March 10, 2009

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT Posted by Sheila Connolly (with a little help from Sarah Atwell, who likes to cook too) I think I was born in the wrong generation, or maybe the generations turned over and I didn't get the memo. I thought that people were supposed to entertain other people. In their homes. As in, invite them over and ply them with beverages and feed them, and then watch movies, play Scrabble, or (heaven forbid) just talk with them. I started thinking about this because my daughter has invited some people over this evening to share a cable program shown on a channel that her friends don't receive. She works forty miles away from here, and her friends in general live much closer to work, or even in the opposite direction. So it's a lot to ask, that they drive down here just to spend a couple of hours, especially on a work night. But I applaud my daughter for making the offer. When I was growing up, in a different century, I remember my parents getting dressed up and going to cocktail parties. Men wore suits and ties, women wore fancy dresses with poofy skirts. They went out to dinner or to "the club" after (and I don't want to think about how many of them were driving under the influence; as far as I know, there were no casualties in their group). We kids got left with a babysitter, who in those days was not a teenager but a responsible older woman who needed the money. Of course, that older woman wasn't always as responsible as our parents hoped: sometimes she fell asleep, either out of exhaustion or because she had raided the liquor cabinet and passed out. She bribed us kids to keep our mouths shut by letting us stay up way past our bedtimes and eat whatever we wanted, and we thought she was really cool. I can't remember my parents ever inviting people over for dinner or cards or cocktails, at least in the 1950s and 60s. It wasn't that we didn't live in a nice home, because we did. More likely it was because my mother loathed housework and didn't want to face cleaning up the place to "company" standards. I will say that as my parents grew older, and moved from one community to another, they did get involved with bridge. In her heyday my mother was playing with three groups a week, two with ladies during the day, one with couples at night, which did involve polishing the place until it shone (at least it was dark and the cobwebs wouldn't show). And there was always food, most often potluck, and the ladies brought their favorite dishes to show off. When I was first living on my own as a graduate student, in an apartment with two roommates, we dabbled in party-giving. Nobody had much money in those days, so we usually pooled resources. One event that stands out was a holiday party, complete with Christmas tree. By the end of the evening one guest was carefully stringing potato chips to hang on the tree (I think he had enjoyed the spiked punch), and the orthodontist who lived upstairs contributed a number of large plastic teeth as ornaments. Most of us could walk to these parties (a lot of us didn't even have cars), so the risk to life and property was minimalized (and no one ever called the cops–that came a few years later. Oops, never mind.) But what seems to have gotten mislaid as we grew older, took jobs, raised families, and so on, was simply having people into our homes for good food and good conversation. Nobody cooks any more, especially not for large groups, with the possible exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas, an eternal and onerous family obligation. At home, we stick something in the microwave, or if there are offspring in the mix, we grab a Happy Meal on the way to lacrosse practice. What we've lost is the pleasure of it. Barbara Kingsolver, in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, makes a good case. She points out that we've come to see cooking as a chore, a burden, something to escape from, rather than an opportunity to take pleasure in the timeless process of feeding others, and to reinforce family bonds. One memory that stands out from my years in Berkeley is a Thanksgiving dinner at the home of several colleagues (once again, a shared house with shared rent). Berkeley in those days was full of people who were adrift from family and home. That year some twenty-five or thirty people came together for dinner, each bearing their specialty. A single table extended from the living room into the hall, and everybody fit. It was a wonderful reminder of what community can be–a true if spontaneous family–and I hate to see that kind of tradition disappear from our culture. So slow down and smell the roses, or at least the garlic. Make a recipe from scratch. Drag out that old cookbook of your mother's and recreate something from your childhood, to pass on to your kids. Try something new, and revel in the process–chopping beautiful fresh vegetables, seeing them meld together so that the whole is better than the sum of its parts. And then invite friends over to share it. You'll be the richer for it.
A Shotgun Wedding, perhaps? Posted by Kate Flora Newspapers these days have added a feature of great interest to writers--the opportunity for readers to comment on articles they have read. For us, who often face the challenge of trying to get into the minds and personalities of characters who are "not us," this is a chance to drop into different heads and read a variety of reactions to the report of a crime. This week, such an article appeared in the Boston Globe and several other regional papers. The article, which briefly describes an eighteen-year-old's arrest for straying out of his travel lanes on an interstate highway, and what police found in his car when they stopped it, appears below. Although I grew up in Maine, which has a strong hunting culture and guns were commonplace in many homes, I now live in the so-called "liberal" state of Massachusetts, which actually has quite conservative gun laws. Initially, I read the article with a kind of knee-jerk "what was he thinking, what were his parents thinking" reaction. But following it up, and reading many of the more than 500 comments that appeared in his local Connecticut paper, it seemed that I was being given a window onto both sides of one of our country's most passionate debates: the value of gun control for public safety versus the passionate protection of the right to own guns--all kinds of guns and in great numbers. As a crime writer, I am usually thinking about handguns, and about all kinds of guns and other weapons in the hands of those who are likely to misuse them. I find it a little spooky to think my neighbor might have a closet full of guns and knives, or be driving around with a lot of firepower in the trunk of the car. Although what is frequently missing from these debates is a tone of civility and/or a willingness to consider other's points of view, reading the comments opens a window onto a world that I rarely visit, and discloses a surprising anger, strongly held beliefs about an American's fundamental rights, and an unnerving passion for owning arsenals of lethal weapons just for the fun of it. If you're still with me--read the below and share your reactions. For here, too, readers have an opportunity to comment. _________________________ Article from the the Boston Globe: State Police allegedly found a rifle, a shotgun, brass knuckles, knives, and numerous rounds of ammunition, including high-capacity magazines, in the car of a young Connecticut man who was stopped yesterday on Interstate 495 for a traffic violation. Luke S. Huizinga, 18, of Danbury, Conn., faces numerous charges. But his mother, Amye, said yesterday that he was simply a gun enthusiast who was probably planning to "show off" with the guns during a trip to Maine. "He's a real sweet kid, and he just made a mistake," she said in a telephone interview. The traffic stop occurred about 12:20 a.m. on the northbound side of I-495 in Bolton after a trooper observed a 2000 Ford Ranger failing to stay within marked lanes, State Police said in a statement. Luke Huizinga was charged with possession of a large-capacity firearm, a high-capacity feeding device, ammunition, and a dangerous weapon (brass knuckles), State Police said. He pleaded not guilty yesterday in Clinton District Court, where Judge Martha Brennan set bail at $10,000 and slated another hearing for April 3, said Tim Connolly, spokesman for the Worcester district attorney. Amye Huizinga said her son, a high school graduate who was home-schooled, was headed to Maine to lend a hand in setting up the "do-it-yourself" wedding of some friends. He has been studying at night for his certification as a heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning technician, she said. "He just wanted to show off his guns," she said. "He loves his guns. They're really just a collection with him," she said. "As a mother, I was just, like, 'What were you thinking?' " The items found included a Bushmaster 16-inch rifle with a night scope and pistol grip, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, and five knives. A .50-caliber bullet was found in Huizinga's pocket; the remainder of the contraband was found in the car, police said. ________________________________________ And here are some of the comments: So maybe the brass knuckles were 'iffy', but who didnt own something like that or a butterfly knife when they were a kid?! the rest of his "arsenal" ****... is completely legal and protected by a little thing called the Second Ammendment, much like this newspaper, even with its infinite mistakes, is protected by the First. Crazy parents = crazy kids I'm surprised the kid was allowed to raid the End Times Rapture supply closet. The Lord must be be upset because now he'll have to put off The Second Coming until the family can re-arm 3 legal guns are now an arsenal? and one .50 cal bullet! WOW! "appeared evasive" - interesting.. This editor, Eugene, is as stupid as they come. Gives a new meaning to "Shotgun Wedding" Here is the definition of Arsenal as found on Arsenal- –noun 1. a place of storage or a magazine containing arms and military equipment for land or naval service. 2. a government establishment where military equipment or munitions are manufactured. 3. a collection or supply of weapons or munitions. 4. a collection or supply of anything; store: He came to the meeting with an impressive arsenal of new research data. Looks like Eugene had the correct word if you ask me, on the other hand you come off sounding like what you clearly are, an ignorant punk. Keep it up your, teachers and parents must be so proud! Oh, there's a little more to the story than the mother is willing to admit. This is one of those scenarios where the police, by chance, stopped something bad from happening before it happened. Two months from now, the headline would have been "City Man Opens Fire at Massachusetts Wedding." A 'sporting and...

Lorraine Bartlett

Five women, five weekdays, many surprises.

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