Tag Archives: Long Island

It’s Walt Whitman’s 196th Birthday! …Or a Post that Includes References to President Lincoln and Bon Jovi

31 May

WaltBirthplace

Here I am in 2013 standing outside Walt Whitman’s Birthplace State Historic Site and Interpretive Center in Long Island.

Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, in Huntington, Long Island. He’s best known for Leaves of Grass. American schoolchildren are probably most familiar with the poem “O Captain! My Captain!” from the poetry collection. Written in 1865 and not included in Leaves of Grass until the fourth edition, the poem is about the death of President Abraham Lincoln.

There’s so much more to Whitman than that, though.

Walt Whitman is a complex and endlessly fascinating figure of the American poetry scene. He is regarded as the father of free verse poetry. He was also a reporter. He wrote a temperance novel: Franklin Evans (1842). He didn’t believe that all the works attributed to Shakespeare were actually Shakespeare’s. (Hm… what would Miguel Algarin say?) He at first called for the abolition of slavery … and then later thought the movement was a threat to democracy. He’s been inducted into the Legacy Walk, which celebrates LGBT history and people. He passed away in Camden, and the Garden State claimed him in the New Jersey Hall of Fame; that same year (2009), fellow literary luminaries William Carlos Williams and F. Scott Fitzgerald were inducted in the category of “general” while Whitman was inducted in the category of “historical.” (Jon Bon Jovi was one of the inductees honored in the category “arts and entertainment.) Andrew Carnegie said Whitman was “the great poet of America so far.”

“So far.”

Has any other “great poet of America” come along who has taken Whtiman’s place? It’s difficult to say, but this week we’ll be honoring the Good Gray Poet and talking about the poets that have been inspired by him.

Yep! You guessed it. The Beats.

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Happy 92nd Birthday, Jack Kerouac!

12 Mar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAphoto I took two years ago at Kerouac’s birth home when I attended Lowell Celebrates Kerouac

On a Sunday in winter, Jean-Louis Kerouac was born to Leo and Gabrielle Kerouac in Lowell, Massachusetts. He was the baby of the family, the youngest of three, and his French-speaking family called him Ti Jean, or Little John.

It was March 12, 1922. Warren G. Harding, a Republican, was president and had just introduced radio to the White House the month before. Women had received the right to vote two years prior to that, but even the month before Kerouac was born the Nineteenth Amendment was still being challenged in court — a fact important to understanding the gender politics in which Kerouac grew up.

James Joyce’s Ulysses was first published that year by Sylvia Beach in Paris, and the experimental novel would impact Kerouac’s own writing. Kerouac himself would grow up to become the voice of his generation, the Beat Generation, a generation that had been born around the time of the Great Depression, that had seen the destruction of World War II and lost many friends and loved ones, that had faced a repressive government. Kerouac remains a startlingly refreshing voice even today, reminding readers to observe the sparkles in the sidewalk, to embrace life over possessions, to blaze their own paths.

KerouacCakephoto I took at Kerouac’s birthday bash last year at the Northport Historical Society

Tasty Tuesday: Pindar Pythagoras Wine, Greek American Wine from Long Island

15 May

 

Since my thesis was due on a Monday, there wasn’t much opportunity for celebrating.  Instead, I went home after a normal day of work, ate leftover spaghetti and opened a bottle of wine I’d been saving.

Last summer I had gone wine tasting at a couple vineyards on Long Island and picked up a bottle from Pindar Vineyards.  I’d been saving it for a special occasion and thesis submission seemed as good as time as any to crack it open.

The bottle I had picked up surprisingly wasn’t one that I had sampled at the vineyards so I didn’t know what to expect.  I picked it out for its name, Pythagoras.

Pythagoras (ca. 570 BC – 495 BC) was a Greek philosopher and mathematician from Samos, an island in the eastern Aegean Sea.  He later moved out of Greece an into Calabria, in southern Italy, where he lived in a Greek colony called Croton, by the Ionian Sea.  He is, of course, the founder of the Pythagorean theorem.   He set up a school in which music, sports, and diet were important elements.  This would go on to influence Plato.  There’s also a religion associated with Pythagoras, who believed in reincarnation.

The Pythagoras Pindar wine is a Greek wine, but not in the traditional sense.  It is not made in Greece but rather by Greek Americans on the North Fork on Long Island, New York.  Pindar Vineyards was founded by Dr. Herodotus “Dan” Damianos, who was born in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen.  He began buying farmland in Peconic, North Fork, Long Island, in 1979, and started planting grapes the following year.  Today, seventeen different varieties of grapes grow on Pindar Vineyard’s 500 acres.

One of the special aspects of Pindar Vineyards is its commitment to environmental stewardship.  The vineyard practices sustainable agriculture.  You can read about its green initiative on its website.  It’s really quite impressive.

Dr. Dan drew his inspiration for winemaking from the Robert Louis Stevenson quote “wine is like poetry.”  It seems fitting that I should enjoy a wine inspired by literature as a celebration to turning in my thesis.

The Pindar Pythagoras is a red table wine.  It is light with a deliciously spicy bite.  While some reds coat your tongue with sinewy grapes, the Pythagoras has more of a white wine texture.  Delicate and effortless, it’s a good summer red.  Its buoyancy does not mean it’s watery though.  It’s flavorful, with a bit of a kick to it.

Here’s how Pindar describes the Pindar Pythagoras:

This special red was first crafted to celebrate our 20th anniversary. It has the round and full characteristics of Merlot with the slight herbaceousness of Cabernets. This award-winning blend has been named “Best US Red Blend” by the Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago and “Best Red Vinifera” in Vineyard & Winery Management’s “Best of the East” competition. Sure to please a wide range of palates.

It’s a good wine to round out a pasta dish with olives in it or some sinfully dark chocolate.

If you’re here in New York, you can purchase it online, but why not take a day trip to Long Island?  You can rent a car or take the Hampton Jitney bus.  It’s a great getaway from Manhattan.