Friday, December 18, 2009

It's a Blizzard!

...or maybe it's not. is hedging. OK, I was exaggerating when I said blizzard, actually, but a pretty good snow-dump. Looks like said snow-dump will be whiting the joint out at our favorite time: over Saturday night, so that my organist/choirmaster of a husband--who was diagnosed with flippin' Lyme Disease this week (more on that in a minute) and I will have some extra fun getting the car moving early on Sunday morn as we depart the Potter Building for his job.

The good news: the doc gave him the antibiotics and Ken's knee, which was the Presenting Symptom that got him to go see said doc, is better--MUCH better. He can play the organ and everything; he's just limping at bit. Amazing the way this stuff happens just before Christmas so often.

But it's still going to snow, most likely, a fact I usually greet with joy (I'm one of those sickos).
This time, I'm a little less joyful. But the Potter Building is full of friends and family to help us out and so all should be well.

Meanwhile, we'll be making St. Louis Blizzards on Cocktails with Chris today:

2 oz. bourbon
3/4 oz cranberry
1 oz lemon juice
and one tablespoon bar sugar or simple syrup, to taste

Pour over ice in an old-fashioned glass. Stir. Stare out the window. Tune in at 4 EST to!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rum Swizzle

The New York Times officially announced this week that it's OK for hipsters to drink rum instead of gin, especially if they use many bottles of aged and variously hued stuff and not the plain old corner-liquor-store Bacardi. I'm down with that, yo. And honestly, in some rum punches, although the gorgeous stuff you could sip is frankly better--Bacardi's is just fine to my palate. Or even some lesser-known silver or gold substance.

Maybe it's just that my taste buds take a looong time to get educated. I'm only just this last year or so getting snotty about gin, and everyone's already been a pill about that for quite some time now.

Anyway, I looked at the Times holiday drink article, its tiki-drink-in-bondage (for real) with habenero sauce in it and its gold rum and Benedictine martini-strength concoction and thought ew. There may be a reason that I usually prefer with classic drinks to the nouveau ones--test of time and all that.

But I do agree that rum is a Good Thing. Although it's used in many things we think of as summer drinks, there's something soothing about a rum cocktail that goes down well in December, something oddly appropriate about a Rum Swizzle in December. Let's face it: winter is when you start being able to get decent citrus fruits imported into the Swanky Neighborhood Near You if your non-virtual home is near the Potter Building.

Here's the link to the Wikipedia article on a Rum Swizzle:

We talked Pineapple Swizzles this summer on Cocktails with Chris--but I like this more classic recipe better. And we get to use falernum! More about that and some good tunes on the air at today at 4 EST. Do join us!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Ham, Part II

Well, I said I would tell the whole story, and so I will.

I forgot how many times we changed the water while it was soaking, but we kept the ham (aka Meat Raisin, aka King Tut) wet for about 36 hours, and simmered it for maybe three and a half hours on Tuesday night, cooled it, and chilled it.

On Thanksgiving, I cut away the excess fat and the skin, and warmed reconstituted Tut covered tightly in foil in a very low oven for about an hour (I mean not even 200 degrees; I didn't want to dry it out). Then I removed the foil and glazed the ham. The glaze was something I winged that I really loved: dark brown sugar moistened with fig vinegar and seasoned with black pepper and ground cloves. I did score the ham lightly first in the traditional criss-cross pattern.

We served it just a bit above room temperature, along with the turkey and all the trad Thanksgiving trimmings. I made collards for the green veg, which was good with both meats.

Verdict from this Yankee girl: not bad, not bad at all. Yeah, it was majorly , majorly salty. But it was also really flavorful. I'll do a country ham again next year. But I might not be ready for the journey until then!

Listening to the after-show Treavor Hastings is doing on Rando right now. Gotta ask him how his turkey came out! He brought some kick-ass pumpkin cranberry bread to our house on Thursday!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas Radio Show

A quick couple of words:

Since Rando tends to rerun current shows, I thought that I'd make a tradition of my Christmas music Black Friday show. So, today: The Christmas Music Cocktails with Chris for Holiday '09!

Fish House Punch is the drink!

The Paul Harrington proportions (for about thirty servings)

36 oz dark rum
24 oz lemon juice
25 oz brandy
4 oz peach brandy
3/4 pound bar sugar (superfine, not confectioners)
40 oz water

...but this is open to some futzing with on strength and acid/sweet balance. Let your taste buds be your guide, either shake as a cocktail as needed or serve in a punch bowl, chilled and iced (in which case watch the water balance as it will get diluted, and be ready to refresh)

I'll chat more about it on the air today... at 4 PM EST!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Blogging the Country Ham

I woke up this morning knowing I had an ordeal in front of me that no Yankee woman should ever have to face: wrangling a country ham.

It happened because I weakened. I let the ham into my life. When I married a man from southern Indiana, which is practically Kentucky (and sounds like it when he talks), I should have known it would come to this. But it took over a decade and a half before it did. He managed to get a little weeny bit of country ham onto the Thanksgiving table last year, horrifying the health-conscious members of my clan (most of whom ate it anyway). This year, he started talking country ham right after Halloween.

So we found ourselves in the 125th St. Fairway in NYC last week, and I found myself making a deal with the Devil: two dozen Malpeque oysters for my dinner, shucked by him, for...guess what.

The oysters were delicious, and Ken shucks them like a pro. It's those keyboard-playing organist fingers that wield the oyster murder instrument so skillfully, I think.

Ah, but this morning...I had to start soaking The Beast. First, I undressed it; it came wearing a little frock made of muslin and printed with all sorts of claims about its colonial heritage. Inside, it was wrapped in butcher paper. I unwrapped that and beheld a giant meat raisin, lightly dusted with mold and black pepper. A pig leg mummy. Yikes. I'd been prepared by all the reading I've been doing: the mold is harmless and should be scrubbed off with a stiff brush while one is thoroughly rinsing the Meat Raisin. Fair enough. One cool thing: it smelled exactly like the inside of the smoke houses we visited in Williamsburg, Virginia.

But even my biggest stock pot would not hold the scary-looking thing. I woke up Ken, who was sleeping in.

"You got me into this. Now you're getting me out of it." I told him, and dispatched him to the restaurant supplier for bus bins (I'd needed them anyway) and an institutional-sized stock pot. Meanwhile I kept King Tut moist inside a water-filled garbage bag in the kitchen sink. Soon, Ken returned, bearing vessels. Tut ended up in a bus bin in our basement fridge, something I thought was an OTT investment when we put it in, and something I bless every time we have a big party or when the holidays come around. I have read that some people soak country ham at room temperature, but I'd be worried about that after the first huge tide of salt water washes away the saline preservative.

