Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Showdown Over Horse Manure at Lake Massabesic

From left, Trixie Lefevre of Londonderry, Jane Mallinson of Chester, Denika Jones and
 daughter, Kryshanna Jones of Salem, took their message to the streets of Manchester,
in defense of horseback riding on the trails around Lake Massabesic. - PHOTO/Carol Robidoux
MANCHESTER, NH - A group of protesters lined the corner of Valley and Lincoln streets April 23, hoisting signs in defense of horseback riding along the trails at Lake Massabesic Watershed.

Trixie Lefevre of Londonderry said restrictions by Manchester Water Commission are punitive and unnecessary, and infringe on the rights of recreational horse riders.

Water Commissioners believe the horse manure contributes to algae blooms in the lake, which is the source of the city of Manchester's drinking water.

Horse manure is on the agenda of the Water Commission for its April 24 meeting, which begins at 4:25 p.m.

You can read more here at the NH Union Leader website.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Queen of Arts, Meri Goyette, Honored at Awards Luncheon

"We are all artists in our own way." - Meri Goyette

Meri Goyette, Queen of Arts in Nashua, NH.


Nashua NH Mayor Donnalee Lozeau recognizes Meri and Charles Goyette.

With much fanfare and the energy of a full house, longtime supporter of the arts, Meri Goyette, was honored April 6, 2014, at Sky Meadow Country Club. The champagne luncheon launched the inaugural Meri Goyette Arts Award, designed to honor champions of the arts annually. It was organized by City Arts Nashua and the Nashua Arts Commission

Goyette, 88, has dedicated herself to promoting and supporting an array of arts and entertainment initiatives in Nashua over the past four decades, from the annual International Sculpture Symposium, which embeds artists from around the world in Nashua to create original works, to spearheading the restoration of the historic Hunt Library. In between, Goyette has been in the thick of all things arts, organizing various committees and initiatives, penning books chronicling notable Nashuans and historical tidbits, hosting events, and most importantly, leading by example in encouraging art appreciation, support and development.

After a series of "thank yous" to those in the room for their support, Goyette summed up her sense of gratitude by saying, "You are all artists. We are all artists in our own way."

The luncheon featured live performances (see video clips below) from one of Nashua's premiere theater troupes, Peacock Players, as well as a poetry reading by NH poet laureate Alice B. Fogel, a ballet/hip/hop dance collaboration by Northern Ballet Theatre and Positive Street Art, and a live auction to support the ongoing arts community through City Arts Nashua.

J. Christopher Williams, President and CEO of Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, was recipient of the first Meri Goyette Arts Award, for his ongoing support of the arts through his leadership role within the Nashua community.

NH Senators Bette Lasky and Peggy Gilmour delivered a proclamation recognizing Goyette for her tireless efforts to establish Nashua as a haven for those who bring the creative arts to life, through music, fine art, dance, poetry and innovation.

Click through the videos below for highlights from the event.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Know Someone Struggling With Addiction? Join the Conversation April 2 at Saint Anselm

A little more than a month ago I posted on Facebook about a movie, "The Anonymous People," asking if anyone out there would lobby to bring it to New Hampshire. 

I have seen too many people lose their lives to drugs and alcohol, watched too many families crumble. I have heard the stories about the juggling act between urgency and insurance protocols that limit possibilities for those who want out. 

We all know someone.

Friend Loretta Brady saw my post and said that if I did the lobbying, she'd see about making it happen.

Guess what? It's happening!

You are invited to attend this free public screening, April 2, 2014 at Saint Anselm College, 100 Saint Anselm Drive, Manchester, NH.

Link here for complete event information on Saint Anselm College website.

Why this matters

Get the story behind "The Anonymous People"  via filmmaker Greg Williams' kickstarter page (watch the clip below). From that humble beginning, Williams created a documentary aiming to change the conversation around the need for more avenues leading to long-term recovery for drug addicts and alcoholics, and the need to step out of the shadows of anonymity and share the stories of success among those living in long-term recovery.

Click here for more on "The Anonymous People," at Many Faces, 1 Voice.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Entrepreneurial Spirits: The Magic of Djinn

Open House at Djinn Spirits in Nashua is March 8, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Andy and Cindy Harthcock, owners of Djinn Spirits distillery in Nashua, NH.

By Carol Robidoux

First things first. 

Djinn is another word for an ancient spirit with genie-like powers. The "d" is silent, which is why Andy and Cindy Harthcock settled on "Djinn Spirits" as the perfect name for their brand new gin and whiskey distillery, located just off Amherst Street, in Nashua, NH.

"I especially loved that it's a triple entendre," said Andy Harthcock, who put nearly as much care into naming his business as he does in creating each unique batch of spirits.
Andy Harthcock designed the still used to make Djinn Spirits.

Aside from the joy of word play, there is the intrigue of a genie unleashed from her bottle, which doubles as their logo. It's an idea which comes close to capturing how it feels to unleash a signature line of spirits in a small but growing niche business, namely the craft distillery. 

Secondly, consider the Latin root of the word djinn – genius – which pertains to the enjoyment of life and "the spirit of social enjoyment," particularly fondness for good living, taste, appetite and inclinations.

