Bedlam Farm Blog Journal by Jon Katz

5 July

Knowing Robin. The Truth Will Always Set Me Free

by Jon Katz

I am often not able or willing to say the things people want me to say, but I am finally able to tell the things I want to say that are true for me.

I’ve paid dearly for this; we are not a nation that values honesty or individuality.  The yentas are all over me.

Thoreau’s idea of independent integrity and thought is in peril.

Somehow, we lost the spirit of our revolution and have evolved into a people demanding that we all say what others have decided we should say, and do what others tell us to do.

I knew from the start that I would never be one of those conventional Hallmark grandfathers whose lives evolved around their granddaughters and grandsons. I didn’t know how and it wasn’t me. And it wasn’t what I really wanted.

I wanted to live my own life, not somebody else’s, which was hard enough.

But I have to say the pandemic made it impossible to know my quite remarkable granddaughter as she was growing up. We haven’t seen one another for nearly three years, and re-connecting is proving challenging. If this was something Emma and I wanted to do, we might have figured out a way to do it.

I have to be honest about that. But we have never been closer or easier with one another.

Emma gave me the great gift of her photography; I was able to follow Robin’s evolution from a toddler into an independent, articulate human being with loving parents who used New York City well as a backdrop for raising their child. I saw her grow and blossom, just like my Begonias.

I didn’t get to see it for myself; I got to see it on my Iphone and computer. That was better than not seeing it all, and I am grateful for it.

I’ve missed a critical period in Robin’s growth and am getting older. I’m not sure this narrative will change or how that might happen.

I believe strongly in the idea of radical acceptance. I accept a good and lucky life, and its ups and downs, and I celebrate what I do have, not what I don’t have.

I have a lot and give thanks for it every day.

Robin has a remarkable childhood; she is adored by her parents, exposed to every cultural offering of a great city, goes to one of the most respected schools in the country, and is confident, talented,  outgoing, and curious.

I don’t know if I could have offered her any gifts she doesn’t have; she does not strike me as needing much.

I send her books and toys all the time, and we talk on the phone once in a while. I am good at buying her the things she wants.

It turned out the way I thought it would; she turned out better than I could have imagined. And she has a great mother.

Her other grandparents are more conventional and connected; she is lucky to have that.

She will do very well for herself, and if I wasn’t really to be a part of it – we don’t take vacations together – I can still enjoy it and take pleasure from it. And I love those photographers Emma sends me, she is a brilliant photographer.

4 July

Tonight, I Was Treated To A Marvelous Dinner At Billy T’s Northside Dairy Bar in Bennington, Vt. Brooke Was Our Very Gracious Host

by Jon Katz

As some of you know, Maria has had a challenging week; she wrote very eloquently and honestly about it on her blog yesterday. She’s coming out of it and, with the help of some good friends and lots of courage, is coming out of it.

She came into my office this afternoon smiling and excited, “I’m taking you out to dinner,” she said, “you have been very good to me, and I want to buy you dinner!”

But it’s the Fourth of July,  and we are in the country. Where could we go?

(Brooke came out and asked if I could take her photo while sticking her tongue out – she was very gently training a new employee – I said I would be honored. I went to the window and leaned in.)

“I’m  treating you to one of your favorite meals, a lobster roll!” Maria announced gleefully.

I lit up; I will never say no to a well-made lobster roll, and to our surprise, some of the best-made lobster rolls we have ever eaten are made at a Bennington dairy bar called Billy T’s Northside Diner.

This was the perfect idea for dinner out on July Fourth.

I’m not sure how this lobster roll thing happened, we stop at Billy T’s often in the summer to get some ice cream (sugar-free for me), and I just happened to notice the sign for lobster rolls and whole-belied clams, another favorite food of mine that I rarely, if ever, eat.

I remember saying it can’t be perfect, not at an ice cream place. I was dead wrong. We’ve told our friends about it, and they agree – the lobster rolls are great.

I keep wondering where they buy their lobster chunks, but nobody seems to know or isn’t telling.

It was expensive enough to be for real, so I took the plunge – again and again. It is offered in several ways, the horrible mayonnaise on the role way popular among city people, or the delicious lobster chunks on a grilled hot dog roll with a small tub of butter in a small plastic holder. The good way, the dipped in butter way,  is called Connecticut style, and that’s what we tried.

I don’t use much butter or most of the hot dog roll. It’s healthy for me as well as delicious.



We were blown away by the lobster, its side, freshness, and taste. We couldn’t recall having a better one, except at one diner near the Maine border.

Since then, Billy T’s has become one of my favorite restaurants; Maria takes me there on my birthday in August.



It was an excellent place to use my Leica, with many iconic photos; I love taking pictures of people at ice cream stands, especially as the sun sets.

I was getting into the car when one of the counter girls came running out to say they were watching me take photos, and thank you, they said. Would I be willing to take one of Brook, who seemed to be in charge?

I said I would be honored. Brook wanted to take the photo with her tongue sticking out, but she chickened out, then relented at my request.

She was great, the staff is well trained there, and the ice cream and the food are excellent.

Something new is in the air; many people are getting sick of poisonous lying, and politicians are beginning to return to sanity. The inmates have taken over the asylum.

I think we’re all tiring of nastiness and fools.

We want our country back. Some good things are coming.

We had a lot of fun, and I am grateful to Maria for treating me to lobster rolls. I can’t wait for my birthday.

4 July

A Friend In The Friend Chairs

by Jon Katz

I call them the “friend” chairs because I look forward to the day when these chairs in our yard are filled with friends. I admit I don’t have four friends to invite at the moment, but Maria does.

One of them came over to sit and talk with her today under our apple tree, and it was a beautiful thing to see the two of them laughing and talking. Maria is a wonder to me, and I never resist or resent her spending time with her friends.

She is precious and much loved and I hope she never feels any pressure from me to not have and talk to as many friends as she wants and likes to have. She loves her friends and is loyal and available to them.

It lifts my heart to see friends in the friend’s chair. One day there will be friends in all of them.

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