Friday, December 31, 2010

Year End Wrap Up

If I learned anything from "my year of reading year of books" it is that no year-of memoir is complete without a final reflection.

What I learned:
Of course I learned a bit of U.S. history. But the most interesting thing I learned was about the history of the civil rights movement. Several of the books I read about the south treated this topic and what surprised me the most was that much of what was made out to appear to be local law standing up to "the feds" was really staged - choreographed right down to how many deputies could have thier hands on their gun holsters, and how many could actually have their guns in their hands. These things were negotiated completely for show. If it looked like violence might break out, things were put on hold until another time.

What I would do differently:
I realized early on that the state anniversaries were not spread out evenly and caused a few crunches that I could not keep up with. If I were to give advice to anyone taking on a similar project I would suggest that they do one state a week, perhaps going in order of how they entered the Union - starting with Delaware and ending with Hawaii.

I tried my best to post something on the actual anniversary of statehood, a few times, though, I was late, and when I was on vacation I really didn't worry about it too much, I just caught up when I had a chance. If I had been true to the project I would have never let it slip. But, after all, it was just a goofy blog. Ultimately, though I did read books on all 50 states (plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.) and watch a movie for each, and eat or drink something inspired by, or from that state before the year's end.

My next blog will be similar in theme to this one. "Una Nueva Receta Cada Semana" (One New Recipe a Week) is inspired by one of my former Spanish professors, Bob Phillips, who loved to cook. Mostly I will be blogging about food, but will include reviews of any food-related books, or movies I watch. I will be reading the food books aloud to James so he may have his own insights on those as well.

Finally, I have this to say - this project was a lot more fun because I had a great partner to help me with it. Thanks, James.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Texas Size

To comment about the size of Texas may be to lack imagination, but as a geographer, scale matters almost as much as place, and I have thought a lot about the scale of Texas over the years. Years before living in Texas, I read an article -- I wish I could remember where -- that claimed that Texas is big enough that many Texans do not really consider a 100-mile buffer around the edge to really be part of the state. Too far to the east, and one is really in a spillover area of Louisiana, and the western point terminating at El Paso is really part of New Mexico. Similarly, the north is more like Oklahoma than "real" Texas, and the area within 100 miles of the Rio Grande is in many ways part of Mexico. With north-south and east-west dimensions exceeding 700 miles, there is certainly plenty of room to make this claim. (As I recall, the author was from somewhere near Beaumont, and felt a bit like an outsider when she moved to the center of the state.)

Most South Texans know -- though many Northerners do not -- that the 100-mile buffer is taken quite literally by the United States Government, which operates a checkpoint in Falfurrias, 70 miles from the Mexican border, at which persons and vehicles are searched just as though they were coming in from another country!
The first time I was in Texas, it was to pass through the Dallas-Ft. Worth (pronounced WOH-uth) International Airport, known to all as DFW on our way to and from our summer sojourn in Mexico in 1989. When I started my County Map Project the following year, I learned that the sprawling DFW encompasses a significant part of two counties. By then I had passed through on several other trips, and had taxied so much around that airport that I felt justified in counting visits to both Dallas and Tarrant Counties. Years later, I realized that the enormous American Airlines double terminal was just one of several on the site, and that the small train that connects the two is complemented by another train that reaches distant terminals.

Some claim that visiting an airport does not "count" when considering the places one has known. I disagree, because airports are in places and hold lessons about them. The ample sprawl of DFW itself is distinctive, as are the accents, hats, boots, and belt buckles that can be found in the terminal. Equally distinctive is the tremendous number of in-state connecting flights being announced at any given time. DFW is a national and international hub, to be sure, but it is possible -- and common -- for people to be connecting to a couple dozen Texas destinations from any in-bound flight. That is a big state!

The first time I was in Texas outside the airport came in 1990, within a year of that first airport transfer. Dry cleaner investigations were among my specialties at the environmental consulting firm where I worked in Cincinnati, and when a project near the US-Mexico border in the small town of Mercedes became available, I quickly volunteered. This was also when a Saturday stayover would dramatically reduce airfare, and I volunteered for that, too. This gave me the opportunity to spend a couple extra days exploring the Rio Grande Valley. In the space of a couple days, I explored "the Valley" from McAllen in the west (where I had to visit the public library as part of my research) to South Padre Island in the east (where I enjoyed the waves and some great seafood). Of course, I also took time to park the car in Brownsville so I could walk across to the unfortunately-named city of Matamoros.

A few years later, we were living in Tucson and -- like most of our friends -- working as substitute teachers/librarians. We were searching nationwide and internationally for jobs, and I was scanning the few internet-based resources available at the time (this was before graphics or search engines, or even the Web itself, had caught on). I found a listing for a librarian in McAllen, Texas! Not only did I know where that was: I had actually been in the library! Before we knew it, we were making the long drive to McAllen. Actually, we drove to McAllen, then to visit Maryland back home to Tucson and then back to McAllen, with a couple job-search-related side trips thrown in. This is when we started to learn something about the size of Texas!

We lived in Texas just three years, but it made quite an impression in a number of ways. We settled in the Rio Grande Valley, in the town of Pharr, which had just opened a bridge into Reynosa in Mexico. Our idea of a reasonable distance to drive for something had increased when we lived in Arizona, but it really took on new dimensions in Texas. We lived close to our main jobs, as we've always tried to do, but I started taking on part-time teaching jobs -- just to gain the experience -- that were pretty far from home. For several semesters, I taught one night a week at Texas A & M University - Kingsville, Alice Extension. This met in a high school in a declining oil-service and cattle-auction town that was 108 miles from my house! I taught just one night a week for paltry pay plus a mileage allowance, and stopped at an interior border crossing each time. I eventually learned that a necktie and a university parking sticker made these stops much simpler.

I have lived in seven states, and Texas is nearly as big as all the others combined! With over a quarter million square miles in Texas, every family in the United States could have an acre or more, if they could just get to it.

We also started attending religious services more than 20 miles from home (Quaker meeting in private homes). Eventually we adopted an attitude that I was realizing was somewhat common in Texas, actually flying within the state to visit friends and/or a museum. It is a big place! We also explored quite a bit by car, eventually visiting a slim majority of counties in the state.

One night while driving to Alice (which is west of Corpus Christi), I heard reports on a national radio program of flooding in "southern Texas." I was 100 miles north of the border, and these floods were in Houston, more than 200 miles further north!

Because so much of the southern portion of Texas is north of our old home, I took to calling the place we lived (shown in blue on the map) Way South Texas. I eventually cut my teaching commute in half, when I moved to The University of Texas at Brownsville in Partnership with Texas Southmost College. That is the real name of the place: UTB-TSC, where I had international students who could walk to my class from Mexico!

One of our friends in McAllen once commented that Texas is so big that he had never left it. Driving, it would take a long day to reach any other state, it is true. We had to remind him that he had left the state, though: he had been to Mexico many times!

Texas is going to be the focus of a lot of political attention and speculation over the next couple years, as its already-large population has grown enough that it will be allocated four additional seats in Congress. My recent article on Gerrymandering (invented and still practiced expertly in Massachusetts) describes why I don't think all four of those seats will ultimately go to the same party.

Please note: Although we left Texas thirteen years ago after living there only three, it remains important to me in many ways. I stay in touch with some great friends there and follow developments, particularly in the border area. Search Texas posts on my blog for some of these stories. 

Texas - December 29, 1845

It seems good and right that our last celebration of the year is for a place to which we have some deep emotional ties. Although James and I only lived in Texas for three years, it is where we first attended Quaker meeting and began to internalize simple living. And, as we like to tell Paloma, although she was born in New England, she was conceived in Texas. Lately she has been embracing her Texas "heritage". I think the recent New England snow storm has her thinking that white Christmases maybe aren't all they are cracked up to be. We lived in the Rio Grande Valley (or just "the Valley" to those of us who are most familiar with it), in a town called Pharr, about 10 miles from the Mexico border, and 60 miles inland from the Gulf Coast. James  taught at UT-Brownsville, which is also known as Texas Southmost College (really!) You may hear folks say Texas is like a whole other country, but the Valley, was like another country all together. The U.S.-Mexico border is a surreal place, rife with magic realism, and unexplained phenomema. We had a visit from the chupacabras during the summer of 1996: he sucked the blood out of livestock and left them dead. James also reminded me recenlty that the San Juan Shrine was hit by an airplane in 1970, and no one was hurt. There was also a story of some sort of big prehistoric bird that flew around during the 1970s. The Valley is also a place of extremes - temperature (heat), and  poverty.

We were able to visit some other places in Texas during the three years that we lived there, including Houston, Galveston, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Midland/Odessa, and Dallas/Ft. Worth. Each place has its own charm - some more charming than others. I expect that if we'd lived in Austin, we might have tried to find a way to stay. But what I can say about the Valley is that in this neck of "the friendship state" the people were especially friendly; I could get fresh, local produce year round; I had a great job there at the McAllen Memorial Library; and James and I learned a lot about our own spirtuality by attending Quaker meeting (a.k.a Society of Friends), where we also made some good friends.

Two things I did find to be true about Texans: one they really do like BIG things (be sure not to miss the World's Largest Killer Bee in Hidalgo); and two, they really like things that are shaped like Texas. You can buy Texas-shaped pasta, corn chips, and stepping stones for your garden.

Beware the Chupacabras!

My favorite thing at Christmastime is driving around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights. When I found out that there was a book about over-the-top Christmas displays in Frisco, Texas I knew I had found the right book to end this project. Hank Stuever spent the Christmas of 2006 tagging along with Tammie Parnell as she decorated other peoples' homes; helping Jeff Trykoski set up the biggest light diplay on the block; and trailing along on shopping trips and church work with Carroll Cavazos and her family. The way this suburb of Dallas is described in Stuever's book reminds me of everything I don't like about Texas, namely that there is a lot of BIG AND LOUD there. Stuever begins by describing standing in line with Cavazos at Best Buy with Cavazos on Black Friday morning. Don't even get me started about Black Friday. That's Buy Nothing Day to me. Getting up before dawn on a non-work day to stand in line in the cold is one tradition I just don't understand at all. Later in the book he describes a similar scene at Target on the day after Christmas. Yeah, I'm in bed then, too.

Tammie Parnell makes about $30,000 each Christmas season helping her neighbors uber-decorate their homes for the seaon. Once again, I just don't get it. One client laments that she really needed help with the "theme". Huh? Isn't the theme of Christmas "Peace or Earth" or "Goodwill to all" or "God bless us everyone"? Something like that? I was reminded of the time I took the Bridgewater Garden Club Christmas home tour, about 10 years ago. One house had six Christmas trees displayed. Each one with a different theme. I remember the girl's bedroom had a Barbie theme tree; the boy's bedroom was "camoflague" theme; and the kitchen was Disney. I think the "media room" was probably a sports theme. I found it all pretty uninspiring, and was surprised to hear other people say what a great "decorator" the home owner was. A great consumer perhaps, but it isn't hard to decorate when you all you do order "one of each". I was not surprised, however, to read a description of a children's holiday shop experience in Stuever's book that was really no different from my own some 40-odd years ago; or that of my daughter when she was in elementary school - mini shops set up with cheap stuff so that we can train kids to buy at Christmas time, with a gift wrap at the end.  Probably you think I sound a lot like a Scrooge from this, and I will admit to buying almost no Christmas gifts. I am neither a giver, nor a receiver. Which is not to say I don't like Christmas, I just don't like the gift exchange, so I don't participate in it. There are gifts for my daughter when she comes down the stairs on Christmas morning, but not the piles of presents that the folks in Frisco, Texas go for. Read my sermon The Best Gift for more insight on this.

There were two mentions of libraries in this book - one was of a school librarian, the other was a decription of Stuever's visit to the library's microfilm collection to read up on the history of Frisco.

I had a weird deja vu experience reading a passage about the Oprah Winfrey show in Tinsel. If you read my Illinois post you know that I read Robyn Okrant's book Living Oprah earlier this year. In it, Okrant describes learning that her poop should be S-shaped, and later describes the excitement she feels when she accomplishes this feat. Stuever mentions being at the Trykoski home when this exact episode is on. By the way, Oprah's poo is C-shaped. I have to be honest here, I don't pay that much attention to mine.

