It’s been two weeks since Ruth died. We still yo-yo between relief that her pain and discomfort is over and missing her sorely in our daily lives. The sweetest pain is when both emotions press down at once. And yes, this too shall pass.

I’ve just finished my second cup of the morning. Early sunlight is moving across the room from my northeast window. Soon direct sunlight will not reach that window. Alas! The sun doesn’t move. It’s us – the earth – that wobbles. I have always liked that part.

According to reports, Republicans still believe that making rich people richer will lift the poor out of poverty. This tooth fairy politics could very well push this nation into ruin. And if you believe there has been no inflation in the past two years, then you must be the brainless idiot who decided that my social security cost of living increase was unnecessary again. You think there is something in the water in DC?

We’re in a drought. I have to water the essentials daily. If my tomatoes make, I’ll have bounty. So far so good. I don’t water lawn. HeHe. It’s stopped growing. HeHe. I can’t stop laughing. I started my lawnmower the other day just to make sure it worked.

OK, it’s time for cup # 3. Maybe just a bite of leftover potato salad. Something uncommonly good about having a bite of leftover potato salad at such an “off” hour of the day. Not quite decadent but headed that way.

Dear friends:

I just wanted to let you know that today at noon, Ruth Beisman, Carol Ann’s mother, died peacefully at home. She had a fitful night and it was clear that the end was near. She finally let go today, July 10 at 12 noon. She was 92 and 7 months. Androscggin Home Hospice was invaluable in this process.

She died of myelodysplastic syndrome. This is a leukemia-like condition. The blood fails to carry oxygen as the red cells are not replenished. Transfusions are the only maintenance known to extend viable life. It had become over burdensome for Ruth to go through this process at St. Mary’s in Lewiston, ME, which is a 30 to 45 minute drive, depending on weather, and which took several hours to complete. This treatment had come down from monthly to every week with more frequent treatments in sight for the near term. She decided to cut the transfusions off about a month ago. It was the beginning of the end. She also suffered from Post Polio Syndrome, weakening her left leg, on which she wore a brace. Mobility became a huge issue.

She filled a large space in my life for the past two years during which she lived with us, and was a defining factor for both of us during that period. It will take some time to adjust to her absence. I will miss her sorely.

There will be a memorial service at Our Lady of Lourdes in Rochester NY at a future date. She was the oldest charter member there.

Thank you Ruth for shedding light on the path.

Jerry H

You say rice and gravy to a southern boy and you have touched his heart strings, if not his very soul. What ya’ll having for supper tonight, Jerry? Rice and gravy, I’m pretty sure. I can just hear that old crone who was a shill for the cattle industry a number of years ago saying, “Where’s the beef?”

That’s not the point at all. Rice, which was grown by the shipload in southern Louisiana, was the national food of the state – so to speak. It was always on the table. Gravy was never far away. Now there are as many recipes for gravy as there are grains of rice. But for the record, tonight I am speaking of a Cajun gravy called roux. The “x” is silent. It doesn’t come in a package or box – although, these days just about anything can be purchased in a package and mixed up in seconds. Real roux, on the other hand is a staple in every Cajun household and is the base for gumbos, court bouillon – pronounced locally coo-be-yon.

Here’s the basic formula. One heavy bottom pot. One cup olive oil. One cup of flour. The better part of an hour. On moderate to medium low heat stir the above ingredients constantly until the color resembles a chocolate bar. Somewhere between regular and dark. Don’t stop stirring. Not for the phone. Not for the door bell. Not to see who just drove into the driveway – not even to scratch your ass. IT WILL LOOK LIKE IT’S BURNING AND IT WILL IF YOU DO NOT STIR CONSTANTLY!

When the desired color is achieved, put in a small can of tomato paste. Stir this until it settles down – and it will need settling down – and then throw in a chopped onion, half a bell pepper, a stalk or two of celery and flip this around a while. It will be a big lump of mud. Don’t worry. You are not alone. It happens every time.

Now after a few minutes add some liquid. Keep the stirring going. It can be stock, water, a little red wine couldn’t hurt. Add enough to make a thick but not too thick broth. It needs to have the consistency of uncut paint. Season to taste with salt and pepper and maybe a little Tabasco. Simmer this a while and then you are ready to add previously browned chicken thighs. If you want to go for seafood then after about 30 minutes add the seafood and cook until done. About 10 or 15 minutes depending on what it is. Oysters. Yum. Catfish. Yum. Shrimp, scallops crabs, duck. It goes on.

There is no evidence that eating this food will cause gross harm to your reputation or sleeplessness.