And not the least of considerations for the Harthcocks is that there's something truly magical about the start-to-finish process of turning murky malt mash into a smooth, potent liquor.

It's a process that Andy Harthcock explains with the precision of a computer engineer – which he is by vocation – and the finesse of an artist, a role he embraces fully, as integral to the art of distillery.

He explains how, after running his home-brewed beer through the still in 150-gallon batches, the resulting 100-proof "white dog whiskey" – akin to moonshine – ages for two to four weeks in white oak barrels.

"It's magical, what a charred barrel does to spirits," says Andy Harthcock.

More magical than, say, fermenting cheese, or slow-drying pig flesh, two things which almost happened, says Harthcock, as he sought to develop a viable side business that could eventually become his full-time passion.

The same still is used to make whiskey and gin.
"I knew I wanted to do something fun, and take advantage of my engineering skills. At first, we made some cheese. But cheese didn't excite me. Then, we considered meat, as in jerky. You know, there's actually a name for that industry, charcuterie – but again, it felt like there were already so many people doing that, and it just didn't excite me. Then one night my wife was reading up on craft distilleries and said, off-handedly, 'Hey, that would be fun.' By the time she got home from work the next night I had successfully made my first baby still out of her pressure cooker," said Harthcock.

Andy Harthcock pours a taste of Beat 3 whiskey.
Since opening in December, he's kept his day job with a defense contractor in Merrimack, NH, and his wife still works as a nurse. But they devote nights and weekends to Djinn Spirits – from perfecting and tweaking the small batch ingredients, to making connections, marketing, fine-tuning their five-year plan and welcoming weekend walk-in customers for impromptu tours and tastings.

Harthcock also will book private tours and tastings, and is open to special personalized on-site events. He looks forward to whiskey and gin appreciation classes, for those who have never learned the fine art and complexity of swilling high-end spirits.

Djinn's Beat 3 White Dog white whiskey retails for $25 per bottle. The name is a nod to Cindy Harthcock's heritage, growing up in a dry Mississippi town – the Beat 3 voting district –  where the best kept secret was the smooth, white lightning-hot moonshine underground. 

Djinn's signature gin is high caliber, at $30 a bottle. But this is where the crafting comes in, as the Harthcock's have labored over a secret blend of botanicals, including juniper and grains-of-paradise with a twist citrus, resulting in a delicate yet potent gin.

Because alcohol manufacturing and sales are highly regulated, Djinn's products are not available at state liquor stores – yet. Twice a month they send in federal reports and tax forms, a process also necessary for state officials here in New Hampshire. 

In the meantime, everyone's invited to Djinn's March 8 open house event, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., featuring tours, tastings, prizes and giveaways at the distillery, located at 2 Townsend West, Suite 9, in Nashua, in a small industrial park behind Country Tavern.

For a preview of the tour, click the video below. For more information, find Djinn Spirits online, and click here to follow them on Facebook, or contact the Harthcock's at, or 617.649.6972.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Meh - Another Valentine's Day? Take Heart

Hey you Spartan heart-breaker: I'm taking the 'meh' out of anti-Valentine's Day memes.

I'm mostly a traditionalist, which I guess is synonymous with being a slave to human ritual. But for the record, my dear husband of 34 years is my one and only Valentine. We will share a romantic candle-lit steak dinner followed by some decadent chocolate dessert, and some romance.

I'm one of the lucky ones, and I know it – especially based on all the anti-Valentine's Day memes I see posting across my social network.

For those suffering through another Valentine's Day, I only wish I'd written this sooner.

This, my friends, is for you:

Turns out you don't have to feel any moral or historical obligation to have a loved on on this particular day, or shop for a heart-shaped anything to bestow upon anyone.

Forget the hearts and flowers, the pricey chocolates. There is no verifiable connection to the vague historical saint named Valentine and our obsession with this emotionally draining Hallmark holiday.

No Cupid connection. No candle-lit dinner for two required. 

I've done the research.

According to scholars who kick this stuff around in their academic circles, it all points back to the ancient Roman cleansing and purification ritual of 
Februalia (from which the Romans named the month of February).

And that devolved into another pagan ritual, 
Lupercalia (derived from the Greek word for "wolf"), a three-day fest held around the ides of February, meant to drive away evil spirits and encourage health and fertility – mostly by bathing, and abusing their women into submission.

There's more.
Pan, the naked flute-playing god of shepherds.

Pan, the naked flute-playing god of shepherds who wore nothing but goatskins for skivvies, is a key figure here. The highlights reel would include the sacrifice of a goat and a dog, followed by the preparation and burning of salt mealcakes by the Vestal Virgins – aka nun-like women who were excused from marriage and childbearing in exchange for tending the Roman perpetual hearth fires.

Looks like it was Victorian-era pranksters who may deserve credit for the idea of delivering "valentines" – on Feb. 13, according to this BBC history lesson, those in the village known to be unlucky in love became targets of England's bully class. These twisted jokesters would leave a huge present on their target's doorstep who, upon finding the anonymous gift, would tear through several layers of wrapping only to discover a nasty-gram of lovelorn mockery scribbled on paper.

