Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Year Without Joe Maneri

Yesterday, August 24th, marked a sad anniversary: one year since the world was deprived of the life of Joe Maneri.

Joe left the world a more impoverished place and left a hole in my life that could be patched but never filled. But despite Joe's departure (or because of it? It would be like him to be pulling some strings Up There!), the riches that have appeared in my life this past year have been astonishing. Indeed, as I looked back, I had to stop and think, "Did all that really happen within 365 days?"

A year ago I was unemployed. Now I have two jobs, each one a "dream job" in a completely different way. MIT and Christ Lutheran Church in Natick, Massachusetts – two remarkable places with remarkable clergy and remarkable potential both to use the skills I already have and to stretch myself to develop new skills. I wasn't the first person in the 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church to note that denomination's knack for mystery and deceit where truth and honesty are instead appropriate. I prayed to find a job where (a) the boss was honest; and (b) I could use my gifts. I found not one but two such appointments. The hardest part has been to convince myself that I'm actually working, such has been my happiness in these two positions.

The relationships I have forged with people this past year have been equally remarkable. I have friends that I cannot believe I have known less than one year. They "get me" in a way that I've rarely been "gotten."

And then there's the small matter of a baby named Matteo Giovanni Ciampa. He is my third child, my wife's first. At 3.5 weeks of age, he at times behaves like an infant weeks, if not months, his senior. It's too early to tell if he will have a sense of humor, but if he goes in the direction of his two older brothers, I can soon expect hilarity in triplicate. (Sometime this past year, I asked my three-year-old, Federico, "Are you the best boy in the whole world?" He replied, "Flattery will get you nowhere.")

I telephoned Sonja Maneri on this sad anniversary. She shared with me a poem that has been helping her get through these difficult days:

by Emily Dickenson

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Neither Joe nor Sonja have lived in vain. In fact, between them they have patched more breaking hearts and eased more pain than a squadron of theologians.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I keep hoping that in this Information Age, society's taste in music will improve. It has happened in other areas. 30 years ago, when you went to the average supermarket, it was almost impossible to find extra-virgin olive oil. Occasionally you could find Filippo Berio, a revolting liquid that I wouldn't use to grease a squeaky door. Today, most any supermarket boasts numerous brands of Italian and Greek olive oils, most of which are extra-virgin. The improvement in coffee — the topic of today's post — has been even more remarkable. 30 years ago, all the coffee came in those dreadful, cylindrical tin cans that increase the acidity in my stomach just by looking at them. And what were the "high end" brands then? Chock Full o' Nuts? Medaglia d'Oro? With such substances I would not contaminate my compost heap. Today, virtually all supermarkets carry fresh beans in numerous varieties, roasts, and flavors.

One of the key players in the coffee renaissance, without question, has been George Howell (see above photo). If the finest bottles of wine are made from grapes picked in only one location, why should fine coffee be any different? It was this discovery of single-origin coffee that led me to Terroir ( I was hooked instantly and, if I can possibly help it, I drink nothing else.

I was excited to discover that Mr. Howell has a blog, entitled George on Coffee ( His most recent entry, "Emerging from our acquired tastes," documents the renaissance in his own spirited, intelligent words. Now we can start to put a personality with the coffee. (It had to be an interesting person who would produce such a divine liquid.)

In particular, I was interested in Mr. Howell's comments to a reader about "dark roasts." The notion of "light roasts" vs. "dark roasts" is a topic in which Starbucks has done much to increase public awareness (which is a good thing), even though they sometimes conflagrate their beans beyond any human recognition (which is a bad thing). As Mr. Howell explains:

Whenever someone says they like strong coffee they are pretty much referring to darker roasts. I think this has to do with the greater immediate impact and mouthfeel a dark roast has when hot. The best dark roasts that I have had – and this is personal, I realize – are best hot. The colder they get the more the muddled notes and bitterness in the aftertaste.

Strength really has to do with extraction. One can make a light roast very strong using more coffee and less water – but at a certain point the greater acidity of a light roast creates an imbalance towards too much acidity.

Lighter roasts may seem “weak” when hot but gather full strength as the cup cools. Drinking becomes an act of discovering emerging nuances over the approx. 20 minutes of sipping the entire cup.
(From the blog George on Coffee)

Long live George Howell and the Terroir Coffee Company!

Related post: "The Man Who Invented Coffee" (

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chopin Concerts (Boston, 9 Sept. - 14 Oct. 2010)

SEPT. 9 – OCT. 14, 2010
All Concerts 12:15-12:45 p.m.
Freewill offering

Prelude in B major
Prelude in B minor (“Raindrop”)
Mazurka in C minor
Polonaise in A major (“Military”)
Waltz in C# minor
Etude in E major
Ballade III in Ab major

Mazurka in A minor (“Cries & Whispers”)
Mazurka in Bb major
Mazurka in F# minor
Etude in Ab major (“Aeolian Harp”)
Polonaise in F# minor (“Tragic”)

Prelude in C minor
Waltz in A minor
Mazurka in D major
Mazurka in C# minor
Etude in Gb major (“Black-Key”)
Polonaise in Ab major (“Heroic”)

Prelude in A major
Prelude in E major
Fantaisie-Impromptu in C# minor
Mazurka in A minor
Mazurka in F# minor
Etude in C minor (“Revolutionary”)
Ballade I in G minor

Mazurka in F# minor
Mazurka in Ab major
Nocturne in C# minor
Nocturne in F minor
Ballade IV in F minor

Mazurka in G minor
Mazurka in C# minor
Etude in C# minor
Waltz in Db major (“Minute”)
Polonaise-Fantaisie in Ab major
Op. 28, No. 11
Op. 28, No. 6
Op. 30, No. 1
Op. 40, No. 1
Op. 64, No. 2
Op. 10, No. 3
Op. 47

Op. 17, No. 4
Op. 17, No. 1
Op. 59, No. 3
Op. 25, No. 1
Op. 44

Op. 28, No. 20
Op. 34, No. 2
Op. 33, No. 2
Op. 50, No. 3
Op. 10, No. 5
Op. 53

Op. 28, No. 7
Op. 28, No. 9
Op. 66
Op. 7, No. 2
Op. 7, No. 3
Op. 10, No. 12
Op. 23

Op. 6, No. 1
Op. 17, No. 3
Op. posth.
Op. 55, No. 1
Op. 52

Op. 24, No. 1
Op. 41, No. 1
Op. 10, No. 4
Op. 64, No. 1
Op. 61