Posts Tagged ‘2011’

In honor of my great-grandma on what would have been her 125th birthday, here’s one of her cookie recipes, written in her own hand.

The date on the upper corner shows this recipe isn’t a family heirloom, but a fairly recent addition to the recipe box.

No matter. If she took the time at age 98 to write out the recipe, it’s worth passing along. (Her cursive script at that age was considerably neater than any I have managed, at any age.)

Melting moments, courtesy Pauline "Grossee" Blumenau.

The cooking instructions are written in the back in my mom’s hand, presumably to save my great-grandma some effort.

Here’s how you make melting moments:

1. Beat together butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Add cornstarch and flour. Beat until blended.

3. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in colored sugar if desired.

5. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until edges are golden.

6. Cool 2 to 3 minutes, then remove to rack.

Makes 45 cookies.


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I went back to Stamford and its environs this past weekend for a family wedding. (Here’s wishing many years of happiness to Frank and Donna.)

I didn’t quite have as much free time as I thought I might, and didn’t get the chance to visit the parts of Stamford I remembered.

My dad got in a couple days before I did, though, and took his camera around town. I’m going to shamelessly steal his pictures and those of my grandfather for a quick comparison.

1107 Hope Street, July 1966. (I'm guessing July 'cause the flag is out.)

August 2011. My dad guesstimates that the mock-Tudor condo at the right is closest to the footprint of 1107 Hope. The entire complex, with something like 14 condos in all, now has the mailing address of 1111 Hope Street.

Readers who remember my earliest blog posts (all three of you) might also be interested to know that the neighborhood second-run movie theater mentioned in this post and shown in this photo is still open for business.

In my grandfather's photo, this theater is showing "The Night They Raided Minsky's," with Jason Robards. In my dad's, it's showing "Horrible Bosses," with Jason Bateman. Draw your own conclusions about the progress of American cinema.

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The title of today’s post is a reference to this regionally renowned writer. I might have become the next him, if I’d never been to Boston.

Last month, I set out on a rural, rolling New York state highway to fulfill a personal quest.

I was visiting my folks’ cottage on Keuka Lake for possibly the last time, after 30 years of summer visits. (My folks are considering ditching New York for a more competently run and intelligently financed state.)

So I brought a camera with me and spent several hours driving from Penn Yan south to Bath, taking pictures of (mostly mundane) sights and places I remember from all those years. If I wasn’t going to get back there, I was gonna get some stuff down on film, as a lasting record.

I had my grandfather — the ostensible subject of this blog — in mind the whole time, for two reasons.

First, I took most of my pictures with a Pentax K1000 film SLR that used to be his.

K1000s are brilliant machines, as simple and solid as straight razors. While my SLR skills are primitive (I’m not great with straight razors either), I plan to use mine until it is no longer cost-effective to operate, because I like what it is and what it does.

I also knew I was following in my grandpa’s footsteps in terms of subject matter.

About two weeks before I left for Keuka, I looked at a DVD of my grandfather’s old slides, scanned in by my dad. I was surprised to find that my grandfather, in the early 1980s, had already taken some of the pictures I planned to take to capture my Finger Lakes memories.

He took the hell out of ’em, too — he got a gorgeous day and he knew what to do with it. (The day I picked for my shooting journey was overcast, not that that’s any excuse for the pictures I ended up with.)

I tried not to take any picture exactly as my grandfather had. Instead, I tried to capture some images that would preserve my memories and bring the Keuka ambiance to mind.

I think he might have found a few of mine worth considering for the family scrapbook. Here are some of our best. You can click them to enlarge — and his, you’ll want to:

Circa 1983. You can forget about the rest of the gallery and just look at this one if you want.

2011. I imagined this to be an old schoolhouse. I went up close to it and looked through the window; there was a wooden rowboat inside.

Circa 1983.

2011. No lake to be seen, but I like it anyway. Back roads are part of the trip too.

Field of Grass

Circa 1983

2011. You can almost smell the Queen Anne's lace ... if Queen Anne's lace actually smelled like anything, that is.

Circa 1983. View from my folks' dock.

2011. Different dock at a different cottage; similar view. I took this one with a toy plastic camera, hence the vignetting and general lo-fi funk. His pictures are 30 years old and look timeless; mine are two weeks old and look 30.

I suspect I have accomplished little with this exercise except to convince my readers that I’m not a good enough photographer to hold my grandpa’s flashbulb.

Still, if anyone’s inclined to see it, the full photographic record of my Finger Lakes journey can be seen here. I think I’ve nailed down most of the captions so they explain why some of this boring stuff felt to me like it was worth photographing.

My grandfather didn’t need words to explain why he took pictures of something. It shone through when you looked at his prints.

In a world full of people with my grandfather’s talent, there would be no need for writers. Thankfully, only some people have that gift.

The rest of us aspire, and hunt, and peck.

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It’s my birthday, and I’ll blog if I want to.

This weekend, I destroyed some history. And it felt pretty good.

Heresy, I know, given that the whole point of this blog is preserving history — or, at least, using it as a jumping-off point for essays and commentary. But my grandpa didn’t save everything that passed through his hands, and neither will I.

My wife and I were both in the newspaper business for a bunch of years, and we have a couple boxes of old papers sitting in the basement.

I got the itch to clean out my clips, knowing I’d saved a bunch of stories that seemed important to me in 1999 but didn’t matter now.

