May 21, 2017

Košice, Czechoslovakia. July, 1972

This is what results from having vodka for breakfast. Robert and I, both schoolteachers at the time with summers off, decided to visit his relatives behind the Iron Curtain. After a few days in Bratislava, where we crossed the border and had our luggage questioned (Why did we have so many wigs and negligees? A story for another time), we made our way west to visit his cousins Michael (right) and Vera. Michael, no stranger to intoxicating breakfasts, was actually disbarred from his position as a company lawyer, so it was told to me, because of one too many nights on which he’d run, naked and screaming, down the main street in town. His wife Vera, the recipient of those aforementioned wigs and negligees, was a calming if saucy influence. Though she appears sweet as pie in this photo we stopped to take on our way to their vacation cabin (no plumbing, no electricity) in the Tatry Mountains. I remember laughing a lot. But not much else.

May 20, 2017

Istanbul. June, 2007

This young Istanbul mussel man would appear every midafternoon at the same spot not far from the northern side of the Galata Bridge. He would set up his simple operation, display his mussels, put out a few halved lemons for customers to squirt. I never saw anyone stop and sample, but they must have or else why would he, and dozens of others like him, persist? Street food is a longstanding tradition in the City of the World’s Desire, but one that is under new threats from municipal intervention, especially in the Beyoğlu and Fatih neighborhoods. Recent laws and licensing restrictions there limit the number of street vendors and the types of food that can be hawked. Corn on the cob, chestnuts and simit (bread rings): fine. Mussels, fruit juices, homemade desserts, anything else: not fine. Still the vendors appear each day, quickly scooping up all their wares and hustling the hell out of there should any municipal patrol officers suddenly appear. The hard-to-obtain, expensive licenses and sliding-scale monthly fees (prices depend on which streets they position their carts) are prohibitive for most of the vendors who just about make a meager living as it is.

May 19, 2017

Cambridge, MA. April, 1967

On a first visit to Boston, Nick and I had taken an overnight bus from New York and arrived, groggy and not at our best, early in the morning. But soon we headed over to nearby Cambridge to knock on Julia Child’s front door. We were both fans of her TV show, The French Chef, and were surprised to find that she was listed in the phonebook: 103 Irving Street. And even more surprised when she herself opened the door. We mumbled some explanation and she graciously signed autographs before we went on our way, amazed at what had just transpired. Who would have known that years later, I would be working at the same Boston television station as Julia, and Nick would become an acclaimed cooking professional, requested by Julia to interview her onstage when her kitchen was installed at the Smithsonian. The night that the two of them were meeting on Irving St. to prep for that gig, I arrived to pick Nick up and joined them briefly for a snack and a few laughs at her kitchen table. At one point, Nick said, “Julia, we have a confession to make. We’ve both been here before....” As we explained, she said, “I hope I was nice to you.” She was.

May 18, 2017

Piazza Navona, Rome. October, 1980

My beloved late friend Dali had a number of tricks up her sleeve. Especially when it came to taking pictures. Especially in Rome, where she had once lived for a number of years. When she and I worked together at Boston's public television station, she offered a trip to introduce me to Italy: Rome, Florence, Padua, Venice, Siena, heaven. During that vacation, she also introduced me to the phenomenon of the “jumping picture” (found in abundance elsewhere on this blog) and to this second, more subtle technique: If you want to take a picture of some people, have your companion get into their “frame” and make believe you’re taking your companion’s picture. Here’s an example from that first Italian trip in 1980. Dali wanted a picture of these old Roman women knitting and chatting on a sunny bench, so she quickly ran over and sat next to them and said, “Take my picture!” Think the smirk on her face reveals her questionable intentions? Snap.

May 17, 2017

Tucson. March, 2017

Every time I visit my friends Simon and David in Tucson, I'm amazed at how neighborhoods have changed since my last visit. Downtown is thriving one year, galleries and restaurants all over the place. The next time: empty storefronts. A recent development is "The Mercado" on the west side of town. It's a big success. And with good reason. Reasons, actually, most of them listed here.

May 16, 2017

Tucson. March, 2017

A tabletop in my friend David's painting studio.

