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Today’s prompt word for Inktober is “swollen.” This was yet another prompt that I struggled with. In a desperate attempt to come up with something, I finally decided to use my medical training (or lack thereof) to raise awareness for Swollen Ego Syndrome while I publicly diagnosed Donald Trump as having that affliction because he met all of the criteria I came up with that makes up Swollen Ego Syndrome. (I should mention that I am not a medical doctor. LOL!)

I drew Donald Trump having this smirk on his face. I was trying to replicate something I saw years ago. Here’s some background. My then-husband and I used to go to New York City about once or twice a year to visit his father and step-mother, who lived on the Upper West Side. We usually drove and I generally let my husband do all of the driving because I just didn’t have the guts to drive through Manhattan at all. (If you’ve ever been in New York City, you’d understand my reluctance to drive in that city.)

In order to get to my in-laws’ place from the Washington, DC area, we generally went north on I-95 through Baltimore and beyond, crossed the Delaware Bridge, went through the Delaware Turnpike, and headed north on the New Jersey Turnpike before we finally took the Lincoln Tunnel into the city. Lincoln Tunnel always had a slowdown going into the city. No matter what day of the week or time of day it was, there was always this traffic jam where the cars slowed to a crawl right outside that entrance until we managed to get inside of the tunnel.

There are billboards plastered all over the area near the tunnel entrance because the advertisers figured out a long time ago that they had a captive audience. During one of our trips we saw a giant billboard for the Trump Taj Mahal, which was a big hotel and casino in Atlantic City. That billboard basically showed a giant picture of Donald Trump flanked by two smiling bejeweled blond-haired showgirls who were both young enough to be his daughters. Donald Trump had this incredibly smug looking smirk on his face like he was announcing to the world “Look at what I got—I have it all and you don’t! Nyah! Nyah! Nyah! Nyah! Nyah! Nyah!”

That billboard looked so ridiculous, especially since we both knew that Trump had filed for the first of his many bankruptcies just a few years earlier and there were reports that he lost a lot of his own money. It was also around the time that Donald Trump had ditched his first wife, Ivana, for Marla Maples. Or maybe it was around the time that he was married to Marla but he had decided to ditch her as well and he was often photographed in the company of models who were at least two or three decades younger than him. (I don’t remember exactly when I saw that billboard other than I somehow remember that it was before he married his current wife, Melania.) My husband and I were looking at that ridiculous billboard while being stuck in traffic.

I finally blurted out, “Oh my God! He’s a buffoon!” My husband responded, “But he’s a rich buffoon!” We both laughed. Even back then we thought he was a total joke as a businessman. If either one of us had said that day, “One day that man will become President of the United States,” we probably would’ve erupted in laughter because that idea sounded so incredibly ludicrous. But we never said that because the idea of Trump even entering politics sounded so silly and stupid since, at the time, he seemed to be more focused on plastering his name on so many buildings throughout Manhattan while going out with attractive women young enough to be his daughter and getting his name and photo in the gossip pages than in running for any kind of public office.

But now it’s 2018. The Trump Taj Mahal has since gone out of business. My husband and I got a divorce. My father-in-law passed away one year ago this month. (I devoted one of my Inktober drawings from last year to him when I learned from other relatives that he was on his deathbed. He died a couple of days after I finished that drawing.) Donald Trump now sits in the White House as President of the United States. There are times when I still long for the earlier days when Trump was just a celebrity businessman and reality TV star who showed zero political ambition. He may have been a joke back then but at least he didn’t have the codes to the nuclear bombs nor did he have the power to make policies that could be a disaster for not only in the United States as a whole but in the rest of the world as well. So I tried to replicate that Trump smirk from that billboard that was erected a long time ago in my latest Inktober drawing.

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Dancing Skeleton

Today is the day after Halloween and the first day of the two-day Mexican holiday known as El Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). In addition, Inktober officially ended right on Halloween yesterday. I succeeded in drawing and uploading 31 ink drawings in 31 days from October 1-31. I finished Inktober at the same time as I ended up getting sick with this stomach flu where I constantly felt nauseous and I alternated between going through dry heaves and diarrhea. The fact that it also happened on the same day as Halloween totally sucks. I barely managed to get myself together enough to give out treats to the trick or treaters. Instead of going to a Halloween night party at a friend’s house, I had to make an emergency run to Giant after the official trick or treat time ended just so I could pick up some medication and toilet paper.

Today I feel better in that the dry heaves and diarrhea has subsided and I feel mostly tired. I took a nap today and I’ll probably go to bed early tonight so I can rest some more.

As I go over the drawings I did during the month, I realized that I could easily put them into certain categories (with many of those drawings falling under more than one category).

Animals: Penguin, panda bear, black cat, dinosaur, swan, pig, two former ride cars from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest amusement park shaped like a duckling and a swan, Willie the Whale, goat, and Zombie Dog.

Based on Dolls I Currently Own: Volks Dollfie Dream, Batgirl and Wonder Woman (with Donald Trump and by themselves).

Building: Crooked House.

Clark’s Elioak Farm: Two former ride cars from the now-defunct Enchanted Forest shaped like a duckling and a swan, the Crooked House, Willie the Whale, goat.

Death Penalty: Guillotine.

Friday the 13th: Black cat.

Halloween/Day of the Dead: The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, Goat Man, Zombie Dog, Day of the Dead skeleton, Frankenstein, Jack O’Lantern.

Hollywood Scandal: Harvey Weinstein.

My Own 100% Original Character: Zombie Dog.

Native American (For Indigenous Peoples Day a.k.a. Columbus Day): Wolf kachina.

Real People: Donald Trump with Jesus Christ, Donald Trump again (with Wonder Woman and Batgirl), Donald Trump yet again, Donald Trump one more time, Tom Petty, burlesque performer Reverend Valentine, Harvey Weinstein, my father-in-law, my mother (which also includes Elvis Presley), Madonna Girl Dale.

Religious-Related Drawings: Jesus Christ (with Donald Trump), Unitarian Universalist flaming chalice, wolf kachina.

People Who Celebrated a Birthday During Inktober: My mother.

People Who Died During Inktober: Tom Petty and my father-in-law.

Politics: Donald Trump with Jesus Christ, Donald Trump again (with Wonder Woman and Batgirl), Donald Trump yet again, Donald Trump one more time.

Relatives: My father-in-law and mother.

Superheroes: Batgirl and Wonder Woman together with Donald Trump and by themselves.

Supernatural Book/Movie Characters: The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz and Frankenstein.

Virtual Models from Figurosity.com: Woman running with a gun, woman dressed in psychedelic tye-dye outfit holding a gun.

The biggest challenge for me is that working on a new drawing a day then uploading it online to this blog and various social media sites took a portion of my time that I could’ve spent doing other things (such as doing house cleaning, putting up Halloween decorations, sending out a few more resumes). That was the main reason why I had quit a previous effort to do one new drawing per day starting on January 1, 2016 (which was a New Year’s resolution). I think the reason why I was more successful at Inktober than my previous daily drawing effort last year was because I knew it was only for 31 days that I had to worry about doing a new drawing each day. After that I could draw as much or as little as I wanted.

Even though there was an official Inktober prompt list of one word for each different day, I was more interested in doing my own thing since this is the first year I participated in this. (Inktober has been going on since 2009.) I only used the official prompt list if I was stumped for inspiration. Now that I got my desire to draw whatever I wanted for Inktober out of my system, I’m thinking that if I was to do this again next year, I would discipline myself by sticking strictly with the prompt list. It would be a way to challenge myself, especially since I’m sure that there will be a word or two that will have me totally stumped at first.

