Saturday, November 24, 2018


It's been almost thirty years since we first sat around our dining table in a little hamlet up in the Catskills for Thanksgiving with a group of friends that have for many reasons stuck with us over the years. Even though we've all moved on to various parts of the country the giddiness we shared at our first attempt of cooking a turkey has remained as consistent as the clink of our glasses during the thanks we give on each recurring last Thursday of November. As often as we can and on a revolving basis we recreate our holiday and once again laugh, break a glass or two and enjoy the friendships that have lasted through three decades.
This year we were off to San Francisco where our friends, JoHannah and Adam and their son Roby, now live. We decided to go despite a set of fires that covered the city by the bay with smoke and an air quality index that had surpassed the world's most polluted cities. We were on the edge of canceling our plane tickets but at the last minute went ahead with our plans and journeyed on.
Rick flew in from New York on the Monday before, Emmy and I flew in to meet him on Tuesday. JoHannah picked us up at the airport.
It was a bit eerie as we drove back to the Glen Park district of San Francisco seeing groups of people out walking the streets their faces covered in construction masks like survivors from an earth ending apocalypse. Some of the children having masks with built-in aspirators stood by bus stops in silence the joy of childhood held at bay.
JoHannah tried to reassure us that the rain was due to come the following day and drown out most of the smoke. We prayed for rain.
So with the rest of Tuesday we made our lists and did most of our preparatory shopping before the rain hit.
Wednesday we cooked, we cleaned
and Emmy did the flowers we had purchased at the flower district the day before.
Even Delilah got into the act.
We did this all in a home built on a hill in the Glen Park district of a city that was once shook to the ground.

We finished that evening with our traditional glazed ham and biscuits. You can't get much better than that
Thursday was devoted to doing all of the finishing touches in preparation for a sit down dinner for fifteen.
The pies are always the last thing to go into the oven and we do this just as everyone sits down to dinner.
The Noritake china was pulled into service along with enough depression stemware to make sure everyone had a glass for anything they needed to drink.
The house's history on Diamond Street has always added to its uniqueness. It was not the original house that had occupied the site. The front portion of the house had actually been built somewhere else and moved to the site then added onto over the years.
Adam, being an architect, continued to embellish and renovate the house at various times throughout their stewardship of the building.
We'd be entertaining and doing appetizers on the main floor once the guests arrived with a bar set up in the dining room
and appetizers laid out on the kitchen counter.
Last minute tasks were accomplished without a hitch until the turkey made its entrance. I had been in charge of pulling the turkey that had been marinating in a brine bath for the past day and a half out of the plastic bag with the brining mixture and getting it into the roasting pan. It was Adam's job to take the turkey out of the oven and plate it for display before carving it at the table. It was then that one of the guests informed us that we had roasted and then displayed our lovely bird upside down. One should never expect perfection because if it's attained there is no room for improvement and if one cannot improve the joy of discovery and learning is gone. Our turkey was a case in point of imperfection and a good opportunity for learning and improving.
Dinner was served in the sunroom on the top floor under a star filled sky. Guests arrived around five in the early evening carrying trays of appetizers and a broad selection of wines.
Adam had built an extension onto the table so that all fifteen of us could sit comfortably around.
Emmy's petite flower arrangements lined the center of the table. Adam had adorned the chandeliers with curly willow branches and lit the chandelier candles illuminating the dinner.
To make room at the dining table a serving buffet had been set up at the end of the room that overlooked the vista of lower San Francisco.
The menu consisted of Brussels sprouts sautéed with pancetta and onions, a sweet potato casserole with bacon and Gruyere, cranberry sauce, scalloped potatoes, mashed rutabaga, a beet, walnut and pomegranate salad and the turkey we continued to display upside down.
Happy Thanksgiving to all. Not sure of the local for next year's November event. This one will be a hard one to beat.

