Category Archives: National Stuff

George is Grinning and Orren Fox



George is grinning, huge wide smile, and those of you who have been readers of the Newburyport Blog for any length of time know that George is usually a glum sort of fellow, even with his passionate romance to Georgiana Tadpole (if you really would like to know about any of this frog stuff please press here).

Instead of telling the readers of the Newburyport Blog what is making George smile so hugely right off the bat (although he’s not smiling in the picture, I couldn’t get one of him smiling), I’m going to start at the beginning.

Way, way back (“in the day,” I’m not sure if it’s that far back) in 1990 I painted a whole bunch of paintings for a major New York show, oil on panel, and the panels warped (I used the wrong kind of panel – never did it again).  Panic city, you betcha.  I went to what was then Wendover Woodworks on Liberty Street in Newburyport, and one of the owners, Andy Willemsem saved my sorry soul by making some absolutely gorgeous frames that solved the warping problem and saved yours truly.  It was then I met Andy’s partner in this wonder furniture creating place, Henry Fox.

About 15 years ago, wandering around my Newburyport neighborhood, I ran into Henry Fox, who told me the harrowing tale of his son, born 3 months early with a host of medical problems who had been saved by the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at MassGeneral in Boston, and had just been moved to one of the more local hospitals.  I later shared this story with other families who had critically ill new borns, including my most wonderful neighbors, who found themselves and their newborn son also at MassGeneral. (The young man is now happily running around our neighborhood.)

Andy Willemsen moved on and Henry Fox named his wonderful furniture business after his two sons, “Fox Brothers.” (Still there on Liberty Street in Newburyport, still amazing.)

Fast forward to 2012, yesterday, a “new” or “new” to me, George and I being 5 years late to the story (not quite as bad as my late arrival to the David Sedaris planet, see earlier post, but not so good)  local Newburyport blog called “Happy Chickens Lay Healthy Eggs,” by a fifteen year old young man called Orren Fox.

I’m thinking Fox?? Fox?? Henry Fox?? The timing’s right.

And sure enough this blog is written by Henry’s son Orren, the one in intensive care 15 years ago.  How cool is that, but it gets so much better.

Scrolling down the blog’s sidebar the young man has been interviewed/written up by the Huffington Post, NPR, Yankee Magazine, the Boston Globe to name a few, and has been to the White House, March 7, 2012,  for “Know Your Farmer Event.”

I’m beginning to join George in grinning from ear to ear about this young chicken farmer and organic food activist.

“Margaret Mead would have loved Orren.  A soulful and gifted young man who has done more to help make a positive impact by 15 than most folks do in a lifetime.” From Do Lectures.

And Orren has added bees, in “Bee Happy” – check it out here.

AND Orren has serendipitly gone into business with his brother Will (with a little help from Dad) making “FoxBoys” longboards, skateboards in the most glorious shape, a little like a boat, read and see all about them here.

And Orren Fox is so media savvy as to make grown “social media” folks weep – along with the Happy Chickens blog there are the Facebook pages that one actually enjoys looking at and reading, and twitter accounts.  But it may be in the blood because his Mom, who gave birth to him all those many 15 years ago, is Libby Delana, the founding partner of Newburyport’s Mechanica, the next generation branding firm.

So if you are discouraged by the news or local or federal politics, life in general, go investigate Orren Fox, a young man who transcends the sustainable movement.  It doesn’t matter if you are dark “green,” light “green,” in-between or orange; right wing, left wing, moderate or independent.  When you read about this fantastic story, you like George, will be grinning from ear to ear and doing a dance in the end zone of your choice.

Almond Meal-Flour Cookies (They are Gluten Free)

And now for something completely different.

Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour at Market Basket and Natural Grocer in Newburyport, click to enlarge.

Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour at Market Basket and Natural Grocer in Newburyport, click to enlarge.

A lot of people arrive at the Newburyport Blog looking for “Newburyport, Gluten Free.”  I get emails from folks wondering if there is a Newburyport gluten free support group.  Nope, there isn’t, but I’ve sure have learned a whole lot about good old gluten free stuff, including the wonders of Almond Meal, incredibly good for you (whether you are gluten free or not), if you click the thumbnail of the back of the almond meal package, you’ll see.

The wonders and nutritional value of almond meal, press to enlarge.

The wonders and nutritional value of almond meal, press to enlarge.

Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour can be found at Market Basket here in Newburyport as well as Natural Grocer.  It’s magic.  Aside from easy to bake cookies, that have changed my gluten free life, it’s also an amazing coating along with parmesan chess on things like fish, it has its own oil.  Who knew.  Now the readers of the Newburyport Blog know.  The frogs wish that almond meal had come into their lives decades ago (were they around decades ago, I don’t think so. Frogs!!).


Vanilla Almond Meal Cookies (and variations)
(Adapted from Elana’s Pantry,, Elana Amsterdam, website and cookbook)

1 ¼ cups blanched almond flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
Dash pumpkin spice or cinnamon (optional)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup oil, canola or grapeseed oil (each has slightly different effect, I use canola oil)
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons GF vanilla

  1. Combine almond meal, salt, baking soda in a bowl.
  2. Stir together sugar and water, add vanilla in a smaller bowl and then oil and combine.
  3. Mix wet ingredients into dry.
  4. Form ½ inch balls and press onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  5. Bake at 350° for 5-6 minutes
  6. Cool and serve (can also freeze, I freeze in plastic square containers separated by wax paper, can put in microwave to unfreeze or eat frozen!)
  7. Makes around 27 cookies, about 60 calories each
  1. For chocolate cookies use 2 teaspoons vanilla and 2 Table spoons cocoa powder (put into the dry ingredients)(I also like a dash/shake of cinnamon).
  2. For orange cookies use 1 teaspoon orange extract and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I like a good shake/dash of pumpkin spice).
  3. For peanut butter cookies work in 1-2 teaspoons peanut butter at the end.
  4. For marble black and white cookies, take half  the mixture and add 1T of cocoa. Take one half vanilla and one half chocolate mixture for each cookie. (You can also add a teaspoon of peanut butter to the vanilla mixture to make marble black and white peanut butter cookies.)
  5. For lemon cookies use 1 teaspoon lemon extract and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Zest from one lemon optional, but delicious, and I like a good shake/dash of pumpkin spice.
  6. For chocolate chip cookies, use the vanilla recipe and add Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Morsels, the tiny ones. (You can also add chopped slivered almonds, and chopped dried mango is also fantastic. Any of those three ingredients, separate or together, are terrific.)

(There is also a more detailed almond meal-flour chocolate chip recipe here.)

For Newburyport’s LHD, Conspiracy Theories Just Don’t Fit

I totally agree with the P.Preservationist.  When it comes to advocating for Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) one cannot have a rational back and forth discussion with folks who bring in an expert from the John Birch Society, to explain a conspiracy theory about the United Nations (UN) hatching a social engineering plot about lowering the standard of living for all Americans, and linking that to historic preservation and a proposed Local Historic District in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  (I am not making this up, see previous post.)

Newburyport, Creepy is Us

It would be hard to make this stuff up. It appears that this is being fairly aggressively advanced by our own Newburyport Republican Committee.

An information session on Agenda 21 by leading expert, Hal Shurtleff (who is a member of the John Birch Society).

“Join Bill (Hudak) at the Newburyport RTC (Republican Town Committee) Meeting at Stripers (January 12, 2012 7:00pm – 9:00pm)  in Salisbury for an important information meeting regarding Agenda 21.

Throughout our Country, in MA, and right now in Newburyport, the rights of homeowners are under attack with increased momentum. This is not a coincidence. Please read below to learn about the factors that result in fewer property rights for families across America.

