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As a lightning bolt of illumination splits the sky, a thunderclap of enlightenment follows. Somewhere around 1999 or the early 2000s I went with a group of co-workers to an early show at the now-defunct, sorely-missed Manhattan nightclub, The Bottom Line.
In an effort to pin down the exact date of the show, I checked the "Timelinea€? on the Bottom Line website that lists the performers for each show. Although he couldna€™t answer my question (a€?There were so many appearances!a€?), he was eager to weigh in with his own recollections and praise. Later, her father graduated from Rutgers University and began teaching in the New Jersey public school system. At nine years old, Janis heard Odetta for the first time on a Harry Belafonte television show. In junior high, shea€™d go to Greenwich Village, meeting with others from camp, to stand around the fountain in Washington Square Park and sing. Her father subscribed to Broadside Magazine which published songs by people like Bob Dylan and Buffy Sainte-Marie.
Her recording career got its rocket-propelled start after she wrote a€?Societya€™s Child (Baby, Ia€™ve Been Thinking)a€? based on her observation of an interracial couple.
The psychological battering from pressure to constantly write, tour and record, and the disintegration of her family took its toll. While we cannot be sure that poem was written exactly during that time, it seems to capture her frame of mind.
She played a tough weeklong gig in California, but realized that the weather and atmosphere was what she needed.
The album Stars (1974) was followed by her biggest success, Between the Lines (1975) which contained the song a€?At Seventeen,a€? another revealing tract that cut so deep, she was initially afraid to play it to audiences. In 1982, feeling depleted, Janis walked away from a multi-million-dollar record deal with Columbia which had three more albums contracted. In 1986, her new publisher MCA suggested that Janis work with Nashville writers to improve the marketability of her songs. The years of being a workaholic caught up with her and she became ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
As she finally regained the upper ground in her battle with CFS, Patricia Snyder came into her life, bringing her physical and emotional comfort. The initial album coming out of this period, Breaking Silence, would be her first in ten years. The book describes in detail the relationships Janis has had, over the years, with both men and women.
Janis had been approached by the gay-oriented magazine, The Advocate to write a monthly column for them.
After her moma€™s death, to honor her, Janis established Pearla€™s Foundation, a scholarship fund to help people in their efforts to seek higher education, Her mother had forged ahead and graduated from Goddard College, in spite of her illness, fulfilling a lifelong dream. Janisa€™s most recent albums, God and the FBI (2000), Billiea€™s Bones (2004) and Folk is the New Black (2006) show that her writing is still razor-sharp. Those of us who have been fortunate to stand face to face with Janis will never forget the steady gaze behind which sits one of the formidable minds of our generation. I was shocked to discover how little I actually knew about Janis Ian.A  It wasna€™t until I picked up a copy of her autobiography, Societya€™s Child, that I understood the full depth of Janisa€™s connection to folk music. The FBI would shape her early life.A  Her family was already being scrutinized before she was born. The book describes in detail the relationships Janis has had, over the years, with both men and women.A  What was horrific about most of Janisa€™s earlier relationships was the amount of betrayal her partners displayed. Wednesday, December 14Marie Smith will lead a discussion about festivals and other celebrations. Wednesday, September 14, Ahmet Tharwat showed photos of the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt. Wednesday, October 26, Luke and Corinne led a discussion on the question a€?How Do You Remember the a€?60s?a€? The meeting started by our listening to Carole King singing a€?Youa€™ve Got A Friend,a€? which brought back a lot of memories for the 12 people assembled.
Refreshment time at our regular meetings offers us the chance to have informal conversations with our fellow BUUFs. After my presentation (September 28) on the future of families and Berta€™s description of the deterioration of family life which he has seen as a social worker for 35 years, I thought about the gathering this summer of three local UU families at our home for an afternoon of recreation.
On October 9 I preached a sermon on the Metaphysics of Quality to the UU Church of Willmar, Minn. Lynn Hensel found a womana€™s purse along the highway, and several of us found missing items such as a drivera€™s license, college ID, and credit cards. Luke Markve is leading a discussion group on the Universality of Quality, which meets weekly. Make sure Minnesota is the first state in the country to defeat an anti-marriage amendment! The most important conversations wea€™ll have about this proposed amendment are with people we already know a€“ friends, family, co-workers and neighbors.
Minnesotans United for All Families is a coalition of several organizations, including OutFront Minnesota, a€¦..
We welcome everyone to our group, whatever our race, ethnic origin, religious perspective, sexual orientation, political philosophy, or economic condition.
The poet John Keats once wrote an ode to a Grecian urn and its painted figures frozen in time. I got my first inkling of Fianoa€™s potential at a dinner party in New York back in the 1990s. One such family was that of Clelia Romana, who founded the Colli di Lapio winery up in the mountain district of Avellino. If you havena€™t tried Fiano before, start with the Fiano di Avellino DOCG, coming from the grapea€™s birthplace. Maffini made his name with KrA tos, a pure Fiano from three vineyards around his familya€™s original property. Ita€™s no accident that the Riesling reference keeps popping up, this being the exemplar of age-worthy whites. Therea€™s also weightier stuff coming from experiments with extended skin contacta€”normally a technique for making reds, not whites. Lured by a bill that included Tom Paxton and Janis Ian, we knew we were in for an evening of top-notch folk music. She took center stage and began playing fingerstyle guitar with an almost impossibly pristine sound.
I know that earlier in my life -- through my 20s possibly into my 50s, I viewed her as a pop artist with a social conscience.
A precocious toddler, Janis writes that her father used to say, a€?Janis started talking at seven months and never stopped.a€? At two-and-a-half years old, she persuaded her father, also a master music teacher, to give her piano lessons. The FBI would contact each school administration every two years when hea€™d be up for tenure. With her fathera€™s guitar perched on her lap in the back of the family station wagon, she played it for them.


Janis made a lead sheet like those in the magazine, added the melody, chords and lyrics, put her name and phone number on the page and submitted a€?Hair of Spun Gold.a€? Two months later, her father got a call from the editors.
Janis took guitar lessons with the Reverend Gary Davis, and after the lessons morphed into social occasions, began hanging out with him. She played regularly after that, which got her noticed and led to a meeting with legendary producer a€?Shadowa€? Morton.
Chapters dealing with their separation and divorce and Janisa€™s emotional upheaval are particularly sad.
All the Seasons of Your Mind (1967) sold enough to make the national charts, but followup albums, The Secret Life of J.
Harrowing passages describe how a diligent psychotherapist there, Gerry Weiss, pulled her back from near death and personally nursed her back to health.
It was provoked partly by a critic referring to her, still a teenager, as a a€?washed-up has-been.a€? It was also partly inspired when she heard Don McLeana€™s a€?Vincenta€? for the first time. She needed to get off the merry-go-round to explore other areas of life, to regenerate her resources.
She had talent and wrote deep songs but Nashville writers had the craft to make them more commercial. After she declared her homosexuality, he stood by her and issued an authoritative warning to anyone who might give her trouble: a€?Dona€™t mess with hera€¦a€? He would bolster her confidence in her guitar playing, stressing her individuality. Tragically, her mother, Pearl, had become ill with Multiple Sclerosis and would decline over a 20-year span. She refused, saying a€?I dona€™t write prose,a€? but Pat and an editor provided the idea that Janis would poke holes in the stuffiness of its image and that concept sealed the deal. Janisa€™s father owned every copy of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction ever printed.
Janisa€™s stint as a columnist for Performing Songwriter plumbed her depth of knowledge of the music business.
An initial auction of Janisa€™s own personal effects, held on the internet, brought in a total of $66,000. I also became aware of the route by which she developed her sense of social justice, and the emotional, physical and financial hurdles she has overcome. Her father, then a chicken farmer, was inexplicably picked up by FBI agents after attending a meeting about the price of eggs.
Her marriage to her husband descended into physical abuse, psychotic behavior and Janisa€™s near-murder at his hands. Paul gave a presentation on a€?Practicing Right Relationships.a€? Your editor missed this meeting.
I myself would rather ponder a kylix drinking vessel, preferably one decorated with pretty vine tendrils and a party-hearty Bacchus. The grape varieties that Pliny the Elder described and Julius Caesar drank are alive and well in Campaniaa€”or Campania felix, Latin for a€?fertile countryside.a€? Blessed with an agriculturally ideal climate, what was once the breadbasket and playground of ancient Rome today boasts over 100 grape varieties, many brought by Greek settlers. The big three are Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino, and Falanghina, which most people learn about in one fell swoop.
Tagging along with my friend Nina, I found myself at a wine collectora€™s table in a loft overlooking City Hall. Pliny noted how bees (api) favored the wine made from vitus apianae, particularly when its natural sweetness was enhanced by partially drying the grapes. Mastroberardino and Feudi di San Gregorio are the largest producers and the easiest to find. Maffini and De Conciliis are both boutique wineries (100,000 bottles) run by energetic men in their forties, whose families previously made wine in a small way.