Screen Door Jesus
We saw a preview of this a few months ago and when I realized it was about Texas I added it to our Netflix list. It seemed like it would be a quirky, indie film - right up my cup of tea. It was full of quirky characters, but it was hard to follow. There were a lot of different stories going on, and they did not all appear to be connected. An image of Jesus on the screen door of Mother Harper creates an uproar in the small east Texas town of Bethlehem. The sick, the infirm, the faithful, and the curious come and stand on her lawn trying to get their turn in front of the icon. Although Mother Harper at first feels blessed she comes to resent all the people keeping her awake and ruining her gardens. She and a neighbor come up with a plan to run them off. This movie touched on themes of racism, fundamentalism, and hypocracy.

We found out while watching the credits that the film was based on the "short stories" of Christopher Cook, which helped explain why the film seemed so disjointed.

Of course the phenomenom of seeing religious images in windows is not limited to Texas. Two years ago, there was a lot of attention paid to the appearance of the Virgin Mary in a window at the Milton Hospital  in Massachusetts. The image looks more like a ghost to me.

South Texas shares a deep connection with Mexico, and a Christmas tradition they both share is making tamales. It is a tradition we enjoy, and since Texas day fell during the holiday season we invited some friends over today to share tamales with us. James begins making tamales in the morning and spends most of the day working on them. This is after he spends an afternoon in search of corn husks to wrap them in. Each year he goes back to the store where he got them the year before, only to find that that store no longer stocks them, and he has to go out searching again. He believes he has found a "muy autentico" place this time, and may be in luck when he goes back there next year. We use a recipe I found online from Texas Coop Power in 2003. I was not able to find the link again, although Texas Coop Power does still have a website with recipes, they just don't seem to go back as far as the 2003 issue. This recipe calls for chicken, cooking oil, flour water, bouillon cubes, green chilis, garlic, oregano, chili pepper, cumin, tomato sauce and cayenne pepper. In addition The corn "masa" calls for lard (we substitue Crisco), salt, "harina" (corn flour) and water.  The ingredients are wrapped in corn husks and steamed. To share in our feast we had seven friends over, including our favorite native Texan, Amelia.

Except for a final reflective post, which I will write on the last day of the year, this is it for my Celebrating the States project.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Iowa Memoir (Lite)

"I" for Iowa -- the only entry in my County Map Project
in which my county map resembles the state initial.
At least, it seems to be the only one.
As the only member of the Hayes-Bohanan family who has been to Iowa, I decided I should write a bit about my experiences there. "Bit" is the operative word, since I have been there six times in the late 1970s, each just long enough to cross the state the short way (about 200 miles). Of the 99 counties in Iowa, I've managed to be in only 10, despite all those traverses, and since these were all in my high school years about a decade before becoming a geographer, I have to confess that I learned essentially nothing from the experiences.

For the teenage me, Iowa was just a place that needed to be crossed when going from Kansas City, Missouri to Minnesota, which I did for three distinct purposes. The first was to attend a camp at St. Olaf College in Northfield. The camp was sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, for which my mother worked in the Kansas City headquarters. I was much more a Christian than an athlete, but a scholarship was arranged for my brother (very much an athlete) and I to attend, so we took a school bus overnight from Kansas City. I remember that some of us tried to ride in the luggage bins, and I remember a rest stop on I-35 in Ankeny, and I remember that the scant accommodations there confirmed our chauvinistic banter about how little the state as a whole had to offer. Of course, that judgment says far more about our teenage selves than it does about Iowa, one way or the other.

The second crossing -- along that same narrow groove of I-35 -- was on a mission trip from Kansas City to the suburbs of St. Paul. A mission trip to the suburbs might seem like an oxymoron, but it reveals something of a different kind of chauvinism. We were young Baptists, after all, called by God to convert the Lutherans and Catholics of the frozen north to Christianity. Again, the experience taught me more about myself than I taught any Minnesotans about God. Iowa was just part of that journey, this time by day and in a church bus.

The third crossing was a bit more quixotic, as it turns out. As our church in Kansas City was developing its connections with a host church in Minnesota, my brother and I were developing connections with a pair of sisters there: the daughters, in fact, of the minister. We somehow convinced a young man in our church to drive us there for a visit in his Monte Carlo. Again, the trip was full of tough lessons, and what I remember about Iowa is that we could not get through it fast enough. I remember encouraging my friend to push that Monte Carlo along as fast as prudence -- and the proliferation of Iowa state troopers -- would allow.

Iowa - December 28, 1846

Iowa is a state I have not yet been to, but my cousin Lori biked across it, twice. James has been there, but not much more than I have. He will have a supplementary post.

Dewey: the Library Cat
Dewey was found in the bookdrop of the Spencer, Iowa library on a freezing cold January morning in 1988. He was adopted by the whole town and spent the rest of his life living in the library, to the delight of the patrons and staff. Dewey always seemed to know who needed him, and had therapeutic qualities. The book tells his story, and that of Vicki Myron, the library director, as well as providing some historical, and social insights into the town of Spencer, and the rest of the world, which was fascinated with Dewey's story. Dewey was featured on national television and in a Japanese documentary about working cats. This book was written for middle-school readers and is based on Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat who Touched the World which was written for an older audience. This is a sweet story, and a bit of a tear-jerker. There are also several picture books for children about Dewey's life available as well. I am looking forward to seeing the movie which is due out early next year.

King Corn
Well, you know the old saying "you are what you eat" - it turns out college friends Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis are both giant ears of corn.This is not because the like to eat corn on the cob, or corn chowder, or creamed corn, or even corn chips, but rather because so much of their food is corn in disguise. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the sweetner of choice for most soft drinks, and junk food. By an interesting coincidence, both young men have a great-grandfather from Greene County Iowa so it is there they choose to rent an acre of land to grow corn and find out where it goes. They team up with a local farmer who rents them the land and helps them to sow, cultivate and reap the crop. They learn a lot about farming, not the least of which is that Iowa corn farmers make their money from government subsidies, not from selling the grain. Also that what the government is subsidizing can hardly be called food. They taste test their corn and spit it right back out. Other locals agree that the corn is not edible. The corn they grow either used to feed beef or is highly processed to become HFCS. The two young men are unsuccessful in trying to get a tour of a processing plant, but do manage to find a scientist who will give them the formula to make it themselves - a nasty business that. They also manage to score an interview with Earl Butz, who was Secretary of Agriculture during the Nixon administration. Butz explains to them why the government subsidies evolved they way they did. I suppose some will watch this movie and say that they will never look at food again the same way, for me though, that boat had sailed. That is not to say I didn't learn some new things, and it did solidify my desire to eat more locally produced, unprocessed food.

