Alice’s Restaurant

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In praise of ‘scruffy hospitality’

I ran this earlier this year.  But I decided that it was particularly appropriate for the holiday season so I move it up to today.

From Mother Nature Network:  http://www.mnn.com/your-home/at-home/blogs/in-priase-scruffy-hospitality

Your home doesn’t need to be picture-perfect to invite people over.

Robin Shreeves
June 7, 2016

My friends Dana and John perfectly practice what the Rev. Jack King referred to as “scruffy hospitality.” Their kitchen is small. The wood cabinets are dark and a few decades old. Spices and jars for sugar and flour line the countertops because there’s nowhere else to put them. A tall, round table shoved in a corner has mismatched bar stools crammed around it.

The sliding glass doors in the kitchen lead to a back deck with a well-used chiminea, an outdoor table and a large variety of chairs and cushions, many of them bought at yard sales. We circle the chairs around the chiminea on weekend nights during all four seasons, whenever Dana and John put out a simple call out through text or Facebook that says, “Fire tonight!”

There will always be food, but like the bar stools and deck chairs, the food is mismatched. Our hosts provide some food. John may have the urge to make jalapeño poppers or Dana may put together some version of salsa with whatever’s fresh from the garden, but there’s not a formally prepared meal. Everyone just brings something. It’s perfectly acceptable, encouraged even, to bring odds and ends of foods that need to get used up. I often bring wedges of cheese that have already been cut into or half a baguette to slice up and toast to dip in hummus. Everyone brings a little something to drink. And it’s a glorious feast.

This kitchen and deck won’t be featured in in Better Homes and Gardens anytime soon, but maybe they should be. They are two of the most hospitable spaces I know. By opening up their home as-is, Dana and John are the most gracious hosts I know. I almost wrote “by opening up their home with its imperfections,” but that’s not accurate. Their home is perfect — just like it is.

What is scruffy hospitality?

On his blog, Father Jack defines scruffy hospitality this way:

Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together.

He encourages people not to allow an unfinished to-do list to stop us from opening our homes to friends and family.

I agree, but here’s the problem. It’s hard to let go of the belief that our homes need to be picture-perfect — or maybe I should say “Pinterest-perfect” — before we can welcome guests. But the idea that we must make our home look un-lived in before having people over stops so many of us from sharing life together.

Continue reading at:  http://www.mnn.com/your-home/at-home/blogs/in-priase-scruffy-hospitality

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As my friends and I grow older, we’re setting our sights on communal living

Things I liked and thought about when I was a hippie back in the 1960s look better and better now that I am old.

Most of the ways of living peddled to us by the establishment as a way of exploiting us and taking what little we have seem far worse by comparison.

From The Globe and Mail:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/facts-and-arguments/as-my-friends-and-i-grow-older-were-setting-our-sights-on-communal-living/article32240746/

Douglas Tindal
Special to The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, Oct. 04, 2016

A few years ago, four friends began a conversation: Here we are in our 50s and 60s, still active and (relatively) youthful, but all moving toward the day when we can no longer cling to our cherished independence. Retirement homes seem unappealing, nursing homes a last resort. Why not live together and support each other?

It was casual at first, a bit of a joke. But we kept coming back to it. Finally, a few months ago, we went off for a weekend together to come up with a plan.

We began with our reasons for wanting to consider this seemingly offbeat idea. What attracts us to living together?

First, community. André Picard, among others, has written about the extensive research showing that community is vital to health. Being connected – to family, friends, neighbours, a community group, a running club, a mosque – can add years to your life, studies have found.

Second, a smaller carbon footprint. A smaller home envelope to heat and cool and a shared kitchen with fewer appliances than separate houses mean fewer greenhouse gases.

While affordability is not the key driver of our plan, we do expect living together to be more economical than our current, independent living arrangements.

Gradually, a rough plan came into focus. The house should have a front porch, one of us said (zeroing in on essentials!). It has to be downtown, we all agreed – downtown, walkable and close to transit.

Over the course of our weekend retreat, the conversation took some radical turns. Initially, we had imagined a series of neighbouring condos or other self-contained units, but as we talked further, we found ourselves more drawn to a truly shared space.

We realized, for example, that we want to eat dinner together more often than not. Most of us like to cook, and we all love to eat. So a big common kitchen is essential. We like to discuss stuff – just about any stuff – so we need places for conversation.

We have children and grandchildren, and love to entertain, so a guest suite is an obvious need. A media room. A wine cellar! As the common areas became more central to our discussion, the private areas became smaller. We now imagine each unit (person or couple) having private space of about 600 square feet, designed to suit individual preferences. Naturally, everything will be designed to accommodate “aging in place.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/facts-and-arguments/as-my-friends-and-i-grow-older-were-setting-our-sights-on-communal-living/article32240746/

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The End of Identity Liberalism

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/opinion/sunday/the-end-of-identity-liberalism.html

It is a truism that America has become a more diverse country. It is also a beautiful thing to watch. Visitors from other countries, particularly those having trouble incorporating different ethnic groups and faiths, are amazed that we manage to pull it off. Not perfectly, of course, but certainly better than any European or Asian nation today. It’s an extraordinary success story.

But how should this diversity shape our politics? The standard liberal answer for nearly a generation now has been that we should become aware of and “celebrate” our differences. Which is a splendid principle of moral pedagogy — but disastrous as a foundation for democratic politics in our ideological age. In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.

One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end. Hillary Clinton was at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they relate to our understanding of democracy. But when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop. This was a strategic mistake. If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded. Which, as the data show, was exactly what happened with the white working class and those with strong religious convictions. Fully two-thirds of white voters without college degrees voted for Donald Trump, as did over 80 percent of white evangelicals.

The moral energy surrounding identity has, of course, had many good effects. Affirmative action has reshaped and improved corporate life. Black Lives Matter has delivered a wake-up call to every American with a conscience. Hollywood’s efforts to normalize homosexuality in our popular culture helped to normalize it in American families and public life.

But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country. (The achievements of women’s rights movements, for instance, were real and important, but you cannot understand them if you do not first understand the founding fathers’ achievement in establishing a system of government based on the guarantee of rights.)

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/opinion/sunday/the-end-of-identity-liberalism.html

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More older adults learn it’s never too late to pick up a musical instrument

A couple of years ago when we were in the process of losing our home and starting a small business I sold off my guitars to help us get through our tough patch.

Lately I’ve found myself really missing having an instrument and started shopping and saving to get another one.

I was checking out a Yamaha FG830 and one of the Martin DXs at a local Guitar Center.  My finger tips are soft and my hands feel clumsy, Yet from the few things I picked the guy showing me the instruments said, “you used to play.  It will come back and there are ways to play around the stiff fingers of old hands.

I was a hippie in the 1960s came out in the 1970s as a dyke.  Now I’m an old hippie dyke and have have embraced doing certain creative things simply for the pleasure of doing them.

From The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/more-older-adults-learn-its-never-too-late-to-pick-up-a-musical-instrument/2016/11/10/628857ec-a570-11e6-8fc0-7be8f848c492_story.html


November 10, 2016

When Margo Thorning was a high school student in the late 1950s, she liked to play bongo drums while listening to jazz records, but it never occurred to her to take a drum lesson. She attended college, raised two sons, and worked as a senior economic policy adviser for a Washington think tank. All the while, the urge to beat out a rhythm persisted. So three years ago, at age 70, she started taking lessons.

“I’m pretty athletic, and I felt like I had a chance to be competent,” said Thorning, a Falls Church resident who plays tennis and rides horses. But drums were a challenge, physically and mentally. “Each hand and each foot is doing something, with a different hand and a different foot at one time.”

Mastering a new musical instrument has a reputation as a young person’s game. Like learning a foreign language, it is commonly seen as something that must be embedded during the formative years, otherwise the learner will be hopelessly behind, if not simply hopeless.

But increasingly, adults are embracing musicianship late in life. Some finally have time after their wage-earning and child-raising years have ended. Some are spurred on by studies showing the health benefits of playing music. Many describe it as scratching an itch they’ve had all their lives. And while some are happy to get to the point of playing “Happy Birthday” for their grandchildren, others achieve a level of competence that allows them to join ensembles and even earn money playing.

“It’s a growing trend,” said Alicia Andrews, assistant director and adult division manager at the Lucy Moses School at Kaufman Music Center in New York City. “In the last few years, more adults are really making music and arts a priority in their lives. ‘Bucket list’ is such a trendy term, but that’s what they say — ‘Playing an instrument has been on my bucket list.’ ”

Gary Marcus, a professor of psychology and neural science at New York University who wrote a book about learning guitar at age 40, said the idea that older people can’t learn new instruments is false. “There are very few really firm critical periods,” he said. “In general, most things adults can learn, but it takes more time, and they have to do it more incrementally. Maybe they won’t play like Jimi Hendrix, but they will be able to play well enough to satisfy themselves.”

