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Posts Tagged ‘Parnassus Bookstore’

Who’d ever think these 2 old hippies (the name of a great store in the Gulch btw) would transplant themselves so seamlessly further south and inland to Tennessee? Despite the lack of a beach, Bob and I are continually amazed by the welcoming people, gastronomic delights, and literary events.

Just this past weekend our streets were closed to traffic so people could stroll through Germantown to the Buchanan Arts District – “We have everyone walking, biking and dancing,” said Nora Kern, the executive director of Walk Bike Nashville, “whatever they want to do in the street, they can do it.”

Whoops, did I forget the music?

Tonight I’ll be visiting my favorite bookstore in Green Hills to hear the author of “My Sister the Serial Killer” talk with the author Ann Patchett. An immigrant to the UK via Nigeria, Oyinkyn Braithwaite’s debut novel has been longlisted for the Booker Prize! When one sister is a nurse and the other becomes rather murderous, chaos and charm commence!

There’s a seditious pleasure in its momentum. At a time when there are such wholesome and dull claims on fiction — on its duty to ennoble or train us in empathy — there’s a relief in encountering a novel faithful to art’s first imperative: to catch and keep our attention” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/14/books/review-my-sister-serial-killer-oyinkan-braithwaite.html

I’ve finished “City of Girls” and am on to “Mostly Dead Things.” For all my book loving readers, may I invite you to follow Parnassus Bookstore’s blog “Musing” about books, https://parnassusmusing.net/

And if you missed this little headline recently, this tidbit of local Nashville news, you could be forgiven. It happened in Hermitage – a group of neighbors surrounded a car during our deadly heatwave to provide gas, water and food for hours to the father and 12 year old son inside; they were being badgered and interrogated by ICE agents who came to collect them with the wrong warrant!

These same neighbors formed a human chain for them, so they could return to their home where the ICE agents were not allowed to enter or evict them! https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/2019/07/22/nashville-neighborhood-responds-ice-agents/1796453001/

Is this not humanity’s first imperative? A tenet of Christian teaching, to help your neighbor? To be empathetic? Certainly not to separate families and then “bear false witness,” by denying our government is creating concentration camps at our border. I was separated from my family at the age of ten months, not by ICE but by a set of circumstances culminating in an automobile accident on the Fourth of July 1949.

My foster parents were my parents’ neighbors and friends. They surrounded me with unconditional love and acceptance. The children lucky enough to have been reunited with their parents today are still suffering mental anguish. They have become detached as a response, and show high levels of anxiety and depression. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/31/us/migrant-children-separation-anxiety.html

Mr T’s America is not my America.

My America embraces the refugee; it doesn’t send youth ministries to Latin America on “Mission Trips,” only to reject refugee children trying to cross our border for a better life. My America empowers women to make their own reproductive health care decisions; it doesn’t pass TRAP laws “protecting” a fetus they have NO intention of helping once it is born into poverty. My America passed an assault weapon ban once; it does not turn its back on children being gunned down at street fairs and in schools.

Our cousins were visiting from NY, here is our family at Nashville’s Farmer’s Market. Should I have been thinking of a fast exit, just in case a shooter walked in? Which two of us would push the wheelchairs, who would carry a child?

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Buon Giorno! It seems that most of our little courtyard of Nashville neighbors are traveling to Italy this season. Rocky’s parents, a cute young couple, just returned from hiking around the Amalfi Coast, and Kudra’s mama is currently in Cinque Terre! FYI Rocky is about three pounds of Yorkie-mix and Kudra is a sweet grey tabby cat. Lucky for me, I’m the kitty sitter.

I love coming over to my neighbor’s house in the morning. The sun streams onto the screened porch and cute Kudra climbs up on my lap for a pet, or maybe a love bite depending on her mood. You can’t hear the street noise, only birds and squirrels, so it’s almost like a meditation; no Bob asking me where I’m going (to the bathroom honey), no TV background Michael Avenatti noise or pundits wondering how Supreme Court Justice “I Like Beer” Brett Kavanaugh managed to be sworn onto the highest court in the land.

I’m done listening to prevaricators, and all the useless prognosticating…this weekend just plumb wore me out.

