New York City Blog Aug.16 – Aug. 22

Food is poison. Food is medicine. Chefs are competitive. Chefs are gods. Chefs are dictators. Welcome to the first half of the 21st century. 14th Street and adjacent neighborhoods explode with food stores. From the east side going west, there are Associated, the Food Emporium, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Garden of Eden, Westside Market, and Chelsea Market. Each place has an individual character and atmosphere. On First Avenue is Associated. It’s the artisan/non-gluten/gluten breadbasket of Stuyvesant Town. On the south side of Fourteenth Street is Trader Joe’s with its fake people friendly atmosphere and very tired vegetables and fruits. Part of its popularity is that it presents itself as less expensive than the other food stores. Its wine shop does have great buys. Two buck Chuck, the house wine, costs very little. Supposedly, that’s thanks to a nasty divorce. Crossing the street and moving west we come to The Food Emporium on the north corner and east side of Union Square. It’s big, impersonal and expensive. On Saturdays, skirting Union Square Park, there’s the shrine to fresh, green and local, the Farmers Market. Let’s duck across the street to the south side. Smack on Union Square is Whole Foods where I’ve spent the bulk of my 401K. Like a gambling casino, there are no clocks. Garden of Eden and Westside Market are on Fourteenth Street’s north side. Turning right on Ninth Street we come to Chelsea Market, an indoor marketplace that features architecture, art and fashion bowing down to food.
Steve Kulchek, who lives in Stuyvesant Town,

Fresh from the Farmers Market

Fresh from the Farmers Market

ducks into Associated after a late shift and grabs mac and cheese from the prepared food section. It brings back birthday memories. His Aunt Bess would prepare his favorite food: mac and cheese sprinkled with crispy bacon. Since Steve is also nuts about olives, each year since he was seven, his Uncle Con presents him with a jar.

New York City Blog Aug. 8 – Aug. 15

Back in NYC – As the Italians say, autumn begins in August. The diagonal light conjures up 40’s ballads about the city. I strolled through Washington Square Park. It’s what Pioneer Square is in Portland and St. Mark’s in Venice – the city living room.

Washington Square Arch at dusk

Washington Square Arch at dusk

Still waiting to hear from Amtrak. On Aug. 1, I slept on the floor of the train’s lounge. Those of us who were in Car 2830 were ordered to leave our compartments and stay in the lounge. No Coach seats were available. Not a word from Amtrak.
Back to NYC. I did something I haven’t done in years. I went to a double feature at Film Forum. First, The Third Man, one of my favorite movies. There’s always something to discover. This time I watched the actor who played Mr Winkle blow the dust off an objet d’art as he listened to hapless Holly Martin. Then, I scooted across the corridor and saw Listen to me Marlon. It’s based on Marlon Brando’s observations of his exciting and unhappy life.
Have you been to China: Through the Looking Glass at the Met? Apparently it’s not essential to see the exhibit. It’s three floors of darkness with splinters of light and American jazz. At the other end of the building is the Sergeant exhibit. It’s wonderful. You can see the art – imagine! And it goes on for miles.

 Sergeant's Villa Torlonia, Frascati

Sergeant’s Villa Torlonia, Frascati

At IFC (the old Waverly) a friend and I saw Best of Enemies, a documentary about the William Buckley and Gore Vidal debates. It was delicious. They had vitriolic tongues and thoughts which they expressed well. Maybe the debates were the high point of their lives. Both clung to their anger long after the event was over.

New York City Blog Aug. 3 – Aug. 8

While I was in Portland, OR. I interviewed Alana Hartman. This week it was on the Judson Memorial Church web page, the Judson Fountain, and is also on my blog under Interviews.

