Wednesday, March 25, 2015


It was the evening of one of this year's major snow events in New York. We've had a few this season, snow that stops traffic and keeps most people indoors having stocked their refrigerators with hearty soups and their bars with plenty of bourbon. Not a night for trekking across town and down from West 89th Street to the New York Design Center on Lexington Avenue and 33rd Street. However, whenever there's a sponsored event by theNYDC and we're in town we feel a certain responsibility as members of the Access to Design group that we show up and lend our support. The evening's event was being held at the Hickory Chair showroom. It was billed as an introduction of Celerie Kemble's new line of outdoor furniture during NYDC's salute to spring and the outdoors. Given the conditions outside they may have been rushing the season.
The talk was to be moderated by the new editor-in-chief of House Beautiful, Sophie Donelson. The fashion designer, Lela Rose, would also be sitting on the panel. The night wasn't helping with attendance so I was glad I had put on my imitation Hunter boots and sloshed through the slush to the event. I was girding myself against an expected sales pitch and a dissertation on the evolution of outdoor furniture. I don't drink but I picked up a glass of chardonnay to get me through and potentially keep me awake. After some mingling the audience took its seats and Sophie, Celerie, Lela and Lela's ever present dog, Stitch, began.
Now I need to add that I'm pretty up to date with the current interior design royalty but not so much with fashion, especially women's fashion. I wasn't familiar with Lela and had totally confused her with Laila Rowe, the discount accessory line with shops around the city selling three-dollar necklaces and two-dollar umbrellas. I apologize. The three women sat on chairs at the front of a brightly lit room in front of a projection screen showing images that were barely visible due to the room's ambient lighting.
As it turned out I didn't end up having to try to decipher what exactly I was supposed to be seeing on the screen. The presentation wasn't dependent on those images or any data about projected sales in the outdoor furniture market. What I expected and unnecessarily fortified myself against never transpired.  What happened was a bunch of girl talk spiced with humor and the genuine friendship of two women who adored each other. It turns out that both women lived in the same building, Lela on top of Celerie or the other way around, I really can't remember. They've been friends for twenty years and have been feeding off of each other in their respective design careers for most of that time. Even in the washed out images on the screen you could see how each woman influenced the other. You could also hear it in their stories as each talked over the other in a non-stop trail of anecdotes. Sophie would barely get out a question and the two would be off on something that had more to do with their children or what they served at last week's dinner party or the cocktail they'd evented for one of their soirees than it did about outdoor furniture. The discussion could have gone on for another hour and I don't think I would have been bored. I don't think anyone on the panel would have been disappointed either. They really seemed to enjoy their time even if the audience was diminutive their personalities filled any of the empty seats.
Oh, by the way, Celerie's outdoor collection is well worth looking at even if you don't have her and her sidekick Lela to guide you through a personal tour with Stitch nipping at your heels.

Every year there's a theme introducing the flower show at Macy's. I happened on the show by accident this year. I thought I had heard it wasn't scheduled to start until next week. What I had heard was the closing date I might have missed the whole thing if I hadn't stopped at Starbucks for a frappuccino on my way downtown. I only stopped at Macy's because I had to pee and I knew they had a bathroom I could use without having to go back to another Starbucks and stand in a long line of tourists or hold my breath at one of the subway pissoirs.
The theme this year connected flowers to different artists and genres.
Standing just inside the front door was a replica of Michelangelo's David, this time with a fig leaf for modesty. Projected patterns danced over the rest of David's naked body as he stood on a pedestal of asters in a bed of orchids.
The art of Picasso
and Klimt were referenced.
Pop Art made an appearance
as well and ballerinas in flowered tutus spun around in the windows outside.
Spring is on the way.

