March 29, 2017

Chianti, Italy. October, 1981

My first real trip to Italy (I'd been there for dinner in a border town while I was staying on the French Riviera in 1972) was with my friend Dali. She'd lived in Italy before and knew exactly the right itinerary for this starry-eyed novice. Rome. Florence. Padova. Venice. Back to Rome. We'd stop along the way for lunch or for photo opportunities. Like this one. So many vineyards in Tuscany. So many classic views of grapevine-filled fields and hills. No wonder Italian wines are so good (if memory serves) and so plentiful.

March 28, 2017

South Tucson, AZ. March, 2017

My friend Simon is a public artist, designing projects around the country that incorporate elements of light, color, sculpture, whimsy, magic. His "rattlesnake bridge" has become one of Tucson's recognizable icons, one I delight in seeing on each visit to that Southwestern town. So when he asked me if I'd like to accompany him to the foundry that was manufacturing the models for his latest project, I jumped at the chance. Warned not to pet the resident German Shepherd, I happily complied. But what was I to make of this sign that greeted us at the foundry's front door?

March 27, 2017

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ. Autumn, 1995

I still look like this, right? Ha ha ha. Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted. Still is fun. This is my first trip to the Grand Canyon, what David Hockney calls a "must" trip to "the biggest hole in the world." I was visiting my friends Simon and David in Tucson and we set off on a road trip. Perfect weather, perfect sights, perfect companions. I smile every time I look at this photo and relive the memories.

March 26, 2017

Hudson, MA. January, 2010

One of the great things about living in the Bay State is the wide range of ethnic neighborhoods to be found from Boston outwards. A recent discovery: the Portuguese community in Hudson. Hailing not only from Portugal but also from Brazil and the Azores, the welcoming folks in this small town serve up their culture, their cuisine, their language to anyone who wants to appreciate them. Like me. So when some colleagues offered a lunch to mark my leaving “the corporation,” I suggested a Brazilian buffet nearby. Heidi and Stan seemed game, so off we went. It was simple and satisfying: fried plantains, saucy beans, savory rice dishes, unidentifiable meat stews. But best of all may have been our stop at Silva’s Bakery on the same block where we purchased some amazing rolls (crusty outside, moist crumb inside) and a dazzling assortment of pastéis with fillings that included bean, orange, almond and the flaky, black-topped, egg-rich-custard delight we’d loved so much in Lisbon, the pastel de nata. (As you can see, I bought two of those.) Good thing I snapped this photo relatively quickly, because these beauties disappeared very soon afterwards.

March 25, 2017

Tucson, AZ. May, 2005

There are so many reasons I love Tucson, none more than the heady mix of sacred and profane that blends so easily into the everyday life of this university town just an hour north of the Mexican border. For example, this video store that I pass every morning along my Congress Street running route. I have never seen anyone go in or out in all my years of watching. It sits across a lazy intersection from a heavily barred drive-thru liquor store, scene of occasional “situations.” In spite of a casual facelift, it still looks like the gas station it once was. Diego Rivera would smile, I think, at the miracle of the Virgin of Guadalupe mural along its western wall (complete with a small milagro-filled commemorative shrine.) Then there’s that big VIDEOS boldly emblazoned mid-apparition as if to proclaim modern technology’s own miracle available on demand, right here, right now. In this dry land of rattlers and other serpents, even the snakey green garden hose seems biblically right at home. Oh, sure, the Arizona sun has taken its toll on the mural, fading it with each passing year since it was painted, until its now-pastel hues might seem more at home in Miami Beach than in the Southwest Sunbelt. No matter. The miracle remains.

March 24, 2017

Istanbul. June, 2007

I sometimes wonder why I love to travel alone. Yes, I enjoy the pleasure of a friend’s company at mealtimes and for occasional shared excursions, but the more foreign and exotic my destination, the more I treasure time spent solo. Maybe it’s because I like to immerse myself in the everyday life of the place I’m visiting in a way that tends to make companions impatient -- lingering in Montreal or Mexico supermarkets to see packaging in a foreign language, stopping by the Las Vegas or Miami Beach public libraries, sitting in a Lisbon or Segovia park to see how locals pass their idle time. In Turkey, I became fascinated by Muslim people’s behavior in mosques. Some would be silent and reverent. Others, especially those with young children, would refreshingly treat the vast interior as if it were their living room or the public square. Still more interesting to me were the outwardly secular (uniformed policemen, suited businessmen, et al.) entering and revealing their sacred selves in a personal, devotional way. For me, solo travel also erases the slate, allows me to be whoever I choose to be. No one knows me. One of my favorite memories is of a young man’s stopping me on Istanbul’s Istiklal Caddesi one evening to inquire (in Turkish) the time. When I showed him my watch, he said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were Turkish.” I wasn’t sorry at all.

March 23, 2017

Tucson, AZ. March, 2017

After Simon, David and I had attended several gallery openings this evening, we were enjoying dipped cones at the local Dairy Queen, when a man whom I'll generously call "middle aged" walked by in a complete bride's outfit: dress, veil, wig, bouquet, heels, the works. (A "late December" bride, he should brush and floss more often if he wishes to retain what's left of his teeth. Just saying.) Later, as we were returning to the car, we saw several more visions in white and realized that there must have been some bridal-themed event at IBT's, the local gay bar. Here's another participant, an undone drag queen waiting for the 4th Avenue streetcar, his wig removed and plopped on the seat next to him. I love Tucson.