Research shows that music stimulates the brain and enhances memory in older people. In one study, adults aged 60 to 85 without previous musical experience showed improved verbal fluency and processing speed after a few months of weekly piano lessons.

Continue reading at:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/more-older-adults-learn-its-never-too-late-to-pick-up-a-musical-instrument/2016/11/10/628857ec-a570-11e6-8fc0-7be8f848c492_story.html

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Remembrance Thoughts

Being old has a way of changing perspective.  I view things differently than I did 20 years ago when I first came on line…

Sober for the last 16 years.

I gave up fighting with people over words used to describe a shared aspect of our lives.  You have your words, I have mine.

I’ve traded engagement for detachment, politics for the quiet joys of simply living out my final years with someone I deeply love.

Yes I am disappointed by the results of the election.  But that has been the case many times before.  I first voted in 1968 and over the years have been more disappointed than not.

I do not march or go to street protests anymore. I’m too slow to run, too poor to deal with either an injury or an arrest.

Posts on Facebook reminded me that it is that time of year, when people gather to remember transfolks,  actually transwomen who have been murdered over the course of the last year.

Somehow we are supposed to feel connected, part of a “community” but I don’t feel a tribal connection, a bond.

Instead as I think back over the last year I think of artists I liked who passed away.  Leonard Cohen, Mose Allison, Leon Russell, Guy Clark, Merle Haggard.

I think of friends and family members some of whom passed away this last year.  Some battling cancer and surprising even their doctors.

I think of the friends both human and four legged who have passed away and how I miss them.

It is autumn, even here in Texas, the days are short.

Instead of mourning those I do not know I look forward to Thanksgiving when we will entertain an old friend.

Breaking bread, sharing stories about our ailments, remembering friends who passed away when they were way too young.

While the Day of Remembrance for murdered transwomen fails to personally resonate doesn’t make it a bad thing.  When I passed the torch of activism on a few years ago I was glad there were people there to take up the battles.

Indeed there are some ideas of special days I really like.  Thanksgiving, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day.  A Day of Remembrance fits in there.

‘Going Flat’ After Breast Cancer

When I had my implants removed a dozen years ago I had a serious breast cancer scare.

One of the things about being old is confronting my own mortality with courage and free from delusions.

We know many other folks our age, both men and women living with cancer, chemo, radiation and some dying.

All of this makes the concerns of the Doctors pushing “state of the art” reconstruction with their focus on appearances seem sort of shallow.

From The New York Times Magazine:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/well/live/going-flat-after-breast-cancer.html

Before Debbie Bowers had surgery for breast cancer, her doctor promised that insurance would pay for reconstruction, and said she could “even go up a cup size.” But Ms. Bowers did not want a silicone implant or bigger breasts.

“Having something foreign in my body after a cancer diagnosis is the last thing I wanted,” said Ms. Bowers, 45, of Bethlehem, Pa. “I just wanted to heal.”

While plastic surgeons and oncologists aggressively promote breast reconstruction as a way for women to “feel whole again,” some doctors say they are beginning to see resistance to the surgery. Patients like Ms. Bowers are choosing to defy medical advice and social convention and remain breastless after breast cancer. They even have a name for the decision to skip reconstruction: They call it “going flat.”

“Reconstruction is not a simple process,” said Dr. Deanna J. Attai, a breast surgeon in Burbank, Calif., and a past president of the American Society of Breast Surgeons, adding that more of her patients, especially those with smaller breasts before diagnosis, were opting out of reconstruction. “Some women just feel like it’s too much: It’s too involved, there are too many steps, it’s too long a process.”

Social media has allowed these women to become more open about their decision to live without breasts, as well as the challenges, both physical and emotional, that have followed. For a recent video created by wisdo.com, a social media platform, and widely shared on Facebook, Ms. Bowers and her friend Marianne DuQuette Cuozzo, 51, removed their shirts to show their scarred, flat chests. And Paulette Leaphart, 50, a New Orleans woman whose clotting disorder prevented her from having reconstruction after a double mastectomy, walked topless from Biloxi, Miss., to Washington this summer to raise awareness about the financial struggles of cancer patients.

“Breasts aren’t what make us a woman,” Ms. Leaphart said.

The nascent movement to “go flat” after mastectomies challenges long-held assumptions about femininity and what it means to recover after breast cancer. For years, medical professionals have embraced the idea that breast restoration is an integral part of cancer treatment. Women’s health advocates fought for and won approval of the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998, which requires health plans to cover prosthetics and reconstructive procedures.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/well/live/going-flat-after-breast-cancer.html