Ah, the peace and serenity of Walden Pond, being appreciated here by my friends Nick (right) and Peter on our tour of historic New England. I’d also like to commend my two friends on their masterful interpretation of the “jumping picture.” A double, no less. As it was off-season, the bath house was closed. (Happy birthday, Nick. Today we begin my favorite three months of the year when you are TWO years older than I am.)
September 29, 2013
One of the great pleasures for me of a museum membership (or, failing that, a “free” day offered by a museum’s sponsors) is picking out a single painting or two and just taking time to observe it. Copley’s Watson and the Shark (detail shown) is one of my favorites at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. It’s not only displayed in a place of honor and well-lit, it also has a bench in front of it for the lingering visitor. It’s so wonderful to spend time with this painting and notice small details, such as the single finger of Watson’s left hand as it emerges from the water.
September 28, 2013
I have a tendency to walk a lot while I’m visiting a new city, a tendency not happily shared by my travel companions. When Nick arrived to meet me in NOLA, he (somewhat) graciously acquiesced. We started in the French Quarter, then through the Irish Channel (shown above), and out to the Garden District where we joined up with a tour given by the National Park Service (and during which author Anne Rice emerged from her beautiful, modest house.) A hot day, a long walk. We took a streetcar back along St. Charles.
September 27, 2013
Even though we’re not far from the Minuteman Battlefield, you’re not about to see the whites of my eyes. At least not in those aviator-glasses days. And especially not in daylight. Nick and Peter and I had gone on a historical excursion out to Walden and Concord when we spotted this monument in the town square. It called my name.
September 26, 2013
And now, in honor of our 1000th blog entry here on SLS, a quiz. What is this? Dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee-dee. Time’s up! If you guessed that it’s the spiral glass staircase in the Apple Store in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, give yourself a (brief) round of applause.
September 25, 2013
This is my friend Artie, trying to master the art of the jumping picture. As you can see, his leap owes more to his Broadway background than to Philippe Halsman. We were in Venice to visit Muscle Beach, a stop in my “Essential Los Angeles” tour. That night, after enduring Stacy Keach’s performance in some one-man show in Pasadena that Artie was stage managing, our post-theater dinner was interrupted by a phonecall that took us to a hospital where Artie’s boyfriend was suffering after his back had gone out. We spent the rest of the night between hospital, prescription pickup, ambulance enlisting and other activities I can’t remember. I do remember that we never had dinner. Jump!
September 24, 2013
Oh, dear. What a mess. The late Miss Monroe? Me? How about both? Especially back when this photo was taken. I was on a work-related trip to Los Angeles and my friend Artie was taking me to all the important landmarks: Westwood Mortuary, Muscle Beach, Max Factor. But really, those sunglasses?
September 23, 2013
This is my friend Eleanor with whom I worked in The Caption Center at WGBH-TV in Boston. We were attending a birthday weekend thrown for herself by our friend Tamsen at her parents’ schuss somewhere in Green Mountain State ski country. It was kind of a lost weekend, if you know what I mean. I recall that Eleanor’s boyfriend (at the time) brought along his female-in-heat beagle (who drove a male German shepherd, also in attendance, wild.) I also recall climbing to the unlighted second-floor dorm, drunk, not realizing that someone had left a trap-door open...and tumbling down a flight of stairs into a group of stunned guests. (I was so black-and-blue the next day; a doctor assured me I’d have done more damage if I’d been sober. Hmmm, think so?) I haven't been in touch with Eleanor for decades. And in spite of the dicey associations, I still like this photo a great deal.
September 22, 2013
And here I was thinking I was so smart to have avoided not only the lingonberry preserves and the bulk of the gravy from my Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes dinner at IKEA. Now comes the news that testers have found horsemeat in the meatballs themselves, in spite of the meat ingredients being listed by IKEA as beef and pork. Actually, the scientists indicated they’d detected “a trace of horse,” which strikes me as amusing, on a par with a waiter’s once telling me that a dish had “a whisper of spinach.”
September 21, 2013
Though the Dale Chihuly show is long gone from its spectacular installation at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, it’s hard to miss this remaining piece, soaring as it does through the atrium courtyard of the museum’s new American wing. All those spikes, glistening.
September 20, 2013
Believe it or not, this photo was taken at about 12noon on a sunny September day. Well, sunny until the fog rolled in, not unexpected at any time of day here on Maine’s rocky Atlantic coast. This spot was one of my favorite sights to visit whenever Jay and I would drive north to visit his parents at their summer home. The other favorite spots were Round Pond (home of lobsters and mounds of fried seafood) and Dot’s Pies (a small roadside stand in a small front yard from which Dot sold her homemade delights; best visited during blueberry season.)
