I was warned, before I went to Spain and Portugal, not to confuse what we know in English as swordfish with what they know in Spanish and Portuguese as scabbard fish. Or something. Anyway, you can see some rolled-up examples of the latter here in the central market of Lisbon. Nasty looking things. Even nastier when unfolded to full length. I’ve never eaten one...as far as I know.
February 27, 2015
Teenage boys from New Jersey on their first trip to Europe. Can you blame them for reveling in the delights forbidden them at home? Like staying up very late. Drinking whatever and however much they want. And, well, acting like a group of teenage boys away from the nest. Being one of the Catholic-school trip's chaperones had its challenges. (Seen here, several of the rowdier ones at the back of the tour bus, inflating the condoms they'd purchased in some sex shop they'd visited.) Where, I wonder, are they now?
February 26, 2015
Another shot from the student trip on which I was a chaperone. (And an early example of the human/statuary opportunity I still tend to favor.) Can you guess which person here was the subject of scandalous rumors after returning stateside and quickly vanished from the school, never to be seen or heard from again?
February 25, 2015
I have recently purchased a gizmo that transfers slides or negatives into digital images. And so I've been unearthing photos from the past, some of them of questionable taste and sophistication. Like this one, part of a project for a photo class I was taking. I seem to recall that I wanted to do something along the lines of Helmut Newton. I don't think Newton needs to worry.
February 24, 2015
"Three little maids from school are we." Seen here on one of the picturesque shopping streets of this picturesque Austrian town. Where The Sound of Music was filmed. And where Mozart was born. Both events feature prominently in the tourist brochures, names of menu items and window displays of souvenir shops. I was a chaperone on this Eastertime student excursion from the New Jersey high school where I was teaching. The kids on the trip were alternately gaga about seeing a larger world and being allowed to drink without restriction.
February 23, 2015
Vincent Price in his garden overlooking Los Angeles. I think of my late friend frequently, but always on this, the day after the Oscars when we would faithfully get on the phone and review the previous night's ceremony. Of course, his observations were those of an industry professional, mine just a star-struck fan's. During one such call a few years after this photo was taken, he told me that he had been too sick to attend the Oscar party he'd been invited to. "Audrey and Elizabeth were there." (What!? How sick would I have to be to skip a party with the Misses Hepburn and Taylor?) "I've always liked Audrey," he continued. "Elizabeth I've always thought was, well, tacky."
February 22, 2015
I’m always amazed when I see how Europeans love 20th-century Hollywood movies. In Madrid, a rep house shows Casablanca on a regular basis. Here in Lisbon, well, you can see for yourself. But try as I may, I still can’t figure out why those wacky French still revere Jerry Lewis.
February 21, 2015
February 20, 2015
In my first teaching job out of graduate school, at Union Catholic High School, I was also given the task of directing the Drama Club. Light comedy in the fall, musical in the spring. Instead of standard high-school fare like 'Bye, Bye, Birdie' and such, I chose Rodgers and Hart's 'The Boys from Syracuse.' Book based on Shakespeare, lovely songs like "This Can't Be Love" and "Falling in Love with Love." Yes, there's a whorehouse scene (we turned it into a disco) and the musical director (a nun with a drinking problem worse than mine) kept missing rehearsals and eventually dropped out of the picture leaving us with only piano accompaniment. But we made all our own costumes (dyed bedsheets with potato-printed embellishments) and constructed and painted the sets in a cartoonish way to keep it simple. And the kids got to hear such lovely music and lyrics from the Great American Songbook. I remember everyone laughing a lot and having a good time. So long ago.
February 19, 2015
February 18, 2015
We’d just had a wonderful, earthy dinner at A Esquina da Fé, a small neighborhood restaurant in a non-touristed part of town. As its name suggests, it’s at the corner of Rua da Fé (and Rua San José.) A great, atmospheric neighborhood, filled with music and local characters, and one that we were cautioned by the guidebooks not to frequent without caution. Please.
February 17, 2015
My best memories of Christmas Days past are those at my friend Nick's parents' house. Good company, good laughs, good food and plenty of all three. Here's our friend Peter, bedecked in some gaudy tinsel that I'd taken from the Christmas at POPS set (I was working at Boston's public television station which produced the show.) A cross-screen lens, a willing (eager) model, and this is the result. Before the day was over, we'd all posed with the sparkly stuff, glittering into the night. (I still love to spend Christmas with Nick. And to see Peter more recently, click here.)
February 16, 2015
On my first trip to Los Angeles, my friend Artie brought me to, among other places, Santa Monica, Venice and Muscle Beach. Yes, he showed me the outdoor workout stations where people would lift years before everyone else started to do so. But he also showed me the Pacific Ocean, seen here at sunset as a nature-loving native ran by with a feather-laden spear. California.
February 15, 2015
February 14, 2015
Fashion photo! When my late friend Dali took me to Italy for the first time (and changed my life), we would often be swept up in the cosmopolitan feel of Roma and indulge in every photo opportunity that came our way. Like this one. (In an aside, I've often thought that in spite of the many ways my Catholic school education was damaging, there are still a few things that I value from it. I appreciate grammar. I have good handwriting. And I can identify most of the saints in old paintings, some of whom were martyred in the building seen behind me. To honor my late friend Bernard by repeating his annual reminder about the correct and proper name for this very day: Happy Saint Valentine's Day.)
