Friday, August 22, 2008

The Pearl S. Buck House

I visited Pearl S. Buck's big stone farmhouse in Perkasie, PA, last weekend. Pearl Buck was an amazing woman most famous for authoring The Good Earth. This was only one of many books and other writings that earned her the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes. the house, although large, seems humble by today's standards. Her treasure room with the Nobel Prize for Literature displayed prominently among her many other awards, keys to cities, and academic hoods from her honorary doctorates, seems plain but elegant.

Pearl Buck was never a fancy lady. She spent most of her childhood and pre-college years in china with her missionary parents during a time when that country was in upheaval and treated foreigners poorly. She returned to the US for college and then again with her husband when they realized her daughter was going to need lifelong medical care. In the end, she lived 40 years in China and 40 in the US.

She bought the farm, Green Hills Farm in Perkasie, in 1935. At the time, she had two children, but she and her second husband went on to adopt seven more. With her Bucks County neighbors Oscar Hammerstein, James Michener, and David and Lois Burpee (seeds), she created an organization that specialized in adoption for bi-racial kids, and another organization to aid children in need in their own countires. Today those two organizations have merged and still thrive. Pearl S. Buck International now exists in a new building adjacent to the farmhouse.

The farmhouse tour started in the big kitchen and brought us through the dining room, living room (where the Dalai Lama once sat!), upstairs to her bedroom and treasure room, and back downstairs through the library, Pearl's offices, and her husband's office. Along the way we saw some of her 8,000 books, the Good Earth Desk, and the gown she wore to the Nobel prize ceremony. The house is just as she would have left it, except for the gardens which are tended by Pearl's daughter, Janice, now in her 80s!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cape May Sand Castle Competition

The Ninth Annual Sand Castle Contest took place on August 8, 2008, at The Cove beach in Cape May. Sand sculptors of all ages competed in different classes for cool prizes including Can You Dig It sand tools and gift cards donated by local merchants. Spectators were greeted by a humongous sand castle sculpted by Matt Long, the contest organizer and creator of Can You Dig It Sand Tools:

The secret to sucessful sand sculpting lies in the ratio of water to sand. First there's the pound-up, where sand is shoveled into large wooden forms the night before a contest. Water is added and the mixture is pounded down every few inches to form the right consistency. Buckets with and without bottoms, shovels, and plastic knives are used. Some sculptors use molds, but the best ones are bottomless so that exess water can drip out.

Many of us specialize in drippy castles, where wet sand is dribbled between the fingers. Although this technique is not frequently used in contests, it can be used for trees and bushes. This year's Cape May contest featured an amazing complicated drippy castle that did win a prize.

The crowd favorite of this year's contest was an marvelous collaboration called Frosty vs. Wally, depicting a snowball fight between a snowman ...

and a walrus ...

each behind their respective walls. Camelot was there,
and even Yankee Stadium!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Bruce Live in Barcelona in Cape May

Bruce doesn't cavort much with his wife Patti on stage in this movie of a concert. This adds to the illusion that when he sings "She's the One," he's really singing to me. He horses around with Clarence Clemmons and Little Stevie, but Patti...not so much. Bruce himself gave permission to the Beach Theatre Foundation to show this concert this weekend and keep all the profits to Save the Beach. The Beach Theatre Foundation was formed to save the theater from demolition and rebirth as oceanfront condos and parking lot. and this is how one of my favorite places in Cape May came to be. They stayed open all winter showing independent films and the monthly high-definition opera, and this is how they won my heart.

Back to the Springsteen concert: this was two and a half hours of energy and intensity filmed at the Palau Sant Jordi arena in Barcelona. Bruce and the E Street Band performed many of the old favorites and the new stuff he was promoting with this tour ("The Rising"). He even tried to learn some Spanish, but I have no idea what he said to the crowd. This man loves his job, and it never shows more than when he performs "Dancing in the Dark" which to me is one of the newer songs. As he was strutting around on the edge of the stage, I just knew he would extend his hand and pull all 749 pounds of me onto that stage to dance with him instead of that Monica girl in the original video. Of course it really didn't happen--it is a five-year-old movie after all and I'm not 749 pounds. I can't really dance anyway. It wasn't long after that song and video that Bruce and Patti got married, causing young ladies all over the state of New Jersey to say, "That should have been me!" I understand, though, because Patti can sing and play the guitar. I can't do those things. I can play the saxophone, but Bruce already has a pretty good saxophone player.

All these goofy thoughts faded away when Bruce, the thoughtful employer, gave his band a break. He sat at the white piano and performed intimate versions of his old chestnuts "Spirit in the Night" and "Incident on 57th Street." These songs were just as poignant as any time they were ever performed. I didn't expect my reaction to these (tears fell out of my eyes). But when I thought about it, Bruce's music has been important to me for a very long time. That "new" song, "Dancing in the Dark" is already 25 years old or so. Bruce's music has been with me since I discovered him in high school, and I clung to his music when I was so homesick at college in Pittsburgh. I defended him to parents who never understood the music I liked, but at least took the trouble to know who was performing it. I defended him to a husband who really didn't like his music, but would admit publicly that Bruce is, indeed, a poet.

