It is snowing around this house as I write! Only about an inch is forecast before it all melts away by morning, but it sure is gorgeous and a little exotic when it snows isn't it?
Portland has long had a civic ICON in one local native who just happens to be a drag queen. Not just â€œaâ€ Drag Queen, but a savory businessman, fund-raiser, and a real legend here. Walter Cole turned 75 years old yesterday, grew up actually in Linnton (the little community at the foot of our hill), got married young, had two kids, realized he was gay, divorced, partnered with the love of his life, AND now, these two have been running a Nightly Drag Review in a part of â€œOld Town Portlandâ€ for 37 years. Thatâ€™s longer than any continuous drag show in the country. The Showroom walls are literally covered with pictures of celebrities whoâ€™ve been to this unique Portland nightspot. Friends Roushdi and Eran know Darcelle and invited us to go with them to the Portland Social â€œEvent of the Yearâ€. So. We attended â€œherâ€ birthday bash (75 years) last night along with 500 others. Attendees werenâ€™t just drags queens and fans, but seemed to represent an absolute cross-section of this towns population. The mayor presented Darcelle with a civic plaque and made the day â€œDarcelle Dayâ€ in Portland. There were two musical entertainers, and one band to finish off the night, mountains of food and drink and a towered JaCivaâ€™s Bakery birthday cake requiring a small ladder to dismantle. A documentary being done by someone at PSU was shown. Family sitting with Darcelle at his table were Roxie, his partner, the ex-wife, his two middle-aged children, their spouses and the two grandkids. The boyfriend and parents of one of the granddaughters also sat at the table. Almost completely a regular American Family, eh? AT ANY RATE: Just this week, the Los Angeles Times wrote an extensive biography of this Walter Cole, aka Darcelle, and it was such an interesting story, I hope youâ€™ll enjoy reading it because we are sending itâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦I KNOW anyone we know whoâ€™s been to this little place will want to read this story. Darcelle and Roxy are both getting a little gimpy, and we wonder just how long these two can possibly continue this entertainment gig they started so long ago in this town. Enjoy, /mark & Rodger ============================== The Queen of Portland from left to right: Poison Waters, Darcelle, Monica Boulevard The long, fabulous reign of Walter Cole and his drag cabaret Connie Monaghan Special to The Los Angeles Times November 13, 2005 On a hot summer day in 1937, Walter Cole, 7 years old, pulls a little red wagon loaded with a 25-pound block of ice down the two-lane highway through Linnton, a small community on the edge of Portland. He chips at the ice with a rock as he goes, and offers a sliver to his black-and-white mutt, Spot. A nameless pet crow clings to the dog's back as they head home past the barbershop and the feed store. The crow swoops across the street to snatch a grape from the produce display outside the grocery, and the Italian proprietor comes out and yells. The highway runs parallel to the Willamette River, visible just to the north, where the town's three lumber mills are busy night and day. Walter's father, Richard, works in a millpond as a boom man. He balances in cleated boots atop the floating logs, guiding them into the mill. Here in Oregon, at the end of the Depression, lumber is big business. For Richard Cole it's a living, about a dollar a day when he can get work. Walter's hauling the ice home to his mother, Mary, in their two-bedroom company house on Front Street. It isn't much bigger than a cabin. The floors are linoleum. There are chickens in the yard. Most of the houses in town are like this, except for the doctor's and a few others. Mary has a heart problem and stays in bed much of the time. For entertainment, Walter might run down to the Cherrys' house to listen to "The Lone Ranger" on the radio, or walk three miles, all the way over the soaring St. John's Bridge, with a dime in his pocket for a Saturday movie. But the bridge is so high it gives him nightmares, and the walk is so long. It's a big day, then, when the boy and his mother take the bus nine miles to downtown Portland to see "Gone With the Wind." The part where Scarlett pulls a radish from the dirt and swears, "As God as my witness, I'll never be hungry again" impresses him deeply. On a warm spring night in 2005, 74-year-old Walter Cole steps into the spotlight in front of 200 people as a garishly gorgeous blond, her hair a fright wig of froth, her red-glitter eyebrows angled toward the mirror balls, her lips heavily lined and gooey pink. Gallons of rhinestones drip down her bosom, and her Santa Claus-shaped figure is draped in a glittering gown. Onstage, Walter is Darcelle, and this is her club, Darcelle