The biggest benefit I got from Inktober is that I was able to learn which social media sites gave me the best exposure in terms of publicizing myself and my work. I uploaded my drawings to the current popular social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) as well as other social media sites I haven’t posted anything in a while. These sites used to be relatively popular until they were overshadowed by Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. I decided to upload to them because I wanted to see if I should still bother with them. I found that the absolute worst were Flickr and Google+ because I only got one “Like” on both platforms and that was it. Tumblr was hit or miss in that I got maybe one or two Notes (which is Tumblr’s version of “Like”) for some of my drawings but there were others that got zero Notes. (The one drawing that got the most attention was the one I did of Tom Petty and that one only got four Notes.) Minds, the open source alternative social media site, was just as hit or miss as Tumblr in that I got maybe one or two “Likes” on some drawings but others were totally ignored.

By far the best response I got was on this blog and Instagram. In fact I got new followers on both platforms because of Inktober. Twitter came in at a close second in that I also got new followers as well as retweets. Facebook was surprisingly more of a mixed-bag. While I got a better response than Flickr, Google+, Tumblr, and Minds combined, the response rate was lower than this blog, Instagram, and Twitter.

The one major social media site that I didn’t use was LinkedIn because that one is more of a professional social media site and some of my drawings were either too political (such as the ones featuring Donald Trump) or the subject matter was one where I just didn’t feel comfortable in posting there (such as the one about the Harvey Weinstein action figure). I’ve seen people get chewed out on LinkedIn for posting anything that was even remotely controversial (especially one that’s political) and I’d rather avoid it since it’s common knowledge that would-be employers tend to look you up on LinkedIn to see if you’re someone they would even want to hire. I don’t want to lose out on any potential opportunity because of some post I made there.

It was time consuming to upload the same drawing on so many different social media sites per day but at least I gained knowledge on which ones are worth investing my time in promoting myself in the future so it was worth it in the end.

I also learned that there is certain value in practicing drawing only for yourself because you’ll never know when one of those drawings you’ve done have struck inspiration to do a regular art project based on what you’ve drawn. I’m thinking about doing a watercolor version of that swan I drew during Inktober because I really liked the results.

Another positive result of Inktober is that I discovered Figurosity.com and that site was valuable in providing virtual models for me to practice my drawing with. I plan to use that site for my drawing more often.

I also looked at other people’s Inktober drawings on social media and I was amazed by the amount of creativity I saw there. There were a few people who did some really ambitious things for Inktober. I saw some people do two or more drawings per day, which I personally admired since I found it a challenge to do even one new drawing in a small sketchbook every single day. I saw one guy who was working on a graphic novel and he decided to use Inktober to draw and ink one new page per day. There was another person who decided to use Inktober do a large complex drawing where the person inked just one section of that drawing each day with the goal being that the large complex drawing would be completed on October 31.

The biggest challenge with Inktober is to maintain my enthusiasm for continuing with drawing one new drawing per day then uploading it online. The first few days I was very eager and enthusiastic. But then I came down with this nasty cold but I continued to work through that cold even though my body wanted to get more sleep so it can knock off those cold germs. After I got rid of that cold I began to gradually view the daily Inktober sketches more and more as some time-consuming daily chore instead of something that I was excited and enthusiastic about. Even though I tried to keep the designs relatively simple and I used a small sketchpad, I still found myself burning out towards the end. This was especially true when I wanted to put up Halloween decorations or go to some Halloween-related local event only to remind myself that I needed to make time for my daily Inktober drawings.

By the last week I went to Clark’s Elioak Farm because I wanted to draw enough pencil sketches so I could just ink over them on the allotted day for the next few days. Then I spent one additional evening filling up my sketchbook with enough Halloween-themed pencil sketches to last me until the very end of the month.

But then I began to just burn out on even doing the ink over the pencil outlines, especially during that last weekend before Halloween. I started to partially-ink over more than one pencil sketch a day or two before the allotted date while leaving each one intentionally unfinished until the allotted date, when I would finish it so I could technically say that I did work on one new drawing per day each day during Inktober. One evening, about two nights before the end of Inktober, I used my free time to do the bulk of the inking on my scheduled drawings of the last two days while leaving just a small area of each drawing unfinished so I could spend less than 15 minutes completing each drawing on the allotted day.

I did it this way because I grew tired of spending anywhere from a half-an-hour to a full hour working on each new drawing then spending additional time photographing my drawing then uploading it on my various social media accounts. You may think that I was cheating but I don’t care. If I hadn’t done something like this, I would’ve grown so tired of spending a chunk of time on my Inktober sketch that I would’ve quit just days before October 31.

Right now I’m typing this in the early days of NaNoWriMo, which is something similar to Inktober where you spend every day in November writing your novel. I’ve read about people who are doing NaNoWriMo but I’m definitely not taking part in this. Spending time each day doing Inktober was enough for me without having to go from doing daily Inktober drawings in October to writing daily NaNoWriMo prose in November.

Now that Inktober is over, I’m going to take some time off from drawing on a daily basis because I have other things in my life that I need to focus on (such as the upcoming winter holidays in December). Ultimately I’m going to try doing a new drawing in my sketchbook at least once a month. I would do this by just working on that drawing in blocks of 15 minutes on a given day (and that would be only if I had extra time available for me to do such a drawing). I would keep on working on the same drawing, 15 minutes at a time and one day at a time, until I’m finished. Basically I want to practice my drawing but on a more leisurely schedule where I can balance that with other activities that require my attention at the same time.

Of course only time will tell whether I actually achieve this. (LOL!) But I’m willing to at least give it a try.

Here are a few things I would advise a person who’s thinking about doing either Inktober next year or simply wants to devote a different month to doing one drawing per day (such as December or March or June):

1. Don’t obsess too much about drawing supplies. I know the official Inktober site has a list of recommended supplies but some of these supplies (such as Micron pens) can be pretty expensive to those on a tight budget. If you can’t afford the recommended Inktober supplies, don’t fret. Just go with cheaper supplies instead. I did my Inktober drawings using a cheap pack of multicolored Paper Mate InkJoy pens that I purchased at Target for only $10. And I wasn’t the only one who didn’t use the best supplies either. I saw quite a few Inktober drawings that were done only with the cheap disposable blue ink Bic ballpoint pens and I found them to be just as interesting and well-done as the ones that were used with the more expensive pens. As for drawing paper, I would recommend shopping around because sometimes you can find the best bargains. Here’s one example: I’ve seen 9” x 12” (23 cm x 30 cm) sketchbook drawing pads on sale at my local Five Below store for only $5.

2. Use a small sketchbook that’s no bigger than 9” x 12” (23 cm x 30 cm). Not only will you fill up the page faster than with a larger sketchbook but a smaller sketchbook is more portable. I did my Inktober drawings using a 4” x 6” (10 cm x 15 cm) sketchbook. When I decided to travel to Clark’s Elioak Farm to do some more Inktober drawings, all I had to do was to put my sketchbook (along with my pens and pencils) in my purse and I was good to go. Heck, I saw some Inktober sketches online that were drawn on Post-It Notes.

