I love this shot of my creative colleagues, eyes on the monitor, checking out the video that had just been shot by the director of photography (red baseball cap). We were in LA, working on a TV commercial for Bose headphones. I miss working with these wonderful, inventive friends. But I don’t miss a lot of the power-play shenanigans of other, less-talented, fear-based folks.
August 30, 2014
I have been dealing with woodchucks ravishing my garden. On the advice of a friend, I bought a Havahart trap. (I had planned on toxic-smoke bombing the critter in its burrow.) And since that day two weeks ago, I’ve caught a rat (mercifully dead by the time I found it), two raccoons (both of which lunged and hissed at me, one of which also barked) and a woodchuck (which I drove 13 miles away and released in conservation land. Like a good boy.) The following day, I saw another woodchuck in the garden, so I set the trap again. After several days of nada, I awoke this morning to the sight of two raccoons. One in the trap (seen here) and its companion standing guard and staring me down as I approached. Cute, but nasty. You know the type.
August 29, 2014
No trip to Los Angeles is complete for me without time to walk down Hollywood Boulevard, stepping on the sidewalk stars in the Walk of Fame, marveling at the ornate extravagance of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, seen here. (Yes, it’s called Mann’s Chinese now, but I hold onto its original name from Hollywood’s Golden Age.) It still functions as a movie theater. I saw ‘Mommie Dearest’ here one tipsy night, I think, a long, long time ago.
August 28, 2014
We were shooting a TV commercial for Bose headphones here in this Los Angeles park, but I kept getting drawn to some of the colorful architectural details that never made it into the video. Like these spheres. And the facets and cutouts of the yellow building. The pebbled floor of the fountain. It was a beautiful day. And then it wasn’t, as thunderstorms blew in just as we were finishing our 13-hour ordeal.
August 27, 2014
On a production sound stage outside of Los Angeles, shooting video for a TV commercial for Bose headphones. The guy in the chair was positioned for a lighting check. I remember people saying how cute they thought he was. The next day, an outdoor shoot, he wore his glasses instead of his contacts...and few recognized him. So fickle these “industry” types. Still, I like the silhouette.
August 26, 2014
I like this photo because it suggests any number of scenarios without giving the viewer much information at all. A circus performer? A man swinging on a rope? In fact, it was a cute stagehand on a video shoot for Bose headphones that we spent two 13-hour days working on, indoors one day, outdoors the next. Grueling work, tedious. But the crew, who do this all the time, were upbeat and fun. Like this guy. Californians.
August 25, 2014
Attention to those of you who have never worked in television. It’s not glamorous. Especially television production. It’s actually rather tedious. In a “hurry up and wait” kind of way. In an all-day-and-night shoot kind of way. Like this 13-hour shoot for a TV commercial to plug Bose headphones. The final video was just fine. But what an ordeal! Reminded me of the take-after-take shoots I used to work on when I wrote for Mystery! on PBS. Repeat: Not glamorous.
August 24, 2014
I was astounded at the number of billboards in Los Angeles. As soon as you leave the airport and hit the road, bam! One almost on top of the next. This view of the Sunset Strip from my room in what was then called the Wyndham Bel Age (and is now “reimagined” as The London), is mild compared to other neighborhoods. But even so, you can see two billboards for Bose QuietComfort 2 headphones, the installation of which occasioned my visit.
August 23, 2014
August 22, 2014
June is a terrible month to visit DC. Ditto July and August. I believe it is the humidity capital of the Western World. And when I attended graduate school at Georgetown University there in 1970, the site currently occupied by the Watergate Hotel was home to a fat-rendering plant, perfuming the area with as rancid a smell as I’ve ever experienced. Every. Single. Day. So during this return trip almost 20 years later to visit an ailing friend, the foul odor was gone, so...a joyful jump.
August 21, 2014
Along Ste. Catherine Street in Montreal, cafes and bakeries rub elbows with peep shows, hustler hangouts and bath houses, and no one bats an eye. But then again, we borrow the word nonchalance from the French. One evening, our friend James found himself in conversation with a friendly young native outside this theater. After they’d spoken for awhile, the young man wanted to indicate that their chat was of an introductory, “professional” nature when he announced, “I’m working now.” It has become a key phrase that James and I repeat from time to time, remembering his faux pas.
August 20, 2014
August 19, 2014
August 18, 2014
August 17, 2014
August 16, 2014
There are monuments all over Cuba. Mostly billboards extolling the virtues of Fidel, Che, other heroes of the Revolución. But here’s one of many, many tributes to Jose Martí, the revered leader who championed education for all Cubans. We’d pulled over at a rest stop somewhere between Cienfuegos and Havana and saw this in an empty lot, the middle of nowhere.
August 15, 2014
You can expect to see just about anything in Cuba. And that’s why I love this photo. Not that it’s composed well or remarkable in any way. I just like the bride in her windblown dress, the young lady in the pink ruffled minidress on the left and the photographer on the right. This was our last day in Cuba. I was walking around the Plaza de Armas, the outdoor book market in the old part of Havana, and came upon this scene. I want to return.