Of course you serve it over rice.

It is now dusky evening time after a brief summer shower. The air is heavy and pleasant. Not oppressive at all. But. of course, I grew up in this soup and can handle it joyfully while my neighbors and loved ones are dropping like flies. (I want to say, “Get over it!”, but I don’t. Is that wisdom?)

I did not run in a race, watch a procession of fire trucks, or brave any crowds. Nor, as darkness falls, will I watch fireworks. I was blessed with a complete absence of politicians on my Independence Day. Nothing they say is actually revolutionary anyway. Posturing, pouting, pointing the accusatory finger. In other words it has been a wonderful day. I even forewent the treadmill and dumbbells.

We had hotdogs and beer! Sam Adams Boston Lagger! How patriotic can one man be? I did augment it with Cajun Coleslaw. Now that’s patriotism. I guarantee!

As the day draws to a close these thoughts move me. Forgive me if I rant. May the children among us live in freedom, liberty and justice. May they have government that represents real people, not only rich people – struggling families, not only corporations – and may our children come to see our government expend as many resources solving homeland issues as it does in seeking to democratize people who can’t even conceive of it’s meaning, and couldn’t care less.

Get a grip America! We The People are your best bet for the future. Spend those billions at home. Money? Don’t let the gloom and doom bunch sway you. There is money. It’s being squandered all over the world. Squander it at home. The big lie is that we can’t afford things like medical care and social security. We can’t afford NOT to afford them.

Shake them up, America. Put regulators back in the banks. You know banks. Those folk who make money every day on your deposits, and precipitate an historical financial meltdown, and then pay you a shadow of a precent on your savings. Shake them up America! Begin with congress and outward to all the state legislatures. Shake them up. Shake them up, America.

By God, We are the People!

Happy 4th!

It’s July already. Next up is the 4th.  Independence Day.  What is commemorated on the fourth of July was so long ago that I suspect few of us can actually conjure up what the feeling was like that inspired the “colonials” to rebel and declare their independence from England.  They were an articulate bunch.  Hardly a more inspiring and well written document exists anywhere than the American Declaration of Independence.  Almost makes you wish you had been there.  Almost.

Independence – an interesting concept.  Look it up.  You will uncover things like self-rule, home rule, separation, self-determination, sovereignty, autonomy, freedom and liberty.

We all grew up with these precepts of the American catechism instilled in our minds as indelible compass points for the pursuit of happiness.  They were the principles of that entitlement that is the core of American Citizenship.  “Proud to be an American” was less a political statement than it was the simple truth.  It felt good, deep, sanctioned by the highest authority.

I can remember feeling that I was the primary unit of this democracy.  Whatever democracy meant, it boiled down to me. and it meant independence.
Celebrating our nation’s independence and celebrating the 4th of July are often unrelated events during these latter days.  I seem to get dozens of emails from various friends and organizations extolling the glories of Independence Day.  Just about everyone of these communications have to do with either memorializing our fallen service men and women or talking up a strong military.  Few, if any, say much about our nationhood – the unique blessings and responsibilities of being an American.  There will be a parade and a footrace on the 4th.  There will be marching bands, young soldiers and old soldiers.  There will be more fire trucks than anyone ever dreamed of.  

There will be beach time, beer, hotdogs, barbecue and hardly any thought about the dominance of England or that band of eloquent, brave fledgling Americans upon whose effort we stand.  It’s quite a stretch from Minutemen to ICBM loaded submarines with the power to turn the planet into a crisp.  But that is the perspective we deal with these days. 

I’m not too worried about the dominance of England anymore.  There are other tyrants nowadays who are more insidious and no less determined to dominate the people of this nation and bend them (us) to their purposes.  And they are already within our gates.  They occupy the halls of congress and the various state houses across the country.  They are the power and the money behind the lovely logos on the boxes you buy at the market.  They are chess masters who know the end move from the beginning.  We all go to the polls and vote while the ultra rich and powerful just right out a check for whatever an election costs and preach one man one vote.  These people twist the intent of our founding documents and strange meanings to old and familiar terms.

Something is wrong, folks, and all the flag waiving and pontificating and fire trucks with sirens blasting are not going to change a thing.  Independence is like a daylily – every day is a new one.  As we fire up the grill let us also fire up our resolve that, as stated in the preamble to our constitution that it is “We the People”, not we the corporations,  or we the very rich, or even we the states, whose will it is to promote “a more perfect Union”, and “Justice”, and “the common Defense”. and “the general Welfare”, and ” the Blessings of Liberty for us all.

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY