Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oregon - February 14, 1859

James and I took a driving tour of the northwest in the summer of 1993. We stayed a few days in the hippie-dip town of Eugene, Oregon. We were actually staying with James ex-girlfriend and her husband. I played Garth Brooks' "Unanswered Prayers" on the cassette player of our car on the way there.

Susan Butruille and her mother Ruth Hendricks Greffenius celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Oregon trail in 1993 by following the trail and stopping at the historic markers along the way. Butruille also read diaries of women and girls who make the trek in the 1840s and 1850s. The journey in those days could take as long as six months, during which time women gave birth, tended children, cooked meals, did laundry, had their periods all the while maintaining a sense of the "cult of domesticity" prevalent in the day. This cult had most of them wearing long skirts instead of pants, and ironing tablecloths along the way! I was quite interested to learn that the long skirts actually served a practical purpose on the trail. Women took turns providing each other with privacy using the big skirts as shields. This book is not specifically about Oregon, but rather the Oregon trail, which comprises several states. But Oregon was the promised land. Of course many of them died along the way, or lost children. Some of the children died, other simply wandered away from the wagon and were never found. This work was more "read-able" than I would have suspected. It was not too dense, yet it was scholarly. It did leave me wanting to take the same trip Butrille did. We did visit the Oregon Trail Visitor Center operated by the National Park Service in 1993, the same year Butrille made her trip.

Wendy and Lucy is an independent film filmed on location in Portland, Oregon.Wendy Carroll is having a bad day. On her way to find work in Alaska, her car breaks down in Portland, Oregon; she is arrested for shoplifting; and her dog, Lucy, disappears. With the help of a kindly Walgreen's security guard she is eventually reunited with her dog, but there is no happy ending here. This movie was depressing as all get out. That's why we watch indie films though. If we want the same old "boy meets girl" dreck there are always plenty of other choices.

For a more optimistic view of visiting Portland without money I suggest this post from one of my favorite blogs "My Year Without Spending"

And here's a bit of Portland trivia from my Oregonian friend Korin:

Portland was named by the toss of a coin. If the coin had fallen the other way, Portland would have been called...Boston!

So, hazelnuts are the thing in Oregon. For dinner I prepared hazelnut-crusted salmon with a side dish of sugar snap peas with mint and a blueberry walnut salad. All of these recipes were easy to make and quite tasty. We topped off our meal with some hazelnut decaf coffee.

More Oregon Trivia - Oregon is the only state with two different pictures on opposite sides of its flag.

Arizona - February 14, 1912

I started making Valentine's for James in 1987, the year we were married, because I couldn't afford to buy one. I made him one every year until 1997. I was pregant that Valentine's day, and was too exhausted to even do that. This image is from the Valentine I made for him in 1994, right after I learned Arizona's nickname and anniversary. Wasn't I just too clever.

Here we are as svelte, tanned Arizonans in 1992. Note James' Arizona map t-shirt. Our little dog, Pablo, poses here with us. One of the first things we learned about desert living was to always wear a cap (and to always have water with you).

Like my first trip to Massachusetts, my first trip to Arizona was to move there. It was the summer of 1990 and the national news of the day was of a heat wave in the southwest - temperatures in Tucson and Phoenix were as high as 120 degrees for days. Whenever I told someone we were moving to Tucson the first thing they would say is "Oh, it's hot there." James and I lived there for four years. It is indeed hot in the summer. People there learn to live inside, or in the shade. Unlike the northeast, it really is cooler in the shade there. We would see people lined up at bus stops waiting in the shadow of a telephone pole. When we first got there I was a bit heartsick for green trees and grass, but after spending several years there I learned to appreciate the unique beauty of the desert. In the next month or so those who live there will enjoy the desert in its full glory with cactus blooms and bottle brushes.

