!