On the Radio

From left: Harry, Lou, Fritz,  Willis, Harriet, Bertha
From left: Harry, Lou, Fritz, Willis, Harriet, Bertha

Thayer Talbott from the Community Foundation of Middlesex County and I had a blast on “Best of the Valley Shore” on Friday afternoon. We had a chance to say how thrilled we are that the Connecticut Humanities Council is funding a planning grant for the documentary For Dear Mother’s Sake: The James Family Letters That Shaped Ann Petry. We also had a chance to explain that we are at the beginning of a very long process of planning and fundraising and writing and filming and more planning and more fundraising — and probably more writing and filming.

Host Don DeCesare can be counted on to ask lively and unexpected questions. Today was no different as the listeners learned that Thayer’s first name is Margaret and that Don would  join the  writing workshop I run for military veterans if he had the chance.

Seeing my friend Richard Kamins is always terrific, and I’m sorry he will no longer be programming for the station.

We launch For Dear Mother’s Sake officially on Tuesday, so stay tuned for further details.



My friend Marcia and I were talking about eating regimens today. Here’s my favorite, which I use to get rebalanced.

Day 1: Eliminate all flesh – meat, poultry, fish; eliminate dairy, coffee, soda, alcohol, and sugar; add in brown rice.

Day 2: Eliminate fruits. Eat veggies, brown rice, drink undyed tea, bancha (a bit of caffeine) and Mu tea, herbal and oh, so good.

Day 3, 4, 5: Eat brown rice with tamari (fermented soy sauce that has no wheat) or with toasted sesame seeds ground with sea salt. Eat slowly.

Day 6 and on (until you get sick of it and go back to normal eating) Eat brown rice, other grains such as millet, oats, buckwheat noodles. Add in julienned onions and carrots sautéed for a minute in a bit of canola or other oil. Add tamari and a tablespoon of water. Sauté for a minute more.

Other veggie options: corn, cabbage, and various Japanese pickled veggies, which I find good in tiny quantities.

Other options: miso soup (I make the quick variety); aduki beans or soy in its various forms – tofu, tempeh, etc.; nuts such as cashews, peanuts; seaweed in miso soup or veggie sushi supplies calcium.

Avoid veggies high in potassium such as eggplant, tomatoes, green peppers, potatoes.

In theory, we’re supposed to eat only foods that come from within 50 miles of where we live. Around here, we’d starve to death in winter.

Return to normal eating by adding fruit and then other stuff gradually, ending with animal protein.

Resources. Information and recipes Macrobiotic Co.  offers a good explanation of the history and philosophy. Macro America has excellent articles. Kushi Institute shows off the macro food pyramid.

Recommended reading: Zen Macrobiotic Cooking: A Book of Oriental and Traditional Recipes by Michel Abehsera.

50 Objects

The gavel that Ella Grasso used at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. She became the first woman elected governor in her own right.
The gavel that Ella Grasso used at the 1976 Democratic National Convention. She became the first woman elected governor in her own right.

The exhibit 50 Objects/50 Stories will be on display until January. If you are anywhere near the Connecticut Historical Society, go see it. It is not your routine museum exhibit but rather an exercise in imagination, creativity, and sometimes whimsy. The online display has far more than fifty objects, but I love the selections at the museum.

Among my favorites:

  • handwritten notes and diaries from the Reverend James W.C. Pennington, Nathan Hale, and others. These were tiny pieces of paper that the writers crammed with marks so minuscule I have no idea how people wrote them, and later how historians deciphered them. The Reverend Pennington’s notes for a sermon were especially moving since he began life as an enslaved person.
  • The projectile points that the Pequot used in the 1638 war.
  • Diana Taurasi’s No. 3 jersey. The display contained Coach Geno’s famous line about what made the Huskies different: “We have Diana, and you don’t.”
  • John Brown Pike. I learned for the first time that Connecticut manufactured these pikes for the use by the enslaved men in Brown’s company to use at Harper’s Ferry.

The biggest surprise? A black and white box from Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana pizza. Yes the golden triad of pizzerias on Wooster Street in New Haven does serve the best pizza on the planet. Can I get an “Amen”?

Today I …


The prompt for the veterans’ writing group, borrowed from “The Time Is Now.”

Heidi Julavits’s book The Folded Clock (Doubleday, 2015) takes the form of a diary, each entry beginning “Today, I….” Write an essay starting with this same phrase, and recount a straightforward event or observation that occurred earlier in the day. Then allow yourself to stray from describing the basic details of that incident, and go on to explore other memories that spring to mind, reflecting on how this event may provide some unexpected clarity to your life.

Here’s my contribution, which I wrote Sunday night but didn’t finish.

Today I witnessed the joy and grace of adults and children engaging in simple acts of inclusion. It restored my faith in humanity. It came in the form a kickball game that my nephew Tony organized. As his father said, it was really a picnic disguised as a kickball game. Everyone had a fabulous time.

I didn’t do a head count, but it seemed there were probably thirty or more people, plus one dog who gathered at Vets’ Park in Middletown. Many were his former teachers from middle and high school. Some brought their children. There was also a good showing from the local watering hole. Tony starred, cajoling people to join the game, talking and joking with  everyone.

What made this experience memorable is that Tony is what is called “special needs,” though he excels in many ways: the ability to memorize song lyrics, an uncanny ability to mimic people, unbelievable accuracy to shoot free throws. I lost track of how many years he won the competition that netted our family a Thanksgiving turkey. He finally aged out.

Watching him interact with this group made me appreciate how much Tony has contributed to our world. Because of him the Woodrow Wilson Middle School basketball team won the statewide award for sportsmanship. When his mom wrote a thank you letter to the editor about the generosity of his teammates, another mom responded that Tony made it easy to include him.

The way I viewed today’s event, Tony was including us, and we rose to the occasion, though some of us didn’t play for reasons of age and disability.

As I was thinking about inclusion, acceptance, and so forth I came across this quote in “Still Rattling Cages,” a NYTimes article about the Guerrilla Girls, who are celebrating thirty years of challenging the art world. The Girl who uses the name Frida Kahlo in honor of the great Mexican artist said,

How can you really tell the story of a culture when you don’t include all the voices within the culture? Otherwise, it’s just the history, and the story, of power.

So thank you, Tony, for letting me say that today I … saw inclusion. I saw the world at its best, and it made me a better person.

On Writing


I’ve spent the past few days catching up on various projects and need to devote this evening to continuing the effort. Here’s inspiration. Those conversations are NOT imaginary!

write2Yes, sir!

What I’m Watching Now


Actually I watched What Happened, Miss Simone? quite some time ago, but it stays with one. At a certain point, Nina Simone captured the rage, the beauty, the power, and the agony of the sixties and seventies. And then she disappeared.

The film takes its title from Maya Angelou: “But what happened, Miss Simone? Specifically, what happened to your big eyes that quickly veil to hide the loneliness? To your voice that has so little tenderness, yet flows with your commitment to the battle of Life? What happened to you?”

This documentary presents what happened and comes to a sort of conclusion. Interview subjects include her abusive husband, her critical daughter, and any number of musicians and activists.

The music of course becomes one of the stars, but the visuals captivate as well. The absolutely gorgeous Miss Simone (she was never anything but) wears striking caftans, along with some odd garb, accessorized by huge earrings and rhinestone eyelashes as she belts out songs, stomping out the rhythm. And then … her life takes a turn, and the film doesn’t follow in a way that makes total sense.

As it explores her psychological problems, the documentary does make clear that Miss Simone internalized what was happening with race relations.  Another reviewer suggested that she succumbed to the toxic state of the United States.

Of course I watched in part because of the planning for the documentary about my family. What a contrast to my mother, who separated herself from the Movement once it began to turn violent and took refuge in endless cups of tea and followed her own mother’s footsteps by collecting antiques.

Back from Tech Hell


I have a feeling I’ve written that headline on too many occasions. This time it involved a wireless router that probably should have gone to the recycle heaven years ago. Anyway, problems began Saturday evening as I watched a movie on Netflix. Everything locked up. I shut down the computer and picked up an actual book.