We attended the University of Arizona where I earned my Master's degree in Library Science and James earned his Ph.D. Since this blog is about "celebrating" I will follow the "if you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all" rule and refrain from discussion of our experiences the University. Tucson, though, I loved. It was a great place to live. The public transportation system took us to work and school. There were great places to hike for free and we had great friends, many of whom we met through the Unitarian Universalist church there. Of the places I have lived, Tucson was my favorite.

Other great places to visit in Arizona

Bisbee - an old copper mining town. Even in the 1990s the town was still small enough that within the town limits you only had to dial 5 digits to make a phone call. Be sure to take the Queen mine tour when you go.

Sedona -A magical, spiritual place. James and I went here for our fourth anniversary. Don't miss the Chapel of the Holy Cross
Grand Canyon - There is nothing like it. Ignore the tourist advice to see the sunset from the "best spot". It will be crowded, and all you will see is a bunch of camera flashes going off. Go anywhere else. You cannot be disappointed.

The north rim is harder to get to than the south rim, and therefore attracts many fewer visitors. It also has a statue of Brighty (of Marguite Henry's novel: Brighty of the Grand Canyon) If you can manage see the canyon from both sides it will definitely be worth your while.

Arizona Sonora Desert museum - We used to be members here.
I first learned about the book I married Wyatt Earp a few years ago when I was contracted to write an article about the University of Arizona press for a volume of the Dictionary of Literary Biography. I wrote the essay, but the project was killed and so my work was not published. Herewith, is the section from my article about the book -

Controversy Over I Married Wyatt Earp

The [University of Arizona] Press first published I Married Wyatt Earp: The Recollections of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp in 1976. The best-selling book became a made-for-television movie in 1983 starring Marie Osmond and Bruce Boxleitner. Written by Glenn Boyer, the book was based on a variety of historical documents, but largely on two which were allegedly written by Josephine Earp, the third wife of the legendary Wyatt Earp. One of these is called the Cason Memoir, and Earp historians agree on its validity. It is now housed in the Special Collections room of the University of Arizona Library. The controversy surrounds the Clum manuscript, allegedly written by Josephine Earp with help from Tombstone, Arizona journalist, John Clum. Since the book was first published, Earp historians have questioned the validity of the Clum manuscript. No other researchers had seen such a document, and Boyer himself neither owned it, nor could tell where it was. Moreover, Boyer admitted that two other books he had written, An Illustrated Life of Doc Holliday published by the Reminder Press in 1966, and Wyatt Earp’s Tombstone Vendetta (Talie, 1993) were not based on the documents he claimed to have used.

When the book was scheduled for republication in the late 1990s, The Press conducted a review of the title. Newly appointed Director Christine Szuter conceded that there was a “problem with the book”.  She agreed that the cover would be redesigned; the author would be changed from Josephine Earp to Glen Boyer; and that a publisher’s note would be added regarding the sources in the book. Correspondence between the University of Arizona press and Boyer indicated that the Press published the book knowing that sources were suspect. Boyer also stated that the Press knew of the questionable integrity of his sources and in fact, encouraged him to “embellish”. Correspondence between Townsend and Boyer in 1973 did indicate that Townsend told Boyer to “…project yourself into Mrs. Earp’s shoes in the matter of expression...” Meanwhile the book was adopted as required reading in history classes. In 2000 the Press took I Married Wyatt Earp out of print after it had gone through a dozen printing and sold more than 36,000 copies.

My research on this book at the time indicated that Boyer said that the Clum manuscript was found in the U of A archives. I remember sending an e-mail the the Special Collections librarian, and I received an non-commital response. I do know from working in a library that materials in archives and special collections can sit in storage for a long time before someone is able to catalog them properly. I do not know what the truth is here, though.

This book demystified Earp, and although in Josie Earp's mind she was creating a positive portrait I was unimpressed. The reviews I read on all praise it, but perhaps they were written by people who already knew a lot more about Earp than I do. The book is well annotated, indicating that the author did quite a bit of additional research for this work, and I will admit to not having read the notes - I frankly just wanted to be done with the book. I think Boyer would have done better to take the manuscripts and write a biography, rather than attempting to keep the story in the first person. He clearly did a lot of research and I think could have probably done an elegant job of weaving the first person accounts with the other sources he found. Interestingly the gunfight at O.K. Corral is only a small part of the work, which is the intention. It was only a small part of Earp's life (less than one minute). The book tells the story of a man with wanderlust: a prospector, gambler, husband, and friend. Earp came to Tombstone from Dodge City, (a theme in the Cowboy poetry book I read for my Kansas post) and from there traveled around the west for many years. He prospected for gold in Alaska. For more about this book see the Amazon reviews
and the following sources:
Albanese, Richard. “Bogus Bride.” Tombstone History Archives,

Gabrielson, Ryan. “New Review may stop publication of controversial Earp memoir.” Arizona Daily Wildcat. December 3, 1999.

Gabrielson, Ryan. “U. Arizona Press may force Earp biographer to reveal source.” Arizona Daily Wildcat, December 7, 1999.

Sharlet, Jeff. “Author’s Methods Lead to Showdown Over Much-Admired Book on Old West.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 11, 1999.

Something I learned that Josie Earp and I have in common: a love of the desert after a rain. she said " spirits were lifted by my favorite desert odor-the pungent smell of wet creosote bushes. This is a pleasant spicy aroma that I never get enough of. To me it's the most typical desert fragrance. I love it." No justice can be done to this smell through words. One must experience it .

I tried watching Raising Arizona many years ago, and didn't even finish watching it because I thought the characters were too dumb to live, and the whole thing was nonsense. Nicholas Cage and Holly Hunter play an ex-con and police officer husband and wife who discover that they are infertile, so they kidnap a baby, one of a set of quints born to furniture tycoon Nathan Arizona and his wife, Florence. I watched the entire movie this time and still hold that the characters were too dumb to live and the whole thing was nonsense, but I can now appreciate that that was what the Coen brothers were trying to do. It was just a goofy movie. They were not trying to send any kind of  message. I laughed quite a bit watching it this time around. I also caught some subtle Arizona humor that I would not have noticed the first time, as I have since lived in Arizona. I thought it was brilliant to name one of the character's Florence Arizona, which is also the name of a town with nine "correctional facilities". Florence is the county seat of the aptly named Pinal County. I actually applied for a job as a prison librarian there once. I believe they called me for an interview, but by that time I had already accepted a job in Texas and was getting ready to move.

Other Arizona movies:

Revenge of the Nerds - Filmed at the University of Arizona


Thelma and Louise

Pump of the Volume - A "must miss"!

Coming Soon!

Touching Home
This independent film based on the lives of Noah and Logan Miller is being released this spring. Part of this was filmed on location at the Colorado Rockies spring training in Tucson. After having read the book Either You're In Or You're In the Way about the Miller's amazing journey toward getting this movie made I am very much looking forward to seeing it.

Since today is both Arizona and Oregon's anniversary's we had an Arizona breakfast and an Oregon dinner. I made chocolate monkey bread from a recipe in my Southwestern Cooking Cookbook and huevos rancheros from a recipe I found in the local paper several years ago. I cheated a bit on the monkey bread and used frozen dinner rolls instead of making the bread from scratch. I learned this trick from another cookbook a few years ago. I rolled the frozen rolls in melted butter, and then in a mixture of sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon. The balls then went into a bundt pan in two layers and sat overnight. In the morning I put them in the oven for 25 minutes at 350. The huevos rancheros I made by layering corn tortillas with refried beans, fried eggs, and shredded monterrey jack cheese and placing them under the broiler for a minute. I served them with avocados, salsa, and plain yogurt (a low-fat substitute for sour cream).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Massachusetts - February 6, 1788

The very first time I came to Massachusetts was to move here from Texas in August 1997. James had been offered a job as a Geography professor at Bridgewater State College, where we now both work. We arrived here two days after then-President Bill Clinton named Massachusetts Governor William Weld as Ambassador to Mexico. I was a bit surprised when we crossed the State line to find that all of the " Welcome to Massachusetts" signs along the highway already had the name of the new Governor, Argeo Paul Cellucci, on them. He must have had them ready to go just in case. I was seven and a half months pregnant when we arrived, and it was only two weeks later that I delivered my very own bouncing baby Bay Stater. Paloma is 12 years old now and at 5'3" officially taller than both of her grandmothers! By the way, did you know that the official moniker for a person from Massachusetts is Bay Stater?

