Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Insomnia: a Haiku


Sleep eludes me now
But somehow that will all change
In the afternoon

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Hope in Little Rock: Day 3

Day 3 had us stopping by the Clinton Presidential Library before heading home. Now, one of the greatest things about Man and me is that we do not agree on everything -- particularly politics -- but we've never let that get in the way of a perfectly good friendship. Washington, we are here to answer your questions when you're ready.

First, as we were entering the museum, a tandem bike race passed us. Have you ever?

This is my kind of math. Show your work.

You can take the girl away from editing but you can't take the editor away from the girl. My eyes are constantly looking for an error - call me a glass half empty kind of girl. But I did immediately spot that Hillary's name was misspelled on one of her badges. Seriously, people?

Even I can admit he wasn't all bad. One of the first bills he signed was the FMLA allowing people to take off work following the birth or adoption of a baby.

He was one in a succession of presidents who proudly showed off his four-legged relatives.

Pictures weren't allowed in the replica of the Oval Office [insert eye roll] but on the coffee table between the two couches was a piece of moon rock gifted to Clinton by Neil Armstrong. Now, don't ask me if this was all on the up and up. I can't help but think this wasn't truly Neil's to be gifting in the first place. Nor, however, is it NASA's but they currently maintain ownership of it. Anyway, the moon rock sat there and President Clinton was known to point it out during particularly heated discussions and say, "You see this rock, it's been here for 3.6 million years, so let's all calm down. We're just passing through here and it's going to be fine."

On the way out, we were forced to enjoy an art installation by an artist who makes art from trash and debris that has floated up on the coast of Oregon. As we exited, there was a place where you could fill out a little card and write what you are doing to save the environment. Several people said "I'm quitting using plastic straws." But this one jumped out at me. I'm not sure she was quite on point with the whole assignment, but I liked her words all the same.

Then outside, on our way to the parking lot, there was this little gem tucked into the grounds. When Anne Frank was locked in her apartment hiding place for two years, they had only a small window that looked out into the world. From this window, she could see the sky and a bit of a tree that grew outside that apartment. The tree outlived Anne and survived for many years following the end of the war. It took ill, though, just in the last few years and died. They were able to salvage just a few saplings from the tree and the Clinton Library was honored to received one of these saplings so that her tree could live on and continue to inspire and provide hope to those who saw it.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Little Rock, Day 2: Part 2

After we toured P. Allen Smith's estate, we headed back into Little Rock and visited the Central High School Visitors' Center. Central High is still there and a functioning high school. In fact, classes were letting out for the day as we arrived. The visitor center is located across the street, as is the Mobil station, preserved and looking pretty much as it did that day, 62 years ago, when nine black students, later dubbed the "Little Rock Nine," attempted to enter the school and attend classes, effectively starting the process of ending segregation. This is their story.

Following this, we worked in a little R&R, napped, refreshed, then headed to the most delicious Italian dinner at Bruno's Little Italy.


Day 2 in Little Rock. Today was the reason for this trip, our visit to P. Allen Smith's home and estate where he lives and films his TV show. I'm shocked that as many people (120!) were there today for the tour because I've still not told a soul about him and they knew who I was talking about. I'm going to let the pictures do the talking but cannot say enough things about Allen or his home or the tour. It was a lovely experience start to finish.

Arriving at Moss Mountain Farm, home of P. Allen Smith

We arrived and were greeted and shown the restrooms and instructed to go through the hospitality tent to enjoy homemade cookies and coffee and water. The tables were already set for lunch.

Warning sign upon entering estate.

Homemade cookies greeted us

Me and my person. They split the large group into 4 smaller groups and off we went.

I gotta be honest. I kind of thought we'd be there with between 10-20 people, 25 max. Imagine my surprise when we discovered there were 120 people there for the tour on our day!

The sky was overcast all day but the rain held off and the temperature was perfect. Allen's property is 300 acres and we walked roughly 50 of those or 2 miles.

We quickly realized we were outclassed in every way possible on this tour. There were people -- men and women -- who had traveled to see and raised their hands to ask questions not just about the countless shrubs and trees and bushes and plants that Allen has in his gardens, but extremely specific questions about one very specific variety of a certain type of plant. We just nodded and smiled.

They profess that Allen lives there and calls this estate home most of the time.  We were quite incredulous - especially when we traipsed through his personal areas of the home such as his bedroom and bathroom and kitchen. But there were certain areas, such as this beautiful outdoor kitchen, that make it easy to picture him entertaining friends.

Passed these sheep and the tour guide explained that they're a specific type of sheep that does not require shearing. At a certain point, they "drop" their coats and begin the process all over.

One of two "drying houses" on property. They seemed to be octagonal in shape and were simply a structure used to dry various plants, inside and away from the elements.
Inside of the drying house

Still inside the drying house

Looking at the back of the home. There are three levels and two screened porches. That top one is a "sleeping porch" that you'll see a bit more of in a little bit. It's outfitted with 3 twin beds and a lovely tub for taking a bath al fresco.

