Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Winter Fireside Dream ~
The dear memory of one who might have tuned my song
To sweeter music by her delicate ear.
The Coastline from the Montauk lighthouse to the far end of the Hither Hills is eerily like John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem, Tent on the Beach, that tells a story that will be immediately recognized by those who have walked the Montauk strand in all the seasons.
Here is the beginning of the poem, published in 1877, which is best appreciated, of course, if read aloud.
Tent on the Beach
I would not sin, in this half-playful strain ~
Too light perhaps for serious years, though born
Of the enforced leisure of slow pain ~
Against the pure ideal which has drawn
My feet to follow its far-shining gleam.
A simple plot is mine: legends and runes
Of credulous days, old fancies that have lain
Silent from boyhood taking voice again,
Warmed into life once more, even as the tunes
That, frozen in the fabled hunting-horn,
Thawed into sound: ~ a winter fireside dream
Of dawns and sunsets by the summer sea
Whose sands are traversed by a silent throng
Of voyagers from that vaster mystery
Of which it is an emblem; ~ and the dear
Memory of one who might have tuned my song
To sweeter music by her delicate ear.
When heats as of a tropic clime
Burned all our inland valleys through,
Three friends, the guests of summer time,
Pitched their white tent where sea-winds blew.
Behind them, marshes, seamed and crossed
With narrow creeks, and flower-embossed,
Stretched to the dark oak wood, whose leafy arms
Screened from the stormy East the pleasant inland farms.
At full of tide their bolder shore
Of sun-bleached sand the waters beat ;
At ebb, a smooth and glistening floor
They touched with light, receding feet.
Northward a green bluff broke the chain
Of sand - hills southward stretched a plain
Of salt grass, with a river winding down,
Sail-whitened, and beyond the steeples of the town,-
Whence sometimes, when the wind was light
And dull the thunder of the beach,
They heard the bells of morn and night
Swing, miles away, their silver speech.
Above low scarp and turf-grown wall
They saw the fort-flag rise and fall ;
And, the first star to signal twilight's hour,
The lamp-fire glimmer down from the tall light-house tower.
They rested there, escaped awhile
From cares that wear the life away,
To eat the lotus of the Nile
And drink the poppies of Cathay,-
To fling their loads of custom down,
Like drift - weed, on the sand-slopes brown,
And in the sea-waves drown the restless pack
Of duties, claims, and needs that barked upon their track.
One, with his beard scarce silvered, bore
A ready credence in his looks,
A lettered magnate, lording o'er
An ever-widening realm of books
In him brain-currents, near and far,
Converged as in a Leyden jar ;
The old, dead authors thronged him round about,
And Elzevir's gray ghosts from leathern graves looked out.
He knew each living pundit well,
Could weigh the gifts of him or her,
And well the market value tell
Of poet and philosopher.
But if he lost, the scenes behind,
Somewhat of reverence vague and blind,
Finding the actors human at the best,
No readier lips than his the good he saw confessed.
His boyhood fancies not outgrown,
He loved himself the singer's art ;
Tenderly, gently, by his own
He knew and judged an author's heart.
No Rhadamanthine brow of doom
Bowed the dazed pedant from his room ;
And bards, whose name is legion, if denied,
Bore off alike intact their verses and their pride.
Pleasant it was to roam about
The lettered world as he had done,
And see the lords of song without
Their singing robes and garlands on.
With Wordsworth paddle Rydal mere,
Taste rugged Elliott's home-brewed beer,
And with the ears of Rogers, at fourscore,
Hear Garrick's buskined tread and Walpole's wit once more.
And one there was, a dreamer born,
Who, with a mission to fulfil,
Had left the Muses' haunts to turn
The crank of an opinion-mill,
Making his rustic reed of song
A weapon in the war with wrong,
Yoking his fancy to the breaking-plough
That beam-deep turned the soil for truth to spring and grow.
Too quiet seemed the man to ride
The winged Hippogriff Reform ;
Was his a voice from side to side
To pierce the tumult of the storm?
A silent, shy, peace-loving man,
He seemed no fiery partisan
To hold his way against the public frown,
The ban of Church and State, the fierce mob's hounding down.