Herald Square and Macy's looking south
Image found on

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Here's what to do when you need a vacation from your vacation. You come home. You unpack and while you're looking at your dirty underwear spread on the floor around your ankles you turn around, gather up what might pass as clean and find the nearest spa that will still accept a reservation.
We grabbed Emmy; our anti-diarrhea pills (we were still a little queasy) packed up the dog and his diarrhea pills and headed off to Galena, Illinois.  We checked out about three resorts with spas until we found one that would take all of us on such short notice. The one willing to take us on was the Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa in Galena, Illinois. The entire upper Midwest was still in the grips of an extreme cold spell. We weren't looking for sun. All we wanted was a good massage and facial. Emmy's expectations were a little less defined. She hadn't had a massage before. Her only experience with this kind of pampering was my kneading her shoulders and I'm apparently not a very good masseuse.
The drive to Galena from Madison is a little less than two hours. We decided to pass on the antique tour on the way down. We'd leave that to the trip back. The resort isn't exactly located in Galena proper. You have to drive through Galena and then back into the woods into an area called the Galena Territory.
This is a rather exclusive area built around a manmade lake with an amazing waterfall that freezes into a massive ice sculpture in winter. Ownership here requires membership.
The homes here aren't shabby. Custom-built cottages dot the lake; Adirondack style but newer. The homes need a good fifty years to season into that feel you get when visiting the lake communities of Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota but it's still quite stunning. There was a homeowners convention going on the weekend we showed up. Booths of high-end builders, banks offering mortgage information, and a very persuasive fireman who tried his hardest to get us to sign up for the volunteer fire department were all mingled together on the floor of the convention space located in the lower level of the lodge.
The resort offered an assortment of accommodations. You could stay in one of the lodges' eighty rooms or rent one of the outlying villas. Since we were only there for two days we chose one of the rooms, a room on the bottom floor that accepted pets.
We couldn't leave our paraplegic blind dog home by himself and we're over hiring dogs-sitters to come and deal with his many quirks.
Our plan didn't include spending much time exploring the hiking trails, a dip in the indoor pool, getting out the golf clubs or looking into taking a hot-air balloon ride, but all our time there wasn't spent relaxing and being non-productive.
Emmy had a photo assignment she was supposed to have completed by the following Monday. The assignment was to photograph a sports event. Time was running out but even here the resort came to the rescue. Saturday was the re-running of their first annual snowshoe race.
It had originally been scheduled for January but January temperatures had topped the freezing marking leaving the course without enough snow to trek over. What little snow they had wouldn't support a race unless they changed it to a mud roll.
The February temperatures and snowfall improved substantially and frigidly. So Saturday morning as unprepared as either Emmy or I were (I only had a pair of dress shoes and she left her Restoration Hardware faux fur hat back home) we trudged out with determination to the Nordic Center to shoot the snowshoers.
Luckily most of our time was spent in the Club House while the more prepared competitors were lacing up and getting the rules of the race.
The added benefit to our showing up was the organizer of the event had forgotten to hire a photographer. Emmy got the job.
Back at the lodge we decided we'd try as many of the food offerings as we could squeeze into two and a half days and there were plenty to choose from. On Friday night we went all out and ate at their premier restaurant, The Woodlands. I'm a big fan of menus with an edited selection. Menus that read like novels are usually a cover-up for pretty tasteless food. We ate well that night.
From there we tried Piasanos for our morning Starbucks coffee, room service for a Saturday night movie in the room and the General Store for snacks.
If we had more time I'm sure we would have tried the Woodlands Lounge or the outdoor ice bar.
But the reason we went to Eagle Ridge wasn't the resort but the spa part of their name. It was called the Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa. The Stonedrift Spa was the highlight and reason for the entire adventure and made everything that transpired in Mexico a thing of the past if not a distant memory. I went for the signature Swedish massage minutes after we arrived. It was life changing. Rick and Emmy went for pedicures knowing they were going to sign up for a more extensive menu of treatments on the following day.
This was Emmy's first time. She was a little weary of having some stranger touching her but she agreed to try a special package they offer for teens. All I can say is we created a monster.
It was a splurge. It was decadent. It was worth it. I'm giving this weekend four stars.

Bikini Queen, Sun City, Arizona, 2001
Peter Granser, photographer
Represented by Howard Greenberg Gallery, NYC

Monday, March 9, 2015


I often forget to practice what I preach. We have a teenage daughter. She has a cellphone and a computer. She takes selfies, about one every seventy-two seconds. She texts with thumbs so fast she's answered me twice before I've even asked a question. Add to that the vines and tweets and god knows what else and you see where I'm going. Sometimes we need to step back and participate in our lives and stop living through the lens of our cameras and iPhones. Now by this I don't mean stop taking pictures, especially since this is one of my passions, but my problem is that I sometimes go somewhere because I think it will make a good photo and I forget the reason I wanted to go to the event in the first place.
Now I have to reflect on what I've just written. Perhaps for some of us participating through the lens of our cameras is our reality. Perhaps for those who immerse themselves in an event only have their memory to rely on for their experiences. I know for me with a memory that is neither short-term nor long-term I'd be hard pressed to be able to relive my life without my pictures. So maybe these photos will last a little longer than my memory will.
After having put up six posts on Merida there are still a whole set of photos that I didn't use but wished I had. They didn't fit into any of my topics or I had too many and didn't want to stretch the post any longer than it already was. So here are some images I still wanted to use, some with captions and some just posted on their own visual merits.
Take a look:
His entire head wrapped against the intensity of the sun conjured up a bit of prejudicial fear, a fear produced by so many media images of a world filled with cowardice hiding behind the masks of anonymity. But the man was only a fisherman protecting himself against Mother Nature and sharing his bounty with the sea.
Color dominated every corner you turned in Merida. The joy and pride taken with the exterior of their homes by so many forced my finger to hit the camera icon on my iPhone every step I took down each unfamiliar street. Who could walk by these gems without snapping a shot.
What baffled me the most on many of these streets was how home and commerce seemed to exist side-by-side and how the commerce side seemed almost singularly devoted to the auto industry. Not a single residential block seemed to exist without an auto parts or repair business occupying at least one lot on the block.
As colorful as most of the exteriors were the interiors of some devoted a similar intensity of design through the use of frescoed walls.
This boutique hotel was a perfect example of the beautifully interiors in Merida.
I couldn't pass up this bedroom graced with a combination of art nouveau detail and the likeness of Raphael.
And there are times when even a bathroom's simplicity can resonate beauty.
Or how a plaster statue and a couple of childhood dolls can tell such a complex story.
And even when the painting was not intentional but the results of age the results were equally beautiful
or when nature decided to add its dash of color and panache
The anti-abortion sentiment is strong in this Catholic enclave. This statue stands in the middle of a square devoted to motherhood. The couple behind seemed engaged in paying their own respects to the statue and its propaganda.
A truck that drove around town advertising a gym and bowling alley all at the same time
Even dogs were fodder for my camera
And how could I close this out without letting you that they at least had a Starbucks
I couldn't leave Merida or my posts on Merida without a few last images of people both indigenous or there on a temporary basis.
A Mayan descendent in the midst of her agrarian bounty
A photography class in Uxmal learning the mechanics of a view camera
A woman contemplating her own history in the reflection of a painted Rococco mirror while a collection of mid-twentieth century photographs told a history of the rooms occupant.
And Thomas, the little eight-year old Aussie who with his mother was retracing the vacation his parents had made just before he was born and his father died.