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At Vivian’s House

February 27th, 2022 No comments

I can remember the first time I went to Phil and Vivian William’s house. I was an aspiring musician, and the house was full of sound, of music, of laughing. It was beautiful and intimidating. Everywhere I looked I saw amazing artifacts, and in every corner, violin cases. There were many friendly faces, some of whom I got to know over the years. There was every manner of instrument; and if we were lucky, (we usually were) someone would be playing the parlor grand piano.
Vivian's living room
I know that over the years, besides these well attended jams that met every first Wednesday of the month in this living room; there were recording sessions, practices and get-togethers of every size. Musicians would come to visit from all over the world, and find good music and fun at Phil and Vivian’s house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This summer, I managed to be there for an amazing recording session featuring Isaac Callender and four of his amazing guitar playing friends; Gary Lee Moore, Rich Levine, Pete Martin and Rod Anderson. There was so much energy in the room, that I realized it had been reverberating like this from the sounds of strings for over 40 years. This was the last recording session to ever be done at Vivian’s house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A most memorable day for me was  when Barbara Lamb came and it was just Vivian and Barbara playing intense beautiful music. I was afraid if I blinked, I’d wake up, the fiddling was so amazing. They played harmonies back and forth, up and down, and challenged each other the way they have been doing for almost half a century.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though the energy at Vivian’s house was mostly in that living room, the rest of the house is a feast for the eyes.

kitchen

 

Vivian’s kitchen was filled with light and a wonderful collection of cast iron kitchenware. The centerpiece is a warm wooden table that has always been full of offerings brought by the many friends that came to the jams and practice sessions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

diningroom view.

 

If you were lucky enough to visit during the daytime, the view was wonderful, facing east and looking over Lake Washington, here is looking out the dining room window.

 

 

 

 

 

 

landing

Of course if you were a closer friend or maybe a relative, you got to go upstairs. If you got as far as the landing between the first and second floors, you already were treated to a glorious view. With a sunny window, a rocking chair and a harp, it looked like a place that you could just hang out and absorb the energy coming from the living room or  just a scene from a magical children’s book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

phil's office

 

 

Phil collected musical instruments you could see this when you entered his office; the walls were covered with every strange kind of guitar, banjo and other curiosities. I visited him in his office once for an interview of sorts, this was very impressive. I felt very humble in that chair.

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Made with Extra Love

May 14th, 2012 3 comments


Kent Peterson, one of my favorite people in the blogging world AND one of my favorite people in the bicycling world asked me to illustrate one of his stories. He said this particular story reminded him of Donald and me. I was astonished until I read it; and cried all the way through it. I loved the story and was happy to do the painting. You can read the story here and tell Kent that Mimi sent you. He likes to get comments as well.

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S is for Summer Avenue

April 21st, 2012 6 comments

As part of a project for the Brooklyn Art Library, the Art House Co-op challenged 500 people to write a letter to their old home. I had many old homes to choose from, but this is the one I chose. The reference for the painting was a google street view!

Dear 565A Summer Avenue

You are the house of my dreams. For 50 years I have dreamed of your rooms, your halls and your stairs. Where once I played and read and watched television (when the president was shot and then Lee Harvey Oswald..) still lodges in my brain.

You were the far side of a duplex. The fair side in my opinion. Your front porch was probably screened in once, but even without a screen, it was a wonderful place to play. Your outside wall was so close to the house next door, that we had a window that let in almost no light- no one liked that room much, so we stored curious things in it.

And only me and my cats could get between you and the house next door, because the space was so narrow. My secret was the secret entrance to the back yard – your yard, which was the only disappointment I had with you, it’s too small. I did try to grow a Pussy willow there, but my stepfather mowed it down.

I was a city kid, and soon after I left you, I escaped the city. I quested for mountains, country roads, and wide open spaces. But then, after less than 10 years, I came back to the city; albeit a much younger one, on the left coast, and; just as when I was living in your attic, I can hear and smell my neighbors, it is a fact of life, now I like my neighbors better, and we share with them the fruits of my back yard, figs, plums, cherries.

I checked you out on google maps, even though you are in the heart of Newark, NJ, you are still in a healthy neighborhood, but now you are painted brown instead of the grey I remember. Maybe now there are less children running up and down the streets, or effortlessly rollerskating on the blue slates in front of you, in fact, they took the slates out and now all the sidewalks are boring cement.

I loved the circular windows and the built in desks in my attic bedroom. I loved how I could climb right out on the roof from the attic hallway. That was another secret place. You had other secrets too; in some attic space was found ancient notebooks, belonging to a child – filled with slashes and circles, page after page. Who stored those notebooks there, and the shutters? The tiny mezuzah holders on the walls, and even the gas lamp fixtures were still in your walls, and the push buttons to turn the lights on and off.

Now I live somewhere that shutters do not exist, gas lamps are for camping, and pushbuttons are on the remote control for the television. But you are still with me. I dream about you in various stages of repair, I dream about you with new fascinating hidden rooms, I think, did I know that room was there?

I long to drive through Newark, NJ again, so this time I can stop, knock on your door and request a tour. I am sure the new owner would think I was nuts. Can they speak English? How many languages have been spoken between your walls anyway?

Dear 565A Summer Avenue, I lived in a lot of houses as a child, but you are the only one which actually resides in my brain. I hope someone plants flowers in your yard, I see the Rhododendron is gone, you deserve another.
Sincerely
Mimi

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