Category Archives: Personal

The First Time I Met Pete Seeger…..

The first time I met Pete Seeger, I was far too young to remember it. I was, more than likely, an infant. Pete was an old friend of my parents’, having probably met my father in the 1950s or early 1960s. when they were both fighting fascism and oppression in their own ways, both at home and abroad. When weren’t they, really? In those days Joan Baez, Tom Paxton, Paul Robeson Jr., and many others were frequent visitors at our home and while I am proud to know this now, I’ll confess that this was not of primary concern to a small child.

One thing I do remember about Pete is that he was great with kids. Or at least he was with me. Picnics with Pete on the banks of the Hudson became a somewhat regular occurrence* and on one particular night in 1983 at dinner in the Hotel Nacional in Havana, Pete indulged a 12 year-old’s whimsy far more than he needed to.

I had recently learned to make wine glasses “whistle” by wetting a finger and running at around the rim of the glass. To my joy, I was seated next to Pete and at some point in the evening, I started getting bored (dinners in Cuba start late and can go very late) and so I started playing with my wine (water) glass. Pete claimed had never seen this (I suspect he was fibbing) and he and I proceeded to have some fun with the other tables in the dining room by making our glasses whistle and, when people would look around, pretending we were also looking for the source of the whistling. I’ve always thought that one of the true measures of an adult is how they relate to children.

My house was always full of music, despite no one in my family being able to play a lick. Classical and folk were the predominant styles and so many of Pete’s songs have been part of my life since I was a small child. Granted, I was an odd kid. I mean, how many 10 year-old do you know who know the words to “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” “We Shall Not Be Moved,” and “Which Side Are You On?” Much of the credit for that should be given to Pete.

The last 2 times I saw Pete were at memorial services. The first was for Mary Travers (of Peter, Paul & Mary fame) in 2009 and the second in 2005 at my mother’s service. Alas, the weather too bad for him to make it to my father’s memorial in 2007. One of the many drawbacks to the aging process is having friends, loved ones, and those we admire pass on. It’s a part of life, but one I have not yet come to grips with.

Pete was one of the bravest, kindest, and most principled people to ever walk the earth. He was one of a kind for so many reasons and I dare say we shan’t see the likes of him again any time soon.

He also had a beautiful falsetto!

*Possible inflation of frequency due to the passage of time.

RIP Adam Yauch: Some Personal Memories

I am sure I can’t add anything to all the professional obituaries of Adam Yauch, so I thought I’d add something a little more personal. Back in the early to mid-1980s, there were two musical movements happening in New York City that were important and influential to me and my friends (among many many others, of course). One, the Two Tone ska revival was destined to remain a subculture, albeit one that we embraced heartily. The second was Hip Hop.

As soon as we heard Rapper’s Delight, we were hooked and in those relatively early days of the genre, as some clubs slowly morphed from the discotheque model to a more hip hop-centered experience, it wasn’t unusual to see blacks, whites and Latinos all in the same club.

Not to digress too much into the economic and cultural makeup of New York in the early to mid-1980s, but it was certainly a different time and I found myself in a complicated social world that somehow merged my left-wing, hippy/socialist summer camp (Thoreau-in-Vermont) with the private school I attended (The United Nations International School, aka UNIS) and the NYC ska and hip hop communities. NYC was (and is) a large place, but if you were in certain high schools and of a certain mindset, your orbits were large, inclusive and on the surface or to an outsider, contradictory. Didn’t seem that way to us, though. Continue reading

The Bingham Show

It’s been a little over three weeks since Bingham Ray passed away and I have read countless tributes, obits and stories, almost all of them touching and heartfelt. In my head, The Bingham Show has been running a regular time slot since his passing and maybe I should have written more, sooner, but I just couldn’t. Of course the idea that it will get better over time is silly and I ought to have known better. Anyone who has lost someone close to them knows that it doesn’t get better with time, it just gets…different.

Bingham was one of the first and kindest and most inclusive mentors I had in the business and one of my closest friends, too. He was quick to understand where Eugene Hernandez and I were going with indieWIRE, always had time for the new kids in school and unlike some other people in the business (you might have a guess or two), Bingham didn’t seem to take himself overly seriously. That didn’t hold true for film, of course. For Bingham, film was serious business but it was the business of wonderment…of the joy, sadness, horror and happiness that a good film can bring.

