Category Archives: North America

monte_alban

Day Tripping

A trip to Taxco (3 hours south) to see the ornate gold-leaf ornamentation of the carvings and architecture of the Santa Prisca church rewards the visitor with its decorative Baroque architecture but a view of a relatively unspoiled mountain town, quiet, pedestrian, filled with reflections of jewelry displayed in every window and mined underneath the town itself. Here you will also find real Mexican crafts, colorful masks and baskets, not the Taiwanese souvenirs that seem have invaded other cities.Untitled

Travel north four hours and visit San Miguel de Allende, a colonial city that is home to many American expatriates. A brief negotiation with a taxi and you can visit the Atontonilco church nearby. It was from here that Padre Hidalgo took the banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe that became the flag of the Mexicans in the War of Independence. Six chapels with murals. The cappelli, inundated with baroque silverwork, the posterior alter room, circumscribed by the apostles are a hidden masterwork at the end of a bumpy cobblestone road. There are few building in this pueblacita other than this parish house and supporting structures. The isolation and beauty of this gleaming white plastered exterior, framing the gold and silver within, is one of the more remarkable discoveries in Mexico. Buy one of the most unusual souvenirs, key chains that are tiny replicas of the coarse whips were used by Atontonilco pilgrims to flagilate themselves.

Further east, approximately 450 kilometers east is Veracruz , the first town founded by the Spanish in Mexico on 1519. and the Castillo de San Juan de Ulua (accent over second u). This fortress once protected, or tried to protect a city of now one million inhabitants. San Juan de Ulua is now threatened by the encroachment of the sea, the undercutting of the foundations by the corrosive tides, and the encirclement of the activity of the harbor as monumental cranes describe the perimeter of the skyline surrounding the fort. In addition to being a fort with the first lighthouse in the Americas, it has some frightening remains of a prison, including a stone chair carved out of one wall, where prisoners were chained and a fire was built underneath them. The center square is charming, where dances are held on the weekends. Couples, both old and young, gracefully execute their steps on the marble plaza. Have breakfast at the Cafe de la Parroquia where the waiter pour hot milk in a flowing stream into your coffee.aerialview

Here as in several other locations such as Chiapas and Chiuhaua, the World Monument’s Fund focuses the attention of the world, and injects funding to halt erosion, collapse and eventually rehabilitates and restores these sites.

A diverse and exciting itinerary can be formed by simply picking up a list of these locations from their offices in New York.

In the midst of the centuries of cultural development, little can equal the memory of Senorita Por Favor. A simple working woman, stretching her tired body hands linked as she stretches and pulls her arms above her head and 180 degrees to the rear. This while accompanied by a limbering of her Achilles tendons as she rises from the loft of her already heady six inch heels. Here the lovely Senorita references the mysteries of the building of the pyramids of the sun, of the moon as the viewer must wonder about the substructure that supports such power, tension, architecture and virtual torque. This is architecture to be admired from a different aesthetic viewpoint, but miraculous none-the-less.historicalsite

Mexico City is the capital of a foreign country and a foreign culoture, make no mistake. Take for example the restaurant, El Sabor del Grito—The flavor of the cry or scream—The TV monitor centered on the open wound, the dark cavity, probed by surgical steel, yielded endless feet of intestine, glistening, drops of blood clinging to the whiteness, the fat moisture glistening as feet yielded to yards and the organic material kept coming as the surgeon pulled to find the tear, the rip to be sewn, the wound repaired. Just at the moment of discovery, the waiter served my dinner. Upstairs, the matador, Gleason was being interviewed, as he sat at the dais, watching and narrating the surgery on the screen. In front of him, his suit of lights was propped in homage on a chair, in the middle of the room, surrounding the monitor, the matador, the suit sat 50 matadors, in rapt attention to the narrative, while eating their dinners, drinking their beers.

In Mexico, TVs are in nearly every restaurant. The soaps are on in the finest seafood restaurants, the football games are watched through the smoke of the grill serving 5 tacos for 15 pesos, food stand on wheels, lit by a bare bulb, at the corner of Insurgentes and Reforma. The surgery accompanies the enchiladas at “The flavor of the cry.” It’s not a bad idea to take a Pepto-Bismol each morning to act as a preventative…..but do check with your physician and remember bottled water or bottled liquids is standard, and remmber the words “sin hielo, without ice.”monte alban

From the pre-Columbian Indian Civilizations to the wonders of the modern physicality, fashion and style of the local citizenry, Mexico is a country that is too often over-looked, too frequently “slammed” by the cliches presented to off-handedly, casually to discourage. It is unjustified.  Open your eyes to the charm of the Mexico, the rewards are ample. If only they would shut off the TV during dinner.

If You Go
Mexicana, Delta, Continental, American; avoid AeroMexico

Hotels in Mexico City-Fiesta Americana Reforma ($100+/night for a double). Reforma 80

06600 Mexico D.F.

Tel: 011-52-5705-1515

Fax 011-52-5705-1313

beautiful, exemplary service hotel. A great clean, safe salad bar in their CAFÉ REFORMA coffee shop. (After a week of cautious eating most Californians will find this an oasis of roughage.)

Veracruz-Hotel Imperial, Located in the center of the zocolo, balconies overlooking the endless parade of locals and tourists on weekend nights, one of the oldest, most beautiful elevators in Mexico. Architecture lovely, but rooms smell like a combination of insecticide, mildew and mold in a cocktail shaker of air-conditioning. Rooms approx. $40/night. Miguel Lerdo 157. Tel 011-52-29-32-12-04

Taxies are about 100 pesos ($11) from the airport to town (fixed price)

Tourist taxis in Mexico City are the highest prices, set rates and negotiated, green and white Volkswagen taxis are cheap (The front passenger seat is always removed to allow entry for the two passengers in back. Make sure the driver uses the meter and doesn’t have it on a speed-reading setting.

Minibuses go up and down Reforma for 2 pesos (22 cents) a person, no matter what the distance. The distance buses are a normal mode of transportation to places such as San Miguel of Teotihuacan, either first or second class, they are comfortable alternatives to flying for the shorter hauls. Bottled water and all intestinal precautions are a must. A little common sense and most tourist discomforts can be avoided.

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Samba Schools and a Bunda

There are certain myths and unknowns about Rio that need to be dispelled and elaborated. These are the basics.

Keep Rio in Perspective—Music is the skeletal system of Brazil and Samba is the Pulse.

It is not the most dangerous city on the planet. Using every caution that you would find in any major urban center it should be a memorable, in fact un-missable experience.

The beaches are not topless. The Brazilians have a great attitude toward the body. Everyone wears the skimpiest of Bathing suits. Older women, overweight men, all shapes, sizes and colors let it all hang. Hey, this is the beach…. miles and miles of it.All the string bikinis could be places in an envelope and it would still only require one first class stamp. Skin rules the beach and it exists in abundance.brazil-2

The chauvinistic male characteristic of being focused on breast development doesn’t exist. Brazil, is in love with the bottom. Heads turn to follow “a bunda.” Large or small, always extremely revealed. This is the land of the rear view.

