After my mother died, I took my father on a trip to Ireland. It was where his own mother had come from decades before and a place he'd always wanted to see. He drove me crazy. He made noise 24 hours a day: whistling, singing, sneezing, snoring. My journal from that trip has several pages where all I've written, as large as the page would accommodate, was SHUT UP. SHUT UP. Still, I think he had a good time. And, well, that was the point. I guess.
August 30, 2015
August 29, 2015
I like finding things. Notes on the sidewalk. Things forgotten in books, even my own. Recently Dr. Blake showed me a 1971 ticket from the Atlantic City racetrack that he'd found in an old book of mine. It reminded me of a trip there with my late friend Robert, the only person I know who used to frequent "the track." When I was a high school teacher, I once found a student's notebook in the cafeteria. In it she had listed the names and sexes of her future children. And their zodiac signs! Here's an odd note I found stuck to the dust jacket of one of my library's copies of The Girl on the Train. As if that book couldn't get any creepier. That's quite a to-do list. Who do you think wanted to do those four things? How old do you think that ambitious person is? Practice flint and steel? Get plane?
August 28, 2015
Is it me, or are a lot more people growing sunflowers this year? Maybe because we need the brightness after the severe winter we struggled through. Here are some of the ones I planted on the side of my front porch, the sunniest spot in my yard. I love that they have grown higher than the windows, allowing me a nice vista when I'm inside on the porch. Since this photo was taken, I've had to provide support for the fast-growing teenagers, stakes for some, string restraints for others.
August 27, 2015
This is what the 4th Avenue underpass used to look like before it was spiffed up with new lighting, new streetcar access, new everything. Gone is the creepiness, the threat of danger that I found so appealing. You never knew who you would encounter down there. And I always loved the darkness with the bright light beckoning at the far end, like the white light we're told we'll be drawn to as our death approaches.
August 26, 2015
Because the tomato plants I tried in my raised beds stopped producing, I decided only flowers and herbs this year. Here's the result. I kind of like it. Even the crabgrass looks fine in spite of our summer's lack of rain. When I showed this photo to Dr. Blake recently, he asked, "Is that a peacock in there?" Uh, no.
August 25, 2015
The enthusiasm and community spirit that fuel this city's annual All Souls Procession (the first Sunday following November 2, the Day of the Dead) bring thousands to the streets, marching, singing, dancing or just watching. There is a wonderful sense of madness in the air that night, an abandon that seems right at home here in this great city in the American Southwest. Somehow it's an energy one would be hard pressed to find in cooler New England climes.
August 24, 2015
This is the first Smart car I had ever seen, parked (easily) in downtown Paris. A passing group of Frenchmen were speaking with lots of "oooh la la"-type enthusiasm and I assumed that they were talking about the novelty of the car, too. They weren't. They informed me that they were amazed at the snow because, as they said, "It never snows in Paris."
August 23, 2015
Here in New England, we are just coming off another of this summer's week-long heat waves. So perhaps it's time for another winter photo, this one with flashed and falling snow. I would like to go on record as not having complained about the snow and cold during this past winter's record-breaking bitter snowfall. So that gives me the right to complain about the heat and humidity this summer, right?
August 22, 2015
When I moved into my house, there were three trees in the backyard: two apples and one peach. Now, as a result of death, disease and harsh weather, I have one. The least desirable of the three. Apples of some red delicious-like variety with flesh that has all the charm and taste of wet paper pulp. I tried making applesauce from its fruit once, and the less said about that the better. This year, after last winter's record snowfall, the tree is producing fruit to beat the band. And all I can do is wait for it to drop, gather it, and put it in the container of yard waste at the curb.
August 21, 2015
August 20, 2015
August 19, 2015
This is my friend Nick, holding a cute little demi-glass at our table at Le Comptoir where we were having a late lunch with our friend Miriam on New Year's Eve. Nick has more dishes and glasses than anyone I know. And when he saw these, I can remember his saying, "Oh, I'd really like to get some."
August 17, 2015
I'll never forget walking into this cathedral for the first time and looking up. The mosaics, the gold, the stories being illustrated. It's hard not to imagine what it would have been like for someone who perhaps could not read, entering the new cathedral (built in the late 1100s) and seeing the biblical tales miraculously spelled out in bits of colored glass and sparkle.
August 16, 2015
The beautiful cloister within the grounds of the cathedral. And just to make sure you remember you're in Sicily, an additional flourish: mosaic tiles ON the columns. [Dr. Blake and I are excited because we're headed back to Italy this fall on a cruise that leaves Rome, circles Sicily, stops twice in Malta, and allows enough time in Sorrento that we'll hop a train to Herculaneum. Time to brush up on my Italian.)
