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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Beacon Bits -- A Tree Grows in Beacon (Brooklyn)

As many Beaconites have discovered already, there is quite a strong association between Beacon and Brooklyn other than the letter B; store owners commute from Brooklyn to Beacon, residents have moved to Beacon via Brooklyn from their place of birth across the U.S., and there are those that were raised in Brooklyn, like myself, who kept moving up river to the Hudson Valley region. I glimpsed another aspect of this Brooklyn-Beacon connection at May's

Second Saturday when I attended the opening of a new gallery, Theo Ganz, at 149 Main Street. Large paintings of trees found in Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

created by Swedish-born Anders Knutsson are placed in juxtaposition with metal sculpture, including a six foot tree by local Korean-born artist, InSun Kim, bringing us to another connection: the multicultural aspect of both Brooklyn and Beacon. The light in the gallery complemented the refurbished space where Clay Wood Cotton had recently vacated for their new location; the warmth of the early May evening was mirrored in the hospitality and comestibles provided by Canadian-born gallery owner and artist, Eleni Smolen, who also moved to Beacon via Brooklyn. The cool crisp lines of the compact space with the soft feelings of Anders' life-like representation of boughs and trunks of old tree spirits and the hard copper and silver-toned carpenter's nails, sheet metal and found objects in InSun's sculptures are an open invitation to "Segue" (as the title of the show intends) for all the gallery browsers who helped make the inaugural opening feel so special. Its' close proximity to Fovea, (where Rob Penner's photos depicting "Beacons of Music" can be seen indoors, as well as outdoors on the facade of the factory building next to the Roundhouse, which I made sure to see since I had missed the April 14th opening), will make Theo Ganz a special stop on the monthly Second Saturday circuit. Both exhibits will be ongoing through June, so additional visits are possible for a first or second look to relish the respective shows.

Speaking of special, Homespun's candelight atmosphere for a light, but filling, supper of wonderful crabcakes evoking memories of Maryland for anyone who has indulged during a trip south. And what more perfect ending for the evening could there be but a Zora Dora gourmet popsicle treat.

Some food for thought:  Enjoyable routines are a welcome relief for the day-to-day stressors and hassles that we bear. The relaxed exploration and novelty that Second Saturday events offer Beacon's community are exceptional opportunities to unwind with friends, or to enjoy while traveling solo. The evening can be as simple or complex, as fast-paced or slow, as long or shirt, as inexpensive or not, but it will always be guaranteed to deliver inspiration and reduce stress. It's a monthly routine you shouldn't resist; it's a habit worth developing.

Top 3 Zora Dora 'paletas' (a.k.a. ice pops) -- so far this season
Orange Lavender (milk-based)
Kiwi Lime
Red Ruby Grapefruit, Ginger Honey

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Beacon Bits -- Pete's Rainbow Race

What do 40,000 Norwegians and the members of the Beacon Sloop Club (BSC) have in common? A love of Pete Seeger's song, "My Rainbow Race". On April 26, 2012, in response to two mothers tweeting a meet-up to sing the Norwegian lyrics of the song ('Barne Av Regnbuen') as translated by Norwegian 'folk singer' Lillebjorn Nielsen, throngs of people gravitated to the streets of Oslo outside the courtroom where Anders Behring Breivik's trial was being held. Breivik had announced that the "Marxist" song was being used to "brainwash" small children and that he detested it. The Norwegian response was to "irritate" him by their choral singing as a sign of unity for the 77 victims of Breivik's massacre on 7-22-11 and for their families and friends. The song was sung by groups of citizens across cities and towns in Norway and the people felt they "won" the confrontation peacefully.

On Friday, 5-4-12, the members of the BSC gathered for its monthly business meeting, potluck dinner and celebration of Pete's 93rd birthday, which was May 3rd. During the circle of song, the musicians played "My Rainbow Race", as I had requested during the announcements, to join in the sentiments expressed by the Norwegian people: that hope for the future of the world resides in multi-racial-ethnic harmony, unity and peaceful coexistence under "one blue sky above us." As you can see in the YouTube video posted by the secretary of the BSC (Vane Lashua), Pete Seeger's presence and active leadership still makes a small group of  people unify to sound better and stronger than ever, making it a very special event to witness.

As a testament to Beacon's global connections, the link and story about the singing of Rainbow Race on this side of the Atlantic was published by NRK in Norway.

My Rainbow Race

One blue sky above us
One ocean lapping all our shore
One earth so green and round
Who could ask for more
And because I love you
I’ll give it one more try
To show my rainbow race
It’s too soon to die.

Some folks want to be like an ostrich,
Bury their heads in the sand.
Some hope that plastic dreams
Can unclench all those greedy hands.
Some hope to take the easy way;
Poisons, bombs. They think we need ‘em.
Don’t you know you can’t kill all the unbelievers?
There’s no shortcut to freedom.
Go tell, go tell all the little children.
Tell all the mothers and fathers too.
Now’s our last chance to learn to share
What’s been given to me and you.

Some food for thought:  A simple and implicit connection between the hearts of the people at the BSC,  and those in Norway, occurred along the banks of the Hudson River, just slightly north of the "Storm King Fjord", when voices lifted up "My Rainbow Race" in song. The natural surrounds of Beacon and the sensibility of a community striving for "mindful" living in this beautiful world fraught with unnecessary violence echoed across the Atlantic to the Oslo Fjord and reverberated with empathy and understanding about the grace and healing found in Pete Seeger's timeless song and ageless mission of peace.

Rainbow Potluck Medley
This is a sweet and sour grain medley that is easy to make and serves about 8-10 people at a potluck.
It is vegan-vegetarian, but not gluten-free
Follow the directions on the package to prepare 1 cup uncooked quinoa and 12 oz. farro. Set aside to cool. Blanch 1 crown of broccoli and cut into small pieces. Cut 1/2 to 1/2 fresh, ripe pineapple into small cubes. In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup olive oil with 2-3 tbs. fig-infused vinegar, 2 tbs. local honey, 2 springs fresh rosemary and 3-4 springs of parsley; add salt and pepper to taste and blend thoroughly. When grains are cool, blend them together, add pineapple and broccoli. Chill for 1 hr. then add oil mixture and chill for 1-2 hrs. before serving.  (White canneloni beans can be added or substituted for broccoli and/or pineapple.)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Beacon Bits -- Embrace Your Community

After trying to schedule a Saturday evening outing to the Gospel Cafe at the Howland Cultural Center for over a year, my weary soul could wait no longer and I finally showed up at the door on Saturday 4/29/12. The evening's theme was Apollo Night, like the iconic people's choice competition in NYC.

The MC, Deacon  Alvin Bell, proprietor of the hair salon at 211 Main Street, opened the evening with his rendition of "Victory is Mine", a rousing song with his signature

notes. (I've seen him belt this upbeat number out at other community events such as the MLK celebrations at the Howland with as much heart and soul. I've also run into Deacon Bell, an ex-boxing champ, at the local bank; I love to listen to his stories about Main Street pre-Dia Beacon. He's a willing ranconteur and runs a friendly and energetic barber shop where our very own Pete Seeger gets his hair cut and the buzz about town is always ongoing as a recent visit revealed.
The entrance fee for the Gospel Cafe included a comfortable seat with tables set up cabaret style and a tasty homemade dinner replete with baked chicken, stringbeans, macaroni and cheese and biscuit. Since it was the 4th anniversary of these monthly community gospel celebrations, a generous serving of strawberry-filled chocolate cake was passed around during the intermission.

Four diverse choirs performed during the course of the evening.  My favorite, the Brothers of Gideon representing Beulah Baptist Church, reminded me of The Dixie Hummingbirds, but to my disappointment, was not the choir selected as the evening's winner.

The most unusual group, Souls United, spearheaded by the local Baha'i's, sang more contemporary songs with soulful messages of unity, peace and harmony. A rousing performance of one song included the phrase, "embrace your race", which denoted the multiracial aspect of this group and the universal message of the Baha'i faith. It was no surprise to see local performer Chis Ruhe as part of the group; he is a troubador for social justice and action-oriented causes like anti-fracking.

Overall, the evening was a winner, just like the Balm in Gilead that heals the sin sick soul.

Some food for thought:  While gospel might not be every Beaconite's choice of music, the Gospel Cafe venue affords the opportunity to mingle beyond the usual racial divide and serves as a chance to cross multicultural boundaries within our community. (If you've noticed up to this point, there isn't much diversity represented in some of the areas along Main Street or even within this blog.)  As a white person in attendance, I was frequently reminded about being in a minority role. Some of the regular attendees appeared a bit skeptical about my presence initially until the music touched us all; then I was greeted several times with the query, "are you having a good time?" One local couple told me to stop in their church, Star of Bethlehem, located in the converted bank building a few doors up from Bank Square, "anytime." I think I might just do that. I've heard their choir singing some Sunday mornings when passing through town and they've been quite uplifting and it will be good to keep crossing the invisible lines of segregation found in Beacon's community. To do so will further expand one's comfort zone and to enrich one's connecteness with all neighbors.

Gospel Cafe meets at 7pm on the 4th Saturday of the month at the Howland Cultural Center. Souls United will perform on June 2, 2012 at the Howland Cultural Center.

"Change-It-Up" Macaroni & Cheese
A white girl's blend of healthy and traditional

1 tbs. butter
2 tbs. flour
1/2 cup skim milk
4 oz. aged white Vermont cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp. Grey Poupon Country Dijon Mustard
2 tbs. Hudson Valley Fresh sour cream
2 cups uncooked 100% Whole Wheat Chiocciole
(Bionature Organic available at Beacon Natural Market)
Unseasoned breadcrumbs

Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Heat the butter in a saucepan and incorporate the flour , then add the milk and  continually stir to blend thoroughly. (You are essentially making a bechamel sauce or as we called it growing up a 'hvit sus', white sauce, that can be used for 'creaming' any vegetable.) Add the cheese gradually until melted. Then add the mustard and sour cream. Add the sauce to the cooked macaroni. Place into a buttered casserole dish and sprinkle the top with the breadcrumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minute. Makes 4 side servings.
You can bring the fat down with low fat cheese and sour cream or you can bring the fat up with dots of butter on top of the bread crumb topping for extra crispy crumbs.