Saturday, October 27, 2012

Heading Home. Hurricane Be Damned!

With a Delta flight due to get me out of Boston in 24 hours I'm refusing to acknowledge the possibility that something stupid like a hurricane named "Sandy" is going to interfere with my polling place presence on Nov. 6.

"Sandy," for cryin' out loud.

That's a name for a big-eyed dog from a comic book or a play or a movie called "Annie," not some force of nature that, as I understand it (as of this posting on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 1:44 EDT) has already wreaked havoc with poor ole Cuba and can't make up its mind whether it's going to muscle its way up the Eastern seaboard, go inland a bit or slap the snot out of New England, including Boston. Meanwhile I'm trying to divine a voodoo ritual for sending the sucker out to sea without bothering any fishing, leisure or cruise boats.

So, barring the unforeseeable, this will be my last post until Austin is once again terra firma.

It has been a wild ride: got sick in Odessa, sicker in St. Louis, almost well in Wisconsin and healthy by Beantown.

Wisconsin was receptive and more than a few people had met and known Molly and were surprised to know her food-loving side. Minneapolis, of course, remembered her from her days at the Tribune -- which is still in print, thank goodness, but looking slim like too many dailies.

The Boston sojourn was organized by a friend and former neighbor from our days in Summit, N.J. Susan Chase is part of a remarkable group of women who have founded a non-profit that provides potable water by digging wells in a village in Ghana, and is now installing latrines to augment the one already in existence. And yes, that's one latrine for the entire village.

(This might not sound like much, but the World Health Organization says roughly 2.2 million people -- mostly children -- die annually from cholera, dysentery and other waterborne diseases carried in polluted water. So while masters of the universe are manning oil fields and planning pipelines to bring black gold to freighters for distribution around the globe, the Skidmore class of '71 is bringing water to children who can now live long enough to work those oil fields. If you want to know more about the program, go to

In all, it was a wonderful evening with alumnae coming from as nearby as New Hampshire and as far away as St. Croix. This is a bunch of no-nonsense, Elizabeth Warren-supporting, vote-or-die women who would take great umbrage at being labeled do-gooders. They are committed to doing good because that's what decent people who can afford to help others should do.

While others might take advantage of a visit to an historic city like Boston, I went in search of good food guided by advice from another friend and former colleague -- this time dating to my time as a reporter for the Denver Post. Kelli, her husband Andy and their baby Biscuit (whose real name is Parker) now live here and are as devoted to good food as your above-average food freak. Kelli proffered two recommendations, one of which was worth the week's salary it cost to park in the nearest garage.

The Boston clam chowder at City Landing on Boston Harbor was outstanding, but the lobster mac'n'cheese at Max & Dylan's Kitchen and Bar was a proper way to celebrate the end of the lobster season. Situated in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood, M&D's clam chowder wasn't as artery-clogging as City Landing's, but their blackened scallops -- a half dozen good-sized day-boat bivalves atop a drizzle of orange-horseradish marmalade -- were worth the forever it took to find a parking space.

So yeah, as the 2012 book tour winds to a close and funds threaten to dry up completely, it has been a worthwhile ride, notwithstanding Sandy's threats to keep stirring things up.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

England. Wales. Houston. Umcka

If you only recognize three out of the four, not to worry: but if you ever feel a cold coming on whether you're in the UK, or Texas or St. Louis (where I am as i write this), get thee to a natural foods store and stock up on Umcka (pronounced "oomka") and Wellness Formula, scary looking oval pill things reminiscent of the monster Miracle Max concocted for Westley in "The Princess Bride."

Thanks to Umcka and Wellness monster pills I am now comfortably off  to the Chippewa Valley Book Festival in Eau Claire, Wisconsin then on to Boston where I hope I have enough clothes to keep me warm. Unfortunately, I was unable to spend more than four hours at the conference I originally came to St. Louis to attend -- thanks to coughs and wheezes and sneezes -- but that's history now, as is the second presidential debate, which I watched with great glee. It called to mind the phrase I heard throughout my month-long visit in England. Invariably dinners washed down with good wines and nice brandy loosened otherwise circumspect tongues, prompting such queries as "what's going on these days with your president and Mitt the Twit?"

It seems Brits take serious umbrage at presidential candidates returning to the mother ship and challenging queen and country's ability to host the world's biggest athletic event -- which was the usual stunning display of running, jumping, swimming, shooting, riding and diving. Unfortunately what wasn't seen on this side of the pond was the Paralympics, a 12-day display of a different sort, manifested in wheelchair events; swimmers with one arm or no legs; blind runners and amputees performing everything but gymnastics -- including wheelchair fencing, rugby, tennis, riding and volleyball.  I guess we weren't privy to this extraordinary event because, who knows, maybe we're too delicate to deal with events featuring less-than-perfect bodies? Maybe greedy sponsors or scaredy-cat networks didn't think they could make enough $$$?

Well guess what: stadiums and gyms and poolside crowds were as great for the Paralympics as they were for the big games. The most moving finale included disabled athletes joined by Olympians celebrating together. In this instance Americans were the biggest losers. Over there we watched in disbelief as these remarkable people did their running, jumping, fencing, riding thing.

On the other hand, in England we also watched Clinton speak at the Democratic convention (which now seems like ages ago) and interpreted it as a prelude of what was to come in the first presidential debate -- and we all know how that turned out.

But in talking with my friend Ed Finkelstein, publisher of the St. Louis Labor Tribune and much-respected political consultant, President Obama fumbled the first debate deliberately to throw governor Romney's camp off balance. Maybe the president did, maybe he didn't. What Romney did do was let punditry pump him up to the point that he forgot he was going mano a mano a guy who is full of surprises -- not the least of them becoming president. I think that is, has been, and will continue to be a bone that sticks in any number of throats.

Well, brother Romney clearly said to himself, if that first go-round was any indication, I'll just tap dance over this guy in round two. I'll toss out enough jumbled up compound sentences that this group of undecided voters will easily see how superior I am. I'll tell them about the binders full of women I found worthy of working for me when I was governor; I'll explain how my immigrant plan provides for "illegals" (yes, he used the term in front of a group  that included at least four or five Hispanics); I'll manage to conflate the issues of automatic weapons with two-parent marriage and hope nobody notices; and I'll keep repeating the same "values" verbiage over and over and hope none of these, these, these Long Island peasants will notice I'm speaking fluent argle bargle. And please, God, don't let Obama bring up that hijacked recording of me saying 47 per cent of Americans are freeloading tax and/or welfare cheats.

We know how well that worked out for him.

So now we're down to the wire. From here I go forth and spread my non-political message of cooking with Molly and dream my dream of an America where, on Nov. 6, all the people who say "my one vote isn't going to make a difference" will see the error of their ways and stir things up by checking every box that has the name of  the candidate most likely to work for a still struggling middle class, and not for those who inherited or cultivated great wealth on the backs of workers who watched their jobs go to that big Asian country Romney wishes he didn't have to talk about.

That ought to stir things up a bit.