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Letter the Tenth (2001 for

May, 2001

If you have been following the Lovebunnies' story, here's the next installment. If you are new to the saga, read on and you'll see what it's all about. . .

"I think that music worked out well," said Bucky.
   "It was fine," said Loie. "That was the perfect solution. Jim sounded great." It was May of 2000, and the Lovebunnies were picking up after their Anniversary Party. Bucky had called Jim Topper, and booked his band Burnt Orange for the Party, as he had the previous year. Days before the Party, the weather forecasts had all agreed that the weekend would be rainy. So Bucky had called Jim again, and negotiated having him play solo, indoors.
   "We'll just have to have Burnt Orange again next year," said Loie. Bucky agreed that that was a plan.
   The Lovebunnies spent most of the free time during the winter of 2000 discussing plans for Loie's Birthday Trip. Near the end of 1999 they had settled on Italy, but their friend Richard Purdy hadn't been able to book them into any luxury villas. "Jeeze Louise, these places are booked up a year in advance," said Richard. And, the Lovebunnies had found that even with Loie's special Birthday Trip Savings Fund, the best of the luxurious villas cost rather more than they could afford to spend. So Loie went onto the Web, and found italianvillas.com. When she found La Gioconda, a farmhouse villa whose picture included Sparky, the owners' dog, that was pretty much that. The guidebooks were read in earnest. Negotiations for a rental at La Gioconda began. Loie and Bucky were going to Italy!
   Their 1999 trip to new Orleans had been the inspiration for 2000's Valentines Dinner. "For Haute Creole," said Bucky, "We have to be elegant." Loie agreed, and the trend toward lounging while dining was broken. The Lovebunnies' friends Shirley and Bob, and Cathi and Robin joined them on February twelfth for an elegant seated dinner. Bucky amused the party by telling of his long and ultimately futile search for turtle meat. He had wanted to make turtle soup like the Lovebunnies had enjoyed at Commander's Palace.
   "But apparently it's not turtle season," he said. "I didn't know there was a season for turtles. But I did get the quails. Guess little frozen birds are always in season." Everyone assured him that the dinner was very good even without turtle soup.
   Preparations for Loie's Birthday Trip proceeded apace. The Lovebunnies were booked for May twentyseventh through June tenth. "I know it's not so elegant," said Bucky. "But we'll have a relaxing time sitting in little cafes, drinking coffee and watching the people." Goodness, how wrong he was!
   On April the thirtieth, The Lovebunnies went to Mary Ellen Vlk and Mark Evanko's wedding at a lovely mansion in Catonsville. Mark is Toshie and Nickie's Poppa. Toshie was a bridesmaid, and Nickie was the ringbearer. They both looked very grownup in their wedding clothes. Everyone remarked how beautiful Toshie was with her upswept hair and her floor-length satin gown. Bucky helped Nickie get dressed, although he needed no help, perhaps just a bit of moral support. The wedding was outdoors beneath the trees, and the solemnity of the occasion was relieved a bit when it was noticed that caterpillars were dropping from the trees onto Mary Ellen's elegant bridal gown. Groom Mark discreetly plucked caterpillars and front row guests stifled giggles but it was a lovely ceremony all the same.

   After the ceremony and the wedding dinner, Bucky and Nickie went outside to let off a little steam. They played catch with a frisbee and a football for a while, then went exploring. Several big trees at the edge of the lawn were being trimmed and removed, and they wandered down to see what they could see.
   "Hey, cool," said Bucky. "Look at this thing." It was a piece of bark, three feet long, curled in upon itself, and complete, unbroken, but slit all along its length.
   "Weird," said Nickie. "It's empty." and indeed it was. Perfectly empty, just bark, like the paper wrapper slipped off a straw.
   "I'm keeping this one," said Bucky. "I've got an idea." They carried it to Loie's car, and stashed it in the trunk. You can see it standing in the Lovebunnie's yard today. When Bucky first showed it to Loie, she said, "It's a sculpture."
