I’ve been doing my share of eating and drinking this week. Tavern on Jane is a congenial pub on the ultra hot Jane Street and a perfect meeting place for celebrating the season. Another place for celebrating is Morandi. Its signature dish is Carciofi alla Guidea. These deep fried artichokes are crunchy and delicious. I first had them at Giggetto’s in Rome, a restaurant that featured Roman Jewish cooking. It’s on a busy Roman street near Piazza Mattei and the charming turtle fountain.
Christmas in Rome: Piazza Navona is filled with shepards down from the mountains playing their sour-sweet melodies while the merchants beseech you to buy trinkets. These days they are usually made in China.
I’m indulging in a Christmas tradition of listening to Prokfiev’s “Peter and the Wolf”.
A very Merry Holiday!
Graphic Lessons: Recent widow Millie Fitzgerald applies for a private school teaching job, faints on a stabbed and dying man, deals with the only witness to the stabbing, a troubled nine year old, befriends a lying seventeen year old, develops a crush on a NYPD detective and her dog dies.
Graphic Lessons: NYPD Detective Steve Kulchek: something’s eating at him: a failed marriage? surviving a car bomb? his girlfriend marrying his corrupt boss? screwing up an important case?
Graphic Lessons: Nine year old Dana is the only witness who overhears three people fighting with George Lopez, the soon to be stabbed Windsor School kitchen worker. Who can she tell? Her mother who never listens or accuses her of lying? Her father who’s started a new family in Singapore?
I never thought I’d describe a musical evening at the Frick Collection as odd. I do after the debut performance of the pianist, Joseph Moog. The musical selections and arrangements suited the late José Iturbi’s very 1940’s movie music. If only the Frick had arranged to have skimpily clad girls rise on a floating fountain and Esther Williams diving off the ceiling. The (un)repentant Magdalena in the next room could have joined in. Afterwards, we had fun and delicious food at nearby Le Charlot.
Lucinda Childs Dance Company is at the Joyce. We went to a thrilling performance of DANCE, first performed in 1979. A film of the original production was flashed on the stage as the modern dancers, like champion race horses, galloped across the stage to Philip Glass’s throbbing music. We were practically part of the action since we were seated in the second row.
Once again down memory lane. This time it was with Merce Cunningham’s Beach Birds (1991). Eleven dancers recreated most of the piece in one of the City Center studios on 56th Street. John Cage’s liquid tone, barely audible, set a dreamy, quiet atmosphere. It was forty minutes of sustained pleasure. Among the superb dancers were Mac Twining and Monica Gonzalez.
GRAPHIC LESSONS: Recent widow Millie Fitzgerald applies for a private school teaching job, faints on a stabbed and dying man, deals with the only witness to the stabbing, a troubled nine year old, befriends a lying seventeen year old, develops a crush on a NYPD detective and her dog dies.
Monday, the day before the election, was perfect fall weather. A friend and I walked around the Central Park Reservoir to inspect the pump houses. I’m using the setting in GRAPHIC LESSONS, the soon to be completed police procedural. The three pump houses help to flow the water into the reservoir. They resemble banks or masonic temples in small midwestern towns. Ever see Marathon Man, the 1970’s thriller in which Laurence Olivier played a Nazi dentist with a thriving NYC practice and Dustin Hoffman played a Columbia grad student? A very scary scene was shot in the northern pump house.
Election Day: Isn’t democracy dangerous? Any Questions, a BBC weekly program that dissects politics, had a vigorous and thoughtful session about our election and the extreme positions of our president-elect.
A glum friend and I salved our wounds by going to Kerry James Marshall: Mastery exhibit at the Met Breuer.
The week began with Frick Education Day. It’s held on a Monday, the day the Collection is closed to the public. It’s packed with artsy activities such as making your own Meissen cup.The Girl with the Extra Earring demonstrated how to repurpose old jewelry. There’s orchid repotting, talks about Rembrandt’s self-portrait and about Clodion’s sculpture, I attended a walk-through of Watteau’s military drawings, was photographed in a Renoir painting and ate my lunch in nearby Central Park.The Staff Art Exhibition is a highlight. Eat, Drink, Page! pictured below on the left was done by Ian Rafael Titus in collaboration with Lorenzo De Los Angeles.
