Monday, January 28, 2013

Street and sky

I don't know why I haven't posted in so long. This probably has something to do with the fact that a completely optional activity sometimes just doesn't get done. If you don't have to do it . . .

Which is a shame, not so much because I haven't posted but because I truly appreciate reading blogs written by other people who are probably much busier than I am, and also do not have to post.

But they do, and I am glad of it.

Back at it again, this time with a photo of Market Street in Philadelphia, mid-December 2012. We had experienced a series of gray, drab days and then the sun came out late one afternoon.

Sometimes things just look new, in a new light.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Two books and almost three movies

I read two wonderful memoirs recently: The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, and Unreliable Memoirs, by Clive James.

Completely agree with these reviews:

For Unreliable Memoirs: “Do not read this book in public. You will risk severe internal injuries from trying to suppress your laughter. . . . What’s worse, you can’t put it down once started. Its addictive powers stun all normal decent resistance within seconds. Not to be missed.” (Sunday Times )

For Glass Castle: "probably the best account ever written of a dysfunctional family " (amazon reviewer)

And here is the best part - Clive James has written more than thirty books, including four more volumes of autobiography, and Jeannette Walls has another book, Half Broke Horses.

Such wonderful news! (Although I do feel a bit illiterate, discovering Clive James so late in the game.)

Also, recently saw two movies: Skyfall and A Late Quartet.

As for A Late Quartet, I agree with one of the reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes: ""A Late Quartet" is a magnificent film, the best I've seen in 2012 thus far. It reminds me of when "In the Bedroom" was released in 2001. From out of nowhere, a filmmaker no one has heard of explodes onto the world-cinema stage with a quiet, spectacularly artful near-masterpiece."

And that reminds me - In the Bedroom is a fantastic film I would like to see again. (Bad title, though - always makes me think of that joke about how to make any fortune you get in a Chinese fortune cookie funny - add the phrase "in the bedroom.") (This trick works, too - perhaps I'm too easily amused, but adding that phrase does make any fortune funny.) (But the film of that name is dead serious, and terribly sad, and utterly wonderful.)

I didn't expect much from Skyfall, which was fortunate, because I got even less. I'm not overly fond of Bond movies, but many of them I have liked quite a bit.

The movie has received some excellent reviews. For example, Atlantic film critic Christopher Orr says, "The film, directed by Sam Mendes, is among the most ambitious imaginings of Bond to date: dark, supple, and punctuated with moments of unanticipated visual brilliance."

I thought it was overall boring, and I thought that the whole mommy fixation was stupid. I did like the little allusions to prior films and iconic Bond memes, such as when the mixologist shakes the martini and Bond simply says, "Perfect."

But overall, dumb.

And then, for the third movie - this morning we drove to the theater to see Lincoln, sat in the dark for about thirty minutes, and finally were informed that the projector was broken and our money would be refunded. That was a first.

So - two great books, one great movie, and a couple of misses. Pretty darn good overall.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Luck and hurricanes

Finally posting post-hurricane. On Monday, the first day of the big storm, my workplace was closed but I was able to work from home. However, around 10:00 pm that evening, the lights went out. We listened to the wind huffing and puffing for a while, and then went to bed.

Woke up on Tuesday and walked Bean around the block.

Someone had lost a car.

And another family had suffered an even greater loss.
But people were safe, which is the most important thing. Power was still out everywhere, so we decided to drive up to my daughter's place; she still had power, and the grandkids were home because schools were closed. We took Bern and Anthony out to lunch.

Bern and I decorated our nails for Halloween.
And after dinner, we drove back home. Still no power, but my sons and I were able to play table games by candelight and flashlight.
All in all, a very easy time for us - unlike folks in New York and New Jersey, and a couple of blocks east and north of us, who lost a lot. I am grateful. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Weekly recap

It's been an odd day, waiting for Hurricane Sandy to really really really hit us. Sandy is sort of here already, but so far it's just rather heavy rain and wind -- and waiting, and listening to newscasters warn us all of impending doom. My workplace is closed today and tomorrow, so I spent the day working from home, which is nice.

I may or may not have storm photos later, but for now I'll just catch up on what has been happening over the past week.

Neil and I saw Verdi's Requiem at the Kimmel Center last Sunday.

The scheduled soprano was out due to allergies, so there was a substitute, Angela Meade, who was fantastic. At the end of the concert the conductor knelt before her on one knee while the audience went wild with cheers.

After the concert, we headed to our old haunt, the Perch Pub, for food and drink (and thanks to a gift card from a thoughtful friend in Illinois!).

Isn't that drink pretty? It's the Saint Nick of Port Richmond, described in the drinks menu behind the glass.

Our bartender/server was very nice. He asked us, after we had exchanged just a few words, "Where are you from?" I replied, "Willow Grove," and he followed up with, "But you didn't grow up there, did you?"

"No, we both grew up in the midwest, in the Chicago area."

"I could tell by the way you pronounce your vowels."

