Monday, June 21, 2021

I Know I'll Never See You Anymore


I can still see you there,
you're standing by the door,
wearing your red kerchief and your coat.

And though I think I see your face
so clearly in my mind,
I know I'll never see you anymore.

I can still hear your voice,
it's ringing in my head.
I can hear the words to every song.

And though I think I hear your voice,
so clearly in my mind,
I know I'll never hear it anymore.

Time's the perfect bandit,
it will steal your heart away.
It's robbed me just a little at a time.

And just when you think
that you've got nothing left,
She's taken everything you once called "mine".

 Written in 2009 or earlier.
Before I got the slides back.

Monday, May 10, 2021

For Grandpa

An unseen photograph,
a trip back through time.
You wonder who that fellow was?
He was one of mine.

The stories that he could have told.
Of what he'd been and done,
all have now been lost forever.
Never told; just gone.

There's a sadness in his eyes
that cannot be explained.
It's as if he's seen too much
of life, of death, of pain.

And though I've never met the man,
I see some of him in me.
But that thought is just subjective;
we see what we want to see.....

May 10, 2020
Photo of Grandpa Wm. S. Williams
1919 Seamans Certification photo.
Courtesy of Cousin Patsy Williams.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

"Rosebushes Under the Trees" - Gustav Klimdt (1905)

Nora Stiasny was a Norwegian woman living in Austria in 1938 when she was forced to sell this Gustav Klimdt painting "Rose Bushes Under the Trees" (1905) for a pittance of its worth in order to survive the high inflation. Within 2 years she was in a concentration camp where she later died.

The painting wound up in the vast collection of art looted by the Nazis'. In 1980 the State of France bought the painting from it's legal owner and it has been at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris for the enjoyment of all. They had no idea of the paintings history, according to the release.

Yesterday the Musee announced that the painting will be returned to the family of the rightful owner, the heirs of Nora Stiasny.  I'm hoping the family will allow the Musee D'orsay to continue to house and display this treasure for them. And perhaps add a history of the paintings adventure along with a thanks to the family for allowing it to remain....

This painting should not be confused with that of Adele Bloch-bauer, "The Lady in Gold", another Klimdt canvas to be stolen during the early days of the war. Helen Mirren starred in the film about that painting.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

The USS Princeton

I have this knack for reading a book about something and having a pivotal event taking place on the same date as I am reading. Take today as an example. I'm reading about President Tyler's administration when February 28th pops up. It is really one single event, but when you scratch the surface you uncover some history, the Annexation of Texas, and a love story.

On February 28, 1844 the USS Princeton was on the Potomac River for a pleasure cruise and demonstration of a new type of gun, capable of hurling a twelve inch 225 pound shell 5 miles with a charge of 50 pounds. What follows is a recap of the events.

The ship was the USS Princeton, Capt. Stockton commanding. The ship was designed with 12 small cannon and a new weapon, made in England, named the "Oregon". Captain Stockton wanted another gun just like it and commissioned the construction of a replica, named the "Peacemaker" in NYC using older techniques of forging. This led to the guns explosion after about 3 rounds.

The explosion took place just abeam of Mount Vernon and was meant as a salute to George Washington. That blast killed Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur, Secretary of the Navy Thomas Walker Gilmer, and four other high-ranking federal officials. The disaster on board the Princeton killed more top U.S. government officials in a single day than any other tragedy in American history.

President John Tyler, who was aboard but below decks, was not injured. Had he not gone below deck to hear a  musical entertainment, he too would have been killed. Since he had no VP at the time, this would have resulted in the Senate choosing a President under the existing Article in place at the time.

To succeed Gilmer as Secretary of the Navy, Tyler appointed John Y. Mason, another Virginian. Secretary of State Upshur was about to win Senate approval of a treaty annexing Texas when he died. Under his replacement, John C. Calhoun, annexation was deliberately delayed, so as became an issue in the presidential election of 1844. So much for the history. On to the love story....

