Tag Archive | Woodstock

A tall tale featuring my top ten tags

Julia Child

Today’s blog post is a statistical experiment. Never fear, I know that sounds dreary, but I’m going to have fun with it by creating a fictional journal entry using key words and phrases that seem to have drawn people to my blog.

I study my stats religiously, and they’ve been down in the past week. Perhaps my topics haven’t been uplifting or intriguing enough – I wrote about the death of an artist friend, website anxiety, agita and acid indigestion. On the other hand, “affordable funerals” has been one of my most popular topics to date, so go figure. Today, I’ll start with a true statement; after that, all bets are off. I’ll highlight the popular tags in turquoise, and see if I can drive up my stats for the day.

As Administrator for the Memorial Society of the Hudson-Mohawk Region, I get a lot of inquiries about affordable funerals. I’m fairly well versed in what’s going on with funeral homes in upstate New York, but I decided it was time to broaden my horizons. What better place to start than Baltimore and the grave of Edgar Allan Poe? I’d visited there before when I went to Bouchercon, but I didn’t want to linger, so after paying my respects I caught a shuttle to the Baltimore-Washington airport.

Next stop: London. Once there, I realized I wasn’t in the mood for research, at least not of the kind I’d come for, so I decided to cure my jet lag by exploring the local nightlife. I found a pub in the Soho district, and lo and behold, a devastatingly handsome bloke named Harold was soon chatting me up. He looked much the way John Lennon might have if he’d lived to see 60.

Jimi Hendrix

I regaled him with tales of my past – how I’d shown my paintings and won a prize at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, how a disc jockey had helped me sneak my paintings into the Beatles’ suite at the Warwick Hotel, how I’d lived in New York City’s SoHo district at the height of its glory. How Jimi Hendrix bought me a screwdriver and asked for my phone number at a Greenwich Village club, and I stayed in my loft for a week waiting for his call in vain.

Baseball diamond

Harold and I discovered we both had a passion for blogging. I told him how amazed I was to be getting hundreds of hits a day, but that I couldn’t figure out what made certain posts more popular. I could understand the appeal of “Norman Mailer ogled my chest” and “Julie and Julie and Julia” Parts 1, 2 and 3, but why “My blogging story arc – a field of dreams?” Enid Wilson’s steamy take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was a big hit too. Michael Jackson I could understand – I blogged about Michael as the archetype of a tortured artist. Harold and I agreed about the poignancy of his death, but that he’d probably passed his prime, and that the brilliant film “Michael Jackson’s This Is It” was a fitting legacy.

After my second Black Russian, I was feeling confident enough to pull both my mysteries out of my carry-on bag. He raved about my cover illustrations, and immediately insisted on buying both Eldercide and Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders. My first sale on English soil! I was thrilled.

“I’d love to show you more of London tomorrow,” Harold said.

“That would be great, but I’m not sure my husband would approve.” I pulled out my BlackBerry. “Come to think of it, I’d better give him a call. . . .”

 [the scene ends here]

Actually, it turns out that most of the above is fact, not fiction. I’ve been to Baltimore for Bouchercon and and visited Poe’s grave, but I don’t have plans to return any time soon. I didn’t jet off to London and meet a dashing Englishman, but everything I told him about my background and my blogging is true. Now I’ll type in all the tags and see what happens.

Hey, this isn’t a bad creative writing exercise – maybe I’ll try it again sometime. You’re welcome to try it as well. What tags and subjects have drawn the most people to your blog? Can you turn them into a story? I’d love to hear from you.

Julie & Julie & Julia Part III

Ten days ago my blog scored a record number of hits – 451 in one day. Trying to figure out why, I discovered that 319 of these visits were racked up by a single post –  “Julie & Julie & Julia Part II” from September 2nd. My family and friends would find this ironic in the extreme. I’m a good cook when I set my mind to it, but I avoid the kitchen whenever possible. This post and the one that preceded it were about writing and blogging, and cooking got barely a mention.

So why is the J&J&J post so popular? Note to self: duh – it’s the search engines, dummy. Over the past few months, I’ve been watching my stats climb steadily, and as of today, I’ve logged 24,022 hits on a blog I just started in May. All along I’ve been under the delusion that I’m building a devoted readership, and the comments and stats tell me I’m not entirely wrong, but the majority of visitors are lured in by certain key words and especially by well known names.

