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Spain & all

I'm leaving in a couple of hours for Spain (Barcelona, Seville, Madrid). My first real vacation in years (not counting family events, high school reunions or business trips.) I'm pretty sure I won't be able to blog while I'm out of the country. And even though Europe is on the grid, I'm looking forward to being off it.

In Seville was he born, a pleasant city,
Famous for oranges and women,—he
Who has not seen it will be much to pity,
So says the proverb, and I quite agree;
Of all the Spanish towns is none more pretty,
Cadiz perhaps, but that you soon may see.
—Byron, from Don Juan

Until May!
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Saul Leiter

Are there two kinds of artists, the ones obsessed with beauty (art for art's sake) and the truth-tellers, who grab you to explain, who have a point to make?

Saul Leiter was clearly the former: "Saul had a love of beauty," wrote his former assistant Tony Cenicola, now a NYT photographer. "He didn’t like art that was harsh. He had a way of seeing  Read More 
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Spring & all

It's Didi not Derek but the magnolia trees are blooming. I can live with it.

Especially as I go to Spain in 2 days. Did my laundry: As Nicole said, that's the first step in packing.
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Old friends

I love being an extra in others' lives. Maybe one day they wonder what ever became of Elinor, how we fell out of touch, what chugged them to the West Coast & me to New York. Maybe they remember one funny thing I said & not even me who said it. It's fine to be close & then not close, even fine to make a big mistake &  Read More 
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Apparently this was seen by Google doing its maps. I don't know why it doesn't surprise me that a bunch of people in Japan would walk around in papier-mâché bird heads.
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A moment of nostalgia

The Barrell drive-in (root beer, burgers, fries) was on Minnesota Avenue in Sioux Falls, just a few blocks from my house. It was part of the cruising circuit ("the loop") from 1939 until it closed in 1976. I suppose every town in the country once had a drive-in like it.

Apparently, the signmaker accidentally added an extra "l" & gave a discount if the owner took the sign as-is, thus condemning at least 2 generations of Sioux Falls kids to a lifetime of trying "barrell," "barell" & "barrel" & still never being sure which spelling is right.  Read More 
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May one note that spring allergies are worse than icy winter rain?

And with that, home I go to sneeze & suffer.
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A surprise in the nabe

I don't know why I never stopped & looked at this row of three houses before; I know I must have walked by them many times. While un-Manhattan-like, they look like houses everywhere else I've ever been, so they somehow never jumped out at me as being unusual. Yet there they are on 18th Street, where they've been since the 1850s. The front lawns are  Read More 
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On top of the world

I don't even want to run a marathon. My knees give out after 30 minutes on the cross-trainer. But I kind of sort of want to run THIS marathon. I wonder if I could do it.

It costs 11,900 euros, about $12,500 right now. For that, they fly you from & back to Svalbard (where I've long wanted to go) to the North Pole camp, put you up there for 2 or 3 days, and provide helicopter flights, professional photography, & (uh-oh)  Read More 
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And some weather in Japan

The 53 stations of the Tokaido were rest areas along a 300-mile-long coastal route from Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto. They were originally places where travelers had to present a permit in order to continue their journey. How great it would be to walk in Hiroshige's footsteps & see what the whole stretch is like today.

Hiroshige made his famous series of woodcuts in the 1830s. A later artist,  Read More 
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April 12 in Tompkins Square Park

Not a hint of green & we're almost halfway through April. Such a strange year it's been, weatherly. Today it was awfully grand to sit outside without feeling like it was making a statement.
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Hey I'm off today

The Passover home stretch, so no work today. I've written this to post automatically. It's a taste of the end of the month when I'll be away & not posting for 10 days. More on that anon.
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So relieved to go by B&H this afternoon & to find the place intact. They just need their gas hooked up & then they'll open, probably early next week. They're a couple of doors up from where the explosion two weeks ago took down 3 buildings.

And happy to see a local campaign to support them. They are a beloved neighborhood institution & support not only their workers but many of us. Two of the guys who work there were the first people to visit Johnny in the hospital after his accident in 2012. They sent him juice & soup every day, and wouldn't let me pay for anything until I threatened to stop coming in. I can't say enough good things about them, let alone their French toast.  Read More 
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Celestial phenomenon

St. Patrick's Day 2015. Photo: NASA.
How cool that we got a green light show to celebrate St Paddy's Day! (I know I'm a little late with this.) And when was the last time there was an Irish pope? Never. There has never been an Irish pope. I guess this gorgeous sky was to make up for that. What colors are as deeply connected to a country as green with Ireland? Blue with ...? Orange with ... the Netherlands but I don't think people in general feel strongly about Holland. Red, white & blue with several countries but a color scheme isn't the same as a color. And no one ever says  Read More 
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Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra

Check out Lally's terrific riff on Frank Sinatra: "I've always been impressed with humans who can extend the natural talents of our species beyond what anyone previously thought was possible. The great artists and scientists and athletes and thinkers and leaders etc. Sinatra was one of those." [Click on photo caption to read the whole piece.]

Billie Holiday, born 100 years ago today, may not have been as tenaciously devoted to craft & technique, but she can blow your head off. It's the old  Read More 
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Pass over, please

No blog yesterday because it was Day 2 of Passover/Pesach. Days 1, 2, 7, and 8 are holidays, while 3 through 6 are what are called intermediate days. The distinction doesn't matter as much as that it's matzoh matzoh all the time matzoh. (I was sick of it by the end of the 1st seder.) I have this idea that my problem with Pesach is that it comes at the same time as spring allergies. That it's not the holiday or even the matzoh but the sneezing lightheadedness. I will try to be amusing for the rest of the week but I will prolly be sour & grumpy.  Read More 
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Johnny's raisins.
Everybody has something that makes them feel secure, as long as they have enough of it. I buy dental floss pretty much every time I go to the drugstore. Maggie's grandpa had extension cords in every drawer of his house. Susan Cataldo's most memorable observation was that buying a four-pack of toilet paper made you feel like you were going to be around for a while. I guess that's it: I'll live long enough to need all this floss. Will I outlive the ink cartridge, the staples, the socks I just bought? When is it time to stop adding on?  Read More 
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A long & honorable tradition

Thomas Chatterton (1752–70)
The tradition of fictional personae and false attribution goes back pretty much as far as writing has existed. There are Greek, Biblical, and classical works where the claimed author is not who really wrote it. Homer didn't write Homer, King David didn't write the psalms.

Some writers use pseudonyms: George Eliot, Mark Twain, and there are people who invent a whole separate person, an alter ego (Latin for "the other I"). In the literary world it's common: Chatterton attributed a series of poems to a 15th-century priest named Thomas Rowley; James Macpherson wrote the works supposedly composed by a 3rd century Scottish bard named Ossian (and incidentally  Read More 
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I think if you want gossip you’ll have to turn to Catullus: “Spaniards clean their teeth and scour their gums with the same water that issues from their bladders. So if your teeth are clean, my friend, we know how you have used your urine.” “It was only yesterday you snubbed the honest wives of foremen on your master’s farms, now your boyish charms are fallen.”  Read More 
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