Tombstone Tuesday!

Seeing as how Niki and I are now residents of the Niagara Region, I figured we should head over to Niagara Falls to pay tribute to one of Canada's most famous and courageous women, Laura Secord.

During the War of 1812, she ran through twenty miles of wilderness and harsh terrain to warn the British forces of an impending American attack. A warning that resulted in the American invaders' defeat and the capture of their leader.

Laura Secord's gravestone monument is located at Drummond Hill Cemetery, which was the site of the fiercest and bloodiest battle of The War of 1812, The Battle of Lundy's Lane in July of 1814.

The inscription is a little hard to read, but to the best of my knowledge it says:

To Perpetuate
The Name and Fame of
who walked alone nearly 20
miles by a circuitous, difficult
and perilous route through woods
and swamps and over miry roads
to warn a British outpost at
De Cew's Falls of an intended attack
and thereby enabled Lieut. FitzGibbon,
on the 24th June, 1813, with less
than 50 men of H. M. 49th Regt.,
about 15 militiamen and a small
force of Six Nation and other Indians
under Captains William Johnson Kerr
and Dominique Ducharme, to surprise
and attack the enemy at Beechwoods
(or Beaver Dams), and after a short
engagement to capture Col. Boerstler
of the U. S. Army and his entire force
of 542 men with two field pieces.

Stay Tombed!



The Etheridge Rose

When my grandmother on my father's side died in 2003, I wasn't able to travel to Cape Breton to attend the funeral, so when my grandfather died in 2006, I made sure to be there without fail, and I also made sure Niki was by side. I've always been very thankful for her being there to support me (I remember the morning of the funeral was especially hard on me, after waking up from an intense night-terror).

At the service, I had the honor not only of being one of the six pall-bearers among Palmer's grandchildren, but also to be a recipient of one of the four roses given out at the end of the service, the others each going to one of the three great-grandchildren who were in attendance. I've often wondered why I was selected to receive that fourth rose and I continue to come up blank. Perhaps because like those three, who were so very young at the time, I continue to view the world with a somewhat child-like sense of wonder. Maybe it was because I was dressed so spiffy in my pinstriped suit and bowler derby (the same outfit I would wear one year later at our wedding). Who can say for sure?

Niki had found a hip flask with a thunderbolt symbol on it and had given it to me for Christmas later that same year (one of my last impressions of Grandpa was of him having just a little too much whiskey at the family reunion, and my Dad and I having to each take an arm to help him into the house that night . . . it still makes me smile to think of that), and in that flask the funeral rose has stayed to this day. But I have always worried about the potential damage that could be caused to the rose, so I finally took the time to secure it within a shadowbox frame.

I included a picture of my grandparents when they were surely no older than I was when the rose came to me (electronically preserved and sent by my genealogy-buff, Aunt Helen) and a picture of the rose in full bloom on the day it was given to me (that photo was taken by my cousin, the incredibly talented photographer, Kelli Etheridge).

Now I can hang the entire ensemble safely, knowing that a random movement won't cause any harm to what I consider a priceless and irreplaceable family heirloom.



The Quest for the Dark Tower Pt. 5: The Piper School

***Spoiler warning! Though I've made every attempt to avoid giving away key plot points during this quest, it's still very possible that information discussed herein may spoil a new reader's experience, so consider yourself warned! ***

After Jake's near-death experience at the corner of 5th Ave. and Forty-third St, he continues on to school. Located on Fifty-sixth Street between Park and Madison Avenues in the New York of his where and when, The Piper School (which is Private and Nice, and most of all, White) is in Jake's father's mind "The Best Damned School In The Country For A Boy His Age."

In our own where and when, on the spot where The Piper School would have been located is (at least during the time that Niki and I visited) nothing but a vacant lot (something long-time Dark Tower reader's would know as being quite significant).

It wasn't much to look at, but all the same I took a moment to recall The Piper School song:

"So we hail the halls of Piper,
Hold its banner high;
Hail to thee, our alma mater,
Piper, do or die!"

While I'm not a hundred per cent sure (as there is The Pied Piper of Hamelin to consider, as well), I believe it's possible that the private school Jake attends is named after Watty Piper, the pseudonym used by Platt & Munk publisher Arnold Munk (whose New York office was located at 200 Fifth Ave. up until his death in 1957). This seems especially likely since another children's book, which features an anthropomorphic train, factors into Jake's life in a profound way later on in both The Waste Lands and Wizard & Glass.

After three weeks of suffering, it's here at The Piper School that Jake finally gives up trying to reconcile the two voices tearing his mind apart. Two voices that continue to argue; one that he is dead, the other that he is alive. The breaking point occurs when Jake pauses to take a look at his Final Essay for English Comp before handing it in, only to find what appears to be random magazine clippings and insane gibberish typed out inside.

