Because of its reputation (since colonial days) for bucking the status quo, Cambridge has often been given a bad rap by some of its more conservative and narrow-minded critics. And, I’m happy to say as a former long-time resident, it lives up to its rep. Among its many derogatory nicknames, the People’s Republic of Cambridge. So I’m always happy to walk past this mid-Cambridge bar, The People’s Republik, halfway between Harvard and Central Squares, and be reminded of its "in your face" attitude. Love the faux-Cyrillic lettering, the use of red, the play on “party.”
October 14, 2018
Oh, how I wish I had taken a second, better, unblurred shot of this. (The young man seated below the banners thought I was taking his picture, so I had to play it cool and couldn’t risk a second photo. Scusi.) The three panels you (can just about) see here publicize a drawing show (from the previous Spring!) at the Cambridge Arts Council. The first time I saw these panels, I was struck by their simplicity, their extravagance in taking up precious, costly advertising space. (Only later realized that the cost of the placement was probably heavily discounted for the city project.) The second time I saw the panels, they’d been enhanced by a bus-riding “primitive” who’d drawn a silly face (can you see it?), laughing at the zebra in the middle panel. A burst of creative inspiration? A critical comment? Whatever, I love this. (In the spirit of fairness, you can learn about the exhibition here.)
October 13, 2018
Why do all my low-light photos taken in Latin restaurants come out grainy and lacking in color. Oh, well. What’s missing in photographic warmth was made up for by the excellent company provided by my dining companions, Bose-os Mike and Erin, former colleagues of mine at “the most respected name in sound.” We were part of a team that has since (and sadly) been dismantled. So we tried to get together and gossip madly at least once every few months. This night, upscale Southwestern food at this South End fixture. The “tower” seen here, a pretty (and pretty small) portion of Negro Modelo braised pork shoulder with sauce borracha and little “moments” of port and fig jam, baby arugula and garlic whipped potatoes. It tasted good. So good, in fact, that I wanted more.
October 12, 2018
When my late friend Dali first visited Rome (with her husband) and then decided to stay for a long while (without her husband), she knew minimal Italian. But one of the phrases she learned pronto was Quando comincia lo specttacolo? When does the show begin? Going to the movies in Italy is a trip. No matter the length of the film there is an intermission during which ushers roam the auditorium selling refreshments, people go outside to smoke. For me, even the posters are a treat. Billboards for American films (like House of Games, seen here) rewritten in Italian. Phrases like un film di David Mamet. I wonder if these two Grottese kids came up with the 2500 lire to attend.
October 11, 2018
Right around the corner from the cathedral in this fabled Tuscan town is the Sexy Cine. I can’t remember what film was on, but I do recall that in the other cinema in town, the family one, was Disney’s Gli Aristogatti. As my friend Antonio reminded me, “In Italy, we have the pope and Cicciolina.” Indeed. It got me thinking about how American youths learn about sex. A group of friends and I once shared stories about how our parents told us about the birds and the bees. Mine was the most painful: At bedtime, my father read to me from some Catholic tract called Dear Son, as I squirmed and hoped it would soon be over. (My younger brother, under the covers in his twin bed across the room, was laughing and making flatulent noises. I suspect my father was the most uncomfortable one in the room because he only tried this indoctrination once.) One friend, I wish I could remember which one, said that his entire sex education consisted of his father’s saying to him, “Don’t use anything.” He had no idea what that meant and still doesn’t.
October 10, 2018
The first time I visited Boston, Nick and I arrived on an overnight Greyhound bus from New York, stumbled out of the bus station into Park Square around 5am and were accosted by a toxic drunk who snarled, “F*ck both of you!” Whereupon Nick remarked, “How nice of the Chamber of Commerce to greet us upon our arrival.” That same trip, I remember someone had altered with spray paint the incised “Washington” on the base of this statue, adding “Irving, Author.” It’s since been cleaned up and beautifully lit on a recent warm, full-mooned evening. The Public Garden always seems special to me, no matter how often or in what season I visit.
October 9, 2018
When the Obama administration began to open up travel to Cuba again (after the doors had been slammed shut during the Bush years), I leapt at the chance to visit. I went legally with New York’s Center for Cuban Studies, a group that had received a “people-to-people” license from the US State Department. This license allows qualified groups to visit Cuba in order to exchange cultural information, learn about art, music, healthcare and other topics. It is renewed annually. Or not. This year, it seems, not. Reports abound that the State Department has been more than unusually sluggish and the many licensed groups (including National Geographic and many Ivy League alumni associations and other cultural travel organizations) have had to cancel planned trips because they no longer have these precious licenses. You can read more about this here. Meanwhile, I count my blessings that I was able to go when I did.