Flailing at the Depression Wall

I’ve had Persistent Depressive Disorder, formerly called Chronic Depression, for all of my adult life. It never really gets better there are only times that life suck less than other times. Throw in anxiety and agoraphobic avoidance and just getting out of bed is like trying to get fifty clowns to fit in a Mini Cooper.

Yet, late last year I seemed to have found a promising cocktail of meds, therapy, and selfcare that led to me going back to school with some hope and energy that I hadn’t seen for years. I delved into the Spring semester full steam with a load of classes and commitment that I hadn’t attempted since I was new to college thirty years ago.

Things were going well! I was participating, looking forward to making and achieving future goals all the while excelling at the current classes. Then in March weird things started happening to my body. Some of them were things that you’d assign to side effects to medication, but those that would usually only occur in the early days of starting a new medication. I’d been on my latest meds for about six months though, so that didn’t make sense. Plus, there were more and more scary things happening, like tremors, fevers, extreme fatigue, both mental and physical, and weird involuntary muscle failures. I’d take a jar of salsa out of the fridge and instead of turning and placing the jar on the counter, I’d fling it, smashing it into the cabinets, for example.

My shrink was interested in the details yet didn’t seem to be worried. I was asked to keep a food log and also track the times that these events were happening. It continued to get worse, all of these weird unexpected things, like the object dropping, tripping over nothing, loss of balance, and more. Finally by late April I was getting terrified of what would come next yet all of the medical practitioners in my sphere seemed unphased by it. One day, as I sat on the floor in tears after falling again for no reason, I’d had enough so when I called the Doc, I was forceful and they suggested that I lower the dosage of one particular medication. Finally, someone was listening and giving me an action to do rather than saying, “Oh, that’s weird, write it down.”

It didn’t get better, the weird things got worse. After about a week and a few more calls to doctors, they came to a consensus, do not pass go, do not make an appointment for some day in the future, immediately go to the ER. To make a longish story short, they ended up admitting me because I had serotonin syndrome. That sounds pretty blase, but was and is terrifying. I feel physically better now but without the medications for my mental health, I’ve spent the days since once again in a very dark place that I know so well.

I still haven’t gotten the all clear to start with a new medication so you will find me white knuckling it to try and finish the rest of the semester with just a tiny part of the ability that I had when I started.

So that is where I am right now, gazing at that massive dark wall of depression that stands in between me and the vast possibilities that I was seeing at the beginning of the semester.

Have You Been Blackballed?

This entertaining book entered my life in a unique way. When I get bored, which isn’t often now thanks to school, I peruse auction sites for odd or interesting antique/vintage items that are also a deal.* It’s also a bonus if an item has an odd story AKA sends me down a fun rabbit hole.

So a few weeks ago, I came across this gem.

Old Ball Ballot Box

It was listed as a “ticket-taker” on the auction yet I couldn’t figure out how that would have worked. Would you have to fold the ticket into something tiny enough to fit in that little metal beak you can see in the middle? Luckily, they also included a picture of the underside which had a brand label.

Which led me down a rabbit hole and to this book which is mostly a copy of a catalog from a De Moulin Brothers catalog with a lot of added hilarious commentary. The company’s whole raison d’etre for much of its life has been items for fraternal lodges, think the Odd Fellows or the Masons, before it rebranded to become “the oldest and largest manufacturer of music performance group apparel”. It’s now called DeMoulin, but there is also a factory history museum that even has a Goat Riders Club. No, not that kind of goat.

To try and shorten an already long story, it wasn’t a “ticket-taker” at all but a ballot box and is a great example of where we get the term, “blackballed” from. The front section would be filled with a bunch of white balls and a handful of black ones. When it came time to vote in a new member of a fraternal organization, the members would vote by either placing a white or black ball in the wee metal beak. The box allowed members to vote in relative anonymity. (there were also much more elaborate boxes that did a much better job at keeping your vote secret at higher price points, of course)

While the number can vary, in some organizations, just one black ball meant that the new guy wasn’t going to be invited to join. The person would be considered blackballed. By doing it like this, it allowed them to vote their conscious and it wouldn’t harm the future unity of the group. I couldn’t be pissed at you for not voting my cousin Bubba in, for example.

Old Voting Box that uses balls
Some of the balls that came with mine have aged to a pretty blue

Rather than having obscure web pages to tell the story of my ballot box, I got a hold of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions by Julia Suits because odd books with funny pictures are sort of my jam and reproductions of catalogs like this aren’t usually easily available in print.

Now, is this sort of item or even the book for everyone? Of course not. However is it a fun conversation piece and the perfect addition to the library of a person like me that loves oddities? YES.

*meaning not just finding higher-priced past sales but also a fairly consistent history of actually selling. Sometimes an item’s “value” will take too much work or time to actually realize that value. Large items, like furniture, often fall into this category, too much work!

Here’s to hoping that you never get a black ball.

Architecture That Never Was 

Have you ever read about a place or building that no longer exists and been mad because you never got to see it? Okay, maybe it’s just me that pines over buildings; work with me here. I’ll give you an example, years ago I saw a statue similar to this and became obsessed.  

Newly-made sprite available at Nichols Bros Stoneworks

What was it?  

What is it doing?  

Is it praying, please don’t let it be praying.  

Who made this?  

Where can I get one? 

My friends, let me introduce you to a reproduction of a water sprite designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for his Midway Gardens project in Chicago. The facility was built in 1913 and was supposed to be a year-round open-air space for knocking back a few and/or catching a concert. Wright designed everything for the venue, down to the smallest detail, even the tableware.  

