Monadnock Int’l Film Fest: High Culture in a Resurgent Town

Kyle Gilman with Kyle Turgeon, Jeff Stern

Kyle Gilman with Kyle Turgeon, Jeff Stern

We were honored to drive one of the artists to a local film festival held in Keene New Hampshire today.  Kyle Gilman is Mary’s son, and a well regarded film and video editor who lives with his wife Maggie in Brooklyn.

Maggie Lehrman wrote the film that we would be watching today, a 12-minute drama called Strange Past.

It’s a simple story of four friends in a bar who watch as things pull them apart.  Kyle said on a panel that he doesn’t like directing, and most of all, if it means directing himself.  The film was dark yet had a glimmer of humor in how the characters interacted with each other.

Shorts are always a little less predictable and explainable than features. That’s definitely the appeal, and why MONIFF decided to have two long sessions devoted to the short film. Other films we enjoyed today were one about a man who tells a very long narrative rhyming poem/story as we watch his subject, his 3-year-old-son, live the filmmaker’s own life following a guy dressed up like an owl, a life-size version of his child’s ‘lovey.’

Then a cartoon and animation mashup about an incident in a Montreal high school where motorcycle gang hoods showed up at a school dance and the principal was tasked with defending his charges. This one was hilarious, fast paced and sophisticated.

Then a tale from France about Iranian lifeguards who are vying to represent the country in a competition in Switzerland, animated and poignant.

Another film was set in Cuba where a young American couple visit the island and during dinner,  try to get over the awkwardness of the crazy economy of the island nation…where a woman they’re taking to dinner earns just $20 a month and there are two separate currencies. She explains that everyone in the country makes the same terrible low wage, and we see how complex it is when parallel systems make one envious of the other, yet still very proud. It’s hard to believe this was just a 17-minute film, as with all of the rest I quickly became engrossed and the time slows way down.

Amazing what you can do with a few minutes of good acting.

The final short was called Rabbit and told a brief tale of an inmate who is entrusted with the care and feeding of a pet rabbit to keep her company in her cell. A tough woman who finally softens, this was a sad tale.

After the fest we walked around the town in an area of Keene that was once a brownfield, an industrial section right near the town center.  “A railroad ran right through here,” said Ben Robertson, 46, an actor who lives in town. He said he’s sold his car, which to a New Englander is a bold step indeed. He rents a car when he needs to get down to Boston or New York for an audition.  He loves it up here and he’s on the festival’s board of directors.

Ben said that Keene has become a very popular retirement location, and there are many senior apartments right downtown, and everything is walkable.  Sounds like the city of tomorrow!

 

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It’s Great to Hear from an Old Boss, Who Is Now a Friend

I got a bolt out of the blue today, an email from a guy I worked for from 1996-2002.  Frank was a good boss, he knew what the important things were and what really mattered. He had to balance a family dynamic with a powerful older brother but he always stood his ground and I felt that I got everything I needed when I was a salesperson for their company.  He used to say that there are two things you impress people with when you’re a salesperson asking for business–your shoes and your watch. Since that day I’ve shunned wearing sneakers and always wear a good watch. Just in case.

I left their company in 2002 and went to work for the competition, selling the same things to many of the same customers. I’m sure that didn’t go over well, but then again, Frank never took anything personally, so maybe we just needed a passage of time.  I haven’t spoken with him since I stormed out of their offices back in ’02. But I always try to remain friendly and on good terms with people who I worked for, so I was open and ready.

He sent me a clip about a guy who we both knew out on Martha’s Vineyard. A sort of sad tale about bankruptcy and the passage of time.  Frank knew that I would be interested and shared it. I later replied and found out in our emails that his tiny tots were now aged 16 and 13. And he was happy to recently celebrate his 20th year of marriage to his sweetheart. Wow!

Then I told him about my ten and six-year old grand kids, and how fortunate I am to live nearby.  It was great to hear from him again and I know that my old adage about keeping up friendships and never burning bridges is more sensible than ever as I get older. No room for that, and plenty of room for lunch and breakfast meetings and face to face conversation. I hope to meet up with Frank for lunch soon.

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Great Falls Harvest Is a Delicious Friendly Place!

Great Falls Harvest: Cozy and intimate in hip Turners Falls.

Great Falls Harvest: Cozy and intimate in hip Turners Falls.

great falls harvest 2We had a really delicious dinner tonight at Great Falls Harvest, a small family restaurant in Turners Falls.  What did we love?    Both of our entrees, one was a roasted beef shank with a big pile of broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, bacon and cheese.  I had the roasted tofu atop rice with coconut, lots of veggies and slices of seaweed. It was savory, distinctive and better than anything I’ve had at  a restaurant for months.

We chatted up our waitress, who turned out to be one of the owners Bridgette Chaffee, and it was fun to be able to talk to the owner and hear her enthusiasm for the food we were being served.  We learned from a staff member that both women used to live in central Mass, she in Templeton, and Bridgette in Barre. A couple sitting near us said they were heading up to Deja Bru in Wendell. We gave them directions and talked about where they live, in Petersham.

