Friday, July 7, 2017

Red Lodge Montana...

For a change, Jackie was right once again.  When we pulled into Red Lodge Montana, parched and hungry on our mad dash to make it from Billings to Cody before evening.  We vowed not to stop too many times along the way, but Red Lodge was such an appealing place that we happily overstayed our welcome.  The minute we hit town, Jackie saw Mas Taco, a converted old gas station that has been repurposed into a Mexican Restaurant and decided that's where we would stop for lunch.  But I saw a Mexican place that I thought I liked better till I walked inside.  The bright inviting exterior quickly gave way to a dreary dingy depressing interior that looked more like a cheap Chinese take out place, so once again Jackie got it right the first time and Mas Taco it was.  Anyway I almost always like the idea of repurposed old gas stations, so what was I thinking?

Photo of Jackie waiting for our tacos and beer.  The tacos were very good and tasted great and Jackie always like sitting outside, but the tacos just really weren't photogenic, much as I tried.  You'll just have to take our word for it if you should ever find yourself passing through Red Lodge.
This next photos are the best looking building in town and a ghost sign.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Shoshoni Wyoming

No, this is not the mean streets of the South Bronx during the bad old days of the 1970's when NYC was a cesspool on the verge of bankruptcy and implosion when you put your life in jeopardy by venturing into the streets after dark.  Mid afternoon was almost as bad.  Early morning, when the drug addled baddies were still stuporous was your best chance to sneak out to the grocery and drug store and make it home unscathed.  No it isn't Camden New Jersey  Detroit Michigan South Philly or some other corner of burnt out inner city hell!!!  This is/was Shoshoni Wyoming, a once thriving harmless little former farming/railroad town in the middle of nowhere, literally, there are nothing but cows, sheep, and the occasional human to be seen for 30 miles in any direction.  What happened here?

In our travels throughout the midwest, through town after town abandoned and imploding but we have never seen such desolation, destruction, and architectural decay as we saw in Shoshoni.   The only building in town that was intact, actually new, was the post office.

One last mystery occurred as we were driving toward the end of town, down by the tracks.  On the side of the last building on the block, an abandoned, white, nondescript building with no identifying markers was this sign, which seemed somewhat recently painted, but gives no ides about what might be picked up.

As we were leaving town with a sick feeling in our stomach, we were kind of thankful that the Tumble Inn steakhouse on Highway 20 at the edge of town was not open that day to tempt us with some of their mouth watering sizzling' steaks which we would have had to reluctantly pass on anyway.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Monument to the American Spirit, Cowley Wyoming...

On route 14A about 1/2 mile or so before entering Cowley, Wyoming, a town of about 650, 20 miles or so south of the Montana border, which we passed through on our way to Billings, we came across the most exceptional sight, this structure, constructed at the edge of a farm/ranch facing the highway.

It was kind of late in the day, the sun was getting low in the sky, and we were on a mad dash to make it to Billings before sundown.  Cowley was another unremarkable rural town with not much else in town to take a photo of, but the above average welcome sign and this monument to the American spirit.  It is strong, impressive and a heart felt amalgam of everything that the western spirit stands for.

There was no indication who created it, but its pride in America and the western spirit speaks volumes.  Glad we choose this out of the way route to Billings the other day.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Postcards from the road from Nebraska...

Here we are in Chadron Nebraska, resting up after what can only be described as a heroic (I use that term quite loosely in as much as just about everyone in America seems to qualify as a hero of one sort or other for dubiously unusual acts that diminish the word to viral blather) 5 or 6 hour  heavily  photo op interrupted drive from Broken Bow to here along State Route 2  arriving in Chadron,  parched, exhausted and heat stroked to the point of delusion, which did seem to clear nicely after 2 beers.  But here are some shots taken along the way.

If Donald had only stuck to something he did well, like making burgers, instead of trying to manage our unmanageable country, we will have all been better off, but people wanted a change from the status quo and they got it.  But will they live through it?  Another story.

Anselmo, Nebraska

I know that the above photo doesn't look like much, but for me it is like hitting the jackpot.  Over the years I have been taking pictures of interesting post offices where ever I find them and at this point I have quite a collection.  Another project has been finding old banks in Nebraska that have either been abandoned or repurposed.  The reason I hit the jackpot here is that this is an old bank (in Mason City Nebraska) that has been repurposed into a post office.  Wow!!!