Jake has no recollection of pasting pictures of the door to Number 10 Downing Street (the address to the British Prime Minister's office) and an Amtrak train to the title page of his Final Essay.

Turning the page over, Jake is dismayed to find writing that may ultimately indict him as having completely lost his mind. Among the random bullet points of seeming insanity are two quotes from famous poems.

The first is from T.S. Eliot, and is taken from The Waste Land.

The next quote, from Robert Browning, is the opening lines to a poem of extreme importance to the Dark Tower series as a whole, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.

Both quotes are intermingled with references to the Paul Newman/Robert Redford film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Jake reads on with mounting horror, while his English Comp teacher Ms. Avery begins discussing the English Department's Short List of recommended summer reading, beginning with William Golding's Lord of The Flies.

As Ms. Avery describes how a good novel is like a series of riddles within riddles, Jake continues to read his own riddle of a Final Essay, which also contains riddles within it. Silly riddles like "When is door not a door?" and "What has four wheels and flies?"

As Jake tries to take in all of this seemingly latent madness that he's spewed forth onto the pages of his Final Essay, Ms. Avery continues to discuss the summer reading list, describing Joseph Heller's Catch-22 as a comedy of the surreal. Jake can't help but feel he himself is trapped within something just like that, but without the benefit of comedy to ease his bewildered mind.

Turning to the last page of his Final Essay, Jake finds a picture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa scribbled black with a crayon. Having absolutely no memory of doing any of this, Jake quickly asks permission to "step out for a moment." Making his way to the school's entrance, he immediately flees toward the East River, fearing that he will finally be revealed to have gone completely insane.

Long days, pleasant nights!



The Persistence Of Memory Bathroom

Last week, I shared pictures of what our Psycho bathroom decorations ended up looking like after we moved from Toronto to St. Catharines, and no, it did not look good. But it wasn't really the fault of the decor itself (well, maybe a little), but more to do with the fact that the bathroom was partially unfinished and painted a very dull, cold gray color.

So now it gives me great pleasure to share pictures of what I was able to do once I removed the Psycho influence and simply let the room tell me what it wanted to be.

After our wedding in Las Vegas, Niki and I travelled across the desert to honeymoon in Los Angeles for a full week. On our second day in L.A., we decided to visit the La Brea Tarpits, which was a lot of fun, but what we hadn't counted on was discovering that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) was located right next door.

Even better, they were featuring an exhibit of Salvador Dalí's most famous surrealist drawings and paintings as well as screening the animated Dalí/Disney collaboration Destino.

It really was just dumb luck that we happened to stumble across this treasure trove of highly-influential surrealist artwork, so obviously we jumped at the chance to see it all up close. Because it was so unexpected, it remains one of the best experiences (among quite a few) from our L.A. trip.

A few days after our anniversary this past year, I started looking around for possible Christmas presents and came across a few different Dalí-inspired "soft clocks." I grabbed one with the intention of simply giving it to Niki as a small reminder of our visit to the LACMA, but when I went around the house trying to figure out where such a clock would be most appropriate to place, I eventually discovered that the layout of our unfinished bathroom had the potential to be recreated as a Dalí-esque dreamscape.

The biggest challenge for me was to renovate the bathroom without giving away what the end result was going to look like.

Without all the accessories and decorative touches, I was able to keep Niki guessing while I redid the linoleum floor, added a chair rail and tub surround frame, as well as painting both the walls and ceiling.

I should also give a shout out to my father for helping me out with the plumbing. While removing the toilet to lay down the new linoleum, the shut down valve was damaged and without his help putting in the replacement, I never would have gotten it working again. Thanks Dad!

Niki had a few interesting theories about what I had planned. Her two top guesses were either a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas/Ralph Steadman-style decor (not a bad idea really, and if we ever tire of the Dalí decor in the future, I might switch it up to look like that) or a Super Mario Bros. inspired desert world (also a pretty good concept, especially how I'd colored the exposed brick, but I think that would be better suited for a kid's room). Amazingly, she never guessed what I truly had in mind . . .

. . . which was to try and recreate what could arguably be considered Dalí's most famous painting, The Persistence of Memory, as a three dimensional environment.

I'll admit that not everything turned out exactly as I'd hoped (the custom soft clock towel set is a little rough around the edges), but all in all I was still very pleased with the end result.

I replaced the robe hook with a proper towel ring and switched out the rusty air vent register with a nice chrome finished replacement.

With that chore done, all of the fixtures finally came together in a complete, unified style.

Although another of Dalí's paintings, The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory wasn't featured at the LACMA exhibit . . .

. . . I chose to include it to really bring out the exposed brick from the old chimney. What had been an ugly oversight in the unfinished version of the bathroom now feels like a deliberate and well-thought out inclusion to the overall design.

In The Persistence of Memory, one clock sits face down on the shelf and is covered with ants, so I decided to recreate that part of the image on the chrome wall outlet covers.