For while he wrought with strenuous will
The work his hands had found to do,
He heard the fitful music still
Of winds that out of dream-land blew.
The din about him could not drown
What the strange voices whispered down ;
Along his task-field weird processions swept,
The visionary pomp of stately phantoms stepped.
The common air was thick with dreams,-
He told them to the toiling crowd :
Such music as the woods and streams
Sang in his ear he sang aloud ;
In still, shut bays, on windy capes,
He heard the call of beckoning shapes,
And, as the gray old shadows prompted him,
To homely moulds of rhyme he shaped their legends grim.
He rested now his weary hands,
And lightly moralized and laughed,
As, tracing on the shifting sands
A burlesque of hid paper-craft,
He saw the careless waves o'errun
His words, as time before had done,
Each day's tide-water washing clean away,
Like letters from the sand, the work of yesterday.
And one, whose Arab face was tanned
By tropic sun and boreal frost,
So travelled there was scarce a land
Or people left him to exhaust,
In idling mood had from him hurled
The poor squeezed orange of the world,
And in the tent - shade, sat beneath a palm,
Smoked, cross-legged like a Turk, in Oriental calm.
The very waves that washed the sand
Below him, he had seen before
Whitening the Scandinavian strand
And sultry Mauritanian shore.
From ice-rimmed isles, from summer seas
Palm-fringed, they bore him messages ;
He heard the plaintive Nubian songs again,
And mule-bells tinkling down the mountain-paths of Spain.
His memory round the ransacked earth
On Puck's long girdle slid at ease ;
And, instant, to the valley's girth
Of mountains, spice isles of the seas,
Faith flowered in minster stones, Art's guess
At truth and beauty, found access ;
Yet loved the while, that free cosmopolite,
Old friends, old ways, and kept his boyhood's dream in sight.
Untouched as yet by wealth and pride,
That virgin innocence of beach :
No shingly monster, hundred-eyed,
Stared its gravy sand-birds out of reach ;
Unhoused, save where, at intervals,
The white tents showed their canvas walls,
Where brief sojourners, in the cool, soft air,
Forgot their inland heats, hard toil, and year-long care.
Sometimes along the wheel-deep sand
A one-horse wagon slowly crawled,
Deep laden with a youthful band,
Whose look some homestead old recalled ;
Brother perchance, and sisters twain,
And one whose blue eyes told, more plain
Than the free language of her rosy lip,
Of the still dearer claim of love's relationship.
With cheeks of russet-orchard tint,
The light laugh of their native rills,
The perfume of their garden's mint,
The breezy freedom of the hills,
They bore, in unrestrained delight,
The motto of the Garter's knight,
Careless as if from every gazing thing
Hid by their innocence, as Gyges by his ring.
The clanging sea-fowl came and went,
The hunter's gun in the marshes rang ;
At nightfall from a neighboring tent
A flute-voiced woman sweetly sang.
Loose-haired, barefooted, hand-in-hand,
Young girls went tripping down the sand;
And youths and maidens, sitting in the moon,
Dreamed o'er the old fond dream from which we wake too soon.
At times their fishing-lines they plied,
With an old Triton at the oar,
Salt as the sea-wind, tough and dried
As a lean cusk from Labrador
Strange tales he told of wreck and storm,-
Had seen the sea-snake's awful form,
And heard the ghosts on Haley's Isle complain,
Speak him off shore, and beg a passage to old Spain!
And there, on breezy morns, they saw
The fishing-schooners outward run,
Their low-bent sails in tack and flaw
Turned white or dark to shade and sun.
Sometimes, in calms of closing day,
They watched the spectral mirage play,
Saw low, far islands looming tall and nigh,
And ships, with upturned keels, sail like a sea the sky.
Sometimes a cloud, with thunder black,
Stooped low upon the darkening main,
Piercing the waves along its track
With the slant javelins of rain.
And when west-wind and sunshine warm
Chased out to sea its wrecks of storm,
They saw the prismy hues in thin spray showers
Where the green buds of waves burst into white froth flowers.