I always like to say that we jump on any excuse to come to Nebraska, like the proverbial dog on a bone, and Jackie's cousin Christopher's wedding in Nebraska City was the why this time.  Wedding, 2 days in Lincoln, and a day in Red Cloud for our annual pilgrimage to Willa Cather's home town now that we are regulars and long standing members of the Cather society.  Being major donors, we are accorded special privilege which we bask in.  There are very few places in which they roll out the red carpet for me anymore, or even notice I exist, so I like Red Cloud.

Red Cloud was just another midwestern town on the verge of implosion and irrelevance, but for Mrs. Bennett, founder of the Willa Cather Society celebrating Willa's formative years, something she would have found ironic and a bit of a hoot, all things considered, but latch on to her coattails they did, and have done an amazing job of turning the town around on the strength of the work the've done to create a world class archive and study center.  Kudos, and glad to have been a significant part of the tail end of the effort.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Billions for a Basquiat!!!

Closer to home, where I seem to be staying more and more lately, the big news in the NYC art world last week was that a Basquiat painting, this Basquiat painting, sold at auction for $110,000,000.  That's right, one hundred and ten zillion dollars, to a 41 year old Japanese fashion billionaire who just had to have it, paying almost twice the pre-auction estimated price.


The painting, described as "virtually unknown" prior to the auction, being in a "private collection since 1982" raises big provenance questions for me, anyway.  Considering the frequency with which people are coming across "new and previously undiscovered" Basquiats, I sometimes wonder how many are real and how many are found by dumpster divers hanging around the side doors of local elementary schools.  Even if the above one was the real McCoy, which I'm sure it may be, I couldn't imagine where I would hang it without being mortified by my judgement, and how I would justify this expense to friends, family, or myself.  

Working within my price range, and following the long standing principle that you should only buy what you like (which would have left me out of the bidding on the Basquiat), I recently bought this lovely little painting of a motor scooter,

by Chester DeWitt Rose, for $400, and I get great pleasure out of looking at it every time I pass by it,  and have no buyer's remorse, but I do like to wonder what would be hanging on my walls if I did have a billion or two.  Hopefully I would remain the sensible person I like to think I am, but probably not.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

My morning at the Morgan Library with Emily Dickinson...

I no longer find roaming around NYC of much interest.  The city I grew up in no longer exists and I am old.  It is now someone else's city now.  I now find myself lost and disoriented when I am there.  But since we are still there often enough, I have begun to spend more time in Brooklyn, and making surgical strikes to visit places I never had time for in the past.  One such place is the Morgan Library.   I can only attribute my prior avoidance to the place to the jumble of conflicting feelings surrounding my distain for the blind grasping power of vast wealth that Morgan represented, my love of books and my ignorance of what was there, or maybe just not being able to fit it in.  My loss!!!

But now, I finally got to the J.P. Morgan Library and Museum on Lexington Avenue and 36th Street in Manhattan.  It is indeed a monument to the insatiable, grasping power of vast wealth that allowed for pillage, plunder and the capacity to buy antiquities by the boat load, but in Morgan's case it is so much more.  In his minds eye, he had vision of how it would be, and like everything else he did, he succeeded.   He created a transcendent work of art in its own right, having the very good sense to know what he wanted and admired and hiring buying agents with the taste and intelligence to intuit their employers intent and to collect well.  The result, shown in part below was the creation of a Renaissance palazzo dedicated to the accumulatation  of knowledge, art and history housed in the most spectacular surroundings and bequeathed to the people of New York.  The man was a glutinous omnivore, but you've got to love him.  He loved books and with them, built something transcendent.  He created an object of art worthy of Michaelangelo and shared it with the world; money well spent.  

                               Images borrowed from Morgan Library website

J.P.Morgan was not a scholar or a reader of books to any degree, but distinct from other robber barons of the era who just bought lots of stuff, he amassed a vast collection of books and manuscripts which speak to his deep UCS longing for the scholarship and the academic life that eluded him in lieu of his worldly pursuits, but which he was able to acquire in the only way he knew how, to buy it.  It's a fact that you can't do it all, but he loved books and loved what they represented.   Somewhere in his soul he longed to be a scholar, and he created a spiritual experience, a temple to knowledge housed in an inspiring setting that he obviously worshipped in and then left it to the world.  The library has three Gutenberg Bibles, this is the one on display and the only worthwhile picture I took that morning.