February 13, 2015
My first trip to Los Angeles. And my friend Artie brought me to all the required sites: Frederick's of Hollywood, Muscle Beach, Marilyn Monroe's grave, and the finishing touch, the Walk of the Stars along Hollywood Boulevard. Naturally, I went for high glamour. If not in my ensemble, then at least in my choice of stars.
February 12, 2015
When you go to Lisbon and you have a craving for seafood, cross the river. By taking the frequent commuter ferry across to the residential neighborhood of Cacilhas, you’ll not only avoid many of the other tourists, you’ll also pay about a third of what you’d spend on a similar dinner in the center of town. And the food! Lisbon portions are notoriously large. Here are our plates after we polished off just one of the many shellfish offerings we enjoyed in a multi-course seafood dinner for about $30 per person at Vale do Rio.
February 11, 2015
Here's our friend Cenk who lives in Istanbul. When Jay and I asked him to pick a place for the three of us to have dinner, he picked one his favorite spots, Çiya. Which happens to be one of our favorites, too. It was a warm night and Cenk managed to get us a table outside. Lots of good food, lots of laughs and lots of good conversation (ranging from Anatolian cooking to Justin Bieber.) At the end of the night, as we all headed to the various ferries that would take us home across the Bosphorus, Cenk gave us two copies of his beautiful book, named for his excellent blog, Cafe Fernando. One copy for us, one for our friend (and his friend) Nick. Check out Cenk's blog. And keep your fingers crossed (as we have ours) that his book (Time Out Istanbul's Cookbook of the Year!) will soon be available in English.
February 10, 2015
In an earlier blog entry, we spoke about the number of fish sandwich stands that offer balik ekmek (fish bread) throughout the city. Some are on boats. Some just a simple setup with a grill and a side table. All offering the same thing. Everyone seems to have his favorite vendor. Here is one of ours, situated just outside the Karakoy fish market, clearly a family business. (I love the little boy's suspicious eyeing of the curious photographer.)
February 9, 2015
OK, I like baklava as much as the next guy. Probably more. And nowhere is it better than in Istanbul. But I do have limits. For example, these "portraits" made of tinted pieces of the rich pastry on display in one of Istanbul's best baklava shops, Güllüoglu. On the left, Ataturk (the founder of modern Turkey and a leader so revered that public criticism of him is a punishable crime.) On the right, under the Turkish flag, an earlier leader, the sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. (Or is it Suleyman the Magnificent?) For a look at some of Güllüoglu's more traditional baklava, click here.
February 8, 2015
Balik Ekmek. Fish Bread. Simple and direct. And very popular. There are fish sandwich places all over the city, but the most popular ones seem to be gathered near the Karaköy fish market at the Galata Bridge. You might think that all of the fishermen on the bridge or along the banks of the Bosphorus and Golden Horn would mean the fish in these sandwiches was very fresh. But you'd be wrong. Most of it, we're told, is frozen and comes from Norway. Whatever. For five Turkish lira ($2.10), it tastes mighty good and no one's complaining.
February 7, 2015
My friend Nick and I have spent most Christmases together since we were in high school. So why should this year be any different? Of course, it sweetens the pot that he has become an acclaimed pastry chef over the years with some dozen books to his credit. So it's no surprise that his holiday dessert table encourages indulgence. Seen here, this past Christmas' sweet offerings.
February 6, 2015
In keeping with yesterday's "modern v. ancient" blog entry, we offer this. A caretaker on break outside the Suleymaniye mosque, dating from the 1550s. Reportedly Istanbul's largest mosque, it sits on the city's highest hill. Which, if you've ever climbed some of this city's elevations, is saying something. A cigarette, a cellphone, perhaps some texting. Time marches on.
February 5, 2015
Yes, yes, I'm sure it's politically correct and very "green" to use these energy-saving bulbs in the fixtures of the beautiful Rüstem Pasha Mosque. But somehow it seems wrong to me to have this jarringly modern touch in a building whose other embellishments date from the 1560s.
February 4, 2015
Breakfast outdoors at the Little Cafe Poca Cosa, my favorite place for casual, good food weekdays from 6am-2:30pm. This day’s desayuno: the Plato Poca Cosa -- one huevo ranchero, one chile relleno, one portion of barbacoa...and, of course, all of the sides. Chips, salsa, beans, rice, tortillas, fruit, salad. And the pleasure of the company of my friend Miles.
February 3, 2015
February 2, 2015
One of the many reasons I love my friend Nick's new Brooklyn neighborhood is because of the "old school" reflection of the many different ethnicities who moved and settled there in years past. My favorite Turkish restaurant, Hazar, is at 73rd St and Fifth Ave. And two blocks west is this, Leo's Casa Calamari. No surprises here; you know exactly what you'll be getting. Give me direct and honest food like this over glitzy fusion creations on gigantic plates anytime.