Archive for April, 2012

When is a purse a pig?  Can they ever be both at the same time?  Those are questions a reader must avoid to enjoy The Lady In Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Block-Bauer, by Anne-Marie O’Connor.  This is a story that begins in the high culture of Vienna at the end of the twentieth century only to fall to the swinish Austrian appetite for all things Nazi, and the butchery of their own Jewish citizens, to their unrepentant rewriting of their own history as Hitler’s first victims.  We follow the total destruction of Vienna’s Jewish elite including the extended family of Adele Block-Bauer, and then the long fight of survivors to receive the smallest of compensation from the new Austria.  O’Connor’s story ends with the restoration and sale of Portrait of Adele Block-Bauer. 

You will not learn much about Gustav Klimt as an artist or The Secession as an artistic movement in Vienna, but you will learn about the social and cultural life of Vienna the Austrians with the help of the Nazis destroyed.  You will learn how the nation, once defeated, sought to retain the artistic treasurers it had gained while dancing with the Nazis.

It is good Austria has the Strauss waltzes and Vienna confectionary so there is something for guests to enjoy.  Perhaps they could bring back the military uniforms of the Hapsburg Empire; now those were uniforms to make you want to dance.  Charles Marlin

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Hail to the chef, The Cricket Inn on Rt 322 between the Marianne Estates and Shippenville PA is a great soup-and-sandwich shop.  For the old timers, it’s where Judy’s Motel once stood, that later became The Keg & Crate, and then burned down.  The Cricket is in a section of the old motel, with bright yellow doors.

Dave Woolslayer, graduate of Clarion University and Community College of Allegheny County, opened last June, and keeps hours 7 to 7, Tuesday through Saturday.  You can order takeout at 782-3355, but you will miss the fun of eating in.  The decor has a little bit of everything for a friendly, funny atmosphere.  Just when have you dined under Picasso’s Guernica?  Never, I bet.  If you plan ahead, he does cakes and pies to order.

I can personally attest to the tasty Crabby Club that could hold its own on the East coast.  I also enjoyed the Grilled Meatloaf sandwich on dark, marble bread with spicy Dijon mustard.  I have had three of his own soups: Potato, Ham & Pea, and Mulligatawny, each excellent.

If you really plan ahead you can order the Cricket Special.  The organic, cage free crickets are shipped live, dipped in a very light batter, then lowered into hot oil with an Asian strainer for less than a minute.  I am not allowed to say how he lifts the fragile cluster out of the strainer on to paper towels and then to an arranged bed of fancy lettuce on a presentation plate, dressed with drizzled pomegranate sauce.  If there are crickets separate from the cluster, they are arranged as though guarding the cluster.



If you like to eat in local spots where you know who does the cooking and serving, you can talk to the big one who brings your minus because the big one is Dave.  Charles Marlin

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This week our federal government settled a number of Indian tribal lawsuits for $1.023 billion because the Interior and Treasury Departments mismanaged and abused tribal assets, proving what most of us know, Indian rights, Indian reservations, and Indian identity are profoundly troubling history for the United States.  When we do something right it is an exceptional wonder.  We would all be helped, Indians and non-Indians, if we understood more about the past and most importantly the present.

As luck would have it, I just finished reading a great primer, Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life, by David Treuer.  Treuer is a novelist, although in this book he blends personal and family biography with Indian history and contemporary Indian culture to explain life on the Indian  reservations in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  The early pages are slow going until the narrative becomes more personal for the author, by then the reader knows his family, his friends, and their individual and common struggles.  Nothing past or present is sugar-coated or excused for anyone, non-Indian or Indian.

This is non-fiction written with the narrative flair of a novelist, enjoyable and informative.  Even the rez pictures are candid.  Charles Marlin

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