Every year, my elementary school had the 6th Grade Play, in which the ENTIRE 6th grade puts on a musical. In 1991, the year when I was in Mrs. Hoffmann's 6th grade class, the play was Oklahoma. The problem was, there were 60 kids in the 6th grade and about 12 parts in the whole play. Thus, the venerable martyr/music teacher Mrs. Ames wrote in 48 other parts and added songs from eight million other musicals.
When I was travelling around in my twenties, photographing what I saw, sometimes for a reason and sometimes only with an excuse, mostly in the American South, Noel E. Parmentel used to tell me who to stay with. Noel was from Algiers, Louisiana, though he liked to say he was from New Orleans, and he knew everyone from Joan Didion (she or John dedicated a book to him but that was before they had a fight and Noel vowed to piss on her grave,the first time I ever heard that phrase) to the widow of Big Hodding Carter, who'd been brave in Mississippi in ways and times you might not be able to imagine, from Norman Mailer to Gwen & Kent Gardner.
The Gardners lived in in Jackson, Tennessee, a little town halfway between Memphis and Nashville. Kent ran the telephone answering exchange in town. This was the mid-70s and little Japanese answering machines hadn't come to destroy our peace of mind and crowd our landfills. If you weren't home in Jackson and you wanted to know who was calling in your absence, you could arrange for your phone to ring in Kent's house and he or Gwen would answer it for you, and tell you about it later when you asked.
When I was a kid growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, my favorite food in the whole wide world were sugar cookies from Savage's Bakery in Homewood. Made fresh daily, from before I could even walk, I used to go in there with my mother to buy bread and other baked goods, knowing that every trip to Savage's always ended with a big fat old-fashioned buttery cookie, cooked to the perfect yellow consistency and coated with the best flakes of sugary sweetness that would melt in your mouth.
Old Mr. Savage used to laugh everytime I came in the door saying he remembered me coming there when I couldn't even open the door by myself, always wide-eyed in hopes that there was a fresh batch of cookies hot out of the oven. Whenever he or one of the women behind the counter saw me walking down the street, they would usually greet me holding one out for me as soon as I walked inside.
Don't get Chinese food when you're in Montana. You'd think I'd be able to know this without having to go to Montana and get Chinese food but apparently I'm not that bright. My band was on tour in Montana in 2002 and for some reason, we, three native New Yorkers who all know better decided to go to the one Chinese restaurant in Missoula, MT. I've had some bad Chinese food in my life, but this one really took the cake.
The day after Governor Clinton announced his candidacy for President outside The Old State House in Little Rock, Arkansas, Mickey Kantor, a friend of my then-boyfriend, called and asked if I would advance the Governor at 7:00 the next morning. The Clintons, Bruce Lindsay, and a friend of theirs from Colorado, who pretty much made up the entire campaign, were coming to Los Angeles where Governor Clinton was to be a guest on Michael Jackson’s radio show. All I knew about him was that he could not stop talking when he delivered the keynote address at the Democratic convention in 1988 and I wasn’t at all sure that he would be my candidate. I said no. No. No. No. Absolutely not.
At 6:30 the following morning, I found myself driving down La Cienega to KABC Talk Radio. In what would become the norm, The Governor arrived forty minutes late. I rushed him into Michael Jackson’s studio, hustled the others to the green room, got a Styrofoam cup of tea out of a machine (elegantly appointed KABC was not,) and set it down in front of the Governor.
Tolna, North Dakota a town of 240 people. Spending time there during the centennial of the town reminded me of the essential nature of the state, which permeates the life, the politics, and the cuisine.
The entire weekend consisted of food that started in the freezer and beer. Seriously, nothing says North Dakota like a cooler full of Busch Lite in the back of the pickup in the parking lot of the demolition derby – except maybe if the beer is coupled with a Red Baron pizza.
There are no modern politics in North Dakota it is still a state that is dealing with the fact that the United States became urbanized in the first decades of the 20th Century. North Dakota retains the topography, population, demographics and values of the America we all think we remember; the one celebrated on Main Street USA in Disneyland (where they serve corn dogs) and captured in Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post covers. But with a difference if you want to burn down your family house in North Dakota, just make sure you provide beer for the volunteer fire department.
Idaho's first potato grower was not a farmer at all, but a Presbyterian missionary, Henry Harmon Spalding. Had he been seeking a life in Idaho as a farmer, the chances are good that he would have found land more suitable to agriculture rather than the locale at Lapwai where he established his mission in 1836 to bring Christianity to the Nez Perce Indians. His plan was to demonstrate to the Nez Perce that they could provide food for themselves through agriculture rather than hunting and gathering.
In 1837 the buffalo herds were beginning to be depleted by market hunting and encroachment on their natural domain. Spalding was astute enough to see that the lifestyle of the Indians was changing and that they would soon need other sources of food. By offering to teach them how to raise agricultural crops, he added an additional benefit to the white man's religion that helped gather the Nez Perce around his Lapwai mission.
I wish I could say my priorities are straight at this point in my life. I thought they were when I recently cashed out of Hollywood and moved to a smaller, simpler existence in Fort Collins, Colorado so my daughter could be closer to our family.
Among the multitude of things I had on my endless “to do” list once we arrived, was to register as a democrat so my vote would count in what was clearly looking like a history-making primary. But, if I am truly honest, what consumed me way more than politics or extended family time was where to get my roots done to my exacting standard. After all, I had exactly one month before I would look scary, but several months to register, and the rest of our lives to spend family time.
From the Los Angeles Times
The candidate was at a loss for words Tuesday, which in this campaign is a rare occurrence.
Standing in a packed gym in wind-swept Midwest oil country, Barack Obama was trying to explain how he and the 72-year-old white woman in the audience, with her hair band and spangly blue cardigan, happen to be related.
Obama had traveled here to his grandfather's birthplace to make a point about humble beginnings and possibility, about unity and shared purpose, and he was using his family's roots in deeply Republican Kansas as an illustration. At least, he was trying to.
When I strolled recently in Harvard Yard with my daughter Paris, she reminded me that these ivy- covered brick buildings were not only where she had bunked as a freshman, but also where the American Revolutionary War troops had slept before there were polls or primaries, or even elections, or even American Presidents. I feel the political history when I’m in Cambridge.
The Charles Hotel, where I stay when I can afford it or even when I can’t, is located off JFK Avenue, right by Harvard’s JFK School of Government. This institution has amazing internationally and nationally renowned political leaders and thinkers drifting in and out hourly. There is often a TV truck with protruding satellites illegally parked nearby. Police motorcades noisily and regularly whiz by. These lofty brick buildings overlook a square that features an outdoors local Boston favorite ‘Legal Seafood’ stand/bar during the warmer seasons, and an ice rink during the winter frost. Sitting in that area, eating a great lobster roll and sipping chowder and tea or diet coke or even an occasional martini, I’ve spotted the likes of political columnist Maureen Dowd and Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Tribe.