Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Ms Bean has treed a couple of wild turkeys just to start this morning off right! In other news, a brand new Costco store has opened up on Route 29, near Stonehenge (my pet name for a “new” shopping center in the area). It was supposed to be an upscale shopping experience, and I was hoping for a Nordstrom/or Macy’s/or Bloomies, but Costco will just have to do. All good progressives, I’ve learned, prefer this to Sam’s Club. I’ll most likely steer clear of the place this weekend, besides, do I really need a five year supply of chili powder?

If Bob were not working, we might take in The Albemarle County Fair! Some big rain and thunderstorms have moved through our hills and taken out our modem…again…and left us with some refreshingly cool air for these parts. Today is the first day of The Fair and it’s nearby, on the grounds of Ashlawn Highland, President Monroe’s beautiful estate. But going to something like this, alone, just doesn’t make sense. Meeting an 18th Century furniture maker, exploring the livestock tent, and watching handspinners in the peacock yard would be infinitely more fun with a partner in crime. Someone needs to share your fried dough, right?  http://albemarlecountyfair.com

But tomorrow night I am going to a vineyard in Madison County to celebrate the life of a dear friend and neighbor, Bill Greer. We met Bill and his lovely wife DeeDee at another fair, a Fiber Festival at Ashlawn right after we moved here from NJ. They had a tent for their alpacas, and DeeDee sold some of the softest, finest yarn I’ve ever had the pleasure to knit. alpaca scarfFBBob’s arm was in a sling after shoulder surgery, which got the conversational ball rolling. Then we found out, quite by accident, that we had just bought our land less than two miles up the road from their Rivanna River Alpaca Farm.

After a long building stage, and an exhausting two day move, they had us over for dinner with the Bride and Groom. That night on their deck was perfect. We were both Yankees, they had moved here from Chicago. And we fell into a friendship that wasn’t forced or contrived. I immediately felt like I could tell DeeDee anything, like we had known each other in another life. Once you get to be an empty-nester, making new friends, the kind who know where the spoons are in your kitchen, doesn’t come easy. I’d join a knitting group in DeeDee’s studio, and bring visiting children over to see new alpaca babies. I even toyed with getting some alpacas, or goats, or chickens!

Like us, DeeDee and Bill had one of those second chance love affairs. They’d been married before, and were really newlyweds when we met, blending a large family of adult children all over the world. I’ll always remember Bill sitting out on our deck, just gazing at the sunset over the Blue Ridge mountains, telling us we had the best view. Bob would maintain that Bill’s access to the river was even better. And his face, when he saw his wife, was like a kid at Christmastime. I wish I could channel DeeDee’s zest for life, her energy is contagious, and her compassion is a thing of beauty. I know she’ll be fine, but I also know this kind of loss is a palpably heavy weight.

Bill was only 68 when he passed away this past March, much too soon. I’m hoping Bob can leave the hospital early, for DeeDee, and for me. We will always remember his glad hug, his smile of recognition when a joke hits home, and his absolute devotion to DeeDee. She lost a prince of a man, and he will be sorely missed.  http://www.mcdonoughvoice.com/article/20150330/NEWS/150339921

Bob and Bill

Bob and Bill

Well, not really “knew” him, but I did meet him once, at a football game. It was back in the ’80s, after we’d moved home to NJ. My brother Mike was the President and General Manager of the Minnesota Vikings, and he invited us to an NFL game in Giants Stadium when the Vikings were playing an exhibition game against NY – they are in different leagues. I think.

Really, I know nothing about football. I don’t even like to watch it. I love watching basketball, and soccer because I played those sports as a girl. But football, even in high school, didn’t interest me in the least. Bob, on the other hand, loves watching football and was excited to get up close and personal.

Except we were seated way up high, as far away from the field as the press, in the owner’s box. Butlers served us food and drink. I know it was around Halloween because a pre-teen Bride was wearing a pair of cheap skeleton earrings in that picture. The one I took of her with Trump. The one I can’t find for the life of me. He was larger than life, and his hair wasn’t an issue yet. The rumor going around was that he’d broken up with his wife, Ivana, and was dating a model.

In fact, soon-to-be wife number two, Marla Maples was supposedly waiting for him in the wings of the arena, hidden from photographers. Some NY paper later published the headline, “Best Sex I Ever Had,” referring to his new conquest. I remember this too because I bought Bob a tie with that headline enmeshed in some other text.