Walking the grounds. That's our guide, Diane. She was lovely.
Allen is puppy friendly, though we saw none while we were there. He apparently has some large beasts that are unleashed at night to patrol the property and keep any critters out of the gardens.
The demographics were all over the place. There wasn't one definitive demographic group. We had men and women and the ages ranged from a few children (whom I'm sure would have rather been ANYWHERE else) then early 20s to maybe early 80s. There were people who kept mostly quiet and didn't speak much and then a few who asked too many questions and questions not for the good of the whole. Whoever said there's no such thing as a dumb question really has never gotten out and experienced life. If you've ever been on a tour, in a work meeting, a brainstorming session, or in a public Q&A, you know that's just not the case.

I truly don't know if it was staged or not but we turned the corner during our tour and there was the man himself, caught taping a segment for his show.

He came up and spoke with us, asking Alison "and from where did you come today?" She answered, "Nashville," as they shook hands (she said they were buttery soft but it was a nice, firm shake). He responded,"mmm...Davidson County. I like counties." Then he stepped back and talked to us about edible flowers and the garden that we were about to enter.

Watching Allen eat a pansy while talking to us about edible flowers.
We might very well be in an upcoming episode of Allen's show.
Snack time
Our group examines a garden
To say each garden and path and trail we visited was manicured is a bit of an understatement. Allen's property is flanked on one side by the Arkansas River, providing beautiful views.
Did we stop and smell the roses? Yes. Over and over again.

Beautiful garden "rooms" were decorated with "furniture" including sculpted shrubs and statues and babbling fountains

Finally, it was time for lunch and we were hungry and ready to sit and rest. Lunch was a delicious salad with grilled chicken, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, olives, new potatoes, cucumbers and a divine vinaigrette, some really good iced tea, and a delicious buttermilk pecan pie.
At lunch, we looked over and there was Allen dining at an adjacent table. We both admitted we were glad he didn't sit with us as that would have been nerve wracking and a lot of pressure keeping up a proper conversation with him. I would have been forced to answer truthfully when he asked me about my spring planting and say that I bought a fern at Costco a couple of weeks ago and, so far, it's still alive.
When he was finished eating, he took and welcomed us and then took questions from the audience.
The Q&A was followed by a demonstration of peony arranging. It was like watching a magician tell a story while fiddling with balloons and then at the end of his story, he's constructed the Battlestar Galactica. He was just waxing poetic about peonies and then BAM! he's constructed a gorgeous arrangement.
After lunch, you could have your picture made with him, get an autograph, or have him sign cookbooks and recipe cards and garden tip books.

This statue greeted visitors as you entered the home and the tour guides seemed really excited about it. When Allen found or acquired it, it was in a state of disrepair, missing a hand and nose and the head was detached. He found a renowned statue repair artisan who was able to put her back together.
There were fresh flower arrangements all throughout the house, with flowers picked from the various gardens on the property.
Again, one of the most striking parts of the tour is that we were traipsing through this poor man's personal home. Now, don't misunderstand. He made roughly $11,000 gross today before expenses so he's not running a charity here, but still. The volume of people basically nosing around his home, touching pillows and looking here, there and everywhere and just invading his inner sanctum made me more than a little uncomfortable. We really wanted to peek inside his fridge but resisted.

This is a photograph of a charity event where Allen was invited to decorate a table. He realized that he needed something spectacular for the centerpiece so he chose a pair of taxidermied swans. How did he acquire them? Well, he has several ponds on his property and decided he wanted swans to grace one of them so he bought two swans. Unfortunately, they were both males and immediately took to fighting once they were placed in the pond. The next day, a gardener reported that the swans had in fact drowned each other during the night. Allen has a reputation for never throwing anything away so he stored the swans in a freezer for 8 months, not sure what to do with them. Then this event came up and he decided this was the perfect way to use them.
Breakfast nook
This is the middle deck that you saw on the back of the house earlier. Look at those views.
Sitting area on middle deck
Allen had a postcard with this Indian chief's portrait on it. I've already forgotten his name, but he stood quite tall at 7'1" so Allen had the post card blown up to actual size.
Reading nook. That is an actual bear skin but I guess it's not a rug per se.
The "sleeping porch" on the top deck. At first there were 6 twin beds here and Allen, upon seeing it, said, "this looks like a Civil War hospital. Remove three of them." The breeze was lovely and I could absolutely imagine sleeping out there one crisp, autumn night.
He's just an average man. Puts his pants on one leg at a time and uses Aveeno, just like Jennifer Aniston.
A swan in happier times. And every apple in the house (and there were dozens upon dozens) was real.
On the grounds is also a guest cottage, which was cute and sweet and thoughtfully decorated.
Caught snooping again. Garnier Fructis.
If he's known for something other than beautiful gardens and a green thumb, kitchen tips and expert decorating advice, it's raising chickens. He had many different varieties, but I just took a picture of a couple of interesting looking ones. Please don't ask me what kind these are.

Allen paints as a side gig and is, of course, amazing as I really don't know anything he's tried his hand at and failed. This was in the restroom, seemingly very much an afterthought, but I found it lovely and so representative of the sweeping vistas we saw while on our tour.
Webster defines a friend as "person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard." All I know is I'm so blessed to share this ride with her and beyond grateful that she's my person.