If you live with a vegetarian on Passover and you also happen to be allergic to nuts, the week’s meals quickly become oppressively similar. And so, when I learned that several respected kosher authorities have declared quinoa to be not only the ancient “wonder grain” of the Andes, but also fit for consumption on the holiday of Passover, I thought it time to celebrate.
E.B. White, the lyrical New Yorker writer and children’s book author, knew a thing or two about heroes, especially the unsung kind. He knew the power of the small, yet profound, human gesture, the tender mercies extended from one person to another in need. And he suggested that in the realm of human relations, only one metaphor really mattered: the web. Our differences aside, we are all tethered to one another, as if to a web, tied by invisible — even mystical — strands. Heroes understand this more clearly than the rest of us.
The elderly Jews are gone now, the ones who carried their Yiddish cadences and stories of the rag trade and the Old Country with them down to the tip of Miami Beach. Throughout the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s and even into the ‘80s, they sat in rickety, rainbow-striped folding chairs on the warm sand, sweet Atlantic breezes tousling their white hair. Or they sat on the front porches of the many small Art Deco-style hotels and apartment buildings they called home in their autumn years, whiling away the hours in their Southern shtetl.
In a high-lonesome twang right out of the piney woods of the Ozarks, rock and roll Americanist Levon Helm sings of “a sorrow in the wind / blowin’ down the road I’ve been / I can hear it cry while shadows steal the sun.” Helm was the soulful, Arkansas-raised drummer in the pioneering ‘60s roots rock group The Band, and the song is an old gospel tune “Wide River to Cross” on his new CD, “Dirt Farmer.” It’s a prayer, really, a poignant hymn to loss but also a declaration that life rambles on, that “I’m only halfway home,