Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Maple Sugar Day Sights

March 8th, 2014

Vapors were the order of the at the Maple Sugar Festival today (repeat tomorrow, Sunday, March 9th, 10AM-4PM). Many maples on the DCR’s Brookwood Farm had taps drawing sap. Stops on the trail included one with Native American forms of syrup making —keeping a strong fire going and plunging hot rocks into wooden bowl of sap to do the deed. (Insert big hiss.)

Down the dirt road was the colonial take — with the benefit of metal pots, they hung these over fires and evaporated the sap into syrup and sugar.

Further down was a small evaporator unit in the modern style. Its big sibling at the end of the path was a sugarhouse, with a massive evaporator unit. The evaporators spewed steam as they did their work.

Also along the way was a blacksmith, Michael Bergman. He showed his skills and pitched classes in Waltham at the Prospect Hill Forge.  He worked with an anvil, of course, and instead of a massive heath and forge, he worked off what appeared to be a round Weber grill.  It used coal to generate enough heat to turn the steel rods red hot, and along the way smoke up the place.

Pix clix: Click a thumbnail for a larger view. If it opens in the same window, use your browser’s back button or command to return.

License note: All pix are Creative Commons-Attribution. Do what you want with them. Just give Mike Ball credit once.

The smith with his hand-cranked fan stoking the coal. bhsmith5
bhsmith3 The red-hot steel bar twisted quickly in a vise.
The colonial version of reducing sap to sugar used metal pots over fires. sappot
sugarhouse1 The sugarhouse is full of steam, sweet-smelling steam, as the big evaporator cooks down the sap. Your reward for walking the history trail was a little cup of fresh syrup.
Count our toes. The 300-year-old barn on the site is under rehab. The crew uses only tools available at the time. To create a beam, the team strips the bark and shapes a log into the right proportions. counttoes
bhspileguy More period drama with tool restrictions occurred at the colonial sugaring area. Here a reenactor makes a spile (a tap for a maple). He hollows a piece of wood into a tube. He then inserts this into a drilled hole in the maple to draw off the sap into an attached bucket.
It had nothing to do with sap or syrup, but Mass Audubon worked with the DCR on the event and showed up with several birds. An impressive one was a red-shouldered hawk.She survived a raccoon attack on her fledgling nest that killed all her siblings. She’s growing back the flight feathers the raccoon bit off her. She doesn’t get a name because they don’t want to treat her as or make her a pet. redshlulder4

screech2
There was also a screech owl.
Another of the hawk…just because… redshlulder2

icetongs
The barn has period relics too. Several ice tongs were on shelves, remnants of when colonists cut blocks of ice from ponds, like nearby Houghton’s, and stored them under straw in cellars for use many months later.

 

 

No Need to Keep Tamerlan Alive

May 8th, 2013

stonebonesWhile it might amuse those who know me to read it, I sometimes feel I lack self-control…st least in stifling myself in commenting.

I’ve been pretty good staying away from the brothers Tsarnaev matters, despite my many thoughts and feelings. Ryan and I did riff a bit on it at the very beginning of our most recent Left Ahead show, which actually introduced the Boston mayoral contest.

I can quickly get my fill of spite and bile from protesters interviewed on the news in Worcester or Boston, or if I can stomach it, reading the comments in any related Boston Herald article. More surprising have been the preemptive moves by the nearby government officials. The Worcester cops are piling (can we say pig piling?) it on Peter Stefan, the noble funeral director who has had the guts to take the body and work for its burial by saying he owes them $30,000 for doing their jobs. That is, they directed traffic and such around the protests by his establishment. This has whiffs of when the Boston police encouraged attacking the Sacco/Vanzetti corpse transfers from the North End to Forest Hills for cremation. Self-righteousness has no place behind badges and guns.

Stefan has a long career of such as burying AIDS-related corpses and those of gang-violence victims when no one else would help their loved ones in fatal crisis. He deserves respect, not reviling. He’s one of the good guys.

Then in Cambridge, City Manager Robert Healy and in Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino each preemptively said publicly not to consider asking those cities to find a burial spot. Eh? I don’t know Healy, but I do know and like Menino. Such a position is beneath him.

