An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, April 2, 2018
No Music Week
No real point doing a "Music Week" post this week. I spent pretty much all of the week playing old favorites from the travel cases, so the rated count for the week was a mere +2. I also haven't catalogued the week's incoming mail -- not that there's much to report. So I'll roll those into next week's post, which should be back to normal.
I was preoccupied last week with my sister Kathy's memorial, on Saturday afternoon, and a family-and-friends get-together on Sunday. I tried to do what I could to help out, which mostly meant cooking a lot of food. For the reception following the service, I baked six cakes (sweet potato bundt with a glaze; oatmeal stout with a broiled topping; applesauce with raisins and walnuts in a loaf pan; and three 9x13 sheet cakes: fall spice, carrot, and chocolate) plus two pans of brownies.
For a savory snack alternative, I fixed Barbara Tropp's Chinese Crudités. I filled up three half-sheet baking pans with piles of vegetables cut into bite-sized chunks, some steamed (cauliflower, brussels sprouts), most blanched (asparagus, baby corn, broccoli, carrots, green beans, snap peas, zucchini) or raw (green/red/yellow bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, celery, cucumber). I bought a bag of brussels sprouts, way more than I needed, so I roasted half of them and added them to the tray. The vegetables could be dipped in four Chinese sauces: a rather spicy sesame, a very garlicky peanut, dijon mustard, and sweet and sour.
We also made a Moroccan fruit salad (apples, nectarines, pears, pineapple, banana, mejdol dates, macerated in orange juice and honey), a similar berry salad (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries), and vanilla cream.
For the Sunday get-together, I ordered barbecue meats from Hog Wild and made four large side dishes: baked beans topped with bacon; a Russian potato salad with smoked salmon, olives, capers, and dill; a sweet and sour cole slaw (nothing creamy), and mast va khiar (a Persian cucumber-yogurt with scallions, golden raising, black walnuts, and mint). I figured there'd be enough leftover dessert, and there was (barely). Several people helped with the cooking, especially Josi Hull on Friday and Mike, Morgan and Kirsten Saturday night.
Even before the cooking, much of the week was spent shopping and reconnoitering. I bought some very large bowls and baking sheets, and more cake pans than I actually used. Also things like tongs for serving and various containers for moving food around. I dumped a lot of tasks onto Josi, like picking up plates and plasticware and ice. The church people helped as well, especially with coffee and tea.
Ram planned out the memorial service ("celebration of life), and wrote and printed up the notes. He also set up a website with a selection of Kathy's writings, a (very partial) gallery of artwork, and a form for submitting "memories and reflections," promising to compile the latter into book form. (I started to collect some notes on my website as well.) The service was, well, unlike any I had ever attended.
Kathy joined the UU Church shortly after she moved back to Wichita, following a few months when she stayed with me in New Jersey. As children, we attended Disciples of Christ churches -- they were evangelical but not fundamentalist, preferring the New Testament (especially the Gospels) to the Old. As a young teen, I got very involved in the church, but a few years later I turned against it and the rest of the family lost interest, if not in religion at least in church-going. I flipped over into an extreme rationalism, but to the extent I ever bothered to try to understand it, Kathy flopped the other direction. Like me, she went through a period of examining all of the world's religions, but where I wound up rejecting them all, she found ways to synthesize them.
The one religion she felt the closest affinity to was Wicca, and she discovered that there was a sizable faction of Wiccans at the First UU Church in Wichita (sometimes, I gather, at odds with the other main faction, Humanists). Kathy joined First UU in 1991 (actually after she had started leading moon dances) and was very active off and on. I knew a little bit about Unitarians because I went through a phase where I looked into the history of early Protestant sects, especially Puritans, and I've read some modern feminist essays on medieval witchcraft, but I've never spent any time on Wicca, even having an expert in the family. So the rituals, chants, and song about the Goddess that opened and closed the service were lost on me. One of the songs, I think, was from a book Kathy wrote/compiled.
In between were a couple dozen tributes/memoirs by various people Kathy had touched. My brother Steve recalled the first time he saw Kathy, through a hospital window. My nephew Mike remembered Kathy as the first person to reveal that unorthodox opinions and unconventional lifestyles were even possible. (Kathy had an unofficial gay marriage ceremony when Mike was a teen, but the relationship didn't last long. She had a shorter still heterosexual marriage much earlier, but the father of her son was a casual acquaintance I never met, who played no role in Ram's life.) My cousin Ken Brown recounted how close our families were.
When Kathy got pregnant, she came to stay with us in New Jersey. After a few months, I got a job in Massachusetts, and we decided Kathy should return to Wichita. When she got here, she moved in with two other pregnant women, Cassandra and Lydia, and the three had baby boys within days of each other, the six (and eventually a few more) forming an extended family even long after they moved apart. Cassandra, Lydia, and a third woman I didn't know spoke about this unique relationship, and the third woman sang a Lakota funeral song -- a remarkable moment.
Many more people spoke about Kathy's full moon dances and other spiritual/community efforts. One colleague from the WSU art department spoke, as did several former students. One student Kathy effectively adopted was Matt Walston, who's become a notable artist in his own right. Kathy and Matt had talked about death, and one wish Kathy had was that Matt make a "death mask" from her face. (Matt had some experience at making masks, like this one.) Matt made molds and distributed several papier maché masks, while his wife, Carrie Armstrong, gave emotional testimony. Laura talked about how much she was amazed by Kathy's art. Only one speaker wandered off subject, ending the session on a bit of an off note.
There was some discussion of the "Sacred Spaces" project, which Kathy had been a driving force behind c. 2002. It's long been in storage, but WSU had agreed to exhibit it this summer, and Kathy had been talking to Mike about shooting a film around it. Several people vowed to make sure that still happens. I used to have a gallery of photos from the exhibit up on my site, but they got wiped out in a spat with the ISP. I just found the original CDR, so I'll make an effort to get them restored soon.
One thing we screwed up was not making any sort of announcements at the end of the service. Matt had set up a room with some of Kathy's art and a plaster death mask people could paint on, but most people weren't aware of that. It also took a while to set up my food, so many people took off before they got a chance to enjoy -- and I missed a number of people I wanted to talk to. Nonetheless, about 85-90% of the food was eaten. My estimate is that we had about 160 people present (the chapel holds 125, so the others had to sit on folding chairs in the foyer, and it looked like 30-40 people there).
The Sunday get-together was anticlimactic. Some people didn't know about it and had travel plans to get away. I figured it would drag on well past the advertised 1 PM start, so we didn't make much of an effort to get there early, and it turned out that most of the people who came had left by the time we got there. (I had sent the food ahead, so nobody missed us that bad.) We got there at 3:30, and stayed until 6 or so. I got back in time to cobble together a Weekend Roundup last night. But not early enough to do a Music Week today. Next time. Also, sometime this week I'll try to fill out a Downbeat Critics Poll ballot (assuming it's not too late yet -- I didn't even consider working on it when I got the ballot request).