September 19, 2013
Not my proudest moment. I blame it on the fact that I was with my friend Dali, queen of the photo op. Together we have “joined” statuary in many a public space, most notably in Rome. Here in our nation’s capital to visit an ailing friend for the last time, we managed to turn otherwise static stonework into accommodating tableaux vivants. Sort of.
September 18, 2013
And here are the same three brothers you saw in yesterday’s posting. Buddy on the left, Joe on the right, my father in front. Though it’s hard to make out who is who, so I’m just judging by their relative ages. My father grew up in Brooklyn and told me stories about sledding down the snowy steps in front of the Brooklyn Museum. But little else. The family moved to New Jersey about five years after this photo was taken. I love that my two uncles are duded up in matching sweaters and caps. And wearing neckties (again!) for this studio portrait. My father’s hat says “Tosca.” What could that have been?
September 17, 2013
My three sons. Or at least that’s what my grandfather sitting there could say. I never met either of my grandfathers. My mother’s father fled his wife and daughter, or so I was told. And my father’s father (shown, front) had died before I was born. But here is my father (center) in uniform, flanked by his older brothers Joe (left) and Buddy (right.) What could this occasion have been that my two uncles were wearing neckties and vests? All three sons are gone now, too. I love my father’s smile in this photo.
September 16, 2013
Baccalà. Bacalhau. Bacalao. Clipfish. Saltfiskur. Morue. Whatever (and wherever) you call it, it’s salt cod. Fresh fish preserved via drying and salting, done the way it’s been done for centuries. Our town of Gloucester, MA, was once a thriving center for salting the cod catch in just this way. Old photos show the racks of fish, salted and drying in the sun. Imagine the aroma. Uh, no, thanks. Actually, I’ve never been a fan of the stuff in spite of my adventurous eating habits in so many other Old World arenas. In Madrid one night, our waiter and the restaurant’s chef came to the table (it was a slow night) to show us the difference between the salted stuff and what it’s like when it’s been rehydrated. Interesting, but still, no, thanks.
September 15, 2013
This photo was taken to illustrate a story in The Setonian, our college newspaper, indicating that I would be taking over the editor-in-chief position from my graduating friend Paul (shown, right.) When I look at it now, I am amazed at my youth. At the length and darkness of my hair. And that I still wear the same style of eyeglasses. I remember that shirt: pale blue field with stripes that were a light green bordered by yellow. Oh, what nice boys we were.
September 14, 2013
Dawn. So quiet and beautiful. And, making it even better, you’re in Barcelona. I would get up somewhat early, have coffee, then head out for an early run through the old medieval streets of the Barri Gòtic, over through the El Born neighborhood and into the Parc de la Ciutadella, up and down and all around its elaborate fountains. And then back, just in time to shower and, after another coffee, start in on a lazy day’s activities.
September 13, 2013
The first time I had anything called “Greek sausage” was many years ago at the Town Diner in Coolidge Square, Watertown, MA, the town in which I now live. The diner has changed hands from the original Greek owners to a neighbor of mine who’s made it into a popular and spiffed-up bit of nostalgia...with better food. I liked it then, I like it now. And they still offer “Greek sausage” as part of their breakfast menu. With the pieces of orange peel in it as I remember from my first taste. Here in Athens at the central market, I tried to identify that sausage of revered memory...but with so many varieties on offer, and an different alphabet to boot, no luck. I’d put my money on the long variety in the upper right. But I bet they’re all good.
September 12, 2013
No matter where I travel, I always wind up at the cemetery. Sometimes deliberately, sometimes, as here in Milos, by chance. Jay and I hiked up to the town at the top of the island this quiet and sunny Sunday morning, and along the way passed friendly goats, deserted neighborhoods (people were in church, or sleeping?) and this whitewashed graveyard. More basic and stark than those I’ve visited in Paris, Mexico, New Orleans and Istanbul, it seemed to fit in just right with the sunbleached houses on this tiny isle.
September 11, 2013
Welcome to the fish market in central Athens. This photo doesn’t even begin to approximate the crowded madness of the place. Hardly any room to walk, filled with shoppers (and a few intrepid tourists) and a crowd-enforced baby-step procession that comes to a complete halt when some in the line stops to buy something. Jay went nuts. I tried, unsuccessfully, to get a good picture. Instead, just a crazy memory. I liked it. He didn’t.
