GEMUTLICHKEIT


NOUN: WARM FRIENDLINESS; COMFORTABLENESS; COZINESS.

The sense of wishing to be known for what one really is is like putting on an old, easy, comfortale garment. You are no longer afraid of anybody or anything. You say to yourself, ‘Here I am–just as ugly, dull, poor, beautiful, rich, interesting, amusing, ridiculous–take me or leave me.’ And how absolutely beautiful it is to be doing only what lies within your own capabilities and is part of your own nature. It is like a great burden rolled off a man’s back when he comes to want to appear nothing that he is not, to take out of life only what is truly his own. (David Grayson, journalist and author)

It’s like being caught wearing no makeup, with shaggy hair, still in your pajamas, and answering the doorbell at 8 o’clock in the morning while restraining your over-friendly Jack Russell Terrier, yet feeling no embarrassment when your perfectly groomed neighbor stops by with a request.

It was like the feeling I had on the first day of teaching at the community college when I entered the classroom with shaking knees, and facing all those fresh young faces, when I realized I really did know more than they did.

RICH TRADITIONS OF STORYTELLING


Stories, either written or oral, are the base of our civilization Stories are limitless, and connect people from all walks of life. Cultures who had no written language had storytellers.

At a lecture by F. Scott Momaday, a Kiowa Indian, he stated that at some time in everyone’s life, he must know from where he came. The Native American has no such problem, because he has been taught the legends of his people over and over his entire life. He can recite his family tree for generations back, and can also remember and tell stories about ancestors long dead.

Stories are painted and carved on rocks throughout the world. Reminders to us that we are not unique, and that those who have gone before us left their legacies for us to interpret.

The time honored Indian pueblo pottery tradition of working with clay and telling stories has merged into a modern art form of “storyteller” pottery dolls. The art of making clay effigies is as ancient as the Anasazi peoples who inhabited the deserts of New Mexico many centuries ago. In recent history, it is the Cochiti pueblo potters who are knlown for clay effigies depicting many different aspects of their everyday life.

Helen Cordero of the Cochiti pueblo created her first ‘storyteller’ figure. Cordero’s storyteller mode was her grandfather, who gathered his grandchildren around him to play the drum, sing them songs, and tell stories of their Indian heritage and traditions.

Due to the decline of the number of speakers of native languages in various parts of the world, oral storytelling has become less common. In recent years many of the stories are written down, though many people argue that the telling of the story is just as important as the words within. Story telling, once confined to people in our own community, due to the virtue of the internet, allows us to tell our stories to people around the world.

Language is the archives of history. Ralph Waldo Emerson

LUDWIG’S BORSALINO HAT


My friend’s father in Coberg, Germany, bought a new and quite expensive Borsalino hat of which he was inordinately proud. Each week, after a large and satisfying dinner with his family, he ventured out for a short walk through the town to join his friends at the local Inn for a game of whist and a pint or two. Ludwig was the owner of a factory which made fountain pens, and as such he belonged to one of the Guilds in the town, to which all the local businesses were linked.

His friend Bruno Hauptmann, was the butcher, and was a large burly man with coarse grey untidy hair and an impressive mustache. His substantial midsection strained against his tweed jacket, his face was round and ruddy with an enlarged nose, revealing that he was no stranger to the bottle.

Little Hans Cremer was the shoemaker in town, and was the exact opposite of Bruno. Short and thin, he sported a thin mustache, and a balding head. His suit seemed too large for him, and though of good quality, he seemed to be always rumpled and in a hurry, speaking rapidly, as if he couldn’t wait to get the words out.

The baker, Claus Meier, a large and jolly man, forever bestowing good humor along with his bakery goods, was given to practical jokes, and on their weekly visits, invariably rushed in late, full of local gossip, and after a quick pat on the bottom of the barmaid, settled down for an evening of cards and fun. The four had been friends for many years and all looked forward to their weekly visits.

On the night in question. Ludwig took out his new Borsalino hat, placed it carefully upon his head, and after surveying himself in the hall mirror, he tweaked his mustache, gave a small satisfied smile at himself, and set out along the street to the Inn. The hat had cost a great deal of money, and Ludwig was a vain man, who had waited some time to flaunt his prosperity to his friends.

All the men were successful in their businesses, and all could well afford a Borsalino hat as well, but none seemed as prone to ostentation as Ludwig, who upon arriving at the Inn, carefully and noisily placed his new hat on a nearby hook.

Later, when Ludwig rose to visit the men’s room, Claus quickly whispered to the others that “since he was proud as a peacock” it would be amusing to cut a hole in the front of Ludwig’s hat and see his reaction. When Ludwig returned, the three cohorts were sipping their pints and talking quietly among themselves.

Ludwig being the first to leave, stood, placed his new hat upon his head once more, said his goodbyes and walked away. His friends were amazed that he had not noticed the hole in his new hat, but assumed that he would notice it when he arrived home. Lauging heartily, they drained their glasses, rose and retreived their own headgear. Claus gave the barmaid another pat on the bottom, and picked up his hat only to find that he had cut the hole in his own Borsalino!

Meanwhile, Ludwig had many years of enjoyment from wearing his new hat, and was none the wiser for the practical joke which backfired.

HIDDEN STAIRWAY WALKS IN SAN FRANCISCO


Among the many enviable sights in San Francisco are the hundreds of stairways up and down its forty-two hills. The sometimes majestic, quirky stairways link the diverse neighborhoods of this wonderful city.
Adah Bakalinsky’s book, Stairway Walks of San Francisco describes each of the walks. Pack a lunch and let’s go.