   "Sure," said Bucky. "And its name is 'Just Who Was Curly Joe, Anyhow?' "
   "Oh, brother," said Loie.
   Soon after Bucky's Birthday Party in early May, Bucky and Loie's friends the Guys came with a special present.
   "I know we're not supposed to bring you presents," said Hilary. "But this was just too good to pass up," said Mark. And as he opened the big cardboard box, Bucky was amazed at the wonderful gift of the Mystic Globe of Glass: a crystal clear gazing globe.
   "Wow," said Bucky, "Magic Bubbles!"
   "It's because your silver one got broken," said Hilary.
   "Oh no!" said Bucky. "Yo brought me a new silver one!"
   "Oh no!" said Hilary, "Well, great minds think alike." And everyone laughed.
   "But it's really great," said Bucky, "Because this one is going to go in the Mossy Glade. It'll be perfect." And indeed the Mystic Globe of Glass is the best gazing globe of all, hovering in the Mossy Glade, sometimes silvered by frost, sometimes ghostly in moonlight, and some special evenings, when the sunset is just right, glowing with bands and spheres of fiery colors. Mystical.
   On the seventeenth of May, Loie and Bucky went into Baltimore to attend a reception at an installation of Bart Walter's sculpture group The Gathering. The Lovebunnies have one of Bart's sculpture--a coyote. Its title is Uncertainty. But Loie said they should call it Mr. C, to go along with Gunther, whose nickname is Mr. G. Hilary works for Bart Walter as his representative for sales and exhibitions. She arranged that his sculpture group of seven chimpanzees traveled with Jane Goodall to seven American cities during Dr. Goodall's most recent tour to promote her work at Gombe. The installation in Baltimore was at the annual convention of the American Association of Museums, where Dr. Goodall was the keynote speaker. Loie and Bucky were impressed by Bart's work.
   "He's gotten to a new level with this," said Bucky. "This is powerful work."
   "Yes," said Loie, "These really are alive. Each one has its own personality."
   And of course it was a memorable experience to see Dr. Goodall admiring the sculptures, and to hear her remarks of thanks to Bart Walter.
   "This is neat," said Bucky. Loie said, "I'm glad we know Hilary and Mark. They get us out to things we'd never do ourselves." And the afternoon held a surprise for Bucky. He was introduced to a lady who he asked him if he knew Melissa McLoud.
   "Yes, sure," he said. "She's a friend of mine from college." It turned out that Melissa had been there the day before, as she works for a museum in St. Michaels, on Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. And the lady Bucky met worked with Melissa, and remembered hearing her speak of him as a friend who lived in Maryland.
   "Small town, Baltimore, eh?" said Bucky. Loie and Bucky were sorry they had missed Melissa, but were glad to have seen The Gathering. (You can read more about Bart Walter's work at www.bartwalter.com)
   On the twentieth of May, the Lovebunnies had their Ninth Anniversary Party.
   "I don't like this at all," said Bucky on the morning of the party. "It's going to be a rainy day. We're starting a trend here." Of course, the year before the band had been rained out, although the rain was just a sprinkle that cleared off. But this year it was a pretty rainy day, and the party was mostly indoors. Some brave souls did manage to get a fire going and cook the traditional goulash. Yo got a betting pool going on the Preakness and Joan Deacon's friend Richard won the pool. The ground was too wet for a campfire, and Loie and Bucky postponed the piñata for another party. Bucky's toast was all about other rainy days, and the fun that had been had on those wet occasions. No one minds the rain when they are having fun.
   The very next weekend it was time for Loie's Birthday Party Trip. On May twentyseventh, the Lovebunnies took off for Florence, and the time of their lives! Richard had booked them to fly to Paris and then Florence on Air France, and the plane flights, though long, were pleasant. "But I don't think the food is any better than Iceland Air," said Bucky, and Loie agreed. An attendant at the Air France counter at the airport had assured them that they would eat very well on Air France. But soon enough they were in the tiny Florence airport, picking up their rental car, and swooning in the unaccustomed heat.