Agenda 21 has infiltrated Newburyport as well as hundreds of other towns. Elected Mayors and town officials are solicited and encouragement (often with taxpayer funded grants) to participate in the many Agenda 21 programs. These programs often come to a city with nice names like The Green Communities Act, Sustainable Development, and ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability). They result in mandates like stretch building codes and the mentality that accepts powerful local historic districts (my emphasis). These organizations appear locally driven, but they represent the coordination of local governments by global entities and the U.N. with social engineering as a true objective.

Mayors and city legislatures may not comprehend what they are endorsing when committing a city to an Agenda 21 Program. Regardless of the specific Agenda 21 program, citizens soon realize their choices become limited, homeowner rights are restricted, and they lose economic progress in their city.” The quote can be read here.

It would be hard for me to believe that any Democrat in my city of Newburyport would feel this way. The Republican website (Bill Hudak for US Congress) points to a website written by Rosa Koire for more information. Rosa Koire has also written exactly the same thing on another website.

“In a nutshell, the plan calls for governments to take control of all land use and not leave any of the decision making in the hands of private property owners.  It is assumed that people are not good stewards of their land and the government will do a better job if they are in control.  Individual rights in general are to give way to the needs of communities as determined by the governing body.  Moreover, people should be rounded up off the land and packed into human settlements, or islands of human habitation, close to employment centers and transportation.  Another program, called the Wildlands Project spells out how most of the land is to be set aside for non-humans.

U.N. Agenda 21 cites the affluence of Americans as being a major problem which needs to be corrected.  It calls for lowering the standard of living for Americans so that the people in poorer countries will have more, a redistribution of wealth.”

And this is being used as a way to fight against the proposed Local Historic District in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

For me this is beyond a “good grief.”

Editor’s note:  New York Times article, February 4, 1012, ”Activists Fight Green Projects, Seeing U.N. Plot,” here.

Party Affiliations in Local Newburyport Politics?

cartoonOk, it’s a little dated. I drew it back in September 2007 for the Newburyport Blog and I’m too lazy to draw another one. Paris Hilton, who?? Probably to be replace by Kim “let’s get divorced” Kardashian. And super-duper cutting coupons (boy, did I get flack for that one), now a major cable TV show. And “poverty,” is that on anyone’s radar anymore??

But the basic premise is the same. So little interest, much less overall civic passion, in our local Newburyport elections/governing stuff.

And it has been a goal of mine to try and make local government in some small way engaging. And, actually, not to brag, but to brag, someone actually told me that they became involved in Newburyport civic involvement because of The Newburyport Blog. I said to myself, “Say what?” But truth be told, a got a little teary, really, at making a difference in just one person’s life.

And I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the Newburyport Republican Committee’s decision, at least for this last election, to actively sponsor and support local Newburyport candidates. And their invitation to vote for 1 or 2 Newburyport City Council At-Large candidates, instead of all 5.

I would say, and I’ve run this by a fair amount of people, that this involvement and suggestion created a certain amount of anxiety in almost all the candidates running this week for Newburyport City Council At-Large, and also some odd version of hostility that I haven’t seen before. In Newburyport City politics, hostility has often been us –vast understatement (we’ve been referred mega times as “Cannibal City” after all), but it’s always been issues, and sometimes, sadly, personalities, but always non-partisan. And in the last few years, things have become more civil, to the point, where one often thinks that the calm almost drove the Undertoad to higher peaks.

This involvement and suggestion by the Newburyport Republican Committee, certainly created some buzz, at least for maybe 5%-1.5% of the Newburyport population. Whether to get party politics overtly involved in Newburyport elections, not illegal, not a crime, but a wise decision for the good of the City of Newburyport? One wonders. And if that decision stays, it will definitely create a new dynamic.

Newburyport, November Election, Heroes

As an electorate we want “heroes.” It’s one of the reasons that President Obama and Governor Deval Patrick got elected. But once real reality decisions start getting made on people’s real life, our “heroes” fall fast and far from the pedestal that the electorate put them on.

The voting public could project all sorts of things on Obama and Patrick while they were running for office, and when whatever that fantasy didn’t materialize, a big push down from that pedestal.

Sarah Palin is not stupid. Much easier to be a larger than life advocate than be governor, balance Alaska’s budget and get grief for it. Being an activist has its advantages over being a politician that actually has to do stuff.

So two things. Possibly the best thing that could happen to the country would be a Republican sweep this November, and then those Tea Party candidates would have to start making those hard, sometimes almost impossible decisions, and yup, you betcha, they will have feet of clay, and down from the pedestal they will go.

Or the Democrats could realize that our heroes are still heroes. It is far more heroic to try and do something about the state of the world then to speculate on it (bloggers have a much easier time over politicians–so does Sarah Palin).

The Democrats could embrace that President Obama is challenging the Pharisees, the hypocrites, the Republican party/the Tea Party (swiftly becoming one in the same), and turning over the money changing tables in Washington and on Wall Street.

The Democrats could start thinking of their president and themselves as Robin Hood, giving to the poor and the middle class, a noble undertaking. The Democrats could start acting as if they are proud of their accomplishments, instead of oozing an air of apology. We have our heroes. They are going through the fire, and yes, that’s one of the things had heroes do.

Newburyport, Election, Sarah Palin, Glen Beck–The Power of Myth

If you are a Democrat this November, be scared (and vote).

I’ve sat and watched this spring and summer as the Tea Party, Sarah Palin and Glen Beck have gone from, “Yeh, right,” to, “They are going to succeed and they aren’t going away.”

For the Tea Party, it goes way beyond, “Throw the bums out!” It goes way beyond that, it is a mission from God. Seriously. Somewhere on the Newburyport Blog I have a link to the video of Sarah Palin, in her church, and the “anointed” are “laying hands” on her, and asking for the power of the spirit to use and guide her.

(I know this world, I understand this world. In a distant part of my life, I married into this world. It’s one of the reasons Frankie Schaeffer and I are such good friends.)

It’s about abortion, for the conservatives it’s always been about abortion, and gays, because if the “homosexuals” takeover, in their minds, American becomes Sodom and Gomorrah, and is forever “damned.”

Sarah Palin isn’t a politician, she is Joan of Arc. She is mythic, leading the righteous to save the world. The Tea Party is not the Tea Party, it is David against Goliath. And yes, the Democrats are “Goliath.” And in the Old Testament, David stuck around for a long time.

The Democrats need to understand their own myth. Equal justice, Robin Hood. Obama as Robin Hood, the Democrats as his band of Merry Men and Women. Give to the poor and the middle class.

Or better yet, Obama as Christ in the Temple, overturning the tables of the money changers, the Democrats as a sea of apostles. Christ against the Pharisees. The Republicans being the Pharisees, the hypocrites.

Talking about policy isn’t going to help the Democrats in this last month before the election. They have got to understand what the Tea Party and Sarah Palin have so brilliantly accomplished and fight back with their own true power of myth.

Newburyport and Governing

One of my huge questions about President Obama, was yes, this is an intelligent man, yes, he could run one remarkable campaign, but, when push comes to shove (pun intended), could he govern?

And after Sunday’s historic vote on Health Care Reform, love it or hate it, the answer is in my mind, most definitely, “Yes.”

I was concerned that as a nation we had done something so historic by electing our first black president, that just that accomplishment alone would paralyze us from going forward. That after (and yes, probably during) the election of President Obama, there seems to me to be a blistering undercurrent of often collective unconscious racism, and could President Obama and the country move forward with this added obstacle.

And after our own Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown’s election, would President Obama still be as unrelenting in his quest of Health Insurance Reform?

I am moved and inspired by this remarkable and persistent accomplishment.

And one of the things that also concerned me, was that expectations for our new president were so high and unrealistic, that there was no way anyone could live up to those hopes and anticipations. It was a very long fall from the exceedingly high pedestal that he had been placed on.

