January 31, 2017

Venice. September, 1984

I am not your garden-variety tourist. When I go to Las Vegas or Montreal or Madrid, I like to check out the supermarket, the public library, the places where the natives go rather than the standard, pre-packaged “sights.” So I was thrilled on this, my second trip to Venice, when I experienced the acqua alta, the high-water flooding of the Piazza San Marco. There were elevated boardwalks quickly assembled for those who wanted to avoid the inconvenience. But I just took off my shoes, rolled up my pants and joined the Venetian grandmothers who were also “making do.” The shimmer of the water over the meandering black-and-white geometric designs in the pavement was beautiful. And as you can see from my right foot, the acqua wasn’t all that alta, maybe an inch or two. Still, the near-panic and irritation among those crowding the boardwalk was remarkable, eliciting some snickers and sidelong looks from everyday Venetians. In a few hours, the tide retreated into the lagoon, the boardwalks were disassembled and all was returned to normal. Or at least normal for Venice.

January 30, 2017

Watertown, MA. October, 2016

I do like a bargain. And I do like Montauk daisies. So I waited as the price on these plants dropped from $14 to $8 to $4.50 to $2.25. The haul you see here, occupying the better part of my entire Prius, was priced at an end-of-season $1 each. I pounced. And I planted. And I keep my fingers crossed that this summer the plants will repay my patience. And my $1.

January 29, 2017

Aya Sofia, Istanbul. June, 2007

Scaffolding. A given in just about every vacation I’ve ever taken. Something somewhere is bound to be “under restoration.” In Italy, I’ve come across so many “in restauro” signs (on closed buildings, on museum walls in spaces normally occupied by paintings, etc.) that I used to joke with a friend that the museum in the town of Restauro must be chock full of the best paintings in the world. The certainty of restoration has become almost laughable now, and a good thing it has, because scaffolding and repairs are inevitable. Notre Dame in Paris. The Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. The Prado in Madrid. Less so in the USA, but then we’re not as old as those other places and need fewer facelifts, it seems. Above, the scaffolding within one of the oldest buildings in the world (dedicated in the year 360; not a typo), the big and beautiful Aya Sofia (current structure dates from 532; also not a typo.) First a church, then a mosque, now a museum, this building has seen it all, survived it all. Wars (holy and otherwise), schisms, revolutions, earthquakes...and it’s still standing, still welcoming visitors throughout the passing years. And, frankly, because the interior is such an eclectic mix of Christian and Muslim, secular and religious imagery, the scaffolding has a beauty all its own and somehow doesn’t look at all out of place.

January 28, 2017

Gloucester, MA. October, 2016

Even though the day was drizzly and unseasonably chilly, some good things came of it. Like this photo of my visiting friend Marco walking near the jetty where Gloucester Harbor meets the wide Atlantic.

January 27, 2017

Paris. December, 2005

In an effort to overturn the wisdom found in Nika Hazelton’s essay, “Why It Tastes Different Over There,” I have, through the years, attempted to bring food back from my travels. Sometimes this is easy (Mexican sauces and peppers from Tucson, for example) and sometimes less so (a kilo of potatoes from Rome to recreate the wonderful potato pizza served at Pizzeria da Pasquale on Via dei Prefetti; this was long before potato pizza could be found in “gourmet” USA pizzerias.) I’ve heard tales of customs officials and dogs trying to sniff out illegal international groceries, but no one has ever stopped me, I think because my cache has always fallen just this side of the legal line (maybe not the potatoes.) Cheeses from Paris or Istanbul have been carefully cryovac’d. Spanish sherry vinegar carefully wrapped in dirty laundry to prevent breakage (this after a very unfortunate incident with a big bottle of olive oil on an earlier trip.) Barmbrack (a fruit-studded cakelike bread) from Ireland. And several samples of different loaves from Poilâne for my bread-baker Jay, including one of the signature “P” rounds seen above. In fact, now that I think of it, I actually brought back an entire potato pizza from a 1984 Rome trip so that Jay and I could have it for dinner that same night in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Nika Hazelton, please note: It tasted exactly the same as it did over there.