This surprised me, since I don't detect any accent when I speak. It turns out he is a recent graduate of acting school, and had studied American dialects. He's currently working in a small indie production. You can see him reflected in the bar mirror below.

So that was the weekend. Last week we had wonderful fall weather, just beautiful. As always, I appreciate the gardening and landscaping in the city.

As well as the skies and the breeze.

My morning walks with Mr. Bean begin in darkness this time of year.

Last Tuesday I took a group of physicians out to dinner after work. On my way to the restaurant, I walked through Macy's, where the enormous organ (largest working organ in the world, I believe) was being played.

And the shoes and boots were impressive.

And the mannequins were exhausted.

We ate at Varalli, which is located directly underneath the Perch Pub, and is owned by the same people.

Great food, great conversation.

The days leading up to the Big Storm were gorgeous. Bean enjoyed the leaf piles.

And we both admired the neighbors' ingenuity in constructing Halloween decorations as we ambled round the 'hood.

So that was my week. Busy today moving stuff from the lower level (which could flood) to a higher level of the house, and watching and waiting . . . .

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Enchant the land with amethyst

Photo from La Pouyette

Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.

The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,

Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;

At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.

Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost -
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

I was led to this poem by a friend who posted it on Facebook, and very glad I am that she did.

Today was such a perfect October day. I was fortunate enough to be working from home today, and able to take three long walks with Bean (morning, noon, and evening), not averse to having my heart beguiled by the lovely weather.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Two evenings in the capital

Soooooo . . . .  we had a couple of days in Washington DC. A LivingSocial deal (and I might mention here that I have enjoyed everything I ever purchased through LivingSocial.)

Arrived on Thursday, checked in, and then hurriedly figured out how to use the Metro, the lovely Metro, to get to our destination.

We had made reservations with Bike the Sites for a tour of the monuments at night. We got our reflective vests, helmets, and bikes.

Out tour group of about twenty included families with young children. Daylight was fading by the time we had biked over to the National Mall.

Our first stop was the Jefferson Memorial, which looks fabulous at night. I'm sure it looks fine in the daytime, too, although plenty of people told me that it's better at night.

The next stop was the FDR Memorial, which features lots of waterfalls.

And there were plenty of professional or semi-professional photographers busy taking photos in the dark.

And several sculptures showing people during the Depression, such as this man listening to FDR on the radio.

Then to the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial.

Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.

Next, the Korean War Memorial, a field of sculptured soldiers marching through the night like ghosts, and a wall behind them in which the faces of the dead have been etched. These are taken from photographs of the people who died in the war. The effect is uncanny.

And then to the most famous, the Lincoln Memorial.

From the Lincoln Memorial you have a clear view of the Washington Memorial, and its reflection.

Then to the Vietnam Memorial, which, of course, features a wall of names rather than a wall of faces.

Even in the dark it is quite moving, particularly as one goes deeper and deeper into the ground, and the names rise up higher than one's head. All that loss.

Next we rode over to the World War II Memorial, which is enormous. I have only a photo of the fountain in the middle, and this doesn't give a very good idea of how huge this monument is.

We ended up at the Washington Memorial, which has been closed to visitors since the earthquake damaged it.

I loved this tour. Never would have seen all these monuments on foot, but it was easy and fun on a bike.

Back to the Normandy Hotel, and our comfy bed. In the morning, a feast for breakfast! I had a bagel with lox and cream cheese.

There was a very impressive coffee machine, which made lattes and espressos and cappuchinos on demand.

And wonderful fresh fruit - even blackberries! Yum. The breakfasts were part of the package deal.

We ate plenty, which turned out to be a good thing in view of our afternoon plans. We managed to get to Alexandria (this time we took a taxi, and met an Ethiopian taxi driver who is a huge fan of Reagan and Bush, and of America in general), where we picked up a couple of bikes and a map of the Mount Vernon Trail.

It wasn't all trees and water. One of the more interesting parts of the trail is the park that lies directly under a highway. In addition to picnic tables and playground equipment, there are acres of space for biking and skating.

The Mount Vernon Trail is much more hilly than anything we were accustomed to, and it was a bit of a challenge to bike the nine miles to Mount Vernon. Once we arrived, though, we fortified ourselves for the return trip with lunch. I had the Virginia peanut and chestnut soup.

And salmon corncakes.

And we did manage to make the return trip to Alexandria - our longest bike ride to date! That evening, we met friends for dinner, at Kramerbooks and Afterwords - a combination bookstore, cafe, bar, and restaurant. When we last saw these friends they were planning their wedding. When we met them in Washington DC, they were planning their daughter's wedding. Time flies, but sometimes in a very nice way.

Saturday morning we had another fine breakfast and drove back to Pennsylvania.

I really like these little mini-vacations. A long one would be even better, but these are just fine.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


My son brought some home to try. (I'm very happy that he is an adventurous cook.)

It's okay. I wouldn't go out of my way to find some, but perhaps there are recipes that use this ingredient well.

Of course, you wouldn't want to eat it unpeeled.