Around the same time, the historic Norfolk legend of Jack Valentine emerged.

Side note: I'm actually shocked this one hasn't been turned into a holiday-themed horror movie, not unlike the "Halloween" series, featuring masked murdered Michael Myers.
Be somebody else's guest, Lumiere.

In the Disney version, Jack Valentine is an AC/DC chap who can morph into Old Father Valentine or Old Mother Valentine at will, knocking on doors and leaving gifts for good kids. It could feasibly involve a talking candelabra or dwarves in tights – I'll leave that to the animators.

However, in the Rob Zombie version, Jack's alter-ego, Snatch Valentine, knocks on doors of children anticipating happy Jack, and leaves a present with a string attached so that when said kid opens the door and reaches for the gift, Snatch yanks on the string and the gift is pulled away from the kid's grasp.

That ritual is repeated, several times, like a cruel knock-knock joke. Kids are warned not to follow the runaway package "or else" and so the wicked game continues until, finally, Snatch stops yanking the string and the traumatized child can finally get his hands on the elusive gift which, by this time, has triggered PTSD in said kid and, likely, has diminished future expectations of gift-associated holidays, including Christmas and birthdays.

So as not to be a complete Hallmark holiday heart-breaker, there is one shred of dignity in the legend of St. Valentine's Day.

In one historical account that has survived the rigors of distilling fact from fiction, there was a particular Valentine (among many historical Roman priests named Valentine) known for two things: performing weddings for soldiers who were otherwise forbidden from marrying; and spreading Christian ideals of faith and love to those persecuted during the Roman Empire.
The man, they myth, the legend: St. Valentine.

After allegedly healing the blind daughter of Asterius, he was martyred, tossed in prison and eventually beheaded on Feb. 14, 280 AD. He left a note prior to his execution, signed, "Your Valentine."

While I realize this debunkery of Valentine's Day may not help you all that much, the take away is that love is not just important to the human condition, it is the human condition.

It's not as tangible as a heart-shaped box of chocolates.

Rather, it's a mindset. An action word. A gift with no strings attached. A ritual with untraceable roots that go all the way back to the heart itself – by design the thing that keeps us alive. Strong yet fragile; vital as it is vulnerable. 

Today, let your human heart feel what it feels. Set your mind on love. Take action – whether that means buying your beloved a card at CVS, or committing a random act of love in some thoughtful, charitable, unconditional way for someone else who needs it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

For Art's Sake: Head of David Moved from City Hall

Ken Gidge with the "Head of David," on the third floor of Nashua City Hall. 

By Carol Robidoux

NASHUA, NH - If you noticed the giant "Head of David" statue was missing from the third floor at City Hall, Ken Gidge would like to hug you.

Because you are likely one of the few art aficionados who even knew the giant statue was on display at City Hall.

And that underscores in Gidge's mind why it was time to move the replica along. It was cast from the original masterpiece by Michelangelo, which he bought from a shop on Newbury Street 15 years ago.

Gidge said it's one of only 16 of exact replicas in the world.

Having no practical place to display it himself, Gidge – an artist and longtime State Rep – loaned it to the city with one caveat: that it be placed in a high traffic area, for maximum visibility.

With the exception of a brief stint on the main floor of City Hall next to the staircase, Gidge says the statue had a nomadic existence until it was finally exiled to the third floor five years ago, where it has been languishing, under-appreciated and doomed to obsolescence.

"This deserves a better place, and it's going to go to a better place. I want people to see it," Gidge said Friday, just before the big move.

Gidge got an offer for the statue he couldn't refuse, from Greg Kyre, owner of Gregory J's Flooring & Design Center on Amherst Street, who sent a crew to pick up the statue Jan. 24.
It's now on display his store, in the carpet room.

With no fanfare, the moving crew lifted the disembodied head from its pedestal and covered David's face with a protective cloth, then hoisted the statue onto a hand truck. Some city employees from the third-floor IT department, drawn by the commotion, gathered silently in the doorway of their office to witness what probably looked more like a kidnapping in progress. [See video].
The city's attorney, Stephen Bennett, emerged from a nearby office and stopped to talk with Gidge about the move.

"I don't think the mayor or the building manager knew it was leaving today," Bennett said. "Maybe a 'heads up' would've been nice."

They carried the statue down three flights of stairs and into a waiting van.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau was in Washington, D.C., Friday, for the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors. When contacted Friday, Lozeau said she was sorry to learn the statue was leaving the building.
"So nice that Ken shared with the whole city for such a long time," Lozeau said." David will be missed."

Gidge pointed to other works of art at City Hall he says should be more prominently displayed, like two landscapes in the rear of the third-floor auditorium painted by James Aponovich, "one of the best artists in this country," said Gidge, and another painting, hanging so high on the third-floor landing that you can't actually get in front of it to see it, Gidge said.

"This is a sad day. If you love art, you want art to be seen, and this has to be seen," Gidge said. "I'm sad it's leaving City Hall because this is probably where it belongs. In fact, famous people, like [John] McCain, have had their picture taken beside it. But most people walk right by it, as though it doesn't exist."