Offered without comment. Oh, well, maybe just one: This house of worship is no longer. In its place is Stepping Stones, a daycare center for children 2 months to 6 years. The sign has been modified to reflect this change.
May 30, 2015
May 29, 2015
The local team of twirlers that marches in my town's annual Memorial Day Parade is called the Blue Belles. This year, they featured a soloist, which was probably a good idea as the little girls who followed seemed to be having a hard time walking and twirling their batons at the same time. Jay asked me if there actually were still twirlers or had women's lib abolished them. I just let that pass.
May 28, 2015
Today is Harvard Graduation Day. And anyone who lives or works in Cambridge knows to avoid Harvard Square at all costs. Especially do not plan (as I did) to meet a colleague there for lunch today. Because the university sets up its thousands of chairs in advance, how could my friend Patti and I, some 15 years ago, not take advantage of this photo opportunity the night before the big day? I say "Patti" but I really mean "Jocelyn James," one of Patti's countless alter egos. Each year on Graduation Day, I remember this photo shoot and laugh at the caption written on the back of this shot: "The crowd goes wild as Jocelyn Jas. takes to the stage on the opening night of her 'As a Feature' tour." I love my friends.
May 27, 2015
Da Pietro. One of my favorite restaurants in Rome. The food is traditional, yes, but with a little twist. Risotto of wild strawberries, for example. One night I watched a table of four shave a fresh white truffle into paper thin slices onto their fettucine. And the wonderful spinach gnocchi...one Roman friend called them "little poems." No argument.
May 26, 2015
It seemed for awhile that every time I'd go to some place in Europe, the pope would go there, too. Did he have access to my calendar? My itinerary? The most recent such "coincidence" happened in Barcelona just a few years ago when that Nazi pope was still in office, before he resigned. The current once, Francis, I wouldn't mind running into.
May 25, 2015
When my friends Antonio and Roberta took me to one of their favorite local restaurants, I was not prepared for the owner to show up tableside in drag. But apparently he does this as such a matter of course that no one (except me) blinked an eye. As you can see from his vampy pose, he is completely within his comfort zone. I remember that the food was very good, too.
May 24, 2015
May 23, 2015
I still don't think of Hollywood as having any kind of public school system, so I'm always amazed when I pass Hollywood High. What are the classes like? Who goes there? I think of Tuesday Weld in a 1950s short skirt and a cashmere sweater batting her eyelashes and having some crew-cut preppy guy in a varsity jacket carrying her books. "Science is truth found out" carved on the building. "Achieve the honorable," an odd choice of motto for such a scandalous town. Or maybe not. This was shot on my first visit to Hollywood High. And now that there's an In-n-Out Burger nearby, I'm sure to return more often.
May 22, 2015
The flower market at Easter time. Another shot from the Germany/Austria trip on which I was a chaperone for some 20 high school students back when I was a teacher. Just this past weekend, I was at a dinner at my friend Michael's house, and one of the other guests was his brother Jeffrey, who'd been a student of mine some 40 years ago. Jay was amused that Jeffrey, grown man now, could still not call me anything but "Mr. Leonard." I liked it.
May 21, 2015
This time of year, Jay's Gloucester garden is bursting with spring flowers. And I get to reap the benefits weekly as I pick a "docent bouquet" of daffodils and narcissus every Sunday before I head home. During the following week, as I arrive back from meetings at night, I flip on the light over the dining room table and -- boom! -- this explosion of operatic yellow loveliness.
May 20, 2015
When my friend Nick and I used to go to bars where we'd regularly see the same people but we didn't know their names...we came up with nicknames for them. Alligator shirt. Louvered doors. Mine was Green Glass because I collected green Depression glass at the time. Hundreds of pieces. Most are gone now, sold off as the collection became too overwhelming. I still have some pieces that are functional (measuring cups, citrus juicers, etc.) or that are gifts from friends. Witness this sectioned dish from my friend Kevin, filled with stones he'd collected from various East Coast beaches. Kevin recently moved to Illinois, but thanks to his generous gift, I'm still in touch with him every single day.
May 19, 2015
When I was teaching high school in Summit, NJ, I had a student, Gregg T., who was a nut about The Sound of Music. On and on and on. One day, as a visual prompt for a writing exercise, I brought in some photos I'd taken, including this one, and asked the students to come up with adjectives to describe the photo. Gregg said, "Sappy, overly sentimental" and other derogatory descriptions in that vein. And so it was with the greatest pleasure that I was able to tell him that these gardens were the setting for one of the on-location musical numbers in guess which film.
May 18, 2015
When I arrived in Los Angeles and connected with my friend Artie Gaffin, I had a list of places I wanted to see: the Hollywood Sign, the Walk of the Stars, and the Westwood Mortuary, resting place of Miss Monroe. Anyone who knows me understands that I brought a number of costume changes with me to accommodate numerous required photos. (For another, click here.) Also resting in Westwood now, but not yet on my earlier visit, is Truman Capote. More costume changes next time.
May 17, 2015
You say vinca and I say myrtle. And some say creeping myrtle. Whatever. I have it planted in front of my house as a maintenance-free, evergreen ground cover. Well, relatively maintenance-free...I have yet to weed out the hundreds of maple saplings that have sprouted among the springtime flowers. I've also learned that the plant serves up some 86 alkoids that are used in the formulation of a number of cancer-fighting chemotherapy applications. Who knew? I guess I should treat it with a little bit more respect from now on.