Because HFCS has been given such a bad rap there is some movement to changing the name, as if that would make everything better. See this New York Times article to vote on the name you like best.

Although food containing HCFS would have been an authentic choice for today's consumable, we decided to eat real corn instead. James made corn chowder with my recipe of vegetable stock, onions, potatoes, corn, 1/2 & 1/2 and greens. The recipe has evolved from one I got out of the Boston Globe a few years ago, and only resembles it in passing now. He also made our favorite skillet corn bread - I hope everyone has learned by now the importance of the cast iron skillet. It is never too late to begin cooking with one. We like the recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The United States of Autocomplete

James brought this item to my attention this morning from the Brainiac section of the Boston Globe. The United States of Autocomplete is a map made by Dorothy Gambrell by doing Google Searches on states' names.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

New Jersey - December 18, 1787

When I was a senior in high school my boyfriend went to Ryder College in New Jersey. I don't know how many times I asked my mother if I could take a train or bus up to see him, but was never allowed. I would like to go on record that I recently allowed my 13-year old daughter to take the train, by herself, to New Jersey to visit her friends from camp.

Jersey Diners
Peter Genovese's book is a kitschy, fun read, with a lot of photos. He visited all of New Jersey's 570 diners in operation at the time he was researching the book, which was in the mid 1990s. He talked to waitresses, cooks, owners, and customers, took pictures and otherwise researched the history of the diners. I had a lot of book marks in this one when I was finished. One of the first things I noticed was that he said there will be "no quotes from scholars..." by way of saying there won't be any of that fanciful languge but then, on the very next page he quotes Rutger's University professor Michael Aaron Rockland (let's call him a "scholar") as saying that New Jersey is "the roadside pop architecture capital of the world." I noticed one other comment by a scholar from a Yale University professor emeritus "Baeder's paintings differ from those of most of his photo-realist or magic-realist contemporaries. ' Bader is not haunted like Hopper by a sense of something empty, hollow and solitary in the American experience. Instead, he is hopeful, a painter-poet who makes us see the beauty of common things..." Nope, nothing fanciful here.

There was a bit about coffee in this book. My favorite quotes were these:
From a 1950s training manual - "Don't put salt in the coffee! If salt helped make a good cup of coffee, the coffee companies would be the first ones to add it."

From The Diner, a 1947 trade magazine - "Coffee has probably affected restaurant profits more than any other single factor. Good coffee keeps old customers and makes new ones; poor coffee drives the customers away"

From a customer at the Summitt Diner - "Drink too much. Have ten cups before ten. Couple when I get up, couple on the way over. And I'll bring five with me out of here." The following line in the book indicates that the Summit lines up styrofoam cups on the counter for take out customers. As for me, I'd rather skip coffee all together than drink it from styrofoam. Blech.

A turkish proverb: "Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love."

Other things I found noteworthy in this book were a mention of county maps as "something seen at too few diners."

One aptonym : Short order cook Lee Slingerland

One mention of Baltimore (my hometown) regarding "...Tim, a former 7-up plant manager in Baltimore..." Since I used to live less than a mile from said plant, it was made all the more exciting to me.

One mention of the Big Dig in Boston "the former Ono diner in Ono, Pennsylvania [was turned] into the Big Dig diner, to be located at the entrance to Boston's Harbon Tunnel." I felt a pilgrimage coming on, but found this blog post indicating that the Big Dig diner has already been moved since the publication of the book.

One mention of Cyndi Lauper's music video Time after Time, which was filmed in a Jersey diner.

And, one mention of librarians - Genovese knows that librarians are his friends and thanks especially "Winnie Zagariello and Betty Selingo, the best librarians in New Jersey", Well done my friends!

Sherry Swanson, recently released on parole for drug charges, is looking to reconnect with her young daughter, Alexis. There are tensions between Sherry and her sister-in-law, Lynette, who has been caring for Alexis, and Sherry has a hard time keeping clean once she is released. While it is clear that Sherry wants to be a good parent, and do well at her job in a daycare center, we see a very disturbing side of her. Beyond the drug use Sherry uses sex to get favors from men who are supposed to be working to help her. The fact that they readily accept her offers is troubling as well.

Bonus Movie:
While I was reading Jersey Diners I saw several mentions of movies, commercials and music videos that were filmed in New Jersey diners. Since I was also planning to prepare a Jersey diner meal, I thought I would just go for the theme and watch an additional movie that was filmed in a diner. I picked Baby It's You. I should have just left well enough alone. There was a scene inside the Roadside Diner, but there is not much good to say about this movie. It is an upper-class girl/working-class boy movie. The relationship is abusive, but I think the audience was just supposed to think that the girl needed to lighten up.  The young man -"the Sheik", named for a condom - alternately cheats, ignores, controls, and ransacks, but it seemed the audience was expected to still feel sorry for him when it was clear that his girlfriend outgrew him (or just got tired of being treated like crap). And she still gives him a last dance to remember her by. This was an '80s movie about the '60s and it is what one might expect. It stars Rosanna Arquette, which reminded me of her other New Jersey movie, Desperately Seeking Susan.

Best Tuna Melt (New Jersey Diner Style)
I couldn't resist this one when I found it once I read the Jersey Diner's book. Two changes I made to the recipe were using cheddar cheese instead of swiss, and leaving out the parsley. Otherwise I followed the recipe after some discussion with James about it. He is not generally a finicky eater, but when it comes to tuna salad he wants only tuna and mayonnaise. None of that celery business for him. I was prepared to make a separate tuna salad for him sans celery and onion, but he finally decided to make it a "cultural experience" and do it the Jersey Diner way. He wound up being "a clean plate ranger", although, I doubt I have converted him.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Alabama - December 14, 1819

James got my day started this morning with Alabama-themed music from The Grateful Dead, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Five Blind Boys of Alabama.

