A few weeks, maybe a month, I wrote a short poem that sprang from a phrase that came into my head from out of nowhere. “Park Me Down By The Ocean”. As I wrote it the vision of a disabled veteran in wheelchair formed in my mind. Someone struggling to find peace. A singer songwriter friend, Suzan Lundy, asked if she could write music for it. A while later at regular artists gathering to which I belong she sang the poem, with a few changes, to her music. You can hear it at this LINK

And here is the very simple original poem…

Park Me Down By The Ocean

Park me down by the ocean
Sit me down by the sea
Salt air on my face
It’s where I have to be

Raise me up on the mountain
Lift me up in the sky
Cold winds on my face
Make my spirit fly

Leave me out in an open field
Set me on the grass
The humming of the bees
May bring me peace at last

Take me away from things I fear
From dark and heedless noise
From all the crazy foolishness
That destroys the hope of joy

Park me down by the ocean
Sit me down by the sea
Salt air on my face
It’s where I have to be.

Ricotta Cheesecake Flan

April 14, 2015

I recently posted a picture of such a flan on my Face Book page and of course now have to publish the recipe. IMG_1424

Ricotta Cheesecake Flan

Make pastry of your choice and roll out to fit your preferred flan dish. I butter my dish lavishly to avoid sticking. I am sure there are nonstick flan cases out there. Carefully line your flan dish with the pastry and trim excess. If you can, make the edge of the pastry stand a little proud of the flan dish edge. Make a few holes in the bottom of the pastry. Line with foil and weight the foil down with baking beans or similar heavy inert item. I use a smaller flan dish weighted down with a thick ceramic pot. Bake at 375 Deg. for 15 minutes. Maybe a little less time if you have a good convection oven.

While your flan case is baking mix vigorously the following in a bowl. These amounts will fill a nine inch flan case.

2 Cups Ricotta

½ Cup Heavy Cream

2 Eggs

1 Egg Yolk

1/3 Cup Confectionary Sugar

Finely grated rind of one Orange

Finely grated rind of one Lemon

I add 1 or 2 Teaspoons of Vanilla Essence (Or Anise flavor, even Pernod!) but others do not. Other variations are to add candied peel, chocolate chips. There are hundreds of other ways to flavor and garnish the filling.

After the fifteen minute pre-bake remove the flan dish from the oven and allow to cool before pouring in the mixture.

If you are inclined use the excess pastry to make lattice strips. Finicky work to get the lattice straight but very cool looking.

Bake the filled case at 375 Deg. for 30-35 minutes or until the mix is set in the center. Cool on a rack. Decorate with thin strips of lemon and orange rind. I leave it in my garage fridge to get it nice and firm before attempting to remove the flan from the case. I have seen flan cases with removable bottoms. I think that’s cheating!

Relative Sadness

March 30, 2015

It is sad to announce that a show cannot go on. Even sadder to announce that it was because of a fire at the hosts residence. The show ‘At The Vineyard’ with partner Anne-Louise was set for March 21st. We had even rehearsed, and were getting close to what we thought would be a great show. We were very disappointed.

But our disappointment cannot compare to the sadness our hosts, Chris and Susi Carlberg must feel at having lost the home in which they had lived for forty years. Even though the frame of their house remains intact, the interior is destroyed and must be rebuilt.

Our show can be rescheduled and go on without so much trouble. I cannot imagine what the Carlbergs have to face every day.

And so I am rescheduling the show to take place at the Tom Cummins Hall at Saint Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church in Wilsonville. Most likely date will be May 23rd. And the show will feature the wines Chris makes at Christopher Bridge Winery.

Life goes on and we can all help each other to get past such events.

More details of the show will appear here soon!

My partner Anne-Louise and I are feverishly rehearsing for our NEW SHOW…’AT THE VINEYARD”. Just to give you a flavor of the show check out this VIDEO …it is the Official Trailer!

‘At The Vineyard’

February 20, 2015

Do you like Wine?
Do you like Music?
Do you like Comedy?

        C.B.C. tasting room

Then ‘At The Vineyard’ where Italian exuberance meets English sangfroid & understatement in a Cabaret Show of thought provoking, tear jerking, belly laughing storytelling & music with partner Anne-Louise is for you. March 21st @6.30 PM in the beautiful tasting room of Christopher Bridge Winery in the hills south of Oregon City. Sip award winning Pinot Noir or Gris and enjoy a great live show.

Tickets $20  at this LINK or email me at millenniumassoc@hotmail.com
Tickets includes one glass of wine.  Tasting flights will be available at $4 and snack plates $5.

For some years now I have had the pleasure and honor to read a selection of poetry intersecting the songs sung by ViVoce. ViVoce is the outreach ensemble of the Portland Revels. They are an a capella women’s ensemble and sing songs from around the world, two performances in winter and two in summer in concert. Directed by Bennett Bailey and Jamie Lynn Webster, and managed by Antonia Forster; who wisely chooses the poetry.

Rehearsing with Director Bennett Bailey

Rehearsing with Director Bennett Bailey

Often, my partner Anne-Louise also joins me to tell traditional stories rewritten to provide a humorous theatrical interlude. We have a great time doing this, and we are always somewhat deflated when the two concerts are over.

Until now I have not thought of a way of telling everyone involved how much I think of them and the amount of hard work they put into such a short exposure to the public. Two concerts in January and two in June.

Today, February 1st, when many Americans are glued to a panel that will sell them things they don’t need for four or five hours and call it a football game, I sat and listened to the ensemble rehearse for the second winter performance. And it came to me to write a poem. A poem for them, and about what they really do. Here it is…

Never Doubt

ViVoce!
Never underestimate what you do
Never doubt that somehow
That somehow your voices;
Striking out clearly
Striking out and beautifully reflecting
Off stone and wood;
That you voices find homes
In the minds of listeners.
We who are listening transfixed,
Made to open our hearts,
Open to a sweet, bittersweet knowing.
We listeners almost willingly frozen
Receive a gift, another chance.
A chance to open dark chambers
And let the light of your music pour in.
Whether we know it or not
We are permanently changed.
Never doubt the value of what you do.
ViVoce!

Sure, it is a little ragged and I will edit it sometime. But it is a start to thanking them for their acceptance and kindness. More about ViVoce at this LINK

Most mornings, no matter what else I eat for breakfast, I butter a large piece of baguette from Grand Central Bakery and dip it into my coffee. As I pop it into my mouth the butter is melting, mixing with the honey sweetened coffee and I am once again in Paris on the morning of August 21th 1962, my sixteenth birthday. I am sitting with Wally, a school friend, and about fifty other teenagers from many countries in the cafeteria of the Auberge Jeunesse Internationale somewhere close to the Pigalle Metro station, just down the Boulevard from Le Moulin Rouge.

The day before Wally and I had cycled from Beauvais to Paris; about fifty five miles; stage four or etape quatre on our two week bike tour of North Western France. Wally, whose real name was Alan Wallace, was not a close friend. We were in the same year at secondary school; The Skinners’ Company School for boys. He was about to focus his studying on English and Languages; I would study Sciences and Mathematics (more about this choice later). We did not ordinarily mix. The only things we had in common were a love of cycling and perhaps a curiosity about France.

No Englishman can ever be neutral about France. It is close not just geographically but emotionally. Since Wally and I both lived in Kent the only thing that separated us from France was a shallow ditch of navigable salt water twenty two miles wide called The Channel by the English and La Manche by the French. The history of our country and indeed the county of Kent where we lived were soaked in a thousand years of Anglo-French arguments, diplomatic spats, invasions, ententes, and in 1944, a rescue.

kentIn the late fifties and sixties a wave of visits and ‘exchanges’ began. Organized by language teachers on either side they sought to introduce each new edition of their youth to their opposites. It has worked very well. Nearly every town in the UK now has a ‘twin’ city in France and more recently in any number of other European countries. But in the summer of 1962 these programs were in their infancy. Wally and I were in the forefront, boldly carrying a tiny piece of teenage Englishness to France. But that is not how two fifteen year old schoolboys rationalized and planned a two week cycle tour in the winter of 1962.