In a quest for quality, these winemakers are now experimenting with site, soil, and cellar techniques. This basic Fiano, fermented and held for six months in stainless steel, is delicious and laser-precise, with mango, kiwi, pineapple, and a refreshing acidity.
But Maffini is showering extra TLC on his new Pietraincatenata cru, giving it partial fermentation in oak, then six to eight months of aging and batonage in new barrique. This estate is known for a powerful Aglianico called Naima (and for its devotion to jazz; a€?Naimaa€? was a John Coltrane ballad). Antece (a€?ancientsa€? in dialect) macerates for 10 days on the skin and spends six months on the lees, or spent yeast. He sounded amused as he recounted the reactions of colleagues when they discovered how well Janis played guitar. My longest-standing memory was (and still is) the way I would get choked up listening to a€?At Seventeen,a€? especially during the ache-filled refrain, a€?a€¦who call to say, come dance with mea€¦a€? Ahh, yesa€¦ Ia€™d had my share of a€?wallflowera€? years and there were more than a few missed dances.
It ended a year later because, at three, she was already getting into arguments with him over interpretations and fingering. In kindergarten she objected to learning her a€?ABCa€™sa€? because she already knew how to read.
Theya€™d see interracial and gay couples while being totally ignored by adults -- a completely opposite atmosphere from conservative New Jersey. She did one more album, Uncle Wonderful (1983) with an Australian publisher, then walked away from the music business. She discovered that her a€?accountanta€? (a bookkeeper without a proper CPA) had embezzled her money and falsely represented her income tax payments.
She teamed with accomplished songwriter Kye Fleming both creatively and romantically and found some success and some brief happiness.
At the time of the printing of her autobiography, $300,000 had been raised.This preceded, but could have functioned as a road map for eBay. Hunger (1997), completed after a difficult studio experience and filled with glittering gems from start to finish, has become a personal favorite of mine. Janis has finally found happiness in a stable 20-year relationship, a testament to her resilience and intelligence.
But really, why stare at an old pot to dream about the past when you can experience it here and now?
It was they who founded Naples in 600 BC and colonized the coast down past Vesuvius, which Roman emperors and epicures later gentrified with sprawling summer villas, whose airy porticoes extended out to sea. Other than the DOCG status of Fiano di Avellino, wine educators present them as equal in stature, like the prongs of Nepturea€™s trident.
I dona€™t remember much about that dinner except for this: I tasted my very first Fiano di Avellino there.
That blight was followed by the devastation of World War II, which left Campania felix smoldering.
Scientists are fairly sure Plinya€™s apianis was named after its place of origin: Appia in Plinya€™s time, today called Lapio, located near Avellino.
Being closer to the sea, the microclimate is warmer, so this Fiano tends to be rounder and more opulent while retaining its lovely minerality.
Luigi Maffinia€™s grandfather was a buffalo farmer (for mozzarella), while the DeConciliis family raised chickens.
But in 2002, Luigi bought land near the Greek temples of Paestum, and thata€™s whata€™s got him jazzed these days.


The cru Perella (a play on per Ella, or a€?for Ellaa€? Fitzgerald) has a lighter dose: three days of skin contact. Then, Gary insisted that Janis open for him at a Gaslight Cafe gig and the owner reluctantly agreed after Gary threatened to walk out. Shadow disagreed with her a€?Baby, Ia€™ve Been Thinkinga€? title, so when her first record came out, it became a€?Societya€™s Child,a€? with the prior title in parentheses. Although it brought a halt to her relationship with Peter, they remain friends to this day. The albums Aftertones (1975), Miracle Row (1978), Night Rains (1979), and Restless Eyes (1981) followed.
Janis found it liberating to study in areas, such as ballet, where she had no innate ability. She attended her first Worldcon, the largest gathering of science fiction writers and fans, at the prodding of two of her heroes in the genre, Mike Resnick and Anne McCaffrey. Her article on a€?The ABCs of being the Boss,a€? geared toward musicians, contains a wealth of helpful information for anyone in a supervisory capacity.
The agents would hang around, always recognizable in their black suits and ties, even in the heat of August. The albums Aftertones (1975),A  Miracle Row (1978), Night Rains (1979), and Restless Eyes (1981) followed.