Here are my most visited blog posts for the past week, according to WordPress:

  • Julie & Julie & Julia Part II (September 2)
  • Julie & Julie & Julia (August 31)
  • Michael Jackson and the archetype of the tortured artist (July 8th)
  • My blogging story arc – a field of dreams (June 22)
  • Woodstock 1969 Part III: Requiem for the spirit of 1969 (August 12)
  • Woodstock 1969 Part II: Stuck in the muck for 16 straight hours of music (August 9)
  • Woodstock 1969 Part I: I was there with my paintings – now if only I could prove it! (August 6)
  • Did Poe get fan letters too? (October 30)
  • Affordable funerals Part II: Down by the riverside (September 12)
  • TGIF Blog Party – You’re all invited (August 21)

Julie Powell

It’s interesting that these are all older posts – the most recent is from October 30th. Does this mean no one is reading my more recent ramblings? No, those get visits too – just not as many. WordPress tells me where most or all of my readers come from, and a fair number come from other authors’ blogs as well as from online discussion groups like CrimeSpace and Murder Must Advertise. WP also tells me all the posts that have attracted visitors on any given day, so I know many folks visit my static pages with my bio information and sample chapters. Here’s hoping some of those folks are actually buying my books!

Most common searches that drew people to my blog recently: Julia Child, Julia Childs (I purposely inserted the misspelled name as a tag, a trick I picked up somewhere in the past few months), Edgar Allan Poe, Jimi Hendrix, Woodstock, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, baseball diamond (I can’t figure out that last one!)

I tend to shy away from statistics. In fact, sheer panic drove me to drop out of a statistics class at Dutchess Community College – me with my hotshot degrees from Barnard, Columbia and NYU. (I eventually enrolled for statistics again and got an A – a necessary evil, since it was a prerequisite for the PhD psychology program I briefly enrolled in. But that’s another story.)

I’m hereby making a New Year’s Resolution to put more time into understanding the wealth of blogging statistics available to me on WordPress, thereby maximizing the  effectiveness of the many hours I spend online. Meanwhile, for my Christmas blog post, I’ll create a short story incorporating all the popular names, subjects and tags that show up in my stats. Be sure to check back then! For anyone who’s read this far: sorry I never got around to the subject of cooking. But I’m sticking in some photos of Julia Child and Julie Powell as a consolation prize.

Fellow bloggers, do you have any wisdom to share about statistics and blog hits? I know many of you are far more sophisticated than I am on this subject, and I’d love to hear from you. 

©2009 Julie Lomoe

Affordable Funerals Part II: Down by the riverside

Caspar David Friedrich

Caspar David Friedrich

Funeral arrangements and memorial services can be meaningful, healing experiences even when costs are kept low. Membership in an affiliate of the Funeral Consumers Alliance can help families cope with their loss while keeping both stress and expense at a minimum. I wrote this article a year ago for the fall newsletter of the Memorial Society of the Hudson-Mohawk Region:

 Down by the Riverside: A Personal Account of Loss and Healing

In late August, my son-in-law died unexpectedly at the age of 42, leaving behind my daughter and two young granddaughters. Although I’ve been Administrator for the Memorial Society of the Hudson-Mohawk Region for several years, I’ve never before had so vivid and personal a reminder of the value of the Memorial Society and of its parent organization, the Funeral Consumers Alliance.

Another Affiliate Helps Out

My son-in-law had done no advance funeral planning. The family lived in Woodstock, just over an hour from our home but outside the range of the providers the Memorial Society contracts with. We brought our daughter and the girls up to stay with us immediately, and got to work making arrangements the next morning. I found my copy of the FCA list of chapters and called the number for the Mid-Hudson Memorial Society in Poughkeepsie.

A volunteer answered the phone on the third ring and gave me the name of their participating provider in Kingston. I called, got his answering service, and he called me back within 10 minutes. He was extremely helpful and informative. We had everything arranged in under an hour, an enormous relief for my daughter and the children, as well as for his aging parents, who were too shattered to deal with the situation long-distance.

Two weeks later we had a simple but beautiful memorial service by the Hudson at a public park. We were able to reserve the pavilion free of charge, and since the family had chosen cremation, there was no need for a funeral director to be involved by this point.

A Warm Gray Day by the Hudson

The day was perfect — gray and drizzly but warm, and over 100 people came. My husband presided, and my daughter and the nine-year-old granddaughter scattered some of the ashes in the Hudson while my husband spoke about how the ashes would make their way downstream past Nyack, where our son-in-law grew up, and New York City, where they had lived. Just then a great blue heron flew downriver.