An interesting counterpoint to this breathtakingly grand display of wealth and power, was the special exhibit on display during my visit there on the life and works of Emily Dickinson, whose physical existence was as small, understated and unadorned as a cloistered nun, whose needs appear to have been minimal, and whose mark on the world were little more than a few scrawled poems on scraps of paper that filled the draws of her room.  Barely enough physical evidence of her existence to fill the small room housing the exhibit.  Unlike the Morgan Library which overwhelms and engulfs, forcing itself on you and commanding your attention and indeed reverence, Dickinson's presence is barely felt at all, forcing you to squint to seek her out and struggle to connect the dots of the shards of evidence testifying that this small, introspectively rich inner life even occurred.   Interestingly the exhibit is named for the first line of a poem that displays a sense of self that is the anthisis of the ego of Mr. J.P. Morgan:

                                             I'm Nobody!  Who are You?
                                            Are you - Nobody - Too?
                                            Then there's a pair of us!
                                            Don't tell! they'd advertise - you know!

                                            How dreary - to be - Somebody!
                                            How public - like a Frog-
                                            To tell one's name - the livelong June-
                                            To an admiring Bog!

Was Emily's reference to the Frog, a veiled jab at the puffed up Mr. Morgan?  We'll never know.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Sag Harbor Theater...RIP

April 25, 2017

Jackie and I have been staying in Riverhead for the past week for family visits, a wedding and to take pictures if only it would stop raining long enough to plant my tripod.  To boost our soggy morale, a lunch at the Dockside in the old American Legion Hall in Sag Harbor seemed like just the thing.  Sag Harbor is fortunate to have been just far enough off the beaten path and not particularly well publicized so that they have avoided any of the crass commercialization that is so often inflicted on quaint old fishing villages in the USA.  The streets are quiet and evocative, with a sense of authenticity that provides a glimpse into the past, where on a cool, damp morning, the smell of the sea pervades the air with its nautical presence.

The main street still slopes gently down to the wharf, harbor and the sea and the streets are still a hub of local commercial activity with not a tee shirt shop in sight.  For me, two important lynch pins to the charm of Sag Harbor have always been the American Hotel dating back to the 1800's, still elegant and exuding old world charm, and the 100 year old Sag Harbor Theater which was there in the middle of town last time we were there in the fall of 2016 and is now an empty lot, having burned to the ground in December of 2016.  Its smiling face no longer greets visitors, brightly reminding them where they are and how lucky they are to be there.  Much has been lost.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Miami Beach B-Day...

Well, it is 12:01 am, February 14, 2017 and Jackie and I are here in Miami acknowledging with gratitude, the acts of kindness and good fortune that made it possible for me to have made it to my 70th birthday, a goal made all the more poignant as so many others seem to be falling by the wayside lately.  I had a close call this year, and can take no personal credit for this dubious birthday accomplishment, particularly in view of my careless, even cavalier attitude toward my well being.  Were it not for the miracles of modern medicine and Jackie's care, my last posting ever may have been in August of this year.  I do not take this good fortune lightly, and am certain divine intervention was at play.  In this regard, it is best not to think or question to much about that which is not yours to know,  and just be mindful and grateful.

As planned the party for two began at 4:30 with pina coladas at the News Cafe fortified with floaters from a bottle I had in my pocket, followed by dinner at Spiga, a very appealing looking Italian restaurant on Collins and 12th that I had admired from afar for many years.  But alas, it was just ok.  My Caesar salad was weak and a bit wilty with not a hint of anchovy flavor and the pear/ricotta/ ravioli/pasta thing I got sounded great on the menu, but was short on flavor.  Just a bland creamy unexciting concoction that looked lifeless in the bowl.  Jackie was much more impressed by her tagliatelle and I had to agree that it was pretty good.  No need to go back, however.

Readers of this blog know that I always like to say that there is something uniquely American about America.  There is an exuberance about our architecture that expresses the unbridled hopes and aspirations, the ambition and imagination, unleashed by the unlimited possibilities of the new world that is no better exemplified that by the Art Deco District of Miami Beach.

While there is no shortage of examples of Miami Deco architecture, the Leslie Hotel built in 1937 is one of my favorites, probably because of its bright cheeriness, and because I have a niece named Leslie whose bright, outgoing ways match the hotel's warm welcoming demeanor.

