Wednesday, August 25, 2010

North Little Rock Finds its Cool

Thanks NYT. I think the more appropriate headline, however, would be: NYT finds North Little Rock, which was of course cool all along.

Still, love it when this town makes it into that rag from NYC!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Country Music 101

A wise friend and lifelong Arkansan told me, "All country music is about cheatin', drinkin', or lovin.' And every song tells a story, so listen to the lyrics."

A couple months ago, I figured it was about time I learned to appreciate country music, so I drafted some friends into providing me a list of the basics. Results are below. Now, I wonder if said friends might make me a cd of said tunes for a certain upcoming long road trip...?

Merle Haggard
George Jones
Johnny Cash
Patsy Cline
Willie Nelson
Loretta Lynn
Lyle Lovett
Jon Prine
Guy Clark
Hank Williams Sr & Jr
Glen Campbell
Lefty Frizzel
Johnny Horton
George Strait
Joe Ely
Conway Twitty
David Allen Coe "You Never Even Called Me By My Name"
David Allen Coe "The Ride." It's his own little tribute to Hank, Sr.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

As Rosh Hashanah Dawns, We Support the Troops

This time two years ago, someone very dear to me was preparing to depart on a year deployment with the U.S. Army to Iraq.

He left at the end of September, and given the dates the Jewish holidays fell that year, if I remember correctly, he sort of missed celebrating Rosh Hashanah all together that year, but he arrived in time for Yom Kippur. We were both thrilled to learn that he had the opportunity to be escorted to another site where he could commemorate both Kil Nidre and the full day of Yom Kippur, including a break fast meal with fellow Jewish soldiers who had come together from various bases for the occasion. I think part of his excitement was breaking up the routine and getting to spend a night in peace and quiet away from work, but the most important thing to him was that though he was one of very few Jews in the Army, he could celebrate the most important time of the Jewish year.

So, this year, I came up with an idea. I collected Rosh Hashanah cards from Arkansas' Jewish community to send to deployed Jewish service members. I asked the senders to write generic messages that any soldier would be happy and honored to receive. People wrote beautiful, meaningful things, even though they were sending them to people they didn't know personally. And in the cases of many who sent me cards to send, they had very little, if any, personal connection to anyone serving in the U.S. military. I was proud to find one, even if very small, way to help them relate to the wars we are fighting in the Middle East and to the many brave, patriotic Americans who have chosen to dedicate a least a portion of their lives toward representing our country through the military.

Through some Googling, I quickly learned that there is a group of people throughout the United States whom have never met, but whom only have in common the fact that they want to do everything they can to ensure that Jewish service members are as comfortable as they can be while they are deployed far from their families, friends, and Jewish roots. They have a listserve -- which they immediately invited me to join upon reading of my interest -- through which they maintain a list of overseas addresses for deployed Jewish soldiers and chaplains. They share ideas of religious, cultural and food items to send on the various Jewish holidays, send cards throughout the year, and help anyone interested in helping them do the same. This group is just a small subset of the many, many groups across the country organizing similar projects for soldiers from their area.

Whether or not you "support" the wars or the reasons we're fighting them, everyone supports the troops. I'm glad I found one way particularly meaningful to me to show it.

For further reading, you may find my officer's story of grappling with his Jewish identity while serving in a Muslim country here, at the New York Times At War blog:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sad news about our boxer, Rubin

My family's wonderful, sweet dog, Rubin, died a few days ago. Below, my brother Justin's thoughts from this past Friday:

It is with a heavy heart that I report to you that our beloved family dog, Rubin "Hurricane" Friedman, has passed on to the Great Doggy Beyond. Rubin was nine years young. For a Boxer, he lived a long and active life.

Rubin had been afflicted with "malignant masses" (a polite way of saying cancer), but it barely slowed him down. Even over the last few days, he was going on walks in the woods and did a little swimming in the creek near my parents' house. Rubin was actually scheduled for surgery today, but he didn't make it through the night.

