The banjo moves up on my life list

I hate the term bucket list. You might as well say, “I’m going to die any day now. What to do?” I’d rather say, “Life is a mystery. What would I like to do?” Bucket list sounds so final. Life list sounds open and celebratory.

 

For the longest time, going up in a hot air balloon was a feature on my list. I lived for a while in Napa, where hot air ballooning is a major activity. But no one I know would go up with me. I know too many people who are afraid of heights. And I was afraid of going alone. So I still haven’t done it. I would hear that sound of the air whoshing up into the balloons as they drifted over my house near the Napa River. Taking my coffee out on the deck, I’d stand in my pajamas and wave longingly at the tourists in the balloons as they drifted by.

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I signed up for a watercolor painting class and the first thing I painted was a hot air balloon.

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I’ve read Around the World in 80 Days more than once. Of course, there isn’t a hot air balloon in the book, but thanks to the film version, I can’t think of the story without a hot air balloon.

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I still have hot air balloon dreams. Maybe over Paris! Paris was also a long-time life list item. And in 2014 I finally got there! Was it everything I dreamed it would be? Mais oui! Certainement! I’ll brush up my bad high school French and go back anytime. Given my name and French heritage, you’d think I’d have speaking French in the bag, but alas, languages don’t necessarily pass down in families once they assimilate to the United States. So I was really An American in Paris:

 

For a few years now, I’ve said I want to learn to play the banjo. I see banjos at the Alameda Point Antiques Fair (the flea market) now and again, but they always look pretty beat up, and I never have the courage to haggle with the dealers since I know absolutely nothing about banjos.

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I don’t know why I love them, but I do. Recently, we went to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. What a beautiful place! I worked for years in museums, and I was quite impressed with the displays, collections, volunteers, everything! They even have a conservation lab, which was my first foray into museum work.

 

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Some of my favorite displays at the museum were the Americana, Bluegrass, and Banjo sections. Banjos! In a museum! I felt vindicated in my banjo love.

Since, I have come to find out there is an American Banjo Museum and American Banjo Hall of Fame. Woo hoo! Now I have a reason to go to Oklahoma City. Some of the illustrious inductees include Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs, Roy Clark, and Steve Martin. There are women in the hall of fame too: Debbie Schreyer, Helen Baker, Georgette Twain (love that name) among others.

 

Last night, in one of my weird, mixed up dreams, I bought a banjo. The main theme of the dream was that I was trying to board a ferry into San Francisco. It was an ordeal. I had to go through a labyrinthian mall to buy a ticket. And while wandering lost through the mall, I saw the world’s most beautiful banjo. I had to have it. I bought it. And in nonsensical dream style, instead of putting the banjo in a case for me, the salesclerk carefully and elaborately wrapped it in brown paper and string, like the gorgeous and mysterious Christmas present.

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The dream banjo didn’t look like this; not quite so fancy. More Danish Modern meets banjo. This is Gibson’s Earl Scruggs Golden Deluxe.

The banjo often doesn’t get a lot of respect. Mark Twain (any relation to Georgette?) said something about a true gentleman is one who knows how to play the banjo and doesn’t. But I don’t care. I’ve had a crush on Steve Martin since the 1970s. Then, when I was in high school, the banjo was part of his comedy schtick. Now he’s a respected, Grammy winning musician with his band, The Steep Canyon Rangers. And he’s still funny.

 

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Can I learn to play this late in life? The question is more, will I follow my dream. There’s even a Dummies book for me.

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I challenge myself to follow this one. I made it to Paris. Maybe soon you’ll see me in the sky, in a hot air balloon, picking on a banjo and having a great old time.

 

 

The Alameda Point Antiques Faire, aka “The Flea”

On the first Sunday of every month, rain or shine, crowds make their way to the Alameda Point Antiques Faire, or as we fondly call it, “The Flea.” This is not your junky flea market; this is huge, with lots of stuff, ranging from the, yes, junky, to high end antiques. It’s a fun way to spend a few hours on a Sunday morning, and I count it as exercise. And there are food trucks; who doesn’t love a food truck? If you have time afterward, the town of Alameda is fun to explore, too.

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The Alameda Point Antiques Faire, at the sign of the clock.

The entrance fee goes down as the morning goes on; early birds pay more! Your strategy will depend on several things: e.g., how badly do you need coffee and do you want to start at the way far back in the low rent district or start at the front in the high rent district?

