Friday, November 30, 2012

Family Time

The Thanksgiving holiday is officially over here. Polly left for Provincetown this afternoon and Emily left for Germany last Monday. We had a really great time, of course, as we usually do. We ate well. The kids took some fine walks. They were impressed by the “new” Kent downtown, which is bubbling with activity. We ate at Ray’s and the new Mexican restaurant. We shopped. This week John, Polly and I drove down to Holmes County to Charm and the Doughty Valley. We discovered that the old convenience store in Trail, home of the famous Trail baloney is now an antique/junk/you name it they have it store where John bought four cast iron jacks. The proprietor practically told us her life story and was very entertaining. Polly told her she should have her own reality show. She kept remarking how much John reminded her of her husband, who also worked with stone.

An interesting phenomenon occurred every evening after dinner. Everyone sat around the living room, silent except for the soft   clicking of their various digital devices, tapping away on Facebook, Google, YouTube, et. al. Of course, we had spent most of the day talking, talking, so ii was rather peaceful, in a sort of surreal way.

Actually, Emily will be in New York in a couple of weeks for the grand opening (and closing) of the Coloring Book Project,. The original date for this event was washed out by Hurricane Sandy. Since Emily was the co-curator of this epic art show, she felt the need to come back for it. She has promised to take photos/videos of the gala premiere. The gallery, called somewhat mysteriously ABC Rio Neo, is located on the lower east side of the metropolis. Besides Emily and me, the city of Kent is represented by Joe Culley and Addie Cheges. Another Petrou is included, namely me talented granddaughter Katina. We expect a full report, not by the NY Times, but by our German correspondent.

The above illustration is of a family favorite, which we had for dinner the other night. They ate the whole thing, too.

Monday, November 19, 2012

New Cat in Town

It’s been just about a year ago that we lost 17 year old Dupree, the beautiful long haired black cat which John had found as a kitten in a park in southeastern Ohio. He has been sorely missed. Last Thursday, John brought home a tiny black kitten as a new member of the household. He is part Siamese, relentlessly active, tearing about the house, pouncing on newspapers and shredding them, jumping on tables and laps, rushing up and down the stairs and skittering through the kitchen. It’s like having a pet roach, without the disgust factor. He also does that Siamese talking thing that they do.

Last night when the two far away sisters arrived for Thanksgiving, he had a full audience of adoring cat lovers oohing and aahing over his cuteness.

Today he has been sleeping of the time, like a normal cat, relaxing after his stellar performance last night. John hasn’t named him yet, waiting for him to let him know what it should be. T.S. Eliot knew the importance of the naming of cats. Every cat I have had has started out with one name and ended up with another, which seems to have fit better than the previous one.   So we shall see what develops.

But I hate to think what he’ll do to a Christmas tree.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Angry White Men

One significant outcome of the recent election seems to be the large number of angry white men. Having run the country for 260 years, they seem to resent the fact that one of the Other has succeeded in winning the votes of many people who are not white and/or males. I received a couple of Emails the day after the election from a couple of very angry white men who felt betrayed and claimed that everything they had been brought up to believe had been totally discredited by this unbelievable turn of events. One even sent me a breakdown of the Obama votes, showing the percentages of African-American, Latino and WOMEN voters who had gone for President Obama. It looked like something out of the xenophobic Pat Buchanan playbook, hastily put together to demonstrate the unworthiness of the victory: Well, there you are, you see! I reminded him that until 1920 almost all voters were white males and until 1964 most voters were white, period.

(On Facebook I saw another chart someone had put together showing that the states with the highest educated population  had also  gone for Obama, but I didn’t sent that to the angry white men, who also happen to be pretty smart and well educated themselves…but obviously seriously misguided.)

Some angry white men are trying to secede from the United States, claiming it does not reflect their values. Which are apparently similar to the South’s, circa 1860. I could have bought into that idea of secession during the eight agonizing years of the Bush administration, but I’m not an angry white male. I was more depressed than angry during those years, feeling a sort of despair that thinking people could have elected, at least once, such an incompetent (unless you were very wealthy) group of scoundrels.

So what shall we do with these angry white men? They happen to be the “job creators” who have spent the last four years trying to make sure that President Obama would be a one term president, and now their dreams are dashed.  They have enough money to retire retreat to the islands where most of their money is, so maybe they’ll just sulk until 2016, or withhold their job creating powers another four years to prove how hurt they are by the betrayal of the 47% for voting the wrong way. And it will be Obama’s fault, of course.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mia Famiglia

My little brother Ed, who tuned 76 last week organized a trip for Michael, the next to youngest brother (77) and me to drive up to Corning, N.Y. to visit our sister, the world famous Mary Lu Walker. The drive up NY State Rte. 86 is one of  my favorite rides, pretty even in November. It was the day after the election, so some of s were quite joyous in a very subdued way, since some of us had been on the other side. Being civilized  and loving people we shelved all discussion of the election outcome.
We had a lovely sunny, warm day and arrived around 4 o'clock in the afternoon.
We were pleased not only to greet our sister and her husband Don, but niece , pretty Peggy, down from Buffalo. She had brought dinner with her, and since she is a marvelous cook, we felt coddled.
 We wined and dined and talked and laughed. We do stay in touch, through the Internet and the phone, so we didn't have any new news, but it just felt so good to be together in the flesh.
The next day, we test drove ML's new Spark, a sweet little blue mini sort of car from Korea, and had lunch downtown at the fine deli. Another niece, Jane, arrived from Ithaca, with Speck, one of her Corgis. She brought with her a smoked turkey from the flock she raises for food. Jane gave us a demo of the skill training she does with her Corgis, and Speck performed perfectly. Cuter than a baby duck, that dog is. We did more talking, had a massive photo session with Jane's Hasselblad and Ed's and my IPads. Later on I Facetimed Emily in Germany and she joined the conversation.  We had a demonstration of the miracle of the cyberworld. Ed showed Emily the pictures from the morning, then Emailed one to her which she put on Facebook, all within minutes. Almost too much for us geezers to comprehend although we are all computer literate and have been messing with this stuff for years. It goes so fast now.
All in all, it was a time of storytelling, laughter and affection. It had been two years since we were together, and that was at a wedding and there had not been time to socialize with each other then. It's so good to be with each other, especially as we are getting older.
We are very lucky.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Who Cooked Mother Goose?

Some years ago I attended a week-end storytelling workshop which featured a storyteller, Mary Hamilton, I had studied with down in Tennessee a few years earlier. One of the sessions which she ran involved taking nursery rhymes and turning them into stories. The participants in this session were probably in their twenties and thirties, most of them school teachers.

When she asked them to recall a few old nursery rhymes, she was met with a series of blank stares. “You mean, like “The Three Little Pigs?” asked one. When reminded that that was already a story, or nursery tale, the student looked confused.

“Well,” Mary said, “Do you know “Jack and Jill,” for instance?” Some heads nodded. “Any others?”

Blank  stares.

Finally someone spoke up and said that they really hadn’t learned those kinds of things when they were little, nor had they “studied” them in teacher training. Mary looked at me, trying not to roll her eyes. She asked me to name a few, which I did, the common ones you’d think everyone would know: Little Bo-Peep, Old Mother Hubbard, Little Boy Blue, Jack Sprat Could Eat No Fat, Baa, Baa Black Sheep. I might as well have been speaking Swahili.

Since no one knew anything about nursery rhymes that made that session pretty much a bust, and Mary changed it to another theme. Afterwards we discussed this. How had so many people missed what was a rather key part of childhood? The workshop was in a university town, the people in the class had degrees in education, and they all spoke English. I still don’t know if they were unique, or if Mother Goose has been cooked. These rhymes are part of our cultural literacy alluded to in literature, the various media, even in advertising and general pop culture. They are historical, symbolic and mythic.

I have a number of Mother Goose books, one of which is fairly recent (the 80s, called “Lavender’s Blue”) and one by Chas. Addams, featuring his creepy characters and a macabre take on the story line. Of course, that’s my children’s favorite. I find it interesting that, even in the newer ones, everyone is dressed in old fashioned clothing, mainly from the early 1800s.

I also have the Opie’s “Annotated Mother Goose,” which gives the historical significance of the rhymes and what they actually represent. Do they reach that sort of thing in English departments these days? Probably not. But the language alone is worth the trip through some of the quaint verses.

Oh, wait - we speak text now. And reciting to a kid such lines as “Ride a cock horse to Bannbury Cross” would probably get you arrested for obscenity these days. And if you talked about Jack Horner putting his thumb in a Christmas pie, you might be thought to encourage rude food habits. To say nothing of Peter putting his wife in a pumpkin shell. Or the old woman who lived in a shoe beating her children and putting them to bad. Or Georgie Porgie chasing the girls and making them cry. Well, these  things are totally politically incorrect. But wonderful.
I have to believe that somewhere parents are reading these to their children.