XV Showplace, quite possibly the longest-running drag cabaret in the country, offering six performances a week, every week, for 37 years. "You know about that guy who took Prozac and Viagra?" Darcelle asks, waving a hand adorned with long red fingernails. "One happyâ€”" The audience roars at the unprintable punch line. Darcelle smiles. The grandfather is in fine form. His mate, Roxy Neuhardt, who's heard the jokes a thousand timesâ€”since the very first showâ€”laughs along. A foot shorter and five years younger than Walter, he's bald and compact, and wearing pounds of silver and turquoise jewelry over a gray knit shirt. With costumes by Walter and choreography by Roxy, a handful of performers and a small staff that includes Walter's son, Walter II, the club has shown generations of patrons a roaring good time. Corny, campy and on "the edge of vulgarity," this "Disneyland for adults," as Roxy describes it, may well be the last of its kind, a testament to the toughness of one old "broad." Walter Cole not only survived the Great Depression and a rough upbringing, but he went on to thrive: His club is a popular tourist landmark, his alter ego Darcelle is a local celebrity feted by politicians and sought as a hostess for charity events, his relationship with Roxy is long-lived and loving, and his familyâ€”two grandchildren, a grown daughter and son, and his wife, whom he never divorcedâ€”is closer than many. On the way to becoming the man who would become Darcelle, the steppingstones were sharp and slippery. Mary died before Walter was 8. Richard, unable to cope with the loss of the wife he adored, essentially abandoned the boy. "When I lost my mother that night I lost him too," Walter says. "He would come home from work and eat some dinner and then leave to go to drink." Dressed in street clothesâ€”baggy shorts, floppy sandals with white socks, a baseball cap over short gray hairâ€”the large man in the black-framed glasses looks no different than any other senior. Except for the blood-red press-on nails and the massive gold-and-gemstone bling-bling hanging from his neck and wrists. One 18-karat bracelet reads "Darcelle" and another "Walter," both scripted in diamonds. As he talks about his father, he's soft-spoken and matter-of-fact, hardly the brassy impresario. Richard drank all the time, Walter remembers. "And I threw tantrums because I wanted him to be with me." His father's unmarried sister, Aunt Lily, came to stay. Bereft and left with a virtual stranger, Walter turned inward. He made roads in the dirt for his cars, he fashioned miniature storefronts out of clay and decorated them, and he dreamed about running awayâ€”to where, he didn't know. But even then Walter knew that he was different from the other kids. School was hard, and he hated it. He grew to love Lily, thoughâ€”his "growing-up mother" was good to himâ€”and he made friends with a few adult neighbors. He was 11, he thinks, when he was moved from Lily's bedroom to his father's. There he found a kind of comfort: For the next three years, his father molested him almost nightly. "I have to admit that it wasn't so bad," Walter says. He was finally getting the love he craved. "There we areâ€”he rejected me when my mother passed away, when I was younger, all of a sudden now he's paying attention to me." If it weren't for the secrecy of it, the boy wouldn't have known anything was wrong. "It was like, 'OK, this happens, and maybe this is what's supposed to happen, this is how it is.' Later I resented him very much. I disliked him very much for it." He doesn't believe Aunt Lily knew. No one knew, not even his good friend Jeannette, whom he'd known since grade school. "I carried the secret well," he says. He wouldn't tell anyone for 30 years. The house lights dim and the mirror balls spin, throwing shards of glitter across the tables. A disco version of the theme from "2001" comes up and sets the tone, both cheesy and highly dramatic. The stage lights pop on and there they are: three men dressed as larger-than-life women behind big yellow feathered fans. It's vaudeville, the Ziegfeld Follies, Busby Berkeley and burlesque all at once. Moving in unison, the girls tease, peek, smile and shimmy. Finally they pull their fans back to reveal Darcelle, in a fabulous pink-and-black bias-striped sheath, singing along in her gravelly voice to Ethel Merman belting "There's no business like show business" as she moves downstage. Despite the campy accouterments, it's a stunning and oddly moving moment. Then it's time for Darcelle's routine. On a night when the club is jammed, it's easy to get a laugh with the old jokes. They're fresh to a crowd that has been drinking, has waited in a long line and is looking forward to making a night of it. That crowd is primed for a riotous good time. The friends here tonight, though, have heard it all before. "The lesbian basketball team finally