Conversely, in Newburyport, MA what I have heard since the November election for Mayor of Newburyport, is that the expectations for Mayor Donna Holaday were low if non-existent. This perplexed me, but it has also worked in her favor, big time.

So many people have said to me that they are “surprisingly” impressed with our new mayor Donna Holaday. My response is always one of surprise, and I am delighted to not only reassure people that Donna Holaday, in my mind, is already one terrific mayor, but also to fill in some of the details in why I would think that.

And the question with any new mayor is for me, “Can they govern?” And my hope is that, yes, Donna Holaday would be able to govern Newburyport, MA in a remarkable way.

Newburyport, Meeting Governor Deval Patrick

I get a call asking me if I would like to meet Governor Deval Patrick at a small “meet and greet.” This meet and greet is to take place in a half an hour. Short notice. The caller thinks that this might “cheer me up.”

Why the caller would think I would need cheering up? Possibly my deep, abiding funk at losing Senator Kennedy’s seat to a Republican Scott Brown. Or the fact that it is February in Newburyport, New England.

I think, “What the heck. It would cheer you up. You’ve never met the Governor. It’s not snowing and it’s actually light outside.”

I look at what I am wearing, my artist painting attire, and quickly change into something slightly tidier. I figure if I keep my coat on, who’s to know? This does not exactly appear to be “black tie.” Nor does it appear that the “fashion police” are going to be about.

I make my way down to our historic Newburyport downtown, and realize, what can I say, I wasn’t paying that much attention to the phone call, that this is a campaign meet and greet for the Governor. Fine by me.

The Governor Patrick gets out of the car without a coat. I immediately would like him to have a coat. It’s freezing outside. This has no relevance. The Governor also is a lot shorter than I imagined him to be. This has no relevance. The Governor also has one firm handshake, and I wonder if I was a politician whether or not I would have a firm handshake as well. If I would do handshake strengthening exercises. Or if I would go the limp handshake route, thereby saving my handshake muscles. This has no relevance whatsoever.

There is a lot of talk among the “meet and greeters” that the Governor is in re-election trouble. Obviously the election of Republican Scott Brown has people spooked. There is talk of a feckless (I love that word, it was one of my father’s favorites) state and federal Democratic Party, that might throw the Governor to the proverbial wolves. There is talk that the Governor has made too many enemies. (Well, of course he’s made enemies, that’s what happens when hard choices are made during the governing process. Good grief.)

Ed Cameron, the organizer of all of this, is unflappable (another one of my father’s favorite words). He shepherds both his two young daughters and the gaggle of meet and greet with an astounding calm.

Ed Cameron can deliver. In charge of Newburport’s campaign to elect Governor Deval Patrick , he did a masterful job. And getting out the base for Martha Coakley, he was more than competent. Newburyport voted Democrat in the special election for the Massachusetts Senate seat. By a squeaker, Newburyport was a blue dot, surrounded by a red mass in Essex County. Ed Cameron is no one to be trifled with.

And even with the “mistakes” that Governor Deval Patrick may have made while governing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, good grief, I would not want to see another Republican Governor. My funk would be deep and possibly intractable.

Newburyport, et. al–One Step Back

Newburyport et. al (“et. al”=abrr Latin, et. alii=”and others”), “two steps forward and one step back.”

“Two steps forward and one step back,” according to Wikipedia, “Is a catchphrase reflecting on an anecdote about a frog trying to climb out of a water well; for every two steps the frog climbs, it falls back by one step, making its progress arduous.”

George loves this. George being one of the political consultants to the Newburyport Blog. Finally, after all this time a reference to “frogs.”


George extremely happy that frogs are once again being “taken seriously” on the Newburyport Blog.

George, btw, has been lobbying for his own “Fan Page” on Facebook, as the consultant to the Newburyport Blog. (I might just do it, to show him that his “fans” are most likely froggy few and far between.)

