In going through my accumulated treasures, selecting items for our annual town-wide yard sale, I came across a stash of theater programs that I’d purchased at another yard sale many years ago. The ads in the programs were wonderful, with illustrations and headlines for products from the 1930s and ‘40s. But the plays themselves, astonishing. The premiere performances of ‘Porgy & Bess,’ of Eugene O’Neill’s ‘Ah, Wilderness!’ (with George M. Cohan) and ‘Mourning Becomes Electra’ (with Alla Nazimova.) A young Brando was featured in ‘I Remember Mama.’ And there’s a ballet program for an American tour by Anna Pavlova. How can you put a price on things like this? Easy.
January 30, 2014
January 29, 2014
January 28, 2014
Café Society. It means something different in Tucson. Seen here, a late-morning espresso at the recently spiffed-up (formerly funky) Time Market on University Blvd. where Simon and I passed a fine hour catching up, talking about everything, covering the waterfront. The warm weather lends itself to lazy enjoyment of caffeinated beverages now and then and then again. (Moments later, at lunch in a nearby Chinese restaurant, we heard on the TV that something terrible had just happened at the Boston Marathon.)
January 27, 2014
When there are so many striking Gaudí buildings around the city, how does a present-day architect make his mark? With some difficulty, probably. But that doesn’t hold any of them back. Check out this building, steps from Gaudí’s Casa Battló, on the city’s fashionable avenida, the Passeig de Gràcia.
January 26, 2014
January 25, 2014
January 24, 2014
Ouch! Ever seen Trip to the Moon, the wonderful early silent film from French pioneer director Georges Méliès? I used to show it to my students when I taught high school. The special effects are primitive and wonderful. And when the space capsule is loaded for its voyage to the moon, the chorus line of young ladies who load it face the camera, remove their bonnets and wave them at us. Lovely. This banner was heralding an exhibition at Madrid’s CaixaForum, which had a line of hundreds of screaming schoolkids waiting to get in as we passed happily on our way down the street.
January 23, 2014
We could not pass a single hardware store in Spain without Dr. Blake’s showing off that he knew this vocabulary word. He had determined that he was going to buy a sharpening stone here in Spain in order to remember this trip each time he honed his knives back in Massachusetts. He did. And he does. (Happy Birthday to our beloved Dr. B today, a man with a birth date mercifully easy to remember: 1.23.45)
January 22, 2014
Oh, those Portuguese do love their salt cod. Just look at this display in a department store food section. Throughout Lisbon (and just about every other Mediterranean country we’ve visited) there are stores that sell nothing but this dried and salted fish. Why, even back home in the US of A, salt cod can be found just about anywhere large groups of Mediterranean immigrants have settled. Including Gloucester, MA, and Boston and its environs where I see it all the time. I’ve really tried to like it. Can’t.
January 21, 2014
January 20, 2014
We always seem to be in Europe during peak mushroom season. I remember reading that Jacques Pépin, when he first came to America in 1959, was shocked that he couldn’t find any mushrooms in the stores aside from an occasional cultivated white button type. He’d have no issues with this fully stocked stall in Málaga’s’ mercado central.
January 19, 2014
The first full day of Restoration Hardware’s “gallery style” store in downtown Boston. (The opening had been delayed by police barricades owing to its proximity to the Marathon bombing site.) No price tags in sight. Just lots of RH furniture and lights shown in room settings. It’s a bit overwhelming. But beautiful. The lights! A wide range from huge and opulent crystal chandeliers to steam-punk numbers like this one. And the building! One of the city’s real gems, the former New England Museum of Natural History smack dab in the middle of downtown.
January 18, 2014
January 17, 2014
The Hotel Storchen. A beautiful place, perched on the river that runs through the center of town to the lake. Everything is clean and sparkling, of course, because it’s Switzerland. And everything is expensive, too, because it’s Switzerland. But for a short luxurious stay at the end of a vacation (in this case, one night after ten days in Turkey), it was worth every franc.
January 15, 2014
The play of light and shadow in Barcelona’s Barri Gòtic neighborhood can really be quite dramatic. (Trash container notwithstanding.) Alleyways, tunnels, arches, tall buildings that create dark spaces then, boom, the sun pierces through an intersection. Here’s a good example not far from the Picasso Museum...and the great tapas bar, El Xampanyet.
January 14, 2014
If you’re going to have a night to spend in Zürich en route from Istanbul to Boston, it’s nice to have it be in June. And especially nice to time it to spend the evening with my friend Nick, who apprenticed nearby some 100 years ago. On a walk from our hotel through streets Nick knew well, this late spring sunlight, dappled. (I am surprised that the formal, rule-following Swiss allow such random patterns.)
January 13, 2014
When I travel, I tend to avoid luxury, holding as my standard memories of trips when I was a college student. (No remarks, please.) Italian pensione rooms for $5. But I have to admit, as I get older, it’s nice to have a bit of pampering now and then. Especially when you’re forced to, so that there’s less guilt. On our US-sanctioned trip to Cuba, we went where we were told (mostly), including this fancy hotel in this fancy Havana neighborhood. (This is a view of the pool from my balcony that also afforded a vista over the Atlantic.) After our forced marches from site to site, it was very nice to return and put my feet up in five-star comfort.