Julia Gardiner, who was below deck on the Princeton when her father David died in the Peacemaker explosion, became First Lady of the United States four months later. She had turned President Tyler's marriage proposal down over a year earlier in 1842, though sometime in 1843 they agreed that they would marry, but set no date.

The President had lost his first wife in September 1842, and at the time of the explosion he was almost 54. Julia was barely 24. She later wrote that her father's death changed her feelings for the President. "After I lost my father I felt differently toward the President. He seemed to fill the place and to be more agreeable in every way than any younger man ever was or could be."

Because he had been widowed less than two years and her father had died so recently, they married in the presence of just a few family members in New York City on June 26, 1844. A public announcement followed. They had seven children together before President Tyler died in 1862, and Julia, despite her relative youth and beauty, never remarried. It was not for want of hopeful suitors.

In 1888,  Nellie Bly quoted Julia Gardner Tyler as saying that at the moment of the Peacemaker explosion, "I fainted and did not revive until someone was carrying me off the boat, and I struggled so that I almost knocked us both off the gangplank". She said she only later learned that President Tyler was that man.

PS Julia Gardner Tyler was the 2nd youngest First Lady. The youngest was Frances Clevland who was just 21 when she married Grover Clevland in the Blue Room of the White House in 1886.

There is another unusual l love story there, as Frances was his friends daughter, and when her father died Clevland became her unofficial guardian. She was about 8 years old. In effect, 13 years later, he was marrying his de facto daughter.......

Saturday, February 13, 2021

It's Not How, It's Who

The friends who used to play with me
Sometimes write and ask of me,
"Robert, my old friend, how are you?"

I always have the same reply,
And with a twinkle in my eye,
I smile and say, "Not how, my friend, but who."

For I lie abed in many forms,
Some well known, but all well worn.
Characters from books; both old and new.

And, like the lad in "Counterpane",
armies lain before me, in a game;
I always win when there are less than two.

I draw upon books I may have read;
and then tell stories in my head.
I make myself the hero; wouldn't you?

When the game is up I'm out of bed.
But the stories remain inside my head,
and next day I'll live them all again, re-newed.

Monday, January 25, 2021

"The Quare Fellow" - 1962

This is the story of a newly minted prison guard in Ireland, 1962, on death row duty and the story of how it affects him. Taken from the Irish play by Brendan Behan, the film is a convincing argument for both sides of the issue raised, yet still leaves room for the viewer to question both beliefs. Behan does this by making the focus of this play about the effects on the people involved, rather than the issue itself. It is the same technique which he employed brilliantly in his 1958 play, "The Hostage". 

I saw this performed in repertoire in NYC in the early 1980's. Even today it would not be too difficult to find it still playing somewhere, as it has been translated into about 22 languages. The ballad is sung by none other than Kathleen O'Connor. Not withstanding any changes in the adaptation to the screen, this is an excellent film, summed up in this exchange between the newly hired guard and his supervisor, a 22 year veteran of hangings on Death Row;  

"If you feel as you do about the job Sir, then why do you stay?" 

 "It's a soft job between hangings." 

 You might say that the older man, who is Catholic, has come to question the validity of the job he was hired to do all those years ago. Only the innocence, and presence, of the new guard allows the older man to give voice to his long pent up feelings about the job he has been doing for years. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

A Shared Bridge

This was "my" bridge for decades, 
a place where I would roam,
when things got too confusing, 
and I needed someplace to go. 

 Once a ship was tied up there, 
 (for many years it seems.) 
I used to sneak on her of night times 
and I'd sail her in all of my dreams. 

 This was the bridge that I rode across 
 on my bicycle built for one. 
On my way to the beach, or just fishing, 
this was my bridge alone! 

 Years had passed and I'd moved away
 yet still, this was the bridge that I'd see. 
Yes, this was the bridge that I'd lost until 
you came and gave it back to me!

 For Victoria Kanrek - long overdue. With affection and thanks! 
Photo by Victoria Kanrek