December 2011

Solstice Day dawned clear and dry here on the shores of the Long Island Sound. A good day to make our annual pilgrimmage to the south shore of the Sound, and say our thanks to the great DoG for this wonderful Season of Light.

We drove to our favorite spot on the North Shore of Long Island and on the way, we passed this bit of graffiti. Note to self: Find Out What’s Up With That.

( I did call the guy who owns this building, a marble import buisness on a busy main road here on the North Shore of Long Island. I asked him “Do you know what that means?” His exact words were, “I haven’t gotten to the bottom of that yet”.)

Back to the pilgrimage to Praise the Solstice.

We arrived on our sweet Solstice beach around 3:45 PM. Top Cat opened a bottle of champagne, and I tossed bits of pretzel into the air for the sea gulls.


Our Long Island gulls seemed pensive, basking in the rosy glow of the fading daylight. 

They also seemed to enjoy spreading their wings to gather up the heavy golden motes of light that were glowing everywhere.

I know the feeling.

I know the feeling.

Read more

I’m writing this on Thursday, Dec. 22, the first day of Winter. So you know what that means:

Welcome to the Halcyon Days!

What’s the Halcyon Days, you ask?

Halcyon is a name for a bird of Greek legend which is commonly associated with the kingfisher. The phrase comes from the ancient belief that fourteen days of calm weather were to be expected around the winter solstice—as that was when the halcyon calmed the surface of the sea in order to brood her eggs on a floating nest.

OK. Maybe it’s too much to expect whole days of Halcyon this holiday season. Well then, how about a moment of Halcyon, here and there?

And that was the idea behind my ChrisHanuKwanSolstice card this year, which I call:

All is calm. All is bright.


There was another component to my ChrisHanuKwanSolstice card this year, a message that I put on the inside to remind you all to Go Easy in 2012:

Some of you may recognize this is my little joke on the very famous poster from WWII England:

What is ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’?

Right. Pay attention at the back, and no slouching.

Keep Calm and Carry On was the third in a series of World War II posters drawn up by the UK Ministry of Information in order to boost the morale of the British people by passing on a message from King George VI. The posters were a stark white text on a red background, with the only image on the poster being the royal crown of George VI.

The first two posters, “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will Bring Us Victory” and “Freedom is in Peril” were widely printed and distributed. However, the third poster, which carried the simple message “Keep Calm and Carry On” although printed, was never distributed, as it was intended only if invasion was imminent.

At the end of the war, the posters were collected up and pulped. It is believed that only two original posters out of a print run of over a million survive to this day.

The story would have ended there were it not for Stuart and Mary Manley, who run a bookshop called Barter Booksin Northumberland. (Yay bookstores!) Whilst sorting through a box of old books, they found one of the few surviving original copies of the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster. They liked it so much that they had the poster framed and placed near the till in their shop.

They soon found that customers were very keen on the poster – even to the point of asking if they could buy it! So, Stuart and Mary started selling and printing facsimilie copies of the poster. The rest, as they say, is history…

In the nine years since 2000 the poster has become world famous, having been mentioned in news articles, on TV and having been seen in many disparate places from country pubs to the Houses of Parliament.

The preceding text was brought to you courtesy of a website, where I also got my “Shine On” poster:

Have a great Holiday, everyone. Go dance by the light of your ChrisHanuKwanSolstice dream.

Read more

It only cost $30 to get a ticket (time-stamped) to see Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels on display at Christie’s auction house in Manhattan. That’s a lot of money for an entrance fee, and for a nanosecond I hesitated. Then my common sense kicked in and I happily shelled out the smackers for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see some legendary bijoux.

The place was mobbed. Lines were out the door. This never happens in an ordinary sale.

I skipped the handbags and the shoes on display, and I moseyed through the dresses on view (they were wonderful), but I came for the jewels.

I came for this:

The  brooch that Ms. Taylor bought in 1987 from the estate of the Duchess of Windsor. It’s the three plumes of the Prince of Wales, and of course since Richard Burton was Welsh well, you know, Ms. Liz had to have it. She paid $565,000 for it, and it’s now estimated at $400-$600,000. It will go for at least twice that. By the way, it looks HUGE in person.

Mike Todd gave her this tiara:

From what I overheard, most of the ladies only wanted to see stuff that Richard Burton had given Ms. Liz, like this Bulgari emerald necklace:

And the 33-carat diamond ring, which used to be called the Krupp Diamond but is now the Taylor-Burton diamond. In person, this stone doesn’t look all that huge. It’s BIG, but not paper-weight sized. They must have got a small hand-model for this shot:

‘I wanted to see the Taj Mahal Diamond that Burton gave Ms. Liz just after she became a grandmother at age 40:

But the thing I MOST wanted to see was the Peregrina Pearl, the natural pearl found in the 16th century in Panamanian waters by Spanish conquistadors:

That’s a Cartier necklace that Ms. Liz commissioned in  the 1980s — it’s ugly, but does not diminish the presence of The Pearl — which is HUGE in person (much biggger  than I expected it to be):

The very first piece of writing that I ever got published was an article about the history of the Peregrina that I wrote for a fine little antique jewelry magazine in 1993. So the Peregrina looms large in my legend, and I’ve waited lo these many years to SEE it.

I’ve known it only from photographs:

And from paintings of its original  owner:

Mary Tudor .

The pearl was put  up for auction by an aristocratic English family in 1969 in New York, where Richard Burton bought it for $37,000 amidst much controversy. Some titled Spanish lady claimed that she had  the Peregrina, which she didn’t; and when her ruse was revealed there was some clamour that a Hollywood tart shouldn’t be able to own a Spanish crown jewel.

In my opinion, Ms. Liz had much more class than all the Spanish queens put together, who were for the most part a rough bunch.

The Peregrina is estimated to go for $2-3 million. I will bet right now that it goes for closer to 5, and I hope against hope that it stays in sight in the Western world, and doesn’t disappear into the Middle East.

**** The Peregrina sold for $11,842,500, the highest price ever paid for a pearl at auction. It was the top lot of the entire sale; no word on the identity of its new owner.

Read more