August 14, 2014
Meet Queen Elizabeth. That’s how she introduced herself to us when our much-delayed flight from New York finally landed in Havana. Elizabeth was our guide who stayed with us for a week and maneuvered our tetchy group through a number of “situations.” She was heaven on Earth and I loved being able to speak a little bit of Spanish, just enough to joke with her and our bus driver, Angel. When I started to softly sing a La Lupe song, she told me I needed to sing it con salsa. So I did. “Puro Teatro.” With gestures. She mostly wore T-shirts and jeans, so when she showed up for our farewell dinner all dolled up, well, I needed a picture. I learn from Facebook that Elizabeth is now married and has her first beautiful child. ¡Felicitaciones, amiga! [Author’s note: Can you see why I hate flash pictures? Jesus! I look like her grandfather!]
August 13, 2014
This is my Cousin Bobby, leaning on the gravestone of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. Upon the occasion of his visit (the first time I’d seen him in decades), we’d taken a stroll to Mt. Auburn Cemetery -- one of America’s first “garden cemeteries” and not far from my house -- and I learned that Bobby shared my enthusiasm for memorial parks such as these. I spend an inordinate amount of time in them when I travel. In France, Mexico, New Orleans, you name it. I’m not sure Bobby is as into this activity as I am, but if not, that’s probably to his credit.
August 12, 2014
The Cuban Cuatro. From left, seated: Jeannie, Patti, Ginny. Standing: yours truly. The four of us were in the same “Art and Architecture of Cuba” trip three months earlier, and when Ginny told us she was coming East from her New Mexican home, we all met in Harvard Square. Just recently I learned that the Center for Cuban Studies, who sponsored our trip, has received its license to send more groups to Cuba. Time to return, ladies?
August 11, 2014
Nana. This is my maternal grandmother, who came over “on the boat” from Ireland to work in domestic service in Swampscott, MA, and somehow managed to get to Elizabeth, NJ, where she married, had a child (my mother) and raised her alone after her husband ran off. That’s pretty much all I know about that; my family is Irish and no one talked about these things. Or about anything, actually. Nana and I shared a dislike for noise. I liked to visit her alone, without my parents or my brother. We’d sit in the quiet. She made me great hamburgers.
August 10, 2014
When I worked at public television, I sometimes would volunteer to participate in the station’s annual fundraising auction. One year, the auction producers asked me to pitch an item up for bid, a Jacuzzi hot tub. But they wanted me to talk it up while in the tub. Along with my colleague Julie. We traveled to nearby Milton, where a unit was already installed, and taped the segment in advance of the auction. The thing I remember most about the afternoon was the cameramen asking me a million questions about Julie. Whatever.
August 9, 2014
August 8, 2014
Halloween is my favorite holiday. A night of fantasy and make-believe and otherworldliness with solid roots in quasi-religious tradition. So it’s always nice to find, no matter where you travel, a reminder of what you’re missing back home on October 31. Romans don’t really celebrate Halloween as such, but there are plenty of tourists and expats in the Eternal Città who do.
August 7, 2014
Frequent readers of this blog know that I love to visit markets when I travel. And that I also love especially to find artichokes in those markets. I hit the jackpot here in a small market near the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Look at those artichokes! Some trimmed, some not. Not cheap, but so, so beautiful. And while you’re at it, you might want to pick up a container of zucchini blossoms, stuff the fiori with fresh mozzarella, dip quickly into a light batter and fry. That is if you’re lucky enough, unlike most tourists, to have a kitchen at your disposal. Otherwise, just look and imagine.
August 6, 2014
Welcome to Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. The most important church after St. Peter’s Basilica. In recent years there have been a number of desecrations here, statues being smashed, people pissing on the walls of the church. Could these have been related to the Vatican’s appointment of Boston’s shamed Cardinal Bernard Law as this church's head honcho? Maybe enacted by people fed up with the shuffling around of church officials like Law who’d turned a blind eye or two to the child abuse going on in their parishes? Just asking.
August 5, 2014
When I lived here in the 1980s, McDonald’s was just attempting to make inroads with its first Italian outlet near Rome’s Spanish Steps. (The salad bar featured octopus. Just saying.) Well, in the 25 years since, the gates of hell have burst wide open, allowing all of the multinational fast-food chains access to a country that still ranks high in appreciating slow food. On a stroll to visit Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, I came upon this sign indicating where I could enjoy Il Whopper, if I so desired. Non, grazie.
August 4, 2014
Purtroppo for us, the excellent Da Pietro was not open on the Sunday we strolled by. I have many wonderful memories of this hostaria that I frequented (on special occasions) when I lived nearby in the 1980s. Wild strawberry risotto. Fettucine with cream and cheese and shavings of white truffle. Spinach gnocchi, which one Egyptian colleague dubbed “little poems.” Alas, no poetry on this visit. Next time. I was happy to see that it was still in business, thriving no doubt.
August 3, 2014
Oh, the wonderful markets of Rome. Oh, the frustration of being a tourist on vacation without a kitchen. But still it’s fun to see what’s fresh, what’s in season, and then to see the same ingredients used in whatever trattoria you decide to have dinner in that night. On the left, such beautiful “salad” spinach. On the right, the short-season green puntarelle, cleaned already no less. What a wonderful salad the two together would make.
August 2, 2014
August 1, 2014
What is that thing? Hey, a little respect, please. This happens to be one of the glories of Roman Jewish cooking, a single carciofo alla giudea. A star in every sense. Take an artichoke, flatten it out by pressing it against a hard surface, then deep fry it and serve it without garnish (a little salt, perhaps, a little parsley) to a happy, happy diner. I had my first in Rome in the early 1980s. And this one is being served to Jay on his first trip to Rome, too, on the patio at Ba’ Ghetto in Rome’s, you guessed it, Jewish ghetto.