Luckily, Bruce gave me lots of time to recover. A few songs later he ended the concert, but in true Bruce form came back on stage for an encore and another...I think I counted seven songs after the concert ended. "Born to Run" was there, and "Born in the USA" of course. When I got home I ordered the DVD as a consolation prize for resisting the urge to sit through the next showing at the theater.

National Lighthouse Day

Today's big event was the National Lighthouse Day celebration at the Cape May Point Lighthouse. It was a hot day so I consumed a lot of the freshly-squeezed lemonade for sale there. It was a fun event with foods, craft vendors, and sea-themed musical entertainment. Dr. Physick, Cape May's well-known historic citizen and honorary mayor, made an appearnace in a summer white suit.

I took a walk over to the bird observing deck and met a North Carolina birder with his lens focused on a glossy ibis. What an amazing specimen! I couldn't see it with my naked eye, but through his glass the glossy ibis revealed its black feathers with a reddish sheen. There was a great egret there, much more common in Cape May, along with seagulls, common terns, and a white swan. It's going to take a lot of practice before I can recognize these birds.

Gladys the Sheltie Puppy and I finished the day at the bay. We hoped for a beautiful sunset since we carried the camera, tripod, beach chair and beach stuff all the way there. The sun was behind a big cloud (bummer), but there were still pinks and blues in the sky.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fisherman's Wharf Tour

Fred joined me for Tuesday’s fun tourist activity, a tour of Fisherman’s Wharf. First of all, the tour guide told us that we weren’t actually standing in Cape May. The famous Lobster House on Fisherman’s Wharf “in Cape May” is actually in Lower Township, the same municipality in which my own famous house sits. Although no seafood (fish or crustacean) never passes these lips, I still enjoy the Lobster House because their Chicken Francaise is the best anywhere. Go figure. We learned on the wharf tour that the same family that owns the giant restaurant and seafood market owns the port and the seafood packing operation.

We were there when a huge load of scallops were being unloaded. Loads have to be big to offset the cost of fishing (fuel, nets, salaries, etc.) but there are limits to how much the fishermen can bring in. The scallops have to be a certain size, and the too-small ones fall through the net.

It was a very interesting tour, cleverly offered at 11:00am so that when it ends over by the Raw Bar, folks are just starting to be hungry for lunch. This tactic worked on us: Fred bought an assortment of shrimp, scallops and salmon, and I got a cannoli. Yup, the fish market has a wonderful selection of luscious desserts along with the seafood, seasonings, bread, and cooking gadgets.

This contraption is a squid vacuum! It unloads squid from a boat and drops it into a waiting truck.

Queen Victoria Garden Tour

On Monday evening I attended the Garden Tour at the Queen Victoria Bed & Breakfast. I brought along the new camera just in case there were beautiful blooms, and there were. Most of the flowers and greenery were familiar, but I saw some unusual speimens. The free booklet guide helped identify them by garden location, and will be handy when I get around to labeling my photos. The self-guided tour took about an hour and covered not only the Queen Victoria, but some other properties nearby.

Look at this shot of crepe myrtle buds with the blurry blooms and Victorian window in the background. I'm not saying how long it took me to learn how to do this!


Afterwards, I took advantage of the early evening light and took some new photos of Cape May's Victorian architecture and the beach. Lots of people were walking around even though it was a Monday evening. There were strollers everywhere, and although they tried, none ran me over. Here's a whale watch boat and lifeguard stand. I'm standing on the Promenade to take this.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Bay Sunset

Last evening I saw the best sunset. Gladys the puppy and I went to our favorite spot on the Delaware Bay beach with a chair, a book, and water for both of us. We sat there for about two hours, me reading my book and Gladys frolicking in the sand and greeting any people who walked by.

As the sun sank into the choppy dark blue water, it gave off an orange-gold light. It made the beach look magical. I realized I hadn't seen enough sunsets. It was gorgeous. (of course I hadn't brought my camera, or even a notebook to write down my description. This picture is from last year at the cove in Cape May.) The kayakers and occasional seagulls flying by looked like they had been planted there by a postcard company. The little sandpipers did their dance by the edge of the water. Down the beach to the left, multiple generations of a family all wearing white were having photos taken for Grandma's birthday. We found this out from two little girls who came over to meet Gladys. They looked like aliens--fifteen of them all wearing white.

The tide was coming in making Gladys concerned about the water getting closer. The orangey light illuminated her sable and white fur, and together with the cool breeze ruffling her newly-shaggy coat, made her look so pretty. If Gladys ever needs glamour shots, we know exactly where to go!