A Kitchen of Found Treasures
“He could tell by the way animals walked that they were keeping time to some kind of music. Maybe it was the song in their own hearts that they walked to.”― Laura Adams Armer
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I hope you all had a great Elmer Flick day yesterday!
Right around the time when I first moved back to San Francisco in the early aughts, I was raising a few with some friends at Tosca’s in North Beach when a woman approached me, very enthusiastic about hearing I was there, saying that she believed that we might just be cousins. Her name was Davia Nelson, but her grandparent (or great great grandparent) was a Katznelson. My grandfather once said that back in Babruysk, you couldn’t throw a stone without hitting a Katznelson…there were a lot of us. But as far as I was concerned, a new relative sounded like a nice idea, and we sat and had a drink together.
Davia, my very incredible cousin, as it turns out is one-half of the Kitchen Sisters, a pair of radio producers who have for decades, through their programs, podcasts, specials, series, delved deep into our history, our culture, the arts…the strange creaks and cracks of our daily realities…the incredible stories that have been missed or lost. As you might imagine through what I focus on in this newsletter, we really speak the same language, including a shared enthusiasm for a hell of a lot of music. When Barb was pregnant, Davia gave me a mix-tape of lullabies that the ‘Sisters had compiled by asking every guest that came on their program what their favorite bedtime song was. What is yours?
One of my favorites of their shows is NPR’s Hidden Kitchens series which does a deep dive into stories and traditions around food and cooking (they won the James Beard Award for it). With stories like The Egg Wars of the Farallon Islands, the fraudulent Thomas Jefferson wine bottles, the life-saving George Foreman Grill…their investigative and imaginative journalistic joy is infused in everything they do.
This week it was announced that the Kitchen Sisters’ 40+ years of work was acquired by The American Folklore Center of Library of Congress which includes “more than 7,000 hours of audio, photos, handwritten journals, podcasts and storybooks.” That puts their collection right next to Alan Lomax’s sound archives, John Cohen’s photography collections, and the beautiful “Quilts and Quiltmaking in America” collection which looks at the tradition of quilt making mostly in the American south. I see the Kitchen Sister’s legacy as a form of quilt, a quilt made-up of stories that they have uncovered that instead of being lost, is now part of our bigger human story.
With the Library of Congress, these stories will be made available for future generations to discover.
Not much here I would ever want to spend that much money on…although I will say The Wimple Winch – Save My Soul, that incredible psychedelic rock single, did get me a little green-eyed.
Is it somewhat hyperbolic to call one person’s commencement speech “The Best Commencement Speech Ever”? To me, yes… And while there have been excerpts of the speech quoted widely, the complete address has not been made available until now. Best ever? You be the judge. Regardless, it is wonderful and Joan Didion is very much missed.
It looks like it is time to go to Wallingford: “A BRONZE statue of blockbuster crime writer Agatha Christie is to go up in Wallingford town centre in a bid to attract fans of the author to her former hometown. Town councillors approved the use of Arts funding for the Agatha Christie Project Committee plan for a statue and town ‘mystery’ trail.”
This is a fascinating article running the reader through day-by-day accounts leading up to the two times Bob Marley’s was deported from the United States. The piece includes the interviews between Marley and a US officer:
Officer: Are you a professional singer
Marley: No, sir—amateur
Officer: Did you get paid for singing?
Marley: Yes, Sir
Officer: Did you record records?
Marley: Yes, Sir
Officer: Did you come to the United States with the idea of doing that kind of work?
Marley: No, Sir
A strange mystery that is based around one of my favorite Jack London novels, Martin Eden. Happy Birthday Jack London
“From his Beatnik Manor to the Bitter Lemon, this artist, teacher, and collector has remained a catalyst of our city’s counterculture.” Thank you Scott Barretta, co-director of the wonderful Mississippi Fred McDowell documentary, for turning me onto this story (and the Joan Didion piece as well). The Memphis beatnik scene that also featured Jim Dickinson is a hazy mystery for those of us who are not from that area or that time. This story offers a light into it.
By: Claudia Emerson
It was first dark when the plow turned it up.
Unsown, it came fleshless, mud-ruddled, nothing
but itself, the tendon's bored eye threading
a ponderous needle. And yet the pocked fist
of one end dared what was undone
in the strewing, defied the mouth of the hound
that dropped it.
The whippoorwill began
again its dusk-borne mourning. I had never
seen what urgent wing disembodied
the voice, would fail to recognize its broken
shell or shadow or its feathers strewn
before me. As if afraid of forgetting,
it repeated itself, mindlessly certain.
I threw the bone toward that incessant claiming,
and watched it turned by rote, end over end over end.
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