3. If you can, try setting aside a certain time each day to work on your Inktober sketch. It could be when you wake up the first thing in the morning or after dinner or whenever. If you can’t commit to the same time every day, then just take advantage of whatever free time suddenly materializes to do your drawings. I’ve seen people admit that they did their Inktober sketches while riding public transportation on the way to or from their day jobs. I’ve even seen people admit that they did their drawings on the sly while being forced to sit in on a boring lecture at school or they took advantage of some downtime at work. Just do whatever works for you.

4. The one thing about Inktober I learned is that you can do some advance drawings in pencil as long as you wait until the designated day to do the final inking. In fact, I learned that this year’s official Inktober prompt list was put online two weeks before the month began so one could have the luxury to decide what he/she wanted to draw on the designated day and even do a rough sketch in pencil. I took advantage of this policy towards the end of the month when I began to burn out on doing a new drawing every day and I was in danger of quitting before the month was over. What I did was to go to Clark’s Elioak Farm, where I finished one new drawing in ink but I did other unfinished drawings in pencil that I could finish in ink over the next few days. By the time I finished that series, it was close to Halloween so I spent one evening just doing a pencil drawing of Madonna Girl Dale (who usually wears a costume in public all year round) followed by pencil drawings of traditional Halloween and Day of the Dead figures until the 31st drawing of the month. So I spent the last week of Inktober just coloring in one previously made pencil drawing in ink per day until I reached the last drawing on Halloween.

5. If you hit a rough patch where you really can’t focus on doing any complicated detailed drawings or you don’t have a lot of time to do anything too complex, just do a simple drawing that you can easily finish in 30 minutes or less. I experienced this challenge earlier this month when I came down with this horrible cold that literally left me feeling very weak and tired all the time. For those days I decided to do simple drawings of a penguin and a panda bear because those animals were relatively easy for me to draw quickly before I felt tired enough to take another nap. As an added bonus, those two drawings were basically black and white drawings so I didn’t have to do much thinking while I drew them. I also didn’t bother with drawing backgrounds because that would’ve been more time-consuming and I didn’t feel wide awake enough to draw something that would’ve been more complex.

6. Don’t be a perfectionist about your drawing. The whole purpose of Inktober is to practice your drawing, not focusing on being the next Rembrandt or Keith Haring. The idea is to do a quick drawing that can be done in a small part of your day.

7. Don’t be afraid of posting your drawings online, even if you personally feel less than enthusiastic about your latest drawing. I found that people tended to be really nice towards those who posted their Inktober drawings and many of them gave positive feedback. I personally didn’t encounter any cyberbullying in the month that I posted my Inktober drawings online. Just post your drawing online even if you personally don’t like it because there will be people who will like it better than you do.

Well, that’s it for Inktober 2017. I’ll end this post with a couple of embedded things in case you’ve missed some or all of the Inktober drawings I’ve been uploading over the past month. One is a YouTube video that includes some catchy background music.

If you prefer to view the pictures at your own pace without background music, you can view my Flickr album instead.

Inktober 2017

A few days ago one of my ex-husband’s relatives contacted me on Facebook letting me know that my father-in-law was dying from stage 4 cancer and he also had a collapsed lung as well. I dedicated one of my Inktober drawings to him. Yesterday that same relative contacted me to let me know that he is now dead.

My father-in-law and I had always gotten along well together. He was a very brilliant man who devoted much of his career to near infrared spectroscopy and he and his second wife had their own consulting company that focused on it. For years I could only tell people the name of what he worked on but I literally couldn’t describe what it was about (other than it dealt with infrared light). The Wikipedia has a page on the topic that does a good basic explanation for people who aren’t experts in the field like my father-in-law was.

I last saw my father-in-law and his wife in person back in 2011. It was seven months before my husband abruptly walked out on me three days after Christmas (and three months after I underwent hip surgery). When he left I thought his mind had snapped and I had hoped that he would return home after a day or two. When it became apparent that he wouldn’t return, I sent an email to my husband’s relatives, including my husband’s father and step-mother, letting them know that if they needed to contact him they should use his email, cellphone or work phone because he was no longer at home. I remember his father and step-mother emailing me back expressing shock that my husband had ran away like that and they expressed support for me.

I sent them one more email after that. It was one month after my husband was gone. That was the day I found out from friends that he was seen in public with a woman who was a friend of ours. On top of it, she was the same woman who was open about her mental health issues that were so severe that she spoke about how she had an experimental pacemaker installed in her brain. I also know that she went on SSI disability shortly before my husband left me for her. I let his father and step-mother know that my husband was with another woman.

I know from other relatives that my father-in-law had summoned my husband to his place in New York City in an effort to talk some sense to him. Unfortunately that effort failed since my husband stuck with this schedule he had planned in his head where all of the separation of our finances had to happen by a certain deadline (he even threatened to sue me every time I dared to question why he needed to adhere to such a stringent schedule that he devised himself) and the divorce also had to happen by a certain date. He married the mentally ill woman just two months after our divorce was final.

In the years since I’ve had friends tell me disturbing things about their interactions with that couple. I can only imagine what my father-in-law had to directly deal with in the last few years of his life. I’m sad that my father-in-law had to spend his last few years with the knowledge of what happened to his son. It must have been hard for him to witness his son going from seeming to live a respectable life with a good job, a nice townhouse in a decent neighborhood, having a wife he basically liked (that’s me), and being involved in activities that were all connected to our church (such as his stint serving on the Board of Trustees) to suddenly chucking most of it in order to marry a severely mentally ill woman.  I wouldn’t be surprised if my father-in-law started wondering “Where did I go wrong in raising him?” I only hope that he didn’t kick himself too much or delved into feeling guilty because, to be honest, it wasn’t his fault that all this crazy drama happened.

At least my mother-in-law was spared this drama (due mainly to the fact that she died over a year before my husband left me).

My father-in-law was 86 when he died. He seemed pretty happy with his second marriage, his work, and his life in New York City.

Rest in peace.

A couple of days ago I received word from one of my ex-husband’s relatives that his 86-year-old father is in the hospital with stage 4 cancer and there’s a chance that he may die soon. Since that time I’ve looked on the Facebook walls of my ex’s relatives whom I’m still in contact with and I haven’t seen any updates on my father-in-law’s situation. Nevertheless I decided to dedicate today’s Inktober drawing to my father-in-law.

UPDATE (October 21, 2017): I’ve just got word from one of my ex-husband’s relatives that my father-in-law has died. May he rest in peace.

Over a week ago I had quite a day. My support group for people who are separated or divorced held a fundraising bag bingo at a local Elks Lodge located in Severn near my original hometown of Glen Burnie. Since I had wanted to visit my two art pieces that are on display in the Station North Arts Cafe as part of the Station North Art District Salon Show and that cafe is only opened until 3 p.m. most days and Glen Burnie is located just south of Baltimore, I decided to make a long day out of being in the Baltimore area.

First, I traveled to Baltimore where I arrived in the area just an hour before the cafe closed for the day. The weather was warm with low humidity that day and it was incredibly sunny and beautiful. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the cloudy blue sky after I arrived in the area.

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I walked past the Chicken Box where I saw this chalk window display showing the map of the ongoing Station North Arts District Salon Show.

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I also took a photo of one of the many murals on display in the Station North Arts District.

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I finally arrived at the Station North Arts Cafe. As I was taking the photo below, a man approached me, introduced himself as being the cafe’s owner, and invited me into his establishment while saying that his place is the best restaurant in Baltimore.

