Younger, thinner, more hair...but the same glasses! Some things never change. Like my disinterest in basketball games like this one. (Aside from one winter in the 1990s when Dennis Rodman was a volatile Chicago Bulls troublemaker, I never watched a single game on TV in my life, even under pressure. Just never got into it.) So why was I here? I was carrying a torch (literally) for my boyfriend the photographer. He’d placed me on the sidelines of the action (I’ll say) so that he could shoot the players head on and have them lit dramatically from the left. Anything to oblige. In those days anyway. At a lull in the game, he snapped me. Seton Hall University, Class of 1970. Pleasant memories for the most part. In spite of the pouty face. (To provide some balance: This is the same gymnasium in which two years earlier I had seen Judy Garland in concert, OK?)
June 22, 2017
June 21, 2017
June 20, 2017
My baby brother and I were walking all over lower Manhattan this day how many years ago? I remember that as we crossed the Bowery and encountered many drunken panhandlers, Brien asked me, “How do they know to come here?” An interesting question, no? How does anybody know where to go? From accumulated knowledge? The movies? Popular culture? Tradition? Happenstance? Continuing east, we passed community gardens, local musicians and this huge mural (Kenny Scharf continues to contribute to it even now) that stretched for almost a block. How could we not take advantage of the photo op it afforded? Brien obliged. A lovely serendipitous find. How did we know to come here?
June 19, 2017
Sometimes the side streets are best. I headed to the Peabody Essex Museum specifically to see the Joseph Cornell exhibit, which was sensational (collages, boxes, films, assorted ephemera) in spite of the gruff guard and the somewhat day-care crowd (The museum is admirably free to Salem residents, especially, it seems, to those with loud youngsters in strollers. Just saying.) I bypassed the Chinese house, a top draw at this museum, and happened upon this mixed-media installation by Bose Krishnamachari. The artist had strung up 162 lunchpails, typical of the kind that are daily delivered to Indian laborers for their midday meal, and fitted 102 of them with small video monitors displaying a range of Mumbai residents -- street vendors and socialites, industrialists and intellectuals -- talking about their day-to-day lives (their voices heard on headphones if you so desired.) Surprising and unexpected, it provided a lovely reality-based moment after hours spent within the seductive and phantasmagorical world of Cornell.
June 18, 2017
It seems every time I run into a friend these days, he or she has become vegan. What’s going on? Is everyone turning vegan? Is this The Twilight Zone? Actually, when I started cooking for these friends, I realized, hey, I’ve generally been eating somewhat vegan myself without knowing it. And now that the tide is turning, and even mainstream restaurants offer vegan options (sometimes they’re not on the menu, but they have them), this dining philosophy is shedding some of its “outsider” status. Chinese, Indian and other ethnic restaurants here in the USA seem to serve up the easiest choices. And sticking to a “no animals/no animal liquids” diet while traveling can be relatively simple, too. For example, consider Turkey, land of lamb, lamb, more lamb...and yogurt. Turkish cooking also has a rich tradition of savory vegetable dishes braised in olive oil found in just about every restaurant. Here are just three examples of the many zeytignali (olive oil) offerings we had at Istanbul’s Haci Abdullah: grape leaves stuffed with rice, mint and pine nuts; beets with peppers and cabbage; artichokes with potatoes, carrots and peas. All terrific. Spain, France, Italy...assembling a vegan meal from appetizers, antipasti and a wide variety of vegetarian choices is a snap. (In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that my vegan friend David arrived in Italy, surveyed the markets, saw all the wonderful cheeses, quickly announced that he was going to be lacto-vegetarian for his three-week stay...and eventually couldn't resist the pasta alla carbonara.) Vegans of the world, rejoice! Just like at home, you are no longer forced to eat salad at every meal when you travel.
June 17, 2017
June 16, 2017
I was staying in Venice for a few days with a train pass to allow easy access to other places in the Veneto that I wanted to visit, including Vicenza, 60km to the west. I came here to see the villas designed by the great 16th-century architect, Andrea Palladio, but I found so much more. I discovered what appeared to be a small village living within (almost in spite of) Palladian grandeur. As I walked from the train station to the main piazza, I was stunned by a poster for the local porn cinema with a somewhat shocking English title...next to a Renaissance palazzo. Then a group of elderly Vicenese women carrying bags of groceries as they walked home through magisterial public spaces, arches within arches, columns and more columns. I love the photo of this cool guy, in shades and a sweater tied around his waist, cycling idly past me in the empty main square, the Piazza dei Signori. I’d seen him approaching, readied my camera, and just as I pressed the shutter, his greeting. Ciao.
June 15, 2017
What a lovely find this small Portuguese city midway in our trip between Santiago de Compostela and Lisbon. We’d stopped earlier for a few hours in Braga, then trained it here, checked into the Hotel Oslo and headed out to find dinner. No problem. The streets were filled with students who kept ducking in and out of restaurants and bars to check on the progress of the evening’s soccer game. Jay and I settled in for a meal of cream of vegetable soup, stewed goat, roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Mmmm. Vegetables, and lots of them. This was also our first introduction to Portuguese portion sizes. Yikes! I read somewhere that the meals are geared toward men who’ve spent their day in manual labor. OK with us. After dinner, a stroll through the warm and relatively empty downtown, its beautifully crafted sidewalks reflecting the golden light, the sounds of music echoing through this wonderful university town.
June 14, 2017
Why Lexington when this is clearly the main hall at Ellis Island? Because this was a photo on display at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, part of an exhibit of Augustus F. Sherman’s Ellis Island photos that I visited with my pal Eileen. She and I each possess a great fascination and reverence for Ellis Island, the legend-filled entry point and processing center for thousands and thousands of immigrants to the US of A in the early 20th century. The first (and only) time I visited the actual Ellis Island was with my brother in 2003. We drove to Liberty State Park on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, caught the first boat, and arrived early before the crowds. Then (employing a trick I’d learned to access the Sistine Chapel) I avoided the main entrance on the lower level and raced immediately upstairs to the Great Hall. I was stunned being in that mythical room all alone. Well, not alone actually. The memories and spirits of those who’d passed through this “golden door” to a new life, all seemed to be there with me. Who had stood on this spot before? Where did they go from here? How scared were they? How excited to leave their past behind and begin anew? No wonder I got all teary and emotional. Brien and I later backtracked through the rest of the exhibits, fascinating all. But nothing could match my first solo moment in that great Great Hall.
June 13, 2017
June 12, 2017
June 11, 2017
Souvenirs. Why do people buy what they buy, I often wonder. But then, others could justifiably wonder the same thing about me. Instead of the typical snow-globes, keyrings and ceramic knicknacks that crowd the shelves of thousands of souvenir shops worldwide, my tastes run toward the practical, the personal, the jokey. (Unless the venue itself is a bit of a joke -- ex. Las Vegas’ Liberace Museum -- in which case, bring on the refrigerator magnets. Oh, and there’s that Pope John Paul II bottle opener I bought at the Vatican; I’m not kidding.) Sometimes it’s a T-shirt or team memento from a local sports shop (I still treasure the Slavia Praha towels I bought in then-Communist Prague in 1972.) When I visit Tucson, I have a tradition of bringing home at least one item that is excessively bulky to pack and highly breakable, too (dozens of votive candles, huge tin or glass Mexican stars, mirrors, framed artwork, etc.) I buy kitchen utensils for friends who cook (knives and wooden spoons from Paris, Lisbon and Istanbul.) Food items not readily found in New England (carrot jam from Portugal, smoked black Urfa pepper and candied olives from Turkey.) I recall the beautiful Shostal shop in Rome every single time I wear the pajamas I bought there. And the “Turkish towel” store in Istanbul where I bought Jay a luxurious terrycloth robe. Dehillerin, the wonderful cooking supply house in Paris, comes to mind each time I slice bread with the sturdy knife I bought there. And isn’t that what souvenirs are supposed to do, bring you back?
June 10, 2017
Until recently, I did not have a cell phone. I didn’t really want one. Though I did admire the creative uses that many people put theirs to. For example, this photo, one of a series from a former co-worker friend who will remain unnamed. Months after I walked away from my most recent place of corporate employment, I received this photo via email. Accompanying it was a brief note indicating that my colleagues missed me and thought I might like to see the new buzzcut and up-a-notch style of dressing that an attractive favorite was now sporting. (Attractive? Colleagues of both sexes would gasp audibly as this guy sauntered into the cafeteria each day precisely at 12:10pm.) How do people manage to have the nerve to snap photos like this? Granted it’s hurried and blurred and doesn’t do its subject justice, but still. Another great use of cell phones: The friend who sent me this photo was entertaining us at lunch in the cafeteria one day with a tutorial about the M4M cruising app Grindr that he’d installed on his iPhone. Suddenly, a shriek: “Oh my god, it says the closest person also on Grindr is only 13 feet away! Who is it?” Sadly for all of us, it was not Mr. Gasp.
June 9, 2017
After a morning at Topkapi Palace, a wonderful lunch of fried Black Sea sardines at our favorite outdoor waterside fish fry along the Golden Horn, Nick wanted a nap. I wanted adventure, so I hotfooted it to the Eminonu docks and boarded a ferry across the Bosphorus to the less-touristed Asian-side neighborhood of Üsküdar. It was a lovely revelation. A student who was learning English engaged me in conversation. I found some mosques that were so far off the vacationer’s path that they seemed more solemn, more serious. And I found this market street with many vendors whose shop windows opened to the sidewalk. What drew me to this one was more than just a chance to speak with this charming young man whose English was on a par with my Turkish. It was that he was offering two of my favorite local desserts. Ekmek kadayif (left) and tulumba (right), both sticky with syrup, both magnificently simple, both sold by the pound. Or the kilo, actually. Ekmek kadayif is bread (or rusks), syrup-soaked and softened. Tulumba are extruded lozenges of dough (see the ridges on the three-inch "fingers"), fried, then also soaked through and through with a sugar-water-lemon juice syrup. Both treats are often served topped with kaymak (the clotted cream of Turkey) and dusted with crushed pistachios. I can’t remember exactly how much I bought of each delight, but I know that it was, well, significant. A memorably sweet close to a fine Asian afternoon.
June 8, 2017
Don’t you love leftovers? I think the pleasure of having containers of favorites waiting in the refrigerator may be one reason I indulge in high-yielding recipes whenever I have the chance. Say, for our annual boat parade party on Labor Day weekend. Or for this warm, late-spring afternoon when we welcomed Julia, Daniel (did he take this picture?), Jim and Mike to Gloucester for an outdoor lunch. I can see some reliable standbys on the plate here -- a roasted bird done in the Weber grill, some homemade pickles, Jay’s bread and three salads: a standard green, Itch and beet tzatziki. I could probably make the Middle Eastern grain salad Itch blindfolded at this point, I just couldn’t make a small amount. Sauté three medium chopped onions (and sometimes a chopped garlic clove) in 3/4 cup olive oil until tender. Add a 28oz can of crushed tomatoes and a healthy tablespoon of Turkish hot pepper paste. After 10 minutes, remove from heat and stir in the juice of one lemon, salt to taste, two cups of fine bulghur. Cover and let sit off heat for 45 minutes. Then fully mix in a chopped-up combo of one bunch of scallions (white and green parts both), one bunch of parsley, one green pepper. Serve at room temperature. Makes a ton. And, fortunately, even better the next day.
June 7, 2017
June 6, 2017
June 5, 2017
When Billy Wilder’s 1963 film Irma La Douce opened, I couldn’t wait to see it. (I was 14 and didn’t meet the age requirement, but I managed to “dress older” and get into the Lavalette, NJ, theater where, two days earlier I’d passed for the under-12 discount to see Hayley Mills in Summer Magic. Just saying.) I loved it. The music, the clichéd presentation of Paris, the forbidden humor and intrigue surrounding ladies of the night. (And I also liked the film’s ads, the graphics of which I reproduced with driftwood charcoal on the side of a lifeguard shack late one night to the general disgruntlement of the awakening Silver Beach, NJ, community.) So, arriving in Paris for the first time in 1969, I made a beeline to Pigalle. Well, it was short on Hollywood glamour but still possessed a seedy charm. I can recall an older, heavy and worn woman leaning in a doorway, humming “La Vie en Rose” as I walked by. Know your audience, chérie. On a recent visit to the City of Light, I noticed that even the Parisian sex trade in Pigalle has been commercialized, the human element removed, with a supermarché erotique on almost every block, porno DVDs for sale on the sidewalk...and few ladies to be found. I suspect a misguided, late-1980s Times-Square-style cleanup by a politically motivated mayor with little respect for tradition. Have you no sense of indecency, sir?
June 4, 2017
The first time I went to Los Angeles was on business in 1981. I was working at The Caption Center at WGBH Boston, and just before my trip, we were told that there was a real chance our department would shut down. I quickly changed my reservation from the Motel 6 to the Chateau Marmont. I knew nothing about the hotel except what I’d read in Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckenridge: that Garbo had always stayed there, that it had a faded splendor, that a huge lady cowboy sign revolved outside, that it had history. That was more than enough for me. I arrived to the great news that The Marmont had no more single rooms available, would a small suite be OK? I loved the place right off -- the small, shaded pool, the Spanish colonial atmosphere, the whispered conversations, the cool tiled floors, the huge sunglasses everyone wore, the haunted secrecy of it all. (Who, I wondered, had occupied my suite in the past?) That night, I took a walk along Sunset Boulevard (I had to!) and was stopped by the police: Why was I walking? I quickly learned that respectable Los Angelinos rarely walk anywhere, least of all along The Sunset Strip, least of all at night. Whatever. Years later, the Chateau Marmont was the scene of John Belushi’s highly publicized drug overdose, and since then it has undergone a major facelift with a consequent skyrocketing of prices. Still, that magical first visit remains with me to this day.
June 3, 2017
A little jet-lagged but unreservedly enthusiastic about seeing this fabled city, Nick and I woke up on our first morning, a warm and sunny Sunday, and climbed the steep hill to Tünel for breakfast at Kaffehaus. We were not disappointed. Strong tea, a sesame-coated simit, cheese, olives, a warm hard-boiled egg, tomato, cucumber, honey and jam. “Let’s take it easy today,” Nick suggested as we ate. Sure. Before the day was finished we’d been to Asia and back, ferrying across the Bosphorus to dine on Anatolian cuisine at Çiya, a restaurant we’d return to over and over again. Each June 3 since then, no matter where I am, I always recreate this breakfast plate as best I can, remembering that first morning in the City of the World’s Desire.