Busy Weekend I

My lunch Friday afternoon with Barbara Sicherman served up intellectual fodder, great company, and a delicious meal. Barbara and I first encountered each other on the web after I discovered that she had mentioned my mother in Well-Read Lives (see “What I’m Reading Now,” June eighth) We met in person for the first time Friday.

Barbara is retired from Trinity College, where she was professor of history and American studies. She recalled fondly participating in the 1992 Ann Petry Conference, the one at which my mother tried to hide in the back of the room and was mortified that someone followed her into the bathroom. (For a more complete account of the day see At Home Inside: A Daughter’s Tribute to Ann Petry)

Barbara recently came back to Connecticut from a book tour for Well-Read Lives. And more recently she had presented a paper at a  conference on occupational and environmental health. Her topic was familiar to her: Alice Hamilton founded the field of occupational health and was Harvard’s first female professor. I’m headed out to buy Barbara’s Alice Hamilton: A Life in Letters. We commiserated over the lack of vitality in the presentation of many academic papers. She asked about Read to Succeed (“Notes for a Poetic Evening,’ April 10; “Read To Succeed Blog,” January 26; “Profiles in Courage,” November 9, 2009) and told me about a young woman she had mentored through her senior year in high school.

Barbara also introduced me to Linda Kelly, who is president of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. She was having lunch two tables away from us. Another friend stopped by on her way out and talked of her success in selling paintings and sculpture.

These social contacts were the result of our dining at Max’s Oyster Bar, which is near her house. I must admit I was a bit nervous about eating there because I’d only been for dinner when the place was generally so crowded and so noisy it was well nigh impossible to hear oneself think. All was well, however, as the place was more than half empty except for the tables outside where people were braving 85+ degree heat. Since it was a Max restaurant, the food was, of course, stellar. Barbara had a shrimp chopped salad with Gorgonzola cheese, while I had linguine with smoked salmon and morels, served in a lemon butter sauce. I even found a parking space in the lot across the street. All in all, the weekend began in the best possible manner.

Tomorrow: Replay of the basketball game.

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