For this stairway walk you need to go along Battery St. to the large brick Levi Strauss building, and a small stairway on the side of the hill across the street takes you up through thick foliage and flowering plants in season. Climbing about 375 steps with small stopping places to catch your breath, you will pass the entrances of charming houses built on the side of this steep hill. In the many times we have climbed it, I have never discovered where they enter with groceries, etc. I’m quite sure they don’t carry things up and down by foot. But this fairyland of whimsical private entries has captivated my imagination for years.

This walk is famous for the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill. Home to a large flock of feral parrots comprised of both cherry-headed and blue-crowned conures, midway up the hill while enjoying the view of the startling blue of San Francisco Bay, the chatter of these birds seem to surround you. For years they were cared for by Mark Bittner, a young musician living in a cabin on the hillside. They became quite tame as you can see.

The culmination of this walk is the crowning glory of Coit Tower at the top of Telegraph Hill. With a 360 degree view of the city and the Bay it is well worth the climb. Find a nice place to sit and enjoy your lunch and then go inside. The tower was paid for with money left by Lillie Hitchcock Coit at her death in 1929.

Lillie was a true San Francisco eccentric. She loved to chase fire engines, and at age 15 after running to see a fire, she threw her schoolbooks to the ground and pitched in to help the firefighters. She became the mascot of Engine Co. No. 5 and an honorary firefighter. As an adult, she loved to gamble, often dressing as a man in trousers, and smoking a cigar.

Inside the tower you will be charmed by the murals on each wall. Commissioned by the Public Works of Art Project, they were the first of the New Deal Federal employment programs. Created by artists mainly from the faculty and students of the California School of Fine Arts, with one done by Adah Bakalinsky’s father, which includes a likeness of her as a young girl. Most paintings are done in fresco, with the exception of one in egg tempera.

Take the elevator to the top of the tower and after you have enjoyed the amazing view of the City of St. Francis, walk down the other side into North Beach, where small shops, bakeries and restaurants will paint the finish to a perfect day. Be sure to stop at Molinari’s Deli for cheeses, perhaps some ravioli or maybe a sandwich for dinner.

Grab your walking shoes, your camera and a sandwich and let’s go!!

ALL THAT JAZZ


Jazz is a musical style first seen at the beginning of the 20th century. Born from a mix of European and African music it is a restless mix of improvisation, syncopation and blue notes. It is spontaneous and mirrors the vitality of the performer who never plays the same composition twice.

A visual artist never develops a subject twice the same way for similar reasons. A lovely landscape or still-life can be painted hundreds of times and be different each time. Even a portrait will never be the same again. Certainly the light will never be quite the same, but the intensity or desire of the artist will not be the same either.

The most satisfying works in music or art need the concentration and love of the artist.


“Jazz Nights” Oil painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

The inspiration for any form of art frequently comes unbidden, and results in something entirely different from the original thought. The painting above came about from remembering the little “band” my grandsons and I formed after I taught them to play guitar. Strangely enough, there isn’t a guitar in the painting! It’s original title was “Bammie and the Boys” which was a little “too cutesey” for comfort!


“A Tip of the Hat” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

This painting popped onto paper after a Christmas shopping trip to Harrod’s in London, where I bought a derby for Dr. Advice. It looked very nice on Julianne!

THE SECOND OLDEST PROFESSION


One of the world’s least traveled roads brought about the greatest global transformation. The Silk Road changed history, bringing not only the exchange of goods, but also the exchange of religions, art, languages and new technologies. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t a single “road”, but rather many different overland routes leading west out of China through Central Asia to Syria and beyond. In essence, it became the world’s first trucking route. This modest non-road became one of the most transformative super highways in human history. The first reference to a ‘Silk Road’ was used on a map in 1877.

In 1907 two brothers and a brother-in-law in San Francisco began an ambitious endeavor which in turn became a small local ‘Silk Road’. Fulfilling the need of residents living atop Nob Hill for cigars, whiskey, food and other necessities, they transported goods by horseback, referring to their newly formed business as “The Mustang Express”. As business grew they purchased wagons, and took in a younger brother recently graduated from school. The ‘younger brother’ was my father-in-law. The newly formed company was named RB&S Trucking, for Rasmussen brothers and Svane, Svane being their brother-in-law. The purchase of trucks came next and the name changed again to the “Inter-urban Express Company”, which conveyed merchandise throughout the Bay Area. Their familiar green and yellow trucks could be seen from San Francisco to Oakland for many years. Later Svane’s son, Peter Victor, formed his own small trucking company carrying goods in San Francisco.

Though the principals of the company did no driving of trucks, each of the sons and sons-in-law and a grandson took their turn at not only knowing how to drive the large semi trucks, but also what went on inside them. Many years after the Inter-urban was defunct, I watched Dr. Advice in a business suit help a young truck driver get straightened out when he had managed to jack-knife his truck. The boy was about 20 years old, and panic-stricken, with traffic built up behind him, and he looked about to cry. Seeing the boy needed help, Dr. Advice stopped, climbed into the boy’s truck and set it straight. Getting back into our car, he remembered how someone had helped him at age 16 when he had been in the same fix. I haven’t a doubt that he could still do it today. Some things you don’t forget.

Some years later my father-in-law left his brothers and started his own company named the East Oakland Drayage Company on 10 acres of land in east Oakland. His father had told him that if you took a silver dollar and threw it as far as you could, you should buy it. The trucking company would make a good living, but the real value is in the land not the business on it.

Ten years later my father-in-law retired and sold the company and the land to where the BART station is now located in east Oakland.

As to what the ‘oldest profession’ is, I’ll leave that to you.