April 30, 2013

Pinar del Río, Cuba. February, 2013

On our trip to this rainforest community, we got to visit with several artists who live in a colony there, with families, with folks who welcome foreign tourists into their lives on a daily basis. Even with “invasions” by tourists, there is still a sense of wilderness present. Example: this photo that shows both the pinar and the río that give the community its name. Plus a few dozen palm trees among the pines for good measure.

April 29, 2013

The Kasbah, Tangier. November, 2010

There is mystery wherever you turn in Tangier. Once you’ve managed to work your way into the medina, and through its twisty alleys, stairs and walkways, and wind up at the Kasbah at the top, you may be back in the sunlight, but maybe not in the clear. Who, for example, is that young observer behind those bars, eyeing Dr. Blake? And what are those bars anyway? And look at how blue the sky is. And the sea, even more blue. And the beautiful shape of that opening in the fortress wall. I loved all of the mystery. Jay did not, and he couldn’t wait to get back to the safety of our cruise ship. We’re headed back to Morocco this fall. Back to the mystery.

April 28, 2013

Madrid. October, 2009

In spite of two trips to the Spanish capital, we’ve never been inside the city’s renowned modern art museum. Only outside. At night. Like this. Why, I wonder? Inside is Picasso’s triumph, Guernica. And, oddly, maybe that’s why. When I was in high school and in college, this magnificent painting was housed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art (Picasso did not want the painting in Spain as long as Franco was in power.) I had a student membership and went their frequently, each time visiting Guernica as well as the many studies the artist had made that were on display nearby. In 1981, Spain finally reclaimed the painting and it now rests here in the Reina Sofia. Could a resentment be preventing me from enjoying it again?

April 27, 2013

Cartagena, Spain. November, 2010

I love the collages of artist Kurt Schwitters, always have. And the more I look at them, the more I wonder how much he may have been influenced by postings on billboards seen in his youth. Much more prevalent in Europe than in the USA. Layered, overlapping, ripped off, perhaps only partially. Look at the assemblage on this billboard here in the south of Spain. Except for the little bit of graffiti, this collage with its text, its strong colors, its own geometry... it could easily be something Schwitters might warm to. And given that the posting announces a strike (huelga), he might like it even more.

April 26, 2013

Lisbon. November, 2010

I sometimes joke that I know “menu French” or “menu Italian.” I can order a meal pretty easily in a restaurant. When it comes to Portuguese, I don’t even know that much. I remember the waiter in a small Lisbon neighborhood restaurant mimicking various animal sounds to let me know what the main ingredient was in several of the dishes. His “chicken” and his “pork” were the most memorable. Fortunately, when it comes to the pastry shops, I’m a little more fluent. Don’t ask me how. But I know the word for almond (those little tarts up top) and “snails of apple” on the lower right. We manage. And, mercifully, no one had to mimic “snail.”

April 25, 2013

The Bosphorus, Istanbul. June, 2007

I love to take pictures of people taking pictures. In this case, people taking pictures of me. Here’s my friend Nick on board the private boat run by the late Korfez restaurant that transported diners from the European part of the city to the Asian side, a bit north of downtown Istanbul under the shadow of the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge. You can just see Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror’s 15th-century fortress of Rumeli Hisarı on the coast in the background. A wonderful day out of the touristed areas, a great lunch, a sleepy ride back into town...plus a stop for baklava at Güllüoğlu once we got back.

April 24, 2013

San Francisco. November, 2005

Seen from my hotel room, the Glide Memorial Church looks a bit ominous, no? Something out of Vertigo? Wish my visit had allowed me a weekend here, because I sure would have liked to have been a part of the fabled vibe here every Sunday morning. I’d first read about Glide in one of Maya Angelou’s memoirs. And since then, each time I’d heard it mentioned, it was always in some wonderful way that only reinforced my interest. Its website says it’s “a radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization.” And much as I wouldn’t have wanted to be in on the group conscience sessions that crafted that highly distilled statement, I do like the idea behind it. Less “church,” more people. Maybe.