January 26, 2017

Cliffside Park, NJ. October, 2007

A Turkish meze plate in New Jersey? Yes, at Dayin Yeri, a big party to honor Nick’s big birthday. A beautiful Sunday afternoon, a restaurant he’d frequented since our vacation in Istanbul, a menu selected for this special party from memories of our vacation meals. Hummus, two takes on eggplant salad, cacik (yogurt, cucumber, garlic, mint) and, of course, acili ezme. I say “of course” because our daily consumption of this spicy red pepper salad/relish was so central to our stay, it became Nick’s Istanbul nickname. (He still sometimes signs emails to me with AE.) Trying to find examples of it and recipes for it back home indicated one thing: Lots of people call lots of things acili ezme. Some restaurants serve a muhammarah (walnuts, pomegranate, hot pepper) and call it AE. Online and cookbook searches turned up many tomato variations but nothing like we remembered...until the Turkish husband of an old acquaintance provided a recipe that was just within tweaking distance of the real thing: tomato, onion, peppers, parsley, paprika, walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, pomegranate syrup, red pepper paste. Of course, if you really want the genuine article, you have to go to Istanbul. Or Cliffside Park.

January 25, 2017

Watertown, MA. November, 2016

I love the way my street looks when it's shrouded in fog. When a friend saw this photo, he said, "It looks like a still from The Third Man." Cue the zither.

January 24, 2017

Chinatown, New York, NY. December, 2016

Peking ducks hanging out in the window of one of my favorite NYC Chinese restaurants, Great N.Y. Noodletown. Many nice memories there over the years. Though I never tried their Peking duck. Too scary-looking.

January 23, 2017

Red Bank, NJ. Autumn, 1950

Today is my husband's birthday. He is [# removed] years old. But even as a child, as you can see here, he had an eye for fashion and a distinguished look. As well as a somewhat wary glance. Were the suspenders red? The hair was. Happy birthday, Dr. B.

January 22, 2017

Gloucester, MA. January, 2005

When we were little kids growing up in New Jersey, my brother and I would watch the same Christmas programs on TV year after year. Television itself was only a little older than we were, and the programs I remember were in black and white and lacking any special effects...but they were no less special to us. One that I remember was about how Franz Gruber had composed “Silent Night” one snowy evening in Austria. I took this snowy picture on the Saturday night my brother called me from New Jersey to say that our father had died. A blizzard had begun earlier in the day, and it would continue all night and all the following day, making travel impossible. After the storm had finally passed, and we were able to dig out, I headed south. Brien and I got through the formalities and the sadness by listening to the soundtrack album from Robert Altman’s Nashville on his truck’s CD player in the funeral parlor parking lot. When I see this photo, I think of that “Silent Night” TV program, of my late father, of “heavenly peace.”

January 21, 2017

Boston. December, 2016

Here's some advice for those older folks (rhetorical, of course) who find themselves in a position to be photographed: 1. Always opt for backlighting; never submit to fluorescent overhead lighting. 2. Don't wear voluminous clothing that makes you appear somewhat larger than you actually are. 3. Avoid being photographed next to someone younger, thinner or cuter than you are; and NEVER all three. 4. Practice posing until you have achieved an insouciant look that will be flattering in any photos taken. As you can see here, my friend Rob (left) has mastered items 2, 3 and 4. And the elderly gentleman on the right has not.

January 20, 2017

Watertown, MA. January, 2017

So noted. Can you think of any public figure today who wouldn't be allowed in the library?

January 19, 2017

Nantucket. July, 2009

When I lived in New Jersey, figuring I could go to the Statue of Liberty any old time, I never went. Now I live in Massachusetts, and I figure I can go to Nantucket any old time. You know the rest. So when I was working not that long ago on some copy to describe the benefits of new noise-reduction headsets engineered for pilots, my client suggested I might want to fly with the product and experience it firsthand. Good idea. Even better idea: When we took off in the small, luxurious plane from Mansfield Airport, our pilot floated the possibility of flying to Nantucket for lunch. All in favor? Everyone. And even though we ate at the airport restaurant, it was the best reuben I’ve ever had, owing mostly to the company, the view and the spectacular approach, seen here. When we all returned to the mainland and I, sadly, to my office, colleagues asked me where I had been most of the day. “Oh,” I said, “doing some product research with a client.”