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I walked inside and looked around at all the art on the walls until I finally found my two pieces located outside the door leading to the next room where the kitchen, counter, and cash register were located.

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Here are my two pieces as they are currently on display at the Station North Arts Cafe. (You can click here for brighter and clearer versions of the pieces.)

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The cafe has a very funky decor that I found charming, such as the area behind the counter.

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I ordered my lunch then I went to the bathroom. I found the decor in the bathroom was so incredibly cool that I couldn’t resist photographing it.

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The rest of the cafe had funky decorative touches everywhere that I found very charming.

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I ordered the All-American Grilled Cheese & Tomato while paying a little extra for a couple of strips of smoked bacon with a bag of Utz potato chips and a Diet Pepsi. I found my lunch to be very tasty. The rest of the menu looks very interesting and I’d love to try the other items but I would definitely have to plan any future trips to that cafe since the place is only opened until 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

After I finished eating my late lunch, I decided to travel south so I could check out the place where I grew up from ages 5-19. I took Route 2 out of Baltimore and I drove through Brooklyn. I remember when I was a teenager, my family used to go out to a family-owned seafood restaurant in Brooklyn called Gunning’s Crab House on special occasions. The place looked run-down on the outside but when you entered through the doors you’d see brightly-painted rooms with wooden furniture and wall panelings. The food was excellent and I still have memories of eating that restaurant’s signature crab fluff dish. Sadly Gunning’s went out of business years ago. Otherwise, I would’ve planned on just ordering a drink at the Station North Arts Cafe and saving my appetite for Gunning’s. 😦

As I continued to drive, I decided to pull into this local Roses lot. I’m well familiar with Roses because there is a Roses in Ocean City and I remember when I used to go on vacation with my then-husband and sister-in-law, my sister-in-law used to insist on spending some time shopping at Roses because she’s pretty hooked on shopping for items at the cheapest prices. (She’s been known to shop in at least four or more stores if she’s looking for a certain item because she wants to but it at the cheapest price.) I haven’t been to Ocean City since 2011 (just five months before my husband abruptly walked out on me) so I’d thought it would be fun to visit the Roses in Brooklyn just for old time’s sake.

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Roses is a discount store that’s similar to Big Lots in that it sells consumer items at cut-rate prices. There are basically two kinds of items sold at Roses. One is overstocked items, such as these toys based on that controversial reality show, Duck Dynasty.

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The other kind of items that Roses sells are ones that are cheap Chinese-made knock-offs of more well-known products, such as these $5 articulated 1/6 scale big-eyed dolls available in a variety of funky skin colors that remind me of Mattel’s Monster High dolls.

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As I parked in the Roses parking lot, I saw these two guys walking along Route 2 and they definitely caught my attention. One was a person that I initially thought was a topless woman until I realized that it was really an overweight man with long blonde hair and man-boobs. The other person had long blonde hair and was wearing a cowboy hat and a western-style shirt. I also wasn’t sure if the person was really a woman or a cross-dressing cowgirl. This cowgirl definitely stood out on the streets of Brooklyn. The cowgirl also shook her hips as she and her friend walked past Roses. I tried to get a picture of these unusually looking pair but they walked too fast for my camera and I didn’t feel like running down the street to catch up with them.

A day later or so after my trip, I was still on a mental high from my recent trip to the Baltimore area, I was checking out a few YouTube videos about my hometown of Glen Burnie when I found a video featuring that cowgirl I saw walking past Roses in Brooklyn.

It was through YouTube that I found out that the cowgirl I saw walking past Roses in Brooklyn was none other than Dale Crites, also known as Britney Girl Dale. Damn, I was close to a local celebrity who once tried out for America’s Got Talent and I didn’t realize it until later. Man, I now regret not running down the street so I could get a photo of Britney Girl Dale and Dale’s friend.

After my brief visit to Roses, I continued traveling south along Route 2 until I hit the northernmost border of Glen Burnie and Route 2 becomes known as Ritchie Highway. Here are a few things about my life. I was born in Baltimore and I lived there with my family for the first few years of my life. When I was five my family moved to Glen Burnie because my parents—especially my mother—had an ambition of living in the suburbs and the housing in Glen Burnie was cheap compared to other places they checked out.

The next photo shows the former location of a chain of chicken restaurants known as English’s Fried Chicken. That place used to be among my favorite restaurants growing up. Sadly the Glen Burnie location closed soon after I left for college but there are still a few English’s Fried Chicken places left on the Eastern Shore, especially in Ocean City. English’s former Glen Burnie location is now occupied by another chicken place known as Hip Hop Chicken. (No, I haven’t tried eating there. I was still full from that lunch I ate at the Station North Arts Cafe.)

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Across the street from the shopping center where Hip Hop Chicken is located is the Motor Vehicles Administration (MVA). This was the building where I took my driver’s test when I was 16. I flunked the first time but I practiced my driving some more and I managed to get my driver’s license on the second try. Recently I saw the MVA’s Glen Burnie location mentioned on Roadside America’s site for one reason.

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There is a giant Crash Test Dummy statue located in the front of the building. I don’t recall seeing this statue when I was growing up. I think someone installed it after I permanently moved away from Glen Burnie. I have to admit that it’s impressive looking.

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Glen Burnie consists of two major highways that run parallel to each other—Ritchie Highway and Crain Highway. Both are full of car dealerships, shopping centers, shopping malls, and all kinds of fast food outlets. The next photo shows the dashboard view of Ritchie Highway.

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The next three photos show why Glen Burnie has been dubbed “The Car Capital of Maryland.” There are all kinds of auto dealerships that are located throughout Ritchie Highway.

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There are so many auto dealerships that are located next to each other that some of them have to resort to attention-getting gimmicks, such as this Ford dealership’s giant inflatable fox.

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The next photo shows Crain Highway, which runs through downtown Glen Burnie. Yes, the next photo shows the main downtown hub of Glen Burnie. Now you know why Glen Burnie isn’t exactly a tourist destination.

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Here’s further south along Crain Highway. Now you know why Glen Burnie is synonymous with the term “suburban sprawl.”

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I decided to enter one of my favorite shopping malls from my teen years. When I was growing up, it was known as Glen Burnie Mall. Nowadays it’s known by the more pretentious-sounding The Centre at Glen Burnie.

photo27In my time the mall had two large anchors—Toys R Us and Montgomery Ward—with a bunch of smaller stores that I loved. My favorites were the Record Bar, where I bought plenty of albums with my allowance money, and Walden Books, where I loved to check out the books and magazines on sale there. There were also trendy clothing stores like Merry-Go-Round and Chess King as well as this great video arcade where I spent plenty of quarters playing the classic video games of the era like Space Invaders and Pac-Man.

Montgomery Ward went out of business years ago but I noticed a Target in its place. I saw that Toys R Us was still there in its original place but it has been joined by an h.h. gregg. (It looked like the mall went through an expansion on one side in order to accommodate h.h. gregg’s arrival.)

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I decided to enter the mall for old time’s sake just to see what’s still there. I saw that the old video arcade is long gone. The closest thing to an arcade video game that’s in the mall is this claw machine in the photo below, which is giving away Starbucks plastic cups with a gift card inside. (Judging from the sign, it looks like you have to spend the quarters and win one of the cups in order to learn what kind of gift cards are being given away.)