April 23, 2013

Venice. October, 2012

Come se dice “fast food” in Italiano? Venice, Barcelona, Hamburg, Paris, Istanbul, you name it, pizza and kebabs offer a much healthier, preferable and quick real-food alternative to the kind of fat-and-calorie-enhanced grab-it fare available here in the colonies. Alas, the food of choice among more and more of my fellow Amuricans is now making lamentable inroads throughout the Old Country. To say nothing of its invasion of Asia. Tastebuds of the world, unite!

April 22, 2013

Boston. July, 2011

On a recent trip to visit his alma mater, the Rhode Island School of Design, my friend Simon told me stories of his youth as we passed certain sites. For example, in an alley behind the foundry building, Simon told me that as a freshman, he’d passed a man shoveling pieces of glass into a wheelbarrow. Simon asked if he needed any help, yes, and so he wound up shoveling and carting the load for the man. At which point the man asked Simon if he’d like to be his assistant. “No, thanks,” said young Simon. “I’m a painting major.” The man, as Simon learned later, was Dale Chihuly, famed glass sculptor (and founder of RISD’s renowned glass art program) whose recent major retrospective at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (from which comes this dazzler) was pretty spectacular.

April 21, 2013

Valencia, Spain. November, 2010

I’m always touched by the postings I see everywhere I travel, people searching for their lost pets. Usually cats. This time a Jack Russell perrita, lost in a neighborhood near the central market in Valencia. No matter where, the sentiment is still the same. And look at that reward! That’s a lot of sentiment. I also like that the owner indicates that the little dog is wearing a diamond collar, but that the stones are fake. Buena suerte, chiquita.

April 20, 2013

Watertown, MA. April, 2013

This was not how I had intended to spend my Friday. I woke up to three phone messages left overnight, advising me to stay indoors because of a Boston Marathon bombing suspect with explosives and ammunition in my neighborhood. This was before my coffee. Only later in the day did the full import of the situation hit home. A shootout three blocks from my house. A full-out manhunt for the suspect still at large. Emails from friends near and far urging me to stay safe. A sheltering-in-place command forcing us to remain inside our homes. Here’s a compromised photo of the door-to-door search carried out by armed soldiers on my sleepy street. Helicopters hovering overhead, sirens, police with sniffing dogs, teams inspecting all the garbage containers on the street for pickup day. Crazy. But, mercifully, now over. 

April 19, 2013

Istanbul. June, 2007

My friends Paul and Dan are planning a trip that will include a swing through Turkey. And while our plates of sweets at the famed Güllüoğlu may not have been my first thought for their “list,” it’s right up there. The Turks have a way with filo dough. They roll it, fill it, shred it, shred it and roll it, infuse it with chocolate. Usually pistachios are involved. And, of course, a sweet soaking syrup. And why not? Paul, Dan, find out if they do take-out and leave room in your luggage, OK?

April 18, 2013

Venice. October, 2012

The Basilica di San Marco. The Accademia. Peggy Guggenheim’s collection. La Fenice. The Rialto Bridge. The masterpieces of local boys Titian, Tintoretto and Bellini. All beautiful and all attention-worthy. But sometimes in your travels, what you really want to see is this.

April 17, 2013

A Esquina da Fé, Lisbon. October, 2009

We were unfamiliar with the size of the portions in Portugal. We soon learned. At one of our favorite Lisbon restaurants, this platter of Cozido à Portuguesa, filled with meat, sausages, rice AND potatoes, and some vegetables (carrots, turnips, cabbage) served on the side. This is a single serving. For one person. It seems that every country has its own version of the one-pot boiled dinner. The French Pot au Feu, Spain’s Cocido Madrileño, even our New England boiled dinner. But nowhere have I found gargantuan portions like this except in Portugal. Sharing allowed.

April 16, 2013

Tucson. November, 2006

I love so many things about my visits to friends Simon and David in Tucson. The conversations, of course, both silly and serious. And the many things that are so different from those at home in New England. The light. The colors. The plants. Like this beautiful one here at the Desert Museum. Can you make out the little spider web toward the center of the plant? Spiders, big and small, both poisonous and benign, are among the few things, all of them alive, that I’m not so crazy about. Sadly, my current Tucson visit is slated to end today. Back to Massachusetts, back to responsibilities, back to cold.

April 15, 2013

Tucson. November, 2006

I love Tucson. And I haven’t been there in awhile. So I look at my photos and think about returning. And think about returning here to the Little Café Poca Cosa. Their food is casual, wonderful and plentiful. Their staff is warm and welcoming. And their attitude? Well, just look at these notices in the window. A great place. (And if all goes as planned, I’ll be having breakfast or lunch or both at LCPC on this very day.)