And when along the line of shore
The mists crept upward chill and damp,
Stretched, careless, on their sandy floor
Beneath the flaring lantern lamp,
They talked of all things old and new,
Read, slept, and dreamed as idlers do ;
And in the unquestioned freedom of the tent,
Body and o'er-taxed mind to healthful ease unbent.
Once, when the sunset splendors died,
And, trampling up the sloping sand,
In lines outreaching far and wide,
The white-manned billows swept to land,
Dim seen across the gathering shade,
A vast and ghostly cavalcade,
They sat around their lighted kerosene,
Hearing the deep bass roar their every pause between.
Then, urged thereto, the Editor
Within his full portfolio dipped,
Feigning excuse while searching for
(With secret pride) his manuscript.
His pale face flushed from eye to beard,
With nervous cough his throat he cleared,
And, in a voice so tremulous it betrayed
The anxious fondness of an author's heart, he read:
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
No two minestrone recipes should ever come out the same. It’s un-Italian.
Minestrone means “the one soup” ~ the one to be concocted with as many different ingredients in one pot as possible. The most important consideration for minestrone is what vegetables are ripe in the garden.
In late October, in Montauk, the Swiss chard is ready for the soup pot. Tomatoes on the vine are showing the melancholy spots of age, but inside they are sweetly ripe and full of faintly fermented juice. Local onions and garlic are available at every roadside stand. There is also local celery, carrots, potatoes and parsley.
Soon after the first hard frost, perhaps before Thanksgiving, there will be the best collards.
For the back of the stove Montauk soup pot, here is a matrix minestrone soup recipe from Dawn Rennar, in whose garden, tended by her husband, Ed Rennar, the Swiss chard grows.
Dawn says, “Swiss chard comes in a rainbow of colors (the stalks, that is). The stalks are tough unless you chop them small and cook them long. When I harvest Swiss chard, I cut each stalk close to the ground. Then, in my kitchen sink, I rinse the stalks carefully in cool water. Often I have to double rinse them to remove any sand or dirt or bugs. (We do not use synthetic chemical pesticides, you know.) I use the chard right away. If you must save picked chard for another day, you ought to dry the leaves and stems and store them wrapped in paper towels and then in a plastic bag to keep the moisture away from the leaves for prolonged life. Sometimes the leaves are very large, so I separate the leaves from the stalks and maybe even have to cut the leaves in half so I don't crush or overcrowd them in the plastic, for obvious reasons."
Montauk Minestrone Soup
2 TB freshest olive oil
1 russet potato peeled, chopped
1 onion peeled, chopped
1 LB. skinned and chopped tomatoes
2 large carrots peeled and diced
1 15 OZ. CAN cannelli beans
2 celery stalks chopped
1 LB. Swiss chard, coarsely chopped
1 32 OZ BOX chicken broth
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 TB fresh Italian parsley plus more to garnish
3 OZ. piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind
Heat olive oil in a large, heavyweight soup pot over medium heat.
Add onions, carrots, celery and garlic.
Sauté until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
Add Swiss chard and potatoes and sauté about two minutes more.
Add tomatoes (with any escaped juice) and simmer until the Swiss chard is wilted and the tomatoes are very soft. About 10 more minutes.
Meanwhile, blend ¾ cup of cannelli beans with ¼ cup broth in a food processor until smooth.
Add bean mixture and remaining broth to pot. Stir until all is incorporated.
Add cheese rind.
Cook over low heat until the soup thickens, about three to five minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
Before serving the soup, remove the cheese rind.
A Grandaddy Blackfish (or Tautog)
After the First Frosts in November on Montauk comes the time for tall, bejeweled stalks of green Brussels sprouts, gold and ruby Swiss chard and a bounty of white, dry and delicately flavored Atlantic blackfish. Recipes coming soon.
Reading stories out loud is still an art practiced in Montauk in all seasons. Good storytelling is appreciated almost everywhere in town, and both the Symphony Space short story readings and The Moth on National Public Radio are blessings many listeners here share.
Montauktheend.blogspot.com is beginning a list of stories that are most wonderful when read out loud. We shall begin to populate it with two half-hour-to-read stories that will drop your listeners' jaws open with suspension of disbelief. You will remembers pieces of the third story for the rest of your life.