Higher education is not what it appears. The Academia da Cachaça is a lovely, refined bar with every manner of this sugar cane derived rum possible. Courses in learning of this wonderful drink may leave you higher, but knowledgeable in only one aspect of consumption. The “Samba Schools” are actually fraternal organizations that create the world famous carnival displays, costumes and floats. There are 18 major schools. They begin early September and are centers for late night drinking, dancing, and heart-pounding samba. These are open to the public on weekend evenings for small admission charges.

Learn to dance. This is a city where everyone of every age, ethnicity and economic background, not only sings but also knows all the words. No one stands still and everyone dances constantly. Sensuous singers with sloe eyes spout gentle strains about loves and passions, while drums are woven with guitars and mandolins and a hint of brass. These enclaves are heard in the clubs, on the streets, around the beaches. Music is everywhere.Rio de Janiero, Brazil

This is the home of the Museum of Carmen Miranda. Who can say more? But it also houses the Museum of Contemporary Art, built by Niemeyer, also the architect of Brasilia. In his nineties, he still holds court on Saturdays at the Hotel Caesar Park. Well worth a visit to meet one of the defining minds of 20th century architecture.

The cheapest food is best. The national dish is Feijoada. Made from black beans and organ meats and traditionally served on Saturdays, after cooking all day. Fish is surprisingly expensive for an oceanfront community. Better meals in the most upscale restaurants can cost $15-$18 for an entrée, but picking up some ham, cheese, fresh baguettes and a bottle of water will cost you less than $1 in a grocery one block from the beach.

This is an industrious country but they take their fun seriously. Time is divided into three segments; before, during and after “Happy-Hour.” Conversation will ramble in a stream along the street in a melodic Portuguese when you hear the English words “Happy Hour” interjected. Happy Hour is the defining moment of the day. As with many Latin countries, the real life of the city begins late and continues well into the night. It is not a hard regime to adopt, but most distinct from the southern California, “early to bed-early to rise” routine.Rio de Janiero, Brazil

Go off the path a bit. Many tourists will be seduced by the luxury of the world famous beaches, Copacabana, Ipanemaand Leblon. They will visit the normal attractions and shop at the touristic “Feira Hippie.” All well and good, but with a little effort and a world more adventure, you can see the North East Fair, populated by a distinct smaller, regional group of people that dance the Forró, late into the night, all night and sell regional meats, grains and spices that you see nowhere else in the city. Also worth a visit is a Macumba ceremony. Usually, these are well into the suburbs or hills of Rio and are Afro-Brazilian religious ceremonies where devotees dance in circles, offer food and fall into trances. The father out you can find one, the later the hour the more exciting these are. But, these are very difficult to find and gain invitation. Think of these as African-Cuban, Chongo ceremonies or Haitian Voodoo. VERY exciting.

Geographically, you can fit eleven Europes into Brazil and still have room for Texas. The land and the people are a diverse, integrated population. People here are constantly offering you a sign of “thumbs-up”. It is a city with scale. Rio boasts the worlds premier Samba-drome, a symmetrical tiered ¼ mile of reviewing stands, 100 rows up on either side complete with luxury corporate sky boxes. Here also is “Maracanã” the world’s largest soccer stadium for 93,000 people. As well is the largest Favela or slum in South America, a river of lower-income housing that flows down the mountain and overlooks the ocean over Leblon beach.brazil-3

I approached Rio with media-inspired stories of robberies, dangers and people waking in iced bathtubs, a note, telephone and no kidneys. As I left Rio, I could not wait to return. I believe the dangers are romanticized fantasies and the realities are a place that can only be realized in dreams or on the beach. Drinking Caches in the moon shadow of Sugar-loaf mountain while lights, attached to fishing lines arc through the night sky and gently splash in the Atlantic surf…….I’m packed and ready, skimpy Speedo and all.

IF YOU GO

Hotels

There are a variety of quality hotels, pick your pleasure. At the beginning of Copacabana and one of the best in town is the Le Meridien Copacabana.

Restaurants

Marius

Avenida Atlantica 290 – Leme

Confeitaria Colombo

Rua Gonçalves Dias, 32 – Centro

Arco do Telles—Several outdoor bars and restaurants. Great for Happy Hour.

Praça XV

Bars:

AcademiadaCachaça

Avenida Armando Lombardi, 800 – Condado de Caiscais

Barra da Tijuca

JEWELRY

Bijoutery

Rua Gonçalves Dias, 28 – Centro

MUSIC

Toca do Vinicius has every shape and form of Samba and Bossa Nova

Rua Vinicius de Morais, 129- Ipanema

Museum of Carmen Miranda

Parque do Flamengo

Tel 21-2551-2597

Web site for further information:

www.braziltourism.org

www.rioconventionbureau.com.br

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Barracks

It is darker than any black I have ever known. There is usually a frisson in the darkness of night, a reflection, a spark. Here all orientation is removed.

Ten meters underground, through a yellow transitory tunnel 5.2 feet in diameter and into a bomb shelter 59 feet long… is my lodging. I am curled in a sleeping bag seeking warmth in the constantly almost-frozen air. Dreams of mushrooms clouds, the Kennedy family on old black and white monitors, clips of Vietnam, the World Trade Center and terrorists in India clutter my brain as I try to sleep in a bunk without a pipe of ambient sound. There are no honking cars, no garbage trucks, no birds, no barking dogs and I can’t sleep.

Shelters come in various forms and sizes. The smallest among them are the local, temporary shelters, built for no-warning emergencies. Then there are the “medium shelters” that can house one or two families for a more extended period time, for use if, for example, a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan were to break out and go global. Finally there are the units in Montana or Texas capable of housing 1,000 or more for a few weeks at a time. I spend my nights in a temporary, emergency type shelter built for a terrorist attack rather than an extended-stay suite.9

Above me, in a Salt Lake City tract home in Utah, Western US, my host Paul, a sweet and mild mannered man, lives with his wife and three daughters. There are dirty dishes, toys and discarded cloths strewn about, a different world from my ordered boxes of bullets, soap, raisins and nutrition bars down below.

Paul strongly believes that the world is both unpredictable and dangerous. “Anyone within 10 miles of an airport with a 7,500 foot runway should have a shelter,” he says with a relaxed smile that belies the gravity of his statement. Paul installs these contemporary pharaonic tombs at the rate of one a month with his business partner Sharon. The goal is to simply survive impeding disaster, be it a product of god, man or nature, and they are, quite literally, preparing for the end of the world.7

The Mormon religion dominates the social, political and economic environment of Utah. A central tenet of Mormonism is the need to be prepared and not depend on government for survival. While not all Mormons have shelters, the majority of shelter-builders in Utah and Montana are Mormon. In Spring City, Utah (pop. 1018) alone there is a colony of about eight or ten ‘medium sized’ 115-foot shelters, most completely independent of one another.