Trump was sweet to my daughter, generous with a warm handshake, and some polite small talk, before turning to my brother to talk business. There was an energy shift when he walked into the room; as if one gladiator, one titan of industry had come to see another. They were there to cement a friendship and to see if there was a team Trump might be able to buy.

Which is why it didn’t surprise me to hear Trump defend the Patriots and Tom Brady this morning. He does love the NFL, he walks in those owner’s box corridors of power.

And after listening to network media try and figure out what Trump’s allure is to Republican voters, I found my answer on Piers Morgan’s Twitter feed. Morgan was the first winner of The Apprentice, he worked closely with Trump for months and knew him pretty well. He’s also an old style newsman, who is not afraid to say what he thinks. In a nutshell, Morgan thinks Trump has a double digit lead in the polls for one reason – because he doesn’t apologize.! 

It’s literally not in his DNA to ever say he’s sorry. I watched him squirm under the Today Show’s repeated questions around his “hero” remark:  “Well, then why did Savannah start off by saying that I said that he was not a war hero? I never said that. I said he was a war hero, Matt,” Trump said. “So you misrepresent — just like everybody else.” http://www.businessinsider.com/donald-trump-john-mccain-controversy-2015-7#ixzz3hHuJJY3s

And he didn’t say Mexicans are rapists; he said the Mexican government sends us their criminals, some of whom are rapists, and on and on – he clarifies, equivocates, and turns the table, but he never EVER apologizes. I once heard him say, “I try hard not to ever make a mistake.” And that was about the best he could do. He’s like that guy who says, “Honey, I’m sorry IF what I said hurt your feelings;” which implies it certainly didn’t hurt his feelings, if he had any to begin with… except Trump won’t even say that!

And we Americans love a good Master of Ceremonies, someone who can bring the three ring political circus we call the Hill under control, the benevolent Boss Man who has to fire people from time to time, the shark in the water who never looks back. No Apologies. We love that charismatic guy with the funny hair and the balls made of steel, who thinks nothing of a little deflate-gate. He’s larger than life, with the money to play and an ego to match, and God help us if we elect him President.

My Big Brother Mike

My Big Brother Mike

Travel Writing

Today I’m off to take a workshop on Travel Writing! I’ve been thinking about the topic since I managed to find an email about the class yesterday. Bring “pen and paper” the instructor said, since we will be passing our work around the class.

Learn to write compelling and engaging travel narratives (personal essays, articles ,or memoir pieces), which combine the eye of a journalist with the flair of a storyteller. In-class readings and exercises will address pertinent craft issues, and we’ll also discuss the practical matters of how to submit your work for publication.

I’m off to a good start since I already have the “…eye of a journalist,” but what kind of stories should I tell? Should I write for the soon-to-retire Boomer generation, the grandparents among us with more free time and a long bucket list? Or should I focus on memoir, and write about our trips to Martha’s Vineyard with friends when the kids were very little?

After we moved back to NJ, and because we could never travel in the summer – all those newbie residents in July needed Bob’s attention – we fell into the habit of visiting one island in the French West Indies over and over again nearly every winter. It was perfect for Bob because he could lay on a beach and decompress from his intense and busy work life. It became less than perfect for me. Being Irish, with red-headed skin, I wanted to avoid the sun, and…

I wanted action! I wanted adventure! I’d listen longingly to friends who were biking in Vietnam, or hiking across Ireland. I know, complaining about going to the same island every year sounds like a First World problem, but believe me, I was done with the beach. Here are some of my ideas for our next chapter:

A riverboat cruise along the Danube

A cooking school in Tuscany

A photographic safari in South Africa

A hot air ballon trip over France

A writing workshop in Iowa (OK, that’s just me)

A knitting excursion to farms in the UK, or maybe Wales

And I just want to see Iceland!

But for now our next trip will be to Charleston, SC this Fall. Before the devastating mass shooting at the AME church, Charleston had been voted the best US city to visit in Travel and Leisure’s survey, and the second best in the world!! http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/30/travel/tl-worlds-best-cities/

We’ll be going with the Bride and Groom to check out the city and have some fun with the grandbabies. I’ve rented an ocean view home on Home Away, so I guess it will be cooking and sunscreen for me all over again. Still, I love to cook with the Bride and could never complain about combing sand out of the Love Bug’s hair. It will be like deja vu all over again.

