Lillie Langtry
Lillie Langtry

I love timelines. I like being able to see events in relation to each other. I’d like it even better if there were three dimensions to a timeline, but I’m satisfied with two.

As I was organizing a lot of the material I’ve gathered (and you gathered) about 1883, it occured to me that there might be an easier way to put together a timeline, and I did a search which brought me to the wondrous XTimeline.  I prompty spent an hour inputting about half of what I have, and now I’m all woozy headed in my enthusiasm.  Here’s my 1883 Manhattan-centric timeline. Note that the timeline moves horizontally (the slider is at the bottom of the timeline and not at the right hand side, as usual). You can look at it in two different formats (buttons at upper right).

If you have any interest in adding bits and pieces, you just have to register (no cost) and let me know, and I’ll give you access. If you participated in the giveaway a few weeks ago (you can see that here), you know what I’m looking for.  What would be especially great would be events relating to women’s history, birth control (advances, court cases, etc), social events, and public health. I need to start putting in what I have about epidemics and illness and medical training.  Any suggestions very welcome.

roses in march

In 1883, Easter fell on March 25.  On the east coast the weather is unpredictable  at that time of year; it can be balmy or miserable, and has been both.  According to the The Sun, one of the many daily newspapers printed in Manhattan during this period, it was a beautiful sunny day (“A sky and a temperature in keeping with the season.”). The Sun goes into detail: What women were wearing, how churches were decorated, who was singing what in which ceremonies, and of course, who gave the sermons.

Charitable events were also documented, and a few oddities jump out there:

At the Five Points Mission there was no dinner. The old rule of giving meals only on working days was adhered to, but on Tuesday next colored eggs will be added to the regular bill of far in honor of Easter.

And then this interesting tidbit:

Three hundred young voices united in singing Easter songs at the Howard Mission and Home for Little Wanderers at 40 New Bowery yesterday afternoon [Easter Sunday].

If I made up the name The Howard Mission and Home for Little Wanderers, I would be the object of scoffing.

Flowers seem to have been everywhere. The ones mentioned most often: violets, lilies, roses, and smilax (a type of greenery somewhat like holly).  As I was reading all this I could imagine it quite clearly, and then the question came to me: roses in March?

Clearly, there must have been greenhouses and gardeners who supplied out of season flowers. There’s no other explanation for  roses in March. I had assumed the normal flowers of the season — lily of the valley, crocus, daffodils.  The roses took me by surprise (and come to think of it, the lilies, too). Now I’m all curious about professional gardening, where the greenhouses were, and how all these flowers were transported.  But I won’t go searching for this information. Nope, I won’t. I am making a vow because you know, really, that’s not relevant to the story. Unless of course I can fit in a character who is in fact a gardener…

self discipline: how to not work

For more than two years now, I have spent every waking hour worried about not writing. No matter what I was doing, I felt like I should be writing. And now that time is past. I have no deadlines hanging over me. I am free.

So I made some resolutions. I have a list of projects I’m working on, prioritized in a couple different ways, and a Chinese-menu-type setup. As long as I work for x amount of minutes on one project from each of the three columns on a given day, I’m good. If I hit a certain mark, I can stop early for the day (this has only happened once so far).  And here’s something important: no working on the weekends.

You’d think that the hard part would be staying on track with the projects, right? But what I’ve found is that it’s almost impossible not to work on the weekends. There are a few things that force me into at least temporary  Saturday/Sunday retirement — going to a movie, for example. Sewing is another one. These are things I do in the evening on regular work days, and now, at least according to my own rules, I could do over the weekend. Right now I could be playing with fabric. But I’m not. So I put away the computer and read. I pick up a novel I’m liking, a novel I’m half way through, and I start reading. Suddenly I’ve got Victorian Babylon in my lap, both books open.  What is this?

Does that seem unreasonable? That I should (whispering) take the weekend off from work? In theory I know it should not, but in fact it feels awful. I’m getting quite cross with myself about this. Yesterday I was writing an email to a friend and suddenly, there I was looking up information about small towns in Virginia. This was because of a percolating novel set in Virginia about somebody named Jackson, who is an EMT. Bad. I slapped my hand and went back to non-work.

I decide I’m going to get more sleep. A long bath and then into bed. This seems to be working, and then I wake up at 3 a.m. thinking about wicked sisters. Who are these people, and why are they talking to me about a very-raw story idea? Go away! Let me sleep!

Well aren’t you just a bitch? This from the taller of the two. The other one giggles. She’s got bright fuschia fingernail polish on, and on each nail a tiny glittering stone. Diamonds? Who puts diamonds on their fingernails?

I try to go back to sleep but they are staring at me.

Fine, I say. Tell me.

It’s simple, says Diamonds. If you want Jackson, you get us too. We’re his big sisters and it is our responsibility to see he doesn’t get led astray.

Huh, say I. Why is it you look like those evil bridesmaids in My Best Friend’s Wedding?

I should hope we do, says the taller one. She’s got helmet hair and a botox forehead.

That’s when we climbed in, says her sister. We’ve been riding around back here for what, ten years? Sitting  in your subconscious, waiting for an escape route.

And this novel about your brother Jackson gives you that.

I hope she’s not always this slow, says Helmet Hair. It’ll take her forever to write this book. I cannot wait to get out of here.

So you can climb into other people’s heads? I say.

I can promise you, says the younger one, holding up one hand and waving her glittery fingers. That we will do our damnedest.

So you see, this taking the weekend off business is a lot harder than I imagined. I wonder if I’ll ever get the hang of it.

acknowledgements & you

Quick note: I’ve got a long list of names of peoplewho hang out here who have been encouraging and helpful over the past couple years. I’m going to try to put them all in the acknolwedgements. However, I know I’ll miss names out. So if you think you should be on that list (and you probably should be), please email me. Also, if you KNOW you’re on the list, please email me anyway and let me know how you want to be identified. asdfg: I’m looking at you.