Thursday, February 28, 2013

What's wrong with this picture?

Why is it so "ugly"?
While we lovingly assigned this moniker
to the Money Pit, it is actually a classic 
example of it's time. Built in 1917 of 
stucco and brick, the deep roof is set 
upon a low, flat plane. Quite modern 
and unique, it's surprising that a home
like this was designed and built in 
Lewistown, Montana during the height 
of World War One rationing. Proof that
it's owner, George Washington Cook 
was a educated man of means and power.
His residence reflected 
the height of fashion. 
In the early 20th century, the design of homes like ours was influenced by the Arts & Crafts work of British architects like Voysey and Ballie Scott. 

On the home front, American innovators 
like Frank Lloyd Wright also influenced 
the look and feel of residential design. 
Wealthy Americans started to build homes 
in this mode across the country. The look 
was purposefully new, bold, and massive. 
At the time they were chic statements of 
rebellion against the status quo. But as 
with most things "modern", they later
became what most considered passe'.
Unfashionable, white (grey) elephants.
Cold, gloomy, and "ugly".
Brick or stucco layered onto metal lath, set atop terra cotta tile block was considered "fireproof". Therefore anybody of means built in this manner well into the thirties. While these materials may seem somewhat brutal to todays eyes, they were the ultimate in modern construction. When you study the magazines of the period, these homes do not appear harsh or hulking. Rather they seem softer, charming, whimsical.
Something is missing.

Most of these homes are almost a century old. Quite remarkably, the stucco and brick have often survived intact. However many of the wooden decorative elements which added character are long gone. Those pergolas, porches, flower boxes, shutters, dados, columns, and trellises were either removed in the name of modernization or 
slowly rotted away.

Pergola Mania
Of all of those elements, the pergola was the most beloved. Inspired by the ruins of Pompeii (shown left), these rows of columns topped with trellis were considered de rigueur. 
Practically every home built during this period had some sort of pergola. Be it a porch, porte cochere, or garden structure.

The porch must go.
All who visit the money pit agree that this ramshackle "tack on" is wrong. Originally a large brick platform with a small patch of lawn sat in this spot. I'm all for restoration, but the house needs something else. A touch of softness, a decorative element.

We've got to do something to make this house look as fabulous outside as it is inside. So, we've decided to replace the porch with a proper pergola. Perfect for a house of our vintage. Now... where do I find  wisteria that will 
grow in Montana?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

You just can't avoid it...

I abhor bureaucracy.
Usually I play by the rules.
Ethel drilled that into me.
I have been known to push the boundaries.
It's just that I can't abide a process or system
that tells me what to do. I immediately rebel!
Maybe it's a guy thing.
Like most males,
I will simply put something together.
Only if I have a problem,
will I ever read the instruction manual.

Filling out forms is not only
officious, it's violating. Sadly
privacy is gone in today's world, except for the form you must sign that guarantees it! Many people avoid, resist, and rebel against bureaucracy.
I'm not the only one. 

Years ago I worked for a small
publisher run by a family of
well bred bibliophiles. Brother
Hugh was a total charmer and
therefore ran marketing. Every
evening he was out on the town
entertaining authors, critics, and
influencers. However, Hugh
never submitted 
a single expense.

Everybody in the office looked forward
to Hugh's year end ritual. A day or two
after Christmas, he could be seen in his
office furiously rifling through his wallet,
brief case, desk, and other hidden places.
The next morning, 2-3 Bonwit Teller
shopping bags, each filled with a years
worth of receipts, sat atop his secretary
Marge's desk. While she adored Hugh,
one doubts she loved sifting through
the debris, connecting the dots, and
raking in the cash.

My friends, Hugh's year end procrastination was actually an
act of rebellion. 
The system forced him to record and justify who, when, and why he entertained. Who needed "approval"? He was the host!

When I first met Frank, I was a mess. After I discovered boys, I became a bit distracted. During that period I "forgot" to file my income taxes. Subsequently, a few more years passed by in a similar manner.
Then the IRS found me.

My justification was that I had already lost so much through my divorce that Uncle Sam should cut me a break.
Frank quickly set me straight. 
There are two things you can't avoid - death and taxes. So, I shuffled through paperwork in dusty boxes, hired an accountant, paid the penalties,
and made good on my responsibilities.

A young couple from San Francisco embarked on a four month bicycle tour throughout South America. Initially they tweeted, e-mailed, and facebooked frequently. Their family lived vicariously through daily updates on their adventures down south.
A month ago it stopped.  
Their last message sent was about finally finding some boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
Then.. utter and complete silence.
Freaked out their family
reported them missing.

Yesterday Peruvian officials reported they had found the couple. Apparently they were slowly heading up a jungle river in a small boat. Somewhere along the way they decided to stop it all, disconnect, and truly ESCAPE what held them down.
Can you blame them?

Man or woman, deep within
all of us lurks the spirit of
dare devils, rogues, 
hunters, seekers,

That deep inner voice
challenges the status quo.
So go ahead,
don't do something
you're really supposed to do.
Who knows?
You might just have some fun!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Think Big. Shop Small.

This 1913 photo above was taken inside
Powers Merchantile, Lewistown Montana.
In peril of demolition, this is the same
building discussed in yesterdays blog.

As we transform the Money Pit,
we're doing our best to buy local.
It's our responsibility to support our
merchant neighbors. And equally, it's
their task to satisfy our wants and
needs. Otherwise, community assets
may quickly become parking lots.

The other evening I saw an ad on TV.

