The Pleasure of

The Pleasure of, by Vitùc

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Hooray for Sept 18 – New Releases

Two new releases today, and they pair quite nicely with the big wind gusts and impending all-night storm. Both are coming to Boston (Grizzly Bear on Saturday, Menomena next month) – can’t wait to do this all live.

Grizzly Bear: Shields.  Flits between raw, lovely, and listenable with a hint of roughed-up Belle and Sebastian.

 

Menomena: Moms.  Just might like their other albums better but it’s too soon to tell. They’ve got these sleeper hits that get their hooks into you a little deeper with each listen.

Never Met a Humble Monkey

We are on the road, driving the traffic-at-every-juncture 332 miles between Boston and Paoli, PA for a family visit. Playlists have been played, sandwiches have been eaten, magazines have been read, and now we’re in yet another jam. In New Jersey. No surprise there. (But seriously, Jersey is cool. Just not the highway and 60% of the shore).

There’s an air of manic desperation being circulated by our leaking A/C. We are hitting rock bottom and we’ve still got two and a half hours to go.

Solution #1: Best Dave Matthews imitation. It’s a draw – Matt sounds like a mix between Dave and Jimmy Fallon’s imitation of one of the Bee Gees. I managed a closer approximation of Dave if he was fused with an 90 year old male country singer. Try this with “Tripping Billies” – it’ll get you through about five minutes. Two more if you argue about the winner afterward.

Solution #2: Since we’re already listening to Dave Matthews Band (only the old stuff, please), a long conversation ensues about how monkeys are not humble, even if to say one is serves your song transition. Which in turn inspires talk of
what kind of tweets the Proudest Monkey would post.

Just ate your last banana. #ProudestMonkey

Nailed zookeeper with dookie. Match point. #ProudestMonkey

Poked your mom. #ProudestMonkey

We don’t know how twitter works, but this takes up another ten minutes in traffic.

Solution #3: Fantasy car shopping. If you had to pick one of the 1039 cars within view to be your next car, which would you pick? This takes up another three minutes until Matt almost rear ends a truck. End of game. (But first he chose the blacked-out BMW M6).

Two hours and ten minutes to go. Now what?

Also, how do people road trip with kids? #becauseisaidso

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The Upside to Going in Circles

This is one of the best times of year for sunsets in our neck of the woods/city. My favorite place to enjoy it is the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, where the running path has been revamped in the last two years – widened, smoothed, with weeds kept at bay.  It doesn’t boast sailboats like the Charles, but it has a nice beginning and end, full circle, without streams of bicycling commuters zipping by too close or too fast.  You go around one side almost blinded by sun, and come back around the other casting 20-foot shadows for the cars on Beacon to admire.  Students, older Brookline residents, parents with strollers, a few guys fishing – a nice slice of life to pass or be passed by.

When you finish your laps, refuel with a protein-filled snack. A recent cabinet-rummage inspired these banana treats, which hardly need a recipe – just assemble and eat. They will fill you up, so if you’re peckish rather than ravenous, perhaps go for half of everything listed below.

Banana & Sunflower Seed Butter Snacks
Serves 1-2

1 ripe but not too squishy banana
1-2 tablespoons sunflower seed butter
Approx. 1 teaspoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon large, unsweetened coconut flakes
Small handful of chopped pecans or walnuts, if desired
Pinch of flaky sea salt

Slice banana in half lengthwise. Spread with sunflower seed butter, then sprinkle on coconut flakes, nuts, chia seeds, then salt. That’s it.  I bet little kids would like this if you sliced the banana in coins instead.  It’s also really good for breakfast with some black coffee or juice – something astringent or slightly bitter to cut the creaminess.

P.S. Running at dusk? Here’s a good tune for it: Mansions on the Moon – Radio

I Love You, A Bushel and a Peck

First things first. This is Mema:

She uses straws to drink huge goblets of beer while looking like the world’s biggest cutie pie. That’s just how she rolls.  You can do what you want when you’re 88 years old.

During our trip to Texas in August, Matt and I got to spend a few blisteringly hot days visiting Mema — we roamed around Waco to see where my mom and her siblings grew up and then enjoyed a dinner out with all of them (my uncle has a Texas accent so thick that he can’t get Siri to do a damn thing for him), helped with a few errands and chores (H.E.B. runs and a little 105 degree weeding), and spent hours rooting around in an incredible cache of old photos and films.  Every photo came with a story, some of which I’d never heard before.  Like how my mother was named after my Grandpa’s favorite student Sandra, (said in a sing-song voice) “the smartest girl in the class.”  How Mema remembers her own grandfather always eating Limburger cheese (“Oooo-whew! And it smelled!”) And how Mema was engaged to another man when my grandpa, who was away at his marines posting and whom she wasn’t dating at the time but had in the past, wrote her a letter that read, simply: “Are you married yet? If not let me know.”  It was a characteristically succinct message from him, yet effective, because as they say: the rest was history.

On one morning during the visit we took a 45-minute drive out to Cedar Springs where Mema and Grandpa once owned a farm.  My sisters spent most of our childhood holidays and weekends there, and I wanted to relive the experience and have Matt see it for the first time. Just turning from the asphalt highway onto the rocky, dirt country road that leads to the house conjured up a gusher of memories: old blankets spread in the back of the big red suburban, where the heat from the road and the blast of the A/C made for the very best of naps, scouring freshly churned field rows for arrowheads, the smell of the peeling cedars and algae-blanketed pond and old cheese for baiting the hooks that caught the catfish that you’d name Charlie and then throw back, all underscored by the constant, undulating drone of cicadas.  Mema would make tuna fish sandwiches, Miracle Whip for some, but Hellman’s for those with more refined palates, and Grandpa would yell at rookie news anchors with bad politics while we giggled from behind his chair. Mema would care for her roses and flowers, and we’d marvel over the soft, raised veins in her hands that she said we’d all get some day.  Grandpa would read and read and read, but he’d move like a flash to the locked gun cabinet if you said you spied a water moccasin in the pond.

We’d do Thanksgiving there with ambrosia always part of the spread – for the uninitiated, that’s canned crushed pineapple, canned mandarin oranges, maraschino cherries, sweetened coconut flakes, mini-marshmallows, and sour cream all stirred together into a sweet, gloppy mass.  In college I thought myself quite clever when I called it “kitschy.”  I know better now, and it still holds a place of honor on our holiday table.  Grandpa would make killer brisket until he went vegetarian, which typically wouldn’t fly in that part of rural Texas, but no one dared mess with Grandpa.  During my vegetarian stint, when we had Hamburger Helper at home I had little alternative than to sneak handfuls of it into the potted plant centerpiece. (“So that’s why it smelled so bad!” says Mom).  But when we were at the farm Grandpa would give me some of his pile of sautéed peppers and onions and say that we vegetarians would live to be one hundred.  Once in a blue moon, Mema would pull out her accordion (yeah, that’s also how she rolls) and she’d play a polka, or this song.  She’d also squash the rogue scorpion that snuck into the house with nary a moment’s hesitation.

I’ve got the beginnings of the raised veins in my hands, and a Becker nose that will persist for generations, but I still hope to someday be as tough and chipper, social and effervescent as Mema, and as quietly smart, adaptable and hard working as Grandpa, who started delivering ice from a truck as a teenager, and went on to be a first lieutenant in the Marines, a high school principal, a baseball coach who hardly knew a thing about baseball, a businessman, and a grandfather to thirteen grandchildren.

The end.

Except for one more thing…

Aren’t my mom and her sisters and sister-in-law total babes??