June 30, 2018

Codman Farms, Lincoln, MA. August, 2011

On the afternoon that Hurricane Irene blew into New England and then blew out again, James came over in his truck and we headed out to his garden at the Codman Community Farms. It was windy and wet and there were many trees and power lines down, including some that closed one whole street, attended to by chainsaw-wielding workers just as we approached the farm. His end-of-summer crops of cabbages, beets, tomatoes, peppers and melons looked wonderful in the dampness of the afternoon. And, almost needless to say, because of the weather, we were the only ones at the garden. Still, this sign that James has posted reminds that at other times the abundant plots often attract light-fingered visitors. 

June 29, 2018

Plaça del Pi, Barcelona. November, 2010

My friend Karen is a graphic designer who loves repetitive patterns. So I’m hoping she likes this window display in the knife-and-scissors store just steps from our go-to hotel in the city’s Barri Gòtic. I love little shops in Europe, each the antithesis of “big box” stores here in the US of A. And this is one of my favorites. Dark wood walls and cabinets, lighting fixtures that have probably been in place since opening day many, many years ago. Offering a different kind of tool for each use (nails, hair, fabric, kitchen), the proprietors are serious about their specialty...but also might close shop at a moment’s notice to go for a coffee nearby. Thankfully, they keep their beautiful windows illuminated through the night, dazzling one and all.

June 28, 2018

San Diego, CA. January, 1990

I was in Los Angeles for the press event for the 10th anniversary of PBS’s Mystery! for which I had written Vincent Price’s introductions for many years. “Event” is the correct word, too, as star Diana Rigg called in sick and was replaced at the last minute by Jeremy (Sherlock Holmes) Brett (who was loudly admonished by the press agent, “And lay off the booze before your speech!” Brett, by the way, paid no attention whatsoever to this warning.) The next day, I took the train south to visit my friend Eldon. We went to take jumping pictures and eat fish tacos at the Hotel del Coronado (where Some Like It Hot was filmed) and passed stores with names like “Guns ‘R’ Us.” I also recall walking through the Hillcrest neighborhood and learning the name of the local gay bowling league: Spare Me. In the midst of all this excitement, however, I looked up and spotted this somewhat blasé local resident.

June 27, 2018

Rome. November, 1984

When I first went to Rome, I thought the word guasto meant “telephone.” I saw handwritten signs with it posted on so many public phones throughout the Eternal Città that my error was not without some justification, I think. Actually it means “broken.” Here it is in its feminine form, indicating that there’s something wrong with this beautiful mailbox. Guasto is a good word to learn before going to Italy, so often does it appear throughout the country in so many different applications. Another useful term to master: in sciopero. “On strike.”

June 26, 2018

West Newton, MA. June, 2012

I often find myself at meetings in church basements. And no meeting room is finer than this one at a Universalist church not far from my home. It’s used as a children’s classroom during the day and the walls are happily decorated with examples of the youngsters’ views on life. For example, this eight-year-old (almost nine) was asked to list a few things that he enjoys. Witness his answers, simple and direct. Once in this same room, I was amazed to read what had been the kids’ responses to “What is God?” This was a question I’d been struggling with for years. Honestly. I’d read the Bible, the Koran, the Tao Te Ching and many other spiritual guides, hoping to find some answer I could embrace and be comfortable with. Nothing. Then, there among the “God is a friend” and “God is a father” and “God is my cat” scribblings, I read this: “God is incomprehensible.” Bingo! I could relax. This bit of wisdom (from the teacher, I’d guess) was just the answer I’d been searching for, and it’s served me well for years now. (On a related note, my last drink was 36 years ago today. I like living.)

June 25, 2018

Mergellina, Naples. October, 1984

When I arrived in Naples for the first time (on an overnight train from Zurich), I experienced a little bit of culture shock. The Swiss follow-the-rules behavior was nowhere in evidence in this anything-goes Southern Italian city. For example, the “don’t throw anything on the tracks” signs in the main train station were almost completely obscured by the mounds of cigarette butts tossed at them. With my Let’s Go guide in hand, I headed by subway to the nearby neighborhood of Mergellina. Less riotous than the centro, it still had the Napoli craziness that I came to love. Cars still did not stop for red lights, which made crossing streets (especially the six-lane route along the waterfront) a challenge. But once across, lovely moments such as this reward the survivor. When I returned to Naples four years later with Nick, we also opted to stay in Mergellina, returning to the same, rather basic family-run place I’d visited before that Nick promptly dubbed the Pensione Squallido.