At least some at the Globe have a more historically and humanitarian and reality based view. Consider Adrian Walker’s column today that in effect says bury the elder Tsarnaev brother, let the story fade from the news and give some peace and a little closure to those affected. A fitting companion piece by Peter Schworm cites how other hated mass murderers, child molesters and such were quickly and quietly planted without endless public drama and ceaseless coverage.

The classic message for no rest to the wicked is holding around here. Think the multiple places in Isiah, such as 57:20, But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.

If MA history holds, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be convicted of the Marathon bombings, he will get life without possibility of parole instead of execution, and he will die in prison not too long away — either by his own hand or that of another inmate. That’s what we do here with the infamous and despised.

Given my classics background, my first thoughts when so many began making so much of the disposition of the corpse was to reflect on Plato’s Phaedo, describing the last hours of Socrates’ life. The philosopher had the long view and made sport with follower Crito over what he viewed as petty concerns about his corpse.

With death pending for Socrates, Crito tried to be helpful and respectful, going for the mundane details. He even asked, “How shall we bury you.” The old wag started with a joke — “Just as you please. if only you can catch me, and I do not escape from you.”

Then he got more to the point. He said not to refer to the body as Socrates. It will be just a body and not the person. Thus usual or customary disposal is fine. “You must have a good courage, then, and say that you bury my body, and bury it in such a manner as is pleasing to you, and as you think is most agreeable to our laws.”

So it is here. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died three and one half weeks ago. Only those who involve themselves in keeping him alive to the public through their arrogant and self-centered proclamations cannot let him die.

Tales of the Sisters Grimké

March 10th, 2013

tea

 

I sat on it for a day. Yep, there was still stinky, strained stuff at the women’s tea in glorious downtown Hyde Park yesterday.

Almost entirely good stuff abounded. Angela Menino stood up and in for her hubby, that Tom guy.  The third annual presentation of the local version of women on the year presentations (a.k.a. “Women Amongst Us”) included pots of flowers and standing O’s. Petite tea sandwiches — curried chopped chicken, cucumber, and turkey/cheese — kept the early 20th Century flavor. Three City Councilors, Consalvo, Arroyo and Pressley, showed. The upstairs at Annabelle’s was ladies who lunch, but with tea instead of martinis.

I was one of perhaps six men in a room of roughly 100 women, and come to think of it all women waitrons. I enjoyed it mostly and intend to use my bar of suffragist soap they set at each place.

The unnecessary undercurrent of male bashing was a tad surprising, Women’s History Month or not.

Two authors were there to flog their books and comment on former Hyde Park residents, the Grimké sisters, Angelina and Sarah. One, Angelina biographer Louise Knight, had trouble with men, particularly her subject’s husband. The other, poet Amy Benson Brown, corrected Knight’s male bashing without making a deal out of doing so.

The living accomplished local women included:

  • Martha McDonough — among many other civic leadership feats was cleaning up the Neponset last year.
  • Tonya Grimes — whose volunteerism has long included Civil War reenactor and active member of the Colored Ladies Christian Relief Society.
  • Sharon Grimberg — WGBH executive producer, whose series include the PBS American Experience shows, such as the recent The Abolitionists.

The deceased accomplished were the sisters Grimké. While raised as privileged daughters of a South Carolina planter, replete with slaves everywhere, they turned. They were appalled by slavery and came to Yankeeland, where they devoted themselves to abolition and later to women’s rights, particularly suffrage.

I was pleasantly surprised when I researched our newest neighborhood four years ago to discover the Weld/Grimké history. Hyde Park seems fairly apolitically suburban. The legacy of the first black U.S. soldiers, abolitionists, suffrage fighters and more was a delight. I touched on the Fairmount Hill links several times, including here and here.

exhouse

This will be a more Angelina year than most, both down here and downtown. On Monday, Oct. 7th, a celebration of Angelina’s speech will be at the John Hancock Hall, with a performance of part of her speech, Gloria Steinem reading her 1970 Equal Rights Amendment testimony to the U.S. Senate, and more. The event is in the works and will get publicity.

The spot near where she lived in the house her husband, ardent abolitionist Rev. Theodore Weld, bought for them will get a plaque this spring, Hyde Park Main Streets Executive Director Patrice Gattozzi told me. I hope she does follow up on my offers to work on this.