1) The Cat That Walked By Himself from the pen of the astonishing English poet Rudyard Kipling, a dear literary friend of America's marvelous Mark Twain. This story is one of a book of stories called "The Just So Stories." It is about how Woman domesticated the cat. It answers all of the questions you ever had about female power and how it is wielded. For clever minds of any age or gender. You can find the full text at http://www.online-literature.com/kipling/163/
2) The Butterfly That Stamped, also by Mr. Kipling. In this story, we learn how a clever and most beloved wife saves the day for her very wise husband, who hates to show off. You can download the text at http://www.online-literature.com/kipling/162/
3) Puddin’head Wilson’s New Calendar by Mr. Twain. Lawyer Wilson’s calendar carries beside each date a maxim to think about, like “Be careless in your dress if you must, but keep a tidy soul.” Or, “Truth is stranger than Fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.” Or, “Man is the only Animal that blushes, or needs to.” Philosophers and drunks will love this story; all others steer clear. Download at http://etext.virginia.edu/railton/wilson/pwequat.html
We will add to the list with the help anyone who offers the name and the author of a story that is particularly fine to read out loud. You might kindly put the names of the story or stories and any helpful thoughts about it into the Comments box (below).
Monday, October 26, 2009
The rumors fall into categories: sexual slander and innuendo, financial shenanigans and conspiracies, political monkey business, new weird poltergeists seeping out of the rocks around the lighthouse and Camp Hero, celebrity activity, and real estate.
For example, the rumor mill has ground out a new one about the actor Johnny Depp buying the Crow’s Nest, a restaurant and inn fitted out by Don and Astrid Torr to look like a warmly respectable 18th century British brothel. The rumor has to do with the Crow’s Nest’s kitchen catering a local party for President Bill and Hillary Clinton at Alec Baldwin’s and Kim Bassinger’s house, and in a Hollywood way that gig led to Jack Sparrow hearing about this murkily strange hideaway that only a few people not related to Captain Kidd ever heard of.
A pirate’s mother speculates, “Maybe Depp bought it because there’s a skull and crossbones out front.”
There is almost never the checking or validation of Montauk rumors. Instead they are usually embellished with quaint details added by the resident storytellers. There are no hard feelings if the rumors turn out to be baseless, or even malicious. In Montauk the rumor is an art form in itself and only the skeptics believe that where there’s smoke there isn’t always fire.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Jann Wenner ~ the creator of Rolling Stone magazine among scores of other editorial ventures, and arguably the best editor in America for the past quarter century ~ and his partner Matt Nye, a fashion designer, will live near Cleveland Street along with their three children. The property is about a five-minute stroll down the dune to the beach. The sale includes the regal luxury of two separate dwellings (one over a garage) on the land.
To read Jann's flamboyant personal story, simply Google [wiki “Jann Wenner”] and enjoy the exquisitely edited prose about his 63-year-old life and career. Even if you know the man, the outline of his many adventures will flabbergast you. There are already a half-dozen biographies of Wenner in print or about to be. One is by a noted poet. Wenner is probably the most successful media mogul never to have graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and for that distinction alone he is a welcome addition to the Montauk neighborhood.
What gratuitous advice does Montauktheend have for a new neighbor in the Hills?
1) Watch out for speeders on the Old Montauk Highway, the road you must cross to get to the pathway to the beach. The posted speed limit is 30 miles per hour and that is, give or take five miles an hour, just about safe in an emergency. Children and dogs must be on the constant lookout when crossing the asphalt. Nine out of ten times the speeders are driving cars costing $55,000 or more, and if they are in a business-minded hurry with an iPhone glued to their ear, they’ll arrogantly pass at 70 miles an hour across the double yellow lines. So stay alert.
2) The best beach days in Montauk are from the Tuesday after Labor Day until July 1. In fall and winter the beaches are as private as deserted islands. There is immense beauty and Kabuki drama in walking on the lonely strand beside the ocean in a January snowstorm.
