Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bred, Good Bread

I have written about Rafael before. He is the Spanish charmer who sells bread at the local farmer's market. Last year he bought a wonderful old building in a little village called Nelson. His place is on the village circle, on which there is a white painted wooden church, a white painted town hall, a former grocery store, which is now dwelling of some sort and Rafel's building. It's the kind of village which makes me want a time machine, so I could see what it was like in the 19th century, when it was a center where local farmers came to shop, to attend school and church and to socialized and run the town in the village hall. That hall is now used for meetings, social gatherings(e.g., the Women's Literary Society) and monthly Swiss steak dinners of high quality.

There are four main county roads that meet at the circle, which is why it's a fine place to open a bakery. The building which Rafael owns has always been favorite of mine. It started early in the 19th century (1824) as a church or a town hall. For years and years of the late 20th century it was pretty much a wreck. About 30 or so years ago, a couple of piano builders bought it and restored it, repairing the roof and the siding and strengthening the floors and walls. They only stayed a short time, however. Then it was bought by a man who tried to make it into a sort of general store. He did some further restoration and added some attractive landscaping. That didn't last and it sat empty for a number of years until Rafael took it over last fall.

Rafael was a DJ in Spain. He met the American woman who is now his wife one night when she came to the disco. He told me he put a bunch of records on and took her out for a walk, leaving the music to play on without him. Is that romantic? Hell, yes. She teaches at Hiram College, but she has been quite ill since Rafael has been at our market. The new bakery is not too far from their home, which is convenient for both of them.

I went up there for the first time the other day. Rafael greeted me with a hug. He loves the acoustics in the shop, which is an open three stories, all wood, so he ran up to the balcony where his CD player is and put on a medieval choir CD, which filled the space beautifully. He said that he is very busy and sells out every day he is open. The place smells wonderful, since he makes all kinds of breads,, sweet breads, nut breads, gluten free breads, Spanish bread (which is French bread, but he is Spanish, so that's what he calls it.)

When I was leaving, a big, burly trick driver came in and greeted Rafael with a "bonas tardies," a regular customer. I found out that Rafael also raises sheep, has them sheared and spins his own wool; there's a little spinning wheel behind one of the counters. He also lets the local quilters hang their quilts from the balcony and he handles the sales for them. He loves the look of them, so he is most happy to oblige them. They do add a lovely touch to the place.

When I left, he hugged me and said to tell my daughters he loves them all. It's mutual.

Cat Prizes for Me


We are old, he and I.
We walk more slowly
Than in our younger days.
But his tail is still held high
Like a plume on
The hat of a Victorian lady.
His topaz eyes still gleam.
Never a lap cat 'til now,
His old bones
Need our warmth
And my old bones find ease
In that soft, purring body.
Because we are old,
Dupree and I.

This is a poem I submitted to the WCLV (the Cleveland classical music station) for their Pet Poetry contest, along with a picture of Dupree. I won the grand prize, which consisted of a bunch of pet products and two tickets to the Blossom Festival and a CD of "Carnival of the Animals" and "Peter and the Wolf with Peter Schikele." I was quite surprised and if you go to WCLV's home page here you will see the whole thing. At least I think you will. It was read over the air twice and I missed it both times, since they did it on the early morning show when I am busy with the crossword puzzle and cannot be distracted.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why Logic Fails

We are now hearing that 26% of Republicans believe that President Obama is a Muslim. Again. I guess they have already forgotten the fuss that was made over the Methodist minister whose church he attended in Chicago, the Rev. Wright. Whatever. There was a really good article in Newsweek a couple of weeks ago (Aug. 16, to be exact). Titled "The Limits of Reason," the essay was a discussion of the fact that, although confronted with facts, people choose to believe their own version of reality. The author explains that confirmation bias, which she defines as "seeing and recalling only evidence that supports your beliefs" is a mechanism which allows people to avoid any appeals to reason or logic. She doesn't mention the Internet, but there is plenty of ammunition there which enables those who want to believe that the president is a Muslim, is not a native born American and any other information that meets their anti-Obama bias. Any factual data which belies their beliefs come up against a stone wall.

In discussing issues with others, our confirmation bias is stronger than reason, since, as the author says, "arguing is less about seeking the truth than about overcoming opposing views." This is a discouraging idea, but it is obvious if you have ever tried to use reason when discussing certain issues with those who are not open to factual information - which is my own bias. Emotions come into play, too,which only reinforce the need to hang on to our own biases. Of course, we like to think our own biases are the "right" ones. It is just difficult to hear people proclaiming so strongly opinions disguised as facts, or "facts" garnered from unreliable sources that have proven to be false. Truth suffers greatly these days.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Moving Right Along

I had a very pleasant birthday last weekend. John took me up to Cleveland to see the very last road company performance of "The Phantom of the Opera" at one pf the fabulous Playhouse Square theaters. The theater is as ornate as the Phantom stage set, which is very ornate indeed. I am amazed at the magic that can be done with lighting, sound, sets and costumes. I'm not a Lloyd -Weber fan ---except for "Jesus Christ Superstar" --since all his music sounds alike, but this is a fun thing to watch and the Phantom had an incredibly good voice. We then went to the Mad Greek for a very fine dinner. I had a chicken dish which I replicated a few nights later: lemon juice, garlic, oregano, olive oil marinade with a dash of balsamic vinegar, then baked with onions, mushrooms and kalamat olives, which I didn't have on hand but will for the next time.

A very fine surprise was from Cynthia. She painted these beautiful panels for a cabinet in my room, based on an 18th century French wallpaper. This cabinet, now so elegant, is like most chest- like furniture in my hose: it's full of Stuff, stuff not worthy of the gorgeous exterior. The original cabinet was built by one of my brothers for my 78 rpm record albums, back in the day when such things were common. My husband made the doors and I think we kept clothes in it then. Now it looks like an heirloom.

I was happy birthdayed by phone, email, e-cards, regular cards and Facebook. It was very nice.

Three Out of Towners

Last week-end was also a time for visits by people who used to live in Kent. Two of them left here over forty years ago. One hadn't been back since then; one had been back a few times. Two of them had left as teen agers and are now middle aged. Nancy and Joe from near Philadelphia made a quick visit after being at Chautauqua for a week, and stayed in Kent with their old friends Lloyd and Roberta, who kindly invited me for breakfast and some catching up. Short visit, but we keep in touch via these blogs.

The next visitor was David, last seen here when he was 15. He was back for a 40th high school reunion. His parents and I were great friends and his mother in Massachusetts and I have stayed sporadically in touch for over all the years they've been gone from here. David is one of six children, all smart, all great looking and now all living on the East Coast. Their grandfather was one of my favorite English profs when I was a student. It was great to see him and hear all about the rest of the family. He didn't actually graduate from the University School, since they moved east when he was only 15, but he came back because the U. School went from kindergarten through high school and these were people he'd know throughout his childhood. He also had a chance to check out the houses he'd lived in and was shown through one of them by the current occupant. Nostalgia reigned.

The next visitor was Marcy and her husband Fred, who were taking son Nathaniel to Cornell to start his freshman year. They are both professors of philosophy at Indiana University and Nathaniel is going to study --philosophy. Marcy's parents were my second family here for years and I've known her since she was 4. They moved away from Kent when she was in high school and are both gone now, but she stops in Kent on her way to or from other places. Actually we met for lunch in Hudson, since they were on the road, avoiding freeways and exploring small towns along the way. Nathaniel is a darling and I have a feeling there will be some real empty nesitng going on in Bloomington for a while.

So I got a year older and saw a lot of people in one week-end and it was pretty good.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cats in Dog Days

Yesterday afternoon I looked out the front door and found these three cats sprawled out in front. Sateen was right on the front walk, Herman was in the hostas and Dupree was under the arbor vitae. They could have been dead, victims of an unknown assailant.However, they were only sound asleep, stretched out the length of their bodies in hopes of a breeze. Only one of these cats lives in this house, but he doesn't mind sharing space outside as demonstrated above.
Too bad humans can't do the same.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I Read the News Today, Oh Boy.

Maybe it's the heat. (After a few days of bearable temperatures, it's back to the 90s.) It's gotten so I find it very hard to read or listen to news. It's not just the wreckage of the lives and careers of folks living on the Gulf coast, or the floods in China and Pakistan, or the choking smog in Moscow,or the endless and futile war in Afghanistan. It's the little things that the media seem to think we need to know.

We're being over radiated by the medical professions. This is something I'd rather not know, having been radiated for six weeks last year after the breast surgery If you have fat around your abdomen, you're doomed to shorter life. (Shorter than 83?) As a former skinny person who gave birth to 4 kids in 6 years, I have developed a paunch, which is abdominal fat, of course. The amount of air pollution because of the heat is killing old people and people with breathing problems. I fit both categories. Is forgetfulness a sign of Alzheimer's or normal aging? Quick, what picture won an Academy Award for Best Movie in 2009? Ads for pharmaceutical products contain long lists of side-effects which sound worse than the condition they are supposed to treat, mostly disgusting things like diarrhea, nose bleeds and, rarely(hah!), sudden death.

There seems to be an endless stream of these little tidbits, almost all of which portend imminent death or disability. Well, dammit, it's just TOO FREAKING MUCH INFORMATION!
"Ignorance is bliss" may be a cliche, but it rings with truthiness. Bliss is hard enough to achieve with all the big things happening in the world - well, actually impossible - but I don't need all those terrifying little bits of stuff in addition.