got a sponsor." A beat. "Snap-On Tools." Jimbo, in the light booth, wiggles the spot in place of a rimshot, but barely a titter is heard. This is when Darcelle's true talent kicks in: The lack of laughs only goads her to tease the audience until it laughs at itself. "I'm gonna pass out leafletsâ€”you can follow along," Darcelle quips. She interviews anyone who's celebrating a birthday. "What do you do, honey?" she asks a glum-seeming woman. "You dispatch coffee machines? What? Oh, copy machines." A beat. "You must be busy." She gives the audience a look and it laughs back. The jokes don't make the show; Darcelle does. Guts. Brass. Stick with it night after night, come war, AIDS, Christian fanatics, gunplay, drug dealers on the doorstep, lean times. Sticking with it is the key to the club's success, Walter and Roxy agree. In the days before gays were out, they had the audacity to put on dresses and makeup and flounce around the stage like women. But they didn't ignore the times, they went with them. In 1965, when Walter bought the bohemian tavern that was to be his final business venture, he had no idea of what was to come. Women stayed at home and homosexuals hid in the closet. The beatniks were over, and the Me Generation was years away. The country was in for some radical change. As it turned out, Walter too was in the throes of a drastic transitionâ€”from apparent straight family man to outrageous gay performer. Always a good boy, he had started working at 15 and married Jeannette at 19, leaving home for the first time. It was on a train to Salzburg, Austria, after he was drafted into the Army, that he had his first gay encounter. "I'd had my fantasies about having a man, someone who would care about meâ€”in a different way than my wife." But outwardly he was the typical husband of his time, returning from a tour of duty in Italy to father two children and start his own businesses, including, he says, Portland's first coffeehouse. Twenty years into an average married lifeâ€”and unbeknownst to his familyâ€”Walter planned to run his new tavern as a gay bar and attract customers by hiring a popular lesbian bartender from another establishment. The times, they were a-changing. As Darcelle reappears in a lavender cotton-candy wig and rhinestone-striped gown singing along to "Cry Me a River," she occupies a niche that's both male and femaleâ€”and neitherâ€”in a timeless realm of clinking glasses, cigarette smoke and a single spotlight. The jokes are stale, the act is PG-13, the audience is drunk. And it's all an unforgettable hoot. That a local newspaper called the club "quaint"â€”a throwback in an era of S/M performers, fire-eating burlesque strippers and other extreme nightlifeâ€”doesn't bother either Walter or Roxy, who points out that "there's so little in today's world that is quaint." Mainstream is what the pair have aimed forâ€”to appeal to all ages over 21, to be inoffensive and to leave 'em laughing. "We used to be more notorious than we are now," Walter says. "Now we're so mainstream it's almost boring!" They weren't always considered so tame. A year and a half after Walter bought Demas Tavern, he met Roxy, who invited him to see the lavish stage show he had choreographed and was performing in at the grand Hoyt Hotel, a risquÃ© cabaret run by a buxom, showy matron after whom Darcelle would soon be modeled. Walter asked for Roxy's advice; his bar needed a little entertainment to bring people in. Inspired in part by the famous San Francisco drag club Finnochio's, which ran for 63 years until closing in 1999, Walter and Roxy decided to try female impersonation. Two tables topped with plywood became the stage. Fabric was hung across a wire to create a "backstage" for costume changes and to hide a record player and speakers. Walter and another performer took turns: While one lip-synced to a Barbra Streisand or Judy Garland record, the other changed costumes, and each killed a little more time joking with the audience, with the goof-ups becoming part of the show. "Since it was such a tight place to change, there'd be a hanger hooked on the bottom of your dress and oh, God!" Walter laughs. "We didn't take it seriously, they didn't take it seriously, and it was fun. No matter what happened, we'd laugh about it." As the show evolved, Roxy says, "I decided to create this character, Darcelle. It was Walter. I said, 'You must become a character. You can be a character, or a caricature of what a female might be or might want to be.' That's where we started the showâ€”with that idea that we're actors playing a role." "We are men first," Walter explains. "We're men, and we don't wear ladies' undies and that kind of stuff. When we talk about costumes, they are costumes. They're not dresses we got off the rack somewhere. We don't wanna look like transvestites." It was groundbreaking in a town that hosted, Walter thinks, maybe