Saturday, February 23, 2013

Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco in Miami

"Well, I think we're finally American" Richard Blanco said to his mother after reading his poem at President Obama's inauguration  on January 21, 2013

I saw Richard Blanco at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami this past Friday.  Richard Blanco describes himself as being made in Cuba, born in Spain and growing up in Cuban Miami. Blanco now lives in Bethel Maine with his partner. Blanco's American journey is fascinating yet also inspiring. His poems are a prism of how he sees  life.  Life as an immigrant living in Miami. Life as a gay man, and life as an American growing up in the late 20th century.

Blanco read  some poetry  from (City of a Hundred Fires, Directions to The Beach of the Dead, and Looking for The Gulf Motel). He also read his inaugural poem.

Blanco described how he was picked to be the official poet for President Obama's address. Blanco stated that he did not apply for the position, but was chosen. He described how he read the address in Washington and then turned to his Cuban born mother with limited English skills and said " Well, I think We're finally American". 

My favorite poem was this, which he read:

Looking for The Gulf Motel

Marco Island, Florida

There should be nothing here I don't remember . . .

The Gulf Motel with mermaid lampposts 
and ship's wheel in the lobby should still be 
rising out of the sand like a cake decoration. 
My brother and I should still be pretending 
we don't know our parents, embarrassing us 
as they roll the luggage cart past the front desk 
loaded with our scruffy suitcases, two-dozen 
loaves of Cuban bread, brown bags bulging 
with enough mangos to last the entire week, 
our espresso pot, the pressure cooker—and 
a pork roast reeking garlic through the lobby. 
All because we can't afford to eat out, not even 
on vacation, only two hours from our home 
in Miami, but far enough away to be thrilled 
by whiter sands on the west coast of Florida, 
where I should still be for the first time watching 
the sun set instead of rise over the ocean.

There should be nothing here I don't remember . . .

My mother should still be in the kitchenette 
of The Gulf Motel, her daisy sandals from Kmart 
squeaking across the linoleum, still gorgeous 
in her teal swimsuit and amber earrings 
stirring a pot of arroz-con-pollo, adding sprinkles 
of onion powder and dollops of tomato sauce. 
My father should still be in a terrycloth jacket 
smoking, clinking a glass of amber whiskey 
in the sunset at the Gulf Motel, watching us 
dive into the pool, two boys he'll never see 
grow into men who will be proud of him.

There should be nothing here I don't remember . . .

My brother and I should still be playing Parcheesi
my father should still be alive, slow dancing 
with my mother on the sliding-glass balcony 
of The Gulf Motel. No music, only the waves 
keeping time, a song only their minds hear 
ten-thousand nights back to their life in Cuba. 
My mother's face should still be resting against 
his bare chest like the moon resting on the sea, 
the stars should still be turning around them.

There should be nothing here I don't remember . . .

My brother should still be thirteen, sneaking 
rum in the bathroom, sculpting naked women 
from sand. I should still be eight years old 
dazzled by seashells and how many seconds 
I hold my breath underwater—but I'm not. 
I am thirty-eight, driving up Collier Boulevard, 
looking for The Gulf Motel, for everything 
that should still be, but isn't. I want to blame 
the condos, their shadows for ruining the beach 
and my past, I want to chase the snowbirds away 
with their tacky mansions and yachts, I want 
to turn the golf courses back into mangroves, 
I want to find The Gulf Motel exactly as it was 
and pretend for a moment, nothing lost is lost.

After listening to Richard Blanco, my buddy Jay, and I went to Little Havana to our favorite restaurant "Versailles Restaurant" for a little cafecito and a light dinner!  Always worth the trip "Versailles" is open late and is lively with many Cuban-Americans dining, drinking and enjoying late night pastries and coffee!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.
-Mark Twain

   (Super Storm Nemo attacking New England and beyond)

This past week was the 35th anniversary of the Blizzard of '78. To many New Englanders this is still the benchmark that storms are measured.  Ironically, New England  experienced  a nor'easter and a blizzard on the anniversary. The region was belted with hurricane force winds, biting cold and two to three feet of snow.

(Ogunquit Beach Inn after "Super Storm Nemo")

Ogunquit fared quite well. Yes, there was extreme high tides, beach erosion and damage-yet the electricity did not go out ( parts of Plymouth County and Cape Cod experienced 4 to 5 days with out power). Total snow accumulation in Ogunquit was 31" inches (78cm).
(Ogunquit Square, at the beginning of the storm)

Ogunquit was prepared. Electricity stayed on, and the hardy residents of Ogunquit shoveled, plowed and watched the epic storm pass through. However, I was unable to attend this snow event. Memories of the blizzard of '78 still haunt me. After the blizzard of '78, I decided that winters in New England were not for me. Yes, I do love Maine, and all it has to offer, but the hard winter months are just not my cup of tea. Guess I am not as hardy as many of my friends and neighbors. Many of my friends take to the slopes, snow shoe and enjoy the idyllic winter days.

(Photo by Anthony Defeo, Ogunquit Beach after Nemo)

Our neighbor Tobias of the Sweet Pea Pied-a-terre gleefully stayed up all night and shoveled his tiny driveway at 3:15am in the morning. To his amazement, Cottage Street ( the street directly behind Ogunquit Beach Inn) was plowed. Ogunquit's town employees were diligent and cleaned the streets around the clock.

(Photo by Tobias Orfe of the Sweet Pea. Shoveling in the early morning hours.)

This photo is from February of 1978, corner of River Road and Beach Street. Local resident survey damage. The following shot is the same spot, 35 years later. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Best Homemade Gluten Free Baked Manicotti

Super Bowl Weekend means comfort food to me, and comfort food to me means Italian food!

My Grandmother (Nonni) made the best homemade manicotti from scratch. It was a favorite of mine growing up in Somerville, MA. The aroma would spread throughout the house and it was a welcome sign to all that entered: eat/mangia.

I have take her recipe and modified to a gluten free version. It is just as tasty and healthy as well as comforting!

You will need the Following:

1 seven inch non-stick pan. Spray with non-stick spray
1 cup of water
6 large eggs
1 cup of Gluten Free Flour ( I use Bob's All Purpose Gluten Free Red Mill)
half teaspoon sea salt
1 pound of Ricotta (500g)
8 to 12 ounces of grated Parmesan or other cheese ( Romano or Mozzarella)
Fresh basil
Fresh garlic (6 cloves)
Tomato sauce of your choosing. (we use homemade).
Makes 10 to 12 manicotti

In a large bowl, add gluten free flour, salt and 3 eggs. Mix ingredients well.

In medium heat pour @about quarter cup of "batter" into frying pan. Allow crepe/pasta shell to bubble, then flip the crepe, let cook for 30 seconds. Remove crepe/pasta shell from pan and allow to cool.

In a large bowl add one  pound of ricotta, two eggs and 8+ ( or more)  ounces of grated Parmesan cheese. Blend together. Add in crushed garlic, fresh basil or oregano. Salt and pepper. Spoon in @ quarter cup of mixture to each shell/crepe and fold.

In a glass baking pan (Pyrex style), spread tomato sauce or olive oil on bottom, then place manicotti in pan. Layer sauce and top with 2 to 4 ounces of cheese. Cover with tin foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove tinfoil and continue to bake for 15 minutes.
Serve warm, garnish with basil leaves or oregano

Enjoy this Sunday favorite!