Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving:First One Up

One of the perqs of being the primary cook on Turkey Day is the sweet, secret pleasure of being the first one up in the morning. It's your moment to savor, and you're the alchemist who will make it all happen. You've prepared well, everything you need is piled on counters, spilling out of fridge and cupboard, waiting for your hands to scrub, peel, pare, stuff, slice, chop, saute, sweeten, mash, season, salt and garnish. It's a show, and at this moment the stage is silent, empty, and you have it all to yourself. Have some tea. This morning is a beaut, outside is a picture perfect holiday scene right outta Currier and Ives;  the wailing wind had its way with the trees again, is now howling around our teeny house where thankfully the power is on and the temperature inside cozy. The skylight upstairs is covered with snow, looks to be about 8 inches on the deck outside, at 6 a.m. the world is a lavender blue, and this moment belongs to me alone.

The ineffable delight of being First One Up on holidays I inherited from my dad – by some insidious osmotic process. I've no idea how many Christmases and Thanksgivings I awoke to stumble to the kitchen find Dad concocting. He'd turn that wonderful smile on me, the one that said he was happy, his face a dead ringer for The Cat in the Hat ( that look was one of his many charms); devilishly happy, a guy utterly in his element, he'd be schmoozing the kitchen as he whipped up stuffing, or prepped the bird, or removed it from the oven as reverently as if it was King Tut's sarcophagus, peaking under the buttered cheesecloth as he basted and cooed, mmmmm-ing with self-satisfaction.

There are most certainly moments, well, every year probably, when sometime during the holiday week I find myself mentally (lately verbally, to my shame) bitching and moaning, wishing someone else would do it all, or we could just take a break this year, you know, burgers on the grill maybe? Because it is a production, after all. But then I remember that big productions are my specialty, and the folks I love love that I do it. And it always ends up not just being me anyway that does the work. We have our table decorating specialist, our fire building king, and whatever visiting peelers, parers, bean snappers, spud mashers, and candlestick cleaners may be available on a given year. So, really, it's just a couple days' work in return for which we have the pleasure of quarts of rich turkey stock you can't buy anywhere for love or money and a week's worth of leftovers requiring only a quick stovetop or oven reheat.

As they say in Joisy: NOICE.

The other day I awoke to fourteen wild turkeys wandering the field near the house. As I grabbed the binos to study them more carefully, I realized they look like the Skekzies in The Dark Crystal. Now if only I'd had a gun, and I felt confident about using it, I'd have bagged today's supper on the spot.

Time's marchin on. I better get to it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Devastated Landscape

There's really only one word to describe what transpired both here in  Maine and across the US this month:


Here in my neck of the woods an unexpected storm blew in the Sunday before Election Day– a wild, wheeling mass of Mother Nature's fury that whirled out of nowhere and laid a solid punch in the gut of our wee harbor and the surrounding hills. Weirdly, local "safe" harbors themselves seemed to exacerbate the impact, serving as wind tunnels in effect channelling and intensifying the wind as it reached land.  The surprise foot of wet, heavy snow was supposed to be only three or four inches; coupled with sudden 45 mile an hour winds  the poor snow -laden trees, many still heavy with leaves,  didn't have a chance. The wind grabbed hundred year old oaks and maples by the throat and throttled them til they were no more, casting amputated limbs carelessly aside, through cars, roofs, powerlines and roadways. The small fries suffered as well; first time I've ever seen willows, the "willing to bend" contingent, ripped to shreds. Later on, driving around town (on the few roads not blocked by two foot diameter trees or CMP guys with chain saws trying get a handle on downed wires) was one of those run-off-the-road experiences, so aghast were we at the sheer power of the storm. I've seen hurricane damage, tornado damage, but I've never seen trees twisted like this, throttled to death by wind. It looked so bad, so painful, you actually felt heartbreak for the trees.  Apple trees twisted beyond repair, two foot diameter oaks  ripped in half; even the CMP guys said they'd never seen a storm like it. No power for four days, and No Wood Stove! A cardinal sin in winter Maine. We huddled by a teeny fireplace playing gin by (our one) kerosene lamplight and candles, praying for the power to come back on.

It sucked.

But not as badly as realizing that, due to no power, we'd miss watching the election returns on Tuesday night, an event that, fools though we may be, we look forward to every election season. It's kind of our Super Bowl, having followed the players for months we muster enough faith in our fellow citizens to hope this time it will be different. This time they'll get it.  Anticipating not too bad a pasting, we hied on down to get the NY Times first thing Wednesday morning to find... Again: Devastation. Nationwide. Devastation.

It's not like the Dems deserved to win. They didn't. But how can Americans be so foolish? How can they make such spiteful use of the one weapon they still retain against corporate rule: their vote. Yet, why would the "unaffiliated" or "undecided" (really? really?) vote Democratic when the party can't even explain itself to the working folks who are their true audience?  Knowing the Repugs since Reagan have mastered the art of doublespeak, the Dems carry on trying to argue with Repug nonsense instead of tellin it like it is, in plain language, boldly enough to actually address an uneducated public that has lacked any sense of genuine political perspective for decades.

The most shocking news chez nous was that half of Maine voters voted for that illiterate fool Le Plague to renew his tenancy at Blaine House.  They chose an ignorant bigmouth over a sensible, experienced, plainspoken, intelligent and honest man like Mike Michaud. We suspect the vote margin Le Plague managed to eek out had much to do with Mike coming out in the months prior to Election Day. And that's not only a sad but a scary reflection on Mainers.

TV pundits would have us all believe that voters are fed up with "partisanship",  that Americans want Dems and Repugs to start working together in DC, that the message of the voters to both parties is "knock it off".  Really?  But what if it's not? What if the public is simply being bratty, both those who voted, and most particularly those who did NOT vote in this lowest-turnout-in-decades election. A local Maine newspaper publisher, Alice McFadden sees it this way:

"What is clear is that it's a mandate for more polarization, not less. Governor LePage's style is a
poster-perfect representation of "my way or the highway" and his re-election is a clear declaration
that nearly 50 percent of Maine voters share that sentiment. So while in recent years there's been lots
of talk in Maine and nationwide that what voters really want is for politicians to work together, find
common ground, rise above ideological partisanship, etc., in fact this election in Maine and in most of
 the rest of the country delivers precisely the opposite message."  (The Free Press, Nov 13, p 30)

Alice has hit the nail on the head. And don't get me started on that egomaniac spoiler Eliot Cutler, a man who offered little that was different than Le Plague's agenda of cutting/ privatizing services, including schools, and letting the rich keep their booty at the expense of poorer municipalities. This kind of talk, when much of the country is simply trying to survive, is just a more extreme (need I say un-Christian?) version of the me-me-me-me eighties, and thank you, Mr. Reagan for setting that limbo- low standard.

Morning in America. Sure.

Just look around: Devastation.