January 18, 2017

New York, NY. December, 2016

Manet is one of my very favorite painters. Yet I keep forgetting that the Metropolitan Museum of Art houses this beautiful painting of his, The Dead Christ with Angels. Here's what I learned from The Met's website: "Manet identified the source for this painting, the first of several religious scenes, in the inscription on the rock: the Gospel according to Saint John. However, in the passage cited, Christ’s tomb is empty except for two angels. After Manet sent the canvas to the 1864 Salon, he realized that he had made an even greater departure from the text, depicting Christ’s wound on the wrong side. Despite Charles Baudelaire’s warning that he would 'give the malicious something to laugh at,' the artist did not correct his mistake. Critics indeed denounced the picture, particularly the realism of Christ’s cadaverous body." Spoilsports.

January 17, 2017

Trastevere, Rome. October, 1986

There are lots of reasons to visit Trastevere, the section of Rome “across the Tiber” from the centro. My first trip was to a Sardinian restaurant where I’d sampled the flaky, ultra-thin flatbread carta di musica (sheet music.) Another time was with Paolo, a sometime Fellini actor and Italian teacher-turned-boyfriend of an American friend, who was going to show me the best pizzzeria in Rome, the St. Ivo. The place was packed with sports fans, the pizza memorable, and I recall moving several barricades so that we could park within an off-hours construction site, no other space being available. (I call this kind of shenanigan “When in Rome” behavior.) But if I had to pick my favorite site in Trastevere, it would be this: the Bernini statue of Blessed Ludovica Albertoni in the church of San Francesco a Ripa. Bernini is well known for his Roman masterpieces: fountains in the Piazzas Navona and Barberini, the baldechino and colonnaded piazza of St. Peter’s Basilica, his magnificent sculpture of Saint Teresa in Ecstasy in the Cornaro Chapel of Santa Maria della Vittoria (an almost daily Roman stop for me.) This quiet and subtle memorial rests in a small niche to the left of San Francesco’s altar, lit naturally from a small window hidden above. Yet another wonderful example of how Bernini could make marble ripple with a soft, liquid expressiveness, evidenced as much in the suffering facial expression as in the billowing expanses of fabric. Ludovica is considered a “blessed person” in Roman Catholicism, known for her religious ecstasies and her alleged gift of levitation. Beatified in 1671, her canonization and sainthood are still pending.

January 16, 2017

New York, NY. December, 2016

Trying to see too much (especially when surrounded by so many people) at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is exhausting. Fortunately the museum knows this and has placed benches throughout on which weary patrons can rest a bit. I recommend the seating provided in front of this lively Matisse. Three minutes and I was up and running again.

January 15, 2017

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY. December, 2016

I love Christmas traditions. One of my favorites is going with my friend Nick to Hazar Turkish Kebab on Christmas Eve. And this past Christmas Eve was no exception. We each had decided not to order appetizers (a decision foiled by one of the owner's sending over some roasted eggplant salad and some cacik) and simply to stick to the tried and true Adana kebab. So good. My home is near a handful of Turkish restaurants in and around Boston. But none comes close to Hazar. I'm already gearing up for next Christmas Eve. Or before.

January 14, 2017

Marken, The Netherlands. August, 1972

How many times do you suppose this woman has posed with tourists? Dressed in a traditional manner that has endured for centuries, she was, I remember, "a character." Robert and I had taken a bus-and-boat day trip from Amsterdam, the last stop on our summer-long vacation. Short on cash and eager to return home, he and I had different approaches to these last days of travel. I took free tours (diamond processors, Rijksmuseum, etc.) and went to see What's Up, Doc? (imagine Barbra Streisand with Dutch subtitles.) He took to his bed at the Hotel Seven Bridges -- selected for us by the local tourist booking service; only later we did we learn it catered to a gay clientele. I went looking for this photo not long ago when, at my last job, the possibility arose of relocating to Amsterdam to train our European-based writers in various corporate mysteries and ways. There was a lot of talk, the project was slow to materialize and then was subsequently dropped after a management shift, but I had fun imagining living there and thinking about how I’d travel all around Europe from this base. I even started to learn a little Dutch. Very little. The useless "I don't speak English" and the wholly practical "Enjoy your meal." This affable woman looks as if she might be comfortable saying both.

January 13, 2017

New York, NY. December, 2016

Observe Jackson Pollock's Autumn Rhythm, seen here at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. My friend Paul, who counts this among his favorite paintings, advised that I search it out on my recent visit. He also suggested that while looking at it, I choose one color to concentrate on and see how the painting changes. Then select another color and witness the same phenomenon. I did and it did. I love seeing parents with young children (not too many) in front of paintings in a museum. What was this mother saying to her daughters about this Pollock? I wish I had heard. Or at least I think I wish I had heard. Happy Friday the 13th.

January 12, 2017

Calle de Zurbano, Madrid. October, 2009

For me, one of the great joys of travel is heading off in the morning with just a vague idea of where I want to go, letting the streets and the sights lead me on. This morning in Madrid, after an early run through neighborhoods slowly coming to life with half-asleep university students on their way to class, I started down the Calle de Sta. Engracia to find Poncelet, the cheese store I’d been told was the best in town. It was. I left with some queso Manchego curado, some queso de Madrid de cabra and their recommendation to find la charcutería Mope, where I would buy the much-prized jamón ibérico de bellota -- the fabled Spanish ham made from the black-footed pig fed exclusively on a diet of acorns. Some bread from a nearby panadería, some olives...the makings of a terrific lunch. Along the lovely morning’s route, this hapless dogwalker and his three enthusiastic charges.

January 11, 2017

New York, NY. December, 2016

On a recent trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I happened by accident upon this, the Temple of Dendur. (I had been looking for the Anna Wintour Costume Institute, truth be told.) Whoa! Situated in a wide open wing of its own, the reconstruction is surrounded by a reflecting pool (into which people had tossed coins --why do they do that?) that only serves to make the spectacle even more impressive. I'm told that the space is rented out for private events. I'd like to mention that I have a significant birthday coming up in a couple of years.

January 10, 2017

Chicago. July, 2006

What a weird day this turned out to be. I headed from Boston to Chicago very early in order to get a head start in scouting some O’Hare locations for Bose headphones posters and billboards. My pre-dawn cab ride was just early enough to miss the falling ceiling tiles in the Ted Williams Tunnel that closed down access to the airport later that morning and prevented my colleagues from joining me in Chicago. So, a very hot and humid day to myself, I hit the downtown Nokia store (business) with its kaleidoscopic color-changing walls and counters, Ohio Street Beach (pleasure), Gold Coast Dogs for lunch and a “Rush Hour” classical concert at St. James Cathedral. I also hit (literally) the bar at Topolobambo when I too-quickly bent down to retrieve a fallen umbrella, resurfacing somewhat dazed to ask the startled bartender a conversation-stopping “Am I bleeding?” I was. But my dinner there was wonderful and, because I needed a little boost after my injury, I had dessert. So there. The following morning, taking public transit back to O’Hare, I learned that I’d just missed a subway fire that had shut down the system for several hours. Accidents barely avoided on both ends of my trip (but not in the middle)...no wonder a colleague called me Mr. Magoo.

January 9, 2017

New York, NY. December, 2016

My friend Tomashi Jackson's first solo Manhattan gallery show of her artwork has just closed after a several-month run. Happily, I was able to see it just before Christmas. Formidable constructions of such diverse materials as lumber, photographs, printwork on gauze, her work is impressive and highly varied. Knitwear shares space with video, for example. Here's a very small detail of a very large work. I love the little boy timidly peering out from a small corner of this massive installation.

January 8, 2017

Brookline, MA. December, 2016

I love oddly memorable names. For years, my friends Vinny and Linda and I have taken great pleasure in remembering a public television colleague named Amy Hubbard Kittenplan. There are many others: Ayatollah Whiteman Best is one of my favorites. So, when I recently visited my dermatologist, whose office is next to Longwood Plastic Surgery, I took this picture of the door to their offices. Shall we add Blakely Plaster to our list? And, while we're at it, does it seem odd to you that a plastic surgeon should be named Reformat?

January 7, 2017

New Orleans. March, 1991

I had long wanted to visit this fascinating city, so central to the writings of some of my favorite authors. So when Nick mentioned he was going to be teaching in nearby Jackson, Mississippi, and did I want to meet him afterwards, well.... I got there a day early (with a change of planes in Nashville and the purchase of a Goo-Goo Cluster) and took a National Park Service walking tour of the French Quarter to contain my wonder and get my bearings. More intriguing was my own walking later in the afternoon when a complete stranger came up to me, kissed me full upon the lips and announced, “Welcome to New Orleans!” OK. Nick arrived and we hit the French Market, had lunch at a small place run by a then-little-known chef named Emeril, walked through the Irish Channel to the Garden District, split a muffuletta from Central Grocery, and hooked up with some friends of my pal Bambi who took us to a gospel concert at Tulane and a soul-food dinner afterwards. Amen. On a walk through the above-ground St. Louis Cemetery #1 the following day, I noticed these tokens of thanks for grace received. And, yes, we saw the famous streetcar on display not far from Elysian Fields, though public transit route 86 is now serviced by a bus named Desire. Imagine.

January 6, 2017

Cambridge, MA. December, 2016

Tatte. A new bakery/cafe in Harvard Square. Always packed. But who are these people that can afford such pricey sweets? Harvard students from the dorms across the street? Locals? Tourists? All of the above? Fortunately for those (of us) on a diet, just looking provides a high degree of visual pleasure. Or, as my friend James often reminds me, "Sometimes wanting is better than having." Sure.

January 5, 2017

New York, NY. December, 2016

I love taking pictures of people taking pictures. Throw in a few Van Goghs and the ante is significantly upped. Here, a spectacular lineup of the troubled expressionist's canvases being oogled by some incredulous fans. How could all these masterpieces be here, together, in the same room?

January 4, 2017

Plaça del Pi, Barcelona. March, 1995

After an all-night train ride from Sevilla in a sleeping compartment with three Spaniards (“Fiesta!”) and one Swiss German (“Turn out the light. Time to sleep!”), Jay and I pulled into Barcelona, the last stop on our two-week Spanish vacation. Emerging from the metro onto the leafy Ramblas, we found ourselves literally in the midst of a parade of giant papier maché heads, held aloft over billowing cloth bodies, all of them drifting magically through the warm, sun-dotted Sunday morning. We made our way to the Hotel Jardí, checked in, then headed to the nearby Bar del Pi for some much-needed coffee. I listened to how the regulars were ordering and decided to emulate their slang. “Do’ con leche,” I said. Jay, ever the linguistic purist, made a face of amused disapproval, a face we joke about to this day. The coffee was terrific, and so was the Bar del Pi, our new local.

January 3, 2017

Watertown, MA. December, 2016

Zaleti, aka Venetian cornmeal diamonds. I make several hundred of these each Christmas to give as gifts. Google and find my friend Nick Malgieri's foolproof recipe. So easy and so good. I may or may not have eaten several before I finally packaged and distributed them.

January 2, 2017

New York, NY. December, 2016

I spent the Friday before Christmas in Manhattan, catching up on museums and galleries. Here's a standout painting from one of the shows I saw. Mastry: Kerry James Marshall's first major museum solo show, now at the Met Breuer. Outstanding. Google him. Even better, see the show before it closes on January 29.

January 1, 2017

Paris. January 1, 2006

Happy New Year. Sandy Leonard Snaps is six years old today. And since most of my friends can't even remember much of what occurred last week, I'm taking advantage of this and diving into the SLS archives for many of 2017's postings. Starting today. So... 

An invitation to a New Year’s Eve party in the City of Lights, hosted by a pastry chef, featuring a Moroccan master serving up couscous...who would say non? Nick and I had already spent a week in Paris, mostly eating and walking, looking and shopping. My birthday: lunch at fabled Bofinger; dinner at Mon Viel Ami (thanks, Nick.) Miriam arrived in time for an end-of-year nosh with us at Le Comptoir (Nick and I had also been there a few days earlier.) And failing to find a suitable fireplace, I’d tossed my annual Dec. 31 list of resentments into the cold and dark waters of the Seine, hoping they’d drift away and not enter the new year with me. The party at Dorie and Michael’s was warm and sophisticated, the food memorable, the conversation stimulating. And as midnight approached, we walked to the nearby Pont des Arts to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle in the distance, marking the stroke of midnight and signaling the sparklers all around us to light up. Everyone was happy. Happier still those of us who headed back to the party for the Pierre Hermé Ispahan-inspired dessert Dorie had prepared -- lychee and raspberry ice creams, candied rose petals, lavender marshmallows, plus financiers and teensy madeleines. Best New Year’s ever.