Visit again soon for Episode Two…

 

 

 

 

 

I think I posted this poem a few years ago when it was shorter. It contains, in a jocular style, a list, an inventory of medical or physical concerns I once presented and will again to my doctor. As the years go by the list, and the poem, grow longer. Here is the version I read last Thursday at Songwriters Roundup at Artichoke Music. Which by the way is a terrific institution and musical hang out. Check out this LINK.

My Medical Inventory
or erectile is not my only dysfunction

Scanning from the ground upward over my torso
Reveals an disturbing inventory of dysfunction and decay
Brachymetatarsia, in both feet!
Unequal leg length
Reconditioned knees
Atrophied right quadriceps
Hernia Scar
L4 & L5 Vertebrae way too chummy.
Are these breasts?
Are these jowls?
A score of epithelial polyps decorate my neck and torso
Gum recession
Moderate gastro intestinal reflux
Causing persistent rhinitis.
Three diopter challenge in both eyes
Now between cataract procedures
Dermatochalassis, left and right
Somewhat corrected by Blepharoplasty
Scintillating scotoma (look it up!)
Finally to cap it all
Androgenic alopecia
With rear solar panel developing.
And yet when asked
I reply, Oh, I’m fine! I’m fine.
And you, and you, still love me.

IMG_0845

Blepharoplastus Horribulus

Earlier this year I had Blepharoplastic surgery. This was to improve my peripheral vision which was being slowly compromised by drooping eyebrows. It certainly changed the way I looked. Indeed for a while, as the wounds healed, I was as you see, hideous.

Nine days ago I had the first of two cataract surgeries; the most common daily procedure at any hospital. The surgeon was three hours late. The procedure took less than fifteen minutes. After a night’s sleep I went as usual to the mirror to shave and immediately noticed the sharp improvement in near vision in the left eye. This improvement also allowed me to examine for the first time the corrugated nature of my skin, the fissures, ridges and grooves, the blemishes and tags that had been developing there for some time but hidden from my perception by a failing lens. It was a bittersweet moment. Now I was beginning to see myself as others do.

I am now wondering what will be my reaction when in two weeks’ time the right eye will also receive a new lens. All those gruesome features marking my face will then be in 3D.

Nevertheless, I can only marvel at the procedure and am thankful it is so mundane. Here is a picture of my face wearing the approved ophthalmic tea strainer which protects the eye at night from poking and prodding.

IMG_1193

The Approved Ophthalmic Tea Strainer

 

Air travel gives you a tremendous opportunity to write. Even if your plane is curiously on time there are hours spent waiting in various holding pens, waiting on the aircraft itself before it lurches off the ground and of course those happy hours aloft with nothing to disturb the even flow of creative thoughts except the vomiting child next to you and the scientifically programed interruptions from the crew reminding you of all manner of things you really needed to know; or not. If we add to this the interesting gas that passes for breathing air on an airliner one can hardly be surprised if any writing done on an airliner is anything but a touch morbid.

And so, I submit this poem written en route Boston to Portland very recently. I think it demonstrates the dangers of air travel very clearly. As I recover from that trip I may edit this poem and so ask you to view it as a work in progress and join me in hoping that I don’t have to fly anywhere soon unless I am upgraded to the nirvana behind the dark curtain where the privileged sprawl on vast cushions slopping up champagne and chowing on free nosh.

I met life one day
Walking along
And life joined me to talk.
For years we walked,
Together.
It was fine, my life.
And later,
When I stumbled
Life would slow down,
Waiting for me.
Now I stumble more
And life waits even longer,
So that I wonder when
Finally,
Life will turn and say,
“I can wait no longer”
Striding onwards.
Then I will have a new and darker companion
Who does not walk with me, or ahead,
But silently behind.
Who was there always
Some distance
Unseen around a corner of perception.
But now I have to see,
And I find myself
Picking up the pace
To stay ahead
Ahead of that dark silent figure
Who will, one day, cover me
With an inescapable shadow.

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