May 15, 2017

Perkins School, Watertown, MA. September, 1979

When I was working on the Captioned ABC News back in the 1980s, I would occasionally produce short video features to include on subjects of specific interest to the hearing-impaired audiences we served. I did a whole series about how deaf people were represented by Hollywood, capped off by an interview with Patty Duke here at the Perkins School (in what is now my hometown.) As a child, Duke had portrayed Perkins graduate Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker both on Broadway (1959) and in the subsequent film (1962). When she met with us, she had just finished a made-for-TV movie of the same story in which this time she played Keller’s teacher Annie Sullivan. She told me that it was her first visit to Perkins because back when the Broadway production was trying out in Boston, director Arthur Penn would not let her anywhere near the place, fearing that it might influence the performance he had worked so hard with her to develop. I remember her beautiful polka-dotted teal silk dress, the huge numbers of yellow jackets buzzing around us...and the alarming last-minute announcement by the DC-based deaf interviewer (with the impressive TV-heavy resume) that she had absolutely no on-camera experience whatsoever. Duke was charmed by her and it all went smoothly.

May 14, 2017

Nişantaşi, Istanbul. June, 2007

Mmmmm. Simple ingredients, simply prepared. Çoban salatasi, Shepherd’s Salad. Found throughout Istanbul on every menu. And why not? Tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper, scallions, oil, lemon, parsley, salt. (I’ve seen some variations that occasionally include radishes, though that’s not traditional.) OK, this gussied-up version at the Komşu restaurant in the upscale Nişantaşi section of the city featured a bit of pinwheel presentation, but the center attraction -- the simple fresh goodness -- is always still the same. How can you go wrong, especially at this time of year when backyard gardens yield the main ingredients so readily? I’ve had this refreshing salad in restaurants in Turkey, in Turkish restaurants in New Jersey and Massachusetts, and it’s always been simple and sensational. But this evening, dining on an outdoor terrace in the warm Istanbul evening, it was especially good.

May 13, 2017

Le Baratin, New York, NY. April, 2017

Following up on yesterday's post, this relatively new bistro in Greenwich Village, Le Baratin. A real French place (none of this fusion stuff) where Nick and I recently took Marco and Roberto for Roberto's birthday. A good meal, lots of laughs...and the only time I've seen champagne poured from a Jeroboam (google it.) As it happens, the owner is the son of the proprietor of the late Cafe des Sports, heralded in yesterday's writeup.

May 12, 2017

Le Comptoir, Paris. December, 2005

This morning, I took one look at this photo and for some reason started to think about the first restaurants I went to in New York City so many years ago. Back in my high-school and college days when eating on the cheap was a requirement and having a good, well-prepared restaurant meal was a real luxury. Steuben Tavern, a long-gone midtown German beer hall on West 47th was a college mainstay with its hearty offerings (sauerbraten, potato dumplings, wursts) and exotic drinks like Berliner Weisse (sour wheat beer with raspberry syrup.) El Faro, a formerly inexpensive Spanish place still holding forth in Greenwich Village (we’d learned of it from our paperback The Underground Gourmet) had memorable veal with almonds and pitchers of sangria for peanuts. My favorite though, bar none, was Cafe des Sports, a small French place on West 51st between Eighth and Ninth. Could my parents have told me about it? Or a radio ad on WNEW-AM? You went down a few steps, through the cozy bar and banquettes into the small main room of about 16 tables, mostly filled with regulars, neighborhood types, Breton expatriates. And the menu! This was where I first learned about cuisine and its classics: soupe a l’oignon, artichaut vinaigrette, sole meuniere and veronique, civet de lapin, blanquette de veau, boeuf bourguignon, pot au feu, and so many more. The goodnatured waitresses would sometimes let us practice our classroom French. The many visits spent in that warmly remembered spot were always wonderful (as were those few later enjoyed in Yves Camdeborde’s Parisian hotspot, pictured here.)

May 11, 2017

Santiago de Compostela. October, 2009

Is it because I live with a bread baker that I’m so drawn to the stuff? Or is it something more elemental? Who knows or cares? Long before I visit a new place, I try to learn something about the kinds of bread I’m likely to find there. More than likely, actually. I make it my mission, my crusade, to find and sample them all. While waiting for Jay at the market here in Santiago de Compostela, I chanced across this small bread-only bakery about the size of a shower-stall and covered with a fine dusting of flour everywhere. The proprietress was more sour than any starter I could imagine, especially when I asked if she had the special cornbread for which the town is famous. “Trigo!” she barked at me. “Wheat!” Take it easy. How beautiful her loaves are, though. Later, I did manage to find a shop that specialized in the cornbread of my dreams (much more coarse and chewy than our cakey American South type) and bought several varieties. So dense and punitive was this bread that it defied leavening and remained virtually unrisen, solid and heavy and wonderful.

May 10, 2017

Tucson. March, 2017

The restored-diner craze has finally hit the Southwest. Here's one example, The Welcome Diner in Tucson where Simon and David and I had a fun, easy dinner on the last night of my visit. For me and for David: burgers with fries. For Simon: fried chicken with a honey-based sauce. Excellent choices because they avoided the "small plates" options on offer. We like big plates.

May 9, 2017

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Easter, 2017

One of the reasons I endured the six-hour Good Friday bus ride from Boston to Manhattan was knowing that my destination would be the home of my oldest friend Nick. I knew that he'd be preparing a real feast for his Easter guests, and he was. Here's the menu's main course: a slow-roasted lamb (six hours at 250 degrees) with vegetable accompaniments. Mmm-mmm good.

May 8, 2017

Tucson. March, 2017

My friend Simon moved from his whole life in New England to the Tucson desert, where he has flourished. When I asked him if he misses the ocean, he replied, "The sky compensates." I wonder if the distance from water, the expansive and cloudless sky are some of the reasons that so many oases of blue appear throughout the city. One example: this wall outside of the Tucson Museum of Art.

May 7, 2017

Lisbon. October, 2009

“There sure are a lot of cats in this town named Perdu.” A few years ago, when my friend James and I were on a trip to Montreal, we noticed quite a number of postings about lost pets. Most featured cat photos, entreaties, rewards, contact information. James made the above remark after we’d seen so very many, all of them headed with the French word for “lost.” His gaffe has become something of a joke with us. So much so that whenever I travel and see similar postings, I photograph them and needle my friend with a reminder. Recently I sent him this notice of a missing cat in Lisbon, one that promises a rather substantial reward to the lucky person who returns Phuong. (Or maybe that’s the owner’s name. Maybe the cat’s name is Desapareceu or Perdu.) In any event, we hope the kitty was found in the busy yet cat-friendly Praça da Figueira neighborhood where, happily, no stray goes unfed for very long.

May 6, 2017

Rodeo Drive, Los Angeles. January, 1990

Dali, the friend not the artist, seen here on the left, knew how to pose better than anyone else I’ve ever met. How, for example, did she intuit on the spot that this expansive stance would be so perfect against the art nouveau swirls of the nouveau riche home on Rodeo Drive that we happened upon during our afternoon walk? Vinny, meanwhile, complements her “ta da” with his closed, pensive faux introspection. The three of us were in L.A. to attend the press events surrounding the 10th anniversary of the PBS program, Mystery!, on which we all worked. A visit to the Getty Museum (Mystery! host Vincent Price had told us he suspected the place was overrun with fakes), a drive to Malibu, and then Rodeo Drive. All this while the Northeast was buried in snow. And by the time we had to behave officially, welcoming actors and press to a reception that evening, we’d been laughing so hard and so long (Buddy Ebsen’s paintings on display at a “fine art” gallery!) that we were ready for anything. Including the press agent’s warning to a somewhat tipsy and inappropriately flirtatious “Sherlock Holmes” slated to speak from the podium: “Lay off the booze, will you?!”

May 5, 2017

Rue Robin, Montreal. October, 2006

A great deal has been written about celebrity trash. Literally. People who sifted through Bob Dylan’s garbage for years then documented it. And no doubt kept a few souvenirs. Hard to believe? At one point I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, around the corner from the homes of both Tracy Chapman and Marianne Faithfull, and I can assure you that scavengers would regularly sift through each of their garbage cans looking for mementos. And while the pastime holds no appeal for me, I have to confess that I was fascinated by this particular splayed-open garbage bag I walked past in Montreal a few years ago. Hundreds of oyster shells. On a small residential side street far from any restaurant or seafood market. What was the story, I wanted to know. Party trash? What? I’m only surprised that the pile hadn’t attracted all of the neighborhood cats. Or maybe it had and I just happened by too late.

May 4, 2017

Istanbul. June, 2007

When I first heard of tavuk göğsü, the famed Turkish dessert made from chicken breast, I had mixed feelings. The food adventurer in me couldn’t wait to try it. The rest of me gagged. Following a tradition that some say goes back to ancient Rome but that peaked under the Ottoman sultans, the chicken breast is pounded to a thread-like consistency, then boiled with cracked rice, water, milk and sugar before being spread in a pan to cool. Cut into rectangles, it is often rolled up and dusted with cinnamon for serving. It sounded to me like something that might best be sampled in private, so I bought a portion at Saray, the big pastry shop on the Istiklal Caddesi and took it back to my hotel room. Creamy yet unctuous, gamey yet slightly sweet, with a mucilaginous texture suggestive of day-old tapioca, this pudding did for me what many non-syrupy Turkish sweets do -- left me wanting something additional to bring it all together. A fruit sauce? A salad? Something. I finished it, was happy to have tried it, and remained respectful of the tradition behind it and determined that this was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

May 3, 2017

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY. Easter, 2017

A series of health issues has not robbed our friend Miriam of her dignified, regal mien. Here she is on her first outing since hip surgery, after having made her way up the stairs to Nick's second-floor apartment for Easter dinner. I only get to see Miriam on holiday occasions at Nick's home. To see another portrait of her, this one from Christmas 2015, click here.