A successful log-on Sunday afternoon meant that I was able to read the headlines in the NYTimes and download some podcasts. Everything came to a screeching halt about an hour later. So I shut down computer and router and ran some errands. When I returned I was unable to access the Internet. Since my provider is unhelpfully closed on the weekends, I read the paper and sort of organized the office.

On Monday I played phone tag with the provider and was then informed that I shouldn’t have reset the router. The office is only twenty minutes away, so I drove up and was home tout suite. Still no Wi-Fi access.

I called again and was told, “Oh, yes I noticed there might be a weak connection, but I couldn’t test it because our DSL is down.” What? A network services provider without service? A new router cost $75 but would be delivered the next day.

So I sprinted to the library to check my email and flew around doing other chores and errands. There was much paperwork that arrived in connection with a project I’m doing so I had plenty off-line items to occupy me. Plus I finished reading all but the Book Review and the Mag from the Sunday Times.

The new router arrived just before 2 p.m. The old one was a straightforward little black box. This one looks like the back of an albino armadillo that someone loaded up with buckshot. It also weighs only a couple of ounces.

I had phone and computer on Wi-Fi by 2:10, which included scrambling around to find the end of the phone cord that goes into the router.

I typed a letter, turned on the printer, and … nothing. Of course it’s wireless and didn’t recognize the new router.

So I scrunched down and typed in the password – or so I thought. It failed, three times. Plus it said the signal was weak even though the router was next to the printer. I called the network service guy and he said it might be too close.

Next I rebooted the router and tried again. Nothing. So I called tech support for the printer. I got a guy with a poor accent and a poorer phone connection who put me through the name, address, phone number routine and then transferred me to the Mac guy with a better phone connection but horrendous accent. Somehow I don’t think his name was really “Jim.” He was about to start over on his script with name, etc., but I gave him the reference number.

OK so first thing, I discovered there was a lower case option to put in the password. So we got through that part and then he had me make about fifteen changes with the IP address on the computer.

Twenty minutes later I was able to print, but the copies looked awful so he had me clean the heads – though everything else I had printed with the old router looked fine.

Anyway, two hours later I was able to print my letter.

All of this meant that I lost a day. I thought it was August 3, even though the calendar with the fourth on it was right in my face.

Will be watching the rest of the movie tonight.

Sushi Friday


tisumiTisumi Sushi, 2850 Main Street, Glastonbury CT 06033, 860-430-2826, www.Tisumisushi.com

This new place (less than a year) is now my new favorite place, based on one visit for lunch and one for dinner. The selection follows a decline in the quality of the food and service at Sushi California, my original favorite. About six months ago, the loud and aggressive waitress swept dust over my feet as I left. I haven’t returned.

What I like at Tisumi: Free parking, though it can be a challenge in the daytime with people ignoring the directional arrows and rushing in and out of the stores in the little strip mall. The décor features gorgeous woodwork, fascinating circles on the ceiling, and varieties of lighting that provide soft illumination, heightening the ambiance. The only missteps are the disco ball and the enormous TV over the magnificent fireplace. The waitresses offer friendly service without being intrusive, though one made no effort to understand one of my dining companions. The fish is brilliantly fresh with generous portions – I neglected to note the amount and type on the sashimi lunch but remember it included tuna, salmon, and yellowtail. I ordinarily don’t eat fancy rolls because they tend to include mashed up leftovers of tuna, etc., combined with “crunch” and mystery ingredients. I’m glad I made an exception at a recent dinner. No one could top the Special Wasabi Roll. The menu says, “Tuna, salmon, avocado, cucumber inside, topped with multi-colored tobiko and honey wasabi sauce.” The inside takes the California roll (fake crab, avo and cuke) uptown. The tobiko (fish roe) came in red and black and added just the right amount of salt to balance the wasabi, which overwhelmed any honey flavor. My companions declared their meals – rolls, tempura, sushi regular – a success as well.

What I didn’t like: These are minor quibbles. The tea and miso were barely lukewarm, and the miso lacked that good brothy flavor. The sashimi lunch comes with gyoza, though it’s not on the menu so I didn’t know to order veggie.

I gave Sushi Cal an A in the main review. It would now probably get a B or B-. Now for Tisumi, only points off for the quibbles.

Grade: A-