   "Oh, what a good start," said Loie. "It's so hot!"

   If you visit Loie and Bucky's house, they will show you their photo album and tell you many stories about the wonderful people and countryside of Italy. Of course, they didn't spend any time lolling luxuriantly in cafes. They drove two thousand miles, visiting lovely ancient old hill towns, sampling wines and restaurants, hiking up and down a winding seaside trail in blistering heat to reach a tower restaurant overlooking a tiny Ligurian bay. They toured monasteries, shopped in Florence, and stood amazed by art in the Uffizi Galleries. Loie toured the Ferragamo Shoe Museum while Bucky searched out hand made marbled papers.
   Their hosts at La Gioconda, Fernanda and Mario Rossi, treated them to a traditional Tuscan dinner in their own kitchen. The Lovebunnies were trapped at two in the morning in an underground garage in Urbino, hours away from their villa on the other side of the Apennine Mountains. Loie figured out how they could escape! They got stopped for speeding on the way home, at two a.m. in the morning. The poor polizia were disappointed to have stopped a tourist family, and waved them on their way.
   Everyone they met was friendly and helpful. Bucky loved driving a hundred miles an hour on the highway, and twenty miles an hour on the tiny country roads. The farms and vineyards and olive groves, the towns with their ancient walls and towers were like works of art, and the food and wine were superb everywhere they went.
   In July, Loie spent a long weekend in Chicago, at the annual summer convention of the American Library Association.
   "I don't know why," she said, "But this time I really looked at the Loop." The Lovebunnies were looking at photographs Loie had taken of the buildings along the water. The pictures were dramatic--a rose and gold sunset was tinting the city.
   "Maybe because we spent so much time admiring Firenze and the towers in San Gimingiano?" she said.
   "Ha," said Bucky. "Maybe because this is the first time it wasn't freezing cold in Chicago." Loie laughed and thought that might be the reason.
   On the first of August, Loie's Uncle Cas passed away after a long illness. This was a sad time for the family. Cas had been well loved by all, and would be missed. He was given a military funeral with full honors in Arlington Cemetery: a caisson pulled by black horses followed by a marching band and honor guard with swords drawn wound the traditional mile through the grounds. A twentyone gun salute was performed at the internment. The ceremony was solemn and inspiring.
   On the second weekend in August, the Ls gathered at the Lovebunnies' house for a Writer's Weekend. (The Ls are Loie, Laura and Laurie.) Hilary joined them for the afternoon and dinner on Saturday. Bucky cooked all weekend, something he likes very much.
   "Well, how was it, overall?" he asked Sunday night after the event had wound to a close.
   "Hmmm," said Loie. "We didn't get much actual writing done. But we had a very good time."
   The next weekend the Lovebunnies went to Barbara and Thomas' house for his fortieth birthday party. You may remember that Barbara Weber is the one who sneakily adds the silly events to the Lovebunnies' calendar. There was disco dancing under a spinning mirror globe in Thomas' newly completed studio beside the house. Barbara and some of her friends performed an exceedingly silly song and dance in honor of the birthday. Later, there was a big bonfire in the yard. Chris and Angela were at the party, and late in the evening Angela demonstrated her formidable belching prowess. "I learned from my brothers," she said.
   "It's the whole reason I married her," said Chris. No one wanted to know any more about that.
   The Lovebunnies spent the first two weeks of September at the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Elizabeth, Bucky's Father and Father's friend Friedrun joined them for their first week. Yo, Loie's Mom and Dad, and Susan and Franklin were there the second week. Loie and Bucky enjoy watching people at the beach, and Bucky was intrigued by a family one umbrella to the south. The youngest daughter of this family, still just a toddler, was dressed in a new bonnet and swimsuit every day, and today she had on huge red sunglasses.
   "I think we have to name her Baby Madonna," said Bucky. Loie said, "That's exactly who she is. Her grandparents buy her all those nice things, you know. Grandma buys all the toys and pretty clothes, and granddad has to haul it in the cart."