Mormons tend to have large families and conservative political views. They believe the US Constitution should be strictly enforced and the 2nd Amendment, which speaks to the right to bear arms, left as is. My host Paul has two handguns and a knife on him at all times. A Beretta pistol is in a lock-box on his pickup truck console, and an AR-15 is behind the back seat.1

Mormons believe they can survive to begin anew in a radically altered world that will favor them. Unfortunately, such a belief is based on the premise that society as we know it will fail, but who can say with 100% accuracy that this is crazy? The insanity of the modern world certainly backs up their position, and doesn’t let me sleep any better, either.

In the 1950s during the atomic age, shelters were built in response to the threat of mushroom cloud nuclear destruction. That movement fell out of favor for a while, and the tins of biscuits and emergency supplies were left to rust and rot. But the events of 9/11 and Mumbai have given the shelter movement a renewed sense of purpose.6

Turning on a small, low voltage, battery operated light, I examine my supplies. The food is small canned sausages, instant dehydrated food (Mexican and Middle Eastern flavors) and left over candy from Halloween. The shelves are stocked with the basics: water-purification tablets, vitamin C, potassium iodide and paper products. The entertainment consists of the entire DIE HARD collection, Red Dawn, Cape Fear, Winnie the Pooh, and a Tom Clancy novel whose name seems to sum up the library: The Sum of All Fears.

Archives at the Library of Congress

Capitalization

I’m embarrassed to say it, but I dig DC. Close to collecting social security but I have to say it is a hip city.  Restaurants are top quality and there is a buzz around most of the city that may be the result of the current administration, or it may have been there all along, just blanketed in a political and social quagmire. Maybe those young interns from conservative colleges were not the most devil-may-care bunch. Perhaps it was an exceptionally mild summer weekend that was the reason for the spirit, but I suspect it was a bit more than that. There is a distinction between the “United States” and “America.” “America” is a concept, a dream and a hope for much of the world that might have been clouded and obscured for a bit, maybe the last eight years. But enough political rant, the business of travel is to learn and DC is a living civics lesson.

Supreme Court

Most of the museums of the world are reasonably adamant in their refusal to allow photography, which is why I felt my head spinning as I entered federal building after building and was told both it was free and photography was no problem. The only building that declined was the Library of Congress, but even here is a silver lining worth digressing. I asked if I could enter the main floor and view the main reading room from the ground. The response was all I need to obtain was a library card. I am a citizen of this country and I was given free rein in these buildings—VERY COOL. There are some rules: when Congress is in session you need to apply to your representative or Senator for a gallery pass, but everyone seemed to bend over backwards to make you feel you belonged and were welcome. There is a sense of common ownership. Dare I say democracy and even pride? Some tips around town might be good to remember. If you want to visit the capitol building, enter from the Library of Congress tunnel and avoid a long congested line, although the tour of the capitol itself leaves one debating about the worth of the time spent here. Next to the Capitol is the National Arboretum, depending on the time of day, a possible respite. The Museum of the American Indian is worth a visit, especially around lunchtime. The food court is excellent with meals offered by regional tribes from all over the country. The restaurants on the mall are generally good quality at decent prices so you won’t go too far wrong. The one exception is the “Natural” food carts around the entrances. These are green and white to feign environmentally, healthy meals…but the fare is ordinary hot dogs, chips and soft drinks—a very far cry from the healthy food within any of the Smithsonian institutions. Archives at the Library of Congress

 

There is a plethora of museums, so it pays to spend a few days and pace yourself. The best hotels are those located near the mall. You will exhaust yourself, so stay close, although the metro is a convenience that allows you to stay father out at a corresponding lower price. Weekend nights are prone to very elaborate groups of riders from visiting marines to multi-ethnic drag queens on their way to Dupont circle. Every evening seemed to be an underground Broadway musical. No train was silent, and each boasted a themed group of eclectics with locals rolling their eyes.National Art Gallery

 

Museums? Nowhere else is there such a diverse and imposing collection in density and importance. Air and Space Museum, the Hirshhorn, Spy Museum, the Mint…they seem to satisfy every curiosity and appetite. The American Museum is where to see Lincoln’s hat, Archie Bunker’s chair and Julia child’s kitchen but my heart belongs, correct that, belonged to the Museum of Natural History. Until recently– 5

 

The American dioramas were the creation of Carl Ackley. First unveiled in 1936, the African mammals were spectacular studies of the animal within its environment. New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles, these three-dimensional worlds formed the heart of exotic memories for at least four generations. The dioramas resonated with meaning as the animals seemed completely real and at home in their setting, yet undisturbed by the presence of an endless parade of visitors, many elementary school-children with no access to these worlds the specimens inhabited. At most, a musk ox or a cougar would seem to sniff the wind at the presence of warm milk on the breath of young children on the other side of the glass. The animal within the environment was a distinct break in the history of taxidermy and display. From the world of cabinet of curiosities, to that of quantity as quality in the age of discovery, to a pre-Discovery Channel generation of showing the interaction of fauna with flora, these displays were the highlight of generations for the past 70 years. Now with many specimens in need of repair and a world exposed to television, Planet Earth, and Night at the Museum, the Museum of Natural History has remodeled its African Mammal hall so that it is devoid of the romantic panoramas that defined an exotic landscape for several generations of museum visitors. The photographs of Richard Ross, taken in 1977 and originally published in Museology (Aperture, NY 1989) and Gathering Light (2000) form a rich framing for a contemporary look at how we view the animal within, or now in the cases of Washington D.C. and San Diego, devoid, of a contextual landscape. A current world may be looking more at images within environment in the arena of a computer and filmic world, but as we enter a world of computer visualization, a sense of loss for these historical displays must be noted. Here when a child stood with his nose to the window with a lioness and her cubs on the opposite side, there was a sense of wonder and awe. This is spoken with first hand experience–I was that child.Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C. USA

 

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The Upper Left Shoulder of the US

­­­Seattle is the Chicago of the Northwest, the left shoulder of the continent. It’s a big city with all the pleasure/pain. Public transportation is easy, with a large free zone downtown. The light rail from the airport is the cheapest, easiest, fastest way into town. IMG_9895

Attractions are waiting to be opened like presents under the tree (Evergreens of course) Seattle Art Museum has a major presence and links with the Asian Art up the hill….a little out of the way but a pretty bucolic discovery. The Aquarium is not Monterey, but certainly a destination even without children or grandchildren.  It is part of a tight downtown loop that can begin at Pikes Market, over to the aquarium, five more minutes and it is an Argosy tour of the harbor for an hour, then up to the Art Museum. Make sure you stop at Ye Old Curiosity shoppe,–a trashy souvenir shop, but embedded it is a traditional “cabinet of curiosities” A world of odd stuffed and carved and mummified object that have two heads and can tell fortunes. You have to look up at the vast array of objects collected over the period of the stores business tenure…since 1899. _MG_3250

