Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Tale of Two Cities

Bob's, Toluca Lake

Burbank, CA in the 1950's and 60's was a great place for a blond, blue-eyed kid to grow up; a safe town of tidy houses with green lawns,

524 Cambridge Dr.

where a kid could ride a bike all over the neighborhood safely, or roller-skate up and down near-by streets when not gliding over the polished wood of Harry's Roller Rink.
Clamp-on Skates

Harry's Roller Rink, Glendale, CA
Girl Scout, Boy Scout, YMCA, and Campfire Girl groups abounded, and every school had it's after-school clubs. There were no "play dates": neighbor kids just knocked on the door and asked if one could "come out and play." "Out" being the operative word, as all those stay-at-home moms wanted their kids out of the way as much as possible. In Southern California that meant the beach 
Santa Monica Beach, 1950's
and local pools all summer,
Pickwick Pool
drive-in theaters with a playground for little ones and back seats for bigger kids.
Pickwick Drive-In
Bowling alleys, 
Mar-Lin-Do Bowling Alley
along with the short craze of public trampolines,
walk-in theaters,

The Cornell on Glenoaks
and "the soda fountain"
Curries Ice Cream on Glenoaks
were usually walkable or an easy drive for mom to drop off the kids without worry. Life was good with a dad who had a good job and a mom who kept the household running in peak, efficient order all year round. Life was good without a programmed summer of back-to-back camps, play-dates, and helicopter parenting. Life was good with the stability of good schools, plenty of social activities, and a predictable social order.

Of course, what no one talked about in those halcyon days was the fact that Burbank was a Sundown or Sunset Town in which it was unwritten (as opposed to Glendale's written law) that African Americans, called Negroes or Coloreds, had to be out by sunset. Those who toiled in Burbank's industries had to get out of town before dark, returning the next morning to create the machines that would win a war, help to build a thriving middle class, and strengthen a nation's economy.
Lockheed, 1943 
What wasn't talked about was how many of those kids' parents or grandparents had survived the Holocaust,
American Japanese concentration camps,
or had immigrated to America only to have their children separated into "groups" and called names like "greaser", "beaner", "rag-heads", "chinks", or "Japs".

What wasn't talked about was the dysfunction of most American families: of parents who were emotionally wounded from the worst depression in modern history, and from the worst war in modern history.
The Ideal
What was only whispered about were the adults or kids who were "different": who couldn't live freely in their own sexual orientation or gender confusion, or who just didn't "fit in" with the 1950's and 60"s definition of "normal".
Father Knows Best

What WAS obvious were those kids who were left behind in the classroom while little Christian kids left a public school in the middle of the day to attend Bible classes. 
What WAS obvious were the American history textbooks and lessons that left out the very dark parts of this country's origins: the genocide of Native Americans and the unspeakable institution of slavery. No mention was made of the contributions of Latinos, Asians, and all other non-white ethnic groups who helped to build this country.
Northern Plains 

A Slave Named Jack
After surviving The Cold War,
Drop Drill

and all of the other upheaval and movements of the 60's and 70's,


A Woman's March

many, many of Burbank's Baby Boomers grew into open, embracing grown-ups who see the world as more than their own little spot; who care about their earth and all who inhabit it. They evolved from naive, sometimes ignorant and bigoted, sometimes misogynistic and racist, to fully-formed adults who love their country and love their planet. Happily, many produced children and grandchildren who continue this enlightened attitude; who are the hope for the future of every town and village in America.

“Unlock the tree”, said the Dove

Oh you comforting soft place to land.
You who shared your sweet, metallic earth showers
that quenched your own thirst
in the long parched days of summer.

You who provided a carpet on which to
watch the clouds and create secret dreams,
away from the chaos from which they sprang.

You were the stage for immortal plays
that took them far away from harsh realities.
You were privy to the squeals of laughter
that relieved the tears shed behind cloistered walls.

Oh, you gleeful deceiver of wooden mallets!
With your downy pasture you invited;
only to betray the innocent intruder with your hidden hills and valleys.

And yet, in your quest to foil, you protected
hidden treasures under your canopy, and
into your moist, rich, tierra femenino.
Wasn’t this the secret world of so many tales ?                                                                                                                                
How some wished to join those minute creatures,
who seemed so snug and safe beneath your rooftop.
Did you not care for them as a beloved mother nurtures her own?

Lo, but this was not the fairyland of the sprite.
This wasn’t the dell of Eeyore and friends.
This teeming jungle is where the spidery ghouls resided!
Here lived the creatures who invaded sweet dreams!

Here winged pixies played their cruel games of mischief!
This was the land of tricksters.
This was like the world they had left behind.

Better to run back to your floor of velvet!
Back to your bracing summer showers.
Back to your theater of fantasy.
Back to your field of dreams.

Back to your dewy blanket
upon which little toes danced
to a long afternoon of summer bliss.

Cynthia L. Cavanaugh 07/09

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

'88 Ritas

Summer, 1988. Four friends meet for one last Wednesday Jazz Night at Lawry's California Center. Two summers, sometimes with boyfriends or husbands along for the ride, they met after a long mid-week day to laugh, drink, eat, and enjoy great music. One sporting her worst hairstyle ever, along with her beautiful cousin Rebecca, forever friend and design schoolmate Francesca, and fellow textile designer and schoolmate, Tina. Soon, they would all go their separate ways: one to return to grad school in Madison, two to their textiles jobs, and one to join her future husband, Sid, and a new arts job in Ann Arbor.

