Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Your Role for Today

Dear Sir,

I find myself in a jam.  Miss Otis regrets.  I am terribly sad and afraid that I do not want to attend your invitation.  I do not want to wear the mask.  I do not want to shoulder the conversation.  I do not want to mentor.  Or to be witty for you, like the trained seals barking for their fishes.  Yes, Miss Otis regrets.

Try this on for size:  You are Joe Smith.  You bring your really excellent Julia Child's Jello mold in the elaborate shape of a squirrel holding a nut to the Big Party.  People love it, and they ask you to bring it again.  And again.  And it goes on for years, and it is now called Joe's Jello by everyone who knows you, and no one else even dares to bring a molded item of any kind, because it will never be as good as Joe's.  And even more time passes, and then Joe is gone, and his Jello lives on in that people make the recipe, and they meet and they say "it's just not as good as Joe's,' and "Joe always brought his Jello, how I miss him!' and "Can you give me Joe's recipe for Jello?"  This is all good and a very nice memory of Joe, dead and gone.  It's the kind of thing you might hope to elicit.  Which is maybe why you bring a pineapple upside down cake and hope, in your secret heart, that you will become Known For It.

Let's consider another aspic aspect:  Joe tires of making the damned Jello on the 8th time, but he doesn't want to disappoint, and he enjoys the notoriety.  He is slightly trapped by the success of his Jello.  He would like to try, just once, a Dobos Torte.  In fact, maybe he did, once, and all anyone could say was "what?  You didn't make your Jello??"  So, yes, he is quite trapped in the role of the One Who Makes Jello for The Party.*

Stay with me now, Sir, because I know you are thinking of turning on an interesting podcast made by hipsters in NYC about the ways in which we assume different identities all the time, everyday.  Stay with me, because I am going to nudge you, or to permit you, to abandon some of these roles.  We are not only the Jello we bring, we humans.  We are quite complicated beings with many, many interests, goals, and fantasies. 

But, you say, that's not right- making Jello is not role-playing!  It's making Jello.  Well, be that as it may, bringing Jello has become a role for Joe, and he might be tired of it.  Also, we are playing roles all the time.  Right now, I am playing the role of a writer of this letter to you, and you may or may not be playing the role of reader.  If the idea of a role is too much for you, consider it a mode of being.  You might be in the receiving mode when you read this and you might not.

Let me offer further example:  You go to the post office to return the vegetable spiralizer you got on the internet, because you realized, while watching a very old episode of Dr. Who (wherein the Doctor meets a computer that he gave his mind to upon its birth as a sentient new being, and it has been flailing along for years with this split personality, wreaking havoc on everyone around it), you realized, that you might be entering a trap.  You might end up being the one that everyone goes to for spiralized vegetables, and you decided, deep in the clarity of the night, that you did not want this role after all.  So, you are at the post office with the box to return this potential role.  You get in line and now you play the role of the person who is slightly annoyed at having to wait, but you don't take it out on the poor beleaguered postal worker, although, you do think to yourself "I am not paid to be on this side of the counter, and you, Postal Employee, however much you may hate your job, are being paid to do it."  And the other people playing the same role remark to you on how long the line is and how inconvenient it is and you agree, in your role as Postal Customer.  You might say now, to me, Sir, that that is that, and how else could one possibly behave waiting in line at the post office? 

How happy I am that you asked!  You could take the time while you wait in line, to compose a manifesto for avoiding impulse purchases online.  Which you could put to music and maybe even upload a video of you and Joe performing it to YouTube.  Or you could say, to the person who says this is a mighty long line and slow, too, that you enjoy lines like this, because of the way it requires you to examine the floor tiles to avoid making eye contact with people who are playing the role of slightly annoyed at waiting in line at the post office.  Because, you might explain to them, you don't really want to get stuck in the same role every time you come to the post office.

Well, I know your time is precious, Sir, so I guess I will say just once more:  Miss Otis regrets.

*  Joe's crisis deepens:  If he isn't The One Who Brings the Jello, just who is he?

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Acheronian Song of the Day

Dear Billy Joe,

Here is the song of today.  My DJ just played it for me.  In days past, I would have changed the station when this maudlin rot would come on the radio.  I guess I have gone soft.  One thing that has changed since those days is that Lucinda Williams kills this song.  Kills it.  She makes a true, operatic lament out of it, and it is great.

Try Bobby Gentry, too, for comparison.  Ms. Gentry would have sung it like Ms. Williams if she could have, I am certain.

The thing I love about this song is the way the dialogue tells the story.  Dialogue isn't the usual way a ballad is told.  I love the way that we know that Pa is a real insensitive piece of work, and that Ma is suggesting, hinting, that our storyteller ought to spend more time around that nice, young, eligible, tasty, and morally incontrovertible Brother Taylor.   But, what, exactly, do you suppose this bereft young woman and Billy Joe threw off of theTallahatchie Bridge?

