My friend Dali and I headed to DC to visit a friend whose health was declining even as he was denying that he was ill. And while we spent lots of good time with him, laughing mostly at the expense of others, we also hit many of the museums around town. This was the way the light came into the new wing of the National Museum of Art. Soon our friend was gone. And not long after that, Dali was gone. But the good memories, like art, endure.
April 29, 2015
When I was teaching at Union Catholic Boys High School in Scotch Plains, NJ, I was asked by the German teacher if I would come along as chaperone on a school trip to Germany and Austria. The trip was during Easter vacation and hit Munich (Olympics year), Salzburg, Melk and a few other hotspots. I remember in Innsbruck, I was tempted to hop on a train and head to nearby Italy for the day, but it turned out to be impractical. Still, this city was cold and clean and beautiful. Like so many of the people there. For a look at this same street at night, check yesterday's entry.
April 28, 2015
Nighttime in Innsbruck. I was a chaperone on a high school trip to Germany and Austria over Easter vacation. And at night, I was able to enjoy some free time to myself. Here is the main street in town as it looks after dark. For a daytime look at the same scene, check back tomorrow.
April 27, 2015
April 26, 2015
Postcard shot? Well, yes, I guess so. But this is what it really looks like. In all of my trips to the Eternal Città, I've never gone into the Coliseum. I was thinking, as I look through all of my old slides, that I took so many (too many) pictures of sites and buildings, and too few of people. That may be because back in 1980, there was no internet to provide visuals instantly of just about anything in the world you'd like to see. So I felt I had to document my trip, bringing home with me then the visuals that are available to everyone now.
April 25, 2015
On my first trip to Italy, with my late friend Dali, we stayed in Padua and took the train for a day trip into Venice proper. As there was so much to see, my pictures from later in the day, as the autumn sun was rapidly setting, tend to suggest more moonlight than sunlight, like this one taken from a vaporetto on the Grand Canal.
April 24, 2015
The fabled Spanish Steps in Rome, as seen from the poet John Keats's window. Well, what used to be his window and what is now his museum. Or, for the more 20th-century-inclined among you, from the window of Karen Stone. The window from which the love-starved widow threw her keys to the menacing gigolo below who'd been tailing her for weeks, through the pages of Tennessee Williams' novel, The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. Finally, overcome by sexual desire and the thrill of danger, she tosses down her keys to him and then awaits her fate. No spoilers here.
April 23, 2015
Istanbul is the only city in the world to span two continents, Europe and Asia. On the Asian side of the city, where there are fewer tourists and more natives, the best food markets can be found. Like this one that I try to visit each time I'm in the CIty of the World's Desire. Look at those lovely lemons, an ingredient so central to Turkish cuisine, all Middle Eastern cuisines, actually. I have the good fortune to live in an Armenian neighborhood in MA, where high-quality lemons abound. Beauties that put puny and desiccated supermarket examples to shame.
April 22, 2015
One sure sign of Westernization: the shopping mall. This one, a short metro ride from the "old city" of Istanbul, is chock full of stores and of shoppers. And it's here, in a store devoted entirely to goods made of terrycloth (Turkish towels?), that I bought Dr. B. his favorite bathrobe. And then, like a good Westernized shopper, went back minutes later and bought myself one.
April 21, 2015
Let's all go to the tapas bar. That's where these little beauties are headed. Available lightly breaded and fried, boquerones are a familiar staple of every bar in town. Seen here in the city's famed market, La Boqueria, where, it was recently announced, tour groups of 15 or more will not be allowed. But don't let that stop you from exploring this wonderful mercado on your own.
April 20, 2015
How many pastry shops do you know that have shrines to the Blessed Virgin in them? This is Spain. So you not only get devotional moments, you also get all those breathtaking stained-glass windows and art nouveau mosaics. In addition to the fanciful chocolates and pastries. This is Escribà, founded in 1820. Amen.
April 19, 2015
April 18, 2015
Across the street from Barcelona's Picasso Museum (the city's biggest tourist attraction) lies this little tapas bar with hardly a tourist inside. Except us this day. Instead, there's a faithful clientele of neighborhood residents, enjoying the fizzy xampanyet and other local wines along with a rich assortment of small plates of hams, cheeses, eggs, olives, but mostly preserved fish and seafood. And, as the sign says, "There's cold beer," too. Go there.
April 17, 2015
April 16, 2015
When I was living in Mt. Tabor, NJ, my friend and next-door neighbor found a recipe for Aubergines Imam Bayeldi in Elizabeth David's French Provincial Cooking. Did she/we ever make it? I can't remember. But we certainly talked about it enough, dramatically reciting the name of the recipe (which translates from the Turkish as "The Priest Swooned," allegedly because of the vast quantities of olive oil his wife needed to prepare the dish.) I left NJ in 1978. My neighbor and I have not been friends for almost 35 years. But I think of her often, and fondly, and always when I make this dish. I know I'm not the same person I was 35 years ago, and she probably isn't, either. Maybe I'll finally email her. Why not?
April 15, 2015
Can you see that Dr. Blake is smiling? Maybe that's because we're on our way out of the chaotic bustle of the medina and headed back to the safety of our ship. In our few hours in Tangier, we'd been threatened by a fruit seller, witnessed lambs being prepped for slaughter in the street (it was the eve of a major Islamic feast day), gotten lost in the Kasbah and had to ask directions out in French, and been approached by some pretty inventive "mosquitoes" (people seeking to be our "guides.") Still, we got a brief taste of the evocative and mythical city that prepared us to visit Casablanca, Rabat and Agadir several years later.