June 24, 2018

Watertown, MA. May, 2011

When the day’s Groupon offered 50% off an Syrian-Arabic cooking class near my home, how could I resist? It had three essential elements that appealed to me: ethnic food, a bargain, all within walking distance. And even though I am spoiled by the wonderful cooking classes that my friend Nick teaches, I wasn’t disappointed by Ahmad’s class at his spacious and spotless Yasin Culinary kitchen. Seen here, one of two dishes we prepared that night, Fetet al-Hummos, a stew made from whole chickpeas sitting on a bed of crispy torn pita bread, raw broccoli florets, all bathed in a sauce of pureed chickpeas, tahineh, garlic, lemon juice and Aleppo pepper. Then sprinkled with more of the pepper, chopped parsley and melted butter. I was glad that we were able to eat what we made. Simple, straightforward, healthy and good.

June 23, 2018

Gloucester, MA. December, 2011

I love our fishing-town off season. The crowds are gone. The noise level drops. The only people on the streets are neighbors. And a friendliness almost begrudgingly creeps back into the way folks treat one another. We smile, say hello. Also, the winter light. Look at the way this end-of-day sun gently illuminates. Lovely. The house you see is one of our harbor’s “floating houses.” You can hardly tell from the way it’s docked here, but the house is free-floating and maintains an on-season anchored position in the middle of the harbor, an island unto itself, its inhabitants coming and going by way of a small motorboat. A little porch, a barbecue grill...and 360-degree water views. Just one more oddity in this quirky town filled with so many remarkable things to discover.

June 22, 2018

Milan. October, 1986

Io scelgo HappyDent perché non attaca ai denti.” So says Larry Hagman (aka Dallas’ JR) on all of these posters in the main Milan train station. Larry Hagman? Well, I’m glad he chooses this brand of Italian chewing gum and that it doesn’t damage his teeth. (If I remember correctly, tooth decay was among the least of his problems.) I’m often amused at the endorsements that Hollywood stars give to products abroad that they would never consider doing stateside. Audrey Hepburn recommended wigs in Japan (where consumers were drawn to the star for her enviable long neck, it was said.) Sylvester Stallone was big in Italy when I was there throughout the 1980s. Wonder whose faccias are seen on posters throughout the country these days.

June 21, 2018

Cambridge, MA. November, 1991

After I moved to Massachusetts in 1978, and after my mother died some ten years later, my father came for a brief visit. I remember picking him up at the airport and noticing that he wore only a lightweight Boston Celtics jacket, green satin, a shamrock appliqué. (We spent some of the weekend trying to find warmer coats for him to wear.) He spent a few cold days with me at my Cambridge Terrace condo, attended one of Nick’s events at the Boston Harbor Hotel, came with me to Beverly Farms to stay at Jay’s. No one in my family ever talked much, at least not about anything serious or important. So I was surprised when my brother told me that my father’s full report on his visit to Jay’s was this: “They sleep in the same room.” (Years later, after another visit, this time to Jay’s house in Gloucester, my father’s take to my brother was: “He has gold fixtures in one of the bathrooms.” Progress, I guess.)

June 20, 2018

Barceloneta. November, 2010

Before I visit a new place, I usually make a study of the regional cuisine. And then I make a list of must-try items. Navajas, broiled razor clams, were on my Barcelona list and I found them in many tapas places, especially in the Barceloneta neighborhood. None surpassed these at the excellent Bar Jai-Ca where Jay and I kept ordering plate after plate of fried (anchovies and calamari), broiled (these navajas) and boiled (octopus) seafood, putting together a memorable lunch, one of many here in the Catalan capital. It’s hard to go wrong with enough garlic and butter. But when a place such as this goes so very right, you remember it.

June 19, 2018

Istanbul. October, 2011

Here at the open-air, somewhat makeshift fish “restaurant” along the Golden Horn, it seems that everyone is wearing a coat or jacket. Yes, this October afternoon was a bit chilly, but nothing stops determined diners when hamsi are in season. Those elusive Black Sea fresh anchovies, cleaned and gutted, lightly dusted with fine cornmeal, fried. A plate of them (along with a small salad of arugula) makes for a mighty fine lunch. Worth a bit of a breeze. What you can’t see here are the many cats who saunter nonchalantly among the tables, waiting for any reward that might come their way. They know their audience; we saw many diners whisk a few tidbits (or, in one case, an entire mackerel fish frame) to these petitioning kitties. And if they don’t score, they have only to travel a few yards to the Karaköy fish market next door, the source of our own fresh hamsi meal.

June 18, 2018

Pizzeria da Pasquale, Rome. October, 2011

One of the great pleasures of travel for me is being able to guide friends who are first-time visitors to places I love. Bringing Jay to Istanbul and Rome. Typing out lists of places to eat and shop for friends en route to Paris. When my friend Andy was about to go to Rome for the first time, what a treat it was for me to “revisit” the Eternal Città as I went through maps, business cards from each ristorante, guiding him to my beloved Pizzeria da Pasquale in the Via dei Prefetti (home of the city’s best potato pizza), etc. But maybe the silliest and the most fun (for him and for me) was the Tosca Tour. Act I: the church of Sant Andrea della Valle. Act II: the Palazzo Farnese. Act III: the Castel Sant’ Angelo. All within walking distance of one another. And all wonderful visuals to accompany the sublime Puccini that plays in your head as you stroll along.

June 17, 2018

Watertown, MA. September, 2011

When Hurricane Bob blew through New England in August of 1991, Nick and I were in Provincetown, MA, “Hurricane Central.” The weather was wild, the leaves blown off all the trees and shrubs and pureed against walls all over town. (Lilac bushes, suddenly bare and experiencing the same amount of sunlight as in the spring, were fooled into blooming again!) We lost power, but had a gas stove, so Nick decided to try to approximate the pan pizza we both loved at Boston’s Galeria Umberto. Success! I’ve been making what I call “Nick’s Ptown Pizza” ever since. For the real deal, check out Nick’s How to Bake. For my quick take: Start two tablespoons of dry active yeast in two cups of hot water to which you’ve added a teaspoon of sugar. When it’s bubbly, add two tablespoons of olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, about six-seven cups of flour and mix and knead (by hand or KitchenAid mixer, dough hook) until you have a silky, workable dough. Cut it in half, store under plastic wrap or in Tupperware and let the two halves rise to double in size. Then push and pull each into an oiled jellyroll pan until they remain in place. Topping for each pizza: One-half of a 28-ounce can of Pastene crushed tomatoes (“chunky style”), three tablespoons grated Romano, some oregano, a little salt, a few red pepper flakes, four ounces shredded mozzarella. Put the pans on two shelves of a preheated 425-degree oven for 30 minutes, alternating them (top to bottom, front to back) on the shelves halfway through. Cool on racks. Do all that and you’ll have what you see here.

June 16, 2018

Amherst, MA. February, 2009

One of the many things I love about Jay is that he gets weepy. (He tells me that he always has. Well, so do I. And so did my father. All pluses, I think.) Can you tell from this picture at his alma mater, Amherst College? It was the first time he’d been back since graduating in 1966, and he told me he got all sentimental thinking back about his time there. We were in town to hear Portuguese fadista Mariza perform at UMass. We’d already checked into our Priceline-secured motel room in nearby Northampton and were strolling about the campus, the town. That evening’s concert was sensational. A local Portuguese marching band paraded through the theatre lobby, and a local bakery handed out pastèis de nata, my introduction to this heavenly pastry. Could Mariza, the music and the pastèis have prompted the decision to make our first trip to Portugal nine months later? And then again the following year? Of course. And now, whenever we think of Lisbon, “our city,” we both get a little misty.

June 15, 2018

Tucson. January, 1990

Some people know how to pose. And how to choose the right socks to go with their shirt. Hell, even Betty (left) looks just right here. Simon and David and I were on a hike along the David Yetman Trail through the Tucson Mountains and came across this abandoned stone house up in the hills. (As it happens, the site is within spitting distance of land that Jay and I would buy some dozen years later.) The “Bowen House” was built in the 1930s by an editor for the Arizona Star but was abandoned when the owners went “back East.” Inhabited by various young groups of squatters during the 1960s, it soon became known as the “Hippie House,” and it was during that time that fire destroyed the roof. In 1983, the entire 2,000-acre Bowen homestead became part of Tucson Mountain Park. When I showed this photo to Simon again recently, his only reaction was to ask, “Jesus, what hair color was I using back then?” 

June 14, 2018

Bodrum, Turkey. October, 2011

Karadeniz Mısır Ekmeği, the famed cornbread from the Black Sea (Karadeniz) region. Not at all cakey like our own Southern style cornbread, mısır ekmeği is a heavy, hardly risen, somewhat challenging loaf, dense and quickly satisfying. When we ventured into a bread bakery in a far-flung Bodrum neighborhood to ask directions, I noticed a tray of this regional specialty still warm from the oven. (What was it doing here, so far from the Black Sea?) We got our directions, our bread, and a lovely conversation with the Black-Sea-native baker who wanted to know the name of this bread in English. The following morning at breakfast on board the Wind Surf, we asked our favorite attendant Ony if he could persuade someone in the kitchen to slice the round loaf for us. He did, and when he returned it, we asked him if he’d like to try a piece. He smiled shyly and confessed, “I already did.”

June 13, 2018

Noto, Sicily. May, 1988

Nick and I had been traveling throughout Italy for weeks, compiling the research that would result in his Great Italian Desserts book. We joked about our Sicilian visits to numerous pastry chefs, all of whom seemed to offer marzipan-based sweets filled with preserves made from a native citrus fruit. Whenever we told one that we’d earlier been to see so-and-so in such-and-such a town, he would invariably say, “Yes, but here in our shop we have something special.” Followed by the inevitable “pasta di mandorle con confitura di cedro.” Always. Until we met this man, Corrado Costanza. Yes, he had some of the predictable pasta di mandorle sweets (though in remarkable shapes and presentations.) But the thing I remember most is his gelato. I recall trying two flavors: rose and jasmine. Also a quince-paste dessert that made the glands in my throat quiver like a tuning fork. Such a nice man, frowning, offering his heart.

June 12, 2018

South Station, Boston. October, 2003

One of the many great gifts for me of working at the most respected name in sound was the opportunity to partner with Mike. He is the most talented and most inventive designer I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Here we are in Boston’s South Station, inspecting the installation of dozens of huge banners we’d made to herald the arrival of the Bose QuietComfort 2 Acoustic Noise Canceling headphones, known only to those of us on the payroll back then as QC2s. (Our print production pal Alan accompanied us that day and took this photo.) So what if Mike never quite mastered the art of the “jumping picture.” Just being able to get the entire product name (and the word NEW, and the Bose logo, etc.) elegantly onto most of the materials we produced was a Herculean feat worth admiring.

June 11, 2018

Off Gloucester, MA. August, 2011

Jay and I live in Gloucester and love our home overlooking the harbor. Still, ever since a friend told us that we couldn’t fully appreciate the fishing town until we saw it from a boat, we’ve been jonesin’ to do just that. So when Groupon offered 50% off a harbor cruise on the schooner Thomas E. Lannon, we jumped. And we’re glad we did. Yes, it was wonderful to see the “other” perspective on our town, the side we never see from our perch above Rocky Neck and Smith’s Cove. There’s the paint factory. And the lighthouse. And, look, there’s our house up there on the cliff. The day was warm and windless, but that didn’t matter. It was nice just lolling about in the outer harbor, the sea beyond. We didn’t even mind the other passengers. Much.

June 10, 2018

Codman Farm, Lincoln, MA. August, 2011

Look at this beauty in my friend James’s garden. It reminds me of a similar cabbage, one that was the subject of the first watercolor I ever did in a class taught by Bill Stewart in Soho some 40 years ago. I took the class with my friend Mira who drove from NJ into NYC each Tuesday night to Bill’s loft on Prince Street in what was then a very dicey part of town. I felt very bohemian. (Bob Wilson, a Texan pal of Bill’s, sat in on the class from time to time and was pretty down to earth before he became famous as Robert Wilson.) I remember Bill’s encouraging me not to be too literal, to use colors more imaginatively. Consequently my talent-free painting was a wash of purples and pinks and blues, mixed in with the greens. I’m sure there was some red in there, too. Framed proudly if inexpertly, it hung in my parents’ hallway for years and may still even be there today. It wasn’t nearly as beautiful as this one, the real thing.

June 9, 2018

Christopher Street, New York City. July, 2011

Oh, my. Who would ever have thought, back in the days when Nick and I used to go there, that the fetid Stonewall Inn would ever have become historic and respectable? Years before the “Stonewall riots” during the summer of 1969, we’d timidly enter this obviously mob-run place, clearing the front-door inspection and bouncer. (There was no picture window back then.) Once inside, it was a little creepy. Tin foil covering the ceilings of the two rooms, people hanging around, music. (The Supremes were big.) Every once in awhile there would be a police raid. The overhead lights would suddenly come on. The bartenders would quickly take the cash drawers out of the registers and disappear through a back door. And the patrons would slowly leave the establishment through the front door, police cars idling outside. The few times this happened when we were there, we just walked out without any hassle. Not so in late June, 1969. And, as a result of those well-documented few days and their aftermath, things have changed mightily. So while it’s nice to see that the place is still there, I have no desire to step inside now. Seems more like a museum piece or a theme park now than an edgy bar. Happy Pride Day to all my Boston friends today.

June 8, 2018

New Orleans. March, 1991

One of the many novelties to be witnessed in this evocative city is the change of pace from one street to the next. Especially in the French Quarter. One minute you’re on Bourbon Street, passing chock-a-block honky-tonk bars with Hurricane-toting drunken tourists spilling onto the pavement. The next moment, you find yourself in front of a residence with some serene and dreamlike decorative touches. Look at this cast-iron cornstalk fence, for example, found, not so surprisingly, in front of the Cornstalk Hotel on Royal Street. Legend holds that an early owner of this early 1800s home installed the fence so that his young bride would be less homesick for the cornfields of her native Iowa. Pumpkins form the base of the fence, and there’s even a butterfly that seems to have recently alighted on the front gate. But would you expect anything less from a city whose streetcars (now buses) carry names like Desire?

June 7, 2018

Bar del Pi, Barcelona. November, 2010

On our first visit to Barcelona 15 years earlier, Jay had made a disapproving face when I ordered “do’ con leche” as I’d heard the locals do. (He’s a scientist and preferred the more precise “dos cafés con leche.”) So I was happy this afternoon on our most recent trip to the Catalan capital when we stopped into our favorite cafe, the Bar del Pi, for our favorite coffee and Jay ordered as the Catalans do. And here they are, all do’ of them, backed up by some lovely trays of olives, steamed artichokes and stuffed red peppers, items from that day’s tapas offerings.

June 6, 2018

Istanbul. October, 2011

I thought I knew what baklava was. Then I visited Turkey. In addition to the standard baklava “diamonds” of layered filo dough, butter, nuts and sweet syrup, I found dozens of other varieties that dazzled both eye and palette. Some sweetened with honey, some with sugar syrup. Rolls of pale green filo filled with ground pistachios then cut sushi-style to create thick disks of delight. Nests of shredded dough encircling hazelnut centers. Even chocolate baklava, somewhat less sweet than you would imagine. Regional varieties whose recipes are guarded and treasured. And some that are only produced for certain religious holidays. Here, acem gülü, open turnovers of filo with a dense filling of pistachios. So little time.

June 5, 2018

Rome. October, 1980

My first visit to Italy, thanks largely to the urging of my late friend Dali. She’d lived in Rome for awhile, her marriage broke up there, she found an Italian boyfriend. In short, she was the ideal guide. Born Dorothy to an Italian mother and Irish father in a comfortable suburb of Boston, she never, as far as I could tell, followed any conventional path. An art student (hence her choice to spell “Dolly” as she did) who went from answering ZOOMmail at Boston’s public television station to producing segments for PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery!, she was the reason I’d moved to Boston in the first place, leaving a predictable teaching job in New Jersey for “the glamour industry” of television. Dali never looked more Italian than when we were in Italy, as here in the Piazza della Rotunda just steps from the Pantheon. I often feel like she’s guiding me still.

June 4, 2018

Fonda, Brooklyn, NY. September, 2010

An odd thing happens sometimes when I go out to dinner with Nick. The restaurant’s pastry chef either knows him or recognizes him and sends out lots of desserts. I can remember eating at Rialto in Cambridge, MA, one evening after Nick had been part of a presentation there earlier in the day. At dessert time, a large assortment of sweets was delivered to our table, and the pastry chef could be seen over in the corner, sneaking a peek to see which ones might meet with favor. I’m not complaining. Here at Fonda, a different situation. Because Chef Roberto Santibañez is a friend, he’ll often ask for Nick’s opinion about the way certain desserts have turned out. (Often they’re Nick’s recipes to begin with.) I am always grateful to share the benefits. This time, in addition to the tres leches cake (which you can just see a part of, lower left), there are two brownies with a caramel sauce and cinnamon-laced whipped cream. And it looks like maybe a bread pudding (which I am bound by law to order whenever I see it on any menu) and a chocolate-dotted cookie. Mmmmmm. The same again, please.

June 3, 2018

Gloucester, MA. September, 2011

Years ago, at an early-morning flea market in Rowley, MA, I was introduced to a mad thing named Bob Driscoll. Shortly afterwards, I bought a huge framed print of the Sacred Heart from him, which I later de-acquisitioned when Simon and I wired it to a tree at the entrance to a nearby Christian college. (It remained in place for weeks, I hope because officials may have been afraid that their superiors could have authorized it.) Now Bob has set up shop just down the hill from us on East Main Street in the basement of the Beacon Marine building. This is dangerous for me. I regularly toddle down on a Saturday, just looking, and return with (at least) one of his $20 vintage handknit sweaters or $15 linen shirts or $30 Harris Tweed blazers. Bob and David are always welcoming, always quietly eager to point out their latest finds (like these tabletops from a defunct Mexican restaurant) and always very tight-lipped when I ask, “Where do you find this stuff?” I’ve already sent many people their way, all of them emerging from the store heavily laden. Open all year. Go.

June 2, 2018

Watertown, MA. September, 2011

Finger food. That’s what we ask our guests to bring to our annual Labor Day Saturday party each year. No plates. No utensils. Just stacks of napkins. Basta. (Note to Beth: Cheesecake with fruit topping is no longer considered a finger food. Neither is soup.) To prime the savory table, I decided to try my first tortilla española, the famed potato and onion omelette we found in tapas joints and restaurants all over Spain. First, I sliced six medium Yukon gold potatoes in half, the halves into 1/8 inch slices. Fried them in olive oil and, with a slotted spoon, put them into a bowl. Then I minced and fried two onions and a shallot (from my friend James’s garden) and added them to the potatoes. Then came some chopped rosemary leaves, S&P and, once the bowl contents were cool enough, eight beaten eggs. Heated more oil in a sauté pan, poured in the mixture and let the bottom cook over medium heat. Then, once it was set, I finished cooking the top under the broiler until the whole thing felt firm. Loosen the edges. Flip onto a plate! And here it is, about to be cut into small squares, each skewered with a toothpick or set on a small piece of Jay’s homemade bread.

June 1, 2018

Tucson. May, 2005

No, this was not taken in a botanical garden. Instead, just a random snapshot during a hike taken on land that Jay and I bought near Gates Pass in Tucson. Yellow-blossomed prickly pear cactus, a nice round barrel cactus and that vibrant red flowering cholla. The colors are always a revelation in this place. But no more than they were during that spring visit when the desert was in full bloom. Simon and David are always so generous and hospitable, always willing to take a drive out to this land and walk it with me. Will we ever build here as was our original intention? It would mean, of course, having to clear a section of the land of native plants like these. (As it happens, we didn't have the energy to build; we sold to someone who, after several years, still hasn't built, either.)