Alana Hartman and I met when she lived in New York City. While there she studied at Hunter and married the Reverend Michael Ellick, who was a minister at Judson Memorial Church.
In Portland, Alana and I had brunch in Raven and Rose, a restaurant in the Ladd Carriage House. We discussed the eventful year it had been for her and her husband. Michael had been appointed the senior minister at the Portland First Congregational Church and Alana had received her Hunter College MSW. They moved from NYC to Portland, found housing and settled into an apartment with their two cats. On Valentine’s Day 2015, Alana had a miscarriage and one of the cats died. She described herself as still being in a state of grief. I thought of the Judson Memorial Church’s sorrow on hearing the news and the decision that we not disturb the mourning, much loved, couple.
At Hunter’s School of Social Work Alana had focused on Aging. Here in Portland, she works as a social worker with the elderly at Providence ElderPlace.
MJR: Why the elderly?
AH: I guess it’s what you’re accustomed to. My mother was a single mom and we lived with my grandparents. I’ve always lived around the elderly and feel comfortable with them. When I was in elementary school and high school, I’d volunteer in nursing homes. My friends thought I was crazy.
MJR: At one time weren’t you interested in dance?
AH: I attended Cincinnati’s High School of the Performing Arts. I focused on ballet.
MJR: You didn’t continue?
AH: By the time I was at Loyola in Chicago, I was burned out. I studied sociology and became interested in community organizing.
MJR: Didn’t you and Mellnick (Michael Ellick’s nickname) meet in Chicago?
AH: We met at an IAF national community organizing training between my junior and senior year.
MJR:What’s IAF?
AH: Industrial Areas Foundation is a network of local faith and community-based organizations. And we met over community organizations.
MJR: Love at first sight?
AH: Pretty much. (said with a pleased smile) In Portland we lived briefly at Peace House.
MJR: It’s a commune?
AH: It’s a community. Michael and I are very excited about forming Peace House 2 which we’re moving into in August. We’re a mix of young, middle-aged and elderly.

This is a link to the 18th Avenue Peace House: 18thavepeacehouse.org/

MJR: As an older person, I’m delighted you’re interested in our age group.
AH: It bothers me that in our society you are your work. What happens after you’re no longer a banker or bricklayer?
MJR: In the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, the tombstones for the Brits had their rank and the tombstones for the Americans had their professions.
AH: One’s a class based society and we’re an industrial based society.
We concentrated on our coffee and bloody mary.
AH: The elderly often die alone.Why should the end of life be a punishment instead of part of the journey we all share?
MJR: What’s it like being a minister’s wife? I know Michael is the lodestone but you are too.
AH: A Church is a 24/7 job.You have to define your own personality and be yourself. You have to establish boundaries for your own peace of mind.

Former President Jimmy Carter, age 90, was in Portland to sign his latest book, A Full Life. I think Alana is an “old soul” and one who is leading her own full and fulfilling life.

New York City Blog from the Empire Builder July 26 – Aug. 2

Fond memories of Portland: Happy Hours range from 3 pm to 6 pm and feature cocktails, well drinks and food. Olives and nuts are $2.00 and prices increase with the food choices. Eat your hearts out, New Yorkers. You can have a drink or two plus delicious small dishes for under $20. Two of my favorite places are Lincoln in the Northwest and Sapphire in the Southeast. Slightly more expensive is People’s Pig. Sitting on the 40’s red bar stools you can drink Habanero Marguaritas in a jar and watch the owner /chef prepare delicious North Carolina barbecue.

Drink up!  A People's Pig Margarita

Drink up! A People’s Pig Margarita

On the train going back to NYC or the calm before the storm. Sat. 9:30 a.m.12 noon. I was sitting in the Empire Builder Lounge Car starring out at Glacier National Park and having a delightful conversation with a politician from Little Rock, Ark. who told me tales out of school about Clinton. At the same time, a volunteer with the Tracks and Talks organization told us about Montana being the fourth largest state; that the railroad invented the slogan,”See American First” to lure wealthy Americans to travel to the west rather than to Europe; that at one time members of the Blackfoot tribe would greet passengers when they arrived in Glacier. We would soon be arriving in Havre which prompted the speaker to tell a joke. It’s a joke best kept for a bar, late at night, when everybody’s had too much to drink and isn’t choosy about quality. It goes like this: two men were fighting over a woman. When one of them won, he said to the other suitor, you can have her. Thus, the name Havre. Get it??? Do you think that’s the name origin of Havre,France?
Unfortunately, I’ll never forget Havre, Montana. At 1:25 pm Sat. someone banged on my compartment door. A woman official: Didn’t you hear the announcement? We’re taking this car off the rails. Had I stumbled into a Grade B movie? There were no more sleepers or seats, so all the occupants in the condemned car had to sit in the lounge.That night I ended up sleeping on the lounge floor. On one side, I was wedged between the bolted to the floor lounge chairs and the bolted to the floor side tables. On the other side I was eye ball to eye ball with a fender that skirts the bottom of the windows.No one will ever accuse Amtrak of being house proud. If you’re missing dirty tissues, several pennies, I found them. I decided to sleep, a generic term for lying quietly and dreaming of a law suit, and stare out the observation lounge (how I hate that word) ceiling at the moon.
The next evening, after a three hour wait in Chicago’s Union Station, I crawled onto the Lake Shore Limited and headed home to NYC.