January 12, 2014
Getting older is tricky. It sneaks up on you in tiny degrees. A bit more gray hair. A bit less hair, period. Injuries or cuts take longer to heal. Slow insidious changes. And mostly I’m OK with all of them, they don’t bother me. These free weights, once a daily part of my fitness regimen...I realized recently as I was gathering items for a yard sale, that I would never use them again. Ouch.
January 11, 2014
The chemistry building at my college never looked this good. Did yours? Actually “The House of Chemistry,” even though it’s near the Rue de l’Université, isn’t a college building at all. It’s an international conference center managed by an agency whose aim is to aid chemical engineers and scientists by organizing colloquia, conferences, stuff like that. Doesn’t sound all that interesting to me. And I guess others agree because some 80% of the activity here is conducted by those who have nothing to do with chemistry but who simply rent space within this beautiful building for meetings.
January 10, 2014
If you’re going to be a cat in Istanbul, there are worse places to hang out than at the casual fish restaurants along the Golden Horn, just beyond the city’s main fish market. For the diner, the proximity to the market means the freshest fish comes to your table. For the kitty, well, it means a few moments of demonstrative waiting before someone’s heart melts and a little bit of seafood is casually dropped from the table. Jay and I saw one cat maneuvering an entire fish frame that a generous diner had let slip to the ground.
January 9, 2014
Boston is a great music town, home to several distinguished music schools, several concert halls with remarkable acoustics. Among the best, this one: Jordan Hall, part of the New England Conservatory. The school hosts many free concerts each month, most of them modestly attended. This night, every seat was taken and people were sitting on steps and in the aisles for the NEC Philharmonia’s centenary performance of Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ with conductor Hugh Wolff. Still thrilling and shocking after 100 years. No riots this time though.
January 8, 2014
Three ex-Bose-os walk into a Mexican restaurant.... As soon as I knew I was headed for a visit to my friends Simon and David in Tucson, I contacted my former Bose colleagues Eileen and Ted, each of whom now lives near Phoenix, and made lunch plans. An early morning bus from Tucson, a few hours with my friends, a bus back. What a great day. And what great friends. We laughed ourselves silly. With good food to boot. Wish they lived closer.
January 7, 2014
You don’t really see signs like this on the East Coast where I’ve lived all my life. So I was fascinated to see so many of them here in the Denver airport while waiting for my connecting flight to Tucson. No problems with tornados on my trip. But there were April snowstorms here both on my way to Tucson. And on my way home.
January 6, 2014
When my friend Simon (born and raised in New England) moved to Tucson many years ago, I asked him if he missed being near the sea. “The sky compensates,” was his answer. I think of this when I visit him now in his new desert hometown. The sky is always blue, very nearly always cloudless. All the more striking because nothing in the baked brown landscape is blue at all. So when the alien color is introduced (as in this brick wall), it really stands out.
January 5, 2014
January 4, 2014
Some Americans shudder at the idea of fish being served to them in European or Asian restaurants because it hasn’t been filleted before it comes to table. And they’re missing out on a great treat when they don’t order it. Remove the head. remove the tail. Then filet it yourself along the central frame. Flip it over and filet the other side. Or ask a waiter to do it for you. They’ve done it hundreds of times and know what they’re doing. The grilled-on-the-bone taste is worth any effort. (Seen here, a wonderful treat at the equally wonderful Beyoğlu restaurant Sofyalı 9.)
January 3, 2014
Pimientos de padrón. Small green peppers thrown into a deep fryer to soften them up, then sprinkled with salt and served. Pick ‘em up and eat ‘em. Here’s a half ración we split at Melo’s Bar in the Lavapiés neighborhood of Madrid, recommended by Facebook friend and madridleña Indira. “Te puedes pedir unos pimientos de padron y rematar con un vino Albariño gallego, todo eso mientras luchas por un espacio entre la gente; pero vale la pena. Te recomiendo ir temprano, luego pueden caminar por la calle Argumosa, que está cerca y disfrutar de lavapies, uno de los barrios más pintorescos y multiculturales de Madrid.” And while we didn’t try the Albariño wine from Galicia, she was right: angling for a place at the bar was more than worth the effort; it was good to arrive early (opens at 8pm), and our walk down Calle Argumosa made the picturesque and multicultural Lavapiés our favorite neighborhood in Madrid. Muchisimas gracias otra vez, Indi.
January 2, 2014
What was this strange item that we kept seeing in the produce markets of the various Spanish towns we visited? It looks like some kind of peeled artichoke, no? Finally, in Cádiz, we worked up the nerve to ask. Fruit or vegetable? Fruit. How do you eat it? Slice it in half and spoon it out, spitting out the many seeds. What color is it inside? White. How come we’ve never seen it in the United States? It’s a tropical fruit. We bought one and sliced it open at lunch on our boat the next day, unleashing a torrent of curiosity among both our fellow guests and our Indonesian crew, each of whom had a story of something similar in his homeland. Like papaya with plenty of seeds, it was very sweet and probably not something we need to try again.
January 1, 2014
Before I was reminded by the guard that no fotos were allowed, I managed to snap this view of Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights, one of the many gems in the Prado Museum. In addition to being thrilled at seeing this painting in real life for the first time, I was also amused to see that Spaniards call the artist El Bosco and the work El jardín de las delicias. (Happy New Year, everyone. And Happy Birthday to SLS, three years old today.)