The weekend started out Thursday on a high note however, I accompanied Bob and the Bride to a Planned Parenthood shindig with our delightful 91 year old neighbor, Burdelle. The keynote speaker was Irin Carmon, the co-author of the 2015 book, “The Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” I couldn’t wait to hear how this legit, liberal icon on the SCOTUS got her start.  https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/26/books/review-notorious-rbg-the-life-and-times-of-ruth-bader-ginsburg.html

Ms Carmon, once a writer and editor for Jezebel, is an “…MSNBC journalist known for her smarts and feminist bona fides.” She was quite charming in person, strode right up to me and introduced herself. I immediately wanted to know more about her, this Harvard alum, this confident, competent young woman who wore bright red lipstick. Before I knew it, I was in a tight circle of women looking at her wedding pictures – Ruth was her officiant!

“She came all the way to Brooklyn,” Carmon said. Her talk about Justice Ginsburg did not disappoint.

Did you know there’s a children’s book about RBG? The Love Bug has a copy –  “I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark.” So just to be fair, I had to stop by Parnassus and pick up a signed copy of the Property Brothers new children’s book, “Builder Brothers: Big Plans” for the L’il Pumpkin. Not that girls don’t build things too…insert strong arm emojis now. Wasn’t sure if I should include a picture of the Bug in her pussycat headband planting an oak tree, or this one?

We #StandWithPlannedParenthood

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Ann Patchett was sitting right in front of me last night at Parnassus Bookstore. We were listening to Meg Wolitzer read from her new book, “The Female Persuasion,” when Ann (I hope I can call her Ann since I see her so much around town) asked if the sum of a writer’s work isn’t simply an aria – one voice:

“aria, an elaborate accompanied song for solo voice from a cantata, opera, or oratorio.”

In other words, every book you write is saying something about you, about what’s really important to you. Your subjects may change, your place in time or your landscape may change, but your unique Voice, your Point of View comes through consistently, almost unwillingly.

And Wolitzer has written plenty of books, in fact this is her tenth novel. She notes that she actually started writing “The Female Persuasion” a few years before the #MeToo movement, but she has always been interested in female friendships, and the power dynamics in relationships. This book pivots around a college campus where a young female student, Greer with a streak of “electric blue hair,” is mentored by an older feminist writer, Faith Frank.

The audience last night was a mix of ages, young feminists with severely short hair, mixed in with my aging variety and a few men. One shop dog named Bear strolled around the room, while the smaller variety, Mary Todd Lincoln was cradled in a baby wrap on a bookseller’s hip. Wolitzer read from her opening chapter, where Greer is groped by an entitled frat boy at a party her freshman year. I wondered how many of us could relate to that!

I thought about a friend’s son, a quiet innocent boy, who went off to college only to be expelled after an episode with a girlfriend he dared to break up with – he was an unsuspecting sheep while she turned into a wolf. I thought about the UVA Lacrosse player who was killed in her dorm room by her off/and/on boyfriend. And that girl who was raped and left outside a garbage can at Stanford.

“Novels can be a snapshot of a moment in time, or several moments in time, and as a reader that’s what I really like, and as a writer, it’s what I’m drawn to also. It can’t be a polemic. I’m always saying, What is it like? That’s one of the mantras of writing novels for me. And then, in the game of musical chairs, the book is coming out now.”  

http://www.vulture.com/2018/04/meg-wolitzer-doesnt-want-to-be-tied-to-a-moment.html

Wolitzer would call her publisher and ask her assistant first, a millennial, “Before you put me through, tell me, what was it like being a feminist at your college?” 

And that was my question. At my Boston college in 1966 we didn’t have the word “feminism” yet. We couldn’t wear pants outside our dorm, we had to wear a dress or a skirt once we left the brownstone. We didn’t have birth control pills or roofies or mind-altering drugs, yet. There was obviously no social media, if a girl dropped out, you assumed she got pregnant. We didn’t wear bobby socks, we wore knee socks. We had no recourse, no defense; we huddled together and traded tricks sneaking into the Beacon Street residence after curfew.

We had a phone booth in the downstairs lobby!

Strangely enough, Wolitzer hits her mark writing about today’s college culture, about those times in our lives when we meet someone who will change our trajectory. Her generation is just behind mine, a decade younger – the second (or is it third) wave of feminism. And she mentioned that another Nashvillian, Nicole Kidman, has optioned the rights to play her character Faith in the movie.

My first thought was, so Kidman is playing a mid-60 year old woman? And I immediately slapped that thought away as too judgmental, the opposite of feminist, after all maybe Helen Mirren is unavailable!