   One day Father and Friedrun came back from a little walk down the beach and took Loie and Bucky with them to the Fishing Pier. "Look at this," said Father. "It's crazy!" The currents had built a sandbar at the base of the pier, and a deep trench just at the edge of the beach. The tide was going out, exposing the bar, and people were sitting in lawn chairs on the bar, dozens of yards out from the beach! A little skim of water was washing over the broad bar as the waves broke out near the end of the pier, normally far out in the water. And the bar, which apparently ran still farther out under the distant waves, was making perfect surf. Father and Friedrun had their boogie boards and went out to surf in the curling waves. Loie and Bucky caught long mat rides, too, ending up on the bar, still far from the actual beach!
   The Lovebunnies did something they hardly ever do anymore at the beach: go exploring! Elizabeth and Loie decided to try a new restaurant way up north in Nag's Head, and Elizabeth enticed them to try a bit of gallery hopping on the way.
   "Elizabeth, you're as good for us as the Guys," said Loie. "We'd never have come up here on our own."
   "Well," said Elizabeth, "You sure did better than I did, although I do like these bits I found." Loie and Bucky had bought a wood bowl at the gallery. It reminded them of their trip to Hawaii, where they had bought a bowl.

   "We haven't bought a Local Craft at the Outer Banks since Berg's Birds," said Bucky. (See the Second Lovebunny Letter for the story of Vic Berg's Decoys.) And when they were admiring their new Local Craft at home, they discovered that it had a tiny flaw: a Spirit Hole. On the Lovebunnies' honeymoon, Bucky had read about a collector of Navajo weaving who only bought rugs if they had a visible flaw. The man claimed "that's where the spirit gets in."
   When Yo joined them the second week, she and Bucky went to the rental store and got a dune buggy: a chair made of plastic pipe, mounted on a framework with huge inflated tires. Bucky pushed Yo over the high Avon dunes so she could enjoy the beach.
   "I got the perfect picture," said Loie's Dad. "It looks just like Elizabeth Taylor and her attendants!" He had stood on the deck of the beach house and taken a picture of Bucky pushing the buggy back over the dunes. Yo in her sunglasses did indeed look like a star being squired around a resort.
   "Elizabeth Taylor!" said Yo. "Honey, you can come to my beach house any time!" Everyone laughed.
   When Susan and Franklin joined them, Franklin told everyone that he intended to go swimming, too. The next day, the Lovebunnies watched with some trepidation as Franklin walked into the waves and was promptly tumbled. "Holy Moses!" said Bucky, and he and Loie started to run to help. But up popped Franklin, none the worse for his adventure, laughing all the while. "That one fooled me," he said.
   "We saw you pull a Nana," said Bucky. "Just glad you're OK." Then Bucky had to explain how when they were little, their Nana would visit at the beach in Bethany, and stand in the waves, being knocked down and dragging herself up, over and over, laughing all the while.
   "It's just what she did," he said. "That's the way she went in the ocean: pow, knocked down, pow, knocked down pow." Franklin allowed that didn't sound like fun to him, and that he'd be more careful. and he did have a nice dip each day he and Susan were at the beach.
   Loie and Bucky went to Kitty Hawk one afternoon and visited their friends Angela and Chris Roe. They had a nice swim on the Roe's beach. Afterward everyone showered and primped for a night on the town. Chris and Angela and some of their family took them to The Weeping radish, a nice brew pub. Then the Lovebunnies and the Roes went out to dinner, and a couple more pubs. That was a lot of excitement for the Lovebunnies at the beach!
   On their last day, Bucky caught Loie's arm and said, "Look, again. There it is. What the heck?" Something big and dark was jumping out of the water beyond the sand bar. They walked down to the water's edge, and watched. It wasn't a porpoise. It wasn't a fish. As they watched, they decided it must be a skate: dark, square and flat, like a potholder.
   "Well, we find skate egg cases washed up all the time," said Bucky.
