April 24, 2017

Cambridge, MA. September, 2009


David was on his way back from painting in Provincetown and I was happy he stopped for an overnight at my house. How to spend a lazy early-autumn Saturday? How about a walk through the Mount Auburn Cemetery? Criss-crossed with byways named Halcyon Avenue, Primrose Path (yes!) and Oxalis Path, this lovely spot of garden not far from Harvard Square provides the final resting places of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Winslow Homer, Isabella Stewart Gardner, Bernard Malamud, Buckminster Fuller, Mary Baker Eddy and several poets named Lowell, alongside many distinguished others with 19th-century names like Patience, Prudence and Joy. In the full-flush, last hurrah of its seasonal glory, the place never looked so radiant and overgrown as on this warm, late-September day. This simple waterlily pond, with all its shadows and reflections, looked to us like something an idle Impressionist might take a fancy to. We did.

April 23, 2017

Watertown, MA. April, 2011


My friend Nick bakes up a storm each Easter, always has. And when we lived closer to each other, I was able to enjoy the fruits of his labors more often than I do now. Instead, I either follow his infallible recipes to make these Easter specialties myself, or I try to find them at local Italian markets. This year, 2011, Nick is not only teaching a class in Italian Easter Baking at NYC’s Institute of Culinary Education, but he’s also at home this week making, according to his email, Pizza Rustica, Torta di Ricotta and both salty and sweet taralli. Me, I went to nearby Russo’s and bought some of their Pizza Chiena, a deep-dish olive-oil crust baked with a filling of ricotta, prosciutto, soppressata, Parmesan and more. The list of ingredients is somewhat flexible. Both Nick and my friend Dan each make theirs with heady combinations of Italian meats and cheeses. My friend Michael follows his nonna’s recipe with cheeses only, mostly fresh mozzarella. And when I mentioned Russo's version to a woman who works at my library, she said, "It's fine, but it's not like my mother's." I’ve seen this Southern Italian savory pie sometimes spelled Pizzagaina, which approximates a common pronunciation in Naples dialect. For the real backstory and Nick’s recipe, click here. Any way you make it, or spell it, it says Buona Pasqua.

April 22, 2017

Tucson, AZ. March, 2017


Each time I visit my friends in Tucson, I set aside one day to walk from their home to the university, stopping along the way for breakfast, for perusing a thrift shop or two, for going through the galleries at the U of A. The downtown scene is different every single time. Old stores close or move, new ones pop up. Fortunately for me, my favorite store, seen here, seems a permanent fixture of the urban landscape. I've never gone inside. I've never needed to. The sign and the window display are enough for me.

April 21, 2017

Tucson, AZ. March, 2017


It's official: Spring is here. At least according to the calendar. But the calendar means nothing here in New England. I tried to rush spring last month by taking a trip to visit my friends Simon and David in Tucson. Look at that lovely light on this palo verde, the glorious blue of that sky. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll have some of this to enjoy here in Massachusetts sometime soon.

April 20, 2017

Gloucester, MA. April, 2008


We here in the Bay State suffer through some pretty tough winters, the last punishing remnants of which often linger through late spring. So when the sun finally does peek out for a few hours at a time, smiles also appear and people go down to the sea, anticipating summer pleasures. This April day I headed to Good Harbor Beach and was not alone. Dog-walkers, high-school kids, other winter-whipped souls were here, too. (I think that I suffer from what I call “Statue of Liberty Syndrome” -- when I grew up in New Jersey, I never visited Lady Liberty because she would always be nearby so why rush? The same is true for me now with Good Harbor. I can walk there...and so I rarely do, especially when everyone else packs the place during the dog days of summer.) I don’t know who lives in this house perched above the rocky seaside shore, but it always reminds me of the home in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Let’s hope the occupants are better behaved and a bit more upbeat than the Tyrone clan in O’Neill’s original “reality show.”

April 19, 2017

Galata Bridge, Istanbul. June, 2007


One of the great things about going for an early-morning run while I’m traveling (besides the exercise and the resulting good mood) is that I get to see parts of the city I normally might not see. In Istanbul, I’d run across the Galata Bridge when these fishermen were among the few already awake. Then I’d head up along the southern shore of the Golden Horn into areas not frequented by tourists. (In a park near the conservative Islamic neighborhood of Fatih, I once saw a woman covered in full black burkha, swinging on a playground’s jungle gym!) On another morning, I headed up along the Bosphorus, running through the Dolmabahce Palace gardens, passing only early commuters waiting for the bus. Or I’d run the path along the Sea of Marmara, watching an early-bird swim club climb down the rocks and jump into the currents of these fabled waters. In Paris, I had the early city to myself, running through the grounds of the Louvre, under the Eiffel Tower, all throughout the Luxembourg Gardens. In San Francisco, out through the park to the Pacific or across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. Lisbon, Madrid...even Albuquerque was mine alone as I ran through the university campus long before classes started. It’s a wonderful way to get to know a city’s neighborhoods in an intimate and personal way...and not a tour bus in sight.

April 18, 2017

Villa Victoria, Boston. July, 2010


One of the many nice perks of leaving my corporate job? My time is suddenly my own, to spend in whatever way I choose. Such as at Boston’s first same-sex salsa dance class at the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts just before this Tito Puente Latin Jazz Festival performance. Daniel, Evelyn and Ana were to meet me there between 5:30-6pm for the class. When they didn’t, I partnered with a goodnatured young woman from Berklee College of Music, just as much a novice as I was. The instructor, a vivacious young black man named Vladimyr, put us through our paces, and we were all just fine...until the music started. Then it was the latinos in the class who pretty much showed us gringos how it’s done. Still, in spite of our awkwardness, it was a lot of fun. And when mis amigos puertorriqueños finally arrived (sometime after 8pm), Daniel (in blue and shades) and Evelyn (seen here mid-twirl) announced they’d been “practicing,” which was evident from the way they took to the floor and salsa’d away...without looking at their feet or counting the steps! A miraculously cool break from the week’s heatwave, lots of laughs with great friends and some wonderful sounds from the band Son de Madre. Muchisimas gracias.