And for this “Liberal Democrat,” the election for the Massachusetts Senate seat is most definitely “one step back.” (A lot more than “one” step.)

And in my funk, (I am most definitely in a funk about the result of the Massachusetts special election), I’m thinking that the “two steps forward and one step back,” applies to almost every political attempt at progress, whether it is from a Liberal, Democrat, Republican, Progressive, Conservative, Rightwing, Independent, whatever point of view.

It’s just how stuff works. The Democrats made huge history, giant leap forward, with the election of an Afro-American president. In the cyclical nature of things, at least “one” step backwards probably could have been expected.

And in Newburyport, MA, the election of 2007 ushered in one of the most “progressive” Newburyport City Councils that I have ever seen. The mantra was for “hang on to your hats,” “full speed ahead” with a progressive agenda.

Election 2009, for a myriad of reasons, a progressive Newburyport Council, not so much. And why this should surprise me? It should not. In Newburyport, it has been my observation, that from whatever point of view, the path is never linear, it always seems to me to be, “two steps forward, one step back.”

Newburyport, Massachusetts Election Postmortem

Oy Vey.

I still haven’t calmed down. But Jon Stewart pretty much nails it for me in the segment the day before the “historic” Massachusetts senate race (a few things I disagree with, maybe more thoughts on that later).

The Massachusetts Election
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Mass Backwards
January 19, 2010

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Mass Backwards
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

And with all scathing criticism leveled at President Obama from the Right, Middle and Left, Jon Stewart also pretty much nails it for me on that subject as well.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Barack Obama is Not a Magic Negro

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The First 364 Days 23 Hours
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

Newburyport–Finding Out Where to Vote

People are trying to find out where to vote in Newburyport.

If you live in Newburyport and do not know where you go to vote, the Newburyport City Clerk has this link. Press HERE.

You just put in your street number, city/town, state and zip code.

It works for everyone in Massachusetts. It is from Secretary Galvin’s Office.

And vote for Martha Coakley, the Democrat (D).

Local Newburyport Political Leadership

I was watching Charley Rose last night, and he and the person that he was interviewing were talking about the nature of politics. The conclusion that they appeared to arrive at, and I am paraphrasing here, is that politics is yes, an ability to form sound political policy, but politics also involves “passion,” and “irrationality.” They were talking about national politics. But I would argue that those same principles, “sound policy,” “passion” and “irrationality” are also part of the local political process.

The Newburyport Daily News has endorsed James Shanley for mayor of Newburyport, MA. They were talking about how James Shanley’s proposal for Newburyport’s Central Waterfront (see earlier entries) makes “economic sense” and that Mr. Shanley’s “management of the City Council has been businesslike, respectful and efficient.”

What the Newburyport Daily News endorsement does not take into account is the “passion” and “irrationality” of local politics. And I would argue that the reason “the city has been unable to achieve (a solution to the issue of the Central Waterfront) in 41 years,” would not be for a lack of good ideas over the last 4 decades, but because this piece of land, for whatever reason, brings out tremendous “passion” and yes, forgive me, sometimes “irrationality.”

I think both candidates, Donna Holaday and James Shanley, would be very respectful, efficient and business like in their approach to the office of Mayor of Newburyport. However, having watched both candidates for any number of years now, I think Donna Holaday has a better grasp and a lot more tolerance for the “passion and irrationality” of Newburyport politics, which I would argue, would be a much underestimated and under-appreciated, but much needed quality in local political leadership.

To President Obama, “Why do People Hate You?”

One of the things that has floored me this summer is, to me, the irrational amount of “hate” displayed towards President Obama. It’s gotten so out of hand that it alarms many of us. My friend Frank Schaeffer, never one to be subtle or understated, is involved in a group called “Stop Domestic Terror.” It may seem a little over the top, but it works for me.