   "True," said Loie. "But I've never seen a live one before. Neat." Later, they saw the skate in close, almost as close as the breaking surf. And a lady who was also watching said she was also sure it was a skate.
   On Friday the twentyninth of September, Loie wrote in her diary:

Wow! 8 or 9 deer in the middle finger this morning at 7 am--adults and babies, a whole herd. Mr. G was headed for the front door & stopped, peering out. I walked cautiously down the stairs, expecting to see a bird or groundhog. It was spectacular! The high overgrown grass is dewy white, a bit of haze, and the herd frozen in place like statues, all looking at the door. I ran upstairs & said "Bucky! Bucky! Wake up!" because the deer were still in the yard. a big one came prancing toward the group from the direction of our house, its white tail up & flouncing. another big one glided out of the woods. They weren't scared at all, just naturally wary, & they slowly began to move off into the jungle.

"Yeah," said Bucky when Loie woke him up to look. "Real pretty. That's why I have to chicken-wire every damn thing I plant here." And he went back to bed.
   On October seventh, there was great excitement at the Frederick "In the Streets" Parade. Loie had been a backup singer helping record the music that would be played for the Frederick Public Libraries Precision Book Cart Drill Team entry in the parade. The singers called themselves "Page and the Bookmarks," and their recording was to be played over the loudspeaker of the Bookmobile that would follow the Drill Team in the parade. When Loie got home after the parade, she had marvelous news. "We won first prize in the parade!" she said.
   "No way," said Bucky. "Really?"
   "Yes," said Loie, "and now I have to call everyone and tell them. They all left before the judging was announced." So it was true, the library had won five hundred dollars for its entry.
   That evening, the Lovebunnies went to The Peeling's house for their annual Ocktoberfest. "OK," said Bucky, "Where's the stuff for the Burning Man?" Mark Peeling had been talking about making a Burning Man to add to the festivities at this years' Ocktoberfest. (You can read about the original Burning Man at www.burningman.com.)
   "Well," said Mark, "The trees are by the house, but I never did get around to making anything for the head." The trees are the leftovers from Mark's Christmas wreath-making. Having sat all year, the stripped white pine trunks are well dried and just right for burning.
   "Oh, no," said Bucky. "Then we've got to get busy." Mark found a big sheet of cardboard, and Bucky started making a square head for the Burning Man. He organised all the kids to decorate the Burning Man's crown. The head was soon ready, and Mark and Calvin Sproul had dragged the old trees out to the side yard. Mark and Bucky and Calvin lashed the trees together in a semblance of a human figure, and piled brush at the base. The sun had just set, and the moon was up as the boys fired the brush, and everyone applauded the spectacle as the flames of the Burning Man roared high into the night.
   "That was good," said Mark, "But next year we'll get organised and build the world's best Burning Man."
   "OK, Brother Pete," said Bucky, "You guys have outdone yourselves this time." The Lovebunnies were standing in front of Pete and Terrie's house on Hallowe'en night. In addition to the fabulous art jack o'lanterns Pete and Alyssa sculpted, and all the spooky decorations Terrie created, the smoke of a dry-ice machine was oozing around the front porch. Terrie was laughing, and everyone marveled at the Ultimate Hallowe'en house that Terrie and Pete and Alyssa had created.

   "We could get even wilder," said Terrie, "I have some more ideas, but we're scaring the little kids already. Some of'em won't come to the door, they just stand out front."
   "Yeah," said Pete, "So sometimes we have to turn on the porch light and turn off the scary sounds CD so they can come up to the door."
   "Well," said Loie, "I don't know what more you could do. This is fabulous."
   "Oh, just wait." said Terrie, "I have some ideas." Pete nodded his head. "Yeah, more work for me."