At the least, she should know that the house is gone. Where they lived at 212 Fairmount Avenue had a facing home, but the entrance was a carriage drive on then Pond (now Highland). We bought the 1876 map that hangs in our living room. A snatch of it here shows the old digs between Fairmount and Warren.

Rightfully the luncheon and particularly speaker Knight spoke of Angelina’s courage, conviction and accomplishment. Particularly, she was likely the first non-monarch female to address a legislative body anywhere. She spoke three times in a few days on abolition to the Massachusetts legislature. This was a time when women were forbidden or actively discouraged from speaking at all in public, and certainly not before “promiscuous audiences” as groups of mixed genders were known. She lacked neither clarity of vision nor courage.

There came the rub for me.

Knight published two works on Jane Addams and just finished a dual bio on the sisters Grimké. However, if the luncheon lecture is any indication, she can’t seem to get over the partnership between Angelina and her husband. As she spoke of Angelina, she repeatedly mentioned a letter or other contact with “her fiance Theodore.” Knight never once mentioned his name or honorific. She never said he was a renowned abolitionist (often referred to by historians of the period as “the lion of abolition”). She never spoke of how the pair complemented each other’s politics and worked together, first fighting slavery, then on to women’s rights. You’d think Rev. Weld was a groupie for this outspoken woman instead of an equal. Knight said that “her fiance” told Angelina not to speak of women’s rights at all.

I sat next to my wife, who also knows the Grimké and Weld story. I said that was a really sexist and dishonest lecture. She was a bit flippant (maybe it was the Earl Grey talking), Oh, it is women’s history month, and the other 11 months are for men.  That doesn’t cut it with me anymore than the YWCA (it is the Young Women’s Christian Association. snicker) excluding boys and men from everything while the YMCA went inclusive, becoming the family organization and having a much greater impact on the nation.

Fortunately the next author and poet was more historically accurate and not male exclusionary. Amy Benson Brown did not say, “Let me correct Ms. Knight,” but she did do that. She called Weld by his full name. She noted the partnership that led to marriage, as well as the then shocking ceremony where Weld refused to claim dominion over her and she did not say she would obey him. He was after all a Unitarian and proto-feminist. He did once before they married ask her to soft-pedal the dual message of women’s rights until the abolition of slavery was settled. He had devoted decades to abolishing slavery, knew how successful she had been in the effort, and did not want her to become ineffective with a double whammy…yet. Later, they became a powerful team fighting for suffrage and leading the first-in-the-nation protest where Hyde Park women (and their men) marched to the town hall to cast ballots that they knew would not be counted, but that had strong symbolism.

They were a team from their engagement through marriage. Better stuff than lies-of-omission history about a brave woman all alone, I say.

I grew up with a divorced mom raising two of us. Neither denigrating women nor bashing males was acceptable. That should be the order of things. I can pose my typical Unitarian and progressive self-examination. Am I clean enough to comment? I think so.

Sarah was somewhat important, particularly as the much decade-plus older sister of Angelina, who led the way in thought. Of the 14 Grimké siblings, 11 of whom survived to adulthood, the pair of sisters had the intellectual clarity and morality to fight slavery, leave their comfortable surroundings, and change a nation. Angelina was the front, the orator, and the one who partnered with a like-minded reformer/radical. What a pair! Yet, let’s not lessen Weld’s tremendous influence and dedication. Yeah, yeah, yeah, he was just a man, but pretty clearly his wife’s equal.

 

Hipster Skins

September 2nd, 2012

OK, I shouldn’t be surprised. Yet I am. Biking out through Dedham, Wellesley, Newton and back into Boston neighborhoods, I did not see a single one of the hundred or so cyclists who did not have a pricey jersey.

I felt like such an old hippie and I guess I am. I buy my tires, tubes, tools and gear from the biking monster Nashbar/Performance/Bikes Direct. I know those designer jerseys are $100 to $150 per, replete with the logo of the beer or such you are pandering to advertise. I own a few of those, because they were two-thirds or three-quarters off. My favorite in the drawer is Mickey Mouse; it is garish and gives me an advantage cycling with inattentive drivers.

Today though, I rolled out in an orange tee-shirt with a skeleton on a cycle. It was a memento from a Tour de Graves in Boston when Ray Flynn way mayor and before he became a drunken conservative ambassador to the Vatican. I was an old guy with a T instead of a stylish fashion statement.

