July 26, 2017

Tucson. May, 2005

My beloved friend Simon is an artist in Tucson. Among his many public-art contributions, his magical Diamondback Bridge downtown stands out. Crossing six lanes of traffic on Broadway, the pedestrian “snake bridge” is a wonderful addition to the landscape and personality of this hip town. Each time I visit the bridge, there are always parents and children, equally delighted by the whimsicality of it all. It lights up gently at night. Its yellow eyes glow. The sidewalk within the patterned bridge is incised and tinted in a diamondback design; when it emerges from the fanged mouth it suggests a forked tongue. Why, there’s even a raised tail at the rear and a motion-activated sound device to produce a rattle. Simon planned this project for some five years, working with city panels, funding sources, neighborhood groups and engineers, simplifying his original plans, retaining its spirit of fun and identity. I’ve been visiting this bridge since it debuted in 2002 and I have yet to find a way to snap a photo that captures it fully. Maybe that’s the way magic should be. Thank you, Simon.

July 25, 2017

Watertown, MA. May, 2017

Another shot from this year's Project Literacy picnic. Adding insult to injury, this youngster stepped out into the rain to check out a nearby fountain...and someone pushed the "start" button. Trapped!

July 24, 2017

Watertown, MA. May, 2017

I've been tutoring a young man from Morocco in English through the town library's Project Literacy program. And every year, the program holds a potluck picnic. This year, the picnic took place on the only evening that it rained in two weeks. But that didn't dampen the spirits of the participants, including this musician who kindly played soulful numbers as the rain fell just beyond the sheltering gazebo.

July 23, 2017

Boston. August, 2010

Two things I try to be aware of when I travel. Are you allowed to take photos in the museums? (Mostly yes, without flash; some museums, like those in Cairo, charge you to bring a camera inside.) When are the museums free? (Varies. Madrid’s Prado is free to all most evenings and Sunday; Paris’s Musée d’Orsay has a more complicated policy, of course. Check local listings.) Admission to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts on Wednesdays from 4pm to 9:45pm is by “voluntary contribution,” which for many means “free.” Such MFA freedom allows an hour or so to look at one or two things without the burden of the normal $22 admission fee. For example, on this afternoon I sampled the “Avedon: Fashion, 1944-2000” exhibit (Suzy Parker, Dovima, China Machado, Jean Shrimpton, Penelope Tree, Twiggy), a show of Japanese tattoo paintings, a moment with the Eqyptian mummies, a walk through the Catalonian chapel. One hour and fifteen minutes of visual delight, accompanied by the pleasure of eavesdropping on many foreign visitors speaking a lovely mix of Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese. Gratis.

July 22, 2017

Braga, Portugal. October, 2009

When we left Santiago de Compostela this Saturday morning, it was shrouded in misty fog, a bit of drizzle, the damp chill of early autumn in Galicia. Almost miraculously, as the bus headed south from Vigo and crossed the border into Portugal, the sun came out, bright and warm. A sign of good things to come. The first, our stop in Braga. Though the guidebooks and online sites indicated there were lockers to store our luggage at the Braga bus station, they’re weren’t. So we carried it the few blocks to the tourist office to inquire. A wonderful young man told us they were just closing for lunch but we could leave our heavy bags with them as long as we picked them up by 5pm closing time. Welcome to Portugal. And off we went to catch the bus to the Santuário Bom Jesús do Monte, Braga’s #1 attraction just outside of town. Up, up, up the double switchback stairs, up past the grottos representing the Stations of the Cross, up to the basilica at the very top, which houses a number of three-dimensional tableaux of religious/historical scenes...as well as a dolorous statue of the Blessed Virgin with seven full-size swords piercing her heart. Braga, we were told, is the most religious and conservative spot in the country. Yes, indeed. That afternoon, we took the train further south to the somewhat looser university town of Coimbra.

July 21, 2017

Off Gloucester, MA. September, 2006

I love this picture of Jay, taken on some business-related outing. We live in what’s sometimes been sarcastically called “a fishing town that ran out of fish.” (Or had them taken away by increased government restrictions.) And because so many fishermen live in Gloucester, there really is no decent fish store because there aren’t enough customers to sustain one. (I once went into a fishmonger's shop in nearby Rockport and asked for bluefish and the owner pointed down the street to the beach and said, “Go catch one yourself.”) Odd that we wind up having to go to a supermarket (or wangle our way into a wholesale outlet, or rely on a fishing neighbor) to find decent fresh fish. Not this day though. Jay caught this beautiful bluefish, had it cleaned, ate it. I told him he looked so happy in this photo snapped by a colleague. He told me, “I was scared to death.”

July 20, 2017

Madrid. October, 2009

October seems a perfect time to visit this lovely city. It’s still warm enough to stroll around in light clothing even at night. The early mornings are crisp and perfect for a nice, long run to investigate the city as it’s waking up. (I found neighborhoods near athletic fields and the university that I never would have come across in my normal walks through the centro.) The summer crowds have gone home, so there are no lines at museums and restaurants. And it’s not blisteringly hot as I’m told it is in July and August. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon and, once we got settled at our NH hotel on Calle de José Abascal, we walked south toward the Prado, which offers free admission on Sundays as well as on weekday evenings. How civilized. In a park along the way, these two madrileñas, chatting and smoking under the watchful eye of a señorita on an exhibition poster. Inside, we decided to find just one painting and enjoy it: Las Meninas by Velasquez. Then on our way we went, lured by the siren song of fried calamari sandwiches at one of our favorite places, El Brillante.