Notes on a Lifetime of Passing

Thinking about the continuum between experiential education, living history, participant-observation, and passing as I read this excellent article from someone who, like me, passed for a "real professor" as a respondent, like me, to Dartmouth scholars (I was one of those too, though it felt like passing). Like me, the author's racial identity has created tensions with his choice of profession, although I've always been clear that living history stops short of genetics. His words invite paraphrase.

"Nevertheless, as I enter my thirtieth year of passing for a real voyageur, I find myself less and less inclined to correct those who mistakenly call me one."

Passing has allowed me to ask, and answer, important questions in my life both personally and professionally. Am I "passing," or am I real? Are those who challenge me mistaken, or accurate? Which lies do I tell, and when am I only acting? What does it mean to be:
VoyageurCanadian/Canadien(ne) (notic…
LIGHT from Ed Softky
at right: the view from Ed's balcony in Dharamsala, India, 2004

Who can encompass the dreadful shock of sudden death? This is not the memorial page for Ed Softky, and you can read this for the black story of his passing and of his many tributes. This is about Light.

For those of you who knew Ed only through his Buddhist work, let me introduce myself as an old friend, singing and dancing buddy, and housemate of Ed's since, oh, maybe 1990? I don't recall. With Liz Lewis and Alan Field, we sang together in the quartet Lingua Franca, "Music as the Common Tongue." Here is the group's demo album, a truly limited release that maybe we should reprint in Ed's memory.

I was to see Ed this weekend (Columbus Day), for one of our joyously serious sessions of "PhilosoTea" and a visit to his new home in Brattleboro. As I was packing, I got a phone call from a mutual friend. "I've just heard someone say Ed was killed in a car accid…
Sea Slugs in Marzipan
Originally uploaded by noelegance Gastropod Gastronomy: The Edible Nudibranch
Photos and video of our latest team exploit in performance-art food. Now this is Extreme Sushi.

Red Herring Morris gives team biologist Phill Nimeskern a thank-you gift for chairing the Ale. Phill, who has eaten a sea slug for science, repeats the experiment in marzipan and song. The nudibranchs were inspired by this month's cover story of the June 2008 National Geographic. Go look 'em up!

Old Sea Dog
Sunday was our first MIT Chantey and Maritime Sing of the season in our dog-friendly summer venue at the Wood Sailing Pavilion. Mina the Dog snoozed in her MIT burgee, dreaming of sea chanteys from the Revels Book of Chanteys and Sea Songs. Much to the entertainment of some visitors from the Revels Pub Sing, Mina woke when we sang the Dutch chantey Los Mina Loos, and "sang along" happily whenever her name came round in the chorus!

Photo: Harriet Fell-Brown
Gloucester Hornpipe and Clog Society at the Edmund Fowle House, Watertown

The Edmund Fowle House is the second oldest surviving house in Watertown. During the Revolutionary war, it was the seat of the new Massachusetts government while the British occupied Boston. The Watertown Historical Society has completed a major restoration, and the house is now open to the public and available for functions. We had a wonderful time playing Revolutionary-era tunes and songs in their lovely parlor.
Second Annual Merrymount Mayday

This year's Kettle of Fish Morris Ale was a great success, especially the final stand at Merrymount on Maypole Hill. We danced the morris, wove the Maypole, led the audience in Sellenger's Round and the Padstow Day Song and Hal an Tow, and applauded Dr. Jack Dempsey's dramatic reading of the Poem that Morton composed and nailed to his Maypole, which was 80 feet high and crowned with buckshorns. We had a goodly number of the good people of Quincy, who are pleased to see the Maypole return to Maypole Hill.

Advance publicity was excellent this year, with feature articles in Wicked Local Quincy, the Patriot Ledger and the Boston Globe. Today's Patriot Ledger carried a great article with a full photo spread.
Newtowne Mayday on the Charles 2008

Mayday 2008
Originally uploaded by Stew Stryker Stew Stryker has posted a great slideshow of May morning 2008.

Hal an tow, jolly rumbalow
We were up long before the Maypole!

Well, WE were there at 5, and anyone there at that hour doesn't need a songbook, so we sang until the Maypole arrived. The weather was cool but dry, the Lowell House receiving line warm and welcoming, and the crowd pretty good for a workday. We processed along the usual route, despite Harvard Square construction, and concluded with a fine Maypole dance by a group of local school kids whose teacher had brought them to see us as a field trip. Merry May!