So, step one accomplished. Now, we have to change the water every five or six hours or so. I'm thinking--after having read a scad of recipes for country ham--that I'm soaking it for at least 24, maybe 36 hours before it gets simmered. Time for a bath; I just realized that I, too, now smell like the inside of a Williamsburg smokehouse, and I think that could get old fast.

My radio show this week will be my annual Black Friday Christmas music special. More on that anon. And on the drink, when I decide what it'll be.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Missouri Mules & Thanks Be To God

Cocktails before Thanksgiving dinner are a tough call. I usually do Cosmos, because of the cranberry and everyone likes 'em. But they go down perhaps a little too easily, and folks unused to anything stronger than a beer tend to get tanked and fall over in the gravy. Well, not REALLY, but sometimes a little too much hilarity ensues. And I don't want to be part of someone's Black Friday headache.

I have a groovy old ice bucket and a hammered silver platter inherited from my great aunt. I was thinking for a while of putting out whiskey and water and ice...which seemed unimaginative. But I do love the taste of whiskey--especially bourbon--around Thanksgiving food, and so I played on the internet for a while. My buddy Ed Odell was talking about a champagne cocktail called a Moonwalk, and when I Googled it, I realized it came from the Savoy Bar in London, employer of the esteemed Joe Gilmore, a man who created drinks to honor the visits and special occasions of folks like Harry Truman, The Queen Mum, and Winston Churchill.

What's good enough for Give 'Em Hell Harry is good enough for me, so I mixed up a Missouri Mule. Here's the recipe, via Wikipedia:

Missouri Mule

2 parts bourbon
2 parts applejack
2 parts fresh lemon juice
1 part Campari
1 part Cointreau

Shake hard & serve up, in a chilled cocktail glass. I garnish with a long, thin strip of lemon zest, curled.

It's a slightly complicated drink--five ingredients--but you can make up a bunch in advance of guests arriving, to shake as needed. It's not sweet. It's almost grapefruit-y, because of the Campari/lemon juice combo. And the mellowness of the bourbon/applejack base plays nicely off that. Best of all, people don't down Mules like Cosmos and end up falling over. This is an interesting-tasting cocktail that will be sagely sipped.

My suggestion would be to also have some of the dinner wine open and breathing to offer folks who might be a bit challenged by a tart drink. AND you could also do Campari and soda for folks who like that, or make a couple of Jack Roses from any surplus applejack.

Problem solved.

My radio show today? I've got the new Rickie Lee Jones. And I'm suddenly (the better part of a decade behind the rest of the hip world) impressed with Sufjan Stevens. See you on the internets! Tune in!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the 13th, Part One Million

I was wandering outside to get the papers much earlier today--and yes, I still read them on actual paper except when I weaken and scan Huff Po, which has lately been pissing me off by being the NY Post of the left--and I was dressed in my usual morning attire: gym clothes and a pair of cute slipper boots my sis gave me last Christmas. I really like those slipper boots, except that I tripped over them and almost landed on my posterior on a set of stone steps.

But I didn't. I banged my hand a little, remained upright, managed to not even jam my back or scrape or even bruise anything. Just scared myself. When you fall down and you're a little kid, it's not a deal. But falling down as a grown-up is complicated. It often results in the need for more than a band-aid.

My question: is ALMOST falling down a lucky thing on a traditionally UNlucky day, Friday the 13th? One could argue that it is: after all, there was no harm done. And though I'll admit I still have the adorable booties on my tootsies, I'll be a lot more careful wearing them from now on. Perhaps it was a warning. That's lucky. Or was the almost-spill UNlucky? I mean, far luckier would be for me to have just proceeded on to the coffee machine and the Times Op Ed and Doonesbury in the local paper.

Or would it have been?

The next thing that happened was that my fancy-pants coffee machine, one of the deep joys of my life, started to shoot steam out the wrong places. That means I had to get my husband to play with it. It's a complicated machine with electronics and sometimes you have to pick it up and shake it (which is actually what they told us at the customer service line last time it misbehaved, and that seemed to work). It's also a heavy coffee machine, which is why I needed my husband. I also needed him because I tend to give up too fast when I think something is broken. Unlucky?

He was still on the snooze, so I got out my old coffeepot and made myself a cup of French press. Ken came downstairs a bit later and gave Fancy-pants Machine a good shake. Now it works. So it lives to brew another day. Lucky or un?

Derned if I know. I'll tell you if the thing gives me another cup when I finish this blog entry.

But this afternoon at 4 EST, I'm going to throw caution to the wind and suggest Satan's Whiskers today on Cocktails with Chris at

Satan's Whiskers Cocktails according to the Internet Cocktail Database, consist of one fifth part of the following: red vermouth, white vermouth, gin, orange juice, & Grand Marnier. Add a dash of orange bitters, shake and serve in a chilled cocktail glass. I'd garnish with a twist of orange rind.

Got me some interesting new CD's to spin for ya'll, too. See you there!

Tune in!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Answer to a Maiden's Prayer

When I looked out at our rapidly-withering November garden, all that was still alive was a little late leaf lettuce, the unkillable mint, a few heads of celery and a still-lush growth of nasturtiums. But anything we don't use tonight will be dead tomorrow: it'll be below freezing in this swanky neighborhood near you tonight, and I'm SICK of mojitoes, so I think I'll let that mint go. The nasturtiums, celery, and lettuce? Sounds like salad. And the drink? A Maiden's Prayer, garnished with one of those peppery blossoms.

Paul Harrington's recipe for Maiden's Prayers calls for equal parts silver rum, gin, Cointreau, and lemon juice. It's a better drink than it sounds--and its tawdry history is something I intend to reveal on my radio show this afternoon at 4 EST,

As I flashed through some headlines on my way to the blog today, it seemed like another Hard Day on the Planet--someone shooting up a high rise in Orlando, Florida after yesterday's hideous spasm of violence at Fort Hood. Horrifying. It's been a long time since I've been an official maiden, but my prayer is that we as a nation and a world could just Cut This Stuff Out. And maybe have a cocktail and listen to some good music instead.

Tune in to my show if you're around.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sidecars for Soupy!

I won't go into the usual maudlin boomer banalities about Feeling Old When One's Childhood Idols die. Nobody gets out of here alive, famous or no...

But gee, I didn't need to hear about Soupy Sales on this "strange and mournful day," to quote the Paul Simon song. Soupy Sales was as much a hero in my growing-up household as Jean Shepherd and Ernie Kovacs. I remember when Ernie Kovacs died--way too young in an auto crash--that my parents were so upset I assumed he must have been a relative. I think I was well into my teens before I realized that he had not been. Jean Shepherd likewise; although he was a jerk in his personal life (and made a series of very creepy passes at Yours Truly when he visited my college radio station), I had to pull over my car and cry when I heard of his death one early morning on my way to work.

