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Saturday, June 24, 2017

My Ship has Come In: a Tale of Tragedy and Comedy

I've got this friend, Liesl, whom I met in an online chatroom about 25 years ago.  It's amazing the friends one can make through that crazy thing called the internet.  But we've been friends for years and years and I'm awed and love her to death.

Liesl is kinda brilliant -- a former philosophy professor who started out as an assistant director in Los Angeles on Power Rangers.  Now she's in graduate school again, studying to be a therapist.  Yes, life is that weird.

Anyway, my friend Liesl occasionally gets into her cups and goes shopping online.  She calls it "tipsy shopping."  And she realizes she's been overdoing it a bit when she wakes up in the morning and realizes she's adopted an olive tree in Italy. Seriously.  That really happened.  I mean, I like olive oil as much as the next guy, but this is crazy!

So the other day, I sent her a message telling her I'd outdone her olive tree.  Here's what happened:

A few nights ago, I sent her the following message:

"Okay, so I've got you beat tipsy buying online."

"Oh? What happened?"

"I've got this thing for really beautiful model ships."

And I do.  I've always loved them.  In fact, I kinda like boy toys.  When I was a kid, I was dying for one of those little race-car sets.  What were they called?  Hot wheels?  A tool set would've been nice. But Santa never brought it.  Every year it was Barbie.  And Barbie was okay.  But I hated baby dolls. Then I discovered model trains and never asked for one, but admired them from afar.  I finally gave up on boy toys.

So anyway, I recently discovered this online estate-sale site: Everything But the House.  And I've gotten some really beautiful, cool items there.  Totally useless, but beautiful.  Case in point?  This birdcage:

Oh, be still my heart!   Came with the table and everything.  And it was a bargain.

Anyway, one night, I'm on the site, sitting around sipping on Crown Royal and I see the most beautiful model ship I've ever seen.  I've always admired model ships, but they're always clipper ships or the NiƱa or the Pinta or something.  This was a galleon.  I HAD to have it.  But I was outbid.  And I was bereft.

So I though, "Hmm....I wonder if I could find another one like it somewhere online."  I took a sip of my drink and Googled "model ships."  And, boy, did I find model ships!  You wouldn't believe the ships you can find out there.  Ancient Egyptian, Viking, Clippers, Pirates, Cruise Ships, et al.  Totally cool.

And I saw a photo of this beautiful Spanish Galleon called the San Felipe XI.  I took another sip and thought, "Gosh.  I wonder why they had so many ships named San Felipe."  This one was incredible. It was on a home-decor site called Houzz and was made by Old Modern Handicrafts, Inc.   It was made with mahogany and teak and rosewood and was simply gorgeous.  It was a limited edition. They'd only made five of them.  And there were only two left.

And it was on sale for about a third of the original asking price, which was still pretty steep, but I'd just made some rather big money and I was feeling kinda rich.  And I really, really wanted that boat. It would look perfect in the den on the table behind the sofa.  I took another sip.

Me to self:  You know?  I don't buy a lot of clothes.  Heck half my shoes come from WalMart.  I do splurge on dinners out now and then.   I really deserve this boat.  I can afford it and it's free shipping. Look at that rigging!  Look at the galley!  Check out that hull.  If I had that boat, my life would be complete.

I took another sip.  Wow.  Free shipping.  Wotthehell.  What could possibly go wrong?

So I bought it.

A few days later, I get an e-mail from Houzz:  Your order has shipped!



My first clue that something was amiss happened a few days later when I get a call from the shipping company:

"Ma'am, we're delivering an item you ordered from Houzz, and need to know if an 18-wheeler can get down your street."

"Gee," I thought.  "They must be one of those shipping companies that ships stuff along with other people's stuff when they move or something."

My street's pretty narrow and the power lines hang down pretty low.

"Um, I don't think so," I said.  They may have to park on Orleans Street and walk it down here."

"Ma'am, this package weighs 151 pounds."

"What?"

Oh, my God.  What have I done?

"Well, I guess he'd better bring a dolly."

A little while later there's a knock at the door.  I open the door to a very sweaty, very winded, very pissed-off man with a HUGE box.

"Oh, my!  I had no idea it was this big," I stuttered.  "I don't know if I can keep this."

"Yeah, well, lady, you can take that up with the store.  This thing is danged heavy and I had to cart it all the way down here from Orleans Street.  Sign this.  I got to go."

I sheepishly signed the ticket and asked him to at least put it inside the house before he left.

