Empty Saddles


Sung by Rudy Vallee at the funeral of Tom Mix (1880-1940)

“There’s something strange in the old corral. There’s a breeze though the wind has died. Though I’m alone in the old corral, seems there is someone by my side.

“Empty saddles in the old corral, where do you ride tonight?”

— “Empty Saddles,” lyrics by J. Keirn Brennan, music by Billy Hill, first sung by Bing Crosby in the film Rhythm on the Range (1936)

Thank Heaven

“Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies but as liberators.”

— Lt. Gen. Stanley Maude, commander of the Anglo-Indian Army of the Tigris, speaking to the Iraqi people on March 8, 1917; quoted in I Wouldn’t Start from Here by Andrew Mueller

Nostalgia for Everything

“This time of year for some reason I get filled with nostalgia like a Jules Verne balloon. I’m like Marcel Proust, who smelled a cookie and couldn’t stop remembering. Wood fires are my cookie. I remember walking through an old square in my hometown in Romania, late fall 1958, kicking leaves with my feet and feeling as nostalgic as I do now for something I remembered then. I remember sitting on the steps of the Santa Maria Magiore cathedral in Rome in 1965, eating an apple while everything turned to nostalgic gold around me. I sat in a steamy cafe by the Spanish Steps later with a bitter, hot espresso, looking wistfully on the fashions of the year 1965, mini-skirts and polka dots, and feeling so terribly young and alone. I remember the wind whistling with snowflakes in it down Woodward Avenue in Detroit as I looked for a warm place to sit and contemplate the future year 1967, for which I already felt nostalgic though it hadn’t even happened. I remember Blimplie’s on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Ninth Street in New York across from the long-gone Women’s House of Detention where I sat writing nostalgically in my diary about the incredible year 1969 that was just around the corner. I remember the back porch of Gabriel’s hilltop apartment in San Francisco in 1970, looking on a pastel blue and gold city and wondering where winter was. I went looking for it in Golden Gate Park, wrapped in its cocoon of eucalyptus and ocean salt, and rocked like a baby listening for hints of 1971. I remember the mists swirling above the Knotty Room in Monte Rio in 1974 while Pat and Jeff and I drank Rhoda’s bad coffee and looked out to the huge redwood trees bending in an awesome wind announcing the torrential winter rains of 1975. I remember the late fall, early winter, at the Mt. Royal Tavern in Baltimore in 1978, when all the lights went out and we continued drinking and talking by candlelight as the world fell apart. And the autumnal little cafe near Pont Neuf in Paris in 1981, where nostalgia was invented. I’m writing now at the Deja-Vu in New Orleans at the end of 1992, and I miss this place already.”

— “Nostalgia for Everything” by Andrei Codrescu, collected in In Short (1996), edited by Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones

Not Uncommon

“There was no loneliness in the woods. I sensed a certain kinship, even with the mosquitoes and ticks; to travel so far and persistently at only the hope of a warm attachment is an act not uncommon to my tribe.”

— John Lane in “Natural Edges,” collected in In Short (1996), edited by Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones

Five O’Clock Tea


I am a fool for Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935), an illustrator who studied with Howard Pyle and specialized in images of children. I think her work is magical, almost dream-like, pretty and sentimental to be sure, but much deeper than that. She was brought to mind when I saw these images yesterday, from postcards published by Reinthal & Newman, New York, and Charles H. Hauff, London.


Sotheby’s sold the original art (mixed media on illustration board) for “Five O’Clock Tea” in 2007. I’m sorry I missed that auction.



“Cousin Mia was a grumpy, massive specimen of the Victorian age; she was Julia’s first cousin and was celebrated as a model of the domestic virtues. She never let a birthday pass without making a suitable present and she expected others to be equally punctilious; if any child should forget her kindness, Cousin Mia would be elaborately and pointedly hurt. Being hurt was one of her talents. She collected and disseminated bad news; she loved to report illness or death; she would enter lovingly into every circumstance of mortality; she loved to mourn, to weep, to prophesy disaster.”

“… Aunt Mary was a constant visitor to Hyde Park Gate; she had to enquire, to observe, to interrogate; she had to know how her motherless nieces were behaving and if, in her opinion, they were behaving badly, she must exert the authority of a mother. Her curiosity was insatiable, her censure vigorous. Virginia felt that she was continually prying and making comments, continually extending long, soft, tough, elastic tentacles to try and bring her and Vanessa into the family embrace, to suck them in and assimilate them to the Fisher pattern of conduct, belief and manners.”

Virginia Woolf: A Biography by Quentin Bell (1972) pp.58-59

Polo, a Spy, and a Starlet


I am easily distracted. The other day, in search of information on polo player Stephen “Laddie” Sanford, whose Hurricanes won the U.S.Open five times in three different decades, I learned that Laddie had graced the cover of Time magazine, knew Cole Porter, played polo on Long Island and in Hollywood, summered on the Riviera. Heir to the Bigelow-Sanford carpet fortune, he could afford the best ponies and an elevated lifestyle. He was a playboy before the word belonged to Hugh Hefner and played polo before the word belonged to Ralph Lauren.

His sister, Gertrude Sanford Legendre, was a debutante, big game hunter and a spy with the OSS during World War II who was captured by the Germans, held captive for six months, and then escaped into Switzerland, sprinting the last 50 yards to the border as a sentry shouted at her to stop. She lived to be 97, an amazing woman, now almost completely forgotten.

As is Sanford’s wife, actress Mary Duncan. She starred on Broadway, most notably in 1926’s The Shanghai Gesture, and then went to Hollywood and appeared in 16 films, including 1931’s Five and Ten with Marion Davies, with whom she weekended at San Simeon. But in 1933, after a delightful performance in Morning Glory, a film that brought its leading lady, Katherine Hepburn, her first Oscar as Best Actress, Mary retired and married Laddie. They settled in Palm Beach. Their oceanfront villa, Las Incas, featured a room decorated entirely in sea shells. Mary played tennis, at first shocking and then inspiring a generation of wealthy women who had been taught indolence was their proper role. She lived to be 98, the Grand Dame of Palm Beach, whose work for charity surpassed all her other accomplishments.

They had the world by the tail, but now you can barely find a word written about them. So passes fame. But I remember them today, and salute their style.

I always liked Kant

“If man is not to stifle his human feelings, he must practice kindness towards animals, for he who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.”

— Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)