Mattapoisett Harbor
family, Food, Travel

What I Learned This Time in Massachusetts

I returned today from Massachusetts, where a large portion of my family lives and visiting them was the reason for going. We took a triangular route from Boston to Buzzards Bay (in the pit of Cape Cod’s arm) to Western Massachusetts and then back to Boston.

I lived in that state most of my life but have called Northern New Mexico home for nearly nine years. This is what I brought back this time.

Traffic in the Boston area is awful. Thank goodness I have a husband who is a defensive, and when necessary, an offensive driver.

Boston people can be friendly and helpful but first you have to get past their bark — at least those born and bred there.

I enjoy hearing a Boston accent: the R’s rounded nicely down and R’s where they should be. My accent comes out in spurts these days — to my staff’s amusement.

Bon Me food truck at South Station

Bon Me food truck at South Station

Food gets better and better. I gave up my vegan ways for most of this trip. So I ate seafood prepared in interesting ways: lobster and mango tacos; salmon with sushi tempura in a broth flavored with pickled ginger; and stuffed quahogs and littleneck clams a la Portuguesa. One of the best meals was lunch at the Bon Me food truck near South Station in Boston — salad with tofu and ginger lemonade.

On a related topic, I enjoy drinking coffee by the Mattapoisett harbor. (That’s a photo of the harbor above.) My parents remain perplexed at the lengths we go for a good cup of coffee.

Taos carries a mystique even for those who have never been there. The woman at the used bookstore said she has always wanted to go. The clerk at a bakery knew someone who once lived here. His last name is Martinez. Ah, that is one of the royal families of Taos, I told her.

My mother, who was 91 this year, has stopped aging it seems. She does a great job of taking care of my father, who is two years older.


Nate Livingston, far right, and his band play at Copperfield’s in Boston.

It’s fun to give a good surprise. We did that to our son Nate, whose band was playing its first gig at a Boston bar. The music was great by the way.

Our granddaughter wasn’t surprised we were at her 2-year-old birthday party but we were at how well she speaks and understands the world.

Boston is a sports town that loves the Red Sox even though they stink so far this season. That is true of the other Massachusetts teams. A kid was hawking “Free Tom Brady” t-shirts near Fenway. My observation was they weren’t really free Tom Brady t-shirts.

Boston is busy with lots of commercial construction under way. Homes don’t stay long on the market. The economy is clearly better than where I live.

I enjoyed reading positive messages about diversity and neighborhood pride on the trolley and in the subway stations.

And one more lesson: Never take a flight out of Boston on a summer afternoon. We made it as far as Baltimore but got held up three hours on the tarmac because the routes out west were closed due to storms. We got home close to 1 a.m. But I had a good book and the passengers clapped when the plane took off. Good sports, I would say of my fellow travelers.


Rawlings table
Travel, Writing

A Place to Write in Florida

I like to visit places that inspire other writers to write. I got to do that again last week at Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ home in Florida. Rawlings is the author of The Yearling, a novel that earned her the Pulitzer for fiction in 1939.

It was my daughter Sarah’s suggestion to see the property, now a state park. I’m glad we did, and I’m especially glad at the end of going room to room, one of the guides, Rick, talked at length about Rawlings and her experiences in Florida.

By Rick’s telling, Rawlings moved to this orange grove from Rochester, New York in 1928. She worked as a newspaper columnist but wanted to be a novelist.

Rawlings HouseRawlings bought the property with inheritance money, figuring the oranges would bring in money while she wrote.

Things didn’t work out smoothly at the start. The Depression hit. Her first husband split. The romance stories she wrote weren’t selling.

That lasted ten years.

But then Rawlings began to write about the people and the place she now lived, and that’s when it changed. First she wrote short stories that sold, then a regional novel, South Moon Under, which almost won her the Pulitzer, and then The Yearling, which did. (The Yearling is a story about a boy’s relationship with a wild fawn.)

Rawlings did not produce a large body of work although she was made wealthy by it. She got to hobnob with big-name writers of the day, some of whom like Robert Frost, Margaret Mitchell and Thornton Wilder stayed at her Florida home.

Her obit in The New York Times had this quote: ” ‘Writing is agony for me,’ she once told an interviewer. ‘I work at it eight hours every day, hoping to get six pages, but I am satisfied with three.’ ”

Rawlings died in 1953 of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was only 57. She left the Cross Creek property to the University of Florida, where she taught creative writing. Years later it became a state park.

Fortunately Rawlings’ second husband, Norton Baskin, put all of her furniture in storage following her death.

After the property became a state park, Baskin had each piece placed in the exact spot it occupied when Rawlings was alive. That included her bed, where she wrote in the morning, and the rustic table with the palm log base, where she wrote The Yearling. The photo above shows a typewriter (not her original), writing supplies, an ashtray and her favorite brand of cigarettes.


Grand Canyon Sweet

We returned today from a trek through a good part of the West. We decided this time to camp in our tent, a little risky given it was the first week in November. But Hank and I weren’t deterred.

Hank at the rim.

We certainly have done our share of camping, separately, together, and with our six kids when they were, well, kids.

Our first stop was the Grand Canyon, at the Southern Rim because it was Nov. 1 and the North Rim in the park was closed. We learned we were two of the five million people who visit this national park each year, and no wonder. I couldn’t get enough of the canyon.