Great Falls Harvest presents simple, natural and delicious food, it was a joy to find such a great combination of cozy, tasty and reasonable prices at one unpretentious little restaurant in downtown Turners Falls.   We capped off our night next door at the Rendezvous, where it always feels like the right place at the right time. Great Falls Harvest, Third St. Turners Falls

 

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Time to Turn to the Yard and Get Overdue Tasks Done

Yesterday I got some help in my yard. It was good to be outside in the sun, and getting to little tasks that have pestered me for so many years felt great.  There are always those tasks you never find time to get to–but this time I had my son-in-law with lots of time on his hands so I got him to come over and help me out.

First we set out to fix the ramp going up into the shed in my yard.  Without a gutter water has streamed down the side of the little wooden building so it was rotted out.  We removed the rotted boards and screwed a big piece of wood at the bottom so we could attach new boards to act as a loading ramp.  Then Francisco moved the clasp so that instead of having to keep the door closed with a leaning board, it would actually clasp.  Sweet!

Then it was time to attack the garden.  Peeling back the black plastic and the remains of some of last year’s plants showed that many of them were still locked in ice just inches from the surface.  You should see how hard we pulled on the old Brussels sprouts–and they wouldn’t come out.

I have big plans on expanding my garden this year, and in the way was an old iron pole, anchored in cement in the ground.  We dug down and around and rocked the massively heavy cemented pole until it leaned over.  We tugged and tugged and finally dragged it out of the earth. With the pole moved, now we had room to double the size of the garden. Spring progress!

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Louisiana in Pictures: From Baton Rouge to Lafayette

This is a land where every meal comes with a king-sized dessert.

This is a land where every meal comes with a king-sized dessert.

Dan Chasen, security chief at Duck Commanders Warehouse, shows us their patented duck calls.

Dan Chasen, security chief at Duck Commanders Warehouse, shows us their patented duck calls.

Chef Pandarina Soumas demonstrates how she fries okra at the Sainte Terre event and wedding venue in Benton, Louisiana.

Chef Pandarina Soumas demonstrates how she fries okra at the Sainte Terre event and wedding venue in Benton, Louisiana.

Reenactors in Nachitoches at the Fort St Jean Baptiste.

Reenactors in Nachitoches at the Fort St Jean Baptiste.

Dana Wicks, the 2015 captain of the Krewe of Centaur in Shreveport.

Dana Wicks, the 2015 captain of the Krewe of Centaur in Shreveport.

Captain Tom Billiot of Cajun Pride Swamp Tours in LaPlace, Louisiana, with a young gator.

Captain Tom Billiot of Cajun Pride Swamp Tours in LaPlace, Louisiana, with a young gator.

Rural Life Museum and Windrush Gardens, Baton Rouge.

Rural Life Museum and Windrush Gardens, Baton Rouge.

An eager raccoon in the Manshack Swamp, in La Place.

An eager raccoon in the Manshack Swamp, in La Place.

The futuristic Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History museum in Natchitoches.

The futuristic Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History museum in Natchitoches.

Gator  on the Creole Nature Trail All American Road.

Gator on the Creole Nature Trail All American Road, where 15,000 of the animals live happily.

 

Thomas Whitehead, an art historian, with Clementine Hunter's murals which were recently installed in the Northwest Louisiana History museum.

Thomas Whitehead, an art historian, with Clementine Hunter’s murals which were recently installed in the Northwest Louisiana History museum.

A rate snake on the Creole Nature Trail, near Lake Charles.

A rate snake on the Creole Nature Trail, near Lake Charles.

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Antoine’s: New Orlean’s Oldest Business Turns 175

Antoine's Restaurant, more than 175 years in New Orlean's French Quarter.

Antoine’s Restaurant, more than 175 years in New Orlean’s French Quarter.

Rick Blount is clearly pleased to be where he is today.  We met the CEO and fifth generation proprietor of Antoine’s at one of their private dining rooms yesterday where they were marking the momentous occasion of having been open since 1840.  That’s quite an accomplishment in a city that’s seen so many legendary businesses and restaurants come and go amid flood and recession.  Rick enjoyed sharing his story with the crowd, and later with me as we talked about the challenges and the big staff in the busy restaurant.

Waiters at Antoine’s often come from the same families. A proud tradition of nepotism is common, with a father, then a son, a nephew and then a family friend. One of our waiters in crisp tuxedos and bowtie said he ‘had only been there 15 years.”   Customers often call up and make reservations and request their favorite servers, who can earn princely sums for this very respected professional waiter career.

Rick Blout, CEO of Antoine's Restaurant, shares his story in one of their many private dining rooms.

Rick Blout, CEO of Antoine’s Restaurant, shares his story in one of their many private dining rooms.

Blount started getting in the the way in the kitchen back in 1973,  popping in as an owner’s kid, and then he left the family business to get involved with businesses like yacht brokering and real estate for a few decades. But then his grandfather passed on. And the family looked at him in 2005 and said, ‘well if you know so much why don’t YOU run it?”  So that’s how he came back with his wife to run this venerable institution.

Rick said that there are still huge problems underneath the French Quarter, and though Katrina was the event that caused the most upheaval, the infrastructure down below is barely able to function with so many people visiting and living here. And he said that so many people he’s met after 2005 reacted with outright dismay that the government was going to have to pay for much of the clean-up. “They send billions to California and to countries around the world, but people really got mad about having to help out New Orleans, as if we didn’t deserve it.”

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