3) If you are not entirely familiar with poison ivy and ticks, do some catching up. Except in sub-freezing weather, ticks are lurking in the grass and hanging on tree leaves hungering to suck warm blood. Inspect your body carefully each day, especially in hairy locations, and pull the critters off of before they find a place to dig in. If you find a blood-swollen tick on somebody don’t simply yank it off. Remove it gently with tweezers and alcohol or iodine so that its head is not left to rot in the wound. Some purists say a lighted cigarette or cigar applied to the tick’s tail end will persuade it to let loose.
4) There are herds of white-tailed deer in Hither Hills and most of them are wary of but not intimidated by humans. The deer are noble beasts and, if you drive too fast at dusk or dawn, or on dark, wet days, they are also dangerous. Many deer are killed every year on the Old Montauk near your house, and many cars are damaged by the collisions.
5) Get hold of an authentic Djilyan Australian boomerang and fly it on the beach when the wind is very light or calm. It’s a thrill to be able to get a boomerang fly away and then to return to your hands. When it's windy (Montauk is one of the windiest places on the East Coast) locate an Into the Wind brand Hata fighter kite and fly it, too.
6) Take a tour of the old oak trees in the Hither Woods. There are some royal ones.
7) If you are in urgent need of a supremely professional sound studio nearby, call Dr. Stern, whose profile is drawn in an earlier post under the headline, “Montauk Is A Muse".
8) In the Hither Hills there is a secret lake, a meteor crater (called “the Judge”), a superb state park, a colonial graveyard, the weird and fantastic “Walking Dunes” and Gurney’s Inn, a daily teatro buffo of fabulous characters by the sea (with a big swimming pool and spa facilities). Call Phyllis Monte-Lomitola at Gurney’s for unpretentiously intelligent suggestions.
Montauktheend is always available for questions and suggestions and we hope that Mr. Wenner and Mr. Nye & Family will find friendship, joy and contentment in their new home.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Dr. Robert Stern is a musician to the marrow of his bones. His ears and whatever mechanisms makes music in the brain are super-attuned inside his head, a head you can imagine fairly closely if you think about a tall, curly bearded Ionian god with a kindly face and oceanic eyes.
Bob is a fiddler and the old fiddle seems small in his long, large hands. Before his eyes blurred on him a few years ago, he was a dental surgeon whose specialty was putting very badly smashed faces back together. Before that he was a longhaired West Coast rock star who had so many women he didn’t know what to do. Before that he was a good student and a pain-in-the-ass debater who found a mistake and dwelled and dwelled and dwelled on it. .
Bob can no longer demonstrate his artistry, dexterity and under-control nerves on some lucky soul’s broken jaw and cheekbones, but he can still sustain a violin note longer, and purer, than all but a handful of world class violinists.
He has stored 6,500 pieces of music on his Apple and he busily downloads new items every day. He can hum every note in most of those songs by heart. He composes in his head with his eyes closed and he visibly vibrates to every imaginary pluck or puff.
The idea of a Montauk concerto has come into Bob’s head because, for a whole cartload of reasons, Bob has never felt more free or more in harmony with other plant and mammalian life, not even in California.
With his eyes closed he murmurs to himself: “I see Montauk as the center of a spherical universe suspended in the middle between a dark and daylight sky, with a universe of bright stars in blackness and a diamond ocean from horizon to horizon in an amazingly straight line and there is noble and sentimental and funny music that wells up everywhere.”
He goes to his Apple and very deftly types out a few notes. Suddenly the incredible little Bose speakers sing out the beginnings of a Montauk concerto with piano and violin that vividly describes the awe, hope and gratitude one feels when witnessing a Montauk sunrise. Bob and a pianist friend recorded the piece a few months earlier in Bob’s secret treasure sound studio that is snugged into the basement of his house. Musicians who know say that there is no equally good sound studio in private hands within 3,000 miles.
After being plied with exquisite food and psychotherapeutic drugs, Dr. Stern has agreed modestly to “mess around” with www.Montauktheend.blogspot.com and compose and mix his music on-line, in a narrative and interactive way so that people who tune in can learn and be inspired.
“Montauk is a muse,” Bob says. “Every artist needs a muse.”