Still working on the lifeguard station series, but only one new one this time.  All the others are about the same as last time we were here and already recorded, and while the weather was great for the whole week, the sky was frequently flat and uncooperative, photographically, much of time, although not always, obviously.  

Stayed for the week at the Winter Haven Hotel on Ocean Drive, a classic deco hotel built in 1939.  The room was small but nice, although a bit damp feeling and uncomfortable at times.  We didn't have a car which turned out to be a good thing, necessitating our not spending too much time in the room, and making us walk 3 or 4 miles just about every day.  Every time we are in Miami we talk about spending a month or two in the winter.  Maybe next year.

When you are on foot or riding a bike, you get to see a lot more.

An architectural detail on the wall of the old 1930 synagogue we passed on lower Washington Ave. which is now a Jewish museum.  It was a Sunday afternoon a little after 3:00 and we were on our way to Smith and Wolensky on the canal at the bottom of Miami where we love to have a two martini late lunch and watch the cruise ships leaving Miami Harbor headed for the Caribbean.  Saw 4 ships that day and were not disappointed.  That's it for now.



More on the Winter Haven...

In spite of our kind of small and mildly muggy room, one saving grace for Jackie at the Winter Haven was the french toast which was some of the best she'd ever had, which is saying a lot.  It was as good, maybe better than mine.  Thick sliced, well soaked, and well cooked to produce a sweet, custardy consistency inside, and a crispy exterior.  


And the mojitos were also strong and good, in fact when the bartender was pouring the rum, I was beginning to wonder if he was ever going to stop.  So while I'm not sure I'd stay there again, I can recommend a long, lazy late afternoons happy hours on their veranda...


Oh, and one more photo I took in a Miami cafe one morning that I liked a lot but realized there will be no place to put it, so before it becomes an orphan photo, I will append it here...There is something Gandhi-ish about it.  You can see my head in one of the central mirrors.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Back at the Cafe St. Germaine, Old San Juan...

Dateline, Old San Juan:
January 17, 2017

It's been a couple of years since I was here last, aimlessly wandering the streets in search of rum smoothies and inspiration.   I thought I had my fill of Old San Juan back then, when I almost burnt myself out spending those few weeks finishing my book "Cinco Calles".  In the end, the only thing that saved me from a complete literary meltdown were the five o'clock, five dollar happy hour mango mojitos and tapas on the third floor cafe of the St. Germaine at the corner of Sol y Cruz.   Here I gently drift into an alternative reality, channelling the zeitgeist of a time and place long gone and for the few hours that it lasted, I was in the zone, at one with the "lost generation", a raffish, Hemmingwayesque wannabe spewing meaningfully meaningless literary blather dressed to impress, masquerading as an exercise in self importance.  Poetry as a selfie of the soul.   So much so, that it brought to mind a poem I had written in the late 90's during my long cushy years of self imposed indentured servitude.

As if to deny their humanity,
the materialists have been heard to ask the question...
Suppose you were to take an infinite number of monkeys,
and place them in front of typewriters
to strike randomly at the keys
for an indefinite period of time,
could one of them product the great American novel,
a sonnet, or at least some mediocre poetry?
Why yes I could answer,
I am that monkey!!!

Now I'm back.  Perhaps you remember the interior photo I took at the St. Germaine back then and posted in the Cinco Calles posting of May 2015...

 For a change, nothing has changed.  Even me.  As luck would have it, they had not yet gotten their delivery of mint leaves for the day and therefore while mango mojitos were on the menu they would not be in our future today.  Had to fall back on a second choice which might have been a first choice anywhere else, the Boozy Colada, which lived up to it's name.  A thick, velvety rum smoothy that, with the help of a floater, got us to where we were going in no time at all.  The veggie centric tapas were few and since I avoid hummus (I am always disappointed by all but mine, since I don't skimp on the lemon and garlic) we shared a flatbread which was good.  As you don't need to be told, the photo below is the heart of the operation.

While it is not readily apparent at first sight, the next shot is actually a selfie of Jackie and I, just the way we like it these days.  If you click on the photo to enlarge it, and look in the mirror on the wall in the middle of the central area on the third floor which was still devoid of other patrons when we got there at 5:30, there we are.

The corner of Cruz y Sol from the window of our table at the Cafe.  Didn't take a picture of the exterior.  Don't know why, but there must have been a good reason that I can't remember right now.