PechaKucha Night

“Whose coat is this?”

“Mine,” I say, to the thin, grey-haired woman marking the chairs on either side with various winter accoutrements.  “Oh, sorry.  I went to get a glass of wine.”

Another woman, coming up behind me, leans over and says, “It’s alright Sandy, I’ll sit on the end.”

“Are you sure?” I ask.  “I can slide down so you and your friends can sit together.”

“No, dear, we’ll all be friends by the end of the night,” she declares, smiling.  “Hi, I’m Georgeanne.”

And so my first PechaKucha commences.

Born in Tokyo in 2003,  PechaKucha, which means ‘chit chat’ in Japanese, is the brainchild of two designers who wanted an efficient yet lively forum to present their work and new ideas, as well as mingle and network.  Each presenter gets to show 20 slides for 20 seconds apiece, and share their passion with the audience.  The concept has taken off worldwide, and there are now events in hundreds of cities.  I have the good fortune to attend one just down the road in Thomaston, at Watts Hall Auditorium with an overflowing crowd – just another example of the creative economy’s momentum, even, or especially, in Midcoast Maine, far from any dense urban locale.

The room is a who’s who of local talent and leadership, and is enthusiastically  emceed by Senator Chris Rector, an amiable man with strong local ties and support.  (I hope he takes kindly to my letter opposing the Governor’s environmental hatchet job).  Eight people take center stage over the course of an hour, and the topics range from texturally sculpted forms (Jacques Vesery) to equatorial coffee-picking (Yvonne Smith, Roaster at Rock City Coffee) to the history of women in Champagne (Jane Barnes, wine pro and partner on the Schooner, Stephen Taber).

(Sculptures by Jacques Vesery)
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While the presenters are both oral and visual storytellers, their styles swing from scripted to off the cuff.  Peter Digirolamo, soapmaker at Trillum Soaps, is cheeky as he flips leaf-shaped notecards downstage à la David Letterman after reading winter-related haikus from each one, while colorful slides of almost-pretty-enough-to-eat soap blocks charm us.  Elizabeth Greenberg, Director of Education at the highly regarded Maine Media College in Rockport, waxes poetic about memory and nostalgia while her ephemeral photographs seduce us with their dreaminess and longing.

Abbie Read, Artist and Garden Designer

There’s more than a glimpse at rich and interesting lives behind the cross section of those gathered and my view of all the resources tapping away here is blown wide open.  I learn how Maine coastal and island communities are leaders in US alternative energy solutions from Suzanne Pude, Community Energy Director at the Island Institute as she shares documentary-style scenes of wind turbine installations on Vinalhaven Island in Penobscot Bay.

Vinalhaven

photo by Karen Oakes, Vinalhaven resident

The action is equally compelling on either side of me, perched on folding chairs.  To my left I meet a longtime local newspaper columnist, Georgeanne, who covers the Home and Garden beat, among other newsworthy topics and after inquiring about my earlier life in restaurants, fills me in on all the best tables from Belfast to Rockland.  On my right is Sandy, who I learn is a caterer and massage therapist, just another one of those cool, many-hat-wearing personalities tucked into towns with names like Friendship, Owl’s Head, and Port Clyde (formerly Herring Gut, not the most appealing moniker in Vacationland).  I take her number down right away – a good masseuse should always be on speed dial.  I’m beginning to think that vibrant isn’t just a word reserved for downtowns and springtime – because smack dab in the middle of what might seem like nowhere I find a hotbed of creativity, vitality and homespun community, with an open bar and no posturing.

Like flipping through a guidebook to the Renaissance Lifestyles of the Self-Reliant and Visionary, my first PechaKucha cheers me with its generosity and lack of pretentious agenda.  A roomful of strangers is just a group of friends I haven’t met yet, and I leave with a couple new ones already.  Who says there’s nothing going on in February?

Pecha Kucha Night

 

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Ode to Kenmore

It’s not a mere appliance to me; it’s a Temple of Corporeal Transmogrification, a kind of gastronomic tattoo parlor where I enter sapped and hungry, and emerge energized.  It’s like my God Jar, my box o’ buff body dreams, stocked with the amino acids and omega 3’s of the indestructible soon-to-be me, the one I proclaimed would recover its optimal weight, strength and yogic flexibility by year’s end.  It’s my refrigerator and I am kneeling at its altar.  Scrubbing it out.