The last time I visited was decades ago with my oldest daughter, then 9 months, and her father. I carried her on my back down the

Bright Angel Trail to the bottom, where we stayed overnight. As I recall it was about three hours down and nine hours up. It was spring and snow covered the top portion. I was glad to make that hike then, and pledge to do it again soon when we have more time.

Hank and I were definitely at the Grand Canyon during the off-season. Crowds were way down — the bus driver said it was “berserko” in the summer — and it was easy to get a campsite. We took the free shuttle buses to the visitor center and points on the rim trail we wanted to walk. We bought firewood at the supermarket.

It did get cold at night, down into the 20s. The first, the wind picked up before it rained and sleeted. The cold kept me awake, but I got smarter the next night.

We did well packing food and provisions. I made a short list of what we should bring the next time: a hatchet, a mallet (we improvised with rocks), a table cloth, kindling from Hank’s shop and maybe firewood if we have the room, a thinner air mattress, and folding chairs.

But we toughed it out. Certainly, the views of the Grand Canyon were worth it. Then, there were Zion and Arches, with a visit in the middle with a daughter in Vegas. For us it was one grand circle. More later.


Food, Travel

Eating on the Road

Ah, my poor neglected food blog. Since April I’ve had great dining experiences on the road and each time, I vowed to write about them. But I’ve been too busy with writing and other stuff.  So here is a quick recap and a pledge to do better.

(By the way, my last post was about going vegan. Yes, that’s the way I still eat except when that’s not an option dining out or in somebody’s home. As I tell friends, I’m not a jerk — or worse — about it.)

In April, our daughter Emily and son-in-law Chris treated us to dinner at Blue Ginger, the restaurant owned by celebrity chef Ming Tsai in

Blue Ginger

Wellesley, Mass. I’ve seen Ming compete in such TV shows as Next Iron Chef and Iron Chef. He’s made appearances on others. (Yup, I like watching cooking shows.) He was even present the night we dined — visiting a table of, I am guessing, super regulars.

The menu features such dishes as Sake-Miso Mariate Sablefish and Pan-Seared Scallops with Carrot Top Pesto. I went for the Garlic-

Lobster at Blue Ginger

Black Pepper Lobster with Lemongrass Fried Rice. Tasty, but the best dish was an appetizer — the Wok-Stirred Mussels with Fermented Black Bean Broth. It was savory and I would have been happy if it were an entree.

I was back in Boston in July. This time Emily and Chris treated us to dinner at Steele & Rye in Milton, Mass. This restaurant will be featured on this season’s Top Chef, and it was here

Seafood at Steele & Rye

union workers protested the show. But that didn’t happen the night we ate. I had a well-prepared scallop dish with sweet pea puree.

Prickly Pear Margarita at Boudro’s

In early October, we were in San Antonio, Texas for a conference. On the River Walk we opted for Boudro’s — twice — for seafood. The second time, we had guacamole made table side. But the best part of the meal was the fabulously frozen Prickly Pear Margarita. 

The Friendly Spot Ice House

On our last day in San Antonio, we hit The Friendly Spot Ice House in Southtown. I liked the funky, outdoor setting — vintage patio furniture, a playground for the kids, dogs, and a super-sized screen to watch the Spurs. The veggie burger was so-so, but the beer selection was great and yes, it was a friendly place to spend a few hours.

And, now I promise not to wait so long to write about food again. Next topic: seaweed.

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Traveling Companions

I spent a week, last week, Back East, to see family. I’ve taken this trip countless times, actually lived there many years, so I rely on people to make the visit interesting.

Here were some of them:

My granddaughter, turned one in June, who waved and said hi to fellow travelers on the train into Boston. I watched as weary workers cheered when she singled them out.

Hank, who is helping our daughter and son-in-law with their new home. He drove across country in three days. 

The hand surgeon who was skilled enough to remove a dirty splinter deep in Hank’s finger that caused blood poisoning. She said as a child she was fascinated by how hands work.

Three of our six kids and a son-in-law, now young adults, and leading good lives.

My Dad, who I visited during his brief rehab stint at a nursing home, for making a wry comment while we waited for my mother to bring around the car. A fire engine was also parked in front of the building, and he quipped, “I thought we were going to take that to the doctor’s office.”

My mother, who showed me albums filled with vintage family photos and told me to take whatever I wanted.

The pleasant woman who manned the takeout place near my folks’ home where I ate clam chowder and stuffed quahogs.

The priest who said Mass at the nursing home. Afterward I told him I remembered when he played basketball for a local vocational high schools. He was the best ball handler and his team almost beat my high school’s. He thanked me for the good memory.

My sister from California, who I got to see for several hours before I returned to Boston. My brother and his family who made the effort to spend time with me.

The drunk on the train into Boston, who drank from a bottle hidden in a paper bag and spoke to fellow riders in a Darth Vader-like voice. Yes, he did say, “Luke, I am your father.” 

Our well guy, who responded quickly, after we learned lightning hit the well house of our Taos home. Three hundred bucks and new electrical parts later, water was restored.

The woman behind the counter at a lunch place in Milton, who let me use the rest room in the kitchen and was friendly about it.

Kindred spirits, who like me had to put up with an airport shuttle that was several hours late. 

The coyote that sang outside my bedroom window and reminded me I was back in New Mexico.