Like so many other southern States, Alabama was one of my summer of 1997 "drive-thru" states. I was able to visit it again for a bit of a longer stay in 2000 after James, Paloma and I spent a month in Brazil. We had driven down to Miami to fly down to the Amazon, and when we returned took a 2-week drive back visiting friends along the way. At the time, our friend Bill-O lived in Birmingham. Although she was not yet three years old, Paloma still remembers the visit because Bill had two cats "one with a tail, and one without a tail" (when we visited Bill in Virginia this past summer he still had both cats).  While in Birmingham we visited the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, site of the bombing which killed four girls in in 1963. Spike Lee's movie 4 Little Girls tells their story.  Just across the street from the chuch we visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Crazy in Alabama tells the story orphan Peter Joseph "Peejoe" Bullis during the summer of 1965. Peejoe and his brother, Wiley, go to live with their Uncle Dove, the "whites only" mortician, in Industry, Alabama. I wasn't quite sure if Industry was a real place, but did find this reference to it on the internet. I am not sure, though, how much of the civil rights struggle described in the novel actually happened. The novel aternates between chapters from tweleve-year old Peejoe's point of view, and that of his Aunt Lucille, who takes off to California in hopes of landing a spot on the Beverly Hillbillies after murdering her husband and abandoning her six children. Peejoe's chapters were told in the first person, while Lucille's were told from the third person point of view. They also were contrasted in tone. Lucille lives in a fantasy world in which, remarkably,  everything seems to go her way, while Peejoe is caught in the middle of a civil rights battle for an integrated swimming pool, and watches as his Uncle loses virtually all of his business when word gets out that he embalmed a black person.

One mention of a library in this book. Peejoe tells his Aunt Earlene "I'm going outside...Wiley brought me a book from the library."

I found out after I read the book that there is a movie based on it. I will add it to my Netflix list.

There were a few Alabama movies to choose from: Fried Green Tomatoes; Sweet Home Alabama; 4 Little Girls; Forrest Gump; The Miracle Worker; Norma Rae; The Long Walk Home, among others, but I revisited the classic film To Kill a Mockingbird. Gregory Peck stars as Attitcus Finch, an attorney who is appointed to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white girl. The story takes place in 1932 and is told through the eyes of Scout, Finch's six year old daughter. Even as we see Finch go well beyond his duty to defend Robinson, and to treat everyone with respect, racial dynamics are clear. Calpurnia, his black maid, stays in the kitchen while the family has supper, and only comes out when called upon to bring something to the table. The courtroom drama is wonderfully done, very suspenseful, even though I knew what would happen. Although I always think the book version of any story is better than the film, this movie comes pretty close to being as-good-as.

After Paloma, I think Scout may be the second best name for a girl I've ever heard.

I made a baked macaroni and cheese recipe that I prepared for the first time a few years ago from Fannie Flagg's Original Whistle Stop Cafe Cookbook: Featuring : Fried Green Tomatoes, Southern Barbecue, Banana Split Cake, and Many Other Great Recipes. The macaroni and cheese recipe has a lot of cheddar cheese, and a milk / egg mixture that gave the dish a nice texture. I also made this simple squash recipe which came from an Alabama food site. I selected it because I already had some yellow squash frozen from the summer, and because of its insistence on the use of a cast-iron skillet. Although it was not called for, I also baked the mac & cheese in a cast iron skillet. We have three of them (plus a cast iron griddle) you can never have too many.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pennsylvania - Dec. 12, 1817, no, I mean 1787

Today's post is dedicated to my friend Anna, who grew up in Scranton.

Fantasyland map
My first memories of Pennsylvania are of going outlet shopping in York and Reading. Only about an hour from our home in Catonsville, Maryland, we could drive up there after school and be home before bedtime. We also occasionally visited nearby Gettsysburg, especially after some of  our Maryland neighbors moved there. When I was very young my family loved going to Fantasyland, a now defunct theme park near Gettysburg. I went one time as a teenager and I very much wish I hadn't. I don't know if I had just become jaded, that the park wasn't being maintained properly anymore, or that I had simply outgrown it, or perhaps all three, but it seemed run down, and not nearly as fun as I remembered. My family also enjoyed HersheyPark, and my father and I stopped at the Leonard Harrison State Park a.k.a. the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania on a trip up to Niagara Falls. Although Philadelphia is not far from where I grew up, I actually didn't make it there until after I moved to New England. James and I spent a night at a lovely B & B in Amish Country a few years ago. Our most recent visit was a stop in Pittsburgh on our way to visit family in Maryland, to see one of Paloma's camp friends.

So, I really think I was the wrong reader for Speaking of Miracles: The Faith Experience at the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Ann in Scranton, Pennsylvania by Fr. Cassian J. YuhausI chose it for two reasons, the first was that it was about Scranton, and the other was that it was short. The target audience of this one though is clearly failthful Catholics. In two instances it mentions abortion as the same level of disaster as Katrina, war, and AIDS. There is also a passage on marriage which states that "marriage takes place between one man and one woman as God intended. Not one man and eight women, not between one woman and five men. And today, one must note with emphasis, marriage is not between two men or between two women."  Yuhaus is clearly concerned about we here is liberal, and I might add, very Catholic, Massachusetts ruining the institution of marriage.

I did learn a bit about the history of Scranton from the book, and about the Catholic Church. It tells the history of the shrine, as well as relating stories from those who have experienced healing miracles after visiting the shrine and praying to St. Ann. Although I am not a follower of Catholism, I don't doubt the stories, and I do believe that prayer can help with healing. I have a very hard time believing, though, that there is any devine entity (God or Saint) who has the capacity to heal people, but will only do so when the faithful intervene through prayer, or that there is any one religion with a lock on it. This book was published in 2006, after the church's sex scandal broke. Since the book is a celebration I was surprised to see two references to the scandal. In one case it was in a letter which euphemistically mentioned the "priests who...[broke] their vows so long ago...a cross for all of us." Huh? Is the fact that priests broke their vows really what the problem is?

Anna suggested The Molly Maguires for today's cinematic fare, as the only movie she knew of that takes place in Scranton. She came over with her husband and daughter, and along with me, my husband and daughter we sat down to watch the film. I counted three people snoring before it was over (Anna was the first one out!). I don't think the movie was especially bad, just very slow moving. The first line of dialogue took place 15 minutes into the film. Prior to that there was a lot of mood-setting. We all agreed it was a bit hard to keep all the characters straight. It is about coal miners in the late 1800s and often we saw them with very sooty faces, and weren't quite sure which one was which. This movie was based on the true story of the Molly Maguires, coal miners who used terrorist tactics as a means of protesting their extremely poor working conditions. The Molly Maguires are infiltrated by a detective who seems to begin to understand their motivation, but ultimately rats them out.

