Monthly Archives: April 2022

Helen Mirren

I found Ruth reading a puff article on the actress Helen Mirren, and we decided to watch some of her films. We started with one of her first starring roles in a movie made on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia called Age of Consent that she made in 1969. We quickly realized that we had seen very few of this important actress’ movies. Why is that?

If you can believe what she says in the article, a male fortune teller once told her that her career would not take off until she was in her 40s. This seems both astute and true. Helen Mirren didn’t win her Academy Award as Best Actress until she was 59 in 2006. Between Age of Consent, her 4th film, and The Queen in which she played the current Queen of England, Elizabeth II, she made 44 movies including some of her best like The Madness of King George.

Helen Mirren’s best movies are thought to be 1986’s The Mosquito Coast, 2003’s Calendar Girls and 2001’s Gosford Park. Madness is included in her best list as are Eye in the Sky and The Queen. We have seen all 3 and really liked them. In Eye in the Sky, a very serious film, she confronts terrorists, and it was actor Alan Rickman’s last film. A Harry Potter alumnus and personal favorite of mine, Rickman was very good in this 2015 film and it is dedicated to him.

Helen Mirren’s career is hot. She has associated herself with the Fast & Furious films and has 3 currently planned movies: White Bird, a Furious film called Fury of the Gods, and Golda. Age of Consent was made when the Reef was still pristine, and in it Helen does the totally nude thing because it’s really about Norman Lindsay, an Australian artist.

Helen Mirren has made 61 movies to date.


Towns Named Summersville

There are actually several towns with this name, and it has a special, very personal, meaning to us. We were not too far from Missouri’s Summersville a few weeks ago when Ruth & I went back home for that 100th birthday celebration. The woman who had the birthday is Ruth’s only living aunt. She lived in Summersville for many years. She was living there, in fact, when Ruth & I married many years ago.

Kathleen, the woman who made it to 100, was Ruth’s aunt. She was Ruth’s mother’s sister. Kathleen had 2 daughters. Her younger daughter and Ruth were like sisters growing up. Ruth still misses her. Judy loved to travel, and we took many trips together before she died. We are still close to her husband Bob, and we saw him for the birthday celebration. He and Kathleen have always been close and now live in the same town called West Plains. The birthday party was held there.

Summersville, MO is not one of the larger towns with this name even though it’s growing. Its 2020 population, according to one estimate, was 487. One other estimate said it now has 515 people living in it. It has not been quite the same since its biggest employer, Angelica uniforms, closed. Ruth and I have not been back to Summersville for many years.

Newly married, we were in this town a lot visiting Ruth’s grandparents. We have not been back since Ruth’s cousin Don ran one of the 2 Summersville grocery stores. We had a special relationship with Ruth’s grandparents because they stood up for us when we decided to get married. Her mother was not in favor of Ruth marrying me, but her grandparents supported us and came to the wedding. We will never forget that her Grandfather walked Ruth down the aisle, and her dear grandmother was at our wedding in support of it. We will never get over their unstinting buttressing of our decision to marry and be a part of their family.

The Summersvilles that exist tend to be much larger communities than the one in Missouri. There are larger Summersvilles in Georgia not too far from Atlanta, South Carolina on the outskirts of Charleston (the largest Summerville), and in West Virginia. The ones in Illinois and Tennessee are apparently so small that neither is on any maps that I own. There are Summervilles scattered about and towns named Somerville in some states. I assume they all have similar derivations. There’s a Summersville in Ohio not too far from Columbus. There are towns close enough to the name Summersville in Iowa and Mississippi to count.

There are even several towns named Sumner in the United States. There are Sumner Counties in Kansas and Tennessee. If you add them all up, there are Somervilles or Summersvilles or Summervilles or Sumners in Kentucky, Alabama, Indiana, Maine, Washington, Massachusetts, and New Jersey plus the states listed above to bring the grand total to 15 or so.

There will always be a special place in my heart for towns named Summersville and the like.


Movies Where Filmed

I used to have to wait until a movie’s credits rolled to their end to find out where it was shot. Only then did I learn where in the world that movie was made. I don’t know why this interests me, but it does. Lately, intimate details about where a film was shot are readily available on the internet. Other people must be interested too or this would not be happening.

Lately Ruth and I have seen some offbeat locations that are socially important. Last night’s film was the most weird of all. I never expected to see a film made in Azerbaijan but there it was, a love story with a significant female lead. Before COVID struck and we had to cancel travel plans, Ruth and I were planning to go there. We were wrapping up visits to all of the European countries and including Georgia and Armenia in our travel plans. Azerbaijan was also a destination. I’m really sorry now that we did not go there.

Interesting settings for recently seen movies included several offbeat locations. We are watching what we considered unreleased films of note that we had not had access to before. Suddenly we discovered that many of them had found a niche on some of the lesser-known cable channels, and we began watching some of them. Septembers of Shiraz was about Iran. Highway Patrolman, a really odd film about the road, turned out to be about a police officer in Mexico. Asako 1 & 2 was filmed in Osaka, Japan, a place we saw only from a moving train. Goldstone was filmed with one of our favorite Australian actresses who has been in some American films. Her acting name is Jacki Weaver. We have been to the Australian Outback but not to Winton, where Goldstone was filmed.