But I am not going to mention the weather. Contrary to every native, who claims, “I don’t mind it” or “It’s not so bad” I will completely abstain. What I might do it mention my own quirk of leaving curtains in a bedroom open at night so I can awake with the morning light. With this alarm system here, it means you sleep late—even all day. The concept of a “ray” of light in a blue sky is somewhat limited to the Seattle Art Museum historic paintings or the occasional day in spring. Most of the light is a crepuscular lethargy that opens up the day not with a crack rather with an ooze of lightening dullness. But I am not going to mention the weather, in the same way that Southern Californians don’t mention it. They take it for granted in both places, no expectations from the norm. BUT—if I did mention it, there are days that are blue sky and clarity that are unrivaled in vision and appreciated by those that are subjected to the rain or overcast the OTHER 307 days/year. _MG_3253

On the north side of town are three oddities that are worth a mention and perhaps a visit. The monorail runs a limited distance into the Space Needle. Built for the 1962 worlds fair. These tired attractions are now a quaint example of what we thought the future would be. Wandering this part of town makes you consider your dreams and scale of what life was if you were a kid during this era. Seeing the Space Needle in all it’s 7th tallest glory in a city that is 30th in size in the US tells you “The future, it ain’t what it used to be.” It seems a little painful to pay $16 for a ticket to arise the 7th tallest building in the 19th largest city and look down upon the Key Arena that used to hold the Supersonics until they left for Oklahoma. The Arena, from the height of the space needle looks miniscule for most modern sport venues, and as one descends as watches the empty building, it remains small and almost pitiful in its loneliness. How can a team be happier in Oklahoma City? Look at the arena here and you would understand. If you are a sports fan Safeco field and the Mariners or Qwest and the Seahawks or the Soccer Sounders is a modern sports complex where all the accoutrements are present, including nine-dollar hot dogs. _MG_3283

Going from the Pikes Place Market….The  Argosy cruise gives an hour-long overview of the city. An interesting alternative is walking up to the Washington State Ferries a few blocks north on the waterfront, past the aquarium– take the Bainbridge Island Ferry. Rather than $22 on the Argosy, the Bainbridge is only $6+ and walking around the island is a walk back in time. The 35 minute cruise over and same return is the equivalent of taking the Staten Island Ferry for a water cruise rather than the more expensive touristic Circle Line. IMG_9913

Seattle Underground is a wonder indeed. Imagine going down a flight of stairs to a bathroom area, squeezing in 50 people and showing a few old B&W photographs and 20 minutes of bad puns about dysfunctional toilets, sewers, water pressure and tides. Repeat this three times and you have an amusing but audaciously uneventful tourist attraction. You are paying $16 to hear scatological history in three vacant, abandoned spaces under Pioneer Square. Nothing is there except some small bits of history and worn sense of humor. You wonder why you spent the money.

A good restaurant in this part of town is The Café Paloma on Yesler is a hole in the wall, but great fresh food and a lovely neighborhood restaurant. Dinner for two is about $40 with a glass of wine. Hotel? Best Western is in a historic building, newly refurbished and prices around $125 a night if you shop it correctly.…..Not too bad…_MG_3133

A few restaurants varieties are worth noting The Seastar in the lovely Pan Pacific Hotel Offers a tony array of salmon, crab, halibut and scallops. Dinner for two with a glass or two of wine is a healthy $100+. The Pan Pacific is a well-appointed hotel, actually a Beautiful room with a Great bathtub—great place to stay if you are on the North side of town. Lola’s (Greek) is on the corner of 4th and Virgina within the Virginia hotel (four star). They offer donut holes for breakfast with cinnamon sugar a la Café Du Monde in New Orleans. Dinner is very vegan friendly with a kitchen that is begging to show you what they can do with chickpeas, beets and hot sauce. Dinner for two? $50+ with a carafe of wine. _MG_3162

If you want to treat yourself to carnivore land. Head for the Gaucho First Street and Wall–Pure meat and perfect. The black dining room has a mezzanine of triangular tables right out of the 50s Maracaibo club. The hushed conversation of the guests never overwhelms the bassa nova piano drifting from the bar. The old world elegance has Caesar Salad prepared at the table to open and Bananas Foster to close. In between these dramatic parenthesis is steak, lobster, shrimp and salad that make you sorry you had lunch, or breakfast, or any food the day before. If you are here on a quiet night and seem to be romantic with your partner, the server might suggest  they can offer a significant discount on the hotel rooms above. This leads to the fantasy of saying “I’ll have the check……..and a room.”IMG_9945

www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/

www.panpacific.com

www.seastarrestaurant.com

inn.elgaucho.com/inn.elgaucho/

http://tomdouglas.com/index.php/restaurants/lola

mariners.mlb.com/

www.spaceneedle.com

www.seattleaquarium.org/

www.cafepaloma.com

www.argosycruises.com

www.seattleartmuseum.org

http://www.pikeplacemarket.org/frameset.asp?flash=true

www.bainbridgechamber.com

www.yeoldecuriosityshop.com

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Farmers Market

The rainbow chard is layered, in a vertical composition, atop a maroon tablecloth bending in a serrated arc.Each bundle istightly wrapped with a small blue label that reads “local, organic rainbow chard.” The succession of green bouquets, punctuated by their magenta, orange and yellow stems blossom like a mermaid’s tale – amid a sea of excited buyers.An easel is set up by a local painter who renders the produce on the table as still life on the canvas. The artificial colors of the artist no match for natures palette. “Taste the rainbow” the saccharin candy slogan from my youth beckons.Oh indeed I will buy, taste, and sauté this rainbow.farmer's-market-grid-1


What a presentation this purveyor offers up – and the rest of the stands at the Portland PSU Farmer’s market are no less graceful or abundant in their offerings.From March through December, one is bowled over by the quality, quantity, freshness and seasonality of this bustling place.As local chefs whiz by (getting there before the crowds, smart professionals as they are), families stroll, tragically hip college students cavort, and grandmas pick their one cabbage just-so, the shoppers equal the produce in diversity and beauty.This is the market of my dreams, the big reason I moved to Portland in the first place.The BF and I visited Portland for three days (deciding between it, Seattle or the Bay Area for our post-college-I’m-a-creative-type-with-questionable-skills-and-no-job-prospects-phase) and on our last day, a Saturday, we haphazardly decided to check out the market before getting on the plane back to Santa Barbara.Glory hallelujah we did – because it was a meandering and a sampling of goods that would seal the deal and inspire us to fall in love with Portland.We did just that – with this Saturday market as the consistent beat within our heart. We had a regular date with the stuff that sustained us, sensorial pleasures, interactions with dear farmers, overall fun – a barometer of sorts– to hold up all other activities against.It is a habit that we haven’t been able to kick for the 3 years we’ve lived in Portland.

This spring to early-summer season, I keep coming back to the fingerling potatoes.At this one stand, they are the size and shape of a peanut still in its shell.They are nubby, homely and “wild-scientist hairy” looking – the taste however, belies their humble appearance – because inside is the most potato-tasting potato I’ve ever eaten.The skin wrinkles like a raisin and the yellowy interior is pillow, and soft– tasting as if they’d been grown in a puddle of butter.How do they do it?I’m not sure.All I know is to buy them – every week and eat them roasted, boiled, sliced, whole, in salads – salt and pepper – I’m a connoisseur of the fingerling world.I’ll have them any way I may please, thank you very much.