I met Anna about 10 years ago. Ever since I've known her she has talked about making periogies whenever she visits her family in Pennsylvania. The only time I remember having periogies myself they came frozen from the grocery store, and were essentially tasteless. Anna and I made some from scratch - the Scranton way, and then both our families sat down to nosh. We also had keilbasa, another of Anna's PA favorites. The fresh periogies were delicious. We filled them with potatoes and cheese. I also recently learned from this article that periogies are one a favorite in Pittsburgh, too.

Dancing Pittsburgh Periogies

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Indiana Time

I'll add just a couple things to Pam's Indiana marvelous post.

As strange as the time-zone situation was, I kind of miss it. Indiana greatly simplified its time-keeping about five years ago, but the "What Time is it in Indiana?" web page is, thankfully, still available to assure us we were not making any of it up. It really was impossible to keep track of the time in Indiana through most of the twentieth century, since the state did not observe Daylight Savings time, except in some counties. And these counties were always changing. Having a watch was a liability, and I can only imagine what would happen to the clock on a cell phone, as a traveler passed from tower to tower through the state. See the page for an explanation of the map to the right, including the fact that some parts of this map reflect times that were officially "unofficial."

The time-zone situation had a couple of interesting implications for us. We lived in the border town of Oxford, Ohio for three years, mostly in the center of the town, but the last eight months house-sitting right on the line. Hoosiers were to us as Russkies were to Sarah Palin, except, as Pam points out, in our case it was literally true: we could see Indiana from our house. The practical implication was that my medical doctor was on the Indiana side of the nearby town of College Corner. Appointments were never as simple as "come in at 2:00 on Tuesday."

In that same town, school planners had gone out of their way to celebrate the odd situation. The inevitable "Stateline Road" has one interruption in town -- a gap where the local school is located. Not only did this school have the privilege of reporting to two, different state-education bureaucracies, but the classes in each side of the building would be on the same clock at the beginning and end of the school year, but not in the middle. The dashed line on the map below quite deliberately splits the school. I can only imagine that the principal's desk is on the line (I'd put it there if I were principal, just for the thrill of it).

View Larger Map

I was grateful that in Indiana, counties did matter, and that might account for part of my nostalgia. I've visited 60 of its 92 counties at one time or other, and certainly wore a groove in the Indiana section of Interstate 70, which is between several of the places I've lived.

As we've said, the time-zone confusion is all in the past. It made the state a bit more interesting than it otherwise would have been, and I guess all we can tease Indiana about now is its obsession with high school basketball.

Indiana - December 11, 1816

Indiana - home state of my mother and father. I don't even remember my first trip there, I was so young. My family used to drive there to visit my grandparents. It only took about 8 hours back in the 1960s to drive from Baltimore to the northwest corner of Indiana because the speed limit was 75 mph. I do know that Indiana was one of the first states I could identify on a United States map. When James and I lived in Ohio we could see Indiana from our porch. It was an hour earlier there, except during Daylight Savings Time, except some counties in Indiana did observe Daylight Savings Time. When we drove into the state we would try to check out the time on the bank clocks to determine where we were. I think Indiana has since given up and now observes Daylight Savings Time across the state.

A Very Indiana Christmas
Sometime in the late 80s I remember sitting in a bar in Oxford, Ohio, and being drawn to the silent television set in the corner where I saw a drunk-looking Santa and scared little kid, with a button nose, being pushed down a fake-snow covered slide. Even without the sound I knew I was onto something special. How could I find out the name of this Christamas movie? I had to see it. I don't remember how I eventually found out. I'm pretty sure I ran across the movie by chance again later. I don't recall going on any kind of a "quest" to find out. The movie, of course is that classic tale of Ralphie, the boy who wants a Red Rider BB gun - A Christmas Story. I have since seen the movie dozens of times. A few years ago I was excited to learn that the ficticious town of Holman, Indiana, in which the movie takes place, is really based on Hammond, Indiana, hometown of Jean Shepherd, the narrator of the story, and author of the book In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash, which the movie is based on. Hammond is also my mother's hometown! So how lucky is it that the Indiana anniversary falls in December so we can just have overselves a merry little Christmas fest all based in Hammond, Indiana.

Herewith my "A Christmas Story" stories:

Whenever we see the scene in which Flick gets his tongue stuck to the flagpole my family must hear, once again, about the time I tried to lick the frost off the top of an orange juice can when I was a little girl. I'll spare you the gory bits, and just say - Don't try this at home folks.

When my daughter was little whenever we would watch this movie and the famous F--- scene came up she used to beg me and my husband to tell her what he "really said". We knew that someday she would find out, but we weren't going to be the ones to tell her. Then one year she just didn't ask. Although we had never heard her say it, we knew that sometime in the previous 12-months she had found out what the f-bomb was. Good times.

I bought this leg lamp from the "A Christmas Story" Gift shop online with Indiana Day in mind. Here Paloma stands next to it on her way to see her friend in West Bridgewater's Production of A Christmas Story. She was actually wearing a pink bunny hat, and changed when I pointed out how appropriate that was. I don't know why the picture is sideways. It is right side up in the computer file. I tried rotating it 90 degrees, but it flipped 180.

Since this week is lousy with State celebrations, a book that would be easy to read was what I was looking for in seeking an Indiana selection. I tried a search on Indiana Ficiton in my local public library catalog and was drawn to the title of a young adult novel:  Here Lies the Librarian. This story takes place in the summer of 1914 and tells the story of PeeWee McGrath, a recent 8th grade graduate who lives in a small Indiana town with her brother, and works with him in a garage. This book not only features four living, and one dead librarian, it celebrates librarianship and libraries, and  mentions Indianapolis (my father's hometown) Butler University (my father's alma mater) and Beanblossom, Indiana, which is not only home of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Hall of Fame & Country Star Museum, it is named for one of my ancestors. My maternal grandmother's maiden name was Beanblossom (really!).

I chose Waynesboroughs as my Indiana meal because I thought the name was clever. These burrito wraps of egg, potato and sausage were filling, flavorful, and easy to make.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mississippi - December 10, 1817

Mississippi is another one of my "drive through" states. The only time I was there was while I was in a car moving from Texas to Massachussetts during my third trimester of pregnancy. I honestly have no memory of it.

