Western New York History Lessons

I had never heard of Arch Merrill until I found his books at my dad’s house. Merrill worked at the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper for years and also wrote numerous books about the history and folklore of Western New York.

I read his book Tomahawks and Old Lace recently and really enjoyed it. His writing style is that of a chatty neighbor who lives to tell a good story.

Even though I grew up in Western New York, I don’t think I learned much about its history and folklore. Or if I did, it went in one ear and out the other.

Just a few interesting stories he told in this book:

“The White Woman of the Genesee”

Sam Patch

Mary Jane Holmes (“The name means nothing to you? Then there’s no gray in your hair.”)

George “Dutch” Anderson

I plan to read A River Ramble next, which is about his journey walking the length of the Genesee River.

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Gloria Steinem’s Life on the Road

I decided that I should read some of Gloria Steinem‘s work after seeing her speak at the Massachusetts Conference for Women in December. I virtually knew nothing about her except for the fact that she is a feminist and an amazing human being, so I really enjoyed reading My Life on the Road. The book title called to me because sometimes I wish that more of my life was spent “on the road.”

Reading this soon after my dad died, I was startled to find that the first chapter is about her father and her odd childhood. Her father was such a nomad that Gloria did not attend school as a child. On page 17, she explains that he was in a car accident and she didn’t make it to the hospital before he died. It brought me comfort to know that I was not the only person on the Earth who was not with my father as he drew his last breath. I ached for her and myself as I read, “I will never stop wishing I had been with him.”

It was fascinating to read about her experiences as a freelance journalist and organizer. She talks about how her life changed because of her participation in the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston—an event I had never heard of. She talks about speaking on campuses and in churches and at conferences. One experience she has is more eye-opening than the other.

She ends the book by talking about how she finally found a balance in life after decades of being on the road. She writes, “I can go on the road—because I can come home. I come home—because I’m free to leave.” A beautiful way to live.

 

Gloria and Dan

I saw two 20th-century icons speak recently: Gloria Steinem and Dan Rather.

Gloria was a keynote speaker at the opening night of the Massachusetts Conference for Women. I hadn’t  attended the conference before, so the opening night was a good overview of the event. The exhibit hall was impressive: areas for career resources, nonprofits, female business owners selling their products, and multiple authors available for book signings. There were other keynote speakers that evening as well, but my friend and I only tuned in for Gloria.

I wish I could pass on some nuggets of her wisdom, but since my dad’s sudden death, most of my day-to-day thoughts and memories are crowded out by my thoughts and memories of him. I do recall that she was fierce, real, and optimistic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dan is touring with his recently published book with Elliot Kirschner, What Unites Us. Again, I don’t remember a word he said, but he was also fierce, real, and optimistic. I saw him speak on the one-month anniversary of my dad’s passing, and I fell asleep that night wishing that I could tell my dad all about it, since he was a fan of 60 Minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m trying to get back in the saddle regarding the birthday list, but I’m taking it slow and will give myself an extra month or two to complete it. Bear with me, dear readers.

 

Year 14

It’s frightening how fast 2017 has gone. It’s time for my 14th annual birthday list already.

I started off strong with the help of my friend Daisy last weekend. We went to Harvard Bookstore’s warehouse sale, which happens twice a year. The last thing I need is more books, but I told myself I would be “holiday shopping.”

Harvard Bookstore Warehouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well…I did buy two books to give as holiday gifts. I also bought three books to donate to the Prison Book Program. And I bought two for myself…

I couldn’t resist the prices! Seven books cost $31. And two of them were hardcovers.

If you’re crowd-averse, you would want to skip this sale…it was mobbed and borderline annoying to browse the aisles. But because I’m a bibliophile, I will return.

That same evening, I tried wild boar at the Brighton Bodega. It’s a new restaurant in my area, and everything we tried was phenomenal. Brussels sprouts, mussels, kimchi burgers, and wild boar. Not surprisingly, wild boar tastes a lot like pork chops. It was complemented by smoky cheese grits.

Wild boar and grits at Brighton Bodega restaurant

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fact that ’80s new wave music was playing during our first hour there was a well-noted bonus.

Next on the blog: I hear a feminist icon speak…

 

A Dolphin Layered in Gold

I read #89 of the Modern Library’s list of top 100 novels: Loving by Henry Green.

Courtesy of wikipedia.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an upstairs-downstairs story set in an Irish country house during World War II. The story is almost completely composed of dialogue. I had trouble getting into it at first, especially because the downstairs characters have quite the British accents.

Like all good upstairs-downstairs stories, there’s infidelity, troublemaking, camaraderie, and theft (of both hearts and money). What I really enjoyed about Green’s writing is the exquisite details he would slip in now and then—making me pause and marvel.

Here are a few favorite lines:

“She pushed the ashtray with one long lacquered oyster nail across the black slab of polished marble supported by a dolphin layered in gold.”

” He seemed to appraise the dark eyes she sported which were warm and yet caught the light like plums dipped in cold water.”

“Raunce went on looking sideways past her at the red eye of a deer’s stuffed head.”

If you still miss Downton Abbey as I do, this book will bring temporary reprieve…

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40 things to do on the birthday list!

BirthdayJune 1st, 2015

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