August 7th, 2007

krazy koati

Say the grim bells of Blaina

We did spend an afternoon taking a mansion tour, taking in the home stylings and a bit of the fashion sense of tobacco heir Doris Duke. Through the tour we learned that she was a wonderful person who had an incredible amount of money, and who loved animals, although I did notice the exhibition had at least one mink coat in it. (She also had a pants suit designed for disco club wear, which appeared to be made of twist-ties bound together into something which was, from certain angles, nearly opaque.) I passed some time trying to guess the origin of pieces of furniture or paintings or embroidered rugs or antiques before the guide gave it away, although I have to admit I fairly soon started reverting to ``17th century England'' or ``18th century Netherlands'' as default guesses, except when the fleur-de-lys came out or it was a Chinese vase. This turned out to be a surprisingly effective approach.

At one point early on my uncle leaned against door frame, possibly because he'd been going on in his inimitable fashion for hours already. This lead the guide to ask if he'd like a chair, since they would really prefer people not go leaning on things. My uncle didn't want one, and said so; the guide kept offering, explaining that it was no problem and they had many chairs around which could be sat on by the masses. The guide offered a chair each room, and my uncle refused, until we finally got upstairs to a room that had a publicly-accessible chair which was not offered, and then he sat.

While Doris Duke kept many, many dogs (and other animals) nowadays they only have a couple around, including a dog-shaped lump on the lawn (the surrounding lawn was incidentally landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted). They say that's normal, and he's a very laid-back dog in the thirteenth year of his current nap. They admit it will be hard when he dies as it could take weeks to notice. But he's good with children.

Trivia: Frederick Law Olmsted also designed the National Zoo in Washington, DC's Rock Creek Park. Source: Park Maker: A Life Of Frederick Law Olmsted, Elizabeth Stevenson.

Currently Reading: The Detonators: The Secret Plot to Destroy America And An Epic Hunt for Justice, Chad Millman. About the Black Tom sabotage and connected incidents. And I learn to my embarrassment that ``Black Tom'' was not a nickname for one of the saboteurs, as I had thought; it was the name for the ammunition yard.