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Good to get back for the festival

After weeks of out-of-state family reunions (both sides) and two destination weddings, I was relieved to get home late last night in time to participate in the last day of the Folk Festival. I love live music, ethnic food, and all kinds of people rambling about, so the setting was perfect. Even the torrential downpour at the end was refreshing—a dramatic ending that has become as much a tradition as the steamy hot weather and the fantastic food. (Past festivals I remember doing the polka on St. John’s Street or frantically grabbing last-minute Greek and Laotian food deals as the skies opened up.) Despite current economic woes and cranky politics as usual, there are lots of things to like about our fair Mill City, and the annual Folk Festival is one of them. Hope you got to enjoy it too.

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Rethinking the top 100

After posting about the Globe’s top 100 New England books last week, I have a few quibbles with their choices. First of all, I think the books should be about New England or at least have some connection with New England beyond the fact that the writer went to college here. I just read “Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, which I liked a lot, but it is set out west and the only connection with New England is that the author went to Pembroke College in Providence and taught at UMASS-Amherst. The same with Julia Glass who wrote Three Junes, which is a lesser book and the only connection with NE is that Glass was born in Boston. I defend the inclusion of Kerouac, because On the Road is rooted in Lowell, it is the starting point of his journey. The same is true of Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast which while being set entirely on a sailing ship is steeped in the New England sensibilities of the author, so that the people he meets and places he goes are all seen through a uniquely New England sense of the world. Some books that should have been included:
1) Come Spring by Ben Ames Williams – sure no one reads Williams anymore, but the book is so old New England.
2) Carry on Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham. If I were Salem, MA, I would be strenuously objecting to the the omission of this title from the Globe’s list. Not only is it a fascinating and inspiring, and well-told tale, of a young boy who overcomes hardship to achieve success, but it is a wonderful snapshot of Salem, back in the days when her sailing ships roamed the world, bringing back exotic treasures from around the globe. A visit to the Peabody-Essex museum in Salem lets you view a portrait of Bowditch and also see intricate ivory carvings as well as a “late Qing Dynasty merchant’s house.” Salem may be more known for the witch trials but back in the day it was a proud and prosperous seaport.
3) Lost on a Mountain in Maine by Donn Fendler. This is a simple, but compelling true story, told by Fendler, about his experience of walking off the path on a day hike up Mt Katahdin, Maine’s highest mountain. He was 12 at the time, quickly became lost in the fog that rolled in and spent 9 days out in the wilderness. It reminds me a bit of the classic, My Side of the Mountain.
4) Why would they leave off Country of the Pointed Firs, by Sarah Orne Jewett? This is a classic, capturing the sensibility of the early 1900’s in coastal Maine.
5) If one is including less literary authors, such as Richard Russo and Stephen King (not really a fan), then why not Eleanor Lipman’s The Inn at Lake Devine?

More omissions keep occuring to me. In short, I feel that the list was hastily assembled without much thought going into what categorizes a book as from or of New England.

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We found the sun

I heard on the radio this morning that since May 1, we have had only three full days of sunshine as if you haven’t noticed. Notwithstanding damp basements and ruined vegetable gardens, one positive aspect of all this rain is that when the sun finally returns, it will be well appreciated—a joyful event. I know, because we recently returned from five full days of sun and hot weather (high 80s) in North Carolina, and it was well worth the expense of the plane ride. Our joy was also enhanced by the fact that we spent the entire time visiting with family and doing fun-in-the-sun stuff such as swimming, jet skiing, tubing, and kneeboarding (similar to wakeboarding only on your knees) on a huge lake about an hour from Charlotte. As true New Englanders, in addition to being sturdy enough to deal with all kinds of finicky weather, we know enough to appreciate the gift of a warm summer breeze and blinding sunshine when it happens. Here’s a few takebacks from our North Carolina trip: When people call me ma’am I feel old, the lakes are black-water dark because of muddy bottoms, poisonous snakes swim in those lakes, and according to my kids “people are so nice hereespecially our cousins.” And while it’s no secret that sun deprivation can cause depression, now that I’m back and feeling sunny, I’m counting on finally having those rays closer to home…

posted in Just life | 1 Comment

Top 100 books

I love lists, especially book lists, so enjoyed the Globe’s top 100 books about New England or written by NE authors. You can check off the ones you’ve read and rate them; I have only read 35 of the 100, but just squeaked in by finishing Moby Dick last weekend (more on this once I’ve recovered). I also just started Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, but I love it and am half-way through, so maybe I could make my score 36. For local authors, we have On the Road, of course, and Massachusetts by Nancy Zaroulis of Chelmsford.

posted in Books | 2 Comments

Some “favorite things” about aging

To commemorate her 69th birthday, actress/vocalist Julie Andrews made a special appearance at Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall to benefit the AARP where she performed a new version of “My Favorite Things” from the legendary film The Sound of Music.  Thanks to an email from my sister-in-law, below are the updated lyrics:

Maalox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in string,
These are a few of my favorite things.
Cadillacs and cataracts, and hearing aids and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favorite things.
When the pipes leak, When the bones creak,
When the knees go bad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad.

Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,
Bathrobes and heating pads and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.
Back pains, confused brains, and no need for sinnin’,
Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinnin’,
And we won’t mention our short, shrunken frames,
When we remember our favorite things.
When the joints ache, When the hips break,
When the eyes grow dim,
Then I remember the great life I’ve had,
And then I don’t feel so bad.

posted in Just for Fun | 0 Comments

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