April 14, 2015
The Museum of Our National Heritage contains any number of fascinating items, from early flags and clocks to colonial tools and items of clothing. On our visit there several years ago, my friend Eileen and I happened across a photo exhibit that featured this portrait of anarchist Emma Goldman. (For the Hollywood-inclined among you, you may recall Maureen Stapleton's portrayal of her in the film 'Reds.' And for those of you with a sweet tooth, you might like to know that she once owned an ice-cream parlor in Worcester, MA.) Goldman was deported, even though she was an American citizen, because of her activities...and because of some political maneuvering that remains questionable even today. You can learn more about her here. (Are you familiar with WWJD?, the Christian teen anagram to help faith-based adolescents make choices -- What Would Jesus Do? -- in a variety of challenging situations? My activist friend Michael instead asks WWEGD?)
April 13, 2015
I find it interesting how certain words in our language are invested with a nostalgic, almost mythic quality. And that they can mean different things to different people, and still retain their evocative spell. "Stardust." A song. (Two songs, really, if you count "Woodstock.") A hotel. An indefinable something that carries magic with it.
April 12, 2015
There is an episode of 'I Love Lucy' in which Lucy visits Hollywood and gets Richard Widmark's autograph on the only item she happens to have with her, a grapefruit. When she returns to the East Coast and tries to show it off, it has wizened dramatically and is virtually unreadable. I thought of that episode today as I came across this mish-mash of a photo. I was a guest at Vincent Price's Hollywood home, and the guest room had many photos on the shelves from parties he'd attended with his wife, the actress Coral Browne. I was enthralled and (I admit) put down several photos on the bed and tried to take photos of the photos. Here is the grapefruit-like result. Still, if you look closely, you might be able to pick out Vincent and Coral along with their friends Joan Rivers, Mr. and Mrs. Billy Wilder, Jessica Tandy, Karl Malden, Roddy McDowall and David Hockney.
April 11, 2015
When I visited the pretty hill town of Urbino in the center of Italy, I had arrived with the name of a local sculptor who was a friend of a friend. That distant connection did not prevent Fuffi (left) from welcoming me into his home, introducing his family, humoring my tourist Italian. Years later, when I met Nick's friend Paolo, and he told me he was from Urbino, I facetiously asked, "Oh, do you know Fuffi?" Paolo was amazed, said, “Of course, I know of Fuffi. He’s one of the great characters who bring Urbino to life.” He explained to me that the late sculptor was legendary, regarded as local royalty. (Paolo also got nostalgic when I mentioned Il Buco, a pizza place I'd remembered and one that featured prominently in Paolo's youth. I'll also mention here that when Jay and I met an Italian couple in the Casablanca train station years later, and they mentioned that they were from Urbino, I brought up Il Buco...and they started in.)
April 10, 2015
April 9, 2015
April 8, 2015
Dr. Blake is a published bread baker. Perhaps that's why he looks so paternal and protective of the loaf he's carrying through the Parc La Fontaine, our favorite place to run in this beautiful city. Actually the baguette is not one of Jay's. I snapped this photo as we were on our way back from Le Fromentier, one of our favorite bakeries in Montreal, and a place we try to visit on our way out of town so we can spend all of our remaining Canadian cash on their unmatched baked goods.
April 7, 2015
Does this look like a cemetery to you? Maybe it would if you lived but a few blocks from it as I do. In 1831, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society purchased 72 acres of mature woodland situated in Watertown and Cambridge for the creation of a “rural cemetery” and experimental garden. Bostonians founded Mount Auburn for both practical and aesthetic reasons: to solve an urban land-use problem created by an increasing number of burials in the city, and to create a tranquil and beautiful place where families could commemorate their loved ones with tasteful works of art in an inviting and natural setting. The public flocked to the new cemetery and Mount Auburn quickly became the model for the American "rural" cemetery movement. Among those buried here are Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Isabella Stewart Gardner, B.F. Skinner and Mary Baker Eddy. (Can you spot the heron in this picture?)
April 6, 2015
April 5, 2015
April 4, 2015
Today is Holy Saturday, or, as they say in Spanish-speaking lands, Sábado de Gloria. I have a special fondness for this day because its Spanish name is also one of my many nicknames. My friend Marco has decided that some of us need to have religious feast days as our alternate names, and this one is mine. His partner Roberto has told me that in Mexico on this day, people push their friends into any body of water that's handy. Or failing that, they throw buckets of water at them. Why, I wondered. No real answer. Could it be to encourage people to remain inside their homes, quiet and praying, on this day that Christ allegedly spent in his tomb?
April 3, 2015
My only experiences of any Chinatown had been in Manhattan and Boston. So imagine my awe and wonder when I first traveled to San Francisco and saw what a Chinatown could really be like. Armed with lyrics from 'Flower Drum Song,' I made my way to Grant Avenue, San Francisco, California, USA, and was struck by the languages, the shops, the meat and vegetable markets. And the extensive spread of prepared foods, like those available at this butcher shop in the middle of it all. (Perhaps not the wisest visual to display on Good Friday, a day on which my former religion discourages the eating of meat.)
April 2, 2015
Something so simple, so beautiful. My friends Roberto and Marco have three restaurants in New York (Brooklyn, East Village, Chelsea) all named Fonda and all terrific. Seen here, lovely paper cutouts strung along the ceiling of the dining room that sway when the air conditioning is on. R&M's tasteful touches, whether in decor or cuisine, make Fonda a must-visit destination each time I'm in New York.
April 1, 2015
Look! Even though we've had a record-breaking snowfall here around Boston this year, the sun has been blazing and melted it all. And my roses have even begun to bloom. Amazing. Alas, I wish it were so. We're still under a thick blanket of snow, still battling cold and wind and a white landscape that's been firmly in place since January. April Fool.