Once he was gone, I raced to my computer and wrote to Houzz:


I received the following order today. I had no idea this boat was going to be this large. I thought it would fit on a parson's table, but it's clear it's much too big. I'd like to know if I can return it in exchange for a smaller model. I'm willing to pay the shipping for the return order.
I realize the mistake was my own, and would really appreciate it if you could help me out of this mess. Thanking you in advance, blah, blah, blah.

I figured it'd cost two- or three-hundred dollars to send it back, but it was just too big to keep.




So the next day, I get this nice response from Houzz:

Hi Elodie,

Thank you for reaching out to Houzz! We are sorry to hear the order did not work out, but are happy to assist with a return. We are working to obtain the necessary return information and will follow up as soon as possible with next steps.



Shew!  I really dodged a bullet!  Then a couple days later:

Hi Elodie,

I wanted to follow up with you in regards to your order.

We have made arrangements with our freight carrier for the return. They will contact you shortly to schedule a pickup. If you prefer to contact AGS to arrange please call (800) 645-8300 and reference your order number. Please note the cost of return shipping,$970.04, will be deducted from your final refund.



Oh, dear!  What to do???

In the meantime, Boyfriend wanted to know what the heck that HUGE box was in the hall.

"Oh, nothing.  I ordered something by mistake.  It's going back."

That night we went to dinner at Pearl Street Pasta.  My stomach was in knots.  

"Um, Boyfriend?  I've got something to confess.  I blurted out the whole sordid, silly tale.  I knew he'd never let me live this down.

"But I've come up with a solution," I added quickly.

"Oh, really," he smirked.  "What is it?"

"Well, I've given it a lot of thought and I've decided to donate it to Trinity School."

 It was my Alma Mater, and my parents had been instrumental in starting the school.  My dad built the building after it moved from Magnolia Hall, an antebellum mansion that needed to go back to its former glory.  

"That way, I can write it off my taxes as a charitable donation."

"Why don't you donate it to the Historic Natchez Foundation?"

"What do they want with a giant Spanish Galleon?" I countered.  "I think the school would rather have it."

"Well, Natchez was under Spanish rule for awhile," he said.  You should ask Mimi Miller (executive director of the Foundtion)."




Natchez is the oldest city on the Mississippi River.  It has a colorful and varied history, having been under the flags of France, Spain, England and the United States.  The City just celebrated its tricentennial.

No sooner had he said it than Ron and Mimi Miller walked by with two out-of-town guests.  I reached out and grabbed Mimi's arm.  

"Mimi!  Hey!  Um, could I talk to you for a minute?"

It took quite awhile for her to stop laughing.  It WAS funny.  Tipsy shopping can, indeed, be dangerous.

I showed her pictures of the boat from the Houzz site.

"We'd love to have it," she said.

She walked over to her table in the corner and her guests.  In a few minutes there was garrulous laughter erupting from the corner.  I walked over to show them the email about $970 shipping fee.  Then I told them what I'd done.  Later, Mimi said one of her guests asked, "Is everybody in this town this much fun?"

Well, of course we are.  We're from Natchez.  We drink Crown Royal and go shopping on the internet.

The day they came over to relieve me of my galleon, Mimi told me they'd just brought it in from the truck and she settled down at her computer to check her email.  There waiting like destiny, itself, was an email from The Smithsonian Institution, asking if the Historic Natchez Foundation would host an exhibit on the history of waterways in Mississippi.

"I'm putting that boat smack dab in the middle of the exhibit," Mimi chortled.  They've found it a prominent place in the front office of the foundation among the books, papers, paintings and ephemera that make Natchez such a wonderful place.

I figured out later that San Felipe XI meant Extra Large, not the 11th.  But look at that picture of the receipt. I may have had a drink or two, but THAT was an honest mistake.  I just failed to read the specs.  And this boat is every bit as beautiful as promised.  In fact, I'm surprised it didn't cost MUCH, MUCH more than it did.  Houzz was courteous and prompt and the boat company was, as well.

To read the fascinating and tragic history of the San Felipe, go this article:  Ship's story revealed in 435-year-old wreckageYou won't be disappointed.

As for me?  I found another model boat on Everything But the House.  It's not the San Felipe, but it was only $15.  And it came with a boat in a bottle, too.  So there.  

Oh, and Liesl agrees:  I've outdone her in spades.

See below for pictures of Elodie's folly:























Thursday, June 8, 2017

Afterglow

An old poem I actually won a prize for a long time ago on the Internet Board Poetry Community.

