Thank a Veteran; Vote!

I took two of the grands to their town’s Veteran’s Day parade this morning. Opening ceremonies before a statue of a World War I doughboy included patriotic music by the high school pep band and speeches by the district’s congressman, a state assemblywoman, and the town’s mayor.

While each expressed their thanks to veterans—the standard, “thank you for your service,” and the assemblywoman cited programs offered for vets in the county, the mayor called for everyone to thank vets by hiring them, renting to them, by helping in their communities, and by voting in every election. Veterans, she said, served to protect our rights; we need to vote to preserve what they fought for.

As a member of my local League of Women Voters, I’ve been involved in a few voter registration and education events prior to Election Day last week.

I moderated a debate for Board of Education candidates. Held in a large high school auditorium, there were maybe 20 people in attendance. Given  the magnitude of money and responsibilities associated with Boards of Education, and given that there were five candidates, and assuming some of those present were family members, that’s a disturbing turnout.

I registered voters at a local community college. I walked around the student center, interrupting their conversations and their studying; taking the few minutes I had their attention to remove their headphones or ear buds to invite them to the League’s table to register to vote. Many said they were registered; some said they would do it later. Many had no idea there was an election this year.

A friend of mine who lives in New York state, shared how because two candidates split the votes in one party, people in the other party assumed their candidate, an incumbent state legislator, would win and didn’t turn out. The opposition won.

Apathy is scourge of democracy. In my own town, four candidates ran for city council seats, all ran unopposed. Without debate, democracy weakens.

Every election counts. Vote to thank the veterans who served so we can vote.

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Scary Books & Scarecrows!

Looking for a few good horror stories to tingle your spine and keep you awake at night? I’ve read these three in quick succession.

The Testament. Margaret Atwood’s long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. While I read the original book and saw the movie, I’ve been somewhat addicted to the Hulu television series. With news reports continuing to deliver stories of limits on abortions, curtailment of health care, and democracy spiraling out of control, reading more about Gilead doesn’t always feel like fiction.

Pursuit. Joyce Carol Oates delivers a tight, tense tale in fewer than 230 pages. Abby leaves the morning after her unconsummated wedding night and walks in front of a bus. Is it an accident or a deliberate move? Her husband stays by her side during her recovery – physically and emotionally as he helps her unravel the trauma of her childhood.

The Institute. Stephen King’s latest moves fast. Twelve-year-old Luke Ellis has special powers- he has the ability to use telekinesis. He’s kidnapped from his family’s home (his parents are murdered), and taken to a remote area in Maine, to the Institute. He meets other children who are either telekinetic or telepathic. They are subjected to many physical and mental tests—not too unlike those employed by Nazis- with the goal of removing the special powers and using them for national security purposes. Chilling.

 

All three deal with children being subjected to evil by adults and separated from their parents. Perhaps not the stuff of happy fiction, but a reminder of the reality too many kids face.

 

On a more cheerful note, I walked through downtown Madison, Ct. recently with my mother and admired the scarecrows created by local businesses, schools and civic groups.

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New York City: Art & Theater

 

Just my luck the day  we had theater tickets in New York City the temperatures climbed to the mid- 90’s—a record for October. I’d planned to stop in to a couple exhibits before dinner and wasn’t going to let the heat deter me.

First, I visited the Hauser & Wirth gallery in Chelsea to see the Amy Sherald: The Heart of the Matter exhibit.  Her portrait of Michelle Obama made her famous; and her star continues to rise. This eight -portrait exhibit is her first New York show. The space is enormous and her portraits are huge—and powerful. I love her titles. This one is “If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.”

  

This one is “Sometimes the king is a woman.”

I walked back uptown on the High Line—a lovely respite from the traffic- clogged streets. There artist Ryan Sullivan’s four abstract paintings adorn and complement the scenery.

 

I took the subway to 49th street to pop into Lucy Sparrow’s Delicatessen on 6th. This was a very low-calorie experience as everything is made from felt. Whimsical, fun and everything’s for sale.

By then I was really hot so I splurged on a taxi to Lincoln Center. I had time before dinner so cooled off in the NY Public Library branch based on the plaza and enjoyed the exhibit celebrating the late director Hal Prince.  Much of the show including letters – that lost art—and revealed so much about how he came to be and the history of musical theater.

We saw Robert Schenkkan’s The Great Society. It’s the sequel to his first play, All the Way. Both chronicle President Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. The first ends with the passage of the Voting Rights Act and the second begins with the creation of the Great Society programs. We’d seen the first one in New York years ago. Cast with 22 actors, some playing multiple roles, the play spans 1965-1968. Johnson had dreams for so many initiatives to help people—and many were foiled as funds were diverted to the Vietnam War. It’s history; it’s worth seeing.

 

 

 

Posted in art, Civil Rights History, commentary, Museums, galleries, New York City, Theater, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bonjour, Provence!

 

When our friends Kevin and Allan invited us to join them in Provence, we couldn’t resist the chance to explore another part of France by bike. I found a trip offered by Discover France that met our needs perfectly. Instead of traveling place-to-place each day, this trip was based in the village of Gordes – where our friends were staying. The company supplied us with maps and a variety of routes for us to select from each day.

Gordes dates to the Roman times, and served as a refuge throughout history, including as a center for the Resistance during World War II. Its narrow, cobblestone streets wind around the mountain to the valley. Fortunately there are well-paved roads that allow for car and bike travel.

September is less crowded and less hot than summer in the south of France and once again the French roads and reverence for cyclists didn’t disappoint. Local foods and wine, lavender fields, olive groves, and historic sights made for the perfect getaway and chance also to visit with friends.

There were a total of 10 of us. While we biked each day, the others visited vineyards, museums and villages, catching the colorful market days. We joined them for drinks and dinner and shared our experiences.