Friday, November 2, 2018


It was a toss up: go to a friends Halloween party where I'd have to pass out candy to toddlers and eat pizza again with Martha Teichner or stand in amongst a crowd of several hundred crushing strangers until my legs couldn't stand it another second. How stupid am I? Just ask my aching legs.
I stood for as long as I possibly could squeezed behind an Italian family who kept blocking my view every time I raised my iPhone to take a picture and between a group of Saudis on one side all wearing red devil horns that blinked constantly and a young couple on the other side more interested in sticking their tongues down each others throats than watching the parade. Martha, I missed you.
I managed to stay until around 9:30, at the point my legs started to tingle from lack of blood and my knees were beginning to buckle.
You have to be a better prepared photographer than I was to take anything really worth while at the parade. You need a more captive subject especially with an iPhone. The crowd of paraders is always on the move and in the light of night most shots are nothing more than a blur.
Here's the best of what I got

And now for a crowd of hundreds all doing Michael Jackson's Killer

A Woman in a Bird Mask, New York City
Diane Arbus, photographer
Represented by Fraenkel Gallery

Sunday, October 14, 2018



Like a father obsessed now that we're back I wanted to do some calculating about our trip. I wanted to remember what we had done before we had time to forget and then to see if we all had a similar reaction to the high and low points of our trip. In my nerdy compulsiveness I put together a paper list of the thirteen places we had visited in chronological order. I then passed out the lists taking one myself and made Rick & Emmy, despite their groans, asking they give each of the places a number from one to thirteen in order of their preference. Surprisingly or maybe thankfully the tops and bottoms of our lists were very similar. The middle choices were a little up and down. Here are some highlights:
Number one on all of our lists was Armena. This was a no brainer. Virtually every time we cross the pond either as the first stop on our trip or as the period at the end of our holiday Armena always holds that spot.
It may be difficult for many people to equate travel with home but this is the symbiotic relationship of those two words for us when we say the word "Armena". There are many people who have weekend homes but not many that have travel homes.
The other top spots on our journey were not as firm but pretty close. Montelcino was a solid second. There's very little that can match a meal at Boccon Di Vino,
an afternoon spent with Ilaria tasting wine
or an evening gelato run at Why Not. If ithe gelato at Why Not was good enough for Michelle Obama it was certainly good enough for us.
We had a few more recognizable spots near the top of our list. It's always a good thing for us to go to Rome at the beginning of our trip. That way we can get most of our impulse shopping out of the way so we can concentrate on other things ... like eating.
Mykonos got up close to the top mostly because of its unique character. Our hotel started out on very shaky ground but soon became one of our favorite stays. It's absolutely on Emmy's "must return" list, only next time with her friends instead of her parents.
The last stop in London wetted our appetite for a return visit. We'd all been there before but it was years ago when Emmy was more interested in finding platform 9 3/4
than hunting out Christian Dior jackets at a vintage clothing shop called Rockit.
Even the places at the bottom of our lists weren't complete failures. Tinos gave us a great lunch even though there was very little else to see or do unless we were going to do the annual crawl up the hill from the seaport to the church on our hands and knees.
We got to see the Uffizi in Florence despite fighting the crowds everywhere else we went. We thought we were going in off-season only to find out Florence has no off-season!
Our biggest disappointment was Kamara, the beach on Santorini. Black sand makes for black water. It just wasn't very pretty and attracted a whole different type of traveler than we were accustomed to meeting. Since Emmy's whole reason for picking the Cyclades Islands was to swim in the clear aqua waters of the Aegean we really felt we let her down but she was very gracious about it.
So here's some hints and things we learned on this trip:
1. Try to pay for as much as you can before you go. It makes budgeting so much easier and less stressful when it comes to deciding whether to buy that new fall coat or two cases of wine rather than one.
2. Don't be afraid to ask for an upgrade at your hotel. There are all sorts of reasons why a better room might have become available. If you can come up with some sort of sob story about your previous hotel or travel fiasco the sympathy card works every time.
3. The best restaurants are rarely on the main streets but down narrow side streets with little signage and definitely no one out front trying to coax you in with the promise of the best food anywhere.
4. Remember that the Europeans are much less uptight about their bodies. They share bathrooms, they change their clothes on the beach, they have open-air pee stations for men and some hotels have clothing optional areas at their pools. We can verify having  seen all of this and then some.
5. Take your daughter to a drag a show. Embarrassing your children is one of the best joys of parenting.

6. Balance your travel with shopping, going to museums, eating and relaxing. Don't try to do too much. Stop for a cappuccino when you need to or spend an afternoon sitting by the pool with a good book instead of insisting on seeing one more Medieval sanctuary.
7. Always wear sunscreen and please, please don't let your fair skinned daughter fall asleep by the pool. It's going to cost you big on cover-up cosmetics and OTC pain relief remedies.

8. Have a nonverbal signal you can use when you see someone from your family is getting a little ornery. It stops fights and breaks the tension without having to say something you'll regret.
9. Eat something you've never had before. You're out there to experience a new culture. Jump in. If you don't like it you don't have to finish it.
10. Engage with the locals. Who knows? You too might find your other family from another country.