Afterglow

by Elodie Ackerman
The Town
First Place, October 2007
Judged by E. Ethelbert Miller


We crossed the country
bathed in beatitudes
the transmission leaking oil
clear across the country
toward the Orange glow hovering
on the Western horizon,
waiting to eat us alive.
My bridal veil flowed
out the window,
my virginity the hood ornament
on the old blue Mercury
as we tried marriage
on for size, rolling
the flavor on our tongues
like SweetTarts,
cheap but tasty.
As quickly as we rushed
into that foul folly,
we hesitated
to bring it to a close.
Eventually, you collapsed
Under the weight of it all,
and I, hardened by your
rage and drama, signed the papers
as quickly as I did the parchment
that got us into this mess
in the first place.
It’s time to leave
the Golden Promise, retrace
that oily trail to its start,
where trees still stand after
three-hundred years and family
welcomes you home, no matter what
you’ve done or where you’ve gone
or who you’ve become.
But it’s never quite behind you,
that Orange glow. No matter
what comes next,
it’s always there, waiting
to remind you that no matter
how wise they think you are,
how worldly or sophisticated,
you’re still a damned fool. Just old now,
and not so pretty anymore.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Visions of Home 3: A Stroll through Downtown Natchez












Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Child's Drawings from 1883

My mother had a large cedar chest where she kept all our report cards, newspaper clippings, drawings, etc. that we'd done as children.  It was at my sister's house, and she decided we didn't need to keep those old things, so out they went with the trash.  I understand getting rid of clutter, but I think so often we lose a lot of family history that might've been enlightening to our descendants, who might take an interest in geneology.

When I moved back to Mississippi from Los Angeles, I was going through some cabinets in the library at my father's house.  I was snooping around and found an old sewing basket containing an assortment of old family papers, receipts, letters, calling cards, and one little tablet from a drugstore containing a child's drawings.

The child was Elodie Rose (Grafton), my great grandmother.  She was fourteen years old when she doodled in her little book, just an assortment of her practicing her penmanship, doing her multiplications, and drawings of her friends, whom she named.

Now I'll have to go do some sluething to find out who these friends were and what happened to them.  Tommie O'Brien, Ellen Scott, Nellie Conti, Sophie Wright.  Some of the other names are familiar:  Agnes Carpenter, Bessie Learned:
Elodie Rose

Agnes Carpenter
I found letters to Elodie from Agnes Carpenter when Agnes was in boarding school in New York.

I can't begin to tell you what it feels like when the old photo on the wall takes on a personality.  It's like reaching back in time and meeting each other for the first time. I highly recommend saving those old report cards and letters, and drawings.  It will be a treasure for someone someday.











Wednesday, May 10, 2017:

Last night I received the following email from one of Nellie Conti's descendants:

Hi Elodie,

I stumbled across your blog this evening as I was researching my great grandmother, Nellie Conti of Natchez, Mississippi.  If you want to know more about Nellie, she was the daughter of John Conti and Mary Jane Lazarus Conti and was born in 1866.  She married my great grandfather, John E. Rouse in September 1884, just a year after the notes and drawings in your blog.  She and John Rouse lived in Natchez.  He owned and operated a grocery and a saloon at 510 Franklin Street in Natchez.  They had 8 children, my grandmother Loretta was their youngest child, born in 1896.  Sadly, Nellie Conti Rouse died of tuberculosis just 10 days after giving birth to my grandmother.  We only have one picture of her, which I have attached.

The name Tommie O’Brien is also familiar to me.  The O’Brien’s and the Rouse’s were in-laws. Nellie’s half sister Louisa married Joseph B. O’Brien.  I believe Tommie was a relative.

If you ever come across anything else about the Rouse, Conti or Lazarus families of Natchez, I would be very interested in learning what you discover.

I have enjoyed reading your blog, and am so happy I found it.

Thanks again,
Christie Susslin

Nellie Conti



John E. Rouse. Born August 1859 in Macomb, IL. He married Mary Ellen "Nellie" Conti, daughter of John F. and Mary Lazarus Conti on Sept 1, 1884. He operated Conti and Rouse grocery and liquor store at 510 Franklin Street. He died in Natchez on June 19, 1909.

Conti and Rouse grocery and liquor store at 510 Franklin Street


Related links:

Letter from Agnes Carpenter at St. Agnes School in New York

Letter from Agnes Carpenter at Mississippi Military Institute