Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

My flawed candidate, myself

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Ok, I tried, but I couldn’t do it: I said I was staying away from campaign news but that was when we had a lineup of candidates yelling at each other about their body parts, aka the good old days. I felt smug back then, watching my side talking substance and showing respect for each other, for the office, and for us. 

Now reality intrudes. 

At first I was glad to see Bernie in the race. I thought he’d give Hillary cover to move a little farther left and enlarge the discussion. I thought he’d add the energy of his supporters to the effort to retain the Presidency and take back the Senate and House. I thought his modest decade-long record in the Senate would position him to speak to briefly before acknowledging his opposing candidate’s superior depth of experience and capability for the office, and graciously throwing his support to her.  I was wrong.

Instead he is, more each day, reminding me of Ralph Nader, who must be the hero of every Bush-Cheney supporter in 2000, a man who didn’t let political reality get in the way of his over-confidence that he alone held the key to Truth, Justice, and The American Way.

But back to now, now when the stakes are…pretty high. “Hamilton” groupie that I am, I am thinking of how George Washington, deciding not to seek a third term, sings, “We’ll teach them how to say goodbye.” Bernie, listen. But Bernie isn’t listening. Bernie is, instead, using the energy he’s created among voters as a weapon—and not against Trump. 

I remember Hillary in 2008, disappointed in her campaign and yet, in defeat, generous to her party and its nominee. Bernie, listen.

Bernie, your followers are saying  it’s you or no one. Really, Bernie? Is that what you want? You and your followers are saying Hillary is a flawed candidate. Ok, yes. And Donald Trump isn’t? And you, Bernie, who have been treated gently by Hillary and ignored by Trump, you who have yet to see your flaws splashed above the fold?  Yes, you, too, Bernie, are flawed. As am I, as are we all.

And here’s what your supporters aren’t seeing, Bernie: the Republicans have been kicking Hillary to the curb since the 1990s, with both every legitimate misstep and every invented wrong they could muster.  Twenty-five years of Republican vitriol—during which she continued a life in public service, as a respected and hard-working senator; as a tireless, effective secretary of state—and now you are feeding your supporters the whole putrid stew and letting them lap it up.


Has Hillary been perfect? Certainly not. But picture this—it’s 2018, maybe 4 o’clock on a  gray February afternoon, and the President is in the Oval Office meeting with Congressional leaders on something of importance, something like Obamacare or equal pay for women.  Or a Supreme Court nominee.The excitement of getting elected is long past and it’s time for hard, unglamorous, tedious work. It’s time for sitting in a room with people who may not be respectful and whose priorities are in opposition. What do you picture happening? Is the President telling the others, “You have to do it my way because I’m a terrific president and if not I’ll build a wall somewhere”? Is the President wagging a finger and scolding, “This system is corrupt”? Or is the President sitting there doing the hard work of finding consensus, building bridges, and, yes, probably compromising, and getting it done? Hillary is the only one I can picture being the grownup in the room, respecting the office enough to do whatever it takes to keep the country moving toward the future we need. She may be a flawed candidate, but this flawed voter thinks she is just what we need.

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Stop me before I sing again

Sunday, April 10, 2016

My friend Erica just saw “Hamilton” and is in danger of appearing a little obsessed. Like me. She’s the one who gave me the cast recording, which I listened to many times  before I saw the show. As Wesley Morris said in his New York Times Magazine article, “To know someone who has this album is to know someone who needs a restraining order.”

It’s wearing. For me to ask Dr. D. to stand by saying, “Rise up!” “(Eyes up! Wise up!”) Those of you singing along right now know who you are. To wake up not knowing if what’s playing in your head will be “He got a lot farther by being a lot smarter/by working a lot harder/by being a self-starter” or the deliciously smarmy King George lines, “You’ll be back/wait and see/you’ll remember you belong to me.” I did say obsession. Or maybe it’s more like possession--being possessed by the songs.

Broadway and I have history. A brief mention of something can find me leaping to “It’s been a real nice clambake” or “you’re always sorry/you’re always grateful,” not always to the delight of the other person in the room “where it happens/the room where it happens.”