 

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There’s a nice glass case display devoted to the Baltimore sports teams (Orioles and Ravens).

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I saw that Lane Bryant’s was still there and the jewelry kiosks were also there in the center of the mall but the vast majority of stores I saw in that mall were ones that came along after I left Glen Burnie.

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But most of the mall was empty with few shoppers.

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There was a children’s play area that looked relatively new. (I don’t recall a play area like that when I was growing up.) I only saw one young girl in the play area when I was there but she left with her mother around the time that I walked by there.

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photo36There were also a few stores there that were running Going Out of Business sales, which means that this mall will become even more empty in a few weeks.

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I felt so sad at seeing my once-favorite shopping mall turning into a dying shopping mall that I decided to briefly stop in Toys R Us for a brief pick-me-up. That store is one of the few original stores that’s still in the mall and it’s still standing even though other Toys R Us stores have been closed in recent years. (There were once three Toys R Us stores near my current home and they all eventually closed. These days if I have to go to Toys R Us for any reason, I have to drive at least a half-an-hour.)

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Toys R Us sells the usual classic toys like Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars along with some technologically advanced stuff, such as this tablet for kids that was on sale the day I was at that store.

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Toys R Us had a really cute Dumbo ride that’s patiently waiting for a child willing to ride his back.

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I left that mall feeling sad that my one-time favorite mall has become one of those malls that get documented on sites like DeadMalls.com. At the fork that splits Crain Highway off from Ritchie Highway, I decided to drive down Crain. I kept on driving south until I ran into another place I recognized from my past—The Doll Motel.

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The Doll Motel has long been a landmark in the southern part of Glen Burnie and this place looks exactly the same as I remembered it. Even the trimmed bushes and the decorations around the place are exactly the same.

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The Doll Motel also played a big part in my wedding. My fiance and I decided to hold our wedding in the backyard of my parents’ home because we were into the idea of a spring garden wedding but we were also on a tight budget. We decided to hold our wedding on the first Saturday in June because we bought into the tradition of holding a June wedding and we also decided on a Saturday because my fiance invited his friends and relatives who were literally scattered all over the United States (in contrast, most of my friends and relatives lived in Maryland) and many of them preferred Saturday because they could fly in on Friday then leave on Sunday so they could return to their jobs on Monday. We encouraged our out-of-town wedding guests to stay at the Red Roof Inn that was located near BWI Airport (which is located near Glen Burnie—I still remember when the planes used to fly over our neighborhood flying to and from that airport). But there was a problem: my fiance’s Orthodox Jewish step-mother and his father, who converted to the Orthodox Jewish faith so he could marry his second wife. His father said that our Saturday wedding was the Sabbath and he asked us if we could hold the wedding on a Sunday instead but my husband told him that we were having guests flying as far away as California and we had to schedule our wedding around their work schedules so they could attend. (In contrast, my husband’s father and step-mother lived—and still continue to live—in New York City and they had recently became self-employed so they had more flexible work schedules.)

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Staying at the Red Roof Inn by the airport was out of the question since Orthodox Jews are prohibited from driving on the Sabbath (among other prohibitions). We suggested that they stay with my parents since the wedding was going to be held in their backyard (and they were even willing to host them in their home) but they turned that idea down. We ultimately arranged to have them stay at The Doll Motel so they could make the long 1.5 mile walk along the very busy Crain Highway to my parents’ home to attend our wedding. We arranged to hold the wedding late enough in the afternoon so it would be past sunset by the time they were ready to return to their motel room and they could catch a ride from another wedding guest. My ex-husband’s father and step-mother never talked about their experiences with The Doll Motel so I have no idea if they liked the place or not.

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After I finished taking the above photo of the house that serves as The Doll Motel’s office, I decided to keep driving south on Crain Highway. I decided to pull into the parking lot of another Glen Burnie business that still exists long after I moved away.

Crabtowne USA was the nearest seafood restaurant nearest to our home when I was a young child. (In later years there was another seafood place that opened ever closer to our neighborhood and there have been other nearby seafood restaurants that have opened since I moved away.) It also once had a reputation for attracting a rough redneck crowd and fights used to break out every now and then (especially on Friday and Saturday nights). I remember my parents decided to eat there on a rare date night out as a couple but they never went back. For years my parents would occasionally make a reference to Crabtowne USA as the place they vowed they would never go back to because they were pretty unnerved by the fellow diners they saw during the one time they ate there.

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I had originally decided to just take a couple of photos of the exterior of Crabtowne USA for old time’s sake then move on.

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But as I got closer to the sign so I could take a close-up shot of it, I noticed a smaller sign that’s underneath the large sign that promoted its Classic Arcade.

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As someone who spent plenty of quarters playing video games when I was in both high school and college, I became intrigued enough by the sign to actually go inside the building. Off to the side of the main dining area is this large room full of video games.

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There were a few rows of vintage 1970’s and 1980’s video games and most of them were ones that I played years ago.

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Not only did this room have the most famous of the video games (such as Pac-Man) but it also carried some of the less famous video games that were popular back in the day but, for some reason, they are relatively obscure. And, yes, that’s a foosball table in the above photograph.

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I felt like I had just stepped back in time and entered an old video arcade circa 1979-1985. Or I had entered one of the video arcades on Ocean City’s Boardwalk that have a row of the older vintage arcade machine.

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Over the years I purchased some of these old arcade games for both the Playstation 2 and the Nintendo Wii and I still play some of these titles from time to time. However, it’s still not quite the same as standing at a real arcade cabinet, dropping a quarter in the slot, and pushing a joystick or pressing a button.

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In addition, Crabtowne USA had a few video games that I’ve never seen released on any console, computer, or mobile platform, such as this Nintendo game in the above photo that’s based on the Popeye cartoons.

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If all that weren’t enough, along the walls there were vintage pinball games from the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s.

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There were all kinds of pinball games based on movies, TV shows, sporting events, and even one that was based on the rock band Kiss.

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The best thing about Crabtowne USA’s retro arcade is the fact that all the games still cost one quarter to play. That was totally sweet!

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For the young ones, there were also kiddie rides similar to what one used to frequently find at the shopping mall or inside some stores.

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There were also some kitschy decor in that room such as the sign below.

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The biggest irony about all this is that I don’t recall Crabtowne USA having anything like this when I was a teen. If I wanted to play pinball, I had to go to one of the many shopping malls and shopping centers that are located all along both Ritchie Highway and Crain Highway in Glen Burnie. (Back in the day it seemed like nearly every single shopping mall and shopping center had a video arcade.) I assumed that the restaurant had set up the video games and pinball machines after I moved out of the area because I previously known Crabtowne USA for the stories I’ve heard about drunken brawls from my parents and the other adults in my neighborhood. For all I know, the people who run the restaurant could’ve set up this vintage arcade in an effort to move away from its redneck reputation (as well as tap into the nostalgia market of people who grew up playing these vintage video games).

Like many video arcades there were change machines so people can get quarters to play the old games. I was in my total glory as I played a few video games and pinball machines. If I had more time, I would’ve ordered dinner and played these games until I ran out of extra cash. But I had to cut my time at Crabtowne USA short but I plan on returning one day in the future. (In a way, Crabtowne USA has given me a new reason to visit Glen Burnie on a more regular basis than once every two or three years. I haven’t visited the town as much since my widowed mother sold the original family home six years ago and moved to Odenton.)

After Crabtowne USA I decided to drive further south along Crain Highway where I decided to make a detour through my old neighborhood. The photo below is my childhood home. My parents bought this house and I moved there with my family from Baltimore when I was five. I lived there until I was 19 and I decided to transfer from Anne Arundel Community College (where I spent my freshman year) to the University of Maryland at College Park. After college graduation at 22 I moved back home for a year until I got married at 23. My husband and I were married in my parents’ backyard.

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This house is a two floor, three bedroom house with one and a half bathrooms and a garage. It was a nice house even though I hated the neighborhood it was located in due mainly to the kids who made my life hell (such as the ones I had the misfortune of running into when I was at Artscape in Baltimore last month) and the fact that if you were someone without a driver’s license (like I was as a kid), you had to rely on someone else willing to give you a ride because there were very few places within easy and safe walking distance.

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Both of my parents were avid gardeners. Over the years they purchased a lot of trees, plants, and bushes from Evergreen Gene’s (which I actually drove past during this trip but I didn’t stop there). After I got married and moved away my parents grew tired of mowing the lawn so they replaced the lawn in both the front and back yards with lots of trees, bushes, and shrubs. It’s nice to know that the current owners have kept the original plantings in the front yard even if some of the trees and bushes could use some pruning. I would’ve loved to have seen the back yard but it didn’t look like anyone was home at the time and I wasn’t about to break in to the back yard and risk arrest for the sake of a few photos and satisfying my curiosity.

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Here’s a dashboard shot of the street where my old childhood home is located. As you can see it’s very sprawling with lots of homes (which were all built in the 1960’s and 1970’s). My neighborhood was located so far south in Glen Burnie that it was literally up against the border with the next town, Severn. When my family first moved there were no playgrounds. In fact it would be a few years before we got a playground that was at least a 15-20 minute walk from my home. When I was growing up there were no stores within safe walking distance except for the local High’s convenience store. In later years there was a shopping center that was built that had a Giant on one end and a Fortune Cookie on the other but you literally had to dodge traffic on Crain Highway if you wanted to walk there. The nearest bus stop was an hour’s walk along Crain Highway. (A closer bus stop was finally set up closer to the entrance of my neighborhood long after I permanently left Glen Burnie. One would still have to walk at least 15 minutes since this bus stop isn’t in the neighborhood but it still beats the old days of having to walk an hour.) The nearest library was also an hour’s walk. You needed a car to go anywhere.

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Another dashboard view of the street where my childhood home is located. When my mother’s multiple sclerosis grew so bad that she could no longer drive, she was in the same boat as I was before I was able to legally drive except she couldn’t walk so she was totally housebound and relying on friends and family to bring food and do errands. Which was why she ultimately had to sell the house and move elsewhere.

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I didn’t stay long in my old neighborhood because it was getting close to the time for my support group’s bingo event and I wanted to arrive in time to buy myself some dinner before the bingo began. So I went from my neighborhood and drove a mile down the road until Crain Highway became known as New Cut Road and I was in Severn. Ironically the bingo venue is located near the church my family took me to when I was a child, St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church. I briefly drove around in the church parking lot while getting a glance at the rectory next door but I didn’t have much time to explore so I just drove on down Stevenson Road until I reached the Elks Lodge.

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The Elks Lodge has this small yet charming memorial garden.

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Here are a couple of wide shots of the room where the bingo event was held.

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It was a bag bingo that was a fundraiser for my support group, Changing Focus. The next photos showed some of the bags that were donated to this bingo and they included such designer names as Vera Wang and Coach. The bags looked lovely but I attended the bingo more for the chance at socializing with some of the people I’ve met through the support group. I had already decided that if I had won any of the bags I would’ve immediately sell it on eBay in order to raise some much-needed cash for myself.

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You can tell that the Elks Club holds bingo events on a regular basis because it has some pretty fancy bingo equipment.

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The decor of the Elks Club seemed like it was stuck in the 1970’s yet I found it quite cozy and charming.

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I ate dinner at the Elks Club and it was quite good and affordable. The next photo shows my bingo pack before the event began. I was provided with a bunch of paper bingo cards in a variety of colors along with a schedule of which bingo games would be played, which bingo cards would be used, and what the prize would be. For a dollar extra I bought this special red bingo ink that could be used to mark off the numbers on the cards.

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Bingo night turned out to be a long one and it ended around 11 p.m. As the evening went on I gradually went through and discarded the bingo cards. I ended up not winning anything that evening even though there was a couple of games when I was only one or two squares away from winning until someone else called out “BINGO!” I only took photos of the last two bingo rounds of the evening. The photo below shows a regular bingo game.

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The final photo in this post shows a bingo variation called “Coverall” where you had to cover all the numbers on a card before you call out “BINGO!” As you can see, there was one card where I was three squares away from winning but someone else beat me to it.

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When I attended my weekly support group meeting the following Thursday (August 21), I learned that this event raised over $2,000 for Changing Focus. Sweet! 🙂

I was totally exhausted from such a long day. I got confused as to which way to turn out of the Elks Club parking lot and I soon realized that I made a wrong turn when I saw Stevenson Road turn into Quarterfield Road. I found a parking lot where I could make a quick turnaround and, when I entered, I saw a sign saying that the building was Quarterfield Elementary School. That was the first school I had ever attended and I was there from grades 1-5. (Anne Arundel County Public Schools didn’t even have kindergarten at the time I started school. I think the school system eventually got wise and added kindergarten classes when I was in the fourth or fifth grade.) If it weren’t for the fact that my the battery power was low on my smartphone and it was after 11 p.m. at night time, I would’ve walked around the school and taken a few photos. It was kind of neat to accidentally blunder across my old school.

In any case I eventually found my way back to the main roads so I was able to travel home without any incident. The next day I decided to do a Google search on both Glen Burnie and Crabtowne USA and I found this post on The Surfing Pizza blog that’s also about Glen Burnie and, like me, he also grew up in that town but he moved away as an adult. (He moved to Baltimore while I moved closer to DC.) That post covers similar ground to this one except he goes into two other malls from my childhood that have undergone radical changes—Harundale Mall and Jumper’s Hole Mall.

Ramadan

Nearly two weeks ago I decided to check out the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Mall in downtown Washington, DC. I was especially interested in checking out one of the sections that is devoted to Hungarian culture this year. Even though I don’t have a single drop of Hungarian blood inside of me, my life and my family have been impacted by Hungary and Hungarian culture in four different ways.

1. My great-great-grandfather, Anton Znamenacek, immigrated to the United States from the city of Prague in 1865. At the time Prague was located in an area known as Bohemia, which was then a state inside the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Despite the name of the country where he came from, he was neither Austrian nor Hungarian—he was an ethnic Czech. Bohemia remained part of Austria-Hungary until after World War I where it was merged with the other former Austro-Hungarian states of Moravia and Slovakia to form the new nation of Czechoslovakia. That nation suvived having its Sudentenland area being formally annexed by Nazi Germany before the Nazis decided to invade the rest of the country and, after World War II ended, becoming part of the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain while experiencing a brief period of liberalization—known as the Prague Spring—before being brutally crushed by the USSR in 1968. In 1993, after the Cold War ended, both the Czechs (who live in Bohemia and Moravia, which are both known as the Czech lands) and Slovaks (who live in Slovakia) decided that they would be better off if Czecoslovakia would break up into two separate countries. Today Bohemia is part of the Czech Republic.