Azerbaijan was fascinating and culturally significant too. The movie made there was called Ali & Nino. It was totally unexpected and interesting to experience its very particular culture. Like the Jewish characters in Septembers of Shiraz, the main female in Ali & Nino as a modern woman had a hard time fitting into the culture of her Muslim nation not too far from war-torn Ukraine.


Towns Named Nashville

According to most sources, there are many places named Nashville. They only, exist, however, in the United States. There are reports of 20 Nashvilles around this country but many of them are not on maps. I can only verify about a dozen or so of the true Nashvilles. Many towns named Nashville, sad to say, have ceased to exist. For example, the Nashvilles in Iowa, Nebraska, and California have completely gone away. They were towns at one time, but people have moved or changed their town’s names.

That the capital of Tennessee was named Nashville is still disputed. What is certain is that this city began life as Fort Nashborough. If the many Nashvilles around the country are named after the capital of the state of Tennessee, it’s coincidence. It’s usual nickname, Music City, is far more reliable now to identify it or some variation of the Grand Old Opry theme that attaches itself to this population center of more than 600,000 people. Some like me would change its name to Flood City.

What is for sure is that there are several towns named Nashville in the United States. They are populated places in the states of Arkansas, not Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and North Carolina. More than 20,000 people besides the several hundred thousand Nashvillans or is it Nashvillians? in Tennessee call a town named Nashville home. There are small but verifiable Nashvilles in places like Wisconsin, Missouri, and Vermont. The Nashville in the state of Vermont, however, which is near the town of Jericho that is near the city of Burlington has a population of about 2,000 but is not mapped.

This all leads to a funny story. The Nashville in Arkansas that is known for its peaches was originally called Hell’s Valley. A local man of self-importance decided that this name was not appropriate for a Baptist community near the Ouachita Mountains and had his town’s name officially changed to Nashville.


Historic Hotels to Explore

Ruth found an interesting subject. She found an article about historic hotels. In fact, the article reports on the 50 most stunning places to stay in America according to Jill Fergus, who has listed what are, in her opinion, the best venerable hotels in each of the 50 states. A long time expert, she encourages all of us to travel back in time while on the road by staying at the best hotels that have survived for decades or longer. I have divided them into places we have toured but not stayed in, hotels she lists where we have actually stayed, and notable hotels we aspire to stay in at some point in the future.

We have toured lots of hotels to report on them, but we have not stayed in them. These hotels include The Biltmore in Phoenix, The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fl, The Mission Inn in Riverside, CA, and the best-of-all Driskill Hotel in Austin, TX. The Driskill is among the best hotels in the Lone Star State, the state with the most and best historic hotels. I don’t know how Jill managed to single out the Driskill in a place with so many great choices.

Texas has lots of historic hotels worth seeing in smaller towns. We have stayed in some of them in offbeat locations like Laredo, Bryan, and Lajitas. The only competition that The Driskill has in Texas as far as I’m concerned is The Menger Hotel in San Antonio. The Menger is truly a classic from the past. The Driskill, however, was built by a cattle baron according to Jill Fergus, and he spared no expense when it comes to stained glass, use of marble, and art. Don’t miss eating in one of The Driskill’s restaurants. My personal favorite among Texas hotels is, nevertheless, The Adolphus in Dallas. We were lucky enough to stay there and enjoy a room on the floor with a ghost that kept me awake all night.

Ruth & I have actually visited in only 3 hotels singled out as the best in each state as reported by a woman named Jill who has done genuine research. They are the La Fonda where we stayed recently in Taos, New Mexico, The Hilton in downtown Chicago, a city with many excellent hotels, and The Capital in Little Rock, AR. We really enjoyed our dinner in its exceptional restaurant. Unlike Jill, I do not recommend La Fonda as a place to stay because it has become something of an urban hassle. Our room was adequate but not classic.

I don’t know how Jill could have overlooked the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, the Frank Lloyd Wright Hotel in Mason City, IA, and The Plains Hotel in Cheyenne, WY. These are 3 classics from the distant past and are still worth the expense of staying there. Frank Lloyd Wright designed a total of 6 hotels, and Mason City’s Park Inn is the only one left. One of them burned and the others were torn down. It took 10 years of effort to restore The Park Inn. Although the restorers did a great job, its still not a comfortable place to stay if you desire modern amenities. People don’t stay there because it’s like a Holiday Inn Express. They stay there because it exists and is beautiful. The Plains, a longtime Wyoming hotel of classic categorization, suffers from inadequate parking.

I was getting worn out when it comes to sampling the best sandwich in every state I visited. Now I have a new mission, to stay at the most historic hotel everywhere I go. I didn’t even know that The Elms Hotel in Excelsior Springs, MO existed before reading about this travel editor’s choices of the best accommodations in each state for a timeless getaway. Thanks to her, I now also aspire to stay in the Baden Springs Hotel in French Lick, IN, a retreat in a resort area that has been welcoming guests for more than 100 years, The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan, and The Crater Lake Lodge in Oregon that I didn’t even know existed. The Allison Inn may be Oregon’s only 5-star resort, but it’s relatively new and has not stood the test of time like the Crater Lake Lodge that is only opened for a short time each year because of its fantastic location.