Ita€™s true they all possess a certain sea-breezy character, offering intriguing minerality and acidic high notes that are as zippy as a spritz of Meyer lemon, making them ideal companions to the cornucopia of seafood found on the coast.
During post-war recovery, the government encouraged farmers to plant prolific workhorse grapes like Malvasia and Trebbiano. Later they found a market in the Italian immigrants who sailed to Argentina and America and pined for a taste of home.
Whether fiano is a corruption of apianis and his vitus apianae is our Fiano is still a matter of debate. Both had vineyards, but Maffinia€™s father planted his a€?for fun,a€? while the DeConciliis parents made some vino sfuso for local trattorias and pizzerias, then sold the remaining grapes. The limestone-rich parcel, called Pietraincatenata or chained stone, is wedged high on a rocky slope facing the sea. Both come from their oldest Fiano vineyard (which increases concentration) located on a cooler eastern slope (increasing acidity). After her mom had a talk with the principal, Janis was allowed to read while the rest of the class did their drills. She practiced, listening to all the records in her parentsa€™ collection, plus some borrowed from family members. A huge success in Japan, she became an iconic star and was (and still is) treated like royalty there.
She also studied acting under Stella Adler, who became a close friend and mentor until Stellaa€™s death in 1992. An avaricious IRS agent appropriately named Granite seemed to take sadistic pleasure in erecting barriers to Janisa€™s attaining any kind of solvency, despite her complete cooperation. After the relationship ended, although Kye, a Nashville native felt awkward, Janis felt that Nashville had become a€?home,a€? and decided to move there permanently.
They pushed her to involve a number of other authors to contribute to Stars, a compilation book of short stories based on her songs.
Also available is the article Janis wrote for Performing Songwriter, on the free downloading phenomenon, a€?The Internet Debacle.a€? When she reported that downloading actually increased sales, not the opposite, as the record industry had charged, she was called a traitor.
She practiced,A  listening to all the records in her parentsa€™ collection, plus some borrowed from family members. Peter became her love, her rock, an oasis inside of the whirlwind.A  On the music trail, she became friends with stars such as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, who tried to protect her from drugs, but the proximity led to some experimentation. Post-war, when other farmers were ripping out native vines, Mastroberardino stood steadfast. On the day of our visit, Bruno De Conciliis poured a 2011 Fiano called Donnaluna that had 24 hours of carbonic maceration.
The Perella is partially aged in acacia wood, adding roundness, but without the tannins of French oak. A local librarian helped Janis a€?retain her sanitya€? by allowing her to take out more books than the usual allotment and picked out more advanced works for her to read. At the Village Gate, she played alongside some of her heroes (sitting between Tom Paxton and Len Chandler) and, after each song, she got a standing ovation. Although she still wrote, and had songs covered by others, she issued no recordings for around 10 years. After sixteen years, the magazine has just ended its publication, but for eight years, Janis imparted her wisdom to the songwriter community.
She started making some of her songs available as free downloads and watched her sales shoot up.
He built a new house there too, transplanting his familya€”a display of confidence, if there ever was one.
So in fact, one shouldna€™t sell Fiano immediately.a€? But because of market demands and limited cellar space, her Fiano goes out the door eight months after harvest. In school, her fellow students at the High School for Performing Music and Art were respectful. But it didna€™t really sink in until I spent time with local winemakers and saw that for them, therea€™s no question: Fiano is king. Being one of the largest producers around, Antonio Mastroberardino encouraged the best of his grape suppliers to start bottling under their own name.
The 2012 Donnaluna returned to being a textbook Fiano, with a wonderful salinity on the finish. We sat there slack-jawed as Janis unleashed a barrage of guitar histrionics that crossed a line -- to borrow a phrase from Star Trek -- where no folkie has ever gone before.
Once a week, past her bedtime, shea€™d secretly listen to a folk show out of Newark at 10pm, a towel stuffed under the door to avoid being heard. In the first tale, a€?Come Dance With Me,a€? Janis herself makes a thinly veiled appearance.
As the wine opened, lemon curd and white jasmine came through, followed by toasted hazelnut on the finish.
Jealous of her success, they penalized her for absences resulting from performing, even though she got good grades on tests. Janisa€™s own story, a€?Second Person Unmasked,a€? not unsurprisingly deals with a shifting sexuality and the issue of powerlessness. It was full-bodied and creamy, yet maintained a bright acidity that preserved its freshness. Asked in a later interview if she had any regrets, she replied, a€?Not for an eighth of a second.a€? She always knew there was no place for a person like her in the American school system.



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