April 14, 2013

Tucson. November, 2006

Look at these innocent critters. Ruby on the left, Pablo on the right. Butter (or the dog equivalent) wouldn’t melt in their mouths. Or not at least until my friend David says the magic word, “Snackies!” And then all hell breaks loose. Jumping, whining, chaos. I think they thought my camera was some kind of food when I took this early-morning photo. Hence their attention.

April 13, 2013

Tucson. November, 2006

My friend Miles is a painter whose primary medium is encaustic. By mixing pigment with wax, he employs this ancient technique to create some pretty amazing visuals. I was one in Tucson to see an installation of his called Hive, which is exactly what it was. A walk-through, wax-coated hive, made from some of the same plastic webbing you see here in his multi-panel work shown at his Tucson gallery. An acclaimed champion of encaustic, Miles teaches classes in the medium and generously shows and encourages other artists who use it. I’m glad they have air conditioning in Tucson. It gets so hot there sometimes, I worry. (I'm hoping that I'll be able to visit Miles's gallery today in Tucson. Or maybe I already did so yesterday.)

April 12, 2013

Tucson. November, 2006

A part of every trip I make to visit my friends Simon and David in Tucson is my “walk” from their home at the base of “A” Mountain to the downtown campus of the University of Arizona (with stops at thrift shops, cafes and Mexican folk art stores along the way.) The university art museum is a jewel. Ditto the Center for Creative Photography just across the way. Their shows are always first-rate, like this one: Richard Avedon’s In the American West. The place is never crowded, allowing the visitor some peace and quiet in which to examine not only the special exhibits, but also the offerings from their vast permanent collection. And, frankly, it’s nice to duck out of the constant Arizona sunshine for a little while into a place of subdued and gentle darkness. (With any luck, I’ll be making my “walk” through Tucson this very day, ending with an art opening of Simon and David’s work this evening. Life is good.)

April 11, 2013

Tucson. November, 2006

On my first trip to Tucson, back in 1987, Simon introduced me to Mexican fast food. Specifically here at El Rapido. He pulled up in his car, instructed me to go inside this hole in the wall while he waited, and ask the counter person for a quesadilla. I didn’t ask questions, I just followed orders. And when the flour tortilla filled with queso and a stray jalapeño or two arrived, I was transported. I’d never had anything like that in New England or New Jersey. (Now, of course. But then, no.) Of course, how could I not love it when it contained one of my two favorite things in the world: melted cheese, in any form. (My other favorite at the time was getting paid to watch TV. Now, you couldn’t pay me to watch it. But melted cheese still reigns.) If things go as planned, I'll be enjoying a Mexican lunch in Phoenix today with my ex-Bose-o pals Eileen and Ted. Yay!

April 10, 2013

Grand Canyon, AZ. March, 1995

Unrealistic expectations. I was thinking about this earlier today when I saw a print of the Acropolis in my dentist’s office. I remember arriving at the real Acropolis a few years ago and thinking, “Yeah. Nice. And filled with history.” I guess nothing could have lived up to my expectations, filled with mythic wonder, built up over the years. I had pretty much the same reaction when I first saw the Grand Canyon on a visit there with my friends Simon and David. Impressive? You bet. But again, nothing like my expectations. (I love this picture of David and Simon that I call “The Fondas.” Henry. And Jane. And if all goes as planned, I should be arriving at their welcoming Tucson home this very afternoon.)

April 9, 2013

Pompeii. October, 1984

One of the things I remember reading about the eruption of Vesuvius, the burying of nearby Pompeii in ashes and lava, is that people were caught unawares, overwhelmed in the activities of daily life. The blacksmith hammering, the baker removing loaves from his oven, the housewife shopping. Just like this woman here, returning home from the modern city’s central market, bags in hand, taking a shortcut through the famous excavations. Careful, honey.

April 8, 2013

Lisbon. October, 2009

And why not? In Barcelona, we’d seen the Museum of Chocolate. In Istanbul, The Museum of Innocence. My town has a Museum of Plumbing. Why not a Museum of Bread? Unfortunately this one turned out to be a shop rather than a real museum. But who knows? There may be a real Museum of Bread somewhere. Perhaps on a future trip...