five or six gay bars at the time. "You wouldn't see a drag queen walking on the street ever here," Roxy says. "All of a sudden Darcelle's name was in the paper, and they said, 'Gosh, Darcelle's accepted, so we can do it. I bet it's safe for us to do it now.' " It may have been safe for other drag queens, but it wasn't safe for Walter. Roxy remembers that during their first couple of years together, Walter "was afraid to be seen too publicly, the reason being that he was still married, he had two children and he was living at home. He hadn't come out to his wife yet." Walter and Roxy were dating on the slyâ€”until Walter couldn't stand the duplicity anymore and owned up to Jeannette. "It was quite a shock," Jeannette says now. "I had no knowledge of him being gay . . . and then things started falling apart." She thought Walter might be seeing another woman. "Nobody understood," Walter says. "Their first thing was, 'Well, go to a doctor and take a pill and you won't be gay anymore.' " At the same time that he confessed to his wife and a close aunt, Arla, he also told them that his father had molested him as a child. "When my Aunt Arla found that out, she said, 'That's the end of you, don't you ever come near me again.' My father, she turned him against me. We didn't get back together until just before he died"â€”some 30 years later. The tavern remained underground for several more years. The local newspapers wouldn't run its ads. "They considered our show pornographic," Roxy says. And then came another traumatic surprise for the family: A 1974 article in the Oregon Journal about a photography exhibit described the "male actresses" at Darcelle XV, "whose absurd posturings and hyper-sexy costumes appear to satisfy the clientele as well as provide some outlet for their own modes of fulfillment." An accompanying picture showed Walter in drag. "It was embarrassing," Jeannette says, "because nobody had heard of a club like that." She did everything she could to keep it from the children. "I wasn't told what was happening," says Maridee, who was in the sixth grade when her father left. "That was hard. I, as a little girl, would worry about him. 'Where's he sleeping?' That kind of thing. I found out later they had decided he should stay out of our lives." In the 1970s, an influx of drug dealers drove customers and tourists from once-thriving 3rd Avenue, and the club's revenues fell by at least 30%. "We just bit the bullet and stayed open," Walter says. Finally he and other merchants "made enough noise" that the city opened a neighborhood police station. (And, luckily, a scandal of the club's own was neatly avoided after a lesbian love triangle incited a drunken patron to shoot her gun into the ceiling: No one bothered to call the cops.) In the 1980s came AIDS. Every few days there was another call about another death, Walter remembers. "You got so used to it, you got numb to it." A friend who was "like a son," who lived with the couple and performed at the club, succumbed, as did staff members and other performers. The '80s also brought out the religious right. Protesters from the mission down the street picketed the club with signs that read "DARCELLE'S DEMONS YOU'RE GOING TO HELL." They were more of an irritant than anything else; in a city boasting a rich history of white slavery, notorious crime syndicates and cops on the take, they were paid no mind. And with the release of movies such as "La Cage aux Folles," straight customers began taking the leap to find out what a drag show was really about. Boundless charity work furthered Darcelle's entree into civic acceptability. In 1970, Roxy and Walter helped found the Imperial Sovereign Rose Court, a drag-queen version (now inclusive of all gays) of a fund-raising service organization. It was in 1973, when she stepped down as Empress XV, that Demas Tavern became Darcelle XV. The giving began with a hat passed at early shows to support Vietnamese orphans, and has continued with everything from a yearly Christmas dinner for the homeless at the club to donations to keep the community center going in Walter's old hometown of Linnton. In 2003, Darcelle was given a Spirit of Portland award and lauded by the mayor as a "figurehead for supporting social causes for the gay, lesbian and transgender community . . . a popular performer at fund-raisers [who] has raised thousands of dollars each year for charities." Until a few years ago, when Roxy had a hip replaced, he was a performer in the show as well as its choreographer. In a scene from his childhood at age 8, he's sitting on the porch of his grandmother's log hotel in West Yellowstone, Mont. His grandfather, a onetime traveling salesman and "a dirty old man," is strolling up and down the street, showing him how to walk like a woman. "He'd say, 'Have you ever watched women walking down the street? Most of 'em walk like men. Here's how women should really walk.' As it turned out, it did work out really well for me." Roxy knew from that early age that he'd be a dancer, and eventually he choreographed big-time shows in Las Vegas, at the Stardust, the Tropicana, the Dunes. "I always thought I was going to be Fred Astaire," Roxy likes to say. "I didn't realize I'd turn out to be Ginger Rogers!" And, just as in the movies, without Ginger, Fred wouldn't be half the Fred he was. Walter and Roxy have shared their 1870 Queen Anne Victorian house since 1976. Set behind tall trees and an iron fence, it doesn't merit much notice in this eclectic Portland neighborhood, a jumble of shambling rentals and high-end historic abodes, though the string of lights around the wide porch hints at the glam aesthetic within. Its 13 rooms are crowded with period furniture, chandeliers and wall sconces, figurines, paintings, cases of rhinestone baubles, a mirrored piano, a wall of framed antique beaded purses. The bedroom is papered in red velvet and hung with five large chandeliers and crystal wall fixtures. The red-covered bed lies under red draperies and gold cherubs, flanked by a Biedermeier side table and a gold-framed baroque mirror. On this Fourth of July afternoon, the backyard patio is crowded with friends enjoying a barbecue. Walter, in a Hawaiian shirt and rhinestone-studded baseball cap, is the grand old man of the group; Roxy holds court inside. Among the guests is Jeannette, a gray-haired woman sitting quietly between a table full of male revelers and Darcelle XV performers who are virtually unrecognizable in their "straight" clothes. Walter II is here, as are Maridee and her daughters. In the middle of the crowd, Walter stands by a small fountain bobbing with rubber ducks, each with a number on the bottom, for a raffle to benefit the Camp Starlight Foundation for kids with AIDS. "Last chance for ducks! Five dollars!" he calls. As his granddaughter Amanda, 17, helps him collect the donations, it's a picture of easy family togetherness. It took years for the family to reconcile. "Walter is a class act," Jeannette says. She uses words such as "wonderful" and "giving" to describe him. "He's my best friend," she says. They've never divorced, though she considered it. "At the beginning, I was really mad," she says, but "I didn't have the nerve to go to a divorce lawyer and spill the beans." The entire family, including Roxy, spends holidays together now. Walter II has been bartending at the club for 20 years, and his wife, Julie, runs the kitchen. Maridee was married last summer with Walter, an Internet-ordained minister, officiating. This month, Walter Cole turns 75. To celebrate, he's throwing Darcelle a very public birthday bashâ€”"The Party of the Century"â€”at Portland's Melody Ballroom. As for Darcelle's eventual final curtain call? "I want a full house," Walter says, "and to keel over kickin' up high." ==============
Hamlet Entry Thursday October 3, 2005 Grey, Wet Skies Mark enjoyed a cessation of kitchen and yard work by reading a couple of easy books. They were some novels and some short stories by Augusten Burroughs, â€œRunning with Scissorsâ€ and â€œDryâ€ as well as â€œMagical Thinkingâ€â€¦.. Rodger had already digested the material and recommended the read. Burroughs (a pen name) writes his work from a biographical origin but takes plenty of imagination along with him. With a plain direct style, he took me for a really enjoyable ride about a life in foster homes, hard drinking, getting sober, and the life in the Wall Street World of Advertising. SO, there hasnâ€™t been much news other than that except the following fall observations: The Kitchen STILL has finish work to get done but may just be getting close. Friend and neighbor, Richard took a few hours out of his day last week to come over and help Mark put in the new entry door, level it, etc. It turned out to be a project since the door hadnâ€™t even been sent up with a threshold or weatherstripping. Richard knew exactly what to do, and I was sure glad he was here. We had fun for that while and ended up with lunch at the little MX Bakery in ST Johns. Tomorrow, Hayes Cabinets should be here to finish up cabinet adjustments and fixing some faulty hardware PLUS, weâ€™re hoping Robert will help us hang the last remaining old cabinet in the garage as well as use his air-pressure nailer to get some wall trim put down. Saturday, the Appliance Hospital should be here with the brand new Oven to replace this one that has the enamel coming off inside the baking unit. Markâ€™s called Carrie to help get the last LIGHT in placeâ€¦..so when we hear from her, we just may nearly have everything checked off our list. Then weâ€™ll have NO excuses not to extend a foody invitation to friends. The SUNFLOWERS. These giant behemoths were planted on a whim since we had that unused space in the garden this year. As they truly