Not Soupy! Not yet!

And could he have been 83--roughly the same generation as my parents, this Mouse-doing sprite of a lunatic? I've been on Youtube all morning, amazed at the man's silly grace. He COULD dance. There's something a little wince-making about a clown, and Soupy was a clown. But he was a clown with the great clowns: shameless, corny, just delightful. He used to make me laugh until my face hurt.

Did anyone besides me see the show he did with Sammy Davis Jr? It was a Chez Bippy episode, and the pie fight got so intense that pies were being applied like deodorant, under the arms--something that I found so screamingly funny at the age of 13 that I could barely breathe.

I'm putting together a Cocktails with Chris for, and there are no MP3 files of The Mouse anywhere! And of all the scratchy 45's we have up at the station, no "Mouse". Nevermind. It'll be all over the TV. I did find a silly take-off by Soupy of MacArthur Park and something called "It's My Ego". And we'll have after-dinner drinks today--stuff that goes with airborne pies. Tune in at 4 EDT today if you get the chance:

RIP Soupy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Creme de Violette!

OK, I give.

I admit it.

An Aviation is much more flight-worthy with just a drop of the odd 'n' quasi-archaic liqueur in it. And it DOES seem to be an ingredient in the oldest recipes I've come across for this gin sour. AND it does also seem to be a topic of hot discussion in blogs that deal with cocktails only (instead of cocktails and free-form radio and the life of me like this blog).

I had a perfectly balanced, faintly violet-hued Aviation at Vessel in Seattle the weekend before last, and I'm here to tell you that I've had a conversion experience.

Spent some time back home here in NY trying to update my Aviation recipe. You have to be careful with Creme de Violette. Too much of the stuff and it does indeed taste like "licking a French whore's neck, and not in a good way", as another blogger has noted. The closest I've come to true Aviation satisfaction has been this spin on Paul Harrington's formulation from Cocktail:

1 and 1/2 oz. good gin (not Hendricks, though!)
3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 oz. maraschino
1/4 oz. creme de violette

Shake hard and serve up in an a chilled cocktail glass, garnished with a cherry. If this seems tart to you--and it is pretty tart--add a few drops more maraschino, not creme de violette. If you're going to the trouble of getting creme de violette, you might want to consider putting up your own cocktail cherries--not a big deal if you use the frozen ones that come pre-pitted but not sugared.

For the cherries: Cook 'em up in a pan with a little simple syrup and water, maybe half a cup for a supermarket packet or two of frozen cherries (or use orgeat and water). Simmer just a minute or two. Scoop with a slotted spoon into a jar. Pour over them about 3/4 to one cup of not-precious brandy and top off with the cooking juices. Pop in a cinnamon stick if you want. These'll keep several weeks at least in the fridge.

This week on Cocktails with Chris--klezmer bluegrass, farewell to Mary Travers, and some Bumbershoot leftovers!

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 Again...and a cocktail radio show

The rain we're getting outside the Potter building this morning as I put together this afternoon's radio show seems appropriate. It's the kind of day that never moves far away from twilight. We've had some dramatic downpours, but mostly just drizzle and gentle rain. Things seem very green outside.

I was in another life on 9/11, still teaching school. I was in the middle of starting my AP Lit class on Sons and Lovers and I barely knew students' names yet. Second period: that's when the attacks happened. I was unaware. Then, the bell rang and I went upstairs to the English Department office through oddly hushed halls. A line of parents snaked out of the principal's office, and I wondered why. None of my colleagues were drinking coffee at the long table where we usually gathered to hoot over various classroom silliness. My boss was on a personal leave day--that I knew--so I answered her phone when it rang.

It was her daughter, who worked in midtown NY, and just wanted her mom to know she was alright. When I told her I was delighted she was alright and asked why she might not be, she told me everything all at once: the towers on fire, the Pentagon, the plane down in Pennsylvania. I had a hard time taking my breath for a minute, and then snapped back to being Ms. Potter instead of Christine. I reminded her that her mom was off work that day and probably reachable by cell, but that I'd try to get in touch, too, and leave a message at least.

Of course. The other teachers were off where there were TV's, probably up in my friend Dave's video department. And the parents? Taking their kids home from school of course. I knew right away that I couldn't watch TV news or I wouldn't be able to stand in front of a class. I walked down the stairs and past a bunch of classrooms. My principal was standing in the hall, arms crossed over his chest, looking grim but calm.

"Whatever do we do?" I asked him.

"Teach the kids," he said. "Don't let your classes be too much about the attacks. Get through the day. Teach the kids."

It was the right advice, and I followed it.

Eight years has blunted the sense of the world turning over, but nothing can put things back the way they were before the attacks--for me or for any American.

A few years later, I retired from teaching, and now I do a cocktail radio show on I play music, and I talk about drinks. We had Manhattans at our house that awful night, I remember--and strong drinks though they were, it was like sipping iced tea. Today on Cocktails with Chris, I intend to be respectful but rocking. I'm thinking a whiskey sour might be soothing. I tasted an excellent one of them in Seattle this past weekend, where I went to the Bumbershoot festival. I'll be playing some music from there, too.

Tune in!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Don't Worry...

From Mark Twain: "Don't worry. Providence protects children, and idiots."


Well, maybe I can get under that umbrella with the Child-of-God dodge. But since we can ALL use that out (even folks who believe that Hawaii is not a part of the United States), it's going to be a crowded umbrella. And I'm not feeling especially childish today.

I'm feeling old. I've spent the last week worrying about the bat infestation in my Aged Parents' house (hundreds of 'em--no shit!), my mom's heart medication, and my poor kitty, Molly, who spent the night before last in the local animal hospital. The bats are gone, though, and the Aged Parents OK. Molly's a limp dishrag, poor kitty, but on the mend thanks to some powerful antibiotics (drugs!! It always comes down to drugs!!). Molly's beating stress by crashing out on her favorite pillow under a lamp that shines down warmly upon her.

I, however, am feeling it. Funny thing about a nuts week. It doesn't just go away all by itself. You have to give it a shove.

In my own doc's office this morning, in for my standard check-up, a colorful but NUTS street-gal type jumped into the middle of everything. I happened to be the talk of the waiting room: the receptionist had asked me about the bats (I live in a small town). Street-type gal took me to task for allowing my Aged Parents to live independently. As if that were my choice (try telling my parents to do anything they don't want to do. Go ahead. I dare you).

