Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Will the Original George Washington Please Stand Up?

It's a picture all Americans see on a daily basis. When we reach into our wallet to hand the cashier at 7-11 money for a Gatorade, there it is. Or when we struggle to get a bill into a parking-machine, there it is again. When we throw some bills on the table for the waitress, there it is yet again. It dots our currency--we can't avoid it. I'll give you another hint, it's the picture that has been on our one-dollar bill for over a century. Yes, it's the famous image of George Washington, the United State's first president. (Okay fine, so the picture kind of gave it away).

And who was the artist? Anybody? Anybody?

Gilbert Charles Stuart: the hand that painted this iconic image.

A famous portraitist, he was praised for the naturalness of his painting and his subjects found him, well, agreeable. Even John Adams said so.

"Speaking generally, no penance is like having one's picture done. You must sit in a constrained and unnatural position, which is a trial to the temper. But I should like to sit to Stuart from the first of January to the last of December, for he lets me do just what I please, and keeps me constantly amused by his conversation." – John Adams

He didn't use sketches, rather he applied paint directly to the canvas and yet he came up with these amazing portraits. He painted portraits of George Washington, King George III of England, King Louis XVI of France, John Quincy Adams, Abigail Adams, and even Philadelphia socialite Catherine Brass Yates (well, how about that?). All these portraits kept him busy and highly paid for years as he was able to make a profit off the prints.

The image on America's one-dollar bill is called The Athenaeum. And, get this, the original was never finished. Nope. Began in 1796, Stuart left the image unfinished at the time of his death in 1828. However, Stuart and his daughters painted and produced over 130 images of The Athanaeum.

Stuart had a stoke and continued to paint despite being partially paralyzed. When he died, he was buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in New England due to having left his family in so much debt that they couldn't afford a proper cemetery plot.

And that is the man who painted the famous George Washington image.

It's a couch, a carpet's a coat!

The other day, I was at lunch with an aunt of mine. After we chatted over some paninis and ravioli we wandered up the street to see what there was to see. We walked into an import shop and admired the jewelry, the gypsy skirts with bells and whistles on them and Mayan masks. But then. Ah, but then...we went into a vintage store.

Vintage stores have historically been my weakness. However, I have managed to repress that aspect of myself for several years simply by not walking by one. But on that day, there was no escaping it—we were going to go in. And in we went to be greeted by retro music and all that old clothing. I dug through all the reams of fake fur coats (circa 1964), 70’s bridesmaid dresses, 50’s sweaters with pearls, hippie jewelry and old plaid shirts.

Then I spotted the most hideous coat I’d ever seen. I just knew I had to have it. I took it off the hanger and tried it on—it fit me good, my wise aunt even said so. I looked in the mirror and decided I resembled an old couch; I liked what I saw. The flowers on the coat were totally retro, it was lined and even had a genuine old-fashioned-looking tag on it. I tartly bought the coat and we scuttled away with me feeling confident about my new purchase. I don’t think anyone else will be wearing the same coat as me this Fall.

And that, my friend, is the benefit of shopping at vintage stores. You can find coats that make you look like a couch and no one else will be dressed like you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Teenage Delight

There comes a time in one’s life when they must decide “What shall I do this evening?” In a quandary as such, I have something to say on the matter. An ideal solution to such a problem, if such a problem exists, is quite obvious. A trip to the arcade is in order.

You guessed it (smartypants!). I went to the arcade. No, I’m not a teenager anymore, but as an avid player in the game “role playing,” I feel I acted the part to a T—the role of a teenager, that is.

Armed with six dollars, I paid an admission fee of $2.50 and obtained, for another $3.50, a bag of nickels. I went around spending my nickels on various forms of entertainment and role playing activities—shooting things, driving race cars, throwing balls at targets (and not hitting the target, I might add) and riding a bike on a machine that was all in Japanese.

Arcades are like gambling for kids. They give you tickets, which you can trade in later for astonishing prizes. For example, there was this jackpot machine, where the participant hits the button when the light lands on the spot that says “jackpot,” they win a large amount of tickets which function as currency in arcade territory. It’s probably like the arcade version of the casino game roulette. Well, I got really addicted to this and I kept wanting more. So, I continued to reach into my bag of nickels for another round…and another…and another. After losing several times, I gave up and ambled over to the machine where one pretends to be jump roping; I learned I have more aptitude with pretend jump roping than I do with arcade jackpot games. I could even have a promising future with pretend jump roping, were it done competitively.

For my efforts, I was rewarded with some tickets. I went up to the counter and began to think about what desirable items I might enjoy. Should I go with the lizard key chain? The spider ring? The plastic daisy? Or, a bouncy ball? I ended up getting a bag of candy and some very tame fireworks (such as pop-its).

After the arcade, we decided that the best way to top off the evening would be to go to the 7-11 for a slurpee. But, we spied a coffee shop instead and ended up getting pink lemonade and mango sorbet. We had a frightful amount of sugar, which is what most teenagers do. Right?

So, if you’re bored and wishing you were a teenager, I have this advice to bestow upon you—the arcade.