2. Until recently I was married to a man whose maternal grandparents both immigrated to the United States from Hungary in the early 1920’s, where they settled in St. Louis. My late mother-in-law was 100% Hungarian (which makes my ex-husband half-Hungarian) but she never learned her parents’ language because, as she once told me, her parents insisted on all of their children immersing themselves totally into the American culture—including speaking only English. Her older siblings were born in Hungary so they were bilingual but she and her younger sister, who were both born in the U.S., grew up knowing only English. She used to talk about how, as a child, her parents used to converse in either Hungarian or German whenever they wanted to discuss something that they didn’t want her or her younger sister to hear. She managed to visit her parents’ homeland once or twice when she was still married to my father-in-law but that was before I even started to date her son.

3. My father-in-law’s second wife is half-Hungarian. My husband’s step-mother has rarely spoken about her past in my presence but, based on what little she has said, I know that her parents separated at some point when she was young (I don’t know how old she was when this happened). Her father lived in Budapest while she and her younger brother were raised by their mother in New York City. Her father not only didn’t attend her wedding but my father-in-law didn’t even meet his second wife’s father for the first time until about two or three years after they were married. At the time of that wedding the Cold War was still going on and Hungary was an Iron Curtain country, which not only had strict limits on citizens being able to travel abroad but the Communist government severely limited foreign tourists entering its borders. I still remember the time when my husband’s step-mother showed my husband and I something that her father gave to her as a belated wedding present during a visit to Budapest in the 1980’s. It was a very colorful handmade piece of cloth. I don’t remember if it was a shawl or a tablecloth but I remembered that it was embroidered by hand and it was very beautiful.

4. My ex-husband and I converted to Unitarian Universalism, a religious faith whose roots are in Transylvania, and there are Unitarian congregations that still exist in that region. Yes, Transylvania is the same region where the legend of Dracula the vampire came from (which was based on the real-life brutal Romanian count known as Vlad the Impaler) but it’s also a region that was incorporated into the Kingdom of Hungary in 1003. Even though Transylvania is now part of Romania, there are still a large number of ethnic Hungarians who live there and speak the Hungarian language.

So I was eager to go to the Folklife Festival to check out the Hungarian section. The big challenge was the weather. Lately it had been alternating between rain and being very warm with high humidity. I went late in the afternoon during the first weekend of the festival mainly because of the frequency of the showers. (Usually it’s better to go to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the first weekend because the second weekend tends to coincide with the Fourth of July and there are more visitors as a result.) I was able to check out most of the Hungarian area of the festival, as these photos show.

The sign denoting the Hungarian section of the festival showed this really cool looking folk art rendition of a peacock.

2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Near that sign was a wooden tower that featured that same peacock design.

2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Near that tower was this unique sculpture that was made from black painted wood (which was still a work in progress when I photographed it). I don’t know what the statue is supposed to represent but, for some reason, it reminded me of a dog.

2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

There were a variety of Hungarian food on sale but I didn’t try any of it because I ate lunch before I left home and the food booths were crowded.

2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

There were a lot of Hungarian crafts on display and there were Hungarian artisans who were making crafts at the festival. Many of those crafts were on sale in the Marketplace tent but they were a bit too pricey for my budget. (One example is a handcrafted wood zither that was on sale for $2,000.) As you can see in the photos below, many of them were gorgeous.

2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

I also learned that folk dancing is very big in Hungary and there were dancing demonstrations at the festival.

2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The next two photos show a demonstration of jewelry made from horsehair. (That’s a horse tail on display in the next photo.) Seeing that jewelry reminds me of the immdiate aftermath of my ethnic Hungarian mother-in-law’s death in 2010. A few hours after my husband and I arrived in Phoenix, we checked into our hotel room then went straight to the funeral home where my mother-in-law’s ashes were already displayed in an urn. (She had been cremated a day or two before we arrived.) The following morning we went to her funeral at the local Episcopalian church that she joined after she remarried to a devout Episcopalian years earlier followed by a reception at the home of my husband’s newly widowed step-father. About an hour or two after the last guest left the house, my sister-in-law decided to immediately start going through her mother’s clothes and jewelry and she dragged me to her bedroom for help. (I’ll admit that I was reluctant because I was still suffering from jetlag and I was worn out from participating in the earlier events.) Among the jewelry I saw was this braid jewelry charm that looked like it was made from hair and my sister-in-law told me that it had been in my mother-in-law’s family for years. My sister-in-law took that charm so my memory is a bit hazy on what it looked like. Seeing the jewelry on display at the festival reminded me of that charm and I’m now wondering if that charm was really made from horsehair and not human hair like my sister-in-law thought.

2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Here are some more Hungarian crafts that were on display at the festival.

2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The Hungarian section had this small building featuring the same folk art peacock I saw on the signs and that wood tower. The general public was invited to draw or paint right on the walls of this building.

2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Once I was done with touring the Hungarian Heritage section, I decided to check out the other section of the festival that was called One World, Many Voices. This section focused on language diversity as part of the human experience and the exhibitons were devoted to those languages that are most endangered of disappearing entirely. Some of the exhibitions had some cool arts and crafts like the Hungarian Heritage section but it wasn’t as extensive as the Hungarian section. I wasn’t familiar with the highlighted endangered languages in that section and some of the tables I saw didn’t interest me very much. I managed to visit some of the booths but I wasn’t able to see it all because the festival closed for the day. Here are my photos of what I briefly saw at the One World, Many Voices section.

2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

The one section of the festival I wasn’t able to check out in person (other than to walk past it on the way to visitng the Hungarian Heritage section) was one titled The Will to Adorn and it dealt with the various styles of fashion within the African American community. Judging from what I saw as I walked past, it looked like it was the smallest of the three sections. I wanted to return to check out the areas I missed and to check out the Hungarian Heritage again but over the Fourth of July holiday weekend the weather had high heat (the temperature was frequently in the 90’s) and high humidity. On top of it, that weekend tend to draw huge crowds on the mall and I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of walking around in crowded areas while sweating like crazy. At least I visited the one section I wanted to visit the most so I’m not too sad over not seeing the entire festival this year.

Yesterday I dropped off two of my pieces for the upcoming 18" x 18x Show that is currently being held at the artdc’s Lustine Gallery in Hyattsville, Maryland as of today. Both of my submitted pieces are acrylic painting on canvas and I have written about them in this blog before. They are both within the 18" x 18" maximum limit so it is possible for you to purchase my art without having to find huge wall space to put it. Here they are.

Desire

The above piece is called Desire and you can read the original blog post I wrote right here. Basically it’s based on one of my photographs of a dog named Jay-Jay who was owned by my then-husband’s mother and step-father. I originally displayed it at Artomatic 2009. I subsequently gave it to my husband’s mother and step-father during a visit with them around the Thanksgiving holiday in 2009, which was well received by both of them. Four months later my mother-in-law suddenly died. When we looked in on my husband’s step-father during the Memorial Day holiday weekend in 2010, I noticed that the painting was laying on the bed in one of the guest bedrooms along with all kinds of other stuff (including books, photographs, and other works of art) but I didn’t pay any mind to it at the time. My husband and I would make one last trip to Arizona together in early 2011 in order to help his step-father celebrate his 80th birthday. I didn’t see the painting anywhere on that trip but I wasn’t too concerned about it at the time because I was too distracted by the festivities.

My husband went to Phoenix on his own in the summer of 2011 but I didn’t go because I had suffered a hip injury that year and my walking had gotten too bad to travel. (I would undergo surgery to correct the problem in September, 2011.) My husband’s step-father had decided to move away from the home that he shared with his late wife in Tempe and move to a retirment community that was further on the outskirts of Phoenix. Since he was moving to a smaller place, he needed to drastically downsize his personal possessions so my husband and his sister went to go through some more of their mother’s old things, divide them up between the two, then ship the stuff back east. My husband took the things he brought back with him and put it in a rental storage shed because he couldn’t look at them further due to my upcoming surgery.

So I went through the surgery in September, 2011 and my husband abruptly left me without ever giving the slightest hint that he was unhappy in the marriage in December, 2011. Since then my husband has avoided seeing me. At one point he took advantage of the fact that I told him that I was going to a weekly support group meeting for people who are separated or divorced by letting himself in the house on the nights when I was at the meeting and take a bunch of stuff. He went through the stuff, decided what he wanted to keep, and boxed up the rest. Then he arranged for friends to go to his place, pick up the boxes, and deliver them back to my house. (I was home the night they brought the boxes. Of course my husband wasn’t with them when they arrived at my home.) As I was going through the boxes, I found the Desire painting among them. Apparently my husband’s step-father decided to give that painting up when he moved and my husband brought the painting back with him along with the other stuff.

As to whatever happened to Jay-Jay the Australian Shepherd, I know that he continued to live with my husband’s step-father after his mother died. My husband also told me that when his step-father moved to the retirement community, he took Jay-Jay with him. (In fact, he picked that particular retirement community because it was pet-friendly). I haven’t seen Jay-Jay since my last trip to Phoenix in January, 2011 when my husband and I were helping to celebrate his step-father’s 80th birthday. The dog was 11 years old then. I don’t know if the dog is even still alive or not and I’ll probably never learn the latest news on that dog since my husband refuses to speak to me these days. In any case, it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever see Jay-Jay in person again. It’s too bad since Jay-Jay was basically a very sweet dog whose biggest pleasure in life is having people pet him all the time. (As I’m typing this I’m remembering those sad eyes he would flash when he wanted someone to pet him. That tactic usually worked every time.) He was a very easygoing dog and he was always a pleasure to be around.

I do have plenty of photos to remember the dog by that I shot during my many visits to Phoenix over the last several years so don’t let my sad story deter you from purchasing that painting. 😉 On an entirely different note, here’s the other painting that is currently on display at the show.

The Scream of Nadya Suleman

This one is called The Scream of Nadya "Octomom" Suleman and you can read the original blog post I wrote right here. When I originally did this painting, I had watched a series of interviews that the Octomom had done for Radar Online and with each subsequent clip I noticed that there was already plenty of chaos in the household with the six older children and that adding eight babies had the potential of a disaster in the making. Sadly I was proven correct in my prediction. I imagined a scenario where one of the kids would write graffitti on the wall that was based on my fantasy and it turned out to be true in real life. I also imagined a scenario where her kids would abuse each other but, aside from the one boy who urinated into one of the cribs, I never thought that Octomom would be accused of letting her kids sexually abuse each other. There are other things that has happened that I didn’t predict in that painting, including that masturbation porn she made, her sitting on a giant Sybian vibrator during her appearance on Howard Stern’s radio show, her forays into stripping, that photoshoot where she pretended that she was actress Angelina Jolie, and accusations that she is too stoned on pot to adequately take care of her 14 kids. I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up really cracking up in real life where she does nothing but scream her head off just like in my painting. The only people I really feel sorry for in this situation are her 14 children because they didn’t ask to be born into this mess and they have to bear the brunt of the results of their mother’s actions.

Both of my paintings will be among the many other works of art that will be on display at this location:

artdc Gallery at The Lustine Center
5710 Baltimore Avenue
Hyattsville, Maryland 20781

The artdc website will have more details about that show. Even though the show is up now, the gallery tends to be closed during the week so the best time to see it is on the weekends. There will be a reception held on May 11 from 12-5 p.m. as part of the Gateway Open Studio Tour. (Sadly I won’t be there because I’ll be busy selling my wares at the Greenbelt Green Man Festival at the same time.) For the latest up-to-date news on this show, I suggest checking out either the artdc website or the artdc Twitter feed.

This morning Google redesigned its logo to honor the 138th birthday of Howard Carter, the British archeologist who’s most famous for finding the tomb of Egyptian Pharoah King Tutankhamun—King Tut, for short. I actually saw some of the artifiacts from that tomb in person when the Franklin Museum in Philadelphia had an exhibition a few years ago. (My husband and I came up north from Washington, DC. We met his sister, who traveled south from the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania, and his father and step-mother, who traveled even further south from New York City. We all saw the exhibition together.)

That Google doodle also reminded me of this Steve Martin song from 1979.

Today we went from my parents-in-law’s condo in New York City and made a long trek to Buchanan to visit my brother-in-law, who lives there. We had a picnic in the backyard of my brother-in-law’s home along with some of his housemates. Going to and from New York City we took Route 9A and it was very scenic. At one point I saw a road sign for two towns that I recognize from pop culture. One town was for Pleasantville, which was also the title of a movie that was released a few years ago. The other was for Sleepy Hollow, as in the famous Headless Horseman story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Is that cool or what?

The town of Buchanan has New England-style homes that were very pretty to look at. The houses were way more visually way interesting than the suburb that I grew up in that was located south of Baltimore. (Yes, I’m referring to Glen Burnie.)

So I’m back at my in-laws’ place in New York City. We’re going to go back to my sister-in-law’s home in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania after dinner and spend the night there. Then my husband and I are going to make the long travel back to Washington, DC right on Memorial Day itself.

If all that wasn’t enough, my husband has to take a plane flight out to Melbourne, Florida the following day for his job, stay there Tuesday-Friday, then fly back Friday afternoon. Fortunately I don’t have to go along with him since I would be too exhausted from this trip to even contemplate further travel.

When I ended the previous blog post with this quote “That’s it for today. We’ll probably eat a late dinner, maybe watch another rented video, then go to bed”, I was mistaken. I forgot that we planned to travel from Northeastern Pennsylvania to New York City. Basically my husband, sister-in-law, and I loaded up into her car and we drove the approximately 75 miles to New York City where my father-in-law and his wife lives.

When we reached the city, I saw something really amazing. Usually one can see the Empire State Building in the skyline and normally the top is lit up at night with yellow light. Well, during the trip into the city, I noticed that the Empire State Building was bathed in different lights. The very top was lit up in blue. Below the blue top, another area was lit in white. Below the white area, another area was lit in red.

That’s right, it’s lit up in red, white, and blue lights—the colors of the American flag. I was really awestruck to see the Empire State Building lit up like that. (You can see the picture of what it looks like when you do an image search on Google but it looks way more awesome to see in person.) My sister-in-law, who has travelled into New York City more often than I have, told me that the Empire State Building is lit up like that every patriotic holiday.

In addition, we drove past the Intrepid ship and my sister-in-law said that this week is Fleet Week. Sure enough, the dock around the Intrepid was full of sailors and marines all wearing their uniforms. I’ve never been to New York City during Fleet Week before and it was really awesome to see so many people in uniforms gathered on the docks like that.

We arrived to my in-laws’ place late last night so we are just resting from the long commute from Pennsylvania.

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