April 7, 2013

Watertown, MA. March, 2013

If all goes as planned, I will be selling my beloved 1998 Subaru Impreza hatchback today. I bought it new and it’s served me well. Maybe because I’ve taken such good care of it for 15 years. Mainly through the skills of the world’s most honest car mechanic whose garage I’ve been patronizing for more than three decades now. The new owner, a young woman who’s a manager at a local Starbucks, found me through Craig’s List. (It goes without saying that many less desirable respondents found me through CL, too, including one who kept telling me that she was “single again!”) I’m happy that my faithful car will be going to a new home, one not that far from my own, so maybe I’ll even be seeing it on the streets for years to come. 

April 6, 2013

Venice, Italy. October, 2012

Why does everything sound so much better in Italian? Butcher shop. And why do things always look so much better in Venice? Just because. Tucked away in a back alley somewhere between the Rialto Bridge and the Frari Church, this beautiful and simple sign. Jay and I just wandered, sat down for a picnic lunch in a quiet square, then joined the crowds again for some “sights” before heading back to our peaceful digs on the isle of Giudecca. Butcher shop.

April 5, 2013

New York, NY. December, 2006

Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed these simple steps. Or at least that’s what the owners of this short-lived but earnest automat on St. Mark’s Place had hoped. Alas, for all their burger sliders, their peanut-butter-and-jelly tidbits, their mac and cheese offerings, the place failed. Still it was fun (and pink) while it lasted. And their attempt to revive the automat trend of the early 20th century was admirable but not all that sustainable. The backwards cap on the “how it works” fellow should indicate the demographic they were hoping to capture. Didn’t work.

April 4, 2013

Ostia Antica, Italy. November, 1986

How many tourists over the centuries do you think have had their picture taken here at these ancient toilets in the old port of Rome? Ostia, now far inland, used to be on the seacoast before silt and such robbed it of its enviable position as the chief Italian seaport of the Roman Empire. About an hour outside of the capital by train, it’s a wonderful, slowpokey activity for a Sunday afternoon, too far from the centro to attract many non-Italian tourists. I was mostly by myself here in autumn warmth and sunshine. So I suspect I set the self-timer on my camera, rested it in a fine spot and smiled with impunity. Hand sanitizer, anyone?

April 3, 2013

Ortaköy, Istanbul. June, 2007

Just a few miles north of downtown Istanbul is the neighborhood of Ortaköy. Quieter, less touristed, beautifully set along the Bosphorus. You take the city tram to its furthest northern stop, then hop on a bus for 15 minutes and here you are. The waterside Grand Mecidiye Mosque is somber and architecturally important. The flying banners of Ataturk and the Turkish flag announce the area’s gentle nationalist pride. The Bosphorus bridge (connecting this European part of the city to its Asian side) just seen in the distance speaks to the country’s technological and sociological advancement. Ortaköy has slowly become one of the city’s chicest and coolest (street artists set up a market on Sundays) areas, and it was a great stop for us on our day trip up and across the Bosphorus.

April 2, 2013

Paris. December, 2005

No wonder I spend so much time in the market whenever I am traveling. Look at what greeted me here in Paris on the Rue Cler on market day: French breakfast radishes and perfect artichokes. I suspect they were served that same day by a savvy Parisian housewife who snapped them up for lunch. Or breakfast. 

April 1, 2013

Watertown, MA. April, 2012

Oh, what must it have been like before the FDA, back when any snake-oil salesman could cook up some cockamamie brew and sell it as medicine. Making outrageous claims for its miraculous benefits. And not just on April Fool’s Day. A quick internet search for some of these 19th- and early-20th-century elixirs finds ingredients more likely to be found on the streetcorner these days than in a pharmacy. For example, Psychine. The bottle is pretty (and I kept it in a window for years) but Dr. T. A. Slocum’s claims that it cures “consumption and all disorders of the throat & lungs” (when “taken in conjunction with his compound emulsion of pure cod liver oil and hypophosphites of lime and soda”) seem questionable. (The bottle has been passed on to my friend Marin, who sometimes prefers to go by the name Psychine these days, opting for a French pronunciation that I won’t even try to type phonetically here.)