Stuart Davis is one of my favorite American artists. His splashy colors and script move. His signature alone is a work of art. Davis started out drawing commercial products and went on to give Cubism a bold American flavor. The Whitney has mounted a big exhibit that’s on until September 25. Afterwards, we dined in Untitled, the Whitney restaurant. Lovely food, attentive service, lashings of red wine and great conversation but isn’t that a dopey name for a restaurant?
Back to the rock face. I’m finishing the second Steve Kulchek police procedural, Graphic Lessons.
This was my second year at the Northwest Book Festival. Last year it was rained out. This year, July 30 was balmy and Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland’s living room, was packed with tourists. I sold copies of The Lemrow Mystery and announced the upcoming sequel, Graphic Lessons, honing my selling skills by borrowing ideas from Ben Adams, the author of The Enigmatologist, with whom I shared the booth. It was exhausting but relaxed in the Portland way.
A friend and I went to the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls, drove by ice capped Mount Hood and had lunch overlooking the Columbia.
Food has ranged from 1950’s Otto & Anita’s Schnitzel Haus’s Dill Pickle Soup to contemporary raw fish at Murata’s in southwest Portland and wonderful seafood at Jake’s. NYC’s Union Square Farmers Market takes an honorable second place to Portland’s Farmers Market. It’s located on the Portland State University’s campus. It provides shady trees, serenades by various musicians and purveyors of everything from oil to wine and stupendous Italian sausage panini/hoagies/grinders.
My Airbnb adventure taught me a hard won lesson: Always read websites thoroughly. I had had excellent experiences on VRBO and assumed that Airbnb owners would be as ethical. I was wrong. I had paid $2700 in advance and was refunded $701. Luckily, my friends found me a housesitting gig and I landed in a charming cottage with a lovely garden.
It’s my second week in Portland, Oregon. It’s been a feast of northwest trees. We visited the Lone Fir Cemetery. From one fir, still standing, in the late nineteenth century to 700 trees and representing 67 species in 2016, Lone Fir Cemetery is Oregon’s second largest arboretum . A woodcutter union honored deceased members with tombstones sculpted like tree trunks.
We walked through the Japanese Garden on a balmy day. On its 5,5 acres, the garden has a plethora of ponds,waterfalls, gardens, rocks and northwest trees: giant Sequoia, Douglas fir.
Portland has old time movie houses that, miraculously, were not demolished. There’s the Baghdad in the Hawthorne area. In addition to roaming in the gilt splendor of the 1940s and seeing movies, you can order wine, beer and food, delivered to your seat. The same is true of the Hollywood movie theatre. It’s such a landmark that the northwest area is now called Hollywood.
I’ll be attending the 8th Northwest Book Festival on July 30. It’s held in Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland’s living room. I will be selling copies of The Lemrow Mystery and announcing the upcoming sequel, Graphic Lessons.
I’m in Portland, Oregon to visit friends, to get to know this charming city better and to attend the 8th Northwest Book Festival on July 30. It’s held in Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland’s living room. I will be selling copies of The Lemrow Mystery and announcing the upcoming sequel, Graphic Lessons.
For my sins I used Airbnb to rent a place that was probably a converted garage with a curious shed called a moon house. Being a New Yorker, I thought the term, moon house, was a touch of quaint Portlandia and didn’t pay the attention to it I should have. It’s an outhouse. Since we don’t have outhouses in NYC, you can imagine my surprise and dismay when I inspected the moon house which is attached to the owners’ house – plumbing, you know. It’s about twenty paces across a crab grass garden. The moon house is a tiny space with a tiny toilet, a tinier sink and a shower that shouts defunct summer camp. The ex-garage or the garden house, as the owner call it, is a dismal room that conjures up the film Psycho, not the Bates motel (if only) but the house on the hill where mom lived. It reeks of solitary confinement and has no running water. For that refinement, you have to go to the moon house. I give the owners full marks for their sense of humor. The wifi password for the ex-garage is goldenroom. They are also superb trick photographers.
Last Friday I was in Cooperstown, N. Y. attending the Glimmerglass production of Sweeney Todd, staying in a wonderful 1950’s motel and having grits and shrimp by the Otsego lake. This week I’m on the west coast, near the Columbia and having green lipped mussels. Somebody’s got to do it.
