Jump to LCF Update April 2019 watching recos and reading recos.

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, as Dad used to say. If you don’t know the second line of that little poem, it’s “I wonder where the flowers is?” My dad was a drummer, and he loved the rhythm of language.

daffodils for the LCF April update
April in Amsterdam: Chilly, but vibrant

Big news this month is a very late Easter/Passover season. I love the rituals and stories that unfold over this week. Whatever your beliefs or lack thereof, I hope the simple beauty of the ideas finds its way to you in one way or other.

Dad: A Brief Reminiscence

Dad studied Passover in particular. He even wrote his own version of the Haggadah, the story of Moses and his delivery of his people from Egyptian slavery.

He called me and said proudly, “I wrote a rap.” It was about as rappy as Dr. Seuss, and you can make your own determination as to how The Sneetches stacks up against NWA (short) or Will Smith (pretty close). Dad’s Haggadah Rap contained the refrain, “But the children of Israel down in Egypt Land were safe in the palm of God’s mighty hand.” Dad himself had mighty hands; he’d been 6’6″ in his prime, until age shrunk him. But it didn’t shrink his hands. In any event, I loved that he chose that particular metaphor. To this day, I associate the word “safe” with my hand in my dad’s, or with his arms around me.

Right before he died, I was talking to him, and he was holding my hand. He said, “Your hands are small.” I said, “That’s only because yours are so big.” He said, “Too bad you didn’t get big hands like mine. Then you could have played the piano.”

Dad, by the way, used to drive me to my piano lessons. Even with breath and words were at a premium, he made sure I’d smile.

Coming Soon: Spring Festival Party Plan!

Like Thanksgiving, I never enjoyed Easter until I began to cook it myself. And Easter was particularly rough for me because I don’t eat lamb or ham, and they seem to be the Easter requirements, with the former also pretty much de rigeur on the Passover table.

But when I discovered Greek Easter, I perked up. First off, Greek cuisine is the bomb. The palette runs through the spectrum with giddy joy: brilliant tomatoes, fire-colored peppers, brilliant green herbs, ending in deep eggplant. The dairy products conjure up images of adorable lambs and goats frisking around as their moms provide the rich milk for feta, halloumi, and labneh, the ultra-thick, downright decadent cream.

labneh for the LCF April update

A trip to my local Middle Eastern emporium provided heaps o’ fun, including the above and….what could these be?

Yep, that’s my phone shadow in the bottom left corner.

They’re fresh almonds! So cool!!

I’ve already dropped the Greek Salad and Spanikopita recipes. I’ll be cranking about 4 more treats in the next few days and putting the final touches on the big plan. The truth is, if there ain’t lamb, it ain’t Greek Easter—all to be explained in yet another upcoming post, courtesy of my good friend Callie Floor, who grew up in the tradition. But a springtime table groaning with Spanikopita, Moussaka, and delectable Greek Easter bread on the side: count me in, and make the festival about whatever you like.

LCF Update April 2019: Watching Recos

Steve and I did a double whammy finish last night of one of our favorite shows and a new favorite. Both were season finales, with, we grant you, very short seasons.

The first, Catastrophe, has been a joy and a wonder—and we wrapped it up last night, watching the fine and lovely finale. True, the language is raunchy as hell; Catastrophe is not for the prim. But it is also one of the best explorations of what it likes to make a relationship work that I’ve ever seen. Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan play two characters named Rob and Sharon, who end up in a kind of why-the-hell-not? marriage. Love is not even mentioned for a good while. They fight, they have a lot of sex (the talking is more graphic than the showing), as well as at least one kid, and they are both superbly, supremely hilarious and touching. I’ll miss it. Yet now that it’s over, I have to say it ended in exactly the right way.

Ricky Gervais’ Netflix show, After Life, is equally wonderful, and fortunately coming back next year. Gervais uses his, shall-we-say, “thorny” personality to unexpectedly fine effect as a grieving widower. I’ve seen him snarky, bitter, and pissed off plenty of times, and honestly nearly avoided the show because I’m kind of tired of it. But he adds a layer of grief under everything, along with a struggle to be at least a little bit of a decent person. It results in an honest, raw expression of mourning. And anything with Penelope Wilton is going to be extra special. Caveat: If you are uncomfortable with characters expressing a complete lack of belief in God or in an afterlife, either prepare to be uncomfortable or skip it. But I hope you’ll give it a whirl.

LCF Update April 2019: Reading Recos

On the book front, S and I have been listening to Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. (Helluva subtitle; deeply grateful for cut and paste at the moment.) Pollan reads the book himself, and, as an audiobook, he paces the information, which is pretty dense, in an optimal way. It’s amazing to find out the ways that psychedelic drugs have been used to treat, with great success, conditions from alcoholism to anxiety over terminal diseases. It’s also pretty frustrating to learn about how Timothy Leary basically and almost single-handedly knee-capped a promising area of psychiatric medicine, and did it primarily out of self-interest—at least, that’s my takeaway. Doesn’t narcissism suck?

I crashed through Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America, Eliza Griswold’s powerful, closely-observed report over a Pennsylvania family who had the misfortune of being 1500 feet downhill from a fracking pond. Griswold manages to make the arcana of fracking understandable, both from a technical and a deeply personal standpoint. I read the 300-page book in about 4 days; it was that hard to put down. (I’m not a super fast reader.) Fracking, uncomfortably close to home for a while, appears to have slowed in Michigan. If things heat up, I’m much better equipped to fight, thanks to this book.

I also finished two novels this month, and, unusually, I loved them both. Assymetry starts with an Alice in Wonderland riff, and before it gets tiresome and gimmicky—which it could—author Lisa Halliday moves on. Her writing throughout shows remarkable discipline, precision, and a lithe spirit.

Cherry, by Nico Walker, chronicles a descent into what the author describes as “The Great Dope Fiend Romance.” Autobiographical, the protagonist begins as a smart but aimless teen who ends up in the army, unexpectedly gets sent to Iraq, can’t get a whole lot done afterwards due to PTSD, and turns to bank robbery in order to support his habit and his girlfriend’s. There is wonderful spare prose poetry here, unsentimental; he fails to romanticize an iota of his experiences. At one point, the soldier sends his girlfriend a documentary, one of the few he can access in Iraq, that delights him. She hates it. “I thought the world of those penguins,” he says. So many layers of regret in just those few words. Great stuff.

Enjoy the spring, friends.