Sushi Friday


Edo Ichi 

This review was delayed because of visits to Tisumi and Kuyi, which scored better.

What I like: Lots of free parking, though I walked in through the kitchen because the lot is not obvious from the street and not that well marked. The décor offers relaxing appeal with soft colors and minimal clutter. Asian-style music adds to the mis-en-scene. Several folks provide friendly, unobtrusive service. The miso soup has a good balance of seaweed and tofu but lacks that strong umami flavor. A gorgeous display of sashimi promises terrific results. The chefs decorate every plate of rolls and sushi using wasabi as glue. The generous slices of sashimi live up to the promise with two each of yellowtail, salmon, snapper, and three of tuna. Lots of undyed ginger and a good hunk of fresh wasabi round out an excellent lunch. I took it as a good sign that a several parties arrived after the normal lunch hour on a Saturday in late August. The meal concludes with a treat of three pieces of orange and two small slices of watermelon.

What I dislike: It’s too far and too much of a pain to drive almost to the end of the Berlin Turnpike. Two huge TVs detract from the ambiance. The salad consists of a pathetic little swath of iceberg with a few pieces of julienned carrot, drowned in a dressing that tasted sweeter than the usual run. Blah rice could be omitted.

Grade: B+

Unsubscribe Me


As a way of reflecting on the true meaning of the season, I will buy nothing until Small Business Saturday. Then I will visit Tea Roses Tea Room. In the meantime, I’ve unsubscribed from establishments that inundate me with email solicitations. Bye-bye to

  • Under Armor.
  • Papyrus.
  • FragranceX.
  • Rent the Runway.
  • Teavana.
  • MoMA.
  • Bestsellingauthor.
  • Bath & Body Works.
  • Bob’s Stores.

Remember when you celebrate that the people who created Thanksgiving were refugees welcomed by the residents.

What I’m Reading Now


Another in the occasional series and another that I’ve just finished. The timing could not be more auspicious. Alexander McCall Smith’s The Lost Art of Gratitude is one of those books that has been on my Kindle since my summer road trip, but it concluded just in time for Thanksgiving.

AMS has done himself well again with this sixth book in the Sunday Philosophy Club series, featuring Scottish philosopher Isabel Dalhousie. This time she faces off against an investment banker who may or may not be a crook, who may or may not be threatening the father of her child, etc. etc. Isabel has her own dilemmas, mostly involving her niece. Cat still has not recovered from the fact that Auntie Isabel is having a serious affair and has had a child with Cat’s former boyfriend. To vary the cliché, complications don’t just ensue; they pile up with excursions into the art world and animal husbandry. All resolves itself, though AMS takes byways far more circuitous than the walking paths that cross Scotland.

Just so gratitude doesn’t become extinct, here’s my list:

  • Larry and all his wonderful family. You all offer me a window into a world I’ve never known.
  • My creative and loving cousins Ash and Kathryn who have expanded my horizons in ways that I could never have fathomed. These include new understanding of what drove my home state to become what it is. Also for friendships new and renewed during our work on the project.
  • My friends and family who are contributing to the James Family Film project. You have given generosity a new meaning. Thank you!
  • The veterans’ writing workshop at Russell Library. “We Were There” has also expanded my horizons: the veterans; my friend and compatriot Christy Clark Billlings; the chance to meet other amazing people including the folks who are mounting Letter From Italy and the Posse Vets at Wesleyan.
  • The staff at Middlesex Hospital who daily offer nurturing, life, light, and beauty to people who are suffering. I look forward to contributing my part by offering Reiki.
  • The chance to make the house smell like Thanksgiving and then give away the mince pies to people who truly appreciate them.


“Grating Nutmeg” includes a fascinating anecdote about the Congregational Church in Lebanon.
“Grating Nutmeg” includes a fascinating anecdote about the Congregational Church in Lebanon.

The first in one more occasional series. My friends Connecticut Explored editor and publisher Elizabeth Normen  and Connecticut State Historian Walter Woodward have teamed with others for “Grating Nutmeg.”

Based on the inaugural podcast, I predict huge success: It will inform, entertain, and challenge listeners. It should also spread Connecticut history throughout the nation. Aside from facts and dates and people and places, “Grating Nutmeg” has already begun to answer the question “What lessons can history teach us about our lives today”?

During the approximately twenty-minute ‘cast, local historian Ed Tollman explained why the Lebanon green and surrounding buildings remain classically pristine and gorgeous. It was thanks to a modest millionaire whose family ties go back to the American Revolution. Hugh Trumbull Adams gave vast sums to rescue structures and maintain them.

This descendant of governors also enlisted the help of local residents, even those who couldn’t donate money. His notion of “in-kind service” should apply to every philanthropic endeavor. Mr. Tollman spoke proudly of the part he played as a boy in helping to transport and unload bricks that were used in the restoration work. Besides demonstrating the benefits of community participation, Mr. Adams’ efforts also illustrate how all it takes is one person to make a huge difference and to inspire others.

Because of the vivid images evoked, I would hope that the homepage of the ‘cast will link to Connecticut Explored so people see pictures of the places and people under discussion.

What I’m Watching Now


Ash and Kathryn and Raven had nothing but praise for Ballets Russes, a documentary about the trajectory of Serge Diaghliev’s masterpieces, which started in Paris and spread brilliance and charm throughout the world. Since I couldn’t watch it on Netflix I browsed dance movies and returned to The Turning Point, which I had seen around the time it debuted. Though it retains its glamour and beauty, the subtext that all male dancers are gay seems dated and ho-hum. Oh, and of course they aren’t. Exhibit One: Mikhail Baryshnikov, who chased anything in a skirt on screen and off. He’s less satyr-like in his role as Yuri, but the message is clear.

Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine carry the movie. The cinematographer put too much vaseline on the lens in the opening shots of the former, who plays Emma the ballerina about to go over the hill. Her age becomes obvious as the film progresses. MacLaine as Deedee looks just enough house-wife frumpy to be convincing as the dancer who gave up her career for a family.

The best parts of the movie, which garnered it multiple awards and nominations, of course are the dance performances, especially the scenes featuring Deedee’s oldest child, Emilia (ballerina Leslie Browne).

But now I’ve got a treat as the DVD of Ballets Russes arrived in the mail yesterday. I plan a watch fest over the weekend.

What I’m Reading Now


Actually I began this book waaay before the film project gathered steam but have not yet finished and am embarrassed to say that I didn’t read five years ago. My friend Barbara Bergren gave me Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. She heard Skloot and some of Lacks’s family at a presentation at the University of Connecticut. I instantly recalled hearing Skloot say one of the researchers who viewed Lacks’s body recalled the poignant vision her toenails. She had taken the time to give herself a pedicure before her cancer overwhelmed her.

My initial impressions of the book: the writing excels and Henrietta’s husband is an unmitigated bastard. Henrietta should be declared immortal not just because of her cells. She becomes the anchor in the family despite the massive burdens of poverty and other deprivation. Her friends and neighbors adore her. Immortal Life is also the best sort of detective story. The stakes are far higher than the basic “who-done-it” or even the question of which jihadists or narco-terrorists are taking over what. The double narrative of family and global impact drive the book.

As I approached the halfway mark, I realized that Immortal Life demonstrates the perfect confluence of racism, crass commercialism, and ethical myopia to the point of blindness. Maybe the latter two are pretty much the same thing. The big question, which I cannot fathom, and apparently most others can’t, is why we don’t own our cells. If we can control every other aspect of ourselves, including intangibles like privacy (well, sort of), why should Big Brother own the most intimate part of ourselves?

There may be an update.

Film Adventures Finis

This clipping had no other identifying information. It appeared in 1903, and recorded the death of Bertha and Peter Lane's oldest child.
This clipping had no other identifying information. It appeared in 1903, and recorded the death of Bertha and Peter Lane’s oldest child.
  • October 28: Ash and Kathryn went off to Old Saybrook to complete photographs of artifacts in the house with the bell. These were things Frank Burton retrieved from the drugstore, my grandparents’ house, and gifts from my mother. I wrote thank you letters to our film subjects, reviewed the schedule, scanned photos and items that Ash wanted. Concentration made difficult because each time I looked up from the computer all I could see was the flashing lights of first one and then two police cars. They had blocked off the intersection one door away from the house — a further obstruction in the interminable excavation for natural gas lines. At least the jackhammers didn’t start until we were all awake. When Ash and Kathryn returned, after 9 p.m.,  we toasted with Cava and collapsed in anticipation of their early departure.
  • October 29: Ash and Kathryn headed for the airport at 7 a.m. I went back to sleep until 10 a.m. After writing in my journal I made a special trip to the post office to mail the thank you letters. On my return I discovered that all the contacts were gone from my phone. Since tech hell has been my life for the past months, I’ll not bore everyone with that saga.

Film is  progressing. Here are the organizations and people we want to thank:

  • CT Humanities for the grant that allowed us to start this project, especially Lauren Miller
  • Community Foundation of Middlesex County for being our fiscal sponsor and head cheerleader, especially Cynthia Clegg and Thayer Talbott
  • Old Saybrook Historical Society, especially Marie McFarlin, Tedd Levy, and Ed Armstrong
  • Walter Woodward, Connecticut State Historian
  • Farah Jasmine Griffin, professor of English and Comparative Literature and African American Studies at Columbia University
  • Diane Isaacs, professor emerita, University of Delaware
  • Tedd Levy, journalist and expert on Old Saybrook history
  • Garth Meadows, pharmacist who operated James’ Pharmacy in the 1980s
  • Barbara Maynard, former Old Saybrook first selectman and long-time friend of the family
  • Raven Wilkinson, family friend and Old Saybrook summer resident for more than twenty years

More Film Adventures


  • October 25: I picked up my dear friend Raven Wilkinson at the train station. She began coming to Old Saybrook in the summer when she was four. Her family rented my grandparents’ cottage  on the beach. The land cost my grandfather $5, and they built a place with no heat, minimal electricity, and an out-door shower. Raven gave me an image of my grandmother and great-aunts that I’d never had before: proper ladies whose mannerisms spoke of a much earlier time. Raven’s years as a dancer allowed her to communicate not just with her face and voice but also with her body as she tilted her head in imitation of my grandmother. We toured the Hart House, where I saw a painting that had the lord and lady of the manor with tiny little black “servants” in the lower corners. We toured Plum Banks, Cornfield Point, Knollwood, Fenwood, Fenwick and the shops at the Point. Raven had a chance to revisit her childhood. Some remains the same but much has become commercialized, on the border of Jersified. Other places are still showing the ravages of Irene (2011) and Sandy (2012). On several recommendations, we ate at the Monkey Farm. The place was jammed because of one or another football game and service glacial. The food, in my opinion, was not worth the wait.
  • October 26: After a stop for high-test coffee Ash, Kathryn, and I drove to New Haven. I eschewed the interstate. They said they’d found some likely places to film background. We spent the day at Yale’s Beinecke Library where I got to revisit those wonderful letters that became Can Anything Beat White? Ash took a mass of still photos and then realized he had left his battery charger at the Historical Society. That was a great excuse to meet Ed Armstrong, the multi-talented trustee/building manager, etc. etc. at Lenny and Joe’s where we treated him to lunch. Ash took  photos until mid-afternoon and then adjourned because they had another appointment. I had the slowest return trip behind someone in a mini-van who reached the speed limit maybe once. An early evening as we were all pretty much exhausted.
  • October 27: I slept for 9 hours straight, a record. Woke up feeling truly lousy. Ash and Kathryn went to  film background, and I worked on various pieces of the project – lists: funding ideas, people to thank, schedule updates, organizing family papers for Ash to photograph. I drank several glasses of water and after about the third I realized how dehydrating this whole experience has been. We’d spent days in archives where the air has negative humidity. The weather was cool, clear, and windy. Kathryn and I had taken several short walks, which seemed to face into the wind. We’d all been drinking much water but obviously not enough. The restoration was complete when I spent the afternoon making jambalaya. Just before we ate, I ran to the Legion post where Christy was making a request for funding to turn the veterans’ essays into a book. She was terrific!

To be continued …

Happy Place


Bluehost has decided to create havoc with the site. Today was not a good day,  so I’m taking the evening off from reportage on the film project.

Courtesy of my friend and co-conspirator on “We Were There,” the veterans’ writing program, is an image to inspire. Christy Clark Billings found the frame and banner in a craft store. She presented it on a night when I was feeling especially low. An unknown photographer took the picture of my parents’ yard at cherry blossom time. I do go home again.


Film Adventures, Cont’d.

ALJII copy

Wherein we continue the events surrounding the days of filming.

  • October 22 follow-up: I also ran to the supermarket for a case of water because the local family store on Main Street was out. Fatigue or whatever led me to carry it out of the store and across a parking lot full of people in SUVs, all in a hurry. It took me three days to figure out why my muscles were sore. Among the artifacts we found was Miss James’ formulary that had entries for included formaldehyde and arsenic, along with cannabis and morphine, which were legal during the time when alcohol could only be dispensed “for medicinal purposes.”
  • October 23: I was so nervous about how things would go I didn’t sleep the night before and then wound up jittery from way too much coffee, even though it was delicious. As soon as our first scholar began to talk, I knew everything would be OK. I’m not going to reveal much – you’ll have to wait for the documentary, but I now have an entirely different view of Connecticut history. The major reveal of the day was that for all the written record produced in this little state, there is nothing about African Americans during the period we’re featuring. What a great honor to be first in the field! Besides giving terrific context to our project, the day produced illumination of black writers, women in particular, and where Mother fits. We also learned how our family shaped her childhood perception of a world that could be hostile one minute and friendly the next.  A picture emerged of what Old Saybrook was like in the early and middle years of the twentieth century. It was all so exciting and inspiring I forgot how tired I was.
  • October 24: This was the day when I learned to conduct on-camera interviews. The downside: I screwed up because I was reacting vocally, a big no-no. Once I got the hang of it, it actually felt great not to have to take notes and remember ambiance, etc. to write a news article. Our subjects gave us a view of O.S. that spanned almost seventy years and featured stories of Miss James, the 1938 hurricane, and the arrival of Big Pharma. We also had a fabulous lunch with a woman who has already become one of our biggest boosters. She epitomizes iconoclast and at 75 has enough energy for three people.

To be continued …