Ever read the Nancy Drew series? Nancy Drew’s father, Carson Drew, had a shiny black roadster. I felt like a Nancy Drew character as my editor and I, in her shiny blue Honda, drove from East 20 Street to 125 Street, crossed over to the westside and zoomed south to Wall Street. We were citing the locations of my next mystery, Graphic Lessons. Gigi Hernandez, a young Puerto Rican girl attending the Windsor School (90 Street and Park Ave.) as a scholarship student, lives at East 124 Street with her Uncle George, a Winslow kitchen worker who got her the scholarship, her father, Manuel, who also works at the school as a handyman and who takes incriminating photos of a NYPL department captain, Richard Holbrook (domicile: 114 East 90 Street) and his secret squeeze (1088 Park Avenue). Detective Steve Kulchek (20th Street Loop, Stuyvesant Town) is the lead investigator of a murder at the Windsor School.
Alan Rickman died at 69. In 2005, Rickman directed the award-winning play My Name is Rachel Corrie, which he and Katharine Viner – now Guardian editor-in-chief – compiled from the emails of the student who was killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer while protesting against the actions of the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip. This was not mentioned in the American media.
A friend and I attended Alwan for the Arts for the fifth annual Maqam festival. Maqam is an Arabic melody type.Tareq Abboushi and his musical band, Shusmo, filled the room and probably most of Beaver Street with the sound of enchanting, exotic music. Remember the tambourine? In elementary school, if you had zero musical talent you played the tambourine or the triangle. Zafer Tawil who plays at least five different instruments, made the tambourine rock not to mention the strap of bells around his right ankle, a yellow gourd filled with seeds and a drum.
There’s an exhibit of Frida Kahlo’s botanical drawings at the N. Y. Botanical Gardens. It’s a small but exquisite exhibit. Kahlo interests me more as a person living a tumultuous and often tragic life rather than as an artist. However, since one of the characters in my upcoming mystery, Graphic Lessons, impersonates her, I wanted to look at Kahlo’s art and get a sense of her love of tropical flowers.
Burger & Lobster on Nineteen Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues is lots of fun. It’s new. It opened at the end of 2014 and it’s young and noisy. You can sit in a booth, always a plus, and the service is very good. Three entrees are on offer: lobster roll, lobster and burgers. This photo is of Steve’ Kulchek’s buddy, Hank. He eats both the lobster and the lobster roll. Lobsters give him strength, he says. Right, Bro.
I’ve just spent two days near Claryville, N. Y. It’s in the heart of the Catskill Mountains. There’s perfect air and active wildlife. At different times, I watched from my host’s window as deer frolicked under the apple trees and a bear help herself to an apple. In the daed of night I heard coyotes calling to each other. The locals claim they have killer winters but they can’t complain about August.
Felled by a bad cold, I stayed inside for most of the week reading Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. Bryson catches perfectly the excitement of buying lots of shiny expensive hiking equipment in hopes you’re buying security and safety on the trail. His trail was the Appalachian Trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine. I went down memory lane with the Appalachian Hiking Club. It originated in Boston but has New York headquarters as well. Bryson and his hiking pal camped. Never did I do that. Never. I was a Saturday hiker. Cadging a ride was an unusual feat. Usually, taking the subway to Port Authority and then the bus to Sloatsburg orTuxedo was routine. On the trail by 10 a.m. and back in the bus by 4 or 5 pm at the latest. A few of the memories are: a stag racing beside us judging a space exactly, and zigzagging through our straggly, bewildered line; the female photographer who took photos of the women peeing, explaining, when confronted by ladies hastily pulling up their drawers, that it was all right because it was for a photography course; the man who asked a surprised woman he didn’t know, and was never going to, if she’d swim in the nude with him for his birthday; meeting up with a bear and her cubs passed without incident, but on the trail back to the car (God bless the internal combustion machine) I kept imaging tree stumps were bear cubs.
Rather than tackling my police procedural, Graphic Lessons, or doing my income taxes, I wasted time trolling sites such as the 20 male celebrities who are shorter than you think (Dustin Hoffman – 5’ 5”, Prince -5’2”)
I gave up preparing my taxes to send to my long suffering tax man. Since I was in a hateful mood, I watched seven co-stars who couldn’t stand each other.
Finally, still coughing, I ventured out on rainy Saturday to a memorial for George Graf Dickerson. One of his daughters did the Talisman painting on the memorial program’s cover. I think it’s wonderful.