I know in my heart of hearts and on the occasional radar machines on the roadside that I can skunk the 20, 30, 40 and 50 somethings in their high-end jerseys and multi-thousand-dollar bikes. Instead, I find myself glad to see so many cyclists out of Labor Day weekend. In Wellesley in particular, many dozens of deuces and quartets plied their Spandex-contracted flab on public byways. Bless their hearts.

Worthy and workman-like they are. I can’t begrudge them their need for attention. Let us allow they are exceptional, privileged folk who might otherwise stress a lawn chair and instead are trying to be simultaneously fit and pretty.

That’s OK to us journeyman cyclists. The pretty pretenders server their purpose. The more humans on cycles the better. Motorists slowly, every so slowly register, “Bicycles. Must share road.”

Sorry, hipsters and fogies, though. The really scrawny and big-bellied in their high-end jerseys are laughable. If you’d been a jock in your teens and gotten the hormones coursing, you wouldn’t be a flab bowl or a skinny-jeans joke now.

Let’s all ride every weekend…hell, every day.

Grooming Corridor

July 1st, 2012

The mini-kingdom of tonsorial parlors in Hyde Park is undoubtedly Logan Square. Salons and barber shops specializing for black women, white men, black men, Latinos and Latinas, plus nails and braiding abound in a tiny stretch at the start of Fairmount Avenue.

River Street goes south and turns right to head west at the HP municipal building, with Fairmount heading east. It’s that stretch of a few blocks that starts with the Logan Square Barber Shop and sees all those related but different places on both sides of the street.

Yesterday, I got a haircut with folklore and barber lore, then I chatted with a barber specializing in African-American hair. No one seems to know quite how the hair center arrived, but everyone with an opinion seems to think there’s plenty of business for all.

As a sidelight, I recall a lecture a couple of months ago by Anthony Sammarco in the nearby library. His Hyde Park (Then and Now) is harmless enough, basically a photo collection with a little commentary in a series you likely have seen. One aspect that stuck with me was that even before Hyde Park became part of Boston (1912), it had a shopping shtick. Close by Clearly Square (a few blocks west and within sight of Logan Square) was a clothing and haberdashery conglomerate. Two large department stores and fitting shops were where many, particularly area men came for suits and shirts and such.

Now for some inexplicable reason, Logan Square is where hair comes to be snipped and styled.

We around here hopped for yet more restaurants. Alas, several promising ones have open and closed in the past few years. Most recently, first TC’s Coffee couldn’t make a go of the pastry biz and the mother eatery Townsends closed with a whiff of scandal. For those, I loved her baked goods, as did so many, but she apparently did not have the traffic of the likes of the close-by Dunkin’. The restaurant with its full bar (including a remarkable collection of ales mated to the meals), was the political and social club meeting place as well as a virtual home to Council President Steve Murphy. I sat with many pols and others by happenstance, at events, for interviews at one or the other. Lackaday.

However, a few healthy restaurants remain, notably The Hyde (disclaimer, a son works there). 

We have several particularistic churches in the same stretch, but mostly it’s hair and nails. For a bit of humor, the most popular woman’s salon, big, busy and rich went south. Salon Capri was between the two squares and where my wife went. They uber-suburbanized themselves though, planting in Dedham’s Legacy Place, making themselves difficult for former customers to get to as well as more expensive.  That might have been a harbinger of doom for the hair biz here, but certainly was not.

Perhaps symbolic of the vitality of this genre was that Qadosh (oriented toward black women) just took over TC’s Coffee. It had been next to one of those odd little churches. TC’s space is airy, has big windows and benefits from the rehab the restaurant owners had performed on what used to be the preeminent hotel on the Neponset River before it decayed. After a month with not even a hand-written sign of the salon name, Qadosh has painted its door and taken the old TC’s Coffee sign out of its frame, surely in preparation for its own lighted one.

Next is Los Magicos Barber Shop (fairly new), seeming to specialize in Latinos. Across the street is Hair by Changes, a full-service place, doing nails on hands and feet, waxing, tanning, facials and such. Heading west, there’s Mona Lisa Beauty Salon, then Luu & Nails.  Close at hand is Finesse, which claims to service men, women and children, but notes shaves and fades, suggesting more of an emphasis on black men.