August 15, 2015
I'm pretty sure it's Siena. And I'm also pretty sure that none of these individuals is Mary. But I meet so many saints, it's hard to remember. Whatever. Today is the feast of the Assumption, the commemoration of the BVM's bodily rise into heaven. It's only been a feast day (a holy day of obligation, if you please) since World War II, when Catholics petitioned Pope Pius XII to honor the bodily loss resulting from heavy wartime casualties. Establishing this feast day was his way of doing that. This is also the day that many old-school Italian-Americans head to the sea, believing that the Blessed Virgin puts a cure in the water each August 15. I sometimes dip a toe in.
August 14, 2015
These are my friends Betsi and Rob at a BBQ last month. What is Rob having such a reaction to? Perhaps it's this story I heard only days after the party: Betsi had planned a date with someone she'd met online for that evening. But during the party, she received a text that her date had been in a bicycle accident, later saw Betsi's name on the calendar and no longer knew who Betsi was. (OK, I've come up with some pretty baroque excuses to get out of social engagements in the past, but this is a new one on me.)
August 13, 2015
I was looking at these cuttings taking root on my windowsill the other day when I realized how far some of the components here had traveled: The cuttings themselves come from Vincent Price's Los Angeles garden. The glass comes from Cuba. The saucer, from Istanbul.
August 12, 2015
Our house sits on Banner Hill, looking out over Smith's Cove and Gloucester Harbor. It's called Banner Hill because some locals raised a flag there at the outbreak of the Civil War. And so we wondered, when we moved in some 15 years ago, if perhaps this cannon we found in the basement dated back to the 1860s and had been unearthed when the house's foundation was dug. We contacted the local historical society and sent them photos. They never replied.
August 11, 2015
August 10, 2015
August means tomatoes. Look at these beauties, a heady mix of grapes and cherries that Dr. Blake gifted me with yesterday morning before I headed home from Gloucester. He's very proud of his abundant harvests that take place on a daily basis at this time of year. And I'm very happy that he is as generous as he is "always nice," something about which he tends to remind me...also on a daily basis, all year long.
August 9, 2015
I feel like the proud papa, showing off my first-born. This year, suspecting that ignoring the principle of crop rotation (about which I'd learned in elementary school) was the cause of my diminishing returns on the tomato plants I've been trying to grow in the same raised bed for some 12 years now, I decide to plant only flowers and herbs. I started some 30 sunflower plants from seeds, and all but about six were ravaged by squirrels and other nocturnal critters. So I was especially happy when this beauty germinated, grew and blossomed. And I'm happy that that bee in the center showed his approval, too. [UPDATE: When I returned home from Gloucester this morning, I was shocked to see that some critter had eaten the entire flower head. And the flower heads of three neighboring plants, too.]
August 8, 2015
My friend Gerald took this picture as we were sitting in the park of this pretty town. I'd been to Winchester for the first time a few weeks earlier with my friend Simon who grew up here. Streams, benches, waterfalls, ponds, a lovely place, I would imagine, to grow up. Or to spend a few moments gossiping in the park on a Sunday evening before an appointment.
August 7, 2015
August 6, 2015
August 5, 2015
For my friend Patti, summer begins with her first iced coffee. For me, it's the first insalata caprese with a real garden tomato. And fresh basil (also from the garden), fresh mozzarella, extra-virgin olive oil, a little salt, some ground black pepper. (Thanks to our friend Charlene for the beautiful and perfectly ripe tomato. Born in NJ, I have high standards, and this one was perfect.)
August 4, 2015
When I worked at Bose, it was always fun to travel to LA to scout locations for our billboards, to check later to see that the billboards were installed properly and to work on TV commercials. Early (6am) one Saturday morning, we traveled from our West Hollywood hotel to Encino, where we entered a huge sound stage that held several of the different indoor sets we were to use that day. Like this one, a partial recreation of the inside of a commercial airplane. It was fascinating to watch how the set was lit, how the director chose his shots, how the crew maneuvered the camera along a fixed track, etc. Fascinating for about an hour. But as our workday approached 13 hours, not so fascinating.
August 3, 2015
The Walk of the Stars along Hollywood Boulevard has, since childhood, always intrigued me. So when I traveled to Los Angeles and finally walked along the Walk, I was amazed to see the range of alleged "stardom" on display. Destiny's Child next to Igor Stravinsky next to Lassie. Judy Garland along some sad side street. Here's a bit of pavement about to be readied for the human star's appearance and the terrazzo star's unveiling.
August 1, 2015
My friend Nick's late grandmother, who grew up in an Italian hilltown east of Naples, used to say, "August is the beginning of winter." I think of her and her forecast each year on this day. (The past winter with its record-breaking snowfall is not one I'm eager to hurry back. Though the visiting deer did provide some welcome beauty and grace.)