And then I got to have my blood pressure taken.

Owing to a newfound ability to feel like I want to yell SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP in someone's face while smiling like the properly-brought-up Episcopalian I am without spiking my vital signs, the BP was good. But today, I don't just want to do a cocktail show. I want a cocktail.

We'll meet at 4PM, on, and have a Manhattan, OK?

What's your choice of bitters?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pineapple Cocktails...

Well, there are Singapore Slings, Mary Pickfords...and a tasty confection from the NY Times Mag a couple of weeks back called a Pineapple Swizzle. Here's a link to the recipe for that last thing:

We'll be talking about the Pineapple Cocktail on Cocktails with Chris today--and do a brief salute to a listener-suggested Death In the Afternoon. Tune in! It's music & chit chat for a sultry day!

Friday, August 7, 2009

New Drink Recipe: Erdbeer-bowle

A note, first, on my crappy German

Anyone following this blog with the slightest ability to spell or write in German has probably discovered an important fact: I lack even the most basic ability in the language. I do my best when I'm over there, and I am vastly grateful for the good nature and patience of the German people.

This is a punch that was served at our local green market in Prenzlauer Berg, and I've attempted to reproduce it here, back home in NY, with the best strawberries I could get my hands on. Sadly, they weren't the perfect little German berries--so fragrant and yummy. I had to settle for some not-so-ecologically correct organic ones jetted in from our West Coast. This punch is still worth making--pleasant and light.

I'm not sure whether the proper name is Erdbeer-bowle (strawberry bowl) or Erdbeeren-bowle, which I think would pluralize the berries (seems logical--you use more than one fer Heavens sake). But you'll forgive me when you sip this. The only challenge is keeping it cold enough for American tastes. Make sure you keep the wine really chilled before you put it out, and if it's a hot day, defy esthetics and put in some ice inside a sealed Zip-Lock. Don't ice it otherwise--diluted wine is icky, I think.


A punch for a good-sized party

LOTS of cubed strawberries (I used two boxes of organic Driscolls), but on-season from the local farmer’s market is what you really want

2 bottles of not-too-dry white wine--German preferred--chilled

1 bottle of decent sparkling white (American Chandon is fine)--also chilled

A few spoons of simple syrup or bar sugar, or Agave syrup, to taste

Hull & cut up the berries--not too big; you want them to exude juices. Sprinkle with sweetener if they aren’t super-amazingly delicious (American ones won’t be). Let ‘em sit for about ten minutes and then pour over them the chilled white wine. Keep cold.

When ready to serve, put in a punch bowl and pour over the mixture of wine and berries the champagne. Taste and drip in a tiny bit of sweetener if needed--this shouldn’t be white-Zinfandel yucky sweet, but it should taste like a punch.

Ladle into glasses, giving everyone berries and punch both.

If it’s a hot day, you may have to sit your punch bowl on ice, or use some ice inside a plastic zip-lock bag right up until guests arrive. Germans don’t serve things as cold as Americans, but this shouldn’t be luke warm.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

There's No Place Like Home...

If only you could get back from Europe by clicking your ruby slippers together!!  We flew in last Friday, and had an eight-hour flight turn into an almost-twelve hour ordeal.  Headwinds made our usual non-stop have to refuel in Labrador, and we proceeded to circle the NY area for so long that we almost had to divert for more fuel again.  Gads.  My back is almost OK now, but I was Advil girl this weekend; much of the time we were circling the good old seatbelt sign was on and the plane was bumping along like a car with bad shocks.  Ick.  

When I look back over the pictures I took there, it feels like I should still be in Berlin.  The whole experience washes over me again--and then I look up and I'm in New York.  I guess that's the magic of flight, really, turbulence or no.  You get to change channels on your life easier than using a DVR.  

I'm still thinking about the things I saw in Germany, especially in the parts of Berlin that were formerly DDR.  Our nabe was so Brooklyn Heights-esque that you could easily forget what used to be there if you wanted to (until you got down to the Communist Hero statue at the park down the street, that is).  But just a few stops on the tram away was the Karl-Marx-Allee, the grand, Soviet-style showcase lined with what were supposed to be awe-inspiring buildings.   Here's a link to it in the old days:

Now, tiles are peeling off those steroidal buildings, and they're thoroughly decorated with swirls of the usual spray paint at street level.  I guess some of the apartments are occupied, but they don't look really inviting; the neighborhood is loud with trams and traffic, and the whole feel of the place is gritty.  We walked through on a hot day just before we left for home.  

It's easy for Americans to forget what really brought down the DDR, and the old Communist system (much as Russia seems to be drifting back towards what it once was).  Folks wanted more freedom, yes.  In Germany, the movement against Stasi (the secret police) came out of a few very brave churches.  But it was the economy, stupid, there as much as anywhere.  People wanted rights--and a more comfortable life.  The DDR was bankrupt.  Russia's economy crashed in a way we can't even imagine here.  Guards that had worked at the Berlin Wall were stranded without enough money to get home or even buy food.  Those same churches that took a stand against them ended up feeding them--for real.

The dinosaur bones of a place like Karl-Marx-Allee remind me of What Can Happen if too much power ends up in the wrong hands.  Folks being sold a Republican bill of goods and trying to derail the health care that our country so vitally needs should consider who WANTS them to disrupt the town halls.  The German people managed to shake off a tragic abuse of power when the Wall came down, and if they can do that, for whatever reason, we should also keep our brains engaged as our country changes.  Whoever actually believed that the medical/insurance/big pharma industry was just going to roll over and play dead?  

Interesting side note: I learned this summer that when Reunification took place, there was a bit of a fight over women's reproductive rights.  It was the Easterners who had more, and they fought to keep them.  Another lesson: it's always a mistake to look at big words like Socialism and Democracy let them define any discussion.  Seems to me that two little words might be more important: What Works.

I'm back on the air Friday at 4, and I'll be talking about Germany, giving out the recipes I adapted for food and drink, and playing my usual mix--spiced up with a little DDR-era psychedelia.  See you there, comrade!   

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dresden, Turning Towards Home

We're on our last week in Germany.  We fly out on Friday, and I have to say that home and thoughts of home have been tugging at me.  I have loved being here.  I've resolved (and I swear I'll follow through) to actually pick up a course in this language so that I can speak in something other than broken traveler's German to folks who look at my broad shoulders and my blonde hair and assume I live here.  I need to come back.