Up at the River Street bend, on one side is the Logan Square Barber Shop. Opposite are a braiding salon and women’s salon that notes both they speak Spanish and can relax hair.

On my haircut day, I was in the chair with Al, who is widely called Elvis for his appearance. He spoke of his background as the Wahlberg boys’ barber from his Dorchester days. He is never short of opinions. He could not explain how so many hair joints migrated to Logan Square. However, he was plain that he had been surprised to find his shop the only one left in Hyde Park oriented to white men.

Hyde Park covers a lot of streets, but he may be right. I can’t recall another. When we live in Jamaica Plain, we ended up in Roslindale Square for haircuts and begrudgingly, finally tried Logan Square BS. We like the guys, haircuts and prices.

In several towns, I’ve had black barbers tell me they’d take a chance on my thin, Nordic type hair, but they didn’t know how to cut it right. Here, I’ve cut the hair of two of my sons. One has my kind of hair and the other has the thick, dark hair from my wife’s side of the family. Those require very different skills and electric razor guides.

I stopped by Finesse on the way from my haircut to speak with a barber out front for a smoke. He too couldn’t figure out how so many salons and barber shops concentrated in three blocks. Yet, he said everyone seemed busy and thriving.

Now I can’t stop myself from thinking that if the barber shops and salons do so well, they’ll need to invest their profits. Might they finance restaurants?

 

Phat and Fat: Hungry?

April 27th, 2012

Several times in my adult life, I’ve trimmed down. The old way followed the platitudinous calories-in/calories-out advice that most medical and nutrition sorts still flog. I have come to disdain that after much reading and experimenting.

Those seeming death marches featured deprivation. Feeling hungry to ravenous seemed like an affirmation of will, of virtue. Pounds disappeared, at the cost of feeling self-punished. I could hardly wait to reach a target weight and stop that silliness.

In contrast, nearly all the low-carb versions I’ve seen and one I’ve adapted for myself go for sustainable eating patterns. Unlike just-eat-fewer-calories-than-your-body-needs, eat-right-foods-until-you’re-comfortable is, as the newer cliché goes, a plan. There’s no rush to escape.

A fundamental principle in Atkins or Duke or so many other low-carb regimens is worrying far less about calories, and instead counting carbs. Have four, six, even eight ounces of fish or meat for lunch or dinner. That of course depends on your size and activity level of the day. Do without the bread, potatoes, rice and other starches. Have a cup or two of greens and other low-carb veggies.

I confess that the veggie part is easier for me than some who grew up food picky. I worked with my grandfather in his gigantic gardens for 11 summers. Asparagus, lettuce, squash, kale, string beans, cabbage, peppers and on and on were in my hands and on the table shortly after picking. We ate what we got to the table and it was all damned good.

Those who didn’t grow up with an abundance of fresh vegetables or got mushy ones from cans might have a problem. For us, my grandmother froze and jarred many hundreds of pounds of them for winter and spring.

If you’re considering low-carb, keep the key concept in mind that you won’t go hungry. If you’re masochist, you can always stick with the modified starvation plan so popular in medical circles.

This series includes:

Call it Lifestyle on the intellectual and emotional commitment to low-carb
Watching the Struggle on my grandmothers diet woes
Wrestling with Fat on overcoming fear of dietary fats
Hunger? do you starve on a low-carb diet?
Low-Carb Eats on what’s on the menu in the regimen
How Much of What Food on calories-in/calories-out cliché
Dr. Cadaver on mindless trust in group averages
Who’s Counting on body fast v. weight
Part 1 on pants don’t lie
Tags: 

 

1870 Fairmount Rumble

February 19th, 2012

agwMy hill in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood has had its moments. When we moved on Fairmount Hill over two years ago, we figured it looked like just another undistinguished almost-suburban area. Heaven knows the few plaques (at the bottom of the hill, thank you very much) say little and nothing political. However, we did learn that the Grimké sisters, Sarah and Angelina, lived here. Angelina (right) with her husband, Rev. Theodore Weld, and Sarah next door.

Their houses are gone. While Victorian homes of the period are on the block, modest brick two-story ones (and no plaque) are there now. Maybe the UUA will chip in. They like to claim Weld, and in truth, at least late in life, he and Angelina did become Unitarians.

I already cited their abolition and women’s suffrage work. There is a a link also to the tale including the mixed race Grimké brothers Archibald and Francis whom the sisters supported, saw educated and helped into starting successful careers as a lawyer and diplomat and a preacher. That was the good side of do-gooder guilt, a.k.a. social activism. The sisters discovered that their brother who remained in South Carolina has fathered the boys by their enslaved mother. Nothing like blood to bring anti-slavery sentiments full circle.

The brothers Grimké and one’s daughter, likely American’s first published lesbian poet as well as activist in the family mode, Angelina Weld Grimké all spent time on this hill. For Weld and the sisters, it was a base of operation to correct the wrongs of slavery and suppression of women. I like to think that if there are such things as spirits, those of the several generations of these remarkable people hum and inspire here still.

Over at Marry in Massachusetts, I just added a wee rant on what may befall the creeps and crazies throttling women in November. We can extrapolate pretty easily as to what Sarah and both Angelinas would make of the current GOP boys’ policies. Plus, now they’d have a vote to do something in addition to writing and talking.

Parity, Parody, Identity

February 15th, 2012

Wasn’t it the Brits who muttered their wait to sports fairness standards? How did we Americans become so team-parity obsessed?

As a boomer, I grew up with a few great teams in various sports drubbing the feebs. It really did work. It really did fit American history and ideals. Yankees, Celtics, Cowboys, Lakers, Canadians, Packers and a small set of sports bullies were the top. It was as Willy S’s Cassius had it:

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable grav
es.

Instead, along the path of sports entertainment, the oligopolies and monopolies permitted by law as well as custom could not have that in the mundo world of advertising and broadcasting contracts. With millions to hundreds of millions of dollars looking for pockets, parity became the watchword. With artificial and intrusive aid, the very worst teams in a league were supposed to be pretty damned close to the very best.  That resulted from business decisions, what would maximize the advertising and broadcasting cash flow. To hell with excitement and ideals!

Unlike the American cultural norms boomers heard from their WWII parents, survival of the fittest became everybody has a chance to be the winner. We saw that creeping pseudo-equality, feel-good artifices starting for us in the 1980s. Our first son went to the hippy-dippy Beacon Hill Nursery School and then played Little League on the Hill against other downtown teams. He was a member of the league championship team. What that really meant is that they always had at least one superior pitcher. That was by far the single victory margin…game, after game, after game. By the time second and third sons were playing soccer, the parity factor was in total control.

It was not at all like real life of business or even a decent college. There, brutal unfairness was the norm. Boss’ child? Fellow alumnus? Sorority sister? Trivial controlled the real.

In the 90s and beyond, on school and kid-sports levels, it mirrored the professional athletic world. With no intent to disparage the developmentally disabled, we can note that the aptest comparison is special Olympics. Everyone’s a winner. Everyone’s a medalist. We, as my eldest parroted his nursery school mates, have the same.

It was more elaborate and rigid in professional sports. Artificial mechanisms like salary caps, luxury taxes, and most heavy handed, player drafts that gave the teams with the worst records first pick of the college and high-school grads are now the norm. There was no attempt to disguise the aim. Even the poorest teams in the smallest markets were supposed to have what is euphemistically called a level playing field.

Back to the thrilling days of post-WWII America (for me) and earlier for my parents and grandparents’ generations, the best teams really did seem like dynasties. Lesser teams and their fans rejoiced if they beat one of the big kids. On those rare years when the traditional champions were not in the playoffs, there was Cinderella magic on the radio, TV, in the newspapers and surely in public conversation. There was that American set of ideasl of aspiration, of bettering oneself, of coming from low to climb high.You know,  success through work and talent.

Now the best are severely punished. How dare they show up the petty men?

Maybe it was in part because I moved ever few years as a child. I would glom onto winning teams. Then I was a fan. My mother’s family came from the Eastern panhandle of West Virginia, with no professional sports, but close enough to D.C., Baltimore and with a stretch, Pittsburgh. Instead of those cities’ teams, I had the freedom of the nomad in picking my heroes, my champions. As a young’un, I’d stand up to my uncles, great-uncles and such with their fandom of the Orioles, Pirates, Senators, and Steelers and such. I’d recite the glories and stats of the Yankees, of Y.A. Tittle’s Giants and such. I was a sports slut, one who loved winners.