May 2, 2017

New York, NY. July, 1990

I love collage. And I love found art. So naturally these peeling layers of posters appealed to me right away.

May 1, 2017

Tucson, AZ. March, 2017

On a recent visit to Tucson to see my friends Simon and David, we headed to an evening of "artistic events" at the Tucson Museum of Art. One such was a ballet to the music of Tchaikovsky in the museums central courtyard by students at a local dance academy. I took this photo at one point. Later, seeing it, David remarked that it looked like the aftermath of some slaughter, probably carried out by the perp escaping upper right.

April 30, 2017

Nogales, Mexico. April, 2010

Recently, Jay gave me a book that details business protocol in some 60 countries around the world. Things to do and, more importantly, things not to do. For example, in Muslim countries like Egypt and Turkey, avoid crossing your legs while seated so as not to display the soles of your shoes (or feet) to anyone...a sign of great disrespect. Who knew? Likewise, be careful of that left hand, as in countries like India it is considered unclean. Shake hands and eat only with your right. Also, to be on the safe side, it’s a good thing to remember that a “thumbs up” gesture is offensive throughout the Arab world. Punctuality is approached differently depending on where you travel for business. In the Far East, better be on time (and better factor in traffic jams to make sure you are.) Whereas in Mexico, according to the book, punctuality “although admired is not strictly adhered to in daily life.” It advises us to be 30 minutes late to any dinner at a Mexican home. Unless that home is in Mexico City, in which case we should show up a hour late. Yikes! Perhaps you could kill time by searching for a hostess gift at a store like this. But be careful if you decide on flowers. Yellow flowers represent death and red ones cast spells. So noted.

April 29, 2017

Provincetown, MA. Spring, 1979

I had just recently moved to Boston. My brother Brien, up for a weekend visit, was still wearing leather jackets, driving motorcycles and looking (somewhat) younger than me. We’d driven to off-season Provincetown with our friend Deborah, who snapped this fraternal portrait on Herring Cove Beach. Years later in Ptown, as I was sitting on the patio of the Café Blasé with my friend Gary, we spotted the sign of a vintage clothing store across Commercial Street, PastPerfect, that was angled around the corner so as to show only the first half above the shop’s door. “Look,” said Gary. “A door to the past!” “Slam it shut,” I suggested. “Nail it shut!” was Gary’s take. Even more years later, I look back and am glad we couldn’t shut that door. I would never have been able to find this photo, this memory of my brother and me during a windy, off-season day on a beach at the end of the world.

April 28, 2017

Sintra, Portugal. October, 2009

Prepping for a trip is a big part of the fun for me. Researching sites, routes, cuisines, languages, accommodations, restaurants, shops, bus schedules, train tickets, alternate routes...all this allows me to enjoy the trip long before I pack my bags and head for the airport. I had done so much prep for my first trip to Istanbul that on the day I arrived, it felt as if I were returning home. (Or maybe I’d lived there in a past life?) For Paris, I’d mapped out possible routes for my morning run. Ditto Istanbul, Madrid and Lisbon. For business trips to San Francisco and Chicago, I’d gone on Chowhound and asked where a solo diner could eat a good meal at the bar. I want to know where the markets and bakeries are, where the locals buy their cheese, what are the best days to visit Aya Sofia, the Musée d’Orsay, Alcatraz. I suspect Jay thinks travel is effortless because things seem to just happen. Our day trip to Sintra, for example, was so easy because I already knew which train to catch from which station, how to buy the tickets, what we might do when we got there...and where to buy the best queijada (cheese tart) in town. Of course, after all that planning, it’s the unexpected detours that wind up providing the best memories.

April 27, 2017

Bagno Vignoni, Italy. May, 1988

Nick and I were traveling through Italy, doing research and taking photo documentation for his Great Italian Desserts book. We needed a break, so we checked into this spa hotel in the middle of Tuscany. A swimming pool with thermal waters bubbling, good meals, beautiful countryside, some fable about Saint Catherine's having visited. I blush to say that this souvenir somehow managed to find its way into my suitcase. There was an accompanying coffee cup, too, but years ago I gave it to a WGBH colleague, Andrea Marcucci.

