Maria and I were now into the second week of Wintersession at RISD. It was almost mid January, 1977 which was the beginning of a particularly bitter winter. With a major focus of my time centered on my degree project I had filled page upon page with ideas and notes adding to what I had already worked on first semester. I transitioned from a general idea to something specific: water. Water symbolized an element that could be seen in so many contexts and states ranging from life essential drinking water to deadly beach riptides, and so forth.
Below is just a fraction of the notes I made up to this point in time starting from back in September. I had time on my side and I wrote down anything that came to mind. Nevertheless, I still did not have the final "product" in mind at this point, but I felt I was now much closer.
As noted in the story above, a sampling of my notes related to my degree project from first semester and the first two weeks of January:
On the domestic front, Maria (pronounced like Mariah) and I tried our hands at some new recipes in the previous two weeks and there continued to be a wonderful feeling about working together on these dishes which had now been our routine since the earlier part of the first semester. Probably not surprising, we still hadn't used the pasta machine I brought to school after Thanksgiving break. It seemed so easy to buy fresh pasta on Federal Hill when we were already there buying other food every week.
The first two recipes that I ever made the year before on a "solo" basis from the cookbook Diet for a Small Planet:
Whole Wheat Quick Bread
From my cooking notes from January, '77 I noted that we prepared the following recipes that we had never tried before from the same cookbook:
Fettuccine al Marco
Easy Mexican Pan Bread
Roman Rice and Beans
They all worked out successfully and tasted great, as I recall.
From the 1982 updated edition of Diet for a Small Planet I bought the same year it was published, I noticed the following information about the author Frances Moore Lappé that related to 1977, the same time Maria and I were busy trying new recipes from her book:
"A year and a half after we signed the contract, Food First was virtually completed. In all the turmoil of that intense work period, Marc and I separated and he had taken a job with the State of California. To keep the children close to both their parents, we moved the new Institute to California.
On My Own
In January 1977, I landed with my two children, Anthony and Anna, in San Francisco. For the first time I was really on my own. Never before had I alone had to take care of housing and schooling for my children, buying a car, dealing with insurance and taxes. Now it was all up to me--and I was terrified. I had spent a year writing about empowerment, yet I was not sure I had inside me what it took to establish my own life. Until that point I hadn't realized how much I had incorporated our society's view of the single mother as social leftover."
--Frances Moore Lappé
Below: Frances Moore Lappé with her two children, Anthony and Anna, in a 1982 publicity shot found recently on Ebay:
Jumping forward to 2011 and 2012 I happened to catch both Frances and her daughter, Anna, on a WNYC-FM talk radio show.
Anna Lappé was around three years old when we were busy cooking recipes from her mother's cookbook in early '77. In an interesting parallel she would attend Brown University years later and graduate with honors. After that she would enroll in graduate school at Columbia.
Today she can be found on Twitter like so many of us in the new millennium...
I recall the number one question I was asked in the '80s when I told a new acquaintance I had graduated from RISD was "did you know the Talking Heads?" The answer is that I didn't know them because we were in different departments and graduated the year I took a sabbatical from school, but I did know two students who knew them very well.
(Readers of my posts are already familiar with my stories about classmates Francesca Woodman and Ilene Chaiken and I have also mentioned Dale Chihuly in one post, as well, as three notable people who were at the school in the '70s.)
Mary Clarke, a senior with a major in photography, was a student I remember well from freshman year because she had been part of a dance troupe called The Tantalizing Tampoons. Around 1975 she was the girlfriend of David Byrne which was just a few years after she graduated in '73. I saw her and the troupe dance at a school concert my freshman year and was struck by how talented and attractive she was. As shown below a photo is included in This Must Be The Place: The Adventures of Talking Heads and she is mentioned throughout the book.
It was fascinating to have seen Mary back in the early part of my college years and then to read years later of her time in the city with David Byrne.
Mary's yearbook photo from 1973. The pen scribbles are hers and I believe the people in the photo are member of the RISD house band, the Fabulous Motels, from that time period along with the rest of The Tantalizing Tampoons. She is the only one in the photo not scribbled on.
This is the definitive book about The Talking Heads' time in Providence and afterwards in New York City:
Mary's photo in the book can be seen below:
Additional photos from that early period of the '70s and into the '80s:
Yet another RISD student from the Talking Heads era...Jamie Dalglish:
Another talented person who was in Providence at the same time we were happens to be The Official Preppy Handbook editor, Lisa Birnbach. She was a student at Brown, who graduated in 1978, and presumably was walking some of the same streets, and using the same Brown University libraries, etc. as we were at that time.
I bought the Preppy Handbook in 1980 shortly after it was published and was quite intrigued and amused by the book from the start. True Prep came out in 2010 and is in a way an updated version of the original.
In a small world connection, I found a close friend of my wife's was mentioned in the acknowledgements of the 1980 Preppy Handbook and even more years later Lisa Birnbach shows up as a Facebook friend of my wife's cousin's two sisters-in-law (one of whom is also a book author specializing in contemporary lifestyle and fashion in a similar area of interest to Lisa).
The Official Preppy Handbook (1980) and True Prep (2010)...
Lisa Birnbach on Facebook and Twitter:
Lisa Birnbach as seen on Fresno's ABC affiliate, Channel 7:
As a sidebar to this series I will be posting some fun things from my own thoughts about the two Preppy books over the next few weeks and will return to the continuing saga of The winter of our big-content in September.
As noted above, there are more stories to come and the previous installments of the series leading up to this point are here:
The winter of our big-content:
Art school senior year chronicles:
Roadkill brought us closer together:
The photos of the degree project notes and the personal text are © 2012 by B+Co., Inc.