But we're not done yet.  And this last weekend, we went to Dresden and Leipzig, staying overnight in a hotel next door to the reconstructed Frauenkirche.  As always, Dresden was intense.  I hadn't been there since restorers first started sorting out the charred pile of rubble that was,  along with a small, standing fragment of the nave,  what remained of the Frauenkirche after the 1945 firestorm.   The DDR had decided to leave the site in ruins.  I well remember that last visit.  We were driving, and it was a hot, brilliant day.  We parked our car in an underground garage and walked out into the scalding sun, and even that--coming up from basement darkness into heat--was creepy.  

Depending on whose account you believe, anywhere from about 25 thousand to over a hundred thousand people died over the course of two days in the Allied firebombing of Dresden, incinerated, or smothered in basements due to the inferno's hunger for oxygen. Depending on whose account you believe, the city's destruction was anything from necessary  to prevent a second Battle of the Bulge to a criminal act of terrorism on an almost-undefended civilian population.   I've never understood military strategy.  It has always seemed to me to be a peculiar sort of sin to apply our logic to killing other human beings in an orderly fashion, but I'm not naive enough to believe that war is always preventable.  It just--well, it makes my head spin.   Kurt Vonnegut spoke at my college graduation when I got my BA in 1974.  And so it goes.

At any rate, before the firebombing, Dresden--whatever else it was or was not--was a cultural center, a stunning baroque city.  When I saw it the last time before my visit this weekend, its scars from those awful two days and its decidedly un-charming DDR rebuild were highly evident.  I stood in the blazing sun and knew I was in a haunted place. We wandered in the crypt of the Frauenkirche, which was all that was really tour-able by the public then.  The ruins of the church stood in the middle of nothing in the middle of a city.  There were blank, Soviet-looking buildings around it, and a handful of structures with baroque detailing on them.  

It's different, now.

The Frauenkirche, totally restored, anchors a city center that looks like Prague--which is about right; Prague, which took far less of a hit in the War, was the city film makers used for the pre-firebombed Dresden in Slaughterhouse Five.  Ken and I had a beer at an outdoor cafe next to the church, listened to its bells ring for a wedding, and watched the wedding party arrive in a white-ribboned limo.  We heard a glorious choral concert from the Bavarian Radio Chorus that night in the restored church's spectacular acoustic, sitting right next to the old cross from the top of the dome--the one they keep inside now as a reminder.  It was withered by the heat of the firestorm, but now people light prayer candles and leave them glittering around it like burnt-down coals. 

We'd eaten dinner in a beer hall across the way from the church, a place so perfectly old-German that if the exquisite woodwork in the room where we had our sauerbraten hadn't been so unscarred and perfectly new-looking, you'd swear it had been there since the church was first built.  And from the well-placed windows, you couldn't see anything but lovingly restored and rebuilt baroque and Renaissance-looking architecture.  But still.

In Dresden, there's always a But Still.  That afternoon, my organist husband had done what he often does--dragged me to an organ recital, and it was a fine one, at the Kreuzkirche, a place not far from the Frauenkirche.  The guy playing was HOT, and the instrument was tonally exciting.  He played a bunch of jazz take-offs on favorite Bach pieces that were both fun to listen to and really smart, interesting music: cheerful stuff.  Heavens, though, the heartbreaking Kreuzkirche!  It would have been rude to take a picture, so I'll tell you what it looks like.

Outside it's the kind of baroque church you'd expect to see in its newly re-baroque'd surroundings.  But it was restored early on, under the DDR, and they didn't do the computer-aided, bring-back-every-gilded-flourish kind of job that gave us the rescued Frauenkirche.  Inside, you can see what was left of the old church from the floor on up, for about twenty feet.  But it's blackened.  And beyond that battered original stone is a kind of cottage-cheese-looking grey concrete that you often see in this neck of the woods in buildings restored during that period.  The curves of the church's roof are defined in its almost-fuzzy texture.  It's as if the church were dissolving into a ghost of itself.

Statues are without noses.  Columns are battered.  The artwork in back of the altar is in fine shape, but adorning (if that's the word) the choir loft is a row of angel faces.  I think they must have been meant to be singing.  But some of them are missing the backs of their heads.  They're broken and charred in places.  They look like they're crying out in pain.

So here's the question: which is a real restoration of the town?  Is the eerie perfection of the new alte markt a sort of educational TV Disneyland?  Or is it there because the world couldn't stand it if it weren't--if it were more like the inside of the Kreuzkirche--if it broke your heart just to think about it?  I don't know the answer to that question.  

Like I said, Dresden is intense.  And I don't know what to think about what's really going on there now, except that it haunts me.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

What a Buncha Babies!!

Two more weeks in Germany.  Half of me is homesick and looking forward to the arrival back in NY...and half of me wants an intensive language course and to Never Come Home.  

It's an odd state.  It feels kinda restless.

The oddity is compounded by our adopted nabe, which I've grown to love like I love my own at home, although it is overrun with BABIES.  Babies here, babies there, babies everywhere.  Any woman under forty-five seems to have about a fifty percent chance of being so pregnant that her poking-out belly button is showing through her distended t-shirt.  I think I've mentioned before that Prenzlauer Berg is Baby Central--the highest birthrate in all of Germany.  There are good schools here, it seems.  Not to mention Something In The Air.

Now, I'd be a wee bit nervous if I hadn't aged out of the baby production thing a while back. Thank the Lord, I don't have a dog in this particular fight.  But Heavens!  Every morning, I wake up to someone pre-verbal ululating in one of the always-bustling cafes across the street.  It's that ahhh-ahhh-ahhh thing that babies do the way birds greet the dawn with song.  And I get up and look out my window to see the parade o' prams.  We did the local flea markets today, and on the way home, a toddler in a stroller tragically lost her purple balloon (OK--I'll admit I liked hearing her complain about the "luft ballon" just like the old Nena song).  Her young, uber-hip mom got her another one, which so angered the equally tiny son of a neighboring couple that he tried to stick her up for it.  His folks, exhibiting what Young German Parents Do Right, averted the potential meltdown by picking him up and sweeping him away from temptation after he swatted the luft ballon owner. Hard.  And then the tram came.   Babies, babies, babies.

I asked my husband if he felt old today.  He responded in the affirmative.  Me, too.

Slate grey sky outside now.  A wild, miniature rain storm (most of them over here seem to be miniature compared to American ones) swept over from just west of the TV tower as we were finishing our dinner out on the terrace.  The temperature dropped about fifteen degrees in fifteen minutes (farenheit).  And we finished the dead-ripe peaches we picked up at the green market yesterday inside.

