Archive for October 2008
Just heard on NPR that celebrated populist oral historian and radio personality Studs Terkel died today. “Curiosity did not kill this cat,” is what he said he’d like his epitaph to read. I might have to steal that!
Flu shots weren’t for me, I thought. Why would I want to be injected with the inactive viris, at the risk of getting flu symptoms now, to guard against the uncertainty of getting it down the road. Then there’s thimerosal, the ominous mercury preservative still apparently used in the vaccine.
But then I had the flu bad last winter in Baltimore. We’re talking a 103-degree fever that made my brain swell and throb, a fever that hurt so bad it made me cry. I had to practically crawl to the parking lot after the flu hit me at work. My whole body ached when I coughed.
Still, I wanted to embrace the natural, echinacea-can-keep-me-healthy Oregon lifestyle. I was just going to tough it out this year. But then we heard the flu hits really hard here, particularly in a university town that students, scholars and athletes from around the country and across the globe pass through. Plus, with our health insurance, the $15 shots were free through the Oregon State health center.
Now there’s a slight tingling down my left side where I had the shot and my toes feel achy. My throat is a bit scratchy. Are these symptoms psychosomatic or real? I just better not come down with full-fledged influenza this year.
Did ya’ll get flu shots this year? Do you think the benefits outweigh the risks? You certainly don’t here about the shortage of flu shots like we had in 2004, now that more drug makers have flooded the market.
We all knew Obama would do a telecast interview on The Daily Show tonight, an appearance perhaps eclipsed by his 30-minute infomercial. But it surprised me to see Baltimore’s finest David Simon follow suit on The Colbert Report. What was the hook for Simon’s appearance? The Generation Kill mini-series ended this summer, with little fanfare. There was no mention of his new New Orleans-set project. Colbert was struggling to make the interview relevant. He seized upon David Simon’s characters that defy easy protagonist/antagonist classification and his critiques of a capitalist culture that requires institutions to “do more with less.”
“Barack Obama says he loves your show: is that because you’re a socialist,” Colbert dead-panned. That segewayed into a more substantive defense of progressive taxation.
Colbert hit a nerve talking about how Simon resented the prize-obsessed world of newspaper journalism. That’s why you went into TV then, Colbert said, taunting, because we don’t care about prizes at all. You know Simon has to be somewhat bitter about the lack of Emmy recognition for The Wire. Maybe he himself was Pulitzer Prize-obsessed while at The Sun, so he had to leave before that impulse got the better of him.
He’s proud to be one of the first on the 200+ plus Sun newroom staffers who have taken buy-outs over the past 15 years. So in some vague way we’re part of the same club.
“Journalism kind of spit me out,” Simon said.
Yes, we voted here today and no, I don’t mean by absentee ballot. We registered here in Oregon, the only state that does 100 percent of its voting by mail. Like standardized test takers, we darkened the bubbles next to our candidates on our ballots, sealed them in secrecy envelopes, signed our names and now will drop them at the public library or on Oregon State’s campus by 8 p.m. on election day. If sent by mail, the ballots must be received (not merely postmarked) by the county board of elections by Nov. 4.
Oregon values shared processes and even voting is a communal activity here. Voting parties are not uncommon.
With a host of ballot measures — 12 statewide ones this year — to wade through, people need all the help they can get. It wasn’t hard to decide on the measures concerning bilingual education, state tax policy and building permit exemptions were easier decisions. But I found myself scratching my head on others concerning teacher merit pay, prison sentences for drug offenders and the creation of open state primaries (where the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, would advance to the general election.) The Willamette Week created a helpful cheat-sheet and voter’s guide that demystified the process.
I was surprised to find a STYLE: Smart Living in Baltimore magazine forwarded to my Corvallis address. A wave of longing for my favorite Baltimore restaurants hit me when I read its piece on former City Paper (and now Baltimore Sun) restaurant critic Richard Gorelick. sorry, there’s no link to it online. But it mentions the One World Cafe (see photo above) and Golden West, two Baltimore institutions for which we have yet to find replacements.
I met Laura Wexler, the STYLE article’s author, at a spirited Day of the Dead dinner at Cafe Azafran on Johns Hopkins’ Homewood campus, just about this time last year. Little did we then know where we’d be for Dia de los Muertos in 2008! Oh, and how I miss the Stoop Storytelling series that Wexler co-currates at Centerstage Theater in Baltimore. It hurts to miss the Stoop Holiday Hoopla, with its line-up of prime Baltimore musicians like Abby Mott and Caleb Stine. The Real Geniuses (Abby Mott is lead female vocalist) played at our wedding, and Hannah and I were just becoming groupies for the alt-country yet genre-defying Caleb Stine. But live where you are, right, and there is much to love here.