I love all those shows. I consider Cole Porter’s lyrics the essence of sophistication. The music from “Carousel” or “Oklahoma” makes me think  how revolutionary those musicals were when they first appeared. When I saw the Broadway revival of “South Pacific” a few years ago, its commentary on racism, first served up to an audience newly finished with World War II, felt even more astounding seen in our current century. And Sondheim--what can I say? The perfect voice for generations raised since Freud’s ideas became part of the air we breathe.  I even have a soft spot in my heart for “1776,” an earlier well-intentioned but forgettable go at portraying the Founding Fathers, for its rhyming of predicate and Connecticut. (It’s better in the context of the song. Trust me.)

And now this transformative musical that, thanks to the recording, has a reach far beyond the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Ok, possessed…obsessed….I’m there.

(An aside-- proof it’s not just me::
Me to Erica—I’m crazy about Daveed Diggs.
Erica, before seeing “Hamilton”: Who’s Daveed Diggs?
Erica, after seeing “Hamilton”: I see what you mean about Daveed Diggs.)

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliant show has also made me think about how much the brilliance of hugely gifted people adds to my life. Dr. D and I recently heard Matthew Aucoin’s settings for several James Merrill poems. We saw Maya Lin’s moving River  of Pins , which can’t really be adequately conveyed by a photograph. I read Linda Pastan’s newest collection of poems and thought, with awe, of how she continues to cover the same ground, poem after poem, book after book, going deeper rather than repeating herself, never failing to offer new insight, new understanding, new mysteries. I read Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton before I saw the  show, and that, too, is unforgettable, and impossible to put down, which is a little inconvenient since it’s 700-plus pages. What touches me, what reaches out and makes me feel lucky to experience these and other wonderful works is the passion with which they are created.

I am filled with gratitude.


And I would probably earn the gratitude of those around me if I could just rein in my Hamilton habit a little. (“I wish I could say that was the last time/I said that last time/ It became a pastime.”) Maybe if I just think of all those amazing works of art that I am grateful to have seen and heard and read, I can find the antidote to my obsession by thinking about—(oh no!)--”what they did for love…..”

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Withdrawing from the Race

Thursday, April 7, 2016

We’re months away from the election and already I can’t take it any more. I can feel my level of anger rising with every ratcheting up of the coarse discourse.  I am drawing a personal line.

I’m going on a campaign news blackout. What will I miss?  If past experience is any indicator, I won't miss much.  I’ve got my candidate and if she isn’t on the ballot in November, I’ll vote for the person who comes closest to representing the things I believe in. I won't need to listen in until then.


It’s not going to be easy, but I am taking a personal vow to distance myself from the ranting polluting our environment. I will no longer allow it to pollute my personal environment.  If you hear of anything really substantive or important, let me know. But I’m guessing that won’t happen. Meanwhile, I am going to concentrate on other things.

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The Occasional Recipe: Carrot Soup

Thursday, March 24, 2016

It’s still soup weather. Actually, I think any weather is soup weather, but it’s still a little cold, so others might agree with me. This is a recipe I made up. I heard someone mention carrot soup and that sounded inviting. But when I looked through all my cookbooks and a few pages of online possibilities what I found was not exactly what I wanted. I wanted carrots. A carroty taste. Not ginger or cardamom or dill, not that there’s anything wrong with those. I just wanted carrot.  So this is what I did and, like many of my recipes, it’s so stupidly easy that it’s embarrassing to call it a recipe. However…

I chopped an onion and stirred it over low heat with a little vegetable oil until it was translucent. I didn’t let it brown at all. That browned onion taste is delish, but that’s not what I wanted. The quest was carrot.

Then I cut up some carrots and threw them and some bouillon and water in the pot with the onion. I used chicken bouillon though I could have used vegetable. I use something called Better Than  Bouillon that comes in a little jar and IS better than any prepared bouillon I’ve tasted. You use a teaspoon to a cup of water. I used roughly 2 carrots per cup of liquid, though I think I may have added more liquid and thrown off that formula. But it worked anyway. I figured the bouillon had enough salt and pepper so I didn’t add anything else.

When the carrots were cooked through I pureed everything with a stick blender.  Done and yum.

I was serving it to company, so I plopped a dab of crème fraiche on top to make it look a little special. Everyone liked it.

Enjoy!



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