Dinner tonight?  O, we just had a little filet mignon...really.  Got it at that same green market yesterday and it was expensive, but you don't need a lot of it.  And there are these amazing wild mushrooms everywhere in Germany just now, so I threw them in the beurre noir that I made to go with the filets and cooked up some noodles with sage and brown butter and tossed a big salad full of local greens, cukes and tomatoes.  The greens you can get at farmer's markets here are as good as having your own garden, no kiddin'.   Proud to say that the sage came from our Berlin garden--a pot of sage and a pot of basil I bought and have been tending to on our terrace.  However will I abandon it in two weeks?

On the other hand, I do miss the creek and Randoradio LOTS.   Lots.  And this place is just FULL of babies!    

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Greenmarket, Prenzlauer Berg...turning into a local

...or maybe the title of this blog entry should be I Got Kissed By A Drunken Iranian (or someone claiming to be Iranian).

I don't know.  He looked kind of Iranian.  He was certainly drunk, and merrily amplifying that state with a tasty-looking mug of dark beer.  He'd been busy shaking Ken's hand when he asked if I was the wife, grabbed me by the shoulders, and planted a beery bus on each of my cheeks, muttering all the while in German about how pretty I was.  It was one of those travel moments that you'd really like to see on the Rick Steves shows they run nonstop on public TV at marathon time.   One asks oneself: What Would Rick Do?

"He said he was from Iran," said Ken.

"I see."  I said.  And we wandered on.  To quote the sound collage at the beginning of Random Madness:

What's the significance?  I DON'T KNOW.

It's been that kind of day.  We started out with currywurst (the definitive Berlin street food) at a historic imbiss (snack) stand under a U-Bahn stop about a mile from our flat.  The place has been dishing out the bratwurst drenched in mildly sweet, curry-flavored ketchup with a sprinkling of curry powder on top since 1901 or so, outlasting two world wars and the DDR besides.  I know what you're thinking if you haven't spent time in Berlin.  You are thinking this: why would anyone want to eat ketchup and curry powder?  And I don't have an easy answer to your question except to tell you that I sat right down at the stand's shared tables to chow down mightily upon the stuff--and so did a French speaking couple across from us, and an English-speaking Asian family next to us...AND one of the ubiquitous Prenzlauer berg babies was getting his first lessons in currywurst from his local-looking parents one table over.

Currywurst: it's not just for breakfast anymore.  And it's really kind of good.  NOT LIKE Berlinerweisse, which is another famed local specialty--wheat beer (OK so far) with a nice big slug of red or green kinda berry-flavored syrup in it (ew).  It's served in a goblet with a fat straw, and it tastes like soda pop.  So if it's hot outside, you'll suck it right down like Orange Crush (which it's not unlike) and then get up and fall over--or worse, decide to have another.  If you are in Berlin with someone who has been here before, chances are he will talk you into drinking one.  I'd say Berlinerweisse is a joke the locals play on the touristas, but I've seen folks who give every appearance and sound of being From Here on the other end of one of those wide straws.   

But back to the green market!  I did have a good drink there: something called an Erdbeerenbowle.  Berlin is strawberry-crazed just now, and intensely fragrant little local berries (erdberren) are everywhere in the city: in supermarkets, in green markets, and in odd little stands that sell nothing else and look like giant strawberries themselves.  The gentleman who served my drink to me ladled it out of a pretty glass punch bowl.  According to the sign next to his stand, it's made of French champagne, light white local wine, and chopped stawberries that have been allowed to steep in the mixture.  It's both beautiful and delicious.   We'll be having it high atop the Potter building soon.

We also stuck our nose into the Kulturbraurai, another GAGA-ish institution.  It's an old brewery repurposed as an entertainment center, with clubs and places to see film.  Seems a night-time kinda scene.  I took some snaps.  

Anyway, I have some peas to shell for our dinner, and a HUGE bag of local mushrooms to cook up with cream sauce, so I'm going to get hopping.  


Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 4th, Not Asbury Park Even A Little Bit

I've only been away from the States on July 4th one other time.  We were in Amsterdam, and had decided to visit the Heineken brewery, where there is a hard-drinking beer sampling at the tour's end.  Around went the mugs and the small bits of Dutch cheese, and there was a Special Prize announced for anyone whose birthday it was on that day.  Ken and I were sitting amidst a group of Very Dazed backpackers (one of whom had actually lit up a joint in the lift on his way up to the tour).  And the Very Dazed backpackers began to chant, "USA!  USA!  USA!" There were a few loud exhortations about how All Americans There should get a Special Prize because it was our National Birthday.  And then more drunken, stoned hooting.

O, Lord.  We stared into our beers.  This was just before the Bush administration ran our Ship of State onto the rocks. That episode also marked the first time I was ever out of the States and really REALLY embarrassed to be an American.  This was before Iraq and torture, though.  This was before Ken and I had our conversations about how we should just let the nice folks at the Edinburgh Festival (our next overseas jaunt) assume that we WERE Canadians, as Scots often will, hearing an accent that sounds like ours.

We spent the rest of that day in Amsterdam pretending we'd never heard of the Fourth of July.

It's different this year in Berlin.

First of all, we have a brilliant statesman for a President.  OK, a lefty like me is going to have some issues with the guy, a man who's essentially a centrist Democrat who divides ideas into smart and dumb instead of left and right--but I refuse to be part of the circular firing squad that has been the American Left Wing for far too long.  Loyal opposition is one thing.  Essentially teaming up with the character assassins on the right without thinking about the results of policy is something else.  But this is no time to get into all that.  

Let's face it--Obama rocked Berlin, not too long ago.  And despite whatever qualms anyone might have about him, America looks  radically different over here than it used to, and it's a HUGE change for the better.  For real.  

Last night, we went to hear an organ concert.  I happen to love organ music, even when it's not mixed into the background of an Arcade Fire track.  Unfortunately, this one was a little bit like watching paint dry until the very last piece, Smetana's nationalistic "The Moldau".  That rocked.  And we walked back to our apartment.  At Alexanderplatz, a Michael Jackson impersonator was moonwalking amidst the roses and candles at the local shrine to MJ. 

Back at our apartment, a cool breeze blew in through the terrace, where we sat outside listening to Randoradio--Treavor Hasting's excellent July 4th show.  It felt good to hear something American and 4th of July-ish.  Treavor put on The Comedian Harmonists for us during voice breaks, and Robyn Hitchcock, of course, who defies national boundaries.  

And you are not going to believe this, but I swear it's true--somewhere in this city last night, there were fireworks.  We didn't see them, but we heard them for sure.

Off to Museum Island today...    

Friday, July 3, 2009

Holiday in Berlin, Full-blown

So I've had the Zappa song on my brain ever since the plane landed...was it only yesterday?  The house sitters are taking care of the cats High Atop The Potter Building (and probably drinking up all our cocktail makings, but that's fine.  They deserve it).

