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Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Here are a couple of dapper young gents out for a Sunday drive . . . in a one-horse-powered mode of transportation.  My maternal Grandfather is on the left and his cousin is on the right.  I found this a few years ago as I was going through some old family photos.  It is definitely a favorite of mine.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Last December I posted about one of my favorite Holiday traditions, visiting the American Swedish Institute, housed in the former Turnblad home – a beautiful Chateau styled mansion in the heart of Minneapolis.  The Mansion plays host at that time of year to an amazing display of Scandinavian Holiday decorations.

The American Swedish Institute is housed in the mansion built by . . .

. . . Swan Turnblad . . .

 . . . And his wife Christina.

People gathered early for the evening's events.

The first band was about to begin playing.

My friend Mike waiting for the festivities to begin.

This summer, the ASI has come up with another wonderful way to utilize this gorgeous space.  Last Thursday evening, my friend Mike and I attended their Cocktails at the Castle event (this was the second of these events that they’ve hosted this summer).  These gatherings are designed around an exhibit currently on display at the museum, and last weeks celebration featured incredibly beautiful Scandinavian glass art.  As an added bonus, a blown glass artist was demonstrating his craft throughout the night.

A glass blower demonstrating his art.

  Guests entered the courtyard through the Nelson Cultural Center,  
and were first met by a magical Crystal Forrest!

Some of the glass art on display throughout the castle.

In addition to the glass displays, there were a variety of other entertainments throughout the evening.  One of the Minneapolis radio stations sponsored several local bands who provided awesome background music throughout the night, while FIKA, the ASI’s restaurant, provided food and beverages for purchase - I had a delicious herring po’boy sandwich.

People gathering on the front steps of the mansion.

Southside Desire was the first band of the evening.

People waiting in line for the food and beverages provided FIKA.

I had a VERY tasty herring po'boy sandwich.

Foliage at the Castle.

Upon arriving, one of the first things we did was to learn the game Kubb (pronounced koob).  Our instructor, Eric, patiently explained the rules of this game - which goes back to the days of the Vikings - and we had the opportunity to play a few rounds.  While a fairly simple game it does take a while to play.  I played only a couple rounds and then allowed others, who had been waiting patiently, a chance to play.

Kubb was a very popular game all evening long.

This tall fellow became a fire juggler later in the evening.

Great view of the crowd from the second floor terrace of the Nelson Cultural Center.

The goat mascot on the second floor terrace of the Nelson Cultural Center.

As night fell, the outdoor activities included acrobats, a fire juggler, and videos projected on the outside of the castle itself.  The mansion was also open all evening for people to tour, and they were given the added surprise of a small troupe of actors reciting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in its two story Entrance Hall.  There was truly something for everyone that evening.

Sunset over the Castle!

Videos were projected onto the walls of the mansion.

Acrobats were aglow!

Guests stayed late into the night enjoying the festivities.

A great view of the Nelson Cultural Center.

Even darkness couldn't stop the Kubb games!

A quiet reflective space on the north porch.

A small Shakespearean troupe recited Hamlet in the Mansion's two-story Entrance Hall.

Far too soon this wonderful evening came to an end, and it was time to head home, but I couldn’t help taking one more glance back at the beautiful Castle that had been our gracious host.

A final look.

What I wore to Cocktails at the Castle!

Shirt: Polo Ralph Lauren
Tie: Talbot
Vest: Brooks Brothers
Jeans: Dark Denim From Denizen
Socks: Brooks Brothers
Shoes: Nordstrom 1901
Watch Band: Brooks Brothers

Thursday, July 25, 2013


I admit it.  I have a “slight” tie addiction.  In fact I LOVE ties, and have been wearing them for so long that I can’t even remember the first time I wore them.  I know that as early as First Grade I was wearing - get ready for it - clip-on long ties, however, growing up on a farm usually meant the ties were reserved for church on Sundays.  Indeed, most of my tie wearing at that age centered around church activities.  First communion demanded a navy tie on a white shirt with navy pants, and later on, Confirmation would require a red tie on a white shirt.  

My First Communion and Confirmation "clip-on" ties.

Once I reached Junior High School and High School, ties became more frequent as more occasions to “dress up” presented themselves, and by college there were many social events where the mandatory tie was needed.  I learned early on how to tie straight ties, which served me well in college as I was asked tie the ties for dorm mates who were less versed in the art.  Once I graduated from college and joined the work force, ties were just part of my everyday attire, and since I love wearing them, they have never been a burden.  Now I have branched out into the wonderful world of bow ties as well.

A couple of my bow ties.

I inherited my love of ties from my Father.  As long as I can remember my Dad never left the house to attend any social gathering without a tie, and that example carried over to me.  It was almost as if I had inherited a “tie gene” from him. Likewise I’m sure he inherited that trait from his father, and he from his father, and so on.

My Dad starting wearing ties as a youngster.

Dad when he was sixteen years-old.

The photo of my Dad was taken shortly before he and my Mom were married.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how each generation teaches the next about the importance of “dressing up,” and how something as simple as wearing a tie makes such a powerful statement - it’s that extra touch to show you care.  

With that thought in mind, I started searching through old family photos for examples of different generations and the ties they wore.  Here are several examples my Father's side of the family that I hope you will enjoy.  Many of these are more formal photos that give a wonderful look at ties through the years.

My paternal Grandfather on his wedding day. . .

And again later in life.

This is my paternal Great-Grandfather at middle-age . . .

And again later in life.

This is a photo of my paternal Great-Great-Grandfather.
It's hard to see his tie with his vest and beard, but it's there!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

One of the best kept secrets in the literary world is that F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of such classics as “This Side Of Paradise,” “Tender Is The Night,” and of course the ever famous “Great Gatsby,” was born here in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Born in the Cathedral Hill area of St. Paul, he would return here to live several times during his life, and today we are able to experience that Twin Cities connection through the F. Scott Fitzgerald Walking Tour.  The tour is easily found online with your smartphone, which makes it handy to carry with you while walking the four-by-five block area.  I'd like to feature just a few of the homes from the tour.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's birthplace.

Sign commemorating Fitzgerald's birthplace.

The tour begins at 481 Laurel, the house where Scott was born in 1896 to Edward Fitzgerald and Mollie McQuillan.  His two older sisters had died a from influenza shortly before his birth, and as a result his mother was very over protective of him.  A year after his birth his father lost his job as a wicker furniture salesman, and the family moved to New York.  The family lived in New York for ten years before returning to St. Paul, and the safety of Grandmother McQuillan’s money, after Edward again lost his job. 

When Scott was thirteen years old, the family was living at 514 Holly.  They had also lived briefly across the street at 509 Holly.

514 Holly

509 Holly

During this time, Scott attended nearby St. Paul Academy at 25 North Dale, and was enrolled in dance classes around the corner at Mrs. Backus’s Boarding School for Girls.  Scott was always more focused on his writing (he kept a journal from age fourteen on) and his grades suffered.  His poor grades prompted his parents to send him to a Prep School in New Jersey when he was just fifteen years old, and for a number of years Scott would only return to St. Paul for holidays.

The former St. Paul Academy where Fitzgerald attended school.

Statue of Fitzgerald as a boy at school.

Commemorative sign at the former St. Paul Academy.

Fitzgerald was enrolled in dance classes here when this was 
Mrs. Backus's Boarding School for Girls.

While Scott was away at school his parents moved into the beautiful Romanesque brownstone at 593 and 599 Summit.  By now, his grandmother had died and had left money to pay for his education at Princeton.  Scott did poorly in college, and during a semester of illness dropped out.  When he tried going back, his low grades prohibited him from rejoining all of the clubs he had enjoyed, and frustrated, he joined the Army just as World War 1 was beginning.  While stationed in Alabama, Scott met Zelda Sayre.  Each thought the other was rich, but as it turned out neither were.  The romance took a hiatus as Scott struggled to find work that would allow him to support the two of them, and Scott eventually returned to his parents brownstone on Summit.

The F. Scott Fitzgerald House on Summit Avenue.  
This is where he lived while revising his novel "This Side of Paradise."

The commemorative sign on the Summit Avenue Brownstone.

While back in St. Paul, Scott worked on revising his novel, hoping its publication would win Zelda back.  In 1919 he received word that a publisher had accepted the novel, and he and Zelda were married at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York shortly after “This Side of Paradise” was published.

Realtor, Alexandra Greve Kalman, a life long friend of Scott and Zalda, helped them to find numerous homes when they moved back to St. Paul in 1921.  The couple lived in many different locations, always being asked to leave because of their wild partying.  They were living at the Commodore Hotel only blocks from Scott’s birthplace, when their only child, daughter Scottie, was born on October 26, 1921.

The Commodore Hotel where Scott and Zelda's daughter Scottie was born.

Scott and Zelda would soon leave St. Paul, joining the American expatriate community in Paris for a time, before returning to New York and eventually Hollywood.  While their time in St. Paul consisted only of brief interludes over several decades, they have left an indelible mark on the community, and during this “Summer of Gatsby” I’m very proud of our Twin Cities connection to it creator, the very talented and gifted F. Scott Fitzgerald.

F. Scott Fitzgerald statue and sign in Rice Park in Downtown St. Paul.