For a city of just over 50,000, Corvallis sure has a lot of yoga options. I was just getting turned on to Anusara yoga’s focus on alignment and mindfulness before I left Baltimore. Although I still sorely miss my weekly morning classes with Sara Neufeld before work at The Sun and the welcoming (and affordable) yoga community Regina Armenta created in the exposed brick sanctuary of St. John’s Church on 2640 St. Paul Street, I am feeling at ease with the nurturing styles of the teachers here.
It seems everyone does yoga in Oregon. I can walk or ride my bike to Cedar and Fir Studio, nestled in the trees next to the home of owner and teacher Lisa Wells. She incorporates the Anusara, Vinyasa and Inyengar styles into her classes, all of which I have dabbled in over the years. The studio also developing a Reach Out Yoga non-profit to bring yoga to prisons, homeless shelters and drug rehab centers.
There were enough teachers in town to convene this all-day Downward Beaver yoga conference at a cost of only $10. Wish I hadn’t been in Austin.
And I’m still (good) sore from the more Classical yoga class I attended Friday. We didn’t do a single downward dog but lots of backbends using a folding chair. Subbappa, a native of Mysore, India, teaches the class at The Yoga Center downtown. Hoping to find some free classes, too, when I get around to joining the Oregon State gym as a faculty wife (gasp!).
I apologize for my month-plus long hiatus as I just now settle in Corvallis and hope to commense daily blogging in earnest.
We’re embracing all life has to offer here, which on Sunday included a wild mushroom foraging expedition with the new Slow Food Corvallis group here. It helped that it was a perfect nearly 70-degree day that made it hard to accept the rains are coming.
Fluted Pacific golden chanterelles, known as Oregon’s state mushroom, were the object of our search in the shaded woods of Alpine, a rural timber town between Corvallis and Eugene. For those who fear death by poisonous mushroom, the chanterelles are among the easiest to pick out. Their amber color stands out against the damp, loamy forest floor, yet much of the mushrooms’ flesh is concealed under the soil, leaves and underbrush. (Unfortunately that’s not my bountiful harvest below, but I did collect a paper lunch-bag’s worth.)
Our fearlesss guide was Rex Swartzendruber, a professional forager who sells his finds at Corvallis and Salem markets and online at TruffleZone. He spoke with eloquence about the important symbiotic (or parasitic) role mushrooms play in maintaining the Coastal Range forests’ delicate eco-systems, how everything, from the trees to the fungi to the arthropods that crawl and digest the soil beneath them, is connected.
When the timber companies clear-cut the forests, the trees aren’t the only natural resource to go. Chanterelles take 15 years to reappear after a forest has been clear-cut, Swartzendruber said. What’s more, Big Timber, he said, has been blocking access to public forests where foragers are normally free to hunt. “Access for a mushroom picker is everything,” Swartzendruber said of his livelihood.
The deforestation was apparent on our ride back to Corvallis.
The risk of accidentally plucking a poisonous one almost makes wild mushrooms a heightened delicacy. I kept thinking of fugu, which is popularly eaten in Japan but can be lethal if prepared incorrectly.
We avoided false chanterelles with more orange gills and a darker cap. The potently toxic amanitas were the scariest mushrooms we found but could be easily identified with their white-dotted “veil” caps and lacy skirt on the stem, making the lethal mushrooms sound feminine, almost bridal (see below and AVOID).
But the highlight of the day was the $20 three-course mushroom dinner Swartzendruber arranged for us at Sybaris Restaurant in Albany, the city that neighbors Corvallis. Chef Matt Bennett, who graciously hosted us on his day off, was still beaming from recent press he got in The Oregonian about a meal he recently prepared at the James Beard House in New York. For dessert, we got a litle taste of Bennett’s celebrated Oregon black truffle ice cream (made with powder from TruffleZone) but what was really remarkable was the candy cap mushroom panna cotta which had a rich maple flavor that exclusively came from the fungus. The appetizer was leek and potato soup with sauteed lobster and shrimp mushrooms, the later which we found while foraging. When it smells like rotten seafood, it’s too late to pick them. The Russian-inspired main course was lamb two ways: loin with wild mushroom Stroganoff and a particularly memorable “Communist cutlet” lamb patty with chantrelles (the French spelling) on creamy Savoy cabbage. Bennett, who just also opened a more casual Italian cafe near Sybaris, seems committed to a downtown Albany rennaissance. The historic buildings apparently used to house brothels for the timber workers.