Moose, Scott and Bingham at the Siasconset Casino on Nantucket

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Happy Birthday, Dad!

Vic-Bookjacket.jpgToday, July 2nd would have been my father’s 98th birthday and not a day goes by that I don’t miss him. Every day, something flashes through my mind, across the computer screen or on TV that makes me, just for an instant, think I should call dad. But I can’t. He’s been gone a little over a year and a half and it doesn’t yet seem real. How can someone so huge in life, so forceful, so robust, so devoted to the betterment of the world no longer be around, fighting the good fight? It’s not fair. The world is a poorer place.
That said, his progeny and grand progeny are carrying on his legacy as best we can. We’re not a large family by most standards but what there is of us is pretty special in that there are really no “black sheep” in the family, politically speaking. You hear about apples falling far from the tree but we’re all clustered around the trunk.
Dad was an amazing man by almost any measure. He stuck to his principles even when doing so cost him his place at the law firm he had built for 40 odd years. He was a defense attorney who specialized in civil rights, labor and international law and counted Dr. Benjamin Spock, Dashiell Hammett (dad referred to him as “Dash”), Jimmy Hoffa as clients and friends and was a frequent chess partner of Che Guevara. He represented the government of Cuba, Papandreou’s Greece, Angola and the Nicaraguan mission to the United States under Ortega, among others. He defended countless nameless teachers, union workers and anti-war demonstrators though the McCathy 50’s, the 60’s and the anti-Vietnam War 70’s with courage and conviction, although many were pro bono and none brought him fame or fortune. He was truly an inspiration.
He and mom dragged me around the world as a kid and as such, gave me my wanderlust but I think he was happiest digging in the garden of our house in East Hampton. Summer, winter, hot or cold, you could find dad in East Hampton every weekend and most holidays. If it was too hot or too cold to work in the garden he just sat on the couch and read or on the deck and watched the squirrels try and get at the bird feeders. I think he would be very happy that I’ve moved out here. I don’t have my feeders up yet, but I will. There will be seed in the summer and suet in the winter and if I can help it, the neighbor’s cat won’t get any of my birds or rabbits. Dad protected his birds, too.
Happy birthday, dad. I miss you.

The Rabbi Report 3.0: Notes From “Out East”

Wow. I just looked at my blog and realized that it’s been more than six weeks since I posted an entry! I have sort of an excuse seeing that I was homeless for a few week, looking for a place to live and then a major move to East Hampton, but still, six weeks? LAME! So here I go. Rabbi Report 3.0 starts….NOW.
I seriously don’t know what the next 11+ months is going to bring for me, but suffice to say, this isn’t just the rebirth of the blog. Over the past 4-5 years I’ve lost both parents (insert Importance of Being Earnest ref. here) lived in LA, New York and now East Hampton, worked in a variety of positions, including film festivals, freelance writing, blogging for an award-winning ad campaign and I’ve been a character in an ARG. And now….country squire? We’ll see. For now, I am busy planting a vegetable garden, buying bird feeders and keeping the neighbor’s cat away from my birds and bunnies. That and whipping the house into shape with, I am relieved to say, a little help from my friends! God knows what it would look like if I was left to my own devices.
At any rate, I’m back. There’s likely to be a lot more about food and cooking, here from now on. I won’t be skimping on other things, but my nine week trip through the south this Spring inspired me as a cook, as a writer and as someone who is concerned with what we’re eating and drinking as a nation. I was introduced to the work of some outstanding chefs and food luminaries in my travels, including “eater/writer/educator” John T. Edge and chef John Currence in Oxford, MS; chefs Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski in New Orleans; chef Frank Stitt in Birmingham, AL and chefs Sean Brock & Mike Lata in South Carolina. All of whom you’ll be reading about, along with many more in the coming days and weeks, complete with mouth-watering pics from their establishments and maybe even some examples of my own experiments with Southern-infused Long Island cooking. Stay tuned!
Until next time, here are a few pix of my new (rented) house (after the jump) in East Hampton and a couple of yummy goodness!
Yours from Northwest Woods,
Mark

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