The market is my open-air house of worship and I approach each weekly service with my shopping list as hymnal.

asparagus so long and thin- lithe fingers of a princess dancing across piano keys

sweet pea bouquets I cannot afford but cannot help but sniff repeatedly absorbing aroma and beauty simultaneouslypurple-flowers

singular rhubarb stalks large enough to crank out a full cobbler or betty

chocolate panini from the Pearl Bakery (chocolate and bread – combined in one tidy object, need I say more?)chocolate-panini

leeks so small and tender, tomatoes to make a bagel-lox-and-tomato-breakfast-every-day- father come to tears at the sublime flavor of the luscious fruit vegetableleeks

the Tart Lady’s banana cake with cream cheese frosting (so rich and moist, it fills you up for 8 hours) with her 2 dachshunds at her side, not to mention a dear mustached husband who proudly sells his wife’s palm-sized pies under a tent colored the exact shade of Pepto Bismol pink… Pearl-bakery-w_owner

It’s a kaleidoscope of tastes, smells, histories, memories and futures. It’s pure Portland on a Sunny day!

And the sampling – oh the sampling – an unsung art akin to squirrels gathering nuts for the winter and stuffing them into their cheeks all along the way – sometimes I even place a precious bit of cookie in my pocket, only to discover it a few days later (still good!).There is also the certain direction in which to navigate the market –counter-clockwise, I assure you is best. —the Feng Shuiof the market. I bob and weave, duck and crane my neck for just one more nibble of that __________ * insert explosively flavorful sautéed piece of turnip with sea salt, the perfect end of earthy seed bread or jewel-toned teeny tiny strawberry.It’s lucky I played basketball as a kid, all of my movements during this ritual can also be found on the court. But rather than dribble, here I tend to drool.

The market is my Zen. It is organic on many levels and I am one with it. I love it, revel in the joy of it, converse with it, take part in the bounty, buy from my friends, laugh with them, flow with the market and then at the end of the day, I cook a great meal. Not to toot my own horn, but working with the best of the best ingredients it’s not terribly difficult.I focus on highlighting the produce to show its own intrinsic flavors instead of over-saucing them with unnecessary complexityAnd eat in style and rapt attention – perhaps the same attention and style as the person who so lovingly tucked each leaf into the next, displaying her rainbow chard as the symbol of mighty good fortune – And as I tuck into the aforementioned greenery, with just a dash of vinegar, garlic and salt – I grin ear to ear and relish in how truly lucky I am.cash-for-cheese

Leela Cyd

leela.cyd@gmail.com

http://leelacyd.blogspot.com/

 

 

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Vegas on Fire

Las Vegas is an unrepentant city–unpretentious, unashamed. It is a city of bad choices in all directions: environmental, city planning, economic, personal. Vegas is pure plastic. Think of plastic as a verb, malleable, capable of taking any shape, any form to fit the volume or fill the need. This is Las Vegas, fulfilling the need of the American public for fantasy and entertainment, perhaps courting with self-immolation.City Center, half-way through construction with an 11+ billion dollar budget, is poised to open luxury condos at a time when the market is looking like a four week old tangerine at the bottom of the fruit-bowl. Walk the strip and observe the 20-year-old woman, belted by too many hurricanes,glass in hand. In her five-inch heels and band-aid dress, she is draped over a short, shaved-head, heavily tattooed date. As she flops over his arms, neck and shoulder I can’t help but think that the very best thing that can come of the evening is her waking up the next morning with the worst hang-over of her life. This is Vegas. Look in the mirror. This is your city. You are the architect, the planner and the entertainment director._MG_3568

The streets are littered and plastered with ample ads hoping to lure you to the newest casino, the latest in total entertainment. But something among the mega watts of signs is amiss. Siegfried and Roy are gone and the Folies Bergere are history. The big shows with big budgets replaced by a slew of magicians and comedians with smaller payrolls which can be easily converted to an early family show.

After fifty years, acres of bare breasts, miles of legs, rivers of boas and forests of feathers (forgive me, but this is Vegas and one can afford to be over the top), The Folies are closed.Yet there are other ways to see Las Vegas. It might entail going a bit off the beaten path, the path I love._MG_3590

Begin on the strip, Las Vegas Boulevard. Start at O’Sheas Casino, next to the Flamingo. Head upstairs, 2nd floor, to the “Museum of Movie Magic,“ the polar opposite of all things upscale and slick. Here you can find one of the largest collections of ventriloquists’ dummies in the world. They sit mute, no magic hands behind them to articulate their still mouths. Hundreds of them sit, now shelved, consoled by their numbers and memories. Edgar Bergen’s puppet Mortimer Snerd sits beside a classroom of a dozen wide-eyed pupils, the original blockheads. A minstrel in black-face waits for his musical cue. All that’s missing is a lock turning in a door, a bolt being thrown shut, and a Rod Serling’s voice-over, “You are about to enter another dimension…”

Farther up the strip is Johnny Tocco’s Ringside Gym. The Ringside Gym is a three room gym built in the 50’s consisting of three heavy bags bandaged with silver duct tape and more ancient speed bags hanging in the corners. A three rope ring is compressed between a dropped acoustic ceiling and a stained red shag carpet. This is definitely not Gold’s. No contenders here, just marginal guys who remember the ring from the 50’s and 60s. Theirs was a different Vegas. The glitter of the heavyweight championships is testified to in the original cardboard posters and flyers tacked to the wall–Marciano, Benny “Kid” Peret, LaMotta. There are no Stairmasters here, only weights and bags. This is a gym from a black and white film, populated with boxers from a very distant past. Here, Marlon could be in the parking lot saying he could have been a contender to Lee J Cobb. It’s worth a visit. But remember, although there is no entry fee this is not an “attraction” so it could take some effort to gain access.

Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum shares a home with the Guggenheim Museum’s annex in the Venetian Hotel. This might be the most polar marriage between a high and low brow institution on the planet under one roof. At Tussauds you are greeted by Little Richard and his larger-than-life heart. Wander the halls and bump into Harrison Ford–“Whoops, sorry Harry” and Don King–“Nice hair”, Marilyn, Arnold and even Wolfgang. The hands have to be repaired regularly as tourists can’t help but stop and shake hands with their wax heroes and heroines. The unwitting mannequins have their images captured in tourist cameras and are taken back to Texas, Illinois, New York and California. A testament to the celebrity encounter. The wax celebrities eternally gracious about having their photograph taken with a grinning spouse, girlfriend, brother.In the Lobby of the Tropicana Hotel, evening of the closing show. Pictured Front center (red hair) Vicki Pettersson, ex-showgirl for the Folies Bergere. To her right in gold sequins is Sacha Phillips, another Folies showgirl alumni.

Save the best for last. In a small corner mall, in a cinder-block building, is the museum of an endless parade ofcostumes, adorned with fields of sequins and feathers. What could sum up a Vegas trip better than a visit to the Liberace Museum. Where else can you see the world’s largest rhinestone, the largest imitation of a diamond on the planet? It’s not fake anything—it’s real rhinestone. The costumes are surrounded by pianos plated in mirrors and glass. The potential of these objects would make Busby Berkeley weep. Opposite the costumes are the cars–Bentleys, Rolls and Cadillacs. Here a lifetime of ostentation is packaged and presented as the ultimate in world showmanship, accompanied by ubiquitous baroque piano music. It’s not fake anything. It’s real Las Vegas._MG_3575

If you are finally exhausted by this tour, and you will be, make your last stop the Peppermill Inn. Here the seats and tables, reds and blues competing, collide with the flames spurting from the pool of water that serves as the base of the fireplace–all while you nurse a drink and dine on a meal. If your senses were not numbed already, there are television sets suspended from the ceiling to barrage you with the latest in basketball, football or racing. The food isn’t bad. The atmosphere is Madonna Inn East- just a hair beyond kitsch.

You can head to the Venetian or the Bellagio and never leave. These are self-contained, adult theme parks holding a multitude of experiences and flavors within their immense walls. But push Vegas a bit and see what you find. There is a purer Las Vegas, where colors explode, the casinos fade away, and the Vegas underbelly wafts up with all the subtlety of a scratch and sniff strip. It is 340 miles, but it might as well be another country, another planet. Las Vegas, “It’s so plastic.”Look again into that mirror. No one could have invented this city but you._MG_3575

Liberace Museum, 1775 East Tropicana Ave

Museum of Movie Magic, O’Sheas Casino, 2nd floor

3555 Las Vegas Boulevard

Peppermill Inn 2985 Las Vegas Boulevard South

Johnny Tocco’s Ringside Gym, 9 West Charleston Blvd.

Madame Tussauds, Venetian Hotel

Las Vegas Boulevard

America West (Mesa Airlines) 800-235-9292 www.americawest.com America West has an occasional non-stop but it might be easier to fly out of Burbank and go SouthWest Airlines, who service LV on a more frequent non stop schedule.

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Paradise for a Price

PARADISE FOR A PRICE The brilliant cyan Hawaiian sky is punctuated by a white puff of cloud. Floating by two angels, look down, fantasizing. One turns to the other and says, “I dreamt I died and went to Lana’i.” But I exaggerate. Clouds aren’t allowed over Lana’i. With eyes shut against the strong Hawaiian sun, all your senses come alive. Feel heat warming your skin, almost sizzling to the point of discomfort, but liberally applied sunscreen assuages your fear and opens you to the primal life forces of the sun. You are having a complete phototropic reaction. Pores open, tensions melt, muscles relax utterly and completely. You pick up the distant ambient sounds of children in pools, ocean waves, discussions of paperback bestsellers and East Coast weather–nothing of consequence to disturb the calm. In this moment of semiconscious serenity, you hear a whisper. “Chilled face cloth sir?” These are words that will resonate in the coming months. When was the last time your teen-agers were so considerate, your wife so altruistic? Yet here was a total stranger offering you his tightly rolled package of iced refreshment, followed by a fruit smoothie or an alcoholic “umbrella drink” to slate your thirst. Does life get better than this? Not likely. There are some high-end resorts in Hawaii, but few offer a higher level of creature comfort than Lana’i. This is the third smallest island of the Hawaiian chain. Formerly known as the “Pineapple Island,” a massive Dole plantation has been transformed– Cinderella to Princess. This is the company town that was converted in 1991 to service two world-class resorts – beachfront Manele Bay and The Lodge at Koele. These two hotels, comprising 352 rooms, were built for a reputed $500 million. Yes, that’s half a billion dollars, or the gross national product of several Third World countries. There is at least one direct staff (not administrative) member for each room. Imagine the level of pampering and service these numbers can provide. You are a millionaire for a day, or you better be when the VISA bill arrives. Spend a few days at Manele Bay. Breakfast begins with a photocopied NYTimes Fax, mango jellies, white tablecloths amid a small army of white-jacketed, gold epauletted wait staff. The Kona coffee comes from silver carafes, hot fragrant, competing with the surrounding orchids for your attention. The beans have walked down the hillside of the neighboring island simply to caress your lips this morning. A bagel appears in a sea of cream cheese, which is applied to the plate with a pastry bag, a palette of waves, punctuated by rosettes. Surrounding this is imported smoked salmon, or more realistically phrased, enough lox to feed my family for generations. Here sunscreen is dispensed in industrial-sized pumps around the pool. Stroll to adjacent Hulopote Beach, a beautiful stretch of unblemished white sand. It is yours alone, virtually unpopulated. Snorkel on the Trilogy catamaran or scuba dive after a“resort course” in the pool.WPN118_copy Swim among dolphins and green turtles. Have lunch on the boat or dine at one of the resorts, on plates of fresh oni, ahi, mahi-mahi nestled on beds of fresh greens and noodles, garnished of course, with pineapple. Pastries, tarts and sorbets make you weep with the knowledge that all good things must come to an end. In the midst of your day, while you were involved in any number of diversions, your bags can be transferred from one resort to another. The island is seamless in its accounting. Virtually everything on the island can go on your room bill. This is a company town, but what a company. The Lodge at Koele is a rare pine forest resort, isolated, elegant and unique in the islands. Its 102 rooms are encircled by an endless arcade of rattan chaises on colonnaded porches, surrounded by acres of perfectly manicured formal gardens ornamented by a white Victorian orchid arboretum. Here you wake up with nothing to do and by noon you’re not even half way through your day. Depending on your energy/rest ratio you may choose from mountain biking, horseback riding, a formal putting course or 18 holes of golf. Take your pick of the lush and scenic course adjacent to the Lodge or take a hotel van (20 minutes) to the breathtaking, Jack Nicklaus-designed ocean-view course at Manele. You can rent a four-wheel-drive jeep (“bikini top” fold-down model) and drive across the Monro trail for a view of all the islands and a conversation with the gods of Hawaii, or drive westward to see the Garden of the Gods. This is a strange barren, red-clay environment where residents have erected stone cairns and totems that form lonely silhouettes against the sky. If you are covered with red dust from your expedition, hit 
the spa and cap the day with a massage or a facial. If you prefer the equestrian rather than vehicular mode, try a horseback ride through the morning fog on a mountain-top with a view of Molokai, the Big Island, Maui and Oahu. Try blasting away at the 14-station “sporting clay” course, where you go via golf cart to shoot shotgun rounds at clay targets imitating every bird and small game possible. A shootist pro will drive you around and show you how to maximize your score on a 100-clay target range as your shoulder aches with each attempt. Whatever events you choose, there is a picnic lunch and wet towels to go along. If you are exhausted from your activities take tea at 4 o’clock. WPN119_copyThe Sumatra blend and perfect teacakes transport you to an era of refined colonialist elegance as you have a brief respite on the verandah. Have a quiet walk to town. Dine at the refurbished old Lana’i hotel downtown n Lana’i City. Dinners at any of the restaurants are not simply meals, they are presentations, culinary plays in several acts in a setting worthy of any Noel Coward performance. This is not the nightlife of Waikiki. There are billiards, backgammon and walk-in fireplaces with overstuffed chairs to help you digest dinner and savor the day in the evening sunset. Rather than the barrage of neon and disco, you are surrounded by fragrances of orchids and colors of the twilight. This is elegance, not fashion–style, not fad. Top suites go for $2,000 a night (butler included) down to a “modest” $250, but the adage applies that “If you have ask the price, don’t bother.” This is not the land of “we’ll leave the light on for you.” What you can expect is a bed turned out with linens meeting the most exacted Martha Stewart standards and several of the world’s best chocolates laid out among tastefully arranged orchids. This is rare luxury and the price is commensurate with the experience. Hawaii is usually a pricey vacation but heaven rarely comes cheap. Lana’i is the best of the best. Bill Gates, software god, was married on the 12th tee of the ocean-side golf course, giving testimony that this is where God would go if he had money. Lana’i is paradise on Earth. This is not the vacation for the feint of wallet. But, if price is no object, there is no other place. It will change the way you dream. Pass the chilled facecloth.WPN121