The entire experience has convinced me more than ever what an important service the FCA and its chapters provide, and how meaningful and healing a memorial service can be when planned entirely by family and friends.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year, almost to the day, since that memorial service. My daughter and granddaughters have proven amazingly strong and resilient, and they’ve moved on with their lives. Last month Stacey became a first-time home buyer, and they’ve moved into a beautiful little brick house in West Hurley, right near Woodstock. The girls can continue in the same school system, with the same friends and the marvelously creative teachers and vibrant musical program you’d expect of a school in Woodstock. And there’s ample room for this grandma to stay over, both to pitch in with childcare and to partake of the local art and music scene down there. Maybe one of these Saturday nights I’ll even treat myself to a ticket to Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble. The former drummer for The Band holds these weekly shindigs at his home studio, and all sorts of musical luminaries are apt to stop by.

But I digress – a perfect example of how easy it is to drift off-topic rather than discuss death and dying. In Monday’s post, I’ll conclude this series with a discussion of some specifics about exactly how people can save money on after-death services by becoming involved with the Memorial Society or another affiliate of the Funeral Consumers Alliance. In the meantime, I’d welcome your comments and questions – maybe I can address them in my next post. For now, I’m off to the Hudson on another warm gray September day, to enjoy Albany’s free jazz festival – down by the riverside.

Woodstock 1969: I was there with my paintings. Now if only I could prove it!

 

Julie Lomoe, acrylic, 64"x64", 1969

Julie Lomoe, acrylic, 64"x64", 1969

Yes, there was actually an art show!

Would you believe I won second prize in the art show at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in August, 1969? Would you believe that was the event’s official name, and that there was actually an art show? There was, and I was in it, but I have only my memories to prove it – along with an uncollected ticket I collaged into a painting I did after the event. This month, with all the hype surrounding the 40th anniversary of the festival, I’ve vowed to track down some film or photographic documentation of the art show that included my paintings. Several of them are stored in my basement garage, and I’d like to find them a home more worthy of their fabled history.

In June of 1969, I was living alone in a loft on Broome Street, in the lower Manhattan district that had only recently become known as SoHo, when I learned of the upcoming festival that would come to be called Woodstock. There was an article in the Village Voice, saying a number of terrific bands were already signed up. The organizers were planning an art show as well, and were accepting entries. I’d been painting up a storm for several years, ever since earning my MFA at Columbia University, and the event sounded like a great opportunity to exhibit my huge, vividly colored paintings with their images of rock stars and social protest. I registered immediately, then teamed up with an artist I’d exhibited with in an East Village gallery who had a van big enough to hold my work.

By the time we got to Woodstock . . .

Flash forward to Friday, August 15. With help from his wife, we jammed the van full of our paintings and got an early morning start. Within a few miles of the festival site in Bethel, traffic slowed to a crawl, but it was still moving. Despite my avant garde life style, I still had a cautious streak, and I’d had the foresight to book a nearby motel room using my parents’ American Express card. We dropped off my clothes, then continued at a snail’s pace to the site. Since we were exhibitors, they waved our van through, then assigned us our spaces atop a gently rolling hill that was an easy walk from the stage. Each artist’s area was partitioned off by white canvas that billowed in the breeze.

By late afternoon I had my paintings up and wired to the metal framework to keep them from sailing away on a sudden gust of wind. There were few prospective customers, so as Richie Havens took the stage for the first set of the festival, I wandered downhill with my blanket and staked out a spot a couple of hundred feet from the stage. The crowd was building steadily, but navigating between the tarps and blankets was still easy, so after Swami Satchidananda’s invocation, I went back to check on my paintings.

My toughest teacher flies in to pass judgment

Judging of the art show was in progress, and to my amazement, I found myself suddenly face to face with Stephen Greene, my drawing instructor from the Columbia MFA program. As a teacher, he’d been my nemesis – he didn’t like my work, and gave me only B’s. Like the rest of the faculty, he was an abstract painter, but the others were more benign. Since I was stubbornly figurative, and my graduate exhibit consisted primarily of life-size paintings of the Beatles, they didn’t know what to do with me. To this day I’m convinced they awarded me the MFA simply to get rid of me. The only artistic advice I remember from that year was Robert Motherwell’s: “It helps to have a drink before you go into the studio.”

Now here was Stephen Greene, standing atop the hill in front of my paintings. They’d flown him and the other judges in by helicopter, he said. Nattily attired in a shirt, tie, and camel’s hair blazer that was far too warm for the day, he looked as if he belonged on Madison Avenue, not this rolling farmland with its thousands of hippies. “What the fuck am I doing here?” he said with a shake of his head.

 (to be continued)