Yes, Rando fans, you are hearing me pre-recorded this month.  And Tom Jones, just shut up about that being redundant.  I KNOW it is, but it's what folks say.  So there.

The good news is that you get to hear about what it's like for this American girl to live for a month just slightly east of where the Berlin Wall used to be, something that would have been inconceivable (not to mention downright impossible) for me as a child.  As a child, I watched movies about people who got machine gunned for sneaking over The Wall, people who were SPIES.  As a child, the kids in my neighborhood played War, which was always WWII, and they were always fighting the Krauts, a word that my parents told me was offensive, but I didn't need them to tell me that.  I knew it in my stomach.  

My grandma was German, and the first time I was ever in Germany and walked into a restaurant serving old-fashioned food, I got a nose full of a smell I hadn't smelled since Nana was alive. I was born in New York. I don't live here. I've been here three times, counting this trip.  I don't speak the language, except to say hello to cats.  But I'm from here.  I am.

Enough time has passed since the War that when you say you are of German heritage, folks think more about the "Do you want to pet my monkey?" skit on SNL than make stupid assumptions about racism and anti-Semitism.

So, that was pretty heavy, but there you have it.

And it's sort of what's happened here: big shopping centers in what used to be a no-man's zone where the Wall was.  Buildings that stood roofless after WWII now fashionably rehabbed and minus the shrapnel scars I saw even eight years ago, the last time I was back.  And a kick-ass Russian restaurant a few blocks from the temporary home of the Potter building, here in East Berlin.  No irony served with the borscht.  

I had a gin and tonic tonight, for those of you on cocktail patrol.  I wasn't into Visiting My Roots at that moment.  It's hotter than the hinges of Hell here, and nothing's AC.  But that's OK.

We were at the Berlin Zoo today, an old-fashioned people-centric place where you can actually see the animals up close and personal.  It may not be as kind as the more modern zoos where all you ever see is a tail sticking out from behind some authentic African fauna, but it was a fine place to spend a hot afternoon.  There was a blunt, honest sign in the lion house, advising visitors that the big cats will pee on them if they bother the big cats.  Lions can do that.   And in the right mood, I understand the temptation.

Think I'm going to have another sit out on the balcony and then hit the hay.  It's scary late here.

I'll keep you all posted.



Friday, June 26, 2009

Is Mercury in Thermometer?

...or is it in Retrorockets?  What a week of train wrecks and misery it's been!!  I have little to say in print except to urge anyone reading this to listen to Randoradio for fast, fast relief.  Have a virtual gin & tonic with me today (Friday the 26th) at 4 EDT.

And let me know what YOUR favorite tonic water is!!  Yeah, I'll play some Michael Jackson, even though everyone else is, too...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Two Summer Drink Recipes

So I've been shooting my mouth off on the air about how to mix these things...seems  only fair that I give you folks SOMETHING of a recipe to go on.

First of all: The Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri

A note--Blenderized drinks are just FINE.  Really.  I know the snobs down at Pegu in NYC aren't there yet, but as long as you use decent spirits and fresh fruit, you'll be fine.  So here you go.  This is enough for at LEAST six drinks, anyway.  Probably seven or eight.


A big (double-sized) box of good, fresh strawberries, organic if possible (strawberries are one of those things that really get nailed with nasty chemicals if you go with the conventional ones; it's worth shelling out)

12 oz of silver rum
4 oz each of  FRESH lime juice and either triple sec or Cointreau
2 or 3 tablespoons Me Oko strawberry vodka OR blackberry brandy

Put the fruit and rum in the blender and liquify thoroughly.  Pass through a fine strainer to try to get rid of as many seeds as you can (not absolutely necessary, but it makes for a more pleasant drink).  Mix in a large pitcher with lime juice and cointreau.  Taste for balance, adding a little more juice or liqueur if it seems too tart or too sweet.

Pour about half the mixture back into the blender and add about two cups of ice--cubed or cracked, either way.  Blend well, stopping to stir a few times, until the texture is very smooth.  You'll hear the blender make a slightly higher whirring sound as this happens.

Pour into whatever festive glasses you have, garnishing with a berry, a slice of lime, or a silly umbrella.  Drink with straws.


And Second of all:

The Perfected White Sangria

White Sangria is the sort of thing that also gets eyeball-rolls from drinks snobs, but it's a fine drink for a summer brunch or for sipping on a really hot night.  Again, ingredients are all: use decent spirits and fresh fruit and all will be well.  Plenty of drinks come out of this generous recipe, the number depending on how much seltzer you end up adding in the last step--half and half works well, as the wine mix has LOTS of brandies in it.

1 LARGE (1.5 liters) bottle of  white wine--something good enough to drink on its own, and not too light
1 half cup each of the following: 

cointreau or triple sec
pear brandy
plain old grape brandy--nothing too fancy, here, but don't cheap out totally

One granny smith apple
Two or three ripe kiwi fruits
A good handful of seedless grapes, red or white
One ripe pear
a handful of mint (don't add until you are ready to serve)

Mix the wine with the brandy and liqueur in a large pitcher.  Taste for sweetness.  Some folks add a dash of simple syrup or bar sugar, but I find that OTT.  Slice the fruit, except for the grapes, peeling the kiwis first.  Add to the wine mixture.  Cover and allow to steep for a few hours or overnight.  Add the mint and stir.  Serve, mixed about half and half with seltzer.  You can keep the steeped fruit in the drink--the pears will be soft, but everything else will still be pretty--and/or garnish with a bit more fruit if you have some more around.  DON'T be tempted to put citrus fruit in here--it'll blow the balance.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Spring and a Rando-versary

How did all this dust get on this blog again?   I'm sneezing--safely--into my elbow-pit.  And ick.  Sorry, but sneezing into your elbow-pit is kinda gross...

 OK, OK! I digress.  Could it be that I haven't written here since February?

Yeah.   It could be.  It could be indeed. 

And so much has happened!  Swine flu--or as Rando DJ Tom Jones likes to call it, Hini (pronounced high-knee) flu--!  The stock market pointing (a bit shakily) in an upward direction!  Spring!  And the first year anniversary of!  

If we're talking about the viral spread of something, could we have it be Randoradio?  I mean, that would mean a Better World For Us All, I think.  

Why don't I just tell you about the GAGA arts festival and the Randoradio open studio stuff we did this weekend?  I did three (count 'em, three) shows in three days, more daily broadcasting than I have done since the 1970's.  That was cool on a purely ego-trip level, but  I was babbling by the end of it all...

The real heroine of the weekend was Blue, who charmed the crowds coming through our radio station, loaded programming onto the Randopods (which we've taken to calling Creatures, after her suggestion), and rocked an amazing show on Sunday afternoon, putting up some pretty nice numbers of streams running.  

It was rainy and cool, and there were a number of great moments, like the guy who used to play with The Left Bank who wandered in, and the guy who'd played with Pharaoh Saunders.  Folks materialized and became Randoradio members, just like that.  Plenty of people signed our email list.  And we watched the number of streams we were running climb during the weekend.  All in all, most gratifying.

I interviewed the marketing director of Me Oko vodka, which is made in the same arts complex where we have our studios.  His name is Jeff Cohen, and we talked for some time about the pleasant libation that is his business these days--an interesting quaff made of vodka infused with huge amounts of either strawberries or ginger.  The stuff is almost liqueur-sweet, but not quite.  It's not fake-y tasting, either; it simply tastes like strawberry or ginger.  Works well as a cocktail ingredient, and a little glass is also nice after dinner, with ice.   

Other artists in the GAGA complex put our station on their computers for their guests to listen to, and suddenly, we were a local station as much as we have been a world-wide one.  I closed my show on Sunday announcing a bathroom make-over raffle over a B-52's record.  Now, don't get me wrong--we LOVE it when the ice station in Antarctica listens to Rando, and when our servicefolk in Iraq tune us in, and some of them do.  But local buzz is just fun.

I'm listening to Tom, The Logovore, right now, and he's playing the Traffic cut I meant to get to on Saturday and didn't have time for.  So it's all good.

Happy Birthday To Us.

And time for me to finally read the Times Magazine that I never got to yesterday.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Groundhogs and Men Forcing Things

I cannot get enough of the videos on Youtube of Mayor Bloomberg getting bitten by Chuck G. Hogg, the Staten Island Groundhog.  They delight me.  It is so fitting to watch Mayor Michael Bloomberg get chomped.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't hate Mayor Bloomberg.  Up here high atop the Potter Building, we happen to like him tons more than we liked Rudy (except for about three hours after the attacks on 9/11, when we weren't thinking too clearly).  But Bloomberg acted--forgive me, men--like such a  old school GUY yesterday. Face it: men force things.   If something doesn't work, men tend to shove it as hard as they can.  And then it breaks and they have an opportunity to get out the power tools and make a real mess. 

So the men who were obviously in charge at the Staten Island Zoo yesterday (Christine Quinn, who was also present, had the sense to stay out of the way) had decided that The Groundhog Would Not See His Shadow and Spring Would Come Early.  They already had a little banner all made up for the TV cameras announcing this fact.  

And then Chuck G. Hogg decided NOT to come out of the little birdhouse-looking thing they'd put him in, not for food, and not for kids chanting his name--this even though EVERYONE knows that lots of seven-year-olds chanting in their maniac Lord-of-the-Flies way is JUST what makes groundhogs long to display themselves to glaring TV lights.  Some fool went for the standard grown-up hubba hubba joke: "C'mon out!  Your girlfriend's out here!"

The mayor, a man of action, offered the groundhog some corn on the cob.  The groundhog twice pulled it back into his house.  The mayor took the corn away from the groundhog to tease him out with it.  Predictably, the groundhog bit the mayor, hard, right through his fancy black leather gloves.  And so, in true alpha-male fashion, the mayor Forced Things: grabbed the groundhog, who was by then attempting to escape, and held him up to the cameras.  The miserable beast squirmed.  His real handlers hustled him back into the safety of the cat carrier in which they'd brought him to the event, poor thing.  And the Spring-is-coming banner was unfurled.  

Mayor Bloomberg appeared later in the day with a band aid on his finger, cracking jokes about terrorist groundhogs and courageously keeping the city safe from same.  News reports later noted that since the Chuck G. Hogg had been raised in captivity, that there was no rabies risk to the mayor--and that his tetanus shots were up to date.

I would like to note that it is snowing in New York today.  Pretty hard, in fact.  I love it when a plan comes together.  

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mollycat, The Inauguration and A Winter Noontime

The house is empty, and I have a few minutes to blog away.

Perhaps I should start with the mundane and work towards the profound.  This morning, my cat Molly jumped up on the table next to me and attempted to steal a piece of bacon off my plate--a brazen and rude act of bad-kitty-ness never before attempted in our kitchen.  I dumped her off the table, she glared at me from the floor, and I wondered what kind of metaphor that was.  And then I suddenly thought of the chopper bearing the Bushes up, up and away from the White House.

Looting.  I have been thinking about what looting means a lot lately.

So here's what I decided: the nation has dumped Bush down onto the kitchen floor because he was looting and it took the stock market crash and the waves of misery spreading out from it to make us realize it.  Lots of us could deal with him lying, but stealing--looting--that's when you buy a gun and stand in front of your hurricane-ravaged house with it.  That's when you finally make the politcal phone calls and drag  your friends to the polls.

In our case, in America's case, it had to get as brazen as Mollycat's bacon-grab before we finally got off our asses.  But how gorgeous and inspiring and heartening that awakening, that rising to our national feet has been!

It hasn't hurt that we have an extraordinary, brilliant, and highly disciplined leader in Barack Obama.  He ran a fabulous campaign, and he is setting up a dream team of an administration. He will certainly do things that will piss me off in the next four years.  I wasn't nuts about the Rick Warren pick for the opening prayer at the Inaugural.  But I understood where he was coming from and why he did it.  He's everyone's President, not just mine. 

I know there are folks who believe that my kind of thinking--looking for symbols and portents and metaphor in all manner of places--is irrational.  And it is, but I believe that there are many kinds of wisdom, and that the intuitive can be as important as the logical.  I think that the intuitive can dance in front of the logical, in fact.

The other big metaphor lately has been the Miracle On The Hudson, much derided by hard-nosed types who call it just good flying and good luck.   But it all seems to be part of the same story: a disaster narrowly averted by a serious-minded, highly trained leader who did the right thing at at the right time.  Maybe there was a bacon-grab here, too; perhaps the plane was stricken by cost-cutting by the airline as much as it was by a flock of birds.  We'll know more about that in the weeks to come.

But it was like the Inauguration and the election.  People, inspired by the captain's leadership AND because of their better angels, Did The Right Thing.  They drove their ferryboats out to the plane and got other people off.  The passengers mostly helped each other, although there was some folly and panic (hardly to be wondered at).

It feels like some vast corner has been turned, like we can all breathe a bit easier.  And it feels like there are all these little portents, like love notes left around from God, it really does.  Happy landings.  A quiet house.  The cat, seemingly penitent, purring in my lap.