Breakfast with George Eastman

If you had unlimited money, how would you eat breakfast?


What George Eastman did: built a conservatory with jungle plants, Persian carpet, elephant head from Safari trip, and house organ.  Hired famous American organist Harold Gleason to play the organ each morning at 7.30am while he ate his breakfast.  And then went on with his day.

Eastman joined flocks of rich white men that enlisted “Great White Hunters” to take them on safari, a fad made vogue by Roosevelt’s famous 1909 excursion.  Eastman’s most prized trophies were a white rhino and this elephant head, shot on his 1928 Nile safari.

Eastman became quite obsessed with his house organ, and attempted to make it into a replica of a real orchestra.  When he learned that the acoustics in the square conservatory were not ideal, he had the house split in half and dragged the south end back 10 feet, creating a rectangular, resonant conservatory.   Behind north and south walls and ceiling of the conservatory are hidden rooms containing thousands of pipes.  This created an early surround sound effect.

Eastman developed a long and sometimes contentious relationship with the Aeolian Company, which specialized in building house organs for millionaires.  In a 1917 contract for revisions and additions to the organ, Eastman withheld $7,300, “to be deferred until I am satisfied that you have made a noiseless installation.  I have been so much annoyed by the creaking and rattling of the present installation that I wish to be very sure about this.”

After years of breakfasts in his lush paradise and movies in his home theatre, Eastman excused himself from a meeting with friends to shoot himself in the heart with a pistol.  His violent death was not so different from the beautiful elephant whose head provided Eastman with breakfast ambiance.

Eastman left one of the most concise and thoughtful suicide notes I’ve ever heard of.  “To my friends: my work is done. Why wait?”  Gounoud’s “Marche Romaine” was played on the house organ as the body left the Eastman mansion.

Today, Eastman experts with titles like “Legacy-Curator” have zealously restored the house organ, displayed photos, and put up cardboard cutouts of Eastman.  With further funding, they would restore the third floor movie theatre so that visitors could picture the happy days when Eastman would invite friends and family over, drag all the wicker conservatory furniture up to the third floor, serve popcorn, and watch home movies.

While his painful spinal illness probably affected his decision to shoot himself through the heart, wouldn’t it be satisfying to feel your major life work has been completed?  Or would life feel so empty that you just give up?


Missing the Polar Vortex

After all this rain, I am kind of missing the polar vortex. Just a few days ago, the street outside my house looked like a giant white river.  In Batavia, the power was out for one day, including McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC. This led to crazed parents with hungry children driving minivans into snow banks in search of alternate fast food.  I saw an anxious child licking the wall while waiting in the long line at Tim Hortons, the only fast food with power.  

What level of science fiction craziness would have ensued if the weather hadn’t changed?  Could I ski to the grocery store, get snow shoes, find food?  

Today the snow has all melted, the traffic outside is loud, and I’m heading back to school for another semester.  But I’m really missing my snow day, when everything outside was white and fluffy and quiet.  Wish me luck out there today!


Happy new year!

Christmas was pretty good this year, even though it’s always too busy.  I think we have the most beautiful tree.  One of my favorite things about Christmas is when I get just a couple minutes to play a good record, sit on the couch, and hang out with the Christmas tree.

I hate getting rid of the Christmas tree more than anything.  I usually keep the tree up until most of the needles have fallen on the floor, the cats have lost interest, the snow is all melted, and David is annoyed.  It is usually March.  I wish we could have Christmas trees in our house all year round.  One tree in every room.

Isn’t it so beautiful?

xmas tree