   On Saturday, the fourth of November, Loie and Bucky went to Washington to visit their German friend Joachim Hacker. He was in Washington with a school group, just as he had been in Boston two years ago. (See the Lovebunny Letter of 1999 for the story of the Lovebunnies visit with Joachim in Boston.) They spent the morning and early afternoon of a glorious day walking to several of the famous memorials: the Jefferson, Roosevelt, Korean War Veteran's, Lincoln and Vietnam Veteran's. In the later afternoon they explored the National Gallery of Art. That evening Joachim and the Lovebunnies met the other teachers and the students at the restored Old Post Office Building for supper.
   After dinner, back at the student's hotel, the Loie and Bucky and some of the teachers gathered in the hotel's pub for a last bit of visiting. Dorothy Ziegler, one of the teachers they had met on their last visit with Joachim, asked Loie about renting limousines. Loie helped her look up limos in the phone book, and call the limo company. So the next morning, the students took limo rides around Washington on their way to the airport!
   Bucky had an adventure in November. He went to Nashville to meet with the editors of Near Eastern Archaeology at the annual convention of the American Schools of Oriental Research. There were several business meetings to discuss procduction of NEA, and some nice dinners, too. Bucky had some free time to wander around the old city in Nashville, visiting the Ryman Auditorium and Printer's Alley and shopping for coming-home presents for Loie. And he knew just what one of them must be. It didn’t take long to find a CD of Patti Page singing the "Tennessee Waltz," whch he knew was one of Loie’s favorite songs.
   "Well," he said when Loie was opening her coming-home gifts, "I thought since I was in Tennessee, that’s just what I had to get."
   In November, Amy and Siggy came to Yo's house for their traditional fall visit, then Kinley and Paul and their sons Kell and Tor visited for Thanksgiving. While they were making Thanksgiving dinner, Bucky asked Yo how she was holding up. "Well, it's a lot of visiting," said Yo. "But I told everybody that I couldn't be the babysitter anymore. It's too much for me these days. And that's worked out just fine. So I'm having a good time. I love having children in the house again."
   "So long as they can go back to their own houses after the visit," said Bucky. Yo agreed that was the system.
   "And this year, they're not even helping cook dinner," said Bucky. Kinley laughed and said, "No, Kell told me he didn't want to help this year. I think you freaked him out with the turkey last year." At last year's Thanksgiving, Kell had asked to be a helper, and did a good job mixing the stuffing in the big bowl. But when it came time to stuff the turkey, his eyes had turned big as plates, and he left the kitchen.
   "Big wet dead bird was too much for him, eh?" said Bucky.
   "Yes," said Kinley. "I just hope it hasn't ruined his cooking attitude for life."
   On December the second, a huge party of family, friends and neighbors gathered at Snyder's Restaurant for Loie's Dad's Eightieth Birthday. Loie's Mom had arranged the whole party. Loie gave a special toast, and everyone wished Frank many more happy birthdays to come.
   The year of 2000 drew to a close with a wreath-making party at the Peelings. Mark makes wreaths to sell, and he and Kathy invited all their friends to come over and make themselves a wreath. Many beautiful wreaths were made and decorated. Bucky had a special idea for theirs.
   "I want it to go in opposite directions from the bottom." he said. "So it makes like two wings, from the bottom to the top, and kind of tapers off where they touch." Mark worked hard getting it just right, Bucky glued on decorations, and Laura made them a special bow to tie at the bottom.
   "It's the best we've ever had," said Loie. "Trust Bucky to think of something different," said Mark.
   Then of course there was Christmas at Yo's house with all the family; Sister Sarah and Kent and all their kids, Terrie and Pete and Alyssa, and many friends besides.
   For New Year's Eve the Lovebunnies did something they never do: they went out! They had dinner with the Guys and Mary Ellen and Mark at the Ambassador Dining Room in Baltimore. After dinner, everyone went to Mary Ellen and Mark's house to watch the ball drop and have a toast. Loie and Bucky had brought along the Millennium Champagne glasses that Mary Ellen and Mark had given them last New Year's Day. When the ball had dropped in Times Square, and the toast had been drunk, Bucky said, "OK, the new millennium. Time to start planning the next party." Everyone cheered, "Hooray!"


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