Monthly Archives: July 2008

First Blueberry of Summer

We have six blueberry bushes in one of the long-forsaken garden rooms (there are seven…I’ll write about them another day) and a tangle of raspberries by the barn. Yes, we have a barn…it’s our decaying potential at the moment…actually not decaying, but being eaten by powderpost beetles. We have little money to maintain the property, let alone improve it, so it’s frustrating to have to invest in invisible things like fumigation and cutting down dead trees, but there you have it. I believe the technical term is “homemoaner.” Being house poor is better than being poor poor, but as I just wrote my old friend Beth, it still adds up to broke. Sigh.

Blast from the Past: Mother Jones Magazine

Whenever I hear Des’ree’s “You Gotta Be” on the radio, I think of Eric Gupton who, circa 1993-94, used to sing that song to me in the Mother Jones mail room. I was the assistant to the publisher of the magazine then and Eric was office manager by day, and by night, as San Francisco Chronicle theater critic Steven Winn says in the linked tribute above, he was a “flamboyant warrior” founding member of the audacious Pomo Afro Homos theater troupe.

That era has been on my mind this week because after a few months of lurking, I recently left a comment on David Weir’s blog. I stumbled on David’s blog as both he and I listed “investigative reporting” as an interest on our blogger profiles. Only 28 blogs link to this interest vs. 13,400 when you click the interest “chocolate.” I don’t remember having many conversations with David at the magazine (he was an editor), but I do recall that he treated me with kindness and respect, which was rare and distinctly endearing in those days. Reading his San Francisco blog has felt like visiting home.

Then last night the publisher of Mother Jones, who remarkably is still the publisher of the magazine, sent me a friend request on Facebook. I was surprised as I’ve only seen him once since quitting 13 years ago. I’ve thought of him with compassion in recent years, though, as I’ve dealt with various arrogant, ambitious, judgmental, impatient-for-glory assistants.

While I did have some legitimate gripes about working at Mother Jones…like that it was an insular largely Ivy league club (I once overheard the editor in chief tell an earnest intern that the most important thing to achieve success in journalism is who you go to school with), like that I was the only mother working there, like that free speech was championed everywhere except in the office…in retrospect, I must have been a bit of a terror as an assistant. I now have a great deal more sympathy for my former boss and look forward to reading his Facebook status reports.

Let the healing begin.

Great Barrington Farmers' Market

Today’s bounty: sugar snap peas, white peaches, beets, apricots, and the celebrity sighting that always makes food taste extra good.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Crisp

Today’s Serious Eats recipe e-newsletter suggested strawberry-rhubarb cobbler for breakfast. Driving home from work, it seemed like an even better idea for home alone dinner. I stopped at Taft Farms for berries and rhubarb and will top the below with Fage Greek yogurt, washed down with a cherry bomb.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Crisp
Cooking Light, May 2008
8 servings

6 cups (1/2-inch) slices rhubarb (about 2 pounds)
2 1/2 cups halved strawberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Cooking spray

2/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup regular oats
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash of salt
6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. To prepare filling, combine the first 6 ingredients. Spoon into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

3. To prepare topping, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt) in a medium bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle topping over filling. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes.

On Daryl Hall and the Marxist Dialectic

I got a B- in Marxism in college. In fact, I’m pretty sure I pulled an all-nighter with the Cliffs Notes Communist Manifesto to pass the final exam, so I’m not sure if what I’m remembering as the Marxist dialectic is actually the Marxist dialectic, but I did learn one very important thing in Marxism 101: There is no such thing as objective truth. Marx believed that truth is relative depending on one’s material circumstances. The notion that Truth with a capital T did not exist blew my mind at age 21 and has stayed with me though the years, helping me sort out the world, though I don’t think money is the only thing that defines one’s reality.

…which brings me to the topic of last night’s Daryl Hall concert at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington. I was never a huge Hall and Oates fan, though of course the lyrics to their many 80s neo-soul hits (Rich Girl, Kiss on My List, Sara Smile, and She’s Gone, to name but a few — the duo sold more than 60 million albums) are engraved onto my generation’s DNA.

I looooved the concert and while nostalgia was part of my response, it wasn’t the dominant element. Daryl sang a lot of his hits, but with looser, more ragged and free wheeling arrangements than the originals. The band of veteran musicians rocked. Daryl held court in what I perceived to be a relaxed, dignified, generous, soulful, and utterly seductive and charismatic manner. The upper registers of his voice aren’t what they once were, but he sang the hell out of the songs, delivering them as himself in the present, not as a washed up pop star clinging to his former glory. And he looked darn good. Whatever vitamins he’s taking: they’re working.

I gather that lately he’s been broadcasting concerts from his house in nearby Dutchess County. The Mahaiwe performance felt similarly intimate and done just for the fun of it. Daryl doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. I had the sense that he was performing because he loves music. There’s no better gift for an audience.

Soooo…I was surprised by my friend Seth’s review of the concert this morning. It’s like he saw a different show. Marx helps me understand how that was possible.

Big Sur Fire

One of my favorite places is burning. It’s hard to imagine the fury of the Big Sur, California fire while immersed in the relentless green of Berkshire summer. The blogs linked to below tell the scary story. I’m not religious and I’m uncomfortable using the word prayer, but I’m praying for rain and safety for all in the region.

Sitting with Fire
Sur Fire 2008
Big Sur Now
Xasáuan Today
Firefighter Blog

Camp Care Packages

I missed the farmers’ market this morning to drive Annalena to the airport. She’s going to a very not-New England camp for a couple of weeks with her best friend from fourth grade. I’m not going to name of the camp here, though it’ll be obvious to some of you from this photo. Suffice to say that I’m happy my girl will get indoctrinated with a big dose of core values from the old country, plus learn some useful skills, like how to ride a unicycle.

Re: camp care packages. So far I’ve gathered glow sticks, temporary butterfly tattoos, temporary henna tattoos, a poker deck, fancy lip balm, turkey jerky, lollipops (sugar free so as not to be confiscated), bubbles, a “Grow a Pirate,” fortune telling fish, postcards and stamps, and a Red Sox pen that doubles as a flashlight. I’m also thinking to throw in some pretzels and chips to share with her tipi mates. Other ideas?

I Feel Like a PBS Pledge Drive Incarnate

…with tickets to James Taylor and Daryl Hall concerts this weekend. Listen to the Tanglewood crowd go wild when JT mentions Stockbridge in these songs.

Ang Lee Casting Call

This afternoon Annalena and I snuck off to an open casting call to be extras in Ang Lee’s new movie, Taking Woodstock, which will film in the area August through October. The audition was held at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in New Lebanon, New York. The church social hall was lined with paintings of Pope Benedict, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus interspersed with historic black and white photos of hippies.

We filled out forms detailing our dimensions, willingness to grow facial/body hair (okay), willingness to bare our breasts and camp on site (no thanks), musical instruments played (junior sort of plays trombone), whether we have a dog (yes, but perhaps he’s too excitable for Woodstock), whether we own a car circa 1969 or earlier (no), and our availability (jobs? school? As if we’d let those things stop us).

We posed for snapshots. The casting agent instructed Annalena not to cut her hair and she looked me up and down in my prim cardigan and said, “We’re casting for townspeople, too.” As a toddler of the counter culture, it feels a little strange that I’m now perceived as too old to play a hippie. Regardless, I hope we get to participate in the spectacle one way or another.

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