Sounds like a cool place, right, especially if it all is so intriguing as that one little statue. One problem, WWI, bad management and Prohibition killed Midway Gardens and it was demolished in 1929. My wee tween brain was pissed and took it as a personal afront. Seriously, 1929 did this to ME. I must have driven my parents crazy in those pre-google days asking about Chicago and buildings and had they see it and why, why, why.  

There are thousands of unique buildings that have disappeared in our lifetimes. I just read about one in Palm Springs, The Canyon Hotel, though honestly, I don’t think I missed much, but who am I to judge another person’s architecture yum. The good news about the whole sprite fiasco for me is that is fostered a love of historic architecture in general and Frank Lloyd Wright specifically. I have books about him, his work and his contemporaries (so many books) and keep a bucket list of his work that I’m slowly working my way through. 

Anyway, what about architecture that never was?  I’d never really thought too deeply about it until reading Phantom Architecture by Phillip Wilkinson. Let me tell you, we really missed out on some of these places that were magical or could have been magical if only the fates had not been stacked against them. 

Buy Your Copy Here

Some are silly, some were light years ahead of their time and a few just might have solved all of the world’s problems…or at least a huge problem for a city. Take Thomas Wilson’s solution to cemetery overcrowding in London in the 1820s. What happens when you run out of ground to bury? You build up, my friends, and what better way to do that while copying the great Pyramids of Egypt that were and still are all the rage? We’ll call it the Metropolitan Sepulchre and shove up to five million Londoners in the ninety-foot-tall ode to death. While he never got the green light, his drawings remain. One wonders if, with the high cost of London real estate now, they regret that decision. 

More on the story

This idea that never was is just one of the many phantom architecture dreams that never happened in the book which features a few pages and illustrations for each one. The book is a joy, a harmless romp through history that leaves you wondering what else we’ve missed out on and what might have been. You might call it the ultimate FOMO list for fans of architecture. Sigh

Save It! by Cinders McLeod

Save It!

Save It! by Cinders McLeod

“A charming introduction to simple money concepts in which a little bunny learns about the power and satisfaction that come with saving money. Honey earns two carrots a week for taking care of her siblings. Her FIVE siblings who are so loud and bouncy, she wishes she had a place of her own to escape to for some peace and quiet. So what’s a bunny to do? Get creative and figure out a savings plan–even if it means forgoing a treat or two. But saving is worth it because, with a little patience and perseverance, Honey will be able to make her dream of having her owns space come true! This is the third book in the internationally acclaimed Moneybunnies Series–following Spend It! and Earn It!”

This entire series by Cinders McLeod is genius and I wish that there had been anything even close to it when I was a kid.

The financial lessons that they teach can’t be taught early enough and by using bunnies and carrots, it makes it easier for even younger kids to understand. The illustrations are wonderful and descriptive as well, in this case showing two “spreadsheets” of carrots, one showing if you spent nothing and saved everything for your big goal and the second, a compromise of saving half and how long it would take you to get to your big goal with either option.

I’m an adult and hate money. I can’t put my finger on exactly what causes my complicated issues with it, but I know this and two carrots a week for allowance would have helped immensely because I know that not getting a regular allowance created a feast or famine attitude, but that’s me and I’m a weird duck with tons of hangups.

G



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The Axeman of New Orleans: The True Story by Miriam C. Davis

The Axeman of New Orleans: The True Story

The Axeman of New Orleans: The True Story by Miriam C. Davis

“From 1910 to 1919, New Orleans suffered at the hands of its very own Jack the Ripper–style killer. The story has been the subject of websites, short stories, novels, a graphic novel, and most recently the FX television series American Horror Story. But the full story of gruesome murders, sympathetic victims, accused innocents, public panic, the New Orleans Mafia, and a mysterious killer has never been written. Until now. The Axeman repeatedly broke into the homes of Italian grocers in the dead of night, leaving his victims in a pool of blood. Iorlando Jordano, an innocent Italian grocer, and his teenaged son Frank were wrongly accused of one of those murders; corrupt officials convicted them with coerced testimony. Miriam C. Davis here expertly tells the story of the search for the Axeman and of the eventual exoneration of the innocent Jordanos. She proves that the person mostly widely suspected of being the Axeman was not the killer. She also shows what few have suspected—that the Axeman continued killing after leaving New Orleans in 1919. Only thirty years after Jack the Ripper stalked the streets of Whitechapel, the Axeman of New Orleans held an American city hostage. This book tells that story. “


First off, I could have sworn that I’ve read a book about this before, yet can’t find it in my read lists and am only seeing cheesy looking ones that I’d most likely never read when I do a google search. If you remember a serious one, shout out the title, please and put my poor brain out of its misery.

That being said, there was little earth-shatteringly different about this one except I appreciated that Davis followed each person’s story to the end of their lives to show the effects, if any, their involvement in the case had. The story is never over when the bad guy is caught or the innocent man is freed or even when the cut or gunshot wound heals, the trauma lingers like a ghostly shadow for the rest of that person’s life.

If you like your true crime tied up neatly in a bow, this isn’t it. There are a lot of unanswered questions, not because the author didn’t do the work, but because either the people at the time didn’t or there just aren’t any. Another thing I noted was how justice used to move so slowly and yet be more permissive then, one of the family members of the people accused of murder was allowed to hold his wedding in jail!

I can’t end on a better note than that. It wasn’t even a jailbird, but all were worried that the trial might end badly or go on forever, so the Sherriff approved. Love conquers all.








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