September 10, 2013
My two goals in Athens: See the Parthenon. Taste some gyros. Score! Seen here (in the capable hands of Dr. Blake), some post-Parthenon lunch from the acclaimed Sabbas just off Monastiraki Square. So good. And don’t think for a minute that the pigeon in the picture got any of it.
September 9, 2013
Pimientos de Padrón. Seen here in La Boqueria, Barcelona’s central market. And seen on virtually every tapas menu in Spain. Fried, salted and delivered tasty and green, they sometimes carry a surprise message. Every once in awhile, these sweet little guys give way to an errant picante one. You can tell when this happens to someone else because they grab for their water glass. And you can tell when it happens to you, well, in a more incendiary way.
September 8, 2013
My friend Karen forwarded an article to me recently about certain NYC restaurants that no longer permit diners to photograph their food. It allegedly disturbs others. Well, as most of the places mentioned in the article are somewhat upscale, I don’t think I have to worry. And even though David Chang has some pretty high-up-there eateries in Manhattan, his original spot, Momofuku, still has a casual, funky charm. Not only that, it has these magnificent steamed pork buns, too. Click.
September 7, 2013
When I entered the small but well-stocked Barthélémy cheese shop in Paris’ trendy 7eme arrondissement, two salesladies were chatting, no one else in the store. In my halting French, I asked, “Can you help me, please?” One replied, “Perhaps.” And so began a somewhat rocky exchange. The details, somewhat frosty, are unimportant when set beside the results shown here. I’d explained that I was in a hotel, that I had no kitchen, that I wanted to try some cheeses. And that’s pretty much what happened. Along with some bread I picked up at Poilâine, I was able to sample some Camembert, a Vacherin and some third kind. Chèvre or goat, I think. (Later, a friend explained a possible reason for les madames’ haughtiness: “Catherine Deneuve shops there.” So what?)
September 6, 2013
Big brother is watching. On a lazy Sunday morning hike to a hilltop village here on the small island of Milos, Jay and I encountered a total of perhaps three cars in two hours. Still, drivers, be warned. Translation provided for potential English-speaking scofflaws, as well.
September 5, 2013
I’ve always thought of Montréal as an odd amalgam of Paris and Minnesota. The weather, the clothes and, yes, sometimes even the food. Tourtières (meat pies), Cretons (fatty pork spread)...and don’t get me started on Poutine. Why, I wonder, would people want to take perfectly good crispy French fries and douse them with cheese curds and, worse, gravy? As Robert DeNiro memorably said about overcooking meat in Raging Bull, “Defeats the purpose.”
September 4, 2013
My favorite bread bakery in Montréal is Le Fromentier at 1375 Rue Laurier Est. It’s just enough out of our way that we tend to drive there as we’re headed out of town, often spending the last of our Canadian money on “a few things” to take home. Seen here, just a small sampling of what’s on offer, some baguettes, some Pullman loaves. Elsewhere, in addition to the ovens that you can see in operation, there are shelves of different kinds of fougasses, brioches, sourdough loaves, puff pastries with a range of sweet or savory fillings, breads enhanced with any number of nuts, dried fruits, seeds. Certain items are only available on certain days. The aroma alone makes it worth the trip.
September 3, 2013
A man outstanding in his field. Not exactly. Though the Parc La Fontaine is my chosen spot to run in. Lots of paths, twists and turns past ponds and (of course) fountains. Parents entertaining their children. Public art. Even dogs who speak French. Imagine. We always visit Montréal in the autumn when the leaves are radiant, and then fall to the ground. The leaves, not us.
September 2, 2013
The name of the bookstore may be Modern Poetry, but I saw no poems on the sparsely stocked shelves. Mostly picture books for the tourists, a few cookbooks, tracts that align well with the Socialist regime. Still the sign above the front door and this terrazzo sidewalk just below suggest a more prosperous time, maybe 70 years ago, when this was the place for the Habana glitterati to congregate.
September 1, 2013
Can you tell a langouste from a langoustine? From a homard? Do you want your lobster to be Breton or not? These French are serious about their food. Local and sustainable are not new concepts for them. They’re not all that interested in fast food, and regularly stage protests when McDonald’s tries to open in their terroir. Here at the Marché Bastille, there were dozens of shellfish vendors, each of whose displays dazzled. Hélas, as so often happens, the enticements of the market are visual only for this “no kitchen privileges” traveler. Still, it’s fun to look. And imagine.