I used enamel model paint so that, once cured, they could be wiped clean without any worry of the paint ever smudging.

The "fading creature" in the painting was a simple thing to recreate. I picked up a sheepskin rug at Ikea, cut one corner off the top, restitched it to the bottom and hand-embroidered the sleeping eyelash with a bit of black yarn.

One amazing thing about how this bathroom is laid out is what I call the Mystery Spot. Because of how the mirrors are positioned, someone standing in just the right place sees not just a reflection but a double reflection, resulting in a near perfect doubling of the room. I hung both art prints, one on the wall, the other on the back of the door, to maximize their visibility in the mirror's reflections.

I didn't want the room to come off as too serious or "artsy fartsy", so I also added the border sign to Wackyland, featured in the Warner Bros. cartoon short Dough For The Do-Do, which was greatly influenced by the works of Dalí.

I was also lucky enough to find a rare old McDonald's Happy Meal toy (for children three and under) that featured Go-Go Do-Do in a bathtub. The perfect tub toy for a bathroom inspired by the works of Salvador Dalí!

I gave the art prints, accessories and decor finishes to Niki at Christmas so that she could discover what had been planned for the bathroom all at once. To top everything off, I dropped a couple bucks and got a Blu-ray/DVD player and found a copy of the now "vaulted" Walt Disney Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 2 Movie Collection on Blu-ray so we would be able to watch Destino whenever the mood strikes us.

As Go-Go Do-Do would say, "It's been surreal!"



Tombstone Tuesday!

This gravestone caught Niki's eye when we visited Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, California, but I never quite understood why.

Lately though, I've been thinking about how an anchor can be viewed in two very different ways. On the one hand, an anchor could be thought of as a dead weight holding something from moving in the direction desired (I think the story of Anchor Baby from Tim Burton's The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories illustrates this mentality perfectly).

From a different and far more positive perspective though, it's important to consider an anchor as the steadying force that keeps a sea-faring traveller from being lost during stormy weather.

Stay Tombed!



The Quest for the Dark Tower Pt. 4: The Pushing Place

***Spoiler warning! Though I've made every attempt to avoid giving away key plot points during this quest, it's still very possible that information discussed herein may spoil a new reader's experience, so consider yourself warned! ***

In the the first Dark Tower book, The Gunslinger, Roland meets the boy Jake at the Way Station in the middle of the Mohaine Desert. Not knowing how he came to be there, Jake agrees to be hypnotized by the gunslinger after trying to explain to Roland that he had originally lived in a city with a statue standing in the water and buildings so tall they actually scraped the sky.

Once Jake is entranced by the skillful twirling of one of Roland's gun shells, he then describes the last few moments of his life before The Man in Black pushed him into the path of an oncoming blue, 1976 Cadillac DeVille that crushed him to death.

Only later, in The Drawing of the Three, is it revealed that Jack Mort is the one responsible for Jake's death at the intersection that Mort thinks of as the Pushing Place: Fifth Ave. and Forty-third St.

When Roland enters Jack Mort's mind through the mystic door labelled The Pusher, he interferes with his plans for the boy. Mort never gets the chance to try again after the gunslinger flings Mort's body into the path of a speeding subway train in Greenwich Village. This in turn creates a schism in both Roland and Jake's minds; if the boy never died in his own world how can he possibly have met the gunslinger at the Way Station?

In The Waste Lands, Jake thinks back to when the rift between these two realities began, how he suddenly had a sense of déjà vu, somehow sensing his own imminent death, as the details surrounding him become clearer and clearer. Ultimately, when he isn't pushed into traffic he then continues on his way to The Piper School, but all the while a voice inside keeps insisting that he did die, despite every indication to the contrary.

During our last visit to New York, I was amused to see a pretzel vendor on the same corner as described in The Waste Lands ('He's the one that yells "Oh my God, he's kilt!" Jake thought') even more incredible was the OZ moving truck parked across the street, The Wizard of Oz being an important theme later on in the Dark Tower series.

When the The Gunslinger was re-released in 2003 with revised and expanded material, Several parts of Jake's last moments were altered and fleshed out in greater detail, including a mention of reading a Clay Blaisdell western in the gym during period four lunch.

In 1977, the only novel featuring Clay Blaisdell (a name King would eventually borrow for the main character of his novel Blaze, published under his now infamous pseudonym, Richard Bachman) was Warlock by Oakley Hall (two other novels written by Hall featuring the character, The Bad Lands and Apaches were published in 1978 and 1986, respectively). What could be considered most interesting is that Warlock was originally published in September of 1958: a time period of great significance in King's most recent novel 11/22/63.

It's long been clear that most (if not all) of King's novels have a connection in some way or other to Roland's quest. Perhaps the forthcoming The Wind Through the Keyhole will finally shed light on how these novels relate to The Dark Tower as a whole.

Long days, pleasant nights!