Friday, March 29, 2013

You don't have to leave New York...

During my meanderings through the lower 48, I have often said that you don't have to leave the great state of New York to see America.  It's all here!!!  Just yesterday, on my way to the supermarket somewhere in the suburbs of Albany, I came across this...

How much more American can it get?


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mishpocha in Bardstown, Kentucky...

On our way to Huntingburg, Indiana to meet up with the wife of a deceased business partner of my father's, we passed through the bourbon capitol of the world, Bardstown, Kentucky...

The soda fountain inside Hurst Drugs...

I made the interesting discovery that the big players in the bourbon industry here are the sons and grandsons of some poor Yiddish speaking itinerant Jewish peddler who for reasons known only to himself and the recesses of time, settled here, opened a dry goods store, did well, expanded, opened a clothing store and then two or three or four more, and raised 5 boys who followed in his stead, continued to prosper while those around them didn't do so well or see the big picture, and after prohibition was repealed had the foresight and wherewithall to buy a broken down distillery and with the expertise of others and their backing ended up owning one of Kentucky's largest distilleries.  Wus machs a yid?  Who else could have  done it.  The Shapiras.  A cognate of the Shapiro, Spiro/Spira, Sapir, Shapiro, et al....all related, all somehow descending from a family from the town of Speyer, Germany, or possibly the roots are more biblical as we Shapiros like to think, deriving from the hebrew word sapir meaning...  What ever, due to the vagueries of fate, transliteration, or the whim of some immigration agent at Ellis island, we are all part of common roots that relates us although we no longer know how.  Our branch survived the sweat shops of the lower east side, remaining in the New York area, moving to Brooklyn and beyond, and doing ok, thanks, but you Shapiras of Bardstown did good.  Yesher koach!!!  

So as fate would have it, the Shapiras became bourbon kings as a matter of circumstance and business sense.  This is probably a story that has played out many times over the vast expanse of America traversed by itinerant Jewish peddlers heading west, taking their lives in their hands to sell dry goods to farmers and ranchers with hopes of supporting their families back east.  Some died trying, some like the Shapiras and the Goldwaters further west did well.

                                                                      Pablo Shapiro  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Other Las Vegas...

I'm here on East Fremont Street in Las Vegas, far from the psychotic delusional frenzy of the "strip"/Las Vegas Blvd.,  the grand buffet at the Bellagio, the great pyramids of the Luxor, the understated, over the top "elegance" of the Wynn, here in a part of the city most visitors will never see,  probably never want to see, and certainly the one the PR people don't want you to see, the skid row of LV,  now that they've enticed you to come here to drown out  the unpleasant realities of your own tedious life in the faux fantasy world of this city which is little more than Hell Disguised as a Clown, Disneyland with slot machines, or as Henry Miller observed so long ago, an "Air Conditioned Nightmare"  in response to the absurdus americanus that became all that more obvious to him after his time in pre WW 2 Europe. 

Here it's hot under a hard, unforgiving slate blue sky, the relentless predatory sun searching to reclaim the souls of the homeless and hopeless left to die amidst the rubble of faded glory that was once Las Vegas before it moved uptown and left them behind, lost, lonely, and desperate, cowering in the shadows of what once was, and will soon no longer be, driving them further into the desert and certain death.  

The old, the sick, addled, addicted, the lame and infirmed, young men and women who dreamed and gambled away their dreams, sentenced to wither away in the gutted husks of old motels that still dot the strip of East Fremont Street, discarded and forgotten .

No people, no clouds, no hard luck stories, no shelter from sun.  Not the way I would have left it if only I had more time, but we were needing to move on.  As always, next time.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Three days in Miami Beach...

Before I went digital a few years ago, after swearing I never would, I heard Martha Stewart talking about having over 300,000 digital images from her trips and various activities and that she was going to need to hire someone to sort it all out.   Incomprehendable at the time, but now Me, the guy who could spend a month traveling the southwest and come home it only 75 or 80 negatives, I have a backlog of a few thousand digital images.  Digital just seems to change the psychology of the thing.  Its not all good.  Lots of it is just snapshots of the here and now in the moment, but what it does provide is a running visual log of where I've been and what I've done, eaten, worn, overheard, etc etc.

So while it is not truly sequential, since we are traveling through Florida, my 2010 walk on the beach in Miami seems a logical fit here.  I was wondering where and when I would be able to fit it in, so if not now, when.

February 16, 2010 to be exact.  It was 83 degrees and a perfect day for a walk on the beach.

Miami has changed a lot since my first visit in the late 60's, but the beach is still a great place to find things to see, although my interests have changes.

In Miami, they seem to have elevated the lifeguard station to an artform.  While timing, planning, and weather conditions, precluded an exhaustive survey of all of the stations, of which there were many, this will give you an idea. 

We stayed at the Hotel Victor.  Very upscale, great food specials at the happy hour.  Beautiful and exotic inside as well.

Part of the lobby at the Victor.

Every hotel along Ocean Drive, and there are many, has a sidewalk cafe and the competition for customers is cut throat.  The half price specials were everywhere so after running the gauntlet of great looking 20 somethings hawking their wares (culinary) we settled on the Victor, since it was so close to home.  I had the most amazing ravioli in a cream sauce that left me happy and craving another portion, which is how a good meal should be.  Didn't have more, but Jackie and I split a Key lime pie for dessert which was also really good.  Too bad I wasn't taking pictures of food back at the time.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Two weeks at the Colony hotel in Delray Beach, Florida

Lately, we have taken to staying at the Colony Hotel in Delray while making our winter visit to my 92 year old father.  Built in 1926, the Colony allows one to step back in time to the relaxed, ornamental elegance of the late colonial period when uniformed staff, ceiling fans, white wicker, and large french windows open wide to the soft sweet nautical winds of time that blur the boundries of space and time transport you to back to 1920's Rangoon, Siam, Singapore, Macau, the Raffles Hotel, the mysteries of the orient, clothed in white linen suits and straw hats, flowing gossamer gowns of Edwardian aires,  sipping iced rum drinks served by obsequious uniformed locals on broad verandas open to the world and overlooking eternity of a still imperial empire.

That Delray and Colony Hotel still exist in the vibrant, organic form that they do, is a minor miracle and a testament to the hard work of those committed to battling the corrosive forces of neglect and urban renewal that have gutted America.  Everyone has taken these pictures of the Colony, some better, many worse, but the challenge here was to get it right for myself.  Its not as easy as you might think, but I think I nailed it given certain technical limitations.  This is the cornerstone of the renewal of Atlantic Avenue that runs from the beach all the way to Swinton Avenue and Doc's drive in, a tropical paradise that also just happens to sell great burgers and onion rings and the veggie burgers that looked and tasted home made (if you care about such things), and I have had my share of mediocre frozen ones, so I know...

The reinvention of Delray includes Pineapple Grove on 4th Street, which was originally intended to be the "arts district" but the art never took root, so like the rest of Delray, it consists of pricey eateries, high end boutiques, a couple of expensive art galleries, specializing more in decorative works that would look good over your sofa or in the guest bedroom, and the ubiquitous Florida condos with attached parking lots.  You just can't legislate an art scene, it has to be something organic that just happens.  But kudos for trying.

You can't fake authenticity no matter how hard you try, but at Kevro's Art Bar on 2nd Avenue, down by the railroad tracks in what was once the wrong side of town, you won't be disappointed.  They take their drinking and their art seriously.

Other points of interest are the Delray Camera Shop .  Mostly digital now, but it still has that old camera store feel.  They still sell film and some darkroom supplies.

The Trouser Shop/ Delray News stand are a retro/funky little anomalous blast from the past, on the otherwise very pricey, uber fashionable Atlantic Avenue scene.  Its a great place buy the Globe and Mail, and otherwise meet up with all the other Canadians milling around in  mid afternoon waiting for the truck carrying Le Presse, Le Devoir, the National Post and the Montreal Gazette in addition to the NYT, People Magazine and anything you could want.  I happened to stop by on February 12, the day after the pope resigned, in what would appear to stand out as his major accomplishment in that office. 

Spent a bit of time in the Delray suburbs which deserve more attention and a blog entry of their own. Here are just a few...

More to report on Delray later, but just to mention;  if you stay at the Colony, you get beach club privileges which are a pretty great perk.