I didn’t always have such a soft spot for it.  Growing up, cleaning ours out was one of the least-liked chores, more often outsourced to our friends who for some strange reason relished climbing in and purging it.  Maybe it was the subversive peek into our dietary secrets or just a contest to see who could find the oldest expiration date.  Even now, when we visit home for the holidays, my sister and I marvel at the 23 jars of mustard & 14 kinds of cheese, and wonder how long it’ll take the styrofoam box to biodegrade behind the cans of V8.  But who among us hasn’t been guilty of icebox neglect at some point?  I can almost identify the particular penicillin strain in that Chinese to-go box in the back of mine.

But now my soft spot has gotten a little too soft around the middle, and I’m redefining the frozen Lean Cuisine model of my 80’s childhood to a more streamlined, whole grain version. Not an extreme makeover, as I’ve been in a beans & greens trajectory for years, but it’s time to give the fridge an enema, a cooler colonic to clean out what poisons may be lurking on the bottom shelf.

This morning’s date with Mr. Clean rejuvenated the big white box.  Inventoried, purified and reorganized,  it’s now full of yummy goodness, nary a sugary snack in sight.  There’s chard and freshly soaked yellow eye beans, a jar of red cabbage sauerkraut (biodynamic), oyster mushrooms, scallions & miso for soup, the best cider you’ll ever sip (Ricker Hill, local), and, I’m happy to say Dad, that there’s only 4 jars of mustard.  The drawers are full of crunchy veggies I’ve been shaving into salads on my Muji mandoline and Bob’s Red Mill (flax, rolled oats, wheat bran, cornmeal) has taken up whole shelf residence.  Best part, chilling in the door: a couple of bottles of vintage bubbly – because I sense there’ll be lots of celebrating in my near future!

All the lovin’ isn’t reserved for the interior – I create a visual bonanza on the outside, too – all good houses of worship are welcoming so I curate the door like an artful gallery – affirmations like “I’M LIVING THE LIFE I IMAGINED” to “THE UNIVERSE REWARDS ME FOR TAKING RISKS ON ITS BEHALF” greet my ravenous self.  There are photos of my nephew (who makes my heart melt, which is what I want the excess lbs to do) and of gorgeous landscapes that remind me of the inherent beauty in all things natural.  There’s a ticket stub to that Michael Franti concert where I sweated & bounced like a pogo stick last summer and a red, handmade, save-the-date card for the Iowan wedding-in-a-barn with the delicious roasted goat. There’s even one of my first watercolors, a postcard of a ripe Anjou pear.

Now, even before I open the door, I am uplifted, buoyant with good spirits, which is just how I want to feel before the Commencement of Nourishment.  Like setting the table with your wedding porcelain and lighting delicate tapers for romance, I want my edibles to be given as much care as the farmers who grew them.  I may have inherited a full-pantry sensibility, so my fridge won’t ever look spartan, but my Shrine of Healing is bursting with all nutritious ingredients to transform me back into the SEXY, ROBUST, GREEN GODDESS I know I am.

Now where did I put that yoga mat?

Words By Anonymous, Jenny Holzer, And Sarah Palin

Construction Wall, NYC

I’d like to get to know a little about you, dear reader, so here’s my version of a Rorschach test:  What response does this picture elicit?  What’s more significant, the words or the format?  Is this graffiti or art?  Do you care who wrote it?

Portland Museum of Art, Jenny Holzer Exhibit, 2010

We now live in a world where remaining anonymous is easy – there are many outlets to express ourselves without revealing our identities. Do you demand an author take full responsibility for their words?  Are there instances,  perhaps in the comments section of the New York Times or some other online forum, when you don’t own up yourself?

And when we do sign our names, where do freedom of speech and personal responsibility intersect?  Can we place blame for how words and messages are interpreted?  We cannot deny the power of our voice.

What is truth and what is propaganda?  And who among us is innocent?

Poetry by Wisława Szymborska, Projection by Jenny Holzer, 2010, Portland Museum of Art

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