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What a weekend! I got my hair cut just a bit shorter a la Helen Mirren, and one of the Bride’s friends from medical school flew into town with her little boy. She is an Ob-Gyn physician who was recently certified to perform Sex Reassignment Surgery (“SRS -also known as gender reassignment surgery, gender confirmation surgery, genital reconstruction surgery, gender-affirming surgery, or sex realignment surgery).” I am so proud of her!

I remembered this feisty red-headed friend had always been ahead of her time – she started a group in school to push for LGBT rights, she once gave me a button to wear, “Straight but NOT narrow.” She writes the loveliest thank you notes. She and the Bride had (and still have) yoga in common, and if you’ve been following this blog for a long time, you might recall when I helped her pick out a rescue dog!

Her adorable son played hard with my two Grands and it was sad to see them go home yesterday.

But sadder still was our Saturday sojourn to Parnassus Bookstore to hear David Frum talk about his new book, “Trumpocracy.” Frum was actually quite enlightening, it was the topic that reeks of despair. He called himself a Conservative, and deplored the dire direction Mr T has taken our democracy; we are a nation more divided than any time in the history of keeping statistics for such things. The one take-away for me was when he started to talk about “political language.”

If you’ve seen the video of Marco Rubio dancing around the question about his willingness to take NRA money, you know what Frum was talking about. Politicians never, well almost never, give you a straight answer. They equivocate, they zig-zag, they dodge, they prevaricate. We might also say that lying has become a new normal, thank you Ms Conway. Look at all those indictments, thank you very much Mr Mueller. But what Mr T has done is cornered the market on plain talk. He gave Yes, and No answers, he “appears” to be truthful to his supporters. He got tons of free press, always eager for the spotlight. His appeal was his political ennui.

Perhaps the very darkness of the Trump experience can summon the nation to its senses and jolt Americans to a new politics of commonality, a new politics in which the Trump experience is remembered as the end of something bad, and not the beginning of something worse. Trump appealed to what was mean and cruel and shameful. The power of that appeal should never be underestimated. But once its power fades, even those who have succumbed will feel regret.  https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/01/frum-trumpocracy/550685/

Frum makes the case that we need Conservatives to survive, and I would have to agree, we do need their yin to our yang, pulling us closer to a middle way. Or maybe we need a third party? Finding consensus is our only hope, since patriotism is a bi-partisan emotion that is very different from the fear and anger spewed by a small percentage of white-nationalist-identity politicians.

Maybe the GOP would benefit from a little early morning healing, meditative yoga? Namaste.

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There’s no way around it, Hanukkah starts next week and shortly thereafter is Christmas. Great Grandma Ada told me she’s setting out for the mall to buy presents for all her little ones, and she needs some new makeup! I told her to be careful about “sale items” on the way to cosmetics, they can pull you away from your shopping goal.

“I don’t shop for myself anymore,” she said, “I shop my closet.”

“Ha, I shop my Pod!”

Or at least I wish I could shop my Pod. Almost every day that little Pod creeps into my conversation. I went to make chili, but my can opener was in the Pod. My super duper deluxe meatloaf pan from Williams Sonoma is in the Pod, not to mention my winter boots, hats and sweaters. Our mountain home sold so fast, Bob had to return for the final Pod Casting last summer, so I’m hoping all these things are in my Pod.

I never thought we’d be one of “those people” with a storage unit. Listen to Jerry Seinfeld’s bit on these wonders of the modern age; we Americans have so much crap we have to rent space just to contain it all! He called our homes “garbage processing centers,” and warned that once something leaves any part of the house for the garage it’s never allowed back in.  http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/videos/jerry-seinfeld-standup-tonight-show-20141224

I really really hope that no one accuses Jerry of sexual impropriety…

Sure the people who bought our home wanted the furniture, but that left all our personal belongings, including artwork, that would never fit in this tiny town home. Bob and I had packed for a month’s stay, thinking we’d go back and forth to Cville this winter. And I admit, we’ve been living the minimalist lifestyle pretty happily until now. The weather has changed and I’ve been missing my vintage blue Dutch Oven along with winter clothes. Although to be fair, we did visit the Pod once this Fall.

We had to schedule an appointment because presumably our Pod is stacked very high in a warehouse of similar Pods, like a sci-fi storage unit of astronauts in suspended life forms floating through space. It was one of those 90+ degree days and a crane dropped our Pod in the middle of a sunny, melting asphalt parking lot. We could only dig maybe a quarter of the way in, before heat exhaustion got the better of us – winter coats were salvaged along with some shoes and a chair or two.

And so there it sits, our poor little Pod, among thousands of similar Pods, waiting for us to find a beach house.

And while I extolled on the wonders of online shopping to Ada, who hasn’t tried Amazon yet, I drove myself over to my favorite independent bookstore, Parnassus, to pick out some special books for my little ones. Hint, if you have a three year old, she will love “Escargot!” Here is their gift list for children this season: https://parnassusmusing.net/2017/12/06/big-gift-list-2017-kids-teens/

Next, I walked over to a local designer pop-up boutique. Then down the street to our antique shop, where I can always score something fun and unusual. I found a beautiful silk and cotton scarf imprinted with an abstract guitar that was a perfect birthday gift for Aunt Kiki there. And I’m planning a visit to our amazing friend Robin’s pet boutique, “Come, Sit, Stay!” Because we only buy gifts for children during the holidays, and the occasional rescue dog. IF they’ve been good.

This December, I’m praying for a friend who broke her leg in too many places while saving her small son from drowning in TX. I’m sending positive vibes to a friend whose son is about to get a cardiac work-up in AL. And I’m wishing all those LA fires would just plain stop, and that our family and everyone on the Left Coast stay safe. And I wish Mr T would just resign already, instead of singlehandedly setting the mideast on fire with this Jerusalem business.

And I’m hoping when (or if) I’ve lived for nine decades, I’ll still think it’s a good idea to buy some new make-up!

So if you’re shopping for kids from 3 to 93, don’t let the holidays get you down ladies! Shop local, drink wine while baking cookies, and maybe splurge on a new winter hat! With pompoms, cause that Pod, you know. Thanks http://fannyandjune.com/shop/ Nashville!

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The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Billy Collins was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. This may have been one of our country’s most fragile times, when more people sought peace from poetry. And he is a poet who gets us, and last night Bob and I had the distinct pleasure to listen to him read some of his poems at Salon 615. Everyone of a certain age has picked up a book in rapt anticipation, only to find a few pages down the line that it’s something we’ve read before. I admit it, and Collins makes it bearable in his poem “Forgetfulness.”

Like that moment when he realized he was older than Cheerios, at the age of 70, and so wrote a poem about it. He scatters serious sonnets in among his readings, so last night’s audience gasped and laughed in unison. Because poetry is “…a megaphone.” Because he loves to make up new words, like “azaleate” – which loosely translated means we’ve arrived at a place just before, or after, it’s signature event. Oh, it’s too bad you’ll be missing the peak leaf season here in Vermont, let’s say. Or:

Bob and I azaleated the lavendar blossoming in Provence this year. 

Collins writes about cats and dogs from their point of view. And he even writes about Tennessee Fainting goats! This type of goat freezes and keels over whenever it is startled or feels panic. It’s something I may be catching here in loud and noisy Nashville 🙂

What brought me nearly to tears was Bob’s reaction; he didn’t fidget or head for the bathroom. He actually loved listening to Collins, we poked and prodded each other at yet another small truth that bounced between the two of us. It was like going to Jacob’s Pillow when we were young and discovering that he enjoyed the ballet almost as much as I did!

Then, towards the end of the evening, he turned to that ultimate question all couples must grapple with, “Who will go first?” The universal hope that “…you will bury me.” But is that really true love, to want to go first and save yourself from grieving. Bob has told me so often that due to his genetics he will most likely go first, and I almost believe him.

But what if I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow? A very real possibility in this busy city. He would still buy peanut butter and jelly, he would still drive like someone from NJ. Maybe he wouldn’t search for a beach house, or maybe he would?

Collins recommended a book, one that had inspired him in his youth, by a philosopher named Gaston Bachelard, “The Poetics of Space.” And I remembered the Bride showing us her Public Policy building at Duke, the light pouring in through modern-Gothic arches. And just last year, pointing out her son’s little hidey-hole inside his closet in their new home.

In the first and last days of life, it is the cosmos of the home that takes on the full weight of human habitation, as retreat and space of belonging. Bachelard’s greatest work remains a compelling reflection on the enduring human need to find psychological refuge in familiar places and spaces, though its author admitted that poets and story-tellers got there first. 

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/book-of-a-lifetime-the-poetics-of-space-by-gaston-bachelard-1673212.html

Here he is reading from his book, “The Rain in Portugal.”