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Going Home

“When am I going to see your ugly face?” She is 83 and lives in Brooklyn, my ancestral home. 

“One of these days, Mom.  Soon.”  I was just there last week, visiting, having dinner, playing gin, eating a bagel, taking walks with her.

Mom is an involuntary time traveler, I wouldn’t think of jarring her space or time continuum by pointing out my recent visit.FuzzyMom

“I’ll check the calendar and see when I can get there.  Maybe for Louis’ son’s bar mitzvah next month.”  I should just be flattered she looks forward to my future visit as the past hangs on tattered threads. She sleeps with my father’s bathrobe covering her feet. The last time he wore it was many years past, yet he is still comforting her.

Imagine, if you will, as Rod Serling fades into a black-and-white world.  Go back.  Go all the way back.  Go home.  You can go home again.  Time traveling is possible.  But, you need to reconfigure your thinking.  The world you are familiar with, through the fragile veil of memory is left best undisturbed with modern tools.  It doesn’t exist, searching is an exercise in futility.  Leave your video cam home.  Take the junkiest, ugliest, can’t-get-film for this anymore camera you can find and start at the beginning.  Look for a camera with a name like Lubitel, Banner, Holga or Diana-bad quality, but forgiving.  I will offer my odyssey as a road map for yours.  Use what you like; take what you want. “Imagine, if you will…”

Brooklyn in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s was the hub of the universe.  The Dodgers were where they belonged, at Ebbets Field and Los Angeles as a world away.  Sometimes in visiting the pas and feeling a need to document, there is simply nothing or no one left.  Duke Snider moved to Fallbrook, big Number 14, Carl Furillo, hands as big as a shovel, is buried and Ebbets Field, home of legendary battles for the pennant with the Giants, series battles with the Yankees are gone.  Ebbets Field is a housing project.  They paved paradise and put in a parking lot.  Pavko at third, Reese at Short, Junior Gilliam at second, Furillo at first, Snider, Robinson, Gomez in the outfield and a battery of Newcombe and Campanella are gone.fovea12

Dad was the N.Y.C. cop whose beat frequently included the field.  When I was between the ages of 5 and 11, I was his frequent undercover companion.  My first stop is not as much as marked by a bronze plaque.  The weekends of my childhood are replaced by the brick and uniformity of a housing project.  L.A. got the team and Brooklyn got the shaft.

Down the street a bit is the Brooklyn is the Brooklyn Museum, one of the best museums in the city, far from mainstream Manhattan, with more security guards than visitors.  Its semicircular driveway opening onto Empire Boulevard.  It’s the cultural queen of the borough of kings.  Gratefully, the main display areas are being remodeled to re-create the design of elegance 100-years old.

        I take a walk up Flatbush Avenue, past Winthrop where Bruce Bobiner lived, past Maple where Greenberg was, up to Hawthorne where I stand in a courtyard and look up at a window where my mother would wrap 15 cents in a tissue when I shouted up to the second floor “Maaa, Good Humor is here….throw down some money.” Where California looks across a landscape, New York is always looking up at windows or down to a street.

         A large man approaches me and asks “Whaddyadoinghere?” I explain, “I used to live there……in 2D.”

         “That must have been a long, long time ago.” With subtly and grace, he describes the changing demographics of city neighborhoods. The doorway entrance is now protected by heavy metal signaling both security and danger. The courtyard where boxball was king is circumnavigated by concertina wire.NYsubway

         Father down Flatbush is Erasmus Hall High School. Home of over 8,000 adolescents. The school now boasts a security system to keep “dangerous elements” out. An earlier generation was more casual. The major danger was spring fever, senior-itis, and the vitriolic nature of the clique.

         The “D” train stops at Avenue P. Home to the most eclectic handball (blackball) games ever invented. This is the land that spawned Bobby Riggs. On any given day, you can see teen-age Puerto Rican boys and 60-year-old Jewish men playing on the same courts. Handicaps are established with a player carrying a beach chair or a bucket of water. Onlookers are major participants in the verbal supports and attacks. These games have changed the least, the tournaments seem continuous, fluid competitions from the 50s.

         From here the journey continues on the subway. A misnomer as it rises above ground and forms the “El” or elevated to Brighton Beach. The former green Dutch-door lockers that were shared by my father and his six brothers, is closed and beyond normal winter disrepair. They await demolition and rebirth as “luxury beachfront apartments.” The influx of Russians has led to the renaming of Brighton as “Odessa by the Sea.” Mrs. Stahl’s knishes are still the culinary highlight of the day.

         Walking to the end of the street, to the Boardwalk, turn east toward Coney Island. Only three subway stops (Elevated) or a 45-minute walk through crowds of strollers, wheelchairs, domino, chess and card players. I walk toward the inert parachute jump that defines the skyline—The iron edifice that acts as the Eiffel Tower of Brooklyn. It stands silent, overlooking the ghosts of Steeplechase Park. Long since gone, the amusement park that replaced it, and the ones that replace that are long since past. Nathan’s still dominates its shrinking amusement world. “From a Hot Dog to a National Habit…..since 1914.” The hot dog teeters on shaky financial ground. The world is more fat conscious and Nathan’s had its quintessential American experience of going public with its stock, rising, franchising and falling into the wreckage of its own dreams and frankfurters. This is where I took my wife on our first date 38 years past. “Chez Nathaniels”…where an adjacent diner, standing near us asked if my date was going to finish her bun.tuba

         Turning back toward Mom’s apartment, I wait for an F train to Caton Avenue, a subway stop where I would walk down and wait for my Dad coming home from work. He hasn’t been here for 25 years, but I still smell the Old Spice aftershave as I photograph at the turnstile….a block and a half and I am looking up to the sixth floor (6H) where my Mother would rest her elbows on the sill and quietly watch traffic flowing by, waiting patiently for me to come home. Early dates, the Dick Clark Show with Rosalind, bowling with Phyllis dinner with Cissy. Mom would watch from vigilantly from the shadows to avoid appearing overprotective, anxious. I would wave to the darkness, showing I knew I was worried over and loved.