On my list of not-to-be missed places in Massachusetts:

Walden pond - Once when we were taking a walk around the pond a young man with a slimy, wet fish in his hands asked us if we had a bag. We looked at him quizzically and he explained that he really hadn't expected to catch anything that day, so did not have a container to put his prize in. I reached in my pocket and pulled out the plastic bag that our Boston Globe  had come in and told him he was awfully lucky that our dog hadn't taken a crap that morning! As a rule of thumb - a Boston Globe wrapper will hold one 8 -12 inch trout.

The Mapparium - A three story glass globe you can walk inside! Must be seen to be believed. Mary Baker Eddy is my hero. See also James' EarthView

Brant Point light in Nantucket - My favorite place to be, especially on a clear day. I love waving to the folks on the ferries as they enter or leave the dock.

The Bayside Restaurant - Westport, MA: The first "Green" certified restaurant in Massachusetts

Westport Winery - A great place to be at sunset. In the summer be sure to check our their free summer sunset concert music series on Friday nights.

Cape Cod - Just as with Michigan, you probably have your Cape Cod map with you right now. Bend your left arm up as if making a muscle, and point your fingers back toward your shoulder. Falmouth is at your armpit, Chatham is your elbow and Provincetown is right at your fingertips. There are art galleries, great beaches, fun shops, and good restaurants.

To find out more about the Cape look for James' cover article Cape Cod Beckons in the Spring 2000 issue of the American Geographical Society's Focus magazine. The excerpt linked here does not include the great pictures (including one of yours truly with Paloma). Look for a copy at your local library.

The "T" - I must say that there is a lot of well deserved criticism about the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, but I feel so cosmopolitan when I "ride the rails". And I just love that I can pack a bag, walk to the Bridgewater Commuter rail line, take it to Boston, get on the Silver line to Logan airport, and from there, anywhere in the world! I  am also glad that the MBTA simplified its price structure a few years ago to prevent us from having to pay to get off of a train, so we wouldn't end up like poor ol' Charlie. They also showed their own sense of humor when they called the new passes "Charlie cards".

Charlie on the MBTA on you tube
"Charlie" Lyrics

I watched the movie Knowing recently without "knowing" that it was a Massachusetts movie when I selected it. So it worked out perfectly for me to blog about it. Nicholas Cage plays John Koestler, a physics professor from MIT, who comes learns about the upcoming Armageddon by way of a cryptic message found inside of a 50-year time capsule opened at his son's school. His son also receives strange messages, from a group of creepy beings he calls the "whisper people".

There are actually a lot of movies about Massachusetts - a bunch are included in this Boston Globe story which is really about movies shot "in the hub". A lot of people seem to think that Massachusetts is synonymous with Boston. When I told people I was moving to Massachusetts the first thing they would ask is "what part of Boston?" Therefore, it does not surprise me that most movies made in Massachusetts are really Boston movies. So, when I saw in the opening scene of Knowing labeled "Lexington, Massachusetts" I was optimistic that it looked like horizons were expanding. Of course Lexington turned out to be only part of where the movie took place. The story moves to a classroom at MIT, located in Cambridge, which is really just an extension Boston. I wasn't surprised either that the college they chose was MIT. Although Massachusetts has at least 140 institutions of higher education, the only ones that are ever worthy of being mentioned on film are Harvard and MIT. On the rare occasions that others are mentioned there is clear disdain. The scene from Bunker Hill Community College in Good Will Hunting shows a bunch of bored-looking, bubble-gum-blowing students, who are sharply contrasted with the excited and eager-to-learn students in the film, who, of course, attend MIT. In the movie The Departed one character mentions that he is studying law. The response is something like: "night school at Suffolk, right?" in a tone that clearly says "couldn't get into Harvard Law, huh". I've met Ivy league professors and they seem to agonize as much as the rest of us about the best ways to engage their students. Anyway, back to Knowing - what could have been a good supernatural thriller went just a bit too far. I can only suspend my disbelief so much, the spaceships at the end did me in. And, it really doesn't take a Ph.D. from MIT to teach us the same thing about the sun that we can learn from listening to "They Might be Giants" lyrics.  And clearly it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that you need more than just the hours and minutes of latitude longitude coordinates to pinpoint a place down to an intersection. It takes a geographer to realize that you need the seconds, too. Thanks, James for pointing this out!