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My favorite living author, who also happens to own a bookstore in Nashville, asked her readers what the title of their autobiography might be; “What would be the title of your life story?” The graphic on Parnassus’ Instagram account was a cartoony book titled “Can I Get Extra Cheese On That, a Memoir.”

Now I have nothing against cheese, in fact a day without cheese is like a day without a squeeze! But since that title was taken, I thought for maybe a split second and wrote “Victory Gardens.” That title means so much to me, and I realize it probably makes you think of the push to grow our own food after WWII, if you are of a certain age. But if my foster parents hadn’t scooped me up in Scranton at ten months of age and planted me in Victory Gardens, I might have been heading for an orphanage.

In that tiny, four room cement house, in the “temporary” development built to support the war effort at Picatinny Arsenal, I was surrounded by enough unconditional love to grow  strong. You remember the ice cream truck, and the doll house Daddy Jim built from the ice cream sticks; my trips to town and free samples of everything, especially bologna at the butcher shop.

Yesterday I listened to NPR’s Fresh Air in the car and I was rooted to my seat. I couldn’t leave the car and face the oppressive 96 degree heat – plus the topic spoke to me. Two culinary historians were promoting their book about food during the Great Depression. The authors were talking about their grandparents, but we Boomers grew up with parents who lived through this period, so our childhood kitchen tables reflected that period of time perfectly. And don’t forget, I had two mothers.

In Victory Gardens, Nell would proudly tell anyone within earshot that she was really good at opening cans, then her face would light up like a Christmas tree at her own joke! I remember dinners that consisted of canned hash with a fried egg on top. A vegetable side would mean a sliced tomato. Frozen foods were a novelty, so in this Catholic house we ate frozen fish sticks on Fridays. One day a week we ate out at the diner. And for a very special occasion she might make her specialty, stuffed cabbage, a Slovakian miracle simmering in sauerkraut.

But the Flapper, in her old Queen Ann house in town, would cook! She simmered meatballs in sauce she made herself, and even though she was working ever day she managed to get a delicious hot meal on the table every night. She taught me how to shop for the freshest ingredients by season, and how to save a few pennies here and there. Of course I’ve told you about her Depression-era Mac n Cheese, the kind with bacon because they could not get real butter. One of both Moms’ favorite stories was how as a young child I could tell the difference between butter and margarine. Later I learned they had to put yellow food coloring in a Crisco-like substance in the 30s to approximate butter. And ps, I have never purchased margarine in my life!

So while listening to “Creamed Canned and Frozen” yesterday, one author spoke about  bologna and mashed potato dinners. I had to smile since bologna was a staple at my cement house too. With the Flapper we made delicious ham sandwiches on rye bread with real dill pickles we picked from a barrel.

But the funniest thing the authors Jane Ziegelman and Andy Coe said was their children would not eat the food they were preparing during the writing of this book, since it didn’t look like food to them! And thinking back, canned hash does look like something maybe the dog didn’t like…http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/08/15/489991111/creamed-canned-and-frozen-how-the-great-depression-changed-u-s-dietsta The Flapper, however, cooked creatively with spices, and spicy food believe it or not was deemed suspicious in the 30s.

Spicy foods were [considered] stimulants. They were classified as stimulants, so they were on that same continuum along with caffeine and alcohol all the way up to cocaine and heroin. And if you started with an olive, you might find yourself one day addicted to opiates. It put you on a very slippery slope — watch out for olives!

Today we are asked to learn where and how our fish were harvested, what the cows have been eating before we buy a steak, and how sustainable is the farm growing our produce. Would the Flapper pay more for organic milk, like I do? It’s a wonder panic doesn’t set in the moment we think about getting a meal on the table! I wonder how or IF the Love Bug will cook, maybe she’ll use a replicator a la Star Trek? I remember how she turned her nose up at the first chicken nugget I offered her, after all, it doesn’t look like chicken!

So even though I grew up in a bland house that referenced a garden without an actual garden, where a tinned tuna casserole made with soup was considered nutritious, I managed to become a fairly inventive home cook imho thanks to the Flapper. And the real victory was when the Bride asked for all my recipes when she was setting up her own kitchen after college.

While Lee and Al were visiting I made stuffed eggplant; a recipe I made up as I went along, sauteing garlic and mushrooms, mixing with the eggplant, and of course baking with cheese sprinkled on top! This was right before they went in the oven, Bon Appetit!  IMG_4981

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