         When going on a journey like this, I  love my farsightedness, my astigmatism. It helps me see things the way they were, rater than the way they are. I celebrate my hearing loss; I don’t have to listen to the resounding rap that creates sound corridors through the streets that embraced the days of my childhood.

         Finally, I look down and I am at the manhole cover, home plate for stickball. I pace out the distance where I once hit two sewer lengths. I run the patterns of football where plays would be constructed to “go out to the blue Chevy and cut in front”….A fender here, a bumper here becomes your blockers. The play always good for ten yards.

         When you travel back to your old neighborhood, take a cheap camera. Taste and smell your youth. To search too deeply for physicals landmarks is to invite futility. It is a form of traveling that is mostly internal. To know who you were helps you appreciate the person that makes the journey now. Trying to “capture” images the way they existed on film or digitally, with crisp equipment is senseless. The more detail you capture, the father you are from the truths that exist only in your mind, in your memory. These truths are real, tangible, physical and all yours.foveab

         You CAN go home again. It is a journey you have to make alone. And after 50+ years may I simply say, “Thank you Brooklyn, the heart of the Universe and….I love you Mom and Dad.”

                  IF YOU GO

                 

Staying

Marriott in Brooklyn is too New and too discordant but—

Marriott.com/Brooklyn 

Manhattan—

Park South Hotel www.parksouthhotel.com

Chelsea Hotel www.hotelchelsea.com

Trump Hotel www.trumpintl.com

Broadway Bed and Breakfast www.broadway-bed-breakfast.com

Roosevelt Hotel www.theroosevelthotel.com 

Hotel Larchmont www.larchmonthotel.com

Eating:        

Vincent’s http://02de1be.netsolhost.com/  (Italian Seafood)

Katz’s www.katzdeli.com

Nathan’s Coney Island www.nathansfamous.com

 

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Go Sox!!!!

When you visit Boston, it is required you have on a cap, shirt or jacket celebrating your loyalty to the Sox, Patriots, Bruins or Celtics. This is a sports town.  The Hotel Commonwealth is the same metro stop as Fenway Park. On my last visit the lobby of this lovely little palace was filled with dads and boys, decked out with foam fingers, popcorn, gloves and a shared love of the game. Walking outside under the green canvas canopy as a game breaks and you can be stampeded by a heard of boisterous fans.  The sox had just taken the 4th of four from the Indians and were preparing for a post-season appearance with the dreaded Yankees. Boys and dads, sons and fathers. Baseball and Boston. These are perfect encapsulated moments and the economy, environment, world tensions and swine flu were noticeably absent in the euphoria of the baseball heaven. I grew up in the shadow of Ebbett’s field and the Brooklyn Dodgers with a Dad that took me to all the Brooklyn Dodger games (he was a NY City Cop at Ebbets) so I know about these moments.

These are personal histories. If you want a broader view….try the colonial walking tour. Meet at Feneuil Hall and wander from the one revolutionary site to another with a bonnet-clad tour guide relating some fact, some fiction and some speculations. The site of the Boston Massacre (six men died) is approached by dodging traffic in all directions rather than musket bullets. Over to the Anglican church, minus a steeple, to the graveyard of these same massacre victims.         15

History is always an edit, but I thought it a shame that our guide never mentioned that Crispus Attucks was a former slave. A dozen + people share the tour, most from Germany, a couple from Manchester, interested in this view of the young republic and sharing thoughts from other perspectives, including the face of the nation today. This dialogue is more compelling that the ritual of the bedecked tour guide.

The Boston Common is the terminus of the tour and we take a more direct route to Quincy market where there are 80 stalls and a culinary dining common to consume. The food ranges from chowder and lobster to curry and sushi. Samples and shouts entreat the crowd to purchase a lunch. With so many local specialties is it hard to image a couple walking with two slices of pepperoni pizza and a coke…but this is America.  Lunch is boisterous and noisy and fun here, but for a better sit down drink and dinner, The Eastern Standard, part of the Hotel Commonwealth is hard to beat. Their Glouster scallops four perfect discs of flavor-resting on a bed of corn cannoli succotash filled my thoughts at night. I wrote to the restaurant with my compliments and they sent me the recipe. I tried to recreate it at home. Not bad, but far from the perfection of the creators. I ended up the next night grilling the balance of the scallops on the barbque in Wasabi oil. (Maybe I have been in California too long.)  A second night dining was well served at the Fireside. This cozy restaurant, has their premium tables at the advertised—fireside. I was alone and treated myself to a dinner at the bar. Nothing like being in a distant city, with a TV and the of course hometown Sox winning.  The ne owner hasn’t quite figure out the pricing of the scotches….so all the premium single malts are the same price. I am in a moral quandary reporting this. Do I owe the reader the inside story at the expense of a nice restaurant? I err on the side of candor and truth. Dinner was Boston baked beans, and obligatory offering to the gods of Boston and a Talisker scotch. Both were enjoyable and stretched out over the course of nine-inning and a chatty bartender.1

At the more modest end of the accommodations spectrum is Anthony Guest House. A very quirky townhouse on Beacon Street. Shared bathrooms on each floor, furniture covered in clear plastic, a house manager that takes you down the street two blocks to park your car? Sound a little strange. It sure is, but affordable, clean and like spending the night is you slightly batty aunts house in Maine. Across the street is the Beacon Street Café. Reasonable, decent, convenient and somewhat unremarkable. Breakfast and lunch is the Busy Bee Café. It is right out of the set of Alice with antiquated waitresses that are downright hostile. Food is mediocre eggs and sandwiches…..but again, it’s the experience of an urban  dinner environment that makes it worth the walk across the street and more.

Culture abounds with the Museum of Fine Arts impressive in its collection, breadth as well as depth with the Gardner Museum a heart beat away. The Gardner is a floor to ceiling collection of  work from a period that holds little interest. The building itself is remarkable as an example of the finest quasi Seville/Arabic inner courtyard this side of the ocean.  It is the splendid home of an uneventful collection.  It should be noted that in the current economic world, many institutions have chosen to raise prices for admission to cover costs. The MFA and the Garder among them. Between entry fees and parking, you better come prepared with more than colonial currency to pay for the day’s excursions. Boston is a manageable city in size, opportunity and attraction. Think of Portland or Seattle rather than Los Angeles on the West Coast. It is not NY–and that is the blessing of Boston–and those dreaded Yankees? Fugetaboutit!17

Hotel Commonwealth

www.hotelcommonwealth.com

Anthionys Town House

www.anthonystownhouse.com

Eastern Standard Restaurant

www.easternstandardboston.com

Fireplace Restaurant

www.fireplacerest.com/

Museum of Fine Arts

www.mfa.org/

Elizabeth Stanley Gardner Museum

www.gardnermuseum.org/

Walking tour Colonial History

www.freedomtrail.org/

Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market

www.faneuilhallmarketplace.com