Sons of Mississippi by Paul Hendrickson

In Robert Persig's classic book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Persig relates a story about trying to get a student to learn to write. She claims there is nothing to say when assigned to write about Bozeman. He sends the student back to town and tells her to write about one building and to start with one brick in the building. The student returns exhuberent and excited about all there was to write about. Sons of Mississippi is a book is about one picture - a picture taken in Oxford, Mississippi in the fall of 1962, just before the University of Mississippi "Old Miss" was integrated by James Merideth. Meredith officially entered classes on October 1 of that year. The picture, dated September 27, 1962 - the day my sister was born - was taken a few days before rioting broke out on the campus. The men in the photograph are six sheriffs and a sheriff's deputy who want to maintain the segregated status quo of the south. Intrigued by this photograph, which was published in Life magazine, Hendrickson sets out to find the subjects and the photographer decades after it is published. Most of the sheriffs are dead, but he is able to set up interviews with the survivors, or their widows, or their offspring, as well as with Charles Moore, the photographer, and with James Merideth and his descendents. It is amazing how much can be written about one picture - a thousand words? This book is over 300 pages! I was fascinated that so many people were willing to open up to Hendrickson, including the former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. I also never knew that James Merideth once worked for segregationist Jesse Helms and campaigned for David Duke when he made his run for governor. Libraries are mentioned occasionally throughout this book, beginning with the prologue in which Hendrickson describes another photograph, found on microfilm at the public library, of Ed Cothran, the sheriff with his back turned, when he helped recover the body of a Emmett Till a 14-year old boy who was lynched for making a pass at a white woman in 1955. There are a few mentions of the Ole Miss library including a description of the ceremony and reception that took place in 1997 when James Meredith turned over his papers to the university archives. What struck me the most, though was this passage about the university library :

"If a reseacher or pesky out-of-town vistor had gone through the [periodicals] aisles [of the library] looking for stories about what had happened at Ole Miss in late September and early October 1962, he would have discovered  that most of the stories weren't there. The periodicals themselves exist-but almost all of the stories have been scissored or ripped out. Whole issues are missing from the shelves, including the the issue of Life containing Charles Moore's photograph." Hendrickson makes no guesses as to the disposition of these relics.

Published in 2003, Sons of Mississippi was written before Old Miss retired its Rebel mascot and the mascot is mentioned as something that still ties the University to its "apartheid" past. Colonel Reb was retired recently in favor of the Black Bear mascot. Some fans are upset over the change, and are fighting it. See this story in the New York Times for details.

This book is made all the more fascinating after watching Prom Night in Mississippi a documentary about Charleston High School. Although the school has been integrated for decades, the school has always had two senior proms - a black prom and a white prom- sponsored by the parents. In 1997 actor Morgan Freeman, embarassed to be a resident of a town with such a traditon, offered to pay for the prom if it were integrated. His offer was ignored. In 2008 he made the offer again and the school made preparations to have its first integrated prom. Even so, a group of white parents sponsored a separate "whites only" senior
dance. Some of the white students attended both events, others attended only one or the other. The filmmakers interviewed many of the students, as well as some teachers and administrators who spoke quite frankly about racism. Students and administrators expressed quite a bit of concern about security at the integrated prom, even though the students had grown up together and played on sports teams together. Ironically, the only violence occured at the "whites only" prom. The parent organizers of the whites only dance refused to speak for the cameras. According to their lawyer they were afraid of being perceived as racist...hmm... Events that were not allowed to be filmed were described by narrators with drawings as visual aids. The drawings resembled comic book art, which seems to convey how ridiculous the idea of a segregated prom in the 21st century is. The School's only interracial couple was delighted to know that they would be able to attend prom together, even as the young woman's self-proclaimed red-neck father expressed his disapproval of the relationship.

I noted that the High School was not actually integrated until 16 years after Brown vs. the Board of Education and I wonder when Charleston will get around to complying with the any of the Supreme Court's decisions against prayer in public school. Two different scenes from the movie showed the School blatantly ignoring this rule on the separation of church and state.

Library connection
Some of the students were interviewed in the school's library. Books are visible in the background - tenuous I know, but all uses of a library will be noted in my blogs!

I was actually a bit skeptical that I would like Crispy Coated Cajun Fries, but the recipe seemed simple enough, which is what I was looking for in this season of States. I didn't follow the recipe exactly. It calls for corn meal and corn flour and I don't know what the difference between them is, so I just used corn meal, which was all I had anyway. And after my Nevada doughnut disaster I wasn't about to try deep frying again, so I just pan fried. These turned out pretty good. We had them with crab cakes and homebrew, which made a fine meal.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Delaware - December 7, 1787

My memories of Delaware are mostly of Rehoboth beach. While most of my Maryland friends were vactioning in Ocean City, my family preferred the more low-key Rehoboth Beach. We spent a week there the summer of my third grade year along with our friends the Vegas who came down from Quebec to vacation with us. I sure thought that was something special.

Haunted Delaware by Patricia Martinelli
I selected this one because it seemed like a good companion for the Delaware horror movie (which as best I could tell was the only available Delaware movie) and because it was skinny (118 pages). It is hard to believe that a state so small has so many ghost stories, but this short book is chock full of 'em. I was surprised to learn, also, that the prestegious University of Delware "pioneered paranormal research in the 1950s". Arranged in chronological order, starting with the pre-european invasion tales of the Lenni-Lenape and then moving on to the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. I actually learned quite a bit of Delaware history from this book. The stories were short, so it was a quick read, too. Some of the stories were ones I've heard almost everywhere I lived (i.e. "the vanishing hitchhiker" and "cry baby bridge") others were clearly more unique to Delaware. I was interested to learn that escaped slaves from the south who made it to Delaware on the underground railroad had to be careful of kidnappers who would  resell them to send back. This fate sometimes befell free blacks as well. One of the longer stories in the book relates the tale of Patty Cannon who ran an inn in the early 1800s. Cannon not only poisoned weatlhy visitors who came to her inn, she also auctioned off escaped and freed slaves who she kept chained in her basement with the corpses until a buyer could be found. This saga ends with this surprising twist - Cannon's skull was donated to the Dover Public Library after being stolen by a grave robber decades earlier where it remains to this day!