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Lunar Anniversary

Dear Mooning,

This is the day to celebrate the anniversary of the moon landing.  Here at the Dodo, we will take a pilgrimage to a nearby Moon Tree, make Moon Pies, and watch this excellent documentary.  Oh, and we will have this song on our party play list, too.  If you aren't having your own party, come over and have a Moon Pie with us!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Holy Moonmen!

Dear Moon Mission Enthusiasts,

Can you believe this amazing recreation of NASA's trip to the moon?  I love that people will make this kind of geeky thing, and that we can play with it, right now, right here, for free.  Enjoy it, and have a moon song for today.

A little cheesecake.

Dear Summer Cooks,

It's been a coon's age since we have had a baking recommendation for you here at the Dodo.  Mind you, we have been baking, but just hum-drum stuff:  Brownies, chocolate chip cookies, Skibo Castle Ginger Crunch, scones, lemon bars, chocolate sheet cakes;  a couple of fancy chocolate tortes, but I didn't get any photos.

This lemon cheesecake was inspired by a really delicious marshmallow lemon cheesecake dessert at Coda.  If you get up to Southwest Harbor, be sure to stop there and have a meal.  The recipe is adapted from this cheesecake.  The meringue is showy and really so darned good on it!

1 cup flour
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup cold butter
1 tablespoon lemon zest
a pinch of salt

As you would for shortbread, combine the flour and sugar and lemon zest, then work the butter in until it is crumbly and then press it into a 10 inch spring form pan.  Bake the crust for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

20 ounces of cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons flour
2 eggs
2 egg yolks (save the egg whites for the meringue)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup heavy cream

Heat the oven to 475 degrees.  Butter the pan above the crust.  Beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add the salt and flour.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Beat in the heavy cream and the lemon zest.  Pour the filling over the crust for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes or so.  It should be set in the center.  Let it cool forever.  Well, like 4 hours at least- it can't be warm, but it can be cold, so you could put it in the fridge and put the meringue on the next day, right before you eat it.

2 egg whites
pinch of salt
1/2 cup of sugar

Beat the egg whites with the salt until frothy; gradually add the sugar and stop beating when it's glossy and holds nice, stiff, showy peaks.

Spread it on your cheesecake and then caramelize the meringue with a torch.  If you are lucky, your neighbor will have one in his garage that you can borrow.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Art Car


Dear Drivers,

We strive here at the Dodo plant to bring you the best of what there is in the world, and a recent correspondent sent me an article on artist Peggy Noland.  One thing she makes are Art Cars;  a fabulous curiosity that anyone can have and make and drive. 

I met an art car owner/creator once and she invited anyone to make additions to her work/car.  It was like a kitsch museum turned inside out; with lots of little tacky objects glued to it.  It was great, because of the freedom it expressed, not because it was a beautiful object, or because it had been transformed from humble vehicle to something grander.  The Art Car isn't necessarily grand, it's more of a mobile folk art site, which is what the world needs now.

Watching Ms. Noland's Cartoon Up videos brought me another treat; a concept and phrase new to me: ASMR.  I never even knew there was a name for that feeling, and I adore anything that "may overlap with frisson."

If you can spare a little more time for beautiful sentiments and ideas, try this.  If you want a little more Jackie DeShannon, here it is.  If that doesn't give you ASMR, try this song

Monday, July 8, 2019


Dear Still Skating,

It has gone on.  After getting to the end of a year by going to the end of the US with my roller skates, and skating on wet decks, bedroom carpets, and a fine maple roller rink in Auburn, Maine., I wasn't convinced I should hang it up entirely, and once you add another day, you might just as well add another.  Which is how I got to here; 400 days.

Auburn's rink is the Rollodrome, and it is charming.  I haven't added a rink to my list for some time, and it brings the grand total to 38. I can't wait to open my own. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019


Dear Thomas,

Here's the thing about doubt- it's creeping like a shadow all around the place, and if you let it touch you, if you let it fall on your ideas, on your skin, you are halted, stopped, going no where, becalmed.

The thing is to do something, anything.

Today, I am going to my making place, to combine little bits into some things that will go all together in an exhibit 9 months from now.  I am hoping to have loads of oddments, all pinned to the walls.  My mantra for this project:  More than this, there is nothing.  Sometimes, it feels even less than nothing, and that can be a bit worrisome.  But, mostly it seems like a very appropriate response to everything.  Which might be circular reasoning, if you are still with me.

More Than This is our song for the day, and there is another More Than This for you, as well as chords for you to strum while you sing it and believe it, because it is as true as anything yet.