New York City Blog from Portland July 19 – July 25

July 25 was the NW Book Fair in Pioneer Square. Pioneer Square is Portland’s living room. Last week we attended the annual Sand Castles Competition. It was blisteringly hot and so bright my eyes hurt. This week my friend helped me haul copies of The Lemrow Mystery and totes to the fair. You can’t win them all. It rained. It poured. The tent I shared

A Perfect Portand Party

A Perfect Portand Party

with four other women, all delightful, was like a wet handkerchief after ten minutes. I hung in there until one p.m and then grabbed my gear and left. There were no customers but I exchanged copes of my book with others and we all swore fervently to read and review. Met lots of great Oregonians.

Went to a wonderful party after the rain had stopped.
My friend arranged for me to cat-

Big Eaters

Big Eaters

sit in a Portland floating home in the Jantzen suburb.The houses are licensed under the title floating homes/houseboats. Years ago, it was considered very economical to live on the Columbia Channel. Now, it’s desirable. The houses are built very closely together. There’s a central narrow board walk and many signs about various regulations: animals have to stay on their own property, no loud noise. The cats I baby – sat are called raggedy dolls. That means they have lots of hair and appear bigger than they really are. They shed copiously and eat like dogs. None of this nonsense about inner control. They figured out where some hidden nibbles were, climbed onto the counter and managed to knock the package to the floor and gobble up oodles of them, twice. Friends (not feline) came to dinner and afterwards we sat on the front porch which is on the river.

The floating home front porch

 

I am at the NW Book Festival

 

 

If you are in the area please stop by for a chat. I will be in booth #4. Looking forward to meeting you.

New York City Blog from Portland July 12 – July 18

I asked the UPS store manager to reproduce The Lemrow Mystery cover 2′ x 2′ to be used as a table covering at the NW Book Fair on July 25. Here is the work of art. Move over, Leonardo.

The Lemrow Mystery tablecloth

The Lemrow Mystery tablecloth

I went to the Tualatin public library in a Portland suburb to the NW Writers and Publishers Association to network and to meet other writers presenting at the Book Fair. R. H. Sheldon gave a very interesting and illuminating talk about writers who ignored writing taboos and produced great literature. Two examples were Alice Munro’s use of the passive voice and Mark Twain writing in dialect and about the poor. The library is enchanting, packed with books rather than computers, although those are well represented. There are cozy nooks and corners for people of all ages to curl up with a book or to daydream.

Tualatin Public Library

Tualatin Public Library

Powell’s City of Books has many talks about…books! On July 13, a native Oregonian, Dawson Barrett, talked about Becoming Oregon, his book about Oregon between 1804, the Lewis and Clark expedition and 1905, the exposition, or World’s Fair held in Portland. He explored Oregon as a territory and then as a state (1859) through newspapers ( the NY Times thought Oregon state hood was a bad idea), magazines, engravings, pictures and maps. Amusing anecdotes accompanied the U. S. and England’s fascinated ignorance about the northwest.

I made my annual pilgrimage to a friend’s elegant garden.Once again, she patiently identified flowers and shrubs for my ignorant eye. In addition to roses in the city of roses, there are many other varieties. It’s heartening to see and hear the bees.

A Bee Hut

A Bee Hut

New York City Blog from Portland July 5 – July 11

Welcome to the east Portland Indoor Pool and the first person who finds it wins The Doctor Livingston I presume award. Talk about impossible.The Google map had me walking in circles, literally. For some unfathomable reason, Portland likes to skip street numbers. So, it’s 104 Avenue followed by 106 Avenue. 105 Avenue is probably across the street but don’t bet on it. Following the Google Map I struggled across a very busy interstate, ignored no trespassing signs, skirted construction trucks and no exit signs, smiled cowardly at a dog that was advancing and growling. A man who could have been one of the original Hatfields or McCoys, told me to follow an overgrown path and ignore all the No Entrance, Stop, Keep Out signs. I did. I saw a couple who turned out to be extremely kind and knew the area. They escorted me to the pool. Unless Google provides all users with good samaritans like mine, I don’t advise using its maps.

South Portland Swimming Pool

South Portland Swimming Pool

Portland Aerial Tram delivers people to a hospital and a beautiful view.

 

View from the four minute tram ride

View from the four minute tram ride

 

There was a memorial for Linda Hornbuckle and Janice Scroggins in NE Portland’s  Dawson Park. The women were close friends who played together and died within a short time of each other. Both were inspired musicians. Linda Hornbuckle was a singer and Janice Scroggins was a  pianist.They were Portland legends and masters of soul, blues, gospel and jazz,

Dancing at the Memorial

Dancing at the Memorial

Portland Food Truck

Portland Food Truck

The annual Mississippi Street Fair was blessed by temperate weather. No event in Portland would be complete without its food trucks.

 

New York City Blog June 29 — July 4

Monday I arrived on the Empire Builder in Portland, OR.The Seattle car is usually separated from the Empire Builder at Spokane. Not today. Because of a terrible fire in Wenatchee, Washington the Seattle car stayed attached to the rest of the train. At Portland, the Seattle folks were bused home. Oregon and Washington State are tinderbox dry. Climate change, anyone?  How about rethinking not using fireworks.

It’s bittersweet to be staying in the Warren for the last time. Four years ago, I found this wonderful basement (cool!) apartment on VRBO, Vacation Rentals by Owners Only, The landlady is selling the property. Since you asked, $640,000. Friends recently bought a condo in a leafy, woodsy section of the city. Here’s one of them grilling salmon while the rest of us supervise.

Chef Jim

Chef Jim

The First Unitarian Church choir was leaving for Ireland and its wonderful seventy degrees. I went to a final rehearsal. Can you sing? I’m good at opening my mouth but am tone deaf according to a singing cousin. It was mesmerizing to listen to the layers of sound and to watch the fifty five (?) person choir keep their eyes as avidly on the music director, Mark Slegers, as a brood of hungry chicks eyes its mother. What a range: from Ave Maria to Blue Skies by way of two Swahili songs. There are fourteen songs in all and all are wonderful.

The Unitarian Church's answer to the one hundred degrees temperature

The First Unitarian Church’s answer to the one hundred degrees temperature

On July 4th: we went to the Farmers Market. What an abundance of local products: sausages, vodka, flowers, heather, jams. I’ll let the market’s beauty speak for itself.

Local Herbs

Local Herbs

Local Flowers

Local Flowers

New York City Blog June 22 — June 28

Shortly before leaving NYC for Portland, Or. I attended a farewell party on the top floor of the Central Park Arsenal for a wonderful gardener. The Prosecco and best wishes flowed.

The Arsenal Party

The Arsenal Party

Friday afternoon I got on the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago. The compartment was an updated version seen in North by Northwest  but where was Cary Grant? It was very cozy with big windows that give you a wonderful view of the Hudson. I had dinner at 5 pm.The food was: tired salad with packets of Paul Newman dressing on plastic plates followed by mediocre salmon with canned vegetables and potatoes out of a box. I had something called strawberry cheesecake which was pink, hard pablum. I had a half bottle of red wine for $16 bucks. Thanks God for booze.

Amish on the Empire Bilder

Amish on the Empire Bilder

In Chicago I switched to the Empire Builder. It’s a double decker train. At Spokane, WA. the front part of the train goes to Seattle and the rear part goes to Portland. Wonderful views of the Wisconsin Dells, the Mississippi, Glacier National Park in Montana and the Columbia River Gorge.