But what is certainly not over the top, is a question posed to the President of the United States by a 4th grader at a Town Hall Meeting at the University of New Orleans on October 15, 2009. The question to President Obama by Terence Scott, “Why do people hate you? They supposed to love you, and God is love.” Amen–and out of the “mouths of babes.”

You can read the whole story on CBS here. And see the video of the young man’s question and President Obama’s answer below.

Crazy Health Insurance Rate Hike

My health insurance this year goes up a whopping 37%. It is so high I weirdly feel embarrassed, instead of angry and outraged.

I am one of those people who basically gets to buy their health insurance “retail,” no bargaining power for moi.

Ed Cameron graciously tells me who to email on the Massachusetts State level, and I send Representative Harriett Stanley, the co-chair of the state’s Joint Committee on Health Care Financing an email and Cc it to Representative Mike Costello and State Senator Steven Baddour, my own Massachusetts state representatives. From the article in the
Newburyport Daily News
, it is quite evident that Harriett Stanley is well aware of my predicament and others like me, and is doing her dardest to do everything that she can to address the issue. But 37% ??

And, thank goodness one can no longer say that nobody is paying attention to the issue when the top guy, the President of the United States, is all over the place, talking about my exact problem. If President Barack Obama can’t pull this off, I am beyond sunk.

My health insurance sales rep has been great. She and I have worked together for almost a decade to try and get the best possible deal possible. We are now, after all these years, on a first name basis.

Two years ago a “deductible” health insurance plan was the answer. The deductible was high enough, however, that I didn’t go to the doctor (which may be the point of a high deductible??). Could Celiac/gluten free (see earlier entries) have been diagnosed sooner? Who knows. Last (health insurance calendar) year I said “To Hell with it, I’ll pay the stupid deductible,” and it turns out it was a good thing that I did.

This year to bring down the monthly cost, the deductible would be so off the charts that I would basically be paying for everything aside from very large medical bills. And the monthly premiums would not have been that much lower. The health insurance rep could think of nothing else to come up with, so 37%… beyond “Ouch.” And she was embarrassed about not being able to come up with anything except “pretty unacceptable.”

But, as I said to my health insurance rep, when my son will no longer be able to be on my health insurance plan, which is soon, in New York City he would pay roughly two and two-thirds (almost 3 times) more for the same quality of insurance that he is now getting in Massachusetts. My vow to my son is that I would make sure that he would always have health insurance. So, after much research, he will get a lesser product in the state of New York for “only” twice what he would pay in Massachusetts for a much better product. Triple “Ouch.” (This weirdly makes Massachusetts look not so bad.) One could only imagine how badly I would like health insurance reform to pass on the Federal level? Please, please, please.

Gluten Free–What?? in Newburyport

I open my mailbox, weeks ago, possibly now months ago, checking on when my last posting would be on the Newburyport Blog. There is a fat letter from my doctor. I cannot imagine what it could possibly be. Results from a lab test long since forgotten by moi. Apparently my body is silently destroying itself, ironically because of “comfort foods,” bread, cookies, pasta, crackers–stuff that contains something called “gluten.” I am immediately to go on something called a “gluten free diet.” Accompanying the lab results is a xeroxed list of all the things that are now “verboten.”

I, who always thought I was lucky enough to be born with the “skinny gene,” (see previous post on “shapewear”) actually have something called Celiac, a very unfortunate version of the “skinny gene.” And I who have never had to go on a diet in my life, now get to go on the diet from hell, from this point forth and forevermore, as long as I get to live. Apparently it is the only “cure” for Celiac disease, something that is nowhere close to being on my radar screen.

I immediately sit down to my trusty computer and look up “gluten free” and “Celiac.” Viola, it turns out that one of the grocery stores in Newburyport, MA carries a whole “gluten free” section. I immediately drive North from my abode, and low and behold, there it is, gluten free bread, cookies–I say to myself, “I’ll start with those.” One taste of these gluten free “treats,” out they go, $$ down the garbage hole. (Apparently I am far from alone in this initial outing and response.) I cannot bring myself to go from soft, fluffy bread and crunchy crackers to stuff that has the consistency of sand.