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There are several coffee purveyors; I usually decide by which has the shorter line.
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In the low rent district, the vendors don’t mess much with fancy displays and there tends to be empty real estate.
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It may be the low rent district, but you can still find some good things!
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The stalls closer to the entrance, i.e. the high rent district, go to a little more trouble but also charge more.

The food options vary; on this January day there weren’t quite as many trucks to choose from, but you can get “state fair food on a stick”, falafel, pizza, Chinese food, Indian food, Greek food, baked goods, and of course, kettle corn (it’s everywhere).

 

One of my favorite activities is looking for the “art” (note the quotation marks).

 

Then there are the specific categories of art, such as clown art. The stuff of my bad dreams.

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The classic clown portrait.
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Surprisingly, it didn’t sell. Maybe next month.

Weird sculptural things also make an appearance.

 

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Daryl Hall as Mrs. Santa?

If you have any interest in old family photos and other people’s ancestors, there are always lots of stacks and frames of interesting, usually stern people’s faces. It does make me sad that they end up at the flea market though.

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Interesting yard art opportunities abound. Someone purchased both of these and was wheeling them out. I title it The Bear Thinks About Eating The Thinker.

bear eats thinker

 

For the bookworm, there are children’s book, books that don’t really seem old enough to be at the “antiques faire”, and cookbooks, to name a few.

 

For the clothes mavens, there are plenty of “vintage” clothing vendors. Birkenstocks are vintage now?

 

Unfortunately, there is a lot of fur among the clothing items. My animal activist side gets riled up. Maybe I can get my activist friends out protesting with me some Sunday.

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It’s not fashion, it’s violence! Don’t buy fur!!!

I will allow the purchasing of a tiara or two, however. You can’t have too many of those.

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One of my very favorite categories–cat lady (or cat guy) merchandise!

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The vendor informed me that this cat was made to cover a can of hair spray.
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I really was tempted to buy this.
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Kitty Wampus proved irresistable; I did buy it.

I am also fascinated by the extremely expensive French road and building signs. I can’t guarantee they are genuine; “faux French” is a thing.

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This one will set you back $265.

Here are a few of the fun things I saw on this January visit:

 

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Beam me up, Scotty! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Fargo snowglobe
Who wouldn’t want a Fargo snow globe, complete with bloody snow?
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A complete set of Kiss rubber ducks!
troll
Bob said he wouldn’t object if I bought a troll doll as long as it wasn’t bigger than my head. This one was close, but at $65, I don’t think so!

Transportation theme:

 

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Fraternity house furnishing?
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A successful purchase; Tibetan bowl for Joe the music teacher.
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Misty is not impressed with my purchases.

Maybe Misty will have a chance to be impressed next month. And maybe I’ll see you at The Flea!

 

The Alameda Flea Market

Jet lag. Not fun. Why is it so exhausting waiting around airports for delayed flights and then sitting strapped into an airplane seat? I was really glad to be home to see the pets, but I miss Scandinavia! Here are the critters that got me home: Sara, 17 year old brown tabby; Misty, 5 year old Turkish Angora; Einstein, 5 year old terrier mix. All rescues, of course!

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Thanks to our awesome pet sitter for taking good care of them.

Sunday we woke up fairly early and realized it was the 1st Sunday of the month, and that means the Alameda Point Antiques Fair, fondly referred to as “the flea”. I so do not need anymore stuff, but it’s always fun to go and I had some unspent money from the Scandinavia trip burning a hole in my pocket.

First things first, as usual for me, coffee and food! I normally drink decaf, but I ended up caffeinated in Europe, and what with the jet lag and all, I thought it was a good idea to get a double cappuccino. Warning–don’t shop under the influence of caffeine!

One of us (me) missed the beautiful strawberries in Norway so I went to the waffle truck and got a lovely waffle with strawberries. Tho other of us missed his usual “American” breakfast ingredients of eggs and cheese, so he went for the breakfast burrito on the taco truck.

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One of my favorite things to do is look for the ugliest thing I can find. I usually exclude paintings on black velvet because they would pretty much always win. But there were 2 this time that were so horrifying I gave them a shared prize.

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Of course, I can’t resist used books. In addition to the 1957 illustrated edition of Henrik Ibesen’s Peer Gynt that I had to buy given that we had just been to the Ibsen Museum, I saw quite a few fun books.  Who doesn’t love Nancy Drew? And a moment of nostalgia for the Lad: A Dog books by Albert Payson Terhune. We had them on our book shelves when I was a child and I read (and reread) them all.

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And now it’s Monday, and back to work and the so-called real world. Daydreaming of Norway…