Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas & New Year. Passed.

Started this post some time ago and, though time has moved on, I didn't want to leave this one in the Draft bin. So here's a flash back to the season just past.

The California swag.

The festive window 'o' teddy bears, round the corner in San Francisco.

Decorating at the library for the children's Christmas story.

My mom's madonna, out of storage for Christmas.

Table and prezzies
at the ready.

Friends, charades, finger food, bubbly and a fire -- a great way to welcome in the New Year!

It looks like 2011 will bring transformation and completion that will be the result of an unusual perspective and require some sacrifice which I will have the courage to make given the support of my community. It will be interesting to see how this new year, and the new decade which it begins, unfolds.

Wishing you Health and Happiness as we move into 2011.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Corn Tiger Update, Part I

I am back home in No California and recovered from the cold I picked up along the way. Past time to catch you up and, of course, I must start with the Dear Daughter and the Corn Tiger.

One of his favorite toys is the stuffed octopus rocking horse that plays five tunes that his Manny George gave him. It's the type of gift that the Mom and Dad look at and say "Huh...", but that turns out to be the child's chosen plaything. He can just about get on and get off by himself, and he likes to bounce along to the "Colors of the Rainbow" song while the whole family sings along.

The family - the Dear Daughter, the Dad, the Manny and the Grand Boy, made the trip over from Brooklyn to Manhattan for Thanksgiving and joined the family at Central Park West for dinner. Iris provided the beautiful setting, she, Asia and I collaborated on the feast.

I got to give Corn Tiger lot's 'o' keeses and his Mom got to introduce him to ginger ale...

"Wow! What was That?!"

He got to sit in the "big boy", Enzo's, high chair and play with his toys, and Enzo got to learn about sharing.

There was much to be Thankful for!

More soon, Love for now.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanks. Giving.

The Dear Daughter and the Corn Tiger, Williamsburg Brooklyn, November 2010.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ancien Combattant Jour (Veteran's Day)

Yesterday was Veteran's Day here in France as well. It was a school
holiday and sunny, after a few days of chilly rain, so it had a festive air.

Monsieur le Maire, as we all call the mayor of our little village, loves to come to civic
and cultural events and he always gives a little speech. I love the fact that he wore a
tri-color ribbon across his chest for this one and that he had written a prepared speech.

The Utile, our little grocery store in the village, was closing at 12:30, so I dashed out door to pick up a couple of things for dinner and was surprised by the group that had gathered to
honor the veterans just around the corner from my house. Some had stopped in their
tracks on the way to the bakery or the Utile and stood respectfully listening to the mayor's speech in silence. The veteran's band played a short number afterwards and that was it.
A group flocked to the cafe for a coffee or a beer, others continued on to
the bakery for their baguette or to the Utile for butter.
Short, respectful and sweet.

Hugs from Here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

La Danse des Branches (The Dance of Branches)

The road to Puylaurens from Soreze.

I wrote this poem a couple of years ago, but it kept coming to mind
as I drove along the country lanes in today's changeable weather.

Les Platanes
with thanks to Emily Dickinson

There’s a certain slant of light
falling through a tunnel of trees
that fills my soul with clear delight
as branches dance in rainy breeze.

The silver swirling beams of light
reach toward me filled with rain
as I drive home on Friday night
glad to be in France again.

Long corridors of les platanes
arms held high in salutation
swaying with the light and rain
bless me, move me to elation.

The music swells, I feel the beat
the car and I swing down the lane
no longer sitting in my seat
I’m light that’s rising in the rain.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Because everyone needs...

...a little Corn Tiger in their life!

Been missing the boy so I had to consolidate some of the pictures the Dear Daughter sent by mail of our Boy's Life in Brooklyn. Just looking through them makes me ache to hold the boy.

Water play with Dad.
(She sent a video of him in the sink singing, but he's nekkid, so that one is for Nana's eyes only.)

Corn Tiger with his tiger...look at those chub rolls =o)

Enjoying the pull of gravity...

Sitting up like a big boy at 6 months.

Nearly standing in his new, cool mini-Vans, ~7 months.

And now, for my last trick...
Love that Funny Redheaded Boy!

Hugs from Here,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Virtual JFK: Vietnam if Kennedy Had Lived

The CCiiff Film Festival ended last night when the final film, Empire of Silver (Bai Yin Di Guo), VO Chinese with English subtitles, screened in Revel. The festival was truly a bringing together of many cultures, with films coming from China, Africa, Europe, South America, USA, ..., with many points of view and in many languages, subtitled in French or English.

Of the 13 films which I saw in the ten days of the festival, there was one which gave me some new perspective on my own country and where we are today: Virtual JFK: Vietnam if Kennedy Had Lived, which screened last week in Soreze at the Abbaye auditorium.

Virtual JFK focuses on "the way President Kennedy dealt with six important foreign policy crises (Cuba to Vietnam) without going to war. The film puts forth the argument that "critical decisions about the use of restraint and coercive diplomacy often require greater acts of courage than the use of force and that character matters greatly in Presidential leadership." Koji Masutani, Director of Virtual JFK

Masutani was born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1981. He spent most of his childhood in Hong Kong before attending a private boarding school in Massachusetts. He received a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Brown University in 2005.

The six crises with which Kennedy dealt during his presidency that are the focus of this film are: Bay of Pigs (April 1961), Laos Crisis (1961), Berlin Wall Crisis (August-November 1961), Showdown over Vietnam (November 1961), Cuban Missile Crisis (October 1962) and, finally, the Vietnam Withdrawal (October 1963).

The movie uses archival footage to review the ups and downs of Kennedy's presidency and the public and staff/advisor pressures that were put on him at and after each of the crisis decision points.

In dealing with Vietnam shortly before he died, JFK agreed to a plan devised by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to withdraw most Americans in South Vietnam by late 1965, with the first 1,000 to be withdrawn within three months.

JFK’s plans were reversed by his successor, Lyndon Johnson, who decided to increase the American presence in Vietnam to 500,000 troops. The war stretched across several generations and killed more than three million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans.

You can read a more thorough synopsis of the film on this Virtual JFK site page under Press Material.

One of the things I liked about this film was that I did not find it polemical, but rather felt that it invited viewers to draw their own conclusions.

When Kennedy was elected in the Fall of 1959, I had just turned 11 years-old and was living with my family in a house out in the countryside in Hertfordshire, England. My father was a Lt Colonel in the US Air Force and was on assignment there. We did not have a television at home for our entire stay in England. Our main source of news and entertainment in the evening was the BBC on the big old radio in the living room. We did not return to the US until the summer of 1962, when we moved to our next posting at Langley AFB in Virginia.

As I remember it, my father felt connected to Kennedy and proud of his election to the presidency. They were both of Boston Irish Catholic stock, my father from Quincy, on south Boston Bay, and Kennedy originally from Brookline, some eight miles inland from Quincy; both had red hair and three brothers; both went to Catholic school and fought in WWII in the Pacific theater.

But after watching this movie, I suspect my father must have felt conflicted as the Kennedy presidency progressed, for Lt Col Wm J Norton, my father, was a committed, career Air Force man who, I discovered through recent research, was part of the support team (a weather group commander) for spy missions over central Europe and Russia. As Virtual JFK documents, Kennedy decided time and again, against the advice of his military advisers and to much scorn from hawkish Republicans, not to use military force.

A lot of the old film footage from the Kennedy years showed him fielding questions from an auditorium filled with reporters. He gave smart, powerful, informed answers often balanced with humor. In comparison, the presidential press conferences I have seen through much of my adulthood seem overly managed, the president often ill-informed or less than candid. Admittedly, I generally avoid broadcast television and have done for much of the past thirty years. But you cannot avoid seeing clips and I have watched my fair share.

I was a sheltered and naive 14 year-old and just starting the ninth grade when Kennedy was murdered. I remember being stunned and knowing in my gut that this was a very bad thing for the US. I had similar feelings, astonishment and dismay, after watching Virtual JFK.

That is what a strong, intelligent president who is willing to stand up for peace looks like, I thought. I wasn't old enough to realize that at fourteen.
What a loss.

"The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. We do not want a war. We do not now expect a war...We shall be prepared if others wish it. We shall be alert to try to stop it. But we shall also do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just."
Excerpt from John F Kennedy
commencement address at American University in Washington, D.C.,
June 10, 1963

Hugs from Afar,

Monday, October 4, 2010

C&C Intercultural Film Festival

The Culture & Cultures Intercultural Film Festival has been making good use of the two theaters at the Abbaye Ecole in Soreze this week. Anne and I have been running around the corner and up the street to help out, selling and punching tickets.

Images from The Mountain Thief, the opening movie for the C&CIFF in Soreze.

The Mountain Thief is the first feature film by young director Gerry Balasta. In 2004, Gerry went back to the Philippines, where he was born and raised, and started an acting workshop open to the residents of the Philippine’s largest garbage-collecting town of Promised Land and Urban, Payatas. He used residents of the town who graduated from his workshop as the actors in The Mountain Thief when he shot it on location at the garbage-collecting town with a small crew.

In 2009, Gerry started THE MOUNT HOPE PROJECT, to assist the scavenger-actors who acted in his film. In late 2009, with money raised through the supporters and fans of the film, two of the children involved in the film received medical care, including surgery for one child with a club foot deformity.

Gerry Balasta was present at the screening to answer questions from the audience about the film and his ongoing work with the Mount Hope Project. It was a moving and inspiring start to this remarkable film festival, which, for the second year, is screening some of its films in our little village of Soreze.

More soon.
Love for now.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cet Homme

Leonard Cohen jumped me in an internet back alley today
and took me "a thousand kisses deep", over and over again.
You'll see what I mean at 5:55 in this video when
he delivers a version of his poem of that name.
"I'm Your Man" is a good song, but it was the poem
that sealed the deal for me.

A Thousand Kisses Deep
by Leonard Cohen

Don’t matter if the road is long
Don’t matter if it’s steep
Don’t matter if the moon is gone
And the darkness is complete
Don’t matter if we lose our way
It’s written that we’ll meet
At least, that’s what I heard you say
A thousand kisses deep

I loved you when you opened
Like a lily to the heat
You see, I’m just another snowman
Standing in the rain and sleet
Who loved you with his frozen love
His second hand physique
With all he is and all he was
A thousand kisses deep

I know you had to lie to me
I know you had to cheat
You learned it on your father’s knee
And at your mother’s feet
But did you have to fight your way
Across the burning street
When all our vital interests lay
A thousand kisses deep

I’m turning tricks
I’m getting fixed
I’m back on boogie street
I’d like to quit the business
But I’m in it, so to speak
The thought of you is peaceful
And the file on you complete
Except what I forgot to do
A thousand kisses deep

Don’t matter if you’re rich and strong
Don’t matter if you’re weak
Don’t matter if you write a song
The nightingales repeat
Don’t matter if it’s nine to five
Or timeless and unique
You ditch your life to stay alive
A thousand kisses deep

The ponies run
The girls are young
The odds are there to beat
You win a while, and then it’s done
Your little winning streak
And summon now to deal with your invincible defeat
You live your life as if it’s real
A thousand kisses deep

I hear their voices in the wine
That sometimes did me seek
The band is playing Auld Lang Syne
But the heart will not retreat
There’s no forsaking what you love
No existential leap
As witnessed here in time and blood
A thousand kisses deep

Go deep!


Friday, September 17, 2010

'Mater Matters

It took until the end of August and into September for the tomatoes to really start to ripen well this year. But ripen they finally did, I am here to report.

'maters and the purple beans. Grew these beans from seed my neighbor Ren saved. She didn't get many purple beans, but got the purple speckled "neighbor beans" from seed I saved. So we both had neighbor beans.

I was picking a basket this size about every four days for the three weeks before I left CA.

Real slicin' 'maters - big red "Mortgage Lifters", yellow "Purple Smudge" and little but tasty "Black Brandywine". The salsa was great for breakfast with local eggs, avocado and corn tortillas.

Fabulous just to look at in the afternoon kitchen light.

I ate as many as I could, gave some away (that double-sized "Big Yellow Oxheart" in the top picture went to my son and daughter in law in San Francisco, where the garden tomatoes didn't quite make it this year), and made several batches of baked tomato sauce. Couldn't be easier: olive oil the 9/12 glass dish, cut tomatoes in quarters, put in dish with several un-peeled cloves of garlic, bake at 350 for 1/2 hour and then leave in the warm oven overnight. Presto: tomato sauce to freeze. (I squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins into the sauce after it is done and take out some of the tomato skins.)

They were still comin on pretty strong, so I had to pack these up in a big plastic container and bring them with me in my carry on when I flew over to France. I haven't found this variety of heirloom tomatoes in our fabulous Saturday market in Revel, at least thus far. Can't wait to buy eggs from the sweet farm wives, olives out of a big half barrel, walnut bread with levain nature and local goat cheese and yogurt au marché le matin.

More soon from Soreze.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Turn Around

Written by: Harry Belafonte, Alan Greene & Malvina Reynolds

Where are you going
My little one, little one
Where are you going
My baby, my own

I know, it is past time for some pictures of the Grand Boy.

I was talking to a friend this morning about pictures of the boy and the blog and realized what has been keeping me from writing a new post about the boy: talking about him just makes me sadder that he has moved back to Brooklyn =,o}... Well, there. It's out.

So, here's a couple from just before they left...

Turn around and you’re two
Turn around and you’re four
Turn around and you’re a young boy
Going out of the door

He'd just started being interested in food. With a vengeance! When we gave him his first bite of white Babcock peach (picture on the left), well suck really, since he doesn't even have a tooth nub yet, he didn't stop gnawing until all the juice was gone, then wiggled and skooched in a demand for more.

Turn around and you’re tiny
Turn around and you’re grown
Turn around and you’re a young wife
With babes of your own

Turn around, turn around
Turn around and you’re a young wife
With babes of your own

We took him up to the Eel River at the beginning of August to stay in a cabin we have been renting for a few days each summer since his mom, the Dear Daughter, was nine months old.

He sussed out that leaves floating on water thing, got to sit at the campfire one night while he fell asleep in his mama's arms, and got to chomp on some ambrosia melon and suck up a ripe apricot. Some Fun!

Hey, Mom! Don't take a picture, my face is all mushy.

My dear friend LC was up at the Eel River with us this year. She captured this family portrait.
And this one of me and the Corn Tiger.

I feel those little lips on my neck every time I look at it.

Turn around and they’re young
Turn around and they’re old
Turn around and they’re gone
And we’ve no one to hold

Turn around, turn around
Turn around and they’re gone
And we’ve no one to hold

This may all seem like just so much bathos, but that is just how I'm feeling about the boy these days when I get out the pictures, i.e. not sure whether to laugh or cry.

More soon.
Love for now.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back from Whidbey

Yeah, I know, I have been MfB (Missing from Blogland) for awhile now, but, you know how it can get. Real Life just takes over sometimes. In a Good Way.

This last chapter, which I am going to write about first in order to build the suspense...(you haven't had pictures of the Corn Tiger for awhile...), takes place at Fort Casey on Whidbey Island, Washington, where I spent nine days, August 13-22nd, for the time, at the Whidbey Writers Workshop Summer Residency.

I am still in the after glow. What a wonderful, nurturing time we had! And I am sure I do not speak for myself alone.

Many of us, including the teachers, live in the "writer's quarters" on the fort (left picture below), old officer's base housing and/or barracks, from which it is a quick walk to class (right picture below, discussion after the Fiction Workshop class).

We attend small group lectures with writers such as award winning non-fiction authors Tim Eagan (right picture below, being watched by David Wagoner; books: The Worst Hard Time, Breaking Blue, etc.) and Scott Russell Sanders (books: Hunting for Hope, A Conservationist's Journey, etc.), contemporary "laugh out loud" novelist, Mary Guterson (books: We Are All Fine Here and Going to the Dogs), poet Marvin Bell, who taught for forty years at the Iowa Writers Workshop and has retired to Port Townsend, WA, (books: Mars Being Red (Copper Canyon Press) , Rampant, Nightworks: Poems, 1962-2000, etc.), CYA and adult novelist Anjali Banerjee (books: Sea Glass Summer, Invisible Lives, etc.) and Virginia Euwer Wolff, author of the award winning, young adult series Make Lemonade.

We learn more techniques for the crafting of fiction, poetry, non fiction and children's literature from teachers such as Kathleen Alcala, Bruce Holland Rogers, Wayne Ude, David Wagoner, Carolyn Wright, Lawrence (Larry) W Cheek, Ana Maria Spagna, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand (right hand picture above) and Bonnie Becker, who have collectively won too many awards and published far too many books to list here. Go check out the faculty page for the Whidbey Writers Workshop here and/or click on the links inserted at their names above.

During breaks and after workshop, lectures, readings, and meals, we walk on the beach or up to the lighthouse, ride bikes and get together to socialize. This year was the 1st Annual W3 Polar Bear Swim -

--see the hardy souls getting ready. They said the water was "not that cold",

and the first, well, at least in my experience, bonfire at the beach --

It was a beautiful night and a fabulous residency. Can't wait to do it again next year!


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