February 26, 2017

Tucson Museum of Art. November, 2006

On this, another wonderful trip to Tucson, I had a chance to sit in on one of Simon’s popular classes: Students would bring samples of their work, colleagues would comment, Simon would critique and offer direction. Foothills housewives, timid high-school students, established artists, the class attracted a mixed bag in terms of both demographic and talent. Miles, an experienced painter whose chosen medium was encaustic, showed his work that day. I’d met Miles during an earlier visit (he’d been inserting tens of thousands of toothpicks into Saguaro sculptures Simon was creating) and had liked him instantly; he was extremely nice, friendly from the get-go and welcomingly flirty, an unbeatable combo. After class, I accompanied Miles back to the gallery he’d opened, saw his work on exhibit, toured his studio and wound up buying a beautiful small encaustic from him, one that I now admire daily in my New England home. This photo, shot through a window during Simon’s class, seems to be framed by the vertical stripes that also boldly mark the painting I bought from Miles. Textures, colors, shapes and light -- it suggests so much that I love about the American Southwest.

February 25, 2017

Watertown, MA. January, 2017

"Hey, Laaaaady!" Here, a few brief paragraphs about the truculent Jerry Lewis from the recent biography of Joan Rivers, Last Girl Before Freeway. Words fail.

February 24, 2017

Springfield, NJ. December, 1955

My mother and father met when both were working at New York Life Insurance Company. And here, straight from the NYLIC employee magazine, the happy offspring of their union. My brother looks as distracted as most people were in that somewhat challenging household, especially so around the holidays. And, as you can see, all I wanted for Christmas, as the song goes, were my two front teeth. Alas, Santa failed to deliver.

February 23, 2017

Florence, Italy. September, 1986

I’ve heard that visitors to Italy divide naturally into two camps: those who favor Florence, those who side with Rome. I’m squarely in the earthier Roman camp, but that doesn’t render me immune to the charms of its more formal northern rival. The glorious Tuscan light, the Giotto frescos in Santa Croce, the vibrant student life in the oltrarno, the treasures of the Uffizi (uncrowded only during the lunch hour), the gritty communal energy of the no-frills working-men’s trattoria I’d discovered (pasta or soup? beef, chicken or pork? basta) and the serendipitous views, like this one, a fisherman I spotted by chance in the Arno late one autumn afternoon.

February 22, 2017

Westwood, CA. October, 1981

My first trip to Los Angeles, so naturally I wanted to see all the mythic places, fabled in legend and in song. Among them: the Hollywood Sign, Marilyn Monroe’s grave, Muscle Beach, Frederick’s of Hollywood, the stars along Hollywood Boulevard, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Fortunately my friend Artie, a transplant from NYC to LA, was happy to indulge me. And my proclivity toward jumping pictures, this example of which was shot at Westwood Mortuary. I stayed at the Chateau Marmont (before it got all glammed up after John Belushi’s overdose) as Gore Vidal had lionized it in Myra Breckenridge. Artie and his partner Danny took me to a genuine Hollywood party (where I was introduced to “Loretta Young’s decorator” and an out-of-it young lady who said she played “the nurse in American Werewolf in London.”) Danny, at the time, was working for Paramount, his main responsibility, he told me, making sure Cindy Williams “stayed sober and behaved” at events. They generously made sure their starry-eyed East Coast friend had the complete Hollywood experience, even taking me to a Mexican restaurant “where Jane Fonda eats.” And before I left town, I’d seen Jimmy Stewart on a streetcorner and Elizabeth Taylor in a car stopped at a red light. Hooray!

February 21, 2017

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. March, 2016

Here, under wraps, is the dessert my friend Nick made for Easter dinner: Cassata alla Sulmonese. Several layers of butter cream, each incorporating a different mix-in (torrone, croccante, chopped chocolate, etc.) I foolishly thought that by quietly putting my placecard on it, I could reserve the entire cake for myself. Alas, that was not to be. But I did manage two generous servings (as did almost everyone else at table.) And I confess that I picked a little at the crumbs during cleanup after the guests left.

February 20, 2017

Cambridge, MA. October, 2016

I never met a French-fried onion ring I didn't like. Alas, some more than others. Witness these rings from the Tasty Burger in Harvard Square. Below average. Too crinkly, the batter breaking and falling off the onion. (That, of course, did not prevent me from eating every last crumb.) Fortunately the superb company for this dinner out more than made up for any shortcomings in the rings department.