So I went through and weeded out a good-sized stack of papers whose contents are not worth the space they take up in my basement. And now they’re headed out to the garage, where I will use them to fire up my chimney starter whenever I feel like grilling.

"There's nothing older than yesterday's news." - Ed Brennen

There are stories in this stack I wrote about bank heists, and Special Town Meetings, and wildfires on the Appalachian Trail (still the only time I’ve ever been on the trail), and the relative popularity of lamb vs. ham for Easter dinner, and sewage (I wrote a lot of stories about sewers and sewage in Massachusetts), and piping plover nests, and dozens of other topics.

Can’t say I remembered writing every single one, but cumulatively, they took me back 10 or 15 years.

I suppose that my future grandchildren or great-grandchildren might be interested in reading the stories I wrote as a view into my life and times, just as I find it interesting to look at my grandpa’s calendars. (Someone might first have to explain to my descendants what a “newspaper” was.)

But I’m not gonna hoard things for posterity. If you save everything you touch or produce, then some future generation won’t be able to move or breathe under the weight of all the stuff they’ve been handed down.

Plus, it pains me to admit that a lot of my writing was either deadly boring, or self-consciously clever — and, to paraphrase Ed Brennen, there’s nothing older than yesterday’s clever.

Consider this lede, from a 1998 story about increased competition in the microbrew business:

“There’s a battle brewing on the shelves of your local package store, and only the stout will survive.”

Oh, God.

And then there was a weekly column I used to write about commercial real estate transactions. I got so insanely bored with it that I used to write it in a different style every week. Once it was in haiku; another week it was a Papa Hemingway pastiche; another week it was Dashiell Hammett.  (“She was a blonde, the kind of blonde I thought only existed in architectural renderings.”)

Amused me no end at the time. But a decade-plus later, all I can think about are the readers who had to wade through my sophomoric jive to get the information they wanted … and the ones who got tired of the effort and tuned me out altogether.

I’ve still got a few stories saved that were especially significant, or that made me smile. But most of my old clips, even to a history buff like me, are best used to get my grill going.

Burgers, anyone?


July 4, 2011.

The text for last night’s barbecue was the Aug. 9, 1995, issue of the Duxbury, Mass., Reporter.

The lead story had something to do with a townwide open space committee. (In small towns, actual summertime news is harder to find than beachfront parking spaces.)

Holding a glass of Bethlehem’s finest bitter, I toasted my memories from that long-ago summer as part of them went up in smoke.

We destroy ourselves in order to live and thrive.

The burgers were delicious.

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A Sunday sermon for Memorial Day. (Yes, I know Memorial Day is tomorrow, not today.)

The Blumenau family is not one of those with deep, intimate links to the American military. For better or worse, soldiering is not a job my ancestors seem to have pursued with particular avidity. (Perhaps they were lovers, not fighters.)

But a few of my forebears deserve recognition for their military service.

I think often of brothers Levi and Robert Beebe — something like my great-great-great-great-great-uncles — who marched out of East Haddam, Connecticut, and took up arms in the Revolutionary War.

As an expatriate New Englander, in spirit if not birth, I have maximum respect for the men (as almost all of them were) who swallowed hard, took on the world’s most powerful empire, and won — and then turned around and tackled the even greater challenge of defining and maintaining a new, independent nation.

Everything we as Americans have today, we owe in some fundamental way to those ragged bands of citizen-soldiers. I take pride in knowing there are a few of these folks in my bloodline — however distant they might be, and however disgusted they would probably be with my pampered 21st-century lifestyle. (They fought the Lobsterbacks so that I might sit in a cubicle all day and write talking points? I’m still working that one out.)

The Beebe brothers survived the war and went back to Connecticut.

More than 150 years later, in a different kind of war, another of my relatives would not be so lucky.

We’re getting away from our format a little bit. My Great-Uncle Ray, the sunny-looking gent pictured above, came from my mom’s side of my family, not my dad’s. (He was the brother of my maternal grandmother.)

And he never appeared on my grandfather’s calendars, which are the ostensible raison d’etre of this blog.

No matter: He deserves a moment’s recognition as the only close relative I know of, on either side of my family, to give his life in combat for his country.

Great-Uncle Ray — U.S. Army Private First Class Raymond J. Cahill of Torrington, Connecticut — died in France on July 15, 1944, roughly a month after the D-Day landings. He is buried in a national cemetery on Long Island that can’t be more than two hours from my house; I’ve thought several times that I might go, but have never actually done it.

In the grand scheme of things, he is a faded gold star, only one of 22 million to 25 million worldwide military casualties of World War II.

In the up-close-and-personal scheme of things, he is a hero — an ordinary American who paid the highest price for a crucial cause.

A blog post that will be read by a small handful of online passers-by is a pretty slim reward for that kind of sacrifice. But it’s what I have this Memorial Day weekend; and here it is, for what it’s worth.

Thank you, Great-Uncle Ray, and everyone else — from Lexington and Concord on down — who gave your lives to preserve the promise of the greatest, most free country in the world.

Successive generations have done an increasingly lousy job of conducting our national affairs in a manner worthy of your sacrifices.

But we have not completely misplaced what you gave us. The essence of the American promise is still in our grasp. And maybe we will figure out how to do you proud yet.

Coming tomorrow: A restoration of normal, irreverent blog-service.

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