Thursday, April 29, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/28/2021: Hiking with Podcasts, Homemade Slider, Listening to Women

 1. In my ongoing effort to get moving and to improve my wind, this afternoon I scaled the wellness trail above the hospital again. Yes, I huffed and puffed on the steep parts of the trail and, yes, I stopped a couple of times to slow down my breathing and my heartbeat, but, on the whole, I was happy with how this short hike went.

On the podcast front, while walking and hiking, today I returned to the 1619 Project and listened to one episode focused on the history of lamentably terrible medical care for Black people in the United States and some of the ideas that have perpetuated the inequities in doctors' offices and in hospitals and how introducing Medicare into the medical system helped improve things. 

The other episode I listened to has two parts. I listened to the first part coming down the trail and walking home. It's about a Black man whose life as the owner and operator of sugar cane farms was crippled by a bank's discriminatory loaning practices. 

By the way, last night and today I listened to two past episodes from the NPR program Piano Jazz. From 1978-2011, this show featured jazz pianist Marian McPartland (b.1918; died 2013) sitting down in one to one interviews with musicians covering a wide range of jazz composition and performance. The conversations were always a delight to listen to, but even more enjoyable were the in studio solo performances by the guests and, in addition, Marian McPartland would always go to the piano and she and each show's guest would play a duet. 

I'll keep going back to the Piano Jazz archive, but I got started last night with a show featuring blues and jazz composer, songwriter, pianist, and singer, Marcia Ball who has a deep knowledge for and love of music from Louisiana. On the show, Marcia Ball was energetic, a great story teller, an excellent teacher, and performed brilliantly and paid special homage to the life and work of Professor Longhair.

This morning I loved hearing Marian McPartland interview Dave Douglas, a prolific composer, performer, and recorder of jazz music. He's a trumpeter. I heard him perform at the Beall Concert Hall at the University of Oregon about twenty years and found his music enchanting. He gave this interview around the same time period that I got to hear him play and, I loved his knowledge and deep love of jazz history and hearing him play brought back stirring memories of the one time I heard him perform. I've got to keep an eye out in case he performs in Spokane one day. I'd love to hear him again.

2. Over the years, I have come to enjoy sliders a lot, especially ones made from ground beef and ground lamb. I try to always keep small baggies of ground beef on hand in the freezer. After my hike, I got to thinking how I have some Extra Crispy English Muffins on hand and that I could make a ground beef slider by frying a small ground beef patty and putting it between two halves of the English muffin.

It worked perfectly, especially with catsup, mustard, cream cheese and a half of a chopped up Bubblies Kosher dill pickle. 

3. I am stoked about the vast catalog of short documentary films available on the Criterion Channel. Subscribing to this service was a smart and stimulating move.

For now, I'm especially entranced by short documentaries made in the 1970s and 1980s -- and some of my favorite full length documentaries also come from these two decades. Tonight I watched Les Blank's 1987 half an hour piece entitled, Gap Toothed Women. On the face of it, the subject matter of this film seemed random -- who would think to put out a call for women with gaps between their teeth to come forward and be interviewed about having this physical feature?

Well, Les Blank did, and what emerges is a meditation on standards of beauty, ambition, overcoming difficulties, and other subjects as a one woman after another bears witness to being gap-toothed and opens up about other dimensions of their lives. 

I didn't expect this movie to transport me back to the 1980s and to the invigorating conversations I used to have with women friends and intimates, women students at Whitworth and the U of Oregon, women I went to graduate school with, the two women I married and the women who were friends of my first and second wives back then, women in ACOA meetings, women in the political meetings I used to attend, and women I had casual, but deep, conversations with in the neighborhoods I lived in and coffeehouses and cafes I frequented, especially near downtown Eugene. I didn't expect it, but I loved it. 

I felt the same way watching Barbara Hammer's film, Audience.

Right now, I can't quite nail down with words what I enjoy so much about the way the women in these two movies talk and women I knew in the 1980s talked about art, sexuality, beauty, hopes, aesthetics, coming of age, music, politics, freedom, aspirations, and other subjects but, whatever it is, such conversations expanded my consciousness throughout the 1980s, profoundly shaped my world views, and challenged me as I tried to grow and develop as an adult. 

My guess is that I hungered for ways to experience and understand myself as a citizen of the United States and as a part of our country's social fabric that ran counter to many of the mainstream views that were perpetuated during the Reagan Revolution, that gained traction with the emergence of the Moral Majority and other like-minded movements, that advocated for cutbacks, crackdowns, and exclusion (rather than inclusion), and that sought to more narrowly define what it means to be a fully legitimate resident and citizen of the USA. 

The most invigorating conversations I had back then were with women. I was fortunate to work, study, socialize, and be a part of organizations with many women. Hearing the voices of the women in Gap Toothed Women and Audience definitely brought the many interactions back to life that I experienced 30-40 years ago and treasure today in immediate and emotionally satisfying ways. 

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