The next island generation

The next island generation

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

for whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

EE Cummings

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.”

image

Ms Bean finds the sun

Ernest Hemingway said this in his 1954 Nobel Acceptance Speech, and I’ve got to say I agree with him. Sometimes I would write in the corner of my dining room, overlooking a river, if I stood on my tiptoes. The children were in school, and the house was quiet.

And now my favorite time to sit and think and type is in the morning, alone in my aviary with a mountain view.

But here’s the trouble today – my computer talks to me. It bleeps when some friend on Facebook took a Buzzfeed test. New emails keep scrolling across the top of my monitor – look look look “Food 52″ has some new dish towels! Then there’s my cell – it dings when I get a text message.

That’s the worst. The text ding. It means I just might be getting a grandchild picture. There is no better distraction than seeing the Love Bug in her cowgirl boots before preschool. Or maybe it’s my Happy Baby asleep at the breast. That’s the best!

Wait, I forgot the landline and Grandma Ada. Hark, I hear those footsteps I know so well, clomping up the stairs – it’s Bob! He’s come to see what I’m up to in my study. He loves to lay on my lounge, look longingly out my window, and wax philosophical about the news of the day.

“Whatcha doing honey?” He says.

“Oh nothing, just writing sweetie.”

Let’s not forget Ms Bean. She’s doing her “there’s a car in the driveway” circle dance and furious bark downstairs. Maybe it’s the pest service truck, or FedEx? Or maybe it’s just the border collie Miko from the next farm over.

Yes, this is my lonely life. We live in the forest, in the shade of the Blue Ridge. And I miss my children and grandchildren like crazy, but if I could just get a little more quiet sometimes. Please.

One Giant Leap

Yesterday was the 46th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, and last night Bob and I watched the “Apollo Wives” documentary on PBS. It was a fascinating trip down memory lane for anyone old enough to remember where they were on July 20, 1969.

I was in a basement apartment in Cambridge, MA with a my roomie Alicia. My own wedding was on the horizon, and the moon landing was on a small black and white TV in the corner of our apartment. I remember feeling awed and wondering if the footage had been slowed down, because the effect of zero gravity didn’t translate to my brain.

Bob called me soon afterwards, to see if I had watched. There were no DVRs or recording devices to play back such a monumental moment in time. If you missed it, you’d have to wait for the next day’s evening news show. I had to remind Bob I was marrying someone else. I wonder if he remembers?

That August, Bob had to chase his own stardust at Woodstock:

The story of Woodstock, slice it how you will, is anti-Darwinian; nature suspended her processes of selection, and everyone more or less lovingly muddled through. Such menaces as there were seem to have been collective—the dodgy brown acid, the lack of sanitation, the rain that left concertgoers huddled under (packaged in?) sheets of clear plastic. When Sri Swami Satchidananda, ochre-robed, inaugurated the proceedings on August 15, he proclaimed the imminent oneness of everything: “America is becoming a whole!”  http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/09/woodstock-nation/307611/

America became whole when a man landed on the moon, but we didn’t know much about the military/astronaut wives back in the day. The press paraded their pretty faces in the back pages of newspapers. The drinking, the Valium and the divorces were kept under wraps. It was a watershed year for women, do you go all “Stepford Wife” or do you continue your education and put off marriage? Burn your bra, or pull up your girdle and soldier on?

Well there was a little known woman, an MIT scientist, behind the design of the software that made that Apollo mission possible. Margaret Hamilton and her team wrote the code for the computer’s guidance system on board the rocket. When NASA thought they may have to abort the landing, she figured out the computer’s memory was being overloaded with too much inconsequential data – she taught them how to prioritize! Landing went to the top of the list – isn’t it ironic?!

And this was when computers used “core rope memory” which was woven in a laborious process by hand, by women in factories…hence the male engineers called these memory programs “LOL Memory.” And it wasn’t because it was humorous. LOL stood for “Little Old Ladies.” http://www.vox.com/2015/5/30/8689481/margaret-hamilton-apollo-software

So here’s to you Margaret Hamilton! For going where no woman had gone before. And here’s to every girl who takes a science or a math class and loves it! In Catholic school, and later in high school, I was never given that opportunity. It wasn’t until college that I discovered I loved science. Back in 1969, I thought my future was secure. I’d be the wife of a Harvard lawyer and create cocktail parties to beat the band. Luckily, I woke up.

Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Hamilton

Lately, I’ve been thinking about food. Is it theatre, is it purely sustenance, or is it love? This morning at daybreak I clicked on an article about “Gay Chefs” on Slate. I read the whole piece on my phone, which I will rarely do. It was an interesting historical take on how gay men never had anything to prove when they cooked. Unlike women, who were trying to prepare a home cooked meal for a family on a budget and satisfy a husband at the same time. And by the way, start working outside the home too if you don’t mind. Hence the invention of the crock pot!

The Gay community treated food like fun; they enjoyed entertaining at home because as a whole they were living a secret life. They loved Julia Child, and lovingly mocked her Queenish mannerisms.

Then the 80s hit and AIDS took its tool on such frivolity. With the beginning of cooking shows on TV, and finally a whole channel devoted to food, macho male chefs took over the airwaves. Spices were added to dishes by yelling “Bam!” and cooking wars became de rigeur. An Englishman yells at us, an Australian wants us to get healthy. If we saw a woman chef on TV, we were lucky to maybe get Nigella Lawson on BBC. Finally along came Ina Garten, a woman who looks normal and not quite goddess-like. She prepares good food, she’s the real deal! Plus, I must admit I like her approach. I just made her pesto before I left Cville.

Keep it fresh, keep it simple, keep it fun.

And now I’m watching “Chef’s Table” on Netflix while Baby Boy naps. http://decider.com/2015/05/09/chefs-table-netflix/ It’s exactly what we’ve been missing. Foodies everywhere must be rejoicing. A Japanese American woman, Niki Nakayama (LA, California) creates a truly Japanese restaurant that doesn’t serve sushi. There is a folding screen between her kitchen and her dining room because in her culture, women are not chefs. And she is mad about that, but also sensitive to her customers. She talks about her older brother telling her it probably won’t work out – which only made her more determined.

Certain doors were always closed to women, but bit by bite, we slowly opened them. Cooking should be done to please yourself, your own palate. And of course, I’m making the Love Bug Mac and Cheese tonight, from scratch. Just because.

This is what eating a fresh peach feels like!

This is what eating a fresh peach feels like!

Criminal Justice?!

You’ve got to hand it to our President. My faith was renewed in him after I listened to that infamous Marc Moran podcast in the car, the one where Obama used the “N” word. What a kerfluffle that caused, but his point was lost; the fact that a huge ship like our American Democracy can’t make a 40 degree turn overnight. We’ve got to make slow, incremental change, maybe a 10 degree course correction.

Racism didn’t happen suddenly, and not saying one word, like taking down one flag, won’t fix the problem. But guess what?

“On Thursday, he is expected to become the first sitting president to visit a federal prison when he goes to the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution outside of Oklahoma City.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-33515373

That’s right, President Obama has commuted 46 prisoners’ sentences, most were convicted of non-violent drug crimes. I’m sure you’ve heard how sentencing laws became a covert act of racism in the 80s and 90s. Many more people were incarcerated for selling crack cocaine as opposed to the powder variety. Yes, those traders on Wall Street just couldn’t be treated the same as residents in Harlem. When in reality, a drug is a drug, is a drug. And in fact, the whole approach to drug addiction needs to take an 80 degree turn toward health policy and away from criminality. During the Bride’s tenure at Duke, she helped a lawyer friend of ours bring a case against mandatory sentencing policies to court.

“These men and women were not hardened criminals. But the overwhelming majority had to be sentenced to at least 20 years,” Mr Obama said.
“But I believe that at its heart, America’s a nation of second chances. And I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”

It’s hard to believe that no sitting president has ever visited a prison. But this administration got the ball rolling when Attorney General Eric Holder dropped mandatory minimum sentences in 2013 for non-violent drug offenders.

So thank you Mr Obama. You’ve started this great ship of ours turning in the right direction. Now if it’s not asking too much, before you leave office, about our immigration policy…

Heading in the right direction

Heading in the right direction

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 620 other followers

%d bloggers like this: