Friday, October 24, 2008

Sunrise in Wenatchee, Washington

The eastern side of the Cascade range is beautiful country. Wenatchee, Washington sits on the west side of the Columbia river and yesterday morning, as the sun rose and filtered through smoke from grass field fires to the east, the sight was spectacular.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Making History, 2008

In 1955, I was 5 years old. My family went on a vacation, camping across the country to lots of the great National Parks. We left Ohio and headed for Terrell, Texas, my dad's home town, to visit family. Terrell is now a suburb of Dallas, but in those days it was mostly a farming town. My great aunt's house didn't have central heat or plumbing. Lots of the streets were still unpaved, buildings my dad remembered from the nineteen-teens were still there, and segregation was in full force. A year earlier, they had filled in the town swimming pool rather than let black children swim. Some of our relatives talked about "the niggers" and how they should be shot. My dad asked them not to talk that way.

In the 50s I remember my dad's Uncle Earl and Aunt Fern coming to visit in Ohio. They were from Florida and they talked about the black men that worked for them in their orange groves. They didn't call them black men. Nigras. After all, they were in the north. My dad asked them not to call them that--they were people who worked for them and deserved their respect.

My parents were active in the Civil Rights movement. My dad took Bob and me to sit-ins at barber shops. I didn't understand why we had to sit there just because Nick refused to cut a black man's hair. I went to a lot of dinners in the basements of Baptist churches where my white face was in a sea of black. I saw kids from school there that I didn't have much to do with in school--it was the north, and we were integrated, but not really. Black men had their hair cut by black men. Black women cleaned our houses. I saw Malcolm X speak at a church in Cleveland after he had become more moderate. I saw Cleveland slums, I saw Cleveland burn. I saw Cleveland change.

In 1965, my dad, mom, and I went on a grand tour of the country. My last vacation as a kid. We came home through the south. Drinking fountains and restrooms said "White Only". Restaurants and cafes were still segregated. It seemed impossible to me that this way of life could ever change, regardless of the number of barber shops I sat in or the Baptist churches I ate in. Blind hatred and fear are too strong. I went to college and left my father's activism at home in Ohio. Sure, I protested the war after my girlfriend-who-became-my-wife, and her 1930s Communist parents convinced me the war was wrong and the world could be a better place. They were right. Other people continued to sit-in, march, sing, and die. How could they ever make a difference? How could they stare down the hatred? How could they face the fear?

Of course, it turns out it did make a difference when people sat, marched, sang, put their lives on the line, and died. It has always made a difference. They stared down hatred and they faced down fear. Thanks to them, today, I voted for Barack Obama to be the next president of the United States. Today I can hear my dad telling me that a man should be judged by what's in him and what he will do with it. My dad didn't always do that, but I think he always tried. He died last year, just short of 98 years old. I know who he would have voted for today--the man with the insides that show what the measure of this country can be. And he would have tipped his hat to all those who faced down hatred and said no to fear.

My vote today was for my dad, for me, and for a vision of what our country can be. My dad's the one on the left, by the way.

A Beautiful Afternoon in Portland: Walking for Groceries, Stopping for a Beer, and Dropping By a Friend's

For a day that started out cold, it sure turned into a beauty! We walked over to New Seasons to do some shopping. Walking along Ainsworth there were enough leaves to start to kick them. We passed under a beautiful sugar maple with glorious red and gold leaves. It reminds me that, as little as I cared for life in Ithaca, the fall colors make it a beautiful place on earth...

Outside the store was a guy carving, and I mean carving, a pumpkin, a box of pumpkins (thanks for telling us they are big...), some fall veggies on display, and a basket of pomegranates. Add a wisp of smoke in the air--not from burning leaves, but from Chuck Hinton's BBQ joint, the best ribs in Portland--and you had the perfect fall day.

Well, not quite, but it turned perfect when we stopped at the Concordia Ale House (one of our local taverns) for a TG Golden for Nancy and a HUB IPA for me. Then, a quick stop by Karen's at the house we moved to a year ago. What could top that? Our ballots were in the mail.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Beautiful Afternoon in Portland: Brunch with Old Friends, Marcella Hazan at Powell's, and a Stroll in The Pearl

not our house
Glorious fall weather was in store for Portland this weekend. And fall activities filled Saturday: a trip to Gales Creek to pick up a load of wood for the fireplace, cleaning up Giardino Vicola (our garden in the alley), raking leaves, and raking more leaves. Two hundred thousand down, a million to go! Many in our neighborhood take Halloween very seriously and the houses are sprouting decorations like political yard signs. Only some decorations are big, puffy, and they move, like the black cat and the pirate in the treasure chest in the movie!

Sunday brunch found us at Meriwether's in NW Portland for a great meal with Aunt Anne of the Basement, our good friends Chris and Nancy from Corvallis, and their son, Bryan, who lives in Portland. The food was great and we lingered and laughed. Pictured to the left is Aunt Anne of the Basement's corned beef hash with poached egg and Hollandaise sauce.

The restaurant has their own garden and we each left with a bag of red and yellow peppers and baby eggplant, gratis.

Nancy, Aunt Anne of the Basement, and I then headed to Powell's for an appearance by Marcella Hazan, the renowned Italian chef and author. She's now 84 and lives in Longboat Key, near Sarasota, but she's charming and had some interesting stories to tell. She offered two pieces of great advice: don't cook with too many ingredients; and the first time, follow the recipe exactly, the next time start making it your own recipe. Nancy stood in line and now I have an autographed page in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking--the olive oil and butter splattered page with the recipe for Chicken Fricassee! Here's her describing trying to cook while Victor, her husband and recipe scribe, tries to get the detail we all expect in recipes. The problem was, they were working on two different recipes!

Something I like About the Pearl District in Portland

Nancy and I strolled through the Pearl District today on the way to and from Powell's City of Books. I like that there are still industrial businesses mixed in with condos, Whole Foods, and lots and lots of small shops, most of which feature names that don't describe what they sell, use one or more foreign or made up words in their names, and have signs and logos that probably cost about a year's profit given the fact that not many people seemed to be in them.

The industrial operations do seem to have had their exteriors freshened up, I wonder at whose expense--their own or the entity that is The Pearl...

Here are a couple of my favorites. Bearing Service Company, with its rooms of engine parts--heads, short blocks, and fly wheels--and Phillips Electronics, its Alarm Systems sign still guarding the intersection of Flanders and NW 11th.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dateline Venzia IV: Upadated News Here and Now!

Loyal readers know that Nancy and I were in Venezia when the ban on feeding pigeons went into effect May 1, 2008. I was skeptical. The ban was met with a Pigeon Feed Dealer protest (reported real-time on this blog) and disappointed thousands of small children and Asian tourists, the former who liked to run among the birds scattering them and the latter who liked to pose with Columbia livia perched on their heads. How could the government not cave into pressure that was bound to build?

Well, here's the latest from ANSA, an Italian news service:

The city has also launched a drive to rid St Mark's of the pigeons many people associate with it by banning feed vendors and taking other moves to shoo the birds away, in the face of protests from animal rights groups. Codella said Wednesday the square's pigeon population was down from its historic levels of 20,000 to a bare thousand. ''Just a few months after the feed ban most of the square is free of the animals who have moved off to find food on the islands,'' she said. She said they had ''almost completely disappeared'' from the logge on Palazzo Ducale (the Doge's Palace), once their favourite gathering spot.

It's hard to imagine St. Mark's free of pigeons. But, the real news is that the city hasn't quit at pigeons. St. Mark's was also full of trash (a lot in the form of McDonalds and Burger King leavings, dropped by tourists who sat on the steps and picniced. Aside: can you imagine passing up a panini for a quarter-pounder? Well. here's more from ANSA:

Venice woke up Wednesday to find a pretty corner of St Mark's Square free of food wrappers, litter and the signs of people sleeping rough. The city council, which has launched a 'decorum' drive, took the unusual step of chaining off the Piazzetta dei Leoncini to keep takeaway fans and tramps away. ''For the first time in years one of the most beautiful places in the city isn't full of trash,'' said city decorum pointman Augusto Salvadori. Venice Artistic Superintendent Renata Codello said authorities wanted to ''see the results of shutting off the piazzetta and decide whether less drastic measures might also work''. Venice launched its decorum drive two years ago to fight a modern wave of scruffiness and lax behaviour it said was dragging its image down. Among other things it has employed so-called 'City Angels', a band of young women, to tell tourists to put their shirts back on, stop putting their feet in fountains and have their picnics away from the most popular sites.

A, Venezia, what will be next in your efforts to return to La Sernenissima, ban cruise ships? One can only hope...