April 26, 2017

The Little One, Tucson, AZ. March 2017

Seven years after I took yesterday's photo, I'm back at my favorite spot in Tucson. I always manage to get in a breakfast and a lunch (not on the same day) at what is now called "The Little One." Breakfast with my old Boston friend Kate; lunch (seen here) with my friend David. And I always order the plato: three samplings of whatever the cook decides to serve me. I'm never disappointed. Especially when their excellent chicken mole (upper right on the plate) is one of the offerings.

April 25, 2017

Little Cafe Poca Cosa, Tucson, AZ. April, 2010

I never visit Tucson without eating at "Little Poca Cosa". At least twice. Open only on weekdays and only for breakfast and lunch, the sign in the window tells you all you need to know: “Cash only. No phone. Music loud. Hugs mandatory.” Mandatory, that is, if you clean your plate. This little gem (a diminutive spinoff of the larger and muy chic Café Poca Cosa around the corner) had previously been housed for years in a what looked like Frida Kahlo’s 400-square-foot walk-in closet. A tiny spot that, after 9/11, was handed its walking papers because it was in the shadow of a federal building, suddenly too close for Homeland Security comfort. Now in its new and larger digs, it has kept its faithful well fed and has summarily enlarged its cultlike following. Take a look at my breakfast and you’ll see why folks keep coming back for more: Machaca con huevos, rice, salad, fresh fruit, beans, corn tortillas, chips & salsa...and a magnificently simple agua fresca de limón con hierbabuena. (As soon as I got home, I bought limes and searched out dried peppermint to try to make it myself.) Was I able to finish this huge meal? Hint: Marcela gave me a big hug on my way out.

April 24, 2017

Cambridge, MA. September, 2009

David was on his way back from painting in Provincetown and I was happy he stopped for an overnight at my house. How to spend a lazy early-autumn Saturday? How about a walk through the Mount Auburn Cemetery? Criss-crossed with byways named Halcyon Avenue, Primrose Path (yes!) and Oxalis Path, this lovely spot of garden not far from Harvard Square provides the final resting places of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Winslow Homer, Isabella Stewart Gardner, Bernard Malamud, Buckminster Fuller, Mary Baker Eddy and several poets named Lowell, alongside many distinguished others with 19th-century names like Patience, Prudence and Joy. In the full-flush, last hurrah of its seasonal glory, the place never looked so radiant and overgrown as on this warm, late-September day. This simple waterlily pond, with all its shadows and reflections, looked to us like something an idle Impressionist might take a fancy to. We did.

April 23, 2017

Watertown, MA. April, 2011

My friend Nick bakes up a storm each Easter, always has. And when we lived closer to each other, I was able to enjoy the fruits of his labors more often than I do now. Instead, I either follow his infallible recipes to make these Easter specialties myself, or I try to find them at local Italian markets. This year, 2011, Nick is not only teaching a class in Italian Easter Baking at NYC’s Institute of Culinary Education, but he’s also at home this week making, according to his email, Pizza Rustica, Torta di Ricotta and both salty and sweet taralli. Me, I went to nearby Russo’s and bought some of their Pizza Chiena, a deep-dish olive-oil crust baked with a filling of ricotta, prosciutto, soppressata, Parmesan and more. The list of ingredients is somewhat flexible. Both Nick and my friend Dan each make theirs with heady combinations of Italian meats and cheeses. My friend Michael follows his nonna’s recipe with cheeses only, mostly fresh mozzarella. And when I mentioned Russo's version to a woman who works at my library, she said, "It's fine, but it's not like my mother's." I’ve seen this Southern Italian savory pie sometimes spelled Pizzagaina, which approximates a common pronunciation in Naples dialect. For the real backstory and Nick’s recipe, click here. Any way you make it, or spell it, it says Buona Pasqua.

April 22, 2017

Tucson, AZ. March, 2017

Each time I visit my friends in Tucson, I set aside one day to walk from their home to the university, stopping along the way for breakfast, for perusing a thrift shop or two, for going through the galleries at the U of A. The downtown scene is different every single time. Old stores close or move, new ones pop up. Fortunately for me, my favorite store, seen here, seems a permanent fixture of the urban landscape. I've never gone inside. I've never needed to. The sign and the window display are enough for me.

April 21, 2017

Tucson, AZ. March, 2017

It's official: Spring is here. At least according to the calendar. But the calendar means nothing here in New England. I tried to rush spring last month by taking a trip to visit my friends Simon and David in Tucson. Look at that lovely light on this palo verde, the glorious blue of that sky. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll have some of this to enjoy here in Massachusetts sometime soon.