May 16, 2015
My beloved and late friend Dali, who took me on my first trip to Italy, always used to say, "Don't trust the something of the something." The Picasso of cooking. The Shakespeare of screenplays. You get the idea. Here, a photo from that first trip. San Gimignano, because of its many stone towers, is sometimes referred to as the Manhattan of Italy. Dali did not approve.
May 15, 2015
I used to say that I'd been spoiled by the movies. But that isn't entirely accurate. More like influenced. An example: I cannot look at the Fontana di Trevi in Rome without thinking of Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg walking through it in Federico Fellini's film La Dolce Vita. Not such a bad thing when you think about it.
May 14, 2015
I live in what was not long ago a predominantly Armenian neighborhood. There are still some wonderful Armenian markets nearby, still some Armenian neighbors, some churches (with their annual bazaars), but slowly the population has become more diversified. One holdover which makes me happy, these grape hyacinths that appear every spring all over town. So many, in fact, that it strikes me as if the planting must have been very deliberate. Recently I learned that the botanical name for this plant is Muscari Armeniacum, referring to its "native range" in Armenia. I'm imagining the immigrants bringing a piece of the Old Country with them to plant in the yards of their new home. Think so?
May 13, 2015
May 12, 2015
I love beets. I love to cook and cool and use them in a salad. To shred them, combine them with yogurt, garlic, lemon and oil to make tzatziki. I love their greens (sadly missing here) sauteed lightly like spinach. I love them marinated, pickled, you name it. Look at these lovely beets in Montréal's main market. Alas, as is always the case when we travel, no kitchen available to cook up the wonderful produce that tempts us at every turn.
May 11, 2015
I first heard about the Chateau Marmont when Gore Vidal had mentioned it in his novel, Myra Breckenridge. (The cover image on the novel's dust jacket was the illuminated larger than life amazon that revolved outside the Chateau for years, but no longer.) Reportedly the only hotel that Garbo would stay at in Hollywood. That was good enough for me, so when my job at public television in Boston required me to give a presentation in LA, I opted to stay you-know-where. This was in 1980, long before the hotel's multi-million-dollar renovation, before the room rates shot sky high, long before John Belushi OD'd in one of the bungalows by the pool. It was still a little shabby, Old Hollywood but rough around the edges. When I arrived, they had no singles left, would I mind being upgraded to a suite? Yippeee! I loved my stay there and managed to accumulate any number of souvenirs (hangers, stationery, pens, matches) that still make me smile today.
May 10, 2015
When I arrive at my friend Nick's home in advance of his giving a dinner party, I'm always fascinated not only by watching him cook (which I've been enjoying doing for decades now), but also by his attention to style (which glasses with which plates with which silver with which napkins, etc.) and his menu savvy. Seen here, three appetizers for his Easter meal: a mix of marinated olives, a pizza rustica (sweet dough, savory cheese and salami filling) and a cheese-filled focaccia-style bread whose name I forget but whose flavor I remember very, very well.
May 9, 2015
At my friend Nick's Easter table, a rich international roster of guests. Paolo from Urbino. Marco from Mexico City. And there between them in the striking straw hat with black velvet ribbon, Marilyn from Ohio. One of the chicest people in Manhattan, Marilyn is also one of the most open and down-to-earth. When she arrived, she told us that she was leaving her hat on because she hadn't had a chance to blacken her roots. I offered her a Sharpie that I had in my bag, but she declined. Oh so politely.
May 8, 2015
Nick and I have been friends for 50 years. (How this can be, I'm not sure, as neither of us is over 40.) And so I've been watching him cook and bake for decades, learning things almost by osmosis. This past Easter, I arrived early enough to watch him assemble and embellish this Cassata alla Siciliana. And then, later, to eat it. One of several terrific desserts he made for this baking-heavy holiday.
May 7, 2015
May 6, 2015
Bologna is generally acknowledged as the "eating capital of Italy," which, when you think about it, is saying something. Here's one of the front windows of Atti, a great store in the centro that sells, well, you can see what it sells. Always crowded, always good. I never get tired of looking at the many photos I took there some 35 years ago on my first trip to Italy.
May 5, 2015
May 4, 2015
I always manage to buy a perfectly ripe pear whenever I travel to Europe. In the colonies, I find that pears are either mushy or rock hard with very few in between. Not so in the Old World where people demand good quality fruit. Seen here, an autumn picnic outside the church of San Luigi dei Francesi -- a pear, some grapes, a loaf of bread, some Gorgonzola dolce, an always practical Swiss Army knife. Lovely Italian memories from 35 years ago.
May 3, 2015
I've just finished reading this year's Pulitzer Prize winner for biography/autobiography, David I. Kertzer's The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe, two bombastic snakes who used each other for political gain, almost always at the expense of others and of morality. I had always known that the Vatican crowd were manipulators heady with power, but now that the archives are open on the papacy of Pius XI, Kertzer dug deep and opened a Pandora's box of dirty secrets. Shame. It makes me more certain than ever that I made the right move when I renounced my faith in the Church of Rome several years ago. Seen here, the papal gardens in which Pius XI would stroll, deciding, among other things, just how public he should be about his deep anti-Semitism.
May 2, 2015
May 1, 2015
I met Staci about 33 years ago in Cambridge and we'd see each other regularly. Then we lost touch, she moved away to Arkansas. But each time I've visited my friend Nick over the intervening years, I've had the pleasure of seeing this large drawing that Staci did long ago, given to Nick by a mutual friend. It's so beautiful and haunting, and my photo does not do it justice. Recently Staci and I have connected again on Facebook. Hallelujah for social media. Some of it. Not too much.