became giant though, we took an active interest in preserving them. We researched what we could and all web entries talked about letting them stay till theyâ€™re DRY, brown, and then either let the birds have them or bring them inside to roast, etc. Well, with damp fall air here, of course, Mark couldnâ€™t let well enough alone. Soon, all 9 plants were hanging in the garage or sitting on papers in the living room expecting the drier house air would help them dry: The plants in the garage ALL were taken over by MOLD before they even got close to drying up, while the ones in the house also began to look suspiciously like they were going to rot as well, so again, an intervention and soon seeds were all over the counter: Once free, they were brined, and baked in the oven until dry. Then, when the squirrels were given these we observed that only â€œsomeâ€ of the seeds were actually pollinated. It seemed we did NOT have nature on our side up here in the damp to do this plant right. Just when saying never again, we checked the one plant left in the garden. By leaving nature alone outside, THIS one plant stayed fresh through rain or shine and seeds ripened, and the whole plant had been picked clean by the birds. SO.. .. .. how many times must we learn, â€œDonâ€™t mess with Mother Natureâ€. So, we will grow them again having learned this. The Parrot continues to be shy and reticent in contact except when she is in complete control. She will walk off the cage on her own onto Markâ€™s shoulder but does NOT like being picked up and wonâ€™t allow Rodger any liberties except â€œkissesâ€â€¦â€¦.oddly, sheâ€™ll let you put your face up to her but not the fingersâ€¦â€¦.. After one month, her high pitched hello is beginning to lower showing she IS listening. Sheâ€™s watching everything we doâ€¦.so weâ€™ll give her a year or two to see how she adjusts. She IS pretty: And likes being part of whateverâ€™s going on, even if that means sitting on the kitchen island: Mac got a maintenance check this past week and although never fond of it, accepts it with resignation: Our October ended up with 2.5 inches of rain and weâ€™re supposed to have another 2-3 inches by the weekend. In a rain break yesterday, Mark drove Mac to a Dog Park where he found two labs to absolutely run and play with. They all found two Mammoth puddles about 8 inches deep where they all sat and played, then ran again for a while. That was great until our arrival home where a truly muddy Mac was carried with some effort (at 90 pounds) to the bathroom for a complete shower before touching anything else in the house. He didnâ€™t like that so much but always loves the hair dryer going in his direction. As mentioned, deep fall is here now and the rains have begun with style. Our berm planting has gone well, everythingâ€™s still alive, including the Japanese maple thatâ€™s now turning red: Near the maple is the standard Oregon spider trying to fatten up before getting her big sack of eggs laid: you canâ€™t walk around the yard right now without hitting some of these webs, an annual October event up here. Sunday evening, we were invited to a â€œmusicaleâ€ at the home of an OHSU Director, Kent & Billie Anger. Kent has several research scientists working for him in Rodgerâ€™s CROET Building and theyâ€™ve always been very good to us. Anyways, one of the scientists plays a bass guitar and his girlfriend singsâ€¦.sheâ€™s traveling around hoping to sell some of her CDâ€™s, so we attended and had a ball. Billieâ€™s from Texas and can throw out a complete Tex-Mex Meal for 30 anytime. No exception that night, there was enough great food to last a week. The folks were all fun to talk to, and then entertainment ended the evening. Mark met Ryan and Lisa, a fun couple from the Heart of Mormonism, PROVO, UTAHâ€¦â€¦who have both left the Church as he hasâ€¦.we had lots of fun talking about the Holy Underwear, the hypocrisy a conservative religion causes, the â€œcontrolâ€ this church wreaks on members, and how all of us really truly found spiritual freedom only after leaving the fold. Ryanâ€™s father has left the church as well, and HE was a former Mission President. It was fun really because this pair could understand all the â€œinsideâ€ talk that many often havenâ€™t even heard ofâ€¦like the race issue, the â€œWeâ€™re all going to become a Godâ€ concept, polygamy, pre-existence laws, etc. Oh well, I digress. Winterâ€™s here, and holidays are just around the corner. How did that happen? With this project still getting done, I have NO sense of normal year traditions coming up, and for that matter, no money left to enjoy them with. So Iâ€™ll learn the â€œtrue spirit of Christmas, eh?â€ On a bright note, our winter visitors from the arctic are beginning to arrive .... Robin cousins, the Varied Thrush, will be a bright spot here in our "tropic weather (to them)" until first of March: ================