Coming Soon! More Massachusetts movies to watch for :

Shutter Island - based on the book by Dennis Lehane opening February 19. The book is good, and has a surprise ending.

Knight and Day - part of this was filmed in Bridgewater, but it is really about - you guessed it - Boston! opening July 2

Frozen - I just learned about this film that recently opened. Although it was shot in Utah, Utah apparently is cleverly disguised as Massachusetts. I read two reviews of this film yesterday. It looks like something I can skip.

The movie A Small Circle of Friends has one scene (a riot) filmed at Bridgewater State College. However, BSC doesn't play itself in this film. It plays the part of some other college. What could it be...? Right again - Harvard!

There is one movie filmed entirely in Bridgewater, and about Bridgewater, a hard-to-find documentary called the Titicut Follies - a documentary filmed inside the State Mental Hospital. I was so disturbed by this one I couldn't even finish watching it.

I tried to find the movie Virtuous Wives to watch for Massachusetts day. I found out about Louis B. Mayer's first movie from Massachusetts e-moments. This Boston movie from 1918 proved to be too difficult to find.

James and I read Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo together for our Massachusetts book. Puleo's book is an in-depth view of a relatively unknown tragedy in the city's history. As Puleo points out in his introduction, the "very essence [of the flood]... molasses gives the entire event an unusual, whimsical quality" which has left is as little more than a "footnote" in history. Puleo demonstrates how lax business regulations, US involvement in World War I, prohibition, anarchy, and the anti-immigrant sentiments of the day are all tied to the flood. James and I discovered a Bridgewater connection to the notorious anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti through this story. The book is divided into three parts: "A Monster in Our Midst" which focuses on the poor construction and design of the mammoth tank, built in haste, in Boston's North End in December of 1915, which was supposed to have been designed to hold 2.3 million gallons of molasses. The second part, "Waves of Terror", describes the collapse of the tank on January 15, 1919 and the tragic deaths, injuries, and property loss that resulted. The final section, "David vs. Goliath" is about the three-year legal battle that ensued against United States Industrial Alcohol. The paperback edition contains a moving Afterword by the author in which he recounts connections he made with relatives of witnesses to and victims of the flood following the first publication of the book. Puleo's work is well researched and fascinating. More information about the Great Boston Molasses flood can be found at:

Addendum February 11 - James suggested I read the Acknowlegements of this book before I returned it to the Library. I am glad he did. Puleo gives much appreciation to the librarians who helped him with the research on this book.

We ate a very local meal for our Massachusetts fest, using food from our bountiful CSA farm box from Colchester Neighborhood Farm in Plympton, Massachusetts, and the last farm in Bridgewater, Hanson's Farm. We have been enjoying the summer and fall vegetables that I froze from our farm box all winter long. Today we had a skillet casserole of yellow squash, zuccini, onion, tomato, egg, and cheese; and pumpkin pie. The pie recipe I used called for maple syrup instead of sugar so I used locally sourced syrup from Hanson's. The onions and pumpkin came from Hanson's as well. The rest of the veggies, and the egg, came from Colchester. We also opened up a celebratory bottle of Massachusetts sparkling wine from the aforementioned Westport Winery. A fine meal indeed!