The Stone House was released on DVD on October 29 of this year. I am not quite sure where I would have found a Delaware movie had this one not come out just in time. The State Movie map indicates Wayne's World as an option but I suspect that a very small piece of the action takes place in Delaware, since it is really an Illinois film. The Stone House was filmed entirely on location in Delaware with Delaware actors. And although the DVD container makes this clear, there is no mention of Delaware in the movie, in fact, it appears the filmmakers went out of their way to avoid mentioning Delaware. In one scene a gentleman is reading a newspaper. The paper's name was impossible to read - the paper clearly and deliberately sliced right at the top so that the name is flipped down.

The movie begins with a bit of (ficticious) exposition explaining that the Stone House was established in 1954 as a home for the mentally ill, and that it burned down in 1979. The patients escaped the fire, but only three were ever found.... From there we meet Rick and Joslyn Berlinger, newcomers to a small town, who are shocked to find a skeleton, dug up from a grave, on their property. Although the local sheriff assures them it is simply a prank, they soon find themselves in the midst of a much larger nightmare.

According to the "Making of Stone House" special feature included with my DVD all those who worked on this movie did so for free. Knowing that, I have to say I am pretty impressed. I don't normally watch horror movies, so I was glad to see that there was no budget for special effects in this one. There was a lot of hitting people with shovels, which could have been ghastly.

A lot of the recipes I choose for this project come from which lists recipes by state if you search hard enough (from the Main page click "more recipes" under the Popular Collection heading, then click on "USA Regional and Ethnic" from there you can pick a region, and then a state within the region. I had a hard time finding Delaware this way though. My choices of region are Midwest, Mountain, Northeast, West Coast, and Southern. Northeast seemed the most likely, but Delaware was not listed there. Where could it be? It turns out to be under the Southern link. Woah! Let's check out where the Mason Dixon line is, shall we? Anyway, after finding the Delware recipes I chose the Spaghetti with Red Clam sauce. This was good, and easy to make. James and I were both a bit worried that it would taste too "clammy" but there were plenty of other flavors. I expect I will make this one again.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hawaii Music Follow-Up

It is too bad we did not know the story of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole back when we celebrated Hawaii Day. He was a gentle giant whose first recording became the version of "Over the Rainbow" most familiar to an entire generation. As Pam remembered, his version was the opening of 50 First Dates, a film that would have been a more enjoyable -- if less informative -- selection for our Hawaii movie.

Israel died at a young age of complications related to his obesity. In this story by Renee Montagne, he is remembered for his devotion to his homeland, reflected in music that eschewed the sounds of tourist-oriented hula tunes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Illinois - December 3, 1818

Not to be overly dramatic or anything, but I have Illinois to thank for my very existence. My parents met there, perhaps 50 years ago, when they both worked for the federal government in Chicago. Although they moved to Baltimore right after the wedding, I have been able to visit Illinois a number of times. I like Chicago a lot. It is a happening city with much to do, and I find the people there really friendly. I remember visiting once for a conference and going to the Museum of Broadcast Communication. Who wouldn't love the place? I still get a chill when I see my family's home movies of our visit to the Chicago zoo.  And let us not forget that Illinois is so much more than Chicago. I have also been to Springfield to see Lincoln's home - another must do.

Living Oprah
Before Oprah Winfrey had a sindicated television show in Chicago she was the host of a morning news show for the local ABC affiliate in Baltimore, Maryland. Those of us who grew up in the area during the 1970s remember an Oprah who wore an afro, and clothes from JC Penney, and whose weight was not a never-ending topic of conversation. I don't remember her as the super-sensitive woman we know today, either. I remember her being a somewhat aggressive when interviewing Faith McNulty (The Burning Bed) and questioning why she would stay with an abusive husband. Winfrey bailed on Baltimore in the mid 1980s, about the same time the Colts did. Living Oprah, Robyn Okrants "One-Year Experminet to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk"  makes one small reference to Oprah's time in Maryland, but Oprah clearly belongs to Chicago. Of course I could not resist a "year of" book about Illinois when I found out about this one. Okrant, who is not really a mega-fan, decides to go one year following all of Oprah's advice, and I mean all. Whatever Oprah says to wear, she wears, whatever Oprah says to buy, she buys. Of course any of the "advice" aimed at acquiring stuff I scoffed at, as well as anything I thought just seemed over the top, but I surely felt mighty smug at any of the things I was already doing. (Take the t.v. out of the bedroom?  - Everyone knows bedrooms are only for sex and sleeping; Get out a hand mirror so you can become aquainted with your vulva? Ha! I already know mine so well I could pick it out of a line-up!: Declutter your home? snort! ) The project actually creates quite a bit of stress, and debt, for part-time yoga-instructor Okrant, but all in all I'd say it all turned out pretty well for her. I mean, she got a best-selling book out of the deal, after all. She does seem pretty surprized at all the attention her project receives during its run, and one friend does point out that perhaps it is because she is following Oprah's advice that she gets so much attention, despite the fact that she does not seek it. A fun read that, like Julie and Julia, will have a lot of bloggers fantisizing that perhaps someone will discover them and take them away from it all. Find out more about Okrant at

Oprah with Richard Sher on WJZ-TV in Baltimore

A Raisin in the Sun

A Sidney Poiter movie is never a bad thing. This classic film about a family living in the Chicago projects features Poiter as a man who has recently become the head of his household following the death of his father. The family consists of Walter Younger (Poiter), his wife, son, mother and sister, all of whom live in a two bedroom apartment, and share a bathroom with another apartment. We see the family trying to break free of poverty through the aspirations of Beneatha (Walter's sister) who is studying to become a doctor, in the meantime the family suddenly comes into a $10,000 insurance payment and must decide whether to risk it on a business venture that Walter is scheming with two partners, or save the money for education, and buy a house. Themes of civil rights, and not-so-thinly veiled racism, would have been very current for the time when the movie was made, and probably were especially challenging for white audiences of the day.

Interestingly, Okrant's book made reference to this movie. Apparently there was a remake? I am so out of touch I had no idea.

Could my "munchie" have been more of a cop-out than dining at Uno Chicago Grill "birthplace of the original deep-dish pizza" in 1943. An easy decision during a busy week, and pizza is always a hit with my daughter, and we had also had an additional child yesterday, so all the better. The pizza was okay. I liked my salad though - tossed greens with goat cheese, glazed walnuts and vinigrette.