The Newburyport Blog has taught me how to research, and research I do, for weeks, now going on months. My initial research shows that gluten appears to be everywhere, chicken broth, soy sauce, liquorish, cereals, sunscreen, make-up, toothpaste, pudding, gravy, hot cocoa, just to name a few. And I am overwhelmed.

However, it also appears that I not only have a “wicked smart” doctor who has picked up this once possibility, but there is also now a budding gluten free awareness in the USA, and the beginnings of a huge gluten free industry, even as hospitals madly do research in this under-researched item.

And weeks, yes, maybe months after receiving “the letter,” I am not only grateful that this weird thing is not something much, much worse, like a “three months to live” sort of thing, and I am coming out of shock enough to once again post something on the Newburyport Blog.

Fear and Politics

A friend of mine said that they were concerned that the Republicans did not fear President Obama. I get what they were saying, we were talking about the difficult job of governing, i.e. getting things done on a political level.

The Bush-Cheney years were certainly governed by fear, not that we as a nation weren’t terrified, after 9/11–we were. But it always felt as if we as a nation were being manipulated by fear into complying with the Bush–Cheney agenda–those terror alerts being raised from yellow to orange on a regular basis, certainly enough to scare yours truly.

And as a Newburyport blogger I stopped blogging about national politics after realizing that Homeland Security visited my small blog on a regular basis, and that certain key words brought more intense scrutiny. I would imagine since some of those key words are used in this blog post, I will get some extra visits (I hope they actually read it).

I figured it was better to blog about local Newburyport politics and local Newburyport events, risking the wrath of local folks and politicians, rather than being confronted by a faceless Bush–Cheney delegation, which sadly turns out not to be the least bit paranoid on my part.

Governing by fear does not even appear to be part of President Obama’s disposition (I hope I’m not being naïve here). It often seems to me that President Obama approaches governing the way one would approach raising a child. First reach out and attempt a reasoned approach. If that doesn’t work on the wayward child, no spanking, but time out, and whatever needs to be done for the good of the family, gets done without drama, hysteria or threats.

This is a new dichotomy, the language of which seems untranslatable to his detractors. Reaching out is seen as weak. Helping the less fortunate is seen as Socialist or worse, Communist (the PBS documentary on Russia and Poland–”Behind Closed Doors–Unlikely Friends,” might be a good reminder of what cruel and mindless Communism was actually like–hardly President Obama’s agenda).

President Obama treats his detractors as unruly children. He is “disappointed” in them. And as a parent and a daughter I always found that a parent’s “disappointment” was far more powerful in the long run than an attitude of “spare the rod and spoil the child,” a phrase that I know many on the conservative religious Right adhere to.

A Nation That Tortured

Torture, descriptions of torture, pictures of torture, pushback that torture isn’t that bad, complete and over the top overreaction by the media to the swine flu, leaving millions anxious and panicked has left me dispirited and somewhat speechless.

I like what Jon Stewart said on the Daily Show, just when he was beginning to feel comfortable about a possibility of an economic turnaround, hysteria by the media about a strain of flu that might not be any worse than any other strain of the flu.

And the animosity towards the efforts by President Obama floor me. After 9/11 the Democrats, however reluctantly, did rally around then President Bush, to show that America was united. Will the whack jobs on the Right (and yes, even on the Left) give our president any credit for tackling the worse economic nightmare since the Great Depression? Anyone who did not back then President Bush was seen as anti-American. In my book, there are a whole lot of anti-American citizens in the year 2009 in the United States of America. Shame on them.

Friends of mine returned from India, helping the poor there. We are darn lucky to live in the United States of America, and sometimes it just feels as if we are a childish, ungrateful people, who love gossip and criticism, and crisis that has no basis in reality. Not to mention we were a nation that tortured.