April 20, 2017

Gloucester, MA. April, 2008

We here in the Bay State suffer through some pretty tough winters, the last punishing remnants of which often linger through late spring. So when the sun finally does peek out for a few hours at a time, smiles also appear and people go down to the sea, anticipating summer pleasures. This April day I headed to Good Harbor Beach and was not alone. Dog-walkers, high-school kids, other winter-whipped souls were here, too. (I think that I suffer from what I call “Statue of Liberty Syndrome” -- when I grew up in New Jersey, I never visited Lady Liberty because she would always be nearby so why rush? The same is true for me now with Good Harbor. I can walk there...and so I rarely do, especially when everyone else packs the place during the dog days of summer.) I don’t know who lives in this house perched above the rocky seaside shore, but it always reminds me of the home in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Let’s hope the occupants are better behaved and a bit more upbeat than the Tyrone clan in O’Neill’s original “reality show.”

April 19, 2017

Galata Bridge, Istanbul. June, 2007

One of the great things about going for an early-morning run while I’m traveling (besides the exercise and the resulting good mood) is that I get to see parts of the city I normally might not see. In Istanbul, I’d run across the Galata Bridge when these fishermen were among the few already awake. Then I’d head up along the southern shore of the Golden Horn into areas not frequented by tourists. (In a park near the conservative Islamic neighborhood of Fatih, I once saw a woman covered in full black burkha, swinging on a playground’s jungle gym!) On another morning, I headed up along the Bosphorus, running through the Dolmabahce Palace gardens, passing only early commuters waiting for the bus. Or I’d run the path along the Sea of Marmara, watching an early-bird swim club climb down the rocks and jump into the currents of these fabled waters. In Paris, I had the early city to myself, running through the grounds of the Louvre, under the Eiffel Tower, all throughout the Luxembourg Gardens. In San Francisco, out through the park to the Pacific or across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. Lisbon, Madrid...even Albuquerque was mine alone as I ran through the university campus long before classes started. It’s a wonderful way to get to know a city’s neighborhoods in an intimate and personal way...and not a tour bus in sight.

April 18, 2017

Villa Victoria, Boston. July, 2010

One of the many nice perks of leaving my corporate job? My time is suddenly my own, to spend in whatever way I choose. Such as at Boston’s first same-sex salsa dance class at the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts just before this Tito Puente Latin Jazz Festival performance. Daniel, Evelyn and Ana were to meet me there between 5:30-6pm for the class. When they didn’t, I partnered with a goodnatured young woman from Berklee College of Music, just as much a novice as I was. The instructor, a vivacious young black man named Vladimyr, put us through our paces, and we were all just fine...until the music started. Then it was the latinos in the class who pretty much showed us gringos how it’s done. Still, in spite of our awkwardness, it was a lot of fun. And when mis amigos puertorriqueños finally arrived (sometime after 8pm), Daniel (in blue and shades) and Evelyn (seen here mid-twirl) announced they’d been “practicing,” which was evident from the way they took to the floor and salsa’d away...without looking at their feet or counting the steps! A miraculously cool break from the week’s heatwave, lots of laughs with great friends and some wonderful sounds from the band Son de Madre. Muchisimas gracias.

April 17, 2017

Tucson, AZ. March, 2017

This detail of a work of religious folk art from Ecuador has got everything I like: devotional madness, collage and assemblage, miracles. I saw it last month at the Tucson Museum of Art and was immediately drawn to it. Look closely.

April 16, 2017

Springfield, NJ. Easter, 1954

My mother must have taken this photo on that Easter Sunday. (And must have forced me to wear that hat!) I love the way my brother Brien is so zonked out, already, before we even paid the customary holiday visit to my paternal grandmother and my Aunt Myra, Uncle Joe and cousins Billy, Bobby and Tommy...and then drove to pick up my maternal grandmother for dinner back at home. My father looks slick and suave. And I wish we could see more of our car in the driveway. Am I wearing saddle shoes? Happy Easter.

April 15, 2017

Lisbon. October, 2009

Sometimes my friends laugh at me for all the preparation I do in advance of a trip. So what? Part of the pleasure for me is the anticipation, the researching of places I’d like to see, meals I’d like to find. Before I visit a new country, I like to learn what its food is like, to pick up a little bit of the language, to read about sites, hotels, restaurants. I scour Chowhound, TripAdvisor, Let’s Go, Lonely Planet and more. And I check in with friends of friends who are chefs, cookbook authors and recent visitors. How else would I have learned about the Residêncial Alcobia on a quiet block near Lisbon’s Praça de Figueira. Or that Room #501 offers this lovely view of the Castello, glorious each morning at sunrise, gentle and bathed in pastels at sunset. (They also have an excellent breakfast buffet that we enjoyed after early-morning runs along routes I’d mapped out based on other runners’ web recommendations.) How else would I have been alerted to doce de cenoura com laranja, a local carrot jam that made excellent gifts for two of my most food-savvy friends? Or the excellent frango (spit-roasted chicken) at Bonjardim, or the bounteous seafood dinners across the river in Cacilhas? And how else would I have had a wonderful, if limited, conversation with two sisters who were selling their treasures at the Feira da ladra, Lisbon’s famed flea market? “Getting there is half the fun” as the Cunard Line used to say of travel on its transatlantic steamships. And for me, a lot of “getting there” is the prep.

April 14, 2017

Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, TX. April, 2010

Would someone please tell me what this odd juxtaposition of signs is supposed to mean? Yes, it’s Texas, but still. I often think about how confusing it must be for visitors from foreign lands when they encounter some of our local signage. Like trying to follow posted directions from Boston’s Logan Airport into the city proper. Half the signs are missing or have sloppily slid into opposite positions. Welcome and good luck. Even no-text, image-only signage can be a problem no matter where you are. Jay was in Rome’s Fiumicino Airport once and became puzzled by a graphic depiction of an individual rebounding from having run into a brick wall. What, he wondered, could this mean? (As it turns out, this was the airport’s way of indicating “No Exit.” SPQR, folks.) And at the movies many years before that in the Eternal Città, long before I knew any Italian, I walked into the ladies room (signori? signore? so close) and when I realized what I’d done, quickly hid in a stall when I heard others entering and remained there until the coast was clear. At least the weather during that Roman bathroom adventure didn’t seem “severe” in any way.

April 13, 2017

Eyüp, Istanbul. June, 2007

One sunny Sunday morning, I took the bus to Eyüp, an Istanbul neighborhood held sacred by Muslims because Abu Ayyub al-Ansar, the Prophet Muhammad’s companion and standard bearer, is buried there. Filled with relics and other holy objects, his turbe (tomb) is a traditional place of pilgrimage for devout Muslims, especially on Fridays for noontime prayer and before weddings and circumcisions...which is what these young boys are ceremonially dressed for. In the past, the sons of Sultans were treated to circumcision festivities that would last for weeks or even months. Special dishes were prepared, prayers recited, music and dancing devoted especially to this time, which marks a young man’s formal entry into the religious community of Islam. Nowadays it’s all done on a more modest scale. Still, the boy (generally between 2-14) will dress like an Ottoman prince with cape, scepter and crown. Somewhere on his outfit is the word Masallah (“Allah preserve him.”) In advance of the surgical procedure, the children are paraded around on horseback, in carts or cars followed by drummers and clarinet players. After the operation, while the guests feast on lavish fare, the boy is helped to relieve his pain in a special room by means of jokes, music and much gift-giving, including the traditional pinning of gold coins to his clothing. And after a few days when he has recovered, the festivities end. Masallah, indeed.

April 12, 2017

New York, NY. July, 1990

Sometimes all you really need is light. And shadows.

April 11, 2017

Tucson, AZ. March, 2017

What the hell is this? An alcove outside of a mosque where visitors leave their shoes? An entryway to a Japanese home, also a place where guests leave their shoes outside? Nope. It's an artist's installation, seen on our gallery crawl one warm night last month. The shoes are all made from plaster, all grouped just inside the warehouse gallery's front door.

April 10, 2017

Douglas, MA. July, 2007

Look familiar? I love this photo. My wonderful friend Mike took it at his pal Larry’s pig roast one hot and humid July afternoon. I understood the full meaning of “scattered thunderstorms” that day as they hit with alarming regularity on my trip west along the Massachusetts Turnpike. So fierce were the sudden downpours that I had to weave my way around various accidents that had occurred along the high-speed Pike. Once at Larry’s farm, however, a different kind of commotion took over. Pie-eating contests, my first trip in a kayak, “The Polish Boys” who were working for Larry for the summer (one of whom was raking in a little extra cash by dropping his pants for $20 a pop in the garage, just saying), a wide range of people making for a terrific afternoon. And the food, of course. A huge kettle-roasted pig, sliced and served with all the summertime fixin’s you can imagine...and a late-night bonfire to boot! As Mike and I walked around the grounds earlier, we spotted these geese, I had an idea and handed Mike the camera with a quick, “Get ready and wait until I say ‘go.’” Just like Audrey Hepburn did in Funny Face. This is the result. Thanks, Mike.

April 9, 2017

Los Angeles, CA. October, 2007

We got up at dawn, trundled into the car and headed from the deserted Saturday morning streets of West Hollywood to a cavernous studio about 30 minutes out of town. The locked chain-link gates opened to let us in...and we were warned not to leave the premises as the neighborhood was “unsafe.” Ah, the glories of shooting a television commercial. Endless setup shots, making sure the lighting is flattering for the product (in this case, Bose noise-canceling headphones), that there are no shadows, that the bottom third of the onscreen frame will allow for a phone number and website to be added later, lots of considerations. The models who showed up looked little like their headshot promises. The demographic mix of passengers in the “airplane cabin” wasn’t varied enough. Someone didn’t like the chair that had been selected. Or the wardrobe. The tracking shot moved too quickly. It’s a wonder anything actually gets filmed. This was a characteristic 16-hour day. And while the “craft service” (aka snacks) was OK, and the catered lunch superb, I still would rather have joined Nick at Alan’s house in Santa Monica that night for Alan’s fabled brisket. Instead, I kept borrowing cellphones to update him and finally to cancel. At around 11:30pm, we wrapped, headed back to our hotel, readied for more of the same the following day. Still, when the beautiful spot was finally finished and broadcast, all of these troubles and annoyances remained unseen, just distant memories.

April 8, 2017

New York, NY. July, 1990

Here's another view of yesterday's small detail.

April 7, 2017

New York, NY. July, 1990

Every so often, when I'd visit my friend Nick at his Manhattan home, I'd go out alone with my camera, just looking. After awhile, I'd find myself focusing on small details rather than the larger picture. This shot of some glass bricks is one of those small details.

April 6, 2017

Tucson, AZ. March, 2017

Talk about "old school." I love this sign on Tucson's funky Fourth Avenue. So striking among the head shops, the tattooed New Age vendors of herbs, aromas, crystals and all the rest. Plus, who says "pizza pie" anymore? I love it. But I suspect I wouldn't love eating there.

April 5, 2017

Hollywood, CA. January, 1990

Early on a Sunday morning, not exactly peak time along Hollywood Boulevard, we pretty much had the sidewalk to ourselves. Dali and I were in Los Angeles for a Mystery! press event and we decided to take in some of the sites. I can’t remember whose idea it was to actually lie down on the Walk of Fame, probably Dali’s. No problem. Linda Evans. Ann Miller. Jane Russell. Maybe not our first choices, but we leapt upon the closest ones, not wanting to tempt fate too much by getting down and dirty all over the avenida. Bronze star-plaques embedded in pink and charcoal terrazzo squares collectively make up the world’s most famous sidewalk, and the juxtapositions are often ironically amusing (Lassie next to Ronald Reagan; Garbo next to William Shatner) or touchingly appropriate (Judy Garland next to Mickey Rooney). A quick walkby clearly indicates a recent lowering of standards from the days of Rudolph Valentino, Bette Davis and Gary Cooper. (Shrek just got one? TV how-to pioneer Julia Child does not have one but Destiny’s Child does?) To “earn” a star, then as now, the honoree must appear at the installation ceremony in person -- no exceptions -- often bringing along some nearest and dearest. For example, when Bruce Willis (right next to The Lone Ranger) got his star in 2006, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner, Sylvester Stallone, Don Johnson and Billy Bob Thornton came to cheer him on. And if that lineup doesn’t speak to lower standards, I don’t know what does.

April 4, 2017

Florence, Italy. September, 1984

Today, a “postcard” from Florence of the Ponte Vecchio and the River Arno, taken from a window in the Uffizi...and a story from my friend and former colleague Lou. He and his wife, frequent visitors to the Tuscan city, were dining al fresco at one of their favorite trattorie, this one in the Piazza della Signoria, steps from the towering (copy of) David by Michelangelo. At the next table, an American tourist couple, the wife of which was fretting over the menu and grilling the waiter. “Do you have diet soda?” “I need something that’s low-carb.” “Do you have any fat-free entrees?” “What can you suggest as a low-calorie choice?” The waiter, a charming but increasingly exasperated Florentine, well-accustomed to tourists but unprepared for this kind of questioning, finally replied, “Signora, this is a restaurant, not a hospital.”

April 3, 2017

Gates Pass, Tucson, AZ. March, 2017

When Simon suggested that we drive through the desert to watch the sunset at Gates Pass, I got scared that we'd be driving down on the twisty narrow road that skirts the side of the mountains and gives onto the cactus-filled plains below. Instead, mercifully, we parked in the "scenic overlook" at the top and hiked a bit, taking dozens of pictures as the golden moment lit up the skies. Here's one of Simon, returning from a hike to the highest peak. This scaredy cat did not follow him there.