Through 29 years there would be careers started and sometimes changed; there would be divorces and re-marriages, long relationships that began and ended, numerous location moves, children and grandchildren born. But this last moment together, on a long-ago summer evening speaks to a still-youthful optimism and excitement for the future, both for these women and for their lives in America. Remember to cherish all of those moments with friends and family...especially with a great pasta and maybe a margarita.

Pasta a la Robert
(a little ditty put down on paper while cooking and listening to Raising Sand, Robert Plant and Alison Krause)

Chopping mixing and making blends
in my solitary bliss
You and all your rhythmic friends
keep me company like this

Alone with you and my recipes
together we make magic
Without your soulful melodies
my efforts would be tragic

Slowly smoothly and gently stirred
let's spend an hour as one
Until your last sweet note is purred
and all our pleasure is done

Cynthia L. Cavanaugh 11/10

A summer dinner to share
Sid's World-Famous Margaritas
Three-Color Pasta with Pine Nut Butter Sauce
Warm focaccia or sourdough
Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Three-color pasta with Pine Nut Butter Sauce 4-6 servings
Fresh fettuccine in three flavors: fresh herb, red bell pepper, egg pasta
1/2 c. (1/4 lb.) butter
1 med. red bell pepper, seeded and thinly slivered
1/4 c. pine nuts
Fresh basil

Melt butter in med. size frying pan over med. heat. Add bell pepper and cook, stirring often, until limp but not brown (4-6 min.). Stir in pine nuts and cook until lightly toasted (2-3 min.).
Toss with fresh fettuccine cook al dente, and top with fresh basil.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta
2 Tbsp. water
2 tsp. unflavored gelatin
Non-stick vegetable spray
1 c. whipping cream
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 c. sugar
2 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Assorted berries

Pour 2 Tbsp. water into a small bowl; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 10 min. Lightly spray six 3/4 c. ramekins or custard cups with non-stick spray.

Heat cream, lemon zest, and sugar in med. saucepan over med-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring just to low boil, stirring occasionally. Add gelatin mixture; remove from heat. Stir until gelatin dissolves. Cool mixture to lukewarm, stirring often. Stir in buttermilk and vanilla; divide mixture among prepared ramekins. Refrigerate panna cotta until set, about 4 hours or up to two days.

Using small sharp knife, cut around panna cotta in each ramekin. Place plate atop each ramekin and invert, allowing panna cotta to settle onto plate. Top with berries and serve.

Sid's World-Famous Margarita 1 Margarita
Choose best tequila you can afford
Use only pure lime juice, like Nellie & Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice
Grand Marnier or Cointreau

Fill shaker with ice cubes and pour in:
Three 1-1/4 oz. jigger tequila
One 1-1/4 oz. jigger Grand Marnier or Cointreau
One 1-1/4 oz. jigger lime juice

Shake well and pour over ice-filled margarita glass whose rim has been dipped into lime juice and "margarita salt" (available in a small plastic container).

From Sid, "be careful and don't drive if you have had more than two, unless you're my wife who can't do anything after one."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

DNA, the Great Equalizer

For Christmas, Sid and I each had our DNA done through Although I'd hoped for something exotic to show up, like one of my friend's DNA which includes Eastern Europe, Asia, Sephardi Jew, Iberian Peninsula, Africa, and Indigenous South America. So I call her the Inca Princess. I knew that my history probably wouldn't include some of that cool stuff, (I knew my dad was mostly German, and my mom always said we're "Scot/Irish" with a little bit of French), but I'd hoped for at least a bit of Moroccan.
Who I don't look like

So here are my results:
  • 74% Western Europe (France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, a bit of Denmark)
  • 15% Eastern Europe (east as far as Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic countries)
  • 5% Great Britain
  • 3% Iberian Peninsula
  • 1% Italy and Greece
  • -1% Ireland
  • -1% Finland/Russia
I looked really closely, and "Iberian Peninsula" does include a tiny bit of Morocco and Tunisia (remember Moorish Spain? The Alhambra?) 
The Alhambra
I had something, possibly exotic, to cling to. And, since I'm mostly boringly Western European, naturally I liked the idea that my people owned wineries in the Loire Valley,
My Pretend Family's winery in the Loire Valley
 or that 1% Italian/Greek meant a villa by the Adriatic or Mediterranean.
My wishful Italian Villa
But, the truth is, these are my people:
My Ancestors
Yes folks, with variations due to climate and topography, this is what all of our ancestors looked like. These tribal people, no matter where they had migrated to, were hunters and gatherers, violent rapists and pillagers. They mixed and bred with other tribes, including probably with Neanderthals, migrated all over the place, and finally settled into agrarian societies. Sid has more Ireland in him than I have, which simply means that more of his raiding hordes than mine ended up in Eire.
Sid's Raiding Hordes
And guess what? We all started in Africa. Yes, in what is now Herto, Ethiopia.
Where we all began
So we're all Africans. The earliest remains of Homo-sapiens, dated 160,00+ years, were found near Herto. Migration patterns from there looked like this:
Paleolithic Migration
Now, since we all originated in the same place, and all of our ancients were pretty much the same, why do some people feel superior to others? It's lovely to say that we're descended from some famous person, or we can trace our American ancestors back to the Mayflower or the Conquistadors but, in the end, none of us is "pure", and we all came from some hardy stock that survived long enough to produce us.

I think that everyone should have their DNA done. Who knows, someone who shall remain nameless
How to comb the Orange Hair
might actually have some Mexican DNA, or Middle Eastern!! It seems like, if everyone knew their DNA, it would be much harder to hate someone who shares the same genomes. And a little perspective might make it into the frontal lobe.