The area is also known for mountains – and we climbed a few- and stone quarries. One quarry in Les Baux-de-Provence, has been an unusual museum since 2012 when it partnered with Carrieres de Lumieres,  to create immersive art exhibits. Each year a different artist is featured, this year was Van Gogh. For about 45 minutes, we ambled through the quarry as the paintings came to life, accompanied by music. Truly spectacular! We had already toured enough of the countryside to see how the area inspired Van Gogh’s painting.

Kevin and Allan are scouring the countryside for property for a vacation home—so we’re sure we’ll be back.

 

Posted in art, bike riding, Friendship, Museums, galleries, travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Chatfield Hollow State Park, Killingworth, CT

I unloaded my mother’s walker from the back of my car and set it up by the  passenger side door. Gingerly, my mother grabbed hold of its sides and climbed out of my car. We ambled carefully on the gravel to reach the boardwalk– an 825-foot path through a red maple swamp in Chatfield Hollow State Park.

As long as can I remember, I  have been coming to this park, just over a mile from my childhood home in Killingworth, CT. I rode my bike through the park on a “date” in fourth grade; I’ve taken swimming lessons in the lake; I’ve hiked the many trails that crisscross glacial ridges, stony cliffs, a covered bridge, a waterwheel and caves where Native American artifacts have been found.

My family is lake lovers—we’re fair-skinned and shun the sun at the beach—and when I traveled with my parents and siblings, and later with my three children, we always searched for fresh water swimming.

Originally a grist mill operated by three brothers, named Chatfield, who emigrated from England around 1639, the area became a park in 1933 when the Civilian Conservation Corps built an earth and stone dam across the brook and created a seven -acre swimming beach, planted pine trees, cleared hiking trails and picnic areas.  It was designated a state park in 1949 and remains under state management.
The wetland boardwalk was built and has been upgraded with informational signs, describing the flora and fauna of the swamp.

I’ve often taken my mother for walks here and we enjoy experiencing the seasons from the boardwalk. Since her stroke and her recovery, we’ve mostly walked on the paved road. It’s been the perfect place for her to get some exercise and fresh air.   This time I suggested we try the boardwalk and appreciated how it made nature accessible to her.

 

 

 

Posted in aging, environment, Family, Nature, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

New Orleans: Chef Byron Bradley

I took a short trip to New Orleans this week for a board meeting of Son of a Saint.  I’ve been on the board a year and have witnessed the growth of the board and the staff. At present, 100 fatherless boys, ages 10-18, are being mentored and tutored, and are participating in a range of volunteer, recreational, and travel experiences. The organization has sent several young men to college.

I stayed with my friend Lauren, who has a cool new job as Executive Director of MiNO—Made in New Orleans.  It’s a nonprofit dedicated to assisting chefs—particularly women and minorities—in their educations and promoting the diverse foods of New Orleans.

She has a five-year-old son; so going out on a weeknight presents babysitting issues, so she offered to ask one of the chefs she works with to cook for us at her house.

When I arrived after a SOAS cocktail reception, the aromas greeted me outside. Chef Byron Bradley was already working hard, cooking up the menu.   A Louisiana native, Bradley served in the US Navy Special Forces in Panama. After his term ended, he said he wanted to follow his passion, which was cooking, partly inspired by growing up in a huge extended family. Food was always central to all family gatherings.

He blends Creole and Cajun cuisines, even when cooking for the Ursuline Academy, serving lunch to 700 kindergarten to 12th graders.

Here’s what he made for us:

Warm Mirliton Soup with Creole Shrimp, Chopped Scallions, and Crispy Shallots  (Mirlitons are a type of squash, popular in New Orleans)

Poulet Bradley: Herb Crusted Chicken Breasts with Tomato Fondue, Beer Braised Cabbage with Potatoes, Roasted Corn

And dessert:  Banana Berry Foster with Glazed Pecans served with Vanilla Ice Cream (another New Orleans creation)

All was delicious. I can’t wait to return for another in –home chef treat!

 

 

 

 

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Three Books & A Movie

Some recent reads worth checking out:

Joyce Carol Oates: The Falls

I enjoyed this fast-paced novel. I’ve been reading and listening to a few of Oates’ books this summer.  She’s a pro at taking a current issue, in this case, the Love Canal corporate environmental poisoning, and weaving it into the elements of a great novel. This one takes place in the 1950’s near Niagara Falls, NY, when awareness about the effects of corporate pollutants were just beginning to attract attention.

Colson Whitehead: The Nickel Boys.

This slim novel packs a punch with a surprise twist at the end. Based on the true story about the Dozier School in Florida where skeletons of African American boys were unearthed in 2011, remnants of the Jim Crow South at a horrific reform school, Whitehead tells the story through two characters who become friends. This book surpasses Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, which I didn’t like as much. An important read as our nation continues to grapple with its racist past… and present.

Elizabeth Letts: Finding Dorothy

I listened to 95% of this in the car and then got the book from my library to finish. Any Wizard of Oz fans would love this charming, historical fiction novel about L. Frank Baum, his wife Maud, her mother, the suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage, and how the classic Wonderful Wizard of Oz came to fruition. The story alternates between the late 1800’s upstate New York, the Dakota territories, and Chicago, to 1938 Hollywood on the set as the movie was being filmed. Maud Baum, 77 years old and 19 years after her husband’s death, befriends the young Judy Garland. I read a biography of lyricist Yip Harburg years ago, and found myself humming songs from the movie while reading.

We watched Max and Helen  Based on a novel by Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, the film is a romantic revenge story. You can’t go wrong.

Posted in Books, commentary, Movies & TV, Reading, reviews, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment