Monday, December 21, 2015

Year end report...


As I always like to say, there is something uniquely American about America.  It is a generous country.   If you ride around in circles long enough, it is likely to reward you with a few good photos.  It has been a good year for travel, pictures, and things in general, so a few more nice photos to close the year out and I'll see you in 2016.  Here are the best of a pretty good bunch of photos from the year which you would be familiar with if you have been following the blog...A hard act to follow, I'm starting to feel some performance anxiety about next year...


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A walk on the beach...Miami Beach...

November 30, 2015...

This year Jackie and I decided to spend Thanksgiving 2015 in Miami Beach not eating turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, in fact now that it is a few days after the fact, I can't remember what we ate, which was the whole idea, after all.  The Royal Palm at16th and Collins Ave had free bikes on loan, my favorite way to travel, you can go slow enough to see everything up close, stop wherever you want, and cover a lot more ground than on foot.  I was, therefore, able to continue working on my project of taking pictures of all the lifeguard stations in Miami.  The one above is probably the most photographed and while I'm sure that mine breaks no new ground, you are now at least aware of it and its siblings.   The weather was strange.  It was warm, but partly cloudy most of the week and the wind blew almost constantly at about 20+ mph with gusts in the 30s, although we should count ourselves lucky because beginning the day after we left, the week of 12/3-12/7 during the annual uber Art Basal event,  it rained incessantly for days, flooding Collins Ave. and putting a damper on  the event and ruining a lot of Jimmy Choo's.

We were there on November 27th as you can see, Devora's birthday and she wasn't too happy about it but really it was for the best since going up to Ottawa would have been a burden on her given all the other goings on in her busy life these days.  I think she did appreciate it in the end, at least I hope she did.

It is always a burden on me to present pictures in some kind of meaningful order and therefore this was the last lifeguard station I took on 11/30 as Jackie and I were taking our farewell Miami walk on the beach at about 5 pm, just before getting ready to catch a cab to the airport and wishing we didn't have to leave.

As I always like to say, there is something uniquely American about America, (and there is something magical about the lighting in late afternoon).

I read that a number of years ago the city of Miami Beach had some kind of competition in which they asked architects to design lifeguard stations, and these are some.  Many of the earlier ones were  washed away by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and this provided the opportunity to extend the deco theme to the beach front.  These are some of the more interesting ones I saw as well a bunch of other  sights seen during my walks on the beach and boardwalk.  There is so much going on, this is only a sampling.


Depending on which direction you are walking, this lifeguard station is the first or last one, down by the jetty at 1st Street and Ocean Drive.  It is one of the original ones deriving from the design competition which was not washed away by the hurricane a number of years ago and replaced by something a bit more generic.  The next three pictures are objects if interest found  along the way.

Not exactly sure what they were getting at here, but I didn't take the time to check it out.  If water sports are your thing, Miami might be the place...

So that's the short report on my/our Thanksgiving in Miami.  Not everyone was happy with our choice, but we had a great time...a lot of exotic drinks to fuel the excursion, lazing around a number of amenably interesting hotel lobbies for happy hour, and late afternoon pina coladas at the News Cafe enjoying the sights, heavy on the floaters....Cheers!!!


Sunday, November 1, 2015

White Sands, NM...A bad day for a good American...

Going through the archives in search of a certain image on a certain memory card that I need for this or that purpose, often yields photos of forgotten situations and adventures experienced pre-blog, unreported, and therefore relegated only to memory, if remembered at all.  In this case, it was an event that upset a born on the 4th of July (really),  good American...Jackie...that she would like to forget.

Roaming the southwest one afternoon in June of 2009, we were hungry and thirsty and decided to stop by the side of some dusty, cattle path of a road somewhere in hills of New Mexico for some sandwiches cobbled together from left overs from breakfast and a couple Coronas that I had in the cooler for a moment like this.  Lunch was good, and with no trashcans to be found, I just threw the empty beer bottles (and cream soda bottle that Jackie was drinking) on the floor in the back of the car and forgot about them.

Until June 7th that is, when, after an amazing morning romping and rolling across the vast expanse of sugar white dunes that are the White Sands National Park...

                                                                                                     Photo by Jackie

we decided to visit the outdoor rocket display at the White Sands missile range which is part of the White Sands military installation/missile testing area.  Although we were just going to the outdoor exhibit that was within arms length, 200 feet of the check point and far from any opportunity to do harm, the not so bright attendant felt the need to do a thorough search of out car, at which time he uncovered the 2 empty Corona bottles, asked if we had been drinking, which we hadn't, and directed us to pull over to the special investigation area to wait for the military police who carry out any further called for intervention.  We sat for about half an hour with Jackie feeling particularly put upon and indignant about our treatment.  When the MP finally arrived, questioned us and examined the bottles which were dry inside and clearly not recently used, we were cleared and received this official looking certification verifying that we posed no threat to national security and were allowed to park our car and walk around the fenced in area of the exhibit.  He was clearly displeased about this cosmic waste of his time and made some disparaging remarks about the dimwits who called him in on the case.   Sound like something right out of Alice's Restaurant, huh.

All of that to see this amazing display, which we could have actually viewed through the fence around the base, without  the extras.  At the time it was a bit unsettling, as is almost any encounter with a uniformed government official other than the mailman in this post 9/11 world.

                                                                                                     Photo by Jackie

After all that, Jackie needed a coffee to cool to cool down, so we made our way to the Java Junction in Madrid, NM, one of Jackie's go to places along the Turquoise Trail, where they share her belief that "bad coffee sucks".  All's well that ends well.



Thursday, October 22, 2015

Four days in NYC to meet up with Gaye Applebaum and eat...

October 20, 2015

If you live in Albany, NY, or various other locations serviced by Amtrak there is a good chance that your first stop in NYC will be Penn Station, a horrible unwelcoming hole in the ground beneath Madison Square Garden, another monstrosity in its own right.  The original Pennsylvania Station, a Victorian style crystal palace of spectacular proportion and style was torn down the 1950's for no particular reason anyone can fathom, and replaced by this anonymous cavity in the tooth of the NYC and which remains a sore spot for a great many New Yorkers old enough to remember, which are becoming fewer as time goes by.   Not much to say about these four days other than it was great to meet up with Gaye Applebaum and go to a chamber music concert at Lincoln Center with her, grazing and ambling aimlessly for 4 days in perfect weather.  Once again I saw enough of the city to make me swear I will never return, which of course is a lie...Took a few good, pictures, had a few good meals...

And yes,  Penn Station is as sterile and undistinguished as it looks.  People stand transfixed by the departure board with little else to draw their attention.  I am here and eager to hit to the hazy frenetic horn blowing squeal of NYC streets to begin my long downtown destination Ludlow and Rivington Streets.

On my way to walking toward Second Avenue,  I found Gramercy Park and circled around it once, then walked through Stuyvesant Park, which is a lot like Gramercy, except that you don't need a key to get in, eventually reaching  2nd Ave, at 17th St.  Passing the B&H dairy restaurant at 2nd and 8th, I realized I was hungry and since I had never actually been inside, although I often thought about eating there,  I went in, grabbing a stool at the counter and a menu...

The place is only about 16 feet wide but they had 6 different soups and a big menu.  It was a tough choice, so I went for the split pea, an old standby...With the grill and food prep area, the counter and stools and 4 or 5 tables against the wall all wedged into such a small space, everybody seems to get to know each other quickly, with service being a communal effort, with the cooks passing food to the people at the counter who pass the dishes to the people at the tables, so you get to be on personal terms pretty quickly...

The soup was great, very hot and delicious.  Still hungry after that I ordered one cheese blintz which was quite large and came with sour cream.  Also great and stuffed with cheese.  No photo, but what I soon found out was that pea soup and a cheese blintz are a lethal combination, digestively speaking, for me anyway.  Good thing I still had a long walk and was thankfully able to keep it down.

Made it to 2nd Ave. and 1st Street, bypassing Houston to cut across town a few blocks and came across an interesting confluence of diverse takes on artistic expression in a one block stretch...

Alexander at the maybe 14 foot wide Elaine Houston Gallery (didn't have my tape measure, which I keep meaning to bring) who was nice enough to pose for this.   A pocket gallery big enough for 6 or 7 pieces.  No place to work if you are claustrophobic, but ...


and this is Paulo Govea, a Brazilian artist who does a lot of wall mural work.  I was lucky to catch
him just as he was putting the finishing touches on this 1st Ave masterpiece.  Walking around the city
a lot, I can see that apparently officially sanctioned mural work is popping up everywhere and it appears to be the latest thing to have a mural on the outer wall of your building, if you have one.  Banksy, once reviled, now collectable, really started something big in the city. 

Passing the uber famous Katz's deli on the corner of Houston and Ludlow, a must experience stop on the Lower East Side,  I am now just across the street from the Ludlow Hotel where I will be spending the next few days strategically ensconced.  Gaye is one of those people who has been to the city a thousand times and has wanted to go to Katz's but never quite got there, till now, so she met me at the Ludlow, and we went.  After a look see at Russ and Daughter's on Houston, which I have have hyped for years, but which can be a little disappointing as a destination if you are not eating,

 it was off to Katz's where she happily woofed down a portion of kishka, a pastrami sandwich, and some pickles.  Mission accomplished!!!

Not my most productive photographic effort,  more of a diary entry really,  as are many of the postings, but it does answer the question many of you have been asking about what ever happened to Gaye Applebaum since my last posting about her during our coverage of the protest in front of the Russian Embassy in Ottawa in the early 80's.

Here she is!!!  Sitting in the lower right hand corner of a photo taken in the atrium of the Ludlow Hotel, studying her subway map below the  King Tut's Wah Wah Hut mural remembering what used to be a very avant garde/interesting club/theater  on the Lower east Side on 7th St. & A that closed years ago, but someone must have been fond enough of the place to paint the mural.

And one last picture taken at 20 Rivington Street, LES, on our way to Morgenstern's ice cream place at Rivington and Bowery that Gaye had read about and wanted to go.  It has nothing to do with Morgenstern's but I just liked the photo.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Umi Raby...

Santa Fe
Erev Rosh Hashanah, September 13, 2015

Just got into town, and was out on the streets for a while, hoping to get a few good photos of Santa Fe before the holiday began.  Walking down Palace, Street, I took a couple of throwaway shots, but was bothered by the crowds gathering to watch an oncoming parade, so I made a seemingly arbitrary left turn onto Burro Alley, a small side street running for one short block between Palace and San Francisco Streets to escape the crowd.  There's not much on this little alley, but as I was passing the small, unpretentious Umi Gallery, a place that barely calls attention to itself, my eye was drawn to the lower right hand corner of the window, where I noticed a small, odd, unpretentious, convoluted little blue painting that caught my interest and drew me in.  I inquired about the painting,  but Umi deflected my superficial inquiries about price etc and set the small painting on a small easel in the center of the gallery, appeared to descend into something of a semi trance like state and proceeded to talk about the various quadrants and components of the painting I had chosen as a metaphor for my life;  how the various components spoke about my past, my dreams, aspirations, my perceived failings, my relation with my father, my daughter, my insomnia, anxieties, drinking, my future where all would turn out well, and a variety of other personal issues that seemed to make sense in the intensity of the moment.  But to even try to put into words the impact of Umi's uncanny diagnosis of my existential condition, based on my choice of a painting, would diminish it.

The experience was unexpected.  Silent and spellbound I sat, emotionally immobilized in a manner I was not accustomed to, exposed, revealed, humbled and overcome with a great sadness and surprise.  Somehow my choice of this image resonated with my soul in a way that Umi seemed to divine.   In Santa Fe, the third largest art market in the country with countless galleries dominated by oversized canvases, inflated egos, and mediocre art that overcompensates in size what it lacks in quality, the fact that I was drawn in by a dark little 11x14 canvas tucked away in the corner of the window on Burro Alley, was revealing.  In the real art world, the painting itself is the point at which the psyche of the artist and the admirer somehow connect.  As I passed by that afternoon, I was immediately drawn to something inexplicable and Umi appeared to understand this nexus, this portal into the realm that brought the creator and the seeker together, if only for an hour or so.

So I bought this little painting, this convoluted portrait of my soul, remembering little of what was said, but carrying with me the visceral experience it represents.  I was supposed to go for lunch at the Blue Corn Cafe for their roasted corn and chile chowder afterward, but now couldn't bring myself to go, which would have made the gallery visit just another activity and thereby diminished it, and besides, I was no longer hungry.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Chimayo New Mexico

Friday, September 11, 2015

Haven't been in touch for a few days.  Hoping you've noticed.  After a few days in Taos we had enough and were more than relieved to make our way into the remote hill country of northern New Mexico hanging around Truchas with a bunch of displaced New York artists who have found their way to this Shangri-la at the top of the mountain pass between Taos and Chimayo, where the cell phone service was spotty at best, and WiFi is almost nonexistent in this, the second decade of the 21st century.  Electronic communication in Chimayo wasn't much better which left us happily cut off from the outside world for days.  Didn't know such places still existed.  And this coming from a guy whose idea of high tech growing up was when we got a 15 foot cord connecting the telephone handset to the receiver allowing you to walk from one room to another while talking on the phone to get away from other people or just get a snack.  If this makes no sense, that's ok.

So here we are in Chimayo, a small dusty pueblo that is very Catholic and very Mexican.  Been there twice before and love this place.  They love Jesus and they love their chile pepper, red and green, themes that dominate this little town, and the people there would be hard put if they had to choose between the two.

Actually, the only store in town that was not a church gift shop was the Vigil Store/Potero Trading Company which is a lot like the church gift shops of which there are many, dealing in religious artifacts, paintings, statues, icons, etc.  The only difference is that the Vigil Store also sells a wide variety of chile related products, cold drinks, and candy bars to keep the pilgrims hydrated and happy.  I bought a large bag of dried green chile flakes with the intention of continuing to eat green chile salsa well into the fall.  We were lucky to be in New Mexico during chile harvesting season, and I've been eating all the green chile salsa I can, so I hope the flakes are fresh.

A number of families, the Ortegas, Martinezes, Jaramillos, Truillos, Vigils and a few others came up from Mexico over 200 hundred years ago, received land grants from the king of Spain comprising land stolen from the indigenous population, and have dominated the county ever since.  With all the intermarriage between these few families, its a wonder that everyone here doesn't have 6 fingers.   But persist they do, and they preside over this little place that time has forgotten.  To walk around the village is to step back in time 200 years.  Adobe homes, shops, and churches, stray dogs slumbering in the streets chickens here and there, holy shrines, icons and statues dominate the landscape, and belief in miracles and the healing powers of the church are alive and well and seem quite sincere.  The Sancturio de Chimayo...

This building is the center of activity and attention for its architecture and healing powers and is the most famous and iconic of all Spanish mission churches in New Mexico with the exception of the one in Taos which has been ruined by the encroachment of nearby construction that has partially obscured its view and is therefore best remembered in old photos.  This church is the reason people come here, for the history, the architecture and/or the miracles.  It is this building that keeps Chimayo on the must see map and people literally come by the bus load, so you need to work around them.

Surprisingly, in spite of the crowds the shrine attracts, there is really only one or two places to stay in town, both ancient haciendas turned B&Bs and they account for a total of only about 10 rooms between them.  We always stay at the Hacienda Rancho De Chimayo, run by the Jaramillo family.   It is a large amorphous, rambling, single level adobe dwelling built in the mid 1800's and added on to as the needs of the family expended.  It is quite interesting and authentic but architecturally vague and elusive and I couldn't get a handle on it photographically.

But I did get a telling picture of the inside of our room, which is more or less like all the other rooms. Old and cozy, and each with a working kiva fireplace which was the only source of heat back then in a place which does become quite cold and snowy in the winter.

The restaurante run by the same family was also originally a hacienda and was the only place to eat in town.  It was also a large, rambling adobe building that has been added onto a lot over the years, and also did not lend itself well to being photographed.  The food was fantastic but also not particularly photogenic, a burrito, cheese enchilada, stuffed sopaipilla, and/or a chile relleno, all on a plate side by side, covered with an extra helping of salsa verde in a somewhat dimly lit place could not produce a picture conveying how exotically spicy, delicate and delicious their food was.  That turned out to be a problem for me with all my New Mexican meals.  All smothered in freshly harvested salsa verde and all a delicious, amorphous mess.  But, other than my obsession with great pizza where I can find it, this is not a food blog after all.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Taos New Mexico

There was a time when Taos was a magical and culturally important place that drew some of America's great thinkers and artistic talent to its fold, even if just for a season or two.  For millennia before that, the size and expanse of the Native American pueblo, which is still quite active, is testament to the fact that there was something extraordinary about the town.  I remember that feeling when first visiting there 25 or 26 years ago.  But that was then, and this is now.  Now, the most you can say about the place, and a number of people said it, it that it is a great place to retire, and indeed the place is over run with boomers looking for someplace to remain relevant and live out the fortunate fantasy that has been their lives.  It is no exaggeration that absolutely every place of business in Taos is a restaurant, gift shop, boutique, or home decor store.  If this sounds familiar, I did say the same thing recently about Truckee, California.  Once you max out your credit card, there is absolutely nothing to do in Taos.

Maybe I exaggerate a bit, you can also pray. If you are Jewish, Chabad has recently put down roots there.

Other than that, the only place that seems authentically part of the more recent old Taos of the 1930's and 40's  is the Taos inn,  a place that has maintained its charm, aura and sense of place and where you truly expect to see Georgia O'Keeffe, D.H. Lawerence, Ernest Hemingway, or John Reed, or at least Johnny Depp, walk in.  But alas, it was just a bunch of people like me, older and drunker, because the artists had fled years ago.  Still, found myself at home, drinking, eating anything with green chile on it and getting the vibe.

Other than that, there was not much to say except you should check it out if you are in the area and let me know what you think.  Was not really inspired to take many pictures in a place that I have come to find tedious, sorry.  Although I was pleased to find Paul's Bar still there on the outskirts of town .  Took a black and white photo years ago but Paul's still appears closed and still looks good.

Other than that, it was good to see that an old friend like Ricky's is still there.  I had some great green chile and beans which were a meal I remember well, but this time I was kind of full as we passed it on the way out of town and did not stop in.

And last but surely not least was my visit to the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, now a museum and monument to one of the great patrons and supporters of the arts and anything subversive from the 1930's on.  She moved to Taos after her 3rd of 4th marriage, and being quite wealthy and interesting in her own right opened her home there to a wide variety of artists and thinkers who took advantage of her largess with fascinating results, as per her biography.  Check her out, it is quite a story.  Took this picture on the property of one of the out buildings where visitors stayed.  The complex is vast and difficult to catch in a picture or two, but this gives you some idea...

  Other than that, not much to report, except to add this photo of one of the hundreds of galleries selling mostly oversized, undistinguished art at unaffordable prices...

Wish there was more to say about Taos, but the current state of affairs is dismal.  Glad to be hitting the road and spending a few days in Chimayo.  Till then..