Those picnic debates no longer work. Not only are my great-uncles dead, but plastic parity humbles the mighty. It also robs the athletes and fans of both dreams and pride. Like the Japanese cliché that the nail that stands up will be pounded down, the parity police either did not know or lost the ideals of American culture, literature, theater, movies and television. We were a nation whose people won in the end despite shortcomings, being outnumbered, and without expectations of victory. Any American could succeed with determination, some luck, and relentless optimism.

We lost that and are poorer for it. We have the same.

Big Tree in Small Town of Hyde Park

November 27th, 2011

I know small towns and attended a lot of parades, tree lightings, and speeches in childhood. This afternoon’s tree lighting in Hyde Park’s Logan Square had that feel.

Yeah, yeah, there was Boston’s Mayor Tom Menino on stage with Police Commissioner Ed Davis, state Rep. Angelo Scaccia, Councilor Rob Consalvo, Council President Steve Murphy and a local bank head. Fact is though, it was pretty small town…and delightful.

HPTM Da Mare loves this stuff. He’s at his best working crowds and going one on one with present and future voters.
An unusual appearance by his shy wife, Angela, got her a reward of a posy. HPmeninos
HPtree This was the 31st lighting of one of the few living Christmas trees on Boston property. The 45 footer was grown from its original 8 feet. Who’s counting, but the MC read that it has 1200 lights.
The one-way guys, Murphy, Consalvo, Menino, Scaccia HP1wayguys

Pix Notes: These are far and without flash. You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons.

Several hundred HP’ers milled around the stage when they weren’t at the kiddie rides or grabbing fried dough. It really was a small-town event.

The steps and plaza of the municipal building had maybe 100 kids from elementary through high school. There were carols and Broadway holiday tunes, a local version of the Rockettes, and sincere singing all around.

The minister giving the invocation went oddly on and on about 9/11 and the hopes we retained afterward. It ended up not being so strange.

The local tie-in was when the emcee and the mayor spoke of Mark Bavis, a local hockey player who grew up to be a pro hockey scout and who died on Flight 175, which hit the South Tower on 9/11. His mother, Mary was on stage, next to Angela. They presented her with a large framed image of the tree.

In a very nice, very Tom Menino touch, he had her pull the  lever to light the 1,200 bulbs.

He is mayor of Boston, but he’s also the unofficial mayor of our shared neighborhood.

The Colonel’s Surprise

November 14th, 2011

Not the Dead Sea Scrolls, but the cookbook that Harland Sanders left may be useful and amusing. A.k.a. Colonel Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, he hand typed 200 pages of his favorite country foods, replete with anecdotes. That manuscript recently appeared in Yum! Brands files. Word from the company is that they’ll make the book available online.

Photo Note: I claim fair use of this crop of a Stars & Stripes pic of Harland Sanders. There seems to be no known public-domain images of him and this appears adapted and to illustrate him, with credit.

s&ssanders

It’s certain without seeing the work that his recipes will be more authentic and tasty than what the KFC chain serves. It’s had three owners since he sold his interest in 1964. Along the way, the chicken allegedly has kept its secret 11 herbs and spices he specified, but little else.

The company may withhold some of the book’s recipes and is testing some now. Among the personal snippets it revealed was his two life rules — Do all you can and do it the best you can. It’s the only way you ever get that feeling of accomplishing something.

The only time I ever chatted with him was by phone the year before he died, 1980. I was doing an article for American Management Association’s Management Review maggy on the ramifications of when the CEO has celebrity status, which was pretty uncommon at the time. I don’t think I ended up using any of his material, but I found him charming.

First of all, he’d have none of the celebrity thing and second, he had nothing to do with the company’s board or other management in a long time. He was delightfully humble, admitting to being the founder of the giant franchise operation, but referring to himself as “just a chicken plucker.” He had run gas stations, frying chicken to supplement that, and considered himself still a country boy.

As he said to others, he was not happy with that the subsequent owners did to all the side dishes that would make a Southern meal out of just fried chicken. He had particular criticism for the new versions of his mashed potatoes and gravy. He said the result tasted “like wallpaper paste.”

I’ll be checking the Yum! site. What would the Colonel eat…and cook?