Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My New Old $495 Albino Crocodile Calendar

Lunch today at the new Haven Cafe and Bakery in Lenox (thumbs up) with fellow Berkshire bloggers Paige and Rebecca and their charming husbands.

Paige bestowed upon me and Rebecca swag she'd procured at the Film Independent's Spirit Awards. She gave me a Mrs. John L. Strong Collector's Diary and Directory in "bone white," which looks like albino crocodile skin, and Rebecca one in black. The retail price for these calendars is $495.

The gilded pages are an obscene and fascinating window into an alternate universe where August begins: "IN THE UTTER ABSENCE OF ANY MAJOR SHOWS OR EVENTS, WE SUGGEST YOU TAKE A VACATION. SEE RESORTS, PAGE 371."

The best part, other than the contact information for wine storage in Beijing and Chicago, searchers for lost/stolen art in London, New York, and Cologne (which they spell Koeln), and various auctions for "important jewels," "arcade jewels," and "magnificent jewels," is the international guide to flower etiquette on page 363. For example:


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cover Story, Baby

I wrote the cover story for the latest issue of Berkshire Living BBQ (Berkshire Business Quarterly). The magazine's website is, ahem, in need of updating, but if you're curious you can read a few excerpts from the epic (3,000+ word) profile of hotelier-philanthropist Nancy Fitzpatrick on Berkshire Creative's new blog. The best thing about the story is that it's mostly actually about the Burning Man gift economy.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What's My Motivation?

A reporter from the local daily paper contacted me for an article she's writing on Berkshire bloggers. On one hand I'm flattered, but on the other I'm worried. The question I constantly ask myself as a journalist is: Why does this matter? If I were her interviewing me tomorrow, that's what I'd be trying to figure out.

I started this blog as a lark seven months ago and 105 posts later am still having a good time and am pleased that the random things I've chosen to blog about seem to be of interest to others. As of this evening, the stat counter reports that I'm up to 1,497 returning visitors (out of 3,678 total unique visitors -- lots of people obsessed with Jello and/or Daryl Hall). These aren't huge blogosphere numbers, but considering that I'm only linked to in one place that I know about (a kind stranger in Trinidad), it's miraculous. If I imagine you all in my backyard, it's quite a party we have going on here.

So, thanks for showing up. The one thing I'm clear about is that this blog has to stay fun and loose and not become an ambitious, pressurized form of expression for me. If it ever stops feeling like a lark, that's when I'll stop.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Inspirational Quote of the Day

"...I believe that if there's a God -- and I am as neutral on the subject as is possible -- then the most basic proof of his existence is black humor. What else explains it, that odd reliable comfort that billows up at the worst moments, like a beautiful sunset woven out of the smoke over a bombed out city."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Corn Query

'Tis the season and I want to make the most of it. I've heard that boiling corn with a splash of milk makes it extra sweet. Do any of you have corn cooking tips or favorite recipes?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Maira Kalman & Rick Meyerowitz at The Mount

I'm super excited about this just-announced event at The Mount this weekend. I worship Maira Kalman.

From the press release...

Saturday, July 26, 2008 at 4:00 pm

Maira Kalman and Rick Meyerowitz are illustrators and humorists who are best known for their remarkable New Yorker cover, "New Yorkistan." They will present a cool, summery refreshment of an illustrated talk featuring some of their work, and also featuring their completely irrelevant musings on Edith Wharton and her times.

Maira Kalman was born in Tel Aviv. She has written and illustrated a dozen children's books, and illustrated the classic writing manual The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. She has worked for the New York Times, The New Yorker, Interview, Travel and Leisure and many other publications. She is now a medium small journalist at large.

Rick Meyerowitz was born in the Bronx and studied fine arts at Boston University. He was the most prolific contributor of illustrated articles to the National Lampoon magazine. He created the poster for Animal House, and the Lampoon's trademark visual, The Mona Gorilla.

Rick's new book, DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: The Writers and Artists Who Made the National Lampoon So Insanely Great, will be published in 2009.

Meyerowitz and Kalman created the most-talked-about New Yorker cover in years, "New Yorkistan," which was published a month after 9/11. The New York Times wrote, "when their cover came out, a dark cloud seemed to lift."

The event will take place at The Mount located at 2 Plunkett Street, Lenox, Massachusetts and has a cost of $18 if reserved in advance (by 7/25 at 5pm) or $20 at the door. Contact The Mount at 413-551-5104.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I Count My Lucky Stars

Dave and me at the Hotel Trinidad in Merida on our first trip
together to Mexico, 1989.
(Cell phone photo of photo...Santa, I need a new camera...though the blurriness adds a certain historical perspective.)

Seventeen years ago today, we got married at an art gallery in San Francisco's North Beach with a ceremony officiated by Zen Buddhist Jewish experimental poet Norman Fischer, followed by a potluck dance party at a club called Olive Oil's on the bay. The wedding invitation was illustrated by our friend Jon Balderston and Xeroxed onto neon yellow paper. It contained relevant wise quotes from Gertrude Stein, the Reverend Al Green, and Prince ("There's joy in repetition."). My brother Kris gave us the wedding cake, a French croquembouche tower of cream puffs, studded with violets and cloaked with a haze of spun sugar.

The wedding was perfect at the time and it sealed the deal, however, it's not what either of us would choose now. We'd elope, followed by a charming letterpress announcement. I'm thinking elope to the Inn of the Five Graces and Dave's thinking La Casa Que Canta.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Remembering Shelley Jean Schuster Abrahams

Shelley with daughters Lily and Anna

Shelley passed away a year ago today at age 46 of bladder cancer. The local obituaries noted that she left behind a stunned community. Her most recent prognosis had been that she was out of the woods and then suddenly she was dead, leaving behind her beloved daughters and husband Ed, along with hundreds of stunned and shaken friends who packed Hevreh for her funeral. She was a whip smart, funny, strong, generous person, who took the wellbeing of her community extremely seriously.

It was my great good fortune to meet her within weeks of moving to the Berkshires. In her honor, I co-founded the Shelley Memorial Movie Club, which has evolved over the year to be a monthly night out with a group of six moms. We eventually decided to skip the movie and head straight to dinner as we're all so hungry to talk. I cherish these new friendships and am grateful to Shelley for her legacy.

Purple with a Purpose

Alas, there was a festival board meeting this morning, so I didn't make it to the farmers' market. I did, however, splurge on a Purple with a Purpose pedicure at Lucky Nails this afternoon.

The thing I like best about pedicures, other than the excuse to spend a restorative half-hour perusing Vanity Fair, is selecting the nail polish color. I'm fascinated by the fact that for years the bestselling color was OPI's I'm Not Really a Waitress red. I've tried to google my way to the namer of that color to no success, as I'd like to interview them. Anybody know?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Chillin in Her Tipi: Letters Home from Camp

Finally, two letters arrived today that junior mailed a week and a half ago from camp on the west coast. She wrote them while "chillin in [her] tipi" between stilt and tightrope walking classes. She's fine, of course.

I read an article the other day about the new trend of "kidsick" parents. The expert advised that it's okay to tell your child that you miss her while she's at camp, but you're not supposed to say that the dog misses her, too, and the house is lonely without her. Whoops. But I did send chips in her care package.

Wednesday, July 16, 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'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.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

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 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 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.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

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.

Monday, July 7, 2008

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.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

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

Saturday, July 5, 2008

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?

Friday, July 4, 2008

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.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

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.