As a puppy, Rubin quickly outgrew our full-grown Bichon Frise, Clyde, and was known to bully him regularly. (Clyde, by the way, is nearly 12 and is thriving with Samantha in Little Rock.) It wasn't until my parents adopted Duncan (also doing quite well and living with my parents in Bethesda) that Rubin became the tame being that you will remember. Duncan, although smaller, had a knack for herding the other dogs and he soon became the alpha male.

Rubin was a happy, pampered dog. He almost never whined, other than when he would mosey up to the pantry where we kept the milk bones and whimper until he got one. Milk bones were his weakness, and this routine would happen anywhere from 3-10 times per day. Sometimes he would go back to the pantry immediately upon finishing his treat. He usually got what he wanted.

Rubin loved Hanukkah, when there would always be a bag of treats or a toy gift-wrapped for him. As soon as we lit the candles, he would tear into his gift, unwrapping it with his teeth. If it was edible, he usually devoured the entire package before we even noticed he had opened it.

We will miss Rubin. For those of you who knew him, I hope you will take a moment to think about all the great memories. As one friend once observed, "If Rubin could talk, he would be a complete gentleman."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Don't forget the blue laws

Must. Get. To. Wine. Store. Before. Sunday...

If I want to rebel against the blue laws and consume wine at dinner. This is a Bible Belt phenomenon I'm never going to get used to.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Shabbat Shalom

Continuing the theme of poetry from earlier this week, and as Shabbat settles upon us -- hopefully bringing with it some small reprieve from the record-setting heat that has smothered Arkansas this week -- I thought it only appropriate to share a couple pieces from my dear friend Naomi Stone:

The Sabbath

Today do nothing as
you usually do. Time is pooling
open. No sorrow in this blue
breathing air. Do not touch

the light; do not brush your hair;
do not even speak

of what binds you in the week..
You have come here to
learn to be like us, or
not. For now we each inhale our sweet

share of sky. We will not release it until

Outside of Time

During the Sabbath you are in other time. You carry nothing
but your continuing

breath. Enter here, where
time is not

time, inside an alignment of the heavenly
and earthly worlds. The same happens when two bodies

join: the worlds rowing under each
skin climb into a zygote. Birth. And then no-time again

when the ram's horn
possesses your walled village. The men

blow the horn on each day of rest --

when you hear it, you stop
your breath and wish.

Listen. Your breath

And those stars
behind the stars you recognize,

they stay.

Both can be found in Nomi's first book of poetry, Stranger's Notebook, published under the name Nomi Stone (TriQuarterly Books, 2008).

Thursday, August 5, 2010

NYT shout-outs to Arkansas

This week, Arkansas tourist attractions made the NYT twice!

Unbeknownst to me, a 13th-century-style "Ozark medieval fortress" is being built in Northwest Arkansas.

Landscape artist extraordinaire P. Allen Smith gets good press as the "Martha Stewart of the South" in the Home and Garden section. Visiting his estate outside Little Rock is on my list of Arkansas things I have yet to do.

Yesterday was hot and heavy

Forgive me, in my heat-induced stupor yesterday, I almost forgot to post this gem I took of my dashboard. Please note the time at top left. Kind of would have thought the temp would have started to have gone down by early evening, right?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Greg Brownderville of Pumpkin Bend

I have tried to like poetry. It seems the literary, sophisticated thing to do.

But thus far, I haven't encountered much that I feel I can sit down and soak up, enraptured for any actual length of time.

Greg Brownderville, on the other hand, is one poet/folktale teller I have come to like. The young writer from the tiny Arkansas town of Pumpkin Bend -- it's in Woodruff County, I looked it up -- conveys life in the Delta with language so rich you can almost taste his words.

Two of my favorite lines come from separate parts of his poem, "Mystery":
"It's nice to know a passage of the world by heart."
"Everything that shatters, everything that scatters, everything that matters is a mystery."

I first fell in love with Greg...I mean Greg's poetry...when I heard him read some of his work at the yearly Arkansas Literary Festival soon after I'd moved here. I think all that's required to begin adoring a good writer is to hear him read his work aloud. Greg's velvety phrases are like verbal molasses, slowly dripping over you until you're enveloped by the sweet, Southern rhythms.

To whet your appetite, here's the poem with which he closes Deep Down in the Delta (The Doodlum Brothers Press, 2005):


An utterly unlabored thought
That takes away the sting,
Like an unexpected crystal rock,
Polished by a spring;
The day that dawns when nights are swarming,
Like sun on the blade of a knife;
Your breathing in my bed this morning:
Reasons men have clung to life.

GO FIND HIM. Most recently, he published an essay, "Squirrel Soul," in the August Little Rock Soiree.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tonight's dinner

Upon my return from Pinnacle, I spent the afternoon cooking and baking. (In my not so humble opinion) I made masterpieces tonight. The results:

Tomatoes stuffed with ground lamb, onion, green pepper, garlic, red wine, dill, parsley and black pepper (recipe care of my mom, chef extraordinaire)

Blackberry pie (my first pie ever!!)
Recipe found here, thanks to Stacy Sells' suggestion:

Hiking Pinnacle in 102 degree heat

Anyone who knows me at all or reads this blog also knows that Pinnacle Mountain is my favorite place in Little Rock. However, hiking at 1 p.m. -- the hottest time of day -- on a 102-degree August day might not be the brightest idea I've ever had. Lately, it seems that every weekend I hike it is harder than the weekend before. Thank you, global warming...or whatever can be blamed for the ridiculous heat Arkansas has experienced this summer.

I managed to get up and back down in not much longer than usual -- it just felt a lot longer. But on the way up, I witnessed the first mountain rescue I've ever seen. About halfway up, there is one spot on the mountain vehicles can get to. At that point, I saw the ambulance and a couple trucks arriving, and a couple EMT guys emerged. One began sprinting up the mountain, and on the way, he said a 14-year-old boy was suffering symptoms of heatstroke. As my shirt was already soaked through with sweat and my bottle of water quickly disappearing, that led me to wonder, "What exactly are the symptoms of heatstroke?"

The top third or so of the hike to the summit is rocky, and unfortunately, this was where the boy had to be rescued. This made safely retrieving him more difficult for the rescue crew because it's steep and not at all a flat surface for walking. When I got to the point where the boy was, the crew had loaded him onto a stretcher, and assisted by other hikers, they were slowly bringing him down. Overhead, we could hear a chopper approaching. The boy was breathing with difficulty and seemed very out of it.

Observing all of this gave me the chills, which couldn't have been provoked any other way, given where the mercury was today. I continued on my hike, perhaps stopping for some water more often than usual. As scary as this was, I want to emphasize that in four years of hiking this park, this is the first time I have ever seen this happen.

But if that's not a reality check, I don't know what is.

In case you missed it, Chelsea Clinton got married yesterday

On July 31, the day of Chelsea Clinton's much talked about nuptials, I posted a Facebook status as a joke, assuming that everyone would know I was merely poking fun at all the hype surrounding the event.

I wrote: Don't be surprised if you can't find me tonight. I'm probably attending a very elite, private event somewhere in upstate NY.

When the responses started to pour in via Facebook comments and texts, it became clear very quickly that people actually believed me! This was so hilarious to me that I couldn't bear to put an end to it, so I left the status up until this morning when I had to tell my friends the truth -- I'm not THAT important!

Now that the secret's out -- my little joke and more importantly, the wedding details -- I'm dying to know who from Arkansas was there. So far, I've seen mention in the national news of Marie Clinton Bruno, executive director of Arkansas Literacy Councils, and a cousin of President Clinton; and Mary Steenburgen, one of Arkansas' famous native celebrities, and her husband Ted Danson.

This is not a blog about celebrity gossip, but well, I think the Wedding of the First Daughter counts as fascinating to anyone who cares a whit about politics.

Below are links to some pics/news coverage. I love the photo of the President walking his daughter down the aisle; his facial expression reminds me of the pic of him with Kim Jong Il taken a year ago when he rescued the American journalists in North Korea. I'm sure he was stoic for a different reason yesterday.