American Express has developed a program
in support of small business. It encourages
all Americans to "shop small" and buy locally.
While I loathe exorbitant credit card rates,
BRAVO American Express!
Opting to shop or order locally
is not always easy. Especially
when you're a pair of hot shots
with a very specific list of items.
As we get deeper into the
process, beyond lumber and
furnaces, it's a bit of a challenge
finding the right stuff in town.
But we're committed to making
a difference here in Lewistown.

No matter what it takes.

It's curtains for us... 

Heavy belgian linen that is.

Sure it might be easier to order
them from Restoration Hardware.
But then,
where does our money go?
What community does it help?
We're going local if possible.

Our upholsterer had many
sample books. But nothing
came close to what we wanted.
Then, we showed her some
fabric samples we secured
prior to leaving Dallas.

Now she's on the hunt.

Next, we have to find someone
to make our newfound yardage
into lined and fabulous curtains.
Cut the grass... 

We plan to paper our new
dining room in dark tobacco
brown grasscloth.

However, our paint store
no longer sells wallpaper.
Sadly it seems that locals
borrowed his books and
then ordered from on-line

Fortunately our local
Decorating Den still does.
But unfortunately they don't
have a book of grasscloth
samples. So, I've been
ordering samples on-line.
Through trial and error
we'll get the right tone.

Then we'll order it here.

If all else fails, ebay!
I know many of you are now chuckling. Addictions aside, what I like best about ebay is that most of it's merchants are small businesses or individuals. So, if I can't get it in Lewistown, I plan to hit ebay!

Monday, February 25, 2013


"New vision for Lewistown"
This week's News Argus featured an article about
a discussion at the most recent City Commissioner's meeting.

Apparently Ms. Gayle Doney, a recently elected commissioner proposed 
that the historic Power building (shown above and below left) be leveled.
Instead, in it's place she suggested an open "plaza" and parking lot.

"The biggest eyesore."
Yes, dear readers, a local official actually proposed that we tear down a historic sandstone block building in the epicenter of our historic downtown. Why? Because an appealing blank space would motivate her to move her business downtown.
40% of downtown is already parking.
Fortunately, at least one commissioner disagreed calling Gayle's proposal a "fantasy". In addition, our City Planner Duane Ferdinand outlined that there are already 1,900 parking spaces for 5,838 residents. Except for our annual Chokecherry Festival, finding a space is NOT a problem. 
The News Argus is running a poll: "Do you support removing any of the historic stone buildings on Lewistown's 
Main Street to create more downtown parking?"
So far, eight yes, 
and sixty six NO!
Lewistown 101:
Sadly, I think Ms. Doney needs to do her homework. The simple fact is that Lewistown has three major assets. Our problem is that leaders like Ms. Doney lack the vision to leverage those resources. It's time for a refresher course in reality.

Our city is surrounded by five mountains ranges - the Judiths, Moccasins, Snowies, Belts, and Highwoods. Gayle, instead of searching for a parking space, soak in the scenery!

Everyday, 90 million gallons of 99.9% pure water feed into Big Spring Creek from the Madison Aquifer.  Gayle, turn on the tap and drink Lewistown's best!

A commodity rather than liability, our downtown is an
in-tact time capsule of turn of the century architecture.
Gayle - next time take a stroll down Main Street rather than speed through town on the way to the parking lot!

"We need your help."
That's the only smart thing Ms. Doney said at that meeting. The fact is that Lewistown is blessed to have much more than many other towns. Our community leaders and residents need to focus on leveraging those assets, not tearing them down.

We lead by example.
Frank and I are investing more than double the purchase price in the money pit. Not only are we preserving our heritage, we are creating a showplace in town. Unlike the McMansions many of our leaders are building out in middle of nowhere.

WWGD? (What Will Gayle Do?)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

7th Day Surprise - Tunnel Vision

Eyes of the beholder?

Something to ponder...
Do you think that when these lovely ladies looked into the mirror,
they actually saw how ancient they really were?
Or did they see a lovely nymph ready to captivate all gentlemen?
Fortunately, today we have plastic surgery.
But hmmm... I wonder what I really look like?

Saturday, February 23, 2013


When you're "retired",
every day is Saturday!
And that means that I've discovered a vast and amazing world I never knew existed.
It's called the weekday, and the primary difference is that
nobody is around.
From about 9 a.m. till noon, 
everybody else is at work.
So those of us left behind
can act like we're on vacation.
And while I can't explain
exactly why that's so appealing,
the fact is that
freedom is glorious.
There is nothing better than going out to breakfast. You don't have to wait for a table. No frenzied waitresses balancing stacked up orders. Just hot food served in a slow, calm, relaxed atmosphere that is
peacefully quiet!

It's not easy living out of the loop.
The challenge is to avoid any contact
with workday frenzy and stress.
Mid morning and afternoon
are your moments of paradise.
That means you must strategically time
any jaunts into the outside world.

But magically,
if you time your
visit to the
Post office correctly,
you get a parking
space, avoid lines,
buy some stamps,
and even have time
for a friendly chat.
It's so civilized.
At the health club, you are the youngest person there. Not only do you look fabulous, you don't have to deal with crowds. Just a group of your peers trying to fight time and gravity.
Talk about motivation!
Did I mention the Library?
I've rediscovered this oasis of knowledge. During school hours all of the interesting people in town are there. People I've never seen before, reading and doing in all things intellectual.
How smart is that?
My suggestion?
Cross over to the other side.
Experience a world where everything is just easier. And you can do whatever you want whenever you want to.